More bad pro-abortion reasoning

Another bad pro-abortion post tried to wax eloquent about the rights of a woman to control her body:

No one has any right to your body but you. Your body is the one and only thing in your life that is unquestionably yours, that absolutely can never be “made up” to you in any way, shape or form should you lose it or should it be taken from you in any way. Your body, and everything inside it, must belong absolutely and only to you. There is no way that anyone else’s “right” to any part of your body whatsoever can ever trump your moral right to always and forever at any moment in time whatsoever decide what is being done with it.

What that means is, if you give someone permission to touch your body, that permission can be withdrawn at any time. There is no permission that gives anyone a right to the use of any part of your body that you can’t withdraw instantly and forever if you so choose. If you want to end your own life, nobody has any right whatsoever to prevent you from doing so; it’s your body. Nobody else has any right to ever end your life against your will; it’s your life. If you want to donate organs, you should not be hampered in the slightest; if you don’t want to, absolutely NOBODY gets to require that you do so by force. And most notably in the context of abortion, if you choose to use your uterus to cultivate another human life, that is ONLY and ABSOLUTELY and FOREVER your own choice, and as long as your uterus is being used for this situation, you have complete and total control over the course and duration of its use. If at any point you decide you are done with the situation, then that’s that. There is no further moral argument that can be brought to bear that supercedes your absolute right to control of your body, your organs, your life.

It was obviously advancing abortion rights from the perspective of the mother, but read that comment again from the perspective of the unborn.  Consider how well it applies and how firmly the argument was made.

Of course, that argument on behalf of abortion rights always begs the question on two counts.  First, the pregnancy wasn’t a government-forced in vitro fertilization nor an immaculate conception.  It was the logical consequence of an act. 

Second, as with virtually all pro-abortion arguments, it ignores the humanity of the unborn.  Here was my response:

That is an outstanding set of pro-life arguments. You correctly note that human beings have rights that include the right not to be killed. And since we know that it is an indisputable scientific fact that a new human being is created at conception, these rights apply to the unborn.  The unborn is a human embryo then a human fetus. That is a fact. I’m too pro-science to be pro-choice.

Oh, wait, you were talking about the “rights” of the mother to have the unborn human being killed and were completely ignoring the rights of the unborn human being. How ironic.

Seriously, re-read your comments from the perspective of the unborn. Keep in mind that over 50% of the unborn human beings have a uterus as well. And gender selection abortions are the ultimate misogyny, as virtually all of them involve females being killed solely for being female.

0 thoughts on “More bad pro-abortion reasoning”

  1. I guess this comes down to what you’re going to define as a person, and whether or not you care about the mother. Clearly, you have decided that the point of conception is where protections should be engaged for human life, as opposed to earlier, such as ovum and sperm, or even human cells, or later, when there’s actual signs of humanity (brain waves, and such). The other thing is whether or not even if it is a life, if you can condemn an uncontroversially human life needs to be forced to have their life risked and possibly lost for another being. Clearly, you think “no” because you think they need to be punished for sex.

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    1. Hi Antigone,

      I hope you read this carefully. It is a very important topic and the core data I refer to is fact-based and not just opinion.

      Clearly, you have decided that the point of conception is where protections should be engaged for human life, as opposed to earlier, such as ovum and sperm, or even human cells, or later, when there’s actual signs of humanity (brain waves, and such).

      I am going with the clear scientific definition fo when human life begins — http://abort73.com/index.php?/abortion/medical_testimony . I am not aware of any debate about that, only equivocations about “personhood.” “Humanity” is inherent with being a human being, not with the level of the human being’s development. It obviously isn’t just ovum or sperm.

      I guess this comes down to what you’re going to define as a person, and whether or not you care about the mother

      That personal attack against pro-lifers is baseless. If a woman wanted the right to kill her toddler and we opposed that would you make that claim? Of course not. So the question is whether the unborn is a human being worthy of protection. If she is, then we can oppose the abortions and still care about the mother.

      I also address that canard here — Pro-lifers don’t care about kids after they are born? .

      The other thing is whether or not even if it is a life, if you can condemn an uncontroversially human life needs to be forced to have their life risked and possibly lost for another being. Clearly, you think “no” because you think they need to be punished for sex.

      I find it amusing how reflexively pro-abortionists read minds. Where do you all come up with these things? Please read the over 1,000 posts on my blog, many of which deal with the pro-life issue, and back up your claim that I want to punish women for having sex.

      Do you support the rights of men to insist on abortion or to be released from 18 years of financial support? If not, then isn’t your motive to punish them for sex?

      Or do you just use that quip about punishment reflexively so you can demonize pro-lifers? You didn’t come here with a single fact. Not one.

      Where do you get off saying that I’ve “condemned” a human life (e.g., the mother) just because I think it should be wrong to do this — http://www.abort73.com/index.php?/abortion/abortion_pictures/ ? I don’t oppose abortions to save the life of the mother (e.g., ectopic pregnancies). You are just trying to paint pro-lifers as anti-women, which is a lie.

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  2. Oh, and pro-abortion is an unfair (and not true) moniker; we are no more “pro-abortion” than “pro- open heart surgery”. It is a necessary surgery sometimes, but not something one would encourage.

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    1. Antigone, do you oppose government funded abortions here and abroad? If not, then you are in favor of taking other people’s money via taxes to fund abortions. That’s pro-abortion.

      Also, if someone said, “I don’t want slaves myself but I think slavery should be legal,” would you consider them to be pro-choice or pro-slavery on the matter?

      I use pro-abortion because of the reasons above and for brevity. Technically I suppose I should use “pro-legalized-abortion.”

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    2. If you would not encourage it, why not? If the foetus has no right to life, and if abortion is really not dangerous, why not treat it like dental work? Forget safe, legal, and rare: shouldn’t it just be safe and legal?

      Arguably, for some women (those prone to blood clots or the latex-sensitive), abortion could be safer than standard birth control. Why not just encourage those women to not worry about contraception and focus on abortion as a method of limiting reproduction?

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  3. You can’t go to an anti-abortion website and expect me to believe that is an going to give me any unbiased information. And, you also cannot make an assertion and expect me to take it on faith that it’s true. WHY is the point of conception the point that protections should come into place? If it’s because it contains human DNA, then sperm and ovum and cancer and human cells should all be protected, because they all have human DNA. What about conception makes that zygote “human” and even “Human” to the point that it overrides another person’s bodily autonomy? You keep going back to “scientific definition” but there isn’t a “scientific definition” about “life” that anyone can agree on (read about 3 different biology textbooks and each will have a different definition), and the scientific method is not known for it’s ability to make philosophical distinctions- it is merely a process of gleaning evidence.

    And, no, it is fairly clear that you do not care about women’s right to bodily autonomy. In your original post you say

    First, the pregnancy wasn’t a government-forced in vitro fertilization nor an immaculate conception. It was the logical consequence of an act.

    This statement ignores any woman who was a) raped, so it really wasn’t a logical consequence of an act, but b) it also ignores the fact that the possible logical consequence of sex is pregnancy. And, any woman who gets pregnant then has to make a choice, based on that consequence- to get and abortion or to go through a pregnancy. What you’re trying to say is that she should have that right of autonomy revoked because of her “act”- the sex. This is truly akin to outlawing open-heart-surgery because the person choose to be a glutton and therefore deserves to suffer under heart palpitation and death. How is anything BUT a punishment if you force someone to do something with their own body against their will?

    The right to an abortion (and birth control and other things) is not a matter of a “right” not to be a parent, and conflating the two things is a great disservice to the debate. It is about the right to use your body as you see fit, not about responsibilities to your children, or responsibilities to your community. It is about the very essence of self. I cannot be anything other than the fleshy body I inhabit, and forcing me to incubate a parasite because you have existential hang-ups does not seem like a fair balancing of rights at all. Money does not constitute the essence of one’s being- in a world without money, you’d still be who you were.

    And, no one should be swayed because of how icky pictures look. Again, open-heart surgery is disgusting- I wouldn’t want people to ban it because it looks icky. I find it funny that you accuse me of no facts, but your “facts” are conjecture and assertions.

    And, if you wish brevity, the moniker “pro-choice” is what we call ourselves. If you wish to have neutral terms, the phrase “pro-reproductive rights” is generally the excepted moniker. “Pro-abortion” we most emphatically am not- we don’t want anyone forced to get an abortion EITHER. I would accept pro-legalized-abortion as a compromise, if you wish.

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    1. I believe that all people are equal.

      Men are equal to women. Blacks are equal to whites. Jews are equal to Muslims.

      I believe that people have equal rights, and the systems of oppression that create injustice are wrong

      At various points in various places under various laws it has even been legal to kill certain persons because they were not regarded as human beings. Since there is such a tremendous level of historical injustice about how is and isn’t regarded as fully human, surely you can agree with the following:

      It is very important to know who is and is not a human being. Human beings clearly have rights, whereas non-human beings do not have those rights of the same sort.

      Among these rights are that no human being may ever under any circumstances be owned by another human being.

      Antigone, when exactly does human life begin? It is a simple question, because after that instant abortion is wrong.

      And, are black babies, jewish babies, female babies, gay babies, and disabled babies entitled to the same protections that white male babies receive?

      I look forward to dialoging with you on this and other important matters.

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    2. This is truly akin to outlawing open-heart-surgery because the person choose to be a glutton and therefore deserves to suffer under heart palpitation and death. How is anything BUT a punishment if you force someone to do something with their own body against their will?

      Better analogy: it’s like not allowing lung cancer patients to kill other people by harvesting their healthy lungs.

      We do not deny medical care to pregnant women. That should be obvious. If you’ve missed the part where Medicaid covers pregnant women who earn up to 133% of the FPL and emergency rooms must take women in active labour, well, that’s your issue, but that’s not what we are talking about here.

      Your entire argument is predicated on ignoring not just the humanity, but the entire existence of the unborn child. Since, however, there is another being whose life would be ended if you were to have your way, your logic fails.

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    3. You keep going back to “scientific definition” but there isn’t a “scientific definition” about “life” that anyone can agree on (read about 3 different biology textbooks and each will have a different definition), and the scientific method is not known for it’s ability to make philosophical distinctions- it is merely a process of gleaning evidence.

      True, but none of them would exclude human embryos from the definition of “living things.”

      (I say this as a chemical engineer who has taken more than her share of science classes… and probably more science classes than you’ve taken, FYI.)

      The debate about what is living and what is not living is about what definitions are used. (No definition I’ve ever seen would exclude a human embryo.) While everyone agrees that bacteria and other unicellular organisms are living things, not everyone agrees whether or not viruses are “life.” Again, that does not apply to the unborn.

      Here’s the challenge for you: find a single, commonly-accepted definition of “living thing” that excludes human embryos.

      I know for certain that you cannot do it, since the very reason that women seek abortions and not medical treatment for a miscarriage is that their babies are alive and growing. There’s a tremendous amount of intellectual dishonesty in hiding behind obscure scientific definitions in order to avoid the obvious: abortions are performed for the sole purpose of ending a human life.

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  4. You can’t go to an anti-abortion website and expect me to believe that is an going to give me any unbiased information.

    That is an example of the genetic fallacy. If I took that seriously then I’d ignore everything you offered, including your comment here, because you are pro-abortion. The question is whether that pro-life site is giving accurate information regarding what mainstream embryology textbooks document as scientific facts.

    And, you also cannot make an assertion and expect me to take it on faith that it’s true.

    I’m not sure what you are referring to, but that makes sense. That is why I provided references to scientific books.

    WHY is the point of conception the point that protections should come into place? If it’s because it contains human DNA, then sperm and ovum and cancer and human cells should all be protected, because they all have human DNA.

    The point is that it is a scientific fact that at conception a new human being has been created.

    What about conception makes that zygote “human” and even “Human” to the point that it overrides another person’s bodily autonomy?

    What kind of a zygote is it? Human. What kind of an embryo or fetus gets destroyed in an abortion? Human fetus, human embryo . . . human toddler, human teen.

    You beg the question, as usual, with the bodily autonomy argument. You deliberately ignore the autonomy of the distinct human being that gets destroyed.

    You keep going back to “scientific definition” but there isn’t a “scientific definition” about “life” that anyone can agree on (read about 3 different biology textbooks and each will have a different definition), and the scientific method is not known for it’s ability to make philosophical distinctions- it is merely a process of gleaning evidence.

    That is where you are wrong. You are making an assertion without backing it up. Go check out all the embryology textbooks that site refers to. Or go find some that differ with it.

    You are right about the scientific and philosophical distinctions. What I repeatedly demonstrate is that you have to be anti-science to argue against the fact that a new human is created at conception. Pro-abortionists dodge that by jumping to emotional philosophical arguments about autonomy and conveniently ignore the science.

    And, no, it is fairly clear that you do not care about women’s right to bodily autonomy. In your original post you say

    First, the pregnancy wasn’t a government-forced in vitro fertilization nor an immaculate conception. It was the logical consequence of an act.

    This statement ignores any woman who was a) raped, so it really wasn’t a logical consequence of an act, but b) it also ignores the fact that the possible logical consequence of sex is pregnancy. And, any woman who gets pregnant then has to make a choice, based on that consequence- to get and abortion or to go through a pregnancy. What you’re trying to say is that she should have that right of autonomy revoked because of her “act”- the sex. This is truly akin to outlawing open-heart-surgery because the person choose to be a glutton and therefore deserves to suffer under heart palpitation and death. How is anything BUT a punishment if you force someone to do something with their own body against their will?

    Other than the case of rape, which I address separately (http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/09/10/the-hard-cases/) but ignored here to address 99+% of the cases, the logic holds. You want to pretend that pregnancy isn’t a logical consequence of having sex. You want to use the rape example to address 99% of the non-rape cases as well.

    Your emotional sound bite about “forcing” someone to do something with their own body against their will ignores the body of the one getting killed via abortion. Please try to come up with an argument that doesn’t beg the question like that.

    The open heart surgery example doesn’t apply. No innocent human being gets deliberately destroyed with those.

    The right to an abortion (and birth control and other things) is not a matter of a “right” not to be a parent, and conflating the two things is a great disservice to the debate. It is about the right to use your body as you see fit, not about responsibilities to your children, or responsibilities to your community. It is about the very essence of self. I cannot be anything other than the fleshy body I inhabit, and forcing me to incubate a parasite because you have existential hang-ups does not seem like a fair balancing of rights at all.

    Again, you keep proving the point of my post and ignoring the right of the body of the human being killed during abortion. Do you do that reflexively or do you even realize you are doing it? The parasite language would be comical if the subject weren’t so serious. I really don’t mind you using it, because even though you’ll probably never give up your pro-abortion views it is great for the middle ground to see you write like that. They realize how ridiculous those arguments are.

    And, no one should be swayed because of how icky pictures look. Again, open-heart surgery is disgusting- I wouldn’t want people to ban it because it looks icky. I find it funny that you accuse me of no facts, but your “facts” are conjecture and assertions.

    Please explain how pictures of the subject being debated would not be relevant. How do pictures of the aborted human beings qualify as conjecture or assertions? They just provide evidence for what abortions really do.

    And, if you wish brevity, the moniker “pro-choice” is what we call ourselves. If you wish to have neutral terms, the phrase “pro-reproductive rights” is generally the excepted moniker. “Pro-abortion” we most emphatically am not- we don’t want anyone forced to get an abortion EITHER. I would accept pro-legalized-abortion as a compromise, if you wish.

    So do you refer to pro-lifers as pro-lifers, or as anti-choicers? Just curious.

    I’m fine with using the label of pro-legalized-abortion.

    “Reproductive rights” is a sad euphemism. It might rightly apply to birth control, but not abortion. How about the rights of the innocent human being who has already been reproduced?

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    1. And, no one should be swayed because of how icky pictures look. Again, open-heart surgery is disgusting- I wouldn’t want people to ban it because it looks icky.

      Neil, I think you missed an opportunity here: the distinction between how doctors feel about these procedures.

      Many physicians (and non-physicians, like myself) find the working human body to be absolutely fascinating. To us, open-heart surgery is not gross or disgusting; it’s actually really cool. Surgeons can happily practise for years.

      Abortionists, on the other hand, struggle with the morality of their work. No amount of “reproductive justice” propaganda can convince them, really, that what they are doing is the equivalent of open-heart surgery. There are abortionists like Dr. Bernard Nathanson who leave their jobs to become pro-life advocates; they understand the ramifications of their work. Many nurses start off very pro-choice, but end up leaving the profession or becoming pro-life activists.

      That is because the “ick” of abortion is not the “ick” of open-heart surgery – the blood, the veins, all the things that should be kept inside of a human but are outside so that a person can become well – but of a well person dying. It is the “ick” of a crime scene, not the “ick” of a lifesaving medical treatment.

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      1. It is the “ick” of a crime scene, not the “ick” of a lifesaving medical treatment.

        Well said, and thanks for filling all that in!

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      1. Not sure if you meant Theobromophile or me, but I’ll be glad to step in front of that compliment 😉 .

        And if it was pointed at me, I’d say we probably agree on quite a bit. We just spend most of our time on the topics where we don’t agree.

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      2. It was for you Neil, although I should really compliment you both. You’d make an odd couple but as a pro-life tag team you take some beating!

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  5. What that means is, if you give someone permission to touch your body, that permission can be withdrawn at any time.

    By that line of reasoning, a woman would be totally justified in killing her baby a day before its due date.

    That absurdity aside, their analysis fails (at least legally, if not morally). While you are never responsible for keeping someone else alive, you are responsible for doing so if you created the situation in which they are dependent upon you. The classic example is a person who is drowning in the ocean. You, as a boater with a life preserver, are under no obligation to help them out of the water. If, however, you were the one who chucked her overboard, then watched her drown, you can bet that a jury would convict your immoral butt for murder, not for ruining her clothes by getting her wet.

    Likewise, you are under no obligation to give a dying person a kidney to save his life, but, if you ripped his kidneys out of his body, you would be charged with murder if he died from those injuries. If the only way to avoid his death is to give him your kidneys, you can bet that your options are to fork over an organ or be charged with murder.

    Just saying.

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  6. I think all the talk about the scientific definition of the beginning of life is moot. Sure life begins at conception, in a scientific sense. In a scientific sense, a human heart in a cooler awaiting transplant is alive as well, probably more so.

    I don’t think that 200 cells in a tiny ball is a human being. What about a person who has been in a devastating accident? I won’t make this gory, but what if the body is in a condition that could in no way support life (use your imagination), but there are organs that are intact and healthy. If this person is hooked up to machines that keep the heart pumping for the purposes of organ harvesting, is he alive?

    I am not in the hard-core pro-choice camp. I think I’ve told you that my son was born several months before he could have been legally aborted. I think abortion needs to be limited to the first 3-4 months, preferably earlier, but there are cases when abortion is best for the mother and baby.

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    1. I think all the talk about the scientific definition of the beginning of life is moot.

      What could possibly be more important than establishing what happens during an abortion? How could you debate it otherwise? If the unborn is a human being — and she most certainly is if you take science seriously — then abortion kills a human being. If you think that is OK, then make your philosophical arguments for it. But the science is foundational.

      I don’t think that 200 cells in a tiny ball is a human being.

      OK, be anti-science if you like. But the fact is that a new human being is created at conception.

      You may not consider yourself to be in the “hard-core pro-choice camp,” but you are in the camp making it legal to crush and dismember over 3,000 innocent human beings per day in the U.S.

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      1. I think it’s important to note that the most serious legal and philosophical advocates of abortion openly admit that we are talking about human life.

        Logically it’s rather difficult to say we’re NOT dealing with human.

        Rather, they make the best argument they have, that some individuals do not deserve legal protections, or alternatively, that there are rights that trump the right to life. And I respect those arguments, because they are serious arguments and are being honest about the realities of the situation.

        And that’s why most Americans, and most rational individuals, are pro-life once they consider the topic in a rational fashion. All human beings deserve civil rights, and they recognize that the pro-abortion argument is ultimately one of denying the core civil right (life) to millions of people.

        At the core of dialog is an agreement on basic definitions, and that must always come first.

        When does life begin? Because once a human life begins, it is wrong to take that life. We can discuss this in a multitude of ways:
        1) Which trimester (1-3)
        2) Which month (1-9)
        3) Which week (1-40)
        4) Which day (1-280)
        5) Or we can pick major benchmarks, like heartbeat, brain waves, ability to feel pain, or even viability outside the womb.

        But just about every can agree that life begins before the entire body leaves the womb. So when, then, does it begin? At what point is it murder?

        Ryan, to mix metaphors, there is a lot of quacking going on with pre-born babies for them not to be ducks.

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      2. I thought I was clear that I disagree strongly with almost every late abortion. My son was born at 24 weeks (2nd trimester) and grabbed my hand as soon as he came out. If I had to ballpark a time where abortion was okay, I’d say anything before the 16 week period would be okay with me. That is long before the baby develops the ability to feel anything at all.

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      3. The “abortions are ok when the human being can’t feel anything” stance ignores the logical conclusion that just providing anesthetic to late term abortions would make them all ok as well.

        Oh, and it would justify painless murder outside the womb at any age. You could kill your toddler in her sleep without pain.

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      4. That is totally off-base. I’m using those criteria as indicators of the beginning of a new person, since I was asked directly when I thought it starts, and you turn that into justifying killing a toddler.

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      5. No, you used the ability to feel pain as a criterion to distinguish when it is acceptable to kill innocent human beings (assuming I’m responding to the right comment here . . . I’m doing this from my SmartPhone). And you can easily kill people outside the womb without pain.

        Therefore, your argument can’t justify abortion. It only supports the requirement to use anesthesia on the unborn whenever there is the possibility that she would feel pain. But pro-legalized abortionists fight that tooth and nail. Guess why?

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      6. My criteria is not whether or not pain can be felt, it’s whether or not the brain has developed sufficiently to feel pain, or feel pleasure for that matter. Once the brain has reached that point, and from that point on, I feel that we have a person. I don’t favour abortions anywhere near that point unless the mother is at risk.

        Does that make my point more clear? I don’t like my views being compared with the right for us to murder toddlers, if you don’t mind. I think you know I’m not like that.

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      7. Ryan,

        You “feel” that we have a person once they can feel pain? Swell. My point is that your criterion is totally arbitrary and supports the destruction of far more than you are willing to permit.

        I also don’t see any meaningful difference between “whether pain can be felt” or “whether the brain has developed sufficiently to feel pain.”

        Yes, I’m not saying you favor killing toddlers. I know you wouldn’t advocate that. I’m just pointing out that your argument proves too much. It would permit killing anyone of any age provided that it was pain-free. I’m just taking your argument to its logical conclusions.

        In short, if you want to rationalize abortion I encourage you to skip the pain argument. All it does is demonstrate that you should be insisting on anesthetic for all abortions after a particular time when you think the unborn begin to feel pain.

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      8. OK, I’ll skip the pain argument. I think that when the brain develops the functions where “feeling” or “thinking” or “any kind of awareness is possible, we are long past the point where I favour abortion. Is that better? Not when those functions are active, but from the point they develop, to the natural end of life. That gets rid of your anaesthetic argument.

        We both agree on protective precious human life, we just disagree on when it begins.

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      9. I seriously appreciate the concession on the pain argument. Great progress.

        Now I would ask you to ponder why you are so keen on finding other reasons to prop up your arbitrary point of when you are uncomfortable with abortion. You don’t have to reply here. I just encourage you to think about it.

        To your specific point, it is also abitrary and also proves too much. People in comas, people sleeping, etc. would be in danger.

        We both agree on protective precious human life, we just disagree on when it begins

        I stick with the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception. I hold the philosophical view that it is precious at all stages. You have some arbitrary and shifting guidelines on when it becomes precious.

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    2. Ryan,

      All good questions. A lot of the pro-life position is concerned with the dignity of the individual at every stage of life (embryo, pregnant, or on death’s door).

      I don’t think that 200 cells in a tiny ball is a human being.

      If Neil did not mention it, I will: by the time a pregnancy test comes out positive, the embryo’s heart has begun to beat. (This happens at about 5 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, or three weeks after conception.) Intuitively, we all understand that a ball of cells does not begin to spontaneously form into a human shape, with differentiated cell structure, after the very earliest point of life. It’s just that we’ve heard the “ball of cells” canard so many times that it’s tough to recognise it for the scientific inaccuracy that it is.

      Some more fun stuff about early embryos: women’s level of morning sickness is an indicator of intelligence later in life. The foods that a pregnant woman craves are, again, an indicator of pickiness (and culinary affinity) later in life. Even when the blastocyst is really just a ball of cells, scientists can figure out which parts of that “ball of cells” will become which parts of a human.

      If you’ve never seen “4D” ultrasounds, check this out (or just google “4D ultrasound). The link I provided is to an ultrasound at 10 weeks – well within the time that you condone abortion on demand.

      Next comment: euthanasia-related issues.

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    3. I won’t make this gory, but what if the body is in a condition that could in no way support life (use your imagination), but there are organs that are intact and healthy. If this person is hooked up to machines that keep the heart pumping for the purposes of organ harvesting, is he alive?

      Scientifically, of course. Philosophically, yes. Thing is about humans: none of us are really “viable” without some form of intervention. Of course, we all need food, nourishment, and a climate that is hospitable to us. When we encounter accidents, viruses, infections, or the like, we are in need of artificial medical treatment to keep us alive. Some people just need antibiotics; others need transplants, blood transfusions, or surgery. Alive they remain, and no one doubts that.

      From a pragmatic perspective, there is a tremendous amount of harm that comes from considering those at the end of life to be not really alive, or not really human. In Washington v. Glucksburg (1993, I think), the Supreme Court ruled that there was no constitutional right to die; in part of its reasoning, it cited the Netherlands, in which at least 5% of people who had “assisted suicide” had not consented to the procedure. In the 21st century, most studies show that this number is closer to 20%.

      Couple that with situations such as in Oregon, when the state agreed to pay for assisted suicide but not for some cancer treatments, and even the most hardened pro-euthanasia advocate can see that there are serious problems in treating the old and the sick as if they do not have a right to life.

      Without that right to life, one is not alive.

      Leaving aside the issue of whether or not the hospital has done everything possible to save the patient, rather than treating him as a source of organs to save more deserving lives, the question is not whether he is alive (which he is) but is about the potential he has. Obviously, this is the exact opposite of the question of an embryo: no one doubts that a child – let alone the youngest of them all – has an entire lifetime of potential ahead of it.

      My ultimate belief is that, whether or not the person is still “himself” or has potential to live a “meaningful” life, he is still a member of the human race and worthy of dignity. Once we let go of that standard and attempt to draw another one (often based upon potential, abilities, or the meaning of one’s life), we open ourselves up to the grisly possibilities that are a reality in the Netherlands and have been a reality in the most horrifying of human events (gas chambers, exposing infants, etc).

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      1. “Washington v. Glucksburg” – more popularly known as Washington vs Glucksberg, 1997, doesn’t appear to cite the Netherlands at all. Perhaps you could provide a reference for your statistical claim that “at least 5% of people who had “assisted suicide” had not consented to the procedure. In the 21st century, most studies show that this number is closer to 20%.”

        “My ultimate belief is that, whether or not the person is still “himself” or has potential to live a “meaningful” life, he is still a member of the human race and worthy of dignity.” Can we assume that you’re therefore anti-capital punishment then?

        Philosophically you’ll find plenty of people who don’t believe that somebody who is brain dead and kept alive only by machines is a person. Perhaps we could consider the radical idea that this is not a black and white issue, and that both life and personhood might exist on a continuum?

        Probably not.

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      2. I’ll consider that “radical” idea, so long as you take it to its logical conclusion. Find a principled reason to draw the line where you do, and I’ll find a principled reason to draw it elsewhere. Once we’ve thrown human = human out the window, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

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    4. I’d say anything before the 16 week period would be okay with me. That is long before the baby develops the ability to feel anything at all.

      (Replying to the “pain” issue before this becomes a one-word-thick column discussion.)

      As Neil said, the “pain” criteria for personhood is arbitrary. Why not a beating heart? spinal cord? all organs present? brain waves? self-awareness? human consciousness?

      Until you’ve demonstrated that your line for personhood is drawn in the correct place (i.e. principled in a way that any of the above are not, and not subject to a slippery slope), your position, although a feel-good compromise, does not make sense.

      Thing is, if the line is drawn too far into foetal development, not only do we create a situation that justifies harming other people who are not even part of the abortion debate (as Neil’s examples show), we are condoning the killing of innocents.

      I think it was Aquianas who said that, in a tough or ambiguous situation, we are obligated to choose the morally safer path. If we are unsure of the humanity/personhood of what is the womb, we have two options: 1) allow it to be killed, or 2) protect it. Obviously, the harm from murder far eclipses the harm of “forced pregnancy,” so, when uncertain, we are morally obligated to choose life.

      Now, a final thought: if you would like to see a principled, logically consistent argument for using brain development as a barometer of personhood, read Peter Singer.

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      1. Of all the issues on which Christians and I generally disagree, this one is the most difficult one for me to argue. Honestly, I end up agreeing with a lot of your arguments on this, as long as you don’t bring up “souls” or God. As far as erring on the side of caution on moral issues, I agree that is the best idea when there is doubt. There is a stage of pregnancy where doubt begins for me, and I tried to articulate that point. There is also a stage of pregnancy where there is no doubt for me. If you asked me if it was okay to have an abortion in the first trimester, I would not hesitate for a minute in saying yes. An 8 week old embryo is about 3/4 on an inch long, and you can’t convince me there is a person there yet. (please don’t tell me I’m equating right to life with size – it’s just a comment)

        In no way should my abortion arguments be extended to allow the killing of people after birth. Human rights, once granted, should not be relinquished for any reason at all.

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      2. Ryan,

        Could you not see, however, that someone (like Peter Singer) could put that “personhood” line much further along – like after birth? (An infant, by the way, is not really viable unless we feed it every few hours.)

        While you may not feel any doubt that a foetus, which is 3/4 of an inch long and has all of its organs, is a “person,” a lot of us feel differently. The question about legality is not something for individual choice (otherwise, we’ve just allowed serial killers and rapists a free reign), but about what we, as a society, will tolerate.

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      3. theobromophile,

        Yes, I truly can see why others could move the bar closer to the beginning than me. That’s why I find this issue so difficult to debate, and that’s why I feel that I err on the side of caution when choosing a limit to where abortions should be allowed to occur. It is, however very difficult for me to understand why anyone would move the bar so far as to not allow very early abortions, or even the “morning after pill”, since the only explanation for granting rights to cells in the “pre-embryonic stage” would be on religious grounds.

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      4. How is it religious grounds to say there is unique DNA present and that, as per scientific consensus, constitutes a human being in the early stages of development?

        When we start saying “people in THIS stage of human development gets right but people in THAT stage don’t” you start having a hard time saying why balding men between 45-50 deserve human rights.

        After all, logically speaking, it’s just one stage of human development and we’re now in the business of arbitrary giving rights based on stage.

        Further, Ryan, if you’re going to err on the side of caution wouldn’t the “side of caution” be 100% against abortion?

        Even if there is merely a 1% probability that these are human lives, is that an acceptable margin of error? Just about any other activity that had a 1% probability of having a 100% chance of ending life would be deemed radically illegal.

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      5. As an after though,

        You get onto very dicey ground when you start deciding that what makes a human being is something other than clear scientific evidence of a unique DNA pattern.

        Shouldn’t we base such decisions on scientific evidence and not personal opinion, and when in doubt err on the side of not killing people?

        Bad things tend to happen, historically, when one group of people start saying a different group of people don’t count as humans.

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      6. As Luke noted, we are pointing to scientific grounds and not religious. After conception a new member of the community of human beings exists.

        An 8 week old embryo is about 3/4 on an inch long, and you can’t convince me there is a person there yet. (please don’t tell me I’m equating right to life with size – it’s just a comment)

        I’ve read those words several times and can’t reconcile them. The first part seems to be making a very specific claim, namely that since the embryo is small that it isn’t a “person” (though of course our claim isn’t around the elusive definition of personhood, but of her being a human being).

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      7. A human in the very early stages of development is no more of a human than an acorn is an oak tree.

        If we are to take the definition of human to the very very early stages of fertilization, when one single cell exists, how do you reconcile the fact that your God allows the large majority of them to die? If the definition of a human is a unique set of DNA (which seems far more arbitrary than my definition), then does a human chimera (a person with two or more types of DNA) qualify as two people?

        I don’t think my example is anywhere near a 1% chance of killing a person, since, by definition, I don’t think a person exists in the first trimester in any case at all.

        If you want to play percentages, it should be illegal for a woman to drink, smoke, play a physical sport, or put herself in a stressful situation if she has had sex in the past month, since those activities could easily kill a child she may be carrying.

        I feel you guys are clinging to the fact that semantically (science has nothing to do with it) a new human is formed at conception, because that is the name we give to the species. There is plenty of science that shows that foetuses have very little, if any brain function at certain stages.

        Throw me a bone here, I’ve come a long way in seeing your side. The value in human life, to me, is in our ability to be aware of self, and to experience our lives. If an adult reaches the stage in an illness where that awareness is gone, and it is irreversible, then that person is gone. In the same way, I don’t consider a baby a person until the first traces of that awareness begin. At all points in between, regardless of anything else, that organism is a person, and her life is infinitely valuable. There’s no loophole to kill the unwanted, or dispatch of people who are bald, poor at math, or left handed.

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      8. A human in the very early stages of development is no more of a human than an acorn is an oak tree.

        Anti-scientific quips are still anti-scientific.

        If we are to take the definition of human to the very very early stages of fertilization, when one single cell exists, how do you reconcile the fact that your God allows the large majority of them to die?

        I addressed that on a separate post (http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/really-bad-pro-abortion-arguments/). But it seems to me you aren’t playing fair. Do you want religious reasoning or not? Whatever religious reasoning I give will just be dismissed by you anyway.

        I don’t think my example is anywhere near a 1% chance of killing a person, since, by definition, I don’t think a person exists in the first trimester in any case at all.

        You keep jumping to your personalized definition of personhood, while we are over here dealing with facts.

        I feel you guys are clinging to the fact that semantically (science has nothing to do with it) a new human is formed at conception, because that is the name we give to the species. There is plenty of science that shows that foetuses have very little, if any brain function at certain stages.

        That is a baseless charge. Science has everything to do with it, and the science of embryology is 100% on our side — http://abort73.com/index.php?/abortion/medical_testimony .

        You jump to different philosophical reasons to exclude some human beings from protection — size, ability to feel pain, brain activity, awareness — what’s next? As Luke noted, “Bad things tend to happen, historically, when one group of people start saying a different group of people don’t count as humans.”

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      9. Of course it is a scientific fact that “life” begins at conception – what else could you call something that is biological and growing? Nobody is debating that life, in a scientific sense, exists. The debate is whether or not it is okay to terminate that life before it reaches a certain stage, the stage that many of us refer to as “personhood”.

        I also find it incredible that you are willing to hang your hat on the findings of biologists who you feel are all wrong about the origins of life. Evolution is also a scientific fact.

        I’m sorry to bother you with my “non-scientific” definition of personhood. I tried to put forward my position respectfully, and in some cases that includes personal opinion. It seems to me that you do not value any opinion that is not directly derived from the Bible, and in that case, I wonder if you even have any of your own, or if you have suppressed them. You have shown complete unwillingness to change your mind on any issue, or even acknowledge another’s viewpoint, and that makes a debate really boring.

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      10. Ryan,

        Firstly, A great many in the pro-abortion community claim that no life exists until the moment the baby leaves the womb. Before then, no life.

        Secondly, You may have issues with Neil’s views on other issues. Those are other issues. We are talking about this issue. Other issues are a red herring.

        Thirdly, the only person invoking religion here is you. You are the one that categorize opposing opinions as being religious, with an unstated presupposition that religious arguments= automatically wrong.

        We’re glad to dialog with you Ryan, but you’re responding to arguments, and this is key, that are not being made

        We have acknowledged your viewpoint. We have even engaged with you about that viewpoint, and discussed major philosophers and thinkers who hold the viewpoint that you hold.

        Ryan, the person unwilling to consider facts on which there is a scientific consensus is you. You do not advance arguments, you state something that is essentially “This is my opinion, it is right, science be damned, you are wrong because you believe in the bible and therefore your other opinions on all things are wrong.”

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      11. Ryan,

        Let’s try this a different way.

        Opinions are truth statements on matters that factual statements can not be made. Logic requires that these fall into one of two catagories:

        1) Opinions on objective matters
        2) Opinions on subjective matters

        We shall take them in reverse order.

        Opinions on subjective matters are truth statements that are, by their nature, true for us but not (necessarily) true for others. An example of this is “Icecream is delicious.” I have made a truth claim, but what I am really saying is “Ice cream is delicious to me.” Alternatively we could say “Chocolate is the best ice cream” and what is really meant is “Chocolate is the best ice cream for me.” These are things that are specific to the individual.

        Opinions on objective matters are truth statements that deal with factual verifiable information. I may say “it is my opinion that it is raining”, and we can verify this by sticking our heads out our windows. I may say “This hill is higher than that hill”, and we can measure the height of the hills with the right equipment. These are things that are true for everybody, even if people disagree

        And that is a key distinction. Some things are true from person to person, other things are true regardless of people disagreeing.

        So we can dialog properly, let’s at least establish what truth claims we are making about when life begins.

        Ryan, are you asserting that when life begins is a matter of:
        1) Subjective opinion– different from person to person, and based only on personal views and preferences. That is to say, different from person to person

        or

        2) Objective opinion– a matter of fact outside individual opinion. True for all individuals, even if they disagree.

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      12. As a brief addendum, when I say “on which factual statements can not be made” i mean “on which factual statements can not be made at the current moment.” Once appropriate information is gathered, the opinions cease being opinions and become matters of fact. That is why some opinions can be wrong, and others right, because the opinion disagrees with a matter of fact.

        When I assert “Hill X is taller than Hill Y”, and we then run the necessary tests to measure the height, we will know if one hill really is taller than the other, and after that opinions will either agree or disagree with facts.

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      13. I also find it incredible that you are willing to hang your hat on the findings of biologists who you feel are all wrong about the origins of life. Evolution is also a scientific fact.

        1. Micro-evolution = scientific fact. Macro-evolution = not scientific fact.
        2. And more importantly, biologists don’t claim to know about the origins of life. They don’t have a clue and use a “science of the gaps” philosophy, i.e., we don’t know what brought about the universe and life but we’re really, really sure it wasn’t God.

        But enough with the red herrings, eh?

        I tried to put forward my position respectfully, and in some cases that includes personal opinion. It seems to me that you do not value any opinion that is not directly derived from the Bible, and in that case, I wonder if you even have any of your own, or if you have suppressed them. You have shown complete unwillingness to change your mind on any issue, or even acknowledge another’s viewpoint, and that makes a debate really boring.

        I suggest that you grow up and quit reverting to your anti-religious bigotry every time you are losing the argument on factual grounds.

        I mean, you just pointed conceded our scientific points — and we’ve only made scientific points here — and then you resort to your lame “you only trust what directly comes from the Bible” schtick. Please explain why I should take you seriously when you use such cheap tricks.

        My premise is simple:

        1. Abortion kills an innocent human being.
        2. It is immoral to kill innocent human beings.
        3. Therefore, abortions are immoral.

        Your view is rather fuzzy:

        1. Abortions kill innocent human beings, but it is OK to kill human beings that aren’t persons.
        2. They aren’t persons until I say they are, even though the arguments I offer either make points whose logical conclusions I don’t like (“you can kill ’em if they don’t feel pain”) or are likewise nebulous (brain activity, awareness, etc.).
        3. Therefore, abortions are moral and I don’t even protest the ones I claim to oppose.

        I am completely willing to change my mind as soon as you prove to me that abortions don’t kill human beings. Claiming that I bore you because I won’t change to your viewpoint is meaningless.

        Claiming that we haven’t acknowledged your viewpoint when we’ve responded to it in detail with dozens of comments is equally false.

        Please debate fairly or save us all some time.

        Like

  7. Er… adding to my first substantive paragraph: “Therefore, the ‘ball of cells’ argument is irrelevant to the abortion debate; by the time a woman even knows she is pregnant, her progeny is way beyond the ‘ball of cells’ stage of development.”

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    1. I am familiar with your dilemma and responded at your site. The “would you save embryos or humans in a fire” illustration fails to advance your pro-legalized abortion views.

      Many people would choose to save their dog rather than a human baby if a building were on fire. Does that prove that dogs are more valuable than humans? No, just that personal preferences and perceptions influence behavior.

      It says nothing about the innate value of the objects.

      The fertizilized embryos in question are fertilized human embryos, aka human beings.

      This article addresses the topic as well — http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2008/12/a-dilemma-that-doesnt-prove-anything.html .

      Keep trying!

      Like

  8. (My site appears to be down at the moment so I will post a response here which I may regurgitate and develop further at my own place once it’s up and running again.)

    Notice that you didn’t actually answer the question.

    “Many people” would rather save their dog than a human baby? Maybe. Can’t think of any off hand, but if so, that’s their trip, I guess. You’d be hard pressed to find a lot arguing that this would be the clear correct ethical choice, but I guess there’s probably some out there. There’s also probably “many people” who would go around a burning building stabbing people in the heart under the assumption that they’re just going to die in the fire anyway. However, I’m not asking about any of those other weirdos. I’m asking about you.

    Notice that my example doesn’t use a baby, but rather a healthy child; and that the blastocysts needing rescue are well refrigerated in a safe container. If it makes it easier, assume that it’s also a very cold night, and that there’s another clinic right next door where the blastocysts can be quickly stored. In other words, I’m trying to make the dilemma as clear as possible. If you choose to save the refrigerator first, you feel a near 100% certainty that you can successfully preserve the hundreds of blastocysts inside. Go on then– what’s your answer?

    I am not particularly impressed by the article you’ve linked. If you care to make any of the author’s arguments yourself, I’ll answer them then. Suffice it to say I found none of them compelling.

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    1. Quin: would you rather save a pregnant woman or a non-pregnant person in a fire? Why?

      If someone were to beat a pregnant woman so that she miscarried, do you think that he should be charged with assault or with murder? Do you disapprove of Scott Peterson’s conviction for killing both Lacy and Connor, or do you think that the conviction should be limited to Lacy?

      Those questions, not the thought experiment regarding frozen embryos, are far more relevant to the abortion issue.

      Even so, I’ll deign to address your “dilemma:” given the choice between saving a human who could certainly live and saving several humans who would certainly die immediately anyway (as the cryogenics wouldn’t be available to sustain them), I would choose the former. Likewise, if I were in a burning hospital and could save a young, otherwise health person who broke a leg rather than an old, bedridden person who is dependent upon the hospital’s machinery. That doesn’t mean that young people get to kill old people, or that old people aren’t worth as much; it just means that, in choosing between the two of them, I would save the one who would be able to live once saved.

      Again, you mistakenly believe that who people would save is directly correlated to their objective worth as human beings, and that worth ought to be incorporated into the law such that the less-worthy are fair game for killing.

      That is your problem. It is a huge one that you do need to get over, though, because the ramifications of it are horrific. If most people (being white) would choose to save a white person, does that mean that blacks aren’t humans? Do you see the abomination that is the logical consequence of your reasoning?

      Even if we are to allow that your little thought experiment works the way you intend it to (i.e. that embryos aren’t worth as much as grown humans), you still have not justified abortion. All that work, and you’ve still failed. See, thing is, there’s a legal and moral difference between failure to act and affirmative action. The failure to save embryos from a raging fire does not mean that it is okay to affirmatively kill them. Sucks to be you.

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      1. Good points, Theobromophile. I was thinking the same thing about a racist picking a white over a black.

        The irony of the fire “dilemma” is that it points out a fundamental flaw of pro-legalized abortion reasoning: It makes the value of the human beings subjective instead of objective. The value of the unborn can be extremely high — provide that Mommy wants to keep her. Otherwise, the value can be worthless — in a pro-legalized abortion worldview.

        When one human gets to decide whether another human has equal worth, let alone worth to live, bad things happen.

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    2. ACK! Just got home from work and am eating dinner… shouldn’t blog-comment before then.

      Second paragraph should read “approve” and not “disapprove.”

      Penultimate sentence of the fourth paragraph should include “…I would save the former,” at the end.

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  9. Just to let y’all know, my site is intermittently up again. Anyone who wants to continue a conversation, let’s do it over there. It gets too confusing trying to jump back and forth between threads.

    Like

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