Friday, January 4, 2008

Pro-Life Answers to Silly Pro-Abortion Choice Questions [Serge]

Jill over at Feministe has posted a series of questions that she feels few pro-lifers have the courage to answer. In the event that these may actually resonate with some, here's how I would answer them. Jill's questions are in italics, my answers after.

1. How do we determine our population? If a person is a person at the moment of conception, then we need to seriously re-evaluate how we calculate the number of persons world-wide. How do we track each conception? Have women make daily doctor visits to check? Implement some sort of required daily home test?
I see no reason to recalculate the methods in which we presently determine population. The only "right" that a prenatal human being is seeking is the right not to be dismembered on the order of their mother. If they are not counted in the next census, I don't see a problem.

2. How do we determine our death rate? Somewhere around half of all fertilized eggs naturally don’t implant in the uterine lining, and never develop into fetuses, let alone babies. Does our death rate just go up a few million with the passage of this amendment? The medical community has traditionally defined pregnancy as beginning at the point of implantation precisely because so many fertilized eggs don’t implant. Should we change this definition?

Our "death rate" is presently 100%. In other words, 100% of the human beings conceived will die at some point in time. Although I believe overturning Roe v Wade will accomplish much, this "death rate" will remain the same. Except that less of the deaths will occur via intentional dismemberment.

3. Should every “human” death be investigated? If so, how? As it stands, if a person dies (and especially if they’re found dead), there’s often some sort of investigation, especially if there’s reason to believe that another person caused their death. So, first, how do we recover all the “bodies” of the fertilized egg-people? Do we insist on checking every pad and tampon for evidence of human life? Every pair of panties? Every toilet bowl? And if we find a fertilized egg, should the police be called? I mean, if you find a baby in a dumpster, you call the police. If you find a used tampon in the trash, should you do the same thing? If a woman goes to the hospital for a miscarriage, should she be investigated as a potential murderer or child abuser? Should there be laws about the proper disposal of dead egg-bodies, the way that there are laws regulating the disposal of born human bodies?
No. As per question 2, human beings die all the time. The vast, vast majority of these deaths are natural and there is no reason to investigate all of them. When evidence exists that the death is not natural but instead is the intentional action of another human agent, then investigation may be warranted. Without such evidence, it is assumed that the death is natural.

Your example shows this. A dead infant found in a dumpster is investigated because, well, babies don't naturally crawl into dumpsters and die. On the other hand, all of the other examples you used happen naturally. There would be no reason to investigate almost all of them unless there some other more compelling evidence.

I have two quick questions for you: If a woman today presented to a hospital ER after a miscarriage but there was evidence of a perforated uterus possibly due to a botched "back-alley" abortion, do think this should be investigated? Second, why did you place "human" in quotations in describing "human death"? Is there a question whether or not a human zygote is in fact, human?

4. Pro-lifers claim to value each and every human life, from the moment of conception. That’s why, they say, they want abortion to be illegal — because it kills a person. And there are indeed a lot of abortions. But the abortion rate pales in comparison to the rate of fertilized eggs that don’t implant and “die” by being naturally flushed out of the body. Yet there is not a single pro-life organization (at least that I can find) dedicated to finding a solution to this widespread, deadly epidemic. The “death rate” of unimplanted fertilized egg-persons almost certainly far exceeds the abortion rate and the death rate from AIDS combined. Why the silence? Why no mass protests or funding drives or pushes for research?* Where is the concern for the fertilized egg-people?
I must admit I'm a bit confused by this question. The attitude of pro-lifers seem very similar to virtually every pregnant mother who wants her child. Deaths that occur naturally are seen as tragic and should be avoided if possible. However, anyone with even a basic knowledge of human physiology can see that there is no foreseeable way to prevent all natural deaths from humans regardless of their stage of development. Protests or funding drives would change none of that - although we certainly do attempt to educate mothers on the proper steps to take in order to minimize the risk to their child.

I'll answer 5-8 in the next post.


  1. Great answers! It makes them look a little desparate to come up with such tortured arguments.

  2. Serge, under #1, you wrote: “The only "right" that a prenatal human being is seeking is the right not to be dismembered on the order of their mother.”

    Who is doing the seeking here? Who are the moral actors again? Fetuses do not have wishes or make choices. How about: “The only benefit that we are looking for on behalf of prenatal human beings is that they should not be intentionally killed in their mothers’ wombs.”

    Sorry to rain on your parade, because I know what you’re saying, but I think that all of us, on both sides, have to watch out when we say that our actions are meant to benefit someone who actually doesn’t have anything to say on the matter -- who doesn’t even have the ability to have anything to say on the matter -- lest our construal of their “benefit” or “wishes” become a cipher for our own. So in one sense I think that pro-choice thinking, insofar as it explicitly bases a “right to choose” on the priority of a mother’s rights over those of an unborn child, is a little more upfront on the matter, because it acknowledges where one person’s rights are being evaluated as of a lesser priority than someone else’s -- even though that evaluation is perfectly justified. A lot of us are made uneasy by the fact that the pro-life movement -- coincidentally or however -- seeks things that fit right into age-old patterns of abuse of human rights vis-à-vis women. All the more so when its proponents claim to be acting entirely not in their own interest but in the interest of people who are completely innocent -- and who happen not to have any opinion of their own that their “protectors” have to take into account.

    Under #2: “Our "death rate" is presently 100%. In other words, 100% of the human beings conceived will die at some point in time.”

    Serge, this is kind of funny, but you are being really obtuse here. You know what a death rate is and that it is a common statistic used in describing public health. You don’t think it would be interesting to know -- and a matter of public concern -- if women in a certain area experienced much lower rates of implantation, so that maybe we could figure out what risks factors they were being subjected to -- or what made women in a certain other area experience higher rates of implantation? If you would like to argue, on the other hand, that a death rate is a useless statistic, have at it.

    Under #4: “However, anyone with even a basic knowledge of human physiology can see that there is no foreseeable way to prevent all natural deaths from humans regardless of their stage of development.”

    Again with the obtuseness, I think -- and settling for the status quo? I don’t want to get too mystical here about medical science, but haven’t we produced a lot of “miraculous” treatments and cures where before we thought there was no question of doing anything about it?


All comments are moderated. We reject all comments containing obscenity. We reserve the right to reject any and all comments that are considered inappropriate or off-topic without explanation.