Saturday, July 21, 2007

Imposing one's religion

Here's a bit of food for thought for those who assert that my opposition to permitting legal abortion is about "imposing my religion" on everybody else.

First of all, I was a prolifer for about a dozen years before I became a Christian. Becoming a Christian changed a bit of how I go about fighting abortion -- I never would have thought to pray about it before, for starters, and I've become much more charitable toward abortion staff as a result of becoming a Christian -- but it is not the reason I opposed abortion being legal. I've told that story before -- it's in my sidebar under "Why Abortion"?

But more to the point, we can look at other things I absolutely oppose as a Christian, on Christian grounds, but don't seek to make illegal.

I don't try to impose Christian ideas of divorce and remarriage. I think that there are very, very limited circumstances under which divorce and remarriage are permissable for Christians. But I don't want the law at all involved in this, because it's a religious matter. If unbelievers, or backslidden believers, want to divorce and remarry, that's their prerogative. Though I do think laws need to reflect the fact that marriage is a contract and parties ought not to be just about to bail on a contract with no repercussions. This is why I think that it's up to the courts to grant alimony to a former spouse who, in good faith, put his or her life efforts into building the other spouse's earning potential and sacrificed his or her own career path to do so. That person acted in good faith, believing that he or she was in a partnership for life, and the effort invested entitles him or her to a share of what he or she helped to generate.

I think that the Ten Commandments are very clear on covetousness, and that for any believer -- Christian, Jew, or Muslim -- to be indulging in covetousness is sinning. And I recognize that covetousness is courting disaster. If you look at mass murderers, the underlying motive is typically covetousness. The person wanted what other people have, and harbored that covetousness in his heart until it broke out as a murderous rampage. But I do not want to see "thought police." I would want to dissuade people who encourage covetousness. I would encourage them to think about the ramifications of what they're doing. I would encourage everybody around me to turn away from covetousness. And I would not want to see the government in any way fostering covetousness. But I don't want to see any attempt to put anti-coveting measures on the books. It's just inappropriate.

Ditto for adultery. The injured party ought to be able to seek redress in the courts, including for alienation of affections, but I don't want laws on the books that say who can have sex with who, aside from laws protecting people unable to give consent such as the very young, the mentally incapacitated, etc.

Abortion involves Person A -- the mother -- imposing her morality, her religion if you will, on somebody else -- her unborn child. It's a human rights issue, not a religious one. Of course believers will object to this, just as we'd object to any other killing.

28 comments:

TheChristianAlert.org said...

Interesting take. It is almost too simple (e.g. nicely done) that there's little to add.

You, the Mother, are imposing your belief, on this 'unborn' child...

I would say that this could fail if one says "well, that thing in my uterus is not a 'child'"...

But that's a different argument.

GrannyGrump said...

That's still imposing one's religion -- that you have to meet some sort of qualification to be considered worthy of life -- on the uterine resident.

L. said...

In the case of abortion, it's the same chicken-egg-chicken-egg situation -- either you have, as you state, "Person A....imposing her morality...on...her unborn child," or you have the absolute, non-negotiable right to life of Person B, the unborn child, imposing the exercise of this right on Person A in all circumstances. The latter presumes that Person A has no rights of her own that are greater than the right to life of Person B -- and lots of Person A's will disagree with that, which will get right back to, "....imposing her morality...on...her unborn child," etc.

The arguments will keep going around and around, because either Person A has absolute control over how she uses her own body, or Person B has an absolute right to life, with no middle ground possible between the two.

GrannyGrump said...

But L, the anti-abortion position isn't that the mother has NO rights. First of all, to the pro life woman there is no conflict -- the right of the mother is to whatever help she needs to avoid the death of her unborn. And the woman who does not wish to preserve the life of her unborn, who in fact wishes it dead, is only being limited in one circumstance -- that of pursuing such death, and whatever TEMPORARY limitations that might place on her. Versus her intention to PERMANENTLY deprive the unborn in question of all life, all rights, all choices entirely.

So even if, as you and other supporters of an abortion right contend, there is a conflict of rights, it's between one individual's limited and temporary interests, versus the other individuals entire lifetime of rights and interests.

If to be pro-choice means to favor the rights of individuals to make choices, then it would also mean rejecting abortion, since it cuts off forever all choices by one individual in favor of a single choice by another individual. Seems a bit unbalanced.

L. said...

...it's between one individual's limited and temporary interests, versus the other individuals entire lifetime of rights and interests.

Not necessarily -- pregnancy/childbirth scarred me, both mentally and physically, for a lifetime. And it killed a few of my friends.

GrannyGrump said...

L., "life/health of the mother" is a whole nother ball of wax from simply "I choose to have this ZEF put to death". We'd have to discuss the conflicting concerns as it applies to that situation.

Which is fewer than 7% of all abortions -- if we take rape, incest, known or suspected fetal abnormalities, and any self-reporting concerns the woman might have had for her own health, all combined.

To discuss abortion on demand as if it's about women taking action to address a medically complicated pregnancy is like discussing drunk driving as if it was all in the context of an emergency in which somebody under the influence was the sole person that could drive out of a more dangerous situation.

L. said...

To discuss abortion on demand as if it's about women taking action to address a medically complicated pregnancy...

Since for me, personally, this is what it's about, I will continue to favor laws that give me the power to decide what to do in every situation.

We'd have to discuss the conflicting concerns as it applies to that situation.

But if abortion were only legal if the threat to the mother's life is "immediate," there's always going to be disagreement as to what is an "acceptable" level of risk.

Naaman said...

Christina wrote:
But L, the anti-abortion position isn't that the mother has NO rights.

That isn't what L wrote. She wrote:
... Person A has no rights of her own that are greater than the right to life of Person B....

That's correct. There is no right that Person A could have other than her own right to life which could supersede Person B's right to life. The right to life must take priority over all other rights, because it's the foundation upon which the other rights rest.

Free speech ... freedom of religion ... freedom to vote ... they all mean nothing if you're dead.

Naaman said...

L wrote:
But if abortion were only legal if the threat to the mother's life is "immediate," there's always going to be disagreement as to what is an "acceptable" level of risk.

That's why I liked the wording of the proposed South Dakota ban. Basically, no abortion was allowed at all. However, if treating Mom for a life-threatening condition meant putting Baby at risk, then it was okay.

That makes sense to me. Abortion isn't medical treatment. It doesn't cure any illness or repair any injury. Abortion is killing in a medical context.

In some cases -- such as removing an unborn child who unfortunately implanted in a fallopian tube -- the distinction between between abortion and actual medical treatment might seem awfully hard to see. I think it's still a distinction worth making.

Anonymous said...

This argument also ignores the fact that my Jewish colleagues, for instance, have a very different teaching regarding abortion than I do, as a Catholic. Therefore, criminalizing abortion really does impose on the religious teachings of certain groups.

Naaman said...

Anonymous added:
Therefore, criminalizing abortion really does impose on the religious teachings of certain groups.

Way to miss the point.

Abortion is a question of human rights, not religious dogma. Religious faith might inform one's conscience about abortion and empower one toward action -- just like Dr. King's faith empowered him to oppose racism -- but the fundamental question is about human rights.

There are basically two questions at the heart of the abortion debate, neither one of which is religious:
First, what are the unborn? Are they human beings or something else?
Second, do all human beings have a right to life that overrides other concerns, such as convenience, economic self-determination, mental/physical health, etcetera?

Actually, science has already solved the first question. Unborn children are human beings. They are genetically human, unique from their parents, and unquestionably alive. Therefore, they are human beings.

(Please note that we aren't addressing personhood, ensoulment, or other philosophical and/or religious concepts. Science provides a clear answer to the question of "what are the unborn," so we'll stick with science.)

The second question is the murky one. Do all human beings have an intrinsic right to life? If not, is the right to life dependent on some other quality, such as intelligence, age, or location? For that matter, is there any right to life at all?

Religion can inform our answers to the question of a right to life, but it need not be the entirety of those answers. For example, pro-lifers can make a strong argument from history. Slavery and the Holocaust are two good historical examples of what happens when we try to create a class of human beings who do not have equal human rights.....

GrannyGrump said...

L and Anon, I'll leave you in Naaman's excellent hands.

L. said...

Naaman, this a trip down memory lane! :)

We've argued this one before. I will never agree that any one of us -- myself included -- has an absolute right to life, in all circumstances.

To use an example completely analagous to pregnancy: if, through an accident of fate and no fault of my own, I found myself inside of the body of another person, and the only way I could continue living was to spend nine months there and then force the other person to go through an often arduous birth process, I would argue that this other person had the right to remove me for any reason, even if doing so meant my instant death.

Your argument only works if you accept that any human's right to life is absolute in all circumstances.

Naaman said...

L loquaced:
Naaman, this a trip down memory lane! :)

Indeed, we have!

We've argued this one before. I will never agree that any one of us -- myself included -- has an absolute right to life, in all circumstances.

This is a sad decision on your part, but it is consistent with what you have expressed in our earlier chats. As I wrote earlier, history has many examples of what happens when we try to deny or abridge the basic human right to life ... and they're all bad.

I'm certain that you do believe in some sort of right to life, though. If a maniac burst into your kids' school and started shooting, I'm sure that you would be concerned. (Panicked, even!) Therefore, in the interests of furthering our discussion, I will pose the following question:
Do you believe in an right to life? If so, what do you believe about it?

For the record, my position is not exactly absolute. I believe that innocent human beings have a right to life. However, I also believe that right can be forfeited through actions that pose a direct threat to other human beings. If a psycho threatens to kill my wife or kids, I'll do my best to kill him first. That's why I always qualify my position with the word "innocent."

So here's my position: Innocent human beings have a right to not be killed.

To use an example completely analagous to pregnancy: if, through an accident of fate and no fault of my own, I found myself inside of the body of another person, and the only way I could continue living was to spend nine months there and then force the other person to go through an often arduous birth process, I would argue that this other person had the right to remove me for any reason, even if doing so meant my instant death.

Your situation is not directly comparable to pregnancy. Abortion does not merely "remove" the unborn child. Abortion kills the unborn child, sometimes in excruciating and horrible ways. For your analogy to work, the process of "removing" you would have to start with your death, not merely cause it as an unintended side effect.

If your analogy were valid, there would be no post-viability abortions. Doctors would simply induce labor and/or perform a c-section.

The other flaw in your analogy is that it describes a completely-unnatural process. Full-grown women don't appear inside other women's bodies without something very bizarre happening. Your host was violated in a way that the vast majority of pregnant women are not. Almost all pregnancies result from consensual sex.

(As an aside, this point is the principled pro-life reason to accept abortions in the case of rape and incest. I still reject those exceptions, but I can recognize that there is a valid argument to be made.)

Once the flaws in your analogy are clear, then my response is also clear. I would agree that your "host" should have the right to evict you and reclaim her own body. However, she does not have the right to kill you in order to do so. Furthermore, if she bears any responsibility for your situation, then she must respect your right to life even at the cost of nine months of hardship. If she does not bear any responsibility (the rape analogy), then she must still refrain from killing you, because your right to life is more important than her right to bodily autonomy.

JacqueFromTexas said...

Hey, L.!

What I take issue with is the presuppostion that pregnancy is some spontaneous act on an unsuspecting victim; that babies just magically appear inside women's uteri. It's like the phrase "fell pregnant." You don't "fall pregnant." You get pregnant. It takes effort on someone's part, almost always two people, to cause a pregnancy. To be crass, I have never tripped, fell and landed on someone's penis.

Furthermore, getting pregnant is not like catching a cold. If you have sex, you can be pregnant. If you don't, you can't. It's one of the rare natural laws in life that is relatively straightforward and yet so many people just don't get it. I think it's because contraception has divorced sex and babies- people think they can have one without the other- and thousands of people are shocked with the reality of natural law each and every day when the blue lines appear.

So, full grown people don't spontaneously appear inside women- but neither do babies. Just the basic concept of responsiblity, right to life arguments aside, I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn't recognize an obligation to ones' own child that they created by their own choices.

So to answer your question, If I had a grown person or any other human being that had surgically attached to my body without my knowledge or consent for 9 months, afterwards I would have to endure a surgery or other excruciatingly painful process to rid myself of this person- and the only way to get my body back sooner would involve killing that person---I couldn't do that. That being said, I'm so glad people do not attach themselves to me and I have a choice in the matter by exercising pre-emptive bodily autonomy. Lastly, if that person was attached to me because I took an action that causes such things to happen, I forfeit any rights to act shocked about the consequences of my own actions.

L. said...

Lastly, if that person was attached to me because I took an action that causes such things to happen, I forfeit any rights to act shocked about the consequences of my own actions.

Well, I personally would be shocked, if my multiple forms of contraception were to fail (which is highly unlikely). I don't agree that agreeing to sex is the same thing as agreeing to have a baby, if a pregnancy were to result from the sex.

I think our society needs to encourage sterilization for people who don't want children, or don't want anymore. I would do it in a second, if only our insurance would pay for it.

And no, Naaman, I've told you before: I do not believe in ANY right to life. Life is a gift, not a right. Anyone can take my life at any time, if I happen to be in the wrong place, and I accept this possibility.

L. said...

Hey, Jacques -- hope all's well with you. You haven't updated your blog in, like, forever.

GrannyGrump said...

I do not believe in ANY right to life. Life is a gift, not a right. Anyone can take my life at any time, if I happen to be in the wrong place, and I accept this possibility.

Does the fact that they can give them the right to do so? You'd have no objections?

Naaman said...

L loquaced:
I don't agree that agreeing to sex is the same thing as agreeing to have a baby, if a pregnancy were to result from the sex.

You do know that sex is a form of reproduction, right? In fact, for most of human history, it was our only form of reproduction. Sex leads to babies. You can take precautions to try to prevent that outcome, but none of those precautions are foolproof. Babies are a natural result of sex.

By the way, this isn't some right-wing Bible-thumping guilt trip, either. It doesn't matter to me how you feel about babies. Sex leading to babies is a biological fact, not a tenet of Christianity.

And no, Naaman, I've told you before: I do not believe in ANY right to life. Life is a gift, not a right. Anyone can take my life at any time, if I happen to be in the wrong place, and I accept this possibility.

Um, huh? So if some maniac shot up your kids' school and killed them all, you'd just shrug your shoulders and accept it? Really?

A Modest Proposal To End Homelessness: Kill all homeless people. Would you be okay with that?

The Iraq War would be over tomorrow if we could just nuke the country into a giant parking lot. Would this be an acceptable strategy to you?

I find it unlikely that you actually believe what you claim here. Some form of respect for life is present in the hearts of nearly all people, no matter how twisted or stunted it may be....

JacqueFromTexas said...

L.

I know I haven't updated. I was working on a euthanasia case and lobbying for an anti-euthanasia bill when I got a message from a counter-lobbyist on my personal blog, so I thought it best to shut it down. My rants about the inadequacies of my ex-boyfriend were not things I wanted to advertise among such company. I'm glad you keep yours updated, though. Stories about your parents and your in-laws amuse me. :)

The whole "consenting to sex is not consenting to pregnancy" issue is a whole 'nother conversation. I will say that I think it's a form of cognitive dissonance. It's a lot easier to kill your own child if you view that child as an intruder into your body and yourself just some victim of trespass rather than accept that 1. you created your child and 2. you killed him/her. The former looks like self-defense; like taking an antibiotic to kill an infection, where the latter is the reality that you chose to have sex, sex causes babies, and that you chose to kill the baby. Creating someone and then killing them is a much less palatable thought than someone killing an surprise stranger. Plus, recognizing that babies don't spontaneously appear and that you had to participate to get pregnant makes abortion the epitome of irresponsibility- which is also an unpleasant thought to those that want the abortion cop-out.

Even if life is a gift and not a right, I can't stand by and watch someone steal what is yours, especially life. If someone were trying to snatch your purse, I would attempt to stop them. If someone was trying to kill you, I would do my best to protect you. Furthermore, those people that tried to steal your purse and your life (and you're husband's wife and your children's mother---it's an incomparable loss to them, too), I would insist on them being jailed to prevent them to attempted to take other's property or other's lives.

L. said...

Sure, sex CAN lead to baby, but not if the baby is aborted, and I would have few (perhaps no) qualms about doing so, if my contraception were to fail. I never want another pregnancy and I am taking steps to prevent one (including abstinence most of the time, though total abstinence is impossible, because I'm married) and abortion for me would simply be another step. Abortion is a form of birth control, after all.

I am not pro-life -- I am a person who believes in killing, in circumstances in which some others do not. I don't oppose the death penalty all the time (though I do agree with those who say it is unevenly applied in our country's flawed justice system). I am not a pacifist -- I believe war is sometimes necessary, even though it means innocent people will surely die. I have a living will that I hope my family carries out, if it ever comes to that. There are also situations in which I believe I would take my own life.

Um, huh? So if some maniac shot up your kids' school and killed them all, you'd just shrug your shoulders and accept it? Really?

Weird example, but yes. My children, though innocent, would simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I imagine the "maniac" would be captured and probably sent for psychiatric treatment, and I would try to forgive him. I would probably ask to meet him. However, unlike unwanted pregnancies and abortions, homicidal gunmen are quite rare and very few people seek to imitate their actions, so society still deals with them on a case-by-case basis.

I also do make a disctinction between killing someone inside my body and outside. Outside, I have other options -- I could give my unwanted children to someone else and simply walk away from them. However, if they're on the inside, and I don't want them in there for nine months, my only option is to remove them. If I could safely put an embryo up for adoption into someone else's womb, I would say, sure, go for it -- why not? My aim in having an abortion would be to remove my pregnancy, not kill the embryo per se, but the way things stand now, it's not yet medically possible.

JacqueFromTexas said...

Sure, sex CAN lead to baby, but not if the baby is aborted

Sex has to have created the baby that is aborted. So abortion doesn't uncreate a baby, it kills one that's already created.

abortion for me would simply be another step. Abortion is a form of birth control, after all.

Exactly. I'm glad a pro-choice person acknowledges this. Abortion is the logical step that follows unnatural attempts to thwart creation. I would love it if even pro-lifers recognized this link.

Your viewpoints are consistent: am a person who believes in killing, in circumstances in which some others do not. I disagree with them, but they are consistent. This explains why you have no qualms about killing any unfortunately child that you create. But I want to ask about this:

I also do make a disctinction between killing someone inside my body and outside. Outside, I have other options -- I could give my unwanted children to someone else and simply walk away from them.

You'd happily abort without killing if such were an option. If you could place a fetus for adoption and implantation in someone else, you would. Likewise with placing born children for adoption. So, as someone who believes in killing in certain circumstances, like when the child is in your body, does it stop at your body, or does this absolute right to autonomy extend to one's car, one's home, one's office?

What I mean is, if the only way to rid yourself of your unwanted born children involved killing them, would that be acceptable? If you decided that you didn't want a child in your house anymore, no one would take or care for him, and evicting him from your home would mean that he would surely die, would you do that because there are no other options?

JacqueFromTexas said...

Sure, sex CAN lead to baby, but not if the baby is aborted

Sex has to have created the baby that is aborted. So abortion doesn't uncreate a baby, it kills one that's already created.

abortion for me would simply be another step. Abortion is a form of birth control, after all.

Exactly. I'm glad a pro-choice person acknowledges this. Abortion is the logical step that follows unnatural attempts to thwart creation. I would love it if even pro-lifers recognized this link.

Your viewpoints are consistent: am a person who believes in killing, in circumstances in which some others do not. I disagree with them, but they are consistent. This explains why you have no qualms about killing any unfortunately child that you create. But I want to ask about this:

I also do make a disctinction between killing someone inside my body and outside. Outside, I have other options -- I could give my unwanted children to someone else and simply walk away from them.

You'd happily abort without killing if such were an option. If you could place a fetus for adoption and implantation in someone else, you would. Likewise with placing born children for adoption. So, as someone who believes in killing in certain circumstances, like when the child is in your body, does it stop at your body, or does this absolute right to autonomy extend to one's car, one's home, one's office?

What I mean is, if the only way to rid yourself of your unwanted born children involved killing them, would that be acceptable? If you decided that you didn't want a child in your house anymore, no one would take or care for him, and evicting him from your home would mean that he would surely die, would you do that because there are no other options?

L. said...

I should add before I answer that I'm not a typical pro-choicer. Most people I know do NOT view the embryo as a "person," or even acknowlege its humanity, and it is somewhat atypical that I do.

As for killing outside my body, children or anyone else, it depends entirely on the circumstances. I generally believe I would kill anyone who was trying to kill me, if there was no realistic alternative to prevent them from doing this. I can't imagine killing post-born children simply because I didn't want them, because I live in a society with so many alternative ways to rid myself of them. However, though difficult to imagine, I wonder if I would do it if I were a member of a culture that practiced infanticide in times of famine? I would say, possibly, though it does seem pretty horrible.

I should also add, I find killing of any kind to be nasty business, and it's not something I ever want to do. I eat meat but I don't hunt animals and don't think I would personally enjoy it, and I hope I am never in a war, or ever in a position to have an abortion.

Well, I DO enjoy killing mosquitos, but that's really it.

L. said...

Jacque, you really should start another blog, somewhere else. I would love to read more about how you're finding Catholicism, and how it's fitting into your professional life.

Mobius Bacon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
deepsea said...

Sorry, just had to interject. (@ Naaman). didn't really read the posts after their comment

Whenever you see someone post something like "Science says..." you can almost guarantee that that statement is full of sh*t. What does that even mean? That there is universal agreement across all researchers in all fields of science? Or does it mean that you found one internet article from a non-academic journal, non-peer reviewed source? The latter is usually the case.

Here's a real scientific quandary for you to puzzle over. Did you know that the number of individuals that can be born from a single fertilized embryo can vary up to weeks past fertilization? Also, within weeks of fertilization, an embryo can be spontaneously aborted (never gets implanted into the uterine lining). So...NOW how certain are you that a zygote/fetus/embryo is a person? NOW how certain are you that "science says" that a zygote/fetus/embryo is "definitely" a person?

I see you try to pull the standard argument of differentiating between persons and human beings. However, you noticeably never actually define a 'human being', save for stating that an embryo is definitely a 'human being' because "science" says so. This is quite false. A fertilized egg is a human CELL. An embryo or zygote is several human CELLS. That does NOT make a it a human being. Is an induced pluripotent stem cell a human being, since it could conceivably be used to construct a human being? No, it is a single pluripotent cell. Is that skin cell that came off you in the shower a 'human being'? No. A human being entails at the very least, defined/terminally differentiated organ systems. THAT is the difference between a 'human being' and a 'human cell'.

Christina Dunigan said...

@deepsea

Here's a real scientific quandary for you to puzzle over. Did you know that the number of individuals that can be born from a single fertilized embryo can vary up to weeks past fertilization?

Just because there's evidence that at the embryonic stage, humans can reproduce asexually doesn't mean they're not humans. Plenty of living things reproduce asexually. That doesn't make them somehow not living members of their own species.


Also, within weeks of fertilization, an embryo can be spontaneously aborted (never gets implanted into the uterine lining). So...NOW how certain are you that a zygote/fetus/embryo is a person?

100% of us die eventually. The fact that many of us die when we're extremely young doesn't mean that we're not human when we're extremely young.

However, you noticeably never actually define a 'human being', save for stating that an embryo is definitely a 'human being' because "science" says so.

A human being is a member of the species homo sapiens. That's pretty straightforward. It has existence, it's human, therefore it's a human being.

A fertilized egg is a human CELL.

Humans are not oviparous. We don't hatch. There is simply no such thing as a fertilized human egg.

An embryo or zygote is several human CELLS.

You can keep human cells alive for years and they will never mature into a human fetus, infant, child, and adult. A human embryo, in contrast, will mature into a human fetus, infant, child, and adult.

No. A human being entails at the very least, defined/terminally differentiated organ systems.

If you're going to set that as the standard, you still have to recognize abortion as killing human beings, since at Carnegie Stage 16 (37 - 42 days post-ovulation, 23 - 28 days post conception) the brain is marked by cerebral hemispheres, the heart is beating and circulating blood, the intestines and urinary system are in place, including the kidneys and bladder.

Of course, since the embryo develops to this stage without any outside stimulation, purely through its natural maturation process, it was obviously a human organism -- a human being -- since it first came into existence, which would be conception.

A cell is a structure within an organism. The embryo/fetus is an organism comprised of cells, which begin to specialize within hours of fertilization.

I recommend that you read a bit more before further comments.