The Jury Talks Back

11/24/2008

If You Hated College Bull Sessions, Skip This Post

Filed under: Uncategorized — Not Rhetorical @ 1:13 am

Though I know a lot of people have zero patience for them, I can never really get enough of trippy philosophical hypotheticals.

Here’s one I’ve been toying with for years: Suppose the technology existed to safely remove a fetus from a womb at any gestational stage for incubation elsewhere until birth. If such “no-death abortion” was available to any woman who wanted it, would most abortion rights supporters stand down?

I’m especially interested in what abortion rights supporters have to say, because I’ve always thought that their position is based on opposition to forced pregnancy (“Keep your laws off my body”).

For prospective commenters (assuming there are any! I don’t want to get ahead of myself here!), I have what I imagine is a hopeless request: I’d appreciate it if you could keep the usual stuff about murder and evil and so forth to a minimum. Like zero. I’m more interested in a dispassionate discussion. I know it’s not really a discussion if I’m trying to dictate what other people say; I’m not trying to make it a rule or anything. Just expressing a (strong) preference.

39 Comments

  1. I think you may have misphrased your question, because I don’t see anything in it that “abortion rights” people would be impacted by. Note that I take that pair of words to be more indicative of the ‘pro-choice’ side, rather than the ‘pro-life’ side which I think it would affect more.

    I believe that some people would still oppose it, in part because I’ve noticed that some people just don’t want to admit when the argument is over. (It’s a post for another day, but I see a lot of the civil rights organizations having to do a similar grasping at straws because the truly major and glaring issues are pretty well taken care of. Not perfect, but …) For most of them, it would take away the primary driver for opposition. The pro-life side believes it to be murder. Without the termination of the fetus, this argument goes away. Whatever is left will be those who would impose a penalty on someone for getting pregnant.

    Comment by Joral — 11/24/2008 @ 5:39 am

  2. Presuming that the woman would then not be held responsible for supporting the child she had chosen not to have, then I’d stand down; that would provide exactly the same outcome from the perspective of the woman seeking the abortion as abortion does, while remedying a great deal of the harm caused by abortion.

    Comment by aphrael — 11/24/2008 @ 8:09 am

  3. I wouldn’t; it seems a device designed to enable rapists to propagate. There are probably less emotional objections that could be raised. I can see advantages, too; a mother could have the fetus removed, be treated with chemo, and have it re-implanted. It changes the discussion, but it does not solve the problems. Thirty years on, the unwanted child returns, wanting a kidney. ….

    Comment by htom — 11/24/2008 @ 10:19 am

  4. Thirty years on, the unwanted child returns, wanting a kidney. ….

    By the time we figure out how to remove and incubate (and maybe even re-implant) the fetus, we will probably have figured out how to regenerate organs with stem cells.

    It’s an interesting question, NR. Under your scenario, who pays for the removal and incubation?

    Comment by JVW — 11/24/2008 @ 10:41 am

  5. I suspect that we’ll have custom grown kidneys (and most other internal transplantable organs) before we get the safe removal and incubation technique. I’ll hope that we get some form of real birth control, for both males and females, before then.

    Comment by htom — 11/24/2008 @ 11:38 am

  6. a device designed to enable rapists to propagate

    They don’t propagate other rapists.

    Presuming that the woman would then not be held responsible for supporting the child she had chosen not to have,

    Sadly, our laws and culture are not so generous to men who father those children. Some men have been forced to support children even after they are proven not to be the father. Read this.

    Comment by quasimodo — 11/24/2008 @ 12:28 pm

  7. I’d like to hope that rapists don’t propagate rapists, but I haven’t seen any evidence, other than observation with a huge class/culture slant. I am inclined to think that a predisposition to violent behavior is an inheritable trait, and I think that rape is one of those violent behaviors.

    Comment by htom — 11/24/2008 @ 1:11 pm

  8. So long as you could force the practitioners to perform the life-saving procedures, which will be infinitely more complicated, go for it. Yet, as alluded to above, the liabilities would be too much. What happens if a fetus does not survive the procedure?

    Unless and until society demands that women bring life to term, there is no way around abortion. Look at Nebraska – they adopted a post-birth alternative to responsibility for a life with their dump-a-kid program and they are already regretting it.

    Comment by Ed — 11/24/2008 @ 2:36 pm

  9. It’s a good question but in my opinion it wouldn’t matter. I was pro-choice in my college days but I’m closer to pro-life now. My gut tells me that happens to a lot of women after they have children. But having the remove-and-incubate option wouldn’t have changed my college attitude because it’s not solely about avoiding pregnancy.

    Contraception is about avoiding the birth of a child when you aren’t ready to have one … but once you get pregnant, it’s your child and the thought of someone else raising it is as abhorrent as the thought of aborting it. Does this make sense? No, but I think it’s a fact with many women.

    I think it might also be why mothers of pregnant teens can be so insistent that their daughters keep their babies rather than give them up for adoption. And frankly, I think it also comes into play with mothers like Susan Smith and Andrea Yates, who would rather see their children dead than living with someone else.

    Comment by DRJ — 11/24/2008 @ 3:00 pm

  10. How interesting to consider whether pro-abortionists would stand down if there were a viable no-death abortion available.

    Of course just identifying it as a no-death procedures indicates that one believes a death, murder, elimination takes place during the procedure.

    Which then begs the question, if those having the current procedure done truly believed there was nothing but tissue and blood being removed, then why even need to develop a system that in essence removes the function and guilt of abortion (to kill what is alive)?

    Comment by Dana — 11/24/2008 @ 3:31 pm

  11. I find comment #9 exceptional, in that it rationally takes both viewpoints into account and ties the difference to her own life experience. Kudos DRJ.

    I would most likely be one of the ‘converted’. I’m pro-life from a societal standpoint, as I do believe that a life begins after conception, but pro-choice from a legal perspective, due to the nightmare of actually prosecuting any woman who goes through with a procedure that is legal in many other developed countries. Were abortion made illegal in the US, those wishing the procedure would seek abortions outside the border. (Airfare or gas is quite a bit cheaper than even delivering, much less raising a child) I would not be in favor of sending a mother to serve time, nor would I expect most other Americans. I believe that this issue will resolve due to changes in societal opinion, and not from legal enforcement.

    If, for some reason or other, Roe is overturned and the issue is put to a vote, I feel that, like the homosexuals in California, those with Pro-Life opinions in favor of banning abortion will be surprised that the populace resists what they view as a restriction, and votes against a ban.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/24/2008 @ 7:07 pm

  12. I think I will be echoing DRJ here. The proposed alternate-gestation system, with completely anonymous adoption, would still gall many, women and men, who are pro-choice. That is because they view abortion as a “do-over.” An aborted pregnancy provides, among other things, freedom from worrying about just what may happen in the future to one’s progeny who may be wandering the streets after his or her wonderful adoptive parents die early and penniless.

    Comment by Ira — 11/24/2008 @ 7:25 pm

  13. Presuming that the woman would then not be held responsible for supporting the child she had chosen not to have

    Of course she did chose to have it. At least as much as the man in question, who is expected to support the child regardless. I don’t see how that double standard can be justified.

    Comment by Subotai — 11/24/2008 @ 8:34 pm

  14. .. due to the nightmare of actually prosecuting any woman who goes through with a procedure that is legal in many other developed countries.

    Actually most other developed countries have much more restrictive laws on abortion than does the US, where it is legal through all nine months of pregnancy.

    Comment by Subotai — 11/24/2008 @ 8:38 pm

  15. but once you get pregnant, it’s your child and the thought of someone else raising it is as abhorrent as the thought of aborting it. Does this make sense? No, but I think it’s a fact with many women.

    “I’d raher kill it than let somebody else raise it”? Sounds sick. And sounds like such people have no business making these decisions.

    Comment by Subotai — 11/24/2008 @ 8:40 pm

  16. Look at Nebraska – they adopted a post-birth alternative to responsibility for a life with their dump-a-kid program and they are already regretting it.

    No exactly. People started dumping teensagers on them so they altered to law to restrict it to infants.

    Comment by Subotai — 11/24/2008 @ 8:42 pm

  17. Florida has a similar law (but our legislature had the brains to limit it to newborns–babies within the first four or five days of life, IIRC) without any significant impact on abortion rates as far as I can tell.
    The real aim of the statute was on those teenagers who bore a baby to full term and then, unable to face the prospect of motherhood, killed the child after it was born. So I guess it could be rightfully called the Heart of Midlothian law.

    Comment by kishnevi — 11/24/2008 @ 9:23 pm

  18. I think there is another dynamic at work now that wasn’t an issue 35 years ago when I was in college. In general, society views abortion as an acceptable choice now but that wasn’t true 35 years ago. It’s also the case with no fault divorce and bankruptcy, and that makes it a little easier to decide to get an abortion or file for a divorce or bankruptcy.

    In my view, pro-life supporters need more ideological ammunition to counterbalance society’s implied permission. But I also think today’s 3-D photos of babies in the womb is powerful ammunition.

    Comment by DRJ — 11/24/2008 @ 9:54 pm

  19. I’ll hope that we get some form of real birth control, for both males and females, before then.

    Comment by htom — 11/24/2008 @ 11:38 am

    They already have, it’s called abstinence and it works every time it is tried. After all, just like getting drunk, can’t do it either if you don’t imbibe.

    Having sex implies responsibilities, after all, the main result of sex is procreation of the species.

    Comment by peedoffamerican — 11/25/2008 @ 2:57 am

  20. As to the original question (as far as I can tell), “would most abortion rights supporters stand down?”, the answer is no. Sure, it might cause some of the more thoughtful pro-choice types to back off a bit. But the “movement” (or whatever you want to call it” will have none of it.

    At the absolute core of the pro-choice ideology is the the denial of the humanity of the fetus. That’s why they ALWAYS turn it back to the rights of the woman. To acknowledge that the fetus is a living human exposes them to all sorts of internal dilema…so most do not.

    Comment by Kurt — 11/25/2008 @ 5:45 am

  21. A good hypothetical, and DRJ’s #9 resonates.

    Perhaps there are two questions:

    (1) Would this modest proposal (removal and incubation elsewhere) make good public policy, if technically and financially feasible?

    (2) If it was you (or your GF, daughter, sister…) that was pregnant, would it change your feelings and actions?

    As alluded to earlier, the issue for the most fervently pro-choice is that this entire discussion presupposes that there’s a problem to be solved. And if a fetus is just a lump of tissue, then–necessarily–there isn’t one.

    Reminiscent of the opposition to cochlear implants by Deaf Rights ideologues. Other people choosing to have their hearing-impaired children get that surgery implies that there’s something inferior to being deaf, which is taken as an affront to their personhood.

    Seems crazy to a person with standard hearing, sight, smell, etc., but the position is logical and internally consistent–as well as self-serving.

    Comment by AMac — 11/25/2008 @ 6:46 am

  22. Logically, being deaf is an inferiority. It’s understandable that a deaf person would feel otherwise, but it isn’t logical.

    Comment by Justin — 11/25/2008 @ 6:57 am

  23. Justin, I presume that such an advocate would look at cochlear implants as you or I might look at having FM radios implanted in our children’s heads. So as not to deprive them of integral Top 40 hits, all day, every day. (Sorry, didn’t mean to go too far off-topic.)

    Comment by AMac — 11/25/2008 @ 7:56 am

  24. aphrael — 11/24/2008 –

    Give a Man those rights now – a legal, rather than medical, termination of parental relationship. We are either equal or we ar not; this is either a “choice” or it is “control” – it cannot be both.

    Comment by Lysander — 11/25/2008 @ 8:09 am

  25. Many (but not all) of those who are pro-life have their feelings rooted deeply in a common ideal: life is precious, and we, being humans, are in no place to alter the natural course of things.

    I imediately see questions being raised as to the morality of a pseudo-womb. Isn’t the child supposed to be carried in the mothers’ womb to term, as to form that everlasting bond that a woman and child share? Would some mothers be psychologically disturbed by the idea that they are, for all intensive purposes, not really pregnant? Or simply just the thought that they are not directly responsible for the growth and development of their child (i.e. providing sustenance and shelter in the womb) and are instead just paying a hospital to do that for them.

    Next, if such a device were able to be made, would we even allow its production? A pseudo-womb literally means that anyone who has the means to obtain one can make a kid like they make a loaf of bread. I don’t doubt that the majority of people would welcome such a device in the context of saving fetuses who otherwise may not be saved, but many would view this as they do nuclear technology: a technology whose negative effects outweigh its positive ones.

    I, personally, wouldn’t have a problem with this. It would allow for stem cell research without having to involve parents or abortion. However, I think that too many people would be unnerved, rather than excited.

    Comment by jpaige — 11/25/2008 @ 8:25 am

  26. To support the statements in #9, I’ve had discussions with a woman who has had multiple abortions. She told me she knew she couldn’t support them (she was already a single mom), but she just couldn’t bear the thought of them living with someone else.

    Not that she didn’t want to have to go through the burden of carrying the children to term and giving birth, but that those children would be living with someone else, calling someone else “Mom”.

    I think this attitude strikingly underlines the basic rift between the pro-life and pro-choice camps.

    As an aside, a question for those who are opposed to legal prohibition of abortion due to uneasiness or revulsion at the thought of punishing the woman obtaining the abortion: Would you still be opposed if there were no crime w/ respect to the woman obtaining the abortion, but the only one who could be charged with a crime was the physician who performed the abortion?

    Comment by cnh — 11/25/2008 @ 8:54 am

  27. Would some mothers be psychologically disturbed by the idea that they are, for all intensive purposes, not really pregnant? Or simply just the thought that they are not directly responsible for the growth and development of their child (i.e. providing sustenance and shelter in the womb) and are instead just paying a hospital to do that for them.

    Those questions don’t seem to bother the millions of adoptive mothers out there, none of whom were really pregnant or provided sustenance and shelter in the womb.

    This isn’t an issue at all. It sounds like someone trying to make an excuse.

    Comment by Steverino — 11/25/2008 @ 9:42 am

  28. #26- cnh – Would you still be opposed if there were no crime w/ respect to the woman obtaining the abortion, but the only one who could be charged with a crime was the physician who performed the abortion?

    My response it to echo Steverino in #27 – It sounds like someone trying to make an excuse. On one hand society is asked to consider abortion as murder. On the other hand society is asked to absolve from any blame the woman seeking out the procedure. I find those two ideas contradictory. I don’t see a jury being asked to convict a physician for murder, while letting the woman who sought him out for the procedure off without punishment. If the charge is anything less than murder, then the argument that it’s a separate life with its own rights is weakened considerably.

    Additionally, other countries would take up this now ‘rebel’ cause and most likely assist in women obtaining the procedure – for a fee, of course. If you think it impossible to have comparisons of a secretive abortion network with the Underground Railroad, just attempt to tell people what they cannot do. And then, whoops, you’re now on the side of the aggressors, and what social progress you’ve made in the war of ideas is shouted down. I will say this again – I do not believe that this issue can be forced by statute or punishment. I think it must come from a societal change in attitude and techical progress such as this hypothetical, and that can only be achieved by the communication of the positive aspects of life, not the demonization of those seeking or performing the procedure.

    Also, in response to #14, abortion in other developed countries may be more restricted with respect to its allowed time period, but it is far more of a societal flash point in the United States.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/25/2008 @ 12:17 pm

  29. […] 25, 2008 by Daphne Not Rhetorical posted a good […]

    Pingback by Philosophical Hypotheticals « Jaded Haven — 11/25/2008 @ 1:48 pm

  30. abortion in other developed countries may be more restricted with respect to its allowed time period, but it is far more of a societal flash point in the United States.

    That’s because in other countries, democratic countries, the laws are made by the peoples legislatures. While in the US of A they are made by judges in defiance of what people think.

    Comment by Subotai — 11/25/2008 @ 4:27 pm

  31. #30 – … While in the US of A they are made by judges in defiance of what people think.

    In defiance of what some people think.

    Which is exactly my point. The procedure exists in other democratic countries, and is accepted because of its status emanating from the legislatures. Outlawing abortion in the US by legal ruling will not outlaw it in other countries, which means that if the objective is to reduce the number of abortions, (rather than the objective being the punishment of those having and conducting abortions) then the change will have to come, IMO, from a shift in public opinion rather than from the enactment and subsequent enforcement of a ban.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/25/2008 @ 5:07 pm

  32. I dunno,
    Alot of the anit-abortion stuff I have read here tends towards making the original mother responsible for “Having screwed up” and they also seemed a bit put off by giving this hypothetical woman a ‘pass’.
    If we can be assured the child has equal chance of viablity, then it isn’t abortion in the current definition. The pregnancy is terminated, but not the life of the fetus. I mean pregnancy is terminated after birth right? And the desirable alternative is Adoption no?
    I view this hyopthetical as ‘Pre-emptive Adoption” rather than abortion.
    It sure as hell would put and end to the shouts of “Murderer!” No?

    Comment by paul from fl — 11/25/2008 @ 5:47 pm

  33. I really like the idea of telling a would-be-rapist that you’re practicing abstinence. What would he say?

    Comment by htom — 11/25/2008 @ 9:34 pm

  34. And the incidence of pregnancy by rape is less than 1%, your point being? http://www.christianliferesources.com/?library/view.php&articleid=461
    Exactly nothing.

    That is a red herring that is always thrown into an argument by pro-aborts. Very few pregnancies result because of rape. Most abortions are not for the health of the mother, as a result of rape, or any other reason that pro-aborts cite. It is because of the inconvenience that their irresponsible actions brought upon them and is used as a means of ‘birth control’.

    By the way, why are you for impowing the death penalty on the only truly innocent one involved? HINT: The unborn BABY. After all it is now known that many women finding themselves pregnant from CONSENSUAL falsely report it as rape.

    And YES it is a baby! Ever hear anyone ask an expectant mother, “When is your fetus due?”. NO, they always ask, “When is your BABY due?”.

    Comment by peedoffamerican — 11/26/2008 @ 12:19 am

  35. impowing should read imposing

    Comment by peedoffamerican — 11/26/2008 @ 12:20 am

  36. #28
    It sounds like someone trying to make an excuse. On one hand society is asked to consider abortion as murder. On the other hand society is asked to absolve from any blame the woman seeking out the procedure. I find those two ideas contradictory.

    You claim to believe that life begins immediately after conception, but you refuse to prosecute pregnant women who choose to abort to avoid the ensuing “nightmare”. With respect, your current position, unless modified, is every bit as contradictory as the hypothetical I offered. Or do you believe that in this case, the premeditated destruction of human life is not murder?

    Comment by cnh — 11/26/2008 @ 8:52 am

  37. AMac:

    (1) Would this modest proposal (removal and incubation elsewhere) make good public policy, if technically and financially feasible?

    I think it would be well-intentioned policy that would likely end up with bad results.

    Just as marriage solidifies the connection between two people who want to be life partners, today’s process of becoming a parent (whether it’s through pregnancy or a rigorous adoption process) solidifies the bond between parent and child and makes people invest in the outcome. I’m afraid the remove-and-incubate process would bring us one step closer to dehumanizing parenthood and a system where babies are products to be bought and sold.

    Comment by DRJ — 11/26/2008 @ 9:59 am

  38. cnh #36 – A good test of your viewpoint would be to ask two questions of those commenters and posters at this site who describe themselves as Pro-Life.

    1) Do you support prosecution and punishment (execution?) for women who have abortions?

    2) Do you think that society will ever approve of such prosecutions?

    Comment by Apogee — 11/26/2008 @ 5:02 pm

  39. […] at my new reader-written blog The Jury Talks Back, poster Not Rhetorical posits a fascinating hypothetical: Though I know a lot of people have zero patience for them, I can never really get enough of trippy […]

    Pingback by Patterico’s Pontifications » A Reader Poses an Interesting Abortion Hypothetical — 7/21/2009 @ 10:51 pm

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