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It never rains but it pours... - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
greyautumnrain
greyautumnrain
It never rains but it pours...
Clearly this is stupid abortion laws week on my blog.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6618911.stm

To sum up for those who don't want to read the full article: A teenager in Ireland is in court trying to get permission to leave the country so that she can abort her fetus after a diagnosis of anencepholy. That's right, someone had the bright idea to slap a travel ban on a very young woman so that she would be forced to give birth to a brainless baby, as in literally brainless. Yeah, brainless. Really, that says it all. Brainless.
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Comments
remcat From: remcat Date: May 3rd, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of the moms from my Sept 99 moms found out at her 18-week ultrasound that her baby had not developed a brain. After considering all the implications, she and her husband decided to have a "late term abortion" rather than go through 4 more months of pregnancy and then labor (assuming the baby didn't die before then, which was likely). I think under the current laws in some states, what she did would be illegal. I think she might have been forced to endure either induced labor or have abdominal surgery. Now *that* should be criminal.

(FWIW, she went on to have two sucessful pregnancies -- two little girls.)
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: May 3rd, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

that should be criminal

That's the thing that gets me about these cases. I understand that some people have deep religious convictions and might themselves want to attempt to carry such a pregnancy to term because of those those convictions. What I don't get is forcing that choice on someone else for a baby whose best case scenario is three days as a vegetable. What does that accomplish? I just don't get it.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 3rd, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Well... I certainly don't approve of forcing that choice. But if our hypothetical person thinks it's murder, they probably think it's murder even if the baby would be dying of natural causes anyway.

Imagine that the hydroencephalic baby has been brought to term and born. It's in the incubator and not going to live very long. It's still murder to kill it *now*. The hard-line pro-life position is that it's murder, all the way back to one fertilized cell.

But I hate it nonetheless. (Especially the quote in the recent Supreme Court opinion noting that some women might regret their decision later. !!! I am sure that they do. I can't imagine anyone having an abortion without *some* sadness and regret, that things came to that. But we can't just criminalize anything that anyone might someday regret having done!)
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: May 3rd, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Ah, but our hypothetical person thinks its murder based on their religious belief. What the science says in this case is that the baby is brain-dead already. Most of the brain and skull are missing. On those rare occasions when these babies are born they are often used as organ donors for other babies. (Granted the religious person probably also objects to turning off life support of brain dead adults too.) What I fail to understand is how anyone be so sure of their religious beliefs that they would not only attempt to force them on someone else, but do so in a case where it would cause considerable harm and suffering to another person.
dcltdw From: dcltdw Date: May 3rd, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

What I fail to understand is how anyone be so sure of their religious beliefs that they would not only attempt to force them on someone else, but do so in a case where it would cause considerable harm and suffering to another person.

Huge neon blinking disclaimer: I don't actually know(TM).

Doesn't this tie back into the idea that it was more important to save the baby than the mother, because the baby hasn't been baptized? Nrrr because I think the mother can be administered last rites which will save her soul, so... so... this is where I can't remember all the other conditions which come into play here.

It makes sense to me if the overriding concern is in saving souls. Not that I agree with it. (Heh. What an understatement.)
jdbakermn From: jdbakermn Date: May 3rd, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Ah, but see, the Pope recently said that unbaptized babies no longer go to limbo; they go to heaven. So that's no longer an argument (if you accepted it as such in the first place). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18296718/site/newsweek/
countertorque From: countertorque Date: May 3rd, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

I don't think there's anything in this thread talking about trading a mother's life for a baby.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 4th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Well, whenever you have laws that don't have exemptions for if the mother's life or health is in danger, that's something you start thinking about. The Ireland law has such an exemption (leading to the comment that because the pregnant girl is depressed but not suicidally depressed, it's okay to stop her from leaving), but the new US law doesn't.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: May 3rd, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

I think it's as simple as believing that it's murder to pull the plug on a living human being, no matter what their condition. We have laws that force the belief that you can't kill other people on everyone. And whether you believe that for religious reasons or not, it is a religious belief for many people. If you believe that the unborn baby is aliving human being, it's really not that much of a stretch to believe that no one should be allowed to end it.

And yes, most of the people who believe that it's wrong to terminate any pregnancy are likely to also believe that it's wrong to terminate an adult vegetable. This is based on the religious belief that all life is sacred and that humans are not qualified to decide who should live and who should die. It's not that they can't see the pain that's caused by waiting for the brainless baby to die. It's simply that they believe that it's impossible for a human to know when it's OK to end a life.

I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything here. I'm trying to present these beliefs as rational. I believe they are rational ways to view the world.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 4th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

humans are not qualified to decide who should live and who should die

Presumably this would mean that killing someone in self defense would be prohibited, too?

I agree that such a world view would be self consistent. I'm skeptical about whether anyone actually has beliefs that extreme.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: May 4th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Certainly killing someone who was not attacking you with lethal force would be prohibited.

If they are attacking you with lethal force, and the only way to save your own life is to end theirs, you are forced to choose who dies, but not whether someone dies. So perhaps I would amend countertorque's formulation to account for that. It wouldn't change the conclusion outside of situations of unavoidable death.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 4th, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Agreed. I believe that the necessary amendment to countertorque's forumlation becomes a very complex line, since it essentially has to prescribe a solution to the trolley problem. My point is that it's far from as simple as countertorque makes it out to be.

Oh, and the Trolley Problem:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_Problem
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: May 4th, 2007 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Actually, I think you can leave the trolley problem as an unresolved dilemma. How about we just say that if the choice is between a life ending and a life not ending, the right thing is always to choose the not-ending option, and we leave other questions unresolved? The explanation in terms of what decisions humans aren't qualified to make changes from "not qualified to decide who should live and who should die" into "not qualified to decide that someone should die."

So that would forbid euthanasia, capital punishment, and any other choice of (a) in which the alternatives are (a) someone dies or (b) no one dies. It has nothing to say about the trolley problem or killing in self-defense.

Attempting to extend this reasoning to the question of how a political leader can morally authorize a war is, I think, what led to just war theory.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 4th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Your suggestion is much less general, and thus much less useful, than countertorque's suggestion to which I was responding. And it still doesn't resolve this particular issue, where the fetus is doomed to a quick death anyway.

If you are going to strictly prohibit any acceleration of inevitable death, your position prohibits things like giving strong painkillers to cancer victims. That would be a consistent position, but again one that I think few people really hold.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: May 4th, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Perhaps I misunderstood countertorque's intended meaning, but I don't think he actually meant a strictly literal interpretation of "humans are not qualified to decide who should live and who should die." A literal interpretation would indeed be more general than my interpretation, but it would in fact prohibit killing in self-defense, as well as some even less popular ideas. Note that the statement is treating "live" and "die" symmetrically, so any conclusion I draw about one applies to the other. Thus, if none of us is qualified to decide who should live, it would be illegitimate to provide any medical treatment at all. I rather doubt that's really what was intended.

If you are going to strictly prohibit any acceleration of inevitable death, your position prohibits things like giving strong painkillers to cancer victims. That would be a consistent position, but again one that I think few people really hold.

1. All death is inevitable. The only choice we ever have is when, not whether.

2. I think you're wrong -- many people do believe that it is wrong to provide medical treatment that we know will kill a patient quicker. Euthanasia is euthanasia, whether it takes minutes or days. It's still killing to avoid pain.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: May 4th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

The unstated assumptions here have to do with the answer to the question "why is murder wrong?" Some people might believe that it is because it is the destruction of a human intelligence, and others because it is the destruction of a human life. The former people find the question of a human vegetable or a baby with no cortex fairly straightforward, because no functioning cortex means nothing of value. The latter people find it equally straightforward, because a human life is a human life, whether it can think or not.

I suspect that a lot of the excitement about these questions is because nobody is explicitly stating their underlying assumption about why murder is wrong in the first place.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 4th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

No, what they are not stating explicitly is their underlying assumptions about what is murder and what is not - and perhaps about what is human and what is not.
From: treptoplax Date: May 4th, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

What's worse, the question at hand is "Why is murder illegal?" a question distinct from the "Why is murder wrong?" question.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: May 4th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Its not that I don't understand the belief set in question. I do, and I can understand how a perfectly rational person can believe that. I happen to disagree, but that doesn't mean I think the people I disagree with don't have good reasons for believing as they do.

What I was getting at is why when its a belief some people can be so very insistent that their belief take precedence in the messy corner cases. Shooting a perfectly healthy person on the street who is not threatening you is not a messy corner case. You don't need to resort to religion to come up with reasons for why that should not be allowed, there are perfectly good non religious reasons for why there should be a law against that. In the messy corner cases, though, why people so very sure that they are right that they want to force their beliefs on others, even when it is those others who are going to have to deal with the consequences of any decision.

To use a different example... My mother has high blood pressure. Long ago she told me that she never wanted to live as a vegetable, something she worried might happen to her if she had a stroke. Now, if she were to have a such a stroke I feel that I would have a moral obligation to go over her medical condition with her doctors and figure out at whether or not to keep her on life support. Obviously someone who believed that humans shouldn't make these decisions would feel differently; they might feel that their moral obligation was to make sure the doctors did everything possible to keep her heart beating even if the doctors themselves were saying it was time to pull the plug. The thing I fail to understand is why some people are so sure that their belief is better than mine that they would tell me what to do when its me, my mother, and her clearly stated wishes. Its not like I'm going around telling them that they should consider carefully whether or not to pull the plug on a family member of theirs.

Put in bumper sticker format, the real world is messy, and when it gets messy I think the people who have to live with the mess are the ones who should get to figure out how they're going to deal with it.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 4th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Maybe I'm just cynical, but it seems to me that these days, being willing to force one's beliefs on everyone else is the rule, and actually being willing to allow other people to have differing beliefs is the exception.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 4th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Well, society is all about forcing everyone to abide by a set of restrictions. Abolitionists forced their beliefs on everyone else, and now nobody gets to keep slaves any more. Mormons don't get to legally have multiple wives any more.

Now, I think there's a big difference between these two that has to do with, even if you think X is wrong, whether anyone other than the X-doers are harmed by the wrongness. Lawmakers certainly don't stick to proscripting harm to others as much as I think they ought. But the people that are trying to outlaw abortion *do* consider it harm to others, which is why it's such a persistently bitter argument.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 4th, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Free societies are about more than just forcing everyone to abide by a set of restrictions. In my opinion, what they are "all about" is balancing such restrictions against the liberties of individuals.

So maybe what I'm really griping about is the trend away from a belief in free societies and towards beliefs that more restrictions are great as long as they force others to agree with one rather than vice versa.

Note that this gripe is far broader than the topic of abortion, and in fact applies to both camps on the abortion issue.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: May 4th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

What I fail to understand is how anyone be so sure of their religious beliefs that they would not only attempt to force them on someone else, but do so in a case where it would cause considerable harm and suffering to another person.

Actually, religious beliefs are the only thing I expect people to usually be that sure about. Beliefs based on faith are of necessity of higher confidence than those based on evidence, because evidence is finite and can be refuted by further evidence. My evidence-based belief is always limited by the possibility of new evidence that contradicts my belief. A faith-based belief has no such limitation.
From: treptoplax Date: May 4th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

On the other hand, if it was ok to abort it on grounds of hydroencephaly, presumably infanticide in the same case is perfectly ok?

Any rule about who is entitled to the protections we grant human beings is going to have ugly corner cases. As stated earlier, the world is a messy place.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: May 4th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Just to clarify here, this case is not hydroencephaly, where unusually high pressure within the skull inhibits brain formation and some treatments are possible, but anencephaly, where the cerebrum and the top of the skull never develop in the first place and the brain stem is exposed to the outside. "Infanticide" - if you consider the result an infant - is unnecessary in these cases since the thing will die on its own within a few days no matter what you do.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 4th, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: that should be criminal

Just to clarify here, this case is not hydroencephaly

That was my fault, and I realized just after posting, but lj doesn't let me edit comments, only original posts. :(
twe From: twe Date: May 7th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Travel Ban

I really can't get my head around "travel ban." Short of being on bail or in the military, how can a random person can have a travel ban slapped on them? Can pregnant women not leave the country in Ireland? I don't get it.
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