Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Abortion's Common Ground

Abortion is, of course, a highly controversial issue. But it seems to me that there are some sub-issues that every reasonable person should be able to agree on.

Most obviously: it is unfortunate for anyone to be in the position of wanting or needing an abortion. It would be better if there were fewer unwanted pregnancies to begin with. Surely everyone can agree with that. So improved sex education and access to contraceptives ought to be supported by both sides of the abortion controversy. (All the evidence suggests that abstinence-only approaches simply do not work.) As Jonathan notes, this is no 'compromise' on the part of either party - it's a genuine common ground where they should be entirely in agreement. It's a disgrace to both sides when their partisans fail to recognise this.

Secondly, the question of whether abortion should be illegal is a separate matter from whether it is immoral. Some conservatives have fundamentally misunderstood the relation between law and morality - they do not recognise that sometimes immoral things should nevertheless be legal. But it should be obvious that this is sometimes true - consider lying, breaking promises, adultery, or (to a Christian) worshipping false idols. So the only question is whether abortion, too, is such a case. I think it is. Outlawing abortion would not stop it from occuring. It would merely drive the practice 'underground', making it far more dangerous. To outlaw abortion would put women's lives at risk. Even those with moral qualms about abortion should not be willing to pay the hefty social costs of such legislation (or, at the very least, it should give them pause).

More controversially, I think the reasonable person should agree that conception is not a metaphysically magical moment. The idea that 'life begins at conception' is contradicted by biology (a point powerfully made by Prof. Lord Robert Winston in a lecture I heard last year - I only wish I could remember it better). Scientists have created healthy mice that were never 'conceived' as such - the egg was artificially stimulated into replication and growth despite not being fertilized (I don't recall the exact details - possibly two of the mother's eggs were fused together to get the chromosome count right). And what to say of identical twins? Two persons formed from a single zygote - you do the math.

Perhaps most telling of all is the sheer fact that "between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in women's normal menstrual flows unnoticed". How does the proponent of life-at-conception deal with such a fact? Or, as Jason asks, "Why aren't they doing something about the 60-80% of all innocent human lives that nature spontaneously terminates? This stuff makes the tsunami look like nothing at all."

Single-celled zygotes are not persons, nor are they somehow "morally equivalent" to persons in any sense that entails a 'right to life'. To suggest otherwise would seem to entail that we have a moral duty to constantly monitor all sexually-active women, to save those "human lives" that would otherwise get flushed away without anyone ever knowing. But we have no such duty, and any suggestion to the contrary is absurd. Menstruation is not manslaughter. Those cells are no more 'persons' than are the cells in my fingernail clippings.

Pharyngula offers some helpful diagrams to illustrate this point, and comments:
Figure 1. These are children. Figure 2. These are embryos. I can tell the difference between 1 and 2. Why can’t you?
...
When you tell me you think an embryo is the same as my kids, you cheapen the worth of my children. They are much, much more than that small thoughtless blob. You reduce the value of family to mindless chemistry and metabolism.

Lastly, there is everything David Velleman says, from which I'll quote a few key points:
When we ask whether the fetus has a right to life, we make it sound as if there is a single thing, life, to which some beings have a right and others do not, or to which some beings have a stronger right than others. Yet what gives persons a stronger right to life than penguins, and penguins a stronger right to life than petunias, is precisely that these beings live very different kinds of life: the life of a person is a different process from the life of a penguin or a petunia. The reason why different creatures have different rights to life is that some kinds of life-process require stronger justification to end than others and result in greater wrongs when ended without justification So there is no one thing, life, to which different creatures have different rights; rather, there are different kinds of life, with different entitlements to continue.
...
The belief that a human conceptus is not yet a person in the early stages of gestation rests on the fact that it is not yet capable of the beginnings that make a person's life wrong to end. It is incapable of those beginnings because it does not yet have any mental life.

Here are some of the relevant developmental milestones.1 Synapses do not begin to form in the cerebral cortex until the 12th week after conception, and neurons continue migrating into the cortex until the 20th week, which is the first point at which electroencephalographic activity appears. The fetus's EEG doesn't coalesce into "waves" until in week 26, or develop the patterns characteristic of waking and sleeping until week 30. Synapses begin to connect the spine to the thalamus in the 20th week and reach the cerebral cortex between weeks 24 and 26; not until the 29th week do peripheral stimuli evoke measurable potentials in the cortex, indicating the completion of functional sensory pathways.

I leave open the question of when killing a human organism becomes morally impermissible. The neurological facts suggest, I think, that setting the boundary any time before the 20th-30th week would be quite unreasonable. But that still leaves a lot of room for disagreement over issues like late-term abortion (though I'm not even sure that newborns are persons in the relevant sense).

To be fair, really only the first point discussed here would count as geniune 'common ground'. But I do think the other claims I've argued for here are well-justified. One might reasonably argue that fully-developed foetuses should be considered persons. But it is not reasonable to say the same of a single-celled zygote.

28 comments:

  1. I agree with a lot of what you have said here, so I really hate to say this, but...

    I think the common ground you describe isn't so common at all. It rests on fundamentally different philosohpical premises.

    I am pro-choice up to the moment of viability. I know that this moment changes with advances in medical science, but I can live with that. Real-world moral decisions are not going to be easy, and it is immature to expect that they will be.

    I believe that the moment of viability marks the start of an individual's independent life trajectory. From this point onward, the specific mother in question is no longer physically required--any team of competent doctors and nurses may help the child along instead. This marks the child's entry into society as a human being, whereupon he acquires the moral status of a human. He is now just like all other human infants, save only that he requires a bit more attention than most.

    Before the moment of viability--and especially in the first few weeks--it is very difficult for me to see embryos as human beings in the moral sense. Given our present technology, they have no independent telos to fulfill; they are not yet ends in themselves.

    In these cases, I do not believe that abortion is undesireable for moral reasons. No, I think it is economically undesireable.

    You read that right. It's bad economics to have an abortion when you could much more easily have used a condom or a pill, or not have had sex in the first place.

    This stance will probably infuriate conservatives, who believe that early abortions are murder, not mere economic inefficiency. We may both think abortion is "wrong," but that word conceals much more than it reveals.
     

    Posted by Jason Kuznicki

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  2. > Outlawing abortion would not stop it from occuring. It would
    > merely drive the practice 'underground', making it far more
    > dangerous. To outlaw abortion would put women's lives at risk.

    Nobody knows if this is true. It's likely the abortions that did take place would be more dangerous, but it's also likely there would be fewer of them.

    And this argument could also be applied to something such as wife-beating. Maybe criminalizing assault within marriage means that the perpetrators have to be more violent to create a climate of fear that prevents the victim going to the police?

    Since you can't collect reliable statistics on underground criminal activity, these arguments really go nowhere.

    > I am pro-choice up to the moment of viability.

    I think the moral status of the foetus depends on how far its brain has developed. Being able to survive outside the womb doesn't seem like a morally relevant distinction unless you are actually suggesting it should be legal to have the foetus removed after that point without killing it.

    As a practical matter, we can play it safe and prohibit abortion even before we think the foetus's brain has developed to full moral status, provided there is sufficient opportunity for the woman to discover she is pregnant and have an abortion if she wants one. Up to four months is more than enough.

    The economic argument is an interesting one. It does seem that if a person with high earning ability can be forced to spend 40% or more of their working life supporting others in need, then a pregnant woman who doesn't wish to keep her child could be forced to have it anyway and give it to a childless couple. Socialist logic never did make a lot of sense to me anyway. 

    Posted by Nigel Kearney

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  3. > abstinence-only approaches simply do not work.

    I get the imression that those that I know who are religious and thus most exposed to abstinece arguments do indeed tend to have less sex and thus probably abortions. I would be somewhat surprised to find the opposite to be true (although it is posible it would require proof to be believable.).

    > Outlawing abortion would not stop it from occuring. It would merely drive the practice 'underground'.

    outlawing things generally make them occur less often. again I would be surprised if outlawing abortions made them more common, again it is possible but it would require proof to be believable.

    > hefty social costs of such legislation

    these costs need to be quantified in order to go forth but I am very sympathetic to this utalitarian approach of law making - others may not be so inclined.

    > Single-celled zygotes are not persons, nor are they somehow "morally equivalent" to persons

    this argument quickly ends up where we cannot define a start to life and realise there is no such thing as life and thus no "right to life" for anyone. It is a bit funny to use half of that argument and not realise where it ends up.

    re above
    one could argue that abortion could occur via the removal of the baby from the mothers body followed by all reasonable attempts made to save the baby - if the baby is very young that would be futile but then it is jsut an act of seperation not directly killing. 

    Posted by geniusNZ

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  4. Genius, no-one believes a single grain of sand makes a heap. It does not follow that there's no such thing as heaps. We can survive a little vagueness - just because we cannot draw a strict line, doesn't mean we have to embrace the absurdity of the first [pre-iteration] position (whether it's "one grain makes a heap" or "one cell makes a person").

    Jason, wouldn't you agree that the first claim, at least, is geniune 'common ground'?

    Like Nigel, I too am puzzled by using 'viability' as the mark of personhood. Suppose advancing technology provided us with fully-functional artificial wombs, as well as artificial fertilization techniques. Every sperm and ova thus has the potential to grow into a full person, independently of a host mother. Would that mean we have a moral obligation to see that every single gamete thus survives and grows? (Surely not...) 

    Posted by Richard

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  5. "Outlawing abortion would not stop it from occuring."

    I think this is a horrible argument. I can't believe people still use it. You could literally make this argument for anything. Murder, theft, prostitution, drug use, rape, running from the police, etc. Nobody who wants murder outlawed believes that just because it is against the law, that nobody will do it.

    If you step into somebody's shoes who sees abortion as murder, you will realize how bad of an argument it is. In any case, there are a lot of better reasons for allowing abortions to be legal than this one. (Not that I agree with them, but there are better ones.)

    "The idea that 'life begins at conception' is contradicted by biology"

    You are way off on this one. You can find embryology textbook after embryology textbook that disagrees with you. As far as I've been able to tell, it's a scientific fact that human life begins at conception. That's why so many people try to make a distinction between a human life and a human person.

    "Two persons formed from a single zygote - you do the math."

    What is the problem, exactly? If the cells in a human in the early stages of life split up to form two individual humans, that doesn't say anything about whether the pre-split entity was a human person or not. Flatworms have the ability regenerate 2 new individual flatworms when a single flatworm is cut into 2 pieces. That this can happen doesn't mean the original wasn't a flatworm.

    I would need more details about the non-fertilized mice in order to address it.

    If you look at those kids on the Pharyngula webpage at the same scale as the embryos below it, I have a pretty good feeling that they will look pretty similar. I'm not cheapening the worth of children by pointing this out. Just the opposite, actually, since I don't think children are or ever were "small thoughtless blob[s]." If he thinks they are just "blobs" that's his right, I suppose, but he shouldn't think that other people believe that. Embryos are human beings and I think you would have a hard time finding a "pro-life" person who thinks embryos are just "blobs."

    As far as the 60-80% of human lives that are naturally "terminated," I don't see what that has to do with whether an embryo is a person or not. That thousands of people died in a tsunami doesn't mean they weren't persons. At the most it says that we should be finding ways to prevent this from occuring. It should also be noted that there is a big difference between natural death and intentional killing. I think that is one reason why people are more concerned with preventing abortion than the natural death of an embryo. But, as I said, this doesn't really have anything to do with the main issue.

    I'm not sure what penguins or petunias have to do with anything since I've never heard the phrase "right to life" used in any other context than with human beings. I agree with this, though: "the life of a person is a different process from the life of a penguin or a petunia." Human life, from conception to death, is a different process than a penguin life, from conception to death, or a petunia life, from conception to death. He, of course, will say the process doesn't start until X number of weeks. As far as I can tell, the process starts at conception.  

    Posted by Macht

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  6. > Genius, no-one believes a single grain of sand makes a heap.

    but no-one applies a seperate moral (or chemical etc) status to a heap. they are aware it is a pile of grains of sand and is the sum of its parts.

    > We can survive a little vagueness - just because we cannot draw a strict line

    but there must be a line (or some zone of hypocracy). My point is not however to argue for no abortions or all abortions it is just to say that your method of logic has one more step you intentionally dont take. You obviously cant have a "you must actively save" law for womans eggs and spern and you cant have a "you can kill" rule for adults (and it would probably also be unacceptable for children and babies) but the logic should ideally help to define where in the middle our line should be and if it should be a scale (from active to passive killing) or a zone of hypocrisy (ie in this area it may or may not be ilegal)

    Explaining exactly why might allow us to have a answer to the problem or somthing else. 

    Posted by Geniusnz

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  7. Macht, I put the argument rather crudely, to be sure. A better version would be grounded in the point that the bad consequences of outlawing abortion would outweigh the good. This is obviously not the case for outlawing murder, theft, etc. A closer analogy would be drug legalization - one could support it even though they hate drugs, simply because they recognise that legislation would not have the good effects we wanted. (Though as Nigel notes, whether this argument works or not would depend upon various empirical facts, e.g. how many abortions would be prevented, vs. how many women would die. How to weigh these two effects would then lead us back into the moral controversy all over again...)

    And yes, this is just one example of how we might separate the political from the moral question. My main grumble there was with people who fail to recognise the possibility of this even in principle.

    Moving on, identical twins provide a counterexample to any universal claim that life (or 'ensoulment') begins at conception. For at least one of them, it must have begun later - unless the original zygote is supposed to simultaneously count as both individuals?

    "As far as the 60-80% of human lives that are naturally 'terminated'... At the most it says that we should be finding ways to prevent this from occuring."

    That's a pretty significant bullet to bite. The political consequences for women would be extreme, to say the least, if we really took this 'problem' seriously. I think few people (or even pro-lifers) would be willing to accept the consequences of such a view.

    Besides, for those who see a religious 'order' to nature, isn't nature's carelessness w.r.t. these embryos suggestive of their insignificance?

    As for the Velleman quote, I'd strongly encourage you to read the whole post. He argues convincingly that personhood and moral worth depend upon inter-temporal continuities in psychological makeup that young embryos evidently do not possess. 

    Posted by Richard

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  8. "My main grumble there was with people who fail to recognise the possibility of this even in principle."

    Okay.

    "Moving on, identical twins provide a counterexample to any universal claim that life (or 'ensoulment') begins at conception. For at least one of them, it must have begun later - unless the original zygote is supposed to simultaneously count as both individuals?"

    I'm not sure what ensoulment is. It sounds dualistic - not really a fan of that. I'm fine with saying human being, though. "Life begins at conception" I don't think is meant to be taken universally. It's a generalization about what happens in normal cases. That an early embryo can split into two embryos, only means that before we had one embryo and now we have two. At some point after conception there are two human beings, but that doesn't mean that before the division occured that the entity wasn't a human being. "Life begins at conception" is a catchy slogan that fits nicely on a banner, but that doesn't take away from the main point of the slogan - that when a male sperm and a female ovum combine, there is a new human life. It doesn't mean that human life can't come about in other ways, too (twinning, cloning, etc.).

    "The political consequences for women would be extreme, to say the least, if we really took this 'problem' seriously. I think few people (or even pro-lifers) would be willing to accept the consequences of such a view."

    I think it would just be an extension of standard medical practice. If medical science can come up with ways to reduce this percentage, I think it would be great.

    "Besides, for those who see a religious 'order' to nature, isn't nature's carelessness w.r.t. these embryos suggestive of their insignificance?"

    No more than "nature's carelessness" is suggestive of the tsunami victims insignificance.

    I found Velleman's post terribly unconvincing. His whole argument rests on picking certain human functionings and saying that's what makes something a person. If somebody got in a big accident and was in a coma for years and the doctors determined that when he wakes up he will have enough brain damage that he won't remember his life before the accident, we don't think it is morally permissible to end his life just because he won't be waking up to the same "mental life." I don't think it is morally permissible to kill my grandfather, whose "mental life" is basically gone because of Alzheimers.

    I just can't see how the functional view of personhood (i.e., the view that a human life doesn't become a human person until it starts performing functions) can be consistent, when it has to take into account things like Alzheimers, comas, short-term memory loss, and similar things. I find it much more philosophically satisfying to say that our ability to function in these ways comes from our being persons (human beings), rather than saying that our being persons depends on our ability to function in certain ways.

    BTW, I posted a blog entry about when human life begins.  

    Posted by Macht

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  9. Richard,

    You ask me if I can't at least accept your first principle, which--if I understand correctly--runs, "it is unfortunate for anyone to be in the position of wanting or needing an abortion. It would be better if there were fewer unwanted pregnancies to begin with."

    I agree with this statement, and so do those who believe abortion is murder. But I find this agreement superficial and counterproductive. For me, early abortions are undesireable because they are a poor form of birth control: They are traumatic, sometimes painful, sometimes dangerous, and expensive. Condoms are a much better option, as are essentially all other forms of birth control. When I say I'm against early abortion, it is because I favor sound birth control measures.

    When the religious right says they are against early abortion, it is often because they oppose all birth control whatsoever, and because they believe the embryo has the same moral status as a person.

    I'm struggling to find a good analoy to explain my view, and I know this one is crude, but it's the best I can come up with right now:

    Two astronomers look at the sunrise.

    "See," says the first one, "the sun goes around the earth."

    "No," says the second, "the earth revolves."

    To which the first one replies, "Well, we both agree that the sun rises, don't we?"

    The point of agreement is trivial--and it obscures a fundamental difference. 

    Posted by Jason Kuznicki

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  10. ""Besides, for those who see a religious 'order' to nature, isn't nature's carelessness w.r.t. these embryos suggestive of their insignificance?"

    No more than "nature's carelessness" is suggestive of the tsunami victims insignificance.
    "

    If the natrual embryo killings are morally equivalent to the tsunami, then we have a moral obligation to save those embryos--Just as much as we have a moral obligation to help tsunami victims. I reject this equivalency.

    Further, the real argument is not whether nature is good or evil in doing these things. The real question is whether we have a moral obligation to save all embryos (an impossible task that will only overpopulate the world if we succeed)--or whether we have a moral obligation in the opposite direction, to use unwanted, unneeded embryos to cure disease (difficult, but not impossible, and promising a tremendous reward). 

    Posted by Jason Kuznicki

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  11. "Further, the real argument is not whether nature is good or evil in doing these things."

    That's not the argument at all. It is a different argument. The argument is about what rights embryos have. If I was starting a new country somewhere and I was trying to argue that murder shouldn't be legal and somebody objected by mentioning something about how people die from heart attacks all the time, I'd say that I realize that but that it has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Then if he said, "You do realize that if we make murder illegal, we'll have to start doing research on how to prevent heart attacks, don't you?" I'd reply by saying that, again, that has nothing to do with whether murder should be illegal or not. I could make the same point by using somebody who is arguing with me about whether murder is moral or not. In any case, whether murder should be illegal or considered immoral is a different question than whether we should do medical research to prevent heart attack deaths. The answers are definitely related and our answer to one of them might influence what our answer is to the other, but they are definitely different questions. The same is true of the legality/morality of abortion and what we should do about the natural death of embryos.  

    Posted by Macht

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  12. > Moving on, identical twins provide a counterexample to any universal claim that life (or 'ensoulment') begins at conception.

    Then - unfortunatly - Cloning proves that ensoulment never occurs (or multiple souls exist in the origional person). An example of what I was saying before that your argument inevitably leads to this conclusion. there are many other such problems we could consider in this regard. Inevitably it will undermine faith in he existance of a soul. lets hope that that is not intergrated into either our morals or our laws. 

    Posted by Geniusnz

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  13. Macht, the analogy you make--natural abortion is to induced abortion as murder is to heart attack--is invalid. The proof that it is invalid lies in how pro-lifers simply do not care about the natural deaths of embryos. By contrast, everyone cares about death from heart disease, and we certainly are working on how to end it.  

    Posted by Jason Kuznicki

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  14. Hi Richard,

    I responded to one particular aspect of your post, namely your assertion that biology contradicts the idea that an individual human life begins at conception on my blog Imago Dei. (www.imago-dei.net) Please feel free to stop by and respond.

    Blessings,

    Serge 

    Posted by Serge

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  15. Jason,

    It is true that millions of human blastocysts die natural deaths. It is also true that millions of human infants die of natural causes (starvation, etc).

    Do you believe the fact that millions of human infants die every year of natural causes gives us a good reason to intentionally kill them, do you? If not, what is your point?

    Serge 

    Posted by Serge

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  16. "Macht, the analogy you make--natural abortion is to induced abortion as murder is to heart attack--is invalid. The proof that it is invalid lies in how pro-lifers simply do not care about the natural deaths of embryos. By contrast, everyone cares about death from heart disease, and we certainly are working on how to end it."

    The analogy is valid. "X dies by natural causes" is to "Y dies by natural causes" as "X is intentionally killed" is to "Y is intentionally killed." I agree that most people seem to care about heart disease and few seem to care about the natural death of embryos. But as I said, whether people care about X or Y has nothing to do with whether X or Y have the right to not be intentionally killed by somebody else. If I meet some homeless person on the street who has no family, no friends and nobody really even knows of his existence except me and if I don't care about his life, then we can say that people "simply do not care about" about this man's life. That doesn't give me the right to kill him. So the analogy is valid.

    But you will object and say that people do care about him, they just don't know he exists. They would care if they were aware of him. And I agree. Most people know somebody with heart trouble. They are aware of this thing called "heart disease." I don't think a lot of people realize how many embryos die naturally. So don't confuse "does not care" with "is not aware of the problem." 

    Posted by Macht

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  17. Serge - thanks, I've responded over on your blog.

    Macht, I think you're technically right about the natural-death argument, but only because you're misinterpreting its purpose. (Probably that's my own fault for not stating it clearly enough. Let me try to remedy that now.)

    If we start from a neutral position, trying to decide from scratch whether something is right or wrong, it clearly is absurd to say "X happens naturally all the time, so it must be okay!". But that's not the situation here.

    Rather, we're starting from our respective entrenched positions, and I'm trying to point out an inconsistency in many pro-lifers' beliefs. According to the pro-life position that every embryo has full human moral worth, the sheer scale of these menstrual deaths implies that it is the greatest catastrophe in the world. As Jason said, we're dealing with the natural destruction of "60-80% of all innocent human lives". This is beyond huge - it's downright cataclysmic.

    My point is that nobody really thinks it's a big deal. That's no problem for me, because my beliefs don't commit me to thinking it's a big deal. I'm in the clear. But pro-lifers are being inconsistent. If they were sincere in their beliefs, they should be mounting a "stop the menstrual genocide" campaign, etc. But they're not. Perhaps for some this is just because of ignorance, as you suggest. But what about all the others, who do know these facts? What about yourself - do you really believe this is a bigger disaster than the tsunami?

    So, again, what we're doing here is showing an inconsistency in pro-life thought. Based on the shared presumption that there is no menstrual 'genocide' going on, we must conclude that these embryos do not have (full) moral worth. This is not a knock-down argument - you are free to deny the presumption. But I think few people would do so, since - as I said before - that's a rather large bullet to bite. 

    Posted by Richard

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  18. Richard, I think you said it better than I did. I agree with your last comment entirely. 

    Posted by Jason Kuznicki

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  19. Hey, I really like your blog. Good stuff here!!

    You're all talking about abortion philosophically... which I know is the purpose of this blog... but I always find that the problem with the abortion is debate is that everyone focuses too much on life BEFORE birth, and not the life AFTER the birth.

    Why the hell is life worth so much anyway?! Nature tells it is not!! Life is disposable, and easily generated.

    Isn't life worth what you invest in it? And here's the problem with the pro-lifers- they are NOT pro-life, they are pro-birth. There is a huge difference.

    Most people opt to get abortions because they cannot afford the incredible investment of time, body, and money that creating a WORTHY life takes. Even for the most well-educated person, contraceptives fail. Abstinence is utterly ridiculous- our MAIN DRIVING BIOLOGICAL force is to reproduce. We HAVE to!! Some people can repress it better than others, depending upon their hormone levels, but what happens when you repress it? Look at all the horrible Catholic priest scandals. When you repress a natural urge as large as reproduction, it expresses itself in other ways, often deviant and harmful.
    And like I said, birth control isn't perfect no matterhow vigilant you are. And that's assuming you know how to use it correctly, which most people don't due to the failure of our education system and this abnormal societal urge to vilify sex.

    So shit happens. That's we need abortion. What if someone who was young and economically unprepared to have a baby was forced to, due to our legal system?

    They can't care for the baby properly. The baby senses it was unwanted, which makes it have low self-esteem. This is a breeding ground for anti-social behavior, which is how serial killers and such are born. I know that seems an extreme statement to make, but it's true. Similar to what someone said before, it's economically inefficient to raise a baby without the proper resources. Shouldn't EVERY baby born have the right to a wonderful life and a proper home to be raised in? And if that's not possible, I would argue it's our DUTY to make sure that there is no baby born that does not have the resources it deserves. Abortion should be a very SMALL portion of this duty- a fail safe, back-up method only. But sometimes it has to be done. It is every mother's, and every baby's right to ensure that the baby they raise will have the proper resources!

    Pro-lifers do not care about the life a baby has after it's born, they only care that it's born in the first place. Then that unwanted child grows up to be a strain on our society, and possibly cause more deaths himself. What's the gain? None.

    So it's annoying when everyone talks about embryo's and their rights. They have the right to be loved and wanted! And if a mother can't give that, then it is better for the potential baby, the mother, and our society that it not happen. 

    Posted by Jen Koontz

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  20. I notice that DarkSyd has just made a similar point about IVF in a post with the provocative title: The Right-wing Child Killers.

    Jen, although I'm sympathetic to your argument there, it neglects the possibility of adoption. Abortion isn't the only way to avoid those bad consequences you mention, so they alone aren't sufficient to justify the practice. (But they might effectively supplement a broader pro-choice argument.) 

    Posted by Richard

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  21. Richard,

    So, again, what we're doing here is showing an inconsistency in pro-life thought. Based on the shared presumption that there is no menstrual 'genocide' going on, we must conclude that these embryos do not have (full) moral worth. This is not a knock-down argument - you are free to deny the presumption. But I think few people would do so, since - as I said before - that's a rather large bullet to bite. You seem to be equating the moral status of an entity with the emotional impact that others have at their demise. I'll bite the bullet here and be honest - I would grieve the death of my son far more than I have grieved the many children killed in the tsunami. You may call me inconsistent, or state that I should grieve those children equally with my own. However, does this mean the human value of those children are less because of my feelings? Of course not - the moral status of an entity is not based (or should not be) based on our feelings towards them.

    Serge 

    Posted by Serge

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  22. I pretty much agree with Serge - most people are inconsistent in their emotions and actions towards others. I have a nice job and I get paid way more money than I need. I actually have enough money to save for the future. If somebody in my family was sick or starving or lost their home, I'd give up any money I had saved in a heartbeat. At the same time, I know there's people starving on the other side of the world and there's people without a home in my own city, but I haven't given up my savings for any of them. I just heard that Ernst Mayr passed away and it didn't really affect me at all. A couple weeks ago when Johnny Carson died, I was really sad. Emotionally, I thought 9/11 was a bigger disaster than the tsunami. I don't know if it was because it happened in my own country or because I had been to New York before or because it was done by other human beings rather than by a natural disaster, but I felt more grief for the former than the latter. That doesn't mean that I thought the tsunami victims were less human than the 9/11 victims, it just means that for various reasons, 9/11 had more of an impact on me than the tsunami.

    Is the natural deaths of embryos as big a disaster as the natural deaths of the tsunami victims. Yes, if we are going by number of people dead. Do they affect me equally? No. Am I more likely to give money to the tsunami relief effort than to a scientist who is doing research on preimplantation deaths of embryos? Yes. Am I more likely to give money for Alzheimer's research than either of those causes? Yes.

    If there is any inconsistency (and there is), then it is the same type of inconsistency that all of us show when we elevate one cause over another or feel grief for one human's death more than another's. I don't mean this as an excuse, just as a fact about humans in general. But, as ignorance about this problem is removed and more and more people become aware of it, I have no doubt that this will become a concern, just as the concerns over IVF are increasing.

    Speaking of IVF, as more people are becoming aware of what the IVF process actually entails, more people are bringing up the ethical problems how IVF is done.

    Also, I think you should look up the definition of genocide

    Posted by Macht

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  23. Um, the talk of 'genocide' was a dig at pro-lifers I've come across who (ab)use the word in relation to abortion :p 

    Posted by Richard

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  24. Ah, I see. 

    Posted by Macht

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  25. Richard-

    Yeah, I thought someone might bring up adoption. Adoption is not necessarily a better alternative than abortion.

    One, the woman still has to give up nine months of her life. That's a long time. There can be severe health issues with pregnancy- hormones rampage, morning sickness- it's a traumatic event for a body. Not to mention the possibility of health problems during childbirth (possible death!) Besides the health issues, there's economic issues- it could affect her job. Health bills to make sure you develop a healthy baby are expensive. She needs to eat differently. Men so easily dismiss pregnancy! It's not just nine months and you're back to normal. There's post-partum depression. Your hormones still rage long after birth, for at least a year or more (from breast feeding, etc.) And below the waist you are never the same!!

    Abortion is far cheaper and less traumatic to the body. Despite how invasive it seems, it is a short procedure that only needs about half an hour of recovery time. It is far lower risk than birth!

    PLUS, no matter how happy a home a child is adopted into, they will still always have the "I wasn't wanted" complex. Ask any adopted child. It can seriously screw with their self-esteem. The risk of adopted children having self-esteem issues is far greater.

    Not that I'm against adoption, just that there are very good reasons someone would want to choose abortion over it. And they should have that choice. 

    Posted by Jen Koontz

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  26. I can just imagine a state actively encouraging abortions (maybe through grants or whatever) based on the considerable social costs of child birth. 

    Posted by Geniusnz

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  27. Jen,
    As an adopted child, I was quite certain I was wanted - by the parents who adopted me! It required just a bit of wisdom on their part to make sure I knew that, and knew as well that my birth parents were simply not in a position to raise me. For giving me life I am ever thankful for those biological parents; for raising me in an environment of love and plenty I appreciate my adoptive parents. Your worries are not so likely to happen, if adoptive parents simply give thought re telling their child about the adoption.  

    Posted by Aristomedes

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  28. jen,

    i'm with you. and to offer a counterpoint to aristomedes, i will offer the perspective of an unwanted child. would i rather have been aborted than raised by my parents? that question is impossible to answer. but i can state with certainty that it is no fun at all to be the unwanted child of unenthusiastic, unloving parents. it is not a life i would willingly thrust on an innocent baby.

    oddly enough, i was just posting about this topic last week on my own blog.

     

    Posted by luckyman

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