Showing posts with label abortion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abortion. Show all posts

Abortion and "The Christian Abuse of the Sanctity of Life"

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There is a very informational and very heated debate about abortion taking place between commenters at DC right here. One thing that strikes me is the inconsistency of claiming abortion should be considered murder with a pro-life position. If abortion is murder, then why shouldn't a mother who pays for an abortion be charged with accessory to murder, just like someone who hires a hit man to kill someone? Also, why shouldn't the abortion provider be charged with first degree murder? If the pro-lifer reduces the penalties for murder due the fact that it's a controversial issue to specify the exact moment when a fetus is to be granted personhood, and that there is no black and white answer to what kind of penalties should be given, then why not just let the woman decide and be done with it all, by making abortion legal on demand? I think women can decide for themselves. I think women should decide for themselves. One cannot hide behind what the laws stipulate on this point since the pro-lifer needs to either defend the laws, or get them changed.

A new round of abortion battles have started by people who don't really care about babies or women!

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With heartbeat laws limiting abortions in nine states, a new round of abortion battles have started by people who don't really care about babies or women. SOURCE

See these four abotion memes below, and please share!

Does ‘Sanctity-of-Life’ Rule Out Abortion?

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The collision of theology with real-life crises

I was a teen-age Bible geek, way back in the 1950s, in rural northern Indiana. My devout mother was not a fundamentalist, however, so I escaped that infamy. Quite the contrary, even at that early age I developed as aversion to the letters of the apostle Paul. There was no one to tap me on the shoulder and warn me: if you don’t like Paul, Christianity probably isn’t for you. My dislike for Paul had not diminished years later when I selected my major in the PhD program at Boston University; I chose Old Testament to escape excessive study of Paul. I would realize my mistake many years later, since Paul’s theology plays a major role in the falsification of Christianity.

Why Georgia's Abortion Bill Must Be Opposed, Everything You Need To Know, Part 2

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The Republican-led Georgia state legislature passed a devastating bill that would ban abortions upon detecting a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks, before many women even know they're pregnant. To help inform everyone on the sanctity of life here's a chapter written by Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay for my anthology Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. It's a work that details the harms of the Christian faith and why we oppose it. We pick up after Lindsay discusses the messy sanctity of life principle as applied to end of life decisions. [See the previous post, Part 1, which has several essays on abortion and the Christian right found here.]

Why Georgia's Abortion Bill Must Be Opposed, Everything You Need To Know, Part 1

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The Republican-led Georgia state legislature passed a devastating bill that would ban abortions upon detecting a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks, before many women even know they're pregnant. Since money talks I'm hoping the celebrity boycott of Georgia helps overturn this hurtful law, and I call on others to do likewise.

Directly below are a few links to what our authors have written about abortion. In Part II I'll post a chapter on the sanctity of life written by Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay, from my anthology Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. It's a work that details the harms of the Christian faith and why we oppose it.

--Why I Write and Write and Write About the Religious Right, by Teresa Roberts. Commenting on Bob Nononi, a Republican politician from Idaho, who said in a public forum that maybe we should consider the death penalty for women who get an abortion, she unloads the harms of the religious right in general. "Right under our very noses, we are becoming a theocracy and people by in large are refusing to believe it’s happening...The religious right is no longer willing to sit on the sidelines as their cross-eyed cousins once did, talking in tongues, handling snakes, beating their kids and oppressing their women. Watching the rest of Americans live their own lives as they please infuriates them. They're here to tell you that they're no longer a joking matter. They're serious. Dead serious. Furthermore, they're winning which is making them bolder by the minute."

--Why is the Religious Right Obsessed With Abortion?, by Teresa Roberts. She argues: "Abortion has evolved into a single driving issue of such monumental proportions in part because society has become far more secularized than we realize. The shift away from a moral code dictated by churches and enforced by government has caused a great deal of discomfort for individuals and institutions that once wielded so much power over our lives. They are now struggling to reclaim what they perceive as their god given right to determine and enforce the new moral code that defines modern culture. They feel the shifting tide as they continue to lose their tight grip on the reins of society. It has turned them into crusaders, not just for the protection of the unborn but for a return to the glory days when the church had the final and last say over what would be tolerated and what would not."

--Birds of a Fundy Feather, by minister-turned-atheist Joe Holman. In commenting on Eric Rudolph, the famous abortion clinic bomber, Holman argues: "The Christian fundamentalist mindset is dangerous. It devalues life and appreciates one that exists only in fantasy. It enslaves the rational mind, empowering an otherwise conscionable individual to do inhumane things with feelings of integral justification, or at the very least, creates support and sympathy for those who so act."

--Apologist Edward Feser gets into the debate by comparing George Tiller, an abortionist doctor, to Jeffrey Dahmer who killed, dismembered and ate 17 men and boys. Feser says, "Tiller was almost certainly a more evil man than Dahmer was." LINK, with a follow-up LINK.

--In a tongue-in-cheek essay, Why Conservative Christians Should Love Abortion, Franz Kiekeben takes seriously William Lane Craig's arguments that slaughtered innocent children go to heaven, and draws the conclusion that so do aborted fetuses. Hence, "Christian conservatives should be encouraging women to get pregnant for the sole purpose of aborting their fetuses — and doing this as often as they can! They should stop protesting abortion clinics and instead hand out fliers informing women of the religious benefits associated with the practice, and encouraging them to do the godly thing."

--God Loves Abortion, by Jonathan Pearce. "Given the statistics that fetuses die from natural, spontaneous abortions, or miscarriages; abortions that God has the power to stop, and seemingly designed in to the system in the first place, then.... either God is not omnibenevolent; or God does not exist; or embryos are not so sacred and arguments over what defines personhood are called for; or that millions of fetal deaths a year, unknown to humanity, are necessary for a greater good."

--About fifteen years ago I participated in a written debate with an atheist over abortion, which can be found at DC here. I think I laid out a reasonable case for a women's right to abortion.

Why I Write and Write and Write About the Religious Right

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I had a fairly close friend ask me the other day why I'm so preoccupied with the religious right. 

"Can't you write about something else?" 

Yes, dear friend, and I do. I write about long-term travel, philosophy, living debt free and alternative lifestyles, overcoming the restrictive limitations of cultural expectations, minimalism and more. I've even written two psychological murder mysteries and at least thirty plays, many of which have been performed on stage in front of  live audiences.

But, here's the deal. 

While everyone else gets sidetracked by all the other political issues, I've decided to keep my eye on the religious right. I know that's hard for most to understand either because they're religious and thus rarely speak out against religion on principle or they've completely forgotten how things used to be. 

Why is the Religious Right Obsessed With Abortion?

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This topic is hotly debated in one form or another on social media all of the time. Liberals seem unable to get their heads around the fervent, single mindedness that drives the religious right when it comes to the question of abortion. This single issue has developed into the "great divider". I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve followed a debate between the two sides on a topic such as corporate wars or guns in schools without abortion being brought up. Inevitably, someone pitches abortion as a counter argument. Perhaps according to the devout, there is no other form of senseless murder that compares to what they perceive as a continuous slaughter of unborn children. We might as well have wars if we’re going to kill babies.

Why Conservative Christians Should Love Abortion

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A couple of years ago, I published a blog post showing that if one accepts the explanations offered by apologists like William Lane Craig for some of the terrible things Yahweh commands, then one should want there to be as many abortions as possible. Since these explanations — or excuses — recently came up in the comments section here, I decided to re-publish that post. The conclusion is of course not meant to be taken seriously, but it does follow (with a few minor assumptions that would be unreasonable to deny) from the screwed-up views of these apologists.

God loves abortion!

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Or it is necessary for foetuses to die for a greater good. Well that's certainly one of the conclusions that must come from the statistics for natural, spontaneous abortions, or miscarriages; abortions that God has the power to stop, and seemingly designed in to the system in the first place in actualising this biological world.

The statistics for miscarriages are notoriously difficult to assess completely accurately. This is mainly due to the fact that many miscarriages go unreported due to simply not even being known by the mother. 

So why am I writing about this? Well because, statistically, it means that anywhere up to 75% of all pregnancies, of all fertilised eggs, die. This is a staggering number of pregnancy losses (for example, it is estimated that 3 out of 4 eggs that are fertilized do not fuse their DNA correctly, and therefore either do not attempt to implant or fail at implantation - see attached image taken from here). Of course, being exact on these numbers is rather academic. Whether it be 50 million a year in the US or 25 million is irrelevant since both numbers are ridiculously high!

The reason for talking about this is twofold. Firstly, for people who critique abortion on religious grounds, it makes somewhat of a mockery of their arguments. Secondly, again from a religious perspective, it does make God look a little callous. Nay, brutal and unloving.

DEBATE: The legality of abortion, Michel vs. John W. Loftus

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This debate took place some time ago between myself and another atheist named Michel. The proposition was this one: Women should have the legal right to an abortion. I took the affirmative. Michel took the negative. We each had an opening statement, one rebuttal each, and one closing statement, for a total of four posts each on the topic.

Here we go. See what you think given the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller.
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Michel:

The stated position of this thread is "Woman should have a legal right to an abortion." John W. Loftus has asked that I post first, and I am taking the stand against this position, sort of. My stance is not simply the negation of this position. The statement "women should not have a legal right to an abortion," is too broad and too absolute. There is one instance in which an abortion is not only permissible, it is required. So the counter position I will defend is as follows:

Women should not have a legal right to an abortion, except in the case where reasonable certainty exists that the life of the child cannot be saved but the life of the woman can be preserved by the procedure.

To make sure the one exclusion is clearly understood, I am referring to the sole situation where reasonable belief exists that neither the mother nor the child will survive if the pregnancy continues to term (or to a point where the baby can be born with a reasonable hope of survival). In this circumstance, if the life of the mother can be preserved by an abortion, the abortion is not only morally permissible, it is morally required.

My position on this is a fairly simple one: I believe the fetus is a human life from the moment of conception in a context where it can progress to birth. I don't consider a fertilized egg in a Petri dish to be "human," as it fails to meet the second criteria. If the fetus is a human life, then must be accorded all of the rights and privileges accorded to a "born" person. In short, if I cannot morally perform a particular act on a 3 month old infant or a 30 year old person, I cannot perform it on an in vivo fetus.

The sole exception is easy to demonstrate. If the life of the child cannot be saved with or without an abortion, no choice of action or inaction can preserve that life. In other words, any action (or inaction) chosen will have the same outcome: the death of the infant. This renders all actions equal from the perspective of the child. Attention now shifts to the woman. If her life can be saved only by means of the abortion, then her life must be so spared. To select any other action is to select an action that directly leads to the death of the woman.

Our legal system already has prohibitions against wanton killing. I cannot take the life of another human being unless it can be demonstrated to be in self-defense. Furthermore, the legal system is replete with precedence that indicates self-defense cannot be simply protection from minor harm or freedom from annoyance; it has to be in the face of mortal or (sometimes) maiming harm. To legalize abortion in any circumstance but the one stipulated to above is to create a separate code of law for a separate class of people. This has been struck down in numerous cases including the fight for women's suffrage, equality in voting, and so forth.

I believe the pivot point of the debate is the recognition of the status of the fetus as a human being, which is where many pro-life and pro-choice adherents disagree. If the fetus is not a life, it is trivial to argue it does not have the rights of a human being. But if it is a human life, I have a hard time seeing how someone can argue it should be legal to permit its destruction. In our pre-debate discussions, John W. Loftus stipulated that he conceded this point and our starting premise would be that we both accept the fetus as a human life.

I am therefore very curious about how his position is going to unfold.

Back to you, John!

Michel

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John W. Loftus

Let me start this debate by 1) delineating my position on the legality of abortion, 2) offer a few initial reasons for that position, and 3) conclude this opening post with an argument against the Christian pro-life “Biblical” position, since Christians will be reading this.

My moral position on abortion is the same as the late Jane English. She concluded that it is “justifiable early in pregnancy to avoid modest harms, and seldom justifiable late in pregnancy except to avoid significant injury or death.” I agree with English in that “it would be morally wrong for a woman who is seven months pregnant to have an abortion just to avoid having to postpone a trip to Europe.”

My legal position is that:

In early months: Abortion is permissible whenever it is in the interests of the woman to do so. The reasons would have to outweigh the pain and inconvenience of the abortion itself.

In the middle months: Abortion is justifiable only when its continuation would cause harms—physical, psychological, economic or social—to the woman.

In the later months: abortion is wrong except to save a woman from extreme hardship, significant injury, or death.

I will have criteria for the moral status of the developing zygote that may seem arbitrary to you, but your “implantation” criterion is quite obviously arbitrary too. I will argue for a self-defense model for abortion, and for religious and ethical tolerance for those with differing ethical views on the matter, since we live in a democracy. Furthermore, I’ll argue that to declare the implanted zygote “personhood” status under law would bring a kind of legal chaos to our system.

There are a lot of issues involved, and they won’t be settled here in this debate. But the problem is best viewed from the perspective of facing an unwanted pregnancy. If there were no unwanted pregnancies there would be no debate about abortion. But there are unwanted pregnancies. Now what? And what if it were YOU who were facing one? What if?

Women have always faced unwanted pregnancies. The sexual revolution of the sixties has increased the number of unwanted pregnancies. To wish to go back to some Victorian Age will not happen. It’s unreasonable and impractical to expect people to refrain from having sex. Virginity until marriage is no longer the standard, whether we like it or not. And with sex comes the possibility of unwanted pregnancies, even with safe sex.

Let’s say you’re a woman and you don’t want a baby. So you take precautions, but the condom slips off, or the pill fails, or in a passionate moment, when drunk, a woman succumbs to the wiles of a man who promises love and a long-term relationship. But after getting sex the man walks away from you. What then? I have never known a woman who faced an unwanted pregnancy who wanted it to happen. It was a mistake. She may have thought that with her menstrual cycle it wouldn’t happen. She took a risk and she lost. Some women mistakenly think that if they get pregnant they will be able to get and to keep the man, but he may still walk away.

I personally know of a married friend who had an affair with a married woman who got pregnant. To carry the fetus to term and confess the affair would’ve destroyed two whole families. How do you weigh the life of a fetus to the lives of those involved? But that’s what we face when we face this issue.

Never mind the morality of the sex involved here. It happens. Those who say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” simply don’t understand the crisis that a woman faces as the result of her actions. And an unwanted pregnancy is, after all, her problem. The man may not care, and may have no further interest in the matter. What now? And we think it’s compassionate to force her to deal with the consequences of her action? Having a baby out of wedlock is something that will require many years of sacrifice for a moment of passion. Abortion is a very agonizing decision. Something went wrong. The woman had not planned to have a baby. According to Edward Tivnan, of the 6 million pregnancies every year in the U.S., “more than half are unintended,” even with modern birth control techniques. “The highest percentage of abortions is among the poor, unmarried black women, for whom pregnancy or another child can be a tragedy.” [The Moral Imagination: Confronting the Ethical Issues of Our Day (p. 28)]. Our laws force the marginalized to suffer for being uneducated about sex and for whom the pressure to have sex is put on them by society and the men they are with.

As I said, it’s the woman’s problem, not the man’s. Those who want to force the woman to have the baby will not help her take care of it, or provide financial assistance for it. They just want to punish her because of some moral sense of theirs. Where is their morality when it comes to helping her take care of that baby?

Several issues need to be resolved here. 1) We first have to come up with a defensible ethical theory. 2) Then we have to defend a theory on the relationship between morality and the law (i.e., legislating morality). 3) And since we’re facing a dilemma, we need to evaluate the woman’s right to privacy versus the fetus’ right to life, (or the quality of life of the woman versus the sanctity of life of the fetus). 4) We also have to define the moral and legal status of the fetus at every juncture, from zygote to birth. Further issues include 5) the problem of prohibition, 6) the issue of tolerance, and 7) the issue of power between women, and the men who create the laws. We’ll get to these in turn, but let me mention the first three issues briefly.

A Defensible Ethical Theory.

There is a long recognized distinction between prima facie ethical duties, where there are no conflicting moral absolutes, and actual ethical duties, where we must do the best we can when moral absolutes stand in conflict. Even if we can agree that abortion is prima facie wrong, then we must also weigh in other factors, such as the quality of life for the woman who is being forced to carry that fetus to term.

Some Americans are moral relativists, while still others stand squarely in the happiness tradition, espousing Hobbesian hedonism, or utilitarianism. Many Feminists consider abortion an issue of the power of women to decide for themselves what to do with their own lives. All of these ethical theories can be used very easily to defend the morality of abortion. So to make abortion illegal is to be intolerant of the moralities of others in our democracy.

Legislating Morality.

Legal Moralism seems to be the basis for your opposition to abortion, since your morality differs from the other moralities previously mentioned. Legal Moralism says it’s right to have the law restrict someone from doing something simply because it is immoral. This position is simply wrongheaded, as evidenced by the Puritans who came to this country.

The Right to Privacy versus the Right to life.

Judith J. Thomson (in “A Defense of Abortion”) hypothetically spoke of something called “peopleseeds,” which grow into children. They drift about like pollen in the air and if you open your windows one might get in and take root in your carpet or upholstery. So you buy the best screens available but eventually one gets in and takes root. She asks, “Does the 'personplant' who now develops have a right to the use of your house?” She argues, “Surely not—despite the fact that you voluntarily opened your windows, you knowingly kept carpets and upholstered furniture, and you knew that screens were sometimes defective.” Good Samaritan laws do not require that someone is morally obligated “to make large sacrifices, of health, of all other interests and concerns, of all other duties and commitments, for nine years or even for nine months, in order to keep a person alive.” Much less a 20 year commitment!

Let me now briefly argue against the Christian pro-life so-called “Biblical” position.

In the first place, for most Christian people, abortion is the best evangelistic tool they have going for them. That’s right! For most Christians aborted fetus’ go directly to heaven. Granting the fact that Christianity is losing ground in America and in the Occident today, they would be better off letting people have abortions, since there is less of a guarantee that these aborted babies would've embrace the Christian faith as they grow in an increasingly secular culture. Because of Christian activism they will wind up in hell. Think on that one!

But for other Christians consider these thoughts. Nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to an abortion by a woman who was facing an unwanted pregnancy. Jesus never spoke of it, nor did the N.T. writers, even though abortion and even infanticide were taking place in the Roman Empire. Why the silence?

None of the passages like Jeremiah 1:5, nor Psalms 139, nor Luke 1:41-44 refer to the status of the unborn child. Jeremiah, for instance, has God say that even before Jeremiah was born, God had destined him to be a prophet. Psalms 139 merely describes how God created us. But just as a car is put together piece by piece and has no real value as a car until it’s fully formed, so likewise this passage doesn’t indicate the moral or legal status of the fetus. Luke 1 merely describes a baby moving in Elizabeth’s womb. How could it be possible that John the Baptist “leaped for joy” upon hearing Mary’s voice? This is all superstitious stuff, prophetic awareness of the status of Mary’s baby, and/or wives tales about babies, and which says nothing about the legal status of the baby.

Exodus 21:22-23 is usually invoked, but Exodus 21:21 is usually ignored—nuff said, since slavery and polygamy were acceptable in their day. It’s a debatable passage anyway you look at it (was it a miscarriage?), and if God wanted to be clear about it, then why isn’t it clear? Who’s life is the author speaking of here? Obviously, the mother’s life, since she was the one who was struck. And why didn’t the Jews get its supposed pro-life message, since they didn’t see anything in it to outlaw abortions, and there is no record of any adult life being taken for causing a miscarriage. (Speaking of which, why aren’t there funerals for miscarriages?). Furthermore, this passage says nothing at all about when the child in the womb has legal status.

But even the church has not always taken the extreme pro-life position, that the fetus is a human being from the time of conception. Thomas Aquinas argued that the fetus didn’t have a soul until several weeks into the pregnancy, and the Council of Vienne adopted his view in 1312 AD. Neither has America in times past under common law ever held to the extreme pro-life position. Both have tolerated abortion “even if performed late in the pregnancy.” [James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Reasoning, (p. 60)].

The truth is that the Christian tradition is ambiguous about abortion, and still is to this day. Usually the Christian view is influenced not by the Bible, but for other reasons which are read back into the Bible, much like Medieval people did with a geocentric universe, or even when it comes to war, capital punishment, women’s rights, and even Sabbath day and baptismal views. But on each of these issues the church is still debating with both sides of any issue arguing their case from the Bible because the Bible can be used to support both sides of many issues. “People’s moral convictions are not so much derived from their religion as superimposed on it.” [James Rachels, The Elements… (p, 61)].

So what I’ll do here will be to see the reasons for my position irrespective of what the Bible says, because the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue in unequivocal ways.

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Michel

Introduction

The position outlined by John is interesting, but not justifiable given the initial premise of the debate: that the fetus was fully human. Jane English argued for a type of graduated license for abortion that requires a more pressing exigency later in pregnancy than earlier in the pregnancy. John's position clearly follows that position. In the early months, he suggests the interests of the child are essentially absent. Only the pain and inconvenience to the woman matter. This graduates to the late term abortion which apparently can only be justified in the even of extreme hardship to the woman. Throughout the pregnancy, the critical decision factor is the status of the mother, and nothing is said of the legal status of the child.

Yet this runs completely counter to the recognition of the fetus as fully human. No other fully human person in the American legal system can be legally deprived of life solely on the basis of the impact of their life on another individual. I have to either assume John has rescinded his pre-debate claim to accept the child as fully human, or to suggest that he has failed to make his case by failing to demonstrate how a legal system can carve out so gross an exception to precedent.

But let's proceed on to the various points made.

General Response

The observation that the discussion should be had in the context of unwanted pregnancies seems superfluous. A parent seeking an abortion is seeking to terminate the pregnancy. By definition, they do not want the pregnancy. I would consider it an indication of psychological illness for someone who wanted the pregnancy to seek an abortion. They may have many reasons for not wanting the pregnancy. They may actually want a child, but the pregnancy is going badly for one reason or another. That remains an "unwanted pregnancy." The question "what would I do if I were facing one" is irrelevant and is an appeal to emotion when the question at hand is a legal one.

The status of the child as proposed by Jane English and supported by John is indeed, as John noted, arbitrary. The criterion of a child having human status from the time of being in a viable context for growth (implantation) is not. Implantation is a distinct physiological event. Other distinct physiological events have legal status in our country. Birth brings new rights and requirements in our legal system. Passing age certain ages (e.g., 18, 21, 65) does as well. Even death has legal ramifications. Each of these is a distinct physiological event with accompanying legal ramifications. The form of "graduated status" that John proposes for the fetus is actually unprecedented for any other class of person in our society. While we gain and lose privileges at various stages in our lives, at no point in our human life does our legal status as a human being change, except in the arbitrary case of a fetus. Therein lays the true arbitrariness.

The sexual revolution of the sixties has indeed changed the number of unwanted pregnancies. To suggest that the legal system needs to adjust to a social reality regardless of the consequences for the individual or society is patently unacceptable. The sixties not only saw a significant change in sexual behavior; they also saw a significant change in the type and amount of illegal drugs our society consumes. People use drugs. They are in our schools. They are in our workplace. They have a potent economic reality. No amount of wishful thinking is going to return us to the pre-sixties drug model. It is just as unreasonable and impractical to expect that our population is going to "just say no."

Yet we do not hear a call for a sweeping change to our legal system to legalize all forms of recreational drugs. Many of them are deadly. The consequences to society would be devastating. To argue that because more people have sex and there are more unwanted pregnancies justifies depriving human beings of their lives is unsupportable at best. It buys into a society that refuses to take responsibility for its actions, and refuses to be held accountable.

The argument John presents continues on to an impassioned description of the woman who does not want to be pregnant and takes every reasonable precaution. But the precautions she takes fail. In his words, "she took a risk and she lost." Yes she did take a risk, and she did lose. What we are now discussing is who pays the cost for that risk. In John's model, it's perfectly ok to deprive a human being of life to "pay the cost." But that is unsupportable in our current legal system. If I go out to party with friends, get a little drunk, and drive my car. I am taking a risk. If I have a car accident and kill someone, I lost. The weight of law would be brought to bear for my choices in that sequence. I would be required to pay the cost for my risk. But in John's model, I would walk away free, because the cost would be born by the person who lost their life.

John then proceeds to talk about the friend who had the affair: again, a passionate emotional argument. But the choice to have the affair was freely made. The choice to have sex was freely made. The consequence of a pregnancy was a direct result. Again, in John's model, the cost for these choices should be born by what is unarguably the most innocent of all human life: an unborn child: a child completely incapable of making choices. Again, this is unsupportable if the fetus is fully human.

John then asks how I can weigh the life of the fetus to the lives of those involved. Easily, John. If the fetus is human, then its existence in or out of the womb is irrelevant: it is human in both contexts. So consider the situation where the couple having the affair conspires to keep the pregnancy a secret and the baby is brought to term. Their plan is to place the child for adoption, but when they go to place the child they discover (for whatever reason) that they cannot do so without one or the other of their spouses learning of the child, the pregnancy, and therefore the affair. Clearly this will be just as devastating as it would have been 8 months earlier. Are they still justified in killing the child? How could one possibly weigh the life of that child against the lives that are going to be impacted? (You might note the irony there )

There is no issue of sexual morality involved here. I do not suggest that premarital sex is moral or immoral. The issue is irrelevant. The fact that the sexual act produced a human life is the lynchpin of the discussion. I also understand that our society is woefully lacking in supporting pregnant women in the situations John describes. To simply cut them off without support is inappropriate. But this debate is not about the shortcomings of society and our healthcare systems. I acknowledge they are woefully inadequate. The solution is to bring to bear what is necessary to fix those lacks, not to change the legal system so that, by depriving an entire class of people of the right to life, we make the problem "go away."

To hold those who find themselves pregnant due to their direct choices and actions blameless in their decisions is also inappropriate, and not legally defensible. John makes numerous appeals to compassion, and certainly the legal system should be compassionately applied. But compassion does not mean patting people on the head when they make mistakes and letting them skip away unscathed, leaving someone else to pay the cost. Compassion is not the same as comfort. Justice can sometimes be very uncomfortable, even when it is being compassionately applied.

Yes, unwanted pregnancies are a tragedy. And care needs to be taken that we are educating our children and young adults to the consequences of their choices, and to the best choices for avoiding those kinds of pregnancies, and for supporting them when and if those pregnancies occur. But that does not extend to terminating a human life because it is unwanted or inconvenient or onerous.

The suggestion that it is not a man's problem, it is a woman's problem is problematic. Pregnancy, last I knew, required a man and a woman. The man should most certainly be held accountable as well. The suggestion John makes that there is no desire to help the woman or child, only to punish her for some perceived moral wrong is also emotionally compelling, but irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The issue is the legal right of a woman to terminate the life of a child. The basis for my position is that the unborn fetus is fully human, and entitled to all of the rights of a human person. The woman is not being "punished." She is having to deal with the outcome of her actions.

Now let's proceed to the issues John seeks to address. He lists seven of them.

1) A Defensible Ethical Theory.

John suggests there is a distinction between "prima facie ethical duties, where there are no conflicting moral absolutes, and actual ethical duties, where we must do the best we can when moral absolutes stand in conflict." So stipulated. He then states, "even if we can agree that abortion is prima facie wrong, then we must also weigh in other factors, such as the quality of life for the woman who is being forced to carry that fetus to term." Again, so stipulated. This was the specific reason for my exclusion in my opening statement.

When we are weighing conflicting moral guidelines, however, we must weigh them "pound for pound," so to speak. Weighing a moral guideline that has to do with life itself against a moral guideline that has to do with privacy, comfort, or even health, is not pound for pound. Under no conditions that the American legal system permit a person to deprive another of life for the soul reason that it inconveniences them, or burdens them. Human life can legally be taken today a) as punishment for a wrong committed where such punishment is authorized under law, or b) in defense of self, where said defense is against mortal peril or maiming harm. Last I knew, a pregnancy was a fairly normal human biological event and constituted neither. My sole exemption in my opening statement deals with the one context where these issues arose.

John then notes that, "many feminists consider abortion an issue of the power of women to decide for themselves what to do with their own lives," which is also true. One might note that the same argument was actually made by the southern states in defense of slavery: that they had a states legal right to choose. All of us retain the right to decide what we do with our own lives, until said decision impacts another human being unjustly. That is the cost we pay for living in society: our rights are curtailed by the rights of those we share the society with. In granting the fetus humanity, we cannot then arbitrarily abrogate those rights.

2) Legislating Morality

John then proceeds to suggest that "to make abortion illegal is to be intolerant of the moralities of others in our democracy." It would seem John is the one who is arguing for legal positions based on morality. Specifically, that laws should NOT be made when they are intolerant of the moralities of its constituents. Given the wide array of moral beliefs present in this country, one might suggest we would have precious few laws at all!

In point of fact, while the law should not require any person to engage in an immoral act, American law is purposefully silent on much that would be considered immoral where it conflicts with the notion of privacy. It is immoral for me to sleep with another man's wife. The law will not speak to that, and rightly so. Some consider it immoral to use the name of god in vain. The law will not speak to that, and rightly so. The law also binds where morality has no voice. It is the law of the land that I am to drive on the right side of the road. There is no moral edict that requires this law. The law exists for the safety of the citizenry. Clearly, law and morality are two separate things.

But to suggest that laws should not be made where moral issues are also involved is preposterous. If that were the case, there would be no laws against killing and no laws against theft. The driving force for law is the survival of the society and the good of its citizenry. Morality is likewise concerned with these issues, so law and morality will overlap to some degree. But they are not bound together at all points, as is clear from the examples above.

All of this notwithstanding, it should be noted that I have made no comments regarding the licitness (is that a word?) or illicitness of the sexual act. I have made no appeal to morality whatsoever. My case is based on one thing and one thing only: that the fetus is human and therefore accorded all of the rights of any other human in our society. It has no more right to life than the mother, but also no less. John's claim that I am proposing "legal moralism" is simply smoke obscuring the core issue.

3) The Right to Privacy versus the Right to Life.

This section of John's opening statement is populated with people seeds and various other sidetracks. It attempts to make a point by drawing a parallel between people and houseplants where the seeds are like "pollen in the air" and the house is apparently analogous to the "womb." It fails on several points, but I will focus on the most significant. Last I checked sperm where not free floating in the air and capable of accidentally impregnating any passing woman not suitably protected (what an image! ). Sperm are carefully tucked away in the testicles of the male of the species, and it requires an explicit act of will to make the transfer. One cannot be held responsible for acts over which they have no control (e.g., floating peopleseeds), especially when they have met the requirements of due diligence to the "prudent man" rule. One must be held accountable for the outcomes of explicitly chosen acts, and one may (under some conditions) be required to bear the burden of choices made by others when a life hangs in the balance.

John then notes Good Samaritan laws do not require that someone is morally obligated “to make large sacrifices, of health, of all other interests and concerns, of all other duties and commitments, for nine years or even for nine months, in order to keep a person alive. Much less a 20 year commitment!" This is true, although the 20 year commitment is a red herring. No one is suggesting the woman is obligated to both bring the baby to term and also raise it. Adoption is a perfectly viable recourse. Trust me – we adopted both of our sons. But the Good Samaritan analogy is again flawed. The Good Samaritan comes upon a person separate and distinct from themselves whose existence and harm were not the direct result of their actions. The Good Samaritan rules are also about the good of the citizenry in that they require a certain amount of basic help to be given where such help is possible. The baby in the womb is not unrelated to the parents, and its existence is not a happenstance separate from the parents. The Good Samaritan rules do not apply at all in this context.

Remaining Issues

The remaining four issues are essentially unaddressed in John's opening (although some overlap with the points made above), so I'll let him speak to them before responding.

Biblical Defense

John then proceeds to, "argue against the Christian pro-life so-called 'Biblical' position." I'll leave this without response since it has no bearing on this debate whatsoever. I am no longer Christian and not arguing from the Christian position. And the bible is not the legal source document for laws in our country. Last I knew, that was the U.S. Constitution. Let me quote from that august document:

No person shall be […] deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law (U.S. Constitution, Amendment V)

In January 1973, in the Roe vs. Wade decision, the majority justices of the U.S. Supreme Court stated:

"State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy. Though the State cannot override that right, it has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman's health and the potentiality of human life, each of which interests grows and reaches a "compelling" point at various stages of the woman's approach to term. (Roe vs. Wade: January 1973 Majority Opinion).

Note carefully the final sentence of the majority opinion. In order to bring the weight of "right to privacy" to bear, the majority justices had to reduce the fetus in "interests" through the term of gestation. Had they not, the fetus would have to have been granted all rights due any other human person in this country.

Summary

As I stated in my opening, the abortion debate stands or falls on the understanding of the human status of the fetus. In stipulating that he agreed the fetus was a human being, John essentially conceded the debate before it began. None of the arguments he has made thus far have overcome the problem of denying a human person the right to life.

I predict John will either have to recant his pre-debate position and begin to argue that the fetus is not a human being (in which case we will devolve to a scientific and philosophical debate on what constitutes a human person), or simply concede the debate. But let's see where this goes, shall we?

Back to you John.

--------------------------

John W. Loftus

You wrote: "I predict John will either have to recant his pre-debate position and begin to argue that the fetus is not a human being, or simply concede the debate."

Well, well. Just as your prediction is wrong, so is your argument. If you cannot predict any better than that, then how is anyone supposed to think your arguments are any better?

First I’ll comment on your latest post, then I’ll move on.

I do think that the problem is best viewed from the perspective of facing an unwanted pregnancy, even if you think this is an “appeal to emotion,” “superfluous,” and “irrelevant.” You argue that it means nothing since we’re discussing a “fully” human being, because to you that is the key issue. First off, I accept your distinction between a human being and a “fully” human being. Neither the zygote, the conceptus, the embryo, the fetus nor the neonate describe full human beings, having full adult human rights, in my opinion, even if they all describe a human being in various stages of development. A fully human being is a "person" by legal definitions.

Secondly, why is this an appeal to emotion? These are real cases with real people I’m dealing with. And if it’s emotional to show how a pharisaical approach to justice affects those who live under the law, then let it be emotional. But don't think so at all. Otherwise you must show why the law shouldn’t respond to people living under the law. You must also explain the basis of law itself, if it doesn’t take into consideration the voting rights of those who live under it.

Thirdly, while you admit that “we gain and lose privileges at various stages in our lives,” you still want to maintain that a “graduated status” of value for the developing fetus is “unprecedented.” This is something of a conundrum for your position, I think.

Fourthly, you argue that is is wrong to adjust our legal system to a social realities regardless of the consequences. As stated, I’ll agree with you on this one, except that I think the consequences of allowing for abortions are less than if they were made illegal. Our legal system does in fact adjust itself to social realities—it cannot do otherwise. Take for instance the prohibition era, when it was illegal to sell alcohol or consume it. Alcohol consumption and related problems are our biggest social problems today. There is related drunk driving, domestic violence, job loss, health complications and financial burdens of the rest of us because alcohol is legally available. Our society would be better off by prohibiting alcoholic drinks. Or would it? In one real sense it would, but in another sense it would not. Since an overwhelming number of people like to drink we would have a huge black market for it, along with organized crime, and turf wars, and killings. It would make many otherwise decent law abiding citizens criminals. And the product would not be guaranteed to be good to drink, since it would be unregulated.

Many are calling for the legalization of many kinds of illegal drugs for the same reasons. Many murders and thieves are created because of turf wars, bad drug deals and the need to buy these expensive black market priced drugs, that have no guarantee that the product is good to use. We must weigh the social consequences of what would be better for our society when considering whether to make these drugs legal again. When the crime rate is too high, then the costs are too great to continue the prohibition of various kinds of now illegal narcotics. Some are already arguing that the social costs are already too high. And while I’m not taking a side on that debate here, it’s what we must likewise weigh when considering prohibiting abortion too. And in our society, with 30+ years of having abortion legal, it would create a huge black market, with turf wars, and organized crime, and botched abortions, and do-it-yourself hanger abortions where great harm and death could result to many uneducated and poor black mothers. So it’s simply impractical to repeal our abortion laws. Our present laws reflect the present social realities. This argument alone should cause you to change your mind.

You go on to claim that the implantation criterion is not arbitrary because it is "a physiological event." Tell me this, what changes with regard to the physical makeup of the zygote itself when implanted? Nothing. Its environment changes, and that’s it. According to Joel Feinberg, “It’s impossible to draw a nonarbitrary line anywhere between conception and infancy such that no beings before that line are human persons and all beings after that time are human persons.” Apart from conception itself, the usual arbitrary lines are these: implantation, brain waves (8 wks), sentience, or the ability to feel pain (about 4 ½ months), quickening (when the mother feels the fetus moving), viability, and birth itself. Your and my problem is one and the same. We must try to explain why our arbitrary cut off point has moral significance while its predecessor doesn’t. We must argue that there is a a morally relevant difference between the hour before that point and the hour after that point. This is notoriously difficult to do, and you didn't do it.

But if we take a non-arbitrary position on this issue, and claim conception itself is the moment we should confer the right to life on the zygote, then there is the potential for a “judicial catastrophe,” bringing upon women oppressive implications, according to Edward Tivan. All existing zygotes that are frozen and awaiting implantation in a uterus must be implanted regardless of whether the mother wants them or not, because they have a right to life. Women who smoke or drink or do drugs during pregnancy should be prosecuted for child abuse, and if they miscarry they are murderers, if the court can show they were negligent in their behavior. If a woman took a risky mountain climbing adventure or roller coaster ride while in her first trimester and/or fell and miscarried, she would have to be charged with manslaughter or reckless homicide, for at the very least she was not being careful with that life inside her that has a right to life. We charge those who kill while drunk behind the wheel with vehicular homicide, so we would have to do the same with pregnant mothers. By the way, why don't we have funerals for all miscarriages?

You admit “our society is woefully lacking in supporting pregnant women” when facing an unwanted pregnancy, and you claim that “the solution is to bring to bear what is necessary to fix those lacks.” But tell me this, since you recognize this problem, exactly what policy changes would you make to change this whole situation? Specify them. Enumerate them for me, since that would be very important to your whole case. And tell me how likely these changes would be adopted by our society, and whether they would actually change the situation. You’re wishing upon a star here.

When it comes to a defensible ethical theory you need to articulate your theory and show how it can be defended with regard to abortion. That is, what ethical theory do you propose that says all human life is valuable, having an equal right to life? A consequential ethic maintains there is nothing intrinsically good or right or valuable in and of itself. This is a happiness versus a deontological kind of an ethic. Although you don’t need to do this for the purposes of this debate, it is a prerequisite to understanding why you think the way you do, and I maintain that a deontological ethic is impractical, and involves itself is some untenable contradictions, especially since you’re an atheist.

When it comes to the relationship of law and morality there are several positions to take, which are called “Liberty Limiting Principles.” These principles determine when a law may rightly restrict our liberty, and why. Here they are: 1) The Harm Principle. This is the surest a most firmly rooted principle whereby the law may prevent people from doing what they want when their actions cause harm to others. “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.” 2) The Social Harm Principle. This is on less firm footing whereby the law may prevent people from doing what they wish when their actions cause harm to society itself. (This is sometimes used against pornography and gay marriages, rightly or wrongly). 3) The Offense Principle. This is on even shakier ground. The law can prevent people from doing what they wish if it offends people. (Like torturing animals). 4) Legal Paternalism says that the law may restrict us from doing harm to ourselves (like seatbelts, drug usage, and anti-smoking legislation), because those who make the laws know what’s best for the rest of us. But on the shakiest ground is, 5) Legal Moralism, that the law may prevent us from doing what we want if it is considered immoral, simply because it is immoral. The Puritans operated this way by outlawing oral sex, adultery, homosexuality, strip joints and working on Sunday.

While we may want to outlaw anything we think is immoral, the basis for outlawing something should be because of the Harm or Social Harm principles. Legal moralism is stupid and invites cultural wars in our pluralistic society. You can argue that abortion is wrong because of the Harm or Social Harm principles, as I know you will, but not on the Legal Moralism principle. That principle conjoins church and state way too much. If you cannot argue your case on the first two liberty limiting principles, then you shouldn’t be arguing your case at all.

Just as an unwanted pregnancy should be the context of our discussion, so also the discussion itself is about one question and one question only. It’s this: “what rights should we grant to the developing fetus, and when?” We do grant rights in a democracy, you know. Even those who claim all rights are God-given, they must also maintain it is “we the people” who decide what rights God grants. Even Christians disagree over what these rights should be with regard to the developing fetus.

Stanley Fish argues There is No Such Thing as Free Speech. Well, there is no such thing as evenly granted rights for all human beings, either. Just like free speech is a political prize won by the diligent, so also are rights—-they too are a political prize won by the diligent.

These rights are what I consider to apply to the legal concept of “personhood.” In Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court said that the concept of personhood does not apply to the developing fetus, and by that it meant that the fetus doesn’t have all of the rights that apply to other human beings. Rights. We confer them. America denied blacks the rights that they should have had, and that was a travesty of justice. But that’s what we do. Not everyone is granted the same rights. Children cannot legally purchase beer, or enter into a legally binding contract. It is considered molesting (or sexual assault) when an 18 year old has sex with a child because the child, even if 17 years old, is not considered at the age where he or she can engage in consensual sex. Comatose people can be terminated under special circumstances by those who have the power of attorney. Those with dementia can be interned in a sanitarian without their approval. Criminals are behind bars, and some are denied the right to life. Gays cannot be legally married in most all states. Men cannot go into the women’s locker room or streak though a mall. And so forth.

But what we have in the developing fetus is a potential person, and herein lies the problem. A conceptus, which take abut a week to be implanted is a mere “amorphous speck of apparently coagulated protoplasm” [Michel Tooley]. It is not yet even an individual human being because it can still separate and become twins or triplets. It doesn’t have any limbs, or eyes, or organs of any kind, or a brain, or a face or a central nervous system, and certainly doesn’t have consciousness, rationality, nor can it entertain any concepts. It has nothing at all that we could recognize as an actual person. All it is is a potential human person.

What is a person, morally speaking? According to Mary Anne Warren: a person must have 1) Consciousness; 2) reasoning; 3) self-motivated activity; 4) The capacity to communicate; 5) the presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness. According to her, a fetus has none of these characteristics, thus is not a person: “It cannot be said to have any moral right to life than, let us say, a newborn guppy, and that a right of that magnitude could never override a woman’s right to obtain an abortion....” “Some human beings are not people, and there may well be people who are not human beings.” (i.e. some animals). “The rights of any actual person invariably outweigh those of any potential person, whenever the two conflict.” “A woman’s right to protect her health, happiness, freedom, and even her life, by terminating an unwanted pregnancy, will always override whatever right to life it may be appropriate to ascribe to a fetus.” [“On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion”]

Think about the fetus as a potential human person. It is a human being, as I admitted, but it is only a potential person if left to develop fully, and that’s the rub. You are comparing what is not yet, with what is already there. My question is why you want to say that an acorn is equivalent to a sapling to a fully grown tree. They are not the same things, and they do not all share the same value. Likewise with a zygote compared to a neonate to a child to an adult. They are not the same things either. I am a potential President of the United States, but that doesn’t mean anyone should treat me like the President until I actually am the President, even though we know the odds are extremely unlikely I will ever be the President. I am potentially a dead person too, since the odds are 100% that I will die. But it would be stupid and unjust and uncaring to treat me as a dead person because I am not now a dead person, even though I will be dead sometime. The same thing applies to the fetus. You cannot place more value or rights on that fetus than what it is now at any stage along the way to personhood.

For me personally, sentience, or the ability to feel pain (about 4 ½ months), is the moral criterion I have arbitrarily adopted, even if this debate is about what is legal. Sure the fetus has brain waves, and can sometimes react to painful stimuli before then, however, “this reaction is probably a reflex that is entirely automatic.” [L.W. Sumner “A Third Way”]. The moral status of the fetus depends on the capacity of the fetus to experience pain: sentience. This occurs sometime during the second trimester. Before that threshold, the decision to abort is morally innocuous. If such a fetus cannot feel pain then the mother can do so at anytime before that “indeterminate” time without moral inhibitions for any reason she feels necessary. During these early months there is no harm to a fetus because there is no pain. Even though it is a potential person, during those early months it is not anything more than it is--a fetus.

This is enough for now. Next time I’ll share some scenario’s where it’s entirely legitimate to kill an innocent human person even when your life is not threatened. I’ll also talk about overpopulation in China along with something called “lifeboat ethics.”

---------------------------------
As a final note, I saw nothing in your arguments against the hypothetical peopleseeds/peopleplants scenario that shows how the main point of the analogy fails, even if I recognize that finding analogies that fit in every detail, especially in the case of abortion, are hard to come by and may well be impossible. If you didn't want the pregnancy, and you took some precautions against it (based upon your knowledge, even if defective and ignorant or uneducated), but it happened anyway, you are not obligated to keep it alive even if you knew your activity (like opening a window) gave rise to the possibility of having the pregnancy.

I think likewise with you argument against applying Good Samaritan laws to the case of abortion. Nothing of what you said undercuts the fact that someone is not morally obligated to make large sacrifices or health, interests, concerns and commitments for such a long stretch of time to keep someone alive (something I’ll also address next post with a specific case).

But with the adoption option, which I applaud you for doing, it is still quite a commitment for a woman, when the alternative is to simply abort a fetus who feels no pain. No one gets hurt with such a procedure, if done properly in regulated, legally licensed clinics.

----------------

Michel

So you think my prediction was flawed, John? Read on.

You said:
I do think that the problem is best viewed from the perspective of facing an unwanted pregnancy, even if you think this is an “appeal to emotion,” “superfluous,” and “irrelevant.” [snip] You argue that it means nothing since we’re discussing a “fully” human being, because to you that is the key issue. First off, I accept your distinction between a human being and a “fully” human being… [snip]
Ok, what I said was the issue was irrelevant – anyone seeking an abortion doesn't want the pregnancy. So I stipulate to your observation and consider it unnecessary to the discussion.

As for the supposed distinction I made between "fully human" and a "human being," this is not my position nor has it ever been. I'd love to know what I wrote that left you with this impression, but it is a wrong one. In fact, your observation that the earlier stages of development are not fully human is exactly what I predicted you would be required to do to defend your case, which it appears you have done above. Prediction realized. Maybe the rest of my arguments aren't so bad after all!

You said:
Secondly, why is this an appeal to emotion? These are real cases with real people I’m dealing with. And if it’s emotional to show how a pharisaical approach to justice affects those who live under the law, then let it be emotional. But I don't think so at all…[snip]
The American legal system must seek for justice, which is not an emotional exercise. It is about weighing the benefits for the nation and populace against the ills (for the establishment of law), and the circumstances of a situation against the rule of law (for application to individual cases). Simple appeals to emotions may get a lot of politics involved, but they are not adequate to establish rule of law. For rule of law, the law must be weighed against the Constitution of the United States of America. Any law that contradicts the Constitution must be eliminated, until such time as the people vote to alter the Constitution. That is the way our government works. If you want to argue that we need to amend the Constitution to permit abortions, that is a different discussion. I suggested at the outset the discussion be about morality, but you preferred a legal discussion. When you did that, you tied yourself to the U.S. Constitution. Article V dominates that discussion unless you remove humanity from the unborn child, which you stated before the debate you believed the child was human.

You said:
Thirdly, while you admit that “we gain and lose privileges at various stages in our lives,” you still want to maintain that a “graduated status” of value for the developing fetus is “unprecedented.” This is something of a conundrum for your position, I think.
You're right, there is what appears to be a conundrum. Let me be more precise. Nowhere in our legal system is the right to life considered a privilege we can gain or lose. We can gain driving, voting, and drinking privileges (to name a few), but nowhere else can we be legally denied life outside of self-defense or punishment after due process.

You said:
Fourthly, you argue that it is wrong to adjust our legal system to a social realities regardless of the consequences. As stated, I’ll agree with you on this one, except that I think the consequences of allowing for abortions are less than if they were made illegal. Our legal system does in fact adjust itself to social realities—it cannot do otherwise. [snip (prohibition and drug examples)]
I did not say that laws don't reflect social realities, John. It is in a social context that the need for law arises. Prohibition was the law of the land because the Constitution was amended. A later amendment reversed the choice of the people. And no amendment has ever been introduced that reverses the Fifth Amendment. Prohibition and our laws related to drugs do not deny an entire class of people their lives at the whim of a separate class.

Yes, there would be black market abortions and people would be harmed. We should, indeed, put in place every reasonable social institution to deal with the problem, and make every effort towards appropriate education and prevention of unwanted pregnancy. I agree we fall down on this part, as a nation and as individuals. But the answer is not to destroy lives instead: it is to deal with the social issues. And still, you might say, some would be harmed. Please note they would be doing so by personal choice. The unborn child has no choice in this decision, nor an ability to choose.

You said:
You go on to claim that the implantation criterion is not arbitrary because it is "a physiological event." Tell me this, what changes with regard to the physical makeup of the zygote itself when implanted? Nothing. Its environment changes, and that’s it. According to Joel Feinberg, “It’s impossible to draw a nonarbitrary line anywhere between conception and infancy such that no beings before that line are human persons and all beings after that time are human persons.” Apart from conception itself, the usual arbitrary lines are these: implantation, brain waves (8 wks), sentience, or the ability to feel pain (about 4 ½ months), quickening (when the mother feels the fetus moving), viability, and birth itself. Your and my problem is one and the same. We must try to explain why our arbitrary cut off point has moral significance while its predecessor doesn’t. We must argue that there is a morally relevant difference between the hour before that point and the hour after that point. This is notoriously difficult to do, and you didn't do it.
By your own argument, John, there is nothing that changes about the fetus two months prior to birth or two months after, except its context. So we ought to have the right to kill a two month old if the circumstances are inconvenient or harm may befall the family. Somehow, I doubt you are going to follow through on your position and argue for that.

I did somewhat loosely use your word "implantation" which may have led to this misperception. Let me try to be more precise: A fertilized egg in a context where it can develop to birth is fully human. I include in this everything from the moment of fertilization (in vivo) to the moment of introduction into the womb (in vitro). Cells in a Petri dish are not human, they are a science experiment, specifically because they lack the context in which to develop to birth.

You said:
But if we take a non-arbitrary position on this issue, and claim conception itself is the moment we should confer the right to life on the zygote, then there is the potential for a “judicial catastrophe,” bringing upon women oppressive implications, according to Edward Tivan. All existing zygotes that are frozen and awaiting implantation in a uterus must be implanted regardless of whether the mother wants them or not, because they have a right to life. Women who smoke or drink or do drugs during pregnancy should be prosecuted for child abuse, and if they miscarry they are murderers, if the court can show they were negligent in their behavior. If a woman took a risky mountain climbing adventure or roller coaster ride while in her first trimester and/or fell and miscarried, she would have to be charged with manslaughter or reckless homicide, for at the very least she was not being careful with that life inside her that has a right to life. We charge those who kill while drunk behind the wheel with vehicular homicide, so we would have to do the same with pregnant mothers. By the way, why don't we have funerals for all miscarriages?
"Judicial catastrophe" is another of those lovely emotional arguments that bear no weight. First of all, the frozen zygotes are excluded for the reasons I noted above. Women and men who do not exercise due care during a pregnancy and that can be shown to cause harm to the unborn child ought to be held responsible. The same is true of a woman or man that does not exercise due care after the pregnancy is over. Miscarriages occur all the time, John. If they can be shown to be due to gross negligence, then yes, the weight of law ought to be brought to bear. The precedence for due diligence to the prudent man rule is well established. If a pregnant mother is driving drunk and kills the fetus, yes, she ought to be prosecuted. How can anyone even question that. She ought to be prosecuted even if she is NOT pregnant. You may shrink from holding people accountable for their choices, but I do not.

You said:
You admit “our society is woefully lacking in supporting pregnant women” when facing an unwanted pregnancy, and you claim that “the solution is to bring to bear what is necessary to fix those lacks.” But tell me this, since you recognize this problem, exactly what policy changes would you make to change this whole situation? [snip]
We can do that is a separate discussion, John. It is irrelevant to the rule of law. These are policy decisions. Do I think they are likely? I don't know. And yes, I am wishing on a star. However, wishing our society would fix its ills and working toward that end is the appropriate role of every American. Changing laws to deprive a class of being their lives because we do not wish to be inconvenienced is not.

You said:
When it comes to a defensible ethical theory you need to articulate your theory and show how it can be defended with regard to abortion. [snip]
My atheism is irrelevant. Ethics is irrelevant to this debate. You did not ask me to defend ethical theory, John. You asked me to argue against "women should have the legal right to an abortion." Again, it is you who are introducing morality and ethics into the discussion, which you accused me of doing in the last debate. Stick with the subject of the debate. I am arguing against the stated position in the debate. I am arguing it with the belief you entered this debate stipulating that the unborn child was human at all points. As I noted in my last post, that position is indefensible, and so far you have not defended it. And you are already showing signs of retracting the original stipulation.

You said:
When it comes to the relationship of law and morality there are several positions to take[snip (the positions)]
So stipulated. No problem here. See below.

You said:
While we may want to outlaw anything we think is immoral, the basis for outlawing something should be because of the Harm or Social Harm principles. Legal moralism is stupid and invites cultural wars in our pluralistic society. [snip (suggestions of what I may argue)]
Again, no problem here, and I am not making any of those arguments. I am not arguing legal moralism. I am not even invoking harm or social harm. In fact, I am not bringing moralism in here at all. You, however, repeatedly do. My position remains: if the unborn child is human as described above, then Article V of the U.S. Constitution dominates and no person may be denied life without due process. There is no protection for abortion in the Constitution, unless you deprive the unborn child of its humanity. So the debate will, eventually, resort to arguing that the unborn child is "less than human" and we will be into a scientific discussion. Otherwise, all of the morality and emotional fluff you keep throwing at the discussion will gain you nothing, the position has not yet been refuted.

You said:
Just as an unwanted pregnancy should be the context of our discussion, so also the discussion itself is about one question and one question only. It’s this: “what rights should we grant to the developing fetus, and when?” We do grant rights in a democracy, you know. Even those who claim all rights are God-given, they must also maintain it is “we the people” who decide what rights God grants. Even Christians disagree over what these rights should be with regard to the developing fetus.
Indeed, John, that is exactly what it is about.

You said:
...there is no such thing as evenly granted rights for all human beings, either. Just like free speech is a political prize won by the diligent, so also are rights—they too are a political prize won by the diligent.
Yes, we often have to fight for our rights in this society. So stipulated.

You said:
These rights are what I consider to apply to the legal concept of “personhood.” [snip (examples of limited privileges and rights)]
Ahh, I knew we'd get here sooner or later. So you are back to the basic I predicted: the fetus is less than human and not fully entitled to the right to life. We could have saved a lot of time and simply come here immediately. Your position is indefensible unless you reverse the position you started the debate with, and argue the fetus is lacking in its humanity in some way. Guess my predictions aren't too bad after all.

You said:
But what we have in the developing fetus is a potential person, and herein lies the problem. [snip (reasons why fetus doesn't look or act human)] What is a person, morally speaking? According to Mary Anne Warren: a person must have 1) Consciousness; 2) reasoning; 3) self-motivated activity; 4) The capacity to communicate; 5) the presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness. According to her, a fetus has none of these characteristics, thus is not a person: [snip (implications of previous statement)]
Again we are back to morality? Really John, you do have to stop accusing me of dipping into morality (which I haven't) and then go wadding into pool up to your neck yourself.

Sorry, John, I do not concede that the fetus is a "potential" person or is anything less than fully human. It has the genetic makeup that differentiates it from any other creature, and the context in which to realize that makeup. To confer privileges on it during its development is as right and proper as any other privileges we may gain through life. But the right to life is not one of those "privileges." The right to life is fundamental. Denial of the right to life is implicitly the denial of ALL privileges. Your list of what it requires to be a "person" I can accept from a legal viewpoint, and note that there are many people in our legal system who would fail to be "a person" by your criteria. From those people we sometimes have to remove the right of choice, the right of ownership, perhaps even the right of freedom. But there is no precedence from removing from them the right of life. Cognitively impaired people are not killed. Senile people are not killed. Even people in a persistently vegetative state are not killed. The most the law permits is the removal of "extreme lifesaving measures" and the person is allowed to die. No one may go in and shoot them or administer a killing drug without their permission (even in Oregon). That permission, in some states, can be passed to someone who has their power of attorney, but that too is a choice on the part of the individual. No such choice is being made by the child.

You said:
Think about the fetus as a potential human person. It is a human being, as I admitted, but it is only a potential person if left to develop fully, and that’s the rub. [snip] (comparisons to acorns, Presidents (actually, I found that juxtaposition amusing), etc.)
An acorn and a sapling are not the subject of our legal system, John. A human being is. Comparing the zygote to an acorn may add emotional weight to your argument, but it adds no legal weight. And your distinction between a human being and a "person" has been addressed above.

You said:
For me personally, sentience, or the ability to feel pain (about 4 ½ months), is the moral criterion I have arbitrarily adopted, even if this debate is about what is legal. [snip (more morality, and expansion on above)]
I think we can dispose with your discussion above since you have already noted it is arbitrarily adopted. And again with the morality, John? You really should have suggested a different topic since you seem to be unable to resist returning to this.

You said:
As a final note, I saw nothing in your arguments against the hypothetical peopleseeds/peopleplants scenario that shows how the main point of the analogy fails, even if I recognize that finding analogies that fit in every detail, especially in the case of abortion, are hard to come by and may well be impossible. If you didn't want the pregnancy, and you took some precautions against it (based upon your knowledge, even if defective and ignorant or uneducated), but it happened anyway, you are not obligated to keep it alive even if you knew your activity (like opening a window) gave rise to the possibility of having the pregnancy.
If you can't see it, John, I can't help you. The peopleseeds in your analogy are randomly floating things I am trying to defend against. Pregnancy requires a conscious, chosen, human action. Your analogy is so fatally flawed as to be inapplicable. Choice makes all of the difference, your protestations not withstanding. I cannot be held responsible for something I cannot control so long as I have exercises due diligence to the prudent man rule. That is the rule of law. I can and should be held responsible for my actions.

You said:
I think likewise with your argument against applying Good Samaritan laws to the case of abortion. Nothing of what you said undercuts the fact that someone is not morally obligated to make large sacrifices or health, interests, concerns and commitments for such a long stretch of time to keep someone alive (something I’ll also address next post with a specific case).
That is true, John, for Good Samaritan scenarios. You cannot take the principles of one context and arbitrarily apply them to any context. A pregnancy is not an individual I stumbled upon whose situation was not of my doing, which is the heart of the Good Samaritan scenario and Good Samaritan principles in law. An unborn child does not fit that description.

You said:
But with the adoption option, which I applaud you for doing, it is still quite a commitment for a woman, when the alternative is to simply abort a fetus who feels no pain. No one gets hurt with such a procedure, if done properly in regulated, legally licensed clinics.
Whether or not pain is felt is irrelevant. And yes, the woman has a commitment to follow through on. It's called being responsible for our choices.

On to the next round, John! Good luck.

------------------
John W. Loftus

So let’s take a close look at your case so far, if you have one at all. You argue that fertilized eggs in a context where they can develop to birth are “fully” human (your distinction, again, despite your protestations to the contrary—why continue to use that phrase if you don’t mean it?). And as human beings they have the right to life regardless of any other mitigating factor, or any other extenuating circumstance, even though we’re dealing with conflicting rights, conflicting obligations, and conflicting absolutes between the mother and the fetus, and the potential for judicial chaos. You also are arguing that this position of yours should be accepted world-wide and not limited to America, since I gave you that option in our pre-debate conversations, and you replied:
Since I believe our legal system should, at a minimum, be based on morality, I believe this should be the law of the land as well. Not only America, but in all lands.
At first you argued that my position is immoral, and because immoral, we should not allow abortion as a law. Then when I argued against Legal Moralism (and I didn’t have to argue to hard there, since what I said was almost self-evident) you switched to claim that the American constitution, as understood by you, supports your position. So you wrote:
I am not arguing legal moralism. I am not even invoking harm or social harm. In fact, I am not bringing moralism in here at all. You, however, repeatedly do. My position remains: if the unborn child is human as described above, then Article V of the U.S. Constitution dominates and no person may be denied life without due process.
The final authority on matters of the American Constitution has ruled consistently over the last 30+ years that the fetus is not a “person” under the law and as such does not have the same rights as other human beings. But you argue against their interpretation anyway, as you have a right to do. But even if you succeed, this says nothing at all about the other countries of the world and what their laws should be regarding abortion and the rights of the fetus. So if we’re talking about women around the world, and not just those in America, as our pre-debate discussions show, and you’re not arguing that abortion is immoral, nor are you arguing that abortions cause harm or even social harm, then what is left of your case? I am really tempted at this point to just quit writing more here, because you have no other grounds to stand on.

Why should women not be allowed to have abortions? That’s what we’re debating here. Why? On constitutional grounds? Well, then, what about China’s constitution—do they even have one? On moral grounds? You initially argued that way then backtracked by denying you did, and now you deny Legal Moralism. Abortion is wrong because of Harm or Social Harm? That should have been your grounds, and you did give hints of it, but now you deny that that’s what you’re doing. You have actually conceded the debate. From here on it’ll be extremely easy for me, unless you backtrack as CaptainOrchre repeatedly does (bedfellows, eh?). But I’ll put a few nails in your coffin just to make sure you don’t try to resurrect yourself with some slight of hand or political gerrymandering. Your integrity is on the line. You’d be better off admitting defeat, in my opinion, or by starting all over by specifying the grounds for your claim that women shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions.

You need to argue that implantation (or whatever word you use to define it) is a non-arbitrary criterion for what is to be considered a human being, or allow other arbitrary criteria for granting the fetus the right to life. Your criteria is so obviously and patently arbitrary that I don’t care to say too much more about it. According to you,
Cells in a Petri dish are not human, they are a science experiment, specifically because they lack the context in which to develop to birth.
Now remember, we’re not just talking about cells here, but human fertilized eggs. And these fertilized eggs are alive. They are not fish eggs, or bear or elk or cat eggs. They are human, with 46 chromosomes and the potential to be adult human beings, if we allow them to grow. The decision to allow them to progress to birth is ours. All they need is warmth, sustenance and protection—that’s all! And you say we don’t have to grant these human beings the right to that context, or the right to life? Why? What’s the real reason? I suspect it is, after all, the potential for judicial chaos, but you won’t own up to it. I’m actually saying the same thing as you are, but I admit my criterion is somewhat arbitrary. Just like you, I’m saying that we don’t have to allow the fetus in the womb the context to grow until birth. Yours is an arbitrary criterion and if you cannot see this, then you can’t see the nose on your face!

And if the only thing that matters to you is whether these eggs are in a context to grow until birth, then why can’t we have a scientific experiment to implant fertilized eggs in a woman with a predetermined goal to abort the fetus at 3 months just to see how far it progressed, as a scientific experiment too? In that scientific "context" the eggs were predetermined never to be put in a place where they could progress to birth.

But if human beings at conception do have a right to life then every zygote must be court ordered to be implanted in a mother, whether they want it or not, simply because these zygotes have a right to life.

So if we cannot escape arbitrariness, the question becomes, who has the best criterion for the moral and legal status of personhood, and by that I mean real human beings who have the right to life (otherwise known as fully human beings with all the rights and privileges that go with it)? I claim it’s with sentience. If the Harm Principle is on the firmest footing for the creation of laws, then before there is pain there is no harm. "No harm, no foul."

Since you think abortion is immoral you need to articulate and defend a non-consequentialist ethic, but that you haven’t even attempted. There is nothing intrinsically good or valuable or right. That’s my ethical position. What’s yours? Why is all human life valuable no matter what the consequences? Why?

And it’s simply not unprecedented that we deny some human beings, even innocent ones, the right to life. Take for instance capital punishment. We know innocent lives have been executed because we think that the Social Harm Principle of not executing people for crimes they were convicted of, outweighs the Harm Principle of doing harm to innocent people. Many people every day are denied the right to life in our hospitals who have “No Code” stamped on their hospital charts, if their heartbeat stops, as well as with active and involutary euthanasia. Then there are wars we engage in where we know innocent non-combatants will die as a result of the greater goods of war. The only consistent position for you to take here would be complete and utter pacifism, because your position is that all human life is valuable regardless of the consequences. But if you adopt this pacifist position you will let the aggressor kill more people because you refused to do anything about it.

An acorn and a sapling are not the subject of our legal system, John. A human being is. Comparing the zygote to an acorn may add emotional weight to your argument, but it adds no legal weight.
This was an analogy. Did it escape you? I’m asking you to tell me the difference between an acorn, a sapling and a full grown tree. And I’m asking you to tell me the difference between a fetus a neo-nate, a baby and a full grown man. If you can’t see the difference I can’t help you anymore than I already did. And yes, the fetus doesn’t have a choice because it doesn’t even know it’s alive, much less feel pain, have thoughts, or communicate them to us because he/she has no functioning lungs or hands that can write their wished out for us. The early stages of the fetus in the womb is of little more value than a guppy when compared to the inconveniences of the mother.

Why is it that the pain I point out in the cases I relate are considered by you to be an emotional argument/issue? You remind me in every detail of the Christians who responded that same way when I pointed out the amount and quality of human suffering there is in our world when considering it to be a good creation by a good God. There is unwanted pain in an unwanted pregnancy. Hmmm. That’s emotional? I think the law should be such that there is the least amount of pain (or harm) for everyone involved. If the law doesn’t respond to pain by trying to alleviate it, then what else should it be responding to? And aborting a fetus up to 4 ½ months is no pain for that fetus. So again, I’m asking you to specify the basis of law. The law is not some free floating universal decree out there that has nothing to do with producing an ordered society that produces more good than suffering for its citizens.

You don’t like my peopleseeds example, nor my application of Good Samaritan laws, because you think people should be responsible for their own actions, and after all, a mother allowed for a pregnancy to happen in the first place. My question to you is responsible for what? A zygote? She is not yet responsible for a 2 year old child because the implanted conceptus is not a 2 year old child, just like I'm not the President, and just like I'm not dead. She's only responsible for what it is NOW!

Responsibility. In this case that’s a code word for a man telling a woman to do something. A woman has every right to ask that the man be held responsible. But if you’ll look at the commentary on this debate a man can almost always escape responsibility for his actions when he helps create an unwanted pregnancy. But you don’t care, and you are unwilling even to try to tell me what ways we can hold men responsible for their actions. You were a young man yourself. How many girls did you sack in your day? What did you tell them? Didn’t it feel sometimes to you as if it was like taking candy from a baby? You told them what they wanted to hear, right? Then you could walk away with another notch in your belt. [If you didn’t do this, you certainly know what I mean here]. And this happens all of the time. Women still depend upon a man for many things. For a woman to be unmarried at 28 years old still feels like an Old Maid to her. So then you come along. You tell her want she wants. She believes you and spreads her legs. Responsibility, right? We simply cannot hold men responsible, if they want to walk away. But you want to hold women (especially those that are gullible and poor and uneducated) responsible for that unwanted pregnancy, and you haven’t even got a clue how to hold men responsible. Killing a human being who feels no pain in the womb should be a legal option to these women, even if other women will take advantage of the law to get abortions for less than adequate reasons, since we all have different moralities and we live in a tolerant society. Harm, again, is the moral and legal criterion. And with abortion in the early stages THERE IS NO HARM.

Is killing an innocent human being justifiable? Hypothetical illus: A MAD SCIENTIST hypnotizes innocent people to attack passers-by with knives. How severe an injury may you inflict in self-defense? “Minimum necessary to deter the attacker.” But what if the only way you can defend yourself is the kill the attacker? Suppose you are a frail individual so you hire a bodyguard escort to protect you? The rights of self-defense are transferred to him--the abortionist. Can I shoot the attacker if he only intends to take away my livelihood (mental block against your medical knowledge to keep you from being a surgeon) and the only way to stop him is to shoot him? That is the question. What injuries are serious enough to warrant killing the hypnotized attackers? And while it may be a problem with innocent hypnotized attackers, it’s not so big of a problem with the implanted cells in the uterus that can feel no pain.

What if you awoke one morning and found that some mad doctor attached a famous violinist to you. This violinist needed your kidney’s to continue to live. Are you obligated to lie there in bed for nine months while they find some donor's kidneys, and then afterward you must take care of him for however long it might take to get him back on his feet, while the doctor skips town, and your society won't offer much help either.

Let’s say this planet is nothing more than a big lifeboat. It only has room for so many people, and it only has limited resources to keep everyone alive. The more people there are the worse living conditions result, and the less food and water supply there is, and the more deaths from malnutrition. So laws are made to restrict people from having more than two children, and then later, no more than one child. But still women keep getting pregnant. There would be Harm and Social Harm to allow only but a small small minority of children to be born. So abortion would be certainly morally permissible under such extreme conditions.

Your arguments so far are almost silly. I had expected better of you. Sorry, but I feel this way. Your flip flopping does not inspire me to write much more here. Except I’ll have the last word.

All you have done so far is to respond to the cases I’ve been laying out. You have not yet attempted to lay out your own case by telling us why abortion is wrong, (i.e., just saying the implanted conceptus is a human being doesn't say why abortion is wrong unless you can tell me why all human life is valuable regardless of the consequences, and what specific ethic tells us it's wrong) and upon what grounds you think abortion is wrong (on this issue you have flip flopped way too much for me to even know), even if you have (unsuccessfully) tried to show why implantation is not arbitrary criterion. When you do this I can respond to you. Again, sorry.

----------------------

Michel

I can understand your frustration, John. And I apologize if my attempts at levity were interpreted to be flippant. Please know that is simply my sense of humor. No insult is intended in that post or this.

But I do indeed have a case, John, laid out rather clearly in my OP. I don't need pages and pages of text if the proposition is a simple one to begin with. I told you at the outset the case was not subject to successful challenge unless you argue that the fetus is less than human and not deserving of the basic rights of a human being. You assured me you were willing to stipulate that the fetus was fully human going in, and you would still make your case. I don't know where you get I ever said it was not fully human, since I said to you a few times that I believe the abortion controversy boils down to the differing beliefs as to the nature of a fetus: human or not. I believe it is fully human and have never said otherwise. If you can point it out where I said it wasn't, it might help to clarify the confusion.

Your task, then, is to show how any other privilege outweighs the right to life, and so far you have not done that. I understand your frustration, John, you're in a difficult place. And despite the red herrings you tossed in above, my case remains what I said it was:

1) The fetus is fully human
2) As a human, it is entitled to the same right-to-life of any other human being (or person, if you prefer). That right is guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment.
3) The only way to deny that right is to balance it against a like right – hence the exclusion in the event of a life/death situation for the mother.

None of the examples you have presented have risen to the level of "right to life." You cannot compare the right to comfort, the right to choose, or any other right to the most fundamental of them all: the right to live.

Your protestations that I keep arguing from morality are empty, John. Please go back to my OP and see where you find "morality" in there except in the case of the exclusion. I have never argued from morality in this debate. I have argued from a legal position, as the debate topic indicates. I realize "distraction" is a common debate tactic, but it doesn't really further the debate. I will, however, address the moral issue in a moment.

I've also never "switched" to the U.S. Constitution, John. The prohibition against wanton killing, mentioned in my OP, in enshrined in the Fifth Amendment. And it's not as "understood by me." It is clear – no person may be deprived of life without due process. In stipulating that the fetus was fully human, you stipulated to this as well, though you have been trying to avoid the consequences of that since.

The U.S. Supreme court is indeed charged with the interpretation of the Constitution. But they are not fallible, John, and have reversed their own precedent on several occasions (slavery, suffrage, civil rights, homosexuality, etc.) I agree they have ruled the fetus is not a person (which again, is what I predicted you were going to have to resort to so as to make your case – and you stipulated to the fully human nature of the fetus, if you recall). I said this when we started this debate: the matter hinges on the interpretation of the fetus as less than human.

As for the other countries of the world, you are right that I have been focusing on U.S. Law. But the case is easily extensible. No country in the world, to my knowledge, has legalized the wanton killing of human life. Every country that has a legal system, to my knowledge, has prohibitions against murder. Yes, the leaders of many of those flaunt those laws, but the laws exist nonetheless. Even the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions address the fundamental right to life. The argument from the Fifth Amendment is easily extensible.

And you are correct I did not argue that abortion was immoral, though I believe it to be so. But that is not the subject of this debate, much as you keep returning to it. As for my having no grounds to stand on, I stand on the firmest of ground, John – the right of every human being on this planet to continue to live. You have posted numerous objections, and frankly they all have merit to drive changes in social policy. But none of them, so far, overrides the right enshrined in every legal system to have life.

As for my conceding the debate, John, I'm sure you will make that claim in your final post. I told you when we set out that I was not looking to win anything, but to surface the issues. I was interested to see if you had new issues to offer I had never considered. So far you have not. But it has been an interesting discussion. As for what my grounds SHOULD have been, John, they should have been exactly what they were. The fetus is a human child worthy of life. Such life cannot be wantonly denied that child without due process.

Now, about implantation, John. First of all, I suggest you go back to my previous post and review what I said. I acknowledged that I used the word "implantation: to quickly and without considering the specific meaning, and I clarified my position. You are looking to consign my position about where human life begins to arbitrariness, but your position doesn't work. When a man and a woman couple and an egg is fertilized, two conditions can be seen to hold: one, the egg is fertilized. Two, it is in a context where, without any further choices on anyone's part, nature will progress to its natural end, barring a natural miscarriage, of course. When an egg is fertilized in a Petri dish, only the first condition holds. Not until the second condition holds do we even have the remotest potential for a human life to result. You talk about "if we allow them to grow," forgetting that it requires a second act of decision for that to even be possible. Leave nature to its course in the Petri dish, and the eggs will simply "naturally miscarry." They lack the vehicle for growth. The position I have taken is not arbitrary, it is based in simple common sense logic.

And my position has nothing to do with "judicial chaos," despite your assertions that I am simply not "owning up to it." (Another debating tactic I had forgotten about – I definitely am rusty). Oh, and by the way, my nose is fine

As for the experiment that implant a woman with the goal to abort at five months, I think, if you reflect about it, you will find that position to be a tad absurd. As I noted, as soon as you implant the fertilized egg from the Petri dish, you have moved past the second direct action and you now have a human child on its way to birth. Abortion cannot be permitted.

Now on to your argument about sentience. You want to, somewhat arbitrarily I might note, decide that a person is human when they are sentient. You argue pain is the decider of whether or not harm has been done. By your first argument, we should proactively kill anyone that does not have a brainwave. But you will note, John, that the law does not permit this. It does permit, under certain circumstances, for us to withdraw extraordinary means of life support. But it does not allow us to directly kill. So if you apply the precedent for humans without sentience, the most you can argue is that we should withdraw "extraordinary means of support" and let nature take its course. Are you willing to suggest that a child in a womb is receiving extraordinary support? Given that all of the support they are receiving is 100% ordinary and natural for a woman, that will be a hard case to make.

And should pain be our measure of harm? By your argument about pain, we should also kill every leper. Leprosy is a disease that attacks the nervous system and destroys the ability to feel. The disfigurement we see is a side effect of not being able to feel pain. So I can actually easily kill a late-stage leper without their feeling a thing. No foul? I think not. We are not human based on the presence of any one sense. You went (arbitrarily) for the sense of touch. Why not sight? Why not hearing? Why not taste? The ability to feel fails as a basis for determining whether a person is human or not.

Now, you return to morality. Ok, this time I will follow you there, though it is outside the realm of this discussion. But you appear to need to discuss morality, so let's do so. Is abortion moral? No, except in the case of the exclusion I mentioned, where it is not only moral but morally required. Why the moral prohibition against killing? John, if I have to explain this to you, I have to seriously wonder. There are so many directions to take this. Morality finds its basis in the basic rules of reason. A society that embraces wanton destruction of human life embraces a self contradiction. You cannot embrace the wanton destruction of human life and persist as a species. Second, it becomes an issue of "the golden rule." If you want to argue that you have the right to arbitrarily eliminate someone else's life, you have to accede to the possibility of someone wantonly electing to destroy your life. That's a basic issue of justice and quid pro quo. Somehow, I doubt you're going to be anxious to grant that right to anyone. Finally, one of the most fundamental concepts most societies adhere to is that it is immoral to do harm to an innocent. I defy you to suggest anything more innocent than an unborn child. So on many levels, John, the defense of abortion fails, so long as the child in the womb is seen as a human, which you stipulated to at the outset of this debate.

Your examples about capital punishment fails, John. This is a debate ongoing in our country, as to whether or nor it should be there due to error. But that is irrelevant. Whatever the outcome of that debate, the person in prison has been granted due process, something denied to the unborn child. And your "No Code" example also fails, John. I think, if you explore the matter, you will find that the "No Code" can only be administered if the person has a living will that so stipulates, or has signed power of attorney over to someone who so stipulates, or, in much rarer cases, if the court has assigned that power of attorney in the absence of a person being able to make that decision. Once again, due process has been observed as per our Fifth Amendment, and the general rules of law of most countries.

Then you raise the issue of noncombatants. (I'm expecting the kitchen sink next. ) Yes, in war, noncombatants are killed. But the rules of law specifically restrict the targeting of noncombatants, which again is not applicable to abortion, unless you want to argue that the doctor is actually targeting the placenta and the baby got in the way? I think we both know that is ridiculous. War is sometimes necessary, but no rule of law permits direct and intentional harm to an innocent. International law even places serious restrictions on harms that may be done to actual combatants, and nowhere does it permit their lives to be arbitrarily taken.

Now for the acorn and the tree. I know it was an analogy, John. It was simply an inappropriate one. Yes, a zygote is quantifiably different than a born human person. And an acorn is different from a tree. Are you attempting to argue for the rights of trees? One difference does not necessitate another. A black person is different than a white one. A person with Down's Syndrome is different from a person without. A person with no extremities is different from a person with. You have to make the case that the difference between an unborn child and a born child translate into a decision in rights, and specifically the right to life. Other than that, all you have done is succeed in saying "they are different." And your claim that "the early stages of the fetus in the womb is of little more value than a guppy when compared to the inconveniences of the mother," is just that, an unsupported claim. You are weighing the life of a fully human child, albeit a tiny and undeveloped one, with the convenience of another person. You have shown no legal precedent for depriving a person of life simply because their life inconveniences another, and you will find there is none. Convenience vs. life. I think most of us intuitively see how they balance.

I'm not Christian anymore, John, but perhaps because I once was you are reminded of them. My views are, to some degree, aligned with theirs, although the basis is very different, since I am atheist. Yes, there is unwanted pain in an unwanted pregnancy. It is a sad reality. But the law is not designed around who feels the least or most pain. The law is designed to establish the bounds for justice. Again you weigh pain against death and find pain to be more pressing. I suggest that because you can "see" the woman and you cannot "see" the child, it is easy to dispense with. Because it cannot feel physical pain, it is easy to dismiss. But none of those arguments, as emotional as they are, hold up under scrutiny. Justice is not served by wantonly depriving another human being of life to ease our pain or increase our comfort. The measure of a law is not its ability to reduce pain for a particular individual, but rather its ability to balance the rights and needs of the citizenry, and ensure the greatest good for all. No law permits one segment of society to be sacrificed to make another segment more comfortable.

Yes, I believe people should be responsible for their actions, and yes, they must be responsible for that zygote, much as it seems to bother you. I agree that we are "responsible for what it is NOW!" What is now is the zygote.

Then there is the "you don't care" accusation. I think of that as the "cold heartless defense." Nothing could be further from the truth, John. The plight of women is a difficult one, and it is so in many countries. The lack of responsibility men have shown is horrible, again in many countries. All of these things are things that must be addressed. I don't disagree with that. Where we disagree is that the way to address them is to kill unborn children. There are many social changes that are required. As I said in my last post, however, these lie outside the topic of our debate and I won't spend time on them here. As for my sexual activities as a young man, I think I'll leave that out of the debate too! But rest assured, John, I was just a tad more of a gentleman that you suggest

Then you went on to the hypothetical hypnotized attackers. Again your analogy fails. I am permitted, both under law and morally, to act to preserve my life against loss or maiming harm. Whether the person who is attacking me is doing so willfully or under duress is irrelevant to the law. I am also required, by law and morally, to cause the least harm I am able to achieve that end. Somehow you link all of this to terminating the life (certainly the most harm I can do) of an innocent child in a circumstance where there is no attack and no life threatening harm (I already provided for that exclusion). Sorry, John. You can't argue that it's ok to shoot the piano player because it's ok to shoot the bandit.

Ahhh, then comes the infamous violinist. Judith Jarvis Thomson first suggested this in a 1971 paper, and I think you probably know the response as well as I do. Again the analogy fails completely. First, Thomson is implying that legal (or moral) obligations have to be voluntary to have legal (or moral) force. In point of fact, they don't. We can see that in parental custody disputes easily. There is also the argument that an unborn child has a prima facie right to her mother's body, in much the same way a one year old has that right in the parent's home or life. A parent can place a child for adoption, but not kill it. The violinist has no such prima facie claim. Thomson also ignores the fact that abortion is not a withholding of treatment; it is an act of killing. Thomson also ignores a vast body of family law that clearly establishes the responsibility of a parent to its child.

Furthermore, even Thomson recognized the analogy was aimed specifically at the case of pregnancy due to rape, in which the pregnancy was truly not a choice on the part of the woman. She is now carrying a human life and she had no say in that. Again, as horrible as that circumstance is, the harm was done when the rape was done. It cannot be undone, and it cannot be undone by killing a child. She deserves every once of sympathy and support we can provide, and the rapist deserves to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law (I won't even begin to say what should be done to him, or my post won't see the light of day). But the child that results does not deserve to lose its life.

As for the planetary lifeboat, analogy, John, it's interesting. Caught my attention. Probably the first thing that has been new that I have seen, so I thank you for it. But again, it fails. If the condition of the planet continues to deteriorate because of the circumstances you have outlined, it is doing so based on the choices of the adult population. Ask yourself if it is permissible, in that circumstance, to argue if it is justifiable to go throughout the world and kill every child under the age of one if it is part of a family with more than one child. I think we both see the result. Under the principles of lesser harm, it would actually be better to implement a mandatory sterilization than to kill the children that result. That is also repugnant to me, and violates some fundamental freedoms, but it is a lesser evil than killing. Abortion remains indefensible if the fetus is fully human.

I'm sorry you find my responses uninspiring, John. I've found yours a decent review of some well known, but flawed concepts. You are welcome to the last word, my friend. Someone has to have it. And you are welcome to even declare yourself the victor. Unfortunately, you still have not made your case, and I have addressed each of your points consistently.

You claim I have not laid out my case, but I did so in the OP and have defended it, refuting each of your suggestions, in each post. I don't know what a debate moderator would say, but so far I have found you unable to make your case. You entered the debate looking to defend a legal right, and proceeded to make a moral argument. You entered the debate stipulating to the humanity of the unborn child, and had to reverse that to make your case (as I predicted you would have to). You have proceeded to use many different debating tactics to shift the focus from the matter at hand, but the matter is fairly simple: if the fetus is human, it is protected by the right to life. If it is not, then it is not. You have tried to show it is not with acorn analogies, and arguments from appearance, lack of feeling, and lack of sentience. I have shown each of these to be wanting. Railing against the inevitable gains you nothing.

And there is no need to apologize, John If you find the discussion unrewarding, you are free to end it. I will respect the decision.

Michel

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John W. Loftus

My case is that at conception there is a human life. So the question to be resolved is this one: What rights to we grant to that human life? In order to answer that question we need to see the progression of that life in the womb while considering the plight of women who face an unwanted pregnancy (something I don’t think you fully appreciate, hence the accusation that you don’t care).

I know a teenage girl who got pregnant while living at home with her single mother. How can she take care of that child and support it? What about her education? What about her future career? Single motherhood is the leading factor in illiteracy, crime, and poverty among the children in today’s America. Two unskilled incomes is not even enough to have a decent living, much less her single income. Her mother doesn’t earn much either, and works herself. Who will baby-sit for her while she works? The father skipped on her, but not before he got two other girls pregnant. How could he support these children with an unskilled wage if the court ruled on it anyway? She’ll be on her own.

This isn’t the most extreme case I can think of, just a real one. So we look at the fetus and try to figure out what it is and why it has the right to be born, and potentially harm (or destroy?) the mother’s life. Inconvenience isn’t the proper word here. It’s not mere inconvenience. It’s a life altering decision that you require her to bear even though the father and society itself may do little or nothing to help her. It’s a career altering, relationship altering, financially altering, social altering, physically altering, emotional altering, and mentally altering decision for that woman. Why does the fetus have the right to be born? Because it’s a human? It doesn’t have any limbs, or eyes, or organs of any kind, or a brain, or a face or a central nervous system, and certainly doesn’t have consciousness, rationality, nor can it entertain any concepts. It has nothing at all that we could recognize as an actual human person. It doesn’t even know it’s alive! It resembles a vegetative person on life-support more than anything else I can think of. An acorn. If left to grow it will become an adult person with voting rights. But it is not that at these earliest stages. It cannot vote because it doesn’t even know it’s alive.

And who makes this decision for her? You? Do you know what this decision is like as a man? Hardly! You have no clue. Yet because this life has the potential in her womb to be a voting citizen you want to make her responsible for the wiles of a man who wanted another notch on his belt. Think of the callousness here and you’ll see why you are cold and heartless on this issue. You claim that a mere “amorphous speck of apparently coagulated protoplasm” [Michel Tooley] even if human, has the right to life when it could potential destroy the future of a usually bright young woman? You are weighing the potential future of that life with the real future of that woman. And you claim to know what she should do, such that if she thinks otherwise she should just use a coat-hanger, or go to a black-market unlicensed and unregulated abortion clinic?

If I understand you, your argument is that all innocent human life has a fundamental right to life. You argue this because all countries have laws against the wanton killing of innocent human life, and the only way to deny that right is to balance it against a like right only after “due process.” You think abortion is immoral, but that isn’t the basis of your argument. It’s based upon equal justice under law, I think, or Social Harm. Yet earlier you said you were not arguing based upon Social Harm, but I’ll let that inconsistency pass, except to note it. Your argument is that no one should be denied the due process of law, such that if that right is denied then it hurts society as a whole, and the most fundamental right is the right to life. But the fact overlooked by you is that abortion is legal in most countries around the world, including America. They have had their day in court. They have received their “due process.” And courts around the world have denied them the right to life. Show me otherwise. So you’re asking for another day in court, and if that doesn’t work then you want another one, and another one? And because these lives cannot speak for themselves, you are standing up and speaking for them. You and others do just that in courts around the globe. So they had representation, and they lost. Two criteria of whether or not a defendant in court is legally sane is that they know the charges against them and can help in their defense. Lives in the womb cannot legally participate in their defense, but they’ve had their day in court. What more do you want?

Abortion is a unique problem. There’s no analogy I can describe that will exactly fit this special case. So I come up with analogies that fit as close as possible to show relevant points. I used peopleseeds, an attached violinist (Thomson), a planetary lifeboat, and hypnotized attackers (from Jane English). But none of them fit exactly this specific case. I have specified where it’s permissible to take an innocent human life (misapplied capital punishment, war, overpopulation life-boat hypothetical case, euthanasia), but none of these cases exactly fit abortion either. But I have pointed out that Good Samaritan Laws don’t apply. I’ve indicated that a consequentialist happiness ethic where nothing is intrinsically good or right or valuable is a better ethic, especially for an atheist like yourself, but that escapes you. I’ve argued that we cannot compare the zygote to what it will be someday just like you cannot treat me as if I am now the President. You admitted the difference between a zygote and a child. Differences account for different rights; this is so very obvious it doesn’t need a defense. I have argued that implantation is an arbitrary criterion for rights to be granted, and that judicial chaos would reign if we didn’t have a somewhat arbitrary criterion for granting such the right to life. [We’d have to implant all fertilized eggs and demand funerals of all miscarriages]. You say that this is unprecedented, and it is. Each ethical and legal problem is itself unique and some are unprecedented, but just because each one is unique doesn’t mean we don’t have to do the best that we can do to resolve it, and that’s what I’m doing. I’ve argued that in the early stages of pregnancy there is no harm to the fetus, and since the Harm Principle is on the surest legal footing it doesn’t apply to these abortions. That’s one good reason the law has decided that there isn’t much Social Harm for denying these lives to be aborted. Social Harm is based on Harm, and there is no harm. But the harm to the woman carrying an unwanted pregnancy is real and painful.

We are not human based on the presence of any one sense. You went (arbitrarily) for the sense of touch. Why not sight? Why not hearing? Why not taste? The ability to feel fails as a basis for determining whether a person is human or not. And should pain be our measure of harm? By your argument about pain, we should also kill every leper.
Nope. Sentience is a necessary but not sufficient condition for terminating a life. But it is the proverbial “nail in the coffin.” When other conditions fail to obtain, like consciousness; reasoning; self-motivated activity; the capacity to communicate; the presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, and we add to that the lack of pain in a zygote who has no features that resembles a human life, then sentience is the deciding factor.

Are you willing to suggest that a child in a womb is receiving extraordinary support? Given that all of the support they are receiving is 100% ordinary and natural for a woman, that will be a hard case to make.
Extraordinary support? Since the zygote looks little differently than a guppy at its earliest stages, then the extraordinary support we’re looking at is the complete and utter lifestyle change required by the mother to bring it to term. Good Samaritan Laws do not require such extraordinary means to keep someone alive, much less a zygote.

A society that embraces wanton destruction of human life embraces a self contradiction. You cannot embrace the wanton destruction of human life and persist as a species.
With overpopulation concerns, this is no more of a problem than the fact that gay people cannot have biological children. Just like we don’t have to worry about the future of earth’s population if everyone was gay, since that won’t happen, so also we don’t have to worry about destroying our population through abortion, since not every fetus is an unwanted one.

Yes, there is unwanted pain in an unwanted pregnancy. It is a sad reality. But the law is not designed around who feels the least or most pain. The law is designed to establish the bounds for justice. The measure of a law is not its ability to reduce pain for a particular individual, but rather its ability to balance the rights and needs of the citizenry, and ensure the greatest good for all.
Since there is no divine will for justice (and even if there was a divine will it would still have to be argued for by people claiming to know that will), then justice (a complex philosophical subject) must at least treat everyone fairly, limiting the amount of pain and suffering each one has, by balancing the rights of everyone as fairly as possible. That’s why I am arguing for the position that I am doing.

No law permits one segment of society to be sacrificed to make another segment more comfortable.
Well, then, there is at least one case, a unique case, and an unprecedented case. But you’re wrong. Many exiting laws around the globe do just that when it comes to abortion.

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As a final note. Yes, I did get a bit irritated by your responses. I felt as if you weren’t giving it your best shot because people aren’t interested in this debate. Which may say something about the issue itself. Most people have made up their minds on this issue, and there are more interesting topics to discuss. Which says something, I think, about YOUR position. The anti-abortion foes are less passionate and less numerous than they were in decades past. If we were to have this debate ten or twenty years ago the anti-abortion forces would’ve been out against me in force. The younger crowd of people here are probably more liberal on this issue since they grew up in the shadow of Roe v. Wade.

Anyway, since I teach ethics in college classes, I don’t often get a chance to make the case I have been able to make here. Usually I am a sounding board in class, and I ask tough questions from both sides of the issue because I want my student to think through the problem and come to their own conclusions.

Thanks for allowing me that chance.