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Saletan’s Inevitable Regulatory Non-Sequitur

[ 147 ] January 20, 2011 |

In response to the indictment of Kermit Gosnell, William Saletan advocates for…regulations he’s always advocated. What’s unclear is how these regulations are relevant to the Gosnell case specifically. It’s not clear, first of all, what this has to do with restricting second trimester abortions. But even when it comes to post-viability abortions, Saletan dodges the important questions. Most importantly, he doesn’t mention the fact that late-term abortions in most circumstances are already illegal in most circumstances in Pennsylvania. The only way of making the regime for late-term abortions more restrictive would be to have no exceptions — including for severe threats to a woman’s health and life. Does Saletan favor this? I have no idea; he just ignores the question, presumably because such changes in the law would be a terrible idea. Similarly, what has drawn the most attention about Gosnell is that he allegedly killed babies that had already been delivered — but again, if true, that’s already illegal, so I don’t know what this has to do with second-trimester abortion bans.

The larger problem, as always, is that responding to the Gosnell case with new regulations that aren’t actually relevant to this case is actively counterproductive. As Pema Levy, Amanda Hess, and Amanda Marcotte all note, the more abortion access is restricted, the more likely it is that poor women will seek the services of unethical providers. It’s surely relevant here that Pennsylvania has one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in the country. How Gosnell operating in that state is supposed to make the case for yet more arbitrary abortion regulations I can’t tell you. Providing poor women with the resources to obtain abortions from trained medical professionals in reputable clinics and regulated hospitals seems like a much better idea. This is true even with respect to late-term abortion — stigma and regulatory obstacles lead to more, not fewer.

[X-Posted to TAPPED.]

Comments (147)

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  1. bh says:

    I think you’re missing his main point, which is that William Saletan is noble and wise.

  2. Xenocrates says:

    It’s called a False Equivalency. This is a rhetorical device favored by the GOP in the 21st century. Worst still, it works. Saletan’s opinions on abortion lack a certain amount of “standing” as well…IF he had a uterus, I would take him a bit more seriously. As there is zero percent chance that William Saletan will ever become pregnant, I’d love to offer him a big cup of STFU.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just a quick comment on the technical aspect (I haven’t read Saletan’s article yet) :

    Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord,” Williams said.

    Inducing labor, delivering a live infant, and then killing it may be many things, but one thing it is not is an abortion.

    In a late 2nd trim procedure, the fetus is terminated in utero, and then the uterus is evacuated.

    Failures resulting in a live delivery are rare. (There are protocols in place for situations like that; none involve throwing the baby against the wall or poking it with sharp objects.)

    That’s because, with preterm cases, no matter what you do, you don’t achieve full dilatation meaning the head, the largest part, gets stuck. The only way to deliver is to collapse the fetal skull in utero. (You can’t allow the cervix to stretch too much and rupture and you can’t cut because of large vessels in the area.)

    Bottom line: I’d urge caution at media reports of completed deliveries. We need more information before we can conclude that.

    • Kate says:

      “Inducing labor, delivering a live infant, and then killing it may be many things, but one thing it is not is an abortion.

      In a late 2nd trim procedure, the fetus is terminated in utero, and then the uterus is evacuated.”

      What’s the difference, except in semantic and legal terms?

      • ema says:

        Anatomy and physiology. In utero you have a pregnancy, with a fetal part, and the breathing/circulating/excreting/etc maternal and placental parts. After delivery you have a breathing/circulating/etc. neonate. Part of a woman’s internal organ and a neonate are not interchangeable.

        • Kate says:

          So it’s because the “fetal part” excretes and circulates oxygen through the placental and maternal parts, as every “fetal part” is designed to do in the womb, that its destruction in utero is abortion and its destruction outside the womb is murder? Do you consider breathing/circulating/excreting on one’s own, then, the basis of personhood?

          • DocAmazing says:

            Yes, in the case of fetus vs. baby. No, in the case of already-born people in hospital beds.

            Any other questions, Ms. Gosselin?

          • ema says:

            Personhood? Anyway, to get back to anatomy/physiology, yes, that’s the distinction between a pregnancy (abortion) and a newborn (infanticide).

      • Tirxu says:

        What’s the difference, except in semantic and legal terms?

        Could I kindly ask what you mean, when you want a difference but not in semantic terms?

        Should we stick to syntaxic differences? That is easy too: foetus before birth, baby after birth.

        • Kate says:

          I want to know what’s the difference in moral terms between the fetus/”fetal part” and baby. Why, exactly, are they accorded a different moral status?

          • DocAmazing says:

            One is, for all practical purposes, an organ of the mother. The other is an individual.

            Glad we could help, Ms. Gosselin.

            • Kate says:

              Cute, Doc. And you know what? You’ve convinced me, because I’ve never heard anyone try to pass off a simple assertion as a settled fact before. And then the way you followed it up with that real knee-slapper about Ms. Gosselin? Pure genius.

              Let me ask this. Does it make any difference for anyone’s “less restrictions on late-term abortion” views, if they consider a fetus to be a human being with a right to life? (Humor me and let’s pretend that there are actually very serious philosophical and moral arguments to be made for this insane anti-choice position.)

              • Malaclypse says:

                Let me ask this. Does it make any difference for anyone’s “less restrictions on late-term abortion” views, if they consider a fetus an adult female to be a human being with a right to life?

                Fixed to make the question relevant.

              • Joe says:

                What “less restrictions” are we talking about? If second trimester is “late,” what does “late” even mean?

                Under current law, viable fetuses are protected more than pre-viable fetuses. So, “late term abortions” can be limited more.

                Fetuses are not “human persons” in a complete legal sense. They are “human” and have some sort of “being.” Viable fetuses have more protections (including as to “life”) than pre-viable fetuses.

                But, we can grant that a third trimester fetus has some “right ot life” is a “human being” and so forth, but STILL hold that such things do not override the health and life interests of the woman. Thus, the “health” exception in many pre-Roe laws.

                “Legal terms” matter in this country. But, an independent person outside of the womb is different in practical terms too. It is different in medical terms. It is different is social terms. So on.

              • DocAmazing says:

                (Humor me and let’s pretend that there are actually very serious philosophical and moral arguments to be made for this insane anti-choice position.)

                But not medical arguments, and, as far as I can tell, not legal ones. Roe v. Wade set out a whole algorithm for third-trimester abortion and saving of viable fetuses, so that’s pretty much a wash. We’re left with religious fanatics and those who just have to mind other people’s business, and those who feel a compelling need to regulate women’s fertility.

              • ema says:

                It would be helpful if you defined your terms. What do you mean by “late-term”? Are you talking about elective or therapeutic abortions? Percentage of total abortions and trends? Effect of legislation? Human being?

    • Ellie Light says:

      Yes, let us not condemn someone who displays hundreds of pairs of baby’s feet. Doesn’t everyone?

  4. ema says:

    Oops, the comment above is mine.

  5. KC45s says:

    This is why I love the internet. At Slate I see Saletan has an abortion article. Instead of reading it–because if you’ve read him once on the topic, you’ve read all he’s got–I click a button knowing someone here has provided a takedown that’s (1) actually intelligent and (2) informed by the idea that women are capable of being functional adults.

    Noble and wise. Yes to whoever said that above. In his own way, Saletan’s as narcissistic as Andrew Sullivan, and I don’t make that charge lightly.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Yes, pointing out that killing babies is illegal is something only a demonic fiend, a veritable Sasquatch, would do.

      Clever as always, Donalde.

      • You’re an idiot, Malaclypse. The whole argument that “it was illegal already” is not only lame, but a moral monstrosity. Frankly, you people not only cheer this, you enable cases like Philadelphia with your culture of death. Look, you are dense, I know. You demonstrated it at Whiskey Fire. But get a fucking clue. This case represents the abortion culture perfectly, in full. I saw Maha’s post last night and it was classic. And here Scott Lemieux’s so fucked up he couldn’t decipher right from wrong if it were to hit him upside the head. Fail. Malaclypse. Fail. Abortion is murder. Let it sink in. All you have to do is use whatever shred of gray matter that’s up inside that thick skull of yours.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Frankly, you people not only cheer this,

          Provide a cite, or we will all know you are lying yet again. Lies make baby Jesus cry, Donalde.

          • Hey, Einstein, I linked to the proof, at Maha’s. But of course, we know you have trouble understanding an argument, as we saw at Whiskey Fire.

            And I see that YOU are a liar, actually. Let’s see the proof that I “make” my students read my blog. I don’t and never have. That’s just yet another one of the LGM hate machine’s Big Lies.

            Not only are you dim, Malaprick, you’re a despicable smear merchant.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Maha, like Scott, also points out that the behavior alleged is illegal. You don’t read very well, do you, Donalde?

              Again, cites, and a quote, or you are a liar.

              • The issue is not whether it’s legal. It’s simply evil. And neither you nor Scott could give a f**k. Maha cheered that “the system worked,” duh. Not once did she denounce the deaths and destruction wrought by the abortion culture. Now, I’ve given a link to your lie, Malaprick. You are all about lies. Progressives are all about lies. Everything you do is a damned lie. Let’s see your link to anything I’ve ever said that REQUIRES students to read my blog. Bloody asshat.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Maha cheered that “the system worked,” duh.

                An alleged murderer was arrested. So yes, justice is hopefully proceeding. Thank you for admitting you made shit up about Maha.

                And Donalde, you have crowed here about how you “recommend” your students read your blog.

                What I wonder about you, Donalde, is that you can’t possibly be as bad a reader as you act. It must be rage that keeps you distorting things this way. That can’t be good for you. People have strokes. You really should try and work on your anger issues, for your own sake. Seriously, no matter how unhappy your childhood was, just let it go and move past it.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Let’s see your link to anything I’ve ever said that REQUIRES students to read my blog.

                I’m sorry, I almost forgot: you read from them in class as “lecture launchers,” and “THAT’S A GOOD TEACHING THING!” So unless lectures are not part of the required coursework at your fine school, I’ve just given you the link for which you asked. I do hope that now we can go back to reasoned debate now. It is a shame when you get too upset over things like this to use your normal “umatched [sic] tactical elan.”

              • SEK says:

                Seriously, The Donalde, as Malawesomeness links, you wrote:

                I recommend my blog for students to read, on a voluntary, non-assignment basis. Occasionally I’ll pull up an academic post in class as a lecture launcher—and actually, THAT’S A GOOD TEACHING THING!

                Please tell me how you aren’t recommending your students read your blog when you write, and I quote:

                I recommend my blog for students to read[.]

                I eagerly await your reply.

        • repsac3 says:

          Not to be picky there, Donalde, but didn’t you write the following in one of the posts on your own blog

          ” I wish women didn’t have abortions, although I’d never deprive a woman her right to make the decision.”

          and also

          “…the Philadelphia case is an argument for more abortions, that is, more support for purportedly legal and safe abortion, rather than legislation to further restrict access. I don’t make a case either way. Perhaps there are some extreme medical circumstances in which obtaining an abortion is absolutely necessary.”

          So, you believe that “Abortion is murder,” but you’d never deprive a woman of making the decision, and that some murder is absolutely necessary (in extreme medical circumstances, or whenever a woman decides, perhaps.)

          I think you have to go back, decide how reactionary you’re feeling, today, and stop making statements as to what you believe about abortion until have some kinda concrete belief, on the subject.

          Looking forward to your explaining how you don’t recommend that your students read your blog, except when you do… (again, perhaps you ought to decide what lie you’re going to tell, and then stick with it. (That, or just the truth… I’m just sayin’…)

          • Malaclypse says:

            perhaps you ought to decide what lie you’re going to tell, and then stick with it.

            Not gonna happen. Consider:

            “…the Philadelphia case is an argument for more abortions, that is, more support for purportedly legal and safe abortion, rather than legislation to further restrict access. I don’t make a case either way.

            So, in sentence one, he makes a case, also known as an “argument”. Sentence two claims that sentence one did no such thing. Now, some people might go back, read sentence one in light of sentence two’s unambiguous statement, and be baffled. Donalde doesn’t work that way.

            Consistency is completely incompatible with Donalde’s stream-of-rage writing style. He can’t remember which lie he is telling, as that would require self-reflection.

      • Ellie Light says:

        Ah but we all know that babies aren’t people till they are born according to the Left’s philosophy of death. Your description of legal is like comparing Kermit to a doctor.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Fetuses aren’t babies according to medicine, not according to philosophy.

          And it’s pretty funny when the same folks who advocate arson and assassination in their politics talk about the Left’s “philosophy of death”.

  6. cpinva says:

    i guess we needn’t bother with an actual trial, with actual tangible evidence of malfaction, mr. saletan has done the court’s work for it.

    i do have one quibble with his article though:

    let’s just be honest when characterizing individuals/groups, they aren’t “pro-life” at all, they are “forced birth”. because what they really want is to go back to the good old days of pre roe v wade, and outlaw abortion entirely, no exceptions.

  7. @Malaclypse: “…you have crowed here about how you “recommend” your students read your blog.”

    Absolutley not. I’ve “crowed” nothing of the sort. Scott has written posts about students reading my blog. You’ve turned that into “Donalde MAKES students read his blog.” I’ve linked to your quote. You’re a liar. And the rest about childhood is smokescreen.

    Next case.

    • SEK says:

      Dear The Donalde:

      It’s funny how you pretend that things “recommended” by professors aren’t taken seriously by students, especially when said things are your own blog, which students whose lives depend upon remaining in school might understand as … I don’t even know why I’m writing this. Look, The Donalde: you’re a self-interested, disgusting creep who shouldn’t be let anywhere near a classroom. You abuse your authority regularly and for all the world to see, and it’s a terrible thing. As a fellow teacher, you make me cringe. As a human being, you make me sad. I only hope that you’re not as horrible as your behavior online makes me think you are, because I actually care about students.

  8. Kate says:

    Malcalypse,

    Another snide cliche in lieu of an argument? Color me impressed. Maybe we can collect a string of snide banalities in this thread just for the fun of it.

    My last question was a serious one and a relevant one, and I asked it because I realized it’s silly to try seriously to argue for the personhood of the fetus in this forum.

    So let me try again. Does anyone here acknowledge that there are morally and philosophically serious arguments to be made for the fetus’s personhood and right to life? If so, do you also acknowledge that someone who accepts such arguments for the personhood of the fetus is bound to support restrictions on abortion regardless of the supposed consequences of those restrictions?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      So let me try again. Does anyone here acknowledge that there are morally and philosophically serious arguments to be made for the fetus’s personhood and right to life? If so, do you also acknowledge that someone who accepts such arguments for the personhood of the fetus is bound to support restrictions on abortion regardless of the supposed consequences of those restrictions?

      Well, in the abstract, sure. But in fact only a tiny minority of people believe this, or at least are willing to advance views consistent with this belief. If the fetus is a legal person, mere “restrictions” on only “late-term” abortions are insufficient — indeed, all 50 states would be constitutionally required to prosecute abortion as first-degree murder. The official position of the Republican Party and most American “pro-lifers,” OTOH, is that women who obtain abortions should receive a lesser punishment than a woman who gets a jaywalking ticket.

      If even people who hand-wave about “fetal personhood” don’t actually believe it, I don’t know why I should engage with it.

      • Darleen says:

        But in fact only a tiny minority of people believe this,

        Sorry, Scott, you are wrong. While a majority of Americans believe that the government should not interfere with a woman seeking a 1st trimester abortion, once outside of that parameter support for abortion falls. When it starts getting into elective abortion on a healthy fetus past 20 weeks, the majority in favor evaporates.

        Because contrary to what is said above, the fetus is not an organ of the mother. It is a distinct individual with its own DNA. Viability, not taking a breath, is the line that the majority draws where the fetus gains moral worth and its treatment and survival is as much within the province of the state as a born infant.

        Now I know people like Pete Singer seem to believe even infants aren’t “finished” individuals and parents should be able to terminate them up to 2 years of age.

        What the 281 page Grand Jury document provides is just something that has always been known about post-viability abortion — there are people who will provide it, regardless just as there are women who will seek it, just as there are women who murder their infants and toddlers.

        Providing safe drop offs for women who want to surrender their newborns has NOT stopped dead babies turning up in dumpsters. There are a lot of women who have no more character than Gosnell.

        Or some of the commenters here.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Cool! Fresh troll!
          The old one was getting kind of worn & repetitive. Let’s see what this one does.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Sorry, Scott, you are wrong. While a majority of Americans believe that the government should not interfere with a woman seeking a 1st trimester abortion, once outside of that parameter support for abortion falls. When it starts getting into elective abortion on a healthy fetus past 20 weeks, the majority in favor evaporates.

          This is non-responsive. I didn’t say that only a tiny minority favored some restrictions on abortion. I said only a tiny minority believes (or is willing to act consistently with the belief that) the fetus is a human person. If you believe that, you would believe that women who get abortions should be prosecuted for first degree murder in all 50 states.

          • Darleen says:

            The fetus is always a human being. Unless you believe it is a chicken or horse. That’s unique human DNA in there.

            Whether or not it is human is not nor has ever been to people who want to deal with this issue honestly the question. It is about a balance of rights/interests because we are dealing with at least TWO distinct individuals who are bound by biology until one can live independently.

            Some would have it that the moment the new human is created (at conception) it is worthy of full rights to Life and the mother’s becomes subservient. Some would have it that the fetus is a non-entity no different than a toe nail until the baby is fully past the perinium and the umbilical cord is severed.

            The vast majority realize that the conundrum of balancing the rights falls somewhere between the two.

            Adultery is immoral. We don’t make it illegal. The vast majority of abortions are immoral as well (done for other reasons than health of the mother or non-viability of the fetus). Not all should be illegal.

            Consensus follows what I said above. Abortion is always, minimally, tragic. Abortion on a healthy viable fetus when the mother’s life is not in danger is not qualitatively different than infanticide. As noted before, Gosnell merely delivered the same term babies and “snipped” them after birth that other 3rd trimester abortionists kill by saline or D&X.

            If both are viable, location is no excuse.

            This continued warfare over abortion can be laid directly at the feet of pro-aborts that refused to persuade their fellow citizens with appropriate legislation but went SCOTUS in Roe v Wade.

            I’m reluctant pro-choice, but I at least have the honesty to know what abortion entails.

            Pity some want to pretend otherwise.

            • Joe says:

              More talking past each other.

              Scott didn’t say a fetus is not a ‘human’ in any fashion or doesn’t have human DNA. A fertilized egg has human DNA. What does that prove? Clearly little since you readily admit balancing is the accepted rule.

              As to the ‘immorality’ of abortion, don’t know what that means. Many religions accept abortion as a legitimate option. So, on some level, it’s allowable under their morality.

              The vast majority of abortions are immoral as well (done for other reasons than health of the mother or non-viability of the fetus).

              Nearly all abortions occur before a fetus is viable. Abortions also usually in some sense benefit the health of the girl or woman. Pregnancy risks health. And, again, many religions allow abortions, including when the health of the woman isn’t directly threatened.

              This continued warfare over abortion can be laid directly at the feet of pro-aborts that refused to persuade their fellow citizens with appropriate legislation but went SCOTUS in Roe v Wade.

              So, religions that support the right to make the choice, should we call them “pro-aborts” too?

              Your ‘pro-choice’ bona fides are hard to take seriously when you blame one side for a debate like that. Is the warfare over civil rights the fault of blacks or women or gays because they didn’t convince the other side that second class citizenship was not “appropriate”?

            • DocAmazing says:

              I always love it when people with no education in biology start throwing around biological ideas as though they were experts. Let’s look at DNA.

              The DNA in the fetus is “unique”in the sense that it isn’t identical to the mom’s somatic cell DNA nor to the dad’s, but contains elements of both. That means that it is the only thing in the mom’s body that doesn’t contain the mom’s identical DNA, right?

              Well, no. All of her eggs contain only half of her DNA, and the have differing assortments in each egg. In certain circumstances, mom herself may have mosaic DNA, in which her regular (somatic) cell lines might have one or another variation of the DNA.

              Thus, every time mom menstruates, that’s “unique DNA” being lost.

              Darleen, schatzi: stick to what you know. Reproductive biology just isn’t your strong suit.

            • ema says:

              DocAmazing’s point cannot be emphasized enough: best to use unique human DNA only when you’re sure your audience has no understanding of basic biology.

              The vast majority of abortions are immoral as well (done for other reasons than health of the mother or non-viability of the fetus).

              First, any time a pregnancy is terminated the woman’s morbidity and mortality are reduced.

              Second, what is immoral is imposing a “brink of death” and/or “rape/assault” prerequisite on some pregnant women’s access to medical care.

              Abortion is always, minimally, tragic.

              Why?

              Abortion on a healthy viable fetus when the mother’s life is not in danger is not qualitatively different than infanticide.

              Again, compared to a nonpregnant state, pregnancy always endangers a woman’s health/life. Just because millions of women chose to become pregnant and carry to term doesn’t mean you can poof away the fact that pregnancy is a high-stress state (anatomically, physiologically, immunologically, you name it). You also don’t get to ignore the fact that the only “normal” pregnancy is one that’s delivered, with a good APGAR.

              Also, just because your proclamation has to do with a healthy viable fetus (with human DNA!) doesn’t mean you you don’t have to support it.

              This continued warfare over abortion can be laid directly at the feet of pro-aborts….

              Please, what is this nonsense about “pro-aborts”? Everybody knows these mythical creatures don’t have feet.

              I’m reluctant pro-choice, but I at least have the honesty to know what abortion entails.

              Your personal belief in your honesty, and knowledge of what abortion entails and “pro-aborts” is admirable. Unfortunately, the rest of us are handicapped by basic biology and reality.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Another snide cliche in lieu of an argument? Color me impressed. Maybe we can collect a string of snide banalities in this thread just for the fun of it.

      See? Now this reads a lot more like Donalde than WrongfulDeath does.

      Does anyone here acknowledge that there are morally and philosophically serious arguments to be made for the fetus’s personhood and right to life?

      I don’t, no. I know that you yourself think your arguments are oh-so-serious and correct, but I’m not obligated to share that belief. If you want confirmation, there are plenty of places you can go. Donalde’s comments section is usually pretty empty, you might want to try there.

      If so, do you also acknowledge that someone who accepts such arguments for the personhood of the fetus is bound to support restrictions on abortion regardless of the supposed consequences of those restrictions?

      You are welcome to never ever get an abortion. Just keep your decisions away from other females, and we’re cool.

      Emphasized the disregard for the health and well being of living, existing, aware females, just in case anyone missed it.

    • dave3544 says:

      Seriously, Kate, if you’re in the small “a fetus is a person” crowd and you want to have a discussion about it “regardless of the supposed consequences,” then tell us what you’re thinking. As Scott points out, if you really super-believe that a fetus is a person and abortion is murder, then you have to be in favor of locking up women who have abortions (and given the utter innocence and helplessness of the fetus-person, I have to suppose that you support the death penalty in this situation).

      If you believe a fetus is a person, how the heck can you write the words “restrictions on abortion”? Do people regularly speak of “restrictions on murder”? Maybe no one is taking your hypothetical seriously because you don’t seem to be either.

      • Darleen says:

        dave

        we have restrictions on killing. Some killing is justified (self-defense), other killings range from involuntary to voluntary (through negligence, etc) all the way to premediated murder.

        So yes, the act of taking the life of another human being isn’t completely banned by law.

        So should be abortion.

        • dave3544 says:

          Thanks for talking down to me. I actually knew what I was saying.

          You tell me that killing a fetus is killing a person, but that somehow it wouldn’t be “murder?” Let’s talk.

          Maybe you’re suggesting that killing a fetus when the mother’s life is in danger is “self-defense,” therefore not “murder.” If so, then I suggest that we get together and write an episode of Law and Order, because we just might be on to something.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          we have restrictions on killing. Some killing is justified (self-defense), other killings range from involuntary to voluntary (through negligence, etc) all the way to premediated murder.

          But if fetuses are human persons, then abortion is premeditated murder, full stop. To treat abortion differently is to concede that the fetus does not have the legal status of a human person.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            But if fetuses are human persons, then abortion is premeditated murder, full stop. To treat abortion differently is to concede that the fetus does not have the legal status of a human person.

            That’s too strong, at least from the moral perspective I think: see Thompson’s “A Defense of Abortion”. Darleen is pretty clearly alluding to something like Thompson’s view by pointing to the self-defense case of justifiable homicide.

            It would be consistent to regard fetuses as persons but abortion as a category of justifiable homicide. It would also be consistent to treat it as not particularly serious or even to be celebrated (see some expressed attitudes about how to handle shooting sprees and other criminal activity). This would be consistent with treating the murder of a pregnant woman as a double murder (since neither killing would be justifiable).

            Now, of course, none of these are anti-abortion positions and none match the rhetoric of anti-abortionists nor the general attitude toward the right sort of women getting abortions. But treating abortion differently than premeditated murder does not concede that the fetus does not have the legal status of a human person.

  9. Kate says:

    Joe,

    I just saw your comment. Thanks for the serious and polite answer to my question. As I said in my comment to Malcalyspse above, I realized that arguing about the personhood of the fetus (viable or otherwise) is a silly thing for me to try to do in this forum.

    So I’ve revised my question somewhat (see above). What I’m trying to get at is the need some pro-choice commenters/bloggers here seem to have to indict their ideological opponents for bad faith. If they were really pro-life, they’d be for less restrictions, or they’re not pro-life, they’re just anti-woman, etc. I’m not sure what purpose it serves.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Okay. As Scott said, if you really, truly consider that fetus to be a person, then you would believe that abortion was just like if I were to kill my living, breathing, existing child. You would act like the people who obtained abortions should be jailed for life as moral monsters. So, if you want to be engaged seriously, here is a serious question: should the penalty for aborting a fetus at 4 months of development be any different from the penalty for killing a 9-month-old infant? If not, why not?

    • Joe says:

      The fact people around here don’t agree with your arguments and/or find it leads to counterproductive paths isn’t the same thing as it being “silly” for you to make it.

      If opponents speak in bad faith or their arguments (if logically followed) lead to a bad path, people around here do tend to call them on it. The “need” would be the “need” to address bad argument that often leads to bad results.

      If more restrictions in practical results lead to more harm to life, being “pro-life” would be for less restrictions. Thus, bans like in Latin America = less pro-life in practice. Also, if the effect is to harm women, and often motivated by anti-feminist concerns (which they often are), they would be “anti-women.” This includes if a procedure is banned, not the abortion, and the net result is harm to the woman. This comes off as “anti-woman.”

      The matter doesn’t rest on fetal personhood since there is no Good Samaritan obligation here. A mother need not give blood to help a two year old baby. Sacrificing her life or health to avoid a third trimester abortion is not necessary.

      Anyway, Linda Greenhouse’s Roe v. Wade book includes various documents from both sides, including from the “fetus is a person” argument. You might appreciate it.

      • Kate says:

        I’ll check out the book. Thanks.

        “The matter doesn’t rest on fetal personhood since there is no Good Samaritan obligation here. A mother need not give blood to help a two year old baby. Sacrificing her life or health to avoid a third trimester abortion is not necessary.”

        I’m not a lawyer, but as I understand it, there are different legal requirements, based on one’s relationship to the child. A stranger is not legally required to risk his life to save another person’s life — a drowning person, for example — but a *parent* has a legal and moral responsibility to risk his own life to save his drowning child, and can be prosecuted for failing to do so. Is this incorrect?

        • Kate says:

          “If more restrictions in practical results lead to more harm to life, being “pro-life” would be for less restrictions.”

          – As I understand it, more restrictions (according to Scott’s links) lead to more late-term abortions, not to less abortions overall. But in any event, the consequentialist argument doesn’t work for me.

          • Joe says:

            Okay, so less restrictions [if done the right way] would lead to less late term abortions. Restrictions often do this in this country: they don’t stop abortions, they delay them and make them more dangerous.

            I’m unsure why this won’t be a good thing under your calculus. Consequences should matter.

            If someone is just going to be for some “principle” which is actually counterproductive in practice, that is problematic.

            • Kate says:

              “If someone is just going to be for some ‘principle’ which is actually counterproductive in practice, that is problematic.”

              – So if it could be proved to you that, say, routine torture of suspected terrorists actually saves people’s lives or results in information that saves lives, would you abandon your abstract anti-torture principle?

              • Anonymous says:

                That depends on how well torture works vs. other methods of interrogation, what the indirect consequences of the use of torture would be, and the reliability of information thus obtained, among other things.

                So you’d need not just proof (and pretty rigorous proof) that torture is effective, but it would probably have to be an order of magnitude more effective than non-torture interrogations to be worth using.

                We actually have a lot of data on this, and the available evidence is ‘no, torture doesn’t work, and is often violently counterproductive.’ It’s the same with abortion – we know a bunch of ways to reduce the number of abortions, and none of them are the ones you’re advocating for.

              • Malaclypse says:

                So if it could be proved to you that, say, routine torture of suspected terrorists actually saves people’s lives or results in information that saves lives, would you abandon your abstract anti-torture principle?

                Well, since this is the equivalent of saying “If it could be proven to you that the sky was in fact orange, would you abandon your abstract pro-blue principle?” you have posed a question that cannot easily be answered.

                Since, in fact, torture gains no actual useful information, while at the same time inflicting massive physical and psychological damage to both the torturer and the torturee, it is dumb. We know this fact, and it is not in dispute by anyone vaguely credible. This is true even if we ignore your implicit bullshit assumption that the people we are torturing are always people who are guilty and have legitimate information.

                Tell me, what do you think happens to ex-torturers, who eventually finish their “service” and return to their community? Would you want them as your neighbor? Would you want them near your kids? How about if they get jobs with the local police?

                Still think torture is clever?

              • Kate says:

                Anon and Malcalypse, I’ve responded at the bottom of the thread.

              • Kate says:

                [Still having trouble negotiating the Reply button. Sorry.]

                Here are my responses to Malcalypse and Anonynmous:

                “That depends on how well torture works vs. other methods of interrogation, what the indirect consequences of the use of torture would be, and the reliability of information thus obtained, among other things.

                So you’d need not just proof (and pretty rigorous proof) that torture is effective, but it would probably have to be an order of magnitude more effective than non-torture interrogations to be worth using.”

                Anon, that’s why my question was a hypothetical. It sounds like if those things could be proven about torture, you would no longer object to its use. Am I reading you correctly?

                My position is that no proven good results or consequences can justify the use of torture. I don’t accept or adhere to a consequentialist morality.

                “Still think torture is clever?”

                Malcalypse,

                See my reply to Anon just above. I wonder, though, whether you routinely jump to the least charitable assumptions about anyone you who disagrees with you. Do you find that to be a productive way of talking to people? I mean, there was absolutely no reason to think that my hypothetical question to Joe meant that I was pro-torture (except that I hold a position that you dislike on an entirely different issue). In fact, even a cursory reading of my question should have been enough to demonstrate that my analogy cast a negative light on any sort of consequentialist pro-torture argument.

                Hypotheticals don’t have to be plausible in order to function as a clarification of principles. Is it just that you’d prefer not to answer the question?

              • Joe says:

                I don’t think that works.

                I thought the idea was that fetuses have a right to life. If less abortion regulations cut down the abortion rate, that will help the fetal ‘persons’ involved, since more will survive.

                Torture is wrong for various reasons. If it is more successful, it still will occur. Torture itself will continue, and the fact it doesn’t work isn’t the only thing wrong with it. For instance, it still will diminish us and hurt the people tortured.

                Meanwhile, less abortion restrictions in various cases will lead to earlier abortions and at times less abortions as a whole.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Hypotheticals don’t have to be plausible in order to function as a clarification of principles.

                True, but they cannot be absurd.

                Okay, small words: morality is based on human psychology. Human psychology is such that torture does not work. For torture to work, humans would be radically different that they actually are, meaning morality would be radically different as well. The only frame of moral reference I have is based on the existing world. I don’t know how to answer questions about the morality of undefined, non-existent worlds.

                If humans could live in a vacuum, what would property values on Mars be?

                See how you cannot answer that question, and it is silly? That is what your question was like. And it does not matter how many times you ask it, it still is worthy of nothing but dismissal.

                Better, more challenging trolls, please.

              • Kate says:

                Hello, Joe,

                You say, “I thought the idea was that fetuses have a right to life. If less abortion regulations cut down the abortion rate, that will help the fetal ‘persons’ involved, since more will survive.”

                First, I’m not sure the source of this empirical claim. Second, as I’ve said elsewhere, believing that fetuses have a right to life means that every individual fetus has a right to life. I’m not willing to support a law that makes it easier to kill a fetus in the hope that less people will decide to kill their fetuses later on in their pregancy, nor to support a law that de-criminalizes something that I consider not only immoral but criminal.

                Here’s what you say about torture, Joe, but I’ve included the word “abortion” in place of torture. It sums up my non-consequentialist position on abortion: “Abortion is wrong for various reasons. If it is more successful, it still will occur. Abortion itself will continue, and the fact it doesn’t work isn’t the only thing wrong with it. For instance, it still will diminish us and hurt the people aborted.”

          • hv says:

            But in any event, the consequentialist argument doesn’t work for me.

            Net fetus-persons alive overall doesn’t matter? Hmmmm, weren’t YOU the one begging us to reason as if fetus = person? Wait, you want us to reason as if we accept fetus = person, but also in some deontological paradigm? Sheesh, these goalposts just don’t want to stand still for a moment.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Net fetus-persons alive overall doesn’t matter? Hmmmm, weren’t YOU the one begging us to reason as if fetus = person?

              Fetus survival counts if it involves Kate making choices for others. If it involves minding her own damn business, then fetus survival is consequentialism, and can be discounted.

        • Joe says:

          The “moral” responsibility aside, I don’t know of this duty to risk drowning to save my child’s life. Again, there is no need to give blood either. If so, remaining pregnant if it threatens life or health also is not required.

          There is a legal duty to provide certain care to one’s child, such as diet and such. Risking one’s life is not the same thing.

    • hv says:

      How about “if they were really pro-life, they would support sex ed in high schools?” Cause that really does lower the number of abortions.

      Banning abortion, however, does not.

      Have you heard of Prohibition? You remember the punch line, right?

      Many pro-choice people think that pro-lifers are really trying to fight a social or cultural battle while invoking the moral high ground. Little details like this help everyone decide.

  10. Kate says:

    “I know that you yourself think your arguments are oh-so-serious and correct, but I’m not obligated to share that belief.”

    – Of course, you’re not obligated to share that belief. You’re also not obligated to show that you’ve ever read or considered a philosophically serious argument for the fetus’s right to life. How convenient.

    • Malaclypse says:

      You’re also not obligated to show that you’ve ever read or considered a philosophically serious argument for the fetus’s right to life.

      True, but I’ll show it anyway. How’s this to start?

      • Kate says:

        Um, I was thinking more along the lines of this.

        Seriously, did you think reading some pro-choice Catholic organization’s one-page history of Catholic thought on abortion was sufficient grappling with pro-life thought? I was thinking more along the lines of actually reading a book-length philosophical defense of the pro-life position. You know, the way I would go to the best argument for the opposite position if I really wanted to engage it.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Seriously, did you think reading some pro-choice Catholic organization’s one-page history of Catholic thought on abortion was sufficient grappling with pro-life thought?

          Hence the phrase “to start.”

          • Kate says:

            Baby steps, I guess. But do you really consider that link to be a philosophically serious defense of pro-life thought?

            • Malaclypse says:

              No, it was more pointing out that nobody actually believes in fetal personhood, because there is pretty much no intellectual support for such a position, and that centuries of debate have been almost universal in that conclusion.

  11. Kate says:

    “If you believe a fetus is a person, how the heck can you write the words ‘restrictions on abortion’? Do people regularly speak of “restrictions on murder”? Maybe no one is taking your hypothetical seriously because you don’t seem to be either.”

    Oh, I’m assuming that any pro-life advocate who holds such a position (i.e., the fetus is a person) is going to take what she can get. If she can’t get a legal prohibition of all (or most, except in the case of threat to the mother’s life, etc.) abortions, she’s still going to support restrictions on late-term abortions. It’s an acknowledgment of the current political realities.

    • Malaclypse says:

      So what do you believe should happen to someone who obtains an abortion? Specifically, what penalties should be faced by 1) the doctor, 2) the potential mother, and 3) the potential father?

      Not what you are willing to settle for given political reality, but what should happen?

      Since you have thought seriously about this issue, it should be easy to answer this question.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      But it’s not like they’re advocating for “women should be severely punished for obtaining an abortion” and settling for less. They’re not even willing to argue for a coherent position. What does that tell you? And if the defense is pragmatism, then surely the consequences of regulations they favor as they would operate in this actual political context — i.e. arbitrary abortion regulations make late-term and unsafe abortions more likely, without actually doing that much to reduce abortion rates — can’t be ignored. You can’t have it both ways; either you’re arguing from pure principle or you’re not.

  12. Kate says:

    Scott,

    The same claim of incoherence/inconsistency could apply to pro-choice advocates. Many of them argue that the fetus doesn’t have a right to life based on notions of cognition/consciousness/brain development and then inconsistently and arbitrarily insist that birth is the bright dividing line between between personhood and non-personhood. They refuse to grapple with the Peter Singer position, for example, which is the logical consequence of the cognition/brain development = personhood argument. But what’s the point in the constant accusations of intellectual dishonesty? To me, it’s a way of refusing to engage and claiming to have won the argument anyway.

    What legal punishment do I think should be given to women who have abortions and to doctors who provide them? My honest answer is I don’t know. I suppose different punishments would be appropriate in different circumstances. Would I have a problem prosecuting a woman for murder for aborting a fetus because it was female (or male)? Not really, no.

    • DocAmazing says:

      So you haven’t thought it through. Well, admitting that is at least a start.

      Using “birth” as a starting point for “life” is pretty basic. It’s the logical starting point. Deciding that some pre-born not-yet-independently-alive not-quite-an-organism is a person then calls up the question: if a third-trimester fetus is a person, how about a second-trimester fetus? If a fetus is a person, how about an embryo? If an embryo, how about the zygotes that went into making that embryo? How about somatic cells–is an appendectomy murder, because you’re killing human cells?

      Lest you think that I am merely making fun of you (I am, but there’s more to it than that), consider that a great many groups that advocate abortion restriction also want to restrict access to contraception, using the logic outlined above.

      After three decades, you’d think that the anti-abortion crowd would have come up with something new…

      • Anonymous says:

        Furthermore: birth is the moment that a life can, with support, actively flourish without interfering with another rights-bearing being’s autonomy and freedom.

        There’s any number of defensible philosophical positions in the abstract–conception, implantation birth, many points in between, and many points after (or even before–women who refuse to become pregnant are destroying all kinds of potential future human’s chances at life!). Birth is the one that makes sense in a free society that takes life–everyone’s life–seriously.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      The same claim of incoherence/inconsistency could apply to pro-choice advocates.

      1)These inconsistencies aren’t remotely equivalent. “One particular pro-choice position might be incoherent” is entirely different from “the political and legal arguments made by most ‘pro-lifers’ are inconsistent with any possible argument for fetal personhood.”

      2)My position — that fetal personhood is (in addition to its other problems) completely unworkable as a legal principle — is also the status quo of the American legal system. The burden of proof is on its advocates to explain how it would work and why it would be a good thing.

  13. Kate says:

    DocAmazing,

    I have thought about the punishments I would advocate, but I haven’t reached any conclusions that I’m comfortable with. You can make fun of that all you want, but I find doubt/uncertainty to be a fairly common failing among human beings — and it doesn’t seem to discriminate based on political or ideological affiliation.

    Let me ask you this. Do you oppose fetal homicide laws?

    • DocAmazing says:

      That word–”choice”–is at the core of all of this.

      Fetal homicide laws are a flawed approach to a real problem–someone else deciding for a woman whether or not she should continue her pregnancy. The careless driver who causes the injury-accident that led to a miscarriage or the violent boyfriend who punched the woman in the belly, ending her pregnancy–both of these people are liable for grievous bodily harm to a woman. This should be no different than if they had caused spinal cord damage. That fetal homicide laws are even on the books indicates an enormous breakdown in the way the law protects accident and assault victims, especially when those victims are women. If a woman sustains an injury sufficient to cause miscarriage, she has in all likelihood sustained an injury sufficient to cause rupture of the spleen or kidney, or some other permanent and life-threatening damage.

      That prosecutors feel the need to argue that endangering a woman’s life is insufficient to get a meaningful conviction, and that they have to call up the idea of a potential child speaks very poorly of prosecutors.

      • Kate says:

        I’m still unclear. You’re for them or against them? Isn’t there only one consistent and intellectually honest position if you think birth is the obvious dividing line between personhood and non-personhood?

        I wasn’t aware that the purpose of fetal homicide laws was to make up for the fact that endangering a woman’s life was insufficient to prosecute wrongdoers. Do you have evidence for this? I thought fetal homicide laws arose in response to a feeling that a life had been wrongly taken by the perpetrator (I’m sure that’s the way the mother feels, in most such cases); otherwise, there would be no reason to charge someone who murders a pregnant woman with two murders, since there is certainly sufficient evidence of harm to the woman prosecute the murderer.

        • DocAmazing says:

          I thought I was pretty clear: I think fetal homicide laws should be unnecessary, and they’re a bad idea because they can be manipulated by goons who want to close down gynecology clinics. I guess that means “against”.

          there would be no reason to charge someone who murders a pregnant woman with two murders, since there is certainly sufficient evidence of harm to the woman prosecute the murderer

          Yet apparently prosecuting the assailant did not yield enough of a sentence, despite the obvious gravity of the injuries. This suggests that prosecutors are not pushing hard enough to convict those who commit assault, or that the worth of women to juries is less than the worth of fetuses. I surely hope that it is not the latter.

          • Kate says:

            “Yet apparently prosecuting the assailant did not yield enough of a sentence, despite the obvious gravity of the injuries.”

            Again, where are you getting this idea? Did the idea of fetal homicide laws arise because the murders/assaults of women were not being sufficiently prosecuted? Evidence?

            • DocAmazing says:

              Trolling?

              Fetal homicide laws should be unnecessary. No more need be said.

              • Kate says:

                Did you actually read the charges in the case? Which charge do you object to?

              • DocAmazing says:

                So let me get this straight: threatening an adult woman with death is not adequate? We have to charge the assailant with a real crime, like endangering a fetus?

                I think the life of the adult woman is sufficiently precious as to deserve protection. Fetishizing the fetus is counterpoductive and unnecessary.

              • Kate says:

                There were other charges in the case, Doc — including kidnapping and concealed weapons charges. The other charge was not “endangering a fetus” but “forcing a woman to get an abortion against her will,” which was included in Ohio statues, as the article states, in order to avoid a controversy over fetal personhood. Threatening an adult woman is not adequate for attempted murder charges, apparently. Just as threatening a person with a gun during a robbery is not adequate for attempted murder charges. So, no, there was nothing absurd about the charges in this case. The perpetrator was charged for his crimes against the woman (kidnapping, etc.). He was charged also for the crime of forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy against her will. Seems appropriate to me.

              • DocAmazing says:

                Ah. Not fetal homicide, then.
                Part of that whole “choice” thing is that a pregnant woman has a right to choose to continue her pregnancy and, at length, bear a child. Forcing anyone to have a medical procedure is generally illegal–in medical school, they taught us that any procedure performed without patient (or parental) consent was battery. So again, laws protecting the woman are adequate to the purpose. No need for laws that protect fetuses, or ova, or spermatozoa.

              • Kate says:

                “So again, laws protecting the woman are adequate to the purpose. No need for laws that protect fetuses, or ova, or spermatozoa.”

                Of course, it’s your prerogative to think so. But that’s neither here nor there, because the implication of the post that ema linked to was that the crimes against the woman were ignored. They simply weren’t, though.

              • ema says:

                Did you actually read the charges in the case?

                Yes, did you?

                Holding a uterine container at gunpoint isn’t attempted murder. Holding uterine contents is.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          You can support legal sanctions against people who terminate a woman’s pregnancy without her consent without believing in fetal personhood.

          • Kate says:

            Yes, but you can’t support charges of homicide.

            • DocAmazing says:

              Assault; false imprisonment; kidnapping; battery; these are a few to start with, and I am not even a lawyer.

              You’re perseverating about the fetal homicide laws. Those laws are beloved of the forced-birth crew and few others. You might want to move to another topic.

              • Kate says:

                On the contrary, I was under the impression that they were supported by a majority of people (according to polls, anyway). And I doubt that you’re arguing the “forced-birth crew” represents a majority of Americans.

              • DocAmazing says:

                And I doubt that you’re arguing the “forced-birth crew” represents a majority of Americans.

                No, just a loud enough minority to force poor women to have to leave their home states to get reproductive health services and to cause gynecologists to wear body armor.

  14. Kate says:

    “That depends on how well torture works vs. other methods of interrogation, what the indirect consequences of the use of torture would be, and the reliability of information thus obtained, among other things.

    So you’d need not just proof (and pretty rigorous proof) that torture is effective, but it would probably have to be an order of magnitude more effective than non-torture interrogations to be worth using.”

    Anon, that’s why my question was a hypothetical. It sounds like if those things could be proven about torture, you would no longer object to its use. Am I reading you correctly?

    My position is that no proven good results or consequences can justify the use of torture. I don’t accept or adhere to a consequentialist morality.

  15. Kate says:

    “Still think torture is clever?”

    Malcalypse,

    See my reply to Anon just above. I wonder, though, whether you routinely jump to the least charitable assumptions about anyone you who disagrees with you. Do you find that to be a productive way of talking to people? I mean, there was absolutely no reason to think that my hypothetical question to Joe meant that I was pro-torture (except that I hold a position that you dislike on an entirely different issue). In fact, even a cursory reading of my question should have been enough to demonstrate that my analogy cast a negative light on any sort of consequentialist pro-torture argument.

    Hypotheticals don’t have to be plausible in order to function as a clarification of principles. Is it just that you’d prefer not to answer the question?

    • Malaclypse says:

      Is it just that you’d prefer not to answer the question?

      I answered your question as well I could. In the actually existing world, and in any world in which human psychology works in ways we have experienced, torture is counterproductive. Always.

      For torture to be effective, humans would be so different psychologically as to be not recognizable to the humans that actually exist. So you posed an unanswerable question. I can’t answer what would or would not be moral in a universe where humans behaved completely differently from any humans we have ever interacted with.

      And yes, I usually respond uncharitably to people who posit absurd hypotheticals to try and sidetrack arguments.

      • Kate says:

        Not buying it, but thanks anyway, Bartleby. The problem is that answering either way is going to catch you in an inconsistency. But hey, I do understand human psychology enough to know that someone would rather get the vapors and clutch their pearls than answer a hypothetical that’s going to put them in an awkward position.

        • DocAmazing says:

          See, this is basic trolling. The use of pointless gotcha stuff that the troll will interpret as heads-I-win-tails-you-lose is a hallmark. In this, we see that WrongfulDeath is the more skilled troll, as he blends his techniques.

          • Kate says:

            No, Doc. This post, and the commenters in this thread, want to write pro-lifers off as intellectually dishonest (or inconsistent, which isn’t exactly the same thing, but never mind). Scott’s post claims, and his commenters echo the claim, that somehow those dern anti-choicers don’t really care about human life, because if they did, they would advocate less restrictive abortion regulations, because less restrictive abortion regulations would result in fewer late-term abortions. First, I’ve had to travel deep into the links Scott provides looking for evidence that this is so, and I’m still not sure about the empirical claim being made. Second, even if I were to grant that a less restrictive abortion climate would result in fewer late-term abortions, I would not favor less restrictive abortion regulation. And that’s not because I hate women (I am one, after all) or the unborn, but because I think abortion is the immoral taking of a human life. I don’t buy the idea that I should think it’s okay to kill a bunch of earlier term fetuses in order to keep them from being killed later on. The results or consequences of an immoral action do not render that action moral. That was the point of my unanswered hypothetical.

            And it seems to me your definition of trolling is rather convenient. I made Malcalypse look silly. Boo hoo. My hypothetical and my question were relevant to the discussion in this thread. Have I been saracastic and testy with you and with Malcalypse? Yes, but only in the spirit of right back atcha.

            • Malaclypse says:

              I made Malcalypse look silly got called out on asking an absurd question, and will simply declare myself the winner.

            • DocAmazing says:

              Intellectually dishonest: claiming that your opposition to abortion is wholly based in principle, yet failing to support that principle to the point of inconvenience (e.g., jailing women and gynecologists for performing abortion). That goes beyond mere inconsistency and into the realm of willful misdirection.

              Trolling: the persistent repetition of questions already answered (occasionally with minor variations to give the appearance of new ideas or of an answer not previously given) in a manner reminiscent of a four year old repeatedly asking a driver “Are we there yet?”

              Making Malaclypse look silly is really beyond your capabilities.

              By the way, your arguments and Darleen’s, above, sound astoundingly similar. Are you her left sock, or her right?

              • Kate says:

                Don’t know Darleen. But I’ve found that accusations of sock puppetry are fairly common if there is more than one dissenter on certain threads. Let the mods check it out and let us know.

                You misunderstand. I support jailing abortionists and women who get abortions. Just not sure that all women who get abortions should be charged with murder. You know, just like how current criminal law works.

              • DocAmazing says:

                Because it’s murder. Unless it’s not.

                But a rock-solid moral certainty.

            • hv says:

              And that’s not because I hate women (I am one, after all) or the unborn, but because I think abortion is the immoral taking of a human life.

              This is inverted deontology.

              You seem to be saying your motives (desired ends) inform the morality of your means (harming women with later abortions).

              Back when I took philosophy 101, it was the ends didn’t justify the means. Kids these days.

              • Malaclypse says:

                This is inverted deontology.

                Actually, I think Kate is the first-ever actual, legitimate case of “Kantian nihilism.”

            • ema says:

              I would not favor less restrictive abortion regulation….because I think abortion is the immoral taking of a human life.

              First, could you give us some examples of “moral” taking of a human life?

              Second, which of the various medical decisions you and your family might be faced with are you in favor of being regulated based on the morality of perfect strangers?

        • Malaclypse says:

          The problem is that answering either way is going to catch you in an inconsistency.

          No, the problem is that you asked a literally absurd counterfactual question to try and side-step the issue. Wow, I’ve never seen anyone troll a comment thread that way. Bravo on your brave originality.

          Look, I get that you think “I’m not a consequentialist” means you don’t need to care about actual, living females. We just don’t need to share your assumption.

          • Kate says:

            Hey, neat trick, Bartleby. I wish I could have used that “absurd counterfactual” thingie when I had to respond to hypotheticals in my philosophy exams as an undergrad.

            What’s beyond absurd is for people to keep using the “you hate actual living women” argument to silence and/or police the rhetoric of actual women who oppose abortion (and who think it actually hurts women).

            • hv says:

              I wish I could have used that “absurd counterfactual” thingie when I had to respond to hypotheticals in my philosophy exams as an undergrad.

              I bet you could have.

            • Hogan says:

              to silence and/or police the rhetoric of actual women who oppose abortion

              How is that working in practice here? I mean, is there actual silencing and/or policing going on, or is that just an overwrought synonym for “vigorous disagreement”?

  16. Hogan says:

    Oh boy! Metaethics discussion! Let’s try to keep it clean, folks.

  17. Joe says:

    Before Roe v. Wade : Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling, which I wonder if Scott reviewed in the past, is quite interesting in that you read what is basically missing from the dissents in abortion cases: a discussion of Kate’s argument that fetal personhood is itself protected by the Constitution. Those interested can also listen to the oral arguments of Doe v. Bolton, and the state attorney (a woman who also spoke in Furman v. Georgia, the death penalty case) for the same.

    • Joe says:

      Oyez.org for the oral argument.

    • Kate says:

      Hi, Joe,

      Again, thanks for the book recommendation. I wanted to correct your characterization of my argument, however. I don’t know enough about constitutional law to argue that fetal personhood is protected by the constitution; my lay person’s understanding is that fetal personhood has not been interpreted as being protected by the constitution. My claim is that the fetus has a right to life that outweighs the mother’s right to bodily autonomy. I want that right enacted in law.

      • DocAmazing says:

        Fortunately, you don’t get what you want in the US. In Saudi Arabia, however, you’ve gotten your wish.

      • Joe says:

        How things are being interpreted today doesn’t go the way you like, so there will have to be a change there either way.

        But, you spoke of fetal personhood. This along with a ‘right to life’ logically would involve them having constitutional rights. “Persons” have constitutional rights. See, e.g., the 5A.

        Fetal “life” can exist w/o personhood, which is how you now express it, and outweigh the girl/woman’s bodily autonomy. Dogs aren’t legal persons but their lives are protected even when they interfere in some fashion with certain constitutional rights. Third trimester abortions are limited even though fetuses are not treated as constitutional persons.

        I hope others read the book as well. It provides material for both sides.

      • ema says:

        My claim is that the fetus has a right to life that outweighs the mother’s right to bodily autonomy.

        Care to support your claim?

  18. Kate says:

    Thanks, Joe. I’ll look at the book.

  19. [...] there is no excuse for the like of a so-called professor who hangs at Lawyers, Guns, Money and like-minded ilk in the comments. The larger problem, as always, is that responding to the [...]

  20. Fritz says:

    Don Marquis, “Future Like Ours” argument that most abortions are gravely disordered does its work without religion, personhood, or potential personhood. Thumbnail sketch here. The BBC sums up,

    *death is a bad thing because it deprives people of all the experiences, activities, enjoyments, projects that would make up their future personal life

    *a premature death is a bad thing because it causes the loss of future experiences etc.

    *abortion is not the same thing as premature death but abortion deprives the foetus of future experiences in the same way as a premature death deprives a human being of future experiences

    *therefore abortion is a bad thing for the foetus in the same way as premature death is for human beings

    *therefore abortion is as wrong as killing people (causing their premature death)

    Marquis’s whole article, titled “Why Abortion is Immoral” from The Journal of Philosophy, here. The third paragraph on page 183 is important.

    • hv says:

      How much suspense do you think Marquis felt as he was piecing this together!

      Oh, can we assume that Fritz (& Mr. Marquis) favor health care and free food for the poor?

    • dave3544 says:

      Excellent attempt, Fritz, but Kate is already trolling this thread like a motherfucker.

      Catch the next wave, brother.

    • Malaclypse says:

      *abortion is not the same thing as premature death but abortion deprives the foetus of future experiences in the same way as a premature death deprives a human being of future experiences

      Except it doesn’t. A human is aware that s/he will/could have future experiences, and is therefore aware of their (potential) loss, while the fetus is not.

      • Fritz says:

        Malaclypse,

        Your objection is rather neatly dealt with. Marquis ties it up starting on page 195. He calls it the “desire account”.

        One example, a suicidal teen doesn’t desire to live now. We know that they will desire to live in the future. A fetus doesn’t desire to live now, but we know that they will desire to live in the future. Read the whole thing to see Marquis’s full account.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Is that the same Don Marquis who wrote Archy & Mehitabel ?

        • Nullifidian says:

          I know this is late, but I’ve only just come to this thread, and nobody addressed this point:

          One example, a suicidal teen doesn’t desire to live now. We know that they will desire to live in the future.

          We do? That’s an assumption I’d like to see some evidence for.

          And in any case, even establishing that the teen’s reasons for wanting to kill him- or herself are stupid, poorly thought out, and they’ll change their mind next week doesn’t establish that we are obligated to violate the person’s right to seek their own death. If one has a right to life, then one must also have the right to end one’s life, otherwise life is not a right but an oppressive obligation.

          All this argument does is highlight the cloying paternalism that’s at the heart of the anti-choice movement.

  21. Joe says:

    I’m not willing to support a law that makes it easier to kill a fetus .

    even if the abortions will occur anyway but the more repressive laws will basically only have the benefit of burdening woman’s health and result in later term abortions, which more people find immoral, since many draw a line early in pregnancy. There is little practical good there.

    “Abortion is wrong for various reasons. If it is more successful, it still will occur. Abortion itself will continue, and the fact it doesn’t work isn’t the only thing wrong with it. For instance, it still will diminish us and hurt the people aborted.”

    It will occur with or without laws that don’t burden the woman’s health more with troublesome regulations. In fact, in some cases, more regulation makes abortion worse on a moral level, from the sense of the side that opposes abortion on moral grounds. Don’t see again how the torture reference works.

  22. hv says:

    …but the more repressive laws will basically only have the benefit of burdening woman’s health and result in later term abortions…[]…In fact, in some cases, more regulation makes abortion worse on a moral level,

    Don’t forget about adding to the urban crime scene. Prohibition causes shady operators to spring up like mushrooms. Like in, you know, Prohibition.

  23. [...] would say that I’m responding to Darleen Click’s arguments about this post, except that she doesn’t actually have any arguments. Does she propose a different way of [...]

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