Friday, June 24, 2011

Joe Response


I have made some detailed comments on your last response. Please see below. My comments are in red. I hope you don’t think I’m yelling at you with all the CAPS, it was just way quicker than constantly clicking the italics button for emphasis.

Overall, it appears you believe that while in the womb, human life has EXTRINSIC value; that is, its worth is subject to what others think about it. So, if a mother really wants the child, then he/she is valuable and worthy of protection, and anything that would harm the life in the womb would be a tragedy and crime. But if a mother doesn’t want the child, then he/she is not valuable and not worthy of protection, and voluntarily killing the life is acceptable. Once out of the womb, however, it appears you shift your argument to support the life’s INTRINSIC worth; that is, its inherent worth for the very sake of being human, and independent of what others think of it.

I, on the other hand, maintain the INTRINSIC value of a human being from its biological beginning, namely conception, to its biological end, namely natural death.

Finally, you did not address my argument about the burden of proof being on the side that’s doing the killing. Until the pro-choice side can prove without a doubt that what they are dismembering is NOT a human with intrinsic dignity, then abortion should be illegal. Matters of life and death are simply too important to be guessing on or justifying merely by emotional appeal or personal opinions.

I’m looking forward to your response. You can reply in the comments section on the blog if you’d like. This is a good discussion, and I think we’re mutually striving to go far beyond the typical one-liner arguments of our respective sides.

Take care,

On 6/22/2011, Sarah wrote: (My comments in red.)

I will answer you point by point, for the most part. I just did a word count on this and it's almost 2000 words, so hang in there. I have to split it into two; Facebook told me it was too long.

Your four differences are as follows: size, development level, environment, and degree of dependency.

Size: You said the fact that a newborn baby that weighs about 8 pounds and a fetus or embryo can weigh nearly nothing shouldn't make a difference, and that men being bigger than women shouldn't make a difference either.

What makes the difference in the baby is a brain and a heart and lungs and bones and all the things that make you essentially human (and heavier. Brains are a pretty substantial human element). An embryo doesn't have any of those characteristics. (Yes it does! Have you ever taken a biology class? The heart begins beating at 21 days. At Week 5, called the beginning of the EMBRYONIC period, the baby's brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin to form. During this same week, a layer of skin called the mesoderm forms, which will be the foundation for the baby's bones, muscles, kidneys and much of the reproductive system. So even a 5-week-old embryo has the beginnings of the characteristics you cited.)

And your comment on men vs. women - I'll keep it short, because I could talk to you about this for days and it is almost a different issue (not quite!), but men DO have more rights than women. Not that that's a good thing, but it's been true as long as there have been patriarchal societies. Women still make less per dollar than men. Women are still denied job opportunities and raises because they are women (look up what's going on with Wal-Mart right now). Women have to worry about verbal and sexual harassment, both in public and at the workplace - if you think this is no longer a reality, I can tell you that it's happened to me. Women are still taught to guard themselves against rape. And this is just in the United States. It's a lot worse in most other places around the globe. Men have more power than women, world-wide (not that they should), and size does have something to do with it. (OK…But this isn’t about gender equality, which is a separate issue; it’s about the right to life. In terms of human dignity, both men and women are equal, despite any differences in size. That’s my point.)

Level of development: First of all, the level of intellectual maturity is not a bell curve. Once you hit peak intellectual/physical maturity in your 20s, you pretty much level off. You may droop just a little, but mostly you stay constant. The only time at which an 80 year old performs at the same level as a 2 year old is the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." (Development occurs both physically and in terms of experience. When comparing a 2-year-old, a 40-year-old, and a 90-year-old, their bodies are all different based on their age. The 90-year-old, in addition, has had more experiences. Life is a CONTINUAL PROCESS OF DEVELOPMENT. If a 2-year-old dies, she will never live to be 40. If a 40-year-old dies, she will never live to be 90. That’s just how it works. So if our mothers had had abortions when we were embryos, WE WOULDN’T BE HERE TODAY, even though we would have been less developed.)

And 20-year-olds DO have more rights than a 15-year-old or a 5-year-old or a 2-year-old, and rightly so! They can drive and drink and smoke and consent to sex and vote and sign their name to things and buy houses and rent cars and serve in the military and have way, way more rights than a child does. Technically, at present, you have more rights than I do, because I'm 17 still. And if you want to make the point that 80-year-olds have fewer rights - not in so many words, but there are many families in which the children take the car keys from their parents when they become elderly, and the elderly often go to live at places where they're taken care of, or need to otherwise be taken care of - there does come a point where their freedom becomes limited. Not that I'm advocating for that, but there is a modicum of truth to it. (It appears you’ve missed the whole point. This ISN’T about those trivial rights (driving, drinking, smoking, etc). It’s about the RIGHT TO LIFE, and ONLY THAT!!! Are 15-year-olds just as human as 2-year-olds and 80-year-olds? Yes! The difference is their level of development. A 6-month-old fetus is less developed than a 2-year-old. Is it just as HUMAN? Yes!)

Also, when I think of what a "person" is, I think that it has five senses (though sometimes less), a brain, heart, lungs, bones, colon, and pancreas, breathes air, has an ability to process memory, makes decisions, and reasons (among other things, but my schema would make one very long page of qualities). A baby has most, if not all of these things. An 18-year-old has all of these things. Every living person of every race and creed and whatever else has these things. (They might not always be good decision makers, and they might not reason very well, and they may be missing one or more of their senses, but they generally have the rest of these qualities.)

(Uh-oh. Three things. First, this is only your opinion, aka what you “think” a person is. It’s not grounded in scientific fact. I “think” a person comes in being at conception. Does the act of believing this make it so? No. To be credible, you need empirical evidence, not opinions, to back up what you’re saying. Second, though I know you wouldn’t, it sure sounds like you would support infanticide, because babies cannot make decisions or reason [def: the ability to think logically regarded as a basis for knowledge, as distinct from experience or emotion] and because you yourself admit that a baby might not have “all these things.” Finally along the same lines, you fail to find characteristics that define ALL humans, as you yourself admit. What defines ALL humans? How about their unique DNA imprinted at conception?)

Embryos and early-stage fetuses do not.

All this to say -- the level of development is very relevant. (You’re right! It is relevant to the functions of a person at their state in life. It is not, however, relevant to the humanity of an individual.)

Environment: When you are walking into and out of a building, you are not making any difference to the life of another person (unless you're hitting them with the door, obviously, or someone is holding the door open for you). You are an autonomous individual. Pretty much you can go wherever you want. When a baby is in the birth canal, they are not autonomous. (Being autonomous is NOT a requirement for life. A newborn is not autonomous. A toddler is not autonomous. Many elderly are not autonomous. In a sense, kids and teenagers are not autonomous…they depend on their parents for food, shelter, money, electricity, etc.)
They feed off the mother. She makes a lot of incredible sacrifices to her child - giving up her body, giving up her job, giving up alcohol and coffee, giving up going out on weekends, giving up thousands of dollars to put towards its care, giving up personal comfort, giving up all the clothes that she is currently able to wear, and occasionally giving up her health or her life.
When you walk into and out of a building, you are not putting that kind of immense burden on a person, unless the doorlady is birthing you across the threshold. And even then, you're probably not walking. (Yes, clearly women go through a lot to have children. But burden has no effect WHATSOEVER on the humanity of the embryo. If pregnancy was without burden, it’d still be a human. Since when has burden been a dehumanizing factor? Kids are burdens to their parents too.)

Degree of dependency: This is not part of the pro-choice argument, usually, except for the argument I made earlier - a woman has to undergo an incredible amount of sacrifice to have a child - an amount of sacrifice that you, being male, will never understand. This is not a slight against you at all, it's just me saying honestly: you will never understand the physical consequences of childbirth, because you can't. (I sincerely appreciate you not making an ad hominem attack on me because I’m male. Most pro-choicers are not so gracious. But you seem to understand that while people have gender, arguments don’t. Because if they did, then Roe v. Wade should be reversed because it was decided by 9 men!) Sometimes it's a sacrifice that a woman just cannot handle, physically, mentally, or economically. Generally a pacemaker doesn't suffer through helping a person with a heart defect, unless somebody's forgotten to put batteries in it. (Again, you’ve digressed to talk of burden, and seemed to have missed the point. Perhaps you have a low level of dependency on others, but many others do not. An embryo depends on the mother. If being autonomous is a requirement for deserving to live, then we might as well kill a baby, or an elderly person with dementia.)

You put the Planned Parenthood debate this way:

"If the unborn are human beings, then they are entitled to the same right to life enjoyed by born human beings. If this is the case, then Planned Parenthood is a mass murderer and should definitely not be supported by taxpayers, regardless of how many other services they may provide."

First of all, tax-payers don't provide the funding for abortions at Planned Parenthood. At all. Not a penny. (Can you show me your facts? Even if this were true, it would be irrelevant. Suppose there was a company whose goal was to murder all 15-year-olds. In addition, they also planted trees for the environment. Would we want to pay taxes to support their company if none of the funds went to murder? Of course not! Just giving them ANY money would help keep them in business, allowing the murder to continue. Planned Parenthood CANNOT be separated from its abortions. Any money that supports them indirectly supports abortions. It’s simple logic: If PP goes out of business, their abortions stop. If PP stays in business, their abortions CAN CONTINUE!)

Second of all, most of your taxes DO go to support the mass murder of innocent people: they go to the United States defense budget. (Whoa! I never said I supported war. This is true but a COMPLETELY SEPARATE ARGUMENT.)

Wait, you might argue, doesn't the defense budget keep us safe? Isn't that important?

It does, and it is! Like your argument against Planned Parenthood, even if 97% of what a company or group does is good and helps the people (keeps us safe, even!), it shouldn't matter if a small percentage of what they do causes "assassinations." (I must interject. PP does not have a monopoly on its “good” business. It is inseparably linked to abortion, while other facilities—such as Arbor Vitae in AA—provide the same services minus abortion. We have little control over the Defense Budget. But we can and should promote an end to Planned Parenthood, while simultaneously promoting pregnancy help centers like Arbor Vitae in AA.) But your taxes go to this every day. If you want to make sure that none of your taxes go to the ending of one innocent life...don't pay your taxes. (Please pay your taxes. I would rather not see you in prison.) (Me too!)

It is incredibly hypocritical, then, for a pro-life person to argue against abortions while simultaneously supporting military action in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Over 100 thousand innocent people have been killed by US troops in the past 10 years, people with families and memories and the capability to think and feel and reason and suffer and grieve. I don't know what your stance on the war is, but until pro-life protesters oppose the war as vehemently as they oppose abortion, I will have doubts in their firm belief in the sanctity of life.  (Yes, the murder of innocent people by US troops IS very sad. But why do you assume that I support these military actions? Because, in fact, I do not. They are unjust wars, and the killing of innocent human life is ALWAYS evil. At the same time, abortion has the GREATER MAGNITUDE, though both are evil. You say 100 thousand have been killed by US troops in the past 10 years; however, 40 MILLION babies are slaughtered worldwide by abortion EVERY YEAR.)

Next point - yes, an embryo does have most of the "ingredients" to be a person. It has DNA. It still needs nutrients and time to become viable. You say that it is impossible to say that a viable fetus is more human than a conceived embryo (clearly it is possible, because that's what I'm saying). But that's like saying that an acorn is no less an oak tree than an oak tree (Here, the question would not be if it is an oak TREE, bur rather if it is a living OAK (because seeds actually have plant embryos inside). That would be like saying: is it an ADULT, or is it HUMAN?) There are fundamental differences between the acorn and the tree that would make you sad to see a tree cut down but not even phased to turn the acorn into an elementary school craft project, even though the acorn has all the ingredients it needs to be a tree, besides nutrients and time. I'm not saying that people and trees deserve the same respect (though trees deserve a little more than they've been getting, since they keep us alive), but the concept is similar. (No, it’s not too similar. Please don’t compare humans to a plant. There are similarities in biology, but human life is special, infinitely elevated in a separate category.) If not for the mother, and what she gives to the embryo to make it a fetus, there is no child. (Correct! Much is missing, though. If not for the mother, there is no fetus. If not for the fetus, there is no child. If not for the child, there is no adult, and no mother. It’s a cycle, and every part is equally important. Remove one part, and the rest will cease.)

The comparison you draw between abortion and bank robbery is completely unfair. Abortion is not about power or inciting fear. Abortion is not done out of malice. Abortion is not done out of pride or monetary greed. Bank robberies never happen because the perpetrator has been raped, or because the perpetrator is dying and couldn't live another hour without robbing a bank. The difference between having a safe abortion and feeling like you have no other option besides throwing yourself down the stairs is the difference between keeping a woman alive and healthy and her potential death. If you're so concerned about keeping people alive because life is important and sacred, this should hold for people of any age or circumstance, including women who feel like they have no other option. (This is the great trap. Women should not feel like abortion is their only option, yet they often do. There are other options, such as adoption. The circumstances may be very unfortunate and very sad, but to deny an unborn child of its life is impossible to justify. Abortion is never safe; it completely wipes out one life, while causing irreparable harm to the mother, both physically and emotionally. Rather than advocate a patch-up “solution” such as abortion, we should be doing all we can to support women facing such difficult pregnancies.)

The other equivalency you draw, between abortion and slavery, is inaccurate. Like a bank robbery, abortion is not about power or greed (Yes it is. To quote Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and pioneer of abortion, "[Our objective is] unlimited sexual gratification without the burden of unwanted children ... [Women must have the right] to live ... to love ... to be lazy ... to be an unmarried mother ... to create ... to destroy ... The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."), and unlike slavery, it's not about racism. (I’ll let Margaret Sanger take this one: “We do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” Accordingly, abortion rates are sky-high among minorities, especially the African American communities, because organizations like PP specifically target them.) Abortion is not about forcing people to live lives they don't want (in fact, it's usually the opposite). Abortion is not laden with the implications of thousands of years of race-based violent crime and cruelty and fear. In fact, to make this comparison is insensitive in that it minimizes the truth of what slavery did to the US and what slavery is still doing in other places in the world. (Slavery was a terrible blight on our nation’s history. And so is abortion. Hopefully, society will realize this one day. As you admitted, many women feel that they have no other option besides abortion. In a sense, then, our society is chained to abortion. Also, just as slaves were persecuted as a race, the unborn are a part of the world’s largest genocide.)

And about your last paragraph - you state that abortion is a question of morality. It makes me wonder if you believe that I -- and many other people who are pro-choice -- am immoral. It's almost an accusatory statement, and certainly a blast to someone's character, to tell them that they're not a good person (since generally, that's what morality implies). It's possible for us to disagree on this issue and still both be good people. Moreover, it's possible to be an anti-abortion person (or a pro-choice person!) and be a huge tool. Being on one side of this issue or another does not determine your morality. (Our whole conversation proves that abortion IS a moral question. We both think that we are right, and neither of us would accept a compromise. To some extent, you are correct. Two people can have opposite beliefs and be doing what they FEEL is right. But to feel to be right is utterly subjective; truth, however, is objective. So one of us holds morally wrong views through a misguided, but truth-seeking, conscience.)

And I agree - it's been cathartic for me to be able to take this time to write out my beliefs in this way, and to be able to share them with you. It's also been good for me to see where you're coming from, so I appreciate you taking the time (by the time this is over, I will have written you a novel and a half) to read. My mom thinks that we should post this back and forth on a blog somewhere - what do you think about that? (Well, here it is!)

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Joe, I am so proud of you! You are completely correct and absolutely logical in your arguments; you prove your point much more effectively than your opponent. I am a young woman completely against the evils of abortion. I can sympathize with women because I am one; yet, abortion is not an option for a desperate woman, adoption is. Killing innocents is never acceptable for any reason. In order to preserve the sanity and dignity of the human race, abortion must be erased from our already bloody history. Pray to end abortion.