Abortion (v5) Now Discussing: Wrongful Life

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Lowbacca_1977, Oct 9, 2011.

  1. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Alright, near as I can tell, it's been 4 years since we've had an abortion thread, with the last being version 4 of this thread that ended in 2007, so decided to start the thread and the discussion anew.

    To start the ball rolling, however, I wanted to start from a bit different of a place that is fairly closely linked with the argument over abortion, and that's laws that charge someone for killing a fetus, and in particular, laws that charge the mother with killing a fetus.

    There was an op-ed in one of my magazines recently about this topic, and the article can be read here

    In December of 2010, a woman named Bei Bei Shuai in Indiana tried to commit suicide via poisoning herself. Friends convinced her to go to the hospital, where she surived. She was pregnant, however, and the pregnancy failed because of the poisoning attempt. The full article is at the link above, but here's the most relevant (imo) portion:

    It does also cite one of the defense attorneys as saying, "Prosecutions like this are increasing in the U.S. and are a result of anti-abortion rhetoric and movements that seek to give the fetus rights above and beyond those of women."

    I do think cases like this have a direct relationship with how abortion is treated, and personally, think that this is a very dangerous encroachment on present abortion law by trying to treat the termination of a pregnancy as a crime on the level of murder. Thoughts?
  2. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    As I've been saying for a while, the best way to persuade those who are pro-life to tolerate abortion is to let them see what the logical consequences would be if abortion was illegal and truly equated with murder... which would end with the woman being charged, and that charge being murder, with the sentence being life in prison or the death penalty.

    Most who are pro-life seem to find the idea of a woman being imprisoned decades, or forever, or even executed, for an abortion to be ludicrous. They find that following their own beliefs ("abortion = murder") through to their logical conclusion to be shocking. They end up saying "no, she shouldn't be charged with murder" usually by first bringing up the doctor, until it's reasoned away that if abortion is murder then a doctor is really only an accomplice, a contracted killer. So then they usually say "but still, she should just be fined or something, not charged with murder" and that's when they admit that they do not truly believe a human zygote/embryo/fetus to be a legal "person" with the right to life.

    It's sad that this is no longer a hypothetical, but a real case somewhere in the country.



    At some point, the Supreme Court will have to decide when a Human becomes a Person with the legal Right to Life. It's probably going to depend on the science.

    Right now, the science shows the line to be quite blurry. Should we draw the line at the first brainwave? The first heartbeat? When it can first feel pain? All of these occur much sooner than most people think.

    They must also be very careful. Once you define when Personhood and the Right to Life begin, you also determine when Personhood and the Right to Life end. As well as other unintended consequences.
    ==>If it's the heartbeat, is a person who relies on an artificial heart no longer a person?
    ==>If it's the brainwave, then does someone in a coma no longer have the right to live?
    ==>If it's being viable to live on its own, does a person who relies on machines to breathe no longer have the right to live?
    ==>If it's our ability to communicate and reason, do infants and the severely mentally-challenged and the severely brain-damaged no longer have the right to live? And would that give other animals that can communicate, like apes and dolphins, the right to personhood?
    ==> If it's the ability to feel pain, then does that bestow personhood and the right to life upon all animals that feel pain, basically the entire animal kingdom? How is the pain of humans different from the pain of non-humans?
    Etc.



    Another issue brought up in another thread, and briefly mentioned in that article too, is:

    Is being Pro-Life in direct and inherent conflict with the rights of Women, and their equality with Men?

    I do not think they are inherently in conflict. Those who are Pro-Life just believe that the "Unborn" are legal Persons with the Right to Life, dependent on the mother. They do not see a legal difference between a mother performing an abortion and a mother killing her newborn infant, the fetus/baby being dependent on the mother in both cases. I just do not see Abortion as being related to Women's Rights/Equality. Yes, the mother has the right over her body, but the whole debate is whether the fetus is its own legal person or not. Some pro-life people are old, sexist men... but not all, sexism is not inherent in being pro-life. Personally, most pro-life people I know are young and college-educated women, some are even atheist. It's not true to say being pro-life is to be anti-women, and it's not productive. So I hope this thread won't have any name-calling like that in it.
  3. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Well, I think the idea that this is a gender issue is a non-sequitor, mixed with some misogny. When you look at the issue, this is much more squarely about the status and legal recognition prior to birth, not the rights of women.
    A Gallup poll from a couple years ago showed that 21% of women thing abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, while only 16% of men thought the same. For that matter, for all the years they list, going back to the 70s, women are more likely than men, but always by small amounts, to favour abortion being entirely illegal.


    As to case at hand, similarly, I've been suggesting for some time that miscarriages equate to manslaughter under the same idea. Which is an absurd idea, and I think also highlights why abortion isn't murder.
  4. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I agree. And that has been true with my own experiences too, women are much more likely to be strictly pro-life.


    Yeah. I didn't even think of that, and it is absurd.





    But I do think the Pro-Life supporters raise an important question, which I touched upon in my post: what determines Personhood and the Right to Life? Once that is settled, we'll know where to draw the line for abortion, where to draw the line for end-of-life care, and where to draw the line for animal rights. It's a very important question, and I outlined the difficulty of defining it above.

    For some possible indicators of personhood, I found...

    [image=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/6_weeks_pregnant.png](Picture: Week 6)
    * a human embryo has a heartbeat by the 6th week
    * a human embryo starts moving on its own by the 9th week
    [image=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c4/10_weeks_pregnant.png](Picture: Week 10)
    * a human fetus has a developed a brain and all organs by the 10th week
    [image=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/20_weeks_pregnant.png] (Picture: Week 20)
    * a human fetus can feel pain by the 20th week, possibly earlier
    * a human fetus can hear outside sounds by the 25th week, possibly earlier
    * a human fetus can see outside light by the 32nd week

    Anyone, feel free to disprove any of this, I don't want to mislead.


    Does anyone have any possible answers to: what determines Personhood and the Right to Life?
  5. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    I don't have any answers, but once "personhood" is legally defined, I wonder about some miscarriages or "defects" (for lack of a better term).

    Would mothers be open to prosecution for smoking or drinking? (And of course they should NOT smoke or drink while pregnant but what if they do prior to the pregnancy becoming known?) Could a zealous prosecutor seek to charge a woman for not taking vitamins? A stressful job that elevates her blood pressure or not eating properly? Riding in a car with an aggressive driver?

    On whom would the burden of proof of "harm" to a fetus rest - can one "prove" the source in harm in all cases?

    I am not a big fan of "slippery slope" arguments, despite what I've written above,

    Who is best suited to make this determination (or, one might say, argument before the court) anyway - medical personnel? Religious groups? Lawyers? Politicians? I doubt there would ever be a social consensus.

  6. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    They already are doing that. Here's two women that were charged for drug use while pregnant.
  7. wannasee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2007
    star 4
    Women who abort their pregnancies should be ostracized ie expelled from the country for a certain number of years, or forced to pay a tax for the rest of their lives (10 % of their income). It's the woman's choice.

    For cases of rape or incest, the penalty stands. In cases where the mother's health would be significantly at risk, a special dispensation would be made.

    If these measures encourage women to have back-alley abortions, too bad. Killing babies is wrong.
  8. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Like I said, what if the woman had a glass of wine a night with dinner in the first few weeks before she knew was pregnant? Still want to prosecute her? Ban female drinking IN CASE the woman MIGHT get pregnant?

    Wannasee, I respect others opinions, but a cluster of cells in at least the early few weeks is not a human, but a potential human to not just myself, but many others. You disagree. Can either of us point to a definitive definition that backs our stance?

    If we are to interject our personal opinions here, I think abortions should be rare but legal, and the decision of the parents with any input from doctors or clergy they wish to involve in the decision. Not my decision, not yours, and not beyond a certain point (which I don't feel capable of defining).
  9. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I actually think abortion should be widespread, safe and free, with the cost heavily subsidized by the state. The state and all its taxpayers have a huge interest in preventing unwanted children from being born to parents who can't afford them. Sexually active teens and young adults should get free contraceptives and be paid for coming in to local clinics for regular STD testing and free treatment.

    Unwanted pregnancies and STDs are two closely related ongoing national public health crises, caused in part by the religious-based abstinence only anti-knowledge movement, and our current approach doesn't seem to be working. If it were me, I would put an abortion clinic and STD testing and treatment center inside every public high school.

    For me, viable outside the womb without epic levels of medical intervention equals person.
  10. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Obviously killing babies is wrong. But the whole argument is, when does one become a baby? A person?



    Why should it be widespread? Shouldn't prevention of unwanted pregnancies be encouraged, thus making abortion very rare?

    Most colleges and health clinics already offer free contraceptives and regular STD testing.

    Unwanted pregnancies are not really a "public health crisis."

    The demographic that's most likely to get STDs are those 55 and older, in the Baby Boomer generation, because they never grew up feeling they had to take precautions with sex.



    I've heard that in India, they pay people (with a supply of money, or food, or something) to have their tubes tied. So thousands/millions of Indians are going to the hospitals, to voluntarily choose to no longer be able to have children, to get these government benefits. I'd say that's a much more humane alternative to China's One Child Policy, or to making abortion widespread here in America. The focus should be on preventing abortions.



    So if someone depends on machines and medical interventions to breathe, or to receive nutrients, or to receive critical medicine in order to live (whether they're 5 months old, 5 years old, 15 years old, 30 years old, 50 years old, 75 years old)... then they're no longer a person, they no longer have the right to live?
  11. wannasee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2007
    star 4
    If you have to take measures to stop something from "becoming" a person, then it's a person, albeit in an early stage of development.

    What am I missing here?
  12. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    My 5-year-old cousin has the potential to become 18 one day, and have the right to vote.

    Since she has the potential to be 18 one day, with the right to vote, then why shouldn't she become a voter now, at the age of 5? Doesn't she already have that right?


    or

    I'm 22 and I have the potential to be 35 one day, and have the right to run for President.

    Since I have the potential to be 35 one day, with the right to run for President, then why shouldn't I be allowed to run for President now, at the age of 22? Don't I already have that right?



    That's what you're arguing.

    A human zygote/embryo/fetus has the potential to become a human person one day, with the right to live. That doesn't mean it has the right to live now.

    The only question is when do we become a person with the right to live? At what stage of development?

    If you want to argue that it's the zygote, the moment of conception, then you're going to have to provide reasons beyond its "potential." You need to provide reasons for why the zygote itself should be considered a legal Person with the right to life.
  13. wannasee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2007
    star 4
    there are reasons why a 5 year old shouldn't vote, and reasons why a 22 year old shouldn't be President.

    What's the reason a zygote shouldn't be allowed to continue on its journey?
  14. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    What's a reason for it?

    What gives something personhood and the right to life?

    Does that apply to the zygote?

    Would applying it universally have any other consequences, and would you accept those? (Ex: if it's the ability to feel pain, then nearly every animal will also be given legal Personhood and the Right to Life... would you accept that?)


    I don't really know what can apply to the zygote, what can make it a person? Wannasee, you have to strip away any though of potential. Think of the zygote as frozen in time. What does it possess that makes it a Person with the Right to Life, in your opinion?
  15. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I'm not sure what you mean by "most likely." According to the CDC, STD rates by age, chlamydia prevalence is highest among 15-19 and 20-24 year olds - four times the rate of older populations. Gonorrhea is the same. Syphilis skews a little bit older and is more spread out by age.
    That seems like a pretty drastic solution for teenagers.

    A good friend of mine is a counselor for a Catholic all girls high school here in the Chicago suburbs. She tells me the number one problem that the girls come to her with is an unplanned pregnancy. Catholicism apparently isn't doing a very good job of keeping teenage girls celibate. My solution would not be to get them all fixed. I'd just park a safe, free abortion clinic in the middle of their catholic girls school. But also, of course, of course, I'd promote condom use and pregnancy prevention as well.

    And unwanted pregnancies are a public health problem for young girls and low income single women without proper healthcare and a solid family support network.

    Making abortions more widely available would solve many pressing societal problems in this country. I don't want abortions to be rare. I'd like to be able to send my daughter to the local Walgreens to get one.
  16. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Jabbadabbado,

    I don't have the data with me, but there was a documentary in one of my college classes we had to watch, showing how older adults are at greater risk and have more unprotected sex. Especially divorced Baby Boomers. I'll try and find it later, remind me if I don't.

    I don't think that's a solution for teenagers. Besides, we're talking about the people volunteering to have their tubes tied, not being forced to. But it would help for poorer, married adults who already have 2 or 3 kids.

    An abortion clinic would never be opened at a Catholic high school, that's crazy. The more sensible thing to do would make birth control free and easily available at local community health centers.

    As for Catholic school girls' biggest problem being unplanned pregnancy, it's only a problem because they've been taught that they're supposed to remain celibate. But they've also been taught that abortion is much, much worse than having sex.

    Unwanted pregnancies can cause social problems, but it's not a public health problem. Being pregnant isn't unhealthy.

    Abortions should be available, but rare. It shouldn't be extremely tough to get one, but they shouldn't be common. It already is widely available. Why do you want people to be having lots of abortions? And I hope you're joking about going to get one at a local Walgreen's.
  17. wannasee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2007
    star 4
    The fact that it is a human being in an early stage of development gives it the right to live.

    People just get down on zygotes because they are "different enough" and "weak and defenseless enough" that they feel they can kill them with impunity. LIke insects.

    But they aren't insects...

    And I see that you want to extend the argument into other areas, and will bring up the death penalty, and euthanasia, and retardation, and animal rights, etc but those are separate issues.

    There needn't be one rule that applies everything.
  18. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    I've been in and out of this debate for as long as I've been a member here.

    I think that science is a bad place to draw the line, because as technology improves, we will constantly be forced to redefine viability.

    I would go with nature; when a fetus can survive outside the mother without artificial support, then it should be granted personhood.

    In regards to feeling pain, we must distinguish between reflexive withdrawal from noxious stimuli and the cognitive processing of "ouch!". The first occurs at twenty weeks, while the second is open to hot debate. Newborns do not cognitively process the same as 6-month olds, so this becomes another extremely dangerous gray area upon which to base these types of decisions. For these and other reasons, leaving the line at natural viability is probably the safest thing to do.

    Of course, I agree with those who say that if abortion is legal murder, then it should carry the same penalty, namely, execution for the mother, and life in prison for the performing physician. In terms of regulating behavior while pregnant, that is a very slippery slope. Smoking/drinking/drugs are being used to prosecute women while pregnant, but what about eating the wrong foods? There is mounting evidence that consumption of too many sugars and refined carbohydrates while pregnant can raise the risk of a child developing diabetes later in life, not to mention giving them a terrible sweet tooth.

    Where do we draw the line, indeed? As some food for thought, I will submit, not here.

    Peace,

    V-03
  19. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Preventing unintended pregnancies most certainly is considered a public health problem, and was addressed in Healthy People 2010:
    "Unintended pregnancy in the United States is serious and costly and occurs frequently. Socially, the costs can be measured in unintended births, reduced educational attainment and employment opportunity, greater welfare dependency, and increased potential for child abuse and neglect. Economically, health care costs are increased. An unintended pregnancy, once it occurs, is expensive, no matter what the outcome. Medically, unintended pregnancies are serious in terms of the lost opportunity to prepare for an optimal pregnancy, the increased likelihood of infant and maternal illness...

    With an unintended pregnancy, the mother is less likely to seek prenatal care in the first trimester and more likely not to obtain prenatal care at all...she is more likely to expose the fetus to harmful substances. The child of such a pregnancy is at greater risk of low birth weight, dying in its first year, being abused, and not receiving sufficient resources for healthy development."


    More abortions would help with income inequality in the U.S. as well. It's all upside.

    of course, no one is going to put the abortion clinic right inside the catholic girls school, but I think as a matter of promoting the social good, there should be one right across the street.

  20. wannasee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2007
    star 4
    What are the statistics like in countries where the girls who get pregnant are considered a disgrace by the society as a whole? Are there more unintended pregnancies, or less?

  21. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    First off, your timeline is erroneous. The brain is not fully formed by the tenth week - neural development continues all the way through gestation (and, in fact, human infants are born "half-baked", so to speak). This is a big part of the reason why infants born very premature frequently have significant cognitive impairments throughout their lives. There is nothing approaching consciousness (let alone pain perception) until around the 30th week of gestation (this information can be found in any number of neuroscience and developmental biology textbooks, and I use three research articles to specifically address fetal pain perception). I'm about to start the abortion lectures with my medical ethics classes in the next few days, so we're going to be reviewing the developmental biology.

    Regarding personhood, you have to have higher brain functions in order to have consciousness, which is a necessary element of personhood (consider, for instance, someone who has experienced higher brain death - no one questions whether there is a human being present, but personhood/personality is gone - the euthanasia debate and definitions of death constitute a natural bookend to the abortion discussion, and both demonstrate the continuum nature (with some discreet stages) of life and death).

    Broadly speaking, when I talk about this issue with my classes, I break development into cellular/biological life, organismal life, and psychosocial life, with corresponding stages in dying. The nutshell version of the analysis goes like this:

    Metabolic/Biological Life: Simple cellular metabolism is present (this begins once gametes fuse and the egg is fertilized). The natural bookend is the death of the final cell in the human body (the human body does not cease to function like throwing a switch - individual cells keep metabolizing until they ultimately break down). Metabolic life does not cease until the last cell undergoes lysis (and, in fact, we aren't entirely sure about death until the body begins to rot).

    Organismal Life: We have specialized tissues present that are now working towards a common purpose (this occurs after cellular differentiation/determination). The natural bookend to this is the gradual organ failure that occurs during the dying process as homeostatic regulation breaks down.

    Psychosocial Life: We have consciousness present - the brain is suitably developed that we see intentional interaction with one's environment. The natural bookend to this process is the unconsciousness that is produced with cognitive injury and decline.

    We generally say that the "person" is gone in the dying process somewhere between the psychosocial decline and the organismal decline, but the human being remains. It would stand to reason, then, that the "person" would first be present between the organismal and psychosocial life (heavily weighted towards the latter end of the organismal stage, if not fully into the psychosocial stage).
  22. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    This exact thing happens as much (if not more) in pro-life communities. "Good Christians" are some of the worst when it comes to taking care of young girls/women who get knocked up. They're the REASON unintended pregnancies get worse prenatal care - because the sanctimonious shaming of the morally "righteous" makes young women too afraid to get the help they need.

  23. wannasee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2007
    star 4
    I was asking about girls in other countries where the society as a whole considers it a disgrace. Here the girls get mixed messages.
  24. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    75% of the women seeking to terminate a pregnancy adhere to either a Catholic or Protestant variation of Christianity. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute track this data. Hmmm, food for thought.
  25. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Indeed, insects would likely be much more advanced and developed.

    And that's the ridiculous direction I think we're going, really.