Hillary Clinton

CPAC Blogging: Spreading Santorum Edition

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I just caught a few of Ricky Santorum's pre–book signing remarks, consisting above all of his recounting of a debate over "partial birth" abortion with Hillary Clinton. Short version: Rick is showing big pictures of fetuses on the Senate floor. Clinton objects that this is unfair because many late-term abortions involve fetuses with severe deformities, such that they're expected to live only a few agonizing days or weeks if brought to term—a scenario the PBA ban made no accomodation for. Santorum replies (mustering as much gravitas as is possible for someone who looks like he started shaving last week): "I… we… don't see the difference." Lesson: Hillary Clinton is a bigot who hates the disabled—or, as Santorum characterizes those born with major organ systems outside the body, those who "aren't perfect."

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  1. I never understand these debates. Either you think the fetus is a person will full rights or you don’t. Either way, what does it matter what it looks like, whether it’s cute and cuddly? What does it matter if it’s got a deformity? What is the point of this theater?

  2. I look forward to the day when genetic testing, gene therapy, advances in birth control, etc. makes abortion obsolete.

  3. Even if you think abortion is generally bad, you don’t think it might make a difference that a fetus has a condition that will give it an incredibly short and painful life if brought to term? I’d think that rather obviously matters.

  4. Either you think the fetus is a person will full rights or you don’t.

    Because even with a binary choice like that there’s room for a world of interpretation. Things like cute & cuddly , deformed, severe medical problems, can all be contibuting factors in persons viewpoint, or not.

  5. There’s a line in “Schroedinger’s Cat” that says something to this effect:

    After the “morning-after” contraception pill came on the market, there was nearly zero need for abortion. Since abortion was no longer an isue, the pro-life movement splintered. Those who were involved out of actual concern for unborn children moved on to do great humanitarian and charity work. Those who pursued the pro-life position only for political reasons didn’t know what to do with themselves.

  6. Julian,

    I’m with Realish on this one. His point, I believe, is that either rights apply or do not. The individual’s state of health should not make any difference to this point.

    If the health does matter, which is allegedly obvious, than this is not an individual rights issue but some other issue (quality of life, woman’s choice, whatever), which is fine, but means only that you are on one side of his dichotomy. It does not mean that his point is invalid.

  7. What does it matter if it’s got a deformity? What is the point of this theater?

    It’s not about “cuddly”, and “deformity” is a little deceptive. There are some children who are born with significant portions of their brains outside their skulls, a condition detectable at about the eighth month.

    It’s about mothers who, knowing their children will survive only a few minutes outside their bodies, have to carry them to full term through an agonizing and painful labor that yields nothing but a dead mass of flesh at the end of it.

    Surely we can agree that dilation and extraction should be an option for these women. I hate to engage in the political fallacy of believing that one’s opponent has no argument simply because one disagrees with the argument, but come on now. I can only conclude that Santorum was either born without compassion or is beholden to political backers who lack it.

  8. S.R., perhaps it’s possible that Santorum was born with significant parts of his brain outside of his skull.

    It would explain a lot.

  9. Right. Santorum’s position is that from the moment of conception, the fetus is a human person, with all the attendant rights (mainly the right to not be killed). That’s basically a religious position, and arguments on its behalf should be religious. “Look how cute it is!” is not any kind of argument.

    Once you acknowledge that the fetus is something short of a person, deserving of something short of full rights, then you begin what is basically a pragmatic argument about degrees — then quality of life matters, the degree of development of the fetus matters, the mother’s circumstances matter.

    But if you’re arguing with someone like Santorum, then both you and Santorum should quit pretending that such nuances matter. In an argument with Santorum, it is a binary issue — he made it that way.

  10. SR–

    I’d say that Santorum’s willful ignorance of cases such as the one you mentioned prove that, at least in his case, the “pro-life” stance has nothing to do with compassion or respect for life, and everything to do with control.

  11. But Jennifer, from Santorum’s point of view, you’re asking him to allow killing of handicapped people. He wouldn’t see that as compassion.

    I don’t, for the record, in case it’s not obvious, agree with Santorum. I’m pretty close to a pro-choice absolutist.

    My point is simply that there is basically no such thing as an argument with Santorum about abortion. Pretending otherwise — much less showing a competing set of pictures — is pointless.

  12. wellfellow,

    The individual’s state of health should not make any difference to this point.

    You’re ignoring the right to life of the mother though which may be effected by the health of the fetus.

  13. I admit to being squeamish about abortion, and I would not like to see widespread late term abortions on demand – i.e., women who decide late in their pregnancy that they don’t want to go through with it after all (and I realize there probably aren’t that many of those situations). But as for matters as grave and as intimate as severely deformed infants, or those who are certain to die shortly after birth – it’s cruel and grotesque for anyone other than the parents and the doctors to be concerned with what is done. If there is to be a PBA ban – and I’m not necessarily against a ban – it HAS to include exceptions for this kind of circumstance. But of course, Santorum’s kind of conservative isn’t inclined, or even able, to spot such moral questions. It really is about control.

    But that’s the main problem I’ve always had with the doctrinaire pro-lifers – they give away the lie when they say they’re willing to grant exemptions in the case of incest or rape – in other words, if the mother had sex willingly, she can’t abort. If unwilling, then abortion’s allowed. So it’s not really about the life of the baby, is it? And if a rape or incest victim is not to be forced to give birth, why a woman who’s carrying a severely deformed child or one who can’t survive?

  14. they give away the lie when they say they’re willing to grant exemptions in the case of incest or rape – in other words, if the mother had sex willingly, she can’t abort.

    Or to use OTHER words, “All babies have the right to life. Unless your father is a rapist.”

  15. stubby,

    Well, some pro-lifers do allow for a “health of the mother” exception in their rhetoric as well.

  16. “Those pro-lifers are hypocrites! And that’s the choice you have. You can either be a person devoid of compassion, a hypocrite, or you can be on the side that I’m on.”

  17. For clarity purposes, I’m going to point out that is a different “S.R.” than me.

  18. Three points:

    Assuming you believe abortion is immoral, the problem with exceptions such as health of the mother, fetal deformaties, or rape is that these exceptions tend to swallow the rule. How big of a belly-ache does the mother have to have before she should be allowed an abortion? Who decides? How big of a health problem should the fetus have to have before we can allow it to be killed? Again, who decides? How do we decide if a rape occured in a timely manner?

    Second, a couple of people have argued that the pro-life opinion is religious. It need not be. The claim that “human life begins at conception, and it is wrong to kill such innocent human beings” is no more “religious” than holding the opposite beliefs. It is completely possible to have secular arguments against abortion.

    As a final point, there is nothing inconsistent with libertarianism and a pro-life belief. The basic tenant of libertarians – do not initiate the use of force – does not help us decide who should be included in that protected circle. If you believe the fetus inside the circle, then it is the mother who is initiating the use of force, and force can be justified in stopping her.

  19. The claim that “human life begins at conception, and it is wrong to kill such innocent human beings” is no more “religious” than holding the opposite beliefs.

    This is where we differ. From a naturalistic perspective, there is only the slow accretion of cells, the slow accretion of complexity. There is no sharp line between “person” and “non-person” — indeed, “person” is not even a natural category. It is a moral category.

    A libertarian, or anybody else, can of course argue that “we should consider, for purposes of law, any fetus a person with full rights.” That’s an argument about what moral principles we as a society should adopt.

    But to argue that a fetus IS a person will full rights, as though there were such a metaphysical category, is to make a religious argument, whether or not it is acknowledged as such. Nature provides no such category.

  20. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Given their penchant for waving grossout pictures, their claim to “speak for the voiceless,” their use of obnoxious picketing tactics, and the occasional act of terrorism; the fetus worshipers in the “pro-life” movement and the animal rights nuts really ought to think about hooking up.

    As much as I hate to piss off the JEEZ-us freaks or the PeTA kooks (heh… right) a fetus has a much “right to life” as a veal calf.

  21. Until it gets to a point where if removed from the mother’s body it can live, it is a parasite, & parasites don’t have rights. Whether you call it a “fetus” or an “unborn person” is irrelevant.

  22. What if these severe deformities are not discovered until just after birth? Should the mother have the right to order her newborn child killed, so that (s)he won’t have to watch the child live a few days in agony?

    For those who think that she has that right only before birth, what precisely is the difference between killing a severely deformed newborn and killing such a child just before (s)he emerges from the birth canal?

  23. This is not an academic argument for me, as I have a close relative who carried a fetus with anencephaly, a condition in which the fetus/baby, if it survives birth, would never become conscious and would live a most a few days on reflex action alone. It was discovered late in the pregnancy. The decision to perform a D&E was a gut-wrenching one for the parents, and their grief was no different than if the child had died after birth. Was their decision anti-life? The fetus was not a viable human being. This wasn’t someone missing an arm or with Down’s syndrome. Was their decision the right one? It is not for me or the government to judge. I’m not against mandatory counseling or cooling-off periods, but I firmly believe that this option should remain available to parents who face this agonizing situation.

  24. I’d say that Santorum’s willful ignorance of cases such as the one you mentioned prove that, at least in his case, the “pro-life” stance has nothing to do with compassion or respect for life, and everything to do with control.

    Were that the case, your willful ignorance of the development stages of the zygote/embryo/fetus/unborn angel would prove that your “pro-choice” stance has nothing to do with compassion or respect for choice, but everything to do with hatred of children.

    By the way, I think Santorum is a statist schmuck and will proceed to wash my keyboard after defending him…but there’s no doubt in my mind that his pro-life stance is sincere. Politically, it has harmed him much more than it’s helped him.

  25. Akira,

    For someone who prides himself on his rationality, you can weave a guilt-by-association fallacy with the best of them. Well, maybe not, since it was more like guilt-by-superficial-similarity…

  26. Julian Sanchez,

    Even if you think abortion is generally bad, you don’t think it might make a difference that a fetus has a condition that will give it an incredibly short and painful life if brought to term?

    It’s darkly hilarious that your solution to the short life expectancy of such a child would be to shorten his or her life further by killing him or her before birth. As for the pain aspect, well, again, should we allow parents of a child with a terminal and severely painful disease to have him or her “put to sleep”?

  27. This is where we differ. From a naturalistic perspective, there is only the slow accretion of cells, the slow accretion of complexity. There is no sharp line between “person” and “non-person” — indeed, “person” is not even a natural category. It is a moral category

    What does this has have to do with religion? I don’t disagree with you here at all. Where the line between “person” and “non-person” is an open question. However, different religious people put the lines in different places, as do different secular people. Believing it to be in one place rather than the other is no more or less religious, a priori.

    I guess in the broad sense of “religion” that encompasses all beliefs, the pro-life position is necessarily religious. On the other hand, under that broad of a definition, so is the pro-choice position, or any other. Let me ask it plainly – why is the opinion that personhood should begin at conception any different from the opinion that it should begin at the first brain waves, at “viability”, when the head pops out, when the umbilical cord is cut, or even several years after birth? I have seen all such positions defended.

    b-psycho

    Until it gets to a point where if removed from the mother’s body it can live, it is a parasite, & parasites don’t have rights. Whether you call it a “fetus” or an “unborn person” is irrelevant.

    Actually, a fetus is not a parasite. It is symbiotic. It is contributing to an extremely important (if not the most important) biological function of all; the biological function that all our other biological functions were constructed to serve – reproduction.

    In any case, if some pro-lifer invents an artificial womb, then by your logic all abortions would be immoral, wouldn’t they? It seems rather strange that rights should be technology dependant. An artificial womb is not really that far beyond our current powers. It more likely does not exist due to lack of demand.
    As a final point, from some point of view, we are all parasites. I am sure the tuna population sure perceives us as such. Do we no longer have rights?

  28. crimethink,

    I’m going to have to grant that your comments reflect he beliefs of a decent portion of the voting population. They can’t be dismissed or taken lightly, in all honesty.

    I’m not sure this is a good subset of the debate to get wrapped up in. No matter who “wins” this navel-gazing contest, the loser is anyone who finds themself in this awful predicament. Losing a child sucks ass, more than anyone can ever think possible. And you just can’t know that until you experience it.

  29. Santorum’s position is that from the moment of conception, the fetus is a human person, with all the attendant rights (mainly the right to not be killed). That’s basically a religious position, and arguments on its behalf should be religious.

    Nope. That sounds more like a biological/logical/philosphical argument to me. Unless you are saying the entire presumption that human beings are entitled to rights is a religious position.

    From a naturalistic perspective, there is only the slow accretion of cells, the slow accretion of complexity. There is no sharp line between “person” and “non-person”

    Nope. There is a definite event, conception, the union of two gametes into a discrete individual. Before concetion, you have two gamete cells. After conception, an individual. (According to the “conception is the starting point of human life” argument, anyway.) The addition of cells and increase in complexity come after the completion of conception.

    I grant you that the process of conception is not instantaneous but takes (depending on the sources I’ve checked) between 12 hours and two days. Therefore I think even a hard-line, from-conception anti-abortion position should allow you the moral wiggle room to terminate a zygote after conception has begun and for as long as you know it is not yet complete.

    But that’s the main problem I’ve always had with the doctrinaire pro-lifers – they give away the lie when they say they’re willing to grant exemptions in the case of incest or rape

    Only that’s not the position of “doctrinaire pro-lifers.” I hear hard-line pro-lifers complain that exceptions for rape are incest are actually coming from the “muddled middle” who don’t want to think the meaning and consequences of abortion through with rigorous logic.

    (And since in this post I’ve been trying to explain the hardline, motivated-by-logic-rather-than-compassion philosophical viewpoint, I feel compelled to add this aside: I’ve known at least two couples who decided to have an abortion after they learned that their fetus, even if it survived long enough to be born, would have only a short and very painful life.

    (There is an argument against that — again, a rather hard-line internally logical one. It has a technical name, but I can’t remember what it is right now.

    (Regardless, I think anyone would recognize that such a decision is motivated by compassion for the fetus-baby-whatever. And normal human empathy makes it just about impossible to think ill of those who choose this course, whether such a decision is the most logically “correct” one or not.)

  30. Pardon the use of “you,” I meant “One just can’t know that until one experiences it.”

    I’m not accusing you of anything, I just find both sides of this debate trite, having had a family SIDS experience in the last year. Using family agony to score political points for either side seems lame.

  31. It is one thing to lose a child, quite another to kill him or her.

  32. kmw,

    Also, it is not my side that wishes to exploit this kind of family agony. It is the pro-choice side, which desparately seeks out difficult situations like severe deformities, rape, and incest, which occur in a tiny minority of pregnancies, in order to justify the vast majority of abortions, which destroy a healthy unborn child who was conceived as a result of consensual, non-incestuous sex.

  33. Crimethink,

    Make all the excuses you want. If you’re so blinded by your nonsensical religious dogma to notice that there is no real difference between pedophiles…Opps! I mean anti-abortion activists… and PeTA, then there’s nothing I can do for you.

    The tactics and the mentality are the same, the only thing that differs is the rhetorical content.

  34. kmw, I’m sorry to hear about your personal family experience. I am amazed that you are able to respectfully and empathetically acknowledge both sides of this position. (Speaking of family, this Christmas I found out that one of my relatives is completely unable to rationally discuss the possibility that health plans might have defensible reason for limiting benefits for mental health treatment, and it’s because one of her sons has schizophrenia.)

    Crimethink is articulating the unpopular, hard-line (but internally logically consistent) anti-abortion position quite ably. (So is Chad, I think.)

    kmw is right in this, though — even if you believe the hard-line, logically consistent anti-abortion position is the correct one, you still end up arguing that the right thing to do is to let someone suffer pain (which won’t end until death) rather than end their life.

    That’s an uncomfortable argument to make, because we believe that people should be able to make their own decisions about whether life is worth living or not. But if they are unable to make or express that decision themselves …. ?

    Basically, it boils down to: Would you be willing to kill someone you love, to spare them pain that will not end until death — based on your presumption (but not certain knowledge) of what they would decide, if they could?

    I honestly don’t know where I’d come down on that.

    The scary thing is there’s a fair chance I might have to make a decision like that some day.

    Any of us might. And many of us probably already have.

  35. edit: …not to notice…

  36. crimethink

    You are correct. About 93% of abortions have nothing to do with any of the normal exceptions (health of the mother, fetal abnormalities, rape, or incest). And the data on this is by self-report, so the 93% figure is actually probably too low, as women are likely to want to believe they had a good reason when they really didn’t.

    http://www.third-way.com/data/product/file/17/demographics_of_abortion.pdf

    Also, the typical person getting an abortion is not some clueless teen or poverty-stricken young woman. She is in her early twenties, a bit poorer than average, with some college education. Many are married and much older.

    In short, you have hit it on the head. When the pro-choice side talks about abortion, you get the picture that most abortions are performed on 13-year-old rape victims. In fact, a more factually represenative woman would be a sorority chick whose partner “forgot” the condom…again.

  37. Chad,

    Thanks for the hard numbers. It would seem that in reality, abortion is used far more often as extra insurance for women who want to sleep around, than as a last resort for a regrettable situation like pregnancies by rape or incest.

  38. I’ve had students of mine who were willing to not only say that there should be no exceptions to the laws banning abortion but that that law should have the same punishments as the punishment for first degree murder, including the death penalty. (Fortunately my state doesn’t allow the death penalty, so someone getting an abortion would only serve 20 years to life).

    They also were willing to allow the police to investigate miscarriages so as to make sure they weren’t accidental.

    They apparently come to these views because they’re trying to be good Christians.

    My wife is currently pregnant, and though I can’t and wouldn’t say this to my students, I’d like to say it here: if it turns out that the baby won’t survive after birth, or if it puts my wife’s life or health at risk, it’s HER DECISION about what to do about it, along with the people SHE chooses to ask. I don’t give a *%*^ what you or Bill Frist or James Dobson think! It’s not your body, and my wife is at least as capable of making moral decisions as any of you are. She’s the one who has to deal with the consequences of that decision, for better or worse.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  39. Chad,

    “What does this has have to do with religion? I don’t disagree with you here at all. Where the line between “person” and “non-person” is an open question…I guess in the broad sense of “religion” that encompasses all beliefs, the pro-life position is necessarily religious.”

    Darkly,

    “That sounds more like a biological/logical/philosphical argument to me. Unless you are saying the entire presumption that human beings are entitled to rights is a religious position.”

    I agree with you both.

    The American Heritage Dictionary defines “religious” as “having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity.” Well, any person is free to define a fetus or even just a fertilized egg as inherently human and entitled to the same right to life as a “born” human without appealing to arguments about deities. It’s part of our nature as the only species capable of abstract thought that we can and do assign value judgments to anything whatsoever, and for any reason. If we couldn’t do that there would be no morality or religion at all. “God” is a fiction, a personification actually, of us. So what I’m saying is that morality is a precursor of religion. It’s actually a bit strange to me to hear secularists argue that abortion or other moral issues are inherently religious issues. I mean, don’t secularists generally stand firm that there can be morality without religion? I know I do. I think what it comes down to is that most secularists who are also pro-abortion rights would really prefer that abortion not be acknowledged as a moral issue because it is a messy one. Science can guide us in deciding at what point in fetal development abortion is no longer a moral option, but it can’t as yet give a clear answer and possibly never will. So, by defining anti-abortion arguments as strictly religious, pro-abortion rights secularists get to separate morality from those arguments and intertwine it with science, thus claiming it exclusively for themselves. It’s a sneaky and self-deceptive strategy that ultimately mirrors religious arguments about having God one’s side.

  40. Ted,

    You have to understand that statists like crimethink and Chad simply abhor liberty and individualism.

    Stevo Darkly,

    …even if you believe the hard-line, logically consistent anti-abortion position is the correct one, you still end up arguing that the right thing to do is to let someone suffer pain (which won’t end until death) rather than end their life.

    Which is why these same fucks oppose individual choice in end of life decisions. They want to control every aspect of your life, including how you die.

  41. “Science can guide us in deciding at what point in fetal development abortion is no longer a moral option, but it can’t as yet give a clear answer and possibly never will.”

    make that “probably never will.”

    btw, i am pro-abortion rights.

  42. Ted — Your stand is emotionally powerful. But it doesn’t address any of the opposing arguments that anyone else has posted here.

    v – It’s actually a bit strange to me to hear secularists argue that abortion or other moral issues are inherently religious issues.

    Actually, while it’s frustrating to hear the anti-abortion position repeatedly mischaracterized as purely a religious issue, I have to give the pro-choice a little slack here too.

    Much of the visible anti-abortion activism and arguments come from religious groups, and they themselves wrap their protests in religious trappings by praying aloud while demonstrating, and invoking God in placards, instead of emphasizing the biological/logical/philosophical arguments.

    The current anti-abortion movement is totally tactically inept.

    Someday I’m going to finish the essay I started several years ago, “Why My Fellow Pro-Lifers Suck,” which would dissect the movement’s ineffective tactics and suggest alternatives. But so far, the only part I’ve actually written is the title.

    Hak — You’re overreaching a bit. The hardcore anti-abortion argument is that no one else should decide when another innocent person dies.

  43. One more comment, from me as a scientist (which is my job, honestly): Science cannot answer moral questions.

    While science can provide us information on which to make our decisions, science and morality are fundamentally and logically incompatible. Science is about what is, was, and will be. Morality is about what ought to be.

    Abortion, as opposed to something like global warming, involves little scientific debate. Almost no one disagrees about what is. We disagree with respect to we ought to do about it.

  44. Stevo Darkly,

    That same hardcore position necessarily leads to thoughts regarding the control of peoples’ reproductive lives, their end of life choices, what they imbibe, smoke or eat, etc.

  45. Hakluyt, I disagree. I have no concern with what you eat, drink, smoke, screw, or how or when you kill yourself if you choose to do so. I do not car which charities, if any, you give your money to or with whom you associate. These are all private matters and none of my darned business.

    Abortion, however, is not necessarily a private matter. Indeed, that is the whole debate.

  46. 45 replies and only one (so far as I can tell) from a woman.

  47. That same hardcore position necessarily leads to thoughts regarding the control of peoples’ reproductive lives, their end of life choices, what they imbibe, smoke or eat, etc.

    Hak — Chad has just offered you one example contradicting your statement.

    I can offer another — myself.

    Now you have three options:

    1) You can argue that I’m really a statist. That might possibly convince you, but it won’t convince me, because I know that I am not. (And everybody else will have to use their own best judgement to decide of us is correct.)

    Or

    2) You can retract your statement above.

    Or

    3) You can modify it by replacing the word “necessarily” with something else. Maybe “often.” This requires the least radical and possibly defensible revision of your stance. But you were still overreaching.

  48. 45 replies and only one (so far as I can tell) from a woman.

    Good point. If women weren’t so apathetic about abortion and were willing to get involved, we guys wouldn’t have to do all the thinking about it.

    😉

  49. Chad,

    …science and morality are fundamentally and logically incompatible.

    That is frankly quite silly. Science is the invention of and is practiced by humans, thus it intersects with and deals with questions about morality all the time. Far too many scientists have a very limited understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of science IMHO.

    As to your public/private division, its an artificial one and does not hold up to analysis. There are just as many possible “public” aspects to homosexuality or drug use as there are too abortion and its a fool’s game to try to base your position on such a slippery definational slope.

    Stevo Darkly,

    (4) You can re-read my statement and understand its true content. Here, I’ll repeat it for you:

    That same hardcore position necessarily leads to thoughts regarding the control of peoples’ reproductive lives, their end of life choices, what they imbibe, smoke or eat, etc.

    The hardcore anti-abortion argument is that no one else should decide when another innocent person dies.

    BTW, this isn’t even true. As Professor Calabresi related in an book in 1970*, “[o]ur society is not committed to preserving life at any cost.” We make decisions all the time, decisions which cost the lives of innocent people, and no one is ever blamed for such. Why? Because some risks are just too expensive to justify mitigating in light of say the number of people potentially saved, the importance of a resource, the importance of a project, etc. In light of such I find the absolutist position of anti-abortionists like yourself to be downright bizarre and bordering on hypocrisy.

    The Cost of Accidents, 17-18.

  50. Dang, Hak — your style of debate, though much improved over days of yore, can still be irritating sometimes.

    4) You can re-read my statement and understand its true content. Here, I’ll repeat it for you:

    That same hardcore position necessarily leads to thoughts regarding the control of peoples’ reproductive lives, their end of life choices, what they imbibe, smoke or eat, etc.

    Ah, I see, I see — you just meant that it leads to thinking about those topics, not to any to particular conclusions about those topics (such as those you coincidentally imputed to “these same fucks”).

    In the same sense, of course, you could also say:

    “The libertarian position necessarily leads to thoughts regarding the control of peoples’ reproductive lives, their end of life choices, what they imbibe, smoke or eat, etc.”

    Which is certainly does. Libertarians’ thoughts regarding these subjects make up the bulk of H&R threads.

    Somehow I was under the false impression that you were making an unfair criticism about the holders of a particular position, rather than simply making a neutral statement about what topics those position-holders think about.

    It’s obvious now, of course. Thank you for clarifying your own position.

    As for the Calabresi quote and your elaboration, I wrongly assumed that you knew the difference between (1) deliberate acts that have the very specific aim of ending a human life, and (2) taking an action that may, incidentally, carry a non-zero risk of unintentionally harming someone … and that it’s the former that anti-abortionists have moral qualms about.

    Everytime I get into a car and drive on the highway, there is some non-zero risk that I will have an accident that results in someone’s death. This is morally different from getting into a car with the deliberate intention of running someone over, and then doing so.

    If you did not know all this before, you do now.

    By the way, I just heard an amusing riddle:

    What’s long, skinny, wriggly, oily and makes your head all frizzy?

    Answer: A squirming slippery weasel that splits hairs.

  51. That is frankly quite silly. Science is the invention of and is practiced by humans, thus it intersects with and deals with questions about morality all the time. Far too many scientists have a very limited understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of science IMHO.

    Science can never tell us what to do. How would you run a scientific test to confirm the validity of “Thou shalt not kill”? Doing such is complete nonsense. Science does not deal with imperative statements. You are right, though, in stating few scientists have studied the philosophy of their own subject.

    As to your public/private division, its an artificial one and does not hold up to analysis. There are just as many possible “public” aspects to homosexuality or drug use

    Which are? If I screw my boyfriend while doped up tonight, no one is affected besides consenting adults. If Jane has an abortion tonight, someone (debatably) dies.

    You are just trying to claim that the tertiary effects of private actions now make them public. In that case, all things are public and there is nothing such as privacy. For example, if you take a piss, you clearly effect the price of water, which affects the public. Therefore, pissing is not private. If you want to define public that broadly, then go ahead. It gets us nowhere.

    BTW, this isn’t even true. As Professor Calabresi related in an book in 1970*, “[o]ur society is not committed to preserving life at any cost.

    Yes, but we do avoid deliberately killing innocent people.

  52. Stevo Darkly,

    …can still be irritating sometimes.

    I readily admit that people such as yourself who are willfully obtuse are irritating.

    …rather than simply making a neutral statement about what topics those position-holders think about.

    And thus what they are inclined to support. Its no accident after all that anti-abortion types have in general a fairly clear set of priorities that include these other areas I mentioned.

    …(1) deliberate acts that have the very specific aim of ending a human life…

    Clearly there are deliberate, violent acts against innocent persons which we find morally justified – indeed, much of warfare has historically been conducted on this basis (e.g., Grant’s “March to the Sea,” firebombing Japanese and German cities, etc.). Now contrast this with the “all life is sacred” rhetoric that is common in the statements of right to lifers.

  53. Chad,

    Science can never tell us what to do. How would you run a scientific test to confirm the validity of “Thou shalt not kill”? Doing such is complete nonsense. Science does not deal with imperative statements. You are right, though, in stating few scientists have studied the philosophy of their own subject.

    Science is a human construct and as such you cannot take the concerns of humans out of it. To say that science and morality are divorced from one another is to avoid all the intersections between the two over history.

    If I screw my boyfriend while doped up tonight, no one is affected besides consenting adults.

    Ahh, but the Christian moralist would argue that this has a corrosive effect on society as a whole because of a potentially unwanted pregnancy that might lead to having to abandon the child to foster parents, etc. To be honest there are few human actions that don’t have some sort of potential intersection with the public realm, this is why hanging your hat on that distinction is quite problematic at best.

    Yes, but we do avoid deliberately killing innocent people.

    No we don’t; or rather, we don’t after a point.

    Stevo Darkly,

    BTW, as I always say, splitting hairs claims is always the last refuge of a scoundrel.

  54. Stevo Darkly,

    BTW, even you admit that pro-lifers suck. 🙂

  55. …rather than simply making a neutral statement about what topics those position-holders think about.

    And thus what they are inclined to support. Its no accident after all that anti-abortion types have in general a fairly clear set of priorities that include these other areas I mentioned.

    I think you have just reversed yourself back to my original interpretation of your statement, but I thank you for adding the qualifiers “inclined” and “in general,” as I pointed out that you logically must.

    Clearly there are deliberate, violent acts against innocent persons which we find morally justified

    Deliberate, violent acts against innocent persons — specifically, acts with the deliberate and specific intention of causing their deaths — can be morally justified? You are arguing this position? As a libertarian? How do you square this with the no-initiation-of-coercion axiom?

    BTW, as I always say, splitting hairs claims is always the last refuge of a scoundrel.

    And I say that dismissing complaints about one’s arguments as “the last refuge of a scoundrel” is the last refuge of a bigger scoundrel. 🙂

    BTW, even you admit that pro-lifers suck. 🙂

    Yes. Tactically, they do. They’re horrible. Every public pro-lifer demonstration as currently conducted sets the abortion-abolition movement back about 50 years. So as a practical matter, you don’t have much to worry about.

    I look forward to the day when genetic testing, gene therapy, advances in birth control, etc. makes abortion obsolete.

    I completely agree with you there. I personally don’t think abortion is going to go away until it becomes so easy, essentially effortless, to avoid pregnancy that you would basically have to be a criminally careless fuck-up to have a pregnancy you don’t want. Unlike today, where the “need” for an abortion can be so great that it’s quite possible — if only rarely easy — to overcome whatever distaste might inhibit you from getting one.

    Like slavery. Not until advances in technology removed the “need” for it was it possible to make slave labor socially unacceptable.

    Since I no longer believe in using the coercive power of the State to impose a consensus on abortion where none exists yet, all I can do is argue about it, try to be persuasive, and help to insure that the inhibiting distaste for abortion isn’t rationalized away before advances in technology give it a chance to become a truly decisive factor in individuals’ decisions.

  56. I agree with you Steve. If I were King of the World, I would not ban abortion, though I consider it morally abhorrent. Doing so before there is broad consensus would be a disaster. In the meantime, we can persuade, and eliminate the worst of abortions (at least by making them humane). Generally, the pro-life side is gaining, precisely because you have to be closer to a “criminal fuck-up” every day in order to need an abortion. Both quality and access to birth control is steadily increasing. In the long run, I feel that people will look back on the pro-choice movement with the same disdain as we do slaveholders, but that is some pretty long-range speculation.

    To Hakluyt: There is two scenarios where it is permissible to kill innocents:

    1: When that person not longer has any reasonable probability of being intelligent. A severly deformed fetus or a Terry Shaivo, for example. In the latter case, we should do kill the person only if that was their wish while they were still functional.

    2: When not killing the innocents would lead to even more deaths. Various war or terrorist scenarios fall under this category. This is not a choice to be taken lightly and should be made with as much deliberation as the scenario allows. This reasoning could also justify “health of the mother abortions”, but only under some fairly extreme circumstances where both mother and child were likely to die.

  57. Geez, is there any room left in the Gully, thoreau?

    BTW, Hakluyt, it was Sherman, not Grant, who had a “March to the Sea.” Read up on your fucking Civil War history, man. 🙂

  58. I look forward to the day when genetic testing, gene therapy, advances in birth control, etc. makes abortion obsolete.

    Yes, and all of these technologies (especially birth control) are opposed to one degree or another by the anti-abortion movement.

  59. Tanya, I am female.

  60. My apologies, V. Make that 59 replies, including comments from 3 women.

    Still ….

  61. Stevo Darkly,

    I think you have just reversed yourself back to my original interpretation of your statement, but I thank you for adding the qualifiers “inclined” and “in general,” as I pointed out that you logically must.

    You’ve lapsed into sophistry I’m afraid.

    Deliberate, violent acts against innocent persons — specifically, acts with the deliberate and specific intention of causing their deaths — can be morally justified? You are arguing this position? As a libertarian? How do you square this with the no-initiation-of-coercion axiom?

    If you would go back to my original statement you’d realize that I’m not discussing my own personal views on the matter.

    Like slavery. Not until advances in technology removed the “need” for it was it possible to make slave labor socially unacceptable.

    That’s a highly debateable claim, since its rather obvious that advances in technology could be easily married to slavery (e.g., Cuba’s adoption of railroads, vacuum pans, etc. in the sugarmaking industry). Then again, as you know, I’m not a technological determinist. Indeed, groups in the West (for the first time in the history of the West) objected to slavery in a universal sense long before any advances in technology came along that could justify its abolition.

    crimethink,

    Its the Gulch.

    Many apologies for my typo.

    Akira McKenzie,

    Yes, and all of these technologies (especially birth control) are opposed to one degree or another by the anti-abortion movement.

    True enough.

  62. Chad,

    1: When that person not longer has any reasonable probability of being intelligent. A severly deformed fetus or a Terry Shaivo, for example. In the latter case, we should do kill the person only if that was their wish while they were still functional.

    In the case of Schiavo she was already dead in the first place. Pulling the feeding tube didn’t change that in any way. Why is it that you and others have this fetish about the human body even when it lacks a brain or lacks a functioning brain?

    Of course I must also argue that a fetus, especially during the first trimester I suspect, is also not intelligent, so it seems to me that your rule would necessarily include a procedure during say the first several months of the fetus’ existance. Now I’m sure you’ll come back with something about Aristotle and acorns.

  63. Stevo Darkly,

    Or, to make my point more clearly, I am unconvinced that either advances in market freedom or in technology lead to the end of slavery. The historical record just support such a conclusion.

    What did happened was something more like this: the concept of freedom sprang from the experience with its opposite, slavery. But freedom in that sense was not universal; it was particularized and held as a birthright of a particular community. Universal freedom could only flower with a universal concept of man and this had to apparently await the religious persecution of the Reformation as small bands of the “heretical” were persecuted by larger religious entities which in turn caused a change in the mental framework of those who were persecuted, one which spawned a powerful meme about the universal concept of humans. This combined with a similar secular notion coming out of the Enlightenment based on a non-religious view of the study of man to create an even more powerful meme that eventually trickled down to the mass of British society, who took and successfully used this meme to change government policy.

  64. Tanya,

    Don’t feel bad… 63 comments, and I’m the first unborn child to post. And we’re the ones who are affected most by abortion.

    Oh yeah, and tell Julian Sanchez that he’s next on my “anal implantation” list. Don’t make me come in there!

  65. You’ve lapsed into sophistry I’m afraid.

    I was wondering whether you’d end up calling me a “statist” or a “solipsist.” I completely overlooked “sophist.” Still available: sassafras, solenodon, Sufi and surfboard.

    This was an entertaining thread. I learned a few things:

    1) Because we can’t stop people from dying, it’s hypocritical to make rules against killing.

    2) The positions that Hak argues in order to support his previous posted positions are not, in fact, his own positions.

    3) It was only possible to end slavery when religious persecution during the Reformation and the flowering of a secular, humanist worldview suddenly made people realize that unfreedom was uncool.

    4) Debating with Hak is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

    But it was still fun.

  66. Stevo Darkly,

    1) Because we can’t stop people from dying, it’s hypocritical to make rules against killing.

    That’s not my position and it amounts to a strawman argument.

    2) The positions that Hak argues in order to support his previous posted positions are not, in fact, his own positions.

    More correctly, I don’t take the positions which you think or wish I would take.

    3) It was only possible to end slavery when religious persecution during the Reformation and the flowering of a secular, humanist worldview suddenly made people realize that unfreedom was uncool.

    That’s part of the answer.

    4) Debating with Hak is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

    My positions are rather concrete, all you have to do is appreciate what they are.

    But it was still fun.

    Ho hum.

  67. Stevo Darkly,

    I was wondering whether you’d end up calling me a “statist” or a “solipsist.” I completely overlooked “sophist.”

    If your commentary ever falls into one of those categories I guarantee I’ll use them. You appear to imply that I use such terminology haphazardly, which isn’t the case. As far as I can tell you’d rather appeal to peoples’ prejudices and/or emotions to make an argument, and you depend on the audience to nod in approval, and this is what makes you a sophist (at least in regard to this particular matter).

  68. The fact remains that women have had abortions for millenia. Abortion was used back when our species was still nomadic as a way to keep the group mobile. Women couldn’t keep up too easily if they were always pregnant or lugging several children around. Until the 19th century, the limited means of birth control and abortion were generally considered a woman’s issue, not something for government to interfere with.

    Several things have changed in the past several decades. First, it’s now permissible, even expected, for women to have many sex partners over a lifetime. Second, birth control is now accessible and effective. Third, abortion is no longer dangerous. If abortion is outlawed, again, women will still get them. The only difference is that many of them will be rendered sterile or will die from illegal abortions. Which is more immoral, to kill an unborn embryo or fetus (that has never taken a breath, experienced an emotion, experienced life) or to let a teenage girl or adult woman (who are clearly alive by every moral and scientific determination) die from an illegal abortion?

    Here’s a question just for you guys. How’d you like us women to stop sleeping around out of a fear of getting pregnant? Do you guys really want to go back to having to wait until marriage to have sex?

  69. erika,

    I don’t think it’s possible to go back to the days when sex didn’t happen before marriage, since that time never existed. Extramarital sex is as old as, well, marriage itself.

    But, as for me personally, the end of premarital sex wouldn’t affect me at all.

  70. It seems your eggs are only sacred once fertilized. Before fertilization those eggs were still potential live children.
    So the power struggle starts only once you involve men/sperm.

    Human life isn’t all that sacred until the control of who dies and when is out of the hands of government, religion and/or some men.

    If sanctity of human life was the real issue there would be no wars and no people starving in this world. Pro-lifers would be protesting war in the street. Foreign aid would be 10% of our GNP.
    So the real issue is that you don’t want ME to decide when I’ll keep a pregnancy. No matter how it happened planned, carelessness,rape,contraception failure, birth defect.

    It’s not about when life begins it’s about control & power.

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