Could someone try to "convince" me of the pro-life position?
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  Could someone try to "convince" me of the pro-life position?
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Geoffrey Howe
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« on: June 10, 2021, 12:14:21 PM »
« edited: June 10, 2021, 12:33:07 PM by Geoffrey Howe »

Could one of our "effortpost" social conservatives (DC Al Fine, RFayette &c.) try to convince me of the merits of the pro-life position? I do not mean in the sense of some sort of intellectual competition; rather, I'd like to understand and weigh the merit of the pro-life position. I feel I understand the pro-choice arguments (though not all the details of some of the biological points), but not so much the pro-life.

For reference, the pro-choice argument which is currently most persuasive for me is as follows. On the one hand, I struggle to deny that it is "murder;" on the other, I struggle to think it warrants such treatment. It cannot be denied that there is a tripartite humanitarian concern: the concern for the foetus, but also the concern for the prospective mother who bears the child she will have to parent, and finally the concern for the prospective unwanted child. The second concern is of course most acute for the single mother or the younger mother. There is the physical toll childbirth will exact, the mental and financial toll of bringing up a child – great in any circumstance, but the greater when the child was not foreseen or wanted. The third concern is related to the second: if a woman is forced to give birth it is likely that the child will be unwanted; the mother is also more likely to have financial difficulties bringing up the child well. It would be rather cruel to deny her the ability to see that her and its life not be ruined. But then there is of course the problem of the medical procedure which I understand why people are opposed to. In short, there is no simple answer to what is ‘right.’ Each option involves something we should rather avoid. Which option to take is a question of profound personal and, importantly, moral, nature; the answer to which will differ from case to case. The decision must therefore be one for the conscience of the woman, for only she can ascertain the relative weight of each evil.
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True Federalist (진정한 연방 주의자)
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2021, 10:08:45 PM »

It basically comes down to whether you view a fetus as already human. If you do, then abortion is wrong and the state should prevent it unless medically necessary to save the life of the mother; if you don't, then the choice should be left to the mother. The abortion issue is simple. The complicated bit is what exactly constitutes a human life, for which there is no universally recognized definition. If everyone agreed what constitutes a human life, there would be little controversy except for cases where a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother but is not certain to kill her if completed to viability.
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Torie
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2021, 09:18:15 AM »

The degree of the "humaness" of a fetus is a continuum. At some point potentially prior to birth, the desires of the mother might be ethically more than counterbalanced by the desire to protect of the fetus as it becomes closer to being fully "human." The most difficult period is when the fetus could survive outside the womb - the period of viability. As the fetus becomes more human, it is not an unreasonable position to take that the circumstances when an abortion should be allowed should become more restricted.

As to just where and how the balance should work, and what relative weight to give to each, is highly subjective. And thus even among rational and reasonable and ethical individuals who make data based decisions, one can expect, and should expect,  disagreement, now and forever. What I object is the "demonization" of others on this issue whose subjective opinion does not match yours. That is what I would call unfair intolerance. Since about the age of 15, I have always taken exception to the Manichean approach to  this issue - on both sides.

I could share my own subjective opinions on this, but I don't think that would serve any useful purpose here.

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Geoffrey Howe
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2021, 09:27:45 AM »

As to just where and how the balance should work, and what relative weight to give to each, is highly subjective. And thus even among rational and reasonable and ethical individuals who make data based decisions, one can expect, and should expect,  disagreement, now and forever. What I object is the "demonization" of others on this issue whose subjective opinion does not match yours. That is what I would call unfair intolerance. Since about the age of 15, I have always taken exception to the Manichean approach to  this issue - on both sides.

Agreed. It is very disheartening. Every time I hear that people want to "control women" or that Joe Biden is a "mass murderer" my appetite for public discourse goes down.
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RFayette
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« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2021, 12:12:12 PM »

I might write an effortpost later.  But for now, there is a line of reasoning here I want to question.

Quote
In short, there is no simple answer to what is ‘right.’ Each option involves something we should rather avoid. Which option to take is a question of profound personal and, importantly, moral, nature; the answer to which will differ from case to case. 

You rightfully point out that restricting abortion access does impose certain hardships on people.  But I think the fact that harms exist for all options doesn't preclude there being a clear answer to something being moral or immoral.  The pro-life argument is that the right to life is so fundamental that it supersedes other rights when the two conflict.  This point seems pretty hard to dispute, and as such, I'd argue that this debates stands or falls on the personhood issue - if we recognize the unborn is just as much a person as you or I, then abortion ought to be illegal. 

As for the personhood question,  the simplest argument in favor of it is the SLED test   In essence, the differences between the unborn and humans we all consider to be persons are not significant enough to justify deeming the former to be 'non-persons' and the latter 'persons'.  This itself doesn't show that either adults or the unborn possess the right to life, but it does show that if there are objective, universal moral laws, including against murder, then it would apply to the unborn just as it would to adult humans. 
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Geoffrey Howe
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« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2021, 01:28:58 PM »

I might write an effortpost later.  But for now, there is a line of reasoning here I want to question.

Quote
In short, there is no simple answer to what is ‘right.’ Each option involves something we should rather avoid. Which option to take is a question of profound personal and, importantly, moral, nature; the answer to which will differ from case to case. 

You rightfully point out that restricting abortion access does impose certain hardships on people.  But I think the fact that harms exist for all options doesn't preclude there being a clear answer to something being moral or immoral.  The pro-life argument is that the right to life is so fundamental that it supersedes other rights when the two conflict.  This point seems pretty hard to dispute, and as such, I'd argue that this debates stands or falls on the personhood issue - if we recognize the unborn is just as much a person as you or I, then abortion ought to be illegal. 

This is where I struggle. I'm not sure it is true. It would be very difficult to live a modern life if we took this seriously; nearly everything involves some sort of risk to life (crossing the street, driving a car, taking a bus & so on). Few would argue WW2 was unjustifiable, for example. In the COVID pandemic I think we have to balance "life" with civil freedoms and, frankly, what makes life worth living.
Now I suppose the counter-argument is that abortion is murder, not an incidental loss of life; that something calculated and pre-meditated is inherently worse. This is an argument that has been deployed against the death penalty (which I believe you support) - and one which I find partly convincing, but probably only because I think there are so many other good arguments against it. Was the murder of Osama bin Laden justified? Can the police be allowed to use potentially lethal force to save or protect others?

Btw, this is an important moral question I'm trying to get my head around, not an attempt to "outwit" people - if indeed I were capable of that...
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RFayette
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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2021, 02:14:35 PM »
« Edited: June 12, 2021, 02:27:13 PM by RFayette »

I might write an effortpost later.  But for now, there is a line of reasoning here I want to question.

Quote
In short, there is no simple answer to what is ‘right.’ Each option involves something we should rather avoid. Which option to take is a question of profound personal and, importantly, moral, nature; the answer to which will differ from case to case.  

You rightfully point out that restricting abortion access does impose certain hardships on people.  But I think the fact that harms exist for all options doesn't preclude there being a clear answer to something being moral or immoral.  The pro-life argument is that the right to life is so fundamental that it supersedes other rights when the two conflict.  This point seems pretty hard to dispute, and as such, I'd argue that this debates stands or falls on the personhood issue - if we recognize the unborn is just as much a person as you or I, then abortion ought to be illegal.  

This is where I struggle. I'm not sure it is true. It would be very difficult to live a modern life if we took this seriously; nearly everything involves some sort of risk to life (crossing the street, driving a car, taking a bus & so on). Few would argue WW2 was unjustifiable, for example. In the COVID pandemic I think we have to balance "life" with civil freedoms and, frankly, what makes life worth living.
Now I suppose the counter-argument is that abortion is murder, not an incidental loss of life; that something calculated and pre-meditated is inherently worse. This is an argument that has been deployed against the death penalty (which I believe you support) - and one which I find partly convincing, but probably only because I think there are so many other good arguments against it. Was the murder of Osama bin Laden justified? Can the police be allowed to use potentially lethal force to save or protect others?

Btw, this is an important moral question I'm trying to get my head around, not an attempt to "outwit" people - if indeed I were capable of that...


The issue here is that situations like driving a car are about behaviors that risk life but do not guarantee the ending of anyone's life.   So any personal freedom "gained" by an abortion necessarily means a life lost, while most people who drive cars have never killed anyone.
Whereas abortion always takes a life, by definition.  So on a pure utilitarian level we are talking about the rights of the masses vs. the lives of a few vs. the right of one vs. the life of one in the case of abortion.  Your other point about premeditation and intentionality are also relevant - that there is something intrinsically wrong with abortion that there isn't with driving a car, and this is a key factor as well.  

As far as the death penalty, the key distinction here is that the unborn haven't committed a capital crime.  When someone commits a crime, they merit or deserve punishment, and I do think some crimes rise to the level such that the death penalty is an appropriate response by the state.  I think a similar argument can be made with respect to self-defense that people who unjustly attack you or your family forfeit their right to life - and furthermore, this asymmetry I pointed out earlier (personal freedom vs. life in case of abortion) doesn't apply so much when your own life is in grave danger.  I do think war is your strongest argument here and I don't have a simple answer, since wars are fought for so many different reasons, but I do think that similar to self-defense of a person, nations have a right to defend themselves against unjust aggressors.  Of course, defining this and determining when circumstances truly justify war is much easier said than done. 
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Geoffrey Howe
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« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2021, 03:06:27 PM »

I might write an effortpost later.  But for now, there is a line of reasoning here I want to question.

Quote
In short, there is no simple answer to what is ‘right.’ Each option involves something we should rather avoid. Which option to take is a question of profound personal and, importantly, moral, nature; the answer to which will differ from case to case.  

You rightfully point out that restricting abortion access does impose certain hardships on people.  But I think the fact that harms exist for all options doesn't preclude there being a clear answer to something being moral or immoral.  The pro-life argument is that the right to life is so fundamental that it supersedes other rights when the two conflict.  This point seems pretty hard to dispute, and as such, I'd argue that this debates stands or falls on the personhood issue - if we recognize the unborn is just as much a person as you or I, then abortion ought to be illegal.  

This is where I struggle. I'm not sure it is true. It would be very difficult to live a modern life if we took this seriously; nearly everything involves some sort of risk to life (crossing the street, driving a car, taking a bus & so on). Few would argue WW2 was unjustifiable, for example. In the COVID pandemic I think we have to balance "life" with civil freedoms and, frankly, what makes life worth living.
Now I suppose the counter-argument is that abortion is murder, not an incidental loss of life; that something calculated and pre-meditated is inherently worse. This is an argument that has been deployed against the death penalty (which I believe you support) - and one which I find partly convincing, but probably only because I think there are so many other good arguments against it. Was the murder of Osama bin Laden justified? Can the police be allowed to use potentially lethal force to save or protect others?

Btw, this is an important moral question I'm trying to get my head around, not an attempt to "outwit" people - if indeed I were capable of that...


The issue here is that situations like driving a car are about behaviors that risk life but do not guarantee the ending of anyone's life.   So any personal freedom "gained" by an abortion necessarily means a life lost, while most people who drive cars have never killed anyone.
Whereas abortion always takes a life, by definition.  So on a pure utilitarian level we are talking about the rights of the masses vs. the lives of a few vs. the right of one vs. the life of one in the case of abortion.  Your other point about premeditation and intentionality are also relevant - that there is something intrinsically wrong with abortion that there isn't with driving a car, and this is a key factor as well.  

Agreed.

As far as the death penalty, the key distinction here is that the unborn haven't committed a capital crime.  When someone commits a crime, they merit or deserve punishment, and I do think some crimes rise to the level such that the death penalty is an appropriate response by the state.  I think a similar argument can be made with respect to self-defense that people who unjustly attack you or your family forfeit their right to life - and furthermore, this asymmetry I pointed out earlier (personal freedom vs. life in case of abortion) doesn't apply so much when your own life is in grave danger.  I do think war is your strongest argument here and I don't have a simple answer, since wars are fought for so many different reasons, but I do think that similar to self-defense of a person, nations have a right to defend themselves against unjust aggressors.  Of course, defining this and determining when circumstances truly justify war is much easier said than done. 

OK - my argument here might be phrased poorly as I'm thinking it out as I write it.
Why do we make these things illegal? Is it not because in some way they pose a difficulty to society or individuals; it is difficult to live peacefully if people can go around murdering or looting, and so on; at its heart a utilitarian argument about how best to "order" society. Can not the same principle apply to abortion - the burden that an unwanted - and perhaps unloved - child places on society and its parents? This sounds a little callous and perhaps it is; but it seems to me that it is the logical extension of the same idea.
If the right to life is "fundamental" as you say, how can it be abjured by committing a capital crime?
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TJ in Oregon
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2021, 03:55:23 PM »

As far as the death penalty, the key distinction here is that the unborn haven't committed a capital crime.  When someone commits a crime, they merit or deserve punishment, and I do think some crimes rise to the level such that the death penalty is an appropriate response by the state.  I think a similar argument can be made with respect to self-defense that people who unjustly attack you or your family forfeit their right to life - and furthermore, this asymmetry I pointed out earlier (personal freedom vs. life in case of abortion) doesn't apply so much when your own life is in grave danger.  I do think war is your strongest argument here and I don't have a simple answer, since wars are fought for so many different reasons, but I do think that similar to self-defense of a person, nations have a right to defend themselves against unjust aggressors.  Of course, defining this and determining when circumstances truly justify war is much easier said than done. 

OK - my argument here might be phrased poorly as I'm thinking it out as I write it.
Why do we make these things illegal? Is it not because in some way they pose a difficulty to society or individuals; it is difficult to live peacefully if people can go around murdering or looting, and so on; at its heart a utilitarian argument about how best to "order" society. Can not the same principle apply to abortion - the burden that an unwanted - and perhaps unloved - child places on society and its parents? This sounds a little callous and perhaps it is; but it seems to me that it is the logical extension of the same idea.
If the right to life is "fundamental" as you say, how can it be abjured by committing a capital crime?

I would largely agree that we make things illegal because they are in some way destructive to society, albeit with some disagreement on the principle being fundamentally utilitarian. I would hold that what is or is not destructive is not ultimately a function of our experience of pleasure but in our fidelity to natural law, ie. the moral code written upon every human heart. Of course when the question is illegality, there are practical considerations that are also important. For instance, lying cannot really be banned.

In the case of capital punishment (which btw I don't actually support being used in the US), the argument is not that society is better off without the person but that that person's crimes are evil enough that they merit the government executing them. From a purely utilitarian perspective, we probably "should" be executing a lot more people, many of them now having committed any serious crimes, eg homeless people, handicapped people, etc. There are of course utilitarian arguments about the pleasure and enjoyment of those people who otherwise might be executed need to be taken into more consideration than the pleasure removed from others. I think through this lens, we should conclude that the pleasure the fetus would experience throughout his or her entire life also should be taken into consideration, such as we would for an unwanted child that has already been born. From a purely utilitarian perspective, I'm not sure I see why they would be treated that much differently (minus the effects of short term loss of enjoyment during the pregnancy itself the equation basically balances the same).

Now, I'm not a utilitarian and don't view pleasure as the highest good, nor do I think laws should be ultimately based on such even if they take into consideration how actions hurt others. My belief is that it is wrong to actively kill a fetus on natural law grounds just as it is to kill anyone else. And while political realities prevent that from being enshrined in law with absolute logical consistency, I do think it should at very least be illegal under most circumstances. There are so edge cases where I recognize even if abortion were to be outlawed in general, it would almost certainly still be permitted.
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True Federalist (진정한 연방 주의자)
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2021, 04:03:33 PM »

I might write an effortpost later.  But for now, there is a line of reasoning here I want to question.

Quote
In short, there is no simple answer to what is ‘right.’ Each option involves something we should rather avoid. Which option to take is a question of profound personal and, importantly, moral, nature; the answer to which will differ from case to case. 

You rightfully point out that restricting abortion access does impose certain hardships on people.  But I think the fact that harms exist for all options doesn't preclude there being a clear answer to something being moral or immoral.  The pro-life argument is that the right to life is so fundamental that it supersedes other rights when the two conflict.  This point seems pretty hard to dispute, and as such, I'd argue that this debates stands or falls on the personhood issue - if we recognize the unborn is just as much a person as you or I, then abortion ought to be illegal. 

As for the personhood question,  the simplest argument in favor of it is the SLED test.

The L-prong of that test is wrongly presented and thus wrongly counterargued in your link.

It is not simply that a fetus has a lesser level of development than an adult, but that it has not reached the level of development for it to achieved personhood. Using the counterargument that link uses against its strawman presentation of the L-prong, one could just as easily argue that four-year olds should be able to vote and otherwise make all decisions as if they were adults without supervision or guidance from their parents or guardians.
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Geoffrey Howe
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2021, 05:34:49 AM »

As far as the death penalty, the key distinction here is that the unborn haven't committed a capital crime.  When someone commits a crime, they merit or deserve punishment, and I do think some crimes rise to the level such that the death penalty is an appropriate response by the state.  I think a similar argument can be made with respect to self-defense that people who unjustly attack you or your family forfeit their right to life - and furthermore, this asymmetry I pointed out earlier (personal freedom vs. life in case of abortion) doesn't apply so much when your own life is in grave danger.  I do think war is your strongest argument here and I don't have a simple answer, since wars are fought for so many different reasons, but I do think that similar to self-defense of a person, nations have a right to defend themselves against unjust aggressors.  Of course, defining this and determining when circumstances truly justify war is much easier said than done. 

OK - my argument here might be phrased poorly as I'm thinking it out as I write it.
Why do we make these things illegal? Is it not because in some way they pose a difficulty to society or individuals; it is difficult to live peacefully if people can go around murdering or looting, and so on; at its heart a utilitarian argument about how best to "order" society. Can not the same principle apply to abortion - the burden that an unwanted - and perhaps unloved - child places on society and its parents? This sounds a little callous and perhaps it is; but it seems to me that it is the logical extension of the same idea.
If the right to life is "fundamental" as you say, how can it be abjured by committing a capital crime?

I would largely agree that we make things illegal because they are in some way destructive to society, albeit with some disagreement on the principle being fundamentally utilitarian. I would hold that what is or is not destructive is not ultimately a function of our experience of pleasure but in our fidelity to natural law, ie. the moral code written upon every human heart. Of course when the question is illegality, there are practical considerations that are also important. For instance, lying cannot really be banned.

In the case of capital punishment (which btw I don't actually support being used in the US), the argument is not that society is better off without the person but that that person's crimes are evil enough that they merit the government executing them. From a purely utilitarian perspective, we probably "should" be executing a lot more people, many of them now having committed any serious crimes, eg homeless people, handicapped people, etc. There are of course utilitarian arguments about the pleasure and enjoyment of those people who otherwise might be executed need to be taken into more consideration than the pleasure removed from others. I think through this lens, we should conclude that the pleasure the fetus would experience throughout his or her entire life also should be taken into consideration, such as we would for an unwanted child that has already been born. From a purely utilitarian perspective, I'm not sure I see why they would be treated that much differently (minus the effects of short term loss of enjoyment during the pregnancy itself the equation basically balances the same).

Now, I'm not a utilitarian and don't view pleasure as the highest good, nor do I think laws should be ultimately based on such even if they take into consideration how actions hurt others. My belief is that it is wrong to actively kill a fetus on natural law grounds just as it is to kill anyone else. And while political realities prevent that from being enshrined in law with absolute logical consistency, I do think it should at very least be illegal under most circumstances. There are so edge cases where I recognize even if abortion were to be outlawed in general, it would almost certainly still be permitted.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that - as Ernest and RFayette have said - it is a question of when the foetus becomes a "person."
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2021, 05:38:40 PM »


I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that - as Ernest and RFayette have said - it is a question of when the foetus becomes a "person."


One thing worth pointing out regarding this is that the United Kingdom - perhaps other countries, I don't know, permits abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy (near the end of the second trimester).

It's not unheard of for prematurely-born babies to be born and survive after having spent only 22 or 23 weeks in the womb- they don't always survive, but sometimes do.

This means that it is perfectly possible for a baby/fetus who was conceived 23 weeks prior to be alive in an incubator after a highly premature birth- and it is also possible for such a baby/fetus to be inside its mother's womb and still legal to abort in many locales.

Logically it should either be legal to kill both of them (the born one and the unborn one) or neither of them, given they're at the exact same stage of development. As it is, of course, it's legal to kill the unborn one but not the born one.

And that's why I think abortion law needs an overhaul. It's too lax at the moment.
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