baby feet

“Yet because the decision will not allow the question to remain silent, and yet sounds an ambiguous note as to how it would be answered in terms of our contemporary liberalism, the decision [Roe v. Wade] ‘Commends th’ ingredients of our poison’d chalice/To our own lips’.”  G. P. Grant

Although President Obama’s affirmation of “reproductive rights” appears to be the status quo, this is not a time to be silent about the sanctity of life.  George Parkin Grant, the Canadian philosopher known for his penetrating insight into the connection between liberalism and technology in modern society, argued in the wake of Roe v. Wade decades ago that the reasoning given in this judicial decision undermines free societies.[1]  In evidence, Grant pointed to the connection between abortion and confusion about the ontological status of the nature of human beings underlying our philosophies, but additionally he argued in a more political vein that Roe v.Wade had undermined the principle of equality under the law by stripping the unborn of the right to be represented in a court of law. He found Roe v. Wade extremely unsatisfying because it, in his words, undermined the “legal and political system, which was the noblest achievement of English-speaking societies.” Consequently, he came to consider justice for the unborn the central question facing North America, and it is not an exaggeration to say that he considered it a sign of that kind of danger to human rights that was present in Nazi Germany.

Around one million abortions are performed each year in the United States.  Although that number has fallen from a high of a million and a half abortions, it is nevertheless unsettling.  As has been frequently noted, no European country offers so little legal limit on abortion as does America. Anyone interested in protecting the unborn should realize that voting pro-life at the state level matters quite as much, if not more, than voting pro-life at the national level.  Political scientist Michael New, University of Michigan-Dearborn, has shown that certain kinds of laws are helpful in the short term to limit the number of abortions. On the stump, however, advocates for the unborn should be aware of the kinds of argument that Grant made. They are persuasive because they make a connection between the Declaration of Independence, the founding principles of American constitutional law, and the protection of the unborn.

The fundamental question might be raised in this manner: is the unborn a class of persons who should not have the same rights as other individuals under American law?  If so, then can one rest content with the fact that legalized abortion undermines the principle of equality under the law? Situated in this way, abortion is not connected to issues of sexual morality, like contraception or the nature of marriage, which, as important as they are, obscure the central legal problem.  In Roe v. Wade, the court removed legal and constitutional protections from a certain class of individuals, in this case very young children, despite the fact that those same unborn children can inherit property and may be recognized as a plaintiff in a lawsuit.  In connecting abortion to privacy issues, the court in Roe v. Wade gave the mother a private right to kill her child, situating within the law a private right to kill another human being.  Looked at from that angle, it is clear that the right to abortion makes the idea of equal rights under the law, guaranteed to each individual, no longer the law of the land. It also created an anomaly within the law, as there was no attempt to reconcile it with standing law. This is ominous for both minorities and women, both of whom have benefited from courts adjudicating on the basis of a right to equality, a right which is now in question.

There is a related philosophical question as to how rights should be conceived under the law: is equality under the law a universal right, self-evident and permanent, or is it the product of the court decisions?  The removal of legal rights from unborn children makes it appear that basic rights are now considered simply the product of courts.  This position has, of course, been defended persuasively for a number of generations.  The idea that courts ought to determine the outcome of cases pragmatically, that there is no higher justice, no fixed rights, and no recourse to historical legal reasoning, has its defenders within a school of thought called “realism.”[2] These include Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. for whom there was no law but the positive law, and who famously supported the sterilization of the unfit, a precursor to Roe v. Wade. Part of the difficulty of adjudicating on abortion is connected, therefore, to questions about the foundation of basic rights, and it is connected at least indirectly, to an approach to jurisprudence born of philosophical pragmatism.

Without describing philosophical pragmatism at length, one can say briefly that William James denied the existence of a higher law or any a priori principles of justice and truth in the name of pragmatic truth, a truth that is practically useful for people. Writing at the turn of the twentieth century, in Pragmatism, James argued that there is no objective higher realm of truth, truth claims are projections of our wills, and that what is true is true only insofar as it is useful to us. He spoke of the plasticity of truth.  Historians have noted that legal scholarship was influenced by such ideas. Clearly epistemic questions about the nature of truth are connected to the abortion issue when one raises certain crucial questions: Are rights invented by courts to serve certain social purposes, or are rights received from higher principles?  Are rights an expression of social desires,or are they inherited in the common law, an expression of permanent principles and, in the words of Edmund Burke, a guarantee of ‘rational liberty’? Can we know what a human being is?

Pragmatic jurisprudence has its brilliant defenders, but what they protect is not the human person because he has rights, for to speak of a given human nature is a contested, metaphysical speculation. Rather they defend the right to engage with others in such a way as to respond to real-life pressures.[3] On this account, there is no need to prove that a new right is connected to historic rights, but rather one must make an argument about the merits of the practical effect of that right. In other words, courts will protect a right if it helps people realize a certain ‘quality of life.’ Reproductive rights are pragmatic rights in this sense.  Thus the language of right remains, but the content of the word right has changed, and the language of liberalism has become confused.  Natural rights emerged at a time when philosophical liberalism spoke about human nature in a certain way: it was fixed, and human beings were able to know universal rights. Rights language is now connected to a metaphysical standpoint which denies this.  It is this fact that places a great question around Roe v. Wade.

George Grant made the case that rights are nothing if not grounded in the permanent things.  To leave the courts to decide whether a person—born or unborn—is worthy of rights endangers the rights of every person within a society. In the language of the American Declaration, rights are self-evident truths; but this presumes that truth is available to reason. The signers of the Declaration, while Christians or deists themselves, assumed that rights are universal because they thought that every person in the world, reasoning rightly, whether Christian or not, could see that equal treatment under the law is a tenet of justice.  They saw in the common law the very rights they were engaged in protecting; they did not question them. The idea that each individual, qua individual, was equal under the law was self-evident because it was rational and historically grounded. So Roe v. Wade raises a serious question about the very possibility of justice as understood in Western law and it raises questions about the very nature of liberalism. It is also, philosophically speaking, connected to deeper questions about human rationality. If human beings are not rational, and if the history of the common law and the development of common law rights have no foundation in reason, then what the judges have done is, to use Grant’s paraphrase of Macbeth, “raised a cup of poison to the lips of liberalism.”

Are rights a projection of the will of the courts or the majority and nothing more?  Have we, like Macbeth, turned against ourselves?  Are we now coming to the end of the great “English-speaking drama” which once was, and is no more, the bulwark of Western liberties?  While ontological issues are at stake and the greatest questions regarding the very existence of rights are being argued in the universities, at the same time, it is also true that ordinary persons still speak and think as if they have rights.  This is no small thing; the reasoning of ordinary human beings today, as at the time of the Magna Carta, informs them that equal treatment under the law is a fundamental tenet of justice.

In the universities, of course, it is rather important and useful to consider the impact that progressive and pragmatic ideas have had on the courts and ponder the merits of progressivism and philosophical pragmatism. One must consider the effect that these larger ideas have had on the western legal tradition, and also how such thinking will affect laws connected to euthanasia and care for the mentally handicapped.  At the local and national level, bright young people should run as pro-life candidates because this issue offers an entry into making the kinds of arguments that will preserve liberal justice—“rational liberty,” as Burke once termed it. These are the kind of liberties that were central to justice as it was conceived in the West for centuries.

Roberta Bayer is Assistant Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College, where she teaches medieval and contemporary political thought. Dr. Bayer edits the magazine of The Prayer Book Society of the United States, The Anglican Way. Her recent work includes Reformed and Catholic: Essays in Honor of Peter Toon (Wipf and Stock, 2012). 


[1] George Parkin Grant, English-Speaking Justice, (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press [1974], 1985), and “Abortion and Rights,” in Technology and Justice (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986).

[2] See:  A. J. Beitzinger, A History of American Political Thought, (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1972, reprint) ch.22.

[3] Stanley Fish, Richard Posner, and Richard Rorty, for example, have taken up the question of pragmatism in legal terms. See: Fish, Doing what Comes Naturally, (Duke U.P., Durham, 1989).

 

{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Chris Travers December 19, 2012 at 10:48 am

The fundamental question of abortion is simple, and it is the question over infanticide which has been the subject of debate during the conversion of Europe. Is personhood innate or is it socially constructed? If it is socially constructed then there is nothing wrong with throwing a newborn into the ocean before giving said newborn the designation of person. In essence the question of infanticide is always the question of when personhood begins. Anthropologically the nearly universal consensus in virtually all times and places is “whenever society says it begins.”

Christians on the other hand have generally held over the course of history that personhood is unique and that life is sacred insofar as it is at least the life of a potential Christian. Thus while infanticide has been seen as an evil, Charlemagne’s conversion of the Saxons or Olaf Trygvasson’s conversion of the Norwegians, both on pain of death was looked at for many centuries as quite heroic.

This gets I think to the difficulty with the liberal position (and the self-consistency of the pro-choice Heathen position) which is that liberals spend a lot of time trying to argue that abortion is not infanticide when in fact one cannot find any objective reason to differentiate them. The difference is purely a cultural construction and one liberals typically try to find to be a biological one (in fact there is no such biological difference). After all, how does one define viability? Does it depend on technology? Will all embryos ve viable if we can raise them in artificial wombs until they are ready to be born? And if you define viability as an ability for the infant to live outside the womb, disconnected from the mother, with no technological assistance, does that end at puberty? Ever? I mean we all cook our food, right? Is that not technological assistance? But even if an electric stove doesn’t qualify, surely infant formula does, right?

The pro-choice Heathen position is to point out that infanticide has been practiced in most times and places and that it fills legitimate social needs. The Heathen position is thus simply that personhood is socially constructed,.and therefore infanticide (and therefore abortion) is ok within socially constructed limits.

As far as this may seem far left of anything the liberals are willing to admit, there is actually some room for coordination with the right on this issue. Because reproductive decisions really do belong in the married household, things like spousal notification laws really ought to be pushed for. Abortion, to the extent it can be carried out in secret, undermines the family and the integrity of the household and the basic principle that both parties should have some say as to whether they become parents. To place all the power in the hands of women thus undermines the very idea that the spouses are into their reproductive lives together. If the Supreme Court objects again, the laws can be pared down as minimally as possible to meet those objections, but we can’t work on the issue unless we are willing to dig in and really try to craft laws over the long run.

avatar Jim Nelson December 19, 2012 at 11:20 am

You claim that the signers of the Declaration of Independence believed in universal human rights. Yet some of them owned slaves. It seems self-evident therefore that there was a blind spot in their understanding of either “universal” or “human.” How is that blind spot substantially any different than the blind spot we see in the contemporary defenders of abortion? To me this implies that there is something fundamentally flawed, not in “pragmatic jurisprudence,” but rather in the historic liberal understanding of rights to begin with.

avatar Roberta Bayer December 19, 2012 at 11:59 am

A simple clarification–

First of all, one does not need to re-argue the constitution or define liberalism in order to defend the unborn. The principle of equality under the law in the courts is the key principle at stake, one can see it in Aristotle’s treatment of distributive justice, (justice as equality) and of course it was enshrined in the common law from time immemorial evident in the Magna Charta, the Petition of Right. It is fair to say that it belongs to all cultures.

You see, in Roe v Wade the court created a class of people (unborn children) who have been denied this basic right which is absolutely ancient. Of course, one has to continue to argue it, and apply it over and over again. There is always some group (property owners of different kinds, slaveowners) whose interest lies in asserting inequality, and who do not want to see the principle of legal equality applied. There is always need to argue this point. But the fact that injustice does exist in different times and places does not make the idea of equal justice under the law a useless principle.

So the argument is simple — the more we know about the unborn scientifically, the more obvious it is that the unborn is a unique person. Therefore they should be represented in the court, and Roe v Wade was wrongly decided because they were not represented. To strengthen this one simply says — well if it were a property case connected to inheritance they would be represented, so the law is in fact incoherent on this point.

We all, of course, like to make arguments about the way in which liberalism has affected abortion politics. That is fine and I have offered one version which I think has merit. But saving the unborn is a question of simple justice and the means are there in the law to do it, and it has unfortunately not been done. Nor has it been argued very well publicly because people have a tendency to think of this as a ‘religious’ issue rather than placing it within the English legal tradition.

avatar Karen December 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm

It is not possible to make fetuses legal persons with all the associated rights and grant any rights at all to adult women. T use one example, legal persons can file suit, as can their estates. Would you allow the estate of a spontaneously miscarried zygote to sue the woman who expelled it for negligence? If zygotes are persons, there is no way to deny such a right to sue. How would insurers treat businesses that permitted adult women to engage in activities, including things like skiing and horseback riding, that can cause miscarriages? For that matter, how should the law treat miscarriages, especially where there is any evidence that the woman didn’t welcome the pregnancy or didn’t know about it?

avatar Roberta Bayer December 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Well, once again, they are already represented in court. Recently a man was accused of manslaughter with respect to the unborn child, in a case where an unborn child was killed as well the mother. And the common law recognizes the unborn child as the rightful heir in matters of inheritance. (So that he or she would not be unjustly deprived of an inheritance upon the untimely death of the testator.) The law does distinguish between natural death (miscarriage which results from natural causes, accident etc.) and death caused through the action of another, as one finds in medical abortion.
In Roe v Wade there was an amicus curiae brief presented to the court on behalf of the unborn child, and the court rejected it. This is problematic given other cases.
But it is true, the unborn child must always be represented in court by someone acting on their behalf. However, this raises a connected moral problem: should people be denied legal representation because they are incapacitated in some way? Surely justice suggests that that is cruel.

avatar Karen December 20, 2012 at 10:08 am

You missed my point; giving rights to fetuses takes them away from women. Do you believe women should have any role in society beyond domestic?

avatar Karen December 20, 2012 at 10:14 am

this is the best response to your position. Please address her arguments.

avatar ROB December 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I see Scalia is not alone in the reductio ad absurdam. The estate of a miscarried zygote sues the mother for wrongful death, the elements of damage are pain and suffering and loss of income to dependents. Obviously there is no possible claim for compensation by the widow and children of a zygote, it’s pain and suffering if any at all is de minibus. Insurance companies will not increase their reserves to defend the mothers, no, not a red cent because no such cases will ever be brought. Infanticide, that is the actual exposure of a baby to the elements was freely practiced by Roman fathers who had absolute discretion in the matter. Should one think that when the practice was outlawed by Christians the “rights” of men were diminished? Hardly, because no such right existed. By the way such practices didn’t cease because of a host of civil actions brought on behalf of babies left to die on hillsides but because the police power of the state enjoined it. Pro life people believe ardently that abortion is manslaughter if not outright murder. Why in God’s good name would their ads feature persons complicit in such acts? Can’t imagine the anti gun ads are going to feature the shooters rather than the victims, can you.

avatar Roberta Bayer December 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I do not hold that women should be kept to the household! Women as men each have gifts and natural talents, and society is much the better if those talents are given expression. But on that very principle we harm society if we deprive it of so many individuals of talent and resources. An unwanted preganacy is a hard thing, and I will not paper over the difficulties. But it is only 9 months long, yet that child, if aborted, will be deprived of a life. Once again, it is incumbant upon people who care deeply about justice to ponder the very real injustice of legalized abortion.

avatar Ahunt December 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm

You continue to avoid the question. There is virtually no area of a fertile woman’s life that may not be circumscribed by law if equal protection of the law is extended to zygotes.

avatar Karen December 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm

So, Rob, pro-lifers don’t include women in their ads because women are complicit in abortion, which is the exact equivalent of a man — whose body is completely unaffected by pregnancy — ordering the death of an already-born infant? Abortion is the interruption of a pregnancy. Pregnancies occur inside women’s bodies, and can’t exist anywhere else. The fetus is actually made from the woman’s own tissues, but she shouldn’t figure in deciding whether to continue the pregnancy?

avatar Arthur Sido December 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Karen, that is an impressive series of vacuous arguments. An unborn child cannot bring suit in court and is therefore not a legal person? Well a five year old cannot either so one must assume that they are also not deserving of life. By that logic what is everyone all upset about in Sandy Hook, after all those overgrown zygotes can’t sue in court so who cares if they died?

Then there is this gem: “You missed my point; giving rights to fetuses takes them away from women. Do you believe women should have any role in society beyond domestic?” I guess the drug dealer who depends on selling to his customers is justified in shooting his competitor in a drive by. To deny him the right to kill others is taking them away from him. Apparently the right of one person to convenience trumps the right of another to something as basic as life itself.

What a dark and empty worldview, one where the most important “right” a woman has is the ability to engage in whatever behavior she wants under the illusion that the commonly understood consequence of that action can be simply erased for a few hundred bucks by an abortionist. Make no mistake, this cult of choice is nothing new. It goes back to the ancient world where children were scarified on the altar, back then to Moloch but today to the goddess choice. The only difference is that the high priests of this cult today wear business suits.

avatar Karen December 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Arthur, how do you give rights to a zygote without subtracting them from the woman who makes the existence of the zygote possible? Can you please discuss the effect of pregnancy on the women who suffer them at least as often as you mention babies?

avatar Ahunt December 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Sigh…again, how does society go about granting full civil rights to zygotes without stripping women of childbearing capability of those same civil rights? How is it done?

avatar sara maimon December 21, 2012 at 8:02 am

Roberta;
This is a side point, but the effects of an unwanted pregnancy do NOT end after 9 months unless the baby is stillborn. Parenthood is FOREVER. Even if the woman surrendurs the child to adoption, she is still a parent; a parent who has lost a child.

avatar sara maimon December 21, 2012 at 8:05 am

Arthur you have just proven Libby’s oft repeated point; that the so-called “pro-life” movement, is really about making women pay for sex.
Your comparison of the Sandy Hook children to zygotes is chilling. It is people who make such comparisons, whom I’d fear for the safety of my child.

avatar sara maimon December 21, 2012 at 8:09 am

To the dude who likes to keep repeating the word “HEATHEN”; face it this is not a Chrsitian country. Christians have no right to impose their religious beliefs over us Heathens (which includes Jews, Hindus, and Native Americans to name a few) who do not accept their conflation of a fetus with a child.

avatar sara maimon December 21, 2012 at 8:18 am

Unborn can claim no inheritance UNTIL AFTER IT’S BORN.

avatar David Smith December 21, 2012 at 10:31 am

If we as men and women are simply collections of tissues and biochemical responses, then this discussion of abstract “rights’ might have some validity. But if we are created with a divinely appointed purpose, male and female, then it is incumbent upon us to make the fulfillment of that purpose our first priority. The better characterization of the problem then is, “Children (to include the unborn) don’t have rights; adults have responsibilities.” Under God’s economy, my truest freedom, then, is expressed as I fulfill the purpose – with all of the attendant responsibilities – God created me for, whether I am a man or a woman. This is indeed a fundamental statement about the nature of Reality itself; you either believe it or you don’t.

The response, then, that we are not all Christians who share the aforementioned view only gives further credence to the idea of community/state sovereignty rather than one vast consolidated “nation”, forcing union among peoples of such profoundly differing world views. The kind of merely legalistic “rights” being discussed among some of you here seems better fitted to the radical egalitarianism of the bloodiest aspects of the Godless French Revolution.

avatar Ahunt December 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm

David, I can pretty much guarantee you that abortion will exist in any community/state that can envision.

“The kind of merely legalistic “rights” being discussed among some of you here seems better fitted to the radical egalitarianism of the bloodiest aspects of the Godless French Revolution.”

Radical egalitarianism?

avatar Rob G December 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm

~~Arthur you have just proven Libby’s oft repeated point; that the so-called “pro-life” movement, is really about making women pay for sex.~~

Please. The point is that sex entails responsibilities for bothsexes. That men have often shirked theirs does not therefore mean that women should have the “right” to shirk theirs. Is it any wonder that the greatest beneficiaries of the sexual revolution have been not “liberated” women, but predatory males? Really, how hard is this to get? Richard Weaver predicted a nation of moral idiots. I truly think his prediction has come to pass.

avatar Karen December 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Rob G, there are NO biological consequences to men from sex. Zero. Nil. Nada. Pregnancy and lactation, by contrast, change a woman’s body forever. Men always have shirked their responsibilities and will continue to do so. Birth control and abortion, however, mean that women have some power to even the situation.

avatar Rob G December 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Hmmm…so the only ground for any responsibility in the thing is in the biological realm?

avatar Ahunt December 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Well, we see how well efforts to impose legal financial support obligations work. What else is there?

avatar Ahunt December 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm

See, this is what is frustrating about the whole “personhood” debate. Not one supporter of granting zygotes equal protection of the law will acknowledge that women of child bearing age become walking wombs under the premise.

avatar Karen December 22, 2012 at 9:18 am

AHUNT — Exactly. Legal persons have certain rights which cannot be exercised by zygotes without destroying the personhood of the woman inside of whom and whose tissues the zygote has to use. Anti-abortion advocates never, ever acknowledge the personhood and interests of the women without whom pregnancies can’t happen. I really do believe all antiabortion advocates agree with Aristotle that women don’t participate in pregnancy other than as the soil for the man’s seed. The developing fetus is entirely the man’s property and he has the absolute right over it. The fact that all anti-abortion advocates believe antiquated gender-essentialist stereotypes that good women are passive, helpless twits and men are active and useful doesn’t help here, either.

avatar David Smith December 22, 2012 at 10:07 am

Karen:

As you said, “Birth control and abortion, however, mean that women have some power to even the situation.”

If that’s all it comes down to, that is indeed indescribably sad.

avatar Karen December 22, 2012 at 10:41 am

So, David Smith, explain to me what you think what women should be allowed to do?

avatar David Smith December 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I think, ma’am, that others like RobG, Dr. Peters, etc. have articulated my thoughts as well (better!) than I could, if not on this particular article, then in response to others. But to clarify, I believe the problem here, in part, is one of emphasis: you stress “rights”; others place the emphasis on “responsibilities.”

Do we who emphasize duties care nothing for the very real suffering that many women throughout history have endured at the hands of evil and/or irresponsible men? Not at all! Our understanding or responsibility precludes such a thing! I was there when my wife endured the painful labor of our son, and however much you may think we men bear no consequences for our actions in procreation, as one who feels keenly the duties that come with this gift, it is not in our nature to be forced to simply watch – albeit with hand-holding, prayers, and what encouragement one can give as a man at such a time – as your wife endures something only she can endure. Any desire and inclination to rescue or alleviate her travail is for nothing! Talk about a feeling of powerlessness!

But, again, this emphasis we place on responsibility is, we believe, ultimately derivative of our design by an all-wise and beneficent Creator, Who desires that we function according to that design, wherein lies our ultimate freedom.

So the question regarding what I believe women should be “allowed” to do makes no sense to me; or, rather, it is the wrong question. The better question is, as I believe I remember Dr. Peters asking elsewhere, “LORD, where are we going?” From this overall understanding all other questions can then be posed and answered. Until then, I believe we are playing this debate game on two entirely different fields, under two entirely different sets of rules.

avatar Rob G December 24, 2012 at 7:31 am

“Not one supporter of granting zygotes equal protection of the law will acknowledge that women of child bearing age become walking wombs under the premise.”

That’s because it’s bullsh*t. Feminists tend to view men instrumentally (mere sperm donors), and they therefore think than pro-lifers cannot but help but see women in the same instrumental fashion.

“Anti-abortion advocates never, ever acknowledge the personhood and interests of the women without whom pregnancies can’t happen.”

You need to familiarize yourself with the literature. Start with Frederica Mathewes-Green’s Real Choices.

“I really do believe all antiabortion advocates agree with Aristotle that women don’t participate in pregnancy other than as the soil for the man’s seed. The developing fetus is entirely the man’s property and he has the absolute right over it.”

That is frankly absurd. Your emotions are getting the better of your logic here. Again I say, read the literature. It’s out there — there’s no reason for pro-aborts to be this ignorant.

“The fact that all anti-abortion advocates believe antiquated gender-essentialist stereotypes that good women are passive, helpless twits and men are active and useful doesn’t help here, either.”

The fact that all pro-abortion advocates believe modern biological-determinist gender assumptions that a woman differs from a man only in plumbing and that the sexes are in all ways otherwise equal doesn’t help here, either.

See how ridiculous that sounds when the shoe’s on the other foot?

avatar Ahunt December 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

“That’s because it’s bullsh*t. Feminists tend to view men instrumentally (mere sperm donors), and they therefore think than pro-lifers cannot but help but see women in the same instrumental fashion. ”

Really…? I didn’t get my Evil Feminist Cabal newsletter this month. Can you please reference this claim for us?

“The fact that all pro-abortion advocates believe modern biological-determinist gender assumptions that a woman differs from a man only in plumbing and that the sexes are in all ways otherwise equal doesn’t help here, either.”

So what? Are you in fact suggesting that women are unworthy of equal rights under the law? What? Spell it out.

avatar Karen December 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

RobG, can you quote or link to anything by an antiabortion advocate supporting policies that make it easier for women to combine childbearing with working? On fact, can you show me anything by your side describing what you believe to be the proper roles of men and women?

avatar Anymouse December 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I am fully supportive of keeping men to their half of the bargain. I support laws that penalize sexual acts outside of marriage made by any man. So I certainly do not expect any accusation of hypocrisy against me (or others that agree with me). That does not mean I am not a complementarian. I simply expect both men and women to take responsibility for the baby/fetus they have conceived together. Men should support their wives, and no one should ever be allowed to coerce a woman into getting an abortion. One of the simplest ways to prevent that is to criminalize abortion, penalize fornication, and encourage marriage as the only legitimate sexual outlet.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins December 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm

This is a very moving argument, assuming that all the given premises are true and valid.

But they are not. No rights were “stripped” from any class of persons. There has never been ANY precedent that a fetus is a person. There has never been a legally defined class called “the unborn” that has either been deprived of or granted rights. These are fantasies constructed by people looking for a foundation that a pre-existing sentiment might be attached to, the better to win public support on a scale that does not presently exist.

Equality under the law is no more threatened by Roe v. Wade than it is by the fact that a same-sex couple does not legally constitute a marriage in the civil law. One can play endless semantical games stretching the plain language of the constitution, but if the words mean whatever we want them to mean, then they mean nothing at all. Humpty-Dumpty’s statement “When I use a word, it means exactly what I choose it to mean,” is unworthy of constitutional jurisprudence.

A zygote is not a person, nor is an embryo, nor a blastocyst, and as to the stage of fetal development, there is room for doubt and discussion. The sweeping claim that The State should dictate to a woman what she must carry, from the earliest stage, is rank totalitarianism, hiding under the fig leaf of “equal protection.”

avatar Roberta Bayer December 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

Some further legal references sent by a lawyer friend:

I add a little item that supports your position. Add to that the fact that minors can only sue or be sued by a “next friend” or guardian ad litem. This is the Item:
The French phrase en ventre sa mere (literally, in his/her mother’s belly) refers to a fetus in utero. It is commonly used in legal English.
A child which is still “en ventre sa mere” is accepted to be a minor, provided it is subsequently born alive.
The use of this concept in legal language can be traced to English cases in the nineteenth century. In Occleston v Fullalove (1873-74) L.R. 9 Ch. App. 147, a case heard in the Court of Appeal in Chancery it was argued for the Appellant that although the child in question was “en ventre sa mère” at the date of the will subject to the litigation, there was neither principle nor authority against such a child having a reputation ofpaternity. The Court allowed the after-born child to share with her sisters under the will.
The concept is used in common law jurisdictions and has been extended beyond the law of wills and succession so that claims in the law oftorts are also recognised. In the Australian case Watt v. Rama [1972] VR 353 it was deemed that a fetus is a person entitled, once born, tocompensation as a plaintiff for injury caused while en ventre sa mère.”
Some U.S. cases have removed the requirement that the fetus actually be born. In Amadio v. Levin, 509 Pa. 199 (1985), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that “it makes no difference in liability under the wrongful death and survival statutes whether the child dies of the injuries just prior to or just after birth.” In Farley v. Sartin Trucking, 195 W.Va. 671, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia did away with a requirement that a tortiously killed fetus be viable outside the womb at the time the tort was committed. The deceased unborn child’s personal representative may maintain an action pursuant to the state’s wrongful death statute, the court held, cautioning that the cause of action does not extend against a woman who has a legal abortion.

avatar Christopher Harrison December 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm

This debate highlights, for me at least, how intractable the “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” argument really is.

The same conservative voices that say we should have LESS intrusion in our lives by the centralized state fall over themselves to invite the government to intrude on reproductive issues. One of the responders — Anymouse — even went so far as to support laws that hold men to their responsibilities of parenthood. The problem with this argument is that it is ultimately not about morality, as it claims to be. It is about CONTROL, because it involves the heavy hand of the state imposing some people’s sense of morality on others. And don’t even get me started into what we actually know about the actual history behind human reproduction and sex, much of which is a legacy of the 140,000 – 190,000 years that we spent as stone age hunter-gatherers, because it has almost NOTHING to do with the medieval ideas imposed on those social and biological realities by the Christian church and concepts of property and inheritance.

And the author’s point about an unwanted pregnancy ending after only 9 months, while completely ignoring the responsibilities of PARENTHOOD, tells me all that I need to know about this viewpoint. The responsibilities of not only the parents, but society-at-large, simply fall away after the “unborn” becomes a living person outside the womb. Where are the clarion calls for people to act as members of extended families, or even communities, in helping to care for all of these unwanted pregnancies? Completely silent, and predictably so.

I have a simple challenge for all of those who are morally outraged by abortion. Take the portion of your time that you spend writing and hand-wringing over the issue, and instead devote it to actually helping women (and men) dealing with unwanted pregnancy. Instead of using funds for organizing protests, use them to actually financially help those prospective parents. I’m fully supportive of your project (even if I don’t fully agree with your conclusions) if it is devoted to the concept of persuasion through compassionate action. However, if your solution is to bring the heavy hand of the state into the equation to support your particular flavor of “morality” being imposed on all, then I will completely oppose your efforts and denounce them as the high-minded tyranny that it really is.

avatar Ahunt December 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Ms Bayer, you continue to avoid the central question…how can society grant full civil rights to zygotes without removing those same rights from women of childbearing age? What is the plan? How will it be implemented? What measures of enforcement do you envision?

These are entirely fair and necessary questions, and I view the ongoing failure to address them with deep suspicion.

avatar Rob G December 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm

“So what? Are you in fact suggesting that women are unworthy of equal rights under the law? What? Spell it out.”

No — pay attention. What I did was to take Karen’s laughably ridiculous summary of the pro-life view and transmute into an equally ridiculous pro-choice one in order to demonstrate that ridiculousness.

“can you quote or link to anything by an antiabortion advocate supporting policies that make it easier for women to combine childbearing with working?”

Take a look at the book by Mathewes-Green I mentioned above. I do not follow either prolife or pro-abortion blogs, websites , etc., so I can’t provide any online references. Perhaps others can.

avatar Ahunt December 26, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Oops. Sorry, Rob. I was riffing on your earlier mischaracterizations of the feminist movement and feminists themselves.

Anyway…the question really is one of whether the “differences” constitute legitimate reason for the second-class citizenship of roughly half the population.

avatar Katy December 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Mr. Harrison,

You say, “Take the portion of your time that you spend writing and hand-wringing over the issue, and instead devote it to actually helping women (and men) dealing with unwanted pregnancy.” How do you know they don’t?

I know 4 or 5 couples who have adopted their grandchildren or nieces/nephews, born into troubled homes, either outright unwanted, neglected, or in danger.

Every church I have ever been a member of has donated a large amount of supplies –diapers, maternity and baby clothes, food, gift cards, toiletries–at least once a year to the local pregnancy care center. Our pastor and his wife recently hosted their son’s 1st birthday party–and requested no gifts, just supplies to donate to the pregnancy care center. My mother has raised tens of thousands of dollars for two area pregnancy care centers over the past 20 years.

I can name 15 people I know who volunteer regularly at the local pregnancy care center a friend of mine’s mom has been director at two different pregnancy care centers. Someone donated a HOUSE (a beautiful 19th century limestone) to be used as a mother home for women facing unexpected pregnancies with no place to stay.

A congressman, a local doctor, and a couple very prominent in the area home school community helped start the pregnancy care center in our town in the 80′s.

I am very proud of what our community has done to support and help women locally.
—-
Sara, Mr. Travers is a self-described heathen.

avatar Fred Garvin December 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Why should I feed what you breed? If you’re too stupid or too lazy or (for men) too vain to use a condom or other method of birth control, why should the rest of society have to pitch in to house and clothe and educate and doctor your spawn? Abort and save the taxpayers millions. The idea that 99% of those born to teenage mothers or mothers who were themselves born to unwed or unintended mothers are ever going to “share their talents” in any significant way with the rest of society is a joke.

avatar Katy December 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Rob G and Mr. Smith have articulated well my own position. However, I agree with the pro-abortionists in this thread that a pregnancy and subsequent baby profoundly alters a woman’s life. It is dishonest to pretend a pregnancy isn’t uncomfortable and raising children difficult. It’s hard. It’s way harder and less “rewarding” (in a public sense) than a career. However, biology says if you enjoy sex, you will probably soon enjoy a baby, no matter how hard we try to say we’ve gotten past biology, no matter how much we hate the grittiness of fleshly, earthly things. We can chemically or surgically “fix” that fact, but babies aren’t born out of our minds, out of our pure desire to have a baby. They are conceived in sex, whether love is involved or not. And that’s what really grates the modern woman. It’s SO UNFAIR!

My kids are such a drag to my personal and physical well-being. They create nausea when they’re zygotes and stretch marks when they’re fetuses. They never just go amuse themselves when they’re infants. I can never go anywhere because I’m nursing all the time. They are awful little sinners, and start showing their true natures around 7 months. And now, as toddlers, they are terrors. They also uncomfortably bring out my worst. So, yes, I understand. It’s hard, and if I didn’t know better, the inferior position. I mean, it means I have unequal rights, no power, am a second-class citizen, and could be a “passive, helpless twit.” Who wouldn’t want to abort that? I would add that I have to deal with a lot of poop.

But it’s better than pretending I’m “making a difference in the world” or tricking myself into thinking I am really “needed” at my job, or that the world would stop spinning if every mother quit her job and stayed home. Maybe the thought of “staying home” is so awful because no one’s there to make sure it’s comfortable and a pleasant place to spend one’s time.

avatar Ahunt December 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Awful lot to unpack there, Katy. But I’ll be brief.

FTR, I am glad that you are happy with your choices, and that they are working for you. (And likely for the community at large, if we are being honest.)

The fact remains that the choices available to you are not necessarily the choices available to other women. Your responses to YOUR pregnancies are not definitive, and your hopes and dreams and skills and abilities and interests and circumstances cannot be held up as the general standard for all women.

Okay?

avatar JimWilton December 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

There will be no communication or progress in reaching a consensus on the difficult issue of abortion until each side puts away the false analogies. A fetus in utero is not a baby. Even the Catholic church for many years promoted as dogma the idea that the soul did not descend into a life in the womb until quite far along in the course of a pregnancy.

A fetus is also not a zygote. It is a life worthy of respect.

But it is not a life that is equivalent at law or in morality to the life of a infant. Unplugging a freezer in a fertility clinic is not the equivalent of the Newtown massacre.

The key question in the abortion debate is — given that there is no separation between the life of the mother and the life of the fetus in the early stages of pregnancy — who properly should exercise moral judgment? Is it the state? Or is it the individual?

If we ever come to agree that it is the individual who must make that difficult choice, then there is hope for consensus in compassionate debate over the pain and complexity of that decision.

avatar Joan December 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Both sides in this debate seem to be perpetuating the common misunderstandings about the Roe v. Wade decision: the pro-life side that it denied the personhood of the fetus, the pro-choice side that it was about either sexual freedom or independence for women (although both sexual freedom activists and feminists tend to count it as a win for their side). The reasoning in the decision was actually based on the privacy issue, a widely misunderstood legal concept that doesn’t necessarily match up with the popular idea of privacy. Specifically, the decision was about bodies and the specific question of whether you have any legal claims on what’s inside my skin, even if you are my child and even if your life is at stake.

For an example not directly involving abortion, let’s imagine a fourteen-year-old girl who needs a new kidney if she’s going to live to be fifteen. Let’s further posit that the waiting list for anonymously donated kidneys is more than a year long and that her mother cannot donate because she has already donated to another family member, but her father is a perfectly suitable donor. Is the father required to provide his daughter with a kidney as he is required to provide her with food on the table and a roof over her head? If he refuses to make one of his kidneys available and the girl dies of kidney failure, is he guilty of murder?

If the law were to answer “Yes,” it would form the basis of a doctrine that nonvital body parts are just another kind of private property, like money or real estate. They could be bought and sold, borrowed against and foreclosed on, perhaps forcibly. I’m sure I don’t have to spell out the dystopian possibilities that would open up. Instead the court has decided that the body is an inalienable part of the person, over which the person has nearly absolute rights, even above the basic survival needs of his or her nearest kin. In this, its nearest precedents are the decisions forbidding the sale of human organs and specifying that, in testing individuals for drug use, the tester may demand the testee’s breath and urine, both of which must come out of the body at some point anyway, but not blood, because it’s inherently part of the person. The one establishing that a husband can be prosecuted for raping his wife, replacing the previous doctrine of men’s rights and women’s duties, probably belongs in this category as well.

I don’t mean to suggest here that, prior to Roe, the body was mere property. Instead, the laws banning abortion which were overturned by Roe were based on a religious concept of the female body as being literally made for service to the family, the nation and the Divine Power. It is the decline of that concept from a societal absolute to the private conviction of a small minority that is at the root of continuing support for legalied abortion. Barring its reinstatement, it’s hard to see how the prolife position is ever going to re-establish itself as the law of the land.

avatar Anymouse December 28, 2012 at 2:00 am

“However, if your solution is to bring the heavy hand of the state into the equation to support your particular flavor of “morality” being imposed on all, then I will completely oppose your efforts and denounce them as the high-minded tyranny that it really is.”
Not to support what is merely “morality” but to demand what is deserved for the baby and fetus: the responsibility of the individuals responsible for that conception. That is not statism or tyranny, but merely the prevention of abuse and neglect.

avatar Karen December 28, 2012 at 9:15 am

Anymouse, you do realize the difference between men’s and women’s contributions to pregnancy? It’s like the old joke about what pigs and chickens do for breakfast: the hen is involved but the pig is COMMITTED. In pregnancy and childbirth, men, at most, write checks and hold hands. If a man is involved, it is his conscious decision to do so. Women, on the other hand, are victims of our biology. We may decide to have sex, but the consequences are not within our control. As to the sex part, unless you believe that husbands have zero rights to ask for sex from their wives, ever, then saying that deciding to have sex is enough control is facile and insulting. Women still, today, die in childbirth. Pregnancy is exhausting and painful, and childbirth without drugs is unimaginable agony for most women and terribly painful for all of us. (Please don’t insult my intelligence by referring to your friend of a friend’s cousin who had ten kids without any drugs and never had a moment’s pain.) Antiabortion activists never notice that pregnancy requires a woman; you all act like fetuses can gestate in space capsules. Acknowledge that pregnancy occurs inside actual people and that it can be catastrophic to those people. Once you do that, you will be pro-choice.

avatar Ahunt December 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

“the pro-choice side that it was about either sexual freedom or independence for women ”

I think “independence” and “full participation in society” might be synonymous here.

“Instead, the laws banning abortion which were overturned by Roe were based on a religious concept of the female body as being literally made for service to the family, the nation and the Divine Power.”

Never heard it expressed this baldly…usually the concept is wrapped up in terms like “feminine genius,” “holy mystery,” “receptive fecundity,” “authentic femininity,” “highest calling,” “secret beauty,” “womanly essence,” “maternal vocation,” “inestimable worth,” and so on.

Infinitely prefer your blunt assessment, Karen.

avatar Karen December 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanks, Ahunt.

avatar Anymouse December 29, 2012 at 11:17 am

“Women, on the other hand, are victims of our biology. We may decide to have sex, but the consequences are not within our control.”
I must admit that this is simply the consequence of marriage in my view. One can avoid sexual intercourse fairly effectively by a vow of celibacy.

At the end of the day I have a higher vision of life than one that seeks to prevent the need for sacrifice, and decides that killing of the innocent is better than risk or tragedy.

avatar Kevin Mack December 29, 2012 at 11:59 am

The use of an impersonal “scientific” term to describe that conceived in the womb is only an attempt at rationalizing by the “autonomous” self seeking individual, and used to put the burden of proof upon those who think differently. Its use is nothing short of making a loaded declarative or interrogative sentence, and reeks of hubris as it leaves the so-called autonomous individual the measure of all things, even whether that conceived can be called human. A depraved form of “humanism” it is. Understand that and you will be pro-life, but we won’t hold our breath on that, for some of you it would take a road to Damascus experience.

So you woman commenting here wish to be like men, from your distorted viewpoint, and have the “right” to suffer no pain, not take any responsibility, and not endure any inconveniences in life. Well life is hard and full of pain and suffering for all of us, and then we die, some of us in a terrible manner. That is one reason why we procreate. Sorry to have to explain the facts of life to you but you really do need to get over yourselves. One would hope you don’t really believe your hyperbolic straw man arguments like “antiabortion activists never notice that pregnancy requires a woman.” But then….

To those who speak of totalitarianism and imposing one’s views upon others, it is laughable that those of the new left, seeking to impose their “morality” upon others, first politicizes a moral question, then accuses those who think differently of being the “totalitarians.” It is the left that took abortion to the national level . Overturn Roe v Wade and let the people of the individual states decide. Of course leaving it to the states was already tried, and when the state votes were not going the way the new left wished, then it’s off to the national court your ilk went to use the force of the national government upon everyone else’s front porch. Tolerant of other views you are not. You have the totalitarian boot on the wrong foot.

To Rob G, Anymouse, and others who try to reason with such, I commend your efforts but they are in vain and not worth making; the indoctrination through schools and the media has been thoroughly successful and all you can do for these is say a prayer but don’t forget to pray even more for all of us yet living in this direly ill Western culture their ilk has made.

avatar Bobby December 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I’d suggest that Joan has hit the nail on the head as to what really lies at the core of the abortion debate. Evangelical scholar James Davison Hunter has made a similar observation. One cannot advocate the criminalizing of abortion without inherently asking women to cede a certain amount of control over their bodies to the state. This can only occur when there is a broad social consensus that women’s bodies are not entirely their own, and that women owe certain reproductive obligations to their husbands and to the nation.

By the early 70s, that consensus had ceased to exist, although it remained predominant in parts of the country where traditional Christianity continued to play a strong role in shaping the culture. Thus, in Roe, the Court faced a taxing question: What role does the state have in enforcing policies that rest primarily (although not entirely) on the shared religious convictions of the majority of its citizens?

This presents a type of “mixed motive” question. Virtually everyone agrees that the Constitution forbids the state from enacting policies that rest exclusively on the shared religious convictions of the majority. (Thus, the state can’t require you to attend weekly worship services.) Also, virtually everyone agrees that the State has the authority to enact policies that rest primarily on non-religious grounds, even if those policies are also consistent with religious practice. (Thus, the state can criminalize arson, theft, etc. ) But what rule applies when the proposed policy rests primarily on religious grounds, but can be partially justified on non-religious grounds?

In Griswold, Justice Black argued, in dissent, that such policies are constitutional so long as they do not otherwise abrogate a specifically enumerated individual right. In Justice Black’s view, it is better to have a clear rule, and leave the rest to the political process. The majority disagreed. In a sense, Justice Blackmun’s opinion reflects a pragmatic result, where the burden on individual liberties must be reasonably proportional to the non-religious interests at stake in enacting such a policy. I admit that Justice Blackmun didn’t phrase it in quite that way. But I’d suggest that that’s a fair assessment of what the Court was trying to say. And as unseemly as abortion is, I believe that the Court reached the correct result (even if the opinion is worded in a somewhat inartful way). Otherwise, we risk allowing the state to become the servant of the bishop (even when the bishop may be exerting power indirectly by influencing the voting preferences of his charges).

avatar Siarlys Jenkins December 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Excellent dissertation Bobby. We need recognition that abortion is “unseemly” and should not be viewed as routine, painless, or without significant consequence, while placing the ultimate decision in the hands of the woman concerned. Anymouse is of course correct that one can avoid pregnancy by a vow of celibacy, but it does not follow that the criminal law should specify the duties of a woman who does become pregnant in the usual way. There are many reasons a woman might consider abortion the least bad option in a given situation. We are not talking about protecting babies — not until late-term anyway.

Roe v. Wade DID explicitly find that a fetus is not a “person” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, acknowledging candidly that if a fetus IS a person, then Roe’s case would automatically fail. That decided, the rest of Justice Blackmun’s opinion was indeed based on the right of the pregnant woman to make a private decision, in consultation with her doctor, rather than have it made for her by the blunt instrument of the police power. It was not about “sexual freedom,” and I believe the controversy would have been much lower profile and lower tension if clinics predominantly devoted to abortion services had not been created. Blackmun wrote about an individual woman making a private decision in consultation with her primary care physician and/or gynecologist.

Overturn Roe v Wade and let the people of the individual states decide.

Why should the people of any state make any decision? The point is precisely that this is one decision that may no more be decided by voting or legislative majorities than by crowned kings or military dictators. It is reserved to the individual concerned. Government has no place in it.

avatar Anymouse December 29, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I disagree strongly, but that is because I possess a completely different view of the relationship between the individual and the state than you do and what defines and individual. I would argue your position to be essentially incoherent, given that the zygote is itself a person possessing as much right to exist as the mother or father.

“To Rob G, Anymouse, and others who try to reason with such, I commend your efforts but they are in vain and not worth making; the indoctrination through schools and the media has been thoroughly successful and all you can do for these is say a prayer but don’t forget to pray even more for all of us yet living in this direly ill Western culture their ilk has made.”
Indeed. It is sad to reconfirm this, but it seems to hold true. It is why I hold so little hope for electoral politics.

avatar Ahunt December 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm

“So you woman commenting here wish to be like men, from your distorted viewpoint, and have the “right” to suffer no pain, not take any responsibility, and not endure any inconveniences in life. Well life is hard and full of pain and suffering for all of us, and then we die, some of us in a terrible manner. That is one reason why we procreate. Sorry to have to explain the facts of life to you but you really do need to get over yourselves. ”

Seriously?

avatar Anymouse December 29, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I pretty much agree.

“Life sucks then you die” is a far more mature look at things than one that assumes we need some sort of equality. There will always be power differences.

People need to learn to accept inequality.

avatar Ahunt December 29, 2012 at 5:10 pm

People need to learn to accept inequality.

Which people and why? (And yes, yes…I understand that people are rich and poor, good-looking and not, smart and dumb, etc…)

avatar Anymouse December 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm

All people.

And as there is rich and poor there is also more fertile and less fertile, more capable of pregnancy and less capable, more strength and less strength, more testosterone and less testosterone. That means that there is only half of the population that can ever get pregnant. That does not phase me at all.

avatar Ahunt December 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm

” That means that there is only half of the population that can ever get pregnant. ”

So what?

avatar Anymouse December 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Precisely my point.

I don’t care. Abortion is the murder of a fetus to me regardless of how much it may benefit some people.

avatar Karen December 29, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Anymouse, thank you for your blunt honesty. You believe women are inherently worse than men and we should learn to accept our inferior status. “Lump it, Bitch” is so much more open than most of the tripe regurgitated by antiabortion activists about “feminine-genius.”

avatar Anymouse December 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm

That is a bit more vulgar a statement than I would have made. I will also point out that I have never once ignored a man’s natural obligation.

But that matters nothing to those who wish to justify the killing of others to attain power.

avatar Karen December 29, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Anymouse, you want a world where women are always and in every individual case inferior to all men, regardless of the actual merit of each individual person.

avatar Ahunt December 30, 2012 at 1:44 am

Yeah. As Joan and Bobby have noted…the belief that because women can only do certain things that men cannot…gestate, give birth, and breast feed…that these activities are the only things women should be doing…is going the way of the Dodo.

I believe it was Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito’s 20-something daughter who recently warned her mother that young women today are unwilling to accept limitations on their choices.

The ponies have bolted the barn, Anymouse. Women will not return to lesser lives, lives without choices and opportunity. Deal with it.

avatar Anymouse December 30, 2012 at 11:21 am

You are propagandists and disingenuous.

Have you ever heard of Hildegarde von Bingen? Or Joan of Arc? We all know you have. You simply prefer to denigrate your traditions rather than acknowledge the profound respect for women possessed in the western tradition.

It is not just women who must resign themselves to reality. So must men. I will never tolerate pornography, nor will I tolerate fornication by men or women. You are trapped inside a little box which cannot imagine an alternative to the bourgeois liberal hell we live in.

avatar Bobby December 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Anymouse,

I’m not sure that you’re addressing the point. Your view of a woman’s role in society is one that rests primarily on religious conviction. The same goes for your view that a zygote is a “life” in the same sense that a 6-year-old child is. I admit that your views do not rest entirely on religious conviction. There are non-religious arguments that one can make in favor of views. But those non-religious arguments are rather thin, and come a long way from necessitating such conclusions. For example, our Anglo-American legal system has never adopted the notion that a zygote has the same legal status as a 6-year-old child. Thus, the Court’s remark in Roe regarding the personhood of the fetus is entirely consistent with several centuries of jurisprudence. As for the role of women, we have to acknowledge that women play a different role in an urban industrial (or post-industrial) society than they do in a rural agrarian society. And as women’s roles have changed, the state’s interest in promoting a certain model of womanhood has attenuated.

From where we stand today, one can only justify the criminalizing of abortion if we can justify: (1) breaking with centuries of legal tradition and conferring a wealth of new legal rights on zygotes; or (2) forcing women back into the roles they occupied in our rural agrarian past. The non-religious arguments in favor of either option are simply too thin, even though the religious arguments for one or both options may be compelling.

You are perfectly free to associate yourself voluntarily in a community where the values you favor are enforced and where dissenters are punished or cast out. But it isn’t the state’s business to engage in such heavy-handed social engineering, especially where the non-religious justifications for certain policies are pretty thin. It is better to leave such matters to private agreement or religious institutions.

I suspect that most of us can imagine a social alternative to our current bourgeois society. But we’re mature enough to recognize that any social arrangement offers certain benefits and burdens, and that we can’t expect to reap the benefits without lumping the burdens. We continue to participate in this so-called “bourgeois liberal hell” because we have concluded that the benefits (or potential benefits) outweigh the burdens. I have no desire to immanentize the eschaton.

avatar Anymouse December 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I agree we cannot “immanentize the eschaton”, but a refusal to do so is the essence of any traditionalism. It is modernity, with it’s emphasis on progress and rationality that has the greatest tendency to demand a heaven on earth.

We all know there are trade offs. I happen to believe that traditional society, broadly speaking, is the best possible world precisely because it acknowledges the impossibility of utopia.

avatar Ahunt December 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

In the west, I think we are well past the point where any non-religious reasons for “re-subjugating” women could possibly be considered morally rational, let alone doable.

In this increasingly individualistic world, I do wonder if Siarlys has the right concept…render the avoidance of abortion a matter of the highest self-respect, a recognition of one’s responsibilities to oneself. Sort of the flipside of the “abortion is selfish” meme that has no traction these days.

avatar Rob G December 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm

“Women will not return to lesser lives, lives without choices and opportunity. Deal with it.”

Up until recently it was generally males who were viewed as eternal toddlers, forever screaming “Mine!” while women, who tended to grow up more quickly, acted as a civilizing and maturing force in the culture. Now the women have caught the “Mine!” bug and the results are not pretty — a nation of young people who “want what I want and I want it now!”, consequences on others be damned.

We’ve got millions of 3 year olds in 20-something bodies. Moral idiocy, indeed. The common cultural/moral grammar no longer exists whereby we can even discuss issues of this sort with any sort of seriousness, as any attempt to convince people to restrict their choices will be greeted with screams of “Mine!!” Which is basically what all the pro-abort rhetoric boils down to.

avatar Anymouse December 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm

There is a bit too much of a focus on feminism and the subjugation of women here.

Individualism itself is the problem. Men who are cads are just as bad as sluts. Not going to deny that.

avatar Anymouse December 30, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I must agree with what Rob has posted above…

avatar Rob G December 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm

“Individualism itself is the problem.”

Hear, hear. The selfishness of abortion is one symptom of an overall societal narcissism. It just happens to be one of the worst, as it kills people.

avatar Ahunt December 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Rob, you are not seriously holding women responsible for both their own behavior, AND the behavior of men, are you? Be very careful here.

avatar Bobby December 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Anymouse & Rob,

Traditionalists can be just as guilty of trying to immanentize the eschaton as progressives. In both cases, one is attempting to use the force of the state to dictate the nature of certain social relationships, instead of letting people experiment for themselves. Conservatives surely believe in studying the past and giving due weight to the lessons of the past, but we do not believe in enshrining it as a utopian ideal. It is folly to believe that the past is necessarily better than the present or the future, just as it is folly to believe that the future can necessarily be better than the present or the past.

And, yes, when you give people space to experiment, some number of folks will make unwise and selfish decisions. But selfishness, in and of itself, is not a crime. So, while abortion may be a grossly selfish act, that fact alone does not necessitate criminalizing it.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins December 31, 2012 at 11:37 pm

People must indeed learn to accept that there is inequality. What we can aspire to is equal protection OF THE LAWS. For example, it may well be true that females are less likely to aspire to, or have aptitude for, a career as an engineer. That means “disparate impact” is an inadequate measure of whether discrimination by human choices and administration is happening. It does not mean that an individual woman who aspires to be an engineer, and is capable of doing the work, should be barred on the ground that “you’re a woman.” It may even be true that in aggregate statistical average, people of African descent show a somewhat lower intelligence curve than people of Chinese descent. That doesn’t preclude that some Africans are geniuses, and some Chinese are morons. (Europeans seem to fall somewhere in between, if such statistical analysis is of any validity at all).

Women are not “similarly situated” to men in every respect. Only women can have babies, because God knew men couldn’t handle the pain. There are reasons we still have public restrooms labeled “men” and “women” long after we stopped having restrooms labeled “white” and “colored.” I have no doubt that Anymouse respects women, by his own lights, or that there are women who would appreciate the kind of respect he offers. But I wouldn’t make it mandatory for any woman to accept the place in life that Anymouse respects.

It is also true that there is a current of thought in our culture that “anything I want, I have a constitutional right to it.” This is present in the infantile narcissism of claiming a constitutional right to redefine marriage. It may have reached its ultimate expression when a group of John Gotti’s neighbors and friends picketed the federal court house where he was being sentenced, one shouting “He has a constitutional right to be not guilty.” But our constitution IS based on delineating what is legitimate exercise of government authority from what is reserved to the people (as well as dividing legitimate jurisdiction between the feds and the states — both of them potential sources of tyranny).

Anymouse considers abortion murder of a human being. That, of course, is precisely why this debate is so intractable. Some of us say, this is a human being, others of us say, no its not. It is precisely because an individual woman must carry the pregnancy inside her own body for nine months to bring it to term that I would leave jurisdiction, the decision whether to do so, up to her. Once a baby is delivered, any competent adult could raise it if the mother doesn’t want to (although at that point, I believe the father should have first dibs on adoption, if the parents are not married). But until it is delivered, no other human being on earth could take responsibility for the implications of their own principles by volunteering “I will carry this baby in MY abdomen.” There are pro-life people, even males, who would do that if they could, but it is simply not an option.

avatar Rob G January 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm

“But selfishness, in and of itself, is not a crime. So, while abortion may be a grossly selfish act, that fact alone does not necessitate criminalizing it.”

Yeah, but that little matter of a dead infant might. The only thing that determines the status of an infant in the womb is whether the mother wants it or not. Kind of like a slaveowner’s determination as to whether his slave will be free or not. In both instances the victim’s status as a person is entirely dependent on the will and whim of another, and both instances are therefore unjust.

Someone mentioned exposure above. It’s really no different. In one situation the child’s still in the womb, in the other he (or more likely, she) is not, but in both cases the child is treated not as a human being but as a piece of refuse.

Feminists forever moan about the objectification of women, while they themselves advocate the objectification of infants, including female ones. Pot–kettle–black.

It is because I’m against objectification of this sort that I’d like to see both pornography and abortion banned.

avatar Anymouse January 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm

That is well stated.

Others more comfortable with objectification could easily disagree, but only by overthrowing their liberalism and any belief in universal human dignity.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 2, 2013 at 5:33 pm

If slaves had been defined as chattel because they inhabited the body of their legal owner, I might seriously consider that there could be some justification for such a legal construct. It was precisely because enslaved persons were autonomous, biologically independent, self-conscious human beings that subjecting one person to the ownership of another was so abhorrent.

When the pro-life movement perfects an “Underground Railroad” capable of slipping endangered zygotes out of a pregnant woman’s womb, and carrying them off to some safe haven where they can be grown to term without her participation, I will take the facile analogy to slavery seriously. Zygotes, blastocysts, embryos, and early stage fetuses can be objectified precisely because they are not yet subjects.

I have no liberalism to overthrow, but I can comfortably consider a biological entity that is without a functioning central nervous system, and entirely dependent upon the body it inhabits, as an objectively subordinate part of the larger (and entirely self-aware) entity, without in the least overthrowing any belief in human dignity. Anymouse can think of it any way he wants, but his syllogism doesn’t think for me.

avatar Karen January 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I agree with Siarlys Jenkins, and repeat her statement: a zygote exists inside and as a part of a woman’s body. The slaveowner could have simply paid wages to the slave and obtained the same work, but there is no way at all to change the relationship of the zygote to the woman. It — and yes, I mean IT, as in “thing,” until such point late in pregnancy that it can be delivered safely — requires her body.

Finally, I resent the use of “selfish” to describe a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant. Sometimes she is, but at least as often she simply wants to maintain her ability to provide a standard of living to her existing children, or finish her education, or at least wait until she’s mature enough to be a good mother. None of you would describe a man who wanted those same things as “selfish,” but because conservatives think of women as wombs attached to brooms and with no purpose beyond housework, women who want anything else are “selfish.”

avatar Anymouse January 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Actually I would describe a man with those attitudes as selfish in many circumstances, so you have indeed misread me. If a man impregnates a woman I expect him to take responsibility regardless of circumstances. Even a youth can do enough work to support a wife.

avatar Anymouse January 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

…to some degree.

avatar Rob G January 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

~~None of you would describe a man who wanted those same things as “selfish,” but because conservatives think of women as wombs attached to brooms and with no purpose beyond housework, women who want anything else are “selfish.”~~

Au contraire, any man who gets a woman pregnant then bolts, or refuses to support her and the child, is definitely selfish and should face repercussions. Your caricatures of conservatives are ludicrous.

“It was precisely because enslaved persons were autonomous, biologically independent, self-conscious human beings that subjecting one person to the ownership of another was so abhorrent.”

That’s an anachronistic, hindsight argument. The science and the law of the day tended to think that the Negro, while human and a “person,” was a member of a lower or lesser race that needed the paternal guidance of Caucasians.

You folks simply want the right to treat an unborn child like refuse, or like an amputated limb or removed organ. Admit it.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 4, 2013 at 1:02 am

It is often an easy cheap shot to label an opposing argument a straw man, but if ever there was a straw man, Rob G. has presented one for our consideration. I, for one, do not wish to treat any child like refuse, or any fully constituted human organism as a mere amputated limb. We do have a difference of premises over what constitutes a child. Rob believes that a single eukaryotic cell containing 23 unique pairs of long strings of deoxyribonucleic acid is an unborn child. I beg to differ. It takes a much larger number of eukaryotic cells, organized into a number of specialized organs, with a self-conscious central nervous system, to constitute a child, born or unborn. It is the gestalt, not the biological components, that defines a human being as something more than a lump of meat.

There is a huge difference between being child-like, and being parasitic. I have no need to indulge in anachronism, because I do not believe analogies between one political or social movement and another are particularly valid. The pro-life movement, PETA, gay marriage advocates, and others ad nauseum, have all tried to wrap themselves in the mantle of the abolitionist and civil rights movements, now that these once-controversial propositions are sanctified and widely accepted. Go make your own case on its own merits, not by calling yourselves the latest incarnation of a movement that had to fight its own way on its own merits.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 4, 2013 at 1:06 am

P.S. Karen, with all regard for your kind words, I sometimes have to explain to an English-speaking audience that Siarlys is a common Welsh given name, and it is male, roughly cognate to Charles. I could not myself carry a child to term, although I could have a role in conception. I have always said that if I were married, and my wife were pregnant, if I saw good cause for abortion, still, the final decision must be hers, because she not only carries the joys and risks of gestation and delivery, she also bears the direct physical and psychological risks of termination. The latter are real, and worthy of consideration. They do not, however, justify employing the police powers of the state, or the somewhat removed “It’s my baby too” claims of the husband, to force a decision upon her.

avatar Rob G January 4, 2013 at 8:37 am

Ok, Mr. Jenkins, then draw the line: at what point should abortions be illegal? Why all the pro-abort fuss over the banning of “partial birth abortions”? Why no pro-abort concern over late term abortions of viable fetuses? This isn’t just about “zygotes” you know.

I believe that many in the pro-life movement would be happy with, say, an across the board ban on third trimester abortions as a starting point in an incremental rollback. Now it may very well be that a further rollback would never occur (not that this would stop activism, etc.) but at least we’d know that we’re not indiscriminately killing viable infants.

Of course there is a segment of the pro-life community that rejects any compromise, just like there were radical abolitionists who did the same (sorry if you don’t like the comparison–I will continue to make it). But imo wiser voices would prevail after a time. The question would be, of course, whether any on the pro-abort side would be willing to compromise. I doubt it, for it would throw a spanner into the works of what this is really all about — sexual liberation.

avatar Bobby January 4, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Rob,

It doesn’t seem like you’re responding to the arguments that have been made. I think most people would be willing to permit the criminalization of abortion once the fetus has developed to a point such that it can survive outside of the womb. I don’t see that anyone is contesting that.

Also, the term “pro-abort” strikes me as unnecessary. Others and I have merely made arguments that point out the difficulties associated with efforts to criminalize abortion. That doesn’t mean that any of us favor abortion. So, feel free to lay off of the disingenuous ad hominem attacks.

Lastly, the comparison of antiabortion activists to abolitionists is also disingenuous. As you note, this is not a battle over the life of the fetus, but is instead a battle over “sexual liberation.” Social conservatives favor a legal regime where women are required to cede a certain amount of their liberty so as to serve their husbands and the nation. That legal regime has faded in the past 50 years. Social conservatives would like to restore it, and criminalizing abortion is a centerpiece of that effort. In that sense, antiabortion activists are more akin to those who sought to preserve chattel slavery.

avatar Rob G January 5, 2013 at 11:31 am

~~As you note, this is not a battle over the life of the fetus, but is instead a battle over “sexual liberation.”~~

True, but not from the conservative side. From my side I see it this way: modern men and women desire to engage in sexual activity without any responsibility. A pregnancy is a hindrance to this desire, and thus the potentiality of one can be a roadblock to sexual acting out. Contraceptives serve as a way around this roadblock, but sometimes they fail, at other times they are not used, etc., resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. At this point abortion is presented as an option, as a sort of contraception after the fact: “Well, we don’t want to get pregnant, and we’ll try not to, but if we do we can always get an abortion.” This is the default logic of the thing. Please do not try to tell me it’s not, as I have heard some variant of this reasoning dozens and dozens of times.

To the pro-life person, an abortion involves the death of an infant, and this consideration trumps anything having to do with so-called sexual freedom. Basically, we’re allowing infanticide so that people can f*ck more. That’s what I mean by its being a matter of “sexual liberation.”

“Social conservatives favor a legal regime where women are required to cede a certain amount of their liberty so as to serve their husbands and the nation. That legal regime has faded in the past 50 years. Social conservatives would like to restore it, and criminalizing abortion is a centerpiece of that effort. In that sense, antiabortion activists are more akin to those who sought to preserve chattel slavery.”

I know that this is the default pro-abortion boogeyman story, but it’s nonsense. Ask any of the women who run crises pregnancy centers, homes for unwed mothers, etc. What social conservatives want is for both men and women to take responsibility for their actions, in this case their sexual actions, so that fewer babies are killed each year. You lefties have an awful lot to say about personal rights, but responsibilities seem only to apply to the “1%” and to corporations.

avatar Anymouse January 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Precisely.

I notice no one likes to talk about the women forced into abortions by “boyfriends”, husbands, mothers, fathers, etc. In my own city a girl narrowly escaped from that fate just last year.

avatar Bobby January 6, 2013 at 12:50 am

Rob,

You still seem to be talking past others here. As I’ve noted above, our Anglo-American legal tradition has NEVER conferred upon the fetus the same legal rights held by a post-birth infant. Your position on that point is rooted entirely in religious dogma. And the state doesn’t criminalize something merely because it offends someone’s religious dogma, even if the majority of citizens may adhere to said dogma. If you’re going to suggest that the state should criminalize abortion, then you MUST point to some substantial non-religious reason that justifies the enactment of such a law. Your religious convictons on the issue (i.e., that a fetus is a life in the same sense that a post-birth infant is) are simply irrelevant to the question of whether the state can justify criminalizing abortion.

I don’t say this because I favor abortion. To the contrary, I generally share your religious convictions on this question and wish that there were far fewer abortions. That being said, the state has absolutely no business passing laws whose sole justification (or primary justification) lies in the realm of religious dogma. This is a battle for the church, not the state.

In the same way, the state has little business trying to control the sexual conduct of consenting adults. I agree with you that it’s better for people not to engage in the hook-up culture. But I believe this primarily because of my religious convictions. So, I see no reason why the state should enact laws that do little besides give credence to my religious beliefs. That’s not because I’m a leftist, as you suggest. Rather, it’s because I believe that it’s the legally correct result under our system of jurisprudence.

You and I are entitled to have our religious convictions. But we’re not entitled to use the force of the state to criminalize conduct that is inconsistent with those convictions, unless there is a substantial non-religious justification for such a law (e.g., laws against theft, arson, etc.). And simply put, the non-religious justifications for criminalizing abortion are too thin.

Lastly, regarding the abolitionist issue, I was simply trying to demonstrate the silliness of attempting to associate your political ambitions with those of the abolitionist movement. Frankly, it is a disingenuous distraction to try to associate your views with the successes of movements past. Your arguments for criminalizing abortion must stand or fall based on their own merits. Period.

Also, please lay off of the profanity and the silly attempts to characterize others as “lefties” or the like. I’m a churchgoing conservative. And as a conservative, I believe that our Constitution grants the states very limited authority to control individuals via the criminal law. In general, we shouldn’t be relying on criminal statutes as a mechanism for requiring people to be responsible.

avatar Anymouse January 6, 2013 at 2:00 am

“Rather, it’s because I believe that it’s the legally correct result under our system of jurisprudence.”
Try looking at the middle ages and the ecclesiastical courts. No divorce, no right to fornication. Things are more complicated than the Modern State vs the Individual. There is also the Church and the PreModern State.

avatar Tony A. January 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

Bobby,

Earlier, you said “I think most people would be willing to permit the criminalization of abortion once the fetus has developed to a point such that it can survive outside of the womb. I don’t see that anyone is contesting that.”

What is your substantial non-religious justification for permitting the criminalization of abortion post-viability?

avatar Bobby January 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Tony,

I think those issues are fairly well identified in the Court’s opinion in Casey. When the Court refers to the state’s interest, it is referring to non-religious interests.

Besides, my main goal in commenting here is to help antiabortion activists to understand that Roe v. Wade is not some kind of legal outlier, and that the holding is generally consistent with basic conservative principles. I also write as one who abhors abortion and is grieved at the millions of dollars that are wasted anually in hamfisted efforts to reverse a decision that the Court got right. The money would be better spent on charities that serve the needs of those who are most likely to seek abortion services.

Further, these “mixed motive” issues interest me because I am interested in agrarianism. In an agrarian society, such as what we had in the US prior to the 1920s, the state often had a substantial interest in promoting certain social values that promoted that way of life. In many instances, those values were consistent with the values of Christianity. Of course, the same values also prevailed to an extent in many non-Christian agrarian societies (e.g., Tokugawa Japan). But as we’ve become less Jeffersonian and more Hamiltonian, the state’s interest in promoting such social policies has attenuated, thereby creating a greater tension between the social ideals of Christianity and the state’s non-religious interests in promoting social policies that align with those ideals. Like it or not, we’re all Hamiltonians now…save Wendell Berry.

avatar Anymouse January 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I will freely admit to being an agrarian, not an urbanizer or a modernist. So I will happily align myself with those who are anti modern, and oppose abortion. I will never make peace with the modern state.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Rob G: You must have missed EVERYTHING I’ve ever posted about abortion. I have stated consistently that I consider 20 weeks gestation to be the appropriate dividing line, to err on the safe side of cognition, although ability to survive outside the womb without artificial life support is a bit tenuous still. Of course if it is impossible to deliver a live baby without real risk to the life or long-term health of the mother, no woman should be REQUIRED to risk her own life for her baby. Nor should any woman be denied the choice to in fact accept the risk of carrying the pregnancy to term. But I find it entirely plausible that there is genuine abuse of the standard “the life and health of the mother.” If a live, healthy baby CAN be delivered without killing or maiming the mother, then it is a delivery, not an abortion, and should be treated as such.

I am aware, of course, that there are SOME who are willing to terminate even at that stage if the mother finds it inconvenient. I’m not one of them. You can use any analogy you wish. That’s your right of free speech. I’ve put on record why I’m not impressed. ‘You can also insist that the moon is made of green cheese if you want to.

Who cares if “any on the pro abort side are willing to compromise”? Nobody is in a legal position to filibuster. The supreme law of the land is, that states have every right and duty to prohibit third trimester abortion, based precisely on the increasing development of the fetus to near babyhood. Most states have such laws. Work on enforcing them. I’m not going to argue against it, although IF you start coercing women who ARE in real danger, I will have something to say about the subterfuge.

The partial-birth abortion brouhaha was entirely bogus. IF preserving the woman’s life requires a late-term abortion, then the baby WILL be destroyed, tragically, generally in spite of the fact that the parents WANTED that baby. Who cares what method is used? IF the baby CAN be delivered alive without risking the mother’s life, then there is no legal basis for abortion, no matter what method is used. Now if you have a question whether intact dilation and extraction means that a baby being safely delivered alive is then killed, rather than, this method being a last-ditch effort to save the mother from death or serious damage, put it that way.

avatar Rob G January 7, 2013 at 9:04 am

All this is immaterial. We as a society have decided that the “freedom” to fornicate trumps the lives of unborn children. Like Anymouse, this is something I will never make peace with, and no conservative, if the word means anything, should either. To the extent that some conservatives do indicates that their thinking has been affected (infected?) by liberalism/libertarianism, and Christian conservatives especially should have no truck with such syncretism.

“…states have every right and duty to prohibit third trimester abortion, based precisely on the increasing development of the fetus to near babyhood. Most states have such laws. Work on enforcing them.”

Such laws cannot be effectively enforced when “the life and health of the mother” is interpreted so broadly as to mean everything from life-threatening hemorrhage to mild depression.

avatar Bobby January 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Rob,

At least you are finally being honest. Your gripe seems to be directed to the fact that, under our system, the state cannot be placed into the service of the bishop to enforce Christian morals on the population as a whole.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Rob, you seem to have stumbled into a bit of hypocrisy. First, you challenge me to compromise on certain terms that you laid out with some specificity. Then I state that the line you propose to draw is one I have always supported. Then you tell us this is all immaterial and you will never make peace with what you and I had just seemed to agree on.

Fortunately, what you will make peace with is immaterial. The constitutional demarcation between the jurisdiction of The State and the jurisdiction of the individual concerned are quite clear. You may rail against the night, or you may attempt to persuade those who actually have power to make a decision — the pregnant women at issue. I wish you well in the latter endeavor, because I believe those most susceptible to your plea will be precisely those women who would later say “I regret my abortion.” And if they are going to regret it, they shouldn’t have one.

avatar Rob G January 8, 2013 at 7:54 am

“Your gripe seems to be directed to the fact that, under our system, the state cannot be placed into the service of the bishop to enforce Christian morals on the population as a whole.”

Absolutely not. First of all, I’m not Catholic, which seems to be your assumption. Secondly, I do not wish Christian morals to be enforced legally, but rather, I wish that they’d not be flouted culturally, aided and abetted by the modern state. Liberalism, even that of the constitutional variety, is inherently tyrannical, and will not stop here.

“you seem to have stumbled into a bit of hypocrisy”

What I meant was that I’d never make peace with the current understanding/interpretation of the thing. I’d actually be quite satisfied with a third-trimester ban. Of course, I’d see it as a starting point only, but as I said above, it could be that legally it never gets farther than that. In which case it would be an improvement over the current situation.

“Fortunately, what you will make peace with is immaterial.”

Fortunately for my soul’s sake, it isn’t for me.

“You may rail against the night, or you may attempt to persuade those who actually have power to make a decision”

The two are not mutually exclusive, and I shall continue to do both. If I can get another Christian possibly to rethink his compromise on this issue I shall consider my “railing” to have been a success.

avatar Bobby January 8, 2013 at 11:50 am

Rob,

I’m using the term “bishop” to refer to any and all who exercise ecclesiastical authority. I’m not limiting the term to literal bishops. In a congregational setting, such as that found in most baptist churches, the “bishop” would be the majority will of the voting members of a congregation.

That being said, I don’t see how you can achieve your political aims without requiring the state to placed, at least in part, in the service of the bishop. Absent a substantial non-religious justification, the state simply has no business criminalizing certain conduct, even if that conduct openly flies in the face of Christian morals. Simply put, the state cannot punish people for failing to live as good Christians, even if the good Christians in a certain locale have the electoral power to enact laws intended to have that effect.

avatar Rob G January 9, 2013 at 7:09 am

“Absent a substantial non-religious justification, the state simply has no business criminalizing certain conduct, even if that conduct openly flies in the face of Christian morals.”

You seem to forget that abortion was criminal for centuries, then decriminalized by the state in the wake of an anti-Christian cultural revolution. Flannery O’Connor said that rule by sentimentality (“tenderness”) would result in gas chambers. What we are seeing is that when the secular state gives the stamp of approval to a phallocentric culture the result is millions of dead babies. We have traded our posterity for the right to fornicate. Our god is not our bellies but our genitals.

avatar Tony A. January 9, 2013 at 10:49 am

Whether or why (or if it’s even possible) for the state to be as relentlessly “non-religious” as Bobby insists is certainly an interesting issue. But, it seems the “non-religious” argument against abortion is straightforward: a fetus is human, he or she is a unique being, distinguishable from his or her mother (albeit dependent upon her), therefore the state has the duty to protect that human being, as it likewise has the duty to protect human beings at any stage of development – babies, adolescents, adults, the aged . . . . How is this a “religious” argument, any more than criminalizing murder is based on a religious argument?

Neither Bobby nor Siarlys has presented any reasoned argument as to why the viability of a fetus should matter (which term itself is intentionally misleading – both a fetus and a newborn are completely dependent upon another for their survival.) The Casey decision makes no attempt to provide such an argument – it posits that the state has a greater interest if the fetus is viable, but makes no attempt to say why this is so, other than judicial fiat. If a fetus is only a clump of cells, or only “potential human life” rather than actual, existing human life, then why does the state have any interest in protecting it (I would rather say duty, than interest), regardless of whether or not he or she is considered “viable”?

The Casey decision does, however, make clear that – as Rob G. points out – the whole point of declaring a right to an abortion is an attempt to achieve sex without consequences. The Casey court made it clear that it was considering abortion when used as backup birth control – that it was not basing its decision on questions of rape or danger to the mother’s life.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 9, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Here we go ’round the mulberry bush…

It is truly amazing that discussion on this topic continues at such length and volume, with the same participants turning over the same intractable arguments. I’m game, but I have to laugh at the way we all so earnestly continue to argue. We KNOW what the fundamental point is: some consider it child murder, some don’t consider that there is any child involved.

Rob, I accept your clarified position. That’s fine with me too. If there comes a day when every woman, although free to choose abortion, chooses to carry her pregnancy to term, I will remain entirely satisfied.

However, at least concerning Anglo-Saxon common law, abortion was NOT criminalized for centuries. Laws on the books in American states were adopted in the mid to late 19th century, whereas previously, while frowned upon and far from respectable, abortion had been legally available via midwives. Statutes were more the result of doctors trying to snuff out every practice of midwifery independent of the increasingly dominant and organized medical profession, than the result of any conviction that life begins at conception.

I expect that the state of your soul depends on your own moral adherence, not on how successful you are at getting everyone else to agree.

avatar Bobby January 9, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Rob & Tony,

I have clearly pointed out in my above comments why, at one point in our nation’s history, the state may have possessed a substantial non-religious justification for criminalizing abortion. Such justification lay with the need to preserve traditional family roles in an agrarian society that depended critically upon such family arrangement. As we’ve moved from an agrarian society to an industrial society to a post-industrial society, the state’s interest in preserving certain family arrangements has attenuated. Such arrangements, while important, are no longer deemed critical to our economic security as a nation.

In our Anglo-American legal tradition, the fetus has never enjoyed the rights that the law accords to the post-birth infant. It would mark a radical break with 400 years of legal tradition to start conferring such rights on the fetus now. It is exclusively on the basis of religious conviction that one can assert unambiguously that the fetus (or a zygote) is a life in the same sense that a 6-year-old child is. The state has no business forcing such religious judgments on the population as a whole.

The state has a legitimate interest in the life of the post-viability fetus because, at that stage, labor could be induced and parties besides the mother could provide sustenance. Because the state is among the parties that could provide such sustenance, the state has a sufficient interest in the life of the post-viability fetus to justify its enactment of laws that limit post-viability abortions. This is fairly implied by the Court’s opinion in Casey. Prior to viability, however, it is impossible for the state to provide sustenance to the fetus, except by forcing the mother to do so under threat of criminal punishment. At that earlier stage, the state’s interests in the fetus are too thin to justify such exercise of force.

The two of you seem to be a bit too hung up on sex. It does seem that your opposition to abortion may be rooted, at least in part, in a desire to increase the potential consequences associated with having recreational sex. I share your concern regarding the hook-up culture, and recognize that the availability of abortion permits that culture to thrive. Even so, the state has no legitimate non-religious purpose in denying people the right to make consensual choices regarding their sex lives. This doesn’t mean that I believe that we should all live as libertines (or that I live as a libertine). It simply means that I believe that the Constitution prevents the state from restricting individual liberties in this way. This, of course, means that some people will conduct themselves irresponsibly, and will take unwise advantage of the liberties they possess. While this saddens me, I do not see that our Constitution permits the state to punish all manner of human irresponsibility.

I agree that abortion is a grossly irresponsible act in most instances. But this is a problem that is better addressed through patient moral suasion and not by the threat of criminal punishment.

Lastly, as I repeatedly have noted, criminalizing murder, theft, arson, drunk driving, etc. is justified by a litany of reasons that have nothing to do with religion. While there may be concomitant religious objections to such things, it is not on the basis of these religious objections that the state is criminalizing such conduct.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 9, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Tony, I’ve provided plenty of argument why the viability of the fetus should matter, but you find it convenient to bypass it all with a flat denial, the better to move on to your counter-argument (and it is a counter-argument to a point clearly made).

The difference between a delivered child’s dependence on others, and partially-formed fetus’s dependence on others, is that the delivered child does not depend upon inhabiting the body of an adult person. It can be picked up, fed, hugged, sheltered, clothed, washed, by ANY willing adult, if the mother doesn’t wish to do any of the above. There are “safe haven” laws for newborn infants. There is no way to transfer a fetus to a “safe haven.

It is also relevant that a fetus prior to about week 20, if “from its mother’s womb untimely torn” is not sufficiently well formed, does not have sufficient biological integrity, to survive even if picked up, hugged, fed… its not ready to handle life outside the womb, and, its not a self-conscious, self-aware ORGANISM. I know you don’t see any difference, but that doesn’t mean that any difference others see is ipso facto invalid.

avatar Bobby January 9, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Siarlys,

I agree that US antiabortion statutes largely were passed primarily for the reasons you describe. On the other hand, I believe that, at that time, the state may have had other legitimate interests for exercising such control.

I’ve appreciated your comments above. I too have become a bit frustrated by the discussion. In some ways, it’s not surprising. In contrast to other activist movements, antiabortion activists operate in something of an epistemic bubble, wherein they’ve failed to grasp how illogical and unpersuasive their arguments really are. In that sense, they’re much more focused on increasing intensity among those who truly believe in the cause, even if that comes at the risk of unnecessarily alienating mainstream Americans from that cause. In contrast, the gay rights movement has succeeded precisely because they’ve marginalized the radicals (for the most part), accepted incremental gains, and focused on developing arguments that will be persuasive to the center-right mainstream. The above discussion suggests to me that antiabortion activists are simply too comfortable with the bullhorn to adopt any other means of advocacy.

avatar Rob G January 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm

“The two of you seem to be a bit too hung up on sex.”

I was waiting to see how long it took before that venerable howler was trotted out. The culture is completely hypersexualized, some of us don’t like it and call it out, and we’re the ones hung up on sex!

As far as abortion goes the camel may be in the tent for good. I do not, however, feel compelled to make him tea. Or, in the fine words of J. F. Stephen, “The waters are out and no human force can turn them back; but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.”

I do not believe the Constitution truly allows the killing of infants in the womb (the Framers, I think, would be appalled by such a gross misinterpretation and misapplication of their document), but if it did I would simply say that it’s not Holy Writ, and therefore, the hell with it.

avatar Bobby January 10, 2013 at 12:33 am

Rob,

I feel like we’ve made progress here. In the end, you’ve admitted that your views concerning the criminalization of abortion are rooted in your Christian convictions, and that you are generally unwilling to accept that the Constitution could say anything different from what your religion teaches. I suspect that that’s the case of most who advocate for the re-enactment of laws that criminalize abortion.

It strikes me that it would be more productive–for you and for society–to channel your passions on this issue into some form of advocacy that focuses more on moral suasion and less on trying to criminally punish alleged wrongdoers. Working with a crisis pregnancy center would be a great place to start.

avatar Anymouse January 10, 2013 at 12:58 am

That is important and necessary, but that is entirely a different matter from undoing the problems of modernity, and imagining how that might be done.

I will also point out that in the middle ages, civil law would not have needed to be dealt with concerning abortion because of the prominence of canon law, and there any unnatural interference in human sexuality was opposed.

Cult is the foundation of culture.

avatar Anymouse January 10, 2013 at 1:00 am

Actual I will rephrase things: that is indeed *one part* of undoing modernity, but not everything that is necessary for that.

avatar Bobby January 10, 2013 at 8:02 am

Anymouse,

I think that’s the point. We don’t live under a legal regime where religious institutions have the kind of legal authority that they possessed 600 years ago. And, frankly, I think that’s a good thing. Few Americans are probably interested in living under a legal regime that permits local church leaders to round up alleged wrongdoers, try them according to canon law, and burn them at the stake for not conducting themselves as good Christians.

avatar Rob G January 10, 2013 at 9:56 am

“In contrast, the gay rights movement has succeeded precisely because they’ve marginalized the radicals (for the most part), accepted incremental gains, and focused on developing arguments that will be persuasive to the center-right mainstream. ”

It is easy to sway people when you’ve got the entire media industry on your side, and you’re paddling with the cultural stream rather than against it. Someone’s called it the “Will and Grace effect.”

They have not marginalized the radicals; the media just doesn’t let you see them. They are still there and just as active as ever.

“focuses more on moral suasion and less on trying to criminally punish alleged wrongdoers. ”

I will be anxious to see if you are just as vociferous when the punishments start being meted out against those who speak up for traditional morality, as they already are in some other countries. But be careful here. Liberalism is tyrannical, and there is always someone more liberal than you, someone who’s perfectly willing to take you to the woodshed. Or the gulag, as the case may be.

avatar Tony A. January 10, 2013 at 10:22 am

I wouldn’t think that Rob or I were the first ones to notice an inherent, natural connection between sex and babies, nor do I see why noticing such a connection makes either of us “hung up on sex”, but whatever.

Siarlys, your assertion that prior to 20 weeks, a fetus is not a self-conscious, self-aware organism is ambiguous. Are you saying that prior to 20 weeks, a fetus is not an organism, or are you saying that it is an organism, but is not self-conscious and is not self-aware?

As far as the self-conscious and self-aware aspects go, since those are both by definition subjective states, how does anyone know that pre-20 weeks a fetus is not self-conscious nor self-aware? Or, conversely, how does anyone know that post-20 weeks a fetus is self-conscious and self-aware?

I understand your distinction, that before viability, the mother plays the essential role in keeping the fetus alive and she cannot pass that role on to another. But, your distinction between an insufficient state interest pre-viability and a sufficient state interest post-viability assumes the existence of a state interest in the first place. It still doesn’t explain why, if a fetus is only a ‘clump of cells’ or only ‘potential life’, the state has any duty to protect it, regardless of whether it is viable or not.

Similarly, if a fetus is only a clump of cells or only ‘potential’ life, then why is “abortion . . . a grossly irresponsible act in most instances”?

avatar Bobby January 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Tony,

The state doesn’t have a duty to do anything. The Constitution imposes no duty on the state to criminalize anything.

The question of constitutionality only arises once the state has taken action, for example, by enacting a criminal statute and then prosecuting someone under that statute. At that point, the defendant may raise a defense of unconstitutionality, arguing that there is no substantial non-religious purpose justifying the particular state action in question.

The Court has held that the state MAY criminalize abortion after viability because, at that point, the state is in a position to take over care from the mother (once labor is induced and the fetus is born). But prior to viability, the state cannot do this. Therefore, the state’s interest in the pre-viability fetus is too tenuous to justify the exercise of criminal force. Bear in mind, though, that the state is under no duty to protect post-viability fetal life.

The Constitution does not impose an affirmative duty on states to act in any particular sphere. Rather, it carves out a narrow sphere in which state action is permissible. Outside of this narrow sphere, individual liberties prevail.

avatar Bobby January 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Tony,

Also, stop putting words into my mouth. I never said that a fetus is merely a clump of cells. In fact, my personal convictions regarding fetal life are probably not too different from yours. But those convictions are based entirely on my religious convictions, and I have no expectation that the state use criminal force to further policies that merely favor my religious preferences.

avatar Rob G January 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

“I wouldn’t think that Rob or I were the first ones to notice an inherent, natural connection between sex and babies”

Yes, in fact it’s the relentless effort of the modernist project to sever this inherent, natural connection that has caused the problem in the first place.

avatar Anymouse January 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

“Few Americans are probably interested in living under a legal regime that permits local church leaders to round up alleged wrongdoers, try them according to canon law, and burn them at the stake for not conducting themselves as good Christians.”
This is an overly simplistic description of that system, but no matter.

We are objectively at an impasse, because I consider the world of 600 years ago a far better guide to a traditional and conservative society than one invented in the context of reformation and revolution 300 years ago.

avatar Rob G January 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm

“In the end, you’ve admitted A) that your views concerning the criminalization of abortion are rooted in your Christian convictions, and B) that you are generally unwilling to accept that the Constitution could say anything different from what your religion teaches.”

Regarding A, I guess I’m not very good at compartmentalization, thanks be unto God, although one can certainly make a natural law argument against abortion that wouldn’t depend on specifically Christian teaching. Regarding B, of course I accept that the Constitution and Christianity can differ. But for the believer, the latter must trump the former when they do. The two things don’t exist in separate hermetically sealed chambers.

avatar Ahunt January 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm

“I wouldn’t think that Rob or I were the first ones to notice an inherent, natural connection between sex and babies”

Yes, we get this.

But let me just check one thing …no one here has any objection, say, to a married woman who has birthed all the children she intends getting herself a tubal ligation, correct?

avatar Anymouse January 10, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I would, in fact. As would most traditional Christians.

avatar Anymouse January 10, 2013 at 5:34 pm

The same as a man getting a vasectomy.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 10, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Let me briefly note that I find nothing illogical about the pro-life position. Assuming the premise that a new independent human life deserving of full legal protection exists from the moment of conception, all else in the pro-life argument follows logically and inexorably. It is the premise that divides us.

Tony, you’re losing the argument and casting up classic straw men to try to retain your own sense of righteousness. Nothing I said is subjective. I’m looking at (a) the absence of ANY nervous system initially, then (b) the rudimentary nature of what nervous system there is, lacking the dense concentration of nerve cells forming a central nervous system capable of directing the other organs and sensing the whole. Its really quite quantitative. AFTER the quantitative development is passed, things do get quite subjective and nebulous, which is why I err on the conservative side by saying twenty weeks, not end of second trimester.

The state has an interest in the protection of the baby once a baby has in fact been formed, precisely because it is no longer a cell, a clump of cells, or the incomplete outline of differentiating cells that are not yet an organism. Its not a hard distinction to understand, unless you are running away from the obvious.

Anymouse is of course entitled to his opinion. He doesn’t present much danger of being able to impose that opinion on the rest of us, but if he did, that’s why we have

a) the First Amendment, and,

b) the Second Amendment.

The government he envisions would be truly tyrannical and worthy of armed resistance.

avatar Anymouse January 10, 2013 at 8:33 pm

That statement is truly absurd, and worthy of ridicule.

In what way was our pre modern society tyrannical? I see nothing tyrannical about a society where a maiden can seek a husband without the need for her parent’s approval, and a youth need not worry about being sexually humiliated in front of his sister, wife, or mother as punishment.

I do see something tyrannical about a society where a maiden can be forced to suffer the abortion of her fetus, be prevented from gaining any legal recognition of any marriage she engages in, and a man can be sexually abused for engaging in behavior that would be acceptable for someone a few years older.

So we can have a nice long discussion about tyranny, if you wish.

avatar Ahunt January 10, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Yeah.

So Anymouse, would you at least agree then that a married woman has no obligation to engage in procreative type sex with her husband unless she wants to be pregnant? Yes, no, maybe?

avatar Art Nesten January 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Siarlys Jenkins: ” There has never been ANY precedent that a fetus is a person.”

Yes, there has.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laci_Peterson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unborn_Victims_of_Violence_Act

Feel free to ignore Siarlys Jenkins’s comments on this thread, everyone. She doesn’t know what she is talking about, but says nonsense with such righteous fervor it’s unlikely you’ll get through to her.

avatar Art Nesten January 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I reject the notion that anyone, man or woman, has any right to murder an unborn person in utero, or that the prevention of such murder takes away “rights” of a man or a woman. Such “rights” do not exist nor can they be argued to exist, any more than a right for a parent to intentionally starve his child to death. Rather, parents have both a right and a responsibility to care for their children at all stages of their childhood.

avatar Tony A. January 16, 2013 at 11:12 am

Art,

Siarlys is a he, not a she, although you are quite right in his propensity to say nonsense with righteous fervor . . .

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