Many bloggers and commentators have expressed outrage over the decision by Virginia to require ultrasound examination, possibly transvaginal ultrasound, prior to women obtaining an abortion. From Bill Maher to Dahlia Lithwick people are outraged and have even suggested that it should be considered rape to force women to undergo vaginal examination by ultrasound prior to receiving abortion. Worse, it’s clear from statements like this one by delegate Todd Gilbert, that there isn’t a medical concern related to this intervention. It’s simply designed to humiliate women and interfere with the doctor patient relationship with exclusively anti-abortion motivations:

“the vast majority of these cases [abortion] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” And, 

”We think in matters of lifestyle convenience and in other matters that it is right and proper for a woman to be fully informed about what she is doing.

This just reflects how stupid these guys are, because anyone with half a brain could come up superficially plausible defense of the statute from grounds of medical safety. They’re just too brainless to do so and clearly are just trying to interfere with women and their doctors as they try to make a difficult decision.

There are some indications for ultrasound prior to abortion. Many physicians performing the procedure or especially offering medical abortion might perform a transvaginal ultrasound prior to proceeding. It can serve a few useful purposes. It can help confirm intrauterine pregnancy as well as uterine location. It may be needed to assess patients in their postoperative exam or medical follow up visits to rule out retained products of conception. In cases of uncertain dates, it can give you gestational age of the fetus, which may be critical in determining the appropriateness of the subsequent procedure used. After all, medical abortion is typically limited to the first 9 weeks and uncertainty about gestational age should result in ultrasound prior to use of medical abortifacients.

However, neither the FDA nor any professional organization of obstetricians and gynecologists indicate ultrasound should be a required component prior to medical or surgical abortion. The procedure is often unnecessary. So, what Virginia has done has legislated a requirement for an unnecessary medical procedure, unsupported by any professional medical association, on a specific subpopulation of women. Given the history of forced sterilization in Virginia, you’d think they’d be more sensitive on this issue. This is the state where Buck v Bell brought the issue of forced medical procedures to light.

This statute cannot, therefore, stand on either medical ethical or constitutional grounds. The state legislature can not force me or any other physician to perform an unnecessary, and therefore unethical, medical procedure. The state legislature can not pick on a subpopulation of citizens and force them to receive an unnecessary medical procedure.

I don’t think this law will stand, but it once again will require a legal fight, waste of time and resources, and all of this once again in a effort by governmental busybodies to interfere in women’s health decisions in a punitive fashion. The Republicans need to watch out. This is just another indication of a the size of the assault on women’s reproductive rights, and if they keep pushing, they’re going to see what a mistake it is to piss off 51% of the population.

**Update: I also noticed from Lithwick’s article Virginia has enacted a personhood law saying life begins at conception. More idiocy. This is like Indiana legislating the value of pi = 3. It is unscientific and illogical. Life does not begin. It is continuous. There is no dead state between parents and offspring. Sperm are alive, eggs are alive, the fusion of the two is alive. Instead they are legislating what constitutes life that is important, or more likely “ensouled”. As a fundamentally philosophic/religious and ultimately arbitrary point, government has no business legislating such a thing. But legislating that life has a “beginning” is biologically ignorant.

Comments

  1. #1 Vince Whirlwind
    February 19, 2012

    Imagine being *inconvenienced* from having an abortion.
    How’s the foetus which is facing the knife feel about this, I wonder?

  2. #2 Arakiba
    February 19, 2012

    It’s not a fetus, Vince, it’s an embryo. It has no developed central nervous system; it cannot feel, think, or experience pain…unlike the woman carrying it. And if the woman carrying it was raped, shoving an unwanted ultrasound probe into her vagina is raping her again. But that doesn’t matter to men like you, does it?

  3. #3 Calli Arcale
    February 19, 2012

    Depends on how far along the pregnancy is, whether pain can be felt. I’m an advocate for partial-birth abortion in those tragic cases where it is necessary; I believe it is kinder than the alternatives because it kills the fetus much more quickly. It’s also safer for the mother, which is a not insignificant factor. (Also, I know someone who had it done to terminate a pregnancy involving an already deceased fetus. Thanks to pro-lifers, it took her months to find a doctor willing to remove the festering remains; much longer, and she likely would’ve been left infertile. But I digress.)

    I do not think it is appropriate to require a transvaginal ultrasound. The whole purpose is obvious; to make abortion more difficult to obtain. And it’s every bit as idiotic as the billboards showing happy eight-month-olds and a note saing “We had heartbeats!” The pro-lifers are operating on a mistaken assumption — that somehow women seeking abortion are unaware of their baby being alive. They believe people who seek abortion are not really aware that the baby is alive, and that forcing them to see the baby is alive will make them want to keep the baby. But they are very, very wrong. Women who seek abortions are not generally morons; they are all too aware of the life inside of them, and desperately want it out. Reminding them that they have a life inside of them is a) insulting their intelligence and b) not really going to help the matter, since that’s exactly what’s bothering them so much.

    Women who seek an abortion generally know exactly what they’re doing. Condescending to them and forcing them to submit to unnecessary medical procedures is not going to help persuade them to change their minds. In fact, I rather suspect that by the time they’re pregnant, most of the opportunities are already over.

  4. #4 J. R. P.
    February 19, 2012

    If one is not killing a human being, what’s the big deal? After all, one has no reasonable issue with looking carefully at, say, a fish or lobster, even in the eye, before cooking it.

    However, if one is participating in an extra-judicial killing of a human being, I can see how this could be an issue, for both the executioner to have to see repeatedly, as well as the one ordering the execution in this instance.

    I would suggest people who seek abortion do not know _exactly_ what they are doing, Calli. They might have a fuzzy idea.

    However, this might, indeed, provide a moment of visual clarity that the state has both a right and duty to impose, in furtherance of the promotion of human dignity. A noble and lofty goal.

    I note most people want to avoid thinking about – and certainly looking at – such things, even going to such lengths as to use the compulsory power of the state in contravention of the first amendment to suppress the truth of what happens.

    I know, if anybody is going to kill me, I would very much prefer they do it having looked me in the eye, instead of chopping my limbs off from behind while I’m comfortably relaxing, or killing me in my sleep.

  5. #5 Michael O.
    February 19, 2012

    “Update: I also noticed from Lithwick’s article Virginia has enacted a personhood law saying life begins at conception. More idiocy. This is like Indiana legislating the value of pi = 3. It is unscientific and illogical. Life does not begin. It is continuous. There is no dead state between parents and offspring. Sperm are alive, eggs are alive, the fusion of the two is alive. Instead they are legislating what constitutes life that is important, or more likely “ensouled”. As a fundamentally philosophic/religious and ultimately arbitrary point, government has no business legislating such a thing. But legislating that life has a “beginning” is biologically ignorant.”

    Have you read the text of the law? Does it actually say that it is defining “life” in the sense of alive vs. dead, rather than “life” in the sense of an individual human life – IE a person, hence “personhood amendment”? Generally the idea as I have seen it reported is not alive versus dead that is being defined but rather that an individual human life begins at conception because that is when the unique DNA combination begins, and that is the important definitional marker for personhood under law. (Of course this is up for debate because other definitions for legal protection, like viability, consciousness, birth and even age-of-reason [~1-3 years] have also been considered by politicians and ethicists.) But I would guess that your complaint is one due to the language used in media reports on the law rather than the law itself. It honestly seems like you’ve constructed a strawman, perhaps without realizing it.

    And government DOES have to legislate on what a human being is, or at least consider such issues in relevant legislation, precisely because of abortion and other concerns (knowing lawyers, any law using the term “person” or involving “persons” could be equivocated). Since some human beings are protected from being killed, legislatures need to know what the reason for protecting those human beings is and when it should start, as other living things are not protected. Take people like Singer who want human rights extended to apes and the like – how else would such protections be extended unless legislatures first knew what a human was? How could we understand the first three words of the US Constitution?

    Nor do I understand what makes this particular concern more philosophical/theological and/or arbitrary than any other issue ruled on by law. If such issues are philosophical, well, isn’t law as well? If it is arbitrary, why aren’t all the things we call law arbitrary?

    Also, Indiana didn’t legislate the value of pi=3. You can read your own link to find that out. It was about squaring the circle (still wrong), with a side bit that approximated pi as 3.2 (not great either). And it didn’t pass because a mathematician could disprove it. But could a biologist disprove “personhood” or what constitutes a legally protected, individual human life in such a way (rather than “living vs. dead,” which again is not the correct dichotomy to apply here)?

    The forced penetration bit is icky (although I was under the impression that most abortions are also transvaginal procedures). I do hope that is overturned. Studies have shown that ultrasounds have no statistically significant effect on the overall rates of abortion (early abortions become more likely, later abortions less likely, according to the study I read).

  6. #6 J. R. P.
    February 19, 2012

    Michael: it’s you who are ignoring the science.

    At conception, there is a new DNA pattern. It is not the mother’s, and it is not the father’s. It is an individual just like you.

    Also just like you, he or she (no ‘it’ is here: this is a fact at the moment of conception, since they will generally have one of the two pairs of chromosomes) requires certain nutrients through various tubes in order to not die.

    In much the same way as a child stuck with his or her mother out in the woods (and it would be illegal and immoral for the mother to decide to just starve it), the child is stuck with the only person who is capable of sustaining them. Luckily, the vast majority of it is automatic – indeed, it’s built in – and it is, in a general and statistical way, merely an inconvenience. Compared to, certainly, killing a person, you must grant a reasonable balance.

    Now, if you were watching a very tiny episode of CSI, and you did some analysis, you’d be able to positively identify a victim of an abortion. There is a third identity involved.

    What is entirely unscientific is to apply any kind of ‘personhood’ at a time after conception. That’s just magic: there is no ‘sudden happening’ of personhood at any given moment. Thus, if you can PBA a child 5 minutes before they are born naturally, you can precisely equally kill them 5 minutes afterwards.

    The brain wave and heart-beat thing also doesn’t matter: if I can’t just decide to haul off and kill you because you are inconvenient to me (I have to go golf, darn it) when you’re on the operating table under anesthesia and bypass, then you can’t kill them when they are in a similar predicament. It’s a pretend difference – a pseudo-philosophical one, not a scientific one.

  7. #7 J.R.P.
    February 19, 2012

    Sorry – that should have been ‘Mark’. I mistargetted. :\

  8. #8 MarkH
    February 20, 2012

    So a new DNA pattern defines a new person? So do we protect somatic mutations? Cancers with chromosomal degradation? New DNA patterns are created by meiosis so are the egg and sperm new persons? Is this a new argument for legislating against Onanism?

    BS. This is an attempt to legislate when ensoulment occurs. A religious concept. Personhood is not defined by fusion of an egg and sperm. An embryo is not a person. That is insulting to people. If you want to tell me my life is the equivalent of that of a single fertilized cell, you can go screw yourself. That’s the more offensive view.

  9. #9 Vince Whirlwind
    February 20, 2012

    What has rape got to do with this, Arakiba?
    What are “men like me”?
    Are you some kind of bigot?

    Abortion is an unethical procedure to begin with, so discussing the ethics of performing an unethical procedure is kind of pointless.

    Abortion is used for the convenience of selfish adults. Making it less convenient seems to upset them.
    It’s *all* about convenience.

  10. #10 Vince Whirlwind
    February 20, 2012

    & +1 to what J.R.P. said.

    Religious fundamentalists provide a convenient confusion for this issue.

  11. #11 J. R. P.
    February 20, 2012

    Everything in your life started precisely from a single cell. Pretty much, we just added time, nutrients, etc, until you became a basically independent moral agent – since then, it’s all been your fault, but until then, it had been by the efforts of a whole large number of people (society) that you stayed in existence. I fail to see why that is an offensive fact to you. Perhaps you feel you were born fully grown from the head of Zeus?

    But, I do like how you ignored the central issue, though, and immediately jumped to the irrelevancies (or you are sufficiently ignorant as to be able to not differentiate the actual difference between the plenipotentary cells and living organisms versus, you know, everything else). Nice, clear thought there.

    Also, isn’t “Personhood” in the scientific view is an illusion, isn’t it? It’s a pretense arising from mechanism, there’s nothing to it that is, strictly speaking, metrical (well, except for the fuzzy sciences, but if we’re ignoring every single extant philosophy, we can ignore those too).So, it’s hardly something that you can argue from mere emperics. So, you’re punishing another living organism that is also undeniably human, exactly like you were at one point and are at various points, for, what, precisely?

    It seems to me you have some unspoken teleology that is occluding your capacity to evaluate the facts. Like “it’s really important that we don’t overpopulate the world” or some such nonsense that is equally applicable to me and you, but is most easily applicable to the smaller among us, then the worthless. The too old. Way to go there, Mengele.

  12. #12 Vince Whirlwind
    February 20, 2012

    “An embryo is not a person. ”

    Says who?

    “If you want to tell me my life is the equivalent of that of a single fertilized cell, you can go screw yourself. That’s the more offensive view.”

    Nincompoop.

    Is a 4-year-old less of a person than you?
    Is somebody with a missing limb less of a person to you?

    That single fertilised cell could be the next Albert Einstein. Or it could be the next nice lady down the road.
    Is she less of a person than you?

  13. #13 J. R. P.
    February 20, 2012

    (I should have prefixed the last sentence with ‘If so,’. Sorry, I fired it off with pique, I don’t want to be wildly unfair.)

  14. #14 J. R. P.
    February 20, 2012

    (I should have prefixed the last sentence with ‘If so,’. Sorry, I fired it off with pique, I don’t want to be wildly unfair. Pseudo-science pretending to be philosophy irritates me.)

  15. #15 david campbell
    February 20, 2012

    If an embryo is a person, then I am a dead man.

  16. #16 Militant Agnostic
    February 20, 2012

    That single fertilised cell could be the next Albert Einstein. Or it could be the next nice lady down the road.

    Or the next Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Willie Pickton, Ted Bundy, Dick Cheney etc or most likely just something that isn’t viable. Your intellectual dishonesty is obvious.

    Why stop at forced birth – why not require compulsory live donor kidney and liver donation?

    Would you force a woman to give birth to something that has nothing more than a brainstem?

  17. #17 Militant Agnostic
    February 20, 2012

    Vince Whirlwind

    Abortion is an unethical procedure to begin with

    Even if it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman? Even if is is necessary to prevent serious permanent harm to the mother?

    Calli Arcale

    Thanks to pro-lifers, it took her months to find a doctor willing to remove the festering remains; much longer, and she likely would’ve been left infertile. But I digress.

    Not really a digression – this shows that forced birth advocates don’t think things through. Underneath, they are all about control and slut shaming.

  18. #18 VikingWarriorPrincess
    February 20, 2012

    @10
    WTF!
    Rape has got a lot to do with this subject. Forcing a rape victim to go through a medically unnecessary procedure to be able to have an abortion is at best callously uncaring and at worst state sanctioned rape.
    You are calling abortions unethical then what would you brand an invasive unnecessary medical procedure?
    “Abortion is used for the convenience of selfish adults”
    Oh nice work there, I had no idea that rape victims are selfish and the reason they might want an abortion is for their own convenience.

  19. #19 Mike
    February 20, 2012

    So, since the abortion itself is an unnecessary procedure, I presume you are against laws requiring doctors and/or hospitals to perform elective abortions? Bravo.

    As for the “Personhood” bill, you mischaracterize the bill completely. It does not claim that there are dead cells before conception. It states, in agreement with you, that life is a continuous process and that the individual life of a human being begins with its conception. There is no time when an embryo/fetus or whatever you want to call it, is *not* human.

  20. #20 Sesli Chat
    February 20, 2012

    You are calling abortions unethical then what would you brand an invasive unnecessary medical procedure?

  21. #21 MarkH
    February 20, 2012

    The text of the bill:

    1. § 1. The life of each human being begins at conception.

    § 2. Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being.

    § 3. The natural parents of unborn children have protectable interests in the life, health, and well-being of their unborn child.

    § 4. The laws of this Commonwealth shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this Commonwealth, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court and specific provisions to the contrary in the statutes and constitution of this Commonwealth.

    § 5. As used in this section, the term “unborn children” or “unborn child” shall include any unborn child or children or the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.

    § 6. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as creating a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or by failing to follow any particular program of prenatal care.

    § 7. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.

    So, life begins at conception. My value as a person is equivalent to that of a fertilized egg. This is nonsense. Note the hypocrisy of the bill allowing in vitro fertilization to continue even though it typically will generate an excess of “persons” for eventual destruction.

    If there were a burning fertilization clinic with a baby in it and 100,000 frozen embryos, and you could only save one, which would it be? Only the morons would wheel out the freezer with the embryos in it.

    Life does not begin anywhere. You could make just as logical argument to protect the life of each new egg or sperm. This is legislating a religious belief about life, which is biologically nonsensical, into law.

    Whirlwind says:

    That single fertilised cell could be the next Albert Einstein. Or it could be the next nice lady down the road.

    But it’s not. It’s neither of those things. It could be, but so could every sperm and egg. Why don’t you start collecting and freezing yours so no people go to waste? 10 percent of those people will never implant. 10 percent of those that implant will miscarry. All those “persons” gone down the tubes, how cruel is nature.

    This attempt to describe unfeeling, unseeing, brainless clumps of cells as people is offensive to actual people.

    JRP says:

    But, I do like how you ignored the central issue, though, and immediately jumped to the irrelevancies (or you are sufficiently ignorant as to be able to not differentiate the actual difference between the plenipotentary cells and living organisms versus, you know, everything else). Nice, clear thought there.

    This whole statement is gobbledegook. Plenipotentiary cells? Is this some kind of British-ism? You mean pluripotent stem cells? Like the kind I’ve used in the lab and published on? I don’t understand these? BS, you don’t even know the right word for them.

    Also, isn’t “Personhood” in the scientific view is an illusion, isn’t it? It’s a pretense arising from mechanism, there’s nothing to it that is, strictly speaking, metrical (well, except for the fuzzy sciences, but if we’re ignoring every single extant philosophy, we can ignore those too).So, it’s hardly something that you can argue from mere emperics. So, you’re punishing another living organism that is also undeniably human, exactly like you were at one point and are at various points, for, what, precisely?

    It seems to me you have some unspoken teleology that is occluding your capacity to evaluate the facts. Like “it’s really important that we don’t overpopulate the world” or some such nonsense that is equally applicable to me and you, but is most easily applicable to the smaller among us, then the worthless. The too old. Way to go there, Mengele.

    Then you make the argument that since I was once an embryo it’s wrong to say embryo’s don’t merit as much rights as me, a full grown human. But I was also once a sperm and an egg. I was once a germ cell in my parents, and then in their parents before them. Why is the critical moment in the stream of life fertilization? Could it be because the pope says it’s so? The identification of fertilization is arbitrary.

    Finally you go into an absurd slippery slope argument. If embryos aren’t people then old people and babies aren’t people and now I’m doctor Mengele. Interesting. Embryos, before this bill was passed and in every other state and country aren’t considered people, and I don’t see us turning our lesser citizens into soylent green. This is an absurd argument. Then you call me Mengele. Tell me, asshole, how many lives have you saved? What value are you to society that you’ll call me a Nazi? Because I believe what? That being a person constitutes more than being a single-celled organism?

    You’ve Godwined the thread already. Get lost.

    Finally, to those that say abortion is unethical therefore nothing else you do to the woman is unethical, you guys are the most immoral people I think I’ve ever heard on this blog. As a doctor and someone who is trained in medical ethics this is just about the most untenable argument I’ve ever heard. Knowingly performing unnecessary procedures is unethical. Period. If you’re doing it for money it’s fraud. If it’s invasive it’s battery. If your argument is, “she’s here for an abortion, she deserves anything coming to her,” then you can go to hell. That’s sick.

  22. #22 Calli Arcale
    February 20, 2012

    J.R.P.:

    I would suggest people who seek abortion do not know _exactly_ what they are doing, Calli. They might have a fuzzy idea.

    Given the state of science education in our country, it’s probably true that most of them are hazy on the details, but I think it’s safe to say they all know there’s something alive inside of them, a parasite slowly becoming human. An ultrasound at 12 weeks isn’t going to change that; heck, babies at 12 weeks don’t look very human anyway, especially on ultrasound. So I don’t think the ultrasound will really help that much.

    Now, it *is* true that some women remain in denial at this point. They don’t seek abortions. Those stories get even more tragic, most of the time. The lucky babies in those cases are the ones where the mother thinks she’s got appendicitis or something and goes to the hospital, or delivers the baby at home and then abandons it at a fire department. The unlucky ones end up on the police blotter when their lifeless bodies are found in the trash (the traditional method of abortion, back in the bad old days).

    This is why I believe the overwhelming majority of women seeking abortions know their babies are alive, and why I don’t think making them get ultrasounds or putting condescending billboards up will help the problem at all. I suppose it’s easier to just assume they’re idiots than to actually try to think why they might actually want to do such a thing without being evil people.

    I think most pro-lifers want to believe that women who get abortions are basically good. But then then have to square that against the fact that they’re having their babies killed. That’s a horrible thing, right? One possible explanation, and the easiest one to contemplate, is that they’re just ignorant. They don’t realize that they’re ending a life. But I don’t think that’s generally true. Oh sure, you’ll get a few who really are amazingly dense, or really tragic cases such as children or the severely mentally handicapped, who genuinely do not understand what it means to be pregnant. But the majority I believe are aware that the baby is alive. So how can we square *that* with people being basically good? Well, by trying to put ourselves in their shoes. Life is complicated. And there is a lot of ignorance; I think education can definitely reduce the abortion rate, but not just harping on this single point of “hey, your baby is ALIVE! and it’s BAD TO KILL!” For the most part, they already know that, yet are choosing to have abortions anyway. So if a pro-lifer is serious about reducing the abortion rate, they should move to different tactics than just shame and condescension. The most obvious place (and the one so many seem to shy away from) is contraception — prevent the pregnancies in the first place. The more difficult fixes are social; we need to remove the social stigma of pregnancy and especially single motherhood, we need have more social support for mothers, and we desperately need to fix our foster care and adoption systems.

  23. #23 Katharine
    February 20, 2012

    Lemme get this straight:

    There are people on this thread who are comparing a blastocyst, which is functionally the same as a placozoan, to beings that have nervous systems…

  24. #24 Calli Arcale
    February 20, 2012

    Katharine — no, I don’t think they’re comparing it *functionally*. They’re talking about value, which is a much more difficult thing to quantify.

  25. #25 FilipinoMDstudent
    February 20, 2012

    Here in the Philippines, things are a lot worse. We could not even get a simple reproductive health law passed. Despite the fact that abortion is illegal here and that the proposed bill does not state that it plans to legalize abortion, all those “pro-lifers” accuse supporters of the bill to be pro-abortion because we support the use of contraceptives. They display their ignorance by saying that prevention of implantation using contraceptives is somehow abortion. Last time I checked, abortion meant termination of a pregnancy.

  26. #26 Calli Arcale
    February 20, 2012

    FilipinoMDstudent — some of that hinges on semantics as well. If life begins at conception, then if there is the whisper of a chance that a particular method of contraception will prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, then it’s abortion. Of course, the medical definition of pregnancy involves implantation, so it does not meet the technical definition of an abortion. But it could possibly result in the death of a fertilized egg, and that is enough to inflame the anti-abortion crowd.

  27. #27 nsib
    February 20, 2012

    To those arguing against the choice of abortion,

    Would you also say that taking someone’s blood and nutrients without consent is morally fine to do? If not, how do you square that with opposing all abortions?

  28. #28 Art
    February 20, 2012

    I’m not so sure it’s wise to mention that both sperm and egg are alive before conception. Next thing you know they will take it into their pointy little heads to declare ‘every sperm is sacred’. At twenty to life for each sperm cell masturbation, even an innocent wet dream, could get you … a whole lot of years in jail. In an ironic twist, and a very rare event it is, women get off far easier as they drop eggs at a far less prodigious rate.

  29. #29 Mike
    February 20, 2012

    MarkH, you are engaging in denialism. “The life of each human being begins at conception” means just that, the life *of each human being* – and individual human being. You keep twisting this to claim that it means that the bill is saying that life is created from lifelessness. That is a straw man argument.

    Why don’t you tell me, according to science, at what point does the fetus become human? Wait, I happen to have something here…

    “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.” [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten's Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

    Looks suspiciously like what the bill you’re mocking says. If you want more facts I’ll give you more.

    And another thing, you keep bringing up rape, and trying to apply the argument to elective abortion in general. Same for “life of the mother”. What do real scientist and doctors say about abortion to save the life of the mother?

    “Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be be aborted to save the mother’s life.”
    —C. Everett Koop, M. D.

    But maybe he’s biased. How about a pro-choice source?

    “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.”
    - Alan F. Guttmacher, “Abortion–Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now

    By the way, thank you for all the ad hominem attacks – they emphasize the point that you have no real facts behind your claims.

  30. #30 Vince Whirlwind
    February 20, 2012

    I see the same failure of logic being repeated here over and over again – we have an assertion fallacy “rape victims should have an abortion…” tied up with a deductive fallacy “…so opposing abortion is bad”.

    Then we have the old favourite, the strawman argument:
    “…people on this thread who are comparing a blastocyst, which is functionally the same as a placozoan, to beings that have nervous systems…”

    Preceded by yet more deductive fallacy, “Even if it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman? Even if is is necessary to prevent serious permanent harm to the mother?”

    And then an argument so bizarre I’m not sure Aristotle even thought of it:
    “Why stop at forced birth – why not require compulsory live donor kidney and liver donation?”
    I mean – WTF?

    Then we’re back on the deductive fallacies with: “I had no idea that rape victims are selfish and the reason they might want an abortion is for their own convenience.”
    Well, I don’t know – whose convenience will the abortion suit?
    Or…..is killing a baby some kind of weird punishment-by-proxy against the rapist?
    Either way, the proportion of abortions being performed in relation to a rape is tiny, so making an argument by raising outlier scenarios is pretty stupid.

    And then we have the usual: “To those arguing against the choice of abortion,…”
    No, I’m not. I believe “choice” should be respected. I assume all involved parties are consenting, of course, and are allowed to make their choice, too?

    All in all, this thread provides plenty of proof that the abortion issue is entirely political, with nasty rabid feminists and idiotic religious fundamentalists all giving as good they get (which is to say, poor quality logic and unconvincing arguments).

    Killing humans before they are born is obviously unethical. The vast majority of these babies that are killed in abortions are killed within about 2-4 weeks of being viable outside the womb. They have limbs, fingers, toes and a beating heart. They certainly have thoughts. And a great many “late” abortions are carried out on babies which are even older than that.

    It’s a disgusting business, and it’s an indictment on a political lobby group which purports to be chasing civil rights injustices that they are so stridently on the wrong side of this ethical debate.

  31. #31 Michael O.
    February 21, 2012

    MarkR, in your original post you argue stridently against the idea that law can define personhood or ensoulment or life. Yet later you seem similarly angry about an embryo being considered a person in law, though you do not ever define what you consider a person to be, other than that you obviously are one but an embryo obviously is not. How is it that you can make what are clearly metaphysical claims (IE what a person is) but lawmakers can’t?

    This may an easy way to win arguments in your own mind, but it’s not terribly honest or useful.

    “So, life begins at conception.”

    Again, not what it says, which is: “The life of each human being begins at conception.” Your version allows for the misunderstanding that sperm and eggs are dead. The following should come as no surprise to you, but there are multiple definitions for the word “life,” and the one you’re talking about isn’t the concept they’re talking about. Notice, again, that it is “THE (singular, definite article) life of each (singular) human being,” not “life” in the general sense you persist in applying to the law.

    “My value as a person is equivalent to that of a fertilized egg.”

    Straw man. Not what it says. It says you are both persons with certain equal rights, not that you are valued equally. Indeed, I would hope that the law does not define your value as a person. I don’t consider it to define mine.

    Law and logic require a more severe attention to the specific meaning of words and concepts.

    “Note the hypocrisy of the bill allowing in vitro fertilization to continue even though it typically will generate an excess of “persons” for eventual destruction.”

    Here many pro-life people would agree with you. It’s clearly a compromise since more people agree with in vitro than with abortion. This also shows why it’s a bit silly to label a law hypocritical – as the adage goes, “Law is the art of the possible.” Internet commenting, on the other hand, is the art of the ideal.

    “If there were a burning fertilization clinic with a baby in it and 100,000 frozen embryos, and you could only save one, which would it be? Only the morons would wheel out the freezer with the embryos in it.”

    I suppose it would somewhat depend on how likely those embryos were to be un-frozen, but in any case “you’re a moron if you disagree with my only partially analogous hypothetical situation” isn’t exactly an argument. If you actually want to convince anyone, or participate in reasonable conversations, this is not the way to do it. If, on the other hand, all you want to do is howl at people who think differently from you so that you can increase your street cred with your fellow belivers and then call your opponents fools for not agreeing with you that they’re idiots, well, it’s your site.

    “Life does not begin anywhere.”

    *A* life does. Otherwise NONE of our laws make sense. I understand the point you’re making, that in the biological sense everything is a continuum, but in the same way life does not end anywhere. Should murder be legal because a life is not ending? The point of this law is to define what constitutes an individual human life under the law so that it can extend legal protections. It is not making any sort of scientific statement. That is abundantly clear.

    “You could make just as logical argument to protect the life of each new egg or sperm.”

    Make it, then. But it seems what’s being avoided throughout is the (logical, as far as I can tell) idea that sex might have something to with the making of human beings. Since we are talking about human law and ethics, human actions and choices (whoops, there’s that word) take a strong precedence. Even in vitro fertilization implicitly admits that the important part is the fertilization – the point of the whole thing is to bring the egg and sperm together so that you can get a new person (a child) out of it at the end. I think there are consistent and reasonable arguments about personhood placing it elsewhere from conception, but I don’t see it working for egg and sperm.

    Also, and this is a bit silly but I think it’s funny so why not, if the egg is a person, and the sperm is a person, wouldn’t the combination be two persons? And maybe then the next generation would be four persons, and then eight…and maybe you go back further than I, and are 16384 persons to my 8192, which means you’re an order more valuable than I, and are totally right that this law is actually defining sperm as dead.

    “This is legislating a religious belief about life, which is biologically nonsensical, into law.”

    I would expect all laws to be biologically nonsensical, as they exist on the metaphysical plane. “Oughts” can’t be derived from purely scientific means (“is”), as we’ve known since at least Hume.

  32. #32 nsib
    February 21, 2012

    Vince,

    [blockquote]And then an argument so bizarre I’m not sure Aristotle even thought of it:
    “Why stop at forced birth – why not require compulsory live donor kidney and liver donation?”
    I mean – WTF?[/blockquote]

    Do you honestly not see that that’s your argument? You’re saying that it’s fine to use another person’s organs without their consent if that’s what’s necessary to keep you alive. Why should fetuses that aren’t even sapient have rights that exceed those of mature humans?

  33. #33 FilipinoMDstudent
    February 21, 2012

    @Vince Whirlwind

    “Then we’re back on the deductive fallacies with: “I had no idea that rape victims are selfish and the reason they might want an abortion is for their own convenience.”
    Well, I don’t know – whose convenience will the abortion suit? Or…..is killing a baby some kind of weird punishment-by-proxy against the rapist?”

    You’re missing the point. It is injustice for a raped woman to be denied the option of aborting a child she did not desire. Being pregnant is a huge physiologic burden that you should go through only if you want a child. It has nothing to do with revenge on the rapist.

    “Either way, the proportion of abortions being performed in relation to a rape is tiny, so making an argument by raising outlier scenarios is pretty stupid.”

    It doesn’t matter if “proportion of abortions being performed in relation to a rape is tiny”. The fact is that there are raped women who get pregnant and abortion must be available to them. Finally, you are excluding the fact that there are medical indications for abortion. Just read any Obstetrics textbook. Therefore, abortion needs to be available because 1) there are times when they are medically indicated and 2) there are raped women who don’t want to have a child from their rapists.

  34. #34 Vince Whirlwind
    February 21, 2012

    “It is injustice for a raped woman to be denied the option of aborting a child she did not desire.”

    Sure. And there are plenty of other injustices in the world. For example – what sort of justice is it for a baby to be killed because its mother wanted an “option” and didn’t “desire” it?

    You’re trying to balance a life with somebody’s convenience. It doesn’t work, ethically.

    “raped women who get pregnant and abortion must be available to them.” – argument by assertion fallacy. Another FAIL. There is no logical reason a baby human should be killed due to the particular circumstances of its conception.

    Oh, and nsib, ” fetuses that aren’t even sapient” – another argument by assertion fallacy. Oh, and “Why should fetuses that aren’t even sapient have rights that exceed those of mature humans?” a strawman: is anybody suggesting the mother needs to lose her life in order for the baby to keep its?

    Politics is like sexual desire: it makes you really quite useless when it comes to an objective intellectual exercise.

  35. #35 Vince Whirlwind
    February 21, 2012

    On second thoughts: you not be useless: you may know perfectly well that you are attempting to defend the indefensible.

  36. #36 Vince Whirlwind
    February 21, 2012

    Filipino: your final argument is also wrong.

    You argue, “there exists a scenario where abortion is ethical due to medical indications, therefore all abortion is ethical”.

    Consider knives: “it is wrong to stick a knife into someone. But Surgeons stick knives into people. Therefore sticking knives into people is not wrong”

    OK? It’s a logical fallacy.

  37. #37 FilipinoMDstudent
    February 21, 2012

    “what sort of justice is it for a baby to be killed because its mother wanted an “option” and didn’t “desire” it?”

    Abortion and killing babies are not the same. It’s not just because the baby wasn’t desired. It was because she got pregnant through rape. That she got pregnant was not within her control.

    “You’re trying to balance a life with somebody’s convenience. It doesn’t work, ethically.”

    This isn’t a matter of convenience. There are possible bad consequences of not aborting (at least in cases where I believe it is ok). For example, if a woman was raped and was not allowed to abort, she could be psychologically stressed for life. Or maybe even develop a dysfunctional family due to being a single mother. Or, the child could grow up being badly raised, esp. if the child wasn’t loved by the mother. As for therapeutic abortion, if it is not done in high-risk pregnancies, it can cause serious disability or even death.

    “There is no logical reason a baby human should be killed due to the particular circumstances of its conception.”

    Abortion and killing a baby human are not the same. Actually, rape is a good enough reason. The same is true in high-risk pregnancies. In such cases, you can either do nothing and let both mother and fetus die, or you can try to save the mother at the cost of aborting the fetus. Even if you think abortion is evil, in such a situation, it is actually the lesser of two evils.

  38. #38 FilipinoMDstudent
    February 21, 2012

    “Consider knives: “it is wrong to stick a knife into someone. But Surgeons stick knives into people. Therefore sticking knives into people is not wrong””

    Ah, but there is a difference between a skilled surgeon cutting you open (along with consideration of anatomy, monitoring of vitals, minimizing damage and actually treating a disease) and someone stabbing you with a knife blindly without anesthesia or consideration of anatomy.

  39. #39 FilipinoMDstudent
    February 21, 2012

    “You argue, “there exists a scenario where abortion is ethical due to medical indications, therefore all abortion is ethical”.”

    Ah, but I never said that ALL abortions are ethical. You are making that up. I have mixed views. Like I said, I firmly believe that abortion due to rape or for therapeutic purposes is completely ok. For other reasons, I am not so sure what I think about them.

  40. #40 FilipinoMDstudent
    February 21, 2012

    Sorry for the multiple posts.

    Continuing from #39

    Likewise, abortions for different reasons are different for ethical reasons. That’s what you’re arguing, right? However, like I said in #40, I never claimed that ALL abortions are ethical. Re-read my statements.

  41. #41 Calli Arcale
    February 21, 2012

    Vince:

    Killing humans before they are born is obviously unethical.

    I’m not so sure it’s obvious. I’m sure it *seems* obvious, at first glance, but look at the examples and it becomes much less clear what is the ethical thing.

    What’s obvious is that it’s horrible, and not a good thing in any way. Whether or not it’s ethical is actually a more complicated question, and very much dependent on the circumstances.

    Mike brought up two interesting quotes:
    “Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be be aborted to save the mother’s life.”
    —C. Everett Koop, M. D.

    “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.”
    - Alan F. Guttmacher, “Abortion–Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now

    Neither of these claims are accurate. I can’t speak for why they were made, but they’re not accurate. It is a common myth that women do not die of pregnancy or childbirth in America. It isn’t true. There are women who die of eclampsia every year here. Eclampsia is a major cause of maternal mortality in the third world; here, it is rare to die of it, because there is a very simple treatment: ending the pregnancy. It is, in fact, the *only* cure for eclampsia, because the condition is triggered by the interaction of the placenta with the uterus; it seems to result from a particularly aggressive placenta. Most of the time, it occurs in the third trimester, and the treatment is induction of labor or, if the condition is sufficiently advanced to make this dangerous, emergency c-section. But sometimes it happens earlier. If it happens at 20 weeks, the doctor and family are faced with a horrific decision. There is no chance of keeping the mother alive another 20 weeks if she has eclampsia; she would be lucky to see one more week. They can try to drag it out as long as possible, using blood pressuring lowering medications and giving her steroids to try to help the baby’s lungs mature. But odds are poor that they’ll make it to 24 weeks, and even 24 weeks is really only the cusp of viability; most babies born at 24 weeks will not survive long enough to be discharged from the hospital. And even those who do survive will usually endure tremendous agony; the medical procedures done to keep the extreme preemies alive are not pleasant, and doctors will have difficultly providing adequate pain relief in such a tiny and fragile body. The baby won’t remember the pain, of course, but is that an excuse? It’s something to contemplate. It will also be very expensive; it can even run to seven figures before the baby is discharged, and although some extreme preemies survive to adulthood with no significant impairment, they are the exceptions. Meanwhile, attempting to drag things out to 24 weeks will be a gamble with the mother’s life. Keep her in the hospital, taking the medications that keep her blood pressure from skyrocketing, pray she doesn’t start bleeding, pray she doesn’t suffer brain damage during this time (eclampsia often leads to seizures), and pray that all this risk will end up being worthwhile.

    It can turn out well. It can also turn out as a double tragedy, with both mother and child dead. Would you like legislators deciding how that should be done? Or would you rather families be able to decide for themselves what choice to make?

    Other conditions can threaten the life of the mother, and the lives of babies. Selective abortion in the case of multiple pregnancies is sometimes the only way to save a baby with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome; one baby is carefully removed so that at least one of them can survive. It’s very dicey; there is a real chance of killing both of them. There’s also a real chance of losing both of them in any case, though, so again, that’s probably a better question for the family to decide than legislators.

    And then there’s a woman I know. She was diagnosed with cancer while she was pregnant for the first time. I’m not sure, but I think it was leukemia. It was a very treatable form, but the treatment would severely harm and probably kill her unborn child. She could have decided to carry the pregnancy to term, and accept the death sentence that would mean, because it would very likely be too late for chemo to be effective at curing her cancer. Instead, she chose to have an abortion. She underwent chemo, and had a full remission. She went on to have two more babies, both healthy, and is still alive today, thirty years later. So her family is an example of a situation where if abortion were not available, there would be two children who would not exist today.

    It’s not a choice I’d want the government making for anyone; she could also have chosen to keep the baby and take her much reduced chances of surviving the cancer. And I’d respect that choice as well, despite the high likelihood of leaving behind her husband and new baby. I know someone who made that choice as well, though her situation was less ambiguous — her cancer, when diagnosed, was already too far advanced, and doctors told her chemo would give her maybe a year. She didn’t think it was worth her baby’s life to give herself only a year. She ended up dying a week after delivering a healthy son via c-section.

    And then there are young mothers. If a 10 year old girl gets pregnant, she is at very high risk of complications from the labor and delivery, even in America; after all, it’s tough to get around the anatomy of the situation. There is also a high risk of prematurity; few very young mothers are able to keep the pregnancy long enough for the baby to do well. There are certainly healthy babies that have been born to mothers this young, but it’s risky. Again, should the decision really be made by some faceless government fiat that cannot comprehend the circumstances? Or should the people involved have something to say about it?

    And then we get into the really complicated situations — where the mother’s life is in danger during her pregnancy but indirectly. In America, the time when a woman is most likely to face physical violence is when she is pregnant. There are women who may be murdered if it is discovered that they are pregnant; is it any wonder, then, that some of them will secretly seek abortion?

    Abortion is horrible, gruesome, and tragic. Yet sometimes it is better than the alternative, and in these heartbreaking cases, I think it is important that abortion remain a legal option.

    Abortion should be safe, legal, and *rare*. Railing against it will not accomplish any of that; history’s pretty clear on that point.

  42. #42 Susan Ferguson
    February 21, 2012

    I’m curious about how many women are posting on this thread. I thought the original reason for the post was to question the medically unnecessary procedure of forcing a woman to submit to a vaginal ultrasound if she wants to seek an abortion. Whether you think abortion is ethical or not, forcing a woman to submit to this procedure is unethical no? It is a rather invasive form of shaming, if you’re seeking an abortion, you’re a dirty slut and a murderer, now I’m going to shove this probe up inside you. Arguments about what defines a person are distractions from the real agenda which is to reduce the reproductive rights of women. The other galling thing is, it takes two to make a child. Why do women have to bear 100% of the responsibility for their unborn fetus or embryo or whatever. If women can’t have abortions, should we force the fathers to take care of the kids? Should that rapist be made to look after his progeny? Should that uncle who abused his 12 year old niece and got her pregnant be forced to raise his inbred offspring? Should the dad of that severely handicapped child have to foot the expenses of taking care of his kid? People are pretty silent when it comes to the male side of the equation.

  43. #43 MarkH
    February 21, 2012

    MarkH, you are engaging in denialism. “The life of each human being begins at conception” means just that, the life *of each human being* – and individual human being. You keep twisting this to claim that it means that the bill is saying that life is created from lifelessness. That is a straw man argument.

    Denialism has a definition. And, even if true that I erected a single straw man, would not qualify. I have alleged no conspiracies, I’m not cherry-picking data etc. Don’t get overblown with the language. Just because we’re at denialism blog doesn’t mean every argument or every critique is over denialism or anyone that disagrees with me or anyone else is a denialist.

    My argument is not a straw man. I reject the concept that life has a beginning other than the very first beginnings billions of years ago. Life is continuous and uninterupted. Thus for a bill to declare “human life begins” is foolish. It does not begin. It is continuous. The alternatives are there is a “nonhuman life” component during the process of fertilization. That suggests our sperm and eggs are not alive, or not human. They are both human, and alive. I am further stating that choosing conception as the beginning of life is biologically inaccurate, and arbitrary to chose as the beginning of personhood.

    Why don’t you tell me, according to science, at what point does the fetus become human? Wait, I happen to have something here…

    It is human at all stages. The sperm is human, the egg is human, their fusion is human. There is no non-human stage.

    “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.” [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten's Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition.New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

    Looks suspiciously like what the bill you’re mocking says. If you want more facts I’ll give you more.

    So what? You quoted a textbook. This is one biologists definition of the beginning of the “individual”, not that life begins there, or that the subject is then a person under law. I reject that this means they are then a person. A full complement of chromosomes can not be the sole requirement of personhood.

    And another thing, you keep bringing up rape, and trying to apply the argument to elective abortion in general. Same for “life of the mother”. What do real scientist and doctors say about abortion to save the life of the mother?

    Actually I never brought up rape, I only mentioned others have made the comparison about the ultrasound law.

    “Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be be aborted to save the mother’s life.”
    —C. Everett Koop, M. D.

    A poor source for a non-political view of the issue. Koop was caught supressing data that abortion was actually safer than childbirth during his tenure as Surgeon General. It was a scandal, and an unfortunate politicization of science consistent with his strongly pro-life views.

    But maybe he’s biased. How about a pro-choice source?

    “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.”
    - Alan F. Guttmacher, “Abortion–Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now

    Ahh, now someone is cherry-picking, not to mention arguing over something I never brought up. One this quote is routinely used out of context by pro-lifers to suggest abortion can not be life saving. Note the quote is “almost any” There are instances in which it is, and not just for ectopic pregnancy. Second, I’m not making the argument that abortion should only be to save the life of the mother. I do think it should be a choice and women should not be forced to carry pregnancy to term if they do not want it. You’re conflating the arguments of multiple people in the thread with mine. Of the patients i’ve personally cared for that obtained abortions (all in med school), none was for a life threatening reason to the mother. The overwhelming majority were for fetal defects that resulted in non-viable embryos (anencephaly, and other severe neural tube defects etc.) and the mothers did not want to cary an essentially dead embryo to term and deliver a dead body. I was very sympathetic to these reasons. But I’m not arguing that abortion should be legal to protect maternal life. It really is a rare reason for abortion, it only serves to show how radical opponents are when they won’t even include provisions to protect that rare minority. I’m prochoice because I believe it is not up to anyone to dictate to women that they have to carry a pregnancy to term.

    By the way, thank you for all the ad hominem attacks – they emphasize the point that you have no real facts behind your claims.

    My ad hominem was after being referred to as “Mengele”. I maintain that people that call those that disagree with them over a philosophical point Nazi doctors, are, in fact, assholes.

    I do not believe personhood is infused at fertilization, and it’s interesting to see what everyone has inferred I do believe. Nor do I believe that such discussions are even possible to have a scientific definition of true merit. Personhood is a subjective concept for philosophers and ethicists to debate, but not for pro-life politicians to define to restrict abortion or use of contraceptives. That government is involved in the debate is very disturbing.

    Worse, this new definition makes every woman with an IUD a mass murderer. This is absurd. This would also indicate that that the qualities of personhood have nothing to do with feeling, thinking, or interacting with the environment in a meaningful way. If an embryo has the qualities of a person, then why not a protozoan? I get angry, and call people stupid for believing this because it’s so insulting to actual people to say nothing beyond having a full complement of chromosomes is what makes me a person.

    Bullshit! Personhood is more than that. This belief that a beating heart, or human genes is the end all of what makes a human being a person is contrary to the philosophy that allows us to stop a beating heart to harvest organs and give them to others to promote life. It’s why we have concepts like brain death, and surgeries like organ donation. All impossible if you consider it murder any time life is ended, no matter what the state that life is in. Equating my life to that of a ball of cells is offensive to me for that reason, and I’m sorry I’ve been a little hostile about it, but it’s frankly really rude to say to someone I’ve as valuable as an embryo. Nonsense. Go back to the burning building, which would you save, the 100,000 frozen “persons”? Or the single truly living human being? If I’m in that building and die over some embryos I’ll come back and haunt your ass.

  44. #44 MarkH
    February 21, 2012

    It is a rather invasive form of shaming, if you’re seeking an abortion, you’re a dirty slut and a murderer, now I’m going to shove this probe up inside you. Arguments about what defines a person are distractions from the real agenda which is to reduce the reproductive rights of women.

    Thanks for bringing us back on topic Susan. It’s my own fault for mentioning this stupid personhood amendment and getting the two issues conflated. Yes, it is unethical and illegal to force unnecessary medical procedures on people. End of story.

  45. #45 Calli Arcale
    February 21, 2012

    Susan:

    I’m curious about how many women are posting on this thread.

    Well, if we’re taking a poll, I’ll raise my hand. ;-) I’m also a mother of two, and so have first-hand knowledge of pregnancy. Mine were low-risk, yet both ended up with medically-indicated c-sections, costing upwards of $15,000. Good thing I have health insurance.

    Whether you think abortion is ethical or not, forcing a woman to submit to this procedure is unethical no?

    Yes, I agree. The phallic analogy is impossible to avoid, and yes, it will shame the women. It’s just barely possible that some of the lawmakers involved are unaware of what exactly it entails, and are intending merely to condescend to the women seeking abortion. (“See? It’s a *baby* and it’s *alive*. You didn’t know that, did you?”) Also possible (perhaps probable) is that they just haven’t thought that through and considered how that is to a woman. Or they figure that if a woman is willing to have sex and later to have an abortion, she must not mind anything in there — not so much out of hostility to her but out of stupid small-mindedness. But I think most of them just want to put an obstacle in the path.

    If women can’t have abortions, should we force the fathers to take care of the kids?

    Be careful of that argument; I’ve seen it used in reverse. I’ve seen people (generally men) argue that if women have the option of abortions, then they should forfeit all right to child support. It’s part of the “well, if you don’t agree with me, then I’m gonna take the exact opposite view, so nyyaaaah!” argument.

    Should that rapist be made to look after his progeny? Should that uncle who abused his 12 year old niece and got her pregnant be forced to raise his inbred offspring?

    That’s a much bigger can of worms, and unfortunately I think it’s another “well, if we can’t have it this way, then let’s take the exact opposite” argument. The choices don’t have to be “abortion on demand” or “kids raised by monsters”. In both cases of the false dichotomy arguments, it seems to be saying that if women can’t have sexual freedom, then men shouldn’t either, and vice versa. Neither way is just, except perhaps in a Solomonic sense.

    We all have responsibilities to our children — and as a society, we have responsibilities to one another’s children as well. We also have responsibilities to one another, and connections that cannot easily be severed. All this is why I think the government should not be making these decisions. It should be between a woman and her doctor. Hopefully her sexual partner will also be involved, but if sexual relationships were always clear and loving, we wouldn’t have daytime TV.

    Should the dad of that severely handicapped child have to foot the expenses of taking care of his kid?

    Well, the severe handicap issue would be less of a problem if we’d get a decent health care system. Severe handicaps can easily bankrupt a family, and that simply should not be so. In my ideal world, nobody would have to choose between the children they have and the child they’re carrying. But we live in the real world, not an ideal one, and that becomes a very real and very important choice from time to time.

  46. #46 nsib
    February 21, 2012

    Vince,

    Oh, and “Why should fetuses that aren’t even sapient have rights that exceed those of mature humans?” a strawman: is anybody suggesting the mother needs to lose her life in order for the baby to keep its?

    Are you really that dense? If I needed to live in *your* body, using *your* blood and organs in order to survive, you would be well within your rights to deny me. Why do fetuses get to trump that right, the right to one’s own body?

  47. #47 Vince Whirlwind
    February 21, 2012

    nsib, say I come home from work and discover a person hiding under my kitchen table, in *my* house. My rights to my personal property have been infringed. Then this intruder explains to me that her husband was beating the crap out of her and then went to get his rifle to finish her off at which point she made her escape.

    If I turn her out, her husband will find her and kill her.

    DO *my* rights to my personal property trump *her* right to live?

    And no, I’m not dense. Think about it.

  48. #48 nsib
    February 21, 2012

    Vince,

    So it’s fine for me to use your kidney if I need to? Good to know.

  49. #49 Calli Arcale
    February 21, 2012

    Vince — it’s not a very good analogy. Of course your right to personal property doesn’t trump her right to live — but that doesn’t give you any obligations to her, nor require that you believe her claims that turning her out will cost her life.

    Under the law, you are not obliged to shelter her from her abusive husband, who is very likely going to track her to your home (at which point it will become about a great deal more than just your personal property). You also are not obliged to feed her, clothe her, entertain her, educate her, provide her with medical care, etc for the next 18 years. Nor are you obliged to allow her to set up a transfusion directly from you to her to replace any blood lost during her perilous flight.

    It is not really comparable. Thing is, human life (fetal or adult) is far too important to whittle down to such improbable hypotheticals, or to try to force into some sort of black-and-white situation where either A is worth more than B or B is worth more than A, and outcome C is the only conscionable outcome. In the case of pregnancy, both parties are trumping the other party’s rights. Can’t be helped; it’s the nature of it. Decisions in less ideal cases are not going to be pleasant or easy, and I’m afraid there’s no way around that. Pretending it can be made so simple will only lead to grief.

  50. #50 MarkH
    February 21, 2012

    No one will answer my burning building question. Sigh.

    Anyone? Anyone? Would you allow a living breathing human being to die to save a larger number of embryos?

    I’m guessing no, because deep down, you know there’s a difference between an embryo, or even lots of embryos, and a living breathing person.

  51. #51 J. R. P.
    February 21, 2012

    MarkH – seriously, this is a trivial exercise in ethical philosophy, except the answer is a no-brainer unless your ethical philosophy is broken, then all sorts of complications arise.

    Look up ‘fat man’ and ‘train tracks’. Wikipedia calls it the ‘trolley problem’.

    Basically, it is not permissible to do positive evil that good may come of it.

    Also, what you propose is not in the form of a realistic scenario, so the formation a moral synderesis cannot be accomplished given the information at hand. So, it is literally a silly question.

    The final answer is, of course, of course there are circumstances you would allow a living, breathing human being to die to save an embryo. There are _no_ circumstances where you could actively kill a judicially (the just authority) innocent human being to save embryos.

    So, flawless ethical consistency means that using the minimum necessary force to stop an abortion is always justified, but murder to prevent a prospective abortion is not.

  52. #52 J. R. P.
    February 21, 2012

    Sorry, since I forget my audience, I’ll also clarify the flip side:

    Intentional abortion to save the life of a mother is also unjustified.

    However, saving the life of a mother with an unintended side-effect that makes the environment hostile to the child who has no present hope of survival (ectopic pregnancy, uterine cancer with no hope of carrying to term) is justified. (Specifically, if it’s possible to transplant the embryo to a possibly fertile location, it should be attempted. (Presently, this is not done).)

    The final consideration is: you cannot weigh a risk to life against an actual life. A risk is not a surety, but an execution is intended to be a surety.

    Thus, early delivery (say, after 26 weeks?) with all lifesaving procedures to the child could be indicated in certain cases, since the risk of early delivery can be weighed against the risk to the health of the mother.

    I think that’s all of the considerations, I may have missed one.

  53. #53 NJ
    February 21, 2012

    JRP@52:

    the answer is a no-brainer unless your ethical philosophy is broken

    IFF your particular religiously-based framing is accepted (ie, ensoulement at conception). For those who do not accept your framing, your statement is simply invalid.

  54. #54 J. R. P.
    February 21, 2012

    NJ: Aristotle would think you are wrong about that. As do most ethicists. Indeed, many atheists would also disagree.

    The definition of life (which can be defined, compressedly (so, you have to study a bit to understand what is meant by all the terms), as ‘imminent self-directed motion to an ordered end’) precedes Christianity.

    Indeed, I can say with moral certainty from the way he reasoned about it, that the only reason St. Thomas questioned when ensoulement happened was that they could not detect the motion of an embryo before some number of months. Had he had the incontrovertible positive knowledge we have about conception, he would have expressed no doubts. You have to actually read Aquinas to come to this conclusion, however.

  55. #55 NJ
    February 21, 2012

    JRP@55:

    I can say with moral certainty from the way he reasoned about it

    …damned near anything. Even a casual reading of history is replete with examples of people ‘filling in the blanks’ of their preferred religious texts to get the results they wished.

    Of course, Shaw was a bit more pithy about it.

  56. #56 Vince Whirlwind
    February 21, 2012

    Calli said: “that doesn’t give you any obligations to her, ”

    That’s not true Calli. It is an ethical duty to save life if you have the opportunity. It is your ethical duty to protect somebody if you have the opportunity. I notice you bring up “the law”. The law isn’t often very good, however there are certainly laws in existence in some jurisdictions which make it an offence for you you fail to render assistance to somebody in some circumstances. “Necessity” is also legal doctrine which would permit (for example) the battered wife to break into my home seeking safety.

    And nsib, you clearly have no idea of ethics, even less understanding of logic, and a somewhat limited capacity for rational thought.

    And Markh, I noticed that JRP pointed you in the direction of the “fat man tram tracks” thing, which is exactly what should spring to mind before you propose your burning building scenario. This is ethics 101.

  57. #57 J. R. P.
    February 22, 2012

    NJ: I invite you to go read the stuff yourself. Unlike the circularity ad ignoratio you are stuck with, I’m happy to discuss it if you can break out of your loop.

    The places you will find it discussed are the Summa Theologiae and the Summa contra Gentiles, and I believe you should also read Quaestiones Disputate de Anima in an adequate english translation. But the short version, accepted by all scholars I am aware of, is that his mistake follows from the idea of spontaneous generation, which we know (now) is not accurate.

    Specifically, the new information means that the substantial form subsists, (although it is in a sense in potentia), at the time of conception, since at that time it has esse, essence and ens, and even a great deal of its entelechy (except for nurture, I guess).

  58. #58 Vince Whirlwind
    February 22, 2012

    On another note, next time you counsel people to “don’t get overblown with the language”, ask yourself why you use the term “pro-choice”.
    What does it mean, where did it originate, and does it not in fact carry an intrinsic element of denialism?

  59. #59 Noadi
    February 22, 2012

    The final answer is, of course, of course there are circumstances you would allow a living, breathing human being to die to save an embryo.

    No there isn’t. Absolutely, positively, none. There are circumstances in which I would let someone die instead of a pregnant woman (for example if that woman was someone I cared about) but I would be saving her not her embryo. In fact I would gladly perform the abortion myself if doing so would save the life fully formed human. It’s not a question to me. An embryo is a potential person, it isn’t yet a person and does not trump the life of a fully formed independent person.

  60. #60 MarkH
    February 22, 2012

    I was actually thinking of the tram problem as I was writing it. However, it is quite different as the tram problem requires you to actively kill someone. An act of “positive evil”. Since you clearly don’t understand the tram problem, maybe you are the ones who don’t know ethics 101. I proposed a dilemma, at worst, a Morton’s fork for those that consider embryos to be people. For those that say it’s impossible I ask, it’s impossible for a fertility clinic to catch fire?

    So since it’s not in any way related to a tram problem, and you have again shown you have no reading comprehension, how about it? Answer my dilemma.

  61. #61 Wow
    February 22, 2012

    “ask yourself why you use the term “pro-choice”.”

    Because “pro-life” was coined, making the ones backing action (the meaning of the “pro” in pro-$whatever) the holders of being (since idiots think that everything is either for or against $whatever) anti-life.

    The pro-choice are, in actual fact pro life. The life of living, viable, productive and feeling human beings.

    The pro-lifers are pro the sort of life that means Domestos kills 99.9% of all life and therefore a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a silly definition, but it was taken.

  62. #62 Calli Arcale
    February 22, 2012

    Vince:

    That’s not true Calli. It is an ethical duty to save life if you have the opportunity. It is your ethical duty to protect somebody if you have the opportunity. I notice you bring up “the law”.

    I notice you recognized what I was saying but chose instead to contradict what I wasn’t. I was explicitly talking about the law — you have no legal obligation to help a person who breaks into your home and claims to be in distress.

    So let’s talk ethics. Do you have an obligation to help her? It probably depends on whether or not you believe her — and also whether or not you agree with her about the correct course of action, and whether or not you have other obligations. If you live alone, this is probably easier, but if you have a family, then choosing to help her could put them in peril — do you put her safety ahead of your family’s, knowing that a possibly psychotic man may be coming? Case in point: here in Minnesota, we just had a case where an abused woman went to a man’s house for shelter. She brought along her children. They were already acquainted. Then her husband showed up, along with his father. They beat to death the man who was sheltering her, severely wounded the woman (she’s still in hospital now), and wounded one of her children. Given situations like that, do you still think you have an obligation to help her, knowing that even if she is telling the truth (and isn’t just an attempted burglar trying to avoid being turned in to the cops), you could pay for it with your life? Or your children’s lives?

    I couldn’t turn her away, myself. I would see to her immediate needs (food, water, clothing) and call the police, and turn her over to them so they could sort out the problem. (The police don’t always get it right, but they’re much better equipped to handle it than I am.) And then once she was gone, I’d probably be calling a locksmith to correct the problem that allowed her to break into my house; whether she’s telling the truth or not, my house evidently has a vulnerability which needs to be addressed.

  63. #63 nsib
    February 22, 2012

    Vince,

    And nsib, you clearly have no idea of ethics, even less understanding of logic, and a somewhat limited capacity for rational thought.

    Since you’re resorting to name-calling, I take it you’re out of arguments?

    Even granting your premise that a fetus should be afforded all the rights of a born human, how is it ethical at all to allow one individual non-consensual use of another individual’s organs?

  64. #64 NJ
    February 23, 2012

    JRP@xx:

    Unlike the circularity ad ignoratio you are stuck with, I’m happy to discuss it if you can break out of your loop.

    Projection. An amazing thing to behold. Using a dubious biological rationalization and a heavy dose of pre-scientific philosophizing to try and cover up the fact that he wishes to use his particular religious beliefs to deny autonomy to adult women.

    And I’m stuck in a loop? It’s clear that the reference I made earlier to the GB Shaw quote is as trenchant as it could be.

    Even leaving aside their neglect of the necessary consequences of their stated rationale (they should therefore be for 100% universal access to birth control, Plan B should be in vending machines, universal health care for pregnant women and for any children resultant from their desired policies) which demonstrates clearly that their arguments are a sham, the simple fact is that if adult women are autonomous, then Nobody. Else. Gets. A. Vote.

  65. #65 Keileya
    February 24, 2012

    JRP and Vince, what you are missing with your hypotheticals is the fact that for at least some of the people you are discussing this with, this is not a neat little hypothetical problem, but our actual lives.

    I have a degenerative genetic disorder that means that if I become pregnant and carry to term, or even past the middle of the second trimester or so, I will have about a 50% chance of death and a near-certainty of permanent and irreversable paraplegia. (This condition also means that tubal ligation is contraindicated except in actual life-threatening conditions; surgery of all sorts is contraindicated except in life-threatening conditions.)

    You’d better fucking believe that if I became pregnant, I would abort in a heartbeat, and I would feel precisely zero moral qualms about it. I am not an incubator. My body is not a theoretical construct for an ethical debate. I am under no moral obligation to kill or cripple myself for an embryo I did not invite to move in. I will concede your right to have an opinion on this when you volunteer to host a tapeworm.

    (But then again, I’m a lesbian, so according to most forced-birthers, I’m already going to hell. Fairly effective form of birth control, though.)

  66. #66 FilipinoMDstudent
    February 24, 2012

    @Keileya

    It’s funny how these people are quick to judge people who get abortions, thinking that they terminate pregnancies simply out of convenience. Makes me wonder if they even know anything about maternal physiology or modern obstetrics. In fact, in our argument, Vince did not address my reasoning that there are medical indications for abortion.

  67. #67 ConscientousObjector
    March 27, 2012

    If I may address various points raised, albeit with many already capably answered, if ignored:

    It’s the human brain that is typically cited as being what makes us human – an embyro has no awareness of ANYTHING.

    Clusters of cells, like detached and brainless body parts, are no more ‘persons’ capable of feeling physical and emotional pain or fear than are corporatations, no matter what ludicrous laws may be passed under any such pretence.

    Generally speaking, relative value has been variously cited as being reliant on individual perception, or an agreed-upon market value affecting individual valuation.

    For those claiming that the value of an egg equals or exceeds that of an adult – would it be acceptable for you, personally, to pay for a whole roasting chicken but recieve an egg instead?

    Or does the involvement of your loss of money and expectations make it different?

    Rape is often less sexual in nature than an expression of power over another person – attempting to take control over women’s bodies, decisions and lives by forcing them to carry either to death or term what may be at the time unwanted fertilized ova, is in itself an appalling form of virtual rape with potentially long-lasting/permanent negative physical and psychological consequences.

    Laws such as that under discussion here are effectively designating women as chattels, as broodmares, as objects valued by the ‘REAL (white male fundamentalist/paternalistic/corporate) humans’ for what lies between their legs and for what comes out of them, if perhaps only in terms of potential future cheap labour for corporate powers, assuming the offspring don’t starve or die, before becoming ‘useful’, of some industrial-pollutant-related disease in the expanding corporate Globalist economy.

    This equates to negation of personhood for women, to virtual slavery in the claim of ownership of female human bodies, if not of their minds and souls.

    The symbolic ultrasound wand rape forcing women to suffer – and even pay for, and sign coerced acceptance of – unneccessary, wasteful, expensive and unwanted vaginal penetration in the form of a fraulantly imposed ‘medical procedure’ and a state-imposed lecture calculated precisely to impose further suffering upon women already undergoing almost intolerable stress prior to a medical procedure the person involved (who IS indeed capable of feeling physical and emotional pain or fear) feels IS necessary, if horrible, amounts to state-mandated torture of desperate and therefore vulnerable individuals within a population group designated as inferior and subject to the will of the powerful and ruthless in even the most personal and difficult of decisions.

    Passing laws to ‘justify’ torture, coersion or the elimination of human/Constitutional rights cannot make any of this moral or even legal, as human and Constitutional rights were not established to be eliminated at the whim of those in power but to protect these forever despite those interests wishing to do so – and in the case of public officials, being in direct contravention of their obligations in holding offices existing specifically to uphold the Constitution of their country and to serve the interests and protect the rights of ‘the people’, (not corporations or other self-interest groups, such as churches) and by so failing, provably fail to be legitimate holders of public office of any sort.

    This is also, importantly, one more brick in the wall between our knowledge of, and demand for, our already-established – and inalienable – human and Constitutional rights;

    one more degree heat in the boiling-pot in which we gradually stew of ‘it’s OK to discriminate against, denegrate, slander, harm, possibly even kill members of THIS particular identifiable group because… we say so’ against more and more groups, in brain-washing away the essential, already-established concept of equal rights and treatment for all humans under the law;

    one more legal precedent against humanity in the interest of an over-riding control of individuals among society by the powerful being established in law;

    one more step toward a Globalized fascist state of mind.

    And I’d also like to add: nosy ‘neighbours’ among the public also have no business shoving themselves, or penile substitutes, into our vaginas or our lives.

    Get your own.

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