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Old 03-14-2006, 12:46 AM   #185
Samuel Dravis
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Originally Posted by edlib
Well, I decided to take a day off from this thread, for the most part. Too much heavy thinking... and way too much heavy typing for my admittedly limited skills.
I appreciate the thought you've put into this. Thanks.

Yes, I do.
Ok. Mods, if you please...?

I have stated my position, both in this particular thread, but in others in the Senate; but here it is again, in the clearest possible language I can muster, for the record:

Personally, I find myself morally opposed to abortion.
However, I find it just as wrong to attempt to use the Government to force my views on those that may not share my particular moral objection on a subject such as this where there is clearly not a universal consensus among the American public. (A national debate is probably in order to find what consensus truly exists,.. if any.)
I also don't believe banning abortions will ever truly serve to reduce the number that take place in this country in the long run.
Therefore, I think abortions should remain legal: but every attempt should be made using education, contraception, and easy access to social services such as adoption, as possible; to seriously try to reduce the numbers to as close to nothing as is likely to ever happen in an imperfect world.
I'll state what I think of that and then we can let it rest.

I have not found your argument that an objective moral cannot be enforced on others in this situation to be convincing. Any relative measure can easily be contradictory (and has been) in the past. I don't see how the use of relativism is inherently better than an objective morality, and I think it that it may, in fact, be worse in this particular situation.

I do think Roe v. Wade will be eventually overturned; perhaps by the end of this decade.
I don't think that's altogether a bad thing.
I don't think it will be overturned by this particular effort by the South Dakota legislature to push it up to the Supreme Court, however. This effort is premature, since the moderate middle of the country isn't totally along for the right-wing ride yet. The country still isn't as conservative on some subjects as a few folks would like to believe. It will most likely be a stillborn effort, and in my opinion should be, (if you pardon the language,) aborted.
Once Roe is overturned, the states will be mired down in legislative and judicial battles for years following.
It's a pretty sure bet that it will remain legal on both coasts, and a few other selective states... and illegal over the rest of the nation.
Eventually conservatives, bolstered by this victory, will attempt a federal nation-wide ban, not only of abortion, but perhaps on many forms of birth-control. Sex education, other than the "Abstinence-Only" variety may also get targeted in the fray. (Pornography might also... but since that's such a cash cow for a lot of people, it will never go anywhere.)
A few comments I would like to make:

* Being pro-life does not neccesarily mean that a person is a republican, conservative, religious, or right-wing politically. In a general sense these are accurate though.
* I, myself, would vote against bans of contraception, porn, etc. Those are not dealing with something I consider of such prime importance as whether or not someone lives or dies, and I'm not the slightest bit interested in banning them. The government should stay out.
* The impression that I'm getting from even most of the pro-choice people here is that Roe is not as acceptable as it once was. The one article from the Washington Post that you linked to gives some reasons for this, and I think, as you, that it's likely that Roe will be gotten rid of soon. I'm unsure of whether these people would actually support tighter restrictions on abortions based on their own opinons though; I asked but was not answered.

Ultimately, there will be a large enough backlash, with the political center moving to the left on these subjects, that the entire process will most likely take place all over again... only this time I hope that instead of a fairly weak court ruling like Roe, it will be part of a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to privacy from Governmental interference on matters that should be personal. One that will be far, far more difficult to ever overturn.
I think the key words here are "should be personal." I disagree with your opinion that people are a thing the government should not be interested in protecting.

So far, nobody has really discussed what we can realistically expect to see if and when Roe is really overturned.
It's gonna be a mess. A state by state battle. It's gonna tie up state governments and court houses for decades... except for the ones like S.D. who have their positions on the books already.

I can be fairly sure that there will even be attempts to ban abortions here in the fine Commonwealth I find myself living in... but I don't realistically foresee that ever taking place. The entire Northeast, as well as all of the West Coast will be hold-outs, I believe.
I expect you'd be right about that.

Unless there's a move towards a Federal ban. And that, I believe, would be the biggest mistake.
It would be, perhaps, less of a mistake than I believe that Roe was.


Originally Posted by ShadowTemplar
I will start with this, because it seems to me the most important feature of this debate. And I would ask the anti-choicers here to adress this point before they move on to my other points.

The anti-choice side here is arguing from fundamentally fallacious premises. In the anti-choice rethoric, there are two implicit assumptions:

The first assumption is that it is possible to point to a stage in foetal development where the foetus suddenly and magically ceases to be a lump of chemicals and becomes a full human. In other words, there is an implicit assumption that there is a point at which contraception goes from completely unproblematic to completely unacceptable.
This first assumption, well, I never assumed it! I don't hold that a person becomes a human at some stage in their development after being concieved - I simply asked the pro-choice supporters to support their views with something concrete. You can say, "It's not a person at x point," and say "It is a person at y point," but you can't make a generalized law like Roe without eventually running into some complications - namely, the death of fetuses even you yourself would consider people. So I asked "to you, at what point does a fetus become human [enough to warrant protection]?" I think that's a reasonable question, because you need the answer to make good laws.

The second assumption is that there is no consideration that justifies compromise on this issue. That under no circumstances is it acceptable to even risk crossing the imaginary line imposed by the first assumption.
No, I don't think it under any circumstances a good thing for innocents to be put to death. I find that the unwillingness to even check for the signs that are held by pro-choicers to mark the personhood of a fetus (brain activity, nerves) is the absolute height of irresponsibility, even if I accepted your idea that a fetus is less of a person at an early stage than a later one, which I do not.

I would argue that the first assumption is stupid. In fact, there is no discontinuities during pregnancy that can justify such an assumption. Thus, if an ethical discontinuity is assumed where there is no biological counterpart, it will necessarily be an arbitrary distinction that can - in principle - be placed anywhere and everywhere. And no matter where it is placed, it will yield unacceptable conclusions.
Essentially my argument that you cannot place it somewhere other than the beginning of the individual - conception.

Clearly, there are no other ethical principles - none at all - where breaking them can never be justified.


Or take the principle that society shall never condone arbitrary killing - the very principle invoked by the anti-choice taliban. This principle is unsustainable. In war - for instance - we must be willing to accept the killing of innocents.
No, we don't have to accept that. It should be avoided as much as possible. If an innocent does die as a result of accidental causes, there is some justification - the soldier did either did not know or the action killed the innocent while preventing the enemy from killing more. The actual killing must not be the goal. If it was, I'd say give the soldier a lawyer, because he's going to be court-martialed and jailed for murder.

In medicine, we must be willing to accept the fact that some patients are going to die who could have been saved, had we spent sufficient resources on their treatment. But had we done that, those same resources could not have been spent on - say - providing clean drinking water to our citizens, or finding ways around antibiotics resistance in bacteria.
In this example we are not purposefully killing people, are we? Their death is not the intent. It is serving more people to provide the drinking water, to work on antibiotics, than it could to expend money on saving the few. We aren't arbitrarily killing anyone in this example. The maximum effort should be used to save as many as can possibly be saved, but we obviously don't have infinite resources and cannot save all.

In terms of this debate, should the mother's life be endangered for some reason, that still does not give her license to kill. For example, the mother might be required to have surgery of some type that involves distinct danger to the fetus. However, the death of the fetus is not the intent - the intent is to allow the mother and the fetus to survive, neither of which would occur if she died. If it happens, they tried their very best to save them, and that's all I can really ask of someone.

Every decision involves a tradeoff between principles and practicality. To claim otherwise is to lie.
Not true. A person still has the same value whatever their situation, though the actions they choose may influence their value relative to that of other people. I keep my principles in order.

In this case, the tradeoff is between the woman's self-evident right to practice her sexuality as she wishes, the woman's equally self-evident right to not be hampered unduely in her life by the exercise of said right, and the legitimate need of society to avoid using resources on caring for an unwanted child on the one hand, and the ethical problems associated with terminating a pregnancy on the other hand.
I find that the self-evident right of the fetus to life trumps the woman's self-evident right to be unhampered by her decisions. She can practice her sexuality as she wishes (I agree, emphatically), but she should not be allowed to take other's rights away by killing them. That may be a pro-choice point of view, actually - more choices for more people.

What I do claim is that it is not equally unproblematic to terminate a pregnancy a minute after conception and a minute before birth. That pregnancy involves a gradual transition from non-human to human. Similarily, it is not equally beneficial for the mother to terminate the pregnancy early and late. The inconvenience imposed is obviously affected by many different factors, but it is equally obvious that the benefit of terminating the pregnancy decreases over time.
I find that the value of a person stays the same over time, from conception to death. They're the same person, with no discontinuity evident in their bodies until they die - just as you say.

In some prehistoric societies, suicide and infanticide were necessary as a means of controlling the size of the population, in order to avoid overstraining the environment that sustained the whole of society. I would argue that while such practices should not be taken lightly, they are not always unethical: Were they not carried out, the ensuing environmental collapse would kill far more people than the measures themselves (as, in fact, was the result when ignorant and intolerant missionaries put a stop to the practice). Similarily, as the ability to (and cost of) sustaining the foetus outside the womb and caring for it during infancy and childhood goes up, the point where abortion/infanticide is no longer acceptable is pushed back in time.
There are other ways of controlling the population that were not available to prehistoric societies. We do not live a prehistoric society. We do not have a growth rate that's unreasonable in light of our expansion room (the US). If you can prove that it really, really is absolutely necessary for the continued survival of the human race that people in low birth rate countries - much of europe and the US, for example - have access to abortions, then maybe I'll listen. I think you ought to think of providing contraceptives to Africa first though; doubtless that method would be more effective, and it would be a lot less problematic by avoiding my reasons for objection.

But biology and technology can only answer part of the question. There remains two distinct political decisions: How much relative weight should be given to the foetus, the mother, and to the interests of society as a whole? And how great a risk of overstepping the boundries of what we consider ethical are we willing - as a society - to take?
If the political decision is inseperable from the moral decision, as this one is, then it is a moral decision. I give the fetus and mother equal weight as persons, and I will not overstep the bounds of what I consider ethical.

Both of these are non-trivial decisions. And neither has a cut-and-dried answer. But as long as the anti-choice taliban refuse to acknowledge that these are legitimate questions and that other people's answers have at leasts some merit, all discussion of these subjects will be fruitless.
If I'm here talking to you, that might indicate I'm listening, even just a little bit. You've made some good points, but they mostly apply to a simplified view of what I think. I've no doubt that some believe that, but I do not. It is not as black and white as that, I admit. By the way, I appreciate you stating your views in this manner; I respect you more for it.

The last page and a half I'm going to leave alone because mostly it's not my argument, but I will comment on a few things:

Originally Posted by Kurgan
I find it also ironic that emotional activists on both sides use Nazi imagery in their appeals, trying to portray their opponents as members of Hitler's party. From the logic of each side I suppose it makes sense either in terms of "taking away personal freedoms" (like the Nazis did) and "murdering multitudes of innocents" (like the Nazis did). But as such it reads either as a cheap shot or an attempt to cut off all possible dialouge from that point on by associating your opposite with the "ultimate evil" of popular imagination (the Nazis crimes were real, I mean that they were hardly the worst examples of genocide and oppression in modern times, despite the popular image). In rhetorical circles that's why we have Godwin's Law and prohibitions of "Playing the Hitler card." Anyway...
I don't think I've used it in that way, and neither has edlib. Would the way he used it (time travel analogy) be prohibited, do you think? It seemed fine to me.

But these things actually happen. And they are sad. It's easy to say "oh no, abortion is murdering poor little innocent babies!" but that's just emotional rhetoric designed to appeal to those who don't know what really happens. Even if the pro-abortion people appear to be just as emotional, their arguments are not based on false rhetoric like killing babies. The things like a little kid growing up without parents or a single mother's life ruined really happen. Come on, these anti-abortion people are saying that if you approve of abortion, you also must approve of infanticide! That's insane!
I'm unsure of how the things that the pro-life activists say occur are not 'happening,' at least from our point of view.

Last edited by Samuel Dravis; 03-14-2006 at 01:15 AM.
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