Thursday, March 17, 2011

Long Facebook thread: Abolish Human Abortion. Chapter 3.

John S (Replying mostly to another abolitionist):
Back to slavery for a moment: Does the idea of man as the image of god really do anything to prevent slavery. Slavery and sex slavery are still allowed in the Bible (Leviticus 25, Exodus 21, Ephesians 6, 1 Timothy 6, Luke 12). I'm sure you've got a canned answer for that since it comes up so much, but I'm always eager to better understand.

"You are probably not doing that, but many many many many many many pro-choicers do. When you ask them if they had an abortion and why, they turn around and tell you that they got an abortion because they were worried that their kid would grow up hungry or without an i-phone like they they type away on their mac-books.

A women I was talking to recently told me her abortion was to save her life, but by "save her life" she meant, keep her internship."

These comments are so unbelievably arrogant and presumptuous. As were the earlier (still unsupported) claims about the mental anguish of all women who get an abortion. Until you can show that you have ESP or have some sort of actual evidence for your claims at insight into the minds of women, drop the I know better than women what their thinking.

The point of the question, is that you can't decide between two equally sacred lives. If you truly believe that a zygote is equal to your wife, then you can't decide which you would save, even knowing that the zygote is not yet viable (a variable you have stated you don't care about). To abort the zygote is murder. This is a philosophical problem for the every human is equal position. The reason so many people bring this up is not because it is a statistically large number of cases, but rather it shows an inherent logical weakness in your definition of human - again this is the only real point of debate in this whole discussion. My definition doesn't have a problem with such cases. By my definition most abortions (before viability and well before sentience) are fine. You need to find flaws in my definition because it's the one that is currently enshrined by law. Until you show some significant weakness in my definition, I don't know how you can hope to effect a change in laws on abortion.

Hi John,

Allow me to comment a bit here.
Slavery was permitted in the Bible but was strictly controlled by law (in the OT). The slavery of the NT was under Roman law and the NT was less interested in fomenting revolution than in setting in place spiritual paradigms for all cultures at all times.
You said, however, SEX slavery, and that is 100% false. You have no doubt heard that from someone, but I can tell you with confidence that they have made numerous assumptions and refused to allow the text to speak for itself. I urge you to abandon that argument; it is false.

As for "arrogant and presumptuous', no, rather, it is YOU who are being presumptuous in dismissing out of hand IJP's testimony of what happened just because it doesn't fit your neat little box. Hows about you deal with what actually did happen? If you don't know what happened because you weren't there, then where do you get off dismissing it? You doubt IJP has ESP, but apparently you DO have it?

Finally, it is unnecessary to make a call regarding whether a 1-day old zygote is EQUAL to one's wife in this question. I must simply know that he is a person. This is a false dilemma - I can argue that BOTH have the right to live.

Please define "viability", and be specific. My 4 year old will die without my daily assistance. It seems to me that "viable" includes some concept of self-sufficiency, but I wonder how consistent you're willing to be.

John S
Viability is the point at which a premature baby has some chance of surviving outside the womb even with the most advanced medical care. This appears to emerge at about week 21 in the pregnancy (week 19 after conception) although those few percent of babies that survive will have life-altering health problems. Week 24 appears to be the 50/50 point as to a child's survival rates.

My 4 year old has no chance of surviving outside the womb by herself. Why, by your logic, am I not justified in putting her to death if I want?

John S
I don't understand what you're saying. Clearly your 4 your old can live outside the womb. If you were to put her on an island by herself and cut her off from all aide from society, yes she might have problems. But that's not how I (or anyone else) defined viability. I said with the best medical care in the world. Your 4 year old could live with the best medical care in the world. A baby born at the 24 week mark could live about 50% of the time with the best medical care in the world. However a baby born at the 17 week point in the pregnancy has basically 0% chance of doing so. The cutoff point appears to be at about 21 weeks.

@Xavier: I think viability is more useful in restricting abortions rather than positively defining their legality. My use of viability is to say that, while I am otherwise pro-choice, I wouldn't allow abortions after viability unless the mother was in mortal peril - which our philosopher Philoponus - will remind us is only the case in about 1-2% of abortions. I think most people agree that abortion should not be allowed after the point of viability as evidenced by the very small number of abortions that happen after this point - less than 1% of abortions happen after viability and most of those are in fact because of serious medical issues for the mother or the fetus.

I think if a machine was invented that could grow a baby outside the womb, then yes, this would be a good reason to outlaw abortion. It would basically be adoption of an embryo or fetus. If you didn't want the embryo or fetus you could put it up for adoption and let the adoptive parents or foster home or state or whoever, grow it. Unlike a woman, the technological innovation would have no rights over how it was used and no reason (medical or otherwise) to refuse to incubate the child. However, I think women are more than incubators and do have reasons (medical or otherwise) to refuse. There's a growing body of literature on the history of our understandings of the body, with a subset focusing on the female body and technology. There's even an annual conference "Gender, Bodies & Technology: (Dis)Integrating Frames" sponsored by the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Virginia Tech.

Not without my help, she can't. Even if she's just in my house, she relies on me totally to survive. Why define viability as "with the best medical care"?

I'd like to ask why viability is your measure. How do you know it's the correct standard by which to judge whether it's morally permissible to kill the baby?
The logical conclusion of what you said about the machine is that human rights are granted at a time in one's life which is not static and can change. Who gets to decide when it changes? Why do you disagree with the Dec of Ind, in which life is an inalienable right which our Creator endows?

Bottom line - don't give us naked assertions. Give us arguments WHY we should accept your propositions.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Good interaction. In addition to the arguments that you have made, I would also like to note that using viability as a criterion for humanity is absurd for a couple of reasons. Before stating those reasons, it is important to note that viability is a function of human technology at a given point in time. As here defined, a fetus is viable if it "scientifically has a chance of surviving outside of its mother's womb." But the chance of survival is dependent upon the technology available for sustaining life. Turning the clock back a few hundred years, the minimum age of viability increases greatly, with the more primitive state of medical technology. Turn the clock forward, and the minimum age of viability may continue to decrease, with more advances in the field of medicine. Who knows - someday, an "aritifical womb" may be invented that would allow fetuses of any age to be sustained and brought to maturity outisde of the womb of the mother. Such would make the viability argument moot, as all fetuses would then be viable (given access to that technology).

However, it is important to note that viability is a function of available medical technology, both in terms of technological development, and physical access. The minimum age of viability for someone in the 18th century is higher than it is for us today. However, for someone stranded in the bush, even today, the age of viability is higher than it is for someone living in a city with access to the latest medical care. In light of this, defining humanity in terms of viability is absurd for the following reasons:

1. It commits a category error. It defines an essential property (humanity) in terms of a contingent, temporal, property of society (the level of technological advancement). But by their very nature, essential properties are necessary (in the sense of de re necessity), and to try to define them in terms of contingent propositions is a contradiction in terms.

2. It is circular. Humanity is defined in terms of viability. But the concept of viability depends on human technological development, and the administration of certain medical care by human beings. The question is what it means to be human, but a developed notion of viability requires a notion of what it means to be human to begin with.