Friday, April 18, 2014

What would ever change your mind?

[Today's post is by guest blogger Kara B.]

No too long ago, renowned Planet of the Apes cosplayer and animatronics enthusiast Ken Ham catalyzed the most massive synchronized facepalm when he answered a simple question asked by an audience member: “What, if anything, would ever change your mind?”  His answer, of course, was along the lines of “Nothing. No one is ever going to convince me that the word of god is untrue.”  Somehow, I suppose, he thought this was an intellectually honest answer. Ham even seemed to feel Bill Nye’s response (“We would just need one piece of evidence”) bolstered Ham’s position. 

See full quotes here.

Whether the topic is science, philosophy, politics, or math, there’s value in stepping back, loosening your hold on even your most closely guarded values, and pondering this question: “What would it take to change my mind?” Rather than simply taking a defensive position, you can actively define and set limits to the extent of your beliefs, while remaining open to the possibility that you might very well learn something.

Of course, the abortion debate is not primarily a question of science, but of values.  When we’re debating the humanity of the fetus, science can help, but if we are debating the personhood of the fetus, Bill Nye’s answer of “evidence,” won’t suffice.  Instead of more scientific facts, we require a change in philosophy. What would change your mind about your philosophical views on abortion? I think it’s alright if we offer answers to this thought experiment that may be highly improbable.  As long as the scenarios that would change your mind are possible, you have logically worked out your limitations and left your ideological opposites room to convince you.

I’m going to outline the results of my own experience with this thought experiment, but, before I do, I’m going to qualify my experiences with some background information.  Nearly all of my in-person friends hold some type of pro-choice position.  This has exposed me to a number of arguments and scenarios I’ve had to judge my own arguments against.  Since the arguments have come from friends, they haven’t been filled with vitriol; instead they've helped me determine where I agree with them, where I don’t, and what that means for my thought experiment.  Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, I recommend you talk your views over with some friends who disagree with you 100%, to help you if you get stuck.

There was a point in my life when I nearly did change my mind.  In high school I argued against abortion on secular grounds, but a few years later I spent a year abroad in Japan, and that shut me up. At the time, Japanese abortion laws were being revisited by the Diet (Japanese congress).  In light of the fact that Japan was, and still is, facing a huge crisis in having an aging population with a shrinking birthrate, the Diet was looking to restrict access even further.  Essentially, the Diet was hoping to use restricted abortion access as a way to increase the birthrate, thereby giving credence to the argument I hear these days, that abortion restrictions are designed to turn women into broodmares. 

I had never considered this perspective before.  I saw the destruction of the unborn as a very individual crime with a very individual victim.  I had never considered abortion politically.  I had never considered the idea that a restriction on abortion was intended specifically to force women into a particular lifestyle, and I wasn’t sure how that worked out logically in my mind.  Was potential tyranny of the state enough to override the rights of an individual to life?

It took me many years to process this information, although eventually I came to the conclusion that no, it was not.  The fear of turning women into broodmares is a separate question from that of abortion.  Besides, during the Japanese baby boom of the 1960s extended access to abortion was similarly used as a tool to manage women’s fertility, because at the time there were too many children for the social system to handle.  What needs to change in the present is the Japanese attitude towards women, not the Japanese policy towards increasing abortion access.

So, without any further procrastinating, here are five (perhaps improbable, but possible) ways in which I would change my mind.  They aren’t meant to be exclusive.  Perhaps there are other arguments there and I just have yet to find them:

1) I would need to find religion:

I’m an atheist.  As far as I know, this is the only life I will ever get to live and, as far as I know, the same is true of you, and of everyone.  I place a high value on the right to life specifically because there are no other rights without that first one.  Abortion is unique in that it revokes the right to life without serious consideration by third parties to reduce bias in the decision.  Revoking the right to life when the person in question has done nothing wrong, with the perpetrator receiving no legal or military consequences, is also unique to abortion.

However, people with religion have it differently.  I suppose if I were a true Buddhist, a true believer in reincarnation, I would be not only pro-choice, but I’d argue for abortion on demand.  After all, if the mother thought she couldn’t offer a decent life to the child, it would make sense to send that child on to its next life, where it might have the opportunity to have a good one.  If I were just your run-of-the-mill Christian, I might rationalize that though the opportunity to live might be lost, that child would be in heaven as an innocent.

2)  I would have to have a different understanding on what it is that makes up “me” and my consciousness:

This follows closely with the above reason, just in more secular terms.  As far as I know, the sum of me is a combination of brain chemicals and outside stimuli.  I don’t know why it is “me” who is experiencing what is going on in my brain, but I suspect that when that brain is done, whatever it is that is “me” will be done experiencing.  If I am wrong on that (and I don’t think I am, but anyway…), if there are some other levels of consciousness, then I might still not agree with abortion, but I might be more permissive with the idea of other women getting them, since their children would still go on to experience other things, instead of being robbed of the only consciousness they might ever know.  Of course, that kind of takes away part of the moral outrage I’d have about murder in general, which brings me to my next point…

3) Convince me that murder isn’t a big deal:

While I do think morality is subjective, I’m not a moral relativist (i.e. a person who accepts the morality of other groups and cultures because it is the morality they have).  My moral code may have been developed in the context of a western, American lifestyle, but I think it is a pretty good one. One of the core values included is that, generally, it is not okay to kill someone, and when it is, it is because of extenuating circumstances whereby that person is posing a direct threat to someone else.  Some cultures think it is okay to kill a woman because she was raped.  I’m not okay with that, and I wouldn’t be okay with that even if I did think sex was wrong.   A rape victim hasn’t done anything wrong, and she is paying for the actions of both another individual and a larger family or society that doesn’t know how to deal with her in their cultural and socio-economic context. I think this description also fits the aborted unborn.  However, if you can turn me into a moral relativist remove this concept of universal human rights, and convince me that murder is okay when the surrounding culture and society deem it okay, I’m pro-choice.

4)  If we lived in a certain dystopia:

Has anyone here watched the rebooted series of Battlestar Gallactica?  No?  There is one episode about a place called “The Farm,” in which my favorite character, Starbuck, is kidnapped by the Cylons and sent to a place where women are hooked up to machines to breed (Cylons want babies!)  That’s a pretty horrifying scenario.  If women were in fact being inseminated and forced to breed, and the only way to even fight back from this very desperate scenario was to prevent their oppressors from getting what they wanted and repeating the cycle, I would say abortion would be fully justified.  I would mourn the dead, but at that point, humanity is pretty much dead.

Similarly, if we as a species were less like Homo sapiens and more like Pacific salmon, I would have a different opinion on abortion.  If the only way to reproduce was to have the parent or parents die, I wouldn’t begrudge a parent making the decision to stop reproduction in its tracks.

5) Evidence against our current understanding of biology:

Lately we’ve heard some pro-choicers say that, due to the Great and Powerful Oz Bodily Autonomy Argument (GAPBAA), the fact that the unborn are human beings doesn’t matter.  I disagree.  If the unborn were not human beings, we wouldn’t be discussing whether bodily autonomy is sufficient to override their rights to life. 

I’m not terribly interested in legalistic personhood at this point.  Personhood has historically followed what the society at the time has felt about which human beings are persons.  This means that certain groups (including women themselves) have been seen as persons, non-persons, 1/3 persons, etc.   I am far more interested in knowing if the unborn are unique, self-automating human beings or not. 

Along those lines, I’m more interested in biological humanity than “personhood.” In that case I can’t see when a human being begins if not as a zygote. Convince me that I am in error on this point, provide me positive evidence that human beings begins at some later point, and you will have yourself a pro-choicer up until that later point.

Ok, kids, your turn.  Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, what would it take to change your mind? If you are undecided, what arguments would convince you one way or another?


Clinton said...

Yeah, Ken Ham even got a collective facepalm from Christians. The Apostle Paul even outlined a defeater for Christianity in one of his letters, yet Ham apparently believes nothing could ever prove Christianity wrong.

Clinton said...

I also heavily disagree with this statement: "Of course, the abortion debate is not primarily a question of science, but of values."

The abortion debate *is* primarily a question of science. If the unborn child is truly human, truly one of us, then a lot more comes with that than simply saying, 'oh, cool.' The reason that bodily rights arguments fail is because the child is a full human person that the mother and father are responsible for creating and placing in a state of dependence on the mother. The reason that personhood arguments fail is because the unborn are full human beings who don't differ from us in any morally relevant way that would justify killing them.

Plus, the argument that Christians can believe in abortion because children will go to Heaven is a silly one, and shows a lack of understanding of religious people. The majority of Christians are pro-life and understand that it's wrong to kill anyone made in God's image. I wish atheists would take more of a chance to understand our position, especially those who work with us against abortion.

Elizabeth Doecke said...

I would become pro-choice if someone could scientifically and definitively prove to me that the unborn are not 'one of us'; that they are somehow a different species, separate and distinct from the rest of the human race.

Josh Brahm said...

I could change my mind if I became convinced that the unborn weren't valuable human beings. If they aren't, then abortion is tantamount to mole removal surgery, and I am not going to try to make mole removal surgery illegal.

Also, if I became convinced that bodily rights arguments successfully justify abortion-choice even if the unborn IS a valuable human being, I would have to support abortion remaining legal and simply try to convince people to not have abortions as a morally obligatory act.

Because I'm currently convinced that the unborn is a valuable human being and I believe bodily rights arguments fail, (although I don't yet have all the answers, I'm still learning,) I am pro-life.

Ariela said...

Something I've pondered recently is that if all we are are brain chemicals and outside stimuli then:

1) those brain chemicals don't come into existence until around week 5 - so real personhood doesn't start until brain exist?

2) could a mother abort her child but keep the childs DNA and then re-make them later (when they are ready to have children) via some cloning procedure - thus brain chemicals are reproduced?

3) if the child is in the womb not getting much stimulus - is there really much of a person lost (much brain chemicals)?

This is the first time I've really thought it through, but with the cloning point above then really the original person would have been lost via the abortion and their twin produced via the cloning...

So with these points I think it comes down to the value of the human beings... is our value based on our brain chemicals or something more?

Ariela said...

Hi Josh - have you read this post by Matt Walsh: He makes some great arguments against the pro-choice body autonomy/integrity arguments

KB said...

I think science is a huge part of the debate, but ultimately it is a values question whether we we want to say something scientifically defined as a human being, or legally defined as a person, should warrant rights. I agree, due to the fact that we have values that say, if it is a person, it should be given rights, but that is a values judgement that is still needing to be made before the science can have relevance to the decision. Anyway, I think we pretty much are on the same page here, just parsing straws, or whatever the idiom is.

On the other hand, I think you are mistaking what I said would help me change MY mind, for a judgement on what I think Christians SHOULD, or even could, believe. One of the biggest reasons why I am pro-life is because I think that this is the only life, the only experiences we will ever have. If I were to be proven wrong about that, (which was the point of talking about reincarnation or an after-life), then it would cause me to reconsider my views. It is entirely possible that if I were to become a christian again, that other value systems, for example, not doing things because the bible says it is wrong, might come into play and again (or maybe it wouldn't! there are pro-choice christians) but I was referring to that one mechanism.

Drew Hymer said...

Ham got beaten severely in that debate. Nye was very vulnerable and Ham wasted his opportunities.

KB said...

Good questions #1 brain chemicals allow us to experience our existence, I don't think they are qualities needed to be a human being/ person. If you kill a person in a temporary coma, that person will be robbed of the future experiences they would have had once they got out of that coma. Now, if the person/child/fetus was never in a position to be able to experience their existence, as you posit in #3, I am not sure I am against abortion in that case. Of course, you'd need to be just about 100% sure that the child would be born brain dead, and I'd say we need to err on the side of caution.

#2 though, I think you are right, that would be the person's twin, not the person born again. although I'll admit, I don't know. How does one quantify consciousness and parse out individual consciousnesses without a defining body?

Josh Brahm said...

Yes, I read Matt's post. I use some of the same arguments. My concern with Matt's post is that it comes off awfully snarky, which will make it harder for pro-choice people to take seriously if they read it, and it encourages pro-life people to talk that way, and many of them already do, something I'm trying to change.

You would probably enjoy a speech I recently gave at UCLA on bodily rights arguments:

Fusengammu said...

I think everyone should keep an open mind, and I think examining what could
change your mind on anything is important.

I am pro-choice. I don't think my emotional reaction to abortion will ever change.
To me, a fetus is just a mass of cells, no more of a "potential person" than sperm
or egg. When pro-lifers show me pictures of an aborted fetus, it affects me
no more than watching videos of open heart surgery. That may sound cold, but that
is how I feel.

Now for a little background on my self. My mother had an
abortion, so I did lose a younger sibling. She is from Japan, and was an ambitious young
scientist in an era when Japanese women were expected to be housewives. She was told by
her grandmother to stop studying because she was getting better grades than her brother
while in school. She came to the US to research with my dad, also an ambitious young
scientist. They decided to only have 1 child, as they felt that was as many as
they could handle given their long hours spent side-by-side in the lab. As a result
of their years of hard work, they are now both very well known, and have made
many important contributions to biomedical technology. Not only that, my mother
has influenced many young Japanese women to break the shackles of patriarchy, and
has also left me with a deep respect for independent, pioneering women. Whether
or not they could have achieved the same success if they went through and had the
second unplanned child, heaven only knows. But at the time, that was the decision they
made as a couple, and while my mother sometimes wonders about that baby, she stands
by her decision, and has given her all to raise me.

Growing up, my (atheist) grandmother taught me to respect all life on this planet,
especially the lives we take in order that we may live. I thank the vegetables, fish
and meat every day that end up on my dinner table. As a new father, I am carrying
on this set of values to instill in my own children. I also teach my child to
respect all life, to care about the environment and the planet, to try to not waste
energy or natural resources, and try to be thankful for everything they have.
When my wife was pregnant, I accompanied her to almost all of her prenatal care
appointments, and loved that little mass of cells I saw on the sonogram. It was
a fetus, but it was our son/daughter to me and my wife. Now I make an effort to spend
at least 3 hours every night, and 1 hour in the morning on weekdays with my kid, as well
as devoting the entire weekend to my family. My love for my son is greater than anything
I have ever felt. I also love the other babies in my life (nephews, play-dates, random
kids, etc.).

I hope that I came across as someone who values life, because I do try to make a
concerted effort to value it. However, I just don't view a fetus as a person, and
I don't think anything would ever change how I feel about it. The fate of the
fetus is up to the woman carrying it, and I feel she has every right to terminate
pregnancy for any reason.

That being said, I personally wouldn't want my wife or children (or anybody) to EVER
have to have an abortion. While I don't attach any particular emotional value to
the fetus, I think it abortion is something that should be a last resort.

What might change my mind on making abortion illegal would be:

1. If contraception were free for all, and could be made to be 100% effective.

2. If some system could be put into place where ALL unwanted children (even if
contraception could be made that was 100% effective, it must still be used by
a couple, so I throw this in as a case when "pulling out" failed) could be
cared for, given a home, and be given a fair chance at success in life.

3. If rape NEVER happened.

KB said...

Thanks for being honest and demonstrating that on either side, how one views a fetus, embryo or zygote is very often painted in emotion. In that, I agree with you to an extent. I see a zygote or an embryo and I don't really get that emotional. Even a first trimester fetus doesn't evoke much sympathy or pity.

But that is a huge part of the reason why I am pro-life. We experience emotions like sympathy and pity when we see other individuals as a part of an in-group, much like the experience you said you had with your child. But historically, what constitutes an in-group has changed. Slaves beaten and tortured didn't evoke much pity and sympathy for their masters. Martin Luther didn't have much pity for women who died in childbirth, he saw them as something other than human, there simply to propagate the species. If I relied purely on my emotions in determining moral values I'd be full of contradictions and guilty of special pleading.

I'm with you on making contraception free and accessible to all, and vastly improving our adoption system, though.

Michelle Ewing said...

If I thought some humans are not valuable, I would question the value of the unborn. If someone convinced me the criminals, Buddhists, Canadian's, or Republicans were not valuable, I would have to discriminate and put human value on a scale. what ones are the weeds of humanity by their choices views or nature? do they all fall into the same of these categories? and is an unborn child the same piece of scum that harm women for 9 months, as one who has been born and has finished harming the woman? if so, what would this say abuse rapists? if a rapist harms a woman via rape for 9 months, does a grand finally of harm, then leaves her alone, does that excuse the crime?

I would also have to change my diet. I am a pescitarian (a vegetarian that eats fish) because I feel that it is wrong to breed solely for slaughter. because abortion is a result of breeding (sex in our case) and results in that human leading a life that the only fulfilling aspect is death. It is slaughter.

Fusengammu said...

Hi KB. I do agree sympathy and pity are a product of feeling of connection, and I agree that much of human progress has involved the growing circle of people, animal and things we have grown to feel empathy and value for, ie. other races, whales and mother earth.

However, the reason why I tend to equate a fetus more with a zygote than a baby is because to me, being aborted as a fetus is akin to dying in your sleep. The fetus has does not have the ability to feel sadness nor does it regret that its chances at life have been snuffed out because it is not yet sentient. Much like sperm or egg. Where we put the velvet rope demarcating the in-group of "human" is in the end an issue of emotion, I think. And for me, a fetus just isn't.

BTW, my wife works in the neonatal intensive care unit. She remembers the 20 wk old pre-matures that she comes across, and gets justifiably sad when one of them doesn't make it. The reason I also feel sad for them is not so much for the prematurely birthed "pre-born" baby, but for the expecting parents who have lost that baby. I guess for me what separates a fetus from a baby is whether the mother (and father) want it or not. That is why my fetal son was a baby to me, and why a woman who for whatever reason (economic, rape etc.) decides that she might not be able to give her baby the best possible chance at life, absolutely must have the right to terminate that pregnancy.

So do you think a zygote should also be let in to the in-group?

Sounder said...

Brain development is an interesting question. One important thing to note though is that, even if an early embryo can't think/doesn't have a brain, those things are in her inherent nature because she's human, with human DNA. Even if she doesn't have a brain yet, it's not because of what she is, it's because of how old she is. Whereas an amoeba or something doesn't have a brain and never will purely because of what it is. Can we kill a human because of her age?

If one's value/personhood is based purely on present abilities (rather than inherent nature), there's a lot of humans who could be considered non-persons, depending on your criteria. Everyone from newborns (if you need to be self-aware) to coma patients, including temporary ones (if you need a current ability to be conscious) to people with certain severe mental illnesses or mental impairment (if you need a high level of rationality).

Sounder said...

Thanks for your perspective. If I can butt in an add something real quick...

You mention that for you, the difference between a fetus and a baby is whether the mother and father want it. With all due respect, I think there are two major issues with this: that's it's inconsistent with our ideas on personhood and inalienable rights, and it's also rather circular.

I say it's inconsistent because it assumes that personhood can be conditional, which is an idea we generally reject. It assumes that whether something, in this case the fetus, has rights and value is dependent on the feelings and emotional attachment of other individuals, rather than on the nature and characteristics of the fetus herself. It means that you can have a 10 week person, and a 30 week clump of tissue, all based on the parent's opinion. But if I felt that my cat was a person, that wouldn't make her one, would it? If I or the government or all of society said that blacks weren't people, that wouldn't make it the case. More popular, wanted people don't have a greater right to life than unpopular people. What I'm getting at is, we accept that the value of a human individual isn't dependent on how anyone else feels or thinks about them. So it seems to be a double standard to say that an unborn human can be disposable simply because her mother or father feel that she is.

It also seems circular to me because, if we say that personhood is unconditional for born humans (not dependent on being wanted, that is-it's not like we allow parents to kill their unwanted newborns, right?), but that the personhood of unborn humans IS conditional.... We're already drawing a moral line with the unborn on one side, and the born on the other. We're already degrading the unborn to an inferior status, just by making their rights conditional. It's pretty much "the personhood of unborn humans is conditional because unborn humans aren't fully persons."

Which like I say, is circular; it leaves you in the same place you started. Why is the personhood of unborn humans conditional, if the personhood of born humans is not?

Emily Wilcox said...

Additionally, while a newborn may be conscious, she isn't self-aware, so I very highly doubt that newborns have the ability to feel sadness or regret at the prospect of dying. They may have an instinctive reaction to avoid harmful stimulus, but that's not the same thing. I don't think it's okay to kill newborns though.

Fusengammu said...

Hi Sounder. I think you bring up a good point. Using your language, I would have to say that the personhood of the fetus really is up to the mother and father to decide. To me, if the total life experience of the "unborn baby" is 0, it hasn't really earned its wings as a person yet. The only possible value of that "unborn baby" is the value that the mother and father place on it because that "unborn baby" really has no opinion about whether it wants to be aborted or not yet.

That being said, I find it abhorrent to abort a fetus at something like 30 weeks, because while I don't think its self-aware yet, its just too close to a full-term baby (for me). And that is where my response to KB comes in about where we draw the line of the in-group which we call human. For me I guess it is around 30 weeks. I can't explain why, it is purely subjective. It is none of my business to force this view upon any woman, however.

Again, as an answer to you, I think the personhood of a fetus is really up to the woman (and to a lesser extent the father) who is carrying it. Given a choice between the "human rights" of the "unborn baby" and that of the mother, for me the rights of the mother to do what she wishes with her own body will always trump that of a fetus.

Fusengammu said...

I agree. Instinct and actually feeling sadness are two different things I believe. Amygdala and basal ganglia for instinct, forebrain for actual feeling and consciousness.

Salma said...

Thanks for being very respectful about this.
About considering the 30 week mark the "personhood" threshold is interesting, because it is 9 weeks after the earliest infant has been born and survived into adulthood. The common point of viability is actually at 24 weeks.
This is a picture of an infant born at 24 weeks:

Do you think it's a person? How does it's environment outside the womb make any objective difference? Should someone get a lesser sentence for killing a 24 week old infant than a full-term infant?

Quite simply, killing an unborn infant at 30 weeks is not only "abhorrent" (it *will* suffer immensely as it has pain receptors and no pain-modifying ability) it is very, very unnecessary. At 30 weeks a woman can be induced into labor to give birth. There is no point in killing unless it is to ensure death of her offspring (not wanting to parent, not wanting to give it up for adoption). Sadly, it is legal.

The "right of the mother" in this context is completely obfuscated. The child is not the property of it's parents to determine it's worth.
I do not think you devalue life at all, but it is dangerous to assume a child's worth as a person is up to it's parents.

argent said...

I'm going to agree with what seems to be the prevailing sentiment here, which is that 'personhood' which is conditional on wantedness is not really personhood at all. To me, the idea of the rights of the discriminated-against class being dependent on the judgement of the privileged class ties closely into the idea of "gatekeepers" seen in other fields of social justice.

argent said...

I love this question; what a great article!

I think the thing that would most likely convince me to change my position is if there emerged within the pro-choice community a consensus on why a human being would or would not constitute a 'valuable human life', a distinction which could be applied to born human beings without having horrible implications, something that wasn't just a handwave or approximation for continued discrimination based on birth status.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Considering that the human heart begins to beat 22 days post fertilization, or at 5 weeks 1 day gestation, it's clear to me that embryos and fetuses aren't just clumps of cells.

Acyutananda said...

"I suppose if I were a true Buddhist, a true
believer in reincarnation. . . . send that child on to its next life, where it might have the opportunity to
have a good one. If I were just your run-of-the-mill
Christian . . ."

A Christian already replied to you. I'm not a Buddhist, but I recently read a statement by a Thai Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh:

Q. . . . Is abortion always against the First Mindfulness Training?

A. Protecting life is a fundamental teaching of the Buddha. Abortion is the act of interrupting and causing damage to life. . . . [But also:] We have to examine each case; we have to be flexible . . .

Remember that if either your reasoning about Buddhism or your reasoning about Christianity were correct, the same reasoning could be applied to a two-year-old child as well as to an unborn child.

Ignorance_Is_not_Curable said...

I still see your using the ''kind of organism'' argument. Don't worry that argument will be exposed if applied to R-Strategists Aliens. They would know per the law of supply and demand there offspring ain't nothing special. It will take time for humans to get that through there head about unborn humans as well but it will come full swing eventually.
Be specific about the coma cases and where the brain damaging happen if there was any. I had my uncle slipped into a coma a month ago and he came out fine besides a little memory loss. If he was comparible to say a newborn human born into a coma then when they both come out of it, then they both can come on this site and have discussion with you oh wait..... My uncle can but not a newborn human that come out of a month coma.
Yes there are those who put most notably the profoundly mentally retarded in the non persons category. They are treated like pets anyway just like newborn humans.

Fusengammu said...

Thanks. I understand your argument, but don't really buy the idea that the fetus is a "discriminated-against" class, mainly because it is not an independent, reasoning entity. Unlike a coma patient, which presumably at one point in its life has shown itself to be an independent, reasoning entity, the fetus has not even towed the starting line and is a complete blank slate. By this standard, a fetus is closer to a sperm and an egg than a baby to me. This goes back to the idea KB raised about where the velvet rope demarcating the in-group that I identify begins. More on this in my reply to Salma.

Fusengammu said...

Hi Salma, thanks for the reply. Yes, I have seen many pics of very premature babies as my wife works in the NICU.

I don't doubt that the baby looks human, and would never think that the BABY in the NICU is worth any less than any human. I also am not saying that the child is the parent's property or that the parents determine its worth.

Discussing with you all has made me realize that I do not grant any inherent "personhood" (never heard this term before) to fetuses, and I venture to guess that my view on the "meaning" and "purpose" in life is not the same as you guys. I don't find any inherent meaning in life. I firmly believe that meaning and purpose is something that the person discovers and acquires while actually living. Accordingly, a fetus which has not the even the capacity to feel sadness at having been aborted, has really not missed anything. I don't care if it is a "potential" human being. So are sperm and eggs. And this is why while a fetus, the parents are the only ones who are qualified to make any decisions about its fate. I love all living things, and value life. In the course of this discussion, I realize I am pro-choice and "pro-living".

So in answer to this blog post, the thing that would ACTUALLY change my mind would be if I somehow acquired religion and found inherent meaning in life. What would make making abortion illegal it at least palatable to me would be if

1. contraception worked 100% of the time

2. Rape never occurred


3. If there was a 100% bullet proof system in place that took care of raising any unwanted children.

purrtriarchy said...

Cardiac cells can beat in a petri dish. And braindead patients also have a beating heart , but zero higher brain function (kind of like an embryo)

ignorance_is_curable said...

As far as purely secular stuff is concerned, there is exactly ONE valid anti-abortion argument, EXCEPT it is not valid in this day-and-age.

But if most of humanity was dead, and the total number of survivors was maybe 10,000, then something called "conserving the gene pool" takes on Objective Importance. We would want to ban abortion to ensure as many genes got carried to the next generation as possible, since a large gene pool is better for the survival of the species than a small gene pool.

Like I said, though, that anti-abortion argument Does Not Apply to this day-and-age, where the world is OVERpopulated, and the gene pool has never been larger.

Salma said...

Do you know the experience of the "profoundly mentally retarded"? We can never know what they go through. Google Carly Fleischmann. She is a severely autistic girl who's as intelligent as any of us. Newborns perceive and think and learn - otherwise we would never transition into higher intelligence. Fetuses with brains aren't comparable to adults in a coma - they are experiencing things.

argent said...

I think I understand, and your clarification farther down cleared things up. So, do I have this right: you believe that there is no inherent purpose in life, and that one can only create one's own purpose through living and having experiences. Because a human being prior to a certain point has no capability to have these kinds of experiences, their life has no purpose or meaning and it is acceptable to kill them.

Is that a good summary? And would you apply this standard outside the womb, i.e. it is acceptable to kill anyone who has no self-created meaning or purpose in their life?

I certainly understand how you wouldn't see the unborn as an underprivileged class if you don't see them as a class at all. But can we agree that whichever young human beings you do include in your "in-group" constitute an underprivileged group? For example, even born children are at risk of suffering harmful surgery on their bodies without their consent, seen as a "parent's choice". (Look up the things that are done to children with ambiguous genitalia at birth, or SPL's article on the motion to make female genital mutilation "safe, legal, and rare".)

Phil said...

Hey Salma,

I would caution about engaging Ignorance in conversation. I've been chatting with him for a while and he does hold that all rights and valuing is ultimately arbitrary and subjective. Which of course leaves the door open for any type of valuing that one could convince the city, state, country, world of. Your values and rights you are giving are just as valid as his.

Salma said...

Fusengammu, the point with the premature baby is that how can it's fate be decided in the womb but not outside the womb when it has exactly the same development? You say fetuses have no active desire to live - that desire doesn't kick in until about 18 months. If you killed an 10 month old, they wouldn't care. If someone killed you while you were sleeping, you wouldn't care. None of us would, and even if you were painfully aware that you were dying, it wouldn't "matter" because once you're dead, it doesn't matter.
"The fetus doesn't have capacity to feel sadness at having been aborted"
Yes, because it's dead. This goes for anyone at any stage in development. Once you're dead, you stop caring.
I don't believe in inherent value or meaning in life too. But I firmly believe in giving everyone a chance to find it. Aborting a fetus because it wouldn't care flies in the face of that, and this thinking verges on selfishness honestly. Everyone alive today was a weak vulnerable infant or fetus that could have been killed and "not cared". We were *privileged* to not have our vulnerability taken advantage of. I suspect we are able to be so cavalier and flippant at the death of these "would-be" people because our memory only begins around 3 years old. If we could remember how it was before, maybe we could adequately empathize with the young.
Sperm and eggs are not potential human beings. They just are sperm and eggs. A fetus is not a potential human being. It is one. There is no potentiality - there is or isn't. End of.

I'd like to see a world where those 3 things are a reality too.

Salma said...

Alright, I'll take your word for it.

Ignorance_Is_not_Curable said...

I'm not the original one he commented down below.

Ignorance_Is_not_Curable said...

Yes I do as I have a mom who works with them all the time. Yes the profoundly mentally retarded are pretty much shot and gone and this is different from autism as I have a brother who has it but can type and respond to you while someone profoundly mentally retarded is pretty much on par with a chicken. Since chickens ain't persons, then profoundly mentally retarded humans are not either.

''Newborns perceive and think and learn - otherwise we would never transition into higher intelligence.''
I agree though you act as if potentials must be fulfilled and they may never either look up feral children some time. Without the appropriate mental stimulation from our parents, none of us would be sitting here typing and responding and instead we would be running on all fours out in the wild barking like dogs who can't do a simple abstraction like 1+1.

Ignorance_Is_Not_Curable said...

I'M NOT THE ORIGINAL IGNORANCE he commented down below.

Ignorance_Is_Not_Curable said...

''I could change my mind if I became convinced that the unborn weren't valuable human beings. If they aren't, then abortion is tantamount to mole removal surgery, and I am not going to try to make mole removal surgery illegal.''

Abortion is the same actually like killing and removing a guinea worm or tapeworm the women put in her body purposely by eating raw meat.

Here is what the original Ignorance said in number 27#
I highly suggest you strike up a conversation with him since to me, he is probably one of the best pro choicers that can argue the position well.
I'm noticing as well from your recent comments you focus excessively on the human-ness of the unborn human ANIMAL and do try to take advantage of the uneducated public since most of them don't even know what the word person means. Anyone should know what the word means if they been paying attention during history class back in middle or high school and or debated about the possible future status of extraterrestrial life and or artificial intelligences. I myself didn't know what the word meant until I looked in the oxford dictionary and the definition of ''person- self conscious or rational being'' I was surprised and wonder if the word had more meaning to it so I asked my dad about it and he told me what it meant.
There is one other category I'm not sure you ever heard of and it's called ''human made biological life'' and some examples of those would be cell from the dragon ball z series and Mewtwo from the first pokemon movie. This branch talk about personhood is very common by transhumanists especially.

Ignorance_Is_Not_Curable said...

Abortion is good for population control, eugenics, saves money, and saves time also. Don't forget those my master.

LN said...

It seems strange to me to describe what something is, inherently, by external/variable standards like the desires of the parents.

LN said...

Why are past experiences the only thing that matter? It make more sense to me to say that murder is wrong because it *deprives* people of their future experiences. This easily applies to the preborn human.

Chandler Klebs said...

I highly doubt that anything would change my mind. Even if I magically started believing in God or an afterlife again, I still would probably be against abortion and war because of how they ruin life on this planet.

LN said...

To go along with that, wouldn't it make it ok to kill someone who has amnesia?

someone45 said...

Funny... I feel the same way you but about the opposite side. Nothing would change my mind and make me "pro-life" because of how an unwanted pregnancy can destroy a woman's life/

Chandler Klebs said...

"The majority of Christians are pro-life and understand that it's wrong to kill anyone made in God's image." I am glad for the presence of pro-life Christians, but what will we do about pro-choice Christians?

LN said...

"Accordingly, a fetus which has not the even the capacity to feel sadness at having been aborted, has really not missed anything. I don't think the fetus cares"

How could anyone care after the fact...? Why is murder wrong? Just because people don't want to be murdered? Or because the act of murder itself deprives them of their future?

LN's Best Friend said...

Is someone with amnesia profoundly mentally retarded?

LN said...

"Unlike a coma patient, which presumably at one point in its life has shown itself to be an independent, reasoning entity, the fetus has not even towed the starting line and is a complete blank slate"

I got from this that if you don't have memories, your life isn't important. And it's not about your future. It's just about your past.

Also...hello bff? Lol

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

The usual argument for the total brain death criterion has
been that, once a human individual’s brain has developed, it is the primary
integrator of all the body’s tissues and organs into a single organism. It
seems to follow that, when all parts of the brain irreversibly cease to
function, what remains is no longer a single organism, but an aggregate of
tissues and organs. However, before the brain develops, the zygote or embryo is
still capable of integrating all of its individual parts into a single organism,
thus fulfilling this biological requirement for being considered a living

purrtriarchy said...

I was no talking about total brain death. A body with only a functional brainstem is still a complete organism. Just a non sentient one.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

However, that individual will never have any sort of conscious experience whatsoever. It is still illegal to directly kill such an individual. Medical care may be denied, as it is considered futile. This does not compare to fetuses, embryos, and zygotes, who have the potential to become conscious.
Furthermore, an individual with a functioning brainstem is still alive, legally speaking, because of the reasons that I mentioned in my earlier comment.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Zygotes, embryos, and fetuses can better be compared to temporary coma patients. Temporary coma patients are regarded as legal persons with rights, because although currently non-sentient and unable to interact with the outside world, they have the ability to do so in the future.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Furthermore, a newborn infant does not have any past experiences either. It has no memories, it does not even know that it exists.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Well, Christians are pro-choice for various reasons, so ask why they take the position that they do and go from there.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

A brain dead individual has no brain or brainstem function. An individual in a persistent vegetative state has brainstem function.

Michelle Ewing said...

Many 1st world countries have a fertility rate below the replacement rate 0f 2.1. This means that we will soon have more elderly than working people. The way to "fix" this would be to have more immigrate workers, who would then leave their children fatherless, or bring their family and "hurt" the welfare programs. Needless to say, their home countries fertility rate would drop and the children would suffer.

in the next 50 years, when the vast gene pool is full of menopausal women and men who need Viagra to keep it up for more than a few minutes, we wont be able to keep up financially.

Although I think abortion isn't a huge factor, it is one more reason to try and prevent it, at least in counties with low fertility rates.

Michelle Ewing said...

I'm liking the spin off names. I can't wait for a "Michelle Screwing" or something. I love a debate that I can learn new things and enjoy still the moment the other has to swallow crow!

Simon Jm said...

Peter Singer bites the bullet that someone with amnesia and recovering in a coma doesn't have a strong case for life.

He would also have to bite the bullet that if the preferences of the parents or society was to allow infanticide for even healthy babies.

Brittany Sevier said...

There were quite a few excellent responses to that as well.

ignorance_is_curable said...

You don't know what you are talking about. Any country that has as many as 1000 live births a year is adequately passing on ENOUGH of its existing gene pool. Most countries, INCLUDING ALL that are "below replacement rate" have FAR more live births than a mere 1000 per year.

Chandler Klebs said...

When we talk about life, are we meaning different things? When I say "life", I mean the opposite of "death". When other people say that an unwanted pregnancy destroys a woman's life, they don't literally mean that it kills her, at least I don't think.

someone45 said...

Well I think at least in my case it is likely it would kill me.... but for most women I just mean it destroys their happiness and life as they know it.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

How do you respond to the results of the study performed by ANSIR( a pro-choice research institute) which found that among women denied an abortion for various reasons, 95% said that they were happy that they gave birth to the child that were denied the right to abort? It's called the Abortion Turnaway Study, and New York Times did a fairly good article on it.

JDC said...

Great responses to Josh or Matt?

Basset_Hound said...

JDC, have you seen Matt's blog where he takes his arguments a step further...

JDC said...

I hadn't seen that yet. Thanks for the link!

Michelle Ewing said...

The gene pool wont matter for a while because we have immigrants that will come and mix things up. The aging population without people to replace them will ruin us financially, unless we euthanize people that are elderly and drastically diminish the different abled or increase the fertility rate. what makes you think 1000 live birth would adequately support a good gene pool? Could you site the number?

ignorance_is_curable said...

I was being quite generous in specifying 1000 live births a year. Here are two links.

ignorance_is_curable said...

DISTORTION OF REALITY. Tsk, tsk. You can do better than that. I've specifically stated (elsewhere) that there is a reasonable criterion (the word "objective" may even apply!) that can be used to decide one set of valuations is superior to another: Which Set Benefits The Most People?

The set YOU (and other abortion opponents) propose involves enslaving women, and helping to cause a Malthusian Catastrophe and the death of at least 80% of the ENTIRE human population. The set of valuations that I propose involves neither. NO persons at all are selected for mis-treatment.

Ariela said...

I found this statement of yours interesting: "To me, if the total life experience of the "unborn baby" is 0, it hasn't really earned its wings as a person yet."

Sounds like you are counting life experience as time out of womb... why is their life experience that is experienced within the womb not counted?

I have had 2 premmie babies (born at 33 & 34 weeks) and from memory the first few days of their life is spent sleeping... I don't recall the boys waking much at all, except for a few seconds before passing out again. I can only imagine that babies born earlier and surviving (e.g. 24 weekers) are even sleepier.

So..... why is the what exactly is the life experience of these newborns that makes them so special compared to a 24-30week old fetus in the womb that is doing the same things in there too? Is being out of the womb with umbilical chord cut, getting fed through a nasal tub because they can't suck yet really life experience??

(P.S. I find your 30 week cut off a bit random and disturbing when there is a fairly good success rate of babies born from 23 weeks.)

Michelle Ewing said...

Neither of you links worked. I think we could have to have a good space program. if that takes around a hundred million alone, how many framers would be needed to support them, how many working class people would it take two pay tax into that program? I think our breeding habits are bad because of the demographics.

Michelle Ewing said...

We are all just a clump of cells, so I don't think he was meaning to say a fetus is a new organ for the mother, or that it is not human. Its just a way to say that they are less valuable then us larger, more complex, clump of cells. Him saying the fetus is a potential person also seems to show this. Even the clump of cells he fell in love with wasn't his baby until birth, so I don't think talking about fetal development will be helpful.

Michelle Ewing said...

You do have values. I think many of us view pro choicers as heartless because the allow harm to women and children. I am A little confused. You say it should be the woman's right for any reason, but then say You personally wouldn't want anyone to have an abortion. They seem conflicting to me.
these things that may change your mind are great goals! We are getting closer with 1 and 2. but 3 really get a lot of attention, and little effort. When we make abortion inexcusable, that's when it will be illegal.

ignorance_is_curable said...

I adjusted the two links (they did work in the Chrome browser).

I already took the support-system into account, with a generous margin. Think about the USA and the NASA budget --in the 1960s, when the nation's population was smaller and the space program was being maximally funded. The Census indicates the US population grew from 179 to 203 million during that decade. But of the National Budget, less than 5% went to NASA in 1966, the year of the highest NASA percentage (today NASA gets about 1/2 of 1% of the US national budget).

There is a WikiPedia article showing numbers of people directly involved in the US space program (in the tens of thousands these days, but no more than 1/2 million in 1965). I was being VERY generous in saying 100 million people were all we need for a decent space program (and nuclear-capabilities program).

Fusengammu said...

Hi Ariela, thank you for the response. You bring up a valid point. And beautiful baby BTW! You're right. The 30 week cut off is random. That statement just reflects my uncertainty about the point past where I believe abortion should not be allowed. Truthfully, I do believe there is a grey-zone between fetus (which I do not place in the same plane as a baby, and would consider OK for abortion) and a "pre-born" as you guys state it (and where I would be extremely uncomfortable with aborting). How we make this distinction, I do not know, and that is why it should be left up to the woman considering such an operation.

For your case, you wanted your babies, so they are a babies to you probably from the time of conception. This sort of distinction I am making is for determination in cases where the mother doesn't really desire the babies for whatever reason.

Fusengammu said...

Hi LN. Sorry, I think I didn't state that correctly. I don't think a fetus really fears death, feels pain or cares IF its future may be cut short. Before the fact. Its a blank slate. Sure it has a beating heart, and some neural activity, but its hardly what I would consider cognition. In this sense, saying that abortion deprives a fetus of future possibilities is just about as meaningful to me as saying masturbating and ejaculating has deprived the future possibilities of millions of sperm and the unlucky egg who didn't get fertilized.

Fusengammu said...

Thank you all for sharing your ideas. Some replies made me think, especially about why I draw the line at 30 weeks. While I don't know where or when that line ought to be, I am however more firmly convinced that early fetuses are not the equivalent of a baby, and early-term abortions are an important right for women. I am not sure what to think about late-term abortions.

One thing I think merits recognition on for both parties is that this is really not a discussion about science. I don't think science can answer whether the unborn is or is not "one of us". From a genetic perspective, sure. However, I think there is more to it than that. Is it truly wrong to harm something that has NEVER had a will, hopes, fears, or pain perception? A person in a coma has a history already, and it has had these emotions at one point. In such a situation, I really feel that the the woman carrying that fetus is the only one qualified to make judgements concerning its future.

BTW, if I were ever in a coma following an accident and there was no
hope for me of waking up, I wouldn't want any life support. I think at
such a point, I would have ceased to exist as a person. Not biologically, but in any way that really matters. I am the only one qualified to make this decision, and I have already made it before hand.

someone45 said...

I would say that these women probably had doubts about the abortion in the first place and waited until it was to late in the pregnancy.

No one would deny a woman an abortion at 5 weeks. Also I can tell you I would be part of the 5% that was unhappy that I was forced to birth against my will.

Salma said...

Fusengammu, let me ask you something.
Is it truly wrong to end the existence of someone who has had a prior existence? Why or why not?
You will notice that any answer can be followed up with "why"?

truth is...morality is completely subjective. There is no truly wrong
or right. I know some might disagree, but I am an atheist and a
determinist so that's how I view things.
What pro-lifers do is draw
parallels between what society (and pro-choicers) recognize as "wrong"
with abortion and work from there to point out logical inconsistencies.
Take the death of a person in temporary coma. Where does it lead? Complete annihilation. No cognition, no perception.
Now consider the death of a fetus. It leads to the same thing.
They had a likely chance to experience existence, and it was taken away.
We exist in a reality where time progresses forward in a linear way. Our "history" does not matter, only the future.
can quibble over when does consciousness, sentience, and self-awareness
start, but one thing is for sure: The death of a non-sentient fetus and
the death of a temporary coma patient lead to one thing - nothingness.
Practically, there's no difference.

"Truthfully, I do believe there is a grey-zone between fetus (which I do
not place in the same plane as a baby, and would consider OK for
abortion) and a "pre-born" as you guys state it (and where I would be
extremely uncomfortable with aborting). How we make this distinction, I
do not know, and that is why it should be left up to the woman
considering such an operation."

(note: I know that was to Ariela but I'd like to respond if I may)

it comes to making a distinction between a pre-born infant and a fetus -
you don't have to make any! A pre-born infant is a fetus until birth
noun: fetus; plural noun: fetuses; noun: foetus; plural noun: foetuses
an unborn offspring of a mammal, in particular an unborn human baby more than eight weeks after conception.

I suspect that you're thinking of a non-viable fetus and viable fetus (pre-born).

The distinction of non-viability and viability is made by TECHNOLOGY. There is no line in the sand.
reiterate: The earliest a fetus has been born and survived into
adulthood is at 21 weeks. Most hospitals won't even try to keep an
infant that young alive, but they'll for sure try at 24 weeks. Hence,
the "official" point of viability.
Does that mean fetuses born before then are born dead?
No, they are living for a few minutes until they die.
As post-natal technology improves, viability will be pushed back more and more, thus making the abortion debate more unclear.

It is *good* that you are extremely uncomfortable with it.
question I'm asking here is why would you allow a woman to make a
decision to end the life of her viable fetus ("pre-born infant") when,
if it was a meter in another direction, you wouldn't allow her?

A woman having an abortion that late is trying to ensure the death of her child.
There is no other
People are led to believe a it's rare occurrence, but that's far from the truth.

Whether it's by D&E, saline injection, IDX, etc.

"...early-term abortions are an important right for women. I am not sure what to think about late-term abortions."

I share an almost similar position. I think chemical abortion can be
legal in the early term, and I have my reasons, but I am morally opposed
to it. Late term abortions are for ensuring the death of an infant who
would otherwise be illegal to kill outside the womb. That is a moral

"I am the only one qualified to make this decision"
Yes, you are.
Think about it! :)

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Actually, most of these women didn't know that they were pregnant until late in their pregnancies. The others wanted abortion because they had dramatic life changes during pregnancy-partner left, lost job, etc. Across the board, that's the case for most late-term abortions not done for fetal abnormality.

someone45 said...

The ones who wanted an abortion because they had a life change were I am guessing planning to carry to term before the life change occurred. So I can see how they would be happy they did not abort.

For the ones who did not know they were pregnant.... well I just don't see how anyone can go through five months pregnancy and not notice that something is different.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Um...some women who are just really out of touch with their bodies. Denial plays a big role as well. It's documented that some women only learn when they go into labor at full-term.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Also, Czech study done back in the 1950s had the same results...back then in that country women had to get special government approval for any abortion regardless of gestational age. That study analyzed outcomes in women who were refused abortions by the government board.

someone45 said...

I don't see how they could not notice.... I would think that at least something would give it away. I know it is documented but I still don't understand how it could happen.

Susie said...

Oh, I just love hypotheticals! :-)

I'm pro-choice because of bodily autonomy, so, for me, the only situation in which I would support a ban on abortion would be if there was a way to transfer an embryo/ fetus to an artificial uterus. The procedure mustn't be riskier/ more invasive for the woman than an abortion nowadays.

If both biological parents decided that they didn't want the child, they should be able to cut all ties to it: no financial responsibility and guaranteed anonymity (also towards the child).

If one parent decided to raise the child, the identity of the other would naturally be revealed to the child, too.
(But I still think that the unwilling parent shouldn't have to pay child support, as I am against the current child support system. Raising a child is a service to society, so society should at least pay for the costs a child causes its parents.)

In a nutshell: I support legal abortion because of a woman's right to bodily autonomy, but I don't think she should have a right to a dead offspring (for example, I think it's wrong to let a baby die which was born alive after an abortion). Unfortunately, at the moment, an early pregnancy termination causes the death of the embryo.

For me the moral conflict of abortion would be solved if there was a way to terminate a pregnancy early and save the embryo' s life as well.

(Sorry that I posted this mistakenly on another blog entry first)

someone45 said...

I get that, but I still don't understand how a woman can really go 5 months without at least something tipping her off.

I really don't want to be pregnant so I think I would notice something is weird before the 5 month mark.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

When you say right to bodily autonomy, do you mean the right to do whatever you want with your body, or the right to not have your body used against your will by someone else? Because we cannot do whatever we want with our body-we can't drive drunk, mandatory vaccine laws, etc.
I will congratulate you on being consistent. When I point out that consent to sex should equal consent to pregnancy, since men who consent to sex consent to 18+ years of mandatory child support, most pro-choicers try to have their cake and eat it too-i.e. support mandatory child support, but not mandatory gestation.
I will say that abortion destroys not only the life of the unborn child, but also its bodily autonomy as well. Conjoined twins usually cannot get separation surgery unless both consent to it, even if one twin is somehow weaker or more depedet on the other for survival, so I do not see why the same standard should not be applied to abortion as well.

Fusengammu said...

Hi Salma. I think we have a very similar view of morality. And thanks for correcting me on the actual meaning of a fetus. I was using that term to mean something more along the lines of < 20 months or so.

As you say, ending the existence of a person in a coma and also the fetus ends in nothingness for them. The only difference for me is that the person in a coma may have wished to still be kept alive, while a fetus set to be aborted does not have such a wish. Nothingness followed by still more nothingness. And this is why I am not opposed to aborting such an early term fetus.

I don't quite agree morality is "subjective." Not "absolute", but I think what we consider moral changes with the societal structure that we live in. For instance, guinea pigs will EAT their born young if there are environmental pressures that prohibit proper rearing. I believe our morality is a set of rules that we all agree on in order that our society is viable. With such a view, abortion is an action which most women choose because they feel that either the current timing of their pregnancy is not ideal, and they would like to defer pregnancy until such time they are more capable of raising their child. To me, this is a completely pragmatic issue, and the decision should be solely left to the woman carrying the child.

I don't feel comfortable with late-term abortions because by that point, I am no longer sure that a fetus is completely a blank slate, and probably can feel pain. I think a woman, should she choose abortion, do it as early as she can, out of consideration for the fetus. Where that point of "late-term" begins, I do not know.

BTW, it seems like you are agreeing that the question of abortion is not absolutely morally wrong, as morality is something we must discover as a society. Do you not think then that blanket condemnation of all abortion is not a one-size-fits-all solution? How could you possibly know what's going on in a pregnant woman's mind and heart?

Michelle Ewing said...

I also think abortion should be a last resort. If birth would kill or cripple the mother, I think it would be reasonable. Cases of rape or not knowing you could get pregnant may also be reasonable. but i'm on the fence about that

your mother sounds like a great lady. I'm not sure what kind of access to birth control and adoption services she had at the time. If she had no access to either I think I would be more understanding.

as for the single mother, should she be forced to give birth? yes, that's the result of making a baby. should she be forced to raise the new baby? no, she wasn't forced to raise the first one. her choices lead her to be a single mom in the first place. She might get a larger amount of TANIF for keeping the second child. and would get more child support. if this child was fathered by someone without children, the government would hand her 40% of his income. so the second child may help her have more resources for her children.

Susie said...

"When you say right to bodily autonomy, do you mean the right to do whatever you want with your body, or the right to not have your body used against your will by someone else?"

The latter one.

"When I point out that consent to sex should equal consent to pregnancy, since men who consent to sex consent to 18+ years of mandatory child support, most pro-choicers try to have their cake and eat it too-i.e. support mandatory child support, but not mandatory gestation."

Women have to pay child support too, if they have a child, don't want to parent it, but their partner does.

The one difference here is that only women can opt for an abortion, even if it is for the sole purpose to avoid paying child support. Again: I think that the current child support system is wrong anyway (as I have explained in my earlier post).

I also think that child support and mandatory gestation are not comparable. We sentence people all the time to provide financial compensation, but we don't demand that people offer (parts of) their body to pay off a debt.

Concerning the conjoint twins:

If the relationship between conjoint twins resembles the relationship between a woman and her fetus, meaning that one shows parasitic characteristics while the other one doesn't, then yes, I think that the "providing" twin should have every right to a separation even if it means the other ones death. You simply don't have the right to feed off another person' s body.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Generally speaking, unless the parasitic twin has no hope of ever being a conscious human being, they have rights as well. It is common for one twin to be dependant upon the other twins body for survival, but not vice-versa. In that case, the dependant twin still has the right to refuse separation surgery.
Also, while forcing organ donation would obviously be wrong (although with a parent-child relationship I see a clear and extremely strong moral obligation to donate an organ here) that is more comparable to forcing someone to become pregnant. Forcing someone to remain pregnant is more comparable to refusing to allow someone to take back their stolen kidney because it is implanted in someone else's body. You cannot get back your kidney without violating that person's bodily integrity. You cannot get back your uterus without violating the bodily integrity and right to life of the embryo/fetus.

GEIxBattleRifle said...

I would like for you to respond to this. I'm quite sure you remember me.

''My concern with Matt's post is that it comes off awfully snarky, which will make it harder for pro-choice people to take seriously if they read it, and it encourages pro-life people to talk that way, and many of them already do, something I'm trying to change''

I don't think you can make the change because most pro lifers no offense, run at the mouth with no arguments of any sort. The name calling in the abortion debate particularly is WAY TO HIGH unlike debates about ET's and AI's for example which is why I avoid sites like youtube where pro lifers there are EXTREMELY snarky.
They would say that pro choicers lack logic and make appeals to emotion... that is, until the pro choicer puts arguments forward for infanticide and the inexperienced pro lifer will have the tables turned on them.

Those on youtube which is a site I don't go to anymore especially just state the species the unborn belong to and attempt to say person=human, Any experienced pro choicer like Ignorance_Is_Curable or myself though I'm not as good as Ignorance at debating since I only been in this for about 6 months and I'm still in high school will destroy that equation apart and those who think the category of person can include extraterrestrial life, Artifical Intelligences where they have no programming restrictions as Cortana from the halo series is a good example, Human made biological life (look to mewtwo from the first pokemon movie or DBZ when Cell was created), and even if we can get up to the point where we can pump at a non human animals intellect up to average ordinary adult human level and some SF examples of these non human animals that we owned as pets typically are Hamtaro and the planet of the apes with Caeser and Finding Nemo will take MUCH more convincing to be pro life then some average ''person'' walking down the street. To convince those folks especially to be pro life, your going to need ALOT more then focusing on the mere humanness of the unborn to get them to go to the pro life side. It seems like honestly from most of the comments I seen you post; you want to avoid this all together since it seems like from the vast majority of your comments you focus extremely quite a bit on humanness. It could work on the inexperienced that don't know the difference between human and person and those that do that are pro choice and spend years on the topic of personhood and know the mental characteristics quite well that they associate with personhood like rationality or theory of mind for example like Ignorance_Is_Curable does, be prepare for the fight of your life. I'm still very strongly pro choice on the matter and I'm not convinced yet at all about pro life at all.
I didn't know what the word person actually meant until I was looking through the oxford dictionary and saw the word person defined as a ''self conscious or rational being'' and I was confused since I always thought that the word person was simply just a synonym for human. I went to ask my adoptive mother what the word person really meant since I had a hunch it had deeper meaning to it and she told me what the word actually meant.

I would actually love to see a abortion debate where ALL these topics are touched on but sadly I haven't even seen ONE yet at all. Maybe when I get older I can come to California and we can have a nice talk about this when I go and visit my biological cousin who happens to be down there as well because I'm getting tried of all the name calling and the bull I went through on some sites especially youtube.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Almost always with parasitic twins, they are not and never will be capable of conscious existence. It is common for one conjoined twin to be more dependent upon the other though. In that case, the dominant twin could survive the surgery, but the the dependant one could not.

Michelle Screwing said...

What do you like about abortion? For me it's about the 100,000 done a day worldwide and helps keep the environment healthy and for population control as well

GEIxBattleRifle said...

Hey Ignorance it's battlerifle here and I thought I would show you this out of curiousity since you expressed concern for endangered species of animals.

Some of the comments people said they support population control. Here is one ''

''And this, this shit RIGHT HERE is precisely why I'm in favor of population control for humans. I'm not saying I would want us all to go extinct as whole (that would be insane) but I would really appreciate it if our numbers saw some substantial decline. Less humans living on the planet would be a huge benefit to just about every facet of the earth, including ourselves!''
Guess they support abortion huh?

Susie said...

I like your organ-donor-example, but I think, that for a better analogy, it should be more like this:
when you decide to donate bone marrow, the recipient has to be prepared to receive the marrow. This means that his/ her one bone marrow has to be destroyed via chemo-therapy.
At least in my country (Germany) the donor always has the right to refuse the transplantation, even after the recipient' s marrow has been destroyed (which puts him/ her in mortal danger).
This may be immoral, but it's not illegal. Perhaps there are legal consequences if it can be proven that it has always been the donor's intent to hurt the recipient, but I believe this to be highly unlikely. You would have the same problem with abortion as there won't be many women who only get pregnant to get an abortion.

Susie said...

Actually your argument about parasitic twins surprises me. As I've come to know, most pro-lifers are not in favor of a legal abortion only for the reason that the fetus isn't viable outside the uterus (e.g. in the case of anancephaly). Let's say the non-viable parasitic twin harms the viable one significantly, but won't kill it. In this case, would you agree with an abortion and why?

Concerning the conjoint twins: if one twin clearly depends on the other, but not vice versa, then yes, I believe that the 'providing' twin should be able to demand a separation even if it will likely kill the other one. What if there's only another head? Is this a person in your eyes? If not, how much of a body has to be there?

Another thing: nowadays it's mainly the parent's decision to demand a separation, even if it's likely that one or both of the formerly conjoined twins will die. Is this, in your eyes, wrong?

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Yeah, which is why I said that with pregnancy, you've already donated your organ. taking it back would be like demanding someone give you back your kidney which has already been attached to their body. You can't do that, even if your organ was stolen from you.
On another note, I don't know the laws in the US, but if someone has consented to donate bone marrow and the recipient has already destroyed their own bone marrow, I think that they should be legally obligated to continue with the donation. At any rate, to do otherwise would be extremely unethical.

Susie said...

Ok, now we're at the point where we started. You think, that, in some circumstances (as pregnancy), people should be forced to donate body parts, even against their will, while I think that enforcing that shouldn't be legal.

I believe that allowing a fetus to grow inside my uterus should be a gift, a choice, you think it should be an obligation.

I introduced the bone-marrow-case because I thought the flaw in your kidney-example was, that here the transfer had already been completed when the donor demanded his kidney back. Pregnancy, on the other hand, is an ongoing process, it's more like you are sharing your kidney for some time. And then, again, I do think that you should have the right to revoke consent when you think the tolls on your body are too extreme.

Michelle Ewing said...

hmm, as a pro lifer I can't say I like much about abortion. for rape victims, I'm glad they have the choice to give birth to a child when that choice was taken away from them and they had no access to the morning after pill. I like that when mother and child would die with out an abortion, the mother can choose to live. other than that, it is completely unneeded and inexcusable. 99% of the time abortion should be avoided and illegal for doctors to preform. as for keeping the environment healthy, the children could grow up to make that better. population control is wrong when we currently have tons of resources. it is also wrong to hog those resources for ourselves. we'd be better of distributing the resources better. but the rich are greedy and would rather fund abortion and still have starving people, than give up getting the newest luxuries. if we should kill any human, it should be those who could feed a whole town, but chose to spend the most on them selves, increasing their carbon foot print.

Simon Jm said...

What about taking away the financial problems that usually ground many abortions?

Simon Jm said...

Have a look at the personal identity debate to get a handle on the ontology

Acyutananda said...

"I do think that you should have the right to revoke consent when you think the tolls on your body are too extreme."

Here you are referring to pregnancy, right? -- or at least including pregnancy as one of the situations in which the "right to revoke" becomes operative only when "the tolls on your body are too extreme" -- ?

I would agree with that: one does not have an absolute "right to not have your body used against your will by someone else," but does begin to have that right at the point when the tolls become too extreme.

The right to bodily autonomy per se does not outweigh or limit the unborn baby's right to life, but the right not to be harmed may outweigh it or limit it.

Of course it may be that doctors can normally determine that "point when the tolls become too extreme" as well as or better than the pregnant person herself. If that's so, there would no need for a system of mother's-choice alone. The unborn child could be allowed fair representation, and both sides could be heard.


Susie said...

"I think that the difficulty is that nothing is truly like pregnancy-it is a unique condition, which is why all analogies fail on some level."

In this I absolutely agree with you and I think that it's the uniqueness of the case which keeps the abortion-debate going on. I think both sides ("pro-life" and "pro-choice") are viewing it in a too superficial way.

If one really tries to find a good analogy (and I think organ-donor-analogies come closest), the gravity of the question sinks it.

In my heart, I don't believe that an embryo, a few weeks old, is a person, but I find this argument difficult to defend from a purely scientific point of view (where draw the line?), which is why I wouldn't use it to defend legal abortion. And I do have to admit, that once I recognize the humanity of the embryo (even if it's only for the argument's sake) and therefore chose an example like the one with the bone-marrow or the shared kidney-use, it does become uncomfortable for me. I still believe that the donor should have the right to revoke consent if that's what he/ she wants but I do see what's at stake in this case.

On the other hand, I sincerely hope that once an organ-donation-analogy is drawn, the "pro-life"-side recognizes too, what they demand. Undergoing a pregnancy you absolutely don't want, is horrifying. The physical impairments are immense and not seldom permanent in one way or another. Nonchalantly throwing in "Why not chose adoption?!" ("Please, supply the market of adoptable newborns!") sounds, at least in my ears, totally cynical. Adoption is NOT an alternative to pregnancy (as it doesn't make you un-pregnant), it's an alternative to parenting. But now we're at a different topic (I'd love to read/ discuss about on this blog).

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Yeah, and I would like to point out that organ donation is fundamentally an artificial practice involving permentantly giving up a part of your body that is intended by nature to sustain you as an organism. Pregnancy is a natural process that involves an organ intended by nature to sustain your offspring. Of course this can be classified as a naturalistic fallacy, but I would like to point out that much of our body of family law, in the US as well as elsewhere, is based on naturalistic fallacy, and by and large, no one seems to mind this.
On a side note, what is your response to resarch done by the pro-choice institute ANSIRH involving women denied abortions that they sought? 95% of these women later said that they were happy to have given birth to the children that they were forced to give birth to...the New York Times has a decent article on this.
Much of your disagreement with me comes from our understanding of morally obligatory, legally obligatory, and superobligatory actions.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

Also unfortunately my computer won't let me link...but have you ever read the philosophy paper "De Facto Guardian and Abortion: A Response to the Strongest Violinist"? It covers many of these issues...

Ariela said...

A problem I see with that is that you are allowing an unwanted child to be killed, simply because it resides in its mothers womb. We would not allow a mother to kill an unwanted born child of the same age - but we only allow it because some think the child in the womb takes some sort of extreme toll on the woman that justifies killing it.

How about from 23weeks+ gestation, "unwanted" fetuses are simply induced (well, mother induced) and born early rather than killed -- still ends the pregnancy, just doesn't mean automatic death for the child. Allow the mother to leave the child at the hospital, no questions asked - like "safe haven" laws.

Acyutananda said...

"I’m not terribly interested in legalistic personhood at this point. Personhood has historically followed what the society at the time has felt about which human beings are persons. This means that certain groups (including women themselves) have been seen as persons, non-persons, 1/3 persons, etc. I am far more interested in knowing if the unborn are unique, self-automating human beings or not.

"Along those lines, I’m more interested in biological humanity than 'personhood.'”

You seem to be saying that there has been a historical pattern of misusing the concept of personhood, which I agree there has. But when you say, "I’m not terribly interested," do you mean that ignoring the whole debate would be the best response to that historical pattern?

However absurd those misuses of "personhood" may have been, haven't they also been very effective parts of the machinery of oppression of the groups they targeted? And aren't they still (Roe v. Wade)?

If you mean that we should actively persuade society to discard the idea of personhood and replace it, for legal purposes and all practical purposes, with an idea of biological humanity (including rewriting the US 14th Amendment to refer to "biological humans" instead of to "persons"), that would be fine. But if you mean that we should ignore the whole idea of personhood while the rest of society goes on (mis)using it, that would seem to me to be surrendering the ground.

I think that until society has been persuaded to discard the idea of personhood and replace it with an idea of biological humanity, we have to work within the existing framework to champion a definition of "personhood" that we would prefer.

Please see

KB said...

No I'm not referring to my lack of interest in personhood in terms of political or social activism. I understand how it is a needed mechanism. I am not interested in the term "personhood" for the purposes of the thought experiment. That is, convincing me that fetuses are not considered persons (which at this point, they are not in most parts of the world), is irrelevant to my opinion on abortion.