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June 01, 2009

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There's been quite a reaction from the political Right to the coverage of Dr. George Tiller's assassination in church on Sunday -- and understandably so. Much of the coverage included tarring and brushing and attacking entire groups of people --... [Read More]

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"If someone has a problem with excessive certainty here, it's not those of us who think that when we lose politically, and the stakes are non-negligible, we are justified in resorting to political violence."

Should that be "we aren't justified"?

Well, again: you're giving McArdle credit for an intellectual honesty she does not in fact possess. Of course it's appropriate to start off assuming your political opponents are arguing in good faith, but when they've done the rhetorical equivalent of shouting "That's DIFFERENT and NANANANANA CAN'T HEAR YOU," I think it's safe to say you don't need to give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.

Re Megan McArdle, I have followed her blog since she was independent, and until recently on the Atlantic site. I stopped reading it because almost every argument she brings out against the left is based on a caricaturish straw man. She has some interesting economic analysis sometimes, but I wouldn't be so surprised about her obtuseness in social and political domains, and trying to get her past it is a waste of time.

imnotetc: gack! thanks!

Is it not possible that there were not too few negatives that were not removed from that sentence?

:)

I have to make the joke, it's almost the only time I have seen you make that mistake. I'll never get another chance.

Amusingly, in the department of "Great Minds Think Alike," while you were writing this post, I was making the same point re Bush v. Gore on a comment thread a few posts down.

"We accept that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders" Megan McArdle

So I guess the recent murder of an Army recruitment officer was justified, in Megan's view.

Is the Athenae quote supposed to convince anyone to her side? It sounds like the half-mad rantings of someone mad with "victory" and "power." Really no different than the trimphalism of Limbaugh '03.

She says "they" shot up "lobbies" targeting "doctors." Best I can tell, it was one guy.

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.

(a) We have a system for resolving political disputes in this country. We elect people, and those people make laws. When those laws are within the limits set by the Constitution, they are binding. When not, a court can strike them down. When we want to, we can change the Constitution, though it is (rightly) rather difficult

...

And I had a lot more excuse for feeling that the political process had been closed to me: after all, my candidate for President actually won the election in 2000

Not by your standards, he didn't.

It sounds like the half-mad rantings of someone mad with "victory" and "power."


Well whether you agree with it or not, that is almost the exact opposite of the point. The point is that the attitude toward government of those who were recently the winners has changed, now that they are on the losing end. Athenae makes no argument at all about any change in attitude among progressives. Indeed, in congruence with hilzoy's point, the idea is that progressives are perfectly accepting of the right to protest in the way that many on the right, and particularly McArdle, were not. The objection is to the use of violence and those who incite and defend it. Again, whether you agree with this assessment or not, I have no idea where you find triumphalism in that statement.

She says "they" shot up "lobbies" targeting "doctors." Best I can tell, it was one guy.

I am actually not sure what your complaint is here. If it is that the statement employs hyperbole, then that is not a very serious objection. It is quite obviously intentionally hyperbolic.

If it is that Athenae uses "they," it seems clear that this is in reference to the people who would defend, with whatever qualifications, the gunman. "They" are part of a group because "they" share the belief that abortion is murder.

Way too invested in a abstracted sovereignty of the state. Social contract as categorical imperative, "an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself" ...Wiki. No, Democracy is not formally binding, but only instrumentally justified.

I am not subject to the General Will.

What we see here is an example of conservatives' immense sense of entitlement on display. McArdle apparently believes that failing to convince a majority of people she's right is equivalent to having the political process closed to her. Because I guess she thinks that she DESERVES to get her way, regardless of democracy?

So you would have sided with the slavocracy over the abolitionists?

You just can't solve things with abstract principles. They're equivalent to mnemonics.

So you would have sided with the slavocracy over the abolitionists?

Damn those Slavs!

(I always wanted to make that joke.)

(e) If you are committed to our form of government, you must leave some room between (1) the claim that some policy it adopts is wrong, even very wrong, and (2) the claim that you can kill people to prevent this wrong thing from happening.

Your arguments here are extremely reactionary and could be used almost word for word to apply to peaceful acts of civil disobedience. Surely those who helped run the Underground Railroad, who refused to sit at the back of the bus, who sat down at segregated lunch counters should have left some room between the claim that some policy was wrong and that the claim that they could break the law to keep that wrong thing from happening, right?

now_what: "break the law" does not equal "kill people". There are other ways to do it.

She says "they" shot up "lobbies" targeting "doctors." Best I can tell, it was one guy.

Well, no, they've been average a murder a year for the last 20 years, 2-3 burglaries a month, 3-5 vandalism, 2-3 assaults a month, and so forth. This is just the latest event.

"break the law" does not equal "kill people". There are other ways to do it.

But that's not what the argument says. It says that out of respect for democracy we must obey the law even when we think it is wrong.

If the state must be obeyed when innocent humans are being murdered with its approval, why shouldn't it be obeyed someone is being asked to use a specific section of a public bus? Or when someone is merely being asked to refrain from using a particular drug?

Your arguments here are extremely reactionary and could be used almost word for word to apply to peaceful acts of civil disobedience.

Almost word for word, except for the part about killing people?

"But that's not what the argument says."

Actually, it is.

Assuming you're referring to what hilzoy actually wrote, that is.

Just a heads up to conservative readers of this blog. You need to get the fringe elements of your demographic to stop shooting at the rest of us. If they don't, there's gonna be hell to pay.

I don't really care how you go about doing that. Just get it done, please.

That is all.

But that's not what the argument says. It says that out of respect for democracy we must obey the law even when we think it is wrong.

Nope. To rework your formulation, it says that out of respect for democracy and unless we have decided we no longer have any use for democracy, we must obey the prohibition against murdering people. The resort to deadly violence is quite distinct in its effect on democracy from any larger case against protesting or acts of civil disobedience. Several others have pointed this out and hilzoy made a point of specifying exactly where she believes the line is crossed and it is not at any mere lawbreaking.

Almost word for word, except for the part about killing people?

She is not arguing that we stop killing people. She is arguing that we must let the state decide the rules of who can be killed and who can not (and who can kill and who can not) because to do otherwise is contradictory to a certain form of government. There is no reason given why this does not apply to the other acts, and if you agree that we must accept the power of the state to decide that one person might kill another person even if we think the decision is wrong it is strange to then decide that we may freely ignore much lesser evils without it being contradictory to that form of government.

now_what: I wrote:

"you must leave some room between (1) the claim that some policy it adopts is wrong, even very wrong, and (2) the claim that you can kill people to prevent this wrong thing from happening."

"Leaving some room" between the two claims does not mean leaving an infinite and unbridgeable abyss, which is what I would have had to have meant in order for your reconstruction of my views to be right.

I think there are times when violence is acceptable. (Killing Hitler leaps to mind.) I just think they are a lot fewer than "whenever we, as a country, make a choice so wrong that someone dies."

The resort to deadly violence is quite distinct in its effect on democracy

That is exactly what abortion opponents have been arguing for years.

Some folks seem to be missing the point of civil disobedience. Yes, you break the law -- but with the full willingness to accept the penalty. The people like McArdle who are trying to justify Tiller's murder are trying to rewrite the law "on the fly".

Doesn't help that the antichoice fanatics have adopted the most extreme position possible -- unjustifiable by law, biology, theology, or philosophy.

now_what, virtually no opponents of abortion actually propose applying the legal penalties for murder to abortion. Nor does the argument hilzoy made demand that we obey all of the laws, only that we refrain from killing people.

I think there are times when violence is acceptable. (Killing Hitler leaps to mind.)

I agree. Which is why I think it's clear that the 'pro-life' movement does not believe its own rhetoric.

If every fetus, embryo and blastocyst carried equal moral value as a Jew in a concentration camp; if you really believed that Hitler lived next door and murdered people every day; if you believed that the government was so corrupt and incompetent as to be complicit in genocide - from that perspective, some pretty drastic action seems appropriate and proportional.

The fact that pro-lifers aren't all rejoicing, the fact that they don't consider Dr. Tiller's assassin a righteous martyr, means that they don't believe their own propaganda (i.e. that abortion = murder).

This is a good thing. I just wish they'd drop the invective - it's clearly confusing some people.

Well, again: you're giving McArdle credit for an intellectual honesty she does not in fact possess.

Even this misses the point.

I think the chief problem with attempting to argue with McArdle is that it tends to give her credit for intelligence that she does not possess.

The incoherence of her argument is not indicative of bad faith, but rather of a simple inability to make a coherent argument. It's really not worth going there.

The larger point at issue in this discussion, however, is worth discussing. If a large chunk of conservatives really cannot distinguish between political violence and civil disobedience, we really do have a problem.

The way now_what attempts to frame the issue is particularly telling:

[hilzoy] is arguing that we must let the state decide the rules of who can be killed and who can not (and who can kill and who can not) because to do otherwise is contradictory to a certain form of government.

In fact, a monopoly of (legitimate) violence is Max Weber's very definition of a state. This isn't even about maintaining a particular system of government, but rather about maintaining government at all.

Were a committed anarchist to make now_what's argument, we might have the basis for an honest discussion.

As it stands, what seems to be happening is that some conservatives are claiming for themselves a permanent monopoly on legitimate violence. When they control the state, then state violence is A-OK. When they don't, then their violence against the state is legitimate and the state's violence is not. Rather than anarchy, this seems closer to a rather bloody minded declaration by conservatives that l'etat c'est nous.

As those who start bringing up Hitler and slavery are carefully trying to avoid noticing, Hilzoy is talking about the limit of acceptable tactics in a democracy. Nazi Germany was not a democracy and nor was a slave-holding USA.

I have a (very limited) amount of sympathy with terrorist organisations which operate in non-democratic situations (such as the IRA pre-1922, the PLO in the occupied territories (not for any terrorist acts by Israeli Arabs), the ANC in South Africa etc. (Even here, I think non-violent action is preferable). I have no sympathy whatever for terrorist organisations who operate in democracies, such as the recent IRA, the Basque separatist group ETA etc.

What a resort to terrorism says is that your group has lost the public argument, and is not able to persuade people of the rightness of your cause. If the 'pro-life' believe in the moral rightness of their cause, let them argue and persuade people for the next 100 years, if it takes that. (How long did it take to get gay and black and female rights?) To say that violence is OK because you can't get your way is to admit that your political cause is otherwise a failure.

hilzoy, on a political level I generally tend to agree with many of the points you make, but since you are an ethics professor I find it a bit disconcerting that you often refuse to take matters to an abstract, philosophical level and instead rely on common sense justifications of the established consensus.

Philosophical debate should take nothing for granted and radically question all our assumptions, not in order to translate directly into political action, mind you, but rather to investigate if our deeply held ideological preconceptions will stand up to scrutiny. Now this might be considered a dangerous activity, but to me it is the essence of free thought and a necessary process if we don't want to simply rely on our more or less unexamined moral intuitions.

In this case, you simply put democratic procedure above all other ethical considerations and claim that the actual results of this process are merely secondary considerations. This leads to the extraordinary claim that killing a million people in Vietnam or hundreds of thousands in Iraq has to be tolerated by the citizenry, because it was backed up by the democratic decision making process, while killing a politician would be an intolerable affront against our democratic values.

One wonders exactly when you would deem political violence justifiable. What if the government had not killed 1 million Vietnamese, but 1 million US citizens? Would you then still have had enough patience with the democratic process to resolve the issue eventually, or would that have been enough of a reason to take up arms against the government? Either way, you are left with a bit of an ethical problem here.

And why do we keep going on about the Weather Underground or the RAF in Germany being so terribly wrong, when they killed maybe 35 people altogether, while the US government with the help of German chemical companies managed to kill a million or more?

Now there are all sorts of practical and consequentialist arguments against political violence and I'm not here to advocate it, but I think your absolute faith in the democratic process is not warranted and we'd all be better off being a bit less sure of ourselves.

Not at all. It very much does not have to be tolerated by the citizenry. The citizenry can and should throw the bastards out, elect new leaders and, if the previous ones violated their trust, see them on trial to answer for it.

Orwell wrote in "Politics and the English Language":

Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

He did not foresee the modern right and its move to make brutality explicit.

It very much does not have to be tolerated by the citizenry. The citizenry can and should throw the bastards out, elect new leaders and, if the previous ones violated their trust, see them on trial to answer for it.

Yeah, that worked great in Vietnam and Iraq.

Goering made some valid points in this regard.

Philosophical debate should take nothing for granted and radically question all our assumptions, not in order to translate directly into political action, mind you, but rather to investigate if our deeply held ideological preconceptions will stand up to scrutiny.

This is why it is absolutely necessary that the participants in such debates have agreement on the terms and their meanings. That is not going to obtain on a blog where people are participating with various levels of knowledge and experience. It is naive to suggest that on a group blog where people are participating with various levels of commitment and who have various motivations for participating, hilzoy can set forth a philosophical argument in a fully rigorous manner. You seem to be suggesting that it is somehow deficient (whether professionally or morally, I'm not really sure on which aspect your criticism is focussed) because her argumentation is not at the appropriate level of rigor, but with a little thought, and realizing that this is not a specialist blog directed at an audience of philosophers, I think you might reconsider what you ask for.

" You need to get the fringe elements of your demographic to stop shooting at the rest of us ... I don't really care how you go about doing that. Just get it done, please."

Although preferably not by killing people . . .

There is no reason given why this does not apply to the other acts, and if you agree that we must accept the power of the state to decide that one person might kill another person even if we think the decision is wrong it is strange to then decide that we may freely ignore much lesser evils without it being contradictory to that form of government.

The whole point of civil disobedience isn't ignoring the law, it's putting the government in the position of actually to enforce the law in order to demonstrate that the law is unjust. If you can't see the difference between that and killing people to make them stop doing things you don't like with no regard for the law at all, there isn't a heck of a lot else I have to say to you.

Pillsy nailed it; it's putting the "civil" in disobedience that makes it an acceptable form of protest.

But it's pointless to argue with these people because they have no internal coherence. If it's really murder, the women involved are far more responsible than the doctor.

But it's not murder, and they know it.

McArdle's update to this post further proves that:
1. She really doesn't know how to construct analogies that fit the case. She now compares abortion opponents living in a culture and nation that grants them the ability to change the law, but which disagrees with them--to Palestinians in the occupied territories that have no such rights--and not being allowed to have such rights unless they give some of them up in exchange-- trying to deal with Israel. The glaring difference in quality of these two situations makes the analogy spurious. The fact that she doesn't see this just goes to reinforce the fact that McArdle's biggest character flaw is that a lot of times, she is just DUMB.
2. The second problem--and major chararcter flaw of hers--is that she has an inordinately hard time realizing when she's been pwned--and admitting "Aw fuck it, I lost this round"--and she keeps fighting and getting further out on a limb, for no good reason other than she doesn't want to lose.
This trait just reinforces the "dumb" of above. It also leads to the kinds of incidents like her stating that anti-war protesters should be beaten by 2 by 4's for their opinions and then barely getting off a half-assed, very defensive apology like 5 years later after it was made clear that these protesters were correct and she was wrong.

Keep up the good work, Hilzoy! (and others here!)

One wonders exactly when you would deem political violence justifiable. What if the government had not killed 1 million Vietnamese, but 1 million US citizens? Would you then still have had enough patience with the democratic process to resolve the issue eventually, or would that have been enough of a reason to take up arms against the government? Either way, you are left with a bit of an ethical problem here.

Like novakent, I've been wondering what the answer is to this line of questioning.

The attachment conservatives have to the idea that abortion should be illegal has always confused me. Given the political philosophy of our founders, which the conservatives seem to like, shouldn't we be providing the most freedom possible in situations in which there are complex moral questions, rather than by law asserting that one side is right. While I can slightly understand the idea that it is hard to accept reason when you think someone is being murdered, it still confused me that the same people who go on about being true to the founders intent are the one who want to legislate their side in a complex moral, and religious, issue.

The incoherence of her argument is not indicative of bad faith, but rather of a simple inability to make a coherent argument. It's really not worth going there.

Word. She's also petty, occasionally mean-spirited, unable to admit a mistake in a timely or gracious manner, and a poor writer to boot. She also once dubbed herself "Jane Galt," which may be the lamest piece of wanking in the long and storied history of wankage.

I'm not sure why Megan McArdle promotes so much visceral hostility from so many people. She may well be mistaken about some things, but she is unfailingly polite, and she tries to explain her views without resorting to insult. If you can't have civil discourse with Megan McArdle, well maybe civil discourse is impossible.

But on to my main point: all this talk about "democracy" ignores the fact that democracy is exactly what we don't have in the abortion context. Democratic majorities are systematically frustrated.

Yeah, yeah, I know you say Roe v. Wade and all that. When liberals tell me they think that the Constitution prohibits restrictions on abortion, my reaction is pretty similar to the reaction I have when Catholics insist that the wine and wafers actually turn into the body and blood of Christ. I mean, really?

And that's where the analogy to the Weather Underground or to those who opposed the Iraq War breaks down. No Supreme Court edict said that the United States had to remain in Vietnam. Those who opposed the war were free to run for office, and had enough strong anti-war candidates won, they could have withdrawn immediately.

Oh and as to Bush v. Gore: precisely! Yes, I think that it was wrongly decided and that doing so undermined the political process. But in that case the Supreme Court at least pretended it was trying to interpret the written Constitution.

This is not to say, just to be clear, that I think that Tiller's killer was justified. In fact, I think that the guy should be given a fair trial and if convicted sentenced to the most severe sentence available by law.

But the claim that he could have effected change by political means is not precisely true.

lj, I think you have misunderstood me here, at least in part.

I wouldn't want ObWi to turn into a philosophical seminar, god forbid. What I meant with "philosophical debate" is a state of mind or a spirit of discussion, rather than anything professional philosophers might do. Any intelligent and eloquent person is capable of what I was asking for, you don't have to be a specialist in the field (and I myself am not one).

As for hilzoy, I wouldn't want and don't expect her to turn into Zizek over night, but I found her argument that the democratic process is sacrosanct rather simplistic.

Perhaps when a piece of abortion-related legislation works its way down the pike, pro-lifers wont make it so uncompromising (for example, no exceptions even when the mother's life is at risk) it gets struck down by the courts.

One wonders exactly when you would deem political violence justifiable ...novakant

Well. Let's take Weber's "monopoly" as not normative or prescriptive, which would be very authoritarian, but as descriptive and definitional. In that case, logically, when the state no longer has a monopoly of violence, it is no longer a state.

"No longer a state" means it has lost its legitimacy. Legitimacy is granted by and for the people blah blah by the people's acceptance and recognition that their collective will is manifested in the legitimating processes. When the people, in whole or much more likely in part, take unto themselves the right to declare the state of exception outside of the due processes...blah blah. I got lost.

In any case, there are two mistakes here, besides the fact that that bourgeois bureacrat Weber may have indeed deified his job description.

1) The state is not a good in and of itself. The people do not serve the state, nor is the state identical in any way withe the people.
2) As the sole source of legitimacy for the state (the state is not legitimated by the religion of reason, is not a transcendental, is not a god that the people must worship and serve), the people, in whole or in part, always do have the right* to declare the state of exception and withdraw their exclusive grant of legitimacy.

*"Right" is not the proper framework. It's about power. When the people, In whole or in part, have the power to remove legitimacy from the state, it means the state by definition, tautologically, has already lost its legitimacy. If the (the dissenting part of) people are wrong, the state will squash them like a bug.

Most liberals who have this abstracted worship of an idealized and transcendental state become authoritarian. Since the state can never be wrong, any failure is the fault of leaders (like Bush/Cheney) who have corrupted the state;any successes are due to good leaders(Obama) who serve the state well.
The indivisible sovereign state is really little different than the divine right of Kings.

To echo the minority view here, Roe was not the result of the democratic process, it was the result of the judicial process deciding what many believe to be a question reserved to the people. Roe creates a fundamental right that is by no means explicit, and even today cannot achieve a viable, lasting consensus. To those who would have liked a vote on the subject, the constitution has been amended outside the express amendatory process.

Hilzoy and others suggest, in effect, 'well, just pass a constitutional amendment.' Or, put differently, we got what we want by judicial fiat, now you go out and try to get 2/3's of congress and 3/4's of the states to overrule it. Kind of like Ross Perot's "Simple as that."

Two other problems with Hilzoy's argument: first, the Iraq analogy. Maybe Hilzoy felt marginalized by the fact that her side lost the debate and the vote, but focus for a minute on the fact that there was a debate and there was a vote--not even close to being the same as Roe. Second, Hilzoy conflates 'lives at stake' with lives actually and inexorably being terminated, not just for the duration of a conflict, but into perpetuity. According to CNN, in 2005, there were over 800,000 abortions. That is more than double all US deaths in WWII.

"I wouldn't want ObWi to turn into a philosophical seminar"

Aww, c'mon.

In many ways, the liberal conception of the state as self-legitimating is much worse than absolute monarchy.

The Emperor, if he for instance could not feed his people, could lose the Mandate of Heaven. The "State" is God.

giving up on democracy

There are three things here: giving up on the forms of democracy, giving up on the heart of the people, and having some clue as to what will move the heart of the people.

Now I believe that (even a democratic) state has no more a monopoly on the legitimate use of force than I do, and I believe that the state we live in is a plutocracy hiding behind a mask of democracy, so in two senses I've "given up" on the forms of democracy; but I do not believe I've given up on the heart of the people.

I don't know whether Dr. Tiller's assassin had given up on the heart of the people; certainly the Weather Underground had given up on the heart of white North America. But Dr. King never gave up on the heart of the people even as he broke the laws of this alleged democracy.

Still, knowing what will move people is difficult. Alexander Berkman was attempting to act for striking workers when he tried to kill Henry Frick; but his actions caused the strike to collapse.

Looking at modern history we see that non-violent direct action generally works better for those who don't own the heavy artillery than killing. (My guess is that it would work better for those who do own the heavy artillery, but they rarely try it.) That doesn't mean that George Bush's war is less immoral than Alexander Berkman's attempted assassination; it's just an observation about what works.

On a completely unrelated note, any grammatical suggestions for this sentence:

It's not like they could vote, or convince other people to listen to them, or organize, or do any of the damn things I feel like we've been doing since before there was dirt in order to get a not-entirely-crazy in-another-life-he'd-be-a-moderate-Republican dude finally elected so a third of the country could act like Satan just put his feet up on their mother's white-clothed dinner table.

All these claims that if Roe v Wade was removed then the violent anti-abortionists would go away is unconvincing. If they think it's OK to kill doctors performing abortions legalized by the federal government, they'll think it's OK to kill doctors performing abortions legalized by the state government. States' rights don't mean two hoots to right-wingers if it's rights to do things they don't like.

Pillsy and WereBear really both nail it. Civil disobedience is *civil* not *criminal*. It is non violent. And furthermore in the majority of leftist cases it is aimed directly at the government and not at private citizens. I say the majority because our local pecksnifferwoods will always dredge up some fringe person. But this is not a fringe lone wacko. The fact that he and the murder are being roundly supported and applauded by mainstream figures like MacCardle and Carlson (both of whom have demonstrated in their private lives that they would happilly kill their own grandmothers if it got them either a better ipod or a better tv slot) makes this absolutely not a fringe behavior. If we don't push back, as a people, against these hateful crimes of political passion we will lose our civil rights and our democracy to these sore losers/violent criminals.

aimai

Hilzoy and others suggest, in effect, 'well, just pass a constitutional amendment.' Or, put differently, we got what we want by judicial fiat, now you go out and try to get 2/3's of congress and 3/4's of the states to overrule it. Kind of like Ross Perot's "Simple as that."

Or, how about attempting to pass reasonable legislation? Granted, I am working off of memory here, but it seems to me that each time anti-abortion legislation is passed, it's done in such an extreme way (no exceptions, period) that it usually gets squashed by the courts.

The polling I've seen seems to indicate that most Americans want to keep abortion generally legal, but with some "reasonable" restrictions. Pro-lifers tend to take "reasonable" to mean a complete ban and then when it gets struck down they pretend that they're minority view is actually the will of the voters and you see arguments like the one mckinney made.

A similar thing often happens when it comes to gun control laws.

If someone has a problem with excessive certainty here, it's not those of us who think that when we lose politically, and the stakes are non-negligible, we are not justified in resorting to political violence.

I <3 Hilzoy. Best blogger I know of.

Seeing Ms. McArdle taken to the cleaners is just an ancillary benefit. She really dug herself into a deep hole this time.

magistra: "As those who start bringing up Hitler and slavery are carefully trying to avoid noticing, Hilzoy is talking about the limit of acceptable tactics in a democracy. Nazi Germany was not a democracy and nor was a slave-holding USA."

Exactly. And my basic point, in a nutshell, is: when you go in for political violence, you have to have reached the conclusion that our democracy is so utterly lost or corrupt as not to be worth saving, at least not at any price currently available to you.

Megan writes as though this was not a cost: as though once you see the innocent life at stake, that settles things. I think there is something more to be taken into account: commitment to democracy. I do not think that this can never be outweighed. But I do think that it's value is not zero.

bob,

Do you believe zygotes, blastocysts, and embryos inside a woman, are people deserving human rights?

I don't think that Hilzoy's post here is about some sacrosanct nature of the democratic process (though she is welcome to correct me), but rather looking at the assassination of Dr. Tiller and discussing it and what it means, to which Jane Galt argued a number of stupid things, and hilzoy had to take her to the woodshed. The fact that Megan went meta-democratic on her requires some explanation of principles to Jane Galt, but doesn't somehow mean that she is making a philosophical argument about the eternal goodness of the democratic process

Also, Turb reflagged your question

What if the government had not killed 1 million Vietnamese, but 1 million US citizens?

But 1 million vietnamese were killed precisely because they were unseen and unheard. To imagine 1 million US citizens killed, you would have to imagine a situation where there was a population of 1 million American citizens who were isolated enough from the rest of the population for the government to kill and dispose of. There are populations that were isolated enough to be abused in various ways (think Pine Ridge, MOVE in Philadelphia, or Waco) and there are populations that are definitely at-risk now, and I certainly don't believe that the government is restrained by some sort of inherent goodness that exists within itself, It is, however, restrained by the knowledge and interrelationships that people create. This is not to deny that there is some 1 US life = X non-American lives calculus, but I imagine that 1 middle class American citizen = X incarcerated US citizens, etc, etc. To demand that hilzoy explain why that takes place seems like you want an explanation for human nature. And it's obviously that way because God was having a bad day...

Speaking of incoherence, having read Meghan's response, this jumped out; it could summarize her point:

"I am accused, in the comments of Hilzoy's post, of loving violence and terror. Well, call me a terrorist sympathizer, but I believe that most terrorists do what they do because they, at least, genuinely believe that there is no other way to seek justice. Indeed, they are usually right, for all that I radically dissent from both their idea of justice, and their right to seek it through violence."

The argument, as I understand it here, is "it is unforgivable to seek to achieve political ends through violence, and legislation is needed to discourage it", against "yeah, but what are you gonna do?"

It may be here that getting burned on Iraq has made Meghan a futilist on terrorism.

On Megan McArdle's logic: Ms. McArdle's comment that "...if Africans are not people, then slavery is not wrong" avoids the obvious evidence for the full personhood of Africans. We can confidently say that all but the least aware and thoughtful of those slavery advocates who denied the personhood of Africans did so in bad faith.

In the case of a developing fetus, on the other hand, people of good will can and do disagree as to when the nervous system develops sufficiently to accommodate the first flicker of conscious thought, which marks, for most of us, the line between potential and actual humanity. To suggest any analogy between that great and abiding mystery, and the clearly manifested humanity of Africans and people of African descent seems to me to seriously abuse language.

On the issue of democracy: has anyone NOT noticed that the anti-abortion movement just had their pet legislation slagged in two popular initiative votes in one of the most conservative states of the union? I have no doubt the majority of Americans would prefer it if abortions did not happen, or at least happened as seldom as possible, but you have to at least concede the possibility that Americans do not like actual bans. You also have to concede the near certainty that the vast majority of Americans would never vote for the kind of law that would result from the claim that all the rights attached to personhood date from the moment of conception or the moment of implantation.

"Second, Hilzoy conflates 'lives at stake' with lives actually and inexorably being terminated"

Bzzt: begging the question. You're assuming your conclusion to prove your conclusion. That your view is not the consensus view is the essence of the debate.

Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that Tiller actually was a murderer, a particularly wily one that kept being found not guilty in court.

We generally accept in a democracy, in a society of laws, that we obey the laws even when they don't produce results in our favor. Thus, if a jury is unable to convict a murderer, we don't think then that it's okay to kill him. But more importantly, even if our sympathies were with the vigilante, if someone were to avenge himself on a wrongly-freed murderer, we would not take that as a reason to legalize vigilante killings, or to stop having jury trials of murderers.

And as I understand it, McArdle's not arguing that murdering doctors is acceptable, but that it's a sign that the laws need to change so they won't be tempted to murder doctors. I'm not sure how that's supposed to follow.

I patiently await McArdle's plea for the nation to show understanding for this shooting, as well:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A man with "political and religious motives" killed a soldier just out of basic training and wounded another Monday in a targeted attack on a military recruiting center, police said. The shootings were not believed to be part of a broader scheme.

Do you believe zygotes, blastocysts, and embryos inside a woman, are people deserving human rights?

Absolutely irrelevant. On demand, no restrictions.

After thirty years, it is perfectly clear that the state will not or cannot protect the right to chose. Arresting and convicting murderers after the doctor is dead does not increase the availibility of abortions. Allowing states to set onerous restrictions or enforce the right as they choose has not served women. It is unacceptable how difficult getting an abortion has become in large parts of America.

The state has failed, lost its legitimacy, cannot protect its most valuable citizens, and doesn't really even try. The state has forfeited its monopoly on violence.

It is time the state learned the consequence of not protecting its citizens and the constitutional rights. The claimed monopoly of violence must be exercised.

I understand the other side would characterize the problem in nearly identical language. That is why we are no longer doing politics, but engaged in a civil war.

This civil war, like the last one, is the fault of the moderates and liberals for denying their responsibilty for violencMost likely someone(s) has to die. Too bad the liberals decided it would be Dr Tiller.

Yeah, yeah, I know you say Roe v. Wade and all that. When liberals tell me they think that the Constitution prohibits restrictions on abortion

Roe v. Wade did not say that the Constitution prohibits restrictions on abortion.

In the case of a developing fetus, on the other hand, people of good will can and do disagree as to when the nervous system develops sufficiently to accommodate the first flicker of conscious thought, which marks, for most of us, the line between potential and actual humanity.

Yeah, I don't know about that. Lots of people seem to think it has to do with when a fetus gets a soul, which has the problem of being something impossible to empirically determine, whether or not you believe in souls.

But the hundreds of thousands of foreigners, that many conservative advocate killing in other lands, have souls, however you rarely see them questioning the US governments right to destroy them.

Questions of souls get us into a religious debate, which the US constitution (and, in practise, most other democratic constitutions) separates from the law-making process. Some people believe animals, trees, and waterfalls have souls. All religious bodies have the right to legislate or decree rules for those who wish to remain members of these bodies in good standing. No religious body has the right to legislate for all of us.

We knew who Dr Tiller's enemies were. We could have rendered those enemies impotent and ineffective. We did not render Dr Tiller's enemies impotent and ineffective.

And Dr Tiller is dead.

Those who value an abstraction, love a process more than people are inhumane monsters.

First of all, Megan said that she doesn't agree with Tiller's killing, so hilzoy is kind of attacking a strawman:

I'm not saying the violence is okay--I think Tiller's murderer needs to go to jail. But like many contributors to Obsidian Wings, I can understand the structural forces that contribute to Palestinian terrorism without believing the terrorism is legitimate. Unlike them, apparently, I don't find it all that hard to transfer that understanding to the fringes of our own democratic system.

Megan's point is that she can understand how some one who is pro life might think that he had no recourse than to do the John Brown thing.

As those who start bringing up Hitler and slavery are carefully trying to avoid noticing, Hilzoy is talking about the limit of acceptable tactics in a democracy. Nazi Germany was not a democracy and nor was a slave-holding USA.

On the contrary, Hitler came to power through a democratic process. And the CSA thought of itself as a democracy. The Confederates had a Constitution that was quite similar to the US Constitution, save on the issue of slavery. Read it at:

http://www.usconstitution.net/csa.html

The CSA thought of itself as upholding the original vision of the founding fathers, as indeed they were , since the original Constitution established the right to slavery and slave holding.

I might add that in modern times, Sri Lanka was a democracy in which the Sinhalese majority passed all kinds of laws discriminating against the Tamil minority, through due and legal process. They stopped passing those laws and began to retreat on that when Tamil terrorists started blowing people up. The Sinhalese majority government was not making these concessions when the Tamils were using peaceful protest.
For those who argue that this does not happen in the modern West, lets not forget the Protestant majority in Ulster passed anti Catholic discriminatory legislation and violently suppressed the peaceful "Catholic civil rights" demonstrations until the late 60s- leading to the "Troubles".

I think that one of the reasons why Hilzoy is so in favor of democracy is that she feels she is on the winning side. Its easy to support democracy when you are in the majority. But lets not confuse being on the winning side in a democracy with being morally right.

To echo the minority view here, Roe was not the result of the democratic process, it was the result of the judicial process deciding what many believe to be a question reserved to the people. Roe creates a fundamental right that is by no means explicit, and even today cannot achieve a viable, lasting consensus. To those who would have liked a vote on the subject, the constitution has been amended outside the express amendatory process.

What about Bush vs Gore? What about the trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives it cost? (There is also the slightly annoying fact that, in the end, Gore did receive more actual votes than Bush.)

Were you or any of the RTLer's protesting that this was bogus? Or were you and/or they, the vast majority of them, telling us to suck it up?

What about the ERA? If it wanted to, the Supreme Court could simply say that denying the text of the ERA is unconstitutional; it refuses to do so, and - what does it say? - oh yes: "Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. " I don't see anyone shooting Male Chauvinist Pigs (God, that seems old! Really was from a different era, though not so far in the past) 'to make a point' or 'because they're fed up'. And yet, surely this is an important issue, and apparently, a very contentious one.

The bottom line, I think, and one which Megan and a lot of her claque don't get is that it's not the disagreement, it's the contradiction: If you really feel that participation in the political process has been denied you, you should also feel the same way in similar instances. If you really feel that abortion is murder, then you should be foursquare for hard jail time for women who have abortions.

If you're not doing those things? The perception is, I'm afraid, that these people are dangerously immature and unreasonable.

"I think that one of the reasons why Hilzoy is so in favor of democracy is that she feels she is on the winning side. Its easy to support democracy when you are in the majority. But lets not confuse being on the winning side in a democracy with being morally right."

Not sure that's accurate. Did you read the Athenae excerpt? Did you read how Hilzoy explained the duty to abstain from murder even and especially when a person is on the "losing" side of an issue/election in a democracy?

"First of all, Megan said that she doesn't agree with Tiller's killing, so hilzoy is kind of attacking a strawman"

But Hilzoy doesn't say that Megan "agreed with Tiller's killing" so you're actually creating a chain gang of strawmen.

Read Hilzoy's actual issue with Megan's post(s). The issue is not that Megan "agrees with Tiller's killing"

I'll be the first to say it -- as far as his last paragraph is concerned, stonetools is way out of line. Consider this a flag.

Megan writes as though this was not a cost: as though once you see the innocent life at stake, that settles things. I think there is something more to be taken into account: commitment to democracy. I do not think that this can never be outweighed. But I do think that it's value is not zero.

I don't see that anywhere in Megan's writings, Hilzoy.

I thought that Megan's original point was that your proposal to expand abortion laws in reaction to Dr. Tiller's death would, more likely than not, lead to more violence rather than less. Which is probably correct (merits of expanding those laws aside). I think her subsequent posts make some unsupported (and unsupportable) points, but no where do I see an argument that "innocent life" trumps all other considerations and authorizes violence and murder.

I thought the U.S. was a democratic republic, and not a democracy.

Yeah, I don't know about that. Lots of people seem to think it has to do with when a fetus gets a soul, which has the problem of being something impossible to empirically determine, whether or not you believe in souls.

Posted by: Scott P.

The problem here is that 'personhood' isn't a determination that can be made scientifically or theologically. Personhood (somebody correct me if I'm wrong) is a legal status. I'm amenable to to legislation that will declare such and so to be a person . . . but there has to be a justification for it that's not circular. You can't simply declare a 12-hour-old embryo a 'person' because then abortion would be illegal, for example.

Note that simply declaring a fetus at 30 weeks to be a 'person' does not automatically disallow abortions after that time.

I think that one of the reasons why Hilzoy is so in favor of democracy is that she feels she is on the winning side. Its easy to support democracy when you are in the majority. But lets not confuse being on the winning side in a democracy with being morally right.

This is very unfair. As hilzoy has pointed out, when she was on the losing side for most of this decade she did not advocate declaring a civil war against the winners in the democratic process. She did not advocate the assassination of Bush and Cheney. One side and one side only in this debate is advocating civil war.

While I disagree with bob mcmanus that we are now at civil war, I absolutely agree with him that Weber's definition of the state is descriptive, not proscriptive, that particular states do not automatically deserve the allegiance of the people, and that people retain a right to revolt. (FWIW, I do believe that having a state is, in general, a good idea (I'm not an anarchist)). And I also agree with bob mcmanus that murdering abortion providers can only be justified as part of a violent attempt to overthrow the presently constituted state.

Whether she knows it or not (and I strongly suspect she does not) McArdle's semi-advocacy for Tiller's assassination is an argument in favor of armed rebellion.

What lurks at the bottom of this discussion, I think, is the odd place of the rhetoric of armed rebellion among conservatives these days. On the one hand, it's distressingly common. On the other hand, I always sense that they don't entirely take it seriously. They're not actually trying to start a civil war; they're trying to rally the base in order to win the next election.

But calling for political violence while not really meaning it seems like a potentially volatile combination; even intended revolutions frequently create unintended consequences. I suspect that the foundation of this political strategy is the fact that our system of government has not been seriously threatened by violent revolt in nearly a century and a half, which is a pretty unusual state of affairs in world history. We all tend to take the stability of our system of government for granted. And that's not a good thing.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who, before Roe v Wade, thought that human life began at conception rather than birth. We don't throw our kids Conception Day parties. We don't calculate our ages from the day our mothers got pregnant. That's why, for example, you don't find a lot of anti-choicers who think that a woman who has an abortion ought to be prosecuted for first degree murder--there's a lingering recognition that a nonviable fetus is not the same thing as a human being.

The theory that the fetus is a human being with the same rights as its mother was developed to provde a legal basis for arguing that Roe was wrongly decided. I don't think there are very many anti-choicers who really beleive that in good faith--those who do are dupes of the movement's leadership.

Whether she knows it or not (and I strongly suspect she does not) McArdle's semi-advocacy for Tiller's assassination is an argument in favor of armed rebellion.

Where do you see this advocacy (semi- or otherwise)?

ScentofViolets: You can't simply declare a 12-hour-old embryo a 'person' because then abortion would be illegal, for example.

Providing a woman is legally a person, abortion remains ethical (I originally wrote "remains legal", but of course that's not the point) regardless of what legal status the fetus has. Pro-lifers tend to argue as if once they'd established a fetus is a human being, that ends the argument: they take for granted that a woman does not enjoy full human rights, but has the status of an incubator in which a fetus has nine months hosting rights.


That's why, for example, you don't find a lot of anti-choicers who think that a woman who has an abortion ought to be prosecuted for first degree murder

or that a miscarriage should be known as involuntary manslaughter, etc.. (though VA almost got such a law)

The whole point of civil disobedience isn't ignoring the law, it's putting the government in the position of actually to enforce the law in order to demonstrate that the law is unjust.

Also, an act of civil disobedience violates the actual law that is claimed to be unjust, not some other law.

No one can argue that a law against murder is unjust. To kill someone to protest some other law is not civil disobedience.

    "I mean, I personally would not shoot an abortionist, but who am I to impose my morality on someone else? If you are against shooting abortionists, then don't shoot one, right?"

    - Gingi Edmonds

eew.

We have a system for resolving political disputes in this country. We elect people, and those people make laws. When those laws are within the limits set by the Constitution, they are binding. When not, a court can strike them down. When we want to, we can change the Constitution, though it is (rightly) rather difficult.


(b) One inconvenient thing about democracies is that it is very, very unlikely that your own side will prevail all the time. You get a voice, but so does everyone else, and barring stupendous coincidences, this means that things won't always turn out the way you think they should.


(c) It would be naive to think that you will lose only on unimportant questions. Governments make hugely consequential decisions all the time. Sometimes, these decisions lead to the killing of innocent people, in ways that you think are deeply wrong.


(d) If anyone who believes the government had adopted a policy that would lead to the killing of innocent people is justified in killing people to stop this, then we might as well just decide not to have a government at all. During the Bush administration, half the country would have been justified in trying to assassinate the President and members of his administration. Any corporate executive who works for a company that does not adequately protect its workforce from poisoning or injury would have to watch her back. Etc., etc., etc.

e) If you are committed to our form of government, you must leave some room between (1) the claim that some policy it adopts is wrong, even very wrong, and (2) the claim that you can kill people to prevent this wrong thing from happening.

And the reason Roe v. Wade was so nasty is that it short circuited that process. A huge portion of the population believes, and without at least a very large justification, that at or before that point many jurists seem to have decided that new 'rights' no longer had to go through the amendment process in order to strike down large numbers of laws. Something no longer needed to be in direct conflict with the Constitution, or even in direct conflict with the something alluded to in the Constitution, but could be in vague conflict with something that was hinted at in the Constitution.

The problem with Roe v. Wade isn't only its outcome. It is the fact that the method that liberals used to GET the outcome is at the very best super-questionable. And it has produced the rather troubling outcome where serious legal scholars like Balkin can write "Elections matter, but primarily because they decide who becomes President and who holds the balance of power in the Senate, thus affecting who gets appointed to the courts."

A Constitution with an elective amendment process almost certainly shouldn't have that as a potentially correct analysis of the importance of elections. Yet we do. And that is a radicalizing problem.

I'll say it again: the twaddle about "John Brown" and slavery really implies a boatload of insults against people of African origin. Any conscious person, anywhere in the world, should notice that people of any ancestry can comprehend and act on complex instructions, learn and use language, and make music. Those elementary facts take literally a second or two of observation to ascertain. Apart from anything else, a brief look at the actual colour of the American population makes it extremely clear that "white" Americans never really doubted the humanity of Africans, since masters (and others) regularly had sexual intercourse with slaves.

Since a fetus or embryo manifests literally none of the complex behaviours which signal humanity to us, and most early embryos clearly lack the physical attributes necessary for these behaviours, the analogies to slavery or other evil social systems simply does not hold.

You may, of course, decide you have a special insight into what makes for "personhood", and you may choose to believe that someone else has such insights. But the analogy with slavery implies (and Ms. McArdle pretty explicitly states) that a person who disbelieves in the full personhood of a fetus could just as easily or honestly disbelieve in the full humanity of a person with a skin colour different different from their own. And (it shocks me that I actually find myself having to type this) that logic does not remotely hold. Without even working at it, I can think of half a dozen attributes of humanity that people from all cultures show, and all fetuses do not.

Well, I don't want to make this look like a personal attack against hilzoy (as Point thinks) and I apologize if I am creating that impression. MY point is what a democracy decides isn't always morally right-as many historical examples show.
(Don't know why point is flagging me for this when Gary calling me a supporter of Gestapo tactics was passed over in silence. But let that pass).

Eric, I think Hilzoy is arguing as if McArdle is supporting Tiller's murder. I mean, her whole argument is we should not be resorting to political murder/terrorism in on this issue.(which I agree with, btw).
Some of her suggestions do seem to amount to a "doubling down" on the right to abortion-as she herself concedes.
I think that calmness all round is the correct response to this tragedy- not some program to enhance abortion rights-which as Megan rightly argues (IMO) would only inflame the radical fringe.You actually couldn't pass such a program, anyway, since the tenor of public opinion is against extending abortion rights.

Sebastian,

In 1973, who were and where were the "conservatives" protesting Roe v. Wade?

I know of the Roman Catholic's position and the Mormon's position, in the era....what were the leaders of Conservative Protestantism and/or The Conservative Movement when Roe happened?

calmness all round is the correct response to this tragedy- not some program to enhance abortion rights

i haven't heard of any such program. have you?

"Don't know why point is flagging me for this when Gary calling me a supporter of Gestapo tactics was passed over in silence."

That was because you were supporting the Gestapo tactics of Verschärfte Vernehmung. That's factually undeniable.

If you don't like that truth, quit supporting Verschärfte Vernehmung.

One wonders exactly when you would deem political violence justifiable. What if the government had not killed 1 million Vietnamese, but 1 million US citizens? Would you then still have had enough patience with the democratic process to resolve the issue eventually, or would that have been enough of a reason to take up arms against the government? Either way, you are left with a bit of an ethical problem here.

No. You really aren't. The time to take up arms against the government is whenever the evils of a violent coup and the civil war that would almost inevitably result no longer outweigh the evils of whatever the government is doing, (weighed by the risk that your violent coup attempt is going to accomplish nothing but making your side look bad). People may feel that balance shifts at different times, but it's not hard to calculate when to revolt given whatever your values happen to be.

Megan McArdle apparently feels we've hit that point now. The Weather Underground thought we were there during the Vietnam War. Hilzoy disagrees with both of them. I currently agree with Hilzoy, because I think abortion is okay and I suspect a civil war in the U.S. would kill more than a million people. If we nuke Tehran for no reason or something, I'll probably head over to join McArcdle and Ayers.

It's a matter of opinion, but it's not some sort of ethical dilemma.

"and most early embryos clearly lack the physical attributes necessary for these behaviours"

By invoking this, you're missing the point. We aren't talking about early embryos. We are talking about late ones. Tiller wasn't known for aborting early embryos. He was known for aborting late ones. (Which is not a justification for killing him, I'm merely noting the context of the debate).

"Without even working at it, I can think of half a dozen attributes of humanity that people from all cultures show, and all fetuses do not."

But you'd have lots of trouble distinguishing between a late term fetus and a preemie. And the preemie gets full legal protection.

Stonetools, if you can say that "it seems that Hilzoy is arguing" a ceratain way, then it would be fair to say that is seemed that Megan was justifying Tiller's murder. If one is straw so is the other.

And the reason Roe v. Wade was so nasty is that it short circuited that process.

No it didn't. Supreme Court rulings are part of our political process.

Where do you see this advocacy (semi- or otherwise)?

Far be it from me to claim that a Megan McArdle post on any topic is making a coherent point. But this is what I had in mind:

We accept that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders--had Tiller whipped out a gun at an elementary school, we would now be applauding his murderer's actions. In this case, the law was powerless because the law supported late-term abortions. Moreover, that law had been ruled outside the normal political process by the Supreme Court. If you think that someone is committing hundreds of gruesome murders a year, and that the law cannot touch him, what is the moral action? To shrug? Is that what you think of ordinary Germans who ignored Nazi crimes? Is it really much of an excuse to say that, well, most of your neighbors didn't seem to mind, so you concluded it must be all right? We are not morally required to obey an unjust law. In fact, when the death of innocents is involved, we are required to defy it.

McArdle's out here is that she is not actually agreeing that Tiller was a murderer. She's just saying that if one believes that Tiller was a murderer, assassinating him is not only acceptable, but possibly morally required. And that's what I meant by "semi-advocacy."

"But you'd have lots of trouble distinguishing between a late term fetus and a preemie. And the preemie gets full legal protection."

And in one case you'd violate a woman's right to choose what she does or doesn't do with her own body, and in the other you wouldn't.

You may feel this is an insignificant, or at least insufficient, difference, but it is the crucial distinction.

"And the preemie gets full legal protection."

A popular view is that so should the mother as regards her body.

"But you'd have lots of trouble distinguishing between a late term fetus and a preemie."

Consider the potato crisp.

[...] In the Pringles litigation, three levels of British courts engaged in a classic debate over line-drawing, a staple of first-year law school classes. At some point, a potato-chip-like item is so different from a potato chip that it can no longer be called one — but when? Lord Justice Jacob invoked the wisdom of Justice Holmes: “A tyro thinks to puzzle you by asking you where you are going to draw the line and an advocate of more experience will show the arbitrariness of the line proposed by putting cases very near it on one side or the other.”

In other words, sometimes you just have to call them as you see them.

what were the leaders of Conservative Protestantism and/or The Conservative Movement when Roe happened?

They were in their garages, nostalgically dusting their "Impeach Earl Warren" posters from the last time the Supreme Court short-circuited the political process in a way they disapproved of with Brown. I don't think the Griswold short-circuit actually registered with them immediately, either, given their more pressing concerns about other "civil rights" being imposed by judicial activists. Now, of course, Griswold is at least indirectly on their chopping block, given that it provided the practical basis for Roe.

"And in one case you'd violate a woman's right to choose what she does or doesn't do with her own body, and in the other you wouldn't."

And if we were talking about merely cutting hair or something, you'd have an excellent point.

If a woman, for example, wanted to voluntarily choose to amputate her arm when it was not sick, and not a serious threat to her health, she would face serious resistance from doctors and would be subject to much delay.

""And the preemie gets full legal protection."

A popular view is that so should the mother as regards her body."

You're very careful with your words. I note you do not say 'a majority view'. As to 2nd trimester abortions, a majority approve of much greater restrictions than are currently available. As to late term abortions in the 3rd trimester, a very large majority supports restricting them to only cases where the mother's life is in danger, or in case of rape or incest.

ScentofViolets: You can't simply declare a 12-hour-old embryo a 'person' because then abortion would be illegal, for example.

Providing a woman is legally a person, abortion remains ethical (I originally wrote "remains legal", but of course that's not the point) regardless of what legal status the fetus has. Pro-lifers tend to argue as if once they'd established a fetus is a human being, that ends the argument: they take for granted that a woman does not enjoy full human rights, but has the status of an incubator in which a fetus has nine months hosting rights.


Posted by: Jesurgislac

Right. We got that one in undergrad philosophy as the 'tethered violinist' problem. This is all, quite literally, sophomoric stuff.

She's just saying that if one believes that Tiller was a murderer, assassinating him is not only acceptable, but possibly morally required.

yup.

or, to generalize: if one believes X is immoral, immoral act Y is not only acceptable, but possibly morally required.

i wonder if she'd still agree with that if it was written in Arabic ?

"A tyro thinks to puzzle you by asking you where you are going to draw the line and an advocate of more experience will show the arbitrariness of the line proposed by putting cases very near it on one side or the other.”

In other words, sometimes you just have to call them as you see them. "

Yup, and a large majority of Americans call them as they seem them--late term fetuses should get at a large portion of legal protection.


An in other news, I still have hair, but am definitely balding.

"If a woman, for example, wanted to voluntarily choose to amputate her arm when it was not sick, and not a serious threat to her health, she would face serious resistance from doctors and would be subject to much delay."

If your ideological opponents are accusing you of not respecting a woman's ability to make decisions for herself, and you wanted to deny the charge, this would be an odd choice of metaphor.

And the reason Roe v. Wade was so nasty is that it short circuited that process. A huge portion of the population believes, and without at least a very large justification, that at or before that point many jurists seem to have decided that new 'rights' no longer had to go through the amendment process in order to strike down large numbers of laws. Something no longer needed to be in direct conflict with the Constitution, or even in direct conflict with the something alluded to in the Constitution, but could be in vague conflict with something that was hinted at in the Constitution.

When Justice Sebastian persuades the rest of the Supreme Court of the correctness of this view of constitutional rights, and California reacts by passing a law mandating that all residents of the state become Scientologists, don't come crying to me. After all, the 14th Amendment says nothing whatever about incorporating the Bill of Rights, and nothing in the constitution says that a state cannot establish a religion--there are even precedents of established state churches lingering on into the 19th Centruy. If you didn't want to be come a Scientologist, you should have amended the Constitution.

The point is, though I love Sebastian dearly, he doesn't know much about Constitutional law, or history. James Madison opposed a Bill of Rights on the grounds that it would lead to claims that only rights expressly mentioned in the Constitution were protected or enforceable. The 9th Amendment makes it plain that there are all kinds of enforceable rights not mentioned explicitly. The basic premise of the Declaration of Independence is that human beings have inalienable rights not granted by the government. Sebastian, more worried about judicial tyranny than by the tyranny of the majority vote, thinks the founders were wrong, and should have written the Constitution according to a different scheme.

Abortion becomes a major concern of the conservative US Protestant world, when ERA begins to take off.

When the body of the woman was still viewed as belonging to her husband, abortion was a “necessary evil,” once 2nd wave Feminism gains major steam and ERA is on the table, abortion became a threat.

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