Congressman: Abortion Restrictions Justified Because Fetuses Masturbate



Today, the House of Representatives will debate HR 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would outlaw almost all abortions 20 weeks after fertilization.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) would like a more restrictive ban on abortions because fetuses have been known to pleasure themselves at 15 weeks post fertilization.

From Salon:

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) said on Monday that he supports the proposed federal ban on abortion at 20 weeks because he has personally witnessed male fetuses with their hands "between their legs" pleasuring themselves at 15 weeks.

"There is no question in my mind that a baby at 20-weeks after conception can feel pain. The fact of the matter is, I argue with the chairman because I thought the date was far too late. We should be setting this at 15-weeks, 16-weeks," said the former OB/GYN during the House Rules Committee debate on the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act."

"Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful," he continued. "They stroke their face. If they're a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?"

Watch Reason's recent discussion on abortion featuring Reason's own Katherine Mangu-Ward and Ron Bailey as well as Mollie Hemingway, editor of Ricochet and a contributor to Christianity Today below:

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  1. What demographic is not moved by “don’t kill children” but is moved by “don’t kill children who are capable of masturbating in my creepy fever dreams”?

  2. Not even I could come up with something this sick. FFS, Texas.

    1. What, you weren’t born with hairy palms?

      1. When I masturbate into my mom, everyone is fine calling for me to be put to death.


  3. When do fetuses start alt-texting?

  4. “Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” he continued. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

    so, touching yourself is the same as masturbation?

    1. Not gonna lie, I jiz a little everytime I scratch my balls. That’s normal, right?

  5. If you can make Jesus cry, you’re an American.

  6. They don’t call ’em the stupid party for nothing. Keep stepping on that rake, morons.

  7. I don’t see what’s so creepy about it. I am pro-choice but I get what he’s saying.

    1. Yes, but he is saying it in the creepiest way with the flimsiest evidence.

      1. But people are such fanatics about this issue, no evidence will ever matter. DNA? Doesn’t matter. Reaction to pain? Doesn’t matter. Brain waves? Doesn’t matter.

        At this point the pro abortion people, especially ones who support late term abortions, are left with the argument that in one moment a fetus is a collection of cells with no rights but in the single trip down the birth canal emerges a full human worthy of all rights and protections.

        Think about it. An 8 month fetus can be aborted in one hour but be a human the next because it traveled down the birth canal. What magical transformation occurs in that trip is never explained. But it is awfully magical whatever it is.

        1. Organized neural activity – it’s a baby, a human being.

          No organized neural activity – it’s a clump of cells, at best a blueprint for a human being.

          This point of view, though logical, is 100% guaranteed to piss off everyone.

          1. It wouldn’t piss me off. There is no clear answer. But whatever the answer is it is not 8 month abortions. I think neural activity is about as good a line as any.

          2. So, does anything with organized neural activity count as human, then?

            Lots of non-human organisms have the same or higher neuron count than a human fetus at fifteen weeks, and display behavior patterns as complex or more complex.

            1. Whatever, Tonio. I bet you think that dog humping your leg isn’t human either.

            2. Organized neural activity [and human DNA]. The part in [] was implied, Im pretty sure.

              Some premises dont have to be fucking stated.

              1. Thanks for sharing that, robc, but I’d be interested in OMWC’s opinion on the matter since he was the author of the post to which I was responding.

                Now, having said that, I’ll engage you about the ONA AND human DNA thing. What, exactly, do you mean by human DNA. Please provide examples both positive and negative, and state your guiding premises which drive those examples.

                1. Im not your puppet. You and I both know what human DNA is, Im not playing your stupid games.

                  1. No, robc, I’m unable to read your mind. That’s why I asked you to define your terms.

                2. We can put aside the animal rights debate for a different thread (I’m a strict vegetarian, as it happens, but that’s for another day). Let’s just focus on human genomes expressing inside of human females. If you need that defined for you, there’s plenty of introductory biology texts out in the world.

                  1. If you need that defined for you, there’s plenty of introductory biology texts out in the world.


                  2. For me, organisms are organisms. Some organisms with human DNA, such as anencephalic fetuses will never acheive anything resembling conciousness. They have enough of a brain to keep their heart beating and their lungs going, but the lack the brain capacity to either suckle or swallow. Then there are non-human organisms, such as chimps, who exhibit extremely complex behavior, and arguably can be taught to use language (ASL).

                    For me it’s about the right of individual organisms, based on that individual’s right to feel pain, etc. You want to assert group rights based on DNA, at least define what you mean. Does neanderthal DNA count as human? Australopithecine? What about XXY, XYY individuals?

                    1. They’re all human, the Taylr/Kleinfelter/Neanderthal (or the part of Neanderthal that’s still with us) by any biological definition. The anencephalic fetus is a mass of human cells but, at least in my mind, not a human being- no organized neural activity, thus no consciousness. Australopithecenes were not just a different species, they were a different genus, but since there aren’t any, it makes no sense to bring them into the discussion.

                      I’d have no objection to raising anencephalic humans for food.

                    2. My understanding is that Anencephaly is not genetic but a birth defect. If my understanding is correct then the anencephalic has “human DNA” which is the standard many people here argue is the determinant of personhood.

                      I realize there are no australopithecenes now, but it’s possible that someone might re-create them or otherwise create semi-humans. Discussing the humanity, or lack thereof, of near-humans is important given this possibility.

                    3. Human DNA doesn’t confer personhood (and thus rights) but it’s not like that fertilized egg is going to grow into a fucking cheetah so it’s disingenuous to pretend that whatever the mother aborts isn’t human and alive.

                    4. If my understanding is correct then the anencephalic has “human DNA”

                      That is what he said. I will quote it for you, maybe that will help:

                      The anencephalic fetus is a mass of human cells but, at least in my mind, not a human being- no organized neural activity

                  3. Thanks for the helpful reply, OMWC, but I specifically asked you for your definition, which might well vary from a textbook definition. Also, let’s say I found an introductory biology textbook and cited that; you could well reply that I had chosen a book at an inappropriate grade level, or one with which you were unfamiliar, or one that was out of date.

                    1. I gave you a definition. I cannot give you an understanding.

                      Let’s stick to human beings- a collection of differentiated human cells (sounds more official than “clump”)with organized neural activity.

          3. We’re all a clump of cells.

            The fetus is a human being in the fetal stage of the human lifespan. Still, if you’re going to abort them (which I think needs some legal protection, as all-out bans could have terrible consequences), I think the only good case is doing it before the lights flip on in the brain.

            Once that happens, there’s really no denying that you’re killing another human being. Couples/the woman have to accept that moral fact.

            1. I agree with MJG in principal, but would like a more robust dividing line than “lights flip on in the brain”. Zygotes start out as clumps of undiffentiated cells (ie, no neurons or brain tissue at that stage), then progress to fetuses and start to develop neurons and brain tissue. Is your threshold the appearance of the first neural tissue? It’s hard to measure cognition in fetuses, but we could resonably analogize their cognitive level with fully-developed animals based on neuron count.

          4. I accept it as one of the rational places to draw the line.

            It isnt my first choice, but doesnt piss me off.

        2. But I was told the Democrats were the party of compassion, logic and reason.

          1. Only when compassion, logic and reason (!) fit their ends, just like the other party.

        3. The more advanced-thinking ones, like Peter Singer and Kermit Gosnell, think it’s OK to kill them even after they’ve emerged from the birth canal.

          1. Gosnell never offered any sort of moral or philosophical justification for what he did.

    2. For once, I agree with Jesus. I figure this will generate OUTRAGE! but it shouldn’t. It’s a reasonable point. It may or may not be correct, but it isn’t crazy.

  8. Masturbating Fetus

    There’s a name for a band.

  9. Congress people say stupid things. Pelosi called late term abortions “sacred ground” a few days ago. That seems a lot more creepy than this. But Reason didn’t cover it of course.

    1. Reason is such a fucking liberal rag.

      1. No Tony, if they were that, they would censor their comments more. They are way too tolerent of dissent to ever be called “liberal” in the modern political sense. Being liberal in that sense is defined by an absolute intolerance of all dissent and a total dedication to state sponsored political violence. And that is not Reason. That is you Tony.

        1. So you were what like an uberliberal in 2000-2008?

          1. No Tony. I have never been that. You are the brownshirt hating the other and telling the world that the government is infallible and is always one with people, not me.

            Tony you need to be more honest with yourself and come to terms with your fascism. You will feel better for it.

            1. The incompetents whose every authoritarian move you called people traitors for not supporting in that time period disabused me of any inclination to believe the government is always infallible.

              1. Just excusable when your people are in charge, right?

              2. Please cite examples or refrain from your accusations. Seriously, the ad hominem attacks from you become wearisome. The board is replete with multiple recent examples of your complete lack of consistency, so for you to be accusing someone of it is rich on its face.

                1. I don’t have beliefs, so if I contradict myself, very well, I contain multitudes. Half the time I’m just playing devil’s advocate.

                  Not that libertarians aren’t a bunch of semieducated manchildren who believe in patently stupid things.

                  1. devil

                    These Obama euphemisms just keep getting darker and darker, aren’t they?

        2. Being liberal in that sense is defined by an absolute intolerance of all dissent and a total dedication to state sponsored political violence.

          It’s called tolerance. Tolerant people do not have to tolerate intolerance. So the more intolerant liberals are of anyone who disagrees with them, the more tolerant they are.

          Words are defined by the opposites.

          Like not taking is giving, and not giving is taking.

          Or the more you exclude people who disagree with liberal views, the more inclusive you are.

          Doublethink. Learn it. Love it.

            WAR IS PEACE

    2. I’ve always believed that the end of the 2nd trimester should be an absolute hard-stop for elective abortions. Killing a viable person rather than simply removing him or her from the womb crosses a line.

      So, despite the idiotic logic – I would agree with the proposal if it was made in a state legislature.

      1. Viability is much sooner than end of T2. And getting earlier every day.

        1. We don’t have Embryadopt yet. Developing it will make a lot of these legal questions easier to answer. Though the question of who will pay for it still needs to be answered. I can’t see an artificial womb, and 3-6 months of dwell time, being cheaper than an abortion.

          I think the Congressman could have phrased his concerns a lot more tastefully, but, along with JHC above, I think the clod has a point. All we are doing is trying to figure out where to draw the line between fetus and human being. Burgess is just using fetal behavior to advocate drawing the line closer to conception. I’m not sure he’s wrong.

          1. I think the argument over where to draw the line is the only valid argument related to abortion.

            Every right thinking person (Robert below not included) should say that before X, its okay, after X it is murder. The devout catholic may draw that line very, very early (no contraception). The far end of the spectrum is the PKD “algebra” line.

            I think both those lines are nuts. But the proper argument is over where to draw the line, and that tends, for the vast majority of thinking people, to be fairly early on in the process. Earlier for me than for most here, but a scientifically argued line is a valid argument.

            1. In Jewish practice, human life begins when you get an MD or law degree.

      2. Drake, I’d be fine with a time limit as long as that limit were based on sound neuroscience findings about the level of cognitive ability of the typical fetus at that stage of development. The problem will be determining that level. We have two vocal groups (self-styled “pro-life” and “pro-choice” advocates) who want to derail any sort of rational debate on this. Many of those who would be amenable to a fact-based middle ground solution just don’t want to deal with the messy implications.

        Also, it is impossible to determine date of conception with total accuracy based on diagnostics alone. This means that women who do not remember, or lie about, possible dates of conception will be able to exceed the limits by a period of time.

  10. There’s not a lot a fetus can do as far as visible demonstrations of self-awareness. Think of yourself crammed into a water-filled space not much larger than your own body. Now, imagine you’ve never read a book or heard a song. I’d say for most guys here, the thing would look like a snow globe within a half hour.

    1. But if you succeed, that’s a good argument against using painful procedures, not against killing per se. If you don’t feel it coming, how can you possibly mind?

      1. I think he’s trying to establish that the fetus at 15 weeks is conscious. The ability to purposefully perform an action that induces pleasure seems to fit within his view. Again, I don’t see the creepiness of his comment. I’m not saying I agree.

        1. I understand that. But being conscious is a far cry from being self-aware enough to have plans for the future that would be disappointed by the knowledge that you’re about to die.

          1. So you’re OK with infanticide? Or do you believe that a 2-minute old newborn is “self-aware enough to have have plans for the future that would be disappointed by the knowledge that [he’s] about to die”?

            1. Yes, I’m OK with infanticide as well as killing of almost all plants & animals using non-painful methods.

              The only thing I could see changing my mind about this would be evidence of awareness transcending bodily existence such that formerly living things turn out to usually regret not having lived longer. If being dead turns out to be a bummer compared to being alive, then we could presume that living things will be disappointed by their death.

              1. Yes, I’m OK with infanticide

                At least you are honest about your evil. So you have that going for you.

                1. I’m not evil. I don’t want to hurt. It’s just that I don’t think death hurts.

                  1. So as long as there is no pain involved it is okay to kill? Cool, ’cause I have a list.

                    1. All value is subjective. Whatever we like or dislike, we do only because of our thoughts. What you don’t know (in the sense that you never find out about it) can’t hurt you.

                      If, say, 10% of the ostensible natural deaths of humans in the world were actually murders (say by some painless remote killing technology), and you never found out that that technology existed, would that change anything in your view of the world? How could it?

                    2. All value is subjective.

                      [citation needed]

                    3. Rob, there are many introductory textbooks which explain that…

                    4. Sorry, I meant robc.

                    5. there are many introductory textbooks which explain that


                    6. robc| 6.18.13 @ 1:01PM |#

                      If you need that defined for you, there’s plenty of introductory biology texts out in the world.


                    7. See, robc, the point is that if you’ve said that the only citation needed is “any introductory textbook” in the subject being discussed (IOW, the “everybody knows that” fallacy), then it makes you look bad when you call out others for specific citations in the same thread. HTH

                    8. “All value is subjective.”

                      Then there are no principles and there are no human rights. That is a utilitarian philosophy which antithetical to what most people on this site subscribe to.

                  2. Just go to sleep Robert, it won’t hurt at all….

                  3. I don’t want to hurt. It’s just that I don’t think death hurts.

                    Yes, you are evil.

                    The guillotine supposedly doesnt hurt either.

                    Human life has inherent value, ending it without damn good reason is evil.

                    1. Yes, the guillotine doesn’t hurt, but knowing it’s coming is a disappointment. If there were a magic guillotine that nobody knew you had that could kill people remotely without anyone ever finding out, then nobody would ever be bothered by it, because they’d never see it coming.

                      Abortion is like that magic guillotine, because its targets have no idea what it’s about, therefore they’re not saddened in the least by it. Their values are not affected. Since all harm is psychic, there is no harm caused by it.

                  4. Robert, it’s no use arguing with robc; he maintains that he has absolute moral authority on this issue.

                    1. So you don’t think human life has inherent value?

                    2. So you don’t think human life has inherent value?

                      Apparently not. What with it being subjective and all.

                    3. No. I don’t believe in “inherent value” any more than I do in the labor theory of value, the theory of offense against Jehova, etc. Value is opinion. This is why there are gains from trade; if the things being traded had inherent value, trade would be a waste of time, since you could never gain by it.

                    4. he has absolute moral authority

                      Nope, Ive never made any such claim.

                      I do claim, without proof, that there is an absolute moral authority.

                  5. Cool, may I introduce you to my ex-wife?

  11. Well being a fetus can get boring. I remember passing the time recalling hot, passionate nights in Cabo.

    1. Fear of the abortionist’s blade might make it more exciting.

    2. Hot passionate nights in Cabo with your hand between your legs laying down some serious callous on that chubbie, always looking toward the future of gay marriage.

      1. Could tony even net a boyfriend?

        1. According to him, yes. It’s probably just a stolen mannequin, though.

    3. Fetuses only do it when they know the doctor is watching. Our sexual impulses are at maximum freakiness at that stage of development.

  12. the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

    aka the Premature Ejaculator Act

    1. The acronym is so close to being a palindrome. They couldn’t have gone that extra mile?

  13. Rape culture starts in the womb.

    1. +1 patriarchy

  14. So…Congress is debating a bill to forbid the abortion of pain-capable fetuses, and the most relevant development in that debate is some Congressman making a brief allusion to masturbation?

    1. I thought it was nuts too when I read the headline, but his argument to support it is completely logical and coherent. I have to give him credit for being able to brave past the stigma of talking about creepy subjects in order to advance his argument. Most people are too scared shitless of public ridicule to do that.

      1. I’ve noticed that an awful lot in my life. Any time there’s a gathering of 3 or more, sometimes even when I’m with just one other person, there are certain topics that are just dismissed as flippant, infra dig, too yucky, or something, to discuss seriously. Which means they can practically never be hashed out. Especially with women.

        1. Except hippie chicks. Seems you can talk to them maybe even better than men about these subjects. Kids are OK too, but their understanding & knowledge isn’t broad enough to be useful.

      2. “ut his argument to support it is completely logical and coherent. ”

        You said it better than I did. I thought the congress critter handled that like an adult.

      3. My critique was on the the way the post covers the bill, which is, “now’s a chance to tell a masturbation joke!” not “here is a serious bill where they’re claiming that babies in the womb can feel pain and should be protected on that basis.”

        1. You mean fliipantly ignoring the logical implications of what the Congressman is saying that are inconvenient to an absolutist pro-abortion rights position? That could not happen on Reason, could it?

  15. That’s soooo cute.

  16. At first I read the title as meaning that he wanted to kill the babies because they’re jackin’ it. I was very disappointed.

    1. Why does this not surprise me?

  17. Wow, so they can masturbate but they can’t even lift?

    1. Episiarch’s Law is like Episiarch’s Love, hard and fast.

      1. I thought Epsiarch’s Law was fuzzy and toothless.

        1. Small and crooked?

          1. Demanding yet impotent?

            1. Feckless and feeble?

  18. Oh goody, an abortion thread.

  19. We were all born in sin.

  20. “Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” he continued. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

    Breaking News! Congressman Burgess argues for selective female fetal abortions!!

    “Just until he can see them masturbate,” Burgess aide explains…

  21. I’m saving this one for the next “who the hell would live in NY” thread. I.e. later today.

  22. I spank it, therefore I am.

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