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Navi
  • An adult unable to walk, speak, get out of bed, use the toilet, dress or groom herself, recognize herself or close relatives, eat or drink without being fed by spoon or bottle (or, especially, having to consume the bodily fluids of another person) would not be considered healthy. Yet most infants in a similar situation would be. Nothing is wrong with their bodies or minds, that is just how humans are at that stage of their lives. The same goes for prenatal humans versus born persons in need of organ transplants or intensive care. The latter has a body that has already started to fail, and medical intervention is done to delay or reverse the fatal sequence of events. So, he is very much being rescued.

  • I think it’s more precise to characterize the distinction as killing vs. failure to rescue. One can kill, for example, by marooning a person on a deserted island. Or consider the practice of exposure, common in ancient Rome before it was taken over by pro-life Christians, in which a newborn is abandoned outside the city. Both cases are “letting someone die”, but they are also killing because someone initiates a (usually) fatal sequence of events. Detaching the fetus from the placenta is the same. The fetus’s body was not failing, and no medical intervention was required until the detachment took place. Hence it is also an example of killing. And as indicated in my previous comments, this position doesn’t imply that a fetus’s death must be prevented at all costs or that doing otherwise is always killing rather than not rescuing. For example if the placenta was deteriorating in the case of threatened miscarriage or because the mother was poisoned with mifepristone (a situation that will unfortunately become a lot more common now that the Biden Administration has loosened regulations on mail-order abortion pills), taking progestogens to maintain the pregnancy would be a rescue (which is not necessarily something the mother would be obligated to do, at least as far as this argument is concerned). Taking the mifepristone would be the killing part.

  • I’m trying to understand your view on the bone marrow thought experiment. You think that the mother would not have the right to hire a hitman to kill the recipient, even if it was the only way to get out of donating, because killing the recipient is not essential to the detachment procedure itself. Even though it is a prerequisite in this case (his death would be the only way for the machine to shut down and allow a safe removal). So, under this assessment, lethal injection abortion (or other procedures that kill the unborn before removal) would not be permissible but dismemberment and vacuum abortions (in which the unborn is killed as part of the removal process itself) would be. Is that a reasonable interpretation? Please correct me if I’ve misrepresented anything.

  • Assuming that is an accurate description of your position, it is an interesting nuance but I think it has disturbing implications and isn’t any better than hiring the hitman. If the mother had to hire someone to push a button that would cause the son’s body to explode in order to turn off the bone marrow machine and end the parasitic attachment, that would be permissible because it is part of the detachment process and takes place simultaneously (this is not too different from a suction abortion, in which the unborn child is shredded into pieces by powerful suction force). And the real-world example of conjoined twins (in which you favour a right to separation even if it means killing the twin that can’t survive on her own) isn’t too different from a dismemberment abortion (unless a lethal injection is done, the detachment and killing are one and the same). I think it is significant that we agree a right to bodily autonomy strong enough to encompass a right to be “medically separated from a person using you as a parasitic host, even if that process of separation kills the person” is not in fact an “assumed human right in the developed world” but one that’s ethically and legally disputed (as evidenced by the very narrow grounds under which conjoined twins were allowed to be separated and the fact that meaningful bans on abortion after a certain gestational age are well within the mainstream of international abortion policy).

  • Regarding Roe v. Wade, I think your point is that the argument presented by Sarah Weddington and current Supreme Court precedent depend on the unborn not being a person but that doesn’t mean they necessarily would’ve rejected a different argument that allows for fetal personhood (such as a bodily rights argument, for example). Which is a fair point. It remains, of course, that the bodily-rights position is incompatible with any meaningful restrictions on abortion before the unborn child can survive outside the woman’s body (even though such limits are widespread and broadly supported).

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Navi
  • The point here is that the threshold need not be clearly defined for the necessity principle to work. There are uncertainties (both from known and unknown sources) when scientists attempt to predict natural disasters. A heavy rainfall could be nothing serious (as it is most of the time). Or it could be the beginning of a hurricane, tornado, or massive blizzard. And unfortunately, the people we should be able to rely on for good information occasionally lead us astray about what kind of danger is present.
https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/WF8fbJ_NlNJsOqICycCccxk0PjU=/0x0:2678x1785/1820x1213/filters:focal(807x730:1235x1158):format(webp)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/65193692/1172289651.jpg.0.jpg

  • Consider two scenarios:
A. You’re in your car and it starts to rain heavily. The weather forecast on the radio tells you that there’s a 99.999% chance that the next Hurricane Katrina is imminent, and you should get out of town if you can.

B. Same as above, but this time the forecast says that there’s only a 0.014% chance of a hurricane.

  • I think two things are clear:
  1. What you would be allowed to do in scenario A is very different from what you should be allowed to do in scenario B, and

  2. The fact that it’s difficult to say precisely what the “magic number” is (90%? 50%? 10%?) isn’t a valid argument for extrapolating scenario A to all situations where you encounter heavy rain.

  • So likewise, pregnancy carries risks both from known and unknown sources (which people trained in the sciences of obstetrics and gynecology attempt to forecast). Allowing abortion when the risk to the mother’s life is 99.999% is very different from allowing it when there are no apparent risk factors (so the risk of death is around 0.014%). Just because it isn’t obvious where the line should be drawn doesn’t mean the necessity criterion isn’t a good one. Since murdering an innocent person is much more serious than running a red light, it would require a much stronger justification (more so than merely that one “could be killed or experience physical trauma”). Here the criteria are that the killing is necessary to prevent one’s own death and that the person being killed won’t survive no matter what course of action is taken. In a similar case, R v. Dudley and Stephens, the necessity defence was rejected because the victim had to be selected (so the second part doesn’t apply).

  • With respect to the 266-day gestation period cited in the Roe opinion, that had to do with the question of whether the plaintiff had legal standing to challenge the Texas abortion ban (given that she had already given birth to the baby by the time the case reached the Supreme Court). The process of challenging the constitutionality of a law takes months (if not years) so it would be unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to be pregnant the whole time just to get her day in court. It doesn’t follow from there that the courts can never make a judgement about whether a given abortion may be performed. Courts issue emergency injunctions all the time, including in medical cases. Sometimes they’re done in the context of pregnancy (court-ordered caesarean sections, for example). That includes abortion – examples include judicial bypass for parental notification laws and the illegal immigrant custody cases. The majority in Gonzales v. Carhart also accepted that a life of the mother exception to the partial-birth abortion ban was sufficient, and that lower courts could rule on a case-by-case basis where the exception would apply. That’s assuming the case would go to court in the first place, given that good-faith medical judgement is usually the standard used. If we look at police shootings, they always involve split-second decisions in an emergency situation. The police officer never knows with absolute certainty how dangerous a given suspect is, and dozens of officers are killed every year (sometimes in rather benign scenarios, like conducting traffic stops). Courts and juries are typically sympathetic to police officers when a shooting is in question. That doesn’t mean police officers should be able to presume any suspect is dangerous and use lethal force whenever they want to.

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Navi
  • I think it would matter whether abortion is safer than childbirth on average if a person is trying to argue for it on those grounds. In certain situations, someone in a car accident would be better off without airbags than with. Yet because airbags drastically reduce the overall likelihood of severe injuries and death, they’re mandatory (a person doesn’t get to choose his own “particular risk of death” in this case). Likewise, the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a blanket vaccine mandate in the past (even though vaccines have both known and unknown risks). And it is not at all obvious that abortion is actually safer than childbirth. Firstly, maternal mortality ratio (MMR) has deaths from all pregnancy-related causes (including complications from both legal and illegal abortions) in the numerator whereas the denominator is the number of live births (in units of 100000). It’s meant to be a general measure of how well a healthcare system looks after pregnant women, not to help draw conclusions about any specific pregnancy outcome. That was why back in 2004, the director of the CDC advised against using MMR to compare the safety of childbirth and abortion (as cited in a brief to the Supreme Court).
https://www.findlawimages.com/efile/supreme/briefs/05-1382/05-1382.mer.ami.aclj.pdf

  • Maternal mortality in the United States is also likely inflated due to caesarean sections being more prevalent than in other countries (sometimes because the mother is obese or older, but other times because of liability concerns or personal preference rather than for medical reasons). On the other hand, both abortions and abortion complications are underreported. There is no national standard, and several states (including California, the most populous one) don’t report anything related to abortion to the CDC. Good data seems to be the kind of thing people on all sides of the abortion debate should want. But so far, pro-life groups seem to be the only ones that are interested. For what it’s worth, data from other developed countries suggests a woman is more likely to be alive a year after giving birth or experiencing a miscarriage than having an induced abortion.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14981384/

  • It’s not reasonable to say that pro-lifers should be okay with abortion on demand if it ended up killing only 17 per 100,000 fetuses. Deaths from pregnancy are almost always accidental much like car crashes, mining accidents, and apartment buildings randomly collapsing. There are known and unknown risk factors that can be mitigated through good decisions, but in almost all cases the mother will survive a given pregnancy. Abortion, by contrast, is an act of violence that’s almost always fatal to the unborn child. Not by accident, but by design. A baby surviving an abortion is considered the worst possible outcome by those who perform it. So pro-life advocates would still be opposed to it even if very few abortions actually happened. By contrast, if a non-violent pregnancy termination option were designed (say, one that resulted in baby randomly dying 0.017% of the time and a somewhat higher but still very low risk of permanent disability), the debate would be very different. And if we’re to view a woman dying from childbirth as one “sacrificed” by the pro-life cause, then it’s only fair to say that a woman dying from legal abortion was sacrificed by the pro-choice cause. We have one tragic case in Argentina, in which an abortion activist fulfilled her dream of having a legal abortion. Neither she nor her child survived. But neither of these two human lives are useful to the abortion lobby so you won’t hear about it from Amnesty International, Reuters, or the New York Times. Such a waste.
https://rmx.news/article/argentinian-pro-abortion-leader-dies-during-abortion-procedure/
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Navi
  • We can’t know with certainty whether a law will reduce abortions until it’s been implemented. The Supreme Court of the United States may soon provide us with a big batch of new data, but we’ll try not to get too far ahead of ourselves. However, there is strong evidence that limits on the practice can make a major difference. Perhaps closest to home is the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment doesn’t actually make any abortions illegal; it only asks people to pay for their own rather than forcing the taxpayers to do it. Yet according to the Guttmacher Institute (pro-choice), a quarter of people who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable. Guttmacher further indicates that studies don’t support an increase in clandestine abortions. This finding is notable, since it is lower income women (particularly racial minorities) that are directly affected by the Hyde Amendment. The Lozier Institute (pro-life) estimates that the amendment saved 2.13 million lives between 1976 and 2016, based on a review of over 20 published studies.
https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/medicaidlitreview.pdf
https://s27589.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/OP_hyde_9.28.3.pdf

  • Likewise, a greater distance to the nearest abortion clinic is correlated with a lower abortion rate.
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2781624

  • Granted, the study is cross-sectional (rather than a cause-and-effect study) so the abortion rate could be lower for other reasons (maybe the population is more pro-life, so fewer women seek abortions and abortion clinics don’t bother to operate as they wouldn’t be viable financially). But Ireland’s experience can provide a more direct insight into how these laws work. In 2018, the year Ireland voted to legalize abortion by a 2/3 margin, 2911 babies were aborted (mainly through medical tourism to the UK). Abortion advocates swore that the referendum wasn’t about whether women would have abortions, it was only about whether they’d have to travel to have them. But they were wrong. In 2019, the year abortions became available on demand, 6666 abortions were carried out. That seems cut and dry. It would take a lot of gall to change just one variable, see the output increased by over 100%, and then deny that the variable has any effect on the output.
https://righttolife.org.uk/news/new-figures-show-13709-abortions-in-ireland-since-law-change

  • The evidence that restricting abortion can reduce the number of abortions is there. With that in mind, it is not a surprise that Diana Greene Foster of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (a research organization dedicated to expanding abortion based out of University of California San Francisco) stated as such and implored abortion advocates to stop denying it.
https://blog.secularprolife.org/2021/02/evidence-that-abortion-restrictions.html
https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2018/10/04/stop-saying-that-making-abortion-illegal-doesnt-stop-them/

  • And when ANSIRH followed up with women that tried to have abortions but were denied, 96% of them were glad that they had the child five years later. Certainly, it wasn’t easy for any of them and they had to make sacrifices and changes to their lives to be mothers. But the abortion clearly wasn’t necessary in any meaningful sense. Contrary to what certain fearmongers say, abortion is not a matter of survival for women.
https://www.liveaction.org/news/media-abortion-turnaway-study-left-important-findings/

  • The fact that a policy has disparate impacts on certain groups (women, racial minorities, people with lower socioeconomic status) doesn’t necessarily mean the policy is anti-equality. Standardized tests may result in the hiring of fewer people from certain groups. Yet the policy doesn’t violate the US Constitution or the Civil Rights Act unless it was actually designed to disadvantage these groups.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_v._Davis
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Emily - Speaker/Writer/Coach at ERI
Hi Navi! I'm guessing that your comments here are intended to respond to Ktdubs below. Your comments aren't attached to theirs, so I was confused at first, but I'm guessing that you meant these above comments to be a reply to Ktdubs' latest comment below in the comment train. Thanks as always for engaging with our blog!
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Navi
That is correct. Unfortunately, with due respect, the comment system here is terrible for long threads or even comments that are longer than about a paragraph.
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  • Furthermore, abortion on demand itself has a disparate impact on certain groups. It is common knowledge that a black baby is more likely to be aborted than a white baby (in New York City, more black babies are aborted than born alive). There is evidence that in America, unborn girls are deliberately killed because their parents wanted a boy.
https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/aejapp/v1y2009i2p1-34.html

  • But the most devastating example would have to be children with developmental disabilities. In countries like Iceland and Denmark, where the pro-life movement is mostly underground and there is virtually no social stigma attached to abortion, close to 100% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted. They fare somewhat better in more culturally pro-life countries like France and the United States. It seems that if a baby has Down syndrome, her only hope of surviving to birth is to have pro-life parents (and hopefully pro-life doctors). Abortion on demand not only has a disproportionate effect on racial minorities but is regularly used to facilitate direct, lethal discrimination.
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/

  • I think it is fair to say that we fundamentally disagree on whether killing is a morally relevant distinction in this case and whether abortion unjustly violates the right not to be killed. You think we live in a world where lethally separating conjoined twins (outside of cases where it’s necessary to save someone’s life) is an exception to the strong obligation not to kill other people because of the right to bodily autonomy; I don’t. It’s not likely we can agree on abortion if we disagree on that question. Should you ever change your mind on that, you should reconsider abortion as well. At any rate, I appreciate being able to have a thoughtful and respectful exchange.
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ktdubs
You said “the fetus’s life is not in danger at any point.” That’s not true. The fetus did indeed need to be rescued. As I said in my previous post, the fetus’s life was in danger for several days before implantation (and pregnancy) occurred. It was in an environment in which it could not survive on its own and was also in danger of being sloughed out during menstruation. It was only saved from this fate when it attached itself to the mother’s organ and the mother’s body accepted its embedment. Her body saved it from dying. So I’d consider it to be a failure to continue rescuing. And the only way (currently) for a pregnant person to cease this continued rescuing is via abortion.

“I think it’s more precise to characterize the distinction as killing vs. failure to rescue.” Ok, so as mentioned above, detaching the fetus from the body part it attached itself to (something which required mutual work from the mother’s body in order to be a viable attachment) is failure to continue rescuing. Her body initially allowed the person to attach to her in order to rescue it and allow it to keep growing, and now she wants to stop the resulting process via abortion. You’ve argued that failure to continue rescuing is morally permissible (such as a person ceasing to perform CPR on someone who will die without it).

The difference between hiring a hitman vs. receiving a lethal injection is that the latter would take place in a controlled/regulated medical setting and would be necessary for the detachment process. Like the difference between Mary and Jodie’s parents hacking them apart with a saw vs. the detachment surgery in a controlled medical setting that would kill Mary. Sure, have doctors blow the guy up if that’s the 100% sole way to disconnect in a controlled medical setting without killing the woman whose body is being used against her will. If we’re making the scenario as similar to pregnancy as possible, then the man is also unconscious and unable to physically feel pain, and has been that way for his entire life (analogous to the first 20-22 weeks of pregnancy during which 99% of abortions are performed). Based on that, in this case of conflicting rights, I value those of the mother over the son. Say you had a 3-month-old baby in one hand and a petri dish with a fertilized egg in the other. You have to drop one of them. If you drop the baby, it’ll experience severe pain, injuries, and permanent changes to its body, but won’t die. If you drop the petri dish, the fertilized egg will die. The pro-life standpoint would be to let the baby fall and safe the petri dish. I personally would choose the conscious, feeling baby over the unconscious, unfeeling fertilized egg in the petri dish.

I’d say the concept of “no human being should be able to physically use another person’s body against their will” would be generally accepted. I think it’s generally accepted that no born human can go up to another and attach themselves to the other person’s organ and remain there, even for the sake of survival. But that’s what fetuses do - attach themselves to someone’s organ for survival.

It is always the case that a non-miscarried, non-terminated pregnancy culminates in physical trauma. You either have your genitals ripped open or your stomach cut open. It’s a guarantee. So it’s not just about the chance of death, but about avoiding that guaranteed physical trauma if you don’t want to go through it. Just like you’d be justified in running a red light if you see a tornado right next to you and want to avoid the physical trauma it will cause if you don’t get out of the way.

Granting fetuses full juridical personhood would increase cesarean sections even more, thus increasing the maternal mortality rate even more. It would become much more commonplace for court-ordered cesareans when medical practitioners deem specific pregnancies too dangerous for vaginal and home birth (even if that’s how the mother wants to give birth). Women would lose a lot of their autonomy in making decisions for the birth of their own children. Additionally, evidence shows that abortion bans would lead to a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths: https://www.colorado.edu/asmagazine/2021/09/22/study-shows-abortion-ban-may-lead-21-increase-pregnancy-related-deaths

I disagree with pro-choice advocates who refer to abortion as their “dream” or celebrate the procedure itself. I personally would never aspire to have one. Even if I made the decision to get an abortion (which I don’t ever plan to do even if I accidentally get pregnant) I’d still acknowledge the gravity of a potential person being terminated. But I don’t think it’s murder.
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ktdubs
Abortion bans have been instituted in other countries, and those real-world examples indicate that these bans don’t reduce abortions. https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/21/health/abortion-restriction-laws/index.html

Even if we come to an agreement on the conjoined twin scenario, as you said, it doesn’t mean that judgment should be extrapolated to all cases involving bodily autonomy. I would believe that lethally separating conjoined twins outside of cases where it’s necessary to save someone’s life is an exception to the obligation not to kill IF it was always the case that one twin was conscious, aware, able to live on their own, and able to process suffering and pain and mental anguish, and would face significant harm if they remained conjoined while the other is unconscious, has never been conscious, can’t feel pain, and can’t live on its own; and if this were a common occurrence where millions of the conscious conjoined twins would suffer if there was a blanket law banning separation of conjoined twins.

I have already reconsidered my position on abortion. I used to be staunchly pro-life. (I even founded a political club in college with one of its missions being to spread/represent pro-life ideals on campus). Aside from bodily autonomy, some of the factors that led me to change my mind were the other implications of abortion bans, rape/child pregnancy, and the adoption/foster care system in the U.S.

Implications:

Something anti-choicers largely fail to consider or address are the vast implications of granting fetuses full legal personhood. I saw a great comment on this recently:

“What hard-line anti-choice people (usually men) like this fail to understand is the complexity of pregnancy, the female reproductive system, and just how common early-stage miscarriage is. Many women miscarry very early-term pregnancies without even having known they were pregnant. Eggs often are fertilized and implant and are quickly discarded by the body for many reasons. Seeking to grant “personhood” to a fertilized egg or embryo and criminalizing its “death” is a dangerous and medically/logically unsound path. If an early-stage abortion is a criminal act, what is an early-stage miscarriage? To what extent should fertile-age women be policed to ensure their actions are not causing the death (miscarriage) of a “person” (fertilized egg)? And who will determine prohibited or policed activities? Athletics, diet, activities, alcohol consumption, medical treatments? These concerns are not hyperbole. You cannot designate an embryo as a person, its death as a crime, without policing the lives and actions of women of childbearing age. This should be an alarming concept to all who believe in freedom and equality.”

Take the recent 6-week abortion ban in Texas, for example. (By the way, “6 weeks pregnant” means the fetus has only actually existed for 2 weeks). Below are just some of the logical implications if fetuses are legally considered equal to all other people:

-Allowing wrongful death civil suits to be filed against pregnant women or children who miscarry 6-week-old fetuses
-Allowing civil suits & criminal legal action for a woman or child who expresses intention to give birth at home if a doctor has deemed it unsafe for their situation (This actually happened.)
-Allowing civil suits & criminal legal action for midwives, doulas, and doctors when a baby turns out to have died in the womb during labor before birth (This actually happened.)
-Legally forcing c-sections or early inductions if a doctor determines it’s the only way to save the fetus (This has happened multiple times.)
-Allowing civil suits & criminal legal action for a woman or child suspected of engaging in conduct potentially harmful to their 6-week-old fetus
-Allowing civil suits & criminal legal action for negligence or homicide for a woman or child with an eating disorder who is not eating and giving the fetus proper nutrients for its survival
-Investigating for murder women or children claiming to have miscarried, holding subsequent trials, sentencing formerly pregnant women and children to life or the death penalty if juries adjudicate that they lied about miscarrying as opposed to aborting
-Allowing rapist or abuser to report/sue their victims for getting abortions of 6-week-old fetuses that are the result of the rape/abuse
-Abolishing IVF

Because either a fetus is a full human with equal rights to the woman or child carrying it - making all of the above apply as much as they do for born people - or it’s not. This article also provides even more implications of a post-Roe America: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/10/opinion/supreme-court-abortion-roe.html
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ktdubs
From the article:
“But that’s just the beginning. If states deem embryos and fetuses “children,” and pregnant patients “mothers,” the man who impregnates becomes a “father” who owes a duty to support and care for the fetus. Failure by either “parent” to protect the pregnancy (by avoiding abortion or even alcohol exposure) becomes child neglect.

These liabilities will breed conflict. Any violence, since it would involve a pregnant victim, becomes child abuse. As we know from the work of National Advocates of Pregnant Women, any abortion-related prosecutions will overwhelmingly target the Black and brown people who already live under disproportionate state scrutiny.
Criminalizing abortion also implicates health care providers, who will struggle to balance ethical and legal obligations to their patients with new ones to the state. Despite their obligations to patients, they may feel compelled to report those they suspect of having abortions or taking risks with fetal well-being.
Enforcement needn’t be common for fear of it to take root. In El Salvador, where abortion is banned, no doctor has been prosecuted for ending an ectopic pregnancy. Yet obstetricians routinely make the patient wait until the fallopian tube explodes and the embryo dies before intervening to save the mother.
Indeed, this is how our abortion laws will primarily work: by distorting the moral compasses of all those implicated, incentivizing them to join in the state’s wholesale abandonment of pregnant people.”

I think it’s much worse to support all of the above implications and the prolonged suffering they’d cause for millions of women and children than to legally allow termination of an unfeeling, unconscious fetus.

Rape/Child Pregnancy:

I find it interesting how “save the children”-type conservatives express sentiments like “we can’t allow gender neutral bathrooms because my 11-year-old daughter could be raped by some bathroom pervert” and then pass laws that would force said 11-year-old daughter to give birth to the bathroom pervert’s baby if that actually happened.

I will never support a policy that would force even a single child to go through the trauma of giving birth to their rapist’s baby. Banning abortion would do that.

Adoption/Foster Care:

“Anti-abortion advocates often tout adoption as the natural alternative to abortion, the idea being that those who are pregnant but don't want a baby don't have to keep it. They can go through pregnancy, deliver the baby, and then place the baby into the adoption system.
But there are multiple reasons why adoption isn't the answer to the abortion question. For one, pregnancy and childbirth are major physical and emotional experiences with real medical risks and consequences. Abortion often is, too, but let's not pretend that pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption is a simple alternative—especially when adoption itself is fraught with many of its own complexities and potential for real harm.
It would be nice if it were as simple as delivering a baby into the loving arms of adoptive parents, but it's not. Trauma lies at the heart of many adoption stories—trauma for birth parents as well as the children placed into a system that is overburdened and broken in too many ways…
Let me start off by reminding you of the 390,000+ children and teens in foster care, 100,000+ of which are waiting to be adopted," she wrote. "Around 50,000 are placed up for adoption each year—these abortion bans are sure to make those numbers grow so let me share some statistics with you.
20% of teens who age out of foster care become instantly homeless, with no support system in place. There is less than a 3% chance that any of these kids will obtain any sort of degree. 25% suffer from PTSD. 1 out of every 2 kids will develop substance abuse problems. Adopted children make up only 2% of children under 18.”
(https://www.upworthy.com/a-woman-who-grew-up-in-foster-care-explains-why-the-adoption-not-abortion-argument-doesn-t-fly).

I could really go on and on about the things that changed my mind but I doubt this comment section has enough space for that. You believe in causing 50% of the entire population to spend decades of their lives facing the possibility of being forced by the government to maintain a parasite-like attachment to another human being; I don’t. You believe in stripping women of autonomy in their own childbirth decisions; I don’t. You believe in legally forcing children who have been raped to have their genitals ripped open or stomachs cut open to keep their rapists offspring alive; I don’t. When there are conflicting rights between a living, breathing, conscious human who can conceptualize prolonged suffering and feel physical pain - vs. an unconscious being that is unable to feel pain and has never been awake - I choose the rights of the first one. But I’ve enjoyed theoretically debating the question of whether abortion should be allowed even if fetuses were people. Thanks for the discussion!
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ktdubs
"If children are equally valuable people, then it can’t just be a matter of personal choice, even though it involves very personal sacrifices on the part of women."
This sentence is precisely where I, and the pro-choice camp, think you are wrong. Even if you were to say that a fetus is 100% a human, with equal rights to born people, there is still an argument for abortion being legal.
The core debate around pro-life vs. pro-choice is whether or not abortion is murder, right? Murder is ultimately a legal question; it's "the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another." But it's possible to kill another person (whether actively or passively) in a medical setting without it legally being considered murder (think a doctor unplugging someone from life support, or a person who is the only bone marrow match for their relative choosing not to be their life-saving donor). What we're arguing is that abortion is (and should remain) one of those scenarios in which a person lawfully kills another.
"My body, my choice", in the context of pregnancy, refers to a pregnant person's legal choice whether or not to put her body through pregnancy and childbirth in order to save the unborn child's life. Obviously, for anyone who intentionally becomes pregnant, that choice is a given. But that's not the case for unwanted pregnancies, unviable pregnancies, or "life of the mother" pregnancies. This brings us to the key principle at play when discussing the legality of abortion: bodily autonomy. Which is an assumed human right in the developed world. In the U.S., for example, no one can use a person's body for medical purposes without that person explicitly consenting - even if someone else's life is at stake. There's no circumstance where a person can be forced to sacrifice their bodily autonomy and medical health so that someone ELSE can live. If someone needs your bone marrow to live and you're the only match for them on earth, you have the right to CHOOSE whether or not you put your body through the procedure of donating bone marrow to save them (your body, your choice). If I needed a blood transfusion to live and you started the process of giving me your blood, but wanted to stop the procedure, you would not be arrested for murder for stopping the process and thereby killing me. Even when you're proven to be at fault for a situation, you still have bodily autonomy - if you accidentally hit someone with your car and they end up needing a new kidney, you cannot legally be forced to give them your kidney to save their life. Even if you're dead, your body (organs) can't be used to keep someone else alive unless you had explicitly consented during life (by registering as an organ donor) or your next of kin consents.
All of the above examples still hold true even if you were to say the people involved were a mother and her infant daughter, or a mother and her adult son. Regardless of relation or age, an already-born person does not have the legal protection to start OR continue using another person's body, against that person's will and irrespective of that person's fault, even for the sake of staying alive. So, if you outlaw abortion as murder, you're giving unborn children a right and legal ability that no other person has. You make it so pregnant people can be legally compelled to go through a specific medical process to keep someone else alive, when no other person can ever be forced to do so. Then you need to explain why specifically a pregnant woman/child owes something of her body that no other human being owes to another in the eyes of the law, and why unborn children have MORE rights than people who have already been born.
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Josh Brahm
Greetings! We actually have some common ground here. We don't use the word "murder" when referring to abortion because, as you pointed out, murder is defined as one person illegally killing another person. Abortion is legal, so it's not murder by that definition. More subtly, calling abortion murder presupposes that the unborn is a person, which is one of the main philosophical questions in this debate. So assuming that in our rhetoric would be begging the question. You are right to point out that pro-choice people can argue for abortion legality while conceding fetal personhood by appealing to bodily autonomy. My favorite speech to do on college campuses (at least until COVID became a thing!) was on this topic, because I want to help pro-life people understand the strength of some bodily autonomy arguments and avoid strawmanning them, while (hopefully) offering a thoughtful pro-life response. We have some resources on this topic here: https://blog.equalrightsinstitute.com/bodily-rights, but if I were to pick one for you to check out, it would be our video "Blood Donation and Bodily Rights Arguments" since you brought up blood transfusions in your comment. I obviously can't guarantee that our response will persuade you, but it may give some food for thought: https://youtu.be/YmBrUcpOxDw
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ktdubs
Hello, I read through a bunch of your articles on bodily rights when I stumbled upon this blog; but unfortunately none of them truly answered my two main questions when it comes to the equal rights argument. The video you linked points out the difference between "not helping someone" and "killing someone". You think bodily rights protect your decision to unplug in the case of Thomson's Violinist because it is only a matter of deciding not to help him. But it is, in fact, a matter of killing him. If you are the only match for him on earth, and he is already hooked up to your body, the act of unplugging him is the act of killing him. Or let's go further and say the violinist was physically sewn to your body, and the only way to free yourself from this parasitic attachment was to kill/dismember the violinist. You'd be justified in killing/dismembering him - because his right to live does not supersede your bodily autonomy, in any circumstance, period. I mentioned blood donations as one example, but not an end-all-be-all analogy; the purpose is to illustrate that no already-born person has the legal right to unilaterally start OR continue a parasitic relationship with another already-born person in which they are physically attached to that person's body to survive. My right to live ends where dependency on being physically attached to your body as my means of survival begins - from there, it's YOUR choice. Even if you initially consented to providing your body, but then wanted to stop, my right to live does not mandate that you must be forced to continue, against your will, a procedure that is physically invasive, life-threatening, and could cause life-long damage to your body. If no already-born human being has the right to do those things, and fetuses have equal rights to already-born human beings, then they shouldn't have the right to do those things either. If abortion were to be outlawed, and each fetus's right to life therefore superseded it's mother's right to bodily autonomy, fetuses would be the only people in the world whose right to live could ever supersede another's bodily autonomy. They'd be the only people in the world with the right to unilaterally maintain a parasitic relationship with another human being for survival. So, my questions are: how do you rationalize the claim that unborn people have equal rights to born people, if you are advocating for fetuses to be given specific rights that no born person has (and fewer limitations on their right to live than born people have)? How do you rationalize that pregnant people would be the only people in the world whose rights to bodily autonomy could be superseded by other peoples' rights to live (when pregnant people have equal rights to all other people)?
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Navi
  • You formulate the bodily-rights argument very well. And you do a great job illustrating why it's such a compelling one. However, your post still misses the mark. This is because it fails to distinguish between an obligation to rescue and an obligation not to kill. In English law, the former is typically very limited. It's non-existent in the case of strangers, and it almost never entails risking one's life or health or donating an organ. But the obligation not to kill other people, and the right not to be killed, are very strong. Exceptions are few and far between. The difference is that killing someone is initiating a fatal sequence of events, while refusing to rescue is not interrupting a harmful sequence of events that's already taking place. You usually would not be obligated to bring a drowning child aboard your boat, but it would be murder to place a child in a hostile environment by throwing the child overboard (even if he has no right to be on your boat, you don't want him there, he snuck on without your knowledge, etc).
  • So donating an organ would be considered rescuing someone, something that wouldn't be obligatory (as in McGill v. Shimp case). But if you were somehow forced to donate the organ, hiring a hitman to kill the prospective recipient would be murder. It would be under duress because your rights are being violated, but duress is not a legitimate defence for murder, attempted murder, or sexual assault. Likewise if you disconnect yourself from the violinist, he dies of a kidney disease that he was already dying from before you were connected to him. With abortion, a healthy person is either dismembered, poisoned, or placed in a hostile environment. That is killing, not failure to rescue.
  • With respect to "parasitic attachment", contrary to what you said, it's by no means clear that in the developed world the right to bodily autonomy entails the right to kill another person in order to terminate such a connection. In fact, what we actually have severely undercuts the bodily autonomy argument for abortion. In the real world, the only two examples are pregnancy and conjoined twins (the violinist story is pure fantasy). But restrictions on abortion, including gestation limits (usually well before the unborn can survive outside the mother's body with current technology) are almost universal. However, a time limit would not be acceptable under the bodily rights doctrine. As you yourself said, "If I needed a blood transfusion to live and you started the process of giving me your blood, but wanted to stop the procedure, you would not be arrested for murder for stopping the process and thereby killing me". Hence abortion is not considered a refusal to rescue or a justifiable homicide. The United States has a much more permissive abortion policy than most countries - de jure abortion on demand up to viability and de facto abortion on demand up to birth (because of the broad "life or health" exception that must be present in any law regulating abortion). But in Roe v. Wade, the case governing abortion law in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the argument for abortion as a constitutional right depends on the unborn not being a person. If fetal personhood is established, down goes Roe v. Wade. The other example, conjoined twins, fares no better. A famous court case in the UK involving infant conjoined twins ruled that Jodie (who had a working heart and lungs) had the right to be separated from Mary (who relied on Mary's body to stay alive) even though the surgery meant killing Mary. However, the judgement relied on the fact that Mary's death was imminent and unavoidable (so there was no serious conflict of interests) while Jodie also would've died had she remained attached to Mary - if that were not the case, Jodie would've had to stay connected to Mary for her whole life (a much bigger ask than nine months of pregnancy). Neither one of these features is present in the vast majority of pregnancies. Thus, the case doesn't do what supporters of abortion on demand need it to. For the violinist case (which, again, is pure fantasy) it's both grossly counterintuitive and inconsistent with legal precedent that you would really have the right to dismember him if that was the only way to get your body back.
  • So it's false that pro-life people want the unborn to have greater rights than any other people. They have the right not to be killed, even if that means the pregnant individual would have to sustain them (just as a born person would have the right not to be killed, even if it was the only way for a conjoined twin or a forced organ donor to escape). But a pregnant individual would not necessarily have to donate an organ or bone marrow (or, more realistically, undergo a caesarean section) to rescue her unborn child. She just shouldn't have the right to kill that child.
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ktdubs
(Comment 1 of 3) I appreciate the nuanced and well-thought-out response. Before I address your points, I’ll say that I agree that the Thomson’s Violinist scenario is not a proper analogy here, as it involves actions that would not lawfully occur under the current legal system in our real world. That’s why I prefer the analogy of the woman and son in a car collision. A pregnant woman does not receive an abortion and gives birth to a son. The son grows up, and the two become estranged for whatever reason. The son is now 38. Mother and son both happen to be driving in the same area one day and their cars collide. The son is in critical condition and can only be saved through a life-saving bone marrow transfusion from his mother (his only match). The mother wakes up to find the procedure in progress, with no memory of the day before. If she chooses not continue undergoing this procedure (which, let’s say, will cause permanent damage to her body and a non-trivial risk of death), will she be arrested for murder for unplugging herself from her son (via medical staff) and thereby killing him? With that analogy in mind to refer back to, let’s move on.
  • However, your post still misses the mark. This is because it fails to distinguish between an obligation to rescue and an obligation not to kill. In English law, the former is typically very limited. It's non-existent in the case of strangers, and it almost never entails risking one's life or health or donating an organ. But the obligation not to kill other people, and the right not to be killed, are very strong. Exceptions are few and far between. The difference is that killing someone is initiating a fatal sequence of events, while refusing to rescue is not interrupting a harmful sequence of events that's already taking place.
    • I did address this in response to the video I was referred to by the blog owner (which brought up Thomson’s Violinist and emphasized the difference between “not helping someone” and “killing someone.”) As I indicated, the emphasis on this distinction is misplaced when referring to a scenario in which one human being is already physically hooked up to another human being to use their body for survival (such as the mother and her 38-year-old son). In that example, where the son would die if unplugged before the transfusion is complete, the act of unplugging him is the act of killing him. It is an intervention to the status quo that actively initiates “a fatal sequence of events” in which the son is removed from his lifeline and dies as a result (while taking no action, and maintaining the status quo of mother and son being hooked up, allows the son to live). Yet still, that interrupting action (unplugging) is not murder. If the pro-life stance is to agree that the mother can morally and legally choose to unplug from her son or that the kidnapped victim can morally and legally choose to unplug from the violinist, because doing so is merely a matter of “not rescuing” the person they are hooked up to, that indicates you’d think it morally and legally okay to simply unplug a fetus from its mother’s placenta, thereby allowing it to die on its own.
  • You usually would not be obligated to bring a drowning child aboard your boat, but it would be murder to place a child in a hostile environment by throwing the child overboard (even if he has no right to be on your boat, you don't want him there, he snuck on without your knowledge, etc).”
    • That analogy doesn’t work here (nor do any analogies like “kicking someone out of your house to die in the wilderness” or anything involving inanimate property). None of those are matters of bodily autonomy. You wouldn’t be obligated to bring the drowning child aboard your boat, and you also wouldn’t be obligated to continue a medical procedure, against your will, that physically uses your body as a lifeline for that child.
  • So donating an organ would be considered rescuing someone, something that wouldn't be obligatory (as in McGill v. Shimp case). But if you were somehow forced to donate the organ, hiring a hitman to kill the prospective recipient would be murder. It would be under duress because your rights are being violated, but duress is not a legitimate defence for murder, attempted murder, or sexual assault.
    • Hiring a hitman in that scenario would be a preventative action ahead of something that has not yet occurred, and not a matter of disconnecting from something that is already taking place. Plus, hiring the hitman would not be your sole means of escape from having your body used. But if someone has you physically hooked up to the organ recipient against your will, in a manner that is life-threatening and causing physical harm to your body, and the SOLE means of disconnecting from this attachment involves actions that would kill the recipient, that wouldn’t be murder.
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Navi
(1 of 3)

  • Your analogy is a lot more realistic, and more plausible to see how it would work from a legal perspective than the violinist thought experiment. Same problem though - it fails to properly distinguish between not rescuing someone and killing someone. If the mother stops donating bone marrow to her son, he succumbs to the injuries he was already dying of before the donation process began. She doesn't initiate the fatal sequence of events; she merely allows an already existing fatal sequence of events to continue just as someone that stops performing CPR isn't actually killing anyone. This is not the case with most pregnancies. The unborn is not dying of anything, thus does not need to be rescued. The lungs and other critical organs may not presently be developed enough for long-term survival outside of a person's uterus, but that doesn't mean the unborn is not healthy any more than being unable to survive in water or extreme cold for long periods of time would mean an adult person isn't healthy. There is no fatal sequence of events at all until the pregnant individual or abortion practitioner does something to the unborn human (dismemberment, poisoning, or placing in a hostile environment). So any method of abortion (real or hypothetical) would be a case of killing and not failure to rescue. This understanding of pregnancy aligns with our intuitions. For example, while a person's mother certainly undergoes incredible sacrifices during (and hopefully after) gestation, it would be strange to say that she "saved" your life at any point (unlike, say, a NICU team or an organ donor). This is precisely because the unborn is a healthy person and not in danger at any point in a typical pregnancy. Contrary to what you said, the qualm itself is not about "WHO is being killed", nor "HOW they are being killed" but IF someone is being killed in the first place.

  • Just to specify, the boat analogy is not meant to be a stand-in for pregnancy. I apologize for not making that clear in my last post. It is meant only to illustrate that killing someone is different from not rescuing them, that putting someone in a hostile environment is in fact killing them, and that killing someone you normally wouldn't be obligated to rescue or allow the use of your property would be murder (even if, in practice, that means you would have to rescue them or allow the use of your property in that particular instance). But we would also need a situation that involves the use of someone's body as well as killing (rather than failure to rescue). Most analogies do only one of these two things.

  • So what if we tweak the analogy a bit? Let's suppose the bone marrow machine can't be turned off until either the donation is complete, the donor is dead or the recipient is dead. Would the donor then be permitted to hire a hitman, since it's the only alternative to donating the bone marrow? This would be a clear case of murder, and duress would not be a valid defence. If your only choice is to either donate or kill the recipient, you would have to donate. Even if the recipient does not actually have the "unilateral right to use another individual’s body for survival purposes against the donor's will", he does have the right not to be killed.

(2 of 3)

  • Answered above.

  • Answered above.

  • It's very much true that Roe v. Wade depended on fetal personhood. The seven judges in the majority ruled that abortion falls under a woman's constitutional right to privacy (which is buried somewhere in the penumbras of the 9th or 14th Amendment - we're not quite sure which) but that protecting a person (14th Amendment-wise) from being killed would be a compelling state interest, significant enough to bring down the entire case. The only problem was that the State of Texas wasn't able to prove that fetuses were actually covered by the 14th and, as such, the court couldn't speculate about the correct position on personhood. As Justice Blackmun makes clear:

"The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment."

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade/Opinion_of_the_Court#XI

I think it is noteworthy that even the ruling establishing one of the world's most permissive abortion regimes stated that equal rights for unborn children would indeed be a sufficient reason to ban abortion.
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ktdubs
But we would also need a situation that involves the use of someone's body as well as killing (rather than failure to rescue). Most analogies do only one of these two things.
You provided such an analogy (in the form of a real-life example) of conjoined twins and the prospect of killing one to ensure the other remained alive. Which would be a justified killing. Or let’s say in the mother/adult son analogy the only way for the mother to be freed before the transfusion is complete would be a procedure to remove the son from the machine prematurely, but where the act of removal itself would kill him. I believe that to be justified from a bodily rights standpoint. As you pointed out, there is little real-world legal precedent to either confirm or deny whether this killing would be justified from a legal standpoint regardless of individual moral beliefs.

“So what if we tweak the analogy a bit? Let's suppose the bone marrow machine can't be turned off until either the donation is complete, the donor is dead or the recipient is dead. Would the donor then be permitted to hire a hitman, since it's the only alternative to donating the bone marrow? This would be a clear case of murder, and duress would not be a valid defence. If your only choice is to either donate or kill the recipient, you would have to donate. Even if the recipient does not actually have the "unilateral right to use another individual’s body for survival purposes against the donor's will", he does have the right not to be killed.”
The hitman murdering the recipient still would not be the sole means of detachment and would be a murder. Conversely, a medical professional performing a surgery to physically remove the recipient from the machine (since it can’t be turned off), with this surgery involving death to the recipient, would not be a murder. Yes, the recipient has the right not to be killed. The point of this argument is that this is acknowledged to be true, but that the right of one person not to be killed should not override another person’s right to bodily autonomy when it comes to a harmful, life-threatening parasitic attachment for survival.

"It's very much true that Roe v. Wade depended on fetal personhood…"
Blackmun also said, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, in this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.” You’re correct, he did state that a determination of fetal personhood would collapse the case of the appellant (Roe), which was specifically that “Texas statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments,” and which claimed “an absolute right that bars any state imposition of criminal penalties in the area.” Some argue that establishment of “personhood” in the context of this opinion refers to states’ rights rather than fetal rights - “Both Roe and Casey establish that states have a “important and legitimate interest in potential life.” As a constitutional matter, therefore, fetuses don’t have any rights—states do. And in the abortion context, it is the right of the state to protect potential life that is legally significant—not the right of the fetus to grow from juridical personhood to natural personhood.” (https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2013/01/03/fetal-personhood-laws-juridical-persons-are-not-natural-persons-and-why-it-matter/). Regardless, determining that the right to life under the 14th amendment overrides another person’s right to privacy does not mean you are also determining that it overrides a person’s right to bodily autonomy. Just because establishment of fetal personhood would theoretically collapse the specific argument that it is unconstitutional for states to abridge someone’s right of personal privacy does not mean that establishment of fetal personhood would concurrently negate any and all arguments in support of abortion (resulting in banning it altogether). The court opinion did not indicate that ALL protection under Due Process would be entirely stripped if fetal personhood is established, just the specific one addressed in this case - states’ rights vs. the individual right of personal privacy.
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ktdubs
“Your analogy is a lot more realistic…
An already-born person missing lungs or other organs would not be considered healthy, especially if their survival depended upon connection to another person’s body. If a woman gave birth to a full-term baby that was missing organs, and the baby could not survive on his own, and the mother later found herself physically connected to him, her decision to remain connected is not a matter of rescuing her son (he doesn’t need rescuing at that point, he’s already hooked up to life support, and she is not performing any action to save his life) - no more than, per your claim, a woman remaining connected to her unborn child is rescuing the child. In both cases, if the woman takes no action, the baby lives; if she acts, the baby dies. Both scenarios are a matter of choosing whether to allow a person who is using your body for survival purposes to continue doing so, or to choose a procedure in which you are no longer connected to the recipient but which results in the death of said recipient. A more apt description of the difference between the analogy vs. pregnancy would be “letting someone die” vs. “killing someone.” But, again, basing the pro-life argument on the distinction between “letting someone die” vs. “killing someone” indicates that its proponents would think it morally permissible to perform an abortion if the procedure only entailed detaching the fetus from the placenta and letting it die on its own. After all, that situation wouldn’t be a case of killing - the fetus is not dismembered, poisoned, or placed in a hostile environment. We just allow it to die from its lack of fully-formed organs within the environment in which it already existed. If disconnecting from an attachment and allowing the other person to die on their own (such as the mother and 38-year-old son) is acceptable, that same logic would dictate that detaching a fetus from its mother and allowing it to die on its own is acceptable. Yet, if abortion were to be performed that way, I doubt pro-lifers would come to terms with the procedure’s legality on the grounds that it’s only a matter of letting the fetus die (as no one actually kills it in that scenario). Because of that, the pro-life standpoint appears to find the distinction between “letting die” and “killing” irrelevant; it wants to prevent the fetus’s death at all costs regardless of whether that death entails actively being killed or being allowed to die.
I would argue that you could indeed say your mother “saved” your life, despite how strange it sounds. If life begins at conception, then you became a person the moment an egg was fertilized and became a zygote. But that doesn’t mean you were guaranteed to then fully develop during pregnancy. You were still in the fallopian tube and your mother was not yet legally nor scientifically pregnant; she did not become pregnant until the moment your implantation into the uterine lining was complete. Until then, your life was in danger (from being sloughed off during menstruation) until you successfully traveled down the fallopian tube, became a blastocyst, and started implanting. Even then, you still were not guaranteed safety - implantation required you being able to secrete sufficient proteins AND the endometrium being receptive enough in order to finally complete the process. You were in danger, required part of someone’s body for survival, and thus became attached to it in a way that would allow you to survive. The owner of the body is in a sense saving you by providing a safe environment and preventing your death (i.e., being passed during menstruation and dying), where she allows you to stay and develop for nine months (very much to her detriment). To use your boat analogy, if a child was on your boat in an unsafe area where he was at risk of being thrown overboard, and came knocking at your secure cabin for safety, and you let him in where he’d be safe from the waves, and allowed him to stay there (to your detriment) until the sea was calm enough not to pose a risk to the child, you’d be saving him. “The unborn is not dying of anything, thus does not need to be rescued” - the unborn’s life was in danger from conception to implantation (a period of 5-10 days during which 33-50% of zygotes don’t make it) and was only saved by the endometrial lining receiving your embedment (which it can only do for a short window of time called uterine receptivity).

Just to specify, the boat analogy is not meant to be a stand-in for pregnancy…
See response above regarding “letting die” vs. “killing.”
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ktdubs
(Comment 2 of 3)
  • Likewise if you disconnect yourself from the violinist, he dies of a kidney disease that he was already dying from before you were connected to him. With abortion, a healthy person is either dismembered, poisoned, or placed in a hostile environment. That is killing, not failure to rescue.
    • First of all: for most of gestation, a fetus is not a “healthy person”. It has an under-formed body that can only sustain life via a lifeline to another specific individual’s body. If you were to disconnect the fetus without killing it, it would still die on its own. Same as the violinist dying of kidney disease or the 38-year-old son succumbing to his injuries.
      Second: Again, by this logic, you indicate that you’d be okay with abortion if it simply entailed disconnecting the fetus from it’s mother’s placenta and allowing it to die of the condition with which it was already afflicted (having an underdeveloped body that can’t sustain life alone). Yet I doubt pro-life proponents would become okay with abortion if science became advanced enough to perform the procedure this way (disconnecting without actively killing) in a manner that was not a further danger to the mother. So whether it’s merely allowing the fetus to die on its own, or actively killing it within the womb, the qualm itself appears to be about WHO is being killed, not HOW they are being killed.
  • With respect to "parasitic attachment", contrary to what you said, it's by no means clear that in the developed world the right to bodily autonomy entails the right to kill another person in order to terminate such a connection. In fact, what we actually have severely undercuts the bodily autonomy argument for abortion. In the real world, the only two examples are pregnancy and conjoined twins (the violinist story is pure fantasy). But restrictions on abortion, including gestation limits (usually well before the unborn can survive outside the mother's body with current technology) are almost universal. However, a time limit would not be acceptable under the bodily rights doctrine. As you yourself said, "If I needed a blood transfusion to live and you started the process of giving me your blood, but wanted to stop the procedure, you would not be arrested for murder for stopping the process and thereby killing me". Hence abortion is not considered a refusal to rescue or a justifiable homicide.
    • The violinist story is indeed pure fantasy as it’s a scenario that could not legally occur in our world (someone being kidnapped in the night, knocked out, hooked up to someone else against their will, etc.) which is why I prefer the mother and son analogy - it’s something to which we CAN apply the existing laws that we know. And we know that the mother would not, in our world the way it currently exists, be arrested for murder for choosing to disconnect from the procedure that is keeping her son alive (even though the act of disconnecting would kill him). If the mother is legally justified in disconnecting herself as a lifeline to her son when he’s 38, but is not legally justified in disconnecting herself as a lifeline to her son when he’s a fetus, the son had more rights as a fetus than he does now as a fully-formed adult.
      In the real world, at least within the United States, we know that there is no circumstance in which one person’s right to life supersedes another person’s right to bodily autonomy. We know that no already-born person has the unilateral right to use another individual’s body for survival purposes against that individual’s will. If fetuses have equal rights to already-born people, then they don’t have that unilateral right either. We know that no person can be forced by the government to use, or continue the use of, their body in a way that is damaging or life-threatening in order to keep another individual alive. If pregnant people have equal rights to all other people, then they can’t be forced by the government to do so either.
  • The United States has a much more permissive abortion policy than most countries - de jure abortion on demand up to viability and de facto abortion on demand up to birth (because of the broad "life or health" exception that must be present in any law regulating abortion). But in Roe v. Wade, the case governing abortion law in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the argument for abortion as a constitutional right depends on the unborn not being a person. If fetal personhood is established, down goes Roe v. Wade.
    • This is simply not true. The main ruling in Roe v. Wade was not about fetal personhood (or lack thereof). The decision ultimately boiled down to a previously-established constitutional right to privacy protecting a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. (Continued in next comment).
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ktdubs
(Comment 3 of 3) Personhood was referenced when addressing the constitutionality of Texas’ abortion laws in terms of the specific use of the word “person” in the Constitution, but the Justices were clear that they were not establishing any specific threshold for when an unborn fetus becomes a person and that this was still largely up for debate.
  • The other example, conjoined twins, fares no better. A famous court case in the UK involving infant conjoined twins ruled that Jodie (who had a working heart and lungs) had the right to be separated from Mary (who relied on Mary's body to stay alive) even though the surgery meant killing Mary. However, the judgement relied on the fact that Mary's death was imminent and unavoidable (so there was no serious conflict of interests) while Jodie also would've died had she remained attached to Mary - if that were not the case, Jodie would've had to stay connected to Mary for her whole life (a much bigger ask than nine months of pregnancy). Neither one of these features is present in the vast majority of pregnancies. Thus, the case doesn't do what supporters of abortion on demand need it to. For the violinist case (which, again, is pure fantasy) it's both grossly counterintuitive and inconsistent with legal precedent that you would really have the right to dismember him if that was the only way to get your body back.
    • The knowledge that “Jodie also would’ve died had she remained attached to Mary”, and the role this knowledge played in the decision to separate the twins, is key here. How much risk is acceptable before we force someone to remain attached to another person? Let’s say it was a 99% risk of death for Jodie if she remained attached to Mary in this case. What if it was 90%? 50%? What’s the magic number? At which point do we assert that the risk of death to Jodie is acceptable to take in order to force her to remain attached to Mary to save her life? Gestation and childbirth ALWAYS present a risk to the mother’s life, with varying degrees of percentage depending on the person who is pregnant. If it’s justified to remove Mary from Jodie because maintaining the attachment is a risk to Jodie’s life, it’s justified to remove a fetus from its mother because maintaining the attachment is a risk to the mother’s life.
      This example of conjoined twins, and the concept of a fetus in the womb, both involve a human being who cannot survive without attachment to another human being’s body in a manner that is life-threatening to the individual whose body is needed. In both cases, it’s justified to disconnect the person relying on the other (even if the means of disconnecting them kills them).
  • “So it's false that pro-life people want the unborn to have greater rights than any other people. They have the right not to be killed, even if that means the pregnant individual would have to sustain them (just as a born person would have the right not to be killed, even if it was the only way for a conjoined twin or a forced organ donor to escape).
    • The possession of a particular right does not mean an absence of any limitations on said right. As another commenter on this blog said, “the human right to life does not include a right to do whatever you need to do, nor to be wherever you need to be, nor to take whatever you need to take, in order to remain alive.” I have the right to live, but that does not mean I have the right to use you as a bloodbag against your will, nor remain physically attached to your body against your will, nor take the contents of your bloodstream or organs against your will.
      Assigning equal rights to two groups also means assigning equal limitations on those rights. In the context of the U.S., there is no circumstance in which an already-born person’s right to life can supersede another already-born person’s right to bodily autonomy. If abortion becomes illegal, fetuses become the only human beings whose right to life can ever supersede another person’s bodily autonomy. Pregnant people become the only human beings whose right to bodily autonomy can ever be superseded by another individual’s right to life. Giving one group fewer limitations on their rights, and making another group the only one that can have a specific right superseded, is not equal rights.
But a pregnant individual would not necessarily have to donate an organ or bone marrow (or, more realistically, undergo a caesarean section) to rescue her unborn child. She just shouldn't have the right to kill that child."
- She would have to undergo a process that will cause life-long damage to her body and culminate in a life-threatening medical procedure. She should have the right to choose not to do so. Even if that disconnection causes another individual’s death. There are certain nuanced circumstances in which it is legal to kill another human being, and abortion should remain one of them.
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Navi
(3 of 3)

  • There are some judgement calls and grey areas in determining whether or not a certain action can be justified by necessity, and it’s often difficult to pinpoint a clear threshold. That doesn’t mean you can extrapolate one extraordinary example to all cases. The fact that police officers can shoot suspects that pose a serious threat to their own lives (or those of innocent people) doesn’t mean they should or do have the right to kill any suspect (as there’s always a risk to the officer’s life when making an arrest, and hundreds of police officers are killed every year). The fact that it’s permissible to run red lights, exceed speed limits, or drive without a licence in order to escape a natural disaster doesn’t mean we can abolish all traffic laws or allow people to ignore them even when it’s only to drive a friend with minor injuries to the hospital (after all, she will suffer more and be at greater risk of death or permanent disability the later she’s treated – even if the risk is extremely low).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc3Um-BBhpI

  • So likewise, the fact that fatally separating Jodie and Mary was permissible doesn’t mean it should be allowed in every case where one of the twins is dependent on the other, or that any person should be allowed to terminate their pregnancy at any stage. Whether or not a certain fatal separation is permissible could be determined on a case-by-case basis, through good faith medical judgement where both people are treated as patients with equal rights. The courts can help resolve contentious situations, and governments should provide oversight to make sure doctors are not abusing their power (just as they should with police departments). Setting the threshold at 0 (or at 17 maternal deaths per 100000 live births, the current maternal mortality rate in the US) and allowing abortion on demand isn’t reasonable. And all of this assumes for the sake of the argument that abortion is actually safer than childbirth on average, which has not actually been corroborated.

  • Pregnancy would not be the only example of a situation where a person’s right not to be killed means another person has to tolerate the unwanted use of her body. It’s the most common by far, but there are others. The example of conjoined twins, where it’s clear that the lethal separation would be allowed only because of necessity, is one. Not allowing a compulsory organ donor to kill the recipient would also be consistent with the precedent that duress is not an acceptable defence for murder. Contrary to what you said before, bodily autonomy that entails a licence to kill is not a widely accepted human right in the developed world. That is consistent with common sense gestational limits in most countries and even the Roe v. Wade judgement itself.

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ktdubs
“Pregnancy would not be the only example of a situation where a person’s right not to be killed means another person has to tolerate the unwanted use of her body. It’s the most common by far, but there are others. The example of conjoined twins, where it’s clear that the lethal separation would be allowed only because of necessity, is one.”
I can’t think of any examples where someone legally has to tolerate the unwanted use of their body in preservation of someone else’s right not to be killed. Anyway, if a person is in a situation where they must permanently and significantly damage their body, risk death, and experience severe physical trauma, and they want to get out of that situation, that’s what I’d call necessity. Your example of breaking laws to escape a natural disaster illustrates this - it is necessary for the person to break the law in order to escape a situation where they could be killed or experience severe physical trauma.

“Not allowing a compulsory organ donor to kill the recipient would also be consistent with the precedent that duress is not an acceptable defence for murder.”
It is clear that a compulsory organ donor hiring a hitman to kill the recipient would be illegal. It is not clear that a medical process of detachment that would in and of itself kill the recipient (such as the proposed surgery to separate Mary from Jodie) would be illegal.

“Contrary to what you said before, bodily autonomy that entails a licence to kill is not a widely accepted human right in the developed world. That is consistent with common sense gestational limits in most countries and even the Roe v. Wade judgement itself.”
It’s not about a license to kill. It’s about a license to be medically separated from a person using you as a parasitic host, even if that process of separation kills the person (directly or indirectly). It doesn’t mean you are legally given carte blanche to kill the person any way you want while attached to them (shooting them, hiring a hitman, etc.). It means that you are allowed the choice to be physically detached from them and regain your body’s autonomy, even if detachment kills them.

Ultimately, it seems we fundamentally disagree on whether the difference between “letting die” and “killing” is relevant in the circumstance of someone being parasitically attached to someone else, and whether or not the human right to life/right not to be killed supersedes the human right to bodily autonomy. As I said before, we know that there are exceptions to the obligation not to kill (self-defense, police protecting others, soldiers in combat, separating conjoined twins, euthanasia in several countries and 2 U.S. states, capital punishment, etc.); abortion is and should remain one of those exceptions.
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ktdubs
“Whether or not a certain fatal separation is permissible could be determined on a case-by-case basis, through good faith medical judgement where both people are treated as patients with equal rights. The courts can help resolve contentious situations, and governments should provide oversight to make sure doctors are not abusing their power (just as they should with police departments).”
That is what wouldn’t be reasonable, given how long court processes can take. Especially in such a nuanced, grey-area type of case involving bodily autonomy. This is because, as you said, there’s no clear threshold on precisely how much of a risk of death is acceptable to force on a person. There’s only a certain window of time in which a woman can receive an abortion under current law, and it’s unlikely that the vast majority of cases would be able to be solved in time for a potential abortion if deemed permissible. This was addressed in Blackmun’s Roe v. Wade opinion: “But when, as here, pregnancy is a significant fact in the litigation, the normal 266-day human gestation period is so short that the pregnancy will come to term before the usual appellate process is complete. If that termination makes a case moot, pregnancy litigation seldom will survive much beyond the trial stage, and appellate review will be effectively denied. Our law should not be that rigid.”

“Setting the threshold at 0 (or at 17 maternal deaths per 100000 live births, the current maternal mortality rate in the US) and allowing abortion on demand isn’t reasonable. And all of this assumes for the sake of the argument that abortion is actually safer than childbirth on average, which has not actually been corroborated.”
It doesn’t matter if abortion is actually safer than childbirth on average. With abortion, the woman is choosing the procedure, willingly taking on a particular risk of death. But if we ban abortion, the woman is unwillingly taking on a different particular risk of death. Regardless, the math supports that legal abortion is indeed safer than childbirth. In the U.S., the pregnancy-related death rate, as you said, is 17.4 per 100,000 live births; but the abortion-related death rate is 0.7 per 100,000 procedures (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4554338/).People always point out the “low” maternal mortality rate to justify abortion, which is essentially a way of saying “abortion should be banned; that will mean every pregnant person will have to take on a risk of death, but that’s acceptable to force on them since since statistically only 17/100,000 of them die per year.” What if only 17/100,000 fetuses died each year from abortion - would pro-lifers be ok with abortion then? Would they say “ with abortion legal, every fetus will have a risk of death, but that’s acceptable since statistically only 17/100,00 of them will die per year”? I doubt it. That’s the problem - the pro-life movement seems to hold the rights of fetuses on a higher moral plane than all other humans. Also, pregnancy-related death disproportionately affects different groups in the U.S. - e.g., the rate is 37.3 out of 100,000 live births for Black women vs. 14.9 out of 100,000 for white women. Banning abortion would be forcing disproportionate risks of death on people based on their race/poverty level/age. That’s not equality. Enacting legislation that makes it so women must face, for the majority of their lives, a possibility of having their bodily autonomy superseded by another person’s right not to be killed, while men will never be forced through such a scenario, is not equality. Additionally, if we look back at the U.S. before Roe v. Wade (https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2003/03/lessons-roe-will-past-be-prologue), or at countries where the procedure is illegal (El Salvador, for instance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_El_Salvador#Continued_practice_of_abortion_in_El_Salvador), banning abortion would be unlikely to actually decrease the number of abortions but would ultimately cause a huge uptick in deaths for pregnant people overall, due to them going underground to receive the procedure and being killed due to unsafe conditions that would not be present in a legal medical setting. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709326/). We would need to claim that all their lives (estimated to be about 47,000 annually) are acceptable to lose as well.
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ktdubs
“There are some judgement calls and grey areas in determining whether or not a certain action can be justified by necessity, and it’s often difficult to pinpoint a clear threshold. That doesn’t mean you can extrapolate one extraordinary example to all cases. The fact that police officers can shoot suspects that pose a serious threat to their own lives (or those of innocent people) doesn’t mean they should or do have the right to kill any suspect (as there’s always a risk to the officer’s life when making an arrest, and hundreds of police officers are killed every year). The fact that it’s permissible to run red lights, exceed speed limits, or drive without a licence in order to escape a natural disaster doesn’t mean we can abolish all traffic laws or allow people to ignore them even when it’s only to drive a friend with minor injuries to the hospital (after all, she will suffer more and be at greater risk of death or permanent disability the later she’s treated – even if the risk is extremely low).”
Right, there is an agreed-upon legal threshold within the gray area of what is permissible; we agree that the threshold for justifying a police officer shooting someone is when the suspect poses a serious threat to the officer’s or others’ lives, and we agree that the threshold for justifying illegal driving is when doing so is necessary to escape something like a natural disaster. Both “letting die” and “killing” have gray areas as to when they are or aren’t permissible. Letting die is not always legal (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duty_to_rescue), and killing is not always illegal. Letting die is not illegal when the person performing CPR stops, but it would be illegal if a father never fed his child and purposefully let the child die. It is not illegal when someone kills another in clear self-defense, but would be illegal to walk into your neighbor’s house and shoot them dead. What the bodily rights position argues is that the threshold for justifying Human A killing Human B should be when Human B is already physically attached to Human A’s body in a parasitic manner for survival and the only means out of said attachment is a specific procedure which kills Human B.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc3Um-BBhpI
Haha :)

So likewise, the fact that fatally separating Jodie and Mary was permissible doesn’t mean it should be allowed in every case where one of the twins is dependent on the other, or that any person should be allowed to terminate their pregnancy at any stage.
Yes, it should, if the dependency of one twin (who cannot survive on their own) poses a risk of death to the other (who can survive on their own). The case was handled the way it should have been. That’s a precedent that, from a pro-choice standpoint, should logically be applied to all situations in which one person cannot survive on their own and relies on another’s body in a manner that damages said body and causes a risk of death. Likewise, women should be allowed to terminate a process that ALWAYS poses harm to their body and an unpredictable risk of death. Many of the risk factors for death for the mother do not have symptoms or cannot be determined pre-birth (and therefore couldn’t be used as evidence in a court case determining whether a woman should be allowed to abort). A life-threatening miscarriage can occur spontaneously at any time during gestation (happened to my mother, who almost died), plus a lot of maternal deaths happen during or directly after birth with no warning beforehand (blood clots, pre-eclampsia, complications from c-section, infection/sepsis, hemorrhaging, pulmonary embolisms, etc.) So even if the mother’s pregnancy is determined to be perfectly “healthy,” she still is still risking her life throughout gestation and subsequently has to go through a massive medical procedure that could kill her. She should have the choice whether or not to take on that physical trauma and very real risk of death for the sake of avoiding the killing of her fetus.