Abortion Chit-Chat

I found myself writing far too much in response to a comment to this post that I thought I might as well make it a post of it’s own. The comment was from ReligionVsAmerica. It’s mostly all concerning that fun topic of abortion. RVA’s comments start in response to my objection to Hillary Clinton’s stance on abortion being that it should be made “safe and rare”. I wrote, “Safe is fine, but rare? Rare sounds like concession, like agreeing to actively limit it. How? And of course, why?”

Concession? As in abortion is a form of birth control that we should feel good about? We need to actively encourage other forms of birth control that do not result in termination of the life of a fetus.

That’s very cheeky to try to equate abortion as merely birth control. I especially like the little “life of a fetus” bit.

Just because there may be legal decisions about when that becomes a human life, does not mean that until that point the fetus is not human or alive. This is a legal distinction, not a moral, medical, or scientific one.

It’s not just a legal issue, but also a medical and scientific decision that has not been made 100% clear yet. Very true. No one doubts whether the fetus is alive, but so is the bacteria in our yogurt now to allegedly ensure we have nice poops, but of course we know that’s not going to ever become human so no one gets upset if you chuck a container of it in the bin like a fetus (well maybe the one who paid for the yogurt would since it’s grossly overpriced). But then potential for being human isn’t a legal statute either, since millions of “potential humans” are disposed of daily via in vitro fertilization but no one gives a shit about that.

Also, to go back to your specific comment, the lack of a decision also does not mean that until that point the fetus is human either. One of the roots of the argument is what is human? At odds is the issue of dualism, whether we are more than physical. Clearly religious people think so and believe we have souls so any rational argument about say ‘at what stage of development does a fetus have a brain formed to the point where it might think or sense pain’ is irrelevant. Likewise, when a rationalist asks for proof of this soul, or when this thing manifests, the resulting answers from the religious are irrational and therefore, to them, irrelevant.

To me, the moral issue of abortion would be when the fetus might start thinking or sensing pain and even then the question of abortion has very real external factors so numerous I couldn’t possibly list them all, but to weigh in on the matter of abortion based solely on what one feels or what one’s religion tells them is so, completely ignoring both laws and, more importantly, scientific evidence, is ridiculous.

One way to actively limit abortion is to make contraception better understood and more acceptable. To recognize that our children are making these decisions and encouraging them to understand the consequences of their actions. To get the religious prohibitionists to stop encouraging abortion by discouraging contraception and acting as if abstinence is a practical alternative to premarital sex. So far, we have not been successful in educating our children.

Once again, you’re focused on abortion as merely birth control and it’s more than that. However, in cases where it is seen as birth control, I agree that sex education and proper birth control availability would certainly curb that. I also agree that abstinence only programs are nonsense and counterproductive.

Look at the example the Catholic priests set – clearly abstinence is a fraud that discourages sensible alternatives and encourages the rape of children the priests are supposed to protect and educate.

How many abortions are the religious abstinence set causing. We need to start making it clear that abortion is brought to us by the religious right.

Well I won’t disagree with your first point. To the second, I don’t think they’re that upset about the rise in teen pregnancy. Heck, it’s all god’s will, right? If your daughter is knocked up, it must have been meant to be! Sure the result is more abortions, but that’s reality, and they’re not about that so much. There are three fantasies at play here:
1) Abstinence programs will stop kids from having sex
2) If it doesn’t and they get knocked up, it’s god’s will and meant to be
3) Those knocked up kids will put their babies up for adoption, where a good christian family who might not be able to have their own kids will adopt them (see “god’s will and meant to be” above)
The reality that these kids will just go get abortions instead of putting their babies up for adoption isn’t part of the fantasy. Still, to ensure this triple-play fantasy (and it has to be valid, because, you know, when things come in threes…), it’s important to eliminate abortion as an option.

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43 Responses to “Abortion Chit-Chat”

  1. Philly,

    Maybe I’m being dense, but I don’t see that the majority of abortions are more than birth control. Or at least a moot issue in the presence of birth control.

    Admittedly there are other reasons that abortion may become an issue e.g. rape, medical emergency, time travel to 1946 and talking to Barbara Bush ;) ,but for the most part I think it is a fair assessment that abortions are used as birth control. (as apposed to pregnancy control- which I suppose is a more accurate name)

  2. obviously I meant Opposed not Apposed- oops

  3. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. Do they have questionnaires at the clinic? You know, like “are you aborting today because…?”
    a) birth control
    b) rape
    c) incest
    d) godless liberal agenda
    e) other
    If other, please explain __________________________

    Otherwise, how would one quantify that the majority of abortions are or aren’t more than birth control? Speculation, perhaps? More importantly, does it matter? The point of my objection was in framing it as merely birth control because then that opens doors for potentially challenging abortion, some rational and some irrational.

    The only serious objection to any reason for abortion is the “personhood” thing ultimately, and that’s really where the arguments are. You take religion out of it, and what’s the controversy? Well you’re left with a rational examination of when do we consider this thing a human. There can be debate, but I doubt it would be as passionate as it is now.

  4. Granted, I don’t have numbers to support my assertion, but I believe it is certainly reasonable to assume that there are more cases of women seeking abortion for an unexpected/unwanted pregnancy than there cases of rape/incest that lead to pregnancy and result in women seeking abortions.

    In any case, I think that I disagree with your assumption that: with religion removed there would be less passionate debate over this issue. For me, as you know, religion doesn’t enter into it in the slightest- but I can appreciate the moral aspect nonetheless.

    Moreover, I believe this issue is one of many that will become more prominent in our lifetime. Euthanasia, genetic manipulation, cloning,and artificial insemination related issues etc. all hinge upon the same moral debate. We are beset on all sides by some slippery slopes.

    I admit that the religious element inserts it self into the debate with more VOLUME perhaps, but the moral issue at hand, I believe, will still ignite passionate debate.

    After all, the solutions we come up with will define us as a species.

  5. What exactly is the moral aspect(s) of it precisely without religion?

  6. [shakes his head in amazement]

    What? Do you believe that there is no moral issue involved without religion? I will assume you ask this in the Socratic way, and for reasons of debate.

    Removing religion doesn’t remove the central issue: what value do we place on human life and do some human lives have inherently more value to us, duality notwithstanding.

    We can argue when exactly an embryo gets “imbued” with the qualities that we will arbitrarily consider “life”.

    Actually to me, once religion is removed from the debate, the issue becomes paradoxically more complicated. It is tougher to argue a side either way without the “certainty” that religion provides, however false.

  7. It is tougher to argue a side either way without the “certainty” that religion provides, however false

    Well shit, that’s true of everything, and it’s precisely that last point that’s the most important.

    Before we can debate value of human life or comparable value of human life, we have to establish a clear definition of human life. That point where fetus becomes truly human isn’t clear, so those other issues in regards to abortion are, imo, meaningless until that point becomes clear and/or a rational consensus opinion is reached.

  8. That point where fetus becomes truly human isn’t clear, so those other issues in regards to abortion are, imo, meaningless until that point becomes clear and/or a rational consensus opinion is reached.

    Did you mean to say truly “alive”?

    Surely it is human, would you consider it another species? ;)

    I agree that this debate focuses around some critical definitions; but I think you are going to have a tough time stating that a fetus is:

    a)not human
    b) not alive- at least science’s criteria for life is satisfied.

    The real debate starts after there is agreement to these points. In my opinion, trying to deny it is either alive or “truly human” may be an attempt to appease some moral pangs one may have and rationalize a position.

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume that indeed a fetus is both alive and possessing all the qualities that we consider human.

    Does your position change?

    It becomes tougher, perhaps, to admit to ourselves, that while it is alive and human, we may still feel a woman should have the right to terminate her pregnancy.

    I think this is where the crux of the matter lies.

  9. No, I meant human. Perhaps “a human” is better? Look, I have a pimple on my ass that’s growing. It’s human too. Should it have rights? Should its rights supercede mine?

    There’s a point where a fetus goes from human to being “a human”. That point needs to be determined before the real debates have any substance. The religious are trying to infuse false substance into the issue, and that’s been a problem.

    Your final question is entirely too simplistic, but I do agree it is not a clear yes or no answer, although I’m more inclined to actual over potential. From what I understand, any kind of brain functionality doesn’t occur until after the point in pregnancy when standard abortion is no longer permitted by law currently.

  10. No, I meant human. Perhaps “a human” is better? Look, I have a pimple on my ass that’s growing. It’s human too. Should it have rights? Should its rights supercede mine?

    Although your example is absurd, of course, you do hit on what I feel the heart of the matter is :”Should its rights supercede mine?”

    The religious are trying to infuse false substance into the issue, and that’s been a problem.

    True, the religious sprinkle their particular silly spice into the debate but I believe the debate is complicated enough even when religion is taken out of the equation.

    Your final question is entirely too simplistic, but I do agree it is not a clear yes or no answer

    You baffle me with this!

    Why is my question simplistic? And, if so, shouldn’t it have a simple answer: i.e. yes or no.

    Again, I think that this is indeed the central issue, and it is not “simplistic” at all.

    For the record, I am not in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade at all. I just think it is important to look at the debate from a different perspective.

  11. First, where did this “alive” issue come from? Of course it’s alive. We’re talking about living cells here. The sperm is alive, the egg is alive, and when they get together and cell replication begins, those cells are alive. This is all living material we’re talking about, just like the pimple on my ass.

    Your question is too simplistic because the assumption it’s based on is too far reaching to make an adequate answer possible. Here’s an example: Let’s assume peace in the middle east can never be achieved as long as Israel exists. Does that change your position on Israel?

  12. I didn’t realize I had left the gas on and the candles burning when I went away.

    I meant human as in homo sapiens, not as in intelligent creature with ability to communicate.

    When does a child begin to feel pain. I believe Dr. Spock used to tell us that infants do not feel pain, so pain management is pointless in children. Their increased respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure were all coincidental and not signs of stress secondary to pain.

    When it comes to trusting doctors to tell me when something is experiencing pain, I am lacking in trust.

    We are looking at secondary indicators of pain. We do not know what the pain response of a fetus is. One indicator of brain funtion is the Babinski reflex. An infant will move its foot one way, while older children and adults will move their foot the opposite way. Unless there is some brain damage.

    How do we know that the fetal pain response does not also paradoxically change with development?

    With sugnificant blood loss, almost everyone has an increase in heart rate, similar to what happens with pain. With abdominal injuries the opposite effect occurs much more frequently – about a third of them either maintaqin a normal heart rate or experience a slowing of the heart rate.

    We can look at chemicals in the brain and in the blood to see if they indicate stress. Still, we are only looking for things that would indicate stress in more developed humans. We do not know what the experience of the fetus is.

    So, as much as we look for signs of pain, we are only making educated guesses at what those signs are, because we do not have a good way of learning what the experience of the fetus is. Maybe it is blissful ignorance. We suggest that we know this is, but it is only a way for us to create a narrative of the fetal experience that makes us feel good. We are guessing as to when a fetus feels pain or any type of discomfort.

    We can look at brain development and activity to try to determine this. If there is no activity, it is unlikely that there is any discomfort. Is the fetus experiencing discomfort through some other mechanism? If we look at an ant burning, what is the ants experience? We do not know. We may anthropomorphize to what we think we would feel.

    I agree that, once you take the easy absolutism of religion out of the picture, things become more complex – not less. Religion usually kills serious thought on the moral questions, since all you have to do is memorize the test answer. If it isn’t going to be on the test, why do you need to know it. If religion does not provide your answers for you, you have to come to your own conclusions.

    Morality is far more important and difficult to the atheist than to someone who has the answers all spelled out in “the word of God.”

  13. The question of peace in the middle east not being able to exist as long as Israel exists again suggests a certainty of information that we do not have.

    But, to wander into the mine field, what is meant by peace? What alternatives to the “existence” of Israel are there? There are other questions raised by this, but they do not lead to easy answers either, since we adapt our answers and try to make things work, then re-evaluate.

    The overly simple answer of “destroy Israel to have peace,” is not the obvious answer. It is just a simple answer. What I am saying (and I think Vince is saying the same thing) is that there is no simple answer. There is no timer to pop up and indicate that the turkey is done – although you may feel this way about this conversation.

    Our laws are written to please the most vocal people with some appearance of political, or judicial, support. That may coincide with what science tells us, but I believe that the other factors make that more likely to be a coincidence thanas a result of the current scientific consensus.

  14. I don’t know how they might ever verify pain in a fetus, but it’s a safe bet that no pain is being felt until there’s a brain and suitable wiring formed, and from what I recall that doesn’t occurs until 5-6 months, so I see little for debate.

    I think the Israel thing got you sidetracked, but your sidetracking sort of proved my point, which was it, like Vince’s question, is too simple to give a yes or no answer to.

  15. Ah, the pro-forced-maternity crowd seems to be at work here.

    First of all, what’s the difference if abortion is birth control? If one doesn’t accept the nonsense that there’s a “soul,” a fetus in the early stages is merely a speck of living tissue. It’s no more “human” than any other unwanted living tissue that comes from a person: like a wart, or extraneous hair, or snot — or cancer cells. I don’t think there’s a “moral dimension” about removing any of those, nor do I think removal of those cells should necessarily be “rare.”

    The problem the godpushers — among whom are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — have with abortion in the first trimester and much of the second has nothing to do with the embryo feeling pain or the humanity of the fetus. It’s all about a soul.

    Anti-abortion laws are essentially an enthronement of the soul. If one doesn’t accept the existence of a soul — and why should we? — what other argument can be made against abortion before the fetus’s brain has developed?

    So the religionists once again push their views on the rest of society. And we atheists are supposed to blindly accept that there’s a moral dimension, that a woman is supposed to feel guilt for aborting a fetus, when she’s not expected to feel guilt for blowing her nose, or having her hair styled, or getting a mole removed, or undergoing chemo-therapy.

    Of course, the other ugly part of anti-abortion politics — another alleged “moral dimension,” although it’s not talked about openly — is the penalizing of women for being sexual creatures. It’s an attempt by the oppressive religious factions in our society to control the sex act. If you have sex and get pregnant: tough shit. You deserved it, bitch, because you didn’t follow some bronze-age concept of morality!

    How “pro-life” is that? Where’s the admirable “moral dimension” in that attitude?

    I can’t resist adding a digressive sidenote about this comment: Our laws are written to please the most vocal people with some appearance of political, or judicial, support.
    Actually, that’s not true — not in principle, anyway. Our laws, at least those stemming from the Bill of Rights, are written to protect the minority from the dangerous whimsies of the vocal majority.

  16. First off,
    Philly, here is supporting data for my assertion that most abortions are done because of unwanted/unplanned pregnancies:
    Demographics of Abortion -apparently there was a survey ;)

    1.-I am certainly not a member of the pro-forced-maternity crowd, nor a religionist thank you very much.

    2.- My personal beliefs on abortion are that it should be legal. As a soon-to-be physician, I would like to see the numbers of abortions dramatically decrease, my reasons for this are not morality based, they are medically based. So yes there IS a difference whether abortion is used as birth control or not. Unless, I suppose you consider wanting to prevent hundreds of thousands of women from the risk of potentially serious side effects as ‘moral’.

    3.- Your comparison of a fetus to a booger or a mole is just specious. Biology obviously isn’t your strong suit.

    4.- I agree that the debate has been hijacked by religion and as an atheist I do not believe in a soul, but a fetus is most certainly alive and human.

    My point was to change the focus of the debate from hiding behind “definitions” like alive/not alive and human/not yet human, to a moralistic one that examines the primacy of rights involved (mother/fetus/society).

    I’m sorry you missed that.

  17. Your comparison of a fetus to a booger or a mole is just specious. Biology obviously isn’t your strong suit.
    Well, I guess speaking plain English isn’t your strong suit, because you fail to say why my comparison is specious. But don’t answer as a biologist, because there’s no biological argument going on in this thread — although you might like to characterize it as such. It isn’t. And I’ll explain why.

    My extreme examples were merely to demonstrate that there are many instances of human cellular matter that society doesn’t think about in a “moralistic” way. Once you throw the word “moralistic” — your word — into the abortion-debate mix, you’ve granted a huge home-field advantage to the anti-abortion folk. I don’t see why the issue, at least in the earliest stages of pregnancy, is a moralistic one whatsoever. There’s not a shred of biological data that answers the question: “When does a collection of human cells become a human?”
    That’s a semantic and philosophical question, not a biological one.

    If you eat an egg for breakfast, do you refer to it as a chicken? I suspect that you probably don’t. The egg is an incipient chicken, something that has the potentiality of becoming a chicken. But it’s not a chicken.

    That’s why I compared the fetus to other “human” living matter. Why should those of us who don’t put any credence in the concept of a soul be forced to impose a higher value on that particular collection of cells? Because of its potentiality? Are we going to go back to the old religious argument about the sperm and the egg? Those cells, too, each have the potentiality to create a human. I’m not willing — on semantic and philosophical grounds — to call a sperm a homunculus or a fetus a “human.”

    When biology is ready to designate the fetus “a human,” based on an unambiguous definition of what a human is, then I may reevaluate my argument. For the time being, dismissing the “soul” concept as nonsense, I’m not willing to erase the distinction between an incipient entity and the entity, itself. A pile of wood is not a chair. An egg is not a chicken. And a fetus is not a human.

  18. there’s no biological argument going on in this thread

    Tremendous, abortion isn’t a biological issue, HA![I am rushing for a refund of my medical school tuition]

    If you will indulge my inner biologist for just a moment I will explain why your comparison is specious.

    You compared a fetus to boogers or a mole. The difference between these and a fetus is: while they may be alive (booger material for the most part is made up of protein, dust, debris, and dead cells) a mole does not posses the qualities of a human being. It is simply 1 tiny group of cells lacking differentiation and having none of the structures recognizable as an entire human being.

    A fetus DOES posses the following qualities:

    1.-is most certainly alive
    2.-is a unique product of genetic recombination containing a mosaic of genetic material from both father and mother
    3.-by the 8th week all internal structures are present, has the beginnings of the sensation of touch, has a heart that has been beating for at least 4 weeks.
    4.-most decidedly is human in species by genetic makeup and by structure content

    To be sure we both understand what a fetus is: the end of the 8th gestational week up until birth your little “booger” is considered a fetus.

    If you choose to bury your head in the sand to these facts and still cry “it’s a semantical issue” or some sort of unanswerable philosophical conundrum then for you the debate is simple, easy, and over.
    No human, no foul as it were.(I know another group of people who operate under this type of certainty, those funny people with the crosses around their necks)

    For the record the eggs I buy at the grocery store do not have the potentiality to become a chicken or anything else- save maybe, an omlette. :)

    As far as my use of the term moralistic I am completely shocked at your statement that this somehow gives “home-field advantage” to the anti-abortion folk.

    Do you not agree that morality is completely separate from religion?

    How is morality and its discussion an advantage to anti-abortion folk (I assume you mean religious)?

    Atheists, as I hope you are well aware, are perfectly capable of being moral and, despite what the religious crowd bandies about, morality is, at the very least, a “neutral ground”.

    You take exception to my characterization of this as a moral issue “at least in the early stages of pregnancy”.

    Please tell me when exactly does your moral alarm clock go off?

    At what point does the zygote,embryo,fetus,baby get “magically imbued” with humanity?

    Is it at parturition? what about premature babies that take the vaginal trip a bit early?
    If you are not sure then how can you be sure the aborted cells are indeed “not a human”?

    My point is that these questions do nothing but conceal the root issue, the primacy of rights. Hiding behind a philosophical claim about the timing of “human being genesis” is just missing the point and making for a conveniently easy answer to a complicated question.

  19. The only argument you’ve made so far here Vince that I can respect is wanting to curb the frequency of abortion because of the health risk to the woman, amplified by multiple procedures. That’s honorable and well meaning yet in no way something for you or I to do anything about. Sadly, if someone wants to undergo a medical procedure that has potential side effects, from abortion to cosmetic surgery, that’s their right. Likewise, if people want to eat themselves into diabetes and heart disease, drink themselves out of a liver or smoke themselves into cancer, that’s also their right and not our place to stop them. Oh we can warn and advise, but not actively try to curb or stop.

    Now I’m willing to go down this rabbit hole of biology with you Vince, especially concerning your 4 qualities of a fetus.
    1. Yes it’s living tissue like the pimple on my ass
    2. This fact is no different than the ‘embryos’ in petri dishes that are destroyed by the thousands regularly at in vitro clinics across the country
    3. Touch sounds dubious, and even a “potential doctor” must realize that wiring for touch is meaningless without a brain that can receive and then process the signals from those touch receptors. Furthermore, the presence of a heart beating signifies what exactly? Sounds like sappy sentimentalism. You do realize doc that the heart is an organ and has no special quality like a soul or conscience, don’t you?
    4. This sounds like a rewording of #2.

    First, you have to be morally consistent. I assume you’re actively seeking to curb or flat out eliminate in vitro fertilization. If you’re not, then I’d love to hear how you make the magical distinction between getting your panties in a bunch over the little humans in wombs and not over the little humans in petri dishes. It’s becoming clear that you reject any notion of there being a point where a fetus transitions, or as you said, gets “magically imbued” to being a human. If that’s the case, then the only logical alternative would be that you consider it a human from the get go. Is this correct? If so, we’re back to the in vitro issue.

    Look, no one here is going to doubt that morality is independent of religion or that an atheist can’t be moral, but atheists value well reasoned arguments arrived at rationally and I’m not seeing this in your arguments Vince. Oh I see rationalizing, as in attempts to reason arguments to defend irrationally reached premises, but serious objectively reach conclusions? No. Much like a fetus Vince, you’ve got plenty of heart but your arguments aren’t indicative of serious brain activity so I feel morally justified in giving them the ol’ coat hanger. ;)

  20. That’s honorable and well meaning yet in no way something for you or I to do anything about.

    I couldn’t disagree more. There are some things we can do. To start, let’s throw out the abstinence-only programs being funded by taxpayers that does shit-all to curtail teen (read unwanted/unplanned) pregnancies. Since this is the most popular reason (see previous report link) to get an abortion, it is logical to assume that education about proper birth control usage would go toward reducing the number of abortions.

    I never said I advocate actively trying to curb or stop abortions.

    As to my 4 characteristics of a fetus, I used them to try to illustrate that a fetus certainly seems to posses all the qualities of a human being. You can disagree. But you can’t make that argument with authority.

    I am morally consistent. I never mentioned anything about IVF, but no I neither seek to curb nor eliminate it just as I don’t seek to eliminate abortions. (just decrease the incidence through education for previously stated reasons)

    My panties are not in a bunch at all! Why is it you and EX both fail to see the argument I am making here. As I have stated several times. I think that hiding behind the “well that clump of cells isn’t really a human being” to justify your position may not be the best way to approach the issue.

    What happens in these debates is that both sides argue vehemently over the very issues you seem hung up on i.e. whether it is a human life or not.

    My suggestion is perhaps by moving the debate in another direction past all the indefensible never-gonna-prove-your-point-to-the-other-side-and-vice-versa arguments, and actually engage this issue head on.

    Let’s concede/assume, whichever word you prefer, that a fetus is indeed a human life. This eliminates the messy “if not now then when does a fetus become a human being” quagmire.

    See, isn’t that better already?

    OK now the debate becomes about the primacy of rights as I mentioned before mother’s versus fetus’ versus society. Now the debate can be discussed without any: “yes it is”, “no it’s not”, “yes it is” back and forth verbal masturbation.

    This is the question I posed to you that you deemed “simplistic”. It is anything but; to anyone who thinks about it!

    I am not proposing the overturning of Roe v. Wade or the government doing anything about actively curtailing the availability of abortion for those who seek them. I am neither a religious person nor do I have some crusade complex to save the ‘widdle feti’. I simply was trying to engage you in viewing the debate from a different perspective and seeing how the ol’ moral paradigm held up.

    Obviously, you were not up to the task. You call my brain functioning into question? You are the one who refused to disengage yours from the safe position of the certainty that a fetus isn’t human; and cowered away from the big scary realm of intellectual discourse.

    Hanger-on if you must.

    I’ll leave it here.

  21. I never said I advocate actively trying to curb or stop abortions.
    As a soon-to-be physician, I would like to see the numbers of abortions dramatically decrease, my reasons for this are not morality based, they are medically based. So yes there IS a difference whether abortion is used as birth control or not. Unless, I suppose you consider wanting to prevent hundreds of thousands of women from the risk of potentially serious side effects as ‘moral’.

    Uh huh

    I am morally consistent. I never mentioned anything about IVF, but no I neither seek to curb nor eliminate it just as I don’t seek to eliminate abortions. (just decrease the incidence through education for previously stated reasons)

    Hey, knock yourself out preaching the evils of abortion, but at least admit that’s actively trying to curb abortions. Oh ok, you’re not for legislation to curb or stop, but you are actively trying to curb their frequencies.

    Now yes, you didn’t bring up IVF. Had you, or at least had it in your thoughts before presenting your strategy, you’d see the logical end of it and the ramifications of it on IVF. IF we go with your strategy, then thousands of humans are being killed in IVF clinics. Whatever rights get established for fetuses from your end-around strategy (and that’s what it is, and to call it a “head on” approach is laughable) dodging the “when is it a human?” debate would have to carry over to them, as well as impact stem cell research far more severely than Bush’s ridiculous objection to funding it. Ironically, the only way to not have the fetus rights not get applied to IVF and stem cells would be to make a distinction, essentially landing you right back at the argument your whole strategy is built to avoid. So your end-around is possibly not even going to be a succeed as an end-around, let alone a successful strategy outright. That’s flaw #1.

    Flaw #2 is conceding human rights to the fetus. If you can’t see how that’s greasing the way to fully eliminating abortion, I suggest you sit somewhere quietly and think further on the issue. That swings the door wide open for eliminating abortion, since the rationale for setting a term limit for abortion now is on “viability”, which is, in all intents and purposes, a form of establishing that point where the fetus is “magically imbued” with being a human and not “a clump of cells”. The precedent is already set in favor of the unborn where the unborn’s humanity is established; therefore, by moving that line to the beginning of pregnancy, your strategy effectively kills abortion outright.

    Whether or not you are “up to the task” of facing this issue “head on”, sideways, upside down or in any direction that is intelligently well thought out and objectively considerate of ALL factors and subsequent ramifications, I don’t know, but if this end-around strategy of yours is your best shot and you see it as solid, then I’d say you’re not.

  22. Wow, Philly I officially submit.

    Yes, I think it prudent that the number of elective abortions decrease (this horse is dead!) if you want to call it actively trying to curb them…OK fine- you win! Do you believe they are a good thing? I don’t for reasons stated ad nauseum. Do you not want to spare women from abortion procedures when birth control (more acurately pregnancy control) would avoid so many? Such the humanitarian thou art!

    For the last time, I was not trying to suggest a strategy, nor was I drawing up a blueprint for the eradication of all abortions. I never wanted a Congressional decree stating that all fetuses are human beings. I just see that you place all your chips on the “not a human” position and I disagreed. I merely approached the argument from a different view- and wanted to debate on a level that transcends the very sticky question- Especially since I don’t think it is a simple one to overcome.

    I was hoping for an exercise in rhetoric, but how many posts did it take to get you to finally see my fairly straightforward point?

    I am not trying to solve the world’s problems; I just happen to think there is more to the debate than the black and white that you have reduced it to.

    You say:
    The fetus isn’t a person and deserves no rights, period. Where’s the moral issue? For you, the debate is over before it begins.

    Take comfort in your iron clad position. Please forgive my arrogance in trying to look at the issue on a non-Phillychief approved plane.

  23. ‘”When does a collection of human cells become a human?” ‘

    As someone with a degree in biology I used to believe that ‘it’ occurred when 2 haploids fused to become a diploid, but after reading the remarks from ‘Chief’ and ‘EX’ I have reevaluated my position. Perhaps the transformation happens well after (60 yrs or so) fertilization —– and in some cases that clump of cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems NEVER become human !!

  24. Vince:
    Do you not agree that morality is completely separate from religion?
    Of course I agree with that. On the other hand, your bald assertion that the abortion issue is a “moral” one doesn’t necessarily make it so. I don’t believe that abortion has a moral dimension, just as I don’t believe that dozens of other medical procedures have moral dimensions.

    So if, for a moment, you’d drop your self-worship because of your career choice: You never really answered my semantic question. When does human tissue become a human? Or better, let’s use “a person” instead of “a human,” since you seem to have difficulty distinguishing between “human” as an adjective and “human” as a noun.

    When does that embryonic human become a person?

    No matter how you slice that, vince, it’s a semantic and philosophic question, not a medical one. There are some questions for which you won’t yet find answers in the sciences. To run to biology and give that semantic question a crypto-scientific veneer is a cop-out.

    Now, you may be convinced by our current state of biological knowledge that, say, a two-week-old fetus is a person. I’m not. There’s no scientific scale by which “personhood” can be measured. I’d suggest that viability is a reasonable criterion, but even then, we’d all have to agree on a single definition: What does “viability” mean?

    As soon as you grant “personhood” to that embryo, you’ve injected “morality” into the abortion question. But, by the way, it’s always negative morality on the part of the abortionist, because no one disputes that killing a person is immoral, even when the killing is justified.

    However, I don’t see how the fetus in the early stages is a person, so I don’t see that there’s any moral issue whatsoever. And I refuse to grant that there is, because “moral” in this instance is a codeword to rally the godpushers. Those of us who don’t believe in a soul don’t necessarily see abortion as a moral issue.

    By the way, just to go on record: I don’t think a corpse is a person either.

    Why is it you and EX both fail to see the argument I am making here.
    Simple answer: You haven’t made an effective argument.

  25. Oh boo hoo, Vince.

    1. You got your exercise in rhetoric, in spades.

    2. A debate is an exercise in rhetoric, so why would you say you weren’t looking for a debate?

    3. How can you say you weren’t offering a strategy when you said:
    “OK now the debate becomes about the primacy of rights as I mentioned before mother’s versus fetus’ versus society. Now the debate can be discussed without any: “yes it is”, “no it’s not”, “yes it is” back and forth verbal masturbation.”
    That’s a strategy (BING!) for establishing a new battleground for a debate (BING! see #2)

    4. I know your intent wasn’t to draw up a blueprint to eradicate abortion, but that’s precisely the result of your fetal humanity concession. I hope you can see that now, and if so, that’s a great result of us debating (BING!) the issue. If not, you eventually do once you’ve calmed down and start looking at this rationally. In any event, you can console your conscience in that you didn’t intend for your idea to eradicate abortion.

    5. There’s no debate once you’ve “transcended the very sticky question”. Your transcendence kills the debate since the precedent of primacy of rights has been already established

    Your strategy, idea, whatever is flawed. Your objections to being told this are equally flawed. Your subsequent emotionally charged snipes after having this pointed out to you, imo, are also flawed examples of “an exercise in rhetoric”. My suggestion is to focus on the doctorin’ and maybe not concern yourself with the lawyerin’ and philosophizin’ until you’re either better versed in them or honestly open to exploring those subjects WHEREVER they may lead, even to places you don’t like.

  26. Ex,
    You really are a 1-trick pony aren’t you?

    Can you discuss nothing other that “godpushers”? There is more to life than atheism.

    Please point to the words I used in self-worship? Will there be name calling next? Just wondering.

    You are the one engaging in a cop-out. You cling like a religious zealot to the position that a fetus is not a person. This makes your position fairly simple. I am happy for you. Black and white mentality is easy.

    I however think the issue is more complex and does have moral underpinnings, but what do I know? We will have to disagree.

    I simply wanted to engage the debate from a different position and introduce the possibility that, the issue still warrants discussion beyond the point of the “human being issue”.

    And to your last comment: There is a difference between understanding what my argument was (which you clearly did NOT) and being convinced by the effectiveness of it.

    Clearly this point, too escapes you.

    I give up.

  27. You really are a 1-trick pony aren’t you?
    There’s no trick. I’m merely wondering why you’re burying a simple issue under a pile of complexities that you, yourself, imposed.

    Is a fetus a person? If it’s not, then abortion is not a moral issue. That’s pretty simple. You can muck up the question with extraneous ideas all you want to, you can pile on dozens of Jesuitical technicalities and Talmudic digressions, but those are only dodges you’re using to avoid taking a philosophical stand on the core question.

    Sometimes, making an issue more complicated than it needs to be is a coward’s way to avoid committing himself. Then, the avoider resorts to that old sham: “This is not a black-and-white issue.” Well, we humans — those of us who have actually been born — are faced with decisions every single day. To retreat constantly into grayness means never accomplishing anything.

    Ultimately, though, if you want to live in this world, there are some questions for which you have to come down eventually on the side of black or on the side of white. Whether or not to throw doctors in jail for performing a routine medical procedure safely and successfully does not require a gray answer. Whether or not to allow a woman the right to control her own body during the early stages of pregnancy does not require a gray answer. Whether or not to doom a 13-year-old “indiscreet” girl to a lifetime of punishment does not require a gray answer.

    So: Do you, Vince, believe that a 2-week-old fetus is a person, and, as such, entitled to governmental protection? Yes or no?

  28. For me the issue is a tough one to sift through. As we already have established, there is an inherent problem with when the fetus is considered a person. You yourself said there is no clear widely agreed upon definition. With this I agree.

    At the end of the day, as I stated from the beginning, I do not feel it is within the right of the government to impose this decision on anyone. I have committed to this early on in our discussion. I support a woman’s right to elect for abortion.

    This is the easy part. Weighing all the issues like safety and looking at abortion rates in countries where it is illegal, I suppose you could arrive at this position from a pragmatic outlook.

    Where I see the moral issue, is because it is extremely difficult to determine exactly at what point it is OK and when it is not. Since we cannot say for certain given our current knowledge, I can not simply buy into the ‘it is not a human being’ argument.

    My arguments were never meant to be the determination that as soon as a sperm meets an egg it is a de facto human being, I merely wanted to demonstrate that making that determination right now would be arbitrary at best, and certainly not be very authoritative.

    On the surface this may appear as waffling to you but, I think it warrants exploration.This is where I see sahdes of gray. When you tell me that a fetus is simply not a human being- I have to be very suspicious of that argument since it begs the question, “then when is it?”

    Since I do live in the actual and not hypothetical world I do feel society is best served by allowing a woman the right to determine the fate of her fetus. Hold a gun to my head and I probably have to side on the not a person at 2 weeks gestation. But this doesn’t get us any closer to a definition.

    I disagree with Philly that admitting the fetus is a human being would necessarily end the debate and eradicate abortions however.

    This is the area I wanted to arrive at all along. My question to you is if we accept that a fetus is a human being, why would that necessarily take abortion off the table?

    Our laws certainly do not apply an absolutist morality to all the issues. Sometimes it is (at least in the legal sense) justifiable, warranted, or even mandated that we do this very thing(terminate a human being’s life). This is the primacy of rights debate I was trying to raise!

    27 vitriol-filled, snark-laden, and invective-dripping comments (I am including myself here too) and we finally get to where I wanted to explore. [sigh]

    This was the only question I wanted to examine from thee beginning.

  29. I don’t see how much simpler I can make it as to why any “fetal humanity” concession (hereafter referred to as FHC) = end of abortion.

    • The cutoff for abortion now is at “viability”, which is the currently accepted point where fetus becomes legally a human
    • FHC effectively moves the cutoff to conception
    • FHC = no abortion

    Ultimately, your attempt to avoid a messy quagmire makes things worse.

  30. Philly, I understand your point, and you very well may be correct.

    But I wonder then what happens when either some clever researcher develops more sensitive techniques and somehow demonstrates previously undetected brain activity indicative higher brain function, or, more likely, technology advances such that viability is actualized at even earlier gestational ages. Does the legislature revisit the issue and scale-back rights given to women now?

    It seems to me we’d be back at square 1. Just a thought.

  31. This is the area I wanted to arrive at all along. My question to you is if we accept that a fetus is a human being, why would that necessarily take abortion off the table?

    If we accept that a fetus is a person, which I think is a less ambiguous question than whether or not it’s a human being, then abortion must be illegal except as “self-defense.” Why? Because most people would agree that the killing of a person should be a societal taboo, except in rare instances of blatant self-defense. The only “self-defence” argument one could make to justify abortion, then, would be if the health of the mother was threatened. Aborting a fetus resulting from rape or incest would be off the table, since self-defense would not enter into that question. And, of course, any voluntary abortion for non-health reasons, at any time during the pregnancy, would be verboten.

    I’m not willing to make those concessions. I don’t think you are, either. By imposing a “moral dimension” to the question of whether or not a fetus is a person, you automatically aid the anti-abortion theocrats. And I remind you yet again that their “moral” stance is based on their concept of the soul, not medical data.

    Now, the issue of whether or not to ban late-term abortions can, indeed, require us to think about medical data. The old legal standard, in use for centuries throughout Europe, was the “quickening” of the embryo. We might make that more sophisticated and talk of “viability,” a definition to which medical science can add useful information. But ultimately, no matter what biology decides about the viability of a fetus once it is actually born — that is, removed from the mother’s body — the question still comes down to: When does that embryonic human residing inside its mother’s womb become a person?

    As simplistic as it may sound to you, I’m loath to grant that unborn fetus personhood.

  32. No brain = nothing to detect. Sensitive techniques don’t matter if there’s nothing there.

    Where I see a potential problem is if the womb is taken out of the equation. Let’s say some clever Japanese invent a robot womb. Now what? And if you’re Asimo 3000 with robotic womb malfunctions and kills the fetus, is it a criminal or civil court issue? Does that change once the fetus becomes viable? What if you destroy the Asimo 3000 when it’s carrying? What if you didn’t know it was carrying? You could have a field day with this shit. :)

  33. Weeeeee! {sliding down the slippery slope……………..}

  34. I have taken the position that abortions should be rare. Decreasing abortions by increasing access to contraception is sensible. The idea that an abortion is an acceptable form of contraception, rather than an admission of failure of contraception is not one that I would support.

    Planned Parenthood is in the contraception business. It appears that they are actively trying to limit the number of abortions through the same type of prevention I encourage.

    About the reason for laws, Exterminator stated “Actually, that’s not true — not in principle, anyway. Our laws, at least those stemming from the Bill of Rights, are written to protect the minority from the dangerous whimsies of the vocal majority.”

    Our laws do not stem from the Bill of Rights. Our laws are written by the legislature. If someone affected by a law brings a case that the law violates the Constitution, then the Supreme Court MAY decide to examine that case. If they do examine the constitutionality of the law in question, they will consider if it is in violation of any part of the Constitution, not just the Bill of Rights. The legislature is in the business of appeasing the majority of voters, not of writing good laws. The Constitution anticipated this and created factions with different goals, not one harmonious unopposed body.

  35. rva
    Our laws do not stem from the Bill of Rights.

    I do agree that legislatures, both state and federal, are frequently in the business of appeasing voters, not championing the Constitution. However, there are some congresspersons who actually do believe in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and who will vote against public sentiment.

    So some of our laws do stem from the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, as you point out, some of our laws fly in the face of it. Most of our laws do relate to it in one way or another, although perhaps only indirectly. Every law — by definition — infringes on someone’s liberty or expands on it by removing previous laws that infringed on it. One could make the argument that our best laws support the Bill of Rights.

    Most states now accept the “fact” that the basic freedoms guaranted to U.S. citizens are also guaranteed to citizens of the individual states. My idea of good laws are those passed by state legislatures in an effort to shore up or expand upon that state’s own reading of the Constitution. In many cases, these good laws reinforce and restate some rights already guaranteed by the first ten amendments.

    Criminal laws almost always have to factor in the Bill of Rights as interpreted by state legislatures. That’s why the right to counsel, habeas corpus, and trial by jury are universals in the United States. It’s why Miranda is the law of the land.

    Some of the other good laws are: those banning religious propagandizing in public schools, those banning other uses of taxpayers’ monies toward establishing religion, those reinforcing freedom of religion (or non-religion) for all, those widening the freedoms of speech and the press, those increasing citizens’ access to “secret” governmental information, those granting full recognition to civil unions, and, to get back to the topic at hand, those supporting a person’s right to his or her own body.

    But to undeflect this thread from its irrelevant discussion of the Bill of Rights, can you answer these questions:
    Let’s posit a first-trimester procedure for the time being. Why do you, personally, think those abortions should be rare? Is there something special about a fertilized egg that deserves protection from the government? Are you willing to put legislators — clearly flawed, as you pointed out — in the birth business?

  36. Abortion is not a healthy method of contraception. We should be encouraging women to make rational choices about when to become pregnant. Acting as if an abortion is no different from wearing a condom, or taking birth control medicine, or using an IUD, or using a diaphragm, …, is not good for women.

    I am not making a paternalistic judgment. Sensible women, and here I am making a judgment, make these preparations regularly. They realize that a short term pregnancy, followed by an abortion, is not the way they might wish to spend their time. They are aware of the medical risks of pregnancy and abortion. The risks may be small, but compared to contraception, they are significant.

    Education is an excellent form of encouraging, not forcing, women to recognize the risks and make intelligent decisions about them. There is too much effort at discouraging women from taking responsibility for their actions. Men are spoiled, they do not have as much at stake when having sexual relations. Women shoulder a much more significant burden. Not providing women with the information and tools to help them make the best informed decisions they can is irresponsible.

    Some may choose to use abortion as a method of contraception. It is not something I agree with, but not something I would regulate.

    If you were to survey women who have had abortions and ask them if they would have preferred contraception to abortion, I expect that they would overwhelmingly choose contraception. On the other hand, I do not know of any studies looking at this.

    This is not even considering the psychological issues that may affect some women. Even if you view this as no different from a tooth extraction, I suspect that most people would choose prevention over waiting for it to become a more involved procedure.

    I was not suggesting that the legislature makes good laws – just the opposite. I do not trust the pandering populists who legislate “for us.”

  37. I’m probably way super late with this comment, but I just wanted to point out:

    Abortion rates are the lowest they have been since 1976.

    Teen pregnancy has significantly dropped.

    The majority of women who obtain abortions are between the ages of 25-35.

    And also, “Women not taking responsibility for their actions” reeks of “babies as punishment for whores”. So you might want to choose different words there.

  38. “And also, ‘Women not taking responsibility for their actions’ reeks of ‘babies as punishment for whores’. So you might want to choose different words there.”

    It is interesting the way you capitalize the word women as if it had been the beginning of the sentence. Out of a paragraph, you are taking a sentence fragment, making it appear to be a full sentence, thus changing the meaning in order to suggest that I might want to choose different words.

    Sorry if the out of context partial sentence misrepresentation of my meaning is not PC enough for you.

    If I had intended to write “babies as punishment for whores,” I would have.

  39. Maybe Darwin should have been aborted. Don't assume all (whoever they are ) even Christians are all Pro-life.

  40. Maybe he should have been. Evolution is a discovery, not an invention, so it would have been revealed eventually, and He did have a contemporary who was on the verge of making the discovery when he published. I think his name was Wallace.

    Oh, and the overwhelming majority of those opposed to abortion in the US are Christian, so spare me the dangers of assuming.


    1. Not only does the loving god of the Christians KILL hundreds of thousands to millions of humans, the Christian Bible instructs it’s believers to KILL and KILL some more, AND their god KILLS pregnant women.

    2. NOTHING in the Bible is specifically states “Abortion Is Wrong”.

    3. In fact, the Bible STATES there is NO life until AFTER the FIRST BREATH IS TAKEN!

    As the first breath can NOT be take until AFTER birth, then according TO THE BIBLE, there is NOT way in which Abortions can KILL Babies and/or Fetus

    SO Christians have NO reason to be against Abortions. (Other than being stupid)

    4. Evolution is a FACT!

    5. Humans are ONE life form out of many Billions of life forms.

    6. Humans KILL MANY other life forms so we can live. (Mammals, Animals, Birds Reptiles, Fish, Plants, Trees, Crops etc. etc.)

    7, Humans KILL other life forms just because they are a pain in the ass.

    8. Humans have NO more intrinsically “Right to Life” than any other life form has and yet we kill them left and right,

    9. Might does NOT make Right!

    10. The ONLY thing humans have which NO other life form has is our ability to grasp from small, to large objects with dexterity. This, and this alone allows we humans TO RULE.

    11. NO ONE can give me even ONE Non-Emotional and Non-Religious reason there should NOT be Abortions ON DEMAND! (Because there ain’t none!)

    12. NO ONE can give me even ONE RATIONAL, LOGICAL & INTELLIGENT Reason there should NOT be Abortions ON DEMAND!

    (Again, because there ARE NONE!)

    (SO Atheists have NO reason to be against Abortions. Other than being stupid.)




    And all Anti-Abortion Loony Tunes can Kiss my old wrinkled PRO-Abortion – - –

    Neil C. Reinhardt

  42. DAMN, Neilie make a boo boo. this should have been
    included BEFORE #11.

    NO ONE can give me even ONE Non-Emotional and Non-Religious reason why Humans have MORE right to live than does ANY other life form. (Because there ain’t none!)

    NO ONE can give me even ONE RATIONAL, LOGICAL & INTELLIGENT Reason why Humans have MORE right to live than does ANY other life form.

  43. You are just an asshole, plain and simple.

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