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Abortion: Murder or Tragedy? Are Those the Only Options?

William Saletan (Slate) has an interesting and thought-provoking article on the murder of abortion provider George Tiller; worth reading, it seems to me, whether one is pro-life or pro-choice. I should say, though, that the argument in the closing paragraph is too glib:

The reason ... pro-life groups have held their fire [in arguing for violent defense of fetuses], both rhetorically and literally, is that they don't really equate fetuses with old or disabled people. They oppose abortion, as most of us do. But they don't treat abortionists the way they'd treat mass murderers of the old or disabled. And this self-restraint can't simply be chalked up to nonviolence or respect for the law. Look up the bills these organizations have written, pushed, or passed to restrict abortions. I challenge you to find a single bill that treats a woman who procures an abortion as a murderer. They don't even propose that she go to jail....

If you don't accept what [Tiller's murderer] did, then maybe it's time to ask yourself what you really believe. Is abortion murder? Or is it something less, a tragedy that would be better avoided? Most of us think it's the latter.

It seems to me that there's a third option that the piece deliberately omits — that abortions, whether all abortions, late-term abortions, or some other subset of abortions — are not quite murder but should still be forcibly prevented. I take it that is the view of many generally pro-choice people about late-term abortions. There is very broad support for criminalizing such abortions but not, I think, for treating them as murder. I think that the article is right in saying that even most pro-life people don't really view abortion as morally tantamount to murder; but that doesn't mean that it has to be just a "tragedy."

One can debate the logical basis for this distinction, just as one can debate the logical basis for any lines one draws in the abortion field. Having three options (murder / crime short of murder / not a crime) rather than two (murder / not a crime) requires some slightly different justification, but not, I think, of a character that's radically different than the justification required for the two-option solutions.

Gabriel McCall (mail):
Or yet another possibility, which is that some pro-life people might indeed mentally equate abortionists with murderers of adults, but recognize as a practical matter that there's no point in pushing for policy reflecting that stance. Besides, one can sincerely hold strong and unpopular beliefs while still believing in keeping the peace and the rule of law.
6.2.2009 2:05pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Having three options (murder / crime short of murder / not a crime) rather than two (murder / not a crime) requires some slightly different justification

Those three options are the same as infant / late term fetus / sperm. By drawing a distinction between murder and late term abortions, you also must say that a late term fetus is not a infant. That is, a late term fetus does not have all the rights accorded to an infant. But you never hear that in their rhetoric, rhetoric that exhorts that late term fetuses are the same as infants.

( "killing of infant -> crime of murder" is the same as "not a crime of murder -> not killing of infant" )
6.2.2009 2:06pm
Jim S. (mail) (www):
I think there's a fourth option. Murder is the intentional killing of a human being. Women who have abortions, and presumably the doctors who perform them, don't believe that fetuses are human beings. Therefore they're not guilty of murder.

This wouldn't change the (alleged) fact that the fetus is fully human. But if the mother and doctor don't believe this is the case, how can they be accused of deliberately killing a human being?
6.2.2009 2:08pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I think most of these pieces seek to maximize the disagreements rather than seek common ground. Maybe, this is just because of agonal tendencies in the human condition-- we just love to fight. Yet really, when one looks at the issue, the disagreement though a fundamental one of values, is a fairly narrow one regarding actual public policy.

I haven't heard any pro-choice activists ever argue that a woman can abort a child on the eve of childbirth merely because it would be more convenient to do so. I have only seen one person argue (badly) that a woman whose life is threatened by a pregnancy should not have access to an abortion. So the question is not whether we believe there is or is not a right to an abortion. Pretty much everyone agrees that this question depends fundamentally on the circumstances. So while there is a fundamental difference of values (life of a non-person vs liberty of a person), the public policy disagreement really involves where, among the infinite shades of grey, we draw the line.
6.2.2009 2:09pm
frankcross (mail):
EV, this would make sense except you are lacking a rationale. If the fetus is not human, so abortion is not murder, why should it forcibly be prevented? What exactly is society's interest in stopping abortion that outweighs the mother's choice interests? This has to be more thoroughly reasoned, because that would be necessary to structure the prohibition, i.e., if there should be a difference between early term/late term abortions or how severe the sentence should be, whether there are excusing conditions, etc.
6.2.2009 2:15pm
Justin (mail):
Jim S.,

I think your point is interesting but ultimately I don't think it works from a legal POV. After all, I don't think one would be able to legally defend murdering a homosexual or an african-american or whatnot on the basis that they are not human beings, even if you wholeheartedly believed that to be true.
6.2.2009 2:16pm
Bart (mail):
Once the unborn human beings are considered to be legal persons as are the born, it would be difficult under equal protection to apply homicide statutes to the latter, but not the former.

However, one can assume that abortion is homicide while noting that preemptive defense of others is not an affirmative legal defense for a person accused of murdering an abortionist.
6.2.2009 2:17pm
cs (mail):
The "middle ground" position that abortion, while the taking of a human life, isn't necessarily morally equivalent to the murder of (say) an infant has been argued by some Christian philosophers/ethicists, particularly Robert Merrihew Adams. Whether or not they are successful is another question, but at least the fact that serious thinkers on the issue can come up with a third option seems like reason to believe it's not untenable.
6.2.2009 2:19pm
Francis (mail):
Before the various states and federal government spend even more resources on this issue, I've got a few factual questions:

1. How many abortions occur every year after the 7th month of pregnancy?

2. Of those, how many occur when there is strong evidence that both the woman and the fetus would both be physically healthy post-delivery?

3. How many women die or are crippled or rendered infertile every year already by the continuation of a pregnancy where a late-term abortion was medically indicated due to the current lack of late-term abortion service providers?
6.2.2009 2:19pm
Rosa (mail):
Gabriel Mc Call, excellent point, though a bit cynical what ever your stance is about abortion is, it is fair to believe that most people believe that the outright shooting of a man is murder. What I am curious about is how do people make that the cognitive leap that Tiller deserved to die, or that it was morally imperative to kill him any thoughts from anyone? Also I found a great news piece about Tiller it does a good job of being objective:
6.2.2009 2:22pm
Neo (mail):
Tiller is just one more abortion related death.

Considering that we have thousands of abortion related deaths a year that the American public is supposed to "man up" and accept, just what is the big deal ?

One more death of an "inconvenient"
6.2.2009 2:25pm
Sunshine is good:
I liked the article as it made me think about the issue from a POV I hadn't encountered before in the well-treaded abortion debate. But you make good points too. I agree that he was trying to nail home a clever point to tie up the article and it ended up weakening his earlier excellent points.
6.2.2009 2:26pm
DrGrishka (mail):
I think that there is another option that Mr. Saletan omits, and that is that in this country we don't take laws into our own hands. Even if abortion were legislatively prohibited, it would still be an affront to all law abiding people to shoot an abortionist to death.
6.2.2009 2:27pm
rick.felt:
The "middle ground" position that abortion, while the taking of a human life, isn't necessarily morally equivalent to the murder of (say) an infant has been argued by some Christian philosophers/ethicists, particularly Robert Merrihew Adams.

Whether abortion is the moral equivalent of the murder of an infant/adult/disabled/gay/retarded/white/Hindu human being is not necessarily the same question as whether we are morally required to give killers of all types humans the same prison sentences. I don't believe that the Catholic Church has ever demanded that Caesar treat killers of the unborn and the born exactly equally. The Fourteenth Amendment probably says that we must, but the Fourteenth Amendment isn't the boss of my soul

As a practical matter, I think it's reasonable for pro-lifers to sacrifice consistency to avoid making the perfect the enemy of the good.
6.2.2009 2:29pm
Dunstan:
I would say that Saletan's entire piece is too glib. This meme that "if pro-lifers really believe what they say, then murdering abortion doctors is justified" is not nearly as insightful as its proponents seem to think, and I'm including both those like Saletan who use it to suggest that pro-lifes aren't sincere, and those who use it to profess a grudging admiration for a murderer because "hey, at least he has the courage of his convictions."

I think Gabriel McCall got it right in the first comment:
Besides, one can sincerely hold strong and unpopular beliefs while still believing in keeping the peace and the rule of law.


Hilzoy at the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog had a more detailed explanation, including the following:

(d) If anyone who believes the government had adopted a policy that would lead to the killing of innocent people is justified in killing people to stop this, then we might as well just decide not to have a government at all. During the Bush administration, half the country would have been justified in trying to assassinate the President and members of his administration. Any corporate executive who works for a company that does not adequately protect its workforce from poisoning or injury would have to watch her back. Etc., etc., etc.

(e) If you are committed to our form of government, you must leave some room between (1) the claim that some policy it adopts is wrong, even very wrong, and (2) the claim that you can kill people to prevent this wrong thing from happening.
6.2.2009 2:29pm
DennisN (mail):
Bart:


Once the unborn human beings are considered to be legal persons as are the born, it would be difficult under equal protection to apply homicide statutes to the latter, but not the former.


It would require the creation of one or more additional classes of justifiable homicide. If a fetus is a person, than any killing of the fetus is homicide, but not necessarily murder. The case of saving the life of the mother vs. losing both lives is an easy one to justify. They get progressively harder after that.

The personhood question is one reason there is so much agony over viability, what viability is and when it happens. The fact that medical technology keeps pushing viability earlier means this argument is unlikely to go away. And what happens when we can breed humans in vitreo, a-la Brave New World?
6.2.2009 2:29pm
DrGrishka (mail):
Frankcross,

Same rationale that allows us to prohibit torturing animals or bludgeoning your puppy to death.
6.2.2009 2:29pm
Jim S. (mail) (www):
Justin,

If someone killed a homosexual or a member of a different race and then revealed that he doesn't believe such people are fully human in the way a straight or white person is, the court would probably find him innocent of murder by reason of insanity (assuming, of course, that he really thought they weren't human). Even though it was a deliberate act on his part, he did not have the knowledge that the person he was killing was a person.

Now of course I don't mean to suggest that women who have abortions or the doctors who perform them are insane. The issue of the humanity of the fetus is a very controversial issue in Western culture, so people who don't recognize it aren't insane because of it. But it would mean that they aren't guilty of murder because they did not deliberately take the life of a human being.
6.2.2009 2:32pm
rick.felt:
What I am curious about is how do people make that the cognitive leap that Tiller deserved to die, or that it was morally imperative to kill him any thoughts from anyone?

What did George Tiller "deserve"? If you follow a standard Christian understanding of Man's fall and salvation, then Tiller "deserved" no more or less than anyone else: nothing. And by "nothing" I mean "not even the right to exist." We don't have the right to life - and we certainly don't have the right to salvation - by dint of our actions, good or bad. None of us "deserves" anything that God gives us. Tiller "deserved" what we all deserve. But that doesn't give anyone the right to give him - or anyone else - what he deserves.

And I don't believe that there's ever a "moral imperative" to kill anyone. Killing may be morally permissible under certain circumstances, but I don't think it's ever mandatory. Prayer and fasting is always an acceptable option.
6.2.2009 2:36pm
Seamus (mail):
But they don't treat abortionists the way they'd treat mass murderers of the old or disabled.

Horseshit. Doctors in the Netherlands who routinely off old and disabled people walk the streets just as freely as do abortionists.
6.2.2009 2:39pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

And what happens when we can breed humans in vitreo, a-la Brave New World?

The mother can have an abortion anytime she wants, from conception to 1 millisecond before birth. But then she must sign away any and all parental rights (its an abortion, right?) so that the fetus (and future baby) will be raised by the state. I would compare it to laws that some states have that let mothers abandon babies (up to a certain age) at hospitals, no questions asked.
6.2.2009 2:39pm
NowMDJD (mail):

1. How many abortions occur every year after the 7th month of pregnancy?

Not many. Only 3 (now 2) doctors do them, and they are illegal in most states and most advanced countries.


2. Of those, how many occur when there is strong evidence that both the woman and the fetus would both be physically healthy post-delivery?

In many cases the newborn baby would not be healthy, though in many cases the baby might be restorable to health. The patients I've seen referred to Kansas mostly carried fetuses with congenital heart disease (curable with surgery) and came to prenatal care late, leading to late diagnosis.


3. How many women die or are crippled or rendered infertile every year already by the continuation of a pregnancy where a late-term abortion was medically indicated due to the current lack of late-term abortion service providers?

Almost none. Maternal indication is an indication for interruption of pregnancy in all US jurisdictions, and the mother's life and health is to be preferred over that of the fetus. It would be rare to have a situation where actively killing the fetus (as opposed to allowing a fetus to die by not doing a cesarean section) offers health advantages to the mother over more standard management of vaginal delivery.
6.2.2009 2:40pm
Justin (mail):
Jim S.,

I don't think that insanity defense would work unless there were other beliefs still in existence. As long as they appreciated the fact that the law treated the victim as a human, I think whether the accused agreed with that treatment would be irrelevant. He'd still understand the nature and the quality of the act, just not have the same moral compulsion about it that you or I would have (and no irresistable impulse).
6.2.2009 2:42pm
Calderon:
FrankCross said EV, this would make sense except you are lacking a rationale. If the fetus is not human, so abortion is not murder, why should it forcibly be prevented? What exactly is society's interest in stopping abortion that outweighs the mother's choice interests?

Why wouldn't the rationale be that we are uncertain whether an unborn child / embryo / fetus is fully human or not, and that we recognize that the rights of another person are impacted? Isn't that basically the rationale for the trimester approach of Roe v. Wade (which of course has been criticized heavily by those on both sides of the debate, but it does not seem completely meritless)? The rationale would be that "we" are explicitly making a compromise because of this uncertainty and the balancing of rights. Thus, we could treat the abortion of embryos as a moral wrong but not on the same plane as murder.

(And for the record, so there's no confusion, the anonymous person behind this moniker is pro-choice, though I think Roe v. Wade probably was wrongly decided. Just pointing out above that the rationale for EV's "third way" seems straightforward)
6.2.2009 2:52pm
frankcross (mail):
Dr. Grishka, at least that's a start. But the interest in animal protection is not counterbalanced by a woman's interest in control of her own body. So one would have to establish a justification for the latter.

Also, we do put many stray animals to death, don't we? So doesn't that suggest that a strong countervailing reason would overcome the presumptive harm of killing an animal? I think the prohibition on animal cruelty is more about the means of causing death than about causing death itself. So this justification would warrant regulating the means of abortion, but not restraining abortion itself.
6.2.2009 2:54pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

It seems to me that there's a third option that the piece deliberately omits — that abortions, whether all abortions, late-term abortions, or some other subset of abortions — are not quite murder but should still be forcibly prevented.


Interesting point, and certainly something of an elephant in the room.

We know the state already does all kinds of things to prevent adults from doing things to their body... specifically the drug war. So forbidding certain types of abortion based on other criteria than murder seems plausible.

Which brings me to a question I'm unclear on- how does the Right to Privacy, penumbra deal intersect with drug use? This is off topic, but if there is a fundamental right to privacy that involves cutting bits out of my body (even bits that might belong to 'someone' else, putting inanimate matter into my body seems significantly less problematic.

Has this been settled by the courts?
6.2.2009 2:58pm
yankev (mail):

If someone killed a homosexual or a member of a different race and then revealed that he doesn't believe such people are fully human in the way a straight or white person is, the court would probably find him innocent of murder by reason of insanity (assuming, of course, that he really thought they weren't human). Even though it was a deliberate act on his part, he did not have the knowledge that the person he was killing was a person.
Jim S., do you have a source for that? I think it would be news to a lot of judges, bar examiners and lawyers, at least to the extent that the belief was not the result of mental defect or deficiency. If you argue that the mere holding of racist beliefs is insane, I will counter that one can make the same argument about anyone who deliberately takes a human life without just cause (e.g. in self-defense, or as a soldier in war time). Your argument simply proves too much.
6.2.2009 2:58pm
rick.felt:
It would be rare to have a situation where actively killing the fetus (as opposed to allowing a fetus to die by not doing a cesarean section) offers health advantages to the mother over more standard management of vaginal delivery.

This is where "health" and "life" exceptions cloud the debate. There is broad support for "life" and "health" exceptions to any prohibitions on abortion. This is likely because of a mistaken believe that any act that kills a fetus is an abortion, and thus chemotherapy and other treatments would be illegal to perform on pregnant women absent a health/life exception. However, as NowMDJD points out, the circumstances under which a surgical abortion - i.e., the deliberate killing of the fetus - is indicated are vanishingly small, if they are ever indicated.

Generally, the a treatment that may ultimately kill a fetus is either (a) getting the fetus out (pre-viability), or (b) administering a drug that will kill the fetus. In neither circumstance is the death of the fetus willed as either the means or the end of the treatment. For an explanation on why this is morally permissible, you can read up on the principle of double effect.
6.2.2009 3:01pm
DrGrishka (mail):
Frankcross,
That's a fair observation. I was merely using the animal analogy to point out that the being need not be of human variety for us to extend certain protections to it. The reason the protections get extended and the breadth and depth of those protections depends on the society's moral judgment of the worth of the being being protected, and the cost the portection imposes on other beings.

For better or worse, we allow people to kill rats by snapping their necks (that is how most mousetraps work). But we would be aghast if people put dogs or cats to death in a similar way. Similarly, most people have no trouble consuming beef or poultry, but have an issue with eating horses (in fact there was a bill in Congress to prohibit slaughtering horses for meat). Objectively these distinctions make no sense. But they reflect our society's moral judgment on the value of the beings in question.

The society's judgment on abortion similarly expresses its judgement as to the value (if any) of the fetus, and the consideration of countervailing costs (if any).
6.2.2009 3:07pm
Jim S. (mail) (www):
Justin and yankev,

You guys are probably right, I don't know anything about legal philosophy. I just suspect that someone who kills people but doesn't consider it murder because they're not really human would be insane. Whether they'd be legally insane, I don't know.
6.2.2009 3:13pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
What really brings home the point that anti-choice folks don't truly consider abortion murder is that you almost never hear them talk about treating the pregant woman as a murder. And this thread is a good example of that. It's always the doctor, ominously labeled "the abortionist."

But surely the woman is equally or more culpable in the act than the doctor? So are all you anti-choice folks willing to convict a woman who chooses the type of abortion now legal of murder (including, perhaps, a death sentence?)
6.2.2009 3:14pm
Wallace:
If someone is unlawfully imprisoned by a private actor such as in a kidnapping or hostage situation, they are typically justified in using deadly force to escape their captors. A third party trying to free a hostage could also rely on the third-party self defense justification if they killed the hostage-taker.

While abolitionists aided and abetted escapes of slaves, there are few instances of abolitionists using deadly force to do so (John Brown is famous because he as an exception). There's little question that abolitionists thought that slaves were unlawfully imprisioned. However, we don't see abolitionists as being morally inconsistent for failing to use deadly force in the same way that a person aiding a hostage would.

Modern day pro-lifers, like 19th century abolitionists, are not willing to use deadly force to prevent a murder for pretty much the same reason that 19th century abolitionists were not willing to use deadly force to free slaves/hostages.
6.2.2009 3:16pm
Houston Lawyer:
Difficult facts make for difficult choices. People do all the time make judgments about those who procure or perform abortions.

Many killings and killers are excused to some extent or entirely depending upon the circumstances. In addition, most who consider themselves to be pro-life are also believers in law and order. They also know that even if they see abortion as murder, the majority of society disagrees with them to varying degrees. If you are a pro-life advocate and you push the abortion-is-murder button you know you are going to end up with more killings, not less. Down that road lies the jihadist.
6.2.2009 3:17pm
martinned (mail) (www):

Horseshit. Doctors in the Netherlands who routinely off old and disabled people walk the streets just as freely as do abortionists.

Thank you for that one. I'd like to point out that a) euthanasia, unlike abortion, requires the consent of person/being/whatever who is about to die, and b) that Dutch abortion law is in several respects more strict than US law. No chance whatsoever that you can get a 7 month abortion here unless either the mother's life is in danger or the feutus turns out to have a severe genetic defect that will cause it to suffer miserably and die shortly after birth. (Also, there's a mandatory 6 day waiting period, and a number of rules that are meant to assure that the woman makes a free and informed decision, and that she receives sufficient aftercare.)
6.2.2009 3:20pm
rick.felt:
But surely the woman is equally or more culpable in the act than the doctor?

Let's unpack this a bit:

On one hand, you have the doctor, who is a medical professional. Four years of medical school, and a residency of some sort. He or she does abortions on a regular basis for pecuniary gain. He or she wakes up, showers, has breakfast, drives to work, aborts a couple of fetuses, then drives home.

On the other hand, you have a woman who in many cases is scared half to death of childbirth, being pressured by her husband/boyfriend/parents, and has no idea how she will possibly raise this child. She's told that this is her constitutional right, that there's nothing morally wrong with it, and that those who tell her there's something wrong with it are religious nuts who just want to place their rosaries on her ovaries.

The woman - often, teenage girl - is equally or more culpable? Not in my book.
6.2.2009 3:24pm
Nathan_M (mail):

If someone killed a homosexual or a member of a different race and then revealed that he doesn't believe such people are fully human in the way a straight or white person is, the court would probably find him innocent of murder by reason of insanity (assuming, of course, that he really thought they weren't human). Even though it was a deliberate act on his part, he did not have the knowledge that the person he was killing was a person.

I agree this argument fails as originally stated, but I'm not so sure this phrasing doesn't work with minor tweaks. For example, if the accused sincerely believed that the person he killed was a robot that would be a defence. Or, ever so slightly more plausibly, if I shoot and kill you while sincerely believing you are a marauding bear this mistake would mean I am not guilty of murder.

If an accused sincerely believes homosexuals or members of different races are not people (and sincerely does not understand the law treats them as people) then I would suggest:
(1) He does not have the mens rea for murder; and
(2) He will be found guilty anyway because it is virtually impossible to believe the defence.

The problem with applying this argument to abortion is the defence only works based on a mistaken belief of fact. Suppose I abort my fetus, knowing it is a fetus, and the law says that a fetus is a person and that abortion is murder. I have committed murder even if I sincerely believe a fetus is not a person. Here my mistake is one of law, and so it is not a defence. In contrast, if I sincerely believed the fetus was a parasitic alien growing inside me, then I would suggest that would be a defence.
6.2.2009 3:27pm
Bart (mail):
DennisN (mail):


Bart: Once the unborn human beings are considered to be legal persons as are the born, it would be difficult under equal protection to apply homicide statutes to the latter, but not the former.

It would require the creation of one or more additional classes of justifiable homicide. If a fetus is a person, than any killing of the fetus is homicide, but not necessarily murder. The case of saving the life of the mother vs. losing both lives is an easy one to justify. They get progressively harder after that.



The current self defense affirmative defense takes care of reasonable likelihood of substantial bodily harm or death to the mother.

We would probably need a new affirmative defense for unborn children who cannot survive outside the womb, but who do not pose a reasonable likelihood of substantial bodily harm or death to the mother.

The hard one is dealing with pregnancies arising from incest and rape.
6.2.2009 3:29pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Nathan_M: Robot, maybe, but I'm not so sure about the bear. As I read you ordinary murder statute, the mens rea concerns the killing. You have to [intentionally kill] a human being. So if you think another person is a bear, and you intend to kill it, then I'd say you're guilty of murder. I don't think the mens rea extends to the humanity of the victim. Since a robot cannot be killed, you can't intend to kill it, meaning that if you think a person is a robot and attack them (for example after a Sarah Connor Chronicles marathon), you would not be guilty of murder.
6.2.2009 3:32pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
"Dutch abortion law is in several respects more strict than US law. No chance whatsoever that you can get a 7 month abortion here unless either the mother's life is in danger or the feutus turns out to have a severe genetic defect that will cause it to suffer miserably and die shortly after birth."

Contrary to the crap that you hear from people like Kathryn Lopez and other dimwits, it is exactly the same in the US. There are no doctors who just perform abortions on women 7 months along where there are not extreme, extreme circumstances. Fact.
6.2.2009 3:34pm
rick.felt:
The hard one is dealing with pregnancies arising from incest and rape.

Assuming it was consensual incest, why is incest a tough case?
6.2.2009 3:36pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Saletan's argument is exceedingly dangerous in a pluralistic society such as ours. He says that, if you're not zealous enough in your actions, you don't really believe what you claim to believe. As Gabriel McCall notes in the first comment, his argument is flat wrong, as an initial matter.

But look at his argument further, what the practical effect of it might be, were the whole pro-choice side to start making it. Is it more likely to result in a bunch of pro-life folks going "yep, well, he must be right, I must not really believe life begins at conception," or is it more likely to push a few twisted extremists a little further round the bend? "So they think that if I really believe abortion is murder, I need to start killing the abortionists? I'll show THEM who is really serious about believing life begins at conception."

I've often pointed out the personal hypocrisy of folks like Al Gore, who don't really act, in their personal lives, like cutting back CO2 emissions is all that important. That's a legitimate argument. But if I were to say that Al Gore must not really belief in global warming because he hasn't engaged in eco-terrorism against coal plants, that would be ludicrous. And that's the exact same argument which Saletan is making.

If you really believed in the Bible, you'd be off killing non-believers! If you really believed in the Koran, you'd be committing jihad right now! Is this truly the kind of society he wants to promote? Insane.
6.2.2009 3:39pm
tvk:
I agree the article is thought-provoking, and for the most part I think it is correct. If a doctor was killing old people in Kansas, getting away with it, and got murdered, we'd have a somewhat different reaction.

But at least a good part of the pro-life coalition might not. You don't need to be weak-kneed to oppose George Tiller's murder, you just need to be a rather devout Catholic, who opposes both abortion and capital punishment. So even if a Kansas doctor was killing old people, the Catholic church would say that he should not be executed for those crimes.
6.2.2009 3:41pm
Deepthought:
What really brings home the point that anti-choice folks don't truly consider abortion murder is that you almost never hear them talk about treating the pregant woman as a murder. And this thread is a good example of that. It's always the doctor, ominously labeled "the abortionist."

But surely the woman is equally or more culpable in the act than the doctor? So are all you anti-choice folks willing to convict a woman who chooses the type of abortion now legal of murder (including, perhaps, a death sentence?)


I agree. I have never understood the double standard of "punish the doctor, not the woman," for it is the woman who is solicting the "murder" of her unborn. Abortion doctors don't willy-nilly drag women into clinics to abort their fetuses. It's the woman who goes into the clinic and makes the decision to kill her unborn child. She is probably guilty (at a minimum) of solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy. No doubt the felony murder rule would also apply. I think the distinction is based on the fact that most doctors are male and the women are portrayed as helpless "victims."

I have equally never understood the "health/life exception." If abortion is murder, and a woman dies in childbirth, it is simply part of life's plan. To commit an abortion to "save the life of the mother" is simply to say that one life is more valuable than another. Who is
to say which life is more valuable?

Those who oppose Roe v. Wade and say the abortion issue should be "returned to the states" are dodging the real question of whether abortion is or is not murder. If abortion is evil, then the states per se cannot allow abortions. It must be banned.
6.2.2009 3:43pm
AnthonyJ (mail):
It is worth noting that pregnancy, in and of itself, qualifies as 'substantial bodily harm' -- it's a medical condition that generally prevents a number of categories of physical labor for multiple months and prevents most activity for in the last two months or so. Thus, the prevention of 'substantial bodily harm' in fact permits any abortion.
6.2.2009 3:44pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@CrazyTrain: Good to know. I checked some of the Dutch statutes, and legally the main line drawn is after 13 weeks. Before that point, you can get an abortion in pretty much any hospital. After, you have to go to a specialised clinic, which your local hospital normally wouldn't have. As a practical matter, abortion on demand is a non-starter after about 20 weeks.

A quick glance in Wiki and German statute law shows that their law is even stricter: Abortion on demand only in the first trimester (3 day waiting period), afterwards abortion is only possible if there is a medical necessity on the part of the mother (which could be psychiatric). Interestingly, until 22 weeks abortion is a crime for the doctor but not for the mother.
6.2.2009 3:44pm
Nathan_M (mail):
@martinned If you post the statute you are looking at I can look at it specifically, but at common law murder required proof that the accused intended to kill a human being. (The common law doctrine of transferred intent meant the accused need not necessary intend to kill the particular victim.)
6.2.2009 3:51pm
Guest12345:

We would probably need a new affirmative defense for unborn children who cannot survive outside the womb, but who do not pose a reasonable likelihood of substantial bodily harm or death to the mother.


The issue is that medical care is getting good enough that the age where an unborn child can survive outside the womb is getting closer and closer to conception. I've read of premies of 20 weeks old, about 55% of the way through a normal pregnancy, surviving and prospering.

Viability is an odd question, imo. Do we allow people to kill grievously injured individuals? And individuals that we have put into a state of being grievously injured?

Add in universal health care, and at what point does abortion of a "viable fetus" become disallowed due to the fact that Obama is going to pick up the medical bill and the doctors can bring an extremely premature baby along to full health?
6.2.2009 3:51pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

I have equally never understood the "health/life exception." If abortion is murder, and a woman dies in childbirth, it is simply part of life's plan. To commit an abortion to "save the life of the mother" is simply to say that one life is more valuable than another. Who is
to say which life is more valuable?

What about the woman's right to self defense?
6.2.2009 3:55pm
BerkeleyBeetle:
Dunstan's link leads me to another post which perhaps explains the problem with the idea presented by Saletan, where Hilzoy writes "Deciding to start killing people who are doing things that are legal is deciding to go into full-scale revolt against one's government."

There's a deep hypocrisy in picking a particular aspect of civilization to rebel against while comfortably enjoying the protections of that same civilization. People like Roeder are relying on the fact that not many people share their view and thus government remains intact to protect them from the predations of others.

While many people shrug off "rule of law" as some kind of irrational obssession that inflexible, uncreative political activists have, this case helps bring its meaning to the forefront. Advocating murder for legal actions is to advocate the collapse of government, which could be a much greater injustice, and shying away from that result doesn't make one's beliefs insincere.
6.2.2009 3:55pm
MarkField (mail):

What did George Tiller "deserve"?


"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"
6.2.2009 4:01pm
Respondent:
I don't see why pragmatism in publicly rejecting a politically incorrect method of dealing with thousands of deaths is hypocrisy. When the German authorities carried out massive non-consensual extermination programs targeting the disabled, churches opposed to them certainly stood better chance of being effective if they didn't carry out assassination attempts on those who carried out the program, and the same holds true for abortion. The backlash just isn't worth it.

What really brings home the point that anti-choice folks don't truly consider abortion murder is that you almost never hear them talk about treating the pregant woman as a murder. And this thread is a good example of that. It's always the doctor, ominously labeled "the abortionist."

But surely the woman is equally or more culpable in the act than the doctor? So are all you anti-choice folks willing to convict a woman who chooses the type of abortion now legal of murder (including, perhaps, a death sentence?)


Joseph Slater,
Your rhetoric doesn't usefully advance the discussion here...
Consider the following: What really brings home the point that [anti-life] folks don't truly consider [killing-young disabled children] murder is that you almost never hear them talk about treating the [parents] as murderers. And this thread is a good example of that. It's always the [extermination technician], [euphemistically] labeled "the doctor" [in the most chilling Orwellian sense, as in "Dr. Joseph Mengele"].

But surely the [parent] is equally or more culpable in the act than the [exterminator]? So are all you [anti-life] folks willing to convict a [parent] who chooses the type of [extermination] now legal of murder (including, perhaps, a death sentence?)

That's the equivalent case from the other side. Your inflammatory language doesn't help your point.
6.2.2009 4:06pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
rick.felt:

I'm puzzled at how you deny agency to the pregnant woman and put it all on the doctor. What if a woman hired a hit man to kill her three-year old son?
6.2.2009 4:12pm
rick.felt:
Joseph Slater:

I didn't "deny agency to the pregnant woman." I didn't put moral blame exclusively on the doctor. You asked about comparative moral culpability. I answered that the doctor is more morally culpable in most circumstances. My position that the doctor is more culpable does not imply that the woman is not culpable.
6.2.2009 4:29pm
DCP:

I think the proper term to use in place of murder is infanticide - a crime defined as killing an infant for the purpose of avoiding having to care for it. Historically, infanticide has always been treated mush softer than murder or perhaps even manslaughter.

Effectively killing a newborn (or abandoning it to die) was abortion before medical technology was advanced enough to make the practice easier - essentially performing the act on something we can't see. And some cultures even permitted it, or at least turned a blind eye.

But I agree, there is definitely some middle ground here. We already make all sorts of moral divisions regarding the taking of human life. Even an act of first degree murder will be treated differently if is the President you are killing (assasination) or a member of a race you despise (hate crime).
6.2.2009 4:31pm
ShelbyC:
On a semi-related note, I wonder if the dems are about to overturn Roe with their socialized medicine.
6.2.2009 4:33pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

We already make all sorts of moral divisions regarding the taking of human life. Even an act of first degree murder will be treated differently if is the President you are killing (assasination) or a member of a race you despise (hate crime).

Those laws don't elevate the life of a President or police officer or minority because they only apply when the offender knows that person is a specific classification.
6.2.2009 4:40pm
LTR:
I don't generally think that abortion=murder, but Tiller's work came very close to that, so close that even if you won't call it murder it's just about morally repugnant to me. That said, shooting him point blank in the head while he attended church service is a terrible crime, even if he was love child of Stalin and Lucrezia Borgia.

On the other hand, don't expect to shed a tear for him. I don't know how sincere Tiller's faith was, but for his good it would be better there's no afterlife.
6.2.2009 4:42pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

but Tiller's work came very close to that, so close that even if you won't call it murder it's just about morally repugnant to me.

Why don't you mention the mother in all this? She is the one paying him for his services.
6.2.2009 4:44pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
ruuffles makes the same point I've been trying to make. Why do the anti-choice folks ignore the mother in their murder analogies?

rick.felt:

OK, you think the mother is "somewhat culpable," but culpable of what? Murder? If not, why not? And I'll ask again: how would you distinguish a woman who hired a hit man to kill her three-year old son? Surely that woman is equally culpable as the hit man.
6.2.2009 4:50pm
DennisN (mail):
Bart


The current self defense affirmative defense takes care of reasonable likelihood of substantial bodily harm or death to the mother.

We would probably need a new affirmative defense for unborn children who cannot survive outside the womb, but who do not pose a reasonable likelihood of substantial bodily harm or death to the mother.

The hard one is dealing with pregnancies arising from incest and rape.


If we are to keep the current practices in place, it would also need to include abortion at the simple discretion of the mother as justifiable homicide. That's the one that gets really icky.

There is another fly in this ointment, in that the law in at least some jurisdictions has stated, in effect, that the fetus is a person. Some states allow prosecution for murder for the killing of a fetus.

I think an argument can be made that you can't have it both ways, so if killing a fetus is murder, then a convenience abortion is either justifiable homicide or murder.
6.2.2009 4:51pm
LTR:
Well, there's a difference between Pablo Escobar and a random inner-city crackhead isn't there? I think 90% of women who have abortions are just desperate and feel like they don't have other way out. 10% just want to get rid of the baby and go party in Cancun though.
6.2.2009 4:53pm
DennisN (mail):
martinned:


I'm not so sure about the bear. As I read you ordinary murder statute, the mens rea concerns the killing. You have to [intentionally kill] a human being. So if you think another person is a bear, and you intend to kill it, then I'd say you're guilty of murder.


Then a person who mistakenly kills his hunting buddy is a murderer? He had the mens rea to bag a bear.

Leaving aside accidents, if a person believes I am a bear, then they are so deluded about the actual facts, that I don't believe mens rea is possible. It is an insanity or mental defect defense.
6.2.2009 4:56pm
martinned (mail) (www):

Then a person who mistakenly kills his hunting buddy is a murderer? He had the mens rea to bag a bear.

Hmmmm. Good point. I hadn't thought of that.
6.2.2009 4:59pm
G.R. Mead (mail):
Murder? We can make it genocide by law, it seems, but not murder. Why is that? We seem to have a national policy regarding abortions, dedicated to increasingly provide them at taxpayer expense, and according to Speaker Pelosi, targeting certain groups (also disproportionately targeted by the providers) who the policymakers deem ought have fewer offspring, by numerous means, including abortion:

Title 18 U.S.C. § 1091. Genocide

(a) Basic Offense.— Whoever, whether in time of peace or in time of war, in a circumstance described in subsection (d) [[relating to territorial jurisdiction]] and with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such—
(1) kills members of that group;
...
(5) imposes measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
...
or attempts to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).

(Oh, and:}

...
(c) Incitement Offense.— Whoever in a circumstance described in subsection (d) directly and publicly incites another to violate subsection (a) shall be fined not more than $500,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
6.2.2009 5:06pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
And what happens when we can breed humans in vitreo, a-la Brave New World?

I've seen a very well done paper arguing that the resolution to the abortion debate will come not through politics, but through technology: if there's a viable option to decant a fetus into an artificial womb, there's very little remaining justification, in most cases, for killing it. Abortion will be replaced with eviction.
6.2.2009 5:07pm
DennisN (mail):
tvk:


You don't need to be weak-kneed to oppose George Tiller's murder, you just need to be a rather devout Catholic, who opposes both abortion and capital punishment.


You don't even need to oppose capital punishment. You merely need to think that murder is not a good idea.
6.2.2009 5:08pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):


Effectively killing a newborn (or abandoning it to die) was abortion before medical technology was advanced enough to make the practice easier - essentially performing the act on something we can't see. And some cultures even permitted it, or at least turned a blind eye.


When the Althing in Iceland declared that Iceland was a Christian country, the two major concessions made to those who had not yet converted was the continued legality of infanticide and the allowance of private (but not public) pagan sacrifices.
6.2.2009 5:10pm
rick.felt:
Slater:

OK, you think the mother is "somewhat culpable," but culpable of what? Murder? If not, why not?

Murder, possibly. But that just returns us to the basic question in this discussion: whether it makes sense to treat abortion as murder under criminal law. And if you look up, you can see many excellent explanations for why I might not want to treat abortion the same as murder of adults, even if I thought it was the moral equivalent. I don't believe, for example, that positive law must track moral law proportionately. It can't. Positive law is too crude of an instrument.

And I'll ask again: how would you distinguish a woman who hired a hit man to kill her three-year old son?

Depends on the mother's mental state. I certainly would treat a mother suffering from post-partum depression differently from a mother who just got tired of having a kid after a couple of year. I'd treat them differently because the situations are different. Again, the positive law may be too crude to accomplish what we would wish to accomplish from a moral standpoint.

But if you really want to back me into a wall on this one, how about this: abortion, whether procured or performed, is punishable by up to one year in prison. A woman getting her first abortion will just get probation, like any other first-time offender. But it won't take long for a provider to rack up enough consecutive sentences that he or she spends a long time in prison.
6.2.2009 5:13pm
Whadonna More:

Joseph Slater

OK, [rick.felt] thinks the mother is "somewhat culpable," but culpable of what? Murder? If not, why not? And I'll ask again: how would you distinguish a woman who hired a hit man to kill her three-year old son? Surely that woman is equally culpable as the hit man.


A better hypothetical is a man who hires an assasin to execute his child. There's a strong bias toward infantilising women in the pro-life community, so you'll avoid endless rationalizing about the sacred role of mothers and other Freudian crap if you leave the girls out of it.
6.2.2009 5:13pm
Blue:
The problem with Tiller was that he was a true zealot--he believed that a woman should be able to have an abortion for any reason at any time up to birth and he was also willing to lie about trivialities like "viability" and "health of the woman" to allow them to accomplish this.

When Tiller and his patient confered, the legal guidelines designed to protect the viable but unborn child were shredded.
6.2.2009 5:17pm
PubliusFL:
DennisN: Then a person who mistakenly kills his hunting buddy is a murderer? He had the mens rea to bag a bear.

Perhaps it depends on whether he is poaching or has any required license and permit and believes that killing the bear would be lawful. ;)
6.2.2009 5:21pm
Constantin:
Why do the anti-choice folks ignore the mother in their murder analogies?

Because doing so advances the ultimate political cause of stopping the abortions better than branding them murderers (or killing abortion doctors) does.

(The use of the term "anti-choice" is so childish and absurd that anyone using it probably should be ignored, but I figured I'd answer anyway.)
6.2.2009 5:23pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Because doing so advances the ultimate political cause of stopping the abortions better than branding them murderers (or killing abortion doctors) does.

What does it mean to stop abortions from happening? I presume you mean enacting laws criminalizing them.
6.2.2009 5:27pm
Deepthought:
I have equally never understood the "health/life exception." If abortion is murder, and a woman dies in childbirth, it is simply part of life's plan. To commit an abortion to "save the life of the mother" is simply to say that one life is more valuable than another. Who is
to say which life is more valuable?


What about the woman's right to self defense?


What is the woman defending herself against? What crime has the fetus committed against her? The fetus is not intentionally killing her. Being born is not a criminal offense.
6.2.2009 5:30pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Whadonna Moore: I'm with you.

Rick.felt:

I'm honestly not trying to back you into a corner. But you do seem to be saying that you would treat a woman who got an abortion quite differently than your typical murderer.

And that was my only point. That even people with fairly strong anti-choice convictions don't really think the mother should be treated as we treat normal murderers. Which makes me think that those anti-choice folks don't really think of what the woman is doing as murder, in the full legal sense of the term.
6.2.2009 5:31pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Why do the anti-choice folks ignore the mother in their murder analogies?


I can't believe you really wonder this. Its not very hard to figure it out.

Its because they do not want to repel people who don't like abortion but don't want women to go to jail. Its strictly practical.

Now, a more interesting question is why do pro-abortion folks always ignore the baby?

Tiller was killing babies so late in the term that they could have been born alive and been sent home right away, not even going to ICU. Even more of his abortions would have had a few days only in the hospital and would have had zero long term problems. He was not doing first term abortions where you can argue that the woman has a greater right.

So, why do you ignore this?
6.2.2009 5:31pm
Deepthought:
. . . abortion, whether procured or performed, is punishable by up to one year in prison. A woman getting her first abortion will just get probation, like any other first-time offender. But it won't take long for a provider to rack up enough consecutive sentences that he or she spends a long time in prison.

You let them off too easy. How many intentional murderers (as opposed to accidental killings) get only a year or probation?
6.2.2009 5:32pm
Blue:
Even in a balancing test between two completely equivilent parties (the mother and the unborn child) I fail to see how you can require the woman to kill herself.

The problem with Health/Life is that you get people like Tiller who stretch its meaning to include virtually anything unpleasant.
6.2.2009 5:33pm
Ortsacras:
you'll avoid endless rationalizing about the sacred role of mothers and other Freudian crap if you leave the girls out of it.

Yeah! Because the Catholic Church's anti-abortion position is characterized by a warm embrace of Sigmund Freud!
6.2.2009 5:35pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):


Now, a more interesting question is why do pro-abortion folks always ignore the baby?

Because most people who are pro-choice believe it's a fetus. If you believe its a baby, then do you support murder charges for a pregnant woman who got an abortion from Tiller?
6.2.2009 5:35pm
dr:

The problem with Health/Life is that you get people like Tiller who stretch its meaning to include virtually anything unpleasant.



Would someone please provide some kind of evidence of this, please? I have seen this charge now at least a few times here. I have seen no indication that it's actually true.
6.2.2009 5:37pm
Deepthought:
Even in a balancing test between two completely equivilent parties (the mother and the unborn child) I fail to see how you can require the woman to kill herself.

I don't understand why you think her life is automatically more important than the baby's right. Up until very recently (in historical terms) women died in childbirth all the time.
6.2.2009 5:38pm
dr:

I don't understand why you think her life is automatically more important than the baby's right. Up until very recently (in historical terms) women died in childbirth all the time.




...and this was a good thing?
6.2.2009 5:40pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Deepthought: Self-defense is not retribution and does not require that the person you are defending yourself from be committing any crime. The clearest example of this is that the affirmative defense of self-defense would not fail because the attacker was insane or incompetent at the time of the attack.
6.2.2009 5:41pm
Deepthought:
It's neither good or bad. It just how life worked out. But it wasn't man (or woman) making the choice and committing murder through abortion.
6.2.2009 5:42pm
Deepthought:
....the affirmative defense of self-defense would not fail because the attacker was insane or incompetent at the time of the attack.

I would not say the act of being born is an "attack" or committing violence. The baby is not attacking the mother during the birth process. The mother is certainly attacking the baby if she gets an abortion.
6.2.2009 5:45pm
rick.felt:
I'm honestly not trying to back you into a corner. But you do seem to be saying that you would treat a woman who got an abortion quite differently than your typical murderer.

That's what this whole discussion is about: why hypothetical positive law would treat abortion differently from the way it treats murder of adults. You can read; I'm not going to repeat every argument made here. The arguments tend to be either "there is a moral distinction" or "we're not going to get very far with outlawing any abortions if we advocate trying scared sixteen-year-olds for first-degree murder."

Additionally, I gave a reason for treating pregnant women who don't want to go through pregnancy and childbirth differently than doctors who want a new Mercedes.

But I'm not going to have this conversation with you if you continue the "anti-choice" stuff. Endeavor not to insult your opponents.
6.2.2009 5:47pm
Sarcastro (www):
I must say I am disappointed in how civil and interesting this thread has been.

I can only hope that at some point Sotomeyor talks about getting an abortions as a Latina woman.

And Sarah Palin works in there somehow as well.
6.2.2009 5:48pm
wfjag:
DennisN:


Bart: Once the unborn human beings are considered to be legal persons as are the born, it would be difficult under equal protection to apply homicide statutes to the latter, but not the former.

It would require the creation of one or more additional classes of justifiable homicide. If a fetus is a person, than any killing of the fetus is homicide, but not necessarily murder. The case of saving the life of the mother vs. losing both lives is an easy one to justify. They get progressively harder after that.

No, it wouldn't.

A sizeable number of states recognize that killing a viable fetus is murder. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Morris, 142 S.W.3d 654 (Ky. 2004) (Killing a Viable fetus is murder); Commonwealth v. Cass, 392 Mass. 799, 467 N.E.2d 1324, 1325-26 (Mass. 1984) (viable fetus is a "person" under a vehicular homicide statute criminalizing causing the death of "another person"); Hughes v. State, ; 868 P.2d 730, 731 Okla. Crim. App. 1994)(viable fetus is a "human being" under statute defining homicide as the killing of a "human being"); State v. Horne, 282 S.C. 444, 319 S.E.2d 703, 704 (S.C. 1984) (viable fetus is a "person" within statute defining murder as the killing of "any person").

Similarly, a sizeable number of states recognize wrongful death civil actions for killing a viable fetus. See, e.g.
Rice v. Rizk, Ky., 453 S.W.2d 732, 735 (Ky. 1970); William J. Cason, May Parents Maintain an Action for the Wrongful Death of an Unborn Child in Missouri? The Case for the Right of Action, 15 Mo. L. Rev. 212, 218 (June 1950).

I found these cites in about 3 minutes research. I don't know if a majority of the states' laws so hold, but, if they are minority doctrines, they are sizeable minorities.


I found Saletan's piece sophomoric and offensive. There are a lot of reasons why people choose not to kill those whose conduct they find morally reprehensible. These include abiding by a principle that killing is wrong absent some extreme justification. That Tiller, over the course of his career, performed some 60,000 abortions and was paid $Millions is reprehensible. But, by itself, in a nation that accepts as legal his right to do so, that does not justify murdering him. I never shed a tear for Oswald, but have no doubt that Jack Ruby deserved life without parol (and unlike Saletan's opinion that Tiller was "brave" -- for terminating the life of the defenseless and making a forture doing so -- Ruby at least was willing to face the consequences of what he did. He had no hope of escaping and a very good chance of dying when he murdered Oswald in the Dallas police HQ. That's a lot more braverly than Tiller ever showed. But, that wouldn't justify a lesser punishment for Ruby.)

While Saletan doesn't seem to understand the point -- the rule of law means accepting that one's opinions aren't necessarily the legal standards, so you either grin and bear it, or try to change the law by legal means.
6.2.2009 5:54pm
Blue:
Think of Good Samaritan law. These do not require that the rescuer place themselves at risk of death to save another. If you can think of an example where the law compels one person to risk their life to save another I'd be interested to hear what it is.
6.2.2009 5:55pm
NowMDJD (mail):

No chance whatsoever that you can get a 7 month abortion here unless either the mother's life is in danger or the feutus turns out to have a severe genetic defect that will cause it to suffer miserably and die shortly after birth.

In most US jurisdictions as well, abortions after viability are not permitted, or ar permitted only in the most extreme circumstances.
6.2.2009 5:55pm
Blue:
Well, that's the claim anyways. Tiller himself had a long list of reasons why he would perform late-term abortions:


Your presence here this morning means that something is going dramatically wrong in your life. You may be here to end a pregnancy early because of fetal abnormality to save your unwell, unborn child from a lifetime of pain, suffering, disability, and hardship.

On the other hand, you may be here because of some of your own issues of survival. You may have issues of domestic violence: rape, incest, spouse abuse, or child abuse. You may have issues of your own health.

You may have some serious disease process: cancer, lymphoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or any one of a number of the other medical problems that can afflict women of child bearing age. You may have some issues of age yourself.

You may be 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 years of age. On the other hand, you may be at the end of the other spectrum of fertility. You may be 40, 45, 50, 55, or even 60 years of age.

There may be some issues of poverty such as homelessness. You may have some occupational issues. You may have some financial issues.

But, for whatever reason that you are here... we find that there are many reasons why women find that continuing the pregnancy will cause substantial and irreversible impairment of their physical health, their mental health, their emotional health, their family health, age of the patient, safety and well-being... for whatever reason that you are here, welcome to Wichita, and thank you for the opportunity to be helpful to you.
6.2.2009 6:00pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Those who oppose Roe v. Wade and say the abortion issue should be "returned to the states" are dodging the real question of whether abortion is or is not murder. If abortion is evil, then the states per se cannot allow abortions. It must be banned.

But even now, states may differ at the edges as to what is murder. And except for abortion, the federal government does not proscribe punishing activity that a state might consider homicide.

As a practical matter, all legislation regarding termination of pregnancy might best be left to the states. If you believe that abortion is (or isn't) murder, convince your legislature. And the outcome in Arkansas doesn't have much of an impact on us in New York, or vice versa. On the other hand, when this is a national political issue, people are elected, or nominated to courts, for their positions on abortion. This detracts from choosing the best people to resolve other issues of general importance that need to be settled at the federal level.
6.2.2009 6:01pm
DennisN (mail):
ruuffles:


What does it mean to stop abortions from happening? I presume you mean enacting laws criminalizing them.


Not necessarily. From a moral and political POV, it would be sufficient that no one has one. They could become socially unacceptable, or medically obsolete.


Deepthought:


What about the woman's right to self defense?


What is the woman defending herself against? What crime has the fetus committed against her? The fetus is not intentionally killing her. Being born is not a criminal offense.


It is not necessary that a crime be committed against you to defend yourself. You can pry off the fingers of a drowning man rather than let him drag you down.



Blue:


The problem with Health/Life is that you get people like Tiller who stretch its meaning to include virtually anything unpleasant.


Isn't would be within the capability of the criminal justice system to discern the facts in cases like Tiller?


Deepthought:


I don't understand why you think her life is automatically more important than the baby's right. Up until very recently (in historical terms) women died in childbirth all the time.


There is the matter of comparative risk. The optimal solution is the one where the maximum number of people survive. In the case where the life of the mother is at risk, the risk of losing both is excessive. The only general exception I can see to that would be a risky childbirth, but the medical community already has sufficient means to deal with that while saving both.
6.2.2009 6:03pm
Blue:
DennisN, yes, and to my mind the tragedy of his death is that the facts will never truly come out. Remember, though, that dealing with him legally was tremendously complicated by the unflinching support Gov. Sebellius provided his clinic.
6.2.2009 6:06pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
@Rick Felt
Additionally, I gave a reason for treating pregnant women who don't want to go through pregnancy and childbirth differently than doctors who want a new Mercedes.
Do you have some evidence that Dr. Tiller drove a Mercedes? Or that Planned Parenthood doctors in general drive luxury cars? This really is slanderous.

Add me to the list that isn't happy with removing the pregnant woman as a moral actor from the abortion decision. (Something, I would add, that conservatives never do when the woman is applying for welfare benefits.) And I dare say it's because putting girls who have had abortions in jail is a political loser. But why (under the abortion is murder theory) solicitation of an abortion would not be a crime escapes me entirely.
6.2.2009 6:09pm
Blue:
He was turning over $5K per patient for two to three days of work and could handle 10 at a time.

Sure he had expenses, but I think it is safe to say Dr. Tiller made a tidy little living out of his chosen profession.
6.2.2009 6:13pm
DCP:

Why don't we simply revert back to how the issue was dealt with before Roe vs. Wade?

People seem to talk about the abortion issue as if it has always been the way it is now and that proposing any sort of changes is going into scary unchartered territory as opposed to simply turning back the clock 40 years.

In fairness, I'm young and not overly passionate about the issue, but whenever pro-choice people start arguing "what would you do if...", I simply shrug and say, "I don't know, whatever they did in 1972".

At some point I also have to remind them that the phrase "back alley abortion" referred not to some homeless person in a dark alley with a coat hanger and table salt, but rather to a licensed OB/GYN who would sneak patients into his clinic through a back door (perhaps at night) and perform abortions which were prohibited by law in that jurisdiction, but otherwise typically conformed to the norms of the practice (with whatever inherent risks that applied at the time as to available medical knowledge and technology). An example would be Michael Caine's character in Cider House Rules.
6.2.2009 6:17pm
UterusWithLegs:
I suspect Deepthought is a troll, but would nevertheless like to respond to his deeply offensive ponderings. All other aspects of the abortion debate aside, anyone who truly believes that a woman (like me) should die in order to continue a pregnancy that threatens her life (and would almost certainly result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or death shortly after birth for the fetus/baby) has little understanding of biology and no understanding of morality.

Perhaps this will help you understand. I had to terminate an ectopic pregnancy using methotrexate, which is the lowest risk way to treat the condition but that some misogynist in the Catholic church has declared to be impermissible abortion. In the best case scenario, the embryo would have "gone away" on its own. Otherwise, it would have ruptured my fallopian tube and caused me grievous injury, if I didn't bleed out and die before I could get medical attention. There is no scenario that would have resulted in a live birth. My choice was to risk serious injury to myself and my future fertility, including my possible death, or terminate the pregnancy early on. Most antiabortion folks (except for the aforementioned Catholic misogynists) can understand the difference between an abortion in this situation and what they would consider elective abortions. I suspect Deepthought does as well, but I find his posing distasteful, offensive, and unhelpful, not to mention guaranteeing that what has been a surprisingly civilized series of blog comments will quickly degenerate into a flamewar.
6.2.2009 6:18pm
rick.felt:
Do you have some evidence that Dr. Tiller drove a Mercedes? Or that Planned Parenthood doctors in general drive luxury cars? This really is slanderous.

We can do this without the faux outrage, right, Lazarus? Awesome!

I wasn't talking about Tiller specifically. I was saying that there is a reason for the law to treat a sixteen-year-old who's being pressured into an abortion by her parents and boyfriend differently than a doctor who chose to make his living performing abortions.

I'm not in favor of "removing the pregnant woman as a moral actor from the abortion decision." Good gravy, do you live your life in a binary world where someone can only be completely morally culpable or completely morally blameless? Where everyone is either completely damnable or completely innocent?

It's so weird. The anti-abortion folks are blasted for being callous if they advocate punishing women who get abortions, and blasted as inconsistent if they show compassion for women who face a pregnancy they do not want by not advocating for them to be charged with first-degree murder.

How about... we don't want babies to die, and we're willing to make practical concessions to accommodate the least-culpable party in the abortion transaction if it means greater success in reaching our goals?
6.2.2009 6:38pm
ShelbyC:
If you refer to someone else as "anti-choice" I guess that makes you anti-life.
6.2.2009 6:42pm
rick.felt:
UterusWithLegs:

Your Catholic misogynist is outside the mainstream of Catholic physicians on this issue.
Given that in an ectopic pregnancy the fallopian tube is pathological (e.g., will bleed or rupture) because of the manner in which the trophoblast has imbedded itself in the tube's inner wall, it seems well within moral probity for the obstetrician to intend the removal of the trophoblast and to employ the means to fulfill the intention, even though that means the death of the fetus will result. It seems this opinion has an intrinsic probability—that is, a probability founded on the physical facts of fetal development in an ectopic pregnancy.
6.2.2009 6:46pm
Tatil:

To commit an abortion to "save the life of the mother" is simply to say that one life is more valuable than another. Who is to say which life is more valuable?

As far as I know, there are no laws that require helping another if that would put the potential rescuer's life in grave danger. It is difficult to justify a legal act to force somebody to sacrifice their own life to save another.
6.2.2009 6:50pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I wasn't talking about Tiller specifically. I was saying that there is a reason for the law to treat a sixteen-year-old who's being pressured into an abortion by her parents and boyfriend differently than a doctor who chose to make his living performing abortions.
And the many women who aren't 16 and aren't being pressured by parents and boyfriends? How long should their prison terms be? Whoever upthread referred to the way the pro-life movement infantalizes women is right on: it just can't be the case that a woman has made this decision on her own.

Of course, if the woman were at Dr. Tiller's clinic, it's likely that the fetus was malformed and not viable or even already dead. How long should those would-be mothers serve in prison.
6.2.2009 7:08pm
notaclue (mail):
Eugene and Bart and DennisN are right. Some of us pro-lifers consider every abortion a homicide but not necessarily a murder.
6.2.2009 7:16pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Not necessarily. From a moral and political POV, it would be sufficient that no one has one. They could become socially unacceptable, or medically obsolete.

What I was trying to say is that its impossible to completely eliminate abortions. Good luck with the "socially unacceptable." As for "medically obsolete," two words: black market.
6.2.2009 7:44pm
Betty1:
How about another option - abortion is overall a social net positive and it should be encouraged, considering the socioeconomic and educational levels of those having the abortions in the first place. Those of you who don't like paying taxes, don't enjoy covering some other persons mistake through social programs, you'd think would welcome such an idea. It's not compatible to hate paying taxes, hate supporting social programs, dislike paying for quality educational programs for underprivileged youths, and can't stand welfare queens...and being pro-life. Either support the community who are most at risk of having an abortion through your tax dollars or keep abortion cheap and legal. Making it a crime would only result in thousands of women going to an already overburdened judicial and prison system, increases in taxes and decreases in the available workforce.

I welcome the day that the early commenter stated that abortion would become a matter of eviction. Then all of the pro-lifers can walk the walk and actually care for those children who are unwanted and would have been aborted. Sounds like a fine solution to me. You don't want abortions to occur - great. Raise the resulting unwanted children yourself.
6.2.2009 8:08pm
UterusWithLegs:
Try again, Richard Felt. Most Catholic moralists (the misogynistic ones) think that methotrexate constitutes a "direct" abortion, which is impermissible even in ectopic pregnancies. Apparently, removing the tube is OK because . . . well, I can't explain it because it's so stupid.

http://www.cuf.org/Faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=57
"The majority of Catholic moralists reject MTX and salpingostomy on the basis that these two amount to no less than a direct abortion. In both cases, the embryo is directly attacked, so the death of the embryo is not the unintended evil effect, but rather the very means used to bring about the intended good effect. Yet, for an act to be morally licit, not only must the intended effect be good, but also the act itself must be good. For this reason, most moralists agree that MTX and salpingostomy do not withstand the application of the principle of double effect."
6.2.2009 8:25pm
AlanDownunder (mail):
Binary, trinary, shminary. A cluster of insensate cells at day one, a person at 9 months, infinite gradation in between. A pity zealots can't handle shades of gray. Moral absolutism is no kind of rational response to real life relativism.

Not to mention the pathological inverse relationship in the US between opposition to abortion and opposition to capital punishment, police killings, torture and war crimes.
6.2.2009 8:38pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Hmmm.... It seems a hallmark of our system that we do not require individuals to undergo medical procedures for the benefit of another. Under this view, it seems that the same decision which ultimately (and too ate) upheld Angela Carder's wish to have a normal birth also protects women who would seek to end their pregnancy. This seems also in line with the undue burden standard articulated in Casey.

The second question is whether abortion done in contravention of the law is murder. Few seem to actually think so when it comes to proposals.

Finally the question of valuing lives can center around objective value. The simple fact of the matter is that the best way to protect the baby is to protect the mommy. Generally you don't have a choice of who to protect. It is Mommy or Nobody (I have heard this from several OB's). So the questions of valuing the mother's life over the fetus's life is rather misinformed.

It seems to me that the best way forward is to agree that:
1) It is better if abortion is avoided and
2) The crazies on both sides should be ignored.

Then we can actually start working on reducing the abortion rate by encouraging earlier access to prenatal care, options for those who might choose them (charities covering medical expenses for mothers who choose to give up the child for adoption instead of aborting it), better access to contraception for teenagers, etc. This doesn't really require legal bans and a lot of work could be done now.
6.2.2009 8:40pm
Donna B. (mail) (www):
As some have posted above, morals and laws are not equivalent, nor can they be.

My morals would not allow me to have an abortion, but I recognize that I do not have a right to impose my morals on others. Whether abortion at any stage is illegal is a matter of policy and law, not morals. I can lobby and campaign for such that suit me, but I cannot force them. I cannot condone murder under any circumstances.

I'm not a religious person, but one waffling between agnostic and atheist, so I'm immune to the religious arguments surrounding this issue.

One problem I have with abortions after viability is that they often differ from premature delivery only by the fact that the fetus/baby is deliberately killed. This is the choice of the pregnant woman who seeks a late-term abortion.

One thing I desire of policy/law is that it be consistent. If one can be charged for causing the death of a fetus in cases of vehicular homicide -- an unintentional act -- why is the intentional act treated differently? The only answer is that the deciding factor is the intent of the mother.

The intent of the mother is, to me, not a valid legal reason. Though I thoroughly understand (from experience) the bodily changes a pregnancy inflicts, I do not consider a normal pregnancy a threat to the life of the mother or to the integrity of her body.

I am addressing health of the mother issues where intent is concerned. A woman experiencing pre-eclampsia knows that the only cure is termination of the pregnancy. Since this affliction is mostly experienced late in the pregnancy, how is the mother protected by first killing the fetus and then inducing labor, or by simply inducing labor and giving the fetus a chance to live?

Though it is certainly not true of all, even the pro-choice movement must admit that a number of late term abortions are done simply for convenience, not for health. If the health of the mother is preserved delivering a living baby as well as by delivering a dead fetus, why is there a legal reason for the mother to have such judgment that the law recognizes differently elsewhere?

If my way was law, preventing pregnancy would be paramount. I have little sympathy for those calling themselves pro-life who also want to prohibit birth control being easy, cheap, and convenient to women.

And yeah, I'm not holding my breath waiting for my way to become law.
6.2.2009 8:45pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
DennisN

Not necessarily. From a moral and political POV, it would be sufficient that no one has one. They could become socially unacceptable, or medically obsolete.

Abortion is and will remain a politically a losing issue. On the order of half of all women of voting age have had an abortion. That means that you have to convince two thirds of everyone else (men plus the half of women who have not had an abortion) to vote against abortion. That is not going to happen. Any time legal abortion appears to be in danger politically, at least half of all women will become one issue voters, if they aren't already.
6.2.2009 8:46pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
Betty1

Those of you who don't like paying taxes, don't enjoy covering some other persons mistake through social programs, you'd think would welcome such an idea. It's not compatible to hate paying taxes, hate supporting social programs, dislike paying for quality educational programs for underprivileged youths, and can't stand welfare queens...and being pro-life. Either support the community who are most at risk of having an abortion through your tax dollars or keep abortion cheap and legal.

Careful there. The people who are against paying taxes for the social programs also tend to be the ones who do the most voluntary giving.
6.2.2009 8:53pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Donna B:

Though it is certainly not true of all, even the pro-choice movement must admit that a number of late term abortions are done simply for convenience, not for health. If the health of the mother is preserved delivering a living baby as well as by delivering a dead fetus, why is there a legal reason for the mother to have such judgment that the law recognizes differently elsewhere?


Many late-term abortion cases seem to be issues where congenital problems are discovered late in pregnancy because a woman didn't get prenatal help early on. It seems to me that the major goal ought to be to get women in to see a doctor early in the pregnancy, etc.


If my way was law, preventing pregnancy would be paramount. I have little sympathy for those calling themselves pro-life who also want to prohibit birth control being easy, cheap, and convenient to women.


There are crazies on both sides of the debate, but I think that one of the issues in the pro-life movement is the fact that there is a section of the movement that doesn't want women to choose not to have an abortion for rational reasons but wants to force the matter for solely legal and moral reasons. This is the same group that opposes easy access to birth control for teenagers and the like.
6.2.2009 8:54pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

Abortion is and will remain a politically a losing issue.

My sentence is not clear/ not well stated. Should be something like: Opposition to abortion is a politically losing issue.
6.2.2009 9:01pm
Constantin:
On the order of half of all women of voting age have had an abortion.

Is there a source for this? That number seems awful high.
6.2.2009 9:14pm
Blue:

Of course, if the woman were at Dr. Tiller's clinic, it's likely that the fetus was malformed and not viable or even already dead. How long should those would-be mothers serve in prison.


That's simply untrue. Go look at the statistics for late term abortions from the Texas Dept. of Health if you don't believe me.
6.2.2009 9:18pm
David Schwartz (mail):
To commit an abortion to "save the life of the mother" is simply to say that one life is more valuable than another. Who is to say which life is more valuable?
Exactly! We should prohibit:

1) Baking bread. It kills millions of yeast cells. Who is to say their life is less valuable than bread?

2) Washing your hands. Millions of bacteria die in this process. Is the life of millions of bacteria worth less than the minor inconvenience of dirty hands?

3) Walking. Think of all the living things you step on.

No, it is not to say that one life is more valuable than the other. It is not a comparison of value in any way. Whatever value the fetus has, the woman's right to control her womb is absolute. There is no right to the use of another's body against their will -- regardless of how serious the need is.
6.2.2009 9:24pm
rick.felt:
UterusWithLegs:

CUF? You're going with an unsourced statement on CUF as your basis for your belief that most Catholic physicians and hospitals oppose the use of methotrexate?

Really? CUF?

Golly. I've heard all I need to hear.
6.2.2009 9:25pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Blue, would you post the link?
6.2.2009 9:25pm
Danny (mail):

I read this profoundly moving article by a pro-life Christian woman who ended up needing a late-term partial birth abortion. She was carrying twins discovered to have serious problems late in the pregnancy: the larger twin was not viable but was consuming all the nutrients of the smaller one who would have a 5% chance of survival without the other one. If she did not abort the larger one, they both had a 0% chance of survival.

She specifically benefited from the vilified "dilation and extraction" procedure because it was the only way they could preserve an intact body for her to grieve over.

These are extremely tragic, highly complex ethical situations. Politicians have no business making blanket statements and exploiting them to stir up "the base"
6.2.2009 9:29pm
Blue:
http://www.kdheks.gov/hci/absumm.html
6.2.2009 9:34pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

Me

On the order of half of all women of voting age have had an abortion.


Constantin

Is there a source for this? That number seems awful high.


My reasoning as follows (round numbers)

Population of the US: 300 Million.
Half female or: 150 Million
Age expectancy: about 75 years
So in every one year age cohort there are about 2 million women.
The number of abortions since Roe (1970?) is usually stated by those opposed to abortion as over 1 million per year. That amount of time roughly corresponds to a woman's entire reproductive life. A rate of 1 million per year can be maintained for that many years only if half of all women in the US have an abortion sometime in their reproductive lives.

The reasoning does depend on the number of abortions had by each woman who has an abortion, and I'm estimating that number to be closer to 1 than to 2.

I'm also estimating that the tendency is for a woman to have an abortion early in her reproductive life rather than later.

And of course women of voting age roughly corresponds to those who are in or have completed their reproductive years.

There was also a survey a while back that found that 40 per cent of women have had an abortion, and I think the response rate for such a survey would be low.
6.2.2009 9:51pm
Blue:
The best estimates I can find that around 40 percent of women aged 35-45 have had an abortion.
6.2.2009 10:01pm
Donna B. (mail) (www):

einhverfr -- Many late-term abortion cases seem to be issues where congenital problems are discovered late in pregnancy because a woman didn't get prenatal help early on. It seems to me that the major goal ought to be to get women in to see a doctor early in the pregnancy, etc.


I could not agree more that women should have access to early prenatal care. However, what congenital (and genetic) problems justify killing the fetus?

For example, does Down Syndrome make one less of a human? Autism? Spina Bifida?

If a woman does not have prenatal care until late in her pregnancy and finds out then about a congenital defect and is allowed to abort that child, is not the woman who has no prenatal care at all and gives birth to a live child with the same defect entitled to demand its death at the time of birth?

It's this arbitrary timing and reliance on the mother's wishes that bothers me. I don't, however, pretend to have an answer.
6.2.2009 10:04pm
UterusWithLegs:
Rick, read my statement - I didn't say most Catholic hospitals and doctors, I said most Catholic MORALISTS. Most Catholic hospitals and doctors, like most Catholics, are not misogynists and don't engage in pointless sophistry about whether a treatment that will inevitable result in the termination of a pregnancy that was inevitably going to be terminated naturally anyway is a "direct" abortion or merely a treatment with the side effect of terminating a pregnancy. Most Catholics and Catholic docs also use and prescribe birth control, so their practices and beliefs are not really relevant to what Catholic moralists have to say on the matter.

Moreover, CUF is not the only site, just one of the many, many Catholic sites stating the same position, with citation to prominent Catholic ethicists and theologians, that came up in a quick Google search of "ectopic catholic" or "ectopic pregnancy catholicism". Catholic bishops in 1994 and 2001 stated that any treatment that constitutes "direct abortion" is impermissible, even to treat an ectopic pregnancy that will inevitably result in the death of the embryo anyway. IN doing so, they declined to elaborate on what a direct abortion was, but Catholic tradition (including the explicit language of the bishops' 1971 statement on the matter) basically includes anything that directly excises or stops the development of the embryo in a way that is not a mere side effect of excising something (uterus or fallopian tube) of the mother's. Methotrexate and surgery that removes just the embryo and not all or part of the tube act primarily by stopping the growth of or removing the embryo, which by most definitions constitutes a "direct abortion". Of course, Catholic bishops COULD clarify their position - they've had ample time to do so, since methotrexate and salpingostomy have been standard of care for quite some time - but they've chosen not to and most Catholic moralists have gone right on spouting their misogynistic nonsense.
6.2.2009 10:17pm
UterusWithLegs:
Rick, read my statement - I didn't say most Catholic hospitals and doctors, I said most Catholic MORALISTS. Most Catholic hospitals and doctors, like most Catholics, are not misogynists and don't engage in pointless sophistry about whether a treatment that will inevitable result in the termination of a pregnancy that was inevitably going to be terminated naturally anyway is a "direct" abortion or merely a treatment with the side effect of terminating a pregnancy. Most Catholics and Catholic docs also use and prescribe birth control, so their practices and beliefs are not really relevant to what Catholic moralists have to say on the matter.

Moreover, CUF is not the only site, just one of the many, many Catholic sites stating the same position, with citation to prominent Catholic ethicists and theologians, that came up in a quick Google search of "ectopic catholic" or "ectopic pregnancy catholicism". Catholic bishops in 1994 and 2001 stated that any treatment that constitutes "direct abortion" is impermissible, even to treat an ectopic pregnancy that will inevitably result in the death of the embryo anyway. IN doing so, they declined to elaborate on what a direct abortion was, but Catholic tradition (including the explicit language of the bishops' 1971 statement on the matter) basically includes anything that directly excises or stops the development of the embryo in a way that is not a mere side effect of excising something (uterus or fallopian tube) of the mother's. Methotrexate and surgery that removes just the embryo and not all or part of the tube act primarily by stopping the growth of or removing the embryo, which by most definitions constitutes a "direct abortion". Of course, Catholic bishops COULD clarify their position - they've had ample time to do so, since methotrexate and salpingostomy have been standard of care for quite some time - but they've chosen not to and most Catholic moralists have gone right on spouting their misogynistic nonsense.
6.2.2009 10:17pm
Desiderius:
Betty1,

"dislike paying for quality educational programs for underprivileged youths"

If only the pay correlated with the quality!

Also, Ponnuru weighs in.
6.2.2009 10:19pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
As I was reading the comments, I could almost draw a line where it went over the edge. A case study of this thread might help answer Orin's query about how to improve comment quality.

Personally, I really think we got linked from a few outside pages and got a bunch of drive-by comments.
6.2.2009 10:35pm
Blue:
Actually, given the other boards I've been on with this topic, it's still remarkably civil. For whatever reason there doesn't appear to be real zealots for either side yet.
6.2.2009 10:38pm
Bonze Saunders (mail):


Andrew J. Lazarus:

Of course, if the woman were at Dr. Tiller's clinic, it's likely that the fetus was malformed and not viable or even already dead.



Blue:

That's simply untrue. Go look at the statistics for late term abortions from the Texas [sic] Dept. of Health if you don't believe me.

...
Abortions in Kansas: Preliminary Reports



Looking at the Kansas reports, there have been about 200-300 abortions past 22 weeks gestation each year in which the fetus was judged viable (and less than 200 in which the fetus was judged non-viable). The vast majority of these abortions were for out-of-state clients. ~85% of the abortions in Kansas were performed in the first trimester; ~5% past 22 weeks gestation.

Given that Dr. Tiller was supposed to be one of three late-term abortionists in the US, this was not the Holocaust that I was expecting given the degree of outrage expressed over late-term abortions.
6.2.2009 10:51pm
Blue:
Yes, the numbers are small--if you assume that the other clinics are of similar size you're looking at 1,000 to 1,200 cases per year.
6.2.2009 11:08pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Bonze Saunders,

"Given that Dr. Tiller was supposed to be one of three late-term abortionists in the US, this was not the Holocaust that I was expecting given the degree of outrage expressed over late-term abortions."

So if 200-300 prematurely-born infants died yearly because the ICU equipment they were hooked up to was substandard, and the manufacturers knew it was substandard, that wouldn't ptoduce any "outrage"?

Dude, if an infant chokes on some part of a toy that was never meant to be separated from the rest of it in the first place, there will be a massive lawsuit. I think you can take it as read that anyone whose product resulted in 200-300 late-term miscarriages yearly would be bankrupt within a year; that anyone who killed 200-300 premature but live infants yearly out of the womb via mere malpractice would be in severe, deep legal doo-doo; and that anyone who did the same killing deliberately would be called a mass murderer.

How many dead bodies does it take to impress you?
6.2.2009 11:11pm
DennisN (mail):
ruuffles:


What I was trying to say is that its impossible to completely eliminate abortions.


I agree with that, but we can hope to make them rare.


Good luck with the "socially unacceptable."


I ain't holdin' my breath. But there are undesirable side effects to abortion. There are psychological and medical risks to the mother. The abortion industry expends a lot of effort to keep this from the forefront. Increased utilization of counseling might allow more potential mothers to decide that it is not the right choice for them. That would be a win-win situation in my mind.


As for "medically obsolete," two words: black market.


No, better medical techniques that allow more unwanted fetuses to be removed alive and nurtured to independence. I kinda think that an innocent life that can be saved ought to be saved, even at considerable cost.

I can't imagine a serious moral argument that a healthy fetus should be destroyed if it can be saved.

Betty1:


How about another option - abortion is overall a social net positive and it should be encouraged, considering the socioeconomic and educational levels of those having the abortions in the first place.


Why stop there? Why not also liquidate those social parasites. Think how much more we could save. It's not as if they were productive.


Raise the resulting unwanted children yourself.


There are many people who would jump at the chance.


I am addressing health of the mother issues where intent is concerned. A woman experiencing pre-eclampsia knows that the only cure is termination of the pregnancy. Since this affliction is mostly experienced late in the pregnancy, how is the mother protected by first killing the fetus and then inducing labor, or by simply inducing labor and giving the fetus a chance to live?


I would argue that, medical technology permitting, if the mother is permitted to terminate the pregnancy, she should not have the authority to determine the fate of the fetus. If the fetus can be extracted and saved, then every reasonable medical effort should be made to do so, just as every reasonable medical effort should be employed to preserve the mother.

This position removes most of the argument about rights vs. murder.

Danny:


the larger twin was not viable but was consuming all the nutrients of the smaller one who would have a 5% chance of survival without the other one. If she did not abort the larger one, they both had a 0% chance of survival.


To me, that's a no brainer. You save what you can, or have the best chance of saving.

The principle that seems to apply is, "Do the maximum gor or the minimum harm." Easy to say - hard to thread that needle in the dark.


UterusWithLegs:


Rick, read my statement - I didn't say most Catholic hospitals and doctors, I said most Catholic MORALISTS.


I'm not sure I even accept that. Certainly the population of mopes you consulted had a misogynistic opinion. [SHRUG] I guess I never was a very good Catholic. My approach would be to tell them to pound sand. In the end, the conscience that matters is your own.

It's past my bed time. I'm going to safeword and inspect my eyelids for pinholes.
6.2.2009 11:15pm
theobromophile (www):
But they don't treat abortionists the way they'd treat mass murderers of the old or disabled.

Not true at all. Very few pro-lifers are calling for a vigilante killing of Dr. Kevorkian or the many doctors in the Netherlands who perform euthanasia, which is often done without the patient's full consent and, in 20% of the cases (IIRC) without that patient's knowledge.

I do find it terribly ironic that those who think that abortion should be legal* do not understand why pro-lifers see no reason to punish the mother. In their view, it is acceptable to end a human life (hopefully, no one is so deranged as to think the unborn child either not alive nor not human) because there is no point at which a woman is deemed to have consented to allowing her body to be used by another, but, in their world, it's NOT okay for us to use the same justification to outlaw abortion but not prosecute women for it.

Truly comical... it's a losing argument for the anti-life side. If they can't understand why a pregnant woman is not in the same position as an abortionist, then they have no place arguing for legal abortion.



*given that they call us "anti-choice," which is untrue and deliberately ignores our respect for human life, I'm tempted to refer to them as the "anti-life" or "pro-baby-killing" crowd....
6.2.2009 11:28pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
David Schwartz,

No, it is not to say that one life is more valuable than the other. It is not a comparison of value in any way. Whatever value the fetus has, the woman's right to control her womb is absolute. There is no right to the use of another's body against their will -- regardless of how serious the need is.

I'm pro-choice, but is it really so black and white you can't see it from the other side? For example, couldn't you make an estoppal argument for the fetus' right to use the womb based on the woman's assumption of responsibility by consenting to sex? (Obviously rape wouldn't apply.)
6.3.2009 12:36am
Scape:

I do not consider a normal pregnancy a threat to the life of the mother or to the integrity of her body.


You may not consider it to be, but it sure as hell is. Being forced to be the host for a foreign body for nine months is a terrifying prospect, and is a complete assault on bodily integrity. You can't dismiss that reality by simply noting you don't believe slavery to be so bad.
6.3.2009 1:10am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Not 'pro-choice,' Professor, 'pro-abortion.'

You are normally more fastidious about definitions.
6.3.2009 1:18am
EMG:
I am addressing health of the mother issues where intent is concerned. A woman experiencing pre-eclampsia knows that the only cure is termination of the pregnancy. Since this affliction is mostly experienced late in the pregnancy, how is the mother protected by first killing the fetus and then inducing labor, or by simply inducing labor and giving the fetus a chance to live?


A pre-eclamptic woman can be so sick that she cannot risk labor or c-section. In that case the safest course is to remove the baby through the vagina without putting the mother into labor. And you can't get an intact head through an undilated cervix. So, "partial-birth abortion."

One woman who had this happen tells her story here. A close friend of mine who works with the Pre-Eclampsia Foundation says that she personally knows of "at least a dozen" women with similar stories.

I was radically pro-life for many years before I learned of this and similar phenomena. As I was shocked to discover, the idea that medicine has completely eliminated maternal-fetal conflict is a pro-life myth, equal parts wishful thinking and ideological disinformation. Although I still find myself disturbed by stories of abortion for severe birth defects, such as Tiller performed, I now realize that nobody who is not a medical expert is equipped to judge the best course in these cases. Indeed, in most of these types of discussions I see some ignorance of even the basics of pregnancy. For example, the reason such abortions are inevitably late-term is that the defects in question cannot be reliably diagnosed until about 20 weeks gestation; there goes the argument that it's the women's fault for not getting "early screening."

None of this touches the questions of "personhood" or murder as such. But whether a mother whose wanted and planned-for child can only be born to a brief, agonizing life should carry it term and watch it die or have it euthanized in the womb (which is basically what George Tiller did) is not a fit subject for a court of law, I think. To bring it to that venue would only add to the parents' agony. As with some forms of accidental child neglect, the thing itself is punishment enough. That some percentage of us think we would act differently in their shoes is not enough to warrant legal sanctions. Why bring judicial and political actors into it, trampling on the most intimate and painful aspects of life, with no consensus that the results of doing so will be morally better anyway?

Perhaps this is some of what Justice Kennedy was talking about.
6.3.2009 2:40am
martinned (mail) (www):
@theobromophile: Do yo perhaps have any support for your absurd accusations regarding Dutch euthanasia practice?

And, for the record, though I'm probably wasting my time, there is a difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion. I would imagine that very few people are in favour of abortion. They just don't want to have the government take that decision on behalf of everybody. That is why the label "anti-choice", though childish, is factually accurate.

Pro-life, on the other hand, as a general proposition is undiscriminating since presumably everyone is in favour of life. If pro-lifers were truly pro-life, they'd be demonstrating at executions as well.
6.3.2009 7:47am
rick.felt:
Catholic tradition (including the explicit language of the bishops' 1971 statement on the matter) basically includes anything that directly excises or stops the development of the embryo in a way that is not a mere side effect of excising something (uterus or fallopian tube) of the mother's.

I really can't be bothered to go on. You're simply misinformed.
6.3.2009 9:05am
rick.felt:
That is why the label "anti-choice", though childish, is factually accurate. Pro-life, on the other hand, as a general proposition is undiscriminating since presumably everyone is in favour of life. If pro-lifers were truly pro-life, they'd be demonstrating at executions as well.

So the criticism of the label "pro-life" is that pro-lifers aren't pro-life in areas other than abortion?

Okay. But doesn't that mean that the "pro-choice" label is inapt for those who oppose the right to choose outside of the abortion context, like the right to choose to own a handgun or purchase raw milk?
6.3.2009 9:08am
David Schwartz (mail):
I'm pro-choice, but is it really so black and white you can't see it from the other side? For example, couldn't you make an estoppal argument for the fetus' right to use the womb based on the woman's assumption of responsibility by consenting to sex? (Obviously rape wouldn't apply.)
No, you can't. The fetus is not a party to that consent.

And even if it was, you still can't make that argument in anything resembling a polite society. We reject slavery contracts, rape contracts, and even selling kidneys. Even if we did allow selling kidneys, I'm pretty sure we would allow the seller to back out at any time. I can't imagine we would try to hold him to his contract.

Yes, it is completely black and white. It only gets fuzzy once the fetus is capable of living without the mother's help. At that point, you can start to make arguments that the mother is obligated to give the fetus the opportunity to live without her if that is possible.
6.3.2009 10:36am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I can't say I agree with Blue's analysis of the Kansas abortion statistics. Over one-third of late-term abortions were for a fetus that was "not viable". And that doesn't seem to include how many of the others were "viable" but seriously impaired. Nor does it appear to include removal of fetuses that were already dead, which I suppose is not an abortion for reporting purposes. I repeat, when a woman showed up at Dr. Tiller's clinic, the odds were that something other than whim was very wrong with the pregnancy.
6.3.2009 10:44am
Aultimer:

EV:: there's a third option that...all abortions, late-term abortions, or some other subset of abortions — are not quite murder but should still be forcibly prevented.

Is it a fourth, libertarian/counter-majoritarian option that where the lines are incredibly difficult to draw, the government should stay safely away from the line? It's politically unrealistic, but what libertarian social policy isn't?
6.3.2009 10:46am
Bonze Saunders (mail):

Michelle Dulak Thomson:

How many dead bodies does it take to impress you?


It depends on the circumstances: in the case of premeditated murder, one is sufficient.

What's not clear in this case is whether Dr. Tiller performed late-term abortions in circumstances where there was not sufficient medical justification. (It does appear clear that he did not do so out of malice.)

One thing I noted when looking into this case is the involvement of Dr. Paul McHugh, the psychiatric expert employed by Kansas AG Phil Kline to impugn Tiller's decisions. Kline brought charges, based on McHugh's analysis, that 15 of Tiller's abortions had been illegal.

From an AP news report:


And what would Tiller's attorneys make of Kline not seeking out any other experts?

'I was fortunate enough to get the most respected psychiatrist in the nation,' Kline said. 'Once Dr. McHugh agreed, there was no one else to get.'


Kline was "fortunate enough" to get the most respected Catholic psychiatrist in the nation... McHugh's analysis was not necessarily incorrect, but he is known for his strong opinions (e.g., regarding Terry Schiavo and his opposition to Sexual Reassignment Surgery).
6.3.2009 11:08am
cmr:
And, for the record, though I'm probably wasting my time, there is a difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion. I would imagine that very few people are in favour of abortion. They just don't want to have the government take that decision on behalf of everybody. That is why the label "anti-choice", though childish, is factually accurate.


Eh. I think there are a lot of people who have concerned themselves with the political fracas of abortion and behave as if they're for abortion. Reason being, if so many people hate abortion and that this sentiment isn't exclusively a pro-life premise, why do so many people make excuses to dilute the nature of abortion? I mean, you'd think the culture war that has built up around this issue would be largely unnecessary because the vast majority of people really dislike and disagree with abortion as a moral endeavor. If this was just a legal issue, I don't think it would be such a contentious debate. People would diverge on whether or not it should be legal, but...it is legal. It's going on 35 years being legal. So why all the dissent and anger between the two not-all-that-different groups?

Because a lot of people are, in fact, pro-abortion.
6.3.2009 11:35am
mischief (mail):

Even if we did allow selling kidneys, I'm pretty sure we would allow the seller to back out at any time. I can't imagine we would try to hold him to his contract.


Yes, if he's already allowed them to take the kidney and transplant it, he's allowed to back out! He's allowed to have the recipient chopped open without the recipient's consent! Furthermore, to make the situation exactly parallel, he's allowed to do so in the way that maximizes the chances of the recipient's death, and if the recipient manages to survive, he's nonetheless "non-viable" and therefore the donor is allowed to demand that he be dumped in a closet somewhere until he dies. (According to our current president, anything else than the last is a "burden".)

Your rights stop when you demand the right to perform operations on others for your own benefit.
6.3.2009 12:27pm
martinned (mail) (www):

So why all the dissent and anger between the two not-all-that-different groups?

Because one of them wants to make abortion "not legal", which the other group objects to on the grounds that, essentially, this issue is much too difficult for the government to settle it by fiat.
6.3.2009 12:45pm
cmr:
Because one of them wants to make abortion "not legal", which the other group objects to on the grounds that, essentially, this issue is much too difficult for the government to settle it by fiat.


That's not completely true. Most pro-lifers concede that abortion should be legal to an extent, but they feel more restrictions should be placed on them. And anyway, pro-choice advocates wont even dissent with abortion in an ideological sense.
6.3.2009 1:12pm
theobromophile (www):
martinned:

The reasoning that you wish to apply to me (as a pro-lifer) applies equally well to the anti-life side - i.e. they are not pro-choice in other areas, and are certainly not for giving the foetus a choice to live, so why call them pro-choice?

Or, to put it another way, I'm also pro-choice, so why should the pro-legal-abortion side get that label? I'm pro-legal-contraceptives, all for giving women options to parent and get an education (unlike the anti-lifers, who hate groups like Feminists for Life), and think that the entire abortion debate is stupid - if women were actually using the zillions of options available to them to avoid pregnancy, it would be a moot point. So how is that anti-choice?

Planned Parenthood performs 186 abortions for every adoption that it helps to facilitate. It does not help women with the legal and logistical hurdles to parenting during a crisis pregnancy. That's anti-choice: the only choice that women are given is to abort.

The way I see it, we can call y'all anti-life and anti-choice and myself pro-life and pro-choice. Or we could just use the labels that each group would prefer... but, then again, you would rather be "childish."
6.3.2009 1:19pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@theobromophile: Fair enough, but you still owe me a credible source for your slander of the Dutch medical profession.
6.3.2009 1:34pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
@theo
It [Planned Parenthood] does not help women with the legal and logistical hurdles to parenting during a crisis pregnancy.
I don't think this is so. PP has, or at least advertises, an extensive range of pregnancy-related programs. If by 'legal' hurdles you mean, does PP sue to stop women from having an abortion, then, obviously not. But then it's not clear whose definition is narrow.
6.3.2009 2:58pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
David Schwartz:

We reject slavery contracts, rape contracts, and even selling kidneys. Even if we did allow selling kidneys, I'm pretty sure we would allow the seller to back out at any time. I can't imagine we would try to hold him to his contract.

If two lifeguards see someone drowning and one swims out to save him, do we let him change his mind when it's too late for the other lifeguard to act? Not unless his own life depends on it. When someone assumes an obligation of dependent care for another person, we hold him to it until he passes it off to someone else, and that does no violence to the 13th Amendment. There are separate and obvious policy objections to rape contracts and organ sales.

Yes, it is completely black and white. It only gets fuzzy once the fetus is capable of living without the mother's help. At that point, you can start to make arguments that the mother is obligated to give the fetus the opportunity to live without her if that is possible.

It's only black and white if you stipulate, as you and I believe, that until viability a fetus isn't a complete person with all attendant rights. But for the millions (billions ?) of people who sincerely believe a fetus at all stages is indistinguishable from any human being, I don't see how you deny colorable counter-arguments, even if, as again you and I believe, they don't carry the day.
6.3.2009 4:41pm
theobromophile (www):
I'll get a better stat later, but for now, let's go with 5%. Citation? Washington v. Glucksberg, S. Ct. 1997. That one is from 1990 (IIRC) and includes only reported cases (which, obviously, leads to underreporting).
6.3.2009 4:42pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Yes, if he's already allowed them to take the kidney and transplant it, he's allowed to back out! He's allowed to have the recipient chopped open without the recipient's consent! Furthermore, to make the situation exactly parallel, he's allowed to do so in the way that maximizes the chances of the recipient's death, and if the recipient manages to survive, he's nonetheless "non-viable" and therefore the donor is allowed to demand that he be dumped in a closet somewhere until he dies. (According to our current president, anything else than the last is a "burden".)
Once the transplant is complete, the kidney is no longer part of his body. Your analogy doesn't apply to a woman's uterus which remains always a part of her body. So this is not parallel. In fact, once the kidney is part of someone else's body, the parallel would be that you couldn't ask for it back even if a contract purported to allow it.

If two lifeguards see someone drowning and one swims out to save him, do we let him change his mind when it's too late for the other lifeguard to act? Not unless his own life depends on it. When someone assumes an obligation of dependent care for another person, we hold him to it until he passes it off to someone else, and that does no violence to the 13th Amendment. There are separate and obvious policy objections to rape contracts and organ sales.
As I already said, this argument only applies when the woman is the only way the fetus can survive. A hypothetical where there's more than one way the man can be saved is not comparable.
6.3.2009 8:35pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

As I already said, this argument only applies when the woman is the only way the fetus can survive. A hypothetical where there's more than one way the man can be saved is not comparable.

In my hypothetical, by the time the lifeguard wants to change his mind he's the only way that man can be saved.
6.3.2009 9:31pm
David Schwartz (mail):
In my hypothetical, by the time the lifeguard wants to change his mind he's the only way that man can be saved.
Yet there is no time in the case of abortion where the fetus could live by any other means.
6.3.2009 11:45pm
DennisN (mail):
David Schwartz:


there is no time in the case of abortion where the fetus could live by any other means.


I'm not sure I understand that.

After a certain point, an extracted fetus would be viable. That point is becoming earlier and earlier as medical technology advances. Did I miss your point?

At the point that a fetus becomes independently viable, how can one argue that it doesn't have all the characteristics required to be considered a person?

This point raises an interesting argument. I think a strong argument can be made that an entity's status as a person should not depend on the state of engineering skill, but is intrinsic to that entity. So if last year, we could preserve a healthy fetus at 26 weeks, and this year we have learned to do so at 22 weeks, the fetus did not become a person earlier, it already had been one. This goes back to the argument about when life, or personhood begins.

I'm willing to bow to practicality, I am an injunear after all, but practicality does not change an entity's status, either.
6.4.2009 12:24am
David Schwartz (mail):
I agree, Dennis N, the argument changes at the time the fetus becomes independently viable. At that time, the mother's absolute right to control over her womb does not permit her to cause the fetus' death. If you want to argue for a right to abortion after viability, you have to use some other argument.

The specific argument I'm making, the one that sees no black and white and no room for honest disagreement, only applies when the fetus can live no way other than inside the mother's womb. And I agree, time may make this argument obsolete.
6.4.2009 12:50am
martinned (mail) (www):
Cool! Rehnquist likes us!


This concern is further supported by evidence about the practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands. The Dutch government's own study revealed that in 1990, there were 2,300 cases of voluntary euthanasia (defined as "the deliberate termination of another's life at his request"), 400 cases of assisted suicide, and more than 1,000 cases of euthanasia without an explicit request. In addition to these latter 1,000 cases, the study found an additional 4,941 cases where physicians administered lethal morphine overdoses without the patients' explicit consent. Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Netherlands: A Report of Chairman Charles T. Canady, at 12-13 (citing Dutch study). This study suggests that, despite the existence of various reporting procedures, euthanasia in the Netherlands has not been limited to competent, terminally ill adults who are enduring physical suffering, and that regulation of the practice may not have prevented abuses in cases involving vulnerable persons, including severely disabled neonates and elderly persons suffering from dementia. Id., at 16-21; see generally C. Gomez, Regulating Death: Euthanasia and the Case of the Netherlands (1991); H. Hendin, Seduced By Death: Doctors, Patients, and the Dutch Cure (1997). The New York Task Force, citing the Dutch experience, observed that "assisted suicide and euthanasia are closely linked," New York Task Force 145, and concluded that the "risk of . . . abuse is neither speculative nor distant," id., at 134. Washington, like most other States, reasonably ensures against this risk by banning, rather than regulating, assisting suicide. See United States v. 12 200-ft Reels of Super 8MM Film, 413 U.S. 123, 127 (1973) ("Each step, when taken, appear[s] a reasonable step in relation to that which preceded it, although the aggregate or end result is one that would never have been seriously considered in the first instance").


Of course, that would be more persuasive if it wasn't a Republican's summary of a Republican (Canady)'s summary of a Dutch study that is not cited and that no one even really knows existed. Not to mention that it doesn't really help theobromophile's case, since - even if it does say what Rehnquist says it says - it concerns the situation long before the current system was enacted in 2002.
6.4.2009 9:27am
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):


But surely the woman is equally or more culpable in the act than the doctor? So are all you anti-choice folks willing to convict a woman who chooses the type of abortion now legal of murder (including, perhaps, a death sentence?)

In jurisdictions where abortion is considered murder, the woman who had the abortion would be just as guilty as the abortionist.

A pre-eclamptic woman can be so sick that she cannot risk labor or c-section. In that case the safest course is to remove the baby through the vagina without putting the mother into labor. And you can't get an intact head through an undilated cervix. So, "partial-birth abortion."

In such a case, the abortion would be justified due to the unjust threat by the unborn.

I never heard anyone claim that the lives of unborn are sacrosanct.

She was carrying twins discovered to have serious problems late in the pregnancy: the larger twin was not viable but was consuming all the nutrients of the smaller one who would have a 5% chance of survival without the other one. If she did not abort the larger one, they both had a 0% chance of survival.

The abortion was justified because of the unjust threat to life posed by twin.
6.4.2009 9:07pm
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):


To commit an abortion to "save the life of the mother" is simply to say that one life is more valuable than another. Who is to say which life is more valuable?

Well, if I saw a militant Islanist sand Nazi terrorist running at you with a large butcher knife, whose life is more valuable?

If I kill the terrorist, does that mean your life is more valuable than his?
6.4.2009 9:11pm
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):
What is the woman defending herself against? What crime has the fetus committed against her? The fetus is not intentionally killing her. Being born is not a criminal offense.

Being a unjust threat to one's life is an offense worthy of death.

Of course, if the unborn have the right to matricide, why not teenagers whose mommies won't let them go to an all-night party?
6.4.2009 9:13pm
TLove (mail):
Tiller was doing X, I think X was justifiable, therefore Tiller was ok.

Tiller was doing Y, I think Y is grotesque and murderous, therefore Tiller was a bad man.

Which is it? What the hell was Tiller doing?
6.6.2009 11:04am

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