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June 01, 2009

Comments

Sebastian, do you think that if the prosecutor thought that the actual abortions were not appropriate (under the law) he would have hesitated to bring those charges against Tiller?

The prosecutor has already stated that evidence indicates that the (real) murderer does not qualify for the death penalty. Since I am against the death penalty under any circumstances, that's fine.

But since Kansas does have the death penalty I am eagerly awaiting what evidence there is that negates the possibility of the death penalty being at least asked for in this case.

For a reference to the grand jury in reference to Dr. Tiller, see wikipedia under "Tiller"; look for "Controversies: Christin Gilbert".

In any case, the issue for me does not relate to one or other specific judicial proceeding. It relates to the use of evidence and logic in assessing Dr. Tillers practices and ethics, assuming you consider this appropriate. All of the judicial proceedings I have seen referenced so far resulted in Dr. Tiller's exoneration. Now, if you have specific evidence that the court did not consider, we can evaluate it. But Occam's Razor prevents the consideration of a general suggestion that maybe evidence existed that would have changed the verdicts in these cases, and maybe the courts wrongly excluded it.

The grand jury no-billed him. The jury acquitted him. Without specific evidence that they did so wrongly, the sentence has to end there. Accounts that have surfaced on the web so far appear to suggest Dr. Tiller had a strong sense of ethics, and that many if not all of his late-term abortions addressed either real threats to the life or health of the woman involved, or non-survivable health problems in the fetus.

If you have contradictory evidence, please post it or refer to it. But you can't base an argument on the conviction that contradictory evidence has to exist.

believing that pure logic ultimately and completely determines the best moral position.

How does my position derive from "pure logic"? I hope it's for the most part coherent, and will point out incoherencies in the positions I criticize, but coherency is about the only logical criterion applicable in such discussions and it doesn't have a whole lot to do with "pure logic".

Setting aside these abortion discussions, I think that the Memorial Day thread was an example of letting logic and a demand for 'coherency' run roughshod over feelings and personal concerns. Again, it is only my impression, but comparing the US military to the mafia in a Memorial Day thread is precisely the sort of thing that gives me that impression. I always appreciate a desire for coherency, but a overabundance leaves the impression of a one person demonstration of logical ability rather than an actual dialogue.

Well, on a personal level Tony Soprano is actually a pretty nice and interesting guy. And I'm sure many of the US soldiers who killed a million plus in Vietnam and a couple of hundred thousands in Iraq are nice people as well. But that doesn't make me condone what either of them do, nor is it enough reason to exonerate them. The flipside of your preoccupation with the feelings and personal concerns of the perpetrators is a disregard for the suffering of the victims. This suffering doesn't just happen, it's not simply a tragedy without guilty parties. Somebody gives the orders and somebody drops the bombs or pulls the trigger. And while the morality of each and every soldier or mafia member is impossible to evaluate, you can judge the actions of the collective they belong to.

Well, we are into the 3rd page, so it is rather difficult to follow this, but my preoccupation is with the content of the thread and the people who participate here. Accusing people of disregarding suffering because they honor service on a day that has traditionally set aside to honor such service is precisely what I mean when I suggest that you are unable or unwilling to make logic subject to considerations of feelings and seem more intent on showing everyone how logical you are. Accusing me of that when I didn't weigh in on the thread and merely pointed out that this was part of the reason that I didn't get involved rather than some robotic like agreement with Jes is a perfect example of how logic serves to obscure communication rather than clarify it.

LJ, I think I was the one who introduced the mafia aspect into the Memorial Day thread, so perhaps your argument is with me as well. I'd be curious how you distinguish the case of novakent being too obsessed with logic and you yourself letting emotion override your judgment.

I don't see any clear contradiction between honoring the service of veterans and acknowledging that the US military has been used to kill millions of people for no reason. I don't recall you explaining this contradiction in the Memorial Day thread. After all, in every army that has every committed atrocities, there have been many soldiers who served with honor. I would say that many soldiers in the Wehrmacht served with distinction and honor and I have no difficulty honoring their service while at the same time pointing out that volunteering was unethical.

Brett,

It doesn't shock me.
I'm not making that argument.

I'm not sure we do, or can, force women to care for their children. Sometimes we take the children away, or punish a mother after the fact.

The procedure is performed by doctors. Given that they're professionals, with very serious professional sanctions, who chose the maternity sector, and who I'd generally trust to do their best for both patients. That's actually enough assurance for me to handle the hypochondriac or "unnecessary" abortion seekers. But if you think there's a wave of medical malpractice going on, you'd know better than I about how to bring the lawsuit.

"The flipside of your preoccupation with the feelings and personal concerns of the perpetrators is a disregard for the suffering of the victims."

This simply doesn't follow, unless you mean something by "the flipside" that's different from what I understand it to mean. Let me ask, so as to clarify: are you saying that concern about U.S. soldiers, or their friends, or relatives, means that one has "disregard for the suffering of the victims"? Are you saying that LJ has "disregard for the suffering" of people killed in Iraq and/or Afghanistan?

I'd like to think I'm misunderstanding you.

are you saying that concern about U.S. soldiers, or their friends, or relatives, means that one has "disregard for the suffering of the victims"?

I would say that this phenomena clearly can happen; whether it does happen in any particular case depends on the details.

I don't see why you would even find this unusual. People like their friends and family, including those that serve in the armed forces. People are not used to thinking of their friends and families as killers. So to the extent that they love and empathize with soldiers, it becomes much harder to accept or internalize the impact of the war on Iraqis. It is hard for most people to understand systemic effects of something as big and complex as a war or a military industrial complex. This doesn't make people bad, just human. As you know, Americans have, on average, an extremely good idea of how many American soldiers have died in Iraq and an extremely bad idea of how many Iraqis have died.

I do think though that if the US government used the military to prosecute a pointless conflict that killed a million Americans, many more people would be discussing the ethics of (re)enlistment. The fact that a million Iraqi lives don't move people to the same extent that a million American lives do no doubt stems from many factors, but one of them is likely the affinity and empathy Americans have for military service in general.

"I would say that this phenomena clearly can happen"

Well, of course it can happen.

Turb,

I don't recall you explaining this contradiction in the Memorial Day thread.

I didn't say much of anything in that thread, I merely took novakant's comments there as an example in order to illustrate the pattern of rhetoric by novakant, a pattern of rhetoric that seems to make purely logical argumentation the be all end all of discussion. I'm sure that one could argue to someone who is mourning over the death of their great grandmother that the energy and time spent doing so is misplaced when there are so many people who are dying young and there would be a logical point there. When he followed up with his disappointment that hilzoy wasn't talking about abstract principles, I thought there was a point to be made about the over reliance on logic in discussing some subjects.

Given all the talk about Doe v Bolton by anti-abortion people on this thread and others, I looked it up http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0410_0179_ZO.html.

I'm not a lawyer, or even an American, but two of the basic legal points seemed clear. For abortions in general (rather than late abortions), it was excessive restriction to demand that you got three independent opinions on the abortion and that a hospital committee then reviewied the decision. (For late abortions it's obviously still legal to have some review demanded by states, as the case against Tiller shows).

So why did it decide that for (early) abortions the decisions could be made by one doctor? Because there wasn't a committee before any other kind of surgical operation that tried to second-guess a doctor's judgement, and because there was professional regulation of doctors, if there was suspicion of them behaving unethically. (Unlike prison officers, for example, the analogy one person has made here).

So anti-choicers have to explain why the normal level of review of a doctor's conduct suddenly isn't adequate for this one specific area. Because a serious crime might be committed? But there are lots of other cases where this might be the case. For example, I understand selling organs is generally illegal. Should there be a hospital committee deciding whether every operation removing an organ is medically necessary, in case the surgeon's trying to harvet organs (with or without the patient's collusion), for example?

I can't see anything in the Doe v Bolton judgement that prevents legal or professional investigation of specific cases where there is some evidence of illegal/unethical behaviour by the doctor. Just because not all organ removal surgery is vetted, doesn't mean specific allegations can't be. There was an investigation of one late abortion case in the UK, for example, but no prosecution http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/4354469.stm

What I suspect the anti-choice people really want in this case is fishing expeditions, to go through multiple cases of late abortion in the hope of finding something that will stick. The intrusive nature of that is evident - and maybe they should think about the publicity element of it as well. We've read the harrowing stories on websites about couples who decided on late term abortions for entirely justifiable grounds - terrible deformities in the fetus. Imagine how they would read if these accounts then add: 'But our ordeal wasn't over. Now we had to face a court appearance, had hostile cross-examinations in which it was implied that we were heartless killers of the child we desperately wanted.' How vicious and vindictive would that make anti-choice people look?

And anyhow, suppose we were in an alternative world in which Doe v Bolton restrictions were still allowed? Does anyone think that would stop the anti-abortionists' claims? An independent doctor or two agreeing to the abortion (as in Kansas)? Irrelevant. A committee of six doctors reviewing the case? The anti-choice people would be insisting that the committee would have been packed. There is no review that would be enough for them, once you understand their basic belief that abortion doctors and those who associate with them are by definition unprincipled and not to be trusted.

After all the justified criticism of Megan McArdle, she did have one line that seemed rather relevant to this case (but from her comments on Sotomayor)http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/05/the_problem_of_affirmative_act.php:

"I'd frame the critics as suffering from the terrible, pervasive fear that some brown person, somewhere, is getting away with something."

Although I'm pro-choice, I accept restrictions on post-viability abortion (I have argued this before on threads, but not recently, because I got tired of called a woman-hater by Jes). And if there are laws I don't object to them being enforced. What I do object to, and so should anyone who cares about the legal system, is a presumption of guilt in these cases - that people have to prove they haven't broken the law.

"An independent doctor or two agreeing to the abortion (as in Kansas)? Irrelevant. "

The same doctor in every case, who got paid by the patients, and possibly would have stopped getting the referrals if he'd found some of the abortions unnecessary? One doctor is probably enough, but it really shouldn't be a doctor chosen by the abortionist.

Alright then, let's rely only on arguments based on feelings and personal experience and be very suspicious of any attempts to point out incoherencies in these or discuss ethical matters on a more abstract level, as this might cause discomfort.

The same doctor in every case, who got paid by the patients, and possibly would have stopped getting the referrals if he'd found some of the abortions unnecessary? One doctor is probably enough, but it really shouldn't be a doctor chosen by the abortionist.

Who do you think the doctor should get paid by? You couldn't possibly have a doctor paid by the state deciding on abortions could you (as in the UK)? Think of the outrage over tax dollars going to someone who might permit an abortion.

And who do you think should get to choose the second doctor if not the patient? Or is it suddenly OK for patients to lose their rights when they're possibly doing things you don't like?

As for all this rubbish about doctors just doing it for the money, any evidence that Tiller was a millionaire? Because I'd want to be a hell of a lot better paid than your average doctor to go around in a bullet-proof vest all the time. (And I bet the guy who gave second opinions is pretty scared right now). It's just another slur on doctors who carry out abortions.


And while you are at it, you can always complete exclude the middle. It can't help but enlighten these issues.

I have argued within "the middle" in both threads. Your claim that I have relied on "pure logic" to make my case is baseless. Abstracting from individual cases and engaging in the odd thought experiment or generalized comparison is the most common thing in the world when discussing ethical and political matters. Every argument in a pub will have elements like this, implicitly or explicitly, they are part of "the middle". It is you who wants to restrict the discourse here to a certain form you deem appropriate, not me.

I have argued within "the middle" in both threads.
but
let's rely only on arguments based on feelings and personal experience and be very suspicious of any attempts to point out incoherencies in these or discuss ethical matters on a more abstract level, as this might cause discomfort.

That's a rather strange definition of middle you have there...

You might want to turn your sarcasm detector on.

I realize that the hole you are digging has nothing on the earthmoving that von has been doing in the Latina thread, but if you go back, you might notice that you have accused me of 'disregarding suffering' and 'restricting discourse' (how, I'm not sure). Perhaps that is sarcasm, but I fail to see how you have any evidence for either of those propositions.

You wrote earlier in this thread, in complaining about hilzoy's point

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

You seem to have some unexamined moral intuitions yourself, but your whipping back and forth between the every so dangerous activity of philosophical thought and indulging in sarcasm to attempt to make your point leaves me with neither the time nor the energy to try and lead you to see them. Best of luck in all your philosophical inquiries.

You seem to have some unexamined moral intuitions yourself

Oh, I'm sure, don't we all. So please take a crack at them, because that might at least be mildly interesting. As it stands, you have contributed nothing of substance and only expressed a vague feeling of annoyance regarding my debating style. I'm sure you can do better than that.

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