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April 11, 2007

Comments

The sad inability of pro-lifers to come up with anything resembling a coherent explanation of why a small group of cells containing human DNA is equivalent to a real person is, to me, one of the clearest proofs that they are completely full of it

As a matter of principle, I don't think taxpayers should be forced to fund any activity that a large number of them have a serious moral objection to.

Once we've all agreed on this fundamental point, I'd like my share of the war funding back, please.

Hilzoy, thanks for the basic point up towards the front:
Naturally, the whole question is whether a five day old blastocyst should be treated as a human person or not.
Same deal with abortion, and on both issues, pretty few people notice that "what's a human person" is actually the only relevant question.

It's odd, on abortion, I run into this frustration more with pro-choicers than pro-lifers, though frankly it's a pretty close call (props to Publius as an example of a pro-choicer who clearly defines where he believes life begins, why, and makes it clear that abortion after that point is unacceptable to him).

But on stem cell research, it's alllll the other direction; the pro-lifers almost never have a solid argument on whether or not it's a human life, which is really sad. I do know folks who have such an argument, consistent with their other beliefs and thoroughly considered, regardless of whether or not I agree with them, but their voices are so utterly totally drowned by intellectual dishonesty that it's just, well, sad.
As one friend of mine put it "I truly believe my reasons are good, but when everyone else on my side of an issue is being dishonest, it makes me wonder if I can possibly be right."

Joe Thomas: Same deal with abortion, and on both issues, pretty few people notice that "what's a human person" is actually the only relevant question.

It's odd, on abortion, I run into this frustration more with pro-choicers than pro-lifers

That's because (speaking as a pro-choicer) we know that a woman is a human person, whether or not she's pregnant, and that makes any argument about whether or not she should have the right to choose to terminate or continue a pregnancy based on the human rights of fetuses pretty much irrelevant: even if you grant a five-day-old blastcyst full human rights, those human rights do not include the right to use another human person's body against his or her will, not even to save your life.

So, with the "ethical dilemma" of abortion, the only relevant question is "is a woman a human person?" and if you answer yes to that, there's no need to argue the case of when a fetus becomes a human person.

For scientific research making use of blastocysts, though, the question does focus on blastocysts only - and in my view it's for the people who say that a 5-day-old blastocyst is legally, ethically, and morally in all ways identical to a 5-minute-old infant, to show that they behave in this way throughout their life, not just when making anti-science/anti-women noises. (The vast majority of 5-day-old blastocysts in the US that are disposed of without ceremony or concern go out with tampons/sanitary towels, after all.)

Thanks, hilzoy -- when I read it, I was taken aback but what a muddled collection of well-poisoning, question begging, and basic nonsense it all was, and kept thinking to myself, "This man is running for president?"

I mean, geez:


  • The massive leap from "blastocyst" to "young human."
  • The question-begging leap to embryonic stem cell research being unethical.
  • The constant harping on the research being speculative as if all research isn't speculative! (If we knew the endpoints in advance, it wouldn't be research. It would be engineering.)
  • The elision of the fact that the bill in question would apply only to alread-existing embryos that are scheduled for disposal by IVF clinics.

It just . . . nothing about it is any good at all. It's at the reasoning level of a fifth-grader.

By the by, if Sen. Brownback is so concerned about Ms. Rabon's medical expenses, then if he's going to use her as a political prop in a thinly-veiled antiabortion screed, I suggest he sponsor a universal health care bill and/or pay her back.

hilzoy,
I think you're being dishonest. You conclude:


Those patients who believe that a five day old blastocyst is a human person who should not be destroyed can obtain peace of mind through the simple expedient of not using any therapies involving embryonic stem cells.
If you actually think it's reasonable for a person who thinks a blastocyst is a human being would be satisfied with by "not availing themselves of the technology", try recasting the argument. Would you be "satisfied" by knowing that so long as you didn't purchase the products manufactured in a gulag or similar place would "obtain peace of mind" for you? I don't think so, and its unclear how you expect that of anyone. Or perhaps its just (to use Phil's words) "the reasoning level of a fifth grader" on display.

Mark Olsen: I was assuming that readers would know that I was referring back to Sen. Brownback's statement, the one I was commenting on:

"Patients should have the peace of mind that their treatment did not come at the expense of another's destruction"

This is, indeed, something that can be gotten by the simple expedient of not using those treatments.

Had I been talking about the peace of mind that comes from knowing your country does not condone the slaughter of innocent human persons, you would of course be right. But, as I said, the crucial question is whether five day old blastocysts are human persons, and that's not a question that Sen. Brownback offered any arguments at all on.

I always love it when stem cell opponents harp on the fact that there aren't any embryonic stem cell therapies at the same time that they're actively campaigning to prevent any research that might develop such therapies. It's the political/medical version of "Stop hitting yourself! Why are you hitting yourself? Stop hitting yourself!"

I have a hard time believing that there aren’t many people on the “a 5-day-old embryo is equivalent morally to a walking, talking person” side of the debate who honestly believe their position. I’m also sure that there are some who simply use that stance as a rhetorical device for purely political reasons, but I want to discuss the honest ones, because they’re far more confounding, if less contemptible.

While I have to think a good number in the embryo = human camp are truly principled, honest people, I simply cannot for the life of me understand how they reach that position. I don’t think an embryo is worthless or nothing, but to equate its value to that of a fully developed human being seems JUST PLAIN CRAZY to me. I don’t like to say that, because I think it’s worthwhile to understand, at least on some level, the positions of those with whom you disagree. But, in this case, I just can’t. I can understand people who may have questions in their mind on the subject, but I really don’t get how someone can truly feel strongly that a relatively small collection of undifferentiated cells frozen in some kind of laboratory container carries the same value of, say, a blog commenter.

Maybe it just gets back to this:

…in my view it's for the people who say that a 5-day-old blastocyst is legally, ethically, and morally in all ways identical to a 5-minute-old infant, to show that they behave in this way throughout their life, not just when making anti-science/anti-women noises. (The vast majority of 5-day-old blastocysts in the US that are disposed of without ceremony or concern go out with tampons/sanitary towels, after all.)

A thought experiment I’ve offered before involves a number of “people who say that a 5-day-old blastocyst is legally, ethically, and morally in all ways identical to a 5-minute-old infant” (and who, assuming I’m right that such people exist, believe it) outside a still enterable burning building in which there are frozen embryos and infants. You can take it from there.

And, Joshua, me too. I'd say it's like someone wearing a mask refusing to remove it unless someone can describe his face.

It seems clear to me that, given immune rejection issues, the primary use of embryonic stem cells is research to learn enough of the developmental process to be able to regress adult cells of patients to become specific stem cells. The potential for their actual use in treatment seems minimal.

Brett B: immune rejection issues are precisely the same as in bone marrow transplants from different donors, or in solid organ transplants. They are managed in those cases, and people get real benefits from those therapies. Why embryonic stem cells should be different is a mystery to me.

Moreover, there are vastly fewer immune rejection issues when you transplant stem cells produced via somatic cell nuclear transfer from a person's own DNA.

The most troubling part of Brownback's approach is the breathtaking dishonesty that he engages in. Sure, he lies to us, but he is so convinced by the lies to himself that he can no longer see how dishonest his arguments are.

The Monty Python song "Every Sperm is Sacred" is a wonderful parody of the argumentation that Brownback goes into. He asserts, without any physical evidence or adequate logical support, everything he needs to force the conclusion that he wants. Then, of course, he proudly pats himself on the back for how ethical he is being. Hogwash. All life is life. Eggs, sperm, blastocysts, embryos, fetuses, babies, adults, sick people. It's all a continuation of life, but it's not all equal, not legally, not ethically, not morally, not practically, not realistically, not even politically.

If Sam Brownback wants to talk about murder, fine. I'll ask him:

  • Who are you to say that someone should die to support your commitment to an intellectually indefensible claim about blasocysts that have never been in a placenta and therefore are not going to develop into human beings?
  • Where do you get your special ability to know who should die so that fertilized eggs may be kept in liquid nitrogen?
  • When did God give you this remarkable revelation?
  • Is your God really that petty?
  • Do you have the guts to face someone who is dying because you refuse to allow research that might save their life?
  • Do you have the guts to tell them that you and your friends are responsible for cutting off the opportunity to survive?
  • How many people do you think should die to make you feel good about your supposed commitment to life?

I have no use for self-righteous, smug folks who are willing to kill people or at least let them die for their special Humpty Dumpty definition of life. Sorry, but I don't accept the claim that it's God's will that people die, not when supposed Christians are part of the reason those people are dying.

I don't believe a blastocyte is equal to a human baby - we gladly donated our unused IVF embryo's to science. At the same time I have problems understanding people who feel that 5 minutes before birth a baby is not a person at all, but 5 minuts after birth he is.

The fertilized egg=human being arguement has two roots that I've been able to trace.

1. From an anti-abortion stance, it allows one to argue against any and all abortion procedures. It can even be easily extended to cover any form of birth control that prevents implantation in the uterus: IUDs and Plan B.

2. Viewed from a gender politics perspective, it denies female agency--a pregnancy becomes something done by a male, with the female as passive actor. Start looking for the tracks left by this mindset and you'll find them all over.

The argument is a poorly-crafted tool, but it's not intended for subtle work. Mainly, it's a bludgeon.

It can even be easily extended to cover any form of birth control that prevents implantation in the uterus: IUDs and Plan B.

Plan B is basically a birth control pill. It doesn't work by preventing implantation, it works by preventing ovulation.

Plan B is basically a birth control pill.

Like that matters to most anti-choice/anti-abortion people. It's all the same to them.

I don't believe that a 5-day blastocyte counts as a human being. But because I know that for abortion purposes, 5-minutes before birth also doesn't count as a human being, I have reservations grounded in the potential for a slippery slope on involuntary human research involving fetuses.

I would feel much more comfortable if we could get a clear set of guidelines on exactly when (and why) everyone thinks fetuses and/or zygotes should not be subject to research. I'm skeptical that this will happen, because it would have obvious implications for abortion which pro-choice advocates would want to resist--they would especially resist cloaking these judgments with science.

But because I know that for abortion purposes, 5-minutes before birth also doesn't count as a human being...

Really? How do you know this? Can you cite any instances of 5-minutes-before-birth infanticides which were done for the purposes of aborting the pregnancy?

Sebastian: I'm skeptical that this will happen, because it would have obvious implications for abortion which pro-choice advocates would want to resist--they would especially resist cloaking these judgments with science.

Why would we worry? The key question for pro-choice advocates is whether you consider a woman is a human being. Where a woman is a human being, it's her decision (and her physician's) when or if to terminate a pregnancy.

Only if you dismiss the idea that women are human beings with inalienable human rights, as pro-lifers must, does it become at all important when in a woman's pregnancy the fetus she carries "becomes" a human being.

As for your claim that a fetus can be aborted 5 minutes before birth, CaseyL's right: you need to show that this has ever happened or that legislation even permits it to happen.

"Can you cite any instances of 5-minutes-before-birth infanticides which were done for the purposes of aborting the pregnancy?"

I presume you are aware that pro-choice groups have successfully made it impossible to collect data on the purposes of aborting pregnancies when you ask that. So you can't actually prove that any late term abortions were necessary for the health of the mother either. The data just is not reliably collected--unlike medical data on almost any other topic. And that is 100%intentional.

But ok, great since we are assuming I'm wrong about that, I'm certain that Jesurgislac and CaseyL will have very little trouble coming up with a broadly acceptable definition of when fetal research (that destroys the fetus) should not be permitted.

"So you can't actually prove that any late term abortions were necessary for the health of the mother either."

You didn't say late-term abortion. You said 5-minutes-before-birth abortion.

"I presume you are aware that pro-choice groups have successfully made it impossible to collect data on the purposes of aborting pregnancies when you ask that."

I presume you are aware that such a wide-open study as "the purpose of aborting pregnancies" isn't at all what the Bush Admin was interested in. It wanted actual, non-anonymous records of actual, non-anonymous girls and women, for the purposes of public exposure. I also preume you are aware that women exposed in public as having had abortions are subject to harrassment and death threats.

"But because I know that for abortion purposes, 5-minutes before birth also doesn't count as a human being,"

You know this. You know it. It's a fact. An absolute fact. Known.

This is, in fact, an outrageous claim, Sebastian, and you have to know that. I have no problem understanding that you got carried away for a few moments on the subject, and hit "post."

But to be intellectually honest, you have to admit that this is an unsupportable, false claim. Hospitals deal with premature births, and premature labor, and premature babies, every minutes of the day, somewhere in this country.

Nowhere does anyone take a pregnant woman in her ninth month, and when she comes into the hospital in that ninth month, then treats the embryo as a blastocyte.

You know this. It's not a matter of finding abortion statistics. It's a fact that you can't possibly find Ob/Gyn doctors who would support any such claim, that five minutes before birth, the baby is perfectly abortable without thought or care, and that that's just how it goes in hospitals across America.

"But ok, great since we are assuming I'm wrong about that" isn't good enough: on this one you need to out and out admit that you were flatly wrong, and carried away, when you said that. It's the only intellectually honest responsible possible.

Incidentally, I was six weeks premature, which wasn't a small thing in 1958 (particularly since my mother was Rh-negative, and my father RH+, and they'd not yet invented the drugs that make that non-problematic).

Sebastian: I'm certain that Jesurgislac and CaseyL will have very little trouble coming up with a broadly acceptable definition of when fetal research (that destroys the fetus) should not be permitted.

If a blastocyst is not implanted in a uterus, it dies. So I'm not sure why your caveat "(that destroys the fetus)" - it's not actually relevant.

Even if you define a 5-day-old blastocyst as the legal equivalent of a 5-minute-old infant, the parent(s) certainly have a right to donate their brain-dead infant to scientists for the purpose of research, don't they? And you don't actually get much more brain-dead than a blastocyst...

Phrased sarcastically, but that is in fact my position: phrased less sarcastically - I believe that a woman (or a couple) who wish to do so ought to be able to donate fertilised eggs (or sperm: or eggs) for the purpose of scientific research.

I have issues, which I'd be happy to discuss, with the idea of taking sperm or eggs which the donors believed were going to be used in fertility treatment, and using them without the donors' knowledge to create embryos for the purpose of stem-cell experimentation. That seems to me to be over the line.

Yeah, I think Gary's rant is squarely on point here. Who the heck can even imagine an abortion 5 minutes before birth? Is the scenario that a woman stumbles into a hospital, dilated and undergoing rapid contractions, and says to the duty nurse "the baby is coming, I want to abort it before it pops out"? And that somewhere in this land, there exists the medical professional who would respond "no problem, it's your choice"?

Are there really people who have been so brainwashed by "abortion on demand" rhetoric that they believe there is any sort of constituency in support of completely elective abortions 5 minutes before birth? Come on. The very thought is ghastly. It's nothing but a rhetorical device to be followed by "okay, if you won't draw the line there, where WILL you draw it?"

I have idea. I'll draw the line for myself in my life and my circumstances, and everyone else is free to do the same. Otherwise, the question becomes where will the federal or state governement draw it for all of us.

"It's nothing but a rhetorical device to be followed by 'okay, if you won't draw the line there, where WILL you draw it?'"

This exactly is why flipping the question around is totally dishonest, and why I was so emphatic that the only intellectually defensible and honest response would be to simply admit that the claim was a wild exaggeration.

I'm sure people can get used to flinging around that sort of language in an anti-abortion environment, to the point that they become oblivious to the fact that it's a crazy claim, with no connection to reality, since no one ever challenges the rhetoric in those circles, but the fact is that it's absolutely indefensible as a description of reality.

Of course, if Sebastian can come up with a couple of examples of how easy it is get an abortion five minutes before birth (oh, let's be generous, and accept three times longer as meeting the challenge, making it three times easier on Sebastian), any time in the past couple of decades, anywhere in America, why, then, Sebastian would not have been making an utterly false claim, and those noting that would have to agree we were wrong.

There are many thousands of hospitals in America, so it shouldn't be hard to find examples of this widespread practice of fifteen-minutes-before-birth abortions.

Alternatively, it shouldn't be too hard to admit that was a few rhetorical bridges too far, in the heat of the moment.

"Of course, if Sebastian can come up with a couple of examples of how easy it is get an abortion five minutes before birth"

Considering that a widely used abortion procedure involves inducing labor, and then aborting the baby while it's in the birth canal, moments from being born, maybe you want to ask for a more difficult example to supply?

I have no concern at all about aborting blastocysts, and embryonic stem cell research doesn't give me even a moment's pause, but I am more than troubled by a "pro-choice" movement that insists on choice post-viability. When it's a case of the mother's convenience weighed against the baby's life.

Brett: Considering that a widely used abortion procedure

"Widely used" in the 1.4% of abortions in the US that take place at 21+ weeks gestation, which is to say, not very widely used...

involves inducing labor, and then aborting the baby

that is, the 20-24 weeks fetus - just a correction: and bear in mind that there is no evidence that a human fetus <22 weeks gestated can survive outside the uterus. (And it's way more likely that a fetus under 25 weeks will die outside the uterus than it will live.)

while it's in the birth canal

Ah, I understand. You're referring to the process of intact dilation and extraction, which is "a surgical abortion wherein an intact fetus is removed from the womb via the cervix. The procedure may also be used to remove a deceased fetus (due to a miscarriage) that is developed enough to require dilation of the cervix for its extraction." In fact, according to this, the procedure is used in 0.17% of abortions in the US: so "widely used" is pretty much just wrong.

moments from being born

Depends how you define "birth", doesn't it? If a fetus is "born" whenever it leaves the uterus by the cervix, the majority of fetuses are "born" at >4 weeks.

"You didn't say late-term abortion. You said 5-minutes-before-birth abortion."

So what? It effects my point not at all. You can't prove that a single late term abortion was medically necessary because we very purposely are restricted from collecting such data. That includes 8-month abortions and very last second abortions.

(Interesting that this issue comes up on two separate threads and in both cases the purposeful suppression of data is in the furtherance of liberal policy. There was screaming up and down by you guys in the global warming case--and appropriate screaming I might add).

"I presume you are aware that such a wide-open study as "the purpose of aborting pregnancies" isn't at all what the Bush Admin was interested in. It wanted actual, non-anonymous records of actual, non-anonymous girls and women, for the purposes of public exposure."

Well you are apparently unaware that the restrictions go back to the 1970s, invoking the naughty Bush administration doesn't help you.


Gary,
"You know this. It's not a matter of finding abortion statistics. It's a fact that you can't possibly find Ob/Gyn doctors who would support any such claim, that five minutes before birth, the baby is perfectly abortable without thought or care, and that that's just how it goes in hospitals across America."

What is this without thought or care? I'm talking legally. Legally you can kill a 'fetus' 5 minutes before birth. Hell, before the partial-birth abortion ban you could kill it during birth so long as the head was still inside the mother's body. You know this, so what in the world are you talking about?

And if I hear people say that only happens when "medically necessary" I'm going to scream because you definitely don't know that. That information is pursposefully NOT COLLECTED. Attempts to collect that information have been absolutely shut down every single time it has been attempted in the past 30 years. If the prison wardens absolutely refused to document prisoner treatment, would you blithely assume that no mistreatment happened? I seriously doubt it. When someone's life is on the line, a multi-decade refusal to even go through super-basic documentation should not be considered a great sign that everyone is always doing the right thing. And even if we restrict ourselves solely to the very very late term abortions, we are still talking about more than 1,000 per year. For fewer executions, we demand years of appelate review on every single case. The fact that we can't even get a doctor to document the reasons why a late-term abortion was medically necessary in a one-liner is ridiculous given the level of documentation we demand for other life and death decisions.

"Considering that a widely used abortion procedure involves inducing labor, and then aborting the baby while it's in the birth canal, moments from being born, maybe you want to ask for a more difficult example to supply?"

Unless you can support the claim that this is a "widely used abortion procedure" for women who decide to have a non-medically-necessary abortion five minutes before they give birth, you're not honestly supporting or addressing the claim, Brett.

I noticed as I hit "post" that I'd not included the obvious qualifier, but wondered if anyone would try to blatantly twist and blur the distinction between medically-necessary abortions, and abortion-on-whim, in the case of five-minutes-before-birth, but figured no one would be dumb enough to think they could get away with trying to pass that as an honest argument.

Oh, well, hardly the first time I've been wrong.

What incentive do you think exists that would cause doctors to perform unneccessary late-term abortions on anything approaching a scale wide enough that it is pertinent to the overall abortion question?

"Widely used" in the 1.4% of abortions in the US that take place at 21+ weeks gestation, which is to say, not very widely used..."

I'm sorry, wasn't I just getting slammed by Gary for "never ever happens". Since the number of abortions in the US is in the 3.4 million range, 1.4% is in the 47,600 range each year.

My understanding is that the number of partial birth abortions in the rigorous "delivering the baby" definition numbers in the 4-6,000 range. Even in that range we are talking about far more than the number of people who are executed. So at an error rate of even 0.1% we are almost certainly talking about more babies killed than prisoners wrongfully executed each year.

"What is this without thought or care? I'm talking legally."

I'm talking reality. Reality turns out to be really easy to prove if something is widespread.

Women are deciding, on whim, to have abortions five minutes before birth.

I said we don't need statistics: give us some anecdotes. Give us just enough to suggest that this is a significant occurrence. Not enough to prove it. Just enough to even suggest it.

This is going on all across America, after all: it's a real problem. There should be no problem whatever finding some examples of it.

Either it's real, or it isn't. So introduce some real examples, please. Heck, just start with, say, six examples in the past ten years.

Either it's real, or it isn't.

"Unless you can support the claim that this is a "widely used abortion procedure" for women who decide to have a non-medically-necessary abortion five minutes before they give birth, you're not honestly supporting or addressing the claim, Brett."

Gary, you apparently have completely missed the context of the discussion.

I am uneasy about human zygote/fetus experimentation because the pro-choice lobby has helped successfully erase distinctions in such a way as to make it non-obvious where the experimentation will stop.

If you would care to point to the sentence in which you believe I made claims that fairly translate to: "women who decide to have a non-medically-necessary abortion five minutes before they give birth". I would be surprised to have said that, because I know that nobody has any real idea of how many late-term abortions are medically or non-medically necessary.

My point remains that the legal distinction between the zygote and the 5-minutes before birth fetus, has been rather not well maintained--to be incredibly generous to the pro-choice lobby.

Since that seems like it could very possibly spill into the research question, I'm very concerned.

If you think there is a clear line where research would be inappropriate, please share that line and explain how you derived it.

"I'm sorry, wasn't I just getting slammed by Gary for "never ever happens". Since the number of abortions in the US is in the 3.4 million range, 1.4% is in the 47,600 range each year."

Woo-hoo, and I fail to notice any demonstration that the women made the decision to have the abortion only five minutes before they would have given birth.

Moving goalposts: not allowed.

CaseyL asked you: "Can you cite any instances of 5-minutes-before-birth infanticides which were done for the purposes of aborting the pregnancy?"

Your response was to dodge the question, say "But ok, great since we are assuming I'm wrong about that," and challenge her with a different question.

So, are we assuming that you were wrong in claiming this is a significant, widespread, problem, or not? Which is it?

Maybe your initial response was just a hypothetical, abstract, concern, about the law and what it theoretically allows, and your worries and concerns about that, rather than an assertion about reality. Would you care to clarify that you were not, in fact, claiming we have a significant problem of women, minutes before birth, suddenly demanding an abortion? (Look, a door out! Might want to walk through, maybe.)

"I'm talking reality. Reality turns out to be really easy to prove if something is widespread."

Apparently you have a rather different definition of widespread than I do. Apparently you are the type of person who would be untroubled by say ONLY 5 innocent people executed every single year. So untroubled in fact, that you would be ok with never allowing an investigation into why someone was executed. Is that an accurate depiction of your stance Gary? Because your broad misreading of my stance seems even less fair than that, thank you very much.

Sebastian: . Since the number of abortions in the US is in the 3.4 million range

Never in years, Sebastian. "U.S. abortion rates continued to decline in 2001 and 2002, although the rate of decline has slowed since the early 1990s. The Institute estimates that 1,303,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2001—0.8% fewer than the 1,313,000 in 2000. In 2002, the number of abortions declined again, to 1,293,000, or another 0.8%. The rate of abortion also declined, from 21.3 procedures per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2000 to 21.1 in 2001 and 20.9 in 2002." Abortion rates in the US So we are in fact talking about approximately 18 000 late-term abortions in the US.

Now, you're asserting that out of those 18 000 abortions that take place at 21+ weeks gestation, some of them take place at "5 minutes before birth".

Or at least that there exist states in the US where legally you can kill a 'fetus' 5 minutes before birth. The only states in the US where that may be true would have to be the states where there is no state law regulating abortion, only a total ban which is overridden by the federal law that abortion must be available.

But, never mind. You have (approximately) 18 000 possible examples of abortions taking place, not in the 21-24 week range where common sense and statistical evidence say they're taking place, but "5 minutes before birth" - ie, labor has started, the cervix is dilated, the woman is about to give birth in 5-15 minutes.

And you claim it's legal for her to decide to abort. Where? What examples do you have that have led you to think so?

"Woo-hoo, and I fail to notice any demonstration that the women made the decision to have the abortion only five minutes before they would have given birth.

Moving goalposts: not allowed."

Gary, you are going to have to exactly quote what I said that led you onto this tangent. Because frankly you aren't making sense.

Jesurgislac, you are absolutely right about the 1.3 million abortions, I have no idea why I wrote 3.4.

You are absolutely not right about the 5 minutes before birth thing. Partial-birth abortions occur during birth. I know you and Gary and CaseyL are all aware of that fact, so I don't know what you are saying.

I would draw the line on research potentially destructive to the [insert appropriate stage of development] at a point before being alive AND in utero, at least for now. That may have to be revised if we can start growing babies outside the womb. The reason is that, thus far, only living embryos in utero can become developed humans. Is that too simple?

Sebastian, let's make it even easier for you than the "5 minutes before birth" claim. Can you provide any examples or even any direct evidence from medical witnesses or patients or hell, even relatives who saw it - that any abortions in the US take place after the waters break? This is well before your "five minutes" - hours, days, or occasionally weeks before labor starts.

You are absolutely not right about the 5 minutes before birth thing. Partial-birth abortions occur during birth.

By "partial birth abortion" I'm going to assume you mean intact dilation and extraction, okay? If you mean something else, you're going to have to use the medical terminology so that I know what you're talking about.

Okay, again, can you offer any evidence that anyone has ever used intact dilation and extraction to remove a fetus after a woman's waters broke? That's well before your "5 minutes before birth" timing.

My point remains that the legal distinction between the zygote and the 5-minutes before birth fetus, has been rather not well maintained--to be incredibly generous to the pro-choice lobby.

You cannot point to a single law in the United States that supports your contention. Not only was Roe clear that there could be some fairly rigorous laws about abortion in the third trimester, but I am not aware of any states that have not taken advantage of that fact. Could you please point to a single state that does not make a legal distinction between a zygote and a 5-minutes before birth fetus? One?

The fact that the Supreme Court does not allow legislatures to ignore the life or health of the mother does not mean that third trimester fetuses do not have substantial rights under the law.

Really? How do you know this? Can you cite any instances of 5-minutes-before-birth infanticides which were done for the purposes of aborting the pregnancy?

I think that I was the one mentioning the 5 minutes before birth first. I did that because I found in many of these kind of discussions with pro-choice people they stated that the rights of the baby only began when it was out of the womb, when it started breathing.

I've seen discussions where pro-choice people said that they thought it was ridiculous to compare a 7 month fetus with a born baby. I think it was at Atrios, when they ridiculed a right-wing congressman (I forgot his name, the darkhaired one, well known, lots of kids) for bringing their 6 month-gestation fetus home and treating it as a stillborn baby. My niece was born at 27 weeks gestation (last October) and is a healthy baby now. I know folk who miscarried after 6 months and had their child burried. I've given birth tho three boys and I felt them grow and kick in me, and have their dad cuddle them (they would shuffle to his hand). They were persons to me long before they were born.

Asking Sebastian about figures does not change that quite a number of pro-choice people have difficulty deciding *when* a fetus earns rights as a person. Hilzoy once mentioned a certain development in the brain as a cut off point (around 22 weeks of gestation I think, when we assume the fetus starts to feel instead of just have reflexes). What *should* be the cut off point? Why not look for the area the majority agrees on, instead of discussing the extremes?

I think the "5 minutes before birth" thing needs to be dropped. It's not really crucial to the point Sebastian is making. What I think is important is that he feels that there may be some number of unneccesary late-term abortions happening, since there is no collection of data on the reasons for late-term abortions. I would argue that there is no incentive for performing unneccessary late-term abortions, that doing so would require a conspiracy involving doctors and nurses and would-be mothers and probably others. If such a conspiracy is what is troublesome, collecting data won't help much, since it would be collected from the conspirators.

What makes me entertain such distractions?

Jes-

Sorry to take so long to respond; apparently I'm not as bloggarrific as I need to be to engage in comment-based discussions. Anyway.

full human rights. . .do not include the right to use another human person's body against his or her will, not even to save your life

Frankly, I disagree. If you are granting humanity to an embryo or fetus, then abortion would be killing someone. How much of a problem or threat does someone have to be for it to be OK to kill them? We're talking about the rather unique situation where one human being would be functioning as a non-lethal parasite on another (what you phrase as "us[ing] another human person's body against his or her will"), and of course, for most working class women, you're probably also looking at: "They're going to be seriously problematic for the next 9 months, losing me my job [that doesn't offer maternity leave] and thus causing a real financial crisis, possibly including homelessness." That's a pretty damn serious pair of problems (the parasitism and the financial disaster), but does it justify killing someone? I'd argue no -- according to my morality, at least, killing someone is only justifiable if they pose a credible threat to your own life or the life of another (so, as an aside, if a pregnancy is causing potentially lethal problems, abortion would still be perfectly justifiable as self-defense).

Obviously, that's all dependent on the "If" at the beginning of that section, which is why I think it's a relevant "if" to discuss. Doesn't mean you have to agree with me, naturally, but it's why it frustrates me that most pro-choice advocates whom I know ignore the question.
It's also dependent on the claim I just made that "killing someone is only justifiable if they pose a credible threat to your own life or the life of another," with which you also are free to disagree.

Partial-birth abortions occur during birth.

I'm just checking here, but are you defining 'birth' as 'the emergence from the uterus of the dead or dying fetus during the process of an intact dilation and extraction' regardless of the point in gestation at which that takes place? Because I think everyone else in the thread is thinking of 'birth' as 'the culmination of either labor or a surgical procedure intended to bring about a live birth, generally at close to 40 weeks gestation.' The concept of 'five minutes before birth' is poorly defined, of course, given that the exact time of a birth can't be predicted before it takes place.

But if you're saying that a D&X in the 20th week of gestation is a 'birth' if the fetus is not dead before it leaves the uterus, then you're using words in a confusingly private sense.

"I think it was at Atrios, when they ridiculed a right-wing congressman (I forgot his name, the darkhaired one, well known, lots of kids) for bringing their 6 month-gestation fetus home and treating it as a stillborn baby."

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, I assume you mean.

Joe, I don't donate blood any more (though I used to, for about 15 years) because I have thin-walled veins and the vein in my left arm has had so many needles stuck into it by so many vampires that it's useless as a blood source: they told me at the blood bank that I could "probably" donate blood three or four times from my right arm before that vein too became useless. There is a blood donor shortage in the UK right now, and I suppose I could go back and offer the last three or four donations from my remaining usable vein, but I choose not to: I think I would like to retain one vein that's fit to get a blood sample from (or a transfusion to) in case I need it.

It's possible that in the years since I stopped giving blood someone died because the hospital didn't have a pint of fresh A Negative that I could have supplied and decided not to. Say it's so. That person was undoubtedly a human person, with full human rights, and my decision not to donate blood killed them. They were not a problem or a threat to me: I just made the decision that giving blood had ceased to be something I was comfortable doing.

Your argument is that the law ought to force me back into the blood bank, tie me down, stick a needle in my arm, and take the last three or four donations I didn't want to give: I don't have the right to refuse the use of my blood to save a life.

I don't agree. I'm pro-choice. It's my right to decide when or if to give blood.

Neither do I agree that just because you (hypothetically) have two healthy kidneys and someone who is a donor match is dying of renal failure, that you can be legally be held prisoner and one of your kidneys removed. I'm pro-choice. It's your right to decide when or if to donate a kidney.

But you are arguing that you are not allowed to refuse to have a kidney removed and used for a life-saving transplant: the only way to prevent your kidney being removed is if a doctor agrees that removing one of your kidneys will kill you.

Or rather, you're not arguing that. Because that pro-life argument would apply to men and women alike: and pro-lifers are only ever interested in arguing that the right to decide what to do with your own body can be removed from women.

Which is why the key point is: are women human persons? If so, it's up to the pregnant woman to decide whether to terminate or continue her pregnancy. It's not up to anyone else. Just as it's up to me to decide whether or not to be a blood donor, or you to be a kidney donor.

"Okay, again, can you offer any evidence that anyone has ever used intact dilation and extraction to remove a fetus after a woman's waters broke? That's well before your "5 minutes before birth" timing."

How the heck do you do the extraction without causing the woman's water to break? I would take it as a given, just based on what I know of human physiology and the birth process, that essentially ALL intact dialation and extractions involve the water breaking.

"Because I think everyone else in the thread is thinking of 'birth' as 'the culmination of either labor or a surgical procedure intended to bring about a live birth, generally at close to 40 weeks gestation.'"

Oh, sweet: If you intend to abort, the exact same physical processes which would otherwise lead to a live birth in a matter of minutes, are suddenly defined as not being "birth". What a cozy argument.


Jes, by the time the fetus is viable, the woman has had half a year or more to think about whether to deliver. And yet, you want to permit her to kill a viable infant, when she had the ability to kill a blastocyst instead.

Marbel: Asking Sebastian about figures does not change that quite a number of pro-choice people have difficulty deciding *when* a fetus earns rights as a person.

Possibly, but the pro-choice position is that it's not relevant: the individual pregnant woman gets to decide.

Nor does it change the fact that the pro-life (forced pregnancy) position is absolutely dependent on deciding *when* a woman ceases to be a human person, and becomes an incubator without the right to make decisions about her own body.

"But if you're saying that a D&X in the 20th week of gestation is a 'birth' if the fetus is not dead before it leaves the uterus, then you're using words in a confusingly private sense."

Well of course it is dead before it leaves the uterus. That is rather the point of the procedure. What I'm saying is that if perform the procedure at 35 weeks or 38 weeks or 39 weeks (all within your legal right and beyond even cursory verification of medical neccesity in say rather small states like California and New York) that the fetus is alive as labor is induced and or course aborted after that time. Obviously there isn't a LIVE birth at that time. So if Gary was appealing the logical impossibility of having a succesful abortion and having a live birth, I guess he is right about that. But considering that doesn't change my argument at all, I don't understand that point.

Again, if you believe there is a clear point beyond which experimentation on a fetus which will terminate the fetus is inappropriate, I'd be thrilled to hear it.

No, the point is that if we're talking about '5 minutes before birth' as intended to describe a point in the gestational process, it makes a heck of a lot more sense to tie it to labor -- the point about 40 weeks into gestation at which birth would take place on its own. If you want to define 'birth' as including 'an abortion, at whatever point in gestation', then we aren't talking about time anymore -- you're making the tautological point that if abortion is (sometimes) the same thing as birth, than abortion always (sometimes) happens simultaneously with birth. To which the only answer is, sure, if you want to define your terms that way. Me, I'm a teapot.

That last was to Brett, not to Sebastian.

Brett: How the heck do you do the extraction without causing the woman's water to break?

If it's "five minutes before birth", Brett, the woman's waters will already have broken. That was my point.

Jes, by the time the fetus is viable, the woman has had half a year or more to think about whether to deliver.

You're going for 26+ weeks as viability, then? Fair enough.

I will commit to saying that I do not believe any abortion is carried out at anywhere in the US or the UK, at 26+ weeks, unless the fetus is dead already and must be removed. In which case, viability is not an issue, is it?

Even the tragic instances of a baby that will die painfully soon after birth if it's brought to term, I have never heard of abortions occurring at 25w+, let alone 26w+. Certainly not Sebastian's "five minutes before birth".

This will probably be redundant by time I finish typing it, so sorry.

I think Joe Thomas makes a good point. I agree that there should be some recognition that we’re not necessarily talking about the life of the fetus versus the life of the woman carrying it. Usually, it’s a matter of the life of the fetus versus the rights of the woman carry it. Even if you don’t grant a fetus the full moral weight of a living, birthed human being, it may carry some weight, and it may carry enough that killing it for, say, the convenience of the mother is morally unjustified. I would argue that the moral, ethical and legal weight increases from its lowest point at conception to some point before full term at which the fetus should be considered fully human.

Given all of that, there is a weighing of concerns that has to be done. What are the reasons for terminating the pregnancy? (Or what are the consequences to the woman of allowing the pregnancy to continue?) How far along is the pregnancy? (Or how important is the life of the fetus given its stage of development?) These things are much greyer before the point at which the fetus can be considered a full human being, which is itself a grey area.

The question then becomes, who gets to answer these questions? The government? If so, how are the answers enforced?

Jes, at some point we're not talking about forced "pregnancy", we're talking about forced "delivery instead of abortion".

Suppose somebody breaks into my house. I can't be forced to give them 9 months room and board, but I damn well can be forced to let them walk out the door instead of being dragged out in a body bag.

But the pro-choice community wants there to be no circumstances, no circumstances at all, where a woman who wants her baby dead might end up frustrated. I can't stomach that, that's not a defense of a woman's choice not to be pregnant, it's a defense of her choice to kill the baby. Because, post viability, you can end the pregnancy by giving birth.

Brett: How the heck do you do the extraction without causing the woman's water to break?

If it's "five minutes before birth", Brett, the woman's waters will already have broken. That was my point.

Jes, by the time the fetus is viable, the woman has had half a year or more to think about whether to deliver.

You're going for 26+ weeks as viability, then? Fair enough.

I will commit to saying that I do not believe any abortion is carried out at anywhere in the US or the UK, at 26+ weeks, unless the fetus is dead already and must be removed. In which case, viability is not an issue, is it?

Even the tragic instances of a baby that will die painfully soon after birth if it's brought to term, I have never heard of abortions occurring at 25w+, let alone 26w+. Certainly not Sebastian's "five minutes before birth".

But the pro-choice community wants there to be no circumstances, no circumstances at all, where a woman who wants her baby dead might end up frustrated.

Actually, no. I know of no pro-choicer who supports or defends infanticide: none. Nor do I think you've ever heard of any.

hairshirt: I agree that there should be some recognition that we’re not necessarily talking about the life of the fetus versus the life of the woman carrying it.

No: we're always talking about the basic human right to decide what to do with your own body. Either you grant that a woman always has that basic human right, even when pregnant, or you argue that she doesn't.

I thought it was a great op-ed by Sam Brownback. See also a profile on him done by The Weekly Standard which I wrote a post on here: Mr Compassionate Conservative.

Sebastian?

I don't think this: "What I'm saying is that if perform the procedure at 35 weeks or 38 weeks or 39 weeks (all within your legal right and beyond even cursory verification of medical neccesity in say rather small states like California and New York) that the fetus is alive as labor is induced and or course aborted after that time." is true.

I didn't know the state of the law in NY in any detail, but this sounded odd to me, and I don't think it's true. Searching the NY State code for 'abortion' comes up with Penal Law s. 125.05, defining abortion as criminal where it does not meet the standard for a 'justifiable abortional act' defined as follows:

"Justifiable abortional act." An abortional act is justifiable when committed upon a female with her consent by a duly licensed physician acting (a) under a reasonable belief that such is necessary to preserve her life, or, (b) within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of her pregnancy. A pregnant female's commission of an abortional act upon herself is justifiable when she acts upon the advice of a duly licensed physician (1) that such act is necessary to preserve her life, or, (2) within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of her pregnancy. The submission by a female to an abortional act is justifiable when she believes that it is being committed by a duly licensed physician, acting under a reasonable belief that such act is necessary to preserve her life, or, within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of her pregnancy.

So, in NYS, the rules are in the first 24 weeks, or to preserve the life of the mother. Were you unaware of the state of the law, or are you carping that it's systematically unenforced, and if the latter on what evidence?

Sebastian?

I don't think this: "What I'm saying is that if perform the procedure at 35 weeks or 38 weeks or 39 weeks (all within your legal right and beyond even cursory verification of medical neccesity in say rather small states like California and New York) that the fetus is alive as labor is induced and or course aborted after that time." is true.

I didn't know the state of the law in NY in any detail, but this sounded odd to me, and I don't think it's true. Searching the NY State code for 'abortion' comes up with Penal Law s. 125.05, defining abortion as criminal where it does not meet the standard for a 'justifiable abortional act' defined as follows:

"Justifiable abortional act." An abortional act is justifiable when committed upon a female with her consent by a duly licensed physician acting (a) under a reasonable belief that such is necessary to preserve her life, or, (b) within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of her pregnancy. A pregnant female's commission of an abortional act upon herself is justifiable when she acts upon the advice of a duly licensed physician (1) that such act is necessary to preserve her life, or, (2) within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of her pregnancy. The submission by a female to an abortional act is justifiable when she believes that it is being committed by a duly licensed physician, acting under a reasonable belief that such act is necessary to preserve her life, or, within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of her pregnancy.

So, in NYS, the rules are in the first 24 weeks, or to preserve the life of the mother. Were you unaware of the state of the law, or are you carping that it's systematically unenforced, and if the latter on what evidence?

"I will commit to saying that I do not believe any abortion is carried out at anywhere in the US or the UK, at 26+ weeks, unless the fetus is dead already and must be removed."

I will commit to saying that you're certainly wrong, which is why the pro-choice movement is so adamant that no mechanism ever be put in place with could actually prevent elective abortions of viable infants.

Right. Which is why the marches in the streets to change the NY abortion law. I keep on missing those.

LB, I looked up the law regulating abortion and discovered that the only states in which Sebastian is right as far as legislation is concerned are those where (Delaware: Minnesota) there is an absolute ban on any abortions. This ban can't be enforced because of Roe vs Wade, and the state legislature chooses not to regulate (which would be enforceable).

Of course, this doesn't mean a woman could get an abortion at 39 weeks in Delaware: to do so she would have to find a physician willing to perform an abortion, and all medical associations have codes of conduct with regard to abortion.

Why those states prefer to leave abortion unregulated is not altogether understandable to a rational person - are they still hoping that, after 34 years, Roe vs Wade will be overturned?

But the pro-choice community wants there to be no circumstances, no circumstances at all, where a woman who wants her baby dead might end up frustrated.

Should we discuss whether pro-lifers all want to make women into reproductive slaves?

I really see your comment as an overwrought exaggeration. There may be a very few radicals who are willing to characterize pro-choice that way, but I always seem to see such claims about pro-life from those who are opposed to abortion under almost all circumstances. The vast majority of Americans are quite comfortable in the middle, tolerating abortion when necessary, but supporting sensible limits later in the term.

Jes, are you agreeing with me or disagreeing with me?

Brett: I will commit to saying that you're certainly wrong

Okay, find me an example. One example of a legal abortion of a viable fetus taking place at 26w+ somewhere in the US.

which is why the pro-choice movement is so adamant that no mechanism ever be put in place with could actually prevent elective abortions of viable infants.

Actually, as far as I can see, it's the pro-life movement (those bans in Delaware and Minnesota which prevent regulation?) that seek to avoid mechanisms to prevent your hypothetical, unproven, abortions of viable fetuses (26w+).

Yeah, the relevant statute for California is this:

123468. The performance of an abortion is unauthorized if either of
the following is true:
(a) The person performing or assisting in performing the abortion
is not a health care provider authorized to perform or assist in
performing an abortion pursuant to Section 2253 of the Business and
Professions Code.
(b) The abortion is performed on a viable fetus, and both of the
following are established:
(1) In the good faith medical judgment of the physician, the fetus
was viable.
(2) In the good faith medical judgment of the physician,
continuation of the pregnancy posed no risk to life or health of the
pregnant woman.

I'm not sure if Sebastian is confused about the state of the law, or speaking in some manner that I don't understand.

hairshirthedonist: Jes, are you agreeing with me or disagreeing with me?

If your answer to The question then becomes, who gets to answer these questions? is "the woman who's pregnant, with the advice of her physician" then we are in agreement.

but I always seem to see such claims about pro-life from those who are opposed to abortion under almost all circumstances.

Sorry, garbled that. I intended to say that the pro-lifers are the ones who claim that all pro-choice folks are totally opposed to all regulation. Pro-choice people do not generally say what the pro-lifers claim they say.

Isn't it interesting that a thread supposedly to discuss whether or not it's ethical to do scientific research on 5-day-old blastocysts that will never become humans because they will never be transplanted into a human uterus, Joe Thomas very promptly brought up the issue of abortion and now we're discussing 26w+ fetuses?

It seems to me that pro-choicers say things that they say pro-lifers don't think they say, but that they say the things pro-lifers try to say they say in response to the things that they say first. Right?

Oh, sweet: If you intend to abort, the exact same physical processes which would otherwise lead to a live birth in a matter of minutes, are suddenly defined as not being "birth". What a cozy argument.

Well, exactly. Because if you weren't intending to abort, those "exact same physical processes" wouldn't occur naturally for several months more.

The woman's intent does, in fact, make all the difference. If you want to focus solely on the "physical process," there's no difference at all between a standard abortion and a wacko doctor who decides he's going to abort a woman's baby without her consent. In either case, he does the exact same thing, but it's a crime in one case solely because of the woman's intent.

I'm glad, though, that we've narrowed the issue down to whether partial-birth abortions occur during "birth." (It's because of word games like this, incidentally, that we can never reach universal agreement on a set of terms.) Imagine a woman in her late second trimester, about 20-24 weeks (which is when most partial-birth abortions occur), who is having an abortion for whatever reason. The doctor determines, in his medical judgment, that while he could perform a standard D&E procedure, it would be safer for the woman to perform an intact D&X, the partial-birth abortion procedure.

Now if it's fine (or at least legal) for her to have an abortion using the standard procedure, but you think it should be illegal in the latter case because the physical processes involved look too much like childbirth to you, then what you're saying is that the law should require this woman to face a greater risk of death or physical harm because you, a person with no involvement, feel too much of an "ick" factor. I hate to tell you, but the fetus will end up dead either way.

Mind you, most "partial-birth abortion" statutes end up getting drafted to ban the D&E procedure as well, which doesn't look very much like birth. But my real point is that if you want to legally mandate a procedure that is less safe, in the judgment of the treating physician, then you ought to at least be accomplishing something more tangible than reducing the "ick" factor for people who are totally uninvolved.

Jesurgislac, nobody, male or female, can do everything they want with "her own body." A woman, no more than a man, cannot move her own body into a position where its arms happen to be around somebody else's neck, and then squeeze the muscles in that arm so that said other person dies. A woman, no more than a man, can't pump heroin into a vein of her own body. A woman, no more than a man, can't cause the vocal cords of her own body to defame another person. A woman, no more than a man, has no absolute right to breed typhoid inside her own body and take that body into a nursery. A woman, no more than a man, can't implant a subdermal transmitter and use it to broadcast confidential matters. If you are actually arguing -- as you seem to be -- that abortion is an absolute right, you need some basis other than an inviolable right to do what you want, whether inside your body or outside.

Brett's analogy to a trespasser goes to exactly the point that troubles me, and I think bothers most voters, to judge by our national consensus on late-term abortions. At some point, there appear to be two people, and therefore two sets of rights at stake -- a very real right to avoid invasion, physical harm (EVERY pregnancy & delivery involves health risk, and almost all do SOME harm to lifelong health), financial loss, job risk, inconvenience, physical pain, emotional trauma (if you don't want the baby, it's obviously upsetting to have it inside you, there's no upside to the pain of labor/c-section, and your hormones will probably make you attach just enough that giving it up for adoption hurts like hell no matter how sure you are), etc. versus, well, a right to life. It is far from obvious to me which must win out. And the fact that the woman in question did not avail herself of abortion opportunities beforehand makes me less disposed to prioritize her rights. You seem to think that this line of reasoning is meritless. Please explain?

hairshirthedonist,

Didn't you know that when it comes to purely emotional issues, the other guy always started it and they always misrepresent your position.

The real problem is that there are people who have been radicalized on both sides who don't trust either their opposing radicals or those who are in the pragmatic middle on this. Pragmatic people can do evil, but to do great evil takes a zealot who is completely convinced of his unassailable moral superiority.

Brownback, in this case, does come across as a radical, completely unwilling to make any effort to compromise because he is so convinced that his moral position in unquestionably perfect. He has decided that the value of a blastocyst is unquestionably greater than the value of a sick child or adult. I cannot support his hubris.

trilobite: Jesurgislac, nobody, male or female, can do everything they want with "her own body."

Really? So you're claiming that there are states in the US where people with two healthy kidneys who are viable donors for people dying of renal failure, are legally forced to have one kidney removed? Can you list them, so I know which states to avoid if I ever visit again?

You seem to think that this line of reasoning is meritless. Please explain?

See above. What is your justification why the law does not force a person with two healthy kidneys to have one removed to save a recipient dying of kidney failure? Why is organ transplant not forced by law from anyone with two healthy kidneys, or a nice large healthy liver?

Hell, you know that in the UK, it's the law that I get to decide whether or not my organs will be used for transplant even after I die? At which point I can't claim that it will cause me the slightest inconvenience. Nonetheless, if I have made clear that I do not wish my organs to be so made use of after my death, it's both illegal and inethical to take them against my will, even though doing so will save many lives, not just one.

Hell, you know that in the UK, it's the law that I get to decide whether or not my organs will be used for transplant even after I die?

That's the law in the US as well, and as far as I know, it's universally an opt-in procedure where you have to affirmatively elect to donate your organs.

You're not really addressing the point head-on, though, which was that there are many respects in which the law doesn't grant you unrestricted control over your body. (Although I think only the heroin example arguably didn't include harm to another person.) Your response is to go to the other extreme and point out that the state doesn't exert unlimited control over your body, either. That's true, but doesn't really address the argument that we only enjoy partial autonomy in the first place.

Hell, you know that in the UK, it's the law that I get to decide whether or not my organs will be used for transplant even after I die?

A law subject to repeal by a majority vote?

I think where you guys are talking past each other is whether abortion is to be viewed as an affirmative act or as a decision to withhold bodily services. The right not to perform personal service is pretty close to absolute -- were it possible to by act of will shut off blood flow to the fetus, a claim that the woman was obliged to provide food/oxygen/waste disposal for the fetus would be about as weird as Jes is saying it is.

The fact that abortion in practice involves affirmatively killing the fetus, rather than simply evicting it, makes the situation less clear, but given that the result of a simple 'eviction' would be the same, her analysis isn't obviously flawed.

Steve: You're not really addressing the point head-on, though, which was that there are many respects in which the law doesn't grant you unrestricted control over your body.

But no respect in which the law requires me to give up my control over my own body to save a life against my will. I can't be forced to provide a pint of blood, or give up a kidney, or halve my liver and share it, or supply bone marrow. Unless you can come up with some ethical argument that justifies your being forced to provide any or all the above to save a life against your will, you cannot justify forcing a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will.

LB: The fact that abortion in practice involves affirmatively killing the fetus, rather than simply evicting it

Actually, no. Early abortion - certainly before 13 weeks, which is when the vast majority of abortions take place - does in practice involve removing the fetus from the uterus. The fetus will then die, of course. Almost instantly, and it's not biologically capable of feeling pain at that point.

In effect, by an act of will - the woman tells the doctor "Okay, I want an abortion" and the doctor carries out her act of will - the woman does "shut off blood flow to the fetus" - by having the placenta removed from the lining of her uterus.

But no respect in which the law requires me to give up my control over my own body to save a life against my will.

The Draft?

But no respect in which the law requires me to give up my control over my own body to save a life against my will.

Well, that doesn't sound right. If you want to jet off to Paris and leave your newborn baby at home to starve to death, the law does in fact have a problem with that. The government requires you to provide nourishment to that baby and keep it alive, even at the cost of some of your autonomy.

If you want to jet off to Paris and leave your newborn baby at home to starve to death, the law does in fact have a problem with that.

And this has what connection with the answer I asked you to provide?

Unless a woman is breastfeeding (and the law can't and doesn't require her to do that, either) a mother can jet off to anywhere leaving her newborn baby anywhere she likes - the law only has a problem with that if the newborn baby is left somewhere it will starve/die of neglect, but - once born - it's no longer dependent on its mother's body as a fetus is, especially a non-viable fetus.

I guess your point would have been clearer if you had said that the law doesn't require you to give up your bodily fluids, or parts of your body or whatever. Because it's quite clear the law often does take away your "control over your body" in the ordinary sense of the phrase.

Ugh: The Draft?

Hm... well, my country hasn't had conscription in years, but that's actually a good point. Still, conscription did have its limits, and those limits included not (for example) requiring soldiers to provide pints of blood against their will. (To quote Heinlein who was quoting West Point rules, "an upperclassman can't order you to hold still while he takes a poke at you, or order you to take a poke at him" - ah, those days when "take a poke" suggested "start a fight" rather than "have sex"...)

Steve; Because it's quite clear the law often does take away your "control over your body" in the ordinary sense of the phrase.

Does it? Again, what example are you offering of the law taking away your control over your own body and forcing you to provide bone marrow, liver, kidney, or blood to save a life?

Lizardbreath: "(a) under a reasonable belief that such is necessary to preserve her life" is completely unenforced and in fact pro-choice groups have insured that it is impossible to enforce because the doctors are not required to make such a showing.

As Gary rather pointedly mentioned, it is the actual practice that is important. There is absolutely no way of knowing that, because pro-choice groups don't want us to look in to it and they have been extremely successful in keeping paper trails or other documentation out of reach.

"(1) In the good faith medical judgment of the physician, the fetus
was viable.
(2) In the good faith medical judgment of the physician,
continuation of the pregnancy posed no risk to life or health of the
pregnant woman"

In the California statute, the history of the practice of the previous health definition is suggestive:

"Alone among pre-Roe statutes with a mental health exception, California attempted to define what would qualify as a mental health related abortion in terms at least as strict as the standard for civil commitment, i.e., that the pregnant woman “would be dangerous to herself or to the person or property of others or is in need of supervision or restraint.” Id. § 25954, renumbered as § 123415 in 1995. Notwithstanding that narrow definition, more than 60,000 abortions were performed in California in 1970, 98.2% of which were performed for mental health reasons. People v. Barksdale, 503 P.2d 257, 265 (Cal. 1972). In Barksdale, the California Supreme Court expressed “[s]erious doubt . . . that such a considerable number of pregnant women could have been committed to a mental institution” as the result of becoming pregnant. Id. The experience in California strongly suggests that mental health exceptions in abortion statutes are inherently manipulable and subject to abuse."

Again, what example are you offering of the law taking away your control over your own body and forcing you to provide bone marrow, liver, kidney, or blood to save a life?

You're being extremely obtuse. There's plenty of ways in which you can exert "control over your body" that don't involve providing bone marrow, liver, kidney, or blood to save a life.

I opened my comment by saying: "I guess your point would have been clearer if you had said that the law doesn't require you to give up your bodily fluids, or parts of your body or whatever." Point being, if you had put it that way, I would have agreed with you. Why you're continuing to pick a fight over something I agreed to is beyond me.

Well, "within your legal right" is just flat out false -- no one has a legal right to violate the law. So that bit was hyperbolic. For the rest of it, can we leave it at the fact that although you have no evidence of any sort of which I'm aware that these laws are ever violated (if you have got evidence, you could link it), you're dissatisfied with the procedures for enforcing them.

Jesurgislac, the connection is that you have legal obligations to children in your care that you do not have toward the population in general, so you can't necessarily deduce, from the fact that you have no generalized Samaritan duty, that you have no duty to refrain from aborting your own child in some circumstances. You may say that you didn't choose to have the fetus in your care -- but that just gets you back where you started: why is your presumptive duty to a 7-month fetus less than to a one-day-old baby? In both cases, all you necessarily did to elect responsibility was to let nature take its course.

You seem hung up on the "kidney or a pint of blood" analogy, but it's not the only possible comparison. We have made others -- to providing nourishment in other ways to children once they attain personhood, and to other ways that the government asserts control over your innards. All analogy is imperfect, but I don't see why yours is better than these.

There are at least 2 reasons not to presume a right to harvest organs from the newly dead that don't apply to abortion, btw: 1) respect for religion; 2) moral hazard (i.e., it might encourage doctors and policymakers to hasten a death).

And this: "There is absolutely no way of knowing that, because pro-choice groups don't want us to look in to it"

is simply ridiculous. Not one woman, nor one doctor, who regrets their decision to break the law enough to come forward? If these laws are broken with any frequency whatsoever, you're envisioning a hell of a conspiracy of silence there.

Ugh, you're not the first to make that comparison. I seem to recall seeing some late-19th - early-20th century political rhetoric comparing the duty of young men to lay down their lives to the duty of young women to create new lives, in both cases for the good of the country. Come to think of it, I think that's where the joke about "lie back and think of England" comes from.

The experience in California strongly suggests that mental health exceptions in abortion statutes are inherently manipulable and subject to abuse."

Sure, just as the number of divorces based on infidelity and mental cruelty shrank once no-fault divorce came in. The question is, how many of those mental-health abortions were dishonest after viability? You're assuming that the moral choices the doctors substituted for the legal standard were poor; they may not have been.

trilobite: the connection is that you have legal obligations to children in your care that you do not have toward the population in general

But a fetus a woman has decided to abort is not (and never will be) "a child in her care".

so you can't necessarily deduce, from the fact that you have no generalized Samaritan duty

Are you going to argue then that the law can and does force a parent to provide bone marrow, blood, a kidney, or half a liver to their child? I wasn't aware of that, either. In which states is this the law?

All analogy is imperfect, but I don't see why yours is better than these.

Because my analogy isn't an analogy: it's a direct equation. You are arguing that a woman has no right to make decisions about her own uterus: I am asking you to provide an ethical argument that justifies this for everyone (or, if you want to restrict it just to all parents) and for all organs, not just the uterus. Why do you believe it ethical, if a father does not want to give up one of his kidneys to his child, for him to be forced to do so against his will to save his child's life?

There are at least 2 reasons not to presume a right to harvest organs from the newly dead that don't apply to abortion, btw: 1) respect for religion; 2) moral hazard (i.e., it might encourage doctors and policymakers to hasten a death).

But there is no moral hazard in forcing a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will, and no religion that (in your view) mandates regarding a woman as a human being with full human rights, even when pregnant?

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