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Austin Cline

Abortion to Save the Life of the Mother: Not a Valid Exception

By March 30, 2006

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Most anti-choice activists support exemptions to bans on abortions that cover the life or health of the mother, rape, and incest. It's rare for laws criminalizing abortion not to provide exemptions for rape and incest; it's unheard of for them not to provide exemptions for the life of the mother. Such exemptions are arguably inconsistent with anti-choice rhetoric and principles.

Douglas W. Phillips explains why abortion is murder even when the life of the mother is at stake:

[M]others should never kill their babies. There are no exceptions. The Bible condemns abortion and offers no exceptions to this rule. Abortion is not even biblically permissible in so-called “life of the mother” cases. As with all ethical decisions, our approach to the question of “abortion for the life of the mother” must be dictated by Scripture alone. We are not to look to situation ethics, the advice of the medical community, personal opinion, or even “common sense” to help us make life-and-death decisions concerning our unborn children. Nor may a Christian look to their emotions, to human traditions, to majority consensus, to their personal experience, or to a private revelation from God as the basis for their decision-making. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine for reproof and for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect thoroughly equipped unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This is the only source of wisdom for our ethical decisions. [...]

Killing a baby in the womb is unconscionable under any circumstances. To embrace anything but a “no exception” policy in opposition to abortion is to condone infanticide. Historically and biblically, the greatest judgments have been reserved for those nations which embrace perversion and child sacrifice. (Both are rampant within our nation.) Political leaders who profess to be Christian, but who promote the right of any individual to perform abortions (child sacrifice) for any reason whatsoever, are party to the promotion of the slaughter of the innocent and will be judged. Such men and women will be judged even before heathen leaders, because “judgment begins first in the house of the Lord.” Consequently, before pointing out the speck in the political eyes of unbelieving politicians, we must first remove the enormous log of compromise from the collective eyes of our own evangelical community.

If Douglas W. Phillips is consistent in his beliefs, and he certainly seems to be, he would treat mothers who obtain abortions and doctors who provide abortions as pre-meditated murderers, regardless of the circumstances of the abortion. Even if the mother was likely going to be killed by carrying the pregnancy to term, he would still have her prosecuted for murder. That’s the consistent, logical way to proceed for anyone who accepts the principles that a fetus is the moral equivalent of a child or adult and that abortion is murder.

It’s also abhorrent, demonstrating why those anti-abortion principles are wrong. When the adoption of certain principles leads to immoral behavior, that’s a sign that those principles need to be reconsidered and, at the very least, modified — if not dropped entirely.

 

Quick Poll: If abortion really is murder, should there be exceptions for the life and health of the mother?

  1. No, the exceptions are hypocritical. No mother would kill her child to save herself.
  2. Yes for the life of the mother, no for her health.
  3. Yes for the health of the mother, no for her life.
  4. Yes for both the life and health of the mother.
  5. I don't know.
  6. I don't care.
Click an option to vote, or View Current Poll Results

 

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Comments
April 23, 2008 at 2:30 pm
(1) Peter Brown says:

I am also opposed to abortion. With life so precious as this:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1260748/life_in_the_womb_4d_sonogram_of_baby_eating_foot_and_yawning/

how could we kill it and not consider it murder? Abortion, and especially partial-birth abortion are w-r-o-n-g.

April 23, 2008 at 4:14 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

I am also opposed to abortion.

Even to save the life of the mother?

how could we kill it and not consider it murder?

If you sincerely believe abortion is murder, then what punishment do you think should apply to abortion for women, doctors, and associated medical staff? Do you favor the death penalty, or merely life in prison without the possibility of parole?

Abortion, and especially partial-birth abortion are w-r-o-n-g.

So “wrong” that the state has the authority to force a women to carry a pregnancy to term? Can you cite any precedent for the state having the authority to force one human being to provide their organs and body for the use of another person? If not, then even if we concede that the fetus is a human with a right to life that is equal to that of an adult human being — a premise you have not supported because that requires an argument, not a picture — that still wouldn’t entail the conclusion that abortion is immoral and/or should be criminal.

April 25, 2008 at 5:40 pm
(3) RMHK says:

Abortion is private. I believe in abortion. If your religion tells you it’s murder, then don’t have an abortion, although 1 out of 5 women who have an abortion are pro life.
If at 4 months it is determined there is something wrong with the fetus, women should be allowed to abort if they choose. Perhaps soon they will have a test that can evaluate in the first trimester. I do not believe in late term abortion, but until they can do telling tests in the first trimester, I am for abortion in the 4th month if they are sure the fetus is not well.
I think all the people that think abortion is so terrible should sign up on a list. As each unwanted baby or sick baby is born, the next person on the list should take them and raise them.

April 25, 2008 at 6:34 pm
(4) Drew says:

According to something I recently read, two-thirds of fertilised eggs are aborted – almost all naturally, by the mother’s body, because the fertilised egg is defective.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion on abortion with this: but wouldn’t it be helpful if all anti-abortionists knew this, and applied the implications it has for their religious beleifs to the debate? It would appear that, if their gods actually existed, surely those gods must be aware of this?

April 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm
(5) Zack says:

Safe and legal abortion should be available to all women, but I still wish that abortions were far less common than they are. Aborting a fetus is not the same thing as killing a baby, but it’s close enough to be deeply troubling.

May 3, 2008 at 10:26 am
(6) Theo says:

to terminate life other than for self defense or the need of food is wrong, anyone with a heart knows this. you don’t even need a god to tell you it’s wrong. abortion is terminating a life, and we don’t eat fetuses or babies, so it’s wrong. any attempt to save life must be highly prioritized before making any decision of terminating any life. and as a mother, to save the life of her children is greater than her own, that’s natural instinct. thus, in any condition of choosing between a mother and her baby, if both of them can survived the process, then saving both is the highest priority. if only one of them can survived, naturally, a good mother will choose her baby’s life instead. if she prefer to save her own, then it’s her own choice. of course there comes the consequence of “bad mother” title. if the fetus or baby can’t survive, then there’s no other choice. else, if a mother choose to terminate without any life threatening condition … she’s just a bad person. life sucks, but you wouldn’t like to be killed anyway, so why kill anyone?

May 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm
(7) Austin Cline says:

to terminate life other than for self defense or the need of food is wrong, anyone with a heart knows this.

So, it’s wrong to swat a fly or pull a weed?

abortion is terminating a life, and we don’t eat fetuses or babies, so it’s wrong.

Then you should be able to support this with something more than “everyone knows it.”

and as a mother, to save the life of her children is greater than her own, that’s natural instinct. thus, in any condition of choosing between a mother and her baby, if both of them can survived the process, then saving both is the highest priority.

Who are you to tell a woman what her “highest priority” must be?

if only one of them can survived, naturally, a good mother will choose her baby’s life instead.

And if she doesn’t, what then? Why is she a bad mother if she chooses to life herself – maybe to take care of the children she already has?

May 9, 2008 at 5:34 pm
(8) Barbara_K says:

My body is my own, head to toe, side to side, and everything in between, including my uterus. If I do not have autonomy over my own body, I am not free.

It really is that simple. All other arguments are just noise.

May 13, 2008 at 4:00 pm
(9) John Hanks says:

An early abortion is a positive good. An unwanted child is a burden for everyone.

May 13, 2008 at 11:31 pm
(10) Zack says:

If I do not have autonomy over my own body, I am not free. Comment by Barbara_K — May 9, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

At what point in their development should human beings gain autonomy over their own bodies?

Should the autonomy of an adult be sacrosanct, but the autonomy of an unborn infant be utterly dismissed? Is their body not their own, head to toe, side to side, and everything in between?

Does an unborn infant have any rights at all?

The questions that divide us most painfully are not those of right versus wrong, but of right versus right.

May 14, 2008 at 6:24 am
(11) Austin Cline says:

Should the autonomy of an adult be sacrosanct, but the autonomy of an unborn infant be utterly dismissed?

Lacking consciousness, intents, or desires, an fetus can no more have autonomy than a stone.

Does an unborn infant have any rights at all?

Lacking consciousness, intents, or desires, a fetus can no more rights than a stone.

May 14, 2008 at 11:55 am
(12) torbis5661 says:

If one is so against abortion,and claims it tobe murder,Then he must be against, any and all parents who donot seek medical help for their children and let them die,but only pray over them,this IS murder!!
I,myself, beleive this to be crule and pointless,chooseing superstion over common sence.

May 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm
(13) Zack says:

Lacking consciousness, intents, or desires, an fetus can no more have autonomy than a stone. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 6:24 am

At what point in human development can we say without fear of contradiction that an individual has attained consciousness, intents, or desires? With regard to these qualities, I have co-workers and neighbors I’m not sure I could vouch for.

Is there a material difference between a fetus and an unborn infant?

Lacking consciousness, intents, or desires, a fetus can no more rights than a stone. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 6:24 am

Maybe so — better minds than mine have wrestled with that. But I’m not so sure. A stone doesn’t kick or hiccup, a stone doesn’t consume food and make more stone, and if you cut a stone it does not bleed. I have never known a mother to grieve the miscarriage of a stone.

May 14, 2008 at 3:02 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

At what point in human development can we say without fear of contradiction that an individual has attained consciousness, intents, or desires?

We can say, without fear of contradiction, that none of them can exist before the development of particular brain structures. Only after they appear is any of that even possible.

Of course, I’m guessing that none of your co- workers and neighbors are trying to use the body and organs of another human being in order to live, so the comparison is hardly appropriate.

Is there a material difference between a fetus and an unborn infant?

Yes, a fetus is, by definition, not an infant. Infancy by definition is a stage that occurs after birth. An “unborn infant” is a contradiction in terms, like an unmarried wife or unround circle.

A stone doesn’t kick or hiccup, a stone doesn’t consume food and make more stone, and if you cut a stone it does not bleed.

I’ve never known any of those qualities to be the least bit relevant to having rights.

I have never known a mother to grieve the miscarriage of a stone.

I’ve never known that to be relevant, either. If it were, then a person who wouldn’t be grieved over wouldn’t have rights and could be killed at will.

May 14, 2008 at 6:39 pm
(15) Zack says:

We can say, without fear of contradiction, that none of them can exist before the development of particular brain structures. Only after they appear is any of that even possible. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

What structures are necessary and sufficient for consciousness, intents, or desires to exist? At what point in the human organism’s development are they in place?

Of course, I’m guessing that none of your co- workers and neighbors are trying to use the body and organs of another human being in order to live, so the comparison is hardly appropriate.Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

If I created their circumstances in the first place, I think I would feel some moral obligation to them — maybe up to giving them the use of my body and organs if they needed it/them for their own survival.

May 14, 2008 at 6:48 pm
(16) Zack says:

Yes, a fetus is, by definition, not an infant. Infancy by definition is a stage that occurs after birth. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

There is nothing in the definitions of infant that I found that excludes a fetus from being an infant. They make no mention of birth as a defining characteristic:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/infant

But even if they did, we know that dictionaries can err, as they sometimes have in their definition of atheism.

My question is, is there a material difference in the human organism ten minutes after it has passed through the birth canal that endows it with rights it did not possess ten minutes earlier?

It is an earnest question.

May 14, 2008 at 6:55 pm
(17) Austin Cline says:

What structures are necessary and sufficient for consciousness, intents, or desires to exist? At what point in the human organism’s development are they in place?

Certain portions of the cortex are required; you can look it up in a neurophysiology text if you are interested. Most develop mid to late in the second trimester. They don’t start until early in the second trimester.

If I created their circumstances in the first place, I think I would feel some moral obligation to them

Only because they are beings with consciousness, intents, and desires. Objects lacking such features cannot have moral obligations owed them.

Moral obligations are not, moreover, the same as rights. You can have a moral obligation to me without me having a corresponding right. You might, for example, feel a moral obligation to treat me with greater deference than most people because I saved your life in the past; I would not, however, have a legal right to be treated with greater respect. The reverse is also true.

So you cannot argue for the presence of a moral obligation and then think that you have shown that a right exists, and vice-versa.

– maybe up to giving them the use of my body and organs if they needed it/them for their own survival.

If you feel such an obligation, then you are of course free to provide your body and organs for their use. What you cannot do is use that feeling as a basis for arguing that others have a right not only to your body and organs, but also the bodies and organs of others in analogous situations, and then conclude that others can be forced by the state to provide their bodies and organs.

It might be useful for you to decide which is more important, the argument for a moral obligation or the argument for a legal right, and then stick with that rather than shifting back and forth. At best it’s confusing, at worst it can be regarded as a shady tactic.

May 14, 2008 at 7:04 pm
(18) Zack says:

It might be useful for you to decide which is more important, the argument for a moral obligation or the argument for a legal right, and then stick with that rather than shifting back and forth. At best it’s confusing, at worst it can be regarded as a shady tactic. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

If my thoughts were always as clear as yours, Austin, I would have my own website. Do not suspect venality when simple incompetence supplies an explanation. ;-)

I see the distinction between a legal right and a moral obligation, but I don’t believe I ever used the term legal right. Are legal rights the only sorts of rights there are? Can we not correctly speak of moral rights?

To clarify my own muddled position, let me state plainly that a woman has an absolute legal right to control her own body.

May 14, 2008 at 7:07 pm
(19) Zack says:

I’ve never known any of those qualities to be the least bit relevant to having rights. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

In my own mind, they are relevant. I accord a higher degree of regard to the feelings of organims that hiccup, kick, ingest, and bleed than I do to stones.

May 14, 2008 at 8:22 pm
(20) Austin Cline says:

In my own mind, they are relevant.

That’s less relevant than whether you can make a legal argument.

I accord a higher degree of regard to the feelings of organims that hiccup, kick, ingest, and bleed than I do to stones.

Fine. So what? How much regard you have for this over that is hardly relevant to the question of whether this or that has rights or not. I accord a higher degree of regard to the feelings of my wife than I do to your feelings (no offense intended, I don’t mean to say that I hate you or anything like that), but that is hardly a reason to argue that she has rights but you don’t.

Do not suspect venality when simple incompetence supplies an explanation.

I’m merely pointing out that venality could be regarded as an explanation. I’m not assuming it’s the case, but I am assuming that you don’t want that to be what people see.

I see the distinction between a legal right and a moral obligation, but I don’t believe I ever used the term legal right.

When we are talking about rights in this context, those are the only rights that exist. The term “right” is ambiguous and can have a lot of different meanings, but “abortion” combined with “rights” only means legal rights.

Can we not correctly speak of moral rights?

Not normally, especially in this context. You can have a moral claim to something, and I may have a moral obligation to provide it. Having a right to something — which is to say, a legal right to it, and my corresponding obligation to respect that right, is another matter entirely.

If you do a Google search for “moral right” and “legal right,” you’ll see a tremendous disparity in the number of results. I’m surprised that so many do turn up for the first, but in non-casual writing, this is why people take care to use “rights” for law but speak of “moral claims.” Talking about a “right” implies that others have an obligation to respect that right — an obligation that can be enforced. A moral claim, however, might be very strong but can’t necessarily be enforced.

That’s the big difference between having a right to something and a claim to something: you can expect the use of force to be employed to protect and preserve a right, but not for a claim.

To clarify my own muddled position, let me state plainly that a woman has an absolute legal right to control her own body.

Fine (I’m going to assume that “absolute legal right” isn’t technically “absolute” because she can be put in prison for a crime, but is instead “absolute” in the sense of making the body and organs available for the use of others for their own ends — be they mere pleasure or even as serious as survival). Now, does this absolute legal right come based on a moral claim? Yes, I said that rights and morality are separate issues in the sense that an argument for/against one doesn’t necessarily impact the others, but this doesn’t mean that there is no connection at all.

I can easily make a case that you and I have have a right to free speech. Now, if I wanted to argue that you and I should have this legal right, I would employ a couple of different lines of argument. One would be practical — the positive effects of free speech and the negative effects of suppressed speech. I can also argue that freedom of speech is moral as well — that you and I have a moral claim to being allowed to speak our mind while others have a moral obligation to respect that claim.

So, what I’m asking is that if a woman has an absolute legal right to control her own body, and if you were asked to explain why a woman should have such a right, would one of your lines of argument be moral? Would you argue that women have a moral claim to having absolute autonomy over her own body? Would you argue that everyone else has an absolute moral obligation to respect that right?

By now, you are probably seeing how this might negatively impact an attempt to argue that the fetus has any moral claims over the woman’s body and organs. Remember, if the woman has an absolute moral claim to autonomy over her own body, then no being — including even a fetus which we assume to be the full moral equivalent of an adult human being — can have any moral claim to the use of the woman’s body without her permission.

You could avoid some (though not all) of the problems if you deny that the woman’s moral claim is absolute and instead argue that it is a non-absolute moral claim, but this would make it harder to argue that the right you are arguing for is absolute. Not impossible, mind you, but harder.

May 14, 2008 at 9:16 pm
(21) Austin Cline says:

There is nothing in the definitions of infant that I found that excludes a fetus from being an infant. They make no mention of birth as a defining characteristic:

Of course they do — and you’d have noticed if you had looked up “child.”

My question is, is there a material difference in the human organism ten minutes after it has passed through the birth canal that endows it with rights it did not possess ten minutes earlier?

No — on neither side of the birth canal is there a legal right to use a woman’s body or organs without her permission. A fetus does not have such a right. An infant does not have such a right. A teenager does not have such a right. An elderly person does not have such a right.

May 14, 2008 at 10:27 pm
(22) Zack says:

That’s less relevant than whether you can make a legal argument. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

Thanks for your post, which I read with great interest.

I’m not really out to make an argument, legal or otherwise. This is a question that has occupied many of the best minds of our time, and it arouses about as much animus today as it did decades ago. I don’t expect to produce a fresh insight that is going to tie up everything with a bow.

All I’m doing is asking the questions that occur to me, and expressing the deeply troubling nature of this issue for me personally. I’m not out to persuade anyone.

That said, I do believe that society has other effective means besides the legal system of working out difficult problems.

Remember, if the woman has an absolute moral claim to autonomy over her own body, then no being — including even a fetus which we assume to be the full moral equivalent of an adult human being — can have any moral claim to the use of the woman’s body without her permission. Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

It seems to me that in a pregnancy we are talking about two unique human bodies that are intimately connected. I agree that society has no legal right, and perhaps no moral claim, to insist that the woman give over the use of her body or organs to another person.

But it seems to me that in this situation, the woman is asserting a claim on the human body that is contained within her own body, and one which is unable to grant its permission.

May 14, 2008 at 10:30 pm
(23) Zack says:

Of course they do — and you’d have noticed if you had looked up “child.” Comment by Austin Cline — May 14, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

There is good support for your usage, but I still maintain that mine is defensible as well. Please see definition 2a:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/child

May 15, 2008 at 6:46 am
(24) Austin Cline says:

I’m not really out to make an argument, legal or otherwise. …All I’m doing is asking the questions that occur to me, and expressing the deeply troubling nature of this issue for me personally.

When you originally claimed that “The questions that divide us most painfully are not those of right versus wrong, but of right versus right.,” you were implying that this was one of those questions and, therefore, that those who would deny women autonomy over their own bodies are just as right as the women who want to control their bodies.

It seems to me that in a pregnancy we are talking about two unique human bodies that are intimately connected.

What “seems” to you or not isn’t particularly relevant. In what way can you argue that a fetus is a “human body” when it is an undifferentiated clump of cells? When major structures have yet to even begin to form?

But it seems to me that in this situation, the woman is asserting a claim on the human body that is contained within her own body, and one which is unable to grant its permission.

Here again, what “seems” to you matters not one whit. Can you demonstrate to any degree that refusing another the use of your body and organs entails asserting a claim over their body?

There is good support for your usage, but I still maintain that mine is defensible as well. Please see definition 2a

You”ll notice that the first — primary — definition is incompatible with 2a. Except for a few old-fashioned expressions (“she is with child”), you won’t find the word “child” used to refer to the fetus anywhere except the rhetoric of anti-choice activists. They like to refer to the fetus and zygote as “unborn child” because lying is necessary to their religious agenda. You won’t find the fetus treated as a child anywhere except in that rhetoric, either. If the fetus were a child, every miscarriage would require an autopsy. Indeed, why not a test of every period in order to check for a fertilized egg and, if found, give it a name and a funeral?

The reason why not is simple: a fetus, a zygote, and a fertilized egg are not children and are not treated like children.

May 15, 2008 at 12:34 pm
(25) K. Anonymous says:

Austin,

‘What “seems” to you or not isn’t particularly relevant. In what way can you argue that a fetus is a “human body” when it is an undifferentiated clump of cells? When major structures have yet to even begin to form?’

Austin, you seem to argue as though humanity’s knowledge of fetal development is far greater than it is. Not to mention the fact that clump of cells though it may be, that hardly defines its absolute abiltiy. That last sentence was a bit vague, so allow me to try and explain what I mean with an example.

Say a person is involved in a horrific accident, and is then braindead, (at least seemingly, I refer back to humanties afore-mentioned lack of knowledge on things such as the neurology of consciousness) but is given a 10% chance say that he will regain his ability late in life. Say this man’s life (I shall from hereon in refer to him as man A) is in someway tied to another person’s (who I shall refer to as man B), so that his life is impeded by having to support that of man A. Does he have the right to kill man A because at that point man A has no consciousness, even though he may develop some?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making a claim one way or another, I’m merely suggesting that perhaps this case isn’t as clear-cut as you like to claim, and that in order to address the case of abortion, one also addresses a case such as that of the example I just gave.

‘Here again, what “seems” to you matters not one whit. Can you demonstrate to any degree that refusing another the use of your body and organs entails asserting a claim over their body?’

How does the mother not ‘use’ the organs of the child by destroying them? Your example is reversible as Zack tried to point out (or at least I think he did). If the mother has a right to her body, the child has a right to its, at least to some point. Again I make no claim one way or the other, but this is a point you have tried and failed to refute.

To make this even clearer, I would like to cite that you did not only claim that the mother has an absolute right only when the fetus is a clump of cells, but even up until the point of birth the woman has absolute right over her body and so has absolute right over the life she carries. This is the whole point of my argument, you claim that by having complete dominion over her own body the woman has complete dominion over any life she carries, and that Austin, though it is not something I can disprove, is something I sincerely doubt you can prove, try though you may.

May 15, 2008 at 12:55 pm
(26) Austin Cline says:

Austin, you seem to argue as though humanity’s knowledge of fetal development is far greater than it is.

Not at all. Everything I have written is entirely compatible with what do we know about fetal development.

Say a person is involved in a horrific accident, and is then braindead, (at least seemingly, I refer back to humanties afore-mentioned lack of knowledge on things such as the neurology of consciousness) but is given a 10% chance say that he will regain his ability late in life. Say this man’s life (I shall from hereon in refer to him as man A) is in someway tied to another person’s (who I shall refer to as man B), so that his life is impeded by having to support that of man A. Does he have the right to kill man A because at that point man A has no consciousness, even though he may develop some?

Does B have the right to disconnect from A, or does the state have the authority to force B to remain connected to A against B’s will? The former, without question or hesitation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making a claim one way or another, I’m merely suggesting that perhaps this case isn’t as clear-cut as you like to claim

On the contrary, I don’t see any ambiguity at all in the matter. No state has any legitimate authority to force any person to provide their body or organs for the use of another person. The answer is equally clear even if the chances of A’s recovery are 100% and/or if A is conscious.

It would certainly be very nice if B volunteers his body to save A and I’m sure that most people would praise B. Some might even be a bit critical of B for refusing. A does not, however, have any legal right to or moral claim to B’s body.

If you disagree, then you have two tasks which are necessitated by that position: first explaining the basis and any precedent for this legal authority, and second explaining whether you agree if the state therefore also has the right to take from you, right now, one of your kidneys (providing you have two healthy kidneys and there is no reason to think you can’t live with one), a bit of your liver, some of your bone marrow, some blood, some sperm, etc.

If the state has the authority to force you to remain connected to a person for some period of time in order to save their life, I see no way of denying the state a similar authority to forcibly remove bits of your body that might help save someone’s life (especially since removing bits will often be less autonomy-denying that hooking you up to someone). So if you do deny the state this authority, you’ll have to deny the authority of hooking you up to someone — and if you have an absolute right to refuse to be hooked up to another adult to save their life, you can’t deny women an absolute right to refuse to be pregnant, even if it means a fetus dies.

How does the mother not ‘use’ the organs of the child by destroying them?

Denying access to one’s own body is not using the body of another. In the above example, B is not “using” the organs or body of A when B disconnects himself. The body and organs of A will die as a consequence of this action, but it is not “use” of something to refuse to sustain that something. Similarly, removal of a fetus is not “use” of the body and organs of the fetus. The fetus, even if we assume for the sake of argument that it has all the same rights, legal status, and moral status of an adult human being, has no legal right to or moral claim over the body and organs of an adult human being against their will.

People may not like the consequence of a person denying use of their body and organs to a fetus, and that’s fine. People also often don’t like the consequence of a person refusing to donate blood to help disaster victims, refusing to even be tested for bone marrow compatibility for the sake of a relative with cancer, refusing to donate a kidney to a relative, or refusing to be an organ donor generally. That’s fine, too. Not liking the fact that people don’t volunteer up their bodies and organs for the use of others is not, however, a basis for having the state force them to do it.

May 15, 2008 at 1:20 pm
(27) K. Anonymous says:

Austin,

‘Does B have the right to disconnect from A, or does the state have the authority to force B to remain connected to A against B’s will? The former, without question or hesitation.’

I think you’ll notice upon re-reading my example that I don’t at any point imply the state has the right to force B to support A. Nor do I argue that the state should be allowed to force women to give birth if they do not wish. I’m not here to make that claim.

After reading your response, I think there is only one question that is yet unanswered, though I think it is an important one.

‘It would certainly be very nice if B volunteers his body to save A and I’m sure that most people would praise B. Some might even be a bit critical of B for refusing. A does not, however, have any legal right to or moral claim to B’s body.’

What if B was responsible for A’s accident? As a mother is responsible (at least to some extent) for the child’s birth. I’m not implying this question undermine’s your argument, I am merely curious as to your answer.

Incidentally, I’d like to put some clarification at the end of this post, just so that anyone happening to read this doesn’t think I’m claiming things that I am not:

I do not support the forcing of women to give birth against their will by state or peer pressure or any other form.

I do however think that though fetal life is not worth as much as that of the fully-developed, it is worth something. And that this should be considered by anyone who wishes to have an abortion. Given the power to enforce a birth at any stage in a pregnancy, I would not do so, that is immoral. I only suggest that such questions as ‘what is the value of the potential that is destroyed in an abortion?’ are worth asking before having an abortion.

May 15, 2008 at 2:18 pm
(28) Austin Cline says:

I think you’ll notice upon re-reading my example that I don’t at any point imply the state has the right to force B to support A.

I didn’t say you did. That, however, is one of the main questions at issue.

What if B was responsible for A’s accident?

That wouldn’t change anything. It’s actually not that hard to imagine just such a situation: a reckless teenager causes an accident, leading to serious internal injuries for one of the passengers in the other car. Or even to a passenger in the car that the teenager was driving. Such accidents happen every day, unfortunately.

If the teenager happens to be a match for the seriously injured victim, can they be forced to donate a kidney? Absolutely not. Indeed, they can’t be forced to even donate blood to the victim.

Now, in such a situation my comments before about “it would be nice if” would be stronger, but nothing really changes. Nothing changes if the teenager wasn’t being reckless. Nothing changes if it was an adult who caused the accident — not through recklessness, but only technically (if you hit the rear half of another car, in most cases you are technically at fault) and after taking all the basic precautions which we expect of drivers.

I do however think that though fetal life is not worth as much as that of the fully-developed, it is worth something.

Worth? Worth means value, and value does not exist in a vacuum — value only exists in the sense of “value to” some sentient being. To whom, then, does the life of a random, unknown fetus have value to?

This is why abortion is legal, but causing the death of a fetus when attacking a woman who intends to give birth is not: the life of the fetus has value to the woman in the latter case. It doesn’t value to the fetus unless and until the fetus is capable of forming intentions, capable of self-awareness, etc. Thus far, everything we know about fetal brain development indicates that such capabilities don’t exist for the fetus.

And that this should be considered by anyone who wishes to have an abortion.

What needs to be considered by anyone considering an abortion is what they personally think about the subject. The fetus’ life can’t have value to itself, and any value it might have to others is ultimately irrelevant (since she can’t be forced to give birth), so in the end what matters if whether the fetus’ life has value to her and how that value measures up against other considerations.

I only suggest that such questions as ‘what is the value of the potential that is destroyed in an abortion?’ are worth asking before having an abortion.

It’s about as “worth asking” as “what is the value of the potential that is destroyed by not fertilizing the egg that my ovaries about to eject.” After all, there is potential there and it is destroyed if the egg is expelled, if a fertilized egg is expelled, if sperm are prevented from fertilizing the egg, etc. I don’t think that most women give that a lot of thought because, if they did, their conclusion would be “not much at all, especially when compared what is entailed by getting pregnant, giving birth, and raising that child.”

May 15, 2008 at 4:04 pm
(29) K. Anonymous says:

Austin,

‘it’s about as “worth asking” as “what is the value of the potential that is destroyed by not fertilizing the egg that my ovaries about to eject.” After all, there is potential there and it is destroyed if the egg is expelled, if a fertilized egg is expelled, if sperm are prevented from fertilizing the egg, etc.’

Not really, the fetus is already a formed piece of life, unlike unfertilized eggs and sperm. I’d like to refer back to my previous example (in a slightly different way) to ask if you would then say man A has as much potential as an unfertilized egg?

May 15, 2008 at 4:55 pm
(30) Austin Cline says:

Not really, the fetus is already a formed piece of life, unlike unfertilized eggs and sperm.

Eggs and sperm are both formed and alive.

I’d like to refer back to my previous example (in a slightly different way) to ask if you would then say man A has as much potential as an unfertilized egg?

Perhaps more. Perhaps less. Depends upon what you mean by “potential.” A young music virtuoso might have more potential than a 60-year-old diabetic; or he might have less if he is cynical and friendless while the latter has a large, loving family. The idea of ascribing “potential” here sounds too much like ascribing “value,” and suggesting that we can conclude that one life has more value than another because of a person’s intelligence, education, job, loved ones, etc.

At least there is the theoretical possibility of comparing to possible “A”s because we have data about them as persons to use, even if there is no realistic way of deciding which data really matters — and even if the data is arguably unimportant if “past performance is no indicator of future success.”

With both a fetus and an egg, we can at most say that it has the potential of being born. Beyond that, who knows.

May 15, 2008 at 10:49 pm
(31) Zack says:

You’’ll notice that the first — primary — definition is incompatible with 2a. Comment by Austin Cline — May 15, 2008 @ 6:46 am

Dictionaries that follow standard practice present alternative spellings and pronuncians in order from most to least common. However, word meanings normally are given in the order of their historical occurance, with the earliest usage given first. The first position in most dictionaries does not in itself indicate that the usage is in any way more legitimate than those that follow. However, if you believe that the first position confers special distinction on a usage, here is an entry for your consideration:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Child

Please note usage 1a.

Except for a few old-fashioned expressions (”she is with child”), you won’t find the word “child” used to refer to the fetus anywhere except the rhetoric of anti-choice activists. Comment by Austin Cline — May 15, 2008 @ 6:46 am

Dictionaries employ a nomenclature to signal when the status of a usage is nonstandard. These may be temporal, regional, or stylistic. The temporal label obs for “obsolete” means that there is no evidence of use in historically recent time — in the case of Merriam Webster, this means since 1755. The temporal label archaic means that a word or sense once in common use is found today only sporadically or in special contexts.

Usage that is current in all regions of the United States have no label. Please note that the definitions I supplied do not indicate that the usage of “child” to mean “unborn infant” is obsolete, archaic, slang, or in any other way nonstandard English.

They like to refer to the fetus and zygote as “unborn child” because lying is necessary to their religious agenda. You won’t find the fetus treated as a child anywhere except in that rhetoric, either. If the fetus were a child, every miscarriage would require an autopsy. Indeed, why not a test of every period in order to check for a fertilized egg and, if found, give it a name and a funeral? The reason why not is simple: a fetus, a zygote, and a fertilized egg are not children and are not treated like children. Comment by Austin Cline — May 15, 2008 @ 6:46 am

This is clearly an issue to which you have given careful thought, and your comments here and elsewhere deserve a considered response. I’m going out of town for a few days, but I look forward to rejoining our discussion when I return.

May 15, 2008 at 11:00 pm
(32) Zack says:

Your example is reversible as Zack tried to point out (or at least I think he did). Comment by K. Anonymous — May 15, 2008 @ 12:34 pm

I did my humble best. ;-)

May 16, 2008 at 1:21 am
(33) Zack says:

Usage that is current in all regions of the United States have no label. Comment by Zack — May 15, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

Wow, what a train wreck that sentence is. Let’s try it again:

A usage that is current in all regions of the United States has no label.

May 16, 2008 at 6:36 am
(34) Austin Cline says:

However, word meanings normally are given in the order of their historical occurance, with the earliest usage given first.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary you quote may do this, and you had to seek it out to find a dictionary that gave you what you want, but other dictionaries list the most common usage first.

Do note that you have cited two different dictionaries, depending on which would appear to help you, and each gave a different definition first.

Dictionaries employ a nomenclature to signal when the status of a usage is nonstandard.

The old-fashioned expressions I referenced aren’t “non-standard.” They are, however, a restricted context. No, they don’t always specify “archaic” for that — not even Merriam-Webster. The word “clad” is only used today in a few old-fashioned expressions, and it’s not marked as “archaic.”

May 16, 2008 at 6:58 pm
(35) K. Anonymous says:

‘The idea of ascribing “potential” here sounds too much like ascribing “value,” and suggesting that we can conclude that one life has more value than another because of a person’s intelligence, education, job, loved ones, etc.’

A what point in development do you think an unborn life goes from having only potential to having value?

Your arguments of a person’s absolute right over their body at all times implies that you think that abortion at any point is acceptable, however I’m not sure this is what you think, so I ask, is it?

May 16, 2008 at 9:29 pm
(36) Austin Cline says:

A what point in development do you think an unborn life goes from having only potential to having value?

It has value at any point that a value-ascribing entity can ascribe value to it. Of course, it doesn’t matter that someone ascribes value to it unless it is the person whose body is being used.

Your arguments of a person’s absolute right over their body at all times implies that you think that abortion at any point is acceptable, however I’m not sure this is what you think, so I ask, is it?

There is no point in time at which the state has the authority to force any person to provide their body or organs for the use of any other being — adult human, animal, vegetable, fetal, etc.

May 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm
(37) K. Anonymous says:

‘Of course, it doesn’t matter that someone ascribes value to it unless it is the person whose body is being used.’

So for example the life of a siamese twin then only has value to the twin with whom he shares organs? Only if you believe that until after birth does a human have any desire to maintain its own life can you say that there is a difference between aborting a very-nearly born life and the killing of one siamese twin by another (assuming that one can live without the other but the killed one relies on the aforementioned’s organs for life)

‘There is no point in time at which the state has the authority to force any person to provide their body or organs for the use of any other being — adult human, animal, vegetable, fetal, etc.’

So you endorse abortion at any point in development? Up until any point before birth?

May 17, 2008 at 2:47 pm
(38) Austin Cline says:

So for example the life of a siamese twin then only has value to the twin with whom he shares organs?

Siamese twins aren’t any different in this respect than anyone else, and thus my response here differs not at all from what I’ve already written in comment #28

So you endorse abortion at any point in development? Up until any point before birth?

You’re repeating your question, and my answer is the same as what I wrote in #36.

I’ll clarify, in case the language I’ve used is not plain enough. I neither “endorse” nor “disapprove of” any abortion — it’s not my place as it’s not my body in question. You might as well ask me if I “endorse” some random, unknown adult getting their ear pierced. The question is thus itself basically inappropriate.

Only the person whose body is being used has any authority to determine what happens to their body. This is why my answer can only be what I already wrote: There is no point in time at which the state has the authority to force any person to provide their body or organs for the use of any other being — adult human, animal, vegetable, fetal, etc.

If the state has no such authority, and if no other human being has the authority to exercise their will over the woman, then it follows necessarily ultimately the woman and the woman alone can and should make the decision. It also follows necessarily that woman will make decisions to abort and not to abort all along the continuum of pregnancy. It’s a virtual certainty that some women will decide to abort in cases where I might not, and some will decide not to abort in cases where I might. Since I never will be in such a situation, and since I cannot speak about unknown women in unknown situations, I’m not going to make irrelevant and hypothetical guesses.

May 20, 2008 at 1:13 pm
(39) david says:

You believe that a person’s right to decide what entity does/does not use their body to survive trumps a human’s right to live (one of our inalienable rights, at least as recognized in the U.S.)?

It is not a crime for a person to depend on another for survival. That dependence is enough to allow the innocent human to be killed? I do not believe it is right to kill an innocent human.

Another point I wanted to touch upon is your contention about what is a human.

An unfertilized egg and sperm are not the same thing as a fertilized egg & sperm.

The overwhelming consensus among developmental biologists is that life begins at syngamy, or fertilization. That is when the egg & sperm join, forming a zygote, and the maternal and paternal DNA intermingle, thus producing a new human, genetically differentiated from the “host”, as you probably think of her.

At that point, though some of the cells will end up as extraembryonic cells and tissues, a new human being has been created.

Whether following a form of the Hippocratic Oath or the Declaration of Geneva, physicians have an obligation to care for the health of their patients, including these newly formed humans.

As for the life of the mother exceptions, etc., they are no different. An abortion is never necessary to protect the life of the mother. If a procedure needs to be performed (medication prescribed, etc.) to save her life (e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy) and it results in the death of the developing human, then it is necessary and the death is both unavoidable and unintentional.

Therein lies the two most important aspects to this debate:

- Human life begins at conception
- Intentionally killing an innocent human being is never right

May 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm
(40) Austin Cline says:

You believe that a person’s right to decide what entity does/does not use their body to survive trumps a human’s right to live

Yes, because no on has a right to use your body and organs against your will in order to live. If you disagree, then you must necessarily believe that the government can force you to donate blood and organs against your will. Right?

I notice that you offer no response to K. Anonymous’ analogy. Would use the force of law and the power of the state to prevent B from disconnecting from A? If B did it, would you prosecute B for murder?

It is not a crime for a person to depend on another for survival.

Red Herring fallacy; the question isn’t about “depending” on someone for survival, but using their body and organs against the person’s will.

An unfertilized egg and sperm are not the same thing as a fertilized egg & sperm.

Of course they are not the same; your job, though, is to explain what difference justifies different treatment.

As for the life of the mother exceptions, etc., they are no different. An abortion is never necessary to protect the life of the mother. If a procedure needs to be performed (medication prescribed, etc.) to save her life (e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy) and it results in the death of the developing human, then it is necessary and the death is both unavoidable and unintentional.

So abortion is never necessary to protect the life of the mother, but it’s OK to perform an abortion to save the life of the mother. Sorry, but that’s incoherent. Abortion in cases like ectopic pregnancy have the goal of saving the mother through the means of eliminating the fetus. The means is intentional and deliberate.

May 20, 2008 at 11:20 pm
(41) Peter-W says:

Thanks Austin for your clear thinking on this issue.

You say “Remember, if the woman has an absolute moral claim to autonomy over her own body, then no being — including even a fetus which we assume to be the full moral equivalent of an adult human being — can have any moral claim to the use of the woman’s body without her permission.”

Does this moral claim alter if she has inititally consented to becoming pregnant, then decides not to continue the pregnancy ? Perhaps the relationship ends, or other circumstances change. Perhaps having sex knowing that pregnancy may result is itself consent to becoming pregnant. Is this analagous to offering use of a house then withdrawng it without compensation ?

Thanks
Peter

May 21, 2008 at 6:02 am
(42) Austin Cline says:

Does this moral claim alter if she has inititally consented to becoming pregnant, then decides not to continue the pregnancy ?

No.

Is this analagous to offering use of a house then withdrawng it without compensation ?

In such cases there is usually a signed contract and thus a legal obligation. Eliminate the contract from the scenario and I have a right to change my mind and refuse to sell you something that I earlier agreed to sell you. If you try to take it anyway, that’s theft.

Or to consider a possibly more relevant example, if a woman agrees to have sex with you but then changes her mind, you’re guilty of rape if you refuse to listen.

May 27, 2008 at 2:30 pm
(43) John Hanks says:

Sophistry and obscurantism are always wrong. It all started in a garden with a lie.

May 27, 2008 at 5:14 pm
(44) Peter-W says:

Continuing from my previous post no 41 and Austin’s response 42.

A verbal contract is still an enforceable contract. There are two I can think of that might be important here.

Firstly a marriage contract which explicitly or implicitly includes the intention to have children.

Secondly. By agreeing to have sex, knowing she could become pregnant. This is a contract to bear the outcome of pregnancy. An analogy would be buying (or selling) a lottery ticket, you contract to either collect (or pay) if the ticket wins.

You can’t then say “I withdrew my consent to sex (or pregnancy) after ejaculation” (or the lottery draw in the analogy) so the contract is invalid.

Or can you ?

Note I am saying after ejaculation, so sex is consensual at least up to that point.

Why does her moral claim not alter then ?

May 27, 2008 at 5:22 pm
(45) Austin Cline says:

A verbal contract is still an enforceable contract.

How so, here?

Firstly a marriage contract which explicitly or implicitly includes the intention to have children.

I’m not aware of any marriage contracts which include this.

Secondly. By agreeing to have sex, knowing she could become pregnant. This is a contract to bear the outcome of pregnancy.

How is this a contract? Is it still a contract if steps to prevent pregnancy are taken?

An analogy would be buying (or selling) a lottery ticket, you contract to either collect (or pay) if the ticket wins.

Such conditions are explicitly printed on the ticket, so this isn’t a verbal contract and thus isn’t relevant.

You can’t then say “I withdrew my consent to sex (or pregnancy) after ejaculation” (or the lottery draw in the analogy) so the contract is invalid.

By that point, the sex may be over. However, you haven’t demonstrated that the act of sex carries any contract, verbal or implied, which requires the women to provide her body and organs for sustaining the life of another being.

Why does her moral claim not alter then ?

I see nothing to alter her moral claim. If your argument is that having sex which might lead to pregnancy creates some obligation on the part of the women to carry a pregnancy to term, you need to make that argument directly and explicitly.

June 6, 2008 at 2:19 pm
(46) david says:

Yes, because no on[sic] has a right to use your body and organs against your will in order to live. If you disagree, then you must necessarily believe that the government can force you to donate blood and organs against your will. Right?

That straw man argument is not the same. Giving blood and/or organs for another human outside your body, who may need them to live, is not the same as a woman carrying a developing fetus that was created from her own body. And, no, I do not necessarily need to believe that it’s OK for someone to be forced to donate organs and/or blood in order to be consistent with my beliefs regarding abortion.

I notice that you offer no response to K. Anonymous’ analogy. Would use the force of law and the power of the state to prevent B from disconnecting from A? If B did it, would you prosecute B for murder?

I offered no response because this is another straw man fallacy. With abortion, we’re talking about a new person created from, and dependent on, someone else’s body and their (the developing fetus’) own rights to their body and life, and is not the same as medical treatment of someone with a brain injury. A mother-child relationship is at least commensal, if not mutualistic, and is not parasitic like this analogy.

I’ll give my opinion, though: If person A did not have a living will and never once shared her intentions with anyone regarding what treatments she wanted in that type of situation, then I don’t think person A depends on any one person for survival. If a family member or other person(s) wants to care for person A, so be it. But again, this is nothing like intentionally killing an otherwise normally developing person in a womb.

Red Herring fallacy; the question isn’t about “depending” on someone for survival, but using their body and organs against the person’s will.

And here we have the crux of the situation. You contend that a woman’s rights to control her own body can infringe another person’s right to their life. This is not logical. I will get to that in a moment.

Of course they are not the same; your job, though, is to explain what difference justifies different treatment.

I already have, but you left that portion out of your quote & reply.

Earlier, you mentioned that “[l]acking consciousness, intents, or desires, a fetus can [sic] no more rights than a stone” and “An ‘unborn infant’ is a contradiction in terms, like an unmarried wife or unround circle.”

These statements are not true. A humans societal funtions (or lack thereof) do not define its humanness. As mentioned earlier (which your silence/avoidance highlights), human life begins at conception is a biological fact. Additionally, every person is guaranteed the right to life. There is no distinction between the rights of a born or unborn person to life. (Unborn child is not a contradiction in term, contrary to your claim. Unborn simply means “not yet born” or “existing in utero”. I suggest you consult a dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster.) Therefore, an unborn person is guaranteed the right to life. When a woman’s right to the use of her own body infringes the rights of another to keep their body intact, her rights can be curtailed. A person’s rights to their own life (and body) are indeed valid, and should be protected no matter where she lives, even if it is in a womb.

As for the life of the mother exceptions, etc., they are no different. An abortion is never necessary to protect the life of the mother. If a procedure needs to be performed (medication prescribed, etc.) to save her life (e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy) and it results in the death of the developing human, then it is necessary and the death is both unavoidable and unintentional.

So abortion is never necessary to protect the life of the mother, but it’s OK to perform an abortion to save the life of the mother. Sorry, but that’s incoherent. Abortion in cases like ectopic pregnancy have the goal of saving the mother through the means of eliminating the fetus. The means is intentional and deliberate.

I never said abortion was OK. When I refer to medical procedures that may be necessary to save a woman’s life, I am not referring to an abortion. I am referring to the careful treatment of the mother’s illness (or, in the example I used, ectopic pregnancy). Some examples:

If a woman needs medication to stop life-threatening seizures, but the medication may kill or severly harm the unborn child, the medical necessity of the medication for the mother is different from, and does not justify, an intentional killing of a child via abortion.

As for the ectopic pregnancy example. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy in a fallopian tube, while I am not aware of any cases where the child survived, there have been large studies confirming that the vast majority of them will result in spontaneous regression (death of the developing embryo followed by resorption of the cells) or (natural) tubal abortion. If the ectopic pregnancy does not spontaneously resolve and if the physician is 100% certain the woman is not carrying twins (which does happen: one develops in the uterus & the other in a fallopian tube) a medically necessary procedure (such as tube removal) is warranted to save the woman and is not the same thing as a “therapuetic abortion”. The important thing to remember here, though, is that for all intents and purposes the fetus developing in the fallopian tube is already dead. No child has the ability to develop in a fallopian tube and survive.

So, in that particular case, since the child was already going to die, the death is not intentional (on the part of the mother or doctor) and is not anything like a therapeutic abortion which is nothing but an intentional killing of a human.

June 6, 2008 at 3:35 pm
(47) Austin Cline says:

That straw man argument is not the same. Giving blood and/or organs for another human outside your body, who may need them to live, is not the same as a woman carrying a developing fetus that was created from her own body.

The fallacy you are looking for is “false analogy,” not “straw man,” and it’s up to you to demonstrate how the analogy doesn’t work.

I offered no response because this is another straw man fallacy.

I don’t think you understand how that fallacy is defined. A “straw man” fallacy is an attack on position which the other person doesn’t hold, but which looks the same because it’s a weaker form of the correct person. We’re talking about an analogy, in which case the fallacy would have to be a “false analogy” fallacy. In such a case, however, it’s up to you to demonstrate what’s wrong with the analogy. You can’t simply reject it out of hand; you must point to specific issues which the analogy doesn’t address and demonstrate why they are critical.

With abortion, we’re talking about a new person created from, and dependent on, someone else’s body and their (the developing fetus’) own rights to their body and life, and is not the same as medical treatment of someone with a brain injury.

No, it’s not exactly the same, but they don’t need to be identical for an analogy to be valid. All that’s needed is for them to be similar in the relevant aspects — which, in this case, appear to only be the factors of personhood and dependency on the woman’s body for life. If you think that there are additional factors which are relevant, it’s up to you to say what they are and explain why they undermine the analogy.

You contend that a woman’s rights to control her own body can infringe another person’s right to their life.

I contend that a woman’s right to personal, bodily autonomy cannot be overridden by the state in the sense that the state can force a woman to provide her body or organs for use by another — whether that other is a person or not.

These statements are not true. A humans societal funtions (or lack thereof) do not define its humanness.

The statements in question made no reference to “societal functions.” So, if they are not true, you have not explained how or why.

As mentioned earlier (which your silence/avoidance highlights), human life begins at conception is a biological fact. Additionally, every person is guaranteed the right to life.

Do note that you switch here from “human life” to “person.” They are not legally the same.

However, it should also be noted that the analogy — which you have thus far failed to demonstrate is invalid — does not depend on the fetus not having rights.

When a woman’s right to the use of her own body infringes the rights of another to keep their body intact, her rights can be curtailed.

That is a strong statement. I expect you can provide a legal basis for this. Please cite the relevant case law and explain the nature of state authority in such matters.

An abortion is never necessary to protect the life of the mother. If a procedure needs to be performed (medication prescribed, etc.) to save her life (e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy) and it results in the death of the developing human, then it is necessary and the death is both unavoidable and unintentional.

So, abortion is never necessary to protect the life of the mother, but if an abortion is necessary to save her life, then it only unintentionally kills the fetus and isn’t “really” an abortion? Sorry, but a procedure to save a woman’s life is the same as a procedure to simply remove the fetus. Both have the intention of removing the fetus, regardless of whether the woman’s life is at stake.

I could just as easily say that abortion is never necessary for the mother’s convenience. If a procedure needs to be performed (medication prescribed, etc.) to ensure that she can make her upcoming ski trip and it results in the death of a developing human, then it is necessary and the death is both unavoidable and unintentional. Convincing? Of course not — it’s just a dishonest redefinition of “abortion” so as to avoid an undesired consequence.

When I refer to medical procedures that may be necessary to save a woman’s life, I am not referring to an abortion.

When I refer to medical procedures that may be necessary to save a woman’s ski trip, I am not referring to an abortion. Except I am, if the proceedures meet the medical definition of abortion — and so are you, if the procedures meet the medical definition of abortion.

June 8, 2008 at 6:31 am
(48) Zack says:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary you quote may do this, and you had to seek it out to find a dictionary that gave you what you want, but other dictionaries list the most common usage first. Comment by Austin Cline — May 16, 2008 @ 6:36 am

This is an important point, because you are implying here that there is something fishy about the way I use a dictionary. You appear to be saying that, properly used and understood, then there is no support from authoritative, respected dictionaries for the use of the the term “unborn infant.” Do I understand you correctly on this point?

Do note that you have cited two different dictionaries, depending on which would appear to help you, and each gave a different definition first. Comment by Austin Cline — May 16, 2008 @ 6:36 am

You told me to consult a dictionary, and I did. I found support in that dictionary for my usage of “unborn infant.” You then introduced a new benchmark: the first definition is the one that really matters. That claim is not correct, but rather than get into a long sidebar about why it is wrong, I simply cited a dictionary that answers your concern on this point.

What was your purpose in sending me to the dictionary in the first place?

The old-fashioned expressions I referenced aren’t “non-standard.” Comment by Austin Cline — May 16, 2008 @ 6:36 am

By “old-fashioned expressions,” do you mean “child” in the sense of unborn infant? That is the term I used, and to which you objected. Please acknowledge that “not non-standard” means the same thing in your sentence as “standard,” and that if a term is standard English then it is perfectly acceptable for use by anyone.

They are, however, a restricted context. Comment by Austin Cline — May 16, 2008 @ 6:36 am

What does this mean? Is this a term used by language authorities to assess the legitimacy of a usage, or is it a term you have coined for the present discussion?

No, they don’t always specify “archaic” for that — not even Merriam-Webster. Comment by Austin Cline — May 16, 2008 @ 6:36 am

Where to draw the line on “archaic,” as in many matters pertaining to language and usage, is to some degree a matter of informed opinion. Dictionaries (such as Merriam-Wesbter) which are recognized as authoritative reference works by the Modern Language Association will differ about where such a line, but all of them will draw the line somewhere. If the use of “child” to mean “unborn infant” really is archaic, then you ought to be able to find at least one dictionary that says so.

It is interesting to me that when you discover that dictionaries do not support your opinion about a word, you adjust your estimate of dictionaries instead of adjusting your estimate of your opinion. The obvious reason that dictionaries do not list “clad” as archaic is that it is a perfectly acceptable word and is found in standard English. That you consider it “old-fashioned” does not affect its legitimacy, and its current usage is not limited in the manner you state.

October 13, 2008 at 12:16 am
(49) Paul says:

To say that anti-abortion principles are wrong because they potentially lead to the death of a woman is insane. First off, you are stating that the death of a few women is less moral than the killings of thousands of babies. You said yourself that if a set of principles leads to immoral actions they should be dropped or revised. It seems that pro-abortion or “pro-choice” principles have led to the deaths of millions of babies; or “fetuses” as you may prefer. Perhaps you are the one that needs to reconsider your principles. The percentage chance of a woman dying during child birth is much less than a woman surviving child birth. You have assumed that unborn babies are nothing more than parasites in implying that anti-abortion principles are wrong. By the way, how exactly is it you decide what is moral and what is immoral?

October 13, 2008 at 6:20 am
(50) Austin Cline says:

To say that anti-abortion principles are wrong because they potentially lead to the death of a woman is insane.

No one made any such claim, so you are objecting to something that is only in your own head.

First off, you are stating that the death of a few women is less moral than the killings of thousands of babies.

This is only true if the fetus has a moral claim on the body and organs of the mother. Since you don’t even try to establish that, your argument can’t be taken seriously

October 14, 2008 at 12:51 am
(51) Amby says:

“Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my 36 years of pediatric surgery, I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life. If toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, the doctor will induce labor or perform a Caesarean section. His intention is to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

-C. Everett Koop, M.D., former U.S. Surgeon General

October 14, 2008 at 6:07 am
(52) Austin Cline says:

Can you give an original source for that quote? I doubt its veracity because no one with the least medical knowledge would say it. Such a person would have to be either ignorant of things like ecotopic pregnancies, or simply lying about them.

October 15, 2008 at 11:46 pm
(53) Zack says:

This is only true if the fetus has a moral claim on the body and organs of the mother. — Comment by Austin Cline — October 13, 2008 @ 6:20 am

If the fetus has a mother, doesn’t that mean that the fetus is a child?

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mother

October 17, 2008 at 4:25 pm
(54) Drew says:

“The Bible condemns abortion and offers no exceptions to this rule. Abortion is not even biblically permissible in so-called “life of the mother” cases”, claims Douglas W. Philips.

Um, doesn’t Yahweh command his “chosen people” to slit the bellies of pregnant mothers? Or is that a different Bible that I’ve read quotes from? Doesn’t sound like condemnation of abortion to me.

October 17, 2008 at 4:41 pm
(55) Bill T says:

Forced childbirth is hideous-a form of slavery. What a pregnant Mary Jones down the street wants to do with her body is her own business.Blue noses should devote their time and energy to protesting the deaths of innocent civilians killed by US intervention in other parts of the world-

October 17, 2008 at 6:40 pm
(56) DonFrmADrkSky says:

I’ m an atheist (irrelevant) who believes in accountability, No matter what your beliefs. In MY opinion, indiscriminate abortion is wrong (i.e. teenage girl, numerous sex partners). You’re old enough to consciously have sex, you old enough to take care of a child (warning sarcasm: fertility seems to be inversely proportionate to IQ). Is SOME cases (i.e. rape); I believe abortion to be a valid alternative. My point to the “Fundys” is this. This is NOT Nazi Germany, this is NOT a militant Muslim, Taliban controlled regime (ironically Christianity and Islam are two sides of the same coin!). This country was founded upon liberal, secular beliefs. The ultimate decision SHOULD lie with the individual (and THEIR conscience), NOT religiously subjective laws. Stop trying to control the world. Believe what you want to believe, and leave everyone else alone. One day another “true” faith will come along, just to replace yours, and the masses will leech on to suckle the opium (Marx, my interpretation). History repeats itself (sorry, but your just a “flavor of the millennium”). The last time politics and religion followed the same path, was called the dark ages… Now to ruin my well thought out, and logical comment with this… AUSTIN OWNS!

October 19, 2008 at 11:15 pm
(57) Zack says:

Can you give an original source for that quote? I doubt its veracity because no one with the least medical knowledge would say it. Such a person would have to be either ignorant of things like ecotopic pregnancies, or simply lying about them. — Comment by Austin Cline — October 14, 2008 @ 6:07 am

The quote above, attributed to Koop by Amby, can be found on this anti-abortion website, which likewise attributes it to Koop without citing a source:

http://grove.ufl.edu/~prolife/staticpages/index.php?page=quotes

It doesn’t sound much like Koop, whose position on abortion is traced in some detail here:

http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/QQ/Views/Exhibit/narrative/abortion.html

October 19, 2008 at 11:26 pm
(58) Zack says:

Forced childbirth is hideous-a form of slavery. — Comment by Bill T — October 17, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

Agreed. Ripping a helpless baby to pieces isn’t an unalloyed good, either.

What a pregnant Mary Jones down the street wants to do with her body is her own business. — Comment by Bill T — October 17, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

No argument here. Now, if we’re talking about what she wants to do to the body of her baby, then you and I may have a difference of opinion.

Blue noses should devote their time and energy to protesting the deaths of innocent civilians killed by US intervention in other parts of the world- Comment by Bill T — October 17, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

Is there some reason that only bluenoses ought to be concerned by the loss of innocent life?

December 4, 2008 at 10:46 pm
(59) KO says:

Question: If a woman is dying in childbirth, who should be saved, the mother or the child?

Answer: Better to lose one fruit than to lose the entire tree.

June 22, 2009 at 3:33 pm
(60) Ms. Taylor says:

I believe that it is easy to point fingers and say things are wrong when it is convienent for the outsider. As a women, being in a situation where you cannot make a decision and not be criticized as an immoral human being is ridiculous. I think people should mind there own business, and if you are not contributing to the households of these women, then you need to deal with your own problems cause we all have them

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