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Rana

I also want to clarify, as someone whose argument might be seen as one of those saying "the fetus is a person but who gives a damn," that such a reading would be a misreading of my position.

The personhood of the fetus is not unimportant, and it is not something that morally, or ethically, we should ignore. However. There are many other complicated moral and ethical decisions people have to make in their lives, and yet we do not ask the government to take away people's rights as part of forcing a certain kind of answer on them. We especially do not do this when to do so would set up a hierarchy of rights determined by the accident of one's genetic makeup, a matter in which none of us has a choice.

This is not something government should be involved in, at least if we take human rights seriously.

velvet goldmine

It seems to me that any attempt by mere mortals to figure out the mysteries of personhood is a futile one. But I would not agree with LM that those who don't try have a "who cares?" attitude. That's pants.

Those little fetuses take on the shape and the weight of our own fears and desires, and it's impossible to determine what the fetus' own "reality" is. A prospective mother who miscarries a first-term pregnancy mourns her baby, while a woman who knows she can't become a parent has a fetus removed. Is one of them fooling herself?

The right to choose has been given to the mother precisely because it's an unknowable quandry, and as countless people have said in this thread alone, a "potential" person should not be given more moral heft than an actual one.

Shmoozanne

"Bodily integrity"? That has to be a joke...You can't truely mean to say that comparing 9 months of "carrying a parasite" is equal to being killed? A woman only carries a baby for 9 months, that's not a death sentence.

True, pregnancy can mess up the look of your body, as I can attest 3 times over, but I'm still alive. I still have "bodily integrity"...might not be pretty, but my body still has integrity.

The fetus DOES NOT have a right that a person outside of the womb has. We all have the right to live. I personally believe that if a fetus is going to actually kill the mother, then and only then can the decision be made to forsake one life for another. And I would guess that that scenario rarely occurs, where the mother is actually going to physically DIE if she gives birth to a baby.

So what you have to say that you believe is that a woman shouldn't have to be inconvenienced for 9 months if she doesn't want to be. That inconvenience justifies murder. And again, I wholeheartedly agree that pregnacy is inconvenient. But it doesn't kill you. Maybe it can make your life really difficult, but hey, nobody said life was easy. And "difficult" ain't "dead". Trying to compare a woman having to be pregnant for 9 months, and losing your life, is apples and oranges.

And as for the definition of a parasite, most "true" parasites, after coming out of your body, don't turn out to be the joys of your life...Fetuses are parasites who DO give back to their host, one hundred-fold.

blue girl

velvet goldmine: What does "That's pants" mean? I keep re-reading it cuz I think I'm missing something.

Is it meant to kind of slam a guy, like...."Well, he's a guy...that's pants for ya."

And then when you want to slam a girl...."How skirt is that?"

a-train

Rana - "and the decision about whether to end it or not"

What about people who argue that the decision is made (i.e. an assumption of risk) when deciding to have unprotected sex? Not after getting pregnant.

velvet goldmine

Blue Girl -- It's a slightly nicer way of saying, "that's bullshit."

BS, as you might imagine, is gender-neutral.

Jennifer

"I wholeheartedly agree that pregnacy is inconvenient. But it doesn't kill you."

No matter how great the strides in prenatal care, plenty of women still die due to pregnancy complications and especially in childbirth. I am not saying this to back the pro-choice side, but am merely saying it is still a very complex bodily function where many things can and do go wrong. I think it is a tad flip to say it might be inconvenient, but few die from it.

blue girl

Great! I think I'll start using it. And if I use it on my blog, I'll give you credit, velvet. Because not doing so would be total pants.

Greg

"True, pregnancy can mess up the look of your body, as I can attest 3 times over, but I'm still alive. I still have "bodily integrity"...might not be pretty, but my body still has integrity. "

Pregnancy has also been known to cause nausea, hemorroids, loss of bladder capacity, depression, anemia, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, and in some cases, death. It's definitely a huge imposition, made bearable only by the fact that in the end you get a baby. For most women, that baby is precious enough to make the foregoing difficulty worthwhile, but if you don't want the baby, then carrying it to term is essentially allowing another person to give you a serious and potentially fatal illness for nine months.

"We all have the right to live."

We all have the right to live, but that right doesn't encompass the right to infringe on the autonomy of others. Suppose you have a rare blood type and someone falls ill and needs a blood transfusion or a kidney or liver transplant, and you're the only compatible donor. They'll die unless you give them part of your body. But that doesn't mean that they have a right to your blood or organs. That's the point I was trying to make with the bomb shelter example. A right to life does not entail a right to use other people to sustain yourself against their will.

Shmoozanne

But the guy who needs the blood transfusion is not going to be murdered if I don't give him my blood. Yes, he'll probably die, but if I say "sorry, you can't have my blood", no one walks and starts slicing him up with a knife. He dies a "natural" death, if no one else is found to help him.

I wonder how painful it is to be aborted....Why do doctors give fetuses anethesia when they perform fetal surgery? Hey, why even perform fetal surgery? Why do non-persons get to take up valuable surgeon's time?

Rana

Schmoozanne, you are distorting my words.

Either a person has a right to say what happens to their body or they do not.

If they do have that right, it is their right to say that anything that affects them physically is something they choose not to do: whether it is getting a vaccination or not, giving blood or not, donating an organ or not, having cosmetic surgery or not, refusing medical treatment or not.

This, to me, includes the right to refuse to allow one's body to serve as a life support for another person, no matter how benign the experience might be.

Similarly, either people have a right to use the law to legally coerce other people to make biological sacrifices or they do not. Do we force parents to donate organs to their children? We do not. Do we require people to give blood? We do not. Do we require people to donate their organs after death? We do not. Do we require people to turn over their cadavers for medical research after death? We do not.

We do not do these things because we, as a society, believe that the only person with a legal right to say what happens to that person's body is that person, with a possible exception of minor children. (And even in the case of minor children, that right is protected against activities that cause harm. We can force children to be vaccinated, but we cannot force them to give blood, for example.) (This is also why capital punishment and torture are unacceptable.)

Yet abortion laws grant the fetus something no one else has: the right to demand that another person support him or her. They do this at the expense of another group of persons, women.

This is NOT an issue of a "right to life." If all legal persons had a right to life of the kind you're granting to the fetus, then a person suffering from leukemia would have the right to force a compatible marrow donor to donate marrow. A person injured in a car wreck would have a right to demand blood from compatible bystanders. A child with a kidney disease would have the right to demand a kidney from one of its parents or from a sibling. And the law would enforce those rights, at the expense of the donors' rights.

Either women are full legal persons with the full rights that go along with legal personhood or they are not. If they can be forced to donate of their body for the welfare of another person, then they are not.

And the matter of pregnancy being voluntary and therefore a implicit relinquishment of rights, that is a bit of a dodge. Does a teenager who does not know how fertilization occurs consent to having her rights taken away because she was careless and some sperm found its way inside her? (One does not have to have intercourse to become impregnated.) Does a woman who had her tubes tied and her partner vasectomied consent to give up her rights if the extreme odds against their conception are beaten? Does a woman who has been raped not only have to suffer the trauma of forced assault but also the violation of her civil rights?

For the "consent" argument to be meaningful, we would have to require that every woman who becomes voluntarily pregnant and wishes to cede her civil rights for the duration fill out and sign a contract to that effect.

There is also the very troubling aspect of that argument that posits that women's rights are not inalienable -- that is, they cannot be taken away by law -- even though every other person not at risk of becoming pregnant does possess inalienable rights to bodily integrity.

Again, this is about enshrining into law the notion that women's rights in particular can be legislated away, and human rights in general.

Personally, I would rather have these things be guarantees that the law cannot touch.

a-train

And the matter of pregnancy being voluntary and therefore a implicit relinquishment of rights, that is a bit of a dodge. Does a teenager who does not know how fertilization occurs consent to having her rights taken away because she was careless and some sperm found its way inside her?

Well, we punish careless actors (i.e. negligence torts) based on a "reasonable person" standard. It's certainly not perfect, and sometimes it's unfair, but would you rather that doctors, polluters, big pharma, GE, Ford, etc. got away with injuring people because they were merely careless or ignorant?

Ignorance and carelessness, at least legally speaking, do not usually excuse us from the consequences of our voluntary actions.

Just as arguing against abortion in the case of rape or incest is a tough row to hoe, it seems to me that arguing for abortion as a method of birth control when you've made a "mistake" is problematic (mostly because we don't really know when an individual life begins, but we all (mostly) love babies and at some point "it" becomes a "baby", and we do know that there are ways to avoid that "mistake" before it's even an issue).

Hissy Cat

"we do know that there are ways to avoid that "mistake" before it's even an issue"

That's right. There's always preventitive castration!

AdorableGirlfriend

Great post Lance. Sorry I'm so late on the scene. The Jewish joke is actually 'medical school'. :)

Pick out your coat hangers, we're in for a long ride!

Uncle Merlin

Is it murder? My mother had a miscarriage late. It was devastating for her.This was several years before R vs W.
At the time of the Roe vs Wade debate before it was law she came out with the sensibility of “Does my miscarriage make God a murderer?” Is a natural abortion murder? How does natural abortion differ from a medical abortion?

Since they are driving this debate fundamentalist need to look in the mirror or have the mirror held up close and personal.
They easily bait and switch the argument by carefully overlooking the obvious-- sexual pleasure. You only get to a fetus one way and that is through sex.
No culture in history has ever been successful in imposing regulations on sex. And that’s where it all starts. So the real root toall this is sex, but no one on either side wants to address that.
Born again Christians should never ever be having sex for any reason except as a conscious thought to have a child, then the issue of abortion no longer exists
Do you think they really follow this? Their attempts at abortion control are really only expressions to absolve themselves of any guilt they feel for the responsibility having “wanton sex”. So they simply shift their thinking to the fetus to preserve their sexual freedom. They want it all and by putting it all a conception of god they feel the slate will be clean in the end.

It should be apparent that, that kind of decision is a cultural/tribal one. Meaning it’s a local one. It can never be a national pan tribal decision. Not in a country made up of global counterparts, of which the United States is.
Fundamentalists should be able to live the way they want under the laws of our country but no one tribe should ever impose their cultural thinking on any other. If the others learn and want to adopt then that is what Congress should be used for.

I like Maha’s statement under Chou cho’s dog has puppies: It says it all.
Interfering with life’s attempts to express itself is a serious matter.

Rana

a-train, there's a difference in the examples you give and the example of a woman having her rights taken away because of circumstance. In each of the examples you mention, the negligence is a problem for society because it causes harm to others. In the example we're dealing with here, it is the person who was negligent who suffers the harm. (And before someone jumps in with the comment that the fetus suffers the harm - well, no it doesn't. The act of getting pregnant under abortion laws harms the rights of the woman; the act of a woman getting pregnant does nothing harmful to either the fetus or its rights - indeed, if a woman does not become pregnant, there is no fetus in the first place.)

The other issue is that you are confusing the rights of corporate persons (big pharma, etc.) with human persons. They are not the same.

a-train

Rana, although the analogy is not perfect, I think the underlying principle is the same.

I'm pro-choice, but I was discussing abortion with a Mormon friend and he is one the one who brought up the the notion of sex as a voluntary act, one which most realize can lead to pregnancy.

And since we don't really know where an individual life begins (although everybody agrees, for legal purposes, the most sensible point is some time after conception and clearly before birth) why should we define (or push the boundaries of) this point based on protecting people from the results of their voluntary actions instead of erring on the side of caution for what at some point becomes a human life?

I couldn't give him a good answer, and I'm afraid you haven't given one either.

Abortion is killing liberals. Abortion is the only reason many people who would otherwise be liberal activists vote Republican (i.e. people who care about the downtrodden). And I think reducing the anti-abortion position to being "anti-women" and "anti-sex" is lazy and un-liberal (not that those reasons aren't what motivate some, but my own experience directly contradicts that; that is, the people I know who are against it, are not against for those reasons).

Rana

How about "anti-human rights"? Because it is. Women happen to be the particular vulnerable population here, but this kind of legislation has implications for all of us.

And in a country where rape happens every single hour of every single day, I think the notion that pregnancy is inherently "voluntary" is demonstrably false.

Moreover, choosing to have sex is NOT the same as choosing to become pregnant. It is _risking_ pregnancy, but do we say that a person who drinks is choosing liver damage? Do we say that the driver of a car is choosing to die in an accident? No, we do not. We may think these people foolish for taking risks that we ourselves find unreasonable, but this is -- correctly -- not considered a reason to deprive these people of the right to seek medical treatment to correct the undesired outcome.

If you take the line that having sex = choosing pregnancy, and then go on to justify the compromise of human rights by claiming that pregnancy was "voluntary" well, then, you might as well cut out the middle step and say that having sex means that you are choosing to give up some of your human rights for the privilege.


Still, let's run with that initial premise for a moment, shall we? The idea that since pregnancy is voluntary, it is okay to suspend women's civil rights for the duration?

First, if this is okay, it should be not difficult at all to persuade any woman voluntarily undertaking pregnancy to sign a waiver (similar to those signed by organ donors or those giving up power of attorney) stating that while she is pregnant, she concedes the right to determine what happens to her body to the state. How likely does this seem to you, especially given the likelihood that even in an otherwise normal pregnancy unforeseen events can happen that require timely medical intervention? Can you think of any other risky circumstance in which a person "voluntarily" gives over the right to determine what happens to him or her in the event of an emergency? The only one I can imagine is if you are undergoing surgery and want someone to make decisions for you if something goes wrong and you are incapacitated -- but even in that situation, you retain your rights and the state has no say in the matter.

Second, if "voluntary" pregnancy means that a woman is agreeing to give up her civil rights, it logically follows she should not be allowed to complain if she is locked up to prevent her from drinking alcohol, kept from working because it might damage the fetus, not allowed to drive a car because of the high risk of accident or death, and so on -- right? For the duration of her "voluntary" pregnancy the state gets to decide what happens to her body -- so what's she griping about? She knew that was a risk of having sex, so she must have agreed to these conditions, even if she was raped.

Perhaps these examples seem exaggerated and unrealistic to you. Okay. But that is what these laws in essence _are_ about: providing legal precedent for the state deciding whether or not to grant full human rights to categories of individuals -- or to make them conditional. To pretend otherwise is to fall victim to the "what about the babies?" rhetoric - that this rhetoric is persuasive means we cannot ignore it, but it does not mean that we shouldn't challenge it. (And especially not because it's too difficult or "politically unpopular" to do so.)


In any case, the real issue is not what you, or I, or your friend thinks about people who become pregnant, nor whether, in our opinion, such pregnancies could have been expected.

The issue is whether the government has the right to take away our human rights because of individual choices we make, particularly in arenas in which the outcomes are contingent on luck as much as deliberate choice, simply because some people would like it to.

I would argue that it does not.

This is why that word "inalienable" is in there with regard to human rights: these are rights that cannot -- and should not! -- be taken away at the whim of a government, or a majority of citizens, no matter how much they might wish to.

If you've paid any degree of attention to the amount of work I've put into this thread alone explaining or articulating this position, I think you should be able to see that the idea that this is a "lazy" position is demonstrably false. As for it being "un-liberal" -- what exactly, then, does it mean to BE liberal? Last time I looked, it was about ensuring -- among other things -- that human rights are preserved, no matter how easy it is to look the other way, or how comfortable the status quo may be for the majority. Are women and their rights not to be included in that effort, simply because this position doesn't fit on a bumpersticker? That seems far more "lazy" to me, to want a soundbite-able reason that somehow persuades people to abandon long-held beliefs at the mere sight of it.

Yes, it's hard to persuade people who are preoccupied with the idea that "abortion is murder" to care about these issues. But that doesn't make it okay to give up. It was hard to persuade people that slavery was unjust, or that equal rights for non-whites was a human rights issue. Giving up and looking for "easy" solutions that are palatable to people on first glance is being lazy -- not the other way around.

a-train

Sorry Rana, did not mean to say you were lazy or un-liberal. Rather, my point is that arguing that people who are against abortion simply want to deny women's rights or control women is not correct. Many of them, outside of their views on abortion, would be considered "liberal."

The problem with your analogies about the assumption of risk is that with pregnancy there is a third thing/person (i.e. an "it" that becomes a "baby" at some point while still in the womb). The reason we can argue forever about when "it" becomes a "baby," is, as Lance points out, because we don't know for sure - it based on what we believe.

Basically my friend's point is that if you act knowingly you assume the risk (even if the risk is slight because of precautions). He believes this is equally true for men and women when it comes to sex. The fact that the risk for each is not exactly the same does not change the argument (e.g. a man should not get to decide that a woman should have an abortion because he doesn't want to deal with her pregnancy or be a father).

But the larger point is that the it/baby has no choice (at any point). A woman does. And we have to draw a line somewhere. So why should we draw the line to favor the actor with some degree of choice?

I don't have an answer. But, to me, for example if someone beats a pregnant woman with the intention of killing her fetus (and achieves the result), they should be guilty of murder (not just assault and battery).


Hissy Cat

a-train, all you are doing in your latest post is repeating the same anti-woman hooey you said but getting heavy-handed with the baby-talk in order to switch the attention away from what the conversation is really about: state-enforced pregnancy and loss of civil rights.

You wear your mysogynism on your sleeve, my friend:

"But the larger point is that the it/baby has no choice (at any point). A woman does. And we have to draw a line somewhere. So why should we draw the line to favor the actor with some degree of choice?"

One really couldn't ask for a more stunning example to prove that "people who are against abortion simply want to deny women's rights or control women." Look at what you are saying. You have so little regard for women that value an "it" over the woman. You do not trust women to make the right choices, morally, so you believe you "have to draw a line somewhere" to make those judgements for her. And you believe that pregnancy is what women deserve for having sex, and that a pregnant woman, who's obviously already had her kicks, should have fewer rights that parasite she's incubating.

Oh, and--

"Basically my friend's point is that if you act knowingly you assume the risk (even if the risk is slight because of precautions). He believes this is equally true for men and women when it comes to sex. The fact that the risk for each is not exactly the same does not change the argument (e.g. a man should not get to decide that a woman should have an abortion because he doesn't want to deal with her pregnancy or be a father)."

Is this a joke? The reasoning is really unparalleled: woman can't have abortion because she not want be pregnant = kind of like man can't make woman have abortion because he not want her have baby. How about: woman can't force man to carry a pregnancy to term = man can't force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. How about sex does not equal a waiver to make medical decision for the following nine months for anyone, ever? How about you are so used to treating women as subhuman that you can't even see how dehumanizing it is that care more about the "thing" than you do about the woman? You are so obsessed with this faux-debate when the fetus becomes a baby that you don't see, even as Rana has practically had to bang you over the head with it, that you talk about women as though a woman is an incubators for precious babies, not a full human being who you would deny of her basic human rights by controling her medical, personal and spiritual decisions, by not applying the principle of one's body as inalienable property, and by forcing her into a situation that will place her in danger's way. The risk is not "exactly the same for each"? Boy, did you just win the understatement of the year prize right there.

Wow, I was joking before, but if you really believe your friend's arguments even make sense, let alone have validity to them, let alone are not brimming with contempt for women, then in all seriousness, I'm going to start advocating for castration.

a-train

You wear your mysogynism on your sleeve, my friend:

Sorry, I may be guilty of stupidity or ignorance, but hatred of women, not so much. I still haven't decided about abortion, but I take both sides seriously. You do not. But calling me a misogynist perfectly illustrates my point. It is the equivalent of what right-wingers do to Muslims - attack and dehumanize instead of addressing what are to me legitimate concerns (and the same is often true of the anti-abortion crowd).

Answer me this, if a premature baby is in an incubator, do you believe the mother and doctor should be allowed to kill it if they want to? And at what point to do you call it a baby? 4 months? 3 months? When it has limbs? A heart beat? A spine? Movement? And why? And at which point should they not be allowed to kill it? And when does a father have any say in the matter? And why?

This is the problem, you are denying the fact that at some point it becomes a he or she and we don't agree or know when that is. It will always be a line drawing exercize.

You do not trust women to make the right choices, morally, so you believe you "have to draw a line somewhere" to make those judgements for her.

So should we trust everybody in society to draw the lines for themselves on murder? Rape? Battery? Assault? Or any of the other places we draw lines?

Hissy Cat

a-train, please, please try and think. Please. With your brain. Before you write things like this-

"Answer me this, if a premature baby is in an incubator, do you believe the mother and doctor should be allowed to kill it if they want to? And at what point to do you call it a baby? 4 months? 3 months? When it has limbs? A heart beat? A spine? Movement? And why? And at which point should they not be allowed to kill it? And when does a father have any say in the matter? And why?"

I call it baby, a-train, after it has been born-- meaning it has left the mother's body through the birth canal or cesaerian section-- because that is when it is a baby. No one is talking about killing babies except you. As Rana explained, women seeking abortions merely want to not be pregnant. The goal of an abortion is to terminate the pregnancy and remove the fetus from the woman's body. It is the nature of the fetus that it cannot survive outside of her body. The impregnator has no say whatsoever in a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy unless the woman wishes to include him in her considerations, as in this country no one has a right to make decisions about your body except you, not even a husband (which the impregnator may not be).

I don't understand what you are yammering on about killing infants and raping women and murdering people is about. All of those things are very big NO!s What do you find so confusing?

a-train

Well, Hissy Cat, do you believe that abortion the moment before birth is acceptable?

And if a man beats a woman who is 9 months pregnant to kill her fetus, is he guilty of murder? Does the woman have a claim for wrongful death? Because the sentencing and recovery would be substantially different.

(btw, I am trying to be civil. I would appreciate it if you would try to be as well. It is not a simple issue (or there wouldn't be the dispute))

Hissy Cat

"Well, Hissy Cat, do you believe that abortion the moment before birth is acceptable?"

There's no reason to have an abortion "the moment before birth." It's a non-issue.

Hissy Cat

btw, I assume by "the moment before birth" you mean during the time the woman has started laboring, at or just before crowning.

Kate Marie

a-train makes a basic point that some, it seems, would rather not address:

"So should we trust everybody in society to draw the lines for themselves on murder? Rape? Battery? Assault? Or any of the other places we draw lines?"

-- Those who are absurdly accusing a-train of being misogynistic are ignoring this point. Line-drawing is arbitrary. When Hissy Fit assumes that the bright line between personhood/non-personhood is at birth, she/he is merely imposing his/her own arbitrary line. But, as Lance pointed out in his original post, our society -- quite rightly, in my view -- doesn't leave the drawing of lines (regarding definitions of personhood and murder) to *individuals.* Why should it be left to individuals in this case?

Rana's answer seems to be because it is the pregnant individual whose "human rights" are being infringed or restricted -- and thus that the "personhood" of the fetus is irrelevant. I'm sorry, but no matter how many ways you put it, it sounds like an evasion and an attempt to define the human rights of the fetus as subordinate to your own without explaining why they should be.

If you are the parent, say, of a 22-month old child who is drowning in a lake, you are required by law to try to save that child. You are required, in effect, to place yourself at risk in order to help your child. Is that an infringement of your rights and your freedom? Yes. Is the state, in that instance, deciding what happens to your body? Yes. But we generally limit individual's rights to decide what happens to their bodies when another individual's civil and human rights are involved. [Most states do not have good samaritan laws, which would require *strangers* to intervene on behalf of a drowning child. Note, therefore, that it is precisely the fact of one's relationship with the child that determines whether the state can decide what happens to your body in such a case. What's interesting about your position -- though it's not something I have time to consider the implications of -- is that it puts a pregnant woman in the position of "stranger" to her fetus/unborn child.]

When you argue, therefore, that determining the personhood of the fetus is beside the point when a woman's human rights are involved, I tend -- perhaps unfairly -- to view that position as disingenuous, and a symptom of that disingenuousness, for me, is the somewhat euphemistic way you talk of killing a fetus.

Greg

"Rana's answer seems to be because it is the pregnant individual whose "human rights" are being infringed or restricted -- and thus that the "personhood" of the fetus is irrelevant. I'm sorry, but no matter how many ways you put it, it sounds like an evasion and an attempt to define the human rights of the fetus as subordinate to your own without explaining why they should be. "

The personhood of the fetus is irrelevant because even if the fetus had full personhood it still wouldn't be entitled to use another person's body for its own ends. The two rights that come into conflict are not the woman's right to control her own body and the fetus's right to life. They're the woman's right to her body and the fetus's (and its proxies'). The fetus's right to use a woman's body, even if it is a person, is subordinate to the woman's right to control her body and prevent its co-option by another.

Many argue that it's a question of life or death for the fetus, and that should trump the woman's right. But as has been pointed out numerous times in this thread, we don't grant other people or the state the right to forcibly take organs--even from dead people, who aren't inconvenienced in the slightest--even when life and death are on the line, because of the principle that a person has the right to control his or her own body.

The question then is why so many are so reluctant to grant this same right to pregnant women. One reason is sexism and misogyny. Many people think that women ought to be subordinate to men and therefore should not be allowed control of their own bodies and their sexual and reproductive capacities. This is the motivation behind the bulk of the anti-choice movement's activity, and plainly evident in the fact that they seek not only to restrict abortion, but also contraceptive access, sex education, and vaccines against HPV.

Other people, like Schmoozane above, seem to draw a distinction between abortion and refusing organ donation on the lines that one is killing while the other is merely letting someone die. I don't have an easy answer to this. It is a very thorny philosophical question, to say the least, and ought not to be brushed off. However, I do think it's more relevant to the moral question of abortion than the legal one. After all, if someone tried to enter your house without your consent, you are allowed in many states to kill them to prevent that. Even where that's not allowed, the police can use lethal force where necessary if a person is determined enough to resist them. If you or your proxies are allowed to use lethal force to defend your house against unwanted invasions, why not your body? Why should one's house be more sacred than one's body? You could say that you assumed this responsibility by having sex, but the same case could be made for leaving the door unlocked in the house case.

Kate Marie

Greg,

What do you say to the question I posed about the legal requirement that parents put their bodies/lives on the line to save a drowning child? Why is that not also a question of the adult's right to bodily integrity versus the child's right to bodily integrity?

The pregnant woman -- and the man who has impregnated her --have risked the generation of a human being by their voluntary actions, in order to serve their own ends (leaving rape, which accounts for a vanishingly small number of pregnancies, out of it). Your argument is that it's acceptable to kill that human fetus/being because the fetus's right to life and its personhood has *no* bearing on the question? Why must the rights that oppose one another be symmetrical (woman's bodily integrity versus fetus's bodily integrity)? Is there some reason, based in logic, that the question *must* be set up in exactly that formulation?

The example of the unwanted intruder -- besides providing another fascinating metaphor for the fetus, this time as "invader" -- is instructive, actually. It's precisely because we grant the personhood of the unwanted intruder that there are laws governing when one may or may not shoot/kill him. It's not a matter, in other words, where the intruder's personhood is beside the point. If you want to squash a cockroach in your house, the state is not going to come knocking on your door to investigate the matter. They're going to show up in the case of shooting the unwanted intruder, though, because you just *killed* a person. Whether they judge that act to be justified under the circumstances or not, the personhood of the intruder -- far from being an irrelevance -- is at the very heart of matter.

Greg

"What do you say to the question I posed about the legal requirement that parents put their bodies/lives on the line to save a drowning child? Why is that not also a question of the adult's right to bodily integrity versus the child's right to bodily integrity?"

I've never heard of such a law, and I'd need to see examples of how it is enforced.

"Your argument is that it's acceptable to kill that human fetus/being because the fetus's right to life and its personhood has *no* bearing on the question?"

That's not my argument at all. My argument is that not even a person, a full-grown adult in complete control of his or her faculties has the right to demand the use of another person's body without their consent. When I say that fetal personhood doesn't matter, it's because being a person is not sufficient to claim a right to use another person's body.

"Why must the rights that oppose one another be symmetrical (woman's bodily integrity versus fetus's bodily integrity)? Is there some reason, based in logic, that the question *must* be set up in exactly that formulation? "

They two rights in question--the right to use another person's body, and the right not to be used--are in conflict because one person wants one state of affairs, namely "I'm using your body to shelter and nourish myself", and the other wants the opposite state of affairs "You're not using my body to shelter and nourish yourself". Where rights come into play is in deciding who has a stronger claim: the person who wants to use the other's body or the person who wants to refuse. Given that there is no area in the law or even in common sense morality where a person has the right to use another person's body over their objections, the fetus thus has no claim to use its mother's body.

"They're going to show up in the case of shooting the unwanted intruder, though, because you just *killed* a person."

The point of the home invader example is to demonstrate that there are many circumstances where people are permitted to use lethal force to secure their rights. The home invader example is especially instructive because the right in question is simply the right not have one's property stolen, some that is far less physically and psychologically taxing than pregnancy and childbirth and that has an almost non-existant risk of death.

It is true that killing an intruder is a big deal, but the reason such matters are investigated is that killing a person is usually unacceptable, but will be deemed not wrongful if under certain circumstances, and the investigation is to see if the following are the case: First, that the person killed was violating another person's rights, and second, that there was no way short of killing them to get them to stop violating those rights. If a fetus is inhabiting a uterus without the woman in question's consent it is violating her rights. It is impossible to remove an unviable fetus from the womb without killing it. A viable fetus is a different matter, and that point is reflected in the law; according to Roe vs. Wade, states can regulate the abortions where the fetus is viable, because the fetus's interests and desires are no longer in as strict conflict with the mother's as previously.

"The pregnant woman -- and the man who has impregnated her --have risked the generation of a human being by their voluntary actions, in order to serve their own ends "

You seem to be saying that because the sex act that created the child is voluntary it constitutes a waiver of the right to refuse the use of the uterus to any child that might result from the sex act. Is this the case or am I misreading you? If so, then by that same logic, leaving a window open on a pleasant summer evening so you can get a nice breeze through your home constitutes a waiver of the right to refuse to have your house robbed.

Kate Marie

If a stranger stands and watches a baby drown, they cannot (according to the laws of most states) be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter. If a parent stands and watches his/her baby drown, they can and will be prosecuted for murder/manslaughter. Are you seriously unaware of that?

"If so, then by that same logic, leaving a window open on a pleasant summer evening so you can get a nice breeze through your home constitutes a waiver of the right to refuse to have your house robbed."

-- Well, if the burglar/invader is actually brought into existence by the act of opening your window -- if, that is, robbers/invaders cannot exist except by the act of opening the window -- yes, it gets a bit murkier, rights-wise. I certainly wouldn't open my window in that case. Would you?

In any event, do you see how your choice of analogy is bad politics? The fetus as invader with hostile or malicious intent -- someone you have the right to kill just as you have the right to kill an invader in your home . . . does the fact that the fetus has no choice in the matter, and a burglar does, make any difference to you? What if I knew that opening the window sometimes had no consequence, but sometimes brought a burglar into existence who had *no choice* but to invade my home? At the very least, my decision to take my chances, open the window, and then blow the intruder away when he is *forced* to break down my door is morally very questionable ...

Greg

I've heard of negligence of course, but I'm wondering just how far it goes. It's relatively easy to save a baby or young child from drowning but I can't imagine a parent being prosecuted for negligence if they failed to attempt a rescue that could imperil their own lives.

I know that much of my argument is bad politics, but I wasn't talking about the politics. I think the argument that no one should be forced to let another person use their body without their consent could be a politically potent one.

"Well, if the burglar/invader is actually brought into existence by the act of opening your window -- if, that is, robbers/invaders cannot exist except by the act of opening the window -- yes, it gets a bit murkier, rights-wise. I certainly wouldn't open my window in that case. Would you?"

You're confusing two different issues. There's a difference between what's right to do and what you have a right to do. You can stand on the street corner uttering hateful slurs against every ethnicity darker than you and that's wrong. But it's your right to do it. I could go on and on with examples, but the point is that the morality of the actions you take in exercising your rights are separate from whether those rights exist.

Kate Marie

"... but the point is that the morality of the actions you take in exercising your rights are separate from whether those rights exist."

-- Yes, of course -- though part of *my* point was to suggest the crucial way in which your "right to shoot the invader" analogy is different from abortion. The burglar has a choice about whether to invade your home; the fetus has no choice about whether to "invade" someone's body. The fetus also (arguably, of course) has a right to live. Given that the pregnant woman and the impregnating man are presumably free agents with several different choices regarding when, whether, and how to have sex and the fetus has no choice or agency whatsoever, I think the fetus's right to life (except, perhaps, in the case of rape and in cases where the mother's life is in danger) is greater than the woman's right to do what she wants with her own body.

Greg

So your position is that by having sex voluntarily, a woman waives the right to refuse to allow her body to be used by another? This argument veers dangerously close to the "punish the sluts" formula. I would also point out that many unwanted pregnancies are the result of birth control failure, not necessarily irresponsibility. And a lot of women who get abortions are married, and I'm not about to wag my finger at a married couple for not practicing abstinence.

Also for the thousandth time, the right to life does not imply the right to use someone else's body to support yourself.

Greg

"Yes, of course -- though part of *my* point was to suggest the crucial way in which your "right to shoot the invader" analogy is different from abortion. The burglar has a choice about whether to invade your home; the fetus has no choice about whether to "invade" someone's body"

Yes there is a difference between these two examples, but you don't explain why the difference is relevant. The owner of the house in my example did have and exercise a choice that made burglary more likely, just like the woman having sex. The burglar's free will seems irrelevant, unless you're saying that he gets shot because he deserves to die for trying to steal something (a pretty extreme position).

In any event, it's pretty easy to stipulate away the burglar's free will. Suppose he's a kleptomaniac, or schizophrenic, or a drug addict, or all three, and seeing an opportunity to steal, he'll take it, because he's lost all impulse control. Does that in any way lessen the right of the homeowner or the police to use lethal force in defending the house? If so, why?

Kate Marie

Greg,

You say: "This argument veers dangerously close to the 'punish the sluts' formula."

-- And if I wanted to characterize your argument in as uncharitable a fashion as possible, I could say it veers dangerously close to the "kill the babies" -- or "kill the life unworthy of life" -- formula. I don't generally assume, however, that other people are arguing in bad faith or from unsavory or despicable motives.

The right to control one's own body is not absolute. There are all sorts of instances in which that right may be infringed in order to balance other rights and interests. I consider the right to life to be more important, in this instance, than the right to control one's body.

Again, I find the "invader" metaphor inexact, unless you also want to stipulate that the schizophrenic/kleptomaniac has been created out of thin air by the act of opening the window -- in which case, as long as he's only going to steal my property, I think it's immoral and should be illegal to kill him.

Greg

I don't mean to mischaracterize your argument, I'm just telling you how it comes across to me. Lance did the same thing to me above, and my response was to attempt to clarify the argument I was making and show exactly how his reading was a mischaracterization. I'm open to hear your arguments for why the fact the sex act was voluntary is relevant to why the woman should be violently coerced into letting her body be used by another person. I'm also curious to hear how a right to life implies a right to use another person's body to sustain yourself. Does my right to life imply my right to force my father to relinquish his kidney or part of his liver to me?

"Again, I find the "invader" metaphor inexact, unless you also want to stipulate that the schizophrenic/kleptomaniac has been created out of thin air by the act of opening the window -- in which case, as long as he's only going to steal my property, I think it's immoral and should be illegal to kill him."

I don't see how it makes a difference whether the burglar came to exist because of the open window or whether he merely decided to try and invade because of it, and you don't say how it does. Your example may be a better approximation of the reality of abortion than mine, but it's not very useful as a thought experiment, because it's so outlandish that it's outside any frame of reference I have.

Kate Marie

Greg,

"I'm open to hear your arguments for why the fact the sex act was voluntary is relevant to why the woman should be violently coerced into letting her body be used by another person."

-- What you seem to be proposing is a complete severance of the act which created the fetus from the fact of its existence. During and before the sex act (again, except in the case of rape), the agency, the free choice, the responsibility, lie completely with the woman and man involved. Thus the proximate cause of the situation in which the fetus is "using" another person's (i.e, its mother's) body is a freely chosen act on the part of its parents. I don't see how you can get around the fact that they are responsible (whether their birth control failed or not) for the little "invader." To acknowledge the woman and man's responsibility, far from implying that we should "punish the sluts," is, in my opinion, a more humane way -- even, at the risk of sounding hopelessly old-fashioned, a more dignified way -- of viewing their role in the situation than to suggest they are hapless victims of some alien invader.

If you are going to grant that the fetus is a person, I think you have to grant that the fetus is not an *alien* and that the woman whose body the fetus is "using" is not a stranger but his/her mother, and finally that a mother and father have a responsibility to their offspring that strangers do not. Now, you seem to want to argue that there's a bright dividing line between the claims a child can rightfully make on its parents and the claims it cannot rightfully make. I don't think that line is as bright as you want it to be. In the days before formula, if a woman couldn't afford a wet nurse, she would be "forced" to let her baby use her body for its sustenance and survival. If she refused, she would have been guilty of murder. Parents, as I have already pointed out, are expected and required to undertake physical risks in order to save their children from danger. They are also expected to endure routine infringements of their rights for the sake of their children; in other words, it's all well and good if they *want* to take care of their children, but they also *have* to take care of their children, and having to take care of them entails some measure of coercion (yes, even physical coercion).

[If you want to argue that the fetus is not a person, we're back to the supposedly irrelevant question of the fetus's personhood.]

Moreover, if you want to insist on the right of the mother to kill the "invader," why can't I insist on calling that killing a reckless disregard of human life or "depraved heart" murder? After all, the right of the homeowner to kill the invader is premised on the notion that the homeowner has a reasonable expectation, at the time she pulls the trigger, that her life is in immediate danger. There is no such immediate danger for a pregnant woman (though cases where the mother's life *is* in danger are another thing entirely), and though there certainly are physical risks to pregnancy (even, in rare cases, death), I would argue that those risks are more akin to the risks that we already require parents to take for their children. In other words, the woman essentially lets the invader in, knowing the invader doesn't *intend* to kill her, and knowing at the same time that she does intend to prevent the invader from "using" her house by killing him. That's depraved heart murder, in my opinion.

Greg

"To acknowledge the woman and man's responsibility, far from implying that we should "punish the sluts," is, in my opinion, a more humane way -- even, at the risk of sounding hopelessly old-fashioned, a more dignified way -- of viewing their role in the situation than to suggest they are hapless victims of some alien invader.

If you are going to grant that the fetus is a person, I think you have to grant that the fetus is not an *alien* and that the woman whose body the fetus is "using" is not a stranger but his/her mother, and finally that a mother and father have a responsibility to their offspring that strangers do not"

I agree with this 100%. I just see it as relevant to the question of how should a person discharge their rights, not to whether they have them in the first place.

"After all, the right of the homeowner to kill the invader is premised on the notion that the homeowner has a reasonable expectation, at the time she pulls the trigger, that her life is in immediate danger"

That's not true. There are states where the standard is much lower and you can shoot people for merely trepassing into your house or onto your property. You probably have to give them some kind of warning first or something(I'm not clear on the specifics). In all other places, however, it's the police that are allowed to you lethal force to prevent property crimes. I don't mean that the cops can kill you if they just catch you stealing. But if they tell you to stop and you don't, they can use physical force. If you resist physical force, they can escalate to lethal force.

"Parents, as I have already pointed out, are expected and required to undertake physical risks in order to save their children from danger. They are also expected to endure routine infringements of their rights for the sake of their children; in other words, it's all well and good if they *want* to take care of their children, but they also *have* to take care of their children, and having to take care of them entails some measure of coercion (yes, even physical coercion)."

This is only true if they retain legal guardianship. A parent can sign away those rights if they want to. Neglience laws only hold parents to responsiblities they've agreed to. Another thing, there are even limits here. It's not considered neglience to decline to give up your kidney or part of your liver to your child or even to refuse to breastfeed. That means even if I were to grant the premise that to have sex is to agree to parent any and all children that may result, even if you use birth control, it still wouldn't prove that child have a legally enforceable right to use their parents' bodies.

uberpatriot

It seems to me the “Pro-Life” people fall into two camps: those who use the platform to assert power, and those who are concerned about life. The former are mentally ill and deserve our pity, and should be kept away from sharp objects, microphones, and the halls of government. And I think we need to take a good hard look at what the latter are so concerned about.

The “concerned for life” people tend to fall into roughly four different camps themselves: (1) those who view conception as a sacred event, (2) those who value the “human potential” of the unborn, (3) those who truly feel the abortion issue has some bearing on civil order, and (4) those who hold all life to be sacred. I can’t really argue with the first group because, well, they just won’t be argued with – they believe what they believe and woe unto anyone who challenges their belief. But laws should be based on facts rather than belief, so tough noogies for the first group. Moving on to group 2, the “human potential” argument just doesn’t hold any water. How do you gauge something like that? You can’t. It’s just another belief that can’t be substantiated. So tough noogies to group 2. As for group 3, well, now we’re getting into something a bit more substantial: how does abortion affect society? Once again, the “potential” of the unborn is impossible to determine. But the potential for harm in denying women the right to make decisions for themselves is clear. So tough noogies for group 3. And finally, there are those who value all life. What a pickle they’re in: where does one draw the line? I say the line should be drawn well before it reaches someone else’s uterus.

I think it’s about time we stopped all the hand-wringing and started making sense.

Kate Marie

Uberpatriot, it seems to me the "pro-choice" *and* "pro-life" people fall into two camps: those who ground their positions in morally serious and coherent reasoning and those who like to create facile and specious taxonomies of the "camp" with which they disagree.

a-train

Kate Marie and Greg - a lot of good points (I was afraid to come back to this thread because I thought it was going to degenerate to a flame war). Let me preface my commenst by saying that I believe abortion is so different that it's exceedingly difficult to create persuasive arguments from how we treat other situations. And, I think Roe v. Wade is probably as good a job on the line drawing as I can imagine. But.

My issues with pro-choice (and I am far more sympathetic to the "liberal" positions generally, but these are the aspects I don't get): 1) I don't equate pregnancy with punishment or an usurpation of human rights. 2) And I see pregnancy (for the most part) as a temporary situation, whereas death is permanent.

I need better reasons on these two points to support abortion on demand (btw, please don't hate me Hissy Cat, rather, show me why I'm wrong).

Also, Greg asked why does the fact that sex is a voluntary act matter. Honestly, to me it seems the question should be the other way around: why shouldn't it matter, when in every other instance (legally speaking) it does? In other words, how can it not matter that you acted knowing there is this potential result, however small?

And, it seems to me, that if sex is completely normal and ok, then being pregnant should be ok too. In other words, I believe our attitudes about women and sex, and our social policies re:children and pregnancy are what create the desire for abortion - that is, I don't believe the desire for abortion comes from the desire to control ones body (whatever that means in this instance), but rather from the desire to not be found out, etc. So, in a way, supporting abortion seems like another way of saying that sex is not ok. That is, how many human acts are there where we think the act is great but we don't like the results?

I guess what is ultimately unfair is that women and not men give birth to children (for some this is unfair to women, others feel it is unfair to men!).

Hans

closet organizer

jon

if women or anybody has the right over their own body, then why can't women prostitute themselves, take illegal drugs, consume as much alocahol as they wan't and let someone kill them (assisted suicide). No person has ever had complete control over their own body. That's just ludicrous! Beside's the baby is not the womens body, it lives within it. It is also part of the man's body. The sperm is the man's and he should have a say so. Rape, incest, and so on is not what I'm arguing, but women, or men, have never had complete rule over their body! The blood and kidney's and bone marrow is a weak example. No person is forced to do that, but all forced not to do illegal drugs, alcahol, prostitution, (exception of nevada...)

Morris

As someone in the elder care field: Someone who sees death every day, I vote for the sanctity of life.

rookie

Hogwash. A " fetus " is NOT part of a woman's body!

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