Friday, September 12, 2014

VIDEO: Monday's presentation at College of Wooster

I had a great time at College of Wooster. It's a very, very small school, so I wasn't expecting a University of Georgia-sized crowd (which is good, because I didn't get one). But what the audience lacked in quantity, they more than made up for in quality. It was a mixed group—pro-life and not, secular and not—and the Q & A session was seriously fantastic. We discussed everything from IVF to adoption, and all with the utmost respect for one another. These students are a definite credit to their school.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Enjoy the video:

And if you can't get enough of Secular Pro-Life, we'll be live on the Atheist Analysis podcast this Sunday at 11pm Eastern.


JDC said...

Glad to see that the video has been posted. I will watch it later when I have time.

Drew Hymer said...

Unborn babies can withstand chemo therapy. See

But even if they couldn't, that's not a valid reason to kill the child. Instead, you undergo the life-saving treatment and if the child dies that is a tragedy but it's not murder.

Purple Slurpy said...

I agree about the difficulties in defining personhood. Kelsey seems to think that the idea of using the criteria of when the fetus can experience suffering is the most convincing one of the pro-choice side, but you dismiss it, and did not go into depth about it, saying the conclusion of trying to justify abortion is leading the argument and that it is not from first principal, and that it doesn't address personhood.

Why is this bad? I think we can all agree there can never be any set definition of "personhood" that will satisfy everybody, and I feel that is largely a philosophical or metaphysical question anyway.

And who cares if some argument is made completely from first principles? Very few issues in real life can be completely discussed from first principles alone. Even in fields that tout fully bottom-up explanations using first principles like physics, in the real world, empirical models are used to describe the data that are only judged on whether they offer a "good fit", and not whether they are true from first physical principles. And these models still do a good job in guiding understanding of the physical world.

Whether something has the capacity to suffer or not is a good criteria for a number of reasons. 1) It is more directly related to the presence or absence of structures of the nervous system, so we have a better chance of quantifying suffering than personhood. 2) Suffering is fairly universally accepted as something undesirable. If we are not causing it to suffer, I think it can be argued that we are not harming the subject in any practical way.

From what I've gathered, fetuses before week 10 or so most likely don't have very many neurons in the brain area yet, and probably until week 15~20 can't process any sensory input. They live in a sensory void and nothing hurts. I'd argue that it is not possible to harm being like these, and it makes no sense to compare this sensory void to a person in a coma either, because persons in comas at one time had a will and direction about their future. A fetus never had these in to begin with, so it makes sense that aborting a fetus which has not even developed a will to live and thrive yet, and cannot process any sensory inputs cannot be harmed in any meaningful way.

No matter whether the criterion of suffering's end goal is to justify abortion, that will not change the truth or falseness of these two points. If these two points are reasonable, they seem to be a good justification of allowing at least early term abortion to me.

Purple Slurpy said...

Also out of curiosity, if pro-life is gaining so much traction and young people are majority pro-life, how come you cannot find non-religious contributors for your blog? This is purely curiosity on my part. Digging a bit deeper into what some of your contributors also write on other boards, it seems some of them are insane science deniers into Intelligent Design, are against LGBT rights or seem to think that women and minorities now have an unfair advantage in university admissions and job placement. I understand that you are willing to make alliances with religious folk in order to further the cause of pro-life, but should you be making alliances with people who are actively trying to turn back time to a more repressive, violent and superstitious era in world history?

I also found it interesting that you felt the Civil Rights Movement was largely moved forward by the religious leaders. More people in those days were religious to begin with, and you also forget that much of the justification for slavery was from the Bible as well. Religion is really double edged. It can be used to heighten moral standards of man, but it also can be used to justify horrible ugliness. I assume you used this example to justify your alliance with the Religious Right on this issue. It seems to you are trying to come up with reasons to justify your need ally with fairly reactionary elements of society, because most of the progressive elements do not support your cause.

KB said...

I'm a skeptic atheist. And I agree with you, that religion is a double edged sword. It seems to me, that if you were to be logically consistent and religious, there would be more reason to be pro-choice, just as there were religious arguments both on the pro- and anti side of slavery. I view it as religion just happens. You can use it to justify or condemn just about anything. It's irrelevant to the best course of action.

Anyway, as an atheist, I've written a few posts:

Gaiuse Strome said...

If you would like some more information on sentience/sapience and coma patients, I have some info saved that I got from my neurobiologist friend. I am always picking her brain, especially when pro lifers make bold claims regarding sentience

Ms. Spacecat said...

If a method of late term abortion was devised that did not cause pain or distress in the fetus would you be okay with this or would you still consider it to be wrong?

Purple Slurpy said...

Hi Ms. Spacecat. Since fetuses after 30wks or so are pretty much viable without too much medical intervention, and they obviously do respond to touch and sound even inside the womb, I am of the opinion that calling such fetuses a "baby" and a "person" is not too far from the truth. And since I don't think you should be able to kill people who are anesthetized or asleep, I feel that even anesthetized, late term fetuses should not be aborted.

Ann said...

Stalin was an atheist

Kelsey said...

What KB said. It's true that religion was a more prominent force in general at the time of the civil rights movement. And actually, you can say the same thing about the early years of the abortion debate, too. The early abortion movement had a significant religious influence (see: clergy abortion referral service). KB put it exactly right: religion is a double-edged sword. If you ask me (and I realize you didn't and that this gets a little beyond the topic of this blog), the typical effect of religion is to amplify a person's existing character. If someone is inclined to be vicious and power-hungry, religion will justify atrocities for that person; if someone is inclined to improve the world and give until it hurts, religion will give that person additional strength.

The Nun said...

Thank you Kelsey. I could not have said the last part any better. And I realize that as a religious I have to work everyday to be part of those who give until it hurts regardless of what the world thinks of me or my faith. And also to repair the bridges burned by the former.

Ms. Spacecat said...

Hi Purple Slurpy. I am a pro-life atheist and I have only posted a few comments on this forum so far. I asked the question because it wasn't clear to me whether you opposed late abortion because of its cruelty or because you believe that once the fetus acquires sentience it gains the right not to be killed by any means. Thanks for clearing that up.
Most people think that sentience alone does not confer a right to life. Higher animals are sentient but we don't grant them a legal right to life. I could have my cat killed for any reason I wanted as long as I had her killed humanely. Nor do I think that viability should be a legal criterion for personhood. There are people with severe illnesses or disabilities who are not "viable" without extensive medical intervention but we rightly consider them to be persons.
You are correct that personhood is a philosophical concept and there is no definition of the term that everyone will agree on. That is why I don't think human rights should be based upon philosophical theories of personhood. There are many philosophical theories of personhood. Some philosophers define a person as someone who has a certain degree of rationality, or a certain degree of self-awareness, certain degree of free will, certain degree of independence, certain IQ, certain ability to make moral judgements, etc. Others regard personhood as a social or relational phenomenon: you are a person if you have relationships with other people or if you are accepted as a member of society. If you asked different philosophers whom they consider to be persons you might get some wildly different answers. Some say that personhood begins well before birth, others not until long after. Some say that nonhuman animals could be persons, some don't. I took a university religious studies course in which the professor told the class that newborn babies are not persons but one day old babies are because the one day old has formed relationships with family members. I don't know what she would say about a baby who was abandoned at birth and not discovered until the next day. I also had a philosophy professor tell me that he was not convinced that Cro-Magnon humans were people because there is no proof that they possessed free will.
All of these theories of personhood have some things in common. They are based upon qualities that are acquired and that humans possess in varying degrees. The philosophers and ethicists who hold these views believe that humans can be classified as either persons or non-persons and that they are qualified to make this distinction. However, the fact that they cannot agree about who is a person and who isn't indicates to me that there is no objective distinction between a human person and a human non person.
Such philosophical theories of personhood are directly at odds with the liberal democratic principle of universal human rights. The basis of equal treatment under the law is that every member of our species is a human being with rights. To believe otherwise is to believe that some humans with power can rightly deny rights to powerless humans. This is a power over others that no human being should have or desire.

Gaiuse Strome said...

If a brain/mind is completely unnecessary for determining personhood, then don't you agree that it should be illegal to remove life support/feeding tubes from brainless anencephalic babies and beating heart cadavers? Keep the bodies alive as long as possible? Since h.sapiens DNA + living body = person?

Ms. Spacecat said...

A brain dead person is dead because without brain function the body can no longer maintain homeostasis. The body has ceased to function as an organism and the organs and tissues are only being maintained by mechanical support. Since a dead body has no rights it is perfectly acceptable to remove artificial support.

Gaiuse Strome said...

It depends which parts of the brain are dead. The body can maintain homeostasis even if portions of the mind that relate to concsiousness are gone.

Terri Schiavo's upper brain was gone. It was shrunken, filled with holes, and a gooey mess. Her body lived on just fine. Her brain stem was functional. But *she* was dead, because the seat of her *self* was gone.

And anencephalic babies can live for a year, or even more.

So, I will ask, again, is it murder to withdraw life support/breathing tubes from bodies that have no higher brain function? Or should we strive to keep them alive, if h.sapiens DNA = person?

Ms. Spacecat said...

Terri Schiavo was not brain dead but was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state. If she had been brain dead she wouldn't have been able to breathe on her own.There were medical experts who disagreed with the PVS diagnosis and thought she might be minimally conscious instead. Her autopsy showed that her cerebral cortex was severely atrophied but it was not gone. Published medical studies show that many people who are thought to be in PVS are in fact aware and are able to understand what is said to them, even some who have severe cortical atrophy similar to that of Ms. Schiavo.

Contrary to what the mainstream news media reported it wasn't just religious and pro-life groups who opposed the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube. Twenty one national disability advocacy groups (that's most of them) as well as the World Association Of Persons with Disabilities and the World Institute On Disability opposed letting Ms. Schiavo die of dehydration in the absence of clear and convincing evidence that it was what she would have wanted. See
I think these advocacy groups took the right position. That does not mean I think a person in Ms. Shiavo's condition has to be kept alive as long as possible at all costs. I would have supported the removal of her feeding tube if there was a written advance care directive or other clear and convincing evidence that she would not have wanted it, or if she was dying and the feeding tube was not contributing to maintaining her life, or if it caused her hardship and suffering that was not offset by its benefits.
As for anencephalic babies, the decision as to what care they should receive should be up to their parents in consultation with their doctor. Most parents of such infants would choose palliative care rather then aggressive life prolonging treatment.

Gaiuse Strome said...

The brain itself weighed only 615 g (21.7 oz), only half the weight expected for a female of her age, height, and weight, an effect caused by the loss of a massive number of neurons. Microscopic examination revealed extensive damage to nearly all brain regions, including the cerebral cortex, the thalami, the basal ganglia, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the midbrain. The neuropathologic changes in her brain were precisely of the type seen in patients who enter a PVS following cardiac arrest. Throughout the cerebral cortex, the large pyramidal neurons that comprise some 70% of cortical cells – critical to the functioning of the cortex – were completely lost. The pattern of damage to the cortex, with injury tending to worsen from the front of the cortex to the back, was also typical. There was marked damage to important relay circuits deep in the brain (the thalami) – another common pathologic finding in cases of PVS. The damage was, in the words of Thogmartin, "irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.


Her upper brain was gone - the seat of consciousness. Her body lived for so many years because the parts of the brain that controlled autonomic functioning were still intact.

So, by the pro-life definition - that life = living body w/out any higher brain function, then clearly, removing Terri Schiavo's body from it's feeding tubes should have been prosecuted as an act of murder.

Most parents of such infants would choose palliative care rather then aggressive life prolonging treatment.

And why? If a brain is not necessary for personhood, every single effort should have been made to prolong their lives.

Do you believe that it is murder to harvest the organs of an anencephalic infant to save the lives of other infants? Because that happens too.

Gaiuse Strome said...

Removing life support from a dying person is not murder

Terri Schiavo wasn't dying. Neither are some of those anencephalic babies.

They simply lack higher brain function. As long as the body is alive, shouldn't they be given the chance to live?

Withdrawing support just because they lack a higher brain is ableist? What's next? Withdrawing feeding tubes from the cognitively disabled?

Ms. Spacecat said...

As I said, I agree with all of the disability advocacy groups who opposed the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube in the absence of evidence that she would have wanted this.

Anencephalic infants are a more difficult case. Anencephaly is considered to be a terminal condition. In nearly all cases such infants are stillborn or die within hours or days of birth. There are only three cases on record of long term (more than two years) survival. If a baby was born with limb body wall complex which results in multiple organ deformities that are incompatible with life, but a normal brain, it would, as a rule, be futile to put the baby on life support because it would not save the baby's life but would only prolong the process of dying and cause the infant pointless suffering. It has nothing to do with being ableist or judging the baby not to be a person. There are a few reports of survivors of this condition who had less severe, treatable abnormalities and if a baby is found to have this less severe form and doctors think she could be treated then the parents and doctors can together decide on a treatment plan.

Gaiuse Strome said...

I agree with all of the disability advocacy groups who opposed the
removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube in the absence of evidence that
she would have wanted this

Do you consider the removal of the feeding tube to be murder?

Anencephaly is considered to be a terminal condition.

So is Tay Sachs. That doesn't mean you can starve your Tay Sachs baby to death, does it?

Purple Slurpy said...

>> Such philosophical theories of personhood are directly at odds with the liberal democratic principle of universal human rights. The basis of equal treatment under the law is that every member of our species is a human being with rights. To believe otherwise is to believe that some humans with power can rightly deny rights to powerless humans. This is a power over others that no human being should have or desire.

I agree with you in principle, and I agree that an embryo is human.

However, I think our society is built on more than just that one principle. For example, in rape pregnancy, the
human rights of that fetus comes into conflict with that woman's right to her own
bodily autonomy. The danger of dogmatism is that certain principles are so important
that they are followed without exception and question. You may believe that life is
SO important that you don't care about the real dangers pregnancy might inflict
on a raped 12 year old.

Of course that is an extreme example, but surely you agree that having an unplanned child
could put pressure on finances in poor families, may derail educational plans, etc.
In other words, having a kid is not always an ice cream party.
Even if abortion is illegal, some women will do anything if they feel they HAVE
to get rid of a pregnancy.

If we lived in the Garden of Eden powered by cold
fusion and waited on hand in foot by robots, I would agree that we should live
our lives by your principle. Unfortunately all sorts of sh*t happens. And should
women who miscarried suspiciously be jailed in this world?

In the real world, we strive to live in a world with maximum
justice and happiness for as many people as possible. In essence, we must
solve a constrained optimization problem.

cost func = SUM individual happiness and justice for all, including fetuses.

constraints (all these terms = 0 in perfect world), things like
- misery caused by falsely imprisoning women who miscarried suspiciously
- missed opportunities for economic mobility by missed educational opportunities
- health problems caused by women determined to abort alone or backalley
- languishing children in orphanages due to over supply of children

I believe the best realistic solution is allowing a woman to take stock of
her situation, and leave abortion on the table as a choice. Compared to denying
born, living people of life, aborting a fetus just has fewer consequences, and
I don't think you can deny that.

Another hypothetical situation. You are a director of a hospital that has
just been hit with an earth quake and a tsunami and you only have backup
power for a few days. You have several patients on life support, some in an
indefinite coma, and some conscious. Whose switch are you going to flip first?

Ms. Spacecat said...

Are you asking me if I think Michael Schiavo should have been punished for causing his wife's death? He was acting within the law as her legal guardian. There would be no basis in law for bringing murder charges against him. I am not interested in punishing Mr. Schiavo. I judge his actions but I don't judge him as a person. He may very well have believed that he was doing the right thing, and many other people would have done the same thing in his position. What I would like to see is for the laws on legal guardianship of mentally incompetent persons to be changed so that these people have more legal protection. Legal guardians should be required to provide the necessities of life, such as food and water, and should not be allowed to subject the incompetent person to treatment that will cause suffering and death. Do you think that if I don't want to punish Mr. Schiavo then I don't really believe that Ms. Schiavo was a person? That does not follow.
>>So is Tay Sachs. That doesn't mean you can starve your Tay Sachs baby to death, does it? >>
Are you saying that withdrawing life support from a baby who will probably die within hours is the same as starving a child to death? If you starve your child to death you murdered them. If you take a dying child off life support you did not kill them, but allowed nature to take its course.

Ms. Spacecat said...


I agree. In the messy real world we live in there are many conflicting rights and responsibilities. Believing in a principle doesn't mean it must be upheld without exception and question. I believe in the right to life, but that doesn't mean I think you must not kill in self defense. I think abortion is justified if it is necessary to save the life of the mother. Most pro-lifers would agree with me. I don't approach issues like this by assuming that there are absolute principles which can never be violated - eg. "Thou shalt not kill". Instead, I ask myself "would it be permissible to kill a born person for this reason?" Similarly, when talking about assisted suicide, euthanasia and other disability rights issues, I ask "Would it be permissible to treat a non-disabled person this way?"

I do think that the bodily autonomy argument is the strongest argument that the pro-choice side has come up with. A rape pregnancy is a horrifying situation, but under principles of justice and equality I don't think a woman in that situation has a right to an abortion. If you don't mind me trotting out the unwanted pregnancy as forced organ donation analogy again, it would be a grave crime for someone to steal my kidney and transplant it into a child, but I don't have the right to cut into the child's body to get my kidney back because that would be violating another human being's bodily autonomy. If however, there was evidence that pregnant rape victims who are denied abortions usually commit suicide or end up as psychological basket cases I would revise my views.

<<Should women who miscarried suspiciously be jailed...

No. Not even if there is proof that they aborted deliberately. Post-abortive women deserve compassion and respect, not punishment. Are you really afraid that if abortion is abolished in Canada or the U.S. we will end up like Venezuela? Who would support such a thing? Certainly not pro-lifers, since there are many post-abortive women in the pro-life movement.

Your constrained optimization solution sounds a lot like the preference utilitarianism of medical ethicists like Peter Singer. He uses similar reasoning to justify not only abortion but infanticide and euthanasia -eg. killing an infant does not have the same consequences as killing an older child or an adult, parents who want to get rid of a handicapped baby will do it anyways so it should be made safe and legal, raising a disabled child is stressful and can cause health problems as well as missed educational and career opportunities, disabled children will languish in institutions etc., and since an infant does not have self awareness and would not be aware that it was being killed, then if it is unwanted by its parents its death would increase the total happiness in the world. See
for a debate between Singer and disability rights activist Harriet M. Johnson, in which she takes a very different approach to ethics than he does.

Purple Slurpy said...

>> Are you really afraid that if abortion is abolished in Canada or the U.S. we will end up like El Salvador?

Sure, not all pro-lifers are insane, but I think you are blind if you think a large chunk of the pro-life movement is not comprised of the extreme conservatives, the kind of people who cheer Putin's laws criminalizing being gay in Russia, and I'm sure certain kinds of people who support "kill the gays" laws in Uganda are highly likely to be pro-life. The Fox pundits who also believe Ray Rice's wife getting beat in the elevator was her fault also are highly likely to be pro-life. So I wouldn't put it past the Right-wing in the US to support such laws.

And I ask you, if you believe in the right to life, want to make abortion illegal, WHY should you treat a woman who deliberately causes a miscarriage with compassion? Do you have compassion for people who shoot up a mall because they may have come from a troubled home, or because they were may've been mislead by society and video games that shooting people doesn't cause them die, but lay on the ground for 5 seconds until they get back up again? What makes one time of murderer worthy of 10 life sentences, and another one worthy of understanding and compassion?

A simple constrained optimization problem is like "I want to fence in my yard. If I want maximum sq. foot yard space given that I only have 20 feet of fence, what shape should I make it" or "I want maximum sq. foot, but I want one of the sides to be along the wall of my house which is 20 ft. long, and I have 50 ft. of fence, what shape to make yard?"
In that sense, you must identify some quantity you want to maximize with the understanding that there are certain other quantities that need to be have a certain value. In that sense, I think it is in the same vein as utilitarianism that you speak of. Sure, I guess you could use it to justify infanticide, but you'd have to add in constraints and a cost function which you probably wouldn't agree with. It is important to note that you have the power to control what the constraints and cost function should be, and they should be things that taken by themselves, are acceptable principles in a free, just society.

I think as a framework, thinking of the abortion debate as analogous to a constrained optimization problem would be useful, because it allows you to think about all the
principles you believe a just society should follow, and realize there ARE trade-offs in a real societal setting. I think it is an acceptable trade-off to allow early abortions because there are other societal values I think are more important than considering early fetuses as "people".

Purple Slurpy said...

And one more point. It sounds like you accept that women who will deliberately try to induce a miscarriage are doing it for reasons other than they just want to go out and party.

If my sister confided in me she was going to try this because safe, clinical abortions are illegal, and she has no choice, should >I< be punished if I drive over to her house, and instead of trying to stop her, stand by and make sure she doesn't bleed to death, hand her clean towels etc.? I hear a lot of "have compassion for the woman, but string up the doctor". What if I'm not a doctor, but a bystander who just made sure she was doing things as safely as possible?

Gaiuse Strome said...

I think abortion is justified if it is necessary to save the life of the mother.

Not gonna help her if she dies during or after childbirth is it?

Not gonna help her if she is bedridden from eclampsia, loses her job, her home, and has massive hospital bills.

Not gonna help her if she ends up with permanent diabetes, PTSD, obstretric fistula (worst cases can require a colostomy bag), PP depression, psychosis or any number of autoimmune diseases.

A rape pregnancy is a horrifying situation, but under principles of
justice and equality I don't think a woman in that situation has a right
to an abortion.

See above. Subject the rape victim to slavery, torture, and perhaps even *death* for what crime...the crime of being raped whilst in possession of a uterus? + hospital bills.

Are you gonna pay for her pain, suffering and massive hospital bills? Yeah, thought not.

Are you really afraid that if abortion is abolished in Canada or the U.S. we will end up like El Salvador?

Women who miscarry in the USA are already being treated like criminals. Low income women, specifically blacks, are being charged with depraved heart murder if they have a stillborn, due to draconian anti-drug laws.

A teen recently miscarried in a Texas school, and a SWAT team and a helicopter were called in, and she was treated as a *suspect* in a suspected *crime*.

List of forced interventions against pregnant women in the USA:

If however, there was evidence that pregnant rape victims who are denied abortions usually commit suicide

I'd kill myself if forced to gestate a pregnancy, and I'd kill myself with even more malice if forced to gestate a rape pregnancy by heartless bastards such as yourself, who only care about fetuses not worthless walking incubators.

An 18 year old pregnant rape victim in Ireland was denied abortion at 8 weeks. She was suicidal. She started to starve herself to death, and at 25 weeks a Cesarian section was performed. She has been permanently mutilated now, and could have died from that c-section, which carries it's own risks, far more riskier than an abortion at 8 weeks.

You know what pro-lifers were saying? That she should have been tied to a be and force fed throughout all 9 months to make sure that she developed a healthy baby.

But hey, denying women their constituional rights, enslaving them, torturing them on behalf of a brainless/mindless zygote/embryo/fetus is totes ok right, because women are only delivery services for your precious babyeez, amirite?

Purple Slurpy said...

While I prefer more civilized writing, I think IF abortion is going to be made illegal, implications like "should a woman who self-aborts be a criminal" need to be carefully considered before going. When certain people say "oh no, compassion", it completely undermines their original claim of "equality for all human species". It makes the anti-abortion law a farce. Creating a society where certain laws are considered to be a farce and disrespected is actually a dangerous condition for society to be in.

Gaiuse Strome said...

I am asking if part of the 'protection' for people who no longer have a functioning brain/mind should be a murder charge if those mindless bodies are removed from their feeding tubes and left to die?

the incompetent person to treatment that will cause suffering and death

Not merely incompetent. The mind is gone. But it's the upper mind, the seat of consciousness, the seat of the self, and if that's gone, there is no longer any 'you' - you are for all intents and purposes a corpse. A beating heart corpse, but still a corpse.

And minds can be observed. Certain classes of brain activity result in minds and consciousness and they depend on certain areas to function (cortex and the thalamic structures...different areas of the cortex contribute to different aspects of consciousness...all of which have been thoroughly researched over the past 50 years. We ARE Talking about science I assure you. Just to give an example, we can differentiate a locked in person (who is conscious but so completely paralyzed that there is no movement whatsoever) from a person in persistent vegetative state(no consciousness or mind) because of cortical activities. Just one example


. If you take a dying child off life support you did not kill them, but allowed nature to take its course.

A Tay Sachs baby is a dying child. It just takes a couple of years. Some anencephalic babies have managed to last a couple of years.

So why is it murder to let your TS baby starve to death, but not your anencephalic?

Gaiuse Strome said...

While I prefer more civilized writing

It's easy to sit back and see this as a purely philosophical thing if you aren't born with a uterus.

Gaiuse Strome said...

And great points :)

When certain people say "oh no, compassion", it completely undermines
their original claim of "equality for all human species".


Purple Slurpy said...

I like my ivory tower ;)

Gaiuse Strome said...

You're a great poster PS. I can sometimes be civilized, other times not.

I have seen girls break down in tears when they are told to their face that a mindless embryo has more worth than them. It is a very emotional subject for many uterus owners. Some of these uterus owners identify as genderqueer/intersex, and they find it particularly upsetting that they would be *forced* to give birth if raped. I know one genderqueer who suffers from depression, identifies as a male, and would do anything not to get pregnant. She won't even have sex. But what if she's raped? She would rip her stomach apart with scissors to free herself of a forced rape pregnancy and if that failed, she would kill herself.

And the sad part? The most heartless pro-lifers tell her that she is a worthless baby killer if she just happens to be depressed and suicidal over being treated like an easy bake oven. These are real people, real people who can suffer, and suffer dearly. An embyro can't suffer. Why should something that can't suffer take precedence over someone who can?

Purple Slurpy said...

Thanks, you bring good facts and figures to the table as well.

Now that I think of it, whether women who self-abort should be punished or not is a very critical point. By the nature of abortion, it is a "murder crime" in which a person can kill another person simply by, for example punching herself repeatedly, without involving anyone else.

As a society, we look extremely unfavorably upon mothers who kill their own born babies. I don't hear anyone saying Andrea Yates should be punished by sending her to therapy sessions where Enya is played in the background and there is a lot of crying and hugging.
Yet a woman who self-aborts, and if abortion is made illegal, history tells us these cases WILL occur, should be sympathized with? WTF?

Laws are ways we instill a certain moral standard upon society. As such, they BETTER be applied consistently, or the whole order of society will suffer.

The fact that Ms. Spacecat thinks nothing of forcing a rape victim, even as young as 12, to have the baby because "universal human rights", and yet thinks intentional miscarriage woman needs to not be prosecuted kind of shows why the pro-life debate is not built on logic or empiricism. Pro-life laws that outlaw abortion are actually stupid, impractical laws.

If I were a young, pro-choice person with more time on my hands, I would go to a pro-life march, and side with pro-lifers by screaming "Draw and quarter those baby killing mothers, and rape victims who abort!!!" Because I like consistent application of the law.

Gaiuse Strome said...

and yet thinks intentional miscarriage woman needs to not be prosecuted
kind of shows why the pro-life debate is not built on logic or

Exactly. This is what baffles me. Now, there are pro-lifers who really *truly* believe that every zygote is a person, and that women who abort are cold hearted murderers - they are the true believers. They want women who abort to get the death penalty or go to prison for life. And then you have the pro-life terrorists - people who go out and kill abortion doctors and their staff.

Pro-life condemns these people, but I have seen them, on the various right-wing forums that I visit, say out loud that "I am glad that the abortionist is dead, no more babies will die, but it's bad for our PR"

So, the question is, how many of them *truly* want to punish women for miscarrying/abortion, because they believe that embryos ARE actual infants, but just won't say so out loud because it looks bad? How many don't really believe that abortion is murder, but just want it illegal so that they can ensure that every baby is born?

And here is one of the problems...if you have to justify subjugating women to unborn humans, then those unborn humans *absolutely* must have equal footing with women as 100% persons, with all of the attendant rights. And this will mean that every miscarriage MUST be treated as a potential crime scene. That IVF etc must be outlawed. That certain methods of birth control, uterine ablation, uterine artery embolization - anything that can harm an embryo/baby should be outlawed, and that punishments be levied the same as they would if someone shot a toddler in the head.

Here is a little thought experiment that I like. Say that there is a baby killing clinic in your town. Where women bring in their newborns and their toddlers to be dismembered. This is completely legal. How would you react? Would you shrug your shoulders, write your congressman, and maybe do a little bit of picketing? Would you be arguing on the internet about whether or not women should have the right to dismember their toddlers?

Purple Slurpy said...

Exactly, bad for PR, bad that is EXACTLY what making abortion illegal, and putting embryos and fetuses on equal footing means.

I have to at least respect the crazies who believe that such women should even get the death penalty, because they are merely applying laws concerning murder as it currently stands.

Gaiuse Strome said...

I have to at least respect the crazies who believe that such women should even get the death penalty


I have mentioned it before, on this blog, and they get quite upset, because it is an uncomfortable truth.

Purple Slurpy said...

This brings up the difference between merely feeling that abortion is immoral or bad, and trying to make it illegal. I have no qualms about people who are "personally pro-life". Hell, I am "personally pro-life". But using that to legislate means FULLY understanding the implications of such a law.

Gaiuse Strome said...

Hell, I am "personally pro-life".

Me too. They accuse us of hating babies, but man, I want there to be as much societal support as possible to help pregnant women and their babies. Every embryo, if it is going to be born, should receive as much prenatal care and nutrition as possible. Infant mortality *must* be lowered. Every baby must be given the help that it *deserves*.

I have often wondered, wouldn't it be great if every baby could be born? Just think of all of the wonderful humans who could share the planet with us? Wouldn't it be great?

But would it, really? We tend to assume that life, specifically, more human life, is always good. But is it really? Is non-existence really so bad? One of the negative aspects of 'too much human life' is that life gets devalued. Just look at China and India - too many people, and the majority are poor and treated like slaves. And too many people puts a strain on resources, which lowers the living standard for all. I would prefer that people have quality of life over quantity. That they have every opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

Now, apparently, all of this makes me a heartless baby killer? Yes, I am serious. I am a socoipath, because I do not believe that every baby needs to be born (even though, in a perfect world, that might be wonderful).

Purple Slurpy said...

Kelsey talks about demographics. One thing she didn't mentions here is that more highly educated people tend to be more pro-choice. Same goes for other issues like marriage equality, acceptance of evolution, acceptance of climate science etc. Is this merely because well-educated women have lost touch with their maternal instincts, and should stop trying to join the rat race and just stay home and cook and watch kids? Or is it because well-educated people in general tend to view issues from a multitude of angles, and think about the consequences and societal costs of their positions?

If well-educated women are just not in touch with the mother within, and this leads to a wrong view about abortion, does the same apply to their overwhelming support of other socially progressive issues?

Gaiuse Strome said...

You wrote this post..and then it disappeared:

Purple Slurpy

Kelsey talks about demographics. One thing she didn't mentions here is that more highly educated people tend to be more pro-choice. Same goes for other issues like marriage equality, acceptance of evolution, acceptance of climate science etc. Is this merely because well-educated women have lost touch with their maternal instincts, and should stop trying to join the rat race and just stay home and cook and watch kids? Or is it because well-educated people in general tend to view issues from a multitude of angles, and think about the consequences and societal costs of their positions?

If well-educated women are just not in touch with the mother within, and this leads to a wrong view about abortion, does the same apply to their overwhelming support of other socially progressive issues?

1:37 p.m., Monday Sept. 15


Disqus hiccup?

Purple Slurpy said...

Felt it not relevant to conversation.

Gaiuse Strome said...

I can edit it out if you want. But it's entirely relevant. if we look at the forest, and not just the trees.

In the bigger picture, it's all about social control.

Why do you think churches want more babies to be born?

Why do you think nations want the same?

Often, conversations with pro-lifers are peppered with concern about 'the future economy' and whatnot.

Is it ethical to create more people just to exploit them? To create future slave labour for capitalism? Is endless growth really a good thing? Do resources exist in infinite supply?

Gaiuse Strome said...

I am glad to have been exposed to this point of view, and appreciate the time you took to express it.

lady_black said...

Andrea Yates shouldn't be "punished" at all. Andrea Yates is tragically mentally ill and not at all responsible for her actions. Andrea Yates is a great example of what happens when an unstable woman is treated, not merely as an Easy Bake Oven, but as solely responsible for all the tiny cakes she is forced to bake without help and without even the break most of us get when our kids go to school. Andrea Yates is a victim. A victim of her husband and her church.

Gaiuse Strome said...

Tiny cakes :)

lady_black said...

Actually, dead bodies have more rights than you want to give to women.

lady_black said...

Yeah, Schiavo was in PVS, as proved in the autopsy. She wasn't "minimally conscious," she couldn't track balloons with her eyes because she was brain-blind. And in any case, any person has the right to refuse being maintained in the state she was in, and if unable to state her wishes herself, spouse becomes proxy by law. I have already informed my spouse and family that under no circumstances am I to be maintained in that condition as a body whose entire world was limited to the dimensions of the bed she occupied. And no "advocacy group" has any damn right sticking their nose in. What was done to that woman by religious busybodies and "advocates" is a disgrace, and shameful.

lady_black said...

And harvesting organs is also something no one has any right to do without consent.

lady_black said...

The evidence that "she would have wanted this" is generally vested in the next-of-kin for a person who is incapable of making their wishes known themselves. The young are not known for drafting living wills. What the outcome is for someone in an irreversibly non-conscious state is the right of the next of kin to make.

Purple Slurpy said...

That was actually me, tried to delete earlier reply, didn't work, so just shortened it to 'K'. I'm glad you found my reply enlightening. Come again.

Gaiuse Strome said...

I know :) I am a very silly person!

I edited my last post to you, in case you want to do more reading on the subject of demographics without going off topic.

What is S/N ratio btw?

Purple Slurpy said...

Signal-to-Noise ratio. I felt it better to keep to implications of the anti-abortion law without going too far afield, and ending up as a shouting match about my ovaries.

Gaiuse Strome said...

No problem. I like to look at the subject from all angles. I always prefer the bigger picture, because it's less upsetting that way, too.

I find that when you look deep, really deep, at a lot of the conflict between humans, that economics, mainly resources, are to blame:P

Purple Slurpy said...

who cares?

Purple Slurpy said...

Agree, in some ways I think the Bible is profound in its portrayal of the Garden of Eden. If resources are plentiful, a T-rex would let a man use it for pony rides. And abortion wouldn't be necessary.

Gaiuse Strome said...

. If resources are plentiful, a T-rex would let a man use it for pony


And abortion wouldn't be necessary.

It goes deeper than that. We humans have always manipulated our populations..and our environment. But, in the end, we are at the mercy of our environment - an environment that we help to create, and then which can come back and bite us in the ass:P

But, what I mean by manipulating our population, is that even hunter gatherer tribes have purposely worked to create more boys (by killing female babies) in order to create more warriors, for the purposes of fighting get more resources from competing tribes.

Historically, female infants have been left to die because females are consumers, not doers. Especially where childbirth is not something that the female can control - she spends her life making babies and working as a home-maker. I do believe that you have alluded to this in previous posts - in certain societies, if a woman's *only* worth is in her value as a caretaker and a babymaker, she is treated as just another cow. Livestock, really.

Giving women the choice to plan their own reproductive lives frees them from the shackles of anatomy as destiny. It frees men too - no longer are families weighed down by 12+ kids that they can't feed. I mean, even *if* we lived in a Garden of Eden, where resources are plentiful, would there be any point to every woman having 20 kids until she dies? Being pregnant her entire life? And what if artificial wombs are invented some day. do we have a moral obligation to create the maximum number of people, especially if resources are infinite?

As for population manipulation in modern times, generally speaking, whenever a leader wants to limit access to abortion or contraception, it is usually due to ulterior motives. Hitler wanted more Aryan soldiers, so he banned abortion/bcp and demanded that german women produce at least 4 children. In the 1950s, the dictator of Romania wanted to grow the economy, and the best way to do that was to create more people, so he made pregnancy *mandatory*

Why does the RCC prohibit abortion and contraception? Because, if people aren't having babies, where do the new converts come from? And from converts A 10pct tithe.

In the end, imo, it all comes down to resources. Everything we humans do is because of resources, economics. We are really just clever animals, and we are at the mercy of our environment.

I am an environmental determinist.


Oh, and if people truly, deeply cared about the 'sanctity' of life, they would not want to go to war. They would be concerned about Iraqi fetuses being bombed and poisoned. The US pro-lifer movement doesn't appear to be concerned about those fetuses dying, does it? It's because...our 'care', for the most part, is restricted to in-group members, about making our group more powerful. Those other groups...they don't really count as people.

Purple Slurpy said...


I really appreciate your posts. Your post about "what would change your mind" is the one that got me thinking about this topic in the first place, where I was by default pro-choice. And I liked your life equations post, as it recognizes that there are valid concerns on both sides. I posted the original, and somehow my name got changed to "Guest", but this more nuanced view is often missing when I read things other bloggers on this site write.

As I've said, many pro-choice people are "personally pro-life", and if everyone left it at that, it may not be so necessary to consider the nuances and implications as much and just focus on the pure question of "when does life begin" etc. But as soon as either side starts pushing to make new laws, the abortion debate needs to balance both ethical and practical concerns, and nuanced view that recognizes tradeoffs becomes vital.

Gaiuse Strome said...

A PVS patient is not legally dead.

No, not legally, because the brainstem is at least responsible for respiration.

However, next of kin can still choose to discontinue life support for those who have permanently lost all higher brain function.

I would like to hear your opinion though...should removing a feeding tube from a PVS patient be treated as murder?

Ms. Spacecat said...

There are extremists on the prochoice side too. See

I have read prochoice arguments and discussions in which people have said that churches should be burned down, the Pope should be charged with crimes against humanity, women who knowingly give birth to disabled babies should be socially ostracised or even charged with child abuse, people who express prolife views should be beaten up, etc. In the discussion thread for Monday's post Plum Dumpling says that she has the right to kill prolifers because they are "raping her with their laws". The prochoicers who comment on this forum are generally far more judgemental and hostile towards anyone who disagrees with them than the prolifers. I am NOT saying that most prochoicers are like this. I think most of them are reasonable people who sincerely believe that legal abortion helps women.

So you are saying that if we really believe that abortion is murder, then if a woman self-aborts we should demand that she be convicted and imprisoned for murder? That we should declare war on abortion the way your country has declared war on terrorism, war on crime, war on drugs? How are those wars going? The reason why those wars are such costly, violent failures is that they take a retributive, rather than a restorative approach towards problems of violence and injustice. When we choose to declare war on a problem then we adopt a system of thought in which we must identify and assign blame to those who are personally responsible for the problem. These are our enemies. In this case, it would be those who commit or procure abortions. Next we must subdue the enemy and stamp out their will to fight. And if we capture them they must be punished for their wrongdoing. None of this addresses the root cause of the problem, it makes our "enemies" more dangerous and creates a more callous and brutal society.

When we take a restorative approach to the problem we ask how we can clean up this social mess and how we can restore the human bonds that have been broken. See
for more about restorative justice, in this case as it applies to crime. And yes, I do think we should have compassion for someone who shoots up a mall or school. That doesn't mean I don't think they shouldn't be held accountable for their actions or that they should go free. Dangerous people need to be restrained to protect others. A woman who has had an abortion is not dangerous the way a mass murderer is dangerous, so treating them the same doesn't make sense.

Ms. Spacecat said...

What would stop her from trying it again? Better social, economic and emotional support for women facing an unwanted pregnancy.
If you can show me some evidence that jailing such women would provide more protection for the unborn, help the women achieve healing and be beneficial to society then I will rethink my position.

Purple Slurpy said...

Hi Ms. Spacecat

Yes, I agree there should be an effort made to understand the circumstances which causes someone to do something horrible. I think there is room for sympathy for a woman who kills her abusive husband, and account of this should be taken in her sentencing, but she should not get off scoff free either. Murder is murder.

Now you agree that some women choose abortion because they truly feel desperate. May be she was a teenage rape victim. If this girl has no safe options for a legal option, and she sees that self-abortive women are treated with compassion, do you think she will carry a pregnancy she desperately doesn't want, or do you think she will do something very dangerous to her self? All I'm asking you to do here is practically consider the consequences of making abortion illegal. Sure, a woman who induces a miscarriage is probably not dangerous in the way a serial killer is. However, if we make a law that doesn't have realistic punishments, what is to stop her from doing it again? And if there are no legal abortions, she will most likely do it in an unsafe manner. How is that "pro-life?"

The problem with your "restorative justice" approach is 2 fold. If we go with restorative justice, you are not dis-incentivizing women doing something very dangerous to themselves. If we make abortion punishable in the same way murder is punished, I think that is not what most people want, and there is the potential to make every miscarriage open to investigation, and also falsely convicted. I don't think either case is good at all, do you?

I also brought up the case in Honduras because if you do make abortion a crime akin to murder, all cases of suspicious miscarriages WILL have to be investigated. So barring the stuff I wrote about Right Wingers, it is not far fetched that there could be women who are wrongly accused of self-aborting. Also, you sent me a link about pro-choicers who were violent. Sure, things like bombing abortion clinics and shooting doctors happens on both sides (not). But the thing about the pro-life right wing, is that the same people who are actively trying to legislate away things like gay rights also tend to be VERY pro-life. Do you not see why this is a cause for REAL concern?

And to be clear, I am not American, and do not agree with the US's policy on terrorists, crime, race or drugs. I live here, yes, but I am not American.

Purple Slurpy said...

How quickly can these social and economic support for facing unwanted pregnancies be implemented for a woman who has just self-aborted? And what can you do for a woman who say has been raped? No amount of economic and social support is going to stop certain women from feeling utter revulsion and a sense of violation there.

Jailing such a woman would separate her from a man who could get her pregnant, so I guess that might help the unborn by not getting them conceived in the first place. Also, laws exist for a reason, and if your law banning abortions is because you believe a grave human rights violation is taking place, not having some sort of punishment rather undermines the justification for enacting the law in the first place, don't you think?

Gaiuse Strome said...

Jail rapes happen. Best to just sterilize the woman.

Gaiuse Strome said...

Why should murder and rape be illegal if people are just going to do it anyway?

Purple Slurpy said...

I also think we are arguing 2 slightly different issues. You're arguing for the rights of the unborn above all else, and I'm agreeing with you to a certain extent considering the rights of the unborn, but saying that as a social policy, banning abortion is unrealistic and would likely have societal implications that are undesirable.

I fully agree we should strive for a world where abortion is an unattractive choice for women. Such a world is likely to be a more enlightened and peaceful society because most likely wealth will be more evenly distributed, sexual crimes will be rarer, and pregnancy will not be seen as a negative in the workplace.

However, even in such cases, people will fall through the cracks. Taking away choices for women who have found themselves falling through a crack is still a graver injustice than abortion of an early fetus, at least to me.

Gaiuse Strome said...

I would like to hear your opinion though...should removing a feeding tube from a PVS patient be treated as murder?

Ms. Spacecat said...

As I said, the question of whether a feeding tube should be removed from a PVS patient depends on the circumstances. There are circumstances in which it would clearly be wrong - if a patient had a living will stating that they would want a feeding tube if they were PVS and if the tube was contributing to maintaining the patient's life. In this case, would it be murder for a doctor to remove the tube? This is a specific example of a more general question: If a doctor denies medical care that is wanted by a patient, resulting in the patient's death, should the doctor be charged with murder? I don't know the specifics of the law dealing with such cases, but I don't think the doctor could be charged with murder, since it was withdrawal of treatment rather than a direct action taken to end a patient's life. It's not the same as if he had deliberately poisoned the patient. At most, he could be charged with medical malpractice or negligence, I think.

Ms. Spacecat said...

>> Here is a little thought experiment that I like. Say that there is a baby killing clinic in your town....<<

Pro choicers keep trotting out this argument, so I think it is worthwhile to refute it. If we really believe that dismembering a baby(or zef, if you wish) in her mother's womb is morally equivalent to dismembering a toddler then why don't we all go out and gun down abortionists?

First of all, a number of additional conditions would have to be met before the toddler killing would be equivalent to abortion. It would have to be legal, as you say. It would also have to be widespread and have majority popular support. Most people would think that toddler killing should be legal in at least some circumstances, and only 20% of the population would support a total ban on toddler killing. The decision to kill one's toddler would be commonly regarded as a private family matter that the state should not intervene in. The news and entertainment media would have to be strongly biased in favor of toddler killing. Nonviolent actions by opponents of toddler killing as well as violence directed against the opponents would be largely ignored by the news media. Violent acts committed to stop the killing would be played up by the media and those who were opposed to toddler killing would be depicted as dangerous extremists. Laws would be passed restricting their freedom of speech and assembly.

Under these conditions, would it be justified to kill toddler killers? Remember that toddler killing is allowed by the State. When the State allows an activity and you use force to stop it you are declaring war on the State. Would such a war be justified? To answer this question we need to ask if this war would meet the criteria for a just war under Just War Theory.

The basic criteria for a just war are:

1. A just cause, defending the innocent from attack. Check.

2. Last resort. All nonviolent methods of resolving the situation must have been tried and exhausted, or are clearly not practical. Not yet, by any means.

3. Proportionality. The anticipated benefits of waging the war must be greater than the evil or harm it will do. Not clear at all. How many thousands or millions would die in such a conflict?

4. Probability of success. Would there be a reasonable chance of winning the war? Would it end in a just and lasting peace, with rule of law and the protection of innocent lives? Very unlikely. Studies comparing violent vs. nonviolent resistance such as

show that nonviolent campaigns have a much greater rate of success. Probability of a nation being a democracy five years after a violent insurgency has ended is 4%. Probability of a civil war within ten years of the end of the conflict is 43%.
Let me ask you some questions, Gaiuse Strome. Do you believe that your government's policies are resulting in the deaths of innocent people? If so, why have you not taken up arms against the State to stop this injustice?

Gaiuse Strome said...

Do you believe that your government's policies are resulting in the
deaths of innocent people? If so, why have you not taken up arms against
the State to stop this injustice?

Look at the protests in Ferguson. Look at Occupy Wall Street. Look at Cliven Bundy and his buddies. Look at the open carry freaks. If people were killing toddlers, even if it was *legal* you had better believe that there would be a greater outcry than 1) complain on the internet 2) a few crazies stalking and harassing women outside clinics.

Ms. Spacecat said...

It doesn't follow that a ban on abortion will lead to every miscarriage being investigated as a potential murder. That didn't happen when abortion was illegal. We don't investigate every other natural death as a potential murder either. And there are undoubtedly people who get away with murder by making the crime look like a natural death. I don't necessarily think there should be no penalty for self-aborting. I think such a thing needs to be decided by lawmakers in consultation with experts on restorative justice and post-abortive women who are now prolife.

I am also very concerned that prolife is identified as right wing, and that conservatives who identify as prolife are also against GLBT rights and marriage equality, pro war and the death penalty. I wouldn't even call them prolife. On the other hand, liberals who are pro-peace, pro-environment, anti death penalty and pro social assistance but pro abortion and euthanasia are just as hypocritical. All I can say about this is that more left -wingers need to get involved in the prolife movement, and progressive prolifers need to do outreach to those who work on other progressive causes, showing how the issues are connected. Check out
for more about the connections between issues of violence.

Gaiuse Strome said...

It does follow, because what is to stop women from buying black market pills and aborting at home?

And you are living in a fantasy world if you think that it will be illegal just like it was in the 1950s. Especially if zygotes are given personhood status, that will change everything.

Gaiuse Strome said...

Indeed. So every miscarriage will undoubtedly have to be treated as a potential crime scene.

Ms. Spacecat said...

Right. Just like every natural death is investigated as a potential crime scene.

Gaiuse Strome said...

If abortion is illegal women will definitely try to abort and then claim it was just a miscarriage.
If zefs are people, you just can't expect society to shrug and look the other way. Would you be suspicious of a rash of crib deaths?
And already, with clinic closures in Texas, women are taking black market abortion pills, and the rate of miscarriages has risen.