Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Life Equation, Part I

[Today's post is part one in a 4-part series by Nick Reynosa. Parts 2-4 will run tomorrow through Friday.]

In a 2013 article by former pro-lifer turned feminist blogger Libby Anne, she discusses the story of her conversion to the pro-choice movement. In her piece she highlights a contention pro-lifers hear all too often: that they (pro-lifers) are not pro-life, but rather, their policies inadvertently lead to more deaths. On the contrary she notes that pro-choicers are steadfastly instituting reforms to lower the number of the procedures done. Heck, according to Ms. Anne, if we crunch the numbers we will discover that the real pro-lifers are in fact pro-choicers. She argues this by contending that the pro-life movement’s focus on banning abortion is mistaken because a ban will have no effect on the number of abortions performed, and that we must instead prioritize the preventative power of contraceptive use. For example, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute estimates that current public expenditures on contraception in the United States prevent over 2.2 million unplanned pregnancies a year and, in turn, over 760,000 abortions.

Sounds pretty pro-life, right? I want to save lives, period; I'm open to hearing solutions from people who disagree with me on the ethical aspects of the debate. (Libby Anne used to support the right to life as an ethical matter, but now states that she believes unborn children are not real people until birth.) But does the "pro-choice is pro-life" argument really paint the whole picture? 

While I am sure that both pro-lifers and pro-choicers view their positions as doing the greater good, I also know the greater good is ultimately a question of math, and that math can be double checked. In acknowledging the assumptions of the movements, and utilizing the statistical evidence we have on hand, such statements can be tested beyond mere conjecture. In developing this formula it is my aim to show the real flesh and blood consequences of this pertinent debate and show the errors of the pro-choice position, as well as the powerful pro-life potential of the anti-abortion movement. I call this endeavor the life equation.

Here, as I see it, are the equations each side is using:
Pro-Choice Life Equation
Total deaths = current # of abortions minus # of abortions prevented by contraception minus # of women saved from dying in illegal abortions
Pro-Life Life Equation
Total deaths = current # of abortions minus # of abortions prevented by legal ban minus # of abortions prevented by contraception plus # of women dying in illegal abortions minus # of women saved from dying in legal abortions
The differences between the two equations are based on the following assumptions:
  1. Pro-choicers argue that the legality of abortions will not change the number of abortions performed. On the contrary, pro-lifers contend that a steep drop in the prevalence of abortions will occur when the procedure is outlawed. 
  2. Pro-choicers contend that the pro-life movement is inherently anti-birth control. But I will argue that support for contraception is not at all incompatible with opposition to abortion. 
  3. Pro-choicers posit that if abortion is criminalized women will die. Pro-lifers respond that women have other options when facing unplanned pregnancy, and they also point out that women currently die in legal abortions.
In order to solve each side's respective equation, we need to answer the following questions:
  1. Does outlawing abortion reduce the prevalence of abortion?
  2. Can and do pro-lifers support contraceptive use to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions?
  3. Are pregnant women in places where abortion is illegal forced to put their health in jeopardy if they are unready to parent? And if so, what is the difference between the number of women who will die in illegal abortions and the number who will die from the complications of legal abortions?
I will answer these questions in the next parts of this series, starting with the prevalence of abortion when it is legal versus when it is illegal.


Acyutananda said...

I think there is reasonable evidence (which I could fish out later) that if abortion is made illegal in a country and living conditions for infants are not simultaneously improved, the infant mortality rate will rise. Thus to the pro-life equation, you would need to add the words "plus # of infant deaths that would not have occurred if the prior infant-mortality rate had remained in effect."

On the other hand, let's ask two questions: Does that rise in the rate occur among infants whom the parents had no intention of aborting? No, there is no reason why that rate should change. Does that rise occur among infants whom the parents would have aborted? Yes, it occurs in that population, because some parents planned to abort due to a (correct) expectation that they would not be able to take good care of the children. That heightened rate is very sad in one way, but it proves that there IS a population of infants whom the parents would have aborted -- a population of infants saved by making abortion illegal. And the infant mortality rate, even if high, is always a small minority of all the infants -- the rest of that would-have-been-aborted population survive and live their lives, saved by the laws.

Acyutananda said...

Libby Anne quotes from the New York Times article (which is actually based on a study in Lancet magazine):

"Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America—regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds."

She follows this with her conclusion (italics hers): Banning abortion does not actually affect abortion rates.

In other words, "correlation = cause."

But I'm sure you already have that leap covered in your upcoming installments.

Acyutananda said...

"former pro-lifer turned feminist blogger"

That is not necessarily surprising. What is surprising is that she became a pro-choice feminist blogger.

argent said...

To your comment I would also add that many children are aborted because they are expected to have short lifespans.

argent said...

Wow, that is such a spectacularly terrible way to compare abortion rates! Not only does it comparing apples to oranges in the extreme (instead of picking out countries which have differing abortion laws but otherwise similar conditions), but it's also looking at the abortion rate per woman rather than the abortion rate per child!

JDC said...

True, but to be fair, rate per woman seems to be the standard way to measure abortion rates. For whatever reason, the vast majority of medical journals and other similar publications seem to use this method, so a lot of the people probably now just use it because everyone else does.

Cynde Fetherston said...

comparing Latin America and Africa to Western Europe is unrealistic. So many other factors come into play including availability and cost of contraceptives and the socio-economic status of the women

argent said...

Yes, but it's silly to brag about Western Europe's low abortion rates when they also have some of the lowest birthrates in the world--the reason they don't abort unborn children as much is that there aren't a lot of them to abort!

Guest said...

This looks like it will be an interesting series, and I look forward to reading the rest of it. But I must disagree that at the end of the day, it's just a numbers game. We would never consider conducting lethal experiments on disabled children in order to find a cure for cancer, even if the practice would ultimately cure the disease more quickly and reduce the net death toll. That would violate their right to life and human dignity. We don't legalize female genital mutilation in countries like Egypt (where it's commonly practiced even though it's illegal), because it's a violation of human rights. Similarly, the case against legalized abortion does not rest on the question of whether or not a ban on abortion would be effective enough to offset the number of deaths from illegal abortions.

Guest said...

You'd also have to take into account women dying in childbirth, as well as the higher violent crime rate (if the controversial Freakonomics study is correct). The hypotheticals get messy rather quickly.

JDC said...

I agree 100%.

Guest said...

Also, there is some evidence that abortion increases the risk of preterm birth. Given that preterm birth is one of the biggest sources of infant mortality, that would have to be factored in as well.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Where in the anti-abortion equation are the deaths due to starvation from forced overpopulation? And the deaths due to unwanted children being killed by parents? And the deaths caused by criminals who were unwanted/abused children? Where is there any hint of prevention of the death of up to 99% of the entire human species from a Malthusian Catastrophe, due to overpopulation caused by abortion opponents? Your focus on "saving life" is ridiculous if you don't also focus on feeding for a lifetime, all those extra mouths you want born!

myintx said...

"Even when illegal, some women seek abortions." - SO? even when illegal, some women kill their born children (children they WANTED to have) - does that make the killing OK? Should we have human extermination centers where women can kill their newborns and not have to worry about cutting themselves in the process? Heck no! Just because some will choose to break the law doesn't mean an evil act should be kept legal.

Just because a child might be mistreated doesn't not justify killing born children - so, it should not justify killing unborn children. Women and men facing tough situations that might lead them to abuse their child or tough situations regarding an unwanted pregnancy should get help - not kill.

I would LOVE to see a high tax on abortion. I've proposed it in forums in the past - I should propose it to a lawmaker I guess. And, I'd like to see part of the tax go to mandatory sex ed refresher and mandatory birth control handouts - that way, the woman essentially pays for those services instead of the taxpayer. Taxes AND bans on cigarettes and alcohol have helped reduce the number of people who start smoking and drunk driving accidents.

Unborn children ARE human beings. A newborn baby is a human being. It is a human being one second before being born too. The only difference is location. Location makes no difference as to whether a living being is scientifically considered a human being or not. There is no way scientifically that a preemie newborn born at 23 weeks and on life support could be a human being but an unborn child at 38 weeks could not be a human being. Also, slaves weren't considered full people in the eyes of the law at one point in our history. Many selfish slave owners probably used the law to hide behind treating their slaves as a piece of property they could discard at will. Laws can and should be changed to give unborn children a basic right to life.

You basically had no rebuttal about reducing the population by killing those on death row or in jail for life. Proving it's not about overpopulation.

If you cannot justify NOT killing newborns or the homeless or those on death row to reduce the population and the number of mouths to be fed, you cannot justify just killing the unborn to reduce the population and have less mouths to feed. We have programs to feed the hungry. Many pro-lifers donate time and money to help families in need. There is no need to justify killing - people will step up to help those in need.

myintx said...

The LAW used to say that slaves weren't full people. Laws can be changed. Laws should be changed to protect unborn children from being killed simply because they are unwanted or inconvenient.

Infanticide is an evil act. So is abortion. In both cases human beings are killed. They both have the same result - a human being is denied a chance at a full and productive life. If you support one, you might as well support the other. I happen to be against both.

Teenagers are different from newborns. Doesn't mean it's right to kill either one now does it? The only thing different between an unborn child at 36 weeks and a newborn child that was born at 36 weeks is LOCATION. Women's bodies were designed to house an unborn child. In most cases, Vampires KILL. Unborn children don't - and IF abortion was the only way to save a woman whose life was truly endangered by her pregnancy, i would support abortion in that case - however, those cases are extremely rare - in most cases labor can be induced to at least try to save the unborn child. (and really - comparing an unborn child to a vampire to justify killing it? really? grasp at straws much?)

Making abortion illegal would greatly reduce the number of abortions. Most people ARE law abiding citizens. Are you saying we shouldn't have bans on cigarettes because some stupid people might buy them on the black market? Banning minors from buying cigarettes has helped reduce the number of teens that start smoking. Yes, it saves lives - so do abortion bans. Same goal - to save lives.

Definition of Fetus from Merriam Webster - ": a human being or animal in the later stages of development before it is born" - see that - HUMAN BEING.

An unborn child doesn't 'steal' nutrients. A woman's body was designed to GIVE her unborn child nutrients.

The Alabama SC has ruled that the unborn are people: “The decision of this Court today is in keeping with the widespread legal recognition that unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.” Do you think a woman should be able to keep using Meth while she remains pregnant? What if a woman purposely took a drug that would cause her unborn child to be born without arms and legs (a drug that had no benefit for her). SHould she be able to do it? NO - it's not 'her body' that's affected - its the body of her unborn child.

An unborn child is not an 'animal' that should be killed to control the population. The 'animals' are those on death row - go after them and quit targeting defenseless unborn children.

A woman cannot demand a pro-lifer pay for her newborns education or she will kill it. She shouldn't be able to do that with an unborn child either. If she doesn't want her baby when it's born, she can put it up for adoption. Most newborns put up for adoption are adopted. All abortions end in death.

TEMPORARILY, ONLY. It Is Mathematically
Impossible For Finite Resources To Support Endless Population Growth.- You want us to be like China?

ignorance_is_curable said...

The LAW used to say that slaves weren't full people.
And that Law had NO scientific basis of support. Many modern laws, however, DO pay attention to Science data.

Laws can be
changed. Laws should be changed to protect unborn children from being
killed simply because they are unwanted or inconvenient.
Laws should NOT be changed such that they utterly deny Objective FACT. If you have some Objective FACTS proving that unborn humans qualify as persons, THEN it makes sense for the Law to protect those persons. Otherwise, your opinions are no better than someone who thinks "The Earth Is Flat" should be taught in schools.

And CALLING unborn humans "children" doesn't change the FACT that their existence requires placentas as vital organs, while ordinary children don't. That Objective FACT wasn't known until DNA tests were done in the 20th Century, proving the placentas were PART of the overall unborn human organisms --all prior "common knowledge" on the subject was just as wrong as claiming the Earth is flat.


is an evil act. So is abortion. In both cases human beings are killed.
CALLING something a "being" is not the same thing as proving it is a "being", a person.

Your feeble usage of the dictionary is worthless --it is NOT about "Objective Fact" --dictionaries only record common usage, a purely SUBJECTIVE thing. If you convince enough people to use the word "cardboard" as a color, then eventually it will get listed in the dictionary as a color.

Also, CALLING something "evil" is not the same thing as proving it. Try again!

They both have the same result - a human being is denied a chance at a
full and productive life. If you support one, you might as well support
the other. I happen to be against both.

You happen to be ignorant of appropriate Objective Facts. That is not a crime, but it does need to be corrected.

So here is something for you to chew on for a while. You like that phrase "human being", but have you ever used the phrases "oyster being" or "minnow being"? How about the phrases "intelligent being" or "alien being"?

The word "being" IS a synonym for the word "person", and you know that oysters and minnows are not persons.

A human organism is given a number of names describing it at various stages prior to birth: "zygote", "morula", "blastocyst", "embryo", and "fetus". If you truly believed that unborn humans qualified as persons, you (and other abortion opponents) would ALREADY be commonly using phrases like "zygote being", "morula being", "blastocyst being", "embryo being", and "fetus being".

But you don't. Therefore, you are lying to yourselves and others about the personhood of unborn humans. You subconsciously KNOW they really are not persons!!!

Also, you appear to have completely ignored what I wrote about how you would test alien life-forms to Objectively determine whether or not they qualified as persons. Until you respond to that, and tell me why such Objective tests can't be applied to humans, I see no reason to respond to the rest of your blather.
(Except for one thing --not all vampires, in the stories, kill their victims. Some are willing to take a little blood here, a little there, and so on. Their actions still are reviled --because it is about TAKING, without permission-- to the extent that they would be destroyed.)

kitler said...

I see you've met myintx .

Have fun.

Her idea of debate is to repeat bumper sticker slogans.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Repeating bumber-sticker slogans is not going to win a Debate.

kitler said...

ignorance_is_curable said...

Thanks; that is more evidence that abortion opponents are telling a Stupid Lie whenever they say the world isn't already overpopulated with humans.

myintx said...

Not all laws pay attention to scientific data. Post viability abortion laws exist in most states, but not all. Does that mean an unborn child becomes a human being at viability in most states, but not all.. Nope. NONE of those laws are based on scientific data. They are based on the beliefs of the people in those states. The belief as to whether an unborn child after viabilty should be protected from being killed. For some, their belief is based on scientific data, for others, not. Post viabiliity abortion laws arent the only laws based on what people think is wrong. Plenty of other laws are based on beliefs. Since a majority of people believe abortion should be generally illegal after 12 weeks, Roe V Wade should be overturned so that states can make their own laws regading the senseless killing of unborn children.

Some children - e.g. preemies - require life support when they are born. Are they not human beings by your thinking (whatever 'thinking' that is)? At 23 weeks, inside or outside the womb, on life support or not, a child or a child in utero is a human being. Location does not make a difference. Whether or not assistance is required to live does not make a difference.

We don't call a toddler a 'toddler being' - so your 'zygote being' carp is just that - carp. Zygote, embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, child, teenager, adult, elderly - these are the stages in the lifecycle of a HUMAN BEING.

Aliens are not human beings. They don't qualify as persons. All human beings should have the right to personhood. Unborn children and born children are both HUMAN BEINGS and as such should have rights that all other innocent human beings have - including a basic right to life.

myintx said...

Then campaign to kill another group of human beings... The 'overpopulation' excuse is just an excuse to justify keeping abortion legal. Do you get on news articles about the death penalty and advocate for more killing? doubt it.

myintx said...

Neither is using the overpopulation straw man argument.

kitler said...

So it wouldn't be murder if you stabbed Spock in the face, because he is a Vulcan?

myintx said...

Do our murder laws cover Vulcans?

kitler said...

If Vulcans existed, do you believe that stabbing Spock in the face, killing him, should count as murder? Or, would it be akin to stepping on a worm, since intelligent, rational, empathetic Spock lacks human DNA?

ignorance_is_curable said...

Overpopulation is real. In every place where they TALK about "sustainable resources", the REASON they talk about it is because at the rate people are using those resources, they CAN'T be sustained.

So, one definition of "overpopulation" is derived by comparing the population to the resources. If the resources are inadequate to sustain the population for the long long term, then the population is too high AT THAT TIME. You can fix it either by increasing the supply of resources or by reducing the population.

However, IF you go about increasing the supply of resources, you MUST do it FASTER than the rate at which the population increases. Otherwise you STILL are in an "unsustainable" overpopulated situation!

myintx said...

Overpopulation is a "straw man" in the abortion debate.

If you're worried about overpopulation, go after other groups - those on death row. those in prison for life without the possibility of parole. etc. You're not doing that, are you? If you're worried about overpopulation, you'd be for forced abortion... I don't see you advocating for that.

ignorance_is_curable said...

Overpopulation is a "straw man" in the abortion debate
FALSE. Because the existence of overpopulation is a reason to allow abortion. This is NOT the same thing as a reason to actually go get one; it is merely a reason to allow it, to keep abortion legal. So that those who don't wish to turn unwanted pregnancies into more mouths-to-feed, in the overpopulated world, don't have to do that.

myintx said...

You're the one who says we need abortion because of overpopulation... Still doesn't make sense why you're not promoting the death penalty. The 'person' comment shows your true colors. You don't care about overpopulation. You're a feminist who thinks that women can only be equal to men if they have the ability to kill their unborn children.

myintx said...

True colors showing again... this isn't about overpopulation at all.

The EVIL in this world is killing children - born and unborn - simply because they are inconvenient or unwanted.

When it comes to abortion, most women don't make well-informed choices. They make choices for reasons of convenience. "Not the right time for a child" and "cannot afford a child" are 2 of the most common excuses used by women to kill their unborn children. Those reasons ARE avoidable. How many of them went to adoption agencies before they went to PP? Not many I'm sure. How many talked to a counselor to see what types of benefits they are eligible for or what help (food banks, charities, etc) is available to them? Some many not have known there is help out there. Some did, but refused to put in the effort to even try - because they had a convenient way out that is promoted as being OK. Abortion is wrong. It denies a new human being a chance at a full and productive life.

ignorance_is_curable said...

You might try Worf; he's pretty well-known. And Yoda or Chewbacca...

ignorance_is_curable said...

I support the existence of the death penalty. I don't support mis-using it. I support the existence of legal abortion; I don't support mis-using it.

And we need legal abortion for other reasons than ONLY overpopulation, even though overpopulation has multiple negative consequences, all of which could in theory be solved by encouraging population reduction.

One of the consequences unrelated to overpopulation is the crime rate, which appears to be associated with numbers of unwanted children that grew up (instead of getting aborted).

Another has to do with rape. While that is already considered a reason to allow abortion, even by many abortion opponents, there is another factor, "reproductive genetics strategies". Basically, Nature Does Not Care --ANYTHING that works to pass genes on is allowed, and any associated behaviorial tendency, that helps genes get passed on, is allowed, too. So, any genetic tendency to commit rape could be propagated, whenever rape resulted in pregnancy.

DOES OUR CULTURE WANT THAT? If it doesn't, it might actively encourage abortions of rape-caused pregnancies, just to END that propagation cycle. A reproductive behavior that NEVER works to successfully pass on genes, eventually ceases to exist in the gene pool, see?

Next, Abortion is a Logically Consistent way to demonstrate superiority over Natural Mindless Biology, instead of subservience to it. It happens that sex and pregnancy are only indirectly linked, not directly linked, and that indirect linkage involves biological entities, equivalent to machines programmed by DNA, that exhibit independent behavior. Their behavior is critical to either the success or failure of a pregnancy to begin.

Another example of a DNA-programmed biological machine is a mosquito. Then there are the many diseases caused by, a vast variety of Natural Mindless Biological organisms.

As long as humans claim superiority over Natural Mindless Biological Events (perhaps by getting a heart transplant when one's own heart fails, or working on a cure for malaria), humans are equally claiming they can refuse to
accept subservience to Natural Mindless Biological Events. Since pregnancy, or a mosquito sucking one's blood, or a failing heart, or catching a communicable disease, are all consequences of Natural Mindless Biological events, contraceptives and abortion and mosquito-swatting and heart transplants and immunizations and antibiotics all qualify as ways to refuse to be subservient to Natural Mindless Biology.

Basically, to deny abortion, especially when imperfect contraceptives fail, while accepting all other ways to refuse subservience to Natural Mindless Biology, is to illogically exhibit "hypocrisy".

For another reason to allow abortion, consider The Long Term. By focusing human culture on the idea that "person rights" is more important than "human rights", allowing abortions of human non-persons prepares the way for future beneficial and unprejudiced contact with non-human intelligent beings, whether they be extraterrestrial in origin, or turn out to be local, such as, say, Genuine Artificial Intelligences, a few decades from now. (Also, the personhood of whales and dolphins is still being debated. One might wonder how much irrational Prejudice against them is embodied in the arguments that they don't qualify as persons, especially by, say, those with a vested interest in the whaling industry....)

When the human species allows abortion, it is basically evidence opposing the notion that we are so arrogant and puffed-up with egotistical prejudiced self-importance that we think we're the greatest thing to come along since Nature invented sexual reproduction.
Actions speak louder than words!

myintx said...

"every time they LIE about unborn humans, calling them "children"..." - I call them unborn children, not children... And, it's pro-aborts who lie, calling them clumps of cells, deny that unborn children are in fact unborn children and deny that unborn children are human beings. Lying is wrong, but a vast majority of lies are no where as evil as killing - proof: abortion has the same main evil result as killing a newborn - it kills a human being and denies them a chance to be born. more proof - evil people can be charged with murder for killing an unborn child in the course of a crime against a pregnant women. Those are new laws - wasn't always that way. New laws can be created to protect unborn children. More laws are needed to protect unborn children.

Wow - 'creating a cycle of dependency' - maybe you're not a liberal... hmmmm... most liberals lie about pro-lifers wanting to cut food stamps. The best way to get rid of the cycle of dependency is for the government to work harder to improve the economy so that people can get jobs and feed their own family. We can do that in the US if our government works together. Oh yea, and lets not abort potential job MAKERS. Steve Jobs was adopted and responsible for the creation of plenty of jobs... ;) Another way would be to teach RESPONSIBILITY to our youngsters - pay your own way (even if that means waiting for something you want), don't depend on others, use protection and don't kill. Most people don't teach these values to their kids (hence the push to increase food stamp distribution,etc). Some teach that abortion is an easy way out of taking responsibility...

I never said a full and productive life was inevitable thing - that's why I used the word CHANCE. 1/2 of our society is not bad and worthy of deah.... Just a small portion (much less than 1/2). If an unborn child is not killed there is a better chance that he or she will grow up to be good and not evil. Just as we shouldn't kill a newborn because we THINK he or she might grow up to be evil we shouldn't kill an unborn child because there is a chance he or she could be evil.

myintx said...

"Unborn child" IS a valid synonym for fetus (look it up). It's also a valid legal term used in many state laws to describe the human being that can be killed by an evil person in the course of a crime against a pregnant woman. That's just too bad if if makes you THINK about the killing that you support.

Most pro-aborts ARE actively promoting abortion. Every time I bring up adoption, pro-aborts bash adoption as an option. They rarely ever mention it in a positive light, if they mention it at all.

By the time most women realize they are pregnant, their unborn child is NOT just a 'clump of cells'. AND, even in the initial stages, it IS a human being.

The concept of "person" and "human being" are 2 different things. Unborn children ARE human beings. All that it would take to recognize them as full people is changing LAWS. just like was done with slaves. LAWS were changed to recognize them as full people. SELFISH slave owners fought against those laws so they could continue to treat unborn children, oops, I mean slaves as property that can be discarded if unwanted.

A majority of people think more laws are needed to protect unborn children. A majority of people think abortion should be generally illegal after 12 weeks - meaning they disagree with Roe V Wade. Time to overturn that mistake so that states can make laws their people want protecting unborn children from being killed.