Abortion is so hot right now

Ethics

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I don’t know the cause, perhaps it’s the current political climate in the US with political hopefuls vying to be their party’s candidate for President. But just now it seems the issue of abortion has exploded in my social media feeds, replete with (rather unwelcome) grizzly images of dismembered unborn babies. For what it’s worth, please be considerate of people who might not actually want to see such horrible things when they log in to catch up with friends or discuss other things. Do you want to be bombarded with unexpected and very graphic images of beheading victims, stabbing victims, crash victims and so on? But abortion is so hot right now, it seems.

Abortion is one of those issues where people just seem entrenched (the related issue of stem cell therapy is somewhat similar in this regard). No amount of pleading seems to get people to move – usually, at least. There are people who assume (quite wrongly, I say) that it’s simply a religious issue. You would never oppose abortion unless you were religious, they think. There are those (like presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders) who think (again, very wrongly, I say) opposition to abortion is an attack on women and their reproductive rights. I don’t think any comments like this have any merit, and I think they are evidence that many defenders of abortion rights are not seriously listening, or they don’t really want to know why people oppose abortion (or they do, but they are willing to misrepresent the opponents of abortion, which is a hallmark of partisanship).

In spite of my fear that very few people are really open to listening to the evil “other side” of the abortion issue, I know that some people do, and some people even change their mind about it once they’ve listened. It’s hard to predict what might give someone that little nudge across the line, but if it’s possible that something I say might help do the job then I don’t want to miss the opportunity. There is nothing new here.

Why I oppose abortion

Stated very briefly, here’s why I think abortion is wrong.

Abortion kills one of us

It is not just a slogan that “abortion stops a beating heart.” It is a scientific fact.

There are people walking around out there in the world who can truthfully say “I survived an abortion.” These are not the mothers who had an abortion but lived to tell the tale. Rather they are people whose own mothers attempted to have them destroyed before they were born. Some of these survivors have scars as evidence of their near-death experience. The injuries inflicted on those very small humans before they were born are, in some cases, still present as those same humans go about their business today, grateful that the abortion was not a success and they are still alive. Most, however, do not survive an abortion. It is not just a slogan that “abortion stops a beating heart.” It is a scientific fact.

All very young humans are dependent on somebody, whether they have been born yet or not.

You might think that these deaths don’t really count. In everyday conversation, this is what proponents of abortion rights usually say. You might think these particular humans lack some special feature that makes them worthy of protection. Size. Their current level of awareness. Independence. For one or more of these reasons, we are told that there is some thing called personhood that unborn children lack (I am here reminded of the claim that unborn children do not yet possess what some people call a soul). I think the sorts of reasons people give for making an exception to the rule against killing here are arbitrary. Size is obviously a silly reason, for example. Someone’s current level of awareness, too, seems arbitrary. Suppose you were placed into an induced coma for a week. It seems (to me, at least) obviously false that it would be acceptable to kill you just because you were unaware. Similarly, all very young humans are dependent on somebody, whether they have been born yet or not. If it is acceptable to kill an unborn child because it is dependent on his or her mother, then it would be acceptable to kill any young child for whom nobody wished to care.1

Abortion takes away a particular human future

But suppose you’re not convinced that abortion kills one of us. I think you should be convinced, but what if you’re not? Actually, there’s a good reason to deem abortion morally unacceptable even if you’re agnostic about the status of the unborn. This is spelled out in an article by ethicist Don Marquis called “Why Abortion is Immoral.” Briefly the argument goes like this: What do we think is wrong with killing people generally? Killing is not wrong because it causes pain, because it brutalises the killer or because it makes other people sad (although these are aggravating factors, no doubt). Killing humans in general is wrong because it takes away somebody’s life. But we don’t mean that in every possible sense. Obviously when we murder somebody we aren’t taking away all of their past life. We are taking away their future. This is not just any future (like, say, the future of a work or that of a rock). It is a particular human future – a “future like mine.” Naturally that future won’t be exactly like mine, but it is a human future. Not just the future of a thing that might exist in the future, but a particular human future of a thing that now exists. Taking that away is an action so evidently terrible as a rule that society punishes those who do it. This is the feature of killing that causes us to deem it wrong.

But abortion too has this feature, because abortion takes away the unborn child’s future – a future like mine. So if killing in general is wrong for this reason then abortion is wrong. Of course, you might think that some human futures are not worth having. What if a human future consists of being so severely disabled that one will not survive? Or maybe you would survive, but you would require a lot of care, so that your existence would be a burden on others. That might give you pause when asking whether or not it’s really wrong to take away a particular human future (namely, one of those apparently unrewarding or difficult futures). Here I would make just a few suggestions as to why this does not overturn the presumption that abortion is wrong. Firstly, if a person is literally not capable of surviving, the question of whether or not it is wrong to kill them does not arise. If a human future involves highly diminished mental development and cannot be sustained without considerable care from other people, this simply invites the question: Is it acceptable then to kill such people long after they are born? If their future is one that you would not want, is it therefore not wrong to take their future away? Is there in fact no moral presumption against killing the severely disabled? Appealing to the fact that they are still very young in the case of abortion does not make any difference here, because this objection to killing is about the fact that killing takes away a particular human future. You might be prepared to bite the bullet and seek legislative change so that the disabled who will always require the care of others in order to live can be killed. But you should be aware that this is the stance you are taking when you say that it should be acceptable to take away that sort of future as a defence of abortion. Lastly, as a real-world defence of abortion, the claim that there are many futures not worth having because of severe disability is largely irrelevant. Anybody who has spent much time investigating the grounds on which abortions are performed (as I have) knows that this is simply not why women seek abortion. Even if we decide that it is permissible to take away the future life of the severely disabled because that future has a very low value, we would not have provided a justification for well over 95% of all abortions.

“Is that it?” Yes, that’s it – or at least, that’s enough. Abortion kills one of us, and even if you can’t quite swallow that (although again, I really think you should), abortion has the feature that makes killing one of us in general wrong – it takes away a particular human being’s future. Because it is wrong to do those things, abortion is wrong.

Having discussed and spoken publicly about this issue for some time, there are some fairly immediate replies that come to mind.

“But what about when a woman has been raped? Are you going to force her to carry a rapist’s baby to term?”

I’ll mention this objection first because in conversation it’s always the first one people bring up.

Killing an unborn child doesn’t mean you were not a mother – it just means you’re a mother who killed your child (who was also the rapist’s child).

No, I’m not forcing a rape victim to be pregnant. The rapist did that. I’m sorry it happened, but it did. Killing an unborn child doesn’t mean you were not a mother – it just means you’re a mother who killed your child (who was also the rapist’s child). That’s a pretty harsh thing to hear perhaps and I’m sorry for that, but it’s the truth. I realise that I don’t know what it’s like to have a baby at all, let alone to have a baby because somebody raped me. But killing an unborn baby because of the circumstances in which he or she was conceived still has all the features that make abortion wrong. You can tell me as much as you like how stressful it might be to give birth to a child conceived in rape (although for what it’s worth, none of the women so far who have used this argument with me have ever conceived a child through rape). That may be true. No doubt it’s appropriate to take that into account when responding to somebody who had an abortion for this reason. It’s a reason to be compassionate. But it’s not a justification for killing. Sometimes it’s tempting to do the wrong thing because it would appear to benefit us personally or get us out of a jam, and this is one of those times. Having an abortion because the child was conceived through rape is someone’s attempt – understandable no doubt – to remove a burden that is perceived as terrible from themselves by making someone else pay for it with their life. It is not the child’s fault that he or she exists because of somebody else’s violent actions, and even rape is not a capital offence (in New Zealand at least), let alone being born because of rape. If it is not acceptable to kill a child at the age of two if his life has become increasingly stressful to the mother because he was conceived in rape, then there is no principled reason why it should be acceptable at an earlier stage, because killing at an earlier stage still has the essential features that make killing wrong at a later stage.

This is to say nothing of the fact that children who were born from rape have just as much potential to be loved and cherished by somebody as any other child. Moreover, given that the vast majority of abortions are not carried out on the grounds of rape, this may be something of a red herring. Even if we do allow for abortion on the grounds of rape and disability, we would still be slashing the abortion rate by at least 90 per cent.

“But what if the woman’s life is in danger? Are you saying that you’d rather the mother and the baby die rather than that she have an abortion?”

No, I’m not saying that. This is a misrepresentation of what most opponents of abortion would say. What I have said is that abortion is wrong in the basic way that killing humans in general is wrong. Once we accept that, we have a reason to oppose abortion.

But – and I realise not everybody shares my view here, what a surprise – I don’t think it’s always wrong to take a course of action knowing that a human will die. Many opponents of abortion (like me) prefer the term “pro-life” to “anti-abortion,” because what we are in favour of is protecting an existing human life. Unfortunately there are extremely rare cases where the very existence of the unborn child is an imminent threat to the life of the mother, the obvious example being that of an ectopic pregnancy (when implantation occurs in the fallopian tube where there’s simply no room for the baby to keep growing). In a scenario like that, we can start to talk about choices, just as we talk about options for self-preservation in other cases (e.g. self-defence). Removing the unborn child from a place where the mother will be killed may mean that the unborn child will die. We don’t want that to happen, but it may simply be unavoidable, a concept called the doctrine of double effect, where a bad effect follows from what we do even though that effect is not our aim.

“Stop trying to control women’s bodies / reproductive choices”

If abortion is wrong because it kills one of us… then it is perfectly appropriate for people to control your body (i.e. restrict what you do with your body) if you are going to use your body to kill an unborn child.

Although this is the kind of response you’re most likely to hear most often in the to-and-fro shouting matches over abortion, it’s the least helpful kind of thing anyone could say. These are not reasons for reconsidering one’s stance on the abortion issue, but rather just instructions to go away and let us do what it is we want to do. If abortion is wrong because it kills one of us or because it takes away a particular human future, then it is perfectly appropriate for people to control your body (i.e. restrict what you do with your body) if you are going to use your body to kill an unborn child.

Similarly, if by “reproductive choice” you mean the choice to kill, then it is right to interfere with that choice. Simply claiming that it is your choice is a way of declaring that you won’t listen to whatever reasons people might offer you for thinking that the choice is unjustifiable. The truth is that abortion is not a reproductive choice at all. You can accept that abortion is wrong and that women should be free to choice when they reproduce. An abortion does not prevent reproduction. Rather abortion takes place after reproduction has already occurred – or there would be nothing to abort. Abortion hides the fact that reproduction has occurred by disposing of the child that was produced, and is no more a “reproductive” choice than the widespread practice in the Roman Empire of “exposing” a newborn, that is, disposing of him / her if he / she was unwanted. Opposition to abortion and support for legal protection of unborn children interferes with your choice (and I’m sorry to put it so directly) to have your child remain alive or to kill your child.

“You’re a man. What would you know?”

This is variously phrased: “Women know best,” “women are the ones who have to make this very hard decision,” and so on. The idea is that men, who are never faced with the prospect of carrying a child to term, are in no position to tell women whether or not they should abort.

This is a variety of the Ad Hominem fallacy, where somebody’s reasons are dismissed, not because there is something wrong with the reasons, but because of who is offering them. Clearly it’s not true that all pro-lifers are men. Women and men who oppose abortion use the same sorts of arguments for doing so. How can the same argument be sound when a woman uses it but unsound when a man uses it, even though the argument doesn’t change? If abortion is wrong for the reasons outlined here, it makes no difference who says so.

It is true, moreover, that abortion is for many women a very difficult decision (although for others it is not). But whether or not it is difficult to decide to do something has no real bearing on whether or not you are morally entitled to do it. I have seen photographs of young suicide bombers in tears before they head off to their final mission. No easy decision, by the looks of it! Abortion should be a hard thing to decide to do. It is unjustifiable killing, something nobody should feel comfortable about doing.

“Until pro-lifers are willing to support these children once they are born, they have no right to rail against abortion.”

The truth is that many pro-life organisations do offer support to mothers who choose not to abort, so it’s likely that this objection is partially born of ignorance. But let’s suppose the critic is right that pro-lifers don’t do as much as they could.

I do not lose the right to stop you from killing your children unless I adopt them, however kind it might be for me to do so.

Of course I want a world in which raising children is easier rather than more difficult (as do people in general across the political spectrum, even though they disagree on how to make that world real). But I do not lose the right to stop you from killing your born children unless I adopt them, however kind it might be for me to do so. You are still in the wrong if you kill them, and you cannot excuse your own actions by pointing the finger at me for not providing you with the option of sending all your children to live with me. The same is true of the unborn. Of course, I want societies where people are less likely to be driven to considering ending the lives of their unborn children out of worry for how they will look after them, but that is no reason for me to consider such killing justified. We are not talking about whether or not you will bring a child into the world. By the time abortion is even an option, we are talking about killing a child who exists.

“Don’t push your religion on me!”

The basic reasons for opposing abortion, or at least the reasons I have given here, are not religious. It’s convenient to assume that something is religious when you’re not, giving you a reason for simply ignoring it.2 As it turns out I don’t accept that you should be able to support laws that reflect your view of the world but I shouldn’t be able to support laws that reflect my view of the world. The fact that my view of the world is religious while yours is not seems irrelevant here. The fact is that I don’t share your view of the world and you don’t share mine, and it is unreasonable for your view to be privileged. But maybe more importantly here, the arguments simply aren’t religious, so this response is a misrepresentation. True, I do believe that there’s a connection between the value of human life in general (as well as with moral obligation in general) and theology. You don’t. But we do agree that killing one of us is wrong, I hope, and I have given a non-religious reason for thinking that abortion has the feature that makes killing in general wrong.

Complaining about religion, then, is a smokescreen that prevents you from actually thinking about and engaging with the reasons why abortion is wrong.

There are other replies as well I know, but in short and with all due respect, the sorts of arguments one tends to hear on a daily basis in conversation and in media from those who support abortion rights are seriously inadequate, and in many cases are scarcely intellectually serious at all, bearing all the hallmarks of just not listening to or caring about the concerns about abortion but simply jumping on a bandwagon or shutting out what we don’t want to hear. If abortion is the kind of thing that its opponents say it is, then they are right to not only consider it immoral, but to seek legal prohibition on abortion and to vote accordingly.

The opponents of abortion cannot in good conscience say “I’m personally opposed but pro-choice” any more than we can be personally opposed to slavery but pro-choice for slave owners, or personally opposed to killing minorities, but pro-choice for those who wish to do so.

The abortion issue is one of the most morally frustrating features of our society, so civilised and yet so barbaric, and increasingly few are willing or able to see it, being prepared to defend it in the most tenuous and even flippant of ways. The frustration is only made worse when serious concerns are dismissed as bigotry or a “war on women” that reflects an “anti-choice” mentality, as though people honestly think this is the way to carry out moral discourse.

Glenn Peoples

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  1. I discuss the argument from dependence in a short article called “A Defence of Just Letting poor People Die”   []
  2. Of course, the fact that an argument presupposes some religious beliefs does not show that there is anything wrong with the argument. Perhaps you should consider the arguments given for those religious beliefs too? But that’s a whole other conversation. []
{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Richard Hesketh September 26, 2015, 4:49 am

    We are paying the price for abortion now with our aging population. This is resulting in increased immigration which is increasing Islam in the west. There will be troubles ahead.

  • Louise Morrison September 26, 2015, 7:12 am

    Hey you’ve got several typos where you’ve left out a word or put in the wrong word so they don’t make sense. You say never instead of ever when talking about rape and further down, you’ve left out a word entirely in the paragraph that begins, if abortion is wrong -talking about controlling your own body.

  • Glenn September 26, 2015, 3:02 pm

    Thanks Louise. I’ve fixed the first one, but the other sentence looks alright.

  • Sandra September 26, 2015, 4:14 pm

    “In spite of my fear that very few people are really open to listening to the evil “other side” of the abortion issue, I know that some people do, and some people even change their mind about it once they’ve listened.”

    I did, some years ago now. Sooner or later, somebody will notice that what their “pro-choice” friends are giving them are slogans, while the case against abortion is reasonable and persuasive to those who are willing take it seriously. That’s what happened to me. I became particularly struck by the claim that I could oppose abortion personally but still be “pro-choice.” Clearly the person who said this didn’t understand why I had come to (tentatively) oppose abortion. That’s when I broke with the whole pro-choice mindset. You cannot think abortion is unjustified killing while still being pro-choice without some serious disconnects in your thinking.

  • chas September 26, 2015, 5:51 pm

    well spoken Glenn… i read your post very fast and the spirit of it is just. I had faced this abortion predicament a long time ago.. basically a non born again person is spiritually dead and has a corrupt / seared conscience.. its pointless arguing.. however it is good to state the obvious that killing us is wrong and we should pray for those that are in that decision process…

  • Glenn September 26, 2015, 8:24 pm

    Chas, I do not accept for a moment that somebody is incapable of understanding and accepting the argument against abortion because they are not a Christian.

  • Jack D Ripper September 27, 2015, 8:40 pm

    Your last paragraph neatly encapsulates your argument. You could have avoided the other few thousand words and left it right there.

    For you, an unraped, relatively well off white male abortion is a matter of morality.

    For far too many women, it is a matter of health care, and it is health care they are often denied because you, or someone like you, wants to impose a moral judgement on a health issue.

    It is not an argument between slogans – right to choose or right to life. It is about providing the best possible medical care without reference to anything external to medicine.

  • Jack D Ripper September 27, 2015, 10:18 pm

  • Mick September 28, 2015, 11:09 am

    Rubbish. Black is not white. Murder of an infant is not medical care.

  • Jack D Ripper September 28, 2015, 8:01 pm

    Mick, I am yet to see any evidence of infants being murdered under the guise of healthcare. Perhaps you could be so kind as to provide a verification source?

    I am also sure the relevant authorities will be interested in prosecuting these murders.

  • Frank September 29, 2015, 2:40 am

    If you don’t see the evidence it is because you don’t recognize the logic of Glenn’s argument… which you didn’t address at all. Instead, you engage in the same ad hominem argument that Glenn exposed above. You suggest that it’s only unraped and relatively well off white men who think abortion is a matter of morality. That is absurd on its face. I’m curious, are you white? Have you been raped? Are you a man? I wonder if you have a right to moralize on this issue according to your logic.

    Maybe this will help. Let me rephrase/reframe your third sentence for you:

    “For far too many [gestating children], it is a matter of health care, and it is health care they are often denied because you [Jack D Ripper], or someone like you, wants to impose a moral judgement on a health issue.”

    You are the one imposing your morality onto helpless children.

  • Jack D Ripper September 29, 2015, 11:07 am

    Sorry Frank, but you just don’t get it, do you?

    I am not intent on imposing morality on health care. I am interested in women getting the best possible health care they can. That is a matter of humanity, not morality.

    I will not insist a woman have an abortion, nor will I deny a woman an abortion. I simply support the woman’s right to choose what is best for her.

    There can be many reasons why a woman will choose to abort and I do not understand why you think the removal of fetal tissue from a woman’s body is any different to removing her tonsils, her appendix or blowing her nose. Each of these contain living cells, but none of them is a child, an infant or a baby.

    It is those who claim morality is on there side that have caused the deaths of women, women whose lives would have been saved by a timely abortion. Women who suffer enormous pain and trauma because the hospital in their area is run by a church and the priests think they are better able to make medical decisions than doctors.

    If you want to end most abortions, as I do, then commit to full and frank sex education and the free and widespread availability of contraception. But I guess you can find a “moral” objection to that as well.

  • Mick September 29, 2015, 1:16 pm

    You won’t find authorities investigating killing of the unborn because they passed a ‘law’ saying its fine by them. But the assizes rests with a just God.

    Picture that same God deciding on the basis that ‘They regard their unborn as tonsils and snot, they don’t mind killing their offspring, let their offspring be killed.’ But not restricting it to the first few months in the womb but as adults, peoples, nations.

    We may then be reminded, like Eichmann, of the words of Samuel before he executed Agag.
    ‘…as your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be bereft among women’

  • Jack D Ripper September 29, 2015, 2:30 pm

    Mick, you are moving the goalposts. Originally you said Murder of an infant is not medical care.

    Now you have backed of and are referring to killing of the unborn. That is quite a shift.

    In the vast majority of abortions, the fetus is a long way from being born. Did you watch the YouTube link I posted above, where you get an unbiased scientific view of conception and fetal development?

    But the assizes rests with a just God.

    You may wish to believe in such a god, and I defend your right to do so. I, however, do not share your belief in god. Gods and religion have no part to play in medical care.

    Quite simply, if you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one. That is your right. But please, don’t pretend that you hold the moral high ground and can deny medical care to others, simply because you disagree with their choices.

    As I commented to Frank, above: If you want to end most abortions, as I do, then commit to full and frank sex education and the free and widespread availability of contraception.

    What is your attitude to sex education and contraception?

  • Mick September 29, 2015, 5:11 pm

    The reasoned post from Glen Peoples is about abortion, which I define as the taking of an infant’s life. I’m about as interested in your sophist quibling as you are on my views on sex.
    But since you asked.
    Sex: God invented it for both pleasure and procreation.
    Participants: One man, one woman
    Event arena: Marriage
    Education thereof: The duty and privilege of parent(s). Not. Planned. Parenthood
    Required reading: The bible, including injuctions for rapists and the stories of what results from playing fast and loose. Supplementary texts with pictures are available from your local STD clinic.

    Go argue with God. You should find it easy seeing as you don’t beleive there is one.
    Just imagine he’s there and you’re really trouncing him with rhetoric and YouTube clips.

  • Jack D Ripper September 29, 2015, 7:18 pm

    The reasoned post from Glen Peoples is about abortion, which I define as the taking of an infant’s life.

    Define how you like, however that is not the accepted definition of infant. And abortion does not “take a life”, it removes cells that have the potential to be life. A fetus is as much an infant as an acorn is an oak tree.

    In medicine an infant is defined as a person between 1 and 12 months. In law, it is defined as a person who is blow the age of minority. In neither case is an infant synonymous with fetus.

    I submit that we need to agree on terminology or we will continue to talk past each other.

    I didn’t ask you about your views on sex, but on your views on sex education and contraception.

    However, since you posted about sex, I think you hold an archaic and outdated view of sex. Oddly enough, people were having sex long before the Bible was written, so I guess that rules out the “god invented it” bit and everything that follows from there.

    I hope you are not a parent, as if you were to be the sole source of sex education for your children they would end up with a very poor idea of what sex is all about.

    As much as I disagree with your biblical misinformed views on sex, I am happy for you to hold them. However, they are your views, for your use; you do not get to impose them on the rational ones in our community.

  • Glenn September 30, 2015, 8:05 pm

    “For you, an unraped, relatively well off white male abortion is a matter of morality.”

    Jack, it’s ironic that after saying this, you should deny your interest in sloganeering.

    As for denying that abortion takes life, that’s not even in the ballpark of discussion. That’s total ignorance of biology. Little wonder that you found a relatively short blog entry to be too long.

    Incidentally, although abortion is (obviously) not generally about infants because the child is killed before birth, the accounts of children born alive in abortions that didn’t quite work soon enough are rather chilling (these are what prompted the disputes over the Born Alive Infants Protection Act https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Born-Alive_Infants_Protection_Act ).

  • Jack D Ripper September 30, 2015, 10:35 pm

    Thanks for the response, Glenn, but it seems it is you with the ignorance of biology. Life does not commence at fertilisation, as demonstrated in the video link I posted above. Life does not begin when the zygote travles along the Fallopian tubes and in to the uterus. ife does not begin when the blastocyst attaches to the uterine wall. Life does not begin when the blastocyst becomes a fetus. Life does not begin until birth.

    the child is killed before birth… is simply emotive language. There is no child at that point. The majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester. Late term abortions are usually either to save the woman’s life or because the woman delayed seeking an abortion due to the misinformation spread by anti-abortionists.

    The Born Alive Infants Protection Act has nothing to do with healthcare, everything to do with throwing red meat the the US Christian Right rubes.

    I will close with the words of someone who has far more knowledge about Biology than either of us, Professor P Z Myers: We can make all the philosophical and scientific arguments that anyone might want, but ultimately what it all reduces to is a simple question: do women have autonomous control of their bodies or not? Even if I thought embryos were conscious, aware beings writing poetry in the womb (I don’t, and they’re not), I’d have to bow out of any say in the decision the woman bearing responsibility has to make.

  • ChrisP October 1, 2015, 7:43 am

    Jack D Ripper:
    It’s a bit odd that you state “for far too many woman its a matter of health care”, introducing this concept, and then go on to say “I am yet to see any infants being murdered under the guise of healthcare”. The pysch clause in our current CS&A act is all about healthcare…..

    And we’re in NZ, not the USA. PZ Meyers? Pffttt…the guy’s on Mars. He is a non-event, albeit an angry vocal one.

    As for the pro-abortion statements that babies in the womb are not human, please provide evidence to the miraculous biology that occurs during parturition that suddenly makes them human? Please note: not a legal or philosophical argument. A biological one.

    Thanks.

  • Jack D Ripper October 1, 2015, 11:21 am

    Crisp – I am in Aus, but that doesn’t make the arguments any different. However, if you had bothered to read Glenn’s opening, he commences by referring the current US debates. Later, in a reply to me, he references as US law. And finally, almost all the anti-abortion propaganda flows outward from the US, infecting the rest of the world with its nonsense.

    PZ Meyers? Pffttt…the guy’s on Mars. He is a non-event, albeit an angry vocal one.

    I know NASA has just announced discovery of water on Mars, and like anyone with a curious mind, PZ is interested in the possibilities that raises. But I was unaware he had actually made the journey, we had’t even set up the crowd funder. 🙂

    As for the rest of your slur on his character, perhaps you could post your academic credentials and citations to peer reviewed articles on biology.

    please provide evidence to the miraculous biology that occurs during parturition that suddenly makes them human?

    “miraculous” is not a word I would ever use, especially in biology. There is nothing miraculous about it, just a simple chemistry and physics.

    You keep throwing around words like babies and human, without really understanding their meaning.

    At the point of conception, there is no baby. No human. There is only the potential. It is a bit like an acorn is not an Oak tree, the Exogenous stage from the acorn is not an Oak tree, they are just potential Oak trees. The human life cycle is like that, only with a few more stages.

    But attempting to change your mind is, as Glenn noted in his opening, impossible. You seem to come from the mindset that knows better than any pregnant woman her needs and desires. If you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one. But what on Earth possesses you to think you can enforce your minority view on everyone?

  • Frank October 1, 2015, 4:20 pm

    “I do not understand why you think the removal of fetal tissue from a woman’s body is any different to removing her tonsils, her appendix or blowing her nose. Each of these contain living cells, but none of them is a child, an infant or a baby.”

    “At the point of conception, there is no baby. No human. There is only the potential. It is a bit like an acorn is not an Oak tree, the Exogenous stage from the acorn is not an Oak tree, they are just potential Oak trees. The human life cycle is like that, only with a few more stages.”

    JR, in case you haven’t noticed, you also are a mass of living cells with potential, having the possibility of a few more stages; so why shouldn’t I be able to end your existence? Is it because you are currently on the outside of your mother’s body? You were akin to “snot” while inside of her, and—voila!—once outside you became human? That seems profoundly simplistic and absolutely arbitrary, not to mention absolutely unsubstatiated.

    I wonder, if something akin to snot becomes human by, essentially, being “sneezed” out of its mother (whether by C-section or natural birth), would it return to its non-human status if the doctor put the baby back inside its mother? Or does the initial act of coming out into the earth’s atmosphere bestow some permanent human status upon the thing? You have yet to answer Chris’s question about “what… occurs during parturition that suddenly makes them human?” An excellent question that you conveniently dodged by focusing on the word “miraculous,” which he meant ironically.

    Also, you may want to stop using such ridiculous statements as “If you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one.” I certainly hope you don’t have the habit of going around spouting other rhetorical winners like “if you don’t agree with rape, don’t do it,” or “if you don’t agree with pedophilia, don’t do it.” After all, Glenn did already address these sorts of goofy one-liners in his blog, which you considered too long and unnecessary.

  • Glenn October 1, 2015, 7:23 pm

    Jack, unless you mean something quirky by “life,” no response is required. A zygote is biologically alive. Any denial of this can be dismissed. To call this ignorance is just silly.

    As for controlling people’s bodies, yes. It’s proper to control people’s bodies to stop them from killing.

  • Jack D Ripper October 1, 2015, 8:12 pm

    A zygote is biologically alive.

    Yes, and so is a sperm, but no one complains when around 100 million of them die after each ejaculate.

    It’s proper to control people’s bodies to stop them from killing.

    Says who?

    Savita Halappanavar died because the RC Church thought her life was worth less than the 17 week fetus in her. She was miscarrying, the fetus was dying, but she was denied a life saving abortion. I cannot understand anyone who thinks that this is right.

    A Paraguyan child was denied an abortion because the RC Church thought that the fetus was worth more than her growth, maturity and education. She was 11 years old, neither physically or mentally prepared for maternity. Yes, I read your points re rape victims, but do you truly think it is right to make a child go through with birthing a child? I don’t.

    This is why I see abortion as a matter of health care, not a moral judgement for others to make, especially disinterested outsiders.

    Lisa Harris, an obstetrician-gynaecologist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor lays out the moral case for abortion better than I can. I urge you to read this brief Q & A in New Scientist.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22507-abortion-providers-are-motivated-by-conscience-too/

  • Glenn October 2, 2015, 8:51 pm

    “Yes, and so is a sperm, but no one complains when around 100 million of them die after each ejaculate.”

    You are shifting the goalpost. You said that an unborn child is not life. I replied by saying that you are wrong to deny that abortion takes life. If you’re now going to turn around and say that it does take life, but not life that matters, then you should be saying “OK, true Glenn. My bad, abortion does take a life. But it’s not an important life.” That way you wouldn’t make claims that were ridiculously false from the standpoint of science, and then defend those ridiculous claims when challenged. As for your comparison to sperm, that really does just make your biological claims seem worse. Sperm aren’t growing.

    As for the rest, simply asserting that my explanations are wrong (e.g. about rape) isn’t interesting to me.

  • Jack D Ripper October 2, 2015, 11:47 pm

    Then I feel sad that you lack that which makes us human. You lack empathy and you lack compassion.

    Let’s go back to your comments on pregnancy caused by rape. No, as you state, YOU didn’t cause the victim to become pregnant, but you would see her suffer the trauma of a pregnancy caused by rape. You would further victimise her by forcing her to carry a rapists child to term. On the other hand, I believe it is her choice and hers alone. Nothing to do with you.

    And it doesn’t end at birth. Rapists can, and do, get parental access, thus re victimising the woman every time she has to pass the child to the rapist. And yet you seem to think that this is somehow moral, the right thing to do. I don ‘t. I again think it is the woman’s right to choose. Not yours. Not mine. And certainly not the rapists.

    And abortion does not take a life. There is no life, simply the potential for a life. Human life does not begin until independent breathing occurs, as is also supported by the bible, not just biology.

    I do not like abortion, I wish that we could do away with abortion. And the best way to reduce abortion is to have full and frank sex education and ready access to free contraception. Sadly, those who most oppose abortion always seem to also oppose education and contraception. Why?

  • Jack D Ripper October 3, 2015, 12:04 am

    And one further question: Why is almost every opponent of abortion a white male? Where are the women, the blacks, the asians? Its almost always men who want to control women leading the charge.

  • ChrisP October 3, 2015, 8:24 am

    “Life begins at birth” – sorry, but that’s total face-palm material and wilful ignorance on your part Jack. Planned Parenthood obviously disagrees with you as does the human embryonic stem cell research industry.

    I’m pretty sure Judy Brown, Colleen Bayer, Madeleine Flannagan, Mother Teresa, Gianna Jensen, Rosyln Phillips, Wendy Francis, Catherine Davis, Christina Bennett, Dr Lamina Singh would disagree with your assertion re blacks, woman and asians.

    You just don’t want to know, for whatever reason. You’re not past praying for but you’re past debating. Peace.

  • Jack D Ripper October 3, 2015, 11:14 am

    Life begins at birth is a biblical concept.

    And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. So there was Adam, fully formed man in every sense, and yet not alive until god caused him to breath.

    If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

    So, property has been lost, not life and a fine shall be paid, not to the woman, but to her husband.

    The Bible even contains instructions for procuring an abortion when a woman is accused of being pregnant to someone other than her husband.

    The Bible, your very own holy book, is explicit that life begins with breath.

    Crisp, thanks for praying for me. I’ll think for you.

  • Jack D Ripper October 3, 2015, 12:01 pm

    It is also possible to argue that life doesn’t have a beginning and an end, but is a continuous process. The sperm and ova are living tissue, inside a living person. They combine to create new tissue, still within living person. When those cells mature and are expelled during the event called birth, they contain within in them all the necessities to reproduce and create the next generation. Thus, life is one continuous process with the life containing vessel eventually wearing out and being replaced by others.

    In other words, life is a sexually transmitted disease that is 100% fatal. 🙂

  • Glenn October 3, 2015, 12:07 pm

    Jack, there is no lack of empathy here, as much as you’d like to attack me rather than the issue. As I said, I didn’t make the rape victim pregnant, but she is pregnant – i.e. there is another life present. Killing that life doesn’t prevent the life from coming into the world.

    Your whole response just overlooks that, which is the central issue, by asserting that no life is taken. Now if this were true, then I agree that I would be forcing the woman to bring a life into the world against her will by preventing her from having an abortion. But since that life is already in the world, I am doing no such thing.

    What’s more, as I have argued, even if you had somehow managed to present a good argument for an unborn child not being a life (which you have not), the second argument in this article explains why abortion still has the features that make killing wrong.

  • Glenn October 3, 2015, 12:11 pm

    Jack – I just spotted your attempt to use Scripture here. You didn’t do well, I think.

    The creation of Adam is a poor example to use, because Adam, in the story, was not biologically alive before receiving the breath of life. He wasn’t functioning at all. By contrast, an unborn child is growing, developing, even moving. So that doesn’t work.

    As for your example from Exodus, the text specifically states that there is no mischief (“no serious harm” in modern translations). But you cut off your reading too soon. The same passage goes on to state that if the unborn baby comes out and there is serious harm, then it is a life for a life. (The NRSV stands almost alone here in treating “her fruit departs” as a miscarriage.)

    Exodus 21:

    When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    Even if your interpretation were correct (but on the evidence it certainly doesn’t appear to be), you must acknowledge that killing an unborn baby is an offence here. But in fact the evidence does not show what you want it to.

  • Jack D Ripper October 4, 2015, 9:04 pm

    If some men are fighting and hurt a pregnant woman so that she loses her child, but she is not injured in any other way, Good News Translation

    And if men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follow; ASV

    If people are fighting with each other and happen to hurt a pregnant woman so badly that her unborn child dies, the Complete Jewish Bible

    If two men are fighting and they strike a pregnant woman and her children are born prematurely, International Standard Version

    Like much of the Bible, there is wriggle room. It seems to me that verse is speaking about the spontaneous abortion of a fetus after a violent act, the second part refers to harm to the woman.

    Then there is still that bit from Numbers 5 I mentioned above where god seems to sanction both abortion AND sterilisation if a man’s property should have intercourse with another man.

    23 ” ‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. 28 If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

  • Glenn October 4, 2015, 10:43 pm

    Jack, as luck has it, I’ve translated that passage from Hebrew into English.

    The Good News Bible, as you will know, is never, ever one to use if you want to get at the literal meaning. “Loses” is not a verb used here, and “she is not injured” is the same – it’s just not part of the Hebrew text, which you can read here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/wlc/exo/21/22/s_71022

    The ASV is quite literal, and as you can see, it leaves the “harm” open, so that it applies to either party, the woman or the child. The NIV, which you also quote, strongly favours this interpretation. The complete Jewish Bible introduces the concept “dies” which is literally not mentioned at all in the Hebrew text. I can tell you that with absolute confidence because I have translated each word from that passage and I know it just isn’t there.

    So you don’t have evidence that the second part only refers to harm to the woman. As I pointed out – even if your interpretation were correct, the text still says that killing an unborn child is an offence. But I stress – you do not have evidence that your reading is correct. The Hebrew does not use the standard term for a miscarriage, the Hebrew does not refer to death (this is included under “serious harm”), and the Hebrew does not use the term for a dead baby – all of which it could have done if that were the intended meaning. The “harm” is not specified in the text to apply only to the woman. These are all facts.

    The second passage you mentioned does not evidently refer to a miscarriage. Sterilisation is another matter entirely (the ethical problems with abortion do not arise here, even if other issues do), but as far as abortion goes, it doesn’t constitute evidence for what you’re saying.

  • Matthew October 20, 2015, 1:32 pm

    “Where are the women, the blacks, the asians?”

    In the U.S., for example, there is Mia Love. Chris gave some other examples of women who take pro-life views. There are many more, of course.

    “It is also possible to argue that life doesn’t have a beginning and an end, but is a continuous process.”

    No man steps into the same river twice, eh?

    “I do not like abortion, I wish that we could do away with abortion.”

    What would you think of the decency of a person who DID like abortion? That’s to say, are you just expressing a bit of biographical information about yourself here, “I don’t like abortion” or, do you mean that abortion is unlikeable, i.e. should not be liked?

    “This is why I see abortion as a matter of health care, not a moral judgement for others to make, especially disinterested outsiders.”

    There’s a long and respectable tradition in ethical theory that says that those sorts of judgements are best made by disinterested outsiders. Of course, you don’t think that Glen, for example, is entirely disinterested in his judgement that abortion is immoral. Sneaky guy that he is, he probably is really interested in imposing his religious views on everyone else, and it is just this interest that is shaping his judgements. I think this is often referred to as “confirmation bias.”

    “It is a bit like an acorn is not an Oak tree, the Exogenous stage from the acorn is not an Oak tree, they are just potential Oak trees.”

    An acorn is more analogous to the sperm or ovum, and the conceptus to a sprout.

    “the child is killed before birth… is simply emotive language. There is no child at that point. ”

    I wonder if you have had a child. My own, at a certain stage of gestation, responded to stimuli from outside. The second was especially active, and I loved to feel her move, and kick and so on. They both were clearly already participating in their species-being before birth. In fact, for them to be less than children would have required my partner and I to actively estrange them from our shared life.

    “Yes, and so is a sperm, but no one complains when around 100 million of them die after each ejaculate.”

    Of course, a sperm is not a human life. The sperm, as I have already noted, is to be likened to a seed. Once joined to the egg, it is like a seed germinating. Any reasonably charitable reading of what Glenn said would have understood this.

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