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June 16, 2004

Comments

"The liberal argument does not extend to the stem cell debate. The rights of a woman to control her own body are not a factor in that debate."

Too true. The right in opposition is the right to have potentially significant medical advances funded by the federal government. . which really isn't much of a right.

I think you're missing some of the interplay, though. While I do believe that 'personness' is a semantic notion that has fuzzy edges, I don't believe that that kind of nuance can survive amid the rhetoric. And so in the public eye stem cells, embryoes, and feti (uses?) either are or are not little babies. A nonsensical argument in the end, but dualities are strong memes. And because it depends on semantics and abstractions, there will never be evidence that you are right or wrong in your belief. The best you will ever hope for is agreement. And if the stem cell argument is used to encourage people to agree that stem cells are little babies, it erodes the current state of abortion rights. In this way, the stem cell argument becomes a proxy for the abortion argument, on easier grounds for anti-abortionists, because there are less sympathetic rights to oppose.

I realize this is a rather cynical way to look at it, especially to people who are trying to argue the issue on its own merits. But I'm pretty sure that the people in charge on both sides know that that's what's going on.

Very interesting post, Sebastian.

Speaking as a pro-choice liberal, my support for a woman's right to choose is exactly as you have outlined it: I consider myself to be anti-abortion and pro-life - properly pro-life, in that I'm for minimizing the number of abortions by social change, rather than by criminalizing doctors and pregnant women.

I also support stem cell research. I see no contradiction in this. Stem cell research is carried out on non-living fetal tissue: it is no more immoral to use fetal tissue from an aborted fetus (whether the abortion is spontaneous or induced) than it is to use adult cadavers for dissection. In neither case has a human being been killed for research purposes.

I'll let you get away with non-person or its equivalent non-human being because that is the whole argument. Though you are making the argument from the assertion point of view. But I will not let you get away with non-living. The two types of stem cell research both require living tissue from fertilized human eggs. Either it is cells taken from a living embryo which is killed in the process or it is experimentation directly on the living embryo which is killed as it begins to develop further.

And I did not say that pro-choice rhetoric and stem cell rhetoric were necessarily in contradiction, I said that pro-choice rhetoric does not apply to the stem cell debate despite many pro-choice advocates desire to paint it as an extension of the same debate.

Sidereal, I can't help the semantic fuzziness especially when I think much of it is purposely injected from your side of the debate--but I'd prefer not to get into much of a blame game. I'm trying to clarify here. The idea that the public can't make distinctions between abortion and experimentation on fetuses is kind of condescending. Either the balancing of fetal rights against woman's rights is or is not a major justification for abortion rights. If it is, it has nothing to do with a justification for stem cell research. If it is not than I wish you all would stop pretending that it was.

I don't think you have it right on the stem-cell issue:

"We are weighing the uncertain but high-priority rights of a fetus against the highly speculative claim that the only way to treat certain illnesses is to sacrifice any hope of these rights."

Stem cells are nowhere close to a fetus. Fertilized stem cells are typically a product of in-vitro (in glass) fertilization of eggs, only a few of which are implanted in a woman. They are not a fetus in any sense. They cannot be actual life until they are implanted in a female to develop from a very few cells into a fetus, substantially later. Most often these extra stem-cells are destroyed after successful pregnancy is achieved for the cells implanted.

You could argue that (as the Vatican does) that in-vitro fertilization for pregnancy is immoral. I think the public has decided that in-vitro fertilization for pregnancy isn't a moral issue, and attacking stem cell research which is a by-product of that in-vitro process isn't likely to make an impact on public thinking, once fully understood.

On balancing:

"In the stem cell case, if you are erring it is on the side of speculative claims that there is no other way to come to these speculatively important discoveries."

People living with (or likely to have to live with in the future because of genetic issues) terrible diseases are actual living people. Their lives have moral weight.

Science isn't fully predictable, but it is quite clear to the science/medical community that stem cells will someday produce breakthough treatments for some diseases, either directly through implantation or indirectly because the stem-cells may be powerful tools for undertanding diagnostically what processes underlie certain diseases.

So the moral balancing does prevail here: the fate of fertilized stem cells that are very likely to be discarded versus the potential for continuing life free from disease for living people - now and in the future.

We should be concerned that stem-cell research is conducted ethically, but the moral issue is far from the clarity you describe.

"But that does not reflexively mean that the liberal argument also applies to both debates. It doesn’t."

Your judgement (above) is an opinion, but just that. A contrary opinion that given the huge numbers of lives potentially saved or improved through this research and later application, using stem cells that would be otherwise discarded is fully moral, meets a strong balancing test, and fully within the range of "civil" policies that the public should decide on. I understand that some people for religious reasons may oppose any stem cell research (or in-vitro fertilization for pregnancy), but that is a religious issue, not a moral issue.

Depends on the source of the stem cells.

Most people would agree that abortion is a direct balancing of interests: a potential life in utero vs. an actual life. (You skate over one important aspect of the abortion debate, which is the consequences of the various views prevailing.)

Stem cell research does not have the same conflict. No one, i repeat NO ONE, is considering paying women to abort in order to obtain stem cells. The principal sources under consideration are already aborted fetal tissue and unwanted frozen embryos. In the first case, it's a pure freebie, obtaining a scientific benefit from a personal tragedy. In the second, well, I challenge you to find enough uteri for rent to carry to term all the frozen embryos already in existence.

So I see a weak, indirect balancing of interests: an ex utero fertilized embryo (which may be already dead, but if not is not going anywhere) vs. life-saving technologies for a group of humans who are not particularly identifiable today, but who will most certainly need the procedure once it's developed.

Since you concede that in the early stages of embryonic development the pro-life movement does not have the votes to prohibit abortion, you presumably concede that you don't have the votes to regulate IVF to prevent the creation of more than one fertilized embryo at a time.

Who controls the already-existing frozen unwanted embryos (blastocytes/whatever the correct term): the "parents", the lab, the state, the federal government? Who should, if anyone, control the process by which they are made?

[as a parenthetical on the abortion debate, i'd like to add that for all the "murders" that have taken place, there have also been millions of births that have occurred that would not have, but for the prior abortion. most women in this country decide in advance how many children they will bear. An unwanted, non-aborted child would replace, in many women's lives, a later, wanted child. In the grand scheme of balancing interests, I think the pro-life movement should be considering the interest of the wanted child to be conceived later, as well.]

cheers

Francis

I had a comment that agreed wtih Jim's point about stem cells not coming from fetuses, but my damn computer ate it.

I went on to ask a question. From what I understand the primary source for stem cells used in research is from embryos that were conceived in vitro and thus form a pool of nonimplanted embyros that may or may not then be implanted in the mother, leaving some that then would be destroyed, no?

My point, the pro-life position, to be consistent, needs to address this potential destruction of the in vitro embyro as well, and actually to be really consistent would have to be against this technology altogether, no?

I was under the impression that all successful stem cell research to date had been done using adult stem cells. Did I miss something, again?

"I can't help the semantic fuzziness especially when I think much of it is purposely injected from your side of the debate--but I'd prefer not to get into much of a blame game."

First, you assume too much about which side I'm on, and/or haven't read my comments in previous discourses on the subject. Both are understandable.

Second, I'm not bemoaning the semantic fuzziness. Semantic fuzziness is fundamental to the nature of the problem. There is no way that you or anyone else will ever be able to 'prove' that an embryo is human, because humanness has no objective definition. What I'm bemoaning is the fact that so many people try to remove the semantic fuzziness, because it serves their interests.

"The idea that the public can't make distinctions between abortion and experimentation on fetuses is kind of condescending."

I've never said or wrote anything to suggest that. I wrote that giving an embryo personhood for the sake of the stem cell issue is more tolerable to people (and tolerability is the only factor when personhood has no clear definition), because the perceived loss is small. . or at least smaller than in the case of abortion. However, that agreement will create a legal fact and a legal precedent to which the ambiguous nature of the original decision is irrelevant. And that legal fact will be used in an environment where the tolerability is not forthcoming.

"If it is, it has nothing to do with a justification for stem cell research."
Of course it doesn't, except tangentially as I've described.

"If it is not than I wish you all would stop pretending that it was."
Who's we all?


I was under the impression that all successful stem cell research to date had been done using adult stem cells. Did I miss something, again?

Probably not...my understanding of the whole picture here is beyond fuzzy.

Where's a stem cell research scientist with time to blog when you need one?

I have a question for all of those who favor stem cell research: would they favor it if there were absolutely no possibility of the research leading to useable therapies? My main qualm is not the research. It is the industrial-scale production and sale of human body parts that would inevitably result from successful research. In my view although there is some argument to be made for the research per se the arguments are far less strong for its actual use.

If you can't use it why do it?

Sebastian,
Even though I'm of the opposing viewpoint on this issue, I want to start by complimenting you for writing an argument that is more polite, insightful & reasonable than the post you were responding to. You do a decent job of summarizing the pro-choice argument as many of us would make it.
"In a liberal society we try to maximize different rights. We don’t like to admit that this can cause rights to interfere with one another, so when they do it can cause huge political conflicts." This is a really important point that typically gets ignored in most political arguments. In the real world, important values and rights can conflict with each other. Usaully instead of acknowledging that, you have the right wing yelling "Value A!", while the left-wing hollers back "No, Value B!". As often as not, they're both important values, but we can't satisfy both at once so we're going to have to manage some sort of trade off.

Getting back to the crux of your argument: you say "Unless of course all the talk about the woman’s right to choose was just crap concealing a much more definitive judgment about exactly when personhood begins."
Just because real-world boundaries are fuzzier than the binary classifications we have words for, doesn't mean that the boundaries don't exist. I believe that only the most dogmatic pro-choicers would approve of aborting a fetus that's one day away from normal delivery, "woman's right to choose" or not. On the other hand, I think most folks would be reasonably comfortable with aborting a "fetus" that's only a few hours old and consists of a handful of undifferentiated cells (no brain or nervous system yet). The problem with the fuzzy boundaries comes into play during that middle period when most actual abortions take place. That's when you've got a trickier balancing act between the rights of the mother and the fetus, who may or may not be considered a "person" depending on where you decide to draw that line. If stem cell research involved aborting 4-month old fetuses for medical research, it would indeed be much harder to justify. That's not the case.

My view on abortion is much like Jesu's, but Francis, given the number of people looking to adopt children couldn't this An unwanted, non-aborted child would replace, in many women's lives, a later, wanted child. have easily read:

An unwanted, non-aborted child would place, in many women's lives, a child she could never have bourne herself.

I intentionally don't want to get into the in-vitro fertilisation question because it is maddening to me that when such questions as this were raised regarding the making of multiple embryos for that technology (which let me note is merely convenient, not strictly necessary) we were pooh-poohed about raising such ridiculous ideas, but now here we are.

"And that legal fact will be used in an environment where the tolerability is not forthcoming." This isn't inevitable at all. In fact the whole argument I lay out above allows you to avoid it. Now if you are complaining that people might decide that personhood really does begin earlier than birth and might vote accordingly and that the laws might change to reflect that moral intuition, I can't argue with you. But that is how the democratic process is supposed to work, and you would have plenty of time to argue your case if that was the worry. But putting that kind of thing forward as an objection is precisely the kind of worry-warting that some pro-life people make when they raise the objection that successful therapies could lead to more advanced (in terms of development) human cloning and harvesting from the clones. You wouldn't let me get away with that, so I'm not letting you get away with yours.

Dave: "My main qualm is not the research. It is the industrial-scale production and sale of human body parts that would inevitably result from successful research."

As stated, your description does sound a lot like "Brave New World". That is a very unlikely outcome (but not impossible). The pharmaceutical/medical research industry today reproduces cell lines of many, many types. No body parts.

We don't know where this will end up, but the most likely outcomes are these three:
1. Stem cells treated to become a particular type of cell when mature would be injected/ingested into a patient.
2. Stem cells would be used as diagnostic tools to understand the internal process or reveal the condition of some patient
3. Stem cells would be used to develop transplantable organs. This use is thought to be very remote technically. It would most likely be manifest as cells implanted in other animals (pigs, most likely) to develop organs that could be transplanted into humans. This is the genetic engineering approach - sort of like bug-resistant corn, but with moral implications more obviously present.

The first two of these applications are the real focus of today's research programs. To my knowledge no discussion of 'growing organs in vats' (ala BNW) is occuring because it is technically difficult and expensive.

I recognize that some will find that any research that could conceivably be distorted or evolve into something unwanted should be not be done. Some of the fathers of the atomic age felt this way about this research, although most did not.

This is a balancing issue. Should all forms of research that have potential negative outcomes be discouraged or outlawed? I don't think so. Is their an alternative to stopping all research? Yes, identify as early as possible the negative outcomes, and forbid those and those only.

"A contrary opinion that given the huge numbers of lives potentially saved or improved through this research and later application, using stem cells that would be otherwise discarded is fully moral, meets a strong balancing test, and fully within the range of "civil" policies that the public should decide on. I understand that some people for religious reasons may oppose any stem cell research (or in-vitro fertilization for pregnancy), but that is a religious issue, not a moral issue."

Hmm, I'll keep that argument in mind with respect to future torture posts on this board. Not a moral issue my ass.

Jim, research is successful, where do the embryonic stem cells come from for the treatments?

JimPortlandOR:

The cells themselves are human body parts.

Should all forms of research that have potential negative outcomes be discouraged or outlawed? I don't think so. Is their an alternative to stopping all research? Yes, identify as early as possible the negative outcomes, and forbid those and those only.

That's pretty much my ideal outcome but I don't see it as happening that way. With the kinds of profits that are likely to be involved I rather suspect many of us will talk ourselves into buy and selling human body parts.

I was under the impression that all successful stem cell research to date had been done using adult stem cells. Did I miss something, again?

The bulk of research has been on embyonic, 'cord-blood' or fetal stem cells, although a breakthough was reported on adult stem cells about two years ago. The adult cells could overcome any problem with graft-host rejection that other types could present - although that is thought to be unlikely is most settings.

"Today's papers do not settle the adult-versus-embryo dispute: they suggest that both could yield promising therapies. Ultimately, different cell types might best treat different diseases, so most scientists advocate continued research on both types. "Parallel work is the efficient way to go," says stem-cell researcher Neil Theise of New York University."

Nature

"We are weighing the uncertain but high-priority rights of a fetus...."

This rests on the case that a fertilized cell, a stem cell, is indistinguishable from a fetus. This is, shall we say, questionable.

"You wouldn't let me get away with that, so I'm not letting you get away with yours."

Okay, this time I'll spell it out. I am anti-abortion. I believe it is an easy way out of a difficult situation and as a culture we've come to feel we're entitled to easy ways out, to the extent that we're willing to rationalize terminating a pregnancy as avoiding being a parent when in fact you are alerady a parent. I don't feel this is the forum or the time to hash out the abortion debate, so I'm loathe to make a big deal of it, but you're mischaracterizing my interest in the discussion, which is this:

"I think you're missing some of the interplay, though."

The premise of your post is that pro-lifers ought have no interest in the stem cell debate because there is no issue of rights. I have attempted to explain their interest. Agree or disagree with it according to your own proclivity, but it should be acknowledged in a thread entitled 'Liberalism, Abortion and Stem Cell Research'.

Obviously that last 'pro-lifers' should be 'pro-choicers'. You get my drift.

"This rests on the case that a fertilized cell, a stem cell, is indistinguishable from a fetus. This is, shall we say, questionable."

Technically that is not questionable. Legally they have precisely the same rights--which is to say none. But thanks for pointing that out. Neither have rights, they are legally indistinguishable. Perhaps we should experiment on 7 month gestated fetuses? Maybe only if the mother is going to abort them anyway? They are just waste products right? Might as well make them useful to society? Anyone care to distinguish the argument on a legal basis other than with "Ugh"? Sidereal seems to think that banning fetal stem cell research leads to banning abortion. Why is the converse not true? Why doesn't allowing such research lead to later and later term research since fetuses have no legal rights under the modern pro-choice regime?

(See I can play hardball too if you don't want to stick to the point)

Sebastian,

I am not in favor of abortion as a choice for birth control, personally. I don't actually know anyone who is. But I am pro-choice...you see, I am one of those people who have had a vested interest in safe, legal abortions being available. 20 years ago my ex had a pregnancy that was going to end her life; the situation was a disaster and there was no chance at all that the new life she bore was viable. At twelve weeks we had to end the pregnancy, with her getting sicker and more injured every day. I am strongly of the opinion (and she was as well) that this abortion, which made us very sad, was the correct thing to do. I fear that laws retricting abortion will fail to take these tragic situations into account. I request that all of you remember that these circumstances need to be remembered in this debate.

And though I hate to repeat myself patrick, the whole point is that stories like yours are being injected as if they have anything to do with the issues surrounding fetal stem cell research when they in fact do not.

And frankly, life-threatening pregnancies don't really have anything to do with the abortion debate either, because almost anyone in the US will agree that the concept of self-defense lets you kill the one who is seriously endangering your life even if that person does so unintentionally.

"Sidereal seems to think that banning fetal stem cell research leads to banning abortion."

How frustrating. Since you won't read anything I've written, I'll call it a day.

The core question of your post is why the pro-choice movement has a stand in the stem cell debate. I've attempted to answer it. Of course, you could have just gone to now.org and looked it up yourself, wherein you'd find this:

Abortion rights opponents have sought to prohibit abortion by defining in law a fetus or even an embryo as a person. During the debate surrounding H.R. 534 in the House, Rep. Weldon linked cloning technology to Roe v. Wade and asserted that scientific research on embryos is immoral. However, it would be truly immoral to prohibit further research on what may be the most important medical scientific developments ever in treating and perhaps preventing genetically linked diseases. The political agenda of abortion rights opponents is hindering the progress of life-saving medical research.

Asked and answered.

Sebastian, I'm not sure how you'll take this when (if) you find out, so I figure it's better to tell you upfront: I cited you on Kevin Drum's blog. If you're affronted I apologize: but I wouldn't have done it if not for your impressively clear-headed presentation of the civil rights argument for legal access to abortion.

Sidereal, I don't imply that pro-choicers should have no say in the debate. My question was why pro-choice advocates use the same arguments to support stem-cell research when they are wholly inappropriate. My question was why they are allowed to draw parallels to arguments that don't apply at all in the stem-cell debate. I both read and understand what you say, but either you aren't saying what you think you are saying, or you don't care that what you say has implications beyond the implications that you want them to have.

For instance you seem to think that legal facts only work against pro-choice arguments: "However, that agreement will create a legal fact and a legal precedent to which the ambiguous nature of the original decision is irrelevant. And that legal fact will be used in an environment where the tolerability is not forthcoming." (Emphasis Mine) But if the two are so closely related as to have legal facts migrate so easily between them, how can you deny that research ought to be justifiable well into the second or third month. Or really why not the ninth month? Unborn children have no legal rights at any point before birth. Why should we not do research on any of them? Why should we not be allowed to grow and then experiment on and then kill any of them? The sword cuts both ways. "Legal Facts" doesn't get to just be used as an argument one way and not the other. If someone can't trust the democratic process to distinguish between the two cases when they fear for abortion rights, they don't get to turn around and pretend that the same is true of research possibilities. I intentionally did not make that argument in the original post because such arguments add nothing to the debate. Either people can make distinctions or they cannot.

And let's say for the sake of argument that you were just playing devil's advocate and you are motivated to vote on a pro-life basis. How does that change anything about the argument? How does that change anything about my response? Are you really so worried that I used the word 'you' instead of 'those who advance such arguments' when "you" were in fact advancing such arguments?

That kind of silliness is exactly why we get bogged down in discussions here. Defend the argument or don't. Do it as a devil's advocate if you want, but don't whine about shorthand references to such arguments as 'yours' especially when you don't bother to distinguish them from yours at the beginning of the conversation.


Jesurgislac, I don't mind if you cite me. In fact I would encourage it if I weren't so bad at self-promotion.

Though it is sad to write a good explanation for the other side's argument and have it used against people on your own side. ;) Sigh.

Sebastian: nice post and very well formulated.

From the comments I get the impression that people think that all embryo's created for IVF can be frozen. Unfortunately that is not the case: only the really good ones can be frozen.
I had an IVF in the Netherlands more than 6 years ago. In my country doctors will only put two embryo's back to prevent multiples. My hospital would aim for retrieval of 10-12 eggs if you were willing to freeze embryo's and 5-6 eggs if you did not want to freeze embryo's, to minimize the number of unused embryo's.
I ended with 11 fertilized eggs, the two best ones were inserted but the others unfortunately were not good enough for freezing. We were very happy to donate them for research (limited to 14 days in the protocol of the hospital) so that their creation might serve more purpose - the other option was immediate destruction.

The very first time I say my beautiful son he was an 8-cell blastocyte, but I do not feel as if he lost a sibling because the other blastocyte did not implant. Nor do I feel as if I have given doctors babies to experiment on.

The whole reason they think embryonic (not fetus: embryo is till 2 monts gestation, fetus is later in the pregnancy) stam cells are usefull is that they are not defined yet, that they can become any kind of tissue. Which is why for instance they can take one cell out of the blastocyte and check it for hereditary fatal genetic diseases, thus providing people who carry illmaking genes with a possibility to make sure they do not pass that specific disease to their children. They can only do that because in that stage the remaining cells of the blastocyte can easily take over the role of that one cell. Just like the blastocyte can decide to become *two* blastocytes and create identical twins. Maybe even the cell they took for the research could start dividing itself and become an embryo again. The identical twins sometimes become *one* again in the womb (does that make the remaining baby guilty of involuntary manslaughter?).

At a certain point in time the cells loose the ability to become every kind of tissue. Stem cells still have options, but only in a limited range. That is the research they do with adult stemcells. The stemcells from a 7 month old fetus would be like the latter, not have the "omnipotential" of the embryonic stem cells AFAIK.

FWIW: the current law in the Netherlands is that unused embryo's from IVF can be used for research, but that scientists are not allowed to create embryo's specifically for research.

Jesurgislac, I don't mind if you cite me.

I hoped you wouldn't, but wasn't absolutely sure. I'm sorry that I missed the opportunity to link to your own blog - I'll remember next time if I happen to cite you again!

Though it is sad to write a good explanation for the other side's argument and have it used against people on your own side. ;)

I appreciate that. But if you will write so well on such a hot topic, the temptation to cite is irresistible. However, I definitely owe you a drink for it. :-)

Hmmmm....maybe "adult" was not the correct word, there. From what I've heard (and I'm not claiming I'm right, here, just that I've heard something like this) every stem cell experiment that panned out favorably was conducted using stem cells that were not harvested from a pre-term baby.

Every so often I've got to hang myself out as an invitation for rotten tomatoes, I guess. Hurl away.

Slarti, I wouldn't claim to be any kind of expert on stem cell research, but my understanding is that all stem cell experiments are carried out using stem cells from fetal tissue taken from either legally or spontaneously aborted fetuses, or from the "spare" embryos created for in-vitro fertilization. (That is, just as Dutch describes it, fertility labs will always attempt to create more embryos than the number they intend to implant, because that's the only way to ensure that there will be enough viable embryos to implant. My sister-in-law tried to get pregnant using iv fertilization, and this is how my brother explained it to me.)

The "spare" fetuses (those that are not viable as embryos and therefore can't be implanted or frozen) may be donated for stem cell research or may be destroyed.

It can be argued that women ought not to be allowed to try to get pregnant by iv fertilization: that would be consistent. If iv fertilization is considered ethically okay, then it's no more immoral for a woman to donate the non-viable fetuses achieved by iv fertilization for stem cell research than it would be for her to donate a non-viable fetus that she spontaneously aborted for stem cell research. Even if you consider that a human life exists from the moment of fertilization, these non-viable fetuses are not human lives: it is no more immoral for a woman to donate them than it would be for her to donate her mother's cadaver to science.

I read a very moving account recently by a woman who was contacted within hours of her father's death by the hospital's transplant monitor, to ask if she would consent to some or all of her father's organs being used for transplant. The woman wrote that it was both comforting and moving to think that although she had lost her father, eighteen people had been materially helped by her donation of her father's organs. Living tissue, but not a living person.

"(See I can play hardball too if you don't want to stick to the point)"

Well, Sebastian, I wasn't trying in the slightest to "play hardball." (I don't even know what you think that means in this context; do you believe I'm trying to advance some agenda?).

I was simply responding to what you said. I'm sorry if that is somehow not "stick[ing] to the point," but apparently I have no idea what "the point" is, and no recall of having signed up to "stick to" it.

On substance, apparently you believe that a fertilized egg and a fetus are morally indistinguishable.

That's a widespread belief, and I won't argue with it.

I simply pointed out, in shorter fashion, that it is not universally accepted, and if you wish to make the case for acceptance of it to those who do not yet accept it, the burden is on you, and those who hold this belief, to make your case. If you're interested in so persuading people, you might attempt to make that case. If you have other interests -- and I really don't know what they are, here -- you can accuse them of "playing hardball" and not "stick[ing] to the point."

Whatever the heck that means in this context.

Has some goal of yours been advanced with that comment? Do you desire to have people not read and respond to what you write? How should one "stick to the point," exactly?

"My question was why they are allowed to draw parallels to arguments that don't apply at all in the stem-cell debate."

I don't think they do. I think by and large the arguments are built around the welfare of people with conditions that could maybe be cured by embryonic stem cell research, as per your quote and the NOW quote I provided. So a good question would be why women's rights organizations are even involved in this debate, as opposed to say the AARP. And that is explained as above. . because pro-choice organizations see the stem cell debate as a kind of back-door attack on abortion rights. And in doing so they put themselves in the very untenable position of requiring that embroys not be human, which puts their fingers here, in Laci Peterson's Law (sp), and so on.

"For instance you seem to think that legal facts only work against pro-choice arguments"
Not a bit. It clearly works both ways. If a woman has a unique right to her body, then it's legal for her to drink and smoke all she likes during pregnancy without regard to the welfare of the child. And so she can.

"Unborn children have no legal rights at any point before birth. Why should we not do research on any of them?"
With the consent of the mother, we do all the time.
And if you want to carry it on ad absurdum and wonder why we don't carry out freakish experiments just because it's legal, it's because nobody (hopefully) even wants to do that. The precedent is a tool for those with a goal. There are many people with the goal of ending abortion, and it is reasonable and wise to assume that they will use the tools available to do so. There are, to my knowledge, no people with the specific goal of carrying out freakish experiments on unborn children.


"How does that change anything about the argument? How does that change anything about my response?"
Well, if you recognize that I'm trying to explain why these people have a stake in this debate -- the apparent point of your post -- rather than justify their stake as morally correct, there really isn't much of an argument.

If you want to argue about whether it's likely a consensus on the fact that an embryo is at least somewhat human would eventually be used in an attempt to end abortion, I'll be happy to take a side on that. I think it would be, as I've said.

"Are you really so worried that I used the word 'you' instead of 'those who advance such arguments'"
No, not worried. Just irritated. As I'm sure you would be if I said 'Sebastian, I'm tired of people like you keep trying to argue that Castro is a great leader' when in fact you've done nothing of the sort. Should I let it slide or am I obligated to take up the mantle and sing the praises of Castro to avoid bogging down the discussion?

"I simply pointed out, in shorter fashion, that it is not universally accepted, and if you wish to make the case for acceptance of it to those who do not yet accept it, the burden is on you, and those who hold this belief, to make your case."

What an interesting position in long fashion. You admit that many people believe the embryo and fetus are morally similar. You disagree. Both are indisputably human. Both are indisputably alive. It is nearly universally held that you ought not experiment on humans without their permission and against their interests. Yet you believe that because there is some disagreement about the moral status of embryos vs. fetuses that scientists should have free license to experiment on these beings until their status is resolved to their satisfaction--which since they are interested parties is probably impossible. That is an interesting burden of proof when the question of individual human life is as at stake. I wonder if we could apply that burden of proof to other areas.

The legal status of the prisoners at Guantanamo is in dispute. Therefore until you prove to Bush's satisfaction that they ought to be covered by the Geneva Accords, we ought to be able to be able to perform scientific experiments which will inevitably end in their deaths. Hmm.

There is some dispute about whether or not insane people are fully persons because they do not react properly to the real world. But studying their brains by cutting little pieces out of them might conceiveably help us understand brain disorders better. Since their status as full persons is not agreed on by everyone we ought to be able to experiment on them in such ways as will kill them. Have a problem with that?

Since Mr. L's innocence cannot be proven to the satisfaction of 40% of prosecutors who reviewed his case he ought to be executed.

Isn't there maybe a teensy weensy little problem with putting the burden of proof entirely or even mostly on those who want to let a human 'something' live rather than those who want to kill 'something' and experiment on it? Don't you think it might be the scientist's burden to convince the rest of us (or at least a very large majority of the rest of us) that they are experimenting on a non-person? We let a murderer go free every now and then because we require unanimous jury verdicts. Can't we give an admittedly human definitely alive undoubtedly individual human embryo the benefit of the doubt enough for those who want to kill it to convince say 60-70% of us that it is ok? Especially when there is no countervailing right bumping up against it as in the case of abortion?

Sidereal, your words and my interpretation of them are both here for everyone to see. So I guess I'll just leave it at that as far as interpretation goes.

But I will make a prediction. You are right that the legal facts sword cuts both ways. I predict that it will cut towards allowing later and later destructive fetal experimentation. I predict that within 10 years there will be a similar discussion about experimenting on fetuses far older than 1 or 2 weeks. And Gary Farber's embryo/fetus distinction will not hold, and we will be experimenting on clear fetuses not just embryos. And most of you who argue for stem cell research now will argue for fetal research then or be quietly indifferent to it even though it looks shocking now.

Those, like my parents, who argued that the practice of making too many embryos for in-vitro fertilisation would open the door for cloning and human experimentation were laughed at, yet here we are talking about it with most of you all for it. You won't remember this discussion in 10 years. And that is too bad.

Both [embryo and fetus] are indisputably human. ... It is nearly universally held that you ought not experiment on humans without their permission and against their interests.

Begging the question. Both are indisputably homo sapiens, but both are not indisputably "human", at least not in the sense that you use that term in the second sentence.

Re burden of proof on personhood: there is no "right" answer to this question (at least not one that is accessible to us mortals). Or rather, the "right" answer is simply what the majority (or the powerful) agree to. So, if you want your beliefs to be the law of the land, the burden (not the burden "of proof", as there is none) is on you to find a way to engage others in a way that will convince them.

Since when does something without a brain even remotely approach the ability to have human consciousness?

Sebastian,

A quick, cutting, and pithy rejoinder...I am to believe I am off-topic. The argument that we who are speaking are not to worry; that higher law virtues will protect us against limiting laws and judgments should make us all feel secure. All will be well, while we work out the really important issues here. The fact that local laws will make the provision of necessary services illegal should not be a concern.

And no: this is not different basically than the stem-cell debate: the same underlying question is there. But alas, the discussion has gone far beyond your parameters...in a world where we can kill whom we wish, with the excuse of any national interest, what are these arguments? How do we quibble about a blastocyst, while a mother or child or father is meaningless? We kill, claiming virtue, daily, those breathing now; yet we carp about the cells produced by the ones we are willing to kill. Get real: human life ceased to be 'sacred' some time ago, if indeed it ever was. To review and rescind that decision will take a bit more than a discussion thread on a blog. We are here arguing about matters that have long since been decided against us. I am sorry if that upsets your world-view. You are, I think, right: the floodgates are open, and anything will go now. I may not be happy with this. You may not either. But we won't know that of one another unless we can cut out the snippy rejoinders.

"So, if you want your beliefs to be the law of the land, the burden (not the burden "of proof", as there is none) is on you to find a way to engage others in a way that will convince them."

Or you can get 5 justices of the Supreme Court to make up laws for you.

Mark, you define 'human consciousness' and I'll find you an adult that doesn't have one.

Not to drag my stream-of-consciousness into the light, but I think what I read came from Michael Fumento, and others at National Review. Given my near-complete ignorance on the subject, it's impossible for me to tell if there's much in the way of truth, there.

I second (or third) Edward's wish for a competent, knowledgeable stem-cell researcher to post informed opinion. Preferably one who isn't at the forefront of research, campaigning for public funds for their pet project.

1) No one is arguing that there is a constitutional right to stem cell research, are they? The Supreme Court doesn't really enter into it--the "right to privacy" does not enter into it. Since that's the case, and since this involves interstate commerce, I think it's completely legal and would be a good idea for Congress to pass a law to keep us from sliding down the slippery slope you fear of experimenting on fetuses. (They could also make it illegal to create embryos for the purpose of experimentation, and to buy and sell embyronic tissue, so that only embryos that were already created and would be frozen or killed* in any case would be subject to stem cell research.)

2) The legal status of an embryo is actually reasonably clear: in some states an embryo in utero has "rights" not to be killed by a third party. In no state does an embryo have rights as against a mother. In no state does an embryo not in utero have rights. The humanity of an embryo--not whether it's living human tissue, but whether it's a human being--is disputed. The legal status of a Guantanamo prisoner is not clear, but their humanity is not disputed. As for the mentally ill--there is a rather gaping difference between having a brain that doesn't work right, and no nervous tissue at all.

*this is not a concession that the undifferentiated embryo is human, but it is certainly alive in the sense that any cell is alive.

"...because there is some disagreement about the moral status of embryos vs. fetuses that scientists should have free license to experiment on these beings until their status is resolved to their satisfaction--which since they are interested parties is probably impossible. That is an interesting burden of proof..."

Sebastian, you make an important point about "burden of proof". The "burden of proof" is generally presumed to be on the person advocating the more novel/unexpected argument. However, due to different underlying, unspoken assumptions about the meaning of what a "person" is, you and those who disagree with you have very different perceptions of what constitutes the novel argument. The analogies you make with prisoners, etc, demonstrate how far your unspoken assumptions are a mismatch with the unspoken assumptions of those you're debating.

That said, perhaps we could have a more productive discussion by backing up, examining some of those unspoken assumptions and their implications. I'll go first.
(BTW - none of this constitutes "proof" of anything, it's just a statement of values and a rumination on what they might lead to.)

"Life", to me is not sacred. Every time we step on a bug or pick some greens for our salad or take an antibiotic we are killing something. What is important is the life of a person.

Q - OK, so what's a person and what's so special about them?
A - For me, it would largely come down to consciousness, self-awareness, the ability to suffer, to feel joy, and the desire to live.
Q - OK, so what about non-human animals? They've got some degree of awareness, too.
A - Here we're into fuzzy/non-binary boundaries again. I do value the moral rights of non-human animals largely to the degree that their awareness approaches human. I feel no guilt about stepping on a cockroach but I'd feel pretty sick to my stomach about killing a chimp. I don't side with those who would ban animal experiments, but I sympathize with them - they're just drawing that boundary line a little further to one side than I would.
Q - What about babies? They're less aware than an adult chimp or possibly even an adult dog. Shouldn't it be okay to experiment on them?
A - It's probably not accurate to say the baby is less aware, it's just that all their awareness is channelled into building wiring for later in life, as opposed to functionality in the present. They can suffer, they can feel joy, and as adults they will bear the marks of whatever you do to them as infants.
Q - What about the mentally retarded?
A - They've got human awareness. They may not be as advanced in certain areas of abstract reasoning, but I didn't say I value the "A" student more than the "D" student.
Q - What about intelligent space aliens?
A - If we ever meet any, I'd consider them as persons.
Q - What about fetuses?
A - We're back to those fuzzy boundaries again. Once a fetus has a functioning nervous system, it likely has some degree of awareness. The resultant moral rights it has would then have to be weighed against the rights of the mother, much the way outlined in Sebastian's original description of the liberal view. One thing I would add - the closer the fetus comes to term, the higher I would stack its rights against the mother's. This, I believe, is a common moral intuition of the uncomitted in this argument. You seldom hear that idea from the rabid pro-lifers or pro-choicers, because they're both too worried about slippery-slope arguments going against them.
Q - What about a fertilized human egg, or a blastocyte consisting of 4 undifferentiated cells?
A - Hmmm - no consciousness, no self-awareness, no suffering, no joy - can't see any moral rights for the egg in my schema.

That's the quick, probably oversimplified version of my underlying assumptions. Sebastian, I'd be curious to hear what your underlying assumptions are which would lead to comparing a fertilized egg to the prisoners at Guantanamo.

Katherine:

As for the set of suggestions listed as point 1, I support them completely.

As for your point 2, sidereal said it very well:

you define 'human consciousness' and I'll find you an adult that doesn't have one.

Genetic tests are also inadequate since people with Downes Syndrome would fail. The only meaningful test for humanity is developmental: does it come from human egg and human sperm? All other decisions are pragmatic decisions rather than principled decisions.

Okay. Find me an adult possessing no nervous tissue whatsoever.

I don't know what "pragmatic" v. "principled" even means in this context. I could easily reverse it: you're pragmatic because you're looking for an easy bright line test, an on-off switch. I'm principled because I recognize that there is no such thing and am struggling with the real question of how best to preserve human life(that's somewhat question begging, of course, but so are many of the arguments in the opposite direction. And I'm only sure I support stem cell research on embryos created for IVF that would otherwise be frozen or destroyed--no loss of human life at all.)

Similarly, the slippery slope slides in both directions--I could bring up the morning after pill, especially in the context of rape. I could bring up the birth control pill. Unlike the people worrying about horrible experiments on more developed fetuses or the mentally ill or whatever else, I know for a fact that many people who oppose stem cell research believe that the birth control pill and the morning after pill should always be illegal. (I don't claim to know whether anyone in this discussion does; I am curious.)

Genetic tests are also inadequate since people with Downes Syndrome would fail.

If you're trying to say that Down's Syndrome doesn't show up in the analysis of the genes, color me shocked.

Oh. Maybe you were going the other way. My bad.

Mark Adams : Since when does something without a brain even remotely approach the ability to have human consciousness?

But this is a materialistic view, which is anathema to devout Christians. Those who believe in the existence of disembodied human spirits (a crucial component of belief in the afterlife) cannot be convinced of this without abandoning in some part their core belief systems. In other words, if someone is already convinced that God breathes a soul into every zygote, I don't think the lack of a brain to host that soul is going to be terribly persuasive.

And don't ask me how one fits identical twins into such a belief system.

Sebastian, I want to thank you for starting off with such a thoughtful post.

Also, I'd like to point out that Roe applies a much different framework of constitutional rights to a fetus at 30 weeks vs. an embryo at 2 weeks (which, by the way, most people won't even know exists).

However, it does seem to me that when people describe embryos as human and alive, that is true in the same sense that hair is human and alive. Does that mean I have a moral obligation not to cut my hair?

I don't mean to be obnoxious, but it seems to me that that there is a big difference between arguing that embryos deserve respect (or rights) because they are "alive and human", as opposed to because they have the potential to become human, and I think I hear some posters arguing the former (although maybe they are just arguing slippery slope, in which case I doubly apologize).

"But this is a materialistic view..."

If I believed in eternal, disembodied spirits who are only temporarily incarnated in human bodies, I'd be much more likely to support abortion, infanticide, or even plain old murder of adults. After all, kill an innocent kid and all they miss out on is a handfull of years in this vale of tears and they get to skip right to that eternity of endless centuries in perfect, happy heaven.* At worst, it'd be a minor inconvenience comparable to missing an interesting school outing.

Since I don't believe that, I'm back to my original stance.

Not saying someone who believes in the disembodied spirits can't make a principled argument against stem-cell research using that as one of their underlying assumptions, just that I'd need to see the rest of the assumptions that go together with it. I'd also like to hear that argument from someone who believes it, since they would doubtless bring up important components of the argument that I would miss.


*Obviously this applies to the christian version of disembodied spirits. Someone who believed in reincarnation rather than heaven might think it an unreasonable annoyance to get bumped to their next life before finshing their lessons in this one.

"Okay. Find me an adult possessing no nervous tissue whatsoever."

That pretty clearly is not the dividing line between person and non-person. We are willing to declare legally dead some people who not only have nervous tissue but even functioning nervous tissue.

Doh, Roe has a different framework in theory, but as applied in fact (which I think you will agree is important) there is no meaningful distinction between the right to avoid being killed of a 5 day gestated embryo and a nine month gestated fetus.

With respect to the 'alive' issue I thought I dealt with that in the original post, but I'll try again.

For the purposes of this discussion I have used the term 'person' to mean individual living being with protected rights. It is the contested question here. Designating an individual living being "person" is a social choice. We all know that embryos and fetuses are alive. We all know they are human. We all know they are individual. The question is do they have legal rights. This wouldn't resolve the abortion question because it is quite possible that their legal rights may conflict with the legal rights of their mothers. I intentionally use the term 'person' because it lets us get past the things that we agree on (or that reasonable people ought to be agreeing on) and straight to the heart of the matter. It is absolutely possible for a society to decide that a living individual human being is not a person or is only a partial-person. I think liberals resist the terminology because the three most recent cases of designating living individual human beings as non-persons or not-full-persons involve poor treatment of black slaves, the retarded, and the insane--treatment which doesn't look so good in the light of history.

In any case I don't have any problem with you cutting your hair, and I suspect it is distinguishable from experimenting on a fetus.

One thing I did not make clear is that I don't really think the slippery slope is most dangerous in experimentation. I think the slippery slope is most dangerous if a therapy is found which requires fetal tissue. The current research on brain diseases for instance involves implanting fetal tissue into the brain. If such a therapy proves effective we won't be limiting ourselves to IVF embryos or other random discards because scientists are complaining now that such sources aren't even enough for current experimentation.

Of course scientists will cleverly get around the individual part of 'person' by using rapidly advancing cloning technology.

I'm not a Luddite. I like technological advancement. But I know one thing about humans. If you fail to set the rules and plan ahead any moral objections will be swept away in 'pragmatism'. Which is exactly why my Guantanamo hypothetical is non-ridiculous. Even with pre-set rules we get weird outcomes if we aren't vigilant.

Sebastian - does that mean you would not have any moral opposition to stem-cell research using IVF discards if you were confident that it wouldn't lead down the road to therapies using tissue from more developed fetuses? Or do you also have moral objections to research using IVF discards in and of itself? I'm still not clear on your set of underlying assumptions.

Katherine: Okay. Find me an adult possessing no nervous tissue whatsoever.

Sebastian Holsclaw: That pretty clearly is not the dividing line between person and non-person. We are willing to declare legally dead some people who not only have nervous tissue but even functioning nervous tissue.

The fact that A is a subset of B does not mean that B is a subset of A. In other words, asserting that all living humans have nervous tissue does not in any way imply that all things with nervous tissue are living humans.

Sebastian Holsclaw: We all know they are individual.

I think you are taking a bit too much for granted here. The embryo is genetically unique, but up to a point it has the potential to become one organism or multiple organisms. You are going to need to define "individual" in this context.

Of course scientists will cleverly get around the individual part of 'person' by using rapidly advancing cloning technology.

In light of the fact that genetically identical sets of individuals are already walking around enjoying full protection of the law and building pop-culture empires as we speak really renders this a non-issue.

My apologies for the atrocious grammar in that last sentence. And for the link, as well.

I think you are taking a bit too much for granted here. The embryo is genetically unique, but up to a point it has the potential to become one organism or multiple organisms. You are going to need to define "individual" in this context.

Twinning would appear to make the pro-life argument stronger. The whole point is that an embryo is not less than one individual. More than one individual can be granted personhood.

The liberal argument that human life at early developmental stages is not human or not fully human is unscientific. Each human life has a beginning at conception. Whether such a beginning is always unique is not what forms the basis for personhood in adults, nor should it do so for the unborn. There are adults who are comprised of a mosaic of several unique genetic origins. This has never presented a basis for arguing that, therefore, no individuals should ever be considered one person. There is a reasonable argument to be made that early developmental stages should not be granted personhood with all its attendant rights and protections. But just because life can be questionable at the extreme ends a case about what to do with such life can only be built on the overwhelming net trends. This is not math. The same argument sounds absurd when used for life in general, which existence is not cast into doubt simply because there are organisms which defy a general definition of life.

Likewise, the liberal argument that spontaneous abortions affect early developmental stages at greater frequency than late (as it happens), does not support a deliberate role in aiding such a demise. Afterall, the thousands of people killed in car accidents each year do not provide a compelling basis for killing survivors.

Sebastian claimed: Roe has a different framework in theory but as applied in fact (which I think you will agree is important) there is no meaningful distinction between the right to avoid being killed of a 5 day gestated embryo and a nine month gestated fetus.

Oh, come off it, Sebastian. It is fairly easy (providing you can pay for it) to terminate a pregnancy any time in the first trimester. Indeed, I think a 5-day fertilized ovum can be terminated by the morning-after pill, which is available on prescription.

Whereas no doctor would ever permit termination of a pregnancy at 9 months unless the fetus was already dead and continuing the pregnancy would risk the woman's life.

You've made good arguments in this thread, Sebastian, but the claim that there is no meaningful distinction made the application of Roe vs. Wade to a 5-day blastocyte and a nine-month fetus is utterly untrue: there could hardly be a wider difference.

"Whereas no doctor would ever permit termination of a pregnancy at 9 months unless the fetus was already dead and continuing the pregnancy would risk the woman's life."

That just isn't true at all. That is the kind of thing that you would want to be true, but it has nothing to do with the reality of the legal situation or the reality of how many doctors interact with their patients.

That just isn't true at all. That is the kind of thing that you would want to be true, but it has nothing to do with the reality of the legal situation or the reality of how many doctors interact with their patients.

There's that claim again. "Doctors are murdering 9-month fetuses!" Any proof? No? Pretty serious charge to make without evidence. (Don't give me a repetition of your Rumsfeldian "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" line.)

Then there's this:
I'll skate by the alleged toleration of someone who thinks I'm hallucinating when I believe that innocent human life ought to be protected.

Here's a simple question for you. Maybe you can manage to write a response of fewer than 100 words, since it's a yes or no question:

Is abortion murder?

That just isn't true at all. That is the kind of thing that you would want to be true, but it has nothing to do with the reality of the legal situation or the reality of how many doctors interact with their patients.

No, Sebastian, you're wrong.

It's estimated that 90% of abortions in the US are carried out in the first trimester of pregnancy.

About 9% of abortions in the US are carried out in the second trimester of pregnancy.

That leaves around 15 000 abortions a year carried out in the third trimester - when the woman is between 26 and 40 weeks pregnant.

Of those 15 000, probably about a third are carried out because the fetus is severely hydrocephalic and will not survive birth for more than a few hours. (This condition can't be diagnosed until late in the second trimester, and while technically, aborting a hydrocephalic fetus isn't done to save a pregnant woman's life, I can't imagine anyone but the most heartless of creatures forcing a woman to go through three months of pregnancy - the months when she will be most obviously pregnant and recipient of good wishes for a safe delivery even from total strangers - knowing that the fetus will be born and die.)

There are also instances where the fetus is dead in the womb, and must be aborted or it will literally kill the woman carrying it, but only the so-called "pro-lifers" object to that - dilation and extraction was the method preferred, and "pro-lifers" have made that illegal.)

If a woman is diabetic or has heart disease, the later stages of pregnancy can be, literally, life-threatening. Given the choice between preserving a woman's life and letting both her and fetus die, only, again, a so-called "pro-lifer" would rather both died. It's estimated that one and a half million women of child-bearing age in the United States have diabetes.

You're asserting that the reality is that "many doctors" would abort a fetus after the 36th week of pregnancy just because the woman asked for an abortion.

Statistically, looking at actual facts, I'd say this is highly unlikely. The known ethics of most medical organizations are all against it. If you're asserting this, prove it. Find examples of these "many doctors" who would abort a fetus in the 36th week on demand.

PS It's occurred to me that this assertion by Sebastian is rather like the moonbat defense of those mythical links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda: just because there's no evidence it's happening and considerable evidence it isn't doesn't mean it isn't happening. Well, maybe in moonbatland.

Jesurgislac: There are also instances where the fetus is dead in the womb, and must be aborted or it will literally kill the woman carrying it, but only the so-called "pro-lifers" object to that - dilation and extraction was the method preferred, and "pro-lifers" have made that illegal.)

This doesn't even fall under the category of abortion or pregnancy termination. This has nothing to do with the subject at hand and a straw man like this does not help your argument.

On the other hand, it is certainly correct that pro-lifers and, I would add, most Americans, object to the deliberate killing of a post-viability fetus for reasons that have to do with fetal anomalies. And, although most anomalies are discovered earlier than at 9 months, there are some, like hydrocephaly, which you mention, that don't show up as severe until late into the pregnancy. And it is true that many abortions performed at 36 weeks or later are for such cases where the infant, if born, will die without drastic intervention or will die regardless of drastic intervention. As the laws for abortion or more lenient than for neonaticide, neonates with severe abnormalities are killed before they are born. However, late term abortions are indeed carried out for minor anomalies and even on normal term neonates. These are not common and there are obvious reasons for this. It is rare for a woman to accept a pregnancy and want a child only to change her mind in the last month. Attachments to the fetus are formed. Further, both pregnancy and abortion carry a considerable amount of risk. If a pregancy is to be terminated at all, it is overwhelmingly safer for the woman to do so early in the pregnancy.

These facts don't dismiss the implication that people, generally, don't view killing a small clump of cells as repugnant as killing a large clump of cells. The point at which any one person assigns personhood to a developing human life is quite varied. Many assign it at birth, others assign it at viability (about 20 weeks), others assign it at the first sign of neurological function and others assign it at conception. Only the latter is not arbitrary.
This doesn't mean that it is expected people feel an emotional attachment to an in vitro embryo. Such a moral stance is not about emotion.

Mithras. Not all abortion is murder. But many abortions are homicide. And some are definitely murder. And if you on the side of the champions of 'nuance' can't handle that kind of explanation, I can't help you.

Jesurgislac you are quite frankly full of shit on this. The only word I'll take back is many. Because we know full well that there are doctors who are willing to provide procedures that are not medically necessary. Ever heard of elective plastic surgery?

Mithras and Jesurgislac, both of you have repeatedly and across many discussion threads on the topic agreed objected to my ability to find evidence on this topic. When I mention that medical groups have repeatedly fought any oversight or accountability on this issue, you ask me to trust the doctors.

BULLSHIT.

Would you ask Katherine to trust military intelligence to follow the rules on torture? Would you be ok if they resisted oversight? Would you trust their professionalism?

YOU WOULD NOT.

Not all abortion is murder. But many abortions are homicide. And some are definitely murder. And if you on the side of the champions of 'nuance' can't handle that kind of explanation, I can't help you.

I should have bet someone you couldn't just answer "yes" or "no." Anyway, your argument is incoherent. If conception is the beginning of life, then all abortion is homicide. Where's all this nuance coming from? Aren't you a member of the moral clarity crowd? What makes your nuance morally preferable to mine?

Would you ask Katherine to trust military intelligence to follow the rules on torture? Would you be ok if they resisted oversight? Would you trust their professionalism?

What is it with you and doctors? Did someone commit malpractice on you once?

It's a matter of incentives, which should be obvious to anyone with an IQ above that of a toaster. Military intelligence wants information; laws against torture conflict with that goal. In other contexts doctors have conflicting incentives; in med mal cases, doctors have incentives to cover their mistakes. You've posited before that greedy Ob-Gyns are doing frivolous late-term abortions in order to make more money, which is ludicrous. (The risks of such procedures, plus the fact that an infintesimal number are performed every year, make it so.)

You're going to have to find some other way to control women's lives, pal.

yamamoto: Many assign it at birth, others assign it at viability (about 20 weeks), others assign it at the first sign of neurological function and others assign it at conception. Only the latter is not arbitrary.

Conception as a marker for personhood is completely arbitrary. Conception is the point at which the unique genetic code comes into being, yes, but a genome is not a complete human being: it is a blueprint for the physical structures of a person (or several). At this point, the organism is only a chemical plan (metaphorically speaking) and self-replicating raw materials, nothing like a sensate creature. You could just as easily claim that a human egg and a bunch of sperm is a person, because in both cases you are still only looking at a potential human being, not an actual one.

yamamoto: Twinning would appear to make the pro-life argument stronger. The whole point is that an embryo is not less than one individual. More than one individual can be granted personhood.

A thing does not somehow become more individual through multiplication. Can you have a "person" that suddenly becomes two, or, in very rare cases, three persons? Perhaps you defined "personhood" a tad early? And before someone suggests cloning as a counterexample, cloning doesn't involve splitting a significant portion of your body mass off to make another creature (this would be more akin to "budding" or "fission" than cloning). With cloning, the identity of the donor organism is never in question once the process is complete.

You wouldn't call a pile of bricks and a motivated team of masons a "wall" would you? I mean, it has none of the defining characteristics of a wall, save the building blocks themselves and lots of potential, right? Configuration is key here, and a zygote has a lot of configuring yet to do.

Mithras: What is it with you and doctors?

Mithras: ...obvious to anyone with an IQ above that of a toaster.

Let's please keep this civil.

Let's please keep this civil.

That is civil.

Mithras you are suggesting that I am indicting ALL DOCTORS. I am not.

I am suggesting that SOME doctors might have incentives (such as money) to SOMETIMES engage in unneccessary late-term abortions. Since we are dealing with human life here I am stating that we should have oversight in the area. You don't want oversight.

Lots of people don't engage in child molestation, yet we still have laws to punish those who do. Most soldiers don't want to torture people, but we still insist on oversight.

I am saying that some doctors will engage in unneccessary procedures for money. This is kind of well known since every year there are doctors who get caught lying to their patient to convince them to have 'necessary' and expensive procedures which are not in fact necessary. Read the literature on removal of medical licenses if you don't believe me. Since it is a well documented fact that some doctors are willing push unneeded procedures when the patient is resisting the idea (a problem which I note is subject to oversight), why are you so resistant to the idea that some doctors would be willing to perform a procdeure that is unneeded, but desired by the patient?

I posit a situation where some doctors act in an immoral way with respect to abortion. You posit a situation where zero doctors act in such a way. And you think I'm the stupid one.

And I also repeat that my original statement was of LEGALITY. It is LEGAL in most states to abort a fetus AT ANY STAGE OF THE PREGNANCY with absolutely NO REQUIREMENT OF PROOF that the fetus is damaged or otherwise not viable. That is no requirement for tests, no requirement for affirmations, no requirement whatsoever. That you haven't disputed, because you cannot.

yamamoto - "The point at which any one person assigns personhood to a developing human life is quite varied. Many assign it at birth, others assign it at viability (about 20 weeks), others assign it at the first sign of neurological function and others assign it at conception. Only the latter is not arbitrary."

If you're going to state that your preferred point is not arbitrary, but the others are, you're going to have to provide the underlying assumptions that bring you to your "non-arbitrary" point. I (and others) have mentioned above that we consider the boundaries to be fuzzy, taking place across a continuum rather than at a singular point. (Thus making any exact point of demarcation arbitrary.) Nevertheless, if I was to pick a single point for the boundary line, it would be based on neurological development. If you read my first post in this thread, it will be clear that such a boundary line would follow logically from my first principles outlined therein. Based on those principles, it seems that the point of conception would indeed be an arbitrary boundary.

If you're coming to a different conclusion, it seems likely that your first principles might be different. I'd love to hear what they are. (Seriously - I find such discussions fascinating and informative.)

I posit a situation where some doctors act in an immoral way with respect to abortion. You posit a situation where zero doctors act in such a way. And you think I'm the stupid one.

I never called you stupid, Sebastian. Dishonest and deceptive, perhaps, but not stupid.

I notice you sidestep the nuance issue. You don't want to answer the murder question, do you?

So, yes, let's talk about legality. You want oversight of Ob-Gyns. You want them to maintain records, and you want those records open to inspection. No reason why doctors or patients should be concerned about that, is there? No reason to believe D.A.s and other politicians won't try to prosecute a few abortionists? Get the names of a few patients and interrogate them? In a contest between trusting my doctor and trusting John Ashcroft, I'll take my doc.

And if you get the records, and you can interrogate a few women, and find a case of a late-term abortion performed for a reason that District Attorney Holsclaw considers medically insufficient, then what? It's not just idle curiousity; you want to ban certain acts. Yes, let's talk about the law, Sebastian - exactly what penalty are you advocating? We have to define the crime first. It's murder, isn't it? You want to lock women and doctors up for murder if you don't like their reasons why they decided on an abortion. THAT'S why you won't answer the question of whether it's murder or not, because you know where your answer leads: women and doctors in jail, or even better, facing the death penalty.

"I never called you stupid, Sebastian."

Incorrect. Your statement "It's a matter of incentives, which should be obvious to anyone with an IQ above that of a toaster." can be reasonably seen as being an attack of Sebastian's intelligence. But you aren't going to apologize for that.

What you are going to apologize for is this statement:

"You're going to have to find some other way to control women's lives, pal."

...to MY satisfaction. If you do not, you will retain posting privileges at this site for precisely as long as it takes for me to find a computer from which I can ban you. No caveats, no weaseling, no sarcasm, no disingenousness and no joke.

Have I made myself completely, totally and ABUNDANTLY clear, Mithras*?

Moe

*And I don't give a sh*t what you think this says of me.

Ouch, getting ugly here.

Just a reminder, this thread started out with Sebastian making a polite, inerestingly argued thesis in which he acknowledged the pro-choice argument on abortion rights, but proposed that the issue of stem-cell research was not as clear-cut as it seemd to some. (By acknowledged I don't mean agreed with, just that he showed a reasonable understanding of the position and respect for those who believed in it.)

Now we have people yelling at each other, not about stem-cell research, but about those aspects of abortion which Sebastian acknowledged up front could be argued in good faith by either side.

I second Gromit's call for civility.

Mithras, your own words "Doctors are murdering 9-month fetuses!" Any proof? No? Pretty serious charge to make without evidence. make it seem as if you consider aborting a 9-month fetus to be a bad thing, though perhaps not murder. Your differences with Sebastian on that issue seem to be the factual one of how common the practice is, the moral issue of how serious the offense is, and the resultant practical issue of whether that should be regulated. Those all seem open to discussion without insults.

It seems as though you have made the automatic conclusion that "Sebastian is an opponent of abortion. Therefore he is a theocratic tyrant who just wants to oppress women and if he's trying to discuss things reasonably it's just a ruse to cover up his plans for locking up women and doctors."

Personally, when someone extends me the courtesy of assuming I'm arguing in good faith, I try to do the same for them.

I should have bet someone you couldn't just answer "yes" or "no." This comment isn't worthy of an intellectually honest discussion. If a person's position has nuance beyond a simple binary, it's entirely reasonable for them to say so. Sebastian's response was clear and to the point. I don't agree with it, but I could certainly explain how his argument could be logically coherent.

Sebastian - it looks as though there are still some folks who are interested in politely discussing/debating your original point. It might be better for your blood pressure to engage in conversation with them instead of yelling at one or two folks who are coming in with such a preconceived dislike for you and your position that they're not willing to explore the common ground.

Every human life begins at conception. It is irrelevent that a set of twins became so a day or two after conception; each of them began their life at conception; their developmental program started at conception, not at the point of twinning. It is irrelevant that eggs and sperm or skin cells or any other permutation of cells have the potential to also form a new life. When and if they do, they do so at the moment of conception (which, in the case of cloning would be a joining of two haploid genomes-which is what conception entails). After conception, the beginning of a new life, one can only speak of developmental stages. A new life does not start when a heart beat can be detected with ultrasound, or when a neural impulse can be measured, or when such life is sufficiently developed to live without an umbilical cord. Every one of those developmental stages have their start in conception. The point about "potential" humans at early developmental stages is not scientific. They are fully human but they are potential adults or potential persons. And, even as adults we are no more than clumps of cells and concoctions of chemicals. We don't justify sacrificing adults for that reason.

I don't support the position that personhood ought to be assigned at conception. (Although I'm much more aligned with that position than the abortion on demand for any reason.) In fact, I'm rather inclined to assign varying levels of personhood at various stages of development; quite arbitrary, but based on competing rights and pragmatism. Yet, embryos and subsequent stages of development have intrinsic value as human life.

yamamoto - "The point at which any one person assigns personhood to a developing human life is quite varied. Many assign it at birth, others assign it at viability (about 20 weeks), others assign it at the first sign of neurological function and others assign it at conception. Only the latter is not arbitrary."

yamamoto - "Every human life begins at conception. ... I don't support the position that personhood ought to be assigned at conception."

(emphasis added - mine)

yamamoto, your last post seems to put a significantly different spin on your viewpoint than the previous one. If you're only arguing that conception is the only non-arbitrary point to define the beginnings of life, then you've got a much stronger case. In a discussion of ethics, however, the dividing line for personhood seems much more relevant.

returning to the original post, and the following comments, Sebastian asserts that stem cell research is NOT the easy case because there is no countervailing interest of the mother.

what he and Yamoto and the other anti-choice advocates have continued to fail to address is the situation be faced by the source of the stem cells.

Stem cell research remains an easy case, because there is no political will to so tightly regulate IVF as to prevent the creation of surplus [humans / embryos / fetuses / blastocytes / fertilized cells].

Finding a consistent legal theory around abortion remains a hard issue for the anti-choice group. If life is created at fertilization, then (a) there is no justification for rape or incest exceptions to abortion, (b) many forms of birth control must be outlawed; (c) most forms of IVF must be illegalized; (d) anyone acquiring an abortion, even overseas, is guilty of murder, so NY socialites and Alabama teenagers should both face the full wrath of the law, as well as the doctors.

Whew! Put that law to an initiative, and wait for a crushing defeat even in the most conservative state.

So anti-choice moderates like Sebastian argue for a certain legal hypocrisy. Most life starts at conception, but if conception occurred in an IVF tube, or due to rape, incest, or birth control failure, then that doesn't count.

Well, ok, but then please recognize that your willingness to compromise on the hard cases gives the pro-choice group the opportunity to assert that stem cell research is an easy case. The [thing] created in the test tube is not, to the pro-choicers, alive at the time of fertilization. It's never going to be alive, because it doesn't have a uterus available. So, does it sit in the freezer forever, in a moral limbo, or is it to be used?

you'll note that i reject the term "pro-life". What am I, pro-death? Nonsense. I am anti-government interference in this decision. And before we worry too much about unseen infanticides, let's remember that the mother and the doctor would need to agree to commit that murder, with the cooperation and silence of the nurses.

what happens in these cases? Doctor: wow, you and your baby are in raging good health, and he's due to two weeks. too much of a bother? don't worry, just pop right up here and we'll suck that thing right out.

if this kind of worry keeps you awake nights, then become a D.A., empanel a grand jury, and start proving your cases. best of luck.

Or start seeking legislation requiring that the AG be notified in all cases of a non-emergency abortion of any fetus more than 25? weeks along. given the current climate in DC, you might expect a little opposition to such legislation, though. but is anyone trying? why the effort on banning a particular medical procedure, instead of something more useful -- like mandatory notice to law enforcement -- if you're trying to prevent infanticide? Could it be (horrors of horrors) grandstanding?

The democratic party and the pro-choice movement are frequently accused of being unbendingly rigid on this issue. Given the kinds of laws coming out of DC that completely ignore constitutional requirements (like consideration of health of the mother) you would, if you were on our side, understand our lack of willingness to talk compromise.

when the republican party is willing to fund effective sex ed, when it allows OTC issuance of day-after birth control, when RU-486 is covered under health insurance, when the party stops inventing terms like "partial-birth abortion" for a medical procedure which does not exist, then you can expect the national democratic party to allow the "pro-life" voices to have a say. 'till then, not so much.

cheers

Francis

tonydismukes: Thank you. Let me clarify. The assignment of personhood at any time other than conception is arbitrary with respect to the developmental biology of a human life but is not arbitrary with respect to ethics. I find the assignment of human life to arbitrary stages following conception inconsistent with science and repugnant in a historical context of the dehumanization of peoples.

I agree with Sebastian that the developing human has intrinsic value that in vitro need not be balanced with rights of the mother (other than rights to motherhood) and, therefore, the same argument as for abortion can't be made.

Mithras has indicated that no apology will be forthcoming.

Sebastian: Jesurgislac you are quite frankly full of shit on this.

*raises eyebrow* And yet, I notice that Moe is not calling you on your lack of civility. I cited statistics to prove that your claim of "many" was pure nonsense: and I thank you for accepting, even though offensively, that I'm right on this and you're wrong.

The only word I'll take back is many. Because we know full well that there are doctors who are willing to provide procedures that are not medically necessary. Ever heard of elective plastic surgery?

Of course. And if I denied the reality of elective plastic surgery, you could provide me with examples of doctors who carry out elective plastic surgery. That's what I'm asking you to do with your claim that there are doctors who carry out medically-unnecessary terminations post-36 weeks. You're refusing to do this.

Mithras and Jesurgislac, both of you have repeatedly and across many discussion threads on the topic agreed objected to my ability to find evidence on this topic. When I mention that medical groups have repeatedly fought any oversight or accountability on this issue, you ask me to trust the doctors.

Actually, no. I am not asking you to "trust the doctors": I am very specifically asking you to provide evidence of a claim you've made. There are about 15 000 abortions a year in the US carried out in the third trimester. I have no idea how many of them are carried out post-36 weeks: that's your claim and I think it's fair to ask you to provide the statistics on that one.

What I am asking you for is not "trust the doctors" but for facts. One: how many abortions are you claiming are carried out per year post-36 weeks? Two: how many of those abortions are you claiming are not medically necessary? (Source for your facts, please.) Three: produce examples, with sources, of such abortions being carried out.

Would you ask Katherine to trust military intelligence to follow the rules on torture? Would you be ok if they resisted oversight? Would you trust their professionalism?

This is an odd and unfortunate parallel that you are drawing (though, to be fair, I started with my parallel: and I should say here that though I disagree with you on abortion, I apologize for any implication that I was calling you a moonbat - I was intending that noun to apply to Dick Cheney and those who still believe in him with regard to al-Qaeda/Hussein).

Your parallel does have resonance with me: I recall very well being shouted down by pro-war supporters and many others when I spoke out against Guantanamo Bay and the US treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, from January 2002 onwards. The reason I was shouted down was because the only evidence I had that something was wrong in January 2002 was that, demonstrably, Guantanamo Bay was an illegal prison camp under the rules of the Geneva Convention, to which the US and Afghanistan were both signatories. Since then, ample evidence has surfaced from many independent observers that in fact the basic illegality of Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Airbase and other prison camps in which people are held without regard for the Geneva Convention, is reflected in the treatment these prisoners receive. I don't get shouted down the way I did in January 2002 because more people agree with me because there is more evidence - overflowing evidence - that there is something horribly wrong going on.

Now, you are in roughly the same position as I was in January 2002: I'll concede that. You're making a claim for which you have, apparently, no evidence: you're asserting that something is horribly wrong. Except that one reason I had no evidence was because the US invasion of Afghanistan was then only three months old, and Guantanamo Bay has just been established. Abortion in the US has been legal now for thirty-three years. Even anti-choice activists go to get abortions - even clinic picketers take their daughters to have an unwanted pregnancy terminated. If you can't provide evidence that what you say is going on is actually happening, well, I take leave to doubt that you have any evidence.

"*raises eyebrow* And yet, I notice that Moe is not calling you on your lack of civility."

When I told my co- and guest bloggers that I wasn't going to enforce restrictions on them (with one requested exception), I was being serious. That does in fact mean that I have to overlook any hypothetical slips in decorum and/or politeness, if and when they occur and provided that they do not occur very often.

Whether or not this is hypocritical of me is in fact something I've wondered about from time to time, but the truth of the matter is that criticism coming from me on this subject will be seen as having more oomph than I'd sometimes want it to. You can object about how I'm handling this if you like, but you try running a site with writers across the spectrum and readers to match, and now I'm getting close to whining, so I'll stop. :)

Moe

Crud, that post of mine was rambling and disjointed, yet scattershot. Gimme a break: it's 5 bloody 30 AM here and I'm about to hit the road. :)

Moe, since the last thing I would like to do is run a site like this (well, no, you know, there are plenty of other things I would like to run even less, but I mean, for fun, as a hobby, as a part-time nightmare...) I shouldn't whine about your decisions.

*salutes the captain of the blog*
(...and a right good captain too...)

Have a good weekend.

I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to get involved in this thread -- I mean, I'm planning on a nicely genteel suicide, not this rabble-rousing termination :) -- but I do have one small comment: a number of people have made claims about statistics, procedures, and various matters of fact in addition to the usual intangible referents of ethics. Assuming this thread still has some life in it, could people please provide actual citations to go along with these claims? Knowing little about the subject, I can't differentiate between people know what they're talking about and people who are reciting third-hand anecdotal evidence... and, more pointedly, between claims which are correct/well-founded and claims which are incorrect/ill-founded.

And now, exit, pursued by a bear. Sorry, Moe! I swear, I didn't know you still had feelings for that toaster...!

Anarch:

Statistics:

Number of abortions per year 1.313M (PDF file) in 2000 (the most recent year for which I could easily find figures - the number of abortions per year has been steadily falling since 1990).

When abortions are carried out: 90% of abortions in the first trimester, 9% in the second trimester, and 1% in the third: Legal abortions and legal abortion ratios - (CDC table - PDF). The data given shows that in 1999 (the latest year on the table) 88% of abortions were carried out at 12 weeks or less, 10.5% between 13-21 weeks, and 1.5% at 21 weeks and over.

I can't find statistics on what proportion of that 1.5% are carried out at 36 weeks and over (though I would lay a bet it's an extremely small proportion). I've asked Sebastian to do that, since it's his assertion: likewise to establish what proportion of abortions carried out at 36 weeks and over are carried out for non-medical reasons.

Other references:

An excellent post from Ampersand addressing the logic of the "pro-lifers".

The Continuing Need for Late Abortions by Dr David Grimes.

"And if I denied the reality of elective plastic surgery, you could provide me with examples of doctors who carry out elective plastic surgery. That's what I'm asking you to do with your claim that there are doctors who carry out medically-unnecessary terminations post-36 weeks. You're refusing to do this."

You are refusing to listen to me. I am not refusing to answer. I am asserting that the information is not available and has been INTENTIONALLY MADE NOT AVAILABLE. I assert that all attempts to make such information available have been shouted down as anti-choice. I assert that late-term abortions are not REQUIRED to be medically necessary.

You don't disagree.

I assert that doctors do not in fact verify or document that late-term abortions are medically necessary.

You don't disagree.

I assert that pro-choice groups have successfully resisted attempts to require such verification.

You don't disagree.

And after all that you repeatedly act as if I am being dishonest in my arguments by not providing statistics which you desire. I desire these statistics too. But they aren't available. And that is due to repeated scare tactics from the pro-choice lobby. The statistics are not available on purpose. It isn't as if I am the one hiding from them.

And after all that you repeatedly act as if I am being dishonest in my arguments by not providing statistics which you desire.

No, I think the complaint is that you assert as fact that these late-term abortions are taking place, when you have no evidence for such an assertion. If you qualify those statements with an "in all likelihood" or some such phrase, then you can't be accused of dishonesty, though of course some might still attack your deductions.

By the way, can you point me to evidence that the pro-choice lobby is suppressing those statistics?

Oh well, if it must be spelled out:

I am asserting that the information is not available and has been INTENTIONALLY MADE NOT AVAILABLE. I assert that all attempts to make such information available have been shouted down as anti-choice. I assert that late-term abortions are not REQUIRED to be medically necessary.

I disagree. But, if you can provide any proof of this, I'll change my mind.

I assert that doctors do not in fact verify or document that late-term abortions are medically necessary.

I disagree. But, if you can provide any proof of this, I'll change my mind.

I assert that pro-choice groups have successfully resisted attempts to require such verification.

I disagree. But, if you can provide any proof of this, I'll change my mind.

And after all that you repeatedly act as if I am being dishonest in my arguments by not providing statistics which you desire.

I do not believe that I have accused you of dishonesty at any point in this thread. Merely of making unsubstantiated assertions with which I do not agree. If you can provide substantiation for these assertions, I will certainly consider changing my mind. Again, if it needs spelling out, I agree that a non-medical abortion (that is, healthy fetus, healthy mother, no reason to believe that delivery would not be successful and non-damaging) at 36-weeks-plus would be a very bad idea. I am merely pointing out that you have shown no evidence at all that such abortions are taking place, and that the statistics show that if such abortions are taking place, they cannot be commonplace. (You haven't even provided statistics as to how many abortions take place at 36 weeks and above.)

I desire these statistics too. But they aren't available. And that is due to repeated scare tactics from the pro-choice lobby.

Do you have any evidence of this assertion? Given that only 1.5% of abortions take place at 21 weeks and above, and that most states and medical associations have laws and rules and agreements that they will not abort above 24 weeks unless necessary to save the life of the mother, my guess is that the majority of abortions above 21 weeks take place between 21-24 weeks. Your claim is for abortions at 36-weeks plus: it seems more likely that stats for this are not made available on tables because the number is statistically insignificant, not because of "scare tactics" from the pro-choice lobby.

The statistics are not available on purpose. It isn't as if I am the one hiding from them.

My point is, again, that you are simply asserting that 36+ non-medical abortions occur - yet without any evidence that they do occur: and asserting that the evidence is not there because it is being deliberately suppressed, yet without any evidence of this (rather X-Files) suggestion.

If you cannot provide evidence of these statistically-unlikely, legally-unlikely, and ethically-unlikely assertions, I fear you will have to continue being disbelieved: not because I think you dishonest, but because assertions without any evidence and without any evidence of suppression of evidence and without even any motivation for suppression of evidence (the "pro-choice lobby" is really not that powerful: no CSM or Krycek) then, well, you're Mulder. And it's only on TV that Mulder is right.

Oops.

that 36+ non-medical abortions occur

Edit: 36+week non-medical abortions occur

Makes a difference...

I assert that doctors do not in fact verify or document that late-term abortions are medically necessary.

I disagree. But, if you can provide any proof of this, I'll change my mind.

The following is public information, yet it’s hardly known. Abortions are illegal after 24 weeks in most states, including NY, except to save the woman’s life or health. In 1996 (the most recent year for which the NYS Department of Health has documented statistics), NO abortions after 24 weeks were performed in NYS. (NYC does not verify its numbers.)

...make of it what you will

Check out this PDF... while there is documentation in Kansas it doesn't really provide you with the information that one would need to reach a knowledgable conclusion. It hides alot of the meaningful details.

This report reminds me of Steven Den Beste's post a couple of days ago. I think any engineer, would be able to look at the questions and the report itself and know that you can't really many meaningful conclusions. Genralizations, yes.

http://www.kdhe.state.ks.us/hci/98itop1.pdf

Look at pages 10,11,12 and 13

Notice on page 11 that none were to prevent patient death.

Prevent subtantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function

What a loaded statement wrt pregnancy. Every pregnancy is a train wreck on a womans body. (I don't know how they do it.) I can't think of how many times my wife made a comment during her pregnancy about how her bladder would never be the same again. It seems to me that I could apply that statement to any pregnancy.


It seems safe to say that some document, but the documentation sort of sucks.


ps: none was me just a screw up

The information provided by medical facilities to the CDC or other agencies is voluntary. In their own report, the CDC makes it clear that gestational age is not always included even when other abortion statistics are provided.

I think it's safe to assume that 36+ week abortions are exceedingly rare (primarily because of high risk to the mother).

There is, ethically, little difference between terminating a 24+ week pregnancy and a 30+ week pregnancy. The fetus is viable at 24 weeks, in fact, at 20 weeks.

On the other hand, as most states have outlawed late term abortions, it is safe to assume that those states that haven't, allow such abortions.

I strongly oppose abortion and I also strongly oppose stem cell research. It says in the bible that our God does not want us interferring with the cycle of life. Basically, which means he doesn't want scientists taking these babies lives who do have a chance, but actually didn't get one due to an unloving mother and disecting and using the stem cells in their little baby brains to help the rich look better, or maybe give an old rich person a few more years. When God talked about man living hundreds of years, he didn't mean that you take human embryos and keep yuorself alive on the lives of other human beings. They think all of us are stupid, or obliged by the propaganda machine but I know better, I know that what their doing is protecting the lives of them and their rich friends!

Mithras: congratulations. Now you've been banned twice.

Banned for what reason?

He was responding to a specific post Sebastian directed at him. Mithras didn't initiate the discussion, Sebastian publicized it - after which Mithras was inundated by a series of petulant condescending remarks about sending 'offensive' emails, treated like a little child who gave someone the finger.

So is he being banned for sending private email he didn't post on this blog Sebastian chose to reveal? Or for defending himself after the email was made public and responding to the other posters who piled on him?

Or is he banned for simply using the "F-word" ?? If that's the reason, you need to rethink that quaint (and elitist) gag order and censor it from your posting rules.

In this day and age (and internet venue) it's political correctness ad-absurdum to exclude a word so intrinsically part of our American idiom - a throw-back to the Victorian era censors like Anthony Comstock (who once arrested a woman for mailing a post card to her husband on which she called him "a scuz-bucket") or the arbiters of public morality at the Hollywood Hay's Office censoring words from American movies like harlot, hell, hussy, lousy, nerts, nuts, slut, and damn -

No idea who you're responding to, Jay. Moe doesn't live here anymore, and furthermore didn't say what you responded to.

sorry..
commented way way way off on the wrong post, almost on a different planet..

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