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"Will Science trump Politics in Resolving Abortion Debate?"

Wendy Mcelroy asks the question in a thought-provoking column:

For better or worse, new reproductive technologies are redefining the ground rules of reproduction. (And, no, the force of law can not hold back scientific 'progress,' as authorities have discovered repeatedly since Galileo's day.)

New reproductive technologies may also redefine the politics surrounding reproduction, including the issue of abortion. I welcome the prospect. It is difficult to believe that science could do a worse job with the issue than courts and fanatic rhetoric. At the very least, science may offer new methods of ending a pregnancy without destroying an embryo or fetus.

***

Science will not make the abortion debate go away. The conflict is too deep and involves such fundamental questions of ethics and rights as, "What is a human life?" "Can two 'human beings' — a fetus and the pregnant woman — claim control over the same body?" and "When does an individual with rights come into existence?" These questions are beyond the scope of science.

Nevertheless, technology can impact the debate in at least two ways. First, it can explore ways to end a pregnancy without destroying the fetus, which may then be sustained; if such procedures became accessible and inexpensive (or financed by adoptive 'parents'), then abortion rates would likely decline…and sharply.

Second, it may offer "an out" for activists on both sides who sincerely wish to resolve the debate and not merely scream at each other at ever increasing shrillness.

Many pro-choice women, like me, have been deeply disturbed by ultrasound scan photos that show fetuses, at earlier than once thought periods of gestation, sucking their thumbs, appearing to smile and otherwise resembling a full-term baby. Many of us would welcome alternate procedures and forms of ectogenesis as long as they remained choices. And as long as both parental rights and parental responsibilities could be relinquished.

Gump:
What else are women like you distubred by?
9.16.2005 1:02pm
elliottg (mail):
What an amazingly ignorant column. My guess (because I don't know anything about the writer) is that she is definitely pro-life. Even if any of the premises were true, just compare the cost of a fetus transplant vs. an embryo implantation makes the idea that science will be able to pursue this ridiculous. Or campare the number of abortions performed vs. the number of adoptions. I can't believe Zywicki who is an economist even felt this kind of balthering worthy of note.
9.16.2005 1:11pm
Gump:
elliottg

It's true. Todd Zywicki is being a pretty transparent lady here. It's as if she doesn't even know what it's like to really be a woman.
9.16.2005 1:18pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
A simple google search shows her extensive writings... agree or disagree with them, but it seems pretty clear that she's a pro-choice libertarian.

(I apologize for the blatant attempt to pidgeonhole her after scanning the titles of her articles and skimming a couple of them.)
9.16.2005 1:22pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Science will win in this debate. Plus, as with everything, when one side of the issue can't actually call what they support by its actual name, they are destined to name.

It's always "pro-choice" and, my favorite, "reproductive rights." Ok, fine. But in the end, it is "abortion."

And, how many stories have you read where a pregnant woman was described as carrying a "fetus?" I never met any woman who was pregnant and said, "Want to feel the fetus kick?" or anything like that.

The people who have a deep financial stake in Big Abortion will eventually lose.
9.16.2005 1:24pm
Steve:
If we can't even agree on the morning-after pill, something that would clearly reduce the number of abortions by a great deal, how could anyone think that more sophisticated technology which would reduce the number of abortions would meet with greater political approval?
9.16.2005 1:25pm
Shannon Love (mail) (www):
I don't see artificial wombs changing the parameters of the abortion debate much. The entire point of the vast majority of abortions is to escape the cost and complications of bringing another person into the world. Artificial wombs won't reduce the cost and complications and indeed could increase them.

Artificial wombs could increase the "ultrasound" effect of making a fetus seem more like a person on the visceral level. A fetus wouldn't be visible just as a computer generated image but might be directly visible in the artificial womb. It's hard for people to kill what they can see.

The real change might be in woman who use artificial wombs as a means of escaping pregnancy altogether. Might be time to hit the science fiction isle of of the bookstore.
9.16.2005 1:26pm
elliottg (mail):
Wendy McElroy is explicitly pro-choice so I'm wrong about that, but the notion that science will trump the debate ignores the basic economics of the situation. Termination of pregnancy either through pharmaceutical means or surgery will always be orders of magnitude cheaper than the solutions she thinks science can develop for transfer of potential pregnancies.
9.16.2005 1:29pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"If man were meant to fly, he would have been born with wings."

"512 bytes of RAM is more than anyone will ever need"

I could go on...
9.16.2005 1:36pm
Public_Defender:
Wendy McElroy is explicitly pro-choice so I'm wrong about that, but the notion that science will trump the debate ignores the basic economics of the situation. Termination of pregnancy either through pharmaceutical means or surgery will always be orders of magnitude cheaper than the solutions she thinks science can develop for transfer of potential pregnancies.


That's true only if the pregnant woman is the one forced to make the payments. Artificial wombs would give the pro-lifers the chance to back their rhetoric with cash.

So what if it costs $100,000 for an articial womb? (I'm completely making up that figure.) If the pro-lifers think a two-month-old fetus is a human being, they can create a fund to pay for the procedure. Also, prospective adoptive parents could pay the freight.
9.16.2005 1:37pm
anonymous coward:
"The people who have a deep financial stake in Big Abortion will eventually lose." Hmm, does Planned Parenthood sell aborted fetuses as primo shrimp and funnel the profits to their bank accounts in Hades?
9.16.2005 1:41pm
Penta:
Mr. Chapman: Your second quote is, unfortunately, wrong.

The proper quote, IIRC, is "640K is all the memory anyone should ever need."
9.16.2005 1:44pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I hang my head in shame. And to think I used to call myself a computer geek. It was off the top of my head.
9.16.2005 1:47pm
Steve:
I'm sure, somehow, it is a cabal of Jewish bankers who make all the money from Big Abortion. That seems to be the conspiratorial tone at work.
9.16.2005 1:48pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"The latest annual report for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), for the year 2002-2003, shows an increase in both profits and the number of abortions performed. Figures show a 6.7 percent increase in the number of abortions. Additionally, though the group is a non-profit, figures show a profit of $36.6 million, a 200 percent increase over 2001. With a record income of $766.6 million, the group received an all-time high of $254.4 million in taxpayer funding."

Just a quick search for "planned parenthood profits"... if you don't like the source, I'm sure you can find a better one. Doesn't look like huge profits, but not bad for a nonprofit... I suppose I'd be happy to just get rid of that $254 million.
9.16.2005 1:52pm
The Original TS (mail):
I've always thought that science does hold the key to an eventual compromise on abortion.

What we need to do is have "neutral" definition of when life begins. We should use the same definition for life as we do for death. Someone, for example, can be declared legally dead when there is no detectable brain wave activity. Why not use this same standard and decide that a fetus is not alive until there is detectable brain wave activity?

I don't know exactly at what stage of development this occurs and I suspect there may be some difficult in measuring fetal brain activity but this is a technical problem that shouldn't be too difficult to solve if there were a good reason to do so. I suspect, however, that this rule would have the effect of outlawing late term abortions while protecting early ones.

This won't thrill the pro-lifers. On the other hand, it will eliminate the most troubling abortions. It will also enshrine the protection of life as a legal principle which would blunt much of their philosophical opposition to Roe.

It won't thrill the pro-choicers, either. But it will preserve the right to abortion and put it on a much firmer legal and philosophical basis.

Admittedly, this is a sort of Solomonesque solution. But splitting the baby, you should pardon the expression, is often the only way to solve these kind of societal problems where each side has so much invested.
9.16.2005 1:57pm
talboito (mail) (www):
We have a scientific alternative to abortion. Its called contraception.

The Republican party doesn't want to teach teens about it.

Furthermore, when did science ever get in the way of Conservative policy?
9.16.2005 2:02pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I think this would satisfy more "pro-lifers" than you think. Probably not the ones waving around pictures of dead babies on the streets, but I don't think there are as many of those as you think.

There are a lot of people who aren't single-issue activists who would like to see a sensible policy on abortion, but unfortunately, that puts them squarely in opposition to the court-imposed "fundamental right" to abortion. Compromise is radical these days.
9.16.2005 2:04pm
Steve:
It's easy to paint anti-contraception activists as some fringe movement, and yet in recent months we have seen Mitt Romney and George Pataki, two moderate Republicans who aspire to the Presidency, veto emergency contraception bills in order to burnish their conservative credentials. Clearly, they believe that veto will appeal to more than one or two people.

Democrats have been pushing any number of programs to support contraception and sex education, virtually all of which have been fervently opposed by today's brand of GOP. And yet the Republicans, almost comically, continue to caricature the Democrats as the "abortion on demand" party.

I was quite persuaded by your citation to the profits of a non-profit organization, by the way. It's easy to claim Planned Parenthood has an abortion-for-profit motive, but it's harder to deal with the fact that they probably reduce the number of abortions by more than any other organization through their support of contraception and education programs. Why, indeed, would a bunch of money-grubbing abortionists hand out birth control at all?
9.16.2005 2:22pm
Arthur (mail):
Science will certainly resolve the abortion debate, just as certainly as science has resolved the evolution debate, the global warming debate, . . .
9.16.2005 2:24pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Termination of pregnancy either through pharmaceutical means or surgery will always be orders of magnitude cheaper than the solutions she thinks science can develop for transfer of potential pregnancies.

Euthanasia will always be cheaper than continuing medical care and pension payments, too.
9.16.2005 2:33pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Steve... WHERE did contraception ever come up in my posts? If I was painting ANYONE as a "radical," it would be the "pro-lifers" who would refuse to compromise on any legalized abortion. Please re-read my post if you would like to comment on that. In the meantime, I'll get to work sweeping up the straw man you've scattered everywhere.
9.16.2005 2:39pm
Jam (mail) (www):
At least she is "deeply disturbed" at images of blobs of tissue sucking their thumbs. Imagine how really distrubed she would be if they were human babies sucking their thumbs.

The solution has been around for a long time:
1) abstain
2) tie the tubes
3) vasectomy
9.16.2005 2:44pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Well that brings up an interesting point... I'm not sure what the current law is, but I think that a few years ago at least, you couldn't get a vasectomy unless you were married or already had a kid or something. If anyone out there knows more details, please share. The point is, they didn't let just any 16 year old who says "I don't want no kids!" making a decision like that on a whim.

I assume that if any such law still exists today, it could easily be challenged under Griswald and Roe, couldn't it? If there are no such laws, then I'm sorry to waste your bandwidth.
9.16.2005 2:51pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr (mail):
The brain wave definition won't work as a compromise -- brain waves begin at six weeks, too soon to be practical for most abortion advocates. A more rigorous definition of "brain wave" would be needed, and I don't have any information on that. I looked for evidence on levels of brain waves, found some discussion of patterns like adult sleeping brainwaves, and I found some numbers on the web, but none of the sites I could find seemed credible (they were either far too late and posted on a pro-choice site, or far too early and posted on a pro-life site).
9.16.2005 3:15pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
The point about artificial wombs or the like is that in the absence of any way of ending a pregnancy without destroying the fetus, we haven't had to sort out whether the abortion right is a right not to be pregnant, or a right not to become a biological parent. The moment it's possible to achieve the former without the latter following as a matter of course, things become much more complicated. (We have to notice, for one thing, that at present not only do men not have the right not to become biological parents — except, obviously, by forgoing heterosexual sex — but they cannot renounce all parental responsibilities at the birth of a child, as women can.)
9.16.2005 3:33pm
chris (mail):
Over the centuries, there HAS been a lot of scientific progress and it has not solved much. We now know that new human organisms come into existence two ways: 1) when a sperm fertilizes and egg, and 2) when a fertilized eggs divides (twinning). The idea that an egg or a sperm has only half the DNA of a normal cell, while a fertilized egg has a full and unique (from the parents) set of genes is now known and this was not always known.

Put differently, we now know that we all came into existence as human organisms as one-celled creatures. Science can't answer the moral question of how to divide the set of human organisms into those it's ok to kill and those it's not.
9.16.2005 3:34pm
Challenge:
Shannon Love:

Artificial wombs will make abortion on demand indefensible, if they can be made viable.

The strength of the pro-choice argument largely, if not entirely, rests with the health complications and 9 month inconvenience which pregnancy demands upon a woman. If both of these are reduced drastically, then the justification for abortion is also diminished.

There will always be arguments for pretty much anything. I have no doubt that if an artificial womb were created that many ardent pro-choicers would continue with the fight. But if an embryo can be removed in a procedure which poses no more risk or inconvenience than abortion, and then the state or third party assumes the costs of placing that embryo in an artificial womb, the American people WILL rightly reject legal abortion.
9.16.2005 3:37pm
Challenge:
"It's easy to paint anti-contraception activists as some fringe movement, and yet in recent months we have seen Mitt Romney and George Pataki, two moderate Republicans who aspire to the Presidency, veto emergency contraception bills in order to burnish their conservative credentials."

While I wouldn't call emergency contraception abortion, it is NOT contraception either. EC presents real ethical issues, which the state may wish to abstain from for valid reasons. That is not radical.
9.16.2005 3:41pm
Observer (mail):
The other way in which science is radically changing the debate is in the way it has changed the meaning of "viability." Premies can now be saved at very young ages. Roe's dismissal of small fetuses as "non-viable" and hence disposable like toilet paper is becoming scientifically less and less justifiable.

Science cuts both ways, doesn't it?
9.16.2005 3:44pm
Jam (mail) (www):
Contraception means "prevents conception." Pills, I think all pills, are abortifocents and all they do is pervent implantation. By definition, abortifocents are not contraception.

I am pro-life, an Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Libertarian Christian, and I am glad that the government no longer has a role in the vasectomy issue.

The reason I am pro-life is that the conceptus is a human baby and a separate entity from the mother (and there is plenty medical evidence to substantiate this) and deserving of legal protection. The very rare case when the mother's life is in danger then the mother can act in self-defense.
9.16.2005 4:07pm
Steve:
There is no scientific basis for claiming that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient. But I like how one poster characterized making the morning-after pill illegal as "the state abstaining from ethical issues." Generally, outlawing something is an odd method of abstention.
9.16.2005 4:15pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
The other way this could cut the leg out from under the pro-choice camp is that it makes enforcement palatable. If every gynecologist has a bunch of artificial wombs ready and waiting in her back store room it becomes much easier to justify arresting both her and her patient if an abortion is arranged. And if we have arranged funding for the baby to be brought to term, there will be even less sympathy available.

Not many pro-lifers want to throw a million doctors and their patients into jail every year. Viable alternatives really help.

Yours,
Wince
9.16.2005 4:17pm
Splunge (mail):
Well, she's certainly right an artificial womb would change the debate, but probably in horrifying ways, a la Terri Schiavo. You're going to have a situation where a child that is not wanted can be rescued and grown to term in an artificial womb -- at, no doubt, enormous expense, which of course the parents would do nearly anything to avoid (since they were willing to kill the grub to avoid the expense and trouble originally).

Now what? Who is going to pay the cost for exo-incubation? Or, contrariwise, who is going to easily stand by and accept the killing of an infant -- or fetus, whatever you want to call him -- when the technology to save his life is standying by, and it's "merely" a matter of someone paying for it? We already look askance at someone who turns off granny's respirator, even when granny is terminal and only has weeks to live, because he wants his share of granny's estate to be a bit larger. What happens when wanting to keep a bit more of your money (or wanting to keep your taxes down) necessarily results in the death of a cute pink baby? We are going to see images of tiny darling babies (cf. Lennart Nilsson) growing to term in artificial wombs, and have to know that simultaneously very similar creatures are being killed "to save money." Who could easily stand that?

But it's still worse. Most of us die fairly quickly and definitively -- gasp, gurgle, and that's all she wrote. Relatively few linger in an insanely expensive technologically-supported limbo, so we are faced with end-o'-life dilemmas relatively (if not, alas, absolutely) rarely.

But there is at present 1 abortion for every 3 births in the US, each one of which, in this scenario, becomes one of these painful decisions, and a place where our primordial instincts will strongly suggest an investment of big bucks instead of death. So in this case we can't just, as a society, cope with those painful cases by throwing money at them (e.g. having insurance or tax money pay for the artificial wombs when mom won't or can't).

There really will be only two ways out of the dilemma: go back to the ancient Greek standard that a child lives at the pleasure of his parents (or really the pleasure of his mother, since fathers these days have no say at all in whether a pregnancy is brought to term). Or accept a huge new expense at the beginning of life, which will no doubt sharply increase the rate of contraception use, but which will as surely also decrease overall fertility.

One additional reflection: Ms. McElroy may imagine in a fuzzy warm way that the world would be pleasant if children occured only when they were truly wanted, and parents were committed to the expense of having and raising them. A very long-term view of the species suggests otherwise, for the simple reason that sex is fun. Why is sex fun? And very fun, at that. This is not an accident, but something evolution has designed into us (and not, incidentally, into all species). There is an excellent chance that the reason we have been designed to pursue sexual pleasure avidly is because the pleasures of child-rearing are by themselves too scant to ensure sufficient fertility to sustain the species.

Now, of course the fertility necessary to sustain the species is higher under primitive conditions than modern, so it's possible that the pleasures of child-rearing by themselves -- once complete "freedom to choose," both pre- and post-conception, utterly severs the connection between sex and parenting -- will be enough to sustain the species. But, then again, they may not be. The experience of First World countries (e.g. Japan, Italy) where contraception is cheap and widespread, and where the later advantages to parents of children have been largely replaced by pensions, are not especially encouraging: fertility rates are way below replacement in such countries, and native population is set to precipitously decline in the next century.

How amazingly ironic it would be, if, in the end, after conquering all the forces of death arrayed against us -- defeating predators, natural catastrophes, disease and decay -- and having arrived at the exceptional position of having complete freedom to choose our future as a species, we choose a future of gradual but inexorable extinction.
9.16.2005 4:17pm
Aultimer:

Challenge: "The strength of the pro-choice argument largely, if not entirely, rests with the health complications and 9 month inconvenience which pregnancy demands upon a woman."


Yeah, especially "complications and inconvenience" imposed by rapists and peretuators of incest. I'm sure good citizens are going to line up at the artificial womb clinic for the product of those fine gentlemen just the way they line up to adopt inner-city newborns.
9.16.2005 4:47pm
Challenge:
"There is no scientific basis for claiming that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient. But I like how one poster characterized making the morning-after pill illegal as "the state abstaining from ethical issues." Generally, outlawing something is an odd method of abstention."

Please cite any state law which outlaws the morning after pill. Thanks.
9.16.2005 4:56pm
Challenge:
"Yeah, especially "complications and inconvenience" imposed by rapists and peretuators of incest. I'm sure good citizens are going to line up at the artificial womb clinic for the product of those fine gentlemen just the way they line up to adopt inner-city newborns."

I see no reason why adoptive parents would known whether or not the child was a product of consentual sex or rape. Nice try, though.
9.16.2005 4:57pm
Columbienne:
We already do have situations bordering on the artificial womb, like that awful story about the woman whose body was kept artificially alive for three months while she was being consumed by melanoma, in order that the fetus arrive at viability. Predictably, the baby was delivered early term (with a 25% of contracting melanoma) and died after a few months of suffering.
9.16.2005 5:01pm
Columbienne:
Also, Challenger, there's a simple way to increase fertility in the first world: provide sufficient social and economic supports to mothers and babies. Probably would decrease abortion rates, too.
9.16.2005 5:03pm
Challenge:
"There is no scientific basis for claiming that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient."

It depends on the definition of pregnancy, which is defined at implanatation, which is a rather arbitrary line. Still, I do not conflate morning after pills with abortion. But neither is it the same as contraception (especially barrier methods), which by DEFINITION prevent conception. Oral contraception principally prevents conception, but may act in secondary ways similar to the morning after pill, act to prevent implantation of zygotes.
9.16.2005 5:04pm
John S (mail):
Technology has already made surgical abortion unnecessary - RU486. Even if it becomes criminal a large black market will exist.
9.16.2005 5:05pm
Aultimer:

Challenge:
I see no reason why adoptive parents would known whether or not the child was a product of consentual sex or rape. Nice try, though.


Feel free to reasearch open adoption law. Of course you'll just propose changing those too and offer another smug quip. Then you can sleep well knowing that all the little differently-pigmented babies you've adopted will soon have little brothers and sisters. Or is someone working on improving orphanage technology too?
9.16.2005 5:07pm
Challenge:
"provide sufficient social and economic supports to mothers and babies."

Women have abortions predominately because of the inconvenience pregnancy poses. I doubt enlarging the welfare state would subtantially alter their preferrences.
9.16.2005 5:11pm
Challenge:
Aultimer,

Are you suggesting orpans should have never been born? That would appear to be the only conclusion one can reasonably draw from your hateful rants about unwanted children.
9.16.2005 5:12pm
Aultimer:
Challenge,

No. I'm suggesting that there are too many unwanted born babies in the world. I'm further suggesting that there would be more unwanted born babies in the U.S. if your preferences regarding abortion rights were law. Finally, I'm suggesting that your characterization of pregancy and childbirth as mere inconveniences in all cases demonstrates pathetic ignorance.

I love babies, and I even have some (not all born of my DNA either).
9.16.2005 5:33pm
Challenge:
Nice back-tracking, Aultimer.

If orphans are better off living, even if unwanted, then why what was your point? Your point was clear: Abortion is good because it keeps the population of undesirables and "differently-pigmented" babies down. We need abortion, you think, for this reason. Can I read your comments any differently? I don't think so.
9.16.2005 5:48pm
Columbienne:
Women have abortions predominately because of the inconvenience pregnancy poses. I doubt enlarging the welfare state would subtantially alter their preferrences.

Really, really, really not true. Abortion rates (and unwanted pregnancy rates) are lower in Europe because of the better support there (and the reduced stigma of single motherhood.) It's astonishing that you would not be in favor of financially supporting women and children -- it really eviscerates any moral suasion you might have had.
9.16.2005 6:05pm
anonymous coward:
I fear we're drifting to a Levitt "More abortions, less crime" smackdown. Or perhaps the ethics of foie gras production. Resist!

My suspicion is that concern for the well-being of embryos and 1st trimester fetuses correlates strongly with belief in an immortal soul. Of course this is not the only reason one might have for opposing all abortion--but am I right?
9.16.2005 6:17pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Columbienne,

It's astonishing that you would not be in favor of financially supporting women and children -- it really eviscerates any moral suasion you might have had.

You are jumping to a conclusion. Challenge has said nothing to indicate he is not in favor of financially supporting women and children. He said that he didn't think financially supporting women and children would have any subtantial effect on the abortion rate. Please be more careful not to make baseless accusations -- for some people it really eviscerates any moral suasion you might have had. Not me this time, though, I just think you made a mistake in your logic. Shoot, I make those all the time.

Yours,
Wince
9.16.2005 6:21pm
Aultimer:
Challenge -

Don't put words in my mouth. Read closely.

You advocate for abortion laws that create MORE orphans and other unwanted live babies. I have no moral problems with current abortion law. You want others (mothers and unwanted babies) to bear the burdens you would create, and you belittle them in making your case. I don't belittle them, and have actually helped some in a category you would expand.

If you think it's preferable to have more orphans, please explain your proposal to correct the problems we already have in caring for unwanted babies and how it will scale to help the increase.
9.16.2005 6:24pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Columbienne, I suppose it's true that a pregnant woman might "want" a child more easily if she had firm economic support and if giving birth outside marriage were less stigmatized. But the burden of carrying a child to term is independent of these things, and it's not trivial. Given that a mother has no duty to care for a newborn, the inescapable burden of carrying a child is the pregnancy itself, not the financial or social costs of caring for the child after birth.

Besides, the "stigma" you mention is pretty well extinct here, too. If 3/4 or so of Black children are born to unmarried women, I'd say stigma has little or no force in that population, and the rest of the country isn't that far behind.
9.16.2005 6:29pm
CS:
Contraception cannot lead to the extinction of a diverse population. Instead, religious and cultural groups that value children will proliferate and become the majority.
9.16.2005 6:56pm
Matt Weber (mail):

Abortion rates (and unwanted pregnancy rates) are lower in Europe because of the better support there


Only in Western Europe, and even then, Sweden has higher rates than the US (though the difference is statistically negligible). Eastern European rates are generally higher, in some cases dramatically so, which you might try to say is due to the lack of a welfare state there. However, Vietnam has a markedly higher rate of abortion than the US, and China does as well, though China's is probably due to other factors. Also, countries like Britain, France, and Italy have national rates that are only about 80% of the US rate. The link between a welfare state and lower incidence of abortions remains rather inconclusive then, if you ask me.
9.16.2005 7:00pm
Matt Weber (mail):

Contraception cannot lead to the extinction of a diverse population. Instead, religious and cultural groups that value children will proliferate and become the majority.


This is true. The abortion movement is its own worst enemy.
9.16.2005 7:03pm
Penta:
CS: If they are not picked off by the cultural forces created by, say, artificial wombs.

Let's keep in mind just what a large proportion of the working population being childless would actually mean.

(And remember that there are some very militantly childless (I would say anti-kid, but that's me) people out there while you respond.)

It's not exactly a family-friendly workplace as is. It could easily get much, much, much worse.
9.16.2005 7:13pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I do see artificial wombs and the like changing the debate. Currently, it is ostensibly about a woman's control over her own body, but in reality, it is almost always about the decision not to raise this kid at this time. So, by providing an option to the former, the fact that the later is really the reason for most abortions will become obvious.

The reason that I think this might be positive is that currently the entire decision is left to the woman. If she wants to carry to term, nothing the guy can do (except pay the child support for 18 years). Ditto, if she wants to abort. I think that it would be hard to maintain this double standard if the excuse of a woman's right to her own body is removed.
9.16.2005 7:13pm
LisaMarie (mail):
Columbienne,
I am in favor of supporting children I brought into the world or adopted, for which I am responsible. Could you explain the basis for a moral responsibility that a total stranger can place upon me to support children she chose to bring into the world knowing she could not adequately care for them herself? Why is her act moral but my desire not to pay for her act (for which I am in no way responsible) not moral?
9.16.2005 7:19pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Columbienne

I see your argument as indistinguishable from reimplementing the failed welfare system that we partially dismembered with Welfare Reform under Clinton. The basic problem is that without the financial incentive of having a male involved, there will be many fewer of such. So, you end up like we found ourselves, esp. in the lower income communities, esp. African-American ones, with generations of female parent only families, and the guys running in male bonding packs until they ended up either dead or in prison.
9.16.2005 7:19pm
Taimyoboi:
"If the pro-lifers think a two-month-old fetus is a human being, they can create a fund to pay for the procedure."

Of course, such reasoning does not apply when funding abortion is the issue at hand.
9.16.2005 7:20pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
LisaMarie

While I agree with your moral take on this, I do believe that the better argument is that supporting women to raise kids out of wedlock has significant detrimental effects on society, as we discovered over the last 40 years. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of guys now in prison were raised in precisely this sort of households.
9.16.2005 7:22pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Aultimer,

Most orphans prefer not to have been aborted. I'm not an orphan, but I share that preference.

Yours,
Wince
9.16.2005 8:02pm
Dick King:
A previous poster argued for a symmetric definition of the beginning and ending of life based on "brain wave" activity. I will argue that this is a false symmetry.

To put things crudely, we don't define a certain loss of function as death based on philosophical study. We create such definitions so we know when to bury a deteriorating patient. We need a definition that we believe will result in very few burials of people who could have otherwise recovered, while avoiding spending too much money on and giving too much false hope to relatives of patients whose decline is inevitible.

We used to define heart death as legal death, not for philosophical reasons, but because empirically once the heart stopped the patient never recovered. Then medical technology advanced, and we learned how to "ressurect" some patients whose heart had stopped, so we needed a substitute definition. Nobody believes an adult can ever recover from loss of brain waves.

This has nothing to do with any attempt to decide when to assign humanity to a fetus. Most fetuses will "recover" from the lack of heart and brain activity they have in the first few days after conception. If it were now impossible for patients to recover from heart stoppage we never would have developed this second definition of death. In that case would you have wanted to define human life to begin at three weeks?

-dk
9.16.2005 8:41pm
Challenge:
"Really, really, really not true. Abortion rates (and unwanted pregnancy rates) are lower in Europe because of the better support there (and the reduced stigma of single motherhood.) It's astonishing that you would not be in favor of financially supporting women and children -- it really eviscerates any moral suasion you might have had."

If some of Europe has lower abortion rates, it's because of more effective and more frequent use of birth control, not because of their social welfare.

Most abortions do not occur because another child would impoverish them, they occur because women do not want to be pregnant, or for others to know they are. Most abortions are for pretty selfish reasons. I have seen this borne out in survey after survey, many of them conducted by rabidly pro-choice non-profits, like NARAL. Now, that doesn't mean one must be pro-life. It just means you're not in touch with reality.

I have no idea what "finacially supporting women and children" means to you, Columbienne. But if what you want is a return to welfare as we knew it, well, then I'll have to disagree. We DO support women and children who are poor. Maybe we could do some things differently. Who knows what I might support, but vague appeals to "supporting" women and children don't add much to the debate.

I never understand what pro-choicers wish to accomplish with this tactic. You want to convince all the orphans in the world that they should have been aborted? They have enough problems without the liberals suggesting the world would be better off without them. This kind of justification for abortion reminds of the progressives' history with eugenics. It's just a different manifestation. Indeed, this is what drove Margaret Sanger and her support for birth control.

My advice (which you are welcome to ignore): Stick to the hollow rhetoric about bodily autonomy and the importance of "choice." Leave the eugenics in your movement's past.
9.16.2005 10:20pm
ATM (mail):
To further expound upon Dick King's point regarding changing standards for declaration of death, if there was a minute chance of resurrection of brain dead people, many individuals or their families would not accept the brain death definition. Or if technology were developed to restore brain activity, the standard for declaring death would have to be altered. The point is that brain death is the standard for declaring death because of its current irreversibility. This is obviously not the case of a zygote, because unless support is removed and it is destroyed, it will survive.
9.17.2005 1:09am
markm (mail):
"So what if it costs $100,000 for an articial womb? (I'm completely making up that figure.)" You are off by a factor of at least ten. One of my grandsons was born prematurely, and came home eight weeks later with a $215,000 hospital bill. (And he's worth every dollar.) This was not for surgery or anything else extraordinary, just incubator, ventilator, monitoring, nursing, supplies and drugs. An artificial womb is bound to cost more than this per day, and is needed for 4 1/2 times as long.

Let's say that there are 4 million abortions a year and using artificial wombs instead costs a mere $1 million. The total cost would be $4 trillion. It's not unaffordable compared to the national economy, but it would require cutting back somewhere. It's not just giving up luxuries. Certainly the amount of medical attention octogenarians get would have to be limited, because tending those artificial wombs would take a lot of trained medical care - but I have known old people who'd have been better off if the doctors had let them die in peace rather than repeatedly reviving them.

But the question is, how do you collect that $4 trillion and from whom?
9.17.2005 12:50pm
Matt Weber (mail):
The number of abortions per year in the US is about 1.3 million, not 4 million. I'm just nitpicking though, carry on.
9.17.2005 3:28pm
therut (mail):
There is a big difference in brain death and trying to say a developing human is not human or alive until brain waves are detected. Once fertilization takes place a unique genetic human entity is formed (unless idential twin). It begins its development from that moment on. It contines to deveop unless it dies of natural causes(something usually genetic causes it to die), or it dies because of the enviroment it is in (drug abuse of the mother, some diseases of the mother,trauma, etc) or a person intercedes at some point and destroys or kills it.(or if your like terminates it). Same thing happens to all of us at some point in our lives. We call these things natural,homocide,manslaughter etc causes of death. What is the cause of death when abortion is the method????????????????????????? It sure is not natural.
9.18.2005 3:40am
Columbienne:
Nice. So I see it really is true that it's pro-life until birth, then you're on your own, kid. Look, I respect people who really, truly believe that life is sacred at all moments, but I have a very, very hard time respecting people who would then abandon that life to poverty once it's been born.

What would Jesus do...
9.18.2005 12:29pm
Challenge:
Columbienne, what are you talking about? The reality of poverty in America is not one of survival insofar as poverty rarely endangers one's life, so your point is without merit. Poor kids in America are not likely to die because the state has a limited role in their welfare.

Further, you ignore the essential critique of welfare--that welfare HURTS THOSE IT IS INTENDED TO HELP. I guess tha means you're position is consistent after all; you seek to harm children before birth and after birth, through your support of abortion and the welfare state. It's easy to play nasty, petty, and trivial games, Columbienne.

Saying the state should protect individuals from violence is not incompatible with a belief that the welfare state should be limited. Nobody is arguing against food stamps, WIC programs, etc. Poor children ARE suported by the state. Nobody is saying that poor children should starve, or go without life-saving medical care. Your calls for "supporting children" are thus baseless. The state does and will continue to support poor children.
9.18.2005 7:32pm
The Original TS (mail):
Sigh

Therut and others who've taken such exception to my suggestion about a symetric definition of life: I realize that my compromise would make no one completely happy. That's what makes it a compromise. But ultimately, there's a choice to be made. Do you want to be a lone voice crying in the wilderness, philosphically pure but completely ineffective or do you want solid, practical change that achieves many if not all of your goals?

If you can establish that all life is sacred by accepting a neutral, scientific definition of when life begins and ends you've scored a major philosophical and practical victory. If you insist on everyone in America admitting that your position is 100% correct, you'll get nowhere. When you get down to writing laws, it's not religion or philosophy, it's politics -- and politics is the art of the possible.
9.18.2005 9:12pm
therut (mail):
There is already a scientific answer. You just do not accept it cause you disagree with it. Changing the goal posts politically does nothing to change that. Your asking for policy to be basd on a scientific lie or an abitrary line in the sand that is not based on science but has the political cover of seeming scientific. Dishonesty got us where we are and lying just a little will not get us out of it.
9.18.2005 10:14pm
Grey (mail) (www):
Posters like ATM and therut are factually incorrect, by the way, about what "will happen" to an undisturbed conception.

Science tells us that about 50% of all zygotes do not survive to the point where they are detected. That's a fact. Sometimes the zygote hiccups in its cellular division. Sometimes implantation goes askew. Sometimes the body rejects the zygote.

The fact is that most stats on babies refer to pregnancies known by the mothers.

If one's argument against abortion is faith-based or philosophically-based, you should ask yourself what the implications are for conceived zygotes who never make it far enough to be noticed.
9.19.2005 3:27am
Jam (mail) (www):
Grey, are you saying that we could shoot drivers because we all know that a precentage of them will be killed in an accident? Maybe we can pass a law banning misscarriages, auto accidents and death? Sometimes the heart "hiccups" and the heart "carrier" dies. Should it be OK now to just shoot the heart "carrier?"
9.19.2005 9:40am
Aultimer:

Most orphans prefer not to have been aborted. I'm not an orphan, but I share that preference.


Most Iraqis prefer not to be killed by my ordinance. Most convicted murderers prefer not to be put to death by the state. Most cows prefer not to be slaughtered for food. I am not an Iraqi, convicted murderer or cow, but I share that preference.
9.19.2005 10:05am
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Aultimer,

Your examples are useless and entirely beside the point. Orphans are wanted. So-called unwanted babies are wanted. Who wants them? They do. If you are arguing that we should take better care of these unlucky beings, you are right. But you appear to be claiming that it's kinder to premptively kill them. That's argument is so shaky it's already collapsed.

Yours,
Wince

Yours,
Wince
9.19.2005 1:03pm
therut (mail):
Grey-------------you are stating exactly what I have except in a very inhumaine way. Kinda like "it is just a blob of cells" chant. You just stated something goes wrong in the deveopment"a hiccup" as you say or something in the environment cause development to cease ie. death of an organism.
9.19.2005 1:54pm
Aultimer:

Your examples are useless and entirely beside the point. Orphans are wanted. So-called unwanted babies are wanted. Who wants them? They do. If you are arguing that we should take better care of these unlucky beings, you are right. But you appear to be claiming that it's kinder to premptively kill them. That's argument is so shaky it's already collapsed.


I'm not arguing that it's kind to pre-emptively kill a baby, just that an early fetus is one in a long list of living things whose "rights" we subordinate to our own. It's pretty easy to see that a non-combatant Iraqi has AT LEAST equivalent rights to continue existence as does an early fetus. We (Americans/westerners/etc.) choose to end the lives of humans and other life forms all the time.

I'm comfortable with that fact. You sound like the kind who loves to eat steak but vomits at the sight of a slaughterhouse.
9.19.2005 2:40pm
nyscks:
ectogenesis

Lots of potential issues.

The rights of the biological father...and therefore responsibilities...
There is a natural current imbalance between the accepted 'choice' currently afforded women to be the sole determinates for birthing decisions, while an equally accepted joint responsibility to provide for children.

Won't ectogenesis turn this on its head?

Walk through the terminate decision tree in an 'ecto' world.

Woman decides to terminate. Biological father sues for 'embrionic rights', and subsequently, for financial support …from the biological mother.

Woman wants to continue pregnancy, but using ecto-technology.
Biological father sues to terminate, then subsequently has no support burden.

Would the decision to 'move forward' with childbirth therefore be a joint decision to choose to support regardless of the maternal/paternal role?
9.21.2005 6:58pm