Patterico's Pontifications

2/15/2006

A Discussion of Abortion — Part Three: How Flexible Is Your Position?

Filed under: Abortion,General — Patterico @ 7:18 am



We’re not quite where I thought we’d be in this discussion, so I am going to try to briefly recap where we are in the discussion, and ask another set of follow-up questions.

I am still seeing three basic positions.

Position #1 — Life begins at conception: Yesterday I asked these people questions designed to see how firm their stance is, such whether they would oppose abortion even for rape, and whether they support birth control. As to rape, Dana responded:

Abortion after rape is no different from abortion following consensual intercourse: a human life is destroyed. Yes, rape is a terrible thing, but it is less than murder; we ought not to murder a living human being because someone else is suffering.

As to contraception, Dana responded:

Oral contraceptives normally prevent the ovaries from releasing an unfertilized egg, which is unobjectionable. But oral contraceptives also prevent implantation of a human zygote if an egg was released and fertilized; that I do find objectionable. Thus, were I emperor, they would be outlawed.

Do other “life begins at conception” people agree with these statements? And if you do, do you recognize that most Americans don’t? Would you be in a favor of a compromise that recognized most Americans’ belief that women should not be forced to have a baby if raped? Can you live with the fact that most Americans believe women should have access to the morning after pill?

Position #2 — “No regulation until viability”: I haven’t seen an articulated rationale for the position yet. It seems to be simply assumed by these folks (biwah, for example) that the woman should have complete moral control over the fetus until it becomes viable. What I am missing is the why? Why does society have no say in the treatment of a non-viable fetus?

For example, I have seen an argument for abortion articulated as an analogy to a kidnapped hostage. The argument goes: the woman is a hostage to the baby for 10 months of her life. If you were suddenly linked to a famous violinist, and told that you had to drag this person around with you everywhere you went or she would die, would you be obligated to drag her around?

But the analogy doesn’t really hold, because (except in the case of rape) a woman generally makes a choice to have sex, and pregnancy is a known consequence of sex. Where does that choice fit into your argument, if at all?

Is her freedom absolute before viability? Could the woman do simply whatever she likes with the fetus, including deliberate torture?

If you believe the answer is no, then why not? If you believe the answer is yes, can you see how some Americans might disagree? Would you be okay with a compromise that respected the views of Americans with whom you disagreed on this issue?

Also: does society have any moral right to try to persuade the woman to have the baby? Not force — persuade.

I’d like to see these questions answered by the “no regulation before viability” folks on the thread.

Position #3 — The middle ground: Here I want to highlight a comment by AMac:

A 64-cell zygote doesn’t much resemble a person, to me. Compared to a 6-month fetus, it has a much lower chance of completing development (avoiding lethal genetic problems, spontaneous miscarriage, and the like).

Sometime in the 2 to 4 month time frame, an embryo becomes recognizable as a pre-human, sharing many of the features that a human exhibits as a born baby. So in my view, a fetus acquires progressively more right to “moral respect” in the 2-month to 9-month window.

It also seems to me that the mother isn’t a spectator, but another party with important claims to rights that are potentially in direct conflict with the fetus’ entitlement to moral respect.

Note that AMac is not talking about purely external resemblance, but resemblance to fully developed babies in every sense.

What do all sides think of AMac’s observation?

86 Responses to “A Discussion of Abortion — Part Three: How Flexible Is Your Position?”

  1. I agree with Dana that how the unborn are conceived shouldn’t have bearing on whether they have basic rights or not.

    I recognize that most people probably disagree with me. If I were emperor I would sign a law that prevent abortions except for rape even though I would prefer a law that prevented abortion regardless of how the unborn are conceived.

    I disagree with Dana regarding oral contraceptives. Mainly, because all of the information/studies that I’ve seen on the birth control pill doesn’t lead me to believe that in the rare case of a breakthrough ovulation that the pill will prevent an embryo from implanting.

    Emergency contraception is somewhat a difficult subject because from what I’ve seen no one really knows exactly what it does. One study even shows that it is unlikely that it prevents the implantation of an embryo and works solely to prevent conception. But I’m wary of any drug whose long term side effects haven’t been studied.

    Jivin J (fac739)

  2. I am one of those hard-liners who doesn’t believe in exceptions for abortion except to save the life of the mother. For me, it doesn’t matter how the baby was conceived but that it was. In other words, I would have the rapist’s baby.

    Saving the life of the mother, on the other hand, is different for me, because that is where the rights of each party come in. As the person born and walking around, it seems to me that the woman has a better argument for her right to life, as opposed to the fetus, which is not yet born.

    :Do other “life begins at conception” people agree with these statements?”

    I just stated how I agree and disagree with Dana’s statements.

    “And if you do, do you recognize that most Americans don’t?”

    Yes, I do.

    “Would you be in a favor of a compromise that recognized most Americans’ belief that women should not be forced to have a baby if raped?”

    I would be willing to accept such a compromise, although I would still feel obligated to try to change minds and hearts on this issue.

    “Can you live with the fact that most Americans believe women should have access to the morning after pill?”

    Yes, I can, but I question if most people really understand the morning after pill. If it is like most people’s opinion of abortion, they wouldn’t be in favor of it as a replacement for other forms of birth control.

    sharon (a02134)

  3. I generally agree with what Dana said about rape. Indeed, that is why rape was considered worse then simple sexual assault. But, since the mother is not responsible for putting the child in that vulnerable state, I may be willing to allow it. Actually, I would support just about any restriction on abortion even if it does not restrict it enough for me.

    I don’t like the pill for many reasons, but as far as I have seen the data is not conclusive on implantation. If it was used deliberately to prevent implantation, I would be against it. Otherwise we just don’t know for sure.

    On the middle ground:

    an embryo becomes recognizable as a pre-human, sharing many of the features that a human exhibits as a born baby
    No reason has been given as to why this is more or less relevant than brain waves, heart beat, breathing, more than 64 cells, potentially healthy, driver’s license ;), or any other completely arbitrary measure. It seems as though you are searching for anything around a predetermined time period. Which forces conception to be ignored, like the elephant in the corner.

    Why not just be honest and say that protecting innocent children is less important than the convenience of the parents? That would be better than the rationalizations I see here.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  4. As a threshold, viability lacks the certainty of a pinpoint date or occurrence that signifies that yes, the fetus is now viable. But AMac’s criteria seems even less defined, based on an entire penumbra (to transplant a term) of characteristics. I.e., resemblance to what we think of as a human. Way more subjective and hard to define than viability. Am I wrong to characterize this as a “resemblance” threshold, ramping up the moral significance of the fetus?

    More significantly, the fetus may “resemble” a human, but the strongest characteristic of a human is that it can survive as a human. The “resemblance” test take a back seat to function for significance, clarity, and moral respect IMO.

    To quibble with Patterico, I think I have articulated some basis for deeming viability as the threshold…and why society (via gov’t) “has no say” (cannot punish the mother) in cases involving the survival/death of the fetus. It is based on function, i.e. ability to survive other than inside of another person, as the criteria for (a) personhood and thus (b) attachment of rights and responsibilities imposed by the state. There are lots of practical and policy considerations extending from this, but that’t the conceptual framework.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  5. I’d also add that AMac’s test is not just about appearance, but is definitely slanted toward observable characteristics, which can be reasonably encapsulated as “appearances”.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  6. Can you live with the fact that most Americans believe women should have access to the morning after pill?
    Uh, yeah – I live with many things, including my own weaknesses, failures, and guilt. But I would work to change people’s perceptions, if possible.

    Speaking of which – I thought abortion wasn’t supposed to be birth control! I advocate pregnancy control, as opposed to birth control.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  7. I’m in the second group. Pregnancy involves (small) life threatening risks to the mother. So we are talking about a life and death condition here. While I believe that the fetus does deserve some level of moral respect, the problem is how to weigh the (in my view lesser) rights of the fetus against the right of any individual to control his or her own body. I come down on the side of the woman’s right to control her own body.

    As such I answer your question about society’s rights (an awful wording for your side of the debate by the way) is that society can only interfere in the treatment of a non-viable fetus in a way that does not interfere with a mothers right to control her own body. My right to control my body trumps anyone else’s right to life, no matter what resposibility I may bear for their condition. That is why society cannot interfere with a woman’s choice.

    The choice to have sex is a personal one, and is clearly made with the knowledge that pregnancy may ensue. Clearly this means that both partners bear some moral responsibility for the pregnancy. But the right to personal autonomy trumps this. Just as I don’t believe that the state can ever force me to donate my kidneys to make whole someone I have wronged, I don’t think the state can force a wholly culpable woman to relinquish control over her body. ( In real life of course I might feel that I should donate a kidney, or indeed that I’m morally obligated to do so. But that’s for me to decide, not the state.)

    A woman doesn’t have absolute rights over the fetus. Unless her body is involved the rights of the fetus are more important. She cannot treat her fetus as she pleases after it is aborted, nor can she abort a viable fetus. The state no longer has to compel her to keep the fetus alive.

    And I certainly think that the state can deploy resources to try to persuade a woman not to abort a fetus. As long as absolutely no coersion is involved.

    nittypig (4c1c43)

  8. Pregnancy involves (small) life threatening risks to the mother.

    So does abortion.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  9. I feel honored that our gracious host used my position as a starting point for part of the discussion.

    Now, how flexible am I? If I believe that life begins at conception, to be flexible (meaning: allow abortion in some instances other than an immediate and direct threat to the life of the mother) is to say that I believe that murder is OK in some situations of hardship.

    Abortion to save the life of the mother from immediate or nearly immediate threat of death is reasonably allowable, because the life of the unborn child does not outweigh the life of the mother; it does outweigh any considerations other than life. (And, as a practical matter, if the pregnancy kills the mother, other than in complications from childbirth itself, the death of the mother kills the unborn child as well.)

    Do I recognize that most Americans don’t agree? Yes. And at one time, most Americans didn’t agree that slavery was wrong, or if wrong, were not willing to impose their view of morality on others.

    Would I, as a practical matter, accept outlawing abortion except in the cases of rape and incest and threat to the life of the mother? Yes, given that such would save about 99% of the children now murdered; better ought not to be the enemy of good. Once such a law was in place, the next step would be to work to eliminate those exceptions.

    This has become a series of threads which have generated some lengthy and well considered responses (even if I haven’t agreed with all of them). I’ll admit to not having been able to read them all.

    Dana (3e4784)

  10. […] At another blog, Patterico’s Pontifications, a discussion is taking place on abortion. […]

    LTI Blog » LISTENING TO OTHER VOICES [mca] (b9657c)

  11. AMac is very persuasive. Many cultures do not announce a pregnancy before the end of two months because the pregancy is still very fragile for the reasons he stated. Also, we have to consider, beyond the respective individual rights, the effect on the society as a whole. Where would society, or the greatest part of it, feel most comfortable in drawing the line? Society does not just reflect the individuals’ attitudes, it also affects the individuals’ attitudes. A broad enough consensus to begin with brings others into that consensus. Polarization among two divergent positions polarizes further. It is not paradoxical that allowing some elective abortions at first is more likely to result in no elective abortions than an attempt to ban all elective abortions all at once. My personal view, notwithstanding the foregoing, is that abortion should never be a substitute for contraception.

    nk (47858f)

  12. I’m generally in the AMac camp here. And to take up Amphipolis’s invitation, I’ll be “honest”: I’m in favor of the utilitarian killing of fetuses before viability because it benefits the parents, and the moral respect of the fetus does not overcome this benefit until it can survive on its own.

    This is a fuzzy moral line, but not arbitrary. By viability, significant choices have been made to continue the fetus’s development and emotional attachments have been made. At viability, it is no longer a choice whether to create another human; it is already there. Instead, it becomes a choice of whether to let it leave the mother. To me, it is perverse to now deny this human being its life.

    A question for at-conception advocates: do you feel a woman has a moral obligation to try and bear as many children as possible (we’ll assume she can do so safely)? I’m asking seriously, because some seem to be arguing that conception is the bright line for moral respect, and other points are just arbitrary rationalizations. However, conception is just a biological stage, just like brain patterns or viability. The decision not to have a child keeps an “innocent” baby out of the world in order to benefit the parents; it favors the autonomy of the living over the “rights” of the unborn.

    I imagine not many people will take the position that women have a moral duty to bear children, and that’s fine. However, philosophically and morally the choice to conceive is not an absolute right, even thought it may very well be the best course. I’m interested in what people have to say about this.

    Matto Ichiban (4d4be8)

  13. Why does society have no say in the treatment of a non-viable fetus?

    does society have any moral right to try to persuade the woman to have the baby? Not force — persuade.

    On this and other moral questions I agree with AMac. I have been distinguishing between the moral rights of society in taking non-coercive action, and the inherently coercive exercise of state power, particularly in the context of criminal enforcement. Maybe I have been trying too hard, since the questions seem pointedly focused on morality.

    But are the AMac (Category 3) folks conceding that the moral weight of aborting a fetus increases in a gradual slope throughout the term (or from two months on)? This seems to paint the entire issue in shades of grey, and yields little satisfaction in the search for a definitive answer. Which may simply reflect a certain truth about morality.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  14. Actually, I’d qualify my “agreement” with AMac. Mostly the above is an acknowledgment of how I feel about, say, my child, as it develops throughout my wife’s pregnancy. You don’t wake up one day and think, now that it’s viable, I acknowledge it and care about it. That value accrues over time, and never stops. That caring is a product of several beings in concert, though. Is that morality? Is society involved in that?

    I imagine morality to be a more defined thing. I’m skeptical of morality when it is cut loose from pragmatism and experience, and rely on these latter two things in deciding what I think is moral. Pragmatism and experience dictate that there are tipping points, in which one course of action is favored over another, even if the underlying factors are various and incremental.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  15. Matto asked:

    A question for at-conception advocates: do you feel a woman has a moral obligation to try and bear as many children as possible (we’ll assume she can do so safely)? I’m asking seriously, because some seem to be arguing that conception is the bright line for moral respect, and other points are just arbitrary rationalizations. However, conception is just a biological stage, just like brain patterns or viability. The decision not to have a child keeps an “innocent” baby out of the world in order to benefit the parents; it favors the autonomy of the living over the “rights” of the unborn.

    My position is that a living human being is created at conception; if a woman chooses to limit or avoid conception, she has not trampled on the rights of any other person.

    Dana (3e4784)

  16. Matto:

    By viability, significant choices have been made to continue the fetus’s development and emotional attachments have been made.

    Many choices are made before and after. Every parent is different and makes different choices and forms different attachments at different times. This too is arbitrary. And how do you define viability? What is that, how is it determined, and why does it determine life more than conception would?

    At viability, it is no longer a choice whether to create another human; it is already there.
    But another human is clearly there at conception. Just a very small and immature one. But no less human for that – it is not a parasite.

    do you feel a woman has a moral obligation to try and bear as many children as possible
    Absolutely not.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  17. This is such a great discussion that it really needs to be held face to face, in a big party, at Patterico’s house! The Clamster can provide the beer, Mr X a boatload of Buffalo wings, and our gracious host all the hospitality we could ever want. 🙂

    Dana (3e4784)

  18. Why do I feel like I’d be the first to spill something on his rug?

    biwah (f5ca22)

  19. I can’t aford the plane ticket after dinner last night.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  20. In response to Patterico:
    Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I’d point out however, that I’d feel obligated to persuade people to keep their children. I’d also point out that I have a long standing distrust of polling as it is nearly impossible to gain an accurate cross-section of Americans using any predetermined search criteria. Or even just picking random names in a phone book.

    Matto:

    do you feel a woman has a moral obligation to try and bear as many children as possible (we’ll assume she can do so safely)?

    I do agree that I perceive conception as a bright line of distinction between nonexistence and life, but I don’t think everyone is supposed to have a huge or even slightly unmanagable number of children. The choice in the number of children you have can be regulated if you’re willing to deal with some of the hassles of family planning, but if I only wanted X number children and my wife became pregnant X+1 (or more) times, I’d be obligated to care for all my children no matter how many there were. Although around the fourth or fifth child I’d start looking into seperate bedrooms for me and the missus.

    Elmdor (710a21)

  21. As I put it on the other thread – I advocate pregnancy control, not birth control.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  22. It seems to me that there are a couple of primary state changes in the natural process.

    1. The woman has sex
    2. Conception
    3. The fetus embeds in the womb
    4. The woman realizes she is pregnant
    5. The fetus is viable and can be removed and expected to live
    6. Birth

    There are a couple of qualifiers to the state (particularly #1)
    1. The woman is/is not compos mentis (cannot understand the concept of pregnancy, either permanently (mental deficiency) or temporarily (drunk, drugged, voluntarily or not)
    2. The woman has involuntary sex
    3. The fetus, though embedded, is inviable, or severely ill and unlikely to survive for more than a few days.
    4. Continuation of the pregnancy would harm or kill the mother

    And there are a couple of ongoing or non-temporary issues
    1. Physical ramifications of aborting the fetus
    2. Psychological ramifications of aborting the fetus.

    It seems to me that the policy cusps come in two places. When a woman chooses to abort a pregnancy before the fetus is viable, and after the fetus is viable.
    If a woman has no intention of becoming pregnant, and uses contraception, by physical barrier or chemical barrier, I have no qualms. If she chooses to take a daily morning after pill, I see no difference between that and a regular birth control pill. If she is an unwilling participant in sex, either by rape or because she was drunk or drugged, and chooses to take a morning after pill to ensure that no pregnancy occurs, I can live with that.

    If she has willingly taken steps that lead to pregnancy, and not done anything to keep the embryo from embedding, and then learns she is pregnant, then she has reached the first policy cusp. Should she be allowed to end the pregnancy? Here is where the first psychological harm occurs. She is choosing to end a potential life. I know many women that are scarred by this decision, particulary if they later in life have children.

    I don’t know the statistics on embryos that fail to survive due to failure to embed. I don’t know the statistics on embedded embryos that spontaneously miscarry or disembed and fail to survive. My guess would be that most in the first group fail, and many in the second group do.

    My point is that prior to knowing that you are pregnant, any activity you take that terminates the pregancy is without conscious intent to end the pregnancy. In this scenario, taking a morning after pill is no more contrary to morality than any other activity which puts an potential embryo at risk, such as driving carelessly, skydiving, riding a horse, or catching a cold due to bad hygene.

    The first primary policy cusp comes when you know you are pregnant. If you are unwillingly pregnant, should law force you to carry the fetus to term? Should law force you to take every precaution to ensure a successful birth (no smoking, no drinking, no extreme athletic activity. no dangerous activity, etc.) I see no clear line between active termination and partaking in activities which increase the probability of miscarriage. I also don’t see the law taking a stand that a knowingly pregnant person can’t participate in activities which are legal but known to increase the probability of miscarriage. Do you? Is there any real difference between abortion of a not yet viable fetus and partaking in activities which significantly increase the probability of spontaneous abortion?

    Another policy cusp is the point at which the fetus can survive outside the mothers womb, whether that be through transplant to another womb, survival in a lab/hospital environment with extraordinary support, or just a regular premie, able to enter the world without extraordinary means of support.

    At this point, the fetus does not need an unwilling host. If the fetus doesn’t need the host, does the host have the right to terminate the fetus? I think as long as the fetus can be removed from the host with no more risk than abortion, the host doesn’t have the right to terminate the fetus. Until that is true, then the host must be able to choose to reduce her own risk of harm. As a matter of policy, we can’t require someone to choose another life over their own.

    I don’t know the relative risk of abortion vs c-section. Is one more dangerous than the other?

    Brahma (0128af)

  23. Is there any real difference between abortion of a viable fetus and partaking in activities which significantly increase the probability of spontaneous abortion?

    The situation does not go away with the (arbitrary) time of viability.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  24. Great discussion.

    It seems to me that the conception-absolutists must take the position that the following actions are the same as the premeditated murder of a 20-year old college student:

    –taking steps to prevent implantation of a fertilized zygote, e.g. via the morning-after pill;

    –fertilizing a human ovum in a Petri dish, or more generally, trying IVF (as excess fertilized eggs are necessarily created in the process);

    –thawing a fertilized egg that has been stored under liquid nitrogen.

    Similar claims of equivalence between having inadequately protected sex without intending to raise a resulting child, and criminally reckless endangerment, etc.

    Are these fair statements? Do they follow necessarily from the stated first principles?

    Given my life experiences (parent of 3), I find it very difficult to draw such equivalences. But that’s an emotional, not a philosophical stance.

    Question for human-life-begins-at-conception’ers:

    –You have been speaking with an infertile couple, and have just about convinced them not to try IVF, given that embryos will be created and destroyed in the effort. On the way to the crucial meeting, you see a 7-year-old girl about to be hit by a car. If you rush over, you can save her, no danger to yourself, but you’ll miss the train and miss the appointment, and the couple will proceed with IVF.

    What’s your choice? What does your heart tell you to do? Using Spock-like powers of reasoning only, what should you do?

    For me, this hypothetical is easy. Is there something besides emotionalism in my choice to rescue the girl over saving 1, 10, or 100 embryos?

    I’m not posting this as a twit. Maybe valuing the actual person over the many possible, potential persons is insupportable. Or maybe the “every fertilized egg, embryo, and fetus is a human being” isn’t as stringent a position as it seems.

    AMac (b6037f)

  25. Is viability arbitrary in a medical sense? Don’t doctors know when the probability of sustaining life is sufficiently high to warrant action? I’m sure that a position exists. I don’t think it is arbitrary. I also think that from the point of view of a social conservative that the window of viability will approach the time of fertilization, therefore making abortion, for reasons that the fetus cannot survive without the host, less and less likely.

    Brahma (0128af)

  26. Actually life does not begin at conception, the egg and sperm are alive.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  27. AMac:
    it’s a triage decision. Save the child hit by the car if you can. Besides, you are not responsible for the other couple’s choice, they are.

    As far as your statements, there would certainly be more pain with the 20-year old you know. But if a street person who I don’t know is murdered, it is wrong. Same with an unborn child. Life is life, murder is murder. And the weak need more protection, not less.

    I am a father of four.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  28. James:

    Yes, but they are not a separate and distinct human life. Surely you see the difference?

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  29. Dana would prohibit a woman from having sex after taking birth control pills because there is a small chance that this will result in the failure of a fertilized egg to implant. But if a woman has sex after not using birth control (which I assume Dana is ok with) there is a much greater chance that this will result in the failure of a fertilized egg to implant. Is this logical?

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  30. AMac understands the rule that is essential to the preservation of representative self-government: Keep in mind that you can’t always get everything you want.

    Patterico, I’m going to jump ahead and predict that after the usual suspects have had a chance to contribue to your third installment in this excellent series, most people who weigh in will have opinions in the same ballpark as AMac’s, maybe even a few of them in the same part of that ballpark. Probably many more, even a few of those whose own opinions are in the “out in left field” part of the ballpark still acknowledge that the matter is something on which reasonable people may disagree, which of course brings us back to the rule mentioned above. The agreement that “reasonable people may disagree” won’t be unanimous of course, but it’ll be so broad that we can probably call it a consensus, or as close to one as we’ll likely see lurking around an issue as controversial as abortion.

    In other words, even though you might get 9 or 10 different answers from 10 people asked where to draw the line balancing a woman’s interest in deciding whether to terminate her pregnancy and society’s interest in protecting the life of her unborn child, those 10 people could probably still decide on a rule that 6 or 7 of them could accept (that may be true even if there are a few lawyers in the group), even though no more than one or two may think it’s the best rule.

    And that’s the objective. It’s always the basic objective of policy-making in a self-governing society. Sure, we all want the “best” policy, but since there will never be a consensus on what is best, we understand that the prime directive is to preserve the process by which policy decisions are made. That includes keeping responsible dissent within the system, thereby broadening the base of ideas from which decisions are drawn, which of course tends to improve the quality of decisions as well as leading to broad acceptance of the decisions, even among those who strongly disagree. If a legalistic manipulation is used to fix the rules in order to deny responsible dissenters on a controversial issue the meaningful and traditional legislative forum, the rules cease to be a stabilizing foundation, but become instead debris useful only to knock the other side upside the head in the brawl that replaces public discourse.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  31. Don’t doctors know when the probability of sustaining life is sufficiently high to warrant action?

    What’s arbitrary is the value assigned to independance. Or pain, or brain activity, or all other arbitrary but potentially convenient benchmarks.

    Why is human life only valuable when it can possibly survive outside the womb? A child is not able to survive without help until it is several years old. Its mother, who presumably by her actions put it in that vulnerable position, bears no responsibility for it?

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  32. Regarding arbitrary lines, if you allow abortion to protect the life of the mother you will have to draw an arbitrary line somewhere between 0% chance of death and 100% chance of death if the pregnancy continues.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  33. Amphipolis,

    Thanks for the straight answers. I think viability should be defined as the point where a fetus could survive on its own outside the mother, perhaps only with limited aid, such as a respirator and iv for eating. I don’t see viability in the abortion context as the earliest point when medical science could conceivably allow a fetus to survive; it would be more closely tied to the point of natural development where, if born, a baby could survive normally. If the problem is just with a bright line, then approximate viability with a date.

    I don’t believe one is a human being from conception in the same sense one is at viability; there is far greater uncertainty about survival, fewer life functions we associate with being human, and less ability to suffer as a thinking person is able to suffer. As to the question of why this is a better point to draw the line than conception, I think I answered that previously. To the extent you don’t agree, it isn’t because of flawed logic, it is a difference in basic (and unprovable) moral assumptions (to paraphrase Volokh). I think my assumptions are utilitarian: aborting a viable fetus (to put it crudely) is a bigger waste than aborting a nonviable one. A viable fetus is worth more than a nonviable one, similar in kind to how a conceived zygote is worth more than a potentially conceived one.

    I think it is telling, Amphipolis, that you answered “absolutely not” to the question of whether a woman has an obligation to bear as many children as possible, and did not explain why conception is a better point to decide. We are just operating from different assumptions. Here is a thought problem then: is any knowing or reckless damage to a fetus at any stage the same degree of child abuse? How about eating a suboptimal diet? If one starts changing the answers for a younger fetus, then one must admit a sliding moral respect scale.

    Matto Ichiban (4d4be8)

  34. Position #2 — “No regulation until viability”: I haven’t seen an articulated rationale for the position yet. It seems to be simply assumed by these folks (biwah, for example) that the woman should have complete moral control over the fetus until it becomes viable. What I am missing is the why? Why does society have no say in the treatment of a non-viable fetus?

    I’ve answered this once already in the last thread, but I’ll do it once more because I’m a sucker – if you posit that an unviable fetus is defined as a part of the mother’s body (for lack of a better characterization), then it follows that the state/law/next door neighbors/etc have no more say in the matter than if the woman decided she wanted to amputate her hand.

    You can disagree with me about whether a fetus can be defined as viable or not, you can disagree about whether an unviable fetus counts as part of the mother’s body, but if you believe as I do that these elements are what I say they are (or just agree for the sake of argument), then the final analogy to self-mutilation is not itself arguable, and attempting to do so is the result of lazy thinking.

    But go ahead and ignore this one too Pat – I’m not looking to convert anyone to my viewpoint including yourself…

    Scott (57c0cc)

  35. Amphipolis, egg and sperm cells are separate, distinct and human so I don’t see your point. Perhaps you mean something like “complete” which I would agree with in so far as a fertilized egg contains the complete plan for the construction of a human. However construction hasn’t started yet. A blueprint of a house is not the same thing as the house.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  36. Matto:

    Your response begs the question – could other people who are needy but inconvenient be reclassified unalive? Should the strong and independent be the ones to decide?

    Your allowance of an arbitrary date shows the complete arbitrariness of your criteria. There is no reason for it to be five months or six. It really doesn’t matter – one day life is not valuable, the next day it is valuable. Nothing else changed but the calendar. This is not reasonable.

    Conception is not a point to decide. It is the point at which a separate and distinct life has begun. At that point there is another life to consider.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  37. A couple of follow up points regarding flexibility and preservation of our political system and culture:

    For those who are absolutists on the anti-abortion side, would you compromise on policy if you knew with certainty that offering only an all (prohibiting abortion except to save the life of the mother, for instance) or nothing (Roe and its progeny) choice to others in the process, and defiantly promising to reject any compromise would result in judicial intervention with a “nothing” result on constitutional grounds, thereby condemning millions of unborn children who might otherwise have been protected under a compromise rule?

    To the pro-choice absolutists who see judicial intervention (supported of course, by the Borking of qualified judges such as Judge Alito as the tools by which victory can be guaranteed), would you leave that tool unused if you were faced with the other side having a similar opportunity, that is, a reasonable opportunity to obtain a Supreme Court decision holding that action or inaction by the states or Congress notwithstanding, the Constitution itself imposes significant restrictions on abortion (articulated by the Court in a manner similar to the specification of Miranda warnings, perhaps) because a fetus is a person for purposes of the 14th amendment? Sure, the Court can’t enforce it’s own decisions, but the Court couldn’t enforce Brown v. Board, either — look thirty years ahead of such a decision, and you might find abortion rights advocacy occupying the same ground that racial segregation occupies today.

    I’ll readily acknowledge that the comparisons with racial discrimination are big stretch, at best. So, instead of pretending that abortion abolitionists are like slavery abolitionists, or that abortion is a “fundamental” right” defended by those only interested in preserving freedom (could participation in the process of self-government be meaningful without abortion rights? how about without freedom of speech? not the whole answer, but a pretty good rough guideline to what’s really fundamental), both sides should consider whether they really want abortion policy to be made at the constitutional level. Perhaps they might even consider whether raising the stakes to that level has done serious harm.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  38. James:

    A blueprint of a house is not the same thing as the house.

    A newborn baby is not the same thing as an octogenarian. A fertilized egg is more than genes – it is an immature human life. Its youth does not make it any less human than a 10-year old boy.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  39. Let me preface this with a statement that I’m a Catholic father of 3 who practices Natural Family Planning (currently working on getting certified to teach it).

    [blockquote]Do other “life begins at conception” people agree with these statements?[/blockquote]
    Yes. Killing a human is killing a human. The sins of the father do not pass on to his progeny. Contraceptives that interfer with the implantation are nothing more than a chemical abortion.

    [blockquote]And if you do, do you recognize that most Americans don’t?[/blockquote]
    Yes. We’ll work on changing that. 😀

    [blockquote]Would you be in a favor of a compromise that recognized most Americans’ belief that women should not be forced to have a baby if raped?[/blockquote]
    As a temporary solution, yes. If Abortion-on-demand is ended with a compromise that allows continued abortions in extremely limited cases, then many (most?) abortions will have ended. I’m not expecting an all-or-nothing solution.

    [blockquote]Can you live with the fact that most Americans believe women should have access to the morning after pill?[/blockquote]
    I can live with it, but I’d like to change that view. This is actually why I mentioned NFP at the beginning of my post. Any woman can understand her body better and not need the morning after pill. It just calls for a little restraint.

    Kheldar (83107d)

  40. Apologies for the awful formatting…too much time on message boards and not enough in html environments.

    Kheldar (83107d)

  41. Scott:

    I’ll sign on to every word of your last comment.

    Amphipolis:

    You seem bent on willfully ignoring the point that various commenters are making about the significance of viability. “Needing something” is not the same as existing only as a part of the body of another. In the last thread, someone mentioned siamese twins who share certain organs. They have a mutual need for an organ, which is indeed a major need, but even that is not the same as living only within a host being.

    That is not the same as needing a sandwich, income, or a place to crash.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  42. If you believe that fetuses are less entitled to protection than people you can conclude that abortion should be allowed or you can conclude that abortion should be prohibited but that it should be considered a lesser offense than murder (as I believe was generally the case before the Roe vrs Wade decision). Do those of you who believe abortion should be prohibited at all times after conception also believe that the penalty for an abortion at any time past conception should the same as the penalty for murder? In other words should a woman who procures an abortion be treated the same as a woman who procures the murder of her husband?

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  43. “Needing something” is not the same as existing only as a part of the body of another.

    As a part of the mother? No, the baby is a separate organism. The placenta is not even part of the mother. The baby is in the mother, the baby needs the mother’s support, but that does not make the baby part of the mother.

    And, according to your view, at the magical date of viability the baby becomes separate? How so?

    The baby is in the mother, the baby needs the mother. But why must that determine whether or not it is a separate and distinct life? Why?

    Also – the host being (otherwise known as a mother) is presumably responsible for it being there. It’s not there by accident. And a baby needs its mother both before and after birth – it needs far more deliberate care after, think of a nursing baby. Without food it will die. Does that make it less human?

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  44. Scott,

    I don’t mean to ignore anything. I didn’t have your comment in mind. However, I still think that you could more fully articulate your position as a philosophical and moral matter.

    Your argument appears more definitional: if you just define the fetus as part of a woman’s body, then she can treat it as a part of her body. Well, yeah — but the definition imposes an artificial construction on what is actually a very unique entity: part of a woman’s body and yet separate; one life and yet two. Why *should* we accept your definition, as a moral matter? That’s my question.

    Let me ask the same question of you that I asked of biwah — and I don’t think I have seen an answer from either of you (forgive me if I’m wrong). Are there any limits you’d put on a mother’s freedom with a fetus? For example, Andrew asked on another thread whether a mother could deliberately torture the fetus. I’d like to know your answer to that — and biwah’s as well.

    Could a pregnant mother who hated the father go around drinking until drunk every day, until the point of viability, telling people: “I want this baby to have fetal alcohol syndrome because I hate his dad, and his dad wants a healthy baby. Well, he’s not going to get it!” Does society have no say? Does the father have no say? Are you comfortable with this?

    I am very interested in biwah’s and your answers.

    Patterico (4d4be8)

  45. In other words should a woman who procures an abortion be treated the same as a woman who procures the murder of her husband?

    Did she willfully end the life of another human being? Yes. But instead of comparing it to murder of her husband, make it murder of her newborn.

    What is the difference between a baby at 10-weeks gestation and a 10-week old? Development, that’s it. It’s still fully human, it’s still a different biological entity.

    Why is our society aghast at the thought of a mother killing her 10-week old baby, but supportive of the same mother killing her baby at 10 weeks gestation?

    Kheldar (83107d)

  46. In other words should a woman who procures an abortion be treated the same as a woman who procures the murder of her husband?

    I would think that it would be more along the lines of negligent homicide or manslaughter. A case could be made that she believed the lie that the baby is not a separate life. But I am no lawyer.

    I would put the medical staff on trial for murder one.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  47. Also, Scott and biwah, what role does the woman’s choice to have sex play in the morality of her treating a fetus as I described above? In other words, if the fetus were simply imposed on her through no choice of her own (as in a rape), I can easily see the argument that she owes the fetus nothing. But if she chooses to have sex, doesn’t she owe the fetus some consideration?

    And if she deliberately chooses to give it fetal alcohol syndrome, does society have no say?

    Even if we couldn’t coerce the mother to stop drinking, could we impose mandatory counseling on her to *persuade* her to stop drinking?

    Patterico (4d4be8)

  48. biwah,

    Do I understand you to say that you are okay with the state attempting to persuade the woman to have the baby?

    Patterico (4d4be8)

  49. It’s a lot of questions, I know. But I hope you guys will take the trouble to answer them all.

    Patterico (4d4be8)

  50. AMac said:

    Sometime in the 2 to 4 month time frame, an embryo becomes recognizable as a pre-human, sharing many of the features that a human exhibits as a born baby. So in my view, a fetus acquires progressively more right to “moral respect” in the 2-month to 9-month window.

    What is it really before it’s recognizable as a “pre-human” (whatever that means)? I would think that the DNA is still Human DNA, not Dog or Cat or Mouse.

    Kheldar (83107d)

  51. I think we need to define viablity for the purposes of this discussion. A more precise term could be used- Practical viablity.
    The practical viability of a newborn infant could be rated at 100% because left in a temperate environment it has the same basic human needs as an adolescent or adult, Food, water, air, protection from the elements.
    The practical viability of a premature neonate maybe construed at let’s say 75% because he has very specialized requirements to meet the basic needs; specialized atomsphere, specialized diet and a specialized environment.The use of a sliding scale of viablity takes into account scientific advances.A premature neonate of 75 years ago would have a lower practical viablity than one born in the present.
    So, when the practical viability of an embryo reaches 0% (There would be no chance under the present medical rigors to survive.) does that make that embryo a candidate for abortion?
    We cannot escape the circumstances of the embryos conception, for if we do, then it obviates IVF and a whole host of other, now sanctioned technologies.
    Because of the current treatment of embryos in society (Freezing, IVF, Stem cell research etc), criminalizing any trimester abortion (ie making the Mother liable for homicide) is a disingenuous position.
    Practical viability has my vote for trying to nail this ‘jello’ of an issue to the wall.

    paul (8e5be1)

  52. Paul:

    The practical viability of a newborn infant could be rated at 100% because left in a temperate environment it has the same basic human needs as an adolescent or adult, Food, water, air, protection from the elements.

    Not even close. Have you ever cared for a newborn? They Can’t Even Move. And they don’t eat – they are FED.

    So, when the practical viability of an embryo reaches 0% (There would be no chance under the present medical rigors to survive.) does that make that embryo a candidate for abortion?

    Uh, why would it be a candidate for abortion at zero? All that means is that it is very needy. So then it’s OK to kill it?

    We cannot escape the circumstances of the embryos conception, for if we do, then it obviates IVF and a whole host of other, now sanctioned technologies.

    So what? Partial birth abortion was accepted too. It’s still legal.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  53. I’ve been talking too much – I’ll bow out for a while and let the dust settle, and let others speak up. Please.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  54. Patterico:

    I think the moral and state authority issues are becoming intermingled. Maybe I am partially culpable for this.

    I have explained my position this way:

    My main metric is function – breathing, physical structure, survival – those things without which survival is impossible. A baseline for functioning as a person is existing outside of your mother’s body. If a fetus is functionally merged with the mother, it is part of the mother. If it’s part of the mother, the issue is medical as to the mother. Must life always be cultivated from the seed? Must life always be prolonged to the maximum? As an article of faith, sure. As a matter of criminal enforcement, no.

    You asked: Why *should* we accept your definition, as a moral matter?

    The quality of the definition of a previable fetus as other than a person is not based on any subjective moral idea, but upon a threshold of independent function. Whether a thing is properly described as A or B, IMO, is not a moral matter at all. Morals, while valuable, seem to cry for “sentence first, then the verdict!” a la Wonderland.

    You asked: Are there any limits you’d put on a mother’s freedom with a fetus? For example, Andrew asked on another thread whether a mother could deliberately torture the fetus.

    My answer to that was, and is: You are asking, would it be okay to torture/mutilate/desecrate the fetus after aborting it]. I will re-frame [the question] as, could she be imprisoned for such acts. To the second question, I would answer no. This extreme scenario would trigger a lot of issues outside of the criminal law, but I’ll leave those aside…And no, I would not be “okay” with it [you can consider that my moral stance]. But that’s not the criteria for defining governmental authority.

    You asked: what role does the woman’s choice to have sex play in the morality of her treating a fetus as I described above?

    It has moral weight, but in now way expands the state’s “society’s” jurisidiction in the matter. I’m squeezed for time, but will think about it further.

    You asked: And if she deliberately chooses to give it fetal alcohol syndrome, does society have no say?
    &
    Even if we couldn’t coerce the mother to stop drinking, could we impose mandatory counseling on her to *persuade* her to stop drinking?
    &
    Do I understand you to say that you are okay with the state attempting to persuade the woman to have the baby?

    I wrote: I think that the State would be justified in giving some incentive to have the baby. The basis for such laws/policies could include the well-being (”welfare” being a radioactive word) of the mother or larger public policy. Deeming abortion as a crime against person, e.g. homicide of any stripe, would by contrast be based on the state’s jurisdiction over a fetus that was never viable as a person, a power that I firmly believe should not exist.

    For the state to offer adoption counseling (a line has to be drawn well short of coercion, obviously), housing, and addiction treatment contingent on a mother’s keeping the child would be not only alright, but great IMO. I cringe to think of NARAL’s probable opposition to such positive programs. I think that in addition to being a legit exercise of state power, they would make the difference in a far better way than any criminal prohibition. I am a firmly liberal on this issue, since what could be a better investment of our pooled resources than addressing these issues?

    As far as implementation, there would be some big pragmatic and constitutional questions, but I am confident they can be worked out. Again, the rule of thumb is service, not coercion.

    Sorry about the extensive reposting. I’m not trying to harp on the fact that I’ve answered many of these questions (or am I?), but I stick with what I wrote and don’t currently have time to reformulate. That may be it for me for today, but this has been a great forum so far.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  55. Paul, what’s the Practical Viability of an 80 year old in an ICU?

    If you’re going to apply “Practical Viability” as a test at one point along the spectrum, you’d have to do it across the entire spectrum.

    Kheldar (83107d)

  56. There’s not much difference between position 2 and 3 that I can see. I think position 3 should be the one that most Americans hold: women can have abortions for the right reasons but not for the wrong reasons.

    The right reasons include: she can’t afford it, she was raped, or I know her personally and she’s okay.

    The wrong reasons include: she doesn’t want to be a parent, she shouldn’t have had sex, or I know her personally and she’s disgusting.

    I don’t think an embryo is a human life, therefore I support unrestricted abortion of embryos. Pregnancy and abortion are both dangerous, so give women the unrestricted ability to decide how she risks her life. I think viability is a clearcut sign of human life, therefore I oppose abortion for any reason after viability. A woman has no more right to kill another human being. That’s any reason. If the mother’s life is at risk, her rights are not given priority over the fetus–or vice versa. Therefore, the fetus can be removed via birth, but not by abortion.

    It’s from week 10 (give or take) to week 26 that I can make the case either way.

    1) It’s not a life, so unrestricted abortion rights despite my personal dislike.

    2) It’s close enough to human life that society should protect it, just as we protect animals. Should the woman’s life be in danger, then her life trumps that of the fetus. But in the general scheme of things, we can’t take a fetal life.

    I prefer 2, of course.

    Those who say that life begins at conception win my contempt if they support abortion in the case of rape. If it’s a life, it’s a life. No exceptions.

    If life begins at conception, then along with an abortion ban, we must create laws to mandate investigations of all miscarriages, pregnancy registrations, pregnancy insurance, pregnancy restrictions on women who have too many miscarriages, and a host of other laws that treat zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as completely identical to a newborn babe.

    Cal (52275b)

  57. My reasoning for why a fetus and a newborn are differnt in their dependency is simple. A newborn requires that SOMEONE look after it, keep it alive and so on. A nonviable fetus requires that the woman’s body take care of it. If parents don’t want to care for a newborn they have ways to pass that responsibilty to someone else. If a woman doesn’t want a fetus developing inside her she has no way to get rid of it short of killing it. This is a huge distinction.

    I’ll take a shot at Pat’s questions. I’m not as absolutist as some – I think the fetus has some rights, but that the woman’s right to control the uses to which her body is put outweigh those rights.

    “But if she chooses to have sex, doesn’t she owe the fetus some consideration?”
    I certainly think that she owes it some consideration. The question isn’t what she owes it, the question is what consideration she can be compelled by the state to give it. And I come down on the issue of control of one’s own body – if the state’s requirements don’t affect her ability to control her own body then that’s OK. Otherwise no way.

    I don’t really understand the torture question. Is the woman torturing the fetus in utero?

    As to the drinkng question I agree that in that case the state would be justified in attempting to persuade the woman to stop drinking, but would still maintain that she has the right to drink herself silly. I think that compassion and decency would compel her not to do so, but I don’t think that the state should be forcing compassion and decency on her.

    nittypig (4c1c43)

  58. Biwah, this thread is titled “How Flexible is Your Position?” So, I’m curious about the flexibiltiy of your position. In a previous thread, you stated that a woman should not be imprisoned for (A) aborting a previable fetus in order to cook it up for dinner, (B) having the abortion performed so as to cause maximum torment for the fetus in order to make a film that she sends to her cheating boyfriend, and (C) placing the skeleton on her mantel with those of her other aborted fetuses as an exhibit of feminist empowerment.

    [1] Since you think that none of these acts should be criminalized, I wonder if you also believe that criminalizing these acts would be unconstitutional? [2] If so, which clause of the Constitution is it that protects these acts? [3] And, do you think that there was ever a split second in the entire history of the United States when a majority of any state’s citizens would have shared your view that the above-described acts should be legal?

    Andrew (08ba2c)

  59. Circling back around..:

    “But it seems to me that Americans of good will ought to be able to reach some consensus on how to treat this issue that is satisfactory to decent people of common sense if the courts would only allow it.” – Patterico

    Has anything like a ‘consensus’ crystalized here?

    Seems not.

    Our most profound moral sentiments, like most moral principles, are often in conflict. Some perpetually so. We have concluded states’ rights cannot ordain slavery. The same injunction must be true with nascent beings. As James Q. Wilson’s famous abortion essay says, “people treat as human that which appears to be human; people treat as quasi-human that which appears quasi-human.”

    http://www.mugu.com/cgi-bin/Upstream/wilson-abortion

    [Thanks for the link! I think there is surprising (if not unanimous) consensus on some points. More later. — Patterico]

    steve (ab55e3)

  60. Amphipolis;
    Just to set the thread straight.
    1.I’m a father of four, grandfather of three and a RN with Neonatal, and newborn nursery experience. So yes, I have cared for a newborn. And no, I am not a fan of ‘at will’ abortion. Nor am I a fan of forcing individuals into postions of desperation.
    2. The post was to help define ‘viability’ which has ben bandied about in these series of threads that Patterico has started.
    3. We have to make decisions based on past precedent. Yes there has been partial birth abortions. Does that decision need to be revised?
    I don’t know. Does the permission of IVF, Stem cell research etc have to be revised, maybe. But when you are trying to speak for potential individuals at the detriment of existing individuals, I think it is mandatory to view it in the context of ALL the decisions of a like nature.
    I too may have spoken too long or too much. I’ll sit in the bleachers with Amphipolis for awhile.

    paul (8e5be1)

  61. Kheldar ;
    The 80 year olds mother has been out of the picture for a while…besides I was trying to figure out not when to end a life but when to keep it from starting.
    Amphipolis, I promise NOW I’ll sit down.

    paul (8e5be1)

  62. Steve, we make policy decisions without consensus all the time. The problem, as Patterico points out in the excerpt you quoted, is that the manipulative elevation of the policy decision to a constitutional level has rendered any consensus irrelevant. The question of flexibility isn’t as important for purposes of achieving a consensus (kind of like grasping air) as it is for achieving a compromise that will be accepted most people despite disagreement. That does require enough flexibility to allow that the opposing side may be reasonably held and is allowed an opportunity to argue for its position as legislative policy. Of course, everything depends on taking back the right to govern ourselves from a subversive 5 judge majority of the Supreme Court.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  63. I can clearly see a fourth position. Stated in subjective terms it goes like this:

    Which one of my six brothers and three sisters did my parents have the right to kill prior to birth ?

    And its alternate: So why didn’t I have a brother or a sister ?

    Nanuk (fc8506)

  64. […] Patterico has posted part three of his continuing series. Again, I follow suit with my answers. […]

    Minor thoughts » A Discussion of Abortion — Part Three: How Flexible Is Your Position? (aa3f29)

  65. Simple def: Clinical death occurs when brain activity is no longer detected. Define life begining when brain activity is detected. (I have no idea when this occurs, possibly the 22 to 25 year range, after college, but maybe before the first big morgage)

    John (b1fa9b)

  66. biwah, your position that society should not legally restrict pregnant women would appear to mean that you would allow pregnant women to take mutagenic drugs. Is that correct?

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  67. Do those of you who think that parents should be able to prevent a minor child from having an abortion also believe that parents should be able to compel a minor child to have an abortion? If not would you still favor parental control?

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  68. At first glance it might seem rather ass-backward to say the state cannot intervene in an abortion, but can intervene where the health of a fetus is seriously compromised in some non-fatal way, e.g. heavy drinking or mutagenic drugs.

    However, while the state may not (as I have argued) have authority or responsibility for the well-being of a fetus on moral grounds, it does have other bases for becoming involved in that well-being. An obvious one is the avoidance of the burden of FAS babies (throughout their lives) or children with preventable but debilitating defects or, more positively stated, the promotion of a healthy and able citizenry. I would accept that the state has the right to foresee these burdens on it and make attempts to prevent such action, in the interest of its citizenry (which would not include the previable fetus).

    I am thinking this over and would appreciate other people’s thoughts – there seems to be some interest on this question already.

    This may reveal my moral belief, which I haven’t intentionally hidden, that death is neither evil nor painful, and life can be. I’m not saying anyone has the right to make such decisions for another person, etc; and I have to emphasize that this isn’t the logical basis for the suggestion I’ve posed above. I just don’t think all logic and our understanding of civil government have to go out the window because of an overriding, subjectively moral concern about failing to prevent, prosecute, and avenge the ending of a life under any circumstances.

    biwah (c6f13b)

  69. Brahma said:

    I don’t know the relative risk of abortion vs c-section. Is one more dangerous than the other?

    One is certainly more dangerous for the child.

    Dana (9f37aa)

  70. Andrew, I will leave it to Patterico to open up that can of worms. I am none too anxious to go there; it won’t be as interesting as this.

    biwah (c6f13b)

  71. Kheldar wrote:

    Did she willfully end the life of another human being? Yes. But instead of comparing it to murder of her husband, make it murder of her newborn.

    What is the difference between a baby at 10-weeks gestation and a 10-week old? Development, that’s it. It’s still fully human, it’s still a different biological entity.

    Why is our society aghast at the thought of a mother killing her 10-week old baby, but supportive of the same mother killing her baby at 10 weeks gestation?

    Well, unfortunately, our society isn’t quite as aghast at the thought of a woman killing her newborn baby.

    The cases of Amy Peterson and her boyfriend (whose name escapes me at the moment) resulted in a 2½ year sentence for Miss Peterson, and just two years for her boyfriend. Then, following Delaware changing the law (there was a complication in the statute of murder by abuse or neglect), a second situation where two college students (adults, mind you) drove up from Virginia and abandoned their newborn daughter in a portable toilet on a construction site in Bear, Delaware. The had assumed the infant would be discovered in the morning, but the temperature dropped to 38ºF and the baby, wrapped only in a thin blanket, died of exposure before she was discovered. The district attorney struck a plea bargain, in which they would receive five year sentences, which the judge initially reduced to two years, because the idiot he thought five years was just too harsh.

    Dana (9f37aa)

  72. biwah, in my view a woman should be able to choose to give up a baby for adoption but if she doesn’t then she should be obliged to provide it a reasonable standard of care, similarly a woman should be able to choose to have an abortion but if she doesn’t then she should be obliged to take reasonable care of the fetus.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  73. I agree with AMac’s position. We have to deal with a lot of moral issues that aren’t clear cut. Growing from a child to an adult is also a gradual process – not an event. So finding one point in a child’s development and claiming that a human is there now, but only a moment ago was almost nothing may be clear-cut and have practical advantages, but to me, ignores important moral considerations.

    Psyberian (1cf529)

  74. In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court said:

    “… a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves. . . were not intended to be included under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can, therefore, claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”

    In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court said:

    “The word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn…. [T]he unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.”

    Abortion opponents cite this as evidence that human reproduction is too important to be left to meddling, blundering courts with their ranks periodically dominated by idealogues and idealists. After all, they reversed Dred Scott.

    Abortion-rights advocates say the courts are the only place where moral principles in conflict should be decided — that Southern legislatures would have otherwise invoked everything from the Bible to the 10th Amendment to enshrine slavery or segregation.

    Reasonable, well-meaning people won’t achieve consensus on how nascent beings should be regarded, legally and morally. And James Q. Wilson’s saying, “people treat as human that which appears to be human; people treat as quasi-human that which appears quasi-human” argues effectively against qualifying either pregnancy-termination or slave-holding as local prerogatives.

    Though Wilson had quite the opposite goal in mind, I gather.

    steve (ab55e3)

  75. I generally agree with Dana. I think life begins at conception, although I define that as fertilization + implantation so I have no problem with contraceptives other than the morning-after pill.

    I believe that abortion following rape or incest is immoral and that it should also be illegal. It’s not the baby’s fault that it was conceived by rape or incest, and I view abortion in these circumstances as the taking of an innocent life. I realize this is an unpopular view, but I view this as a balancing test between the mother’s and the child’s rights. I don’t think the mother’s right to choose whether to be pregnant should ever outweigh the child’s right to life. These competing rights aren’t equivalent and, subject to the exception in my next paragraph, the innocent child’s right to live trumps the mother’s right to choose.

    If the pregnancy puts the mother’s life in danger (for legitimate medical, non-psychological reasons), I think abortion should be legal and that it is morally defensible because you must choose which of two innocent people will live.

    DRJ (3c8cd6)

  76. It takes *THREE*, and fetus is included.

    How come so many claim that only the Woman has “the right” to kill the fetus??? The fetus is given no choice, nor is the father.

    Perhaps, the Muslims will solve such problems, before this *WAR* ends.

    Think Burkas, and abortions…

    KårmiÇømmünîs†

    KarmiCommunist (85a3d5)

  77. I didn’t have a chance to answer Patterico’s question yesterday, so I’d like to do so now. I didn’t address the question of the mother’s rights because I was making a fairly narrow point. Yes, I do think that if the mother’s life is in danger, that trumps the unborn child’s right to life. Once again, though, that’s the exception and not the rule.

    I’d also like to answer psyberion’s question from yesterday:

    Think of a ball bearing rolling down a finite inclined slope. If you don’t stop it, it will roll off the edge. It doesn’t matter whether you stop it right after it starts rolling or whether you stop it two inches from the edge. Either way, you’ve halted the process. (#62)

    That’s an interesting way of phrasing it CraigC. It is a process of becoming. But becoming what? Human. If you stop the process before a fetus becomes a human (in the full sense of the term), then that is not really murder then, is it?

    With all due respect, I don’t think you understood my point. Logically, it doesn’t matter at which stage you stop the process. And besides, what do you mean “when it becomes human in the full sense of the term?” Do you think that there’s some magical moment in the womb when it becomes “human?” Or maybe you mean when “it”‘s born. Or maybe, you know, when “it”‘s 8 or 9 years old and realizes that the world doesn’t revolve around “it”.

    Sorry, but that’s the same old “viability” crap. You totally miss the logic involved.

    CraigC (4525c5)

  78. If that seemed unduly harsh, I apologize.

    CraigC (4525c5)

  79. See if this works.

    RJN (c3a4a3)

  80. “No regulation until viability”:
    Why does society have no say in the treatment of a non-viable fetus?

    We are looking for a benchmark that is fair to the interests of the fetus, as best we can, while we insist on the rights of the woman. It is a tough world sometimes; unless we agree to draft women into the womb corps, as soon as they become pregnant, we are stuck with non-viability as our justification for not forbidding early term abortion. All of the above presupposes that we regard all abortion as regrettable, or even unsavory.

    After twenty-one weeks, we the people, can, with a clear conscience, require the woman to pick up the check for her sexual encounter and carry the fetus to full term.

    RJN (c3a4a3)

  81. CraigC, that’s OK – I’m too harsh myself at times. The reason I said that is that it sounded as if on one level were acknowledging that a human comes into being in stages as opposed to all of a sudden; so I was only trying to point that out.

    What I mean by human in the full sense of the term is that an embryo is not yet a human to me (with all of the rights we have). To be a human being (in the full sense of the term) requires at the very least consciousness for example.

    Look at it this way: If you were to take this out of context and walk up to a person on the street and ask them to describe what a human being is, I doubt seriously they would start talking about a woman’s fertilized egg. A fertilized egg, in my view, is a potential human being. To borrow a quote, to call a fertilized egg (or small embryo for that matter) a human being “is like calling an acorn an oak tree.” They’re just not the same thing. So if you stop the process of development before the embryo has consciousness, can feel pain and other abilities like that, then I believe that there is big moral difference there.

    Psyberian (1cf529)

  82. For example, I have seen an argument for abortion articulated as an analogy to a kidnapped hostage. The argument goes: the woman is a hostage to the baby for 10 months of her life. If you were suddenly linked to a famous violinist, and told that you had to drag this person around with you everywhere you went or she would die, would you be obligated to drag her around?

    But the analogy doesn’t really hold, because (except in the case of rape) a woman generally makes a choice to have sex, and pregnancy is a known consequence of sex. – Patterico.

    In that situation, I believe the analogy does hold since we are sexual beings. If the woman does what she can to prevent pregnancy, short of having (gasp) sex, then I think the analogy applies. I believe that Christianity has made many of us view sex as unnecessary or vile:

    Christianity gave Eros poison to drink. He didn’t die, but became vice. – Nietzsche

    Psyberian (1cf529)

  83. Steve, abortion rights advocates don’t really think that the courts are the only place that moral issues should be decided. They understand that the complex solution that the problem of abortion rights demands is not something that will satisfy the true believers who drive the pro-choice bus, and the courts, although utterly lacking the capability to make complex policy (it doesn’t stop them from trying, though), can offer a more or less permanent end to meaningful discussion that leaves the other side completely out of the process. It’s quite a stretch to suggest that the pro-choice side thinks that abortion is a moral issue. On the contrary, the pro-Wade (not necessarily the same as the pro-choice side) side takes the position that government shouldn’t be in the morality business at all, and therefore should not attempt to protect unborn children on moral grounds. For those who truly understand the S.Ct. jurisprudence on abortion rights and nevertheless support the court-made policy (a small minority, even among the group of Americans who self-identify as pro-choice), convenience trumps morality.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  84. Clarification. Some on the pro-choice side undoubtedly think of abortion as a moral issue, but probably most of those who favor judicial resolution over legislation prefer their government to be amoral, at least where morality conflicts with convenience.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  85. patterico, you totally muffed the what constitutes life part. one more time:
    what exactly constitutes a human life?
    a parthenote (haploid)?
    a maternal clone?
    an unfertilized oocyte?
    a parthenote raised to diploid with nuclear transfer?
    an invitro fertilization?
    an oocyte with impact sperm?
    a morula?
    a blastula?
    a nerula?
    your only division is fertilized or implanted.
    too course.
    will you give us a blanket dispensation for ESCR and SCNTR?

    matoko_platonist_against_aristotelians (5d3f43)

  86. chemical dependency treatment…

    Hi. Thanks for the good read….

    chemical dependency treatment (a9bf0f)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.0938 secs.