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March 01, 2006


Apples and oranges! Land use by land owners and shredding/ripping babies from their mothers wombs are two totally different things. There is no contradiction in believing human life as sacrosanct and property rights as inviolable. They are not related.

Forgive the pun, Brian, but it's an ill-conceived argument. The whole premise of opposition to abortion is that there are two bodies involved, not one.

Thus, government intervention is no more "intrusive" than laws against other crimes against the person (such as assault, unlawful imprisonment, homicide and slavery). And thus the right of the child is as valid as that of the mother—and that of one's right to property. So there's no inconsistency.

What conservative brains are exploding at is, your trying to equate abortion with land ownership.

It's pretty lame to talk about people's brains "exploding" when all you provide is an expression of disapproval without any supporting reasoning. Perhaps your brain "explodes" at the mere suggestion that someone might hold a position different to your own. You certainly haven't shown any mental capability beyond that required to produce a grunt of reaction. I won't hold my breath waiting for a meaninful critique of what I wrote.

Well, my response to the commenters above is an update to the post. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this subject. I understand that abortion is an emotional issue to many people.

But so are many issues. The thing is, government should get involved when one person's action advesely affects another person. And government shouldn't get involved when this isn't the case.

My main point is that how a person uses his or her land certainly does affect other people, whereas how a woman uses her body (as in having an abortion or not) doesn't. Or at least, this is an ambiguous question with no obvious answer.

Ambiguous questions of this sort should be answered by each individual, not the government. I strongly believe that animals feel pain and it is wrong to kill them for food when this isn't necessary. But I don't go around trying to make meat-eating illegal.

If "right to life" advocates were truly consistent, they'd fight for the right of all life to live--human and animal. Instead, most approve of the death penalty and unnecessary wars, and sit on their hands while tens of thousands die from famine or war in Africa.

All of us are hypocrites of one form or another. I just think that it is better to be openly hypocritical rather than self-righteously hypocritical.

Brian, I’m all for agreeing to disagree. I respect your right to hold your opinion about abortion and have no problem appreciating your reasons for it without calling you a hypocrite. I think you have some powerful arguments on your side. But your analogy to land use wasn’t one of them.

The stark fact that pro-life people are focusing on the rights of another human being renders your analogy false.

Also, the idea that “ambigous questions of this sort should be answered by each individual” is wrong on two counts. In the first place, your finding it ambiguous, puzzling, or whatever, doesn’t mean others do, and moreover lack of certainty might counsel restraint. People in the past have found ambiguous the question that “negroes” were eligible for liberty and self-determination.

Secondly, the idea that an interested party is the best placed to adjudicate an ambiguous question is a bad maxim of law. No doubt many an embezzler or cheating dieter has worked out the ambiguity of the opportunity before him to his advantage. I’m not comparing these situations to a pregnant woman but only showing how this is a poor rationale for resolving difficult cases.

Your analogy to meat eating is also bad. Killing animal life is not the same as killing human life in our legal and moral traditions. You might as well argue that prosecuting murder is hypocritical since we allow the slaughter of steers, hogs and chickens.

I don’t know whether most opponents of abortion approve of the death penalty, though most of the most vehement pro-lifers I know are against it. Of course agreeing that horrific murderers have forfeited their right to life isn’t inconsistent with holding that the innocent have not forfeited theirs.

As far as “unnecessary wars” and “sit on their hands while tens of thousands die from famine or war” these are irrelevancies and cheap shots. As it happens, all the abortion opponents I know are very charitable people. But what if they weren’t? Even if pro-lifers were typically callous people as a class, it has no bearing on the argument. Suppose I’m a selfish lout who just happens to think that slavery, say, or child abuse is wrong. Do those things become right because I’m a jerk in other ways or a hypocrite?

I’d be interested to hear your recommendations for solving the problems of war and famine in Africa, especially as they might relate to the question of “unnecessary wars.”

I agree with your post, Brian but have long since given up on conservatives being consistent. They don't want a woman to have an abortion but could care less about any program to help her raise that baby once it's born; and it goes on and on. Logic isn't going to happen with idealogues.

How would you explain a so-called conservative legislature in Arizona deciding to make it illegal for a woman to sell her egg-- she can give it away; but a man can sell sperm?

Like I said before, there are powerful arguments in favor of abortion, which I respect. But what I see here is a parade of bad ones.

Rain's entire comment is based on ad hominem arguments—and even they are faulty! He (or she) has given up on conservatives being consistent because they don't share his view of the role of government. And of course only conservatives oppose abortion!

Talk about "logic isn't going to happen with idealogues [sic]"...

Please understand me: I'm not commenting here just to have a pointless pissing contest. I comment here because I enjoy the hinessight blog, its aesthetic and its point of view, and in this particular case I commented because the analogy Brian drew simply didn't work. It might work for how advocates of abortion rights think about abortion, but the point was about hypocrisy, meaning inconsistency, in the way abortion opponents think. But as I point out, there is no inconsistency.

I think the arguments against abortion are often poorly understood, and many of arguments in favor of abortion are often poorly made. No doubt there's plenty of that on the other side, which is why I hasten to say that I know that good, intelligent people can differ on the question. It's a lot easier to demonize one's opponent, but that abdication of thinking only adds stupidity to irrational hostility.

Brian's blog was, in my opinion, about the inconsistency of certain group of people in this country who call themselves conservatives but who often seem to be anything but conservative and are not consistent. On the one hand, it's stay out of my money and land, give me a tax cut for which you have to borrow because I can manage my money better than you; on the other hand, you can't take your own life even if you are dying, you can't get married because you are two women, and I'd love to block what you can see on cable television because it offends me to know you watch that.

And by the way, not saying you are like that, Idler. I do not know you. We are discussing what is going on and I was not making it personal to any individual. It is, however, a philosophy that is rampant. On the one hand it's none of your business if I pollute a river or the sky, but on the other hand, it is mine if you are doing something morally I find reprehensible.

In November at the same time the voters blocked two people in love from marrying, they also permitted Brian's neighbor to impact his home and living conditions. Even if you see homosexuality as a sin, it couldn't hurt anyone but the people doing it unless you believe there is a god up there getting ready to zap a lot of innocent people for what the two had done.

And this thing in Arizona still makes no sense to me. If that's not an ideologue (someone who blindly follows an ideology which they may not even fully understand and often apply haphazardly), then I don't know a better word.

Meme warfare! Questions about who shall rule over whom with regard to what, when, where, and how - let alone why. Typical, normal human egotism. "Us" vs. "them" (as some "god" or another supposedly "chooses").

Rain, I appreciate the reply. My comment was about the failure of Brian's critique, based on the failure of the analogy. You might consider taking away from that point that other assumptions of inconsistency might also be wrong.

Brian, all you’re saying in your update is that if people accept your premises they’re being inconsistent. The point you miss is that since they don’t, they’re not! There’s no way around this. You can legitimately argue that they should think this way, but as long as they don’t, you can’t legitimately say they’re being inconsistent.

You assert that “the idea that there are two bodies involved is subjective.” That’s simply wrong. You say most people rely on religious answers to these difficult questions. Whether that’s true or not, your assumption about the subjectivity of whether there are “two bodies” is anything but scientific. The scientific facts are that two human organisms of different (though obviously related) genetic identity are involved. Any justification of abortion has to be based on the value of the life in question, not on the fact of its existence, which is indisputable.

I have no brief for Measure 37 and find what you say about that reasonable enough. But if abortion is what pro-lifers take it to be (based on their value allocation to human life at a given stage) the idea that abortion doesn’t affect others is absurd.

Again, you can argue that those who fail to equate abortion and property rights questions are wrong not to, but you can’t say they’re inconsistent, given that their inconsistency depends upon that equation.

Idler, you said: "I’d be interested to hear your recommendations for solving the problems of war and famine in Africa, especially as they might relate to the question of 'unnecessary wars.'"

Last night The Colbert Report featured an interview with economist Jeffrey Sachs, author of "The End of Poverty." Here are some of what Sachs said about saving lives in Africa:

"The President just announced a new malaria program. He has dedicated for the next five years what we spend in one day on the military. That's the kind of choice we are making right now.

We spend $1.4 billion every day for the military...and that's what he said we'd spend for the next five years to fight malaria in Africa.

The disease is going to kill two million children this year. As we've been talking, a dozen, two dozen, three dozen children have died because they don't have a bed net to protect them. And we could be helping them with those basic things. But we don't."

So you see, Idler, millions of real live children are dying in Africa while the South Dakota legislature obsesses over an obviously illegal effort to make women bear children after they've been raped.

And that makes me angry. That's what I mean by hypocrisy. Those who voted for Bush sit on their hands and ignore millions of deaths from disease, famine, and ethnic cleansing (as in the Sudan) while they try to stop Terri Schiavo from dying in peace.

What's going on here? Where's the genuine commitment to a "culture of life?" I don't see it. What I see is self-righteous posturing for mostly political purposes, people trying to force their relgious views down everybody's throats.

And all the while children are dying because they don't have any food to put down their own throats. Where's the Christian outrage about that? Where are the Christians picketing to take some of the military budget that goes to take lives, and shift it to saving lives?

Sometimes going over the top is the only valid response to unacceptable right-wing actions. Mark Morford does just that in this rant about the South Dakota abortion ban:

I can only hope that Morford is right about this being the last gasp of a fundamentalist movement on its last legs:

"These are the things you need to know. We are at that point. We are right now at the apex of some great and dirty battle, some ugly siege, the nation so overrun by the Christian right that they finally get to make some sort of grand and desperate statement, a vicious volley of stabs to the heart of progress and sexual rights, before being run out of Congress this fall and Bush becomes a lame duck and the nation slowly wakes up from this catatonic Republican-bled haze."


No doubt there wouldn’t be enough charity in the world whether abortion was controversial or not. Someone could just as easily argue that NOT ONLY do people support the snuffing out of developing life at home, where they should care most, they also show a casual disregard for children around the world. There are many people who hold precisely that view, and not all of them profess religious faith.

What a country spends on its military is always going to take away from more constructive uses of treasure. Of course security is the only basis for continuing flow of other benefits, so it always has high priority. Exactly what is the right balance is a contentious point. We could probably find resources for a variety of things that we’re not doing. But the fact that the government isn’t as focused on this as you argue it should be doesn’t mean the average person who thinks abortion is ethically problematic is not a reasonably generous person. And, more importantly, the point is irrelevant to whether abortion is right or wrong, or permissible or not under any circumstances or in given circumstances.

People shouldn’t be judged too harshly for being focused on their own lives and their personal responsibilities rather than being preoccupied by how much more of their own resources ought to be allocated to humanity in general. That’s not to say that persons with certain knowledge and interests shouldn’t try to encourage this kind of generosity.

For me the definition of hypocrisy on abortion would be if someone argued against abortion and then had an abortion themselves or made their partner have one once they found themselves in a tight spot. The main question for those opposed to abortion is whether people have a right to kill their offspring. But for a large proportion of them it’s also related to a view of sexual responsibility. And to people holding that view, there’s a lot less generosity, kindness, delicacy and respect in a social regime that encourages men to be less, not more, responsible in the way the interact sexually with women and own up to the duties of paternity. I’m not saying the other view doesn’t have its merits, but I sense you lack an understanding of the virtues—and specifically the selflessness—of the pro-life view.

Anyway, whatever hypocrisy you might more persuasively argue on the part of pro-lifers, there certainly is no hypocrisy in their supporting Measure 37, whatever the merits and faults of that bit of legislation.

Getting back to Africa for a moment, I think you have a good point about Americans’ ability to do more about disease, and to a lesser extent poverty. A big problem is how the money is spent, since so much treasure has ended up in the pockets of the political classes of the beneficiary countries. Perhaps different strategies will work better. However, problems like those occuring in the Sudan, for example, are not going to be solved without force. The same is generally true with instances of famine, which seldom occur without a political and military dimension. The United Nations option was favored over the “cowboy” option in that case and it has resulted in exactly nothing being accomplished.

Finally on the Morford thing: First, it’s the ravings of an hysteric. Fundamentalism in this country is nowhere near as powerful as many on the far left think. However, in the case of abortion specifically, there is increasing discomfort for the practice among a wider swath of voters. That’s not likely to result in a prohibition, but it could well result in greater restrictions.

Idler, thanks for your considered thoughts. You make a lot of sense. I included the Morford quote with some trepidation because usually I don't like his over-the-top style. He made some good points, but with too much shrillness.

I agree that people are uncomfortable with abortion and that having restrictions without banning it entirely is a likely result. What bothers me, though, is that several states are now acting to make virtually all abortions illegal.

The middle ground is almost always the best place to stand, in my opinion. I'm a registered Independent. And though spiritual, I don't consider myself a member of any organized religion. I don't like dogmatism, even when it is my own.

So thanks for sharing your views and helping me to better understand how an abortion opponent looks at the issue. Underneath our superficial differences we're all one at heart--members of the same human race and, even more, the same cosmos.

Hopefully this country will, in the Beatles' words, "come together, come together."

And to complete the thought, from the first song on Abbey Road to the last:

"And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make."

(OK, Her Majesty is really the last song, but only sort-of , and I couldn't resist the opportunity for symmetry).

Thanks for being willing to hear my voice.

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