Ah, Abortion

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101 Responses

  1. You’ve thought about the abortion issue a lot more than I have. It’s just not something I really care about all that much—although I do support people’s right to have abortions if they want them.

    Since you’ve thought about this in such a rigorous way, how would you characterize my (admittedly non rigorous) position?

    I say that the women carry a human life in their wombs from the moment of conception. There’s just no other way for me to think about it than that.

    I say that the state has the right to sanction killing—it does so in war, self-defense, and capital punishment—if it sees a compelling reason for it.

    I say that there is a compelling reason for the state’s sanctioning the killing of human life in the womb: people’s right not to “be inconvenienced” (in your words); the inconvenient fact that the human life in question is part of the body of another human life, i.e., the mother’s. This makes the situation ambiguous since the state’s protecting the human life within the womb will violate the rights of the mother—since it’s her body we’re talking about. This means that the state has to choose which life’s human rights are more important, since it cannot protect both equally at the same time. I agree that the mother’s rights are more important than the baby’s, therefore I agree that the state has the right to sanction killing the baby.

    Aside from this, how can you explain opposition to state sanctioned abortion other than by calling it fanaticism? Nobody is forced to abort; it’s a choice that’s open to people under the law. Why would anyone want to restrict other people’s choices if they’re not just acting out of religious fanaticism?Report

  2. Sidereal:

    Excellent contribution! Thank you for this.

    One minor quibble – I wonder if maybe “physically inconvenienced” should be flipped with “rape or incest” on the graph, if only because the “health exception” is often viewed as more important by the courts than the rape or incest exception, although I suspect the reverse is often true in popular opinion.

    More importantly, one thing that is interesting to me is the way in which the 20-25% extremes in the debate do themselves a disservice by assuming that the additional 25-30% who call themselves “pro-life” or “pro-choice” take the maximalist (or near-maximalist) position. As we are seeing in the comments to my thread, this seems to result in situations where opponents of one position or the other automatically assume that identifying as that “side” equates to acceptance of the maximalist position for that side. As a result, potential compromises may fall by the wayside because the other side’s (particularly its non-maximalists) simply not listening.Report

  3. Avatar conradg says:

    I think the concept of granting “rights” to the fetus in the womb is deeply flawed, and weakens the whole of your argument. As even many pro-life supporters such as Larison point out, arguing on the basis of fetal “rights” will always swing the argument itself into the pro-choice side, and probably a lot more than you do in your personal analysis. Not only does the pro-life argument make more sense without the concept of fetal “rights”, but it also makes the pro-choice argument more cogent.

    There is no need to assume that fetuses have “rights” in order to regulate abortion. Neither Roe v. Wade nor the more recent rulings (which actually supercede Roe, which is no longer the ruling precedent for trimester issues – viability is) are based on notions of conflicting rights between the woman and her fetus. The fetus is not presumed to have any rights, because it is not considered a citizen. There is no legal basis to speak of “partial rights” for fetuses. Either one is a born citizen, or one is not, in the legal sense. So in legal terms, there is no “conflict of rights” going on here.

    Instead, there is solely a limitation on the woman’s right to an abortion. Just as their are limitations on the right to own guns, or the right to free speech, without somehow conceiving of guns or speech as having rights in themselves, the right to an abortion has limits that the state can place upon it.

    This is the problem with concepts like “animal rights” also. Animals simply do not have legal rights. That doesn’t mean the state cannot pass laws against animal cruelty, etc. It certainly can. It just isn’t an issue of the rights of the pet owner vs. the rights of the pet. It’s a limitation on the rights of pet owners to treat their property as they wish. And the abortion debate is essentially about how a woman is allowed to treat her personal property – the fetus – not what rights does the fetus have.

    We have all kinds of limits on how we can use our personal property. We have zoning laws, we have finance laws, we have gun regulations, etc. They have to be reasonable, and not undue burdens on the individual, and not violate basic constitutional freedoms, but such laws are perfectly acceptable. So abortion restrictions are also reasonable – as long as they are reasonable. But they are not a conflict of “rights” between fetus and mother.Report

  4. Avatar Kyle says:

    “It’s a tribalism that can offer the satisfaction of self-righteousness but is no road to policy or justice. ”

    Well said.Report

  5. Avatar Cascadian says:

    “The fetus is not presumed to have any rights, because it is not considered a citizen.”

    As I’m sure Mark will tell you. This is exactly the problem that Dred Scott addressed: could one State create citizens unilaterally that would have claim on other States? Should the Constitution be considered a contract. And, if it is, can one party fundamentally change the scope and meaning of the contract without the concent of the other party.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My problem is how “you don’t have the right to do that” mystically transforms into “therefore, I have the right to stop you from doing that”.

    The former may, in fact, be true without the latter being so.Report

  7. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    More bullshytt.
    Lets try this thought experiment.
    sidereal, you don’t actually believe a fetus is a human life, and I can prove it.
    Do you believe that late-term abortion is murder?
    according to your graph you do.
    So, I can safely assume you think late term abortion is murder.
    I’m fine with prolife terrorists assassinating abortionists, but they HAVE to be idealogically consistant. They have to whack ALL abortionists.
    And the includes the hostwombs. Dr. Tiller didn’t run around and kidnap women to abort or hypnotize them into paying him and laying down on the table . Nope, they sought his help as an accomplice in murdering their late term fetuses.
    So consider how awesomesauce this is.
    Kill that woman who murdered her child and i guaran-damn-tee she wont ever abort another “human life”.
    Think of the deterrent value!!!!
    Carry that fetus to term, biyotch, or the Prolife Terror Police are gonna blow your damn head off!!!
    No revisionism here.
    So, yeah, sidereal. You don’t relly believe fetuses are human lives.
    You’re another faker like McArdle.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “I’m fine with prolife terrorists assassinating abortionists, but they HAVE to be idealogically consistant. They have to whack ALL abortionists.”

    And so we have a situation where either someone who claims to be pro-life is either a hypocrite or an assassin.

    Is there an equivalent to the term “dhimmi”, yet? I’m thinking that we’re going to need one.Report

  9. Avatar sidereal says:

    Thanks for the comments. Brief responses before I have to run:
    Roque Nuevo:

    I agree that the state has the right to sanction killing the baby.

    Aside from this, how can you explain opposition to state sanctioned abortion other than by calling it fanaticism? Nobody is forced to abort; it’s a choice that’s open to people under the law.

    Does your opinion of the state’s right to sanction the fetus’ death differ depending on the age of the fetus? If so, you must have some intuitive conception of increasing rights. That’s part of what the post was trying to get at. That for most people it’s very difficult to even have an opinion in 1 dimension. To your second question, I suppose it depends on your definition of fanaticism. It surely can’t be fanaticism just because it opposes something currently legal. Otherwise anti-prohibitionist and the anti-slavery movement were fanatics etc, etc. Approach it from this perspective: A fetus is a human life of at least some complexity. The state has an interest in protecting human lives and creates many laws to do so. Excluding a fetus from those laws is the result of convenience, not principle, and is a mistake. This is, I think, the foundational argument of abortion opponents. It doesn’t strike me as fanatical.

    Mark:
    I think I’m guilty of inartful wording. When I say ‘inconvenienced’ I really do mean “I don’t want to throw up for 3 months and walk like a duck for another 3”. I’m referring just to the physical rigors of a typical pregnancy, which, at least in my conversations, is one of the (relatively minor) reasons a potential mother might want to avoid pregnancy. It wouldn’t include a physical danger to the mother.

    conrad:
    The concept of granting rights to the fetus may seem deeply flawed in your analysis, but it’s not a rhetorical choice. It is the foundational moral axiom of abortion opponents. After all, if a fetus has no rights, how could one possible oppose abortion? But why should it not have rights? 5 seconds after a child is born, if someone killed it it would be a heinous crime that would have people clamoring for the death penalty. But 5 seconds before it’s born, it’s a morally untroubling act? How is that? What happened in those 10 seconds? The baby moved a few feet from inside its mother to somewhere else. You might believe that that physical motion magically turns a pile of tissue into a human deserving of proctections. Many people disagree.

    Jaybird:
    The state is in the business of preventing people from doing the things they do not have the right to do, especially when doing so reduced the rights of others.

    That said, it is a convincing argument to me that though I might find any abortion beyond the first few weeks morally heinous, state enforcement of an anti-abortion prohibition might be worse than the crime.Report

  10. Excellent post, Sidereal. It gives a much more nuanced view of American abortion opinion than I’ve seen for quite some time.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “The state is in the business of preventing people from doing the things they do not have the right to do, especially when doing so reduced the rights of others.”

    Business is good.

    I think that there are more categories than “things I have a right to do” and “things I should be forbidden from doing”.Report

  12. Avatar sidereal says:

    Whoops, missed matoko’s comment while typing up the others.

    You sure are right. You’ve convinced me of the error of my ways. Surely because I don’t want mothers to be killed, I must think a fetus is something other than human life. QEDReport

  13. Avatar strech says:

    There is no legal basis to speak of “partial rights” for fetuses. Either one is a born citizen, or one is not, in the legal sense. So in legal terms, there is no “conflict of rights” going on here.

    This is the problem with concepts like “animal rights” also. Animals simply do not have legal rights. That doesn’t mean the state cannot pass laws against animal cruelty, etc. It certainly can. It just isn’t an issue of the rights of the pet owner vs. the rights of the pet. It’s a limitation on the rights of pet owners to treat their property as they wish. And the abortion debate is essentially about how a woman is allowed to treat her personal property – the fetus – not what rights does the fetus have.

    “Lacks full human rights” is not equal to “Is a rock”. This is not a simple dichotomy; Children also lack full rights but are not strictly the property of their parents. I fail to see how this cannot also be applied to fetuses and animals, simply with more limits.Report

  14. I can see that the state has an interest in protecting life, etc etc. But I also see that the state has an interest in sanctioning killing. I can’t see why capital punishment, self defense, and war are based on “convenience.” The state sees an interest in sanctioning killing in these cases, which is not the same thing as “convenience.” I don’t see abortion as being any different.

    My “fanaticism” remark was not based on simple opposition to a legal practice. It’s based on the simple idea that people are not forced to abort. If someone’s against abortion, then they don’t have to do it. Wanting to impose their beliefs on the whole nation is fanatical.

    The anti slavery and prohibition (not anti prohibition) movements were also fanatical in the same way anti abortion activists are. They were and are imposing religious views on the whole nation. They have succeeded. Even though alcohol is legal today, the prohibition movement is based on the fanatical puritan idea that 24/7 sobriety is one of society’s highest values. The drug war and anti drug laws are the result. There is no doubt that the drug war and anti drug laws have caused more death and destruction than the drugs ever did in themselves, which shows that preventing damage to society is not the reason for prohibition. The reason is religious fanaticism, just like anti abortionism is.Report

  15. Avatar Francis says:

    Interesting post. But as you note briefly in your comment, turning popular belief into effective law is the real tricky step. We, the state, have essentially the following choices:

    voluntary compliance;
    administrative procedures (like the Kansas law requiring a second opinion from a qualified doctor before performing a late-term abortion);
    civil court (like judicial by-pass of parental notification laws); and
    criminal court.

    Now, for me, the weird thing about discussing abortion with conservatives is that they are generally very concerned about the size and intrusiveness of government, but suddenly in the abortion context are perfectly comfortable that a deputy attorney general or a faceless bureaucrat in the state department of health services is competent to review expeditiously (and keep secret) medical files on abortion decisions.Report

  16. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    You sure are right. You’ve convinced me of the error of my ways. Surely because I don’t want mothers to be killed, I must think a fetus is something other than human life. QED

    that wasn’t my point.
    my point is you don’t really believe late term fetuses are human lives because you are a faker, just like the rest of the prolife movement.Report

  17. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    And so we have a situation where either someone who claims to be pro-life is either a hypocrite or an assassin.

    nah….either a hypocrite or a proto-terrorist.Report

  18. Avatar Dave Hunter says:

    “The number of people who truly hold the maximal pro-choice view — that a mother should have the right to abort a fetus a day before due date on a whim — is vanishingly small, despite the heated rhetoric of many conservatives.”

    No it isn’t. This is the position of all mainstream abortion-rights advocacy groups. I believe it’s the policy position of our president, as well. It’s also what I believe: unborn human life can be given no legal rights.

    This maximalist position has the advantages of being logically consistent, unlike whatever central location on your graph you reside in. I don’t find polling numbers to be a very compelling reason to hold the morally and logically compromised middle view superior.Report

  19. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Holden Caufield was an unreliable narrator.

    That’s my biggest problem with the folks who love that book so much.

    None of them seem to realize that. Dude. He was an unreliable narrator. Not a role model.Report

  20. Avatar conradg says:

    The concept of granting rights to the fetus may seem deeply flawed in your analysis, but it’s not a rhetorical choice. It is the foundational moral axiom of abortion opponents.

    Which is why, I think, the pro-life arguments fail to gain traction. As Larison points out, framing this issue in terms of “rights” is walking right into the pro-choice camp, using their language and concepts, and thus guaranteeing that the right to an abortion prevails – as seems to be the case even with you. You don’t support the extreme pro-life ban on abortion-as-murder, because you are willing to see the equation as a balancing act of rights. That will NEVER evolve into a ban on abortion, as you admit, just some kind of “drawing of lines” at various stages along the way. At that point, we are merely arguing about what kinds of choices to permit, not choice itself.

    After all, if a fetus has no rights, how could one possible oppose abortion?

    This is where you seem to be stuck. But think about it, we have laws regulating all kinds of activities, without conceiving of “rights” among the things regulated. We regulate automobiles, without assuming that people have some kind of “right” to own and operate a car. We regulate all kinds of medical matters, all kinds of social interactions, most of which do not involve “rights”. We even regulate rights themselves, such as economic speech and gun ownership. We can regulate the activity of abortion without invoking fetal rights also. It’s unnecessary. One can oppose abortion for the same reason one can oppose private ownership of nuclear weapons. One can argue that it’s too dangerous to society, a threat to whatever one wants to conceive of it being a threat to. That would at least make the argument founded in some kind of reality, rather than this imaginary argument about fetal “rights”. In other words, the “rights” argument is a way of hiding the real reasons that people oppose abortion. I’d rather argue with the real reasons, then have them cloaked in this legalistic language of “rights” for forms of life that have never been considered to have the kind of human volition that the concept of “rights” comes from.

    But why should it not have rights? 5 seconds after a child is born, if someone killed it it would be a heinous crime that would have people clamoring for the death penalty. But 5 seconds before it’s born, it’s a morally untroubling act? How is that? What happened in those 10 seconds? The baby moved a few feet from inside its mother to somewhere else. You might believe that that physical motion magically turns a pile of tissue into a human deserving of proctections. Many people disagree.

    One has to draw lines somewhere, as you already have done so. The constitutional definition of a citizen includes the word “born”. This is the universal tradition of mankind – birth is a great step into the world. So citizenship rights begin at birth. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make it illegal to abort a fetus five seconds before it is born. We can pass that law quite easily, infringing upon a woman’s right to an abortion, in the same way that we can infringe upon your right to bear arms by prohibiting you from owning a nuclear bomb. Or any bombs at all. The question is always is it a reasonable infringement on those rights. The gun ownership debate hovers at present around various waiting periods and various types of automatic weapons. The abortion debate hovers around various trimesters and health issues. I think both of those areas are where the debate should be, but in neither case is is necessary to suggest that the fetus, or the gun, has rights of its own. The debate is over what powers the state should have to limit the rights of the woman or the gun owner, and where those lines should be drawn.

    Confering legal rights on fetuses is also a total nightmare, completely unnecessary and its effects would totally ruin the debate if taken seriously. It’s nothing like the notion of giving citizenship rights to slaves or any other civil rights issue. It’s simply a rhetorical devise created to try to win the abortion debate, but it actually wrecks it, and even guarantees that the pro-life arguments will lose.Report

  21. Avatar conradg says:

    stretch,

    “Lacks full human rights” is not equal to “Is a rock”. This is not a simple dichotomy; Children also lack full rights but are not strictly the property of their parents. I fail to see how this cannot also be applied to fetuses and animals, simply with more limits.

    I should have specified that we are talking about the “right to live”, not something like “the right to vote”, which is limited by age. We don’t consider that children, at some age, have a right to live, whereas previous to that age, they don’t. If we give fetuses the citizen’s right to live, you can’t make that a partial right, determined by trimester. Nor can you call an abortion, at any stage, anything but murder. So the right-to-life argument for fetuses is really an extremist one, that would permit no abortion whatsoever. You can’t have a partial right-to-life, in other words.Report

  22. Avatar conradg says:

    Sidereal,

    You sure are right. You’ve convinced me of the error of my ways. Surely because I don’t want mothers to be killed, I must think a fetus is something other than human life. QED

    Sarcasm aside, motoko is right. If you actually do beleive fetuses are persons with a right to live, how can that right ever be infringed upon, at nay trimester? And how can those who do that, not just abortionists, but the women who hire them, be guilty of anything but premeditated murder-for-hire? This is what I mean when I say the fetal rights argument is a loser, a dead end. Your sarcasm should be more inner-directed.Report

  23. Avatar conradg says:

    This [the view that women have the right to abort a fetus within five seconds of birth] is the position of all mainstream abortion-rights advocacy groups. I believe it’s the policy position of our president, as well. It’s also what I believe: unborn human life can be given no legal rights.

    This is just false. It would only be allowed in the most extreme case of a woman’s health being at risk. Third trimester abortions are outlawed in most states, and permitted in others only in serious health risk circumstances. Very, very few pro-choice people think things should be otherwise.Report

  24. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Let me stand back and observe that you are framing the argument in such a way that pro-lifers are not only either hypocrites or proto-terrorists, but pro-life sympathies at any point in the gestation period are similarly pathological.

    Am I reading that right?Report

  25. Avatar sidereal says:

    you don’t really believe late term fetuses are human lives because you are a faker

    This is an excellent opportunity to use the phrase ‘begging the question’ in its accurate sense, rather than as a synonym for ‘raising the question’.

    This is the position of all mainstream abortion-rights advocacy groups. I believe it’s the policy position of our president, as well.

    There’s evidence that that is not true. His interview with Relevant became an issue during the campaign. Via Politico:

    The dustup began with the magazine interview in which Obama said he supported the ban on late-term abortions if there is a “strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother.” But he went on to draw a distinction between physical and mental health, voicing support for the former and not the latter.

    The fooferaw was over the mental health exception, but that’s irrelevant to the point that he supports a restriction on late-term abortions.

    It’s difficult to find the official position of NARAL. Their Issues page on Abortion doesn’t address the topic of late term abortions. They are explicitly supportive of health exceptions for late term abortion bans, but it isn’t clear whether that’s a defensive concession or their ideal policy. Emily’s List has the explicit goal of getting ‘pro-choice Democratic women’ elected. But we run into the problem that undergirds this entire discussion. What exactly do they mean by ‘pro-choice’? It’s just a label.Report

  26. Just to back up sidereal’s and conradg’s points about the lack of maximalism in the vast majority of the pro-choice camp, it’s worth mentioning that although support for Roe and, to a lesser extent, Casey, are often de facto litmus tests for calling oneself “pro-choice,” there is virtually no movement of people insisting that Roe’s protections were too narrow (which, believe it or not, would have been the more coherent position, and in the intermediate term may have actually ensured the development of a democratic constitutional compromise since it would have been unpalatable to just about everyone).Report

  27. Avatar matoko says:

    Jaybird, ‘zactly.Report

  28. Avatar Jaybird says:

    When I find myself in what I view to be the only possible reasonable position in a debate where there are two fairly large groups of people disagreeing (both filled with people who are filled with people who view themselves as holding the only possible reasonable position), I generally give thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that he didn’t make me a poor deluded fool like those folks who don’t agree with me.Report

  29. Avatar matoko says:

    I pray to the Divine Beloved to forgive my nafs.Report

  30. Avatar sidereal says:

    You don’t support the extreme pro-life ban on abortion-as-murder, because you are willing to see the equation as a balancing act of rights. That will NEVER evolve into a ban on abortion, as you admit, just some kind of “drawing of lines” at various stages along the way.

    Yes, exactly. That is, in fact, the thrust of my argument. At no point would I ever advocate a total ban on abortion. Personally, I believe morning-after pills should be distributed wide and free, even if they’re abortifacient and not just contraceptive. I think you’re falling into the 0-dimension trap again. I’m ‘pro-life’, so I must desire a total ban on abortion, because that’s what ‘pro-life’ people want.

    If you actually do beleive fetuses are persons with a right to live, how can that right ever be infringed upon, at nay trimester? And how can those who do that, not just abortionists, but the women who hire them, be guilty of anything but premeditated murder-for-hire?

    Two separate issues. First, we infringe on the right to life all the time. Acknowledging it exists does not inevitably lead to its supremacy in every moral debate. Second, infringing on that right is ‘murder’ in some cases and not in others. Is the death penalty ‘premeditated murder for hire’? You can argue it, but it wouldn’t serve any point because the terminology is irrelevant. It is possible to acknowledge that abortion is the ending of a human life without legally or rhetorically dealing with it as ‘murder’ any more than war, death with dignity, self-defense, manslaughter or any other myriad sorts of methods of killing people are necessarily ‘murder’.Report

  31. Avatar conradg says:

    jaybird,

    Let me stand back and observe that you are framing the argument in such a way that pro-lifers are not only either hypocrites or proto-terrorists, but pro-life sympathies at any point in the gestation period are similarly pathological.

    Am I reading that right?

    If you’re talking to me, no, that’s not correct. I think pro-life people have chosen a line of argument (that fetuses have a right to life) that doesn’t work, that leads to an inevitably extremist position, and that they use because it appeals to our modern, liberal notion of human rights that should not be compromised. I think it’s a valid point that moderates like Sidereal don’t really believe in this “right to life” for fetuses, they just feel comfortable with the language, and the framing of the debate as a competition between the rights of various competing groups, even though it makes no sense here, and leads to farcical but inevitable conclusions such as that abortion is murder at any stage, and the mother is a contract murderer. That’s why I think the rights language should be dropped and the issue resolved by other means.Report

  32. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I don’t know that it invariably doesn’t work.

    Let’s look at, for example, the beard.

    Let’s say that I shaved yesterday. Yesterday morning, I would not have had a beard. Today I might have “stubble”, but not a beard.

    I’ll have a beard in a week and a half. But I won’t have a beard tomorrow either.

    It seems that it’s certainly possible that, somewhere along the progression, there is a place where we can say “okay, now.”

    The fact that some people say that “okay, now the fetus would have a right to life” does not mean that they must “inevitably” say that the guy had a beard the second he dried off his face when he finished shaving.

    “Birth” is not the only reasonable place to draw the distinction… other cultures picked “baptism”, or whether the father turned his back on the infant (you ever think about where the “babies raised by wolves in the forest” stories came from?), or other such places. I don’t see how “viability” is necessarily “farcical”.

    This is not to say that I agree with the pro-lifers, I don’t. But I don’t see how drawing the line “here” rather than “there” is necessarily farcical on their part (nor that it necessarily will lead to assassination, by the by).Report

  33. Avatar conradg says:

    Sidereal,

    I’m not questioning your moderate stance on abortion. I’m questioning the arguments you make in support of it. I think where you end up isn’t all that bad a place. I’m a bit more liberal, but then so are most people. But there’s something intellectually disingenuous about the argument you make, and that’s why I and others are criticizing. In other words, the rights argument doesn’t end up where you are, so I think something else is responsible for your coming to the moderate stance you have arrived at. I’d be more interested in that, than your talking about this supposed conflict of rights.

    we infringe on the right to life all the time.

    It’s extremely rare, and takes massive amounts of legal proceedings, and many years, before the courts approve and execute criminals, and then only because the individual in question has been convicted of a heinous crime, which cannot be the case with a fetus. Also, only the state can execute people, you can’t just hire someone to do it for you. Self-defense can’t apply either, except in the case where the mother’s life is at stake. So where is this “we infringe on the right to life all the time” business? It doesn’t exist in any but the most extreme cases.

    Furthermore, by what legal proceedings would the fetus’ right to live be infringed upon? You are aware that there must be some kind of court proceeding to render the death penalty on this fetus, aren’t you? If someone has the right to live, it can’t be taken away without legal justification of the most extreme degree. At present, we have no legal justification for infringing upon someone’s life for the kinds of reasons women have abortions, except in the extreme case of one’s life being at risk, and even then, it would have to be a huge risk. I’m not even sure if there are legal precedents for that.

    So you are using this “right to life” term extremely loosely, as if it’s just some term of art, without any legal consequences.

    War is another category, but once again, only the state can engage in war. No private individual is permitted to go to war, and kill another human being, because they stand in their way. So you would have to get the state to carry out the abortion, having declared war on the fetus. Seems like an unlikely way to practice medicine.

    What it sounds like is you want to create a whole new category of “personhood”, that doesn’t have the same right to live as anyone else. That sounds even worse than slavery. At least murdering slaves was still against the law (though not always enforced). You would have to not only give a very limited right to live to certain citizens, the fetus, but also a right to kill another citizen , to the mother. I don’t see how this is a sane and workable solution. Why not just regulate abortion without all this craziness about fetal right-to-life?

    And btw, manslaughter is considered murder. But it doesn’t apply here, in that it only involves unintentional, unpremeditated, or mentally deficient murder. An abortion doesn’t happen without premeditation, and waiting periods prevent rash actions.Report

  34. Avatar sidereal says:

    This seems to be diving into the weeds of terminology choice (and incidentally, I’m finding your repeated use of the term ‘citizen’ a little confusing. It’s perfectly illegal to kill permanent residents, so the intersection between ‘right to life’ and ‘citizen’ escapes me.) Living things have a claim to life that all non-psychopathic humans acknowledge and respect to some degree, and that all sound ethical systems endorse. The strength of that claim is variable according to many factors and might be outweighed by other considerations. Would you be more comfortable if the chart were worded as ‘claim to life’ rather than ‘right to life’? The only difference would be purely terminologically and I have no idea how that would transform my ‘intellectually disingenuous’ argument into one that you would find satisfying.

    You also seem to be somewhat stuck on the existing legal processes for terminating a life. Yes, the death penalty requires a certain process, making war requires another process and so on. Why do you believe that all taking of life must fall into one of these existing processes? After all, we’re discussing this in the context of 36 years of a legal regime built on my assumption, which is that a fetus is granted increasing protection as it ages. A process exists this very day whereby a pregnant woman must make a more assertive demonstration of need to have a third-trimester abortion than a first-trimester abortion. Presumably if first trimester abortions were even more limited, some other process would be required. None of this is incompatible with the idea that a fetus has a right to life, to some degree.Report

  35. Avatar conradg says:

    Jaybird,

    I see your point about the beard. And it makes sense in terms of how and when we decide to permit abortion. But it doesn’t make sense in terms of the “inherent rights” of individuals as our culture conceives of them.

    The examples you use from history have nothing to do with the concept of individual rights, because those cultures didn’t operate by that concept. Ours does. If you want to get rid of the concept of individual rights, redo the constitution and our entire legal system, and go back to some other way of determining how our laws are conceived, created, and carried out, fine. It just seems like a lot of work for the sake of figuring out how to regulate abortion. So while it’s true that in other cultures the line is drawn differently, we don’t live in those other cultures. We live in a culture where men are considered to be born with certain rights, such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You could, if enough people desired it, grant those rights to the unborn, but if you do, it’s hard to do it in any rational way at any point short of conception itself. That doesn’t mean one couldn’t otherwise regulate abortion at arbitary points, but granting the right to life at an arbitrary point seems legally unrealistic. It seems pointlessly complex and self-contradictory to acknowledge some kind of inherent right to live for the unborn that only kicks in long after they have become alive. (And let me remind you, in case you’re thinking along these lines, that birth is not an arbitrary point. Trimesters are, however.)

    Which is precisely why the pro-life movement has chosen this right-to-life argument – because it leads very naturally to total protection of the embryo from conception onward. That’s their goal, and that’s their argument. If you want to stop short of that extreme position, I think you have to jettison the right-to-life argument in its entirety.Report

  36. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Its binary.
    And you are a hypocrite sidereal, and you DO NOT believe third tri-fetuses are human lives, or there would be no exceptions.
    Not for rape, not for incest, not for the health of the mother, not for trisomy 21, not for spina bifida or anencephaly, not for the most horrific genetic hororshow ever dreamt of, not even even for a baby so fabulously deformed that it is doomed to DIE in agony within minutes of its birth.
    And this stupid dishonest debate won’t be over until we have full human ectogenesis and we can drop abortifacts into our swell new Bene Tleilax host-womb-vats and gestate them to term.
    That is….if anyone wants them. Will the noble christian prolifers then adopt these poor doomed monsters with their hideously expensive surgery requirements and dreadfully short lifespans?
    HAHAHA……Because mostly women don’t abort third tri healthy babies.
    It is expensive, the travel is difficult, and the emotional investment is traumatic.
    And talking about this makes me hate you all because you are stupid and dishonest and you have zero empathy for these poor women forced to make awful choices while you disgusting whited sepulchres sit in judgement.

    In’shallah you will not have to suffer this yourself to learn the empathy of pain and blood and agony.Report

  37. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Abortion is a tough topic. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away from the debate before it gets too personal….Report

  38. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    My nafs again.
    >:(
    My shayyk is always telling me, Man cannot acquire what he cannot use.Report

  39. Avatar conradg says:

    Sidereal,

    I am speaking about “rights” in the legal sense here because you are making a legal argument for criminalizing/legalizing the act of abortion. If you simply want to make a moral argument about why a woman shouldn’t have an abortion, and make an appeal to the sanctitity of life, the “right” as you call it that all living things have to not be killed, then fine. Some women might be moved by that not to go through with an abortion. I might even be moved by that myself if I were the father of the fetus. But it’s a meaningless argument in terms of the criminal, legal issue, and your admitted conflating of the two only confuses, rather than clarifiess that legal issue.

    If you changed your titles to “claim of life”, what possible legal meaning could that have in terms of writing laws and issuing legal opinions on this matter? The issue at stake here, let me remind you, because you’re the one who wrote an article on the legality of abortion, is obviously the legal one, and you’re simply not taking that seriously enough. Your charts are all about the legal issue of what is permitted by law, not some kind of mysterious “claim to life” on the part of the fetus. It confuses the issue of how you, and others, arrive at these charted descriptions of how you think the law should be written. “Rights” are legal matters, not just some philosophical idea. They have consequences in terms of this discussion of legalized abortion.

    This is important because to justify your arguments, and your chosen charting, you keep citing this issue of the rights of the fetus. How are we to evaluate your conclusion, if the argument itself is based on false premises? It falsifies your whole argument, if you are basing your legal conclusions about when abortion should be permitted, and under what circumstances, upon this whole “fetal rights” foundation. I’d really suggest you think it through, and figure out what solid legal basis you can rest your ideas on, and that might even change the outcome.

    (and yes, you’re right about the “citizen” thing. I’m just referring to the notion that the rights of citizens are defined by those “born” in the united states. Presumably the rights of non-citizens rest on their having been born elsewhere. In both cases, the operative word is “born”.)

    You also seem to be somewhat stuck on the existing legal processes for terminating a life. Yes, the death penalty requires a certain process, making war requires another process and so on. Why do you believe that all taking of life must fall into one of these existing processes?

    Because once a right-to-life is granted, it’s extremely hard to take away. I get the sense that you don’t even really mean it when you say that a fetus has a “right to life”. You mean it in some philosophical sense, but not in a legal sense. the way trees have a right to live, but you don’t cutting a few down when you need to build a house. That’s very confusing in an article about the legal issue of abortion. In the legal sense, a right to life is a very serious matter, not to be granted lightly. That’s why the pro-life movement focuses on this, and even wants a constitutional amendment granting the unborn an actual right to life. They are talking about it in a very legalistic sense, not merely in a philosophical manner.

    After all, we’re discussing this in the context of 36 years of a legal regime built on my assumption, which is that a fetus is granted increasing protection as it ages.

    You mistake the court’s actions as acknowledging legal rights for the fetus. They do not. There is not a single reference in any of the legal opinions that confers that right on the fetus. Rather, it merely acknowledges that the woman’s right to an abortion is diminished past a certain point. It’s also an acknowledgment of the court’s to be conservative about this matter, in acknowledgment that the point where legal rights are indeed conferred on the fetus, meaning birth, is approaching, and they don’t want to create that scenario, as described before, of an abortion five seconds before birth. It’s a compromise, in other words, which in principle seems fair enough. Call it the DMZ of abortion.Report

  40. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “The examples you use from history have nothing to do with the concept of individual rights, because those cultures didn’t operate by that concept. ”

    My wacky idea of “Individual Rights” entails such things as “Rights exist independently of whether the cultures acknowledge them”.

    So, like, chicks? If they have a Right to abortion, they had one *PRIOR* to Roe.v.Wade.

    If they don’t have a Right to kill the unborn child in their womb, then no court on earth can possibly grant this Right.Report

  41. Avatar sidereal says:

    matoko:

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m not sure what it is about this topic that makes you so viscerally crave the binary formulation, as if the first two charts I posted were the only possible opinions on abortion. It is, despite your vehement but unsupported claims to the contrary, entirely possible to believe that a third trimester fetus is a human life, as I do, and believe that it should be possible to abort them in certain circumstances, as I do. Indeed, the existence proof is tough for you to overcome here. In fact, I find it bizarre that you might not think a 9-month old fetus is a human life. I understand not acknowledging that it is a Human Life for legal purposes because of all that entails for the mother, but setting the law aside. At what point does it become a human life? When it’s completely out? When the umbilical cord is cut? When the head has emerged is it human, but the feet are not? Do you have half a human before the shoulders push through?

    And as for the agony of creating, bearing, and raising children, you have absolutely no idea what my personal circumstances are and you probably never will. But the claim that anyone has ‘zero empathy’ for mothers is dumb and brutish and pointless, and I feel sorry that you believe you live in such a dark world that these people actually exist.

    conradg:
    I suspect you have read something significantly other in the original post than what was there. You say “you are making a legal argument for criminalizing/legalizing the act of abortion”, but that is not the case. And similarly, “The issue at stake here, let me remind you, because you’re the one who wrote an article on the legality of abortion, is obviously the legal one” I didn’t write an article on the legality of abortion, actually. So no, the legal issue is not at stake. I suspect that we’ve reached the point where any discussion on abortion becomes a proxy for every other discussion on abortion, but I think we’re better off arguing claims we’ve actually claimed.

    The desired takeaways from my article are these: That someone’s ‘opinion on abortion’ must necessarily be a complicated thing that cannot be captured in a simple response. That when we do try to capture them in simple responses (such as ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’) we create more confusion than we alleviate. That we would be better served by a polling tradition that acknowledged the many dimensions of abortion. And that people should be wary of using inexact and weak polling data about abortion to support a particular cause, because it is likely that the data does not reveal what they think it does. None of this touches on the issue of legality.

    If you’d like I could write something else about the legality of abortion, but I could sum it up by saying “We’re probably not going to get anything better than what we have now”. I oppose most actions of the pro-life movement on the legal front, although I would support a parental notification requirement for minors if there were good evidence that the outcome would actually be parental notification and not unsanctioned, unsafe abortions.Report

  42. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “And talking about this makes me hate you all because you are stupid and dishonest and you have zero empathy for these poor women forced to make awful choices while you disgusting whited sepulchres sit in judgement.”

    If I were to say that I can’t tell the difference between this and “I give thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that he didn’t make me a poor deluded fool like those folks who don’t agree with me”, would you be able to tell why or is this so completely different that I’m just a troll for bringing it up in the first place?Report

  43. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    I don’t care, Jaybird.
    My nafs always leads me to believe I can show truth to ‘slines, because it is obvious to my sector of the bellcurve of IQ.
    It is not possible…but i forget.
    The truest thing I said was that when we have human ectogenesis (which I predict the prolifers will bitterly and fiercely oppose, btw) very few of the sad deformed and dying babies brought to term by the technology will be adopted by the Noble Christian Life-Jihaadis. The Life-jihaadis fought fiercely against hESCR, a technology they don’t even understand, but very few snowflake embryos were redeemed by those Noble Christians from the frozen death of terminal cryostasis.
    The Life-Jihaadis are stupid….they will never understand women that want abortions will get them….even if they have to use a coathanger or pitch themselves down the stairs.
    So killing doctors is useless.
    You have to kill the women. Just a few, so they get the message.
    Or else you have to say women have autonomy over their own bodies, and you will have to let them decide.
    Its binary.Report

  44. Avatar Cascadian says:

    “My wacky idea of “Individual Rights” entails such things as “Rights exist independently of whether the cultures acknowledge them”.

    Yup, that’s wacky. I tend to think of it as a linguistic bi-product, so I don’t know if I’m any better off.Report

  45. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    I live in this world, sidereal.
    Where do you live?Report

  46. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “You have to kill the women. Just a few, so they get the message.”

    But I had plans tonight…Report

  47. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “I tend to think of it as a linguistic bi-product, so I don’t know if I’m any better off.”

    Would “privilege extended” be a better term? It’s culture independent, at least.Report

  48. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Try another thought experiment sidereal.
    A girl gets raped by a relative. She doesn’t tell anyone and tries to conceal the pregnancy. By the time the pregnancy obvious she is 8 months gone.
    She can’t find a way to have a legal abortion.
    She lives in Kansas, lol, she has no money.
    Finally at nine months she throws herself down the stairs and kills the fetus.
    Or she does a self-curretage with a coat hanger.
    Is she a murderer?
    Or….the same girl…delivers the baby and exposes it in an icy dumpster.
    Now that is murder, right?
    Whats the difference?
    The difference is the girl gets to control her own body.
    Until the fetus leaves the body, it has no rights that trump the mothers use of her body.
    It just doesn’t.Report

  49. Avatar conradg says:

    Jaybird,

    Your ideas about human rights being inherent and inalienable is certainly in line with our social and constitutional tradition. But it’s not in line with other traditions, such as you cited, so their way of dealing with issues like abortion were not coming from such ideas, and are thus not relevant as precedent for how we might deal with it.

    So yes, if the unborn have an inherent right to be life, and to be born, then nothing in law or prctice will change that. But that’s just the question: do they? And if they do, it follows that all abortion from conception onward is murder. If they don’t, we can still regulate abortion with other justifications.Report

  50. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “And if they do, it follows that all abortion from conception onward is murder. If they don’t, we can still regulate abortion with other justifications.”

    This is where I drop my own weird take on this:

    I don’t know that “our” “right” to regulate is inherent and inalienable.

    Our tendencies to do so are there, by gum. Our power to do so unmatched! Well, once we get more Stasi, anyway.

    I don’t know that we have the “right” to regulate such a thing.

    Even if the Rights of the infant *ARE* violated.Report

  51. Avatar conradg says:

    Sidereal,

    I don’t want to be rude like others here have been, but you’re just not being honest about your own writings. Your article is filled with a discussion of various legal positions about abortion, about how our laws should be regulate or limit abortion. All the various positions discussed and charted are attitudes people have, including yourself, on what our abortion laws should permit. It’s not some merely moralistic accounting of people’s internal moral thought about abortion. If that were the case, you should make that abundantly clear, and completely distance yourself from any legal implications about these matters. Instead, you talk from the very first paragraph about the legal rights issues involved. Read your own article! I think you know very well you are indeed writing about what people think the laws on abortion should be, and you are just trying to slide away from responsibility for thinking clearly and practically about the legal issue of fetal rights because I’ve called you out on it.

    You even state that the maximalist pro-choice position is that fetuses have no rights before birth, and therefore abortion should be allowed up to that very moment. This is manifestly untrue even in its foundations. I don’t believe fetuses have legal rights until birth, but I in no way think this means abortion should be allowed up to that point. Why? Because the pro-choice position is not governed by this concept of fetal rights, as you think it is, and in the absense of those rights, anything goes. The more moderate pro-choice position is not one in which fetal rights are acknowledged to some increasingly greater degree, depending on the growth of the fetus. That’s simply your invention, based on your own rather contradictory internal reasoning process, which I don’t find to have a lot of integrity in it, from either the pro-choice or the pro-life point of view.

    The most common pro-choice position is based on an entirely different set of standards and approaches, that weighs the woman’s rights against the biological, social and political reality of an impending birth. We acknowledge that at birth, a fetus is clearly a human being, and that this is a gradual biological process that begins with conception. We don’t want to kill human beings, regardless of whether they have any rights or not. So we draw what seems a fairly safe line in the sand at a fair distance from birth, given the realities of how the fetus actually develops in the womb. We can see that an early fetus has virtually no human neurological capabilties, and so we are not much concerned about abortion at that stage. We are increasingly concerned as the second trimester matures, so to be safe, we generally feel fine about prohibiting abortion during that time except in special circumstances. All of that without ever thinking of the fetus as something that has rights of its own yet.

    The desired takeaways from my article are these: That someone’s ‘opinion on abortion’ must necessarily be a complicated thing that cannot be captured in a simple response.

    But by “opinion on abortion”, you clearly mean, throughout your article, their opinion “as to when and how abortion should be legal, and when and how it should be illegal”. What other discussion about abortion issues did you have in mind? You know full well that the raging discussions of opinion about abortion have to do with its legality, not just some kind of “moral attitude” apart from the legal debate. And the opinions you cite in your article are all about the legal restrictions on abortion – when, what trimester it should be allowed, under what circumstances should it be okay, what Roe v. Wade says, etc. How you can pretend otherwise simply makes no sense at all. I appreciate that you are trying to be more nuanced in your approach than merely making black and white categories of pro-life and pro-choice, but you are certainly talking about nuances in our attitudes towards the legal position on abortion, not just some philosophical matter. I’m not upset by your actual position on abortion, but by this flim-flam attitude you are now taking that you are not addressing the debate about how or if abortion should be legal or illegal, but something else entirely – God only knows what.Report

  52. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Yup, dishonest and hypocritical.
    We can all agree that stabbing an anencephalic baby in the extruded brain is murder out side the womans body. But is it murder at 8 1/2 months?
    Why the prolife are either hypocrites or terrorist apologists.

    Mike Huckabee (among others) often like to compare abortion to slavery—both being brazenly immoral acts that should not be allowed to occur anywhere in U.S. territory. OK. But if abortion were outlawed, would pro-lifers want to charge every woman who gets one on the black market with murder? Would they want to start having federal agents investigate miscarriages, to make sure that no foul play was involved?
    When I pose such questions to friends and colleagues who are pro-life, the usual response is something on the order of, “No one in the movement wants to arrest the women, only the doctors.” Yet would these people say the same for someone who hires a hit man to take out a rival, essentially arguing, “The hit man is solely responsible, the person who paid him money to do the deed is the real victim here”? Of course not.

    Spencer: “I find George Tiller’s practice to be repulsive, I do not think he should have been murdered.”
    Terrorist apologist.Report

  53. Avatar conradg says:

    I don’t know that “our” “right” to regulate is inherent and inalienable.

    Our tendencies to do so are there, by gum. Our power to do so unmatched! Well, once we get more Stasi, anyway.

    I don’t know that we have the “right” to regulate such a thing

    I’m not entirely sure government has that right, except that we have all agreed that some kind of collective regulation is necessary in most everything else. But clearly that regulation ought to be as light as possible, with as little interference as possible. Allowing abortion through the second trimester seems to be more than adequate to allow a woman plenty of time to exercise her right to an abortion. If there are exceptions, they should be allowable, under medical advice and consent. I too worry about the Stasi, but I’m willing to make reasonable compromises, particularly in the direction of recognizing that women have greater rights over their bodies than has previously been given notice.Report

  54. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    It still boils down that the prolife movement wants to FORCE women to carry children to term by removing abortion providers, either legally, ie outlawing abortion, or through terror-strike assassinations on doctors.
    Won’t work, hasn’t ever worked.
    To reduce late term abortions the women who abort must be prosecuted for murder, or killed by terror-strikes as a deterrent. The position of the prolife movement which I find deeply hypocritical, is “they don’t want to arrest the women, just the doctors.”
    Deep cognitive dissonance.Report

  55. Avatar conradg says:

    hmm, formating failure. Those first three paragraphs in my last post were jaybirds. Should have been in italics.Report

  56. Avatar Katherine says:

    The number of people who truly hold the maximal pro-choice view — that a mother should have the right to abort a fetus a day before due date on a whim — is vanishingly small, despite the heated rhetoric of many conservatives. But a large number of people hold the maximal pro-life view, and indeed say so explicitly and believe it is a fundamental tenet of their worldview.

    And yet, if I understand it correctly, the “maximal pro-choice view” is the one backed by the law in the United States. (It definitely is in Canada – abortion is utterly unrestricted here – but I expect it is also a significantly more accepted view here while the maximalist pro-life one is socially and politically unacceptable.)

    My view is quite similar to yours and I call myself pro-life with no qualifications.

    Good post, and thank you.Report

  57. Avatar Katherine says:

    One more point – I’m not sure what “physically inconvenienced” is supposed to mean. All pregnancy is physically inconvenient, and I wouldn’t consider that an acceptable reason for abortion any more than I do economic inconvenience. If it refers to the danger of lasting, serious physical harm, that’s much closer to the exemption allowing abortion to save the mothers’ life.Report

  58. Avatar Dave Hunter says:

    @sidereal

    Looking into it, you’re probably closer to being right then I am. Both Obama and Naral support late term abortion bans, provided that there is a mental health exception for the mother. (Obama probably as a result of political pressure.) Though it gets muddy because the mental health exception can mean so many things.

    Mark Thompson

    “there is virtually no movement of people insisting that Roe’s protections were too narrow (which, believe it or not, would have been the more coherent position”

    I don’t get it. You agree that the maximalist position is more coherent then yours?Report

  59. Avatar sidereal says:

    Katherine, it depends on what you mean by ‘United States’. Most of the states (all but 10, I believe?) have a total ban on late term abortions and the ones that do allow it have requirements that amount to proving that the pregnancy is some danger to the mother (or the child is nonviable?). Regardless, it’s far from unrestricted. As for physical convenience I touched on that in a comment further above. I really meant just the inherent physical inconvenience of pregnancy, not danger to the mother.

    conradg, I have to admit to not even fully comprehending our subthread at this point. You’ve managed to call me disingenuous, dishonest, and a pretender without “want[ing] to be rude”, which is a neat trick. I’m perplexed. I’m looking at the article right now. Not a word of it has been edited. You say “you talk from the very first paragraph about the legal rights issues involved”, which is manifestly untrue. I could paste the first paragraph back into this comment to prove it, but that would be perverse. It’s right there. I see now that I do refer to legality in quoting some polling results, but I’m only using them at that point as a proxy to gauging moral sense (and in fact that’s a weakness I hadn’t considered. It’s possible that people who answer a poll indicating abortion should be legal in some circumstance actually morally oppose it, but also oppose legal restrictions on it. I’m not sure that would change the numbers too much, however).

    Look, a moral debate is a necessary precursor to a legal debate. Before you can craft law on murder or theft or whatever, you have to, as a society or an individual come to some understanding about what is immoral about murder, the degree of its immorality, mitigating factors and so on. My post addresses, quite clearly, the moral precursor to a legal debate. My topic is peoples’ moral sense about abortion. I couldn’t make it more clear in later comments where I explicitly point out that my opinion of the legal regime differs from my moral opinion because of externalities like enforcement problems.

    Or, in short: “It’s not some merely moralistic accounting of people’s internal moral thought about abortion.”
    That’s exactly what it is. I’m not sure why you believe it can’t be.

    I really feel like we’ve driven this one into a deep well. My article is what it is, it has the intent that it has, and it’s not been edited, so anyone who wants to can read it and compare our responses. Any responses along the lines of ‘No, you’re really a liar’ will be left as the last word. Enjoy.Report

  60. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Well my argument still stands unrebutted also.
    All prolifers are either hypocrites or proto-terrorists.
    Either people believe abortion is murder or they don’t, its binary.
    Anyone that supports a ban on late-term abortions believes late-term abortion is murder, but women get a pass while abortion providers have “repulsive practices” and “bloody hands”.
    Since you seem to be non-violent, sidereal, I guess you are just a hypocrite.Report

  61. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It rebuts itself, Makoto.

    Your argument mirrors that of the most extreme voices on the Right.

    It says, basically, that Roeder did the right thing and anyone who disagrees is serving up weak sauce.

    I don’t agree that he did. I don’t agree that they are.

    And I say that as one of those “Right to Privacy” nuts who supports full abortion rights up to and including the moment of crowning.Report

  62. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “I’m not entirely sure government has that right, except that we have all agreed that some kind of collective regulation is necessary in most everything else.”

    This “we” you mention… I do not recognize.Report

  63. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Actually, MC is right, the abortion issue is binary.
    Either killing a human fetus/baby is murder or it isn’t, regardless of the condition or age of the fetus.
    Those perpetrating the murder/killing are the mother and doctor, he’s right about that as well.
    John Prine once remarked that, “Jesus don’t like killin’ no matter what the reasons for….” which I suspect he got from Schelling who in his wisdom insisted that “evil ever remains man’s own choice.”
    Human life is either sacred and therefore protected as the founders recognized, or it isn’t. It’s binary.

    I’ll pray for you!Report

  64. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Yeah, and “Islam” means “Submission”.

    The Muslims who aren’t killing heretics and infidels just aren’t good Muslims.Report

  65. Avatar conradg says:

    Sidereal,

    Look, I’m really not wishing to descend into matoko-ian rhetoric, I’m just trying to be honest with you. And I can see now that at least you are trying to be honest with me. Apparently you really don’t seem to grasp how poorly conceived and executed your ideas are in this article, and what your article actually says. In your mind, you perhaps do think you have written solely about the moral side of the abortion debate. What that means is that your article itself is manifestly dishonest, disingenous, and yes, pretending (in your own mind) to be something that it isn’t. Let’s look at that first paragraph:

    “If I don’t mind exploring the issue a little more I’ll say that in Seattle I’m pro-life but in South Dakota I’m pro-choice. Which is to say that I believe a fetus has rights. More rights than are generally acknowledged in more liberal circles, but fewer rights than are assumed in conservative country.

    Now, why do you compare Seatle to South Dakota except that the two places have very different abortion laws? You seem to clearly acknowledge this by immediately clarifying that you believe in fetal rights, which is a legal issue, and the clear basis for making laws. You just feel that you believe in such rights more than people in liberal circles (Seattle) and less than in conservative places (South Dakota). If you intended this opening paragraph, introducing your argument, to be solely about moral attitudes, and not legal ones, why do you immediately introduce the notion of legal rights? Can you be so obtuse as not to understand that the notion of human rights is a legal notion, directly applicable to the law, and not a moral one?

    Yes, as you say now, there’s a moral basis for our notion of human rights, but the rights themselves are legal claims by their very nature, and you nowhere in your article state that you are trying to get at the underlying moral attitude, you instead couch the entire article in pragmatic terms, regarding these fetal rights and how they should be applied in the practical facts of pregnancy. Are you really that clueless that you don’t grasp that talking endlessly about “rights” means you are addressing our attitude towards abortion law, and how it should be designed? You admit, hard as it is to believe, that you are shocked, positively shocked, to realize that when people answer public polls about abortion policy, that they may actually be talking about what the law should be, rather than just some underlying moral attitude. I find it remarkable that you could imagine they are not, when the abortion debate in this country is by far the most contentious legal issue we have had for the last 35 years, dominating most everything else, especially in public opinion polls. It has polarized this country in remarkable ways, all because of the law and policy, which are driven by moral attitudes, but expressed in actual views about when and how abortion should either be permitted or criminalized.

    The most obvious thing about the abortion issue, to anyone but you it seems, is that there is no way to separate those moral attitudes from the legal policy we wish to implement. You can’t talk about “fetal rights” and not immediately be implying that the law should reflect what we believe those rights to be? Why? Because “rights” are the foundation of our legal system. Can you honestly be unaware of that? It would be like discussing people’s attitudes about gay rights, and pretending that this isn’t a an attitude about how the law on gay marriage, discrimination, etc., but just some abstract attitude in some moral vacuum. Or that attitudes about gay marriage in public opinion polls merely reflect some underlying morality, and not people’s actual attitudes about whether gay marriage should be legalized.

    How you can separate the moral issues of abortion from the legal issues of abortion at this point is beyond me, but it’s very clear that your article doesn’t even address that issue. They seem inseparably bound together in the public debate. And how you could assume, without ever stating it, that your reference to fetal rights and abortion attitudes has nothing to do with the conflicts over law and policy, and only some underlying moral stance, is quite beyond me. You certainly don’t address that issue anywhere in your article, and never state that as your intention. Could you show me a single sentence in your article that addresses this issue and makes clear what you have now stated its intention to be? If I have assumed that your article means something other than you’ve intended, it’s because your article so poorly reflects those intentions as to be, yes, utterly disingenious and intellectually dishonest. That seems to be the result of some very poor thinking and writing on your part, rather than conscious intent. I’m not sure which is worse. So if anything, take this as a literary criticism, above and beyond any of the actual issues we might argue about.

    I see now that I do refer to legality in quoting some polling results, but I’m only using them at that point as a proxy to gauging moral sense (and in fact that’s a weakness I hadn’t considered. It’s possible that people who answer a poll indicating abortion should be legal in some circumstance actually morally oppose it, but also oppose legal restrictions on it. I’m not sure that would change the numbers too much, however).

    Where do you ever state that you are only using the legal issue as a “proxy” for moral attitudes? And even if you were, how can you pretend that this “proxy” has no meaning in terms of the legal issues, when that is manifestly what it actually does guage? The morality of the abortion issue at this point is manifestly about what the law should be, or should not be. People judge one another, or themselves, morally on how they think the law should regulate the practice of abortion. It’s like suggesting that there’s a moral attitude towards slavery separate from whether one things it should be legally permitted or not. The moral issue is the legal issue, in every practical sense.

    Look, a moral debate is a necessary precursor to a legal debate.

    The moral debate, especially when couched in terms such as “fetal rights” is a legal debate. One can’t speak about the morality of abortion separately from one’s attitudes about what should be legal and what should not be legal. But even if you want to call it a precursor, it has no meaning apart from what the results of that debate lead one to do in terms of law and action. Which is why when you talk about what kind of attitudes people have about abortion at various trimesters, it is a legal issue we are speaking about, how the law should be written, what society should actually allow, and how their morality should be reflected in the real world where abortion is actually practiced.

    Before you can craft law on murder or theft or whatever, you have to, as a society or an individual come to some understanding about what is immoral about murder, the degree of its immorality, mitigating factors and so on.

    I would say that people’s attitudes about the morality of murder are inseparable from whether they think it should be legal or not. What meaning would it have apart from the legal debate? Likewise, people’s moral attitude towards the social issue of abortion is only relevant in terms of whether people think it should be legally permitted or not at this point. And even if you do try to separate the two, what relevance is there to one’s moral attitudes about abortion, if they don’t immediately impact their attitude about the legal issue? Your entire article, even if you like to think of it as merely a precursor, obviously implies that these attitudes will be reflected in the law itself. Which means that you are clearly implying that your whole notion of fetal rights ought to be reflected in the law. Otherwise, it’s not a precursor at all.

    I couldn’t make it more clear in later comments where I explicitly point out that my opinion of the legal regime differs from my moral opinion because of externalities like enforcement problems.

    First, those comments aren’t in the body of the article itself. Second, you can’t separate the morality of abortion from the morality of enforcement problems. They go hand in hand. Or the morality of having the government step in and interfere with a woman’s life and body in this way. All of these moral issues about abortion are inseparable from the legal issues. They are manifestly moral attitudes about the legal issues involved. Is it moral to make abortion legal/illegal? That’s not a separate issue from one’s moral attitudes about abortion itself, as if the abortion debate doesn’t exist within a legal debate about abortion.

    Yes, your article “is what it is”. That’s not much of a defense of it. What it is, is poorly thought out, poorly written, and poorly defended. You seem to be incapable of responding to these criticisms of its legal atitudes/implications. Even if we accept your notion that this moral debate is merely a “precursor”, the question still begs, a precursor to what? What are the legal implications of your notion of fetal rights? If there are none, then it’s not a precursor to anything at all. It’s just a very poor piece of thinking that means nothing. I’ve pointed out the problems in applying your notion of fetal rights, and you’ve responded by ignoring those problems, saying that’s not what the article is about. But if the article is a precursor to addressing those problems legally, how would it do so? How would you do so? And if you can’t, then where ‘s the sense in talking about fetal rights, attitudes towards trimesters, etc., if they are not a precursor to the writing of abortion law?Report

  66. Avatar sidereal says:

    Follow-up! conrad, after a refreshing night’s sleep (and a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales. Not necessarily in that order), I think I see where the confusion came into the conversation. The original article is not and was never intended to be an argument or a framework for arguing either for or against abortion. You’ll notice that nowhere in the post do I advocate for the correctness of any particular view on abortion. The charts are entirely descriptive, either of my personal view, my aggregate summary of polling results, the extreme views, and so on. I made the mistake of getting sucked into a debate about the merits of abortion in the comments.. a mistake I’m rectifying by unsucking myself now. I have no interest in arguing about the morality of abortion. You may not like the terminology I use in the charts to describe abortion opinions, but that’s mostly irrelevant. The axes on the charts could be ‘peanut butter’ and ‘golf balls’ and it wouldn’t affect the thesis of the post as long as they accurately represented someone’s view on abortion and demonstrated that a) abortion opinions are complicated, b) current polling and the language of most abortion debates are inadequate to demonstrate that complexity, and c) advocates ought be careful trying to interpret overly simplified opinions as support for their cause. That’s it.

    matoko: You’ve made no argument, you’ve made a conclusion. Repeatedly.Report

  67. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    No it does not rebut itself.
    And 99.9% of prolifers do believe Roeder was justified.
    Even Reverend George couldn’t condemn Roeder without referring to “the blood on Dr. Tillers hands.”

    And I’m a grrl, dammit.Report

  68. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Rebutt me then, sidereal.
    Explain why you are not a hypocrite on late-term abortion….or are you a proto-terrorist or a terrorist apologist like McArdle?Report

  69. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Makoto, your assertions that it is not possible to both be pro-life and against murder without being hypocritical is…

    Well, I’m just saying that there are more categories for the views out there than “bad ones” and “yours”.Report

  70. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    MC, I do apologize, but I did have a ‘feeling’ that, indeed, you were a woman!
    And, again, I’ll pray for you kid. You’re carrying way too much hate. Try forgiveness…….Report

  71. Avatar conradg says:

    I’ve been trying to post a reply to Sidereal post from last night, and the system seems to accept it, but it doesn’t appear in the comments. WHen I try to repost, it calls it a duplicate post. Maybe it’s too long?

    I’ll try breaking it in two and reposting.Report

  72. Avatar conradg says:

    First half of reply to Sidereal:

    Sidereal,

    Look, I’m really not wishing to descend into matoko-ian rhetoric, I’m just trying to be honest with you. And I can see now that at least you are trying to be honest with me. Apparently you really don’t seem to grasp how poorly conceived and executed your ideas are in this article, and what your article actually says. In your mind, you perhaps do think you have written solely about the moral side of the abortion debate. What that means is that your article itself is manifestly dishonest, disingenous, and yes, pretending (in your own mind) to be something that it isn’t. Let’s look at that first paragraph:

    “If I don’t mind exploring the issue a little more I’ll say that in Seattle I’m pro-life but in South Dakota I’m pro-choice. Which is to say that I believe a fetus has rights. More rights than are generally acknowledged in more liberal circles, but fewer rights than are assumed in conservative country.

    Now, why do you compare Seatle to South Dakota except that the two places have very different abortion laws? You seem to clearly acknowledge this by immediately clarifying that you believe in fetal rights, which is a legal issue, and the clear basis for making laws. You just feel that you believe in such rights more than people in liberal circles (Seattle) and less than in conservative places (South Dakota). If you intended this opening paragraph, introducing your argument, to be solely about moral attitudes, and not legal ones, why do you immediately introduce the notion of legal rights? Can you be so obtuse as not to understand that the notion of human rights is a legal notion, directly applicable to the law, and not a moral one?

    Yes, as you say now, there’s a moral basis for our notion of human rights, but the rights themselves are legal claims by their very nature, and you nowhere in your article state that you are trying to get at the underlying moral attitude, you instead couch the entire article in pragmatic terms, regarding these fetal rights and how they should be applied in the practical facts of pregnancy. Are you really that clueless that you don’t grasp that talking endlessly about “rights” means you are addressing our attitude towards abortion law, and how it should be designed? You admit, hard as it is to believe, that you are shocked, positively shocked, to realize that when people answer public polls about abortion policy, that they may actually be talking about what the law should be, rather than just some underlying moral attitude. I find it remarkable that you could imagine they are not, when the abortion debate in this country is by far the most contentious legal issue we have had for the last 35 years, dominating most everything else, especially in public opinion polls. It has polarized this country in remarkable ways, all because of the law and policy, which are driven by moral attitudes, but expressed in actual views about when and how abortion should either be permitted or criminalized.

    The most obvious thing about the abortion issue, to anyone but you it seems, is that there is no way to separate those moral attitudes from the legal policy we wish to implement. You can’t talk about “fetal rights” and not immediately be implying that the law should reflect what we believe those rights to be? Why? Because “rights” are the foundation of our legal system. Can you honestly be unaware of that? It would be like discussing people’s attitudes about gay rights, and pretending that this isn’t a an attitude about how the law on gay marriage, discrimination, etc., but just some abstract attitude in some moral vacuum. Or that attitudes about gay marriage in public opinion polls merely reflect some underlying morality, and not people’s actual attitudes about whether gay marriage should be legalized.

    How you can separate the moral issues of abortion from the legal issues of abortion at this point is beyond me, but it’s very clear that your article doesn’t even address that issue. They seem inseparably bound together in the public debate. And how you could assume, without ever stating it, that your reference to fetal rights and abortion attitudes has nothing to do with the conflicts over law and policy, and only some underlying moral stance, is quite beyond me. You certainly don’t address that issue anywhere in your article, and never state that as your intention. Could you show me a single sentence in your article that addresses this issue and makes clear what you have now stated its intention to be? If I have assumed that your article means something other than you’ve intended, it’s because your article so poorly reflects those intentions as to be, yes, utterly disingenious and intellectually dishonest. That seems to be the result of some very poor thinking and writing on your part, rather than conscious intent. I’m not sure which is worse. So if anything, take this as a literary criticism, above and beyond any of the actual issues we might argue about.Report

  73. Avatar conradg says:

    second half of reply to Sidereal:

    I see now that I do refer to legality in quoting some polling results, but I’m only using them at that point as a proxy to gauging moral sense (and in fact that’s a weakness I hadn’t considered. It’s possible that people who answer a poll indicating abortion should be legal in some circumstance actually morally oppose it, but also oppose legal restrictions on it. I’m not sure that would change the numbers too much, however).

    Where do you ever state that you are only using the legal issue as a “proxy” for moral attitudes? And even if you were, how can you pretend that this “proxy” has no meaning in terms of the legal issues, when that is manifestly what it actually does guage? The morality of the abortion issue at this point is manifestly about what the law should be, or should not be. People judge one another, or themselves, morally on how they think the law should regulate the practice of abortion. It’s like suggesting that there’s a moral attitude towards slavery separate from whether one things it should be legally permitted or not. The moral issue is the legal issue, in every practical sense.

    Look, a moral debate is a necessary precursor to a legal debate.

    The moral debate, especially when couched in terms such as “fetal rights” is a legal debate. One can’t speak about the morality of abortion separately from one’s attitudes about what should be legal and what should not be legal. But even if you want to call it a precursor, it has no meaning apart from what the results of that debate lead one to do in terms of law and action. Which is why when you talk about what kind of attitudes people have about abortion at various trimesters, it is a legal issue we are speaking about, how the law should be written, what society should actually allow, and how their morality should be reflected in the real world where abortion is actually practiced.

    Before you can craft law on murder or theft or whatever, you have to, as a society or an individual come to some understanding about what is immoral about murder, the degree of its immorality, mitigating factors and so on.

    I would say that people’s attitudes about the morality of murder are inseparable from whether they think it should be legal or not. What meaning would it have apart from the legal debate? Likewise, people’s moral attitude towards the social issue of abortion is only relevant in terms of whether people think it should be legally permitted or not at this point. And even if you do try to separate the two, what relevance is there to one’s moral attitudes about abortion, if they don’t immediately impact their attitude about the legal issue? Your entire article, even if you like to think of it as merely a precursor, obviously implies that these attitudes will be reflected in the law itself. Which means that you are clearly implying that your whole notion of fetal rights ought to be reflected in the law. Otherwise, it’s not a precursor at all.

    I couldn’t make it more clear in later comments where I explicitly point out that my opinion of the legal regime differs from my moral opinion because of externalities like enforcement problems.

    First, those comments aren’t in the body of the article itself. Second, you can’t separate the morality of abortion from the morality of enforcement problems. They go hand in hand. Or the morality of having the government step in and interfere with a woman’s life and body in this way. All of these moral issues about abortion are inseparable from the legal issues. They are manifestly moral attitudes about the legal issues involved. Is it moral to make abortion legal/illegal? That’s not a separate issue from one’s moral attitudes about abortion itself, as if the abortion debate doesn’t exist within a legal debate about abortion.

    Yes, your article “is what it is”. That’s not much of a defense of it. What it is, is poorly thought out, poorly written, and poorly defended. You seem to be incapable of responding to these criticisms of its legal atitudes/implications. Even if we accept your notion that this moral debate is merely a “precursor”, the question still begs, a precursor to what? What are the legal implications of your notion of fetal rights? If there are none, then it’s not a precursor to anything at all. It’s just a very poor piece of thinking that means nothing. I’ve pointed out the problems in applying your notion of fetal rights, and you’ve responded by ignoring those problems, saying that’s not what the article is about. But if the article is a precursor to addressing those problems legally, how would it do so? How would you do so? And if you can’t, then where ‘s the sense in talking about fetal rights, attitudes towards trimesters, etc., if they are not a precursor to the writing of abortion law?Report

  74. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Sidereal’s hypocrisy is based on the fact that he believes late-term abortion is murder, yet he also believes women that deliberately murder their fetuses are not guilty of murder, while of course. the doctors ARE guilty of murder.Report

  75. Avatar conradg says:

    Also, in regards to Motoko’s point, he may be rude, crude, and simplistic, but his basic point needs to be addressed, and you slip past it, taking no responsibility for your notion of fetal rights, and its implications.

    As I’ve said, if fetuses do have legal rights, what are they, and how are you going to define them? If they don’t have legal rights, then what sense does it make to say they have rights at all? What concept of “rights” are you even talking about, and what sense does it make to introduce that into the abortion debate? We have a very clear practical problem, the morality of which is precisely about what to do in the social and legal sphere. You evade any notion of applying your moral notions to that sphere. What kind of morality is that? It sounds like nihilism, morality in a vacuum, unrelated to the life around us, the actual subject of this debate being the very life of the fetus. Motoko has every right to demand some kind of response form you, rather than just dismissing him because he’s simplistic. His point, taken rhetorically, makes actual sense, whereas yours does not. If fetuses are legal persons with a legal right to life, how can killing them be considered anything other than murder, requiring the same penalties we have for the murder of infants and adults. As you mentioned, there’s already been a moral debate about murder, and it’s been made into law. If the moral debate about abortion hinges on the fetus having personhood and a right to life, how can it’s killing not be murder? The extremist view of abortion as murder that you disagree with is firmly and logically founded in the notion that fetuses are persons with a right to life. I see no way you can start with that premise and not arrive at the same conclusion. If you can explain otherwise, I’d love to hear it. So would mokoto.Report

  76. Avatar conradg says:

    Sidereal’s hypocrisy is based on the fact that he believes late-term abortion is murder, yet he also believes women that deliberately murder their fetuses are not guilty of murder, while of course. the doctors ARE guilty of murder.

    There’s that, but there’s the even more fundamental problem that if late-term abortion is murder because the fetus has an inherent right to life, how can that right-to-life not exist from the moment of conception onward? How can early abortion be less anything than murder also? How can the morning after pill be anything less than a murder weapon? I don’t see the sense of it, and Sidereal avoids making sense of it because I think he simply can’t do it, and hides instead behind some phony pretense of only addressing the “morality” and not the legality of the issue. It just doesnt’ wash. He’s avoiding all the actual moral issues involved, by pretending there’s nothing moral about the actual legal debate, and nothing legal about the moral debate. It’s the height of intellectual irresponsibility.Report

  77. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Maybe we should convict people who get abortions of *GENOCIDE* because the babies might have had babies, who might have had babies, who might have had babies, who might have had babies… there are hundreds of people spanning millennia who have been murdered!!!

    Since this idea is absurd, it is therefore hypocritical to be uncomfortable with late-term abortions unless you’re willing to kill abortion doctors but only if they have had vasectomies.

    Because, you know, he might go on to father children too.Report

  78. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Hmmm…I’m thinking that maybe this is leading absolutely nowhere at this point.Report

  79. I’m pretty well done with this debate, but I do want to note that this question strikes me as wrong-headed: “if late-term abortion is murder because the fetus has an inherent right to life, how can that right-to-life not exist from the moment of conception onward?”

    It’s a perfectly rational distinction – held by plenty of Americans – that a right to life is acquired when a fetus becomes viable outside the womb. Whatever my problems with Casey – and I have many – the place where it draws the line between something worth protecting (and thereby approaching “life”) and something never entitled to much, if any, protection, is pretty close to where I and many/most people would draw the line. The reason is pretty simple – viability, ie, the ability to breath, etc., etc. creates a point at which the baby could theoretically be born. The only thing separating the fetus from a baby at that point is its location.

    One other thing – missing from this discussion is an understanding that there are an awful lot more exceptions to the murder laws than seem to have gone recognized here, not to mention the fact that different types of homicide are classified differently. The bases for these exceptions and distinctions are often difficult to justify on a purely rational basis, but they exist nonetheless due to various cultural influences and, let’s be honest, strongly held but not necessarily purely reasoned beliefs.Report

  80. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    I’d be happy if sidereal can acknowledge that he is, IPOF, inconsistant/hypocritical in his position on late-term abortion.
    AND IF PEOPLE WOULD STOP ASSUMING IM XY!Report

  81. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    matoko – go to the gravatar site and pic a feminine pic for your avatar. It’s free. It’s easy. And you can take control over other peoples assumptions.

    Now – let’s end the debate. Everyone take a deeeeep breath. Nobody is ever going to “admit” to being a hypocrite (and I’m not saying anyone here is by the way) in an internet bruhaha.Report

  82. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    “The bases for these exceptions and distinctions are often difficult to justify on a purely rational basis, but they exist nonetheless due to various cultural influences and, let’s be honest, strongly held but not necessarily purely reasoned beliefs.”

    yessss….and the belief that the mother that deliberately planned, sought, and paid for the abortion, and lay down on the table, is innocent of murder while the doctor that performed the abortion is “bloody handed” and has a “repulsive practice” and “deserves what happens to him” is not reasonable or rational.Report

  83. Avatar Cascadian says:

    m.c. I’m amazed that people mistake you for a male as well. It’s clear isn’t it?Report

  84. Avatar Cascadian says:

    Just as I thought, a boi.Report

  85. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    That was fun, thank you!
    MC, you go girl and thanks for some new perspectives in the abortion debate!Report

  86. Avatar conradg says:

    Mark,

    It’s a perfectly rational distinction – held by plenty of Americans – that a right to life is acquired when a fetus becomes viable outside the womb.

    I’m sorry, but if that’s the view of plenty of Americans, it’s just wrong-headed. By that logic, embryos that exist in petri dishes, outside the womb, also have a right to life. And as technology progresses, and it becomes possible to grow the fetus entirely outside of wombs, there is a right to life at conception also. I don’t see how something as inherent as a right to life can be conferred based on shifting technological goalposts. It simply contradicts the very concept of a right to life, and turns it into something else.

    I would suggest that when people talk this way, like Sidereal, about a right to life that gets acquired somewhere in the womb, that they are just using slopping language, sloppy thinking, and sloppy morality. As I’ve said from the beginning, I have no problem regulating abortion based on all kinds of factors. The notion of a right to life that magically appears based on human technological progress simply makes no sense in this calculation. We can certainly regulate our technology, and regulate abortion on that basis, but it has nothing to do with some “fetal right” that suddenly appears out of nowhere in the process. The pro-life prohibitionists use this language of “right-to-life” for precisely that reason. If the fetus has rights, they are inherent, and begin the moment the fetus comes into existence.

    What’s going on, I think, is something much trickier. People like Sidereal are simply noticing that at a certain point, they can begin to identify with the fetus, when it has developed to a certain degree. And because we have rights, we tend to project those rights onto those we identify with. So he, and others, think it’s natural to see late term fetuses as having rights. But this is just moral projection, not anything that’s been thought out in any deeper sense, and certainly not in the legal sense. This is a conflation of empathetic identification with inherent rights. You say the fetus acquires rights at a certain point, because that’s the point you can begin to identify with the fetus. This is similar to the logic of animal rights – those who identify strongly with pets, like to think that the animal has rights. But legally, animals have no rights. That doesn’t mean we can’t regulate how we treat animals, or forbid their abuse. It just means the animal can’t sue or press charges or make claims on the state.

    Where Casey draws the line has nothing to do with fetal rights. It simply makes a fairly sensible judgment that the law is not comfortable authorizing an abortion when the fetus is viable outside the womb. It never suggests that any fetal rights are involved in this. It merely acknowledges that the point at which the fetus becomes a legal person with rights is coming near.

    Regarding manslaughter, the exceptions to the murder laws do not have anything to do with the nature of the victim (except in self-defense, which doesn’t apply to abortion), but only to the nature of the crime, such as whether the murdered was acting sanely, with premeditation or not, with intent to kill or not, accidently, negligently, etc. You don’t get off with a lesser crime because the victim was black, or a child, or gay, or very old. Perhaps in special circumstances of euthanasia one finds leniency. But none of these categories apply, even remotely, to most if not all abortion cases. Creating a new categoy of murder, based on who is being killed, is a very chilling legal step to take..

    As I’ve said, if the intention is to support a moderate position, the whole abortion debate is better served by getting rid of these notions of fetal rights, and focusing instead on the moral practicalities of where we feel comfortable regulating a woman’s right to an abortion. Just as we regulate every other human right, we can regulate this one, without inventing not just a new right for the fetus, but a whole new category of rights different from every other right out there.Report

  87. Avatar conradg says:

    E.D.,

    I’m not sure why you want to end this debate. You don’t need to participate in it, but I think it gets down to some very core issues.Report

  88. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    I don’t want to end the debate – I just found aspects of the debating getting a little too heated. But hey – don’t mind me. I’m sitting this round out, and you all carry on as you were. Seriously. I don’t mean to intervene…Report

  89. Avatar conradg says:

    jaybird,

    Introducing a self-admittedly and clearly ridiculous proposal into the mix doesn’t make makoto’s point ridiculous. There’s nothing inherently absurd about charging a woman with murder for aborting her child. It makes quite a lot of sense if one believes fetuses have a right to life. In fact, it makes more sense than assuming the fetus has a right to life, and not charging her with murder. The only reason most people see this as ridiculous is that they don’t actually think the fetus has an actual right to life. It’s just an emotional way of saying they’re not comfortable with abortion once the fetus develops to the point where they can start to empathetically identify with it. They don’t actually see abortion as murder, because in reality they know the fetus has no right to live that is being violated. It’s a sign of a certain confused emotional thought process, a kind of cognitive dissonance, that’s almost impossible to argue with.Report

  90. Avatar conradg says:

    you can’t cook a good argument without a little heat.Report

  91. Avatar conradg says:

    btw, matoko, sorry for assuming you were a male. Your aggressiveness and extremism seemed more indicative of male posters on the internet. My chauvinism is obviously showing.Report

  92. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “There’s nothing inherently absurd about charging a woman with murder for aborting her child.”

    Is there anything inherently hypocritical about *NOT* charging her with murder for aborting her child?Report

  93. Avatar conradg says:

    Is there anything inherently hypocritical about *NOT* charging her with murder for aborting her child?

    If you believe the fetus has a legal right to life, yes. Murder is what we call it when you kill a person with a legal right to life.Report

  94. Just when I think I’m out…..

    1. There are, frankly, a number of places where one can draw the line as to what constitutes human life; and indeed I don’t see a problem with arguing that there are several forms of human life of varying degrees. In addition to viability, one could also draw a line at sentience, beating heart, etc. Ultimately, though, it’s a moral/philosophical question. Although where that line is can shift based on scientific understanding and knowledge, if you subscribe to one of these beliefs, this shift is perfectly acceptable, because it is shifting closer to where it should have been all along. While you may think that creating several different rights structures depending on fetal development is unprecedented, this does not equate to making it wrong.

    2. In terms of the demand that consistency requires punishment of mothers who undergo late-term abortions, I’d note that we as a society can recognize that the choice to do so is likely to be a difficult and stressful decision that, once taken, is likely to have a lasting effect upon the mother. That effect alone could be deemed punishment enough, and I don’t think there’s anything inherently hypocritical about making such a concession. I hate to bring this up, because as a parent it’s a uniquely horrifying thought for me, but a few months back there was a Washington Post story on parents who simply forgot that their child was in the back seat of their car (often thanks to our rear-facing child seat laws, although I’ll concede those laws probably save more lives than they indirectly cause deaths), resulting in the child dying from the heat. These were not neglectful parents with a history of abuse or anything else, but doting, loving parents who simply suffered from a perfect storm of events that momentarily destroyed their short-term memory, and this type of thing happens about 20-30 times a year. Reading the article nearly brought me to tears thinking how I would be affected by being responsible for something like that; reading about several of these parents getting prosecuted made me actively angry – hadn’t they been punished enough? I suspect many people had similar reactions (indeed, many of those prosecuted are acquitted). I think a lot of people, myself included, would respond similarly to the idea of severely prosecuting women who undergo late-term abortions.

    3. Finally, for purposes of this discussion, it may be worth keeping in mind that what we’re talking about here is a tiny fraction of all abortions – probably less than 1 percent: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/what-we-are-debating.html

    Finally, to quote my favorite essayist, it’s worth remembering that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” It’s good to have rules; but it’s even better to recognize that sometimes you have to make exceptions to those rules as a concession to reality. Perhaps we should not expect the law to make those exceptions, but I see little wrong, and much good, about individuals who are prepared to make those exceptions.Report

  95. Avatar conradg says:

    Put another way, if you think both whites and blacks have a right to live, do you think it would be hypocritical to have differing punishments for the killing of whites and blacks?Report

  96. Avatar Dave Hunter says:

    “Is there anything inherently hypocritical about *NOT* charging her with murder for aborting her child?”

    If your stated reason for wanting to restrict reproductive rights is that you want to protect the right to live of a fetus, yet you have no desire to use the full coercive power of the state to protect that right, then how are not a hypocrite?Report

  97. Avatar conradg says:

    Mark,

    I don’t have a problem with your reasoning, especially in that you seem to have dropped the notion of a fetal right to life. Is that a deliberate acknowledgment that it’s a bad route to take if one wants to resolve the complexities of abortion?

    I don’t have a problem conceding that the fetus is a human form of life. I have problem conceding that it’s a human person with legal rights. I don’t have a problem conceding that it’s difficult to regulate these things, and emotional frustrating.

    However, the notion that the emotional state of the woman getting an abortion is punishment enough is not very credible. I’m sure its very emotionally stressful to hire an assassin to kill your wife also, but that doesn’t make it sufficient as a punishment for the crime. And of course many people get abortions without much emotional stress. Comparing this to accidently or negligently being responsible for killing one’s own child is absurd. Abortion doesn’t happen by accident or due to negligence. If one accepts that the fetus has a right to life, is a person with legal rights, you can’t backpeddle and say that deliberately killing that fetus is acceptable and we don’t need to punish anyone for it. Our opposition to prosecuting the woman only shows that we don’t actually believe that the fetus is a person with rights. Somehow, on the way to court, we drop all that, and suddenly have only empathy for the poor woman and the terrible choice she felt she had to make. This makes no sense logically, legally, or morally. It only makes sense in the shifting framework of one’s internal emotional sympathies.

    As for “foolish consistencies”, I agree, but that phrase only points out that the argument itself is inconsistent. You wouldn’t use that phrase if I said that murdering a black man was okay, since they don’t have the same right to life that white people have. You wouldn’t call it a “foolish consistency” to prosecute a white man for murdering a black man, when everyone ought to know that it’s clearly a lesser crime, or no crime at all, and the poor white man has suffered enough already. The law is supposed to be consistent in its application. That’s what prevents us from hypocrisy. What these kinds of partial right-to-life advocates seem to want to do is retain an internal hypocrisy, and transfer it to the legal system, without anyone noticing.

    And the whole point of this “fetal rights” business is that it can’t be sensibly applied only to that 1% of abortions that occur in the last trimester. It naturally applies at every step of the way, or it isn’t actually a right at all, just a sign of our empathy for the fetus emerging at a certain point.Report

  98. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My attitude towards “the full coercive power of the state” differs, I reckon, from y’alls.

    For example, I don’t think that The State ought to have the power to do anything that I (Jaybird) do not have The Right to do.

    So if I do not have the right to force a woman to carry a child to term, I don’t think that The State should even if I find the murder of an unborn child morally problematic.

    If the argument comes “if you find an issue morally problematic, you have THE MORAL RESPONSIBILITY TO RESOLVE THE MORAL PROBLEM AS SOON AS FRICKIN POSSIBLE USING ANY MEANS NECESSARY”, well…

    I’m just going to have to disagree.

    It is, in fact, possible to put stuff like “free will” higher than “making sure we get the right outcome every gol-danged time”.

    I believe that enough to allow you time to let it sink in (because I am just that confident that it will eventually make more sense to people willing to vigorously intervene once they start seeing how vigorous intervention tends to end up).

    But that’s a guest post waiting to happen. Let me give the inanutshell version:

    “Fuck the full coercive power of the state.”Report

  99. Avatar Dave Hunter says:

    Mark Thompson

    “While you may think that creating several different rights structures depending on fetal development is unprecedented, this does not equate to making it wrong.”

    It doesn’t make it wrong, but once you have the infinite variance of rights structures in front of you, it becomes clear that the pro-life movement’s actual goals have nothing to do with “expanding personhood”, but in fact just with the creation of niggling regulations and some new class of not-persons that they can use to control the behavior and life choices of other people. Of course, this desire to create legally recognized fractional people is presented in the most self-aggrandizing terms. So, getting people to admit that their desire to restrict abortion is both morally neutral and irrational is a worthwhile rhetorical goal of its own.

    “That effect alone could be deemed punishment enough”

    Punishment? What about deterrence? Is it part of the new “right’s structure” that fetuses are not entitled to deterrence?

    “Perhaps we should not expect the law to make those exceptions”

    Agreed.Report

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