Either Way, It's For the Children


New at Reason: Jacob Sullum takes a ride on the slippery slope of D&X and AKM bans.


NEXT: Bride of Chucky

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  1. Slippery slope? Naah. Seems to me, a lot of us are already at the bottom of the hill, looking for the manhole cover.

    It seems to be a common view, based on my conversations with politically active lefty types, that the mother should be able to “terminate” the “fetus” at any point until the umbilical cord is cut.

    In a related development, we have had a couple of cases in recent years here in Wisconsin where newborns were killed by their mothers in a kind of post-partum abortion. The mothers were given very light sentences, if they were prosecuted at all.

    I favor a right to abort, up to a point, but these developments give me pause.

  2. Stephen Fetchet writes: “The post-birth fetuses just sit there peeing their pants and being fed – why they have the same quality of life as Terry Schiavo! None! ”

    You overlook a critical difference. I have strong moral reservations about abortion, and agree that much pro-abortion reasoning would justify killing a neonate. However, a fetus or newborn is in a normal developmental stage in which s/he will ultimately awaken to standard cognition and social interaction, if allowed to. But Terri Schiavo is in an artifical state of prolonging what would otherwise be a process that would constitute natural death. By all best medical evidence and testimony, she has no chance of returning to cognition or social interaction — she has suffered fatal injuries and all or most of her higher brain function is irrevocably destroyed. She is not situated in the same position as a fetus; she is not going to reason or interact with loved ones no matter how long she “lives.” (Again, by all competent medical testimony this is the case.)

    So, I strongly believe, especially when, as appears to be the case with Terri, one has expressed a desire not to be left in a persistent vegetative state and to allow instead a natural dying process, that this is moral.

  3. Okay, what is the issue: abortion or the laws trying to deal with abortion? Granted abortion is an emotional issue. The laws attempting to deal with it unREASONable all.

  4. There are a lot of arguments swirling around the abortion issue that seem to me to be completely irrelevant.

    In the hopes of presenting a clear picture, it has always seemed to me that only one issue matters. At what point does a fetus cease to be a growth and start to be an individual? Individuals have rights, warts do not. This is not an easy question, and any anwer will leave some people highly annoyed. It just seems to me that we need to spend time on this (quite similar to the lady on life support in many respects) rather than wasting verbiage on any of the following:

    1) The type of procedure performed. It can’t matter to a wart, and it shouldn’t be performed on an individual unless there is a medically necessary choice to be made between the child and the mother.

    2) Whether or not women will resort to coat hangers. This is just another type of procedure, and can’t justify killing an individual with rights.

    3) What religion X says about this. A legal policy can be informed by a religious principle, but the religious principle can’t be the determining argument without stomping on Establishment.

    4) More subtly, whether the fetus is ‘alive’. Life is not the criteria that is relevant, individuality is. Carrots from your garden are alive.

    Yet these seem to be the questions everyone spends their time on. The problem is hard enough to tackle without obfuscation.

  5. For ex. the unmarried woman who gave birth to our adopted daughter favors the right to abortion. Is that Reasonable?

    Is the right to abortion reasonable? I mean, people whine all the time about how the right to abortion is Constitutionally sound, but anyone remember Plessy v. Ferguson? Also, according to the Supreme Court, Bush’s election was Constitutionally sound. Funny how one can pick and choose which Supreme Court decisions actually reflect Constitutionally-supported notions, and which are just “mistakes.”

    Personally I couldn’t care less. As a male who does not work on a floor of Congress, I don’t get a say in it, whether I am a husband, boyfriend, or father. I would get no benefit from it unless the woman in question agrees with me. And if she doesn’t, I am probably in most states legally liable to help her pay either for the abortion or raising the little bastard. So women are on their own on this one. Just like they wanted it. Let me know who wins.

  6. Jason, of course the entity in a pregant woman’s uterus is alive. It isn’t dead, and is growing, and will continue to do so unless interfered with whihc is rathe the “problem.” I heard the heartbeat of my first child at only 8 weeks, with an ultrasond stethoscope, so clearly he was already animated.

    As to individuation, again, it was his heartbeat, he had his own blood type, and he was not my gender. That he was not, even at 8 weeks, a carrot, is manifestly obvious.

  7. “The problem is hard enough to tackle without obfuscation.”

    The problem is not just hard to tackle – it is impossible. The question of when a person becomes a person, or stops being a person, is utterly unanswerable. That’s why everyone’s answer is always unsatisfying to someone, and always will be as long as people continue to think about the question.

  8. JDM:

    Yet, at some point, we have to address it as a matter of public policy. Arguments for whichever policy we choose should, in my mind, only focus on the question of individuality and the consequent application of some notion of individual rights.


    I didn’t mean to imply that a fetus was not alive, merely that the question doesn’t really matter for the issue at hand. I believe the individuation you are referring to is the time at which you sensed a entity distinct from yourself. This may be a necessary but insufficient attribute of the individual referred to when we say ‘individual rights’.

    My first swing at the notion was to focus on self awareness. There is definitely something oogie about arguing that a distinct entity that exhibits awareness of self has no rights. As my gut tells me that the distinctness you refer to is not quite sufficient, I suspect that demonstrated self awareness might be too late in the process. Can you argue, for example, that a fetus is kind of like a wart, then kind of like a fish, then dog, then monkey, then person?

  9. Jason-

    I agree with your statement “at some point, we have to address it as a matter of public policy”. Others will probably go at you for it, so I’m going to give my take on it.

    (disclaimer: My commentary is limited to that statement which I excerpted. Do not take me to task for other statements made by Jason Ligon in that or any other post.)

    It’s easy to say “No, we don’t have to tackle that question as a matter of public policy. Leave the government out.” The problem is that to some people that’s like saying “No, we don’t have to prosecute somebody who murdered a person. Leave the government out.”

    And then somebody will say “How do you know it’s murder?” And on and on. Well, let me take a stab at it and say that at some point society made a value judgement (gasp!) and said “Yep, Sharon Tate was a human being with individual rights.” And then they prosecuted Charles Manson.

    Obvious, one might think. And others would say I’m comparing apples and oranges, comparing the fetus to a full-grown adult. Well, let me make another comparison:

    At some point society made a value judgement (gasp!) and decided that decomposing corpses are not alive, so mutilating a corpse, while a crime, is not punished as severely as murder.

    OK, great, we’ve just sorted two human bodies into two categories. Sharon Tate was (until her encounter with the Manson family) a living human being with rights. A corpse dug up by your local necrophiliac is not a living human being with rights. So attacking the body of Sharon Tate is murder, mutilating the decomposed body of Sharon Tate years later would not be murder.

    Now, is that fetus in the category of “living people with rights” or the category of “things/entities that do not have rights”? It matters because we have to decide whether or not to prosecute somebody who aborts that fetus. Even the decision not to prosecute that person is a public policy decision, albeit a passive one.

    So, sadly, the question has to be answered. Even more sadly, the various proposed answers are all very controversial. And the problem is that it involves a conflict between two very good libertarian notions:

    1) I have the right to control my body.
    2) The right to do what I want with my body ends where somebody else’s body begins. (e.g. I can swing my fist around all I want, but it better not connect with your face.)

    Both great principles that we can all agree with. Now, does the fetus count as “somebody else’s body” or not? That question is the source of all the controversy.

    Until the question becomes less controversial I refuse to disclose my stance on it, but I often defend one side or the other when somebody from the opposing side refuses to acknowledge that the other side has a good point.

  10. thoreau,

    The libertarian “dilemma” could be resolved if families were sovereign.
    Anything happening within the family up to and including murder would be none of the state’s business.
    How realistic is it to eternally agonize about making the distinction between a wart and a fetus or count the angels dancing on the head of a pin?

  11. Jason,

    I agree with both your point about the crux of the debate, and that the question needs to be answered. The problem is that it cannot be. People are just doomed to butt heads over this.

  12. Ruthless,

    Are you being serious? How disturbing.

  13. Ruthless-

    Um, I think I’ll pass on the idea of making murder a family matter. Sure, it would solve the dilemma of abortion, but I think there must be some way to solve that dilemma without giving people carte blanche to kill any and all relatives at any time.

    Call me a big government liberal if you will, but I kind of think that the rule of law is a good thing. Despite the government’s flaws, I still kind of like the idea that somebody can go to prison for murdering his family. If that makes me a statist, well, color me red and give me a copy of Marx, I guess. (The part about Marx was sarcasm.)

    I always thought Libertopia would be a place where everybody leaves everybody else alone. Apparently some people want a place where even murder is OK. Great.

  14. Julian,

    Thanks, a good discussion is always of interest!


    No, you are not a Marxist for believing in law and order. Individual rights depends upon it. I’m in complete agreement, as I’m a libertarian, not an anarchist. If I were to witness child abuse, would I just have to hope the child grows up quick enough to defend themselves before serious damage is done, if I were to live according to Ruthless’ argument?

  15. thoreau,

    The point you miss is that whether or not the fetus is an individual, it requires the mother’s body for its survival. The mother’s body belongs to the mother–and no one else. For the sake of argument, let me concede the point that a fetus is an individual (“somebody elses’s body”). The corollary to your point #2 (in this context) is that prohibiting abortion would amount to granting one individual (the fetus) a claim to the body of another (the mother). So regardless of the status of the fetus, there is no basis in individual rights for requiring a person to host another organism in their own body.

  16. Phil,

    “Requiring a person to host another organism in their own body” happens to be one of the side effects of “Penis, this is Vagina. Vagina, this is Penis.” I think that’s the way God, Allah, Mother Nature and Crom intended it.

    Abortion would be very much less of an issue if birth control were more intelligently practiced by both parties involved.

  17. Phil-

    Before I respond to your point on the fetus claiming another person’s body, I want to emphasize that my response is merely an intellectual exercise. Some of what I say is not my actual opinion, some is in fact 180 degrees opposite my actual opinion, but I want to examine an interesting argument. In doing so, I’ll pose questions and ideas that many people (myself included) might find controversial. Let’s all be adults here.

    OK, let’s examine your assumption that banning abortion gives the fetus a claim on another person’s body. Let’s also suppose (for the sake of argument that the fetus is in fact a person entitled to protection. By suggesting that the pregnant woman has no obligations to the fetus, are you suggesting that a mother has no obligations to her children during their childhood?

    I think not. So let’s suppose that parental duties are assumed only after a person has consented to them. At what point do we consider a person to have consented to parenthood? One could make a good case that a person engaging in consensual sexual intercourse with the full knowledge that pregnancy can result (including the full knowledge that contraceptives can fail now and then) has assumed responsibility for any consequences that may derive from that act, including any children that may be conceived.

    (I hasten to add that the above paragraph is contingent on the assumption, solely for the sake of argument that the fetus is a person deserving of protection.)

    Now, obviously this would suggest that a woman who was sexually assaulted can abort the fetus without any ethical problems, since she never consented to have the fetus in her. Nothing radical there, since most people who oppose abortion include sexual assault as an exception.

    (I wanted to get that out of the way before somebody accused me of insensitivity to women who were sexually assaulted.)

    So, an individual rights argument for abortion could be trumped if we make 2 assumptions:

    1) The fetus is an individual entitled to protection from physical injury at the hands of others.
    2) A woman consenting to sex is accepting responsibility for any outcomes.

    I hasten to add that I am not endorsing those assumptions. I’m simply observing that some assumptions can trump other assumptions, so the question of abortion boils down to picking some assumptions.

  18. You also leave out that individual rights are not sufficient for a just society or a moral life…

  19. One More Disclaimer:

    In settings where pro-life is the dominant viewpoint my discussion of abortion tends to emphasize sympathy for the pro-choice position. The fact that pro-choice seems to be the more common opinion here means I am more likely to point out merits in the pro-life position.

    The reason is simple: The only way to get cooler, more reasoned dialogue on abortion is for each side to recognize that this a situation where very good and valid principles conflict (in a nutshell, life, liberty, responsibility, individual rights, etc.). The “other side” is not composed entirely of demagogues who want women barefoot and pregnant (although such troglodytes are present on one side). The “other side” is not composed entirely of radicals who couldn’t care less if babies are killed (although such people can be found, undoubtedly). I’m simply pointing out that a very respectable argument can be made for the pro-life position, just as I point out to my pro-life friends that the pro-choice side has some valid concerns. Cooler heads will only prevail when each side respects the other.

  20. Jason writes: “I believe the individuation you are referring to is the time at which you sensed a entity distinct from yourself. This may be a necessary but insufficient attribute of the individual referred to when we say ‘individual rights’.”

    But why should it matter when *I* sense an entity distinct from myself? Should we not rely on objective evidence from the fields of biology and fetology? In bygone eras, women were aware of an entity only at quickening, which occurs roughly at 4mos. And for that reason, at common law abortion was actually permitted for much of Western history, until in the 19th century, medical science showed that animation ocurred much sooner. It was then realized that quickening is merely when movement can be felt through the uterine and abdominal walls. We are much more sophisticated now at looking into what goes on in the womb.

    Jason also writes: “My first swing at the notion was to focus on self awareness. There is definitely something oogie about arguing that a distinct entity that exhibits awareness of self has no rights. As my gut tells me that the distinctness you refer to is not quite sufficient, I suspect that demonstrated self awareness might be too late in the process. Can you argue, for example, that a fetus is kind of like a wart, then kind of like a fish, then dog, then monkey, then person?”

    A newborn is not self-aware, as far as neurologists know. Neonates do not seem to have a sense of being a distinct being. Should killing them therefore legal? If a person is temporarily in a coma or vegetative state from which there is prospect for them to awaken, should that a window of opportunity to kill them? If not, why is a fetus, who is growing toward self-awareness, be treated differently?

  21. Thoreau, your posts in this thread have been absolutely trenchant, and right on the dime. I also feel an almost intolerable tension between, on the one hand, the right to own and control one’s own body, and on the other, the fact that if pregnancy results from consensual intercourse, abortion takes the life of a “being” whose status is the stuff of much argument, but who exists because two people assumed the risk that s/he would exist.

    Myself, I cannot see the unborn as a wart or blob, because fetology simply has advanced to the point where it is an exercise in intellectual dishonesty to so advocate. It comes down to metaphysical notions of “personhood,” and there we are, indeed, in the territory of angels dancing on the head of a pin. Libertarian principles are in collision on this issue, and force us into a metaphysical realm we usually eschew.

    And altho I generally land on the “pro-life” side when I (stupidly) engage in abortion debates, I also have been known to challenge RTL advocates who advance dumb and incoherent arguments.

  22. nice piece. I wasn’t sure where reason was going with it based on the Hit & Run headline.
    Just a curiosity, how many out there with kids are pro choice vs. those without. Does anyone think that makes a difference?

  23. Wasn’t it one of the Bushes who said he was pro-life, except in the case of his daughters, when choice would rule? Or, maybe vp Q…

  24. I believe Danny boy said it would be up to his daughters to decide, and then his wife made a point of saying that if their daughters got preggers, they’d damn well better bear the kid. This incident showed how ill prepared Quayle was to be in public office, but it doesn’t necessarily make him a hypocrite, just shows the loaded and ambiguous nature of the word, “choice,” which is why I don’t use it in this context myself. That is, even if abortion were illegal, one still has the “choice” of whether or not to get one, even if that means disobeying the law. I don’t think Danny boy meant that abortion shouldn’t be illegal for his daughters, he just couldn’t articulate the subtle distinctions of the issue very well, poor chap.

  25. that’s right fydodor, thanks. nice to remember those innocent days and all the hilarity.

  26. The title of the post made me think of this cartoon i saw this morning.

  27. thoreau says,
    “Um, I think I’ll pass on the idea of making murder a family matter. Sure, it would solve the dilemma of abortion, but I think there must be some way to solve that dilemma without giving people carte blanche to kill any and all relatives at any time.
    Call me a big government liberal if you will…”

    You thoreau; big gummint librul. Me Ruthless.

    Gettum jiggy withal.

    Sum pipple needum killin’.

    Peace out.

  28. The nearness of Halloween brought to mind this metaphor:
    Political decisions carry the same degree of rationality as a three-year old’s as to who or what is wearing a scary mask.

  29. Smaller government conservatives should be asked how this makes the governement smaller.

    People, right and left, who oppose the war on drugs or gun control should be made to explain how a government enforced ban on abortion is any different then the bans on drugs and/or guns that they oppose.

    Abortion laws are just another form of People Control.

    If all forms of abortion were banned, people would still get backalley abortions. They would die, which would give reactive nannny politicians more justification to pass more laws and put more funding towards some agency in charge of enforcing the ban (think DEA and ATF).

    I imagine the instruments needed for abortions would be stricly regulated, Abortion would eventually reach the status and punishment of murder, and no doctor would perform an “emergency” abortion for fear of dissenting opinion and possible jail time.

    Like drugs, eventually the law will focus on those demanding abortions. Someone would claim that a “loophole” allows women to get abortions outside the country, and two options would present themselves:The first would be some form or “economic pressure” (Read:extortion/blackmail) on countries that allow abortions-identical to our attempts to blackmail Columbia regarding Cocaine, or th lesser attempt aimed at Mexico regarding allowing Americans under 21 to drink.

    The second would be some sort of punishment for women who get abortions in other countries upon their return. This is identical to the penalties the treasury dept. assesses on people who go to “embargoed” nations. Or the penalties on Americans who have sexualt relations with persons under 18 in another country, regardless of that country’s law.

    How to determine if someone is pregnant is another story. I envision someone coming up with a registration or reporting system like that used when child abuse is suspected. Perhaps Oracle can come in and set up a cross referenced database-registered pregnancies vs. hospital deliveries/birth records.

    If a person is pregnanct, but never registers their baby, police visits are very likely.

    As for drugs like RU-486 and other abortion/labor inducing drugs, they would probably banned and/or severely restricted. This would work as well as bans and restrictions on other drugs.
    Some people have induced labor with large quantities of birth control pills, these too would “need” some sort of legislation.

    Soon there would need to be laws about women who use bleach or other chemicals to induce abortion or kill the fetus, as well as people who deliberatly cause miscarriages-slamming into objects, getting someone to kick the womb area, etc.
    This, of course, would need addressing.
    With the final addition to the above, every miscarriage would result in the equivalent of a murder investigation.

    Every “loophole” that gets addressed above would call for more tax dollars for prevention, more indoctrination and propagandizing of young people, and more federal agents.

    Teenage girls would be the ones heavily attacked by both sides through the course of this. Supporters of the ban would use them as justification for all policies and as a gateway to adults. Opposers would use them as bait, as a sacrifice, or as a smokescreen for their opponent.
    This is identical to alcohol companies using the under 21 issue to distract or pacify groups like MADD. Drug war supporters do it more as a smokescreen, (illogically) saying that legalizing it will make it harder for teens to get it and also promising to support/enact stiff preventative measures aimed at youth.
    Even more money would be aimed solely at “underage” or “teenage” abortions.

    If the above really seems too far-fetched, email me and I’ll try to further justify my above rant on this electronic soapbox. 🙂

    This country has a very poor record with prohibition. Let’s do what we always tell students to do and actually learn from history.

  30. Incrementalism: It’s not just for environmentalists anymore!

  31. yelowd:Those who have children are more likely to oppose abortion because we didn’t abort them. I’m not sure there is a cause and effect like: “Now that I’ve seen the miracle of birth I oppose abortion.” My guess is that those of us who already had serious reservations about abortion didn’t rid ourselves of surprises. At any rate, that’s how it was in my case.

  32. Frightening sights aside–lak the miracle of birth–we are on the Reason site and may be capable of, uh, Reason.
    For ex. the unmarried woman who gave birth to our adopted daughter favors the right to abortion. Is that Reasonable?

  33. Ruthless: The abortion issue is ultimately not one of pristine reason, but of values. It all revolves around the value one does or does not vest in the entity residing in a pregnant woman’s uterus. Libertarians disagree on the issue precisely because our value system(which is pretty comprehensively resolves most issues) cannot resolve the matter of the proper value to be assigned to unborn human offspring.

  34. People who oppose abortion are disproportionately conservative. I would expect them to have fewer unwanted pregancies to begin with. This could cancel out the effect of their not aborting those that are unwanted.

    OTOH conservatives may also be more likely to want children.

  35. Ruthless-
    Humans have reason and emotion. Most people would agree that to give yourself solely to one or the other is not healthy. As for the children, Mona, you make a good point and make my question look rather stupid. The image that Reason chose was a bit vivid and the reference to the surgery in the womb led me to ask the question. I suppose the better question would be, those prochoice folks who follow the argument that it’s not my right to tell someone what to do, but have a baby themselves, do they find their position different after having the baby?

  36. If it’s an autonomy issue, why stop with so-called partial birth abortion? Really, what’s the difference vis a vis parently autonomy, between a fetus that is 9 months old and three quarters out of the woman’s body, and one that has slipped 4 inches further out? If it’s about a person’s “right to choose” then why should that right suddenly stop at birth? It strikes me as wholly irrational – we’ve assigned some arbitrary moment in time for a person who can’t talk, bathe, walk, or feed themselves – all the rights of adults.

    For that matter, what’s the difference between a fetus and a child that can’t even speak or reason yet? Gosh, the post-birth fetus seems even more troubling and burdensome to the parent than the pre-birth fetus. The post-birth fetuses just sit there peeing their pants and being fed – why they have the same quality of life as Terry Schiavo! None! Why shouldn’t parents be allowed to get rid of ’em? What the hell happened to a parent’s right to choose? After all, throughout history, people have left young kids out to die of exposure – so you can’t say there isn’t a traditional or historical basis for it. Suddenly we’re calling it wrong as a matter of law?

    I know this looks like reductio ad absurdum argument, but it isn’t. A little over a year ago, Sen. Rick Santorum posed this question to Sen. Barbara Boxer. She indicated that she thought the right to abortion should probably extend to the point where the parents decide to take the fetus home from the hospital.

    Slippery slope? Naah. Seems to me, a lot of us are already at the bottom of the hill, looking for the manhole cover.

    But then valuing other people’s lives isn’t really a libertarian value in these parts, anyhow. Valuing one’s own life and whims… now there’s a value I can get behind.

  37. I’m my parents’ oldest child, but I’ve recently learned that there had been a several-year earlier conception between my folks that had been aborted. In that case, there would have been many complications because my mother’s IUD was still in place (and had failed). Later, in my own case, my dad had wigged on first news and initially wanted to abort me. My mom was not having any of it, because she was 29 and ready for kids even if he wasn’t. But my mother had telling comment – once I was born, neither of them would have been able to choose abortion (outside of the medical-necessity realm).

    But then, my mom didn’t stop smoking up until she knew I was coming a couple of months into the gestation. Explains a lot, I guess.

  38. Ok, let’s flip this on its head: I’ll be pro-life if you can convince me you’re all not doing it in order to control women’s sexuality.

    Birth control fails. Celibacy doesn’t “protect” a woman either if she gets raped.

    Best way of control: reversible sterilization of everybody. Problem: let’s say Bin Laden plus N.Korea manage to nuke civilization and throw everything back to 3rd world level. Bad–need Plan B.

    One man can impregnate many women. Better to leave women fertile, control male fertility.

    Result: Best plan is reversible sterilization of all unmarried men. (sterilization reversed when married, DNA typing taken so any male will be responsible for the results of any biological material that leaves his body.)

    Now, if the above suggested solution gives a little shock to any men who are reading the above (“who are you to tell me what to do with my body?!) let me ask you: WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WOMEN DON’T HAVE THE SAME REACTION?!!

    Actually, my own position follows that of Carl Sagan: we worry about intelligence, not life. When brain processes start in the fetus, then it’s a human.

  39. Brendan-

    There’s one big difference between the pro-life position (or at least the most honest version of it) and laws against drugs or guns: We have laws against drugs and guns because politicians have decided “Well, that gun owner or drug addict might hurt somebody.” But advocates of banning abortion claim that somebody is being subjected to violence.

    The basic questions are (1) is the fetus in fact a person worthy of protection against violence? and (2) if the fetus is indeed entitled to such protection, does the fetus’s right conflict with the woman’s right to control her own body?

    It is the collision of principles that causes controversy over abortion, not the fact that the government is passing a law.

    Your statement:
    If all forms of abortion were banned, people would still get backalley abortions. They would die, which would give reactive nannny politicians more justification to pass more laws and put more funding towards some agency in charge of enforcing the ban (think DEA and ATF).

    could just as easily be applied to murder and theft. Murder and theft happen despite laws against them. Should we stop locking up thieves? Now, you are right in pointing out that our inability to stop every single theft and murder has led the state to fruitless measures that infringe on the liberties of non-criminals, but that simply means we should oppose gun control, not that we should oppose laws against theft and murder.

    I want to emphasize that I’m not advocating the pro-life position over the pro-choice position. But I get infuriated when an issue is so controversial because neither side will admit that the other side has a point, when in fact both sides have a good point. I get just as angry with my pro-life friends who won’t even consider the individual liberty implications of abortion laws. The plain and simple fact is that we have a conflict where one side invokes the principle that people shouldn’t kill other people, and the other side invokes the principle that people should be able to control their own bodies. It’s a collision of good principles, and that’s what makes it so complicated, because we are forced to look at the particulars of the situation and decide which principles to apply.

    Principles are easy because they are pure and ideal. Reality is hard because it is messy. And most of my fellow libertoids are idiots if they can’t recognize that reality is (alas) messy.

  40. “Partial birth” abortions are termed so because they occur during the stage of foetal development when the foetus can survive outside the womb on its own. That being said, how can one justify a partial birth abortion?

    The method of aborting the foetus is inconsequential, of course, but the stage of development in which partial birth abortions occur is too late in development.

  41. thoreau,
    If gummint had not been treating families for thousands of years like crap on the underside of shoes, I wonder if you might have a different point of view. And your comment that reality is messy is noted.

    I don’t know how to control for scale–you probably do–but there is and has been a more or less regular occurence of gummint killin’ as well as intra-family killin’. And whatever you and I agree upon, if we do, there will continue to be same.

    So, whether we are intra-family lookin’ at gummint or “big government liberal” lookin’ at families, which one of us can claim the prize for being more grossed out?

  42. You can all muse on about rape but the fact of the matter is that by the third trimester, the mother has known for long that she is pregnant. The time to abort has already come and gone for her.

    There is no reason why she should abort at this late in the term when she has known for months that she is pregnant.

    And the yankees are losing right now and I’m very sad.

  43. Personally I find any post-viability abortion abhorrent and unacceptable. On the other hand, I can’t see making it illegal either. We don’t have the right to control a mother’s body and force her to carry a child to term. But I can’t see how any moral human being could kill a viable in-utero baby when the alternative is so clear.

  44. Why don’t these chicks just learn to use birth control, for god’s sake.

  45. I find it curious that most of the posts on this have to do with the abortion side of the topic and not the gun side. Hmmmmm . . .

  46. tsz writes: “Actually, my own position follows that of Carl Sagan: we worry about intelligence, not life. When brain processes start in the fetus, then it’s a human.”

    Brain “processes” start very early. A heart is beating at 3 weeks. Movement occurs in the first trimester. These are capacities that entail brain activity. If you mean advanced cognition, then I have some questions.

    Newborns are not self-aware. Should it be legal to kill them?

    Should it be legal to kill, say, a 12 yr old who has been in a coma for two weeks, but who has a 40% chance of awakening within 3 mos? If not, then why is it ok to kill a fetus who will, if left alone, almost certainly survive to be a self-aware 12 yr old?

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