Friday, January 27, 2012

Abortion and the Death Penalty

I am against the death penalty.  Inspired largely by the work of the Innocence Project, I believe our system is too fallible to justly implement the death penalty.  I’m certainly not alone in my stance; there are many people against both abortion and capital punishment.

That being said, I can understand how a person could work to end abortion without trying to end the death penalty.  Yes, both practices kill a human being; that is their similarity.  Now, can you think of any differences?

Capital punishment is far less frequent.  Approximately 50 million abortions were performed in the United States from 1973-2008.  In contrast, from 1977-2008, 1,234 inmates were executed.  In other words, abortions occur (roughly) 36,000 times more often than death row executions.  Even those who feel abortion and capital punishment are equally wrong may understandably devote more energy to the more pressing issue of abortion.

Capital punishment requires due process. Before being sentenced to death, the accused is given the opportunity to defend his or her case. We have a carefully established system meant to fairly determine whether a person is guilty of a crime and, if so, whether that guilt forfeits his or her life. Imagine the outrage if people could be sentenced to death without any accusations, any evidence, or any defense.  The fetus has no defense before death; the fetus’s life is subject to the mother’s will alone.

Capital punishment is designed for the guilty.  Many pro-lifers believe taking an innocent human life is wrong; capital punishment is meant to fall outside this realm.  At least in theory, all those on death row have committed heinous crimes. In contrast, the fetus cannot be said to be guilty of anything, seeing as a fetus never has the opportunity to make a decision.

Over the past several decades in the US, abortion has taken tens of millions of defenseless and innocent human lives.  Capital punishment has taken less than 2000 previously defended and presumably guilty human lives.  People weighing diverging factors will often come to diverging conclusions.  I see no hypocrisy in this.


JoAnna Wahlund said...

Great post! Thank you!

I was at a pro-life protest at our state capitol several weeks ago, and a pro-"choice" advocate asked me if I supported the death penalty.

I replied, "No, I don't, actually. However, surely you see the difference between a convicted felon and an innocent human being?"

Her reply: "They're not innocent."

I had to leave at that point, but I would have loved to have followed up with her to see exactly what crime the unborn commit that makes them deserve execution without due process.

M said...

Some people make a distinction between "innocent" and "not guilty." I've seen it said that you can't be innocent unless you've had the opportunity to make choices and have chosen not to do wrong. Maybe that's what the pro-choice advocate meant?

I think it's a bit ridiculous though. To me, a person can be innocent or guilty, but they are one or the other.

Jameson Graber said...

Some pro-choicers argue that the unborn is "guilty" of occupying the woman's body. Difficult as it can be at times, the pro-life position has to include a belief in holding consenting adults responsible for the results of their sexual intercourse.

Jameson Graber said...

I meant to add "without the woman's consent" to the end of the first sentence. That's where you get into issues of responsibility.

Anonymous said...

I don't really get by what basis people consider an unborn fetus to be "human". Bear in mind that this is a purely philosophical question (just as science can't definitively answer the question "what is beauty", it can not determine "what is life") What does a fetus have that sets it apart from living tissue and muscles? So far the only definitive answers to this question seem to come from religous sources. (like those who say the bible states that life begins at conception). Since this site is devoted to a non-religious-based definition of "human life" I find it strange that the entire site presents the message of "a human fetus is a human person" as a given without any real philosophical discussion. It's almost as if this site is a veneer for religious organizations to win agnostic or athetistic converts.

LN said...

The union of two gametes constitutes the first stage in a *unique organism's development*. The resultant organism is called a zygote. This unique organism (life) is human. The zygote contains DNA derived from both the parents, and this provides all the genetic information necessary to constitute it as an individual. Specifically, it inherits 23 chromosomes from each parent (at fertilization), giving it a total of the required 46 chromosomes present in a human being. The entire process of development of new *individuals* is called reproduction.

Also, there are definitely things science does not do-- like tell people how to use scientific knowledge. But it does answer the question, "what is life". Better than anyone else ever has. What sets a fetus apart? What makes it a life? From my biology book, all life:
1. is made of a common set of chemical components
2. has genetic information with a universal code to specify proteins (DNA, RNA, etc)
3. converts environmental molecules into new biological molecules
4. extracts environmental energy and uses it to do biological work
5. regulates its internal environment (homeostasis)
6. replicates genetic information when reproduced
7. evolves through gradual changes in genetic information
[I'm sure there are more concise lists]

You're free to disagree with it, but it would be as logical as disagreeing with science's definition of hydrolysis or covalent bonding-- it's logical, it fits in with the framework of everything we know scientifically, it is consistently true. None of this is religious.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Excellent analysis. Thank you.

Drew said...

Absolutely no hipocrisy. I'd take it a step further and suggest that supporting the death penalty and being pro-life actually reinforce one another. It is inconsistent to be pro-life and anti-death penalty if you have any semblance of reason behind your pro-life stance. They both serve the same ultimate purpose, which is the preservation of and notion of ultimate value of human life. We execute the deliberate malicious enders of human life. There is no single better way to elevate and prioritize human life and to deter murderer. While the justice system may be unable to accurately convict or exonerate all suspected murderers, the consistent approach from a pro-lifer would be one of supporting an ever more accurate death penalty system. Perhaps only in instances of incontrovertible evidence should there be an execution, but principally you cannot be one and not the other.

Think it over a second time fellow pro-lifers.

M said...

Fantastic summary, Pantheroom.

As far as "a human fetus is a human person"...

Jordan said...

That's a great point drew, although, I have to disagree a little bit. In my personal opinion, I feel that a serial killer or someone on death row that has tormented the lives of others should NOT be granted the dignity of death. They should be locked away in solitary confinement 24 hours a day, and fed only twice a day. Death is only a favor to these monsters. In my opinion anyone who agrees with the butchering of babies should face the same punishment. Abortion is evil, plain and simple. I don't care if you are "religious" or not, you don't have to believe in God or morality to see that ending the life of a CHILD is wrong. The fact that abortion was ever legal is mind blowing to me. The stupidity of the left wing libtards who attempt to justify the murder of BABIES disgusts and enrages me. You idiot liberals really wonder why abortion clinics get bombed? Really?? Im starting to think that liberals only agree with abortion in spite of humans with normal functioning brain matter. And to the wh*res who say "it's my body", you don't deserve to live. You are the only humans who deserve to be aborted. You are hated!

Jordan said...

It's just pathetic that people even try to justify Such a terrible thing as abortion. Just put the kid up for adoption! People will always adopt children. Don't kill him or her just cause you see them as an "inconvenience" to you. Obviously there are circumstances where an abortion is necessary for the mother to live.

Anonymous said...

I have visited both pro-life and pro-choice websites, and both say the majority of abortions are for "socioeconomic reasons" rather than rape, incest, endangerment of the mother's life, etc. I can understand why a parent, even if not a single parent, might feel unable to raise a child in conditions of economic hardship, and I can respect their honesty in realizing their limitations. That being said, I have never seen how that justifies taking the baby's life. I have always believed that if the parent(s) cannot provide for the child, they should look into adoption.

My best friend is very critical of my thinking on this. He says the child is more likely to get bounced around foster homes, emotionally scarred, and probably raped than adopted by a loving family, so abortion is the more humane option. He's adopted himself, so I give his opinion some weight. However, I have known many adopted children, including some of my own cousins, who grew up in (as far as I can tell) very loving families. I would be interested in any thoughts on this matter.

Marselina said...

What sets you apart from living tissue and muscles? You, unsurprisingly, have used circular logic to defend your subjective standpoint.

Troy Wartman said...

Eh , not feeling this one. I mean a fetus does not rape and murder. Im willing to take the chances that i might be mistakenly convicted of a crime that gets me the death penalty.

Reality Check said...

"I don't really get by what basis people consider an unborn fetus to be "human". "

It's called science. Perhaps you've heard of it?

~E said...

Nothing difficult about that in my opinion. I choose to engage in sex (with condoms) knowing there could be breakage. I would NEVER accuse my potential child of holding my body hostage! It's ludicrous. An unborn child who is only doing what nature intended (growing) is INNOCENT plain and simple. And nothing will ever sway me from that statement.

~E said...

it's due to reproductive Science, and genetic science, and biology.- Humans begot other humans. As self aware creatures, we have labeled ourselves Homo Sapiens aka human beings and our DNA shows we are so. A zygote has a unique set of DNA that was made from the DNA of both mother and father (egg and sperm) ..that DNA is of the homo sapiens species. So, actually you're question is indeed a scientific one.

Oh, the other part. What sets a fetus apart from living tissue and muscles?

Hm well nothing technically. We are ALL made of living tissue and muscles. And blood and water. Technically our cells are living in the sense they have a nucleus, which if I am remembering biology correctly, is the "brain" of the cell. Cells are living organisms in that they have systems (such as their mitochondria) that run and do particular jobs.

I guess what sets the fetus apart then is it's conciseness. Eventually the fetus develops one, though I don't know much about when. But I would associate consciousness with ability to feel pain (and pull away from it) and brain waves to be present..I could probably go into it more but I'm tired X_x.

Hopefully someone will add to this and correct anything I got wrong, and elaborate where necessary. I would hate to misinform someone. I'm still learning some things too.

~E said...

I hope I didn't offend anyone with using "it's" consciousness. I simply meant gender ambiguity..I'm trying to use "their" more but it slips out still.