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Mar 17 2014

Inalienable

There’s an issue here; a crux, an aporia, a conundrum, a fork.

On the one hand, yes, of course, you have to ground all your claims in something. Reasons don’t just fall out of the sky; we have to think about them, and criticize them, and back them up.

On the other hand, you don’t want all questions to be permanently open. That would lead to a war of all against all.

How do you reconcile those two items?

Beats the hell out of me.

I’m seeing some philosophy types who are annoyed by this idea that some questions should be treated as closed, because hey, there are arguments for abortion rights, and it’s philosophy types who can make them.

Yes, ok, but does the discussion have to go on forever? And what do we do in the meantime? And what about all those places where it is in fact treated as closed? The US teems with new attacks on abortion rights and women’s right to be treated as human beings with human rights of their own; Ireland doesn’t even have abortion rights apart from the extremely minimal ones voted in last summer in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar; but in the UK and many other European countries abortion rights are just there – the question is treated as closed. It’s not clear why we have to start over again from scratch every day.

Also: philosophy types should not act like Spocks. They should not get all surprised and miffed when women who have an investment in abortion rights get pissed off by dispassionate discussion of whether women in fact should have abortion rights. This is a human thing. It’s human to get upset about controversies that are close to home. There’s something…reptilian about pointing disdainfully at people who get angry about controversies of that kind.

The reality is that rights were invented as a way to treat certain questions as closed for practical purposes. That’s why they’re rights as opposed to laws. That’s why they are called “inalienable” in the Declaration of Independence. “Inalienable” can be translated as “you can talk until you’re blue in the face but you still can’t take away our rights.”

Update: actually unalienable, not inalienable. My mistake.

 

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  1. 1
    Andrew B.

    “The reality is that rights were invented as a way to treat certain questions as closed for practical purposes. That’s why they’re rights as opposed to laws.”

    Because they’re not thinking about “practical purposes.” They’re thinking in terms of armchair philosophy.

    One reconciles these two ideas by recognizing the difference, and recognizing that it’s acceptable for most people to treat an issue which has been settled with 99.9999% certainty as though it were closed, even if *technically* it’s still opened. Until skeptics start coming with brilliant, new and AMAZING arguments why abortion might be a no-no, it’s reasonable to just tune them out.

  2. 2
    Eamon Knight

    It seems like, as long as enough people are making enough noise about whatever, we’re stuck with the discussion having to take place *somewhere*. But (as they say) freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to any platform of one’s choice. For example, way back in the antedilvuian days of Usenet — that bastion of untrammeled free speech if there ever was one — the science groups were being bothered by creationists, so net.origins (yes, before the Great Renaming — I did say “antediluvian”) was created as a forum where that discussion could happen without disturbing the grownups. Seems like we need the same thing for this — but it doesn’t have to be on a prominent atheist blog, or the prez of American Atheists making vague statements to appease CPACers.

  3. 3
    Blanche Quizno

    I think that the rights of groups that have traditionally had few or none will always be considered “still open for debate.”

    “Conservative” = “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.”

    Oh, boy. We’ve got the double whammy.

    For us in the US, with a history of the *worst* abuses of human rights possible – slavery, child labor, oppression of women – a “conservative” perspective is the most destructive possible attitude. “Hey, things were better when women stayed home and quietly cooked and cleaned and had babies, like back in the 1950s, right?”

    You know what’s worse than the exhausting and depressing ongoing challenges to women’s bodily autonomy? Trying to get some attention for children’s rights. Why is it that it’s perfectly *fine* for an adult parent to do to a child what would be clearly and unquestionably assault if that same parent were to do the same thing to ME? Why is it that dozens of countries throughout the world have outlawed assaults on children, but here in the US, parents demand the right to assault their children – AND ARE GIVEN THAT RIGHT?

    Since women have long been oppressed, conservative forces seek to return us to that traditional status. How many generations will it take to work this out? It will never get worked out so long as such a large proportion of our population remain in thrall to a religion that maligns, denigrates, and oppresses women – Christianity. Women’s status and rights are far more secure in the sensible, less religious, more secular democracies than in any nation where there is a high rate of religiosity, whether that nation is technically a theocracy or not.

  4. 4
    frogmistress

    Yes! Again, I find myself unable to respond without huge amounts of cursing and swearing at the people to whom I am responding. I decided it best to just leave the conversation. That sucks. I had lots to say.

    I do think there is a way to Practice Philosophy Responsibly. This was not a good example of that, though.

  5. 5
    Blanche Quizno

    “That’s why they are called “inalienable” in the Declaration of Independence. “Inalienable” can be translated as “you can talk until you’re blue in the face but you still can’t take away our rights.””

    Yeah, but slavery was still considered acceptable after the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

    Originally, only white male landowners had the right to vote.

    Women of any color were not accorded the right to vote until FIFTY YEARS AFTER black men (freed slaves) were accorded the right to vote.

    So, yeah, “inalienable rights” can mean a lot less in practice.

  6. 6
    Blanche Quizno

    frogmistress – I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. If this is indeed the topic thread you meant to post on, would you be so kind as to explain in a bit more detail what you’re getting at? I’m not at all put off by cursing and swearing, personally :)

  7. 7
    frogmistress

    Blanche Quizno, I was referring to the post link in the OP and the idea of acting like Spocks that goes with it.

  8. 8
    Maureen Brian

    Can we just say then that for a group of scholars – safely tucked away on a mountain top with a large picnic hamper – the question remains open, as does whether 2 + 2 really make 4? It remains open because in that situation it cannot impact anyone’s life, death or behaviour.

    The minute one of the scholars comes down the mountain s/he will re-enter the world in which power and privilege are highly skewed, old habits of thinking are too easy a source of comfort to the arrogant and knowledge of the human reproductive system remains stuck at the Todd Akin level.

    Therefore in the real world the question is closed – if only because no bugger has time to argue it all through from first principles every time they get on a bus and the old scales of justice metaphor shows that less harm will be done by regarding this question as closed than by insisting we keep it open to amuse a few philosophers.

    If you insist, guys, the mountain is thatway!

  9. 9
    Blanche Quizno

    @ 7: frogmistress – Thanks! I was all kinda WTF….

  10. 10
    hjhornbeck

    And why, on the rare occasions there’s some conflict between rights, we only let a select group of impartial professionals trained in judging the arguments handle things. Ordinarily that would include people like Pigliucci, but most of us think his impartiality had been compromised when he says one group of people should suffer when making a certain decision, or edits their words while poorly flagging that change.

    I’ll spend more time on his rebuttal later, but my first impression is that he still doesn’t get what his critics have told him. His notion that third-trimester abortion seems to rest on a single anecdote. He also claims to be able to predict the reactions of his critics, so let my crow about one of my own:

    His edit retains the general applicability of his prior comment, but now incorporates specific examples. Should the heat continue, he can go “no no, I meant ONLY third trimester abortion;” should it slack off, he can claim he was talking about abortion in general.

    Pigliucci just put his goalposts on wheels, a shameful act for any philosopher.

    And what do we find in Pigliucci’s rebuttal?

    Predictably, neither piece takes a kind view of my essay, nor, frankly, did the authors try to give it a charitable reading that may lead to fruitful discussions rather than name calling. But in the case of PZ’s sarcastic remarks, I richly deserved it. His entire (short) post takes me up for writing (in the original version of my essay) that “abortion should always be a very difficult and emotional step.” I did not mean that literally, as should have been clear from the context and the examples given. But it was certainly an instance of sloppy writing on my part. After some of my readers pointed it out, I revised the entry to read: “certain types of abortion (say, last trimester)” should always be a very difficult and emotional step,” and later added a footnote to call readers’ attention to it.

    It wasn’t clear, in my opinion, and it’s telling that …

    To decide to get an abortion is always (or, at least, should always be) a very difficult and emotional step, precisely because it has significant ethical consequences.

    … became…

    To decide to get certain types of abortion (say, last trimester) is always (or, at least, should always be) a very difficult and emotional step, precisely because it has significant ethical consequences.

    … then turned into (look carefully for this one) …

    To decide to get certain types of abortion* (say, last trimester) is always (or, at least, should always be) a very difficult and emotional step, precisely because it has significant ethical consequences.

    … which Piglucci quotes above as …

    certain types of abortion (say, last trimester)” should always be a very difficult and emotional step

    Pigliucci’s got some competition in the prediction department.

  11. 11
    Eamon Knight

    I think the kind of abortion that “has significant ethical consequences” should be the ones performed for sex selection. Which, you may have noted, has been picked up by some anti-choicers in a disingenuous attempt to paint themselves as the real feminists. I’m too lazy just now to go through all the things that are wrong with that.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    Blanche @ 5: I know – I’m not that clueless – but the problem there was not with the “inalienable,” it was with what and who was covered by it. In fact the Declaration was itself a rebuke to the whole idea of slaveowning, and seen as such at the time – by Samuel Johnson, for one. The gap between the declaration and the practice is behind much of the history of the subsequent four score plus years.

  13. 13
    Chris J

    In my opinion, the most you are required to do as a skeptic is only ever answer a question once. By that, I mean once you’ve come to a conclusion on a question, taking into consideration the evidence and arguments available (and using the skeptic toolbox to treat those things appropriately), you consider that question answered until something new comes along that changes the question. Being skeptical, in my view, is about recognizing in the back of your head that everything you know could be wrong and being able and willing to change your mind when appropriate, rather than refusing to form a conclusion in the first place.

    The most charitable thing I could say about people who assert that “everything should be up for debate” is that they just disagree with what they perceive is the accepted answer and want to feel like their opinion, and their reasons for that opinion, are taken seriously. The problem is that “taken seriously,” to them, means “agreement.” I’ve known people like this in meat space; they keep repeating the same argument over and over because if you don’t agree, obviously you must not have understood what they said.

    Anyway, this is just a personal guide. The downshot is that you can’t force other people to come to the same conclusions you do, or stop them from debating things you feel are settled. The upshot is that you shouldn’t feel like a bad skeptic for not participating if you’ve seen it all before.

  14. 14
    clamboy

    I’ve read the Rationally Speaking blog for some time, and have never seen Reap Paden, Justin Vacula, or Steersman ever comment on any thread. But there they all are, granting Dr. Pigliucci Brave Hero status (whether he wants it or not).

  15. 15
    Shatterface

    I think John Searle ‘a notion of the ‘Background’ might be useful here. Equal rights, bodily autonomy, etc. are not so much matters open for debate as the background against which we discuss matters which remain unresolved.

    The Background is like the rules of chess: if we waste time arguing about them we’ll never start the game.

  16. 16
    qwints

    Abortion’s not treated as a resolved issue in the UK, is it?

    There were attempts to reduce the upper time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks in 2008;
    BBC link

    and an attempt to allow women to take the second of two pills at home rather than a clinic.

    BMJ link

  17. 17
    Chris J

    @Shatterface:

    I don’t think would work for the specific case of abortion, mainly because that Background can’t really comment on who those rights apply to, or how to treat conflicts between the rights of different people. The pro-life arguments apparently haven’t changed in the last three or four decades, and they all hinge on the idea that a fetus should be given basic rights and that those rights override the carrier’s right to bodily autonomy.

    In general, though, it’s a good thing. You can even argue positively for it rather than taking it as a given with the “veil of ignorance” idea that John Rawles had. Without being able to know which group you are going to end up as (rich, poor, black, white, etc.), you should just blindly treat everyone well and equally since you could have ended up in a disadvantaged group.

  18. 18
    Chris J

    *John Rawles and others

  19. 19
    screechymonkey

    This, of course, is why skeptics are always happy to see Jenny McCarthy spout off about vaccines again. Hey, it’s still up for debate, and skepticism never declares a subject closed, and gosh, even if her arguments are wrong we might learn something from them!

    Yep, that’s why skeptics have never called on her to stop spouting her nonsense, never accused her of being responsible for illness and death, never protested when a major television network gave her a huge forum to promote her views.

    Nope, and skeptics never roll their eyes at ghost hunting shows that keep trying and failing to prove the existence of ghosts, or Bigfoot-hunters who swear that this set of footprints is totally the real thing! Why, those people are great skeptics themselves — look at them, still questioning the consensus and attempting to gather “evidence”! We should invite them to join!

    Skeptics never make snarky remarks about astrology, homeopathy, and psychics. Wouldn’t want to form any conclusions — it’s still up for debate!

    Ok, sarcasm mode off for a moment. It’s true that skeptics continue to engage with the proponents of these and other wacky, unsupported claims. I’ve become rather disenchanted with that as a wise use of time or resources, but I guess someone’s gotta do it. And if that was all that #UpForDebate meant, I’d be fine with it.

    But the “woos” on those traditional skepticism subjects aren’t being invited inside the tent and treated as partners in skepticism. They’re treated as opponents, and in many cases as not terribly worthy ones. The skeptics’ tone on those subjects is usually one of resignation: “well, here we go again. Here’s why homeopathy is bullshit, for the 863rd time….”

    But suddenly, when abortion is the subject, the “secular pro-life” folks aren’t treated simply as another bunch of woos to be batted down with evidence and argument. No, they’re invited into the private lounge and offered a scotch and a comfy chair and handed a membership application. Because that’s how this subject all started — with David Silverman treating pro-lifers not as just another set of people to be debated, but as potential recruits. And he and the philosophy dudebros are surprised that some of the rest of us don’t want to hang around and sip scotch with their new guests?

  20. 20
    corwyn

    Simple. Everyone wants questions to be closed once it is set the way they want it to be. No one wants questions to be closed when it isn’t the way they want it to be. Arguing that a question should be closed when there is still no consensus is asking for tyranny.

    The recent spate of meta-arguments that the abortion issue is settled are not a productive way to argue, it is argumentum ad populum, and worse. Stick to actual logical arguments.

  21. 21
    Maureen Brian

    qwints @ 16,

    Those are arguments about how and when, not about whether or about the humanity of the pregnant person.

    The attempt to reduce the time limit was defeated on the basis of scientific knowledge, expounded in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. The where to take the second pill one is work in progress: the question will undoubtedly be asked again. Sometimes that’s how it works and we remember that the UK law on the subject predates the wider availability of medically induced abortion.

    In any case, come a medical emergency and that leaves both questions way, way behind.

    No-one has suggested we should not be discussing any aspect of abortion, simply that the autonomy of humans is not something you can give away to clinch some other deal.

  22. 22
    Chris J

    @corwyn:

    Conversely everyone wants questions to be open when things aren’t the way they want it to be. Constantly reopening questions and demanding old arguments be taken seriously is petulant. (Also it is one of the hallmarks of modern creationism and various types of woo, which do their best to make it seem there is still a debate of some foundational things.)

    And no, the answer is not simply to just keep every single issue open now and forever. Since we’re talking about how the skeptical community should view the abortion debate, and specifically how the already-pro-choice crowd should view the existence of secular pro-life arguments, rather than what should be law, there are some matters that are already settled. The existence of secular pro-life arguments is not enough to merit debate; at minimum, they need to bring something to the table that hasn’t already been considered.

    Beyond that, the people who wish to make those arguments or have those arguments heard need to realize that half the population is directly personally involved in the outcome. Thus, they should not be chastising others for not treating the subject with detachment, nor should they think such a thing is noble.

  23. 23
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    I tend to agree with Chris J and Screechymonkey on this one: some things are as near to certainly settled as it’s possible to be, and there’s no real point in continuing to discuss them.
    From the OP:

    I’m seeing some philosophy types who are annoyed by this idea that some questions should be treated as closed, because hey, there are arguments for abortion rights, and it’s philosophy types who can make them.

    The thing is, those philosophy types are wrong. The only arguments that they have are ones that have been destroyed thousands of times over many decades. If they actually had new arguments, they might conceivably have something resembling a point, but they haven’t. All they have is rehashings and rephrasings of the same old bullshit. It’s the same as the creationists (exactly the same, in fact): what they have doesn’t hold water, and they can’t bring anything new to the table.

  24. 24
    SallyStrange

    The recent spate of meta-arguments that the abortion issue is settled are not a productive way to argue, it is argumentum ad populum, and worse.

    Ahh, the hoary old call of “unproductive!” Listen, if you can’t bother to specify what’s being produced, then I can’t be bothered to take you criticism of a lack of productivity seriously. Personally I think it is productive because what I want to produce is more pro-choice activists. What do YOU want to produce?

    Stick to actual logical arguments.

    That the abortion debate ought to be settled among rational people because bodily autonomy doesn’t trump the right to live in any other situations besides pregnancy and thus changing up the prioritization of bodily autonomy vs. right to life ONLY for pregnant people is a clear instance of discrimination, which ought to be fought, and continuous rehashing of settled arguments prevents people from getting into the fight, IS a logical argument.

  25. 25
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    corwyn #10
    The logical arguments are exhausted; all logic, reason and evidence point in one direction and only that direction. The parallel to creationism is direct.

  26. 26
    Marcus Ranum

    Simple. Everyone wants questions to be closed once it is set the way they want it to be. No one wants questions to be closed when it isn’t the way they want it to be. Arguing that a question should be closed when there is still no consensus is asking for tyranny.

    Re-opening and re-assessing our collective opinions about moral issues is crucial to progress, as well.* Collectively humans have adjusted their opinions regarding various topics such as socially sanctioned murder (duelling) abortion, slavery, heavy drinking, etc. It’s the same process that allows us to say “this discussion is not closed!!” that allows us to re-assess whether something that is deemed acceptable will eventually not be acceptable after all. Where it gets interesting(ish) is when the arguments change – and require the issue to be re-opened. I predict, for example, that the development of self-aware computers will re-open the issue of slavery, until it is re-closed. If we assume that our morals will always progress towards “better” we’re making the same mistake that people make when they assume that evolution attempts to produce “better” results over time; survival is the only “better” evolution acknowledges – we, at least, carry the genetic history of our social values with us, which is why philosophers have to answer to long-dead Greeks.

    We should never consider a discussion finally closed unless somehow nobody is bringing new arguments to that discussion. Which, by the way, is why I consider the discussion about “god” to be conclusively over since Epicurus.

    I strongly favor and cheer loudly for the angle of attack that many of my feminist heroines are taking in this discussion: it is not the case that a woman’s autonomy is debatable. It should not be, unless someone somehow brings something to the table that shows why it shouldn’t be. Something that hasn’t been conclusively refuted over and over again.

    (* I am speaking loosely; I am not sure what “progress” really is.)

  27. 27
    qwints

    bodily autonomy doesn’t trump the right to live in any other situations besides pregnancy

    I think you meant this the other way around.

  28. 28
    Marcus Ranum

    The parallel to creationism is direct.

    Yes, this.

    It’s time to stick a fork in religion; they’ve cooked up their best arguments and have been trying to serve them up for thousands of years and it just isn’t working. If they brought something new to the table (like, say, the existence of 1000 mile-high diamond letters in orbit around Uranus, reading, “Humans: I meant ‘I hate figs’”) it might warrant re-opening the discussion but in the meantime it’s pointless to offer the same dish with the condiments re-arranged.

    The same applies to women’s bodily autonomy. Once you acknowledge that humans are made of the same stuff, and work more or less the same way, there is no end-point that’s going to be reached except “equality” unless you’re talking about what Rousseau termed “natural inequality” – if I am born without legs, it’s not reasonable for me to insist on running in a track and field event “equally” because that’s a contradiction in terms.

  29. 29
    John Horstman

    Yes, ok, but does the discussion have to go on forever?

    Well, yes; how else will Philosophy dudebros make a living, being incapable of offering anything of actual value to society? (*BOOM* Philosophy-slam!) Actually, I like Philosophy a great deal, I just dislike the vast majority of philosophers who are really terrible at it, like all those who apparently can’t understand the difference between a new position/argument relating to an issue and one that has already been examined and conclusively refuted hundreds of thousands of times. Unless they’re advocating a strong form of Solipsism, in which case we can’t even be sure we existed before this instant (or indeed at all) and thus we can’t be sure any arguments/positions aren’t new, I’m not sure how they can’t grasp that. But please, tell me more about your Deep Thoughts, asshats.

  30. 30
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Marcus Ranum

    . I predict, for example, that the development of self-aware computers will re-open the issue of slavery, until it is re-closed.

    I share the depressing certainty that people will decide that re-opens the issue of slavery, but that’s because they’re assholes, not because they’ll have any new arguments or because that’s something that should be grounds for re-opening a discussion that’s considered closed for damn good reason.

  31. 31
    Tom Foss

    The time to have the navel-gazing hypothetical debates on this kind of topic is after we’ve dealt with the pragmatic legal issues. When women are fighting for the rights and freedoms that these unconcerned academics already generally agree on, having to wage the war on two fronts–the forced-birth brigade and the 51st but-what-if battalion–is tiresome and irritating. Moreso, since the absurd hypotheticals trotted out by the philosophers become ammunition for the forced-birthers.

    Skeptics have this knee-jerk reaction to treat any claim or argument or issue like it’s the existence of Bigfoot. We will have turned a corner as a community when the average dudebro skeptic realizes that not every question is as inconsequential to every group of people as the existence of Bigfoot.

    From HJ’s quote of Pigliucci:

    nor, frankly, did the authors try to give it a charitable reading that may lead to fruitful discussions

    I am so goddamn fucking tired of this bullshit. First, it’s asinine. “How dare you criticize what I said instead of what I intended to say?!” If you’re such a piss-poor communicator that you can’t get your idea across the way you want to otherwise rational individuals, either accept responsibility for the lack of clarity and rephrase, or find another outlet because you’re not cut out for writing. Second, it’s never applied with any kind of consistency. You don’t see these jackasses making the same allowances for the Bible or the average woo-peddler, why do they expect special treatment? When they go wrong, why shouldn’t their wrongness be attacked with every bit the forcefulness and ferocity that they would turn on others who are wrong? Isn’t that the stated goal of skepticism? Isn’t that the ideal that keeps cropping up in those apocryphal stories about scientists overjoyed at being proven wrong? Arguments should stand or fall by their merits, not by who makes them, but it seems every ivory-tower skeptic from Pigliucci to Farley to Radford, et al, wants to be handled with kid gloves by their critics, when they’d never afford such consideration to their own targets. They want everyone to read their arguments with the assumptions that their fallacies and inaccuracies and inconsistencies weren’t really fallacies and inaccuracies and inconsistencies, at least not intentionally, and it’s all just fine as long as you read it in the right context with the right interpretation.

    Hm, where have I heard that before?

    Corwyn @20:

    The recent spate of meta-arguments that the abortion issue is settled are not a productive way to argue, it is argumentum ad populum, and worse. Stick to actual logical arguments.

    No secular pro-lifer yet has provided a rebuttal to the bodily rights argument. There’s no point in debating personhood or fetal pain or what emotions a mother should feel or timing or any of that nonsense so long as the bodily rights argument stands. Everything else is akin to talking about Bigfoot mating patterns or eating habits or variations in coat colors without demonstrating that Bigfoot exists.

    Except, again, that healthcare exists and women exist, and treating women’s health as if it were as inconsequential an issue as Bigfoot’s existence is insulting, and ignores the fact that women’s rights are actually under actual attack right now while unaffected observers like Pigliucci want to kibbutz about hypotheticals and effectively-hypotheticals.

  32. 32
    Shatterface

    I’m going to need something a lot more conclusive than the Turing test before I’m convinced a computer is ‘self-aware’ before I even start considering whether their existence re-opens the slavery issue.

  33. 33
    Tom J

    “They should not get all surprised and miffed when women who have an investment in abortion rights get pissed off by dispassionate discussion of whether women in fact should have abortion rights.”

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I understood the argument to be the existence of secular arguments against abortion, not whether or not those arguments held any water.

    You’re also misstating the argument about rights. A secular argument against abortion would not argue with any of the “inalienable” rights espoused in the Declaration of Independence (and the word is “unalienable” in that document). Abortion was not one of those unalienable rights; they are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Abortion is defined, legally, as existing under the penumbra of the right to privacy. And even the right to privacy is not expressed in the Declaration, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_privacy#United_States

    The question is not whether these rights exist or if they are (in-) unalienable – a philosophical question – the question is are these or any other rights conferred upon the unborn at any point? The Supreme Court decided that, until a fetus is viable the answer is no and afterwards it was a matter for the states to decide. We could easily stop this debate by amending our constitution, but we haven’t yet decided to do that.

    Also note that your language suggests that other rights – the right to bear arms for example, which is explicitly written in the Bill of Rights – should also be “settled” and we should have no more gun control debates because the right is “inalienable.” Law and/or philosophy doesn’t work like that. There are constant challenges to every one of the rights enumerated in our constitution. The question cannot be equated, as Maureen does above, with 2+2=4 because it is not a question of science but of philosophy and law (informed by science).

  34. 34
    Ophelia Benson

    No, the arguments about the existence of secular arguments against abortion came earlier; now I’m talking about the arguments cited by the philosophy types I mention in the post, with a link to one.

    The Dec says “among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – emphasis added. That list isn’t exhaustive. Anyway I wasn’t claiming that the Declaration enumerated the rights; my point was that it said there are rights that are in/unalienable.

    Good point about the right to bear arms though.

  35. 35
    Tom Foss

    Ophelia Benson @34:

    Good point about the right to bear arms though.

    Except that, as stated in the Bill of Rights, the “right to bear arms” exists because “a well-regulated militia [is] necessary to the security of a free State.” It’s a conditional right (if bearing arms threatens the security of a free state, then what?) that explicitly invokes the need for regulation, which is where a vast majority of gun control arguments rest. The “right to bear arms” is more explicitly circumscribed in the Bill of Rights than the rights to free speech or freedom of the press, yet we recognize all manner of exceptions and caveats to those rights.

  36. 36
    Ophelia Benson

    So that’s a good point too.

    I’m very wishy-washy.

  37. 37
    hjhornbeck

    Tom J @33:

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I understood the argument to be the existence of secular arguments against abortion, not whether or not those arguments held any water.

    You are mistaken. I give evidence of this elsewhere, so I’ll just focus on the conclusion: “secular arguments” is the “intelligent design” of the anti-choice movement, only more successful.

    A secular argument against abortion would not argue with any of the “inalienable” rights espoused in the Declaration of Independence (and the word is “unalienable” in that document). Abortion was not one of those unalienable rights; they are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Nope, abortion is a constitutional right in the US, falling under “liberty,” and the SCOTUS has agreed multiple times [emphasis mine]:

    Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt. Yet 19 years after our holding that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy in its early stages, Roe v. Wade (1973), that definition of liberty is still questioned. Joining the respondents as amicus curiae, the United States, as it has done in five other cases in the last decade, again asks us to overrule Roe.

    Even in the US courts, the issue was settled forty years ago. There is no debate, except from those who wish to repeal basic human rights.

  38. 38
    qwints

    The inalienable rights of the declaration are not constitutional rights.Roe held that some abortions were protected under a right to privacy. Subsequent courts have chipped away at that right – upholding abortion restrictions in Webster, Casey and Carhart, and every opinion recognizes some governmental interest in “preserving and protecting fetal life.” Gonzales v. Carhart 550 U.S. 124 138 (2007). It’s important for pro-choice advocates to not be complacent about the law – one conservative judge replacing a liberal judge has a high likelihood of overturning Roe.

    That’s obviously a completely separate issue from the ethical question, but we have to understand how precarious the legal situation is.

  39. 39
    Eamon Knight

    @31&ff: Also, stop assuming this is a peculiarly American issue. North of the border, we have *no* law against abortion, but *lots* of laws against carrying guns around. The rights that are enshrined in law should be, as far as possible, ones that correspond to some moral sense of how we want humans to be treated — and that transcends national boundaries.

  40. 40
    Marcus Ranum

    Inalienable: unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor.

    Obviously, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are taken away from people all the fucking time; they are not anything like inalienable. This is another one of those cases where someone leapt across the is/ought chasm. The actual situation is that there are people in prison, some of whom are innocent, who have had their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness taken away. The situation when those words were written was that there was a huge population of people enslaved, whose life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness had been taken away. They are empty words, written by hypocritical oligarchs who didn’t mean a fucking bit of what they wrote and whose actions scream the opposite of their words.

    Should there be such rights? It’s my opinion that would be a good idea. But the word “right” implies a stronger ‘ought’ than merely a social contract. A world in which there was actually an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would not have nations that erect borders and claim those who were born within those imaginary lines as the nations’ property. For starters. Then we get to the question of when and how the state can decide to imprison someone and what standard of proof is necessary. And finally we get to the question of how the legal system is constructed, and what is the standard of proof of harm required before something is considered dangerous enough to regulate and what actions victimize other people and which actions only affect the individual.

  41. 41
    deepak shetty

    On the other hand, you don’t want all questions to be permanently open.
    Im not sure why you got this from Massimo’s post – I didn’t.
    there are arguments for abortion rights, and it’s philosophy types who can make them.
    Isn’t it true though? The secular arguments for and against abortion are philosophy, Massimo’s is pointing out the same thing that many people pointed out to Harris – that we need to be aware of the philosophy – you cant just pretend that pro-lifers arent aware of the bodily autonomy argument.
    women who have an investment in abortion rights get pissed off by dispassionate discussion of whether women in fact should have abortion rights.
    Where does he imply that that is still in doubt?

    in his comments clearly states that he is strongly pro-choice I do not see why so many people are upset. Stating that a late trimester abortion is an ethical question , is correct in my opinion . it didnt imply as many bloggers have claimed that you must agonize about it. Different women take different decisions while considering abortion – This is different from the legal question , which I doubt you find Massimo opposed to – so why this level of criticism?

  42. 42
    hjhornbeck

    deepak shetty @41:

    so why this level of criticism?

    Covered that already. Will spell it out in more detail shortly.

    The secular arguments for and against abortion are philosophy, Massimo’s is pointing out the same thing that many people pointed out to Harris – that we need to be aware of the philosophy.

    I’ve been actively organizing against anti-choicers for about two years, and protesting against them for at least one or two more. I’ve talked and debated with them multiple times. I’m very aware of their science and philosophic arguments. There’s nothing there.

    you cant just pretend that pro-lifers arent aware of the bodily autonomy argument.

    Alright, it’s story-time.

    About two years ago, I organized my first counter-protest against the CCBR, to take place at a “debate” in Edmonton. It played out as a creationist’s wet dream; they packed the audience with supporters, didn’t advertise, and had a high-minded philosopher who didn’t know what was coming to represent the pro-choice side. It was theatre, intended to bolster their volunteer’s morale, intimidate the few pro-choice advocates who wandered in by accident, and sway the church-going crowd still sitting on the fence to their side. Bodily autonomy was only mentioned in passing by the philosopher, late in the cross-exam.

    I wanted to chew out the philosopher, but immediately afterwards he was swarmed by anti-choice supporters and his opponent, Stephanie Gray. After some polite chatter with a protester I was acquainted with, I decided just to hover around and listen in. I distinctly remember Gray asking the philosopher to explain this “violinist” argument he brought up. I was a bit shocked; it’s a forty year old argument, quite famous in pro-choice circles. How could she not be familiar with it?

    Both before and after, in all my dealings with the CCBR, they’ve pushed the “personhood” as their primary argument. Here’s their official twenty-year plan, which makes it explicit:

    The messaging for EndtheKilling is two-pronged:

    a. The humanity and personhood of the pre-born and the inhumanity of abortion exposed through images.
    b. The humanity and personhood of the pre-born and the inhumanity of abortion exposed and proven through conversation.

    From all appearances, then, they are ignorant of the bodily autonomy argument. After all, it’s more than willing to grant full person-hood to the fetus, which renders their primary argument worthless. Invoking bodily autonomy leaves anti-choicers sputtering, because they are not aware of any strong counter-argument. That’s understandable if they’ve never heard of the argument in the first place.

    CCBR has made its website the premier source for pro-life apologetics explained in an easy-to-understand fashion. Its scientific and philosophical defenses are designed to be comprehensive to a broad audience, appealing to both those who learn visually (training videos) and by reading (extensive written documents). The material covers a basic defense of the pro-life view as well as equips viewers on the responses to more complicated arguments from abortion advocates, like that proposed by Judith Jarvis
    Thompson
    .

    Waaaaaitaminute. Judith Thompson INVENTED the bodily integrity argument! Note the date on the twenty-year plan (2011) pre-dates that debate with Stephanie Gray (2012). As one of the two founders of the CCBR and their most active member, how could she not know about the most famous pro-abortion argument, when her own organization must be aware of it?

    The answer is simple: she knows the argument, but she doesn’t want you to know it. Even they know they don’t have a philosophic argument on their side, but if they shout loud enough it doesn’t matter. They can still win by counting on the general public to be ignorant of the philosophy, to be won over by their slick and confident presentation.

    This isn’t about philosophy. This is about countering a well-funded, manipulative religious attack against basic human rights. And through either ignorance or indifference, Dave Silverman, Hemant Metha, and Massimo Pigliucci have been helping them.

    NOW do you get why some people are pissed off?!

  43. 43
    Celegans

    I don’t think Pigliucci has shown any surprise at thee idea that women may be upset at attacks on abortion rights, has he? I think he expressly said that he understood and sympathised. He has just been miffed at having his arguments about whether there is a secular case for abortion misrepresented (as he sees it) by a couple of named men and a woman on the internet. Nothing Spocky about that. It is always annoying even to us humans to feel that you have been traduced.

  44. 44
    Dunc

    I’m going to need something a lot more conclusive than the Turing test before I’m convinced a computer is ‘self-aware’ before I even start considering whether their existence re-opens the slavery issue.

    Well, if you can come up with something “a lot more conclusive than the Turing test” to convince me that you’re self-aware… Or we could all just watch the classic ST:TNG episode “The Measure of a Man” over and over until we get the fucking point.

  45. 45
    Tom J

    Tom:

    The “right to bear arms” is more explicitly circumscribed in the Bill of Rights than the rights to free speech or freedom of the press, yet we recognize all manner of exceptions and caveats to those rights.

    The Heller decision makes it clear that the right to bear arms is an individual right, and not constrained by the clause immediately preceding it. In any event, I’m simply making the point that if abortion rights are no longer up for debate, then should not that logic apply to other rights enumerated in the constitution, which of course is problematic.

    HJ:

    Even in the US courts, the issue was settled forty years ago. There is no debate, except from those who wish to repeal basic human rights.

    If Roe settled the matter, why did the court agree to hear Casey? Despite stare decisis, SCOTUS modifies or clarifies or overrules decisions all the time. This is the nature of legal battles.

    To elevate abortion from this legal determination to a basic human right is simply wrong. I’m not arguing that it’s not a basic human right, I’m saying that to construe the holding in Roe to mean that abortion is now a basic human right is wrong.

    The rights that are enshrined in law should be, as far as possible, ones that correspond to some moral sense of how we want humans to be treated — and that transcends national boundaries.

    I’m not so sure this is intuitively correct, except at the most general level. Philosophers have argued for centuries over this question and yet we still don’t have a universally accepted idea of what those transcendent human rights should be. Taking your two examples, abortion and bearing arms, a segment of the population would argue that one should be a right and the other shouldn’t. Another segment would argue the opposite. Only at the most basic level could we come to something approaching universal agreement. The UN attempted something like this in 1948, but reading through that list of rights finds any number if things the governments of China or Cuba or many Islamic states would and do object to. Which is one of the reasons I find the attempt to declare victory on this particular issue troubling.

  46. 46
    Tom Foss

    Tom J:

    I’m simply making the point that if abortion rights are no longer up for debate, then should not that logic apply to other rights enumerated in the constitution, which of course is problematic.

    Not least of which being that the legalistic argument is a red herring. It changes from place to place and time to time, which really isn’t what we’re talking about when we talk human rights. Ophelia cited the Declaration, not the Constitution, in the OP, and for good reason. The Constitution is a practical document and a mutable one; the Declaration is more a statement of purpose and ideals, ideals to which we aspire, and ideals that we are still exploring the boundaries of.

    The reason that abortion is a settled matter has nothing to do with the law (except inasmuch as there is a constant legal and legislative assault on abortion) and everything to do with the lack of any new arguments to overturn the pro-choice position. When the forced-birthers come up with something to address the bodily rights argument, then we can reopen the issue. Any new pro-life argument needs to overcome that hurdle before it becomes worth examining, just as any theological argument must first demonstrate the existence of gods.

  47. 47
    deepak shetty

    @hjhornbeck
    I’ve been actively organizing against anti-choicers for about two years, and protesting against them for at least one or two more.
    There is no disagreement from me (and probably from Massimo) that a majority of anti-choices are nuts.
    However what you have to respond to is the secular argument – Consider the standard , unrealistic hypothetical – Is abortion the day before delivery (i.e. a full term baby, but just before birth) permissible assuming the mothers life is not at stake?
    A good number of secular folks, and the courts will say no – Do you agree/Disagree? If you agree there is some other attribute , besides bodily autonomy that factors into our views on abortion and there is some ethical judgement being made (and you can take the argument from here)
    You could level the same criticism at me as you are levelling at massimo
    a. A man telling pregnant women about the rights and wrongs about abortion – But am I ? My point of view is Im making observations about the world as I see it – moral ethics is challenging and human beings reason about all matters that do not concern them directly- live with it.
    b. A man pretending to be Spock when it comes to abortion – I’d say I try to do that for most arguments – I dont always succeed , and admittedly its easier when my rights are not at stake – is it really so bad?
    c. Why argue these unrealistic hypotheticals when there is a serious problem? – Because the rest of the arguments are settled – A fetus has no rights, A fertilized egg has no rights, Bodily autonomy and other rights of women trump whatever little a fetus might have as it develops. So the only thing left for discussion with like minded folks is these narrow corner cases.
    If however , I get the same criticism as Massimo , I’d have to say – wow this is crazy – Practically , Pragmatically Im the same as people on this side , but just because I decide to explore some corner case and say it has ethical considerations Im as good as conservative pro-lifer?

    Dave Silverman, Hemant Metha, and Massimo Pigliucci have been helping them.

    NOW do you get why some people are pissed off?!
    At Dave Silverman? Sure , I agree – Dont go to a place responsible for passing laws against women and make sympathetic noises .
    At Hemant mehta? – somewhat – I didn’t see if he has made any comment – based on his history I’d reserve passing judgement
    At Massimo?- too many assumptions and too many people ready to jump to conclusions . Too much escalation of rhetoric. So no I don’t understand.

  48. 48
    Tom Foss

    Deepak Shetty @47:

    – Is abortion the day before delivery (i.e. a full term baby, but just before birth) permissible assuming the mothers life is not at stake?

    Let’s be clear with the terms here. “Abortion” refers to the termination of a pregnancy. For a viable, full-term fetus, the method of abortion is delivery.

    The idea that there is any woman who comes in the day before her scheduled due date with a viable fetus and says “yeah, just kill it,” is so removed from the reality of abortion that it’s yet another of these insulting, abstract hypotheticals that serve only to distract from actual, practical issues that affect actual people, and to provide ammunition to those forced-birth proponents who rely on hypotheticals because they can’t support their positions with reality. It’s why so much time and energy is spent on hand-wringing over late-term abortions, when they make up a tiny fraction of all abortions, and only occur in cases where the mother’s health is seriously threatened and/or the fetus isn’t viable. At least according to statistics, mothers-to-be who wanders in during week 39 having changed her mind and wanting a fetusectomy are only slightly more common than verified lake monsters and legitimate poltergeists.

    But as I don’t have a uterus and aren’t directly being demeaned by treating my healthcare like it’s a hypothetical to be pondered rather than a practical reality of my existence, I’ll indulge the question: what of the totally viable fetus that just needs to get out the day before the expected due date? The point of the bodily rights argument is that no person has a right to use someone else’s body without their consent. If the fetus is viable and full-term (or even near-term), then removing the fetus from the mother’s body results in a separate baby,. Hooray, it’s an organism! That’s kind of what “viability” means, after all.

    The problem with Massimo’s argument isn’t (entirely) that he’s wringing his hands over hypotheticals. It’s that he A) thinks it appropriate to tell women how they should feel about an issue that does not and cannot directly affect him; B) assumes that women do not already consider the ethical (and other) issues involved in abortion, though the culture is saturated with trumped-up and exaggerated versions of those arguments; C) seems to assume that women make the abortion decision on the spot without consideration, rather than figuring it out well before they have an unwanted pregnancy; and D) has bought into this notion that abortion is a necessary evil (emphasis on the evil) and that the price one should pay (in addition to all the social and economic costs involved in this decision, at least in the US) for committing such an act is to suffer a bit, to feel bad, to recognize it as a weighty decision deserving of solemnity and gravitas and yadda yadda.

    As has been repeatedly pointed out in other threads, he doesn’t make the same point about having a child, which involves far greater social, emotional, economic, and ethical concerns. I’m willing to bet he doesn’t do that because he hasn’t bought into the notion that having children is a necessary evil, and doesn’t think that having children is some kind of rash decision made by irrational individuals who don’t understand the consequences. Even though, I’d argue, that’s far more often the case for birth than for abortion.

  49. 49
    Tom J

    The reason that abortion is a settled matter has nothing to do with the law (except inasmuch as there is a constant legal and legislative assault on abortion) and everything to do with the lack of any new arguments to overturn the pro-choice position.

    Not only do I disagree, my assessment is completely the opposite of yours. The abortion rights has been one of the most litigious areas in law in the last 40 years (as opposed to say, the right to bear arms which wasn’t even addressed by the court until recently). Despite their best efforts, the pro-life movement has not been able to overturn Roe, and it’s doubtful that it ever will be overturned in full (see below). The result of the last 40 years of lawsuits is that the opinion is as settled as a legal argument could be right now.

    But the court decision itself is the source, in my mind, of the most effective secular and legal argument against abortion – viability.

    First of all – for background – the constitution says nothing specifically about abortion. It does say, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This was the primary issue in Roe – proponents wanted a right to abortion, and didn’t (a) want to fight the issue in each of the 50 states or (b) think they could pass a constitutional amendment granting abortion. They took to the courts and convinced 7 justices that a right to abortion should be created under the penumbra of the right to privacy.

    But the main holding in Roe stated that this right extended only until viability. At that point, Roe no longer applies and the states have jurisdiction over whether an abortion is legal or not. The court balanced the rights of the mother against the rights of an unborn fetus and decided that scale tips at the point of viability, when a fetus could live outside the womb.

    I generally agree with this framework but it presents a problem for pro-choice advocates who do not agree with the court’s framework: what happens with viability is, as it could be in the future, pushed back further and further. When/if viability comes at 15 weeks, or 10 weeks or earlier, based on the court’s legal reasoning the state would be authorized to prohibit the procedure. Science in this case is the enemy of the pro-choice movement precisely because the ‘right to an abortion’ is, as it is interpreted in the US, based in the interpretation of law and not natural rights.

    The “lack of new arguments” charge is, as a result, kind of ironic. As medical science increases the viability of unborn fetuses the pro-life advocates will have new legal arguments. But in the interim neither side has any new arguments – one side favors the bodily autonomy of the woman and the other favors the “potential life” (to quote Hitchens) of the unborn. Exactly the state of play when Roe was decided.

    The other irony is that this conversation could be settled if we were to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to an abortion. But as far as I can tell – and someone please correct me if I’m wrong – such an amendment has not received serious consideration in the either the House or Senate, not even when the Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate during the first two years of Obama’s term.

    Until that happens expect continual legal and philosophical challenges to abortion and if any new ground is broken, it will unfortunately be on the pro-life side. I understand the psychological impulse to “close the debate”, especially among a cloistered group of people who all generally agree about a topic. But outside of that group is a whole other group of people with an argument, and a valid argument at that. The larger point is that “having a valid argument” and “I agree with that argument” are two entirely different things.

  50. 50
    deepak shetty

    @Tom Foss

    For a viable, full-term fetus, the method of abortion is delivery.
    So a woman who changes her mind , after viability, which was what 24 weeks( and getting smaller all the while) – you are saying that a woman can be forced against her will to have a delivery – where did that bodily autonomy go?The milestones as I remember them were viability, 27-28 weeks (85% chance of survival), 34 weeks (no long term effects due to early delivery) , 37 weeks (full term) , 40 weeks (normal )
    So let me know when the right to bodily autonomy is superseded by some other factor. Clearly that factor is not religious .

    The idea that there is any woman who comes in the day before her scheduled due date with a viable fetus
    See I did mention unrealistic but thats to illustrate a point isnt it?

    If the fetus is viable and full-term (or even near-term), then removing the fetus from the mother’s body results in a separate baby,
    Well more realistically , if a marriage breaks during pregnancy (and pregnancy is stressful!) and the point of viability(which is ~24 weeks) is passed, a woman cant change her mind? I doubt you believe that. But there is some boundary between 24 weeks and 40 weeks where we start getting squeamish – A philosopher acknowledging that? Hardly news and hardly worth getting upset about.

    A) thinks it appropriate to tell women how they should feel about an issue that does not and cannot directly affect him;
    I didnt get this from his post, even after re-reading – No way to resolve this I suppose

    B) assumes that women do not already consider the ethical (and other) issues involved in abortion,
    In his comments , he said that he was making a obviously true observation – that it is an ethical concern . In no way did he say women dont do it – he said isnt it obvious that most women do (and if they dont , they should). Are you finding the should troubling?

    ; C) seems to assume that women make the abortion decision on the spot without consideration, rather than figuring it out well before they have an unwanted pregnancy; and
    To me the context was clear – after his correction to say late trimester does your statement really apply since his post wasnt really dealing with unwanted pregnancies which would get terminated way before ethical concerns arise?

    D) has bought into this notion that abortion is a necessary evil (emphasis on the evil)
    I have yet to see a statement from Massimo saying that he believes abortion is evil or a necessary evil – all his comments to the posters have implied that he clearly doesn’t think so.

    As has been repeatedly pointed out in other threads, he doesn’t make the same point about having a child,
    a. Did you ask him what he feels? He usually replies to almost everyone
    b. I fail to see the requirement that he must write about a fairly obvious requirement to having a child. Must he also write about contraceptives or all matters birth related according to you?

  51. 51
    Tom Foss

    Tom J:

    The “lack of new arguments” charge is, as a result, kind of ironic. As medical science increases the viability of unborn fetuses the pro-life advocates will have new legal arguments.

    No, they’ll have the same argument earlier. Not that it matters, since the current tactic of the pro-life legal lobby is to declare the fetus a “person” from, in some cases, moments prior to implantation.

    But in the interim neither side has any new arguments – one side favors the bodily autonomy of the woman and the other favors the “potential life” (to quote Hitchens) of the unborn. Exactly the state of play when Roe was decided.

    This is, in part, why “viability” is a shitty metric, and a misleading way to frame the argument. We already legally recognize bodily autonomy post-birth–no parent can be legally compelled to donate so much as a pint of blood to save their child’s life. The pro-life lobby is trying to give rights to a fetus that belong to no living person, such that a person would lose significant rights once they were born, and lose even more rights if they were born with a uterus.

    But as far as I can tell – and someone please correct me if I’m wrong – such an amendment has not received serious consideration in the either the House or Senate, not even when the Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate during the first two years of Obama’s term.

    You mean the filibuster-proof majority that was, nonetheless, frequently filibustered by conservative “blue dog” Democrats? You mean a Constitutional amendment that would require proposal by a 2/3 majority vote in one house of Congress (neither house was controlled by the Democratic caucus at a rate of 67%)? You mean a Constitutional amendment that would require ratification by 38 of the states, in an environment where 24 states enacted abortion restrictions in 2011, the last year of that Congress?

    Yeah, that was totally going to happen. They couldn’t even manage a public healthcare option.

    The irony is that a Constitutional amendment does fuck-all to end a philosophical discussion about human rights. The irony is that every one of these legalistic arguments is utterly useless outside of one country which does not represent the state of things worldwide.

    Until that happens expect continual legal and philosophical challenges to abortion and if any new ground is broken, it will unfortunately be on the pro-life side.

    It will have to be on the pro-life side. That’s the side that needs to innovate. Just as any new ground broken in the god debate or the Bigfoot controversy is going to have to come from proponents. There are only so many ways to phrase “bodily integrity” just as there are only so many ways to phrase “there’s no evidence.”

    But outside of that group is a whole other group of people with an argument, and a valid argument at that. The larger point is that “having a valid argument” and “I agree with that argument” are two entirely different things.

    A valid argument implies two sides that are at some kind of impasse, with equally valid points. Are you aware of any pro-life argument which somehow addresses the bodily rights issue? I’ve yet to see one, over several years of looking and several days of several threads now on secular arguments against abortion. I’m sure we’d all love to see it if you know of one.

  52. 52
    Tom Foss

    Deepak Shetty:

    So a woman who changes her mind , after viability, which was what 24 weeks( and getting smaller all the while) – you are saying that a woman can be forced against her will to have a delivery – where did that bodily autonomy go?The milestones as I remember them were viability, 27-28 weeks (85% chance of survival), 34 weeks (no long term effects due to early delivery) , 37 weeks (full term) , 40 weeks (normal )
    So let me know when the right to bodily autonomy is superseded by some other factor. Clearly that factor is not religious .
    Exactly what do you and this hypothetical woman think are going to happen when she goes in for the post-viability abortion? What abortion method are you expecting them to use? As far as I can tell, D&C isn’t used after 12 weeks, and D&E isn’t done after 24 (and is difficult after 20). For late-term abortions, that leaves induced labor, and IDX, where one of the steps is…induced labor.

    I’m not a doctor, so I’m honestly curious: is there an option I’m omitting? What is the preferred method used to remove a viable, full- or near-term fetus from a woman who wants her pregnancy terminated? She is consenting to an abortion, correct? The doctor is informing her what that actually entails?

    I’ll note, at the moment, how easily and quickly your goalposts have shifted from “the day before delivery (i.e. a full term baby, but just before birth)” to the onset of viability.

    See I did mention unrealistic but thats to illustrate a point isnt it?

    That’s the thing you (and Massimo) do not seem to understand: these are real issues that affect real people and are under real attack. Demanding that proponents waste time and energy on absurd hypotheticals is insulting and demeaning–notwithstanding the fact that the subjects of these absurd hypotheticals are them.

    I suddenly wonder what trolley track-switch operators think of philosophers.

    Well more realistically , if a marriage breaks during pregnancy (and pregnancy is stressful!) and the point of viability(which is ~24 weeks) is passed, a woman cant change her mind?

    This does absolutely nothing to address my point. The woman can change her mind and terminate the pregnancy. The termination, if the fetus is actually viable, results in a baby. What happens to the baby afterward depends on whether or not the woman wants to retain parental rights and responsibilities.

    I didnt get this from his post, even after re-reading

    “To decide to get an abortion is always (or, at least, should always be) a very difficult and emotional step, precisely because it has significant ethical consequences.” [Emphasis added]

    What part of that is not telling women how they should feel? It is explicitly telling women how they should feel.

    In no way did he say women dont do it – he said isnt it obvious that most women do (and if they dont , they should). Are you finding the should troubling?

    Yes, the “should” is troubling. It’s really not his place (nor is it his ethical concern). Stephanie Zvan gave a good example of why.

    To me the context was clear – after his correction to say late trimester does your statement really apply since his post wasnt really dealing with unwanted pregnancies which would get terminated way before ethical concerns arise?

    HJ pointed out part of the problem at #10, and Stephanie Zvan gave a better explanation than I could as an outside observer (same link as before, comment #25):

    No, changing it to the third trimester helps nothing with regard to him saying it has to be an emotional step. It is simply assigning me emotions as payment for the fact that there are consequences to my decision. It’s calling for punishment whether or not the decision is ethical, and that is not just paternalistic, but also really crappy philosophy.

    I have yet to see a statement from Massimo saying that he believes abortion is evil or a necessary evil – all his comments to the posters have implied that he clearly doesn’t think so.

    Then why should it have to be a difficult and emotional step? Why would it be more difficult or emotional or ethically problematic than having any unwanted growth removed?

    a. Did you ask him what he feels? He usually replies to almost everyone

    I’ll repeat myself from above: “If you’re such a piss-poor communicator that you can’t get your idea across the way you want to otherwise rational individuals, either accept responsibility for the lack of clarity and rephrase, or find another outlet because you’re not cut out for writing.”

    b. I fail to see the requirement that he must write about a fairly obvious requirement to having a child. Must he also write about contraceptives or all matters birth related according to you?

    If he thinks there’s a distinction that makes it less necessary to consider the ethical implications and feel difficult emotions with respect to other birth-related matters than with abortion, then that distinction is relevant to singling abortion out as special. If he doesn’t feel that there’s a distinction, then why single out abortion? “What makes abortion different” is a key question that needs to be addressed if his comments are to be assigned any weight whatsoever.

  53. 53
    Tom Foss

    Argh, borked the blockquote.

  54. 54
    hjhornbeck

    Tom J @45:

    If Roe settled the matter, why did the court agree to hear Casey?

    You partially answer your own question in the next sentence:

    Despite stare decisis, SCOTUS modifies or clarifies or overrules decisions all the time.

    But you seem clueless about the ties between religion and politics in the United States. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic, a sect which opposes abortion, and even the non-Catholic ones have been known to attend religious events. Some of those do not follow their religion’s teachings, thankfully, but it wouldn’t take much for a Republican president to stuff the court with more pious justices and overturn Roe. It nearly happened, in fact, with the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case.

    The Supreme Court came close to virtually overturning Roe v. Wade, according to papers of the late Justice Harry Blackmun being released today. [...]

    The Blackmun papers reveal that the court’s first vote was to overrule Roe in all but name, Totenberg reports on Morning Edition. But as the issue came to a head, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the court’s three other anti-Roe justices were blindsided by three centrist justices who worked together in secret to preserve a woman’s right to an abortion.

    The 1992 abortion case was Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the first Bush administration was pushing hard for the reversal of Roe, the landmark 1973 ruling authored by Blackmun.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy initially voted with the anti-Roe conservatives, giving them a majority of five, but he subsequently changed his vote to support, not eviscerate Roe, the Blackmun papers show. The switch came even as Rehnquist, was circulating a so-called majority opinion that would have left Roe a meaningless shell, Totenberg reports.

    That case also represents a new strategy for the anti-choice movement. If they couldn’t make abortion illegal under the law, maybe they could make it practically impossible. TRAP laws throw up unnecessary roadblocks that make it tougher to provide abortions, and the courts have generally been happy to look the other way. Take admitting privileges, for instance, which operate on the assumption that a hospital would refuse an emergency referral. It’s ludicrous, yet an effective anti-choice tactic which the courts have permitted.

    I’m not arguing that it’s not a basic human right, I’m saying that to construe the holding in Roe to mean that abortion is now a basic human right is wrong.

    How is a constitutional right not a basic human right? Is there a more fundamental document I’m not aware of?

  55. 55
    hjhornbeck

    deepak shetty @47:

    However what you have to respond to is the secular argument – Consider the standard , unrealistic hypothetical – Is abortion the day before delivery (i.e. a full term baby, but just before birth) permissible assuming the mothers life is not at stake?

    If a logical argument is sound, it must be accepted as true. I cannot find a false premise in the bodily integrity argument, and I cannot see an error in the logic, ergo I must accept it as true. Since that argument applies from conception to the cutting of the umbilical cord, then yes, I must support a person’s choice to abort the day before delivery.

    I’m sure that makes you uneasy, but deciding moral arguments on intuition and feelings is a very bad idea.

    Pragmatically Im the same as people on this side , but just because I decide to explore some corner case and say it has ethical considerations Im as good as conservative pro-lifer?

    Well, do you have a modification to the bodily rights argument that conforms to your intuitions? I’d be glad to hear it, provided it doesn’t boil down to “I feel icky about this corner case.”

    At Hemant mehta? – somewhat – I didn’t see if he has made any comment

    He did:

    On a side note, I’m amazed (but not surprised) at a lot of the reactions I’ve seen to the piece. If you disagree with the points Kristine made, as I do, then let’s confront those arguments on their merits, not condemn the fact that they were posted in the first place. They’re going to be out there one way or another; I’d rather have them hashed out on my home court where I know I or my commenters will respond swiftly and thoroughly.

    If I thought there was a growing movement of atheists who opposed gay rights for non-religious reasons, I’d want to hear their arguments, too — and then tear them down.

    First off, he’s assuming these haven’t been covered before. As I point out elsewhere, they’ve probably been known for seventeen years, maybe even forty.

    Secondly, there is no growing movement of atheists supporting anti-choice; they’re actually Christians adopting the appearance of secularism for tactical reasons. Through ignorance, Hemant Metha gave some support to the hardcore religious right.

    At Massimo?- too many assumptions and too many people ready to jump to conclusions . Too much escalation of rhetoric. So no I don’t understand.

    My thoughts are very similar to Tom Foss’s, so I’ll defer on this one for now.

  56. 56
    hjhornbeck

    Tom J @49:

    Despite their best efforts, the pro-life movement has not been able to overturn Roe, and it’s doubtful that it ever will be overturned in full (see below).

    I have a comment in moderation which addresses this.

    But the court decision itself is the source, in my mind, of the most effective secular and legal argument against abortion – viability.

    No. No no no. Viability is a very bad argument, for several reasons:

    1. It changes with time. You yourself admit that medical advances can push it further back, and if our civilization goes sideways it could be pulled forward. We should base our moral judgements of abortion on the situation of the parent and child, not the current state of medical care.

    2. It changes with location. Urban areas have excellent neonatal intensive care, which pushes viability back, while a lack of resources in rural areas pushes it forward. Should we have different viability standards for different parts of the country, let alone different countries?

    3. It doesn’t include quality of life issues. Sure, there’s a 50% chance a premature infant will survive if born at the viability line, but what sort of life will they lead? Premature infants can develop chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy, cognitive impairments, vision issues, and more. These are all subjective and probabilistic, making them nearly impossible to weigh without invoking arbitrary boundaries.

    4. It doesn’t include quality of life issues. The primary defense of viability is that the fetus deserves a life like ours, but do they really have that if they’re born to parents that don’t want them and can’t afford them? Sure, the state could intervene, but is that any better? Much like the last point, “right to life”-based arguments are prone to arbitrary exclusion, which means subtle premise shifts can flip them from arguing against abortion in all cases to allowing unrestricted abortion.

    On top of that, all boundary approaches share the same fundamental problem: they’re ripe for exploitation by delaying tactics.

    Overall, roughly one-third of the CPCs we attempted to contact failed to answer or were slow to respond, including seven that volunteers ultimately visited. When volunteers connected with the CPC, the intake person on the phone would often schedule an appointment for many days away, if not as long as a week later. This lack of responsiveness and tendency to delay stands in stark contrast to the traditional practices at women’s health providers.

    This delay tactic also wastes vital time during which a pregnant woman might otherwise be obtaining options counseling, securing a prenatal care visit, or scheduling an abortion – if not obtaining the care itself. Delaying prenatal care can have an adverse effect on both mother and child, with maternal mortality 3 to 4 times higher in women who receive no prenatal care and infant mortality 6 times higher. Further, while complications from surgical abortion are rare, they nonetheless increase as the pregnancy progresses, as
    does the cost of the procedure; abortions after the first trimester are also generally less accessible.

    Emphasis mine. I know of one case a few years ago where a woman accidentally walked into a crisis pregnancy centre, asking for an abortion. The staff scheduled one for her many weeks later, at an actual abortion clinic next door. When she arrived on the appointed day, not only didn’t they know of the appointment, but the clinic had deliberately set the date past the line of viability, preventing this woman from getting a legal abortion. Are you fine permitting cases like that? And if not, how would you prevent someone from getting an abortion under false pretenses?

    I’ve tried to track this case down, but every search I do comes back polluted with horror stories about CPCs. You’ll just have to trust me, I’m afraid.

  57. 57
    deepak shetty

    What abortion method are you expecting them to use

    Abortion in the sense that the fetus doesnt make it or isnt expected to make it(whereas it would were some actions not taken) – i am not a doctor so I dont know the techniques nor would I predict what scientific advances might happen here.

    I’ll note, at the moment, how easily and quickly your goalposts have shifted from “the day before delivery

    Your note is wrong – You dont seem to understand how an argument works.
    If the bodily autonomy argument must hold , it must hold at all times 24 weeks or 26 weeks is irrelevant- If you switch to a viability argument , you are essentially saying other factors come into play after 24 weeks besides bodily autonomy. You are also conceding, that if tomorrow the science advances so that viability becomes say 18 weeks , then you will adjust the dates accordingly for bodily autonomy – So someone like me doesn’t consider viability a factor at all – we put brain development at a higher level than viability and we put bodily autonomy > brain development (within limits).

    That’s the thing you (and Massimo) do not seem to understand: these are real issues that affect real people and are under real attack.

    And you’d have to point out , how an abstract argument or an acknowledgement that such arguments exist affects these real people under real attack. Since both Massimo and I unambiguously state that we are pro-choice , that we dont see any issue at all with women who dont want to be pregnant or who abort during the time period that are usual , and in the rare case of late term abortions , we find the issue challenging but still agree that it must be a choice. Again I totally agree what Dave Silverman did,given the context was wrong – But massimo has not done anything similar to that.

    Yes, the “should” is troubling. It’s really not his place (nor is it his ethical concern). Stephanie Zvan gave a good example of why.

    Stephanie Zvans example has nothing to do with Massimos post – if his original post was unclear , his clarification should have made it clear. And seriously a philosopher who deals with moral issues? – its not his concern?
    Here are his words

    Second, my original post was much more narrowly focused: I was disputing the ill informed statement by Sarah Moglia that there are no secular arguments against (certain types of) abortion (not abortion rights). Of course there are. And even though I don’t find them convincing (as I said in my original post), they are neither irrational nor informed by bad science, as Moglia stated. We (the pro-choice camp) are right, rationally, morally and scientifically. But there is no reason to pretend that the other side is made up entirely of religious nuts and ignorant country bumpkins.

    That should have been the end of this particular argument – The fact that it isnt should cause you to introspect. See there’s the pesky “should” again .

    HJ pointed out part of the problem at #10

    As an analogy – Massimo is pointing out that people like Ken Miller exist whereas youll seem focused on Ken Ham so please we already agree on those type of examples or those type of opponents.

    Then why should it have to be a difficult and emotional step?

    I know a friend who aborted due to a genetic anomaly. I also know friends who have stated that they wouldnt abort for that scenario. In both cases it would be a difficult and emotional step. In neither case , whatever the outcome, would I call their action evil or a necessary evil – Do you disagree? However for examples like Stephanie Zvans I can easily say that it need not be difficult and emotional – but that it could be (It would be , for e.g. for my wife and I know that because she has told me) -

    If you’re such a piss-poor communicator that you can’t get your idea across the way you want to otherwise rational individuals, either accept responsibility for the lack of clarity and rephrase, or find another outlet because you’re not cut out for writing.
    Im tempted to respond in kind , but Ill resist for now
    Ill just point out
    a. He did clarify and acknowledge that he didnt phrase it correctly – why didnt the matter end there?
    b. Other rational individuals understood without problems or without thinking that Massimo must be evil incarnate

    If he thinks there’s a distinction that makes it less necessary to consider the ethical implications and feel difficult emotions with respect to other birth-related matters
    I would bet that a philosopher has a far more nuanced and a far more complicated position when it comes to procreation – Jean Kazez used to write about issues that I had never even considered – I’d seriously doubt Massimo would be any different. You are assuming a whole bunch of things that I doubt have a basis in evidence.

    And because I feel the need to rant

    It’s really not his place (nor is it his ethical concern)

    And I dont think you’ll really think about this. Do men not have any dealings with women at all? We have wives, sisters, close friends. Do you seriously think my wife doesn’t consider my opinion when we talk about having a baby or an abortion? Do you really think my response should be – “Whatever you want dear – I just provide the sperm?” Since most of the women close to me are conservative, should I listen to them as the definitive standard for abortions? Should I listen to Ophelia et al? or Should I listen to the opposing views and then use my reason to evaluate these arguments and come to a conclusion and act on those (as we are doing- which youll seem to have a problem with ?

    Do you really think , because I am not gay I should not consider issues related to gay people or wonder in what circumstances I would and would not allow some discriminatory practice.
    Do you apply this style of thinking to other issues?

    And since this has gone on long enough, I repeat , practically , pragmatically , there is probably no difference between your actions and mine or Massimo’s . There is probably no difference in the way we treat women or the candidates we vote for or what we think is morally wrong or morally right.
    But inspite of that fact, the level of rhetoric we are at wow I have to think were the accomodationists right after all? Is 100% purity our goal ? – in which case so long and thanks for all the fish.

  58. 58
    deepak shetty

    @hjhornbeck

    Since that argument applies from conception to the cutting of the umbilical cord, then yes, I must support a person’s choice to abort the day before delivery.

    I wish you good luck convincing secular people of this line of thinking. The flaw in that logic is that bodily autonomy must be the only factor or that it must necessarily always override all considerations – Good luck with that logical proof – perhaps you might need Massimo’s help if you are willing to switch that to a philosophical argument. Im not saying that I disagree with you – I agree that bodily autonomy has to override and fortunately , practically we dont have the situation – however to me it is trivially true that the question is secular in nature.
    But atleast you acknowledge the logical consequences.

    As I point out elsewhere, they’ve probably been known for seventeen years, maybe even forty.

    Ok so is there anything new in the anti-religion/pro-religion arguments? Is there anything new in the anti-gay/pro-gay arguments? Why then do we have articles from both sides? Why have any debate on any topic? In fact I’d say when it came to religion this was a feature of new ATheism – we would not allow bad arguments to go unanswered – when did it become we wont allow bad arguments to be published on our blog? How is it different from Ophelia quoting paragraphs from a post and refuting them? Is she giving a platform for bad arguments? The objection I would have to Hemant would be that he published the article without a refutation from his side – I presume he expected the readers to do that but I’d think for this topic he should have had a response – but so long as he is willing to state the argument is bad and he disagrees and his actions match those views – I am fine with it.

    Secondly, there is no growing movement of atheists supporting anti-choice; they’re actually Christians adopting the appearance of secularism for tactical reasons…Through ignorance, Hemant Metha gave some support to the hardcore religious right.

    Since Massimo said it better than me

    But not rationally, or even legally. No law aimed at restricting access to abortion procedures is couched in religious terms. Our opponents are doing precisely what John Rawls said people should do in a pluralistic society: they are translating their concerns into secular language, making this a secular debate. The terms of that debate are partly philosophical (ethics is a branch of philosophy after all), partly legal, and partly scientific (when does life begin? When do fetuses start to feel pain?). Just because someone has ultimately religious motives to take up a given position, that doesn’t make the debate itself an issue of church-state separation.

    You are missing what we are responding to – that secular arguments exist and that is silly for our side to say they dont.

  59. 59
    Tom Foss

    Deepak Shetty:

    Abortion in the sense that the fetus doesnt make it or isnt expected to make it(whereas it would were some actions not taken) – i am not a doctor so I dont know the techniques nor would I predict what scientific advances might happen here.

    Abortions where the fetus doesn’t make it do not happen when the fetus is viable. That’s not an argument, that’s tautological, based on the basic definitions of “abortion” (termination of a pregnancy) and “viable” (fetus that can survive outside the womb).

    Your note is wrong – You dont seem to understand how an argument works.

    That’s rich.

    If the bodily autonomy argument must hold , it must hold at all times 24 weeks or 26 weeks is irrelevant- If you switch to a viability argument , you are essentially saying other factors come into play after 24 weeks besides bodily autonomy.

    I agree. The point, a point you continually seem to ignore or misunderstand, is that the outcome of an abortion at 24 weeks or 26 weeks is likely to be quite different from the outcome of an abortion at 38 weeks and six days. Viability doesn’t figure into my position at all with respect to bodily rights or autonomy. Viability–specifically, the abortion methods used and the difference in viability between 24 and 39 weeks–are relevant to what the outcome of the abortion is.

    The notion that the outcome of an abortion is always a dead fetus is a misunderstanding of abortion. Delivery is an abortion method. The outcome of abortion is always that the fetus is removed from the mother’s body. What occurs afterward depends on factors including but not limited to the level of development of the fetus prior to the termination of the pregnancy.

    And you’d have to point out , how an abstract argument or an acknowledgement that such arguments exist affects these real people under real attack.

    I have, repeatedly, but to reiterate:
    1) They provide arguments that anti-choicers then use to prop up their positions, thinking that if they can find one example of an impermissible abortion, then it justifies abortion restrictions.
    2) They are frequently used as a derailing tactic, distracting from actual issues and discussions (as I would argue they have for the skeptic/atheist community in this instance)
    3) The assumption that they constitute any kind of valid objection to pro-choice arguments leads otherwise pro-choice people to mistakenly think that there is a consistent, challenging secular pro-life position, and to take steps that imply that said position has some kind of parity or deserves some kind of equal time with pro-choice positions.
    4) It contributes to this prevailing notion that abortion is something that needs to be justified and apologized for in ways that other kinds of medical procedures don’t. No one talks about tumor removal needing to be “legal, safe, and rare.”

    That should have been the end of this particular argument – The fact that it isnt should cause you to introspect.

    The problem, again, is in the singling out of abortion, and in the way this whole thing began. Dave Silverman stated that there were secular arguments against abortion, and specifically, that those arguments made abortion a trickier issue than school prayer or death with dignity. Well, yes, of course there are secular arguments against abortion; there are secular arguments against just about anything. But good, compelling, make-the-issue-less-settled-than-right-to-die arguments? I’d love to see them, and so would everyone else who’s been criticizing Dave and Hemant and Massimo on this issue. Because for all the talk that there are compelling secular arguments against abortion, arguments that deserve attention and make the issue a greater quandary than other issues that the atheist community treats as settled, they have yet to be presented. At best, we have arguments that do not overcome bodily integrity, and arguments about how people should feel about certain kinds of abortion. The latter are not secular pro-life arguments, the former do nothing to make the issue any thornier than right-to-die.

    As an analogy – Massimo is pointing out that people like Ken Miller exist whereas youll seem focused on Ken Ham so please we already agree on those type of examples or those type of opponents.
    That’s an excellent analogy. Because just as Ken Miller is propped up to claim that evolution is compatible with Christianity, these abstract philosophical arguments are propped up to claim that there are valid secular arguments against abortion, both claims being equally misleading. Christianity is compatible with evolution as long as you’re willing to compartmentalize and compromise one or both, and there are valid secular arguments against abortion as long as you pretend there’s no bodily rights argument or redefine abortion.

    I know a friend who aborted due to a genetic anomaly. I also know friends who have stated that they wouldnt abort for that scenario. In both cases it would be a difficult and emotional step. In neither case , whatever the outcome, would I call their action evil or a necessary evil – Do you disagree?

    Emphasis added. See if you can find the big difference between what you’re saying here and what people are objecting to Massimo saying. Yes, in many cases, for many people, deciding to get an abortion or certain types of abortion may be a difficult and/or emotional step. And for some people, it may be an easy, perfectly rational, dispassionate decision. Are the people in the latter situation doing abortion wrong? What is the effective difference?

    The problem is that Massimo thinks abortion, or some kinds of abortion, “should always” be difficult and emotional. Why? What purpose is served by this dictum?

    a. He did clarify and acknowledge that he didnt phrase it correctly – why didnt the matter end there?

    His clarification didn’t change the problematic portion.

    b. Other rational individuals understood without problems or without thinking that Massimo must be evil incarnate

    And other rational individuals took issue with what he said.

    I would bet that a philosopher has a far more nuanced and a far more complicated position when it comes to procreation

    Right, philosophers work in mysterious ways, and it’s not for us mere mortals to try to discern their reasoning. Any apparent contradictions or fallibility is clearly our issue, not theirs.

    As to your rant, nowhere in it did you come close to the point. Yes, abortion is going to affect you indirectly. Yes, issues that affect women and gays are issues that you can care about because of their ethics, because of your beliefs, because they affect people you care about. Yes, you can weigh in on those issues. Where Massimo oversteps is in, as an outsider, telling the people who are directly affected how they should feel about the issue. He dictated the acceptable ways to approach an issue that does not directly affect him, and it’s as offensive as if he were telling black people how to feel about the n-word or gay people how to feel about laws preventing same-sex parents from adopting. He (and you) can weigh in all you want, but trying to tell people who are directly affected what approaches to their issues are acceptable is insulting and patronizing.

    It’s funny that you’d end that with wondering if the accommodationists are right, since their whole schtick was dictating what were the acceptable ways to do skepticism. No, they weren’t right to do that, and Massimo isn’t right to do the same damn thing over abortion.

  60. 60
    deepak shetty

    @Tom foss
    See if you can find the big difference between what you’re saying here and what people are objecting to Massimo saying.
    Only responding to this – everything else has been covered. I’d go so far as to say my would can be changed to should – Deciding to abort a baby that you wanted to have due to a genetic anomaly should be an ethical question – that people do think about and that there is no “right” answer and if they dont , they should
    Here are some more (see abortion isnt special)
    People think about a lot of things before they reproduce and if they dont, they should
    People think about being meat eaters and if they dont, they should
    Or in general people do think about ethical concerns must be thought about , and if they dont, they should.

    And for some people, it may be an easy, perfectly rational, dispassionate decision
    You know any of these rational people , who wanted to have a baby and then had to change their minds because circumstances changed? You think rational people dont think about their actions and the consequences of those actions? You have a very weird interpretation of rational. Note this is completely different from the I dont want a pregancy type of situations

  61. 61
    Tom Foss

    Deepak Shetty:

    Deciding to abort a baby that you wanted to have due to a genetic anomaly should be an ethical question – that people do think about and that there is no “right” answer and if they dont , they should

    I love how far this argument has move, from “abortion should always be a difficult and emotional decision” to “deciding to abort [...] due to a genetic anomaly should be an ethical question.” Depending on how broadly we define “ethics” in this instance, I don’t even have much problem with that last bit. Before making decisions involving procreation, I think it’s a good idea for people to consider the relevant issues involved: do we want children, can we afford to raise a child, would we make good parents, what if the child has a medical condition, etc.

    What I’m not going to say, and what I disagreed with, and what has been the point of contention all along despite your continued attempts to shift the discussion away from it, is that any abortion decision “should always” be “difficult” and “emotional.” I’m not going to contribute to the way culture already polices the minutiae of women’s thoughts, desires, and feelings by dictating that, on top of everything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to decide to have an abortion, and if the decision isn’t difficult for you, if you aren’t feeling difficult feels about it, then you’re abortioning wrong.

    You know any of these rational people , who wanted to have a baby and then had to change their minds because circumstances changed? You think rational people dont think about their actions and the consequences of those actions? You have a very weird interpretation of rational.

    I might feel stung by this if it bore even the slightest resemblance to anything I were arguing. Obvious strawman is obvious.

  62. 62
    deepak shetty

    @Tom Foss

    I love how far this argument has move, from “abortion should always be a difficult and emotional decision” to “deciding to abort [...] due to a genetic anomaly should be an ethical question.

    And I love how you refuse to understand Massimo’s clarification and are supremely confident in your assessment of it. Why the heck do you think Massimo added “certain type of abortions e.g. last trimester”

    I might feel stung by this if it bore even the slightest resemblance to anything I were arguing
    So again , why do you think people have a last trimester abortion? Do you think that that decision is not an emotional one? When we say there is no right answer for some types of abortion (Im assuming you agree that some women will elect to have the baby and some wont) doesn’t it automatically imply the decision is a difficult one ?, not a decision to make lightly?
    for e.,g. lets say its probably harm to a woman’s life v/s fetus – there is almost no ethical question here – the answer is straight and easy , ethically, (but some women will still choose fetus). But if you change it to to abort or not abort a last trimester fetus with a potential genetic issue? Now that’s a difficult question. if you feel its an easy question , for anyone, go ahead make the case.
    With that thank you for your time.

  63. 63
    Tom Foss

    And I love how you refuse to understand Massimo’s clarification and are supremely confident in your assessment of it.

    Massimo’s “clarification” doesn’t address my problems with his comments. In fact, he doubles down on them in the post Ophelia linked in the OP.

    Why the heck do you think Massimo added “certain type of abortions e.g. last trimester”

    Because intuitively and emotionally, that’s a more defensible position than the initial one? Because, as HJ predicted, “His edit retains the general applicability of his prior comment, but now incorporates specific examples. Should the heat continue, he can go “no no, I meant ONLY third trimester abortion;” should it slack off, he can claim he was talking about abortion in general.”

    Why the heck do you think that restricting his dictum to late-term abortions addresses my issues with said dictum?

    So again , why do you think people have a last trimester abortion? Do you think that that decision is not an emotional one? When we say there is no right answer for some types of abortion (Im assuming you agree that some women will elect to have the baby and some wont) doesn’t it automatically imply the decision is a difficult one ?, not a decision to make lightly?

    Do you understand that there is a difference between “is often” or even “is usually” or “is generally” and “should always be“? Do you comprehend the difference between descriptions and prescriptions? Neither your anecdote nor Massimo’s makes either of you qualified to say “this is how everyone should always feel in this particular circumstance.” And I don’t feel as free or empowered as either you or Massimo seem to tell a woman who doesn’t find such a decision emotionally fraught or difficult to tell them that they’re doing something wrong.

  64. 64
    hjhornbeck

    deepak shetty @58

    I wish you good luck convincing secular people of this line of thinking.

    I don’t need it. According to the American Secular Census, the majority of atheists support unrestricted abortion (55.4%). If you step outside the US, in fact, you find my line of thinking is either the plurality or the default in developed nations; for instance, 49% of Canadians support unrestricted abortion.

    The flaw in that logic is that bodily autonomy must be the only factor or that it must necessarily always override all considerations – Good luck with that logical proof

    And yet later on, you say:

    I agree that bodily autonomy has to override and fortunately , practically we dont have the situation

    So you both accept and reject the bodily integrity argument? You admit another factor to defeat it may exist, but then seem to imply no such factor exists. If you don’t know of a way to break the argument, why would you even suggest it can be broken?

    Ok so is there anything new in the anti-religion/pro-religion arguments?

    Nope. Judith Thompson explicitly granted the right to life within her argument [emphasis mine]:

    I am inclined to agree, however, that the prospects for “drawing a line” in the development of the fetus look dim. I am inclined to think also that we shall probably have to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth. Indeed, it comes as a surprise when one first learns how early in its life it begins to acquire human characteristics. By the tenth week, for example, it already has a face, arms and less, fingers and toes; it has internal organs, and brain activity is detectable. On the other hand, I think that the premise is false, that the fetus is not a person from the moment of conception. A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree. But I shall not discuss any of this. For it seems to me to be of great interest to ask what happens if, for the sake of argument, we allow the premise.

    As I’ve pointed out several times, the anti-choice movement knows this. And what’s their grand counter-strategy?

    Invoke the right to life.

    Why then do we have articles from both sides? Why have any debate on any topic?

    There’s no philosophy here, they’re just pounding against the gates until they find a weakness. And a few of the secular community fell for their secular Trojan Horse and tried opening the door. Thankfully, a fair number of us have stepped up to the plate and have been shouting back, but we’ve been hampered by people wondering why we’re shouting so much and why we’d ever reject a horse.

    Since Massimo said it better than me

    Let’s tweak a few words, shall we?

    But not rationally, or even legally. No law aimed at restricting [the teaching of evolution] is couched in religious terms. Our opponents are doing precisely what John Rawls said people should do in a pluralistic society: they are translating their concerns into secular language, making this a secular debate. The terms of that debate are partly philosophical, partly legal, and partly scientific ([Are there problems with evolution? What about the debate over punctuated equilibrum?]). Just because someone has ultimately religious motives to take up a given position, that doesn’t make the debate itself an issue of church-state separation.

    And you’re happy with teaching Intelligent Design in classrooms, right? Because otherwise you’d hold inconsistent views.

    You are missing what we are responding to – that secular arguments exist and that is silly for our side to say they dont.

    And you’re missing what the rest of us have been responding to: this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, another attempt by religious groups to earn special privileges, and rather than listen to all the evidence I’ve brought forth you’ve babbled “but they’re just arguing” over and over. Unlike the teaching of evolution, however, this breech will lead to immediate suffering and death. Take this horrifying case, for example:

    Seven years and much legal wrangling later, Gibbs could finally go on trial this spring — part of a wave of “fetal harm” cases across the country in recent years that pit the rights of the mother against what lawmakers, health care workers, prosecutors, judges, jurors, and others view as the rights of the unborn child. [...]

    The case intersects a number of divisive and difficult issues — the criminal justice system’s often disproportionate treatment of poor people of color, especially in drug prosecutions; the backlash to Roe v. Wade and the conservative push to establish “personhood” for fetuses as part of a broad-based strategy to weaken abortion laws. A wild card in the case — Mississippi’s history of using sometimes dubious forensic evidence to win criminal convictions over many years — could end up playing a central role. [...]

    “It’s tremendously, tremendously frightening, this case,” said Oleta Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund, an advocacy and research organization, in Jackson. “There’s real fear for young women whose babies are dying early who [lack the resources to] defend themselves and their actions.”

    I bet you were outraged when the religious right tried to sneak intelligent design into the classroom. When it comes to sneaking into the secular movement, though, you’ve insisted we treat the religious right as a serious contender, even though it will cause far more pain and suffering in the short term.

    You have some seriously messed up priorities, and no amount of argument or evidence has been able to show you that. I don’t see why I should bother arguing with you, if you’re this blind to what your indifference and ignorance are producing.

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    Secular Anti-Abortion Link Roundup » Almost Diamonds

    […] Inalienable–”Also: philosophy types should not act like Spocks. They should not get all surprised and miffed when women who have an investment in abortion rights get pissed off by dispassionate discussion of whether women in fact should have abortion rights.” […]

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