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“I helped shut down an abortion debate between two men because my uterus isn’t up for their discussion”

So Oxford student Niamh McIntyre writes in the Independent. She says,

The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups. Debating abortion as if its a topic to be mulled over and hypothesised on ignores the fact that this is not an abstract, academic issue. It may seem harmless for men like Stanley and O’Neil to debate how and if abortion hurts them; it’s clearly harder for people to see that their words and views might hurt women . . . In organizing against this event, I did not stifle free speech. As a student, I asserted that it would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body.

Oxford Students For Life (OSFL) originally planned to hold the debate in Christ Church college. The Oxford magazine Cherwell quotes the Christ Church JCR Treasurer, Will Neaverson, as saying:

“I’m relieved the Censors* have made this decision. It clearly makes the most sense for the safety – both physical and mental – of the students who live and work in Christ Church.

A blog post by OSFL (see link above) indicates that Niamh McIntyre’s pleasure and Tim Neaverson’s relief that debate had been shut down were not spoilt by anyone finding an alternative venue. You can, however, read what Tim Stanley had planned to say had the debate taken place in an article in the Telegraph.

Hat tip: Instapundit and Eugene Volokh.

*The two Christ Church Censors are the equivalent of college deans and only occasionally censors in the other sense.

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83 comments to “I helped shut down an abortion debate between two men because my uterus isn’t up for their discussion”

  • George Atkisson

    1. It certainly is my business as a man if that is my child she’s carrying and I want to be a DAD so bad it hurts.

    2. So is she also free to sell her body on the streets? Or take meth or inject heroin? Or exercise her bodily functions on the sidewalk? It’s her body, right? Right?!?

  • George,

    The way to deal with those issues is a contract. Normally referred to as Marriage.

  • Christian

    So why do the uterus owners also get to tell the testes owners whether or not they can listen to Julien Blanc?

  • George Atkisson

    M.Simon,

    That was once the case in most U.S. courts. Now, a woman may proceed with an abortion without the husband’s knowledge or consent in many states. Even when consent is required, the woman may get the abortion in another jurisdiction without penalty or legal consequence other than divorce.

  • Funnily enough, quite by chance the SQOTD I spooled up for tomorrow is on the same subject.

  • pete

    The 1967 Abortion Act was passed after a debate and a vote by men (and a few women).

    Does Ms McIntyre reject the Act and the rights it gives her?

    I expect not.

  • Paul Marks

    Babies (children) are not property – not of the father and not of the mother either.

    Parents are stewards (guardians) of their children – they do NOT own them, (they may not, for example, kill and eat their children).

    As for “I did not stifle free speech” that is a direct lie.

    The student who said that should be sent down (expelled) as lying thug.

    The fact that the student is female is irrelevant.

    Student “activism” is actually intimidation.

    The OBJECTIVE is to make others “feel threatened” (because they are being threatened) for the purpose of “stifling free speech”.

    Since the 1960s academics have allowed students (male and female) to be violent thugs suppressing freedom of speech (and other freedoms also).

    This is because the academics are on the same totalitarian wavelength as the student activists.

    It is indeed the “treason of the intellectuals”.

    All tax support (including student loans) for these leftist indoctrination factories should be stopped – at once.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Time and again I see abortion advocates imputing bad faith in their opponents. They construct a straw man that assumes their own framing of the matter is the only valid one, and that everyone must share it. In their comic-book view of the world they seriously seem to suggest that the argument of the anti-abortionists is “Actually I should have a say on what you do with your uterus, because I hate women….”

    When of course in reality the thing that flies over the pro-abortionists heads is that their opponents view abortion as equivalent to infanticide, and that accordingly from their perspective trying to exclude those without a uterus from the debate makes about as much sense as excluding everyone who doesn’t own a prison camp from debate regarding the Holocaust.

    PS – it doesn’t matter how threatened, upset, angry, annoyed, hungry, itchy or constipated a contrary opinion makes you feel – in a free society you should have no right to silence it.

    PPS – ever notice how feminists, while claiming to empower women, actually denegrate them by portraying them as delicate little flowers who need protecting from any troubling views by the heroic actions of mighty Social Justice Warriors?

    PPPS – same thing happened at my Uni up here in Scotland and it pisses me off. Sick and tired of these authoritarian bullies who are so narcissistic that they actually see themselves as victims while stamping on other people’s freedoms.

  • Fraser Orr

    @George Atkisson
    > 1. It certainly is my business as a man if that is my child she’s
    > carrying and I want to be a DAD so bad it hurts.

    You can make the argument that it is not her body we are talking about but the baby/fetus’s body. However that is a profound moral question as to when a bunch of cells should be considered a person with legally protected rights. Nonetheless, you have no right to demand that she use her body to carry your baby to term. There might be a question as to whether the baby has the right to have the state protect him/her against violence, and whether you, as the parent having the right to exercise the child’s rights insofar as it has any, have the right to demand that that protection take place.

    Further, if it is determined that the fetus/child has the right to protection from violence and you have the right to exercise that right on its behalf, how should the law balance the deadly violence against the fetus verses the considerable injury a pregnancy can inflict on the woman carrying that fetus? That is a difficult question.

    But George’s right to be a father? I’m sorry, I don’t find that convincing. The world is full of uteruses, many would be quite willing no doubt to make that happen for you. And if there are none you have no right, no matter how passionate your desire, to use a woman’s body to fulfill that desire.

    Imagine if you will, that I have a child who is dying in hospital 200 miles away. I might have a desperate, passionate need to see and comfort the child in his last days. However, that does not give me the right to steal your car so that I have a means of transportation to get there.

    >2. So is she also free to sell her body on the streets? Or take meth or
    > inject heroin? Or exercise her bodily functions on the sidewalk? It’s
    > her body, right? Right?!?

    With the exception of damaging other people’s property with her bodily functions, I can think of no good argument why the state should forcibly prevent her from doing any of those things, or put her in jail for doing any of those things.

    Well look at that, apparently it is possible to discuss this hot button topic without resorting to violence or name calling…

  • Laird

    “As a student, I asserted that it would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body.”

    I somewhat understand the second point. Whether anyone has the right to tell you what you are “allowed” to do with your body is a legitimate question, and (George Atkisson’s comment notwithstanding) in general a libertarian would say “no” (even with respect to meth or heroin). Clearly, though, abortion is a special case, since there is another life involved, but if Niamh doesn’t accept that point then I can understand her objection. But even in that case I don’t agree with her that such “objection” makes the discussion off-limits, even by men. We certainly have every right to participate in a debate with such significant public policy ramifications. I will concede, though, that it is curious that no women were to have been included on the panel.

    But her first point is risible. Anyone who claims to feel “threatened” by reasoned debate about an important topic of public policy is too stupid or irrational to have her opinions given any credence whatsoever.

  • Laird

    It’s interesting that the comments in the Independent are uniformly against this writer’s opinion. Perhaps there’s hope for you yet!

  • So is she also free to sell her body on the streets?

    Yes, she should be.

    Or take meth or inject heroin?

    Quite so.

    Or exercise her bodily functions on the sidewalk?

    Third party involved here (owner of the street and the need to clear it up).

  • PersonFromPorlock

    My position for a long time has been that in a ‘government by the consent of the governed’, we men, who are not ‘governed’ by a law concerning abortion, should butt out.

    As a matter of fact, I think abortion is homicide. Lots of things are. But it’s up to women to decide if it’s the kind of homicide that they need to be forbidden to commit.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    PfP,

    Given that nearly 50% of aborted babies are male, the notion the notion that men don’t have a stake in this debate is frankly absurd.

  • bob

    Fraser Orr
    November 20, 2014 at 8:43 pm
    “…a bunch of cells…”

    Would you classify the foetus/infant who suffers a “late term” abortion simply a bunch of cells? What about the “abortions” performed by Dr. Gosnell, involving the snipping of spines with scissors? Those were “abortions” and enjoyed the same collusive protection as first trimester abortions.

    May I expect rational discussion about abortions of viable foet[i/uses]?

    Since I was born one month early, and hence would be, in these times, a candidate for “late term abortion”, can I claim angst and demand that no one, male or female, discuss late term abortions?

    Could a man (or woman other than the mother) surruptitiously administer an abotiofacient, and then, presuming no ill becomes of the other, that man r woman claim “no harm, no foul”?

    PersonFromPorlock
    November 20, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    “Homicide” is the killing of a human, not necessarily a crime. Negligent homicide and murder are crimes. Abortion of a viable foetus is the purposeful taking of a human life. As in the Gosling case, even being born alive does not protect one from being “aborted”.

  • Snag

    I saw a typical nanny-state storm last week about pregnant women ‘being allowed’ to drink or smoke, on the basis of increased chance of harm to fetus.

    The same harridans ‘calling for increased awareness’ and ‘penalties’ against smoking mothers are just as adamant that those mothers are perfectly at liberty to cause the ultimate harm to the fetus.

    Logical disconnect.

  • patriarchal landmine

    feminism is the enemy of freedom.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Jaded Voluntaryist
    November 20, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    PfP,

    Given that nearly 50% of aborted babies are male, the notion the notion that men don’t have a stake in this debate is frankly absurd.

    But abortion law doesn’t govern the fetus’s behavior, only the mother’s. My argument goes to who gets to say what the law is, not what the law should be.

  • Nick (natural Genius) Gray

    There is an amusing New Zealand TV series, ‘Soul mates’, about a time travel agency, and visitors from the past are assured in one episode that in the NZ of the future, you can abort the baby up to 13 years after birth!

  • newrouter

    >However that is a profound moral question as to when a bunch of cells should be considered a person with legally protected rights.<

    from the moment of conception is a dynamic event don't you think? me be conservative on who be peeps.

  • Nick (natural Genius) Gray

    What right did she have to intrude into a conversation between two other people? Would she like other people to do that to her discussions with others? Or is she one of those who go round looking for ways to be a victim?

  • Vinegar Joe

    I always liked this quote from black activist Stokely Carmichael:

    “The only position for women in SNCC is prone.”

  • Fraser Orr

    @bob
    > Would you classify the foetus/infant who suffers a “late term” abortion simply a bunch of cells?

    No I would not. Would you classify a newly impregnated ovum a human fully endowed with all rights? I think you should read my comment more carefully, I did not express an opinion there as to my position, merely that the answer is not self evident absent a previously agreed on moral standard, or even something resembling a moral Schelling point.

    > May I expect rational discussion about abortions of viable foet[i/uses]?

    You may indeed.

    > Could a man (or woman other than the mother) surruptitiously administer an abotiofacient, and then, presuming no ill becomes of the other, that man r woman claim “no harm, no foul”?

    No, for the reasons outlined in my comment.

  • Fraser Orr

    @newrouter
    > from the moment of conception is a dynamic event don’t you think? me be conservative on who be peeps.

    Yes, it is certainly one, but there are probably half a dozen places where people have proposed the impartation of full human rights too, not just the one you choose:

    * Conception
    * Implantation
    * Measurable heartbeat
    * Viability in NICU
    * Viability without NICU
    * Beginning exiting the birt canal
    * Completely exiting the birth canal (or more specifically the mother’s body in the case of a Caesarian)
    * Cutting of the cord
    * Taking the first breath.

    At one time or another all of these options have been considered for the point at which a fetus becomes a rights endowed human. Which one to choose? Almost everyone who discusses it comes from the point of view that their moral view is self evidently correct. But they can’t all be right. Argue if you will that the most conservative position is right, and that would be fine were the choice without cost. But it isn’t. It comes at considerable cost to the mother.

  • @Fraser: Hmm, I can’t say that I agree with you.

    Note that at no point during the entire development process you highlight above is the zygote, embryo, foetus or baby any less of a human being, or indeed any less of an individual living being distinct from the mother. Completely dependent on having life sustained by the mother, but nevertheless distinct. Any proposal that does not confer human rights on a person from the moment this new human life is initiated (at conception) is essentially saying that human rights aren’t unqualified – that, in essence, you need to meet certain *additional* criteria in order to be considered fully human. Not because of common origin, nor of common descent, nor of common humanity.

    Well, we all know where that led, don’t we? Not that I want to pull a Godwin or anything, but… we all know where that argument goes, right?

    This argument of ‘cost to the mother’. Well, yes, and if you bought an Aston Martin with a loan, servicing it is also a cost to the loan recipient. Nobody ever said that if at some point you no longer want the car, you don’t have to pay back the loan. OK, I’m sure some people probably have said as such, but is that where we want to head down as a culture? By and large, pro-abortionists want women to be able to have sexual relations with whomsoever they choose, and not have to face any consequences or take any responsibility for their actions.

    It’s not as if we’re back in the old days, where women routinely died of childbirth – and of pregnancy – as often than not, although the way the NHS is going, that may well be the case again. But at the moment, 650 women in the USA die annually of maternity-related deaths. Umm, that’s a whole lot less than 36k deaths per year from motor vehicles, and I don’t see anybody clamouring for a moratorium on men drivers.

  • Need a name

    @Fraser

    “The world is full of uteruses, many would be quite willing no doubt to make that happen for you. And if there are none you have no right, no matter how passionate your desire, to use a woman’s body to fulfill that desire.”

    You are right and when a woman decides to have a child and the soon to be father is against it, then he should be free to go. No child support, because its his wallet, if the pregnant woman wants money, then there is a world full of men with big money filled wallets.

    >Men are not allowed to talk about abortions, because they dont have a uterus

    Is the same like

    >Women are not allowed to talk about child support, because its the mens money.

  • Barry Sheridan

    I doubt it ever was in the minds of those who campaigned for the legalisation of state provided abortion that its toll would soon grow to exceed the numbers killed during the Second World War. Since Wade v’s Roe opened the floodgates in the US more than 50 million youngsters have had their lives terminated in this way, the figure for Britain now tops 8 million. (WW2 deaths are generally reckoned to be about 50 million). Yet only a tiny proportion of this number were ever justified because of defects to the child or dangers to the mother, the rest are just for convenience, the woman’s convenience. Yet today, the debate about this absolutely appalling practice is frequently reduced to some strange detached form, almost as if it were nothing. Weird. Really weird.

  • Andrew Duffin

    ” In organizing against this event, I did not stifle free speech.”

    The fact that someone can extrude a sentence like that, (presumably) not notice the irony implicit in it, and yet still somehow gain admission to Oxford University, tells us quite a lot about the way things are now in British higher education.

    Perhaps she is a token female, unqualified but admitted anyway so as to make up the quota?

    Or perhaps she is not a member of the University at all but of some similarly-named jumped-up Polytechnic?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: “I did not stifle free speech” is not a lie if she doesn’t understand what “free speech” means, as is probably the case: if she understood it, would she say something as blatantly false?

    Fraser Orr: in the list you provided @5:43, i don’t see the most important feature of a human being: a functioning brain. After all, (wo)man is a rational animal, isn’t it?
    Without a functioning nervous system, an embryo is not even an irrational animal.
    …but of course abortion is off topic in this thread.

  • Mr Ed

    Without a functioning nervous system, an embryo is not even an irrational animal

    Socialists are irrational, despite functioning nervous systems, and animals, that doesn’t mean that they can be aborted without legal penalty.

  • Julie near Chicago

    @ Snag: Bingo!

  • Re: abortion generally. I see no point in making a woman have a baby she doesn’t want. If the desire for motherhood is weak the child will not be well raised and that becomes a problem for all of us eventually.

  • On top of that abortion weeds weak mothering instinct out of the gene pool.

  • Gregory Kong
    November 21, 2014 at 7:27 am

    I like your proposal. If carried out every miscarriage will need to be turned into a murder investigation. That should go a fair way to reducing the number of pregnancies. Just to avoid the hassle. Or reduce the desire for early maternity care. A real plus there.

    It is amusing that with so much knowledge of how Drug Prohibition works people still can’t figure out the second, third, and fourth order effects of their proposals. Or even worse: they can’t imagine that there will be any reaction.

    The assumption is that humans are programmable automatons and you program them with laws. Bad assumption.

  • I happen to share the view that in most cases abortion is immoral, and in some cases may even be considered murder. With that out of the way, and also putting aside the stupid person who thinks that she can tell other people what they may or may not discuss, a question to those of you who support the legal prohibition of abortion: how far would you be willing to go to actually enforce your position, and how effective do you think it would be?

  • Snag
    November 20, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Well the cure for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is to substitute cannabis for alcohol. Cannabis is illegal.

  • Alisa
    November 21, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    If we look at the trajectory of Drug Prohibition we can predict that as the laws prove not as effective as desired the penalties will be increased to draconian proportions. And after 50 years the whole regime will collapse of its own weight.

    And then the claim will be that we have learned something from the experiment. When in fact all we will have learned is that “Abortion Prohibition” doesn’t work. The wider lesson “Prohibition doesn’t work” will remain unlearned.

  • jdgalt

    Stanley’s piece in the Telegraph expresses his frustration at not being allowed to hold the debate, but I couldn’t find much, if anything, there about what he would have said in the debate had it taken place.

    A longer-term solution, if one is possible, probably needs to come from those who control Oxford’s purse strings. If it is funded by its alumni, let’s address them. If it’s the taxpayers, though, a new institution may be the best answer.

    Perhaps a group like this could be it.

    It would not surprise me if the new “Internet extremism” law results in quite a few Brits deciding to hide behind American Internet accounts. I would, too.

  • @M. Simon: What proposal have I made? Can you point to which positive policy statement I have espoused? Or, indeed, any statement amounting to the effect that abortion should be prohibited? Seeing as I wrote my comment without any such intention, it would come as a great surprise to me, I can assure you, that such a thing was mooted.

    But, OK, let’s play. 10%-25% of all recognised pregnancies are estimated to end in miscarriages… and 75% of all miscarriages (including the subset above) occur without (chances are) the mother even knowing she miscarried. Well, it’s a damned obvious thing to say, but if the *mother* doesn’t know she miscarried, I don’t think anybody *else* would, either, by and large.

    We also don’t investigate ALL deaths; only the suspicious ones. And if we *did* investigate all deaths, then why not death via miscarriage? As it turns out, though, deaths from *ABORTIONS* have to be investigated in NY. In fact, there’s a really long list of causes of deaths where the ME has to investigate in NY (clearly, I’m not going to dig much deeper into every legal jurisdiction in the world to see what they investigate; suffice to say, probably not all deaths). I really don’t see the problem, even if that’s where this ends up going.

    Also, I really like your adversarial position towards pregnant women, as if they were all harpies and harridans hell-bent on killing their unborn children. I rather think we would take the more reasonable approach and say that if you were in a stable, happy marriage, with an expressed interest in having multiple children, any unborn-child death can be attributed to miscarriages rather than abortifacients. You know, sort of like you would likely not deeply investigate the death of a 70-year-old stroke patient whose family all expressed wishes that he continue to live.

    I’d like to point out that up to 100 years ago, abortion was not exactly what most people had as a hot political issue. I don’t think several million babies were being aborted back then, so I fail to see why we can’t go back to that time. I prefer to use the culture and education to win back the people, and to defund government-supported abortions, and to use public shame. No need for prohibition laws.

    We don’t catch all murders and murderers anyway. This does not mean in any shape or form that murder ‘prohibition’ is useless and therefore we should do away with them. People die. 100% mortality rate, come down to it. But if people die when they *shouldn’t*, we ought to find out why. And if someone else deprived them of life *without due process*, then we should act according to the rule of law.

    And yes, I fully support that teens should be able to purchase Shandy and/or amazake.

  • G. Kong,

    Well sorry if I misinterpreted you.

    I assumed that abortion would follow the trajectory of Drug Prohibition.

    BTW if abortion was illegal the presumption of innocence would be much reduced (every woman a suspect). I think you failed to take that into account. Also the increased surveillance of women of child bearing age. Also the possibility of monthly tests to prevent murder.

    You discount what fanatics would do with such a law. I expect it.

  • What M. Simon said in his last comment.

    FWIW, my question was specifically addressed to those who support legal prohibition of abortion, with all which that practically implies.

  • @M. Simon: If you accepted that the premeditated, forced termination of a pregnancy is murder – not just legally, but morally – then it naturally follows that for the most part, it should be treated as any other kind of murder. I think nobody disagrees with this statement.

    The adage goes that you should not give an order you know will not be followed. Generalising it, you should therefore not promulgate a law that people by and large will not obey (or just outright ignore, or go out of their way to *disobey*). The problem with alcohol prohibition in the USA was simply that; there was a significant number of people who blatantly ignored and derided it. Prohibition in KSA works fine. They prohibit non-Muslim free practice of religion, alcohol, women dressed in anything other than a burlap sack with eyeholes cut out, all sorts of things. I disagree in principle, but until a large segment of the Saudi population rises up in protest of these prohibitions, it works. Notwithstanding that you can get alcohol, set up underground churches and even get porn, so it’s for given values of ‘work’. Still.

    This is why I don’t say abortion should be made illegal. If the vast majority of the society agrees that abortion is murder, you don’t need such a law – it can be dealt with under existing anti-murder laws. If they don’t, the law is useless. After all, the law is only there to provide punitive damages and deterrence.

    But assume that there is a specific prohibition against at-will abortion. Will the enforcement and regulatory burden/overhead be so high? I think there are ways to make it neutral. But that’s not what I’m calling for. I simply think that if you want an abortion, I should not have to be made to pay for it, either through my taxes, or other levies, or through my insurance costs as a result of government regulations requiring insurers to cover it. I’d settle for that.

  • Earl

    Most pro-life people I know have no clue as to what penalties should apply if they got their wish and abortion was illegal. I asked one woman if she thought mothers and abortionists should do jail time and she said no. She said no woman ever gets an abortion and doesn’t regret it, and her suffering is penalty enough for her crimes.

    All most pro-lifers know is that they’d be happy their own government stopped supporting something they see as sad, barbaric, and harmful to their neighbors and countrymen. There are very few who would like to see mothers and their abortionists hanging from a noose together.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Gregory Kong
    > Note that at no point during the entire development process you highlight above is the zygote, embryo, foetus or baby any less of a human being,

    I appreciate your position, but you are just doing exactly what I already stated, namely assuming your own moral position is right and self evident, namely that rights derive from our genotype, or common origin or whatever other arbitrary criteria you use. If you want to believe that that is the source of human rights you need to demonstrate it is so if you want me to believe it too.

    Frankly, it doesn’t seem to be so, as far as I can see. After all, most legal systems the world over allow for abortion in some form or another, so presumably the general moral consensus is that fetuses aren’t conferred with the same rights as others. Not that majority is by any means a convincing moral argument, however it certainly would call into question your assumption that fetuses are self evidently entitled to the same rights as fully formed humans.

    Again, you might be right, but you can’t assume everyone shares your moral position on it when evidently they don’t.

    > This argument of ‘cost to the mother’. Well, yes, and if you bought an Aston Martin with a loan, servicing it is also a cost to the loan recipient.

    If your argument that participating in sex somehow is an implied consent to have a child grow in her uterus I would have to disagree. Let’s say you own a property next door to mine and I decide to build a new house on my property. Unfortunately, I make a mistake and accidentally build across your property line. I have taken your property from you entirely by accident, and you have a perfect right to have my house demolished despite the huge and unequal cost to me. If a fetus, by accident, takes up residence in her uterus, it seems plainly analogous that she has the right to evict that fetus. This being the point I was making.

    I am interested to know how you feel about Plan B. What this drug does is simply prevents the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall. The egg simply flows out of the vagina in a very natural way. This is analogous to a woman who locks the front door of her house to prevent a needy person from taking up occupation in the place against her will, something that I think all of us would say she has a perfect right to do.

    > It’s not as if we’re back in the old days, where women routinely died of childbirth

    Do you think that someone who breaks into your house, beats you up and steals your stuff is not impactful simply because they didn’t actually murder you?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Gregory Kong
    > But assume that there is a specific prohibition against at-will abortion. Will the enforcement and regulatory burden/overhead be so high?

    There are certain things that regulation is really good at preventing. In the case of illegal abortion what would no doubt happen is that doctors and nurses would not (or rarely) participate in the abortion. Through licensing laws these professionals are deeply subject to the state’s approval of their actions. Being illegal it would on the black market. No doubt there would be less abortions, but they would be a lot nastier. I presume that is not an outcome you advocate.

    >if you want an abortion, I should not have to be made to pay for it, either through my taxes, or other levies, or through my insurance costs as a result of government regulations requiring insurers to cover it. I’d settle for that.

    On that point I will wholeheartedly agree with you.

  • Mr Ed

    If a fetus, by accident, takes up residence in her uterus, it seems plainly analogous that she has the right to evict that fetus. This being the point I was making.

    Pregnancies do not happen by accident, unless in some bizarre incident, say, a woman on a nudist beach tripped on a sandcastle, fell over and got shagged in one bizarre collision. Pregnancy is a possible outcome of intercourse, should the necessary conditions exist. A fertilised egg is in fact implanted into the female womb by the action of the woman’s body itself, independent of conscious will. It is simply a facet of being a human female that pregnancies may occur following intercourse, barring infertility.

    To say that a woman did not intend to become pregnant is one thing, to talk of accident is simply inappropriate.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed
    > To say that a woman did not intend to become pregnant is one thing, to
    > talk of accident is simply inappropriate.

    You are unfamiliar with the term “accidental pregnancy”? Google had about 6 million matches.

    If you get in your car and go for a drive, there is a danger that you will crash. It is not your plan to crash, but sometimes, notwithstanding any precautions you might take, you do crash. We call this, an accident. You are a nurse tending an Ebola patient wearing full latex protection gear. Somehow though your careful precautions are defeated and you catch the virus. This is also called an accident.

    The application to the subject at hand seems fairly obvious to me.

  • @Fraser: I am using a biological criterion, which I defy anybody to deny. A grain of rice is no less a paddy plant, and an acorn is no less of an oak, and a caterpillar is no less of a butterfly or a moth, and a tadpole is no less of a frog or a toad. Each pair is the same organism, merely at different stages of development. If a human being is to have *natural* rights (as opposed to being legally imposed by government), then it would have to stem from *nature* (i.e. biology). To deny this and impose a different, non-biological criterion would be to deny acephalic (or hydrocephalic) babies full rights as human beings. Or, indeed, anyone *not* fitting the criteria selected. The very term we use is “human rights” – ergo, they are to be enjoyed by all humans. And the point at which a person is a distinct human life is at the moment of conception. And yes, I clearly recognise that most people don’t share my positions on many issues.

    The fact that most legal systems recognise abortion does not mean that the principle is invalid; merely that the ideal situation does not always work out in the real world. Many legal systems also recognise polygamy and wife-beating. That does not make it right.

    Also, in all your analogies, you neglect to specify that the person who’s doing mean things to you is doing these things of his own will and volition. That is to say, the initiation of his activities (notwithstanding the consequences) was utterly under his control. That is not the case with an unborn child. No child has EVER, as far as I know, asked to be conceived or born. That is completely the doing of at least one of the parents.

    And let’s talk about ‘accidental pregnancy’ and your flawed analogies. If you go into the medical field, you go in understanding that there is a risk you might catch the infectious diseases you treat. If you drive, you get behind the wheel understanding that there is a risk you might crash into someone. And if you subsequently crash into someone, and you share part of the blame, you don’t get to say “I didn’t mean to crash” and skate off Scot free.

    Insofar as Plan B goes, I don’t like it at all. But… I’d be damned if I know how you test that a woman *had* conceived and the Plan B essentially killed off the zygote (or prevented it from doing what zygotes do, same difference). Likely the society can deal with the issue when it becomes technically possible to test for it.

    What would be more interesting is if, one of these days, we really do get uterine replicators. Will women need to pay for ‘foetus insurance’, so that in the event that she doesn’t want the child she’s carrying, she can dump it off in an external life-support system?

    In any case, I’ve said my piece.

  • Mr Ed

    You are unfamiliar with the term “accidental pregnancy”? Google had about 6 million matches.

    Fraser, why not try refuting my assertion by reasoning rather than counting the number of searches on Google? Would 60,000,000 matches on Google make your argument stronger, 6,000 make it weaker, yes or no?

  • Fraser Orr

    Mr Ed
    > Would 60,000,000 matches on Google make your argument stronger, 6,000 make it weaker, yes or no?

    If my argument is that a term is commonly used, yes, 60 million matches is a more compelling argument than 6,000. And that indeed was my argument.
    My point was that lots of people thing that pregnancies can be accidental, which I then illustrated by analogy to other “accidents.” This argument is purely definitional, based on your claim that a pregnancy can never be an accident, which clearly it can be.

  • Mr Ed

    What people think is immaterial, no matter how many or how few, as to whether pregnancies can be ‘accidental’, pregnancies can be unintended, precautions can fail, but that is another matter. Pregnancy is a natural outcome of intercourse, it’s as simple as that, it’s not an accident.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Gregory Kong
    > A grain of rice is no less a paddy plant,

    Using analogies that are equally unconvincing doesn’t advance your case with me at all. I don’t think a grain of rice bears any significant resemblance to a paddy plant, though I accept that it does share a few things in common, and one is the precursor of the other. But a sperm cell and an ovum is also a precursor to a human life, yet I am sure menstruation is not a time of mourning, even for the most ardent of pro-lifers.

    > If a human being is to have *natural* rights (as opposed to being legally imposed by government), then it would have to stem from *nature* (i.e. biology).

    But you assume that I accept the theory of natural rights, which I do not. And you are assuming that “natural rights” derive from biological nature, which is not what many people mean by “natural.” And you assume that the only way rights can be derived is either by “nature” or by fiat from a king or legislature, which is not true at all, and in fact bears no real resemblance as to the history of where rights actually came from as they stand today. So you are just making a different set of assumptions entirely, that are no less arbitrary, and no more self evident, and evidently divergent with what the most people thing “rights” means.

    > And yes, I clearly recognise that most people don’t share my positions on many issues.

    That of course is perfectly fine, and it is also possible that you and people who think like you may well be correct. Contesting the majority position is surely how most human progress is made. So certainly make your case, I’d be interested to hear. What I won’t accept as an argument though, given this fact you just stated, is that your position is self evidently true. That is one argument that does not stand in the face of a majority opposition.

    > Many legal systems also recognise polygamy and wife-beating. That does not make it right.

    A curious juxtaposition. Why on earth would you say a legal system is wrong to allow polygamy? After all it was widely practiced in the Bible. As to wife beating, yes indeed some legal systems do allow for this, mostly ugly religion based legal systems. However, the great story of the development of legal systems of human rights is moving swiftly away from allowing such an abuse. Most legal systems do not allow for this. And so too, the history of abortion is moving in exactly the same direction.

    > No child has EVER … asked to be conceived or born.

    Sure but no driver has ever asked to have a drunk crash into him either.

    > And if you subsequently crash into someone, and you share part of the blame, you don’t get to say “I didn’t mean to crash” and skate off Scot free.

    If you are driving legally and some drunk spins off the road and crashes into you, you do indeed have the absolute right to get off scot free, insofar as the technology exists to allow you to do so.

    > Insofar as Plan B goes, I don’t like it at all. But… I’d be damned if I know how you test that a woman *had* conceived and the Plan B essentially killed off the zygote (or prevented it from doing what zygotes do, same difference).

    That isn’t what happens. It doesn’t affect an implanted fetus, it simply prevents one from implanting (or prevents the ovulation that makes it.) So no test is needed, and you are not really answering the question.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed
    > What people think is immaterial, no matter how many or how few,

    Words derive their meaning from the way people use them, so I must respectfully disagree, in this case “what people think” is entirely germane.

  • Mr Ed

    Fraser, you are in Humpty Dumpty territory there. Scrambled egg too.

  • Lee Moore

    Fraser : “But a sperm cell and an ovum is also a precursor to a human life”

    Oh please don’t go down that rabbithole ! Your point that biology does not determine the morality of abortion is obviously right, but can we at least keep the biology straight ? An “organism” is a very clear biological concept (at least as far as the higher animals are concerned.) A human sperm cell, or egg cell, or blood cell, or skin cell etc is not a human organism. A zygote, a human embryo, fetus, new born baby, schoolgirl and Lib Dem Mp are all examples of human organisms. Which of them has a moral right to live, equal to my own, is a matter for moral argument. But sperm cells and zygotes are, as far as biology is concerned, in completely different categories.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Lee Moore
    > An “organism” is a very clear biological concept (at least as far as the higher animals are concerned.)

    Sure, but you are just making my point. To claim that there is one self evident point on the process from gametes to Lib Dem MP that something becomes a human undeniably is entirely wrong. There are points at which it is self evidently not a human, and points when it self evidently is a human, but there is a wide spectrum in between when it is largely a matter of opinion, or perhaps more to the point, definition.

    Many times the purpose of labeling something is to transfer from one set of properties to imply another set of properties that is not originally manifest. For example, when someone is called a “climate change denier” it is a deliberate intention to parallel them with a “holocaust denier”. Climate change deniers and holocaust deniers have something in common: they both deny a widely held view. However, they have many things not in common too. By using the hot button word “denier” for the former the speaker is trying to mendaciously attach all the pejorative properties of the latter.

    Another example of this is the term “intellectual property”, the use of the word property being a rather mendacious attempt to impute to this type of thing the same characteristic as regular property, when plainly the cause of many of these characteristics in regular property don’t apply to intellectual property.

    So it is with by labeling something “human”. Is a zygote a human? Well it isn’t a bovine or a feline, that is for sure. But it is also clearly very different in many different important ways than fully developed humans. but the purpose of labeling it human is simply to impute the characteristics and, in this case, rights that a fully developed human has. That is just as misleading as the examples above.

  • Richard Thomas

    If nothing else, can we stop with the “bunch of cells” thing. It’s imprecise and intellectually lazy. Objectively, we’re all just bunches of cells.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed
    > Fraser, you are in Humpty Dumpty territory there. Scrambled egg too.

    Mr Ed. I don’t particularly agree with your assessment, however, I had never heard the term “humpty dumpty territory” before, and it is an awesome expression. I’ll have to remember to use it somewhere. I guess that tells you something about my appalling lack of knowledge of the “classics”. So thanks for the education!

  • Lee Moore

    To claim that there is one self evident point on the process from gametes to Lib Dem MP that something becomes a human undeniably is entirely wrong.

    Well obviously it all depends on what you mean by “a human.” Other expressions floating around in the neighbourhood are “a human being”, “a person”, “a human organism”, “a human cell.” In each case with the preliminary adjective “live” either stated explicitly or implied. I would say that it is not “entirely wrong” but ‘entirely right” to say that that there is one self evident point on the process from gametes to Lib Dem MP when something becomes a human, because I use the expression “a human” (and “a human being” and “a human organism”) in a strictly biological sense. A sperm cell is not “a human” biologically because it is merely a human cell, not a human organism. A human organism has a clear life cycle. If the question “when did the human organism that is Fraser Orr begin its existence, the answer is “when Fraser Orr’s dad’s sperm cell and Fraser Orr’s mum’s egg cell completed their merger into a new single celled human organism.” Before then there was no Fraser Orr organism.

    I tend to use “a person” to describe what you are interested in – which is in long form “a live human organism at a sufficiently advanced state of development as to be worthy of moral rights equal to a standard adult human.”

    There is a tiresome tendency on the “pro choice” side of the abortion argument to run screaming from the biology, by using “a human” and “a human being” in the sense of “a person” (as described above) not because it’s clear and unmistakeable English usage, but because it allows the moral conclusion that they wish to reach to be assumed up front. If in you wish to argue that X does not deserve equal moral rights, it is much easier to argue that this is so because “X is not a human” (using “a human” to mean “human organism without equal moral rights” ) than to argue that this is so because “X is not a human that can do, feel, think, whatever, this that and the other which IMHO are necessary before you get any moral rights” (using “a human” in a strictly biological sense.)

    It’s easier, but lazy, and for philosophical purposes, useless. Far better to accept the unarguable biology – you’ve got a new live human organism with a clear starting point – fertilisation. Before then there’s no organism. After then there are many development points in the life of the organism. And then argue why development stage 14, or 15, or 22 marks the spot when the live human organism should have some rights.

  • @Lee Moore: I could not have said it better myself!

    Of course, a pro-lifer would further argue that if an artificial construct like a corporation can be granted legal personhood, at the moment of its conception (i.e. the application at Companies House is accepted), there is real reason why a human being should not be accorded recognition of personhood at conception also.

  • Lee Moore

    a pro-lifer would further argue that if an artificial construct like a corporation can be granted legal personhood, at the moment of its conception (i.e. the application at Companies House is accepted), there is real reason why a human being should not be accorded recognition of personhood at conception also

    If so, I would advise the pro-lifer to think up another argument sharpish, as that’s a really bad one. A corporation is legally defined to be person, for certain legal purposes, to convenience the human owners of the corporation, its customers, its suppliers and other humans which deal with it. That does not mean that anyone thinks the corporation has any moral rights, or thinks it would be wicked to torture or rape a corporation. It’s a legal fiction not a moral status. The idea of legal granting a human “personhood” at conception is similarly a legal wheeze, not a moral one. The wheeze being to make abortion illegal. It wouldn’t make abortion immoral. Which it is or it isn’t regardless of what the law says.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Lee Moore
    > There is a tiresome tendency on the “pro choice” side of the abortion
    > argument to run screaming from the biology, by using “a human” and
    > “a human being” in the sense of “a person” (as described above) not
    > because it’s clear and unmistakeable English usage, but because it
    > allows the moral conclusion that they wish to reach to be assumed up front.

    I find this an interesting argument because I think almost exactly could be said about the advocates from the “pro life” side. They also label the developing fetus as a baby or human to ascribe to it the same rights as a fully developed human, in fact this is exactly what Gregory Kong did in his argument about “conceived fetus is a human therefore has human rights.”

    And it is precisely the point I was making above. The purpose about arguing the label is not to label the thing in question, but to impute to that thing the characteristics and properties that things similarly labeled have. It kind of goes like this:

    1. Items in set S have properties p1, p2, and p3.
    2. Since item A has properties p1, p2, p3, p4, and p5 it is in set S.
    3. Since item B has properties p1, p2, p3, p6, and p7 it is also in set S.
    4. Since item A and B are both in set S then necessarily item B has properties p4 and p5.

    This is it in a semi mathematical way. However, the English language is pretty blurred and so the sharp logical distinction, the logical fallacy even in point 4 is much less apparent.

    So we can say that the set “human” has the property “human DNA” and that “person” having human DNA is certainly a person, also has the property “right to protection from violence” . Fetus might be “human” since it also has the property “human DNA”, but that no more implies it has the property “right to protection from violence” that point 4 above is true.

    Once again though we use “person”, “human” and similar words with little precise distinction and consequently the soft edges of the English language lead to hand wavy discussions with little resolution.

  • Lee Moore

    I find this an interesting argument because I think almost exactly could be said about the advocates from the “pro life” side. They also label the developing fetus as a baby or human to ascribe to it the same rights as a fully developed human

    But even if they do, this is hardly running screaming from the biology, or the English. No doubt calling a fertilised human egg “a human” tactically helps the pro life side of the argument, from a rhetorical point of view, and hinders the pro choice side, in that it frames the argument in a way that clearly requires the pro choice side to explain why this human is morally different from that human, but appears to leave the pro life side less to do. But in reality the moral argument is still the same – does this human organism have the same or fewer moral rights than that one, and if so for what reason. The pro life side still needs to explain why, even though both are humans, a human at the fertilised egg stage of development should have the same moral rights as a human at the Lib Dem MP stage.

    In the same way, the anti holocaust side starts with a tactical advantage in being able to claim, with no violence to the English language, and in full agreement with biology, that a Jew is a human, putting the pro holocaust side at a rhetorical disadvantage. Y’all will have spotted that the pro holocaust side preferred, like the pro choice side, to twiddle the semantics of “a human” in preference to getting down to the much harder task of explaining why human A was morally different from human B. But again the moral argument is not affected by the semantics.

    The question is since “a human” has a clear and unambiguous meaning in the world of biology, why would anyone want to polish up a new, ambiguous meaning, with which to pursue an argument in moral philosophy ? For plainly, if one rejects the biological meaning of “a human” there is no clear well established alternative meaning – one is voluntarily jumping into semantic mud. The usual reason, sadly, is so as to practice sophistry, as with liberal, freedom and all those other words which have inconvenient meanings for those who wish to argue against them.

    Objecting to pro choicers trying to torture the unambiguous meaning of “a human” is just part of my own feeble resistance to that long march through the dictionary, to which I have objected before. Even though I am a pro choicer myself, I’m more of a pro untortured English merchant.

  • I did a whole series a few years back on abortion and the consensus of the “abortion is murder” crowd was 6 months for the doctor and the woman goes free.

    i.e. misdemeanor murder. With the initiator absolved.

    I ran down the arguments for Murder 1 (premeditated, conspiracy) so life in prison and hardly any one bought that.

    From what I can tell it is not a rational policy. Just based on feelz.

  • Lee Moore
    November 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    So Lee. Since you are about untortured language should we be treating every pine tree seed like a pine tree? Or to put it more clearly at what point does a pine seed become a pine tree?

    You want a language of ones and zeros. Reality is fuzzy.

    Even in human terms alive and dead can sometimes be ambiguous. Terry Schiavo.

  • And then there is the religious argument. In the first 40 days after conception abortion is neither illegal nor immoral for Jews.

  • Snag

    a human at the fertilised egg stage of development should have the same moral rights as a human at the Lib Dem MP stage

    It already has the same intelligence.

  • Dale Amon

    She is both right and wrong. Uninvolved parties have every Right to exercise their freedom of speech and debate. She is 100% right when she says she owns her own body. She does. It is the most basic human right imaginable. The state and others do not get a look in at what she decides to do or not do with her body. She can ingest or inhale any substance she wishes. She may donate a kidney to save someone’s life. Or not. She may terminate her life or chose to be suspended in LN2 before vital signs show technical death so that her chances of revival are improved. She may at her own expense and risk jump out of airplanes, with or without a parachute. She may take the trip to Mars and take the radiation risk. She may carry a child or evict it. I am sure the technology will one day be available to let the semen donor take custody if he wants a child so damned much. It is her body. She has the final rule and the State has no say. There is absolutely no more basic right to a Libertarian than self-ownership. So argue all you want; she and others are wrong to halt debate. But when you are done arguing you won’t have accomplished anything except getting the warm glow of having said your piece. It is still her right to tell you to eff off, its my body and none of your business.

  • Gregory Kong
    November 25, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Re: polygamy. It is becoming better known that the best way to keep one wife is to have two.

    Our current system is rather ignorant of human nature.

    One thing that is very well known is that around the time of ovulation women are very attracted to bad boyz. There are many corollaries to this.

    What monogamy does is harness all men to the production system. A system that allows polygamy would find about 80% of men outside the system. How humans dealt with that was warfare to kill off the excess men and allow the winners to steal the wives of the losers. Just as ISIS is doing in the area they control. Thus the mass murders.

  • Dale Amon

    Skimming through the comments I see a lot of folks are off on tangents, which is usual on this topic. I do not care what leftists and nannystaters want or do not want. It is irrelevant to what I stand for as a libertarian. I don’t care if the laws are against my beliefs. Laws can be changed. Or disobeyed. The fact that the left agrees with me on one important libertarian point, self-ownership, is something to foster. I am certainly not going to change my stand simply because ‘those others’ differ with me on other things. We, as libertarians, need to pound home OUR points and OUR philosophy, not react in a kneejerk to ‘the enemy’ and in our distaste of their other beliefs ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’.

    To thine own principles be true. Agree with on shared points. Argue when they try to attach other ideas to it.

    I’m quite sure that many in this argument are more conservatives that libertarians, so there will be much debate and the same holds true. I will hold to the libertarian side regardless of what conservatives may believe.

  • Snag

    With respect Dale, the tangent is the subject of abortion.

    The discussion at the University might have been about race, sex, economics, profit or a dozen other things, and this idiot or others like her would want a debate cancelled.

  • Dale Amon

    Another point: I usually do not take part in this debate because I do not believe it has much longer to run before technology makes it obsolete. It strikes me as almost a certainty that before this century is out, perhaps even sooner, it will become possible for a woman to have an implant that is under conscious mental control, that allows or disallows ovulation. At that point, we get a very simple libertarian solution; overriding her control becomes a form of rape with equivalent penalties of imprisonment for the force and coercion required to do such a thing; otherwise ovulation could be due to failure of the implant and controls, ie a civil suit matter against the manufacturer; or it is the woman’s sole choice and her responsibility unless she has an enforceable contract on some partner (who might be the semen donor or anyone else) to help raise the child.

    That way lies full consent and choice and a road to a far lower number of fetus evictions.

  • Dale Amon

    Oh, and almost zero State involvement except for courts to deal with initiation of force, fraud and tort law.

  • Lee Moore

    Since you are about untortured language should we be treating every pine tree seed like a pine tree? Or to put it more clearly at what point does a pine seed become a pine tree?

    This really isn’t terribly difficult. A pine tree is a later stage in the development of a pine organism, than a pine seed. But both are the same organism, with a clear starting point – the creation of the diploid cell. We use different words to describe different phases in the life cycle of a human – a human zygote, a human embryo, a human fetus, a human baby, a human child, a human adult.

    You want a language of ones and zeros. Reality is fuzzy

    Sure, sometimes. Language can be fuzzy too. Thus “a human child” and “a human adult” don’t precisely define stages in the life cycle – someone of sixteen to twenty might be described as either. Child and adult have fuzzy linguistic edges. But zygote doesn’t. Sometimes a word, or a expression, has a clear, precise, unambiguous meaning. When you find a disputant torturing it, in the hope of getting it to confess to a different meaning, you should tell him to stop.

  • Lee Moore

    I don’t think your mental switch on ovulation quite cuts the mustard, Dale. What if she changes her mind, half way through the pregnancy ? In that case you still have somehow to decide the moral status of the beastie, the extent and significance of the apparent consent given up front to the fetus’s occupation, and so on.

    In any event, there are plenty of highly effective contraceptives (in that word’s traditional meaning) – how is a mental ovulation switch importantly different from contraception ? Reliable contraception has not managed to end the moral debate over abortion – why would it ? So I think you’ll have to put up with the squabbling for a little while longer.

  • Mr Ed

    Should there be a thread limit to posts dealing with abortion? Perhaps 40 comments.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Lee Moore
    > Objecting to pro choicers trying to torture the unambiguous meaning of “a human” is just part of my own feeble resistance to that long march through the dictionary, to which I have objected before. Even though I am a pro choicer myself, I’m more of a pro untortured English merchant.

    Lee, apologies for the delay, being an American I was busy being thankful and recovering from being thankful.

    The problem is that as with most of English “human” is not ambiguous. Human is being used in multiple ways notwithstanding some clear definition in biology. The same word can plainly mean different things in different contexts. For example what “marriage” has meant throughout history has been very different in, for example, a religious verses a legal context. This is not torturing English, it is the nature of human language. One will often hear pregnant women say things like “I’m going to have a baby” meaning the fetus is not yet a baby, or “the baby was squirming inside me last night” meaning that it is already a baby. This isn’t torture, it is the vagaries of language. It is both a blessing and a curse. No-one ever wrote a poem in mathematics.

    Despite the view that rights are either granted by God/nature or granted by fiat from the government, the development of human rights is really quite different from both. It has throughout history been an emerging set of values shared from a discussion, sometimes a violent discussion, between various parties. For example, the common law is a concept that emerged through the early Saxon courts of s shared, jury derived value, of what is right and wrong. The Magna Carta was formed between the barons and John as an extraction of rights from the absolutist, tyrannical claims of the Norman kings, The English Bill of Rights as part of the transformation of England when William and Mary were invited to the crown. The American declaration of Independence and the Constitution were a result of Americans demanding the traditional rights of an Englishman. I’d recommend David Starkey’s TV series “Monarchy” as an excellent discussion of this discussion, even if he doesn’t really call it a discussion about rights.

    Were these writers thinking of fetuses when they referred to the rights grantee? When Jefferson wrote “self evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” was he thinking that “men” in that sentence included fetuses? I think not, after all he didn’t even include “black men” under the meaning of that word.

    So “human” and “man” doesn’t have an unfixed meaning irrespective of the context. So to say that humans have rights, and a fetus is a human therefore fetuses have rights is just using two different meanings of “human” in the same sentence. It is not an argument, it is a rhetorical trick. For sure, you might well argue that fetuses have rights, but you cannot say “you claim humans have rights therefore you must acknowledge that human fetuses have rights” because you assume that I think “human” has the same meaning in both cases, which I don’t.

    >Should there be a thread limit to posts dealing with abortion? Perhaps 40 comments.

    Why? If people are enjoying the discussion, why terminate it? And if they aren’t they don’t need to participate. Frankly, I think the discussion here on this controversial subject has been quite civil and focused on an honest discussion rather than the histrionics that often accompany this debate.

  • Fraser Orr

    With respect to the point of view that fetuses are to be treated with the same legal protections as born humans, I think that a little thinking about the consequences is in order. If fetuses and born humans are moral equivalents then the act of abortion would be first degree murder with many aggravating conditions. Imagine a mother conspiring together with someone to kill her baby. She goes to a professional killer who has a factory set up to kill babies. This professional killer doesn’t just kill the baby, but kills him is the most horrible way possible by ripping him limb from limb.

    Such a professional killer plus the mother who entered into a conspiracy to bring about such a heinous murder would be subject to the worst penalties of the law, first degree murder with many aggravating circumstances: the young age of the child, the relationship of the child to one of the killers, the cruel way of killing, the professional nature of the killer, the very high frequency of his killing as serial killer.

    Generally speaking people who are pro-life are also pro-capital punishment, and so I’d suggest that any pro-lifer who does not advocate that the mom and the doctor swing with a noose around their necks is tacitly accepting that the fetus is not quite as entitled to the same protections under law as the born baby, even if born for but three seconds.

  • @Fraser: As it turns out, I absolutely agree that the imprecise definitions we use are at the heart of this, and indeed, many other matters. I absolutely agree that we need to nail down the very nature of human rights, before we even start asking who has them; are people, as the US Declaration of Independence would have it, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” and merely recognised and protected by government; or are these rights *provided* or *established* by said government; or are they the result of a societal compact (whether over a long period of time or otherwise)?

    I would argue that while it is *possible* for human rights to be established by government, or to be the result of a cultural consensus, these do not form the most lasting foundations on which to build. For what logical or ethical argument could you then establish against someone whose view of human rights are not consonant with yours either because his government has not established them the same way, or his culture has come to a different consensus? But if the rights were inherent in Man (either due to Divine Providence or natural means), then a legitimate discussion could be held on common ground.

    Further, I agree that the term ‘human’ is rather slippery, which is why I would like to stabilise its definition for this purpose. In my case, the term ‘human’ in ‘human rights’ has the same meaning as the term ‘human’ as in ‘human race’ or ‘human organism’ – that is, pertaining to a member of the species /Homo sapiens/.

    So. If you insist on a different approach; if your definition of ‘human’ *differs* between ‘human organism’ and ‘human rights’; if not all biologically distinct living members of /Homo sapiens/ – regardless of development stage – are worthy of being granted ‘human’ status for the purposes of ‘human rights’ recognition, then yeah, we have here a fundamental and definitional disconnect, which we must deal with before further arguments can be made. And I think the question “on what basis do you grant full recognition of human rights on any member of Homo sapiens?” is not an unfair one to ask, if you will not accept the biological recognition of when a human being comes to be (which is during conception) as that basis.

    And actually, the most basic right, I should think, of any human being, is the right to exist. To life, as the Declaration of Independence puts it. No human being should be deprived of his life without due process.

    And yes, if the legal system accepts that State-sanction killing (not murder, but killing) is the appropriate punitive response to premeditated (much less multiple premeditated) murders, then yeah, the woman and her doctor, after the necessary investigations, after having first been presumed innocent but proven guilty in a court of law, and after exhausting all avenues of appeal, and having been denied pardon by the appropriate authority of last resort, should then be hung up on the highest rafters or gallows or strapped to the chair or whatever. I have no issues with that.

    What may be confounding is that sometimes, it can be ambiguous as to a foetus’ cause of death. Absent any clear indications that the mother intended to kill her unborn child, that legal presumption of innocence is critical. After all, killing your unborn child would merely be a homicide – other factors narrow down the *type* of homicide it is. And just as we send mothers who leave their kids in the car to jail, appropriate measures can be taken for those mothers who are equally negligent of their unborn *children*.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Gregory Kong
    > I would argue that while it is *possible* for human rights to be established by government, or to be the result of a cultural consensus, these do not form the most lasting foundations on which to build.

    Thanks for your interesting response Gregory. My answer to the above statement though is simply this: I think it is a good thing that human rights are not frozen in time but have evolved over time. When I became a US Citizen I was told that the most important right an american citizen has is the right to vote. I don’t agree with that view, however, it serves as a useful example. Who has the right to vote has evolved over time, and I think for good reason. No longer are the landless, or the poor, or women or blacks excluded from the vote, and that is surely a good thing. Prior to the Magna Carta there was no right in England to due process, surely that evolution is a good thing. And even today we continue to see evolution in human rights as gay people try to find equal legal representation, or women in Islamic countries seek rights similar to men, and the attempts by some to establish legal personhood for some higher forms of animal and so forth. So freezing rights in time to a set at some specific point in time is not a good thing, unless you consider those rights to be given ex cathedera by God or some other omnipotent divine authority, which I do not. And given the anachronisms in some of those holy books, I think we should all be glad that this is not the case in a legal sense either.

    > For what logical or ethical argument could you then establish against someone whose view of human rights are not consonant with yours

    I wouldn’t think myself so wise as to do so, rather, insofar as I felt the need to do so, I’d encourage the creation of a cultural consensus to establish such a right, as is happening for example in the United States in an attempt to equalize treatment of marriage for people regardless of their gender.

    > “on what basis do you grant full recognition of human rights on any member of Homo sapiens?”

    Me? I’m not so powerful that I can grant anyone rights. What I can do is say what the cultural evolution of rights says or does not say. And in this case the establishment of rights has never applied to pre-born humans.

    One might ask then what is the difference between a “right” and a plain old “law”. I think there are several differences, but surely one of the most important is that a right is something that is recognized as intrinsic by a super majority of people within the jurisdiction to which the right applies. And as a consequence it is something established in such a way that it is very hard to lightly change that right. This is encapsulated most clearly in the US Constitution where there are numerous super majority processes and hurdles to overcome, to both establish a right or to deny a right. And even in Britain with its unwritten constitution, in theory Parliament can change anything by majority (ignoring the EU for a moment) but the cultural memetics make it extremely hard to do so in cases that would violate that which is held by the cultural consensus of rights. Much as Queen Elizabeth can certainly deny Royal Assent to any law, but were she to do so it would provoke a constitutional crisis that could bring down the government and the monarchy.

    > What may be confounding is that sometimes, it can be ambiguous as to a foetus’ cause of death.

    Yes, that is a fair point, I was talking about the extreme case of something like a late term abortion, but I accept that in a world of “abortion is murder” there may well be various degrees.

  • “on what basis do you grant full recognition of human rights on any member of Homo sapiens?”

    The Jews recognize those rights when the head or 1/2 the body (depending on head first or feet first) exits the womb.

  • @Fraser: While some people may use that phrase “abortion is murder” (which, to be sure, it is), I ask that you stop using it in reference to my views. My view is that non-natural termination of a pregnancy is homicide. It may be unintended, it may be negligent, it may be premeditated – heck, it may even be self-defence or otherwise unavoidable. It is not necessarily murder as such.

    …I’d encourage the creation of a cultural consensus to establish such a right, as is happening for example in the United States in an attempt to equalize treatment of marriage for people regardless of their gender.

    Insofar as that is the case for you, then you cannot oppose my viewpoint that the cultural consensus should establish human rights on the basis of biological definitions on grounds other than “I don’t agree”. So let us see who wins the culture war.

    @M. Simon: Good for the Jews; however, their basis is not binding on the rest of the culture, much less the world. And even the Jews would generally abort only if the life of the mother was at risk (and at genuine imminent risk), not just because she felt like it was a damned inconvenience. Which is a position I can tolerate just fine, although I figure the mother should be able to choose to prefer her baby’s life over hers (so long as it is her *choice*, not some inverse of suttee).

  • This is all very interesting, but I do hope that you all realize that none of this has any bearing on the actual social/legal issue of abortion.