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Pro-choice vs Pro-abortion
Posted: 26 August 2009 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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shiraz - 26 August 2009 01:57 PM

How is abortion a complicated moral issue from a secular viewpoint?.

I must admit, I don’t see it, either.

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Posted: 26 August 2009 03:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Well, it’s an issue because people have the intuition that a fetus might have moral interests which have to be considered. This isn’t inherently religious. Some people have a moral sense that non-human animals have interests and others don’t. In that case, religion generally sides againts the interests of animals because they “lack souls” while religion often takes the side of the fetus having interests because it “has a soul.” But that is simply the post-hoc rationalization for the intuition, the feeling which creates the moral dilemma. As I see it, all moral dilemmas are just about what people feel or believe, so this is no different. If non-religious folks feel uncomfortable about abortion because they sense some sort of life or humanity or kinship with a fetus, well that creates a moral question for them. We can argue about the rationale for this feeling, but one’s own lack of such a sense doesn’t cause the dilemma to evaporate for others.

Now, it may be fair to ask whether there is a rational secular argument for the fetus having interests. It is difficult to construct one as clear-cut as the soul vs no soul argument, but not impossible. Perhaps the potentiality of the fetus merits consideration? (though of course then one ends up having to make an arbitrary distinction about what degeree of potential counts, or you get a ad absurdum regression to the “rights of sperm”). Or perhaps the extension of a sense of responsibility outward from self, to family, to community, to humanity, to all life, etc might be a good thing on balance, and this process might lead to some consideration of the fetus as having moral worth regardless of its degree of similarity to or difference from the adults making the judgement. After all, some people once failed to see why slavery was a moral issue because they considered the differences between themselves and their slaves to necessitate non-pverlapping moral categories. These are, I believe, all just feelings or intuitions which we then have to apply our reason to and see if they merit action.

I’m pretty firmly pro-choice because my own analysis of the issue suggests the fetus’ interests of minimal consequence under normal circumstances, but I find the dismissal of the question as meaningless to be a bit blithe. Undoubtedly, those who would dismiss it have other passionate moral concerns I might consider trivial, but which they consider compelling. And this very discussion seems to suggest that the moral sense of some secularists does create the perception of a real question to be assessed. I think it’s a touch simplistic to dismiss it as a primarily religious issue just because that’s how the battle lines get drawn in the larger culture, which is of course more motivated by religion that most of us here.

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Posted: 26 August 2009 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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mckenzievmd - 26 August 2009 03:17 PM

Well, it’s an issue because people have the intuition that a fetus might have moral interests which have to be considered. This isn’t inherently religious. Some people have a moral sense that non-human animals have interests and others don’t. In that case, religion generally sides againts the interests of animals because they “lack souls” while religion often takes the side of the fetus having interests because it “has a soul.” But that is simply the post-hoc rationalization for the intuition, the feeling which creates the moral dilemma. As I see it, all moral dilemmas are just about what people feel or believe, so this is no different. If non-religious folks feel uncomfortable about abortion because they sense some sort of life or humanity or kinship with a fetus, well that creates a moral question for them. We can argue about the rationale for this feeling, but one’s own lack of such a sense doesn’t cause the dilemma to evaporate for others.

That argument is flawed. Empirically, your observations are of people who have been strongly influenced by religion and taught - indoctrinated, if you will - that there is something wrong with abortion. Even if they don’t believe in God, soul, etc., they still carry the baggage of that indoctrination. I don’t think that people who grew up free of such pressures have the same “intuition”.

I understand that some people have a very broad view of which organisms are moral subjects, but I think very few people take seriously the interests of organisms whose nervous system’s complexity matches that of a 7-8 week old fetus. What would those organisms be? Fish? Crustaceans? Bugs? And by the evidence of meat consumed, most Americans don’t take seriously the interests of far brainier animals such as cows and pigs. So the expansive view of moral interests just isn’t mainstream, empirically.

Also, I am not arguing that a happily pregnant woman’s emotional connection to the growing blob of tissue isn’t natural and normal. But that is not a moral stance. I am assuming a situation where the woman does not want to be pregnant. She may feel emotional distress from various factors, including the fact that she is pregnant. But does she, without indoctrination, experience a moral dilemma? I don’t know of evidence that it is so or a reason that it should be so.

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Posted: 26 August 2009 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Certainly, the shape of one’s moral sense is influenced by the culture one grows up in, and I don’t deny that moral discomfort with abortion could be something of a legacy of the larger Christian-influenced morality of our culture. Of course, that is as much of a hypothesis as the idea that such concerns may have other origins, and you have presented no more evidence than I for your favored hypothesis. I suspect one could find non-Christian cultures in which abortion was looked upon as moral problematic as well as ones in which it was generally viewed as perfectly fine. After all, infanticide has been considered appropriate in some human cultures. As for non-religious cultures, well I doubt there’s ever been such a thing on a large scale,. so I don’t know how we’d ascertain what the attitude of such would be towards the question.

Now to me, it sounds uncomfortably like you’re making the argument that without religion there is no basis for even considering such moral questions, and that’s not a thesis I accept. Though most people in the world, historically and today, have justified their particular moral values with religious arguments, I suspect most deep and recurring moral questions arise out of something more intrinsic to what we are. There is some intriguing evidence that we may have biological predispositions to certain basic moral principles, though that argument isn’t rock solid by any means. Still, to say that without religion the very question of abortion as a moral issue wouldn’t arise strikes me as going too far. The possible reasons I suggested for considering the fetus to have itnerests may not resonate with you, but that doesn’t by itself invalidate them, nor make them just apologia for a feeling actually rooted in “religious indoctrination.” You still seem to be using your own lack of a sense that there’s a meaningful question here as an argument for the same, and I don’t think it is.

I’d be more inclined to agree with the idea that the concern for the fetus as in some sense a moral agent comes from a religious impulse than from religion per se. I think we have innate tendancies to what amounts to “superstitious” or “religious” thinking. The concept of contagion, magical thinking, the idea that like-cures like or like-causes-like, the attribution of agency or “mind” to inanimate forces, all of these are products of how our brains work. It is easy to see how such tendancies could lead us to view a ball of cells growing inside a human womb and likely to eventually be a human being if not interfered with as having some moral claim on us greater than that of a crustacean or insect or whatever, and out of proportion to any rational determination of what gives something moral status. As I said, the question arises out of our feeling, and then we apply our reason to it. I suspect you and I agree on the ultimate outcome of such reasoning, but I’m inclined to think the question arises not simply from exposure to religious arguments but from something more fundamental in how we think. And since, as I’ve said before, I think all morality is ultimately about applying our reason to our feelings and intuitions, I don’t see why this issue is any less legitimate than other moral questions that arise from the same source, regardless of the final decision our reason leads us to make about its merits.

[ Edited: 26 August 2009 05:24 PM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 26 August 2009 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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(Sorry, I didn’t read the entire thread but I want to say…) It’s issues like this that make me think there is no objective measure of morality. Morality to me is a sociocultural thing, and that’s about it. There’s no truth behind it. So no, you’re not being hypocritical. You think abortion is wrong (“bad” for society, perhaps), but that it is still a woman’s choice(/right) if she wants to go through with it. I think that’s a fine way to look at it. There’s only a contradiction if you think a person’s rights should be based on morality.

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Posted: 26 August 2009 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I think that there’s a secular argument against abortion based on the notion that the fetus is potentially human. I do not accept that argument, but I acknowledge that it is not necessarily a religious argument. In other words, a perfectly rational person could maintain that a fetus is a potential human being and that society has a legitimate interest in the protection of the fetus. And in fact, I agree with the concept in principle. A fetus one day before birth is, in my opinion, just as human as a baby one minute after birth. But I also maintain that the younger a fetus is, the less human it is and the less interest society has in its protection. All in all, I believe that current US law achieves an acceptable overall compromise on a morally impossible problem.

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Posted: 26 August 2009 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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JRM5001 - 26 August 2009 01:12 PM

What would you do about a 16 year old who makes a hormone driven and immature decision to drink and drive resulting in someone else’s death? 

Driving drunk is not hormone driven.  Teenage sex is hormone driven.  I’ll give you that both are careless acts.  However, sex (as I previously stated) is our most powerful instinct, far more involuntary than people accept.

Further, are you saying that a 16 year old who gets pregnant bears no responsibility for her actions?  BTW, the boy who impregnated the girl should not just get to walk away, he’s just as responsible.  Your assertion that “pro-lifers” are responsible for the children in foster care is nonsensical.  Abortion is legal. 

1st:  A 16 year old who gets pregnant has no ability to be responsible for the weight of that action.  The fact that girls are giving birth to kids where the mothers are anywhere from 14 - 18 does not mean that they are in any way capable of making the decision for which they (and the child) are permanently affected.

2nd:  If pro-lifers actually cared about children, then they would care about all children waiting to be adopted.  And yes, because many pro-lifers council teenagers to have children and give them up, pro-lifers are responsible.  They are directly related, in some instances, to children in foster care.  However, my point was to the hypocrisy of the pro-life movement when it comes to the care of the born as opposed to just the unborn.

Chicken, can a full term infant live without its parents or someone to feed it?  No human being is really viable at birth.  We aren’t capable of taking care of ourselves for years.  Reptiles are viable at birth. 

Umm, this makes little to no sense.  See a fetus can not live without the mother, but a full term infant can be shepherded off to foster care (as the pro-lifers wish).  The point is, if you want to give the unborn rights, then it would need to inherit them the moment the mother wanted the abortion.  A woman does have the right to the well being of her own body.  A pregnancy directly affects that, and if you want to give an unborn child rights, then you’ll have to find a way to grow a child from a fetus sans mom.

What if in some future Brave New World we develop the technology whereby a human embryo can fully develop to term in an artificial womb.  That would effectively make every child viable from conception.  So then would abortion be unnecessary at that point?  Your scientific view seems a little narrow.  Humans never stop changing, from conception to death.  Whether it be an embryo, zygote, fetus, infant, toddler, etc it is a form of human being.  I’m not certain where I fall on the abortion question, but that point gives me pause. 

1st: Your opinion of my scientific view is presumptive and wrong.  Your analysis of my point is lacking.  Regardless of what it takes for a baby to socially evolve to live in our world, feed and take care of itself, a child can not be outside of the womb and continue to develop organs, etc.  And I have no idea what you are trying to imply by “that point gives me pause” but certainly it was not meant with the spirit you claim to have when you began your post.

2nd:  Yes, if we develop the technology whereby a human embryo can fully develop outside of the mother, then I agree abortions would not be necessary.  The procedure to remove the embryo would need to be as safe and no more invasive than an abortion, and then it would be acceptable.

If you came from poverty and say it was so bad that your mother could have legitimately aborted you, do you wish she had?  Or do you feel that your life has some value and is worth living?  If you said yes to the last question, then it seems you are making my point for me.

No, actually your point only demonstrates your ignorance of both poverty and motherhood.  You see the amount of difficulties that a person goes through directly affects their outlook, behavior and morality.  Had my mother gotten an abortion, then I would not have suffered and neither would she.  However, I have made the best of my life, and that is to my credit, not because it was a “good idea” to have me.  My accomplishments and ability to overcome do not preclude the same scenario for all children.  I could post a link to statistics on that, but I’m guessing you would dismiss those as readily as you have my previous stats.

I think you misunderstand me, and I certainly may have misunderstood you.  However, to say that I’m “highly emotional” in regards to this subject just means that you haven’t noticed (even though I’ve responded to you before) that I’m “highly emotional” in regards to ALL of my points.  I believe I’m right, and I’m willing to defend my point with data.  I believe your point of view is riddled with ignorance, because you’ve never been pregnant, given birth, been poor, or suffered abuse.  The last two points are assumptions by me, and I’m sorry if they are wrong.  However, having read your posts, I can’t imagine that I am wrong.  I have had several discussions with people having similar view and it always comes down to experiences.  If you haven’t experienced certain circumstances, then it is impossible for you to have an educated or valid opinion.

One final comment, my “highly emotional” posts are a direct result of my highly tumultuous life.  Please try not to take offense, it is the way I communicate.  I’m often not aware, or able to discern the same emotional intensity that others are aware of, and I do not mean to end debate.  In fact, I enjoy debate.  I just happen to think that I’m right.  That’s all.

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Posted: 26 August 2009 09:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Before the legalization of abortion, women who had money got them anyway, the doctor just called them something else. But there were also many, many women who died trying to abort, in ‘in back alleys, kitchen tables—you name it. Ask your mothers about it. Women ended up mutilated, or infertile, or dead. A woman that does NOT want to carry a child to term will do whatever is necessary not to carry the child to term. It has been this way throughout history, and I do not see it changing if abortion is outlawed. How could anyone possibly suppose that a woman who does not want to carry that child would make a good parent to the child? In some cases, yes, but I can see a lot of tragedy here! If you think infant abandonment is a problem now, outlawing abortion is not going to make it better. It astounds me that people who want to force a woman to carry an unwanted baby to term, will then abandon her with no social services, comfprtable in there own do-gooder fantasy of ‘saving a life’. There is more to life than the birth.
  When I was in college, there was a professor there who was pro-life and regularly picketed Planned Parenthood clinics (which actually offer more services that prevent pregnancy than abortions), where she was arrested. The judge offered to allow her a plea bargin that would include either taking in a foster child or become a ‘big sister’. She refused, telling the judge that she was ‘too busy’ and paid the hefty fine.

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Posted: 27 August 2009 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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I have to agree with Shiraz.

It’s difficult to believe how heavily many “secularists” here reveal the influence of conservative, christian dogma. The process of repeatedly arguing with such backward rubbish gradually pushes the liberal in the direction of conceding to it with all kinds of hand-wringing quasi-religious moralism:  “Of course it’s a terribly difficult moral choice for every woman!.. blah blah blah”; “What if it’s rape, what if it’s a ten-year-old, what if there’s fetal brain damage blah blah blah?”

Hey folks, what if it’s a woman, any woman, who doesn’t want to interrupt her life by carrying an unwanted fetus to term? Her life, her privacy and her reasons are hers, not yours.

Protecting her right to free abortion on demand is the only way to protect every woman whose life and health are endangered by attacks on abortion rights. Let’s be clear, ‘pro-life’ arguments are motivated by misogyny, and the fear and hatred of womens sexual autonomy at the root of (particularly abrahamic) religions. Start by saying what is.

From a secular point of view, using any other starting point (e.g., the zygote’s ‘interests’) implicltly hands the ‘moral’ ground to the purveyors of magical thinking from the get-go.

[ Edited: 27 August 2009 08:24 AM by Balak ]
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Posted: 27 August 2009 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Balak, I am most certainly not influenced in the slightest by conservative religious doctrine; I am being rigorously logical here. There are three factors that underlie this debate:

1. The right of a woman to control her life.
2. The right of a fetus to life
3. The right of society of control individual behavior in its own best interests

You are putting all your eggs into Basket #1, and completely rejecting Baskets #2, and #3. I myself put a lot of emphasis on #1, reject #2, and acknowledge some merit in #3. However, there are others here who put a lot of their eggs into Basket #2. Here’s the problem: you cannot produce an objective means of rejecting Basket #2. As I said, I don’t accept Basket #2, either, but I admit that I cannot come up with a rigorous argument that dismisses #2. You reject #2 based on your own personal opinions and refuse to acknowledge the subjectivity of your decision.

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Posted: 27 August 2009 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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mckenzievmd - 26 August 2009 04:30 PM

Certainly, the shape of one’s moral sense is influenced by the culture one grows up in, and I don’t deny that moral discomfort with abortion could be something of a legacy of the larger Christian-influenced morality of our culture. Of course, that is as much of a hypothesis as the idea that such concerns may have other origins, and you have presented no more evidence than I for your favored hypothesis. I suspect one could find non-Christian cultures in which abortion was looked upon as moral problematic as well as ones in which it was generally viewed as perfectly fine. After all, infanticide has been considered appropriate in some human cultures. As for non-religious cultures, well I doubt there’s ever been such a thing on a large scale,. so I don’t know how we’d ascertain what the attitude of such would be towards the question.

I think empirical observation is possible here, although it is noisy, but not any noisier than sociological data usually are. In most Communist countries, (early) abortion was completely legalized in the 1960s and no public debate was allowed on those issues. A large number of people born after 1960s in those countries did in fact grow up with no stigma attached to abortion. Probably not a majority, but far more than in Western Europe or America. The fact is that former Communist countries now have the highest rates of abortion. It is less clear that a lot more people don’t see it as a moral issue there than in the West, but I think it is likely enough that it is not fair to say that there is no more evidence for my hypothesis than for yours.

Now to me, it sounds uncomfortably like you’re making the argument that without religion there is no basis for even considering such moral questions, and that’s not a thesis I accept. Though most people in the world, historically and today, have justified their particular moral values with religious arguments, I suspect most deep and recurring moral questions arise out of something more intrinsic to what we are. There is some intriguing evidence that we may have biological predispositions to certain basic moral principles, though that argument isn’t rock solid by any means. Still, to say that without religion the very question of abortion as a moral issue wouldn’t arise strikes me as going too far.

That’s not what I said; you have read too much into what I said and built your own assumptions into it.

I did not say that religion invented the ethical side of abortion - that it never was a secular ethical issue. (In fact, I do not believe that religion has ever invented any ethical issue, at least not successfully, in the sense that it would stick around. The most morally inventive religion has been is to come up with particular arbitrary rules when there was a secular demand for some kind of arbitrary rules.) What I said is that it is not a secular moral issue in our actual world, i.e., in the modern society, that could be justified by any mainstream secular principles of today.

Long ago, societies had a need to increase their numbers, because that brought advantages in fighting wars, and arguably in labor force (although without wars or epidemics the expansion of labor typically ran into the Malthusian trap). Not having all the offspring one could have was therefore against the interests of the society. Thus, abortion was bad, but so were masturbation and celibacy. Secular moral intuitions were thus against abortion, and religion naturally served to institutionalize and enforce such notions. (Religion did not get concerned with a fetus’ soul until much much later. For Thomas Aquinas, God gave male embryos souls at 40 days, and female ones at 80 days. I don’t think the Catholic church came to its present “soul at conception” doctrine until the mid-19th century.)

But today the idea that women have to have as many children as possible, so that we could have a lot of warriors (or for any other purpose) is far out of the mainstream in any Western society. Most Americans would consider it barbaric, terribly sexist, and at best associated with exotic religious cults. I bet that for people who hate Muslims, that would be one of the top reasons they would cite, often erroneously (they’d probably overestimate the number of children per woman in Iran by a factor of 3-4).

The possible reasons I suggested for considering the fetus to have itnerests may not resonate with you, but that doesn’t by itself invalidate them, nor make them just apologia for a feeling actually rooted in “religious indoctrination.” You still seem to be using your own lack of a sense that there’s a meaningful question here as an argument for the same, and I don’t think it is.

That’s a silly argument, you are assuming that you can read my mind. How do you know what intuitive senses I have or lack? Of course you can’t know anything about it, so you shouldn’t talk about it.

I’d be more inclined to agree with the idea that the concern for the fetus as in some sense a moral agent comes from a religious impulse than from religion per se. I think we have innate tendancies to what amounts to “superstitious” or “religious” thinking. The concept of contagion, magical thinking, the idea that like-cures like or like-causes-like, the attribution of agency or “mind” to inanimate forces, all of these are products of how our brains work. It is easy to see how such tendancies could lead us to view a ball of cells growing inside a human womb and likely to eventually be a human being if not interfered with as having some moral claim on us greater than that of a crustacean or insect or whatever, and out of proportion to any rational determination of what gives something moral status. As I said, the question arises out of our feeling, and then we apply our reason to it.

I think you are mixing two different things - magical thinking and intimate emotions - which should actually lead in opposite directions. Magical thinking does not provide grounds to fetus having a greater moral claim than an arthropod. There are superstitions that killing certain animals (e.g., spiders) brings bad luck (which may include diseases and death), so morality based on magical thinking can easily lead to spiders being more protected than fetuses (or even born children, who may be sacrificed to gods or spirits). Intimate feelings of expecting mothers and their families can (and do) of course lead to an illusion of the fetus as a moral agent. The necessary step, however, for abortion to become a moral issue in general, is to extend those private, intimate feelings for one’s own (wanted) fetus to public feelings for all fetuses.

Let me illustrate the difference on two extreme (and thus clear) examples. It goes without saying that I would do everything to protect my own children from violence and abuse; but I am also very bothered if I hear about violence and abuse against any child - a complete stranger I’ve never met (nor will ever meet). Now suppose my child has a stuffed animal he really loves - he is attached to it and in many ways perceives it as a “person”. I’d go to great lengths in ensuring nobody steals or damages that toy, and that it doesn’t get accidentally lost. But it doesn’t cause any emotions over toys in general being destroyed or thrown into trash. It probably wouldn’t disturb my child much, either.

Now what is the fundamental difference between someone else’s child and someone else’s toy? Here there can be different theories, but I think the most plausible one is based on the empathy, which is generally in the root of morality anyway. I can imagine myself as a child - and it is not much more difficult to imagine myself as a child in India than it is to imagine myself as my son - but I can’t (in any meaningful sense, beyond an absurd game) imagine myself as a toy.

So where does this empathy hypothesis lead us? To the conclusion that a fetus is much more like a teddy bear than like a child. You can’t meaningfully imagine yourself as a fetus in the first trimester (or the second, but let’s keep it simple and obvious). It is just not possible to put oneself in the shoes of a being with no consciousness at all. With effort, I can sort of imagine myself as a cat or a cow, maybe even a bird or a reptile. But I can’t imagine myself as an insect (although I may mistakenly think that I can, but it could be demonstrated that what I am imagining myself as is nothing like an insect). Insert “carrot” or “rock” in the last sentence instead of “insect” and it becomes more and more obvious.

You can’t imagine yourself as an embryo. If you think you are imagining yourself as an embryo, it can be demonstrated that what you are imagining yourself as is nothing like an embryo. Thus empathy fails - it is either nonexistent or false - and thus intuitive basis for ethical stance toward an embryo crumbles, and it was the last hope for a secular basis of ethical issues of (early at least) abortion.

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Posted: 27 August 2009 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Chris Crawford - 26 August 2009 04:54 PM

I think that there’s a secular argument against abortion based on the notion that the fetus is potentially human. I do not accept that argument, but I acknowledge that it is not necessarily a religious argument. In other words, a perfectly rational person could maintain that a fetus is a potential human being and that society has a legitimate interest in the protection of the fetus.

The problem with that argument is that every cell in our body is “potentially human”. Even if you ignore cloning, at least every reproductive cell is “potentially human”, so the argument, pursued logically, would lead to moral stance against contraception, masturbation, and abstinence. It would even make rape morally ambiguous, because not to rape is against the interests of some “potential human”.

And in fact, I agree with the concept in principle. A fetus one day before birth is, in my opinion, just as human as a baby one minute after birth. But I also maintain that the younger a fetus is, the less human it is and the less interest society has in its protection.

But I think that’s wrong. A zygote is just as human as a baby. As is a sperm. As is a skin cell. I don’t think that “being human” has anything to do with it. Arguing based on that concept necessarily leads to contradicitons.

All in all, I believe that current US law achieves an acceptable overall compromise on a morally impossible problem.

If “acceptable” means “passing, with a grade of D or better”, then I agree. I’d probably give current US law a C+. And of course that’s just the law on the books, ignoring the practical problems such as a complete lack of abortion providers in many areas, even in entire states. But the law is still very flawed, for example many states require minors to get parental consent for abortion or appear before a judge, which I find absolutely appalling.

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Posted: 27 August 2009 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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CHRIS C: There are three factors that underlie this debate:

1. The right of a woman to control her life.
2. The right of a fetus to life
3. The right of society of control individual behavior in its own best interests

Again I agree that Shiraz’ presentation has the virtue of being consistently secularist.

I am glad you reject on No. 2 on secular grounds… introducing the ‘potential’ human into the discussion is to go over to magical-religious thinking pure and simple. Remove that, and you have to treat ‘life’ - cheese mold, arthropod, or fetus - to be dealt with according to whatever criterion you wish (as long as you are consistent). This leaves aside the affective attachment of a given woman with her own pregnancy - once again this is exclusively her business.

As for 3. I think you have to step back and break down what ‘society’ is exactly. From a Marxist point of view, the ruling ideology in a society is the ideology of that society’s ruling class.

Decaying capitalism has inherited several institutions of social control from past societies - e.g. religion, ‘the family’, women’s oppression in general - and adapted them to its own needs. It is clear as day how the abortion furor has served to reenforce and stabilize the political hegemony of the ruling class - particularly in the aftermath of the civil rights struggles, military defeats and ensuing social convulsions that shook U.S. imperialism during the 1960s.

The attacks on abortion rights have been a perfect mirror of the all-sided attacks on the living standards of working people, and their deterioration over the past decades. Born-again president Carter’s ‘moral rearmament’ of the U.S. against the USSR paved the way for Reagan’s potent brew of cold-war, anti-union and anti-sex hysteria in the 1980s.

[ Edited: 27 August 2009 10:29 AM by Balak ]
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Posted: 27 August 2009 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Even if you ignore cloning, at least every reproductive cell is “potentially human”, so the argument, pursued logically, would lead to moral stance against contraception, masturbation, and abstinence. It would even make rape morally ambiguous, because not to rape is against the interests of some “potential human”.

I think you are conflating two different kinds of potentiality:

1. Potential that COULD be realized if some intervention in the natural course of events takes place.
2. Potential that WILL be realized if the natural course of events proceeds undisturbed.

An egg in a woman’s ovaries has potential #1, but a developing fetus has potential #2. This distinction, I think, undermines your argument.

A zygote is just as human as a baby. As is a sperm. As is a skin cell.

I disagree. A zygote cannot write witty comments on a blog; a human can. You are asserting that the consideration must be black or white; I maintain that the matter is grey, with a zygote being just a tiny fraction of a human. I agree that those who maintain that a zygote is fully human have a weak case; but I acknowledge the inherent subjectivity of the problem.

I’d probably give current US law a C+. And of course that’s just the law on the books, ignoring the practical problems such as a complete lack of abortion providers in many areas, even in entire states. But the law is still very flawed, for example many states require minors to get parental consent for abortion or appear before a judge, which I find absolutely appalling.

We’re in agreement here. I think that US law is still too restrictive, but it seems acceptable to me.

introducing the ‘potential’ human into the discussion is to go over to magical-religious thinking pure and simple.

There’s nothing magical or religious about claiming that a zygote has some degree of humanness. It’s a matter of recognizing the impossibility of drawing a definitive line between “human” and “non-human” for a developing fetus.

From a Marxist point of view, the ruling ideology in a society is the ideology of that society’s ruling class.

“From a certain point of view…”

Decaying capitalism has inherited several institutions of social control from past societies - e.g. religion, ‘the family’, women’s oppression in general - and adapted them to its own needs. It is clear as day how the abortion furor has served to reenforce and stabilize the political hegemony of the ruling class - particularly in the aftermath of the civil rights struggles, military defeats and ensuing social convulsions that shook U.S. imperialism during the 1960s.

I don’t share these views.

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Posted: 27 August 2009 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Chris Crawford - 27 August 2009 10:40 AM

Even if you ignore cloning, at least every reproductive cell is “potentially human”, so the argument, pursued logically, would lead to moral stance against contraception, masturbation, and abstinence. It would even make rape morally ambiguous, because not to rape is against the interests of some “potential human”.

I think you are conflating two different kinds of potentiality:

1. Potential that COULD be realized if some intervention in the natural course of events takes place.
2. Potential that WILL be realized if the natural course of events proceeds undisturbed.

An egg in a woman’s ovaries has potential #1, but a developing fetus has potential #2. This distinction, I think, undermines your argument.

I don’t see this quite the same way, Chris. First of all, they’re both “coulds”; from the point of view of the woman looking to have an abortion, she doesn’t know whether or not her baby will in fact go to full term. She is in precisely the same epistemic place as the person who tries to make a skin cell into a zygote.

So then the distinction isn’t a distinction of potentiality at all. It’s a distinction between the “natural course of events” versus some sort of “disturbance”, in your terms. Or, reformulating:

1*. Potential that could be realized if some intervention in the natural course of events takes place.
2*. Potential that could be realized if the natural course of events proceeds undisturbed.

And why should we consider that a natural course of events is de facto morally superior? Without some independent justification for that move, it appears ad hoc.

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