Monday, September 28, 2015

Abortion, murder, morality, and reality

I expect that this one will elicit strong reactions from certain circles, but here goes ...

Recent discourse on social media has brought to light what seems to be a telling argument against any abortion:  that it's a form of murder and, therefore, is considered both illegal and immoral.  I have no reason to dispute that abortion kills an unborn person.  I prefer not to go down the path of debating the details of when "life" begins or what differences exist between a fertilized egg and a person.  I'm happy to leave those arguments to others.

To me, the fact that abortion kills an unborn person is the critical issue, and most opponents of all abortion adhere to the notion that all life is sacred and we should never allow murder to be legal.  I'll get back to that shortly, but I want to consider just what it might mean to assume that all life is sacred.  For those of us that eat animal flesh, we kill animals (or, have them killed for us and prepared in neat packages at the grocery or served to us in restaurants) all the time in order to feed on their flesh.  That bothers some people so much that they become vegans, eating only non-animal foods.  But of course, that usually involves consumption of vegetables (and fruits, of course), typically "killing" the vegetation (or at least interrupting its growth) in the process.  There literally is no way to avoid ending life in order to survive.  In many cases, humans have interfered in the natural genetics of animals and plants to maximize our food production.  Many so-called "primitive" peoples went out of their way to "thank" the food from which they derived sustenance in order to survive, through rituals comparable to saying "grace" before a meal.  It's the way of nature that life feeds on life, killing the food in the process in order that we can steal its energy to keep us alive.  So just how sacred is all life to us?  Ever eaten lobster or shrimp or crayfish?  How do we eat them?  Often by plunging them alive into pots of boiling water!  Guess we don't consider their lives to be all that sacred!  Other examples abound, including such things as "trophy" hunting.  All life is, quite evidently, not all that "sacred" to us if "sacred" is taken to mean that we should never take that life to serve our own purposes.

Can we somehow survive by some means other than killing other life?  Unless we learn how to accomplish photosynthesis in our own bodies, this seems to be an unobtainable ideal.  At best, we can try to be grateful for the contribution to our lives by our food products and seek to minimize any suffering associated with their domestication and sacrifice of their lives.  That's another whole debate of its own and I'm not wanting to go there in this blog.  OK, so whatever idealism might be behind the notion that all life is sacred, we must nevertheless kill to survive and the lives we destroy to sustain ourselves are testimony to the fact that such idealism is hopelessly ... well, idealized, and impossible to achieve on a comprehensive basis.

So, if all life isn't sacred, is all human life sacred to us?  The fact of the matter is that if we examine our actual behavior and how we respond to our circumstances, all of us can find circumstances in which the taking of human life (murder) is considered acceptable.  For example, most of us feel that if someone threatens us with bodily harm, then it's morally defensible to respond to that threat by killing the threatening person.  Sometimes we refer to that as "self-defense" or sometimes as "justifiable homicide".  I'm pretty confident that by far the majority of the proponents of ending all legal abortions (which won't end illegal abortions, naturally) would accept that murder in self-defense (or in defense of others) is quite acceptable.  There might be some debate over what circumstances murder is justifiable, but it doesn't change the fact that murder is "legal" and morally acceptable to almost all human beings, under certain circumstances.

And of course, there's the vast apparatus we have developed to kill humans in large numbers - war.  Although there are "rules of war" that can be applied to define circumstances in which killing is not permissible in war, there's the usual debate over just what those circumstances might be.  Many people believe that murdering POWs or non-combatants is not acceptable - and yet it happens in all wars on all sides.  For war fatalities (that is, the person(s) killed in the process), there's no essential difference.  They were murdered, plain and simple.  Losing your husband (or father or son, or their female counterparts) to an enemy's bullet has exactly the same impact as if it were done by some deranged criminal on a murder spree.  So long as we fight wars for reasons (always of arguable merit), it's pretty obvious that this is yet another situation in which we don't let our notions of the sanctity of human life interfere with killing people "justifiably".

Another exception to the rule is when the death penalty is imposed for certain crimes.  Just what crimes deserve the death penalty is always at issue, naturally.  People vary considerably in their positions about the death penalty.  There's always a sort of inconsistency about the state killing people for killing other people and that bothers many opponents to the death penalty.  Some governments feel quite expansive about what constitutes a capital crime, a concept that hardly has remained constant over time.  Most of us no longer feel that a pickpocket deserves to die, for instance.  Being opposed to Communism or Islam might still get some people killed, however.  Not all countries or states have the death penalty, of course, but whether your government(s) allow it or not, many people (some of whom would be numbered among the extreme opponents of all abortion) would find it morally acceptable to murder a child molester (or a cop-killer or a serial murderer or a serial rapist or an abortion doctor), for example, even though the laws of the state have no legalized death penalty.

So, finally we arrive at the issue of abortion.  Are there no possible circumstances under which abortion might be acceptable?  Not according to some people, virtually all of whom do feel that murdering humans can in fact be quite justifiable - under certain circumstances.  Of all the arguments against abortion, I find the "slippery slope" argument among the weakest of them.  It seems to me that abortion should not be considered the primary means for birth control, but many (not all, of course) opponents of abortion on religious grounds also are opposed to birth control measures.  Nevertheless, if someone can find it possible to accept murder under certain circumstances, they shouldn't be uncomfortable with abortion under certain circumstances.  The only thing to debate is just exactly which circumstances justify abortion.  Virtually all the opponents of abortion under all circumstances on the "sanctity of human life" argument are being inconsistent and hypocritical.

OK - let the debate begin.


Anonymous said...

You're asking an interesting question. I'm curious as to your answer. What would justify the killing of an unborn baby? It's incapable of committing a crime. It's incapable of doing much of anything. It cannot survive on it's own but neither can a one year old. Other than being inside of it's mother, I don't see any difference between a baby at conception plus 6 months or conception plus 16 months other than it's location.

I cannot come up with a scenario that would justify the murder of either one since neither of them care capable of doing anything to justify capital punishment. In fact, neither are capable of doing anything to justify any punishment.

You brought up the subject, you tell me, you have a fetus at conception plus 3 months. Within 6 months it will be ready for a change of address. Within 6 years you could have a conversation with it or take it fishing or take it storm chasing with you.

What is your justification for murder? I can't think of anything.

You brought up the subject, you must have a scenario where killing this potential storm chaser or future doctor, or whatever makes sense. I'd like to hear it.

By the way, you do realize that for many or most women who have abortions, it's very difficult. Do you know why? Because they know exactly what they are doing and murdering your own child isn't easy. You can try to hide it under a medical procedure and for some people it will work, at least for a time, then at some point they realize what they have done. Others know right away and it hurts.

What they have done is to use a hired gun. What scares me is that these hired guns are on the streets and are free. It seems to me that if you can make your living killing children, you are so screwed up in the head that you really need to be put out of your misery. What goes around, comes around type of thing.

It appears to me that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy when it comes to abortionists. While they are happy to perform an abortion for money, if they happen to be the subject of a rather late term abortion themselves, they don't like that so much.

So what is your justification for murdering what could be the person Einstein?

Lisa MacArthur
Riverside RI

Anonymous said...

What this whole thing comes down to is the killing of a child because it exists. That's it only crime. It exists. It's existence is inconvenient.

There are a lot of people who's existence is inconvenient but we can't kill them.

I think that we should agree that inconvenience is not a valid reason. If it is considered a valid reason, you had better watch out, anytime you are in line for anything or even driving down the road, your existence is inconvenient for someone. You're likely holding someone up. If you want to live by the sword, I suggest that you be prepared to die by it.

If the fetus commits a capital crime, I am all in favor of the death penalty, if convicted in a state with the death penalty.

Other than that, can you suggest a reason for murder? I thought that as a general rule, you are punished for what you have done, not simply because you exist and your existence is inconvenient to someone.

Even in war, you can be held accountable if you murder someone. Go into a village and empty a few magazines on the villagers and see what happens.

The enemy in war has greater protection than an unborn child.

If I put my hands up and am in uniform, you can't shoot me. I'm a POW. I sit out the rest of the war. That's more protection than an unborn child gets.

You want consistency Chuck. Show me the crime. Show me the conviction. Show me that it was an accident. You can't? Can you? The only thing you can show me is that it's cold blooded murder. The killing of a human being for no reason beyond the fact that the existence of that human being is inconvenient to someone.

If the mother wants the baby killed that badly, let her do it. No using a hired gun. You want consistency, I assume you're aware of what happens to people who use hired guns? I give you a hint, they aren't sent home later that day to recover.

As I said in another message. A 1 year old can't survive on it's own. It can't gather food and if left alone it will be killed or will die due to lack of food and water. A 1 year old is basically 1 year plus 9 months from conception. Plus or minus. Why are we making a distinction between someone that is 7 months or 2 months beyond conception and 17 or 20 months? Neither can take care of themselves. Both are dependent upon someone to take care of them and if events take their natural course, in 5 years you'll be able to take the kid out to enjoy thunderstorms and eventually storm chasing.

You were a scout leader. How many of those kids would you have murdered? Maybe a few but at least it would be for a reason. Here you are suggesting eliminating them without any reason. Do you have a short memory? Do you not realize that all of those kids that were in your troop were once young enough to be murdered with no cause? It could have happened to you too.

I think you've finally flipped your lid.

Let's hear it, what can a fetus do to justify capital punishment?

What can a 1 year old do to justify capital punishment?

I really can't think of anything.

You're a lot smarter than I am, you tell me.

Since you brought up consistency, whatever applies to the fetus should apply to everyone. After all, the fetus has it's whole life ahead of it, you're going to be gone within a few decades. Why should you get special treatment?

Lisa MacArthur
Riverside RI.

Chuck Doswell said...


I'm publishing your comments but it seems pretty evident that your mind is completely closed on this topic. Hence, I would be wasting my time trying to respond to all your points. You evidently are among those who would ban all abortions under any circumstances, and would deny other women the right to make their own choices. You have the right to your opinion, of course, but not everyone agrees with that opinion. I won't publish any further comments from you on this topic, but I've allowed you this chance to have your say.