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Murder is always a crime

I have always taken what I regard to be a classically liberal and ruggedly secular approach to the issue of abortion, a matter which I feel is best dealt with by reference to degree rather than dogma.

It is for these reasons that I have (and still do) lean towards the view that abortion is a matter for the individual conscience rather than the dictates of the state. This does not mean that I think aborting a foetus is a good thing. It simply reflects my belief that a blanket prohibition would be a cure that proves to be worse than the disease.

However, there is abortion and then there is ‘partial-birth abortion’, a process that is conducted between the 20th and 26th week of gestation when the infant is dragged from the womb feet-first before being killed by a blow to the skull. For the life of me I cannot see how this barbaric process can be distinguished from murder most foul.

So I have no hesitation in endorsing British conservative Peter Cuthbertson in his welcome of this decision of the US Senate:

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 received a 64-33 vote. It now heads to the Republican-led House, which passed the ban last year before it was stopped in the then-controlled Democratic Senate.

Peter has uploaded some photographic evidence of the horrific aftermath of a partial-birth abortion. He should make no apologies for doing so. That the truth is ugly and unpalatable is all the more reason for confronting it and it is not anti-liberty to protect a small human being from this brutal and undeserved fate.

45 comments to Murder is always a crime

  • I really had no idea what the term “Partial Birth Abortion” means. Obviously an euphemism.

    I don’t have to look at those images to agree that it is murder. With today’s technology it should be no problem to keep the child alive.

  • John J. Coupal

    Actually, we’ve been down that road before.

    Both the Senate and House passed the abortion ban. But Clinton vetoed it. And there were not enough Congressional votes to over-ride the veto.

    Have I mentioned that Clinton is ex-president?
    Have I mentioned that I’m very happy?

  • If you are at all concerened with coming up with a intelligent or rational answer for when abortions are permissable, the very last place on earth you should look is photographs.

    * If you use religon as your reasoning, you might oppose abortion before or shortly after conception.

    * If you use scientifically measurable human-ness as a criterion, you might look for when the nervous system or brain develops to a certain point. Others use organ differentation (which by the way would invalidate partial-birth abortion)

    * If you’d rather not use religion or science, but rather your animal hindbrain , you look at a abortion photo and see if it looks icky.

    Hey, I have an Idea. Since the way something looks determines its humanity, lets kill all the ugly or deformed people. And give hairless apes citizenship, since they look more human than most fetuses do.

  • Oh, and:

    * If you use the ‘rights of the woman’ as your basis, you can justify abortion all the way up to birth, if you are so inclined.

    Sorry for not including this rather major part of the debate.

  • Thanks for the defence.

    Ralf, as I understand the term, partial birth abortion means aborting the baby while she is partially born – only the head is left in the womb while the procedure is carried out.

    Ryan, I don’t think actually looking at photographs of babies at various stages of development is irrational. You hear all sorts of language about blastocysts and foetuses and blobs of protoplasm which for many cover up the fact that the difference between the person in question and you or me is one of size and age. Seeing photographs of the babies in question at least allows people who are caught out by such rhetoric to see what is really being talked about.

  • Ryan Waxx

    So, in effect you are hawking photos as a REPLACEMENT for knowing what a blastocyst or fetus is. And by extension, as a substitute for informed debate. Thank you for completely confirming my point.

    I think that what might be going on is these photos are merely confirming what you already believe. And since what you believe must axiomatically be true, any means to get there must be OK.

    Those who believe differently, well they are “caught out by such rhetoric” by which a mysterious many cover up the facts (your words).

    Its funny, for all you decry eeevil rhetoric, you’ve failed to note that the pictures you laud are the graphical analoge of rhetoric. This is, both are primarily meant to persuade by inflaming emotion.

    Don’t pretend shock-photos convey meaningful information just because you sypmathize with the message.

  • Ryan Waxx, get real! Of course, pictures are important, they can be as informational as words, and more so. Are you telling me that pictures of victims of concentration camps should not have been used for trying those who built them, simply because their inhumanity and horror inflames human passion?!

    We respond both to words and images that can equally share the ability to impart knowledge and understanding. Images are especially important in this case since gruesome reality of partial birth abortion hides behind an obscure and innocuous description.

    So, if you are saying that you have already made up you mind about the issue and you are upset about ‘nasty’ pictures showing just how monstrous that position is, just examine your emotions. A random lashing out at us will not help you…

  • Ryan Waxx

    You are going to have to do better than “well, you made up your mind toOOoo, so there!”.

    Holocaust photos are valuable, but they are valuable in the same way a well-written rhetortical account of the gas chambers might be.

    Holocaust photos are not useful for developing a definition of genocide. There was no Auchwitz in Serbia, nor in Rwanda. But there is no question that the latter were genocides.

    Similarly, abortion photos are not useful for coming up with a definition for when an abortion is infanticide.

  • Ryan,

    So, if I read an account of a partial-birth abortion and conclude that it should be prohibited by law, I take it you would not object?

  • Ryan Waxx

    You have it exactly backwards, probably intentionally.

    If you were to base your defintion of when its impermissable to abort based on any kind of rhetoric, picture OR prose, rather then troubling your pretty little head with details like “what a blastocyst is”, then I’d have to conclude that you’ve based your opinion on garbage.

    Even “because God says so” is a more rational argument then that, provided you believe in God.

  • Ryan,

    First of all, please calm down. Do you always embark upon a fit of petulant shrieking every time you hear something you disagree with? It’s hardly conducive to getting your views across.

    If you have some scientific or medical knowledge that you could employ to both enlighten and impress me then may I suggest that that would be far more effective.

    In the meantime, you have not persuaded me to review my position.

  • Ryan Waxx

    How to win a debate (for dummies):

    First, begin with characterizing an opponent’s position as “petulant shrieking”. This will make him want to agree with you.

    Then, ask for “scientific or medical knowledge” that you haven’t yourself provided, unless you’ve been commenting in invisible ink.

    Next, make absolutely certain you don’t engage the opponent’s argument. In this case, convienently ignore that the entire POINT of the opponent was that your chosen medium – shock photos – is devoid of “scientific or medical knowledge”

    … unless you consider Hey Joe, get a load of this: human fetuses are shaped like… humans! to be a scientific and medical breakthrough, that is.

    Finally, conclude that failure to convince you is proof that the argument is bad.

    Remember: logic burrrns us, buuurns us it does! Wicked, tricksy loooogiiiiiic!

  • Ryan Waxx

    To sum up, how a fetus LOOKS is not suitable information to base your belief on “when does life begin?” on. The question of is far too complex (at least to non-dogmatic folk) to be summed up by an appeal to the hindbrain.

    Yes, concentration camp photos are shocking. But that is not the reason that genocide is wrong. And if you try to answer the question “when does genocide begin?” with them, you will make grave mistakes. Is this an unreasonable conclusion?

    I do not claim that you must come up with an answer I agree with. I simply say that this is not the process you should use to get there, because it is seriously flawed.

  • I think what Ryan is operating under is a Vulcan from Star Trek version of logic where every emotional response or reaction is automatically illogical. So if the pictures make someone feel compassion for the one who suffered, or shame at having supported it, then in his eyes that reaction can be dismissed and ignored.

    Ryan, it’s not about replacing knowledge of a blastocyst that people might look at pictures of the unborn, but about showing people that whatever biological language is used, they are fundamentally still human babies. I know myself that when I was younger I would take all talk of the baby in the womb as being talk of some sort of separate species or a sperm-like creature or something. Pro-abortion people encourage that, of course, because it makes the emotional separation easier. So I don’t think many people are familiar with the reality.

    There’s no point denying that a huge chunk of pro-abortion rhetoric is about separating the baby in the womb from any idea of a human being. When have you ever heard someone ask what sex a woman’s “foetus” is? It’s always her “baby” until the point at which abortion is mentioned, when suddenly the emotional separation is encouraged by reverting to biological techie-talk.

    You may not like that sometimes photographs show how absurd this sort of thinking is, but there’s nothing irrational about it. It’s just something you’d rather didn’t happen.

  • Ryan Waxx

    …but about showing people that whatever biological language is used, they are fundamentally still human babies.

    At its most literal, this is an true, but inane statement. Of course they are human fetuses… do you see yourself as dispelling the myth that we were aborting cow fetuses?

    But at the level you meant it, that these pictures “show” that we are killing the legal or moral equivelant of a fully-born, viable infant, then I contend that they are not capable of doing so. You might well come up with this conclusion using other means, but this isn’t anything like rational evidence.

    And – this is an important point – although you may not LIKE people calling the unborn “fetuses” it is the more accurate term for this discussion. “Baby” can refer to either the born or the unborn. “Fetus” is more specific.

    And the reason you want to use the term “baby”? That’s easy: you want to take advantage of an overly broad definition – conflating fetuses with infants, and thereby appeal to the animal hindbrain, AGAIN.

    If there is a one, true, discoverable definition of when human-ness begins, it won’t be found by how icky a picture makes us feel. Or should I use your logic, show you a photo of a slaughterhouse and demand you conclude that eating meat is immoral?

    Remind me: who’s being irrational, again?

  • Hep Cat

    “let’s kill all the deformed people”

    I’m 42 years old. And there are a lot fewer deformed people born in the U.S. now than when I was a child. Better science? Maybe. But my guess is that with the use of the sonagram that they have been killed, er, aborted.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Hep Cat: Then you agree with me that human-ness is not found in what a person looks like, right? Oh, you don’t agree? Guess this ‘logic’ thing only has to apply to me.

  • Hep Cat


    What I am saying is that doctors and parents are looking at an image (a picture) of their unborn child and using that image deciding whether the fetus lives or dies. They base their decision on the physical attributes of the fetus; not some ethereal ideal.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Not to get into a debate on abortion, but I was not surprised to hear the BBCWS yesterday report the story in such a way that implied American women were losing all abortion rights.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Not really: I would imagine that they listen to the doctor’s assessment of the sonogram more than they try to interpet the picture directly.

    The PICTURE is irrevelant in comparison to the INFORMATION, once again… although I don’t feel that you and I are being very relevant to the discussion at hand with this comparison.

    Sonagrams != Anti-abortion activist shock photos.

  • Yes, Ryan, in abortion debates, pro-lifers refer to babies and pro-abortion people to foetuses. But the difference is that it’s only when you get to abortion that the biological rhetoric starts. No normal person asks a pregnant woman if the foetus has started kicking yet, or what sex her foetus is. But as soon as abortion comes up, its supporters start using biological rhetoric to dehumanise those they want to destroy – a ploy that has many unpleasant historical precedents which I don’t need to mention.

  • For the benefit of record, my decision was not based on the photographs.

    For Ryan, your approach appears to be that of someone who regards this as a personal challenge. I assure you it is not. I assume (though you have not stated as much) that you are opposed to any prohibition on partial-birth abortion. Fine. That is a view to which you are perfectly entitled.

    I am in favour of such a prohibition and mere allegations that such a position is ‘irrational’ (your case thus far) fall far short of the standard of persuasion necessary for me to review my decision.

  • Ryan Waxx

    That’s the first time I’ve heard medical terminology referred to as “rhetoric”. You may want to re-examine that line of reasoning, if it forces you into such contrortions.

    If your argument can’t survive when expressed in accurate, dispassionate terms, then you may have a problem.

  • Mr Carr:

    Not once have I said that being in favor of partial-birth abortion is irrational. My comments are all recorded here, I invite you to check… maybe I misspoke, but I doubt it.

    What I have said, and I thought I was clear on this, was that basing your opinion on what the fetuses look like rather than religon, science, ‘human rights’, individual rights, or a balance thereof was irrational. I said that a picture cannot tell you what you claim to have discovered, though it may justly solidify your opinion.

    My personal belief in abortion is irrelevant – but I will say that it might suprise you how little it differs from yours.

    I can oppose genocide without seeing a photo. I have visited a slaughterhouse and still eat beef. And I’ve seen the websites of anti-abortionists, with their comparisons of abortion to the Holocaust, and their convoys of shock-photos as their substitute for thought.

    And have come to the conclusion that they will not be even slightly sated with this ban. Giving them a reasonable compromise will accomplish nothing. Extend an olive branch, and you’ll come away without a hand, or even the whole arm.

    They say they are forcing people to choose sides. They should bear in mind that this works in BOTH directions. A bloody photo cannot resolve the question of what it means to be human. But it most certainly can reveal how extreme the activist is.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Of course I meant to say: Not once have I said that being against partial-birth abortion is irrational.

  • The U.S., unlike the U.K., has a Constitution which government is supposed to follow. The latest iteration of the late-term abortion ban is essentially the same as the legislation that prompted this editorial I wrote that was published in 1997: Abortion ban shows inconsistency of Hostettler and conservatives”.

    In the editorial I note that the administration of criminal justice is a state power and not an enumerated power of the federal government. So even if abortion is murder, it is up to the states to punish it. Beyond that there is the problem that the ban attempts to legislate on the basis of the commerce clause.

    In the header I added to the editorial on my website, I refer to a law review article by Glenn Reynolds and David Kopel published later that same year that deals with the commerce clause problems in great depth.

    If abortion in general or late term abortions in particular are “immoral”, and people want a federal law prohibiting same, the solution is amend the constitution. However, as I point out, every state in the U.S. prohibits elective late term abortions anyway, so this legislation is pure posturing.

  • Byron

    I understand what Ryan is saying, and mostly agree, although I do think the partial-birth abortion pictures are not completely devoid of informational merit.

    However, I know from past Samizdata discussions that David and Peter (and 99% of the rest of the posters here) have thoroughly rational and informed reasons for their beliefs. I’m pretty sure David’s reference to the pictures was not meant to be the sole or primary justification for banning partial-birth abortions.

  • Byron

    In fact, the real abortion debate centers around the argument of when does a fertilized egg become a human? Before it becomes a human it can be considered part of a woman’s body and she has the right to do with her body whatever she wants. After it becomes a human, it is granted the rights all humans enjoy, including the the right to life. But just when does it become human?

    However, before we even get into that, is a fertilized egg truly part of a woman’s body? Isn’t it also part of the man’s body, having been fertilized by his sperm and containing his complete DNA?

  • Ryan (please call me David),

    Well, I took it that your charge was that the basis for my decision was irrational. However, let me assure you that I did not make a decision based on the photographs on Peter’s blog. I have read other articles and material on this procedure and, as a result, I have formed the view that a prohibition is justified and not anti-liberty.

    I am aware that this whole issue has a much higher political profile in the US than it does here in Britain. I am also aware that there are a number of people in the US who campaign relentlessly for a blanket ban on abortion and who, on occasion, have even resorted to murder in order to further their cause.

    As I said in my original post I am opposed to a blanket ban on abortion. Perhaps I should have emphasised this more robustly. I realise that this decision by the US Senate will whet the appetite of these people and energise to further their efforts. In response I can only state that I would stand four-square in opposition to any such efforts. (Of course, not being a US citizen my own views are of no significance to the debate really).

    I appreciate your fears but I feel, on balance, that this decision is right and just. Abortion is one of those very difficult subjects with great globs of grey area and, as such, there is no policy which is likely to prove satisfactory to all. I operate on an assumption against state intervention balanced with the need to protect life. Of course it is all damnably difficult and messy. It is never going to be anything but.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Byron – The following is intended only as tools to help clarify some issues…

    It might help to divorce the “woman’s body” from the rest of the argument, when considering this question.

    Since ‘women’s rights’ have nothing to do with weather the life is a full human, consider a fetus developing inside a mechanical womb. Its no less and no more human than a natural birth, so when would it be illegal or immoral to turn the mechanical womb off?

    Incidentally, you might also want to ask yourself weather humanity is an on-off switch or a spectrum. Any law would have to be based on a on-off idea, but that’s one reason why law isn’t the same as ethics.

  • An addition to my earlier comments, re constitutionality of Congressional action on late term abortions.

    A reading of the Constitution based upon the actual meaning of various sections at the time they were ratified would yield the following analysis. Prior to July 9, 1868, any state in the union could have regulated abortion as it saw fit. The federal government had no power to regulate abortion itself, nor to place restrictions on the states. The date is important because that was when the 14th Amendment was ratified and became a part of the Constitution.

    It is section 1 of the 14th Amendment that extends the protections of the bill of rights and other “privileges and immunities” to all citizens of the U.S. Citizens are defined as “persons born or naturalized” in the U.S. and states may not make or enforce any law that infringes on “privileges or immunities” of citizens.

    The “privileges or immunities” clause of Section 1 of the 14th was rendered a nullity in a poorly decided Supreme Court case in 1873. The extenstion of the bill of rights to the states was rehabilited in the 20th century by the Supreme Court, but not through privileges or immunities, instead by a dubious concept known as substantive due process. Irrespective of this, the Supreme Court does seem to acknowledge that constitutional protections extend to citizens — non-citizen such as enemy combatants aren’t protected by the Constitution, for example and neither are non-citizen aliens though they may be protected by treaties and international agreements that function as treaties.

    In the case of eggs/embryos/feetuses, not only are they not citizens, they aren’t even persons as the term was understood in 1868. Thus, a woman who is a citizen of the U.S. has fundamental rights — including unenumerated rights (see the 9th amendment) such as the right to control her own body — which states may not abridge. A fetus, on the other hand, has no rights that it can assert. A state cannot take rights away from a person in favor of a non-person.

    Undoubtably, if you had asked Congressman Bingham and Senator Howard, the main promoters of Section 1 of the 14th, if they thought that the 14th would prohibit states from banning abortions they would probably have said “no” until you explained the full ramifications of the language to them. In fact, Bingham and Howard claimed some years after ratification that only the first 8 amendments were “incorporated” — that would, of course, exclude the 9th.

    The definitive book on the history and meaning of Section 1 of the 14th is “No State Shall Abridge…” by Michael Kent Curtis. I highly recommend it.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Mr Carr:

    You made it quite clear in your post that you don’t support a blanket ban. I’m suggesting that, faced with such fanaticism, partial-birth abortion may be a political firebreak preventing them from encroaching further.

    You did seem to be introducing the photos as evidence… saying that the “truth is ugly and unpalatable is all the more reason for confronting it”.

    But if we agree that the photos aren’t really evidence, that’s fine. We can then agree to disagree on the finer points of the law, which after all account for less than 1% of abortions overall.

  • Russ Goble

    Ahh….what were you thinking? Abortion? Neal Boortz, a libertarian syndicated talk show host here in the states has a policy regarding abortion. He doesn’t talk about it. Mainly because it won’t change anyone’s mind. Also, because it’s impossible to have a sane and calm debate without the extremists from both sides shouting everyone else down (It’s MURDER!! IT’S THE PATRIARCHY!).

    It’s too bad. It’s an important issue, that is very complex and getting more complex everyday due to medical science. It’s also, at least in the states, loaded with federalism questions that no one bothers to answer. It’s why I’m mostly pro-choice, but I’m also against the Roe v. Wade decision as a matter of law. Your not ever allowed to deal with questions regarding what place viability holds in the question. I mean, if the baby can live outside the mother’s body, is it really only “part of her body” or a separate life. And lord knows medical science is gonna blur the hell out of that line. And then what about the morning after pill?

    Oh well, the abortion debate, especially here in the states is one of those debates that causes most people’s eyes to glaze over and have people starting to plan out next week’s shopping list. And it’s because the extremists have destroyed any civilized debate about the MANY grey areas like partial-birth abortions.

    And on a side note, what is up with this “fOetus” thing. I’ve seen it spelled that way 3 times now in here so it must be intentional. Is that another one of those words you crazy Brits spell with unnecessary letters? “coloUr” “fOetus.” My worldview expands everyday when I come here.

  • Ryan,

    On the general issue of using photographs or other images as part of an informed debate on the subject of abortion or genocide, you have problems with their use, if they are designed to elicit a particular response.

    You deride such responses as emanating from some ‘hindbrain’ and argue that they are no substitute for an informed debate using whatever concepts and terminology as appropriate.

    However, images are useful for providing the visual confirmation of an argument and for eliciting moral sentiments that reinforce that point.

    Images, on their own, cannot contribute to a debate but they can aid and reinforce an individual’s position.

    By reproducing that photograph, Peter Cuthbertson will have drawn British people into the debate. As abortion is far less controversial here, such pictures are rarely seen. When one views it, there is an initial disgust, followed by a desire to learn more and verify whether the initial reaction is a correct one or whether learning about the debate desensitises this reaction.

    As such, the photograph is both useful and appropriate. Debate that includes the use of such images is healthy, flexible, rational and practical.

  • Russ Goble

    Regarding what amounts to slippery slope arguments about how the pro-life camp will be emboldened by this decision. Have a little faith in the voting populace. Poll after poll over the last decade or two have shown that well over 70% of Americans support legal abortion into the second trimester. After that, it definately is more split. Also, most Americans don’t have a problem with teenage notification or a 24-hour waiting period. Also nearly 90% of Americans supported the partial-birth abortion ban. OK, so, that’s why it passed. It was popular. And instead of a President shoring up his base to veto a congress-passed law (Clinton), you’ll have a President shoring up his base to sign it into law (Bush). Politics as usual.

    It doesn’t mean there are going to be back-door abortion doctors tomorrow. It’s not even close. Also, most legal scholars don’t even think the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, even with another conservative judge or two since the court would appear to be giving into protesters. I don’t know if that’s correct but I can see the rationale.

    Also, while the stereotype of the nutjob Christian anti-abortion protester has some validity, by far the more influential and uncompromising side of the debate in 2003 is on the pro-choice side. The anti-abortion Republican’s know they’ve lost debate for a total ban. There is a reason why most Republicans say they are pro-life and would pass a constitutional amendment outlawing it. It’s safe to do it. Why? Because they know they’ll never be faced with that decision in our lifetimes. So, you say your pro-life, shore up the base, and go talk about tax cuts and terrorism which is what the swing voters care about.

    But, the pro-choice movement (particularly the mainline feminists orgs) are quite radical and totally uncompromising. And they have real influence, at least in one of America’s two political parties. Yet, they do not allow any sort of “encroachment” on abortion anywhere, anytime, any trimester. ANd because they have defined it as a woman’s right they have (if some feminist propoganda is to be believed) taken the man out of the picture in terms of any say over the decision.

    They even have Democratic Senators threatening another fillibuster over the judicial nominee (Priscilla Owen) whose only publically stated position on the matter was to say that teenage notification was legal. For this, the pro-choice movement has labeled her an extremists judge. An extremists for saying that a law that doesn’t actually prevent a teenage girl from having an abortion is legal (and quite popular as well). It is this type of uncompromising attitude and fire-bombing of the appointment process that has many fairly pro-choice men like myself completely dismayed with the speakers of that movement.

    I remember when Bush 1 was nomitating some of his Supreme Court justices, the media got all in a tizzy trying to say he was giving a litmus test on the abortion issue before nominating (despite his claims to the contrary and that his nominee Souter is one of the more liberal judges). Yet, does anyone doubt that Bill Clinton did the same thing?

  • Sandy P.

    It’s not that widespread either, I think it’s only about 500 or so a year.

  • That’s what the abortion industry claimed, but one single clinic was in fact found to have performed 3,000 in a single year. Even if every other abortion clinic performed only one-hundredth that figure, it’s still a hell of a lot over 500.

  • Hep Cat


    “The picture is irrelevant compared to the information”

    To the parents yes, but not to the physican giving them his professional assessment. He is basing a great deal of his recommendation on what the fetuse looks like. Your rarely see children today born with stunted limbs or other deformities which were more common before the 1970’s. Is it is more difficult to catch in genetic mental disorders or mental retardation. But even those disabilities are more rare. In post-coital eugenics photograhs or sonograms may not be able to tell when life begins but they sure can detemine when to prevent or end it.

    I am not anti-abortion per se. What disturbs me is the fact that we can send people to the moon and bring them back, we can split the atom, we can wipe out certain diseases such as small pox and polio, and we can genetically engineer or alter life, but we cannot prevent unwanted pregnancies. I agree that much of the problem is rooted in economics and culture. But we have had the pill for 50 years and I feel and I believe that it is an easily attainable goal. The reason I believe we have not attained this goal is money. We are wedded to abortion right now because it is the cheapest, easiest, and only thing to do with an unwanted pregnancy. Like our fossil fuel problem only when women demand it and a more profitable solution comes along will this goal be reached. It is long overdue.

  • Hep Cat


    “The picture is irrelevant compared to the information”

    To the parents yes, but not to the physican giving them his professional assessment. He is basing a great deal of his recommendation on what the fetuse looks like. Your rarely see children today born with stunted limbs or other deformities which were more common before the 1970’s. Is it is more difficult to catch in genetic mental disorders or mental retardation. But even those disabilities are more rare. In post-coital eugenics photograhs or sonograms may not be able to tell when life begins but they sure can detemine when to prevent or end it.

    I am not anti-abortion per se. What disturbs me is the fact that we can send people to the moon and bring them back, we can split the atom, we can wipe out certain diseases such as small pox and polio, and we can genetically engineer or alter life, but we cannot prevent unwanted pregnancies. I agree that much of the problem is rooted in economics and culture. But we have had the pill for 50 years and I feel and I believe that it is an easily attainable goal. The reason I believe we have not attained this goal is money. We are wedded to abortion right now because it is the cheapest, easiest, and only thing to do with an unwanted pregnancy. Like our fossil fuel problem only when women demand it and a more profitable solution comes along will this goal be reached. It is long overdue.

  • “Murder is always a crime”

    David, this sounds an awful lot like a non sequitur. The term “murder” refers to the deliberate act of wrongly ending the life of another human. Of course it’s always a crime. What needs to be determined is if ending the life of an unborn human is murder, particularly if the pregnancy is near the end of it’s term.

    Additionally, your post contained strong appeals to emotion rather than a serious arguement. I understand that this is an emotional issue (I’ve gotten worked up over it in the past as well), but if we’re going to introduce the power of government into our lives, then there must be a more (pardon the term) rugged approach in your opposition. 😉

    I’m glad you’ve addressed this further in the comments. Personally, I remain somewhat agnostic. I’d rather let the mother (with the advice of the father) make the choice. Having a partial-birth abortion “firebreak” may sound like a good idea, but history has shown that it really is difficult to stop the statist momentum once it begins.

    I will say that even with Ryan’s hard-charging responses, this has been one of the better abortion threads I’ve read. A testament to the site and it’s readers! =)

  • rlbtzero

    Gentlepeople, if partial-birth abortion were being done simply as a convenience to the mother who no longer desired to be pregnant, I would be against it. Unfortunately, not all fetuses are viable. It’s a tragic decision between the woman who is pregnant with a baby that is possibly horribly deformed and her doctor. That is the appropriate place for the decision. It is not the business of the U.S. Senate to interfere with that decision. It is and should remain a medical decision, not a political one.

  • Julian Morrison

    Property is sufficient to make moral calculations about abortion. The woman owns herself and has the right to eject any symbiotic lifeform regardless of whether it’s “human” or not.

    At most, a determination that the baby “is human” should be enough to require that the mother find a way to keep the baby alive outside the womb, if such a thing ever becomes techncally possible (baby transplant or artificial womb).

  • So by that logic, a mother has every right to throw her baby out of her house in the middle of a freezing cold night, because after all, it is her property, right?

    And by the way, partial birth abortion isn’t even just about expelling someone from your body – it also means bludgeoning them first, which even the most stringent property rights do not usually grant someone.

  • Harvey

    Following up Peter Cuthbertson’s post:

    No, the woman would not have the right to throw her baby out of her house because it is her ‘duty’ to either protect and care for it herself, or to hand it over to a capable authority if she does not feel suitable or able (or even willing) to perform the task herself – at this point, there is an actual _baby_ which is an independent human being and is protected as such. Children are not the ‘property’ of their parents. It could perhaps be said that the parents are the property of the children!

    And, by the way, partial birth abortion isn’t even just about expelling _something_ from your body – it also means bludgeoning _it_ first… I am personally surprised that bludgeoning is the method used, i would have assumed an injection would be the method of choice.

    Abortion is never a pretty subject – even first and second trimester abortions are pretty unpleasant for the foetus (I believe they inject a significant quantity of either common salt (NaCl) or KCl which destroys the osmotic balance of the cells.) Suicide by the injection of low sodium salt is not unheard of, and it’s reported to be painful, to say the least.

    To those who describe the use of the term ‘foetus’ as ‘rhetoric,’ let me advise that foetus is indeed the only correct medical term for formed-yet-unborn offspring. Before that (i.e. before the 8th week, which is when major structural characteristics form) the offspring can be described as an ’embryo.’

    I would contend that the use of the word ‘baby’ is more rhetorical than ‘foetus’ – ‘baby’ has emotional connections and humans, like most lifeforms are hard-wired to protect babies. In this debate, I would consider that the use of the word ‘foetus’ is essential if emotional arguments are to be avoided.

    Trying to decide whether abortion is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is just pointless. No-one will agree, because just about everyone has an emotional viewpoint, because few people can really stomach having the true objectively scientific viewpoint (second-to-last-paragraph.) Waving gruesome photographs around and saying ‘this should be banned, it’s gross’ is the equivalent of the political right’s technique of using soundbites to convince a gullible public to vote for them again. I’ve seen the photograph mentioned in the original post, and it does not compare in the slightest with photographs of deformed infants that could be seen in a paediatric textbook.

    What it should really come down to is: it’s either a baby or a foetus. If it’s a baby, it’s a human, and is protected as such. If it’s a foetus, it’s not. Having special cases and exceptions and fuzzy definitions is just unnecessary. It’s also legally ‘interesting’ – if the third-trimester foetus is legally a foetus, why is it illegal to terminate it? What is the legal precedent for this decision – and why does it not extend to the second trimester, when the nervous system is certainly developed in the foetus enough to register pain when the KCl injection takes place during a ‘regular’ abortion.

    Abortion is, as I said, an unpleasant issue that attracts moralists like filth attracts flies.

    If you want to be truly rational about it, life is cheap. Humans are designed to produce more humans. It’s a foetus, they’re fairly easy to make, only takes about 9 months. You can always make another. It’s not going to make disturbing noises at you if you leave the head in the womb while it is killed, and if you want to be ‘kind’ you can always apply a general anaesthetic first – that’s what they do when they euthanise pets, after all.

    It strikes me that this is legislation based upon emotions and unpleasant photographs. Not a wise step – but then again, what else does one expect these days but posturing and catering to the feeble emotions of the masses.

  • Lurch

    Well, you’re com0pletely right, of course. It’s much better for the family and society to let that fetus remain in the womb and gestate to full birth, even if it will kill the host-mother, even if it’s the product of incest or rape.

    By allowing the fetus to be born, we can thereby ensure the child will be completely ignored by a society that is unwilling to properly raise children to be mentally and physically healthy, productive members of a society dedicated to the good and worth of the individual.