How We Can Really Prevent Fetal Pain

The religious conservatives are once again being dishonest in their quest to control others’ reproductive organs in Texas. In the 60s, the religious conservatives argued that the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds would help with juvenile delinquency (by blatantly violating the highest law in the land). In the Texas Legislature, they are working to close down Planned Parenthood clinics because they provide abortions. They don’t seem to care that Planned Parenthood actually prevents more abortions than the Christian God, the Bible, Prayer, rosaries, holy water, or Christian bullying in the name of “love”, combined, has ever prevented.

Their specious argument this time is that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain and so the discomfort of a fetus outweighs the burden and risk of a mother to bear, raise, and educate it. The attitude is: screw that bitch (again)—she deserves all the pain and suffering she gets. The purveyors of this bullshit are the same folks who will gladly sell you on how awesome it was that Jesus suffered on the cross just for you—for the bargain price of 10% of your lifetime earnings.

We all know their god can’t make new tithers. To keep the fraud fueled, Christians must orchestrate their creation through co-opting magic bigger than their God (a woman’s uterus) by leveraging power bigger than their God (the machinery of the state). Can anyone think of anything that isn’t more powerful than the Christian god?

So let’s take these manipulators at their word. Let’s do everything we can to reduce the pain suffered by children. First, if they are born, they should never feel the pain of hunger, lack of health care, or suffer from lack of proper education. If the mother can’t bear the responsibility, the state clearly then should. And let’s be clear: this is an enormous expense. But we can cover it by taxing churches. They have an endless supply of money and they can always ask for more. In God We Trust. They can just pray and God will provide. Of course if that doesn’t work, they are a demonstrated fraud and their property can be put to productive use.

But why stop with the pain of the living? What about all those fetuses actually aborted? What about eggs that didn’t implant? What about miscarriages? According to the Christian doctrine of original sin, God tortures all of them for all eternity. They are human and are therefore doomed to eternal torment for being related to the mythical Adam, yet unable to repent to Jesus and become another mindless follower.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that infinite torture is worse than the discomfort of an anesthetized fetus. So then, why exactly are we aiding and abetting organizations that support torture with our tax dollars? Why do we think either torture (or even a fantasy about torture) is worthy of public support? They clearly are not.

“But wait,” I can hear some Christians saying, “God sends those little buggers to heaven.” Well, if that’s the case, that what exactly is wrong with abortion? It seems to be a free pass to perpetual orgasm land, much like Andrea Yates provided to her five children. If the “goal” of Christianity is to get as many souls to heaven as possible, shouldn’t we be having children for the purpose of dispatching them to eternal glory?

So either God is a miserable ogre for torturing babies or killing children is theologically desirable. Which is it Christians? Remember that the Catholic Church declared limbo a theological hypothesis in a rare moment of honesty. Either the dead innocent go to heaven or hell. Either way, Christianity is evil. Present this to you minister and watch him go into spin mode. Maybe you can get a little entertainment for your money.

There is a third option, however. The obvious conclusion is that Christianity is a fraud. It is undeserving or respect or public support.

So why then, are we letting the purveyors of fraud dictate the reproductive choices of women for whom they take no responsibility? I don’t know.

Comments

  1. Lord Narf says

    Heh, wow. If your show topics contained that kind of force, they would be a lot more exciting. Well said.

    I bet you’re one of the types who slip into a more professorial tone and demeanor, when you’re actually speaking on a topic, but you can let yourself become more expressive in print, huh? I love your show topics too, Don, but it’s interesting to see what seems like another side of you, here in print … err, pixels, I mean.

    Or am I just reading in tone that isn’t actually there?

  2. L.Long says

    No one with an oz of brains is letting them do this, the theocratic congress and our theocratic supreme court and our spineless theocratic prez is letting the theocratic state governments do this. And the theocratic bigot voters out number us by a large margin. And the cowards at the IRS will not enforce the rules and take the churches to court and take their money, just another bunch of theocrats.
    And unfortunately there are a number of secularists (with & without uterus’s) that vote against abortion.
    Me I don’t have a uterus so I will not say do or don’t but will support any woman her right to choose her option.
    Well non-theocrats are growing in number and many women are waking up to religion kicking the shit out of them, our voting base may become big enough to turn the tidal wave of theocracy.

      • L.Long says

        Thanks for trying to be helpful but what word? If you mean theocracy it means ‘a gov’ment ruled by bigots who think gawd is boss’ according to the dictionary anyway, although I may have paraphrased a bit.

        • Lord Narf says

          I was just about to say the same thing. It’s not at all clear which word. When you say something like that, you should quote the bit you’re referring to.

  3. mike says

    Strong article, Don, I love it, and I can hear your laugh in my head at the end of some sentences!

    Speaking of words, you opened with “specious”, a word thats new to me but its awesome, thanks for expanding my vocabulary!

  4. kestra says

    Another crap-cherry on the shit-sundae that is religious hypocrisy in this country, most of those self-same “Think of the little babies you are murdering! They feel pain too!” forced-birth liars for Jesus are also very firmly of the “spare the rod, spoil the child” school of thought. They also have a very proprietary attitude towards their children, up to and including when, where, and what those children chose to touch with their genitals. The same assholes who happily segregate their children into homeschooling communities and teach rigid gender roles and heap on all kinds of emotional abuse. Yeah, they really are all about preventing children’s pain, right up until the little sinners are born. Then it’s open season!

    • Lord Narf says

      Fundie logic:

      Scraping a cluster of cells which might turn into a human being off the side of a woman’s womb is murder.
      Prosecuting faith-healing parents for the second negligent homicide of one of their thinking, breathing children is a violation of their religious liberty.

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    So either God is a miserable ogre for torturing babies or killing children is theologically desirable.

    I agree. Well said Don! As far as I can tell, there is no coherent argument against quick, painless murder of anyone under humanist values if we accept the factual proposition that they will go to heaven. As far as I can tell, only divine command theory can come “to the rescue” of the religious here.

  6. Wayne says

    I think it is very hypocritical of these people to be so up in arms about a fetus feeling pain when as soon as a boy is born they rush headlong with a knife and circumcise it with no concern for the kid’s feelings.
    Rick Perry doesn’t care one bit about people. He just wants to rule them like a god.

  7. says

    The actual numbers are more like 26-28 weeks for physical pain, and 16 weeks for physical discomfort or an “unpleasant conscious experience, even if not pain.” A vast majority of abortions (greater than 98.5%) take place before the fetus is capable of experiencing pain. 94.2% of abortions take place before the fetus is even capable of having an unpleasant conscious experience. I documented this in a paper called “Introducing Reason to the Abortion Debate,” found here: http://www.volconvo.com/forums/society-rights/37925-introducing-reason-abortion-debate.html

    Of course, if the fetus is anesthetized, it really doesn’t matter when the abortion takes place. If not, I would object to it after 26 weeks (maybe 24 to be on the safe side). If you would object to having surgery performed on you without anesthesia, you should object to it for every other conscious being who can suffer.

    • Monocle Smile says

      I like using the EEG brain wave as the (conservative) standard for clinical life, mostly because that’s the standard we use for clinical death. Yay consistency.

      This wave doesn’t appear until like 24-26 weeks, so 24 is a nice like to draw. Like you said, the overwhelming majority of abortions take place before this and 60% or so even take place inside of 9 weeks. The pro-life crowd likes to act like every abortion involves a skewering of a half-born fetus, but facts have never mattered to them.

  8. RealityCzech says

    To me the religious right involving themselves in the abortion topic is meaningless in the first place. I believe all the meaningful questions on the issue are moral, ethical, philisophical, or all three. Since there is no factual indication that the bible is a good source of ethics, morals, or philisophical truisms, citing it as possibly being anti- abortion is meaningless.
    __
    I’ve considered abortion from an ethical and moral position many times and am currently undecided on a personal framework adderssing all the related factors. Here’s how far I’ve gotten on the issue:
    __
    Killing someone against their will is more often than not wrong.
    Virtually every example of killing without permission I accept as justification involves some demonstration that the individual’s presence causes unacceptable suffering.
    I am generally less convinced by explanations of unintentional introduction of suffering (i.e. innocent mistakes causing suffering) as justification to kill.
    __
    So far this gets me to: “Don’t kill innocents without their permission”. To continue…
    __
    A fetus may or may not be carried to term and become a sentient moral agent.
    Assuming a fetus is carried to term, at some line of demarcation the zygote must transition into status as a sentient moral agent.
    As a fetus who has not yet made any moral decisions (yet), it qualifies (to me) as innocent the moment it becomes sentient. Prior to sentience, it is not “innocent” in any sense just as a rock is not innocent.
    __
    Now I’m at: “A Zygote is not a human being, and an infant is. The infant is innocent, having had no opportunity to act as a moral agent.”
    __
    I don’t know where the line should be drawn between nonsentience and sentience.EEG activity seems like a convienent metric, but not quite enough for me to assert that’s where “the line” actually is.
    I don’t know if the impending sentience of a zygote, fetus, or unborn baby is suffiencent cause to grant it moral status as a “future person”. If it is, I don’t at what developmental stage this possible future status should be considered statistically valid or how much moral weight it should carry.
    __
    What this leads me to believe is the following: A zygote is not a human being, but an infant is. All infants were once zygotes, but not all zygotes become infants, even in the absence of abortions. Aborting a zygote does not kill a human being, but instead prevents one from developing, assuming the zygote would have been carried to term barring intervention.
    Additionally, since an individual zygote’s “fate” can’t be predicted (i.e. it either will or will not be born without intervention), only probabilistically estimated, it’s unclear whether an abortion amounts to a change in outcome at all. If the zygote would have become a fetus, and eventually an infant, the abortion changes this outcome, but if not the outcome is the same.
    If an abortion does in fact change the outcome (in each individual case it will often only be clear in retrospect, if at all), the moral weight of this change is difficult to measure.
    __
    If an infant grows up, its existence will either cause more suffering than happiness or not. A child born to a rape victim, single mother who is financially unable to support the child, etc. are examples of potentially unacceptable outcomes. In addition, the infant may wind up doing something spectacularly good or bad with their life, further weighting the value of their life on way or the other. The factors deciding all this are almost too numerous to enumerate, and taking all of them into account to predict the outcome is pracitcally impossible.
    __
    Since I don’t know when a zygote or fetus becomes a “human being”, the probability of a particular pregnancy resulting in a birth, the outcome of that birth, or whether that outcome constitutes an unacceptable outcome I feel unqualified at present to decide if and when an abortion is ethical. I think satisfactorily answering one or all of these for myself would affect my stance, but for now my answer is “I don’t know”.
    __
    As I’m currently unwilling to commit to a firm stance on exactly when and if abortion is ethical, and as such I believe it should be legal. Absent reasons to restrict rights, I believe the default should be to allow those rights. Any law removing an option in people’s lives (which most laws do) should be backed by strong evidence that the law is necessary for a harmonius existence. If the evidence proving a law should exist is lacking, it should be tabled until the evidence is forthcoming.

    • says

      Thank you for your interesting thoughts on the blog. Just a few ideas based on what you have expressed…

      >Killing someone against their will is more often than not wrong.
      >Virtually every example of killing without permission I accept as justification involves some demonstration that the individual’s presence causes unacceptable suffering.

      It is also the case that using someone else’s body without their permission, and against their will, is “more often than not wrong.” We don’t even, for example, allow serial killers in custody to be raped by the state or other prisoners. And a woman who has had sex has not committed any crime or done anything that should amount to loss of more rights than those of a person convicted of serial murder.

      >So far this gets me to: “Don’t kill innocents without their permission”. To continue…

      But I hope we can agree that someone using another person’s body against their will hardly qualifies as “innocent”? Even if the person is unaware of what they’re doing, or can’t help it, their actions are a violation of someone else’s body and will. So, while their agency may not be to will harm or violation to someone else—that does not give them a pass to do so.

      >Assuming a fetus is carried to term, at some line of demarcation the zygote must transition into status as a sentient moral agent.
      >As a fetus who has not yet made any moral decisions (yet), it qualifies (to me) as innocent the moment it becomes sentient.

      And to me, it’s violating another person’s body and will, the moment it exists and inhabits that other person’s body without consent. I may feel for the position the unborn is in—but that does not give it any right to put the mother’s health at risk, and violate/assault her body without her consent. It’s innocent in the same way a person who has severe mental disorders could be “not held accountable” for raping a woman—if he truly lacks the capacity to understand his actions. He may not have intended to violate and harm her, but he did, nonetheless. And his state of ignorance does not grant him a right to do what he has done. We may sympathize. We may say that he should be considered less a threat than a person who has full understanding of their actions, but neither party may use the woman’s body without her consent and be protected as “innocent”—in the way you seem to be moving. We would not say “he doesn’t understand the infraction, therefore he may rape as much as he likes.”

      >A zygote is not a human being, but an infant is. All infants were once zygotes, but not all zygotes become infants, even in the absence of abortions. Aborting a zygote does not kill a human being

      And aborting a pregnancy does not “kill a human being.” Many women abort pregnancies because of problems that arise in the pregnancy, but both the baby and the mother end up surviving and OK, and the mother goes home very happy, with her new baby. In situations where the unborn can survive without the mother’s body, I believe an argument can be made that the procedure should not unnecessarily put the life of the unborn at risk. But I can’t see how the ability to autonomously exist should be considered the right to use another person’s body without consent. If anything, it should be grounds to allow a termination of the pregnancy. If the unborn cannot survive without the mother’s body, then I see that as unfortunate for the unborn, but it is no argument to allow a violation of someone else’s body against their will and without their consent. She does not have to risk/endure a gestation to help another human survive. None of us are required to put our own health and life at risk for that reason—and she has not committed any crime that should strip her of basic rights.

      >Since I don’t know when a zygote or fetus becomes a “human being”, the probability of a particular pregnancy resulting in a birth, the outcome of that birth, or whether that outcome constitutes an unacceptable outcome I feel unqualified at present to decide if and when an abortion is ethical. I think satisfactorily answering one or all of these for myself would affect my stance, but for now my answer is “I don’t know”.

      Which is the pro-choice position. Basically “each case has its own parameters, and since the cost and risk belongs to the woman who is being violated—as to whether or not she is willing to accept the risk to her health and life—and the cost is not mine to bear, I feel she has to make this decision to endure this or not for the sake of this unborn.” Anti-choice says “I decide for everyone else that they must endure the pregnancy and pay the cost. Saving the life is paramount, and very few other factors matter to me—it’s just black-and-white.”

      >As I’m currently unwilling to commit to a firm stance on exactly when and if abortion is ethical, and as such I believe it should be legal. Absent reasons to restrict rights, I believe the default should be to allow those rights. Any law removing an option in people’s lives (which most laws do) should be backed by strong evidence that the law is necessary for a harmonius existence. If the evidence proving a law should exist is lacking, it should be tabled until the evidence is forthcoming.

      I agree. Without some pretty compelling argument, I cannot see a reason to support restrictions on the rights and freedoms of women in this situation.

      • RealityCzech says

        Thank you for your carefully thought out reply. I agree with more or less everything you said. Let me take a moment to clear up a few minor misunderstandings which I believe are basically my fault for failing to be more clear.
        __
        >It is also the case that using someone else’s body without their permission, and against their will, is “more often than not wrong.” We don’t even, for example, allow serial killers in custody to be raped by the state or other prisoners. And a woman who has had sex has not committed any crime or done anything that should amount to loss of more rights than those of a person convicted of serial murder.
        __
        I completely agree no one should be forced to consent to their body being used against their will in any way. I might be able to come up with some hypothetical situation where it would be preferable to the alternative, but in any situation where someone was forced to decide to allow any body to be used without permission could be excused of deciding against it almost no matter what the cost. For example, if allowing a serial killer to be raped could save three lives, it might be moral to allow it. On the other hand, I’m not sure I could decry someone for being unable to coldly stand by during this rape in some display of “perfect moral game theory”. Suffice it to say barring some really wild hyperbole, any use of a person’s body without permission is intolerable.
        Your quotation marks around my “more often than not wrong” statement suggest you disapprove; if you do I’m totally fine with you preferring that I simply say “wrong”, but I really don’t like speaking in moral absolutes, even on relatively simple things like murder. I’m a 19 year Army veteran and while I’m not happy about the deaths I’ve caused, I’ve had to examine their morality and have concluded that while all murder is distasteful, some is morally defensible. If I misunderstood the motivation for your quoting me there, by all means ignore my reply if you wish or let me know what you were driving at.
        __
        >But I hope we can agree that someone using another person’s body against their will hardly qualifies as “innocent”? Even if the person is unaware of what they’re doing, or can’t help it, their actions are a violation of someone else’s body and will. So, while their agency may not be to will harm or violation to someone else—that does not give them a pass to do so.
        __
        Intentionally violating another’s rights is of course wrong; I’d use the term “innocent” interchangeably with “unknowing” in most cases where determining moral agency is necessary. Please understand I’m discussing agency here, and “innocently” violating someone’s rights doesn’t obviate the violation, but in my view it does to some degree re-characterize the morality of the violation. (i.e. manslaughter vs. 1st degree murder). I’m not claiming lack of understanding makes a violation right, I’m simply pointing out that the moral status of the individual committing the violation is different than if they knowingly and with premeditation violated another’s rights. Unknowingly doing anything removes much of your status as a moral agent regardless of the outcome of your actions.
        This is a minor point, but I wanted to make sure it was clear that my answer is “yes, I agree, provided we can agree that unknowingly violating someone’s rights is in one sense innocent (with regard to moral agency, not legal responsibility).
        __
        >And to me, it’s violating another person’s body and will, the moment it exists and inhabits that other person’s body without consent. I may feel for the position the unborn is in—but that does not give it any right to put the mother’s health at risk, and violate/assault her body without her consent. It’s innocent in the same way a person who has severe mental disorders could be “not held accountable” for raping a woman—if he truly lacks the capacity to understand his actions. He may not have intended to violate and harm her, but he did, nonetheless. And his state of ignorance does not grant him a right to do what he has done. We may sympathize. We may say that he should be considered less a threat than a person who has full understanding of their actions, but neither party may use the woman’s body without her consent and be protected as “innocent”—in the way you seem to be moving. We would not say “he doesn’t understand the infraction, therefore he may rape as much as he likes.”
        __
        Again, I’m not defending an unintentional violation, simply characterizing it as “innocent of intent”. I agree, even Crazy McLoonyBin, the Village Rapist has no legal defense for his actions. I just view his status as a moral agent differently. It does not grant him the right to violate other people.
        I’ll admit it never even occurred to me to view the zygote/fetus/unborn baby as violating the mother by using her body against her will. I take your point and will consider this. I’d hate to think being a man blinded me to this possibility, but whatever did I sure didn’t think of that. Thank you sincerely for pointing out this additional point.
        __
        >And aborting a pregnancy does not “kill a human being.” Many women abort pregnancies because of problems that arise in the pregnancy, but both the baby and the mother end up surviving and OK, and the mother goes home very happy, with her new baby. In situations where the unborn can survive without the mother’s body, I believe an argument can be made that the procedure should not unnecessarily put the life of the unborn at risk. But I can’t see how the ability to autonomously exist should be considered the right to use another person’s body without consent. If anything, it should be grounds to allow a termination of the pregnancy. If the unborn cannot survive without the mother’s body, then I see that as unfortunate for the unborn, but it is no argument to allow a violation of someone else’s body against their will and without their consent. She does not have to risk/endure a gestation to help another human survive. None of us are required to put our own health and life at risk for that reason—and she has not committed any crime that should strip her of basic rights.
        __
        I agree with you on all points here. I may have been unclear; all I was alluding to is I believe at some point a fetus does become a human being, and at that point it’s much harder to justify ending that life. I can say for example that the day before labor begins is too late to dodge the responsibility of ending a life, and that the day after conception is too soon to even entertain the subject as “ending a life”. The line is somewhere between those two points, and in my own life I’ve never been faced with a decision as to when that line is, exactly. Those that have are better equipped emotionally to assess the issue, and those with more medical understanding than myself are better equipped scientifically. Being unqualified in both senses, I am uncomfortable setting a date on when that occurs and because of my personal uncertainty I stated it as one of the reasons I support the right to choose. Since I don’t view myself as an authority on this, I feel I’m unqualified to believe anything other than “do what you want unless it’s demonstrated as wrong”. I am in no way even hinting that the date has been set incorrectly by anyone else or asserting that the answer as to when this occurs is necessarily a clearly accessible fact. I’m only saying I don’t believe I am personally medically, ethically, or morally qualified to point at a week on the chart and say “There is is, a new human being”.
        As to an abortion whether neither life is ended, I view it as having approximately the ethical status of most surgical procedures; to wit: there is some risk, but if the risk is acceptably low when measured against the intended outcome the procedure should occur. Of course residual risk always exists, but I’d probably never consider labeling any abortion immoral where the intent was for both the mother and child to survive, even if the unthinkable occurred and one or both died during the procedure. Tragic? Certainly. Immoral? No.
        __
        >Which is the pro-choice position. Basically “each case has its own parameters, and since the cost and risk belongs to the woman who is being violated—as to whether or not she is willing to accept the risk to her health and life—and the cost is not mine to bear, I feel she has to make this decision to endure this or not for the sake of this unborn.” Anti-choice says “I decide for everyone else that they must endure the pregnancy and pay the cost. Saving the life is paramount, and very few other factors matter to me—it’s just black-and-white.”
        __
        Absolutely. If I didn’t say so clearly enough to begin with… I am pro-choice. I think saving life is paramount, but there are so many unknowns and factors that anyone saying it’s just black and white is failing to account for a lot of variables. I’d have to see some demonstration that their position is tenable; and this has definitely not been demonstrated.
        __
        >I agree. Without some pretty compelling argument, I cannot see a reason to support restrictions on the rights and freedoms of women in this situation.
        __
        Yes. My default position on laws and rights is that a law restricting any freedom should be withheld without evidence (preferably peer-reviewed) indicating it must exist to prevent unacceptable consequences.

        • Lord Narf says

          What’s kind of funny is that I consider the whole rights issue to be completely secondary. Time of the acquisition of rights, when a fetus becomes a human being? Don’t care. Bodily autonomy of the mother? Don’t care.

          Well, rather, I do care, but I care less about those issues than I do about the societal effects. Which policy on abortion leads to a healthier society? What are people actually going to do with each of the policies in place?

          We’ve already seen a lot of the results of illegalized (if that’s a word) abortion, before Roe vs. Wade. Mostly, it means a lot of sick and dead teenaged girls, who tried to get an abortion illegally. It means forced birth in poor families who can’t afford another child, while the rich can whisk their daughters, wives, and mistresses out of the country to a place where it is legal. It’s a form of social tyranny.

          • EnlightenmentLiberal says

            Consider the following parody. I need to emphasize that this is parody.

            “Men are going to rape, law or no law. What good does it do to society to put a promising young man in prison for rape. It hurts his family. He can’t get that football scholarship. It costs us like 50k USD per year to keep him prison which is money that could be better spent on helping other disadvantaged young males. Etc.”

            I bet to most anti-abortion people, my argument and your argument are equivalent, and equivalently abhorrent. If something is a legitimate harm, mentioning how enforcement hurts the perpetrators is not on its own a reason to get rid of enforcement. If something is a legitimate harm, mentioning all the ways that you can dodge enforcement is not on its own a reason to get rid of enforcement. This is a really, really bad argument. Even together this is not a good reason to legalize rape.

            Your choice of wording “leads to a healthier society” to me clearly implies that harm to fetuses does not factor into whether a society is healthy or not. It’s almost as though as long it’s out of sight, then it does not matter. I really do think this is not an honest way to talk about the issue. Especially in light of how you said that you would not involve the question of whether the fetus has rights and value.

            Having said that, there is a potentially good argument in there somewhere, but you need to much more carefully phrase it. For example, for the sake of argument you could grant the rights of the fetus, and then you could argue that a very specific and identified illegalization scheme will save negligably more fetuses, and its associated costs easily outweigh the minimal benefits. Then, you would need to identify some numbers which I doubt you possess as to the deterrence effect of the specific and identified policy.

            I am not going to reject that argument out of hand. However, I am at a loss as to any other remotely similar real-world situation where I would apply this kind of reasoning, which makes me immediately quite suspect of the argument.

          • Lord Narf says

            If something is a legitimate harm, mentioning how enforcement hurts the perpetrators is not on its own a reason to get rid of enforcement.

            Well, yeah. Enforcement is supposed to hurt the perpetrator. That’s kind of the point. :D

            Your choice of wording “leads to a healthier society” to me clearly implies that harm to fetuses does not factor into whether a society is healthy or not.

            Correct. Fetuses are not part of society and have no influence upon it, except indirectly, through the host being … err, I mean mother.

            That’s why the rape analogy fails. The woman being raped is a member of society and has an impact upon it. Her emotional trauma outweighs the pleasure enjoyed by the asshole.
            … and yeah, i know you weren’t seriously proposing it or even holding it up as a good analogy, just the most hyperbolic thing you could come up with.

            It’s almost as though as long it’s out of sight, then it does not matter.

            More accurately, as long as it is not capable of having an opinion of society nor interacting with it, it doesn’t matter. Like you, having a thinking, feeling mind is what makes me start caring about it. Until then, don’t care.

            I really do think this is not an honest way to talk about the issue. Especially in light of how you said that you would not involve the question of whether the fetus has rights and value.

            It’s not that I don’t have a stance on the rights issue. I’ve examined that one, and the mother wins that one, as well, until the fetus has a brain and is capable of feeling pain.

            In my own personal thinking on the subject, the rights issue just takes a back seat to the societal issue. I don’t argue based upon that, though. I think I used verbiage to that effect, when I made that statement.

            Having said that, there is a potentially good argument in there somewhere, but you need to much more carefully phrase it. For example, for the sake of argument you could grant the rights of the fetus, and then you could argue that a very specific and identified illegalization scheme will save negligably more fetuses, and its associated costs easily outweigh the minimal benefits. Then, you would need to identify some numbers which I doubt you possess as to the deterrence effect of the specific and identified policy.

            If I wanted to put together a formal argument, yes, I would have to structure it completely differently. I’m amongst my fellow partisans, though, so I don’t feel like putting forth the effort.

            If you want to upgrade the rights of the fetus, you’d need a rational reason to do so. I have yet to hear one.

            I am not going to reject that argument out of hand. However, I am at a loss as to any other remotely similar real-world situation where I would apply this kind of reasoning, which makes me immediately quite suspect of the argument.

            Pot legalization comes to mind.

            ———-

            I’d love to read your proposal for setting up rape clinics, by the way. :D

          • EnlightenmentLiberal says

            Well, glad to see we mostly agree. One thing:

            I am not going to reject that argument out of hand. However, I am at a loss as to any other remotely similar real-world situation where I would apply this kind of reasoning, which makes me immediately quite suspect of the argument.

            Pot legalization comes to mind.

            Drug laws are about stopping someone from hurting themself. Rape laws and abortion laws are obstinately about stopping someone from hurting someone else. Hence why I think the comparison you are trying to draw is invalid.

            I do not need to evaluate the effects and efficacy of drug law enforcement because it has no legitimate purpose – even if it was successful at lowering drug use. When I weigh pros vs cons, I see zero pros, thus the conclusion is obvious. Stopping someone from taking a recreational drug because the person is hurting themself is not the purview of any legitimate government. Whereas preventing murder and rape is within the purview of legitimate governments. See: JS Mill’s Harm Principle in his essay On Liberty. Also note that I am not advocating a libertarian position. Clarification available upon request, or you can just go read it.

          • Lord Narf says

            Drug laws are about stopping someone from hurting themself.

            Eh, not always. You get a hell of a lot of fallout from the usage of a lot of drugs. Admittedly, a lot of that is due to the fact that they’re illegal, but that are other issues separate from self-inflicted harm. It’s not a fantastic comparison, but there are parallels.

            People on drugs like PCP can do significant damage to those around them.

          • Lord Narf says

            Umm, you really expect differently from me, after all this time? :D

            I’ve mentioned that I’m for complete pot legalization, by the way, right? I wouldn’t touch the stuff, but I think it’s stupid to have it be illegal.

            The only drug I use is caffeine. The last thing I need is a drug that would make me sleep more.

          • Lord Narf says

            And I think the parallel I was trying to draw is that the fallout from having pot illegal is far worse than the effects of legalization. Legalization would save the country a hell of a lot of money, and we couldn’t really have any significant increase in consumption, over what we have now.

            Literally half of the people I know smoke the stuff, I think. I could get some from at least 9 or 10 different people, if I had the desire to. Just sell it in stores and be done with it.

            Hell, cigarettes are legal. Alcohol is legal. Pot doesn’t do anything worse than those two drugs do.

    • Lord Narf says

      I don’t know where the line should be drawn between nonsentience and sentience.EEG activity seems like a convienent metric, but not quite enough for me to assert that’s where “the line” actually is.
      I don’t know if the impending sentience of a zygote, fetus, or unborn baby is suffiencent cause to grant it moral status as a “future person”. If it is, I don’t at what developmental stage this possible future status should be considered statistically valid or how much moral weight it should carry.

      I’m adding my own points, before reading Tracie’s response and your followup.

      The potentially argument is one of the worst anti-abortion arguments I’ve ever heard. It immediately leads to absolute absurdity. You can use it to justify things like banning contraceptives, because they prevent the zygote from implanting, and that potential life is “murdered”. Hell, some anti-abortionists are already using that argument in their crusade against women, for exactly that purpose.

      Unless you want to argue that preventing rape should be illegal, because by preventing that rape, you’re potentially preventing the birth of a human being, then you have to recognize the existence of cutoff points. Once you recognize the existence of cutoff points, the potentiality argument becomes worthless.

      It doesn’t matter what might result from a sequence of events. All that matters is what currently is.

      ———-

      Like you said after that, trying to justify rape exceptions based upon likely outcomes is also pretty ludicrous. Based upon that standard, poor women should be allowed to have abortions any time they want, and rich women should be forced to give birth to their zygotes. The whole thing is a complete cluster-fuck, and the only rational solution is to allow open access to abortion and allow each potential mother to make the decision based upon her understanding of her personal situation.

      The mush-ball middle is a logical wasteland. The only workable options are full access, with boundaries based upon fetal viability, and a complete ban on abortions, with a possible exception for the life of the mother … and some Republicans have begun to insist that even the life of the mother isn’t a consideration, which shows you how bat-shit insane they’ve gone.

      • RealityCzech says

        I agree there has to be a cutoff and that the potentiality of a living human isn’t enough on its own as a moral guideline. I will however say that I do consider it a factor. Naturally stopping Crazy McLoonyBin (Village Rapist Extraordinaire) isn’t denying a human life the chance it deserves, but I’m unwilling to simply dismiss out of hand the fact that if left to continue a pregnancy tends to result in a new life. As I said, this belief doesn’t cause me to weigh in against abortion, but I’m not going to claim it’s completely irrelevant on those grounds. I’d hazard to guess many who consider abortions weigh this possibility, and I’d argue they should. If they conclude the abortion should occur regardless, I support their right to decide.

        Regarding full access vs. complete bans, I’d argue there may be some way to legally codify a middle ground in a responsible and ethical way. I’m not even going to try to sit down and reccomend a list of circumstances that could emerge and the ethically appropriate response to each, and it may be that generating a satisfactory code of conduct for abortions is simply impossible (or impractical). If it is possible at all, I think we will only arrive at it by setting aside superstitions and learning how to evaluate outcomes as a culture. We are in no way ready to shoot for any kind of acceptable middle ground right now, but I can at least posit a future where society is able to find a consensus. Until then, I think pro-choice is the only morally defensible position.

        • Lord Narf says

          I do consider potentiality to be completely irrelevant, myself. The only thing I consider is the fetus’s ability to suffer, in it’s current state, at that exact moment.

          To that question, the ruling of the Supreme Court, in the Roe vs. Wade decision, did a damned good job of setting the boundaries. It’s an acceptable compromise between not being able to get rid of a 100-cell blastocyst that’s about to embed itself in your uterus and wanting to abort a baby that is due in 5 days.

          I believe the Supreme Court went mostly on viability, and it’s a good functional boundary, as well. If you find that you’re pregnant, and you don’t want to bring a baby into the world at this point, you should get the problem taken care of as soon as possible. 24 weeks seems like plenty of time to take care of it, since you should know you’re pregnant after 8 or 12 weeks. That gives you plenty of time to think it over. If you wait until later, too bad, unless there are extreme circumstances.

          I didn’t say that there weren’t ways you could legally codify a middle ground. You can always make arbitrary laws. The justifications for such are just always logically inconsistent.

          If aborting or preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg is murder, then allowing it in the case of rape is ridiculous. The Republican position of banning all abortion except in the case of rape is completely inconsistent, but it was necessary, because most people can’t stomach the idea of forcing a woman to bear her rapist’s baby. We had a good number of prospective senators and congressmen come out in favor of forcing raped women to have the baby, and we saw what happened to them. They all lost.

          • RealityCzech says

            I respect your opinion but I’m unable to accept a potential human life as completely irelevant. It’s insufficient justification for banning abortion to be sure, but I believe it’s a relevant factor in deciding whether to have an abortion.

            I agree, the Roe vs. Wade decision was an acceptable comprimise (or middle ground).

            I said “there may be some way to legally codify a middle ground in a responsible and ethical way.” Responsible and ethical were the thrust of my point, not legal. While it may be true that the current justifications offered are logically inconsistent, this does not demonstrate all possible justifictions for preventing some abortions are as well. I’m certainly not advocating penning “arbritray laws”, I’m just positing the possible existence of a logically consistent middle ground being found in the case of some proposed abortions. Roe v. Wade is an example of finding an acceptable metric with regard to abortions, though its scope only addresses one facet of the entire issue (i.e. 24 week time limit). I’m not claiming there must be a metric like this regarding other facets (rape related pregnancy, etc.), I’m simply claiming accepible criteria for limiting some abortions could be found acceptable at a future date. The fact that some republicans espousing forcing a woman to carry a rape-related pregnancy to term doesn’t demonstrate that every meaningful insight has been addressed already. In the meantime, I remain pro-choice; all of this is simly discussing the moral facets of a very complex issue. Since we agree on the right to choose, I’m beginning to question the utility of arguing if we agree on why we agree.

          • Lord Narf says

            I respect your opinion but I’m unable to accept a potential human life as completely irelevant. It’s insufficient justification for banning abortion to be sure, but I believe it’s a relevant factor in deciding whether to have an abortion.

            So, how do you get around the infinite regress? It seems to me that if you’re willing to completely disregard potentiality, past a certain point, then you must be really be interested in some other aspect, which just seems to be potentiality, within a certain scope.

            What is that aspect?

            By ferreting out details like this, we can figure out a bit more about our reasoning processes. Break everything down into the smallest components and look at them closely.

            I’m not claiming there must be a metric like this regarding other facets (rape related pregnancy, etc.)

            Actually, all of the nonsense about rape and incest is just part of the Republican con to appeal to voters. They used to say that abortion should be illegal, but we can allow exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother, and things like that. The whole concept is completely fucked. Basically, in application, I’m sure that there would be some sort of stipulation that a woman had to win a conviction against her rapist, in order to get an abortion, knowing the evil bullshit that the Republican legislators are currently instigating.

            Lately, though, the Republicans are going even crazier. Many of them are arguing against a rape exception, and a few are even arguing against an exception for the life of the mother, “because that’s no longer a consideration, with modern medicine.” It’s insane bullshit that’s completely at odds with reality. The Republicans have gone that far to the crazy extreme.

        • EnlightenmentLiberal says

          I will however say that I do consider it a factor.

          Why?

          I respect your opinion but I’m unable to accept a potential human life as completely irelevant

          Why?

          Do you have similar concerns when people use condoms? I understand that you are about to say this doesn’t make you against condom use, but do you think that there are some moral concerns about choosing to use a condom to avoid pregnancy. And if so, why? I’m being dead serious.

  9. says

    “So let’s take these manipulators at their word. Let’s do everything we can to reduce the pain suffered by children. First, if they are born, they should never feel the pain of hunger, lack of health care, or suffer from lack of proper education. If the mother can’t bear the responsibility, the state clearly then should. And let’s be clear: this is an enormous expense. But we can cover it by taxing churches. They have an endless supply of money and they can always ask for more. In God We Trust. They can just pray and God will provide.”

    This is so right on! But can you seriously see them having “the state” provide for these kids, anything but the most basic existence? No, no, no. Identify a “father,” and nail his ass to the wall as hard as they can, or else the mother will be denied benefits until she chokes up a name. If the state is going to cover the cost, they want to be sure the kid gets next to nothing. They don’t care if these kids suffer, so long as “mom” and “dad” can be shredded in the process. Shouldn’t have had filthy sex, right? Should have considered this outcome before you did the deed…? They are far more interested in finding creative ways to punish people for sex, than they are making sure these kids are raised in happy, well-adjusted homes, by families who actually want them. If the kid can’t have that…we’ll let’s bring it into the world anyway, risk mom’s health, strip dad’s pay check, and vilify them both (slut and the dead-beat dad, unless he pays up), and just make the whole family suffer in poverty. And they really are also not all that keen on prenatal care for economically challenged women. Absolutely correct that they are not interested in preventing suffering, not one bit. Bring it on–if it means making them all suffer for their crimes against god. They can’t get enough of it. It’s like crack to them to see people who didn’t live the lives they believe everyone should, suffering as long, and as hard, as possible. They relish it in the most sadistic fashion.

    • kestra says

      Of course they’re sadists. These are the same kind of Christians who speak with nigh-erotic satisfaction about heathens, atheists, homos and abortionists burning in hell, while they’re laughing up in heaven. The satisfaction of watching someone else’s life go to pieces for making “sinful” choices isn’t just perverse rubbernecking with these people; it is the cornerstone of their entire belief structure.

      Which is why they can earnestly and passionately say that not only are all people who have HIV/AIDS sinners who deserve it, but that those sinners brought it upon themselves. Why every natural disaster is, in their view, caused by god’s righteous anger at the sinners who asked for it. Its a child’s fantasy of a “moral” universe, where bad things only happen to bad people, so interfering is actually tantamount to thwarting god’s judgement. This also leaves them, the “good” people, with no moral obligation to help the “sinners”, because they brought it on themselves.

  10. robster says

    Quite agree about the god’s power, or lack of it. Deluded godbots spend their time worshipping this god fantasy and are brain-dead enough to not question the belief when their failed deity does nothing. It does nothing every time, it did nothing to influence the Supreme Court, it did nothing to save its own real estate in (the aptly named) Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand where the second and third biggest cause of death was the cathedral and presperterian churches collapsing on the “worshippers” therein. This same god can’t stop the 60% of babies that abort naturally during pregnancy or stop tsunamis. If they must worship something, surely they’d be better off worshipping something that actually does something that can be detected by normal people. Are religiously afflicted people, those tainted by nonsense, embrarassed when revealing their affliction to others, spending their adult life playing “Let’s Pretend”? If not, they’re even more intellectually compromised than originally assumed.

  11. RealityCzech says

    So, how do you get around the infinite regress?

    I’m not sure I understand what infinite regress you’re claiming, please clarify.

    It seems to me that if you’re willing to completely disregard potentiality, past a certain point, then you must be really be interested in some other aspect, which just seems to be potentiality, within a certain scope.

    What is that aspect?

    I said “It’s insufficient justification for banning abortion to be sure, but I believe it’s a relevant factor in deciding whether to have an abortion.” I believe this is the opposite of completely disregarding it. Put another way I am neither willing nor able to completely disregard it.
    __
    In an earlier post you stated

    I do consider potentiality to be completely irrelevant, myself. The only thing I consider is the fetus’s ability to suffer, in it’s current state, at that exact moment.

    (emphasis mine) This seems much more consistent with a stance which “completely disregards potentiality”.
    I don’t disregard it, I simply don’t find it sufficient cause to justify abortion. I believe the potentially argument holds some valid moral weight, but on balance the right to choose holds more. I’m not interested in “some other aspect”, I simply weighed it as a real moral concern and concluded it’s insufficient to persuade me abortion is wrong.
    Maybe an analogy will clarify why I brought up some of what I view as moral considerations that might give me pause. If I plan on deciding on something, I find it useful to list arguments both for and against the proposition. After doing this, I weigh them as my reason, empathy, and ethical understanding dictates and make a decision. The potentiality argument is an example of a concern I view as morally pertinent in the “against” column. Despite viewing it as morally relevant, I believe that on balance the “for” column is more compelling. Does that help any to clarify my point? I feel as if you believe since I brought it up as a concern I’m logically obligated to adhere to it and conclude that abortions are wrong. If this is not what you’re getting at please clarify your concern.

    By ferreting out details like this, we can figure out a bit more about our reasoning processes. Break everything down into the smallest components and look at them closely.

    I’ll take this at face value and say thanks for helping us figure out a bit more about our reasoning processes.

    Actually, all of the nonsense about rape and incest is just part of the Republican con to appeal to voters…

    I said “I’m not claiming there must be a metric like this regarding other facets (rape related pregnancy, etc.), I’m simply claiming accepible criteria for limiting some abortions could be found acceptable at a future date.”… I don’t see this as an endorsement of radical Republican anti- abortion rhetoric in any way.
    Some criteria could be found to address some circumstances acceptably. Is that really a controversial opinion?

    • Lord Narf says

      I’m not sure I understand what infinite regress you’re claiming, please clarify.

      Basically, the way that you consider the potential for human life existing in a clump of cells can also apply to gametes. And it can situationally be applied to actions, such as any sex act. Any time you deny your husband, you’re eliminating potential children.

      The problem is the vagueness. What is it that makes you care about the human potential of that week-old clump of cells yet not that sperm cell? In the vague way you’re speaking about it, the human potential can be traced back all the way along the causal chain to absurd lengths.

      What is it that makes you value the cluster of aborted cells more highly than the sperm?

      • RealityCzech says

        If nothing atypical occurs, a fertilized egg does become a human. Gametes and hypothetical sex acts have the potential, I suppose, but they’re not on their way to it.
        Introducing degrees of separation from the event does matter in my opinion. For example, I might be willing to stand by and let a serial killer drown while being unwilling to take their life myself.

        On a side note, why is this such a sticking point? Am I not permitted to stop and consider something for a moment that you dismiss? If my consideration of this led me to the opposing view I can see it being more of a concern, but I feel a bit as if I’m being grilled for having the temerity to have a brief emotional response with regard to a question of morality. If someone kills a person I care about, I will experience rage. The rage is not the justification for anything I opt to do in response to the killing, but that doesn’t make the rage irrelevant, either.

        • Lord Narf says

          Most fertilized eggs will get flushed out without implanting. Even most of those that do implant will end in a spontaneous miscarriage.

          I consider the intention of the mother to be more important than the potential of the fetus, I guess. The intention of the mother to carry it to term is just another factor that will determine it coming to term or not doing so, in my mind. Just another hurdle, along with implantation and avoidance of a miscarriage.

          Of course you’re allowed to stop and consider something. That’s what I’m doing, too, poking at it and seeing what it looks like.

        • EnlightenmentLiberal says

          If nothing atypical occurs, a fertilized egg does become a human. Gametes and hypothetical sex acts have the potential, I suppose, but they’re not on their way to it. Introducing degrees of separation from the event does matter in my opinion.

          I asked it above, and I’ll ask it again here: why?

          I’m trying really hard here. Let’s imagine:

          For example, I might be willing to stand by and let a serial killer drown while being unwilling to take their life myself.

          I fail to see how this relates. Most people would agree that you are under no particularly strong compulsion to go out of your way to save someone in trouble, and most people would agree that extra-judicial killings are bad. What does this have to do with the abortion question? That’s a question of why you think using a condom does not have these “potentiality problems”, but having an early term abortion does. Again, why? I don’t want to know what – you’ve explained that sufficiently clearly already. I want to know why. Why should I care about something which does not have a mind, and give it any credence whatsoever? Why should I give that random clump of 100 undifferentiated cells more consideration than a rock?

          I’m asking you to identify to us your basic moral values. For example: I’m a humanist. I care about the happiness, safety, freedom, well-being of creatures with minds, and the other values of humanism. What is your basic value proposition (or propositions) that makes you care about the situation of a clump of 100 undifferentiated cells more than a rock? Is that just a basic value? Is it just one of your starting moral propositions that a clump of undifferentiated human cells which “has the potential” to later get a mind? Or do you derive this from some more basic value proposition?

          • RealityCzech says

            Addressing EnlightenmentLiberal and Lord Narf:

            The reason I experience a moral reaction to an early term abortion is intent. While the outcome of an early term abortion is idendical to other situations described in this forum, the intent is to stop a human from being alive.

            In the case of an early term abortion, the mother believes she is pregnant and will have a child, and chooses to intervene to prevent this.. She could be incorrect; she could be mistaken about the pregnancy in the first place, a miscarriage could occur, or the pregnancy could result in a still birth. She dosen’t know his though. The believes she will give birth and takes active steps to prevent this.

            I consider the intention of the mother to be more important than the potential of the fetus, I guess. The intention of the mother to carry it to term is just another factor that will determine it coming to term or not doing so, in my mind. Just another hurdle, along with implantation and avoidance of a miscarriage.

            I agree with this. Intellectualy and emotionally this rings true for me, and if I’ve been sufficently clear in describing the reason why I have a moral reaction to the decision I hope that common ground helps deliniate the source of my reaction. It’s the intent of generating an artificial hurdle (as opposed to leaving it to chance) that provokes a response from me.

            I’m not making a moral proposition, simply noting a moral reaction. Again, I genuinely believe she ought to have the freedom to make this choice, but I account for my reaction with the intent of halting the progression of a human life. To ask why I care about a clump of 100 undifferentiated cells is misframing my reaction. I’m reacting to the decision and its intent, not the subject of that decision per se.

            I’m not trying to persuade either of you to share my moral reaction to this facet of the issue, I’m simply being honest in noting that I do experience it. I’ll stop short of simply calling it a basic value because I can at least in part access the cause for this reaction. I don’t decide to have this moral reaction, I just do.

            I can’t account for my reaction to this issue any more deeply than that, but there you are. If that’s unsatisfactory, I’d hazard that neither of you decided to wonder why I think and feel as I do. I made statements and your desire to understand where my reaction came from probably emerged without your consent. I’m not surprised you were curious, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a choice.

          • EnlightenmentLiberal says

            I can’t account for my reaction to this issue any more deeply than that,

            I think you can, or at least that you should try. The answers you just gave me apply equally well to someone choosing to use a condom. Do you feel similarly about someone using a condom, or someone refraining from sex? Presumably no. So, the answers you gave cannot be the actual reasons you have for feeling something bad for abortion, but not for abstinence and condom use. Thus, I think you are lying to me, or lying to yourself. Which, I am not sure. Think about it.

            If you want to try again, take a moment to think “does this also apply to couples who use condoms or couples who choose not to have sex?”.

            I’d hazard that neither of you decided to wonder why I think and feel as I do.

            I’m asking you to try and figure out why you feel that way. The answers you have given me are inconsistent. Thus, I suspect these are not your real reasons. Complete guess: but perhaps you have some christian values which still linger on, and now you are trying to rationalize to yourself how you can still have these values when you know it’s humbug.

          • Lord Narf says

            The reason I experience a moral reaction to an early term abortion is intent. While the outcome of an early term abortion is idendical to other situations described in this forum, the intent is to stop a human from being alive.

            That … really didn’t help advance your argument at all. The intention of using a condom is to stop a new human being from being alive.

            In the case of an early term abortion, the mother believes she is pregnant and will have a child, and chooses to intervene to prevent this.. She could be incorrect; she could be mistaken about the pregnancy in the first place, a miscarriage could occur, or the pregnancy could result in a still birth. She dosen’t know his though. The believes she will give birth and takes active steps to prevent this.

            And if a woman is in the middle of her ovulation cycle, and she has sex with a man who is fertile, she would have a good reason to believe that she would get pregnant. She might get lucky, and the sperm won’t find the egg, or the blastocyst won’t implant.

            So, she takes active steps to prevent this and uses a condom and a spermicidal foam.

            See what I meant about the potentiality argument being such a bitch to defend? :D I think it’s actually indefensible, but I’m interested to see if you can put together something that I can’t see.

  12. chris lowe says

    As many as 40% of all pregnancies result in spontaneous miscarriages. Theocratic definitions portray the fertilization of the egg as the spark of life. They also claim this is God’s decision and God’s alone to morally protect all potential life as well as those that are born. This would make God the biggest abortionist of them all.

    Isn’t it ironic that these people in the right wing evangelical pro life movement want to control and legislate fetal rights, but after you are born want to take away those same basic , hard-fought-for rights. Especially if you are female.

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