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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

A Tory MP on the other side of the debate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that the leaks which brought down Patel had probably come from Remainers inside the Foreign Office: ‘There are still some people who are still very bitter about the result a year ago and inevitably that colours their behaviour.’ That bitterness was evident recently, when Rees-Mogg’s own reactionary-but-principled opposition to abortion made outraged headlines. Why was this Conservative’s well-known backward view of abortion suddenly made the stuff of scandal, at the time when he was being discussed as a possible successor to Theresa May? Not because anybody seriously believed that an imaginary Rees-Mogg government was about to outlaw abortion, but because they wanted to discredit and delegitimise the most eloquent Tory Brexiteer.

Mick Hume

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50 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    “backward”? Before the 1960s hardly anyone was in favour of returning to the pagan practice of killing babies – oh well back to the Roman Empire (opposed by the Jews and then the Christians) we go (discarding babies on rubbish heaps – good food for the rats, as the babies do not struggle much). Gladstone and co would not have considered abortion liberal – and infanticide after birth is just the next logical step (indeed partial birth abortion, supported by Barack Obama, has already taken this step).

    As for the Civil Service (the Foreign Office included) of course they are bunch of left “liberals” – but it is not just about the European Union. The Foreign Office, like the BBC and the rest of “liberal” opinion, want Israel exterminated – six million dead Jews, they do not state this openly – but they are intelligent men and women, they know exactly where the policy they recommend would lead. Mrs Petel was considered pro Israel – so the lady had to go.

    Lying to Boris Johnson (telling him that a lady was in Iran to train journalists – when she was not) is par for the course with the Foreign Office. Their “mistakes” are not mistakes at all – they are deliberate traps designed to destroy politicians whose policies they do not approve of.

    The idea of a professional Civil Service was one of the greatest mistakes of the Victorians. There are no “objective”, “unbiased” people. Ministers should hire and fire their own staff.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    The only people who would qualify for political office would be PC saints! Everyone has some point in their past that can be misconstrued for political purposes. (Hear about Jesus? He consorts with tax collectors and drunks!) Let’s declare every person in parliament unfit for office, and the country can rule itself!

  • JadedLibertarian

    I don’t think it’s fair to call Rees-Mogg’s view of abortion “backward”. The position that a) life is sacred and b) begins at conception is internally consistent and held by many thinkers from across the spectrum of philosophical and religious traditions.

    Unpopular, yes. Inconvenient, yes. Inexpedient, yes.

    Backward, no.

    EDIT – I see Paul beat me to it.

  • Paul Marks

    “No Paul they would never abuse children after birth”

    Missed the CHILD “Transgender” Cult have you?

    Little boys are being fed drugs and undergoing mutilations in parts of the West now. Because they “want” to be girls. And not just in California and other well known loony bins – the Cult is spreading…. thanks to the education system and the media (especially the entertainment media) and the medical profession has become part of the mess.

    There is no limit, none, on what the “liberals” will do. But it is “backward” to oppose them.

  • JadedLibertarian

    A PJ O’Rourke quote seems rather apposite. I apologise on his behalf for his misuse of the word “liberal” but you know what he means 😉

    “Liberals have invented whole college majors – psychology, sociology, women’s studies – to prove that nothing is anybody’s fault. No one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you’d have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favour abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Meanwhile, according to Jonathan Haidt Libertarians score lowest in the “compassion” category.

    True, too many of them are all for abortion, “woman’s right to choose,” etc. (well, I agree: she has every right to choose not to engage in biological mating on the grounds that she doesn’t want to have to be faced with the possible consequences of Little Accidents).

    But I am heartened to see many libertarians arguing that there’s more to abortion than protecting people from the consequences of their actions at the cost of other peoples lives (or parts thereof).

    Although personally I wouldn’t touch the LP with a barge pole.

  • Mr Ecks

    I have long advocated firing the Senior Civil Service en masse sans both compo and with their pensions –and any “honours”, Sir/Dame what have you–confiscated. As well as being good for the UK in general such a move would go a long way towards breaking the Remainiacs once and for all.

    As for abortion –there is nothing “backward” about not wanting to kill kids.

    Esp when the number one cause of abortion is two turds who couldn’t wait to stick it in and wiggle it about and didn’t care about the consequences.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm. I see that my comment might be taken as endorsement of abortion. The exact opposite is intended. Only where the mother’s life as a functioning human being is at stake do I argue that abortion is defensible. (There’s an outlier case where one must look deeper, and that is when death by starvation is enforced in order to control or destroy a group, as during the Holodomor or the starvation of the kulaks, or where for some reason a woman knows with near-certainty that her child, if born, will starve to death.)

    (The point of the comment above was that abortion as generally argued for is only superficially compassionate, and libertarians are too often not compassionate toward the other subject of the controversy, which is the human life growing within the womb; so one can see this too-common libertarian argument for abortion as, indeed, an example of a lack of compassion.)

  • JadedLibertarian

    Julie I’ve never bought the “abortion is compassionate” argument. If it was true countries that offer euthanasia would do so by tearing people limb from limb since that clearly is a merciful way to die 🙄

    If abortion was about kindness they would at the least anaesthetise the baby first. They don’t, so it isn’t.

    See also this video

    Highlight of the video for me was:

    “I don’t feel I should have to justify my existence…”

  • bobby b

    Libertarians who argue for legal abortion by basing it on the right of the mother to bodily integrity and control are very much of a kind with libertarians who defended slavery 150 years ago by arguing for the preservation of the property rights of slaveowners.

    If you can deny the humanity of one of the parties in a situation involving competing rights – blacks or fetuses – you have solved the competition. I can’t help thinking that, at some point in the future, those kinds of libertarians are going to be as popular as slavery-apologists are now.

  • CaptDMO

    Similar “plot lines” in the US.
    Who the hell is ripping of Shakespeare, and distributing the scripts,
    on BOTH sides of the pond THIS time?

  • Philippe HERMKENS

    So, before eight weeks of pregnancy, an embryo is a baby ? A bactoplast of three days (eight-ten cells) is also a baby ? An abortion with an abortion’s pill within two weeks of pregnancy must be forbidden ? If you have been raped and you want an abortion when you understand your are pregnant, you must go to jail ? If your embryo (not a foetus, it’s after 8 weeks of pregnancy) has a grave genetic disease, as for instance Down syndrome, you must be sent to jail for abortion ?

    Do I misrepresent your point of view ?

    And of course a eight-months foetus is a baby

  • cuckoo

    Playing advocate here, I think that pro-choice is consistent with Libertarianism thought and can even be derived from it.

    Libertarians who argue for legal abortion by basing it on the right of the mother to bodily integrity and control are very much of a kind with libertarians who defended slavery 150 years ago by arguing for the preservation of the property rights of slaveowners.

    Using slave/slave owner as a metaphor, the slave owner is arguably the fetus, as it is the one deriving is sustenance from the mother, who has to give over her physical existence to it’s upkeep, it draining her body of nutrition to feed for nine months, and then the mother will have to go through hours or even days of pain to bring it into independence ( Labour for another in both senses), leaving her possibly damaged (thankfully rarely dead in modern times) with anything from incontinence to psychosis.

    If you think that being compelled to labour for another is wrong no matter how innocent the beneficiary, then forcing others through the above might be wrong too? (the reply would obviously be don’t get yourself into this position, which I totally agree, but putting that aside).

    Personally I think abortion IS very wrong – a least selfish and cowardly if nothing else. But it still presents a unique moral problem. I think it’s the philosopher Julian Baggini that gave the example that kidnapping someone of the streets and wiring them to a machine to keep another alive until they could be given life saving surgery could be justified in terms of saving a life, but we would naturally feel it to be a bit morally icky using someone to someone else’s end like that. Motherhood we think of differently, though.

    Please don’t take this comment as endorsing abortion, I just wanted to add a perspective. The fetus has moral significance. The feminist in me (in the old fashioned proper sense) wouldn’t like to see what women do and the sacrifices endured to be taken for granted and treated as having no moral significance either. I think that’s my point.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Philippe,
    I’ve not seen anyone specify what, if any, punishment abortion should carry so that’s a moot point.

    As to your point about labelling:. What has that got to do with anything?

    Blastocyst
    Embryo
    Fetus
    Baby
    Child
    Teenager
    Adult
    Geriatric

    These words all describe human beings at various stages of development.

    Substitute each of those words for X in the following sentence:

    “I dismembered and killed a X because they were inconvenient and / or unworthy of life”

    Ultimately what does the label have to do with anything? At most it relates to the possibility of awareness or consciousness, but that is a very small part of the moral equation when it comes to taking a human life.

  • cuckoo

    JadedLibertarian,

    If a Blastocyst is as much a human as a Adult, then surely a fertilised human egg moments after conception is as much a human as a Blastocyst. And then what about an unfertilized egg? Is that human? After all it has pretty much the same potential – it’s only missing a few atoms to make it human in that case. Is a fertilised egg fully human in a way that another egg isn’t just because it has an extra strand of what is admittedly a very complicated molecule?

    I think “life begins at conception” isn’t very consistent position to take. It’s a bit magical thinking to go from nothing to fully alive human over the meeting of two strands of a molecule. However it’s a potential life certainly and so could be accorded the same moral significance but then you’d have to argue that carefully if we don’t want to demonstrate contraception, as denying potential humans the right to exist, as being a problem.

  • Ian Bennett

    Here’s a little thought experiment. You are in a burning building with two possible escape routes. Taking route A, you can save a five-year-old child. Taking route B, you can save a container labelled “2,000 viable human foetuses”. Which route do you take?

  • Alisa

    Actually Jaded, Philippe has a point. Like you, I think abortion is immoral, save some special cases as mentioned by Julie. But unlike you (IIUC?) I don’t think that it should be made illegal precisely for the reason of the enforcement issues – which is what Philippe’s comment alludes to, whether intentionally or not.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Ian yes I saw that comment going around on Twitter, but it’s a non issue.

    First of all human instincts and perceptions are frequently wrong. If something is true, then it’s true regardless of people’s opinions of it.

    Secondly what if you extend that argument? A five year old child or the bioethicist who smugly tweeted that question originally? A bioethicist or a puppy? What does the answer to that question have to do with someone’s humanity?

    ~~~~

    Well indeed Alisa but the morality of something is an entirely separate question to the question of enforcement of laws. That road presents us with all sorts of conundrums with serve to muddy the waters. I’m quite open to the idea that a country could hold what I view as a “good” position on the sanctity of life, but then enforce that position with “bad” laws. Just as I wholeheartedly agree that rape is evil and should be punished, but think the current crop of affirmative consent laws springing up around the world are themselves evil.

    They’re two independent propositions and while the morality of abortion itself remains a subject of debate, there’s little point in discussing how a currently unforeseeable law would be enforced.

    For what it’s worth I think all or nearly all abortions as currently practiced are immoral and should also be illegal, but I don’t think any law would actually be enforceable so it shouldn’t be policed – at least not on the woman’s side.

    The Kermit Gosnell’s of the world and his slightly more respectable colleagues can rot in a cell and I won’t shed any tears.

  • Alisa

    For what it’s worth I think all or nearly all abortions as currently practiced are immoral and should also be illegal, but I don’t think any law policing it would actually be enforceable so it shouldn’t be policed

    And that is precisely my objection: if you are going to write a law, better be prepared to enforce it, with all the real-life consequences thereof. Otherwise leave it to society to deal with, just as it does (or at least used to do) with regard to all manner of things it considers immoral but nevertheless legal.

  • ragingnick

    welcome to 2017, where opposition to state sanctioned murder is considered ‘backward’. 60 million innocents have been killed since Roe V Wade, consequently Western ‘liberalism’ is as deadly an ideology as communism or national socialism.

  • Mr Ecks

    Abortion IS immoral. Bollocks to how old the person is.

    But state dictatorship is also immoral.

    What enrages me is the low quality of the human race.

    A modest amount of continence and self control–ie waiting to use precautions–then the vast majority of abortions would never have to happen.

    However I believe –via comments on Tim Worstall’s blog–that approx. 60 women died each year via back street abortions when abortion was banned. And when being a single mother was a stigma rather than a source of funds. Compared to the absolute slaughter since unbanning it would actually reduce the death toll. And when we are told that –after having killed millions of our own kids–that we have to import the 3rd world to replace ourselves–something is wrong.

  • Alisa

    Compared to the absolute slaughter since unbanning it would actually reduce the death toll

    Problem with that argument is that we have no idea what the level of slaughter was before it was made legal – which is only one of the problems with banning things.

  • JadedLibertarian

    I think “life begins at conception” isn’t very consistent position to take. It’s a bit magical thinking to go from nothing to fully alive human over the meeting of two strands of a molecule

    You have to put the boundary somewhere and there’s nothing magical about pointing out that conception is the moment a new and unique creature comes into being. This is entirely uncontroversial and you’ll find it in chapter 1 of pretty much all biology textbooks (although I think in mine it was around Ch 5, you get the point though). Conception is the point at which their DNA and future physical characteristics are defined. The Monty Python “every sperm is sacred” riposte is unreasonable because there is a fundamental, qualitative difference between a fertilised egg and the sperm and ovum which formed it. Conception isn’t a continuum.

    The only other threshold of similar significance is the moment of birth where the child becomes physiologically independent.

    Now most people would argue that abortion to birth is too late. Many would argue banning abortion from conception is too early, but from a biological standpoint those are the two major events. Everything else boils down to utilitarianism – eg. can they feel pain yet?

    I think it’s hopeless pessimism to assume this is a zero sum game where someone has to be the loser. We live in a world full of women who want children and can’t have them, and women who have children but don’t want them. There is a very obvious win-win solution there that governments around the world seem determined to make as hard as possible. What if we could make that solution so attractive to the point that abortion became indefensible?

  • Alisa

    There is a very obvious win-win solution there that governments around the world seem determined to make as hard as possible.

    Actually, adoption is a huge global industry, with governments being major players (or at least various governmental and semi-governmental institutions, with predictable consequences). I have nothing against adoption as a concept, but if you really think of it as a ‘win-win’ solution to abortion (or a solution at all), you obviously do not know much about adoption in the real world.

  • Alisa

    The bitter truth is that an unwanted child is almost inevitably doomed to a life of misery, adopted or not. As a staunch non-nihilist, I think it is still less bad than abortion, but better it ain’t.

  • JadedLibertarian

    I beg to differ Alisa. Indeed the wife and I are currently making plans to adopt a 5th child in addition to our biological 4. We’re good friends with a family who adopted a little girl with foetal alcohol syndrome.

    It is often assume that “no one could want this child” – but how do you know until you actually ask? The problem with adoption in the UK at least is that they’d rather a child stayed in care rather than go to a family that doesn’t meet their standard – a standard that all to often is unreasonable or skewed by the social workers prejudices. I accept that you probably can’t have no standard at all as in biological parenthood, but the way things are approached right now essentially guarantees unadoptable children.

    I’ve heard of social workers who insisted on interviewing divorced spouses from years ago to check you’re not an abuser. Such a request to pry often causes people to drop out of the process altogether and try IVF instead.

  • Alisa

    Like I said Jaded, I have nothing against adoption in principle, and I am sure there are cases where this is the least-bad solution.

    I obviously cannot comment on your specific examples and experiences, all I can say is that adopters tend to see one side of the adoption equation (which is their own and that of other adopters), but not that of the biological mothers (and sometimes fathers too). This is only natural, and again in no way meant to comment on your individual situation, but rather as a generalized reply to your original generalized suggestion.

  • JadedLibertarian

    I see what you’re saying Alisa, but is that how it has to be or simply how it is? I accept giving up a child will always be painful, but does it have to be life shattering?

    UK social workers have a major prejudice against kinship care or open adoption. This is a shame because where it can be made to work it is by far the least bad solution. You’re not out of your child’s life altogether.

    And that’s just one example. There’s lots that could be done to improve the process. It’s a difficult problem though I’ll grant you that. About as difficult as you could come up with.

    That doesn’t mean it’s unsolvable.

  • JadedLibertarian

    In any case I think we’ve rather wandered off the OP. My original gripe was the description of Rees-Mogg’s views as “backwards”. The fact that rational people can discuss this in good faith for almost 30 posts suggests a diversity of views can be said to be quite reasonable.

    On the basis of that alone I would contend the “backwards” label was quite unfair.

  • Alisa

    but does it have to be life shattering

    I’m afraid the answer is ‘yes’, most of the times.

    We have wandered OT, but not much, the point being personal responsibility – not only on this issue (as in, if you’re going have sex, better make sure you don’t get pregnant unless you want to raise the child – although yes, accidents do happen etc.), which is not what you get when governments assume all the responsibilities, through legislation.

    ‘Backwards’ just happens to mean the opposite of Progressive.

  • cuckoo

    @ JadedLibertarian I think the idea that life begins when it’s future characteristics are defined is an interesting one, but again, we’re still talking about potential here, so I think it’s legitimate to say an unfertilised egg similarly is also a set defined characteristics that mark it as a particular human as it already has half of the genetic code that will define it would be, eventually – it just doesn’t have all of them. Yet, like every egg/sperm it would potentially give rise to a unique individual.

    BUT a needed line has to be drawn, and I agree the point of conception, has strong intuitive moral pull and is deserving of respect. But this is also true of say, when certain level of development begins, like a nervous system, this is also a break in a continuum. So when does a potential person become a person?

    Legally enforcing life at conception would have other repercussions – what about frozen eggs in fertility centres? What about their right to life?

    EDIT: sorry for continuing off topic.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Well I guess I’ll start proudly calling myself backwards Alisa 😉

    Cuckoo, I think it has to be admitted there is a subjective element here. I can’t prove a recently fertilised egg has personhood, although I would argue I don’t actually need to. There are four possible outcomes here:

    1, The unborn actually have personhood and we allow them to be born
    2, The unborn lack personhood but we allow them to be born anyway
    3, The unborn have personhood but we kill them
    4, The unborn lack personhood and are destroyed

    Cases 1 and 2 are no harm no foul since no one gets hurt. The issue is cases 3 and 4. Their consequences are decidedly asymmetrical. Barring situations where the mother’s life is in jeopardy case 3 is always the worst possible outcome because a person dies where otherwise no death would occur.

    For this reason alone I think we should be biased against abortion from the outset precisely because it is a subjective problem and because the consequences of incorrectly assuming humanity and not aborting are almost always less severe than the consequences of incorrectly assuming non-humanity and proceeding with abortion.

  • nemesis

    I salute you Jaded Libertarian for putting into words the thoughts I have often struggled to express.
    Delightful neighbours of mine are going through the process of adopting and are really being put through the mill. I wish you every success in yours.

  • cuckoo

    On topic, we see this kind of manipulation of democracy all the time now. The media has got so used to setting of the agenda and although we get to vote, those such as the BBC in this country feel that they have the privilege of endorsing candidates as acceptable. The BBC decides who has to resign their post and who has to quit as an MP, by choosing whom to drag into the court of public opinion.

  • Watchman

    God this is depressing – a bunch of libertarians losing their principles in favour of an archetypical conservative morality (to a point to be fair – I note whatever the feeling, most people here still don’t want to ban abortion as that requires government action). An embryo is not a living human, although it is a potential one, because you cannot guarantee it will live on its own. Indeed, before a certain stage you can pretty much guarantee it won’t. The potential mother is however clearly a living human (however stupid and careless in her actions) and therefore her wishes take priority over our views of what is appropriate – if libertarianism means anything, it means that another human being has the right to act as they will so long as they are not harming another.

    And I know the counter argument developing here is around harming another, but it is simply wrong: if you define an embryo as another human, then you have a problem, because that ‘other human’ is harming the host that is carrying it (considering it is important to the continuation of the species, you’d think evolution might have ended up with a less destructive method of creating babies for mammals than pregnancy, but evolution is not about perfection…). It is in a parasitical relationship taking what it needs from an unwilling host. So for a libertarian to allow embryos to be humans, they also have to make an exception to the rule that human’s control their own bodies to allow this ‘other human’ to have the right to the host’s body.

    And this is not a case of just saying ‘she deserves it for her actions’. Even ignoring the inherent injustice (and the associated danger to freedom – note that every society with freedom has high levels of gender equality, probably because having second-class women doesn’t give the impression of freedom for all very easily) of allowing men to be irresponsible and women not to be, which strikes me more as an Amish thing than a libertarian thing, then you seem to be missing the fact that changing your mind is allowed. A person may wish to have a baby, and then for reasons of their own, which we may or may not think are worthwhile, change their mind. Do we really have the right to morally imply this is wrong – to impose moral judgements and to seek to impose mores on others – when it is simply an exercise of freedom.

    For what it is worth, I believe anyone pregnant should be able to get rid of the baby at any time. If the baby is medically viable, then doctors should be able to say so, and insist on a caesarean (and charging the person having the operation would be fair and fine – it’s their choice, so their cost), and the host (I can’t use mother in this sense, even if it is biologically accurate) will have no rights to the child – it is a total break. If the arguments for early viability are correct (and perhaps they increasingly are) then this is a solution.

    You may not approve of abortion, and may wish to persuade others not to have abortions. That is great – it’s your opinion and your right to promote it. As soon as your views go beyond that to suggesting people should not do this in terms that suggest it should be made more difficult you do two things. One, you start to lose the ideas that make libertarianism a useful philosophy in favour of what is a personal view – you might think a blastocyst is a human, but the only definition universally agreed is a baby once born, and anything else is simply a personal choice from a range of choices. And secondly, you make it easy to conflate libertarianism and reactionary conservatism. Libertarians can be reactionary conservatives, but with the essential difference of ‘but it’s none of my business’ added on about other people’s actions. If looking after the health of a person who does not exist and may never do so in preference to a living and breathing person is your aim, then you are in the same field of imaginary concerns as the identity politics groupies with their ideal model of people based on single characteristics. You are putting an abstract ideal in front of individual freedom, and that is the one thing we cannot do – individual freedom is paramount. And if in doubt, the individual who definetly exists always trumps one that only might exist because they are here, now, and have their own agency which you have no right to disrupt in this matter.

  • Alisa

    Watchman, I don’t know if I’m included in your ‘bunch of libertarians’, but you know nothing about my principles. I would appreciate if you stuck to expressing your own positions, without lecturing others on their presumed doctrinal impurity.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Watchman, I believe the unborn are human and that abortion is consequently a modern day Holocaust. It is my moral duty to speak out against it and offer solutions that will reduce or eliminate it.

    I accept that I may be wrong about this and am willing to talk about it. What I absolutely will not do is shut up because you find my actions annoying.

    What kind of person would I be if I genuinely believed millions of acts of infanticide were taking place each year but nonetheless thought it was none of my business?

    It’s the old “No uterus, no say” argument so beloved of feminists, when it’s not their uterus I’m interested in at all. It’s the person living inside it.

  • cuckoo

    I agree with much of what you say JadedLibertarian.

    But someone always gets hurt it just doesn’t necessarily cause permanent damage or death, but we can’t be sure it won’t either. I’m childless myself but have spoken to friends and colleagues describing what they’ve been through. It shouldn’t be dismissed as not relevant.To say to women your life, body and suffering is of no consequence, de-humanises them.

    There is always some level of risk to the mother. If abortion is acceptable if there is risk to mother, so what level risk? 25%? 50%? And who finally makes the decision the doctor or the mother? Do we say to someone, we deem your chances of injury and death as being acceptably low, so we are denying you an abortion? What if she doesn’t agree? On the other hand, is 5% risk to mother enough to abort a potential person? I find the whole thing unsolvable.

    The unborn has personhood, and we require another person to risk themselves. We balance this risk
    The unborn doesn’t have personhood, we risk another person’s life, possibly without consent

    That said, you might be right that it always means death for the egg whereas it’s only possible death to the mother so we side with the unborn. Pain and injury incurred are likewise insignificant compared to that. Yet – we are making that decision for someone. So for these reasons I think I’m content with the laws as they stand be cause they allow a level of consent.

    Thank you for the discussion, this is something I’ve thought about a lot, it’s good to express those thoughts to others.

  • cuckoo

    if you define an embryo as another human, then you have a problem, because that ‘other human’ is harming the host that is carrying it (considering it is important to the continuation of the species, you’d think evolution might have ended up with a less destructive method of creating babies for mammals than pregnancy, but evolution is not about perfection…). It is in a parasitical relationship taking what it needs from an unwilling host. So for a libertarian to allow embryos to be humans, they also have to make an exception to the rule that human’s control their own bodies to allow this ‘other human’ to have the right to the host’s body.

    And that’s the moral fault-line that makes the issue so complex for me philosophically. How much do we make mothers exempt from no one should have be forced to sacrifice for others? Even if you believe the unborn to have full human status, you are still asking someone to endure pain, injury and possible death on their behalf.You could argue that a woman consents to this situation the moment she has sex, but what then of rape victims?

  • Alisa

    Cuckoo, that is why legislating morality is a terrible idea.

  • Lee Moore

    The term that seems to be missing in the discussion between Cuckoo and Jaded Libertarian is “organism.”

    There is nothing slippery-slopey or potentially this or that, or arbitrary about the difference between a sperm and a fertilised egg. The latter is an organism. The former is not. Not all living cells, or groups of cells, are organisms. Your arm is not an organism. It’s part of an organism. This is a matter of biology not ethics. Fertilisation turns two cells that are not organisms, but are cells of existing organisms, into a new cell that is a new organism. Again – nothing special about humans – this applies across the board. Nor is it a matter of prognosticating about future potential. A fertilised egg is an organism right now.

    It’s true that in certain corners of the prokaryotic world, the concept of “organism” develops fuzzy edges, but once you get to the eukaryotes, the distinction between cells (or groups of cells) that are merely parts of larger organisms, and organisms, is not controversial. A single celled animal is an organism, and a single celled human is one such, though it rapidly becomes a multicelled animal. Consequently it is not even slightly controversial, biologically, that human organisms have a clear beginning – fertilisation.

    Since the term “human being” is thought by some to imply some moral “worth”, and since moralists differ as to the moral worth of human organisms at various stages of their development, some folk do not like to call early stage human organisms “human beings.” Which is fine. Let the moralists discuss at what stage they wish to attribute some moral worth to a human organism.

    But please let’s avoid confusing the biology. There are not arbitrary shades of grey between a sperm and a fertilised egg. The things are quite different. The one is part of an organism. The other is an organism.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . you might think a blastocyst is a human, but the only definition universally agreed is a baby once born . . . “

    Do you understand what “universal” means?

  • Lee Moore

    It is in a parasitical relationship taking what it needs from an unwilling host.

    Sometimes. Obviously if you want an abortion, then you are an unwilling host. If you were raped, then you were an unwilling host ab initio (which explains why the moral case for abortion in the case of rape is not exactly the same as for other cases, and why it is not therefore necessarily hypocritical for someone to oppose abortion generally but make an exception for rape.)

    But in most cases, where the risks of pregnancy are voluntarily run, “unwilling host” is a rather slanted way to describe the position of the mother ab initio. If – a big if obviously – a human organism at an early stage of development has equal “moral worth” to the mother, the question of whether :

    (a) the mother or
    (b) the child

    has some kind of responsibility for their two lives having become tied up together is certainly relevant to the moral questions about how they might become untied.

    And of course how they might become untied raises a whole other can of worms. Is it OK to evict an unwanted lodger by poisoning him ? Chopping him up ? Or are you limited to pushing him out without inflicting injury ?

    Leaving legality aside, the moral philosophy problems posed by abortion are more or less endless. Anyone who tells you it’s a simple matter is a fool.

  • You could argue that a woman consents to this situation the moment she has sex, but what then of rape victims? (cuckoo, November 17, 2017 at 6:59 pm)

    You could argue that a worker consents to being “exploited” when they sign a contract with their employer but what about those who are enslaved, yells some socialist?

    More seriously, you can use the personhood of the infant – the implication that one day there could be a grown adult who can reason morally about their past. Suppose I were diagnosed with kidney failure, and a rare genome such that few can be my donor and none choose to be donors. Suppose an organ-legger attacks such a woman, stealing her kidney to her great pain and distress, and then sells it to me who (innocently – I have no knowledge of the crime at that moment) receive it and so live. Suppose then the organ-legged is arrested, the truth comes out and the woman demands the kidney be re-implanted in her, who has the right to it. This will kill me and she does not need it to live, but it is hers by right, and she can rationally state that having it improves her quality of live (and may affect her longevity) and does not leave her oppressed by un-righted injustice. I possess her kidney – and therefore my life – only by a crime. I have no right to demand that what is hers not be returned to her, even though it will kill me. That is my moral analysis and therefore it is the one I impute to the future character of an unborn infant who, it seems to me, is in a morally similar situation. Assuming the unborn infant is indeed a person with the moral duties of a person solves one aspect of the moral problem.

    The PC are vicious in how they attack all who resist their views, and abortion is no exception. This gives me some understanding of how people can get trapped into seeming to deny the right of a rape victim to abort. However I never agree; I always feel that imputing personhood to the unborn child shows a solution to the moral enigma.

  • Lee Moore

    Your kidney example is very similar to Judith Jarvis Thompson’s famous violinist example – see the link :

    https://www.str.org/articles/unstringing-the-violinist#.WhBBp8aQ00R

    I don’t agree with the commenter at the link in all the detail of his objections (which echo John Finnis’ almost equally famous response to JJ Thompson) but a couple of points are central to the problem with the kidney / violinist analogy.

    1. Whether it is just or unjust that you / the unborn child has come to be using the woman’s kidney / womb. In your / JJ Thompson’s analogies the usage arises from an unmistakably unjust violation*. This is not the case with the unborn child – except in the case of rape. So you are quite right that rape is different because it rules out the otherwise powerful counterargument of usage by consent.

    2. The precise method by which the kidney is returned / the violinist is disconnected / the unborn baby is removed. If the woman is entitled to her kidney back that doesn’t necessarily mean she is entitled to take a knife to your abdomen to dig it out. Likewise with unborn children. If disconnecting the baby from the mother is a matter of cutting at the mother’s own flesh and then extracting it, making every effort not to damage the baby’s body in the course of the removal then that’s one thing. Cutting at the baby’s tissue, or killing it with chemicals so that it can be removed with least damage to the mother is quite different.

    JJ Thompson rightly made the point, which you echo, that stipulating that the baby is a human being with “personhood” is insufficient to demonstrate that abortion is always morally wrong. But equally the right of a woman to remove- by any method – an unwanted person from inside her body cannot be absolute based simply on her own personhood. You cannot automatically use a bazooka on someone whose presence in your kitchen has become irksome to you. Particularly if you invited them in and you know that they can’t be expected to understand your polite invitations to leave of their own accord.

    * although I have a feeling that as a matter of law, an innocent third party who buys stolen property in good faith generally acquires good title. The injustice suffered by the victim of the theft has to be compensated from the thief’s hide, not that of the person currently in possession. I don’t think such property law applies to kidneys, but it does at least illustrate that the principle that it is an overriding moral imperative that the original owner be entitled to get his property back after a theft was not convincing to English jurists. And even these days, the courts come up with financial compensation figures for various body parts damaged or lost in the course of crimes or torts. Law is not morals of course. But they are at least distant cousins (in civilised countries.)

  • Thailover

    Watchman wrote,

    “An embryo is not a living human, although it is a potential one, because you cannot guarantee it will live on its own. Indeed, before a certain stage you can pretty much guarantee it won’t. The potential mother is however clearly a living human (however stupid and careless in her actions) and therefore her wishes take priority over our views of what is appropriate – if libertarianism means anything, it means that another human being has the right to act as they will so long as they are not harming another.”

    How nice of you to explain how my multiple-stroke victim invalid mother is no longer human as she can’t care for herself or “live on her own”. Since when is someone not human because they can’t take care of themselves? What you’re missing here is the word “being”, as in human being; a person. Persons have rights, though eggs, in whatever state, do not. In my opinion, the matter is when does the unborn become a being, a person and thus have rights? I willingly admit it’s a sorites paradox with no defenitive clearcut answers. It’s also my opinion that if the unborn will be born on Wednesday, but you abort one day prior, you are as much a murderer as if you killed the child the following Thursday. There’s nothing magical about the birthing process.

    For the sake of full disclosure, I’m an atheist, an Ayn Rand Objectivist, and don’t believe in “soul upon conception”. However the popular feminist idea that the process of slaughtering your unborn and sucking it out with a vacuum cleaner is an act of joyous emancipation is nothing short of psychopathic pathology. I believe the technical term is “fucking looney”.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Paul Marks – November 17, 2017 at 12:04 am

    The Foreign Office, like the BBC and the rest of “liberal” opinion, want Israel exterminated – six million dead Jews, they do not state this openly – but they are intelligent men and women, they know exactly where the policy they recommend would lead.

    You give them far too much credit for actual thinking through their views. Which are shared by many Jews, even some Zionists living in Israel. These people are willfully blind to the frothing Jew-hatred of the Arabs. They are so deep in thrall to anti-colonialism and white guilt that any fault of Israel completely absorbs their attention, but Arab misbehavior is invisible.

    When it comes to the latter, they are examplars of what Prof. Richard Landes calls Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism (they are liberals just like us) and Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (it’s all our fault). There are none so blind as those who feel moral compulsion not to see.

  • Julie near Chicago

    What Thai said.

    Special notice to Jaded for his listing of the physical stages of human life, on November 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm. Very well done. :>))

    .

    I suppose I’ll repeat here some of what I said 4 1/2 years ago — time flies! And I’d said it here at least once before that, IIRC, “never a safe bet.” Also somewhere along the way at Gabb’s LA I think, and possibly at Counting Cats.

    I’ve edited the very first parenthetical, because as far as I can see I’d given entrée to the Wars of Religion, whereas religion has nothing to do with it.

    http://www.samizdata.net/2013/04/thinking-aloud-on-a-mountainside/

    ***Start excerpt:

    So for purposes of discussion, let us pretend we’re all agreed that we are talking about an organism which, though not fully developed, has the attributes which define it as being somewhere on the continuum of what is properly called human life (I don’t see how you can make sense of the concept of human life unless human life begins at conception, although of course you can trot out a bunch of “tests,” á la such “bioethicists” as Dr. Zeke. Good luck with that).

    Now. People generally argue for the permissibility of abortion on one or more of four grounds:

    1. The mother doesn’t want the baby.

    2. The child is the result of incest.

    3. The mother was raped.

    4. The mother is seriously at risk of losing her life or a major and possibly defining part of her human capacity.

    Analysis:

    I see two salient features here.

    First, all humans have the right to life (unless, usual caveat, they’ve given up that right by demanding the lives of innocent others). Therefore they have the right to defend their lives against unprovoked aggression. Thus, not only the mother but also the very young human in her womb has that right. The fact that the young being is not yet in a position to defend itself–the fact that it lacks a weapon, lacks the power to try, lacks even the mental equipment that would enable it to make moral estimates and choices–is neither here nor there.

    The other factor is the principle that rightful defense of one’s life does not include the right to yank an innocent bystander in front of one as a human shield against a speeding bullet.

    Now let us consider.

    1. The mother doesn’t want the baby. Too bad, Toots. You opened the door and you were aware of the possibilities. The new organism exists only because you opened the door. You have no right to do away with the potential kid, no matter how upsetting it is. Actions have consequences. (But as consolation, if you really don’t want it, it will almost certainly be adoptable.)

    2. Incest. You’re kidding, right? Incest is “taboo” mostly for reasons of not depreciating the gene pool, and partly (presumably) for psychological reasons. But where both parties to it are consenting adults, the gene business is immaterial because, again, it’s not the potential kid’s doing that he exists with his suspect, possibly defective genes; and with that out of the way, the argument for (1) above applies.

    3. Rape. I feel terrible for the mother in this case, I really do. But the fault lies not with the potential baby in her womb, who remains totally innocent and killing whom would accomplish nothing in the way of justice, but rather with the rapist. She doesn’t get to abort just because the rape was, well, rape–against her will, unless she was mentally feeble or so young that she truly didn’t understand. (In a case like that, it’s up to the parents or guardian; and the fact remains that they can look after the mother, but the baby is altogether innocent and has the same right to life as does the mother–and her parents or guardians). So this woman, too, should bear the baby and see that he or she is adopted at birth, if she cannot stand the thought of living with and caring for him or her for eighteen years or so.

    4. The mother’s life or human functionality is at serious risk. This, to me, is the only really hard case. But in this case, I come down on the side of the mother, who also has the right to her life, and to defend it. Here I think that since she is facing giving up, in essence, the whole of her remaining life, exactly as is the baby, she has the right to defend it to the utmost. She has the power; she may rightfully exercise that power.

    —-In all the other cases, at worst the mother is asked to give up not her whole life, but only whatever portion of her time, her attention, her effort–it takes, until the young one can navigate the adult world well enough to survive; by custom, let’s say until he or she is 18. After that the mom can go back to living her own life on her own terms, without further moral responsibility for the offspring. But an aborted (killed) human has the entire rest of its life taken from it. In the last analysis, that’s the underlying reason why libertarians should oppose abortion in all cases save that of the risk to the life of the mother.

    . . .

    If that analysis is correct–and I think it is–there is still plenty of room for lots of details, where the Devil is famously said to reside. Nevertheless, even the non-religious among us should be thinking along these lines when we consider the morality of abortion.

    ***End excerpt

  • Lee Moore

    Julie : “Special notice to Jaded for his listing of the physical stages of human life, on November 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm.”

    If I may quibble, Jaded mentioned “various” stages of human life not “the” stages. Had he been listing “the” stages he’d have had zygote, morula, and blastula before he even got to blastocyst.

    Julie : “I don’t see how you can make sense of the concept of human life unless human life begins at conception”

    I think the relevance of human life is that it distinguishes it from giraffe life. A living human cell, say a blood cell, is human life. What it isn’t, is a living human organism. Those are the things in Jaded’s list (with my additions.) And Jaded’s list applies to giraffes just as much as it applies to humans, though once we’re at the Child stage we tend to use Young instead. But for the first few stages, the list applies to all viviparous organisms. What begins at conception is not human life or giraffe life but the life of a human or a giraffe, ie a new living organism.

    The biology is NOT specific to humans. Desperate attempts by pro-choicers and the medical profession (but I repeat myself) to redefine biological terms to reframe the abortion debate are ignored by animal biologists who continue to use the generic biological terms to describe the generic biological processes. Giraffe “pre-embryos” and “potential giraffes” have yet to appear in the literature.

    Julie : “First, all humans have the right to life”

    Having settled (see above) what a human is, and stripped away the rhetorical framing, your postulate is precisely what is denied by pro-choicers. Not all humans have a right to life. Only humans that are sufficiently important have such a right. The argument is about the content of “sufficiently important.”

    Lest it be thought that I am being unkind to pro-choicers, let us not forget that Mother Nature does away with uncountable humans before they even manage to implant without any of us weeping a single drop. So the idea that very early stage humans are not very important is not anything like as offensive to the average conscience as, say, the idea that some racial groups of humans are not very important.

    PS I reread watchman’s post and my eyes paused on this comment :

    “considering it is important to the continuation of the species, you’d think evolution might have ended up with a less destructive method of creating babies for mammals than pregnancy, but evolution is not about perfection..”

    I’m not sure what this is intended to convey. Surely the evolutionary “point” of pregnancy is to create fewer babies with a relatively high survival rate, as opposed to the alternative strategy of producing zillions of babies with an enormous attrition rate. How could pregnancy be criticised as destructive ? It’s the opposite.

  • bobby b

    JadedLibertarian
    November 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    “Blastocyst
    Embryo
    Fetus
    Baby
    Child
    Teenager
    Adult
    Geriatric”

    Not to quibble, but I can think of four stages in between “Adult” and “Geriatric” just off the top of my head.

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