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Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Tomorrow is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. As I mentioned here, in a post that was more eloquent than this one is likely to be, this day each year always leaves me somewhat tongue-tied. What are we able to say, as the years pass by, and our land continues to be governed by an abortion regime that does not permit the protection of the unborn child to any legal entity?

One thing we must not do is become jaded and embittered. I here would caution my fellow ardent pro-lifers against becoming embittered by the thought that overturning Roe v. Wade would "merely" return the issue to the states and allowing this to make us feel that overturning Roe v. Wade is not a worthy goal. Be assured: It is a worthy goal. It is a worthy goal in terms of truth-telling, for no longer would our country's Constitution be so abused and lied about as it currently is, when we are supposed to believe that the murder of the unborn is a constitutional right. It is a worthy goal in terms of the education of the minds of the young, for law is a teacher, and if you tell young women that it is their constitutional right to kill their children, they may well think that right a good thing, as will the men who wish to have sex with them without consequences. It is a worthy goal practically in terms of the solidity of the abortion license, for if the matter is returned to the states, we will have enormously greater scope for protecting unborn children. The abortion license will be able to be removed or greatly restricted in various states, making "abortionist" a less attractive career option for risk-averse doctors. It is a worthy goal in terms of the encouragement of pro-lifers, for if it becomes once more possible to protect children in law, we will no longer be tempted to the deadly discouragement that tells us that our educational efforts are at least partly pointless, since even if we converted large numbers of people to the pro-life view, they would be stymied as far as shutting down the abortion mills. It is a worthy goal in terms of protecting young women from coercion and pressure, for in those states where abortion is outlawed or greatly restricted by law, "respectable" parents, husbands, and boyfriends will no longer be able to tell the young woman they are pressuring that this is a legal option. It is a worthy goal in terms of protecting the ability of pro-lifers to protest, picket, and persuade, for it is Roe, ultimately, that serves as the justification for such additional abominations as the FACE act, and FACE, bubble zones, and the like will be easier to attack once the abortion license itself is governed only by a patchwork of state and local laws.

Do not listen to those, either on the left or on the right, who hold themselves aloof from the mainstream pro-life cause and from Sanctity of Life Sunday on the grounds that overturning Roe isn't that big of a deal after all.

And, now, on the more philosophical side and following up on my previous post, a couple of argumentative points.

I propose that pro-lifers should not agree with their opponents that it is question-begging to call the embryo or fetus a human being. In philosophical discussions with pro-choice or "agnostic" (about the pro-life position) opponents, we are usually willing to acquiesce in not repeatedly calling the unborn child an unborn child or a baby, at least not as part of our set-forth argument. But we need to call foul roundly when our opponents engage in a tactic that I will dub term-grabbing. Term-grabbing occurs when the pro-lifer uses a phrase like "human being" or "member of the human race" and his opponent claims that this is question-begging and then redefines the term so that it refers only to those members of the species homo sapiens to which he wants to grant value. At that point, suddenly, a newly conceived member of the species homo sapiens isn't even a human being! Why, no, it isn't. Only the late fetus, or the newborn child, or whatever entity the opponent wants to grant to be unkillable is a human being!

Dear readers, I submit that this is ridiculous and illicit. In other contexts, "human being" is a parallel term to "dog," "cat," or "fish." Thus to say that a human embryo is a human being is like saying that a dog embryo is a dog. The opponent wants to call the use of the phrase "human being" question-begging in this context merely because most of us know in our hearts that all human beings do indeed have value and that innocent human beings are not killable just because of their stage of development. Hence, the term "human being" does indeed prompt one to think that there is a problem with saying, "Some of these beings are killable." But that does not mean that the use of the term is question-begging. Consider the following parallel: A Peter Singer disciple wants to argue that newborn babies ought to be killable. He then proceeds to tell you, as you argue against infanticide, that you must not refer to the newborn baby as a baby or an infant, for such terms would be question-begging, even though they were previously, and are in other contexts, absolutely standard words for referring to the newborn child. Now, he insists, you must refer to the newborn child by his chosen distancing term of "neonate" while the term "baby" is reserved for a human child that is old enough for him not to regard it as killable. Term-grabbing. Don't let it pass without comment.

In that same vein, I wish to suggest that, if we do not permit term-grabbing, we are well within our rights to make note of the fact that the human being is, from conception onwards, either male or female and that a term like "girl," normally used to refer to a biological female of the species homo sapiens, can be applied to very young human beings. Which gives us the following argument:

1. All girls are human persons with a right to life.
2. A 12-week female fetus [you can plug in whatever age is most relevant to a given argumentative context here] is a girl.

Therefore,

3. A 12-week female fetus is a human person with a right to life.

Your opponent will then have to deny one of the premises. Heh.

Blessings upon all of you who fight for the cause of the sanctity of human life. I will quote again here the encouraging words of Fr. Neuhaus:

Whether, in this great contest between the culture of life and the culture of death, we were recruited many years ago or whether we were recruited only yesterday, we have been recruited for the duration. We go from this convention refreshed in our resolve to fight the good fight. We go from this convention trusting in the words of the prophet Isaiah that “they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The journey has been long, and there are miles and miles to go. But from this convention the word is carried to every neighborhood, every house of worship, every congressional office, every state house, every precinct of this our beloved country—from this convention the word is carried that, until every human being created in the image and likeness of God—no matter how small or how weak, no matter how old or how burdensome—until every human being created in the image and likeness of God is protected in law and cared for in life, we shall not weary, we shall not rest. And, in this the great human rights struggle of our time and all times, we shall overcome.

Comments (93)

Thank you, Lydia. Articulate and, yes, eloquent.

Another phrase I've seen used to describe what you call "term-grabbing" is the "stolen concept."

Parallels to the debate over homosexual unions and marriage leap immediately to mind (e.g., "Marriage is so generic and expansive a concept--a loving union between any two people who say they love each other in front of some magistrate, and serving no social purpose other than affirming their own precious feelings on that particular day--that it naturally and necessarily includes homosexuals. And no, it isn't generic and expansive enough to encompass polygamy, because I say so, and how dare you even bring that up--what are you, paranoid?").

And no, it isn't generic and expansive enough to encompass polygamy, because I say so, and how dare you even bring that up--what are you, paranoid?").

I'm starting to see more and more people just giving up the idea that polygamy might be "wrong" and supporting that too.

Thanks for this, Lydia.

I'm starting to see more and more people just giving up the idea that polygamy might be "wrong" and supporting that too.

Yes, naturally. Just as it was always going to be impossible for pro-choice activists and philosophers to maintain the phony and arbitrary distinction between a child in the womb on December 6th, and the child out of the womb on December 12th. The openly pro-infanticide wing of the pro-choice crowd has grown steadily larger, and the same will happen with gay marriage advocates and polygamy. After all, if we're to take their reasoning seriously, the restriction of marriage to one person married to one other person is actually quite arbitrary and pointless, since the binary aspect of human sexuality is deemed irrelevant. Faced with this argument, I have seen a homosexual "marriage" advocate on television literally say that the reason polygamy is not implied by her position is that, quote, "I don't approve of that."

But this isn't the point Lydia is making, exactly, and I shouldn't threadjack the conversation in that direction. The point, rather, is that pro-choicers' attempts to manufacture prejudicial tautologies should never be allowed to pass unchallenged, and we should never allow the conversation to be conducted on those grounds, because they do in fact concede far too much of the case. If they want to have an argument about the essence of human life, let's have that argument, but it is really pointless to attempt arguing the ethical and moral case for abortion if they insist on prejudging the question of personhood, on which the entire discussion hinges, and insist on your using terms in a way that makes them feel better.

I'd just add that it isn't just good rhetoric, or good debating tactics, to stand our ground on these things. It's also good politics. There's good reason think that a lot of the gains the pro-life movement has made in "capturing hearts and minds" in recent decades can be attribtuted at increasing awareness of the full humanity, the personhood, of unborn human life. Planned Parenthood recoiled, like the bloodthirsty vampires that they are, from the full-color three-dimensional image of an unborn baby on the cover of Time because--and in this they were refreshingly honest and explicit--they knew that it might influence millions of people to become less receptive their bald lies about life in the womb.

Pro-choicers try to take this hill first, without firing a shot, because it overlooks the weakest spot in their barricades. Don't let them get away with it.

an argument about the essence of human life
Arguments are only possible when certain premises are shared. Personhood is a premise and not a conclusion. That is, either you start with the personhood of the unborn or you deny it, but I do not see how one can argue to the personhood from a more fundamental premise.
What would that more fundamental premise be?

Gian, arguments over when and whether a human person exists in the womb are carried on all the time, and whenever anybody disagrees with a conclusion the most common way to attack it is to begin by arguing over the truth of one of its premises. It doesn't require a simple leap of faith either to accept or reject the premise that a unique human life begins at conception.

So I simply disagree that you cannot argue to personhood from other premises (which, naturally, would have to be shared in order to command assent). To say otherwise is to say that pro-lifers' assertion that the embryo constitutes a unique human life is just that--a bald assertion, based on nothing, and unsupportable by any argument.

The question of what constitutes personhood really is "more fundamental" than the question of whether a human embryo possesses it, as suggested by the fact that it is possible to imagine a definition of human life that would include some embryos and not others, or all embryos, or no embryos. We can argue for fetal personhood, and we have to. To refuse to do so is to decide in advance to surrender the entire moral case against abortion.

To say otherwise is to say that pro-lifers' assertion that the embryo constitutes a unique human life is just that--a bald assertion, based on nothing, and unsupportable by any argument.

Bingo, as if we might just as well have asserted that some random object like a rock is a person.

The thing is, though I don't have the comments in front of me to prove it and don't have time to fossick through the earlier comments to find them, I've discovered in the past that Gian definitely doesn't share anything remotely like my passion for actually _protecting_ the unborn. I commented at the time about how ironic this is given his usually authoritarian brand of conservatism. So the fact that he comes along vaguely questioning the rationality of believing the unborn child to be a human person who should be protected in law and pushing in the direction of some kind of arbitrary belief which we don't share with our pro-abortion opponents isn't really all that surprising. A certain kind of non-mainstream person on (in some sense) the right is always up for sapping the energy of the pro-life movement in one way or another.

Sage, absolutely right. The fact that the personhood of the embryo is a premise for later pro-life conclusions doesn't mean that it is a premise that has no underlying support. Of course it does. It's not an article of faith. Our realization of the meaning of "human" isn't an article of faith either. We know these things through the natural power of human reason, and these can be reasonably argued. The fact is, 99 times out of 100, the pro-choice person doesn't want to argue the issue of personhood, because (a) allowing such an argument implies that these are matters of reason, and (b) there is very, very little support for his position when push comes to shove. They want pro-lifers to side-step the argument, which puts us fighting on their shifty-shaky ground, where a word means what they say it means and they can re-define 6 impossible things before breakfast.

The more I think about it, the more surprised I am at the lack of imagination that is required to claim that there is no conceivable premise which might be more fundamental than the statement "a human embryo is a unique human life." Certainly any claim involving such complex concepts as human and life would have to contain something that was subject to reasonable debate.

Practically the whole endeavor we call philosophy would not exist if our premises never got any more fundamental than that.

That is indeed true. Human life clearly does have a more basic definition than mere assertion. There is plenty of Thomistic philosophy regarding the soul and what creatures possess it.

As to whether or not we can convince people to actually use their brain and understand this, that is another matter. I am actually being asked to set up a chapter of the ISI at my University, and that seems a nearly insurmountable obstacle at this point in time. But we need to remember despite this all that our present situation will not continue forever, and in the future God may give us better opportunities.

I suggest that, as a general policy, in these contexts we simply stop talking in abstractions and force our interlocutors to deal with concrete reality. When a lefty starts yakking about how conservatives are going after "women's rights" or mindlessly parrot the phrase that ther is a "war on women", we immediately demand that they deal in specifics: What rights? The right to vote? The right to be employed? The right to receive an education? Who is going after these rights and where are they? Or is this just cover for the "right" to have your unborn babies brain vacuumed out of its skull because it is inconvenient to the mother? That woman's "right"? You mean opposing that is a war on women's rights as such? Really?

The same tactic can be used with homosexual "rights", but it is a bit more delicate. Nevertheless, I find that this "deal with concrete specifics, dangit" strategy gets results.

Certainly any claim involving such complex concepts as human and life would have to contain something that was subject to reasonable debate.

It hinges on the other definition of human, homo sapiens. Sapience involves more than just metabolic life.

As to whether or not we can convince people to actually use their brain and understand this, that is another matter.

Careful, you appear to be asserting that a developed brain is the source of rational understanding.

What rights? The right to vote?
You'll have to read the thread to see who takes what sides.
http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2007/08/the_wages_of_unbelief.html

The right to be employed?
Ultra-traditional orthodox seem to have a problem with it, to put it mildly. That doesn't necessitate a denial of education but it drastically reduces the demand for education if women cannot utilize it for employment.

It hinges on the other definition of human, homo sapiens. Sapience involves more than just metabolic life.

Biologically, the human species is easily distinguished from all others, and does not admit of the confusions you are peddling. Biological science tells exactly when a human member of that species arrives in the world, and defines human with admirable precision. Again, the kind of mental gymnastics you're engaged in to counteract these biological facts would be revealed as patent obscurantism were we talking about any other species.

Now, if you'd just admit that you're prepared to throw out the doctrine of human equality, which is predicated on those biological facts (though it was reasonably perceptible even when the science was still unclear), we'd be getting somewhere in the service of clarifying the disagreement. The pro-choice position is simply this, that all human beings are not created equal, for instance those in a very early stage of development, and some can be summarily removed from the protection of law at the whim of the more powerful faction.

It hinges on the other definition of human, homo sapiens. Sapience involves more than just metabolic life.

Metabolic life capable of sapience. But "capable" of does not mean "immediately and currently exhibiting."

A fertilzed egg of Gallus domesticus is still a member of the species Gallus domesticus, though it cannot presently cluck.

The pro-choice position is simply this, that all human beings are not created equal...

The pro-choice position covers a broad range of options, for starters. You may be inclined to believe there is only one pro-life position, but that is factually incorrect. On way to interpret the Roe decision, for example, is that there is a trade-off involved between conflicting autonomy and rights. The further along the pregnancy the less the mother's rights and the greater the fetus's and the earlier in the pregnancy vice versa. Conservative often assume that a right to life is fundamental and trumps all others, but obviously that isn't a premise of pro-choice argument.

...for instance those in a very early stage of development, and some can be summarily removed from the protection of law at the whim of the more powerful faction.

There is no historically accurate version of the claim they have been consistently under the protection of Western law, and even when prosecution occurred it was extremely rare to convict the woman who sought the abortion. Very early stages of development have in practice nearly always been under the whim of the woman; it was only a matter of how much effort she was willing to spend and how much danger to her life she was willing to endure.

There is no historically accurate version of the claim they have been consistently under the protection of Western law

Paul didn't say that.

The further along the pregnancy the less the mother's rights and the greater the fetus's and the earlier in the pregnancy vice versa.

What a horrible position, defining different values to individual lives.

There is no historically accurate version of the claim they have been consistently under the protection of Western law

This claptrap is supposed to move me? Try this on for size: There is no historically accurate version of the claim [that blacks] have been consistently under the protection of Western law.

Whoop-dee-freaking-doo. Such historicist gesticulation merits the most dismissive sneers.

But to repeat, again in simple terms: the science is as solid as any science can be. We know for a fact that conception produces a new member of the human species. We knew this fact by the late 19th century and we surely knew it in 1973. Anyone who sows doubt about this fact is incompetent to teach biology to 1st graders.

To pin this down: Step2 can either take the position that a certain class of human being, defined by stage of development, has no protection of law and is subject to the whim of the stronger faction; or he can take the view that a human embryo or fetus is not a member of the human species, and therefore discredit himself on any scientific question in dispute, ever.

What a horrible position, defining different values to individual lives.

It is horrible to consider degrees of autonomy? Great, I take it homeless people can come live in your house without any objections from you.

Step2 can either take the position that a certain class of human being, defined by stage of development, has no protection of law and is subject to the whim of the stronger faction...

As long as it is clear that stronger faction refers to sapience I will agree to this characterization.

It is horrible to consider degrees of autonomy? Great, I take it homeless people can come live in your house without any objections from you.

If you don't see the differences in the scenarios then I don't know what to tell you.

Step, if we were talking about my going out and putting a bullet in the homeless guy's head just for existing, we might have a parallel. As it is, not so much. Good grief.

As long as it is clear that stronger faction refers to sapience I will agree to this characterization.

Thanks for the admission. The mentally disabled have heard this sort of thing before, and we all know the results, but why should we "sapient" people worry? We're not seriously mentally disabled...right now anyway.

Some don't see the difference, or would indeed think the homeless have more right to someone's house than the fetus has to the mother.

I think poor Step2 has brought his sapience into question in this thread. Fortunately, he can rest assured that none of us agree his qualification of human equality based on mental capacity. He can go on talking fatuous nonsense that could not pass 1st grade biology and nevertheless retain (at least in our eyes) an absolute right to life.

Alas that Step2 will not grant the same to his fellow men.

questioning the rationality of believing the unborn child to be a human person

It is irrational to have wrong premises. And I never questioned the rationality of the pro-life but merely the utility of arguing with the pro-aborts.
One that does not believe in the personhood of the unborn, he is not going to be convinced with any arguments that presume otherwise.

And personhood does not equal biological facts and is not settled by science. Personhood is membership in a political community and is a political question.

Gian, for what it's worth, I don't believe there is any utility in arguing with pro-aborts either. In fact, I believe that the argument is lost before it is begun, for the premise of the pro-aborts is that the woman possesses the sole declaration on the personhood of her unborn child, for any, or no, reason she may give. It is impossible to argue against 40 million indivudal abortion positions, none of which may have anything in common except that each is the woman's will.

Personhood is membership in a political community and is a political question.

Pardon me while I don't beat around the bush and while I use a word I don't usually indulge in: Bullshit.

To expand: The notion of a "human non-person" is entirely an artificial and sophistical construct of 20th and 21st century murderous "bioethicists" who want to make certain classes of people killable. There is not a natural process of human thought that permits us to be understandably puzzled as to whether a particular living member of the human race is, in fact, a person. This is why the bioethicists had to work hard to undermine the notion of the sanctity of human life per se and to establish "personhood" as some new and different benchmark for being protected, once pro-lifers made known the biological facts of the continuous humanity of the unborn from conception onward. Meanwhile, the bioethicists also had their eye on making people on the other end of life, including the cognitively severely disabled, killable.

Step, if we were talking about my going out and putting a bullet in the homeless guy's head just for existing, we might have a parallel.

Lydi, as you may recall my scenario is based on a version of a pro-life argument Dr. Beckwith has made. There are definitely other factors that can be added which would make a refusal of shelter a death sentence. I only brought it up because MarcAnthony flatly denied the relevance of autonomy. Surely his “right” to his home can’t be legally or morally greater than a woman’s “right” to her body. While violent force would be properly viewed as a last resort, it is a legal option, and the homeless also have a significantly higher level of mental illness.

The mentally disabled have heard this sort of thing before, and we all know the results, but why should we "sapient" people worry?

So tell me when a person with a severe mental disability was elected to higher office or made CEO of a company. Would you pick a mentally disabled person to argue or judge your court case? As both a practical and prudential matter the mentally disabled are limited in the rights available to them.

He can go on talking fatuous nonsense that could not pass 1st grade biology and nevertheless retain (at least in our eyes) an absolute right to life.

Turns out the only way to maintain my scientific cred is to agree with Paul.

And personhood does not equal biological facts and is not settled by science.

It is a matter of choosing which biological facts are important.

The notion of a "human non-person" is entirely an artificial and sophistical construct of 20th and 21st century murderous "bioethicists" who want to make certain classes of people killable.

And Aristotle, don't let him escape the pitchforks.

I assume you are thinking of Aristotle's endorsement of infanticide. I haven't read the passage recently, but I'd be surprised if he endorsed or developed a modern-style personhood theory for the purpose.

In other words, he seems to have been more directly ruthless and less sophistical than that.

Step2's argument cannot allow the question to be "when does membership in the human species begin?" He must elide into personhood theory or he has nothing to say.

As both a practical and prudential matter the mentally disabled are limited in the rights available to them.

Sure, if you want to construct "rights" to be that unholy arbitrary set of parameters that liberals take as gospel. (Why is it, I wonder, that the actual Gospel talks a lot of RIGHT as in doing right and being righteous, but doesn't talk about "rights"?) The rest of us, though, might have a bone or two to pick with such constructions.

Surely his “right” to his home can’t be legally or morally greater than a woman’s “right” to her body.

Just to check, are you equivocating on "his" here? Because, earlier you were talking about the homeless person (the first "his") and my home (the second "his"). If you were to stick to ONE antecedent referent for "his", then "his right to his home" would have a lot more sense to it. Someone else's so-called right to my home is (as has been hashed out 10,000 times in these pages) theologically, philosophically, morally, and legally, significantly more problematic. But there is no reason to descend into those issues HERE, Lydia's post is not about that.

Now, I am fine with supporting a woman's right to her body - just as long as we recognize due limits to those rights. For instance, a mother of a 6 month old baby does not have a right to take her body and go out shopping all day long, leaving the baby alone at home with no care - she doesn't have THAT right over her body. (Some idiotic people have suggested that a parent's moral obligation to physically care for a child amounts to "slavery" and cannot be morally accepted. I say that's balderdash and worse.) In a similar vein, if the woman is holding a loaded gun in her hand pointed at an innocent child, she does not have a right to "just squeeze her trigger finger" - she doesn't have THAT right over her body. If a woman is holding a child who climbed on the railing of a balcony 10 stories high, she doesn't have the right to simply let go and walk away - she doesn't have THAT right over her body. Every person's rights to do with their own body what they want are constrained by what is going on around them - I don't even have the simple right to walk forward, if I am in a crowd and doing so will shove people away from my path. Still more are we constrained by the relationships we have to those around us. The deeper and more dependent the relationship, the greater the constraints. Thus it is naturally to be expected that the strongest of relationships - child and mother, and the most dependent of relationships, unborn baby and mother, should create the greatest constraints on a person.

I second Lydia about the murderous bioethicists. Chesterton wrote that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher.

But can Lydia call them murderers and then engage in arguments with them?. Does one argue with murderers? Is it proper? They call your children and grandchildren "unpersons" and urge their killing. They defile your city.

Your opponents have defined themselves by the dogma of unpersonhood of unborn. This is the hill they will die upon.

On Woman's right over her body, this from Aristotle's Politics is pertinent, given the dominant Political Individualism of the American Conservatives.

Without the City, the rules in the household and the village actually become destructive to the human beings, for just like the relationship between the growth of the whole and that of the parts, where the latter is beneficial only in relation to the former (without respect to which it can be cancerous and harm the body). So too is the relationship between the rules in the household/village and that in the City. If the unequal rules in the household do not aim at the rule among equals in the City, the inferior work produced by them will turn humans into Cyclops with a natural bent toward war.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Conservatives need to question where and how their loyalty towards the Constitution has been subverted by Progressives and turned as a weapon against the Conservatives themselves. The 1st Amendment turned from an agent of political freedom to subversion of the culture and thus the nation. Amazingly, many conservatives support the reading of 2nd amendment as a surety of rebellion against the State.

Again Chesterton: The scientific and the artistic worlds are silently bound in a crusade against the Family and the State.
(The Man Who was Thursday)

Conservative has enabled his own subversion by forgetting what Liberal did not- only reasonable discourse is permissible by Rawls. While the conservative fought for free and unrestricted expression of all views, he fought for the freedom of the murderous bioethicist to spew his poison. The conservative fell for the delusion of 'marketplace of ideas'.

And now the stage is set for the banning of all un-liberal views as falling outside the bounds of reasonable discourse. The 'reasonable' being inevitably defined by the elite. The discourse that is 'insane', i.e. misaligned with the dominant discourse of the City, is going to be the pro-life discourse that scorns the absolute right of a woman to control her body. And it can not be opposed within the context of political individualism and libertarian self-ownership that a lot of conservatives buy into.

But can Lydia call them murderers and then engage in arguments with them?

I don't see why one precludes the other. Chesterton would be the last to suggest no argument with a criminal or terrorist. There is a chance the argument may save a life or a soul.

Does one argue with murderers? Is it proper?

In it's place it's proper. A teacher argued a murderously-inclined kid out of the crime in California this month. Moreover, converts to the pro-life cause are legion; since we have the better of right-reason, illumination not infrequently does come to those who have been duped by the most nefarious. Repetition and routine exposure of (for instance) manifest reactionary rejection of science by pro-choicers, is a good fight in a just war.

Gian enjoins conservatives to march to war against individualism and free speech, but he does this from the aloof sidelines. He nearly suborns treachery against America, raising the idea of "questioning" our "loyalty" to the Constitution. I'm going to decline that offer. But I will point to the many essays and comments on this site which eloquently extol a restoration of the State as a functioning natural community of human beings.

Chesterton was a supporter of the French Revolution, and his second-best novel was about a peculiar revolt in London that overthrew the stolid established order; he can hardly be set up as some worshiper of the State. He, like those dirty Americans Lincoln and Jefferson and Reagan, believed in a natural right of revolution emanating from the truth about the brotherhood of man.

Gian, if you didn't make me yawn, you'd make me seriously annoyed. I well remember, and looked up yesterday, our previous exchange about abortion in a thread on the depressing aftermath of the election. You kept asking over and over again whether abortion was ever _really_ regarded as murder simpliciter, thereby slyly questioning the conservative idea that it is _really_ murder. You urged that we shouldn't really try all that hard to pass laws against it, because the wider culture wouldn't "accept" them, so they would be useless. And you blathered tacitly against Richard Mourdock and others, showing your ignorance of the actual state both of politics and of the media in America, by saying that American pro-lifers were not making achievable goals but rather "getting themselves entangled" in issues of contraception and abortion in the case of rape. You obviously hadn't gotten the memo that American pro-lifers have been trying an incrementalist approach for decades and that what we were being asked instead in this election, by a media bound to make trouble, was to give up even *in principle* the protection of all the unborn and say "shibboleth" to them. In that thread you said that abortion _shouldn't_ be regarded as political but rather "pre-political." Hence, if people were seriously considering it and wanting to do it, it was pointless to fight it in the political realm. In this thread you've pompously told us that the definition of personhood is a political question because personhood is membership in a political community. All very intellectual-sounding, no doubt, though not very obviously consistent.

One way and another, you always have something sideways and somehow deprecating to say to pro-lifers. In this thread, suddenly you're talking to us about how the real problem is the constitution and our efforts should have directed all along towards banning the speech of the bioethicists. Yet you were the person in another thread telling pro-lifers, patronizingly, to pick winnable battles! What a joke.

What it comes to is that you just always have to sound clever by saying something strange when this subject comes up. This is because you're a snob, and it offends your paleo-snobbery just to join shoulder to shoulder with all those ordinary, so American, so gauche, mainstream pro-lifers in arguing against abortion, praying against abortion, protesting (peacefully and legally) against abortion, agonizing over abortion, and trying to stop and prevent abortion in every way possible. You always have to tell them, for one reason or another, "You're doing it wrong," because it makes you feel superior.

This is, as I said, either annoying or boring, depending on what mood I'm in at the time. At the moment I'm actually feeling rather mellow, so I'm more bored than annoyed. But I wouldn't want you to think that I don't have your number.

The modern bioethical game is a kind of reverse engineering, something similar to how a statistician I knew humorously described his work. Ask a mathematician how much 2+2 is and he will say exactly 4. Ask a physicist, and he will say 4 plus or minus the error in measurement. Ask a statistician and he will ask back, how much do you want it to be?

The same game is played in modern bioethics. What is wanted? Right, now how can we get to it with an ethical argument? The answer is by constructing a system of humanness- by-degree, whether humanness is measured in units of biological development, manifest abilities, quality of the life, wantedness, or anything else. Once you invent a moveable line which scales along degrees of units of your choosing, you eventually can produce any truth you like simply by moving the line stepwise in that direction, regardless of whether the units on the scale have any objective importance or validity.

This is what the pro-life movement is up against. Relativism has filtered down and become cultural thinking. Humanness-by-degree has begotten a gazillion personal scales of measure with personally moveable lines, each of which is imbued with presumed validity. A herd of cats, going in all directions, with the pro-life position reduced to only one of them and often seen as the least viable because of its absence of scale and movable line.

Step2's argument cannot allow the question to be "when does membership in the human species begin?"

I will concede I don't know why belonging to a relatively hairless primate species is supposed to be important. Which is not to dismiss the impressive feats of physical strength and dexterity some people are capable of, but I believe that our mental strength and dexterity is a new paradigm of evolution, allowing us to reach for the infinite.

Thus it is naturally to be expected that the strongest of relationships - child and mother, and the most dependent of relationships, unborn baby and mother, should create the greatest constraints on a person.

You might expect so, but apparently it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes because her other familial relationships are in jeopardy or because the father has left or threatened to leave. From a liberal perspective that ship has already sailed because she plainly doesn't want a relationship with the unborn baby. To expand on this further, even if she was legally required to give birth she would also be entitled to put the baby up for adoption without any delay or difficulty.

...like those dirty Americans Lincoln and Jefferson and Reagan...

That is sort of an odd linkage. Jefferson was close to a true revolutionary, Lincoln was forced into it by extreme circumstances, and Reagan was a counterrevolutionary.

I will concede I don't know why belonging to a relatively hairless primate species is supposed to be important.

It's important because if you weren't a highly sapient member of that species you wouldn't be able to tell us how unimportant it is, nor would you be able to "reach for the infinite," although I don't see what's so important about that since we're unimportant anyway, so anything we reach for is likely to be unimportant too.

...she plainly doesn't want a relationship with the unborn baby.

Translation: she might want to kill it? What's the opposite of "reaching for the infinite"? Nihilism? It's funny how our "mental strength and dexterity," this "new paradigm of evolution," walks so easily in the civilized company of all sorts of legal savageries.

Lydia,
I regard the "ordinary, so American, so gauche, mainstream pro-lifer" as my superior since he does what I do not. But I hope I do my bit.
My point, ever so repeated in various forms, that legalized abortion is such a fundamental thing, that a nation can either be fully pro-abort or fully anti-abort but not both. It is one of the things that defines a nation.
Thus abortion rights are pre-political in the sense that they are constitutional and are not going to be settled as a routine politics.
A revolution was effected in 1973 and it requires a revolution to unsettle it-a revolution that may well split America as a nation.
Indeed, in my view America is already a split nation and it only needs to formalize the fact.

The political individualist maintains on the contrary that America can exist even as a house divided, with half of Americans calling the other half murderers, enslavers, or crazy fundamentalists. These word do not belong to civil rhetoric but to revolutionary rhetoric. So when you call someone a murderer, you have precluded the possibility of civil conversation i.e. an argument with him and it only remains to suppress him by force.

American penchant for absolutizing the political constructs hinders the proper understanding. The Constitution was written in a context of a specific people with a specific history. Conservatives like to talk of Original Intent but would 18C society tolerate homicidal spewing of deranged professors?
Americans (particularly on the Right) deride the German suppression of Neo-Nazi discourse as a sign of weakness of the German republic and lack of commitment to Free Expression-an imperfection . But the American opinion itself is disordered. There is a thought that stops all thought (Chesterton) and no nation can tolerate that thought.

Similarly, Belloc and other Catholic writers illuminate the history of separation of state and Church in Anglo-American context and how the 1st Amendment is grounded in the English religious quarrels. The Church and the State are naturally separate but inevitably coordinated.
The complaints that the current Administration does not respect the Freedom of Religion forget that people that lack conviction of supernatural would naturally lack the idea of the separate realm of Religion. It is not necessary that they are malicious but that they simply do not see.

So, either we support an armed revolution or we're not serious pro-lifers? And in the meanwhile (see your comments elsewhere) since the "losers would not accept" protective laws against abortion, we might as well not bother trying to pass them?

whether abortion was ever _really_ regarded as murder simpliciter, thereby slyly questioning the conservative idea that it is _really_ murder.

Abortion is murder by Catholic dogma but when were American laws Catholic? American State does not go to war by merely Just War Principles either.
So the Catholic dogma of abortion as murder does not and need not imply that any State would or should regard abortion as murder. And if it is really murder by criminal code, that of course, it is the most heinous cold-blooded murder conceivable, deserving of the strictest punishment for all involved. But conservatives try to wiggle out here.

My position is that very early chemical abortions should be between a woman and her God. All surgical abortions should be prohibited.

I favor fetal pain type of laws without reservation but laws that seek to ban all abortions or even the talk of such laws would split the nation.

Abortion is murder by Catholic dogma but when were American laws Catholic?

Abortion is murder by Catholic dogma?

This is utterly untrue. Murder is murder by Catholic dogma. Science has proven that fetuses are human, so it is dogma we don't murder them. And there ARE laws against murder-as every right-thinking person believes there should be. Now let's apply them consistently.

If science somehow proved that a fetus is indeed a distinct human species the Catholic Church might allow abortion (there are a lot of factors involved, so I'm not entirely sure), and would certainly stop believing abortion is murder, but dogma would remain unchanged.

Ahem, it should be a distinct species FROM human. My mistake.

very early chemical abortions should be between a woman and her God. All surgical abortions should be prohibited.

Just like if one's grandmother has late-stage Alzheimer's then slipping her extra-painkillers should be between the grandson and his God. Surgically removing her head with a machete should be prohibited.

laws that seek to ban all abortions or even the talk of such laws would split the nation.

God forbid we should even _talk_ about protecting all the unborn. Thanks, Gian,now we know what you're telling us, and I will give you the response a friend always gives to such statements: No, we won't shut up.

By the way, "very early chemical abortions" are now performed using RU486 with the assistance of abortion clinics. The woman usually actually aborts at home, but the clinic gives the drugs and checks up on the process. To be clear: In RU486 chemical abortions, there is *no ambiguity* as to whether the woman has conceived. They are done only when conception has been verified.

All this stuff about abortion being murder by Catholic dogma but apparently not by the natural light is, again, just a way to sap the will of the pro-lifers. We've all heard it again and again: "I'm religiously opposed to abortion, but I don't think I have the right to impose my religion on other people." The Mario Cuomo response, and that of many other pro-abortion Catholics, is here in a nutshell. And it's just baloney. As Marc Anthony says, murder is known to be murder because we have a way to tell who the human beings are. And that "way to tell" is not some esoteric, black-box, religious dogma.

The illegality of abortion has never "protected" the unborn . Nor will it if Roe V Wade becomes a thing of the past .Women will always find a way to have abortions . There is absolutely no way to stop them.
Furthermore, laws against abortion are absolutley unenforceable . Those who oppose abortion always conveniently ignored the fact that abortion was very common before Roe, and would have remained so even if that supreme court decision had never happened .
Laws against murdering born people can be enforced , but not against the unborn. Sad, but true . Not to mention the many women who died from botched illegal abortions, something which became extremely rare after Roe v Wade .Before Roe, only an infinitessimally itny number of all the illegal abortions which happened were criminally prosecuted. There was no way to do this. Nor will there be in the future if Roe is overturned .
Fact- far more abortions happen in countries were it is illegal than where it is legal .
And thousands of poor women die every year, leaving numerous motherless children .
The lack of access to contraceptives is a major figure in this atrocious tragedy .
Another fact - the more poverty in a country, the more abortions. The less poverty , the fewer abortions. This is why the prosperous nations of western Europe and Scandinavia have the world's LOWEST abortion rates .
There is only one way to reduce the abortion rate greatly in America - to make sure that contraqceptives are easily available and that poor pregnant women will get the financial help to provide for their children, born or unborn . But our government has failed ot do this , largely because of the Republicans idiotic opposition to more help for the poor .

Robert Berger, that's a lot of hooey. Doctors are quite risk averse, and many of them will not participate in abortions if they even plausibly could be prosecuted for it. Just in case you missed it, I keep repeating this: When I was conceived pre-Roe, my bio-mother has told me, she panicked and considered abortion. But it wasn't "safe, legal, and rare" in the U.S. There was no abortion clinic right down the street with a stamp of respectability on it. She would have had to go to Mexico where, as she pointed out, abortion was also illegal but "the system of bribery was mor efficient." However, she'd had friends get abortions in Mexico, and their "horror stories," the details of which she didn't give, dissuaded her. So I'm here now.

It is utterly false to say that American laws against abortion will not stop any abortions.

Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. - Guttmacher, 2011

I doubt the abortion rate pre-Roe was anything near that. Clearly, Robert, safe and legal do not produce rare.

At any rate, there is a lot to be said for laws against abortion as they signal a people's moral position, which is instructive to the young and society as a whole. And they also prevent loss of children in the womb, just like relevant OSHA, FDA, and other agencies' regulations do.

I rather suspect that if women ever are called up for the draft now that they can go into combat, the abortion rate will go way down and the birth rate will go way up, way-way-up, because pregnancy likely would qualify for a deferment. Furthermore, the spacing of children among women of draft-eligible age will compress mightily, with children following in lickety-split fashion one after the other, to maintain the defered status. The return of the sterotypical barefoot, pregnant woman in the kitchen and large families. A feminist nightmare!

Well, what morality won't do sometimes fear will. That's how unsafe and illegal abortion works, also.

I doubt that that will happen, Alphonsus, because I think women would still be drafted away from even their young children, and no one wants to be literally _perpetually_ pregnant. But that's a discussion more for the other thread.

I don't know, Lydia. I had to register for the draft during Viet Nam and lots of guys made choices to keep from going in that nobody would have thought they'd do, including going to college (gasp!) for a deferment. That is where, after all, all the soft-headed subjects like x-studies originated because those guys had to have majors they could not fail in. Anyway, I'll respect you and post anything more in this vein on the other thread. Thanks for the indulgence.

Lydia,
I am not telling anybody to shut up and never would I say that "I have no right to impose my religious beliefs on anybody".
As for science telling us things, I keep in mind the dictum of CS Lewis-The sciences bring to facts the values they claim to derive from them.

Lydia, laws against abortion might stop SOME women from having abortions, but abortion would still be very common . And the awful thing is that the vast majority of the abortions would not be performed by trained physicians with medical degrees , but dangerously incompetent and unscrupulous individuals without medical training -yes, back-alley abortionists .
Or midwives and others .
Here's an ironic fact. In Brazil, which is the world's largest Catholic nation and where abortion is officially illegal, more happen every year than in America . The Brazilian government does not even pretend to enforce the law, because it cannot !
I repeat - only by the government substantially increasing subsidies to poor pregnant women will we ever be able to make the abortion rate plummet . Like all pro-choicers, I am not pro-choice because I like abortion and want abortions to happen- no one does -
but because I realize that trying to stop abortion by nmaking it illegal is always disastrously counterproductive .

Blah, blah, Robert Berger. You wouldn't say that if the women were taking their 5-year-old daughters to have them strangled. "Hey, at least we can have them killed more humanely, and the only way to really slow down the rate of 5-year-old girl killing is by increasing subsidies. I don't support choice for the killing of 5-year-old girls because I like it. I don't like all this little-girl killing, but because it would be counterproductive to make it illegal."

This is murder we are talking about. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. Saying you "don't like" the procedure that involves directly killing an unborn child but that you think it should be legal is laughable. It is radically unjust to legalize and protect the murder of innocent children, even, yes, to make sure it's done "safely"--safely, that is, for everyone but the victim.

The ultimate question here is the actual nature and status of the unborn child. Are all innocent human beings entitled to be protected from direct and deliberate murder, or are some more equal than others? Everything else is a distraction.

Lydia, you can talk about life beginning at conception and fetuses being human until you are blue in the face, but none of this will stop women from having abortions .
Even if abortion is murder, there is absolutely no way to stop women from having them.
Abortions do not happen for the same malicious reasons that people commit murder of born people, but because of the personal problems of individual women .
And there is no such thing as an"abortificatient pill". An abortion is the surgical removal of a partially formed and VISIBLE fetus. You cannot "abort" a cell, or a few of them. You cannot commit "murder" with a pill . Women's bodies routilnely eject fertilized cells and no one calls this a miscarriage . This is the opposition of the Catholic church to contraceptives is so unbelievably foolish . Contraqceptives PREVENT abortions .
They are certainly preferable to surgical abortions .

Wow, are you ever ignorant. Actually, RU486 is what is called (by its supporters) an "abortion pill" and is used to end a confirmed pregnancy medically rather than surgically. Google it yourself and stop talking about what you know nothing about.

Again, all this about "you can't stop women from having abortions" is baloney. It's baloney practically, because actually you can stop a _lot_ of abortions by making the penalties high for the abortionists and sending the cops in to shut down abortion clinics. It's baloney as a moral argument because if you really cared tuppence about the abortion holocaust, as much even as you care about, say, spousal rape or domestic violence (which also continue despite being illegal and which can be difficult to detect and prosecute), you wouldn't use this as an argument against having such laws. The truth is, you don't really care, so stop wasting time and bandwidth pretending that you do.

Lydia,
That something is a Catholic dogma does not mean it is an arbitrary assertion of Catholic will.
And how is science going to pronounce on 'ensoulment'? What has DNA to do with soul?
That one-day old unicelled embryo is a full-fledged member of humanity, deserving of fullest protection is we believe only because the Church has pronounced so, in my opinion.

Scott W,
I appreciate the wit. Very clever but forgetting the special relationship of an unicelled embryo with its mother.

That one-day old unicelled embryo is a full-fledged member of humanity, deserving of fullest protection is we believe only because the Church has pronounced so, in my opinion.

Interesting. I too am a Catholic. Personally, I only believe that 22 year olds are full-fledged members of humanity deserving of fullest protection because the Church says so. Otherwise, I'd have no reason to believe that, since DNA and human rights (calling it "ensoulment" is just a way to trap it into the box of a religious argument) are totally unlinked.

The Catholic Church believe the murder of humans is wrong. If you only believe that because it's dogma then there's something else wrong here and it's not the Church OR society.

I suspect that Robert Berger would recoil in disgust from his libertarian logic applied to, say, assault rifles and violent crime. You can't stop gun crime so don't even try.

I suspect, further, that when red states succeed (as some have in recent years) at applying sharp pressure upon abortion mills, through legislation and regulatory action, Robert Berger would grow distressed at "the loss of access" for poor women. So sad that Mississippi only has X number of clinics left.

I'm afraid the liberals who assure us that contraceptives are the answer to abortion show signs of naivety that bawdy comedians might have some fun with. Have these prigs no experience in the peculiar ill-preparedness that often accompanies the undertaking of sexual congress in human beings? Even bereft of personal experience, it is an observable reality that only the socially isolated could be innocent of.

Or would they have all poor women saturated with chemicals to inhibit their body's natural cycles for years and years on end? I'm sure the drug companies would be happy to endorse a mandatory Pill prescription statute.

In truth the ideal of all pregnancies being planned is as preposterous a utopian scheme as could be imagined. It's pie-in-the-sky of a particularly hilarious sort, were it not so disastrously implemented in Supreme Court diktat. Probably something close to 50% of all human beings ever born were not conceived with particular intention; possibly 25% were accidents that certainly inconvenienced and may have acutely discomfited their parents.

No, Gian, the newly conceived embryo (if it matters to you, it becomes two-celled as soon as the DNA has bonded) is a person because it is a human being, not because we have special revelation that it is "ensouled."

If we required the latter, then we might as well take the position with which I have been arguing at some length on another venue--namely, that the child isn't *really* a person until, oh, somewhere around 20-24 weeks' gestation. Why not? The soul is invisible. If we require some special thunderclap to tell us when it arrives, and we haven't received such a thunderclap, the abortionist can conveniently place its arrival somewhere late enough in pregnancy that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, he isn't really killing children as long as he doesn't perform third-trimester abortions. Believe me, I am not merely making this up. The vast majority of ordinary pro-choice human beings and plenty of philosophers go _exactly_ this route, using (if they are materialists) some sort of interestingly Cartesian-sounding ersatz for the soul like "personal identity" or "personhood."

It's important because if you weren't a highly sapient member of that species you wouldn't be able to tell us how unimportant it is...

Nature tells us how unimportant it is when so many other animals and microbes can maim, poison, or kill us without much effort. As physical creatures our ancestors were usually on the defensive. It wasn't until humans became proficient with tools and weapons that we started ascending the food chain.

...nor would you be able to "reach for the infinite," although I don't see what's so important about that since we're unimportant anyway, so anything we reach for is likely to be unimportant too.

By the same token, we're all sinners so anything we reach for is likely to be sinful.

It's funny how our "mental strength and dexterity," this "new paradigm of evolution," walks so easily in the civilized company of all sorts of legal savageries.

Evolution is a fickle mistress.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/01/24/afghanistan-fertility-rate-declines/1824009/

Again, all this about "you can't stop women from having abortions" is baloney.

You can greatly restrict surgical abortions. Your ability to affect chemical abortions is virtually nil. You either have no idea how desperate the demand for such drugs would be or you have no idea of the ubiquitous supply network for illegal drugs.

I'm afraid the liberals who assure us that contraceptives are the answer to abortion show signs of naivety that bawdy comedians might have some fun with.

It is a mystery how schools that teach abstinence until marriage have a higher unplanned pregnancy rate than those that include contraceptive teaching.

You bring science and DNA and they answer by Self-ownership (in which already half of conservatives believe in ardently as a bulwark against socialist tyranny). They say DNA, shNA, big deal, it is a Parasite growing inside the Host.
So their Pure Assertion ultimately is countered by another Assertion, that of the personhood of even a day-old embryo. Of course, the Assertion of the Church is not arbitrary but rationally informed.

By the same token, we're all sinners so anything we reach for is likely to be sinful.

Really? So, we should stop reaching for justice for blacks, Hispanics, and women because it is likely to be sinful. We should stop reaching to feed all the hungry because that is likely to be sinful? Gee, did Step2 just join the selfish, insensitive, reactionary wing of the Conservative movement?

You can greatly restrict surgical abortions. Your ability to affect chemical abortions is virtually nil.

Bullsh__. You don't plan to overcome a decades-long scourge overnight with one law, but that's how you START to do so. Once we outlaw surgical abortion as being a form of homicide, we begin a long process of changing the moral picture young people grow up with. One step at a time, we gradually make the culture more compatible with people employing self-mastery so that there are fewer pregnancies where abortion would be thought of as a valuable option. In that environment, chemical abortions would ALSO gradually decline, even when there remains a black market for the drugs. It doesn't take rarefied, angelic levels of self control to wait until marriage to have sex, and to restrain one's self in marriage to practice responsible foresight - literally MILLIONS of people do it in this country. Many more would do so if our culture spoke with one voice about the goods attendant on virtue and the harmful costs of vice. We have changed the rate of smoking over the last 60 years, so that now only 19% of adults smoke - largely by social pressure, but that's social pressure backed up by the official government view that smoking is bad, so that it is taught in schools, etc. There is no reason why it is impossible to do the same for irresponsible sexual behavior, including sex outside of situations where you are ready to welcome a child.

Gee, did Step2 just join the selfish, insensitive, reactionary wing of the Conservative movement?

Of course not. I was making a counterpoint to the assertion that our status as either unimportant or sinful makes it unlikely for us to recognize and reach for something important or good.

You don't plan to overcome a decades-long scourge overnight with one law, but that's how you START to do so.

Fetal personhood laws are by necessity a sweeping ban on all abortions.

We have changed the rate of smoking over the last 60 years, so that now only 19% of adults smoke - largely by social pressure, but that's social pressure backed up by the official government view that smoking is bad, so that it is taught in schools, etc.

And the laws passed are only against certain types of cigarettes, advertising to minors, and restricted public areas for smoking. It is not a total ban on smoking. Furthermore, I'm okay with tactics involving persuasion. I've never said a word against parental consent laws or fetal pain instructions, nor against the right of peaceful protests at clinics.

And the laws passed are only against certain types of cigarettes, advertising to minors, and restricted public areas for smoking.

OK, so what if we, instead of starting with a law banning all abortions, just start with a law that bans abortions for minors? We just start out by saying that abortion is bad but not illegal in all senses, that minors are incapable of the maturity to take on the decision to do something that is bad but legally permitted, and they have to wait until their majority? (What about parental consent? Why? We don't give parents the right to give their kids' cigarettes, so we can be consistent here and not grant that permission for parents on abortion.) And restrict advertising for abortion in any venues likely to be read by teens, and have government schools instruct children to understand that abortion is bad but legal once you have reached your majority? And banning 3rd trimester abortions, which are heinous even to people who don't think the fetus is human until viability.

I think Step2 also greatly overestimates the ease with which actually effective chemical abortifacients would become widespread. Ella, for example, is probably abortifacient in some cases, but it's not very effective as an abortifacient. Neither is Plan B. And either of them does sometimes prevent conception in the first place. If women were actually relying on such things, *much less* relying on buying them on the black market, as birth control, they'd find themselves greatly disappointed and would either have to have the baby or "fall back" on illegal surgical abortions, which Step2 has already admitted could be made very difficult to obtain. RU486 can be used only after a pregnancy has been detected, and it's potentially dangerous if not monitored and given within a medical context and with medical oversight. There are plenty of young women who would be either deterred by this in the first place or deterred by hearing what their friends went through who used it in the second place.

Moreover, "medical" abortion in general works only within quite a narrow window of time when it works at all. The reason that there is such a market for surgical abortion is that most women don't (thank goodness) find out they are pregnant early on and then ruthlessly and immediately decide to have an abortion BAMN (by any means necessary), including swiftly finding a way to purchase potentially dangerous drugs on the black market and taking them with inadequate medical supervision. The normalization of surgical abortion and its availability after a woman has had time to think things over is a big part of its dark charm. Close off that option, and plenty of women are going to decide it's "too late" to have an abortion by the time they've had a chance to think about it. Indeed, I've come to realize that this is how it often works even now when we make access to abortion difficult during the last trimester. Even if a woman's perception that "it's too late" for her to get an abortion is technically incorrect, even if she could get an abortion if she were sufficiently determined and informed and had the transportation and so forth, the perception is important and leads to a lot more cases where the pregnancy, the existence of the child, is accepted as a fait accompli rather than something that can be "gotten rid of" or made as if it had never happened.

Greatly reducing and restricting surgical abortion would spread this effect to a huge extent.

Let me add, too, that real pharmaceutical manufacturers aren't generally in the business of making and distributing illegal drugs in America! That's why FDA approval of RU486 was so important and _certainly_ resulted in its wider use, just as rescinding such approval and making that drug illegal would _certainly_ result in its lesser use. As with surgical abortion, people blithely talk about how "the women" would just "get" the abortion anyway, and they reckon without the risk-averse nature of the providers, who are doing what they are doing on the scale that they are doing it _only_ because it is legal. Could someone get some black-market RU486 from some other country--e.g., an on-line "pharmacy" shipping it to your house from Canada, say--if it were outlawed in the U.S.? No doubt if they hunted it down and paid the price, there would be such possibilities. But they would definitely require more hunting and ingenuity and determination than the majority even of abortion-minded women possess, and such chemical abortions would certainly be decreased if U.S. approval were withdrawn.

Tony,
I could support most of the things you mentioned and moderates and a few liberals may give it some consideration, the problem is that conservatives cannot. Decades of throwing around terms like holocaust of the unborn have negated the political ability for conservatives to spin on a dime and say, "Well it is bad, especially for minors, but not illegal in all senses." However I will give you a great deal of credit for thinking in pragmatic, incremental ways about how to reduce abortions.

Lydia,
"...the federally-funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana "easy to obtain." That figure has remained virtually unchanged since 1975, never dropping below 82.7% in three decades of national surveys." - Wikipedia entry on War on Drugs

The first American anti-abortion laws were made under anti-poison statutes, meaning the tonics used (normally without medical supervision) were easily capable of being deadly to the woman as well as the fetus.

Step2, RU486 and Ella cannot be grown under a light in your apartment.

and a few liberals may give it some consideration,

Emphasis on "a few", since most liberals are more strident about a woman's absolute right to choose than conservatives are about the "holocaust". There are, within the pro-life movement, 2 major arms, the larger of which is completely and totally in favor of the incremental approach to winning back ground from the all-abortions all-the-time for-any-reason for-any-mother regime we have had. It's nonsense to say that conservatives are so bound up in the rhetoric of abortion being murder that they cannot conceive of partial improvements. Liberals, by and large, fear any slice of movement to restrict the abortion mandate as meaning, effectively, that they are losing the struggle for the philosophical high ground of "principle" that a woman's "right to choose" is foundational and trumps all other civil rights. Conservatives would certainly like to win that struggle, but by and large can settle for smaller victories in the meantime because they have taken a beating (legally but not morally or philosophically) on nearly all of the smaller issues as well as the largest and a reversal on even one of the smaller issues is better than nothing.

I personally would love to hear a liberal admit that a majority of Americans not only would like to see abortion restricted in some respects, but don't feel that such restrictions would violate women's rights. Because, from where I stand, I don't think I have ever heard a liberal come out with a positive position on restricting abortion through normal democratic initiative based on the majority's sense of what is right.

Lydia, that was wonderfully snarky. Golf clap. Unfortunately I could only find estimates of foreign imports, but they range anywhere from 40% to 75% of total pot supply. A sizable portion of the Emerald Triangle domestic crop goes to medical marijuana stores, it is too expensive to be sold on the street.

Tony,
It's nonsense to say that conservatives are so bound up in the rhetoric of abortion being murder that they cannot conceive of partial improvements.

I don't know, it seems to me to be creating a political trap that makes partial improvement less likely. I disagree with much of Gian's agitprop, but the point about defilement was on point. If it is viewed as mass murder the imperative to stop it is absolute, partial measures seem totally inadequate.

I personally would love to hear a liberal admit that a majority of Americans not only would like to see abortion restricted in some respects, but don't feel that such restrictions would violate women's rights. Because, from where I stand, I don't think I have ever heard a liberal come out with a positive position on restricting abortion through normal democratic initiative based on the majority's sense of what is right.

One of the reasons for using rights talk is that it immunizes a type of entity, behavior or property from government and thus political interference. In that sense any government interference must be a violation of her rights. So I would suggest framing it differently because that is a frame that contradicts itself. You could start by saying that rights imply responsibility, irresponsible and harmful uses should still be open to interference.

If I remember my Peter Singer correctly, he does not use "term-grabbing" as a tactic; in fact, he even candidly acknowledges that a fetus (yes, a "fetus" not a "child" or "baby") is a human, as in the members of the species Homo sapiens. One can argue that the terms "humanity" and "human being" possesses connotations beyond a mere biological definition that would not necessarily include humans that have no reached a certain level of physical maturity and development, but you would correctly agree that is just a fruitless semantics exercise. Singer, being a materialist, contends that merely being a biological human does merit one protection from being killed since a human does not necessarily have the qualities of "personhood", such as the capacity to suffer and to perceive oneself as a conscious entity with a unique past, present, and future. A challenge for utilitarians is to delineate when exactly a developing human has fulfilled the criteria for "personhood" (Peter Singer believes this would be achieved post-natally), but the utilitarian's attack on the pro-life platform only needs to demonstrate unambiguously that the unborn have not reached the developed these milestones. Utilitarians as materialists realize that capacity to feel pain and be conscious has a physical basis. They therefore avail themselves of the scientific understanding of neural development to show that the level of neurogenesis at a given development state could not possibly correspond to the traits of "personhood". Due to their strategy of using objective scientific facts to bolster their arguments, utilitarians do not need captiously redefine common terms such as "human being".

A mistake that religious anti-abortion advocates make is underestimating the power of secular, analytic arguments that deem abortion is permissible based on the utilitarian framework of personhood theory and reductionist materialism. The concinnity of Singer's exposition is based upon his rigorous definition of terms, identification of critical premises, reasoning from the established definitions and premises, and assiduously addressing objections. Even as a Catholic convert, I still admire Singer's intellect qualities and reasoning, and I once ardently adopted his conclusions while meandering aimlessly on the plain of agnosticism. But I no longer accept his integral premise of materialism, and now believe that humans possess an invaluable immortal soul, so therefore I reject his conclusions. Singer's conclusions are wrong since they are derived from premises that deny the dignity of the human person, but nevertheless his logic is impeccable.

On a purely secular perspective, he just irritates conservatives and traditionalists simply because of his controversial conclusions. I also see his work as an exhibition of the power of exceptional verbal intelligence -- the cultivated fruits of his magnificent intellect. (I could say the same for Dante and Saint Augustine's work too.) It was a treat to read his work to witness a display of his raw talent and brilliance, although unlike Dante and Augustine, he did not use his verbal intelligence to glorify God.

Black Rose, if you engage in a lot of on-line debates about these things, I think you will see term-grabbing used. I certainly have. For example, the phrase "human being" is an uncomfortable one and does get redefined in exactly the way I've described. I recently described Singer's own position as having a "horrible elegance," so it's possible that he would coolly refer to the killable newborns as "babies" without turning a hair, rather than trying to up the requirements for being called a "baby." For all I know, he does. However, I think it highly likely that his disciples will find it more expedient to use distancing words like "neonate," just as the pro-abortion movement has found "fetus" so useful, though no one says in casual conversation that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with a fetus. So the term-shifting works both ways. When we want the entity to be killable, we use a distancing term. And sometimes, when we want the entity to be non-killable, we grab a value-laden term (like "human being").

As for "using objective scientific facts to bolster their arguments," really? I have not found this to be a hallmark of materialist approaches to the abortion issue. On the contrary. I have again and again and again caught pro-abortion folks whom I have every reason to think are materialists engaging in blatant scientific obfuscation and have called them out here on this blog more than once. I saw one chap the other day citing a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article (cue "ooooh" noises) to tell everyone that "biological essentialism has been scientifically refuted." He then proceeded to insist that there is no principled scientific difference between embryos and skin cells. One wonders if he frequently finds trillions of babies developing all over his arms, if that is the case. I was recently arguing with a self-styled materialist, a functionalist, to be precise, who kept having to introduce something surprisingly like an extreme Cartesian self (the existence of which he had just been strenuously denying) in order to try to respond to an argument by philosopher Alex Pruss to the effect that I was once a fetus. The materialist was trying to say that this was insufficiently nuanced, because the fetus didn't have a "personal identity." Whatever, exactly, that means to a materialist!

So, no, I haven't at all been struck by the solid biological clarity and robust empiricism of the materialist position on abortion.

Not to mention the fact that utilitarianism or _any_ ethical system swings free of materialism. After all, if we're _really_ all just atoms jostling each other, why the hell should we care about the greatest happiness for the greatest number, anyway?

I've read Peter Singer before. His "careful analytic secular arguments" are the same basic arguments pro-aborts everywhere make, but couched in fancier language. The best arguments for abortion that I've heard come from Judith Jarvis Thomson, and now that I look back on them I'm not nearly as impressed now as I was when I first saw them.

If it is viewed as mass murder the imperative to stop it is absolute, partial measures seem totally inadequate.

Well, that depends. If the imperative to stop it is absolute then we should do what is absolutely necessary to end abortion. If that means doing it incrementally, then so be it.

The Roe decision was acceptable to the pro-lifers since as the event showed, they did not quit the political field i.e. they did not secede.

The question is whether the pro-lifer's commitment to the unborn and to the true nation and the imperative to stop abortion by any means necessary outweighs his commitment to the present regime?

The same question was asked to the German under Nazi regime and certainly the non-Germans were not satisfied with the German answers.

So if you call abortion murder simple, then is pacifism the only answer?

Thank you for your cogent and intellectually stimulating reply (and is not mere affectation)

I suppose I incorrectly presumed that most secular atheists with scientifically rigorous and philosophically disciplined. As I did not hesitate to lavish encomium on Peter Singer's for its intellectual merits, I will not dismiss the slipshod arguments of materialists based on an erroneous understanding of biology. Indeed, the efficacy of those arguments relies on accurate presentations of scientific facts, not merely a string of flummoxing scientific jargon. The purpose of technical terms in scientific writing is to express ideas and describe a phenomenon in precise unambiguous language, not to confuse others with complicated diction. Of course, in technical terms, an embryo is "pluripotent" since it has the potential to differentiate into cells of any tissue while skin cells are somatic cells that already crossed the Rubicon of differentiation. I do not know much of the precise details since I am not interested in development biology, but pluripotent cells differentiate into other cells based on environmental cues from paracrine and autocrine signalling, chromatin remodeling, and spatial positioning.

I use the term "fetus" instead of "baby" (although I do refer to the unborn as a "child" sometimes) while discussing this issue in order to distinguish between a born and unborn child. This is intended to add clarity and appears to be necessary in any discourse about the ethics of abortion and infanticide. In contrast, I think many pro-lifers do use "baby" disingenuously to evoke imagery of the fetus possessing the physical semblance of a born baby. I consider myself a biological nominalist, but as I pointed out earlier to poses challenges since, under nominalism, there is no concrete, objective criterion to declare when a developing human becomes a person. But the utility of "personhood" theory is that it can be used to "abrogate" the protections of "personhood" when a biological or computational entity (since "personhood theory" is not exclusively apply to humans as it is often argued that the great apes and futuristic artificial intelligences are non-persons) clearly does not fulfill the defined criteria for "personhood". Obviously, I cannot reasonable consider a zygote as a "person" under any formulation of "personhood theory".

Similarly, I retort to biological essentialist the question of what defines the human essence. What genotypic or phenotypic characteristics define a member of the human species? This distinction is clearly unambiguously currently since Homo sapiens are a unique human species since the Homo sapiens was reproductively isolated () from other species due to millions of years of genetic separation from the descendents of recent common ancestor of chimpanzees and Homo sapiens. The commonly used definition of "species" is Ernst Mayr's definition that stresses the reproductive isolation among populations. Therefore, it is non sequitar to conclude that merely being human bestows one with the ethical protections of "personhood" since it requires the improper conflation of the biological concept of "species" with the ethical concept of "personhood". Since the evolution of the lineage that led to contemporary Homo sapiens was a continuous process, when exactly does a Homo erectus acquire a human essence? I am only posing this question to challenge biological essentialists, not as a spiritual question to perplex the religious about ensoulment.
===

Not to mention the fact that utilitarianism or _any_ ethical system swings free of materialism. After all, if we're _really_ all just atoms jostling each other, why the hell should we care about the greatest happiness for the greatest number, anyway?

A few years after reading Peter Singer's work, I became extremely disillusioned with the human condition and my mind became enveloped by nihilistic sentiments. Then, my reasoning for justifying abortion was more visceral than analytical and did not involve any reference to the philosophical construct of "personhood": human existence is just pointless suffering and valueless.

I still have an interest in defending Singer's arguments to illustrate vividly the simple point that human life has absolute and potentially infinite value because God created and loves us and our ultimate end is to being the perfectly loving communion of the three hypostases of God for all eternity. I will accede to the reasoning of Singer and his advocates, just to show the implications of materialistic reasoning is nihilism and despair and the only the love of God is the antidote. Once accepting this, one would still have to struggle against our sinful propensities and reject earthly pleasures to imitate Christ, who humbly submitted Himself to the Father's will, for God's glory.

Raw talent and brilliance don't hold a candle to honesty and integrity, and it is my understanding that Singer counsels his students to treat people in ghastly ways, and then treats his own mother much differently and humanely. I suppose this could be inaccurate, but I think it is true and if so surely can't be overlooked. If so he is not a philosopher at all, and should be held in scorn.

Similarly, I retort to biological essentialist the question of what defines the human essence. What genotypic or phenotypic characteristics define a member of the human species? This distinction is clearly unambiguously currently since Homo sapiens are a unique human species since the Homo sapiens was reproductively isolated () from other species due to millions of years of genetic separation from the descendents of recent common ancestor of chimpanzees and Homo sapiens.

Well let's see. "Gopher" is the common term for any of several distinct species. I think the generality of the term is necessary since many different species are similar on any definition we have been able to devise. Yet "human" does mean something very unique, but is it because of "millions of years of genetic separation"? How do you know? Doesn't "human" means something very unique because humans are very unique by our own "naive" observation? And what is a gopher essence, let alone a human essence?

it is non sequitar to conclude that merely being human bestows one with the ethical protections of "personhood" since it requires the improper conflation of the biological concept of "species" with the ethical concept of "personhood".

I think being a gopher bestows upon a gopher the ethical protections of being a gopher, and being a human bestows upon one the protections of being a human. The whole “personhood argument” only holds for those that distinguish between being a human being and being a person. Those who make this distinction claim that to be a person and a "bearer of rights" one must be able to exercise certain capacities and characteristics. This is mistaken. Though certain capacities and characteristics distinguish human beings from other species, it isn't required to me a member of the human community to be able to exercise those distinguishing characteristics. The very young, old, and infirm or damaged may not be able to do so. Capacities aren't required for membership. Membership is required for membership. To qualify for membership one needs only to have been begotten of human parents.

So if you call abortion murder simple, then is pacifism the only answer?

There's a whole lot of complexities going on here, Gian. First of all, with all of this talk about abortion for convenience (which occurs and is a real issue) a lot of the people committing the abortions are doing it under extreme duress. One of my ex-girlfriends told me that if her mother had gotten pregnant again after her, she probably would have been forced to have an abortion by her husband. Then their are abortions in cases of rape. And abortions when the mother's life is in danger. All kill human beings, but I'd argue that none of them are on the level of the treatment of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

And then there's the simple fact that it's easier to dehumanize a fetus. This is not a pro-choice argument, it's just true. I find it harder to humanize a fetus. Everybody I know does. Although we know it's true because of that simple fact alone I'm not sure if I'd consider ALL abortion doctors murderers equivalent to the Nazis.

And then, far more simply, would violence help? The answer is most likely no. It would probably hurt the cause. So violence is out.

I actually think stronger forms of civil disobedience actually could be done, believe it or not, so we don't disagree as much as you'd think. I once wrote a speech for Theology class where I basically called all pro-life politicians cowards in the wake of the whole Komen Society affair. What a gutless display that was.

The materialist was trying to say that this was insufficiently nuanced, because the fetus didn't have a "personal identity." Whatever, exactly, that means to a materialist!

It is related to the difference between I and Me.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogical_self

After all, if we're _really_ all just atoms jostling each other, why the hell should we care about the greatest happiness for the greatest number, anyway?

Wait, materialists can't believe in ethics or psychological phenomenon? All we can believe in are atoms jostling together, what a bummer.

Wait, materialists can't believe in ethics...?

No, you can't. I don't mind if you pretend to, though.

No, you can't.

I can for at least two reasons. If somebody was to only read the story of Original Sin and jump from there to Revelations ignoring everything in-between, Revelations becomes incomprehensible. There is too much that happens in-between that (mostly) explains Revelations. Materialists don't reject natural or political history, so there is no fundamental reason to disbelieve ethics that can be framed in those terms.

The second is that materialism doesn't ignore scale and complexity entirely. "Atoms jostling together" ignores chemistry, forces, genetics, perception and learning, memory and adaptation, instincts and bias, a vast array of socio-economic conflict and cooperation behaviors, and so forth. The best materialist explanation for something is only rarely going to be at the atomic level, most of the time it is about complex interactions of larger phenomenon.

I don't mind if you pretend to, though.

You can blame it on my quarks, namely the charm flavor :)

Black Rose, a couple of points, which I'll try to keep brief:

First, as far as human appearance and the supposed disingenuousness of pro-lifers in using the term "baby," the unborn child has a clearly human appearance _quite_ early, indeed, as early as the time that any surgical abortions take place and even some chemical abortions. The statement that "every [surgical] abortion stops a beating heart" is, as far as I know, simply true. So even if you wish to reserve the term "baby" for an unborn child of unmistakably human appearance, you should rethink the disingenuousness of pro-lifers.

Indeed, I would go further: The _vast_ majority of pro-aborts consider abortion to be moral and want it to be legal _long_ after the fetus is visibly human, is moving, sucking its thumb, and all the rest of it. In terms of disingenuousness, the most common thing I see is for the "personhood theorist" to start by making a song and dance about how the zygote doesn't look human and then to try to argue for principles that would make a 17-week fetus entirely killable. The assumption that even the _obvious_ and visible babyhood of fetuses through much of pregnancy is not a _sufficient_ condition for personhood is more or less o'erleaped.

As for your question about essentialism, I find it difficult to understand why you consider it to be a "conflation" to hold that being a member of the species homo sapiens is of ethical value. Why think that it _isn't_ of ethical value? I don't concede that any conflation is going on at all. I positively _assert_ that being a living member of the species homo sapiens confers moral value. Indeed, I take it as what should be an ethically self-evident proposition that "all men are created equal," which is to say, that there is such a thing as the value and dignity of mankind, and that some human beings are not less valuable than others simply because they are smaller, less developed, or have suffered injury.

There is a very good reason why term-grabbing and scientific obscurantism happen: It is because most ethicists know that most people are going to be uncomfortable with saying, "Some innocent human beings should be killable." They know that a great many other human beings _do_ believe in the dignity of man, the value of being a member of the human race, and are not going to be happy with the idea that we can kill very young human beings because we find them inconvenient and because they are so young that not enough people care about them, hence they are not protected in law. Because of this (legitimate) discomfort, it is much easier to refer to the unborn child by phrases such as "a mass of cells" or to say that it is "not a human being" (even though this is straightforwardly biologically false) or to analogize it to skin cells.

I would go further: If evolutionary biology entails that being a member of the species homo sapiens is *no big deal* ethically, then maybe you need to rethink evolutionary biology. Probably, though, you will prefer to rethink its alleged ethical implications. So I think you should go ahead and do that, since you should be _starting_ from the premise that being a member of the species homo sapiens _is_ a big deal in terms of value and importance.

Here is a passage from Practical Ethics Second Edition pg. 149-150:

Let us go back to the beginning. The central argument against abortion from which we started was:

First premise: It is wrong to kill an innocent human being.
Second premise: A human fetus is an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore it is wrong to kill a human fetus.

...

The weakness of the first premise of the conservative argument is that it relies on our acceptance of the special status of human life. We have seen that 'human' is a term that straddles two distinct notions: being a member of the species Homo sapiens, and being a person. Once the term is dissected in this way, the weakness of the conservative's first premise becomes apparent. If 'human' is taken as equivalent to 'person', the second premise of the argument, which asserts that the fetus is a human being, is clearly false; for one cannot plausibly argue that a fetus is either rational or self-conscious. If, on the other hand, 'human' is taken to mean no more than 'member of the species Homo sapiens', then the conservative defense of the life of the fetus is based on a characteristic lacking moral significance and so the first premise is false. The point should by now be familiar:
whether a being is or is not a member of our species is, in itself no more relevant to the wrongness of killing it than whether it is or is not a member of our race.

I did not read this before I posted my last comment, but still it was interesting because it essentially relies on the same strategy I used in my comments here.

The excerpt is a condensed account that clearly distills the substance of Singer's position on abortion, although Singer did not positively state his position but assail and analyze a rival position. Singer's critique of the "conservative" argument is a prism that refracts the light of "human being" into two distinct components: "person" and "member of the species Homo sapiens". He is not afraid to explicitly say that it is acceptable to kill "members of the human species" in certain circumstances because a "human" does not inherently have moral significance. Instead, in order to be considered a "person", a human must possesses the characteristics of personhood, namely being "either rational or self-conscious". Therefore, Singer concludes that "an abortion terminates an existence that is of no "intrinsic" value at all. (pg. 151)"

It is indeed obscurantism to call the unborn "a mass of cells" although it is technically true but meaninglessly generic since that description applies to many lifeforms, even adult humans. It conveys an incorrect image of the unborn at odds with the biological understanding of human development since the phrase "mass of cells" implies that a fetus is an amorphous agglomeration of cells. A fetus is not an uncoordinated, dysregulated mass of cells whose sole imperative is inexorable growth and division like a malignant neoplasm. Often, pro-life advocates tend to cite facts about the morphological and anatomical resemblance of the fetus to born humans in attempt to appeal to an intuitive and natural aversion towards images of grisly mutilation of a human body. For instance, they will say that a fetus has a functioning heart, limbs, or chiseled digits and it does not require to possess "advanced" biological knowledge to appreciate the similarities. But this strategy appeals to irrational emotion of disgust, and demands little rational deliberation about the ethical worth of a fetus or the consequences of terminating it. If one appeals to morphological traits, then what does one have to say about the "rights" of teratoid (resembling a monster) fetuses, such as those with anencephaly (without a brain) who manage to be biologically alive?

Ah, the personhood argument. I suppose when you want abortion to be allowed you need SOME sort of excuse. So why not create a mythical "personhood" status? One that hasn't existed before until the big pro-choice brains needed to make up a way to justify abortion.

We have seen that 'human' is a term that straddles two distinct notions: being a member of the species Homo sapiens, and being a person. Once the term is dissected in this way, the weakness of the conservative's first premise becomes apparent. If 'human' is taken as equivalent to 'person', the second premise of the argument, which asserts that the fetus is a human being, is clearly false; for one cannot plausibly argue that a fetus is either rational or self-conscious.

Black_Rose, you (and your confreres like Singer) cannot just invent a new meaning for "person" and assert that this meaning is the one that applies. People have been arguing since long before the 20th century about the specific, exact meaning, but the argument generally has been in order to nail down how we know that X is a person, say, that an angel or the first Person of the Trinity is a "person". But those arguments already start with the basics, (as must all arguments about the meaning of a universal term), how the term is used in everyday usage, where everyone already agrees that it applies. And in that context, until this most recently past century when bio-"ethicists" needed to justify it, everybody knew that "personhood" pertained to rational beings, but that was not because it was defined in terms of CURRENTLY being rational. A person who is a new baby, or has been drugged into unconsciousness, is a person in exactly the same sense as a mathematician doing a geometric proof. From which we realize that "person" encompasses the rational by reason of not just the immediate present use of rationality, but by having an innate nature whose type is that of a reasoning being. Passing from "about to wake up and use rationality" is a change of an accidental sort, and so cannot be a sort of change that encompasses being not-person into being person. Likewise, changing from a just-born baby to a toddler, or toddler into adolescent, or adolescent into adult are each a change that is implied in the very nature that the baby has, and thus the change to employing rationality of the adult is an accidental change, a change of degree not a change in kind, and thus the baby was of the same kind of thing the adult is: a being with a rational nature. Or, as St. Thomas put it more than 700 years ago (long before the Nazis or the Singers came along): a "person" is a subsistence of a rational nature.

Once the term is dissected this way, it becomes clear that every entity that has human nature has a rational nature, and thus satisfies the definition of "person" whether or not the expression of that rationality into fruition here and now is impeded by some obstacle. So let's stop playing games with words. The world knows that the 6 week fetus harbors all the instructional encoding needed for it to become a fully functioning rational being, and there is no biological or other basis for thinking that the eventual adult is a different entity than the fetus, or the baby, or the child. And given the same entity, then they bear the same rational nature.

Please elaborate on the flaws of the utilitarian arguments for abortion. Please tell me why there should not be a distinct between "member of the human species" and "person".

I think being a gopher bestows upon a gopher the ethical protections of being a gopher, and being a human bestows upon one the protections of being a human. The whole “personhood argument” only holds for those that distinguish between being a human being and being a person. Those who make this distinction claim that to be a person and a "bearer of rights" one must be able to exercise certain capacities and characteristics. This is mistaken. Though certain capacities and characteristics distinguish human beings from other species, it isn't required to me a member of the human community to be able to exercise those distinguishing characteristics. The very young, old, and infirm or damaged may not be able to do so. Capacities aren't required for membership. Membership is required for membership. To qualify for membership one needs only to have been begotten of human parents.

"Personhood" is not exactly "mythical" or artificial. Similarly, suffrage is quite analogous to personhood, and merely be a "member" or citizen by merely being born in a given country in this case is not satisfactory for enfranchisement. In order to vote in the United States, according to the 26th Amendment, a citizen must be at least eighteen years of age, although historically it used to be twenty one years of age, but there was a realization that it was an injustice that adult males at 18 years old can be drafted to be William Westmoreland's pawns without having any form of political representation in a democratic republic. The justification for the age requirement in voting is one needs to obtain an appropriate level of intellectual development and civic consciousness that would be incompletely formed during one's youth in order to exercise the franchise properly. Given the classical liberal political philosophy that predominated the United States during its inception, many states required the ownership of property in order to vote, since it was believed only through the ownership of property, one could acquire the necessary civic consciousness and not be controlled by their "passions" to expropriate the property of the rich.

Why can't personhood be like voting under a secular framework?

Tony, I will acknowledge that you directly addressed the issues I raised in my previous comments such as the "question of what defines the human essence".

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