Roe v Wade and Infanticide

Hey, did you know that a leading cause of infanticide is the Supreme Court? According to RealClearPolitics’ Mark Reinzi:

Given that these women could have legally killed and discarded their babies at any time during the preceding nine months, is it so surprising that they felt they could discreetly kill their babies a few moments after birth?

In the thirty years since Roe v. Wade, the number of infant homicides has skyrocketed. According to a study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control, babies are at the greatest risk for homicide during the first week of life and are now ten times more likely to be murdered on the day they are born than at any other time in their entire lives.

In fact, babies are now killed on the first day of their lives almost daily in this country. The rate of infant homicide is now twice what it was before we began telling women they were free to kill their unwanted babies before birth.

Mark’s thesis, as I understand it, is that pro-choice laws and attitudes create a culture of permissiveness towards killing babies, which leads to an increase in infanticide. Frankly, I think this theory is too stupid for words – does Mark really imagine that couples sit around saying “Honey, I see the Supreme Court just passed Roe v. Wade. Don’t you think we’d better kill Junior?”

Nonetheless, otherwise intelligent conservatives apparently take this claptrap seriously, so let’s test Mark’s theory against the facts. If Mark’s theory is correct – pro-choice attitudes lead to increased murders of newborns – states that have a (relatively) pro-life culture should therefore have much less infanticide than states with a (relatively) pro-choice culture. (State-by-state statistics are available from the federal government’s WISQUARS database).

First, consider five states with reputations for being strongly pro-life. Let’s look at their infanticide rates:


Infanticide rates (per 100,000) of pro-life states
State White Black
Arkansas 8.02 22.28
Louisiana 7.38 18.73
South Carolina 10.26 7.80
Montana 8.12 n/a
Utah 8.92 37.77
Entire USA 4.65 15.62

These statistics are for homicides of children aged 1 or younger for the year 2000. As you can see, infanticide rates are significantly higher among blacks than whites; I’m presenting the data for blacks and white separately because it allows better comparison between states. (Where “n/a” is listed, there were no known infanticides among blacks in that state in 2000).

Now, compare five states with reputations for being relatively pro-choice:


Infanticide rates (per 100,000) of pro-choice states
State White Black
Connecticut 2.82 4.00
Maine 1.95 n/a
Massachusetts 1.51 9.47
Rhode Island 2.38 n/a
Washington 2.65 10.05
Entire USA 4.65 15.62

Notice the pattern? It’s the exact opposite of the pattern Mark’s theory would lead us to expect. The states with the strongest pro-choice cultures experience the least infanticide.

It’s clear that Mark’s theory is false. Now, I suppose I could turn around and claim that clearly pro-life attitudes increase infanticide – but that theory doesn’t make sense to me, either. (A couple of pro-choice states, like Hawaii, have very high infanticide rates). The truth is, pro-choice or pro-life laws probably have very little to do with infanticide rates.

What factors do matter? According to Child Trends Databank:

Key risk factors associated with infant homicides focus on the circumstances surrounding the birth of the child. Among the homicides on the first day of life, 95 percent of the victims were not born in a hospital. Other important maternal risk factors include a second or subsequent infant born to an unmarried teenage mother (19 years of age or younger); no prenatal visit before the sixth month of pregnancy or no prenatal care; a history of maternal mental illness; a mother with 12 or fewer years of education; and premature birth (gestation of less than 28 weeks). There is a notable absence of data on risk factors associated with males, either biological fathers or others, reflecting the lack of father data on birth certificates.

So why do pro-choice states have lower rates of infanticide? I don’t know for sure, but I have a theory. My bet is, it’s because pro-choice states are mostly liberal states, which provide more support for low-income women. That translates to more prenatal care and more infants born in hospitals, both factors that make it less likely that a newborn infant will be murdered.

Pro-life states, in contrast, tend to be dominated by conservatives and libertarians, who – despite evidence showing that state-provide prenatal care improves outcomes – would rather live with high infanticide rates than pay a higher tax rate.

But what about that increase in infanticide since 1970? That could mean anything. It could mean, for instance, that increased computerization of records and improved medical technology have made it much more likely that infanticides will be detected and statistically recorded. (In other words, the overall rate of infanticide hasn’t changed – just the likelihood of infanticides being detected and recorded). It could reflect demographic or racial shifts. It could reflect the growing influence of conservatives leading to less prenatal care for poor mothers. It could, in short, mean any number of things.

But – given the strong evidence provided by state-by-state data – only a pro-life ideologue could claim that it shows pro-choice attitudes lead people to murdering newborns. I therefore predict that many pro-lifers will continue making this claim, regardless of the evidence against it.

(Link to RealClearPolitics via Diotima, who mistakenly calls the article “worthwhile.”)

TWO AFTERTHOUGHTS: It’s impossible to intelligently discuss infanticide rates in the USA without at least nodding to the racial differences. As I’ve pointed out in the past, blacks in the USA are in effect living in a third world nation, when it comes to infant and maternal mortality.

Secondly, the unsubtle subtext of the RealClearPolitics essay – “pro-choicers are evil monsters who favor murdering children” – has not escaped me. This is, of course, the attitude that leads some pro-life psychos to justify murdering doctors and bombing clinics, and more generally part of the “dehumanize the opposition” approach to the debate which makes discussing abortion in the USA such a pisser. I haven’t responded to this aspect of the RealClearPolitics essay in detail because I consider it beneath reply (and also beneath contempt).

UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments to this post, which include a lot of valuable info added by Alas readers.

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Anti-feminists and their pals. Bookmark the permalink. 

60 Responses to Roe v Wade and Infanticide

  1. 1
    Madeline says:

    After all, if you tell people that it is alright to kill based on an arbitrary distinction, at least a few people might think it’s alright to kill on the other side of that arbitrary distinction.

    “Arbitrary distinction.” As we say on talk.abortion, “Woman? What woman?”

    Incidentally, Roe vs. Wade is no longer the dominant US precedent on abortion. Since 1992 it has been Casey, which permits any state to outlaw abortion after “viability”, that is to say around 24 weeks or so. In practice, it is impossible to obtain an abortion in the United States in the third trimester except for serious, documented medical reasons.

    However, infanticide has nothing whatsoever to do with the legality of abortion or arguments in its favor. Women who commit infanticide are desperate, and are not concerned with the status or even the existence of abortion. Many would have had an abortion, if they could’ve; others would not have. But by the time a baby is born, all that’s long in the past.

    Let me quote from one of my own articles:

    Infanticide is routine (whether legal or not) in any given society until reliable abortion and effective contraception become widely available. As an October 1998 editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine noted, infanticide and child abandonment have always been common, and “As recently as the early 1800s in Europe, up to a third of live-born infants were killed or abandoned by their parents.” In urban areas, matters were even worse: just two centuries ago, over half the babies born in Paris were sent to wet nurses or rural “baby farms” where 20 to 40 percent perished in the first month of life alone, with about half dying before their first birthday. City-living families had no choice, because women had to work (“outside the home”) and there was no effective way to limit births and no one to take care of the resulting oversupply of babies.

    During the 19th century one out of five newborns were still abandoned at state-run institutions in Paris, where they were then transferred to wet nurses and baby farms with, again, about half dying in the first year of life. (This is according to archival and documentary research by Rachel Ginnis Fuchs, Assistant Professor of History at ASU, which she published in ‘Abandoned Children: Foundlings and Child Welfare in Nineteenth-Century France’, SUNY Press 1984.)

    And things weren’t much different well into the 20th century; Osmo Ronkanen has pointed out that in the 1930s a third of all homicides in Finland were infanticides (compared to about 1 or 2 percent today), though abortion was a crime and infanticide was a capital crime.

    And then there’s Nuala O’Faolain’s memoir of growing up in postwar Ireland: “A year later the maid, who was never paid and never went out, fell to the floor and gave birth to a baby. It transpired that the butcher, when he called with the meat, had been having sex with her. The baby went to the maid’s mother. My mother happened to call on that house a few weeks later. The baby was emaciated, immobile, sinking into death. ‘Sure, who wants it?’ the grandmother said. It did die, as far as I know. It was 1953.”

    The real point is that women have been artificially hyperfertile since the agricultural revolution and the societal/cultural/sexual revolutions that accompanied it. As a result, women have had to pick and choose between their potential children, deciding not to nurture some so that others can have a better chance at life. The availability of effective contraception and early abortion prevent children coming into being, but one way or another, women will use whatever means necessary to limit their family size. At the same time, women have obviously done a fabulously good job of protecting and nurturing children over the last several millenia, and we can continue to trust them to do so.

  2. 2
    lucia says:

    An analogy: Imagine that the Supreme Court in 1973 had held that it is unconstitutional under the First Amendment to ban the copying of copyrighted material, if the copyrighted material is over 2 years old. Up to 2 years, it’s still perfectly fine to ban copying, but after 2 years, no ban is allowed. etc….

    Sorry… but this analogy cracks me up.

    You do realize that people copy copyrighted material ALL the time? They think it’s perfectly all right? (Subscribe to a needlework discussion list for the numerous justifications.)

    Yep. Even though the US Constitution and the Supreme Court both uphold the principle and practice of copyright, people copy it! Constantly, In ways that clearly violate the spirit and letter of the law!

    So, taking your anaolgy to heart, one would assume that if the Supreme Court said abortion was illegal, people would still have abortions, perform of abortions and insist abortions were necessary and in many cases, justified and a “right”!!

  3. 3
    Joe M. says:

    Or put it this way: If the Supreme Court and most of the country’s elites had said for 30 years that it was perfectly fine to commit infanticide up to the first birthday, would it be any surprise if it turned out that more infants were killed just past their first birthday as well? After all, if you tell people that it is alright to kill based on an arbitrary distinction, at least a few people might think it’s alright to kill on the other side of that arbitrary distinction.

    In any event, the correlation may or may not amount to causation, but it’s a logical and plausible argument. I suspect that Amp’s elaborate show of being outraged is really because Rienzi hit too close to the truth.

  4. 4
    Joe M. says:

    BTW, the guy’s name is Rienzi, not Reinzi.

    First point:

    Why is it so implausible that the rise of pro-choice advocacy and the Supreme Court’s protection of abortion in Roe v. Wade would encourage some people to view babies as more expendable? The whole premise of protecting abortion is that the fetus is not a human person — in fact, the Supreme Court said in Roe v. Wade that if the fetus were a human person, then its life would be guaranteed by the 14th Amendment (i.e., it would actually be unconstitutional to allow abortion).

    So if a fetus is not a human person, why is a one-day-old baby a human person? What’s the difference, other than location? I know, I know, pro-choicers can come up with sophisticated rationalizations for why a newborn baby is somehow totally different than a fetus — but such distinctions are usually implausible to anyone who isn’t focused on finding excuses to kill fetuses.

    So, again, why isn’t it perfectly plausible to say that the general respect for newborn life will go down if the Supreme Court — as well as most of the elites of the country — say that a fetus isn’t human and doesn’t deserve to live?

    An analogy: Imagine that the Supreme Court in 1973 had held that it is unconstitutional under the First Amendment to ban the copying of copyrighted material, if the copyrighted material is over 2 years old. Up to 2 years, it’s still perfectly fine to ban copying, but after 2 years, no ban is allowed.

    Would it be so surprising if, 30 years later, it turned out that more people were illegally copying material that was 1 year 11 months old? The reasoning process would be perfectly understandable: “In just a month, I would be engaging in constitutionally protected activity if I copied this material. But there is no real difference between this material now and this material in a month. Therefore, why shouldn’t I ignore the Supreme Court’s utterly arbitrary distinction, and just go ahead and copy it?”

    It’s not a perfect analogy. But the point is clear: Some people might think, “Gee, if only I had had an abortion just one day ago, it would have been completely legal, and Senators would praise me for exercising my constitutional rights. But this baby is no different now than it was a day ago; only its location has changed. So what’s the big deal about killing it now?”

    Honest pro-choicers — think Princeton’s Peter Singer — will occasionally admit that there is no real moral difference between killing a fetus and killing a newborn. Honestly — if abortion is so worthy of protection, then what is so wrong about infanticide?

    ********************************

    Second point:

    Amp praised the argument that maybe people in conservative states have trouble gaining access to abortion, and that this leads some women to resort to infanticide. Fine. Maybe so. But this just confirms Rienzi’s point — that some people view infanticide as just a substitute for abortion. And why shouldn’t they, given pro-choice reasoning about the nature of the fetus?

    *******************************

    Third point:

    Amp points out the differences between pro-life and pro-choice states. Another key difference would be that the pro-life states are mostly poorer states, while the pro-choice states are much more well-off. (Louisiana vs. Connecticut? No contest in terms of average income.)

    Maybe the whole reason that pro-choice states have lower rates of infanticide is because they are richer, more well-insured, more likely to use birth control, more likely to have access to abortion, etc., etc. Conversely, maybe the reason that some people in pro-life states are more likely to engage in infanticide is because they are poorer, less-well-insured, less likely to have access to abortion, etc., etc.

    But all of these factors undermine Amp’s point. It still could be true, as Rienzi suggests, that there are more people in both pro-life and pro-choice states who commit infanticide than would do so if the Court had never decided Roe v. Wade and if the elite culture had never advocated in favor of abortion. And this could be true even though prolife states have higher rates of infanticide — because that difference would be due to all the other factors involved here.

    *******************************
    Fourth point:

    Amp speaks of prolifers who “dehumanize the opposition.” Talk about projection. The whole pro-choice platform is dedicated to literally dehumanizing the fetus — saying that it’s not a human life, etc., — and all for the explicit purpose of killing it. Yes, there are a few “pro-life” wackos who kill abortion doctors. But every single pro-choicer believes that some human lives can be dehumanized and killed.

  5. Not only is there no correlation between the supposed political orientation of states and the rate, but the statistical deviation in each group is huge. That is to say, statistically one would assume there was no causal link: it’s got nothing to do with abortion.

    (Mind you, the numbers are still horrifying and the racial gap even more so.)

  6. 6
    Subversity says:

    PS – By the way, Great Site !

  7. 7
    Tom T. says:

    Mr. Reinzi’s theory seems to confuse correlation with causation, and I think you’re right to take it apart.

    I would not be surprised to see that the rates of infanticide (and the risk factors pointed out above) are heavily tied to income level. Poverty and violent crime tend to be linked problems in lots of ways. That fits the states you’ve cited in your charts, which tend to compare high-income states to low-income ones. Source. There’s also a rural/urban divide in the states you’ve cited.

    This distinction would probably explain much of the racial difference in rates, also. I would be very surprised if the rates for whites and blacks didn’t converge when adjusted for income level. (I think that may be the point you’re making in your “Third World” comment, but I’m not sure).

    Or maybe this is all meaningless. Does anyone out there have enough statistical knowledge to say whether these variations in the rates are statistically significant?

    (NB: I don’t mean any of this as a political shot at either side; I’m sure there are liberal and conservative explanations for the correlation between poverty and crime, so pick whichever strikes you as most reasonable. Also, I don’t mean to be blaming the poor; certainly, they are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime as well).

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    Okay, I looked more carefully at the database. The numbers are per 100,000 for that age range. The age range I used was “[less than] 1 to 1″ years old. In that range, in (for example) Connecticut, in the year 2000, there were 4 homicides out of 86,611 total babies in that age range – for a total of 4.61 per 100,000.

    Unfortunately, most of the database currently only does five year age ranges, making it impossible to focus on babies in particular over the course of several years (which is how we’d get larger numbers). Nonetheless, I think it’s likely that the general pattern I’m talking about does exist, and is not just a statistical blip.

    * * *

    By the way – to respond to Vance’s comment a while back – in 2000 California had 2.80 deaths per 100,000 white babies aged 1 or less (and that data came without an asterick warning). The rate for blacks was 6.11 (which did have a “small sample size” warning, as virtually all the data for blacks did). In Florida the numbers were 3.95 and 10.33.

  9. 9
    Subversity says:

    From the original CDC article …

    “Among infants murdered on their day of birth, 89 percent were not born in a hospital, and 89 percent of known perpetrators were women, usually the mother. Additionally, CDC reports that mothers who kill their infants are more likely to be adolescents and have a history of mental illness.” – CDC

    First, the fact that 89% of these babies were not born in a hospital should have raised red flags that this is not a normal statistic. The adolescents with a history of mental illness part is the clincher. This is not indicative of society as a whole and  Mark Rienzi was completely dishonest for suggesting that it is. In fact, I’ll quote Rienzi here too so you can see it.

    How could they do it? How do 40-year-olds – not misguided teens but full grown adults – take their babies and throw them away to die?

  10. 10
    Subversity says:

    I agree that you have found an interesting statistic, and i’m pro-choice, but I think those numbers are too high. I went to the database and asked for all “child [less than] 1″ homicides in 1999, 2000, and 2001 in CT I came up with …

    Number of Deaths 6*.

    Thats two per year total. Not per 100,000.

    There is another caveat listed at the bottom of the page which states the asterisk is …

    * Rates based on 20 or fewer deaths may be unstable. Use with caution.

    So I didn’t go to the rates page.

  11. 11
    xcentrik says:

    Another error in the original – women are not permitted, in any state that I am aware of, to abort their children in the final trimester. Details, details.

  12. 12
    erika says:

    Mostly, I want to agree with son volt.

    I suspect that most women who do not want to be pregnant would rather prevent pregnancy in the first place.

    In the event that a pregnancy is not prevented, most women would rather terminate the fetus as early as possible than wait out the entire pregnancy to dispose of the infant afterwards.

    But a woman who really does not want that fetus/child will get rid of it somehow.

    The harder it is to prevent pregnancy, the more abortions there will probably be. And the harder it is to get an abortion, the more likely infanticide and infant abandonement will be.

  13. 13
    Vance Maverick says:

    I Googled the CDC’s 1996 abortion
    rate statistics (see http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005099.html, but
    beware of popups), where “abortion rate” is
    defined as the number of abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44. (I
    didn’t see any survey of attitudes broken down to the state level.)
    The national average is 20, meaning one woman in 50, in this age
    bracket, has an abortion every year.

    Here are your “pro-life” states:
    Arkansas: 11
    Louisiana: 12
    South Carolina: 11
    Montana: 15
    Utah: 8
    Indeed, the rates are all well below average.

    Now let’s look at the “pro-choice” states:

    Connecticut: 20
    Maine: 9
    Massachusetts: 21
    Rhode Island: 24
    Washington: 21

    Here, the states are all a bit above average, with the obvious
    exception of Maine. If you ever have occasion to rerun the numbers, try
    substituting California, with its abortion rate of 39, or Florida with
    27. WISQUARS gave me a “SAS Error” — I’ll try again later.

  14. 14
    kevin says:

    Whats susrprising is that these rates are so high. Its really sad.

    it is also probably tied to the combination of a poor social safety net leading the desititute to despair about their prospects with a child and the lack of access to abortions.

  15. 15
    Echidne says:

    This is a really excellent piece, Ampersand.

    I think that most of the causes for higher infanticide rates have already been mentioned, but I’d like to suggest one more: The birth of a baby outside wedlock is likely to bring much greater stigma to a woman who lives in a religiously fundamentalist environment. This might cause someone to commit infanticide. The pro-life states are also more fundamentalist and may have less support for women who have babies outside marriage.

    As an aside, I actually know someone who was left on the front steps of a house as a baby. She was adopted by someone else in the town, and everybody pretended that they didn’t know the original front steps belonged to the man who had sired the child. (There was a letter to that effect with the baby.)

  16. 16
    Ampersand says:

    Amy, I’m willing to concede that individual libertarians may be blameless. But overall, I think the libertarian movement has overwhelmingly supported the Republican party in electorial politics, and therefore is partly responsible for what the Republicans do.

    Mithras, good catch!

    Lis and Mary Jane, thanks for the info.

    Son volt, I feel like an idiot for not thinking of that theory. Good point!

    Vance, yeah, it would be better if I had provided links proving pro-choice and pro-life attitudes for those states. In my own defense, however, I had already done an awful lot of research for this post and I was getting tired. :-)

  17. 17
    Mary-Jane says:

    Just to expand on what Lis said, in Ancient Greece – the cradle of civilisation, let’s not forget – it was socially acceptable to abandon any unwanted babies on a hillside or in a remote area. Although I would guess that the majority of babies abandoned in this way either starved to death or were eaten by wild animals, some babies were found and adopted by childless strangers. (It was perfectly legal to take custody of an abandoned baby in this way. The legality of abandoning a baby seems to be something of a grey area.)
    In fact, children being found and adopted was a common enough occurence that it’s a major plot point in ‘Oedipus Rex’ by Sophocles. Oedipus manages to work out that he was abandoned because he has an old ankle injury. Babies who were abandoned on hillsides were generally placed into some kind of pot, and a metal pin was driven through their ankles to make sure that they stayed in the pot.
    Needless to say, abortion wasn’t legal in Ancient Greece.

  18. 18
    BobR says:

    I agree with son volt. I think that people who can’t get an unwanted pregnancy terminated when it is still just a clump of cells are doing the termination immediately post-birth. While this is deplorable, it should come as no surprise that this would be the result of these types of restrictive laws.

    I think “wage/class” statistics would be more meaningful than the racial statistics, although in many cases they are nearly the same. I feel this reflects the ability of the more wealthy to travel to more “choice-friendly” states.

  19. 19
    Mithras says:

    Reinzi says, “In fact, babies are now killed on the first day of their lives almost daily in this country.”

    But the CDC report he cites says there were a “total 3,312 infant homicides reported between 1989-1998″. That’s a ten-year period, so it’s 331 infant homicides per year – that is, children killed in the first year of life. Not the first day. Reinzi’s either sloppy or dishonest. (And you wonder why these right-wing bloggers don’t have comments.)

    The rate of infant homicide is now twice what it was before we began telling women they were free to kill their unwanted babies before birth.

    Reported infanticides, hello? Is there any chance such crimes are now reported more often because of advances in autopsy procedures and changes in laws requiring autopsies since 1973?

    The rate of live births in this country didn’t change after Roe v. Wade. (Think about that for a second.) Why would the infanticide rate go up?

  20. 20
    Vance Maverick says:

    This is a very clear argument. However, to make it even stronger, I think it would benefit from a link to a simple demonstration that the five states in each group are indeed “pro-life” and “pro-choice”, respectively. (NB: I’m not disputing the classification, just saying it’s a lemma that still needs proof.)

  21. 21
    son volt says:

    It’s very difficult to get an abortion in many areas of the country, particularly if you don’t have the means to travel. The higher rates of infanticide probably reflect, more than anything else, the various impediments to legal abortion (parental notification, waiting periods, etc.) that pro-lifers have gotten enacted.

  22. 22
    Rook says:

    I can’t help but wonder if education does not play a role in this rate. I’d be willing to bet the liberal states are much more incline to educate about pregnacies and birth.

  23. 23
    Amy Phillips says:

    Can you name one of these mythical libertarian-dominated pro-life states? Because as far as I know, most libertarians are pro-choice, and there are no libertarian-dominated states at all.

    Please don’t blame us for the results of conservative efforts to limit women’s choices. And especially don’t blame us for the results of conservative policies that take away social services without corresponding tax cuts and deregulation that make it more feasible to provide those services privately. We get enough grief for the things we really do believe without being villified for things we have nothing to do with.

  24. 24
    Lis says:

    Something I dug up in response to a pro-life blogger I read who was also writing about infanticide:

    Infanticide is hardly a modern phenomenon.
    In olden days, infants were abandoned on hillsides to die from exposure or wild animals, even in very Christian countries.
    There’s an entire book on the subject, titled The Kindness of Strangers. I have not yet read it, but I suspect infant abandonment was more common before women had access to safe and reliable means of preventing pregnancy.
    Frankly, I suspect we find these cases so “shocking” precisely because they’re so rare.

    So it seems somewhat pointless trying to find a causal factor between modern abortion laws and a practice that predates humanity and occurs among many primates.

    A little further info, quoting from anthropologist Hrdy’s book, Mother Nature, pg 304 via Amazon’s “Search inside” feature:

    Italy provides some of the most complete records on infant abandonment, and these data have been analyzed by a roster of distinguished historians and demographers… By 1640, 22 percent of all children baptized in Florence were babies that had been abandoned. Between 1500 and 1700, this proportion never fell below 12 percent. In the worst years on record, during the 1840s, 43 percent of all infants baptized in Florence were abandoned. In the Grand Ducy of Tuscany around the same time, 5000 were abandoned — practically 10 percent of all those born.
    As in much of Catholic Europe, a ruota, or rotating barrel, was installed in 1660 to replace the old marble basin at Florence’s main foundling home, the Innocenti. By 1699, however, it was necessary to place a grill across the opening to prevent parents from shoving in older children as well.

    The page goes on with further statistics, with some cities showing thousands of infants abandoned per year.

  25. 25
    Hestia says:

    Honest pro-choicers — think Princeton’s Peter Singer — will occasionally admit that there is no real moral difference between killing a fetus and killing a newborn. Honestly — if abortion is so worthy of protection, then what is so wrong about infanticide?

    With all due respect, what the hell are you talking about? Like Madeline said, “Woman? What woman?”

    As someone who likes to think of herself as an “honest pro-choicer,” I think there’s a pretty big difference between abortion and infanticide. I’m pro-choice because I respect a woman’s decision to do with her body what she wants. Infanticide is entirely removed from that situation and requires the murder of an infant. What don’t you understand about this distinction?

    I mean, you can’t possibly expect me to take you seriously when you ask questions like, “So, again, why isn’t it perfectly plausible to say that the general respect for newborn life will go down if the Supreme Court — as well as most of the elites of the country [and later you include senators in this curious group of people, which is odd considering they passed that so-called "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" last year]– say that a fetus isn’t human and doesn’t deserve to live? [emphasis mine, of course]“

  26. 26
    julie says:

    Wow — there are people out there making outrageous claims. I have been googling infanticide and I am finding some really huge leaps in logic.
    A couple examples:

    http://usconservatives.about.com/cs/infanticide/index.htm?terms=infanticide

    Of approximately 6.4 million pregnancies in the United States in 1988, 3.6 million were unintended and therefore subject to dangerous consequences. 1.6 million of those unwanted pregnancies resulted in abortion. In Britain, more than 160,000 legal abortions, or terminations of pregnancy, were carried out each year during this same period of time. The Family Planning Association in Russia says that there are more than 3 million abortions performed each year, more than double the number of births. In France, there are almost one million abortions each year, equal to the number of births. This means that over five million pregnancies were aborted in the Western world alone each year, and if the births of those children would not have been prevented, it is very likely that many of those infants would have been victims of infanticidal rage.

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/oct98/nichd%2D21.htm

    Mary Overpeck, DrPH, a researcher with NICHD’s Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research.

    Dr. Overpeck said that no studies have been conducted to determine why the infant homicide rate has risen. She theorized, however, that the increase coincides with an increasing need for mothers to enter the work force, combined with a shortage of affordable child care for infants.

    So these two people have made two huge leaps here:
    If you are willing to have an abortion, you are willing to kill the infant if you cannot get the abortion, and if you are a mother who has to work, a viable option for childcare is to kill the infant. Both of these are such utter crap. And yet, because it helps the pro-life cause, stuff like this will continue to be spread. What a cheery thought.

  27. 27
    Joe M. says:

    In Peter Singer’s words (from his book Writings on an Ethical Life):

    I have argued that the life of a foetus is of no greater value than the life of a non-human animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc, and that since no foetus is a person, no foetus has the same claim to life as a person. Now it must be admitted that these arguments apply to the new-born baby as much as to the foetus.

    From the same interview:

    Terry Lane: You’re listening to The National Interest, and I’m talking to Peter Singer about his book ‘Writings on an Ethical Life’, and on that very subject, Peter, this is where you make another very controversial proposition, that perhaps there should be a 28-day period after the birth of a child during which it has not acquired the full moral status or right to life that we would accord to other human beings.

    Peter Singer: Yes. The 28-day period is not something that I now want to really place any emphasis on. I think there is a problem with any sort of arbitrary cut-off point for something as serious as a right to life. But I guess what I was suggesting was that there’s a gradual development of capacities like self-awareness, which I think we can say are important in terms of giving a being a right to life, and they, whenever they do occur, they’re not really there within the first month of life, and that would be a fairly safe kind of cut-off point to saying you haven’t got a being that has that degree of self-awareness that later humans have, which could well be seen as something relevant to the wrongness of killing them.

    I can respect Singer. I completely disagree with him, but at least he’s honest enough to say, “Hey, if we really mean to say that a fetus’ life isn’t worth protecting, then neither is a newborn’s.”

    Pro-choicers (e.g., Amp) get all huffy when they hear an argument like this, because it shows where their reasoning leads.

  28. 28
    lucia says:

    Well.. your problem is you said “honest pro-choicers ” admit….. In fact, it is simply Peter Singer, who happens to say this. Other pro-choicers, who as far as I can tell are honest, see a distinction.

    I could very easily say “honest pro-lifers” admit that they are against abortion because they think unwanted pregnancy is an appropriate punishement for premarital sex.

    And.. yes, I could put names to that opinion… Although possibly not prestigious names, and they haven’t appeared on radio programs.

    Just because some, or one, pro-choicer or pro-lifer believes something doesn’t mean that all pro-lifers or choicers believe that. The other’s aren’t being “dishonest” or even stupid for disagreeing with Peter Singer, no matter where Dr. Singer happens to teach.

    There are many differences between foetuses and babies. Any obstetrician will tell you some of the differences. We eacg get to decide for ourselves whether they are relevant to our opinion about abortion.

  29. 29
    Hestia says:

    Well, I guess all “honest” pro-lifers really want to kill abortion doctors, if all “honest” pro-choicers necessarily agree with Singer.

    But I think lucia said it better.

  30. 30
    neko says:

    Yes, lucia, what you said.

  31. 31
    Joe M. says:

    Well, yes, both sides are largely inconsistent. If a pro-lifer really, truly believes that abortion is equivalent to murder, then killing an abortion doctor should logically be no different from killing anyone else who is about to commit murder. Yet the overwhelming majority of pro-lifers have condemned the very few occasions on which some lunatic killed an abortion doctor.

    But pro-choicers are equally inconsistent. If you really, truly believe that a fetus is not a human “person” and that it can therefore can be killed (in very gruesome ways, I might add: limbs ripped off, skulls torn apart, etc.), then you have no logical argument against infanticide. There is simply no argument that can prove that 1) a fetus is not a human person, and 2) a newborn that is identical in every way to a fetus is somehow magically transformed into a human person merely by changing locations.

  32. 32
    zoe says:

    The crucial difference between a fetus and a newborn: a fetus is totally dependent on the woman in whom it resides for oxygen, food, excretory functions, etc. After birth, it is no longer dependent exclusively on the woman. It still must be fed, changed, clothed, but other people can fulfill that role. Most abortions are performed before viability, when removing an uninvited guest from one’s body will necessarily result in the death of the guest. Most abortions performed after viability are done to protect the life or health of the woman, or in cases of extreme fetal health problem. A fetus removed at 7 months may be able to survive, but that takes a good deal of medical intervention- not to mention the woman has to go through labor or a C-section. And since the reason for an abortion is often that the woman is not physically able to withstand the stress of labor or C-section, abortion is preferred. In the case of fetal deformity, the deformity itself may prevent vaginal delivery.

  33. 33
    Joe M. says:

    Exclusive dependence on the mother can’t be what makes it ok to kill a fetus. If a pregnant woman is stranded on a desert island, gives birth, and six months later realizes that she is tired of having the newborn be totally dependent on her for everything, could she chop the baby to pieces with an ax? After all, the baby is dependent on her, and on a desert island there is no way that anyone else could take over those responsibilities. But if exclusive dependence in that situation doesn’t make killing ok, then why does exclusive dependence in the case of pregnancy make killing ok?

  34. 34
    zoe says:

    Because it’s inside the woman’s body. In the extremely unlikely event that a pregnant woman was to give birth on a desert island, and there wasn’t enough food for her to produce enough milk for the baby or to feed the baby, it would be more “humane” for her to end the baby’s life then and there (with an axe, if that’s all that’s available) than to let it die slowly of starvation. Similarly, in the very likely event that an 18 year old woman’s birth control fails, and she knows she doesn’t have the means to support a child, get prenatal care, pay for a hospitalization, or to deal with the consequences of being 18, pregnant, giving birth, and then giving up the baby, she has a right to prevent those consequences from coming to be.

    I refuse to allow another being to eat my food, urinate and deficate into my bloodstream, press against my bladder, use my air, make me stop using the medicines that allow me to breath freely, change my lifestyle, suck up my money, or generally make my life unpleasant for 9 months (and then 18 years) unless I want it to. And I take my pills every day at the same time, I’m in a committed relationship with a man I plan on spending the rest of my life with, and with whom I may eventually want to have a child with. If I found out I was pregnant, my first phone call would be to my local abortion provider.

  35. 35
    zoe says:

    I will add that in the event Desert Island Woman is not stranded on a desert island during her pregnancy/birth and therefore freely chooses to birth the child, no, it is not OK to kill the child in that situation. If the woman is in, say, Chicago, there are alternatives. But if a woman doesn’t want a fetus in her body AT ALL (like me), there is no alternative but abortion.

    Of course, this could be avoided if we had safe, effective, easy to use, reversable, and affordable birth control available to all women and men who want it.

  36. 36
    Joe M. says:

    A top British medical ethicist let the cat out of the bag:

    [quote]One of British medicine’s most senior advisers on medical ethics has provoked outrage by claiming that infanticide is “justifiable”.

    Professor John Harris, a member of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, said that it was not “plausible to think that there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal” – suggesting that there was no moral difference between aborting a foetus and killing a baby.[/quote]

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    Let me ask you something, Joe.

    Imagine that Bad Biff is holding a gun and threatening to shoot Sheriff Sally. Is it acceptable, in that situation, for Sheriff Sally to shoot Bad Biff to death?

    Now imagine that a trapdoor opens below Bad Biff and he falls into the basement. Due to his change in location, Bad Biff is no longer a threat, but Sally can still shoot him if she wants. Is it still acceptable for Sherrif Sally to shoot Bad Biff to death?

    Presumably, you’d say that we have to have the exact same answer in both instances. After all, nothing about Bad Biff has changed but his location; how can it be okay to shoot him at point A but wrong to shoot him at point B? It must be immoral for the Sherriff to shoot Bad Biff in ANY circumstances – not even if she thinks she’s acting in self-defense.

    I think that’s nonsense. Bad Biff’s moral status is dependant not just on his own location, but on his relationship to the people around him. When his relationships change, it’s perfectly logical for his moral status to change as well.

    * * *

    Judging by your relentless focus on abortion performed when natural birth has already begun – even though there’s not a single documented case of such an abortion taking place without it being justified by an immediate medical emergency – you seem to believe that the typical abortion happens one minute before natural birth would have occured anyway. Let me assure you, this is not the case.

    Let me ask, are you against first-trimester abortions? If you are, why don’t you argue against them – since they are, as you know, the overwhelming majority of abortions?

  38. 38
    Raznor says:

    Joe M., you are an asshole. Sorry for that ad hominem, but how else can you describe arguments like “a top British medical ethicist let the cat out of the bag” as anything but overly-simplified and asshole-ish. Such distinctions are merely academic and philisophical, and don’t have as much to do with how people act in the real world.

    Also, as for the woman on a desert island metaphor, the baby is not entirely dependent on the woman, it gets oxygen on it’s own, for example. As such, it is still fundamentally different than a fetus.

    And back to the philisophical distinctions, since they are just that, philisophical, the fact that some pro-choicers agree with it does not mean it is essential to the pro-choice argument. Let me repeat that in capital letters, boldface and italicized so that there’s no mistaking what I’m saying:

    THE FACT THAT SOME PRO-CHOICERS MAKE A CERTAIN PHILISOPHICAL ARGUMENT DOES NOT MEAN THAT SAID ARGUMENT IS A NECESSARY COMPONENT OF BEING PRO-CHOICE!!!!

    So please stop asserting otherwise.

  39. 39
    Joe M. says:

    Amp:

    I don’t believe that most, or any, abortions happen right before birth. But I’ll be frank: I focus on the distinction between abortion and infanticide because that’s where pro-choicers have trouble making any coherent philosophical distinctions. They simply can’t explain why abortion is so precious that it should a constitutional right or paid for with government funds, while infanticide should be treated just as any other murder. (And no, Raznor, the fact that an infant breathes oxygen on its own is NOT a coherent “philisophical” distinction, nor does it explain anything about the morality of killing.) Nor, for that matter, can pro-choicers explain why a 24-week pre-mature infant should be given the best of medical care, while a 24-week fetus can be aborted.

    If you’re going to protect life from being murdered at all, you have to start that protection somewhere, when a person reaches a particular age. Is it birth? But that makes little sense, as a few pro-choicers are forthright enough to acknowledge. Is it viability? That has a little more potential, although viability is really a sliding scale: none of us are truly “viable,” in the sense of being able to live all by ourselves, a la Robinson Crusoe. When do you draw the line? And on what grounds?

  40. 40
    Hestia says:

    You draw the line at the point at which the mother desires an empty uterus, on the grounds that people can do whatever they want with their own bodies.

  41. 41
    Ampersand says:

    First of all, there’s a very clear distinction between a fetus being part of its mothers body, and a baby which is not. That you choose to not acknowledge this distinction because it’s inconvenient for your ideology doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Second of all, you wrote: “Nor, for that matter, can pro-choicers explain why a 24-week pre-mature infant should be given the best of medical care, while a 24-week fetus can be aborted.”

    And it’s so unjust that I’m not speeding at 64 mph but I am speeding at 65mph! Not to mention that a truck that weighs two tons isn’t legal to go over the bridge near my house – after all, there’s not really a substantial difference between a truck that weighs an ounce less and one that weighs two tons, is there? And what about campaign finance laws – isn’t it irrational to set a limit of $1000, when there’s so little difference between $1000 and $1001? And let’s talk about height limits on buildings – does it make any sense for safety regulations to require buildings to not be over (x) feet tall, when objectively speaking a building that is (x-1) feet tall is just as unsafe? And why limit the amount of industrial waste that factories can pour into rivers – after all, is there any real difference between the legal limit and the legal limit minus a gallon? And don’t get me started on drunk driving laws, which just pick some totally arbitrary figure above which someone is considered to be driving under the influence. How unjust! Not to mention having a legal drinking age. And a legal driving age (isn’t a fifteen-years-eleven-months-and-thirty-days old driver just as capapble as a sixteen year old driver?). And how about those damned arbitrary stautory rape laws?

    I could go on forever. If a law was really invalid because it chooses a boundary point that could be criticized for arbitrariness, you’d have to throw out half the laws in America.

    Is there a huge moral distinction between a three-month-old fetus and a three-month-and-a-day-old fetus? No, of course not, not anymore than there’s a huge distinction between 65mph and 66mph. But as a matter of practicality, most grown-ups understand that it’s sometimes necessary to pick a border line. To claim that such laws are inherantly unjustifiable shows a remarkable ignorance of how the law works.

  42. 42
    Joe M. says:

    First, the fetus is not “part of the mother’s body.” In terms of biology, that is utter nonsense. In fact, half of all fetuses are of a different gender than the mother; many have a different blood type (and all have a separate circulatory system); the fetus has its own brain; the placenta serves to protect the mother and the fetus from each other, because their immune systems would otherwise recognize each other as “foreign” and start attacking. And so on and so forth.

    Second, the law often makes arbitrary distinctions, in situations where it has to make some distinction but any distinction would be arbitrary. But I think you’re trapped yourself here, Amp. If you’re saying that birth is a distinction that is just as arbitrary as the choice between 65 and 66 miles per hour, then you are admitting that — as far as morality is concerned — infanticide really isn’t any worse than abortion.

  43. 43
    Jake Squid says:

    No, Joe M., you intentionally obtuse boob, Amp didn’t trap himself if you bothered to read and then have someone capable of comprehending writing relay the substance of his post to you. In terms of arbitrary Amp was referring to “a three-month-old fetus and a three-month-and-a-day-old fetus”.

    On birth, he had this to say: “First of all, there’s a very clear distinction between a fetus being part of its mothers body, and a baby which is not.”

    But I understand how you could miss that. It being buried as the first sentence and all. If you want to actually discuss the differences you have w/ the majority of posters here, please do. If you want to ignore what is written & rant, that’s fine too. Just have the courtesy to preface it w/ “I haven’t really read or comprehended what you’ve written, so this has no actual connection to what has been written in this thread.”

    I know that I’ll love you for it.

  44. 44
    Joe M. says:

    Jake — if you’re going to criticize someone else for problems with reading comprehension, perhaps you should show some signs of that ability yourself. You accuse me of not being able to read Amp’s “first sentence,” where Amp said: “First of all, there’s a very clear distinction between a fetus being part of its mothers body, and a baby which is not.”

    Perhaps you missed my first sentence, which was this: “First, the fetus is not ‘part of the mother’s body.’” I then explained why Amp’s first sentence was nonsense. I’m not sure how you could read this, and then have the gall to say that I “missed” Amp’s first sentence. I saw it, read it, and refuted it easily.

    And the whole topic of debate is why birth should be the distinction between 1) freedom to kill, and 2) life sentence for killing. So when Amp starts bringing up all the many arbitrary distinctions that the law makes, the only inference is that he apparently thinks that birth is just another arbitrary distinction. I have no idea why he mentioned the “three-month-old fetus and a three-month-and-a-day-old fetus,” as if there were some law that required “three month and a day” fetuses to be treated differently. My point stands: If Amp really means to suggest that birth is an arbitrary distinction, then what’s really so wrong with infanticide? Is it nothing more than that the law, for convenience’ sake, prohibits it, just as the law might prohibit driving at 66 mph?

  45. 45
    zoe says:

    Joe, if I ever get pregnant, do you want to gestate it for me? ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t want to. I understand it’s not part of my body, but it is certainly LIVING INSIDE MY BODY. I have a absolute right to determine what does and does not get to live inside me.

  46. 46
    Ampersand says:

    On rereading the thread, I screwed up. I somehow misread Joe’s comparison of a “a 24-week pre-mature infant” and a 24-week fetus as a comparison between a fetus at two separate times (e.g., as an attack on laws that use the trimester system as a border line). So, having misunderstood Joe’s arguement, I then went on to post a totally irrelevant argument against the argument I thought I had read.

    So, never mind. And Joe, I’m sorry I misread you.

    Then Joe did indeed misread my argument to claim victory. I wrote that the distinction between a born infant and a preborn fetus was not arbitrary, but that the distinction between (say) a 24-week fetus and a 24-week-and-one-day fetus was indeed somewhat arbitrary. To take this as an admission that the distinction between a born infant and a fetus is arbitrary is a flagrent misreading of what I wrote.

    * * *

    I’m not going to get into a semantic argument about what we call the fetus inside the woman (part of the woman? a non-independant separate being connected to the woman?), and I think the fact that you (Joe) resort to semantic arguing shows your position’s lack of substance. You’re literally correct – the mother and the fetus are, biologically , distinct – but so what? The fact is, no matter how fancy you parse your arguments to conclude that the fetus is an independent human being, there’s still a woman there.

    Returning to the real argument, I think Madeline was very accurate when she characterized Joe’s argument as “woman? What woman?”

    The fact is, there’s a real and substantial difference between a fetus and a infant. The biggest difference is that the infant is independant of it’s mother’s body (yes, it still needs care, but folks other than the mother can provide that) in a way no fetus is.

    When we discuss whether or not to continue a 8-week pregancy (to use a more typical example than the ones Joe gravitates to), we’re discussing not only a fetal life but also the woman’s life; her health, her autonomy, her right to self-determination.

    If we conclude that the distinction between a fetus and a baby means nothing, then we’ve implicitly accepted the premise that a woman’s health, her autonomy, and her right to self-determination mean nothing. I’m not willing to go there.

  47. 47
    Joshua says:

    To some degree, the instituting of abstinence-only education in sexual education does have some correlation with the issue. I’ve read some things about it, it should probably be discussed. The debate over abortion is very influenced by the decisions made (in different locations) or policies that are subject to the debates about sexuality. It’d be worthwhile in the blog to discuss that factor. Individual attitudes about sex and what attitudes should be or are educated. I wrote a bunch of other stuff but I didn’t stay focused on anything so I just left it to mentioning something not referred to in the blog, at least not very specifically.

  48. 48
    justAGuy says:

    The following statements apply to pregnancies resulting from consensual sex between adults.

    As soon as a child is conceived, it becomes an identifiable human being. Admittedly, the inconvenience of pregnancy is far greater for the woman than for the man. To use the unequal nature of the genders as an excuse to reduce the status of an unborn human being to that of property is unacceptable: a woman’s body belongs to her; an unborn child’s body belongs to itself.

    There may come a day when a pregnant woman can end her pregnancy early without killing her unborn child. Until then, a woman must be held accountable for the health and well-being of her unborn child. It’s time to acknowledge abortion as the act of a criminal. The roles of man and woman in childbirth are unequal, and possibly quite unfair. It is within our power to enforce justice for the child. It’s time to recognize that the choice of abortion is just plain wrong.

  49. 49
    Deep River Appartments says:

    In reaction to JustAGuy:

    The following statements apply to pregnancies resulting from consensual sex between adults.

    The fetus has not experienced any stimuli that would give it even the basics for forming a personality and consciousness. It has no significant conception of itself or others, and is therefore even less of an individual than the already born animals we allow to be slaughtered without flinching. Therefore a woman’s rights take precedence over this non-being unless you give it religious significance, in which case you cannot force your religious definition on the rest of the nation, as that is tyranny.

    Two can play at that game JustAGuy.
    In any case, You may be able to convince unscientifically-minded people that a third trimester fetus looks human enough to benefit from their misplaced sympathy, but you’ll never convince anyone other than the most fanatical religious type that the cluster of literally brainless cells that follows the first trimester after conception is the equal of an adult.

    Honestly, is this your first time in our end of the pool? Did you come here just after watching Silent Scream (never stopping to wonder if that film just might have been a string of manipulative deceptions)? You need better arguments to stay afloat here. Go browse the vast, VAST number of anti-choice sites at your disposal until you have something less arbitrary.

  50. 50
    Larry says:

    DRA: “The fetus has not experienced any stimuli that would give it even the basics for forming a personality and consciousness.”

    DRA: “In any case, You may be able to convince unscientifically-minded people that a third trimester fetus looks human enough to benefit from their misplaced sympathy, ”

    OK, I wonder if you could take your sharply honed, brilliant, scientific mind and explain the all the personality and conscious differences between a baby an hour before birth and an hour after birth. Many of us lowly “unscientifically-minded” folks would certain love to be educated on this.

  51. 51
    Ampersand says:

    OK, I wonder if you could take your sharply honed, brilliant, scientific mind and explain the all the personality and conscious differences between a baby an hour before birth and an hour after birth.

    The big difference is not personality, but danger.

    A child who is aborted after labor has begun (labor typically begins hours before birth, so in your example labor has already begun) is a child whose birth (either natural or ceasarian) in some way puts his mother’s health or life in grave danger, so grave that the mother (if she’s conscious) and her doctor are convinced that going forward with the birth would present an unacceptable risk to the mother.

    The child who was born an hour ago, in contrast, does not present any danger to her mother’s life.

    That’s the difference.

    Of course, the example you bring up is rare – in fact, I’m not sure there’s even a signle documented case of it happening. Have you ever heard the common legal aphorism “hard cases make bad law?” It means that we should make laws based not only on what happens in the incredibly rare cases, but also on what happens in the typical cases.

  52. 52
    JRC says:

    Produce an example . . . one example . . . of an elective abortion performed an hour before birth, and then, perhaps, someone will take your silliness seriously.

    —JRC

  53. 53
    JRC says:

    Just FYI, my post was aimed at Larry, not Ampersand. Amp and I posted simultaneously.

    —JRC

  54. 54
    Larry says:

    Ampersand: “Of course, the example you bring up is rare – in fact, I’m not sure there’s even a signle documented case of it happening. Have you ever heard the common legal aphorism “hard cases make bad law?” It means that we should make laws based not only on what happens in the incredibly rare cases, but also on what happens in the typical cases….That’s the difference.”

    JRC: “Produce an example . . . one example . . . of an elective abortion performed an hour before birth, and then, perhaps, someone will take your silliness seriously.”

    These are irrelevant to DRA’s point, which I was responding to.

  55. 55
    Quadratic says:

    “The fetus has not experienced any stimuli that would give it even the basics for forming a personality and consciousness. It has no significant conception of itself or others”

    Please back this up with evidence, for us “unscientifically minded” folks.

    “Honestly, is this your first time in our end of the pool?”

    How very intimidating! Anybody can hold their own in a group of like minded individuals.Is this some kind of joke? Link me to a blog where your OPINION is not shared by 90% of the participants.

    Unlike you, justaguy has the courage to offer an opposing point of view. But maybe these waters are to “deep” for someone who feels differently than you.

  56. 56
    Deep River Appartments says:

    Quadratic sez:
    “Please back this up with evidence, for us “unscientifically minded” folks.”

    I don’t need any evidence, just common sense. A cluster of cells or a mouthless seahorse-shaped lump of flesh with the intelectual capacity of a krill shrimp is OBVIOUSLY not a person without a religious argument to state it is, and since your religious argument is fantasy to me I refuse to be bound by it.

    If you argue from the third trimester then you are just falling back on that favorite bugbear of the anti-choice position. The vast, overwhelming majority of late term abortions are performed for the mother’s health, or because the fetus is so deformed a birth would only be a painful waste. Just because a miniscule minority of women might have the purely elective abortion that so disgusts you, doesn’t give you the right to make the majority suffer.

    But the last paragraph is only to take your world view into account if I am forced to compromise. I actually agree with amp’s take on it.

    Quadratic also sez:
    “How very intimidating! Anybody can hold their own in a group of like minded individuals.Is this some kind of joke? Link me to a blog where your OPINION is not shared by 90% of the participants.”

    You misunderstand my statement. I was just telling JustAGuy that if he wants to debate us on the issue then he shouldn’t waste his breath trying to pass off statements of opinion as incontrovertible fact. All he did was say “abortion is wrong” and then sit back while hoping the incredible obviousness of his position would win us over. Sorry, it isn’t that simple.

    As for going to the forums anti-choicers control, tried that, realized we were operating on two seperate planes of reality, got the T shirt, left with their fiery breath still on my heels. Face it, I may be brusque, but you’re no angels either. Keep in mind who’s side does the bombing, not to tar you all with the same brush of course.

  57. 57
    Deep River Appartments says:

    The discussion here sent me on a little exploration of religious attitudes on abortion, and I discovered a very enlightening (though of course occasionally debatable) article by Carl Sagan on this ideological war. Here’s an excerpt:

    “The Jewish Talmud teaches that the fetus is not a person and has no rights. The Old and New Testaments–rich in astonishingly detailed prohibitions on dress, diet, and permissible words–contain not a word specifically prohibiting abortion. The only passage that’s remotely relevant (Exodus 21:22) decrees that if there’s a fight and a woman bystander should accidentally be injured and made to miscarry, the assailant must pay a fine.

    Neither St. Augustine nor St. Thomas Aquinas considered early-term abortion to be homicide (the latter on the grounds that the embryo doesn’t look human). This view was embraced by the Church in the Council of Vienne in 1312, and has never been repudiated. The Catholic Church’s first and long-standing collection of canon law (according to the leading historian of the Church’s teaching on abortion, John Connery, S.J.) held that abortion was homicide only after the fetus was already “formed”–roughly, the end of the first trimester.”

    Earlier in the article he presents an interesting analysis of the conflict:

    “Both pro-choicers and pro-lifers (at least some of them) are pushed toward absolutist positions by parallel fears of the slippery slope [if you allow any kind of abortion all abortions are valid vs if you ban any kind of abortion all abortions will become invalid].”

  58. 58
    Deep River Appartments says:

    Oh, and while I’m using Sagan, I’ll just quote from him to butress my original argument (however, unlike me, Sagan eventually comes to the conclusion that abortions past roughly the sixth month are in his view immoral unless they are to protect the mother or dispose of doomed fetuses):

    “So, if only a person can be murdered, when does the fetus attain personhood? When its face becomes distinctly human, near the end of the first trimester? When the fetus becomes responsive to stimuli–again, at the end of the first trimester? When it becomes active enough to be felt as quickening, typically in the middle of the second trimester? When the lungs have reached a stage of development sufficient that the fetus might, just conceivably, be able to breathe on its own in the outside air?

    The trouble with these particular developmental milestones is not just that they’re arbitrary. More troubling is the fact that none of them involves uniquely human characteristics–apart from the superficial matter of facial appearance. All animals respond to stimuli and move of their own volition. Large numbers are able to breathe. But that doesn’t stop us from slaughtering them by the billions. Reflexes and motion are not what make us human.

    Other animals have advantages over us–in speed, strength, endurance, climbing or burrowing skills, camouflage, sight or smell or hearing, mastery of the air or water. Our one great advantage, the secret of our success, is thought–characteristically human thought. We are able to think things through, imagine events yet to occur, figure things out. That’s how we invented agriculture and civilization. Thought is our blessing and our curse, and it makes us who we are.

    Thinking occurs, of course, in the brain–principally in the top layers of the convoluted “gray matter” called the cerebral cortex. The roughly 100 billion neurons in the brain constitute the material basis of thought. The neurons are connected to each other, and their linkups play a major role in what we experience as thinking. But large-scale linking up of neurons doesn’t begin until the 24th to 27th week of pregnancy–the sixth month.

    By placing harmless electrodes on a subject’s head, scientists can measure the electrical activity produced by the network of neurons inside the skull. Different kinds of mental activity show different kinds of brain waves. But brain waves with regular patterns typical of adult human brains do not appear in the fetus until about the 30th week of pregnancy–near the beginning of the third trimester. Fetuses younger than this–however alive and active they may be–lack the necessary brain architecture. They cannot yet think.”

    My only notable gripe with Sagan is that even the capacity for thought is meaningless if your brain contains practically nothing since you have not experienced anything significant, the most important of which is the differentiation of the self from other entities.

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