Sunday, July 24, 2005

Pedantic Politics 3a [Too Hot To Handle] --- Abortion

What's a person with libertarian sensibilities to think about, say, abortion? I'll attempt to give my side of things in [as mentioned in the previous post] a brief manner. And, it will be easily noted that my position is a minority position in libertarian thought.

My position, briefly stated, is this: Regardless of the point in development, and regardless of the utilitarian value in performing an abortion, abortion is the termination of a civically innocent person's life, and hence is an immoral use of force, and thus wrong.

The statement above is given from a civic perspective. For a Biblical perspective, one can refer to a link such as this to see some common arguments.

Some discussion points regarding my position given above:

(1) A sperm is not a human being. Neither is an egg. These statements seem clear. But, a fertilized egg in my book is a human being. This admittedly runs quite contrary to even some positions that would be labelled "pro-life." Where do I get this position, which would doubtless be considered quite extreme?

The answer to that question lies in the fact that, for every temporal attempt at demarcation along the lines of before time amount t in the womb we're not dealing with a human being, and beyond time t in the womb we're dealing with a human, I can find fatal flaws regarding the given time t. This is true in my own thought experiments, as well as in discussing this issue with others.

In fact, I have a real problem with the idea of a fertilized egg becoming human. This seems like a confusion between an essential property and an accidental property --- it doesn't sound right. [I had the same problem with the notion of becoming human in sci-fi materials as well: (i) I thought Cmdr. Data's attempts to lose his android nature and become human were pretty reductionistic relative to what it means to be human; (ii) The ending of the Bicentennial Man movie (adapted from a classic Asimov story) where the robot is declared human by some one-world state was similarly confused in my book.]

(2) When it is found that I am pro-life, interlocution proceeds to determine what exceptional cases exist for which I'd back down from my claim that abortion is wrong. The typical exceptional cases generally run along these lines:

(i) The mother's life is at risk if she carries the child.
(ii) The child, if born, will be born into some God-awful situation.
(iii) The child has some serious sort of defect. [This is a special case of situation (ii) just mentioned.]
(iv) It would greatly inconvenience the mother, father, etc, for the child to be born.
(v) The way in which the child is conceived was somehow wrong.

The idea, it seems, is that one's heartstrings will be tugged [and they certainly are tugged] and he'll feel rather extreme, heartless, and so on, for taking a position such as the one I take.

But the emotional effects of such appeals, regardless of whether the appeals are made strictly to induce an emotional reaction or not, undercuts the person making the appeal, for all of these points can be turned against the interlocutor. For example, I could turn (i) around and say something like So you'd kill somebody who has committed no evil in order to preserve your own life?. I could turn around (ii) and say something like So you are now an arbiter for humanity, in that you are deciding for other people what situations are life-worthy?. Emotional appeals cut both ways.

Regardless though of whether the points (i)-(v) above are mentioned sincerely or rhetorically, they still need some sort of brief addressing.

Brief answer to (i): the status of being "human" does not depend on whether others think you are. For example, every government in the world could declare me to be non-human, but that wouldn't change the ontology of the situation. And, from an ethical perspective, even if an unborn child's existence threatened the life of the mother, it really is the easy way out to stipulate that the fetus is inhuman. We can't go around re-defining terms just because they have might have unpleasant or uncomfortable consequences.

On a personal note, one thing that does irk me is this idea in the abortion culture that, until the mother decides that she'll carry the child, the child is nothing but a lump of cells, but after the declaration or decision, that same lump of cells is worthy of devotion and the natural maternal instincts. God will surely judge those who promulgate those attitudes.

Brief answer to (ii): there is no guarantee nor promise, whether from a Christian perspective or a secular perspective, that life is some pleasant and easy affair. My guess is that most of human existence has been one of suffering and death. This is especially true if one holds to the various variants of Darwinistic thinking out there. It is only in the last century in the first world countries that the masses are allowed to think of life in rosy terms --- even today most of the poorer people in the Western world have a high standard of living. The point of this is to say: so what?

Another difficulty that arises with utilitarian considerations such as (ii) is the question of just what constitutes a bad situation. This would seem to be something that, in theory, would have to be handled case-by-case. But laws and such are to apply to all people at least in our society, and there is no room [from what I've seen] for laws based on discretionary judgement.

Even if the difficulty above is disposed of [or, equivalently, if my objection itself is incorrect], we then run into the question of just who decides that a situation is so bad for an unborn child that, somehow, it is OK to terminate that child's life. Do people really want to trust the State with the power of life or death over innocent people? I know that I don't. Given the proclivity of men to let the end justify the means, I would bet a lot of money on a slippery slope towards euthanasia if the State were granted this omnibus power.

Brief answer to (iii): Here, I'll have to rely on the answer to (ii) to suffice. I do not know physiological implications and the entire range of deformities possible. Therefore, it is quite possible, that, in this special case, there is a hole in my position.

Brief answer to (iv): The reply here is along the lines of the reply to (i). One's ontology doesn't seem in any way affected by what others think. The fact that an unwanted pregnancy may hinder Ms. X's movement up the corporate ladder, say, doesn't impinge on one's ontology. In most of these sorts of situations, Ms. X knew the risks when she enjoying the world's favorite indoor contact sport.

What about (v)? This is possibly the most emotively-laden contingency. To say that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape and incest is to truly invite the term extremist as well as a host of other terms which imply that you're not a modern compassionate human being.

I'd like to be mainstream and considered compassionate, but again, what appear to be simple truths get in the way.

Consider the thought experiment: Child A is conceived by Mr and Mrs Perfect; Child B is conceived in a prostitute as a result of her pimp raping her. Is there a true ontological basis for saying that Child A is human while the other is not? I myself cannot find one. If people can find one, they're certainly welcome to comment in the comment box!

There is also the idea that, from my perspective, one compounds an already great evil [the rape or incestual act, say], with another evil [the termination of an innocent human life]. Does the fact that life is unfair merit a person taking it out on someone else who had no say in the matter?

Point (2) dealt with situations (i)-(v). Let's turn to Point (3).

(3) For me, the great majority of abortion cases boils down to this: a group of people presuming the right to determine the life or death of an innocent group of people who cannot resist, cannot fight back, and cannot reason for their position.

From a perspective of find liberty to be an objectively good thing, such a situation is intolerable.

From a popular perspective, what appears to be driving a large part of the abortion-favoring culture is not principle, but rather a desire for sex without consequences.

[Unlike certain Christians as well as certain Roman Catholics, I have no problem with birth control that prevents fertilization, "pulling out," sex-strictly-for-pleasure's sake, getting one's tubes tied, etc. From a Biblical perspective, I see no injunction for Christian families to have children.]

I would contend that sex-without-consequences is really the driving force behind abortion right. Much of marketing and popular culture points towards an attitude of "do it," with "good sex" as ubiquitous a goal as any other. Throw in the denigration of marriage, the feminist desire to emulate the worst parts of male promiscuity, etc, and it, for me at least, is hard to see how I could be wrong on this statement.

From a civic perspective, consenting adults ought to be able to have sex any which way they please with any other consenting adults. But with the pleasure comes a risk, a contingency that another life will begin in the process. That the contingency came up in the improbable fertilization is, well, what it is. People know these things when they start to fool around --- it isn't a secret.

Let's turn to (4).

(4) What do I think about the famous 1973 Roe decision? Answer: even were I to have no scruples about abortion, I sure wouldn't want my position upheld by the sort of arguments given by SCOTUS. I'm of the opinion that the US Constitution is silent on the issue, and, thus from a legal perspective, the 10th Amendment leaves the issue to the individual states in the union. Naturally, I'd like all of the states to share my view and realize that abortion is what I claim it is, so that all of the state legislatures could declare it illegal. But, in reality, I think that most states would make it legal, while some would make it illegal.

Do I want Roe overturned? Answer: Of course. But, even in this happy situation, SCOTUS would merely be leaving the matter to the state legislatures, and we're back to the previous paragraph's situation. But that is better than nothing.

(5) How does one deal with the mentality that considers abortion not-wrong, or even a good thing?

I suppose that, in the end, like any other manifestation of the innate human rebellion against God --- a rebellion of all men are fully part --- only by the agency of the Holy Spirit through what God has revealed to us in the scriptures can we wield an effective weapon.

(6) Is your position on abortion religious in motivation?

I can only speak for myself here, saying that I had roughly the same view on abortion [as stated above] even during my atheist days.

Conclusion

There are many other points worth discussing, but this entry is already long enough. This entry doubtless has many deficiencies, but it spells out some thoughts in a reasonably readable fashion, and seems to indicate clearly where I stand on this issue. [Note: this entry was done in one fell swoop on the spur of the moment.] If there are ambiguities, those among the 43 readers per day can certainly let me know about it.

Useful resource: Libertarians for Life

15 Comments:

Blogger steve said...

I agree with about 99% of this.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 4:07:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

This just screams for my asking "What about the other 1%?"

Sunday, July 24, 2005 5:26:00 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I would qualify the bit about consenting adults.

Monday, July 25, 2005 5:31:00 AM  
Blogger Rhology said...

If you ("you" here is plural, as in "all y'all") haven't read "ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments"
by Randy Alcorn, you're missing out.

Just a plug for a book that answers just about everything.

Monday, July 25, 2005 7:53:00 AM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

I'm with Steve. You dropped the ball with the "consenting adults" thing.

I have a couple other problems with this, but I'm pressed for time today. I know you're broken up about it, but I'll get back to you on this post ...

Monday, July 25, 2005 8:26:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Steve & Frank --- are you sure you saw the "on a civic level" qualifier to my statement.

Since I assume you can read [you modernist slaves to the Enlightenment!] I assume you did see that. In this case, the question from my end becomes something like this: should the State interfere in sexual relations between consenting adults?

For example: say four consenting men want to have a sodomy-fest in their home. They're quiet, the windowshades are drawn, etc. For all the neighbors know the residents could be playing Parcheesi inside, reading the Greek NT, or blogging.
Now they're clearly violating God's law --- in fact, they need to reacquaint themselves with 1 Cor 6. But on a civic level, do you think those men should be arrested, imprisoned, etc?

Assume above that the men aren't breaking any other laws, and assume that they're perfectly willing to live with whatever consequences come from their action, say, some sort of venereal disease.

I know some states have/had anti-sodomy laws. I don't like these because I want the state as un-infringing as possible.

I'm curious as to your response.

Monday, July 25, 2005 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

I am going to assume something before I answer: that there is a method by which the acts of these men can be discovered by the police using constitutionally-valid methods of getting a tip and gathering evidence -- not some orwellian intrusiveness in order to enforce the law. Secular law is not an end unto itself.

My answer is: the correct defintion of marriage demonstrates why what they have done ought to be illegal. If marriage is the standard, and the Bible is the basis of our legal defintion of marriage, then what these men have done is a crime.

The problem in our current legal system is that the definition of marriage is no longer the definition the Bible but something else. It is the thing which allows for no-fault divorces, and loose paternal responsibility laws, and ridiculously-low standards for parentals to actually parent their children, and if you can tell me what that is, then maybe we could reframe the exchange.

My personal opinion is that the legal standard of marriage is what defines the standard we ought to apply to all other related matters -- which include sexual behavior. Call me crazy, but if one had to support any woman one had sex with for the rest of one's life as one's wife, one wouldn't have sex until one was sure.

And that doesn't even get to the place where husbands ought to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

Monday, July 25, 2005 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

Let me add something just for clarity's sake: I was an atheist until I was 27. I was a law breaker until then. It didn't matter to me that the laws existed.

In that, I broke God's law regarding marriage. It brings me shame every day when I wake up next to the wife God has given me anyway -- but I know that it is also the reason I am able to be abundantly gateful to God for Jesus Christ.

The law did not make me into anything. It is not the law which reforms us.

Monday, July 25, 2005 1:02:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

OK Frank --- here's another thought experiment:

You [somehow] happen to know that behind the walls of the quiet house next door, a group of consenting non-married adults of any sex are having a "grand old time." If your life and property were not in immediate danger, would you call the police on them if you were in a state with a law against such things?

In response to something you said --- just how do you expect the State-at-large to know about what goes on in the bedrooms of law-abiding consenting adults without Big Bro methods? Do we or the police just randomly peer through law-abiding Mr and Mrs X's bedroom window with the hope of catching them playing whips-n-chains with some other couple they met at the local Swinger Lounge?

Would you want to live in a society where somebody can go "Pssst! I heard Joe and Bob are homosexual lovers. I bet if you peek in their window tonight you'll see some action!" This reminds me of Fahrenheit 451, where people could anonymously drop in photographs of those they merely suspected of having books.

Monday, July 25, 2005 1:19:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Sorry for the quick dashed off response --- I must for the next few hours put about 30 engineering students to sleep with my ever-so-exciting lecture on simulations and transformations. Zzzzzzzz.

Monday, July 25, 2005 1:32:00 PM  
Blogger steve said...

For the moment I'll content myself with a general observation. There's an interesting analogy between truth and sex. Both have a unique capacity to unite and divide.

The sex drive has an equal potential for social bonding and social dissolution.

I am not, therefore, prepared to say that consensual sex should go entirely unregulated.

Monday, July 25, 2005 3:59:00 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

PP --

| OK Frank --- here's another thought
| experiment:

I have to warn you that I am biased against thought experiments because they are usually the last refuge of the absurd. :-)

| You [somehow] happen to know that behind
| the walls of the quiet house next door, a
| group of consenting non-married adults of
| any sex are having a "grand old time." If
| your life and property were not in immediate
| danger, would you call the police on them if
| you were in a state with a law against such
| things?

Given that [somehow] does not mean that I received a clairvoyant message, a little bird told me, or I heard it from the rumor mill, we can proceed.

My life would actually be in danger. Not “my biological functions” but “my way of life”. The “grand old time” they would be having would be, at its root, the dissolution of the family unit for the sake of individual pleasure(s). It is certainly a violation of God’s law.

So given all of those qualifications, yes I would report them if I knew for sure that the law was being broken.

| In response to something you said --- just
| how do you expect the State-at-large to
| know about what goes on in the bedrooms of
| law-abiding consenting adults without Big
| Bro methods? Do we or the police just
| randomly peer through law-abiding Mr and
| Mrs X's bedroom window with the hope of
| catching them playing whips-n-chains with
| some other couple they met at the local
| Swinger Lounge?

That is not the question – that’s changing the question from “should these things be illegal” to “How exactly do you enforce such a thing?” For example, we have speed limits, and I think you and I can agree that while they are annoying they are necessary – but they go almost completely unenforced. I can be very specific: in St. Louis, at the Science Center, they have a glass-bottom bridge that has as a feature speed guns which kids can point at the traffic and take a reading to see how the thing works. When I took my kids there 4 weeks ago, we tracked 20 cars – and not a single one was inside 5 MPH of the speed limit, and the slowest was 8 MPH over the speed limit.

Was it a crisis of law enforcement? Or was that an example of a law which demonstrates what we ought to do, but only the most egregious offenders get caught and prosecuted so that the rest of us will just use good sense?

You can’t possibly enforce the speed limit effectively – and by your argument above, that means you shouldn’t have one. Knowing the people you know and driving the places you drive, would you be excited to have all speed limits repealed next week? Personally I would not – and I am the fastest driver I know.

| Would you want to live in a society where
| somebody can go "Pssst! I heard Joe and
| Bob are homosexual lovers. I bet if you peek
| in their window tonight you'll see some
| action!" This reminds me of Fahrenheit 451,
| where people could anonymously drop in
| photographs of those they merely suspected
| of having books.

At this point, you have abandoned my premise “that there is a method by which the acts of these men can be discovered by the police using constitutionally-valid methods of getting a tip and gathering evidence -- not some orwellian intrusiveness in order to enforce the law. Secular law is not an end unto itself.”

The answer is no: I would not want to live in Soviet Russia or any other totalitarian system of snitches with no respect for my personal space or right to life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 2:09:00 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

Steve --

If I'm reading you correctly, you're saying that there should be no civil laws regarding adultery -- that is, consentual sex with a partner who is not your spouse.

Does that mean that adultery should not be grounds for divorce? If adultery is grounds for divorce, you are regulating consentual sexual activity -- you're making it a basis for nullifying or altering by court order a previously-existing civil contract.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 2:18:00 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Frank, I think you missed the negation ("not") with which I introduced my sentence. Sexual relations, even if consensual, should not go entirely unregulated.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 8:27:00 PM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

My bad.

Sorry Steve. Sorry PP.

Sorry c.t., wherever you are.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 6:32:00 AM  

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