Monday, December 29, 2008

The Base Squirmeth

I see that one of Harper's minions is all anxious to reopen the abortion debate.

The abortion debate is about to enter a “new era” of advocacy for the rights of the unborn, says a Conservative MP who recently took over the chairmanship of a secretive, parliamentary anti-abortion caucus.

The all-party caucus will publicize what it views as inadequate abotion regulation, and push for legislation to restrict abortions, Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge said in an interview.


I see the wingnut base of the HarperCon$ is alive and well ... and just like Bill C-484, Harper is tacitly supporting it:

However, Mr. Bruinooge said that his party leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is well aware that he is involved in a campaign to advocate for precisely what Mr. Harper does not want to see – the reopening of the abortion debate.


Now, we all know the iron fist with which Harper runs the Con$ caucus in Ottawa. If he didn't support Bruinooge, Harper would squash this "secret caucus" like a bug under his jackboot heel. Harper only killed C-484 because he knew it would haunt him during an election.

Now for the wingnutty goodness of Bruinooge's logic:

Mr. Bruinooge said that an inordinate number of Canadians are unaware that there has effectively been no abortion law since the father of the pro-choice movement, Henry Morgentaler, persuaded the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 to strike down the existing law.

As a result of the government's failure to fill the legislative void created by that ruling, he said, laws governing organ transplants are tougher than those that pertain to abortion. For instance, Mr. Bruinooge said that it is illegal for an individual to have a kidney removed and auction it off on eBay.

“The bottom line is that people like myself are not going to stop until, at the very least, unborn children have more value than a Canadian kidney,” he said.


Somehow, I think that there is a big difference between selling organs and a woman's decisions with respect to her pregnancy. Of course, the forced-birther crowd keep trying to treat the fetus as distinct from the woman who is carrying it - and in doing so would remove from the woman the right to control her own destiny the moment she becomes pregnant.

To these people, women are little more than an Axlotl Tank - an unthinking, unaware female that solely exists to gestate.


[Update 31/12/08]:
From a comment (the bulk of which I won't waste bits on publishing):
1. Does the unborn baby begin to enjoy the right to life at any point during his or her gestation?

2. If not, how long after his or her birth does he or she begin to enjoy the right to life?


Largely, I have addressed these questions Here.

In short, both of these questions fall firmly into the domain of the pregnant woman - it is her decision and hers alone to make. Nobody else has any legitimate say in the matter. You can argue until you are blue in the face about "when life begins", and frankly it is irrelevant to the fundamental fact that bearing the child has a significant biological cost for the woman. Paraphrasing the old adage "he who has the gold makes the rules", she who pays the price, makes the decisions. All the way up to birth.

Anything less presumes that a woman is incapable of making moral and ethical decisions of her own the moment she becomes pregnant.
[/Update]

9 comments:

Cardinal Pole (on behalf of) said...

Blog Owner's note: I have published this on behalf of "Cardinal Pole" with certain childish comments removed

MgS,

I've posted a rebuttal of your arguments about abortion here:

http://cardinalpole.blogspot.com/2009/01/on-funny-way-that-liberals-show-how.html

Here is a summary of your premises accompanied by a disproof of each of them:

1A. The right to life is subordinate to the right to bodily autonomy.
Disproof: to assert this is destroy any sense of proportion between the two norms; both of them are legitimate norms, but the true priority is reversed for MgS. Surely even a materialist like MgS would not deny that one's very continued earthly existence (which is, for MgS, one's entire existence) trumps another's right to protect his or her body from non-lethal harm.

2A. If bringing her unborn baby to term were certain to be fatal for the mother then it is legitimate for her to procure an abortion.
Disproof: one may never will evil, in this case, the death of the unborn baby, but one may will to permit an evil, in this case the death of the mother, in order to avert a greater evil, in this case, the evil of the baby's death plus the evil of procuring an abortion (at first glance this last bit might seem like double counting, but it is not: the evil of positively consenting to his or her death is something additional to the evil of the fact of that death).

3.1A The child's right to life is not a proper right but a gratuity to be bestowed at the will of the mother.
Disproof: to ignore the objective characteristics of the baby at point x after conception, granting the mother a veto to unborn children but no veto over born children, is to uphold the inconsistency of there being two objectively identical babies, A and B, but with baby A having a right to life at point x because of being born, prematurely, before point x, while baby B has no right at the same point simply because not yet born.

3.2A This power of life and death over her baby arises from the cost of dependency of the child of the mother and ceases at the point of birth.
Disproof: if cost of dependency confers power of life and death then there is no reason to uphold a right to life for anyone who is in a condition of dependency.

4A. To uphold the right to life of an unborn child is to reduce a pregnant woman to the status of an Axlotl tank (!)
Disproof: citation please! That is certainly not a principle of Catholic bioethics!

And here are what seem to me like the only internally consistent premises from which to argue about abortion:

1B. The right to bodily autonomy is subordinate to the right to life.

2B. One may never will evil. (By 'evil' is meant something that offends reason, such as the denial of something that is owed to someone--life itself in this case.) One may, however, will to permit an evil in order to avert a greater evil.

3.1B The child's right to life is not a gratuity bestowed by the mother (or by any other individual, for that matter) but is properly a right owed by nature--that is, owed on the basis of an objective characteristic of the subject.

3.2B This right to life is unimpeded by any condition of dependency on the part of its subject.

4B. Pregnant women's consciences are not disabled by their pregancies, but like all parents pregnant women have certain duties towards their respective children, born or unborn.

MgS said...

Cardinal Pole:

A quick review of my comment policy: I moderate comments so that my readers don't have to read childish attempts at insults and ad hominem attacks. I have no obligation to publish any comments whatsoever, but I will not publish snide insults.

Censorship is when I prevent you from publishing something you have every right to say. I am not preventing you from doing any such thing.

MgS said...

As for your "rebuttals":

Fundamentally your argument entirely disregards a pregnant woman's ability to make moral and intelligent decisions regarding her body, and the pregnancy. Sorry, but that's not good enough.

Second, your argument disregard entirely the absolute dependence of the fetus upon the woman carrying it. Guess what - that gives her a lot of say in the matter. You can assert 'moral obligations' until you are blue in the face, and unless the woman accepts those as valid obligations, they have no weight whatsoever.

Third, if you don't know what I'm talking about when I refer to an Axlotl tank, I'd suggest you spend some time reading Frank Herbert's Dune series - it might give you pause to think.

Cardinal Pole said...

"Fundamentally your argument entirely disregards a pregnant woman's ability to make moral and intelligent decisions regarding her body, and the pregnancy."

No it doesn't; I reject that explicitly in 4B and refute it no fewer than five times in the full-length rebuttal. That one ought to have control over one's body is a legitimate norm, but a norm that is subordinate to one's right to continued existence.

"Second, your argument disregard entirely the absolute dependence of the fetus upon the woman carrying it."

No it doesn't; I deal with that explicitly in 3.2B (did you even read the comment?!). Furthermore, a new-born baby is just as dependent on the mother, with a single exception: he or she can now breathe for him/herself. So for you the ability to breath confers the right to life, does it? Remember also that the dependence of an unborn baby is not absolute, but relative--it varies according to the sophistication of medical technology available.

"... unless the woman accepts those as valid obligations, they have no weight whatsoever."

Ancient civilisations conferred to fathers the power of life or death over their infant children. I take it, then, that you uphold this right too? After all, the child is dependent on his or her father, and presumably you aren't sexist; presumably you don't discriminate between a father's freedom to reject any obligations and a mother's freedom to reject any obligations. But a pretty basic principle of more recent civics, even in a liberal democracy, is that the State can intervene when its subjects shirk their respective obligations.

What you cannot get round is the fact that:

1. If you reject the relevance of God or an objective, external morality then your premises and my premises are equally arbitrary.

2. But the difference between them, though, is that my premises are entirely consistent with each other and in their implications, whereas yours are internally contradictory and produce illogical implications, as I have shown in detail. Which is to say, my premises are reasonable, and yours are not, and hence all else equal (which, I have just shown in 1., is the case) my premises are to be preferred to yours.

Against the facts there is no argument. Only censorship.
(If you find my remarks so 'childish', then why not just publish them and let me be condemned by my own mouth?)

MgS said...

You continue to essentially assert that once the woman is pregnant that she has no further options or decision to make except to carry the pregnancy to its conclusion.

Sorry, but in my books that doesn't hold water because it removes the ability from the woman to make her own moral and ethical decisions with respect to the pregnancy.

Furthermore, a new-born baby is just as dependent on the mother, with a single exception: he or she can now breathe for him/herself.

Bzzt ... wrong. During pregnancy the fetus is entirely dependent upon the pregnant woman's body for sustenance. Once born, the baby can be cared for by others in all essential respects.

Remember also that the dependence of an unborn baby is not absolute, but relative--it varies according to the sophistication of medical technology available.

And as we well know, that is a less than ideal situation. Premature babies face a lifetime of health problems - the more premature, the greater the problems later in life.

Second, this is something of a red herring to the topic, which is really about whether a woman has the right to decide what happens with her own body - especially with respect to pregnancy.


Ancient civilisations conferred to fathers the power of life or death over their infant children. I take it, then, that you uphold this right too?


Actually, no I do not. Mysteriously, it is not inconsistent logic either - remember, I have been quite clear that one person, and one person alone has the right to decide to continue (or terminate) a pregnancy, and that is the pregnant woman. The decision is exclusively hers.

One final point, your arguments hinge upon the assumption that a fetus receives/deserves the same rights that you and I possess as independent beings. I do not believe such a structure is either practical or meaningful, as it disregards the biological dependency during pregnancy and reduces the woman to 'a vessel for procreation' while she is pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Pole: Exactly why is it that the forced birth crowd feels the need to subjugate women and reduce them to the role of pregnancy machines. You are free to believe and practice (on yourself) anything that you want. YOU ARE NOT FREE TO IMPOSE THOSE BELIEFS ON OTHERS.

SB

MgS said...

I'm sure "Cardinal Pole" doesn't see it as subjugation - he merely seems to think that once a woman is pregnant that she loses any and all right to make her own moral and ethical decisions regarding her pregnancy.

Cardinal Pole said...

Now, back to you MgS:

You say, again (and again, and again ...) that

"in my books that doesn't hold water because it removes the ability from the woman to make her own moral and ethical decisions with respect to the pregnancy."

and

"he merely seems to think that once a woman is pregnant that she loses any and all right to make her own moral and ethical decisions regarding her pregnancy."

How many times do I have to refute this? Whenever the State prohibits any behaviour, the State doesn't presume that the offender has completely lost his or her moral and ethical faculties, but that the offender has, for whatever reason, reached a decision that is contrary to the common good.

"During pregnancy the fetus is entirely dependent upon the pregnant woman's body for sustenance. Once born, the baby can be cared for by others in all essential respects."

Once again: if you want to assert that as axiomatic then we can only agree to disgree. What I have shown, though, is that this creates the absurd situation where two babies are identical in all respects except that one has been born prematurely and the other is still in the womb, yet one has the right to life and the other does not.

Furthermore, you have asserted repeatedly that the mother's right to decide whether his or her child has the right to life arises from the child's condition of dependency on that mother. Now I'll say it again: a newborn baby is every bit as dependent on other people as a pre-born baby is; without carers he or she will die. So I take it, then, that if condition of dependency confers power of life and death that this power is transferred to whoever the carers are, up till the child is old enough to fend for him- or herself? In other words, your assertion that "Once born, the baby can be cared for by others in all essential respects" only transfers the power of life and death to the new carers.

"Second, this is something of a red herring to the topic ..."

No it isn't--you have asserted repeatedly that the mother's power of life and death arises from the baby's condition of dependency on her. So in fact the question of whether the dependency is absolute or relative is of vital importance. Consider the following situation: a woman seven months pregnant requests an abortion (such a situation happenened recently in Australia when a woman found out that her unborn baby had dwarfism; the abortion was performed in a hospital). Now at seven months development, one way or another, whether the baby is killed while still in the womb or not, the baby needs to be delivered, whether by labour or by c-section. So I take it that if the doctors determine that the best way to proceed is to deliver the baby alive, then once the baby has been delivered and hence the condition of dependency has ended I take it that you want to see the baby's life preserved? (The situation of babies being delivered alive and then left to die has happened something like fifty-four times in Victoria, Australia, so it is not at all implausible that doctors might determine that the best way to proceed is with a live delivery.) I would be very interested to see how you would reason about this kind of hypothetical situation. It will show whether you are consistent in your reasoning on the basis for the mother's asserted power of life and death.

"One final point, your arguments hinge upon the assumption that a fetus receives/deserves the same rights that you and I possess as independent beings."

Of course they do--in every other situation in society one looks at the characteristics of the subject of the right (the one who has the right, in this case, I argue, the baby) in order to judge whether he or she has the right. These characteristics are empirically verifiable. But the cornerstone of your argument is that the mother confers the right to life irrespective of the baby's characteristics--the right to life is in the mother's gift at eight months gestation every bit as much as at, say, two months gestation.

"I [MgS] do not believe such a structure is either practical or meaningful, as it disregards the biological dependency during pregnancy ..."

Of course it disregards it, otherwise consistency demands that the baby's right to life post-birth is also to be conferred at the pleasure of his or her carers.

MgS said...

Whenever the State prohibits any behaviour, the State doesn't presume that the offender has completely lost his or her moral and ethical faculties, but that the offender has, for whatever reason, reached a decision that is contrary to the common good.

Uh huh. So, forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy - wanted or not, regardless of her circumstances - is "common good"? Second, that the claim implicit in this is that the common good overrides the woman's autonomy - I simply do not agree with you in this matter.

Your argument is overly preoccupied with the "rights of fetus" which you people have invented. Speaking of those rights, what do you do when the mother dies in childbirth? Charge the infant with homicide? That's the logical extrapolation of your model of fetal rights - if the fetus has rights distinct from the woman bearing it, then you raise all sorts of other legal conundrums. (and yes, even in today's world of sophisticated medicine, childbirth is fatal from time to time)

What I have shown, though, is that this creates the absurd situation where two babies are identical in all respects except that one has been born prematurely and the other is still in the womb, yet one has the right to life and the other does not.

Wrong. One is recognizable as an independent being from the mother. The other remains 'in utero', and is thus bound by the biological dependency I have stipulated before.

Now I'll say it again: a newborn baby is every bit as dependent on other people as a pre-born baby is; without carers he or she will die.

A newborn can be adopted out to other care givers besides the biological mother. Last I checked, that was for all practical intents and purposes, impossible in utero.

It may come as a shock to you, but I see a distinct difference between a fetus and a born baby. One is measurably independent of its mother's body; the other is unquestionably not - there is a logical and reasonable point of distinction there, and it changes the moral and ethical obligations involved.

No it isn't--you have asserted repeatedly that the mother's power of life and death arises from the baby's condition of dependency on her. So in fact the question of whether the dependency is absolute or relative is of vital importance.

If you cannot understand the distinctions between a biological dependence and an economic dependence, then your logical faculties are severely limited. You are comparing apples and oranges in terms of the moral and ethical implications of the two scenarios you outlined.

Consider the following situation: a woman seven months pregnant requests an abortion (such a situation happenened recently in Australia when a woman found out that her unborn baby had dwarfism; the abortion was performed in a hospital).

Without access to the mother's own narrative, I will not comment on the case. As I have repeatedly stated, that decision is a moral decision which ultimately belongs to the pregnant woman and nobody else. The procedure itself carries with it some medical ethics considerations which the practitioners involved must consider, but the moral weight of the decision lies exclusively in the domain of the woman.

Neither of us has any meaningful insight into the reasons for the abortion, or the processing that the pregnant woman did to arrive at her decision. I may or may not agree with her decision, but my agreement is not essential to her, nor should her decision be predicated upon my (or others) moral approval.

I will point out that few women will decide at 7 months or so "meh, not that into being pregnant" and terminate a pregnancy. The vast majority by that point have long since made their own decision to have the child.

Of course it disregards it, otherwise consistency demands that the baby's right to life post-birth is also to be conferred at the pleasure of his or her carers.

Which is a completely ridiculous way to frame things. We do not live in a world where "consistency" exists as an absolute - humanity is far too subtle and complex for that to be the case. In recognizing that the moral and ethical obligations respecting the individual change as the individual's status changes is not logically inconsistent. An infant requires far different handling and treatment than does a toddler, an adolescent or an adult. The interactions that are appropriate change over time, as do the moral and ethical obligations in the relationships. Why is it so hard for you to accept that with birth, comes a change of status?

Comments on this subject are now closed - I'm not going to run in circles with you when it's pretty obvious you and I are unlikely to agree.