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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Critique of Mary Anne Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, Part V

have spent four parts in this series responding to Warren's argument that the unborn cannot be considered persons. Warren wrote her essay in 1973 in a publication called The Monist, but in 1982 she re-published the essay with an added postscript. One of the objections she was receiving to her paper is that it would also justify infanticide as well as abortion. She sought to reply to this claim in her postscript.

5. Postscript on Infanticide

Warren calls this objection to her piece "troubling," but seems unwilling to fully follow her argument to its logical conclusion (as opposed to philosophers like Peter Singer and Michael Tooley who embrace the logical implications of their views with open arms). Her rejection is completely ad hoc. She admits that if her argument is correct, then if you kill an infant you are not killing a person. But, she adds, there are "many reasons" why infanticide is much more difficult to justify than abortion. What are these reasons?

First, in this country and period of history, the deliberate killing of newborns is almost never justified. She argues that they are "person-like enough" that to kill them requires very strong moral justification, as does killing dolphins, whales, chimpanzees, and other highly personlike creatures. It would be wrong to kill these beings for convenience, financial reasons, etc. But this is just an attempt to side-step the issue. She argued in her previous parts that human fetuses are only "potential persons," and if her argument succeeds, newborns are only "potential persons" and not actual persons. So killing them would not be immoral. You may not like it, but you have no grounds on which to say otherwise. In fact, Singer argues that infanticide is morally permissible because newborns are no different in any morally relevant way from late-term fetuses. So if Warren argues that abortion is permissible up until the time of birth, then she must argue that infanticide is morally permissible. Otherwise she should admit that late-term abortions are immoral as late-term fetuses, like newborns, are "person-like enough" that to kill them requires very strong moral justification.

Next she offers a great apologetic for adoption. Unfortunately she sees that her argument only states that it would be wrong to kill newborns, not that it would be wrong to kill fetuses, even though her reasons for adopting out newborns certainly also apply to fetuses. Here are her reasons: "...there are (in most cases) people who are able and eager to adopt it and provide a good home for it. Many people wait years for the opportunity to adopt a child, and some are unable to do so even though there is every reason to believe that they would be good parents. The needless destruction of a viable infant inevitably deprives some person or persons of a source of great pleasure and satisfaction, perhaps severely impoverishing their lives. Furthermore, even if an infant is considered to be adoptable [sic -- she likely meant 'unadoptable'] (e.g., because of some extremely severe mental or physical handicap) it is still wrong in most cases to kill it. For most of us value the lives of infants, and would prefer to pay taxes to support orphanages and state institutions for the handicapped rather than allow unwanted infants to be killed." Tell me why any of these reasons could not also be applied to a human fetus? In fact, there are currently more couples waiting to adopt babies in the United States than there are infants to adopt because we are aborting children that are unwanted by their own parents.

So Warren says there are "many reasons" not to support infanticide and gives us... two. Both of these arguments fail to justify her position on abortion and to argue against infanticide. She can't eat her cake and have it, too. If my (and Schwartz') argument for fetal personhood succeesd, then Warren's argument fails. And if Warren's argument succeeds, then infanticide is also morally permissible, whether or not Warren has the stomach to follow her argument to its logical conclusion (or do the reasonable thing and give up her position on abortion).

Now Warren does concede that these arguments, at least prima facie, might also support forbidding late-term abortions. But, she continues, there is an obvious and crucial difference in the case of late-term pregnancies: "...once the infant is born, its continued life cannot (except, perhaps, in very exceptional cases) pose any serious threat to the woman's life or health, since she is free to put it up for adoption, or, where this is impossible, to place it in a state-supported institution." This doesn't help her case, however. First, if newborns are really not persons, and it is not wrong to kill non-persons, or at least not seriously wrong, then even if a woman could give the child up for adoption, she would not be morally obligated to. Second, you can't kill someone on the off-chance that they may pose, in the future, a serious threat to your life or health. If you could, then you could still justify infanticide on the grounds that the child may grow up to kill his/her parents. I believe that life-saving abortions are justified, but you can't justify abortion in the chance that the pregnancy may one day become life-threatening.

She does argue that if the child can be delivered safely without killing her, then she has no right to insist on the child's death. The problem with this is that delivering the child in the late term is a faster and safer procedure than late-term abortions (late-term abortions are a two or three day procedure, and c-sections take about thirty minutes). So no late-term abortions are justified because the child can be delivered and then life-saving measures to the mother and child both can be administered. Yet she still argues that abortion is permissible up until the time of birth.

Finally, she argues that even though infanticide is not properly considered a form of murder, and our society disapproves of it, there still remains the moral distinction separate from the legal distinction, with several consequences.

First, she takes the morally relativistic route. It's wrong to kill infants in our society, but in societies which are so impoverished that it cannot take care of infants adequately without endangering the survival of existing persons, killing it or allowing it to die would not be seriously wrong, provided there was no other society willing and able to take care of it. But this response just begs the question. This only succeeds if the unborn are not human persons. Since Warren never argued for that, only asserted it, she has not supported her contention and so her argument fails (to say nothing of the severe problems with a morally relativistic framework). She also mentions highly civilized societies, like the Greeks and Romans, who allowed infanticide under "such unfortunate circumstances." That's not my understanding. Greeks and Romans would allow infants to die if they were simply the wrong gender, as well as any other reason, like the infant being disabled, that the father did not approve of.

Second, she argues that if "an infant is born with such severe physical anomalies that its life would predictably be a very short and/or very miserable one, even with the most heroic of medical treatment, and where its parents do not choose to bear the often crushing emotional, financial, and other burdens attendant upon the artificial prolongation of such a tragic life, it is not morally wrong to cease or withhold treatment, thus allowing the infant a painless death." This argument, again, begs the question. If infants are, in fact, persons, then we are not justified in prematurely ending their lives, even in the case of severe physical handicap.

Warren tries to escape the logical conclusion of her argument, that infanticide is morally permissible for any reason a woman wants it. The only alternative is to accept that late-term abortions are not morally permissible, which to my knowledge she has not yet done. However, even aside from this, I have argued that the unborn from fertilization should be considered full human persons. If my argument succeeds, then Warren's argument is moot, anyway. The unborn deserve the same protections as all other human beings.

33 comments:

Jameson Graber said...

Good conclusion to the series. I do just have one question, which is how seriously you take animal rights. In showing the inconsistency of Warren's argument, you don't make it clear to the reader whether, given the presumption that the infant is *not* a person, that it would still have certain rights.


The question may seem a little off-topic, but I do seriously wonder how as a society we can say that dolphins are "person-like" to merit certain protections, but the unborn are not "person-like" enough to be protected from a basically arbitrary death.


And the idea that a human becomes more and more "person-like" over time creates the strange moral situation in which the longer we reflect on the decision (to abort), the more immoral it becomes.

CS said...

I think Singer's reasoning, and possibly Warren's, relies on an implied argument that the *gaze* of the loving parent imparts some measure of "personhood" onto the child, particularly if trying to distinguish a newborn from a third trimester child in the womb. There is the metaphysical gaze, of desire for the child and of projection of one's family identity upon it, but there is also the changed state that is undergone by passing out of the body of the mother into the world.

Clinton said...

Well, the topic of animal rights was not within the scope of this article. My general position, which I could be argued out of, is that most animals have at least some form of moral status, though not on the same level as humans. I believe that animals should not be mistreated, and I even oppose hunting for sport. This is because you are killing conscious creatures and doing them pain. I don't believe it's as wrong to kill, say, a dear as it is to kill a human. But I still think it's wrong to kill the dear for no reason at all.

Clinton said...

Well, the difference between Singer and Warren is that Warren merely asserts her view and says that anyone who disagrees just doesn't know what a person is. Singer actually argues for why the unborn, and infants, are not actually persons, and for why, he believes, killing one is not actually doing them harm. David Boonin and Michael Tooley also support their positions. But most pro-choice philosophers I've read don't actually support their position that the unborn are not persons, they just assert it without supporting it.

Clinton said...

Thanks! I plan on responding to the claims of other pro-choice advocates in the future, some who make a better case for their position than Warren did.

Clinton said...

To me, a troll is someone who just makes inflammatory assertions off the cuff. There's nothing about your comment here that I would consider the least bit troll-ish, and as such I would be more than happy to respond.

I think that there is a major difference between the case of pregnancy and raising an infant, which is that the child resides inside the mother's body. But what I would argue is that the difference is not morally relevant in the vast majority of cases, since she, by willfully engaging in an act intrinsically ordered toward procreation, is half responsible for creating a new human being in a naturally needy condition. Since she is responsible for the child's creation, she bears a responsibility for caring for this child, at least until such time that the child is expelled from her body and she can either raise it herself or gift the child to a loving family via adoption.


I also believe that abortion should be illegal in the case of rape, but for a completely different reason (as obviously the responsibility objection doesn't work in the case of rape).


So I would agree that the only case which would justify the mother ending the life of her child in utero is if her life was genuinely threatened and the child was not developed enough to survive outside the womb (otherwise the child should be delivered, not killed). I actually don't think caring for your child is voluntary, I think it's morally obligatory. But then again, I argue that biological parenthood is an important factor and by bringing a child into existence, even when you don't want to raise one, obligates you to care for her. After all, the reason we call them obligations is because they're not chosen. I think that a child actually has a natural right to both his or her parents. But if a mother is going to shirk her obligations and want to kill her child, I think that adoption is a viable alternative. I don't think it's the best situation, but it's certainly better than allowing a mother to kill her child.


The reason that I engage in philosophical reflection over the case of abortion is because I don't see this as just an "interesting intellectual puzzle" to solve. There are legitimate lives at stake. If the pro-life position is correct, then our country is legally massacring 1.3 million unborn human children every year. If the pro-choice position is correct, then pro-life people are trying to restrict a woman's reproductive rights unfairly. It would be like trying to restrict mole-removal surgery (if there is no human life at stake in abortion).


The reason that I'm pro-life is because after reading the best arguments from both sides of the equation, I believe the pro-life arguments to have much greater explanatory power than pro-choice arguments. I think the arguments for embryonic human life and embryonic personhood are much stronger than the pro-choice arguments that try to deny it.


So I kind of bring Kant's metaphysics of ethics to the table because I already pretty much agree with his concept of the categorical imperative, and I have been greatly influenced by other philosophers who were influenced by him. But I do intend to explore certain areas pertinent to the abortion issue, such as the metaphysics of time and how it pertains to the human person, and other things. The problem is that while I find the topic fascinating and I think it's important to consider, I don't think there are very many people who would actually want to read it.

LN said...

"Actually, I think all 50 states have safe-haven laws which allow a mother to turn the infant over to the state if the mother finds simply caring for the infant to be too burdensome.

So the duty to care for an infant is, in a meaningful sense, purely voluntary. Don't want to care for my infant? Turn the infant over to the state. Which, I think, is consistent with the idea that individuals generally don't have the right to legally force a particular person to care for them unless we voluntarily decide to do so."

Interesting point, but I think the analogy does hold better than you expect.

You use safe-haven laws to assert that motherhood isn't obligatory, whereas this opt-out isn't available during pregnancy. I disagree that safe-haven laws render motherhood non-obligatory. They are simply a precaution to those who don't follow through with their obligations. I mean it would be silly not to expect some people to shirk their duties at the cost of an infant dying a slow death in a field or something. Expect the best, prepare for the worst.

"Which seems to illustrate another problem with the infanticide/ abortion analogy-- outlawing abortion... forces woman to continue to carry a baby to term against their will. There is no way for a pregnant woman to turn their fetus over to the state..."



And if there was, we would (1) still expect women to take responsibility but (2) have a safety net for children whose parents decide to abandon them. Just because we can't do (2) doesn't mean we should abandon (1). Why, in the case of not being able to procure a safety net for a child, would we then go to the extreme opposite end and say, "...therefore it's fine to kill your child"?

Max said...

Thanks for the response, Clinton. And, as I said, I suspect that I may have been guilty of trollish behavior at times. If so, then I suppose the stupid shall be punished, even if the stupid is me.


I'm curious if you think there is a secular reason to think that the fact "bodies are intrinsically ordered for procreation" should be normative as well as descriptive. If so, how far does it go? I ask because the only place I've seen that line of reasoning carried out to its end is in Humane Vitae, which also uses the "natural ordering" of our bodies to say that artificial birth control and homosexuality are immoral-- because god created us a certain way, therefore we are obligated to act in accordance with his plan. Which is a fine argument if you're willing to accept a couple of first principles :)


Also, it seems that if it is true that the intrinsic or natural ordering of our bodies means engaging in unprotected sex somehow grounds responsibility in carrying a baby to term, it is unclear how engaging in sex with an IUD and a condom, which would be "unnatural" sex in a certain sense, would ground responsibility in the same way. But maybe my confusion lies in the fact that the only argument for grounding moral obligation in natural ordering is based on a particular religion that I don't believe in.


I'm sure I'm not breaking any new ground here since I'm sure you've familiar with Hume's or Moore's skepticism about deriving an ought from an is. I'm just wondering if you have, or have come across, a secular argument for a purely naturalized ethics? Other than Sam Harris's, which I think from reading what you've written is not your argument.

Max said...

I'm not sure I follow.

I'm talking about legal obligation not moral obligation. I takes it that these are different.

There are lots of morally questionably things I can do legally. I can lie, cheat on my spouse, post racist diatabes on the internet, and abandon my infant at a safe haven. All legal, albeit immoral, things to do.

Say I'm a young mother with an infant. I can go to a safe haven and drop off the infant I don't want. I am permitted to do this act legally and would not be sanctioned. And I can do it in every state. Its a crap thing to do; but you can legally do it. Which means, I think, that the legal obligation to care for your infant is voluntary in the U.S. right now practically; that is, no one is forcing you to do it.

Which is different from having just a safety net. We have child protective services to take children away from abusers. But the obligation not to abuse a child is enforced by law. Likewise we have animal protective services for people who shirk their duties to take reasonable care of their pets. But if my italian greyhound viciously bites you, I am legally obligated to pay for the damages she caused.

So, I'm not following what you mean when you say that motherhood (for woman with children) is obligatory. I think that the term "obligatory" in this context means "things you have to do whether you want to or not." Am I wrong?

And because we are talking about legal obligation, I take it that this obligation is enforced by laws and the state. Are you arguing that there is legal obligation for mothers to care for their infants but that that the obligation is not legally enforceable?

My point with this analogy, which is a weird argument for me to make since I just complained that there is limited value to these analogies, is that abortion is different from infanticide (and everything else) in that abortion represents two people, one of which is inside the other. That seems to be a very relevant point, especially to pregnant women, that cannot be captured through these analogies to any other situation (because no other situation has that quality).

Sorry to be crude, but what we are talking about is whether person F can live in person M's uterine wall when person M doesn't want her to. And that means person F is demanding a legal right we don't grant anyone else. No one other than fetus gets the right to be inside a woman. And person M is demanding to do something to person F that we don't allow anyone else to do. That is, we don't allow people to kill each other. And, we as a society have to chose whether and in what circumstances to side with F or to side with M.



I just don't see how any analogy can hope to capture the uniqueness of what is at stake when we talk about abortion. And in making these analogies I suspect that we often trivialize the issues we claim to care about. And I suppose I am as guilty of that as everyone else.

Chaoticblu said...

This lady would fail High School English with so many holes in her arguments. I don't know who she is but she sounds like someone who really doesn't know what they are talking about, and keeps flip flopping and not showing evidence to back up her claims. Are infants persons or not? In what ways would an infant be endangering the mother's health and thereby making an abortion necessary? Can you clearly define infant, fetus, etc because she seems to use them interchangeable almost. And just..well anyone who doesn't have compassion for a child in the womb our outside of it just seems heartless to me. I wonder if most pro choice people simply have something wrong with the centers of their brain required for compassion? Arguments like this make it seem likely to me. I'm not even trying to troll, I am honestly wondering if there could be a correlation between sociopathic tendencies and being pro abortion. Not in all cases but enough to show a pattern maybe?

Chaoticblu said...

Sorry to intrude since you're addressing Clinton. But I can answer one point I believe. Engaging in consensual sex with condoms still creates the moral obligation or a mother to care for her child while they are inside her if she becomes pregnant , because contraception can fail and the couple engaging in sex SHOULD know that. By consenting to sex, you are acknowledging the risk that a new human could potentially be created, even with birth control. I"m actually not sure how that coincides with the "Natural order of our bodies" as I'm not familiar with the term, but I would think it simply means in this case that it is 'naturally" possible for pregnancy to occur in a fertile woman if she engages in sex. If so, then I have always knows the meaning (that our bodies work in a certain way by nature) but just not the actual term.

Max said...

But the question I'm asking is WHY should the INHERENT risk of pregnancy in choosing to have sex mean that WOMEN are responsible responsible and, therefore, should be compelled to give birth.


One, particularly bad IMO, approach is to ground women's legal obligation is their choice to do a inherently risky act (negligence). That is to say, pregnant woman are negligent tortfeasors because they did not take reasonable care when choosing to have sex and, therefore, are liable for any damages they do to their victim, which is the fetus.


This would ground their obligation to carry a fetus to term in the inherent risk of pregnancy using a negligence model. I think this approach has obvious, glaring, flaws so I won't elaborate on them unless you'd like me to.


But I think Clinton is NOT saying this AT ALL.


I think he has a much deeper philosophical and more elegant argument for why sex in particular is different from other activities we do and, because of this very important difference, the inherent risk of having sex is qualitatively different that the inherent risk of, say, driving a car. I DO NOT think that Clinton's argument treats loose woman as tortfeasors or fetuses (and babies) as victims that need to be compensated.


Rather, I take it that Clinton is arguing that there is some normative value in the natural ordering of our bodies, or to use Clinton's language the "inherent ordering" of our bodies.


But, and I think this is a big BUT, I also think that this argument won't work for an important demographic of what I take to be Clinton's target audience-- people who don't already agree with him.


And this is because they won't accept the typical "sources" of normative the argument rests on.


To be clear, I only know two ways to get to that normative, and both are going to be hard sells in my opinion.


First, there is a God; and we can infer from our experience in the world or from revelation (or both) that He created us with a certain purpose in mind; and one of those purposes is to procreate by having sex; therefore, we "ought" to do so in the way he designed us. BUT, that only works if you believe not only in a god, but also certain things about what God wants for us. That is going to be, I think, a hard sell for secular audiences.


Second, you could make an Aristotelian argument. That is, we have certain essential qualities that make us who we are. Doing well, or being well, as this kind of thing, a human being, means doing well at those essential things that makes us us. This gives our nature, or are "intrinsic ordering," a purpose or teleology. And that description of our purpose, grounded in our essential characteristics, contains the internal "ought" that evades Hume's or Moore's skepticism.


But, and again a BIG BUT, modern audience, particularly (I think) ones that y'all would like to convince, are are unlikely to buy Aristitlian essentialism in general, and certainly not here specifically. This is because what the argument says, in plain language, is that women's purpose is the have babies and, if they are not acting towards that end, they are not well. Which, if they accepted, would meant they wouldn't need convincing!


But, maybe their are other ways to find the normativity other than appeals to religion or to Aristotelian essentialsim. Just because I don't know of any certainly does not mean that they could not exist.


Which is why I'm curious as to whether Clinton has another way to get to a purely naturalized meta-ethics. Which, if it worked, would be quite remarkable IMO since I'm not aware that anyone else has done this successfully.

Max said...

Yikes! Sorry about all of the grammatical errors. I really should have proof read this before I hit reply. I hope they are not overly distracting from the point I was trying to make.

Max said...

Some pro-choice people do seem to lack the sort of empathy and compassion that we normally associate with being a fully functioning person. Say, for example, any pro-choice person who isn't horrified by what happened in Gosnel's clinic. I would hope that this is not typical. I can say with certainty, at least, that I am horrified.


But, some pro-lifers seem to lack the sort of empathy and compassion that we normally associate with being a fully functioning person as well. Say, for example, pro-lifers who think that the emotional, physical, and spiritual trauma of being raped, or of non being able to provide for a child or of not being able to pursue your most deeply held goals, is not a relevant factor in whether or not particular abortions ought to be legal.


That is, that experience of the woman in question is merely incidental to the question of abortion and, therefore, not worthy of even being taken into consideration because, really, who cares about them anyway? I would hope that this is, likewise, atypical as well.


Unfortunately though, what I think is typical, is that too many people (on both sides of this debate) do not think of the "other" as real human beings with which it is worthy to engage. That is, too many people seem to think of the "other" as some monstrous "it" who is only motivated either because they glory in the death of infants or because they glory in the suffering of women, instead of people trying to grapple with a unique and difficult question that is difficult because it exists at the very intersection of everything we hold to be valuable.


Or, I should say, that is my opinion, at any rate.

Chaoticblu said...

Not at all. I must admit though you seem much more experienced in philosophical debating than I. I am not sure I am fully qualified to address all your concerns. I just thought I could at least address the one. I feel like I did. I said a couple needs to take responsibility for their actions. So actually, I was referring to both the woman and man. Perhaps I should have elaborated on that.

Now, if I am understanding correcting you are asking WHY one should be held accountable for their actions? Or more specifically, why a woman should be health accountable for the life she possibly may help creates by having sex? Whether the life created was intentional or not. Is that that what you are asking?

If not , please clarify if possible. If so, I'm going to explain again because I think I was pretty clear:

A woman (and man) should KNOW that sex , protection or not can result in a child. By knowing this risk, they are accepting it. Acceptance at least in my eyes- means you are accepting an implied 'ethical contract' to at least take care of any child that is created by their sexual union, at least until the woman gives birth.

Considering we already can make a man pay child support for fathering a child, I don't see this being a stretch to hold a woman legally responsible for the welfare of her child while in utero. Actually, we should also hold the father responsible while the child is in utero, that is both should contribute financially as much as they can to prenatal care if possible (ie not on welfare or other govt assistance).
But , I take it you don't agree with me per your statement:

"One, particularly bad IMO, approach is to ground women's legal
obligation is their choice to do a inherently risky act (negligence)."

I actually would appreciate you elaborating on this stance if you wouldn't mind. I'm not sure I"d consider having sex 'negligence'. Negligence from what I understand is when you put another person in a knowingly risky situation. The child hasn't been created yet so there for only the people involved are in the situation.

I believe you are saying is the woman is possibly putting her potential future child in a risky situation (the risk of being aborted which is certainly harmful to them). If that's correct, I don't believe we can hold someone responsible for negligence in that case as the victim has yet to be presented (be conceived if they are at all.)

Or are you saying the negligent act is using protection? Hormonal contraception could be considered negligent but that is a conversation/debate in itself. In this case I'll continue with the contraception method of condoms since you mentioned it.

I don't believe having sex with condoms as protection from pregnancy is negligent. Condoms can be very effective. Most of the time when used correctly they will work. But , on the off chance the condom fails, a couple should be prepared for pregnancy. Obviously to me and any pro life person this means carrying the child to term to either raise themselves or put up for adoption.

I believe what could be considered negligent is for the pregnant woman to have an abortion consult. Or for the father to push her into doing so. This would be akin to pre meditative murder.

I hope that answered some of your questions/thoughts. I hope I understood your questions and was clearer in my response , even if you might disagree with it.

I will address some of the other things in your post , in another post. I have family visiting now so I must end this post for now. I hope Clinton gets back to you soon and can address your questions and everything that were meant for him anyway.

LN said...

I can't reply thoroughly to this now but I don't think its weird or nutty to consider the act of sex as somewhat reckless in and of itself - if you are prepared to kill a child rather than bear him - because it carries an inherent risk of pregnancy. Sorry that comes off as crass but no one is forced to have sex, its always (except rape) a choice. It sounds nutty if you ignore the fact that adults are killing children so they can have sex without responsibility. That's way more nutty. I'm not saying don't have sex, I'm saying be responsible.HHave sex and if risks come to pass, you should have to take responsibility for your choices, because anothers life is at stake because of those choices.

LN said...

Furthermore your analogy isn't very good. A child who runs out in front of a car is primarily responsible for their action (or their parent), not the driver. In pregnancy, there is absolutely no responsibility that can be placed on the child. Second the harm occurs because of that kids action (you might argue because you chose to drive), but that's not like pregnancy where the harm occurs as a second, very clear choice from the mother (driver). Its not like "woops this kid is dead", its "woops I got pregnant. Now I will kill my child." Lastly the risks aren't even close to the same otherwise there might be a movement to outlaw driving. In your analogy, though, the child would have to dart in front of your car and *become attached to it* holding on for dear life, and you would have the power to kill him or let him remain. Js making analogies to pregnancy to compare risk and responsibility is very difficult.

Max said...

Fair enough. But I have to wonder whether taking that position forecloses the possibility of any real progress on the issue.


I for one would love to be having this debate in a world in which we taught real sex education, removed barriers to access to birth control, provided better emotional and financial support for women struggling to keep a baby they don't think they can support but very clearly want to have, with more (perhaps many more) restrictions on abortion not only because there was less demand for abortion but because in recognizing the brutality of, say, a D & X abortion we'd all have more empathy for both pregnant women and for unborn children.


I'd like to think that if both sides where willing to actually contemplate what is at stake, we'd spend a lot more time working together to address the actual reasons woman have abortions and dealing with the reality of what abortion really is instead of trying trying to make ourselves feel good by appealing to abstract analogies that don't really capture much of what we claim to care about.


But maybe I don't get it. Is the goal to vent or to work toward better outcomes?


Because as much as I'd like to think that there are some ways that pro-choicers and pro-lifers could work together that would have meaningful results, I'm not interested in living in a world in which the only purpose for sex is procreation and where engaging in sex for any other reason is akin to drunk driving, or in thinking that unborn children (or infants) uncompensated for victims or are some sort of punishment for illicit sex. As crappy as it, I like the world we live in better than that one.

Max said...

Of course the analogy is bad! That's my point really. There is something unique about pregnancy-- where you have a conflict of all of the deep values and commitments that we thing are important, things such as the value of human life and autonomy, as well as how society impacts and supports our lives that aren't found in, frankly, stupid analogies to tort or contract liability or property rights.


My point is that is the wrong way to go about doing whatever it is we ought to be doing about abortion or empowering women to be autonomous.


We ought to spend some time really grappling with what abortion is. And not in the abstract. By, say, watching a live D & X procedure and witnessing the utter horror of it. Maybe that should be part of the comprehensive sex ed that should be taught to everyone. To me, every person who is pro-choice should think about it what it would be like to be there holding the scissors. I bet that lesson would be far more convincing than anything else we could do.


And maybe we ought to do the same thing for the experiences woman have that lead them to have abortions. Maybe we should really take the time to think how the experience of carrying a child that was created through a brutal rape. Don't we owe that, at least, to a woman that we think should be compelled to carry that child, and feel it grow inside her, if we are going to compel her to give birth to that child against her will? Or what it feels like be pregnant without any economic or emotional support, the utter hopelessness and despair of it, to know that your future may be to become one of the 30% of single mothers that will live her life out in poverty, all because your birth control failed. Shouldn't we at least have that much empathy? My bet is that really doing this would have much of the same effect as watching that terrible video. Which is why we should do it.


And then, maybe we could start again from a standpoint that both unborn children and pregnant women are human beings worthy of respect, and really dealt with what is at stake. And maybe then we wouldn't have a million abortions a year.


But that is only thing, sadly enough, that pro-choicers and pro-lifers seem to agree upon very often-- there is only enough empathy in the world for either women or for unborn children, never both.


Which is why these cold, dead analogies are so appealing-- we get to only empathize with the person we think is worthy of respect and, therefore, get to evade dealing with the anguish it would cause ourselves in taking certain policy positions. It would mean pro-lifers would have realize their stance would cause real anguish for a lot of women. And it would mean that pro-choicers would have realize that in a real way they are the ones with the scissors in their hands.


But at all costs that is the worst outcome it seems because what seems all too important is not whether we solve anything, but whether we can feel good about ourselves. Which is so much easier if we think that woman are just reckless tortfeasors and fetuses are home invaders. Because really, why should I care much about what happens to tortfeasors or home invaders?

Chaoticblu said...

Um my point was that I personally would not stand by and watch a child get hit by a car because I care about children in general. I wasn't making any comparison really except that children in the womb are still children. So that's why I as an individual care about ending abortion and saving other children and not just care how abortion could affect my own child.To me , abortion is NOT an individual issue, it's a human rights issue with the rights of children at stake. You certainly do not have to agree with me -that's the main issue that separates Pro Choice from Pro Life right?-when a human being deserves rights such as the right to thrive? I was simply stating my view which is I don't discriminate between a child on the street and one in the womb. That ALL I was saying I'm not sure why you are trying to poke flaws in that. The analogy works for me because of this non discriminating view.

Chaoticblu said...

Re reading my post I realize I use the word "risky" interchangeable with "reckless" I believe everything still makes sense though but let me know if it poses a problem to my logic.

Chaoticblu said...

Yes both people with Pro Choice views and people with Pro Life views are often viewed as 'monsters' on some level. From my experience this is due to each side having their share of 'trollers, as well as people who do not articulate their views properly or calmly. Or even if they do, the other side (whichever) simply does not understand it. I must admit I find it difficult to understand the Pro Choice stance. Probably because of the reasons the two positions exist. The stances differ on when a human being is believed to have certain rights, as well as whether all unborn children have value.


Our views on what is considered rational thinking and what is not clearly do as well as I am one who believes an unborn child's value should not be based on whether their mother/parents consider them "inconvenient" or whether their conception was due to violence by their father. I also am not trying to punish rape victims and am truly sorry it seems like it.


But that is indeed because we have different views. All we can try and do is correct the inaccurate views , but that in itself isn't going to work 100% I find it very difficult to fathom for example how I am wrong to infer a pro choice stance to NOT mean one does not have compassion for children or innocent lives. I feel like no matter how it's explained, I'm going to disagree with it.

Max said...

I don't think that pro-lifers vilify raped woman. I think that pro-lifers are casually indifferent to the experiences of women that lead them to choose to have an abortion.


Just like I think that pro-choicers are causally indifferent to the really of what it means to kill an unborn child.


I think both sides to this because it allows each to feel righteous about their cause, which feels good, and doesn't make them acknowledge the real anguish that reality that robbing a woman's autonomy or killing an unborn child creates because we ourselves don't want to emphasize with that anguish, because it feels really bad. That is, I think we we dehumanize the other because we enjoy the feeling of righteousness and do not enjoy the feeling of anguish. anguish.


And to put things in perspective, I was the vice president of law students for choice when I was a 2L. I organized students for pro-choice causes, fundraised for pro-choice causes, invited pro-choice speakers to campus, etc. That is, I am, or at least was a pro-choice activist.


If you asked me then why did abortion rights matter so much to me, I would have told you that I was motivated from the best concerns-- concerns about the meaning and value of life and autonomy, and how the social and legal framework we live in empowers or hinders our ability to live meaningful lives.


And I would have said fetuses were just things. And pro-lifers are, at best, poor misguided people who've anthropomorphized that thing at the expense of actual, living breathing human beings. And I would have thought that they were motivated by an utter lack of empathy for women at the best times, and all to often really motivated from a hatred of them.


But in engaging with people here, particularly LN and Clinton, I've come to two, perhaps startling realizations. First, these discussion have validated (to me) that everything I thought about woman's experiences and the value of autonomy was the right thing to think.


Second, I was dead wrong about fetuses and pro-lifers. The unborn child is a human being worthy of respect. And pro-lifers are motivated by the right concerns-- concerns about the value of human life, and how the legal and social framework works to either empower or hinder our ability to live meaningful lives.


What I've permanently lost, though, is that feeling of righteousness that I cherished, and instead I'm filled with anguish. But, and perhaps I'm wrong to think this, I think that is what i should feel about abortion.


My hope is that if both sides really grasped what's at stake they would feel the same anguish and horror, BOTH the horror of abortion and the loss of autonomy. And I hope that would motivate us to work together to change the conditions that lead to almost 1,000,000 woman desperately feeling, perhaps actually needing, to have an abortion instead of chanting our slogans and making abstract arguments that do nothing, in my opinion, other than make us feel good about ourselves.


So, to be clear, I'm not arguing that people, by engaging, will be bent to the other's will and change sides. That, I think, is a fool's errand. But, instead, I think that our mutually anguish would motivate us to do something that would make a real difference.

Clinton said...

Max, you mentioned that I think "bodies are intrinsically ordered toward procreation." I'm not sure if that's what you picked up from my words or if it was a simple typo, but my view is that the act of *sex* is intrinsically ordered toward procreation. That's the natural way to people reproduce. Even in sex ed. classes, the instructor will say that it only takes one time for a girl to pregnant. Without wanting to get too graphic, the physical "coming together" of the man and the woman results in the expulsion of sperm to find its way to the woman's egg. In order to prevent this, you need to resort to unnatural means in order to prevent fertilization, or result to natural means by having intercourse when the woman is not ovulating. It just seems patently obvious to me that the act of sex is intrinsically ordered to procreation of our species. After all, if a man and woman want to conceive a child, they have sex to do it (notwithstanding, of course, methods like IVF to help an infertile couple with the procreation process).

Now, I am a Christian, so I bring certain metaphysical assumptions to the table not shared by the non-religious members of Secular Pro-Life. However, I am not a Catholic, although I tend to agree a great deal with many things they argue about our natural world (I just disagree with them on many of their doctrines). So I do believe that homosexuality is immoral, but I'm sure that the non-religious members of SPL would disagree with me. When it comes to contraception, I'm still struggling with it. Part of me wants to say that contraception is immoral, since sex is supposed to be between a man and his wife, only. But another part of me thinks that it is definitely better that a couple use contraception rather than conceive and kill a child actually in existence. So as it is right now, I'm not sure where I stand on contraception, though I am at least sympathetic to the Catholic conception of Natural Law.


However, as I believe a strong Biblical case can be made against abortion, the arguments I use, especially when I write for the SPL blog, are arguments that I believe are grounded in intuitions that even the non-religious readers of my material can agree with. So when I talk about responsibility, that's not grounded in anything religious (especially since I know Atheists in SPL who make the same arguments). As I would be responsible to reimburse my neighbor for breaking his window, so a man and woman are responsible for caring for a child that they conceived because they engaged in the act of sexual intercourse. I believe this even to be the case if they tried to prevent it through contraception, because they are still engaging in the act. Even if I put a huge fence up between my neighbor's house and mine, and if I use a whiffle-ball instead of an actual baseball, and if we try and spread out farther away from his house, I am still responsible if I end up breaking his window, despite all the precautions I took.


I am, also, familiar with the skepticism about deriving an ought from an is. But the important thing to understand is that I'm not arguing from "is" to "ought." I'm not saying that pregnancy is natural, therefore women are obligated to become pregnant. I am saying that sex is instrinsically ordered toward procreation, so if a man and woman engage in an act that can naturally create a child in a naturally needy position, they bear a responsibility to care for that child, at least until such time as they can safely give the child to someone else to care for. My argument here is not from nature but from the wrongness of killing an innocent human being. If I did not believe the unborn entity to be a valuable human being, then there would probably be nothing wrong with abortion.

Clinton said...

Hmm. After reading this, you may be a bit disappointed with my reply. lol But at any rate, I explained my position further above. My argument against abortion is in regards to the inherent wrongness of killing innocent human beings. Since the act of sex is intrinsically ordered toward procreation, the mother (and father) bear a responsibility to care for the child. But again, if the child was not a valuable human being, then there would probably not be anything wrong with abortion. So it's not necessarily a responsibility "for her own actions," but the fact that she conceives an inherently valuable human child through that act is what grounds her obligation to continue the pregnancy.

Max said...

Thanks for taking the time to respond!

I understand your argument now.

Just one thing though, your wiffle ball counter example won't work because its based on a negligent theory and it is far from clear, in that example, that you were negligent.


You are only negligent if you fail to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. And it seems that putting up a fence, moving back, and using a wiffle ball would satisfy that legal requirement fairly easy.

I think what you're trying to analogize to is strict liability anyway so there would be better counter examples. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Strict+Liability

Max said...

I don't expect you to think that abortion is ok. I don't think that either.


At a fundamental level I think we are faced with a decision that, no matter which way decide, requires us to either rob another human being of their life or their autonomy. Either way we decide, we ought to feel bad about it because BOTH women and unborn children are worthy of our respect.


I'm not trying to get you to change your position on whether abortion should be legal. I come out differently than you on the legal issue but I understand that there is a real cost to taking my position.


Rather, I'm trying to show that, if you are going to make abortion illegal, you are going to make many women suffer the loss of their autonomy. Maybe I'm wrong, but if you think that unborn children are important enough to make woman make that sacrifice, I think that in return you should have to deal with their anguish.

Clinton said...

Are you saying that if I took those precautions and still broke my neighbor's window through the willful act of playing baseball and hitting a ball into my neighbor's window, that I would not be responsible for fixing his window?

Clinton said...

Actually, the sex you have is the same sex all people in that situation have, you are just putting up a barrier to try and prevent the natural outcome from occurring.


I guess we can just agree to disagree on this, but the responsibility objection is seen even by some pro-choice philosophers (like Michael Tooley and Peter Singer) as the knock-down blow against Thomson's violinist analogy (which is used to justify the position of bodily rights). So they try to argue from an anti-personhood perspective. Some are better at it than others, and Warren was pretty lousy at it.


But yes, we can at least agree an unborn child is a human being worthy of respect.

Max said...

Probably not. At least not under a negligence theory. And probably not under a trespass theory either.


Tort liability normally attaches in one of three ways-- I intentionally do something (I throw a ball at your window), I carelessly do something that unintentionally does something (I hit a baseball into your window accidentally), or I do something so dangerous that I'm liable whenever bad act things happen (my pit bull bites you).


If you want to analogize sex to tort (which, to be clear, I think is totally wrong) then you either have to analogize to an intentional tort (hey, you wanted to be pregnant), negligence (hey, don't be so careless), or a strict liability (hey, your dangerous sex bit me).

Max said...

I don't think I follow.


Is the "naturalness" something that comes from my partner and I (ejaculate and egg) or in the act (intercourse)?


That is, am I or my fiance naturally ordered in particular way or is the act we engage in naturally ordered in a particular way?


Correct me if I'm confused, but the "intrinsic ordering" describes me and her. It could describe some sex (natural sex) but it certainly does not describe some other sex (birth control).


Because the "natural" way to have sex is to have sex without a condom (since we weren't born wearing one).


I think I can give you a better reason, however, of why the "naturalness" or "intrinsic ordering" has to be a feature of us and not the act.


Take the example where I've had a vasectomy and my fiance has had her tubes tied. Compare this an example where you having unprotected sex with your wife.


The acts we just did are identical from the perspective of the act. But there is something qualitatively different about the participants-- namely, that your body and your partner's body are naturally ordered to procreate and mine and my partner's are not.

Chaoticblu said...

I understand what you are saying Max. I was agreeing we have different views on some of it, mainly the rape situation. I can tell from your other posts you aren't "for" abortion in general. Not sure where you stand with rape though. Do you make an exception for rape or not? I understand you feel we are going about addressing abortion the wrong way, but then what do you suggest? I did read your suggestion on abortion education and education on how people get into situations where they have unintended pregnancies and the hardships they face. I am for that. Do you have any suggestions for how we can preserve bodily autonomy and also the life of the embryo/fetus ? Maybe not now but in the future?


To clarify, YES I as an individual personally believe all innocent human beings have a right to the chance at experiencing life. So YES I believe life is greater than bodily autonomy. I am not afraid to say it.


And again I will say I have compassion for BOTH victims in rape, the mother AND resulting child. I have already stated in another post that I think rape victims should get whatever support they need.



I have thought about it numerous times and if I was raped I wouldn't kill the living embryo/fetus inside me. I would probably raise them myself as well, but that is because I personally want children. By no means does a rape victim have to take on that part.


If there was a way for me to safely experience a rape scenario, (perhaps virtually) I would be open to it. I WANT to put my beliefs to the test because I'm so sure they won't change. When I have children I plan on teaching them that life should be valued, even in dark situations. Hopefully those beliefs will stick and they will teach their children and so forth.



Making people open to the value of innocent lives , even in dark times-making them open to compassion for rape victims and their children- is going to be an important part in ending abortion. Society can't change unless peoples' minds and hearts change, willingly. I understand that and it won't be easy.

Max said...

I think what you are thinking is what I'm thinking. There should be some real horror in thinking about it too. And I won't presume to think there is some easy answer.


And, I think that in a real sense there is no right legal rule where we can avoid the horror altogether. In the end, I suspect, which "side" we choose will be based on what person, the woman in question or the unborn child, we better emphasize with.


But here's my take. I don't think you are going to end abortion by (just) making it illegal. If the legal and social framework we live in leads 1,000,000 women to have one every year, there is no way you are politically going to say to that many women, "too bad."


But, if your commitment wasn't just to making abortion illegal, but also to changing the conditions that lead to abortion, I think that might be successful.


I'm inclined to think many pro-choice people would be willing to do the same thing because I think they are motivated by the same concerns. I think engaging them and working with them to address their underlying concerns would force them to do the same.


I'm not sure what a perfect world would be, but I'm inclined to think it would be one in which pro-lifers where as committed to providing access to birth control and real, comprehensive sex ed as are more pro-choicers. And I'd like to think that most pro-choicers would be as committed to providing resources to crisis pregnancy centers to provide the economic, emotional, and spiritual support to help women be able to make a choice other than alternatives for abortion.


And I don't think that can happen unless we think about this less as an argument we are trying to win and more as a problem we are trying to solve.