Prolife is about forcing women

Quotes from a man who teaches prolifers to argue with prochoicers using the language of human rights.

Josh Brahm: We’re asking pro-choice people if they agree that all human adults have an equal right to life.

A publicly claimed motivation for shutting down the US government for over a fortnight was to “stop Obamacare”. And a very public reason why many conservatives say they oppose the Affordable Care Act is that ACA / Obamacare requires that all health insurance policies must now cover all female contraception with no co-pay.

This is objectionable to religious conservatives who think it’s wrong women should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to use contraception: because to a conservative Christian, sex exists in two boxes, Good Sex, which is heterosexual intercourse in marriage, couple open to having children. Anything else is Bad Sex. Although nothing prevents abortions better than women having free access to contraception, to the religious conservative abortion and contraception are linked because both mean that a woman – even a married woman – is having Bad Sex according to their definition: she is a slut.

Conservative Christian ideas of good and bad sex.

A conservative Christian will ignore the science of how contraception works, will invent stories of how preventing ovulation is the same as abortion: the very conservative US Council of Catholic Bishops will invent a belief that corporations count as souls with free will and conscience, will even defy the Pope and urge conservative Christians in the legislature to shut down the government and in order to stop women having contraception included with their health insurance.

Prolife war on womenThe facade held up before all of this rather awful hatred of sexually-active women is the supposed belief by conservative religious that they only want to “protect foetuses”. Josh Brahm is the Education Director for Right to Life of Central California [which is, I was subsequently informed, an independent local organisation, not affiliated with “National Right to Life”] and a talk host on a right-wing radio show called “Life Report”. Brahm says his “primary passion” is to help anti-choice advocates be “more persuasive when they communicate with pro-choice people”.

JB: When they say yes, we ask them, “Doesn’t that mean there must be something the same about us?”

  • Yes.
  • I believe: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of sisterhood.

The most persuasive case anti-choicers can make is to claim that they’re only campaigning against women because they want to save foetuses from being aborted. But their objection to women using contraception is clear proof that they don’t care about preventing abortions: neither can it be shown they care at all about lowering the US’s infant mortality rate.

JB: When the pro-choice person agrees with that conclusion, we simply ask them what is the same about us.

Infant mortality rates are lower in Hungary, Greece, Canada, Cuba, New Zealand, the UK, Portugal, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Finland, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden, and Japan than in the US. (To put this numerically: roughly 3,950,000 babies are born in the US: of those, 233,050 will die before they are a year old. If the US had as low an infant mortality rate as Finland, only 133510 babies would die before they were a year old: 99540 baby lives would be saved. Prolifers do not campaign for government policies to lower the infant mortality rate or improve the lives of older children.)

Infant Mortality Rate - US and Ecuador

The infant mortality rate for Ecuador is 18.2 per 1,000. (Note: it’s interesting that in Ecuador, where a left-wing President is strongly against decriminalising abortion, he is outspokenly in favour of contraception.)

JB: I’ve been using this argument on campuses this year and the results have been incredible. I’ve never seen an argument persuade so many people that abortion is wrong.

  • How can an argument that we are all human persuade anyone that it’s right to force women through pregnancy and childbirth against their will?

A few years ago, Sara Robinson outlined the difference between liberal and conservative discipline:

For conservatives, the goal of discipline is to assert the power of external authority. In their worldview, most people aren’t capable of self-discipline. They can’t be trusted to behave unless there’s someone stronger in control who’s willing to scare them back into line when they misbehave. Don’t question the rules. Don’t defy authority. Just do what you’re told, and you’ll be fine. But cross that line, dammit, and there will be hell to pay.

To a conservative, it makes sense to argue that a girl of 15 doesn’t have the ability to really decide she wants an abortion: her parents, or the state acting in loco parentis, must decide for her – with the end result that a raped girl who was removed from her parents’ care because they were abusing her, will be forced against her will to have a baby. To a conservative, it makes sense to argue that picketers and demonstrators should be allowed to get as close as they want to patients and staff entering and leaving clinics where abortions are provided – because a woman having an abortion doesn’t really know what she’s doing and might be persuaded to stop if enough people shout “murder” at her. To a conservative it makes sense to argue that the man in authority over the woman should get to decide if she has an abortion or a baby, not the woman herself. (It makes sense, even, to argue that women aren’t able to report accurately that childbirth hurts.)

Pregnancy is not a low-risk “inconvenience”, as so many prolifers are fond of saying. Pregnancy is a huge undertaking that carries with it the very real risk of death and of permanent changes to a woman’s body. Save The Children reported this year that every year one million teenage girls die or suffer serious injury, infection or disease due to pregnancy or childbirth: pregnancy is the biggest killer of teenage girls worldwide. Yet pregnancy can now be terminated early, safely, and easily by non-surgical means.

Josh Brahm:

And if being human is what gives us intrinsic value, then that explains a lot of data. It explains why all the adult humans have an equal right to life, even though we have so many differences. It also explains why things like racism and sexism are wrong. Those things focus on a surface difference that doesn’t morally matter, and ignores the thing we have in common, which IS what morally matters!

A conceptus can only become a baby with about nine months of labour. A prolifer is someone who takes for granted their right to force a girl or woman through that labour, ignoring the risk that she might die of it, trivialising the risk that she might suffer serious injury, and usually – certainly in the US – without any concern whatsoever for what may become of the woman or of the baby after birth. Without any concern for the individual humanity of each girl, each woman, who is endowed with her own reason and conscience, to decide for herself what’s best for her to do.

If Josh Brahm genuinely believed that being human is what gives women intrinsic value, he would become prochoice.

But I doubt he ever will.

…disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of humankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people … it is essential, if humans are not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.

In Texas, where recently a state Senator stood up for women’s rights for an 11-hour filibuster, the pro-life legislature is seeking to deprive women of the right to vote.

Women are human; humans have intrinsic value: abortion is a human right.

I Am Worth Fighting For

Prolifers are fond of using a pic of a newborn baby or a digital model of a foetus, with the tag “worth fighting for”. This set of pictures is from an experiment where researchers at the University of Glasgow combined the faces of women around to world to approximate the “average face” of each country.

12 Comments

Filed under Women

12 responses to “Prolife is about forcing women

  1. I can tell you were once a techwriter! Good stuff.

  2. Isn’t it another way of ensuring men’s power over women ? They will never give up so must always be challenged. A great article.

  3. (to continue from the other site, linked in my name)

    I appreciate your offer, and look forward to our discussion. I like WordPress better than Disqus anyway.

    To start, however, I just need you to help clarify your objection. You indicate that a woman should not be obligated to go through gestation and delivery even if the entity in her womb has the right to life. I need to understand how you came to this conclusion. After all, individuals in a free society surely are required to do some things regardless of their own “judgement, free will, or conscience” even though they have human rights. Some of these include refraining from deliberately harming others, paying taxes, and serving on a jury.*

    I will agree that a pregnant woman is more likely to face death or serious injury if she carries to term and gives birth than if she does not, even if the risks of abortion are taken into account. However, it doesn’t seem to follow from here that the latter is justified in the majority of cases. The fact that engaging in activity X is statistically more dangerous than not doesn’t mean one is never required do X. A swimmer, for instance, would be obligated to rescue his daughter from drowning in a pool even though he faces a higher risk of dying himself if he acts (this still applies if the water is three feet deep and the swimmer is Michael Phelps). It may not be obligatory in cases where the level of danger is extremely high (such as a case where the parent is a non-swimmer and the victim is drowning in a river in -40 degree weather). But it seems highly implausible that pregnancy is dangerous enough to fall under this latter category when the risk of maternal death is so low in developed countries:

    http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/apr/12/maternal-mortality-rates-millennium-development-goals

    The odds of dying in a car accident in a given year, by comparison, are higher than the odds of dying from delivering a given baby:

    http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/skydiving8.htm

    Recall that if the first two premises of the argument I presented are true, every successful abortion kills a human being with the right to life. I am therefore not convinced that killing someone to in order to avoid a risk to one’s life that is smaller than one that most people take every day is the sort of killing that ought to be legal.

    There are other objections to the claim I made (“The right to life should entail a legal obligation from the pregnant woman to sustain the unborn via gestation and childbirth.”), some being stronger than others. These generally relate to the nature of pregnancy itself rather than the possibility of maternal death (thus, if they’re sound, abortion would be justified even if the maternal mortality rate were exactly zero). I do not want to trivialize these, but I also don’t want to put words in your mouth. So it would be very beneficial if you could help me better understand your position.

    Looking forward to your reply.

    * Note that I am in no way trying to suggest that paying taxes, dragging someone out of a swimming pool, or doing jury duty are even remotely on par with the burden of childbirth. I am only using examples to illustrate my general principles – that individuals in a free society do have certain obligations, and that they sometimes may involve putting oneself at a higher risk.

    • I appreciate your offer, and look forward to our discussion. I like WordPress better than Disqus anyway.

      Thanks. You should now be able to comment freely – as I noted on the other blog, I pre-mod just to make sure I don’t get targeted by spambots or offensive trolls. I delete / edit only offensive language / personal attacks, and I have a very narrow view of what that constitutes. As a matter of housekeeping, if you want to reply to a reply to a comment, WordPress software makes it more readable if you post your reply directly to the post itself, not to attempt to keep a single comments-thread going too long.

      And I’ll now move on to replying to the content of your post.

    • I need to understand how you came to this conclusion. After all, individuals in a free society surely are required to do some things regardless of their own “judgement, free will, or conscience” even though they have human rights. Some of these include refraining from deliberately harming others, paying taxes, and serving on a jury.

      Well, in the UK, you cannot be forced to serve on a jury if it will damage your health, or if it would impact your ability to earn a living. Anyone who’s summoned for jury duty can notify the court that they will be unable to serve. Further, in the UK, you are taxed according to your ability to pay: the intention of taxation is not to damage your health, endanger your life, or force you into unemployment. And finally, of course, as can be clearly demonstrated throughout the world, the people who are deliberately harming others are those who strive to make safe abortion illegal/inaccessible/expensive.

      But you asked how I came to the conclusion that women cannot ethically, and should not legally, be forced through pregnancy and childbirth against our will.

      Slavery has been illegal in the UK since 1833. You cannot, in the UK, legally claim ownership of another human being, and force them to labour for you against their will. While I’m an atheist, my family background is Quaker: I grew up on stories of people who strove against the powerful and the privileged to end slavery. So, when I first came across the moral issue of access to abortion – and I cannot remember just when that was, but certainly by the time I was 15 – I knew, instinctively, that forcing the use of another human being’s body against her will is wrong, and it was absolutely wrong for the state to make laws enforcing that use. So I have been prochoice since I knew it was an issue.

      However, I can justify my early instinctive repulsion against the idea of force: I’ve had decades to think it through and to listen to prolifers attempting to justify forced use to themselves and to others.

      I will agree that a pregnant woman is more likely to face death or serious injury if she carries to term and gives birth than if she does not, even if the risks of abortion are taken into account. However, it doesn’t seem to follow from here that the latter is justified in the majority of cases.

      But that is not for you to decide, unless you are pregnant and making a decision about that pregnancy for yourself. It’s up to each woman to decide with each pregnancy. That’s what prochoice means. That’s what it means when women are adult independent human beings with free will and conscience. Women aren’t domestic beasts which others can decide what risks to take for. Women are human: adult humans get to make these decisions for ourselves.

      A swimmer, for instance, would be obligated to rescue his daughter from drowning in a pool even though he faces a higher risk of dying himself if he acts

      I don’t know the law in the US, but this is not the law in the UK. If a parent is supervising two children in a swimming pool, and one swims beyond her reach and is drowning, she is not legally obligated to abandon the other child to risk of death in order to try to save the other: she isn’t legally obligated to perform the rescue even if the child drowning is the only child she’s responsible for. You can certainly argue that a good swimmer seeing someone drowning has an ethical responsibility to act, but not a legal responsibility – unless they’re employed by the swimming pool as a lifeguard.

      In a stronger parallel, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a religious objection to blood transfusions. It has been legally established that an adult JW has a right to refuse treatment, even lifesaving treatment, even to their death: but this is an individual conscientious decision that each JW must make for themselves at the point of need. The church doesn’t have any legal right to force their members not to receive treatment, and parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the right to compel their children to die rather than receive a blood transfusion. A church may strongly believe that abortion is immoral, but they have no legal right to compel the individual conscience of their members, and adult members of the church have no legal right whatsoever to force a child through pregnancy and childbirth against her will, when abortion is always the safer course in teenage pregnancy.

      But it seems highly implausible that pregnancy is dangerous enough to fall under this latter category when the risk of maternal death is so low in developed countries:

      The risk of maternal death is lower in all countries where girls and women have access to safe abortion. This is cause and effect: not only does this avoid the increased risk from illegal unsafe abortion, it also ensures that a girl or a woman whose health is at risk from pregnancy can make the decision to have an abortion. It is not for you to decide for another human being what level of risk she should be expected to endure.

      Recall that if the first two premises of the argument I presented are true, every successful abortion kills a human being with the right to life. I am therefore not convinced that killing someone to in order to avoid a risk to one’s life that is smaller than one that most people take every day is the sort of killing that ought to be legal.

      If you are willing to have women die in pregnancy rather than allow access to safe legal abortion, you cannot then argue that preserving human life is important to you. Eight hundred women each day die preventable deaths related to pregnancy or childbirth. Eclampsia is one of the most common killers of women between 15-44 worldwide: yet in any country where women have access to safe abortion, the risk of death is minimal. The cure for eclampsia is abortion. (Early delivery occasionally if very late in pregnancy.)

      Again: it’s not for you to decide, on behalf of someone else, what level of risk is acceptable to her. You refer to abortion as “killing”: but medical staff who stand by and let a pregnant woman die without attempting to save her life by performing an abortion, are also killing. That’s prolife.

  4. Navi

    Thanks for the succinct summary of your reasoning, and sorry for the late reply. I had wanted to get back to you earlier, but I have been extremely busy the past several weeks.

    With respect to jury duty, my point was to show that individuals do have legal obligations in a free society. You seem to agree, given that you think parents should be obligated to ensure their children receive medical care even if doing so means going against their judgement, free will, or conscience (as in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses that object to their children receiving blood transfusions). There are limits to said obligations (as you indicated), but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Furthermore, exemptions from jury duty are not granted lightly in the UK. It requires a good reason, and it’s usually deferred to a different date:

    http://jury-service.co.uk/jury-service-exemptions/

    There are certainly more possible ways to get out of jury duty than I would be willing to accept as justifications for legal abortion. But deferring or avoiding jury duty does not result in the death of a human being.

    I think that, if we’re to get anywhere in this discussion, we should not assume the worst about each other’s motivations. I understand that you have strong views and are passionate about this issue (which is good – it is a very important one and too many people are apathetic about it). But it’s not fair to assume ahead of time that I’m deliberately trying to harm others. Personally, I doubt that most pro-choice people have malicious intentions even if I ultimately disagree with their conclusions. I will try to interpret your arguments in the most charitable way possible. It would be appreciated if you would do the same.

    Having done more research on duty to rescue, I think I was mistaken before and that your understanding is closer to the correct one. Parents are obligated to rescue their own children. But it seems that, if the rescue would endanger the parent’s own life even slightly, they would not be required to do it. So in practice, the obligation is usually only to summon aid. I was well aware of the fact that, in the common law system (which the UK and the US both use), there is no duty to rescue strangers. This is actually a sharp contrast to the laws on the books in many parts of Europe. A good summary can be found here:

    http://www.daneurope.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c09228f3-a745-480b-9549-d9fc8bbbd535&groupId=10103

    If a legal system permits a bystander to watch someone burn to death (or even record the scene on his phone) without attempting to extinguish the flames or call for help, that seems to be evidence that the system has serious flaws. But that’s another debate for another day.

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-buzz/halloween-crowd-parties-while-man-burns-death-around-181234611.html?vp=1

    With that being said, there are at least two major problems with comparing pregnancy to rescue:

    1. English law distinguishes between acts and omissions. Most abortion methods involve active killing rather than refusing to provide aid:

    http://www.abort73.com/abortion/abortion_techniques/

    But active killing is permitted in very few cases, other than for self-defence against a criminal assault. It is not at all obvious that pregnancy itself could be classified as criminal assault. Furthermore, the force used must be proportionate to the risk of harm and the magnitude of the threatened harm. In English law, it is up to the jury to determine what constitutes “reasonable” force. We do not leave it up to the individual defendant to make this decision. If we did, then nobody would ever be convicted of criminal homicide because everyone would just argue that the degree of force they used was reasonable and they were only defending themselves.
    Domestic violence kills over a thousand women in the U.S every year. In fact, pregnant women are more likely to be murdered than they are to die from eclampsia. We want to prevent these deaths, but this does not imply that women should be allowed to kill their intimate partners (outside of cases where they’re repelling an immediate assault) in order to minimize their risks. Likewise, even though we want to reduce maternal mortality and we might be able to by legalizing elective abortion, that doesn’t mean we should do it.

    2. In the UK, parents do have strong legal obligations to provide food and adequate shelter to their children up until they turn sixteen. There is strong legal precedent for this claim, and failure to fulfill this duty has led to murder convictions. It was directly codified into law with the Child and Young Persons Act 1933:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/23-24/12

    Think about what would happen if a child were sent home from school with the flu. Her father, not wanting to contract the disease and aware of the fact it kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, refuses to let her inside the house. The next morning, the young girl is found dead from hypothermia. The father defends his actions by noting that he’s an independent adult human being with free will and conscience. He is not a domestic beast, so nobody else should have the right to decide what level of risk he is expected to endure. I think it goes without saying that no court would accept this defence. We would not congratulate him on his analytical skill and legal insight. It would be tragic if the man did die from the flu after letting his child in (the same way it is tragic when a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications), but that doesn’t make the law unjust. I therefore stand by my earlier statements, specifically:

    1. The fact that engaging in activity X is statistically more dangerous than not doesn’t mean one is never required to do X.
    2. The fact that abortion is statistically safer than childbirth does not justify making abortion legal in the vast majority of cases.

    You state that you’re vehemently opposed to slavery, and I would very much agree with this sentiment. However, this comparison does not seem to be applicable to legalized abortion in the way a defender of the practice would need it to be. Consider, again, the Child and Young Persons Act 1933. Of importance is a parent’s legal obligation to provide sustenance for his or her minor children. By default, a child’s biological mother (the woman who gave birth to the child following insemination or embryo transfer) automatically has parental responsibility (along with her spouse, if she is married). It is not something that you sign up for – although the mother may relinquish her duties, it is her responsibility to provide for the child until she can find a suitable replacement. So if a woman gives birth, for instance, following a plane crash that leaves her stranded, she is required to feed and shelter the newborn (among other things). This applies even if she did not intend to give birth (for example, she did not know she was pregnant or could not access abortion). Additionally, assuming the woman lacks infant formula, she would presumably be expected to breastfeed as well (which would entail using an intimate part of her body, against her will, to provide for someone else).

    So we face a dilemma: either this aspect of the Child and Young Persons Act is just, or it is not. If it is unjust, then we may be able to justify at least some forms of abortion. But this seems to be an uncomfortable conclusion. We would have to say that, if a mother’s only two options are infanticide and parental responsibility, the former is an acceptable choice (and that outlawing it is akin to slavery). This is a much more controversial position to hold – not only is abortion a human right, but infanticide is as well. As coherent as this reasoning is, I think it’s totally crazy. It’s very unfortunate when a baby elephant is abandoned by his mother. I think anyone with a conscience will feel sorry for the poor elephant. But when it happens with humans, there is a much stronger sense of revulsion – so much that it’s considered homicide. Precisely because women are adult independent human beings with free will and conscience rather than domestic beasts, we expect better from them.

    The other way we could go is to accept that, in the event a woman gives birth to an infant she cannot give up for adoption, refusing to sustain him would indeed be a violation of his right to life. But if this is true, then the case for legalized abortion falls with it. Although the Child and Young Persons Act states that parental responsibility begins at birth, as a pro-lifer I would hold that it should begin about nine months earlier. If we accept that the newborn’s right to life entails a just claim to sustenance from his mother (up to and including direct use of her body) and that the unborn have an equal right to life, then it follows that the same mother has an obligation to use her body to sustain him prior to birth.

    One more thing to note: I know that in the UK (as well as certain other jurisdictions) that a mother can use infanticide as a partial defence to a homicide charge, which results in a reduced sentence or none at all. I don’t think this negates my claim about parental obligations. The premise behind these laws is that postpartum depression impairs one’s judgement and diminishes culpability, not that said duty doesn’t exist. If a third party were to help a woman abandon or neglect her child, we would not hesitate to throw the book at him.

    I agree that it’s tragic when a woman dies in an unsafe abortion. I don’t want them to die any more than you do. We have common ground there. With that being said, even if keeping abortion legal would reduce the number of women dying from back-alley abortions, this wouldn’t justify doing so. The law should not be faulted for making it more risky to unjustly kill human beings. You could object by denying that abortion does unjustly kill human beings, but this is not a premise that any pro-lifer will accept without a sound argument.

    In most cases where the life of the mother is in danger, abortion can (and should) be avoided. For example, most maternal deaths from pre-eclampsia (which usually does not occur until the third trimester) can be prevented through careful monitoring before and after delivery or (in severe cases) administration of magnesium sulphate. Termination of pregnancy is necessary in some cases, but the fastest way to accomplish this in the second half of pregnancy is via caesarean section – which does not cause anyone to die if the operation is successful (competent doctors and high-quality facilities will accomplish this). Improving maternal and neonatal healthcare, not sanctioning elective abortion, is the key to preventing deaths from pregnancy and childbirth.

    I do think abortion is acceptable if all other alternatives would lead to both mother and child dying. These cases are rare, but I will not try to argue that they never happen. I realize the “party line” is that termination to save the mother’s life doesn’t always count as a direct abortion, so is not morally wrong even if it’s carried out before viability. However, I would agree with most pro-choicers (including you) that this distinction is confusing and largely unpersuasive. There actually is a case in UK law, not directly related to abortion, that I think is analogous enough to shed some light on this problem. That’s the case of Jodie and Mary, conjoined twins born in Manchester in 2000. They were connected in such a way that both relied on Jodie’s heart and lungs, and were certain to die in six months time if they were not separated. However, the only way to carry out the separation was to kill Mary by severing one of her major arteries. The girls’ parents, as devout Catholics, argued before the Court of Appeal that they should not be separated. The Church, as well as Catholic-leaning pro-life groups, backed them. They reasoned based on the teaching that it’s an intrinsic evil to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being (which is the same doctrine that guides Catholic opposition to direct abortion, even to save the mother’s life). Their doctors wanted to carry out the operation, and the court ultimately ruled in favour of separating the twins. I think this was, arguably, the right decision. Both outcomes would have been fatal to Mary, and Jodie’s life was directly threatened by her very existence. Likewise, the same features would hold for abortion to save the mother’s life – so it would be acceptable in that case (this is one area where the Catholic doctrine on abortion must conflict with that of most reasonable men). I don’t think this justifies abortion on maternal request any more than the case of Jodie and Mary would justify infanticide in other cases.

    I refer to abortion as killing, but this is not an invention of mine or of the pro-life movement’s. Commentators on all sides of the debate are willing to acknowledge that something is killed in an abortion. Some of these include abortion practitioners, as well as spokespersons for major abortion providers:


    http://www.drhern.com/pdfs/staffrx.pdf
    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/52601-i-think-we-have-deluded-ourselves-into-believing-that-people
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/26/us/an-abortion-rights-advocate-says-he-lied-about-procedure.html?pagewanted=2
    http://www.truth-out.org/archive/item/58965:offering-abortion-rebirth

    • But deferring or avoiding jury duty does not result in the death of a human being.

      Whereas making it impossible for a woman to get an abortion when she needs one, often does. Girls and women die in prolife countries under prolife laws, who could live if only they had free access to safe, legal abortion. Prolifers are actively indifferent to these deaths.

      But it’s not fair to assume ahead of time that I’m deliberately trying to harm others.

      I’m not assuming that “ahead of time”. You’ve made clear you oppose free access to safe, legal abortion. That is a deliberate decision to support harm to girls and women.

      In your examples, you’re trying to compare other things to the forced use of a girl or a woman’s body.

      You offer an example of a man locking his daughter outside of his home because she has the flu. This would be active abuse/neglect, and we can agree it would be condemned. But, suppose the man rapes his daughter, she becomes pregnant, and she wants an abortion? There are prolife countries in the world where the law says that the daughter has to be forced against her will to have her father’s baby. Do you agree that a country which enforces the man’s use of his daughter’s body on her by law is as actively abusive and neglectful as the man locking his daughter outside? The girl may die in either case: the leading cause of death for girls worldwide is pregnancy.

      You’re also, I notice, trying to pretend there’s no significant difference between an embryo/fetus and a newborn baby. This is typical anti-science propaganda from the prolife movement. An embryo/fetus is parasitic on the pregnant woman’s body. A newborn baby is not.

      Breastfeeding a baby is not in any way identical with pregnancy. Not least, that any lactating woman can breastfeed any baby. But I am not aware of any legislation that compels a woman to breastfeed her baby, since it is acknowledged that some women cannot breastfeed, that for some women it would actually be more risky to their baby to breastfeed than not, and that in any case, breastfeeding – while acknowledged as a good – is making use of the woman’s body, and therefore cannot be compelled against her will. Prolifers want to make use of women against their will: the legal system in countries that don’t support slavery and rape, doesn’t allow that. (I notice you haven’t cited any cases to confirm your claims that a woman can be compelled to breastfeed.)

      Termination of pregnancy is necessary in some cases, but the fastest way to accomplish this in the second half of pregnancy is via caesarean section

      So, rather than allowing the decision about how best to terminate a pregnancy early in the case of pre-eclampsia, to be left to the attending physicians and the pregnant women, you’d rather enforce by law a major operation that may significantly impact the woman’s future ability to give birth? You really couldn’t make clearer that you are indifferent to a woman’s welfare and see no problem with forced use of a woman’s body.

      – which does not cause anyone to die if the operation is successful (competent doctors and high-quality facilities will accomplish this).

      Well, the fetus will die if the Caesarean is performed between 20 and 24 weeks (which falls within your rubric of “second half of pregnancy). But since preserving life is plainly not your goal, I suppose you don’t really care about that.

      Improving maternal and neonatal healthcare, not sanctioning elective abortion, is the key to preventing deaths from pregnancy and childbirth.

      One crucial aspect of maternal healthcare proven to prevent deaths from pregnancy and childbirth is sanctioning elective abortion. That’s just a fact.

      I agree that it’s tragic when a woman dies in an unsafe abortion. I don’t want them to die any more than you do.

      Given your opposition to free access to safe legal abortion, this is plainly not true!

  5. Navi

    With due respect, I’m afraid you are assuming ahead of time that I’m deliberately trying to harm others. I find it odd that you would somehow know more about my own motivations than I do. There are lots of pro-lifers that have not even thought about the issue at all, and really only oppose abortion because of their upbringing or because their friends/family/religion/political party take this stance. This can easily be observed – we all know of pro-life individuals that do nothing more than quote a few Bible verses or say that we could have aborted the next Nobel Prize winner when they’re asked to defend their stance. Are all of these people really making “a deliberate decision to support harm to girls and women”? That is doubtful. You could hold that they have not thought their position through to its logical conclusions, and that it really does harm women and girls, but you cannot claim that they have malicious intentions if they have not even thought about the implications of their views. Similarly it is possible that, although I want to protect human rights, that my arguments are flawed or I have not thought about the issue the right way (so ultimately, my position does unjustly deprive women of the ability to control their bodies). You could hold this view and argue against my stance. I know that some of my ideas are wrong – I just don’t know which ones. But instead, you’ve interpreted my comments in the worst way and inferred that I support deliberate harm to girls and women. So once again, I kindly ask you to construe my arguments in the most charitable way possible. I will try to do the same (feel free to let me know if I’ve misinterpreted something though). If we don’t do this, this discussion will be a waste of my time and yours.

    I am not indifferent to women dying in countries where abortion is illegal. I just hold that sanctioning elective abortion the wrong way to prevent it, because every successful elective abortion unjustly kills a human being. To draw an analogy, I’m not indifferent to people dying from cancer. However, I strongly oppose conducting lethal medical experiments on disabled children (even if doing so could hasten finding a cure and prevent more cancer deaths) because that would violate their right to life and human dignity. It simply doesn’t follow from my position on legalized abortion that I don’t care whether women die.

    You’re also, I notice, trying to pretend there’s no significant difference between an embryo/fetus and a newborn baby.

    That’s not what I’m doing. Pretending would be asserting or acting as though something I believe to be false is actually true. But it really is part of my stance that there’s no difference between an embryo/fetus and a newborn baby that would justify making it legal to kill one but not the other. I’m well aware of the differences, and have tried to think carefully about the issue for years, but have not found one that works the way proponents of legalized abortion need it to. I think and hope that I’ve arrived at the right conclusion, but I’m certainly willing to reconsider if presented with the right argument.

    If an embryo is considered parasitic on a woman’s body, I don’t see why the infant would not be. In both cases, there is a symbiotic relationship where one organism benefits (by gaining resources necessary for its survival) at the expense of the other (who is impaired, but usually not killed). And as you acknowledge, both make use of the woman’s body. One could argue that breastfeeding has health benefits for the mother (so cannot be considered true parasitism), but the same is true for pregnancy:

    http://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/photo-gallery/health-benefits-of-pregnancy-and-motherhood.aspx

    Finally, I find it difficult to buy the parasite argument when so many pro-choice organizations and commentators are going berserk over a pro-life Republican politician referring to pregnant women as “hosts” (the logical implication of referring to fetuses as parasites):

    http://liveactionnews.org/pro-aborts-vilify-va-republican-for-taking-their-own-rhetoric-to-its-logical-conclusion/

    (this is not a decisive reason to reject it, as that would be ad hominem, but I think it’s still worth pointing out).

    Breastfeeding is not identical to pregnancy. No analogy is ever perfect. The fact that any lactating woman can (theoretically) nurse any infant is one difference, but I’m not convinced that would undermine the comparison. It’s not at all obvious that, because the pregnant woman is the only person in the world that can provide aid to a certain child, that her legal obligation to do so disappears. In fact, this seems almost backwards. Furthermore, in the scenario I outlined it is not true that “any lactating woman” can breastfeed – only the woman that gave birth to the baby is able to do so because there aren’t any others nearby.

    The law indicates that feeding is required (though even that would fall under your definition of slavery, “forcing another human being to labour for you against their will”). It does not specify how the parent has to do it (which is reasonable, as breastfeeding is sometimes impossible and formula feeding is usually a viable alternative). Likewise, if there were feasible alternatives to carrying a pregnancy to term (without killing or harming the unborn child) I would support letting women choose them. But the law still seems to imply that, if there were only one way for a mother to feed her born child, she would be obligated to do it – even if that meant using her body to breastfeed. If she didn’t, she would violate his right to life. Similarly, pregnancy is the only way to feed and shelter an unborn child with our current technology. If a mother terminates her pregnancy (or, more on the mark, hires a doctor to actively kill the fetus), she has violated her child’s right to life.

    Admittedly, I don’t have an actual case concerning breastfeeding. Several features would need to be in place for it to be applicable (the child died of starvation, the mother was the only person able to feed, breastfeeding was the only way she could do it, the mother didn’t formally agree to becoming a parent by giving birth in a hospital and voluntarily bringing the baby home, etc). I’m sure you can appreciate that such a case would be rather difficult to find. On the other hand, I haven’t seen you cite a case confirming that making abortion illegal would be tantamount to slavery or that a mother would be within her rights to let her infant starve to death rather than breastfeed.

    Rape is a horrific, evil act. Society as a whole does not take it seriously enough. This is evident in the U.S, where 97% of the perpetrators never spend a day in prison. Equally disturbing, I think, is that rapists who conceive children are eligible for custody in 31 states. In some cases, this means the victim is forced into 18 years of regular contact with her assailant. When people learn about a rape, all too often their automatic reaction is to wonder how much the victim had to drink or how short her dress was. And unfortunately, many pro-life advocates do ignore or brush aside victims of sexual assault (or at least come across that way when they make comments suggesting that pregnancy resulting from rape is a good thing, or that it doesn’t happen often enough to actually matter).

    If a man rapes his own daughter and she becomes pregnant, he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Not only has he attacked her in one of the vilest ways possible, he has also forced her to become a mother. This means nine difficult months of pregnancy, followed by painful delivery of a baby that was forcibly conceived against her will. After that, she must either parent the child for 18 years (which is expensive, demanding, and often psychologically harmful in such circumstances) or place for adoption (which can be extremely difficult emotionally). The only other option is abortion. Nobody should be forced to make that kind of decision, and the damage done to the daughter is serious and irreversible. No matter how severely the rapist is punished, I think he gets off too easy.

    We need to do whatever we can to give the rape victim the care and support she deserves, and to help her do the right thing. It is understandable that pregnancy could be the last thing in the world she wants, and that she would choose abortion. But the question you’re asking is whether or not I think it’s right or just to offer her a legal abortion. And this is quite a different matter. Throughout this post and others on this thread, I have been trying to make the case that abortion should be illegal because it’s a violent act against a human being. This follows from the premises that the unborn are human and that all human beings have an equal right to life (which entails an obligation on the pregnant woman to sustain the unborn). So the question is what, if anything, changes in the case of rape. I concur with the pro-choice philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson, who wrote that “surely the question of whether you have a right to life at all, or how much of it you have, shouldn’t turn on the question of whether or not you are a product of rape.” A mother would not be justified in abandoning or refusing to feed the baby after she is born, even if the conception occurred as a result of rape. The law in the U.K. seems to take the same approach, as no distinction is made for rape cases (rather, all mothers have parental obligations regardless of how they conceived). Because I’m not convinced that the unborn have a diminished right to life, or that feeding and sheltering through pregnancy should be treated differently from a mother’s obligations to feed and shelter after birth, I cannot agree that abortion should be legal in the case of rape. This conclusion is difficult for many people to accept, but the assessment is still sound. The principle behind the law is not that a victim of a horrible crime should be neglected, but that we shouldn’t commit a second act of violence in order to ease her suffering (even though we both agree that helping rape victims is a very good cause).

    I meant “second half of pregnancy” as a ballpark figure, not an exact timeframe. I’m aware that 22 weeks is the bare minimum, 21 weeks and 5 days if we want to be really precise (assuming the medical facts given in these articles are accurate):

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/8469561/Worlds-most-premature-baby-to-leave-hospital.html
    http://www.canada.com/topics/bodyandhealth/story.html?id=db8f33ab-33e9-429f-bedc-b6ca80f61bdc

    At 24 weeks, the baby will survive 50% of the time if given the best care. Obviously, later is better and each day makes a significant difference up until the 26th week. If you don’t like “second half of pregnancy”, replace it with “last 16-18 weeks of pregnancy”.

    I didn’t endorse compulsory Caesarean sections. It’s an interesting and complex issue in medical ethics, and they have been done before under court order, but that’s not part of my argument. My claim was that we can and should avoid abortion in most cases where pregnancy endangers the mother’s life (which, I think, is much less controversial than requiring a woman to undergo major abdominal surgery that she doesn’t want). Consider obstructed labour. For the longest time, Caesarean section was a very dangerous procedure. It was only performed if the mother died during childbirth, and the outlook for the baby was not good either. Fortunately, advances in medicine over the last 200 years (new surgical techniques, antibiotics, blood transfusions, and sterile operating rooms) have made it a much safer option. But prior to these developments, the preferred course of action was usually to destroy the fetus through craniotomy. Craniotomy is sometimes done even today, as it can be safer than Caesarean birth in some circumstances. However, doctors will only consider doing it if the baby is dead. In other cases, they may offer the woman a Caesarean section (which she can refuse, even if that leads to her death or the death of her baby), but fetal destruction is precluded. Even if she were willing to consent to the craniotomy procedure, no doctor would do it. The only difference between the obstructed labour case and the pre-eclampsia case is that the fetus is a few months younger. They should be treated the same way – offer the woman the appropriate medical treatment (including preterm delivery where applicable), but avoid abortion unless all of the other alternatives would lead to both mother and child dying.

    • With due respect, I’m afraid you are assuming ahead of time that I’m deliberately trying to harm others.

      I’m making no such assumption, Navi. You’ve said you want to deny free access to safe legal abortion on demand. This causes direct and indirect harm to girls and women. You may have closed your eyes to the harm this causes, but that doesn’t remove the harm.

      . Are all of these people really making “a deliberate decision to support harm to girls and women”? That is doubtful.

      Oh, I’d agree. Most self-identified prolifers are actually prochoice when they think about the issue. The assumption I am making, with your long comments, is that you are not one of those people who reflexively identifies as prolife while actually holding prochoice views.

      I just hold that sanctioning elective abortion the wrong way to prevent it

      But as you make clear with this comment, you are not one of those people – you do actively want girls and women to continue dying of unsafe illegal abortions, because you think it important to continue upholding the “principle” that abortion shouldn’t be available legally and safely to all women who need/want abortions.

      That’s advocating deliberate and horrible harm to others. There is no way to interpret it charitably, since you’ve made clear you are aware that girls and women die of the laws you support: you just don’t care – not even, as you explicitly say, when the girl or woman has been raped.

      So I’m really unclear why you repeatedly claim I’m making unjustifiable “assumptions” about your views: you’ve outlined your view that women and girls should die – and the foetus they carry die within them – rather than have access to safe, legal abortion. You justify this by handwaving these deaths as a “right to life”, because – apparently – neither the living human beings who die because of the prolife laws nor the foetuses who die inside them are real human lives to you.

      Which leads to my initial contention: the prolife movement does not care about saving lives, only about using and controlling women. Your endorsement of forcing a raped girl or woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will is further proof – if proof were needed – of your utter inhumanity towards half of humanity.

  6. Navi

    Well, if that’s really what you get out of reading my comments then there’s probably nothing more that needs to be said. I wish you the best, and it’s too bad we couldn’t see eye to eye.

    • I don’t see what else there is to get from your comments. You want to hurt and harm girls and women, and you also want to pat yourself on the back & praise yourself for only advocating harm and death on girls and women because you’re “prolife”. You obviously like yourself very much indeed, so I can’t see why it should trouble you that – just based on your comments here – I don’t like or respect you at all.

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