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Mar 20 2014

A Thought Experiment for the Philosophy Dudebros

Hey, let’s do some philosophy for any more philosophy dudebros who might show up wanting to talk abortion rights. I LOVE philosophy!

All right, dude. Ready for a thought experiment? You’re always totally down with one, I’m sure, cuz you’re a philosophy dude. You’ve signed up to be an organ donor, right? Right? If not, exit the conversation now and never ever even consider you have anything to say about what women should do with unwanted pregnancies. If you’re not willing to let your dead body save other lives, you don’t even get to hypothetically consider what I should do with my alive and aware one.

Okay, organ donor wanna-debate-abortion philosophy dudebro. You’ve been in an accident. You were riding your bike, you forgot your helmet, swerved to avoid hitting a dog and ended up going ass over ankles over the handlebars on to the pavement. Cracked your head wide open. Now, you got flown to the best trauma hospital in the world, and they’ve put you back together again. You’re never going to contribute much to society, though, because your brain is so damaged that your cognitive function is greatly reduced and you’re never going to be able to live without 24-7 care again.

Hey, what’s this on your license? Is that an Organ Donor YES that I see?

Image shows part of an Organ Donation form with the box for "Donate all my organs and tissue" checked.

Organ donor form. Image courtesy Magnus D on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Sweet! Look, philosophy dudebro: there’s so many lives you can save! Sure, you can still feel pain, and being stuck in the hospital rather than a residential facility makes you really upset, and you’re aware of just how bad the quality of your life is when you can’t control what’s done to your body, but you don’t matter as much as all those people you can help, do you? After all, you’ve got two functioning kidneys – why shouldn’t we take one to save the life of a person who, with a working kidney, will go on to be a productive member of society? Right? I mean, you’ve got two, you don’t need the other one. Except if your remaining kidney fails, you’re shit out of luck, and if you develop kidney stones in that one remaining kidney, you might have complications, and there’s the fact that the surgery is hella painful and can lead to the potential for infection, complications and death, but you wouldn’t mind being forced to donate part of yourself to save another life even with those risks, would you? After all, you once marked yes on a donor registration form. Look, if you survive the removal of your kidney, and you don’t have anything bad happen to your other one, the long-term risks are minimal. That other person has as much right to live as you do. Hey, maybe even more, since they don’t need residential care. So that’s a good argument for forcing you to donate your kidney, right?

You know what, I don’t see why we can’t do it right now. Sure, you have a fully-functional brain, and your own hopes and wishes and dreams, and you don’t like to suffer, but you’re a match for this person whose kidneys have failed. It’ll only take you about four weeks to recover from the surgery. Isn’t it more ethical to save a life than keep both your kidneys? Shouldn’t society be able to choose for you whether to save a life or not? And if you’ve said you’ll be an organ donor after death, why wouldn’t you want to be one now?

I mean, it’s not like you’ll have to go through nine months of having something feeding off of you. It’s not like you’re risking all these complications, or these complications, or maybe these really bad ones, or these permanent changes to your body (not to mention lotsa complications). Compared to that, kidney donation’s a breeze!

Image is a stylized representation of a person giving blood.

Blood donation pictogram courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s have some blood out of you. It’s totally safe – your risk of complication is virtually nil. Sure, you may faint. Sure, you may despise needles and panic every time. Sure, there could be bruising and bleeding and scarring and nerve damage and stuff, but surely it’s worth it to save lots of people. Right? We can come take your blood any time we need to, and you won’t mind a bit, because life is so darn precious. I mean, wow, your blood might save that poor pregnant lady who’s bleeding to death while trying to deliver that child you forced her to have. How cool would that be?

You know what, let’s go whole hog here. You can totally donate some bone marrow, and it’ll barely hurt a bit! Barely any risk! Sure, you may suffer complications from anesthesia, but what’s a teeny-tiny little risk of death compared to saving a life, huh? I mean, you’ll be at far less risk of dying than pregnant women are! So there should be no problemo, right, philosophy dudebro?

I’m sure it’s totally fine to perform all of the above procedures on you, whether you consent or not, because greater good and life is precious and all that jazz – not to mention, you consented to be an organ donor once, and you risked your life on your bike once, and that means you’ve totally consented to the consequences we decide to impose on you. Surely, you don’t think you matter more than other people. What if the person you save is the next Elvis? Or the next Einstein? Or a fetus? Yeah, buddy! You know we can’t risk potentially losing any of those potential awesome people just because you have some silly notion about bodily autonomy, so hop up on that operating table and let’s get crack-a-lackin. Hey, you might be saving the person who grows up to cure cancer! Betcha that’ll make all the pain and fear and complications you suffer feel like nothing.

What’s that? You won’t let me cut on you? How very selfish of you. Ah, well, as you know, it’s your body and we can’t force you do use it to keep other people alive without your permission, now, can we?

So why is it you have such a hard time understanding women and trans men are people, just like you?

Image shows a thoughtful velociraptor with the caption "You mean to tell me... that women are people too?"

Yep.

52 comments

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  1. 1
    katybe

    This is a thing of beauty!

  2. 2
    rq

    This is awesome. Really awesome. I love how your snark and sass always add that extra *oomph* to these things, even though I’ve heard and read them before. You rock!

    However, sometimes I wish someone (nooo, not meeeee… *whiiiine*) would write up something similar more specific to reproductive rights – something like harvesting sperm, because that might actually hit closer to home for these guys (yeah, I’m gonna say guys), because I think the reproductive/sexual aspect is the one that they actually see, never mind that pregnancy hijacks ALL the organs. Seeing as for a lot of them sperm is about the most valuable thing they possess, it might actually percolate through to something like an actual braincell instead of one of those Philosophy Time triggers.

  3. 3
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    This post. I love it.

    I know I should probably say more, but I don’t know what else to say. I’ll watch to see if any counter-trolling is needed, however…

  4. 4
    Cuttlefish

    C’mon, Dana… there are more things these dudes can donate! Who needs *two* eyes when all the depth perception you can do is inside a hospital room? Corneas are valuable! My sister-in-law has lived all her life with one lung, so if yon dudebro has two… you can donate individual lobes of your liver as well. Oh, and let’s not forget the amazing value of skin to burn victims. This dude is gonna be in a bed for the rest of his life, so it’s not like having flexible skin is a high priority, and burn victims are in such incredible pain…

    And it’s not like he’s gonna need both testes. Hell, he likely won’t have use for even one…

  5. 5
    SallyStrange

    I’m afraid you will find that the philosophy dudebros will find this exercise to be a complete waste of their time. It’s THEIR rights and THEIR bodies that are up for debate in this scenario, you see–it’s only exciting and interesting and intellectual and heady when it’s someone else’s body and rights in question.

  6. 6
    rq

    Well, then we should engage in this loverly discussion of their rights! Who needs THEM to participate or express an opinion?

  7. 7
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Hey! I’ve got it, rq. I think this hospitalised dudebro should have sperm regularly extracted so some lovely single women and lesbian couples and men with fertility issues can use it for their own reproductive purposes. What about all the potential people he’d otherwise be preventing from being born?!? And he signed the organ donor card after all.

    1. 7.1
      Anthony Burber

      @Ibis3 #7:
      I don’t know, some dudebros might find that thought appealing. (Others will cry “spermjackers!” and panic.) I think we say that the sperm is being used to feed and train a special squadron of attack candiru. That stuff has nutritional value, you can’t just throw it away!

      @Dana Hunter OP:
      I’ve seen multiple good arguments in favor of it, but some leave a bit of wiggle room for the dudebros to create contrived hypothetical cases about. I find the type of “bodily autonomy” argument you use here to be uniquely good for not leaving any such wiggle room.

    2. 7.2
      rq

      Now that is an idea. He won’t even mind at all!

  8. 8
    Pierce R. Butler

    Do you really expect a True Philosophy Dudebro™ to read 1,058 words, not one of which is “beer” or “tits”?!?

  9. 9
    Beth

    Let me preface this response with caveat that I fully support a woman’s right to make the decision regarding abortion through the duration of the pregnancy. That is, this argument can be considered entirely hypothetical, as you wish.

    As an example of a hypothetical argument, I fully support a single-payer health care system, which isn’t even under discussion in our country right now. But I can still recognize that If society is going to be providing health care for all citizens, it may not be unreasonable in the future to make laws that prohibit currently legal behaviors that often lead to serious and very expensive health problems, like smoking or high risk adventure sports. That is one possible foreseeable outcome of such a healthcare system. Likewise I can recognize some problems that arise from my stance with regard to abortion being fully legal throughout a pregnancy and discuss those in a hypothetical way.

    I read recently that it’s extremely difficult for a women in Italy, in need of a medical abortion, to find a provider of that service. Is it reasonable to require doctors and nurses to perform an operation they have moral objections to? Would you want to undergo surgery if the doctor had that attitude? What if you were going to die without one?

    After the bike accident you described, is society required to keep me alive, providing the care and services I need when recovery is not expected? If so, is providing a kidney to allow someone else to live a more productive life really an undue demand in return? I think there is a reasonable argument for that, though I would not support it myself.

    None of these seem like simple questions to me, but deserving of a thoughtful discussion regarding the rights of citizens to various health care services, the obligations of citizens to contribute something useful to the society that provides for their healthcare, and how much authority society should have over the decisions that individuals make regarding their body and their health.

    Incidentally, I find a significant difference between your examples and abortion in that to extracting organs is far more like providing an abortion than refusing access to one, which is what you are comparing it to. The difference has to do with what others in society are required to provide for someone in need. We don’t really give much thought to providing medical care to the trauma victim. That’s currently a given in our society. Providing 24-7 care for an incapacitated individual is also a given at this point. We don’t kill our citizens even when they are going to be nothing but a drain on society for the rest of their life. But it’s also a problem in that those kind of trauma victims are expensive to care for. It require a great deal of resources that might otherwise provide a better gain for societies investment. At the moment, we are a wealthy enough society we can provide this. If that changes, so might our standards of care provided for those victims.

    Providing an abortion to a woman who will die without it seems absolutely in line with providing care to a trauma victim. Providing a first trimester abortion to a woman who wants one for non-medical reasons is a bit farther down that line. What are societies obligations to provide the access and resources for a women to obtain such an abortion? Providing a third trimester abortion to a woman who wants one for non-medical reasons is even farther down that line, requiring more extensive resources to perform and people who are willing to do the job.

    These issues can also intertwine with technology. If we can make kidneys via 3-D printers, the problem of whether or not the trauma victim should be required to donate one of theirs goes away. Similarly, the morning-after pill has the effect of making early abortions more accessible and less costly. The question of whether or not society should/can require an OB/GYN doctor to provide elective abortions to whether or not a pharmacist should be required to fill a prescription.

    1. 9.1
      Kristen

      “Providing an abortion to a woman who will die without it seems absolutely in line with providing care to a trauma victim. Providing a first trimester abortion to a woman who wants one for non-medical reasons is a bit farther down that line. What are societies obligations to provide the access and resources for a women to obtain such an abortion?”

      If you are focusing solely on resources in this scenario, it will always be in societies best interest to cover the wanted abortion over the much more costly, medically risky, resource heavy condition of being pregnant & giving birth and then having a new citizen to provide more of those healthcare resources for.

      How exactly are you defining “non-medical” reason anyway? And does this definition only apply to pregnant people or for all circumstances of what can happen to a person’s body that they want to stop happening?

      Also, I would make the argument that an abortion is ALWAYS done for medical reasons because it is preventing the health conditions/physical consequences that come with letting a pregnancy continue. Just because something isn’t going to kill you (though the risk is certainly there during pregnancy) doesn’t mean its a sunshine and roses condition that doesn’t deserve medical treatment. If pregnancy didn’t result in a baby, but the exact same symptoms & risks existed for it, we would all find it to be a horrifying condition.

      A health care system that only treats people on their death bed is a hell of a scary system. (also totally inefficient and not cost effective to just let people get sicker, or allow all conditions to fully develop until they are even more expensive and complicated to treat )

      (one more thing: at the third trimester, wouldn’t they just perform a C-section because the by then the baby is too big? An abortion at this stage would be even more risky for the mother, which makes sense that the stats for abortions at this stage are often do to complications that require it)

      1. Beth

        If you are focusing solely on resources in this scenario, it will always be in societies best interest to cover the wanted abortion over the much more costly, medically risky, resource heavy condition of being pregnant & giving birth and then having a new citizen to provide more of those healthcare resources for.

        Yes. I think this is a devastating argument for legalizing abortion against that particular line of reasoning. That’s probably why actual anti-abortionists don’t use it. If you agree with it, it makes a solid argument with respect to allowing assisted suicide as well. But I brought it up because it also makes a reasonable argument for the hypothetical example in the OP – that of taking a kidney from an accident victim that won’t be recovering. It’s a definite win for all three under a utilitarian ethics system.

        How exactly are you defining “non-medical” reason anyway? And does this definition only apply to pregnant people or for all circumstances of what can happen to a person’s body that they want to stop happening?

        I would define “non-medical” as an abortion requested for reasons other than a larger than normal expected risk to life or health due to the pregnancy. For the purposes of this discussion, I think it’s reasonable to extend it to cosmetic surgery or penile implants. Is there something in particular you are thinking of? It’s not like people get colostomies just for fun. It’s one thing to argue that something should be allowed. It’s another to argue that people have a ‘right’ to the service even if they can’t afford to pay for it. But cost is relative and, as the above argument shows, publicly funded abortion is cheaper than the alternative.

        Also, I would make the argument that an abortion is ALWAYS done for medical reasons because it is preventing the health conditions/physical consequences that come with letting a pregnancy continue.

        Well, it’s certainly harder on a woman’s body than not having children. But I doubt that any woman who wanted to be pregnant would let those risks deter her, so ‘m not sure it’s reasonable to consider the normal risks to be a medical reason. I’m not particularly interested in arguing this point though. I personally favor allowing the choice for any reason whatsoever, including that her circumstances have changed and she no longer wants it. So I have no objection to you considering that a medical reason. But I don’t think you’ll convince any actual anti-abortionists about that point.

        A health care system that only treats people on their death bed is a hell of a scary system. (also totally inefficient and not cost effective to just let people get sicker, or allow all conditions to fully develop until they are even more expensive and complicated to treat )

        Indeed. That’s why I favor a single-payer universal health care plan. Among other reasons, it’s more cost effective that our current system. But that’s a derail.

        1. rq

          a larger than normal expected risk to life or health due to the pregnancy

          Since every. single. pregnancy has the possibility of becoming a life-threatening condition at any point with no prior warning, then every abortion is for a medical reason, unless you can find an expected risk to life or health that is larger than death.

          any woman who wanted to be pregnant would let those risks deter her

          Yes, any woman who wants to be pregnant can undertake those risks, as many have done before. But what if she doesn’t want to be pregnant?? And even women who want to be pregnant sometimes have to undergo abortions for medical reasons (some that even you might find valid). So it’s not just about wanting/not wanting to accept the risks of pregnancy. It’s about personal choice.

    2. 9.2
      patterson

      All abortions are for medical reasons, pregnancy being a medical condition. If a doctor or nurse feels it unethical to provide a certain type of medical procedure then it would be extremely unethical, not to mention unprofessional for them to be in a position that would require them to perform of assist in abortions. It would be like a Jehova’s Witness surgeon refusing to order blood products for his patients. Or the recent case of a councillor fired for refusing to provide service gay and lesbian clients because of her ethics.

  10. 10
    leftwingfox

    This reminds me of an argument I had on Manboobz.

    Asshole shows up, openly claiming the “Life trumps Bodily Autonomy”.

    I therefore demand a kidney.

    Asshole claims that a stranger’s kidney problems are not his responsibility.

    I point out that doesn’t fly. If a woman is raped, the fetus isn’t responsible for the actions of the rapist, and thus shouldn’t be “punished”. Since the mother didn’t consent to sex or a child, she is therefore forced to surrender bodily autonomy for the actions of the stranger.

    So if the life of the fetus trumps the bodily autonomy of a woman even when she is not “responsible” for it’s creation, then what does it matter if the Asshole’s not “responsible” for the actions of a stranger? As he said, Life trumps Bodily Autonomy, so it’s kidney time.

    (So I don’t come across as a philosophizing dudebro, I believe a woman’s bodily autonomy always trumps that of the fetus, regardless of the circumstances of her pregnancy.)

  11. 11
    leftwingfox

    The question of whether or not society should/can require an OB/GYN doctor to provide elective abortions to whether or not a pharmacist should be required to fill a prescription.

    Yes. Both of those can and should be made conditions of employment.

    I don’t want Scientologists refusing to provide me with psychiatric medication, Jehovah’s Witness nurses refusing to give me blood transfusions, or New Age mystics replacing my prescriptions with homeopathic remedies.

    If your religious faith prevents you from doing a job properly, you should not be doing that job. It’s not like we’re conscripting people into those positions.

    Hey, that wasn’t difficult at all.

  12. 12
    ladydreamgirl

    Similarly, the morning-after pill has the effect of making early abortions more accessible and less costly.

    No it doesn’t. The morning-after pill is not an abortifacient, it does not induce an abortion. The morning-after pill acts by preventing ovulation or disrupting fertilization.

  13. 13
    Beth

    @leftwingfox

    #10: While some pro-life people do not consider this sufficient justification as the embryo/fetus is not at fault,
    that is why rape is one of the exceptions that most pro-life people are willing to accept. Since rape was already a violation of the woman’s bodily autonomy, even most pro-life folks will grant that she is allowed the choice of aborting a fetus that is the result of rape.

    #11: Yes, all moral values questions are easy when you simply declare your moral values as supreme and need not bother with other people’s different values. It only gets tricky when you are willing to grant other people the option of having different opinions.

    1. 13.1
      patterson

      While some pro-life people do not consider this sufficient justification as the embryo/fetus is not at fault,

      The question is why would fault enter into it in any case. The idea of the fetus being at fault implies that the fetus is punished by the abortion. Not surprisingly as one of their arguments is that pregnancy is punishment for sex.

  14. 14
    geekgirlsrule

    Not all opinions carry the same weight. And opinions which deny the humanity/bodily autonomy of other humans get less weight than others.

    You know, abortion is not the only area in which people try to treat women as minor children legally. For many women, trying to get sterilized, which would obviate the need for abortion, is just as bad. Doctors will refuse, will demand to get their husband’s/partner’s permission as well, will ask for psych evals, even when something like hysterectomy is the only guaranteed cure of a condition like recurring fibroid cysts.

    I was lucky, my old ob/gyn was an old hippie lady who was totally on board with my controlling my own reproductive rights. I offered to bring in the husband, and her response was, “What does he have to do with it?” I don’t know if she provided abortions, but it wouldn’t have surprised me.

    But a friend of mine, after the birth of her second child had to FIGHT, even with her husband on board, to get her tubes tied, because us fickle ladies change our minds ALL THE TIME, doncha know. I mean, that’s why they can’t trust us with unfettered access to abortion, why we could have a spare hour between our mani-pedi and hair appts and decide to terminate an 8 month pregnancy on a whim! IT COULD HAPPEN!!!

    It speaks of a fundamental distrust of women in our society. It also speaks of a refusal to believe that we’re full humans with agency. And it’s sick at a very deep level.

  15. 15
    geekgirlsrule

    Also, as I posted over on Greta’s blog, can you imagine the shit-fit guys would throw if them having ANYTHING done to them looked like this?

    “Think about how you’d feel if you knew what you wanted to do in regards to your own body in regards to a medical procedure, maybe a vasectomy, and the doctor HAD to tell you for no good reason, “Well, first you’ll have to look at this sonogram of your testicles, and we’ll be using a sound* to really get in there so you can really see things in perspective, and then you need to go home and wait for 72 hours to see if you change your mind about cutting off those cute little sperms’ potential access to ova. Think of all the babies you could be fathering.”

    *penile probe

  16. 16
    leftwingfox

    Since rape was already a violation of the woman’s bodily autonomy, even most pro-life folks will grant that she is allowed the choice of aborting a fetus that is the result of rape.

    That is logically inconsistent with a position that a fetus has rights. It is consistent with the idea that pregnancy is a punishment for women who have sex, though.

    It only gets tricky when you are willing to grant other people the option of having different opinions.

    They are absolutely able to have differing opinions, they just should not participate in a position to which they have a moral objection. There is no requirement that every belief should be accommodated in every situation, especially when those beliefs infringe on the freedoms and rights of others who are forced to rely on the people in those roles.

  17. 17
    Onamission5

    Surely someone who attends and completes pharmacy, nursing, or medical school is made aware during that process of becoming certified in their chosen career that they may have to, at some point, provide medicine or medical care to people they don’t like. Surely they are made aware that refusal to do one’s job can be a condition of unemployment. Surely they are also made aware that they cannot, for example, force all their patients to keep kosher while under their care, or refuse to operate on a woman on occasion they suspect she might be on her period, or refuse to perform IVF if they are a fertility specialist on the grounds that a client is unmarried, or refuse to hook up blood products should they be employed as an ER or surgical nurse.

    One’s religious convictions only apply to what they, themselves, do to themselves. No one has the right to impose their religious convictions onto another person as leverage to access or deny medical treatment to someone else.

  18. 18
    Crimson Clupeidae

    I mean, wow, your blood might save that poor pregnant lady who’s bleeding to death while trying to deliver that child you forced her to have. How cool would that be?

    That is a thing of beauty.

  19. 19
    thascius

    @9-”Providing a third trimester abortion to a woman who wants one for non-medical reasons is even farther down that line, requiring more extensive resources to perform and people who are willing to do the job. ”
    Fortunately in the US that isn’t an issue at all, as third trimester abortions for non-medical reasons are ILLEGAL in all 50 states. Despite the antiabortion propaganda that makes it sound like women 36 weeks pregnant are heading to Planned Parenthood clinics 7 days a week to get abortions, that’s simply untrue. (Actually in most states the typical abortion clinic can only perform abortions up to 12 weeks.) Typically for a woman to get a third trimester abortion 2 (sometimes 3) doctors have to examine her independently and both agree that it is medically necessary for her to have an abortion. Which is why in the US third trimester abortions account for less than 0.01% of all abortions, far rarer than the abortions in cases of rape and incest (~2% as I recall) which the anti-abortionists think we should just ignore.

  20. 20
    tiko

    What Katybe and Wylann said.

  21. 21
    Beth

    @leftwingfox: That is logically inconsistent with a position that a fetus has rights. It is consistent with the idea that pregnancy is a punishment for women who have sex, though.

    It’s only logically inconsistent if the rights of the fetus are considered to be equal to the rights of the woman. It is not inconsistent with the viewpoint that rights increase with age, i.e. a blastocyte has fewer rights than an embryo which has fewer rights than a fetus which has fewer rights than a newborn which has fewer rights than it’s mother. Given that there is far more public support for first trimester abortions than third trimester abortions, this viewpoint is not uncommon.
    You are correct that it is consistent with the idea that pregnancy is a punishment for sex, but it’s also consistent with the idea that pregnancy is a natural consequence of having sex and thus consent to pregnancy is implied with consent to sex. If there was no consent to the sex, there was also no consent to the pregnancy.

    They are absolutely able to have differing opinions, they just should not participate in a position to which they have a moral objection. There is no requirement that every belief should be accommodated in every situation, especially when those beliefs infringe on the freedoms and rights of others who are forced to rely on the people in those roles.

    While you have a good point that there is no requirement that every belief need be accommodated in every situations, it’s not a particularly good argument in this case. First of all, requiring someone to perform an act they consider morally repugnant is a serious breach of personal autonomy. If personal autonomy is an overriding imperative, it applies to the provider of abortions just as much as those seeking them.

    @onamission5: Surely someone who attends and completes pharmacy, nursing, or medical school is made aware during that process of becoming certified in their chosen career that they may have to, at some point, provide medicine or medical care to people they don’t like. Surely they are made aware that refusal to do one’s job can be a condition of unemployment. Surely they are also made aware that they cannot, for example, force all their patients to keep kosher while under their care, or refuse to operate on a woman on occasion they suspect she might be on her period, or refuse to perform IVF if they are a fertility specialist on the grounds that a client is unmarried, or refuse to hook up blood products should they be employed as an ER or surgical nurse.

    It can be a condition of employment only for health care workers who are employed by hospitals, clinics, etc. Many OB/GYN’s run their practice as a small business. There’s no justification for forcing an independent OB/GYN to provide a particular service, such as abortion or sterilization. In fact, my OB/GYN for my last pregnancy was Catholic and did not provide either service. I had to seek another doctor to get sterilization surgery afterwards. Again, if personal autonomy is sacrosanct, I don’t see how you can argue that they MUST provide such services. In addition to the fact that, as a person with a uterus, I don’t want a surgeon performing a procedure on me that he/she considered morally wrong. I’d rather go elsewhere. But I also recognize that things get stickier when going elsewhere isn’t a viable option due to constraints such as financial resources or time available.

    One’s religious convictions only apply to what they, themselves, do to themselves. No one has the right to impose their religious convictions onto another person as leverage to access or deny medical treatment to someone else.

    Likewise, I can argue that we should not require people to perform acts that violate their religious convictions rather than allowing them the personal autonomy to decide for themselves. Using their livelihood as leverage to force them to do so is as questionable as them being able to impose their religious convictions on others.

    Further it’s one thing to make such duties a professional requirement for new people learning the profession. I don’t think there is any good argument that training in abortions cannot be required of people in OB/GYN training programs. Those who object would be forced to select another specialty, which may have unintended consequences, but I don’t see any ethical conundrum with that approach.

    It’s certainly arguable that an employer should be able inform an employee that their job duties are changing and they have the choice of finding another employer or performing the new duty. That has happened with civil services employees who don’t want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and IIRC, they have had to either perform the service or find another job. But I don’t think it’s reasonable for the government to impose a new requirement on individuals who have already invested many years and $ in their education and developing their own business to provide services they find morally reprehensible.

    1. 21.1
      patterson

      consent to pregnancy is implied with consent to sex

      I realize you’re playing devil’s advocate, or at least I hope you are, but this is just grotesque. It’s up there with how you dress being consent to rape, and the people who argue this are no less disturbed.

      1. Beth

        Interesting that you feel that way. Why do you find it grotesque? Why do you think is similar about the two arguments?

        1. patterson

          Because it’s sex, if a woman consents to sex that’s what she consents to, not pregnancy, not AIDS, not Hepatitis C, not violence, not rape, not loss of control/ownership of her body, just sex. And basically I find the patriarchal/misogynist belief that a woman desiring sex for the purpose of sex alone is against nature is immoral and dangerous and as a result whatever happens to her is her own fault tired and grotesque.

          1. patterson

            My apologies for the lack of punctuation.

        2. SallyStrange

          Because women have been decoupling sex from pregnancy from time immemorial. Now that we have the technology to do it reliably, it’s anachronistic and inhumane to demand that a woman’s consent to sex entail consent, not just to pregnancy, but also to a completed pregnancy and childbirth.

        3. Anthony Burber

          @SallyStrange:
          It’s astonishing to me how so many people say that the “purpose of sexual intercourse” is reproduction. In about equal parts, they use this to deny abortion and to say that homosexuality is icky.

          If that were true, the “purpose of our hands” would be to swim through the oceans of the Permian. Judging by the behavior of bonobos, before we were truly human, our ancestors turned the “purpose of sexual intercourse” into a form of social interaction, one that occasionally had the side effect of pregnancy. Since then, we’ve indeed done our best to decouple the intercourse from the pregnancy, and more recently we’ve decoupled the pregnancy from the intercourse.

          Yes, I know that this argument is a waste of time when most of the people claiming to know the “purpose of sexual intercourse” deny the reality of evolution.

  22. 22
    rq

    Beth

    I find a significant difference between your examples and abortion in that to extracting organs is far more like providing an abortion than refusing access to one, which is what you are comparing it to.

    The point, actually, is that the person (the victim of accident, in this case) is donating their organs without consent to other people in need – much as a woman does while pregnant. She donates the use of her organs to a developing mass of cells that may potentially become a person (so we’re not even talking actual, independent people here). She may do so willingly, but she should never, ever, be forced into it without her consent. And if she doesn’t want to share her organs anymore, then she has every right to withdraw any and all previous consent, and get an abortion (or induced labour, if the pregnancy has developed far enough).
    The point, which you missed, is not in providing care for an accident victim, but in using that victim’s organs for other people without their expressed consent at that point in time. And once a woman has decided not to carry a pregnancy to term, she has the right to regain her bodily autonomy as medically soon as possible (and that doesnot mean waiting out the full term).

    i.e. a blastocyte has fewer rights than an embryo which has fewer rights than a fetus which has fewer rights than a newborn which has fewer rights than it’s mother

    A blastocyst is not a person, therefore no rights. An embryo is not a person, therefore no rights. A fetus is not a person, therefore no rights. A newborn is a person, albeit a highly developed one, and the person who gave birth to that newborn is not constrained to care for it, but is merely constrained to ensure that s/he is cared for (by state services, for example).
    In all of those cases but the one (newborn), there is no person with rights under discussion. Else, where would you draw the line between blastocyst, embryo and fetus? And considering the margin of error in determining the precise beginning of a pregnancy, how would you enforce these time limits?
    Then there’s the question of rights. Less rights, you say – but which rights? Which ones, specifically, does the zygote have fewer of? Which ones get accorded to the fetus but not the embryo – free speech? education? I mean, none of them can have bodily autonomy since none of them are autonomous by any stretch of the word. Ah, but there’s that person with a uterus who does have a life, and who is an independent, autonomous human person (or should be one), whose right to bodily autonomy is being infringed upon. Yup, abortion time!
    So that’s another dead end in your arguments.

    rape is one of the exceptions that most pro-life people are willing to accept

    More gold. Rape. Sure, and who gets to define that it is rape? Considering the state of rape prosecutions currently, and their results, by the time any meaningful decision is made, whoops! your time limit has passed, and sorry, you can’t have that abortion anymore. You could have, but yeah, sorry these things take such a long time, and I’m sure it wasn’t really rape. Pro-life people have a very large overlap with those who enjoy victim blaming or who insist that, if she became pregnant, she obviously wanted it, and is merely regretting it. What was that called? Oh yeah, punishing women for sex.
    So that answers the rape-exception rule, too.
    Honestly, Beth, you’re doing exactly what the post is speaking out against – though maybe not quite on the level of philosophy that has appeared elsewhere around FtB lately, but you’re certainly questioning a certain fundamental right for people to be bodily autonomous, to have real choices in their lives (rather than Religious Medical Professional #1 and RMP #2), and you’re balancing all that against a potentiality that may not even survive to term anyway. While causing a heck of a lot of medical issues to the person with a uterus in the meantime. That’s terrible of you.
    Because every time you say a zygote/embryo/fetus has rights, you are dismissing the rights of the person with a uterus doing the carrying. You are saying the pwu becomes less due to carrying more inside them. Because, after all, if the rights of the uterized person trump the rights of the potentiality within them every time, why have this discussion at all?

    leftwingfox says it best about health care professionals:

    If your religious faith prevents you from doing a job properly, you should not be doing that job. It’s not like we’re conscripting people into those positions.

    I would only add that, if you* do wish to practice your health care job while maintaining your religious conviction, you should be constricted to only providing service to others of your exact same faith, and by always providing them with clear and actual information on where they can get services not provided by you. Because you’re still a health professional, and you are still bound by (I’m sure of it) some kind of law that insists upon a certain standard level of care.
    (* General term ‘you’, not you-specific.)

    Back to Beth for a moment:

    I don’t think it’s reasonable for the government to impose a new requirement on individuals who have already invested many years and $ in their education and developing their own business to provide services they find morally reprehensible.

    I do believe that it is the government’s actions, in these cases, that is under discussion, not private practices. Laws passed by governments, limiting access to abortion, even in cases of dire medical need. This is not a discussion of private practice, but of government legislation. Nobody’s trying to limit or impose upon a private practitioner’s moral convictions. It’s the moral convictions of those trying to provide a safe and necessary procedure to women in need that are being limited. Because to them, it is morally reprehensible not to provide abortions upon request, and they’re being denied that satisfaction of a job well done.

    geekgirlsrule
    You sound pretty awesome. Especially your 14. :) And this:

    Not all opinions carry the same weight. And opinions which deny the humanity/bodily autonomy of other humans get less weight than others.

    1. 22.1
      rq

      albeit a highly developed one

      *ahem* That should say ‘dependent’, not developed.

    2. 22.2
      geekgirlsrule

      Thank you!

      I think you’re pretty spiffy as well.

    3. 22.3
      Beth

      The point, which you missed, is not in providing care for an accident victim, but in using that victim’s organs for other people without their expressed consent at that point in time. And once a woman has decided not to carry a pregnancy to term, she has the right to regain her bodily autonomy as medically soon as possible (and that does not mean waiting out the full term).

      Really? I thought the point was to think about the two situations in terms of the rights of individuals versus the limits on what society can demand of it’s citizens. To compare and contrast them in a thought experiment. But on reflection and rereading, you are right. It was simply a satire on how ridiculous it is to have a discussion about that sort of thing.

      A blastocyst is not a person, therefore no rights. An embryo is not a person, therefore no rights. A fetus is not a person, therefore no rights. A newborn is a person, albeit a highly dependent one, and the person who gave birth to that newborn is not constrained to care for it, but is merely constrained to ensure that s/he is cared for (by state services, for example).

      In our society, this is true. But our history clearly shows that the delineations of who is human and deserving of rights has altered over time. Further, the arrow of history points clearly in the direction of expanding who is accorded human rights.
      To simply declare by fiat that our current definition is the only appropriate one to consider seems no different to me that similar declarations in the past about other groups of humans. I find this a solid argument for the pro-life position. This acknowledgement was something I appreciated about Mr. Croft’s essay. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/templeofthefuture/2014/03/on-the-privilege-of-discussing-abortion/

      Honestly, Beth, you’re doing exactly what the post is speaking out against… That’s terrible of you.

      I’m sorry you feel that way, but I think you are wrong. It’s not just that I don’t see anything wrong with acknowledging and facing directly the weaknesses in the pro-choice arguments. I think the general attitude of disdain and disapproval for working out the logical and philosophical ramifications of various arguments is inappropriate for a place that calls itself ‘freethought’. I can understand that some blogs don’t want that sort of thing, and that’s fine. But the condemnation of others for allowing or participating in such conversations? I am greatly bothered by that.

      Talking about things is how we work out the differences. It’s our only hope to find peaceful compromises with those who hold different values and live together in the same society. If you aren’t willing to hear my assessment of these arguments when I agree with you regarding the conclusion, how can you change the minds of those who don’t?

      1. rq

        You can’t expand human rights into someone’s body, because their body is theirs, and no outside legislation or treaty can determine what they do within that body.
        You still didn’t explain which rights exactly should be expanded or accorded to which stage, and how you will determine those stages specifically, so as to eliminate any confusion on the topic.
        Also, even if rights are accorded to the little growing thing, you said it yourself – the person carrying has MORE rights, no matter what. And that is exactly where the discussion should stop: the person with uterus has more rights, end of story, their body, their choice.

  23. 23
    leftwingfox

    consent to pregnancy is implied with consent to sex

    That’s a hell of an implication. So even if they choose birth control, indicating a clear desire to NOT have children, consent is still implied? That consent can never be withdrawn?

    STDs are a potential consequence of sex as well: we don’t withhold treatment from that just because they “Implicitly consented to the possibility”.

    I sincerely hope you don’t apply that “implied consent” to the rest of the sex act. “Your honor, she wanted to have sex. That implied consent to anal, so I ignored her request for me to stop.”

    First of all, requiring someone to perform an act they consider morally repugnant is a serious breach of personal autonomy.

    Call me when we force anti-abortion people to become OB/GYNs against their will. Then you’ll have a point.

    Many OB/GYN’s run their practice as a small business. There’s no justification for forcing an independent OB/GYN to provide a particular service, such as abortion or sterilization.

    Of course there’s justification. It’s the same justification for enforcing training and accrediting. It’s the same justification as prohibiting discrimination on race, religion or sexual orientation. The public interest, protecting people who rely on the availability of services, requires that service providers meet standards of safety and public access.

    1. 23.1
      Beth

      So even if they choose birth control, indicating a clear desire to NOT have children, consent is still implied?

      Consenting to sex is consenting to the risks inherent in a sexual encounter. Sort of like voluntarily getting in a car is inherently consenting to the risks inherent in traveling in an automobile.

      That consent can never be withdrawn?

      You can, of course, decline to continue participation at any point. But you can’t call it rape the next day. In our society, it does not imply consent to have the baby because we allow women the option of abortion. But in societies that don’t allow that option legally, then consenting to sex inherently implies consenting to pregnancy if that occurs.

      Call me when we force anti-abortion people to become OB/GYNs against their will. Then you’ll have a point.

      The point of hypothetical discussions is to thrash out the messy details in theory, not because it’s applicable to large numbers of people. This is the messy point where the rights of different people collide. This is where you can verify your argument is consistent. This is where I see the pro-life argument regarding personal autonomy of the woman fail. I agree that it ought to be her decision regarding whether or not to get an abortion at any point. By the same principle, I think it ought to be up to any individual regarding whether or not to provide that service to the public.

      Of course there’s justification. It’s the same justification for enforcing training and accrediting. It’s the same justification as prohibiting discrimination on race, religion or sexual orientation. The public interest, protecting people who rely on the availability of services, requires that service providers meet standards of safety and public access.

      I don’t find the public interest to be a valid argument to force unwilling practitioners to provide non-medical abortions. (See my response to Kristin at 9.1) And it parallels nicely with the involuntary organ donation example. There needs to be a compelling reason to override the personal autonomy of the service provider. A reasonable compromise is a grandfathering in of existing practitioners while requiring it for all new members of the profession. Demand more than that and you lose the consistency of the argument by personal autonomy.

      1. rq

        Sort of like voluntarily getting in a car is inherently consenting to the risks inherent in traveling in an automobile.

        Which is why we have seatbelts and ABS and rules for driving and ways to enforce those rules and speed limits and even if you crash your car, you have insurance and can go out and buy a new one. So yes, maybe you consent to the ‘risk’ of pregnancy – that does not mean you consent to the actual pregnancy. And the insurance bit is the pregnancy. Nobody forces you to drive around with a smashed car (or better yet, live with a smashed car for the rest of your life because it won’t go anymore), so no, just because you consent to the ‘risk’ by having sex does not give consent for the actual pregnancy and subsequent childcare – all of that requires continuous consent, not a one-time yes-or-no (in which case the OP would be entirely correct in taking the ‘yes’ on the donor card as permission for each and every organ harvest).
        The insurance part? Birth control and abortion.

        The point of hypothetical discussions is to thrash out the messy details in theory, not because it’s applicable to large numbers of people.

        The point of hypothetical discussions is only valid if you can apply the results of that discussion to real-life situations. Since you insist on denying bodily autonomy to pregnant people, your hypotheticals are not applicable to real life and therefore are invalid and not worth discussion. But the correct information should be placed to counter them, so that more people can be educated about why you are so wrong.

        You can, of course, decline to continue participation at any point. But you can’t call it rape the next day.

        Wow, rape apologia much?? The point where someone begins infringing on my bodily autonomy in a sexual manner is sexual assault and rape, I’m sorry to say. That’s how it works. That’s the whole point of declining participation, and someone not listening to that.

        But in societies that don’t allow that option legally, then consenting to sex inherently implies consenting to pregnancy if that occurs.

        No, in societies where abortion is illegal, sex still isn’t consent to pregnancy and childbirth. It’s still not permissible, as there is no situation where the right to bodily autonomy automatically disappears or is invalidated. What happens in those societies is that women seek illegal abortions, because it’s not about the law telling you what you can do with your own body (“Hey, abortion is illegal, and I guess I had sex, so I’m going to go and be a happy mother one day soon! Yeah, this is awesome!!!”). It’s about you having the option to do what you want to your own body, in a safe and controlled manner (pregnancy, by the way, is not safe by any stretch, and neither can it be particularly well controlled – abortion is by far the safer procedure).

      2. patterson

        I guess walking across a road is consent to being run over by a car, that being an inherent risk. What else? Being alive is consent to murder, owning property is consent to being robbed, wow everyone basically consents to anything bad that could possibly result from their actions, one of those actions being to exist. What a funny world you “pro-lifers” exist in.

        1. rq

          You’re being really risky by even typing on the computer. How dare you!!!

        2. Onamission5

          Eating at a restaurant is consent to e-coli! You wouldn’t want to deny a life form its rights to grow in your body now would you?

  24. 24
    rq

    I still think we should harvest sperm from men in comas. They won’t notice, anyway.

  25. 25
    hjhornbeck

    There’s an interesting follow-up to this. I’ve elaborated on this elsewhere, so I’ll just give a quick summary:

    1. The bodily integrity argument defeats the right-to-life argument, as Dana Hunter ably demonstrates in the OP.
    2. The anti-choice movement’s primary argument is… right to life.
    3. This could be forgivable via ignorance, but anti-choice groups know about the bodily integrity argument.
    4. Ergo, they must not be pushing a long-defeated argument because they don’t know it’s defeated, they must instead be pushing this argument because other people don’t know it’s been defeated.
    5. It follows that the anti-choice movement is not primarily about debating the arguments, it’s about exploiting ignorance to promote an agenda.

    I’ll let you draw the conclusion.

  26. 26
    Dana Hunter

    This is your philosophy dudebro warning, Beth. You may think this is an interesting exercise. I do not. If you’re going to continue plastering enormous text blocks trying to slice-and-dice women’s right to basic reproductive healthcare, you are welcome to get your own blog. I’m done hosting your philosophizing here. Thank you for your input.

    1. 26.1
      Beth

      As you wish.

      1. rq

        Asshole.
        I guess not all dudebros are men.
        Huh.

  27. 27
    Uncle Ebeneezer

    Not much to say except “Bravo” to the OP. Awesome stuff.

  28. 28
    Fishcake-SireSpout

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Bravo indeed.

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