Seeing the other person’s side

Sometimes I get really frustrated with politics, which has become so much about denying, oppressing, and outspending the other viewpoint rather than debate and consensus. GovTrack received this question through the bill Q&A system:

Why does anyone think our government has the right to allow women to murder their children?  What can be done to ensure this bill never passes?

and it just makes me want to shut the site down and move on with life. As it happens, I disagree on the policy. (Sorry folks, I am human and have opinions.) But that’s not my point. No one

thinks the government has the blanket right to allow women to murder their children

There’s more. Our government doesn’t work on the principle that the constitution gives the government rights

so that it can in turn give individuals right

. The constitution gives the government rights to restrict

. What isn’t regulated is permitted.

The honest and respectable version of the question would have been phrased “Why doesn’t everyone think our government has the right to restrict women from killing a fetus?”

I can understand the submitter’s position, and emotional position. But I wish the submitter would talk with

the other side rather than trying to “ensure this bill never passes” and quash the other side.

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38 Comments

  1. Hey Josh,

    This was a really good post. You did a good job of living up to the post title. Considering how unnatural this is, I find this impressive.

    Thanks, and I hope you keep the site up.

    Tim
    11,482 days

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  2. You are absolutely right, and the abortion issue is probably the clearest example of this.

    But just to be fair, the pro-choice side does this often as well. How many times have you heard something along the lines of “Why should anyone be allowed to tell me what I should do with my body?”

    That argument is just as disingenuous as the one you quoted.

    Until we get to talking about the heart of the issue (when does human life begin?), both sides will just be talking past each other. If human life begins at conception, then clearly the pro-life position is correct. If human life begins at birth, then the pro-choice position is the most viable. Unfortunately, that question is basically unanswerable in any sort of objective manner, which means both sides have valid positions.

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  3. Wow. Thank you for being a level-headed human being. And please keep this site running, it really is the best way I’ve ever seen to track and follow our government. Thank you for both being a genuine person, and also for running a brilliant site.

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  4. Josh,
    Honestly I take issue with you taking issue with the way someone phrases a question.

    Seriously, your phrasing made the same impact as the original.

    I think murder is fine, since if someone kills a pregnant women they can be charged with double homocide. That says to me either that is wrong or abortion is “murder”. People cant have it both ways to have a way to feel good about whats going on around them.

    For the record, abortion is not even a topic I care about come election time. I personally dont think it’s right, but everyone has to deal with their own actions.

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  5. Mike: There’s no objective answer, as you say. The only hope is that we agree to disagree and find a legal situation that we can all at least be moderately happy with.

    Brian: The fact that the law calls something murder doesn’t mean that pro-choice supporters would also call it murder. There’s no contradiction. There’s also a difference between parents deciding to abort their own child versus someone else deciding to abort their child — the fact that killing a fetus during a homicide makes things more serious still make sense, putting aside what we call it.

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  6. Please keep up this excellent site. Without it, I would never have found out about H.R. 808. You provide us a critical service. Thank you very much.

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  7. Josh: Regarding Brian’s argument, the point is that in one instance the fetus is determined to be a human life capable of being murdered and in the other instance it’s not. Consider a situation where the mother has an abortion the father opposed. Is it murder?

    Don’t mean to turn this into an abortion debate, sorry. Your broader point about the inability to have meaningful discourse is 100% correct. Unfortunately the two party system lends itself to the kind of polarity we have in the States…

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  8. Josh,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment. What’s worse, this type of weighted phrasing is a burden on anybody who covers government-sector news, too. I receive a lot of pressure to tailor GovCentral to either a liberal or conservative bias, and I appreciate none of it.

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  9. Let state at the outset that philosophically I am opposed to the NEED for abortion. Especially when we as a society have the means to PREVENT unintended or unwanted pregnancies.

    So then, the issue with regard to leagized abortion (as it has been framed) is not really even about when life begins. Both conception (two living cells joining together and merely changing form) or birth (many living cells merely changing venue) are both arbitrary designations and each case there is LIFE before.

    The real arguement is “what to do about unintended or unwanted pregnancies.”

    Roe v. Wade decided that the answer to that question belongs with the person most affected by the pregnacy (the female of our species)with the advice of her medical doctor.

    The battle, because one can hardly call it a debate, has been whether the supreme court decision is valid and whether the court has the authority to make such decisions.

    Ironically, of the many anti-abortion voices heard (and I have heard a lot of them over the past thirty years)most seem to be upper middle class men, whose lives would be little affected by an unintended or unwanted pregnancy.

    Finally, the statement that you find reprehensible is indicative of the militacy of the anti-abortion movement. I would challenge any reader to find an instance where a militant wing of N.O.W. has blown up a church or an office building that housed an anti-abortion office.

    You have probably noticed that I used the term “anti-abortion” instead of the term “pro-life.” I do this because I have also noticed over the many years I have tracked this issue, that many who claim to be “pro-life” are merely anti-abortion. When pressed many will admit that they are also pro-death penalty, which indicates to me a basic duplicity or inconsistancy of thought many “pro-life” true believers have.

    Inaddition, while you may just be “disgusted” by such militant phrasing. I am angered by it. Not just at the militancy of such phrasing, but by its purpose, which is to shut down honest discussion and resolution of differences and to impose one religions point of view upon our society.

    So what I have done over the years is to make sure I point out the inconsistency to the offending party and make them (so much as I can) own up to it.

    Really all that anyone who cares can do….

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  10. Brennus, you have two separate issues that you are trying to lump into one. I think it is called a “strawman”.

    The issue of “pro-life” is just what it says, its’ premise comes out of our own Declaration of Independence, …alienable Rights, that among these are Life (right to life).

    When you try to justify the right to life for someone who has forfieted their basic rights,(criminal) then you are just as “duplicity or inconsistancy” as you claim of the pro-lifers.

    We are left with the rule of law, which is instituted state by state in accordance with the supreme law, our constitution. If you don’t like the death penalty; for it represents the publics view of justice and favor murder, yes murder; for the human forming in that womb is so, then find a state that supports your world view and move there.

    You have reduced the arguement to an emotional stance which complicates and manipulates, which is not rhetorical but irrational.

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  11. Here is what I take issue with: receiving emails from former liberal friends during this election calling me a right-wing Christian fundamentalist nutjob…sqauwking in their letters to me that I should Thank God for Obama-sense the Irony there? And ranting about the number of dead soldiers from the War in Iraq. I counter with the number of dead from abortions SINCE the start of the Iraq War- over 7 MILLION. I question their selective conscience re ‘murder’ in this case and they are silenced.
    Our President elect went out of his way Four Times to vote against the Born Alive Act, something I learned from Govtrack.us, Thank you very much.
    My liberal husband who voted for him, despite his discomfort about this abortion voting record? He weighed our finances against abortion, and guess who won? (he thinks). I Thank you for govtrack because I can SEE who votes for things like FOCA ‘freedom of choice’. Disgusting truth about politics even legislating this insanity.

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  12. Well, it seems that “society” cannot decide when life begins. Could it be that God was right all along? Could it be that the anwser has always been with us in His word …the Holy Bible. After all God created all things including human life. For those who don’t believe in God there is no anwser. We all have the freedom to make our own choices, but not all choices
    are good. Some choices can land us in jail. Some choices are fatal to the alive, unborn child. the “Freedom of Choice Act” is mis-named, It should be: “Abortion Act”.
    “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” -Miles

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  13. It’s not about “when life begins.” It’s not about the federal government (they have no place even weighing in on the decision). The states can intervene if their constituency supports that.

    Personally I believe the decision is 50/50 between the people involved. I don’t give either more or less of a right. If they can’t reach a decision, leave it to the state.

    This is the ultimate private matter, and trying to bring government and religion into it is what makes it such a nasty debate topic.

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  14. A well-aimed article, it’s as close to objectivity as one can get in this life.

    I would agree with Chris, however, in that it’s a private issue that the Government should have no role in. The same goes for religious matters–no interference, but that also means no siding-with or sponsoring as we saw under this outgoing administration.

    Church and State must be separated, and we should know from centuries of human history why: the potential for bias and abuse are extraordinary given human tendencies, especially once individuals possess more power than others.

    But, that’s my Anabaptist heritage, and it’s a wise one.

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  15. PS: the law is so settled on the side of Roe vs. Wade (over 30 years), that it’s unlikely to ever be overturned in our lifetime.

    It would literally take an upending of the fundamentals of our legal system to accomplish it. What we have is a stalemate that’s here-to-stay.

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  16. It’s understandably difficult for a partisan ideologue to present a site on “government transparency” and do so with a neutral voice that speaks to “both sides.” Impartial reasoning is impossible to teach, and is only rarely discovered through a personal journey, a spiritual evolution of sorts. Our Founders were mostly Deists, as were most Renaissance and Enlightenment innovators, ie., “Humility: imitate Jesus & Socrates.” – Ben Franklin. The Enlightenment did not find reason, truth, and spirit, to be mutually exclusive cognitive disciplines or sensibilities. In short, ours were highly evolved free thinkers who had a view to the big picture. Our culture of “experts” and “specialists” should pay closer attention to their far more broad perspective. There is nothing ‘conservative’ about battling our own intellectual sloth. Beyond my critique of your typically Orwellian desire to chastise another’s “phrasing” – I have to support Janovic and Chris here. They are on to it. Free thinkers are not “group thinkers.” If they wish to remain free, they’ll have to be prepared to be squeezed out of one party after another, unless they like being sheep. The Left does not have a fantastic history or reputation regarding free speech, innovation, free thought, or human rights – in fact, inevitably, the radical Left rivals the Church on “intellectual conformism” – and on a Biblical scale. How many, 150 million have been killed by Communists now? Hmm. “chirp chirp” go the crickets. One doesn’t even need to include the Fascists, who were part and parcel of the Marxist transitional phase, ie., the “Socialist Dictator.” Even without the German Socialist Workers Party, the Left wins the death prize for the history of our species, thus far. And they do not “speak directly to the ‘right’” They speak of the Right as if speaking abstractly and disdainfully of dead ancestors who can no longer hear them, but once molested them as children. We have a “fake” Right, to be sure, in the U.S. on Television – they are stealth Socialists, or Corporatists, owned by a Corporatist Democrat. Beyond that, when you mention “Right Wing” – it does not really carry any real meaning – beyond a few religious nuts, it’s a false paradigm. Free thinking also, is not inherently “Right Wing.” Example, a free thinker, Martin B. Margulies, from the “Left” makes a Pro-Choice argument against Roe V. Wade on the basis that it is un-Constitutional for judges to dictate their personal morality. But, he also objects to rescinding; dismantling the amendment would do more harm than good – causing massive exposure to an “unpending” across the board, as Janovic put it. As a pro-choice individual, myself, neither a Neocon nor Neolib – a true Liberal and a huge fan of the Enlightenment and its crowning achievement, our Constitution – it is clear that any religious argument becomes a private matter. Abortion is a matter between a woman, her pocketbook, her faith, family, pastor, and what have you – it’s her body, her private property, and therefore, her call. Any law, in this case, a negative redundancy, for or against a woman’s sovereignty is not only inappropriate, it is un-Constitutional. Abortion, Spiritually speaking, may be hideous, even sinful on some existential level, and I think also, socially destructive. But, I’m hardly alone – that overlaps with followers of both Left and so called Right doctrines. Nevertheless, an assault on conscience does not warrant an assault on the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution expressly stated the answer to the Pandora’s Box of abortion. Silence is Golden. Some things you do to yourself, your body, your soul, already imply the demise of your un-born and un-named. Such acts, spiritually or physically – are between you and your maker. Humans are flawed. It’s natural. “Human nature cannot be changed,” – Abraham Lincoln. Natural Law, unlike so called “scientific law” entitles us to perfect rights, to life, liberty, prosperity. Our property, the extension of the property that is bodies, is the hallmark of these liberties. Science is a work in progress. It is, therefore, in its authoritarianism, no less toxic or dangerous to our human rights, civil liberties, and Constitutional rights than Religious dogma. How we choose to grow or devolve is a matter of conscience, personal choice, and Rule of Law – NOT “RULE BY LAW” as China does. Scientific Dictatorships are not somehow, “humane.” Those who seek perfection in others, those who strive to “restrict” or coerce their fellow citizens, should have a look in the mirror if they want to see the “Empirical” evidence that “Evil” exists. The “road to Hell is paved… etc.” Hence, Jefferson aptly pointed out that “in questions of power … let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution”–KENTUCKY RESOLUTIONS (1798) And that quote speaks to a whole host of issues, don’t it?

    Many of our modern problems were resolved two centuries ago. Intellectual sloth is our own worst enemy, and Fanatical Sloth on the Right OR Left is the most destructive “sin” when it comes to preserving the brilliance of our Constitution and the sanctity of our Liberty.

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  17. In keeping with the spirit of Josh’s original post, perhaps we’d all be better served by finding areas of agreement. While I am staunchly pro-choice, I would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions per year. Let’s work together to find areas of agreement.

    I have a question for individuals like Lesley. Imagine your standing outside an vitro fertilization clinic that is on fire. You run into the lobby and this is what you see. In one room, there is a mobile freezer that holds 11 fertiized eggs. If you don’t move quickly, those eggs will be destroyed. In the other room, there is a nursery with 10 small children. If you don’t move quickly, they will die. Here’s the problem. You can either save the fertilized eggs (i.e., eleven human lives by your accounting) or the 10 small children. What do you do?

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  18. I have a question for PoliSciProf;

    Imagine your standing outside a quick care clinic that is on fire. You run into the lobby and this is what you see. In one room, there is a group of 11 elderly patients in wheelchairs. If you don’t move quickly, these elderly patients in wheelchairs will die. In the other room, there is a nursery with 10 small children. If you don’t move quickly, they will die. Here’s the problem. You can either save the elderly patients, (still eleven human lives by anyones accounting) or the 10 small children. What do you do?

    Same argument, different subjects, someone still dies.

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  19. Josh, first I agree. Don’t take down the site. I have been looking for something like this for a long time.

    But folks, aren’t we missing a key point in this discussion?

    The Constitution doesn’t give the government the right to restrict the individual. It gives the individual the right to restrict government.

    Place it in historical context. The founding fathers had just completed an awful, bloody war. Why? All because the government was taxing them without representing them. They saw this as tyranny.

    Thus they created a government “of” and “by” the people. If they wanted government to restrict the individual, they already had that.

    To read more about the writings of the founding fathers, go to http://www.constitution.org.

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  20. “The Constitution doesn’t give the government the right to restrict the individual.”

    Don, that’s exactly the type of fast rhetoric that I was initially complaining about. To take just one example, the Constitution gives Congress the right “To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States”. That seems pretty clearly where the government takes away a right (the right to make objects look like however you want them to look).

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  21. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for the response. I believe that this type of exchange is quite helpful in forming solid, health public policy.

    Let me preface this by saying I am not trying to be patronizing in my response. I am simply trying to set the background by which the Constitution should be understood. And I know that this blog will be read by other people who may not be as informed as you, Josh. So no offense intended.

    And now to the debate: I’m not really clear what is “fast” about the rhetoric. But you can clarify that when you have the time.

    My point is this: it is very clear in the writings of the founding fathers that they were not big fans of government. Rather they felt it was a necessary evil to be endured for the protection of the individual’s rights. This protection came in the form of the military (against foreign nations), the rule of law, and the court system (against the government as well as other citizens).

    They believed that “all men are created equal” and should have the opportunity to pursue life, liberty (freedom) and happiness as much or as little as the individual chose. Consequently, they set up a system by which individuals should interact with each other and the government.

    If you look at the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments), it is abundantly clear that these were included to restrict government from infringing on the rights of the individual. There shouldn’t be any debate here. http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am1

    Now, I do agree the example you pointed out was a restriction on the individual. But for what purpose? There is a pattern of the government restricting the individual no further than is required to keep the individual from infringing on the rights of other citizens. In other words, the reason the government is allowed to keep people from creating counterfeit money is that it is stealing. One individual doesn’t have the right to infringe on the personal property rights of another. And the governments job is to make sure “the rules of the game” are fair, and that the rules are enforced.

    One last point, and I will step away from the podium. The government does need to be restricted. Because they are the only one’s in our country who have the power to force people against their will. The people with the bigger weapons have the power. It’s as simple as that. And the founding fathers knew it, and restricted the legal use of that power.

    Thanks for the discussion. Have a great day.

    Don

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  22. I was hoping for a response. Maybe I haven’t given it enough time (as if your sole responsibility in life is to see who comments on your blog and then respond). Or you may be tired of the discussion. Either way, no harm, no foul.

    Nevertheless, I will take the discussion to the next step, even if it is one sided.

    The title of this blog is “Seeing the other person’s side.” And the message for the uncompromising, pro-life folks was, “Look. You’re being difficult. Can’t you set your blind conviction aside to consider for a moment other people’s opinion on the subject?” Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was the underlying point.

    Well, as a pro-lifer (yes, I am revealing my bias), I would argue, it is you who are pro-choice that either do not understand or do not care about our perspective. You may disagree, so let me do my best to prove it.

    The main objection to banning abortion is, “No one has the right tell a woman what to do with her body,” right? The reason, supporters are called “Pro-Choice” is that the support a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body.

    I get it! And I agree. For example, it really irritates me that the government tells me I must wear my seat belt or I will be fined if I get caught. How does my choice not to wear a seat belt effect anyone else’s property, body, or freedom? It doesn’t. I am the only one impacted by not wearing a seat belt (aside from the grief people who love me might feel if I were killed). The severity of an accident would not be affected to any significant degree if I didn’t have my seat belt on. It’s my body; I should be able to choose what to do with it. And if I get really messed up in an accident by not wearing it, then that’s my fault and I should deal with the consequences. So I get the whole argument of Pro-choice supporters.

    What pro-choice supporters either ignore or don’t understand is that we are not trying to limit the mother’s freedom; that’s not our objective. Rather we are trying to protect the rights of what we feel is a living, separate U.S. Citizen inside her uterus. And as such, that fetus deserves all the protections that every born citizen is entitled to, namely the right to life.

    Why we are so uncompromising in our efforts is this issue is a moral issue. It’s not like the economy, for example, where it’s just a choice between ideologies (capitalist vs. socialist), where the issue is a matter of determining what course of action will reach our ultimate objective the best. We can compromise on issue like that and come to consensus. But on moral issues, how do you compromise without sacrificing your values? If I knew how, I would consider it.

    Let me draw a historical comparison. Once upon a time in our nation’s history, we allowed slavery, right? And much of the southern economy was absolutely dependant on it existence. Many people didn’t like it. Some chose not to participate. But for the most part, it was left up to the individual to decide whether or not to own slaves.

    Abolitionists stood before Congress for years declaring that slavery was an injustice that should not be tolerated in a country that was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” How could we say this to be true, and yet allow slavery to exist inside our borders? It was a contradiction in principles.

    After a really long time, our nation’s conscience was awaked to recognize that slavery wasn’t just some personal issue; it was a moral issue (regardless of your religion). Fellow human beings were being forced against their wills to submit to their master’s will. And we finally said, in this country we will not permit this abuse of anyone’s basic human rights, period. End of discussion.

    Pro-lifers feel the exact same way about the fetus. We have concluded that this is a living, separate human being. And what is being done to these U.S. Citizens is a violation of there constitutional rights. It’s not a personal issue. It’s not a state issue. It’s a moral issue, and therefore should be federally prohibited.

    I am absolutely in favor of any person, male or female, being able to do whatever they wish to there own bodies. Absolutely. Have at it. But I am absolutely opposed to any person doing something to someone else’s body that is not welcomed. It’s a violation of their basic human rights. Such is the case with abortion.

    To PoliSciProf’s point, a little consistency would be nice. If the fetus is living and a U.S Citizen, then fertilized eggs in a Petri dish are too. And coming from my view point, SINCE fetuses are living, then we need to deal with some other issues as well.

    I do not support the destruction of fertilized eggs, whether it is throwing them in the trash or stem cell research. If fact, I question whether we should be making them in the first place. I also don’t use or support the use of any type of birth control that allows eggs to be fertilized but not implanted. That to me seems morally wrong (again, religious beliefs are irrelevant here).

    In the spirit of consistency, if abortion is not the destruction of another human life, then as Brian pointed out, then it isn’t a double homicide when a mother and a fetus are killed together; at worst, it’s just a more sever assault of the mother since the fetus is just an extension of the mother. Consistency is needed; you can’t have it both ways.

    If Pro-Choice supporters really understood our perspective, they would spend no energy on trying to convince us that we are close minded, religion fanatics just trying to legislate religion. Rather they would spend their efforts trying to prove that life starts after a baby is born. Only then, would I have a to set aside my conviction on the issue.

    As much as I would like to find a compromise (and I had tried over the last 15 yrs), I have been unable to do so. If my opinion is not popular and you want to call me narrow minded and uninterested in unity, then so be it. But understand this: just as I would fight without compromise for your Constitution rights, I will do the same for the fetus. And I can’t compromise my principles any more than the Abolitionist could on the issue of slavery. You’re opinion of me is your choice (see, I am pro-choice).

    I hope this discussion helps you understand the other side a little better.

    Thanks for taking the time to listen to my thoughts.

    Don

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  23. Don, ok, my response-

    For your first post, which was about the role of the constitution and rights, the question is really about the abstract issues in who gives who rights in society and what the purpose of government is. You said of the government, “Because they are the only one’s in our country who have the power to force people against their will.” This is what I was saying, in fact. The constitution creates exactly that authority (among other things). I wasn’t objecting to everything you were saying, only standing by the point that the constitution does (again, among other things) give the government explicitly the power to “force people” etc. as you put it. The constitution gives the government the right to restrict the individual.

    Your second post is about abortion. You wrote “And the message for the uncompromising, pro-life folks was, ‘Look. You’re being difficult. Can’t you set your blind conviction aside to consider for a moment other people’s opinion on the subject?’ Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was the underlying point.”.

    That’s not quite it, no. The point was about rhetoric. The point is to be honest when you speak and to work off of a common ground understanding of the problem. Words like “murder” and “life” are in a sense loaded because the two sides of the argument will disagree that they even apply. One has to start the discussion earlier. “Kill” and “human cell” are a bit better. It’s easier to agree on what it means to kill something than what it means to murder something because murder involves killing PLUS judgment.

    The rest of your post (and the earlier other posts on abortion) are not really on topic, but I enjoy a good debate.

    You wrote: “The main objection to banning abortion is, ‘No one has the right tell a woman what to do with her body,’ right?”

    I honestly don’t know what most people would say the bottom line is. But I think it can be understood a bit like this: Let’s say that we can identify individuals and assign them rights. Adults have certain rights, children have certain rights but different rights, newborns have certain rights, and pre-born humans (going back to a single cell if you like) (may) have rights. Now as in many cases in life, sometimes one person’s rights conflict with another’s. My right to be loud on my property might conflict with your right to have peace on your property. We can’t both exercise our right at the same time, so we turn to the legal system to establish some middle ground that we think is fair. The middle ground isn’t ever based on some divine principle. It’s ad hoc; it’s the best we can do. Now what happens with the fetus’s right to life (if we grant that) comes into conflict with the mother’s right to life (in a dire case)? In the case of rape victims, we have the mother’s right to not undergo a very painful experience. They didn’t choose to give birth. Is the life of the baby more important than not making the woman suffer? It’s an open question. It’s not self-evident.

    To put it in technical terms, there are two degrees of freedom in this problem. One the one hand, we can debate what the rights are of the different types of individuals. (I personally think that an embryo has no rights, especially if it is not going to be cared for by parents (i.e. it’s for research), but I am willing to compromise on that.) The second degree of freedom is what to do when the rights come into conflict.

    “But on moral issues, how do you compromise without sacrificing your values? If I knew how, I would consider it.”

    You have to accept that law is not the same thing as morality, and you have to accept that reasonable people can disagree about morality.

    It is somewhat awkward being in my position. Obviously the same argument applied in the case of slavery. There are reasons why I think this case is different, but I am not sure if it’s categorically different. In the case of slavery, the moral judgment was based on something simply false: that there were two races that were different in essential ways. In the case of abortion, it is clear that an embryo differs from an adult in essential ways. For instance, we give children fewer rights (say, to live alone) because they are immature. Thus, we all agree that maturity is necessary for some rights. Now, an embryo is even less mature. It stands to reason it may have fewer rights.

    “Rather they would spend their efforts trying to prove that life starts after a baby is born.”

    But what is “life”? It’s a label, and it’s arbitrary. There’s nothing for either side to prove.

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  24. Hey Josh,

    I will follow your lead, and just respond to sections of your response. Here goes.

    You Say: The constitution creates exactly that authority (among other things). I wasn’t objecting to everything you were saying, only standing by the point that the constitution does (again, among other things) give the government explicitly the power to “force people” etc. as you put it. The constitution gives the government the right to restrict the individual.

    I Say: Sure, there is an appropriate role of government (I’m not an anarchist). As I said before, the role of government is to make sure the “rules of the game are fair,” and that the rules are enforced. I will be happy to concede the point as long as you agree that the Constitution places a limit on how far the government can restrict the individual, specifically that the government is only allowed to restrict the individual when that individual is infringing on the rights of another individual.

    You Say: Words like “murder” and “life” are in a sense loaded because the two sides of the argument will disagree that they even apply. One has to start the discussion earlier. “Kill” and “human cell” are a bit better.

    I Say: I would argue that the inability to agree on these terms is the essence of the issue. This conflict of terms is a perfect illustration of the differences in world view. For you to say “murder” sounds too strong. For me to say “kill” isn’t strong enough. This is exactly the point. I agree that if we could agree on the terms, the discussion would be much less difficult.

    You Say: The rest of your post (and the earlier other posts on abortion) are not really on topic, but I enjoy a good debate.

    I Say: Says you =).

    You Say: I honestly don’t know what most people would say the bottom line is.

    I Say: That’s a fair statement. In light of your comment, I don’t either.

    You Say: We can’t both exercise our right at the same time, so we turn to the legal system to establish some middle ground that we think is fair. The middle ground isn’t ever based on some divine principle.

    I Say: The founding fathers and I couldn’t disagree more. And I quote: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It means what it says; there are certain, specific rights that are granted to humans by their Creator and are not subject to what any law says. Of those is the right to life.

    You Say: Now what happens with the fetus’s right to life (if we grant that) comes into conflict with the mother’s right to life (in a dire case)? In the case of rape victims, we have the mother’s right to not undergo a very painful experience.

    I Say: I am a little less dogmatic when it comes to the life of a mother vs. the life of the fetus; I have never been in that situation, and being male, never will; so that issue is debatable for me. But in the case of rape: there is no comparison. The life of the fetus/child vs. the pain experience of the mother? This question doesn’t seem legitimate. Adoption is a great alternative.

    You Say: You have to accept that law is not the same thing as morality, and you have to accept that reasonable people can disagree about morality.

    I Say: Although I agree with your statement, there are certain moral issues that supersede the law, as discussed above. It is unacceptable to deny life to someone because the law says so, or the morality of someone else allows for it, however reasonable that person may be. It’s not about whether or not the majority of the population agrees. That’s irrelevant. Life is an unalienable right.

    You Say: In the case of abortion, it is clear that an embryo differs from an adult in essential ways. For instance, we give children fewer rights (say, to live alone) because they are immature. Thus, we all agree that maturity is necessary for some rights. Now, an embryo is even less mature. It stands to reason it may have fewer rights.

    I Say: I have two points: first, the issue isn’t just about being different from what we consider the “normal adult,” because that is a slippery slope. What do you do with the mentally and physically challenged? Do they have fewer/different rights because they are different from the “adult?” If the standard is “less developed than the adult,” who decides? And do you really want to open that Pandora’s Box?

    Secondly, granted there are different rights for children than adults, even convicts and law-abiding citizens. But I am talking about very specific rights, namely the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are in a category all to themselves. They are inherent in being human and are not subject to the law or the opinion of the masses.

    You Say: But what is “life”? It’s a label, and it’s arbitrary. There’s nothing for either side to prove.

    I Say: Of course, I disagree. But I’m not sure how to argue this point without just saying, “I disagree.”

    Josh, thanks for the response.

    Don

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  25. After some thought, I misspoke when saying I don’t know how to argue the last point.

    Is determining what is living and not living truly arbitrary, as you say (I assume that “life” and “living” are interchangeable since they come from the same route)? Would we say a rock is living? How about a corpse? The answer is obviously, “no.” Consequently, there must be some criteria by which we measure whether something has life. My guess is it has to do with biochemical activity; but a biologist is more qualified than me to list out the criteria. Nevertheless, there must be some standard otherwise life couldn’t be measured and biology wouldn’t be a science. It can’t be arbitrary as you say.

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  26. There are different ways you could define “life”, and probably different aspects of science (let alone the wider world) use different definitions. For example, one could base it on the presence of cells. That would include plants, bacteria, and animals. That is, I think, a common definition in life sciences. But one could invent any definition, and it may not be the biologist’s definition that agrees with your morality. You don’t assign special status to bacteria. So then you have to go refining the definition. Does it depend on the presence of human DNA, and what exactly does that mean? You have to account for the fact people don’t have identical DNA and there are people with extra or too few chromosomes (they’ve got a different amount of DNA), and you have to account for lab-grown human tissue which would be cells with human DNA but probably wouldn’t be considered a human. For that matter, skin cells that flake off the body normally would fit that definition but is not deserving of special moral status.

    You can certainly refine the definition to get closer to what you think makes sense. Personally I find chemical definitions like this unsatisfying. The presence of a brain seems to be pretty important, for instance. Without a brain, there is no real individual in the body — there’s no one that can be thinking or feeling, exercising rights, and no one for me to empathize with. So then you have to think about how to work that in to the definition.

    Now you’re at the point where people can start to reasonably disagree. Is a brain necessary for special moral status? I can see how one might say no. The fertilized egg has no brain (and so you can infer my position on).

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  27. Hi Josh,

    Before we stray too far of topic, the Constitution doesn’t apply to anything beyond human life. Clearly, that doesn’t mean that humans are the only living things. So the definition of “life” may not directly apply to the discussion. Nevertheless, it should be a fairly objective process to determine if human tissue is living.

    And as a side note, the presence of a brain is not a necessary component to determine something is living. There are living organisms that do not have a brain structure, particularly single-cell organisms.

    Furthermore, at one point in our existence, we were both a mass of human cells and did not have a brain. The issue concerning abortion is that it disrupts the natural process by which a fetus obtains the physical characteristics that you would use to classify it as a living human, and therefore deserving of Constitutional protection. If left alone, the fetus will develop into a fully functioning human. The logical conclusion is that abortion is the destruction of human life.

    As an analogy, if I went into an auto factory in Michigan and found a partially assembled truck and took a cutting torch to it, I would most likely be prosecuted for destroying the truck, not just the components of the truck that were already assembled. The company just lost the ability to produce a truck. In its place is a pile of scrap metal.

    Although your response is thought provoking, I’m not sure it applies to the Constitution issues surrounding abortion.

    Thanks,
    Don

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  28. The Constitution doesn’t refer to life at all, so far as I remember. If it had, they certainly would have had a different biological definition of human life than we have now.

    As far as brains, what I’m saying is that the biological definition of life involving cells has nothing to do with my moral system and probably not many people’s, and, from a religious perspective, how would you know that the biologists are the ones that came up with the definition that matches God’s?

    Then there’s the question of “potential”. Here, if anyone doesn’t agree that reasonable people can disagree, there is a serious problem. If I tell you that potential to become human means nothing to me, does that mean we are forever going to argue? Let’s say, the vast majority of people reproduce. Left to our own devices, we will find a mate and make babies. It’s virtually guaranteed. It’s the natural way of life. Does that mean any death is destruction of future human life? If you think that was crazy, give me the benefit of the doubt. Why do you choose the moment of conception (if you do) as the point where the potential is somehow guaranteed? A few minutes before or after is not much different- the probability a baby is going to result is a little less, or a little more, but it’s not categorically different. I can understand some extrinsic significance; I can understand why some people would choose that moment to confer special moral status. I hope you can understand why I, for instance, do not choose that moment, or any other moment, and not think any less of me.

    And for the truck hypothetical, I don’t think so. I would bet that the perpetrator would be jailed for trespass and fined the fair value of the vehicle as built, not the MSRP sticker price of the final vehicle. One would have to look for some legal precedent to know.

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  29. Hi Josh,

    Technically, you are correct. The Constitution does not refer to life. However, one can hardly argue that the principles mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, which I have referenced, did not guide and were not meant to be captured in the Constitution. Given the context of historical documents, that was the intent.

    I’m not sure “potential” really captures the point I’m trying to make. Let me borrow a term from nuclear physics. Conception is much like “critical mass.” It’s the threshold of self-perpetuation, a point of no return, if you will. Up to the point of conception, no human being would form without that final critical step. However, at the point of conception, everything needed to develop a fully functioning human being is present, and given enough time, a human will form (I assume here we are excluding conditions that would lead to spontaneous abortion). That is why I believe conception is when human life begins. No other point in embryonic development seems as fitting.

    Since you reject conception as the beginning of human life, at what point to you say it takes place, and why?

    As a side note, I don’t think less of people because I disagree with them and visa versa. I have made a personal decision to not question someone’s sincerity when discussing these types of issue. You don’t have to answer to me for what you believe; I am not you judge. I find it much more productive when everyone evaluates their own intellectual honestly. If you truly believe what you say, then so be it. I find that I have enough to worry about keeping myself honest and maintaining my integrity. I trust others to do the same.

    I will be out of town for the next week, so I doubt I will be able to respond until I get back.

    Have a great day,
    Don

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  30. What about choice for MEN?

    Why are women allowed a second chance to absolve themselves of the consequence of an ill-conceived sexual union, but men are not? Is this “equality”?

    Spare me the “my body” crap – men are routinely forced to keep dangerous jobs because of CS obligations. Roe v. Wade said a man cannot force a woman to be a mother for 9 months, yet women routinely force men into slavery for 6 years.

    (1/3 of my income for 18 years is equivalent to ALL of it for 6 years.)

    Where’s your “equality” now?

    If she wants it dead, it gets sucked into the sink. If HE causes her to miscarry when she didn’t want to, it’s MURDER. How does this make sense?

    Where’s your “equality” now?

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  31. Don & Josh…enjoyed your exchange. Let me just add one thought for consideration on the Constitutional.

    Concerning restricting people’s rights, the Constitution grants police powers to the states, which is why the federal government does not prosecute murder, unless the context of the murder violates in some way a federal statute.

    Which, in my mind, points to the error in Roe…a quick trampling of the states’ right to regulate the activity of its people.

    Keep in mind, the Constitution allowed for states to have a state religion, with SCOTUS quoting Jefferson’s Danbury letter in, I believe, Everson, rather than a Constitutional provision.

    The reason, I believe, that this was acceptable to the founders, is that, as Americans, we have freedom of movement in and out of the states. In short, if you don’t like it…move.

    So, there, I think, is the premise for overruling Roe…not on one side or the other winning the argument.

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  32. Hi Dan,

    Welcome to the fray!

    Interesting point. States rights are an issue we haven’t really discussed.

    It begs the question: since civil rights laws are federal, did the federal government overstep its bounds by regulating these issues? Where these laws constitutionally-sound decisions? If so, then how is the abortion issue any different?

    Whatever we decide as a nation, I think consistency is a beautiful thing. It angers folks like me when you have it both ways. I say, make the rules fair, and then play by and enforce the rules. It’s that simple.

    Looking forward to your response.
    Don

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  33. Thanks for the site but no thanks for the opinion. To criticize a woman because you don’t like the way she worded a question is overly petty.

    I understand your position but simple logic and compassion would’ve deduced her thought process and would’ve avoided any criticism.

    As far as the abortion debate goes, I find it honorable that pro-life people value human life and see its potential yet I think it’s ironic that they’re criticized for such honor.

    Finally, to answer the question “when does life begin?”: it began thousands of years ago whether you believe in evolution or Adam and Eve. Life is in a constant continuum and if it stopped we’d be a rock or a void.

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  34. This post above is ripe for the picking, I can’t resist…

    — Thanks for the site but no thanks for the opinion. To criticize a woman because you don’t like the way she worded a question is overly petty. —

    The blog post is directed at the choice of words used. Kind of how you chose to say “criticizing a woman” as if being a “woman” had something to do with it. This isn’t a personal attack on “a woman” or “women” in general as you appear to insinuate.

    — I understand your position but simple logic and compassion would’ve deduced her thought process and would’ve avoided any criticism. —

    In case you missed it, the choice of words by the submitter was “Why does anyone think our government has the right to allow women to murder their children?” Why not say they have the right to murder their family members? It’s all true right? That’s okay because it supports your pro-life stance. The reader is at fault for not using logic and compassion, not the guy or girl who is writing the words. You clearly have double-standards and bias.

    — As far as the abortion debate goes, I find it honorable that pro-life people value human life and see its potential yet I think it’s ironic that they’re criticized for such honor. —

    Yes, as if “pro-life people” are a specific type of people, who can all be thought of as honorable for their position. And “pro-choice people,” just the opposite. The pro-choice fireman who saves lives can not be as honorable as the pro-life abortion clinic bomber. Because pro-life people value human life more. It’s just a fact of the abortion debate.

    — Finally, to answer the question “when does life begin?”: it began thousands of years ago whether you believe in evolution or Adam and Eve. Life is in a constant continuum and if it stopped we’d be a rock or a void.

    What does evolution have to do with when life began? They have nothing to do with each other. I think you may have been referring to human life, in which case evolution has everything to do with it, as you would have to make a distinction between human and animal.

    The only thing that separates us from other animals is our intelligence. Other than that, we are the same flesh and blood, oxygen needing, food eating creatures. I personally believe that killing any living thing is morally wrong, including plants and insects, but I also believe that being wrong is sometimes acceptable because of the different paradigms of law we live in.

    There is natural law, law of survival, adaptation, there are our own morals and beliefs, there are societal morals, beliefs and laws, religious laws, etc. So what is considered wrong may be wrong in one context, but right in another. Right and wrong is based on the context, and it just so happens an event may take place in multiple contexts at once. Right and wrong is also subjective, even with a unanimous opinion, it is still just an opinion, not a fact. So you can’t be “right” debates regarding life and death. You can only have a more popularly shared belief.

    There is a time and place for everything, including using words such as “murder their children.” For example, if I wish to whip my supporters at a pro-choice rally into a frenzy, I think those words would be appropriate. But in the case of contacting someone you don’t know and using such graphic words without knowing how they stand on such an issue, is hardly appropriate and not proper etiquette to say the least, and can be actually very offensive. I stand by the blogger’s position on this one.

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  35. The think I do not get about prolifers is once that precious life is saved they wipe their hands clean of the issues that follow. Who will watch after a baby born to a mother who would rather have an abortion? Where does socieites responsibilty begin and end with the thousands of childern they want to save?
    The prolifers do a quick about face and start the complaint that its not their responsibilty to pay higher taxes to support the poor. When they come up with a plan to oversee the mental , physical and educational health of the childern they want to save I will be behind their cause. Until then I do believe its a womans right to choose!

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  36. People do not want to see the other person’s side. People want to do whatever they feel like. This is why Roe v Wade manipulated women who barely knew what was happening, doctor’s lied and later admitted it, and liberals are scared to death this would came back to the Supreme Court: the thing in the belly has a beating heart and sonagrams show it is not just a blob. The real questions involve: what is truth? and does stopping a beating heart constitute murder in every circumstance?

    Bottom line: People do not really care.

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