A Question for both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Supporters


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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155 Responses

  1. Avatar b-psycho says:

    A. And we’re closer to B because politics legitimizes force, and the popular use of religion emphasizes control and absolutes rather than mutual concern.Report

  2. Avatar Mike says:

    I would so much rather live in World A. And the world we live in is not just closer to World B…it IS World B. We have major movements to amend various state constitutions and the US Constitution to say that life begins at the moment of conception. We have people who argue that a woman should be able to have an abortion even during labor. We have people who firebomb abortion clinics and gun down abortion providers. We have people who commit violent acts in support of abortion. We have people who do get called misogynistic, a murderer, or both depending on how they feel about the legality of abortion. We have virtually no middle ground because, just like other controversial issues of the day, it is impossible to convince people on one side to even briefly consider their opposition’s arguments and why they could be true.Report

    • Avatar Jakecollins says:

      Tell me about these pro-abortion murders.
      Please give me an example of a national or even state level Democratic legislator who support abortion in the midst of labor.

      EDIT – [Roughly translated, jakecollins really, really disagrees with Mike.]Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Noble try at this one, RTodK, the USS Common Sense again blown out of the water while leaving port in the comments. Too much too soon, human nature, empty barrels make the most noise, whathaveyou. But let’s plow ahead anyway; empty barrels make big sounds against the hull but do not divert the course:

      60-70% of Americans want to forbid abortion after something in the zone of viability outside the womb. This is a better consensus than about UFOs or nearabouts.

      Politically/jurisprudentially not a slam dunk atall: “undue burden,” whathaveyou. Will of the people; conscience of the people; morality, whatever that means; the 14th Amendment, equal protection for women, who are the ones who get pregnant; the Living Constitution. This is the current crisis, and we could stop right there and can stop right here.

      Growing embryos for spare parts is a metaphysical million miles away, the stem cell thing, human life begins at conception, the other absolutist position. But first things first.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        But what is your answer?

        For the record, I am not trying in my wee little post to sort out the thorny question of abortion. Nor am I trying to change anyone’s mind about it.

        I am curious, though, with the emotional volatility of the subject how people would answer this hypothetical, and why. I know that the more absolute questions of what we should do are more your bailiwick, and I think that’s good – they are the more important questions, after all. But for me the questions of how and why we do things is sometimes the more interesting. This question is asked with that spirit.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Asked & answered, Tod. The strong American consensus is the fetus is a human person sometime well-prior to passing through the birth canal, not just after. I take smaller bites at apples than most, first things first.

          And I see you have yr handsful with subsequent comments. Square One is where I start, and am the least of yr problems & questions. I admire yr bravery, if overambitious. I shall watch, read & learn from yr success or folly.

          Peace, brother. The Jews had a giant ethical problem on whether to use the results and potential benefits of Nazi human experiments on humankind. What shall I do if human embryos can provide the spare parts I need to maintain my quality of life? I realize I have fulfilled Godwin’s Law here, but so be it; pls do permit me to sign off here with my ethical objection registered but without further emications. I don’t want to base any moral argument on such questionable grounds as the Reductio ad Nazium.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            See? “Such questionable grounds as the Reductio ad Nazium” alone was worth the whole damn OP.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            but we do use those results. Every time you hear “you lose 90% of your heat through your head” — that was a nazi experiment, done in a swimming pool.

            What makes me froth at the mouth is that Bush’s torture experiments show that we learned blasted nothing from Mengele. Bush, with his actions, has dishonored the Western World, as a whole. [sorry about the tangent.]

            TVD, yeah I’d be willing to say at viability the embryo is alive (or at least capable of being made so). I continue to support the woman’s right to kill a baby up to about six months or so, but that is a delicate balancing of two people’s rights, and my thinking on that gets utilitarian in a hurry (aka it’s one thing if you can’t support the baby, if keeping the baby will involve someone torturing it constantly, etc. I guess my point is that I don’t get Kantian before 6 months, but my bar goes up Really High).Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              Kim, I’m going to just post this here, but I was serious about the rules I laid out above. I apologize for any edits in advance, but…

              (I am referring to the Bush Torture thing)Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Tom, jake is a perennial problem child so I reject that he has the power by himself to count as derailing an entire thread. His hyperventilating aside the thread overall has behaved itself well so I’d say it’s a good show so far (comment count is at 67 at the moment).Report

  3. Avatar Katie says:

    I’ll just start this with a disclaimer, as I am indeed pro-choice. With that out of the way….

    Obviously world A is a more pleasant place to live, but it necessarily can’t work out that way by the terms of the audience itself. If killing a fetus is the murder of an innocent, then it’s murder. An abortionist or the woman is a murderer. You can come up with lists of defenses against murder in a court of law, but no one seriously sits around and says that manslaughter isn’t really the death of someone. Dead is dead.

    On the other hand, if a fetus isn’t a person and a woman IS, anything infringing on her right to abortion is simply bizarre. We wouldn’t mandate that perfectly healthy people give up their kidneys. We don’t mandate life threatening surgery. Why mandate a woman potentially risk her life for something that isn’t a person?

    It’s not so much that people can’t find common ground or compromise. It’s that there isn’t a way to compromise the two positions. Either that fetus is a person and has rights that ought to be considered, or it isn’t and it doesn’t. Science and religion both have constantly shifted position on when exactly “personhood” happens, but if there isn’t agreement on that point, there can be no agreement on anything.

    When it comes down to policy, I have always felt that you can’t legislate on religious morality. I don’t know when a fetus becomes a person. The only thing I doI know is that the government can’t tell me what to do based on a theological concept.Report

    • Avatar A Teacher says:

      ” Either that fetus is a person and has rights that ought to be considered, or it isn’t and it doesn’t. ”

      As someone who’s generally Pro-life (I consider it an issue where all factors must be considered including viability as well as the health and safety of the mother) I think the above absolutely 110% sums up the reality of the abortion debate.

      The reason it’s barely even a debate is that neither side is arguing about the same thing. One side wants to protect the rights of the mother in relation to a fetus/ group of cells/ potential person, while the other wants to protect rights of an unborn person. Depending on how you define your terms it doesn’t matter how civil you are: You’re talking about massive infringement on personal liberty or you’re talking about murder.

      Your case A sounds wonderful.

      It won’t happen. It can’t happen. It’s so farcical that I can’t concieve saying “I’d prefer it” because that’s like saying I’d prefer a world where my students come to school every day, anxious to learn, dutiful and engaged, with supportive parents and drama free lives. Sure I can ~say~ that, but it’s just not reality, can’t be and never will be.

      Take the “The men especially go out of their way to remember that they are not being asked to give up any rights ” from the OP. If you hold that life begins at conception (I don’t but if I did), then what kind of man would I be if I just sat back and let the mother ~murder~ my unborn child? It’s like asking a man to sit back and let someone murder his newborn. ~~IF You believe life begins at conception.~~

      I don’t know if I could pick A or B. In one world everyone’s too busy being nice to think about the issue and its implications, and in the other they’re just… mean.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I believe we can make a World A. It starts with the idea that “Abortion is a Bad Thing” — full stop.

        In an ideal world, we eliminate the issue through better birth control and avoiding implantation (MOST embryos die before implantation. any “abortion” that eliminates that process is not killing a baby, imnsho.)

        Also, in this ideal world, we have enough of a support network, so that a 14 year old (or ten year old, they do get pregnant too) can have a baby without ruining her life. We create a system where it’s acceptable for someone to “take a year off” without losing much of anything.

        In this ideal world, we focus on adoption and making sure that things go as well as we can.

        We focus on changing the conditions that make a woman want an abortion in the first place!

        We venerate someone, instead of castigating them, for giving a baby up for adoption (n.b. we already give special priviledges to pregnant women).Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          It is certainly true that if you’re against abortion then you should be carrying a box of condoms with you everywhere and handing them out for free. The best way to prevent abortion is to not need one in the first place.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            also birth control pills! because those don’t require conscious participation of both parties (and thus are better in the case of date rape/regular rape/ “I harrassed her until she said yes through sleep deprivation” /I was too drunk to remember…”)Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “It’s not so much that people can’t find common ground or compromise. It’s that there isn’t a way to compromise the two positions.”

      Is this true, or are we just conditioned to believe that it’s true?

      Permit me to play devil’s advocate:

      I wonder if most pro-life people, for example, consider a morning after pill murder. Some have particular religious reasons for thing that, but for most people I know the objection is a legal slippery slope how is a person defined. Similarly, I wonder if most pro-choice people are OK with a woman in labor deciding she does not want the unborn child and asking a physician to kill it. Aside, of course, from the legal slippery slope how do we define a person thing.

      With that in mind, could we not find some middle ground that we can live with?Report

      • Avatar Katie says:

        A great many prolife people DO consider the morning after pill to be murder. There is a smaller but still very present movement behind the anti-abortion movement that wants to roll back the accessibility of contraception. What I find interesting is the number of people who SAY they are prolife while in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood. I’m not sure if it’s the same number of people who are prochoice but would be horrified by a wanton 3rd trimester abortion, but it’s comparable. There is plenty of extremism in the debate, mostly I think because the grey area can’t be effectively legislated. By the time you start talking about drawing a line, no one is having the same conversation any more. I think many people are prochoice for the same reasons I am–we don’t know where to draw the line so we wonder if it should be drawn at all. When the politicians are willing to actually talk about prosecuting miscarriages the debate has become so polarized and toxic it’s impossible for people to be reasonable.

        I personally believe that women and doctors can be trusted to make choices. I think it’s vanishingly unlikely that a woman would make it all the way to labor and then…what? change her mind? Most abortions in this country are in the first trimester. Third trimester abortions are almost always for medical reasons. While I’m sure there are exceptions, I’m comfortable with that.

        My questions to you: where would you draw the line? What criteria should be used?Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          I don’t really know. The subject has become so toxic from a group dynamic level that I confess I tend to mentally retreat from it. Also, since I recognize that it’s not and never going to be my body we’re talking about I feel unqualified to be a champion for either side.

          I suspect, however, that there would be a point that medical science could point to that says “sentience starts here,” and I would be OK for everything prior. Afterwards, OK if there are medical concerns or other dramatic issues with the mother, whose choice it should ultimately be. At least that’s where I feel my sweet-spot comfort place lies.

          Like Burt, though, I am willing to move out of that comfort zone for consensus.

          (As an aside, I remember reading in John Irving’s afterward in Cider House Rules that evangelical Christians have for more time in our country’s history been pro-abortion than anti-abortion – or at least at the time that book was written. I also remember him explaining how Churches were actually their biggest promoters in the 19th century. I bring this up not because this proves anyone right or wrong, but whenever I hear that because of purely moral reasons no one will ever be able to budge, this bit of history suggests we are not so inflexible.)Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            I didn’t know John Irving was an expert on either Christain theology or history? Do you cite him first in your religious discussions?Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            last I heard, sentience starts at 6months. (need to grab a college textbook to get the reference, but it was in my medical ethics book). Or maybe we’re just saying, at that point, that once a kid is smarter than an ape, we probably ought not to kill it — like, ever.

            Memory starts at around 2 years, I believe — at least that’s what my friend with the photographic memory tells me. I don’t remember that far back.Report

          • Avatar A Teacher says:

            “Also, since I recognize that it’s not and never going to be my body we’re talking about I feel unqualified to be a champion for either side.”

            And that’s where you show your pro-choice bias.

            If you believe that life begins at “sometime point in pregenancy we shall call Point L” then that means from that moment on, the mother is not making choices about her body, she’s making choices about ~Your Child~. From Point L on, there is no difference between the fetus and a born baby.

            Would you say “hey it wasn’t body. It’s not my say if the mother of my three month old decided to kill it so she could get some sleep again”? Of course not (I hope). But for those that hold that life begins at Point L, then the two are logically equivalent.

            What makes this so toxic is that it’s nearly impossible to get concensus when we’re arguing two totally different yet 100% admirable positions.

            Would anyone really argue with “protecting life” or “woman’s right to control her body”? Of course not. And that’s why this “debate” will never be resolved, nor will it ever be civil for long: Neither camp is arguing about anything that is truly wrong.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              cultural bias showing. Not all societies consider a man’s child to be “his” — in some, the actual caregiving/ownership is shared by a woman and her brother. Or by the whole village, etc.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              “Also, since I recognize that it’s not and never going to be my body we’re talking about I feel unqualified to be a champion for either side.”

              And that’s where you show your pro-choice bias.

              Teach – That’s probably true enough. But perhaps not as true as this:

              What makes this so toxic is that it’s nearly impossible to get concensus when we’re arguing two totally different yet 100% admirable positions.

              At least in my opinion.Report

              • Avatar A Teacher says:

                And that’s the pain of it.

                I still remember doing a poll in another forum where I asked, “When does life start?” and gave choices ranging from conception, to implantation to heart beat, to 20 weeks, to birth to after birth. I was legitamately curious as to when people would say as abortion seemed to come up all the time there.

                And I got ~Roasted~ by some of the board regulars for trying to stir the pot by asking such an inflammatory question.

                Truth is that if someone really believes life begins at birth then a Pro-Choice stance is 100% understandable and admirable. Though I confess those who said “sometime during pregnancy” but were also ardently pro-choice confused me slightly….Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                A Teacher,
                It’s quite possible to have instances where one person’s rights override another’s. My right to liberty overriding someone else’s right to continue living (donating organs, say).

                I’d say life starts at birth, but a baby reaches “better than ape” status at 6months. And both of those points create moral thresholds for me.Report

            • Avatar LauraNo says:

              The 3 month old is no longer a part of her body so of course she couldn’t argue that it is and claim her individual rights to her body.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          How does this article grab you?

          I guess me and the Catholic Church /really/ had to part ways when I decided to get a vasectomy when my wife nearly died giving birth to our second child. My first son was big, the second son was HUGE. I don’t know what comes after huge but it didn’t seem survivable. Always wondered if my genes could have produced some great football player or other athlete, but also recognize that he could have just as easily been severely autistic AND big. I have no complaints about my kids mind you, one used to work for Microsoft (now he’s at Google) the other is a corporate accountant. We could have done a lot worse. We’ll take credit for raising them reasonably well and supplying good genes but we know damn well the rest is just pure luck.

          I spent a lot of time watching my sons on ultrasounds (some of the earliest I think) and feeling my oldest always kick my hand when I placed it on my wife’s belly. He’d never kick her hand when she put it in the same place, never. No one can tell me he wasn’t alive.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            hear, hear!Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            “I spent a lot of time watching my sons on ultrasounds (some of the earliest I think) and feeling my oldest always kick my hand when I placed it on my wife’s belly. He’d never kick her hand when she put it in the same place, never. No one can tell me he wasn’t alive.”

            wordsmith – Since I’m not a religious believer, for me personally this is the most compelling argument from the pro-life side. This does more that speak to me, it sings to me.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      I don’t know when a fetus becomes a person. The only thing I do I know is that the government can’t tell me what to do based on a theological concept.

      But the government does tell you when the fetus becomes a person, Kim. Never. Theology aside, put to the side.

      Actually, the Bible has little to say on this, God’s direct ruling on the subject; it is theology—theological reasoning—that opposes abortion. Quid sit deus—if there is a God, what would he be, what would he say?

      Theology leaves a lot open to man’s [God-given?] ethical reason. It’s not all follow-the-dots. There are a lot of dots missing in the Bible. Too damn many.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Could you give us a few ‘missing dots?’Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        … that’s not me above. sumun else. 😉

        And I think the law is mixed on the subject — if you murder an unborn child (aka someone crazy comes over and slices up a pregnant woman’s belly without her consent), you’re going to be tried for something resembling murder. Which is quite fair.Report

    • In theory, we compromise the two positions, if we assume that what pro-choicers want is legal, safe, accessible abortion, and what pro-lifers want is the lowest abortion rate possible.

      The countries in the world with the lowest abortion rates, such as Belgium, haven’t banned abortion; they’ve banned late-term abortions (except for strong medical necessity). In addition, they have generous welfare benefits for low-income parents (including single mothers), and they push birth control on their teens very hard. The result of this is an incredibly low abortion rate, by worldwide standards.

      We could make a federal agency whose job is to fund state-level demonstration projects aimed at reducing the abortion rate, with empirical measures so we know which projects work most effectively.

      Pro-choicers give up late-term abortions, and accept that reducing the abortion rate will become a priority of the government. Pro-lifers give up trying to reduce abortion by banning supply, and instead reduce abortion by reducing demand.

      Pro-lifers might say “that’s not a real compromise, because what we want is to make abortion illegal.” It’s true — if the only goal of the pro-life movement is making abortion illegal, then there is no possible compromise. But if the goal is to reduce abortion rates as much as possible — to save lives, in the pro-life view — then compromise is possible.

      I think that the main reason this won’t happen is that conservatives in the US are committed to a set of policies that aren’t which would make a compromise based on reducing the demand for abortion impossible. That is, even if abortion wasn’t an issue at all, conservatives would still disapprove of generous welfare for single mothers, free birth control distributed in public high schools, etc.Report

  4. Avatar mclaren says:

    It’s not evident that we do live in a world closer to world B. 30 years ago, abortion clinic bombings were a regular feature of the daily news. Today, extreme violence against abortion providers is not nearly so common. Moreover, 30 years ago, the president of the United States (Ronald Reagan) had a lot of inflammatory things to say about his plans to roll back Roe v. Wade, the alleged immorality and unconstitutionality of abortion, and so on. Lots of politicians followed suit.

    Today, abortion rhetoric plays little role in national politics. Everyone seems to have more or less accepted that Roe v. Wade is here to stay. We’re not seeing abortion clinic bombings anymore in nearly the same numbers (thank the War on Terror for that, I guess).

    As for why we live in a world where political and social movements tend toward extreme rhetoric and extreme beliefs, no surprise about that. Psychology experiments have shown several documented facts about group behavior.

    1) Groups tend to gravitate toward more extreme beliefs over time. The extremists, in short, wind up dominating the groups. This is known as “Group polarization.” It’s defined as: “the tendency for groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclination of its members. “ It’s a well-known phenomenon and has been studied extensively in the psychology and sociology and political science literature. There’s hard data from psychology experiments to back this up — it’s real, and it happens.

    2) Pournelle’s Iron law of Bureaucracy. This model posits that in any bureaucracy, there exist two fundamentally irreconcilable groups of people: folks who set out to accomplish the basic goals of the bureaucracy, and another group who excel at politicking and infighting. The second group winds up dominating the bureaucracy and redefining its goals…which usually wind up revolving around “us vs them” politicking and so on.

    We appear to see an excellent example of 2) in the changes that have overtaken the Republican party over the last 30 years. Most of mechanisms used to attain power within in the Republican party have now been put to work in an attempt to win general elections. This doesn’t work well, since “rat-f*cking” the opposition, which works very well among college Republican debates and other minor contests because there’s little scrutiny or oversight and the stakes are small, works very poorly in larger contests like the 2000 presidential election, where scrutiny was intense and the stakes were vast.

    See “The law of Group Polarization” by Cass Sunstein, Journal of Political Philosophy, Volume 10, Issue 2, June 2002, pp. 175–195.

    Also see “Dangerous ideas: Five beliefs that propel groups toward conflict” by Roy & Judy Eidelson, American Psychologist, Vol 58, No. 3, March 2003, pp. 182-192Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      I think you’re completely mistaken if you think that most people in politics have acquiesced to the continuation of Roe v. Wade. If you look at Virginia or South Dakota, to name two examples, it’s clear that pro-lifers are actively trying to do an end-run around Roe and shut down all abortion clinics in the state. Abortion may not have the national prominence that it used to, but that’s because most of the action has been at the state level in recent years–and there, it’s still very much a live issue.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … still only three late-term abortion providers in the country. That’s a women’s health issue, as those are primarily done for the health of the mother, and it’s hard to get transportation across several states to get a medical condition fixed.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      mclaren – Thanks for this. I am finding reading about group polarization especially fascinating.Report

    • Avatar Jeff says:

      “Today, extreme violence against abortion providers is not nearly so common.”

      ORLY? Does the name Dr Tiller ring any bells?Report

  5. Avatar Tim Kowal says:

    It’s a fine question, Tod (and forgive me for not getting the drift when you asked it in the comments earlier). In short, my response is this: I generally refuse to engage in empirical/pragmatic analysis on moral issues. This is why I support criminalization of illicit drugs (though I’d opt to reduce many of the penalties to slaps on the wrist, or drastically reduce enforcement, or both), criminalization of prostitution and animal cruelty, the protection of traditional marriage, etc. If you showed me empirical evidence that allowing people to torture puppies wound up somehow leading to the better treatment of dogs in general, I’d tell you no dice without blinking. It’s a long of way of saying the ends don’t justify the means, I suppose. Even if you get pro-lifers like me to understand where the other side is coming from (I think I do, but who’s going to prove me wrong?), I just don’t think you’ll find many people willing to split the baby on this issue. (Too far?)

    The grenade tossing is an unfortunate side effect, but I don’t see how it can be helped. Indeed, if pro-lifers didn’t get very upset about the issue, they might rightly be accused of not believing their own argument.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “and forgive me for not getting the drift when you asked it in the comments earlier”

      That was entirely and totally my fault; unclear writing.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      This seems like a fine reply, and there is nothing to argue with of course.

      If you will permit 2 follow up questions, more out of curiosity than anything else: 1.Would you say that a morning after pill was equally immoral to the termination of a fetus? Why or why not?Report

      • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

        It’s not an issue you’re going to see people picketing or blowing up pharmacies over, that’s for sure. That alone gives you an idea that the issue becomes progressively *emotional* as the fetus develops. But does the question get progressively *moral* as well? The only argument I’m aware of that the fetus’s moral rights improve with age is that he is developing more brain function. There seem to be problems with this approach, however.

        So yes, because I cannot find a reason that the answer to the moral question meaningfully and non-arbitrarily changes at any time from childhood back through birth, back through third, second, and first trimesters, I would have to register the same answer to terminating a fertilized egg.

        Here, however, you might have better luck carrying on a debate, since a lot of the emotional component is stripped away. Pictures of eggs don’t evoke much of a visceral response.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          people are deliberately constructing “gated communities” where birth control does not exist. Let alone abortion. And they would like to make birth control illegal.

          There’s a few practical problems with saying that after fertilization it’s a human. In that case, G-d is a murderer, as many fertilized eggs never implant. Also, people are under an ethical constraint to not take baths after sex, and do other things to maximize the odds of implantation.Report

          • Avatar NoPublic says:

            There’s a few practical problems with saying that after fertilization it’s a human. In that case, G-d is a murderer, as many fertilized eggs never implant.

            Most fertilized eggs do not make it to term, absent direct human intervention. Even in optimal conditions the numbers only get slightly over 50%.

            Also, people are under an ethical constraint to not take baths after sex, and do other things to maximize the odds of implantation.

            Not eat certain foods or drink certain liquids for 2 weeks+ every cycle if sexually active. Maintain certain body fat percentages. There’s an enormous laundry list of things. And every one of them makes you (by this logic) guilty of at least negligent homicide or manslaughter. Forget bigger prisons, we’re going to have to go “Escape From Manhattan” on the distaff of the species.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          Tim – Let me ask you this, then. What is it, for you, about the moment that the egg is fertilized as opposed to a more traditional Catholic view where even the spilling of seed is along the same moral progression, or lack thereof?

          Not a challenge; just wondering what it is that is sacred for you about that singular moment – as opposed to before or after.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            EDIT – [Rough translation: Kim has issues with some Catholic Dogma]Report

          • Avatar A Teacher says:

            While I’m neither Tim nor answering your question directly let me put this out there as a Prolife leaner:

            What is it about birth that makes it so magical for someone to become human? An hour old baby is no more able to care for itself than a 19 week fetus. The only variable is that of location and the umbilical cord. Consider that a baby just after birth lacks the physical ability to even move itself towards a breast to nurse. It is still 100% dependent on others. If it is not immediately care for it will die.

            This makes “birth” a tricky point to use in the labeling of “the start of life”, at least from a philosophical point of view. In fact if you’re going to hold out for birth you may as well say “6 months” or “able move towards food unassisted” which, would raise questions about the morality of infanticide.

            Having put that out there I also don’t consider conception to be life myself. I admit that I’ve no moral quandries with early term abortion especially when it comes to cases where the viability of the fetus is extremely questionable or it is profoundly unlikely the child or mother will survive the entire gestation period.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              Oh, I was not challenging Tim. I understand that the sacred moment, for lack of a better term, happens for all of us as some point in the process. I had just been curious why that is the moment for him.

              But I also liked getting your take. I suspect that there are actually a lot of people on both sides that would be somewhat close to where you are if push came to shove.Report

            • Avatar ~trumwill says:

              What is it about birth that makes it so magical for someone to become human? An hour old baby is no more able to care for itself than a 19 week fetus. The only variable is that of location and the umbilical cord. Consider that a baby just after birth lacks the physical ability to even move itself towards a breast to nurse. It is still 100% dependent on others. If it is not immediately care for it will die.

              This is a good point, though the difference between a 30 year old fetus and a 2 month old baby is that the fetus is entirely dependent on a single person or otherwise its live is likely to be at grave risk. Though a two month old baby is dependent on somebody, it’s something that can easily be taken over by other parties.

              If we successfully create reliable incubators for babies, so that they can be cared for without a specific woman’s support, that would actually move the goal-posts, somewhat*.

              * – Though would not, as some suggest, solve the issue.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The fun part is moving on nevertheless.

                What about a 3 year old with trisomy-21? What about a 20 year old with it? What about a 3 year old who has brain damage from FAS?

                What about people with *THIS* genetic marker? What about people with *THAT* one?

                Can we at least limit their ability to reproduce?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                That’s funny, I though you were going to go the other direction. As in people with extreme developmental disabilities – to what extent are we required to keep them alive and healthy?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I find it somewhat more interesting to explore spaces where we’ve already carved out precedent.

                Allow me to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr (ptooey) from Buck vs. Bell (“Again?” “Yes. Again.”):

                The attack is not upon the procedure, but upon the substantive law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be justified. It certainly is contended that the order cannot be justified upon the existing grounds. The judgment finds the facts that have been recited, and that Carrie Buck is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health, and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization, and thereupon makes the order. In view of the general declarations of the legislature and the specific findings of the Court, obviously we cannot say as matter of law that the grounds do not exist, and, if they exist, they justify the result. We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough. Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                A vasectomy here, tubal ligation there…

                See it as a vaccine for society.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                I believe the Irish topped the list for “feeble-mindedness”, the Chinese came in light years ahead of the rest on “sneakiness”, the Jews won the day on “obtrusiveness”, and those of Jurgis Rudkus’s ilk came out worst of all (among whites).Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                I was so familiar with the “sin of Onan” that I damn near went to work for his generator company!Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Limiting their ability to reproduce is Eugenics, plain and simple. And it’s the law of the Land (america, at least).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                This is a good point, though the difference between a 30 year old fetus

                I suspect that’s a typo. but I have met that guy.Report

          • Avatar Tim Kowal says:


            Is that the Catholic position? I’m not very familiar with some of those particulars. Assuming it is, I imagine the rationale is that, from the point of view of the man and woman, their acts of volition are completed, and the rest of the process is up to God/nature/fate. I don’t think I’d quibble with that position much to the extent it also avoids a slippery slope problem. However, it’s actually the answer to a different question than the one we’re asking. We want to know when life begins such that it would be immoral to end it. The presumed Catholic view here apparently takes “life” in a theological sense, not a biological sense. That is, that which is left in God’s hands is presumed done. Thus, an act taken to prevent fertilization would be to end not a biological life, but to end a life that God presumably would otherwise have brought into the world. Under this conception, it’s easy to see why the Church forbids most other forms of birth control.

            The reason I’d point to the moment of fertilization rather than “spilling of seed” is because it permits us to talk about the question without having to stipulate to a lot of points of theology. More practically, it’s just hard to talk about why it’s wrong to end a life that in fact does not exist anywhere but in the mind of God.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      This is basically what I was trying to say below as well when I said that for both sides it is about fundamental rights, and fundamental values. When you write, “if pro-lifers didn’t get very upset about the issue, they might rightly be accused of not believing their own argument,” the same is of course true of pro-choicers. That’s why B is the inevitable, and from the perspective of both sides, the only morally permissible world in the dichotomy (there are other worlds, without the villainisation of B, but the post gives us only two choices).

      I find some of your other examples odd, because they seem to me to be qualitatively and quantitatively different, but on abortion, I think you’re exactly right: there is no middle ground on the basic issue.Report

  6. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    I would rather live in World B. World A seems so incredibly alien to me that I can’t imagine I could navigate it successfully. It would be like living among the pod people, or the Eloi.Report

  7. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Prisoner’s dilemma. You can’t control the other side’s behavior; only your own. If you give an inch, there’s no way to guarantee that the other side will also give an inch, rather than taking a mile.

    For the record, I don’t believe in fetal rights, but neither do I believe that misogyny is a significant factor for those who do.Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    World A is the one I try (in my own small way) to create. World B is dismally close to reality. And it’s not just about abortion although that remains the issue in which the moral stakes are the gravest.

    World A sounds good to some people until they realize that in order to live in that world they have to compromise their own ideals. I am willing to do that for the sake of another ideal, that of a community coming together to argue through and by way of a rational and deliberative process reach, if not a consensus, a workable self-governing community of free people operating under the rule of law.

    A world in which the political culture is as you describe in World A will not be a world where abortions are banned — although it will also not be a world in which abortions are available on demand, either. I am willing to make that compromise because the larger goal of achieving the community described in World A is worth it.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’ll hand the reins to Evil Jaybird for this one.

    Let’s say that I support one of those policies. It doesn’t matter which one. Let’s say, on top of that, that I am merely moderately supportive of the position. I’m a guy, after all. I have a handful of “but what abouts” and “surely you have to take into considerations” and other exceptions.

    But, let’s face it, I still want the ball to move as the status quo doesn’t get me to where I want to end up.

    If I come out and say “well, I’d be okay with this… so long as the following exceptions were made and concessions because, hey, it *IS* a moral issue we’re wrestling with”, you know what will happen? I’d be called a concern troll by the people whose side I am most likely on, I’d be called “one of the good ones” by the people whose side I am most likely not on, and my opinions would not result in the ball moving.

    Remember: I want the ball to move.

    So I adopt the less reasonable position. “HEY GUYS! I’M ON YOUR SIDE!”, I could signal to my side. “FUCK YOU!”, I could signal to the other side. “ONE OF THE GOOD ONES, MY ASS!”, I could think.

    And so I argue that the other side is made up of hateful people who don’t care about the social costs of their policies… and my side is the side that understands what’s really at stake.

    I know that we won’t end up where I’m arguing we should end up. That’s not my goal. (Let’s face it, my stated goal is kinda creepy.)

    I just want to end up where my real position is. I know that no one will ever compromise with me and end up there… so I have to get to where I want to be and the best way to hold it is by pretending that I don’t really want it.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      … and you’re sure Evil Jaybird doesn’t have a goatee? I mean, you’ve checked, right?Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Evil Jaybird sounds and acts a lot like everyday lawyer.

      I’ve gone into business deals with a handshake agreement and a one pager and had lawyers put us at each other’s throats in no time at all turning it into the most disagreeable contract document you could possibly imagine.

      Our political system is run by lawyers so we shouldn’t be surprised at the methods nor the outcomes.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        you haven’t had much experience making contracts with evil geniuses. There, part of the goal is finding out how they’re trying to trick you, signaling that you know, and finding ways to backstab them after the fact. But they know you’re going to do that. (the other part is simply showing them where your interests align with theirs. they’ll go along peacably until they diverge)

        (none of this need involve lawyers. lawyers are there to catch loopholes, and make sure you know what you’re signing.).

        What is a disagreeable contract document? If you’ve managed to signal “good faith” to the other party, you can both have a good laugh about what’ll happen if you cross each other! (dis contract, it is amusing! Because we’d “never ever” do taht!)Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      I’m going to catch hell, but that doesn’t sound evil to me.Report

  10. Avatar wardsmith says:

    WE could make a case for World B if we posit the existence of Cthulhu. Since Cthulhu wants to eat us (and by definition that makes him evil) we could say he’s bad. But Cthulhu can say, “Wait a minute, you’re killing your own children!” One side of World B doesn’t believe in Cthulhu but the other side KNOWS there’s a Cthulhu. They don’t have any choice but to fight against the first side because Cthulhu IS coming!

    This post was for Jaybird. 🙂Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Oh Cthulhu. Sweet, sweet, Cthulhu. Is there any thread you don’t make better?Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Cthulhu is the opposite of Nazism.

        Corollary: Chaotic Evil is better than Lawful Evil.


        • Avatar Kim says:

          Intelligent Evil is better than Stupid Evil. Intelligent Evil can be reasoned with, and is predictable — it will act in its own self-interest at all times. Stupid Evil just tries to be selfish, and mucks up everything.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Easy; Lawful Evil will, once they catch you, wipe you out; because there’s no sense in leaving a dangerous enemy alive to cause more trouble. Chaotic Evil will at least give you the chance to get away and fight another day, because it’s more fun that way.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          Chaotic Evil is better than Lawful Evil, on the basis that the Joker is awesome and Lex luther is a kinda lame.Report

          • Batman is superior to Superman in every regard pretty much.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              Which adds more fuel to my chaotic vs lawful thing, I think.Report

              • There’s no mistake which side of that debate I fall on.

                Also, in answer to your question that is the genesis of this thread, I’d prefer World B’s intense, uncompromising discussion of fundamental rights, but I’d prefer the battlefield to exist at the margins, which existence I think must necessarily and self-consciously incorporate some of the tolerance of World A; i.e. there are some elements of a prisoner’s dillema here, that if the pro-life and pro-choice crowds listened to each other a little, they’d discover a commonality.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Lex Luther has improved in recent decades.

            They’ve allowed him to be right from certain perspectives.

            I agree with Christopher Carr, of course… but Lex *HAS* gotten better.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              It’s been so long since I have read a Superman comic I would not know. So all I have to do the apples to apples is the movies, which gives you Nolan’s terrifyingly dark trip into nihilism vs. the Kevin Spacy thing with, like… was it crystals? I think it was crystals, but I can’t remember much I was so bored.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill says:

                Lois & Clark had a Lex Luthor somewhat closer to the comic book version. The movies got started before the original Man of Steel series, where he was redefined as more Kingpinesque.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t consider that movie to have actually happened.

                In the comic universe, Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States. He had an agenda, yes and his agenda was not the agenda of, say, The Justice League.

                He was, however, miles away from the scientist who became Superboy’s Arch-Enemy-For-Life because of the hair incident.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Cthulhu makes everybody crazy. 😉Report

  11. I would prefer A.

    There is a a small sub section of our society who use the political system to negotiate how real property and benefits are allocated. The system requires 50% +1 to win elections. Winning majorities are made up of coalitions largely comprised of people who will receive little if any of these aforementioned benefits. It is in the ownership classes interest to exacerbate tensions between groups in order to cobble together majorities. One man gets an off ramp to bring traffic to his shopping center. The rubes get their team red/blue foam #1 fingers.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    I think there is middle ground between worlds A and B, but as stated, I’d prefer world B (which is to say, the world we live in now). The reason for this is quite simple: both sides, properly I think, see the issue as one of fundamental rights: the right to control one’s body and the right of a person to live. Compromising on fundamental rights is a really, really bad idea in almost every case, and I don’t think this one is different.

    I do think the current atmosphere clouds areas of common ground. For example, consistent with what Tom says above, I think the vast majority of pro-choicers (not all) think that viability is a good cutoff point, even if we can’t agree on exactly where that might be. Most of us (pro-choicers) would argue that fetuses that don’t have a chance of survival after birth, or in cases in which the mother’s life is in grave danger, viability is not a valid cutoff point, but that’s another issue. The analogy for this, by the way, would be two people thrown overboard at sea. If one is holding onto the other, and dragging that person down, does that person have an obligation to just go down, or can he or she try to get the person pulling him or her down off? It would suck, but I don’t think any of us would argue that we should drown because pushing the other person off would mean certain death for that person.

    I also think we could compromise on issues that have mistakenly become associated with abortion: sex ed and contraception. I’d be perfectly happy to teach that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy and STDs, but recognizing that abstinence only education doesn’t work, to also teach about contraception, and to strongly suggest using it when having sex. Unfortunately, I think we live in world B for these mistakenly associated issues as well.Report

  13. Avatar karl says:

    Hate to bring a little reality into the forum, but your World B isn’t properly described (I know, it’s your world so you can make it any way you want).

    The divide isn’t over what people call each other, it’s what they want and fight for. There is an all-or-nothing faction on the anti-abortion side (and they are joined by many all-or-almost-nothings) but there is no equivalent on the pro-choice side: no one is fighting for mandatory abortions, no one advocates allowing unrestricted abortion rights through the ninth month (unless I’ve missed something, 26 weeks is the outermost limit for unrestricted abortions in the public discourse), no one claims that abortions, in and of themselves, are desirable or a net good. Do I need to go on?

    It looks to me like one side of the real-world abortion debate is already living — for the most part — in World B and the other — with less extreme rhetoric (“misogynist” and “murderer” don’t seem even roughly equivalent to me, sorry)– is trying to preserve a little piece of World A for the rest us.

    Is there a World C I can move to? It’s a place where rhetorical questions aren’t rigged from the get-go.Report

  14. Avatar OhB1Knewbie says:

    I would choose World A. We do not however get that option because our world is not free of people who refuse to mind their own damn business and who are fueled by religious certitude, i.e. the erroneous belief that they possess knowledge of the infallible will of God.

    I reject the “unborn person” idea. Until the child is born either through the natural birth process or else through consensual medical intervention, the fetus is not a person. Until birth the fetus is not a separate individual, it at most possesses an undeveloped consciousness that is incapable of distinguishing itself from its mother.

    Until it is a separate individual, it is at the mercy of its mother because it is a part of her body and as such all decisions effecting it are at her discretion. Other than the requirement that the mother’s choices be carried out under medical supervision and within established medical guidelines, her decisions should be hers alone and free from outside interference.

    The fact that I or anyone else disagrees with her decision, for whatever reason, is irrelevant. Any effort to interject such opinions into her decision making process is an unacceptable violation of the mother’s individual liberty and freedom of conscience.

    Any discomfort that I or anyone else experiences as a result of the mother’s decision is not her responsibility because that discomfort could only occur as the result of the other individual’s own decision to intrude where they had no cause nor any right to intrude.

    As far as the religious perspective, it is my understanding that in Mosaic law the child was not a person until after a live birth was completed. Any hedging of this based on mankind’s scientific progress only betrays the believer’s hypocrisy in light of their refusal to accept the theory of evolution, the non-evil nature of people who are left handed, or the naturalness of the innate homosexual orientation of a minority of the population.

    The whole “person at the moment of conception” is only possible due to modern science and the desire of the religious to seize upon any and every opportunity to inject themselves and impose their beliefs of convenience upon others for the sake of their own egos. Any reduction in the fervor of the anti-choice side is due mainly to their near total victory in as much as abortions are mostly unavailable in large portions of the country.

    Ah, hell. Who am I kidding? It has to be World B because individual liberty and freedom of conscience should never be compromised.Report

  15. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    I blame the commie-Democrats! …er, for my pro-life postion, that is. About twenty years ago PBS (the People’s Broadcasting System) had a ‘science’ show about how sperm knocksup girl stuff, and they showed this little sperm dude just swimming his ass off to get to the girl blob that was floating up above (they showed the girl blob too). Now I don’t know how they got a camera on this little overachiever but he spies the girl blog and makes like a dart straight for her and whammo, he nails her and ‘penetrates’ right straight into the girl blob.
    Well, bingo-bango she starts to change from a girl blob into an alien looking disc-thing. It was really impressive, and that convinced me that just as soon as Mr. Sperm nails Ms. Egg we’ve got human life, at least beginning!
    The question is and always has been about the sanctity of human life. I think even the lives of commie-Democrats are sacred in the eyes of God.Report

  16. Avatar Kim says:

    Many people live in World B — those are the fine folks who say “Abortion is wrong, but I can’t force someone to not do it.” Likewise, there are people on the other side (including me) who say, “I’d rather zero abortions than 10, but there are reasons, and someone has a right to choose for themselves.”Report

  17. Avatar Kim says:

    A Different Point:
    Anyone who derides Prohibition on purely “it didn’t/couldn’t work” grounds, ought to NOT be in favor of criminalizing abortion.

    I can come up with fifteen different ways of killing an unborn child. Most are more dangerous to the mother than abortion, of course. But many of them are extremely hard to regulate.Report

  18. Avatar North says:

    We live in world B and that is probably for the best. Short of violence in an issue as fraught as abortion is it’s probably best that both sides give it their all (short of violence which I decry) so as to allow the ideal balance between the two to be found.

    I do get the feeling like in the US the needle may be jammed further to the left of the natural equilibrium of the country due to RvW than it should be. This is my own reasoning for why the pro-life side is so exercised (and strengthening) while the pro-choice side is comparatively more somnolent.Report

  19. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    In World A, the abortion issue exists and is considered by many to be very, very important. In this world, each side goes out of its way to try to understand where the other side is coming from, working from the assumption that neither represents either good or evil.

    World A cannot exist, because opposition to abortion hinges on the idea that abortion is murder. There is no world I can envision in which human beings don’t think of the cold-blooded murder of other human beings as both important and very evil.

    Wishing for World A is tantamount to wishing the other side’s arguments out of existence.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … a good bit of opposition to abortion hinges on people who don’t believe women ought to be allowed informed consent over reproduction. These are the sort who tend to rise to positions of power in your more conservative religions (motivated Betas seeking positions of power where they can reproduce more effectively). They tend to attract a lot of sheepy people who just want their leavings (and some safe place where they can get assigned wimmen).

      …This is why I am inherently suspicious of people who want to make abortion illegal.

      Not all men are pigs. But the ones that are, have no regard for consent. (ditto rats). [ehem. terminology drawn from Japanese/Chinese culture]Report

      • Avatar A Teacher says:

        “…This is why I am inherently suspicious of people who want to make abortion illegal.”

        Which is what I find saddening in these conversations.

        I do believe that a viable fetus is a life with rights and protections. I get my dander up when I see the poster “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one!” because I want to say “yeah but who asked the fetus for their opinion on the matter?” (the counter to my point would be “a fetus can’t communicate desire to live” to which I counter the counter by saying “yeah, neither could my 3 month old, but we respected his life”).

        From where I view the issue, 2 weeks old and out the womb is as much a life as “viable” so it’s not about saying what someone as the right to do or not to do. It’s not about rights to me. It’s about that viable child.

        But that’s what makes this issue so thorny, isn’t it?

        We’re seeing two different “issues” tied to the one topic. Even if we agree that “Abortions are bad”, that’s where the conversation stops because how we proceed from that point is inherently different.

        Nevermind my own frustrations that when I say I am generally Pro-life, I get bombarded with “if you care so much about life, why do you want poor women to suffer with such poor health care?” and all other manner of things not really tied directly to the topic at hand but are easy things to label someone with….Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          I’d like people to proceed practically, if possible.
          Banning abortions is practically infeasible (most poisons will kill a baby before they kill the mother, let alone radioactive materials, and the list goes on from there!).
          Therefore, i firmly believe that the best course of action is to reduce abortions by changing the conditions that cause them.

          1) giving women lives wher ethey can afford to support a child
          2) not stigmatizing 14 year olds with kids.

          … stuff like that.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          When you destroy a child in the womb, it’s murder. It’s not complicated, live with it, be judged by it.Report

    • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

      I second what Jason says here. We can envision a world in which both sides listen to and seek to understand one another, but not a world in which no side considers the other side as advocating for something evil or wrong. Pro-lifers oppose abortion on the grounds that it’s evil; pro-choicers oppose the prohibition of abortion on the basis that it’s wrong to force a woman to remain pregnant against her will.

      So, while I abhor World B, I cannot say I prefer World A when World A is nonsense. My preferred world (in which abortion is a controversial issue) is one in which each side recognizes that morality/ethics is messy business and specifically that there are moral problems with both allowing abortion and prohibiting it.Report

    • Avatar LauraNo says:

      You can’t envision a world in which human beings don’t think of murder as evil? Read any death penalty polls lately? You are living in a world where some human beings in fact don’t consider murder of fellow human beings as evil. Without even discussing the unborn human beings…Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        To play devil’s ad, remember that while colloquially we use the term “murder” as a moral label it is in fact a legal one. Execution, combat, self-defense, even abortion. These things may (or may not) be morally wrong, and they perhaps should be murder – but they are not murder.

        Again, playing devil’s ad.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          “Thou shalt not murder” is in the ten commandments. So to me at least, from my religion’s perspective, it is not only a legal term but also a moral one, as given by G-d.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            This is true, Kimmi, but the point I was raising in my Devils A comment is that you are not commanded not to kill, but not to murder. And the definition of what murder is and isn’t is a legal one. And we do change it from time to time; for the greater part of human history a man killing his wife for infidelity was not murder, but it is today. Similarly, because of R v W abortion is not murder – but that’s not to say it shouldn’t be.Report

  20. Avatar Silver Wolf says:


    We live in world B because people’s brains are not wired to naturally think in terms like the ones you describe in world A. We are, as a species, egocentric. We delude ourselves into thinking we are right and anyone who disagrees is wrong. Furthemore, we have a hard time understanding why anyone would not agree with our view so we ascribe it to ignorance, evil intent, or an ulterior motive.

    And those that can see both sides cannot understand why anyone else cannot so we label these people obtuse and become frustrated with their inability to see what is plain.Report

  21. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    I choose World B.

    World A is a fantasy that will never exist, and I prefer living (as much as I can) in the real world and not pine for something that is not possible.Report

  22. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Jason, Kyle, and John all touched on something important, I think.

    As intellectuals (that’s right, I said it, you’re ALL GUILTY!) we might be drawn to World A based upon the description above, but I think a world like World A would have lots of other things attached to it I don’t like.

    People aren’t Vulcans, after all.

    I think we actually live in a world that’s neither of the two, and I’m kind of fond of the one we live in. Cop out, but I choose World C – the world where some people act like World A and some people act like World B and most people act like both worlds, depending upon what they’re talking about.

    Even though it makes me want to drill holes in my head when a World B person shows up on a topic where I’m trying to have a World A discussion with other grownups. Or when a World A person shows up on a topic where I’m trying to have a World B discussion and tells me that my violent rhetoric concerning my support for a team of people playing a violent game with a high rate of injury is irrational and patriarchal and bad for the country. I mean, come on, we should all be able to agree that the Dallas Cowboys are the personification of rank evil in the Universe, right?Report

  23. Avatar Jeff Johnson says:

    Obviously world A is preferred. You’ve presented a false equivalency in the depiction of B world. Those who believe the decision should be between a mother and her Doctor already live in a world where restrictions on late term abortions exist. Yet they are not pushing for an extreme position, such as infanticide. It is generally accepted that a woman who wants an abortion should make that choice within the first two trimesters. This is an A world compromise.

    Only one side is trying urgently at every opportunity to push the matter to the extreme result that all abortions are criminalized under all circumstances. One half of this debate lives in B world, and the other half is already in A world. No credit for guessing which is which, because it is too obvious.

    Start with the very term “Pro-Life”. You started by stipulating that we should avoid “mean-spirited swipes at the other side”. The term Pro-Life is a mean spirited swipe because it implies that those who oppose you are somehow “Pro-Death” or “Anti-Life”, which is an absurdly unfair implication. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has been murdered for their anti-abortion positions.

    The anti-abortion position is essentially a theological one. The idea that fertilization is something more than a chemical reaction that triggers the beginning of cell replication is a purely theological one. As long as this metaphysical claim about the embryo persists, the push to make criminals out of pregnant women who don’t want to be mothers will continue in B world mode.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      The term Pro-Life is a mean spirited swipe because it implies that those who oppose you are somehow “Pro-Death” or “Anti-Life”,

      I elected to use the term that each side chooses to be its self-identifying moniker.

      When I used the term Pro-Life I did not mean to suggest that opponents are Anti-Life (though I may start referring to myself using this from now on). Similarly, I don’t actually think opponents of Pro-Choicers hate the concept of choice.


      • Avatar Kim says:

        pro-life people who don’t hate the concept of choice don’t want to outlaw abortions, imnsho. I’m cool with that. I’m cool with there being ways for a girl to have a baby, in a reasonably peaceful/fun environment free from stress/misery.Report

    • Avatar A Teacher says:

      And “Pro-Choice” isn’t equally mean-spirited?

      I mean, clearly if I’m not Pro-Choice, I’m Anti-Choice and who can be against people not being free to make their own choices? What kind of scum what that level of control over others?

      The terms work because they’re both fairly accurate representation of the pretty danged good ideals that each side put as their core arguments: That you’re either in favor of protecting lives of the unborn, or you’re in favor of allowing personal choice to trump that.

      I find nothing mean in being called one, or the other, personally. And I’ve been called far far worse in these discussions…..Report

  24. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Following up on what I said earlier, I’d rather live in World B–but one where people who think abortion is evil realize that the best way to stop it happening is to make it unnecessary, and so they support free distribution of contraceptives and free medical care and nutrition support for low-income mothers, as well as fostering unwanted children and encouraging adoption. (And, to be honest, a world where the people most likely to get an abortion recognize that there are ways to not need one.)Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … that world B would be a hell of a lot nicer place. I’d rather have legal abortions, but with all options there to convince people to not have ’em. I think with all options available (including treating having a kid like “taking a year off to study abroad”) that you’ve got a good chance that most people won’t get an abortion. If we paid people to be “baby mothers” (until birth), around $20,000 say… and gave people some amount of leave to do it, I think people would be less likely to grab an abortion.Report

  25. Avatar scott says:

    I think your scenarios lack one key fact/variable/issue: power. The discussion is keyed to the morality of abortion and the sort of discussion people on either side ought to have about it or ought not to have about it. And I wouldn’t dispute that’s part of the discussion. But the crux is what we do about it – do we enlist the state to limit it, or don’t we? The folks in Group A (clearly the favored choice in the set-up) may sweetly reason together in good faith, exchange views without acrimony, and come to some appreciation of the other side’s points along with a deeper appreciation of how complex and morally fraught the question is. But then what? Then the ugly (and ignored here) question of state power comes up, and then we start tearing each other new ones all over again. I don’t see how this post gets us from point A (deeper appreciation of ethical dimensions) to point B (agreement about what to do) without addressing disagreements about power. Otherwise, it just sounds like vague, uplift-y civil society stuff that doesn’t tell us anything particularly useful.Report

  26. Avatar Jeff says:

    I too would like to live in World A, but agree we are more often in World B. I describe myself as “pro-choice” but am not in favor odf “abortion on demand” (and know few liberals who are). I’m opposed to abortion for picking gender, for example, and agree that third trimester abortions need to be extermely limited (would the Pro-Life members of this board agree that they are?).

    I do not believe that every sperm is sacred. I wish that the Pro-Life members think about the other ways that embryos die, and the ramifications of that if an empryo is a “person”. Any miscarraige would have to be investigated to see if it was intentional, and treated approraitely (with charges from involantary homicide to murder). Fertility clinics would have to be closed. These are World A issues, but are rarely broached by Pro-Lifers.Report

    • Avatar A Teacher says:

      “agree that third trimester abortions need to be extermely limited (would the Pro-Life members of this board agree that they are?).”

      Yes and no. I recall in one of the recent rounds of debate regarding Late Term Abortions, there was an outcry that the procedure could not be banned (except in the case of a medical need to protect the mother) because it would be an impingement on Abortion Rights. The arguments presented were more about the “slippery slope of restriction of any kind of abortion” than on the actual procedure, it’s scheduling within the pregenancy etc etc.

      That said, I don’t pay too much attention to most abortion debates because as a man I’m usually told to shut the F up, and I find profanity on the Internet to be a turnoff.Report

  27. Avatar Jeff says:

    One way of moving the debate to World A is to limit it to “personhood”. What is “personhood”? When does it begin? When should it be legal for one person to end the life of another? (Which brings up all sorts of fun issues like euthenasia, self defense, defense of property, etc.)Report

  28. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    UPDATE: It’s been about 24 hours now since I first posted this thread.

    As I alluded to in the OP and said more directly in a couple of comments, this exercise was not intended to find The Answer; nor were the scenarios intended to accurately mirror real life, save for my thinking B was closer to A. For me, the prize was which of the hypothetical worlds people would choose and why were what I was what I was hoping for. I think such things are revealing about who we are as groups and individuals; even when we choose a declaration of abstention, e.g.: Jason and Kyle, we are saying something. I’m not sure that I have figured out the lesson I want to take from this yet, but I want to say this:

    The degree of mutual respect and civility that everyone (with a couple of really minor exceptions) approached this volatile topic – and one another – has been extremely gratifying. If there is another site on the intertubes with this level of traffic that would have had this happen with this subject matter, I am not aware of it. It reminds me why I choose to hang here.

    As always, you guys rock.Report

  29. Avatar LauraNo says:

    We live in world B and I think I am glad. If a person believes the state should not be controlling what we do with our own bodies, how could that person not be very strident in that belief? And vice-versa, of course.

    Also I feel that the right given an inch takes a mile every time. This leaves little room to sit down and discuss anything with them. I don’t mean this as an insult. The same could be said about any issue of theirs, they feel more strongly on balance about any given issue of theirs than others do on theirs, in my opinion.Report

  30. Avatar Jeff says:

    “If there is another site on the intertubes with this level of traffic that would have had this happen with this subject matter, I am not aware of it.”

    For most topics: http://www.patheos.com/community/slacktivist/

    As with any blog/forum, read multiple posts, including comments before posting. “Glibertarian” , Randian, and other anti-Gubment posts will be ridiculed.

    When any subject gets too heated, Fred gives us pie! Mmmmmmm, pie… [drool]Report

  31. Avatar Stillwater says:

    RTod, what are you trying to accomplish with this post? Is it to refine your views of what each side of the debate are arguing? To let people express themselves?

    I mean, look: the abortion issue is pretty clear cut. Either you think women (people!) have the right to determine what goes on in their bodies, or you don’t – for whatever reason. The divide between the two is clear.

    Why make a post about this?Report

  32. I choose option B- because both pro-choice and anti-abortion arguments are illogical and inconsistent, and any agreement between these two irrational positions leading to some sort of universal policies can only lead to disaster on a wide scale.

    It’s like they say about politicians- bickering politicians is fine as long as they get nothing done, but when they start agreeing with each other, that’s when you need to reach for your wallet.Report