Cartoon: Reducing Abortion Is Definitely Their Number One Priority


I’ve gone from making about six poli cartoons a year, to making almost fifty! That couldn’t happen without the support people give my patreon. A $1 pledge really matters.


Democrats often say that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.”

I’ve seen some feminists argue against this slogan. “Why should we care if abortion is rare? There’s nothing wrong with it.” And they make the very good point that Democrats shouldn’t embrace a slogan that could be read as implying that abortion is immoral.

I can understand that perspective – I’m definitely in the a-fetus-has-no-independent-moral-value camp myself.

But even if we attach no moral value to the fetus, we should still want abortion to be rare. Abortions are expensive, and often extremely unpleasant for patients. So wouldn’t everyone be better off if fewer unwanted pregnancies happened in the first place?

It’s like appendectomies. I’m glad that the procedure exists for people when they need it. But if there were some sort of treatment that prevented appendicitis in the first place, so fewer people needed surgery, that would be even better, because it would be physically and financially easier on patients. Saying so is not saying that there’s anything immoral about appendectomies!

So I think liberals can, and should, want abortions to be rarer. So this is an area of potential compromise between pro-choicers and pro-lifers, right?

It doesn’t turn out that way.

I find it useful to use some economics language when I think about reducing abortion. Supply and demand. We can reduce abortion by reducing the supply – trying to shut down clinics, waiting periods to make abortion less available, and at the extremes, bans. All of these methods are coercive in some way.

Or we could reduce abortion by reducing the demand – changing society so that fewer people want abortions. This primarily means trying to help people who don’t want babies avoid getting pregnant, but it can also include better safety nets for people having babies. These methods are not coercive.

The pro-life movement, at least among the policy makers – Senators, congressmen, the leaders of the major pro-life orgs, etc – simply has no interest in reducing the demand for abortion. In fact, they actively oppose non-coercive ways of reducing abortion.

And that’s why the most obvious seeming compromise between pro-life and pro-choice – which is to embrace non-coercive methods of reducing abortion – is a no-go.

(I wrote a twitter thread about this recently, which has some more info on how extremely effective giving away free birth control can be for reducing abortion.)


Another strip where I paid a lot of attention to drawing environments! I think panel 4 came out pretty nicely. I also decided to color everything except hair and skin in shades of blue, which I think is really neat looking.

I was binging “Person of Interest” on Netflix while drawing this cartoon, and decided to draw the pro-life guy as one of the stars of that show, Michael Emerson. (Emerson is probably most famous for playing Benjamin on “Lost.”) I didn’t do this as a comment on Emerson’s politics – I have no idea what Emerson’s opinions on abortion are. He just has a super interesting face.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows the same two figures walking through a city environment while they talk. The first figure is a dark-haired woman wearing a business outfit, with a black shirt. The second figure is a middle-aged man wearing glasses, slacks, a collared shirt, and a striped necktie.

In the first three panels, they’re both walking in the same direction with the man in front, so the man is facing away from the woman.

PANEL 1

Both speakers are friendly-looking.

WOMAN: Okay, Pro-Life… let’s brainstorm ways to reduce abortion!

MAN: Reducing abortion is definitely my number one priority!

PANEL 2

The man dismissively waves a hand.

WOMAN: Research shows that giving people free long-acting reversible contraception reduces abortion more than anything!

MAN: Nope. That would encourage promiscuity.

PANEL 3

WOMAN: Okay, um…  How about a super generous child benefit program, like Belgium or Germany?

MAN: I don’t want taxpayers paying people for being irresponsible.

PANEL 4

The woman loses her temper a bit, looking angry and holding up her hands. The man has turned around to face the woman, smiling and looking eager and excited.

WOMAN: Come ON! There must be SOME way of reducing abortion you approve of other than punishing doctors and patients!

MAN: Now you’re talking! What’d you have in mind… Shaming? Prison? Death penalty?

SMALL KICKER PANEL BELOW THE BOTTOM OF THE STRIP

The man from the previous four panels is now talking sternly at Barry the cartoonist.

MAN: If a million “pre-born babies” have to die to avoid compromise on birth control, it’s worth it!

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

45 Responses to Cartoon: Reducing Abortion Is Definitely Their Number One Priority

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    Come on! There must be some way of reducing abortion you approve of other than punishing doctors and patients!

    Sure there is. People could come to an understanding that a) there is always the chance that sex of various kinds can result in pregnancy regardless of what birth control measures you take, b) creating a human life confers a responsibility on both of the people involved to preserve and support it; and therefore c) people should not have sex unless they are willing to meet that responsibility using their own resources, d) the fact that other people are not willing to supply you with resources does not mean that they are responsible for the outcome of your actions and e) the law is not going to help you keep from fulfilling that responsibility by making it legal to destroy that life.

    It has been my observation that once people come to learn that they are responsible for the outcome of their own actions they are a lot more careful about the actions they take.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, saying “if everyone agreed with my own subjective religious and/or philosophical views” is not a policy.

    Admittedly, I didn’t use the word “policy” in this cartoon, but I thought it was obvious the characters are talking about policy options. If I get other people giving me this same objection, I might edit the cartoon to put the word in.

    The reality is, as long as freedom and liberty exist, not everyone will agree with you on everything. And the government declining to use force to shove your preferences down unwilling people’s throats, as you want it to do, is not “help[ing]” people; it’s leaving them alone to make their own choices.

    (Not that I’m against government helping people. But merely failing to ban abortion is not an example of “helping.”)

  3. 3
    Kelly Jennings says:

    In a perfect world, you would be right, Ron F. People would be rational actors who never had sex without thinking about the consequences of their actions.

    In the world we actually live in, we have found that the actual way to reduce abortion is to provide sex education and free contraception. A generous safety net also helps.

  4. 4
    J. Squid says:

    Uh, that’s not what the kicker panel says. There’s a mismatch between your transcript and the kicker panel. I’m seeing, “I’m not misogynistic! I want trans MEN punished as well!”

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for catching that, J. Squid! I made a late-in-process change to the kicker panel, but accidentally uploaded the old version of the cartoon. I’ve fixed that now.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    One of the consequences of sex is that you might need to get an abortion.

  7. 7
    J. Squid says:

    One of the consequences of sex is that you might need to get an abortion.

    The Devil, you say!

  8. 8
    Kate says:

    It has been my observation that once people come to learn that they are responsible for the outcome of their own actions they are a lot more careful about the actions they take.

    It has been MY observation that if you keep kicking people when they are already down, you make it impossible for them to ever get up.

  9. 9
    desipis says:

    Ampersand:

    I’m definitely in the a-fetus-has-no-independent-moral-value camp myself.

    So if a pregnant woman gets assaulted and as a result the fetus dies, you wouldn’t support any extra charge or punishment than if the assault took place and the woman wasn’t pregnant to begin with?

    That question aside, the issue of how much moral value does the fetus have is really the only thing that matters. If you believe a fetus has the same moral value as any other human life and sufficient moral value that protecting it justifies banning aborting and limiting a pregnant women’s freedom, then most of the pro-choice arguments just don’t make sense.

    Consider an alternative to Mandolins comment:

    One of the consequences of sex is that you might need to drown your baby.

    The level of moral repugnancy and hence absurdity that most people will see in that alternative is the same level of moral repugnancy and absurdity that a pro-life person would see in the original.

    Ron, saying “if everyone agreed with my own subjective religious and/or philosophical views” is not a policy.

    The policy is that “these things are morally wrong no matter the consequences”. Arguing about or from the consequences isn’t actually rebutting the policy.

  10. 10
    Mandolin says:

    What do we do about people who have trouble being responsible?

    Not everyone is going to be responsible, even if you yell at them a bunch. Sometimes they’re just jerks. Sometimes maybe they have other stuff going on. Contraception isn’t something I have trouble with, but there are certain things that are considered responsible which my disability makes it very hard or impossible for me to do.

    So, what happens to those people? Do we just want to be mad at them? “You fail, too bad”? Or do we give them some sort of structural support?

  11. 11
    Mandolin says:

    My basic point being that if your policy goals rely on “then people will be better at being people” — it’s just never going to work. People are people. That’s what we’ve got to work with. Some of them are stupid; some are mean; some are irresponsible; some are traumatized; some are flaky; some are confused. We need to build systems to support them.

    (Some years ago, there was a group I was involved in that had elections using a ballot that, for one reason or another, had been assembled in such a way that our highly educated membership was unable to return it correctly. More ballots were declared invalid than were considered suitable to count. The person running the elections was very frustrated by how stupid people are because they can’t even follow directions. Maybe that’s true; maybe that’s frustrating. But it turns out if you just print scissors icons on the front of the paper (I don’t remember what the fix was, but it was something simple like that) then people do it correctly. Meet them where they are; support them. Sometimes, maybe that includes educating them, and seeing what changes are possible. But you can’t make policy based on what you want people to be like. Not if you want your goals to actually work.)

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    I’m definitely in the a-fetus-has-no-independent-moral-value camp myself.

    So if a pregnant woman gets assaulted and as a result the fetus dies, you wouldn’t support any extra charge or punishment than if the assault took place and the woman wasn’t pregnant to begin with?

    You know what else has no independent moral value? A copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. It’s just ink and pulped wood; it has no sentience and doesn’t care if it lives or dies. But if I owned a copy, and someone attacked me while I happened to be carrying it and as a consequence of the assault the comic was damaged or destroyed, of course I’d want that taken into account at sentencing, or when I sue the person.

    I’ve asked many pro-lifers, if they had the choice between saving the life of a two-year-old child versus saving a suitcase with several healthy zygotes who (if they don’t burn in the fire) will all be implanted in moms and eventually become born children… which would they choose to save, the two-year-old or the several zygotes? All of them who answered said they’d save the two-year-old.

    Indeed, for most people – including pro-life people – the idea of valuing a zygote as much as a two-year-old child, if a choice had to be made, is morally repugnant. The claim that pro-lifers cannot see any difference in the value of a born child vs. a zygote is a claim made to advance their political cause, but not one that most of them actually seem to fully believe.

    That question aside, the issue of how much moral value does the fetus have is really the only thing that matters.

    This is only true if you consider women and trans men to be of no worth at all.

  13. 13
    Mandolin says:

    From Terry Pratchett’s NIGHT WATCH:

    People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.

    As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.

    [NOTE: Conservative in this quote is not being used to refer to modern American conservatism.]

  14. 14
    Mandolin says:

    This is only true if you consider women and trans men to be of no worth at all.

    This definitely needs to be pregnant people or something else. Ignoring the fact that some women can’t become pregnant (which I think is broadly not that important to this sentence), if you’re making room specifically for trans men, then it’s weird to omit people who aren’t women or trans men but who can get pregnant.

    (I have some very complicated feelings on the terminology used on this issue, but I don’t think this is a viable variant.)

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Mandolin – good point, I’ll phrase it “pregnant people” going forward. Thanks.

  16. 16
    nobody.really says:

    Hm. Was that a Frank Zappa song?

  17. 17
    desipis says:

    This is only true if you consider women and trans men to be of no worth at all.

    You raised some good points that maybe I overstretched my claim, but I think you’re also stretching too far here.

    If we use numbers to assign moral worth for the sake of arguing this particular point (not that’ll works generally) we could start as follows:
    0 – Worth nothing. No moral consequence if lost or destroyed (or for that matter created or protected)
    25 – Something such a property rights.
    50 – Bodily autonomy. (i.e. moral importance of being able to choose not to be pregnant)
    100 – Human adult life.
    150 – Human child life.

    (note: these are ordinal values, intended to show positioning not precise proportionate value)
    We end up at the point where we’d save a child over saving an adult, and we’d save a life over having someones bodily freedom taken away. I don’t think anyone is claiming that preventing someone having an abortion is as morally wrong as murder, so there shouldn’t be any problem here.

    Now we could take your position on the moral value of a fetus and put it at zero. Bodily autonomy is clearly more valuable and so allowing abortion becomes the clear moral choice.

    However if we take a pro-life position on the moral value of a fetus we could end up with a different result. If we put it at roughly 75, we end up with it being less valuable than an adult life, much less valuable than a child’s life. This lines up with your observations. But we also end up with the choice to save a fetus as being more morally valuable than bodily autonomy, which means banning abortion becomes the moral choice.

    Obviously this can be come a lot more complex if we attempt to differentiate between fetus’ at different stages of development, or try to split up the rather vague category of bodily autonomy into more specific cases (issues of mothers’ health, rape cases, etc). However, if it’s not possible to reach understanding (let alone agreement) on the general positioning, adding more detail isn’t going to make it easier.

  18. 18
    Kate says:

    But, we generally don’t put saving lives over bodily autonomy. I can’t be compelled to do something as minimally invasive as donating blood to save another person’s life…even if that person is my own child.

  19. 19
    Saurs says:

    I don’t think anyone is claiming that preventing someone having an abortion is as morally wrong as murder, so there shouldn’t be any problem here.

    By all means, allow me. Pregnant people consigned to death, knowingly or otherwise,* because they were constrained by the state (or any other entity) in obtaining the abortion they wanted and needed are absolutely equivalent to any victim of murder. There’s even a law named after one of these victims. Can you name her off the top of your head?

    *as we can never predict outcomes with total accuracy, of course the nanny state should have no say in how we private citizens choose to mitigate normal medical conditions along normal, hum-drum, safe, proven, and already regulated lines; death panels, amirite? We red-blooded Americans are definitely against such faceless bureaucracy.

  20. 20
    Mandolin says:

    When you force an 11 year old to give birth, you are putting her life in substantial jeopardy.

    That’s an awful lot of control over her body and life that the countries which force this kind of birth are giving her rapist stepfather.

  21. 21
    Mandolin says:

    After a problem with an ectopic pregnancy, one of my friends had hours to get treatment before it would have killed her.

    Luckily, the medical personnel were not required to let her die in service of trying to preserve the continued existence of a fetus that could never have been more than it was.

  22. 22
    Mandolin says:

    When my cousin’s fetus died inside her, there was a risk of blood poisoning. The procedure for removing its corpse from her uterus is sometimes banned by late term abortion laws.

    Other techniques would have put her life at risk, and probably caused infertility, which would mean that her very wanted next child would never have been conceived.

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    Rachel, thanks for all your comments on this thread (and seconded).

    Desipis:

    However if we take a pro-life position on the moral value of a fetus we could end up with a different result. If we put it at roughly 75, we end up with it being less valuable than an adult life, much less valuable than a child’s life. This lines up with your observations. But we also end up with the choice to save a fetus as being more morally valuable than bodily autonomy, which means banning abortion becomes the moral choice.

    I agree, this is the actual position most pro-lifers believe (as far as I can tell), even though many claim otherwise. They consider a zygote/fetus as more than nothing, but less than a born child, in terms of their “moral value.”

    But how exactly the moral worth of a fetus weighs against the moral worth of a pregnant person is an inherently subjective view, and one that our society completely lacks consensus on. (This makes it very different from murdering a five year old, something that virtually everyone agrees is evil). Furthermore, if we dig down, we’d find that all but the most extreme pro-lifers agree that there are some cases where abortion can be the correct decision (i.e., if the parent would die otherwise), but again the exact lines are subjective and without consensus. And the consequences are not spread across society, but fall heavily on individuals.

    Given all that, I think it makes sense to let pregnant people decide what’s right and wrong for their own lives. No one should be forced to have an abortion; no one should be forced to go through childbirth. This is a matter for individual conscience, not for government coercion.

  24. 24
    desipis says:

    Ampersand, I generally agree with your argument. However, that agreement is a function of how I morally weigh the idea of live-and-let-live against life-of-a-fetus. Many people won’t see the moral value of a fetus as subjective.

    Imagine that argument made in the context of a time when slavery was still somewhat an accepted practice (e.g. prior to the US civil war): “Whether it’s morally wrong to own slaves is subjective. No one is forcing you to own slaves. If you find it morally wrong to own slaves, then simply free your own slaves. Those that believe slavery is morally acceptable should be able to own slaves and treat them as property.“.

    Presumably you would find fault in that argument because you see the moral rights of people to not be slaves as something that is objective and not contingent on the subjective moral views of their supposed owners. Others will believe that the right of a fetus to live is an objective moral right and not contingent on the subjective moral views of the mother. In both cases each side would likely support the state using force or violence in defence of the things they see as objective moral rights.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    Desipis, you ignored this sentence in my comment: “And the consequences are not spread across society, but fall heavily on individuals.”

    The individuals most heavily effected by abortion bans are the pregnant people. It is their freedom that is being taken away, and so their opinions are the most important. In fact, it should be entirely up to them. (Even if you consider a fetus a person, the fetus has no opinion one way or the other).

    Similarly, the individuals most heavily effected by slavery are the slaves. It is their freedom that is being taken away, and so their opinions are the most important.

    A sentence like this:

    Presumably you would find fault in that argument because you see the moral rights of people to not be slaves as something that is objective and not contingent on the subjective moral views of their supposed owners.

    …implicitly accepts the viewpoint of slavers, by considering only the “subjective moral views” of owners, rather than considering foremost the views of the slaves themselves.

    I don’t see slavery as “objectively” wrong; I could imagine an alien race in which slavery was the preferred state, and people wanted to be slaves and competed to be enslaved. In that hypothetical, slavery might not be wrong. The reason slavery is wrong among humans is because slaves themselves, when free to speak, are almost always anti-slavery. It is their views that count most.

    Some would argue that slavers and pro-choicers are alike in not considering the preferences of slaves/fetuses. But enslaved people HAVE preferences, and fetuses don’t; if someone were talking about pre-civil-war slaves as if they were mindless as zygotes, their view would both racist and objectively incorrect.

    In fact, if we must make slavery parallels, the correct parallel is between slavers and pro-lifers, both of whom want to take other people’s freedom away.

  26. 26
    Petar says:

    Ampersand, many abortion opponents claim to be driven by religious sentiments. If you accept that a soul has come to inhabit the fetus, it’s hard to argue that it’s just a clump of cells with no higher function.

    As it happens, world religions are in serious disagreement when it comes to ensoulment. Off the top of my head, I can think of religions which put it anywhere from 0 to 120 days from conception.

    Personally, I think souls are pure superstition, just like the rest of religion. But unless you are taking that view, you cannot just dismiss the argument.

    Of course, if accept that the argument, then the only truly morale stance is that abortion is always wrong, no ifs or buts. No exceptions for rape, incest, or genetic deficiencies. Even killing the fetus so that the mother can live is iffy – who are we to interfere with God’s will?

    Total bunk, but self-consistent.

    My gut feeling is that if a fetus is viable outside the womb, it is a human being, and should be kept alive for the peace of mind of society.

    But… As technology advances, the point at which the fetus is viable will decrease, and the costs to keep it alive will increase. If the parents are responsible for the costs, it will be nothing short of a choice between slavery or carrying to term for most people. If the state is responsible for the costs, then it is cheaper to reduce abortions by ‘subsidizing irresponsibility’.

    So the argument remains. At the end, it will be the way it has been since humans have been humans. It will be decided according to economic variables, adjusted for the localized power wielded by the people concerned.

    It is no wonder that, if you increase the observed group enough, the more a group is opposed to abortions on a morale ground, the more abortions their members obtain. And I am not particularly thinking of anti-abortion politicians, here.

  27. 27
    Kate says:

    As it happens world religions are in serious disagreement when it comes to ensoulment.

    Even different sects of Christianity differ on this and countless other ethical questions. That is the reason for separation between Church and State. When deep conflicts exist, individuals have the right to make these decisions based on their own belief systems, without coercion from a government supporting a particular religious viewpoint.

  28. 28
    Aard says:

    If a fetus is a “pre-born child”, then why isn’t an adult called a “pre-dead corpse”?

  29. 29
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Ampersand,

    The individuals most heavily effected by abortion bans are the pregnant people. It is their freedom that is being taken away, and so their opinions are the most important.

    Do you then agree with this?:

    ‘The individuals most heavily effected by murder bans are murderers. It is their freedom that is being taken away, and so their opinions are the most important.’

    Similarly, the individuals most heavily effected by slavery are the slaves. It is their freedom that is being taken away, and so their opinions are the most important.

    If you would phrase this consistently, you would say:

    “Similarly, the individuals most heavily effected by a slavery ban are slave owners. It is their freedom that is being taken away, and so their opinions are the most important.”

    Your statements beg the question. You consider the fetus to not have a right to life, so you exclude them (or children who might have been aborted) from consideration. You consider the slaveowner not to have a right to own a person, so you don’t call it “freedom that is being taken away.”

    It works rhetorically, for those who can’t see through this sophistry, but it is philosophically illegitimate.

    Ultimately, by (re)defining freedom to what we consider important, you can argue that any policy restricts or grants freedom.

  30. 30
    Kate says:

    LoL,

    The common thread is that bodily autonomy is fundamental…the bodily autonomy of pregnant people and the bodily autonomy of enslaved people.

  31. 31
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Kate,

    There is no universally recognized absolute right to bodily autonomy or even to bodily integrity, though. For example, all states allow involuntary medication in certain circumstances. Coercive or compulsory sterilization or vasectomies for mentally limited people also happen in various places.

    Of course, Ampersand and/or you may hold this principle sacrosanct in all circumstance, although that still doesn’t answer the question when the fetus/baby gains bodily autonomy of its own.

  32. 32
    Kate says:

    LoL @31

    There is no universally recognized absolute right to bodily autonomy or even to bodily integrity

    I’m trying to think of something for which there is a “universally recognized absolute right”. I can’t immediately think of anything that comes closer to that impossible standard than bodily autonomy. But, I don’t want to derail this thread, especially since I never made such a ridiculous claim.
    LoL @31

    For example, all states allow involuntary medication in certain circumstances.

    Only for people who have been convicted of crimes or adjudicated mentally incompetent. I do think that getting such authorization should be a very difficult process. Which category do you think pregnant people should be relegated to simply because they are pregnant, criminal or mentally incompetent?
    LoL @31

    Coercive or compulsory sterilization or vasectomies for mentally limited people also happen in various places.

    Yes, I am generally against that as well. Again, are you arguing that pregnant people should be presumed to be “mentally limited”, or would you require that individual cases be proven in court?
    LoL @31

    ”…that still doesn’t answer the question when the fetus/baby gains bodily autonomy of its own.

    me @27

    Even different sects of Christianity differ on this and countless other ethical questions. That is the reason for separation between Church and State. When deep conflicts exist, individuals have the right to make these decisions based on their own belief systems, without coercion from a government supporting a particular religious viewpoint.

  33. 33
    Patrick Linnen says:

    @Lol;
    That you consider “Under Slavery, people are property” compared to “Without Slavery, people are not property” as being equivalent in denial of rights is not a good look. Kindly don’t in the future.

  34. 34
    Petar says:

    I think you are missing the analogy.

    The analogy is that slave owners do not believe slaves to be fully human. Thus, the rights of slave owners are more important than the rights of subhuman chattel.

    People who think that abortions should be available in most cases do not believe fetuses to be fully human. Thus the rights of pregnant women are more important than the rights of a clump of cells.

    You think you can judge which argument holds more water without addressing the value of the (possibly honestly) held beliefs. You cannot.

    You have to come firmly on one side of these issues:
    1) Are slaves fully human?
    2) Are slave owners criminals?
    3) Are fetuses fully human?
    4) Are abortion seekers criminals?

    It is perfectly self-consistent to say that fetuses should have full human rights as soon as they are ensouled, and the rights of anyone seeing to terminate gestation of an ensouled fetus can be restricted as morally as those of other criminals.

    You cannot just say “Slavers are wrong, so pro-life/pro-choice people are wrong.”

    First of all, there is a significant number of people who do not see anything wrong with slavery. Until recently a territory larger than Belgium was ruled by such people. Also, you can find quite a bit of support for slavery in many religious texts. After all, there was a time where enslaving people could be viewed as a progressive alternative to slaughtering defeated opponents wholesale. Baby steps, of course. Some rather popular Deities laid down very clear rules about whom you’re supposed to slaughter and whom you’re supposed to enslave and rape as soon as possible, instead.

    Second just because slavery may be wrong, it does not mean that the Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, etc. are ALL wrong about ensoulment. You can find quite a bit of support of the idea of ensoulment in many religious texts. I can think of at least two countries, right now, where it is a crime to extract a fetus just because its continued presence in its mother’s body will kill her. They’re inhabited by very God-fearing folk, not even Muslims!

    And finally, you have the seldom articulated position that “Women who seek abortions have done something wrong, and need to be punished!” Seldom articulated, but very popular, I think. After all, if you are not holding such a position, why on Earth would you make exceptions for rape and incest? Clearly you think that the rights of a rape victim should be protected more than the right of some irresponsible women who dared having sex without being ready to take responsibility for bearing and raising a child.

    Argument such as most in this thread are as fruitless as anti-murder arguments without resorting to religion or to the needs of society. “I feel it is wrong” is not an argument, it’s the flapping of lips.

    You have to have clear views on how human fetuses are, and on how much self-determination pregnant women deserve.

    Or just throw all this “moral” bullshit out of the window, and ask yourself “What is best for society?” At the end, that’s what usually ends up being the deciding factor, anyway. A lot of places, as different as Tunisia and Sweden have decided that society is better off with abortions on demand for people who don’t think they can take care of a child.

  35. 35
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Kate,

    See what Petar said. The point is that those who believe that fetuses (of a certain age) have bodily autonomy, can believe that the bodily integrity of the fetus is harmed in a way that is worse than the restriction in bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman.

    Patrick Linnen,

    You missed my point completely. I didn’t argue that the denial of rights was the same, but that the difference was not argued, but assumed, which is sophistry.

  36. 36
    J. Squid says:

    It is perfectly self-consistent to say that fetuses should have full human rights as soon as they are ensouled, and the rights of anyone seeing to terminate gestation of an ensouled fetus can be restricted as morally as those of other criminals.

    Only if:
    1) It can be proven objectively true that “ensoulment” is a real thing and
    2) the moment of ensoulment can be conclusively determined.

    Otherwise it’s just the enforcement of a segment of the population’s religious beliefs on all other segments of the population.

    I, for one, do not believe in “ensoulment” because I do not believe that a soul is a real thing. I have never seen even a shred of reliable evidence that a soul exists outside of the imagination.

    You cannot prove that a fetus (or anything else in existence) has a soul. I can, however, easily prove that an enslaved person is, indeed, a human person. The analogy does not hold.

  37. 37
    Petar says:

    J.Squid, if you think I believe in souls, you have not been reading what I wrote.

    If you believe that a politician can get very far in the Unites States by saying “ensoulment is superstition”, you have not been paying attention to the news.

    American courts regularly make provisions for sincerely held beliefs. Which is even worse, specific American judges quite regularly decide that one of the involved party’s beliefs are not sincerely held. And I have not heard of such judgements being overturned as a matter of policy.

    Any church that teaches the existence of souls will have a position on ensoulment. Most religions do. As a matter of fact, I know of only two ‘religions’ that do not, and practitioners of both are indistinguishable from agnostics, and the frequent targets of ‘non-sincere beliefs’ rulings. People take comfort in the idea that there is something beyond the point at which the brain’s neurons stop all activity.

    I have never seen even a shred of reliable evidence that a soul exists outside of the imagination.

    First, to many people, there is no more reliable evidence than their Holy Text.

    Second, even if absent evidence were evidence of absence, and it is not, the readings of a scale, an oscilloscope, a MEMS sensor, an EEG sensor mean very little to most people. By the way, each of those four have been used to ‘prove’ the existence of ‘something leaving the body of the moment of death’, and I bet you that the original finding got a lot more publicity than the inevitable debunkings.

    At the end, it comes down to what people believe. The majority of Americans believe in ghosts of the dead, which is in conflict with Abrahamic doctrine: God can send souls as messengers, all other sprites are of demonic origin. As for believing in souls, that’s absolutely the rule rather than the exception.

    The hope of another life gives us courage to meet our own death, and to bear with the death of our loved ones; we are twice armed if we fight with faith.

    Go against this, and lose.

  38. 38
    J. Squid says:

    I’m just saying that the analogy fails, not what you believe, and explaining why. I know full well that a substantial majority of the American public believes in souls. I also know full well that a substantial majority of the American public follows one religion or another. But… the analogy between abortion and slavery fails for the reasons in my comment above – one can prove the humanity/personhood of slaves while one cannot prove the ensoulment of embryos.

  39. 39
    Petar says:

    And I am saying that if you sincerely believe that the Bible/Koran/Torah/Vedas/whatever is the word of God, you have all the evidence for ensoulment that you need.

    Certainly a lot more than some vague scientific nonsense about chromosomes, interbreeding, etc. Furthermore, just because someone is human does not mean that they should not be enslaved. After all, children of slaves should be slaves according to at least one Holy Text with more than a billion followers. Another Holy Text states it is permissible to work a [non-believer slave] harshly.

    Whom are you going to believe? God who states unequivocally that in some cases slavery is A-OK, or some scientist who’s making exceptions for accidental doubling of chromosomes restoring fertility to nominally sterile hybrids?

    ————

    By the way, what is your unassailable test for humanity? Or even definition of human? Because if there is a hard and fast rule about how to tell that two organisms are NOT of the same species, I do not know of it.

    ————

    To be fair, here’s my position: Whatever makes society feel better. Society being a collection of citizens, weighted by power.

    So basically, the way to eradicate slavery/abortion is to make most people really feel icky around those who support it. Considering how far some societies are from eradicating slavery, eradicating abortion looks like a very, very distant goal.

    Of course, people who are anti-abortion always find excuses to allow for abortions when sympathetic individuals, rather than faceless categories are the ones in need. So, just like for everything else, it is not the mistress of a powerful politician, or the niece of a preacher, or the daughter of a socialite who will die on a non-sterile table. It’s the worthless people who are not like us.

  40. 40
    Mandolin says:

    Only if:
    1) It can be proven objectively true that “ensoulment” is a real thing and
    2) the moment of ensoulment can be conclusively determined.

    Otherwise it’s just the enforcement of a segment of the population’s religious beliefs on all other segments of the population.

    The ultimate and unavoidable truth of this debate. This is about forcing one religious perspective on everyone.

  41. Back in 2009, I wrote a post called Know Thine Enemy: Fetal Personhood as Metaphorical Thinking that I think is relevant here. It’s a long and complex response to a long and complex discussion that was happening at the time, here on Alas and on other blogs as well. It’s based on my reading of a book called Metaphors We Live By, by the linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Here’s one part that seems particularly relevant to me in this discussion:

    So, let’s return to gengwall’s definition of the fetus as a person [you’ll need to go back to the original post if you want to see that part of the whole discussion], which was also, apparently, the definition endorsed by the South Dakota legislature when it passed what the Washington Post and just about every other paper I looked at called “the nation’s most far-reaching ban on abortion.” Here are the relevant section of the law:

    Section 1. The Legislature finds that the State of South Dakota has a compelling and paramount interest in the preservation and protection of all human life and finds that the guarantee of due process of law under the South Dakota Bill of Rights applies equally to born and unborn human beings.

    Section 2. The Legislature finds that the life of a human being begins when the ovum is fertilized by male sperm. The Legislature finds that the explosion of knowledge derived from new recombinant DNA technologies over the past twenty-five years has reinforced the validity of the finding of this scientific fact.

    There is a lot that one can say about this law, and most of it has probably been said already. The Washington Post counts 97 blogs that have had something say about its article (here are a few worth reading that I didn’t find on the Post’s list), and I have no doubt there are lots more bloggers, both for and against the measure, who have either posted since I began writing this or will post in the near future. What I want to point out is that to call a fetus or zygote or an embryo a human being, a person, an entity identical in its essence to you sitting here reading this or me as I sit (sat) writing it is to engage not in scientific analysis, but rather in precisely the kind of metaphorical thinking that Lakoff and Johnson’s book is about: Because to decide that “the life of a human being begins when the ovum is fertilized by male sperm” (as if it could be fertilized by female sperm?) is to decide that there is a basis of comparison by which something that is radically not like me or you is, in fact, just like me or you.

    It is, sadly, not surprising to me that we are having now almost exactly the same conversation that we were having ten years ago.

  42. 42
    Patrick Linnen says:

    @LoL;

    You missed my point completely. I didn’t argue that the denial of rights was the same, but that the difference was not argued, but assumed, which is sophistry.

    I’m just going to leave this here, because the idea that the difference is not self-evident one where I start checking for a Poe post.

    @Peter@34;
    A clump of cells is more human that its container by your measure (by your numbered points.) Which is, checking notes, a human woman with brain and working circulatory system.
    To be honest, I stopped reading at that point.

  43. 43
    AJD says:

    If a fetus is fully human, then if the pregnant person gestating it is unwillingly doing so, it is the fetus that is guilty of the crime of enslavement, no?

  44. 44
    Kate says:

    Because to decide that “the life of a human being begins when the ovum is fertilized by male sperm” (as if it could be fertilized by female sperm?)

    I read “male sperm” as sperm carrying a Y chromosome.

  45. Kate:

    I read “male sperm” as sperm carrying a Y chromosome.

    Hah! And I’m sure there are among those who wrote and/or voted for the law in question back then—as well as for the laws in question now—some who would whole-heartedly endorse that reading.

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