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January 23, 2008

Comments

Jes,

Now that's an obscene piece of calculation for the municipality to make.

Once you have the medical facilities available, and a municipal, free, overall health care, you must decide the level you build it up to. You must make that calculation, however obscene it feels. The municipality pays for the child's (and adult's) medical care, it pays for the screening. It has a long-term interest to keep the population as healthy as possible. Preventive healthcare of every kind is very popular here.

If you do not offer screening, you exclude poorer families from the right to decrease their chance to get deformed babies, and do an economically unsound decision. If you do screen the pregnant mothers, you practice eugenics, although on voluntary basis. Both choices are bad, and there is no one but the municipal board of health and social services to make that choice, on the advice of the chief doctor. It is playing God, but someone must do it. In the US, the same problem does not arise, as the health care is private, but the net effects of that system do not convince me at all.

Sebastian: "If I'm arguing with a ridiculous pro-lifer you'll see a different emphasis."

Now that's a discussion I'd like to witness. I wonder if Sebastian also characterizes pro-life arguments as "whining".

That sir, is pure wankery, and is deserving of nothing less than contempt.

She doesn't have to care for the nasty little thing if she hates the idea so much. Very few people with Down's Syndrome would really be better off dead even if you end up having to put them up for adoption.

How many people do you think are lining up to adopt DS babies? I'll give you a hint: not many. Putting a DS baby up for adoption is basically signing them up for a lifetime of institutionalization. Given the quality of state run institutions in this country, I don't see how you can consider that a positive outcome.

The same is true of cleft palate, and dwarfism (I can't honestly believe that you people are saying that dwarfism is such a profound problem as to require killing the fetus).

I'd like to see a cite indicating the cleft palate and dwarfism abortions are actually common. I have no doubt that at least one person justifies their abortion that way each year, but until I can see numbers indicating this is not just a fringe issue, I'm not terribly inclined to care. Note that most crimes are never touched by the justice system and that its irrational to expect that any system will behave correctly 100% of the time.

I'm afraid you don't know anything about me if you think that I've only spent 10 minutes with Down Syndrome children (google one of my best friends-Stephanie White in San Diego re Down's syndrome). And you don't know much about Down's syndrome if you think they would generally be better off dead.

I know that you spent a lot less time dealing with DS children and adults than I did since one of my siblings is a DS adult and since I spent a lot of time working with the DS community.

I've got better things to do with my time than google for some friend of yours; if you can't be bothered to explain why this friend is relevant to the discussion then it doesn't seem worth my time.

FTR, I never said all DS afflicted folks would be better off dead.

Do you still think that I "really don't know much about DS" (presumably compared to you)? After all, I've only, you know, helped to raise a DS kid, and helped to care for a DS adult and committed to taking that adult into my home and caring for them for the rest of my life. And I've only spent a lifetime or so working with other DS families.

Man, given all that experience, I must be really fscking stupid to "not know anything about DS", right Seb? I wish I could know as much as you.

It's certainly of no use trying to argue in good faith blah blah blah

Whatever - you're disingenuous, you're insulting people, you resort to rhetorical smears, you're not interested in an argument at all.

I haven't read through all the comments, but I'm pretty sure I've seen the arguments before. At any rate, I was wondering how the abortion argument would be different if there weren't two (generally speaking, I don't want to start a discussion about transgendered people or overly binary thinking or any of that) sexes. What if any sufficiently healthy and mature human being could impregnate any other sufficiently healthy and mature human being, and therefore any sufficiently healthy and mature human being could become pregnant? What if it weren't only half of the human population that might be in need of an abortion? If that were the case, how would it affect the morality of the abortion question and the arguments thereabout?

"If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." - Florynce Kennedy

I acknowledge this is not a particularly useful contribution, but I am genuinely tired of this thread and the things being said on it: for invented worlds where anyone can impregnate and anyone can get pregnant, I can only think offhand of The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin, and I do not recall any discussion in her novel and stories about Gethen about abortion, though Le Guin has herself made her pro-choice beliefs quite clear.

The preservation of life seems to be rather a slogan than a genuine goal of the anti-abortion forces; what they want is control. Control over behavior: power over women. Women in the anti-choice movement want to share in male power over women, and do so by denying their own womanhood, their own rights and responsibilities.
If we can get that realistic feminine morality working for us, if we can trust ourselves and so let women think and feel that an unwanted child or an oversize family is wrong -- not ethically wrong, not against the rules, but morally wrong, all wrong, wrong like a thalidomide birth, wrong like taking a wrong step that will break your neck -- if we can get feminine and human morality out from under the yoke of a dead ethic, then maybe we’ll begin to get somewhere on the road that leads to survival. link

hairshirt hedonist,

I think it might be a good idea to read through the arguments. There is not a single hardline pro-lifer here, but the argument is about different types of pro-choice. This reveals many rather interesting differences and in my opinion, we have even come closer to agreement.

You also show rather narrow-minded idea about the nature of abortion debate. The problem centers around two question: does fetus have rights? If it has, when does its right to life trump woman's right to self-determination? These are not personal questions ot most of us. Majority of women never undergoes abortion. These are philosophical or religious questions to which every human being has an equal right to answer. In a democratic society, the opinion of the majority (in some cases, of a qualified majority) decides upon the legislation on the basis of such personal pondering. If the people has, after due constitutional process, the right to even dissolve their country (e.g Czechoslovakia), then it surely has, perhaps with due constitutional amendment (depending on the country in question), the right to decide on the law on sexuality.

You also show rather narrow-minded idea about the nature of abortion debate.

How so? Are you assuming that the particular question I raised represents the sum total of my thoughts on the abortion debate?

"What if any sufficiently healthy and mature human being could impregnate any other sufficiently healthy and mature human being, and therefore any sufficiently healthy and mature human being could become pregnant? What if it weren't only half of the human population that might be in need of an abortion? If that were the case, how would it affect the morality of the abortion question and the arguments thereabout?"

It would probably not change the question at all as we know that if you survey only women, you find the same ranges of opinion on the question, and you find the same distribution of opinions. There seems to be some sort of belief that women generally think differently from men on abortion, but that just isn't true.

Jes:
97% in my country. That's the proportion carried out before 12 weeks.

If "your country" is the United States, then this statistic is inaccurate. It's actually roughly 90%, within the first 12 weeks, not "before" 12 weeks.

What's interesting, though, is that anti-abortion forces have done a good job of making access to abortion more difficult (making it so women have to travel to get them, and putting in mandatory counseling and mandatory waiting periods that further delay the process), such that women who choose to abort basically have no choice but to do so later in the pregnancy than they otherwise would have. That's the irony: abortions are trending toward later in the pregnancy precisely because of anti-abortion efforts.

To Jes: "If 'your country' is the United States, then this statistic is inaccurate."

And yet her country isn't the United States. Why on earth would you assume it is?

Wait, you were addressing Lurker, who also doesn't live in the U.S. (or the same country that Jes does).

Lurker has, however, mentioned what country Lurker is in and talking about three times, with the country also being named once by another, so far in the above thread by my count.

Now that's a discussion I'd like to witness. I wonder if Sebastian also characterizes pro-life arguments as "whining".

At a guess, he'd probably describe them as "zealots" or something similar.

*sigh* Gary, don't you know by know that Foreignia is a large and varied place with a large and varied people and a large and varied culture, all of whom are identically not American? Your pedantry only obscures this central truth.

I'd like to second lj's question about whether or not "Sebastian" and "Sebastian Holsclaw" are the same person. Sebastian (either of you if there are two of you): any response?

tg: If "your country" is the United States, then this statistic is inaccurate. It's actually roughly 90%, within the first 12 weeks, not "before" 12 weeks.

"My country" is the UK, but the statistic I cited is inaccurate. I was misremembering: 96% of abortions are carried out on statutory ground "C" - "the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman" - which is, since this is always true of any abortion versus pregnancy, effectively the "social grounds" reason. 66% of all abortions are carried out on or before nine weeks gestation: 90% on or before twelve weeks: 99% on or before twenty weeks. Those are stats for 2004, but I don't believe the percentages have changed much.

What's interesting, though, is that anti-abortion forces have done a good job of making access to abortion more difficult (making it so women have to travel to get them, and putting in mandatory counseling and mandatory waiting periods that further delay the process), such that women who choose to abort basically have no choice but to do so later in the pregnancy than they otherwise would have. That's the irony: abortions are trending toward later in the pregnancy precisely because of anti-abortion efforts.

The UK traditionally receives the women from Ireland who need abortions: they're still the largest single category of non-residents who have abortions in the UK, and for fairly obvious reasons, they tend to have abortions rather later than legal residents. Same deal, really: and in mainland Europe, Belgium gets away with not offering legal abortion because Belgians who need abortions just go to the Netherlands or Germany. It means the national government doesn't even have to have the argument: and EU law says that the pro-lifers can't stop people from going to another country to get what they need there.

It would probably not change the question at all as we know that if you survey only women, you find the same ranges of opinion on the question, and you find the same distribution of opinions. There seems to be some sort of belief that women generally think differently from men on abortion, but that just isn't true.

I'm not so sure that men and women responding similarly to surveys means that the arguments on the issue and on the morality behind those arguments would be the same in my proposed alternate universe. It's not so much that I think men and women think differently about abortion. It's that I think everyone thinks about it differently than they otherwise would because only women have reason to have abortions.

"Your pedantry only obscures this central truth."

I learned everything I know about geography from tv game shows.

Wait, sorry, I'm thinking of someone else.

(And tgirsch was responding to Jes responding to Lurker.)

then why should abortion bans not punish the woman who seeks the abortion?

Logically, that would follow -- and I note a comment upthread that in Finland the penalty for illegal abortion is 6 years, tho I'm not sure if that's for the patient, the doctor, or both -- but in practice it's hard to get votes for prosecuting hormonally-overcharged, desperate, young women for what most people don't intuitively think of as exactly the same as murder. Also, asking about the procedure may not qualify as an "attempt" or "solicitation," depending on the exact phrasing of the inquiry and the local law (especially since many if not most cases would simply involve asking a doctor if she's definitely past the cutoff date or falls under a health exception). It's probably much easier to just prosecute the doctors.

And why should women who miscarry not be investigated for negligence and potentially prosecuted for manslaughter, or something like it?
See above, and also because it would almost always be wasted effort. Despite all the scare stories, it's very hard to substantially increase the risk of miscarriage, short of taking suicidal doses of poison. You would waste huge amounts of money on the investigation and trial, and put huge numbers of grieving would-be parents through hell. Few if any legislators would dare vote for that bill.

So that particular slippery slope may be less steep than you fear. I'm more concerned that the vast machinery of the anti-abortion movement would turn after a Supreme Court victory to the attempt to ban birth control. Turn even more, I should say.

then why should abortion bans not punish the woman who seeks the abortion?

Logically, that would follow -- and I note a comment upthread that in Finland the penalty for illegal abortion is 6 years, tho I'm not sure if that's for the patient, the doctor, or both -- but in practice it's hard to get votes for prosecuting hormonally-overcharged, desperate, young women for what most people don't intuitively think of as exactly the same as murder. Also, asking about the procedure may not qualify as an "attempt" or "solicitation," depending on the exact phrasing of the inquiry and the local law (especially since many if not most cases would simply involve asking a doctor if she's definitely past the cutoff date or falls under a health exception). It's probably much easier to just prosecute the doctors.

And why should women who miscarry not be investigated for negligence and potentially prosecuted for manslaughter, or something like it?
See above, and also because it would almost always be wasted effort. Despite all the scare stories, it's very hard to substantially increase the risk of miscarriage, short of taking suicidal doses of poison. You would waste huge amounts of money on the investigation and trial, and put huge numbers of grieving would-be parents through hell. Few if any legislators would dare vote for that bill.

So that particular slippery slope may be less steep than you fear. I'm more concerned that the vast machinery of the anti-abortion movement would turn after a Supreme Court victory to the attempt to ban birth control. Turn even more, I should say.

Sorry, I'm not trying to be confusing. Yes it is all me, and I think it must just be different computers. I'll be posting as this name typically if I remember.

Please substitute "Foreignia" for all countries mentioned in this comment, if it will clarify matters.

"I'm not so sure that men and women responding similarly to surveys means that the arguments on the issue and on the morality behind those arguments would be the same in my proposed alternate universe. It's not so much that I think men and women think differently about abortion. It's that I think everyone thinks about it differently than they otherwise would because only women have reason to have abortions."

I don't see the argument changing much because the personhood of the fetus would still be at issue, and people who can bear children don't seem to have very different opinions about that topic when compared to people who cannot bear children. I don't see why changing everyone into 'people who can bear children' would really change that. Some people, for one reason or another, would believe that the fetus is a person with rights worth defending at some point. Other people, for one reason or another, would believe that the fetus is not a person with rights worth defending.

Is there some other dimension of the argument you believe would change? Or maybe do you think that if everyone could bear children, the personhood issue would be more easily resolved?

I don't see the argument changing much because the personhood of the fetus would still be at issue, and people who can bear children don't seem to have very different opinions about that topic when compared to people who cannot bear children.

The "personhood of the fetus" is not an issue except for the person who is pregnant with the fetus. It can't be a legal issue, since it's irrelevant to the right to decide to terminate a pregnancy. "Personhood" does not carry with it the right to make use of someone else's body against her will.

If everyone was included in the group who can bear children, then everyone would be, for pro-lifers, included in the group who ought to be forced to bear children against their will. Including the pro-lifers. Given that pro-lifer women are as likely to terminate an unwanted pregnancy as pro-choice women, I suppose you might still get self-righteous hypocrites arguing that while they're entitled to abort because their reasons for termination are moral, those sluts over there aren't and shouldn't be.

There's a point made upthread that's worth repeating and emphasizing.

Prevention of abortion in many cases will prevent the later birth of a wanted child. It's all well and dandy to sit in a safe warm dry office writing about families being forced to dedicate their lives and fortunes to a person who will never be healthy, but it's another thing to be the one in that situation, regretting the financial and emotional hardship that prevents you from having another baby.

It would be more traditionally sfnal to suppose that when everyone can bear children, a pro-life movement couldn't even get started because everyone would accept that everyone has the right to choose: but in practice, humans do tend to hierarchy and class structures: I see no reason why a human species which didn't have a hierarchy based on gender wouldn't still have a hierarchy based on some other factor. (Race, for example. Or religion. Or income.) The people lower down in the hierarchy wouldn't be allowed to choose: the people further up would: this power structure would be sanctified by some religious thinking, and lo, you have a forced-pregnancy movement, just as you do in the US today.

Is there some other dimension of the argument you believe would change? Or maybe do you think that if everyone could bear children, the personhood issue would be more easily resolved?

I'm not quite sure, but my "mental experiment" is an attempt to deconstruct the issue to some degree to separate two aspects of it. There's the personhood of the fetus and there's the subjugation of women. While they are both important, and related as two aspects of one issue, they, I think, are still separate and distinct. It seems that many argue both aspects issues simultaneously and indistinctly, and I believe this often causes people to argue past one another. A silly and simplistic analogy would involve two people arguing about Cookie Monster - one saying "Cookie monster is blue" and the other responding "No, he's furry." I think if people could settle one aspect of the issue, they could move on to the other with greater clarity. Maybe it's my engineering backround that makes me think this way - break a complicated problem down into its constituents and attack them one at a time.

"Personhood" does not carry with it the right to make use of someone else's body against her will.

At this point I disagree vehemently. If any person (say, the old drunk you pass daily by) happens to be in immediate danger of life or limb, you actually are morally required to help, regardless of your own inconvenience. This is not a matter of sexuality, but of common decency. (In Finland, it is a crime not to help.) This means that a stranger, possibly completely undeserving of my help, is entitled to the use my body and mind. For example, if I see a drunkard unconscious on a trafficked roadway, I am actually legally bound to drag him off it and call an ambulance, if it is anyhow possible. (You know, I have done that, so I am not positing a hypothetical situation.)

So, personhood, i.e. being human, does entitle you to expect others to help you personally.

hairshirthedonist: I think if people could settle one aspect of the issue, they could move on to the other with greater clarity.

I somehow doubt it.

What works for me - which I've seen proposed by more than one pro-choicer - is that the pregnant woman is the one who gets to decide when/if the fetus she's carrying has become a person. That avoids all issues of removing her rights without her consent.

Anti-choicers/pro-lifers appear by the issues they campaign on not to really care about fetuses as people, but to make use of the idea that the fetus is a person in order to subjugate and control women. For them, "the personhood of the fetus" isn't a concept to protect fetuses: it's a concept to be used to take legal control of women's bodies.

And we know this, because pro-lifers do not campaign to protect fetuses: the most direct way of doing this would be to campaign directly against unplanned pregnancies, which they don't do, to campaign for free healthcare and job protection for all pregnant women, which they don't do, and to campaign for free healthcare and daycare for young children and job protection/income protection for new mothers. Curiously enough, the six demands of the women's liberation movement would work very well as a "protection of fetuses" movement: because in order to genuinely protect fetuses, a political movement actually has to actively improve women's lives.

So "the personhood of the fetus" is a red herring: it's introduced into the debate simply because it's seen as a means of controlling women, not because anti-choicers actually care.

Jes, I don't doubt that what you say is true for some people, perhaps even a large percentage of those active in the pro-life movement. But I do doubt very much that no one at all truly cares about the personhood of the fetus. There are plenty of pro-choice people who care about the personhood of the fetus, let alone pro-life (or anti-choice/abortion) people. I hope I'm not getting too personal in noting that you employ the "the only reason someone could possibly think X is [insert really objectionable personal belief]" argument rather often.

Lurker:This means that a stranger, possibly completely undeserving of my help, is entitled to the use my body and mind. For example, if I see a drunkard unconscious on a trafficked roadway, I am actually legally bound to drag him off it and call an ambulance, if it is anyhow possible. (You know, I have done that, so I am not positing a hypothetical situation.)

Is a sick man entitled to one of your kidneys, just because you're a match? Can one require you to march down to the hospital and donate blood, each day, until he's well again? Even if it's costing you your job or your health?

You don't get to make use of someone else's body. You don't get to demand my kidney, my blood, or my services at all. Not for nine minutes, not for nine months.

If you ask nicely, I'd probably gladly donate that kidney, offer some blood, and certainly I'm inclined to drag your drunk carcass off the road so you don't get run over.

But the moment you demand it is the moment I flip you the bird.

Lurker, most countries don't have the kind of "good Samaritan" laws Finland does. The U.S. doesn't (except I think Alaska may have something specifically about exposure to the elements).

Jesurgislac says,
"Personhood" does not carry with it the right to make use of someone else's body against her will.

Analogy time -- and, granted, no analogy is perfect, in this area more than most -- but you seem to regard the fetus-as-person, as a stranger who has invaded the woman's body and in essence enslaved her. The classic analogy is, you wake up connected by an IV to a violinist, do you have the right to kill him by detaching? Clearly, yes.

But, except in case of rape, this analogy misses a key moral factor: the woman has brought the fetus there.

The better analogy would be, you drag a stranger into your house, lock him in the cellar, and refuse to feed him, because, hey, it's your food. At the very least, the woman has taken the risk of bringing the child there. There is a well-established legal rule when a person negligently risks bringing a child to her property and putting him/her in danger. If you maintain an attractive nuisance on your property, you are responsible for injury to a child drawn to the nuisance, because the child is not considered fully responsible for his/her own choices. Obviously, a fetus is even less so.

Baskaborr -- I forgot to answer you before. I think there is a profound difference between the degree of individual moral culpability that should relieve society of any responsibility to help with the consequences, and the degree that should allow a person to kill another who gets in her way. (Again, assuming only for the sake of the argument that the fetus is a person with a right to live.) Responsibility is not an all or nothing thing. I never said the mother has to keep the child, pay for all prenatal care by herself, etc., I just said that "well, I didn't really WANT to get pregnant, I just took the risk I would" does not so entirely absolve her of responsibility as to give her a license to kill. None of your examples have anything to do with that kind of privilege, they're about whether you have to pay the entire bill for the consequences of some risk that you took. So, just as someone else has to pay for part of the cost of emergency hospitalization, workplace accident, etc., maybe somebody besides the parents has to pay for part of the cost of an unintended child. For example, Medicaid covers pre-natal. That's another discussion.

"Is a sick man entitled to one of your kidneys, just because you're a match? Can one require you to march down to the hospital and donate blood, each day, until he's well again? Even if it's costing you your job or your health?"

But in a late term abortion situation we aren't necessarily talking about that. We could choose to set up a system where the choice was between having a late term abortion (with induced labor to get rid of the dead fetus) or having induced labor to have a live birth. We could agree on a right to terminate the pregnancy without mandating a right to terminate the pregnancy in such a way as to always get a dead fetus out of it.

"Is a sick man entitled to one of your kidneys, just because you're a match? Can one require you to march down to the hospital and donate blood, each day, until he's well again? Even if it's costing you your job or your health?"

But in a late term abortion situation we aren't necessarily talking about that. We could choose to set up a system where the choice was between having a late term abortion (with induced labor to get rid of the dead fetus) or having induced labor to have a live birth. We could agree on a right to terminate the pregnancy without mandating a right to terminate the pregnancy in such a way as to always get a dead fetus out of it.

and EU law says that the pro-lifers can't stop people from going to another country to get what they need there.

AFAIK it is slightly more complicated than that.

93.4% of our abortions are before the fetus is 12 weeks (35.4% in the first 4 weeks) and we only have 8.6 abortions per 1000 women of childbearing age (UK 18.3, USA 19.4). So it is safe to assume that the chance of an elective abortion in third trimester is smaller in the Netherlands than in either the UK than the US.

Yet one of our current court-cases is about a 24 yo woman who went to Spain to abort a healthy 27 week old fetus. Normally the State would prosecute the performer of an illegal abortions, this is the first time ever that the woman is prosecuted. In order for her to be prosecuted the act has to be a crime in both countries involved.

In the Netherlands abortions after 24 weeks are punishable, in Spain abortions after 22 weeks are punishable unless there is severe danger to the health of the mother. So they also talk to the psychologists of the Spanish clinic, though depression might be only a mitigating factor in the Netherlands.

So it is a complex case - but it shows that even in a country where abortions are easy, free and safe some women have elective abortions in third trimester. And in this case she had plenty of options to terminate earlier, so it was her conscious decision to carry to third term.

Even wholly independent from my position on abortion, I find all this talk of personhood a horrible stretch. None of the classical philosophical traits used to define a person such as self-awareness, ability direct one's actions and possessing memory / narrative identity are present in a fetus, nor are they present for a long time after birth. What we are talking about in my view is clearly potential personhood. And this cuts both ways in the debate: if you use personhood as your main argument against abortion, you are using a definition that would be accepted only by very few and every restaurant becomes a place of murder and cannibalism, every pint of milk is a product of slavery. If you use the non-personhood of the fetus/child as an argument, then you would have to condone infanticide, since there is no fundamental difference between an embryo and a baby, and the will of the mother would trump the life for quite a long time after birth.

Jes:
"My country" is the UK, but the statistic I cited is inaccurate.

My apologies; it's a long thread, and I sort of lost track of who's from where. Also, it seems from Gary's response that my tone may have come across as condescending, which is absolutely not what I intended. I specifically put in the "If 'your country' is the US" part because I wasn't sure whether or not that was the case. No more, no less. (Indeed, if I were simply "assum[ing] it was," I wouldn't have needed the "if" clause at all...)

I can only speak first-hand to abortion in the US, because that's where I live and where I've paid the most attention to the issue. (Damned American provincialism!)

trilobite:
It's probably much easier to just prosecute the doctors.

I suspect that's correct. Probably just a marriage of convenience. From what I've seen of the anti-abortion movement, they'd gladly punish the women, too, if they thought for a minute that they could get it passed.

See above, and also because it would almost always be wasted effort.

Well, I think that would be true of the enforcement of late-term abortion bans of any sort, don't you?

The better analogy would be, you drag a stranger into your house, lock him in the cellar, and refuse to feed him, because, hey, it's your food.

That's still a pretty crummy analogy, because it involves you intentionally bringing the stranger into your house. The better-still analogy is that you leave your house unlocked and a stranger walks in, but even that is deeply flawed.

For what it's worth, and getting back to a point that was made way upthread, I do think that a woman assumes the risk of becoming pregnant when she engages in consensual sex. But unlike many in the "pro-life" movement, I view abortion as being one of the ways in which she can take responsibility for that outcome. Indeed, if a woman is either unwilling or unable to care for a baby, she should not have a baby. If such a woman finds herself pregnant, she has a responsibility to abort (preferably in the early term). I've blogged about this before.

...since there is no fundamental difference between an embryo and a baby, and the will of the mother would trump the life for quite a long time after birth.

Yet you don't find this a horrible stretch?

Nevermind, Novakant. You're not actually making that argument. But I do think the personhood argument, whether a matter of potential or absolute personhood, holds weight with more than a few people. Even if it's simply a matter of value rather than personhood, the same general reasoning holds.

Nevermind, Novakant. You're not actually making that argument. But I do think the personhood argument, whether a matter of potential or absolute personhood, holds weight with more than a few people. Even if it's simply a matter of value rather than personhood, the same general reasoning holds.

My apologies; it's a long thread, and I sort of lost track of who's from where. Also, it seems from Gary's response that my tone may have come across as condescending, which is absolutely not what I intended. I specifically put in the "If 'your country' is the US" part because I wasn't sure whether or not that was the case. No more, no less.

No, no, I got that: and furthermore, you were right in the most important part of your correction: it's "up to and including 12 weeks" in the UK too.

No, no, I got that: and furthermore, you were right in the most important part of your correction: it's "up to and including 12 weeks" in the UK too.

In the Netherlands week 12 is not included.

tgirsch, a still better analogy is the one I concluded with: maintaining an attractive nuisance (no joke about women's bodies intended). Yours misses the key point that the stranger did not intentionally walk in, which is exactly what my post was about in the first place. Even my analogy about imprisonment merely distorts the degree of culpability, yours assigns culpability to the party who had none at all. I don't see why the mere degree of your culpability for creating a life or death situation should have that much impact on the question of whether you get to kill someone.
Also, the stranger who walks in can be evicted without killing him, which again makes that analogy unhelpful.

From what I've seen of the anti-abortion movement, they'd gladly punish the women, too, if they thought for a minute that they could get it passed.
Probably true of many, but they can't get it passed, so I could care less. I'm more interested in finding the right moral balance than in worrying about what the extremists want and can't get.

novakant, thank you for adding the "potential person" concept, which I think is a valuable piece of the puzzle. As Sebastian and I discussed upthread, no legislator or judge is EVER going to condone infanticide no matter what our law of personhood might logically say, so that slippery slope is a non-starter. The logic does not force us there at all anyway: we can quite consistently assign or recognize partial rights for potential persons, varying stepwise in direct proportion to the strength of the potential (in fact, that's basically what Roe did). So I completely disagree that if fetuses are not people we have to also condone infanticide.


trilobite:
I'm more interested in finding the right moral balance than in worrying about what the extremists want and can't get.

I'm certainly okay with that. But unless and until someone can convince me that a great moral wrong is being regularly committed, and that some new law will stop that from happening, I don't see the point of either passing new legislation, or of overturning Roe.

It seems to me that our positions are actually quite similar, and that we're mainly just squabbling about minutiae.

Mostly, I'm squabbling about strategy. I think this Court is salivating for a chance to overturn Roe, and the only chance to save any abortion rights at all is to reframe the debate as one about personhood. That fight, I think we have a chance to win, b/c the absolutist position is basically grounded in religion. I'd feel better about that fact if the religion in question was not the one adhered to by half the Court, but you go to war with the Supreme Court you have...

dutchmarbel,

You've summarized the legal position inside the EU very well. The basic principle is the requirement of criminalization in both countries. If the citizen of country A commits a crime in country B, country A may prosecute its own citizen according to its own law. However, to get a conviction, the prosecution must also show that the deed committed was criminal also in country B.

Another thing about criminal law: the Finnish penal code gives a minimum sentence of two weeks and a maximum sentence of four years in prison for the woman getting an illegal abortion. However, the court may decide not to convict, if there is a particular cause for leniency. For performig an illegal abortion, the sentence limits are the same, unless you are paid a fee. Then the maximum sentence is six years. If you If you perform an abortion or otherwise kill a fetus without woman's permission, the sentence is between two and eight years. Abortion, that would have been legal, but has been done without following proper forms carries a fine or a maximum of year in prison. Attempted deeds have the same punishment limits as the fulfilled deeds.

Nonetheless, there have been no convictions for years, because of easy availability of legal abortion. (The laws are enforced no doubt, should a case appear. If illegal abortions happened on a wide scale, they would show up at some point.) In addition, the Finnish prosecutors never ask for the maximum sentence. If the crime carries a sentence between two weeks and four years in prison, the prosecution would ask (in a normal case) for maybe three-four months, with a probationary sentece for a first time offender. (Plead-bargaining is illegal, so prosecution would do this regardless of the plead.) This applies to all crimes, not just to sexual crimes.

we can quite consistently assign or recognize partial rights for potential persons, varying stepwise in direct proportion to the strength of the potential (in fact, that's basically what Roe did). So I completely disagree that if fetuses are not people we have to also condone infanticide.

Well, I agree and disagree. I agree that this is what most abortion legislation says, and I'm fine with this compromise. But I disagree with the contention that it doesn't follow that we theoretically would have to condone infanticide. In these debates it is necessary to step back sometimes and ask yourself what the terms used actually mean and what they imply if you follow through logically. This is needed to clear up the positions and unmask vagueness in language and disingenuousness in argument. That's what philosophers do or should do and if the results are uncomfortable, so be it. Then you have to step back again and consider the pragmatic aspects of the case. And if it is then revealed that there is no clear cut, definitive argument possible, but that the solution is a somewhat unhappy compromise between various intuitions, that's fine too, it's just important to be aware of that fact.

It's odd: there is a distinct, bright-line, actual biological real-world difference that anyone can perceive for themselves that could be used to base legislation on.

Birth.

A fetus is not a baby and a baby is not a fetus. So, given that in any case women are legal persons whose rights cannot be abridged, before birth, the pregnant woman's got the final say on what is done to her fetus - since nothing can be done to the fetus that does not also involve something being done to her - but after birth, the baby is a legal person, and can be legally as well as physically treated as separate from the mother.

Now, what's the problem with that again?

The problem is that the birth does not change the fetus so much. A ninth-month fetus has quite as complete brain as a first-day baby, even a more complete brain than a first-day premature baby born after, say 28 weeks. The differences between the late-term fetus and the first-day baby are not in the brain, the seat of sentience. The changes due to birth happen mostly in the heart, circulation and hormonal balace. There is nothing to suggest that the birth would qualitatively change the nature of sentience.

There is credible evidence that a late-term fetus can hear talk and even benefit from being talked to. Birth is just one step on the way to adulthood. Assigning it as an absolute step to full human rights is oversimplification.

The problem is that the birth does not change the fetus so much.

Birth is actually the most significant single change we ever experience - excluding death. A fetus "breathes" by exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide via the placenta: fetal lungs are filled with amniotic fluid and not in use. There are other, major biological changes that happen when the fetus is born - temperature regulation, liver, gastrointestinal system - but the oxygen exchange is actually the significant one: oxygen levels in a fetal cortex are so low there's no reason to suppose that the fetus is conscious pre-birth.

There is credible evidence that a late-term fetus can hear talk and even benefit from being talked to.

So can my cats.

It's odd: there is a distinct, bright-line, actual biological real-world difference that anyone can perceive for themselves that could be used to base legislation on.

Birth.

yeah, that is as clear cut as the other distinction used by some.

Conception.

There might be a reason why most people think that reality is less black-and-white than either position though.

yeah, that is as clear cut as the other distinction used by some.

I wondered who was going to bring that up: my bet was Sebastian.

Of course, a reasonable person would consider that saying once a woman conceives she has no legal right to make decisions about her own body/her own pregnancy, turns a woman into an incubator.

Whereas saying that the legal marker is birth, is both a clear bright line and one which gives pregnant women all the ordinary legal rights of human beings to make decisions intimately concerning them. Good plan, no?

There might be a reason why most people think that reality is less black-and-white than either position though.

I think that arguing that doctors ought to have the legal right to perform damaging medical procedures on their patients against the patient's will, or deny help the doctor is able to provide which could save the patient's life or health - which is what Sebastian and other anti-choicers recommend, might make most people take a black-and-white position on this.

Jes,

You have a great way of entrenching into absolute positions. Even Sebastian is, in my opinion, pro-choice. He does not adopt the absolute definition of personhood at conception. None of us arguing here with you does. Everyone of us (except perhaps Sebastian) accepts the early-term abortion on woman's wish. Yet you call us anti-abortion.

Your argument, logically followed, means that a woman has indeed the right to have the fetus stabbed on the head at the moment of birth. I think that the idea is such an abomination that most of us do not want to even consider accepting it. If you posit the question as: no legal abortion at all or legal killing of the foeti during birth, almost every one will be pro-life. It is extremely bad tactics. The resul is much better if you frame the question in different shades of gray.

Indeed, I am beginning to doubt whether I am arguing with an agent provocateur. See you in some other thread, anyhow!

Even Sebastian is, in my opinion, pro-choice.

Upthread, Sebastian advocates that doctors should be legally compelled to force women to have late abortions by induced labor, rather than allowing doctors and their patients to choose the most appropriate method for that particular situation.

How, exactly, are you getting "pro-choice" out of that?

Your argument, logically followed, means that a woman has indeed the right to have the fetus stabbed on the head at the moment of birth.

Where, exactly, are you getting this from? And how are you getting this? It does seem to be a pro-lifer thing, to deliberately confuse performing a late abortion by the IDX method with infanticide while giving birth: but it makes no sense if you give it even five minutes real thought.

I think that the idea is such an abomination that most of us do not want to even consider accepting it.

I think that if, during birth, it should come down to a choice between the life of the child being born and the life of the woman giving birth to the child, it's really not an "abomination" to say that the medical decisions should be made by medical team who are there at the time and by the patient's designated representative (or the patient herself, if she made her wishes known before the situation deteriorated, since under those circumstances she may well not even be conscious). This may include procedures that will sound appalling if described in cold blood to lay people who have no idea of the context.

But you know, if I'm ever in a situation like that, I think the "abomination" would be for the medical team to have to say "There's a procedure that could save this woman's life: we know what it is, we could perform it, and if we don't perform it, she's almost certainly going to die. But a cabal of pro-lifers got together and passed a law that says under those circumstances if we don't let her die we're going to be prosecuted and lose our licenses, so, let her die."

I don't actually think you know you're saying you think it's an abomination even to consider letting the medical team present at the time do their best to preserve the life and health of their patient according to her wishes. I just think you've been conned by pro-lifers into thinking of some necessary medical procedures as "abominations!"

Indeed, I am beginning to doubt whether I am arguing with an agent provocateur.

Indeed, I am beginning to wonder the same thing...

I think that arguing that doctors ought to have the legal right to perform damaging medical procedures on their patients against the patient's will, or deny help the doctor is able to provide which could save the patient's life or health - which is what Sebastian and other anti-choicers recommend, might make most people take a black-and-white position on this.

You do realize that we argue for NOT taking action or start damaging medical procedures after a certain stage in the pregnancy?

Birth is actually the most significant single change we ever experience - excluding death.

Eh, without disagreeing entirely, this is rather arbitrary. One could, in other contexts and for other purposes, argue that cell differentiation, or the onset of fertility, or the first instances of self-awareness, etc., are just as significant. I don't think it affects your argument either way, though.

Marbel: You do realize that we argue for NOT taking action or start damaging medical procedures after a certain stage in the pregnancy?

And just let the woman die? Right. That's why you call yourselves "pro-lifers", of course: better have both pregnant woman and fetus die together! Well, no. How you guys get away with calling yourself pro-life when you argue for double death beats me.

Not aborting in third trimester does not equal letting the woman die, especially not after a lengthy discussions about exceptions.

I don't call myself a pro-lifer, *you* call me a pro-lifer because I think restrictions on third trimester abortions are a good thing. Since elsewhere you said to Slartibartfest that he wasn't really a pro-lifer because he was in favour of contraception your use of the term seems to be less than consistent.

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