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Quick hit: Pro-choice ethics boiled down to one witty sign

May 18, 2010

Via STFU Sexists (btdubs I’m really into the STFU family of blogs at the moment):

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40 Comments
  1. May 20, 2010 1:20 PM

    LIFE is the most fundamental of all human rights.
    Abortion advocacy is Anti Human Rights Extremism.

    This sign carries the message that SLUTS must be allowed to deny the most basic human right of defenceless, innocent people because they are small.

    That’s the most vicious evil imaginable.

    • Lisa permalink
      May 21, 2010 9:38 AM

      You’re right Ted, life is a fundamental human right. But should the right to life of an embryo be put before the right to life of it’s mother? If the mother dies before she reaches full-term the growing embryo will die to.

      I would also like to point out that in this context, “hos” most likely refers to all women, not specifically sluts. Also, sluts are people and therefore have the same right to life that you are so passionate about.

      • May 21, 2010 1:34 PM

        Lisa, why is one life more valuable than another? Why should one person be allowed to kill another person for any reason, and the other person have no say in it?

      • Lisa permalink
        May 21, 2010 2:30 PM

        Andrew,

        I don’t see where in my comment I claimed that one life was more valuable than another. In fact, I was problematizing Ted’s statement by showing that the fetuses right to life might directly affect the mother’s right to life which creates a sort of paradox. I certainly don’t think that we should be allowed to wantonly kill people, but I don’t see how you got that opinion from my comment.

      • May 21, 2010 3:45 PM

        I’m sorry. I should have been clearer. The very post we’re commenting on is about “hos” before “embryos”. It’s a very clear statement that the life of the mother is more valuable than the life of the child. And this is, of course, the very essence of the pro-choice movement.

        Either I’m misunderstanding you, or there is no paradox here. Life is the greatest human right. Without the right to life, none of our other rights can exist. We have rights to do whatever we want so long as they don’t infringe on someone else’s rights. That’s why we have laws to prevent a person’s rights from being wrongfully infringed.

        The mother’s (and the father’s) right to happiness, freedom from inconvenience, freedom from responsibility, freedom from hospital bills, etc. do not trump the child’s right to life. It’s very simple under the constitution and natural law to come to this logical conclusion.

        Even the mother’s right to life is not more important than the child’s. They are equal. That is why – in every situation except the conditions I discussed in reply to your other comment – abortion is the ultimate human rights violation. When we start saying that one person’s life is more valuable than another’s, that is a terribly dangerous slippery slope we’ve started down; one which directly and inarguably led to WWII.

  2. May 20, 2010 1:31 PM

    em·bry·o (ěm’brē-ō’)
    n. pl. em·bry·os

    An organism in its early stages of development.

    or·gan·ism (ôr’gə-nĭz’əm)
    n.
    An individual form of life composed of mutually interdependent parts that maintain various vital processes.

    Why is murder legal?

    • Lisa permalink
      May 21, 2010 9:46 AM

      Andrew,

      What your definitions fail to capture is that an embryo is dependent on it’s mother. If the mother dies before reaching full-term, the growing embryo will not survive. So if the mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy, she has the choice between terminating the pregnancy, and having her and her baby both die. Would you let your wife and baby die when you had the chance to save your wife?

      • May 21, 2010 1:31 PM

        Lisa, a person’s level of dependency has no bearing on the value of their life. Millions of people are in hospitals constantly depending on others to care for them. Without that care, they would die as well.

        You bring up the danger of the mother’s life. What medical conditions/disorders are you referring to exactly?

        Under normal circumstances, pregnancy does not threaten the life of the mother.

      • Lisa permalink
        May 21, 2010 2:50 PM

        Andrew,

        You’re right that many people are dependent on others to varying degrees, and I certainly wouldn’t say that their lives are somehow less valuable than anyone else’s. However, I would argue that the relationship of the dependency between an mother and a fetus is qualitatively different than the relationship between say a person with Cerebral Palsy and their caretaker. While a person with CP may be dependent on a caretaker for feeding, and other essential tasks, if the caretaker dies, the person with CP can find/use another caretaker. If a pregnant woman dies, her fetus cannot live without her (unless of course it is nearing full-term).

        You can do your own internet research on pregnancy threatening a mother’s life, but one of the more common dangerous conditions is Preeclampsia which according to the Wikipedia page occurs in about 1/2000 pregnancies in the UK and has a mortality rate of 1.8%. Which means that approximately 1 out of every 100,000 pregnant women in the UK die from this condition or its complications, and we don’t know how many were saved by medical intervention such as abortion).

        Ectopic Pregnancy is another possible complication in which the embryo implants outside the uterine cavity (usually in the fallopian tubes). Ectopic pregnancies are not viable an can cause severe internal bleeding and possible fatal hemorrhage. According to the CDC 2% of all reported pregnancies are ectopic. Some ectopic pregnancies resolve (abort) on their own, but many require medical care in order to safely end the pregnancy.

        A mother’s life can also be endangered by pregnancy if she has an underlying medical condition such as a heart problem, hypertension, or an autoimmune disease. While life-threatening complications do not happen under “normal” circumstances, they do occur with some frequency and are just one of many reasons why abortions need to be safe, legal and easy to access.

      • May 21, 2010 3:34 PM

        You make a trivial point about dependency. The person with CP can find another caretaker? On their own? They’re not dependent on anyone to find that help?

        The truth is, we are all dependent on something in some way or another. It’s the condition of being alive. I, for one, am dependent on food, water, and sleep – and to a lesser degree a steady income to provide for my family.

        Thank you for clarifying about the dangerous conditions. I don’t mean to make you do my research (I have already done this research and knew about these and other conditions as well). I simply wanted to know which conditions you were referring to specifically to give me something to address.

        Preeclampsia is dangerous but preventable and treatable in most cases without killing the child.

        Ectopic pregnancy is the only complication I know of where the mother will almost certainly die. In this case, both the mother and child will die unless something is done, so yes, of course save the life you can save. Deliver the baby (through surgery) if possible, and if not, save the life of the mother by any means possible. The baby will almost certainly die, but that’s an unfortunate side-effect of a natural complication; not a violent murder of an innocent and otherwise completely healthy person.

        “they do occur with some frequency and are just one of many reasons why abortions need to be safe, legal and easy to access.”

        Would you concede then, that abortion should be legal in those circumstances and illegal for any reason other than to save the life of the mother? 1.5 million abortions occur in the U.S. every year, and a very small percentage of those are to save the lives of the mothers.

  3. Katherine permalink
    May 21, 2010 3:17 PM

    Autonomous, sentient beings who are more than just their parts, uteruses especially, before blastocysts.

    Too wordy for a sign?

    • May 21, 2010 3:52 PM

      The biological definition of the word “autonomous” is:

      “existing and functioning as an independent organism.”

      The zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus are all just levels of development of an independent organism – by definition.

      Sentience is not a measure of life nor the value of someone’s life. There are many people in recoverable comas that have no “sentience” about them. Even those put under anesthesia are not “sentient” for a period of time. Should we be allowed to kill people in comas or under anesthesia for any reason?

      • Jill permalink
        May 21, 2010 5:23 PM

        Andrew,

        Zygotes, blastocysts, embryoes and fetuses are not, by any rational calculation, “independent.” They depend fully on the body of the woman carrying them for their sustenance, growth and development. Furthermore, by dint of carrying and sustaining a zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus, the woman is subject to physical pain and discomfort, employment and educational discrimination, public policing, and all too frequently legal policing. What happens to a woman carrying a child is a morally relevant consideration.

        The American legal system has never understood the fetus (or any earlier permutations) as a full and rights-bearing human being. I know of no law that prohibited abortion for reasons of consideration of the fetus as a human person. For one thing, the concept of “fetal personhood” didn’t exist in any meaningful way until the 1950s or later, and didn’t have any political valence until at least the 1970s. For another, courts have persisted in finding that constructing a “right to life” for the fetus is a direct infringement on the right to life of the woman carrying it.

        What I mean to say there is that there is no enshrined “right to life” for a fetus, nor does our culture tend to view fetuses as equivalent to children in rights or consideration. We do not hold public ceremonies upon the death of fetuses in utero. They do not qualify for food stamps, or health insurance, or other benefits. The only time when the “right to life” is demanded for fetuses is in the context of abortion. Since there is no way to “prove” that the fetus is a human life–this, of course, is a collectively (sociopolitically) constructed definition and not a scientific one–constructing a fetus as “a human life” only in the context of abortion serves the purpose (and I would argue, the express purpose) of circumscribing the legally enshrined and constitutionally guaranteed rights of women.

        Furthermore, the courts have rarely (I want to say never, but I think there’s one case out there to the contrary) recognized the obligation of any living citizen to contribute to the health of another person (or organism, for the sake of this conversation). That is, say your child were dying of leukemia, and you were a bone marrow match. You (and I) would probably find it morally reprehensible to refuse, but no matter the reason for your refusal, it is perfectly legal for you to do so. The same goes for far less invasive procedures such as blood donation. No lay person can be legally compelled to take action to save the life of another person if doing so would violate their rights. (Doctors, EMTs, and so on are a bit of a different story–but even they are not obligated to give blood or any such thing.) The reason for this is obvious, I hope–we don’t want the government to have the right to, for example, harvest the organs of unemployed persons to save the lives of the wealthy and insured. We don’t want the government to be able to perform clinical tests on us against our will. Bodily autonomy is not a small thing, which is why the courts have so painstakingly protected it.

        Laws that restrict or prohibit abortion do require that women physically give of their body. They coerce women into performing reproductive labor against their will. That is illegal, by any measure, in the United States.

        So, sentience is really not a good measure of personhood, no, but that was not the only part of Kate’s argument above. Autonomous is key. So is “legally recognized.” When I say “Hos before Embryos,” what I mean is, women’s bodies do not belong to fetuses, nor to those people who claim to have an interest in those fetuses. Women’s bodies are their own, and women have rights that are not contingent on their pregnancy or fertility status. Constructing the embryo (or fetus or whatever) as a “person” is a philosophical and purposive choice to discount the legally protected rights of women in favor of an organism that does not have legal standing.

      • May 21, 2010 7:54 PM

        Jill, you’ve obviously done your research and come by your opinion honestly. I commend you for this.

        However, I think you misjudge the pro-life movement. Obviously there is no history of legal “personhood” for the preborn, other than a handful of cases where the murder of a pregnant woman was prosecuted as double-homicide.

        There was no history of legal personhood for African-Americans before the emancipation proclamation either.

        All we (and by “we” I mean “pro-lifers”) want to do is change all that. Science has taught us so much about life that we didn’t know before. Biologically, there is no basis for judging the zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus as any less of a life than any born person. It’s always human, and it’s always an individual life-form. In a biological context, independent simply means individual. It has nothing to do with the person depending on another.

        For example, a baby that has just been born is completely and totally dependent on the care of others. Without feeding and care, it will die. Does that mean we should be able to simply kill it for any reason?

        If some parents left their 1-year-old child alone without giving them the things they depend on the parents for (food, water, basic hygienic care), they would be prosecuted for child-neglect in a heart-beat (or worse if the child died).

        If some parents burned their 1-year-old child’s entire body with chemicals until the child died, they would be prosecuted for murder.

        If some parents sucked up their 1-year-old child into a giant vacuum and then chopped up the body, they would be prosecuted for murder.

        If some parents crammed scissors into the back of their 1-year-old child’s head and then sucked out their brain with a vacuum, they would be prosecuted for murder.

        Every single one of these scenarios is a very common intentionally performed procedure for abortion.

        I’m going to copy part of one of my other comments because it is directly relevant to your legality argument:

        Life is the greatest human right. Without the right to life, none of our other rights can exist. We have rights to do whatever we want so long as they don’t infringe on someone else’s rights. That’s why we have laws to prevent a person’s rights from being wrongfully infringed.

        The mother’s (and the father’s) right to happiness, freedom from inconvenience, freedom from responsibility, freedom from hospital bills, etc. do not trump the child’s right to life. It’s very simple under the constitution and natural law to come to this logical conclusion.

        Even the mother’s right to life is not more important than the child’s. They are equal. That is why – in every situation except the conditions I discussed in reply to your other comment – abortion is the ultimate human rights violation. When we start saying that one person’s life is more valuable than another’s, that is a terribly dangerous slippery slope we’ve started down; one which directly and inarguably led to WWII.

      • Jill permalink
        May 21, 2010 9:41 PM

        Andrew,

        You’re begging the question here. You need to first outline how it is that fetuses have a “right to life” before arguing from that point as an assumption. I can respond to your reproduced comments once you’ve done that groundwork.

        Secondly, “personhood” is not a biological concept; it is not proven by biological criteria. All cells in our bodies contain human DNA and we do not consider the removal of a kidney that is causing bodily harm murder. We also do not confer personhood on any independent organism. Dogs, paramecia, fir trees, are independent organisms. It is a social, not a biological, process.

        I understand that your aim is to change the social definition of personhood to include fetuses. I’m saying that this is an unethical position. Your slavery example is inapt here. Slave owners’ substantive legal rights were not infringed upon when their slaves were rightfully considered full legal persons. A more apt analogy would be if, not only were slaves freed, but former slave owners were required to submit to invasive and unwanted medical procedures on behalf of those slaves. Slaves were freed, and also former slave owners had to, say, give them a kidney. Even if only for nine months or so. I do not believe this would be a legally or a morally just requirement; perhaps you disagree.

        Whether the fetus is a full legal person does not represent the full range of ethical and moral consideration about abortion. Consideration must also be extended to women, and we have to recognize that the direct effect of viewing the fetus as a full legal person for the reason of prohibiting abortion is legal coercion that we would otherwise find immoral and unethical. You cannot argue that the fetus is a full legal person without providing a just reason for us to deny women these rights to body autonomy, the right to consent or not consent to physical labor as she wishes, and full human subjectivity.

        Perhaps you have a novel answer to this, but I can only come up with circuitous ones. If we do not recognize the fetus as a full person, fetuses will be aborted, which is only a problem if we recognize the fetus as a full person, which we do not. How do you break the cycle?

      • May 25, 2010 7:40 PM

        Andrew,

        “You need to first outline how it is that fetuses have a “right to life” before arguing from that point as an assumption.”

        By definition, a human fetus is, well, human. It is alive. The Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed by our creator – not the government – with the inalienable right to life. I don’t know about you, but when an organism is growing and developing, I would consider that life to be already “created.”

        “Secondly, “personhood” is not a biological concept; it is not proven by biological criteria.”

        That’s right. It’s a legal concept. Which is why we are fighting to give recognition to the unborn as having personhood.

        “All cells in our bodies contain human DNA and we do not consider the removal of a kidney that is causing bodily harm murder.”

        That’s because the kidney is not a whole, functioning, living organism. It is part of the human body. A human fetus is not “part of the human body.” It IS A human body.

        “We also do not confer personhood on any independent organism. Dogs, paramecia, fir trees, are independent organisms.”

        That’s because they are not human. The unborn human fetus is.

        “Your slavery example is inapt here. Slave owners’ substantive legal rights were not infringed upon when their slaves were rightfully considered full legal persons. A more apt analogy would be if, not only were slaves freed, but former slave owners were required to submit to invasive and unwanted medical procedures on behalf of those slaves. Slaves were freed, and also former slave owners had to, say, give them a kidney.”

        How is an unborn child created? Is it just some mysterious power like lightning randomly striking people for no reason? Of course not. Two people knowingly and willingly engaged in an act which lead to the creation of that life. The child didn’t ask to be brought into this world. It was a direct consequence of the actions of the parents. Therefore, the responsibility of that life falls to the parents. The only way YOUR argument works is if the slave owner was directly responsible for putting the slaves in a health situation where they required another kidney, in which case, you’d better believe the slave owners would have been legally compelled to make it right.

        “Whether the fetus is a full legal person does not represent the full range of ethical and moral consideration about abortion. Consideration must also be extended to women…”

        I agree with you here, but we have to fix the right to life issue before we can fix issues with other rights. Nothing trumps the right to life.

        “…and we have to recognize that the direct effect of viewing the fetus as a full legal person for the reason of prohibiting abortion is legal coercion that we would otherwise find immoral and unethical. You cannot argue that the fetus is a full legal person without providing a just reason for us to deny women these rights to body autonomy, the right to consent or not consent to physical labor as she wishes, and full human subjectivity.”

        I would rather be of the position that you cannot argue that women have the right to body autonomy, the right to consent or not consent to physical labor, and – yes – even full human subjectivity in the case of abortion without providing just reason for purposefully killing an innocent human being. Forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but without the right to life, none of those other rights can possibly exist. It is THE ultimate and most important right.

        “If we do not recognize the fetus as a full person, fetuses will be aborted, which is only a problem if we recognize the fetus as a full person…”

        You hit the nail on the head there. Why would pro-lifers be so passionate about this issue unless they really believed the fetus was a person? There is no reason. It would be stupid to even discuss the issue. If you can prove to me that the human zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus is not a living human, then I will fully support the woman’s right to choose. I would even subscribe to your blog 🙂

      • Jill permalink
        May 25, 2010 10:46 PM

        So, wait. Are you arguing that fetuses already have a right to life, or that it is your opinion that they should? Because if it’s the first, I want to clarify that the Declaration of Independence is not, you know, actual law, and that the actual law (including the Constitution) does not recognize said right.

        I’m assuming it’s the latter. I understand that you “really believe” the fetus is a person. And really, I pretty firmly stand behind your right to believe that, and your right to make your own life and family decisions based on that belief. I would be equally as vehemently against a court requiring an abortion for a woman refusing on religious (or any other) grounds as I am against forcing women to perform reproductive labor against their will. But your opinion that the fetus should be a person does not make for ethical policy.

        Even though I’m sure you would never articulate it as such, your opinion that the fetus should be a person is functionally the same as the opinion that a woman’s legal personhood becomes contingent when it is physically possible for her to become pregnant. It is not possible to deal with these effect after we “fix personhood” (which, again, is only broken in your own opinion) because these effects are the direct and inevitable results of the opinion you wish to enforce as law.

        I’m making the assumption that you believe that women are full legal persons. I hope I’m not wrong about that.

      • May 26, 2010 3:18 PM

        Yes, I am arguing that fetuses already have an inalienable right to life, and that it needs to be recognized by our legal system.

        And no, the Declaration of Independence is not law, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the undeniable truths contained within it. It is a document containing the very ideals upon which our nation was founded.

        “Even though I’m sure you would never articulate it as such, your opinion that the fetus should be a person is functionally the same as the opinion that a woman’s legal personhood becomes contingent when it is physically possible for her to become pregnant.”

        In what way does granting the unborn personhood threaten the personhood of the mother? I fail to see a connection there.

        “It is not possible to deal with these effect after we “fix personhood” (which, again, is only broken in your own opinion) because these effects are the direct and inevitable results of the opinion you wish to enforce as law.”

        That may be, but we need to establish the common ground of protecting the right to life before we can discuss the other rights involved. It is impossible to reach any kind of understanding or agreement on those rights if we can’t even agree that the right to life is the greatest right. I’m not saying we need to ignore the other issues. There are other issues; lots of them. I’m saying they need to be figured out after we get our priorities straight. By no means do I want anyone – especially women – to be treated unjustly. After all, about half of those aborted are women too.

        “I’m making the assumption that you believe that women are full legal persons. I hope I’m not wrong about that.”

        Of course you’re not wrong about that. I hope I’ve made myself very clear on that point. I really care about women too! Beyond the life issue, I have seen a mountain of evidence that abortion permanently, physically, emotionally, and spiritually harms women. I know several people personally who have had abortions, and I have seen the effect it has had on them.

        Just watch a few of the videos here:

        http://silentnomoreawareness.org/

        Or take a look at this summary of several abortion-related statistics (PDF) from cited, peer-reviewed studies.

        I’ll list a few here:

        1. A 2002 study found women who have abortions have a 62% higher risk of death from all causes, 2.5 times higher risk of suicide.

        2. A study in 2004 found 65% of women who have had abortions suffered trauma and 31% had health complications attributed to their abortions. Also, 64% of the women felt coerced into having the abortion and 84% were not fully informed of what the procedure involved.

        3. Women with a history of abortion are overall 17% more likely to develop 1 of 15 mental health problems screened in a 2008 study.

        I’ll let you read the factsheet to see the rest of the 25 studies and statistics listed.

        Another study found that women who have abortions are four times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

        Also, despite adamant claims to the contrary by Planned Parenthood et al., there is a definite link between abortion and breast cancer.

        Finally, I personally know Charnette Messe, an amazingly caring wife and mother who, unfortunately, had an abortion early in life. She is living proof of the damage abortion can do and has done.

        Now, mind you, these are not the main reasons for why abortion is wrong. Abortion is wrong because it kills an innocent human, as I have proven with basic definitions and reason. But I hope these personal stories and verified statistics will appeal to your sense of justice for women in addition to justice for the unborn.

      • May 26, 2010 3:21 PM

        I see you’ve turned on comment moderation. Are you afraid of something? The truth?

  4. Tommy permalink
    May 22, 2010 3:21 AM

    Lots of words exchanged here. Let’s try something different. I would ask that you view this video and tell me what you think of this “safe and legal” procedure.

    http://www.abortioninstruments.com/abortion_videos.html

    • Jill permalink
      May 22, 2010 11:01 AM

      That it’s safe and legal.

  5. Jill permalink
    May 26, 2010 3:31 PM

    Andrew–

    Sorry you got caught in moderation. Your comment should be visible now.

    • May 26, 2010 3:41 PM

      Thanks. 🙂

      • Jill permalink
        May 26, 2010 4:41 PM

        I’ve already argued in basically every comment how dismantling the right to abortion violates the already extant and protected rights of women to body autonomy, to refuse medical procedures to save or improve the life of another, and to not be coerced into performing physical labor. These are, again, already extant absolute rights that would be violated by the government requirement to bear a child enforced in abortion prohibition.

        I have no doubt that you genuinely care for women. But arguing that they do not have the mental and moral capacity to make decisions about their own health does not demonstrate that care in the least. For what it’s worth, meta-analyses of peer-reviewed medical literature by the relevant professional organizations fairly thoroughly reject your data, but I’m sure here we’ll both just reject the other’s sources and end up back where we started.

        I have no doubt that abortion can be a profoundly difficult decision for some women. However, severe trauma is extremely unlikely; rather, the most common emotion felt after an abortion is relief. (C.f. Adler 1992). We should do all we can to support women who feel traumatized after an abortion, especially because these studies suggest fairly strongly that that trauma is rooted in previous traumatic experiences (abuse, addiction, violence, and so on). But some women also experience PTSD after childbirth and we probably shouldn’t prohibit all women from giving birth because a few may have extremely negative experiences. It’s really condescending to assume that women are incapable and unworthy of making these decisions themselves.

        Abortion is wrong because it kills an innocent human, as I have proven with basic definitions and reason.

        Actually, no. I don’t see where you did that. I see that you have claimed that the fetus is human, by virtue of having human DNA, and living, by I guess whatever definition is prevalent in biology right now. But that does not a LEGAL PERSON make, as evidenced by our current and total historical legal refusal to recognize the fetus as such. What you are arguing is that you believe the fetus should fall under this category, based on your own philosophical beliefs. I am arguing that constitutes an opinion, not a logical Q.E.D. And an opinion with the potential for immense practical evil.

        I thought we agreed several times upthread that full legal personhood (i.e. having an enforceable “right to life”) was a constructed category and not some sort of objectively provable fact, but at this point I’m really not sure what your argument is.

      • May 26, 2010 5:04 PM

        I appreciate your respectful responses to all of my comments, and I hope I’ve shown you the same respect. Unfortunately though, I’m a little bothered by your assumptions of my positions.

        When did I say I believe women are incapable of making decisions for themselves? I don’t think that at all. In fact, it would seem that Planned Parenthood and others think that since they fight the laws that force them to explain the procedure, provide ultrasounds, and tell the truth about what is actually being aborted. The “clump of cells” line is not an acceptable description, especially when women ask what it is specifically so they can know what it is they are removing before they decide on the morality for themselves.

        I very strongly believe that if we as a nation earnestly seek the truth and further education, abortion will be illegal in my lifetime, simply because the majority won’t stand for it when they realize what it actually is; when they can “make decisions for themselves.”

        It’s confusing to me that you go back to the fetus not being a living human. I thought we were way past that, and that you simply needed clarification on why our laws should protect that life. Also, I never once mentioned the term “DNA,” so it is odd to me that you characterize my claim with this term.

        If you can’t accept the simple definition of the words we are using (fetus, embryo, etc.), I’ll give you some more elaborate, to-the-point definitions.

        Here is the medical definition of life I found:

        “An organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.”

        The human organism – from the point of fertilization – meets all of those requirements. It metabolizes energy given to it from the mother, it grows, it reacts to stimuli (such as food/energy input), and it reproduces (cell-division).

        The reason we don’t prosecute people for murder when they remove a tumor is because a tumor is not a whole, individual life. It is a (malfunctioning) part of the human body. A human fetus is not simply part of the human body. It IS a human body.

        Any biologist or embryologist you talk to will confirm these definitions as valid. In fact, I’ll save you some time. Here are some quotes from scientific, peer-reviewed sources:

        ============================

        Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.

        “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoo development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.

        A zygote is the beginning of a new human being.”

        ============================

        Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.

        “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”

        ============================

        Clark Edward Corliss, Patten’s Human Embryology: Elements of Clinical Development. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976. p. 30.

        “It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitues the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.”

        ============================

        Here is what Faye Wattleton, former president of Planned Parenthood (for 14 years), says about abortion:

        “I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.”

        ============================

        Do you accept that it is a living human being now? If not, what species is it, at what point does it become human, and what scientific evidence/source will you provide to verify your claim?

  6. Jill permalink
    May 26, 2010 6:45 PM

    Andrew,

    I didn’t mean to put you down. I find the so-called “woman-protective language” extremely condescending, and I was responding to that.

    Still, I seriously doubt that any woman seeking an abortion is confused about what an abortion is. It’s not like we wander into clinics and say, “Hey, abortion, I guess I’ll try one.” People seek an abortion with the express intent of ending a pregnancy. They know what they are doing, and abortion providers just as all other doctors are required by both law and medical oath to ascertain informed consent, which means being able to demonstrate that the patient (or his or her legal proxy) was aware of the risks and benefits of the procedure. You can–and many people do–sue doctors for failing to provide sufficient information. You can also sue them for knowingly providing false information. As I linked above, the American Psychological Association finds no evidence of direct emotional harm to a woman who receives an abortion. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists find no statistically rigorous link between abortion and breast cancer (in fact, the web page you cite yourself argues that delaying childbirth–not abortion itself–may be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer). Most medical professionals do not find compelling evidence that abortion is the cause of the ills you list; it would be unethical for them to provide that information, knowing it to be false in terms of the standards of their profession.

    Assuming that women are incapable of understanding what an abortion is, why they want it, and what is best for them and their families, is pretty condescending. And that’s what you’re saying when you claim that we should prohibit abortion to protect women. But you ceded already that this is irrelevant anyway.

    Let’s try a different tack on the “living human being” front since I don’t think we’re going to resolve it semantically. I’ll assume, for the sake of this argument, that the fetus is a living human being, by whatever definition you want. It is human, and it has the capacity for metabolism, growth, response to stimuli, and reproduction. I’ll assume further that it is therefore endowed with full legal personhood, including the “right to life,” insofar as all other American legal persons have a “right to life.”

    Where this becomes a complicated problem is at the physical address of pregnancy: the woman’s body. Bear with me for a moment. Let’s assume that I become critically ill, and will require a blood transfusion every hour of every day of my life. Let’s assume that you and I are a perfect match, and you even have antibodies that will help my healing process. My right to life does not commit you legally to give me blood. Not once, not continually. You can stop sustaining my life at any moment you see fit. The same would be true if it donor were not you, but my boyfriend. The same would be true if the donor were my mother. No matter how much my health will diminsh as a result of their refusal–even if I will die–they cannot be compelled to sustain me in this way. Even if I only needed one blood transfusion a year, or one every ten years, or one in my lifetime–no matter how small or insignificant the risk or inconvenience to the donor, I do not have a right to their bodies in support of my right to life. And that is true whether I am a murderer, a world-class violinist, or an innocent newborn.

    The woman-fetus relationship, under the assumption that fetus has the full rights of legal personhood, including a right to life, would function the same way. Because even the right to life ends where it infringes on other people’s Constitutionally-guaranteed rights, any time the woman no longer wished to provide her body for the well-being of her full-person fetus, she is legally free to end that provision. No person can be compelled against their will to physically give of their body, undergo medical treatments, give cells or fluids, and so on, no matter how insignificant is the trouble to the potential donor, and no matter how grave is the condition of the patient. And, furthermore, no matter the relationship of the patient to the potential donor.

    You may say that the situation is different because the woman consented to carry a fetus when she had sex. Even setting aside rape, reproductive coercion, physical and psychological pressure from partners to cease use of contraceptives (which I guess might also fall under reproductive coercion), and plain old contraceptive failure, I don’t think this can hold any water. If a fetus is a full legal person with rights equivalent to those of all other legal persons, and by dint of choosing to have sex, women agree to forgo their legal rights to body autonomy, do they agree to forgo them forever? Would my mother be obligated, under that line of thinking, to donate blood, in my example above, even though I left the womb well over 23 years ago? Or does the fetus have a special right to life, particular guaranteed rights that no other living human being/full legal person has, to have use of the bodies of others?

    • Tommy permalink
      May 27, 2010 3:00 AM

      Wow–you guys are good! May I jump in here for a second? I have a simple question: should we work to reduce the number of abortions performed in this country (or worldwide)? If, yes, why?

      • Lisa permalink
        May 27, 2010 9:22 AM

        I do think that we should work to reduce the number of abortions. Or rather, I think that fewer abortions will be one major outcome of providing comprehensive sex education in schools and making contraceptives more accessible. These measures would reduce the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, and therefore the numbers of abortions. However, we must also work to make abortions more accessible so that all women in the US have access to this service if they need it. Basically I’m in the Clinton camp: abortions should be safe, legal, and rare. Although I would add “accessible” to that list because just making them safe and legal doesn’t guarantee that women will always be able to get an abortion when needed.

        In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted pregnancies, or pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life, but until we live in that world, abortions will have to be a reality.

      • Jill permalink
        May 27, 2010 9:27 AM

        Sure, we should work to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, and, therefore the number of abortions. Abortions are often expensive to procure, often require missing work or school, and can be stigmatizing for some women. Providing women with a full range of options to prevent unintended pregnancies–affordable and reliable birth control, emergency contraception, a culture in which planning for safe sex is expected and respected, a culture in which reproductive coercion (e.g. a male partner who flushes birth control pills down the toilet) is acknowledged and punished–would do a lot to do that.

        Worldwide, I think a more pressing issue is providing SAFE abortions. There’s a pretty long history of Western (I’m familiar with the U.S. primarily) “family planning” programs that were either actually eugenic, or were viewed with extreme suspicion by the countries/cultures/groups/people they were employed on, because they were so out-of-touch with how that culture thought about conception, birth, duty, etc. So I’m a bit more ambivalent about just swooping in and insisting that we *know* what will make reproduction safer for them. I suppose I would be in favor of additional aid to local groups seeking their own solutions.

      • Tommy permalink
        May 27, 2010 12:34 PM

        Well, which is it? Should we try to reduce the number of abortions -OR- are they an effect of the cause of better sex ed and birth control use? If we are relying on birth control (instead of abstinence) to prevent unintended pregnancies, then I think we all can agree that sometimes those methods of prevention will fail. When this happens, what’s the alternative? Abortion? So is abortion a second-level form of birth control? Won’t the numbers of abortion actually increase with an increase in the use of birth control?

        Lisa, you say we should reduce the number of abortions, then you turn around and say we should make them more accessible.

        Jill, you also agree that we should reduce the numbers of abortions (for some pretty petty reasons of cost and lost time in school).

        So if there is nothing intrinsically WRONG with abortion, why in the world would you want there to be less of them?

    • May 27, 2010 3:32 PM

      “…I seriously doubt that any woman seeking an abortion is confused about what an abortion is.”

      I don’t. I’ve talked to women who were outright lied to about what was growing inside of them. They had the abortion, and later they had children and saw the ultrasound of their baby at the same age as the child they aborted before. They said they never would have gone through with the abortion if they had any idea the child looked like that.

      “Assuming that women are incapable of understanding what an abortion is, why they want it, and what is best for them and their families, is pretty condescending.”

      I never suggested that in the least. I believe that, at the very least, they should be presented with all the information before making that decision. Sadly, that is a very clear minority of cases. I know you disagree.

      “And that’s what you’re saying when you claim that we should prohibit abortion to protect women. But you ceded already that this is irrelevant anyway.”

      I didn’t claim that at all. Abortion should be illegal because it is the killing of an innocent human, and you can’t deny that. I listed those negative side-effects because you have been very passionate about justice to women in your comments. I was attempting to appeal to that sense of justice to show you that abortion does hurt women. I don’t care what your sources say. I’ve talked to the women. I’ve heard their stories, and there can be no doubt. Did you listen to any of their stories here?

      “I’ll assume, for the sake of this argument, that the fetus is a living human being.”

      You don’t have to. It’s verifiable, scientific fact. Nice try playing it down though.

      “…any time the woman no longer wished to provide her body for the well-being of her full-person fetus, she is legally free to end that provision…”

      Assuming that’s true, then why is abortion the violent chemical-poisoning, dismemberment, brain-sucking, organ-crushing procedure it is today? Why not simply *remove* the child and try to sustain its life as anyone would seeing someone in immediate critical need of medical care?

      “You may say that the situation is different because the woman consented to carry a fetus when she had sex.”

      Yup. It’s the only way we reproduce. How else can a child come into this world?

      “Even setting aside rape, reproductive coercion, physical and psychological pressure from partners to cease use of contraceptives (which I guess might also fall under reproductive coercion), and plain old contraceptive failure, I don’t think this can hold any water.”

      Rape and reproductive coercion are terrible and violent crimes. Are you suggesting the law should be required to accommodate the breaking of other (anti-violence) laws?

      As for contraceptive failure, every contraceptive has a failure rate. It’s written on the box/label/whatever for every method available. There is no foolproof contraceptive.

      Therefore, the parents are taking a known risk that they might create a child when they have sex. It might be a real bummer to them when it happens, and that’s a tragedy, but that doesn’t give them the right to kill their offspring. That’s why we need more education to prevent the unplanned pregnancies to begin with. On that point, I think we definitely agree.

      “If a fetus is a full legal person with rights equivalent to those of all other legal persons, and by dint of choosing to have sex, women agree to forgo their legal rights to body autonomy, do they agree to forgo them forever?”

      Developing in the mother’s womb is the only suitable place for a child to begin its life. I’m open to alternatives if you have them, but I don’t think you or anyone else does.

      The direct result of removing the child from the mother’s womb is the death of the child. It cannot be anything but intentional at this point, so until upholding the woman’s right to body autonomy doesn’t infringe on the child’s right to life, she doesn’t have that right in that aspect.

      It’s the way our legal system is designed. Everyone has the right to do absolutely anything they want. …until it infringes on someone else’s rights.

      I think you’d agree with me (or at least I hope you do), that the right to life is the greatest right we possess. It cannot be overridden by someone else’s right to anything. Unless we are alive, we can’t enjoy ANY of our rights. For example, I can’t just kill someone talking loudly on their cell phone next to me because my right to freedom from annoyance is less important than their right to life.

      Since the parents are directly responsible for putting the child in the natural situation where it depends on them completely to survive, in which circumstance NO ONE else can provide for it, yes, they should provide for it or face charges of child neglect or murder. We prosecute parents for those crimes all the time.

      • Jill permalink
        May 28, 2010 4:56 AM

        I think you’d agree with me (or at least I hope you do), that the right to life is the greatest right we possess. It cannot be overridden by someone else’s right to anything.

        I do not agree. Neither does the legal system of the United States, as I demonstrated earlier, in that no one is, for example, obligated to undergo even the most inconsequential procedure to save the life of another. And that is the case no matter how horrible, gruesome or painful the condition that results from my refusal will be for the sick person.

        Suppose I were a recessive carrier of some genetic disorder, and knew of my status when I decided to have unprotected sex. I then have a child with that genetic disorder, and he needs my [blood, plasma, kidney, intestine segment, whatever] or he will die. Even though I am directly responsible for his condition of need or dependency, and even if I am literally the only person in the entire world who can help him, the caselaw extremely strongly suggests that a court would not permit my son to utilize my body against my will.

        The very existence of the fetus (or embryo, I just want to reduce wordiness) utilizes the body of the woman. And I think you demonstrate a really limited understanding of the actual demands of pregnancy when you characterize it as an “inconvenience.” It causes major physiological changes (some of which are permanent), can be excruciatingly painful, can make a woman extremely physically ill, not to mention the emotional turmoil, changes in relationships, potential discrimination, and having to live every day as a site of public comment, judgment, and scorn. This is not a mere “inconvenience.” Many women genuinely enjoy their pregnancies. But that does not form an obligation for all women to do so.

        The dependence of the fetus on the woman’s body is a direct utilization of her body. No matter the reason for the need of that utilization, American law does not require her to consent to that use. Never, under any circumstances. Even if the other person will die. Even if they will die an extraordinarily gruesome death. Even if she is directly responsible for their condition. Even if it is only a mere “inconvenience” to her to allow utilization of her body.

        This is, for example, why the government can’t just take your skin to graft onto someone else, or demand one of your organs or your blood in the service of another person. I’d assume you enjoy this right, but perhaps you believe that the right to life of others demands that you make this sacrifice against your established liberty from such demands.

        So, is it that women’s substantive and enshrined legal rights are contingent on her only having sex for procreative purposes? Is it that she doesn’t have the right to body autonomy in the first place? Or is that the fetus (or embryo, or…) has some sort of super-right, that no other living human person has, to demand that others abandon otherwise guaranteed rights in their support?

      • May 28, 2010 1:42 PM

        I’m sorry Jill, but you are wrong. U.S. law does require parents to provide for their children in all ways necessary. If they are unable to do so, the government has the right to assign legal guardianship to others.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_guardian

        If the parent or legal guardian is deficient in performing their duty to care for the ward, they are punished by our legal system.

  7. Jill permalink
    May 27, 2010 1:01 PM

    Tommy,

    We both argued that we should attempt to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, through comprehensive sex education, better access to safe, reliable and affordable birth control, and a culture that does not support reproductive coercion (including rape). This is because abortion has a cost to women, and even if you don’t particularly care about it, we do.

    There is a financial cost: the average abortion costs something like $350, which for me at least would be an incredible burden. Especially if you do not have supportive parents, or a friend or a partner with that kind of disposable income. And the cost grows the longer you wait, so “saving up” becomes extremely difficult. Many insurance providers do not reimburse or pay for abortion services. Most women pay out of pocket for their procedure.

    There is a time cost: in my home state of Minnesota, almost 60% of women live in a county with no abortion provider. (And you should take a look at the size of some outstate MN counties.) This may mean travelling to another city (or state!) for the procedure. This may mean a hotel overnight. This may require finding someone to travel with you because of the anesthesia involved. Any abortion may require a recovery period (it varies woman to woman and procedure to procedure). For many women who work hourly, missing a day of work (much less two or more) is the difference between being able to afford rent or not, or food or not, or bus fare or not.

    I think we should work hard to ensure that more women have the resources available to avoid incurring these costs. We should also work hard to diminish these costs so that abortion is accessible. Lisa’s arguments are only inconsistent within your own assumptions.

    These costs may seem petty to you, or you may choose to decide that you don’t particularly care about what happens to women who get pregnant, or whatever. I think these are far from petty. I don’t think we need to reduce the number of abortions because there’s anything inherently wrong with the procedure. Rather, because it imposes an extraordinary cost on women.

    And I want to emphasize Lisa’s point again: no matter how much comprehensive sex-ed we have, no matter how available and affordable contraception (including emergency contraception), no matter how woman-supportive our sex culture becomes, there will always be women who need abortions. We need to make sure that the procedure is as safe, accessible, and affordable as possible for all women who need it.

    • Tommy permalink
      May 27, 2010 7:25 PM

      Jill (and Lisa),

      You said: “I don’t think we need to reduce the number of abortions because there’s anything inherently wrong with the procedure. Rather, because it imposes an extraordinary cost on women.”

      Here’s a short 2 minute video I’d like you to watch. Does your above statement still hold true? Don’t look away because there’s nothing inherently wrong with the procedure.

      http://www.abortioninstruments.com/abortion_videos.html

      Your thoughts?

      • Lisa permalink
        May 27, 2010 8:01 PM

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with the procedure. I’m not sure what you were trying to prove with that video. Two minutes of someone poking the pieces of aborted fetuses is a little strange, but it didn’t gross me out or tug at my heart strings. In fact, from a medical perspective it was quite interesting to note the different developmental markers, you rarely get to see a fetus outside of the womb. I’m an EMT so I’ve seen a lot of videos and pictures of medical procedures. Abortion is another medical procedure.

        And to respond to your earlier comment, making abortions more accessible and less frequent are not mutually incompatible. Nor are those twin goals somehow paradoxical. Let’s use an analogy. Some cancer patients have difficulty paying for and/or accessing medical care for their condition. I think, and you’d probably agree, that we should work to make sure that all cancer patients can receive proper care in a timely manner without going bankrupt. At the same time, most people would also agree that we should work to prevent cancer so that there will be fewer cancer patients in the future. So we should make cancer treatment more accessible while also working to diminish the number of people who need that treatment. The same holds true for abortion. We should work to make sure that abortions are accessible to all who need them, while also working to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies which would in turn reduce the number of abortions necessary. (Please keep in mind that this analogy relates to care and prevention, and I am in no way suggesting that fetuses are like a disease).

      • Jill permalink
        May 27, 2010 9:25 PM

        Yes, my original position still holds true. There is nothing inherently wrong with the abortion procedure. Having watched that video both times you posted it has not in the least changed my mind. If anything, it has reinforced for me how completely and totally dependent the embryo and fetus are on the woman who carries them to survive.

      • Tommy permalink
        May 28, 2010 2:16 PM

        Girls, you have cut me to the chase with your responses! You have given me a little less hope in the world and you have taken a bit of life out of me. (I suppose, that is your ultimate purpose in life–an ironic word to use, for I do not believe you understand the meaning of it–to make the world a cold, dark, empty and lifeless place.)

        So, just so I get a small glimpse into your twisted minds and backwards way of thinking, am I correct in understanding that you see no special worth or value of that aborted fetus shown in the video? Is it really no different than a dog, or an amoeba, or a plastic doll? Is it really that different a being that what it will become (if just left alone) on the day it is born? How does it change into a baby, if not by minute-by-minute, day-by-day, month-by-month development? My God, do you even like babies once they are born? Or are they, too, just science experiments like this aborted fetus?

        If you can smugly sit there and condone this atrocious snuffing out of life, then may God have mercy on your souls. If you see nothing “wrong” with this, where will it end? Will you also allow the killing of less-than-perfect already born homo sapiens, the mentally infirm, the elderly, the nuisances of the world? If we do not look to God for guidance, and know deep down in our heart what is right and wrong, then how do we function as a society, continually striving for the good? (Maybe you should read some Plato, for goodness sake!)

        Do you believe in God? Maybe that’s where we should start.

      • May 28, 2010 6:07 PM

        I’m with Tommy on this one. I can’t imagine how you could view those videos and say that those are not humans that have been killed. Unfortunately, all Tommy and I can do is lead you to water. We can’t make you drink.

        I strongly urge anyone who is honestly seeking the truth to view those videos and decide for yourself what has been removed; if it’s simply the woman’s body, or something else altogether.

  8. happybodies permalink
    May 28, 2010 6:47 PM

    And with the ad hominems, we’re done.

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