An open letter to a bunch of ignorant, heartless, self-righteous retards

>> Monday, January 26, 2009

Dear Thoughtless Pro-Lifers,

Recently, I saw a video on P.Z. Myers' blog in which a small group of your peers were asked various forms of the question, "If abortion were illegal, should a woman who has an abortion be punished?" The second-most-common response after "I never thought about that" seemed to be "Well, I'm not a lawyer." I don't know if this select group of video interviewees is typical--it's possible that the filmmakers consciously or accidentally caught a half-dozen of the stupidest pro-lifers on Earth.

But if you, like the folks in the video, are an idiot and don't know the answer to the question, I hope you will allow me to answer the question for you (and yes, I am a lawyer).

Somebody who does something illegal has committed a crime and is therefore a criminal. Therefore, a woman who has an illegal abortion is--that's right!--a criminal.

Your rationale for outlawing abortion--your stated rationale, at least--is that abortion is the taking of a human life. Fortuitously, legislatures (the governmental bodies that enact laws) have already defined the taking of a human life as a crime and there's a word for it--three, actually: homicide, manslaughter or murder. And since homicide, manslaughter and murder are illegal and therefore crimes they indeed have punishments defined in the general statutes of your states!

The proscribed punishment for murder depends on several factors, including whether the crime was premeditated, that is to say, planned. It naturally follows, then, that a woman who somehow accidentally aborts a fetus is guilty of involuntary or negligent homicide or murder. In most states, this is punishable by a prison term; in some states, this prison term may be suspended, that is, not immediately instituted and held over the criminal defendant's head, and the defendant placed on probation. A woman who intentionally has an abortion, however, is a woman who has clearly planned or premeditated her "baby's" murder, and she is therefore guilty of what is generally called Murder In The First Degree (or variations thereof).

The punishment for First Degree Murder varies from state to state, but generally you're talking about life imprisonment (generally without parole, that is to say early release) or death.

Therefore--and this will be a great help if an obnoxious liberal videographer or filmmaker sticks a camera and microphone into your face and asks a silly question with an obvious answer--therefore, the correct answer to the question, "If abortion is outlawed, what should happen to a woman who has an abortion?" is "She should be charged with premeditated murder and if convicted should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or executed pursuant to the laws of her state."

See, is that so hard? If abortion is outlawed and a woman kills her child, you should kill the mother. And that's what you need to tell the next smartass who asks you such a patently stupid question.

Have a nice day, you ignorant, heartless, self-righteous retards.



Sincerely,
R. Eric VanNewkirk
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets
(http://shouldersofgiantmidgets.blogspot.com/)

39 comments:

Leanright,  Monday, January 26, 2009 at 12:16:00 AM EST  

I am not passing judgement, because I believe in certain instances, an abortion could be justified. I have always taken issue with physicians whom have take the hippocratic oath:
_____________________________________________
I swear by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath.
To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.
I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.
I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.
But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.
I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.
In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.
All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

____________________________________________
Although this is an "oath" and not "law", does it hold an water at all? Legal question. I'm a money guy, so the 2-cents from an attorney would be interesting. Perhaps not the mother as guilty, but the physician? Please share.

Eric Monday, January 26, 2009 at 12:36:00 AM EST  

The mother has planned the death of the fetus--she's an accomplice to homicide if not a principal in the act itself. If you're going to call the act a crime, then, she's a criminal. And if the "crime" is defined as "murder," then the punishment as defined in fifty states is prison or death, depending.

So punishing the doctor and not the mother would be a dodge.

As for the Hippocratic Oath: that's a matter for medical ethics (not the law) or medical licensing (the law, but not necessarily the criminal law). But let us assume that if abortion is re-criminalized, that doctors are accomplices or principals, much like the mother.

The real point of the original post being, naturally, that this is the kind of logical consequence that a lot of people would rather not think about. If, as so many pro-lifers say, abortion is murder, then it must follow that a woman who plans an abortion is guilty in much the same way as a woman who hires a hitman to kill her husband is guilty. Many pro-lifers (certainly the ones interviewed in the clip at Pharyngula) want things to be much more black-and-white, cut-and-dried than that. They're not entitled to that--or rather, they are, but it all has to be that way if that's how they want it. If the act is murder, the actors are murderers, and we already have a punishment to fit their crime.

Random Michelle K Monday, January 26, 2009 at 8:50:00 AM EST  

And you've pegged the reason why the solution to the abortion problem comes through making birth control freely available; the answer is stopping unwanted pregnancy. Outlawing abortion is closing the door after the horse has escaped the barn.

I believe that abortion is the murder of a living being. I also think that the treatment of most feed animals is criminal, as is euthanasia.

However, I think a far greater crime is bringing an unwanted child into the world, or not caring for already existing children.

Child protective services in most areas are overwhelmed and unable to protect all the children in need.

Why are so many "religious" individuals wasting time and money worrying about the unborn, when those valuable minutes and dollars would be far better spent carrying for children (and adults!) in need?

Janiece Murphy Monday, January 26, 2009 at 8:55:00 AM EST  

Eric, thanks for this post.

Anna Quindlen wrote about this last year, and I found the inconsistency most illuminating (and I still do).

Nathan Monday, January 26, 2009 at 10:25:00 AM EST  

I won't argue your conclusions (I mostly agree), but if you think for one moment, you saw a representative sample...uh, I doubt it.

I wouldn't hazard a guess as to the percentage of bloodthristy "jail the bitch" types who ended up on the cutting room floor, but I gaurantee they were there. Excluding a bit of footage that doesn't back up your premise is the simplest form of editing for content in existence.

Please note, I'm not trying to make a case that the people you saw (or the ones who were cut), are any more thoughtful than you're pointing out...just that the video in question set out with an agenda and only footage that supported the agenda were included in the video.

So sayeth Captain Obvious.

Eric Monday, January 26, 2009 at 11:56:00 AM EST  

(Nathan: I assumed as much... but that would have been a much shorter blog entry.)

;-)

Leanright,  Monday, January 26, 2009 at 12:35:00 PM EST  

I did watch the clip again, and I must confess, I too am confused as to what to do. I'm not the expert on the criminal justice system that Eric is, but I do know where I believe it may be justified and where it may not. If a woman is impregnated in the act of a crime, for example, but not the promiscuous woman whom aborts her child as a matter of convenience. It's a very touch subject, and people feel VERY passionate about it.

The Death Penalty is also the premeditated killing of another human being, and that is also a subject people are passionate about. I support it in many circumstances, but if I were on that jury, could I make the decision to execute? I don't know...It feels like a decision much bigger than me. (mind you, I'm 6'4", 275, so it's pretty big!).

I also have to wonder: is that the complete sample of everyone the interviewer spoke to? or a sample of a few to attempt to make his point? After all...it IS an editorial piece.

Janiece Murphy Monday, January 26, 2009 at 3:34:00 PM EST  

Leanright, I'm going to assume you meant "the promiscuous woman whom aborts her child as a matter of convenience" as hyperbole and not get all stabby.

Because I've never met anyone that would make such a decision casually.

Leanright,  Monday, January 26, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM EST  

Yes, as hyperbole. Thank you.

I do remember the young lady I met years ago, and on date number 5 the subject came up and she proceeded to tell me that she had done it FOUR times.

I found that out of touch with my beliefs and we no longer dated.

rbird,  Monday, January 26, 2009 at 10:27:00 PM EST  

eh-hem.

While it would be easy to launch into what would amount to a freshman English 101 assignment for making an argument (as a writing tutor at GSU I read a lot of Freshman papers arguing for or against abortion- bless their little freshman hearts), I will abstain. I am pro choice for many reasons both spiritually and politically, and my brother's letter had a refreshingly (albeit harsh) clever argument challenging the pro life argument for criminalizing abortion, and for that I thank him.

And for the record, I think that promiscuous women who want to abort should have as many abortions as their uterus will allow. I only wish they had easy access to alternatives to that violent medical vacuum that is offered at most clinics. I guess you could say I am against the vacuum.

As for the video, well, they are a bunch of ignorant bastards, wasting their time on something that is never going to end a fundamental human right. What should be done for the women who have "illegal" abortions? The real question is what should be do about these people standing outside of clinics arguing against something they don't even have a solution for. Well, I wish them love, and I hope the best for them, and I hope they realize their sins. I guess that is between them and god.

Ouch. I'm feeling feisty (but loving at the same time).

Leanright,  Monday, January 26, 2009 at 11:53:00 PM EST  

We agree to disagree.

Jim Wright Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 1:16:00 PM EST  

Well, logical follow through has never been the strong suit of the pro-life movement.

Life is sacred, babies must be saved - therefor it's OK to shoot the fucking doctors. It's OK to fire bomb the clinics. It's ok to kill people in order to save the children.

Life is sacred, babies must be saved - after which the little bastards are on their own. Fuck 'em, poor people shouldn't get pregnant.

Life is sacred, babies must be saved - well, our babies. Those babies over there in Africa dying of AIDS and starvation? Fuck them too. And that goes double for those little towelhead babies in Iraq and Afghanistan - Hooray!

Life is sacred, babies must be saved - God says so, well, except that on the face of things it would appear that God doesn't actually give a shit one way or the other, and in point of fact if you take the bible as literal history (as so many Pro-lifers do) God Himself has done his share of baby killing. First borns of Egypt, remember? Not the asshole slaveowners in charge, their children - as a message.

As so on.

The simple truth of the matter is that most of the pro-life movement belongs to the movement simply because the fight is what defines them. Without it, they've got nothing. It's not about God, or God's Will, or even about the unborn. It's about power. It's about forcing others to do what you want. It's about imposing your will on everybody else.

If these people truly gave two shits about "the children" they'd be out there right now, in the shelters and the homeless camps and on the streets taking care of the children that are alive, now, here. If these people actually thought that life was sacred, they'd be voting to make sure there were programs and funds for pre-natal care, foster programs, shelters, medical care, college funds, food, housing, clothing and support to single mothers. They'd be out patrolling the slums, getting the drug dealers off the streets, rooting out the gangs and the other predators that kill and destroy far, far, far more children every damned day than all the abortions performed in this country in a year. They'd be voting for AIDs research, stem cell research, sickle cell anemia research, school lunches, after school programs, universal health care, against war and an end to poverty and etc ad nauseum - why, they'd actually be liberals. Gasp!

But they're not, and that says more about who they really are than all the signs and chanting and praying and bible waving ever will.

Carol Elaine Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 6:25:00 PM EST  

Y'all have hit upon one of my biggest buttons: these people are NOT pro-life. They are ANTI-ABORTION. A fairly large percentage of people who are against abortion are for the death penalty and are for the Occupation of Iraq. They also tend not to give a shit about children who are not aborted.

They are NOT pro-life.

I am going to do everything I can to change the commonly accepted use of the term "pro-life," because that's the way the anti-abortionists frame it and that term is patently WRONG.

Also, what Jim said. Except the pro-life bit (see above).

Random Michelle K Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 8:10:00 PM EST  

Um...

I am pro-life.

I am opposed to the death penalty, I am a pacifist, I don't eat mammals and buy "free range" eggs and "organic" milk because I believe animals should be treated humanely, I am opposed to euthanasia and PAS, and I believe we need a much stronger safety net--including health care--for all Americans.

Some of us are not inconsistent within our set of beliefs.

Jim Wright Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:20:00 PM EST  

PAS? What's that, Michelle? The acronym escapes me.

Also, while I'm emphatically neither a pacifist nor vegetarian and I emphatically believe in a woman's right to choose, I'd consider myself pro-life roughly within your definition too.

However, I do believe that killing is sometimes necessary - speaking as someone who has killed more than once and has to live with it - but only under the most dire of circumstance. And never to be taken lightly, including abortion. But as somebody who has taken human life in combat and again has to live with it - I firmly believe that such is a personal action, sometimes thrust upon you by circumstance. The vast majority of those who scream and protest and yell hate and wave their little bibles outside an abortion clinic have no right whatsoever to insert themselves into the personal tragedies of those inside.

However, death happens. Everywhere. Big and small. Tragic and horrifying and peaceful and unnoticed and unsung - a million times a day. Animals die. Men die. Babies die. Some on purpose, some by accident. That's just the way it is. As I said previously, on the face of things it would appear that God, should he exist, is at best indifferent - does that mean we should be too? I don't know. And I hate to sound callus, but I am to a certain extent, I've seen enough death to know that all the praying and hand wringing isn't going to change one damned thing. Period. The Pro-Life movement claims to revere life, but all they really are is anti-abortion (as Carol pointed out).

If Pro-lifers were really pro-life, Michelle, well, they'd be like you (and that's a compliment, because I think you're a pretty fine person indeed).

Random Michelle K Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:38:00 PM EST  

PAS = Physician Assisted Suicide

I believe Janiece and Jeri are in strong disagreement with me over this one as well. :)

And funny thing is that I think the Catholic church actually gets pro-life right as well. Unfortunately one single issue tends to dominate, and their "every sperm is sacred" shtick causes other issues. But at least they're anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, anti-war and pro human rights.

And I strongly agree it is a personal issue. I think we've discussed this before: although I believe that self-defense is moral and ethical, it is not a choice I believe I would make for myself.

Eric Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:54:00 PM EST  

Michelle, I actually respect the conservative Catholic position for its consistency, even if I don't agree with it on the matter of abortion: their pro-life position, as you note, is anti-capital-punishment and generally anti-war.

The problem, for me, is that while I'm not comfortable with abortion, I'm even less comfortable with telling a woman what she can do with her uterus. And that, incidentally, is what I think a lot of the common "pro-life" position is really about (and why the open letter up top refers to the "stated rationale," with that word emphasized); I can't help feeling that for most Protestants (and maybe, unfortunately, for some Catholics) the real issues behind their "pro-life" position are female sexuality and gender politics. A woman's ability to terminate her pregnancy for any reason is something that offers her an alternative to a "traditional" role as a child-bearing homemaker, and removing pregnancy as a karmic punishment for exercising sexuality by offering any form of birth control (ultimately including abortion) frees women (and, for that matter, men) sexually.

It ought to be noted that birth control and abortion even provide a degree of sexual freedom to men and women who choose monogamous marriage: a married couple that can choose how many children to have (including none at all) is a couple with more freedom to do almost everything. I can't help thinking that disturbs and provokes a number of people for whom "conservative" means not merely fiscal or social caution, but a cultural roll-back to an imaginary earlier era when things were allegedly simpler and safer.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 11:43:00 PM EST  

FWIW, the pro-life Catholics I know are just that--it's an issue of ending life, not of bodily control.

From my point of view, it seems wrong for me to hold the life of a cow as more important than the life of child/fetus/whatever you want to call it.

It is our responsibility to find reliable ways to keep women from getting pregnant if they are not prepared for pregnancy. From where I stand, we're wasting money in the battle over abortion that could be used in sex-education and providing contraception.

(My attitude towards those who want only abstinence sex-ed taught to children? Shut the fuck up you complete and utter morons. How fucking stupid are you? You can have abstinence only education or you can have a reduction in the unplanned pregnancies and abortion. You can't have both. And I know which is the lesser of the two evils.)

Leanright,  Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 12:52:00 PM EST  

Michelle, I like your take and I agree with what you've stated; Being against destroying a child is more of the issue than controlling what a woman does. I wish there was a way to save the child without the element of control on a woman's rights; unfortunately their really isn't.

I think it seems that there are two lives that have fundamental rights, and in the end, only one of them will get their way.

Sad.

Random Michelle K Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 1:03:00 PM EST  

Well, Leanright, there is a way, and that's to make all forms birth control readily available. Yes, it's not 100% effective, but far better to convince kids to use multiple forms of protection than to tell them about abstinence and expect them not to fall victim to their hormones.

Eric Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 1:46:00 PM EST  

I think it seems that there are two lives that have fundamental rights, and in the end, only one of them will get their way.

This is indeed the crux of the problem, Leanright. I'm not comfortable saying that a human life begins at conception, but whenever it does begin, it's a matter of choosing which human life is more valuable--the fetus' or the mother's. And if you answer the fetus--for whatever reason--there is no getting around the implied converse statement: that the mother's rights are secondary.

This is less of a radical notion than it might seem: law is all about sorting out whose rights have priority. Is a right to speak freely more important than another person's right not to be bothered? Is a right to go wherever you want more important than somebody else's right to private property? And so on.

But those things are relatively simple and easy--they generally don't concern lives the way the abortion question does. It seems that a right to be alive is pretty fundamental. On the other hand, forcing a mother to go to term is threatening her life (there's never a guarantee that a pregnancy will be without medical complications) and indenturing her to serve as a life support system for a time period between nine months and eighteen years (and the shorter sentences are only available to those making the potentially traumatic choice to abandon an infant and/or give it up for adoption). Furthermore, forcing a mother to carry an unwanted child to term may have potentially traumatic or even disabling effects on the child that force one to contemplate whether abortion wouldn't have been a mercy, however horrific, after all.

In the end, I personally have to conclude that if abortion is an evil, it is the safer and lesser of possible evils. I personally have to conclude, too, that the rights of the person who is a known human have to take precedence over what has to be called, at best, a potential human. (Is a blastocyst a human? Is a froggish-looking creature with a few brain cells and something resembling fingers and toes on its limbs that would die of exposure within seconds if it were removed from the womb a human? It might be better that we can't know for sure.)

And even assuming that blastocyst is human, the facts that Jim alluded to earlier are basic and fundamental facts: we make choices about the lives of living creatures and the rights and lives of humans routinely and normally without thinking. To say that you have a right to property is to say that I cannot take it. To say that you will eat something is to say that nobody else will. We have a fundamental moral obligation to try to see to it that the world is just but it is not, never has been, nor ever will be fair, and we ignore the distinction at our peril. It is not fair that something that is or could someday be a person might have to die for the sake of somebody who is a person, but it might have to be just to allow for the necessity of it.

And on that note, I think one more thing has to be added: I think that birth control and sex education will reduce the number of abortions that might be necessary, and that's one of several good reasons for making birth control and sex ed freely available. But that isn't a universal solution and never will be. Aside from anything else, there will always be rapes that lead to unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. There will always be situations where even a wanted and planned pregnancy must be terminated for the health of the mother. There will always be difficult and terrible situations where no amount of education and availability will keep us from having to make a moral choice between a potential person and a living person.

My position, obviously, is that the living person takes precedence and has to, however awful and uncertain that might be. This is clearly a case where reasonable people might actually disagree for whatever reason: but (and this gets back to the original post, actually), do not ever, ever think that this is a simple choice or that something isn't being sacrificed regardless of whether you're forcing a woman to term or allowing her to end a pregnancy and perhaps a life. The people my letter was directed to don't realize there's an oppressive choice either way--for them, it's simply a matter of saving a life without regard to the price that exacts, or without regard to the price that ought to be paid if their law--in prioritizing one's rights over another's, which is what law does--is violated.

Leanright,  Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 2:09:00 PM EST  

I agree with educating children on how to reduce unwanted pregnancies. If abstinence is to be discussed, then perhaps that should be up to the parents. If that is the fundamental belief of the parents, then more power to them. In the end, I agree with you that education is key; I know I had some "hormonal surges" in my day.

When a child becomes a child is really the big question, and you could probably assume that the pregnant woman will decide whether or not SHE is with child, or a zygote. In early 2002 when my wife and I found out she was pregnant with our twin girls, you BET we believed them to be living human beings, and no doctor, politician, nor blogger for that matter was going to tell us differently. But that was us, and we don't have that expectation of others. We would hope they feel that way, but it's certainly not up to us.

I believe adoption is a beautiful thing and a showing of incredible sacrifice. I do with more healthy women would consider this an option, or it at least be presented more often as one.

Leanright,  Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 2:12:00 PM EST  

**Correction**

That's "I do WISH more healthy women...."

(I know Eric is a "stickler" for good grammar)

Carol Elaine Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 6:25:00 PM EST  


Some of us are not inconsistent within our set of beliefs.


Michelle, I've yet to read the rest of the comments after my outburst, but I have respond to yours.

You are consistent. I respect that. I may disagree with you in regards to abortion and PAS, but I respect you for your consistency (as well as many other things). I have absolutely no gripe with your use of the term "pro-life" because it absolutely fits.

It's the other dumb-fucks that piss me off. The rabidly vocal minority that profess to be for the rights of fetuses, but doesn't seem to give a shit about a human once it's outside the womb.

They have no right to use the term "pro-life" because they would happily march people off to the death chamber or to war.

I'm of the opinion that abortion should be legal, safe and rare. I know that I could never get one myself (not that I've ever had to make that decision). But I don't judge other women who do have to wrestle with that difficult choice, because I think that for most women, it is a wrenching decision.

Random Michelle K Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 7:12:00 PM EST  

Twinning.

The point after which twinning can no longer occur is, for me, the most logical place at which human life begins.

Eric, leaving aside the issue of rape and the health of the mother (I think I've already mentioned my opinions on self-defense), and assuming that birth control is available, abortion comes down to the issue of consequences.

When we make adult choices, we must accept the consequences of those choices.

If you eat junk food and don't care for your health, diabetes or heart disease are the consequences of those actions.

If you stay up drinking and don't go to work, losing your jobs a consequence of that actions.

If you drive after drinking, the consequences are losing your license and jail time.

Our actions have consequences, and those consequences affect not just ourselves. If I lose my job because I can't be bothered to show up for work, my family is directly affected by my actions.

If I drink and drive I could kill someone while I am behind the wheel.

It is illegal to drink and drive, because you could take an innocent life or lives.

To my way of thinking, abortion is similar. If I have made an adult decision and taken an adult action, then I must deal with the consequences of that decision. It is not right for me to take an innocent life because I like to drive after drinking or because I had sex and got pregnant.

Unfortunately, women do not always have ready access to birth control, so we do not have the above world where everything is more or less black and white.

Eric Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 8:09:00 PM EST  

Michelle, I think your assumption that the decision to have sex is an "adult" decision is extraordinarily problematic.

A fourteen year-old who drives drunk goes to juvie court, not jail, because we've always had some understanding that a fourteen year-old handles decisions differently. A fourteen year-old who drives drunk and kills somebody still at least is initially charged in juvie court (whether she ever sees the inside of an adult courtroom will depend entirely on where she gets her DWI and manslaughter charges).

But the fourteen-year-old who makes a lousy decision about her vagina is punished, in your scenario, the same as a forty-year-old. That hardly seems just.

I also have trouble with the rationale in your last comment because the consequence you inflict on the woman with poor judgment is potentially applied just as much to her child, perhaps moreso. The human being created by her poor judgment has to also deal with her judgments about prenatal care, her judgments about whether to keep the child or turn it over to a relative or to foster care, her judgments about child-rearing if she keeps the child. Accepting your rationale for the sake of an argument--and in actuality, I don't buy it one bit--a female who is known to be a poor decision maker (she unwisely made an adult choice to engage in adult behavior) is being entrusted with another human life; if we can't trust her to keep her legs closed, how do we trust her to eat well and make regular doctor visits during her pregnancy? If she obviously chose poorly when she was on her back with her feet in the air at two a.m. one morning, why should we think she'll do better when it comes to feeding a baby at the same hour nine months later?

And while you seem to allow an out for a mother's self-defense against her own child, how will that work as a practical matter? Will a woman who seeks an abortion have to certify she was raped? Will she sit in jail several months afterwards with an enormous First-Degree Murder bond until her public defender heroically proves that, no, she had to murder her baby because her doctor told her she'd probably die if she didn't?

I respect a sanctity of life argument, Michelle, but that argument must recognize that it has consequences not just for the fetus but for the woman carrying it and the child it might become. But I cannot accept your consequences argument at all, and (I hate to say it because I think the world of you, but--) I think your analogies aren't apt at all. You conveniently set aside two of the most important issues (rape and the mother's health). You assume that the "adult decision" is in fact being made by adults (an assumption that is exactly the opposite of the assumption made by the legal system, which presumes people beneath a certain age must be proven to be acting as adults before they can be treated as such, and at any age capacity remains a defense). You appear to equate pregnancy with punishment--but it's a peculiar punishment, if so, since the punishment is potentially shared with the child but not by the other actor who created the baby (sure, you can force him to pay child support, but it's hardly the same thing, is it?).

It's fair to argue that life begins at such-and-such a point, and therefore must be protected; it's even more fair to make that argument when one is a pacifist vegetarian who opposes the death penalty. But all of those decisions impose costs on everybody involved--not just the decision-maker but potentially other people and creatures and maybe society as a whole. Those decisions require trade-offs and compromises. The decision not to take a life is not different from the decision to take it--it's the same decision, with a different outcome. I acknowledge that there's a legitimate argument that a fetus' life is more important than the rights of a woman to control her own body--I just can't agree with that argument. But that argument is one based on society's obligation to protect its weakest members, and on the sanctity to be accorded life over not-life; I cannot accept that it's an argument based on causality or consequence or personal responsibility--I find that argument to be at best specious and at worst cruel.

(And I hope I haven't offended you Michelle in disagreeing with you so strongly, because you are still made of awesome, Michelle. 100%, undiluted.)

Random Michelle K Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 9:39:00 PM EST  

Not mad Eric. I can argue both sides of this issue (and have).

First, I think my argument is moot point right now, because of stupid sex ed programs in the US promoting abstinence only sex-ed. So I'm simply arguing my moral/ethical belief: if a woman chooses to have sex, then she is responsible for the consequences of that action.

(I've long been convinced that teenagers are not capable of making rational adult decisions--too many hormones wreaking havoc for that. So they aren't part of the equation. Since it's entirely hypothetical, I can limit it as I please to adults capable of making rational decisions.)

All of the discussion about teenagers and rape and mental incompetence are distractions from my main point: if a woman chooses to have sex, why is it acceptable to take a life because she does not want to deal with the consequences of her actions?

That is, for me, the heart of the matter.

As I pointed out, this situation does not exist now. Women don't always have access to birth control. Some women are in relationships where they don't truly control their own bodies.

But in a perfect world, these situations as well as the ones you proposed would have solutions: birth control would be easily and readily available; there would be no stigma against giving a child up for adoption if a woman did not feel capable of being a mother; pre-natal care would be freely available including not just medical care but healthy foods; women would be able to continue their educations if they wanted to keep the baby.

Unfortunately, as I said previously, such a world does not exist. So we're left with a hypothetical moral ethical argument, as posed above.

Don't misunderstand me. I had friends in college who had abortions, and they truly had no other choice (their families would almost certainly have thrown them out/disowned them). I did what I could to help them afterward, even if it was just providing a shoulder to cry upon, but situations such as those should not exist, yet they do.

There is something fundamentally wrong with our society that we place women into such situations.

Regardless, it does not remove the core ethical dilemma--abortion is taking a life. And we live in a society that--for a variety of reasons--makes taking a life an easier solution facing the consequences of a voluntary action.

Eric Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 10:27:00 PM EST  

Michelle, I'm glad you're not mad. :-)

I don't think children and teens and rape and incompetence can be separated from the discussion: to do so means having a discussion where, basically, abortions are legal for those who we sympathize with and illegal for those we don't. I have an ethical problem with that, but even if I didn't, I don't see how you could do it from a practical standpoint.

And even if I accept those terms, I think your question is too easily flipped on its head: if a woman chooses to have sex, why should she be forced to have a child? And what good does that do the child? And while I've already said life isn't fair, there does seem to be something unjust and archaic in the idea that men can have mostly-consequence-free sex while women are obligated to deal with physically debilitating and risky consequences for nine months or longer.

And, again, we have to come back to the unwanted products of those unions. While it would be nice to imagine a world in which adoption is quick, cheap, reliable, safe, and neutral, the reality is that adoption is a lengthy, expensive, frequently inefficient process in which children who are unhealthy or troubled frequently find themselves shunted off into a Kafkaesque social services bureaucracy and dubious temporary placements while those who might be the best possible parents are trying to have their own kids or are picky about health and disability issues (and of course, the big elephant in the room: race).

I still think there are several issues you're dodging:

1) Not every pregnant female wanted to have sex;

2) Not every pregnant female who wanted to have sex was capable of making that decision knowingly, voluntarily, and with a full appreciation of the consequences;

3) Not every pregnant female who wanted to have sex and made that decision competently is able to carry a child to term;

4) Not every pregnant female who wanted to have sex and made that decision competently and who is able to carry to term is able to raise a child;

5) Alternatives like adoption are, realistically, inadequate, and are always likely to remain so;

6) All of the above begs the question of why the consequences for a woman who fits your profile ought to include pregnancy to term, or why the consequences of that decision ought to be imposed on an unwanted child as a result.

Finally, Michelle, I think your last paragraph is dead wrong: it is far easier in our society to have an unwanted child than it is to make the decision to take what might be a human life. Aside from all the stigma still attached to abortion, that makes it a closely-held secret by so many of the women who go through it, the fact is that all a woman has to do to carry a child to term is not make a decision at all and let nature take care of itself. Were abortion as easy as you make it sound, we wouldn't hear a whisper about "dumpster babies." Nor would we continue the pathetic tradition of rushed weddings between teenagers who lack the maturity to make a lifelong commitment and who aren't even out of school, but have nonetheless managed to mingle their DNA. Nor, if abortion were as easy and readily available as you imply, would the awful phrase "babydaddy" (as in, "Oh, my boyfriend and my babydaddy got in a fight at the trailer park last night...") be as common parlance as it is. Our society certainly does not make it easier to take a life than to accept the consequences of unplanned pregnancy; in 2005, per the CDC, there were twice as many births out-of-wedlock as there were legal abortions (1.5 million births out-of-wedlock, a 3% increase from 2004, and 820 thousand abortions, a 2.1% decline in abortions from 2004). I don't think that sounds like the culture of death your last paragraph implies--rather, the exact opposite, an irresponsible culture of life where it's easier to defer responsibility and give birth to a child that has a substantial chance of being poorly looked after.

Random Michelle K Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 12:00:00 PM EST  

Actually Eric, I was talking about more than abortion in the last paragraph.

I was thinking about the fact there remains a push to apply military solutions to diplomatic problems. That individuals who have had their licenses revoked for DUI continue to drive. The executions of criminals and the placing of teens on death row. The continued deaths of people for lack of medical care. Continued deaths from drunk driving.

The US very much prefer to take the easy solution rather than do the hard work of creating solutions to those problems.

Programs that rehabilitate teenage criminals? Too expensive; lock the kids up instead. People dying from preventable illness all over the world? No money for that.

All of these problems require work and solutions that are not going to be easy. But that does not mean those problems are not worth solving and those issues are not worth dealing with.

Life is valuable, and I believe we should do the work to deal with the thorny complications and problems that arise with respecting life in all forms.

For me that means everything from recognizing the a fetus is a living being to allowing to poor to live and work with dignity.

Regarding the some of the issues you brought up, I'd like to see the day-after pill made available over the counter, no questions asked.

Even if a woman does not want to contact the police about a rape, she should still be able to receive medical treatment for everything from HIV infection to the morning after pill. (To be honest, that's a whole other box of worms I didn't want to open. Attitudes about rape and sexual assault still frequently blame the woman, and admitting to a sexual assault still leaves one with a feeling of taint and shame.)

As I said, it comes down to the issue of not taking the easy way out and doing to work to come up with solutions.

And unfortunately, we live in a society that refuses to do that work, be it providing services for women to caring for children in need to changing our justice system to one of rehabilitation rather than retribution.

Eric Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 1:17:00 PM EST  

Michelle, I think that in terms of this discussion, the idea that a fertilized whatsit is a living something is acknowledged. For someone who is vegetarian, pacifist, anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-euthanasia and works within the medical field, I think there's a commendable consistency in your position even where there are points of disagreement.

But however valuable life itself may be, where things aren't equal life must be weighted and evaluated. I love and adore my cat, but if I had to choose between the life of my cat and the life of my neighbor who I hardly see and whose name I don't even remember (let's say the condo is on fire, and I can only choose one), I have to the life of my neighbor is worth more than the life of my cat, even if the life of my cat is a more personal matter.

There is a coherent argument to be made that even if a clump of cells is alive and even if that clump is human by virtue of its DNA and even if that clump is a person by its potential, that nonetheless the parasitic nature of the clump's life and the actuality of the mother's life and existence give her the final say in whether or not to go to term and freedom from having to justify her decision.

Indeed, this is the flaw with the emotionally-wrenching but logically untenable "abortion is murder" argument. The correct response isn't, "no," the correct response is "so what." Law and custom--even if one disagrees with law and custom in whole or in part--makes allowances for war, self-defense, criminal justice, accident, mistake, and a slew of other circumstances. And the awkward truth is that it has to carve out exceptions and allowances, because life is never fair but we have to try to make it just, and it may not be fair that one person lives and another person dies, but the real question is what, if anything, do we do about it?

I agree with much of your idealism, Michelle: I don't know that I'd indulge myself in the use of lethal force even if it was justified, I'm staunchly anti-capital punishment, and I remain anti-war in principle even if I've resigned myself to the inevitability of human conflicts and necessity of force for the indefinite future. But in the case of abortion, I don't see it as something that can ever be eliminated, and for the reasons I've kept hammering on, I'm not convinced it should be. To say abortion should be illegal is not merely to say "the life of a fetus is valuable," but to say, "the life of the fetus is more valuable than the life of the mother." The two lives are entwined in a way no other lives can be. To say the fetus--or call it a child, if you want--has inviolate rights in the womb is to say that the woman no longer owns pieces of her body; that is the nature of rights, a "right" is an obligation that is forced upon others.

Consider this: if a woman were told, "Your womb is not yours--you must be impregnanted right now!" it would seem an absurd horror, no? Or if any person were told that they must give up a kidney or bone marrow by force, if necessary, because the lives of others in need of those body parts are sacrosanct and must be protected. It would be terrible, offensive, repugnant. But a woman who is pregnant who does not want a child (for whatever reason, good or bad)--we're to tell her, "You cannot control these parts of your body because they must be used to save another's life, and life is sacred." (Perhaps one might say the organs are merely on loan during pregnancy--does that make a difference? We wouldn't force somebody to give blood, would we? Or to "loan out" a kidney for nine months until a more suitable voluntary donor could be found?)

Life is valuable, yes. But we don't value all lives equally and we can't.

Random Michelle K Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 8:31:00 PM EST  

I'm not sure how much we're going to get out of this argument, but here goes. :)

Your example actually works for an argument I'm trying to make:

I love and adore my cat, but if I had to choose between the life of my cat and the life of my neighbor who I hardly see and whose name I don't even remember (let's say the condo is on fire, and I can only choose one), I have to the life of my neighbor is worth more than the life of my cat, even if the life of my cat is a more personal matter.

A human life is worth more than your grief.

A human life is also worth more than the inconvenience of nine months of pregnancy.

(Please note we are NOT discussing threats to the life and health of the mother. Those clearly fall under the aegis of self-defense.)

All of which brings us back to my original point: if a woman has chosen to have sex, then she must accept that the consequence is that she may have to support another life for nine months.

Because (and I reiterate) life is worth more than inconvenience.

Eric Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 9:31:00 PM EST  

I have known no woman for whom pregnancy was an "inconvenience," Michelle. It was always a life-altering fact one way or another.

And I can't imagine how having a growing thing-maybe-a-person literally sharing your blood, the air you breathe diffused into it through that blood, the food you eat and the drink you consume shared through that blood is a mere "inconvenience." It surely shouldn't be up to a man to explain the changes to a woman's body during those nine months that are more than inconvenience. Nor to remind that the two lives become intertwined to the extent that a danger for one is a threat to both.

I don't see pregnancy as an "inconvenience," whether it's continued through to birth or not. An inconvenience is when I stub my toe so that I have trouble pulling my shoes on without my feet hurting. An inconvenience is when I leave my cell phone at home. An inconvenience is forgetting a friend's address on my way to a party at her house. Becoming a life-support-system/symbiote to a potential-person for the better part of a year isn't even in the same broad category as an inconvenience.

Eric Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 9:33:00 PM EST  

PS

1) I still don't think you can separate rape and threats to health from the issue, but I don't wish to belabor the point.

2) Pregnancy is a threat to the health of the mother, which is one of the reasons it's not an "inconvenience."

Random Michelle K Friday, January 30, 2009 at 5:40:00 PM EST  

Eric, I actually have several friends who almost died during their pregnancies, so I do know the dangers.

In fact, one (small) reason I'm never having children is because I'm a candidate for severe post-partum depression. (Main reason: I'd make a lousy mother.)

That said, pregnancy is the risk you take when you choose to have sex. Women know the consequences going in (so to speak). If a couple fails to take adequate precautions, the pregnancy is not fault of the fetus, yet the fetus is the one being punished.

And that's what it all comes down to for me: the fetus has done nothing to deserve a death sentence in all this.

Eric Friday, January 30, 2009 at 7:53:00 PM EST  

Does the child deserve the possible life sentence of living with a parent who doesn't want it or of being shuttled through the court system and social services bureaucracy?

What if the mother "punishes" the fetus by neglecting to take care of it during pregnancy: doesn't see a doctor, or indulges in risky behavior, or (as too many pregnant teens have tragically done) simply pretends she isn't pregnant and dumps the child when it's born in a bathroom trashcan (if it's even still alive at that point)?

What if the couple took adequate precautions and those precautions failed?

What if the mother has an existing precondition that subjects the fetus to dire risk prior to the pregnancy ever occurring? (Unfortunately, the examples that come to mind are venereal diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis; I've represented women who were past the point of treatment and still engaged in sexual activities--sometimes that's why I was representing them, actually.)

I don't know: is one of us going to change the other's mind, Michelle?

Random Michelle K Friday, January 30, 2009 at 8:56:00 PM EST  

I'm pretty sure the answer to the last question is "no" Eric.

But if you like, we can switch sides and argue in the other direction, just for something different. :)

Eric Friday, January 30, 2009 at 9:13:00 PM EST  

Nah--the abortion debate is sooooo five minutes ago. "Bushmills or Jameson" is the hip new "abortion debate" now. :-)

Leanright,  Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 1:24:00 AM EST  

This is fun!

I'll choose a McCallan 18 up!

Water on the side.

Random Michelle K Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 9:51:00 AM EST  

I'll drink Bushmills or Jamesons, but prefer Jamesons.

So no real debate here. You're good as long as you don't try and give me beer. (gag)

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