En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/02/17/0853

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February 17, 2009 8:53 AM - Woozle

Woozle said...

--abortion thread--
Woozle: "...which metrics would you pick as being the most significant as far as intimidation?"
Mike part 1: "Any violent act is going to be significant in terms of intimidation... Violence is violence and whether it’s the threat of murder or assault, I think they have a pretty similar effect on abortion providers. So we can agree that any violence is bad."

1. This doesn't answer the question, which was about intimidation of abortion seekers
2. Many of the incident types being graphed aren't even what I would call "violence"
3. Since you've changed the subject, I'm assuming you've abandoned the claim that "Abortion clinic violence is almost non-existent these days."

Mike part 2: "...what the statistics prove is that regardless of how we graph the numbers the ratio of clinic violence to abortions is something like 1 act of violence for every 10,000 abortions. Given the view that many pro-lifers hold, which is that abortion = murder, I’d say we’re doing pretty good."

So... the end justifies the means, and they started it, and it's okay to commit violence on people because you believe it's the right thing to do, even if society doesn't agree with you?

Look, dude... Islam says it's okay to kill non-Muslims because their scripture says so. What makes the Taliban wrong and you right? Charles Manson believed that there was an upcoming racial war which it was his destiny to lead, necessitating several murders as the opening act. What makes him wrong and you right? What makes Jim Jones wrong and you right? What makes Fred Phelps wrong and you right?

My point is that unless you can offer a rational basis for your beliefs, they cannot provide a moral justification for other acts. You may Believe Deep Down that you are right, and you may even be proven right ultimately, but you can't expect any sympathy (or support) for it until the reasoning is found.

You aren't the only one with personal convictions, and many people who have convictions disagree with yours. This can't just be a might-makes-right power-struggle between The Force Of Your Convictions and The Force Of My Convictions; we have to look at the facts and reasoning we each used in arriving at our differing conclusions, find where the error or ambiguity is that led us to those different places, and then work towards resolving that error or ambiguity.

Otherwise, we don't have a civil or free society; we have a society based on power and strength -- might makes right, power is its own justification -- which does not result in anything we would recognize as a free society, or anything I would call "America".


Mike: "I still find it extremely hard to swallow the notion that teens will attend the class and only take away half the message (contraception is wrong) while ignoring the other half (premarital sex is wrong)."

I'm not predicting that it will happen, I'm saying that this is what the data show does happen. This was addressed in some of the links I posted earlier; do I need to go through them again?

Also, I think they're absorbing both parts of the lesson just fine; its just that part of it is getting overridden by biological drives. They still believe they're "sinning" (unless, I suppose, they're "Saddlebacking", which is apparently not "sinful" even though it's no better for preventing the spread of diseases).

Mike: "I refuse to accept the idea that they are more harmful than no class at all, a fact you conceded earlier and now seem to be changing your position on."

I agree that abstinence-only classes may be no worse than no classes at all, but also that there is some evidence they are actually worse.

However, when talking about the merits of ABE, we are not talking about "ABE vs. nothing"; nobody is proposing replacing ABE with "recess-based education" (although ABE comes pretty damn close to being "ignorance-based education" as is). We are talking about "ABE vs. proper sex ed", where ABE classes are clearly worse. ABE classes and laws which were promoted by the Bush administration replaced proper sex ed and family planning.


Mike: "You do know that contraception IS discussed in most of those classes, right? The message given is that the only birth control method that is 100% effective is abstinence."
Woozle: "Um, no. Wrong….ABE, as funded by the Bush administration to the tune of $1 billion, doesn't allow grant recipients "to advocate or discuss contraceptive methods except to emphasize their failure rates."
Mike: "You basically just re-iterated my point. In order to give the message that abstinence is the only 100% method, you have to explain the failure rates of other types."

Enumerating only the failures of a particular tool, without explaining that it usually does work or how to use it properly (indeed, making it clear that most of those failures are due to improper use) is not the same thing as discussing it.

If I taught a class on carpentry, and only introduced the topic of "hammers" in order to explain the risk of smashing one's thumb (possibly breaking it, necessitating expensive medical treatment) or even killing someone by accidentally dropping one on someone's head from a great height, would you consider that a proper discussion of hammering technique? Do you think most people in that class would emerge as competent carpenters?

And would you feel confident sending a graduate of that class out on a real-world construction job, where they would be in daily contact with hammers and expected to know how to handle them properly?


Mike: "Again, when you see abortion as murder..."
Woozle: "I think the use of the word "murder" is highly misleading... "Murder" is unlawful killing. If abortion is legal, you can call it killing but you can't call it murder, by definition."
Mike: "The legal logic in your argument is sound, but under that same logic the Holocaust wasn’t murder."

Rubbish. It was murder by international law and the laws of every civilized nation. (There was a little thing afterwards called "The Nuremburg Trials" which kind of laid that point to rest, in case anyone wasn't sure.)

Mike: "I think murder tends to transcend contemporary legal constructs as it is perhaps the oldest moral offense we have."

That strikes me as a rather alarming statement. What do you mean by it?


Mike: "I believe I addressed this point before..."
Woozle: "You didn't counter my claim that there is a steep emotional cost. By saying that a woman's primary motivation is "ease", you are implying that getting an abortion is usually easier than not getting one -- again claiming that the emotional cost is negligible."
Mike: "I believe I DID counter your claim. I said, “I don’t think liberals really believe that those women made a bad decision, but they are sympathetic to her anguish because it becomes a mental health issue for them... They de-emphasize the humanity of the fetus and over-emphasize the moral dilemma of the mother as a sort of trade-off. “You give us the abortion and we will promise you a lifetime of remorse.“" .. I would say the ‘emotional cost’ is negligible in the sense that it doesn’t lessen the offense."

We're not talking about whether the emotional cost mitigates the offense you perceive; we're talking about what the primary motivation is behind the act you find offensive (so as to shed some light on the question of whether it is justifiable), and the larger issue of whether an offense has been committed in the first place.

"Ease" may be involved in some cases, but I think if it were the only factor, most women would choose the extra difficulty over the lifetime of guilt. Yes.

Mike: "To be quite blunt, I could give a fig about the ‘emotional cost’ for a woman. If she wants to avoid the emotional burden, the easiest solution is to avoid the abortion."

There you go again. I do not think the primary reason women get abortions can be adequately summarized as "personal convenience" (which is what I take it you mean by "ease").

I could be wrong, but you need to show me evidence that this is so rather than just claiming it over and over again.

However, it may not be productive to keep discussing this, as my view is that "personal ease" is sufficient justification. The fetus should be considered a part of the woman's body at least until independent viability, possibly until birth; the ethical guidelines until that point should be comparable to those for treatment of a large animal.

Mike: "If she is worried about the baby’s future, put it up for adoption."

What if she's worried about the baby's future in the adoption system, or as an adopted child, or other factors which may be particular to the individual case?

I think one underlying point on which we disagree is this: I maintain that sometimes it's better not to be born. You seem to believe the opposite, that being born is always preferable.

You also seem to implicitly believe that more babies are better than fewer, which seems completely wrong to me. We have too many people on the planet already; anything we can do to non-violently reduce the reproduction rate strikes me as a good thing.

Mike: "If she’s only worried about her own future, then she should have factored that in to her risk assessment of having sex."

That does follow logically if you see abortion as a crime, but of course we disagree on that. The onus remains on you to show why it should be viewed that way.


Mike: "If your expert witness also had an abortion then they would be a good source of comparison. Since they apparently haven’t, I’m not sure how they can explain the emotional impact of a procedure they haven’t had."

I would think that deciding to abort a fetus, and then going through it (medical procedure away from home) would be much more traumatic than a natural spontaneous abortion...

...but ultimately, you are correct that this isn't really a direct piece of evidence.

Of course, if I had talked to a woman who had had an abortion and insisted that it was oh yes terribly emotionally traumatic for her, boo-hoo, would you count that either? My understanding was that you were already discounting such testimony, so I thought you might give more credence someone who had four times "chosen life" despite not personally wanting children.

In any case, it's only one data point.


Woozle: "Calling abortion-seeking women murderers, sinners or even just bad mommies is extremely counterproductive, and makes the pro-life movement look like a bunch of crazed religious fanatics (especially when you admit you can't rationally defend this position). It's certainly not "progressive"."
Mike: "Negative rhetoric is always problematic in any discussion, but to suggest that unpleasant words make the conservative position non-progressive would imply that you can’t be progressive and use harsh rhetoric?"

No, I wasn't suggesting that using unpleasant/negative/harsh words is automatically non-progressive.

I was suggesting that going ahead and labeling people as "bad" without establishing that they are actually doing something wrong is non-progressive.

Yes, I know you believe they are, but you haven't yet established that point rationally.

Terms like "sin" are also anti-progressive, as they imply a moral judgment based solely on doctrine, i.e. without a rational justification.


Mike: "Saving some lives is better than saving no lives."
Woozle: "But why compromise from your apparent stand that abortions should be completely illegal? How does that save lives?"
Mike: "If we increase the number of restrictions, less abortions will be had."

1. That's answering a different question than I asked. You're explaining why you should not compromise; you were claiming that you were compromising, and I was asking why you would do so.
2. It makes a statement which is incorrect -- and I've pointed this out at least once or twice before: the data shows that increasing restrictions has no effect on the number of abortions performed. It just makes them uglier and more dangerous. It DOESN'T WORK. FAIL.

Mike: "I’ve heard a lot of liberals use this line of discussion lately though. The contention seems to be that since some pro-lifers are moving to an incremental approach it is somehow an admission that a goal of outlawing all abortions was/is flawed."

I don't know who's contending that; I'm only saying that I don't see the justification on your side for any compromise, given the principles* you seem to be acting on.

(*That is, I'm guessing that there are principles -- although as I've said, conservatives often seem to be acting more on a set of rules to be obeyed unquestioningly rather than a set of principles or goals they are trying to accomplish.)


Mike: "Personally, I find it irrational to pretend you can determine when life/personhood begins when you really can’t."
Woozle: "That's actually an argument for why it doesn't make sense to make a law for exactly when abortions are illegal..."
Mike: "So in a question over when life begins, you choose to err on the side of no-life?"

1. I choose to minimize error by not guessing arbitrarily.
2. This isn't a question of when "life" begins; "life" is present throughout the entire process. You're using "life" as a stand-in for some more elusive concept (and until this round, you hadn't confirmed my guess that the word "personhood" was closer to what you mean), and thereby confusing the issue.
3. If "personhood" is what makes the difference, then we need to be clear what the criteria are for personhood, and why those criteria are the important ones. Do we mean "ability to think"? The presence of any cognitive activity at all (as would be shown by an EEG)? Self-awareness? Having a personality? Something else?


Woozle: "We've been over this territory before: I can explain my reasoning to you, but you decline to explain yours to me..."
Mike: "I really don’t understand what there is to explain. The scientific definition of ‘personhood’ is yet to be outlined with any degree of certainty or universal agreement."

Science doesn't answer this sort of question; it gives us the information we need to work out the best answer ourselves.

You're the one apparently using it as a criterion, so you need explain what it means to you, and why it is the reason for determining when an abortion is killing and when it is not.

Mike: "In the absence of 100% certainty I choose to err on the side of life/personhood. I don’t know how many more times I can say that."

Before, you just said "life"; now you're agreeing that you mean "personhood".

The idea of "when a fetus becomes a person" being the point when abortion becomes wrong does seem rationally defensible.

The next hurdle, as I explained above, is working out a reasonable process by which we can decide when that has happened.

Mike (discussing W's proposed constraints on "progressive"): "...Carbon emission standards, for example, are ‘progressive’ but not easy to implement and the additional cost would probably cost jobs, at least in the short term. So if something meets one standard and not the other, can it still be 'progressive'?"

You're suggesting that this example violates rule #2, "must somehow make life easier and/or less constrained, overall", due to job loss.

Job losses make life more difficult for some people, yes -- but overall, carbon emissions reductions benefit everyone, because:
1. they make for a cleaner environment (leaving the GW debate on the table for now, as it isn't necessary in order to make my point).
2. they encourage development of alternative fuels, helping (in the long run) to free us from dependence on limited/non-renewable resources (fossil fuels) whose supplies are mostly held by foreign powers whose interests are often counter to ours.

* Becoming unemployed is part of life; carbon emissions reduction did not create the idea of job loss. People who lose their jobs due to downsizing of one company can still go looking elsewhere -- perhaps at an alternative energy company whose sales are up due to those same regulations.
* Can you show that emissions reductions have actually cost jobs?

But perhaps there are other examples of "progressive" ideas which I will concede are in violation of one constraint or the other. Fire away...


Woozle: "Legal personhood is hardly a metaphysical question; if the law says you're a person, then you're legally a person."
Mike: "The law says that a fetus is a person if the mother is murdered while pregnant (i.e. two counts of murder) but the law does not say the fetus is a person if the mother pays a doctor to abort said fetus."

My take on it is that the fetus is a person if (and only if) the mother says it is.

If a mother was murdered on her way to an abortion clinic where she had an appointment for The Procedure, then I'd agree there's might be an unresolved contradiction. (Perhaps personhood officially ends when the abortion procedure begins, or when the fetus's life is terminated by the doctor.)

If the law which makes this a "double murder" came up for a vote, though, I don't know that I would support it. It does seem especially heinous to murder a pregnant woman, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to say there are two people being killed. It hits me in the same way as, say, murdering someone who is in intensive care (but who has a good prognosis for survival and recovery). Evil.