Author Topic: Abortion: This Should Be Fun  (Read 6042 times)

FaustWolf

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #105 on: March 10, 2010, 12:44:44 am »
I think JJ Thompson ("JJ" standing for Judith Jarvis, cool-style) made an ingenious proposal when she wrote that the fetus does have a right to development and life, yet that right does not trump the mother's right to control over her own person and destiny, and I have to thank Uboa for referring to Thompson's essays (and Thought, for reproducing them above). Jarvis' proposal might seem like a huge gamble at first, but it should, after all, appeal to the "moderate" stance that welcomes choice in cases of rape and certain other circumstances. Moderates on the issue, as I was for quite awhile, are already stratifying the worth of different fetuses according to whether the mother wants to lend her body to its further development. I crossed over to full support for abortion rights once I became uncomfortable with supporting the prospective mother's right to self-determination in some cases but not others. I may be imagining it, but I think I'm seeing a growing trend where people are also crossing over to just the opposite side -- wishing that society would force the mother to lend her body to the fetus' development and birth even in cases of rape, incest, etc.

In the end, I think we all just have to step back and place our trust in the prospective mother (or father, if men ever succeed in reengineering their bodies so that they, too, can experience maternity). I know I sure ain't donating my body to host another person's fetus, so I would feel most awkward making a decision in the stead of the person who currently holds that fetus.

I can see no other way to fairly approach the issue. When we have birth pods, now, that will be something. When that day comes, a prospective mother really could place a blastocyst in a Catholic Priest's hands and say, "You can keep it."
« Last Edit: March 10, 2010, 01:40:14 am by FaustWolf »

Lord J Esq

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #106 on: March 10, 2010, 01:33:52 am »
I understand what you are saying, Thought (for I have encountered almost every argument there is on the subject), but your objection is easily answered by a distinction which is simple and accessible to all: Birth is the best place to assign personhood to a human, because that is when the onus of the child's life passes from mother to society. Not at conception; not six months after delivery. Birth. That is not a null position; that is a physical condition. Prior to being born, the child is a "denizen of the mother," where the mother-as-animal directly provides for the entire development of the child. Whatever society may exist, if any at all, can express itself to the baby only through the mother. The society is not necessary, but the mother is. After being born, the equation flips. The mother is no longer necessary, but the society is. The child is now a "denizen of society." Even the mother herself counts as part of "society" after her baby is born, except where she breastfeeds and warms it--animal tasks that can be delegated to others and thus are the society's responsibility above the mother's--if indeed such a responsibility can even be said to apply to the mother, which I doubt--for a society that concerns itself with the welfare of its constituents must place its obligations above those of individuals. (Or in other words society exists to serve us and not the other way' round.) Personhood in the scope of this discussion is a legal idea and, for the reason above, its lower limit is arbitrarily but plausibly and with good reason defined by the status of being born or unborn. There is no better place on the timeline to mark it. You are welcome to try.

It probably would make sense to allow for terminating extremely ill or handicapped babies, after birth, if it is clear that their lives will be significantly shortened, pain-ridden, or handicapped, with the meaning of "significantly" a legitimate matter for debate. However, that act of social welfare would fall under the ethical framework of euthanasia, and is a different issue than the one of abortion. Like the imaginary solution to a quadratic equation, it would be theoretically possible to talk about "euthanasia of the unborn," but in reality it would be a gibberish notion, because the reality of "the denizen of society" would not yet have been established for the child. This invokes Faust's comment, written as I was writing mine, where he said that it can be said that society acknowledges the right to life of practically all humans, but also acknowledges the right to self-determination on the part of persons. An unborn baby is not able to exercise self-determination. Not "not allowed." Not able. But this is not for lack of ability to communicate desire. This is for lack of desire itself. But this lack of desire comes not from a condition of neutrality. It comes from emptiness stemming from inherent inability. But it is not that there is no desire present. It is that there can be no desire present. There is no suppression here, except of potential. (That's why a word like "murder" is inapplicable, to the wrath of many a lifer, to abortion, just as animals and plants and mushrooms cannot be "murdered.") Society, in its ignorance, can concern itself with the right of pseudo-persons who have physical form but not the mental qualities which justify personhood, and thus can feel obliged to protect the life of some or all of the unborn, yet, even then, it must respect the supercession of the right to self-determination by pregnant mothers.

You also overlooked, for a second time, the fact that I, certainly, and in all likelihood others, do not justify abortion solely on the nature of the unborn child, but on the right to self-determination of the mother too--a right which is given perspective in part by the fact that an unborn baby has no such constitution to be self-determining!

rushingwind

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #107 on: March 10, 2010, 04:02:09 am »
I think there's also an emotional component involved when one considers the birth of a child as the entry into personhood. We, as adults who have desires and ambitions and sentience, see a crying baby. We see eyes and fingers and toes, and so we think, "Oh, well, that's a little person, just like us!" As it's already been discussed here, this probably isn't the case since many attributes we'd give to a person don't yet exist in a newborn. But I personally believe the "birth distinction" stems from our own emotional connection to a baby. "Oh look, it's crying. It eats and sleeps. It's just like us. How cute!" We are the ones who add the distinction of personhood through our own emotional attachments. And thus, society does as well. After all, we have birthday celebrations, don't we?

So where does sentience begin? I don't pretend to know. Science has not yet provided a definitive answer. But to me, as long as the baby is in a woman, it's a part of that woman. It is not yet an independent person--it is simply a part of the mother's body. And women should have the right to do whatever we wish with our own bodies. To me, the personhood debate is pointless at any time before birth. It's not yet a person. It's only a part of another person.

And also, Thought, if you were looking for real debate with ZeaLitY, you should have kept the condescending tone out of your reply to him. It made you seem disingenuous, and for a while there I thought you were trolling, myself  (though I suppose that's part of the whole worry about "concern trolls"). Academic curiousity or no, such a tone never adds to a debate, and can be the quickest way to kill any real exchange. Many people will either clam up and refuse to participate, or others will get angry and the insults start flying. (Thankfully, the Compendium is populated by a lot of spirited people who neither run for the hills, nor froth at the mouth in rage, but still...)
« Last Edit: March 10, 2010, 04:04:32 am by rushingwind »

Uboa

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #108 on: March 10, 2010, 06:16:59 am »
Reading through this last page, I was a little surprised to see my name being mentioned so much, as I do not know how much of what you guys are attributing to me is actually attributable to me.  At any rate, perhaps I can raise a point or two worth considering here...

For the time being I do not have a whole lot that I would like to add, save that I want to briefly segue back to where this emergent debate began.  That is, with Z's remarks about a potential legal fiction being scripted with regard to the personhood of a fetus, in such cases where the undesired death of an unborn child causes great pain and suffering to other persons.  From what little I've read about legal fictions, creation of one which bestows personhood upon a fetus would be quite a dangerous maneuver where the protection of the right to an abortion is concerned.  I pulled the following definition of "legal fiction" from this seemingly trustworthy web site: 

Quote from: Justice Lennox/Stoner v Skene
A legal fiction ... is an assumption of a possible thing as a fact, which is not literally true, for the advancement of justice, and which the law will not allow to be disproved, as far as concerns the purpose for which the assumption is made.

It would probably be better to instate laws which would allow simply for ridiculously tough sentencing in cases of unwanted termination of pregnancy, with the spirit of such laws being, clearly, solely for the benefit of the mother and any other potential immediate family of the unborn child.  Of course, I do not know how one would staunchly define the "spirit" of any law, and I would be worried about even laws like these being potentially twisted in unfavorable ways.  If we could create a legal environment where it is given that all laws concerning abortion rights, and "wrongs" for that matter, are to benefit the potential mothers, primarily, and other family members secondarily, then I would feel safe in instating such laws.

Thought

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #109 on: March 10, 2010, 11:42:12 am »
Birth is the best place to assign personhood to a human, because that is when the onus of the child's life passes from mother to society.

While I agree that this is a fine point to assign personhood, I must still contend that there is no objective justification for it. It is a useful convenience, not an absolute. You point to the bio-mass's dependency on the host as justification, so I will note that other than processing its own oxygen, the biomass is equally dependent (both physically and legally) on the host. It cannot move effectively, it cannot maintain its own body temperature, it cannot sleep for extended periods of time for lack of energy stores. You say that an unborn baby is unable to exercise self-determination for want of basic abilities, so I will note that the same is true of a born biomass.

This is the problem with attempting to base any argument on such a specific time point. The only significant difference between a biomass an hour to birth and one that is an hour past is: location. This villainizes the pro-choice stance, as the only thing keeping the biomass from obtaining personhood is an abortion doctor blocking the way. That will play very nicely with the pro-life crowd. And to what gain is there? The majority of abortions occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy; if personhood was granted at the beginning of the start of the third trimester (which is around when the biomass becomes viable enough to live outside the host), it would not hinder a single one of those abortions. Is there a need to keep a biomass from having personhood at, say 35 weeks? 34? As long as there are considerations for the health and safety of the mother, there is a "grace period" of perhaps three or four weeks in this matter; personhood could be conferred at any time during that and I'd be amazed if even two abortions were prevented. The disadvantages of basing any pro-choice argument on the specific time point of birth are great, while the advantages are few. As far as defensive positions go, "personhood at birth" is more of a sand castle than a Bastille.

Again, I agree that this is a very useful marker for legal purposes. As far as convenience and practical use, there is no better time. But even a wiff of it as a justification for abortion is detrimental.

However, perhaps you see a value to this as an argument (separate from its value as a general conception, on which we seem to agree and which you have well illustrated) against the anti-abortion stance that I am missing?

You also overlooked, for a second time, the fact that I, certainly, and in all likelihood others, do not justify abortion solely on the nature of the unborn child...

Not at all; I did not overlook but rather ignored. I have not claimed that you, or anyone else, has justified abortion solely on the nature of the unborn child. The thrust of my argument is that any justification of abortion partially based on the nature of the unborn child is undesirable, ineffective, and ultimately harmful. Truly, it is even harmful if it appears that one is making such an argument (even if one is in fact not). It is certainly nice that you and others have more arguments than just this, but how does having three perfectly good tires relate to someone pointing out that you have a flat fourth one? Am I missing some significance of this? Is there some particular point of this that you think I need to address in order to strengthen (or undermine) my argument that personhood at birth is a faulty position?

So where does sentience begin? I don't pretend to know. Science has not yet provided a definitive answer. But to me, as long as the baby is in a woman, it's a part of that woman. It is not yet an independent person--it is simply a part of the mother's body. And women should have the right to do whatever we wish with our own bodies. To me, the personhood debate is pointless at any time before birth. It's not yet a person. It's only a part of another person.

Exactly!

Imagine if the debate was so organized. Currently the pro-life side hides behind the claim that a biomass is a person deserving of life. This defensive line is then assaulted by the pro-choice side claiming that the biomass is not a person deserving of life until birth. It is effectively World War I and we're stuck in immovable trenches.

By denying the personhood of a biomass, pro-choicers are allowing that to be the point where pro-lifers are defending. It is giving them something to hide behind and it allows them to ignore the matter of a woman's rights. But if that is no longer the battlefield, what can pro-lifers hide behind?

One of the great criticisms of the pro-life side is that it is sexist. While this might be true in effect, it is much more clouded in practice. That is, it is very possible for a pro-lifer to focus on the "saving lives" aspect even if they might be horrified of the prospect of engaging in sexist behavior. But if that distraction disappears?

And also, Thought, if you were looking for real debate with ZeaLitY, you should have kept the condescending tone out of your reply to him. It made you seem disingenuous, and for a while there I thought you were trolling, myself  (though I suppose that's part of the whole worry about "concern trolls"). Academic curiousity or no, such a tone never adds to a debate, and can be the quickest way to kill any real exchange. Many people will either clam up and refuse to participate, or others will get angry and the insults start flying. (Thankfully, the Compendium is populated by a lot of spirited people who neither run for the hills, nor froth at the mouth in rage, but still...)

Well then allow me to extend my apology to you as well as Zeality (and of course to any who were so displeasured by my "trollish" words). I had attempted to grandstand a little to help draw attention to the importance of the mechanism of personhood (since it seemed I had underplayed it before), but clearly that was not the way to go. Thank you for your concern and again, my apologies.

MsBlack

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #110 on: March 10, 2010, 01:55:04 pm »
It seems like a lot of this disagreement is semantic...

While I agree that this is a fine point to assign personhood, I must still contend that there is no objective justification for it. It is a useful convenience, not an absolute. You point to the bio-mass's dependency on the host as justification, so I will note that other than processing its own oxygen, the biomass is equally dependent (both physically and legally) on the host. It cannot move effectively, it cannot maintain its own body temperature, it cannot sleep for extended periods of time for lack of energy stores. You say that an unborn baby is unable to exercise self-determination for want of basic abilities, so I will note that the same is true of a born biomass.

I think that what has been meant is that the nature of a foetus and the nature of the hose, taken together, are sufficient to justify killing the creature, since the will (in the most general sense) of the host trumps that of the foetus--the nature of the will being decided by the nature of the being. With what they are concerned is not just the one or just the other, but the difference in value between the will of the host and the will of the foetus. (Again, this is will in the generalized sense.) This is why 'personhood' is mentioned so much--because it determines the value placed upon the foetus's will and thus is paramount to deciding upon whether or not abortion is permissible.

Now, when the creature is born, the will of the host is no longer a factor, and there is no-one (whose opinion is of legal concern) who can say that the creature should be killed. (I trust it obvious that the host qua the host's wish for it to be killed is of legal concern.) It is assumed that the state is then responsible for ensuring the child's upbringing.

I think that better explains the pro-choice positions in this thread thus far.

That will play very nicely with the pro-life crowd. And to what gain is there?

If you can provide a superior alternative, your objection will be vindicated. Otherwise, it's just quibbling over how many grains of sand make a heap.

The majority of abortions occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy; if personhood was granted at the beginning of the start of the third trimester (which is around when the biomass becomes viable enough to live outside the host), it would not hinder a single one of those abortions. Is there a need to keep a biomass from having personhood at, say 35 weeks? 34? As long as there are considerations for the health and safety of the mother, there is a "grace period" of perhaps three or four weeks in this matter; personhood could be conferred at any time during that and I'd be amazed if even two abortions were prevented.

Now, see, this is an inferior alternative. There is a qualitative difference between the situations of a foetus and a newborn, as I and the others have explained. What you suggest here is a quantitative difference that doesn't actually agree with the pro-choice positions in this discussion thus far. So, such a cut-off point (for a formal, comprehensive overview of cut-off points, refer to Curb Your Enthusiasm, David et al., 2000) for abortion would be not only extremely tenuous but also inconsistent with many pro-abortion arguments. This would give anti-abortionists much more leverage than using birth does.

Your concern that pro-choicers don't appreciate the deeper questions is a good one, and you'd be right if you said that many haven't done the philosophical work to have a strong pro-full-term abortion position or that the prevailing pro-choice arguments are incomplete. However, the way you seem to be going about conveying these things is, ironically, overshadowing that message.

The disadvantages of basing any pro-choice argument on the specific time point of birth are great, while the advantages are few.

But you still haven't provided a better alternative.

As far as defensive positions go, "personhood at birth" is more of a sand castle than a Bastille.

Again: Our (to whomever 'our' may refer) concern is not with finding a 'perfect' solution, but with finding the best from an infinity of choices. Sand castle or not, the best proposal I've heard is birth, so that is with what I go.

But even a wiff of it as a justification for abortion is detrimental.

I don't understand you here, but it sounds like you might be here thinking that we see no qualitative difference between postnatal termination and abortion. If that's the case, you're thinkin' wrong.

The thrust of my argument is that any justification of abortion partially based on the nature of the unborn child is undesirable, ineffective, and ultimately harmful.

Can you provide a superior alternative method for determining the validity of abortion to the ones that refer to the nature of the foetus? The method I explained above that is concerned with the relative wills of the host and foetus and which I think pretty much represents the others' position is pretty strong.

But to me, as long as the baby is in a woman, it's a part of that woman. It is not yet an independent person--it is simply a part of the mother's body. And women should have the right to do whatever we wish with our own bodies. To me, the personhood debate is pointless at any time before birth. It's not yet a person. It's only a part of another person.

You seem to presume that the foetus being in the host means that it is 'part of the host' and therefore just like a nail or a hair or something. But later on, the foetus is so much more than any of those things and might even survive outside the host. Certainly it is inside the host, but it has a body of its own and, later on, is a separate organism by any vaguely sensible notion of 'organism' of which I know.

This is part of why I use words like 'host' and (though I haven't here) 'parasite'; they are more general, precise and accurate. For example, the foetus being (like) a 'parasite' shows how the host and the foetus are different organisms and much besides that we do well to remember in abortion arguments.

By denying the personhood of a biomass, pro-choicers are allowing that to be the point where pro-lifers are defending. It is giving them something to hide behind and it allows them to ignore the matter of a woman's rights. But if that is no longer the battlefield, what can pro-lifers hide behind?

The notion of personhood is important here as a way for the masses to approximate the idea of the differences between the host's will and the foetus's will. Similarly, the legal notion of personhood at birth is much more accessible than a comprehensive nuanced legal framework that accommodates full-term abortion.

It's like how one wouldn't have expected the early feminists to have used the relatively advanced feminist theory that has since developed to justify female suffrage; the basic notion of male-female voting equality was enough, and advanced theory actually would have been less productive. Or it would be like trying to introduce Quantum Mechanics to the Stone Ages; you wouldn't be able to make the people then see or understand your theory, and you'd be better off teaching them Classical Mechanics or so forth. (Note also in these analogies that the more powerful theories were built upon the earlier ones. There's something to be learned from that.)

One of the great criticisms of the pro-life side is that it is sexist. While this might be true in effect, it is much more clouded in practice. That is, it is very possible for a pro-lifer to focus on the "saving lives" aspect even if they might be horrified of the prospect of engaging in sexist behavior. But if that distraction disappears?

Yes. This is something that the pro-choice movement would do very well to observe more. The right have shifted the terms of much of the debate so that the pro-abortion side is defending itself from accusations of murder and so forth. Whereas, the terms of debate should be more in terms of the anti-abortion side putting the survival of a few stem cells (simplification but you get the idea) or a parasitic creature of instinct over the developed will of a definite person. If this horrific and horrifying view were seen, we could finally move on from scrapping for abortion rights.

But that tangent aside:

°Hell yeah 'soon'-to-be Motherfucking Mr. Doctor Thought! :franky
« Last Edit: March 10, 2010, 02:02:54 pm by MsBlack »

GenesisOne

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #111 on: March 10, 2010, 02:31:19 pm »

I'd like to contribute to this discussion, but before we go any further...

Please move this discussion to a new thread.

MsBlack

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #112 on: March 10, 2010, 02:37:59 pm »
Just post and your post will be moved too.

Thought

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #113 on: March 10, 2010, 03:04:51 pm »
That will play very nicely with the pro-life crowd. And to what gain is there?

If you can provide a superior alternative, your objection will be vindicated. Otherwise, it's just quibbling over how many grains of sand make a heap.

Well as Josh noted, there are many arrows in the pro-choice quiver, and I am only arguing that this one ought be discarded due to flaws. To offer an analogy, since I am a theist I also would argue that there are many arrows in a theist's quiver. A Young-Earth Creationist Arrow, however, is flawed and aught be discarded. It is not an argument that a theist should make, as it reduces the likelihood that the theist will hit the intended target.

However, that caveat being given, the alternate argument that I find to be far more useful than personhood at birth is as follows:  http://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm

But to attempt to sum it up: If we assume that the biomass has full personhood at conception, rather than birth, this assumption does not significantly or aversely influence the stance of the "pro-choice" movement. If I might be so bold as to use a personal pronoun in regards to this (bold because, as Josh noted, not all pro-choicers would be well pleased to count me among their numbers), "we" would not be questioning the personhood of the biomass nor disagreeing with the "pro-lifers" that a such a being has a right to life. This would be accepted by both sides and thus will fall out of public attention for want of conflict (disagreements, not agreements, make news). However, "we" would maintain that though the biomass has a right to life, the woman also has rights (the right to control her body) that must likewise be respected. "We" mean no ill will to the biomass, which has found itself (if such personal verbs can be applied to it) in an unfortunately environment due to no action of its own. However, it is trespassing. While it has a right to life, it does not have a right to the woman's body.

Here we might turn to the anti-abortionists (as they can then be rightly called, since both pro-and-anti-abortionists would qualify for the literal definition of ďpro-lifeĒ) and with earnest sincerity confirm that they do not mean to imply that a woman ought be a slave to another person in any circumstance. It is certainly fine and admirable if the woman chooses to support the biomass, but it cannot be required. To be so beholden is to be even worse than a slave. I have two kidneys; if you need one, it would indeed be fine of me to offer it, but to be required by law to relinquish it? By granting the biomass personhood, we are allowed to extrapolate other interpersonal interactions to that biomass as well. This is not an issue of the right to life of the biomass, rather it is an issue of a right to self-preservation and self-determination of the woman. Society can no more reasonably require her to donate her body to the biomass, though we accept it as a person, than we can require an individual to give up a spare kidney against their will.

Having granted the biomass personhood at conception, we have also moved the onus of caring for it from the woman to society in general; if the woman chooses to carry it, then society gives her stewardship. If the woman chooses not to carry it, then it is up to society to figure out what to do. The biomass would have to be removed. Again, no ill will is directed towards it, and while we do not wish it death, we cannot tolerate its imposition on an unwilling individual. If it can live, let it live. If it cannot, then that is sad, just as it is sad if a person dies for want of a kidney transplant, but no individual can be held to blame.

At this point I expect an anti-abortionist would object with a claim to the affect that the woman has obligated herself to the child through becoming pregnant in the first place (why do I expect this? Because I used to be anti-abortion and that's what I would have done). Perhaps, perhaps, but we are talking about full persons here. Both sides agree that a woman who gives birth to a child is obligated to care for that child. If such a woman cannot care for the child, it is agreed that alternate accommodations must be made. That child is immediately given into the care of the state and it is now the state's responsibility. But if the state says no, it wonít take it? If the woman tries but is purposefully and intentionally blocked? As long as a person willingly accepts the responsibility for a child, we hold them accountable for the wellbeing of that child. But the moment that person petitions the state to relinquish that responsibility we can no longer hold them accountable.

So, such a cut-off point... for abortion would be not only extremely tenuous but also inconsistent with many pro-abortion arguments.

Ah, that is a very valid point that I had utterly failed to consider. My arguments were entirely focused on this one point being flawed, and not on the larger ramifications of fixing it. I suppose to use my own analogy of the tires, it does little good to fix the one flat one if in the process one also ruins the other three. This definitely isn't the time for a haphazard theoretical overhaul of the pro-abortion movement. I will definitely need to look into other arguments more to see how I might reconcile them.

As such, I must formally withdraw my arguments! Until I can reconcile the whole host of pro-abortion arguments with conception-personhood, these sentiments of mine have as much (if not more) potential for harm as the argument I was railing against.

Thank you.

MsBlack

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #114 on: March 10, 2010, 04:12:26 pm »
Thank you.

And thank you for your honesty. (Mostly for your honesty to yourself.)

But erm, did that withdrawal include your counterarguments in your most recent post, or 'just' the preceding ones? 'Cause if the latter...

Thought

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #115 on: March 10, 2010, 04:24:15 pm »
Mostly those specifically against the personhoodification of the biomass at birth. The points in my last post were regarding the alternative that you had requested. But if you want to comment, please do.

GenesisOne

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #116 on: March 10, 2010, 05:05:00 pm »

Whew!  This was quite a read to go over.  Here are some opinions I gleaned from the arguments presented thus far:

- The unborn is not a person but a template biomass. (ZeaLitY)
- Determining personhood is fallacious and pointless. (Thought)
- Birth is the best place to assign personhood. (Lord J)
- The fetus is part of the mother's body. (rushingwind)

I will start with the first argument that stuck out the most.



Determining personhood is fallacious and pointless.

I disagree. By saying that an unborn child isnít a person, this would technically make it a human non-person.  Does such a life form even exist?  Who should be in charge of determining which characteristics of personality constitute personhood? The mother?  A doctor?  A panel of experts?  The Supreme Court? In the past, numerous human beings have been defined as non-persons (e.g. African slaves, Chinese slaves). Should we begin a new list of human beings who aren't really persons?  Defining personhood is one of the most important concepts to the whole abortion debate.  True, there are some fallacious arguments to defining personhood (Iíll show you some further down), but it is certainly not pointless.  Here are some definitions that arenít up to snuff in the definition of personhood:

The lack of certain personality traits used to define personhood would remove many humans who are currently considered to be persons from the status of personhood. This kind of definition of personhood would make into non-persons those who are in a coma, the elderly with degenerative disorders (such as Alzheimer's), and those who are mentally deficient. Is it fair to consider these human beings as non-persons?  If so, then you can kill them anytime you wanted to without suffering any moral ramifications or personal guilt from your fictional misdeed against a ďnon-personĒ.

If one defines personhood on the basis of those who consciously performing personal acts, those who are asleep would be classified as non-persons and could be killed during a nap. If one defines personhood on the basis of those who have a present capacity to perform personal acts, those who are in a coma could be killed at any point during their coma.

If one defines personhood on the basis of those who have a history of performing personal acts, those who have been in a coma from birth would be classified as non-persons and could be killed at any point after birth. If one defines personhood on the basis of those who have a future capacity to perform personal acts, those who are dying would be classified as non-persons and could be killed at any point.

Human newborns are among the least capable mammals in their ability to perform both physically and mentally. Personhood based upon the ability to perform certain personal functions could be used to define newborns as non-persons.  If this were the case, then they are susceptible to possible infanticide.

Defining personhood on the basis of personality results in several problems. Personality is a function of the body, and is programmed at least partially by the DNA. Any attempt to distinguish a separate existence of the mind from the brain results in a mind/body dualism paradigm that is not accepted by the vast majority of secular scientists.

Defining personhood on the basis of self-consciousness and an interest in one's own continued existence allows for infanticide. However, most people are unwilling to accept such a definition of personhood, since they are able to see exactly what is being killed when the individual is a newborn. What most people don't know is that the fetus looks markedly like a newborn, only smaller, after the first three months of gestation.

Pursuing the definition of personhood is not pointless by any stretch of the imagination.  Quite the contrary, from what I have just shown you, defining personhood is of the utmost importance to the whole abortion debate.  In addition, defining personhood isnít cakewalk.  If you donít believe me on either of these notions, then name me one reputable doctor/expert who agrees with you.  Prove to me that defining personhood is pointless.

More to comeÖ

FaustWolf

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #117 on: March 10, 2010, 05:16:01 pm »
Should we append the recent line of discussion to the sexism thread, which I believe started from earlier abortion debate from this very thread last summer? It would certainly be interesting to do a before-and-after comparison and see how the participants in the discussion have evolved since then.

I wanted to return to what Sajainta wrote above, because it highlights (what I personally believe to be) the importance of letting the issue rest entirely and completely with the prospective mother, and with no authority outside of herself -- even if that authority be something as widely esteemed as science or a deity. Perhaps a fetus is like the Masamune: the hopes and dreams of the bearer, imbued within the fetus, are what transform him or her qualitatively and differentiate him or her from most other living beings capable of perceiving and reacting to stimuli (taking development into account).

Sajainta, I apologize in advance because I know that this description can't possibly accurately portray your relationship with your daughter; perhaps no words can, but that doesn't get me off the hook because I'm still treading awfully close to the wording of "sentimentality." What I hope to do is empower that word; after all, in the abortion debate, why should the sentiments of a prospective mother not reign supreme? I feel this is a useful perspective from which a pro-choicer may approach the subject and tie together some inconsistencies.

Maybe this point of view can even help us discover common ground with pro-lifers. For example, I feel such a definition of the beginning and source of humanity bridges pro-choice sentiments with the desire to punish criminals for the destruction of fetuses. In a perfectly pro-choice world, ongoing development within the mother's body can be taken as evidence that she continues to lend the fetus humanity, and therefore that it possesses humanity; if the mother decides to eject the fetus from her body and it cannot continue developing without such assistance, this can be taken as evidence that the fetus has not been imbued, or is no longer imbued, with humanity. The difference between an abortion provider and Scott Peterson, then, is that Scott Peterson murdered a child that possessed humanity by virtue of Laci Peterson's decision to continue the child's development, and by extension, the child's life. The abortion provider has committed no murder because the will of the mother no longer grants the fetus humanity.

Is it imperfect that one human being have full reign to decide what is human and what is not? Sure. But I would much rather let that determination reside with the person who is closest to all the facts surrounding the pregnancy, and that person is undoubtedly the prospective mother. The father, of course, does not have experiential access to certain facts like what it costs in terms of personal bodily resources to maintain the child's life support, and therefore his judgment is more imperfect than that of the mother. We men will simply have to deal with it; again, there's nothing saying that men won't bear children some day themselves. When that happens, then they will have full reign to decide whether a fetus residing in their bodies has full humanity.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2010, 05:32:52 pm by FaustWolf »

ZeaLitY

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #118 on: March 10, 2010, 06:23:36 pm »
Quote
I am sure this was not intentional in any way, but this profoundly, profoundly hurt me.  You are free to your opinions, but I think there could have been a better way to speak your mind about this, particularly because you know what happened to me and yes, I have "sentimentalized" my daughter into a person.  You can disagree with me all you want, but saying you "fucking hate it" is blatantly insensitive.  I think it would be wise, in the future, for you to choose your words more carefully if you know that someone you have considered to be a friend in the past might be hurt by your words.

I don't like it when people are misled by omission for emotional effect, especially when it's going to result in sadness and empathetic suffering on their side. The world's a difficult enough place to bear without unduly maximizing the impact of empathetic sadness in people. Sentimentalization is also an insidiously effective tactic used by the anti-choice crowd to guilt pregnant women to carrying their babies to term, and I'm probably going to have to observe with it when volunteering at an abortion clinic soon. No one should have to feel bad over that.

http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/bbotl/the_new_buddhist_atheism/

Ugh. Man, so many of these "Buddhism is a set of philosophies, not a religion" posts.

GenesisOne

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Re: The $%*! frustration thread
« Reply #119 on: March 10, 2010, 06:45:29 pm »

@FaustWolf:  Help me make sense of the Scott Peterson case you referenced. 

Since Scott Peterson murdered both his wife and eight-month-old fetus, he was charged with double-homicide.  However, killing a fetus in the third trimester is the equivalent to an abortion (which, by the way, is killing a potential human being).  Seeing how abortion is legal in my homestate of California, shouldn't Peterson have been charged with just one homicide instead of two?  If that was murder, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder.

Personally, I am rather shocked to find that the very liberal state of California considers the intentional killing of a fetus to be murder.  What says you?

@Z:

I don't like it when people are misled by omission for emotional effect, especially when it's going to result in sadness and empathetic suffering on their side. The world's a difficult enough place to bear without unduly maximizing the impact of empathetic sadness in people. Sentimentalization is also an insidiously effective tactic used by the anti-choice crowd to guilt pregnant women to carrying their babies to term, and I'm probably going to have to observe with it when volunteering at an abortion clinic soon. No one should have to feel bad over that.

Sentimentalization being used as the guilt card? As someone who is against abortion, I've never used an appeal to emotion to make my arguments against abortion known to the opposite side.

As for having to carry the baby for full term, the mother can easily utilize the Safe Havens law (now active an all 50 states) to leave the newborn at an emergency room or firehouse within 72 hours and alleviate her of any further responsibility.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_haven_law

Adoption is always an option for those women who don't feel that they can take care of a child at that time in their lives. Many couples, however, have to wait for years to adopt because abortion has drastically reduced the number of children available for adoption.