Monday, March 19, 2012

Why the Abortion Argument Will Never Be Settled -- Ever

I'm skipping the dumb idea of the week because I think this is a fairly important thing to say.  What I don't want is for this to be yet another discussion about whether or not abortion should be legal.  I think I've written several pages worth of comments about this very subject for like the past month, and I'm done discussing it for a while.

I'm done discussing it because there's little use in it.  So lets discuss why the discussion itself is hopeless.  Well I think it's pretty simple, actually.  Pro-choice people are labeled as "pro-abortion."  Their arguments are misconstrued as a discussion about some lives being worth more than others.  Pro-choice people are said to be a party to infanticide, and they're constantly accused of being heartless, soulless monsters who care nothing for the value and sanctity of life.

On the flip side, pro-life people are labeled as "anti-choice."  Misogynist.  Right-wing, fundamentalist Christian wackoes who want to "control women's uteruses."  They're construed as ignorant and backwards.

Well, the funny thing is that both sides seem completely filled with idiots who are unwilling to listen to each other.  That's because neither side is willing to accept that the other has anything efficacious to say.  So it's really pointless to have any discussion about it until both sides stop incorrectly labeling the people and misconstruing their arguments.

Those tactics are indicative of close-.  Silver and the pro-lifers are not interested in reason debate about the topic.  They're not interested in truly understanding the pro-choice argument.  They've already made up their minds, and their real goal is to convince pro-choicers that they're all wrong and immoral.

Jersey and many of the pro-choicers fail to understand that this is not an easy topic for anyone to discuss.  They forget that there are still humans left who have strong feelings towards the preservation of life.  This goes beyond the morality of it all.  Many human beings could not live with themselves knowing that they were a party to ending a life.  And because they fail to understand that sentiment--a real and justified sentiment--they quickly dismiss the pro-lifers as religious fanatics.

Well, you're both wrong, and you're both idiots.  I think the problem is that all of you are afraid.  "You don't know me Jack!"  Nope, I don't know any of you, but frankly I don't care, because it doesn't matter.  All of you are little different from every other human being.

Ever ask yourself why there are so few people who are really open-minded, and who truly try to understand something they vehemently disagree with?  It's because most people are afraid that if they do understand the other side they'll end up agreeing with it.

It's a lot easier just believing that you're crusading for the rights of unborn babies.  It's much easier to believe that you're just crusading for the rights of women.

But to admit that you have to allow people to make their own choices, to admit that you have no place to make that choice for them, and then to realize that your position inevitably leads to the loss of life--that's the road less travelled.

"Certainty of mind does not mean gaiety of heart."


Silverfiddle said...

It perhaps is a futile argument, because so few people can "face unpleasant facts" as Orwell would say.

It really does start with a binary decision: Is it taking a human life, yes or no?

That could also be asked of the death penalty, and the answer would be yes.

Now the question becomes, is it justified?

So you can take great offense and get all sensitive about it, but I have avoided sensationalism and stuck to rationality as I've discussed it at my place.

I haven't shouted "Baby killer!" or called anyone evil. I haven't even employed a religious argument that would bring down condemnation of people I disagree with. It wouldn't work on non-believers anyway.

If you go back and look, it is the lefties and the pro-choice people who go off on tangents, make emotional appeals, and refuse to engage the debate on its merits.

Silverfiddle said...

And I think I understand the pro-choice argument quite well:

An abortion in lamentable, but it is a private choice of the mother.

The more viable the fetus becomes, the more lamentable the choice. Some accept that at some level of viability abortion should no longer be an option.

How's that?

Jersey McJones said...

Jack, the issue is irreconcilable because it is religiously based. You just can't argue with people's religious beliefs. They believe what they what they will. If you could take religion completely out of the abortion debate, there'd be almost no debate at all. And that is all the obvious proof you need that this is mainly a religious issue, and therefore, very difficult to argue. Pointless, really.


Silverfiddle said...

You're full of it Jersey. I did take religion out of it and still nothing was resolved.

The only way it could still be construed as religious is on your side, treating abortion as a sacred sacrament and anathematizing anyone who questions a woman's right to choose.

So in a way I am agreeing with you both. It will never be resolved.

Jersey McJones said...

Silver, try to rise above the bait and switch for a change.

You understand my point, right?

The abortion "issue" is an "issue" for religious people. Take the religion out of it, and it isn't an "issue" anymore. You do get that very simple, obvious, fucking point, don't you???


Silverfiddle said...

No, I don't get it. There are non-religious people like Christopher Hitchens and Nat Hentoff who oppose abortion on humanist grounds.

Where did I make a religious argument? The debates at my place have been on philosophical grounds. Put up or shut up.

Get your facts straight before shooting off your mouth.

Jack Camwell said...

Remember I wrote a three day piece about Teresa and how ridiculous she is? That was based off of the abortion discussion, and it was she that got all impassioned and what not.

Today's article was not about the substance of the abortion debate at all. It was about the framing of the debate itself. It was more about the manner in which it is debated, and the attitudes and assumptions of parties on both sides of the issue.

And yes, the debate is screwed because people on both sides refuse to accept the harsh truths behind it all.

Plus, the word-play is incredibly disappointing. Pro-choice somehow = pro-abortion, and pro-life somehow = anti-choice.

Both labels purposely distract from the true intention of the person who has been labeled. As I've said many times, just because I'm pro-choice doesn't mean I'm pro-abortion.

In fact, I'm insulted when people call me "pro-abortion," because how can some person who's never even met me judge how I feel about abortion?

I think abortion is awful. I look at my two beautiful children, and I can't imagine having ever even considered getting rid of them.

Here's a true story. My daughter was, admittedly, an unplanned pregnancy, an "oops" if you will. When we went to the OBGYN for the first little visit for her, the doctor asked my then wife at the time if we were planning on keeping the pregnancy.

Both her and I were appalled. Not so much at the doctor, because the doctor was obligated to ask, but just because terminating the pregnancy had not even entered our minds. It was a culture shock for us (with my first child, that question was not asked).

"Lamentable," is not even a strong enough word for how I feel about abortion. It's horrifying. It's incredibly awful that some women are even faced with that choice. I think that getting an abortion because a baby would be inconvenient is morally abhorrent.

So when you and others call me "pro-abortion," you couldn't be more wrong. And you do it because you can't imagine me being pro-choice but also thinking that abortion is awful.

Z said...

Odd...I'd never written anything like this but felt compelled, at Silverfiddle's to finally comment with this on his abortion post a day or two ago: (Why we'll never have resolution):

"There are Americans who feel life is precious and that children come from God (or not) and all life should be honored and protected at all costs. They feel a baby's a baby at the point of conception, because what else the heck WILL it be if left to its own devices?, and they don't quite understand how other people believe that a rape, for example, suddenly nullifies the humanness of that fertilized egg.

There are also those who feel all life comes from God and is precious and shouldn't be aborted except that babies from rape or incest turn into Audis or refrigerators and so they can be thrown on the scarp heap because it would be hard for the mother to have to bear this child.

There are other Americans who feel life is very nice but fertilized eggs are just fertilized eggs and who cares if they're scraped out before they've become, at 3 months, something that can almost wave hello at them in an ultrasound?... They feel this has nothing to do with God and anybody holding a woman back from taking control of her body and killing a fetus is a religious zealot. And, of course, if they believe in God, "what kind of God would make a woman deliver a child of rape?" there any point discussing the subject when we're so divided on such basic points? Where's the common ground that leads to resolution?

Sorry, I know none of what I wrote is new but the whole discussion, while as important as any America can have (in my opinion) goes nowhere...and we can see why."

My religious heart feels that no baby should be aborted. Do I hate the woman who decides to kill her baby? Or the man who argues for that right? How can I?
it's all what motivates us...

The discussion is utterly're so right.

Silverfiddle said...

then you should has said 'Teresa,' because you imply I made broad moralist judgements on others and made religious arguments when I did not.

Also, based on my earlier comment, do you believe I sufficiently understand the pro-choice side?

I rarely argue against something until I can understand the other side's point of view, so that was a strange charge to level against me.

Anonymous said...

Faith, choice, freedom, fear-of-God, power over others and politics.

Six categories that any of them could and does make a subject difficult to agree on. Add two, if not all six, and it is impossible.

My view on the futility.

As for my own view, I believe in the sanctity of life, and only for the most important of reasons would an abortion be allowed (saving the life of the mother being about the only one) and then such a decision should include a lot of moral pain, prayers for fogiveness and endless doubt before going ahead.

Damien Charles

Jersey McJones said...

"No, I don't get it. There are non-religious people like Christopher Hitchens and Nat Hentoff who oppose abortion on humanist grounds."

Yes, and there are gay, Catholic, Republican Scandinavians too, I'm sure, but again, you can not realistically argue that abortion would not nearly be the issue it is today were it not for the religious community. You just can't. It would be foolish.

The attempts at "secular" or "materialistic" or "scientific" arguments made by clearly religiously motivated people have failed to convince most people that early, safe, regulated, elective abortion should be legal and available.


Silverfiddle said...

Yeah, all those people arguing for those who cannot argue for themselves is so annoying.

You declare yourself a thinking man, yet fail to even engage this issue on a philosophical level, choosing instead to wallow in the emotional and political aspects of the issue.

manapp99 said...

JMJ. Of course there is a religious aspect to the argument however that is NOT what keeps it alive...or from being aborted, if you prefer. I know this because of the other arguments that will not go away that are not hinged on religion. Such as the war on drugs, that one will also not go away. Capitol punishment which brings the two sides to opposite conclusions. The right support while the left condemns. How much government to rely on. Here you see lefties use Jesus a reason for more government while righties use the same guy as a reason for less.

No...this argument is (or should be in my opinion) far more based in human rights and whether of not a fetus is a human deserving of those rights. This aspect has nothing to do with religiousness.

To just say "Jack, the issue is irreconcilable because it is religiously based." does not give the full picture of the debate. This seems, to me, a shallow way of avoiding the complete argument and allowing yourself to dismiss any claims contrary to your locked in position.

Jersey McJones said...

Manapp and Silver, this is a RELIGIOUS issue. Period. You are DELUDING yourselves thinking otherwise.

I have no philosophical problem with safe, regulated, early, election abortion. I just don't. I have heard all the arguments, and like most people, still think the way I do. Either come up with something new, or drop it. Besides, why should you care? IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.


Silverfiddle said...

What do I care if you get flattened by a steamroller, Jersey? It has nothing to do with me...

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls..."

Abortion snuffs a human life. That's why I care.

For a so-called liberal, you sure display a callous attitude towards the most helpless among us, and you refuse to engage the philosophical debate on its merits, instead resorting to ad populum fallacies and emotionalism.

I think I understand your position. Taking a life is OK so long as she hasn't left the womb and gotten a social security card.

Jersey McJones said...


You are you because of the people that raised you, your family and friends, neighborhoods and schools, those very first sounds you considered in the womb.

It took a few months for that to happen.

Before that, you were a developing being. A Pre-Being. Your nervous system was not yet wired to "feel" anything. You should be glad for that. A fully sentient embryo would be living in a hellishly morphing state, trapped in a womb, in yet another a womb. It's the kind of thing you wouldn't want to remember, unless you're into hardcore S&M or something like that.

Are you into that kinda stuff? ;)


Silverfiddle said...

Your nervous system was not yet wired to "feel" anything.

Wrong. It is a medically-proven fact that a fetus responds to stimuli.

But I understand, you are relying on the sentience argument. A fetus can't talk or presumably can't think, so it's not a "person."

Is that your position?

jez said...

Yes, the sentience argument is a loose approximation.

After all, sentience is why you care about "snuff[ing] a human life", isn't it? (ignoring for a moment the religious dimensions.)

If the foetus can't feel and there is not yet any sentience snuff, why other than religion have the proscription?

And we can do a way with qualifiers like "presumably" in the cases of the morning after pill or the coil. Would you wish to proscribe the snuffing of a human blastocyst?

Silverfiddle said...

Jersey should learn from you Jez.

You are getting to the nub. We must define "feel." If you mean in physically, then we already know that a fetus can feel in that sense.

Emotionally feel had a different meaning and gives your view broader latitude.

And the issue comes down to the fact that it is human life, even if you deny him legal personhood.

From William Blackstone's Commentaries:

I. THE right of personal security consists in a person's legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health, and his reputation.

1. LIFE is the immediate gift of God, a right inherent by nature in every individual; and it begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother's womb. For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb; or if any one beat her, whereby the child dieth in her body, and she is delivered of a dead child; this, though not murder, was by the ancient law homicide or manslaughter. But at present it is not looked upon in quite so atrocious a light, though it remains a very heinous misdemeanor.

An infant in ventre sa mere, or in the mother's womb, is supposed in law to be born for many purposes. It is capable of having a legacy, or a surrender of a copyhold estate, made to it. It may have a guardian assigned to it; and it is enabled to have an estate limited to its use, and to take afterwards by such limitation, as if it were then actually born. (Commentaries - Book 1, Chapter 1)

For those with no belief in God, substitute "Natural Law"

The sentience argument is a pretty good one, but it leads us to countenance unplugging human "vegetables."

The bottom line is you have no right to sit in judgement on the life of another.

jez said...

"we already know that a fetus can feel in that sense."

A sufficiently young embryo such as that blastocyst I mentioned most assuredly cannot feel. No nerves, no brain, no sensation.

"THE right of personal security consists in a person's legal and uninterrupted enjoyment..."

It isn't an interruption if it hasn't started yet.

" an infant is able to stir in the mother's womb..."

would permit the coil, morning after pill and very early terminations.

" leads us to countenance unplugging human "vegetables."

which of course we have to do from time to time. We have the technology to support the vegetative state pretty much indefinitely, but that would be quite grotesque.

But I am reminded of the argument over gay marriage, where when challenged to explain the difference between a gay couple and an infertile couple with respect to procreation, it is often considered important that the gay couple cannot procreate in principle, whereas only this infertile couple in particular that cannot reproduce.
I wonder if a similar distinction applies here?

"The bottom line is you have no right to sit in judgement on the life of another."
Can't really avoid it though, since we're writing laws to govern each other.

jez said...

correction: "whereas it's only this infertile couple in particular..."

Silverfiddle said...

It can be avoided, by not condemning innocent life.

So your argument seems to be in the "viable fetus" category. Once she hits a certain stage of development, we may not kill her?

I threw Blackstone in there to show a historical precedent under the law for my point of view.

Your last part, about the gay couple... I'll leave aside the gay issue and say that rejecting such reasoning when passing judgement of the value of human life is fraught.

The rejecting of the reality that all humans have worth because all humans, in principle, can actualize, has led to wholesale slaughterings throughout history of "sub-humans" and others who were not sufficiently developed in the eyes of the aggressors.

Silverfiddle said...

Btw, Jack, I guess we're proving you right!

Jack Camwell said...

Pretty much. I thought about pointing that out, but I figured I'd wait and see if someone else would.

Anyways, you all actually have some good insights, but you all have pretty much proven me right.

Jersey McJones said...

It's disappointing to see how simplistically misunderstood my points were here.

I just won't bother with this issue anymore. I can't argue with people who can't even understand the other arguments.


jez said...

I think we're listening to each other, and I don't feel mislabeled. What am I doing wrong?

I'd say a fetus is unable to actualise in principle until it is sufficiently developed. It's not as if only some particular blastocysts fail to actualise - none of them do.

Blackstone also seems to be very close to my view. Interesting.

We can't shy away from fraught decisions. Pro-life legislation (especially full strength anti-coil etc.) would be fraught too, in its own way.

Silverfiddle said...

Jez: I found Blackstone interesting as well, stopping short of calling it murder but punishing it as a lesser crime.

I understand your point, but every fetus in principle has the scientifically-proven potential to actualize, even though some fail to do so. That is my point. You err on the side of "eh, maybe it won't" whereas I err on the side of "maybe it will."

We have not reached agreement, but we have reached clarity, and that says something.

I don't know what Jersey's problem is...

jez said...

"You err on the side of "eh, maybe it won't" whereas I err on the side of "maybe it will.""

actually, I'm saying that until some development has taken place, it cannot actualize even in principle, which is a distinction that might offer some protection from that slippery slope you posited.

I'm quite comfortable that any genocide mankind might perpetrate is unrelated to its use of the coil.

Silverfiddle said...

I understand the distinction you make. I am pointing out that once we start passing judgement on just what is "human" and "life" it opens the door to much mischief.

Anyway, at least we have clarity!

Anonymous said...


I find the determination of when life begins to be fascinating, intellectually (obviously it can be a gut-wrenching subject personally.)

All the ingredients for a new human are present at conception, BUT since that fertilized egg needs a female body as incubator for up to 5 months, I feel that the female in question should be allowed to make the ultimate decision as to whether it makes sense for both her and the potential child for her to serve in that capacity.

After 5 months, when a fetus CAN mature in a mechanical incubator, and the woman is no longer necessary, I think she has largely given up her right to make that decision. (Obviously there would be exceptions to all these absolutes I'm so blithely spouting.)

Of course the key to all this is in the real world is contraception: not getting into a position where such a difficult decision needs to be made.

Anything you can read about how well developing nations are doing correlates almost 100% with women having the means to limit family size. Once a country no longer has to feed far more people than it has the resources for, real progress can be made in education, health, business and everything else.

It pains me terribly, as a former member of the Board of Governors of Planned Parenthood, to hear anyone even hint at wanting to shut down that organization. The number of unwanted children that taxpayers would have had to be paying to care for, absent our birth control clinic (not to mention the basic health services we also provided), is staggering!

~ The Lady from Rhode Island

Quoted by FreeThinke