July 16, 2008

Amba regretting an abortion: "if an embryo or fetus is regarded as disposable, then you are, too."

I wanted to break out this beautifully written comment that Annie Gottlieb wrote in the comments to yesterday's abortion post (the one that linked to a Bloggingheads episode featuring 2 diavloggers trying to grapple with the realization that the unborn entity isn't "a blob"):
The nonreligious conclusion I came to as the result of lasting (lifelong) regret of an abortion is that if an embryo or fetus is regarded as disposable, then you are, too. I guess it's a version of what Mother Theresa was saying. An individual either is unique and uniquely valuable or isn't. All are or none are. If your existence had happened at the wrong time (I won't use the demeaning word "inconvenient" because sometimes it's little more than that, but sometimes it's a lot worse), you could have been disposed of. Your existence is accidental and contingent.

(Of course if you believe human beings are nothing special, even a plague on the planet, then by all means let's declare open season on 'em and hasten their extinction. Oh, uh, "us" is "them.")

To consider abortion acceptable is to make a philosophical decision about the world without even knowing it.

It's a tricky thing to write into law. Nearly all traditions have recognized the primacy of the mother's life and circumstances (including economic) in the early stages of pregnancy. The irony is that they knew a lot less than we do about what's involved. They really did believe it was a "blob." We know better.

But they also believed pregnancy was something like an act of God. That's why sex was so severely policed. I can understand why Catholics believe that there's a connection between the casual attitude made possible by birth control and a casual attitude toward life itself.

But is that inevitable? If people choose, for a time or for all time, to use sex to "make self" -- to make their own lives and relationships richer, which I do believe is one of its lifegiving uses -- then they should use birth control religiously. One of the big pro-choice arguments is that "birth control fails." Certainly some percentage of that failure rate is due to wrong or careless use of it. The rest -- the true failures -- might be seen as successes of someone who is just hellbent on being here. And the unwitting invitation of such a person should be viewed at all times as one of the ineradicable risks of sex.
Annie has another comment, that links to an important post of hers from 2005:
You know there are pro-life people who would make it mandatory that a woman be shown an ultrasound of her fetus before she can have an abortion.

I was once at the hospital with a woman who was beginning to miscarry, and I watched the live ultrasound. She was, I forget, maybe 8 or 10 weeks pregnant. The embryo/fetus didn't look like a baby yet, but you could see its heart beating.

I wonder if I would have been able to go through with an abortion if I'd seen that.
Thanks for writing all that over here, Amba.

I'm very interested in this idea that sex has become, as you put it, a way to "make self." It reminds me of the way people used to talk about taking drugs — especially LSD — back in the 1960s. It was supposed to be a profound journey of self-actualization. I remember being surprised to see kids only a few years younger than me taking drugs just to have fun or because they had nothing else to do. When you first break from the old traditions, maybe you have to make up a big, weighty story about how you are proceeding onto some higher ground. I'm sure you can use sex for profound self-actualization. In fact, you can still use drugs that way if you set your mind to it. But how many people do?

260 comments:

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rhhardin said...

The nonreligious conclusion I came to as the result of lasting (lifelong) regret of an abortion is that if an embryo or fetus is regarded as disposable, then you are, too.

Except that a fetus isn't a person and you are, so the argument doesn't get very far as an argument.

The slippery slope is in how you talk about it, not what the blob is.

And that's not a slippery slope at all. It's quite definite, depending on your circumstances at the time.

That's what language is for, and why it developed the way it did.

It reflects interests.

Puppies are really cute too. If you've reserved one with the breeder, puppy proofed the house, bought puppy needs, and so forth, your puppy has a soul even before it's on the ground.

You don't need an ultrasound.

You talk about the puppy at every stage.

Some things are just features of language, not (beyond that, which is not nothing) deep thoughts on the nature of human life.

Smilin' Jack said...

She was, I forget, maybe 8 or 10 weeks pregnant. The embryo/fetus didn't look like a baby yet, but you could see its heart beating.

Big whoop. At 10 weeks you can't tell a human embryo from a chimp's.

I'm very interested in this idea that sex has become, as you put it, a way to "make self."

Bullshit. Sex isn't a way to "make self," cloning is. And, of course, the anti-abortion wackos hate cloning even more than abortion.

rhhardin said...

Levinas, in appendices to Totality and Infinity has a chapter on the Phenomenology of Eros (very good, but I think is the male experience only), and then on Fecundity; the child being the unknowable future that fits the male's inability to grasp what it is that attracts him in the female.

I think the Fecundity appendix only makes recognizeable sense once you get to a certain more or less advanced age. The Eros appendix makes sense at any age.

Google books unfortunately does not give anything but the first pages, at least for me, but I may have worn out my browsing rights.

Trumpit said...

Think of all the men who can never get pregnant even if they wanted too. Talk about major regret. Stop feeling sorry for yourself; it isn't pretty.

nansealinks said...

my first son, first ultrasound was amazing.

second and third kids: I didn't find the ultrasound nearly as exciting or profound. It was just another check that things were going smoothly. I had lots of trust in my physicians and their old fashioned feeling aroun/stethescope prenatal exams. When the babies were born and screaming for milk and my breasts were dripping, that was profound. Even moreso when the first grandson was born and I heard him scream, no drips but my breasts felt that weight again.

Maybe it's just me. i am more tuned into audible sounds than fuzzy visuals in life. Either that or technology gets old too quickly.

Quayle said...

My current feeling on the matter is that, of all the things that humans are capable of creating and nurturing - artistic creations of all kinds, buildings, parks, businesses, etc. - the one that is the most amazing, exponentially more powerful and lasting than all others, is the ability of two people to willfully create another person.

That creative act makes all other human endeavors pale in comparison.

But we seem to treat it lightly; to not respect or value our ability. We seem to subjugate it to other less amazing activities, and bend it to our own, sometimes whimsical purposes.

In this vein, I’ve never quite understood why a person that would fight to the death to save a redwood forest from the invasive acts of man, would not feel that same protective spirit when the invasive acts of man interfere with the natural organic processes of creating another human.

I condemn no one. We are all experiencing and drawing conclusions from life.

But to my observations, it is as if that same loving spirit shown towards nature is, for some reason, supplanted by a more angry spirit that demands the right to intervene with nature at will.

I don’t understand.

amba said...

I remember being surprised to see kids only a few years younger than me taking drugs just to have fun or because they had nothing else to do.

Me too.

Thanks for this, Ann, kinda knocked the breath out of me.

rhhardin: The slippery slope is in how you talk about it, not what the blob is.

You're saying that there is no meaning but what we make? We have the absolute power to bestow reality and significance on something by what we call it? So each of us owes our existence to a parental decision to create or uncreate after we were conceived. And we in turn hold the same power of life and death over those to come, or not.

The problem with this is it doesn't only apply to embryos and fetuses. The same thing can be done by governments, by terrorists, etc. We are entirely at one another's mercy, and the only defense is power.

I think this may be related to what Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom calls intentionalism, but I'm being very slow to understand that.

Anyway, "a fetus isn't a person and you are": when I met my husband he used to make fun of the solemn, reverent use of the word "person" (as in the therapeutic credo, "I'm a person, I have feelings!") because it originally comes from the Greek word for "mask". "Per sona": for sound, because it had a kind of built-in megaphone. Maybe that's appropriate: you are a "person" if you can use language and therefore assign meaning. If you cannot do that you are at the mercy of "persons."

Smilin' Jack: "At 10 weeks you can't tell a human embryo from a chimp's." But it can. It doesn't become a chimp. So it's smarter than you are.

nansealinks said...

redwoods saved where they should be saved. In the pure prairie league no one wants all those trees and fights them. If that is any kind of comparison?

Each thing to its time and place and human intervention in such.

amba said...

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself; it isn't pretty"

Sorry for myself? Most of what I hear is "stop being so hard on yourself, forgive yourself," which is equally irrelevant. Do you know what regret is? It's something you did that you can't take back, and that changed things significantly, maybe not only for you. Regret isn't self-pity, it's the belated acceptance of responsibility.

rhhardin said...

You're saying that there is no meaning but what we make? We have the absolute power to bestow reality and significance on something by what we call it?

You can't make meaning do what you want. But you can listen to what it does, which is what grows out of a whole history of human interests.

A lot of confusion in philosophy, chiefly among males, is from feeling that that isn't a good enough basis for anything so some theoretical structure must be found, lest it all tumble down.

Women mostly know enough to avoid that kind of philosophy, but still want theoretical structures when it's in their interests, particularly in imposing them against what the language says.

Melinda said...

Many people confuse "responsibility" with "blame."

When I was 30, I wrote in my journal, "Rather than who is responsible, ask yourself what is accountable."

Me me me, of course. But then again, I did a lot of things to find myself. I had no idea I was so missing.

amba said...

Women mostly know enough to avoid that kind of philosophy, but still want theoretical structures when it's in their interests, particularly in imposing them against what the language says.

Whoa, you're getting into deep water there. I can hear the hypothetical feminist saying language is shaped by power relations and the language we speak was shaped by males. "What the language says" is not absolute since language changes, and the life that shapes it changes, within limits.

But of course it's super-ironic that said feminists would be claiming for themselves the (formerly male?) right to use language to render other beings (in this case, in their own wombs) insignificant to nonexistent. You'd have hoped for better from women.

But why? We're only human.

Simon said...

rhhardin said...
"Except that a fetus isn't a person and you are, so the argument doesn't get very far as an argument."

I wouldn't put it that way, but I see what you're driving at. The problem with Amba's comment - which I entirley agree with, by the way - is that it begs the central question: when does a person become a person?

That's the antecedent question for anyone's views on abortion. It doesn't matter if you're liberal, libertarian, conservative, what-have-you - those positions can help shape your position, but they don't decide your position on abortion. They're incapable of doing so, because they can't answer the central question of when life begins, and until you've answered that question, the question of what policy ought to be is beside the point.

If you believe - as I do, and as I think Amba does - that a fœtus is a person, then what Amba says follows ineluctably. If you believe that, then it doesn't necessarily follow that you have to believe that abortion must be illegal - but if you don't believe that, then there is no legitimate reason to oppose legal abortion.

If you believe - as I think you do - that a fœtus is not a person, then of course Amba's position will not seem to have much persuasive force. That doesn't mean her argument's wrong, though - it means only that the central question isn't one that is susceptible to being argued over. You're talking past one another from irreconcilable predicates.

Simon said...

(Just in case it wasn't clear, my previous comment wasn't to disagree in any way with Amba's comments).

Jman said...

Our existence IS special...accidental and contingent.

All moral choices are personal. Some are punished under the laws and norms of a society and some are not. And those laws and norms are subject to change.

We do the best we can with the hard choices and move on to the next round.

amba said...

Anyway, what I hear you doing there, rh (correct me if I'm wrong) is giving history the weight of fate. Like saying "What was, was right." Clearly that is partly true and partly not true. Or we'd still be in caves.

Quayle said...

nansealinks, I agree with your time and place factor, but to me it only begs the question of what should be done – of when is and isn’t the time and place for humans to act in such an amazing creative way, to make another human?

I can’t feel good about a practice of approaching a creative power larger than all of us, and “by damn” put it in its time and place as we see fit.

Especially because the evidence suggests that we collectively seem to believe the right time and place is below our careers, our momentary pleasure, our personal economic wealth, our other less astounding creations?

Those same characteristic we abhor in big business of putting profit ahead of people, we seem to do ourselves personally all the time.

Anyway, I think my initial point still stands. We admire and protect the creative force and results of botanical and geological nature. My sense is that, in a inadvertant and disjointed way, we don't seem to similarly admire and protect the creative abilities we have as humans, that dwarf all others of which we know.

gophermomeh said...

Acceptance can be a byproduct of regret if it’s used as an opportunity. Quite often, it's not.

rhhardin said...

You can make language move, a poetical discovery. But you can't shout it into submission.

My own take is that when a fetus is a person is when it has a relation to others; and in particular you have to look closely not at the fetus but at the others to find this out.

That's not a theoretical discovery but a discovery about when people are inclined to say ``have a soul.''

The investigation of what we are inclined to say, as a matter of philosophical interest, was due to Wittgenstein.

Kirby Olson said...

Jacques Derrida in one of his few pertinent moments, said that the beginning of life, and the end of life, are equally vague. When does a baby become human, when does a person on life-support who's brain stopped decades back (but whose heart is still pumping) stop being human?

As usual, Derrida didn't answer the question, he only posed it.
I think it's safer to presume humanity when it's a question.

Peter Singer at Princeton seems to think that only the ability to speak makes one fully human.

What would he have done to Helen Keller?

chuck b. said...

"Your existence is accidental and contingent."

That's true. Googling, I see anywhere from 10-50% of pregnancies end in miscarriages. Some of that may be the result of an extra cup of coffee according to a recent news story. That's a sidenote to any discussion about abortion. Life is contingent and, if you are not religious, it appears significantly accidental. (Ever watch the maternity tests on the Maury Show and wonder about the kids? I'm not joking.)

"An individual either is unique and uniquely valuable or isn't."

Just to be clear, uniquely valuable is not the same as equally valuable tho' is it. There are people whose existences I would eagerly, readily rush to undo if I could. People in history, people in the news. You know the names. Would the world truly be diminished if they never existed in the first place?

We have to make do with what they've left us, and we desperately seek to draw lessons, but that doesn't mean what they left us with was a good thing.


I will use Amba's understanding of the word regret and say that I regret sounding cold. But I don't have the gift to talk about this subject unsentimentally without sounding cold. (Or the time to compose carefully--whatever, I'll take a risk. You don't know me.)

Life, and language, is deeply imperfect, and I don't have a problem with that. (Which is where my willingness to accept some abortion comes from. Let me be clear: I have deep problems with late(r)-term abortion and I cannot fathom any morally valid and practical reason for it ever being necessary.)

The Mother Theresa argument strikes me as overly sentimental, and uselessly abstract. That was my problem with it yesterday.

"of all the things that humans are capable of creating and nurturing - artistic creations of all kinds, buildings, parks, businesses, etc. - the one that is the most amazing, exponentially more powerful and lasting than all others, is the ability of two people to willfully create another person."

I recognize this as a sincerely held POV, but I don't agree with it. More lasting? How can any human life be more lasting that, say, the Great Pyramids? When we contemplate ancient accomplishments, do we contemplate the people who made them possible. Maybe a little bit.

amba said...

If you believe - as I think you do - that a fœtus is not a person

The problem is that you, who are a person, were a fetus; and would not now be a person if your parents hadn't decided you were a person when you weren't.

By the way, I argued somewhere else (can't remember where, now) that life begins with implantation because there is no human life without relationship -- without acceptance into a dyad, mother-child, within a community, without which you can't survive (unless suckled by wolves), don't have a name, don't have a language, and are not witnessed as existing.

I was saying that with implantation, a relationship is struck. A woman's body makes that deal before she is conscious of it.

Which comes to Quayle's thoughtful comments. I agree with you that we don't seem to have (nowadays and as a culture generally) much awe and respect for the life force that made us and a mighty share of which is thrown into our laps at puberty -- "Here, kid, let's see what you do with this!"

As for timing -- what I think women want, as individuals, is to have their chance to be central, not just a means to an end. Their moment in the sun, if you will, to be the one it's all about -- the one experiencing and processing life directly, the one with gifts and abilities on whom the hope of the culture, as well as the physical community, rides. This is a moment in youth, and the mistake is not to realize that it passes. You really need to seize it while the time is right (and for a lot of women this includes learning and experiencing through sexual relationships) and you need to know when to let it go. And if you're young and female and you want to possess your sexuality in that way -- have it be you rocket fuel -- you've got to take care with birth control and you've got to take the possibility of getting pregnant very seriously -- in my ideal little cosmos, anyway.

Henry said...

rhhardin wrote, My own take is that when a fetus is a person is when it has a relation to others; and in particular you have to look closely not at the fetus but at the others to find this out.

This has kind of a Schrodinger's cat logic about it. If you don't observe the baby, it doesn't exist. Oddly enough, this idea neatly aligns with the manner in which Michele Goldberg and Rebecca Traister regard the ultrasound as the source of their moral problem.

I can't help but reflect that for many impoverished cultures, infanticide was a common method of population control -- first by eliminating babies; second by creating gender imbalances in the population (See Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms).

Now we have the luxury to define personhood in its broadest terms.

Dingo said...

While I do not quarrel with anyone's right to disagree with me on what constitutes a "person," I find that the vast majority of people who consider themselves anti-abortion are incredibly inconsistent in their thinking.

If you adhere to what I call the "catholic" (small c) position, your opposition to abortion includes prohibiting it in cases of rape and incest, and prohibiting all forms of non-surgical birth control more sophisticated than condoms -- because these forms sometimes work after fertilization.

But most people who claim that they believe that "life begins at conception" deny that they want to outlaw birth control pills, depo provera, norplant, IUDs, etc. And the majority of pro-life people surveyed believe in rape/incest exceptions.

You can't have it both ways. Either life begins at conception, or it doesn't. If it begins at conception, then you are (or could be) "disposing" of a "person" if you have a D&C after you are raped, if you take the Pill, if you use an IUD, etc.

I wish that the "life begins at conception" crowd would at least have the courage of their convictions and make it clear that their position would not just outlaw elective abortions, but would radically alter 21st century views of sexual freedom and family planning.

UWS guy said...

George Carlin has a good point on the "Sanctity of Life".

here

Wurly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...

Life, and language, is deeply imperfect, and I don't have a problem with that. (Which is where my willingness to accept some abortion comes from.

For the record, chuck b., I still don't think early abortion should be illegal.

UWS guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...

When we contemplate ancient accomplishments, do we contemplate the people who made them possible. Maybe a little bit.

I beg your pardon?? Without the people who made them possible, including the kings and engineers and whatever that conceived of them as well as the slaves that built them, they wouldn't be there.

This isn't even a chicken-and-egg problem. Individuals are causally prior to achievements.

amba said...

uws guy: thanks for george carlin. Still wiping away tears of laughter.

Smilin' Jack said...

Suppose a fetus had a genetic pecularity such that it stopped developing at some stage and remained a fetus in its mother's womb for the rest of her life. Would it still be a person?

Anti-abortion wackos seem even more confused than Bill Clinton over the meaning of "is." In particular, they don't understand the concept of tense. A thing is what it is, not what it will be. A blob is a blob, even if it may someday become a person. And we are persons, even though we will someday be worms.

garage mahal said...

That's true. Googling, I see anywhere from 10-50% of pregnancies end in miscarriages. Some of that may be the result of an extra cup of coffee according to a recent news story

And if you really want to take this argument to its absurdity, the mother could (and should?) be prosecuted for negligent homicide and a funeral should be arranged for the miscarried fetus. And millions of tiny funerals for all the eggs in women's feminine pads that weren't realized, and millions of tiny funerals from fertility clinics that discard blastulas should be already be taking place. And what about totally reworking our census data to account and keep track of millions of fetuses inside expectant mothers?

Roger J. said...

Interesting to read the comments on this thread--they cover the gamut from thoughtful to disgusting. As I have gotten older I have seen my thoughts about abortion change from yeah, great, do it--to wait a minute..we know a heck of a lot more, and based on that knowledge, abortion is no longer a slam dunk.

More and more I have come to believe that a woman is nothing more than a receptacle for prolonging the species--just as the man is nothing more than the purveyor of xy chromosomes. A woman's status as incubator gives her no special claim on the existence of the life within. This is NOT a feminist nor men's rights issue. It is an issue of the species survival and I increasingly am coming to believe that right trumps any of the donator and incubator.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Let's look at a few very rational criteria here:

a) The absence of certain brain waves is defined as the end of distinctly human life.

b) The presence of those same brain waves should define the beginning of such distinctly human life.

c) "Choice" is not the issue -- results are. I have the choice whether or not to throw a brick. If it damages your car, or your person, I will face consequences.

d) The existence of consequences does not remove "choice." All of life is about choices and consequences.

e) If a person chooses to destroy another person on the threshold of fetal viability ... ie greater than 20 weeks ... except to save the life of the mother, the consequences for all involved should be severe -- voluntary manslaughter.

f) When distinctly human brainwaves are present, but viability is not an issue the consequences should be lighter, but they should be there.

g) Prior to the presence of distinctly human brain waves the issue is primarily theological and there's a solid political case to be made that the state has no business being involved.

Palladian said...

"A blob is a blob, even if it may someday become a person. And we are persons, even though we will someday be worms."

Incorrect. "We" won't be worms, unless you are some 17th century yob who believes that worms spontaneously generate out of flesh. Parts of us may be consumed by worms, but that depends on the method of disposal of the corporeal remains and other factors.

So where is the "we" located? Am "I" a piece of my skin that gets removed? Am "I" an arm or ear that is amputated? Or is the "I" somewhere else, or something else?

Palladian said...

I love people who put "sanctity of life" in scare quotes.

The picture I'm getting from these comments is: liberals view human life as generally disposable. The loss of life is only regrettable when it's politically expedient to play for tears or "outrage".

VinceP1974 said...

I think once the first European nation falls into prolonged Civil War, abortion will be made illegal

Pogo said...

Regret isn't self-pity, it's the belated acceptance of responsibility.
Exactly that.

As for language as indicative of power, well, yes. The disitinction however is that the Foucault-Gramscian 'all is power' thesis is a mere heresy and entirely false, according to Christian thought.

We are either unique persons from the point of conception or we are not. If we are not, there is no real difference bewteen the dependence at 8 months gestation from 8 months old to 8 years old to 88 years old.

If they are persons, then the answer is clear. If their personhood is categorical, that is, dependent on those in power, then any or all may be or may become disposable, according to shifting whims.

But others find this the prime example of moral relativism, and instead argue that a true moral stance exists apart from any power structure.

Spread Eagle said...

You don't have to get to deciding the question of when it exactly is when life begins. The net effect of abortion is to cheapen human life, which takes its toll in numerous ways.

Salamandyr said...

Dingo, intellectual inconsistency isn't a hallmark of the pro-life movement. It's a hallmark of being human.

The most ironic thing about the abortion argument is that both sides claim everybody in the middle. It is not unusual to find a person who calls themselves pro-choice, but would ban 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions, or says that abortion shouldn't be used for birth control. It's not unusual to find people who consider themselves pro-life who will assure you they are okay with exceptions for rape/incest (why are they always linked?) or health, and don't really have much issue with really early abortions, like in the first couple of months.

Functionally, those are the exact same position, yet each side claims them for their own.

rhhardin said...

I doubt you would take that view, and if not, your attempt to set forth a nuanced position boils down to the fetus is a person when its mother wants to carry it to term. That a widely accepted formulation, to be sure, but it doesn't hide behind vague words like "relation" and "others".

But that's what in fact is behind the turn of phrase in language.

Why? Possibly we have an interest in the distinction, or a use for it.

Probably grandparents-to-be would sometimes disagree with parents-to-be about the matter. Then there's a conflict, that's all.

You can predict the argument pretty exactly.

What's being played out is the resources provided by the way people talk about being a person, and being a baby, and being a fetus, in various situations.

On the pro-choice side, I've never seen better than Marge Piercy ``Right to Life.'' Copies all over. here's one from a disreputable address.

Even so, relationships are part of the argument, I notice, as having some bearing.

Melinda said...

This is a moment in youth, and the mistake is not to realize that it passes.

True. There would be many drawbacks to being a 50-year-old slut, not the least of which is going "Ow! Ow! Ow!" with a new partner every night.

AlphaLiberal said...

Not very interesting. We have zygotes, embryos, fetuses, and then babies. You can learn about it here.

People disagree on when these organisms become human. There's no scientifically accepted answer, only religious beliefs. Some people (generally the right wing) want to jail people who act in disagreement with their beliefs.

Liberals prefer to let the individual make this decision.

Before all that, though, is the question of avoiding unwanted pregnancies. Many conservatives seek policies that increase unwanted pregnancies, such as opposing birth control.

Look, America. Conservatives want to take your birth control away and dictate to you when you can have sex. Ain't that a problem?

And they'll tell you they're for freedom, too.

walter neff said...

Well I think I speak for most conservatives AlphaLiberal when I
say that it's ok with us if you just go fuck yourself.

But please use a condom.

Melinda said...

Hmmmm...Wittgenstein, Derrida, Carlin.

Guess I'm not that much of an egghead...I pick Carlin!

walter neff said...

We would not want you to reproduce.

Paul Brinkley said...

AlphaLiberal, all I see is you painting the entire pro-life argument with its most extreme adherents. Why don't you try addressing some of the points actually presented in this thread during your drive by?

Palladian said...

"Liberals prefer to let the individual make this decision."

Incorrect. "Liberals" prefer to let one party, the mother, make this decision. The other party, the human life in the womb, isn't consulted.

Either human life is sacred and unique or it isn't. Be careful, so-called "liberals", because your moral credibility regarding the human rights you constantly squeal about is at stake.

Palladian said...

"Liberals prefer to let the individual make this decision."

Incorrect. "Liberals" prefer to let one party, the mother, make this decision. The other party, the human life in the womb, isn't consulted.

Either human life is sacred and unique or it isn't. Be careful, so-called "liberals", because your moral credibility regarding the human rights you constantly squeal about is at stake.

AlphaLiberal said...

Hearing the pro-war crowd hear crow about the "sanctity of life" is a bad joke. That's why so many put that phrase in quotes. Because you're not sincere.

We can't take you seriously when you shrug off tens of thousands of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Or when so many of you promote an ever-expanding death penalty and shrug off the innocents killed by it.

Or when so many of you fight efforts to reform the failed and corrupt American medical system that kills thousands of Americans.

Or simply when the abortion issues is cynically used as a political wedge?

Can you see why the "sanctity of life" crowd has some credibility issues?

Simon said...

Pogo...
"We are either unique persons from the point of conception or we are not. If we are not, there is no real difference bewteen the dependence at 8 months gestation from 8 months old to 8 years old to 88 years old."

I think that's accurate so far as what it says outright, but it's not the complete picture. I don't think that one must believe that the soul attaches at the point of conception to believe it attaches sometime before birth, before viability, or at any other point. Bart's comment above has long struck me as being on the money. We know that a child becomes sentient at some point in utero, but we can't as a matter of biology rather than faith know precisely when that takes place. Thus, it seems to me that after physical prerequisites of life are present - a heartbeat and electrical activity in the brain - we should assume that it is too much of a risk to abort. As someone who comes to the pro-life table from a secular position, I can't make the additional leap that those who come from faith-based positions make, and sign onto the "no abortions after conception" rule.

I also agree with the comment that "choice" is a red herring. Virtually everyone is pro-choice. The question is when and how the choice is exercised, and what form it takes. Many people who are pro-life are for choice at any time prior to conception; some of us are even for choice for a limited time after conception. The question is not one of infringing women's rights. We might paraphrase Burke: whatever each woman can separately do, without trespassing upon others, she has a right to do for herself. The question is when abortion ceases to meet that description.

Simon said...

Alpha, your "but what about the war" talking point is almost as tired and incoherent as the "but what about the death penalty" talking point. They're totally different issues. You might as well say "but how can you be vegetarian if you're pro-life."

P. Rich said...

"An individual either is unique and uniquely valuable or isn't."

There are no individuals. There is only The Collective. Disciples of the Obamessiah will be visiting you soon to ensure that in future you adhere to Correct Thought.

Roger J. said...

Ordinarily I would feel compelled to respond to Alpha--but I think his postings, juxtaposed against the majority of posts on this thread epitomize the sanctimony and extremism that scares me to death about extreme liberalism today. Thanks for providing us an example of your thought processes, Alpha. Very scary indeed.

fcai said...

Doesn't matter what George Carlin said. He's just another dead white guy.

AlphaLiberal said...

Paul, when you look at the organized anti-abortion movement, they are overwhelmingly opposed to birth control, as well.

Your claim fails the reality test. Sorry.

John McCain couldn't answer a simple question on the equity of health care paying for erection pills but not birth control because he understands this simple fact.

I posted links backing up my assertion on this score, in both posts. You might want to read them.

And here's news that the Bush Administration is using the federal government's power to oppose contraception, as well.

Damned facts, I know.

Simon said...

Palladian said...
"[Alpha said that 'Liberals prefer to let the individual make this decision' but that is i]ncorrect. 'Liberals' prefer to let one party, the mother, make this decision. The other party, the human life in the womb, isn't consulted."

Right, but glossing over that point is central to the pro-choice view. How can abortion possibly be "safe, legal and rare" when 100% of successful abortions results in a fatality, ex visceribus res? The point only coheres if you assume that there is no second party to the decision and that the child in utero is neither a child nor any kind of person.

Pogo said...

We know that a child becomes sentient at some point in utero, but we can't as a matter of biology rather than faith know precisely when that takes place.
True.

...it seems to me that after physical prerequisites of life are present ...we should assume that it is too much of a risk to abort.
I follow this.
But what if you're wrong?
What if sentience isn't the correct category at all?

I am not a no-no-never-never-uh-uh-uh anti-abortion crusader. But the USA aborts well over a million babies per year, far more than can be accounted for by those giving careful thought to morality, if any thought is given at all.

If morality ever entered into the equation as the bloggingheads tried to discuss, the numbers would be far fewer, I think.

Abortion does, I believe, considerably cheapen lives of plain folks just walking around, precisely because it introduces the idea that the state can expand the categories of those who can appropriately be killed on demand, from military and public safety venues to whatever value I currently have at the moment, be it abortion or depression or disability or Alzheimiers or cancer or having the wrong beliefs.

And why not?

Paul Brinkley said...

We can't take you seriously when you shrug off tens of thousands of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

You incorrectly assume we're all shrugging them off. Same goes to the death penalty (though, keep in mind, we're also thinking about the victims of the crimes in question). And with the health care system.

And then you jump right back into doing what I accused you of before: talking past us. We're right here. What are we supposed to do for you? Gnash our teeth at how some pro-lifers don't agree with us, and just give up and go pro-choice as a result? Embrace your message of guilt and bitterness as being the better way to live?

I'll ask you again: why don't you try laying it aside and actually speaking to the points here?

AlphaLiberal said...

roger, your post lacks a coherent argument. It's just name-calling.

But, I know, you're all superior to me.

Roger J. said...

While my earlier construct of pregnancy as incubator and donator to preserve the species is a bit overstated, equally overstated is the view that ONLY the mother has any rights with respect to the fetus. The father certainly has equal rights that will be recognized after the birth of the child; and, depending on one's view of viability, so does the fetus. Asserting the mother's right as primary while not even considering the others seems remarkably shortsighted.

The Deacon said...

Absent, of course, is the simple fact that abortions will happen regardless of the laws or disapproval of those poetically "illuminated" by age, religion, or regret. Abortions will happen, usually because a mother thinks that she won't be able to raise her child properly because of the home environment, neighborhood environment, money, spousal abuse, her own shortcomings, drug abuse, whatever. So it doesn't matter if you find it bad in a religious or non-religious way. What matters is whether it's going to happen in a safe way or not. Also, how about the children that are born to mothers who are not capable of raising them? Most of the folks so gung-ho about stopping abortions are also against the welfare that helped so many women (two in my family) back in the 70's get college educations when their men ditched them with babies. How about this for a family value: America is a big family and we take care of our own, birth to death. The problem with running a country like a business, is that a business can just fire somebody who is troubled. Families can't do that. The people are still there and their problems are still there, even if you ignore them. Same thing with our country. Hide behind your widescreen tv's and beautiful digi-pics for as long as you want, all the problems will be waiting for you when the lights come back on. So, America, are we gonna persist in being a self-righteous, black or white, nation of consumers, or will we accept responsibility for our decisions as a people and start thinking like citizens and *gasp* relatives? My lily white family has plenty of brown and asian folks brought in through marriage and adoption, so I am here to report that a family can be multi-colored and multi-cultured and still be strong. Let's cut this horseshit poetry and start working to fix these problems. How about we start by pulling our heads out of the sand: put sex ed back in schools and make contraceptives readily available to anybody that wants them. Attack the roots, not the fruits.
(How many of you anti-abortionists are all choked up about the kid who fell through the cracks in your high school? The troublemaker who ended up in a life of crime because he was seeking attention from inattentive parents and was dismissed early by a society that just wants to dispose of the "trash"? You guys engage in just as many mental gymnastics as your opponents to justify your positions. If you really care so much, do something to help real people, don't just pass laws and engage in debates.)

Roger J. said...

Alpha: exactly so. I couldnt have said it better myself.

amba said...

Melinda: Ow!

Simon: We might paraphrase Burke: whatever each woman can separately do, without trespassing upon others, she has a right to do for herself. The question is when abortion ceases to meet that description.

Very much to the point.

AlphaLiberal said...

"When DMC Pharmacy opens this summer on Route 50 in Chantilly, the shelves will be stocked with allergy remedies, pain relievers, antiseptic ointments and almost everything else sold in any drugstore. But anyone who wants condoms, birth control pills or the Plan B emergency contraceptive will be turned away.

That's because the drugstore, located in a typical shopping plaza featuring a Ruby Tuesday, a Papa John's and a Kmart, will be a "pro-life pharmacy" -- meaning, among other things, that it will eschew all contraceptives. "

In 2008, "pro-life" also means "anti-birth control." Source

Because the pro-lifers think they're better than you and can tell you how to live your life.

Heir to the Throne said...

Comment on the reasoning of the two diavloggers.
Michelle claims that late term abortions are a "life-saving procedure" for "medical emergencies".
Then they both are upset that Obama does not embrace the "Health of the woman including "mental health" exemption in a late term abortion ban.
Which is just a way of rendering the law useless as the ban can be bypassed by getting a psychiatrist to claim that the woman's mental health is in danger (she will become "depressed") if she does not have a abortion.

AlphaLiberal said...

Paul:
"I'll ask you again: why don't you try laying it aside and actually speaking to the points here?"

I wrote a response to you and this software dumped it. Basically, my view, in support of which I've posted numerous links now, is that the majority of "pro-lifers" are anti-birth control (and anti-family planning and anti-reproductive education. (And I've tried to acknowledge not all are with words like "most," meaning "not all.")

I disagree with the Pope on a number of things, like reproductive liberty, but must say he and his predecessor have understood this point. They tied abortion*, war and death penalty together. So if you have issues with me on this score, you have issues with the Pope.

Also, I do think a political movement that condemns others as ethically inferior while betraying their own lofty rhetoric so blatantly, deserves to be called on it.

I know, you want to have a safely confined discussion where people aren't allowed to bring up uncomfortable realities. The web's just not built for that.

* - I've never been party to an abortion and support policies to make them rare and safe.

Simon said...

The Deacon said...
"Absent, of course, is the simple fact that abortions will happen regardless of the laws or disapproval...."

This is the hoary old liberal talking point that asks us to credulously believe that abortion is a given, so the only question is whether to let it happen "safely" (for the mother, that is) or illegally. Those of us who want to put a stop to it, however, do not accept that abortion is a given, so your argument fails for want of a mutually-agreed predicate.

"How about we start by pulling our heads out of the sand: put sex ed back in schools and make contraceptives readily available to anybody that wants them. Attack the roots, not the fruits."

I entirely agree.

"How many of you anti-abortionists are all choked up about the kid who fell through the cracks in your high school?"

I think that you're find that many people who are pro-life are also in favor of fixing the woeful state of education in America, which is why some of them homeschool and many of us are for enacting school vouchers to allow us to get our kids out of those cracks masquerading as "public schools." You no doubt have a different solution in mind, but my point is to illustrate that just because we disagree with you about how to do something -- indeed, disagree strongly: the solutions just mentioned most likely strike you as likely to worsen the problem, while the solutions you prefer will doubtless strike me as likely to worsen the problem -- doesn't mean that we don't share the same goal.

Alpha said...
"In 2008, 'pro-life' also means 'anti-birth control.'"

That's a vast (and false) generalization. See above.

AlphaLiberal said...

Oops. Cut and paste messiness. This:
"I disagree with the Pope on a number of things, like reproductive liberty, but must say he and his predecessor have understood this point. They tied abortion*, war and death penalty together. So if you have issues with me on this score, you have issues with the Pope."

Should be this:
"I disagree with the Pope on a number of things, like reproductive liberty, but must say he and his predecessor have made the case for a consistency with the "pro-life" position . They tied abortion*, war and death penalty together. So if you have issues with me on this score, you have issues with the Pope."

Roger J. said...

Since Alpha took exception to my admittedly ad hominum gibe, let me take on his birth control argument: I don't see that being pro life is logically inconsistent with being anti-contraception; however, I personally have no problem with contraception. The critical issue in pregnancy is for me the moment the sperm and egg meet and the process of mitosis starts. That incident is discernable and discreet; from that point on, IMO, we have human life. Conflating anti-birth contraception with birth control does little to advance either argument, it seems to me.

Palladian said...

"Oops. Cut and paste messiness."

That sums up basically all of your comments.

Paul Brinkley said...

Pogo: I follow you here, mostly, but where does that leave us? It's been said that you can't legislate morality. Nor, I say, can you legislate an upkeep effort to ascertain morality. That's the job of culture. There is no law that would work for the country that could permit only carefully considered abortions; but then there's also no law possible that would forbid only carelessly considered abortions.

In other words, I could turn the notion on its head: if we legislate to prevent any possibility of death, wouldn't it then mean that we can't legislate to prevent any possibility of infringment? At what point should one actually cede to the other, in the eyes of the law?

rhhardin said...

An orphan new baby bird is sentient right away. Vibrate anything and it opens its beak.

In two weeks it will finally show a personality, recognize you across the room, engage in greeting behavior.

Palladian said...

I'm very much pro-contraception. But once a life is made, we're talking about different things.

Palladian said...

"Nor, I say, can you legislate an upkeep effort to ascertain morality. That's the job of culture."

Then we're royally fucked (so to speak), aren't we?

AlphaLiberal said...

Simon makes an unsupported assertion:
"That's a vast (and false) generalization. See above."

I know some ant-abortion people also support sex ed and birth control. I think I've said that here at least once now.

But I've also used the awesome power of the internet to back of my points. You, OTOH, have assertions.

However, they are a minority.

You guys can keep trying to complete the fool's errand of outlawing all abortions. Or, you can reduce abortions as much as possible with family planning, birth control, adoption services (some righties doing good stuff there) and the like. That would reduce abortions and is something we could find widespread agreement on.

However, it would take away a tried and true wedge issue from the Republicans.

Instead, the anti-abortion movement now wants to tell us when to have sex (abstinence only) and to take away birth control.

Paul Brinkley said...

And why should I use what the Pope says as a litmus test for my own beliefs? ...well, sure. He's the Pope, which means he's spent most of his life considering morality, not to mention that he has a staff that helps him do it, so I should recognize experience. And I do. But I also don't believe he's infallible. More importantly, you, AlphaLiberal, probably don't believe it, either. So why use him as a proof by authority? The answer is fairly obvious: you're not. You're trying to prove via reduction to absurdity that pro-lifers are inconsistent.

But then, doesn't that make pro-choicers inconsistent as well?

Personally, I don't think they are, any more than pro-lifers are. Both are subscribing to a subtler set of axioms. I don't think anyone here even believes that life absolutely trumps everything else.

Pogo said...

if we legislate to prevent any possibility of death, wouldn't it then mean that we can't legislate to prevent any possibility of infringment?

I do not propose we outlaw abortion at the central governemnt level.

I do propose to permit federalism to allow different answers to that question.

I do not advocate my position über alles, as in prescribing the force of the state, but I do advocate a cultural change in which the liberal left idea of abortion on demand as the default moral position (and that all else is evil de facto) is exposed as nonsense.

There are reasonable points inbetween which will not be my favored state nor yours, but an optimal one, permitting our coexistence.

After that, it would be religion's job to try and convince people about their moral position, without worrying that the federal government will come knocking on their door. It would then be the liberal left's job no longer to pretend to occupy the moral high ground or the default position (as has been the case for decades), but to admit their view is merely one among many in the marketplace of ideas.

Paul Brinkley said...

...and once again, you're talking past us. This seems to be your mode. Quit trying to waste our time by forcing us to argue on behalf of people we don't even agree with. I assure you, we spend as little time as humanly possible thinking about when you're having sex.

Paul Brinkley said...

(hrmph... that was to AlphaLiberal, not pogo...)

Paul Brinkley said...

(...not that I really prefer to think about pogo having sex, either... gah.)

Simon said...

Alpha said...
"I know some ant-abortion people also support sex ed and birth control. I think I've said that here at least once now."

What you said above was: "In 2008, 'pro-life' also means 'anti-birth control.'" 1:54 PM comment. That was and is false.

"But I've also used the awesome power of the internet to back of my points."

No you haven't. This actually exemplifies a common trait of your comments: you make a very broad assertion and cite something in support of it that at most supports a very, very much narrower point. The story you linked to supports the assertion that some people who are pro-life are also anti-contraception. To abstract from "some" to "the vast majority" or "all" (the latter being what you claimed) is to go far beyond the evidence you cited.

Paul Brinkley said...

Pogo @2:20: you pretty much summed up my feelings, too. Sometimes I wonder if the left wants to equate "legal" and "moral"... anyway, I don't want to outlaw all abortions, but I'd like to stick a pin in this implication that the freedom of the mother always outweighs the life of the fetus. And at the same time, I'd feel compelled to recognize that there are cases where the balance swings the other way. They're both heavy weights.

Methadras said...

Smilin' Jack said...

She was, I forget, maybe 8 or 10 weeks pregnant. The embryo/fetus didn't look like a baby yet, but you could see its heart beating.

Big whoop. At 10 weeks you can't tell a human embryo from a chimp's.


So. What is your point? The problem with your argument is that you completely neglect context. Humans only give birth to human, fish only give birth to fish, chimps only give birth to chimps. However, even in nature, when a lion and a tiger come together you get a hybrid like a ligor or a tigon, but it's still a cat, not a bird, not a mouse. So even if you can't distinguish what a baby looks like at ten weeks, there is absolutely no mistake what it is and that is a human being. This dilution of language and meaning that you use to describe the 'fetus' as nothing more than an indistinguishable cluster of cells is wrong and willfully ignorant.

I'm very interested in this idea that sex has become, as you put it, a way to "make self."

Bullshit. Sex isn't a way to "make self," cloning is.


Actually it's a merging of 2 selvs to form a new self. Another unique human being that is totally and completely different than the previous human beings before him, but will hopefully absorb and retain the benefits of both from nature in the form of it's new genetic blueprint to nurture, the total sum experiences of the parents.

And, of course, the anti-abortion wackos hate cloning even more than abortion.

Why is it wacko to proclaim abortions as a means of deliberate terminations of pregnancies? Also, do you understand why human cloning or cloning in general is seen as an affront to rational thinking people? It is because it erases the uniqueness of species. If used on humans, cloning would eradicate the unique nature of oneself. If I were cloned, I would realize that while this is a human being, he would be me, but I am me. I was here first, there is only one me, not two of me. Twins or multiples that are born this way naturally are unique unto themselves, but a clone simply says to humanity that you have no value and therefore we can copy as many of you as we will need for whatever purpose we desire and when that happens (I pray it never does) humanity as you know it is over. This is why there is an upfront assault to stop it now. Nip it in the bud so that this devaluing of humanity and other higher order species stops. It's a subversion of nature because it eliminates or curtails genetic variety and distills the meaning of humanity to that of expendable slave. Is that what you want? Can you not see the logical conclusion of this type of endeavor?

nansealinks said...

quayle,

We admire and protect the creative force and results of botanical and geological nature. My sense is that, in a inadvertant and disjointed way, we don't seem to similarly admire and protect the creative abilities we have as humans, that dwarf all others of which we know.

I can only guess in my weltanshaung that their is some protective nature going on. The GREEN protective people see some kind of innocence which needs protection in lower forms of life. In their own species, however, they feel the darkness of the protective nature.

I have to go back to the story of wolves packs suddenly attacking each other and killing each other. And then after reading up on that discover that the wolves rehabitated in an area in California still are arctic wolves. Somehow there is a sense of not belonging to the right time and place which would cause attacks and killings even among animals of their kind. Human intervention void of intimate wolf nature would try to protect this even though wolves in their intimate nature sense something out of place.

I guess i'm just saying that of our own species we somehow want to get rid of something that we fear and with due calculation and instinct see as potentially detrimental to us. I see that you are saying that there is always a creative energy above that. Maybe some of us have just been in harmsway to often to rise above.

Pogo said...

not that I really prefer to think about pogo having sex, either... gah
Possum love quite resembles muskrat love which the Captain and Tennille described as
"Do the jitterbug out in Muskrat Land
And they shimmy... Sam is so skinny
And they whirl and they twirl and they tango
Singing and jinging a jango
Floating like the heavens above "


Except for the shimmy part, which is unlovely even in most humans, it ain't that bad.

I remain unsure what a 'jango' is, but I would guess a body part unique to muskrats, or some type of device for inculcating pleasure.

MadisonMan said...

It's a word that rhymes with tango. Nothing more.

Ron said...

Connecting back to the George Carlin video...here's a Nietzsche quote: (slight paraphrase)


The value of life cannot be estimated: not by the living for they are an interested party, a vested interest, and not by the dead for other reasons.

Bissage said...

I don't have much to say about abortion but THIS is a jango.

caplight777 said...

I think there will be a lot of buyers remorse on the part of women who have had abortions in the years to come.

I often wonder when I have these discussions what in a person's philosophy of life keeps them from feeling justified killing me. Just a logical test that I apply.

I'm not feeling real good about the answer right now based on some of the comments.

Eli Blake said...

Nobody has sex with the idea that they or their partner is going to end up in an abortion clinic. So in that sense, every abortion represents a failure. A failure to have sex without getting pregnant.

With this in mind, I'd like to know why so many RTL'ers
oppose sex ed, oppose the distribution of condoms, oppose the use (or in some cases even the availability) of birth control and oppose the distribution of the 'morning after pill.'

Why do RTL'ers oppose using unwanted embryos for stem-cell research but don't care when the very same unwanted embryos are destroyed in incinerators when clients quit paying the storage labs to keep them?

Why is it that when reasonable approaches to preventing abortion are put forward by some of us on the left (such as the proposal I made yesterday to pay for hospital deliveries for uninsured women, and finance it with a tax on abortions) RTL'ers routinely go back to their holy grail of banning abortion?

Number of abortions prevented quietly by things RTL'ers abhor like sex education, birth control and family planning: unknowable, but certainly a substantial number.

Number of abortions prevented by quixotic attempts to ban it: zero (but it's made a lot of trail lawyers rich at taxpayer expense.)

And finally, suppose that abortion is banned. What then? I'd only point out that marijuana has been illegal since the 1940's and today our jails, courts and criminal justice system are clogged with people who see nothing wrong with smoking the stuff. If you ban abortion today likely you will just create millions of new criminals.

And like anything else illegal, there will be purveyors. Imagine an illegal abortion clinic hidden someplace (maybe co-existing with a meth lab.) Providers with no medical training beyond what they learn on the street. Using tools they buy at the hardware store. The sanitation standards likely horrific or non-existent. I think I'd prefer we stay with the legal, regulated clinics, thank you very much.

Eli Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

Now, imagining the Captain and Tennille in flagrante delicto is definitely a gah sort of visual.

walter neff said...

That's why they call it muskrat love.

walter neff said...

Jango is one of the chief figures in Santeria.

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

Number of abortions prevented quietly by things RTL'ers abhor like sex education, birth control and family planning: unknowable, but certainly a substantial number.
False, entirely; a cartoon strawman.

Anti-abortion folks do not oppose sex education per se, just sex ed emanating from the education cabal controlled by the liberal left, which presupposes and encourages promiscuity.

Anti-abortion folks have mixed feelings about birth control, but few are as rigid as you dream.

And many anti-abortion folks are into great degress of family planning.

Just not the racist anti-black family planning envisioned by the founder of Planned Parenthood, Sanger.


In a March 1939 letter, Margaret Sanger wrote to Frank Boudreau,
director of the Milbank Memorial Fund: "...That is not asking or suggesting a cradle competition between the intelligent and the ignorant, but a drastic curtailment of the birth rate at the source of the unfit, the diseased and the incompetent ...The birth control clinics all over the country are doing their utmost to reach the lower strata [the minorities] of our population, but as we must depend upon people coming to the Clinics, we must realize that there are hundreds of thousands of women who never leave their own vicinity . . . but the way to approach these people is through the social workers, visiting nurses and midwives.["
[Margaret Sanger, "The Function of Sterilization," speech delivered at
Vassar College, August 5, 1926. Described in Chase, Allan, 'The Legacy of Malthus,' (New York: 1977), p. 658. and Sanger to Frank G. Boudreau, March 12, 1939, in the Sanger Papers at Smith College Library. In Gordon, p. 359.]

Paul Brinkley said...

Eli: Having grown up in rural Texas in a pro-life household, I would guess that most RTLers oppose sex education in schools because they believe this really should be taught by the parents. It's a very personal issue. They don't mind schools teaching biology - here's the parts of a male, here's the parts of a female, etc. - but it's when a teacher says it's right to do this, wrong to do that, that RTLers step in.

But this is just a more specific case of parents in general. Few parents believe a school should be primarily responsible for teaching kids right and wrong, on any subject, not just sex. It's a matter of separating church and state. Condom distribution is seen as tacit teaching of morality, and thus is opposed. (In other words, liberals probably brought this on themselves.)

As far as frozen embryos are concerned, I really don't know how well informed everyone is, so I'm even more uncomfortable gauging motives there.

Culturally, in my neighborhood, sex was something you save for marriage, not out of fear, but out of respect. It's one of the greatest gifts, not to be given lightly. Birth control is seen as cheapening that gift, so it is also frowned upon, while at the same time, everyone knows it happens; the response is to try and solve it culturally, by emphasizing how valuable it is.

Maybe that answers some of your questions.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

"Actually it's a merging of 2 selvs to form a new self."

The "merging" isn't the sacred part, as some people have asserted. Coitus is coitus, whether it takes place among perfumed gardens on embroidered silk sheets between two Pure, Monogamous Heterosexuals™ to the strains of three virgin lutenists and a luted virginalist or between a bisexual transmission mechanic and a cocktail waitress named Jo-Leen in the front seat of an AMC Gremlin after some wine coolers and a Styx concert. Merely a means to a miraculous end. It's the new life that's the important thing.

Paul Brinkley said...

Nope, Palladian, I disagree - well, partially. As I said above, for a lot of people, sex is really, really important, a big event.

But even in those circles, people probably know of people who enjoyed that Styx concert to the ultimate extent. I'd posit that the people who are okay with it are probably the same people who are pro-life but cool with birth control. The ones who aren't, are either opposed to birth control as well... or are parents of said concert attendees.

Or maybe they just don't like Styx. /shrug

Smilin' Jack said...

Every time you cut your hair or your fingernails, you are removing millions of your cells. Though these cells are technically "dead," they contain all of your DNA, and there is no doubt that we will one day have the technology to reanimate them and generate from them exact cloned copies of you. Therefore every hair and nail clipping really comprises millions of potential, and therefore actual, persons. Anyone who disposes of such clippings rather than saving them for technological resurrection is guilty of mass murder on a scale worse than Hitler.

gophermomeh said...

I see another level to regrets, which is what I was commenting on, earlier. It is in remembering, the re-greeting of our feelings of sadness, disappointment, loss, sorrow, etc., without taking insight from them, that we get regret. If we examine that regret, we take that insight and we turn it into something useful. It ceases to be a regret – it is now experience.

MadisonMan said...

I think there will be a lot of buyers remorse on the part of women who have had abortions in the years to come.

There is lots of buyer's remorse among some parents as well.

amba, I enjoyed reading your musings. I think you underestimate the power of the human brain in making connections, though, when it comes to observing coincidences. So I guess I'd answer: No, I haven't noticed that life is given when another is taken away. When I was 13 and my grandmother died? No one showed up to replace her. Ditto my uncle when I was 24. When my kids were born in the 90s, no one passed on before they arrived. You have counterexamples that a child showed up (I think it's cheating to use the example from a year before J's mother died!) -- but there are just as many examples when a child doesn't show up -- but are you looking for them? Very often the brain finds only what it is looking for.

Saul said...

Neither side is intellectually honest. Life begins at birth; it doesn't mean that all life turns out to make to birth, but that is the only logical place to say it starts.

Having said that, people will have abortions, legal or illegal. With the abortion pill, it is impossible to stop it, and in many cases would be extremely difficult to prove that the mother had an abortion.

So the effort should be to provide free birth control to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

On the abortion issue, neither side will ever win. They will continue regardless of the legal status.

Eli Blake said...

pogo and paul:

I would guess that most RTLers oppose sex education in schools because they believe this really should be taught by the parents.

IF all parents were as socially responsible as you suppose we would have little disagreement. However, many, perhaps even the majority of the kids who end up with their own kids receive little or no sex education (or for that matter any other kind of education) at home.

It may or may not be the fault of the parents. Sometimes it is, in that the parents just don't care, are strung out on drugs or alcohol or are guests of the state, while other times it isn't (i.e. a single mother herself working two jobs to support her kids and therefore never home because she is out making a living.) Either way, it is these kids who I see getting in trouble, far more often than the kids who come from stable two parent households where they are more likely to receive home-based sex education.

Being that this is where much of the problem is, we essentially have a choice between providing sex education in the schools vs. sex education on the street (which usually means real sex is the education.) Given that kind of choice, the school sex ed, warts and all, is better than what will otherwise be nothing.

And most schools allow parents to sign a form allowing their kids to opt out of the sex ed class if they are the parents you are describing (I know my kids' school sent home a permission slip) so it's not like anyone is forcing the kids of the parents you describe to have to go to sex education.

Pogo said...

The eugenics history from which the pro-abortion left arose should give it pause about its own moral bona fides, one might think.

No longer are they eugenecists, but their history should give concern about abortion serving as a means to an end, which can only occur once humans are defined downward, as Sanger did.

Revenant said...

What makes me a unique individual is my mind. I don't think a fetus has a human-quality mind, so I don't mind fetuses being killed.

Eli Blake said...

In fact, a lot of the whole 'parental responsibility' to provide sex ed can be boiled down to this:

1. You are absolutely right that it is (and should be) the parent's responsibility to teach their kids about sex and how not to have unwanted pregnancies.

2. Though you are right that it should be, in practice some parents don't do their job and their kids become sexually active and very possibly pregnant.

3. The kids that these kids have end up costing society more than the value of what their teenage moms can bring in (be it through unpaid hospital delivery bills that have to get passed on to someone else, through the cost of hiring more teachers as the kids get older or the cost of providing public assistance like food stamps.)

4. Therefore the failure of the original parents (now grandparents) to do their job, while it is their irresponsibility, becomes our problem as taxpayers, and we are paying for it.

5. As a taxpayer, I would therefore prefer to fund sex education in schools because this is far cheaper than the eventual cost of not funding it. For the same reason, I'd prefer that abortion remain legal (though that is not the only reason I want abortion to remain legal).

Eli Blake said...
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Eli Blake said...
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Blue Moon said...
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Blue Moon said...

Eli:

The problem I have with sex ed in schools is when the kid raises his hand and says "So, is it okay for me to have sex or what?" If Blue Moon Jr. asks me that question, the answer is "No" followed by some explaination. The moral dimension puts teachers in a bad spot -- I sure wouldn't want the teacher to say "Well, as long as you use a condom" or "I can't answer that." And if they say "No," I'm sure there'll be howls of protest from elsewhere.

Lawgiver said...

What makes me a unique individual is my mind. I don't think a fetus has a human-quality mind, so I don't mind fetuses being killed.

Really?

When did you first develop a human-quality mind? At the age of 2 weeks, two years, 6 years, or at 2 month gestation, when?

Paul Zrimsek said...

Liberals prefer to let the individual make this decision.

Except, perhaps, if the individual owns the DMC Pharmacy.

Simon said...

Saul has left a new comment on the post "Amba regretting an abortion: "if an embryo or fetu...":
"Life begins at birth; it doesn't mean that all life turns out to make to birth, but that is the only logical place to say it starts."

So all these women who whine about miscarriage are just being silly, right? I mean, life doesn't begin until birth. It's not like they've lost a baby or anything. Right?

Paul Brinkley said...

Eli: I suspect that the majority of parents who feel strongly against letting schools teach their kids about sex, are making a point to do it themselves. The ones who don't feel strongly about it might be the ones that aren't doing the job at home, either. So this might be a case of two sides with their houses in order, fighting over how to handle the house that isn't. I don't know.

In any case, I think your argument here for sex education in schools would resonant extremely well with your target audience. It's now a question of defending their own families, appealing to their values. It has no doubt been addressed already, in various ways (private schools, etc.), but I think it's a constructive way of looking at it.

Eli Blake said...

blue moon:

In that case, I'd boomerang Paul's comment right back at you. Hopefully you've been enough of a part of Junior's life that he will in fact ask you that. In fact if you are really worried about it then you will not sign the permission slip the school sends home and they will have him watch a Donald Duck movie or whatever they have the kids do whose parents didn't sign the slip.

But for those kids whose parents don't take an interest in what they are doing (again: this is synonymous with those kids who are actually most likely to get involved sexually, and also to become teenage parents) I'd far, far rather (as a taxpayer if nothing else) have a teacher tell them, "Well, as long as you use a condom" than have them learn from the kinds of characters they will probably learn sex from without any other source-- for example,

Sukie the hooker, Pete the pimp or Chester the molester. Or-- maybe just some other high school kid who's just a year or two older, has the same background, and also has absolutely no idea of what he or she plans to do if/when there is a pregnancy.

Pogo said...

I have serious doubts that teen pregnancy has anything at all to do with too little information about where babies come from.

Shee-hit.
Unless they ride the short bus to school, todays first graders know plenty, or at least enough to thwart an unwanted pregnancy. It's best thought of as don't let his thingy get inside your thingy.

But we mustn't ever say no to these walking hormone factories. Mustn't teach them about self-control and delayed gratification and such. No need to worry about condoms either because lord knows they protect against babies and STDs 100 percent of the time right?

This must be a great time to be a young man. Sex has become what men most desire: an inconsequential act relieving a simple animal desire; it has no inherent meaning at all.

So yes, tell them, "Well, as long as you use a condom". There is no demonstrable value in abstinence; none at all.

You're only twelve?
"Well, as long as you use a condom".
You feel uneasy about it but you don't know why?
"Well, as long as you use a condom".
You feel awful afterwards, and even worse after getting preggers when the condom broke.
"Well, as long as you have an abortion".

walter neff said...

"Sukie the hooker,"

Holy crapola Batman, Tom Cruise's kid is a hooker already. She's about three years old. Man they start them early in Hollywood.

rhhardin said...

What makes me a unique individual is my mind. I don't think a fetus has a human-quality mind, so I don't mind fetuses being killed.

What makes you unique and irreplaceable is being called to help somebody else.

An ethics of heteronomy that is not servitude, but the service of God through responsibility for the neighbor, in which I am irreplacable...This new ethics is a new way of understanding the possibility of an I...In this case, it is not a question of the freedom that a knowledge of the totality of being would ensure, but of the ethical responsibility that also signifies that no one can take my place when I am the one responsible : I cannot shrink before the other man, I am _I_ by way of that uniqueness, I am _I_ as if I had been chosen. Levinas ``Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel and Philosophy'' _Outside the Subject_ p.35

You could say that the baby makes you _you_, which is how it becomes a moral dimension.

The leftist view is that nobody should ever be called on for anything; the government provides for everything. It's fear of being called on one day that makes a leftist turn to leftism, in fact.

But in any case, it's not some fact about the fetus that has to be sought out, but rather some fact about how morality works.

Randy said...

As it appears everyone else here was too busy riding their own pesonal hobby horse of choice, or engaging in some long-standing personal vendetta about which far too much has been written already, I'd just like to take a moment to repeat what Ann said, "Thanks for writing all that over here, Amba."

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

So all these women who whine about miscarriage are just being silly, right? I mean, life doesn't begin until birth. It's not like they've lost a baby or anything. Right?

Society's legal interest doesn't begin until birth.

You can mourn a miscarriage, nothing more common.

You had plans, the baby fit in, and so forth.

It's just that it's not going to work out if you make it a law, because there are people in other circumstances than yours.

On moral argument in general, these aren't failing. They're doing what moral arguments are supposed to do, namely determine what the other fellow's views are and whether they're ones you can respect. The _usual_ result is to determine that the other guy is a moral incompetent, and learn to discuss something else in his company.

That's the function of a moral argument.

Meade said...

Regret isn't self-pity, it's the belated acceptance of responsibility. - Annie Gottlieb

Bears repeating...

Theo Boehm said...

I'll second that, Randy.  I'm always amazed by Amba's candid honesty and thoughtfulness.

*     *     *     *     *

But what's a blog comment without some snark?:

Looking back over this thread, whenever I see "Wittgenstein" and "abortion" near each other, I think of those three sad little words, "might have been."

Simon said...

"Society's legal interest doesn't begin until birth."

Society's legal interest begins as soon as there a person other than the mother involved. At what point if any that interest - protecting the child - comes into equipoise with the mother's interests is the policy question. Notice, though, that this does nothing more than bring us back to the basic, antecedent question that I noted above: at what point does it become a child. Once it becomes a child, society's legal interest attatches, and although that doesn't answer the policy question, it is the key issue.

"You can mourn a miscarriage, nothing more common."

People mourn their miscarriages because they are losing their child, and in every instinctive level, they understand that. And the later the miscarriage comes, the more acute that realization is.

MadisonMan said...

People mourn their miscarriages because they are losing their child, and in every instinctive level, they understand that. And the later the miscarriage comes, the more acute that realization is.

That's possible. It's also possible that they are mourning the loss of a future. When the miscarriage happens, the direction your life is moving towards is quickly changed. You have to mourn a little to adjust to the new possibly unwelcome trajectory. It's not necessarily the loss of the child, but the loss of how you've envisioned what your life would be like in the near future.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Deacon said: How about this for a family value: America is a big family and we take care of our own, birth to death

Well, then some Americans need a severe spanking should be sent to their rooms for a time out.

So, America, are we gonna persist in being a self-righteous, black or white, nation of consumers, or will we accept responsibility for our decisions as a people and start thinking like citizens and *gasp* relatives

OK. Treating people like relatives. "Clean your room!! Get a job!! If you can't take some responsibility for yourself, I'm not supporting you forever. Oh.....and don't be bringing those low down no class friends of yours around here anymore either. If you keep hanging around those creeps and don't get an education you will end up just like them...bums on the street! If you keep screwing around and have no self respect, don't expect me to respect you when you get yourself in trouble either. I raised you...you will damn well raise your own kid. I'm not your babysitter either."

More???

rhhardin said...

The reason that society's legal interest doesn't begin until birth is that cuteness is then public, and you get an overwhelming majority on one side of the argument, at birth.

It's a stable legal decision point.

Not much about the baby has changed, but rather a lot about its relations.

And that very well ties into how people ordinarily talk, and their interests and preferences.

Don't look at the baby but at the relations it's in.

Parents that very much want it are another kind of relation, and it gets called a child right from the beginning, even ordinarily, even by pro-choice people.

Meade said...

What Randy said goes for me too.

And now, uuuup on my hobby horse:

rhhardin said...
"[...]On the pro-choice side, I've never seen better than Marge Piercy ``Right to Life.'' Copies all over."

"I will choose [wisely whom I enter], what becomes of my [seminal fluid].
Without [restraint], no politics, no ethics lives.
I am not your [field of dreams], not your [24 hour ATM], not your [toy poodle for seducing and discarding], not your [scheme] for [career advancement, nor your daddy whom you are still angry at and want to get even with].
You may not use me as your factory [machine tool operator].
[Priestesses] and [divorce lawyers] do not hold shares in my [DNA] or my [soul].
This is my [seed, a gift from my fathers' fathers]. If I give it to you I want it [respected]. [The care and nurturing of our future children] is a [precondition for a second date]."

veni vidi vici said...

"However, it would take away a tried and true wedge issue from the Republicans."

I'm still chuckling at the thought that there are people out there who take themselves seriously and in that context allow themselves to think that the abortion issue isn't and hasn't been routinely used as a wedge by both Republicans and Democrats.

Follow the Supreme Court confirmation hearings much, hoss?

On the other hand, I must say that it's long been my impression that in the context of politics, abortion will only ever be a wedge issue, both parties complicit therein, and thus the status quo (at least at the federal level and with regard to early-term abortion) is what will pertain until something radical happens to the national culture. Such thing is not so foreseeable at this point, so I prefer to expend my time and energy on other issues and will deal with abortion if it affects me personally.

D-Day said...

rhhardin:
You make a good point about where "society's legal interest" begins. But I think its more "wantedness" than cuteness making the difference. "Cuteness" wasn't enough to save these children:

"Botched abortions mean that scores of babies are being born alive and left to die, an official report has revealed. A total of 66 infants survived NHS termination attempts in one year alone, it emerged. Rather than dying at birth as was intended, they were able to breathe unaided. About half were alive for an hour, while one survived ten hours."
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-512129/66-babies-year-left-die-NHS-abortions-wrong.html

I can't wrap my head around any kind of argument that gives "wantedness" any weight at all. Calling an extremely premature baby a "product of conception" doesn't change who it is, and some aborted "products of conception" have survived to adulthood. So when we talk about abortion rights anywhere near the edge of viability (20 weeks and falling) I just don't see how you can make a distinction between fetus and person. And I don't see how terminating that person's life is a different moral question whether its in a womb or a hospital. So why should any law or society that respects life not have an interest in that person's life.

If you believe that the "products of conception" should be given medical care in a botched abortion, why draw that line at the procedure itself. You're really only then talking about the location where the killing takes place.

Lots of people are weak and unwanted, but the only location wherein killing them is legal is the womb.

(If any of this makes sense - haven't thought this out much)

Revenant said...

When did you first develop a human-quality mind? At the age of 2 weeks, two years, 6 years, or at 2 month gestation, when?

Some time in the first year after birth, I'd say. Since we can't pin that down exactly, drawing the line at the moment of birth is the safe thing to do.

Donna B. said...

About that pharmacy that won't dispense birth control pills... does that apply to women who want them for their original purpose -- to make conception happen?

Revenant said...

How about this for a family value: America is a big family and we take care of our own, birth to death

I take care of my family because I love them, not because I consider myself to have any moral obligation to people I happen to share my genes with. If one of my relatives acted the way some of my "American family" acts, I'd disown them.

walter neff said...

This thread has gotten a little played out. Can someone talk about their gall bladder removal or something?

You know, just to mix it up a little.

walter neff said...

I pride myself on my sensitivity.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

This thread has gotten a little played out. Can someone talk about their gall bladder removal or something?

You know, just to mix it up a little


M'kay. A few years ago I started having the most horrible excruciating pain in my stomach/back area. Worse than natural childbirth, by far. I literally pulled the towel rack off of the wall. Fortunately, I had just had minor foot surgery and had some kick ass vicodin. I was double popping those puppies. Just when I was about to go to the ER. The pain stopped. Turns out as I discovered later that I had passed a gallstone.

A few days later my hubby and I are ditty bopping around on some forest service back roads drinking a few beers and he says wow...your eyes are really yellow. Holy Cow!

The stone had lodged in my liver according to the X Rays and my gallbladder looked like a bean bag full of stones. Quickly rushed to surgery to see if they can get the stone that is blocking the bile duct without having to open me up like a gutted fish. They put me on my stomach, gave me lots of happy juice and went in with some sort of probe through my mouth and then into the liver and (thankfully) removed the stone. If not I would have been the gutted fish.

Next day. Gallbladder removal through the belly button area and a couple more days in the surgery ward for observation, in case there are no more stones in the liver, which there weren't. Ta dah. 60K later all better.

The Doctor who removed my stitches asked if I would like to have the surgical scissors that they used for that purpose. He said he really didn't like just throwing them away because it was such a waste. This probably explains why everything is so expensive in the hospital. To this day they are the sharpest and best scissors I have ever owned. 60K pair of scissors. Made in Pakistan.

Happy now?

Want to hear about my emergency appendectomy?

Theo Boehm said...

No, but I'll tell you all about my kidney stone.

Trooper York said...

My wife had her gall bladder out three years ago and it was no joke. She got deathly ill too and was laid up for a week. And she has to be careful about what she eats since the gall bladder has an important function in digestion and a lot of the work that it does is taken over by your liver. So be sure to check your liver enzymes Dust Bunny Queen to make sure that the removal of the gall bladder does not screw up your liver functions.

Trooper York said...

"Want to hear about my emergency appendectomy?"

Not really. But what about those collagen injections you just got. Did it make your lips nice and fluffy? Like Angelina Jolie?

Trooper York said...

And Theo, I had a kidney stone. That no joke. I hope you were kidding. Man that's good for some screaming before it comes out. Ouch.

Theo Boehm said...

No joke, Trooper. I had a 9mm stone I ended up passing. Ah-oooooo-ah!

Trooper York said...

Damn. I bet you screamed like Kramer at Madison Square Garden during the circus.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Not really. But what about those collagen injections you just got. Did it make your lips nice and fluffy? Like Angelina Jolie

Nah. None of that unnatural stuff for me. Already fluffy. /primp primp

Thanks, for the tip about the liver enzymes. Probably ought to get that looked into.

So Theo, now you can relate to childbirth. Eyeee yaaaah. I had a girlfriend who told her husband.....YOU try sh*tting a football!! when he said childbirth was no big deal.

Sorry to be so crude :-)

Trooper York said...

I like crude.

In my oil and in my comments.

Seriously, she takes these supplements that help alot. Check it out. The side effects of having the gall bladder removed can be very shitty. Literally.

Theo Boehm said...

Actually, I sounded like the Queen of the Night in her second aria.   Those high f's don't you know.  No blue gown or stars in my hair, only stars before my eyes.

Had to work opera into this for Trooper's benefit ;->

Trooper York said...

Hey tell it to Rudy. Opera is for losers.

amba said...

Gophermomeh, I disagree that regret is (always) alchemized by insight into experience.

In this case, for me, regret came WITH insight and is inseparable from experience.

If you hurt yourself or someone else, you eventually do get over that, emotionally. But if someone is not here who could and should be here, that's a different class of regret. It's not just about changing or getting over your own feelings. Nothing changes lives and the world so completely as who's here and who isn't.

I don't mean to suggest that I constantly obsess and lament about it or that there aren't consolations. (I have quite a few young male blogfriends of what would have been my son's generation, whom I didn't deliberately seek out.) I also know very well why I had the abortion, how difficult it would have been to have the child, and how completely different my life would have been if I had.

It's just that the regret is a firm and permanent part of life, that won't go away and shouldn't.

And I also know that the culture encourages women in that predicament (or did then) not to understand the incredible momentousness of what they're doing.

Saul said...

Oh, my comment that life begins at birth must have been some freudian pro life slip...

Life begins at conception, though not every future person makes it to birth.

Aside from conception, there is no other time one can deliniate as specific point in time where life begins (I guess you might be able to say implantation in the uterine wall--but after that it's all pseudo science).

amba said...

Oops. Sorry to hijack the gallstone/kidney stone thread. I was away for a while.

This is indeed an exhausting subject that can make comic relief out of gall bladder removal!

Meade, where did that thing come from that you quoted -- the man's vow? Was that Marge Piercy, or you, or a third party? That was awesome. (Of course, some people here would scorn it as "poetry.")

Jen R said...

Most people who identify as pro-life are pro-contraception. Only about 10% of Americans object to birth control. That said, some big anti-abortion groups are undoubtedly using the abortion issue to further their objective to get rid of contraception and to pressure everyone to conform to their religious ideals of proper sexual behavior. There needs to be a pro-life group that represents the views of the majority of actual pro-lifers.

montana urban legend said...

Life only "begins" at conception in the minds of the scientifically illiterate (not an insult necessarily - this includes the vast majority of Americans) who never pondered the fact that the sperm and egg that gave rise to an embryo were, in fact, never "dead". They were not inanimate. Complex multicellular lifeforms and even their single-cell progeny at the zygote stage don't spontaneously arise from inanimate matter that needed to be "brought" to life, unless one holds to archaic notions such as spontaneous generation. And believing in something like that would be quite unusual in this day and age, even for the staunchest social conservative.

Joan said...

Coming in late, responding to several things:

1. The Pope's infallibility is limited to pronouncements on dogmatic issues of morals or faith, proclamations made ex cathedra. Papal infallibility has nothing to do with the guy never being wrong or making a mistake about anything else. You'd think people would get this by now, but they continue to cling to the misconception that a white-smoke victory and a pair of red shoes somehow makes you perfect. Get with it, will you?

2. On brain development, Revenant answered this question: When did you first develop a human-quality mind? At the age of 2 weeks, two years, 6 years, or at 2 month gestation, when? with:

Some time in the first year after birth, I'd say. Since we can't pin that down exactly, drawing the line at the moment of birth is the safe thing to do.

A few weeks ago I completed a course on brain development (I'm back in school, it's delightful), and the advances in brain research in the last decade are astounding. This research shows that brain development is a continuum that begins shortly after conception and continues throughout life, blasting many existing preconceptions about brain function and development out of the water. Prenatal conditions have a tremendous effect on your brain, everything from nutrition to your mother's emotional state. At birth, if all goes well, you have about 2-3 times as many neurons as you actually need, so that the brain can begin to form connections (synapses) and not waste time building neurons (brain cells), which is a much more complicated and time-consuming process. Essentially, your brain is set up for wiring -- determining who you are -- during your gestation. From my notes:

Bradd Shore of Emory U says that humans are born with remarkably undeveloped brains, and it is because of that unfinished state that human brains are so dependent on their environmental input. Experience begins before birth, and brain development begins in utero -- neurons begin driving an infant's limbs as early as 7 weeks of gestation. A key function of early fetal activity is to aid the process of constructing the brain (Myron A. Hofer of Columbia U) - from the very start, experience acts on the brain's development. Experimental data confirms that learning can take place in utero.

So if you're going by brain function/ability as a cut-off, you're painting yourself into a corner, IMO.

3. I'm also sans-a-gallbladder, and take digestive enzymes with every meal, and an acidopholous (sp?) "pearl" every day to keep my digestion on an even keel. For a while I was taking cholestyramine (Questran, a resin that binds to the excess bile that gets "dumped" into the intestines of people who don't have gallbladders to store it) to help with the, ahem, rapid transit problem I was experiencing, but then I figured out I was taking too much Vitamin C, so I was able to quit taking the resin. It really does help, though, if you need it.

Jen R said...

montana urban legend, do you not realize that when people say "life begins at conception", they are using it as shorthand for "the life of an individual human being begins at conception"?

Meade said...

amba, that was me, stealing the Marge Piercy thing and hypertextualizing it or whatever that's called when one photoshops with words. Glad you liked it.

Freeman Hunt said...

Experimental data confirms that learning can take place in utero.

That's no joke. While I was pregnant, I had this little speaker that played patterns of increasing complexity for my son. You'd play one pattern an hour a day for two weeks, then switch to the next one, and so on and so forth. Whenever I'd switch to a new pattern, my son would react strongly, moving around, sometimes making a few taps with the beat, that sort of thing. Then after a couple days of the same pattern, no reaction until the day the pattern was changed again.

And no, you needn't point out to me that having a pattern playing speaker for a baby sounds crazy. I know it does, but I still think it's cool.

montana urban legend said...

If that's what they mean, then that's what they should say. And it would be nice if they did. Because then it would allow intellectually honest people the space to respond by saying that even if "the life (or more accurately, the biological identity) of an individual human being begins at conception", personhood does not.

If life can end at brain death then there is no argument for holding that a single cell without any nerves (a redundant observation), let alone a nervous system, is entitled to any more rights than a brain-dead body. Conservatives will probably reply (and sometimes do) by attacking the concept of brain death as a definition of death. But that's specious. It's difficult to respect human life above other forms of life while renouncing the particular value of a sentient existence.

Joan said...

If life can end at brain death then there is no argument for holding that a single cell without any nerves (a redundant observation), let alone a nervous system, is entitled to any more rights than a brain-dead body.

This conservative replies that the two are not comparable. A brain-dead body is never going to develop and grow. It can't, by definition. But the single-celled organism, containing the complete genetic code of a human being, will, given time and the appropriate conditions.

montana urban legend said...

If Joan wants to bring developmental biology to bear on the discussion, particularly with regards to brain development, it's important to be precise. Gastrulation, which is what differentiates the embryo into three tissues including ectoderm, doesn't happen until day 16 after implantation. Nerve cells can't arise until ectoderm is distinguished, which comprises their tissue of origin. If all goes well, neurulation can then proceed from the ectodermal tissue around the fourth week. But even this process doesn't leave the embryo with nerve cells, just a collection of their progenitors in the shape of what will later become the spinal groove.

I'd say a generous definition for the existence of functioning nerve cells - let alone a collection of them as part of a primitive organ system - is sometime around the fifth or sixth week, which is way sooner than the benchmark most people would choose for viability (obviously), but it shows you how ridiculous it is to say any evidence of anything remotely resembling sentient human life exists at conception.

Conception is used because it is an easy benchmark for the lay public as well as for the church. It has nothing to do with a remotely human existence, other than in a biological sense that is so rudimentary as to border on grotesque within the context of the argument presented.

Theo Boehm said...

Can we go back to gallstones?

I can say with some certainty that my kidney stone had a life of its own.

montana urban legend said...

Oh. Sorry Joan. That's a response to your previous comment.

If growth and development (of sorts) were criteria for human life at the cellular level then we mustn't forget the growth and development of cancer. Or gametes - given "appropriate" conditions.

When you want to appeal to biology, can you at least ascribe some meaning to the criteria you pick and choose?

A comatose person will never "grow and develop" either. We still respect the decision of his or her caretaker to provide life support, if that's what they choose to do. Growth and development is a red herring. But I can see why someone would throw it in there as a purely rhetorical appeal to maternal instincts. Which is not probably not the strong "winning" argumentative grounds upon which conservatives want to define the need to protect a life as such. Death penalty victims also may have very caring mothers.

Theo Boehm said...

And to think I couldn't get lithotripsy until it was too late. Damn Canadians with worse conditions were in line ahead of me, because there were no lithotripters in Canada at the time. Those machines cost about $10 million back then, and had a useful life of 3 years, so no Province in Canada was willing to cough up the dough. They preferred to wait until the technology got cheaper, which it did, thanks to U.S. purchases. Our overpriced, private health care system subsidised, in essence, the public Canadian system. Interesting stuff here about health care policy, but the effect was ol' Uncle Theo screaming in pain for 6 weeks.

Just thought you all would like a little personal and practical story of health care finance.

I am, I hesitate to say, lest I be identified as one of those evil "conservatives," that I favor a single payer system in this country. But please, President Obama, make sure it doesn't suck.

Theo Boehm said...

Yes, Jesus was a death penalty victim.

Sounds like both Father O'Malley at our church and Amanda here are on the same page.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Death penalty victims also may have very caring mothers.

Death penalty VICTIMS. Are you subcribing victimhood to people who committ capital crimes (murder and other mayhem) as VICTIMS? Pray tell of what are they victims?

Theo Boehm said...

Oops. Strike "hesitate to say."

Instead of, "I am, I hesitate to say, lest I be identified as one of those evil 'conservatives,' that I favor a single payer system in this country," it should be, "I am, lest I be identified as one of those evil 'conservatives,' in favor of a single payer system in this country."

Cut and paste problem, don't you know.

Theo Boehm said...

All sentient beings who live, suffer, and die are victims.

Theo Boehm said...

I should have said, "Are born," for that is the problem, isn't it?

Theo Boehm said...

What would you like to hear, the Catholic or Buddhist perspective? I can argue either, although the Buddhist is a lot more fun.

Theo Boehm said...

Speaking of gallstones, did you know that Marin Marais wrote a little suite for viola da gamba and continuo called, "le Tableau de l'Operation de la Taille?"  It's a musical description of a late 17th century operation for gallstone. Ouch.

The victim/patient survived in the music, but less so in real life.

Theo Boehm said...

I wonder if there are any similarly charming Baroque musical depictions of an abortion?

They had them back then, but they had a fatality rate uncomfortably over the intended 50%.

But, hey, even the best doctors were outrageous quacks back then.

montana urban legend said...

Ok, then, Queen of the Dust Bunnies. Poor choice of words there - perhaps understandable given the level of biological literacy I've had to engage in order to compensate for the shortcomings of the discussion up until that point.

Substitute "death row inmates" for "victims". I imagine that should mollify your need to make sure the cause of victimhood is free from being besmirched.

It looks like Theo is feeling troubled by not having anything substantive to contribute to an otherwise potentially substantive discussion. But his obsession with his own biology should figure into the ideas discussed somehow.

Theo Boehm said...

We've had our substantive discussion, thank you. And when you appear, Amanda, that is guaranteed to end any possibility of anything of the slightest interest.

Actually, I think we should move on to 17th century rhetorical theory and it's relation to medicine. Wouldn't that be a charming turn?

Lawgiver said...

Some time in the first year after birth, I'd say. Since we can't pin that down exactly, drawing the line at the moment of birth is the safe thing to do.

That's what I would expect from a guy who takes physical cosmology as gospel.

I forget, was Scott Peterson charged with a double homicide?

montana urban legend said...

A lack of interest in the shortcomings of one's own arguments is not MY problem, whoever you are "Theo Boehm". The contribution of widespread ignorance to that lack of interest is not MY problem either. You must be drunk off of something.

In any event, you do not speak for Joan, who did respond. There is not a single comment you posted among the 150+ comments registered before I said anything. So accept the fact that you speak for yourself with regards to your own ADHD-level and style of commentary here. That "substantive discussion" was something to which you didn't contribute a damn thing. As such, you might consider using a pronoun less egomaniacal than "we".

Put your fingers in your own ears. But unless you can address something I said then keep the trigger finger of distraction confined to other things and STFU.

Theo Boehm said...

My, my, we are getting incoherent, Amanda. Anger does not become you.

Now, if "we" want to stay on this dreary topic, how about a discussion of the Karma of abortion from a Theraveda Buddhist perspective?

You know, a lot of people here have been making all sorts of metaphysical assumptions that really need to be examined.

Like sentient beings. A Bodhisattva vows the following:

"Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to free them."

Does that mean prevent them from being born?

Sentience means the appearance of the five senses, plus the sixth of "consciousness." Consciousness means the ability to make decisions that affect the sentient being's Karma.

So, does a zygote have consciousness or Buddha nature? Just when does it occur? Can a baby even be said to be able to affect its Karma? If a late-term fetus does not yet have Karmic nature, is it permissible to abort/kill it? What about the Karma of the abortionist? The mother?

Just a few questions that don't get any easier despite your perspective.

montana urban legend said...

Oh wait. You spoke about your kidney stones, referenced castrato singing voice and praised someone's honesty. Hell of a contribution.

Theo Boehm said...

But, tell me, why should I be obliged to address something YOU said, Amanda, when you have not had a thing to say on my perfectly on-topic question of whether there exists any musical depiction of abortion?

YOU are not the only one who may pose questions, Amanda.

Theo Boehm said...

I said nothing about castrato singing. But I should be happy to quote Addison on the subject, if you wish.

montana urban legend said...

I'm not angry at you for bringing up some obscure theology (I'm assuming a primarily non-Buddhist audience) that no one else will engage.

But I'm not going to try and cut you off for it either. I'm not insecure like that.

In any event, you say "we" as in "if 'we' want to stay on this dreary topic". You didn't have a damn thing to say about it, though. No one forced you to consider the biology of a zygote, and you can talk until you're blue in the face about whatever Eastern philosophy you want. Doesn't bother me in the slightest.

montana urban legend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
montana urban legend said...

No one said you're obliged to respond to a single thing I said. Your inability or lack of interest speaks for itself. But it doesn't require an explanation. No one takes it personally assuming you don't use that as an excuse for drowning others out, though.

What I say is only a personal challenge to you if you feel, for some weird reason, unreasonably challenged by someone else's words. That's your problem.

Theo Boehm said...

It isn't inability or lack of interest. It is the knowledge of the utter predictability of everything you say.

montana urban legend said...

What I say about human biology can only be predictable to you if you know a damn thing about the subject. The way you have hijacked this thread indicates that this is almost assuredly not the case.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theo Boehm said...

Amanda, I know quite a bit about biology, and nothing you might say will surprise or inform me. What IS interesting are the metaphysics behind the biological processes. My few questions about sentience and consciousness I raised earlier, and which you dismissed as "obsure," go at least in the direction of the heart of this matter. Few people, least of all you, wish to discuss them, for you have already made your assumptions about the meanings of biological processes. Biology is merely another rhetorical device to be employed in the furtherance of your political and social agenda.

There are profound questions here, that some have touched on, but knowing you as I do, it is obviously never your intention when you appear here to do other than browbeat and preen.

Biology is not the essential issue. The real questions about the meaning and morality of abortion lie hidden from shallow narcissists such as yourself. And I, for one, would rather toss a few gallstones in the pool than endure watching you preen in its reflection yet again.

Revenant said...

This research shows that brain development is a continuum that begins shortly after conception and continues throughout life, blasting many existing preconceptions about brain function and development out of the water.

That's not particularly new information. I learned that much in my neurobiology classes in college, and that was a disturbingly long time ago.

So if you're going by brain function/ability as a cut-off, you're painting yourself into a corner, IMO.

I cited the presence of a human-quality mind, not the presence of brain function and ability. The brain of an infant human performs incredible feats of learning without any known parallel in the rest of the world -- but it starts off without comprehension, reasoning, a sense of self as distinct from others, a concept of time, proprioception, self-control, or any of the other things that comprise the human mind. A newborn is a learning engine attached to a support system that basically runs on autopilot for months.

amba said...

If life can end at brain death then there is no argument for holding that a single cell without any nerves (a redundant observation), let alone a nervous system, is entitled to any more rights than a brain-dead body.

Montana: there's one key difference: a brain-dead body isn't going anywhere (if it's really brain-dead, that is).

amba said...

Oops, I see I'm seconding Joan.

Pogo said...

"What IS interesting are the metaphysics behind the biological processes. ...Biology is merely another rhetorical device to be employed in the furtherance of your political and social agenda."

In the words of that great modern philosopher Jim from The Office, Wow.
Seriously great stuff Theo.

And Montana, the I'm much smarter than you hacks here but I'll stay just to amuse myself schtick is a pathetic device best left to college professors berating wide-eyed freshmen taking their required English course.

That is, how can we know you're so effing smart if you don't actually say anything smart? I know people who barely passed high school who think the rest of the world is stupid, so your claim needs some verification.

montana urban legend said...

"Biology is merely another rhetorical device to be employed in the furtherance of your political and social agenda."

This is quite possibly one of the dumbest things that's ever been said, and something that neither amba or Joan (or even revenant or freeman hunt, and I suspect others) obviously take seriously. The assertion that science is (or should be?) of no value to Americans when deciding matters of life and death (or non-life), among many other things that are important to them, but that Buddhism is, is so baseless that it doesn't even warrant an acknowledgment. That is not browbeating or preening. That is the only appropriate response to a dodge that is so transparent that it doesn't even make sense.

Address the arguments presented, or move on; censorship through repetitive flaming is not a real argument or rebuttal of anything. It's just an irrelevant display of your capacity to browbeat and preen, nothing more. It does suggest you may feel offended by an inability to offer a defense against arguments that you don't like.

Same goes for you, Pogo.

As far as accusations of narcissism go, it might be helpful for the both of you to view the George Carlin video again.

montana urban legend said...

Montana: there's one key difference: a brain-dead body isn't going anywhere (if it's really brain-dead, that is).

amba, a quick review of the medical literature (of many topics, but it might be particularly revealing to look into drowning incidents) will show this to be demonstrably false.

I understand that you'll probably not take my response to be an example of browbeating or preening, but certain others here will. And they deserve to be ignored for not taking the issue you raise seriously. But I don't have a problem taking your objection seriously.

Pogo said...

a defense against arguments that you don't like.

I dunno, Montana.
I read all your posts. Deleting the ones made merely to insult left but few.
Among these, the following arguments were made:

* "If growth and development (of sorts) were criteria for human life at the cellular level then we mustn't forget the growth and development of cancer.

* "A comatose person will never "grow and develop" either.

* "...a generous definition for the existence of functioning nerve cells - let alone a collection of them as part of a primitive organ system - is sometime around the fifth or sixth week ...it shows you how ridiculous it is to say any evidence of anything remotely resembling sentient human life exists at conception.

* "even if "the life (or more accurately, the biological identity) of an individual human being begins at conception", personhood does not.

* "Life only "begins" at conception [gratuitous insult:] in the minds of the scientifically illiterate"


That was about it. Nothing terribly novel in those, nor especially learned. The remainder of your posts were just snark and insult-laden verbiage lacking any content at all.

Amba's comments were philosophical ones. 'Regret', as well as the answer to 'What is a person' are not scientific questions at all. They are metaphysical issues, as Theo suggests, about which the scientific method is entirely useless.

That is, in re the issue at hand, your comments were immaterial.

This is quite possibly one of the dumbest things that's ever been said
I believe you find that is so, but it is so only because it outstrrips your current capacity to comprehend it. You first have to remove your clinical blinders.

And again, the "Montana: smartest person EVAR! persona is quite boring.
Find another.

Pogo said...

a quick review of the medical literature ...will show this to be demonstrably false

It does?
How do you mean?
You post this statement as if by itself it is sufficient answer to amba, but it is not anything of the sort.

It merely says I disagree, and have the evidence to prove it but not offering your actual disagreement at all, nor the evidence to support it.

montana urban legend said...

Who appointed you to proclaim that they lacked any content? At least three others disagree with that. And if they brought George Carlin's video into the thread then his comments on the narcissism and "solidarity" of living things can be addressed, as can be what constitutes said life. "What is a person" was addressed? Yes. And I believe I addressed that as well.

I don't see anything in the original post declaring that the discussion was a science-free zone, restricted to metaphysical perspectives alone. And that holds true regardless of whether or not the latter provides the easiest outlet for you to spout your own particular brand of sophistry, Pogo.

montana urban legend said...

"a quick review of the medical literature ...will show this to be demonstrably false

It does?
How do you mean?
You post this statement as if by itself it is sufficient answer to amba, but it is not anything of the sort.

It merely says I disagree, and have the evidence to prove it but not offering your actual disagreement at all, nor the evidence to support it."

I have to go save some lives now, Pogo. (No joke. That's part of what I get paid to do. And it's not arrogance either. I need to go for now). I will get back to your question later in the day, if you are seriously interested in a clarification.

Pogo said...

Who appointed me?
Appointed?
Heh.
Probably the same whiz who appointed you smartest Althouse poster EVAR, who must deride all others.

No, the discussion is not a science-free zone, but only the metaphysical perspectives answer the question. Clinical issues are useful, but a bit beside the point, yet you seem to find them central and definitive, where others say they are not. This you refuse to address except by insult.

for you to spout your own particular brand of sophistry
See what I mean?
You cannot entertain even a moment's thought without resorting to insult.
It's sophomoric.

You're off to save lives?
Jesus on roller skates.
Don't tell me you and I are both doctors. Ack.
Great bedside manner so far!

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Profoundly affecting. Perhaps the 'prophets' in the Bible were people who told truths that others to avoid a sense of loss had managed to deny. This would be a continuation of such a prophetic tradition.

montana urban legend said...

"Great bedside manner so far!"

I didn't realize you required intervention, Pogo. Your arguments, on the other hand...


"for you to spout your own particular brand of sophistry

See what I mean?
You cannot entertain even a moment's thought without resorting to insult."

That's bull, Pogo. I'm responding to your accusation of sophistry with one of my own. Though it's more a characterization, actually. What constitutes an insult is in the eye of the beholder, but the golden rule might apply. In any event, try to have a sense of humor, if that's not too much to ask. (That last bit was me trying to be sensitive to your preferences, not a put-down).


"Who appointed me?
Appointed?
Heh.
Probably the same whiz who appointed you smartest Althouse poster EVAR, who must deride all others."

So in both cases, you admit it was you who did the appointing.

I don't refuse to do anything except by "insult". I do, however, occasionally take an accounting of various allegiances in noting where preferences of argumentation tend to characteristically differ. I don't take such an accounting to be necessarily definitive (and hope, in the spirit of a good challenge, that they won't be) and the arguments I make stand regardless of whether they are in there. I can withdraw them or refrain from them, if you like. But it's sometimes challenging to predict what you'll be so sensitive to - at least on anything other than a substantive basis.

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