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February 06, 2011

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access to contraceptives have never been shown to reduce the abortion rate. citation please.

things that actually reduce the abortion rate:
http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/02/analyzing-the-effect-of-state-legislation-on-the-incidence-of-abortion-among-minors

Your post also confuses the terms "contraceptives" with what are potentially abortifacients. Hence why the divide within pro-life organizations between condoms, which face Catholic opposition mainly because it's a moral wrong and not because it's a same level of moral wrong as abortion.

Opposition to contraceptives, then, is muddied by the evolving usage of the word to encompass different types of 'birth control' -- whether they have a chemical effect that terminates an existing pregnancy.

Some have problems with the use of chemicals that prevent implantation, others don't view the alteration of the chemical lining of the uterus as a moral wrong, and some view it as a different wrong on a reduced level from an abortion.

So, understanding abortion as the deliberate destruction of a child, all groups can agree on that. The nuances of the other discussions lead to natural divisions.

Whether you're honestly confused or just trying to make a cynical and snide comment is beyond me, as I'm a new reader. So, if this was all in vain, I... apologize?

Doc, I'm afraid the flame war may start anyway. The fact that you display pretty much perfect logic notwithstanding.

When I was on the radio, I refused to use "pro-life" when reading news stories. I called 'em what they are: "Anti-choice." No-one ever told me to stop, so I didn't.

BenW: there's a cite in that post. Also, bc pills are not abortifaecant. They work by preventing ovulation. However, once fertilization occurs, the hormones in bc pills promote implantation. So no, preventing usage of bc is not promoting life, it's promoting misogyny.

Thanks very much for this useful roundup of the latest atrocities, and for the useful logic lesson for those who are either deliberately or mistakenly obfuscating their true position. I'd like in particular to underline this: "As far as I can tell, *all* the PLM leadership is in [the anti-sex] group, and they don't even realize that many of their followers are in groups A&B."

I also believe this is true and I wish that pro-choice groups could figure out a way to leverage this fact in a way that could separate the extremists in Congress, in hospitals and in the courts from the vast majority of the public, who don't actually agree with the anti-choice leadership.

BenW:

condoms, which face Catholic opposition mainly because it's a moral wrong and not because it's a same level of moral wrong as abortion.

But the Catholic hierarchy's continued resistance to permitting condom use strongly implies that it is the same magnitude of moral wrong as abortion, that one does not overwhelmingly outweigh the other.

Catholics *do* believe there is such a thing as a just war, despite the fact that killing is morally wrong, as a rule. You can kill people to prevent a great moral evil -- but you can't use birth control, even though they call abortion a great moral evil. That means that *either* they don't really think abortion is that great an evil, *or* that the evil of contraception is almost as great.

the divide within pro-life organizations between condoms

Are you saying that there are prominent PRM organizations (not just individuals) who believe in *promoting* condom use, not just tolerating it? All the ones I know of are quite consistently opposed to easy access to condoms (e.g. for minors) and to explicit, thorough sex education.

I think that there are a couple more catagories of people who self-aggrandize themselves as pro-life. Some are the frankly sin-of-pride types who get their jollies by feeling more moral than everyone else. They don't think about abortion or women or children: too busy getting their rocks off by emoting.

There's a fairly large group of people who call themselves "pro-life" because it sounds good but, if the issue is discussed, actually are pro-choice under many circumstances and do not want abortion to be outlawed entirely.


Of your list of atrocities: there's a Repubican in South Carolina ( I think) who wants the word "victim" to be removmed from laws concerning rape, stalking and domestic violence and replaced with "accuser."

That way a woman could not seek an abortion as a rape victim until after the rapist was convicted. Of course she might have the kid byt then.

Lastly abortion is, in my opinion, the deliverate distruction of a child. The one thing all humans agree on is that it is Ok to kill other people. I think that we should not kill people who have consciousness and can feel pain and fear and I am not concerned about kiling those who have no brain and no capacity for fear or pain.. Most so-called prolifers have no problem kiling conscious people under a wide range of circumstances including unnecessary wars and as collateral damage of a death penalty. I'll take my morals as superior to theirs any day.

I wouldn't put too much weight on Catholic "moral wrongs". Some Catholic theology tends to be rather disconnected from scripture.

The word "purgatory", for instance, doesn't make an appearance in the Bible.

Correction: not everyone thinks its OK to kill other people but the true pro-lifers who don't distroy others is a tiny, tiny minority. Before a "pro-lifer" gets to claim mnoral superiority for not destroying children seems to me that they must be absolutley opposed to destroying children who can scream in pain or cower in fear or cry. Somehow the suffering of chldren who have a capacity to feel is frequently justifiable to individuals who wish to protect fertilized eggs or half inch long fetuses that have no wherewithal yet for cognition.


The problem with talking about abortion is that the conversation so quickly gets polarized by self-aggrandizing claims of moral superiority like the use of the term "pro-life".

If we started out by agreeing that it is sometimes necessary to kill a person and then discussed when and why I think abortion would end up being one of the least controversial areas of discussion since the termination of a fertilized egge is nothing compared to the tragedy of the death of a child burned alive in Dresden or Nagasaki or who died of napalm burns or died for lack of medicine in Palestine or got caught in the crossfire in Bahgdad or...

Just think how inconvenient it would be to actually care about the lives of innocent children. It's so much easier to pretend moral superiority by defending fetuses!

The bishop clearly believes that the woman should have died together with her unborn baby, and that the hospital had no moral right to interfere. Given that, I'm not sure why he believes in Catholic hospitals; all they do is cure people that God clearly intended to be sick.

Ben W,

Yes! Forced birth legislation does marginally affect teenage abortion rates! Sheer 'effing genius, those Heritage guys!

But explain this: Teen abortion rates (per thousand) are now about the same as in 1972, and abortion, though restricted in some places and some ways, is for the most part legal.

Something else has much greater explanatory power for the marked decline in this rate since the late 80's.* The fact that some ideologically driven political scientist at the Heritage Foundation has not tried, in any intellectually serious way, to find it is hardly surprising.

*Like, for example, the 20% + drop in teen pregnancy rates over that same period.

wonkie:

I really don't agree with you. I think it's clear that we (our society) have, in general, come to agree that human persons are found *only* in living human brains. A living human body that is "brain dead" is still entirely human and almost entirely alive -- but the person is gone. For the religious, the *soul* is gone -- and this is pretty much in line with what Aquinas and Augustine said. And that's why we accept things like heart transplants: because the *person* is not in the heart.

Since the vast majority of abortions occur before the fetus has a functioning human brain, they do not kill a human person. No brain, no person. Again, this is in line with Aquinas, among others.

So I would say no, abortions do *not* normally kill babies, nor people, nor human persons. No functioning brain, no person.

The situation for very late-term abortions is different, but they are extremely rare and usually involve either an imminent threat to the life of the mother (or the other twin), a fetus that will never have a functioning brain, or both.

I googled "safe, legal, and rare," and the only suggestion I found from an abortion opponent for a way to make abortion rare was to make abortion illegal. I don't know whether the authors of all of the pages I looked at fell into Dr. Science's category C, but it does seem like finding practical ways to reduce the number of abortions was not high on their list of priorities.


I think that people could debate about when a fertilized egg becomes a person and defend all sorts of positions:at conception, at quickening, at viability...I don't really see how a definitive answer can be arrived at. Its the kind of question that I think doesn't necesarily have an answer.

But I don't really feel like debating that with so-called pro-lifers. I feel like debating the false claim of being 'pro-life" because of the false claim of being the defender of the lives of children. If "pro-life" folks want to claim that fetuses are children and deserve protection , then I think they should exlain whether or not they are willing to extend that protection to children that aren't fetuses any more. Either that or admit that they actually believe that it is OK to destroy children sometimes, explain what their real moral values actually are, and get over the pretense of being more pro-life than other people.

I've got a pet peeve about the term "pro-life." Moral questions about the taking of life are hard. It's a get-your-moral-superiority-free pass for people to claim to be "pro-life" without thinking very seriously and carefully about their attitude toward the born.

And as your list of Repulican legislative atrocities attests, so-called prolifers sometimes don't respect the lives of women.

Good point about human life ending with brain death. Brain activity begins about 70 days after conception, though we must then ask at what point it is human brain activity. Still, one would think that those first 70 days should be not at all controversial.

Aristotle thought the baby was ensouled when it first experienced laughter, which he thought was 72 days after birth (90 days is actually more accurate.) A culture with that belief could a child in the wilds to die, as the Spartans did when they viewed a child as not vital enough.

I saw Abby Hoffman during the Yippy-Yuppy debates, and he said his views on abortion were shaped by his religion, the Jewish mother not actually considering the fetus a "person" until it was out of graduate school.

From your first link:

In fact, Olmsted said he had "recently learned that many other violations . . . have been taking place at" facilities operated by Catholic Healthcare West, which owns St. Joseph's, including the provision of birth-control pills and other forms of contraception, sterilizations and abortions "due to the mental or physical health of the mother or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest."

It's a bit much to think that a hospital can do sterilizations and continue to call itself Catholic. From that bit, it's clear that this is about an institution that liked the association with the Catholic Church far more than it liked the actual policies of the Catholic Church that it would have to follow to maintain that association. Its association was dishonest and the bishop was right to terminate.

And let's be clear about what the penalty is. Priests won't come over and do liturgies in the chapel and they won't store consecrated hosts on site. Oh the injustice!

"Pro-life" groups are willing to say that abortion is murder, that pro-choice advocates are baby-killers, that Roe v. Wade is like the Holocaust ... .

If you do mean it, you have a moral imperative to promote contraception.

Uh, if you really believe that Roe v. Wade is like the Holocaust, I think you have a "moral imperative" to do more than prevent the creation of more Jews.

A factor in (Roman) Catholic positions on abortion is the Augustinian doctrine that unbaptized fetuses go to hell too*. Although the decisions of the 2nd Vatican Council are usually interpreted as dropping that, many traditional Catholics don't accept that decision. The behaviour of the late JP2 has been seen by many critics as giving at least tacit approval to the old belief. Anecdotal evidence** has it that Catholic hospitals displayed a note stating that in case of birth complications the emphasis would be on baptising the child not the 'worldly' life of the mother.
Official statements often require advanced courses in applied sophistry to interpret (imo still better than what comes from the more radical fundamentalist 'pro-lifers' that make a rabies vaccination look like a wise precaution before dealing with)

*Martin Luther also believed in that but I know of no mainstream protestant authority still insisting.
**George Simenon (iirc) wrote about it. He and his pregnant wife instantly fled from the premises and their first child was born in a less 'good catholic' hospital a few hours later.

I keep hearing these complaints that "forcible rape" is some kind of redundancy. Has nobody heard of "statutory" rape? Rape by deception? Rape by women changing their minds afterwards?

I would expect that the focus on forcible rape was because if force was used, you can be reasonably sure that an actual rape really did take place.

Now, me, I'm all in favor of contraception, and only oppose third trimester abortions, but I routinely get lumped in with the loons who think a fertilized egg is a person.

I suppose it's because I don't stop at opposing third trimester abortions, I actually want mechanisms in place to stop them. Whereas most pro-choicers will say that they oppose third trimester abortions, but draw the line at having any enforcement mechanism.

If a man gives a four-year-old sleeping pills with her "consent" and then rapes her, and doesn't hit the four-old or tie her down, do you stand athwart history shouting "Stop! This was not rape by force?"

Welcome to U.S. criminal law, where force is not a logical prerequisite for rape.Please know that your tone quotes are inappropriately contemptuous-sounding.

Martin Luther also believed in that but I know of no mainstream protestant authority still insisting.

Here's what WELS has to say on the subject:

Please allow me to share one of the major principles that we follow in our faith-life: if the Bible is silent on a particular subject, we resolve not to manufacture an answer and offer it as God's Word. Although it may be frustrating, we sometimes do not have an answer that satisfies our interest or curiosity because God has chosen not to reveal sufficient information on a particular subject.

This is what we know. The Bible clearly teaches that ALL people, from conception on, are sinful and have inherited guilt in addition to a sinful nature that rebels against God. By nature we all stand under God's judgment. The Bible also teaches that only God with his divine love and power is able to rescue us from that horrible situation of alienation from him. He provided a Savior or Rescuer from sin and guilt, namely, his Son Jesus Christ. And he gives us the gift of faith (trust, reliance) in Jesus that personally receives the blessings Jesus earned for us. The Bible also tells us God chooses to create and maintain saving faith in Jesus through the gospel (good news) that he brings to us in the Bible and Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is an instrument that God uses to give people (including infants) spiritual life to replace spiritual death.

But what if an infant for some reason dies without being baptized? The Bible doesn't provide an explicit, direct answer to that question.

We are aware of the child's sinful nature, and that might make us pessimistic about the child's future. We also are aware of God's love for that child and his knowledge of the circumstances that prevented baptism. That might make us optimistic. We wouldn't deny that God could have created saving faith in the child aside from the gospel and baptism. But the bottom line doesn't change, does it? The Bible does not provide explicit information on this subject nor enable us to give a 100% happy and comforting answer for those who have lost an unbaptized child. We must leave this in God's hands.

If tl;dr, then, shorter: we don't know what happens to an unbaptized child, because the Bible doesn't say. I suppose you could adapt that explanation to some or all of the fetal stage.

Please know that your tone quotes are inappropriately contemptuous-sounding.

US laws concerning the definition of rape are above reproach, and are always applied justly?

If not, this comment mystifies, somewhat.

wonkie:

I think that people could debate about when a fertilized egg becomes a person and defend all sorts of positions:at conception, at quickening, at viability...I don't really see how a definitive answer can be arrived at. Its the kind of question that I think doesn't necesarily have an answer.
I'm arguing that it *does* have a legal and moral answer, in our society, and that is "brain life". PLMers who say that personhood begins at conception are making an argument that doesn't hold up, and which in fact other evidence shows they don't believe.

Very much like their claim, as you point out, to be "pro-life". There's a reason I put "pro-life" in quotes in my post -- if they were all seamless garment types who were as strongly anti-war, anti-death penalty and pro-universal health care as they are anti-abortion, I would take them more seriously.

Brett:

I think that what Julian meant was that "forcible rape" does *not* include, e.g., raping someone who is unconscious.

When you say:

I would expect that the focus on forcible rape was because if force was used, you can be reasonably sure that an actual rape really did take place
-- be aware that you're saying that the "you" who gets to decide is by definition not the person who was raped. Those of us who object to the "forcible rape" standard are saying, yes, that *what the woman says, goes*. Especially given that abortion is *extremely* time-sensitive -- requiring rape victims to legally prove they were raped means, in effect, that they never qualify for abortions. The rule "runs out the clock".

Brett:

You say you "oppose third trimester abortions" -- but they're already pretty much illegal in the US. However, I strongly recommend that you read It's So Personal, the collection of stories about late-term abortion decisions that Andrew Sullivan collected after Dr. Tiller's assassination.

Very late abortions are the *most* necessary, because they happen only in cases of medical catastrophe, where something has already gone terribly wrong.

For instance, I know someone who had a so-called "partial birth abortion" -- because she was carrying twins and one of the them started dying. I'm not certain that the aborted twin was 100% completely dead when they got it out, but the doctors really didn't have time for a lot of tests if they were going to keep the healthy twin from dying, too.

The upshot was that we ended up with a dead baby, a healthy mom and a healthy, full-term baby, instead of 2 or even 3 dead people. Do you *still* object?

already pretty much illegal in the US

Not-quite-OT: what Dr. Kermit Gosnell did has him up for eight counts of murder, last I saw.

Worthy of noting, I think. There are laws in place to keep the slope from becoming frictionless.

I am forced to conclude that [pro-life political groups] don't really truly believe that abortion is murder, much less genocide -- unless they think that contraception is *worse*, which not even the Catholic Church has been willing to come out and clearly say.

I think the abortion issue in the US gets a lot of its staying power from the plurality of people in group 'A' above, who tend to get squeamish and vague about legal issues - certainly including making abortion legally tantamount to murder; they are just 'against abortion'. They're viscero-reflexively repelled by it, and it's a short circuit: abortion! = vote Republican. That's why the GOP gins up the issue relentlessly. I've said it before: the pols on the GOP side pray that the abortion issue is *never* settled - it's electoral gravy for them. If I were an angry intemperate Liberal, I'd call it 'pimping fetuses'.

OT: May I just note here the absurdity of calling the church of Augustine, et. al. - a church based on the 'fallen' and polluted nature of life on earth, and BTW signally obsessed with the mortification of the body - a 'culture of life'? I'm not trying to bait any Catholics here, just gagging on the irony.

Completely OT, but funny, IMO:

It's best if you don't get your moral compass completely bollixed up.

So I would say no, abortions do *not* normally kill babies, nor people, nor human persons. No functioning brain, no person.

So, if it could be established that there was a functioning brain, would your view change?

There's a reason I put "pro-life" in quotes in my post -- if they were all seamless garment types who were as strongly anti-war, anti-death penalty and pro-universal health care as they are anti-abortion, I would take them more seriously.

Leaving the extremes off to one side, some wars are justified, there is a qualitative difference between a convicted capital murderer and an unborn child and there are other, valid reasons for opposing universal health care, cost being one (along with a number of subsidiary issues, such as rationing), the notion of 'universal' being a bit of a misnomer with waivers and whatnot existing for some but not others and individual mandates. Being opposed to "universal healthcare" is not being pro-death.

Finally, this post is a substantive argument in favor of abortion on demand for any reason or for no reason. Fine. But what about people who think Roe is bad law and who believe, as you argue here, the issue should be decided on the merits, not by a majority of 9 justices?

It seems to me that if abortion is an unqualified right, you should just say so. There's no need to justify the right if it's there. But, really, there are arguments against abortion as a means of birth control, for convenience, because one sex is preferred over another. You can say, as you do, "no brain, no human", but it invites the counter: if left undisturbed, the vast majority of fetuses will be born as human beings and that, at some point prior to birth, all of the criteria you use to justify the right to abort come into existence.

Has nobody heard of "statutory" rape??

Like grown men "seducing" 14-year-olds? Sure, make the little minx have the baby. It'll teach her a valuable lesson.

I think the points McKT in the second half of his post at least merit discussion.
To distill it a bit: those are
1.Roe's formal validity as a decision
2.Questionable reasons for abortions
3.What value to put on potential humanity

1.
On the first point quite some consent can be found between both defenders and opponents that the decision was far from ideal from a formal point of view and many pro people would favorably greet a reversal provided it got replaced by something with a more solid fundament achieving the same essential results even if it included some reasonable restrictions. And imo a significant number of opponents could agree on a compromise along the line some of European countries. That would leave (and expose) the real extremists.
But in the prevailing atmosphere in the US such a transition would be imo completely impossible. Given the choice only between all or nothing (=total ban) I would vote for the former, although I have strong reservations.

2.McKT names actually two real reasons for abortions that are in essence culturally imposed on the woman. Maybe not in the US but in some other countries selective abortion based on the sex of the fetus has become a real problem and that these countries try to stop it by legal means has imo a certain degree of moral legitimacy (as long as there are also attempts to get rid of the factors that cause it). It can backfire though. In India many girls get murdered as infants and that is clearly even worse than an early abortion of the same.
Abortion as contraception is imo these days almost completely the result of legal or 'moral' restrictions of the use of contraceptives. It has been mentioned above already: if contraception = abortion = murder then the 'natural' choice is to go with the option one has to take least often (a few abortions are better than constant contraception).
I know that 'convenience' abortions do occur and I find them simply abhorrent but I think they are such a small part of the pie that it is better to tolerate the few of those than to cause much more harm by making justifiable difficult or impossible to obtain.
3.
I think here we come to the point where even the most reasonable people can disagree and so I'll keep my two cents on that.

I definitely dashed off my post too quickly because I was rushing to leave for work, so I am sorry for being unclear. The tone quote usage I objected to was "statutory rape" because I felt Brett was implying that statutory rape doesn't count as real rape. There are probably marginal statutory cases where I would agree with Brett that a rape charge was unjust, given proximity of age and the putative victim testifying that he or she gave consent, but I don't like putting "statutory rape" in quotes since it conflates those marginal cases with cases such as my hypo, which are clearly abhorrent to us (malum in se, to use something I learned from True Grit).

I don't understand why you thought that I meant or said or implied that the US legal definition of rape is beyond reproach. The aspect of US law that I meant to endorse is that force is not a prerequisite for rape. That endorsement is not meant to constitute a blanket endorsement of US legal definitions of rape.

If I misunderstood your objection, I hope you'll explain it.

McKinney: "But what about people who think Roe is bad law and who believe, as you argue here, the issue should be decided on the merits, not by a majority of 9 justices?"

Hartmut: "quite some consent can be found between both defenders and opponents that the decision was far from ideal from a formal point of view and many pro people would favorably greet a reversal provided it got replaced by something with a more solid fundament achieving the same essential results even if it included some reasonable restrictions."

Let me just say that if we actually had a discussion on the decision of Roe v. Wade, I would argue that it is not only good law, but one of the most well-founded and compassionate decisions I've read (and I've read many, many). It would be fun to have a discussion about it. Of course, its detractors claim that dividing a pregancy into trimesters and adjusting society's interests according to those trimesters was a legislative, not judicial, act. But the underlying balance of interests that supported the decision was very much a judicial act. I find the opinion very moving to read.

I've never understood this debate.

If abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then abortion should not be permitted even in cases of rape or incest. If abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then I can't think of any real-world scenario that would justify abortion other than a serious medical threat to the life of the pregnant woman.

If abortion is not a moral wrong, then abortion should be permitted for any reason at all up to and including "because its Tuesday." This holds even if abortion is a serious matter- getting a tattoo on your face is a serious decision, but its not a moral decision, so you should be able to get one any time you want for any reason.

The only way that arguing about the reasons for an abortion matters is if you think there's at least something wrong with getting an abortion, and you want to compare that wrong with the context that led to the decision.

For myself, I don't think abortion is a moral wrong. So... that's kind of an end to the debate, really. You don't need to argue about the context in which people do things if those things aren't moral wrongs.

Or if you're using it as a rhetorical hammer. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. How people react to rhetorical hammers can be useful information. For example, a lot of conservatives seem to react by denigrating rape victims. That tells you something about how they think about sex, which can let you draw inferences about their motivations in opposing abortion.

there are other, valid reasons for opposing universal health care, cost being one (along with a number of subsidiary issues, such as rationing), the notion of 'universal' being a bit of a misnomer with waivers and whatnot existing for some but not others and individual mandates.

But those are not moral arguments, which is the area in which the Catholic Church claims special expertise and in which the "culture of life" claims are always framed. Hardly anyone particularly cares what the Vatican thinks of the economic ramifications of the ACA and its possible alternatives, and it's not something they feel compelled to comment on. (Similarly, their thoughts on just war theory don't lead them to consider whether, e.g., having an air force as a separate service branch is right or wrong. Not every detail of implementation carries moral weight.)

sapient, I would not disagree with the result or intention of Roe but I know a number of people with legal background that think that the conclusion was reached the wrong way and that there would have been far better and less 'attackable' foundations available.
Not being a legal expert even at home, I cannot really judge that.
It has a long tradition in the US though to base longlasting precedent (good or bad) on bad initial reasoning.

"I know a number of people with legal background that think that the conclusion was reached the wrong way and that there would have been far better and less 'attackable' foundations available."

I know that these people exist, and they are people I respect, but I respectfully disagree with them. Unfortunately, their views are so pervasive in the discussion that they are taken as gospel by well-informed people such as you, Hartmut, who decline to form an independent view on the basis that YANAL.

.For example, a lot of conservatives seem to react by denigrating rape victims.

Patrick, I picked this out of your comment because it is unnecessary and has high potential for digression. Any useful discussion on Roe or abortion has to exclude the extremes on both sides. In fact, this is probably a useful limit on any worthwhile discussion: ignore the extremes and get to the merits. I am not on board with most of the rest of your well presented comment, but don't have time for the thought and analysis needed to make a solid response.

Hogan, I agree my arguments are not moral arguments. They were expressly non-moral in the sense that I was pointing out to Dr. S, who was arguing a moral comparison, that opposition to universal healthcare does not have, in every instance, a moral component. As opposed to war and the death penalty, that is.

Hartmut/Sapient--exactly, some think it's good law, others disagree, others go the next step and say it's for the states to decide. I am in the latter camp.

Unfortunately, I have a schedule for the next two weeks that makes meaningful participation in this thread impossible. I may drop in from time to time, but please don't take my non-response as rudeness. I really am jammed, slammed and underwater.

If I misunderstood your objection, I hope you'll explain it.

I see now that you were only objecting to what you imagined to be Brett's objection to a legal definition for statutory rape.

I don't see Brett objecting to statutory rape so much as using statutory rape as a counter-move to the notion that "forcible rape" is redundant; IOW he is granting standing to the idea of statutory rape, not denying standing. I also saw that Brett was also raising some objections to nonspecific situations where rape may be charged that aren't really rape. I might be indulging in some mindreading, there, but that's how I read Brett.

I hope that clarifies some. If not, I can give it another go.

Of course, since McKinney isn't around to explain his comment that "exactly, some think it's good law, others disagree, others go the next step and say it's for the states to decide. I am in the latter camp," and since he's probably the only one here who would argue for that position, it won't be any fun to engage in such an argument.

But just to throw it out there, I'm not sure why the states should have been left to decide whether a woman has a Fourteenth Amendment constitutional right (whether it be a privacy or liberty interest, or both) to make decisions about her own medical care. The scope of the Fourteenth Amendment seems like a federal Constitutional issue to me.

wonkie:

Of your list of atrocities: there's a Repubican in South Carolina ( I think) who wants the word "victim" to be removmed from laws concerning rape, stalking and domestic violence and replaced with "accuser."

It was a state legislator from Georgia, and I think it's the most blatant indication that the real argument isn't about abortion.

Patrick:

I've never understood this debate.

That's because it isn't a debate. It's a subjugation. It's separating women from rights they'd have if they were men. Seriously, a receiver of a rape cannot be called a victim until the man who is accused is convicted? If the wrong guy is tried, hasn't she still been attacked?

If the very first post in this thread is concerned about parsing contraceptives vs. abortifacients, then we're already in big trouble here.

Is there situation analogous to abortion where the state intervenes to require a person, upon pain of punishment, to risk life and limb to save the life of another?

I mean, carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth is not without real risk to the the mother, and even if everything goes according to plan it is not a pleasant experience even for those who want to do so(indeed, it is decidedly painful and unpleasant).

So, is there anything akin to this in western society (let's say) outside of requiring a pregnant woman to give birth via criminalizing abortion in some manner?

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

I've been told that once you begin administering CPR to someone, you have to continue until a legal authority (not sure whom, maybe an emergency worker) declares the victim dead or until recovery. I don't see anything to that effect in the WP article, any EMTs or first responders who know the specifics? Not sure if the duty to continue CPR overrides your personal safety concerns, I would assume not.

Perhaps all women have a duty to host in vitro embryos in their uteri, under the duty to rescue theory. Maybe we should let the states decide.

Julian - thanks, though as the WP article notes there doesn't appear to be a duty place oneself in significant peril to rescue others nor does there appear to be a duty to rescue that lasts, e.g., many months.

'tis pity McKinney Texas won't be around, but I'll address some of his points anyway.

if left undisturbed, the vast majority of fetuses will be born as human beings

This is absolutely 100% false. "If left undisturbed" all fetuses, without exception, will die. They *must* be actively sustained to live and grow -- the woman's body is not a mere passive container.

I also wonder whether forcing a woman to carry a child to term should be considered "involuntary servitude" under the 13th Amendment.

I've been told that once you begin administering CPR to someone, you have to continue until a legal authority (not sure whom, maybe an emergency worker) declares the victim dead or until recovery.

Having recently taken a Red Cross CPR class, this is not quite right. You're under no obligation to start or continue CPR if doing so places you in danger.

This is absolutely 100% false. "If left undisturbed" all fetuses, without exception, will die. They *must* be actively sustained to live and grow -- the woman's body is not a mere passive container.

If anything this position is highlighted by the way that US culture focuses on policing pregnant women's behavior with regard to cigarettes, alcohol, food choice, pre-natal vitamins, etc.

Ugh is on to something there

@Patrick: If abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then abortion should not be permitted even in cases of rape or incest. If abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then I can't think of any real-world scenario that would justify abortion other than a serious medical threat to the life of the pregnant woman.

I actually come at this from a slightly different (albeit closely related) angle.

IF you believe that life begins at conception (which is why abortion is murder), and

if your church routinely performs funeral services when a member of the congregation dies (which I believe is usual),

do you then hold a funeral service whenever a woman in your congregation has a miscarriage? And if not (which is virtually always the case), what is your rationale for not doing so?

Somehow, I rarely get an answer to that question.

If life begins at conception, the architect slaughters a lot of innocents: around 80% of conceptions either don't implant in the uterus or miscarry within a few weeks.

do you then hold a funeral service whenever a woman in your congregation has a miscarriage? And if not (which is virtually always the case), what is your rationale for not doing so?

Somehow, I rarely get an answer to that question.

Well, yes, because it's a bullshit question. After all, why should you really be surprised if someone is inconsistent in this manner? We all are. This is why Wittgenstein rejected general definitions; they're a toy of philosophers (a person is defined as having attributes a-g, etc.) but have little to do with the way we live, speak and conceive of the world.

"I might be indulging in some mindreading, there, but that's how I read Brett.""

Yeah, that's pretty much my point. There's been a lot of verbiage in the last couple of days, to exactly the effect that "forcible rape" is redundant, and I think that's nonsense. That doesn't mean that all, or even most, rapes which aren't "forcible" aren't really rape. "Forcible" has a meaning, and it's possible to do horrible things to people without employing force. It's also possible for an act to be legally rape without anything AT ALL being morally wrong about it.

It's also, regrettably, and quite contrary to the claims of some feminists, quite possible for a woman to lie about whether she was raped, and who did it, which is why, no matter who convenient some might find it, we can't dispense with the presumption of innocence in the case of this one crime.


"If abortion is morally equivalent to murder, then abortion should not be permitted even in cases of rape or incest."

And the law in question didn't have anything at all to do with "permitting" abortion, just whether it would be funded by the taxpayers. Those aren't the same thing, and most rights are understood to exist even without the government writing somebody a check.

"Not-quite-OT: what Dr. Kermit Gosnell did has him up for eight counts of murder, last I saw.

Worthy of noting, I think. There are laws in place to keep the slope from becoming frictionless."

And no lack of people determined to keep those laws from working, and grease the slope, which is why those eight counts represent just a tiny, recent fraction of Gosnell's killings over the years: There were people who knew what he was doing, and meant to keep him doing it. Let's not pretend otherwise, he wasn't hiding under a stone.

And quite likely there are other Gosnells out there, not hiding, but benefiting from pro-choicers who don't support late term abortion of viable infants, but who don't, you know, want anything done to stop them, either.

why should you really be surprised if someone is inconsistent in this manner?

Actually, I'm not surprised. But that's because my experience tells me that the overwhelming majority of those who claim a religious basis for opposing all abortions don't really believe their own arguments.

They don't believe life begins at conception. But they do believe that sex, specifically sex outside wedlock, should be punished. Preferably by a forced marriage. But being a single girl trying to bring up a child alone at least provides a horrible example to deter others. But since admitting that you don't care much about the baby, just punishing the mother, would lose support, better to go with a false (but more supportable) argument.

That is also why they oppose both contraceptives and sex education. Too much information might undermine the case for punishing sex. Which is what's really important to them.

Brett:

The problem with the "forcible rape" stipulation isn't that it's *redundant*, it's that it's *restrictive*. "Forcible rape" means that only a rape where the woman fights back -- enough to satisfy prosecutors or a jury -- actually counts. You can read some harrowing examples of this old legal standard at Sady Doyle's.

McKinney Texas wrote:

"Patrick, I picked this out of your comment because it is unnecessary and has high potential for digression. Any useful discussion on Roe or abortion has to exclude the extremes on both sides. In fact, this is probably a useful limit on any worthwhile discussion: ignore the extremes and get to the merits."

I'm sorry, McKinney, but you don't get to make that pronouncement. Already in this thread we have had one person characterize women as changing their mind after sex and then accusing their partner of rape. And the whole conversation was kicked off by someone who attempted to pass a law driving a wedge between rape they consider to be more serious or more victimizing than other rape.

So suck it up, I guess. I understand that you don't wish to be associated with those people. But the proper method of distancing yourself from them is to actually distance yourself from them- not to cry social faux pas when liberals discuss or address people you wish liberals would ignore.

Brett: "It's also, regrettably, and quite contrary to the claims of some feminists, quite possible for a woman to lie about whether she was raped, and who did it, which is why, no matter who convenient some might find it, we can't dispense with the presumption of innocence in the case of this one crime."

I agree that it's difficult to convict someone of rape when the only evidence is testimony of an alleged victim. But Doctor Science's post wasn't about the standard of proof for convicting a defendant. It was about a woman's right to obtain an abortion if she's been raped. First of all, a woman shouldn't have to prove "rape" in order to obtain an abortion. But certainly if there's a law against her being able to obtain an abortion except in the case of rape or incest, she shouldn't have to do more than testify to the rape in order to obtain the abortion. Her testimony could then be one item of evidence in any potential conviction of the rapist.

"It's also possible for an act to be legally rape without anything AT ALL being morally wrong about it. "

I don't understand this sentence. Are you saying that rape can be a moral act?

"It's also possible for an act to be legally rape without anything AT ALL being morally wrong about it. "

I don't understand this sentence. Are you saying that rape can be a moral act?

Brett can of course answer for himself. But as I understand it, if the age of consent is 18, and an 18-year-old and a 17-year-old have sex, and there is no exemption for people who are close in age, then even if the people involved, or you or I, believed it was consensual, legally there has been a rape.

But has there been any moral wrong? It depends on the circumstances, of course, but as for me, in most cases I doubt it.

Well, if abortion is the 'murder' of a 'person', then....

women who commission an abortion should get life in prison or capital punishment....

as pointed out above, all miscarriages should result in a funeral......

all fertilized embryos at fertility clinics should be implanted and carried to term. Perhaps we need to institute a draft.....

all uterine implantations should be monitored with alarms to insure prompt attention in the event of possible miscarriage.....

fetuses should be issued a SSN, fingerprinted, and be subjected to background checks to insure they are not terrorists.....

all sex should be subject to obtaining a permit to insure if said proposed act is intended to propagate the species or not.....

drinking or drug taking during pregnancy should result in prosecution and prison time......

males who engage in sex leading to unanticipated conception should be charged as accessories or co-conspirators in the event of an abortion......

the right of all fetuses to bear firearms shall not be abridged....

But mostly, it is simply tragic to see a bunch of guys declaiming on the rights of women who face this terrible decision. I mean really...what if the shoe was on the other foot? I don't see a lot of empathy here. To me it's simply this:

WHO GETS TO DECIDE?

And the answer is equally obvious: THE WOMAN.

Thanks Jamie. I didn't think of statutory rape.

Ah, Abortion On The Internet! The time when a bunch of men get together and decide what women should be permitted to do with their bodies.

It's also, regrettably, and quite contrary to the claims of some feminists, quite possible for a woman to lie about whether she was raped,

Yeah, it's estimated that less than 10% of rape accusations turn out to be false IIRC. Rape is actually the most underreported crime out there. I find, generally speaking, that people who are hung up on false rape accusations -- and make no mistake, you bring it up every single time that rape or abortion are the topic of discussion, and I can prove it -- have some other axe to grind. What it is, I can only speculate.

and who did it, which is why, no matter who convenient some might find it, we can't dispense with the presumption of innocence in the case of this one crime.

Nobody is talking about doing any such thing.

"Yeah, it's estimated that less than 10% of rape accusations turn out to be false IIRC. Rape is actually the most underreported crime out there."

It's quite possible, you know, for rape to be both under reported AND over reported, in the sense that a lot of real rapes go unreported, and a fair number of unreal rapes get reported. What's the rate for false accusations of armed robbery? Assault?

"Nobody is talking about doing any such thing."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/10/AR2010121006996.html>Oh, really? Perhaps you don't listen to feminists much, or just don't reason through the import of what they're saying.

and a fair number of unreal rapes get reported.

Except that's not true, and the statistics bear it out.

What's the rate for false accusations of armed robbery? Assault?

Beats the shit out of me! You brought it up, you tell me.

Why are you so hung up on false rape accusations, Brett?

Some congregations perform funerals (or a similar ceremony) in cases of miscarriage if the mother desires it. I have heard that it is a common practice in Japan (non-Christian). Maybe lj has something to say about that. My memory is a bit fuzzy there but I think I have also heard of beliefs that the spirit of a child that was miscarried/aborted/etc. will try again and again until it's finally born properly. This kind of belief takes a lot of 'guilt' away from the process.
---
I have no statistics but false claims of assault seem to be a constant nuisance for police forces, especially if a political motive has to be suspected. Over here the most notorious cases are those of people cutting themselves in swastika shape and claiming that they have been attacked by nazi skinheads. What's especially perfidious there is that there are lots of real attacks but the few false claims make it easy to ignore them if convenient.
----
sapient, I have not made a claim of merit about the Roe decision. I just stated that people I consider as informed and reasonable have their doubts.
I may state that I personally do not like the system of precedent based law at all (for the same reason that I loathe the 'tradition' system of the RCC). Precedent (or falsly assumed precedent as in 'Corporations are people') is imo far too open to abuse.

Oh, really? Perhaps you don't listen to feminists much, or just don't reason through the import of what they're saying.

I am a loss to connect the linked piece to any attempt to dispense with the presumption of innocence. Can you please explain what you're talking about?

See, Brett, here's how I know you have a larger bone to pick: You aren't applying your usual . . . rigor? OK, let's go with "rigor," to the topic at hand.

1. For the sake of argument, let's stipulate to the FBI's estimate that 8% of forcible rape charges turn out to be unfounded. My reply to that is, "So what?"

If I were to tell you that -- again, for the sake of argument -- 8% of all firearms in circulation were eventually used in the commission of a violent crime, or that 8% of all legal CCW holders would commit a violent crime, your reply would almost certainly be a dismissive "So what?" As rightly it should.

It means that 92% of all forcible rape reports are real. Ninety-two percent! That's close to statistical certainty that any given case is a real one. And we're talking here about a crime that even you concede is underreported, so the probability is probably even higher, since we can both conclude that an unreported case is a real case.

2. The reasons why rapes are underreported are the very reasons that make false reports vanishingly unlikely. Women who report being raped, in addition to the physical and mental trauma of the rape itself, are going to be subjected to humiliating medical examinations, subjected to humiliating and skeptical questioning by police investigators, and are going to be examined, second-guessed and slut-shamed by attorneys and media, up to and including both tacit and open insinuations practically asked for the crime to be committed.

The number of women who would willingly put themselves through that when it didn't happen is so small as to be ignorable.

So the fact that, as soon as rape or abortion is mentioned, you jump straight to "WHAT ABOUT TEH FALSE ACCUSATIONS?!?!" indicates that something else is going on. If I were speculating, I'd get into the intersection of so-called libertarianism with the "men's rights" movement, but I'm not going to speculate.

erhaps you don't listen to feminists much, or just don't reason through the import of what they're saying.

I'd venture to guess that I know a hell of a lot more feminists than you do. I sure don't know any who believe in the elimination of the presumption of innocence for rape or any other crime. Nor does the WaPo article you link to advocate any such thing, and to say that it does is a simple and easily disprovable lie.

I wouldn't put too much weight on Catholic "moral wrongs". Some Catholic theology tends to be rather disconnected from scripture.

And reality, for that matter. IMVHO, and with no disrespect intended toward practicing Catholics.

More to the point, the fact that some subset of the population objects to a practice on religious grounds is not a sufficient reason to make it unavailable to everybody else.

No ham for you! No coffee! No charging interest for loans! Try some of those on and see how it works out.

As I read it, Roe is about the best job of walking a tightrope between the various positions on abortion that could be imagined. It's probably about as good as we're going to get.

This argument will never end.

Abortion is a question of dueling rights. The rights of a woman vs. the rights of a zygote/embryo/fetus. I don't believe that a zygote (note: that's the first 4 days) has the full rights of a human being and, therefore, the woman's rights trump. Ditto for an embryo (note: 4 days to 8 weeks).

However, I believe a full-term fetus (38+ weeks) has the right to life, trumping the woman's right to kill it. The question, for me, is when, exactly, the developing fetus acquires enough rights to block the woman's right to have it killed. For me, based on the above, somewhere between 8 and 38 weeks (during which time a LOT happens).

Honestly, I'm not exactly sure where to draw that line. "Viability" has problems, because it's a fuzzy line that moves with technology. IIUC, some states use 24 weeks, which looks like an effort at hitting that mark (though I would hope there is a carveout for the rare instances when the mother's health is in grave danger b/c of the pregnancy - hell, even if you think abortion is murder, there's a thing called justifiable homicide). It's better than banning abortion outright. It's also better, IMO, than allowing abortion-on-demand all the way up to full-term (health of the woman immediately trumps all objections and thus a "late term" abortion justified by health risk to the woman is always gonna be ok by me).

The thing is... I'm still very uncomfortable with the idea of even partial bans (i.e. no abortion after X weeks except in XYZ circumstances). Who am I to say? The above is my rough cut at the right answer, but damn it's rough. So on that basis I'm going to dictate to someone else? Ugh. I am also very leary of the motivations of the "pro-life" movement, for reasons that have been adequately expressed above.

These arguments were invalid in 1861, and still are in 2011:

If you think slavery is wrong, then don’t own one.
If you think abortion is wrong, then don’t have one.

It’s my property and my choice what I do with it.
It’s my body and my choice what I do with it.

The government shouldn’t interfere with a state’s rights.
The government shouldn’t interfere with a woman’s rights.

If the slaves were free, they couldn’t take care of themselves.
If abortion were stopped, there would be unwanted children.

It’s all right to sleep with them, but they are not equal.
It’s all right to use their organs and tissue, but they are not people.

People will own slaves anyway, so we should just regulate the trade.
People will have abortions anyway, so we should just make them hygienic.

They sing, they weep, they pray, but do they have souls?
They have heartbeats, brainwaves, distinct genetic codes, but are they human?

Abortion and slavery are not even close to being the same.

In order to argue it, you have to actually believe that an adult human being and a zygote are morally the same, which is ridiculous. One is a person. The other is a potential person. At times, it's: a) a clump of cells; b) a tadpole; c) a recognizeably human baby with brainwaves and such.

The people who were slaves existed and would exist whether or not anybody owned them. Their forebears did, in fact, back in Africa before people came and took them by force. The arguments about how they couldn't take care of themselves were obvious falsehoods when they were written. The people who owned them did not suffer any added pain, health risks, or any other harm by owning them. On the contrary, slave ownership was benificial (when the economics worked, particularly after the invention of the cotton gin) to the owners, who enriched themselves by stealing the labor of other people.

Conversely, pregnancy is no picnic. There are serious health risks, there is a good deal of pain, etc. A pregnant woman is the sole support for a developing zygote/embryo/fetus. Without her, it dies, end of story. Now consider an unwanted pregnancy. The woman does not consent to support the zygote/embryo/fetus. You propose to force her? On what basis?

Abortion is a question of dueling rights. The rights of a woman vs. the rights of a zygote/embryo/fetus. ... The question, for me, is when, exactly, the developing fetus acquires enough rights to block the woman's right to have it killed.

I used to think of abortion in those terms but I don't think it's quite the right frame. It would be if we were talking about two individuals capable of surviving apart from one another, but we're not.

As such, we're not just talking about blocking a woman's right to have the fetus killed, but also forcing the woman to continue to carry the fetus to term and undergo childbirth. It is this latter situation that I was asking for an analogy to above. If abortions were banned at 24 weeks, that four full months of unwanted pregnancy followed by childbirth (natural or c-section).

I think that's untenable and, indeed, unconstitutional for numerous reasons. Indeed, if we imposed four months of pregnancy followed by childbirth as punishment for a crime I think it would easily fall within the bar of cruel and unusual punishment and, indeed, would amount to torture.

How do we then justify imposing such a burden on someone who has committed no crime?

Ugh,

Yeah, I got to that in my response to MKS's slavery comparison. You're right about that, and it changes the calculus.

Which, in the end, is why I come back down to what I said in the final paragraph of my first post (who am I?).

If abortions were banned at 24 weeks, that four full months of unwanted pregnancy followed by childbirth (natural or c-section).

I don't know that this invalidates Rob's framing. It seems to me that this only leads to an argument for a different number. Then again (thinking as I type), once you get to a certain point, the answer is not an abortion, but a live birth of some sort, on-demand, unless there is some reason that an abortion is significantly safer for the woman.

I guess I'd put it this way - if a woman wants to end a pregnancy and it's possible to do so reasonably safely without the fetus dying in the process, there's no need for an abortion.

I'm very, very, very open to a counter argument based on significanly lower risks of later-term abortions relative to live births. I just don't know how much safer an abortion is that late in the pregnancy than a birth, or if there's a way to address the problems of child birth with the emphasis on the safety of the woman rather than the fetus such that it allows for the possibility of live birth at much lower risk to the woman, but much higher risk to the fetus, than would a typical birth where the primary goal is to deliver a living infant.

I invite you-all to look at "John Rambo"'s comment as a specimen. The text is C&Ped from the cited blog; "John Rambo" is in fact an MBA from north-east India.

I assumed Rambo was either trolling or attempting performance art. I was leaning toward the former, and thus chose to ignore. DNFTT.

Rambo's offering reminded me of http://www.citehr.com/266200-she-looking-perfect-man.html>this, which I've seen in a number of versions over the years.

Or in other words, I don't see that American men are any better (or worse) than American women. As if you could usefully generalize in the first place.

Other than the entertainment value, I agree that there's no Rambo substance worth responding to.

*****

Meanwhile, back on topic, this discussion reminded me of a couple of http://crookedtimber.org/2010/01/23/thomsons-violinist-what-is-the-point-of-thought-experiments-in-moral-philosophy/>Crooked http://crookedtimber.org/2010/01/28/moral-philosophy-casuistry-and-the-ethics-of-organ-donation/>Timber threads from a year or so ago. Just in case anyone is interested.

hairshirthedonist:

significanly lower risks of later-term abortions relative to live births.

*Of course* abortions are much lower-risk. Think about it: my first labor was 5 hours and that was considered "getting off easy", even though it was the most work and the most pain of *my life*. Not to mention details like very significant "normal" blood loss (which I happen to recover from quite slowly), and becoming so exhausted that the midwives were getting ready to transfer me to the hospital next door, and [redacted for TMI].

The average first labor is more like 12 hours, and I know someone who was in labor for *3 days*. There's at least a 1/3 chance of a C-section, which is major surgery.

At every stage of pregnancy, abortion is *always* less risky.

a typical birth where the primary goal is to deliver a living infant

Absolutely untrue. The primary goal of an uncomplicated labor is to have *both* parties alive and healthy. If you absolutely have to make a choice -- which is exceedingly rare these days, but was a fact of obstetric life in all earlier eras -- saving the *woman's* life is the primary goal. Not least because the chances of the baby dying anyway have always been significant, so if you (the doctor/midwife) prioritize saving the woman, you're much more likely to have *someone* alive for your efforts two months from now, when the bills come due.

Building off what DS just said...

Hell, I know someone who was in labor for *5* days (she was dead set on "natural" childbirth and only caved when the docs drew a line in the sand). Labor is no freaking joke.

Of my group of close friends, a slight majority of births have been C-sections. Not because anybody *wanted* them, but because they were medically the right call for various reasons. Placenta problems, breech position, amniotic sac leaking at 34 weeks (my wife), the aforementioned 5-day labor (she wasn't dilating properly)... stuff like that. And that's a bunch of healthy, well-cared for folks.

I just realized that "John Rambo" is very likely doing search-engine optimization spam -- the blog owner has outsourced the spamming to India, I figure -- so I'm deleting him with prejudice.

My comment was based on admitted ignorance about the risks of late-term abortions, not a belief that pregnancy and child birth are somehow "easy." I have witnessed three live births, one vaginal (induced early) and two by C-section, and lived with my wife throughout all three of her pregnacies and subsequent recoveries from child birth. All three pregnancies and births had complications, thus the inducement and C-sections.

What I lack any experience with or significant knowledge of is late-term abortion. As I wrote, I was very, very, very open to counter argument, and because I trust Doc Sci, I will take her word on the relative risks of late-term (post-viability) abortion v. live birth. But the details regarding child birth in the comments from Doc Sci and Rob regard the wrong side of the question for me.

Russell:

"This argument will never end."

Show me a single argument in American history that has ended. Meanwhile, the internet and other media in this culture have as their marketing life's blood the unending nature of all argument. It's a type of American masturbation, which of course does nothing to lessen either rape, abortion, or arguing.

We are arguably permanently aroused argumentatively. If we weren't, some large percentage of the GDP would disappear.

It's like George Carlin's complaint about whichever Commandment warns against coveting thy neighbor's goods --- well, goodbye American economy.

Meanwhile, this guy should move to the U.S. and get elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives -- he meets all the requirements:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8301100/Court-bans-man-with-low-IQ-from-having-sex.html

I especially like the stipulation that the fellow's sexual activity be closely supervised except when he's alone in his bedroom.

Rambo and David Vitter take note.

From here (quick googling - don't know if there's an agenda, and emphasis mine): http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from one death for every one million abortions at or before eight weeks to one per 29,000 at 16–20 weeks—and one per 11,000 at 21 or more weeks.[13]


Footnote:
13. Bartlett LA et al., Risk factors for legal induced abortion-related mortality in the United States, Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2004, 103(4):729–737.

And from here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20427256/ns/health-pregnancy/

The U.S. maternal mortality rate rose to 13 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2004, according to statistics released this week by the National Center for Health Statistics.

1 in 11,000 works out to about 9 in 100,000. That's a difference of 4 in 100,000. That's only a measure of mortality, not other health risks, but it's fairly close in absolute terms. I'm not sure how to weigh those numbers in deciding what to think about late-term abortions, in a very general way. Individual cases with specific, known risks to the woman would be a different story, of course, making these stats moot.

russell: "As I read it, Roe is about the best job of walking a tightrope between the various positions on abortion that could be imagined. It's probably about as good as we're going to get."

This is absolutely true. And Blackmun walked the tightrope so brilliantly and with such intellectual attention and honesty that Roe v. Wade is an inspired piece of writing. It's also instructive to read not only Blackmun's opinion, but the other justices (especially since we have such easy access to many of the historical underpinnings of the law via the Internet) to learn about some of the attitudes that existed at the time and beforehand.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think the law is too ill-suited in real-world applications to make meaningful distinctions about such relative risks, so it should be left out of individual decisions on late-term abortion v. (attempted) live birth, regardless of what I'm coming to think are purely academic questions of relative risks and their moral implications.

(I hope everyone is enjoying my real-time, on-line equivocation.)

(I hope everyone is enjoying my real-time, on-line equivocation.)

Let me know when you run out of other hands; I have a couple I'm not using.

Hmmm...musing further out loud, I think that the most reasonable conclusion is that abortion should be available, on demand, to any pregnant woman until she is no longer pregnant.

I think that follows from the view that (i) the forced continuance of a pregnancy is akin to, if not the same as, involuntary servitude; and (ii) forced childbirth, and probably in many ways forced pregnancy, is torture. The state, not being in a position to constitutionally inflict torture or impose involuntary servitude (absent conviction for a crime) on anyone, at least in the United States, therefore can't criminalize abortion.

Thoughts anyone?

HSH --

Thanks for looking up the stats. It's also important to know that late-term abortions almost always involve a pregnancy that has turned to high (or catastrophic) risk, where the chances of the baby getting out alive have already plummeted.

I should note that I don't mean to suggest that there aren't other equally compelling reasons why the state shouldn't be able to criminalize abortion.

"I think that follows from the view that (i) the forced continuance of a pregnancy is akin to, if not the same as, involuntary servitude; and (ii) forced childbirth, and probably in many ways forced pregnancy, is torture. The state, not being in a position to constitutionally inflict torture or impose involuntary servitude (absent conviction for a crime) on anyone, at least in the United States, therefore can't criminalize abortion."

As with other things that are defined as killing someone (self defense, accidental death, etc.)we have defined abortion as a justifiable act. I am fine with that. Pretty much all of the other subtlety (anti torture, involuntary servitude) seems too much of stretch to me, and unnecessary.

I find myself wanting to scream at the the screen sometimes that I am both anti-abortion and pro-choice and I find nothing inconsistent in that view.

I also find it consistent with my view that in the absence of a compelling reason the government shouldn't be the arbiter of personal moral decisions. Abortion, drugs, euthenasia, etc.

I also don't think teaching contraception to fifth graders is a brilliant idea unless the parent has decided that fifth grader is mature enough to have the right kind of conversation about the subject.

I also think that having a discussion about the common sense of abstinence along with any contraception discussion should be mandatory.

But then I think you should try everything to prevent unwanted prenancy in teenagers and we should, as a society, take a much dimmer view of adults that don't take proper precautions and resort to abortions of convenience. Much like we take a dim view of those of us who still smoke.

We should do all those things.

It's also important to know that late-term abortions almost always involve a pregnancy that has turned to high (or catastrophic) risk, where the chances of the baby getting out alive have already plummeted.

Point well taken.

Ugh,

I follow the logic, but that does leave the fetus out of the equation entirely.

It's one thing to hold the rights of a woman to be greater than those of a fetus (I do). It's another, I think, to accord the fetus no rights whatsoever.

So no, I don't think that's the right answer. But as always, I'm not sure about it and have no desire to use the law to enforce my version of the right answer.

"But as always, I'm not sure about it and have no desire to use the law to enforce my version of the right answer." Fortunately, Rob in CT, your views accord with Roe v. Wade, as to most people's.

Yes. There is the moral debate and there is the legal debate. There is substantial overlap, but they're not the same thing. One can wrestle with the morality of abortion but ultimately conclude the the law is a clumsy thing to wield here.

I follow the logic, but that does leave the fetus out of the equation entirely.It's one thing to hold the rights of a woman to be greater than those of a fetus (I do). It's another, I think, to accord the fetus no rights whatsoever.

Yeah, I came up against this when I started to re-read Roe v. Wade.

Sort of thinking out loud here (and not really arguing with you RinCT), but between a pregnant woman and the fetus there is no question that the woman is entitled to the full panopoly of rights accorded by the Constitution (let's just limit this discussion to the U.S.), which no one sane involved in the debate would deny. The same cannot be said of the fetus.

The issue the Court wrestles with in Roe is: when is the fetus sufficiently developed such that it has not only some sort of legal rights but those rights are sufficiently strong to justify the state criminalizing abortion to protect the fetus and visiting the result upon the pregnant woman. And we get the balance it struck almost 40 years ago.

What the Court doesn't wrestle with (or if it does I didn't get that far upon re-reading) is that the remedy states have crafted to vindicate the rights of the fetus is itself unconstitutional as applied to the pregnant woman who wishes to end her pregnancy, IMHO. And that remedy subjects the woman to involuntary servitude and cruel and unusual punishment in violation of her undeniable Constitutional rights, as I mention above.

And just as we do not subject Person A to involuntary servitude or cruel and unusual punishment to save the life of Person B (and certainly not without Person A having been convicted of a crime), why are we doing so in the case of a woman who wishes to end her pregnancy?

(pardon me for skipping ahead, if this has already been responded to)

Hartmut: "On the first point quite some consent can be found between both defenders and opponents that the decision was far from ideal from a formal point of view "

(assuming that 'consent' means 'consensus')

I have *never* seen this. Anybody who I've ever seen express this has gone on to oppose abortion.

What I really like about this post is that it unpacks what abortion is from the abstract moral arguments that come with it (even though that's what the comment thread devolved into). So much of it seriously revolves around sexist attitudes about sex. The forcible rape thing is a perfect example of that because it's so obvious. The fact that some pro-life people make rape exceptions in general is telling, but the "forcible rape" thing certainly speaks to the "she probably deserved it" crowd. The demonizing of women that engage in sex is so much more prevalent in this conversation than anyone wants to admit. The muddled position the american people have about abortion derives way more from this sexism way than it does from the idea that abortion kills a child. Hell, it's hard to even find pro-lifers that take the idea of the latter to it's logical conclusion.

The "abortion is just like slavery because they're both denials of personhood, and that's why we should ban abortion" argument is stupid and anyone who uses it is stupid.

Allow me to defend.

Note that I am going to leave aside low hanging fruit, like the fact that slavery didn't deny slaves personhood. That's a modern rewriting of history. Slaves were considered people (who could be married, have their souls saved, etc), they were just considered to be black.

So, lets try an analogous argument and see what happens:

Eating cows is just like slavery, because slavery denied slaves personhood, and eating beef denies cows personhood. And that's why we shouldn't eat beef.

Lets assume that the defender of the "abortion is like slavery" argument would disagree with the cow argument. There are probably at least a few exceptions out there, but lets go with it to see where it takes us.

In order to agree with the abortion argument, but not the cow argument, you would need some reason why one holds and the other is false.

But if you leave aside minor difficulties like the history being wrong, they're precisely analogous in every way except that one deals with blastocysts and one deals with bovines.

The only difference you can draw between the two would be to argue that blastocysts are totally different from bovines, and specifically, that they are different in such a way that cows do not have personhood and blastocysts do.

But if you can provide that, and demonstrate that blastocysts have personhood, then you don't need the slavery analogy to make your point. In fact, the slavery argument does NO WORK WHATSOEVER in advancing your conclusion because you must first prove your conclusion before the slavery argument works.

The slavery argument is just an attempt at using a bit of rhetoric to make your opponent's feel bad, associate them with something bad, and hopefully get them to shut up. So when people use it, just point out that if they actually believe its a good argument then they're idiots, and if they don't believe its a good argument then they should shut up and stop arguing dishonestly.

"The demonizing of women that engage in sex is so much more prevalent in this conversation than anyone wants to admit. "

It would be interesting, Console, for you to provide examples of that. Under Roe v. Wade, no one has to prove anything in order to obtain an abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. It's just that people realize that, during the third trimester, a fetus can feel pain, and has developed to the point that if good medical care is provided, it can emerge as a human. I don't see anyone here who is in favor of punishing women who have sex (although certainly the "pro-life" movement includes such people).

I have heard that it is a common practice in Japan (non-Christian). Maybe lj has something to say about that.

Indeed I do! From my reading and third hand experience, abortion in Japan is safe, available, and illegal. Wikipedia says that it is 'de facto legal' while this journal article has "In Japan, the artificial abortion is a penal offence; only in the presence of certain conditions it is authorized under the provision of the Eugenic Protection Law which was promulgated in 1948."

Here is another article about abortion that gives a tour of the situation.

The reason for the strange situation is because both abortion and contraception are not reimbursed by National Health, so abortion is a way for doctors to get earn income that, if not reported, is tax-free. There is also a strong lobby that is against oral contraceptives. These are sort of interlocking conditions that function to avoid making abortion a hot-button issue here.

About funerals, Buddhist temples often conduct funerals for the fetus (look up Mizuko kuyo in Wikipedia, as I think I am at my limit of links) William LaFleur's Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan, gives an overview of the ritual and its history and suggests that it is an appropriate ceremony, while Hardacre's Marketing the Menancing Fetus in Japan argues that it is a way of exploiting women by threatening them with the retribution of the soul of the fetus. There's a lot more involved (upswing of new religions, relationship of temples to their parishoners, the syncretic nature of Japanese religious beliefs), but I hope that gives you some starting points.

Ugh and Sapient have convinced me to sit down at some point in the not-to-distant future and actually read Roe v. Wade.

Patrick, I think by now it's clear that "MKS" was just doing a drive-by cut 'n paste.

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