Pharyngula

Why we all should be pro-choice

Even if you personally feel that you could never support abortion, here’s a powerful personal argument for abortion rights — it’s pretty much today’s essential read.

(via Majikthise)

Comments

  1. #1 Old Scratch
    April 24, 2007

    The anti-abortion people wouldn’t relent if they forced a woman have the baby, and she died in childbirth and the child was stillborn.

    They don’t care about people. Don’t you get it? They’re big babies who want to have their way. Casualties be damned! It’s a war for my-way-or-you-die.

  2. #2 Will E.
    April 24, 2007

    Don’t statistics show that there women who profess to be pro-life have abortions about as much as women who are pro-choice? Have I read that? It’s in my head from somewhere.

  3. #3 markbt73
    April 24, 2007

    This is precisely why I refuse to use the term “pro-life.” Those people don’t give a damn about life, quality or quantity. It’s all about agenda and control.

    And I fully understand the anger this guy feels, even though I have never been faced with this decision. I’ve had to deal with the “God’s plan” and “in a better place” rhetoric before, and had to restrain myself from breaking noses.

    I’m going to send a link of this to everyone I know.

  4. #4 kmarissa
    April 24, 2007

    Will E., I’ve been trying to re-find the article I once read that showed exactly that, but can’t find it right now. So yeah, not helpful, but I’ve read that too.

  5. #5 Ted Powell
    April 24, 2007


    This is precisely why I refuse to use the term “pro-life.”

    Try “pronatalist”–that’s where it’s really at.

  6. #6 Eric
    April 24, 2007
    This is precisely why I refuse to use the term “pro-life.”

    Try “pronatalist”–that’s where it’s really at.

    I prefer “pro-uterus enslavement” or “-reproductive tyranny.”

  7. #7 Carlie
    April 24, 2007

    There is another very powerful story here about a fertility-assisted pregnancy that had to be terminated via the procedure that is now officially banned. It shows exactly why politicians legislating medicine can be a very, very bad idea, and how things are never as clear-cut as certain black and white thinkers would like to believe.

    There’s also this, which really gives the lie to “pro-life”. Mississippi has the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and also the highest infant mortality rate. Pro-life indeed.

  8. #8 Mark
    April 24, 2007

    Limbaugh and Coulter once were fetal.
    Keep abortion safe and legal.

  9. #9 Andre
    April 24, 2007

    Great, powerful article. Everyone should read.

    “Old Scratch” got it right, They don’t care about people. Their morality is solely based in obedience. In the face of a whrathful god, human lives are colateral damage. They couldn´t care less.

    Scary.

  10. #10 kmarissa
    April 24, 2007

    Will E.,

    For what it’s worth, this article, by a pro-choice group in Canada, discusses “When the anti-choice choose”, although it’s really a collection of anecdotes rather than statistics (although it does give some statistics).

    http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/anti-tales.shtml

  11. #11 Abe Lincoln
    April 24, 2007

    There is a difference between induced abortion and therapeutic abortion. The mother’s life trumps the life of an unborn child when her life is at risk, any reputable doctor will tell you that. This is clearly a case of therapeutic abortion and your arguments promoting induced abortion regarding this case are inapplicable.

    There are idiots on both sides of the imaginary line, all you people care about is which side is yours.

  12. #12 dhonig
    April 24, 2007

    That’s the link- I actually did a cartoon based upon that anti-tales site: http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a229/dhonig2/YourAbortionMyAbortion383.jpg

  13. #13 Will E.
    April 24, 2007

    kmarissa, thank you for the link.

  14. #14 commissarjs
    April 24, 2007

    Don’t statistics show that there women who profess to be pro-life have abortions about as much as women who are pro-choice? Have I read that? It’s in my head from somewhere.

    Every abortion is immoral… except mine.

    Also Abe… I’m not going to call by that stolen name, you are not fit to wear it. You do not get to decide what is moral or immoral for me or anyone else. If someone wants your opinion on these matters they will ask for it. But whatever you do, do not hold your breath while waiting. You will be sorely disappointed in the outcome.

  15. #15 Alex
    April 24, 2007

    If god wanted women to have abortions he would have made the clitoris an eject button.

  16. #16 squeaky
    April 24, 2007

    Sheesh commissarjs–Abe acts as the voice of reason about how things ACTUALLY are with regards to therapeutic vs. induced abortion, and you jump all over him. I guess if anyone expresses an opinion (or in this case, a FACT) that doesn’t agree with your narrow view of the world (which is, apparently, all Pro-lifers want women to die), it can’t possibly have any merit or basis in reality.

    Reality dose here–whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, rhetoric as expressed by the majority of posts here so far does nothing more but widen the gap between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. Do you really want this issue to come to some solution? If so, then put down the slings and arrows and actually take some time to learn what the other side ACTUALLY believes rather than what you think they believe. Many comments here exhibit the height of ignorance. But, forget it–far easier to just sling insults than it is to come to solutions, even when people’s (BOTH the living and unborn) lives depend on it. Best we just keep this a political issue so that the Dems and Reps can continue to use it as a wedge issue so that we stay in their camps and ignore other relevant issues they don’t want us to think about.

    Or alternatively, we can get beyond politics and actually start listening to the concerns each side has. I, for one, believe we can find a middle ground that would benefit BOTH mothers and children. And, for your information, this is NOT a religious issue. Not all people of faith are pro-life, nor are all secularists pro-choice. So stop discussing it purely in those terms.

  17. #17 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    There is a difference between induced abortion and therapeutic abortion. The mother’s life trumps the life of an unborn child when her life is at risk, any reputable doctor will tell you that. This is clearly a case of therapeutic abortion and your arguments promoting induced abortion regarding this case are inapplicable.

    Abe,

    There is only a difference b/c you believe so. Both “induced abortions” and “therapeutic abortions” (btw what does that mean, they’re still induced; the only non-induced abortions are called miscarriages) have the same effect, the fetus dies. Just because you place moral values on why the abortion is performed doesn’t make them different. Either it is wrong to kill a fetus or it is not. If you truly believe it is wrong to kill a fetus then you must engage in relativism to say it’s okay if the woman’s health or life are at risk.

    The line is not arbitrary either. Women need safe, legal, affordable access to abortions or we die. This is a point I underline in every discussion I have about abortion. Women will die. I place an infinitely greater value on the actual life of a woman, including the quality of that life, than a fetus could ever warrant. Fetuses are not people, they are potential people.

    Alex,

    What I would say will get held up by filters, use your imagination as to what I would do to you with toothpicks and superglue. Have a nice day!

  18. #18 jennhi
    April 24, 2007

    Check out this other example of the clearly intended effects of the PBA ban:
    http://www.msmagazine.com/summer2004/womanandherdoctor.asp

    Doctors just don’t train in the procedures anymore because of so-called “conscience clauses”. These are life-saving procedures and this wasn’t even an abortion! It was a stillborn.

  19. #19 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    squeaky,

    We already have a solution everyone is living with. Abortion is legal in the US. That is the solution. It is unfortunate that you think the solution needs a solution.

  20. #20 Alex
    April 24, 2007

    Pygmy Loris,

    Forgive the subtlety of my sarcasm. I thought the lower-case “g” would give away my position.

    Thank you for using the term “potential”. Nicely done and well thought out. I’ve expressed those sentiments myself many times before. A cluster of cells does not a human make.

  21. #21 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    I’m sorry Alex. I didn’t realize you were being sarcastic. :) (now that I think about it that was funny) It’s been a long day.

  22. #22 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 24, 2007

    I remain opposed to abortion on the grounds that I believe the right to life should be extended to the very earliest stage of an individual’s existence as such.

    That said, this tragic case illustrates exactly the kind of medical exemption that should be allowed and which should be decided by the doctors and parents.

    For example, so-called ‘partial-birth abortion” may look and sound disgusting to a layperson but then so do many surgical procedures and that abhorrence is not, in itself, sufficient grounds for denying it as a medical option.

    Doctors must be free, on a case-by-case basis, to decide the best course of action by weighing the rights and needs of both mother and child should the two come into conflict.

    However, while the mother has clear rights both to protect her own life and decide what should happen to her own body, she has no absolute right to make unilateral decisions concerning the life and body of any other individual, even if it is just a fetus in her womb.

    Either way, politicians should not interfere based only on one narrow interpretation of the particular faith to which they happen to belong and which they have no right to impose on others who do not share that belief.

  23. #23 squeaky
    April 24, 2007

    How much of a solution is it when you have pro-life groups still pushing through legislation in opposition to abortion? it’s not legal in South Dakota anymore, and now a ban on partial birth abortion just went through. The sides take no time to listen to each other’s concens, and if that continues to be alright with you, then I guess you are OK with the next pro-life victory as well. I’m not saying it is easy to come to consensus, but it is necessary to work for one, even if you think your position is secure, because it is not.

  24. #24 commissarjs
    April 24, 2007

    Squeaky,

    No. It’s really simple. You either believe that women are people who have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies or you don’t. It’s a very clearly demarcated line, trying to straddle the line doesn’t make you better. It means you partly side with a group of authoritarians who want to control the lives of others.

    Trying to draw imaginary lines between therapeutic abortion and abortion-on-demand is what is known as slut shaming. It’s a wedge strategey meant to chip away one segment. “You’re not like those other women, they’re immoral sluts, you’re just a poor helpless woman who had something bad happen. We’d NEVER take away your rights… just those OTHER women who aren’t like YOU.”

  25. #25 squeaky
    April 24, 2007

    well said, Ian

  26. #26 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    squeaky,

    I believe that pro-choicers must vigorously defend the rights we have. That is the best solution. The South Dakota ban was voted down by the population in a referendum, and I believe that the risk of first trimester abortions becoming illegal is very small. Most of the people in the country do not oppose those procedures. The problems are that anti-choice folks VOTE and many times they vote based solely on that issue and that second/third trimester abortions seem to be a more contentious issue.

    The continued assault on the rights of women over their own bodies (of which fetuses are a part, not separate) by certain segments of society is the battle ground. I do not need to compromise with anti-choicers. I need to know what they think to find ways to prevent them from endangering MY rights.

  27. #27 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 24, 2007

    How can they be an individual if they have no functioning brain, eyes, hands or the ability to be an individual?

    Are you saying from the moment of conception it’s an individual? Or that it’s life… period doesn’t matter how developed and you can’t terminate it?

  28. #28 Billy
    April 24, 2007

    “The mother’s life trumps the life of an unborn child when her life is at risk, any reputable doctor will tell you that.”

    Yeah, but the point is that until her _life_ is certainly at risk, the anti-choicers are willing to make her endure whatever torture their god cares to put her through.

    About twelve years ago, very early into my wife’s last pregnancy, we were told that the pregnancy was ectopic. We were advised that she could bring the pregnancy to term, but it would be extremely painful and she would be bedridden for most of it.

    It doesn’t sound like a difficult decision to make, but it was. A week later when she went the emergency room with severe pain and bleeding, it was suddenly less difficult, even though the doctor maintained that she could continue the pregnancy for at least a little longer.

    I attended church at the time. When my pastor came for visitation and learned that we had terminated the pregnancy, he gently told us he disapproved.

    One of the great regrets of my life is that I didn’t gently tell him to go take a flying …

    Anyway, since then, everything I’ve read about ectopic pregnancies tells me that we should have been instructed in much stronger terms that the pregnancy was impossible and that we should terminate it post haste. It would have saved us a little bit of false hope, never mind the pain.

    My heart goes out to anyone who has to make a decision like that. It’s one a woman makes with the significant people in her life (which may or may not include spiritual advisors) and with her physician. But she can’t make it for anybody else and nobody else should be allowed to make it for her.

  29. #29 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    commissarjs,

    Well said, especially the reference to “slut shaming.”

    Ian,

    When I say women will die if abortion is illegal, I’m talking about two different groups dying for different reasons.

    One group of women is represented by the woman who needs an abortion to save her life.

    The other group of women is represented by the woman who shoves a coat hanger into her uterus to get rid of the fetus. She gets an infection; it turns to septicemia; she dies. Or she hemmorrhages and dies from blood loss. Or she takes “herbs” that are really poison and dies. Any way it happens, the woman dies. Her fetus dies with her.

    However, while the mother has clear rights both to protect her own life and decide what should happen to her own body, she has no absolute right to make unilateral decisions concerning the life and body of any other individual, even if it is just a fetus in her womb.

    This is ridiculous. The fetus is in her body and cannot survive outside of it. The fetus is not an individual, but a part of her. By calling the fetus living inside her, connected to her bloodstream, completely dependent for every part of it’s “life,” you reduce a woman to merely machinery capable of producing a product, babies.

  30. #30 Kith
    April 24, 2007

    Thank you very much, Ian Spedding! Your response is a credit to you and your position– it is very well reasoned. I happen to disagree about the point where a collection of cells becomes a human life, but your point about D&X strikes a chord.

  31. #31 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    Thank you for sharing Billy. I’m sorry your pastor was so insensitive.

  32. #32 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    Ian,

    I will have to second Kith about your D&X point. I’ll probably use it in some future argument.

  33. #33 Alex
    April 24, 2007

    Anyone who claims that a fetus (or blastocyst) is comparable to an emotional being capable of cognition and meaningful sensory feedback is arguing from an indefensible position.

    All of the bluster, hype, and charged language about murdering babies are clear signs of the strong coupling of emotion to their arguments. Since they don’t have the support of reason or logic, they must employ emotional diversions and dishonesty to convince others of the validity of their position.

  34. #34 squeaky
    April 24, 2007

    It comes down to what you really are defending. There are two lines of argument running here–one is the argument that women’s lives need to be protected when their pregnancy becomes life threatening. I certainly agree with that, and I believe many pro-life advocates would as well. That isn’t the issue that is being argued over, at least not on the pro-life camp. the pro-life camp is primarily concerned about abortions of convenience. “Although I’m healthy and the baby is healthy, this child will really screw up my life, so I will just abort it.” How is that argument justifiable?

  35. #35 Alex
    April 24, 2007

    Simple.

    It is not a child. It doesn’t fit the definiton by a long shot.

  36. #36 commissarjs
    April 24, 2007

    How is that argument justifiable?

    Because it’s her body. She gets to decide what happens to her own body.

  37. #37 Pygmy Loris
    April 24, 2007

    My Body, My Choice

  38. #38 Chris Bell
    April 24, 2007

    Ian,

    Your point sounds good, but it doesn’t hold up.

    You say that doctors should be free to choose the best course of action for their patients (mom and fetus). But those are often in conflict. What you omit is the fact that you think a doctor who is too pro-mother should be punished.

    The fundamental error is your idea that this scheme would work out. Imagine a doctor in South Dakota who believes his patient needs an abortion in a close case. Then, a zealously anti-abortion District Attorney prosecutes him. (The State will find a doctor to argue on the stand that that the abortion was not needed.) Now the abortion doctor is in jail for years. What message does that send?

    Any serious abortion restriction involves the state looking over the doctor’s shoulder to make sure the doctor ‘balances the needs’ correctly. Doctors, being people who don’t want to go to jail, will err on the side of the fetus – to the harm of many women.

    That’s why the pro-choice side of the debate is so all-or-nothing, they know that a middle ground is really going to be quite restrictive.

    You say, “Doctors must be free, on a case-by-case basis, to decide the best course of action by weighing the rights and needs of both mother and child should the two come into conflict.” This is no restriction at all unless you provide penalties for doctors who go too far, and at that point you have removed the objectivity of the doctor. The Partial Birth Abortion Act says that a doctor can perform a PBA if the mother will die without one. These things aren’t black and white. It won’t be clear that the mother WILL die without one, and second-guessing WILL occur. If a district attorney can convince a jury that the doctor got it wrong and performed an unneeded PBA – then the doctor goes to jail.

    PS. I take it that you oppose the new Partial Birth Abortion ban then, since it contains no health exception? If a doctor performed a PBA on a woman who would be seriously injured without one, the doctor could be thrown in jail for 2 years. What kind of balance is that?

  39. #39 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 24, 2007

    Exactly Alex. The same people who want to ban late term abortion procedures want to prevent birth control pills such as Plan B, or other emergency contraceptives.

    And Ian would want to prevent The morning after pill which would terminate very early stage pregnancies as well as prevent a pregnancy.

    A few hundred cells after fertilization is not a child. It’s barely life. Unless you consider, sperm and ovum life too. But then you’re just being nutty.

  40. #40 Alex
    April 24, 2007

    Partial birth abortion is not a medical term. Pro-choice advocates should shun the term outright. It is an emotionally charged term used by abortion opponents to confuse the argument.

  41. #41 Owlmirror
    April 24, 2007

    The morning after pill which would terminate very early stage pregnancies as well as prevent a pregnancy.

    I realize that sometimes it’s hard to keep things straight with drugs that perform similar actions, so I just thought I’d point out that PZ has written on the two types of pills; one which will prevent a pregnancy from ever beginning, the other which will terminate a very early pregnancy.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/why_the_wingnuts_hate_plan_b.php

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/ru486.php

  42. #42 Chris Bell
    April 24, 2007

    Alex is correct, my apologies. I used PBA only to refer to the PBA Act. It is called a Dilation & Extraction (D&X) or a form of Dilation & Evacuation (D&E), depending on which doctor is describing it.

  43. #43 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 24, 2007

    RU-486 can prevent a pregnancy as well as terminate one. It does both.

    Plan B can only prevent one.

  44. #44 Mark
    April 24, 2007

    Pro-Life should really be changed to Pro-Birth. They have never shown a damn about caring for life.

  45. #45 Azkyroth
    April 24, 2007

    However, while the mother has clear rights both to protect her own life and decide what should happen to her own body, she has no absolute right to make unilateral decisions concerning the life and body of any other individual, even if it is just a fetus in her womb.

    Make up your mind.

  46. #46 llewelly
    April 24, 2007

    “Although I’m healthy and the baby is healthy, this child will really screw up my life, so I will just abort it.” How is that argument justifiable?

    Squeaky, please answer the question: Why is justifiable for someone else to control her body ?

  47. #47 Jason
    April 24, 2007

    Ian Spedding,

    I remain opposed to abortion on the grounds that I believe the right to life should be extended to the very earliest stage of an individual’s existence as such.

    Well, your argument runs into a problem right there? An “individual” what? Why should anyone believe that a fertilized human egg, or a human embryo, or a human fetus is an “individual” in the morally important sense that we recognize born persons to be such a thing?

  48. #48 BlueIndependent
    April 24, 2007

    That is a very important story that I think women in general should read. There are so many ways things can go wrong that cannot be accounted for, that will put a woman’s body in legal limbo so fast. And this was a case where they did everything they could to cover their bases as a married couple, and yet within minutes, had they been in a place that had made abortions illegal, that man would’ve watched his wife and his potential child disappear into a surgical room never to be seen alive again.

    I’m of the same opinion on the matter as that man: I support the right of women to have an abortion, but personally I wouldn’t go there if it was my relationship. But just the same, I wouldn’t have done any different than this man, had I been in the same situation. You’re going to lose both if you don’t act, and you might as well save one. Can any person even try to fathom what that would be like, the entire situation turning on a dime in that way? If the person that this happened to was a preacher at his church, what would he have done? Would this be one of God’s scantron tests, or would this be a tragic choice that unfortunately must be made.

    As for the abortion for convenience argument, I might actually put some credit in those waters if the so-called “pro-lifers” weren’t such rabid abortion haters who act politically only for that reason. They hate sexual freedom, they do not want women to control their own bodies, and they almost without fail invoke a religious text as giving them the license to do this to fellow women they have never met. Abortions for convenience are bound to happen, but an unborn child, especially one that young, is not a baby yet. That is why it’s called a fetus.

    Also, the few that convince themselves and do abort out of convenience would likely make bad parents anyhow, so a wasted human life is still being saved, in a way. I hate to end my post on this subject sounding unkempt like this, but that’s how I look at it.

  49. #49 Alex
    April 24, 2007

    Wait..wait.

    Let me answer for Mr. Spedding.

    Ready??……

    “Just because”.

  50. #50 AlanW
    April 24, 2007

    Can we all consciousness raise a little – they’re not prolife, that’s spin, they’re anti-choice. (nods to Bill Hicks and George Carlin).

  51. #51 Jason
    April 24, 2007

    squeaky,

    I see no need, and have no desire, to reach a “middle ground” with anti-abortionists like you and Spedding. I believe abortion is a basic right and I am unalterably opposed to any significant weakening of that right. Abortion has been legally available in the United States, more or less on demand, more or less throughout pregnancy, for more than three decades. I don’t want that to change, and I don’t expect it to change, notwithstanding the fiddling-around-at-the-margins actions of the anti-abortion movement (PBA ban, consent/notification requirements, etc.) In short, the war is over, and your side lost. You can continue to believe you are somehow still in the game, but you’re deluding yourself.

    By the way, has anyone seen any news about today’s vote to liberalize abortion law in Mexico City? The reform was widely expected to pass.

  52. #52 tony
    April 24, 2007

    A lot of comment.

    1) D&X is accepted almost everywhere as a procedure that is both medically sound and reasonably free from ‘complications’ (such as caesarian extractions can cause). Look at the situation in almost any other country in the world (with the strange exception of those strictly fundamentalist nations for whom GOD is the ruling authority)

    2) Almost EVERY woman responding to this (and other related thread) I’ve seen has been adamant that the choice should be theirs – their body, not yours! I can only imagine that those few ‘women’ who demonstrate ‘anti-choice’ sentiment are either trolls, or are sadly misguided and too-fully-indoctrinated to be capable of any choice without the say-so of their guiding ‘father’. In the latter case I can only feel sad for them.

    3) Anyone (and Squeaky I’m taking specifically to YOU & your kind) who think that any woman would enter into an abortion lightly, has obviously never met or talked with women who have had abortions. Without fail (and I include many personal friends in this) it it one of the most difficult decisions a woman can make… Simply ASK someone who knows from personal experience….. assuming you don’t make abortion a retroactive crime !

  53. #53 jennhi
    April 24, 2007

    Abortion has been legally available in the United States, more or less on demand, more or less throughout pregnancy, for more than three decades.

    Jason, unfortunately, that’s not quite the case. Sure, before last week, it was *legal*. However, for the last 10 years, in something like 80% of all counties in the USA, abortion is not available as an option due to hospitals not providing them for “conscience clause” reasons (please see the article I linked to above) or because anti-choice terrorists have intimidated health clinics that provided them to close down.

    This came about during Clinton/Gore, too. They refused to protect doctors and mandate full-service health care in hospitals.

  54. #54 squeaky
    April 24, 2007

    See, the thing is, often it is more a case of “wantedness.” Who among you would tell a woman who just lost a child, at any point in her pregnancy (assuming it was a welcome pregnancy) not to worry about it because it was just a mass of lifeless cells?

    Pro-life that I am, I will tell you I personally don’t think abortion should be illegal. That won’t stop abortion. Personally, I would like it if the legal issue was taken off the table so that we can work on the core issues–unwanted pregnancies. But will it ever be taken off the table? Not as long as neither side is willing to let go of the inflammatory rhetoric and start listening to each other and working together. I think we can all agree that reducing the need for abortion would be a very good thing.

  55. #55 JasonR
    April 24, 2007

    jennhi,

    The proportion of counties with/without an abortion provider isn’t a terribly meaningful indicator of the availability of abortion. Most of the counties that lack an abortion provider are rural ones with small populations. The vast majority of Americans live in urban or suburban communities with relatively easy access to abortion services. So yes, for some women, especially women living in isolated communities, obtaining an abortion may involve travelling a considerable distance and require an overnight stay in a hotel. But most women have relatively easy access. It’s important not to exaggerate the problem of availability.

  56. #56 JasonR
    April 24, 2007

    See, the thing is, often it is more a case of “wantedness.” Who among you would tell a woman who just lost a child, at any point in her pregnancy (assuming it was a welcome pregnancy) not to worry about it because it was just a mass of lifeless cells?

    I wouldn’t, not least because I don’t think a fetus is “just a mass of lifeless cells.” But I don’t think it’s a baby, either. I do believe that the moral status of the fetus is to a considerable degree a matter of how the pregnant woman feels about it.

    By the way, if she lost the “child” (ahem) in the early stages of pregnancy, she probably wouldn’t even be aware of it.

  57. #57 Owlmirror
    April 24, 2007

    I think we can all agree that reducing the need for abortion would be a very good thing.

    I don’t think anyone here would argue otherwise.

  58. #58 Molly, NYC
    April 24, 2007

    Reality dose here–whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, rhetoric as expressed by the majority of posts here so far does nothing more but widen the gap between pro-life and pro-choice advocates.

    Squeaky, you wouldn’t know reality in this matter if it kissed you on the lips.

    What widens the gap between the pro-choice and snti-choice camps is that the anti-choice camps are so clearly lying about their motives. Pro-life? It’s a joke, but not a funny one; you have to be excruciatingly stupid to fall for it.

    These are the same people whose reaction to any public program for kids, for neonates, for their parents–health, prenatal care, schools, housing, anything–is to whine about their taxes. Moreover, they’re the ones who overwhelmingly voted for Bush’s war, for America–America!–to become a country where torture is okay. Only the profoundly gullible think the anti-choice crowd holds life in any way sacred.

    On the other hand, they’re also the people who still beat the drum for “abstinance education,” despite study after study showing that it not only doesn’t give students any more control over that part of their lives, but is a conduit for tax-subsidized out-and-out lies. They’re the ones who oppose access to contraception. Who insist that homosexuals remain in a ghetto, legally. Whose sole concept of morality begins and ends in their–and everyone else’s–underwear.

    What isn’t consistant with these people is respect for life, in any sense. What is consistant is their sexophobia. You have to be practically brain-dead not to see it. Almost none of them are interested in the welfare of neonates. They’re just interested in bullying women for having sex.

  59. #59 BlueIndependent
    April 24, 2007

    Ian: “she has no absolute right to make unilateral decisions concerning the life and body of any other individual, even if it is just a fetus in her womb”

    The “absolute right” to make decisions about someone else’s life is an odd claim. What do you think the potential baby is? The property of something else, and a given adult woman is merely the gestation chamber chosen for it? You speak of the baby as if it’s someone else’s. It was the mother and father’s choice, and in some cases just the mother’s, to have the child.

    A human having rights to their person requires an actual person of proper development A) to understand self-determination and free will, and B) to have the personal and legal capability and freedom with which to make decisions on their own. A fetus has neither of those things by definition. If it did it would be called an adult human being. They don’t have the right just as they lack the very capability of crawling out of their parents’ home at age 2 and entering the greater society. And don’t twist that sentence in an attempt to paint me as someone who would consider developmentally challenged people sub-human. This is not a case of capable humans oppressing less capable ones. This is a case of human beings having the very freedom of their bodies conservatives claim to hold sacred.

    I think Molly, NYC is spot on. Most of those calling for an end to abortion are those who generally do not support progressive causes, and as Molly stated, complain about pretty much any form of taxation. The anti-choice position stems almost exclusively from religion, and often advocates for “traditional gender roles”. We all know what that means, and vestiges of that crap still exist today, even after women have been granted reproductive rights and suffrage.

    Killing abortion kills a woman’s right to herself. She will carry with her the very supreme court that enslaves her, every time she tries to have sex with a lover or husband. No human, man or woman, deserves to be saddled with such a perverse weighting given to a part of their body. How can a woman having an abortion be the very thing that drives society off the cliff? It hasn’t happened in 30 years, and it never will. Anti-choice rhetoric is meant to scare and deceive, and statistics do not back it up. There was a news story even yesterday showing absolutely no link whatsoever between cancer and abortions in women. I find it another tragic irony of this supposedly freedom-loving country that the loudest and supposedly most patriotic screamers are the ones advocating the kinds of social reforms seen in countries like North Korea, where you can’t choose to have sex, and where you cannot control yourself, but only under the purview of religious or governmental control.

    Womens’ level of freedom over their own bodies can be directly linked to their treatment in countries around the world. Woman is treated worst where sex and abortion are illegal and controlled socially and/or politically. Woman is most free where she can express herself, and control herself, as she should be able to do. The anti-choice position is a statement against the self control individuals are largely supposed to have in theory, but that women are disallowed to practice on their person. It is wrong, and I do not support it.

  60. #60 squeaky
    April 24, 2007

    That’s a mighty big brush ya got there Molly, NYC. Again, you assume ALL pro-lifers are Christians, which is simply not true. Other than sharing Christianity with the camp you portray in your post above, I do not at all share ANY of the other views you point out (truth be told, I don’t know too many other Christians who fit that stereotype, either–but then maybe that’s just my crowd). All you have done is portrayed a particular stereotype and thus you paint the issues that those who are pro-life are concerned about in black and white–it’s not a simple issue no matter what direction you look at it from, so it doesn’t help at all when you over simplify an opposing viewpoint. Stereotyping has no place in an open and thoughtful person’s life. If you consider yourself to be one of those people, then cut it out.

  61. #61 Lee Harrison
    April 24, 2007

    Pro-Life should really be changed to Pro-Birth. They have never shown a damn about caring for life.

    I agree completely Mark – well stated.

    Thanks for putting this link up, PZ – that was a very well written piece that made me alternately misty and furious right alongside that poor sod. I don’t think I’d hold up as well as he did under similar circumstances.

    I generally agree that the ‘pro-lifers’ emotive arguments are worth less than reasoned arguments. However, when it comes to changing hearts and minds, emotionally charged stories like this would certainly have a valuable role to play.

  62. #62 Carlie
    April 24, 2007

    I feel like I’m only being a link fairy today, but this is a very good encapsulation of the issue : Do you trust women?
    When I was starting to realize that the “pro-life” stance had a lot of flaws but was still grappling with it, this particular post helped cut through the rhetoric in a big way.

  63. #63 kmarissa
    April 24, 2007

    Squeaky, Molly is accurately characterizing the vast majority of the “pro-life” advocacy groups. How many of the biggest and most famous “pro-life” groups are also fighting to increase access to contraceptives, and fighting against abstinence-only sex ed? Not many. Compare this to Planned Parenthood, for instance, which provides abortions as well as access to an information about contraceptives, in order to decease the number of abortions performed in the first place. You mentioned above that “inflammatory rhetoric” is preventing “both sides” from working on the “core issues” of preventing unwanted pregnancies. This isn’t true. The pro-choice side HAS been working on these core issues for years. Just look at the recent Plan B discussion. Isn’t Plan B, theoretically, something that both sides can agree is a very important contraceptive to have available, in order to decrease abortions? Then why does the opposition to Plan B overlap so exactly with those who are anti-choice?

    Just because you and some friends have decided you feel a certain way doesn’t mean that the “pro-life” camp feels that way too, so representing it as such is deceitful.

  64. #64 Molly, NYC
    April 24, 2007

    Squeaky (at 60) – Exactly where in my post (#58) is the word “Christian”?

    I said they were mostly sexophobes. It’s absolutely fascinating that you think that’s the same as being a Christian.

  65. #65 Crudely Wrott
    April 24, 2007

    What Pygmy Loris said in #17. An embryo or a fetus is not a conscious, self-aware person. I wonder at what point after birth a newborn qualifies for humanity if being human involves that subtle dichotomy of self (ego) and not self (the rest of the universe). But that is only an intellectual exercise.

    What counts most to people who consent to being governed, by what ever system, is the assurance that the most personal and emotionally charged decisions of their lives are not dictated by law under threat of force. No matter the grand moral arguments given unnatural influence by way of the endless propagandizing that galvanizes the attention of those who believe a certain thing.
    Without regard to the rationality of that belief. This is known as being human, or humane.

    Abortion is a personal and wrenching choice to make. It is certain that each case will be specific to the individuals involved and given the scope and variety of human experience and expression it is obvious that no blanket law or collection of lesser laws are able, sufficient or even necessary. Indeed, their existence has seemed to only fuel the fires of argument and disagreement.

  66. #66 ordinarygirl
    April 24, 2007

    “2) Almost EVERY woman responding to this (and other related thread) I’ve seen has been adamant that the choice should be theirs – their body, not yours! I can only imagine that those few ‘women’ who demonstrate ‘anti-choice’ sentiment are either trolls, or are sadly misguided and too-fully-indoctrinated to be capable of any choice without the say-so of their guiding ‘father’. In the latter case I can only feel sad for them.”

    Ok, I’ll bite. I’m a woman and I’m not pro-choice. I’m in the middle, undecided. I’m an atheist and sometimes I wish I could make the choice to side with the pro-choice movement because the evangelical crowd makes me so mad. But I’m not quite there.

    While the situation PZ illustrated is *certainly* reason for an abortion, I think there are times that it is morally wrong. Obviously a 1 week fetus isn’t capable of thought or feeling and just as obviously a 39 week fetus is. There’s a line in there somewhere that can’t really be defined or legislated because our physiology can differ so much from person to person.

    The argument about being a slave to the fetus has never washed with me. Sorry if that’s a betrayment of being a woman.

    I have a really hard time with this issue and I’ve struggled to find peace with it, but it’s continued to be a struggle for me and I think it always will be. There’s no easy answer. In all solutions someone is going to be hurt. We live in an imperfect world.

    I think some of the comments on this post have been very trite and it’s a disservice to handle this story or this issue with such dissmissal. It’s not that easy. Either way we are making sacrifices.

  67. #67 Azkyroth
    April 24, 2007

    The argument about being a slave to the fetus has never washed with me. Sorry if that’s a betrayment of being a woman.

    You may not find the prospect of having your uterus, and really your entire physiology, commandeered to support another being, with you having no legal say in the matter whatsoever, particularly horrifying or degrading, but surely you can understand why some women would. Hell, I don’t even have a uterus and it makes perfect sense to me.

    As for the bit about 39 week old fetuses, I believe the majority of pro-choice advocates are actually opposed to elective abortion in the third trimester, or, more specifically, past the point of fetal viability, so finding yourself unable to support them doesn’t make one non-pro-choice. I, for instance, generally oppose them; the situations in which I would consider abortion acceptable are:
    1) If it is necessary to protect the health or life of the mother
    2) If the fetus is discovered to have severe birth defects which would dramatically impact the resulting child’s quality of life and the ability of its parents to care for it without extreme hardship
    3) If the woman can demonstrate under burden of proof that she intended to have a legal abortion earlier in the pregnancy but was prevented from doing so by fraud, threat of violence, abduction, or other forms of coercion

    I would argue that this last is defensible solely as a partial deterrent to the use of fraud, threat of violence, abduction, or other forms of coercion to prevent women who wish to have a legal abortion from doing so–some anti-choice organizations masquerade as women’s health clinics and then give patients the run-around until they can no longer have an abortion legally (source), and while I’m not aware of any specific cases, does anyone doubt that the same people who bomb clinics and shoot doctors with high-powered rifles are morally capable of kidnapping women to prevent them from seeking abortions?

  68. #68 Azkyroth
    April 24, 2007

    Correction:

    I, for instance, generally oppose them; the situations in which I would consider abortion acceptable are

    Should read “abortion after the point of fetal viability”

  69. #69 CalGeorge
    April 24, 2007

    Five Catholic penises should not be telling women what to do with their bodies.

    End of story.

    John Roberts – Catholic
    Stephen G. Breyer – Jewish
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Jewish
    Anthony M. Kennedy – Catholic
    Antonin Scalia – Catholic
    David H. Souter – Episcopalian
    John Paul Stevens – Protestant
    Clarence Thomas – Catholic
    Samuel Alito – Catholic

  70. #70 Chet
    April 24, 2007

    I’m not saying it is easy to come to consensus, but it is necessary to work for one

    Look, don’t pretend like this is a debate between two equally unreasonable extremes. This is a debate between the irrational fringe and the reasonable mainstream.

    There’s one “compromise” that makes sense; it’s the pro-choice position, where women who support the option of abortion are allowed to have them, and women who think abortion is a moral outrage aren’t required to have them. A perfect compromise.

    If you think the “pro-life” side is ameinable to any position short of a complete moratorium on both abortion and hormonal birth control, then you’re just being hopelessly naive. The “pro-life victories” you’re so worried about are a direct result of your irrational need to seek a “compromise”. So point a few of those fingers back at yourself.

  71. #71 llewelly
    April 25, 2007

    ordinarygirl :

    While the situation PZ illustrated is *certainly* reason for an abortion, I think there are times that it is morally wrong.

    The position of the anti-choice people, is that you do not get to make that decision; it must be taken away from you, because you cannot be trusted to make the morally correct choice.

  72. #72 Chet
    April 25, 2007

    Who among you would tell a woman who just lost a child, at any point in her pregnancy (assuming it was a welcome pregnancy) not to worry about it because it was just a mass of lifeless cells?

    One of my wife’s very close friends miscarried last year, and it became rapidly clear that her grief was largely for show, to “keep up” with her religious husband and his family who saw it as something to be really upset about. As far as we can tell she really did see it as little more than a mass of cells at that stage in the pregnancy, but, of course, there was a social expectation that her grief would have been deepest of all, and so she largely played along.

    But your question is just stupid. I don’t think dogs have legal rights either, but when my best friend’s dog died, I didn’t tell him “dude, it was just a dog, QQ!” What would I tell a mother who had sponatenously aborted? Whatever I thought she needed to hear, or I might just keep my mouth shut. And, of course, if you think telling a grief-stricken mother “oh, don’t worry; your little baby is up with the angels” (or whatever religious nonsense you think would be so comforting) magically makes her feel better, you’re an idiot. Not even religion has the power to salve the loss of a child. (Even a perceived one.)

  73. #73 Molly, NYC
    April 25, 2007

    ordinarygirl – Whatever your misgivings, if you’re ever in that situation, whether you decide to end your pregnancy or go ahead with it, don’t you want it to be your call and not someone else’s? That’s being pro-choice.

  74. #74 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 25, 2007

    Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD wrote:

    How can they be an individual if they have no functioning brain, eyes, hands or the ability to be an individual?

    By “individual” I simply mean that they are genetically unique and have begun to occupy a unique position in space and time not that they yet have a personality.

    Are you saying from the moment of conception it’s an individual? Or that it’s life… period doesn’t matter how developed and you can’t terminate it?

    Essentially, yes. It should be entitled to the same right to life as it will be later, which is the right not to be killed without good cause.

  75. #75 CalGeorge
    April 25, 2007

    Apparently, if you have an abortion, the Catholic church considers you a terrorist:

    The Age (April 24, 2007):

    Vatican labels abortion as ‘terrorism’
    The Vatican’s second-highest ranking doctrinal official forcefully branded homosexual marriage as evil and denounced abortion and euthanasia as forms of “terrorism with a human face”.

    The attack by Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the latest in a string of speeches made by either Pope Benedict or other Vatican officials as Italy considers giving more rights to gays.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/World/Vatican-labels-abortion-as-terrorism/2007/04/24/1177180604427.html

  76. #76 Chet
    April 25, 2007

    By “individual” I simply mean that they are genetically unique and have begun to occupy a unique position in space and time not that they yet have a personality.

    Yeah. Sorry, no. The cells of your skin, as they accrue mutations from exposure to the sun, become “genetically unique”; and the Pauli exclusion principle makes it pretty clear that every particle in the universe occupies a “unique position in space and time.”

    So neither one of those are a basis for overturning the traditional view of when life begins – birth.

    It should be entitled to the same right to life as it will be later, which is the right not to be killed without good cause.

    Accepting your premise for a moment, “unlawful occupancy of a uterus” is justification for deadly force if that’s what it takes to evict the trespasser. Also, the willful acts of leeching the mother’s bodily nutrients and endangering her life by radical changes to her physiology would constitute assault, again justifiying the use of deadly force to stop the commission of a crime.

    (Oh, what’s that? You don’t think the fetus can be held responsible for its actions? Oh, I thought we were talking about something that was precisely equivalent to an adult human being.)

  77. #77 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 25, 2007

    Pygmy Loris wrote:

    However, while the mother has clear rights both to protect her own life and decide what should happen to her own body, she has no absolute right to make unilateral decisions concerning the life and body of any other individual, even if it is just a fetus in her womb.

    This is ridiculous. The fetus is in her body and cannot survive outside of it. The fetus is not an individual, but a part of her. By calling the fetus living inside her, connected to her bloodstream, completely dependent for every part of it’s “life,” you reduce a woman to merely machinery capable of producing a product, babies.

    Newborns and infants are almost as dependent on their mother as the fetus – they might not die as quickly but they would die just as surely if deprived of adult support – yet they are granted the right to life where the fetus is not. When people fall ill they can become almost totally dependent on others to survive. Dependency, in these cases, is not seen as a sufficient reason to deny the right to life.

    Having said that, I take your point about the burden placed on an unwilling woman by being forced to carry a child to term but, if the fetus has a right to life, what is the alternative? Unless there is a threat to the woman’s life or long-term health it becomes a lesser-of-two-evils case: the mother having to carry the fetus is a lesser evil than killing it.

  78. #78 Chet
    April 25, 2007

    Newborns and infants are almost as dependent on their mother as the fetus

    The fact that you can adopt an infant, but not a fetus, is proof that this is a remarkably counterfactual statement.

    When people fall ill they can become almost totally dependent on others to survive.

    Oh, really? In your world, when you need a kidney to live, are you saying that it’s completely appropriate to kidnap a suitable donor and surgically extract one against their will?

    Would it be possible for you to develop a justification for your views that takes reality into account?

  79. #79 CalGeorge
    April 25, 2007

    However, while the mother has clear rights both to protect her own life and decide what should happen to her own body, she has no absolute right to make unilateral decisions concerning the life and body of any other individual, even if it is just a fetus in her womb.

    Do you have that right? Who gave it to you?

    Because that’s what this is about – you deciding the issue for someone else.

    Where does your right to decide for her end? That’s what YOU need to think about.

  80. #80 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 25, 2007

    Chris Bell wrote:

    You say that doctors should be free to choose the best course of action for their patients (mom and fetus). But those are often in conflict. What you omit is the fact that you think a doctor who is too pro-mother should be punished.

    No, I am arguing that the fetus has the same right to life as the mother and, yes, that any doctors who act to end either could find themselves having to defend that decision in court.

    PS. I take it that you oppose the new Partial Birth Abortion ban then, since it contains no health exception? If a doctor performed a PBA on a woman who would be seriously injured without one, the doctor could be thrown in jail for 2 years. What kind of balance is that?

    I oppose any abortion legislation that does not allow health exceptions.

  81. #81 sea Creature
    April 25, 2007

    I think Bitch PHD said it best when she said we don’t insist that others use their bodies to keep other people alive (we don’t force people to donate their kidneys, even though it would not kill them and would save another life) yet we say women should be required to use their bodies to keep another alive regardless of their own wishes.

  82. #82 Keith
    April 25, 2007

    There’s a story in the recent Discover that has an interesting way of looking at the morality of abortion.

    Woman wakes up one morning and discovers she’s connected via tubes to some guy lying next to her. She’s told that the person is a world famous (whatever), that hooking him up to her kidneys was the only way he’d survive, but in 9 months the treatment will be over and the connection will be severed.

    When they pose that scenario there’s no differences between anti or pro-choice people when the woman says “No, disconnect now, I don’t care if he dies.” Equal numbers agree that she has the moral authority to do so.

    However, equal numbers on both sides also agree if the scenario postulates that the woman initially agrees, but a few months down the road changes her mind. A majority of both sides agree that, at that point, she’s made a commitment and then deciding to mack out is the wrong thing to do.

  83. #83 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 25, 2007

    Jason wrote:

    Why should anyone believe that a fertilized human egg, or a human embryo, or a human fetus is an “individual” in the morally important sense that we recognize born persons to be such a thing?

    It isn’t a question of belief so much as a question of what we, as a society, are prepared to allow.

    At different times, a human being is a newborn, an infant, a toddler, a young child, a teenager, a young adult, a middle-aged person, a senior citizen. Even though those forms can be quite different, we still recognize that they are all, in some sense, the same individual. And we allow that that individual, whatever stage of life he or she happens to be in, is entitled to the right to life.

    As I have argued before, in a real sense, a human being is not just an object in three-dimensional space but, if we add the dimension of time, he or she can be viewed as an event which begins at a certain point and ends at a later point. We agree that the individual should have the right to life at most stages on that journey through time so why not all?

  84. #84 Colugo
    April 25, 2007

    A suggestion:

    Since human development is a biological continuum – within which we attempt to insert arbitrary civil/ethical discontinuities – we ought to err on the side of the rights of the individual whose civil/ethical status is not in question. Namely, the pregnant woman.

    In other words, I am pro-choice.

  85. #85 llewelly
    April 25, 2007

    Keith:

    There’s a story in the recent Discover that has an interesting way of looking at the morality of abortion.
    Woman wakes up one morning and discovers she’s connected via tubes to some guy lying next to her. She’s told that the person is a world famous (whatever), that hooking him up to her kidneys was the only way he’d survive, but in 9 months the treatment will be over and the connection will be severed.

    (0) 9 months before birth, is zygote stage. This hypothetical example pretends a zygote is morally equivalent to an adult.
    (1) The hypothetical example takes place in an easily regulated setting . Real pregnancies take place in homes and workplaces, where things like hangers are normal items, and there is no practical method of preventing a desparate woman from using one.
    (2) In the hypothetical example, the issue is all over in 9 months. In case you had not heard, real pregancies sometimes result in things called children, which sometimes remain highly dependent on the woman for up to 18 years or more.

    This isn’t ‘an interesting way of looking at the morality of abortion’ It’s a vile and grossly dishonest rhetorical manipulation.

  86. #86 Keith
    April 25, 2007

    The analogy is not supposed to be be exact. It was an example (made up by a woman, and I believe a pro-choice one) to point out that changing the basic situation so that the end result was the same (namely that something died, whether a bundle of cells or the hypothetical adult person) but the context was different made a difference in how people judged the morality of the situation. By moving it away from abortion but to a roughly analogous situation she was pointing out that from a viewpoint of personal morality most anti/pro-choice people aren’t different at all.

    For the record, I’m pro-choice. try to keep that knee under control.

  87. #87 James G
    April 25, 2007

    Ian,

    “We agree that the individual should have the right to life at most stages on that journey through time so why not all?”

    Because all the stages are not equal. Suppose you have a 2 year old girl, a 1 month old embryo, and a 95 year old grandmother. If you care for all three of them equally, you’re quite abnormal.

    Does anyone hold funerals for spontaneously aborted embryos? That would require at least one funeral for every birth, since more than 50% of pregnancies are spontaneously aborted.

    Just think about the kind of ridiculous dilemmas you could get it if you stick to the pro-life principle strictly. You could have 5 healthy kids, and a 6th on the way. But your wife is going to die in the delivery. Is it really “right” to deprive 5 children of their mother just for a fetus?

    Anyway, a fetus’s right to life does not trump a woman’s right to her own body. If someone was sucking your blood to stay alive, do you really think you would be obligated to sit there and take it?

  88. #88 albinosquid
    April 25, 2007

    Keith,

    In your example I believe that legally, there should be no difference between the woman that just woke up one morning with another person hooked up to her, and a woman that initially agreed but then changed her mind later.

    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong but it’s my understanding that in the case of organ transplants, a potential donor is still allowed to change their mind and refuse to go through with the procedure right up to the point where they’re put under anaesthesia and are no longer conscious. For a bone-marrow transplant, the receiver’s own bown marrow has to be destroyed by radiation prior to recieving new donor cells…so a hypothetical situation could arise where they’ve gone past the point of no return, viability-wise, in expectation of a transplant, and a donor’s refusal at that point would doom them.

    Obviously the donor can’t retroactively demand their cells/organs back after the surgery has been completed, because by that point the tissue is no longer a part of their body. In pregnancy, I see the equivalent of this point being birth; the child is separate and physically no longer dependent upon the womans’ body.

    The nine months of physical dependency prior to this point of detachment, however, require the ongoing and continuous consent of the host person. This is one of the places where I feel your example falls apart, because it assumes a one-time initial commitment that cannot be retracted, despite the medical reality that pregnancy is a process that is constantly in flux and conditions can and do change significantly throughout that time period, requiring constant monitoring and reassessment that only a woman and her doctor should be qualified to make.

    Another issue I take with the hypothetical situation is what constitutes “consent” in the first place. I suspect that the phrase “the woman initially agrees” in the story will be equated with a woman consenting to sex, which anti-choicers insist is the same thing as her signing a legally binding contract that states “I totally want to get pregnant and have a kid right now.” In the end this line of thought is just the same old Punish-women-for-choosing-to-have-sex argument that puts the sole basis for the morality of abortion upon the ‘guilt’ of the woman’s actions.

  89. #89 nat
    April 25, 2007

    I had an abortion. Twice actually. One for “convenience”, one for medical reason. They are both bad memories event if the second time it was an accident, soon detected, quickly terminated. The first time I was a young student and it takes me some time to detect it. Fortunately my mother managed to find me a place in a clinic before the legal time limit. I was just beginning a 3 years biotech school and my boyfriend was clearly not the one I wanted for my children’s father. And I was not ready. That was the main reason of my choice. It was painful, physically and emotionally but I never had regrets. I met the actual fater of my kids just before I obtained my diploma and we had 3 kids, but after my phD. I am not particularly pround of me because of these abortions but I not ashamed either? It was MY choice, and I am very happy to I live in a country where I could do it.

  90. #90 Dianne
    April 25, 2007

    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong but it’s my understanding that in the case of organ transplants, a potential donor is still allowed to change their mind and refuse to go through with the procedure right up to the point where they’re put under anaesthesia and are no longer conscious.

    You are entirely right. However, in the case of bone marrow transplantation, the recipient wouldn’t be prepped for transplant until after the marrow (or peripheral blood stem cells) had been successfully collected (collection can fail for lots of reasons, one of the rarer of which is loss of donor consent) so the scenario you hypothesize there wouldn’t occur. However, organ and bone marrow matches are relatively rare and it is not at all unusual for a potential recipient to have only one matched donor. So if the recipient will die without the transplant (and transplants are rarely performed in less than life threatening situations), he or she is just as dependent on his or her donor as a fetus is on its mother. Yet we allow people to refuse to consent to bone marrow or organ donation and we allow them to back out if they have previously volunteered. Even knowing that a truly living, breathing, thinking person will die without it. Why aren’t pro-lifers outraged?

  91. #91 Dianne
    April 25, 2007

    As I have argued before, in a real sense, a human being is not just an object in three-dimensional space but, if we add the dimension of time, he or she can be viewed as an event which begins at a certain point and ends at a later point.

    How very tralfamadorian of you. But if you pick conception as your beginning point, what justification do you have for picking death as an end point? A newly dead body contains many living cells which quite often would continue to live if supported (much like an embryo, really.) And obviously transplanted organs are alive, or they would be of no use for the recipient. So is transplanation immoral?

  92. #92 Carlie
    April 25, 2007

    Interesting – many of these comments are veering towards the same thing I discussed in one of my classes this week, active v. passive euthanasia, the trolley car dilemma, etc. For some reason people don’t seem to mind letting a person die, but have a problem when someone is actively killed. There are lots of modifiers, such as if the person is going to suffer more by being let die, what the intent of the person making the decision is, etc., but that basic active/passive difference seems to be what’s going on in the minds of many anti-choicers without regard to the modifiers. God can abort babies, and he can kill mothers when pregnancies go wrong, but people shouldn’t have any say in it.
    Let’s take the kidney thing one step further: a doctor has a perfectly healthy patient who happens to be a perfect match for four other patients who need transplants or they’ll die (two kidneys, one liver, one heart). Can he kill the one to save the four? Most people would say no.
    Some women can’t carry pregnancies because it could be fatal to them. Should they be forced to? Same dilemma, only it’s only one for one instead of one for four. You don’t even have the benefit of a higher number surviving. And it doesn’t matter if there is a single exception for “life” of the mother, because the practical result is that if abortions are banned otherwise, most doctors won’t be trained in how to do it and it is often a very fine line to determine if life is in danger. Then there’s the whole aspect of living, but with a permanently nonfunctioning uterus, or other permanent damage (such as the Guatemalan woman who went blind after being refused an abortion), etc. The recent federal ban does not include a health exception.

  93. #93 Azkyroth
    April 25, 2007

    Ian:

    While I’ve never liked this particular line of argument, I must say that your “reasoning” and formulation strongly implies to me that your beliefs on this matter would be very different if you were physically capable of becoming pregnant. You, despite your disingenuous and half-hearted denials of ignorance or callousness, seem remarkably ignorant of, and cheerfully trivialize:
    -the distressing and potentially traumatic nature of a living, thinking human being enslaved to serve as an incubator for a potential human;
    -the potential risk to the life and health of the mother in ANY pregnancy and childbirth (and the repeated argument that health exemptions in general bans can be manipulated by anti-choice officials);
    -the economic and emotional burden accompanying having a child one was not ready to support;
    -the traumatizing and damaging nature of being raised by parents who are negligent or abusive

    You also fail to establish why conception should be regarded as the beginning of an “individual” existence. Aside from incompatibility with the meaning of the concept of “individual” as understood by the rest of humanity, your line of argument runs into numerous logical absurdities. For instance, if the existence of individuality definitely occurs at conception, do identical twins (originally conceived as a single zygote) constitute a single “individual” manifested in two bodies, the killing of which can be regarded merely as a form of assault and battery? Of course not, because “individual” refers to characteristics of personality and identity which exist solely as a function of brain activity and as such are not present in organisms which have not yet developed a brain.

    Consider, also, that every viable sperm is half of a “potential individual.” Yet in the course of an ordinary process of fertilization hundreds of millions of sperm are killed by the environment of the female reproductive tract. Are we to prosecute sexually active women for mass murder, one count for every two sperm that die in their bodies without fertilizing an egg? A similar situation occurs with eggs, each of which–unless defective in a way that would prevent a zygote from developing–is half of a potential human being. Shall we prosecute women for one count of negligence leading to a death for every two periods that go by without an egg being fertilized? Of course not.

    Consider also my daughter’s case. She had a twin, of sorts; an embryo with which something went horribly wrong early in its development, resulting in a spherical mass of more or less random tissues which she apparently amused herself by kicking around inside my wife’s uterus for a time. This…thing…was certainly genetically unique! And, if recognizably anything, it was genetically human. Should my daughter be prosecuted for assaulting it, albeit tried as a minor–and perhaps with the aggravating factor of assaulting a severely handicapped victim? After all, she was a “potential person” at the time, which you claim to be equivalent to an actual human being–surely this translates into moral responsibility, at least at the level of a child.

    Simply speaking, it is probably possible, at least in principle, to form a new human being by extracting the nucleus of almost any somatic cell, inserting it into an unfertilized ovum, and providing it the proper hormonal stimulus and environment as it grows. Are we then to treat every cell of our bodies as a potential person, or at least half of one?

    These examples are absurd–flamingly, self-evidently so. Of course you reject the arguments offered in each; yet there is no way to reconcile these arguments with your claims that the “potential person” formed in conception should be treated, morally and legally, as an individual human being, without blatant question-begging or special pleading in the case of “normal” fetuses. A rational, consistent basis for drawing the line simply does not exist here.

    A more realistic example: suppose a pregnant woman is injured in an accident in such a way that the fetus, while uninjured, can no longer be supported by her body. Suppose medical technology has developed to the point where it could be implanted into the uterus of another woman and grown to term. Should it be legal to abduct a suitable woman and force her to undergo the procedure–after all, a fetus’ right to life trumps a woman’s right to control her own body, right? Or how about if it became possible to implant the fetus into a man’s abdomen–would you still feel the same way, now that it was your body at risk of being commandeered (I rather doubt it)?

  94. #94 Azkyroth
    April 25, 2007

    PS: After having determined, to my satisfaction, that they are not premised on a unique personal definition, related only superficially to the common usage, of the term “pregnant”, I applaud and enthusiastically support Chet’s arguments.

  95. #95 Caledonian
    April 25, 2007

    I just love the argument that pro-life people are generally permissive of abortion when pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or is the result of rape.

    Because, y’know, rape babies are inherently less valuable than non-rape babies, which are individuals in their own right and possess personhood. But when the reason for the mother’s not wanting it is a good and proper reason, that all goes away.

    This isn’t about religion, or patriarchy, or medicine. It’s about people who want to be able to control what other people do, who want to have their standards used to decide how society will function. The anti-abortionists are not so different from pro-abortionists in this regard – the primary difference is that the standards that the latter group wants to force upon everyone are generally more permissive than those of the former.

  96. #96 CalGeorge
    April 25, 2007

    And we allow that that individual, whatever stage of life he or she happens to be in, is entitled to the right to life.

    We coerce poor people into enlisting in the military so that we can send them to war where they will have a better than average change of getting killed. Are they entitled to a right to life?

    We pollute the air and soil and thereby shorten people’s lives. Are all those people’s right to life intact?

    We put people on death row and execute them. What about those individuals? Do they have a right to life?

  97. #97 Graculus
    April 25, 2007

    “We agree that the individual should have the right to life at most stages on that journey through time so why not all?”

    Can I get a defintion of “individual” from you. Does in mean “all humans”, “all persons” or “all moral agents”?

    If all “humans” then how do you define “human”. Obviously just possessing human DNA is insufficient (otherwise individual cells have full rights, including cancer). If it’s “persons” it means that corporations also have a right to life, and that’s just ridiculous. If it’s “moral agents” then it’s defintiely post natal, probalbly sometime in adolescence. And it is probably not restricted to humans.

    Being an individual requires conciousness/some degree of self-awareness (awareness of status as an individual) then the product of conception is obviously not an individual until quite late in the game, perhaps post natal, but many non-human vertebrates are individuals.

    Then there is the issue of “right ot life”. Where do you think rights originate and who/what is entitled to these rights? Why?

    On a philisophical level I do not believe that a fetus has inherent rights, and on a pragmatic level I fully support unrestricted access to abortion. Abortion rates are directly related to the rate of unwanted pregnancies, not laws. The only viable method of reducing abortions is complete education on reproduction choices and easy access to birth control, including “morning after” pills (which IMHO cannot by definition induce abortion because until implantation it ain’t a pregnancy).

  98. #98 God
    April 25, 2007

    Abortion is wrong. Learn it now or suffer the consequences of your actions later. It’s up to you. Don’t say you were never warned.

  99. #99 MartinM
    April 25, 2007

    Quoth God:

    Abortion is wrong. Learn it now or suffer the consequences of your actions later. It’s up to you. Don’t say you were never warned.

    Hey, we’re only following your example.

  100. #100 commissarjs
    April 25, 2007

    I find it very telling that the anti-choice crowd is just as opposed to Griswold v. Connecticut as they are to Roe v. Wade.

  101. #101 rrt
    April 25, 2007

    It seems to me Ian’s argument is one of convenience. Rather than grapple with the fundamental question–at what point does a fetus become a human being with a right to life that overrides most of its mother’s rights–he’s arguing that we skip to the end and not worry about it.

    “Why not all stages of life” may be easier, but much of this comment thread has been addressing that very question long before he asked it.

  102. #102 Keanus
    April 25, 2007

    As an outside escort for our local Planned Parenthood clinic, I meet anti-abortionists every week. They are completely inconsistent. They oppose abortion, but when I invite them to join Planned Parenthood’s efforts to reduce the number of abortions by supporting comprehensive reproductive education and widespread availability of contraception, they say “No!” They’re wedded to the idea that procreation is a divine act, blessed by their god and that any effort to manage it is a sin. They’d rather see women live in ignorance and suffer the consequences than reduce the number of abortions. And on top of that, they lie repeatedly, trying to tell the PP patients that…
    abortion causes breast cancer,
    that abortion causes cervical cancer,
    that all will suffer the terrible consequences of “post-abortion syndrome”,
    that condoms have a very high failure rate,
    that an abortion will render one sterile,
    that an abortion will drive away one’s partner,
    that the risk of infection at a Planned Parenthood clinic is extremely high,
    that patients are reguarly taken to the hospital because the PP doctors are inept,
    and so on.

    You get the picture. In short anti-abortion advocates are dishonest, lying, bullies. Were they to stake their protesting on a moral view and dispense with the lying, I could respect them. But they don’t, so I can’t. They are inherently dishonest.

  103. #103 Keith Douglas
    April 25, 2007

    Keith: (Hello, fellow Keith) – The example is taken from a classic paper in applied ethics by Judith Thomson, as I recall. Needless to say there are (IMO unsucessful, of course) answers to it …

    About viability: are those who link the (im)permissability of abortion to viability ready to repeatedly push back the latest time of permissable abortion as artificial incubators etc. improve?

  104. #104 Molly, NYC
    April 25, 2007

    rrt – You’ll also notice that that “all stages of life” argument could be applied to every sperm or ovum in the anti-choicers’ collective gonads. Why don’t they lay some restrictions on their every ejaculate, hold a funeral for their every menses?

    Because they would find it inconvenient–the same thing they accuse others of.

    I’m not advocating this, obviously–just pointing out that defining conception as the start of life is an arbitrary choice.

    So why did the anti-choicers pick this particular point? Because, if your goal is to make grief for pregnant women, it is convenient.

  105. #105 khan
    April 25, 2007

    Pro-life paradise: El Salvador

    http://tinyurl.com/2jez3k
    (NY Times April 2006)

    A policy that criminalizes all abortions has a flip side. It appears to mandate that the full force of the medical team must tend toward saving the fetus under any circumstances. This notion can lead to some dangerous practices. Consider an ectopic pregnancy, a condition that occurs when a microscopic fertilized egg moves down the fallopian tube — which is no bigger around than a pencil — and gets stuck there (or sometimes in the abdomen). Unattended, the stuck fetus grows until the organ containing it ruptures. A simple operation can remove the fetus before the organ bursts. After a rupture, though, the situation can turn into a medical emergency.

    According to Sara Valdés, the director of the Hospital de Maternidad, women coming to her hospital with ectopic pregnancies cannot be operated on until fetal death or a rupture of the fallopian tube.

    Personally, I think no man should be allowed to describe pregnancy as ‘inconvenient’ until he’s had a watermelon shoved up his @ss.

  106. #106 Berlzebub
    April 25, 2007

    For me, the ‘choice’ is simple. If you’re not the woman carrying the fetus, shut the hell up! This goes even if you are the father, whether it be husband or boyfriend. It’s her body, and her choice. Before you did the deed that got her into that situation, you should have asked what her views are. If she doesn’t want to keep it, that’s up to her, and the government should stay the hell out of it!

    For those saying, “but it’s a life”. So was that egg, or lettuce, you had for breakfast this morning, once. Both were just as capable of independant thought, but at least they provided sustanance.

    When I hear people arguing on the ‘pro-(ahem)life’ side, the seem to be arguing for the potential of the fetus, not for the fetus itself. However, there are an infinite number of potentials for said ‘life’. President of the United States (hopefully a better one than we have now), Nobel Prize winner, professor, doctor, lawyer, drug addict, serial killer,… The list goes on and on. Sorry, but to me that life has no potential if the mother doesn’t want it. And if she doesn’t want it, I say let her have the choice. Otherwise, it’s just another case of the government, and everyone else, sticking their fuckin’ noses where they don’t belong.

    -Berlzebub

    PS. The husband and boyfriend can have a say so when they find a way for them to carry and give birth to the kid.

  107. #107 rrt
    April 25, 2007

    And as Molly has hinted, why does the argument for “potential” stop at conception? Why isn’t every sperm sacred? Again, I think that goes back at least in part to convenience.

  108. #108 JasonR
    April 25, 2007

    Ian Spedding,

    We agree that the individual should have the right to life at most stages on that journey through time so why not all?

    You didn’t answer the question. You’re just tacitly asserting that a zygote/embryo/fetus qualifies as an “individual” in the morally important sense that we recognize born human beings to be “individuals.” You need to justify that assertion with an argument. If an embryo is an “individual” in this morally important sense, why isn’t a human sperm or egg? How can an embryo be an “individual” if it can split to become two “individuals” or mere with another embryo to produce a single “individual?” Why isn’t any individual somatic cell in a human body also an “individual” of this kind?

  109. #109 JDC
    April 25, 2007

    The best way to solve this is to gather all people who are in favor of abortion and to retroactively abort them. Only after one has been aborted should they be able to then argue abortion should be legal.

  110. #110 Berlzebub
    April 25, 2007

    JDC:

    The best way to solve this is to gather all people who are in favor of abortion and to retroactively abort them. Only after one has been aborted should they be able to then argue abortion should be legal. [emphasis mine]

    Abortion is legal you moron. We don’t have to argue it. Roe vs. Wade kept abortion legal.

    -Berlzebub

  111. #111 dr. luba
    April 25, 2007

    Remember South Dakota? Remember the (male) congressmen who wrote the restrictive anti-abortion law that the people of the state rose up against and voted out?

    What did they feel would be a suitable exception to the law? According to state congressman BILL NAPOLI: “A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”

    There you go. They do have compassion. If your are a virgin AND brutally raped (not just any rape will do) AND sodomized, you can get an abortion. But you non-religious types and married women out there–forget about it.

    Compassionate conservatism at its finest.

  112. #112 Azkyroth
    April 25, 2007

    Berlzebub:

    I would contend that when the relationship is not abusive, otherwise dysfunctional, or nonexistent, that women generally should discuss the decision with her partner and take her partner’s feelings into account in making her decision, but that under no circumstances whatsoever should the woman’s partner have any legal say in whether or not she can have an abortion (except in cases, like the one linked, where the woman is incapable of giving legal consent and the abortion is medically necessary).

  113. #113 D
    April 25, 2007

    Azkyroth: With those conditions met, it would be a given that said woman would discuss the decision. No “should”s involved.

  114. #114 JDC
    April 25, 2007

    Berlzebub:

    You’re almost as sharp as a spoon. Too bad your mother didn’t abort you, but my guess she was as stupid as you are and wasn’t thinking ahead about what a complete waste of human debris you would turn out to be. Damn that bitch for not considering others.

  115. #115 Uber
    April 25, 2007

    I havenever been able to understand the religious argument on purely logical grounds. I have asked people where do the babies go when they are aborted, most say to heaven, I then ask why isn’t this a good thing?

    Often I can see their brains lock up. It seems to me an atheist pro-life individual is much more consistent simply because they may realize one life is one life. Is this correct? I dunno but it seems more arguable than the other.

  116. #116 Joe Average
    April 25, 2007

    Their brains didn’t lock up, they just heard what you said and realized you’re an idiot. In essance, you just said that it would be best to murder unborn children in order that they go to heaven. IOW let’s do evil so that good can be the final result. Yeah, I bet they look at you funny. I don’t blame them.

  117. #117 rrt
    April 25, 2007

    Oh, come on, Joe. Uber’s argument is a classic, and its absurdity is the entire point. I’d give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you weren’t yourself idiot enough to miss that, but then that would make your rhetoric rather dishonest. Something of a dilemma there.

    On a more serious note: I don’t think the religious argument is logical. I think it has to do with how one approaches the question of defining a fetus’ status as human. Most of us here approach it logically and scientifically. I think theists tend to approach it emotionally and from a tradition of revealed, absolute truths. Thus a fetus is human at all stages because the Church says so, and because any other answer allows uncomfortable uncertainty.

  118. #118 Rey Fox
    April 25, 2007

    So Joe, tell us: why is that such a stupid idea? Don’t you want babies to go to heaven? Would you rather they be tainted by sin? Please enlighten us.

  119. #119 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 25, 2007

    Jason wrote:

    Why should anyone believe that a fertilized human egg, or a human embryo, or a human fetus is an “individual” in the morally important sense that we recognize born persons to be such a thing?

    You and I are individual human beings. In other words, we have all the essential properties or attributes which define a human being as well as a set of properties or atributes which are unique to ourselves and which make us distinct from all other members of the human species.

    So that there is no confusion, these are natural properties and have no more to do with morality than the fact that we are all composed, in part, from carbon.

    Each human fertilized egg, embryo or fetus includes a copy of the human genome which is, nonetheless, unique to itself. Also, part of being a human being means having to pass through a succession of developmental stages in order to reach adulthood. They are stages in the human lifespan and hence a part of the entirety of what is a human being.

    As I said before, however similar we might be, each human being not only occupies a unique position in space, they also follow a unique ‘trajectory’ through time – even identical twins, even clones.

  120. #120 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 26, 2007

    BlueIndependent wrote:

    A human having rights to their person requires an actual person of proper development A) to understand self-determination and free will, and B) to have the personal and legal capability and freedom with which to make decisions on their own. A fetus has neither of those things by definition.

    Neither does a newborn baby but we still allow it the right to life. Entitlement to rights is not always dependent on being a mature and responsible adult.

  121. #121 Ian H Spedding CD
    April 26, 2007

    Chet wrote

    Yeah. Sorry, no. The cells of your skin, as they accrue mutations from exposure to the sun, become “genetically unique”; and the Pauli exclusion principle makes it pretty clear that every particle in the universe occupies a “unique position in space and time.”
    So neither one of those are a basis for overturning the traditional view of when life begins – birth.

    The traditional view of the solar system was that the Sun went around the Earth. The pre-natal stages of a human being are as much living as the neonatal by any accepted definition life. Traditional views are not always right.

    Accepting your premise for a moment, “unlawful occupancy of a uterus” is justification for deadly force if that’s what it takes to evict the trespasser. Also, the willful acts of leeching the mother’s bodily nutrients and endangering her life by radical changes to her physiology would constitute assault, again justifiying the use of deadly force to stop the commission of a crime.

    Newborn babies cannot commit murder, in part, because they are incapable of forming intent. A fetus is even less capable, if possible, so there is no crime.

  122. #122 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 26, 2007

    CalGeorge wrote:

    However, while the mother has clear rights both to protect her own life and decide what should happen to her own body, she has no absolute right to make unilateral decisions concerning the life and body of any other individual, even if it is just a fetus in her womb.

    Do you have that right? Who gave it to you?
    Because that’s what this is about – you deciding the issue for someone else.
    Where does your right to decide for her end? That’s what YOU need to think about.

    No, this is about two things.

    It is about rights, which I see as entitlements or permissions or privileges that society agrees to grant to its members, the most fundamental of which is the right to life.

    It is also about the fact that there is not just one human individual to consider, there are two – the mother and the unborn child. And if the unborn child has the right to life then we have as much of an obligation to respect it as we do that of the mother.

    Society has decided thus far that the fetus does not have the same right to life as the mother. I disagree, although I can do nothing about it other than argue my case.

  123. #123 Uber
    April 26, 2007

    Their brains didn’t lock up, they just heard what you said and realized you’re an idiot.

    Hmmm nice answer there joey. You are indeed an average joe.

    In essance, you just said that it would be best to murder unborn children in order that they go to heaven. IOW let’s do evil so that good can be the final result. Yeah, I bet they look at you funny. I don’t blame them

    Thats exactly it joey, it’s absurd. BUT how evil can it actually be? You doing a good thing which is what you don’t seem able to grasp. Where is the evil act? You doing a GOOD thing no? There is no evil act simply because nothing bad is happening to them. Nothing at all. They feel no pain and are transported instantly to Heaven. Where is the evil? Your not really killing anything as they never really die or cease to exist. They just move from one world to the next.

    Like I said the atheist perspective seems more solid.

  124. #124 Anton Mates
    April 26, 2007

    In essance, you just said that it would be best to murder unborn children in order that they go to heaven. IOW let’s do evil so that good can be the final result.

    Yeah, because no pro-life Christian ever supports punishment for the sake of deterrence or rehabilitation, or war for the sake of future peace and freedom.

    Really, you could murder anybody and it would be worth it if they went to heaven. After their first ten million years of bliss, I bet they won’t even hold a grudge. Even if you used a flamethrower.

    It’s Pascal’s wager all over again: when there’s an infinite gain and an infinite loss in the game, nothing else matters.

    (Of course you might be hellbound yourself for such a crime, but–depending on your theology–either accept Christ as your personal savior afterwards and have your sins washed away, or make sure to kill multiple babies so the net outcome’s still Heaven-skewed. You can’t get any more damned, as far as I understand it.)

  125. #125 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 26, 2007

    James G wrote:

    “We agree that the individual should have the right to life at most stages on that journey through time so why not all?”
    Because all the stages are not equal. Suppose you have a 2 year old girl, a 1 month old embryo, and a 95 year old grandmother. If you care for all three of them equally, you’re quite abnormal.

    In what way are the stages not equal and how do you measure the amount of care to which each stage is entitled?

    And I have already said that there should be a health exemption from any ban on abortion.

  126. #126 Owlmirror
    April 26, 2007

    Sigh…

    Ian, the last time this argument came up, I suggested that some research into fetal development and neurology would be in order. Did you ever do that?

    Did you even read Carl Sagan’s essay on the topic?

  127. #127 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 26, 2007

    Keith Douglas wrote:

    Keith: (Hello, fellow Keith) – The example is taken from a classic paper in applied ethics by Judith Thomson, as I recall. Needless to say there are (IMO unsucessful, of course) answers to it …

    Thank you, Keiths, I’ve been trying to remember the name of the author. It’s a very nice analogy, too.

    As I see it, society has decided that no one can be compelled to suffer injury or death to save the life of another but there is no objection if they do so voluntarily. In the case of the unfortunate person forced to provide life support in Judith Thomson’s story, there was no choice. She was, at the least, a victim of kidnapping and assault and, although she could choose to do otherwise, she would be under no moral obligation to continue in that situation, even if it meant the death of the recipient of her support.

    In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, however, we can assume that the couple had sexual intercourse in full knowledge of the possibility that such might be the outcome even if contraceptive measures were taken. Engaging in risky activities in full knowledge of the dangers implies a willingness to accept and cope with any adverse consequences should the worst come to the worst. This means that if a woman becomes pregnant, even though she might have taken precautions against it, she should be obliged to respect the fetus’s right to life and carry it to term – unless, of course, to do so would be a threat to her life or long-term health.

  128. #128 Skizzy Bo Bizzy
    April 26, 2007

    Where in the Constitution does it say that you have the right to have your unborn baby’s head cut into and it’s brains sucked out and its body thrown away like a used napkin? If someone can point out EXACTLY where that is, I owe them a Coke.

  129. #129 Dianne
    April 26, 2007

    Each human fertilized egg, embryo or fetus includes a copy of the human genome which is, nonetheless, unique to itself

    Except for identical twins who (barring unusual events and mutations) are, as the term suggests, genetically identical. On the other hand, tumors have a gene profile that is unique and clearly different from the genetic profile of their “parents”. So is chemotherapy murder according to the genetic fetishist? And I see you didn´t want to deal with the end of life issue.

  130. #130 Dianne
    April 26, 2007

    In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, however, we can assume that the couple had sexual intercourse in full knowledge of the possibility that such might be the outcome even if contraceptive measures were taken

    Sigh. Have you ever gotten into a car, bus, train, or airplane? I assume that you did so in the full knowledge that even if precautions were taken (seat belt, sober and qualified driver, cell phones in the off position) there might be an accident, right? So if I see you bleeding on the road I shouldn’t try to stop the bleeding because you knew what you were getting into and besides I might be able to save more people by harvesting your organs after you bleed out. Have you ever mixed with other people? I assume that you did so in the full knowledge that you could get infectious diseases from the common cold to meningitis by doing so and therefore would not welcome medical intervention to aleviate the symptoms of or cure any diseases so contracted (particularly since doing so would destroy a huge number of entities with genetics that are most certainly unique from yours). And so on. If you do not agree to the above, how is sexual intercourse different from any other of the events we engage in daily, in the knowledge that they could have bad consequences for us?

  131. #131 D
    April 26, 2007

    You know, Ian continues to use arguments that have been repeatedly shown to be fallacious or incomplete, but neither abandons them nor adapts them. It’s no different than arguing from religious fundamentalism. New song, old dance.

    1. Sperm magic is sperm magic. Hand waving about “uniqueness” and “individual” is without substance and essentially equivocation with the latter. It has been pointed out repeatedly that “individual zygote” does not equal “individual person”, and unique isn’t.

    2. The metaphysical concept of a continuous existence of a human being is irrelevant to whether an embryo/fetus should have a right to life. Ian has been trying to use it to claim the right most people afford to adults should be transferred to embryos on account of both being part of the continuum of a human being, as he would define such. However, if what is being defined as a human being has a quality that makes it deserving of a right to life, then such quality must be present at all discrete stages of said being’s life, otherwise such a being would not be a human being. As yet, Ian has not offered any such a quality shared by embryos and adults. Unless such can be produced, either human beings, as Ian would define them, are not worth being granted a right to life, or embryos aren’t human beings.

    3. And that all really leads to what is likely the real reason behind Ian’s position: misogyny, seen occasionally as he belittles women, in both experiences (pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing) and as people (moral and logical agents). And of course he espouses the pregnancy as punishment for sex for women philosophy, as seen just above. What level of animosity and arrogance does it take to tell someone else that you know better than they what they are choosing and accepting to do by their actions, or worse, that you’re going to dictate to them the consequences of their actions?

  132. #132 rrt
    April 26, 2007

    Sigh. This far into a pretty good discussion on the issue, and we still have folks jumping in with “…but…but…you’re killing BABIES!” Well, I guess that does help explain the public debate.

  133. #133 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 26, 2007

    Dianne wrote:

    On the other hand, tumors have a gene profile that is unique and clearly different from the genetic profile of their “parents”.

    One slight difference: a fertilized egg will, if all goes well, grow inside a woman and form another human life, if a tumour grows inside a woman it will, if left untreated, eventually kill her.

  134. #134 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 26, 2007

    Dianne wrote:

    If you do not agree to the above, how is sexual intercourse different from any other of the events we engage in daily, in the knowledge that they could have bad consequences for us?

    …because one of the unintended consequences is the formation of another human life?

  135. #135 Baratos
    April 26, 2007

    One slight difference: a fertilized egg will, if all goes well, grow inside a woman and form another human life, if a tumour grows inside a woman it will, if left untreated, eventually kill her.

    There are benign tumors, you know. I remember hearing about one case of a person leaving the tumor in because it was benign and the surgery would be too dangerous. That was years ago, though–anyone have records of a case like that?

  136. #136 kmarissa
    April 26, 2007

    Ian wrote:

    Dianne wrote:

    If you do not agree to the above, how is sexual intercourse different from any other of the events we engage in daily, in the knowledge that they could have bad consequences for us?

    …because one of the unintended consequences is the formation of another human life?

    And how is this unintended consequence any different?

    Also, I take it that you would provide no rape exception, since an unintended consequence of that can be the formation of another human life.

    Also, I take it that you would illegalize any fertility treatments that result in the creation of multiple fertilized eggs unless each egg were implanted.

  137. #137 Dianne
    April 26, 2007

    One slight difference: a fertilized egg will, if all goes well, grow inside a woman and form another human life,

    So what? Why should a human life be any more important than a new and unique cancer life? Taken out of the person’s body and cultured, the cancer could live for 100s of years (Hela cells are already a good 50 or more years old and show no signs of weakening). If the unique DNA is all that matters, then a cancer line is at least as important as a person.

    Or are you, perhaps, at last acknowledging that this DNA fetishism is so much eyewash and the real issue is people–sentient beings who can suffer from malicious acts such as enslavement by those intent on causing them to suffer. Such as pro-lifers?

  138. #138 khan
    April 26, 2007

    And of course he espouses the pregnancy as punishment for sex for women philosophy, as seen just above.

    Sooner or later, they always do.

  139. #139 windy
    April 26, 2007

    As I said before, however similar we might be, each human being not only occupies a unique position in space, they also follow a unique ‘trajectory’ through time – even identical twins, even clones.

    I already wondered how you would try to explain away identical twins. But the start point of the twins’ unique trajectories is not conception. How do you justify moving the starting point in this case?

    And what about chimeras?

  140. #140 Disgusted Beyond Belief
    April 26, 2007

    I never would have suspected my post would get such a response across the blogsphere. I just wanted to point out I added another post, about my wife’s first pregnancy, and more thoughts on abortion. Something I also commented on elsewhere, in response to a comment that called abortion murder (obviously, this addresses a pro-lifer):

    Murder is a strong term. I can certainly understand its use here. The problem is that a fetus is NOT an independent entity.

    How about this? How would you feel if, instead of killing a fetus, the procedure is, just cut the umbilical cord, because that is taking resources away from the woman, and no one can be forced to provide resources against their will, and then after that, it is up to the fetus to live or die on its own. Perhaps it could be implanted into someone else, perhaps not, but then why should the woman be forced to risk death (and there are ALWAYS risks with pregnancy) to continue providing sustenance to the fetus?

    It’s, after all, not the woman’s fault that the fetus can’t usually survive without the connection to the mother, but why force the mother to provide it against her will?

    What if I have some strange sickness, and I am going to die, but then I run into you in the street, and manage to save myself by attaching myself to you. This attachment leeches nutriuents from your body, causes you to gain weight, and, oh yes, has a chance of killing you, and even if it doesn’t, it will impact you physically for the rest of your life. But don’t worry, I’ll only stay attached for 9 months, then I’ll be cured and I can go on my merry way. If you detach me, I die. Should I be able to legally force you to have me attached with you for those 9 months? If you detach me, is it murder? Who gets to decide if I stay attached? You? Or should we just let a bunch of strangers vote and let them decide, leaving you out of it?

    You think all abortion is murder. I can even respect that from a logical perspective, though ultimately the logic fails when fully examined. But why should your opinion on the matter be dictated to everyone else?

    ======

    I guess I should not be too surprised about all the voices on this issue.

  141. #141 debate coach
    April 26, 2007

    >>Thats exactly it joey, it’s absurd. BUT how evil can it actually be? You doing a good thing which is what you don’t seem able to grasp. Where is the evil act? You doing a GOOD thing no? There is no evil act simply because nothing bad is happening to them. Nothing at all. They feel no pain and are transported instantly to Heaven. Where is the evil? Your not really killing anything as they never really die or cease to exist. They just move from one world to the next. < <

    >>Yeah, because no pro-life Christian ever supports punishment for the sake of deterrence or rehabilitation, or war for the sake of future peace and freedom.

    Really, you could murder anybody and it would be worth it if they went to heaven. After their first ten million years of bliss, I bet they won’t even hold a grudge. Even if you used a flamethrower.<<

    Both of these above statements are so full of logical fallacies it would be impossible to ever get the author’s to understand why.

    Gutenberg. Books. You should try reading one.

  142. #142 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –But why should your opinion on the matter be dictated to everyone else?–

    Because people who recognize the truth regarding moral positions on certain issues are bound by their convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality. If the whole world believes that stealing is moral, that doesn’t mean that it is. Ergo, abortion.

  143. #143 JasonR
    April 26, 2007

    JC,

    Because people who recognize the truth regarding moral positions on certain issues

    How do you know your moral positions on certain issues are the truth?

  144. #144 Morwen
    April 26, 2007

    Skizzy said:

    “Where in the Constitution does it say that you have the right to have your unborn baby’s head cut into and it’s brains sucked out and its body thrown away like a used napkin? ”

    Nowhere, but the Constitution is not required to go into details of what medical care people are allowed.

    To my knowledge, your SC has decided that the procedure you describe in the hope of squicking us, other procedures have not been ruled illegal. It is perfectly legal to cut up a fetus in the womb and bring it out in bits (with attendant risks of perforating the woman’s womb and not being able to get all the bits out). It is also legal to inject the fetus with something to kill it, before bringing it out (with the risks to the woman who is still attached via the umbilical cord). Basically, the SC banned a procedure based on how much the enforced-pregnancy crowd objected to it. The decision wasn’t made on any consistent ethical ground; it was not based on medical evidence. They banned a procedure that was proven to be safest for some women. This procedure is almost always performed when the pregnancy was wanted: they banned the procedure that would allow the woman time to hold the fetus and grieve.

    Personally, I am more disgusted and appalled by the mental and phsical damage the SC ruling will cause women, than the description of D&X.

  145. #145 Morwen
    April 26, 2007

    Argh, it’s late, I’m tired and cannot spell.

  146. #146 windy
    April 26, 2007
    Yeah, because no pro-life Christian ever supports punishment for the sake of deterrence or rehabilitation, or war for the sake of future peace and freedom.
    Really, you could murder anybody and it would be worth it if they went to heaven. After their first ten million years of bliss, I bet they won’t even hold a grudge. Even if you used a flamethrower.

    Both of these above statements are so full of logical fallacies it would be impossible to ever get the author’s to understand why.

    Gutenberg. Books. You should try reading one.

    Which one of them has the logical proof that souls in heaven do hold a grudge?

  147. #147 Anton Mates
    April 26, 2007
    Thats exactly it joey, it’s absurd. BUT how evil can it actually be? You doing a good thing which is what you don’t seem able to grasp. Where is the evil act? You doing a GOOD thing no? There is no evil act simply because nothing bad is happening to them. Nothing at all. They feel no pain and are transported instantly to Heaven. Where is the evil? Your not really killing anything as they never really die or cease to exist. They just move from one world to the next.

    >>Yeah, because no pro-life Christian ever supports punishment for the sake of deterrence or rehabilitation, or war for the sake of future peace and freedom.

    Really, you could murder anybody and it would be worth it if they went to heaven. After their first ten million years of bliss, I bet they won’t even hold a grudge. Even if you used a flamethrower.

    Both of these above statements are so full of logical fallacies it would be impossible to ever get the author’s to understand why.

    Gutenberg. Books. You should try reading one.

    That’s the longest way of writing “I really want to refute these arguments, but I don’t know how” I’ve ever seen.

  148. #148 stogoe
    April 26, 2007

    I’m just a little glad I kept away from this thread until the crazies wandered in. Such inadvertent hilarity.

    Anyways, re: The Constitution, it would seem to me, a lowly dirty fucking hippy/patriot, that this here Ninth Amendment takes care of the pro-forced birth objections on constitutionality. #9 happens to be my favorite, by the way.

  149. #149 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –How do you know your moral positions on certain issues are the truth?–

    Because I am refelcting the views of the author of morality in whom only truth can exist.

  150. #150 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –How do you know your moral positions on certain issues are the truth?–

    Because I am refelcting the views of the author of morality in whom only truth can exist.

  151. #151 Rey Fox
    April 26, 2007

    “Both of these above statements are so full of logical fallacies it would be impossible to ever get the author’s to understand why.”

    So I guess you give up then, and Anton and Uber win. On your home court too (for most of us don’t even believe in heaven). You’re not much of a debate coach.

  152. #152 JasonR
    April 26, 2007

    JC,

    Because I am refelcting the views of the author of morality in whom only truth can exist.

    How do you know you’re reflecting his views, rather than reflecting something else?

  153. #153 Rey Fox
    April 26, 2007

    “Because I am refelcting the views of the author of morality in whom only truth can exist.”

    So I guess we better get cracking on those laws against working on Sunday and mixing fibers and eating shellfish then.

  154. #154 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –How do you know you’re reflecting his views, rather than reflecting something else?–

    Because He has revealed His will.

    Does it upset you that there are those, like myself, who recognize the truth regarding moral positions on certain issues and are bound by their convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality?

  155. #155 Kristjan Wager
    April 26, 2007

    Does it upset you that there are those, like myself, who recognize the truth regarding moral positions on certain issues and are bound by their convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality?

    When “the truth” is not based on anything else than a delusion? Yes.

  156. #156 Bruto
    April 26, 2007

    Rey Fox,

    If your going to make comments like that at least have the balls to print out your name, address and telephone number. My guess is that on-line you’re a real keyboard commando, but in person you whimper and whine. So tell us where you live and let’s see just how you behave yourself F2F when you’re not safetly tucked away in your Mommy’s basement.

  157. #157 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –When “the truth” is not based on anything else than a delusion? Yes.–

    That’s not for you to decide.

  158. #158 JasonR
    April 26, 2007

    JC,

    Because He has revealed His will.

    How do you know he has revealed his will? Where has he revealed it? How do you know where he has revealed it? Your answers just keep begging the same basic question of how you know that any of your claims are true, rather than false.

  159. #159 D
    April 26, 2007

    JC: Would you be disturbed by people wanting to make it legally required for you to be castrated? I suppose you wouldn’t since that is the truth regarding that moral position.

  160. #160 Rey Fox
    April 26, 2007

    Well, you dropped the pretense of being a debate coach. Guess I was right.

  161. #161 Molly, NYC
    April 26, 2007

    Ian H Spedding @ 127

    In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, however, we can assume that the couple had sexual intercourse in full knowledge of the possibility that such might be the outcome even if contraceptive measures were taken. Engaging in risky activities in full knowledge of the dangers implies a willingness to accept and cope with any adverse consequences should the worst come to the worst. This means that if a woman becomes pregnant, even though she might have taken precautions against it, she should be obliged to respect the fetus’s right to life and carry it to term – unless, of course, to do so would be a threat to her life or long-term health.

    Or she could have an abortion.

    What she needn’t do is take seriously YOUR–a total stranger–insistance that she’s “obliged” to do a goddamned thing.

    Is there a Mrs. Ian H Spedding? If not, do you inform the women you date of your beliefs in this matter? I always tell my teenage nieces to inquire about this; there are few look-what-crawled-from-under-that-rock moments like when a man who’s self-righteously yammered about the sanctity of fetal life wants to know when (not “if”) you’re gonna let him jump your bones. And if he’s anti-choice, that is what she’s going to hear.

    Dissecting the moral disconnect in these scumbags will be left as an exercise for the reader, but you would probably suppose that their belief that conception = child would require that they only sleep with women they’re prepared to stick with–and certainly not with pro-choice women who, by the scumbags’ avowed standards, might murder their (and the scumbags’) own children.

    If so, you would be wrong. Instead, the so-called “pro-life” movement is largely populated by men who figure that if a woman is pro-choice, she’s not only “easy” (in your dreams, asshole), but that he has no obligations to her–not even if she gets pregnant. That’s why the anti-choicers complain that the availability of abortion makes men act like pigs; what they mean is, it makes their men act like pigs.

    By the way, what does FCD mean?

  162. #162 D
    April 26, 2007
  163. #163 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –How do you know he has revealed his will? Where has he revealed it? How do you know where he has revealed it? Your answers just keep begging the same basic question of how you know that any of your claims are true, rather than false.–

    Because you have questions regarding this doesn’t mean that I do. Your being conviced of its validity has no bearing on the truth. I’m under no obligation to convice you or anyone else before proceeding forward.

  164. #164 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –JC: Would you be disturbed by people wanting to make it legally required for you to be castrated? I suppose you wouldn’t since that is the truth regarding that moral position.–

    Requiring castration would not be a moral position for people to take. If you understood the truth you wouldn’t have asked that.

  165. #165 D
    April 26, 2007

    JC: Clearly you do not truly understand the truth if you do not think your castration is moral and that the laws should reflect such. He has made his will known, and it is that you should be castrated. That is the truth.

    Isn’t this fun.

  166. #166 Kseniya
    April 26, 2007

    Your being conviced of its validity has no bearing on the truth.

    Indeed.

  167. #167 rrt
    April 26, 2007

    Personally, I never found trolling much fun at all. Perhaps JC could enlighten me.

  168. #168 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –JC: Clearly you do not truly understand the truth if you do not think your castration is moral and that the laws should reflect such. He has made his will known, and it is that you should be castrated. That is the truth.

    Isn’t this fun.–

    If you’re that conviced, then do something about it. As I’ve clearly pointed out I and many others have found the truth to be that abortion is immoral and I’m bound by my convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality. If someone doesn’t like that, tough. That’s their problem.

  169. #169 Bruto
    April 26, 2007

    >>Well, you dropped the pretense of being a debate coach. Guess I was right.<<

    Oh jeez, your mommy has locked the door to the basement again and you can’t find the extra key. Quit crying. Did you look next to your bags of Cheetos, you know, where you tend to leave everything else?

    Nice going keyboard commando.

  170. #170 Uber
    April 26, 2007

    If your going to make comments like that at least have the balls to print out your name, address and telephone number. My guess is that on-line you’re a real keyboard commando, but in person you whimper and whine. So tell us where you live and let’s see just how you behave yourself F2F when you’re not safetly tucked away in your Mommy’s basement.

    Bruno/debate coach–hahahahaha, that is truly pathetic. Don’t really contribute to the discussion or refute statements just threaten to harm others. Nice, real nice. You can’t parody people like that commentor.

    If you’re that conviced, then do something about it. As I’ve clearly pointed out I and many others have found the truth to be that abortion is immoral and I’m bound by my convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality. If someone doesn’t like that, tough. That’s their problem.

    You haven’t found the truth, you have one version of many that you happen to think is right for you. OK. But don’t go prancing around thinking it’s the TRUTH. Your not supposed to be bound by anything but an open minded individual amendable to other points of view.

  171. #171 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –You haven’t found the truth, you have one version of many that you happen to think is right for you. OK. But don’t go prancing around thinking it’s the TRUTH. Your not supposed to be bound by anything but an open minded individual amendable to other points of view.–

    Maybe that made you *feel* better, but that’s not how things work. It’s possible to know the truth, I do, and those who either can’t accept or refuse to believe that I do aren’t going to keep me from moving forward with what I know to be the moral thing to do. Whether you like it or not means nothing.

  172. #172 Kseniya
    April 26, 2007

    RTT: It’s not fun. It’s a sacred duty. JC Knows the Truth, and is therefore under No Obligation to pursuade anybody of anything before redundantly Proceeding Forward and doing whatever JC thinks is best and forcing everyone else to comply.

    I hesitate to nitpick, but I must to admit to human weakness. JC, does your definition of “ergo” come directly from the revealed word of God? I found your usage to be… unusual.

    “I’m bound by my convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality.”

    Now that’s a sensible statement. Even an atheist could have said it.

    However, tying your Conviction to the Bible, or to the Revealed Word of God, isn’t going to pursuade anybody to admit you are Right. If you haven’t noticed, The Bible is full of the demonstration and exhortation of moral imperatives that any sane person would find questionable at best, abhorrent at worst. Surely you recognize this. One can only conlude that the Bible is not an infallible document. In that light, how can one refer to it as an unimpeachable guide to some kind of absolute morality? How can you know the truth of anything contained in those hallowed pages?

    I don’t begrudge you your convictions. I do begrudge you your unsupported claims of certain knowledge of absolute truth. I am not critiquing your position. I am critiquing your argument in support of your position, which is, frankly, non-existent.

  173. #173 MJ Memphis
    April 26, 2007

    “Whether you like it or not means nothing.”

    Well, given that abortion is legal, it seems that whether you and your “truth” like it or not means nothing as well.

    Incidentally, my religion takes a pretty dim view of abortion as well; however, I don’t see where that is relevant to anyone not following the same religion. Just as your particular religious beliefs are of little concern to anyone but yourself.

  174. #174 Uber
    April 26, 2007

    Maybe that made you *feel* better, but that’s not how things work. It’s possible to know the truth, I do, and those who either can’t accept or refuse to believe that I do aren’t going to keep me from moving forward with what I know to be the moral thing to do. Whether you like it or not means nothing.

    I personally don’t care what you do. If you feel what your doing is correct good. But you’ll have to do better than your doing in terms of discussion to convince others.

    And you need to understand there isn’t any refusal to accept or believe anything. People just think your wrong. Period.

  175. #175 Uber
    April 26, 2007

    MJ Memphis- what religion is that?

  176. #176 rrt
    April 26, 2007

    Well, while I certainly agree with you Kseniya, my point was that I think he is simply trolling. He has to know that virtually everyone here rejects the foundation of his argument, and he hasn’t shown interest in defending that foundation.

  177. #177 Azkyroth
    April 26, 2007

    JC, perhaps you would be so kind as to quote for us the Biblical passages containing a prohibition on, or otherwise establishing the immorality of, abortion?

  178. #178 MJ Memphis
    April 26, 2007

    Uber- Theravada Buddhism.

  179. #179 Uber
    April 26, 2007

    Thank you MJ.

  180. #180 Kseniya
    April 26, 2007

    RRT: Ah, I see what you mean. Perhaps JC thinks he is defending it by declaring it intrinsically unassailable. Or, perhaps, would like to, but isn’t sure how to break it down into its presentable and defensible components.

    Here’s something to consider:

    Approximately one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, often before the mother is even aware she is pregnant. I can only conclude that these defenseless wee souls were cavalierly aborted by the omniscient and omnipotent God himself. I hold God accountable for every one of these abortions, and furthermore charge Him with fraud, having led us into believing these abortions occurred “naturally” or through some unspecified fault of our own.

    I must therefor characterize God’s insistence that all abortion is absolutely immoral as just another example of God’s hypocrisy and of the “Do as I say, not as I do” techniques of a parent who is ill-equipped to raise his own children to rational and compassionate adulthood.

    Discuss.

  181. #181 JC
    April 26, 2007

    –I personally don’t care what you do. If you feel what your doing is correct good. But you’ll have to do better than your doing in terms of discussion to convince others.

    And you need to understand there isn’t any refusal to accept or believe anything. People just think your wrong. Period.–

    Why would you believe convincing others is my point in posting? Why would I care if people think I’m wrong? It changes nothing about abortion being immoral.

    –He has to know that virtually everyone here rejects the foundation of his argument, and he hasn’t shown interest in defending that foundation.–

    Exactly what am I going to say that you haven’t already heard before? You’d already predetermined what you’re going to believe long before I ever showed up here.

    ATTN: All I did was answer the question “But why should your opinion on the matter be dictated to everyone else?” It’s several of you that didn’t like the answer. I don’t owe anyone an explanation of the answer I gave, it is what it is and you can’t do anything about it. Now, if someone had sincerely wanted to inquire further about why then I would have gladly done so. But you only wanted to ask silly questions like “How do you know your moral positions on certain issues are the truth?” Just accept that from the answer I gave that I believe it to be the truth. No one’s asking you to be convinced.

    “But why should your opinion on the matter be dictated to everyone else?” could be asked of any number of issues. It’s how we become a nation of laws, the opinions of people that certain issues are deemed moral and immoral. Some people might believe that driving less than 90mph on the freeway is immoral, but it’s been deemed not to be so by others. Maybe someday opinion will change and driving less than 90 mph on the freeway *will* be deemed immoral. As it stands abortion is the law of the land, but it can change and that change will come about when people recognize that it’s immoral. Therefore, my answer was:

    “Because people who recognize the truth regarding moral positions on certain issues are bound by their convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality. If the whole world believes that stealing is moral, that doesn’t mean that it is. Ergo, abortion.”

    Your the one’s who took it and went all sorts of strange directions with it.

  182. #182 kmarissa
    April 26, 2007

    Why would you believe convincing others is my point in posting?

    His point in coming here was obviously not to convince others, or even, well, to make a point apparently. Except that, oh yeah, abortion is immoral. Someone write that down.

  183. #183 Owlmirror
    April 26, 2007

    I must therefor characterize God’s insistence that all abortion is absolutely immoral as just another example of God’s hypocrisy and of the “Do as I say, not as I do” techniques of a parent who is ill-equipped to raise his own children to rational and compassionate adulthood.

    Perhaps, but it’s not God’s insistence. The alleged recorded commandments and actions of God, taken all together, indicate that not only is abortion condoned, but actually permitted.

    1. God aborts the entire population of the world, with some small exceptions.
    2. God aborts the entire population of a city, descended from those small exceptions.
    3. God commands that disobedient children be killed. There is nothing indicating any limits on how young or old the child is.
    4. In the one command that is specifically about the termination of a pregnancy, such termination is explicitly not termed murder, and is only punishable by a fine.

    And so on, and on.

    See also: What the Bible says about Abortion

    No, it’s once again God’s fan club that has decided that God doesn’t like abortion, in direct contradiction to everything that God has (allegedly) said and done.

  184. #184 Scholar
    April 26, 2007

    Squeky Squeals: “I, for one, believe we can find a middle ground that would benefit BOTH mothers and children.”

    here is a more accurate version…

    “I, for one, believe we can find a middle ground that would benefit BOTH mothers and fertilized eggs.”

    Squeaky, anybody who believes that zygotes are children is an IDIOT.

  185. #185 Azkyroth
    April 26, 2007

    JC, if you’re not trying to convince us by spouting off here, then I apologize and will leave you alone.

    After all, it’s rude to interrupt someone in the middle of masturbation.

  186. #186 cv
    April 26, 2007

    why haven’t the trolls been disemvoweled?
    :<
    they make me sad.

    God’s a deadbeat dad who doesn’t pay mother earth alimony.

  187. #187 Kseniya
    April 26, 2007

    I think all JC is trying to say is, “You have have the conch now, Porkboy, but our time will come.” He/she may be right.

    Owlmirror: Thank you, very good. So how does God’s Fan Club reconcile the high rate of miscarriage with their belief in (a) the absolute immorality of abortion AND (b) an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God?

    Sigh. Never mind. I already know the answer to that.

  188. #188 Anton Mates
    April 26, 2007

    If your going to make comments like that at least have the balls to print out your name, address and telephone number. My guess is that on-line you’re a real keyboard commando, but in person you whimper and whine. So tell us where you live and let’s see just how you behave yourself F2F when you’re not safetly tucked away in your Mommy’s basement.

    There’s that Christian charity I’ve heard so much about.

  189. #189 Carlie
    April 26, 2007

    Where do these people come from? The ones who are the most vociferous and verbose seem to come crawling out of nowhere – unless regular commenters have chosen other handles or are regular readers suddenly delurking, JC, Bruto, and a few others are names I don’t recognize at all. Do you people just type “abortion” into search engines and troll on every blog you find, or what?

  190. #190 Owlmirror
    April 26, 2007

    Do you people just type “abortion” into search engines and troll on every blog you find, or what?

    Well, in this case, it might be because this particular thread is listed in the right column of scienceblogs.com under “Top Five/Most active”. So anyone visiting any scienceblog will see this one, and those who have an interesting in the topic will follow it, and those who have a particularly emotional investment will comment.

  191. #191 Pygmy Loris
    April 26, 2007

    If you’re that conviced, then do something about it. As I’ve clearly pointed out I and many others have found the truth to be that abortion is immoral and I’m bound by my convictions to see that the laws we live under reflect that morality. If someone doesn’t like that, tough. That’s their problem.

    You’re equating immoral with illegal. How are the two related? Are all things that are illegal immoral? Should all things we think of as immoral be illegal?

    For instance, do you lobby your state and national representatives to make adultery illegal? Should we make it illegal to exploit workers by making a profit? Do you think that it is immoral to drive one mile over the speed limit? Is it immoral to own a gun w/o the proper permit?

    Anyway, you’re a troll without a life and your moral judgements should not be the basis of laws, particularly because you base such judgements on an antiquated book that has been shown to give immoral commands by cloaking them in a received morality. This is wrong.

    If you think the bible is a good book of morals, I would like to make you be my slave and then you will obey me as your god commands you to.

  192. #192 Anton Mates
    April 26, 2007

    Approximately one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, often before the mother is even aware she is pregnant.

    That percentage goes down significantly if the mother’s on the pill, interestingly enough. So contraception not only prevents most of the need for voluntary abortions, but it prevents the ones which are acts of God as well. Which of course is why most pro-life groups are strong advocates for contraceptive availability and safe sex education.

    *cough*

  193. #193 llewelly
    April 26, 2007

    Ian:

    Society has decided thus far that the fetus does not have the same right to life as the mother. I disagree, although I can do nothing about it other than argue my case.

    Nonsense. Volunteer to pass out condoms for Planned Parenthood (or equivalent non-US org). Cheapest and most effective abortion-prevention action you can take.

  194. #194 Kseniya
    April 26, 2007

    How interesting.

    <strawman>Doesn’t James Dobson advocate mandatory genital warts and cervical cancer for all unmarried non-virgins?</strawman>

  195. #195 Uber
    April 26, 2007

    Why would I care if people think I’m wrong? It changes nothing about abortion being immoral.

    You haven’t established that even a little and based on your last post what exactly are you contributing to the discussion?

  196. #196 Anton Mates
    April 26, 2007

    Each human fertilized egg, embryo or fetus includes a copy of the human genome which is, nonetheless, unique to itself.

    As others have said, this isn’t the case for twins or clones, and it is the case for almost any somatic cell–not just malignant tumors. So what relevance does this have to personhood?

    Also, part of being a human being means having to pass through a succession of developmental stages in order to reach adulthood. They are stages in the human lifespan and hence a part of the entirety of what is a human being.

    And before any of those stages you have to pass through a separate sperm and egg stage, and after them you inevitably pass through a corpse stage. Hence, corpses and sperm-egg pairs count as human beings.

    As I said before, however similar we might be, each human being not only occupies a unique position in space, they also follow a unique ‘trajectory’ through time – even identical twins, even clones.

    Not if they’re conjoined twins. For that matter, a mother and embryo don’t have distinct spacetime trajectories either.

    Conversely, a human and a chair do follow unique spacetime trajectories. So does a human and, say, that human’s diseased appendix once it’s been removed. So did Henrietta Lacks and her cultured cell line.

    So this also doesn’t seem to have much to do with who counts as a person and who doesn’t.

  197. #197 Scholar
    April 26, 2007

    Ian the Sped, a clump of cells is not a “child” as you like to endear it. Please take the “Friend of Charles Darwin” tag off. Darwin would not stand for such idiocy.

  198. #198 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 27, 2007

    Owlmirror wrote:

    Ian, the last time this argument came up, I suggested that some research into fetal development and neurology would be in order. Did you ever do that?
    Did you even read Carl Sagan’s essay on the topic?

    Yes, I did then and I just read it again. Like his other work, it is well-argued and written with passion. But there are parts with which I would take issue. I don’t have the time or inclination set out a detailed critique here but I will take on one passage that caught my eye:

    Despite many claims to the contrary, life does not begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain that stretches back nearly to the origin of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. Nor does human life begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain dating back to the origin of our species, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Every human sperm and egg is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, alive. They are not human beings, of course. However, it could be argued that neither is a fertilized egg.

    This, to me, is close to strawman misrepresentation.

    Of course, life on Earth is an unbroken chain stretching back around 4 billion years and, of course, human life in general does not begin at conception but dates back to the origin of our species.

    But that is not what I am claiming.

    My claim is that you and I and every other human being are unique entities, part of the human race but distinct from every other member of it. And our lives as individuals do have a beginning and my claim is that conception is that point. Yes, separate sperm and eggs are alive but while they remain separate no human being will develop from them under normal circumstances. Only when a sperm and egg fuze is an individual life begun. Only when a certain sperm fuzed with a certain egg at a unique point in time and space was your life as an individual begun. It was the same for me, Carl Sagan and just about every other human being that has ever existed on this planet.

    And if our lives, as individuals, arguably begin at conception then so does our right to life since rights are the entitlement of individual human beings.

  199. #199 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    Ian Spedding,

    It’s hard to extract a clear argument from your posts. Why should “individual life” be defined to begin at conception rather than at some point before or after conception? An embryo may split to “develop” into two or more “individual lives,” so how can it be an “individual life” rather than a package of material from which one or more “individual lives” may later arise? You say that a sperm and egg are not an “individual life” because they will not “develop” into a “human being” but that’s obviously not necessarily true. They will “develop” into a “human being” if the sperm fertilizes the egg. You are just arbitrarily defining fertilization to be the start of the process of “development.” You offer no reason why that process should not be held to start at some other point, before or after fertilization. Why not mitosis? Or ovulation? Or insemination? Or birth? These are all biological events that occur during the human reproductive process, just like fertilization. You’re just arbitrarily attaching an overwhelming metaphysical significance to a particular event in that process (“life starts NOW!”).

    And fertilization is itself a process rather than a discrete, momentary event. It takes about 24 hours for the sperm to fertilize the egg. At which precise point during this process do you claim an “individual life” or a “human being” begins to exist, and why that point rather than some other one? Please don’t just repeat what you’ve already said. Justify your position. Answer the questions.

  200. #200 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 27, 2007

    D wrote:

    2. The metaphysical concept of a continuous existence of a human being is irrelevant to whether an embryo/fetus should have a right to life. Ian has been trying to use it to claim the right most people afford to adults should be transferred to embryos on account of both being part of the continuum of a human being, as he would define such. However, if what is being defined as a human being has a quality that makes it deserving of a right to life, then such quality must be present at all discrete stages of said being’s life, otherwise such a being would not be a human being. As yet, Ian has not offered any such a quality shared by embryos and adults. Unless such can be produced, either human beings, as Ian would define them, are not worth being granted a right to life, or embryos aren’t human beings.

    My argument is that the attribute of being an individual human being, regardless of stage of development, is sufficient in itself to qualify you for the right to life. And bear in mind, I would have afforded you that right when you were an embryo and I would afford your children that right when embryos.

    As for the obvious differences between an embryo and an adult human being, I would simply point out, as I have many times previously, that the difference between a human being as a baby and the same human being as an old man is similarly vast but we accord the right to life to both those extremes and all stages between. So what is the problem with setting the boundary back a bit further since the existing one is pretty arbitrary?

  201. #201 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    So what is the problem with setting the boundary back a bit further since the existing one is pretty arbitrary?

    The problem is that zygotes, embryos and fetuses do not possess the characteristics that a born human being possesses to which we attach the significance of personhood. Fetuses may be “human beings” in some weaker sense, with correspondingly weaker interests and rights, but they’re not persons. Zygotes and embryos have no interests, and hence no rights, at all.

  202. #202 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 27, 2007

    kmarissa wrote:

    And how is this unintended consequence any different?

    What other activity engaged in by human beings, largely for pleasure, results in the formation of another human life – one which, I am arguing, is entitled to the right to live?

    Also, I take it that you would provide no rape exception, since an unintended consequence of that can be the formation of another human life.

    Rape is a difficult problem. On the one hand, our obligation to the victim is to help her recover, so far as is possible, not to add to her trauma. On the other hand, is it fair that an embryo resulting from the attack should die for a crime for which it was not responsible but just an accidental outcome? It is no part of justice to punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. That said, I think we can argue that, under the health exception, abortion would be permissible where to continue with the pregnancy would cause such distress to the victim that her psychological and/or physical health would suffer long-term damage – which would probably mean most cases.

  203. #203 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 27, 2007

    Dianne wrote:

    One slight difference: a fertilized egg will, if all goes well, grow inside a woman and form another human life,

    So what? Why should a human life be any more important than a new and unique cancer life?

    …because we decide human life is more important, just as we decide that human life is more important than the viruses or bacteria or parasites or just about any other life on this planet when it comes to the crunch. Who else is going to decide if we don’t – mythical gods?

  204. #204 JasonR
    April 27, 2007

    Ian Spedding,

    That said, I think we can argue that, under the health exception, abortion would be permissible where to continue with the pregnancy would cause such distress to the victim that her psychological and/or physical health would suffer long-term damage – which would probably mean most cases.

    But you wouldn’t give her that option after the child is born. Which means you do recognize a fundamental difference between the moral status of a fetus and the moral status of a baby. You’re arguing against yourself.

  205. #205 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 27, 2007

    windy wrote:

    I already wondered how you would try to explain away identical twins. But the start point of the twins’ unique trajectories is not conception. How do you justify moving the starting point in this case?
    And what about chimeras?

    First things first. Let’s establish that the right to life is extended back to conception then we can tweak it to account for identical twins, conjoined twins, clones and chimeras.

  206. #206 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 27, 2007

    Molly, NYC wrote:

    What she needn’t do is take seriously YOUR–a total stranger–insistance that she’s “obliged” to do a goddamned thing.

    Quite right.

    But if society ever comes around to my way of thinking then she will have to take seriously the view that she is no more entitled to kill a fetus, just because she is a woman, than she is to kill any other human being. The fact that women have been brutally oppressed throughout human history – and still are in many parts of the world – does not mean that they get some special dispensation to kill when they feel like it.

  207. #207 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 27, 2007

    JasonR wrote:

    Justify your position. Answer the questions.

    I will, I promise, but it’s very late now and I have to turn in.

  208. #208 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    Ian:

    If arguing this point in a non-circular fashion without special pleading or question begging really WOULD kill you, may I politely suggest that you just get it over with?

  209. #209 Owlmirror
    April 27, 2007

    Ian wrote:

    Dianne wrote:
    So what? Why should a human life be any more important than a new and unique cancer life?

    …because we decide human life is more important, just as we decide that human life is more important than the viruses or bacteria or parasites or just about any other life on this planet when it comes to the crunch.

    Ah, but what criteria do we use to decide what human life is? That’s what is still being argued, and I don’t think you are carrying your argument. A fertilized egg going through the stages of development bears a resemblance to a bacterial colony; the early-developing fetus also has traits in common with a parasite.

    I reiterate that the true metric by which we judge that a human is involved is the presence of a functioning brain. Not just a unique genetic code – which, as argued, a tumor also has – but a brain with the capacity to receive perceptions and form memories.

  210. #210 Anton Mates
    April 27, 2007

    First things first. Let’s establish that the right to life is extended back to conception then we can tweak it to account for identical twins, conjoined twins, clones and chimeras.

    Er, no…let’s account for identical twins, conjoined twins, chimeras, benign tumors and transplanted organs first, because if the conception-based right to life can’t deal with them, then there’s no point trying to establish it.

  211. #211 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    Er, no…let’s account for identical twins, conjoined twins, chimeras, benign tumors and transplanted organs first, because if the conception-based right to life can’t deal with them, then there’s no point trying to establish it.

    No, no, no! You’re supposed to make up your mind FIRST! If you consider the FACTS before making up your mind you’ll just get all confused. *eyeroll*

  212. #212 Anton Mates
    April 27, 2007

    And bear in mind, I would have afforded you that right when you were an embryo and I would afford your children that right when embryos.

    When I was an embryo, I didn’t care whether you afforded me that right or not. And had I been aborted at that point, I would never have cared. And now it no longer applies. So it’s rather hard to be appreciative. :-)

    As for the obvious differences between an embryo and an adult human being, I would simply point out, as I have many times previously, that the difference between a human being as a baby and the same human being as an old man is similarly vast but we accord the right to life to both those extremes and all stages between.

    So far as I can see, a baby and an old man are far more similar morphologically, physiologically, and behaviorally than a baby and an early-term embryo. Most importantly, both the old man and the baby (to some degree) can think and feel; the embryo cannot. But you could ground your definition of personhood on just about any physical characteristic and the embryo would still be the odd one out.

  213. #213 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    But you could ground your definition of personhood on just about any physical characteristic and the embryo would still be the odd one out.

    Well, if you grounded it on the basis of the life in question growing, then the old man would be the odd one out, but both the embryo and the baby would take a back seat to the tumor.

  214. #214 Morwen
    April 27, 2007

    But you could ground your definition of personhood on just about any physical characteristic and the embryo would still be the odd one out.

    Well, if you grounded it on the basis of the life in question growing, then the old man would be the odd one out, but both the embryo and the baby would take a back seat to the tumor.

    If we added other non-human animals to the mix, the embriyo would still be the odd one out. We don’t extend absolute right-to-life to non-human animals.

    Put it this way: I’ve been vegetarian for 14 years. I had a delicious omelette this morning. I’m still vegetarian. Eggs ain’t animals.

  215. #215 D
    April 27, 2007

    My argument is that the attribute of being an individual human being, regardless of stage of development, is sufficient in itself to qualify you for the right to life.

    That has been your repeated assertion, not an argument. And I and others have repeatedly asked one simply question: WHY?

    I can give a number of reasons why an adult, an infant and even a fetus at late stages of development should be afforded a right to life, many of which have been proffered by others already. I could even give you reasons why some embryos should have a right to life. However, those are my reasons, not yours. What are your reasons? The closest we’ve come before is you accepted it could be misplaced narcissism, but that didn’t originate from you. And really, claiming people shouldn’t do something because if one of your ancestors did such you just might not have ever existed is paranoia level bed-wetting and a really poor justification.

  216. #216 rrt
    April 27, 2007

    Owlmirror and D have really nailed it, I think. Should we afford fertilized human embryos rights because they’re unique individuals? For cripe’s sake, most species start out as “unique individuals,” but that doesn’t stop us from grinding up billions of plant “babies” to make our daily bread.

    So what sets the human embryos apart from grains of wheat? A little rearrangement and editing of their DNA? I imagine you’d say not, Ian. Indeed, as far as I can tell, your argument remains one of “potential,” that they’re special because of what they could be. I reject that, and I always have, because to me what matters is what they ARE and what they have been, which is effectively nothing and nothing.

    Now I freely admit I can’t defend that argument to a satisfactory level of detail. I’m aware of problems like the “man in a coma” or equal access to education, though it’s interesting that most of those start with an already well-established human life. But to me, the concept that we do indeed represent some continuum with a future that is actually tangible and potentially destroyed by our actions is awfully weak. I reject that by killing an embryo, I am in fact somehow killing a human in the prime of its life because that was a possible (one of many?) future. Perhaps some philosophers and physicists are watching who can comment.

  217. #217 D
    April 27, 2007

    rrt: Actually, the metaphysical concept Ian is espousing makes potentiality irrelevant, if not non-existent. The being’s existence is simply whatever it is, whether that be conception to 90 year old gran or conception to blastula. So killing a fetus is simply killing a fetus, since doing so quite effectively stops its space/time trajectory. So again, justification for not killing a fetus rests on the fetus, not anything else before, as that has already been and can’t be killed, or after, because there won’t be an after.

    It really is a rather useless concept from a pragmatist stand point.

  218. #218 Anton Mates
    April 27, 2007

    Well, if you grounded it on the basis of the life in question growing, then the old man would be the odd one out, but both the embryo and the baby would take a back seat to the tumor.

    Mmm…I think in that case the baby would still be classed with the old man, and the embryo would be classed with the tumor. Both embryos and tumors grow so fast that a baby’s growth rate is near-zero by comparison.

    And the old man could be getting fat, of course. Pro-choicers want to kill Santa Claus!

  219. #219 D
    April 27, 2007

    Slight errata for my previous comment. I should not have used “trajectory”, as it implies motion. The concept Ian is using asserts that there is no real motion through time, but rather everything simply occupies a block of time.

  220. #220 Berlzebub
    April 27, 2007

    JDC:

    Berlzebub:

    You’re almost as sharp as a spoon. Too bad your mother didn’t abort you, but my guess she was as stupid as you are and wasn’t thinking ahead about what a complete waste of human debris you would turn out to be. Damn that bitch for not considering others.

    *Yawn* Oh, name calling. That’s what someone does when they have nothing to refute your argument. ;-)

    -Berlzebub

  221. #221 kmarissa
    April 27, 2007

    That said, I think we can argue that, under the health exception, abortion would be permissible where to continue with the pregnancy would cause such distress to the victim that her psychological and/or physical health would suffer long-term damage – which would probably mean most cases.

    As JasonR pointed out, we don’t give people that option once the fetus is born. I mean, women go to jail for killing their children while suffering under post-partum psychosis, not to even consider when caring for the child leads to, for instance, debilitating anxiety or depression. Would it be okay for a mother to kill the kid in that situation? You haven’t dealt with any of the issues with the practical application of a “health exception” that others have raised. What kind of “long-term damage” are you talking about? Having a child does make permanent physical changes to a woman’s body. How bad does that have to be to qualify?

    But if society ever comes around to my way of thinking then she will have to take seriously the view that she is no more entitled to kill a fetus, just because she is a woman, than she is to kill any other human being.

    Yes, but theoretically, all she’s doing might be removing herself from around the fetus. It can go about its merry way. Just like, even if you’re a perfect match to be an organ donor, and the patient will die if you do not, you’re entitled to “kill” that person by not providing from your own body. Same thing. In fact, that would go even IF you’re the one responsible for the need for the transplant. If you get behind the wheel drunk as anything and smash into another car, and the only way the other person can survive is by having an immediate kidney transplant and you’re a perfect match, you STILL have no legal obligation to save that person’s life. You’ll be jailed for what you did, sure, but you don’t have to give up your bodily autonomy despite the “unintended consequence” of your actions. Are you saying someone should legally have to?

    On the other hand, we really have been through all this in the previous 200 comments.

  222. #222 Pygmy Loris
    April 27, 2007

    But if society ever comes around to my way of thinking then she will have to take seriously the view that she is no more entitled to kill a fetus, just because she is a woman, than she is to kill any other human being.

    (emphasis mine)

    It is obvious from the above quote that Ian has a problem with women having power. The phrase “just because she is a woman” gives it away. I would be more than happy to allow men to abort babies growing inside their uteri.

    As it stands, only women can get pregnant. The burden of supporting the fetus and subsequent baby falls almost exclusively on the woman.

    Let’s talk about male rights to embryos. The female parent(in mammals) contributes more than 50% of the embryo’s DNA (50% of the nuclear material and 100% of the mtDNA) Therefore, she gets a little more than 50% of the vote in the embryo’s existence. Also, the embryo depends exclusively on the female for sustenance. At this point the male can help by procuring food for the female to eat, but he cannot directly nourish the embryo. The embyro also must live inside the woman’s uterus from which point it causes changees to the woman’s body that are beneficial to it, not the woman. So in terms of material investment and risk, the female again is doing more than the male.

    All this boils down to women having the right to control their bodies and their embryos/fetuses.

  223. #223 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    It is obvious from the above quote that Ian has a problem with women having power. The phrase “just because she is a woman” gives it away. I would be more than happy to allow men to abort babies growing inside their uteri.

    While Ian has certainly manifested an appalling ignorance of the perspective, and disregard for the interests, of pregnant women, it’s not clear to me how a statement to the effect that having two X chromosomes does not grant a person a special exemption from what he erroneously believes to be rational moral standard translates to “a problem with women having power,” and frankly I think his argument has more than enough weaknesses to attack on those grounds without pouncing on a specific phrasing to support a well-poisoning accusation of active mysogyny.

  224. #224 kmarissa
    April 27, 2007

    Azkyroth,

    Certainly there are more than enough other issues with his reasoning, and I’m not sure that I’d immediately assume this was active mysogyny either, except that it is a particularly weird way to word it, right? I mean, we don’t allow women to kill fetuses because they’re women. Any ol’ woman walking down the street can’t just go on a fetus killing spree on all the pregnant women around her. We think that a woman is entitled because, and only because, the fetus is growing inside her body, and not because she has two X chromosomes. This is something which only women happen to experience, but the fact that they are exclusively women doesn’t enter into it.

    Just… strange.

  225. #225 Owlmirror
    April 27, 2007

    Ian, another question:

    In your arguments, you I notice that you often qualify them with “if all goes well”, or something similar. If all goes well, the fertilized egg will become a newborn infant.

    Then what if it can be shown that all will not go well? If the egg has an absolutely fatal genetic defect such that it will definitely never develop into a healthy infant?

    Would you oppose the mother choosing to abort in that situation?

  226. #226 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    I’m still trying to figure out why he thinks genetic and spatial uniqueness is important in defining a “person” but having a functioning brain isn’t.

    …maybe the issue IS one of narcissism… :P

  227. #227 Pygmy Loris
    April 27, 2007

    Azkyroth,

    Ian’s phrasing in that particular argument made me think, why would anyone phrase their argument in such a way as to say “just because she is a woman?”

    What reason would you have for pointing this out? It has been my experience that only women get pregnant and therefore only women make the decision to abort. Men may have input in that decision based on social relationships, but in the end, women make the decision.

    I don’t believe I have the right to an abortion because I am a woman, but rather because I can get pregnant. Ian expresses a desire to control women’s reproductive choices. What is control, but a expression of power. Currently women have control (to a degree) over their reproductive choices. That means women have (limited) power. Because Ian is against women having control over their own bodies, I assume he has a problem with women having power. In fact, he wants to use the power of the state (read men) to forcibly take a small degree of autonomy and power from women. Therefore I conclude he is uncomfortable with women having power. I could be wrong, but the phrasing threw me for a loop when I saw it.

  228. #228 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    He’s appallingly unsympathetic to women faced with unintended and unwanted pregnancies, but I don’t think, from his actual statements, that it’s reasonable to assume that he considers depriving women of power anything more than a means to an end. “Uncomfortable with women having power” would imply that he considers depriving women of power to be a goal in itself.

  229. #229 Pygmy Loris
    April 27, 2007

    You may be right, but we’ll never know. It’s not as if most men think of their views in this manner anyway. However, anyone who thinks the life of a fetus is as important as the life of a woman must have a problem with women in my book. As I’ve said before, men don’t get pregnant and don’t have to face the health risks of pregnancy to meet their biology’s demand to procreate.

    At the risk of sounding harsh, women are the ones who are limited in their procreation abilities by their own biology. I can only have one baby at a time, except for rare multiple births, and I am limited by the amount of time I am fertile, roughly 30 years or so in my family, both of which affect the overall number of offspring I can have. In general, for women access to males is not a limiting factor (access to desirable males can be).

    Men on the other hand are limited in terms of reproductive options by the number of women they can impregnate who are willing to carry their offspring to term. Therefore, men have a vested interest in forcing women to carry offspring to term and women’s power to change that (through abortion or even contraception) is a threat to the reproductive success of men. This is power women have that threatens some men.

    Obviously most people do not think about the debate quite like I do, but I’m a biologist. It colors my thinking on reproduction quite a bit.

  230. #230 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    That’s an understandable perspective, though I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t ascribe those sorts of motives to all males or even adopt a “guilty until proven innocent” view, which entirely too many people do and some of your comments seem to flirt with. :/

    PS: Slightly odd definition of “a short amount of time” here. O.o

  231. #231 kmarissa
    April 27, 2007

    Azkyroth,

    Perhaps we are being unfair to him. But between the earlier slut-shaming and the current bizarre leap from dismissing pro-choicers’ claims of bodily autonomy to stating that pro-choicers want special rights for women, it all comes off as rather mysogynistic. That’s why I wanted to press him on the “unintended consequences” issue. He admitted that rape was a tricky issue but stated that

    I think we can argue that, under the health exception, abortion would be permissible where to continue with the pregnancy would cause such distress to the victim that her psychological and/or physical health would suffer long-term damage – which would probably mean most cases.

    I mean, there is no doubt that women are traumatized by rape and it can often have long-term damage. But will the damage be severe enough in “most cases” to fall within the “health” exception that he’s advocating? How long-term are we talking? One could argue that many women who unexpectedly get pregnant and are forced to carry the fetus to term would also suffer significant damage to their psychological health (at least, damage significant enough to make them reach for the coat hangers). Somehow, I’m going out on a limb to guess that Ian would be much more sympathetic to a rape victim claiming she is psychologically unable to carry a fetus to term than a promiscuous party-girl equally psychologically unable to carry a fetus to term.

    This blame game is what I wanted to get at with my car crash example, but to make the point clearer I could have set up a less extreme example. Say you go for a Sunday drive, and you’re obeying all the speed limits and stopping at all the stop signs when another car crashes into you. The passenger can only be saved by one of your kidneys. Would Ian force you to give up a kidney? The accident wasn’t your fault, but then, you were engaging in a pleasure activity and you knew the consequences of driving are the possibility of being involved in an accident where someone may need an organ transplant. The driver in question wasn’t doing anything “wrong,” just was enjoying a fun activity, but the unintended consequences got in the way. We don’t know what Ian would have said in that situation, but I’m guessing it would come down to a difference in types of pleasure activity.

    Based on that background, making a statement like the above is pretty suspicious. There is obviously no direct and easy analogy to make between pregnant women, and men, so it is easy for Ian to say that men (that he) would be under the same rules if he were pregnant. But if he really recognized the kind of unique sacrifice that that would entail, he would not said that pro-choicers wanted special rules “just because she’s a woman.” Some men repeatedly say that women are asking for special treatment (such as advocating more generous maternal leave policies and flexible work schedules, etc) when in reality women just want to have the same rights and freedoms, or at least as equal as we can figure out, in a biologically asymmetrical world. Especially in a context like this, pretending the pro-choice argument is “we deserve special treatment because we’re women,” when in reality it’s, “we want the freedom to not have to give birth (just because we’re women), just like men have,” does seem something a little more than simply extremely unsympathetic.
    Sorry, this is heinously long. Good thing the thread’s pretty much dead.

  232. #232 Azkyroth
    April 27, 2007

    Some men repeatedly say that women are asking for special treatment (such as advocating more generous maternal leave policies and flexible work schedules, etc) when in reality women just want to have the same rights and freedoms, or at least as equal as we can figure out, in a biologically asymmetrical world

    On that note, I would advocate more generous leave policies and flexible work schedules for both male and female parents, due to the fact that single fathers, while still a definite minority, are becoming more common nowadays and that even fathers who share custody of their children are becoming more involved in raising them than they used to, especially now that cultural expectations are starting to change in conjunction with the growing opportunities for women in the work world…eh, I think you see what I’m getting at. Seems fair enough.

    And yeah, I really do get the impression that Ian’s argument is implicitly founded on the assumption that it will never be applicable to him personally. :/

  233. #233 kmarissa
    April 27, 2007

    Az, definitely with you there on the mutual generous leave. But in practice, the greater share of housework and parenting still falls on women, so it is unsurprising that it is more often women who are pushing to get these policies in place. Point was not that these were policies that only women should get, but rather that mostly women are the ones who use them, and rely on them simply in order to level the playing field.

    But before I write another two page post, I will bite my tongue on the issue and mercifully end here ;)

  234. #234 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    Anton Mates wrote:

    Each human fertilized egg, embryo or fetus includes a copy of the human genome which is, nonetheless, unique to itself.

    As others have said, this isn’t the case for twins or clones, and it is the case for almost any somatic cell–not just malignant tumors. So what relevance does this have to personhood?

    Where did I mention personhood?

    Also, part of being a human being means having to pass through a succession of developmental stages in order to reach adulthood. They are stages in the human lifespan and hence a part of the entirety of what is a human being.

    And before any of those stages you have to pass through a separate sperm and egg stage, and after them you inevitably pass through a corpse stage. Hence, corpses and sperm-egg pairs count as human beings.

    No, by my argument, you as an individual do not pass through a sperm and egg stage since the individual only starts with the union of sperm and egg.

    As I said before, however similar we might be, each human being not only occupies a unique position in space, they also follow a unique ‘trajectory’ through time – even identical twins, even clones.

    Not if they’re conjoined twins. For that matter, a mother and embryo don’t have distinct spacetime trajectories either.

    Conjoined twins or mother and embryo follow closely aligned or parallel trajectories but they are not identical.

  235. #235 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    Scholar wrote:

    Ian the Sped, a clump of cells is not a “child” as you like to endear it. Please take the “Friend of Charles Darwin” tag off. Darwin would not stand for such idiocy.

    Not every clump of cells is a “child”, no, but blastocyst or embryo are, in the broadest sense of “offspring”.

    And Darwin speaks to you personally, does he?

  236. #236 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    JasonR wrote:

    The problem is that zygotes, embryos and fetuses do not possess the characteristics that a born human being possesses to which we attach the significance of personhood. Fetuses may be “human beings” in some weaker sense, with correspondingly weaker interests and rights, but they’re not persons. Zygotes and embryos have no interests, and hence no rights, at all.

    You and Anton Mates have introduced the concept of “personhood”, I didn’t.

    And I would argue that all living things ‘have an interest’ in survival in the broadest sense, whether able to state it or not, whether aware of it or not.

  237. #237 Azkyroth
    April 28, 2007

    Where did I mention personhood?

    …do you understand what the term “individual”, as applied to humans according to common usage and every dictionary of the English language I have ever seen, actually means?

  238. #238 JasonR
    April 28, 2007

    Ian Spedding

    No, by my argument, you as an individual do not pass through a sperm and egg stage since the individual only starts with the union of sperm and egg.

    So identical twins are not individuals? They don’t “start” with the union of egg and sperm, they “start” when the embryo splits. Ditto for chimeras, which “start” when two embryos merge. And clones can’t be “individuals” either, according to your definition, since their “start” also doesn’t involve a sperm.

    You just don’t seem to be able to get past this blind spot you have regarding the arbitrary nature of your choice of fertilization as the biological event that causes an “individual” to come into existence. There’s absolutely no basis in science for attributing this point to fertilization rather than some other event in the reproductive process. And as I already explained, fertilization is itself a lengthy process rather than a momentary event. At which point during this process does an “individual” spring into existence from lifeless tissue? Which precise chemical reaction, which exchange of electrons, is the “Zap!” moment at which an “individual” begins to exist? Whatever point you choose, justify it. Explain why it’s that particular point rather than some other one.

  239. #239 Azkyroth
    April 28, 2007

    You and Anton Mates have introduced the concept of “personhood”, I didn’t.

    Then what the bloody fuck is it you’re arguing for?!

    And I would argue that all living things ‘have an interest’ in survival in the broadest sense, whether able to state it or not, whether aware of it or not.

    And are we to understand that you feel the “interest” of all living things in surviving carries moral weight? I take it you’ve learned how to photosynthesize and eradicated your own immune system, then?

    If not…what is the relevance of this comment?

  240. #240 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    JasonR wrote:

    And fertilization is itself a process rather than a discrete, momentary event. It takes about 24 hours for the sperm to fertilize the egg. At which precise point during this process do you claim an “individual life” or a “human being” begins to exist, and why that point rather than some other one? Please don’t just repeat what you’ve already said. Justify your position. Answer the questions.

    I have done so but since some people seem to be unwilling or unable to read for comprehension, I will try again.

    I will assume that we are in agreement that this whole debate turns on whether the prenatal forms of a human being are as entitled to the right to life as the postnatal forms. The pro-choicers here can only blithely talk about abortion on demand if they genuinely believe that the blastocyst or fetus is a worthless clump of cells to be excised with as little concern as an appendix.

    So what do I mean by ‘rights’ – in particular the “right to life”?

    As far as I am concerned, in the absence of a god whose word takes precedence over all others by virtue of being omniscient and perfect, they are whatever we decide they should be. They are entitlements or permissions or privileges we agree to bestow on ourselves – “because we are worth it” to quote the TV ad. In the case of the right to life, I would like to live as long as I can, thank you very much, and so would most other people. So we agree amongst ourselves that it makes sense to decree that it is in the best interests of all concerned that we do not go around killing each other willy-nilly.

    We have agreed so far that this right will apply to individual human beings at all post-natal stages of development, from just-born to death’s door. The extension of that right, in itself, implies a recognition of the fact that human beings have a temporal dimension, that they are a seamless process stretched out through time and that any attempt to divide that continuous process into discrete stages is an arbitrary device.

    Furthermore, that process does not suddenly ‘poof’ into life at birth. It can be traced back through time from birth through the dwindling pre-natal forms down to just the one fertilized egg.

    That is how we all started as individuals. Our parents had many sperm and eggs capable of forming many individual human beings but each of us began with the fertilization of a specific egg by specific sperm at a specific time. At another point in time, another of your parents eggs might have been fertilized and formed another human being – same parents, same parental egg and sperm, same converging genetic lineages – but not you. There is – and can be – only one you.

    So, an individual human being can be viewed as continuous process, stretching out through time from conceptus to corpse. We have agreed that the – hopefully – long postnatal stages of that process should be afforded the protection of the right to life. The absurd thing is that, to reach that point, we pass through a stage when we can be killed – to put it at its worst – at the whim of the mother.

    If we agree that killing without good and sufficient cause is wrong – and I think that most of us do – then this must include killing a fetus which is the early stages of development of a human individual to whom we have no difficulty in granting the right to life at a slightly later stage.

    In closing, I would just like to mention that I am ignoring all the ad hominem about misogyny from the apparent misandrists on this thread. My concern is solely about the right to life – both of the mother and the fetus.

  241. #241 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    If you get behind the wheel drunk as anything and smash into another car, and the only way the other person can survive is by having an immediate kidney transplant and you’re a perfect match, you STILL have no legal obligation to save that person’s life. You’ll be jailed for what you did, sure, but you don’t have to give up your bodily autonomy despite the “unintended consequence” of your actions. Are you saying someone should legally have to?

    AFAIK, parents are already legally required to give up their bodily autonomy. If, for instance, a mother has no suitable formula for her baby, and she refuses to breastfeed it, and it starves, can’t she be prosecuted for neglect?

    I don’t think this applies to abortion, because an embryo or fetus isn’t a child. But the “You don’t have to give up your body for anyone else” argument seems iffy to me. Parents have to do a lot of things no one else is required to do.

  242. #242 JasonR
    April 28, 2007

    Ian Spedding,

    I see no answer to the question of mine you just quoted. Here it is again: At which precise point during the process of fertilization do you claim an “individual life” or a “human being” begins to exist, and why that point rather than some other one?

  243. #243 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    Where did I mention personhood?

    Call it individual-human-beinghood if you like. Whatever attribute it is you claim embryos share with babies and adults that gives them a similar right to life.

    No, by my argument, you as an individual do not pass through a sperm and egg stage since the individual only starts with the union of sperm and egg.

    Why? The unique (usually) genetic code of the offspring is already found in the sperm-egg pair. And since all later stages of human development involve multiple cells, why shouldn’t a set of two cells be counted as well?

    And, again, what about a corpse? All humans become one eventually. And following the shutdown of the brain, most of the cells remain alive for some time–perhaps decades if transplanted or cultured.

    Conjoined twins or mother and embryo follow closely aligned or parallel trajectories but they are not identical.

    At that level of detail, the trajectories of a human and of their tumor, or their toenail, are not identical either. Does that argue for tumors and toenails being individual human beings?

  244. #244 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    Owlmirror wrote:

    Ah, but what criteria do we use to decide what human life is? That’s what is still being argued, and I don’t think you are carrying your argument. A fertilized egg going through the stages of development bears a resemblance to a bacterial colony; the early-developing fetus also has traits in common with a parasite.

    So what? Do doctors treat the fertilized egg with antibiotics or the early fetus with antiparasite therapies? Of course not, and why not, because there are also differences – differences which greatly outweigh the similarities and enable doctors to treat one and leave the other to gestate unmolested.

    I reiterate that the true metric by which we judge that a human is involved is the presence of a functioning brain. Not just a unique genetic code – which, as argued, a tumor also has – but a brain with the capacity to receive perceptions and form memories.

    And you are fully entitled to do so and with as much justification as I have. As I said before, these choices are arbitrary. Your view is the dominant one today. I disagree and I am arguing my case, as I am also entitled to, although I have no real expectation of changing any minds.

  245. #245 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    We have agreed so far that this right [to life] will apply to individual human beings at all post-natal stages of development, from just-born to death’s door.

    No, we don’t. Most of us agree that this right can be removed from humans under various circumstances–brain death, for instance, or severe pain and suffering coupled with mental derangement. (I would argue further that the newborn baby doesn’t have as strong a right to life as an adult human; but it’s reasonable to extend it equal legal protection because, in general, its parents are very strongly invested in its welfare. But I can’t say most of us agree with me there.)

    We grant most born humans this right, most of this time, because they tend to possess certain attributes relevant to it–such as the ability to wish to live as long as they can.

    The extension of that right, in itself, implies a recognition of the fact that human beings have a temporal dimension, that they are a seamless process stretched out through time and that any attempt to divide that continuous process into discrete stages is an arbitrary device.

    Furthermore, that process does not suddenly ‘poof’ into life at birth. It can be traced back through time from birth through the dwindling pre-natal forms down to just the one fertilized egg.

    And beyond that, through the gametes which formed it, and back through the eons of ancestors to the proto-cell a few billion years ago. What was it you just said about trying to divide a continuous process into discrete stages?

    That is how we all started as individuals. Our parents had many sperm and eggs capable of forming many individual human beings but each of us began with the fertilization of a specific egg by specific sperm at a specific time. At another point in time, another of your parents eggs might have been fertilized and formed another human being – same parents, same parental egg and sperm, same converging genetic lineages – but not you. There is – and can be – only one you.

    This is trivially true of almost any past event. If one of my parents had been killed as a teen, the other might eventually have had a child, but it would not be me. If my parents had lived and the appropriate egg and sperm had fused, but developmental quirks had withered an arm and caused mental retardation, it would not be me. If I had been born exactly as I was, but adopted and raised in a different environment, it would not be me.

    This provides no argument for conception in particular being the start of my life.

    So, an individual human being can be viewed as continuous process, stretching out through time from conceptus to corpse.

    And that corpse is part of the continuous process.

  246. #246 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    So what? Do doctors treat the fertilized egg with antibiotics or the early fetus with antiparasite therapies? Of course not, and why not, because there are also differences – differences which greatly outweigh the similarities and enable doctors to treat one and leave the other to gestate unmolested.

    Surely you know that many antibiotics and antifungals are teratogens? There aren’t “differences which greatly outweigh the similarities” between any two cells on Earth. That’s why developing new antibiotics, particularly against eukaryotic pathogens, is so difficult–what hurts them, hurts us.

    Again, methotrexate is used for cancer therapy, antibacterial therapy and for abortion–any rapidly-dividing group of cells is vulnerable.

    We behave very differently toward other humans than toward bacteria, but it’s not primarily because of differences in our cellular physiologies.

  247. #247 Azkyroth
    April 28, 2007

    Ian, answer the question.

    If the presence of a functioning brain and corresponding consciousness is not required for a living mass of human tissue to constitute “a person”–oops, I mean, “an individual” *eyeroll*–, then on what grounds do you grant individual rights to an embryo, but not a tumor, pair of gametes, or the still-living cells cultured from a corpse?

  248. #248 ichthyic
    April 28, 2007

    The fact that women have been brutally oppressed throughout human history – and still are in many parts of the world – does not mean that they get some special dispensation to kill when they feel like it.

    and this is exactly why you’re not just “entitled” to make your opinion law.

    you’ve herein defined for yourself that abortion=murder, without the slightest bit of legal evidence for said case other than your subjective opinion.

    ergo, you should be the LAST one to talk about dispensation.

    it’s also why everyone here argues against you so vehemently; you clearly represent the most egregious case scenario, but with nothing but invented ideology and subjective opinion to support it.

    it’s fine to say you can claim a personal belief for yourself, but you simply AREN’T doing that.

    really, I for one am quite sick of you playing this card every time the issue is even tangentially raised here on pharyngula.

    your arguments were completely shredded dozens of times previous to this thread even; you haven’t the ability to reason out the issue logically, so STFU already.

    gees.

  249. #249 D
    April 28, 2007

    I’d like to second ichthyic. Also Ian, your arguments aren’t wrong because you’re a misogynists, they’re wrong because they’re dishonest and logically fallacious. That many of your statements are also misogynistic indicates that you are a misogynist. Using the standard bigot’s reply to be called out on bigotry doesn’t make it not so. If you don’t want to be called a misogynists, stop making misogynists statements. It’s that simple.

  250. #250 kmarissa
    April 28, 2007

    AFAIK, parents are already legally required to give up their bodily autonomy. If, for instance, a mother has no suitable formula for her baby, and she refuses to breastfeed it, and it starves, can’t she be prosecuted for neglect?

    I don’t think this applies to abortion, because an embryo or fetus isn’t a child. But the “You don’t have to give up your body for anyone else” argument seems iffy to me. Parents have to do a lot of things no one else is required to do.

    Parents have huge responsibility to their children, which is part of the reason why only those who choose to bring children into the world should be shouldered with that responsibility. Rather, I should say that the person with legal custody of the child has that reponsibility. However, I’m pretty certain that natural parents are not legally required to donate things like blood or bone marrow to their children. And this is where the parents HAVE volutarily brought the children into the world and taken up the obligation to care for them. My point is that at the point of the car crash, the people involved are no more deliberately intending to become responsible for the care of another than the couple whose condom breaks and suddenly an egg is fertilized. The point of the hypothetical, which still stands, is whether we would feel comfortable with allowing someone to suddenly and entirely unintentionally be thrown into the position of having to give up his or her bodily autonomy, legally. The defense that many people, like Ian, often give is that the people consensually had sex. Often there is an undercurrent that sex is bad and the people involved “deserve what they get.” Often people go to lengths to carve out rape victims in a way that they wouldn’t for other pregnant women. This scenario is the closest that I could come up with to a scenario in which a person goes for a country drive and through an action as innocent as that, becomes “pregnant” by having to care for another. The fact that parents have an obligation to care for children once they are born, doesn’t really address the question I was getting at.

  251. #251 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    Anton Mates wrote:

    First things first. Let’s establish that the right to life is extended back to conception then we can tweak it to account for identical twins, conjoined twins, clones and chimeras.

    Er, no…let’s account for identical twins, conjoined twins, chimeras, benign tumors and transplanted organs first, because if the conception-based right to life can’t deal with them, then there’s no point trying to establish it.

    Err, no, because without a conception-based right to life there is nothing to which identical twins, conjoined twins, chimeras, benign tumours and transplanted organs are exceptions and hence nothing for which we need account.

  252. #252 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    Owlmirror wrote:

    …because we decide human life is more important, just as we decide that human life is more important than the viruses or bacteria or parasites or just about any other life on this planet when it comes to the crunch.

    Ah, but what criteria do we use to decide what human life is? That’s what is still being argued, and I don’t think you are carrying your argument. A fertilized egg going through the stages of development bears a resemblance to a bacterial colony; the early-developing fetus also has traits in common with a parasite.

    Perhaps I am being naive here but I would have thought deciding what constitutes human life involves first agreeing what distinguishes life from non-life and then agreeing what distinguishes human from non-human.

    And do I need to point out that similarity is not identity? The fact that different stages of early human development may have some resemblances to bacteria or parasites does not mean that is all they are, or is that what you are in fact arguing?

  253. #253 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    Morwen wrote:

    If we added other non-human animals to the mix, the embriyo would still be the odd one out. We don’t extend absolute right-to-life to non-human animals.

    Put it this way: I’ve been vegetarian for 14 years. I had a delicious omelette this morning. I’m still vegetarian. Eggs ain’t animals.

    But wouldn’t a vegan would look at you in much the same way as you would look at a carnivore?

  254. #254 Owlmirror
    April 28, 2007

    Ian wrote:

    The fact that different stages of early human development may have some resemblances to bacteria or parasites does not mean that is all they are, or is that what you are in fact arguing?

    The point that I was trying to make, which I perhaps did not communicate clearly, is that the developing fetus, like a rapidly growing parasite, is always a potential threat to the health of the mother.

    I was trying to make that point because of your statement that “we decide that human life is more important than the viruses or bacteria or parasites or just about any other life on this planet when it comes to the crunch.” Well, the decision that the life of the mother is more important than the life of the fetus is similar. Especially since the pro-choice argument is that the decision to undergo that potential risk should be the choice of the mother.

  255. #255 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    Err, no, because without a conception-based right to life there is nothing to which identical twins, conjoined twins, chimeras, benign tumours and transplanted organs are exceptions and hence nothing for which we need account.

    That’s an argument in favor of such a right?

  256. #256 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    The point of the hypothetical, which still stands, is whether we would feel comfortable with allowing someone to suddenly and entirely unintentionally be thrown into the position of having to give up his or her bodily autonomy, legally. The defense that many people, like Ian, often give is that the people consensually had sex.

    Which is particularly strange, because most pro-life advocates don’t claim that people who engage in behavior that will far more predictably produce conceptions (as, for instance, the Vatican does in fighting safe sex) are obligated to care for the resultant zygotes in any way.

  257. #257 kmarissa
    April 28, 2007

    Similarly, I have yet to see a “pro-life” protest staged outside a fertility clinic, despite the destruction of numerous fertilized eggs within.

  258. #258 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    D wrote:

    My argument is that the attribute of being an individual human being, regardless of stage of development, is sufficient in itself to qualify you for the right to life.

    That has been your repeated assertion, not an argument. And I and others have repeatedly asked one simply question: WHY?

    Because life is better than death, because existence is better than non-existence. Or would you really prefer to be dead or to never have lived?

    Try looking up at the night sky. The fact is we are vanishingly small specks in an unimaginably vast and utterly indifferent universe. All we have are each other. That makes the life on this planet extremely precious and not something to be wasted.

    WHY? Because we say so, that’s why, and because there is no one else to say otherwise.

    Are you all really so dense and insensitive that this means nothing to you?

  259. #259 kmarissa
    April 28, 2007

    Or would you really prefer to be dead or to never have lived?

    Measured at the zygote stage, is there any real difference? I’m sorry, I’m just not that bothered by the idea that I might never have existed, or might have been aborted. I wouldn’t be around to know the difference.

    Similarly, I’m not troubled by the thought that I wouldn’t have existed had a different sperm reached the egg first. Or had my parents not had sex that night.

  260. #260 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    D wrote:

    Slight errata for my previous comment. I should not have used “trajectory”, as it implies motion. The concept Ian is using asserts that there is no real motion through time, but rather everything simply occupies a block of time.

    “Trajectory” is not wrong so long as we remember it is nothing more than a metaphor. Even if all time co-exists as a “block” or timescape, we still perceive movement through it. Nonetheless, I recognize – because it was forcefully brought home to me in previous discussions – that there are serious problems in reconciling notions of free will, morality and indeterminacy with the timescape concept.

  261. #261 Owlmirror
    April 28, 2007

    Ian,

    I’ve been thinking over your arguments. One that you’ve tended to repeat is that “any attempt to divide that continuous process into discrete stages is an arbitrary device.” This still doesn’t make sense. Or if it does, it is unfair, because you yourself are using far more arbitrary divisions.

    For example, in response to it being pointed out that a tumor, like a fetus, is an “individual” by your definition, you replied that “if a tumour grows inside a woman it will, if left untreated, eventually kill her.” Back up a moment. Why isn’t the tumor as privileged as the woman it grows inside of? It, too, can be traced back to that single fertilized egg. Its genetic code is unique, and is almost identical to that of the woman it grows inside of. Isn’t it just arbitrary — by your own argument — to assert that the woman has a right to life and the tumor doesn’t?

  262. #262 windy
    April 28, 2007

    Similarly, I’m not troubled by the thought that I wouldn’t have existed had a different sperm reached the egg first. Or had my parents not had sex that night.

    Very good point. Or given the alternatives:
    1) A different sperm reaches the egg, I do not exist as a person.
    2) Egg naturally fails to implant, I do not exist as a person.
    3) Mom happens to be wearing an IUD, I do not exist as a person.
    4) Mom gets an abortion, I do not exist as a person.

    why should I consider nonexistence of type 3 or 4 any more dreadful to me than the first two?

  263. #263 kmarissa
    April 28, 2007

    Alternatively:

    My mother got pregnant a year before I would have been conceived and did NOT have an abortion; I do not exist as a person.

  264. #264 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    kmarissa wrote:

    As JasonR pointed out, we don’t give people that option once the fetus is born. I mean, women go to jail for killing their children while suffering under post-partum psychosis, not to even consider when caring for the child leads to, for instance, debilitating anxiety or depression. Would it be okay for a mother to kill the kid in that situation?

    I would have thought it was fairly obvious that the reason we do not allow women to kill their babies or young children is that there are better alternatives.

    Abortion should be allowed, as I have said many times before, where there was a direct conflict between the fetus’s right to life and that of the mother’s so that the only choices available were to allow the fetus to die or allow the mother to die. This is not the case after birth where there are other choices.

    You haven’t dealt with any of the issues with the practical application of a “health exception” that others have raised. What kind of “long-term damage” are you talking about? Having a child does make permanent physical changes to a woman’s body. How bad does that have to be to qualify?

    This is one of those difficult grey areas that may have to be defined on a case-by-case basis. In broad terms, there is a difference between long-term or permanent disability caused by injury or illness and the gradual physical deterioration caused by ‘normal wear-and-tear’. The former could justify abortion but the latter would not.

    If you get behind the wheel drunk as anything and smash into another car, and the only way the other person can survive is by having an immediate kidney transplant and you’re a perfect match, you STILL have no legal obligation to save that person’s life. You’ll be jailed for what you did, sure, but you don’t have to give up your bodily autonomy despite the “unintended consequence” of your actions. Are you saying someone should legally have to?

    No, as before, we are not entitled to compel anyone to suffer injury or death to save the life of another. But there is a rather obvious difference between failing to act and acting. Standing by and watching someone die is rather different from deliberately killing them and, like it or not, abortion is deliberate killing.

  265. #265 windy
    April 28, 2007

    Standing by and watching someone die is rather different from deliberately killing them and, like it or not, abortion is deliberate killing.

    So is pulling the plug on a brain-dead patient.

  266. #266 Owlmirror
    April 28, 2007

    Ian wrote:

    Standing by and watching someone die is rather different from deliberately killing them and, like it or not, abortion is deliberate killing.

    You haven’t satisfactorily established yet whether the fetus is definitely “someone” when it is killed.

    Indeed, another of your arguments is that you aren’t trying to define “personhood”. Can you please explain how the definition of “individual” differs from “person”, stressing particularly how this distinction is not arbitrary?

  267. #267 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    D wrote:

    I’d like to second ichthyic. Also Ian, your arguments aren’t wrong because you’re a misogynists, they’re wrong because they’re dishonest and logically fallacious. That many of your statements are also misogynistic indicates that you are a misogynist. Using the standard bigot’s reply to be called out on bigotry doesn’t make it not so. If you don’t want to be called a misogynists, stop making misogynists statements. It’s that simple.

    I’m only going to say this once.

    If you want to infer misogyny from what I have written, be my guest. I can, with equal justification, point to comments in this thread which indicate misandry, that there are some here who have serious issues with men and are just as bigoted as I am supposed to be.

    Either way, it is blatant ad hominem, it is attacking the arguer not the argument.

    Carry on, I intend to ignore it.

  268. #268 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 28, 2007

    ichthyic wrote:

    …really, I for one am quite sick of you playing this card every time the issue is even tangentially raised here on pharyngula.
    your arguments were completely shredded dozens of times previous to this thread even; you haven’t the ability to reason out the issue logically, so STFU already.

    No, but if you feel that strongly you can always ask PZ to throw me off. If he wants me off because I’ve overstepped the mark, I’ll go.

  269. #269 kmarissa
    April 28, 2007

    The quoted postings are 204 and 221. Ian, are you saying that if there were absolutely no other alternative available (pick whatever unlikely hypothetical situation you choose), it would be okay for a mother to kill her infant or toddler if caring for that child would cause long-term or permanent disability to her? That is what your response seems to imply.

    A health exception is indeed an extremely broad area. Unfortunately, in a great many of the cases where a mother’s health is at risk, there is no knowledge that her health will be at risk until all of a sudden, it REALLY is. Note the story recounted in the link that prompted this whole thing. How much less egregious would it have to be and still qualify, and who is going to make the decision? A doctor, or a court? Also, there is the problem of not knowing whether or not a pregnancy will have a significant *permanent* health impact until after the impact has already hit. For instance, in something around 25% of women with scoliosis, the curvature progresses due to the pregnancy. This can, in some cases, lead to permanent back pain and having to wear a back brace. Would permanent back pain and having to wear a brace qualify as a disability? This back pain can be pretty severe and even debilitating. But you won’t know if the spine has progressed until it has. Who among these women, if any, should qualify for a health exception?

    Thirdly, so, if a women pregnant at any stage and were told by her doctor, you must take this vitamin supplement/medication or you will miscarry, then she would have no obligation to take it, right? What if she was currently taking Accutane for acne, which is very harmful to the fetus and can result in miscarriage. Is that an “act” because she has to take the pill each day, or a non-”act”, because it was a prescription medication that she was currently taking?

  270. #270 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    Because life is better than death, because existence is better than non-existence. Or would you really prefer to be dead or to never have lived?

    How can I answer that question? I don’t know what not existing feels like. Do you?

    Being currently alive and conscious, I don’t wish to depart from that state. This is for a number of reasons–my instinctual fear of death, the sadness it would cause my loved ones, the goals I want to achieve–that don’t apply at all to the question of whether I should ever have lived and thought at all. Likewise, many suicidal or merely unhappy people have lots of reasons as to why they should cease to exist, but again, these don’t seem to bear on your question.

    I would also point out that, if it’s inherently better to exist than not to exist, we are obligated to maximize the global human birth rate at all costs, so that as many people as possible can enjoy the blessing of existence.

    Try looking up at the night sky. The fact is we are vanishingly small specks in an unimaginably vast and utterly indifferent universe. All we have are each other. That makes the life on this planet extremely precious and not something to be wasted.

    WHY? Because we say so, that’s why, and because there is no one else to say otherwise.

    Well, no, it’s because you say so, and the rest of us are saying otherwise. But of course you’re as entitled to your moral opinions as anyone.

    Are you all really so dense and insensitive that this means nothing to you?

    I think our sensitivity is tuned more to the issue of human happiness, than to the net tonnage of human biomass.

    When I consider our tininess and apparent rarity in a vast and indifferent universe, two things occur to me. The first is that human (and any other sentient) minds are extremely precious, and we are obligated not to bring them into existence without a reasonable guarantee that both they and other minds will not suffer thereby.

    The second is that there are more forms of life on this planet than the human; some are more rare, some are more critical to the functioning of the biosphere, some are more beautiful. This world is all they have as well, and it would be wrong to crowd them out of existence simply so that the seven billionth human can live an impoverished, resource-starved life.

  271. #271 Anton Mates
    April 28, 2007

    Either way, it is blatant ad hominem, it is attacking the arguer not the argument.

    I don’t agree that you’ve demonstrated misogyny, on this thread at least, but no, accusing you of it is not ad hominem. No one has said that we should discount your arguments because you’re a misogynist; they have said that your arguments are flawed, and that they indicate you’re a misogynist.

  272. #272 kmarissa
    April 29, 2007

    I should also point out, since it seems necessary for explanatory purposes, that any hypothetical where one is trying to place a man in the same sudden and unintended position with regard to the life of another person and his own bodily autonomy that a woman faces when she finds herself pregnant might well have to involve more “acting” than “failing to act,” because men don’t get pregnant, and the hypo, as you can see, becames very convoluted.

    However, if it would make you feel more comfortable with the hypo, then make it a few shades more ridiculous. The accident victim, despite needing your kidney or he will die, is also a skilled surgeon with all needed equipment at hand. He can just hop on in there and get your kidney for you. All you have to do is relax, and “fail to act” to stop him. If you DO try to stop him, that would be deliberate killing, right?

    choices available were to allow the fetus to die or allow the mother to die.

    Oh hey, also, just caught this. So are we downgrading the health-of-the-mother exception to a straight-up life-of-the-mother exception? Admittedly, I think that would be more consistent with your position that a fetus at any stage is the equivalent of a person, because really, under that scheme, why should a fetus lose its life just to save something less than a life, like the mother’s sight?

  273. #273 Azkyroth
    April 29, 2007

    Ian:

    My position here is twofold.

    First, every person has the right to sovereign control of his or her own body. This is indisputable in most areas; only with regard to pregnancy does it become, for most people, a subject of dispute. The traits that constitute “a person” are absolutely dependent on the presence of a conscious mind, which in the case of life as we know it means a functioning brain. Thus a fetus which has not yet developed a brain is not a “person” and neither is a brain-dead Homo sapiens whose cardiopulmonary and digestive systems are still keeping the rest of the body alive, nor an anencephalic infant, etc. (it is worth noting, however, that a sentient extraterrestrial organism, a sentient trangenic organism of a non-human species, or a truly sentient AI, would be a “person”, and I find your inexplicable emphasis on human genetics rather chilling with regard to its implications for such individuals). A fetus also does not possess “its own body,” in a meaningful sense, until it is physically capable of maintaining a biologically independent existence–that is, its own organ systems, or at least those necessary to keep it physically alive, are functional, otherwise known as viability. Forcible violations of bodily autonomy–such as forcing a woman to serve as an incubator for a fetus she does not wish to carry–not only demonstrably cause substantial suffering but are inherently dehumanizing, and as such are unethical. At the point where a fetus has a functioning brain and is viable, it can be said to be a “person” and therefore should not be aborted except in cases of medical necessity (my exception, as noted, would be for purely pragmatic reasons where allowing third trimester abortion is necessary to discourage anti-choice terrorists and frauds from coercively preventing women from obtaining legal abortions earlier in the pregnancy); prior to this, the only “person” with a body that is theirs to control in the equation is the pregnant woman.

    Second, I would contend that it is immoral to knowingly act to bring a sentient life into the world unless one is prepared both psychologically and in terms of resources to adequately care for and teach it, and provide a decent quality of life, until it is capable of living independently and providing a decent quality of life for itself. This is the case because doing so typically results in substantial suffering and/or hardship for all involved–the born child, the mother and/or father, any other custodial parties, and society as a whole. Preferably, ensuring that this does not happen should take the form of contraception; if contraception fails or is inapplicable (for whatever reason) then giving birth to the resulting fetus is irresponsible unless the woman is prepared to be a good mother to the child it would otherwise become, and if she is not, then abortion, subject to satisfying point 1 above, is the more moral option. It absolutely must be provided as a legal option.

    I find your rather visceral and narrow-minded perspective disturbing, and your presumptuous accusations that pro-choice individuals regard a fetus as being “worthless” offensive–it’s just another example of the “anyone who disagrees with me must have no morals at all!” crap that the religious are so fond of spewing. My view of your arrogantly dismissive characterization of the health risk and economic, emotional, and physical hardships involved in facing an unwanted pregnancy and the prospect of a child one cannot support is a matter of record, and defies tasteful description, hence it will not be repeated here.

  274. #274 D
    April 29, 2007

    Because life is better than death, because existence is better than non-existence. Or would you really prefer to be dead or to never have lived?
    Try looking up at the night sky. The fact is we are vanishingly small specks in an unimaginably vast and utterly indifferent universe. All we have are each other. That makes the life on this planet extremely precious and not something to be wasted.
    WHY? Because we say so, that’s why, and because there is no one else to say otherwise.
    Are you all really so dense and insensitive that this means nothing to you?

    Same non-argument you’ve tried before. If it wasn’t just as much effort to find them, I’d just cut and paste my responses from our previous exchange. We as people may say so for ourselves. That does not extend beyond people. It’s just like the equivocation you use with “individuals”, a switch from people to non-people. Just like in your post at 240, where you talk about people deciding our lives are valuable and then switch to embryos. A reason to give an embryo a right to life must be based on the value of the embryo, not the value of people.

    “Trajectory” is not wrong so long as we remember it is nothing more than a metaphor. Even if all time co-exists as a “block” or timescape, we still perceive movement through it. Nonetheless, I recognize – because it was forcefully brought home to me in previous discussions – that there are serious problems in reconciling notions of free will, morality and indeterminacy with the timescape concept.

    And I’ll just point out again, as I did then, that if you can not reconcile those problems, then using such a concept to justify your stance is incredibly dishonest.

    No, as before, we are not entitled to compel anyone to suffer injury or death to save the life of another. But there is a rather obvious difference between failing to act and acting. Standing by and watching someone die is rather different from deliberately killing them and, like it or not, abortion is deliberate killing.

    So, would you be totally ok with it if death wasn’t a direct result? The fetus could just be removed alive. Then its possible death would only result from failure to intervene to keep it alive. No problem right? We could even make it a bit easier for you. The fetus could be cryopreserved even. Then its possible eventual death could just be due to the inaction of not re-supplying the LiN2.

    Also, there are other implications to the stance you hold. If an embryo/fetus were found to have a defect that guaranteed that it would not survive past birth or into the 3rd trimester, the woman would still be compelled to carry the pregnancy for as long as the embryo/fetus was alive. Would you really be ok with that and why?

    I’m only going to say this once.
    If you want to infer misogyny from what I have written, be my guest. I can, with equal justification, point to comments in this thread which indicate misandry, that there are some here who have serious issues with men and are just as bigoted as I am supposed to be.
    Either way, it is blatant ad hominem, it is attacking the arguer not the argument.
    Carry on, I intend to ignore it.

    As has been pointed out, ad hominem doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does. And please do point out any misandry you see. I’m sure many people here would be more than happy to grow out of their bigotry if it were pointed out to them. I for my part shall continue to point out any of your statements that belittle women unless others have already done so.

  275. #275 Jillian
    April 29, 2007

    Here’s a question that no one’s been able to answer for me yet….

    If your constitutional rights begin at the moment of conception, can you still put a pregnant woman in jail? Or would that violate her child’s Fifth Amendment right to not lose their liberty without due process of law?

    Because I’m thinking that recognizing the onset of legal rights at conception could be an awesome thing for lawyers. I’m also thinking it could be the setup for the greatest girl gang in the history of the world – roving gangs of pregnant women robbing banks, stealing cars, and burgling houses, all unassailable because if you arrest them, they simply get a lawyer to file a habeas petition for their embryo/fetus.

    Not to be flippant or anything, but seriously – why do people who want to impart rights to fetuses seem to think that the only legal right we have is the right to not be killed?

    And it goes beyond that. Most pregnancies spontaneously abort early enough on that the pregnant woman never even knows she was pregnant. Technically, it’s impossible to distinguish between a menstrual period and a miscarriage. Why couldn’t I take out a life insurance policy on my conceptus, and then collect with the onset of my period?

    I mean, it seems pretty simple to me. Either life begins at conception, or it doesn’t – and if it does, then all the aspects of life begin at conception – not just the ones favorable to the antichoice argument.

  276. #276 kmarissa
    April 29, 2007

    Most pregnancies spontaneously abort early enough on that the pregnant woman never even knows she was pregnant. Technically, it’s impossible to distinguish between a menstrual period and a miscarriage. Why couldn’t I take out a life insurance policy on my conceptus, and then collect with the onset of my period?

    You terribly Machiavellian person! Infinitely more altruistically, I think we, instead, should start devoting the vast majority of our medical research budget and resources to determine why this happens and to find a cure for failure of the egg to implant. I mean, if fertilized eggs are persons, then this is the equivalent to a huge epidemic that is killing more than half of the population before they are even born; surely it’s more horrible, and more deserving of attention and funding, than cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and the like combined.

  277. #277 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 29, 2007

    Owlmirror wrote:

    I was trying to make that point because of your statement that “we decide that human life is more important than the viruses or bacteria or parasites or just about any other life on this planet when it comes to the crunch.” Well, the decision that the life of the mother is more important than the life of the fetus is similar. Especially since the pro-choice argument is that the decision to undergo that potential risk should be the choice of the mother.

    My argument in favour of a health exception to abortion has always been based on the lesser-of two-evils principle.

    The mother has already established a life of her own. She may already have a husband and other children, her own parents and siblings as well as a circle of friends. Even if she were an entirely friendless orphan, she would be aware of her own life and what being deprived of it would mean. Either way, the harm caused by her death would be greater than that following the death of the fetus.

    For example, in response to it being pointed out that a tumor, like a fetus, is an “individual” by your definition, you replied that “if a tumour grows inside a woman it will, if left untreated, eventually kill her.” Back up a moment. Why isn’t the tumor as privileged as the woman it grows inside of? It, too, can be traced back to that single fertilized egg. Its genetic code is unique, and is almost identical to that of the woman it grows inside of. Isn’t it just arbitrary — by your own argument — to assert that the woman has a right to life and the tumor doesn’t?

    Will a fetus develop into a fully-aware adult human being if all goes well? Yes, it will. Will a tumour simply grow into a bigger tumour until eventually it kills the host? Unless treated and apart from the occasional instances of spontaneous remission, yes, it will. Am I a human being? In spite of what some other here might believe, yes, I am. Do I give preference to members of my own species over organisms that a harmful to human life? Yes, being interested in survival, of course I do.

    Again, in my view, rights are no more than entitlements, permissions and privileges we grant to ourselves. Their purpose is to regulate the way human beings behave towards one another. If one man kills another unlawfully, he has breached the man’s right to life and is guilty of murder. If a lion kills the same man, we do not put the lion on trial because the law and the right it embodies do not apply to other species.

    You haven’t satisfactorily established yet whether the fetus is definitely “someone” when it is killed.
    Indeed, another of your arguments is that you aren’t trying to define “personhood”. Can you please explain how the definition of “individual” differs from “person”, stressing particularly how this distinction is not arbitrary?

    Since I have no idea what you mean by “someone” it would be rather difficult for me to try to establish that a fetus is such a thing, assuming I would want to do so in the first place.

    As for “individual”, in the broader sense in which I am using it, it simply means a discrete entity. If I have a bag of marbles and pick one out, I am holding an individual marble. The bag of marbles is a discrete entity in itself but, nonetheless, is itself composed of individual marbles. Depending on how you define ‘person’, individuality is a necessary but not sufficient property of such.

  278. #278 Azkyroth
    April 30, 2007

    Ian:

    Then you had better back up and establish the existence of rights for “an individual” as opposed to specifically for “a person”, since you seem to be alone in accepting the former while the latter has been well established and is essentially uncontested in most circles.

    Incidentally, what are your views on the Terry Schiavo case?

  279. #279 Owlmirror
    April 30, 2007

    Ian wrote:

    Since I have no idea what you mean by “someone” it would be rather difficult for me to try to establish that a fetus is such a thing, assuming I would want to do so in the first place.

    Please note that my words that you are quoting follow from your own statement: “Standing by and watching someone die is rather different from deliberately killing them and, like it or not, abortion is deliberate killing.” (emphasis added)

    You certainly seem to be trying to argue from the proposition that a fetus is “someone”. Hence my response.

    Will a fetus develop into a fully-aware adult human being if all goes well? Yes, it will. Will a tumour simply grow into a bigger tumour until eventually it kills the host? Unless treated and apart from the occasional instances of spontaneous remission, yes, it will.

    Certainly. Yet arguing in favor of the one which will become “fully aware” looks very much like my own stated preference for granting rights to that which has a functioning brain — which you asserted was “arbitrary”.

    Thinking some more about this whole “timescape” framework (and building on post #270 by Anton Mates), I still think it could be argued that it is better for both the individual and society if all fetuses develop into children who are happy and wanted, who will then become adults who are happy and productive. Your focus on existence alone ignores this, and practically guarantees that there will be fetuses that will be forced upon mothers who do not want the children that they will become; given how human psychology works, this further almost guarantees that the children will be unhappy, and become unhappy adults.

    So a more general question: is it better to exist and be unhappy, or to not exist? Is society better served by having policies, and granting rights, such that each new generation of human beings will have a better chance of being happy, or not?

    There is at least some evidence (which might be arguable; we’ll see) that allowing abortion is better for society, and forbidding it leads to a worse-off society.

  280. #280 Anton Mates
    April 30, 2007

    Will a fetus develop into a fully-aware adult human being if all goes well? Yes, it will.

    Any given egg cell will also develop into a fully-aware adult human being if all goes well. Frequently, of course, all does not go well; but the same is true for a zygote.

  281. #281 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 1, 2007

    D wrote:

    “Trajectory” is not wrong so long as we remember it is nothing more than a metaphor. Even if all time co-exists as a “block” or timescape, we still perceive movement through it. Nonetheless, I recognize – because it was forcefully brought home to me in previous discussions – that there are serious problems in reconciling notions of free will, morality and indeterminacy with the timescape concept.

    And I’ll just point out again, as I did then, that if you can not reconcile those problems, then using such a concept to justify your stance is incredibly dishonest.

    Some scientists have hypthesized that time is ‘particulate’ in a similar way to matter and energy, that it is made up of incredibly tiny particles, tentatively labelled “chronons”. So far, however, they have been unable to find any evidence of these particles, even under the closest examination. As far as they can tell, time is a seamless continuum.

    As mentioned before, we are temporally as well as spatially extended. Just as our bodies have three spatial dimensions, they also have a time dimension. In other words, we have existed for a certain period back into the past, as seen from our present perspective. And this is not a series of distinct past ‘selves’, like a sequence of still pictures, but a single continuous event. There is an unbroken line between the ‘me’ now and the fertilized egg in which I originated.

    But what about looking in the other direction?

    For someone alive at the time of the War of Independence, most, if not all, of what happened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would have been a complete mystery. Yet today’s students are often bored in school by having to study what are, for us, events that are well-established facts. By the same token, a thousand years from now, we assume, there will be humans for whom the unwritten mysteries of our future will simply be their recorded history. In other words, the same period of time is from one perspective known but from another perspective completely unknown. Which perspective is right?

    Isn’t it true that there is an unconscious assumption that our ‘present’ is the most important one? But is that true? Do we have any reason to think that our ‘now’ is any more real than that of George Washington, for example, in 1776 or one of our unknown descendants in, say, 2476?

    The problem with this view, as has been pointed out, is that it suggests that all the events of history, whether past or future, are already set in time like concrete. In other words, all our soul-searching about what is the most moral thing to do is quite pointless because literally everything is already “a done deal”.

    The only escape from this dilemma that I can see is the the ‘multiverse’ or ‘many worlds’ hypothesis, in other words, there are as many alternate universes as there are possible futures.

    In the case of an abortion, think of it as a train rolling towards a set of points where the line branches. Down one branch the abortion is not carried out and both mother and fetus go on to live out their lives; down the other branch the fetus is aborted and only the mother goes on to live out her life. By the side of the track, pro-choicers and pro-lifers are struggling over the lever which decides which track the train will be switched on to…

  282. #282 Ian H Spedding
    May 1, 2007

    Owlmirror wrote:

    Thinking some more about this whole “timescape” framework (and building on post #270 by Anton Mates), I still think it could be argued that it is better for both the individual and society if all fetuses develop into children who are happy and wanted, who will then become adults who are happy and productive.

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but, for me, what you wrote there conjures up a chilling image of some sort of socialist utopia in which only the best, the most genetically ‘pure’, those who will grow into incredibly beautiful or handsome blue-eyed blondes, will be allowed to live. It assumes we know enough to be able predict the future well enough to make such choices rationally. I doubt that we do.

    As for the burden of unwanted children on the mother and the trauma of being unwanted on the children, I have always argued that any society that does ban abortion must be prepared to commit the additional resources that will undoubtedly be needed to support both through difficult times. Of course, any civilized society should be doing that anyway.

  283. #283 Owlmirror
    May 1, 2007

    Ian wrote:

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but, for me, what you wrote there conjures up a chilling image of some sort of socialist utopia in which only the best, the most genetically ‘pure’, those who will grow into incredibly beautiful or handsome blue-eyed blondes, will be allowed to live.

    Dude, what the hell…?!?! What?! The?! HELL?!?!

    Inferring that from what I wrote makes even less sense than inferring misogyny from your own arguments.

    Hell, isn’t it at least implicit in your own arguments that the adult that the fetus would become is at least theoretically supposed to be enjoying its adulthood?

    All *I’m* trying to refer to is basic child-rearing and psychology – being cared for rather than being neglected or abused; being well-nourished rather than hungry; being secure rather than being depressed and miserable; enjoying life rather than hating the universe and everyone in it

    It assumes we know enough to be able predict the future well enough to make such choices rationally. I doubt that we do.

    First of all, science is about making rational predictions based on past observations and evidence. Such as, for example, the psychological observations and evidence that show that children raised by young, impoverished, unhappy, unhealthy, resentful mothers are generally worse off than those raised by mothers who are financially stable, healthy, and emotionally engaged with their children. Or the social science to show that societies that allow women to defer reproduction until they are financially and emotionally ready for it are better off than the ones that don’t.

    Second of all, isn’t your own notion specifically about predicting the future?

    As for the burden of unwanted children on the mother and the trauma of being unwanted on the children, I have always argued that any society that does ban abortion must be prepared to commit the additional resources that will undoubtedly be needed to support both through difficult times. Of course, any civilized society should be doing that anyway.

    Granted. But if there are sufficient positive incentives, then you don’t really need negative incentives. And if a woman wants an abortion even with lots of positive incentives, then there probably is reason to deduce that she has really strong reasons to not be a mother, and ought not be second-guessed.

  284. #284 Anton Mates
    May 1, 2007
    Thinking some more about this whole “timescape” framework (and building on post #270 by Anton Mates), I still think it could be argued that it is better for both the individual and society if all fetuses develop into children who are happy and wanted, who will then become adults who are happy and productive.

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but, for me, what you wrote there conjures up a chilling image of some sort of socialist utopia in which only the best, the most genetically ‘pure’, those who will grow into incredibly beautiful or handsome blue-eyed blondes, will be allowed to live.

    :O

    I’m not sure how you got from “Everyone should be happy, with loving parents” to “Everyone should be an Aryan demigod.” And what does socialism have to do with, well, anything?

    It assumes we know enough to be able predict the future well enough to make such choices rationally. I doubt that we do.

    Then we ought to err on the side of caution–don’t make new minds unless, insofar as we can predict anything, we’re sure they’ll thrive and have a beneficial impact on others. And if the woman is strongly against having the baby, that makes such an outcome significantly less likely, at the least.

    As for the burden of unwanted children on the mother and the trauma of being unwanted on the children, I have always argued that any society that does ban abortion must be prepared to commit the additional resources that will undoubtedly be needed to support both through difficult times. Of course, any civilized society should be doing that anyway.

    Has any society ever existed which would be willing or even able to commit a healthy childhood’s worth of resources, to every viable-but-unwanted zygote? If the population continues to grow, that won’t be even theoretically possible.

  285. #285 D
    May 1, 2007

    Some scientists have hypothesized….

    The problem with this view, as has been pointed out, is that it suggests that all the events of history, whether past or future, are already set in time like concrete. In other words, all our soul-searching about what is the most moral thing to do is quite pointless because literally everything is already “a done deal”.
    The only escape from this dilemma that I can see is the the ‘multiverse’ or ‘many worlds’ hypothesis, in other words, there are as many alternate universes as there are possible futures.

    That doesn’t really help, because in the end, we can only deal with our universe, whichever one it may be. In 2300, the people are only going to see one continuum for us. The alternate universes only matter if they occur, and if they did, they wouldn’t be alternate universes. That is the unavoidable problem with the timescape concept; a choice can not be determinate if the outcome has already been determined.

    In the case of an abortion, think of it as a train rolling towards a set of points where the line branches. Down one branch the abortion is not carried out and both mother and fetus go on to live out their lives; down the other branch the fetus is aborted and only the mother goes on to live out her life.

    And here at the end you demonstrate the incompatibility of the two concepts. As you claimed earlier, motion in regards to the timescape concept is only applicable to our perception, not to what is actually occurring. Your example only works if the motion is actually occurring, if the branch taken is not yet decided, which is antithetical to the timescape concept.

    By the side of the track, pro-choicers and pro-lifers are struggling over the lever which decides which track the train will be switched on to…

    That is fundamentally incorrect. Pro-choicers are not concerned with whether women have abortions or not, but rather who decides, who makes that choice, favouring the women of course. Likewise, the so called pro-life side is just as concerned with who makes the choice, favouring themselves. Conjure up a dystopia for you as well?

    —————

    And as interesting as all that is, it is perhaps the least relevant to the primary topic. You still have yet to give a logically sound and valid reason why every embryo should be granted a right to life. Nor have you done the same to demonstrate that a right to life for an embryo, even if granted, in this particular case supersedes a woman’s rights.

  286. #286 Azkyroth
    May 1, 2007

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but, for me, what you wrote there conjures up a chilling image of some sort of socialist utopia in which only the best, the most genetically ‘pure’, those who will grow into incredibly beautiful or handsome blue-eyed blondes, will be allowed to live. It assumes we know enough to be able predict the future well enough to make such choices rationally. I doubt that we do.

    I find your implict association of “happy and productive” with “only the best, the most genetically ‘pure’, those who will grow into incredibly beautiful or handsome blue-eyed blondes” rather intriguing. However, I’m finding it difficult to classify; would you mind elaborating a bit more so that I can decide whether this is a subtle yet ultimately puerile invocation of Godwin’s law, or a revelation of unconscious racial bias on your part?

    As for the burden of unwanted children on the mother and the trauma of being unwanted on the children, I have always argued that any society that does ban abortion must be prepared to commit the additional resources that will undoubtedly be needed to support both through difficult times. Of course, any civilized society should be doing that anyway.

    That would help enormously with financially supporting children (despite the fact that most anti-choicers would fight such a proposal tooth and nail). What do you suggest to address psychological inability to be an adequate parent?

    (I’m also curious if your beliefs that women should be forced to have the baby if they get pregnant from consensual sex applies to, say, 13 year olds. And you never answered my question about the Terry Schiavo case, or addressed most of my previous questions or points.)

  287. #287 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 1, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    Then you had better back up and establish the existence of rights for “an individual” as opposed to specifically for “a person”, since you seem to be alone in accepting the former while the latter has been well established and is essentially uncontested in most circles.

    First, in your view, what are rights and in what sense can they be said to exist? Second, how do you define “person” and do you believe that definition is shared by the rest of society? Third, by your definition, is individuality a necessary precondition of “personhood”.

    I agree that, in Western democracies at least, rights are customarily extended to citizens after birth, with some of those rights – such as the right to vote – being age-limited. The qualification for entitlement to such rights, however, is not always “personhood”. Newborn babies, for example, have the right to life, even though it is difficult to argue that they are fully-developed persons. Patients who are comatose or in a persistent vegetative state are still afforded the right to life even though they are not displaying many of the behavioral signs of “personhood”.

    In my view, as I have said before many times, rights function as guidelines or prescriptions which regulate how we behave towards one another. In the absence of a supreme moral authority such as a god, we decide what these rights should be and to whom they should apply. However much we try to rationalise our application of these rights, in the end it becomes a matter of what we could call social convention and is largely arbitrary.

    Incidentally, what are your views on the Terry Schiavo case?

    If she had been able to survive with no more than the provision of food and water and maintenance medical care then that should have been allowed. However, providing long-term care for such patients could become a burden on society which could drain resources away from patients who have a better chance of making a full recovery from whatever ails them. As with abortion, where such conflicts arise society should decide between the alternatives on the basis of what is the lesser of two evils.

  288. #288 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 1, 2007

    Owlmirror wrote:

    I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but, for me, what you wrote there conjures up a chilling image of some sort of socialist utopia in which only the best, the most genetically ‘pure’, those who will grow into incredibly beautiful or handsome blue-eyed blondes, will be allowed to live.

    Dude, what the hell…?!?! What?! The?! HELL?!?!
    Inferring that from what I wrote makes even less sense than inferring misogyny from your own arguments.
    Hell, isn’t it at least implicit in your own arguments that the adult that the fetus would become is at least theoretically supposed to be enjoying its adulthood?

    Your argument has been that forcing women to carry to term rather than abort leads to stressed, unhappy women burdened by children that they do not want and who are made miserable by rejection, both of whom could become a substantial and continuing burden on society. Abortion is justified, therefore, on the grounds that it benefits society by preventing this happening.

    Is this so far from the principles of eugenics in which society is improved by selective breeding? The only difference is that, in your scheme, the burden of deciding who should live and who should die is shifted from society to individual women.

    All *I’m* trying to refer to is basic child-rearing and psychology – being cared for rather than being neglected or abused; being well-nourished rather than hungry; being secure rather than being depressed and miserable; enjoying life rather than hating the universe and everyone in it.

    I believe you but I am sure you will agree that being misinterpreted can be annoying.

    Even so, what you and Anton Mates have been proposing does amount to a kind of social engineering, motivated I am sure by the best of intentions but then so were some of the hateful practices of the Nazi and communist states.

    It assumes we know enough to be able predict the future well enough to make such choices rationally. I doubt that we do.

    First of all, science is about making rational predictions based on past observations and evidence. Such as, for example, the psychological observations and evidence that show that children raised by young, impoverished, unhappy, unhealthy, resentful mothers are generally worse off than those raised by mothers who are financially stable, healthy, and emotionally engaged with their children. Or the social science to show that societies that allow women to defer reproduction until they are financially and emotionally ready for it are better off than the ones that don’t.

    Allowing that all that is true, does it justify killing embryos in order to prevent it? Might there not be other ways to cope with those problems?

    Second of all, isn’t your own notion specifically about predicting the future?

    No, I would say it is about recognizing that our ability to predict the future is not good enough to justify killing on the basis of it.

  289. #289 Azkyroth
    May 2, 2007

    First, in your view, what are rights and in what sense can they be said to exist?

    “Rights” are a social construct intended to reflect and explicitly enumerate (and thus, ideally, equatable with) the principles regarding the treatment of persons which, when treated as basic and inherent except in very unusual circumstances, produce the systems of principles and behavioral rules that reliably produce the best outcome for those involved. They can be regarded as “laws” in a sense comparable to scientific or mathematical laws, in that they are relationships that exist independently due to the nature and characteristics of interacting entities, in this case sentient persons, and can be discovered by critical examination. Some of these social constructs have been found to correspond to such principles, others, like the supposed “right” to own slaves, have been found, when practiced, to be detrimental to human happiness and abandoned. In light of this, the consistent finding that societies in which abortion and other forms of family planning are permitted tend to be happier and better off economically is highly significant.

    Second, how do you define “person” and do you believe that definition is shared by the rest of society?

    A “person” in this sense (ignoring the legal sense in which a corporation is also a “person”) is a single sentient being; a discrete psychological entity with the capacity for conscious self-awareness at some level and the capacity to experience emotional responses to stimuli, possessing a unique identity and personality (this uniqueness is in a cognitive sense, not to be confused with genetic or spatial uniqueness), and certain characteristic patterns of behavior. So far as we can tell, all “persons” are emergent effects of the functioning of certain kinds of extremely complex physical systems; in our experience all the “persons” we have encountered are psychological entities resulting from the operation of the human central nervous system, particularly the cerebral cortex, although it is possible to imagine persons which result from the functioning of other physical systems (like sentient computer AIs). (The absolute dependence of persons on the continued proper functioning of their corresponding physical systems is the observation that leads us to connect personhood to a living body, and some people, yourself included, have erroneously assumed that a living body in a class known to contain sentient beings is therefore a “person.”) As such, organisms or other physical entities which do not presently contain functioning examples of the sort of physical system needed to produce the psychological functions we consider a “person” cannot possibly be persons.

    In most respects, I observe this definition of personhood to be shared in practice, if not nominally, by most of society. While most of society at least nominally postulates that “personhood” results from the action of an immaterial entity called a “soul” or “spirit,”

    Third, by your definition, is individuality a necessary precondition of “personhood”.

    “Individuality” in the sense of genetic and spatial uniqueness in which you have been using it throughout this argument is not necessarily a condition for personhood, since I can imagine scenarios in which individual sentient consciousnesses that I would be morally obligated to treat as “persons” might not be spatially distinct (two or more sentient AIs running on a single mainframe, for instance). In any case, it is not a sufficient condition; biologically speaking, the viruses presently attacking my throat tissue are “individuals” and I certainly have no remorse about wishing them dead. Limiting the definition of “individual in the sense relevant to whether it has rights” to humans begs the question unless it is based on traits which humans posses which other organisms do not, and those traits–conscious self-awareness, emotional responses, identity, personality, and characteristic behavior (the first and probably the third seem to be the ones that are most definitely limited to humans) are enumerated above and inapplicable to a fetus presently lacking a functional brain.

    Patients who are comatose or in a persistent vegetative state are still afforded the right to life even though they are not displaying many of the behavioral signs of “personhood”.

    People who demonstrably lack the brain functions necessary for consciousness should not be kept on life support. Unless their bodily functions are being tapped for chemical processing or power production (which I’m pretty sure almost no one would regard as a palatable approach), this can reasonably be expected to accomplish absolutely nothing except perpetuating the “denial” phase of grieving on the part of, and exacerbating the medical bills paid by, the comatose person’s loved ones.

    In my view, as I have said before many times, rights function as guidelines or prescriptions which regulate how we behave towards one another. In the absence of a supreme moral authority such as a god, we decide what these rights should be and to whom they should apply. However much we try to rationalise our application of these rights, in the end it becomes a matter of what we could call social convention and is largely arbitrary.

    So, why should we accept your rather circular, question-begging, questionably factually grounded version of what these rights are, as applied to abortion? On what grounds would you argue that yours is better?

  290. #290 Azkyroth
    May 2, 2007

    While most of society at least nominally postulates that “personhood” results from the action of an immaterial entity called a “soul” or “spirit,”

    Argh. Continuing “most people seem to behave, in practice and with regard to thought experiments, as though they generally, if sometimes uneasily, accepted the definition I’ve offered.”

  291. #291 Anton Mates
    May 4, 2007

    Newborn babies, for example, have the right to life, even though it is difficult to argue that they are fully-developed persons. Patients who are comatose or in a persistent vegetative state are still afforded the right to life even though they are not displaying many of the behavioral signs of “personhood”.

    However, in both these cases many Westerners recognize that the right is a legal fiction, and that it would not be ethical to enforce it as one does for the murder of an older child or sentient adult. For instance, mothers in the UK who are convicted of infanticide almost never receive a punitive sentence, and doctors in Europe and America often perform non-voluntary euthanasia on vegetative or comatose patients with the tacit understanding of the law.

    The notion of a general “right to life,” incidentally, is a very strongly theistic one. Western societies have been largely shaped by Christianity, and the monotheistic religions have always been unusually opposed to infanticide and euthanasia; personhood is irrelevant to them precisely because they have the alternate criterion for right-to-life of the soul, which a human is supposed to possess (at least) from birth to physical death. I hope, and to some degree expect, that increasing secularization and liberalization of society will weaken the impact this doctrine has had on our customs and laws.

    Your argument has been that forcing women to carry to term rather than abort leads to stressed, unhappy women burdened by children that they do not want and who are made miserable by rejection, both of whom could become a substantial and continuing burden on society. Abortion is justified, therefore, on the grounds that it benefits society by preventing this happening.

    You missed the bit about it benefiting society and the individual. Abortion is justified not merely because it benefits the rest of us not to have to take care of a miserable woman and child, but because the woman doesn’t have to be miserable. (Owlmirror may include the child in that last bit as well.)

    Is this so far from the principles of eugenics in which society is improved by selective breeding? The only difference is that, in your scheme, the burden of deciding who should live and who should die is shifted from society to individual women.

    Aside from that being a *cough* pretty big difference, eugenics is selective breeding to make a particular trait more or less common. That’s not what we’re advocating. We don’t care what kind of babies come out, so long as their mothers want them.

    Even so, what you and Anton Mates have been proposing does amount to a kind of social engineering,

    If individual women are making the choice whether or not to keep their embryos, how can this possibly be “social engineering?” Who’s doing the engineering? Surely you realize that your own position is far better described as such; you wish to determine the future makeup of society by requiring that all embryos will be brought to term, regardless of any individual’s wish in the matter.

    motivated I am sure by the best of intentions but then so were some of the hateful practices of the Nazi and communist states.

    Yeah, and I also don’t like smoking, just like the Nazis!

    First of all, science is about making rational predictions based on past observations and evidence. Such as, for example, the psychological observations and evidence that show that children raised by young, impoverished, unhappy, unhealthy, resentful mothers are generally worse off than those raised by mothers who are financially stable, healthy, and emotionally engaged with their children. Or the social science to show that societies that allow women to defer reproduction until they are financially and emotionally ready for it are better off than the ones that don’t.

    Allowing that all that is true, does it justify killing embryos in order to prevent it?

    Until you show any sort of moral downside to killing embryos, certainly it does.

  292. #292 Mike
    May 4, 2007

    Please show me where a fetus is a “thing” as many of the discussions here seem to treat them. Tell me how a fetus is not,and will not become a human being.
    Except for cases of clear danger to the mother, rape or medical conditions, abortion is wrong. It is not a “choice” it is murder, or do you want to be able to screw like bunnies with no consequences?
    Ask yourselves this question: Why is more “convienent” to kill a human baby, than to have the child and give it up for adoption? Why is so important to end life?
    BTW I’m not a “cristian” or “bible thumper”. I just know right from wrong.

  293. #293 D
    May 4, 2007

    Wow, suddenly Ian seems much more respectable, though still wrong. Thanks for the perspective Mike.

  294. #294 Azkyroth
    May 4, 2007

    Mike: Try reading a few of our responses to Ian and it should answer your question.

  295. #295 Azkyroth
    May 5, 2007

    …that’s what I thought.

  296. #296 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 6, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote

    “Rights” are a social construct intended to reflect and explicitly enumerate (and thus, ideally, equatable with) the principles regarding the treatment of persons which, when treated as basic and inherent except in very unusual circumstances, produce the systems of principles and behavioral rules that reliably produce the best outcome for those involved.

    So, if I read this correctly, we are largely in agreement on this point. “Rights” are a “social construct” or “social convention”, in other words, rules of behaviour by which members of a society, by and large, consent to be bound.

    They can be regarded as “laws” in a sense comparable to scientific or mathematical laws, in that they are relationships that exist independently due to the nature and characteristics of interacting entities, in this case sentient persons, and can be discovered by critical examination.

    My understanding of scientific ‘laws’ is that they are descriptions of observed regularities in nature. The rights we are discussing are prescriptive rather than descriptive and I would say that they are more like axioms than laws in that they are fundamental assumptions which we accept as true but which cannot be logically derived from our observations of nature. I could, and have, argued an ‘interests’ justification for the right to life, for example, by pointing out that living things, especially when aware of their own existence, demonstrate a desire for and, hence, have an interest in their own continued survival. But I also recognize that the human right to life, for example, cannot be logically derived from the observation that living creatures have an instinct for survival. The fact that I want to survive does not necessarily mean that I have any more right to survive than an amoeba.

    More to the point here is that if rights are axiomatic “social constructs” then they cannot be justified logically. We can construct all sorts of ethical or moral codes on the basis of such assumptions but the assumptions themselves are just that. For example, there is nothing in our observations of nature to indicate that, as a species or as individuals, we are entitled to preferential treatment in terms of survival. We decide that it should be so because it suits us, nothing more.

    The same applies to the opposite view. You can argue that there is nothing to prevent us from killing embryos as an end to unwanted pregnancies and you can claim that societies which permit abortion are healthier and happier. But you cannot use the latter to justify the former because we have no reason to suppose that human health and happiness, in any way, hold a privileged position in the natural order of things. Again, we decide that it should be so because it suits us, nothing more.

    My argument against abortion derives, first, from the Golden Rule. I do not want to be killed and, since I assume others feel the same, we should be able to agree that the killing of one human being by another, without good and sufficient reason, should be prohibited. Second, it derives from the argument that a human life is more properly viewed as a lifespan or life-cycle. To be consistent, the right to life cannot be restricted to a particular moment in a life but should apply to all the moments of which comprise that life. We already allow that right from birth to death yet ignore the fact that life does not begin in the cradle but the womb. There is no disconinuity between the fetus and the newborn. Third, it derives from the fact that we simply have no way of knowing the nature of the life we are cutting short. It might be another Hitler or it might be another Einstein, we cannot tell. But if the right to life is a means improving our chances of survival both as individuals and as a species then does it make sense to cut short a life which, if allowed to continue, might contribute to that improvement? Fourth, is the rather obvious if trivial point that you do not get to be a person without being an embryo first. If you are going to protect the latter why not the earlier – and much more vulnerable – stage?

    On the question of whether you have to be a “person” – however that might be defined – to qualify for the right to life, the glib answer is that we are talking about the right to life not the right to “personhood”. Of course, there is nothing to prevent us from limiting the right to those indiivduals who have the attributes of “personhood” but we are then faced with the situation, as previously noted, that this right is afforded to adults whose mental capacities have been diminished by disease or age and newborn babies who are far from being fully-developed human adults.

    When it comes right down to it, rights are what we decide they should be and we decide what they should be by what we think is in our best interests. We can decide, as is the case now, that abortion is in our best interest. We could also decide at some later date that it would be better to limit abortion to those cases where the mother’s life and/or long-term health is threatened. I choose the latter for the reason I have given.

  297. #297 Azkyroth
    May 6, 2007

    My understanding of scientific ‘laws’ is that they are descriptions of observed regularities in nature. The rights we are discussing are prescriptive rather than descriptive and I would say that they are more like axioms than laws in that they are fundamental assumptions which we accept as true but which cannot be logically derived from our observations of nature.

    The generally predictable relationship between certain actions on a given person’s part and changes in the happiness of that person’s neighbors is an observed regularity; the conclusion that certain actions should be encouraged or prevented based on the observed relationship is prescriptive.

    More later.

  298. #298 D
    May 7, 2007

    How do you manage that level of cognitive dissonance Ian? First you claim that morality can’t be based on logic and is arbitrary and meaningless, and then you try to give a logical basis for your moral stance. Then there are the same old tired refuted claims in your arguments.

    My argument against abortion derives, first, from the Golden Rule. I do not want to be killed and, since I assume others feel the same, we should be able to agree that the killing of one human being by another, without good and sufficient reason, should be prohibited.

    A social agreement by its very nature excludes any that do not agree to it, amongst which are all things that can’t agree to it, e.g. mice, amoeba, embryos, fetuses and newborns. Now, if you simply make the Golden Rule a universal, then you have to accept it is wrong to kill anything that is living, or justify the exclusions, which rather nullifies using it as an argument to begin with.

    Second, it derives from the argument that a human life is more properly viewed as a lifespan or life-cycle. To be consistent, the right to life cannot be restricted to a particular moment in a life but should apply to all the moments of which comprise that life. We already allow that right from birth to death yet ignore the fact that life does not begin in the cradle but the womb. There is no disconinuity between the fetus and the newborn.

    You keep going in circles with your unjustified assertions. Once again, for your claims to be valid, you must demonstrate that there is actually a reason that a “human life” should a right to that life. Thus far all you have been offering is some potential value that such a life might have only during portions of its lifespan, which I’ll once again point out to be irrelevant below.

    Third, it derives from the fact that we simply have no way of knowing the nature of the life we are cutting short.

    We have every way of knowing the nature of life we’re cutting short. It is the life of an embryo, or in rare cases a fetus, nothing more, nothing less. Or are you going to actually abandon your timescape bit?

    It might be another Hitler or it might be another Einstein, we cannot tell. But if the right to life is a means improving our chances of survival both as individuals and as a species then does it make sense to cut short a life which, if allowed to continue, might contribute to that improvement?

    And why does it mean improving our chances of survival, hmm? It does as individuals because of the social contract aspect, which is inapplicable to embryos. It does for our species because we are social beings, which again is inapplicable to embryos. For embryos you present it as a gamble with the odds in favor of the person it may become being of some benefit to society. That ignores a number of factors of how society is actually affected though. Aborting a pregnancy does not mean a net loss of new people for society. The availability of abortion does not greatly reduce the number of children women have, simply when they have them. This leads into the points already made by others, that a planned for and wanted child will be better off, and more likely to contribute more to society by general standards. Even if abortion did considerably reduce our population growth, as resources are limited, there is a point at which more people harm society. So simply having more bodies about isn’t a net good, but rather having the optimal number of bodies would be. And of course there is the cost, largely born by women. As others have also pointed out, by standard measures, societies that have abortions readily availed are better off than those that don’t. So if you take it as a gamble, it would seem it would be better not to grant an embryo a right to life.

    Fourth, is the rather obvious if trivial point that you do not get to be a person without being an embryo first. If you are going to protect the latter why not the earlier – and much more vulnerable – stage?

    Trivial indeed. Potential is not actual. We’ve been over all that before as well.

  299. #299 Azkyroth
    May 7, 2007

    Trivial indeed. Potential is not actual. We’ve been over all that before as well.

    Which is trivially obvious; otherwise first-year pre-med students would be allowed to open private medical practices. I don’t know why Ian is treating this example differently.

  300. #300 daedalus2u
    May 9, 2007

    It looks like the Pope has forced the Catholic members of the Supreme Court to recuse themselves if abortion comes up again. He has declared that anyone who votes to allow abortion has automatically excommunicated themselves.

  301. #301 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 13, 2007

    D wrote:

    How do you manage that level of cognitive dissonance Ian? First you claim that morality can’t be based on logic and is arbitrary and meaningless, and then you try to give a logical basis for your moral stance. Then there are the same old tired refuted claims in your arguments.

    I suggest you try reading what I wrote.

    My argument is that we can build any number of moral or ethical codes on fundamental claims of rights but those claims cannot be derived from what we observe in nature.

    In the case of abortion, my opposition is based on a presumption that all human beings have the right to life. In effect, this means that all human beings are prohibited from killing their fellows, except in certain extreme and narrowly-defined circumstances. I cannot provide ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’ of the rectitude of that right, however, as has been demanded. The question is meaningless. You can provide evidence for a theory of gravity which explains why and how the apple falls to the ground but how do you provide evidence for the claim that the apple should fall to the ground because it is the right thing to do? You can’t. A moral imperative is not the same as a truth claim.

    The fact is that it only matters to ourselves whether or not we live or die. As far as we can tell the Universe itself is utterly indifferent to the question. No thunderbolts are hurled down from the heavens when an embryo is aborted but neither is it woven into the fabric of nature that women may relieve themselves of burdensome pregnancies by killing their unborn offspring. In the end it is we who decide what is the best for us and how best to achieve it – which is really just another moral claim being used to justify the previous one.

    A social agreement by its very nature excludes any that do not agree to it, amongst which are all things that can’t agree to it, e.g. mice, amoeba, embryos, fetuses and newborns.

    Really? We grant newborn babies the right to life even though they will not be in a position to give informed assent to such an offer for a number of years.

    Now, if you simply make the Golden Rule a universal, then you have to accept it is wrong to kill anything that is living, or justify the exclusions, which rather nullifies using it as an argument to begin with.

    No, there is nothing to prevent us from asserting a general principle and then modifying it to accommodate a few exceptions. The only problem would arise if the anomalies became so numerous that the general principle ceased to be general.

    You keep going in circles with your unjustified assertions. Once again, for your claims to be valid, you must demonstrate that there is actually a reason that a “human life” should a right to that life.

    Only if you agree that for your claims to be valid, you must “demonstrate that there is actually a reason” why we should privilege the comfort and health of the mother over the life of the fetus. And “demonstrating” a “reason” in this context implies more than just appealing to another unprovable moral imperative.

    We have every way of knowing the nature of life we’re cutting short. It is the life of an embryo, or in rare cases a fetus, nothing more, nothing less. Or are you going to actually abandon your timescape bit?

    Show us discontinuities in time or how our ‘now’ is somehow privileged over all the other ‘nows’ that, from our perspective, there have been or ever will be and you will have gone a fair way towards demolishing the concept of timescape.

    As for the free will implications, the pragmatic response is that since we don’t know what the future is going to be we might just as well act as if we have a choice as not and try do the right thing.

    Another point to consider is that elective abortion could easily become one arm of an informal eugenics program once geneticists are able to give parents a detailed ‘profile’ of their unborn child. I don’t think it is too far-fetched to imagine some parents deciding to abort, to use a slightly silly example, on the basis of whether or not the child is predicted to become a ‘jock’ or a ‘nerd’.

    As others have also pointed out, by standard measures, societies that have abortions readily availed are better off than those that don’t. So if you take it as a gamble, it would seem it would be better not to grant an embryo a right to life.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

    Are those studies able to demonstrate causality rather than correlation? Is it not equally possible that the widespread availability of elective abortion is a consequence of a society becoming relatively prosperous and healthy rather than a cause of it, which is the rather dubious assumption here? In other words, in a well-off society there will be a much greater number of financially-independent women who see no reason to be encumbered with children who will only get in the way of their careers and social lives. There is also the the possibility that affluent “first world” societies have reached the stage where women have finally achieved something approaching equality with men after centuries of oppression and that there are some sections of society who are prepared to grant them more latitude than perhaps they should just because they were oppressed and, in some parts of the world, still are.

  302. #302 D
    May 13, 2007

    I suggest you try reading what I wrote.
    ….

    Tiresome though it is, I do. In the end it comes down the same. You’re claiming that the development of rights can’t be based on reality. And while you do cling to your central premise that is counter to reality, you still try to rationalize it with calls to reality. It seems to be the same old problem of trying to prop up faith. But now you’ve admitted that it is simply pure faith by which you hold your view, so we can stop pretending you actually have a legitimate reason for being against abortion, let along for anyone else to be.

    And then there is these little things…

    A social agreement by its very nature excludes any that do not agree to it, amongst which are all things that can’t agree to it, e.g. mice, amoeba, embryos, fetuses and newborns.

    Really? We grant newborn babies the right to life even though they will not be in a position to give informed assent to such an offer for a number of years.

    Indeed, really. You’ll perhaps notice a certain difference between granting and agreeing?

    Now, if you simply make the Golden Rule a universal, then you have to accept it is wrong to kill anything that is living, or justify the exclusions, which rather nullifies using it as an argument to begin with.

    No, there is nothing to prevent us from asserting a general principle and then modifying it to accommodate a few exceptions. The only problem would arise if the anomalies became so numerous that the general principle ceased to be general.

    Now if you can extend that thought a bit further, perhaps you’ll see the point. Hint: How many living things do we not grant a right to life to?

    Only if you agree that for your claims to be valid,…

    Which claim would that be? I have not made any claims of a positive position. I have simple been pointing out the numerous problems with your position.

    Show us discontinuities in time or how our ‘now’ is somehow privileged over all the other ‘nows’ that, from our perspective, there have been or ever will be and you will have gone a fair way towards demolishing the concept of timescape.

    You’ve already provided the logic for that, though I don’t prescribe to it myself. There is little difference between claiming an utmost importantce for the we as humans and the we in the now. Instead of using a baseless assumption, I’ll simply point out that there is no need to make the choice between our now, and a now that will never be. That seems to be an aspect of timescapes that you have yet to be able to grasp.

    As for the free will implications, the pragmatic response is that since we don’t know what the future is going to be we might just as well act as if we have a choice as not and try do the right thing.

    Use it when it suits your purpose, and ignore it when it doesn’t…. Still the dishonesty. Yet, we do know what the future is going to be in some cases, particularly cases where we choose it, such as we might. Abortion happens to be one of those cases where we can know the fate of the “individual” you hold so dear.

    Another point to consider is that elective abortion could easily become one arm of an informal eugenics program once geneticists are able to give parents a detailed ‘profile’ of their unborn child. I don’t think it is too far-fetched to imagine some parents deciding to abort, to use a slightly silly example, on the basis of whether or not the child is predicted to become a ‘jock’ or a ‘nerd’.

    You really do like those dystopias, don’t you? Or is it back to some fear you have that you could have been aborted? Either way, this is a hand waving non-argument.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

    Irrelevent as I was countering your claim that “we” would benefit from outlawing abortion.

    There is also the the possibility that affluent “first world” societies have reached the stage where women have finally achieved something approaching equality with men after centuries of oppression and that there are some sections of society who are prepared to grant them more latitude than perhaps they should just because they were oppressed and, in some parts of the world, still are.

    I was wondering when your misogyny was going to creep out again.

  303. #303 Azkyroth
    May 14, 2007

    In the case of abortion, my opposition is based on a presumption that all human beings have the right to life.

    Wrong. Your opposition is based on the presumption that all human beings have the right to life; the unevidenced assertion that fetuses are “human beings” in the sense the term is considered to be meaningfully different from a tumor, an unfertilized gamete, a fresh corpse, or my daughter’s “twin”; the unevidenced assertion that it is a sufficient criterion for being “a human being” to be an “individual” according to a definition of “individual” you have developed which, with the connotations you attach to it, is so far as I can tell subscribed to by you and you alone; and the unevidenced assertion that a supposed “human being”‘s “right to life” supersedes that human being’s right not to suffer needlessly, the rights of other human beings to control their own bodies and reproductive destinies, etc. Your argument fails, and will continue to fail until you acknowledge these shortcomings and find a way to fix them. I foresee neither occurring, with a fair degree of certainty.

  304. #304 Azkyroth
    May 14, 2007

    In other words, in a well-off society there will be a much greater number of financially-independent women who see no reason to be encumbered with children who will only get in the way of their careers and social lives.

    And even assuming that such women constitute more than even a tiny percentage of women who have abortions, if you’re right, what kind of mothers do you suppose these women would make if forced to carry the pregnancy to term, hmm?

  305. #305 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 16, 2007

    D wrote:

    Tiresome though it is, I do. In the end it comes down the same. You’re claiming that the development of rights can’t be based on reality. And while you do cling to your central premise that is counter to reality, you still try to rationalize it with calls to reality. It seems to be the same old problem of trying to prop up faith. But now you’ve admitted that it is simply pure faith by which you hold your view, so we can stop pretending you actually have a legitimate reason for being against abortion, let along for anyone else to be.

    If you accept the presumption of a human right to life then it becomes incumbent on you to show that an embryo which is biologically human in all significant reepects is somehow not human enough to qualify for the right to life.

    And if all moral positions are ultimately questions of faith which cannot be justified by any appeal to objective reality, then your justifications of abortion are just as unfounded as my rejection of it.

    Really? We grant newborn babies the right to life even though they will not be in a position to give informed assent to such an offer for a number of years.

    Indeed, really. You’ll perhaps notice a certain difference between granting and agreeing?

    Of course, but it means there is no objection in principle to granting the right to life to the unborn simply because they are unable to comprehend what they are being given.

    No, there is nothing to prevent us from asserting a general principle and then modifying it to accommodate a few exceptions. The only problem would arise if the anomalies became so numerous that the general principle ceased to be general.

    Now if you can extend that thought a bit further, perhaps you’ll see the point. Hint: How many living things do we not grant a right to life to?

    Both the Right to Life and the Golden Rule, as commonly understood, are guidelines intended to regulate the behaviour of human beings toward one another so the fact that we do not apply them to other species is does not make those instances exceptions.

    Not that, personally, I have any problem with extending the right to life to other species.

    Show us discontinuities in time or how our ‘now’ is somehow privileged over all the other ‘nows’ that, from our perspective, there have been or ever will be and you will have gone a fair way towards demolishing the concept of timescape.

    You’ve already provided the logic for that, though I don’t prescribe to it myself. There is little difference between claiming an utmost importantce for the we as humans and the we in the now. Instead of using a baseless assumption, I’ll simply point out that there is no need to make the choice between our now, and a now that will never be. That seems to be an aspect of timescapes that you have yet to be able to grasp.

    In other words, you are unable to refute my argument that the unborn stage of the human lifecycle is inseparable from the post-natal stages other than for arbitrary purposes such allowing a woman to kill it when she sees fit.

    As for the free will implications, the pragmatic response is that since we don’t know what the future is going to be we might just as well act as if we have a choice as not and try do the right thing.

    Use it when it suits your purpose, and ignore it when it doesn’t…. Still the dishonesty. Yet, we do know what the future is going to be in some cases, particularly cases where we choose it, such as we might. Abortion happens to be one of those cases where we can know the fate of the “individual” you hold so dear.

    Yes, the outcome of an abortion is known. The question is whether or not we are entitled to bring about that outcome whilst simultaneously proclaiming a right to life.

    You really do like those dystopias, don’t you? Or is it back to some fear you have that you could have been aborted? Either way, this is a hand waving non-argument.

    We have enough examples of dystopias from human history not to take threat lightly. And one common characteristic of such regimes was that human life, in part or in whole, was held cheap, to be disposed of when it suited the whims or purposes of those who had power over it at the time.

    There is also the the possibility that affluent “first world” societies have reached the stage where women have finally achieved something approaching equality with men after centuries of oppression and that there are some sections of society who are prepared to grant them more latitude than perhaps they should just because they were oppressed and, in some parts of the world, still are.

    I was wondering when your misogyny was going to creep out again.

    It is not misogyny to require that pregnant women respect the right to life of others just as the rest of us do. It is a sort of inverse sexism to argue that women should automatically be exempt whenever they decide they don’t want to be pregnant any more.

  306. #306 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 16, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    And even assuming that such women constitute more than even a tiny percentage of women who have abortions, if you’re right, what kind of mothers do you suppose these women would make if forced to carry the pregnancy to term, hmm?

    Possibly not very good but there is nothing preventing her putting the child up for adoption, is there?

  307. #307 Azkyroth
    May 16, 2007

    If you accept the presumption of a human right to life then it becomes incumbent on you to show that an embryo which is biologically human in all significant reepects is somehow not human enough to qualify for the right to life.

    What part of “requires a functioning brain” was unclear?

    And if all moral positions are ultimately questions of faith which cannot be justified by any appeal to objective reality, then your justifications of abortion are just as unfounded as my rejection of it.

    All moral positions based on unevidenced assertions rooted in emotional biases and which explicitly reject the observable consequences of actions as guides to their morality are questions of faith. This subset does not exhaust all possible moral positions.

    In other words, you are unable to refute my argument that the unborn stage of the human lifecycle is inseparable from the post-natal stages other than for arbitrary purposes such allowing a woman to kill it when she sees fit.

    What part of “requires a functioning brain” was unclear?

    Incidentally, sperm and eggs are also inseparable from the human life cycle. Until you produce at least a half-assed supporting argument for your assertion that they are in SOME way different from a pre-viability embryo and therefore not subject to the same right to life, your argument will remain self-defeating.

    We have enough examples of dystopias from human history not to take threat lightly. And one common characteristic of such regimes was that human life, in part or in whole, was held cheap, to be disposed of when it suited the whims or purposes of those who had power over it at the time.

    “Human life” in the sense of a person, as opposed to simply a living, genetically human tumor. What part of “requires a functioning brain” was unclear?

    It is not misogyny to require that pregnant women respect the right to life of others just as the rest of us do. It is a sort of inverse sexism to argue that women should automatically be exempt whenever they decide they don’t want to be pregnant any more.

    And what if they never wanted to be pregnant? Oh, right, they had sex. “Filthy sluts (oops, did I say that out loud?)” *eyeroll* seriously, that’s what everyone here is hearing and while you perfunctorily deny feeling that way you’ve done nothing whatsoever to support your claims that this isn’t, contary to all appearances, the foundation of your argument.

    Anyway, you support the right of abortion in the case of rape, albeit with reservations. So answer me: how is it less of a violation to force a woman to carry a pregnancy against her will, if one’s role in the forcing takes the form of a court order three months into the pregnancy, than it is if one’s role in the forcing occurs at gunpoint on the night of conception?

  308. #308 D
    May 17, 2007

    If you accept the presumption of a human right to life then it becomes incumbent on you to show that an embryo which is biologically human in all significant reepects is somehow not human enough to qualify for the right to life.

    I don’t accept such presumptions by your definition of such, nor does anyone I’ve ever encountered. That is why it is your burden to give proof of your position. This is again an attempt on your part to equivocate the person and Homo sapiens meanings of human.

    And if all moral positions are ultimately questions of faith which cannot be justified by any appeal to objective reality, then your justifications of abortion are just as unfounded as my rejection of it.

    Just because you’re a faith based moralizer doesn’t mean everyone is Ian.

    Of course, but it means there is no objection in principle to granting the right to life to the unborn simply because they are unable to comprehend what they are being given.

    Either you continue to miss the point, or are purposefully evading it. You were once again attempting to use a social contract argument for giving embryos a right to life. I was once again pointing out why your argument was fallacious.

    Both the Right to Life and the Golden Rule, as commonly understood, are guidelines intended to regulate the behaviour of human beings toward one another so the fact that we do not apply them to other species is does not make those instances exceptions.
    Not that, personally, I have any problem with extending the right to life to other species.

    That is mostly true as long as you stick with “human beings” meaning people. Because you don’t stick with that definition, it isn’t true for your normal usage. Which means you’re trying to expand what is encompassed by “the Right to Life and the Golden Rule”, and thus you’re going to have to justify what you include and exclude? So far you haven’t been able to address this without resorted to fallacies or faith statements.

    In other words, you are unable to refute my argument that the unborn stage of the human lifecycle is inseparable from the post-natal stages other than for arbitrary purposes such allowing a woman to kill it when she sees fit.

    It is separable any time a zygote doesn’t develop to a stage where the resultant product can be classified as post-natal, regardless of the reason. You really just don’t understand the timescape concept you’re trying to use do you? The entire claim that an embryo should have a right to life based on it becoming a born person is completely dependent upon it reaching that latter state. Abortion insures that it won’t, thus it completely nullifies the claim. Your argument is self defeating.

    Yes, the outcome of an abortion is known. The question is whether or not we are entitled to bring about that outcome whilst simultaneously proclaiming a right to life.

    You’re the only one here wanting to proclaim a right to life to an embryo. That is the question we are addressing.

    We have enough examples of dystopias from human history not to take threat lightly. And one common characteristic of such regimes was that human life, in part or in whole, was held cheap, to be disposed of when it suited the whims or purposes of those who had power over it at the time.

    Well then, prove to us that embryos are people and perhaps we’ll share you concern. I won’t hold my breath. I’ll posit that the more unifying connection from history is actually ultra-authoritarianism and hierarchal social structures. So out of your fear of dystopias you might be better off being adamantly pro-choice.

    It is not misogyny to require that pregnant women respect the right to life of others just as the rest of us do. It is a sort of inverse sexism to argue that women should automatically be exempt whenever they decide they don’t want to be pregnant any more.

    Inverse sexism? Is that like reverse racism? It seems to be, since you’re claiming that not requiring women to go above and beyond while putting themselves at risk is giving them special privilege. Let’s spell it out for you again, since you seem to have trouble remembering. Even if one was to allow that an embryo has a right to life, there are generally two near universal situations that societies allow a right to life to be disregarded. One is as societal vengeance upon certain criminals which you are fond of. The other is when an individual is acting in defense. As a woman is an individual, the second instance is the relevant. Taking a life is permissible in defense when that is the level of force necessary to successfully defend from the assault or if the assault itself threatens to be fatal. As it would happen, both are applicable for a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant, but is. Any man who ever finds his body being used by another without his desire is equally entitled to defend himself, even if it requires taking a life, regardless of consent to anything prior that might have led to such a situation. That only women become pregnant is a fact of biology. It no more means women have a special privilege to murder when aborting a pregnancy than men have a special privilege to mass murder when ejaculating.

    Now there is another aspect to reality that demonstrates how wrong your claim is. Pregnant women are not the only ones killing an embryo in cases of abortion. Until recently, legal abortions were always performed by another person, frequently men. You can’t even peg the decision making solely upon women either. Beyond doctors having the right to decline if they desired, if you read the story linked in the OP, you’d see that even men have the right to make the decision regarding abortion. So you can’t factually claim women are being given special privilege.

    Where does your resentment come from Ian? Did a woman spurn you by not consenting to act as your broodmare? I simply ask because you’re sounding more like a MRA.

  309. #309 Ian H Spedding
    May 20, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    What part of “requires a functioning brain” was unclear?

    “Functioning” meaning what manner and degree of activity qualifies as functioning and “brain” meaning at what point does a cluster of neurons become a brain in your world?

    All moral positions based on unevidenced assertions rooted in emotional biases and which explicitly reject the observable consequences of actions as guides to their morality are questions of faith. This subset does not exhaust all possible moral positions.

    In the absence of any supreme moral authority such as a god, all we are left with are your “unevidenced assertions rooted in emotional biases”. Appealing to consequences is no escape either since classifying them as detrimental, neutral or beneficial are also value judgements we make in our own interests.

    There is no reason that a woman should be spared the burden of an unwanted pregnancy other than that you sympathize with her plight and both of you would prefer to spare her the discomfort and inconvenience. There is no reason that the unwanted embryo’s life should be spared other than that I believe that, to be consistent, the right to life should cover the entire human life-cycle, not just part of it. In the final analysis, there is no reason for the right to life itself other than that most human beings agree that there should be one.

    Incidentally, sperm and eggs are also inseparable from the human life cycle. Until you produce at least a half-assed supporting argument for your assertion that they are in SOME way different from a pre-viability embryo and therefore not subject to the same right to life, your argument will remain self-defeating.

    When a suspect is charged with murder, the offence is not one of having violated some nebulous abstraction such as the sanctity of human life but, rather, they are indicted with having unlawfully taken the life of a specific, individual human being.

    Rights, such as the right to life, apply to individual human beings and an individual human life, in my view, starts at conception. There are obviously uncounted trillions of human sperm and egg cells, most of which are, in principle, capable of coming together to begin the formation of human beings but it is only when one particular sperm fertilizes one particular egg at one particular time that the life-cycle of a specific, individual human being is initiated. And, as I have been pointing out ad nauseam, it is such an individual that is entitled to the right to life.

    And what if they never wanted to be pregnant? Oh, right, they had sex. “Filthy sluts (oops, did I say that out loud?)” *eyeroll* seriously, that’s what everyone here is hearing and while you perfunctorily deny feeling that way you’ve done nothing whatsoever to support your claims that this isn’t, contary to all appearances, the foundation of your argument.

    As far as I am concerned, women are as free as men to have sex whenever, wherever and with whoever they want. That is not the issue. The problem is that, if they become pregnant, is there just one life or two to consider? I say that there are two, both equally deserving of the right to life and that neither can be ended by human intervention except in some lesser-of-two-evils situation.

    I am all for doing whatever we can to ameliorate the suffering caused to the woman by being pregnant and, if the unborn child is unwanted, for removing it from her as soon as it is medically practicable and putting it up for adoption by someone who does want a child to raise as their own. I believe that there are a few such people around, in spite of the way you and your kind make it sound.

    Anyway, you support the right of abortion in the case of rape, albeit with reservations. So answer me: how is it less of a violation to force a woman to carry a pregnancy against her will, if one’s role in the forcing takes the form of a court order three months into the pregnancy, than it is if one’s role in the forcing occurs at gunpoint on the night of conception?

    Simply that, if the fetus has a right to life, the court order is enjoining her from taking any action that might violate that right. That the woman is being discomfited, inconvenienced and compelled to endure all the sufferings of pregnancy is not denied. What is being asserted, however, is that the unborn child’s right to life has priority over those lesser considerations.

  310. #310 Ian H Spedding
    May 20, 2007

    D wrote:

    I don’t accept such presumptions by your definition of such, nor does anyone I’ve ever encountered. That is why it is your burden to give proof of your position. This is again an attempt on your part to equivocate the person and Homo sapiens meanings of human.

    And you are begging the question by assuming that statements about how human beings ought to behave are as susceptible to being proven as statements about how the Universe is. There has been no equivocation on my part, however, since my argument has always been that qualification for the right to life is simply that of being an individual member of the biological species Homo Sapiens, nothing more, although I recognize that mine is a minority position at present.

    Just because you’re a faith based moralizer doesn’t mean everyone is Ian.

    You haven’t been reading. None of my arguments against abortion have been based on religious beliefs. I classify myself as agnostic since I believe it is the most rational philosophical standpoint but for all practical purposes I am atheist.

    Either you continue to miss the point, or are purposefully evading it. You were once again attempting to use a social contract argument for giving embryos a right to life. I was once again pointing out why your argument was fallacious.

    No, I was not, if for no other reason than that it is quite obvious that a fetus – like a newborn baby – is not capable of entering knowingly into a contractual arrangement of any kind.

    It is separable any time a zygote doesn’t develop to a stage where the resultant product can be classified as post-natal, regardless of the reason. You really just don’t understand the timescape concept you’re trying to use do you? The entire claim that an embryo should have a right to life based on it becoming a born person is completely dependent upon it reaching that latter state. Abortion insures that it won’t, thus it completely nullifies the claim. Your argument is self defeating.

    My argument has always been that, if the claim that it is wrong for one human being to wilfully and deliberately take the life of another without good cause applies to the major part of the human lifecycle, then why not the entire span, if we are to be consistent, since the timescape concept implies that a lifecycle is a whole that is only divisible on purely arbitrary grounds.

    You’re the only one here wanting to proclaim a right to life to an embryo. That is the question we are addressing.

    I agree that I appear to be in a minority of one here but that is secondary to the question of whether abortion is moral.

    Well then, prove to us that embryos are people and perhaps we’ll share you concern. I won’t hold my breath. I’ll posit that the more unifying connection from history is actually ultra-authoritarianism and hierarchal social structures. So out of your fear of dystopias you might be better off being adamantly pro-choice.

    I have no interest in proving that embryos are “people”, whatever that might mean. It is sufficient for my purpose that they can be classified simply as individual members of the biological species Home Sapiens since, in my view, that should be all that is required for them to be entitled to the right to life.

    Inverse sexism? Is that like reverse racism? It seems to be, since you’re claiming that not requiring women to go above and beyond while putting themselves at risk is giving them special privilege.

    If the fetus has the same right to life as the rest of us then arguing that women have right to kill them whenever they choose because women have been – and, in some areas, still are being – oppressed is perilously close to the argument that the law should be more lenient to blacks than whites because they also have been – and, in some places and ways, are still being oppressed. However well-intended, however “positive”, it is still discrimination and discrimination for one particular group means discrimination against other, less-favoured groups – which is wrong.

    Let’s spell it out for you again, since you seem to have trouble remembering. Even if one was to allow that an embryo has a right to life, there are generally two near universal situations that societies allow a right to life to be disregarded. One is as societal vengeance upon certain criminals which you are fond of. The other is when an individual is acting in defense. As a woman is an individual, the second instance is the relevant. Taking a life is permissible in defense when that is the level of force necessary to successfully defend from the assault or if the assault itself threatens to be fatal.

    Quite apart from the patent absurdity of the notion that a tiny cluster of cells has the physical capacity to carry out an assault on a woman who is many times its size, quite apart from the fact that the tiny cluster of cells is incapable of forming an intent to commit an assault, without which there is no crime, killing in self-defence is only permitted in circumstances where victims have a reasonable belief that their life is at risk and that killing the attacker is the only way to prevent themselves being killed. And, if you remember, I have already conceded that abortion is permissible in circumstances where the woman’s life is at risk.

    Now there is another aspect to reality that demonstrates how wrong your claim is. Pregnant women are not the only ones killing an embryo in cases of abortion. Until recently, legal abortions were always performed by another person, frequently men. You can’t even peg the decision making solely upon women either. Beyond doctors having the right to decline if they desired, if you read the story linked in the OP, you’d see that even men have the right to make the decision regarding abortion. So you can’t factually claim women are being given special privilege.

    Male doctors might carry out the procedure but in cases of elective abortion it usually at the behest of the woman but you are right in that men should have no more right to decide to kill the fetus than women.

  311. #311 D
    May 21, 2007

    Fundamentalists of all stripes really operate by the same disconnect to reality it seems. Cognitive dissonance, projection, internal contradictions; it’s all there in Ian’s posts. I feel like I’m watching some poor child desperately and repeatedly trying to force a square peg through a round hole. The repeated crimes of logic are getting tiresome, so I’ll try once again to focus on the root of things.

    In the absence of any supreme moral authority such as a god, all we are left with are your “unevidenced assertions rooted in emotional biases”. Appealing to consequences is no escape either since classifying them as detrimental, neutral or beneficial are also value judgements we make in our own interests.

    So your position if based on your self interest? How? Really, why do you hold the position you do? If you can give no evidentiary reasons for your position, what emotional basis has led you to it? And since you want your position enforced, how is it in everyone else’s interest?

    I’ll forgo the rest of the absurdities for now.

  312. #312 Azkyroth
    May 21, 2007

    “Functioning” meaning what manner and degree of activity qualifies as functioning and “brain” meaning at what point does a cluster of neurons become a brain in your world?

    By functioning brain, I mean that the brain structures known to be responsible for aspects of conscious thought are present, neurally connected, and active.

    In the absence of any supreme moral authority such as a god, all we are left with are your “unevidenced assertions rooted in emotional biases”. Appealing to consequences is no escape either since classifying them as detrimental, neutral or beneficial are also value judgements we make in our own interests.

    The only “unevidenced assertion rooted in emotional biases” that need be involved is “in general, people should be happy.” From this, an objective moral system can be derived with a moderate degree of thought and a willingness to discard irrational hangups. Your endorsement of moral relativism is self-defeating; why do you even bother, then?

    There is no reason that a woman should be spared the burden of an unwanted pregnancy other than that you sympathize with her plight and both of you would prefer to spare her the discomfort and inconvenience. There is no reason that the unwanted embryo’s life should be spared other than that I believe that, to be consistent, the right to life should cover the entire human life-cycle, not just part of it. In the final analysis, there is no reason for the right to life itself other than that most human beings agree that there should be one.

    Wrong; see above. As we have repeatedly pointed out, the “consequence” of allowing abortion is greater overall happiness for everyone concerned (including, in most cases, the hypothetical future child, since obviously an aborted fetus is incapable of suffering) and reduction of the problems associated with overpopulation, which are numerous and severe. The “consequence” of forbidding abortion is that your personal emotional hangups aren’t being tweaked, but the people actually involved will almost invariably suffer substantially. Assuming that “in general, people should be happy” no further unevidenced assertions are necessary.

    When a suspect is charged with murder, the offence is not one of having violated some nebulous abstraction such as the sanctity of human life but, rather, they are indicted with having unlawfully taken the life of a specific, individual human being.

    I fail to see the relevance of this point to your argument.

    Rights, such as the right to life, apply to individual human beings and an individual human life, in my view, starts at conception.

    Is there the slightest chance that you’re going to support this view without fallaciously equivocating, as D observed, between “human” meaning “person” and “human” meaning “Homo sapiens?”

    There are obviously uncounted trillions of human sperm and egg cells, most of which are, in principle, capable of coming together to begin the formation of human beings but it is only when one particular sperm fertilizes one particular egg at one particular time that the life-cycle of a specific, individual human being is initiated. And, as I have been pointing out ad nauseam, it is such an individual that is entitled to the right to life.

    Yes, you’ve been repeating that ad nauseum, much like an evangelist repeating “Jesus loves you!” and you’ve supported your position about as well. I have already explained my reasons for concluding that a nonviable embryo without functioning copies of the brain structures responsible for the traits that differentiate a sentient being (“person”) from a nonsentient being is not a person in either the legal or moral sense. So far what you’ve offered is essentially a gut reaction retroactively justified with poorly formulated claims about “rights.”

    As far as I am concerned, women are as free as men to have sex whenever, wherever and with whoever they want. That is not the issue. The problem is that, if they become pregnant, is there just one life or two to consider? I say that there are two, both equally deserving of the right to life and that neither can be ended by human intervention except in some lesser-of-two-evils situation.

    Such thoughts are akin to mine, except that my view of “the lesser of two evils” is based on the actual suffering of actual human beings, whereas yours is based on what squicks you, personally, a man who will never face an unintended pregnancy and clearly has no empathy whatsoever for women who may.

    I am all for doing whatever we can to ameliorate the suffering caused to the woman by being pregnant and, if the unborn child is unwanted, for removing it from her as soon as it is medically practicable and putting it up for adoption by someone who does want a child to raise as their own. I believe that there are a few such people around, in spite of the way you and your kind make it sound.

    Odd. I seem to recall something about an overcrowded and underfunded foster care system. If those people are around why don’t they adopt one of those kids?

    Simply that, if the fetus has a right to life, the court order is enjoining her from taking any action that might violate that right. That the woman is being discomfited, inconvenienced and compelled to endure all the sufferings of pregnancy is not denied. What is being asserted, however, is that the unborn child’s right to life has priority over those lesser considerations.

    Your claim that forced motherhood is the lesser of two evils and description of forced pregnancy as an “inconvenience” is tantamount to a denial (or a “*sticks fingers in ears* LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!!!”) of the actual considerations involved, and I note once again that this is an argument you almost certainly would never make if there was a chance that you would personally be forced to carry a pregnancy.

    You didn’t answer my question. How is it less of a violation (your argument is that the violation is justified, which of course begs the question of why rape isn’t, in your view)?

  313. #313 Anton Mates
    May 21, 2007

    Another point to consider is that elective abortion could easily become one arm of an informal eugenics program once geneticists are able to give parents a detailed ‘profile’ of their unborn child. I don’t think it is too far-fetched to imagine some parents deciding to abort, to use a slightly silly example, on the basis of whether or not the child is predicted to become a ‘jock’ or a ‘nerd’.

    Ah, I see. When parents become more satisfied with their children, can the rise of the Antichrist be far behind?

    Seriously, the word “eugenics” does not make an argument by itself. There are several good reasons why most past eugenics programs ranged from merely ill-advised to atrocities–they involved violations of bodily autonomy, poor understanding of science, covert class and racial warfare, and occasionally outright mass murder (of sentient humans, I might add). None of them explain why successfully improving the genetic lot of your own kids would be a terrible thing.

    We have enough examples of dystopias from human history not to take threat lightly. And one common characteristic of such regimes was that human life, in part or in whole, was held cheap, to be disposed of when it suited the whims or purposes of those who had power over it at the time.

    That’s a useful sort of argument. Let’s see: historical dystopias have invariably failed to respect the sanctity of human-and-hedgehog life, so if we don’t grant hedgehogs rights, we’re halfway there!

    But you haven’t actually listed what societies you’re considering as dystopias, so we can’t even properly evaluate that claim; how many societies before 400 years ago or so didn’t hold human life cheap? Come to think of it, the rise of Christianity and Islam in Roman and Hellenistic societies brought increased condemnation of infanticide, suicide, abortion and euthanasia; but I would not say that overall those religions moved their societies away from dystopia.

    It is not misogyny to require that pregnant women respect the right to life of others just as the rest of us do. It is a sort of inverse sexism to argue that women should automatically be exempt whenever they decide they don’t want to be pregnant any more.

    Even I start to suspect misogyny when you attribute abortion rights support to “inverse sexism.” Has anyone here suggested that men wouldn’t deserve autonomy over their pregnancies if they could have them?

    There are obviously uncounted trillions of human sperm and egg cells, most of which are, in principle, capable of coming together to begin the formation of human beings but it is only when one particular sperm fertilizes one particular egg at one particular time that the life-cycle of a specific, individual human being is initiated.

    This claim was first refuted on this thread almost a month ago, using the example of identical twins. So far as I can see, you only dealt with it by a) invoking a completely different criterion of “distinct spacetime trajectories” and b) asking that we accept that you’re right before we try to figure out how to fit twins in.

    Quite apart from the patent absurdity of the notion that a tiny cluster of cells has the physical capacity to carry out an assault on a woman who is many times its size,

    Yes, all tiny clusters of cells are harmless. Silly doctors, worrying about bacteria and carcinomas.

    quite apart from the fact that the tiny cluster of cells is incapable of forming an intent to commit an assault, without which there is no crime,

    What? Your attacker doesn’t have to be intentionally committing a crime to justify self-defense. You’re allowed to shoot someone’s dog if it goes for your throat.

    killing in self-defence is only permitted in circumstances where victims have a reasonable belief that their life is at risk and that killing the attacker is the only way to prevent themselves being killed.

    Not true. See: stand-your-ground laws (which I don’t personally support) and the Castle Doctrine. We generally recognize that people do not have to retreat from attackers within their own home (and, in some states, their own car, etc.) but can use deadly force to avoid the perceived threat of grave bodily harm. Should they not have that right if the attacker is within their own body?

    And, if you remember, I have already conceded that abortion is permissible in circumstances where the woman’s life is at risk.

    The woman’s life is always at risk. Pharyngula had an article on that recently. Maternal mortality rates range from about 1/25000 in a couple of European countries, to 1/6000 or so in the US, to 1/50 in Sierra Leone. Pregnancy is inherently dangerous.

  314. #314 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 24, 2007

    D wrote:

    In the absence of any supreme moral authority such as a god, all we are left with are your “unevidenced assertions rooted in emotional biases”. Appealing to consequences is no escape either since classifying them as detrimental, neutral or beneficial are also value judgements we make in our own interests.

    So your position if based on your self interest? How? Really, why do you hold the position you do? If you can give no evidentiary reasons for your position, what emotional basis has led you to it? And since you want your position enforced, how is it in everyone else’s interest?

    Perhaps if you were less fixated on “cognitive dissonance” and paid more attention to the ‘is/ought problem’ and the naturalistic fallacy you would give up your futile demands for evidence or proof of that for which there can be no evidence and which cannot be proven.

    As a simple illustration, is the observation that lions kill antelope in any way evidence for – or, if you prefer, proof of – the proposition that killing antelope is morally the right thing to do? Does that observation mean that you or I are justified in killing antelope or are even ethically bound to do to? If so, describe the chain of reasoning which connects description to prescription. Bear in mind that, if one of those lions kills a man, we might shoot it but we do not arrest it and bring it to court to be charged with murder, but if you or I were to do the same thing, without good cause, we would stand trial.

    If a scientist constructs a theory of gravity to explain why an apocryphal apple fell on his head, it is possible to find evidence for the theory because it is a description and explanation of what is. We can find innumerable examples of apples falling to the ground but none, so far, where they have floated up into space unaided; we can investigate whether the explanation of how massive bodies exert an attractive force on each other works in other instances. But suppose one of the scientist’s religious friends claimed that an apple falling to the ground is evil, that it ought not to happen, how could that be ‘proven’?

    You can find evidence for whether or not something exists but not for whether or not it is ethical or moral. Those are value judgements we make about the world and, like beauty, are not objective properties but exist only in the eye of the beholder. We can prove such beliefs exist and, possibly, why we hold them but not whether or not they are true in any meaningful sense.

    I cannot ‘prove’ that a fetus has right to life which prevents us from killing it, other than in certain exceptional circumstances, any more than you can ‘prove’ that no such right exists and abortion is morally unexceptionable. In the end, this is about rhetoric rather than reason. Both sides are arguing to sway an audience rather than establish either proposition as objectively true – and, to judge by the legal position and the opinion polls, thus far you side has had the better of it.

  315. #315 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 24, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    By functioning brain, I mean that the brain structures known to be responsible for aspects of conscious thought are present, neurally connected, and active.

    So what? My cats – supposedly – have smaller brains than mine but still, when fully functioning, exhibit clear signs of consciousness. Does that make them human and entitled to the right to life?

    The only “unevidenced assertion rooted in emotional biases” that need be involved is “in general, people should be happy.”

    Says who? Says us, that’s who – unless you can point to someone or something who has a better claim to moral authority.

    From this, an objective moral system can be derived with a moderate degree of thought and a willingness to discard irrational hangups. Your endorsement of moral relativism is self-defeating; why do you even bother, then?

    Perhaps I haven’t been paying sufficiently close attention but I don’t remember you claiming to belong to a particular faith, because the only way to escape from moral relativism is to posit the existence of a deity who has the wisdom and power to impose a moral code on us by divine fiat.

    As we have repeatedly pointed out, the “consequence” of allowing abortion is greater overall happiness for everyone concerned (including, in most cases, the hypothetical future child, since obviously an aborted fetus is incapable of suffering) and reduction of the problems associated with overpopulation, which are numerous and severe. The “consequence” of forbidding abortion is that your personal emotional hangups aren’t being tweaked, but the people actually involved will almost invariably suffer substantially. Assuming that “in general, people should be happy” no further unevidenced assertions are necessary.

    I am glad to see that at least you admit that “in general, people should be happy” is an unevidenced assertion. That makes any highly-questionable claims that permitting elective abortion increases the general happiness – even assuming it is possible to make any objective measure of such a nebulous property – completely irrelevant.

    I have already explained my reasons for concluding that a nonviable embryo without functioning copies of the brain structures responsible for the traits that differentiate a sentient being (“person”) from a nonsentient being is not a person in either the legal or moral sense. So far what you’ve offered is essentially a gut reaction retroactively justified with poorly formulated claims about “rights.”

    Yes, an embryo whose brain is not developing properly is functionally and structurally different from one whose brain is developing properly. It is also different from a fully-sentient human adult. That is what is. What does it have to do with what ought to be? How is it evidence for or against the proposition that a fetus ought to have the right to life?

    Such thoughts are akin to mine, except that my view of “the lesser of two evils” is based on the actual suffering of actual human beings, whereas yours is based on what squicks you, personally, a man who will never face an unintended pregnancy and clearly has no empathy whatsoever for women who may.

    …and if the fetus has no right to life then the suffering of the mother can indeed be the deciding factor. But if the fetus does have the right to life…?

    Odd. I seem to recall something about an overcrowded and underfunded foster care system. If those people are around why don’t they adopt one of those kids?

    If the healthcare system is under strain, does that mean that we should simply do away with some of the potential patients or would it be better to try and fix the system?

    You didn’t answer my question. How is it less of a violation (your argument is that the violation is justified, which of course begs the question of why rape isn’t, in your view)?

    Rape is an unjustified violation of the woman’s rights. The rapist has no right whatsoever do do what he does to the victim. In the case of abortion however, yes, of course the mother has her rights but there is also a fetus to consider which, in my view, also has the right to life.

  316. #316 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2007

    holy crap, this is STILL going?

    If you’re this dogged about your non-belief structure, I would be seriously concerned at this point if I were you, Ian.

    you’re not going to convince anybody here.

    and if you think this is somehow progress:

    I am glad to see that at least you admit that “in general, people should be happy” is an unevidenced assertion.

    I’d be even more concerned, if I were you.

    but, what the hell, push on Quixote.

  317. #317 PZ Myers
    May 24, 2007

    I really am going to have to do another pro-choice post soon, just to give Ian some fresh thread to chew on. It shouldn’t be hard — this one was one sentence with a link and it got 300+ comments!

  318. #318 Azkyroth
    May 25, 2007

    Ian: I’ve already resolved the “is/ought” problem, or at least identified where I switch from the former to the latter. You have also identified where you switch from the former to the latter, “anywhere it makes me personally uncomfortable,” though you refuse to unambiguously admit to this.

    the only way to escape from moral relativism is to posit the existence of a deity who has the wisdom and power to impose a moral code on us by divine fiat.

    I don’t accept this premise and your acceptance of it makes you honorarily the first person I’ve ever met who fits the description of “atheist fundamentalist.” I have already explained why I don’t believe that a deity is necessary for an objective morality to exist and you dealt with it……did you? I’m trying to remember.

    Rape is an unjustified violation of the woman’s rights. The rapist has no right whatsoever do do what he does to the victim. In the case of abortion however, yes, of course the mother has her rights but there is also a fetus to consider which, in my view, also has the right to life.

    That’s nice. What’s the difference? If the fetus has a “right” to be born that supersedes the mother’s rights except the right to not be killed, then the rapist is protecting it just as much as the judge who denies the woman an abortion, since you’ve already asserted that a “potential” person is morally equivalent to an actual person.

    PZ: Please do. I’m getting tired of having to refresh this one in a separate window x.x

  319. #319 D
    May 25, 2007

    Perhaps if you were less fixated on “cognitive dissonance” and paid more attention to the ‘is/ought problem’ and the naturalistic fallacy you would give up your futile demands for evidence or proof of that for which there can be no evidence and which cannot be proven.

    I’m not asking for evidence or proof anymore Ian. You’ve made it quite clear that your position is faith based and thus lacking such. And you have claimed that you hold that position out of self interest, so I’m asking for your reasons underlying the position you hold, how it serves your self interest. You go through such great efforts to evade addressing that I am lead to think you either have never examined your reasons or know they aren’t very good reasons.

    So once again: How is it in your self interest to have society consider abortion illegal? How is it in anyone else’s interest for the same?

    I cannot ‘prove’ that a fetus has right to life which prevents us from killing it, other than in certain exceptional circumstances, any more than you can ‘prove’ that no such right exists and abortion is morally unexceptionable. In the end, this is about rhetoric rather than reason. Both sides are arguing to sway an audience rather than establish either proposition as objectively true – and, to judge by the legal position and the opinion polls, thus far you side has had the better of it.

    Bold mine. This is another problem with your entire tactic. If you reduce the consideration of morality to such a meaningless point, then it ceases to matter at all. There is no longer a reason for anyone, especially not society at large to care what occurs. Of course you are wrong. There are definitely reasons for each stance. It is only that your side’s reasons are not compelling in modern society, thus you must rely upon “rhetoric” to confuse people.

    PZ: But we’re making such progress here. Another post means we’d have to start all over again.

  320. #320 Anton Mates
    May 25, 2007

    You can find evidence for whether or not something exists but not for whether or not it is ethical or moral. Those are value judgements we make about the world and, like beauty, are not objective properties but exist only in the eye of the beholder. We can prove such beliefs exist and, possibly, why we hold them but not whether or not they are true in any meaningful sense.

    I agree. However, we can explore internal consistency and investigate whether a particular code of ethics accurately predicts our moral reactions to a given scenario.

    I cannot ‘prove’ that a fetus has right to life which prevents us from killing it, other than in certain exceptional circumstances, any more than you can ‘prove’ that no such right exists and abortion is morally unexceptionable. In the end, this is about rhetoric rather than reason.

    The last claim doesn’t follow. Even if objective proof is not possible, it’s perfectly rational to find out if we share common moral principles, and, if so, to see whose positions are more consistent with them. Of course, we might turn out not to have any common ground, but it’s worth looking into.

    So what? My cats – supposedly – have smaller brains than mine but still, when fully functioning, exhibit clear signs of consciousness. Does that make them human and entitled to the right to life?

    That makes them more similar to humans than is an embryo, and therefore more deserving of a right to life. I don’t think they’re mentally developed enough to merit equal legal protection with humans, but you need a reasonably good justification to harm a cat.

    Perhaps I haven’t been paying sufficiently close attention but I don’t remember you claiming to belong to a particular faith, because the only way to escape from moral relativism is to posit the existence of a deity who has the wisdom and power to impose a moral code on us by divine fiat.

    A deity can’t resolve the relativism problem. Doesn’t matter how intelligent and knowledgeable and powerful they are, they can’t dictate right and wrong any more than my dog can. They can merely enforce their opinion more effectively.

    If the healthcare system is under strain, does that mean that we should simply do away with some of the potential patients or would it be better to try and fix the system?

    Both. Preventing people from being in ill-health in the first place is as important as curing them. Of course, I know what you’re implying by “do away with,” but since that’s the part of the analogy we reject…

  321. #321 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 29, 2007

    Anton Mates wrote:

    Seriously, the word “eugenics” does not make an argument by itself. There are several good reasons why most past eugenics programs ranged from merely ill-advised to atrocities–they involved violations of bodily autonomy, poor understanding of science, covert class and racial warfare, and occasionally outright mass murder (of sentient humans, I might add). None of them explain why successfully improving the genetic lot of your own kids would be a terrible thing.

    Eugenics programs make choices available and that, in turn, raises the question of who makes the choices and on what grounds. You may say that the parents should be entitled to make those choices and, on the face of it, I would agree.

    But consider what would happen if those choices were made available to parents in those parts of the world where they believe that only male children have any value, that female children are an economic and social burden they would rather do without. It takes little effort to imagine the serious imbalance between the sexes that could arise and the social problems that could ensue. And, yes, I am aware of the argument that such imbalances would ultimately be self-correcting but that would be of little comfort to those caught up in the disruption and your concern, I believe, was for a happier outcome for all concerned.

    Government control of such programs would be no better, either. The authorities could argue with some justification that leaving such choices in the hands of individuals who, not unnaturally, place the interests of their own children over those of society at large is a threat to social order that they have a duty to prevent. But would anyone these days trust any government enough to hand such power over to them?

    So who gets to decide?

    Even I start to suspect misogyny when you attribute abortion rights support to “inverse sexism.” Has anyone here suggested that men wouldn’t deserve autonomy over their pregnancies if they could have them?

    I thought I had made my position clear but let me try again. Just about everyone I have encountered here seems like a perfectly decent person who is as deeply opposed to unnecessary killing as I am, yet they will go through no end of philosophical and scientific contortions to pretend that the fetus carried by a pregnant woman is not human in any significant or meaningful sense and, consequently, not worthy of the protection of the right to life. Why?

    If a father were to take an instant dislike to his newborn baby and killed it we would all be rightly outraged. Yet a woman can decide to do the same thing to her unborn child and pro-choicers treat it as being of no more consequence than the excision of a benign growth. There is a clear double-standard here on the part of pro-choicers which privileges women over everyone else on this issue of killing, apparently because they are women and there is guilt about the oppression they have suffered at the hands of men in the past and which is still happening to some extent.

    This claim was first refuted on this thread almost a month ago, using the example of identical twins. So far as I can see, you only dealt with it by a) invoking a completely different criterion of “distinct spacetime trajectories” and b) asking that we accept that you’re right before we try to figure out how to fit twins in.

    The problem with identical twins is in your mind not mine. If a single fertilization leads to just one individual or two or three or however many matters nothing since one and all are entitled to the right to life.

    What? Your attacker doesn’t have to be intentionally committing a crime to justify self-defense. You’re allowed to shoot someone’s dog if it goes for your throat.

    We are not talking about killing dogs, we are talking about killing human beings, Even if we were talking about killing dogs the situation you have just described posits a threat to the life of the victim and I have already conceded that killing is justified in the defence of one’s own life, which is why I have no problem with medical exemptions to abortion.

    We generally recognize that people do not have to retreat from attackers within their own home (and, in some states, their own car, etc.) but can use deadly force to avoid the perceived threat of grave bodily harm. Should they not have that right if the attacker is within their own body?

    First, a fetus is not an adult human being capable of being held responsible for any criminal behavior, second, it did not gain unlawful entry to the woman’s body as some form of criminal enterprise and, third, one more time, the woman is allowed effectively to defend herself under the medical exemption.

    The woman’s life is always at risk. Pharyngula had an article on that recently. Maternal mortality rates range from about 1/25000 in a couple of European countries, to 1/6000 or so in the US, to 1/50 in Sierra Leone. Pregnancy is inherently dangerous.

    …so is driving a car or smoking or drinking or simply staying at home. Being alive is inherently dangerous. So what?

  322. #322 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 29, 2007

    Ichthyic wrote:

    If you’re this dogged about your non-belief structure, I would be seriously concerned at this point if I were you, Ian.

    Hey! Why pick on me? I’m not in here talking to myself, you know. There are three or four others being just as stubborn as I am.

  323. #323 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 29, 2007

    PZ Myers wrote:

    I really am going to have to do another pro-choice post soon, just to give Ian some fresh thread to chew on. It shouldn’t be hard — this one was one sentence with a link and it got 300+ comments!

    I was aiming for 400, at least, but I think the others are beginning to weaken.

  324. #324 Azkyroth
    May 29, 2007

    I thought I had made my position clear but let me try again. Just about everyone I have encountered here seems like a perfectly decent person who is as deeply opposed to unnecessary killing as I am, yet they will go through no end of philosophical and scientific contortions to pretend that the fetus carried by a pregnant woman is not human in any significant or meaningful sense and, consequently, not worthy of the protection of the right to life. Why?

    “No end of philosophical and scientific contortions?” Wow…I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone outside the creationist movement spin the observation that they had been called on failing to meet the burden of proof for their claims and subsequently attempting to shift said burden in quite that way before… (Yes, the onus in you to produce a coherent set of criteria according to which a developing embryo is a “human being” but a tumor is not, without appealing to the postulated existence of a soul since you claim to be an atheist, and you have failed abysmally).

    If a father were to take an instant dislike to his newborn baby and killed it we would all be rightly outraged. Yet a woman can decide to do the same thing to her unborn child and pro-choicers treat it as being of no more consequence than the excision of a benign growth. There is a clear double-standard here on the part of pro-choicers which privileges women over everyone else on this issue of killing, apparently because they are women and there is guilt about the oppression they have suffered at the hands of men in the past and which is still happening to some extent.

    This is only a valid argument if one accepts your unevidenced assertion that a pre-birth or even pre-viability embryo is in a meaningful sense equivalent to a born child, which we don’t, for reasons we have explained and you have failed to engage effectively, and instead persist in fielding arguments like this one that assume what you can’t be bothered to prove. Shorter Ian Spedding: “*plugs ears* LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!”

    so is driving a car or smoking or drinking or simply staying at home. Being alive is inherently dangerous. So what?

    So, aside from the loud boom caused by air rushing into the space your claims to favor permitting abortion when the mother is endangered suddenly vanished from, this doesn’t help your case, unless you mean to tell us that you believe laws forcing people to smoke, drink, or drive cars against their will due to contrived and incoherent arguments about “lesser evil” and “timescapes” are ethical and sound.

  325. #325 Anton Mates
    May 29, 2007

    Eugenics programs make choices available and that, in turn, raises the question of who makes the choices and on what grounds. You may say that the parents should be entitled to make those choices and, on the face of it, I would agree.

    But consider what would happen if those choices were made available to parents in those parts of the world where they believe that only male children have any value, that female children are an economic and social burden they would rather do without. It takes little effort to imagine the serious imbalance between the sexes that could arise and the social problems that could ensue.

    It takes no effort; this is already happening. Sex selected abortion is common in both China and India, thanks to ultrasound. And a skewed sex ratio is certainly a problem.

    Before you conclude that banning abortion would solve this, note that these are societies where sex selected infanticide and murder of older female children are also common. Many of the female fetuses which are aborted would otherwise survive past birth and then be killed anyway; a greater evil, since they would be at least semisentient at that point, and in the meantime a pointless pregnancy and childbirth would drain resources and constitute needless suffering. And the sex ratio would remain skewed.

    There are other possible solutions; India has banned ultrasound machines (with dubious success), and I believe both countries are attempting to combat the underlying belief that male children are more valuable (as well as the social conditions that support such a belief.) In any event, this argument does not apply to Europe and North America, where IIRC infanticide rates are actually slightly skewed toward male children. There is certainly no reason to think legal abortion here leads to a skewed sex ratio.

    Government control of such programs would be no better, either. The authorities could argue with some justification that leaving such choices in the hands of individuals who, not unnaturally, place the interests of their own children over those of society at large is a threat to social order that they have a duty to prevent. But would anyone these days trust any government enough to hand such power over to them?

    If it becomes necessary for a government to restrict parental choice on this issue, it doesn’t follow that the government would itself have the power of choice. For instance, by banning ultrasound, the Indian government attempts to restrict its parents’ ability to choose abortion based on fetal gender. But that doesn’t give the Indian government any more power of discrimination in that regard–they don’t mandate or prohibit abortions directly, nor do they know anything more about the gender of a given fetus than do the parents.

    I thought I had made my position clear but let me try again. Just about everyone I have encountered here seems like a perfectly decent person who is as deeply opposed to unnecessary killing as I am, yet they will go through no end of philosophical and scientific contortions to pretend that the fetus carried by a pregnant woman is not human in any significant or meaningful sense and, consequently, not worthy of the protection of the right to life. Why?

    The obvious answer would be “We believe that this fetus is not human in any significant or meaningful sense.” For someone who believes in subjective morality, it’s rather surprising that you have such difficulty accepting this answer.

    If a father were to take an instant dislike to his newborn baby and killed it we would all be rightly outraged. Yet a woman can decide to do the same thing to her unborn child and pro-choicers treat it as being of no more consequence than the excision of a benign growth. There is a clear double-standard here on the part of pro-choicers which privileges women over everyone else on this issue of killing, apparently because they are women and there is guilt about the oppression they have suffered at the hands of men in the past and which is still happening to some extent.

    If a woman were to take an instant dislike to her newborn baby and killed it we would also all be outraged. Hence you have no reason to infer a double standard with respect to parental gender. Your insistence on doing so, again, strongly implies misogyny.

    The problem with identical twins is in your mind not mine. If a single fertilization leads to just one individual or two or three or however many matters nothing since one and all are entitled to the right to life.

    This is inconsistent with what you said earlier:

    “That is how we all started as individuals. Our parents had many sperm and eggs capable of forming many individual human beings but each of us began with the fertilization of a specific egg by specific sperm at a specific time.”

    Now you are conceding that fertilization need not be “how we all started as individuals.” So what is its relevance to your standard for the right to life? Why, for the thousandth time, is fertilization the critical point in the human life cycle where rights should be granted, as opposed to implantation or meiosis II or any other point?

    What? Your attacker doesn’t have to be intentionally committing a crime to justify self-defense. You’re allowed to shoot someone’s dog if it goes for your throat.

    We are not talking about killing dogs, we are talking about killing human beings,

    No, we are talking about killing cell colonies which are far less capable of thought or feeling than a dog. But this is irrelevant. You claimed that criminal intent of the attacker was necessary to justify self-defense; it’s not.

    Even if we were talking about killing dogs the situation you have just described posits a threat to the life of the victim and I have already conceded that killing is justified in the defence of one’s own life, which is why I have no problem with medical exemptions to abortion.

    The situation doesn’t require a threat to life, just a reasonable judgment on the defender’s part that they’re at risk of grave harm.

    First, a fetus is not an adult human being capable of being held responsible for any criminal behavior, second, it did not gain unlawful entry to the woman’s body as some form of criminal enterprise

    Again, whether or not the attacker has criminal intent is not relevant.

    and, third, one more time, the woman is allowed effectively to defend herself under the medical exemption.

    See above or below.

    The woman’s life is always at risk. Pharyngula had an article on that recently. Maternal mortality rates range from about 1/25000 in a couple of European countries, to 1/6000 or so in the US, to 1/50 in Sierra Leone. Pregnancy is inherently dangerous.

    …so is driving a car or smoking or drinking or simply staying at home. Being alive is inherently dangerous. So what?

    So your medical exemption would apply to every pregnancy. Otherwise, you have to specify the degree of risk which justifies abortion, and explain why it is or isn’t the same degree of risk which justifies, say, infanticide or the murder of an adult relative.

    And this brings us back to the post which started this thread: namely, that if you think a degree X of risk justifies abortion, you’ll need to set the law to permit some degree less than X, or else women will be left in danger too long while the medical professionals try to decide whether they’re clearly, blatantly, prosecution-immunely past the X point.

  326. #326 Ichthyic
    May 29, 2007

    Ian:

    Hey! Why pick on me? I’m not in here talking to myself, you know. There are three or four others being just as stubborn as I am.

    followed IMMEDIATELY by:

    I was aiming for 400, at least, but I think the others are beginning to weaken.

    are you SURE you can’t see why I pick you out of the bunch?

    shall we examine your behavior on other threads of this nature as well?

    you really have your headly firmly planted up there, don’t you.

  327. #327 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 29, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    …the only way to escape from moral relativism is to posit the existence of a deity who has the wisdom and power to impose a moral code on us by divine fiat.

    I don’t accept this premise and your acceptance of it makes you honorarily the first person I’ve ever met who fits the description of “atheist fundamentalist.”

    Wow!

    Does that mean you put me in the same category as PZ, Larry Moran and Richard Dawkins?

    I’m flattered.

    I think.

    Rape is an unjustified violation of the woman’s rights. The rapist has no right whatsoever do do what he does to the victim. In the case of abortion however, yes, of course the mother has her rights but there is also a fetus to consider which, in my view, also has the right to life.

    That’s nice. What’s the difference? If the fetus has a “right” to be born that supersedes the mother’s rights except the right to not be killed, then the rapist is protecting it just as much as the judge who denies the woman an abortion, since you’ve already asserted that a “potential” person is morally equivalent to an actual person.

    The difference is that the rapist is not protecting anything when he commits the rape. There is no fertilized egg at that point, let alone a fetus, and there is no right to force himself on a woman in order to create one.

    However, in the unfortunate situation where a pregnancy does follow from a rape, a new human life has begun and I believe that it is entitled to the protection of the right to that life. It had no choice in the manner of its conception and it should not be penalised for an offence in which it was not involved in any way.

  328. #328 Azkyroth, FCD
    May 30, 2007

    Does that mean you put me in the same category as PZ, Larry Moran and Richard Dawkins?

    No. They arrived at their views through an honest evaluation of the evidence, can and do support their views coherently and substantially, and would change their views if sufficient evidence were found to contradict them.

    The difference is that the rapist is not protecting anything when he commits the rape. There is no fertilized egg at that point, let alone a fetus, and there is no right to force himself on a woman in order to create one.

    And how do you justify drawing the line at conception, in light of the numerous arguments against it that you have failed to address? Why are a sperm and egg less of a “potential human being” in your view than a blastula or embryo? I KNOW you think they’re different in a sense in which an embryo and a born child are the same, but so far the only reasons you’ve offered for WHY you think that boil down to “emotional knee-jerk reaction.”

    However, in the unfortunate situation where a pregnancy does follow from a rape, a new human life has begun and I believe that it is entitled to the protection of the right to that life. It had no choice in the manner of its conception and it should not be penalised for an offence in which it was not involved in any way.

    That’s not what I recall you saying earlier, but it’s perfectly in keeping with your contempt for the psychological and material well-being of women. At least you’re starting to stumble towards consistency.

  329. #329 Ichthyic
    May 30, 2007

    At least you’re starting to stumble towards consistency.

    …and it only took what, 300 + posts?

    just think, at that rate he’ll start making sense somewhere around post 6000!

  330. #330 windy
    May 30, 2007

    However, in the unfortunate situation where a pregnancy does follow from a rape, a new human life has begun and I believe that it is entitled to the protection of the right to that life.

    And then what? The woman is obligated to care for the rapists’s baby for the next 18 years? Or is there also a right to adoption parents?

    If you are married and your wife gets raped and pregnant, do you care for the resultant baby as your own, with no regrets at all?

  331. #331 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 30, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    “No end of philosophical and scientific contortions?” Wow…I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone outside the creationist movement spin the observation that they had been called on failing to meet the burden of proof for their claims and subsequently attempting to shift said burden in quite that way before… (Yes, the onus in you to produce a coherent set of criteria according to which a developing embryo is a “human being” but a tumor is not, without appealing to the postulated existence of a soul since you claim to be an atheist, and you have failed abysmally).

    Plainly, you do not understand the nature of the ‘is/ought problem’, nor have you been reading John Pieret’s discussion of the “burden of proof” question in the Cracks in the Pot thread on his blog.

    In the first place, the burden only attaches if the intention is to persuade an audience that a claim has merit. Since both sides in this debate are trying to persuade the other of the superiority of their position, both sides are tacitly agreeing to shoulder the burden if they believe such a requirement exists.

    In the second place, the “burden of proof” assumes that the claim is one which is capable of being proven true or false. If someone asserts that in the US today there are religious sects which practice polygamy, that claim can be proven true or false by finding evidence that the named sect exists and that at least some of its male adherents have more than one wife. But if someone then says that polygamy is immoral, how can you prove a what is really a personal value judgement to be true or false? You can show that there are moral codes and religious doctrines which hold that polygamy is immoral but how do you show that all or any of them are true – whatever that might mean in this context?

    In the third place, assigning the burden of proof to one’s opponents is usually nothing more than a simple debating tactic. The purpose is to force them on to the defensive and make them appear ineffectual because they will never be able to meet a burden of proof the test of which almost certainly has not been defined in advance.

    Put simply, neither side has met the “burden of proof”, nor is it ever likely to, because the only measure of success is what the other side decides it will accept.

  332. #332 Azkyroth
    May 30, 2007

    In the second place, the “burden of proof” assumes that the claim is one which is capable of being proven true or false. If someone asserts that in the US today there are religious sects which practice polygamy, that claim can be proven true or false by finding evidence that the named sect exists and that at least some of its male adherents have more than one wife. But if someone then says that polygamy is immoral, how can you prove a what is really a personal value judgement to be true or false? You can show that there are moral codes and religious doctrines which hold that polygamy is immoral but how do you show that all or any of them are true – whatever that might mean in this context?

    Wrong.

    Moral claims ARE capable of being proven true and false because the tangible effects of acting as a given moral claim dictates we should act can be observed and in many cases measured. If these effects are to increase suffering and reduce happiness, the moral claim is clearly incorrect. If a speculative moral claim is incompatible with moral propositions that have been tested and found to be highly conducive to human welfare, there is cause to be very skeptical about it. Your attitude on reproductive choice falls into both categories. Rejecting this argument because the axiom “happiness is desirable” is an “unproven assertion” is illogical unless you also reject empirical claims because the axioms “an external world exists” and “our senses, while imperfect, tell us something useful about its nature” are “unproven assertions.”

    “In general, people should be happy” is the best solution to the is-ought problem I have ever seen, and I contend it is sound because the similarity of other human consciousnesses humans to any given human consciousness can be demonstrated, and any given human instinctively accepts the proposition “in general, I should be happy” as axiomatic. If you’ve got a better solution, by all means state it, but don’t pretend the problem’s insoluble when a viable solution has been repeatedly articulated, and don’t pretend that the above solution is no more valid than your implicit “things that make me personally uncomfortable ought not to be allowed no matter how they affect the lives of others.”

  333. #333 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 30, 2007

    Anton Mates wrote

    Before you conclude that banning abortion would solve this, note that these are societies where sex selected infanticide and murder of older female children are also common. Many of the female fetuses which are aborted would otherwise survive past birth and then be killed anyway; a greater evil, since they would be at least semisentient at that point, and in the meantime a pointless pregnancy and childbirth would drain resources and constitute needless suffering. And the sex ratio would remain skewed.

    So the argument is that it is better to abort a fetus in order to spare it the greater pain of being murdered by its parents after birth? Well, at least it has the merit of being one of the less common defences of abortion. Of course, the better solution, since it minimises the number of children killed under any circumstances, is to persuade parents in these cultures that there is no need to kill them at all, a policy which, as you say, more enlightened authorities are pursuing.

    If a woman were to take an instant dislike to her newborn baby and killed it we would also all be outraged. Hence you have no reason to infer a double standard with respect to parental gender. Your insistence on doing so, again, strongly implies misogyny.

    If a man were to decide he did not want the unborn child being carried by his girlfriend and killed it by forcing her to take an abortifacient, most of us would be outraged and revolted by such an act. If the woman were to do the same thing, pro-abortionists would more that likely defend it as an exercise of the woman’s right to choose. The charge of double-standards stands and throwing out accusations of misogyny does not change that.

    The problem with identical twins is in your mind not mine. If a single fertilization leads to just one individual or two or three or however many matters nothing since one and all are entitled to the right to life.

    This is inconsistent with what you said earlier:

    “That is how we all started as individuals. Our parents had many sperm and eggs capable of forming many individual human beings but each of us began with the fertilization of a specific egg by specific sperm at a specific time.”

    Now you are conceding that fertilization need not be “how we all started as individuals.” So what is its relevance to your standard for the right to life? Why, for the thousandth time, is fertilization the critical point in the human life cycle where rights should be granted, as opposed to implantation or meiosis II or any other point?

    There is no inconsistency. Whether a fertilized egg develops into a single individual or divides and develops into two makes no difference for the purposes of entitlement to the right to life since we can say that the life cycle of each twin converges on that same single, unique act of fertilization. And that act of fertilization is the union of two cells which are the essential prerequisites for the generation of an individual human being by the natural process of sexual reproduction.

    No, we are talking about killing cell colonies which are far less capable of thought or feeling than a dog. But this is irrelevant. You claimed that criminal intent of the attacker was necessary to justify self-defense; it’s not.

    If you look back you will find that I was responding to a claim that the presence of a baby in a woman’s womb was in some way equivalent to a criminal assault which could justify abortion as an act of self-defence. Quite obviously, the general right to self-defence is not restricted just to prevention of criminal acts. As in the case of attacks by dogs, we agree that we are entitled to kill other living creatures who threaten our lives. Which is why, for the umpteenth time, I have no problem with abortion where the woman’s life or long-term health are at risk.

    Even if we were talking about killing dogs the situation you have just described posits a threat to the life of the victim and I have already conceded that killing is justified in the defence of one’s own life, which is why I have no problem with medical exemptions to abortion.
    The situation doesn’t require a threat to life, just a reasonable judgment on the defender’s part that they’re at risk of grave harm.

    First, a fetus is not an adult human being capable of being held responsible for any criminal behavior, second, it did not gain unlawful entry to the woman’s body as some form of criminal enterprise
    Again, whether or not the attacker has criminal intent is not relevant.

    and, third, one more time, the woman is allowed effectively to defend herself under the medical exemption.
    See above or below.

    The woman’s life is always at risk. Pharyngula had an article on that recently. Maternal mortality rates range from about 1/25000 in a couple of European countries, to 1/6000 or so in the US, to 1/50 in Sierra Leone. Pregnancy is inherently dangerous.
    …so is driving a car or smoking or drinking or simply staying at home. Being alive is inherently dangerous. So what?

    So your medical exemption would apply to every pregnancy. Otherwise, you have to specify the degree of risk which justifies abortion, and explain why it is or isn’t the same degree of risk which justifies, say, infanticide or the murder of an adult relative.

    And this brings us back to the post which started this thread: namely, that if you think a degree X of risk justifies abortion, you’ll need to set the law to permit some degree less than X, or else women will be left in danger too long while the medical professionals try to decide whether they’re clearly, blatantly, prosecution-immunely past the X point.

    Posted by: | May 29, 2007 05:24 PM

  334. #334 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 30, 2007

    Anton Mates wrote

    Before you conclude that banning abortion would solve this, note that these are societies where sex selected infanticide and murder of older female children are also common. Many of the female fetuses which are aborted would otherwise survive past birth and then be killed anyway; a greater evil, since they would be at least semisentient at that point, and in the meantime a pointless pregnancy and childbirth would drain resources and constitute needless suffering. And the sex ratio would remain skewed.

    So the argument is that it is better to abort a fetus in order to spare it the greater pain of being murdered by its parents after birth? Well, at least it has the merit of being one of the less common defences of abortion. Of course, the better solution, since it minimises the number of children killed under any circumstances, is to persuade parents in these cultures that there is no need to kill them at all, a policy which, as you say, more enlightened authorities are pursuing.

    If a woman were to take an instant dislike to her newborn baby and killed it we would also all be outraged. Hence you have no reason to infer a double standard with respect to parental gender. Your insistence on doing so, again, strongly implies misogyny.

    If a man were to decide he did not want the unborn child being carried by his girlfriend and killed it by forcing her to take an abortifacient, most of us would be outraged and revolted by such an act. If the woman were to do the same thing, pro-abortionists would more that likely defend it as an exercise of the woman’s right to choose. The charge of double-standards stands and throwing out accusations of misogyny does not change that.

    The problem with identical twins is in your mind not mine. If a single fertilization leads to just one individual or two or three or however many matters nothing since one and all are entitled to the right to life.

    This is inconsistent with what you said earlier:
    “That is how we all started as individuals. Our parents had many sperm and eggs capable of forming many individual human beings but each of us began with the fertilization of a specific egg by specific sperm at a specific time.”
    Now you are conceding that fertilization need not be “how we all started as individuals.” So what is its relevance to your standard for the right to life? Why, for the thousandth time, is fertilization the critical point in the human life cycle where rights should be granted, as opposed to implantation or meiosis II or any other point?

    There is no inconsistency. Whether a fertilized egg develops into a single individual or divides and develops into two makes no difference for the purposes of entitlement to the right to life since we can say that the life cycle of each twin converges on that same single, unique act of fertilization. And that act of fertilization is the union of two cells which are the essential prerequisites for the generation of an individual human being by the natural process of sexual reproduction.

    No, we are talking about killing cell colonies which are far less capable of thought or feeling than a dog. But this is irrelevant. You claimed that criminal intent of the attacker was necessary to justify self-defense; it’s not.

    If you look back you will find that I was responding to a claim that the presence of a baby in a woman’s womb was in some way equivalent to a criminal assault which could justify abortion as an act of self-defence. Quite obviously, the general right to self-defence is not restricted just to prevention of criminal acts. As in the case of attacks by dogs, we agree that we are entitled to kill other living creatures who threaten our lives. Which is why, for the umpteenth time, I have no problem with abortion where the woman’s life or long-term health are at risk.

    So your medical exemption would apply to every pregnancy. Otherwise, you have to specify the degree of risk which justifies abortion, and explain why it is or isn’t the same degree of risk which justifies, say, infanticide or the murder of an adult relative
    And this brings us back to the post which started this thread: namely, that if you think a degree X of risk justifies abortion, you’ll need to set the law to permit some degree less than X, or else women will be left in danger too long while the medical professionals try to decide whether they’re clearly, blatantly, prosecution-immunely past the X point.

    It is neither necessary nor possible to specify in advance the degree of risk which is acceptable. The decision about abortion would be left up to the attending doctors who would have to judge whether continuing the pregnancy would expose the mother to an unacceptable risk of death or permanent injury. And the fact is that, whether we like it or not, we have no acceptable choice other than to trust the judgement of the doctors in medical matters – unless you believe lawyers or politicians are better qualified.

  335. #335 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 30, 2007

    Ooops! Sorry about the double post. I inadvertently hit the Post button when I was only part way through replying in the first draft.

  336. #336 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 30, 2007

    The above should not be taken as an attempt by me to artificially inflate the number of posts on this thread, of course.

  337. #337 Ian H Spedding FCD
    May 31, 2007

    Ichthyic wrote:

    Hey! Why pick on me? I’m not in here talking to myself, you know. There are three or four others being just as stubborn as I am.
    followed IMMEDIATELY by:
    I was aiming for 400, at least, but I think the others are beginning to weaken.
    are you SURE you can’t see why I pick you out of the bunch?

    Yup. Nobody’s forcing the others to post here. They must be just as stubborn as I am so, like I said, why pick on me?

    shall we examine your behavior on other threads of this nature as well?

    Be my guest

    you really have your headly firmly planted up there, don’t you.

    Oh, I am shocked I tell you, SHOCKED! And here I was thinking we were all getting along together so splendidly…

  338. #338 Azkyroth
    May 31, 2007

    It is neither necessary nor possible to specify in advance the degree of risk which is acceptable. The decision about abortion would be left up to the attending doctors who would have to judge whether continuing the pregnancy would expose the mother to an unacceptable risk of death or permanent injury.

    There are already many doctors who are more concerned about avoiding malpractice suites and other forms of prosecution than patient welfare. Consequently, if your proposal is adopted, WOMEN WILL DIE NEEDLESSLY AND OFTEN PAINFULLY because the doctors entrusted with their care aren’t completely positive that the level of risk is such that they’ll be immune to prosecution if they proceed. While you have made it perfectly obvious that you either consider this an acceptable price to pay to ensure that medical decisions about other people’s bodies that make you personally uncomfortable aren’t carried out, or are perfectly willing to ignore this (see Icthyic’s recent post), not all of us share this view.

    And the fact is that, whether we like it or not, we have no acceptable choice other than to trust the judgement of the doctors in medical matters – unless you believe lawyers or politicians are better qualified.

    If this were true people would have no right to refuse treatment. It is already a well-established legal principle that people, when capable of giving consent, are allowed to determine whether or not a medical procedure will be performed on them. So far you have utterly failed to make a convincing case for your exception in the case of abortion.

  339. #339 D
    May 31, 2007

    If a man were to decide he did not want the unborn child being carried by his girlfriend and killed it by forcing her to take an abortifacient, most of us would be outraged and revolted by such an act. If the woman were to do the same thing, pro-abortionists would more that likely defend it as an exercise of the woman’s right to choose. The charge of double-standards stands and throwing out accusations of misogyny does not change that.

    Wow. At this point in time, why do you even bother throwing out something so absurd? Do you just not care about making any iota of coherent sense with your statements? A double-standard can’t exist when the standards are for fundamentally different situations. This has already been pointed out to you. You would do the same as claiming that because it would be wrong to force feed someone a cake, it would also be wrong for the said victim of the situation to instead choose to eat the cake on their own terms. It is at best logically juvenile, which is admittedly on par with most of your claims. And once again, you are a misogynist for your misogynist statements. That you are a misogynist does not make your arguments wrong, it is the fallacious logic that does that.

    It is neither necessary nor possible to specify in advance the degree of risk which is acceptable. The decision about abortion would be left up to the attending doctors who would have to judge whether continuing the pregnancy would expose the mother to an unacceptable risk of death or permanent injury. And the fact is that, whether we like it or not, we have no acceptable choice other than to trust the judgement of the doctors in medical matters – unless you believe lawyers or politicians are better qualified.

    You’ve made such a claim before, and I shall again point out how dishonest it is. Currently it is doctors who perform abortions and decide if they will or not. If you truly believed what you just wrote and trusted them, you would not be agitating for politicians and lawyers to be making the decision in accordance with your position. You are only interested in your own standards of judgement.

    I’m also still waiting for you to reveal your morality source. You claimed you adhere to morality by self-interest. So I ask again, what is your self-interest in seeing politicians make abortion illegal?

  340. #340 Azkyroth
    May 31, 2007

    I’m also still waiting for you to reveal your morality source. You claimed you adhere to morality by self-interest. So I ask again, what is your self-interest in seeing politicians make abortion illegal?

    Based on the arguments we’ve observed, I think the self-interest lies less in forbidding abortion than in setting a precedent for granting full legal rights to genetically human organisms without functioning brains. ;/

  341. #341 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 1, 2007

    Azkyroth, FCD wrote:

    And how do you justify drawing the line at conception, in light of the numerous arguments against it that you have failed to address? Why are a sperm and egg less of a “potential human being” in your view than a blastula or embryo? I KNOW you think they’re different in a sense in which an embryo and a born child are the same, but so far the only reasons you’ve offered for WHY you think that boil down to “emotional knee-jerk reaction.”

    Once again, in human society rights apply to actual, living individuals not potential human beings. Separate sperm and eggs have the potential to form many human bings but only when a particular sperm and egg come together at a particular point in time and space is a specific individual human life-cycle begun. I say that it is at that point that the entitlement to the right to life should also begin.

    And I do not think that an embryo and a born child are the same, I think they are different stages in the life-cycle of an individual human organism, that life-cycle being a continuous process in which there are no sharp, clear boundaries between the different stages.

  342. #342 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 1, 2007

    windy wrote:

    However, in the unfortunate situation where a pregnancy does follow from a rape, a new human life has begun and I believe that it is entitled to the protection of the right to that life.

    And then what? The woman is obligated to care for the rapists’s baby for the next 18 years? Or is there also a right to adoption parents?

    If, as would be quite understandable in the circumstances, the woman wanted nothing to do with the child then, as I said before, it should be removed from her as soon as it is safe to do so and put up for adoption.

  343. #343 Azkyroth
    June 1, 2007

    Once again, in human society rights apply to actual, living individuals not potential human beings.

    That’s what we’ve been saying all along.

  344. #344 Anton Mates
    June 1, 2007

    So the argument is that it is better to abort a fetus in order to spare it the greater pain of being murdered by its parents after birth?

    Among other things. But the main argument is that legal abortion does not necessarily cause the skewed sex ratio you suggested it would in societies that devalue female children.

    Well, at least it has the merit of being one of the less common defences of abortion.

    Not really. Abortion is commonly supported on the grounds that fewer unwanted children have to be born. This is just an extreme but unfortunately very common case–children unwanted to the point that they’re under a death sentence from birth.

    Of course, the better solution, since it minimises the number of children killed under any circumstances, is to persuade parents in these cultures that there is no need to kill them at all, a policy which, as you say, more enlightened authorities are pursuing.

    That would be wonderful, but persuasion requires work. Among other things, large families in these cultures often have compelling socioeconomic reasons to get rid of less-desirable children, so a big part of persuasion involves reducing family size by keeping abortion available. Moreover, we were talking about social problems, and overpopulation is easily as severe a threat to these societies as a skewed sex ratio. Another reason to have both abortion and contraception readily available.

    If a man were to decide he did not want the unborn child being carried by his girlfriend and killed it by forcing her to take an abortifacient, most of us would be outraged and revolted by such an act. If the woman were to do the same thing, pro-abortionists would more that likely defend it as an exercise of the woman’s right to choose. The charge of double-standards stands and throwing out accusations of misogyny does not change that.

    That wouldn’t be the same thing, since in that case the woman would be exercising power over her own body. The same thing would be for the woman’s lesbian partner to force her to take an abortifacient. And yes, I think everyone here would be equally appalled by that. It’s about bodily autonomy, not gender, although apparently your belief in a national feminist conspiracy prevents you from recognizing that.

    There is no inconsistency. Whether a fertilized egg develops into a single individual or divides and develops into two makes no difference for the purposes of entitlement to the right to life since we can say that the life cycle of each twin converges on that same single, unique act of fertilization.

    As they converged on a unique act of meiosis II in their egg; as they converged on a unique act of paternal ejaculation.

    And that act of fertilization is the union of two cells which are the essential prerequisites for the generation of an individual human being by the natural process of sexual reproduction.

    As is meiosis; as is implantation; as are a billion events in the lives of their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Once again, you fail to explain why fertilization is special in this regard. We have established that it doesn’t necessarily result in an individual human. We have established that it doesn’t necessarily result in any human at all. What makes it special?

    If you look back you will find that I was responding to a claim that the presence of a baby in a woman’s womb was in some way equivalent to a criminal assault which could justify abortion as an act of self-defence.

    No, you weren’t. You were responding to D’s post, which mentioned retributive punishment of criminals but discussed the self-defense issue without describing the attacker as a criminal.

    You may be confusing that post with Chet’s, which argued that a fetus with the same rights as an adult human being would also have the same responsibilities, hence would be capable of criminal assault.

    It is neither necessary nor possible to specify in advance the degree of risk which is acceptable. The decision about abortion would be left up to the attending doctors who would have to judge whether continuing the pregnancy would expose the mother to an unacceptable risk of death or permanent injury.

    So if the attending doctors think that continuing the pregnancy will expose the mother to a .000001% greater risk of death or injury, and they find this unacceptable, they are entitled to perform an abortion?

    And the fact is that, whether we like it or not, we have no acceptable choice other than to trust the judgement of the doctors in medical matters – unless you believe lawyers or politicians are better qualified.

    I’m not talking about the judgment of the doctors as to what risk exists in a given pregnancy. I’m talking about their judgment as to what risk makes it ethically acceptable to, in your eyes, kill an innocent human. That is not a medical matter. And yes, that is what we have lawyers and politicians for–to articulate and implement the ethical rules on which the rest of us can agree.

    If a doctor determines, thanks to her medical expertise, that a man is allergic to his wife and has a 10% greater chance of eventually dying of asthma if she sticks around, is the doctor entitled to shoot his wife? Her medical diagnosis was perfectly correct–should she go ahead and implement it without those nosy lawyers and polticians getting in the way?

  345. #345 Anton Mates
    June 1, 2007

    In this thread, Ian said:

    That is how we all started as individuals. Our parents had many sperm and eggs capable of forming many individual human beings but each of us began with the fertilization of a specific egg by specific sperm at a specific time.

    and later:

    If a single fertilization leads to just one individual or two or three or however many matters nothing since one and all are entitled to the right to life.

    and later:

    Whether a fertilized egg develops into a single individual or divides and develops into two makes no difference for the purposes of entitlement to the right to life since we can say that the life cycle of each twin converges on that same single, unique act of fertilization.

    and later:

    Separate sperm and eggs have the potential to form many human bings but only when a particular sperm and egg come together at a particular point in time and space is a specific individual human life-cycle begun.

    If anyone can explain why these statements don’t represent two contradictory positions, I’d really like to know.

  346. #346 Anton Mates
    June 1, 2007

    Incidentally, I agree entirely with what Ian says here:

    You can find evidence for whether or not something exists but not for whether or not it is ethical or moral. Those are value judgements we make about the world and, like beauty, are not objective properties but exist only in the eye of the beholder. We can prove such beliefs exist and, possibly, why we hold them but not whether or not they are true in any meaningful sense.

    If you don’t believe that maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering is axiomatically good, there’s no way to prove it. Utilitarianism reflects my ethical opinions pretty accurately, but I recognize that there’s lots of people for whom it doesn’t.

    However, it’s still possible to empirically explore whether a person’s expressed moral principles are internally consistent, whether they accurately reflect the person’s ethical feelings about any given situation, and whether the facts being fed into them are accurate. Which is what makes this thread worthwhile, I think.

  347. #347 D
    June 1, 2007

    Based on the arguments we’ve observed, I think the self-interest lies less in forbidding abortion than in setting a precedent for granting full legal rights to genetically human organisms without functioning brains. ;/

    No, he’s been quite explicit that he wishes to exclude most human organisms without functioning brains. Nor does he wish to grant full legal rights, but only one right, that of life, without the pesky responsibilities that normally are associated with such grants. Regardless of exactly what it is he wishes to achieve, or by what means, he has made claims of his morality source which he seems to not want to elaborate on. I think that is rather unfortunate, because I suspect it would make his stance at least internally consistent if he were to be honest about his reasons and simply build upon them. Then at least we could better understand the logical ramifications of his position. Instead we are left with haphazard and fallacious rationalization.

  348. #348 brightmoon
    June 1, 2007

    QUOTE If, as would be quite understandable in the circumstances, the woman wanted nothing to do with the child then, as I said before, it should be removed from her as soon as it is safe to do so and put up for adoption.

    OBVIOUSLY YOUVE NEVER BEEN PREGNANT …i have, twice…it takes a lot out of you & of course your position is still consistant with punishing women for having sex …even if the sex was forced

    no woman shoud be forced to put up with the trauma of rape and then forced to undergo a physical trauma like pregnancy & birth and the additional emotional trauma of an adoption

    ARE YOU NUTS!!! OR ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE RATHER STRANGE MEN WHO THINK WOMEN ARE JUST UNIMPORTANT EMPTY VESSELS WHOSE FEELINGS ARE IRRELEVANT

  349. #349 Azkyroth
    June 1, 2007

    If you don’t believe that maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering is axiomatically good, there’s no way to prove it. Utilitarianism reflects my ethical opinions pretty accurately, but I recognize that there’s lots of people for whom it doesn’t.

    I would argue that something akin to utilitarianism, in a very crude sense (compare “reason” with “Reason”) follows logically from the observation that each of us instinctively recognizes his or her own happiness as valuable, and the observation that other humans are “like us.”

    OBVIOUSLY YOUVE NEVER BEEN PREGNANT …i have, twice…it takes a lot out of you & of course your position is still consistant with punishing women for having sex …even if the sex was forced

    He has never been pregnant, least of all with an unwanted pregnancy. He will never be pregnant, least of all with an unwanted pregnancy. He can never become pregnant, least of all with an unwanted pregnancy. This point is key to understanding his perspective, so far as I can see.

    ARE YOU NUTS!!! OR ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE RATHER STRANGE MEN WHO THINK WOMEN ARE JUST UNIMPORTANT EMPTY VESSELS WHOSE FEELINGS ARE IRRELEVANT

    I think the short answer, unfortunately, is yes.

  350. #350 Anton Mates
    June 2, 2007

    I would argue that something akin to utilitarianism, in a very crude sense (compare “reason” with “Reason”) follows logically from the observation that each of us instinctively recognizes his or her own happiness as valuable, and the observation that other humans are “like us.”

    I disagree. Many people do not instinctively recognize their own happiness as valuable–they may instinctively work to increase it, but that’s not really the same as consciously admitting its value. Indeed, some people feel that they ought not to be happy; they’re evil sinners who don’t deserve it, or they need to suffer to gain wisdom and focus, etc.

    Moreover, the observation that other humans are like oneself merely implies that they also value their own happiness; it doesn’t imply that you should value theirs. In any competition–sports, war, whatever–you generally recognize that the other guy wants to win just like you do, but that doesn’t automatically make you want to help him. I suspect this was an important development in the evolutionary social arms race which shaped us–the ability to work out our competitors’ goals without identifying with them.

  351. #351 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 2, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    Moral claims ARE capable of being proven true and false because the tangible effects of acting as a given moral claim dictates we should act can be observed and in many cases measured. If these effects are to increase suffering and reduce happiness, the moral claim is clearly incorrect. If a speculative moral claim is incompatible with moral propositions that have been tested and found to be highly conducive to human welfare, there is cause to be very skeptical about it. Your attitude on reproductive choice falls into both categories. Rejecting this argument because the axiom “happiness is desirable” is an “unproven assertion” is illogical unless you also reject empirical claims because the axioms “an external world exists” and “our senses, while imperfect, tell us something useful about its nature” are “unproven assertions.”

    This rather depends on how you define words like “true” and “false”, “right” and “wrong”. For example, you can prove – in the sense of finding persuasive evidence for – the truth of the claim that there was a trans-Atlantic trade in slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The fact that you can prove that it was true, however, does not necessarily prove that it was right.

    Moral codes are prescriptive. They do not tell us how things are, they tell us how we ought to behave if we want to achieve a specified goal that is agreed as being desirable. If we follow the moral guidelines and find that we tend to reach the specified goal, that only proves that they are effective, not that the goal is right or true.

    I suspect that most people would accept the proposition that “happiness is desirable” as axiomatic. We could probably find evidence to support my belief. That evidence would prove that such a belief is held by a large number of human beings but it doesn’t prove that the claim itself is true. A lot of people once believed that the Sun went around the Earth, for example, but that did not make it true.

    The fact is that, as far as we can tell, the Universe is completely indifferent to whether we are happy or miserable, to whether we exist or not. When we say that “happiness is desirable”, all we are doing is expressing our own desire and there is no way of justifying it by appealing to the way the natural world is ordered or some higher moral authority.

  352. #352 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 2, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    There are already many doctors who are more concerned about avoiding malpractice suites and other forms of prosecution than patient welfare. Consequently, if your proposal is adopted, WOMEN WILL DIE NEEDLESSLY AND OFTEN PAINFULLY because the doctors entrusted with their care aren’t completely positive that the level of risk is such that they’ll be immune to prosecution if they proceed.

    In these situations, doctors could just as easily find themselves being sued for negligence because they failed to do whatever they could to save the woman’s life. I have always said that wherever there is a conflict between the rights of the mother and the rights of the fetus, those of the mother should take priority. I would expect these cases to be reviewed by a panel of doctors who would be guided by that presumption.

    If this were true people would have no right to refuse treatment. It is already a well-established legal principle that people, when capable of giving consent, are allowed to determine whether or not a medical procedure will be performed on them. So far you have utterly failed to make a convincing case for your exception in the case of abortion.

    As before, the mother is fully entitled to accept or refuse medical treatment for herself but not for another. You could certainly point to the fact that parents are entitled to make decisions about medical treatment for their children but that would mean acknowledging that the fetus has a status equivalent to that of a child after birth. It would also mean remembering that parents are not entitled to take or approve any action that would injure or kill their children.

  353. #353 Ian H Spedding CD
    June 2, 2007

    D wrote:

    It is neither necessary nor possible to specify in advance the degree of risk which is acceptable. The decision about abortion would be left up to the attending doctors who would have to judge whether continuing the pregnancy would expose the mother to an unacceptable risk of death or permanent injury. And the fact is that, whether we like it or not, we have no acceptable choice other than to trust the judgement of the doctors in medical matters – unless you believe lawyers or politicians are better qualified.

    You’ve made such a claim before, and I shall again point out how dishonest it is. Currently it is doctors who perform abortions and decide if they will or not. If you truly believed what you just wrote and trusted them, you would not be agitating for politicians and lawyers to be making the decision in accordance with your position. You are only interested in your own standards of judgement.

    Actually, I am not, at this moment, “agitating for politicians and lawyers to be making the decision” in accordance with my position. I am simply arguing my corner in a debate about the morality of abortion. I would not support anti-abortion legislation until I felt that the majority of the population had been persuaded that it was the right thing to do – something I do not expect to happen any time soon.

    I’m also still waiting for you to reveal your morality source. You claimed you adhere to morality by self-interest. So I ask again, what is your self-interest in seeing politicians make abortion illegal?

    My opposition to abortion is based on my belief that it is wrong to destroy anything or to injure or kill any living creature without good reason. Apparently, unlike you and others here, I recognize that such beliefs – and this includes yours – cannot be proven true in any objective sense and are rooted in emotional preferences and unjustifiable assumptions that human survival and happiness are somehow more important than just personal beliefs. That said, as I wrote before, since there is no one else to say any different, our beliefs are what count. It’s just that we would do well to remember that is all they are and not try to pretend that they are some kind of law of nature.

  354. #354 D
    June 3, 2007

    Actually, I am not, at this moment, “agitating for politicians and lawyers to be making the decision” in accordance with my position. I am simply arguing my corner in a debate about the morality of abortion. I would not support anti-abortion legislation until I felt that the majority of the population had been persuaded that it was the right thing to do – something I do not expect to happen any time soon.

    Now or later, it’s the same in the end and a bit cowardly to only work to what you claim to believe is moral when you only have the mob at your back. Nor does it change that you do not trust doctors to make medical decisions. You’re claim of such is still false.

    My opposition to abortion is based on my belief that it is wrong to destroy anything or to injure or kill any living creature without good reason. Apparently, unlike you and others here, I recognize that such beliefs – and this includes yours – cannot be proven true in any objective sense and are rooted in emotional preferences and unjustifiable assumptions that human survival and happiness are somehow more important than just personal beliefs. That said, as I wrote before, since there is no one else to say any different, our beliefs are what count. It’s just that we would do well to remember that is all they are and not try to pretend that they are some kind of law of nature.

    Why are you so afraid to answer the question I posed? Restating your belief ad infinitum and handwaving about the nature of morality does not answer why you hold your belief. You’ve gone so far as to claim it’s in your self-interest. Why are you afraid to tell us how it serves your interests?

    And again, you’re projecting quite a bit again. Others have already addressed your claims about beliefs being “true”. No one here that I’ve seen is claiming to be seeking some higher objective truth. However, a moral position can still be examined to be true in the sense that it is logically sound and valid. Your’s fails in that regard.

  355. #355 PZ Myers
    June 3, 2007

    Hey, gang! There’s a new post on abortion where you can argue!

  356. #356 Azkyroth
    June 3, 2007

    Test.

  357. #357 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 4, 2007

    Anton Mates wrote:

    Not really. Abortion is commonly supported on the grounds that fewer unwanted children have to be born. This is just an extreme but unfortunately very common case–children unwanted to the point that they’re under a death sentence from birth.

    I have no doubt that what you say is tragically very true. In some cultures, children are conceived who are destined to become, once born, an unbearable social and economic burden for their families. Killing them before they are born is arguably the most humane and certainly the most pragmatic solution and, moreover, one which has the additional advantage of avoiding the unpleasantness of a murder trial. But is pragmatic the same as moral?

    As I understand it, you are arguing that aborting fetuses that stand a good chance of being murdered by their parents after birth is the more humane course of action as it is the lesser of two evils – a justification I use for allowing abortion where the mother’s life is at risk as I am sure you are aware. However, to my mind there is a crucial difference between the two cases. In the case of medical exemption for abortion there are only two possible alternatives, the death of the mother or the death of the fetus, because we do not have the knowledge or the power yet to do anything else. In the case of what we might call prophylactic abortion, however, although there is a high probability that the child might be killed after birth, it is by no means a certainty and there are other possibilities, such as persuading parents to take a more humane view or taking the child away for adoption. I accept that there are societies in which such solutions are at best difficult, but that does not make the killing necessarily the more moral alternative.

    If a man were to decide he did not want the unborn child being carried by his girlfriend and killed it by forcing her to take an abortifacient, most of us would be outraged and revolted by such an act. If the woman were to do the same thing, pro-abortionists would more that likely defend it as an exercise of the woman’s right to choose. The charge of double-standards stands and throwing out accusations of misogyny does not change that.

    That wouldn’t be the same thing, since in that case the woman would be exercising power over her own body. The same thing would be for the woman’s lesbian partner to force her to take an abortifacient. And yes, I think everyone here would be equally appalled by that. It’s about bodily autonomy, not gender, although apparently your belief in a national feminist conspiracy prevents you from recognizing that.

    I will allow that “forcing” was a poor choice of words because it distracts attention from the point I was trying to make, so let us assume instead that the man tricks his partner into taking an abortifacient in her food or drink. Would pro-choicers find that acceptable? Obviously, the man does not have to endure the physical and emotional discomforts of pregnancy, but he might well find the birth of the child socially embarrassing and a propective emotional and financial burden that he is unwilling or unable to take on. If the woman is allowed to opt for abortion rather than face such consequences then why not the man?

    It is neither necessary nor possible to specify in advance the degree of risk which is acceptable. The decision about abortion would be left up to the attending doctors who would have to judge whether continuing the pregnancy would expose the mother to an unacceptable risk of death or permanent injury.

    So if the attending doctors think that continuing the pregnancy will expose the mother to a .000001% greater risk of death or injury, and they find this unacceptable, they are entitled to perform an abortion?

    The doctors would have to be satisfied that if an abortion were not performed the mother would suffer permanent injury or death. Now, quite obviously, there would be cases where the prognosis would be nothing like as clear-cut as that and it is here that we would have to rely on the judgement of the doctors because there is no realistic alternative. But allowing abortion wherever there is even the slightest increase in the risk to the mother’s health would be as an absurd an extreme as as a blanket ban on abortion since, arguably, it would mean that all pregnancies would have to be terminated.

    I’m not talking about the judgment of the doctors as to what risk exists in a given pregnancy. I’m talking about their judgment as to what risk makes it ethically acceptable to, in your eyes, kill an innocent human. That is not a medical matter. And yes, that is what we have lawyers and politicians for–to articulate and implement the ethical rules on which the rest of us can agree.

    Reaching a consensus on medical guidelines and drafting laws which articulate and implement them undoubtedly involves lawyers and politicians but, at least where abortion is concerned, in reaching those those decisions they must be guided by advice from doctors since neither of the aforementioned groups is otherwise competent to make informed judgements about medical matters.

    If a doctor determines, thanks to her medical expertise, that a man is allergic to his wife and has a 10% greater chance of eventually dying of asthma if she sticks around, is the doctor entitled to shoot his wife? Her medical diagnosis was perfectly correct–should she go ahead and implement it without those nosy lawyers and polticians getting in the way?

    Not really a good analogy since there is always the possibility of the unfortunate – or possibly not so unfortunate – husband living apart from his wife so, quite apart from the risk of criminal proceedings – the doctor has no need to kill anyone.

  358. #358 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 4, 2007

    brightmoon wrote:

    OBVIOUSLY YOUVE NEVER BEEN PREGNANT

    I would say that’s a reasonable inference.

    …i have, twice…it takes a lot out of you & of course your position is still consistant with punishing women for having sex …even if the sex was forced.

    You can think what you like but it doesn’t get you away from the fact that abortion involves killing a human fetus.

    no woman shoud be forced to put up with the trauma of rape and then forced to undergo a physical trauma like pregnancy & birth and the additional emotional trauma of an adoption
    ARE YOU NUTS!!! OR ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE RATHER STRANGE MEN WHO THINK WOMEN ARE JUST UNIMPORTANT EMPTY VESSELS WHOSE FEELINGS ARE IRRELEVANT

    No, I am one of those strange men who thinks that a fetus is both human and alive and that killing it without good reason is wrong.

  359. #359 Azkyroth
    June 4, 2007

    I will allow that “forcing” was a poor choice of words because it distracts attention from the point I was trying to make, so let us assume instead that the man tricks his partner into taking an abortifacient in her food or drink. Would pro-choicers find that acceptable? Obviously, the man does not have to endure the physical and emotional discomforts of pregnancy, but he might well find the birth of the child socially embarrassing and a propective emotional and financial burden that he is unwilling or unable to take on. If the woman is allowed to opt for abortion rather than face such consequences then why not the man?

    Because it’s not his body. LIKE. WE. SAID.

    The doctors would have to be satisfied that if an abortion were not performed the mother would suffer permanent injury or death. Now, quite obviously, there would be cases where the prognosis would be nothing like as clear-cut as that and it is here that we would have to rely on the judgement of the doctors because there is no realistic alternative. But allowing abortion wherever there is even the slightest increase in the risk to the mother’s health would be as an absurd an extreme as as a blanket ban on abortion since, arguably, it would mean that all pregnancies would have to be terminated.

    Unless you’re advocating allowing doctors to terminate a pregnancy against the pregnant woman’s wishes because they believe there’s a great risk, then it means no such thing, and you bloody well know it. What it would mean is that any pregnancy would have to be terminated if the pregnant woman wanted it terminated. This stance sounds familiar somehow…

  360. #360 Azkyroth
    June 4, 2007

    No, I am one of those strange men who thinks that a fetus is both human and alive and that killing it without good reason is wrong.

    “…and that reducing you or any other woman to a slave incubator is an acceptable means to this end.”

  361. #361 Anton Mates
    June 4, 2007

    In some cultures, children are conceived who are destined to become, once born, an unbearable social and economic burden for their families. Killing them before they are born is arguably the most humane and certainly the most pragmatic solution and, moreover, one which has the additional advantage of avoiding the unpleasantness of a murder trial.

    Unless you live in a society where abortion is considered equivalent to murder, as Gerardo Flores does. In that case, it remains the most humane solution, but it subjects you to far more unpleasantness than would, for instance, abandoning the baby after birth.

    As I understand it, you are arguing that aborting fetuses that stand a good chance of being murdered by their parents after birth is the more humane course of action as it is the lesser of two evils

    I think you misunderstand. I consider abortion to be the lesser evil even in societies where infanticide isn’t common, because it’s preferable to parents having to bear unwanted offspring. I brought up infanticide because you claimed that, in certain societies, abortion results in the problem of a skewed sex ratio.

    My claim is that the same result occurs via infanticide in such societies when abortion is banned, and in addition infanticide itself is a greater evil than abortion. Thus, abortion availability is particularly important in such societies–but even if the problem of discrimination against female children were absent, as it (mostly) is in Western societies, abortion availability would stil be ethically necessary on the grounds we’ve already argued.

    I will allow that “forcing” was a poor choice of words because it distracts attention from the point I was trying to make, so let us assume instead that the man tricks his partner into taking an abortifacient in her food or drink. Would pro-choicers find that acceptable?

    Of course not. And if you think it’s about gender, simply ask whether we’d find it acceptable for the woman’s lesbian partner to slip an abortifacient in her drink. We wouldn’t.

    Obviously, the man does not have to endure the physical and emotional discomforts of pregnancy, but he might well find the birth of the child socially embarrassing and a propective emotional and financial burden that he is unwilling or unable to take on. If the woman is allowed to opt for abortion rather than face such consequences then why not the man?

    Again: bodily autonomy. The embryo/fetus isn’t growing in the man’s body. No doubt someday it will be technologically possible for men to become pregnant; at that time, they’ll have the right to abort their pregnancies.

    I do think that a woman’s ethically obligated to at least consider her male/female life partner’s wishes in this matter; were it administratively feasible, I’d grant the partner the right to request an early-term abortion and be exempt from child support obligations if their request is denied. But, in the end, the decision must be made by the person whose body is directly involved.

    So if the attending doctors think that continuing the pregnancy will expose the mother to a .000001% greater risk of death or injury, and they find this unacceptable, they are entitled to perform an abortion?

    The doctors would have to be satisfied that if an abortion were not performed the mother would suffer permanent injury or death.

    Ah, so you don’t support a medical exemption for abortion if the mother’s life/health are merely at risk; there must be a virtual certainty that she’ll lose one or the other?

    Oh, and how severe an injury, and why?

    But allowing abortion wherever there is even the slightest increase in the risk to the mother’s health would be as an absurd an extreme as as a blanket ban on abortion since, arguably, it would mean that all pregnancies would have to be terminated.

    Of course it wouldn’t. We’re talking about allowing abortion, not requiring it.

  362. #362 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 5, 2007

    D wrote:

    Now or later, it’s the same in the end and a bit cowardly to only work to what you claim to believe is moral when you only have the mob at your back. Nor does it change that you do not trust doctors to make medical decisions. You’re claim of such is still false.

    My impression here is that I have the mob at my throat rather than at my back but, be that as it may, I do not regard having respect for the democratic process as being cowardly. It is not for me to force my opinions on others but rather to try and persuade them that they are worth considering.

    As for trusting doctors to make medical decisions, I have repeatedly stressed that they are the people best qualifed to decide whether or not abortion has become the only reasonable option under the medical exemption provision in any given case.

    Why are you so afraid to answer the question I posed? Restating your belief ad infinitum and handwaving about the nature of morality does not answer why you hold your belief. You’ve gone so far as to claim it’s in your self-interest. Why are you afraid to tell us how it serves your interests?

    I have no idea what you are trying to get me to say here. I am not opposing abortion because it serves my personal interests in any way but because, as I have said repeatedly, I believe that the unborn offspring of human parents qualifies for the right to life as much while it is in the womb as it does after it is born.

    And again, you’re projecting quite a bit again. Others have already addressed your claims about beliefs being “true”.

    Yes, they have but addressing them is not the same as having advanced effective counter-arguments.

    No one here that I’ve seen is claiming to be seeking some higher objective truth. However, a moral position can still be examined to be true in the sense that it is logically sound and valid. Your’s fails in that regard.

    You can define ‘truth’ to mean a logically valid argument if you choose but that is not the usual meaning of the word since it is possible to construct many valid arguments which will nonetheless be regarded as untrue. Truth is more usually thought of as being that which is. Claims or statements or propositions are judged to be true to the extent to which they correspond with what we observe of reality. This is why it is misleading to speak of a moral claim as being true since such claims are not about what is but about what the claimant believes they should be.

  363. #363 Azkyroth
    June 5, 2007

    You can define ‘truth’ to mean a logically valid argument if you choose but that is not the usual meaning of the word since it is possible to construct many valid arguments which will nonetheless be regarded as untrue.

    I would assume that’s why he put “a logically valid or sound argument.” I would have used “and” myself.

  364. #364 D
    June 5, 2007

    My impression here is that I have the mob at my throat rather than at my back but, be that as it may, I do not regard having respect for the democratic process as being cowardly. It is not for me to force my opinions on others but rather to try and persuade them that they are worth considering.

    Yet that is what you wish to do, force your opinion on others. Your cowardice has little to do with democracy, but rather your dishonesty when finding yourself in opposition to “the mob”. You have freely admitted you would change your tune if you had the mob’s backing instead.

    As for trusting doctors to make medical decisions, I have repeatedly stressed that they are the people best qualifed to decide whether or not abortion has become the only reasonable option under the medical exemption provision in any given case.

    It isn’t trust if you confine them. You’re just saying that as long as doctors are not able to make decisions you don’t approve of, you’ll trust them to make decisions. If a doctor always thought that any abortion would qualify for the medical exemption, and many do, would you really trust them? If you would, then effectively abortions would actually be less restricted than they are now.

    I have no idea what you are trying to get me to say here. I am not opposing abortion because it serves my personal interests in any way but because, as I have said repeatedly, I believe that the unborn offspring of human parents qualifies for the right to life as much while it is in the womb as it does after it is born.

    I’m trying to get you to say what is honest and consistent. You claimed people’s morality was based on their self interest. Now it seems you would claim exemption for yourself on this. Whatever. If it isn’t self interest that has led you to your belief, then what is it? You’ve claimed before that it wasn’t observation of reality either. The other popular source is morality from authority, though you claim not to adhere to the normal moral authorities. So where does it come from?

    Yes, they have but addressing them is not the same as having advanced effective counter-arguments.

    They weren’t counter-arguments Ian. You seem quite confused about ethics and logic.

    You can define ‘truth’ to mean a logically valid argument if you choose but that is not the usual meaning of the word since it is possible to construct many valid arguments which will nonetheless be regarded as untrue. Truth is more usually thought of as being that which is. Claims or statements or propositions are judged to be true to the extent to which they correspond with what we observe of reality. This is why it is misleading to speak of a moral claim as being true since such claims are not about what is but about what the claimant believes they should be.

    It is rather rich that you’d claim authority on the usual meaning of words. I defined my usage, ie sound and valid (I’m not sure why Azkyroth thinks I used “or”), which I gather to be the meaning that others are using as well. If you have a problem with the idea that moral stances are subject to logical scrutiny, feel free to voice your objections. Dwelling on semantics is an irrelevant distraction at this point.

  365. #365 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 6, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    Because it’s not his body. LIKE. WE. SAID.

    …but we are assuming, for the purpose of argument, that the fetus is partly his so, if the woman is allowed to do away with it because, amongst other things, it might cause her post-partum problems, then why should not the man have the same right? From your point of view, he is actually doing her a favour by relieving her of an unwanted burden.

    Unless you’re advocating allowing doctors to terminate a pregnancy against the pregnant woman’s wishes because they believe there’s a great risk, then it means no such thing, and you bloody well know it. What it would mean is that any pregnancy would have to be terminated if the pregnant woman wanted it terminated. This stance sounds familiar somehow…

    No, simply trying to justify abortions on the grounds that pregnancy inevitably increases the risks to the woman’s health, as has been argued, is in no way sufficient if the fetus has a right to life.

  366. #366 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 6, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    “…and that reducing you or any other woman to a slave incubator is an acceptable means to this end.”

    …if the fetus has the right to life then it is the lesser of two evils.

  367. #367 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 6, 2007

    Anton Mates wrote:

    Obviously, the man does not have to endure the physical and emotional discomforts of pregnancy, but he might well find the birth of the child socially embarrassing and a propective emotional and financial burden that he is unwilling or unable to take on. If the woman is allowed to opt for abortion rather than face such consequences then why not the man?

    Again: bodily autonomy. The embryo/fetus isn’t growing in the man’s body. No doubt someday it will be technologically possible for men to become pregnant; at that time, they’ll have the right to abort their pregnancies.
    I do think that a woman’s ethically obligated to at least consider her male/female life partner’s wishes in this matter; were it administratively feasible, I’d grant the partner the right to request an early-term abortion and be exempt from child support obligations if their request is denied. But, in the end, the decision must be made by the person whose body is directly involved.

    I believe that bodily autonomy is almost as much a fundamental right as the right to life and in most circumstances would trump all others. But pregnancy is a special case because the woman’s body is playing host to another individual human being that, in my view, is entitled to the right to life. The fact that the occupant of her womb is unwelcome for various reasons is not, of itself, sufficient justification for her to be allowed to kill it or have it killed by others at her behest.

    Moreover, I object strongly to this assumption that the woman has the stronger claim to decide the child’s fate simply because she is the one who is pregnant. The father contributes his genetic material to the child as much as does the mother. In more traditional marriages, while the woman struggles at home with the burdens of pregnancy, the father is out working to provide for them. In more modern arrangements, the mother may want to continue living and working, as far as is possible, just as she did before she was pregnant and, of course, she should be allowed to do so. But this does not mean that the man should be elbowed aside and denied any role in the process. Obviously, if the man abandons the woman when she becomes pregnant then he should be held to have surrendered any rights he might have had to be involved with the child in the future. But if the father stands by the mother and is prepared to take on his share of the burden, to contribute whatever he can financially and in other ways to supporting her then he should have as much of a say as the mother in what happens to the child. This is not just about the woman.

  368. #368 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 6, 2007

    D wrote:

    Yet that is what you wish to do, force your opinion on others. Your cowardice has little to do with democracy, but rather your dishonesty when finding yourself in opposition to “the mob”. You have freely admitted you would change your tune if you had the mob’s backing instead.

    Persuasion is not the same as coercion, look it up. Neither is democracy the same as mob rule. But if a majority of the population come to accept that elective abortion is little different from infanticide then laws may be passed to restrict it and pro-abortionists will have to accept that just as anti-abortionists have had to accept the present situation.

    It isn’t trust if you confine them. You’re just saying that as long as doctors are not able to make decisions you don’t approve of, you’ll trust them to make decisions. If a doctor always thought that any abortion would qualify for the medical exemption, and many do, would you really trust them? If you would, then effectively abortions would actually be less restricted than they are now.

    A doctor has no more right to absolute power of life and death over other human beings than does the mother. It is simply that, in the case of a legal ban on abortion which included a medical exemption, then the doctor is best qualified to judge whether the risk to the mother is sufficient to justify termination. In the present circumstances, if there is a doctor who believes any and all abortions are medically justified and carries them out then he is acting legally and, by his own lights, ethically. I disagree about the morality.

    I’m trying to get you to say what is honest and consistent. You claimed people’s morality was based on their self interest. Now it seems you would claim exemption for yourself on this. Whatever. If it isn’t self interest that has led you to your belief, then what is it? You’ve claimed before that it wasn’t observation of reality either. The other popular source is morality from authority, though you claim not to adhere to the normal moral authorities. So where does it come from?

    As I wrote before, in the absence of any supreme moral authority, we can decide for ourselves what is or is not moral, what rights we are to be granted. I view moral codes as a means of regulating the behaviour of human beings towards each other within society and that they are derived from a recognition of the fact that we have common interests in terms of survival and development. That is what I mean by self-interest.

    As to the origins of my views on the right to life, I am honestly not sure. All I can say is that I believe it is wrong to kill living things or, indeed, to destroy non-living things without good cause. In the case of killing, it is probably most strongly influenced by empathy for the imagined suffering of the victims and those who are hurt by the loss of someone that they knew and loved. I believe that if most people shared my beliefs society would be a more humane place to live.

    I believe that, apart from the immorality of the killing, abortion is bad for society because it is the easy way out. If you argue that aborting an unwanted fetus is the better solution because it saves a child from the misery of growing up in squalor with a parent who neither wants nor cares for it, you are effectively perpetuating those conditions. Surely, the more humane solution would be a society that actually cares enough about the well-being of all its members to ensure that there is an adequate rather than minimal provision of care for those who are most needy and vulnerable. Making abortion on demand relieves some of the pressure on society to reform itself. This is especially true of those societies where life is held cheap and where readily-available abortion tends simply to reinforce that view.

    It is rather rich that you’d claim authority on the usual meaning of words. I defined my usage, ie sound and valid (I’m not sure why Azkyroth thinks I used “or”), which I gather to be the meaning that others are using as well. If you have a problem with the idea that moral stances are subject to logical scrutiny, feel free to voice your objections. Dwelling on semantics is an irrelevant distraction at this point.

    I was simply pointing out that valid logic is not the same as truth. You have no need to take my word for it. There are plenty of resources on the Internet where you can find out what the experts say if you want. Not that this means that I have any problems with my views being subject to logical scrutiny. This sort of discussion is good work-out for the mental muscles.

  369. #369 Chet
    June 6, 2007

    The fact that the occupant of her womb is unwelcome for various reasons is not, of itself, sufficient justification for her to be allowed to kill it or have it killed by others at her behest.

    She’s not killing it. She’s having it evicted.

    The fact that the fetus dies as a result of the fact that it’s defendant on a specific person’s uterus is hardly her problem.

    Moreover, I object strongly to this assumption that the woman has the stronger claim to decide the child’s fate simply because she is the one who is pregnant.

    Well, of course you would; you’re a misogynist. But the fact that you view women as something less than human isn’t a compelling argument that they don’t get to determine who is allowed to reside in their uteruses.

    In more traditional marriages, while the woman struggles at home with the burdens of pregnancy, the father is out working to provide for them.

    I’m pretty sure that I’m a lot smarter and more handsome than my landlord, but that’s irrelevant to the question of who gets to evict tenants. Similarly, the man could be working 60-hour weeks for all I care; his employment is completely irrelevant to who gets to make the decision about who is allowed to reside in a woman’s uterus.

    Let me repeat that. Woman’s uterus. Thus, the woman gets to make the decision, by virtue of it being her uterus. Assuming, of course, that you afford women property rights. Since you’re a misogynist, I guess that’s an up-in-the-air question.

    All I can say is that I believe it is wrong to kill living things or, indeed, to destroy non-living things without good cause.

    Evicting unwanted tenants from one’s own uterus is a more than sufficient good cause, unless you don’t believe that women are human beings.

    The father contributes his genetic material to the child as much as does the mother.

    Biologically false, incidentally. The father only contributes 50% (or just slightly less for the male offspring) of the nuclear DNA; the mitochondrial DNA is contributed solely by the mother.

    Of course, since that’s a woman’s contribution, you discounted it entirely. I imagine in your view sperm are just tiny little people with tails that are “planted” in the woman’s fertile soil. Such a 17th century view dovetails nicely with your antediluvian attitudes towards the self-determination and personhood of women.

  370. #370 Chet
    June 6, 2007

    This is especially true of those societies where life is held cheap and where readily-available abortion tends simply to reinforce that view.

    Specifically, which societies are you referring to? I think you’ll find that almost every society that holds human life as “cheap” invariably has draconian restrictions on women terminating pregnancies.

  371. #371 Azkyroth
    June 7, 2007

    …but we are assuming, for the purpose of argument, that the fetus is partly his so, if the woman is allowed to do away with it because, amongst other things, it might cause her post-partum problems, then why should not the man have the same right? From your point of view, he is actually doing her a favour by relieving her of an unwanted burden.

    Uh. That would only be true if the woman didn’t want to complete the pregnancy, in which case it would not be necessary to slip her an abortificant.

    As Chet nicely emphasized, the man should not have that right because IT IS NOT HIS UTERUS INVOLVED. What part of this don’t you get?! Unless Chet’s right that you don’t view women as human beings, your obfuscation on this point is becoming more inexplicable by the minute.

  372. #372 Azkyroth
    June 7, 2007

    Moreover, I object strongly to this assumption that the woman has the stronger claim to decide the child’s fate simply because she is the one who is pregnant. The father contributes his genetic material to the child as much as does the mother. In more traditional marriages, while the woman struggles at home with the burdens of pregnancy, the father is out working to provide for them. In more modern arrangements, the mother may want to continue living and working, as far as is possible, just as she did before she was pregnant and, of course, she should be allowed to do so. But this does not mean that the man should be elbowed aside and denied any role in the process. Obviously, if the man abandons the woman when she becomes pregnant then he should be held to have surrendered any rights he might have had to be involved with the child in the future. But if the father stands by the mother and is prepared to take on his share of the burden, to contribute whatever he can financially and in other ways to supporting her then he should have as much of a say as the mother in what happens to the child. This is not just about the woman.

    What the bloody fuck does any of this have to do with the abortion debate?!

    That the man contributes his genetic material is irrelevant. This is not about genetics, this is about bodily autonomy and the only body that is coopted in a pregnancy is the woman’s. The fact that in most families men contribute some or all of the monetary support has no bearing on whether they have the right to decide what their partner does with her body–do you contend that by this he has somehow “purchased” the right to use her uterus as he sees fit?! Are women property? I really don’t see any other way to explain your position here.

  373. #373 Azkyroth
    June 7, 2007

    As to the origins of my views on the right to life, I am honestly not sure.

    I would spend some time considering it; at present, your argument reeks of a retroactive attempt at justifying a knee-jerk emotional reaction.

    All I can say is that I believe it is wrong to kill living things or, indeed, to destroy non-living things without good cause. In the case of killing, it is probably most strongly influenced by empathy for the imagined suffering of the victims and those who are hurt by the loss of someone that they knew and loved.

    So how exactly is this applicable to abortion?

    I believe that, apart from the immorality of the killing, abortion is bad for society because it is the easy way out. If you argue that aborting an unwanted fetus is the better solution because it saves a child from the misery of growing up in squalor with a parent who neither wants nor cares for it, you are effectively perpetuating those conditions. Surely, the more humane solution would be a society that actually cares enough about the well-being of all its members to ensure that there is an adequate rather than minimal provision of care for those who are most needy and vulnerable. Making abortion on demand relieves some of the pressure on society to reform itself.

    I see. So, basically, you have a blind faith belief, contradicted by every available example from history, that a society with a badly overpopulated and starving underclass, with a draconian government dictating what people may and may not do with their bodies, will somehow produce *better* conditions rather than partial or total societal collapse? And you’re willing to accept that the enormous amount of suffering this will produce is acceptable collateral damage given the end result? And of course, the price of this experiment would be paid mostly by poor women and children–not, of course, by you. Seriously, if there was any validity to this pipe dream, then why are the societies in which abortion is available on demand, and a democratic government is in place, almost invariably doing MUCH better in terms of standard of living than the rest of the world? Why are the people who support these kind of reforms–seriously support them–almost all pro-choice, whatever their personal opinions of abortion? Why has the legalization of abortion not visibly caused a complete collapse of American and other first-world societies? Do you ever bother to check your theoretical models against the facts?

    This is especially true of those societies where life is held cheap and where readily-available abortion tends simply to reinforce that view.

    And which societies would those be? The examples you have in mind wouldn’t happen to be totalitarian governments that force women to have abortions as a population control policy, which somehow you’re too thick to understand is just as much a violation of bodily autonomy as forced pregnancy, and which we equally oppose, would they?

  374. #374 D
    June 7, 2007

    After these past couple of posts by Ian, I am beginning to think that he believes that women should be slaves in our society. Anyway, as Azkyroth has already more than adequately addressed the rationalizations for his moral stance I’ll simply respond to the side bits.

    Persuasion is not the same as coercion, look it up. Neither is democracy the same as mob rule. But if a majority of the population come to accept that elective abortion is little different from infanticide then laws may be passed to restrict it and pro-abortionists will have to accept that just as anti-abortionists have had to accept the present situation.

    The end result of your persuasion would be coercion, were you to be successful. Is that really so hard for you to face? As for the mob rule vs democracy red hearing, we did that in the last post and I let you get away with it. This time I won’t. You’re advocating for mob rule in this situation. If you don’t think that is democracy then don’t call it such.

    A doctor has no more right to absolute power of life and death over other human beings than does the mother. It is simply that, in the case of a legal ban on abortion which included a medical exemption, then the doctor is best qualified to judge whether the risk to the mother is sufficient to justify termination. In the present circumstances, if there is a doctor who believes any and all abortions are medically justified and carries them out then he is acting legally and, by his own lights, ethically. I disagree about the morality.

    In other words, you don’t trust them.

    I was simply pointing out that valid logic is not the same as truth. You have no need to take my word for it. There are plenty of resources on the Internet where you can find out what the experts say if you want. Not that this means that I have any problems with my views being subject to logical scrutiny. This sort of discussion is good work-out for the mental muscles.

    I see you like staying distracted, doubly so since you never actually addressing my point. Very well. I never claimed valid logic was the same as truth. I rather said that a valid and sound argument can be said to be the truth. This is really a common judgment used by those experts. You perhaps don’t see it in the positive much, since it is much more common to see an argument being said to be false. And then there is of course the judgment of unknown, or even unknowable. And in the end, it doesn’t actually differ from what you put forward as the usual meaning to truth. After all, in logic that which is both sound and valid is, ei truth.

  375. #375 Anton Mates
    June 8, 2007
    Because it’s not his body. LIKE. WE. SAID.

    …but we are assuming, for the purpose of argument, that the fetus is partly his

    Wait, we are? Is this that thing where we’re supposed to assume you already won the argument before we finish it?

    From your point of view, he is actually doing her a favour by relieving her of an unwanted burden.

    If she didn’t want it, why did he need to trick her into aborting it?

    No, simply trying to justify abortions on the grounds that pregnancy inevitably increases the risks to the woman’s health, as has been argued, is in no way sufficient if the fetus has a right to life.

    Yet, according to you, justifying abortion on the grounds that a particular pregancy increases the risk to the woman’s health by a certain amount is sufficient. Except you won’t tell us what that certain amount should be, or why.

  376. #376 Anton Mates
    June 8, 2007

    I believe that bodily autonomy is almost as much a fundamental right as the right to life and in most circumstances would trump all others. But pregnancy is a special case because the woman’s body is playing host to another individual human being that, in my view, is entitled to the right to life.

    Yes, I know that’s your view. My point was that our support for bodily autonomy explains why we feel the woman has the right to abort her own pregnancy but her male or female partner does not. It’s not because women get special privileges; it’s because she’s the one who’s pregnant. Surely you understand that logic, even if you reject the premises?

    Moreover, I object strongly to this assumption that the woman has the stronger claim to decide the child’s fate simply because she is the one who is pregnant. The father contributes his genetic material to the child as much as does the mother.

    The father contributes half the nuclear DNA, suitably imprinted. The mother contributes the other half of the nuclear DNA, all the mitochondrial DNA, almost all of the zygote’s cytoplasm, all the material for the other few trillion cells that will make up the newborn baby…oh yes, and constant shelter and nourishment from her own body for nine months. You don’t think there’s a modicum of asymmetry between the parental contributions here?

    But if the father stands by the mother and is prepared to take on his share of the burden, to contribute whatever he can financially and in other ways to supporting her then he should have as much of a say as the mother in what happens to the child.

    As I said, I would prefer for the father to be able to legally request an abortion and be exempted from support requirements if the mother refuses. But final say should be hers; it’s her body.

  377. #377 Anton Mates
    June 8, 2007

    As to the origins of my views on the right to life, I am honestly not sure. All I can say is that I believe it is wrong to kill living things or, indeed, to destroy non-living things without good cause.

    Which means very little without some sort of metric for “good cause.” In the case of bacteria, or tomato plants, I suspect your “good cause” criterion is well below the justifications most women have for abortion.

    In the case of killing, it is probably most strongly influenced by empathy for the imagined suffering of the victims and those who are hurt by the loss of someone that they knew and loved.

    In which case it should not apply to abortion, where the victim is incapable of suffering, and the person typically most likely to be hurt by its loss actually wants it gone.

    I believe that if most people shared my beliefs society would be a more humane place to live.

    Most people shared your beliefs (on this issue) for much of Western history. It doesn’t seem to have correlated very well with the humaneness of society.

    If you argue that aborting an unwanted fetus is the better solution because it saves a child from the misery of growing up in squalor with a parent who neither wants nor cares for it, you are effectively perpetuating those conditions.

    How so? You’ve instantly removed the condition of “a parents who neither wants nor cares for it,” and the squalor is kept from growing more squalorous with the addition of another mouth to feed.

    Surely, the more humane solution would be a society that actually cares enough about the well-being of all its members to ensure that there is an adequate rather than minimal provision of care for those who are most needy and vulnerable.

    That would be a society which permits abortion. The resources of even the most advanced and ideal society are finite; it should be clear that the needy and vulnerable can be cared for more adequately if fewer people come into existence in that state.

    Making abortion on demand relieves some of the pressure on society to reform itself.

    Now that’s interesting. Social Darwinism at the community level? If conditions just become bad enough, society will be forced to evolve into utopia! The suffering masses will thank us in the end, no doubt.

    This is especially true of those societies where life is held cheap and where readily-available abortion tends simply to reinforce that view.

    As others have said, heavy restrictions on abortion are almost exclusively found in societies which don’t value human life very highly.

  378. #378 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 9, 2007

    Chet wrote:

    She’s not killing it. She’s having it evicted.

    I see, so when the mother orders it out, it packs its little bags, hails a cab and moves uptown to a more spatious uterus with cable TV and broadband access? You can use “eviction” as a euphemism for abortion if you want but it does not alter the fact that the embryo is killed, not relocated.

    I’m pretty sure that I’m a lot smarter and more handsome than my landlord, but that’s irrelevant to the question of who gets to evict tenants. Similarly, the man could be working 60-hour weeks for all I care; his employment is completely irrelevant to who gets to make the decision about who is allowed to reside in a woman’s uterus.
    Let me repeat that. Woman’s uterus. Thus, the woman gets to make the decision, by virtue of it being her uterus. Assuming, of course, that you afford women property rights. Since you’re a misogynist, I guess that’s an up-in-the-air question.

    Possession of a uterus does not confer some god-like status on their owners or grant them immunity from the moral obligations which bind us lesser mortals.

    Yes, the woman’s right to physical autonomy, just like a man’s, is supreme except in those cases where it comes into conflict with another individual’s right to life. The right to life is paramount, in my view, which obviously also includes the woman’s. It is only where the right to life of two individuals comes into conflict are we forced to make a choice.

  379. #379 Ian H Spedding
    June 9, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    As Chet nicely emphasized, the man should not have that right because IT IS NOT HIS UTERUS INVOLVED. What part of this don’t you get?! Unless Chet’s right that you don’t view women as human beings, your obfuscation on this point is becoming more inexplicable by the minute.

    This is not about the uterus, it is about what is in the uterus. Our society holds that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for the raising of a child after it has been born. Is there any good reason why that should not apply before birth? Only when the relationship between father and mother breaks down is society forced into the messy business of trying to decide who should be the primary care-giver.

  380. #380 Azkyroth
    June 9, 2007

    This is not about the uterus, it is about what is in the uterus

    Wrong. This is, and has always been, about the right of the uterus’ owner to control what will or will not be in it, dishonest attempts to retroactively frame the debate notwithstanding.

    Is there any good reason why that should not apply before birth

    Yes.

  381. #381 D
    June 9, 2007

    You can use “eviction” as a euphemism for abortion if you want but it does not alter the fact that the embryo is killed, not relocated.

    I asked about this quite some time ago and didn’t get an answer from you. Since you bring it up again, I’ll ask again. Would you then be ok with abortion if some pains were taken to make sure the process itself didn’t kill the embryo? And also, give me any other example where a person is morally required to respect the life of another person, or non-person, that is interfering with their bodily integrity, if they can’t protect such without killing the transgressor?

  382. #382 Azkyroth
    June 9, 2007

    Don’t liver flukes also die if removed from their hosts? And they’re certainly “alive.” Choosing to drink contaminated water or eat raw aquatic plants can be construed as consenting to host the fluke, if infection occurs. While I wouldn’t expect you to hold it on the same level as abortion, wouldn’t removal of a liver fluke also be “needlessly destroying a life” under your definitions? Shouldn’t you, at least to a degree, condemn it as well? Yet I’m pretty sure you don’t…

  383. #383 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 10, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    What the bloody fuck does any of this have to do with the abortion debate?!

    Something that you and the others in your camp apparently try to pretend does not exist, namely that this is not just about the woman and her legitimate interests but also about the unborn child and its father who also have entirely legitimate interests in this question of abortion.

    That the man contributes his genetic material is irrelevant. This is not about genetics, this is about bodily autonomy and the only body that is coopted in a pregnancy is the woman’s. The fact that in most families men contribute some or all of the monetary support has no bearing on whether they have the right to decide what their partner does with her body–do you contend that by this he has somehow “purchased” the right to use her uterus as he sees fit?! Are women property? I really don’t see any other way to explain your position here.

    My concern is that you and other pro-lifers have become so narrowly-focussed on the woman that, not only have you become callous about the fate of the unborn child but, in your contemptuous dismissal of men, you have become the mirror image of the male chauvinists you quite correctly despise.

    No, women are not property, neither has the man in any way “purchased” the right to use her uterus as he sees fit. But pregnancy has no direct analogy elswhere in human experience in that in no other situation do humans play host to one another by carrying them inside their bodies. That creates a unique moral dilemma when the rights of the host come into conflict with those of the hosted. That is further compounded by the fact that the hosted has another parent who, while he has no direct involvement in gestation, still has as much of an interest in what becomes of his child as does the mother.

  384. #384 Azkyroth
    June 10, 2007

    What possible arguments would you be inclined to advance that the father’s postulated interest in what happens to a fetus that carries some of his DNA (you know, for complaining about being accused of conflating a fetus and a child, you seem about as inclined to stop doing so as a kleptomaniac is to stop stealing) overrides the mother’s manifest interest in maintaining control her own body?

  385. #385 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 10, 2007

    Azkyroth wrote:

    As to the origins of my views on the right to life, I am honestly not sure.

    I would spend some time considering it; at present, your argument reeks of a retroactive attempt at justifying a knee-jerk emotional reaction.

    I have considered it and, as far as I can tell, their are certain ‘axioms’ at the foundation of any moral position which simply cannot be proven – and this goes for your position as much as mine. I cannot ‘prove’ in any scientific or legal sense that killing without good cause is wrong, for example. Most people when faced with such a challenge will instinctively appeal to consequences as a justification. The problem with consequentialism is that it begs the question of how our judgement of consequences as being beneficial or detrimental is founded on anything other than another unprovable axiom. In other words, why is what is ‘good’ for people moral or what is ‘bad’ for people immoral, other than because we say so? There is nothing in nature to suggest that we are in any way special or privileged as a species so whether something entails favourable or unfavourable consequences for us is simply irrelevant – except to us.

    I see. So, basically, you have a blind faith belief, contradicted by every available example from history, that a society with a badly overpopulated and starving underclass, with a draconian government dictating what people may and may not do with their bodies, will somehow produce *better* conditions rather than partial or total societal collapse? And you’re willing to accept that the enormous amount of suffering this will produce is acceptable collateral damage given the end result? And of course, the price of this experiment would be paid mostly by poor women and children–not, of course, by you. Seriously, if there was any validity to this pipe dream, then why are the societies in which abortion is available on demand, and a democratic government is in place, almost invariably doing MUCH better in terms of standard of living than the rest of the world? Why are the people who support these kind of reforms–seriously support them–almost all pro-choice, whatever their personal opinions of abortion? Why has the legalization of abortion not visibly caused a complete collapse of American and other first-world societies? Do you ever bother to check your theoretical models against the facts?

    It would be as foolish of me to argue that all of societies ills can be directly attributed to the widespread availability of abortion as it is for you to suggest the opposite, that those societies which are healthier and wealthier owe that good fortune to their sanctioning of elective abortion. The relative prosperity of the US or Europe and the poverty and deprivation of other parts of the world have far more complex causes. What I do believe, though, is that abortion can only be condoned if you adopt the peculiarly callous notion that a human embryo is nothing more than a rather unpleasant excrescence or tumour and the sooner it is excised the happier and healthier everyone will be.

  386. #386 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 10, 2007

    D wrote:

    I asked about this quite some time ago and didn’t get an answer from you. Since you bring it up again, I’ll ask again. Would you then be ok with abortion if some pains were taken to make sure the process itself didn’t kill the embryo?

    If it were possible to remove the embryo or fetus from the mother without killing it so that it could be incubated elsewhere, either by machine or implantation in a woman who was prepared to be a surrogate maother, then I would have no objections at all.

  387. #387 Azkyroth
    June 10, 2007

    What I do believe, though, is that abortion can only be condoned if you adopt the peculiarly callous notion that a human embryo is nothing more than a rather unpleasant excrescence or tumour and the sooner it is excised the happier and healthier everyone will be.

    Give me one reason why I should treat the above statement any more seriously than “Atheists just want to be able to sin without consequences, so they pretend God doesn’t exist.”

  388. #388 Azkyroth
    June 10, 2007

    PS: If you argue that it’s ethical for a woman’s bodily autonomy to be violated because a man has a perceived “interest” in having her give birth to a child containing his genetic material, why does this not also justify raping a woman to make her pregnant? Please try to answer without begging the question.

  389. #389 Numad
    June 10, 2007

    If there was any doubt PZ’s later post on the subject wasn’t hyperbole, there you go.

  390. #390 Numad
    June 10, 2007

    “That creates a unique moral dilemma when the rights of the host come into conflict with those of the hosted. That is further compounded by the fact that the hosted has another parent who, while he has no direct involvement in gestation, still has as much of an interest in what becomes of his child as does the mother.”

    That’s just disturbing.

    If the fetus could be said to have rights, then the first proposition would be correct. The second proposition doesn’t make any freaking sense there and seems to be artificially attached to it.

    “As much interest”? The woman’s rights that would be in conflict with the fetus’? Still existing. Not in conflict with the father’s. Why? Because the father doesn’t have rights in conflict in the ‘unique situation’ of pregnancy.

    ‘Interest’ doesn’t cut it.

  391. #391 Science Goddess
    June 10, 2007

    If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember that Roe v Wade was not designed as a means of birth-control. The Women’s Movement of the time wanted abortion to be “safe, available and rare”. If we were able to instruct children on the proper use of birth control, and the airheads out there actually used it, we would have fewer abortions to discuss.

    My personal feeling is that abortion should be available. But so should other options, such as adoption and effective contraception. And the stigma of unwedded pregnancy should be eliminated. This country has little available support for pregnant unmarried women, gives them little or no counseling and prevention tools, then condemns them for getting pregnant. It’s an actual catch-22.

    I also think (at the risk of getting slammed) that a viable fetus should not be aborted unless the life of the mother is truly in danger. (Don’t ask me to define truly).

    SG

  392. #392 D
    June 10, 2007

    If it were possible to remove the embryo or fetus from the mother without killing it so that it could be incubated elsewhere, either by machine or implantation in a woman who was prepared to be a surrogate maother, then I would have no objections at all.

    So, no. You don’t actually make much of a distinction between harm via action vs harm via inaction. That places even more inconsistencies with non-pregnancy comparisons of conflicting rights. And I see you didn’t answer my second question. Does that mean you’re ready to admit that the requirements you’d place on pregnant women are above and beyond those of any other situation?

    In regards to the idea of male property rights over the embryo, it would only follow from male ownership over the embryo that he would have authority over deciding the continuation of a pregnancy or not only if he also had an ownership claim over the woman. So if anyone needed any more evidence that Ian thinks women should be slaves, there you go.

    And finally:

    I have considered it and, as far as I can tell, their are certain ‘axioms’ at the foundation of any moral position which simply cannot be proven – and this goes for your position as much as mine.

    Such a statement would mean any one “axiom” is just as reasonable as the next. “All “human beings” should have a right to life” is then just as valid as “all first born children should be eaten”. No position begins in a vacuum though. If you can not face the source of your belief or the reasons for your belief, you are in no position to be advocating for others to follow it.

  393. #393 D
    June 10, 2007

    SG:
    I also think (at the risk of getting slammed) that a viable fetus should not be aborted unless the life of the mother is truly in danger. (Don’t ask me to define truly).

    It’s slammin’ time…

    Not really. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone that disagrees with the sentiment you express. The only problems with making such a statement is the fact that abortions at such late stages only occur because the fetus is in fact not viable or continuing the pregnancy would certainly endanger the woman’s life. So in talking about policy, it is somewhat an irrelevant topic. The other problem is how you use abortion. I know that common usage amongst some groups it means “kill the babeez”, but in medical parlance, it simply means intervention to end a pregnancy. At such late stages, that latter includes intervention that keeps what will be a preemie alive.

    Of course your position is still that of the man hating feminazis, so good on you.

  394. #394 Anton Mates
    June 10, 2007

    My concern is that you and other pro-lifers have become so narrowly-focussed on the woman that, not only have you become callous about the fate of the unborn child but, in your contemptuous dismissal of men, you have become the mirror image of the male chauvinists you quite correctly despise.

    Ah, so now an embryo’s a child again. Hurrah for consistency.

    You aren’t ever going to deal with the fact that we deny the right of a person of either sex to prohibit their partner’s abortion, are you? It must be much more fun battling man-hating feminazis, even if they’re imaginary.

    That is further compounded by the fact that the hosted has another parent who, while he has no direct involvement in gestation, still has as much of an interest in what becomes of his child as does the mother.

    Interest? The mother’s parents have an interest in what becomes of her child as well. So does the Pope. So what? Your interest in the products of another’s body doesn’t give you the right to control that body.

    But let’s go with this interest thing–if the mother and the father agree that the fetus should be aborted, would you support them? It’s double the interest, after all!

  395. #395 Anton Mates
    June 10, 2007

    I have considered it and, as far as I can tell, their are certain ‘axioms’ at the foundation of any moral position which simply cannot be proven – and this goes for your position as much as mine.

    I agree. The problem is that you have yet to come up with a set of axioms that are consistent and actually imply your own moral opinions. The timescape and continuous-lifecycle arguments failed to explain why fertilization should be privileged as the beginning of life, and the multiple-birth cases contradicted that claim. The “killing is wrong because it causes suffering and hurts the victim’s loved ones” argument fails to apply, since the victim in this case is most often incapable of suffering and has no loved ones. The “abortion causes problems for society” argument had no empirical support. You’re probably going to have to just bite the bullet and take “abortion is wrong” as a personal axiom, in which case we can do nothing but disagree.

    It would be as foolish of me to argue that all of societies ills can be directly attributed to the widespread availability of abortion as it is for you to suggest the opposite, that those societies which are healthier and wealthier owe that good fortune to their sanctioning of elective abortion. The relative prosperity of the US or Europe and the poverty and deprivation of other parts of the world have far more complex causes.

    That’s not what the research says. There are several studies showing that ready availability of abortion improves women’s life satisfaction, access to education and income (see for instance Silvia Pezzini, “The Effect of Women’s Rights on Women’s Welfare: Evidence from a Natural Experiment”), and reduces the relative incidence of infant mortality, child abuse and abandonment, and children raised in poverty. (See Bitler and Zavodny, “Child Abuse and Abortion Availability” and “Did Abortion Legalization Reduce the Number of Unwanted Children? Evidence from Adoptions”; Gruber, Levine and Staiger, “Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who is the “Marginal Child”?”; and Bisakha Sen, “State Abortion Restrictions & Child Fatal Injury: An Exploratory Study.”)

    Moreover, legalizing abortion dramatically reduces the rate of unsafe “back-alley” abortions, which currently kill about 68,000 women a year, according to the WHO. And lest you claim that this is confounded by other differences between countries which permit or ban abortion, consider the WHO data on Romania alone, mentioned in this Planned Parenthood article. “Following the 1966 tightening of a previously liberal abortion law, abortion-related deaths rose dramatically. The number of deaths from unsafe abortions jumped from 20 per 100,000 live births in 1965 to almost 100 in 1974 and 150 in 1983. Then, in December 1989 abortion was legalized and by the end of 1990 deaths from abortion dropped to around 60 per 100,000 live births.”

    No doubt you will say that these benefits aren’t worth the deaths of millions of fetuses, and/or that there may be other social means of accomplishing them besides legalizing abortion. Be that as it may, it remains true that legalizing abortion does make societies “healthier and wealthier.”

    What I do believe, though, is that abortion can only be condoned if you adopt the peculiarly callous notion that a human embryo is nothing more than a rather unpleasant excrescence or tumour and the sooner it is excised the happier and healthier everyone will be.

    Uh, no. If we thought that, we would be recommending abortions to everyone. To condone abortion merely requires recognizing that the mother is the best judge of whether her embryo is a boon or a burden. Either way she decides is fine with me.

    As for “callous,” that’s a bit rich coming from someone who thinks the rights of a mindless chunk of tissue outweigh the suffering of the thinking, feeling human host.

  396. #396 Anton Mates
    June 10, 2007

    The Women’s Movement of the time wanted abortion to be “safe, available and rare”.

    I’m pretty sure most modern pro-choicers agree. Nobody likes abortion–at a minimum it’s ugly, uncomfortable and dangerous. It’s just that frequently the alternatives are worse. And the pro-life movement is doing everything in its power to make sure they remain so.

    I also think (at the risk of getting slammed) that a viable fetus should not be aborted unless the life of the mother is truly in danger.

    I disagree; I think the criterion should be (probable) fetal consciousness. However, a fetus currently becomes viable at around the time its EEG patterns start to become humanlike, so the criteria pretty much coincide and I couldn’t complain too much if it was done based on viability.

    I would want to make sure “viable” meant “likely to survive and have a reasonable quality of life,” though. You have to go past 24 weeks before there’s even a >50% chance of survival, usually with long-term physical and mental problems.

  397. #397 Azkyroth
    June 10, 2007
    I have considered it and, as far as I can tell, their are certain ‘axioms’ at the foundation of any moral position which simply cannot be proven – and this goes for your position as much as mine.

    Such a statement would mean any one “axiom” is just as reasonable as the next. “All “human beings” should have a right to life” is then just as valid as “all first born children should be eaten”. No position begins in a vacuum though. If you can not face the source of your belief or the reasons for your belief, you are in no position to be advocating for others to follow it.

    Ian is not even consistent on this point; he rejects the idea that morality can be established objectively because “in general, people should be happy” is an unprovable assertion, but does not reject the objectivity of empirical claims, even though “an external world exists and our senses, while imperfect, tell us something useful about it” is equally “unprovable.” What standard could one appeal to in order to justify this?

  398. #398 D
    June 11, 2007

    but does not reject the objectivity of empirical claims

    Oh I don’t know, based on many of his comments, I’d say that’s questionable.

  399. #399 Anton Mates
    June 11, 2007

    Ian is not even consistent on this point; he rejects the idea that morality can be established objectively because “in general, people should be happy” is an unprovable assertion, but does not reject the objectivity of empirical claims, even though “an external world exists and our senses, while imperfect, tell us something useful about it” is equally “unprovable.” What standard could one appeal to in order to justify this?

    Several, I think.

    First, the assumption of an external, perceptible world is a very useful calculational tool. Bertrand Russell once dreamed of reformulating science so that it referred only to one’s own sense perceptions rather than external objects, but he gave the idea up as being unworkably complicated. IIRC, he gave the example of a single penny. Seen with various light sources from various angles and distances, it can appear as an infinite variety of ovals of different sizes, shapes and colors. Without referring to an external “penny” object, to which you can apply the notions of incident lighting and angle and distance relative to your eyes, it would be virtually impossible to conceptually organize all those ovals and figure out which one you’ll see under a given set of sensory conditions.

    This reasoning is quite common in, for instance, physics; we believe in atoms not because we can directly perceive them but because the assumption of their existence explains a whole ton of phenomena. Theoretically it would be possible to reformulate all of physics and chemistry so that atoms were never mentioned but all the same predictions were made; but the theories would be vastly more complicated to communicate and almost impossible to apply. Therefore we have pragmatic reasons to act as though atoms exist, even if we can’t prove it.

    But this is not the case for the assumption of objective morality. “I disapprove of torturing small children” tells me something about the world and allows me to make some predictions; so does “Most people feel that torturing small children is wrong.” But “Torturing small children is objectively wrong” tells me nothing. It’s not just that it’s unprovable, it’s useless.

    Second, the belief in an external, objective world leads to evidence against objective morality. Belief in an external world is at least self-consistent, in that the external world appears to contain other humans who perceive roughly the same things you do. I can hand a penny to other people and most of them will agree on its size and shape and color. Among those who don’t, I often have other reasons to believe that they have an unusual sensory connection to the external world–bad eyesight, for example–so I don’t need to take this as evidence that the penny’s imaginary.

    But, again, this doesn’t happen with morality. I agree with you that it’s best to maximize happiness, but most people seem to disagree. Some believe in retributive justice. Some believe that it’s better to be virtuous and unhappy than corrupt and happy. Some believe that the happiness of a certain race or culture is the only important thing. Some believe that only acts are good or bad and the resulting happiness or misery is morally irrelevant. And most of these people seem to be sane and functional in their daily lives. There doesn’t seem to be any moral axiom to which most of humanity will assent. Sometimes there’s a moral statement with which most people agree with, like the Golden Rule, but they then fail to agree on what it actually means.

    Third is, I think, what J.L. Mackie calls the “argument from queerness.” I may not be able to prove empirically that there is or isn’t an external world, but I at least have an idea of what it would mean for there to be one. I can imagine the difference between a world of one or many dreaming minds, and one in which there’s also an external, shared reality sending information to those minds. But I have no idea what it would mean for torturing children to be “really and truly wrong,” as opposed to that merely being the opinion of most people. I don’t know how a universe where compassion is objectively a virtue-or one where puce is objectively ugly and bananas are objectively delicious–would look different from a universe where these things weren’t true, even to an omniscient and omnipresent observer. So I don’t see how you would assign a truth value to those statements.

  400. #400 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 12, 2007

    Made it!!