Politics

Is the Abortion Debate Changing?

Understanding the latest opinion poll results

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As an atheist and a secular kinda guy, I practice moral relativism regularly. Still, I always have struggled mightily with the ethics and politics of abortion. Apparently, I'm not alone.

A new Gallup Poll claims that for the first time since 1995—when the question was first asked by the organization—most Americans consider themselves to be "pro-life" rather than "pro-choice."

The straightforward question asked of participants was this: "With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?" Fifty-one percent responded that they were pro-life, and 42 percent said they were pro-choice. These percentages are the reverse of what was found in the same poll in 2006.

What happened? Is it possible that the nation has undergone a gigantic attitudinal shift on the fundamental issue of abortion in only three years' time? Logically, it seems that the entire framing of the debate has become antiquated and far too simplistic for the questions we face. Anecdotally, I would say it's possible. I know I've changed my views.

After a life of being pro-choice, I began to seriously ponder the question. I oppose the death penalty because of the slim chance innocent people will be executed and because I don't believe the state should have the authority to take a citizen's life. So don't I owe a nascent human life at least the same deference? Just in case?

Now, you may not consider a fetus a "human life" in early pregnancy, though it has its own DNA and medical science continues to find ways to keep the fetus viable outside the womb earlier and earlier. It's difficult to understand how those who harp on the importance of "science" in public policy can draw an arbitrary timeline in the pregnancy, defining when human life is worth saving and when it can be terminated.

The more I thought about it the creepier the issue got. Newsweek, for instance, recently reported that 90 percent of women whose fetuses test positive for Down syndrome choose to abort. Another survey showed that only a small percentage of mothers even use the test. So what happens when 90 percent of parents test their fetuses? Does it mean the end of the disorder, or are we stepping perilously close to eugenics?

What about future DNA tests that can detect any defects in a fetus? What happens when we can use abortion to weed out the blind, the mentally ill, the ugly, or any other "undesirable" human beings?

Recently, Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare ruled that women are permitted to abort their children based on the sex of the fetuses. In the United States, a woman can have an abortion for nearly any reason she chooses. In fact, a health exemption for the mother allows abortions to be performed virtually on demand.

If you oppose selective abortions but not abortion overall, I wonder why? How is terminating the fetus because it's the wrong sex any worse than terminating the fetus for convenience's sake? The fate of the fetus does not change; only the reasoning for its extinction does.

Now, I happen to believe (as civil libertarian and pro-life activist Nat Hentoff once noted) that the right to life and liberty is the foundation of a moral society. Then again, I also believe a government ban on abortion would only criminalize the procedure and do little to mitigate the number of abortions.

Obviously, these are a few of the complex and uncomfortable issues to ponder. Maybe this poll tells us that the dynamics of the abortion debate are about to change, that Americans are getting past the politics and into the morality of the issue.

Then again, it's entirely possible that I'm just projecting.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.

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  1. If one concludes that a fetus is a human being, then the most libertarian of responses would be to protect that human being’s right to life.

  2. Good article…

    Could it be that the argument is less about women controlling fertility and their lives than it used to be? (It’s more acceptable to be a single mom, prevelance of public aid, socially embraced birth control methods, etc)

  3. If it was OK to kill Terry Schiavo because she had no brain activity(and I think it was), then it should only be OK to kill a fetus if it has no brain activity. A quick wiki search says that EEG is measurable at the 12th week. So it’s settled; we can abort fetuses only until they’re 12 weeks old. Next controversy, please.

  4. Everyone please just agree with Warty so we can get on with our lives. Thanks.

  5. On to Palestine vs. Israel next, Warty.

  6. You just need to decide when a fetus transitions to a person . . then the 14th applies.

  7. Is it still open season if someone has no brain activity at present but can be expected to attain or reattain it soon?

  8. Damn, you’re faster than me Fascitis.

  9. On to Palestine vs. Israel next, Warty.

    Heads: partition. Tails: genocide. Call it.

  10. No brain activity means dead in most jurisdictions.

    The law is mostly silent regarding resurrection.

  11. Is it still open season if someone has no brain activity at present but can be expected to attain or reattain it soon?

    The only scientific way to test this is with the aid of a zombie. If the zombie doesn’t devour the subject, then it’s OK to kill them.

  12. FWIW I agree with kinnath and as much as I dislike putting personhood and rights status up to a vote, I don’t see a better alternative than allowing legislatures/referenda to set the dividing line between blob-of-tissue-that-doesn’t-matter and blob-of-tissue-that-does.

    5:00, time to slide down that dinosaur back and paddle my way back to the cave.

  13. It’s also likely that the terms of the debate are changing.

    For the longest time, abortion prohibitionists said “abortion is murder!” and the abortion legalizers have had to respond that either abortion is not murder or it’s a murder that could only be prevented taking away people’s freedom over their own body.

    Within the past year, a new abortion legalization argument has come to the fore. It goes, “just like you, I’m against abortion. I think we should do as much as possible to reduce the number of abortions. I think there’s a lot of good to be done there. However, I think that abortion should still be legal, and that is a point we’re going to have to disagree upon.”

    Now suddenly both sides are “pro-life”. The term has been co-opted. Will it satisfy the abortion prohibitionists? Not all, but some. Those who wish to have abortion made illegal even if it increased the number of abortions and the number of people who die; they will never be satisfied. They will probably go ballistic over legalizer’s attempts to create a shared moral highground.

    We are witnessing a change in the terms of the debate. Who knows what the result will be.

    I think if the poll asked whether abortion should be outlawed, you would have very different results.

  14. As an atheist and a secular kinda guy, I practice moral relativism regularly. Still, I always have struggled mightily with the ethics and politics of abortion. Apparently, I’m not alone.

    The fact is that the only way to train a society to violently react to a government that wants to liquidate people for no good reason, is to indoctrinate the public into believing that all human life, in all permutations, is a rights-endowed life form with an inalienable right to life. Think about that, for a second. If you train a society to believe that from the moment a sperm and egg come together to the moment that all life functions cease, a human is a rights-endowed being, there is no moral weasel room for a Hitler or a Stalin or a Pol Pot to argue “they’re not entitled to live.”

    When libertarians argue for abortion rights, they undermine one of the most critical memes that supports human liberty: the idea that all organisms that will naturally become a viable human being (or sentient being) are life forms with inalienable rights that are not subject to the destructive whims of others. It is not very far from giving a woman a right to abolish the life of her unborn child, to giving the state the right to abolish the right of a dissenter. In neither case did the one whose life is being extinguished do anything which could justify empowering another to strip them of their right to live.

  15. “The more I thought about it the creepier the issue got. Newsweek, for instance, recently reported that 90 percent of women whose fetuses test positive for Down syndrome choose to abort. Another survey showed that only a small percentage of mothers even use the test. So what happens when 90 percent of parents test their fetuses? Does it mean the end of the disorder, or are we stepping perilously close to eugenics?”

    I believe there’s a strong argument to be made that the people who *do* currently do these genetic tests on their fetuses are more likely to be interested in aborting them if they come back with negative results. It’s self-selection at its finest. I take the view that you cannot be obligated to maintain a foreign body, human or not, inside your own body by anyone. However, if the fetus is at the point where it can survive if delivered then I don’t believe you should kill it. I’ll leave that question to the doctor performing the procedure, however.

  16. No brain activity means dead in most jurisdictions.

    Well then the comparison would be with persistent vegetative state or whatever was Schiavo’s deal.

  17. It’s also problematic to say that the right to be called a rights-endowed being depends on brain functions because the severely retarded are probably less sentient than your average dog. Based on the logic that brain development is key there, a legal guardian could justify killing a severely retarded person at any time.

    Development itself is problematic as well, as the human body deteriorates after its development peak, to the point that the elderly are no more capable of independence than a small child (at best). For that reason, basic human rights should only be limited by development except when absolutely necessary, and the right to life is simply not ever in that category.

  18. Well then the comparison would be with persistent vegetative state or whatever was Schiavo’s deal.

    With Schiavo, the lizzard part of the brain was working, but the upper layer functions were gone — and known to be gone.

  19. Based on the logic that brain development is key there, a legal guardian could justify killing a severely retarded person at any time.

    Even tards have measurable EEG. Don’t kill them.

    Why would you want to kill tards anyway? They can pick up heavy things for you.

  20. David is coming to the conclusion about life that many of us have traveled. I am also an atheist and have no desire to control the reproduction of any woman, except my wife, of course.

    As a young man, I supported the legality of abortion based upon my belief that “I might need it someday”. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how infantile this was. I knew what caused pregnancy but just didn’t want to take personal responsibility for my actions.

    One of the most poignant lessons about life comes when your own child is the one in question. At some time when my wife was pregnant with my first child, my son, her OGBYN suggested an amniocentesis to test for spina bifida. I asked her if there were any treatments if it was discovered. She said no.

    It took me a minute to digest this exchange but when I did I was glad that the doctor wasn’t in my presence. While it is legal, and accepted as moral by much of the medical community I would have asked the doctor, “why? Can we do anything to fix it?” When he answered “No” and I would have said, “why do the test then?” If he had suggested, to my face, that I murder my own child because he was imperfect, I would have beat the fucking shit out of him.

    I realize now that the doctor could probably be sued if he didn’t suggest the possibility of “terminating the pregnancy”. We live in one fucked up world when “medical professionals” are legally induced to suggest the destruction of the unborn.

    The fact is that the only way to train a society to violently react to a government that wants to liquidate people for no good reason, is to indoctrinate the public into believing that all human life, in all permutations, is a rights-endowed life form with an inalienable right to life. Think about that, for a second. If you train a society to believe that from the moment a sperm and egg come together to the moment that all life functions cease, a human is a rights-endowed being, there is no moral weasel room for a Hitler or a Stalin or a Pol Pot to argue “they’re not entitled to live.”

    Very well said, Mike, I agree 100%.

  21. I take the view that you cannot be obligated to maintain a foreign body, human or not, inside your own body by anyone.

    Even when you put it there yourself? The “foreign body” doesn’t find it’s way there through magic, but the consent of the woman. I admit that this does not hold true for rape, but in other cases the placement is consensual even if unplanned.

  22. The fact is that the only way to train a society to violently react to a government that wants to liquidate people for no good reason, is to indoctrinate the public into believing that all human life, in all permutations, is a rights-endowed life form with an inalienable right to life.

    About 30% of all embryos fail to implant.

    Some non-zero percentage of all pregnancies spontaneously abort (aka a miscarriage).

    Let me know when you’re ready to have the homicide department investigate all miscarriages to determine if a crime was committed.

  23. “Why would you want to kill tards anyway? They can pick up heavy things for you.”

    I find that hanging out with them makes me feel smart as shit as well.

  24. “Is it still open season if someone has no brain activity at present but can be expected to attain or reattain it soon?”

    It might matter whether the thing in question had brain activity and lost it and might retain it vs. never has had brain activity but might get it for the first time at some point.

  25. I find that hanging out with them makes me feel smart as shit as well.

    The dimmest bulb is still brighter than a burned-out bulb, eh?

  26. I take the view that you cannot be obligated to maintain a foreign body, human or not, inside your own body by anyone.

    So, abortion should be legal until the baby is clear of the birth canal? Do we allow abortion until the umbilical cord is cut, or is that just going too far?

    Like the majority, I’m willing to allow abortions in the first trimester. After that, I start getting really itchy.

    The shift in the numbers, I think, is that most people want to occupy this squishy middle ground, and push back against whatever extremist group seems to be in the ascendancy. When the social cons hold the reins of power, the numbers shift “pro-choice”; when the rad fems hold the reins, they shift “pro-life”.

  27. I take the view that you cannot be obligated to maintain a foreign body, human or not, inside your own body by anyone.

    Then in a libertarian society, are there any obligations upon the body politic to children at all?

  28. kinnath makes a good point. Taking pro-life people at their word leads to some amazingly strange scenarios…

    I’m waiting for restrictions on step aerobics for expectant mothers because it might cause a manslaughter of the fetus. And since we have to include embryos at the earliest stages we’d need pregnancy tests for all women before strenous exercise…And little search and rescue teams manning each woman used toilet in the nation…

    There was a reason that non-viable fetuses weren’t “persons” under the common law that evolved over hundreds of years of applying common sense…

  29. I dislike abortion, but I dislike saying to some woman “you must carry this fertilized egg to term, you have no say in the matter” even more.

    Saying legalized abortion is the pathway to genocide seems like a mighty big stretch to me.

    Since the govt is funding all kinds of stupid shit, why not have a massive program to develop artificial uteruses? A woman with an unwanted fetus could go in to the center, have it removed for “canning” and sign away any parental rights. People who wanted to adopt could get a brand new baby and the mother doesn’t have to carry to term, doesn’t have all the neurochemicals messing with her head when it comes time to give the baby away for adoption.

  30. “I take the view that you cannot be obligated to maintain a foreign body, human or not, inside your own body by anyone.

    Then in a libertarian society, are there any obligations upon the body politic to children at all?”

    Uhh, I don’t want to know where you keep your post-born children inside your body…Those papoose things are strange enough…

  31. 1. The mother has more brain activity than the baby
    2. A fetus is a parasite, a mother is a host
    3. If a fetus becomes a parasitoid (it’s killing the host), nobody has a problem removing it, even if it means the fetus will die

    People who cannot draw the appropriate conclusions from the above should be aborted.

    If that’s not enough try this for size:

    4. Laws that only apply to some persons are tyrannical laws.

  32. Tards make great human shields as well.

    And if you like playing pranks, tards rule.

  33. I am pro-choice and consider abortion homicide.

    But if you support homicide to protect your property in the event of an unwanted intruder then you are pro-choice like myself.

  34. I dunno about this poll. Last year iirc a referendum to defeat an abortion ban won in South Dakota for (baby) Christ’s sake!

  35. And if you like playing pranks, tards rule.

    Dude, they never remember that there’s poop in the flaming bag.

  36. I like the Singer view. A human being is not necessarily a person. Baby’s in the womb aren’t persons but they’re human beings.

    I see abortion as on par with putting down dogs that no one will take care of. It’s probably ethically worse to put down dogs as they can anticipate pain, feel emotion, etc.

  37. Most abortions are a form of retroactive birth control. I find these to be morally reprehensible.

    Yet I have no issue with Plan B which acts by stopping fertilization or implantation depending upon when it is taken.

    I find the matters of rape and incest to be irrelevant. The circumstances at conception do not alter whether or not a given fetus should be treated as a person under the law and when personhood should be recognized by the law.

    I am deeply torn by when personhood should be recognized. Viability is a clear demarcation which should apply. No fetus should be aborted post viability. But I also think that is probably too late. Brain activity may be a relevant matter, but I just don’t really know for sure.

    So put me in the opposed to abortion, but not ready to make it illegal category.

  38. MNG | May 27, 2009, 5:18pm | #
    “Why would you want to kill tards anyway? They can pick up heavy things for you.”

    I find that hanging out with them makes me feel smart as shit as well.

    And you hang out here to be humbled.

  39. “No fetus should be aborted post viability”

    How is this determined. Are primi’s considered viable?

  40. “No brain activity means dead in most jurisdictions.”

    Many voters fit that description. There must be more to death than no brain activity.

  41. Interesting, in a group where so many are against nationalized health care or social programs, there is such distaste for decreasing the number of people who would likely be dependent on the public dole. But then again, “pro-life” should have always been more accurately called “pro-fetus.”

    Personally, I think life begins before conception. Of course, the women win, because that means no more menstruating and no more jacking off. It’s a small concession, really, to uphold the rights of all potential life.

  42. shrike-

    Say a group of pro-life protesters gather on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic. Suppose one or two of the protesters trespasses onto the clinic’s property and commence staking crosses into the ground. One of the clinic’s receptionists and later, two nurses, come out and demand that the protesters leave and remove the crosses.

    If you are the owner of the clinic or duly appointed representative of the owner, do you have the right to kill the protesters if they do not leave?

  43. All the survey demonstrates is that the labels are silly.

    Is someone who favors legal abortions “anti-life”? Is a “pro-life” person opposed to killing vegetables? Is someone who voluntarily chooses not to abort “anti-choice”?

    The only concrete issue is whether government will punish a woman who aborts her own fetus.
    The only legitimate question is: what’s the proper legal penalty?
    If abortion is murder, then is capital punishment for murder “pro-life” or “anti-life”?

  44. From what I’ve seen, it’s a semantic argument. More people are labeling themselves pro-choice, but the underlying polling isn’t changing. The same numbers of people support (or don’t) abortions early, middle and late in gestation. The same is true for the opinions of what is an acceptable reason.

    What appears to be happening is that “pro-choice” is being associated with late term, elective abortion, and people are focussing more on pro-life as an expression of restricting what they consider egregious examples.

    Probably because the people who would ban IVF are far from power.

  45. A better question, considering the term “pro-life” is a very powerful one, would have been to ask if the person were in favor of making abortion illegal.

    If you ask that question here is what you get:

    http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t21002008.pdf

    And it demonstrates that by far most people are pro-choice (as to be pro-choice just means you would allow women to legally choose to have an abortion “always” or “under certain legal circumstances”). In fact, the “always” group is quite larger than the “never” group.

  46. Of course, Gallup could have simply screwed up the poll. Any other signs of this sudden shift?

  47. Let me know when you’re ready to have the homicide department investigate all miscarriages to determine if a crime was committed.

    When the homicide department investigates all deaths that occur at home or in hospitals in order to determine whether a crime was committed.

  48. Let me know when you’re ready to have the homicide department investigate all miscarriages to determine if a crime was committed.

    No need. The requisite mens rea is lacking, so no crime has been committed.

    1. The mother has more brain activity than the baby

    Not necessarily. I know of two cases where healthy babies were delivered from women in, effectively, comas. And I don’t know if there is any meaningful difference in brain activity between a very late term fetus, a newborn infant, and an adult.

    2. A fetus is a parasite, a mother is a host.

    An abuse of the language. A parasite and host cannot be of the same species.

    3. If a fetus becomes a parasitoid (it’s killing the host), nobody has a problem removing it, even if it means the fetus will die

    Irrelevant. No one around here has any problem terminating an adult who is threatening the life of another adult.

    Laws that only apply to some persons are tyrannical laws.

    Many, many laws apply only to some persons. Physicians, for example, are subject to whole books of state and federal laws that I, as an attorney, am not subject to.

  49. Many, many laws apply only to some persons. Physicians, for example, are subject to whole books of state and federal laws that I, as an attorney, am not subject to.

    The difference between you and that doctor is that the laws affect you differently by your own choice of profession. Your other points are well-taken, however.

  50. Um, this is a little roundabout, but I had a thought last night: If you have no problem holding suspected terrorists indefinitely without trial, then you admit that strict moral absolutes don’t work in the real world. Thus, you should be pro-choice too.

  51. Perhaps there are no moral absolutes, period.

  52. This ought to make for good conversation:

    Was the death penalty the appropriate punishment for one Kenisha Berry of Jefferson County, Texas?

    On November 29, 1998, in Jefferson County, Texas, Berry placed duct tape across the body and mouth of her 4 day old son, placed him in a black plastic trash bag and left his body in a trash dumpster, resulting in his death.

  53. “The requisite mens rea is lacking”

    Negligent homicide (in cases where the woman engaged in any action they should have known would be harmful to the fetus)?

  54. I’m also an atheist and secular, and I don’t believe in moral relativism. Please don’t try to equate those things. You don’t have to have religion to believe in absolutes.

    Also, it’s only by a religious definition that a fetus could be considered a human life. By any other method of thought, there is absolutely no way that they can be considered equal. Since the law has to be secular in order to be fair, the law cannot adopt that definition. You and your religion are free to believe what you want, but the law cannot rationally forbid abortion.

  55. What an empty argument. Especially given the fact that the very same poll found no appreciable difference between the number of people who think abortion should be legal in some circumstances versus always legal or always illegal. So people (mostly Republican people, also) are calling themselves pro-life more, even though their actual opinions don’t seem to be changing all that much. I can see why that’s huge.

  56. it’s only by a religious definition that a fetus could be considered a human life.

    It’s definitely a human life, but that’s beside the point. If another fully-grown person with all the same rights that you have were utterly dependent on receiving a continuous blood transfusion from you to survive, it would still be your right to provide or withhold that sustenance.

    -jcr

  57. I used to be a Christian. I often thought that if there really is a place of eternal suffering called hell, then the safest and best thing to do for children is to abort them and send them straight to heaven.

    I’m now a happy pro-life atheist with no realistic expectations of ever passing pro-life legislation.

  58. What happens when we can use abortion to weed out the blind, the mentally ill, the ugly, or any other “undesirable” human beings?

    Women who are merely extremely fucking hot will become the new ugly, crowded out by the outrageously hot women?

  59. If you are the owner of the clinic or duly appointed representative of the owner, do you have the right to kill the protesters if they do not leave?

    Only if they’re violent towards someone else. Short of that, you have the right to remove them forcibly.

    -jcr

  60. A quick wiki search says that EEG is measurable at the 12th week.

    Let’s not confuse measurability with existence.

  61. iipalindromeii | May 27, 2009, 5:00pm | #

    It’s also likely that the terms of the debate are changing.

    Within the past year, a new abortion legalization argument has come to the fore. It goes, “just like you, I’m against abortion. I think we should do as much as possible to reduce the number of abortions. I think there’s a lot of good to be done there. However, I think that abortion should still be legal, and that is a point we’re going to have to disagree upon.”

    Here is some of the best data you can find on abortions in the US. Guttmacher a pro-choice organization.

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

    When you look through the data, you see that the pro-choice line of “We are all against abortions, lets do what we can to reduce their number” is mostly a canard. Why? Because few abortions are committed by women who don’t understand the birds and the bees.

    Nearly half of abortions are committed by women who have already had an abortion. The vast majority are committed by women who have used birth control in the past. Only a handful are committed for health reasons or rape/incest.

    There is no other conclusion that you can draw other than that abortion is knowingly and willfully being used as birth control by a large number of adult women. There is no way to significantly cut into the abortion rate until these women quit behaving this way. Are liberals suggesting that we hire a few hundred thousand condom cops? Because that is what it would take. Thirteen-year-olds who were raped by their uncle are virtually non-existent red herrings. Twenty-three-year-old sorority chicks whose partner “forgot” the condom ARE the problem.

    I think public opinion is starting to swing towards pro-life simply because the excuses for unwanted pregnancies are growing thin. When my parents were young, birth control was difficult to obtain, more expensive, and less reliable. That simply is no longer the case.

  62. “Also, it’s only by a religious definition that a fetus could be considered a human life.”

    Beating Heart? Check.
    Cortical activity (EEG waves)? Check.
    Reproducible response to pain? Check.

    I dunno, these don’t sound like religious criteria to me. I will add that the above would apply to about a 27-week fetus or later.

  63. Uhh, I don’t want to know where you keep your post-born children inside your body…Those papoose things are strange enough…

    True, quite strange. But I’m uncomfortable with the notion that one may kill a child because one views it as a paraside; that there is no moral and should be no legal obligation not to. I can see the philosophical logic of it, but I don’t like the consequence.

  64. “Also, it’s only by a religious definition that a fetus could be considered a human life.”

    Actually, it is a human life by definition.

    Are you seriously suggesting that it is either not alive (wrong) or some other species (wrong)?

    Anyone disputing that the fetuses in question are anything other than unique individual living human beings is simply factually incorrect. We can disagree about the moral significant of a fetus, but we cannot disagree about what it is: from the moment of conception, a living human being.

  65. Saying legalized abortion is the pathway to genocide seems like a mighty big stretch to me.

    If a fetus is a human life, then abortion is murder and the prevelance of abortion in America makes it genocide. We’ve become very comfortable with as a society, just like German villagers pretending that they don’t really know what’s going on inside the barbed wire, but it’s still a whole lot of killing.

  66. “I’m also an atheist and secular, and I don’t believe in moral relativism. Please don’t try to equate those things. You don’t have to have religion to believe in absolutes.”

    Tru dat, double tru!

    “Beating Heart? Check.
    Cortical activity (EEG waves)? Check.
    Reproducible response to pain? Check.”

    Nice Jacob. So you agree then I can grill and eat a five day old embryo? Because they lack all of that…

  67. “If a fetus is a human life, then abortion is murder and the prevelance of abortion in America makes it genocide.”

    But if its not then a lot of people really have a bug stuck waaaay up their ass…

  68. “We can disagree about the moral significant of a fetus, but we cannot disagree about what it is: from the moment of conception, a living human being.”

    A person in a permanent vegatative state is also 100% a living human being. There is no disagreement about that. They are not cows or Kree* (points for whoever knows wtf this is). But I would not hesitate to unplug such a person, would you?

  69. I’m an atheist libertarian, and I have to agree completely with the author, I am undecided about the issue of abortion, though I lean towards being pro-life, except for in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.

    I am also an unabashed ethical egoist. I believe that the only moral actions are those that promote your own existence, since existence is prerequisite to action, which means that any action that negates your existence is self-contradictory and illogical.

    The key question, thus, is what legalizing or criminalizing abortion would have on your own existence: would it promote or degrade it? I hold that it would degrade your life and existence. Legalized abortion would set the moral precedence that killing defenseless human beings is okay. This is not something that any human being should support, because everyone was and will be defenseless at some point in their lives.

  70. But if its not then a lot of people really have a bug stuck waaaay up their ass…

    Quite right. It’s a big ‘if’.

  71. I lean strongly pro-life because I can’t wrap my head around the implication of the pro-choice position that a fetus is undeserving of the rights of a person at 6 o’clock, but by 7 o’clock has developed sufficiently to gain these rights. Society and law are necessarily rife with such demarcations (age of majority, DUI blood alcohol limits), but to define human life so arbitrarily strikes me as morally indefensible.

  72. Let’s put this in more libertarian language: At what gestational age of the fetus should the government be permitted to restrict a pregnant person’s right to privacy?
    Regarding health exemptions, is Mr. Harsanyi saying that everyone who claims a health exemption is lying and that therefore there should be no exemptions? Following that, how many cases of elective third trimester abortions are there actually? Its a red herring to suggest that this is even a problem.
    Ultimately, prohibition of abortion does more harm than good. Thus it should stay legal.

  73. A person in a permanent vegatative state is also 100% a living human being. There is no disagreement about that. They are not cows or Kree* (points for whoever knows wtf this is). But I would not hesitate to unplug such a person, would you?

    I might unplug such a person, but I would hesitate.

    And understanding why one might hesitate would make it easier to understand why few, who support it, outside of Bill Maher, are glib about abortion rights.

  74. “Nice Jacob. So you agree then I can grill and eat a five day old embryo? Because they lack all of that…”

    Sure, as long as you didn’t steal it from someone else, I can say I don’t have a problem with that. A five-day embryo in my book can’t be classifid as a human being.

    “But I would not hesitate to unplug such a person, would you?”

    Yes, I would. Without the consent of power-of-attorney, next of kin (in lieu of a POA), or specific advanced directives laid out by said person, you CANNOT and SHOULD NOT unplug them.

  75. “If a fetus is a human life, then abortion is murder and the prevelance of abortion in America makes it genocide.”

    No it isn’t. Genocide has a very circumscribed definition and must be targeted on the basis of a person’s ethnic, religious, or racial membership. Without targeting one of those types of group, it’s just mass-murder.

    (which is not to say I find it mass-murder. I don’t. Just saying, it’s semantically possible that it could be mass-murder. It’s not semantically possible for it to be genocide.)

  76. Without targeting one of those types of group, it’s just mass-murder.

    The cool kids call that democide.

  77. A person in a permanent vegatative state is also 100% a living human being. There is no disagreement about that. They are not cows or Kree* (points for whoever knows wtf this is). But I would not hesitate to unplug such a person, would you?

    I would “unplug” them only if it were consistent with their expressed wishes before they died, and only if they were virtually certain to never recover.

    In any case, it is irrelevant, because a fetus is not in a permanant vegetative state. Even at the moment of conception, the embryo has about an even odds chance of surviving.

  78. MNG,

    On an earlier thread you we suggesting that because global warming might have bad effects (but we are not sure) we are justifed in doing all sorts of things which we know have bad effects, just to be safe.

    Here you are seeming to say that we don’t know when life starts, so shouldn’t you be doing the safe thing and preventing all abortions?

    Please note tht I totally disagree with this (being fairly pro-choice) but it does seem to flow consistenly from your logic.

  79. I have always wondered why it is considered ethical to have an abortion, as the fetus has no right to demand support from the mother, but demanding child support from a parent is okay. How are these different, really?

    I get it in the case of health of the mother, but why is forcing someone to provide “room and board” for 9 months to a guest they (typically anyway) invited unacceptable, but demanding 18 years of child support just fine?

    Note, I *am* pro-abortion, but I find this an odd dichotomy.

  80. With all the prolife postings here, it’s as if I had wandered into an American Papist discussion thread by mistake.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

  81. I have always wondered why it is considered ethical to have an abortion, as the fetus has no right to demand support from the mother, but demanding child support from a parent is okay. How are these different, really?

    They aren’t. Indeed, these cases are consistent with how we treat certain interactions between adults.

    For example, if I were in a helpless state because of something you did – for example, if you caused a car accident that critically injured me – then by all means society expects you to take care of me until I can take care of myself. Between adults, we tend to do this via insurance and cash payments, but the principle is the same: If you put someone in a situation where they cannot fend for themselves, you are responsible for fending for them.

    Likewise, it is consistent with our policy towards hit-and-run situations. Leaving someone to die will net you FAR more punishment than the accident itself. You are expected and obligated to help out the people you put into that situation.

  82. Here you are seeming to say that we don’t know when life starts, so shouldn’t you be doing the safe thing and preventing all abortions?

    Life never ends. The sperm and egg are alive, the blastocyst is alive, the embro is alive, the fetus is alive, the baby is alive. There can be no debate about that much.

  83. I really liked this article. Like the author, I too feel as if criminalizing abortion may make things worse on an issue that, to me, is essentially a hostage situation. Granted, taking hostages is indeed illegal, but I find dialogue and peaceful negotiation far more effective than the threat of imprisonment, which would undoubtedly make abortions go underground.

    Perhaps peaceful negotiations could work between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. If Britain did away with slavery through peaceful means, perhaps abortion will be done away with the same way. I really don’t see any rational reason why a pregnant woman would rather opt for an abortion over selling the child to a needy couple. Everyone wins in the latter, whereas only one wins in the former (if you can call it “winning” that is).

    Likewise, I don’t see any rational reason for government involvement in any way in what is clearly a medical issue. Forcing citizens to pay for something they may or may not find morally reprehensible will only fuel the fire of this debate for years to come.

  84. Kinnath said
    “Yet I have no issue with Plan B which acts by stopping fertilization or implantation depending upon when it is taken.”

    Yes, on legality, in that, in concrete terms of embryonic development, clearly abortion is arguably less of an ‘evil’ the earlier it is done.

    What I do find utterly despicable is that most supporter of ’emergency contraception’ or the ‘morning after’ pill do their damnedest to obscure the fact that sometimes it works by blocking that already-fertilized egg, so that women for whom that would be ‘murder’ could not make an informed decision for themselves on *personal* use. So much for ‘pro-choice’.

    To others:
    On the whole ‘intruder’ angle — BS. ‘Ordered Liberty’ can only exist with individual responsibility. Unlike the thief or the welfare moocher, the existence of the fetus was directly caused by the mother, whether intentional or not. I don’t get to skip my obligation to the other driver in a fender bender just becasue I hit her by ‘accident’.

  85. The self-satisfied ‘gotcha’ of those who claim some inconsistency in people who say they are anti-abortion while supporting capital punishment (or at least easier use of deadly force by victims of crimes) is utterly moronic.

    How morally stunted are people who think that that is a reasoned argument, that they can omit the question of innocence or guilt w/o battign an eye?

  86. You guys are really overthinking this. No one cares about your philosophical ideas.

    Do you want a criminal investigation of every miscarriage? Do you want to lock up doctors and mothers who perform/get abortions? No? Then don’t criminalize abortion. If you don’t like them, advise people against them and work to prevent the conditions that lead to them (irresponsibe behavior, rape, improper sex ed info etc).

    Someday, the philosophy might be relevant. But not now. If a govt or country needed an overarching philosophy to function, America would have been screwed a long time ago. Granted, the personal responsibility thing needs a boost, but so does the “stop arresting people” thing.

  87. Walter Block has argued that libertarianism denies any obligation towards the protection of life. He has said that if someone is hanging from your tenth story balcony railing, and about to plummet to his death, you have no moral obligation to help him. He’s also argued that it’s okay for the owner of a lifeboat to evict passengers, and that the passengers should meekly submit.

    It is precisely this sort of muddled morality that has kept me from crossing over from minarchist to anarchist. To me it still comes down to when the fetus becomes a human being.

  88. Have you considered the practical consequences of outlawing abortion?

    They could soon resemble the current “War on Drugs”.

    Because the demand will always be quite big – it used to be big even in medieval Europe, where the Church occupied a much more powerful societal position than in current USA. The surviving legal documents show that inducing abortions on demand was a frequent charge back then.

    I am quite afraid that, if the US outlaws abortion, the law-abiding Americans will take it to the bitter end of “random pregnancy testing” at campuses and an anti-abortion SWAT team in every state. Meanwhile, the mafia will enjoy good source of income, performing abortions in non-hygienic environment.

    I would be the first to dismiss my thoughts as wild imagination, if it was not for 30 years of WoD. It has shown us to which extent are the Americans willing to sacrifice their freedoms, money and security if they want to punish something Immoral.

    But it will be “for the children”.

  89. Brandy: this is an extremist ideology.

    There are instances when property rights of someone are more important than right to life of someone else. For example, almost no one would support stripping one person of all their possessions in order to pay for another’s person lifesaving treatment.

    However, Walter Block has taken it to the other extreme.

    I have a coworker like that. He is a physicist, and, as long as the conversation is limited to hard sciences, he has the ability to see minute nuances and think from various viewpoints at once.

    But the moment you switch to politics, it is all black-and-white, righteous annoying preaching attitude. (Libertarian). No middle ground anywhere.

    I wonder what devilish force makes otherwise intelligent people switch to such blockheadedness in a moment.

  90. One thing I find quite detestable from the pro-PRO-abortion gang is the “my life” and “my body” and “my choice” rah-rah until they get handed the bill. Then its “your” problem, or at its best marketing, “our” problem. You play, you pay. I remember Hillary Clinton firing up the zombies at some rally in NY while running for the Senate.

    She was shrilling about the inequity of poor women who couldn’t afford abortions, vs. the elite, rich women who could buy them in bulk and get two-fers from Costco or whatever. But don’t worry, Hillary will fix that! Soon we will have Medicaid-subsidized abortions! What a bunch of bullshit.

    More I think about it, the more I think abortion as a surgical procedure should be legal per se, but a procedure available only after some significant organizational and legalese hurdles, like giving a kidney or something like that.

    Such a social structure for any abortion would at least reflect the gravity of the decision, and therefore the care and second thoughts such a decision should entail.

    For elective after-the-fact birth control, short-term, non-surgical techniques such as RU-486 is IMHO the best compromise. It places a pretty tough time-horizon on doing anything like that, and also keeps it truly in the hands of the woman in question.

  91. Are you sure that bureaucratic obstacles are the right way to make people think twice about their decisions?

    In my opinion, they will rather boost the black market, which will be ready to deliver the procedure over-the-counter.

    Heck, a qualified doctor can do that at your own home, with just the surgical suitcase. At the price of higher complications count. But that still was the preferred way for the middle class between the great wars.

  92. I think the author comments on very real concernsthat has creeped into the abortion debate over the years, which are finally being discussed. Do some use abortion as birth control? Is is used to weed out the undesirable? On the other side of the debate, I understand the discussion about capital punishment because starting from the pro-life side makes you question the concept of putting someone to death for justice. I’m not there yet, but a belief in the sanctity of life has made me think. Just like this article.

  93. As a mom of preemie twins, I had the genetic test and both girls had markers for Down Syndrome. I obviously didn’t care for they were born at 36 weeks. Neither of them have Down Syndrome. I hope other mothers out there think twice about aborting a fetus/baby b/c it “may” have Down’s Syndrome b/c they could be aborting a perfectly healthy child.

  94. If brain activity were the bright line, then it would be open season on liberals.

  95. The question is one of personhood. Yes, the fetus is human life…as are my thumb and my appendix. Are they people? Yes, a fetus has its own genome, but as a result of mutation, some of our body’s cells have their own unique DNA as well. Are my all of my cells human? Obviously they are. Are they people? Clearly they are not.

    So, what makes something a person? To me, and I would think to most others, it’s the possession of a sentient mind. So, the question should be: When do scientists think the brain of a fetus becomes self-aware?

    Answer that question, and you’ve found the middle-ground between the rights of the mother and the rights of the fetus.

  96. …except…Nathan…the question is not about YOUR thumb…its about the baby’s thumb…

  97. ‘Do you want a criminal investigation of every miscarriage? Do you want to lock up doctors and mothers who perform/get abortions? No? Then don’t criminalize abortion. If you don’t like them, advise people against them and work to prevent the conditions that lead to them (irresponsibe behavior, rape, improper sex ed info etc).’

    Do you want a criminal investigation of all emergency-room patients every time a shopkeeper shoots a robber? Do you want to lock up everyone who knocks over a grocery store to get food for his family or to feed a drug addiction which isn’t his fault? No? Then don’t criminalize robbery. If you don’t like robbery, then advise would-be robbers not to do it, and work to prevent the conditions that lead to robberies (poverty and despair in the underclass, inadequate schools, improper ethics education info, etc).

  98. Perhaps the answer to these difficult issues lies in vigorous public debate, and the use of the democratic process to come to best consensus we can, subject to modification in the future as our scientific knowledge grows, with each State free to develop its own solutions to these difficult questions.

    Oops – I forgot, there is something in our Constitution that prohibits us from doing that, and anyone who even suggests otherwise is per se disqualified from serving on the Supreme Court.

  99. When I’m accused of being a science hating republican, I respond with: you mean like the science that gives us sonagrams? where rational people see a life and cold hearted people see a choice.

  100. From “Abortion: Not for Women Only”:

    Of the many things said by pro- and anti-abortion activists in the wake of the October 23, 1998 sniper murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, the most striking (to my mind, at any rate) was his eulogization as a man who gave his life for a “woman’s right to choose.” That’s exactly right: He was a man martyred for a freedom that he as a man did not possess.

    Think about it: Just what is it that a woman aborts? This purportedly complex and multi-faceted question actually has a very simple and precise legal answer: any responsibility to the offspring she conceived. That’s it. Except we might add that a woman retains this right even if she chooses to forgo an abortion. All she has to do is put the child up for adoption — the alternative favored by the so-called “right-to-lifers” — and that’s that. This is the state of affairs that, in the words of constitutional alchemist Laurence Tribe, guarantees “equality for women … the same ability to express human sexuality without the burden of pregnancy and childbirth that has always been, by accident of biology, available to men.”

    Now I didn’t know that. Neither, I suspect, do most men. What we do know is that there is emphatically no “equality” for men, i.e., no same ability “to express human sexuality” without the inability to escape the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy — which has always been, by no accident of law, available to women. One example: Miss Jones informs Mr. Smith that he has impregnated her. Can he, in Roe v. Wade America, legally respond: “Thanks for the info. In the spirit of reciprocity, I wish to inform you that I hereby exercise my constitutional right to abort all legal responsibility to the offspring I conceived. Have a nice life”?

    READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

  101. This is the same moral quandary I also find myself attached to and so consequenlty describe myself as a “queasy pro-choicer”.
    As a devout agnostic, I believe there is no right or wrong, but as a member of the human race I know there must be morality to ensure our survival.
    A basic human dignity must be maintained. Abortion seems to go against that fundamental dignity and so may contribute to our eventual destruction.

  102. I would “unplug” them only if it were consistent with their expressed wishes before they died, and only if they were virtually certain to never recover.

    What if they had not expressed any wishes before they died, they were virtually certain never to recover, and the hospital and doctors weren’t being paid for their very expensive continuing care?

    Because that happens. A lot. Are we comfortable mandating that health care providers give free care to someone indefinitely?

  103. I like the mature tone of the discussion. Good points on both sides, all. It shows that many of us have thought about this issue in more than sound bites.

    However, shrike (“But if you support homicide to protect your property in the event of an unwanted intruder then you are pro-choice like myself.”), this is a straw man. I am not sure a jury would agree with your position if you shot an infant, especially if you consented to the risk of said infant entering your property.

    While I agree this intrusiveness is the point that makes me most uncomfortable with the pro-life position (as most people, I presume), I cannot logically accept the premise that an individual’s right to privacy ever trumps an individual’s right to life. They key question then becomes whether the fetus is an individual, and since science and medicine currently have a consensus on what constitutes human life, i.e., brain activity, it would seem that is the point at which the state should begin protecting the unborn.

  104. Partial Birth Abortion is what tipped the scale for me. I would be willing to ban all abortion in order to stop partial birth. I was always a pro-choice gal – but now, until the far left accepts a limit – say up to 12 weeks – I will fight to overturn abortion based on the partial birth procedure…

  105. “””Then in a libertarian society, are there any obligations upon the body politic to children at all?”””

    But who has the obligation, if one exists.

    If a libertarian was to make a list of who has the obligation, the government would be last, if on the the list at all.

    Not the government, nor a neighbor should have a greater right than the woman herself to make such a decision.

    A lot of people who claim to be pro-life the death penalty and war.

  106. “””Do you want a criminal investigation of every miscarriage? Do you want to lock up doctors and mothers who perform/get abortions? No? Then don’t criminalize abortion. If you don’t like them, advise people against them and work to prevent the conditions that lead to them (irresponsibe behavior, rape, improper sex ed info etc).””””

    And this comes from some people who think the government shouldn’t regulate.

  107. The legalization of abortion in 1973 DID increase greatly the number of abortions….from about 100,000 per year to over 1.3 million per year. So to say that making it illegal won’t reduce the number of abortions is incorrect. But also, with legalization, has come acceptance and normalization of that which our country should NEVER have gotten comfortable–the unnecessary ending of human life in the womb. Pro-choice and feminist groups can use all the mis-leading terminology they want (“blob of tisse” instead of “baby”, “reproductive services” instead of “abortion”,…etc), but just ask some of the poor woman who’ve had abortions–they’ll tell you the truth–they allowed their baby to be killed…and it’s something they’ll never forget.

  108. I am against slavery but I would never tell anyone else that they dont have a right to own slaves. After all it is written into the Constitution and the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that right in the Dredd Scott case. What do you want to do make it a crime, investigate and prosecute every person who enslaves, whips, lynches, rapes and murders blacks?

    I offer this as a bit of a throwback to similiar arguments about abortion’s moral sibling, slavery. Abortion and slavery are both about one group of citizens brutalizing another for financial benefit and conveneince. Both were justified by the perpetrators and the courts on the basis that those being brutalized were not really full persons under the law. If you read dredd scott and roe you will be amazed at how similar the logic. It is as though Blackmun was holding the Dredd Scott opinion with one hand and writing Roe with the other.

  109. Do rapists have a right to not have their genetic fruits of their labor destroyed?

    If your wife or daughter was raped imagine having a government/society that forced them to carry the rapists precious joy in their womb for 9 months and then deliver it.

    Float that question in a poll and see what percentage you get!

  110. Nathan: “So, the question should be: When do scientists think the brain of a fetus becomes self-aware?”

    You don’t see any dangers in this sort of thinking?

  111. While I understand the intent of the analogies with robbery or slavery, from the practical point of view, these are quite incomparable.

    It is pretty easy for the law enforcement to prove slavery or robbery: there is a lot of physical evidence, and the victims are often (though not always) willing to testify. Therefore, the process does not require significant erosion of privacy.

    On the other hand, proving an abortion is much harder without significant intrusion into human lives – unless the woman dies or becomes seriously ill in the process. Both active parties – woman and doctor – are motivated to keep silent about what happened. The physical evidence of the process – the remnants of the fetus – will usually not be available.

    Therefore, I cannot see realistic enforcement of the law without subjecting all the potential accomplices – fertile women and anyone with relevant medical skills – to at least random surveillance. Similar to taking breath tests on the highway.

  112. Mr. Harsanyi will clearly never carry an unwanted pregnancy. The point of view of a woman bearing (against her will) a child she did not plan for, cannot afford to raise, or that resulted from a contraceptive accident or forced sexual relations is the most valid point of view in this controversy. Banning abortion returns us to the days of “back-alley abortionists” — is that what the “pro-life” folks want?

  113. Willow: “The point of view of a woman bearing (against her will) a child she did not plan for, cannot afford to raise, or that resulted from a contraceptive accident or forced sexual relations is the most valid point of view in this controversy.”

    Only one of those things is relevant to the issue. Only one of those points of view is valid.

  114. Because determining the qualities that constitute a human life, the applicability of these standards to fetuses at different stages of development, and the moral obligations that change over time is so complex — because so much is in doubt — I am inclined to err in favor of protecting children from getting killed.

    Even if this means using government force to compel women to bring to term unwanted fetuses.

  115. Willow,

    I am a huge fan of your argument. The whole “back-alley” abortion saw should make a resurgence. It is so devoid of logic that it could be used as a learning tool for aspiring jail-house attornies. Robbing banks is very dangerous, people die. Rather than have this horribly dangerous practice lets make it legal to rob banks and then it wont be so dangerous. That seems to be the whole argument.

    Laws should reflect what is morally correct not what is easiest. I know some will say that you cant legislate morality…well thats just some nonsense left over from the sixties every law ever written was based on someone’s concept of what was moral.

  116. Sell

    You miss the whole point. Those of us who are libertarians by nature are distrustful of a government that thinks it bestows rights upon persons. We believe all persons have certain rights and that we delegate power to the government. Pro-choice people think the government, the Supreme Court in this case, can determine when a human being is entitled to those inalienable rights and when they are fully person enough to have those rights protected by law. The Supreme Court has twice stated that a group of persons were not entitled to protection of the law. The first was Dredd Scott when the Court said that blacks were not full persons because of the color of their skin. The second was Roe v. Wade when the court said that unborn babies were not full persons entitled to constitutional protections because they were at a stage in human development where they were not independenly viable. I believe in both cases the court erred. The rights of persons to life and liberty are inalienable and cannot, or should not, be treated as a commodity by our government. They cannot be taken because your skin is the wrong color or because you are not old enough.

    The rights of a child who is the product of rape should be ignored or infringed upon because of the crimes of his/her father. Under what concept of justice do we execute an innocent child for the crimes of a parent.

  117. “Laws should reflect what is morally correct not what is easiest.”

    I believe that the whole thing is more complicated. Essentially, laws are a tradeoff.

    On one side of the scales are the benefits of banning the particular immoral behavior.

    On the other side of the scales are the minuses, mainly in form of financial spending (police, justice and prisons) and in form of loss of civil liberties.

    For murder, the balance is quite clearly on the benefit side.

    For, say, running against the running escalators in the metro, the balance would be clearly on the minus side (which does not prevent the United Kingdom from having such laws, allegedly).

    Abortion is not so clearcut for MOST of people.

  118. A very small minority of abortions are done in the cases of rape and incest.

    More insidious are the retroactive birth control abortions (which account for most of the abortions) and the abortions done because the baby has come up “undesirable” due to a test performed on it.

  119. Marion
    I think you confuse issues of enforcement with what rules (laws) should govern a society. While I agree that the government must weigh the importance of which laws should be enforced based on an resources benefit analysis. I disagree that legislatures should legalize conduct that should be illegal just because it is easier or cheaper to do so.

    I also agree that abortion is a difficult issue for many. To eliminate abortion would create a great hardship on some people. There is a great cost in raising children. I have four, never planned a single one, did not think I could afford them, but learned to and could not live without them. Nonetheless, in the microscopic number of cases where a woman becomes pregnant through rape and incest she will have to endure an even greater burden.
    But lets not forget that ending slavery was not clearcut for most americans at the time. Even Lincoln waivered some. Ending slavery caused a great hardship on people whose whole culture had been built around the practice for four hundred years. But the rights of one group of people cannot be unfavorable weighed against the conveinence of another group. As Lincoln stated about slavery, abortion is a stain upon a great nation. Whether it dies with a wimper or we have to wait for a new John Brown to emerge is less clear.

  120. I believe that abortion should consist not of terminating the life of the fetus, but rather of removing the fetus intact from the womb of the mother who no longer wants to being pregnant. Why this distinction? Because in a free society it is everyone’s right to own their own body, and to determine what is done with it. You can’t force someone to donate a piece of his liver, for example, even if that is the only way to save the life of another person. Likewise, why should a woman be forced against her will to donate her womb to maintain the life of the fetus? Yet, as you say, it is wrong to kill a person. I think it does come down to viability. If the fetus can not live separate from the mother and it is removed from the mother, then it will die, but if it was removed intact, then it was not actively killed; it just couldn’t survive on its own– like the person who needed a piece of your liver but didn’t get it. If the fetus comes out alive, of course, it will have to be treated as a baby, and not to be neglected. Most likely the mother will see her downs syndrome baby that she had removed at 20 weeks gasp for breath, and will have to live with that image for the rest of her life. The baby might even survive, in which case the mother would be responsible for a child who suffers from both Downs syndrome and a premature birth. I think this would make parents think twice about requesting late term abortions.

    It’s just too convenient right now. People think you can just make a 20 week fetus (the age at which most fetuses are diagnosed with abnormalities) disappear. Actually it’s not disappearing. It’s having its skull smashed and it’s head cut off, even though it might well be viable outside the womb. These are things which should not happen in a culture that respects human life.

    But in a culture that values liberty, a person should not be required to give parts of their body to maintain the life of others. You will object that parents also have a responsibility to care for their children; that they are not free to withhold care from their children. That is true, but it is also true that a mother who has just given birth has the right to give her child up for adoption. I believe that right extends back into her pregnancy as well– but I also believe that at no time does she have the right to assault the fetus.

  121. “””Even if this means using government force to compel women to bring to term unwanted fetuses.”””

    Why should John’s rational be forced on anyone by law?

    By the same standard, if you want government to be involved with reproduction, which clearly you do, why shouldn’t government be allowed to restrict family size?

    The big difference is one of freedom, one side demands you do it their way, the other side allows an adult to choose.

    People who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t get one, and they shouldn’t interfere with the decision of others.

  122. If I were to create a list of who gets to make reproductive decisions for a woman, the government wouldn’t be on it.

  123. The science of the matter is absolute: the unborn being of any animal begins at conception. There is no arguing that fact. What is debatable is when does a society extend the protection of law as an individual to that unborn being.

    For myself, an conservative atheist, I am very, very troubled by the idea of a government creating qualifications on what is human; Reminds me too much of the Nazi’s and their untermenschen — lesser Humans. And so in the final judgment, I come down on the issue that the law is wrong, abortion is wrong, and that protection under the law — as individuals — should begin at conception.

    All of that said, society and the law also understands that parents do speak on behalf of their minor children and do make medical decisions on their behalf. That does leave, IMO, some room for certain kinds of abortions… those based on unambigous medical concerns.

    All of the rest… no — don’t kill the child.

  124. Also, it’s only by a religious definition that a fetus could be considered a human life. By any other method of thought, there is absolutely no way that they can be considered equal. Since the law has to be secular in order to be fair, the law cannot adopt that definition. You and your religion are free to believe what you want, but the law cannot rationally forbid abortion.

    You don’t need religion to define a fetus as a human being. Just like you can be secular, libertarian and militantly pro-life. All your argument here is, is a no true scotsman fallacy.

  125. I have run into the same logical fallacies in the abortion debate that you have… and have decided that it is not above my meager educator’s pay grade to make a decision. If you follow the abortion debate closely you will realize that today the debate centers not around “life” but around “personhood”. As you have stated science continues to find ways to deliver and keep premature babies alive… if they live outside of the womb than clearly they were alive within the womb. So when does “life” begin? The only logical answer I could come to was at conception (which opens a whole other can of worms for me…). But what responsiblity do we have to protect a woman’s right to control her own body?
    The conclusion I have come to is that when a woman chooses to engage in acts which can lead to pregnancy than she chooses to risk becoming pregnant. The moment life is created the child becomes as important as the mother. We must protect both…
    I think that that does mean legislating against abortion (as we legislate against murder).
    This is just the conclusion I came to by carrying out my logic chain…

  126. By the same standard, if you want government to be involved with reproduction, which clearly you do, why shouldn’t government be allowed to restrict family size?

    No, I want the government to prevent the killing of innocent children, even if the child is unwanted by the host mother.

    The big difference is one of freedom, one side demands you do it their way, the other side allows an adult to choose.

    People who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t get one, and they shouldn’t interfere with the decision of others.

    People who don’t believe in infantcide shouldn’t engage in it, and shouldn’t interfere with the decision of others.

    I think that preventing the murder of individuals is a legitimate function of the state. Do you?

  127. TrickyVic
    “People who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t get one, and they shouldn’t interfere with the decision of others.”

    And people who don’t believe in murder shouldn’t do it, and they shouldn’t interfere with the decision of others?
    You must remember that most pro-life people believe that abortion is murder, you are asking them to stand aside and do nothing. Imagine a similar situation for yourself…what would that do to your conscience? What would that do to your emotional state? To your physical health? Most pro-lifers aren’t looking to curb your rights…they think they are stopping murder.

    On the freedom issue: the law prosecutes parents who harm their children. I believe that we must ask, what about the freedom of the unborn child? When do our inalienable rights get passed to that child? Upon exiting the mothers womb? Upon creation of the fertilized embryo? At the age the child can survive on it’s own? The freedom issue is much more complex than you are pretending.

  128. Marshall:
    “It took me a minute to digest this exchange but when I did I was glad that the doctor wasn’t in my presence. While it is legal, and accepted as moral by much of the medical community I would have asked the doctor, “why? Can we do anything to fix it?” When he answered “No” and I would have said, “why do the test then?” If he had suggested, to my face, that I murder my own child because he was imperfect, I would have beat the fucking shit out of him.”

    Here, here! I could not have said this better. With both of my children the doctor asked about these tests and both times we were ready to say “No thanks.” But if we had and the doctor had suggested an abortion I don’t know how I would have reacted… just the thought of killing my beautiful babies makes me sick.

  129. This is a great column. Shows how subtle and complex the issue is. I would identify as “prochoice” simply because I don’t believe that the embryo itself is a human life. But at some point in the womb (viability) it does become a life and must be defended. I guess arbitrarily I would say I believe in totally legal abortions until the third month or so and afterwards strictly regulated if not banned. But I’m not informed on the medical and scientific issues I guess.

  130. Sigh…
    Can anyone provide the statistics on all of these mythical elective third-trimester abortions (as opposed to medically necessary ones)? This is a non-issue. The limits are in place already. Criminalizing abortion will hurt the health and the privacy rights of citizens and will not produce fewer infanticides since few exist.
    This is not complicated. Those who are morally overwrought (as the author of the article in question is) are overwrought at a moral demon of their own design.

  131. This is a very good article. I am delighted to see (in polls at least) that the American public is becoming more pro-life. I believe that science itself is aiding that. First of all, Roe v. Wade was a terribly written decision. The SCOTUS should not be “handing out” rights like lollipops. Legally, the more intelligent decision would have been to say that states have a “right” to allow or prohibit abortion through their state legislatures. Getting beyond legalities into how the average person sees abortion, I still see a very hardcore, kneejerk response among the left when the issue of abortion is brought up. “It’s the woman’s body, it’s the woman’s wight to choose what she wants to do with that “thing” growing inside of her.” End of discussion. I am glad to see that the author, especially as a secular person, does not fall into such knee jerk reactions. He’s asking questions like “well, if I am against the death penalty, why would I be so pro-abortion”. The pro-abortion argument is still so steeped in the language of 1970’s radical feminism. I think that it has been over 30 years since Roe v. Wade we could and should be looking at this issue through a different prism and allowing the advances in all the sciences to color our opinions.

  132. 1 percent due to rape 17 of 1700
    6 percent due to life threatening to mother 102 of 1700
    93 percent due to convenience 1581 of 1700

    %uckin’ sad.

    Conclusion: Keep your legs closed and his pecker in his pants or take responsibility for you choices.

    And why should the any government pay for abortions here or internationally?

    And it doesn’t help that our president thinks that if his daughters get pregnant and has a child that it is a punishment on them…

  133. “””I think that preventing the murder of individuals is a legitimate function of the state. Do you?”””

    For you and Onon, It’s not murder, or people would be charged for murder. Get over it.

  134. Also, one could argue that Radley has spent much time showing that murder is a function of the state.

  135. “””On the freedom issue: the law prosecutes parents who harm their children. I believe that we must ask, what about the freedom of the unborn child? “””

    Make me a list of who should speak for the unborn in order of priority.

  136. Seems like many people would exclude the one who’s pregnant.

  137. “…[J]ust ask some of the poor woman who’ve had abortions–they’ll tell you the truth–they allowed their baby to be killed…and it’s something they’ll never forget.”

    I’ve heard the same thing from the poor mothers who give up children for adoption. And I bet the ones who don’t want a kid, don’t give it up for adoption, and kill it through neglect and abuse remember it for a while, too. Maybe there should be a ruling board regulating those denied abortion to decide whether or not they should be forced to give their children up for adoption? There are fates much worse than baby/blob/fetus death.

    “One thing I find quite detestable from the pro-PRO-abortion gang is the ‘my life’ and ‘my body’ and ‘my choice’ rah-rah until they get handed the bill. Then its ‘your’ problem, or at its best marketing, ‘our’ problem.”

    One thing I find detestable about the anti-ANTI-choice gang is the “valuable human life” and “babies are great” until they get handed the welfare bill. Then it’s “the lazy, stupid, whorish mother’s” problem, or at its best marketing, “the liberal’s” problem.

    Not every life is valuable. Not every life is worth living. Telling other people how they should live their lives, with a very few exceptions, will reduce the quality of their lives–the perception of control over one’s own circumstance is crucial to quality of life.

    I prefer quality to quantity. Am I qualified to decide what is an acceptable quality of life? Only my own.

  138. Comments by Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King Jr) discussing the tragic effects of abortion on the black community……

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for personal comfort and safety.”
    – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    June 2006

    AN OPEN LETTER TO AFRICAN-AMERICAN LEADERS:

    This is an open letter to appeal to all people who respect the work, life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More specifically, it is a wake-up call to the African American community. As a mature, Black, female living in America, my heart weeps every time I hear or see stories about our youth cut down in acts of senseless violence. Time after time, I have asked the question, HOW CAN THE DREAM SURVIVE IF WE MURDER THE CHILDREN?

    In America, we have unleashed a culture of death, and our children are dying. Every day, there are stories across our land of children committing violent acts against themselves, other children and adults. Because we have committed over 40 million legal murders in our recent history, our children can’t discern between what is good, what is legal and what is right.

    Please carefully consider the missions of two of our most prominent Civil Rights organizations, the SCLC and the NAACP, and the words of a noted African-American leader.

    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Mission Statement: “To ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”

    Southern Christian Leadership Conference: “We are recommitting ourselves to advocating and teaching the principles of nonviolence taught by Dr. King? to provide people with viable alternatives to solving their problems without resorting to violence.”

    Tavis Smiley: “The Covenant with Black America is a national plan of action to address the primary concerns of African Americans today”.

    Here, we nobly speak of the quality of rights for all persons, action plans and non-violent solutions, while the rights of the helpless and the pre-born are continually violated in often the most violent acts imaginable. Indeed, in America, since 1973, over 40 million American babies have been legally murdered. At least 13 million of these babies were Black. Two of these babies were mine. Coupled with the blatant practice of euthanasia, and the open assault on marriage and family, we have lost and continue to lose millions of our children in this culture of death. Some may argue that a woman has a right to chose what she does with her body. She does, but where is the lawyer for the baby, who is like a helpless slave in the womb of his/her mother?

    This letter is an open appeal to all people of good will, and today, especially to African-American leaders, to stop the violence, to save the children, to restore the culture of life to America.

    Please respond to the voices of the children! God bless you.

    Yours for Life,

    Dr. Alveda C. King, Pastoral Associate

  139. Abortion has racist roots. The founder of Planned Parenthood (America’s #1 abortion provider), Margaret Sanger, was a racist eugenicist who wanted to limit the population of those she deemed “unfit” which included blacks and jews. Today 35% of all abortions are precious black babies and yet blacks only represent 15% of the total population. Pretty tragic numbers. And yet numbers that the racist Ms Sanger would’ve been proud of. Racism is at the heart of the abortion movement. Abortion clinics strategically locate in urban areas where they’ll be closest for blacks to find. More racism and greed. It needs to end. Oh for the day that more black voices will arise to protest the tragedy and evil of abortion.

  140. With the issue of slavery of african americans many came to feel its evil by seeing paintings and pictures of killed and abused slaves. With the Holocaust, many felt the pain by seeing pictures and movies about the mass murder of Jews by Hitler and were convinced of its evil. Yet today, many who try to justify abortion and compare it to some simple medical procedure like cosmetic surgery are very offended of seeing pictures of aborted babies. They grow furious to see pictures of a trash bin outside an abortion clinic where these precious babies were thrown after “the procedure” was finished. Why the outrage if abortion isn’t evil and wrong? Could it be that those aborted ones look very much like “babies”? Could that be because they ARE BABIES? Yes, the blood is real. Yes, that was a human whose life was wrongfully ended. And yes, that abortion doctor and clinic made much profit from that “procedure”. It’s also curious that pro-choicers fight against measures to require sonograms before a woman is allowed to have an abortion. Shouldn’t she be fully informed? What so bothers them about a woman seeing a songogram of her pregnant tummy? Could it be that she’ll see a real baby on the sonogram? And that it will not look like just a “blob of tissue” like the pro-choicers like to say? America, stop throwing your conscience to the wind. Abortion kills real babies. Look at the pictures if you have the guts. Deal honestly and completely with this issue. Stop running behind mis-leading slogans that try to appease your conscience but which are lies. End the atrocity of abortion in America.

  141. Believe me, this one poll result is not evidence of a true paradigm shift, as far as “choice.” However, I agree that the question of how, when, why will become harder to pin down. The BEST way forward is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, as well as improving the way society can help shoulder the burden of caring for children when the mother is just not able to do so. Better resiults than calling them “Welfare Loafers.” There is a 6 month old in SW Fla right now who desperately needs a liver transplant. Her unwed teen mother made the decision to carry to term, but now has no insurance and no means of paying enormous health bills. Here is a concrete way for “Right to Lifers” to put their money where their mouths are but, as yet, they had a Hell of a lot more support for an already dead Terri Shaivo than for this beautiful baby girl.

  142. I would agree that the argument has been skewed to a ridiculous degree. I am personally against abortion and would not advocate that a woman I impregnated should have one, but I understand the procedure is not going away. The biggest issue I see is the taxpayer funding of abortion providers, supporters of, and recipients of the procedure should simply be the ones paying for it. I think removing the involuntary funding by those opposed would be a step in the right direction for both sides of the issue.

  143. For you and Onon, It’s not murder, or people would be charged for murder. Get over it.

    This is a curious approach to policymaking: the state alone determines whether or not a killing constitutes murder. If a person is charged with murder, it’s not murder. If not, then not.

  144. Who’s making policy? Abortion is not defined as murder in the statutory sense. That’s what I was implying.

    Some really seem care a lot about this unborn child as long as it’s unborn. Once it’s born, they no longer care if it really gets health care.

    So the right’s opinion is, It’s for the children, who’s thinking about the children? Sounds like liberal talk to me.

  145. “””The biggest issue I see is the taxpayer funding of abortion providers, supporters of, and recipients of the procedure should simply be the ones paying for it.”””

    That’s a tricky one for me. I’m not big on the state picking up the tab. But fiscally speaking, I’d rather the state pay a few hundred bucks now than thousands later. The state picks up the tab for people who barely has the money to support themselves, if that. Much of the expense of the child with be picked up by the taxpayer for 18 years. We did recently pass legislation to pick up health care costs of children didn’t we.

    I’ve been waiting for South Dakota to get their ban. I’ll enjoy watching how they deal with the strain on their resources. It will be sad to watch the state try to penalize people for going to another state to get one. But of course some people will enjoy that.

  146. If your wife or daughter was raped imagine having a government/society that forced them to carry the rapists precious joy in their womb for 9 months and then deliver it.

    There are several countries where you don’t have to imagine it.

    -jcr

  147. A little off topic but…

    As for the 90% who abort Down Syndrome infants WHEN do they abort? After they learn the infant has Down Syndrome or after they learn the Down Syndrome infant ALSO has a hole in their heart?

    Having watched a friend’s child live his whole 11 months of life in a hospital I don’t know if I received a double diagnosis I could carry to term. Or even if I should.

    My friends weren’t allowed to bring the baby home, he was always on a feeding tube, always sick (hospitals are sick places), almost undoubtedly he was in pain–his little chest couldn’t be closed after the heart operation…

    Downs Syndrome people live longer better lives now on average than before. Maybe because the ones that are really sick (and they are much more likely to have physical problems)aren’t born in the first place.

  148. Most fetuses with chromosomal abnormalities do spontaneously abort, it is the rare fetus that survives.

    An article in the American Journal of Epidemiology that studied Down Syndrome in California 1989-1991; generally whites abort Down babies at the highest rate, and Hispanics at the lowest. Factors such as screening, maternal age, etc. were looked at.

    Another look online: DSALA’s media archive of down syndrome actors and actresses. They do add something to our culture and life.

    AJMR March 2005 (can find online), siblings of children with mental retardation provide higher levels of emotional and custodial support than those without siblings with mental retardation, even when the sibling was older, children helped at higher levels, girls more than boys. Helping siblings also have high levels of self esteem, unknown if self esteem is gained by helping or if they help because of they have high self esteem

    I could go on and on, as the sister in law of a down syndrome man who recently studied mental retardation.

    The saddest aspect of mental retardation is that the most prevalent cause is the assault on the fetus in the early stages of development by alcohol and other agents and it is entirely preventable.

  149. A lot of comments here have been without empathy for the woman who goes through the agonizing decision. I have seen references to “just keep your legs closed”, and partying college girls. I do not deny that some women may approach abortion as a quick fix similar to getting their nails done.

    However, many women struggle with situations and concerns that are not superficial. There are women whom are married with children, working hard to support their families. They don’t “keep their legs closed” because they are married. Birth control fails. The father is unemployed. And now this family must find a way to keep their house.

    Given the economic climate (where welfare, health care for children, and other social programs are being cut) it is not so simple to just go out and get help. Sure, adoption is an option. But first you must so through 9 months of pregnancy. And if it is a difficult pregnancy and you can’t afford to stop working?

    What about the children they already have? The need to provide them with a life that is stable and healthy? And I’m not talking about those families where both parents work so they can afford 2 SUV’s and a flat screen television. There are families out there whom are struggling to put food on the table, and do not overspend.

    Please just consider that there are not easy answers. It has been pointed out above that a person cannot legally be compelled to give a part of their body to another. Not even a parent can be forced to donate a kidney to a child. So why do some wish to force a woman to donate her body to another being? There is risk involved with every pregnancy. Women can and do still die. Should one person be forced to risk their life for another?

  150. In college I saw Sarah Weddington, the lawyer in Roe v Wade, speak on the history of case.

    I have the same question now, as I did then.

    Why is this issue not dealt with by state medical board. I’m not attorney, but it seems to me every other medical issue is addressed this way.

    And the last time I checked, doctors made up 1% of congress. I’m just saying.

  151. Because all of those teenaged girls who have sex outside of marriage are obviously little sluts who /deserve/ to be teen moms, lolololol.

    Who cares about letting these girls go to college so they can get jobs good enough to actually pay for the children they might want to have later on in life? We wouldn’t want to get rid an unconscious fetus “for convenience’s sake”.

    It’s not like delivering an unwanted baby would ruin a girl’s entire life. Hell, it’s not like we have enough unwanted children in the world anyway.

    There are plenty of babies around the world for couples to adopt! There’s no reason to put teenagers through post-partum depression just so you can reap the fruit of their womb.

    Actually, why are we just sitting here doing nothing? Think of all the potential for life out there! We should be going around having sex with as many teenaged girls as possible, so we can flood the entire world with new life! Babies are blessings. It would be wrong to prevent them from being born!

  152. If a fetus is a human being, would a mother who miscarries be charged with involuntary manslaughter? Why not… after all the fetus is a person and she was responsible for him.

    If a fetus is a person and a mother chooses to live on cigarettes and Big Macs, can she be charged with abuse (malnutrition)? Why wouldn’t she be charged with giving tobacco to a minor? Why not?

    If we force a woman who has an accidental pregnancy to carry the fetus to term & the mother doesn’t want anything to do with him/her/it, who “owns” it? Do we just create a huge orphan problem?

    If any of these issues aren’t easy answers, how can the easy answer of a ban on abortion be right? Is a stranger in another state really the right person to make reproductive choices about your body?

  153. I don’t think that a rigid “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” poll can give accurate results. In my opinion, it is most certainly possible for one to be both pro-life AND pro-choice; the two are not mutually exclusive. Pro-lifers (as opposed to anti-choicers), theoretically, want to outlaw abortion to prevent the unmerited killing of unborn human beings. But one can still be against such killing and still be pro-choice. Pro-choicers consider abortions to be a personal issue: while they themselves may not be for the killing of fetuses, the decision is ultimately up to the (hopefully well-informed) parents to make, and NOT up to the government.

    Also, as a response to “the right to life and liberty is the foundation of a moral society”: read this: http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2001.pdf. This same argument appears in the book Freakonomics, and I found that chapter very interesting.

  154. Wow, I don’t care what YOU think…do you have a vagina? have you ever gotten pregnant as a scared teenage girl? have you ever been raped? hopelessly poor? found out that your fetus was horribly malformed or challenged? My guess is NO…so what don’t you let me have my rights to MY body and MY future and MY sense of morality.

    Besides the only reason why so many physically and mentally challenged people are even alive today is because we dont kill them AFTER birth like we used to a few centuries ago…I’m not for eugenics but its called NATURAL SELECTION

  155. It seems clear to me that this issue cannot be resolved. Since the are so intimately intertwined, it will always be difficult to balance the rights of the women against the rights of the fetus.

    However, this issue does do a good job of exposing modern liberalism for the intellectual fraud that it is. How can a women have the right to an abortion but not the right to set the terms for her labor?

  156. Defending the right to life of all human beings is a liberal position, and one I proudly hold.

  157. Unfortunately, these articles confuse moral reasoning with a kind of emotional reasoning, if you will. Much of the problem behind the pro-life or pro-birth arguments derives from a combined evasion and conflation of precise, scientific definition and from nonsensical presuppositions that lead to nonsensical conclusions. When we speak of “rights”, we speak of contractual understandings and agreements (thankfully still evolving), among socially engaged individuals, whatever their functional capacity, in a community of the born (graduates of amoral, vulnerable, and uncertain reproductive processes). Rights are not objectively found or discovered in nature. Historical and contemporary attempts to give our language of rights completely objective or divine foundation are, heretofore, unable to prove it as such. Our shared establishment of rights are based on universally shared, albeit still provisional, truths, so that we might more perfectly cohabitate, cope with, and explore the ongoing mystery (and at times the painfully gray, conscious condition) of our existence.

    Therefore, when we speak of “the rights of an unwanted insemination”, or in more popular terms, “the rights of the unborn”, we presuppose that our reproductive cells, parts of us, whether sperm or egg, have social rights, beyond the rights of a whole human being, to form a union in a woman’s uterus in the first place.

    I ask again, do these social rights actually exist in nature? If you answer that rights are given to our body parts and functions by God, then prove it….and good luck. Until we discover otherwise, we as a civil society cannot rationally or morally justify a grant of social rights to biological PARTS and processes, their unconscious, amoral interactions, and their possible outcomes, much less assign them powers that would supersede those of WHOLE, “graduate” members of society with the same equally valued, inseparable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we claim to cherish and to protect. To do so cherry picks, if it doesn’t completely contradict, Constitutional principles either to conquer, or to perpetuate blindly a Traditional prejudice, or to ease personal discomfort with largely ambiguous circumstances and questions that, by fact, characterize most of human existence, like it or not – believe it or not.

    Still further, we cannot arbitrarily re-define what something is in the first three days of pregnancy for what it MIGHT be in nine months. All arguments that race to attach a newborn baby’s face to a first-trimester abortion are irresponsible and deceitful…designed to evoke premature emotions, to dismiss scientific terms and their definitions that are established and perfected over time for a reason, and to dismantle all hope of clear, accurate thinking required at the exact moment of moral concern and essential to the overall debate.

    Nature, if anything, shows us that sperm and egg only have a CHANCE of both uniting and graduating to birth. Nature, on its own terms, aborts routinely. Some reports suggest that at least one in five pregnancies terminate, by miscarriage, and this statistic doesn’t take into account those inseminations that never embed in the uterus nor those that miscarry later, yet still go unnoticed, and ultimately unrecorded (http://www.allaboutlifechallenges.org/miscarriage-statistics.htm). Hence, even if one believes, as I do, that the moral context and gradient shifts over time, as a woman consciously or willfully allows a pregnancy to advance, our enlightened society should never extinguish a woman’s dignity and right of conscience to protect her own physical life at all times unequivocally (as medical emergencies and contingencies can often bring to the fore). The State cannot morally and justifiably force a woman to compromise her own survival for that which exists, technically and more accurately speaking, in a privileged and potential state — not a rightful one.

    So, yes, despite the delicacy and relative “innocence” of both subjects, the life of newlywed sperm and egg, (or zygote, or embryo, or fetus) and the life of the one who carries it are NOT clearly or justifiably congruent, until the umbilical cord is cut at the point of birth — nature’s most obvious, independent, and objective line that helps us to perfect our social boundaries or rights, to check our emotions, and ultimately to validate the most balanced decisions with respect to broad public policy on the matter and what actions we should criminalize by law.

    Those that advocate an extreme “pro-life” position, in effect reduce women to procreative mechanisms, as they deny women control over their own lives, quite literally their very physical and mental being – the freedom to exercise and to express their sexuality in accord with their rational, thinking nature and their own conscience. Those that say women must be made responsible for unwanted insemination by arguing that they have waived the safest option of abstinence, in consensual cases, only denigrate a woman’s sexual nature, the beauty and purpose of intimacy beyond procreation. Again, if we look to nature alone, sex does not necessarily result in pregnancy. Therefore, the purpose(s) and value of sex (the social boundaries and rights that accompany sexual activity) are open to human interpretation. And those who scorn a woman for exercising free conscience in accepting and employing available reproductive technologies, if and when her biological processes unconsciously bypass her intentions and practical capacities, deny her main human distinction – the function and power of her own reasoning. In sum, they effectively dismiss her whole being in the name of biological parts, processes, privileges, and potentials.

    Moreover, by measures of accurate and precise definition, of the verifiability of claims, and of clear reasoning, the popular and more emotionally derived argument on behalf of the unborn supports an irrational view and hierarchy of human rights, if it doesn’t completely contradict itself.

  158. The big inconsistency in government policy that I can see is the prohibition of drugs and the legalization of abortion. If a woman can do what she pleases with “her body”, why can’t she or whoever also use substances?

    I’m very against abortion on moral grounds, believing that conception is the least arbitrary point at which one can reasonably say life begins. I know there are decent arguments in favor of later times, but I see this as the only valid time, therefore is when personhood technically should be said to begin.

    I also see abortion as a sexual moral hazzard, a “bailout” for bad decisions on the part of irresponsible people.

    And I just hate it when some liberal twat tells me something like the following ad hominem:”How dare you be against abortion!! You’re not a woman, so you could never understand her thoughts and feelings that lead her to abort!”

  159. “Now, you may not consider a fetus a “human life” in early pregnancy, though it has its own DNA and medical science continues to find ways to keep the fetus viable outside the womb earlier and earlier.”
    I never thought a comment like that would make it on “reason.com”. Your dead skin cells have their own DNA, your urine has “its own DNA”, that argument is as tired of argument as “earth is flat” or “god wants these kids to live”. That being said, please do point out how the age of viability has changed since Roe v. Wade? failing to answer that, please indicate what research you have done to answer the question of when life begins and thus the state interest.
    If you are claiming to be a libertarian, then how is it your business what someone does with their own body and the organs in their body, surely you would not be debating moral dilemmas of removing a cancer tumor or an infected appendix, although they both have their own DNA and are as much part of the body as a fetus is. Furthermore, how many abortion are because someone did not like the sex of the fetus they are carrying? I bet my house it’s below statistical significance. Last but not least, how about if abortion will save the mother’s life? would you deprive someone of their right to live? if not, then how do you justify killing this fetus you assume to be human? It is her body, she can do anything she wants with it, if you don’t like it, that is just too bad. I promise, if tomorrow you decide to get a vasectomy thus depriving potential life of forming, I will defend your right to do the same with your body.

  160. “‘m very against abortion on moral grounds, believing that conception is the least arbitrary point at which one can reasonably say life begins. I know there are decent arguments in favor of later times, but I see this as the only valid time, therefore is when personhood technically should be said to begin.”
    really? personhood should begin at the moment of conception just because that is what you “believe”? then maybe we should put frogs on warts and try to cure Cancer with holy water since that is what some ppl believe. Listen, the point is that if that is what you believe, that’s fine, don’t have an abortion. As you mentioned, others have different opinions and much stronger reasons to hold those opinions, thus maybe we should let them make their own decision.

  161. on last point on this matter of “viability”. Let us grant the assumption that once the fetus is capable of surviving outside the mother’s body, then it becomes state’s interest. Now what happens if mother does not want the fetus? would the state provide the medical care and funding necessary to keep the fetus alive in various machines? would we have orphanages or foster homes for “viable but yet not fully functioning fetuses?” If a mother does not want her born baby, she can put him/her up for adoption or give him/her to an orphanage, what happens if they do not want their “viable fetus”? surely those libertarians among us would agree that state has no right to force you to take care of your kid, hence the exitence of orphanages and foster homes.

  162. Damn the Nazis – if it were not for them, there would be nothing wrong with “eugenics” or trying to improve the overall health and well-being of the homo sapiens species. But because of the Nazis, the very topic is taboo 70 years later.

    There’s a big difference between trying to create an Aryan masterace at the expense of all other people versus trying to eradicate the suffering caused by genetic disorders like Downs’ Syndrome. You can call it eugenics or apples, I don’t care. It is absolutely, fundamentally IMMORAL to knowingly give birth to a child with a genetic disorder that was diagnosed (or reasonably capable of being diagnosed) early in the pregnancy.

    Because some out there may have seen pictures with a person who has DS smiling and is thus convinced their lives are worthwhile, what about the Elephant Man? There’s a special on the National Geographic Channel this weekend about someone in China with the “elephant man” disease – they showed a picture of him and it was absolutely horrifying. He lives in horrible pain, is more disfigured than any other person on the planet. If anyone out there can watch that 1-hour program (on sunday I believe) and tell me it would be immoral to have aborted his pregnancy if his condition had been diagnosed, say, in the first trimester, then you are a truly horrible, inhuman person.

    It’s easy to sit on your ass, thump a bible, and say “all human life is sacred” when you don’t have chronic pain and a face that’s 3 feet wide with a 150 pound tumor in your head.

  163. Think about that, for a second. If you train a society to believe that from the moment a sperm and egg come together to the moment that all life functions cease, a human is a rights-endowed being, there is no moral weasel room for a Hitler or a Stalin or a Pol Pot to argue “they’re not entitled to live.”

    But all life functions don’t start at conception, but they develop later. And even many many weeks later life functions still depend on the other human being and if we shut down a host those “life functions” will not be so live anymore.

  164. Though somewhat minor, I should correct for the record a statement that I made in the wee morning hours last Monday (6/1). I found a silly error in part of my reasoning, presented hastily in a causal (“therefore”) expression that doesn’t reflect exactly what I meant to say anyway.

    Here’s what I wrote originally:

    “….Those that say women must be made responsible for unwanted insemination by arguing that they have waived the safest option of abstinence, in consensual cases, only denigrate a woman’s sexual nature, the beauty and purpose of intimacy beyond procreation. Again, if we look to nature alone, sex does not necessarily result in pregnancy. Therefore, the purpose(s) and value of sex (the social boundaries and rights that accompany sexual activity) are open to human interpretation…..”
    [This conclusion cannot be drawn per se.]

    Here’s my second, hopefully cleaner attempt overall:

    ….One side of the extreme pro-life perspective only denigrates a woman’s sexual nature. We see as much, for instance, in the classic, unsympathetic “must be held accountable unconditionally” argument regarding pregnant women, who ultimately waived the safest option of abstinence in consensual cases, even in those somewhat protected. Of course, they overlook the beauty and possible purpose(s) of intimacy beyond procreation. Nature does not clearly or specifically indicate that sex fulfills ONLY ONE function. The possible physical and/or mental values of sexual activity are still open to analysis and interpretation, which would seem to temper any completely rigid treatment of the subject that might also harm the public well-being in other ways. But no worries…In the same breath, a woman is scorned precisely for using her brain in accepting and employing available reproductive technologies, if or when biological processes should unconsciously bypass her intentions and practical capacities. In so doing, they carelessly deny her key human distinction – the function and power of her own reasoning. In sum, they erratically, but essentially, dismiss her whole being, her opportunity to balance her own physical and rational nature – her LIFE….

    See above for the complete post, if interested in the full, before and after, context of this revision. Otherwise, please excuse my desire to make this correction, and have a nice day.

  165. One of David Harsanyi’s last comments was, “Now, I happen to believe (as civil libertarian and pro-life activist Nat Hentoff once noted) that the right to life and liberty is the foundation of a moral society. Then again, I also believe a government ban on abortion would only criminalize the procedure and do little to mitigate the number of abortions.”

    Now, it can also be said that a government ban on liquor store hold-ups only criminalizes the procedure and does little to mitigate the number of robberies. However, sometimes a little goes a long way.

  166. Actually science has already proven that a human zygote qualifies as an individual living being – with sentience even. Science uses a set of characteristics which help to define living organisms, and they are as follows: The organism in question must 1) be complex and highly organized, 2)maintain homeostasis 3) acquire and convert nutrient molecules 4) exhibit growth and development 5) reproduce 6) evolve. If you look in any Intro to Embryology textbook, you will see how a human zygote (a newly fertilized egg) qualifies under all six characteristics and is indeed it’s own living human and individual organism separate from the mother, and unlike other cells such as a liver cell or skin cell (these actually don’t qualify under all 6 characteristics). I could got into this further, but clearly this isn’t the place to do it. You should also know that there are some very staunch atheist/agnostic prolifers as well as libertarian proflifers. http://www.godlessprolifers.org/home.html and http://www.l4l.org/

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