Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Writing on the Wall? More on the Victorian Abortion Debate



Matthias reminded me of these words from the prophet Daniel in a combox comment below. I will admit that once, when I was particularly upset by a particular decision of a particular authority, I was tempted simply to copy these words onto a blank sheet of paper and send it as an anonymous letter - and to leave it to him to figure out what on earth it meant. I enjoyed the thought of his final discovery of the meaning after going to all the trouble of finding a Hebrew scholar to tell him what the words were.

In any case, the writing could indeed be on the wall for this government if it continues to ignore what even today's editorial in The Age acknowledges to be "the deep divisions in the community" over the issue of abortion.

The Age has made no secret of its support for legalised abortion, but even its editors realise that this bill will either be defeated in the Upper House or rejected in a legal challenge after it is passed due to the "coercion of conscience" clauses:
It is not necessary to coerce conscience in this way in order to decriminalise abortion. Indeed, such coercion may make the goal harder to achieve, because of the deep divisions in the community over abortion. Some argue that to remove the clause from the bill would deny the right of patients to full information, but information about pregnancy termination services is already widely available, and its availability will not diminish when abortion is decriminalised. What would diminish, though, is the respect in which the rights of conscience have hitherto been held — a respect that is an integral part of a flourishing liberal democracy.
It does surprise me, however, that this editorial can speak about "achieving the goal" of legalised abortion while at the same time recognising "the deep divisions in the community". Make no mistake about it, folks, democracy (meaning outright and simple majority) is being used to push through the views of one group of people one side of this "deep division" at the expense of another group of people on the other side. There is no consensus in our community on this issue.

Interestingly, however, the editorial REJECTS Mr Hull's attempt to "explain away" the concerns of Archbishop Hart about the "conscience" issue:
According to Mr Hulls, this section "doesn't mean you refer (the patient) to someone who will perform an abortion. You refer (her) to someone who doesn't have the ethical dilemma that doctor has." ...The Attorney-General apparently maintains that the bill will not effectively change the legal obligations of doctors. A plain reading of the bill, however, does not support that interpretation. On the contrary, the concerns raised by the archbishop, the CEOs of Victoria's 15 Catholic hospitals and the Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Douglas Travis, appear to be well founded.


In an Op-Ed piece on the same page ("Playing Politics with Lives"), Anne O'Rourke of Liberty Victoria adopts the "Nancy Pelosi" approach to Catholic Doctrine:
The view that a foetus is a human being from conception is very new in Catholic history. It was not until the late 1800s that the Catholic Church adopted the belief that the embryo acquires a soul at conception. There was no previous general consensus on abortion. Many of the church fathers, such as St Augustine and St Jerome, believed that the soul could not enter the body of an unformed foetus, so abortion was not considered wrong until "ensoulment" occurred. Catholic lay opinion or "individual Catholic conscience" also differs markedly from the relatively recent position of the church hierarchy.
We need not comment further on that.

What we will comment on though, is an expression used in one of today's Letters to the Editor, by one Gavin R. Putland of Dandenong. Gavin is writing in opposition to the Bill, but this is how he explains the Church's moral objection to abortion:
The decriminalisation of abortion, while disturbing to many people for many reasons, is at least consistent with secularity. But Victoria's latest abortion bill would go beyond that; it would compel Catholic doctors - and any other doctors who accept the personhood of the foetus as an article of faith [my emphasis]- to act against their consciences.
This seems to be exactly the point that Perry et aliter have been arguing in recent comments: that the issue is not the humanity of the foetus, but the "personhood", and that the moral objection is to the killing of a "person" not a human being.

Now this is a very pernicious turn of the cards, if I may say so. As countless US Bishops pointed out to Senator Biden, the fact that the foetus is an individual human being from the time of conception is NOT "an article of faith", but a scientific fact. But of course, if we change the issue to whether that "clump of cells" (with their own individual human gene code) is a "person" or not, then we come down to something which is not even "an article of faith", but a mere "article of opinion", based not upon reason or objective reality but mere preference for how one personally desires to define "personhood".

For the record, the Church does not have a dogmatic "article of faith" about "personhood" (except in relation to the persons of the Holy Trinity, of course). As far as I know, the Church does not even have an "opinion" on the matter. What it recognises (and this on the basis of the best science available to us today) is that from conception the foetus is A HUMAN BEING. This is not something for your conscience to choose. It is a fact.

Now the Church has always held (in fact, universal human society has always held) that it is wrong to kill another HUMAN BEING. What we are seeing today is a uniquely post-modern take on the fifth commandment, reinterpreting it to say "Thou shalt not kill a person", where every individual gets to determine for him or herself what a "person" is. Once we accept this line of reasoning, we are not far away from defining other extra-utero human beings as non-persons and removing their legal right to life as well.

[In fact, imagine the difficulty that would arise if technology were to advance to the stage that we could grow a baby from a test tube without ever implanting it in a mother's womb. Horrible thought, but it would raise the question of when this child was "born" and became a "person".]

P.S. Yesterday's Poll in The Age eventually turned out like this:

Should Catholic hospitals be forced to comply with the new abortion laws?

Yes - 45% No - 55% Total Votes: 2466

I would say that was a fairly clear indication of division in the community, wouldn't you?

28 Comments:

At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:47:00 pm , Blogger Athanasius said...

"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin"? One of my favourite Old Testament stories!

 
At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:51:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

Now the Church has always held (in fact, universal human society has always held) that it is wrong to kill another HUMAN BEING.

Is that accurate? For most of my life I thought the commandment was 'Thou shalt not kill', but I believe it is more accurately stated as 'Thou shalt not murder'.

I'm not sure either that the wrongness of killing another human being was something that was universally accepted. Again, the term 'murder' is surely more accurate?

What we are seeing today is a uniquely post-modern take on the fifth commandment, reinterpreting it to say "Thou shalt not kill a person", where every individual gets to determine for him or herself what a "person" is. Once we accept this line of reasoning, we are not far away from defining other extra-utero human beings as non-persons and removing their legal right to life as well.

I interpret 'person' in this context as 'legally entitled to life' or maybe 'legally entitled to not be killed'. Societies surely have to define this?

[In fact, imagine the difficulty that would arise if technology were to advance to the stage that we could grow a baby from a test tube without ever implanting it in a mother's womb. Horrible thought, but it would raise the question of when this child was "born" and became a "person".]

Surely that makes defining 'person' important?

I would say that was a fairly clear indication of division in the community, wouldn't you?

Not really. It's quite possible, for example, that a significant number of pro-choicers voted 'no' because they didn't support anyone being 'forced'.

I think the poll reflects the views of those willing to respond to polls with loaded questions. No more, no less.

Another poll (the next day I think) reflects this even better. It asked, something like, 'do you think Kevin Rudd is spending too much time overseas?'. You can imagine the Rudd haters and the politicial haters clicking 'yes' with some glee. It's hard to imagine those who don't think he's spending too much time overseas sharing that kind of zeal though.

Finally,

I enjoyed the thought of his final discovery of the meaning after going to all the trouble of finding a Hebrew scholar to tell him what the words were.

Is this a kind of anticipated schadenfreude? ;-)

 
At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 1:30:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

This seems to be exactly the point that Perry et aliter have been arguing in recent comments: that the issue is not the humanity of the foetus, but the "personhood", and that the moral objection is to the killing of a "person" not a human being.

Now this is a very pernicious turn of the cards, if I may say so. As countless US Bishops pointed out to Senator Biden, the fact that the foetus is an individual human being from the time of conception is NOT "an article of faith", but a scientific fact. But of course, if we change the issue to whether that "clump of cells" (with their own individual human gene code) is a "person" or not, then we come down to something which is not even "an article of faith", but a mere "article of opinion", based not upon reason or objective reality but mere preference for how one personally desires to define "personhood".


Look, I think this person/human being distinction is a bit of a red herring.

It is true that scientists affirm that the embryo is “human” as an objective, empirical fact, and this is not therefore a matter of opinion, or faith, or values. But the scientists who affirm this are using “human” in a different sense from the sense in which you use it, David.

We can see this because the scientists would also affirm that a sperm cell or an egg is, for exactly the same reasons, “human”. But when you describe the embryo as human, you mean that it is human in a way that sperm cells and eggs are not.

In other words, we have a biological sense of humanity, which is shared by embryos, sperm cells, eggs and more besides, and we have an ethical, philosophical, theological or what you will sense of humanity, which is narrower. The fact that we use the same term for them doesn’t mean that they are the same. On the contrary, it obscures in an unhelpful way the fact that they are different – which is why, on the whole, I prefer “person”. But I’ve no objection to the term “human being”, provided that it is accepted that we do not demonstrate empirically that an embryo is a “human being”, with the ethical consequences that that entails, simply by showing that it is (a) biologically human, and (b) alive.

But, as I say, it’s a red herring. Whether we use the term “person” or “human being” or any other term, there is never going to be scientific, empirical proof of the ethical consequence; that the destruction of an embryo is wrong. Science simply does not deal with the question of “right” and “wrong”; it is not competent to. The assertion that the destruction of an embryo is wrong is a matter of value, of faith, of ethics. There is no way around this. Emphasising the scientific humanity of the embryo can look like an attempt to avoid, or distract attention from, this essential step in the argument.

I prefer “person” because it calls attention to this step in the argument. If I use “human being”, I have to either:

- point out every time I use the term that I am saying something more than a scientist would say by using that term, or

- risk being misunderstood.

But provided we are prepared to make that qualification every time, “human being’ is fine with me.

Whichever term we use, we have to address the jumpup from the scientific, empirical characteristics of the embryo to its moral interests, rights, privileges, status. By definition, in doing this we are moving beyond what science can tell us, and if we speak as though this status necessarily or inherently follows from or is an aspect of the “humanity” of the embro, we are plainly using “human” in a moral, not a scientific sense. The humanity of the embryo, in this sense, is indeed a matter of faith, values or philosophy, and not of science.

P.S. Yesterday's Poll in The Age eventually turned out like this:

Should Catholic hospitals be forced to comply with the new abortion laws?

Yes - 45% No - 55% Total Votes: 2466

I would say that was a fairly clear indication of division in the community, wouldn't you?


I’m with Tony on this. Online polls of this kind are never a “fairly clear indication” of anything at all. They should not even be dignified by an attempt to rig them.

 
At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:32:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

We can see this because the scientists would also affirm that a sperm cell or an egg is, for exactly the same reasons, “human”. But when you describe the embryo as human, you mean that it is human in a way that sperm cells and eggs are not.

They do?

Well, assuming they do, I'm sure they would still argue that a newly fertilised ovum is a unique and new human being, with its own DNA etc.

We must stand our ground. We cannot afford to give an inch anywhere.

 
At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:41:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Is that accurate? For most of my life I thought the commandment was 'Thou shalt not kill', but I believe it is more accurately stated as 'Thou shalt not murder'.

I knew that someone would pick me up on this. In fact, the word in Hebrew means simply "kill" and the context has been taken to mean "murder". The "kill" vs. "murder" debate is like the "human being" vs. "person" debate. One is a matter of objective fact the other is a matter of opinion. This is why in a murder trial, no one doubts that someone has been killed; what is to be decided is whether that killing was was "murder".

I actually think my original statement is correct. Civilised society has always recognised that it is wrong to kill a human being. The variation between societies and laws has depended upon the degree to which the "wrongness" of the act of killing can be mitigated by the circumstances. Hence the defence of killing in self-defence, of combatants in war, and of capital punishment. The current laws would add "abortion" to this list of circumstances in which the killing of a human being is "the lesser of two evils".

I interpret 'person' in this context as 'legally entitled to life' or maybe 'legally entitled to not be killed'.

Precisely. YOU interpret. (or as Bernard would say: "It's an irregular declension: I know. YOU interpret. HE/SHE/IT is wrong.") What is to say your interpretation is any better than the next bloke's?

Societies surely have to define this?

No, they do not. They can simply say: EVERY HUMAN BEING is legally entitled to life. Until that is recognised, no-one is safe.

Surely that [my thought experiment] makes defining 'person' important?

No it does not. It demonstrates that the idea of "person" is useless in this circumstance. The idea of "human being" is the only idea that has any indisputable and empirical basis.

And Perry, ol' boy, you have the wrong end of the stick.

I am not saying that the embryo is "human" nor am I saying that it can scientifically be proven to be "human". Blind Freddy knows that.

I am saying that it is a HUMAN BEING. The sperm is not a human being. The egg is not a human being. But from the moment the two interact to cause conception: BINGO: A HUMAN BEING.

A human being is not just a) human, and b) alive. It is an WHOLE AND ENTIRE human being in its own right, with its own genes etc (the fact that these may be shared with a twin in the early stages of development does not for a moment deny the wholeness or entirety of the embryonic human being - it is not individuality which is here the point, but wholeness and entirety).

This is a FACT. A scientific FACT. It needs no further definition or debate. In fact, everyone accepts this fact.

It is insane that we have to even try to define what a "human being" is in this sense. As insane as trying to define what "blue" is. We KNOW.

You are playing linguistic games. I am not using "human" as an adjective, but "human being" as a noun. No-one, not even a scientist, can mistake what is meant by a human being (n.). While you can call BOTH an ENTIRE human being and a PART of a human being "human" (adj.), you cannot call a PART of a human being a "human being" (n.).

 
At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 4:21:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Peregrinus: . . . scientists would also affirm that a sperm cell or an egg is, for exactly the same reasons, “human”.

Louise: They do?


Certainly. In this sense that it is not, e.g., canine or feline, it’s human. It consists of distinctively human cellular material. A forensic scientist, for example, will investigate whether the blood found at the scene of the crime is human blood.

I’m not sure, to pick up on David’s point, that scientists would describe either the sperm cell or the embryo as a “human being”. To call something a “being” is simply to assert that it exists, that it has the quality of existence or essence, and as the natural sciences only deal with things which exist, existence is more or less taken for granted, and rarely stipulated.

If they did use the term “human being”, then they would I think accept that it applies to human embryos, human sperm cells and human fingernail clippings alike, because (a) they are all human, and (b) they all exist. But, as I say, scientists don’t really use the term; once we see “human being” in a text, we are probably looking at a philosophical, theological or literary discussion rather than a scientific one.

I think what we could agree is that scientists would assert that human embryos and sperm cells are possessed of “human life”, whereas fingernail clippings are not. Or they would say that embryos and sperm are “human organisms”, whereas fingernail clippings are not.

If we’re looking for a term that scientists would use and would regard as meaningful, that would include embryos but exclude sperm cells and fingernail clippings, I think “human individual” is probably the closest we are going to come.

But, whatever term we use, we still have to make the leap from accurately describing and naming the empirically-verifiable characteristics of the entity we are discussing to ascribing a particular moral status or significance to it. Science cannot do this for us. Neither, it follows, can the use of the name “human being”, even if we regard that as scientifically established.

 
At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 4:57:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

I knew that someone would pick me up on this.

I knew you'd know ... oh forget it! ;-)


In fact, the word in Hebrew means simply "kill" and the context has been taken to mean "murder".

What context? Taken to mean by whom?

The "kill" vs. "murder" debate is like the "human being" vs. "person" debate. One is a matter of objective fact the other is a matter of opinion. This is why in a murder trial, no one doubts that someone has been killed; what is to be decided is whether that killing was was "murder".

Precisely. You can't murder a sperm or an egg, but you can murder a person. Do we have 'person' status when a sperm fertilizes and egg? Does that status begin the moment the sperm makes contact with the egg or when there is a fusion of genetic material and the cell division begins?

At what point does this entity have moral and legal status as a 'person'?

I actually think my original statement is correct. Civilised society has always recognised that it is wrong to kill a human being.

I don't think it's pedantic of me to point out that that wasn't your original statement. You said, '... universal human society has always held) that it is wrong to kill ...'.

If you're now going to insert 'civilised' into the mix, I'd like to know what society is eligible. Ancient Rome? Ancient Greece? Ancient Eygypt? The British Empire at its height? All of these so-called civilised societies were, IMO, propped up by a foundational notion that some life was cheap: slaves, conquered peoples, non-citizens, minorities, etc.

The variation between societies and laws has depended upon the degree to which the "wrongness" of the act of killing can be mitigated by the circumstances. Hence the defence of killing in self-defence, of combatants in war, and of capital punishment. The current laws would add "abortion" to this list of circumstances in which the killing of a human being is "the lesser of two evils".

I'm not sure that's the case. I'm not sure that the law recognises a pre-born as a 'person' in the sense of recognising abortion as the lesser of two evils.

 
At Wednesday, September 24, 2008 10:42:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

At what point does this entity have moral and legal status as a 'person'?

Forget "legal", forget "person" - Any entity that is a human being (and you have a human being from the moment that that "fusion of genetic material" takes place) has moral dignity as a human being and therefore has a right to life.

End of story. No further discussion is to be entered into.

Well, at least there should not need to be further discusion, but obviously we don't live in the sort of world that figures just because someone is a human being they have the right to be treated with the same dignity as every other human being.

Go figure.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 12:08:00 am , Blogger Louise said...

I'm intrigued, it seems that Perry and Tony are arguing the case for the pro-choicers.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 2:30:00 am , Blogger Jeff Tan said...

Embryology and Genetics will probably give more accurate answers about the humanity of the human embryo. It isn't that they're humans the way human tissue is. Sperm and egg cells would carry the DNA of their source. The human embryo would have unique DNA. Even the law recognizes this as a basis for individuality.

David, I get the feeling that the current debate about Catholic hospitals is itself a detraction from the real problem. Which society has ever really considered the morality of abortion? I'm not even sure if the percentage of serious consideration reaches 50% of the voting public. We're victims of quick (and inaccurate) facts and soundbites. Debating about referrals seems to me already a battle far removed from the enemy's camp. We ought to bring the fight closer and tackle the core of the problem: abortion is wrong. It isn't just the woman's right, it's also the unborn's right. The unborn is not just a mass of tissue: it has its own DNA and is an individual, distinct from the mother. Abortions are perilous to women who have them: mentally as well as physiologically.

With the number of Catholics publicly dissenting from the Catholic faith on abortion is tragic. It can only mean that we need better catechism on this subject.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 6:45:00 am , Blogger Tony said...

Louise,

Below you've had a go at me for 'insinuations'. What is 'it seems that Perry and Tony are arguing the case for the pro-choicers' if not an insinuation?

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 7:18:00 am , Blogger Tony said...

David,

I don't pretend to have a handle on the pro-choice argument. I think it comes down to two positions: that the entity isn't a human being until ...; or that that it is a human being and an abortion is the lesser of two evils. When one or both of those postitions are accepted, it then becomes a 'womens right to choose'.

In my experience the climate of hostility really effects how individuals consider these issues.

The nearest I've been to a direct discussion was a mate of mine who tried to articulate why his partner (in a previous relationship) had an abortion. To cut a long story short, she had been working in a science lab and came to the view that she'd unwittingly exposed herself to dangerous chemicals in the early months of her pregnancy.

Again, I've simplified the story, but she made a moral choice. I sense that it was a difficult choice and one that is still difficult to talk about.

What the 'big picture' climate of hostility does, no matter how much the church says 'love the sinner not the sin', is to characterise women who make these choices as 'murderers'.

The hostility 'poisons the well' of dialogue and works to the benefit of those pushing a pro-choice agenda. I think recent history proves that.

(I know that the church does great things in terms of 'coal face' support for the kind of women who face this kind of choice, but this always seems to be a lesser emphasis.)

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 10:20:00 am , Blogger Arabella-m said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 10:28:00 am , Blogger Arabella-m said...

Peregrinus wrote:

"I think what we could agree is that scientists would assert that human embryos and sperm cells are possessed of “human life”, whereas fingernail clippings are not. Or they would say that embryos and sperm are “human organisms”, whereas fingernail clippings are not."

This is where I believe Peregrinus is somewhat mistaken and David is correct. I have a BSc (biological sciences). The embryo IS an organism. The sperm and unfertilised egg are NOT. The sperm and unfertilised egg are a part of the organism from which they originated. The organism has (or can develop) the ability to act or function 'independently'. Organisms include animals, plants, fungus and micro-organisms e.g. bacteria.

Here is a definition I found elsewhere which seems good: an organism is 'a distinct, self-integrating [individual] internally directing its own growth and already possessing the active capacity to develop itself to further stages of maturity of its own kind'.

Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University (USA), and a proponent of the ('New') Natural Law Theory, supports the pro- life cause using, as a basis, the fact the human embryo is a distinct organism of the human species. This is set out in his book "Embryo: A Defense of Human Life".

http://www.amazon.com/Embryo-Defense-Robert-P-George/dp/0385522827

(You will need to go past the unfavourable editorial review at the top of the linked page to the bottom section see the positive reviews).

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 11:36:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Thanks for this, Arabella. This is where knowledge advances upon opinion.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 12:02:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Louse: “I'm intrigued, it seems that Perry and Tony are arguing the case for the pro-choicers.”

Reread. I’m certainly not arguing the case for pro-choicers; nothing I have written in this thread could possibly be construed as a pro-choice argument.

I’m exploring the pro-life argument. In particular, I’m suggesting that the pro-life argument articulated by David has gaps, and that terminology in which he frames his argument tends to conceal those gaps. My hope is not that David will yield to the irresistible force of my reasoning and abandon his pro-life convictions, but that he will reframe and restate his argument in a way that fills the gaps.

If you see this kind of exploration of pro-life positions as “arguing the case for the pro-choicers”, Louise, it suggests that you don’t have much confidence in the pro-life positions, and don’t think it can survive scrutiny.

Arabella: “This is where I believe Peregrinus is somewhat mistaken and David is correct. I have a BSc (biological sciences). The embryo IS an organism.”

Thank you. I’m very glad to learn from someone who knows more than I do about this.

This gives us two or three terms which embrace people already born and embryos, but exclude sperm, eggs and fingernail clippings; human individual, human organism or – David’s preferred term – human being.

In the end, I don’t think it matters which term we use. David’s essential argument is that, because these entities are accurately described by the same term, they have the same moral status.

David simply asserts this (“Any entity that is a human being . . . has moral dignity as a human being and therefore has a right to life.”) but he makes no attempt to justify or demonstrate it , and in fact refuses to do so (“End of story. No further discussion is to be entered into.”)

But this is not obviously or self-evidently true. As we’ve already seen, sperm and eggs, like embryos and people who have been born, have “human life”, but they don’t have the same moral status. So simply showing that things can be bracketed together in various ways on the basis that they share empirically-verifiable characteristics does not establish that they share the same moral status; very often they don’t.

To complete David’s argument, we need to say why the particular combination of characteristics that make up “organism/being/individual”) has moral implications not shared by the combination of characteristics that make up ‘human” or “life”. David not only fails to do this, but seems to me to assert that it cannot or should not be done. I can only do it with an appeal to faith (n.b. not necessarily to religious faith) but I think this option is not open to David, because he is presenting his position as not faith-based.

As I see it, David is faced with a dilemma. Either he needs to appeal to faith to justify the conclusion that he argues for, or he is left with an argument which is incomplete or incoherent. I’ve very happy for somebody to show me a third way which completes the argument with any reliance on faith, but I don’t, so far, see anyone trying.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 12:55:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

Below you've had a go at me for 'insinuations'. What is 'it seems that Perry and Tony are arguing the case for the pro-choicers' if not an insinuation?

Tony, I only said it "seems" to be the case, because it looks to me as though you are more concerned in battling with other pro-lifers than with taking your message to the pro-choicers and when that kind of thing happens it starts to look like a version of Stockholm Syndrome; where we are more concerned with how we appear before others than with keeping to the pro-life posistion which is simply that "you can't kill people to solve your problems." However we phrase it, we can't let go of that position or we'll just end up becoming pro-choice as other pro-lifers and pro-life agencies have done.

I do not consider that women who have had abortions are really murderers. For a start, the abortionist is the murderer and I have no qualms in describing people who make money out of the process as such. But there are some women out there who have virtually no conscience and are totally hardened; they want to get rid of their baby and they know the baby will be/has been killed and they're really happy that the little bastard is gone. If you don't believe me, go back to that hideous link I put up. Go read Camille Paglia et al - the ones who know it is murder and think it should be permitted anyway. Sure, they're a minority (for now) but with people like Peter Singer around, it may become the majority pro-choice position. And then how will we fight for babies in the womb?

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 1:54:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

Call me precious, but it actually really irritates me when people misspell my name. I'm Louise, not Louse, Perry. I know this is only a combox and I don't care about typos etc, but please be careful about people's names - they're kinda important.

If you see this kind of exploration of pro-life positions as “arguing the case for the pro-choicers”, Louise, it suggests that you don’t have much confidence in the pro-life positions, and don’t think it can survive scrutiny.

No, I have no problem with exploring pro-life or Catholic ideas and I think, on the contrary, that the pro-life position is the more rational as well as moral position.

I have just had some experiences recently, IRL, arguing with people who seem more concerned with how Catholics appear to outsiders than with what is true etc. In short, it's been looking to me lately that we're more concerned with bickering amongst ourselves than trying to get rid of this abortive culture we've got here.

Sorry to have mixed you up in that, but that is why I said "seems" rather than make any dogmatic assertions about your POV.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 2:22:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

It seems to me that if you are saying someone 'seems' to be doing something that's pretty much the dictionary definition of 'insinuation'.

Then you go on to insinuate something about the Stockholm Syndrome which seems to insinuate that my position is different from 'you can't kill people to solve your problems'. For goodness sake, you're the queen of insinuation!

The rest of your argument is classic slippery slope. It's a fallacy, it doesn't work. Read my virtual lips here: JUST BECAUSE I HAVE DOUBTS ABOUT YOUR ARGUMENT (or David's or any other pro-lifer) IT DOESN'T MEAN I AM PRO-CHOICE.

To the extent that 'winning' the argument is important we must be rigorous. I don't pretend to be the last word on rigor, but I do think rigor is worth pursuing.

If our arguments can't stand up to internal scrutiny, they've got no chance in the hostile environment of 'the world'.

Finally, the fact that I'm willing to take you on in this corner of cyberspace might be an indicator that I don't give a toss about 'appearance'.

 
At Thursday, September 25, 2008 5:01:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Hi Louise

I do apologise. I am a careless typist, and the misprint was a particularly unfortunate one.

I am concerned about truth; that is why I think the arguments we advance must be sound. To gloss over weaknesses in pro-life arguments in order to present an apparently united pro-life front to the world would be wrong. It would, in fact, be showing more concern about how we appear to outsiders than about the truth. And, in terms of changing the cultulre in which we live it would, in the not very long term, be positively counterproductive. If I advance a flawed pro-life argument, either the flaw is going to be pointed out by someone who is pro-life, or it is going to be pointed out by someone who is pro-choice. Which would you rather?

 
At Friday, September 26, 2008 1:54:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

Thankyou Perry,

I would, of course, much rather any possible points of weakness in the pro-life argument to be found and explored by pro-life people, but I hope I have explained to you at least something of where my concern was coming from. In that particular case the "bickering" wasn't about refining an argument, it was about something a little different and I ought to have recognised that. Again, I apologise for getting the wrong end of the stick.

 
At Friday, September 26, 2008 2:23:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

Tony, I apologise unreservedly for insinuating things about you personally. That was not my intention, really, if you can possibly believe me, but the product of considerable frustration with various things, only one of which relates to you.

To be explicit then, I was concerned that you might be arguing along the lines of a pro-choice POV, partly on the basis that you obviously don't agree with some other Church teachings. That was not the point of the discussion here, of course, but it is some background knowledge I have of your views.

Generally, when faced with Catholics who are happy to disagree with the firm teaching of the Church on certain things, I not unnaturally wonder in what ways they do or don't agree with other teachings of the Church.

 
At Friday, September 26, 2008 2:58:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

I have to say that I'm a little torn by your apology Louise.

On the one hand I find it as hard as anyone to apologise, so I really appreciate when others do it.

On the other I'm a little gobsmacked by this 'guilt by association' thing.

When I become involved in DBs and blogs I do so aspiring to argue well and to have my own arguments challenged on their merits.

I'm sure that all of us are influenced by knowing how others have argued in the past, but if that becomes influential in how we respond, you put the other person at a distinct disadvantage. They aren't to know that your getting hot under the collar for stuff that's not actually said.

Ironically this goes back to my original concern in the particular case of abortion. There is so much baggage with this topic, that it's hard to ask difficult questions without all of a sudden being labeled pro-choice.

We have to unquestioningly 'man the barricades' or we are seen as weak or prevaricating or, quite often, pro-choice.

Again, this whole way of dealing with abortion -- and I've been involved or a close observer since the early 70s -- is just not working IMO.

I'm interested in finding another way.

 
At Friday, September 26, 2008 9:07:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

-But there are some women out there who have virtually no conscience and are totally hardened; they want to get rid of their baby and they know the baby will be/has been killed and they're really happy that the little bastard is gone.

You've just established that such women possess the mens rea (guilty mind) necessary to commit the offence of murder. Hence, such women really are murderers.

To suggest that the women who have abortions are not guilty of murder is false (unless their will happens to be genuinely overborne, in which case they would have be literally carried into the clinic involuntarily. The "my boyfriend threatened to kill me if I didn't have an abortion" argument really doesn't cut the mustard, as it's immoral to kill an innocent person for the sake of one's own survival - unless one is a soldier).

AS to the definition of a human being, it is simply a corporeal being with a free will and an intellect - or to use Aristotle's sefinition, a rational animal. The fact that in a newly fertilised egg, that free-will and intellect happen to be dormant is entirely beside the point. They are there.

+ Thomas Wolsey

Archieps. Eborac., etc.

 
At Saturday, September 27, 2008 1:16:00 am , Blogger Louise said...

On the other I'm a little gobsmacked by this 'guilt by association' thing.

Fair enough.

Although I didn't have to publicly acknowledge my mental and emotional workings (they were essentially subconscious). I only acknowledged them, because I thought it was right to do so. I apologise further if it has caused you extra concern or pain.

When I become involved in DBs and blogs I do so aspiring to argue well and to have my own arguments challenged on their merits.

I do too. I just don't always succeed. May I do better next time.

 
At Saturday, September 27, 2008 11:25:00 am , Blogger Tony said...

Thanks Louise. I appreciate it.

 
At Saturday, September 27, 2008 11:35:00 am , Blogger Tony said...

AS to the definition of a human being, it is simply a corporeal being with a free will and an intellect - or to use Aristotle's sefinition, a rational animal.

Thomas,

I had two brothers who were born with rare 'syndromes'. They started off OK but deteriorated over the next decade to a point of severe intellectual impairment and total physical dependency. I'm not sure that they'd have survived your 'simple' definition.

The "my boyfriend threatened to kill me if I didn't have an abortion" argument really doesn't cut the mustard.

Frankly, your assertion doesn't 'cut the mustard' either. Killing is a fact, murder is determined in a legal sense and discerned in a moral sense.

 
At Sunday, September 28, 2008 11:13:00 pm , Blogger Louise said...

Killing is a fact, murder is determined in a legal sense and discerned in a moral sense.

You are absolutely right here, Tony, I was trying to work out what was wrong with Wolsey's remark.

Also, David, I meant earlier to apologise for my involvement with the verbal fisticuffs, in your virtual "living room," as it were.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home