New Mexico Abortion Wars: Yes, It’s A Terrible Law, But Not A Terribly Unethical One

Paving the road to hell? New Mexico lawmaker Cathrynn Brown

Paving the road to hell? New Mexico lawmaker Cathrynn Brown

My friend (and Ethics Alarms Ethics Blogger of the Year) Rick Jones went full-Django on New Mexico State Legislator  Cathrynn Brown for her proposed, now withdrawn, measure forbidding women who are pregnant as the result of incest or rape from getting an abortion on the theory that it constitutes “destruction of evidence.” The attempt launched Rick into rare form:

“Every once in a while someone mixes up a cocktail of such mind-melting stupidity, monumental inconsistency, and transcendent arrogance that there is little for the rest of us to do but drop everything and gaze in slack-jawed wonderment at the inanity before us. Behold, therefore, one Cathrynn Brown (right), a New Mexico legislator whose latest bill rockets off the scale, leaving “moronic” and “horrific” as feeble understatements of the idiocy involved.”

Whoa, Nelly!

Let’s calm ourselves and consider, shall we?

Anti-abortion advocates who maintain that any fetus is a human life deserving full legal and constitutional protection often append their principled objection to abortion with an exception for rape and incest, thus, in my view, invalidating their argument, waffling to pander to casual public opinion, and marking them as ethics hypocrites. What this version of the so-called pro-life view really says is “a woman shouldn’t have the right to terminate her own pregnancy unless I personally approve of her reasons. Rape’s a good reason, but the fact that getting pregnant will ruin her life isn’t, and makes her a baby-killer.” It also adds the element of fault to an equation where it unbalances the math. The argument that a fetus is a life should have nothing to do with why the fetus exists: if it’s a life, it’s a life regardless of whether it was created in a sublime union of bodies and souls in moment of sexual bliss and love, a meeting in a Petri dish, a turkey baster liaison or an armed attack. Anti-abortion activists who accept the rape and incest exception either do it because they aren’t thinking clearly, or to cynically appeal to others who aren’t thinking clearly, those whose knee-jerk reaction is “it’s horrible to make a woman have a baby that she was forced to conceive!” Yes, it is, but it’s not as horrible as killing a human being who has nothing to do with the crime—if that’s what you think an abortion would be.

Cathrynn Brown, whatever her flaws, gets points from me for not being one of these mealy-mouthed abortion opponents, and getting that part of the argument right. She believes that a fetus is a person, and that abortion is a currently legal but monstrous procedure that continues to end the lives of millions of innocents every year. This is, to pull a random example out of the air, a far more reasonable position than the belief that the existence of gun magazines with capacity of more than ten rounds poses and urgent and immediate threat to the nation’s elementary schools.

She also gets ethics points for taking the position that if the Supreme Court won’t protect all of the unborn, maybe her law will save some of them. That’s her objective, and its an ethical objective, if you believe what she believes. Rick quotes ThinkProgress approvingly in its critique of Brown’s proposal:

“While anti-choice advocates maintain that a fetus should be afforded the full rights of personhood, charging abortion as “tampering with evidence” effectively turns the fetus into an object. This isn’t the first time so-called pro-life supporters have dropped the fetal personhood crusade when it was convenient—last year, a Catholic hospital in Colorado reversed its stance on fetal personhood in a malpractice suit, arguing in court that the term “person” should only apply to individuals who have already been born.”

Ethics foul there, Rick. The Catholic hospitals’ reversal was pure hypocrisy, changing course to avoid damages, abandoning its moral stand to save money. This tells us a lot about lawyers  Catholic hospitals, and nothing about principled abortion opponents. Brown is trying to save innocent lives, and since the law, as she sees it, prevents her from doing so directly, then she’ll do it the best way she can. She’ll call fetuses objects, evidence, or macaroni if it will save lives. That doesn’t make her a hypocrite. That makes her a problem-solver. Law-makers and lawyers often use verbal legerdemain to accomplish by guile what can’t be accomplished directly, and that is an honorable method when employed appropriately.

I have a similar objection to Rick’s complaint that the proposal was especially heinous because it would make illegal the abortions that many pro-life advocates say should be legal. He writes,

“The long-time equivocation of some “centrists,” allowing the procedure in cases of rape and incest, may or may not be logically consistent (it makes sense if and only if the rights of the unborn are extant but not absolute), is here turned on its head: now, such victims are the only group specifically forbidden from getting an abortion.”

Yes, and since the equivocation is intellectually and ethically invalid, what’s the matter with that? Rick is condemning Brown for hypocrisy that would be true of one of his “centrists,” but clearly isn’t true of her. If the complaint is that it is unethical to try to ban the least controversial of abortions without banning the rest, it amounts to allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a particularly good example of The Consistency Obsession, #15 and rising on the Ethics Alarms rationalization hit list. Since Brown regards the offspring of rape and incest just as human as legally created fetuses, there is nothing foolish, inconsistent or unethical about her devising a way to save their lives, since she is effectively blocked from saving the rest unless and until Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Thus Brown’s proposal was a well-intentioned law, an honorable law and an ethical law. Rick is quite correct, however, that it would have also been a sloppy, unenforceable, vague and almost certainly unconstitutional law, as written. Such laws are unethical because they are incompetent and irresponsible. Cathrynn Brown’s objective, however, in the context of her beliefs, was ethical.

____________________________________________

Pointer, Graphic and Source: Curmudgeon Central

Sources: Think Progress, Colorado Independent

50 thoughts on “New Mexico Abortion Wars: Yes, It’s A Terrible Law, But Not A Terribly Unethical One

  1. Isn’t her way of achieving her objectives unethical, though. If the law prevents you from achieving your aim directly, is it ethical for someone who is bound to uphold the law to achieve their aim indirectly through colourable means?

    I can understand saying that, when you believe that what you are doing is correct, then you should be able to do it so long as you can get around the rules, but then, don’t we have rules, in part, to prevent people from doing what they think is right but what society thinks is wrong? If anything goes so long as you think that what you are doing is right and it is not against the rules, don’t we have the rule of loopholes, rather than the rule of law?

    • Wait, I thought you were committed to Dr. Seuss meter from now on!

      I think when saving lives is the objective, a strong utilitarian argument can be made for doing it indirectly or exploiting loopholes, which this is an attempt to do. Many feel it was unethical to lock up Al Capone for tax evasion when prosecutors couldn’t get him for what they really were after. It’s a valid argument.

      • Sorry for taking so long to get back to you.

        Trying to save lives is a wonderful objective, and it certainly alters the ethical calculus of many actions, but, of course, there are limits. One could justify many violations of the liberties that we enjoy on the basis that removing them would save lives.

        While we agree that taking actions that one thinks will save lives is a good thing, I think that T.S. Eliot’s line about doing the “right thing for the wrong reason” applies (not quite Dr. Seuss, but Eliot will have to do).

  2. Thanks for calling attention to this, something I hadn’t heard about from the regular media sources. Also, I’ve been meaning to compliment you on your appearance on O’Reilly. I loved it – and hope they’ll consider making you a regular. I emailed Fox and told them the same thing.

    • Thanks! I’d be satisfied if any ethicist was a regular or semi-regular commentator on any news show. So many of today’s issues are at core ethics dilemmas, but they are virtually never covered that way. (I made that pitch to O’Reilly’s producer.) Through the years, I’ve been contacted by the TV media on relatively minor stuff, like Beyonce, American Idol. NPR and Michel Martin have aimed higher, and have brought me on regarding more substantive issues.

  3. Jack, Apparently Brown is guilty of either back pedaling or incompetence. According to her website, ” the mother of the fetus would never be charged”. A revised version of the bill states this explicitly. So, she either incompetently drafted the original bill using language that did not reflect her intent, or she’s backing away from her original position because of the backlash it caused. I am inclined to believe its the former given that the current bill, which is posted on her website, does not prohibit any abortions, it criminalizes the procurement or facilitation of abortions by the perpetrator of a sexual assault resulting in pregnancy. It explicitly does not prohibit the victim of such assaults from aborting the pregnancy. Obviously, this changes the debate significantly.

  4. I’m probably being a little dense here–no coffee yet–but isn’t the rationale of “destruction of evidence” a bit specious? The evidence for which the fetus would serve is identification of the perpetrator of the rape or act of incest; if the woman wanted to abort, would not a sample extracted and kept for DNA testing serve the same purpose?

        • No, as the title said—it’s not TERRIBLY unethical, to the degree that Rick pronounced it. It’s incompetent lawmaking: Rich gave it a 5 out of 5 on the awful scale—I’d give it maybe two or three out of five. Believing that a fetus is a life from conception as she must, it can be partially defended as a desperate measure.

          • Rationalization. This is the same argument that some religious people and accommodationists use. Religion has positive results, therefore, the misinformation is okay.

            It’s worse though for two reasons: (1) we know the person backing it is intending to misinform and (2) the misinformation is coming from a government actor.

            • And I think Jack’s intent in declaring it as he has is that:

              The actor (according to the actor’s beliefs), upon passage of the law, will save more lives = VERY ETHICAL (saving lives in her mind outweighs the misinformation in your mind)

              The method employed is not proper = NOT VERY ETHICAL

              Therefore, the action is “Not a Terribly Unethical One”

              Because it is poorly composed and goes against Jack’s personal ranking of values = “Terrible Law”

              Hence, the exposition based on the title “It’s a Terrible Law, but not a Terribly Unethical One”

              • The actor (according to the actor’s beliefs), upon passage of the law, will save more lives = VERY ETHICAL (saving lives in her mind outweighs the misinformation in your mind)

                The problem is here. If I think that Blacks should be killed, then does writing a law that tries to sneak in killing blacks get me ethics points? No.

                    • For a particular person, if you are going to divorce the actual “rightness/wrongness” of a belief from the individual’s belief that they are right in order to decide whether or not it is ethical to push a belief via law, then yes, your absurd analogy holds.

                      This does not refute anything said above and if anything reduces to absurdity the very notion you claim makes your analogy valid: that you can divorce the “rightness/wrongness” of a belief from the individual’s belief that it is right. But this is irresponsible to do and opens up the ability to claim that no law ought to be passed. Ever.

                      Your divorce being absurd shows the analogy to be false, as I described: Comparing the killing of blacks (obviously wrong) to abortion (an unclear moral situation) is a False Analogy.

                    • Tex:

                      Jack said: “Believing that a fetus is a life from conception as she must, it can be partially defended as a desperate measure.” This states that her belief is the key.

                      You said: “The actor (according to the actor’s beliefs), upon passage of the law, will save more lives = VERY ETHICAL (saving lives in her mind outweighs the misinformation in your mind).” The parens show you understand that belief is the key.

                      You don’t have a leg to stand on here. I’m the one arguing that rightness or wrongness of an action is not dependent on what someone believes about the rightness or wrongness of an action.

                    • Jack said: “Believing that a fetus is a life from conception as she must, it can be partially defended as a desperate measure.” This states that her belief is the key.
                      “it” also states that the desire to enact the law is also key (when, in irresponsible TGT form, you are taking one sentence out of context). Hence I broke it down into two components (which you ignored the second component when you foisted your false analogy)
                      You said: “The actor (according to the actor’s beliefs), upon passage of the law, will save more lives = VERY ETHICAL (saving lives in her mind outweighs the misinformation in your mind).” The parens show you understand that belief is the key.
                      Duh. Then you follow with the ridiculous analogy “…I think that Blacks should be killed, then does writing a law that tries to sneak in killing blacks get me ethics points?…”
                      This analogy fails as I demonstrated (and you ignored like usual), the analogy requires ignoring the ‘rightness/wrongness’ of the belief and just accepting, “Hey, she’s got a belief…so that must be how Jack is justifying it”. Although your analogy requires ignoring the actual ‘rightness/wrongness’ of a belief, Jack’s assertion that her motive is ethical, does not. Jack justifies it that her belief that she is saving lives makes the difference. He never justifies it solely on having a belief, as you would foolishly have us believe in order to go down this idiotic rat-hole.
                      “You don’t have a leg to stand on here. I’m the one arguing that rightness or wrongness of an action is not dependent on what someone believes about the rightness or wrongness of an action.”
                      What an absolutely, profoundly, undeniably, fork-tongued ignorant comment in an attempt to pretend like this is even pertinent. You must be proud of yourself.
                      Because, as demonstrated, yes it is important to consider the actual rightness/wrongness of belief, not just the fact it is a belief. Since, she believes that anyway to avert abortions (wrong in her beliefs, but not actually determined to be right or wrong), then Jack’s assertion that her motives are ethical. For your analogy “…I think that blacks should be killed”, to be held by you (right in your *hypothetical* beliefs but unquestionably wrong in actuality), is completely non-analogous.
                      Unless you can produce an actual analogy that shows a similar belief (perceived rightness, vs actually undetermined rightness/wrongness) then you can’t argue from the tack you took with the original False Analogy.

                      So, back to my original first two parts of my three part breakdown:
                      X believes Q to support very ethical goal W = VERY ETHICAL
                      X utilizes unethical method P to enact Q = UNETHICAL
                      Utilizing P to achieve goal W = Not Terribly Unethical.

                      You chose only to address that first line, with a False Analogy. A False Analogy that actually assumes the accuracy while ignoring the relevance of the second line when you said “… then does writing a law that tries to sneak ….”

                      You sir, have no leg to stand on after your demonstrably illogical attempt while attacking something out of context.

                    • I respond to each section below, but it’s really just one major error throughout your post. You are stating that the result of the law is good. That’s nowhere in Jack’s argument. Instead, his argument has that the person BELIEVES the result is good.

                      —-

                      Jack said: “Believing that a fetus is a life from conception as she must, it can be partially defended as a desperate measure.” This states that her belief is the key.
                      “it” also states that the desire to enact the law is also key (when, in irresponsible TGT form, you are taking one sentence out of context). Hence I broke it down into two components (which you ignored the second component when you foisted your false analogy)

                      Seriously? My parallel had the person desiring a law as well. For your sake, I really hope this was trolling.

                      You said: “The actor (according to the actor’s beliefs), upon passage of the law, will save more lives = VERY ETHICAL (saving lives in her mind outweighs the misinformation in your mind).” The parens show you understand that belief is the key.
                      Duh. Then you follow with the ridiculous analogy “…I think that Blacks should be killed, then does writing a law that tries to sneak in killing blacks get me ethics points?…”
                      This analogy fails as I demonstrated (and you ignored like usual), the analogy requires ignoring the ‘rightness/wrongness’ of the belief and just accepting, “Hey, she’s got a belief…so that must be how Jack is justifying it”. Although your analogy requires ignoring the actual ‘rightness/wrongness’ of a belief, Jack’s assertion that her motive is ethical, does not. Jack justifies it that her belief that she is saving lives makes the difference. He never justifies it solely on having a belief, as you would foolishly have us believe in order to go down this idiotic rat-hole.

                      (1) I didn’t ignore your comment about my analogy failing. I showed why it was wrong.

                      (2) Your attempt to differentiate the beliefs fails. In both Brown’s case and my racist case, the person believes they are doing things for the greater good. Anything past that is irrelevant. It’s not necessary for the logical comparison or to show the failure in your/Jack’s logic.

                      Remember, you said this: “The actor (according to the actor’s beliefs), upon passage of the law, will save more lives = VERY ETHICAL (saving lives in her mind outweighs the misinformation in your mind)”

                      If killing blacks is very ethical to the person (as it was set up in my parallel), then it’s a direct substitution.

                      “You don’t have a leg to stand on here. I’m the one arguing that rightness or wrongness of an action is not dependent on what someone believes about the rightness or wrongness of an action.”

                      I’m going to break down your responses piece by piece here:

                      What an absolutely, profoundly, undeniably, fork-tongued ignorant comment in an attempt to pretend like this is even pertinent. You must be proud of yourself.

                      Your first statement here is incoherent. What does the “this” refer to? Were you trying to say that my argument that “rightness or wrongness of the action matters” is irrelevant? Were you trying to say that whether I was making that argument or not is irrelevant? Was it something else? As written, It’s gobbledygook.

                      Because, as demonstrated, yes it is important to consider the actual rightness/wrongness of belief, not just the fact it is a belief.

                      Was this supposed to tie into the previous statement? If so, it appears to directly contradict my best guesses at your previous comment.

                      Since, she believes that anyway[sic] to avert abortions (wrong in her beliefs, but not actually determined to be right or wrong), then Jack’s assertion that her motives are ethical.

                      This isn’t a sentence. What did you mean to say?

                      For your analogy “…I think that blacks should be killed”, to be held by you (right in your *hypothetical* beliefs but unquestionably wrong in actuality), is completely non-analogous.

                      This is also not a sentence.

                      Unless you can produce an actual analogy that shows a similar belief (perceived rightness, vs actually undetermined rightness/wrongness) then you can’t argue from the tack you took with the original False Analogy.

                      Well, this is actually a sentence. And it makes a coherent point! Your point is that since killing blacks is definitely wrong and abortion is not definitely wrong, my analogy fails. This is stupid. My analogy shows the incompetence of the argument specifically because we all recognize that killing blacks is definitely wrong.

                      Remember, Jack/ made the case that because Brown believed what she was doing was for the greater good, her bad actions to get there aren’t so bad. You even stated this earlier in this very response: “Jack justifies it that her belief that she is saving lives makes the difference.” In Jack’s argument, it doesn’t matter whether the result actually is for the greater good or not. Jack was clear to use Brown’s belief repeatedly in his post. (“if you believe what she believes”, “Since Brown regards”, etc). The argument breaks down like this:

                      If you believe Q is good, then doing bad P to get to Q isn’t that bad.

                      I was pointing out the danger in this argument. In Jack’s argument, the belief is something that populace is split pretty evenly on. If his logic were to hold, it would have to hold for things the populace generally doesn’t agree with… like killing blacks.

                      So, back to my original first two parts of my three part breakdown:
                      X believes Q to support very ethical goal W = VERY ETHICAL
                      X utilizes unethical method P to enact Q = UNETHICAL
                      Utilizing P to achieve goal W = Not Terribly Unethical.

                      You don’t define your terms, so I have to guess at them. By my guess Q and W are not independent terms. Q appears to be something like “We should stop people from having abortions because it is killing” and W is “less killing”. If that’s true, then claiming the first statement is “VERY ETHICAL” begs the question.

                      Below is the actual argument program down more fully than I did above:

                      Terms:
                      Q1 = abortion is killing/bad
                      Q2 = abortion should be limited as much as possible
                      P = Unethical legislative things.

                      Premises:
                      (1) X believes Q1
                      (2) Q1 => Q2
                      (3) Conclusion: X believes Q2
                      (4) P
                      (5) X uses P to get to actual Q2

                      or

                      (1) X believes Q2
                      (2) P
                      (3) X uses P to get to actual Q2

                      It’s unclear which is exact, but since Q1 implies Q2, it’s not important.

                      In Jack’s argument, there is no premise that Q2 or Q1 are actually true, just that they are believed by X.

                      My argument parallels that.

                      Terms:
                      q2 = killing blacks is cool
                      P = Unethical legislative things.

                      (1) X believes q2
                      (2) P
                      (3) X uses P to get to actual q2

                      You sir, have no leg to stand on after your demonstrably illogical attempt while attacking something out of context.
                      Legs shown above.

                    • Again, as I read it:

                      “Terrible Law” – Expounded upon above, a poorly composed law and one that goes against Jack’s personal ranking of values.

                      “Not Terribly Unethical” – Composed of 2 parts. One being unethical (the methodology used – sneaking it into legislation with crafty language), the other being a factor that mitigates the ‘unethical’ to ‘not terribly’ so.

                      You continue to ignore her Objective. The objective isn’t “Limiting Abortion”, that is just the means, enacted through law, to attain the actual Objective – Saving Lives (in this case the particular subset of Unborn Lives). Agree or disagree with her that limiting abortion saves unborn lives, but to disagree that saving lives is ethical borders on lunacy. But you have to ignore that to go down the road have approached this from.

                      Jack states “She also gets ethics points for taking the position that if the Supreme Court won’t protect all of the unborn, maybe her law will save some of them. That’s her objective, and its an ethical objective, if you believe what she believes.”

                      This clearly acknowledges that the Objective of Saving Lives (of the unborn) is an ETHICAL OBJECTIVE and is the Objective of Catherine Brown. You and anyone else can disagree on the idea that saving the unborn qualifies as meeting this objective, and society is still clearly undecided on this (whereas killing blacks is an undeniably determined wrong, regardless of how sincerely you believe it to be right). This ethical objective of saving lives cannot be ignored in Jack’s evaluation (he doesn’t. Not sure why you continue to insist on it).

                      He does temper this with “if you believe what she believes”. But this does not allow for ignoring that SAVING LIVES is ethical and is the Objective.

                      Your program is clumsy, but since that will help you understand:

                      Terms:
                      X = Actor (Catherine Brown)
                      Q = Limit Abortion (X’s plan)
                      W = Save Lives (an undeniably ethical goal)
                      W1 = Save Unborn Lives (a subset of W)

                      Society believes that W is Good. This is a First Principle.

                      X believes:
                      All W1 are W
                      ¬Q → ¬W1
                      Therefore W → Q

                      You can’t have just one part of that, you take it all or you take it none.

                      Jack may or may not, you may or may not, I may or may not, anybody may or may not believe that Limiting Abortion is right (society has not figured this one out), but society has figured out that Saving Lives is an ethical goal. You cannot ignore this objective in your analysis.

                      Saving lives is the Objective that Jack uses to temper the “Unethical” down to “Not Terribly Unethical”. Not the means (limiting abortion) to the Objective.

                      Your hypothetical analogy falls in on the terms thus:
                      X = Actor (TGT)
                      Q = Kill Black People (X’s plan)
                      W = Unidentified (TGT fails to give the objective, or ethical goal for this, TGT hints at it being ‘just to kill black people’)
                      W1 = not a necessary term for your analogy, but could be used

                      P= unethical legislation (which isn’t even necessary for this part of the discussion, but you insist)

                      You then set up your model for reductio ad absurdum

                      Hoping that the excessively obvious wrong of your W (which you end up never using in your analogy) would ruin Catherine Brown’s objective.

                      However the analogy fails, because you insert Catherine Brown’s W and your Q into the W on the 1st line, then you inadvertently suppress the 2nd line, then proceed to use Catherine Brown’s Q and your Q in the Q on line 3.

                      Here’s what you end up comparing:

                      Catherine Brown:
                      W is good
                      W → Q
                      Therefore it is ok to use P to enact Q

                      Your hypothetical
                      Q is good (this is invalidated simply because X’s Q is horrifyingly not-good)
                      W → Q (unstated, and invalidated because X’s W is undeniably not-good)
                      Therefore it is ok to use P to enact Q

                      False Analogy. Line 1 does not parallel, line 2 ignores unstated qualities the clearly differentiate between Catherine Brown and TGT’s separate W’s

                      In summary, you pretend like the Objective does not matter. Yet it does, you ignored your own objective’s unacceptance: killing blacks – which in no way would ever be construed as an ethical objective. You pretended like all that mattered was having a belief, not whether or not it was clearly a wrong belief.

                      Your entire argument rests on pretending that the objective doesn’t matter. I already showed you the excerpt where Jack indicates the Objective does matter, then demonstrated why. You are just confused as to what the Objective is.

                      The peg legs you ‘showed above’ upon which you propped yourself just snapped. I think they were made of balsa.

                    • Tex,

                      You’re just insane. I pointed out the problem in your argument, and you just pretended it didn’t exist.

                      This passage explains your issue well:

                      Jack states “She also gets ethics points for taking the position that if the Supreme Court won’t protect all of the unborn, maybe her law will save some of them. That’s her objective, and its an ethical objective, if you believe what she believes.”

                      This clearly acknowledges that the Objective of Saving Lives (of the unborn) is an ETHICAL OBJECTIVE and is the Objective of Catherine Brown. You and anyone else can disagree on the idea that saving the unborn qualifies as meeting this objective, and society is still clearly undecided on this (whereas killing blacks is an undeniably determined wrong, regardless of how sincerely you believe it to be right). This ethical objective of saving lives cannot be ignored in Jack’s evaluation (he doesn’t. Not sure why you continue to insist on it).

                      He does temper this with “if you believe what she believes”. But this does not allow for ignoring that SAVING LIVES is ethical and is the Objective.

                      Nowhere does Jack’s argument claim that it matters if Brown’s goal is actually objectively good. It only matters that she believes that it is good. You improperly read that in by pretending the “if you believe what she believes” is a temperance (whatever that means) instead of a piece of the logic. When you misread something this clear, there’s no point in arguing with you.

                      Here’s another example:

                      Saving lives is the Objective that Jack uses to temper the “Unethical” down to “Not Terribly Unethical”. Not the means (limiting abortion) to the Objective.

                      Again, Saving Lives isn’t actually in jack’s argument, just Brown’s belief that she’s saving lives. The second sentence there is arguing with a strawman.

                      Still not enough? Let’s look at your updated argument:

                      Terms:
                      X = Actor (Catherine Brown)
                      Q = Limit Abortion (X’s plan)
                      W = Save Lives (an undeniably ethical goal)
                      W1 = Save Unborn Lives (a subset of W)

                      Society believes that W is Good. This is a First Principle.

                      X believes:
                      All W1 are W
                      ¬Q → ¬W1
                      Therefore W → Q

                      You can’t have just one part of that, you take it all or you take it none.

                      Jack may or may not, you may or may not, I may or may not, anybody may or may not believe that Limiting Abortion is right (society has not figured this one out), but society has figured out that Saving Lives is an ethical goal. You cannot ignore this objective in your analysis.

                      I didn’t ignore that “saving lives” is a generally ethical goal. I just simplified it to a generic “good”. My argument was a parallel of the simplified version of the argument. I already explained how that worked. instead of pointing to a place where I made an error (or backing up your belief that there is a differnce), you simply re-averred your statement.

                      Now, take your argument and change W1 to “Save mass Murderer’s lives”. and Q to “remove the death penalty”. It still works! Jack must be against the death penalty in all instances! Wait…

                      Your first problem here should be obvious. Society believes that saving lives is good IN GENERAL, but society doesn’t believe that this applies to all lives. W1 is not a subset of W. This is just part of X’s belief. You beg the question here. You tried to slide in a positive goal as if it was implied. If you really want, I can do the same:

                      X = Actor (Racist)
                      Q = Kill blacks(X’s plan)
                      W = Save Lives (an undeniably ethical goal)
                      W1 = remove blacks (a subset of W)

                      Society believes that W is Good. This is a First Principle.

                      X believes:
                      All W1 are W
                      ¬Q → ¬W1
                      Therefore W → Q

                      You’ll say that Killing blacks isn’t a subset of saving lives, but in this racist’s head, it is. your is a more subtle error, but it’s still there. (Your logic is really “People generally like rectangles. All squares are rectangles. People like all squares.” ) The jump from W1 to W is completely in the head of the person with the belief. So long as the person believes that what they are doing is good, it’s irrelevant to Jack’s logic whether it actually is good or not.

                      You created completely different logic than Jack, and I’m not engaging with it here. I was dealing with Jack’s logic. If you want to argue a different set of logic from Jack, that should probably start as a direct reply to Jack, not a defense of Jack.

                    • I really should send both or you copies of “The Pig That Wants To be Eaten.” It’s great, and its ethics conundrums are frequently like this, and, by the way, usually unanswerable. Is A, the person who fervently believes something will save a life and who does something illegal or wrong to achieve it, but who is mistaken that a life is being saved more ethical than B, a person who believes a life will be saved, also mistakenly, but who won’t take that step out of fear or cowardice? Is C, the person who correctly believes that a life will be saved and commits the same otherwise wrongful act to save it more ethical than A?

                      I think the ethical analysis of A is just as sound as C, and thus both are equally ethical, and making an ethical decision. The belief is what matters. In legal ethic, there are several what I call “stupid lawyer” rules, where a dumb lawyer is acting in good faith and thus ethically while a smarter lawyer who did the same thing would be unethical.

                      I don’t know whether that helps or not.

                    • It helps out a great deal and potentially requires you to answer TGT’s False Analogy.

                      Let me clean it up so it isn’t a false analogy:
                      Would you consider the guy who sincerely believes killing blacks helps saves innocent lives is acting ethically if he/she tries to pass laws enacting it?

                      Otherwise your explanation lends weight to the clarification I made on 29 Jan 2013 at 2:15 – the one that led to TGT’s analogy about killing black people.

                      It adds no weight to his analogy as he stated it, but potential weight after I cleaned up the analogy above.

                      Again on his demonstrably False Analogy-

                      Regardless of how fervently hypothetical TGT believes it would be good for blacks to be killed (this is an unquestionably wrong objective). Any Black-killing law, dishonestly enacted (let alone honestly in this flawed analogy) would be wrong for both for its method of enactment (dishonesty) and for its universally repugnant objective (killing blacks).

                      Catherine Brown fervently believes it is good to save innocent lives (this, for all intents and purposes, is an unquestionably good objective). Any Abortion-Limiting law (for the purpose of saving lives), dishonestly enacted would be wrong for its method of enactment (dishonesty, or as you aptly put “Unethical”) but not for its universally desirable objective (saving lives, tempering things as you aptly put it “Not Terribly” so).

                      The problem with TGT’s analogy, is two-fold: Regardless of sincerity in believing killing blacks is good, that is something utterly wrong in EVERYONE’s mind. Sincere belief in saving innocent lives is good, and something universally accepted.

                      The second source of error in his analogy is comparing Catherine Brown’s method and objective (Limiting Abortion in order to Save Innocent Lives) to hypothetical TGT’s method and objective (legalizing killing blacks in order to kill blacks). This doesn’t parallel. One is an action for a purpose, the other in an action for the actions sake.

                      So TGT gives himself an irresponsible out in his discussion… he can either say he discussing the sneakily crafted law or he can claim he’s discussing the objective of the sneakily crafted law.

                      To round out:

                      1. Saving Innocent lives is an ethical objective that is universally accepted.

                      2. Doing so by limiting abortion is where the question arises — it is neither universally accepted nor universally denied as a way to meet the universally accepted objective.

                      3. Enacting #2 by deceit is accepted as unethical.

                      1. Killing blacks is not an ethical objective, regardless of sincerity AND this is universally denied except to the believer

                      2. Doing so by legalizing the killing of blacks is also a universally denied ethically (for all intents and purposes).

                      3. Enacting #2 using deceit is accepted as unethical.

                      Lines 1 being the objectives of the believer’s do not parallel, regardless of sincerity. Analogy Fails.

                      Lines 1 and 2 are muddled in the hypothetical, whereas they are clearly discernible in the Catherine Brown bit. Analogy Weakened, and only allows the analogy maker lots of ambiguity to dance around.

                    • “Would you consider the guy who sincerely believes killing blacks helps saves innocent lives is acting ethically if he/she tries to pass laws enacting it?”

                      No. The problem is that to have any chance of passing utilitarian muster, the supposed means can’t violate basic absolutist ethics principles, and life-taking is Numero Uno. Absolutism is what keeps utilitarians from running amuck, because there are some means that go off the table.

                    • @Jack 10:46.

                      Bullshit. We kill people for utilitarian reasons with some regularity. Remember your defense of the atomic bombings? How about of the death penalty? In general, we think life-taking is a no-no, but in specific situations, it can be allowed. As such, your complaint is invalid. This could be a situation where it’s allowed, and as defined in my comparison, the person believes it to be a proper behavior.

                      @tex

                      You’re still an idiot. The badness of the goal in my example, as I have already said, is necessary. If people don’t agree with the logic when the goal is bad (but believed to be good), then the logic isn’t right when the goal has unknown truth (but believed to be good.

                    • We kill people in warfare, where the usual ethical rules are suspended, and in self-defense, when its them or us, and in capital punishment situations. None of that is applicable to killing a defenseless innocent human whose apparently undesirable presence was by no way his or her fault. It’s a strict Kantian violation.

                      But because this doesn’t involve Applebee’s, in any way, I love your comment.

                    • Jack,

                      The person sincerely believes that killing blacks is necessary for defense of the country. Now what?

                      To me, it looks like you’re attempting to have your argument both ways. Your argument is strictly based on what Brown believes…except for the places where you insert your own morality. By doing so, you just end up arguing that you like what she’s doing, so you don’t care that she’s doing wrong to get there.

                    • TGT, you have been demonstrated to be wrong on this. Demonstrated. You have attempted to demonstrate your way out of this and had that exposed for error. You are either colossally dense or unwaveringly arrogant.

                      I will try this one last time. As boiled down to as child-like simplicity as I can:

                      I’ve had to abbreviate because this reply string is narrow on the screen:
                      Line 1 is the Objective
                      Line 2 is Society’s acceptance of the objective
                      Line 3 is the method of enacting the means to the objective
                      Line 4 is society’s opinion of the means
                      Line 5 is the believer’s opinion of the means
                      Line 6 is the means the believer wishes enacted

                      Cathrynn Brown
                      1 Saving innocent life
                      2 Universally considered ethical
                      3 Dishonestly worded legislation
                      4 Ethicality Undecided
                      5 Ethical
                      6 Limiting Abortion

                      TGT’s Hypothetical (as originally worded at 12:07 pm on 29 Jan 2013, you change this later)
                      1 Killing black people
                      2 Universally considered unethical
                      3 Dishonestly worded legislation
                      4 Universally considered unethical
                      5 Ethical
                      6 Legalizing killing of blacks

                      You’re attempt to reduce to absurdity fails because instead of utilizing the exact same variables throughout minus the one that is absurd, which leads to a false positive for you. Additionally, you’ve muddled the means and the objective, whereas basically saying Do X for X’s sake, whereas, Cathrynn Brown has said Do X for Y’s sake.

                      Most recently you changed your hypothetical to (which I’ll accept, but had anyone done the same to you, you’d have begun screaming hysterically about Arguing in Bad Faith and Changing Terms):

                      TGT’s updated hypothetical
                      1 Defense of the country
                      2 Universally considered ethical
                      3 Dishonestly worded legislation
                      4 Universally considered unethical
                      5 Ethical
                      6 Legalize the killing of blacks

                      Here you’ve nearly rectified the weak analogy. And in this case, if and only if, we will logically accept a sociopathic judgment for analogy instead of rational ones, then I would submit that yes, the holder of belief (as blatently sociopathic as that belief is) is technically balancing the ethics involved (in their brain) and therefore making a decision based on ethics. But, of course this is still a wild analogy as well, and still doesn’t keep things analagous throughout other than the absurd variable. Don’t be confused by certain aspects of this being formal logic; since this is informal logic, your reductio ad absurdum requires a insane amount of suspension of disbelief as well as reliance on a still weak analogy. We would have countless syllogisms to wade through if we wanted to make this completely formal.

                      And Jack identified that mere belief in the goodness of the means does not make something ethical (which is why this title doesn’t say “Pretty close to ethical law”, but says “Not terribly unethical law”); in other words, that belief in an overall ethical objective is what tempers the un-ethicality of the law down to “Not terribly”. Your corrected hypothetical could be entitled as “Not only is it a Terrible Law, It’s A Horrifying Law, But only a 99.999999% Sociopathically Unethical One”. But because we can accept, without a statement identifying it, that sociopathically reached propositions fly against the need for a rationally acceptable connection between lines 1 and 6.

                      You are idiotically hung-up on the “Not Terribly” portion of the phrase “A Terrible Law, But Not a Terribly Unethical Law” and pretending like that implies “Completely, Totally, Unquestionably Ethical Law”. This further betrays that your reading comprehension is degraded, certainly your grasp of adverbs leaves much to be desired, and that splitting hairs must be a favorite past time.

                      But, I’m not sure repeating the truth again will work for you, nor do I think I can distill this down to be any more simple. I’ll leave you with it to get in your last horribly spun defense. Perhaps find a word I used that has several definitions and publish an exposition on that, that mainstay has held you over in the past.

                      Good day.

                    • Way late tex, but I’m responding anyway:

                      TGT, you have been demonstrated to be wrong on this. Demonstrated. You have attempted to demonstrate your way out of this and had that exposed for error. You are either colossally dense or unwaveringly arrogant.

                      Projection.

                      Latest attempt at original comparison:

                      I didn’t cite, because it seemed unwieldly inline. I’m referring to the first comparison in the post.

                      You fail in two ways. First, you, again, add in information that was not in Jack’s argument. Line 2 and Line 4 include what society thinks. That wasn’t part of Jack’s calculus. Second, you again mess up my line 1, despite repeated corrections. I went with a generic unspecified good. Not a repeat of killing black people.

                      You’re attempt to reduce to absurdity fails because instead of utilizing the exact same variables throughout minus the one that is absurd, which leads to a false positive for you.

                      This is incoherent, but I think you’re complaining that I changed multiple variables. When the randomly added in lines 2 and 4 are removed, we see a direct parallel:
                      1. Something Good.
                      2. N/A
                      3. Dishonestly worded legislation
                      4. N/A
                      5. Ethical (really neutral, but whatever)
                      6. Limiting abortion/legalizing killing blacks.

                      Additionally, you’ve muddled the means and the objective, whereas basically saying Do X for X’s sake, whereas, Cathrynn Brown has said Do X for Y’s sake.

                      Again, my Y was a generic good. I made that clear. Repeatedly.

                      Most recently you changed your hypothetical to (which I’ll accept, but had anyone done the same to you, you’d have begun screaming hysterically about Arguing in Bad Faith and Changing Terms):

                      Line 1 was only changed to a specific good because Jack attempted to use a separate (and irrelevant) ethical principle to attack my comparison. I didn’t want to go on another tangent, so I figured specifying the specific good to avoid this principle was easiest (The principle of killing as necessarily bad expect in certain situations was irrelevant because, again, the only thing that mattered in Jack’s statement was what the person performing the action thought.)

                      This new hypothetical still has the inappropriate lines 2 and 4.

                      Here you’ve nearly rectified the weak analogy. And in this case, if and only if, we will logically accept a sociopathic judgment for analogy instead of rational ones, then I would submit that yes, the holder of belief (as blatently sociopathic as that belief is) is technically balancing the ethics involved (in their brain) and therefore making a decision based on ethics.

                      Rational judgment has nothing to do with Jack’s argument. Adding that in would beg the question. Again, Jack’s argument was based on the actor’s belief that she was being ethical.

                      But, of course this is still a wild analogy as well, and still doesn’t keep things analagous throughout other than the absurd variable.

                      Again… This is your random, inappropriate premises 2 and 4.

                      Don’t be confused by certain aspects of this being formal logic; since this is informal logic, your reductio ad absurdum requires a insane amount of suspension of disbelief as well as reliance on a still weak analogy. We would have countless syllogisms to wade through if we wanted to make this completely formal.

                      My reductio ad absurdum requires the “insane amount of suspension of disbelief” that consists completely of (1) someone thinking blacks are worse than whites and we’d be better off without them, and (2) that same person doesn’t reserve killing for few offenses. Do I need to demonstrate examples of people that fit those traits? The first is filled by lots of white supremacists, and the latter is filled by anyone that backs Sharia law (or mosaic law)

                      And Jack identified that mere belief in the goodness of the means does not make something ethical (which is why this title doesn’t say “Pretty close to ethical law”, but says “Not terribly unethical law”);[…]

                      This says that the ethics of a situation change based on the beliefs of the person who performed the action. Jack suggested that it would have been ethically worse if the person had acted for something she didn’t believe was good. That’s true if we judging the ethicality of the action of the legislator, but the law is equally unethical in either case. No matter how small the move, it’s inappropriate.

                      But because we can accept, without a statement identifying it, that sociopathically reached propositions fly against the need for a rationally acceptable connection between lines 1 and 6.

                      If you’re saying that sociopaths often ignore ethics, then I would never have disagreed.

                      If you’re saying that we can accept that crazy people make crazy connections, then I also would never have disagreed.

                      You are idiotically hung-up on the “Not Terribly” portion of the phrase “A Terrible Law, But Not a Terribly Unethical Law” and pretending like that implies “Completely, Totally, Unquestionably Ethical Law”. This further betrays that your reading comprehension is degraded, certainly your grasp of adverbs leaves much to be desired, and that splitting hairs must be a favorite past time.

                      I didn’t have the problem you suggested. As noted above, moving the ethical calculation of the law one iota on the ethics scale is inappropriate. The issues appear to be on your side.

  5. Ok. So let me try to get this straight:

    She objects to all abortion as the destruction of human life. She came up with this law as a method to meet that personal moral goal. But in her measure, she specifies that in the case of rape/incest, an abortion would constitute “destruction of evidence”.

    She may be staying true to her moral ideal regarding abortion, but in the same breath, she is lying about the reason for her measure, that it would be “destruction of evidence”.

    After all, the biological materials purged during an abortion could be saved and tested, even as rape victims are examined with “rape kits” for additional evidence.

    So, is it ethical to lie to constituents in order for her to meet her personal moral goal?

    This one is a tangled web of ethics, but I keep walking away from this story thinking “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

    • Is it ethical to lie to save a human life, which is the equation from her point of view? As in, was it ethical to lie to keep Ann Frank’s family out of the concentration camps? Two wrongs don’t make a right is a useful rule for ringing ethics alarms, but that’s not the calculus here. This is utilitarianism, pure and straight: a smaller wrong (lying) for a greater good (saving not one life, but many.)

      • Completely different situation. Brown is a member of our legislature. As such, she has the power to actually effect change. Instead, she’s trying to sneak things in the back door.

        As you have said in the past, people that break laws because they think the laws are bad need to own up to what they’re doing. Brown was (and still is) trying to be sneaky.

        • Not really—she is severely limited in what she can do to effect change by Roe. It’s sneaky. So was Schindler. I don’t agree with her rationale or her methods, but they are defensible in utilitarian terms.

          • “defensible in utilitarian terms” may as well be “it’s not the worst thing”. On utilitarian terms, I can defend letting all senior citizens with serious health issues die.

              • What? That’s exactly why it IS a valid objection. Utilitarianism can be bent any which way, so it can’t stand on it’s own. Utilitarianism is the only thing backing this position as anything but horribly unethical.

                • No, it is a call to shift the discussion back to first principles and determine if you are even discussing from the same premises. If it holds that Jack’s ranking of the values in his Utilitarian equation are more valid than yours, or vice versa, it can be supported by utilitarianism.

  6. Then, specifically in this argument, does the end justify the means?

    She is lying to the legislature, the general public and her constituents. She has a personal moral goal, that apparently supersedes other moral aspects of her life; specifically, lying (also considered a sin in many religions)

    Whoops, now I brought religion into this. Sorry about that, but quite often in the abortion debate, the morality may be defined as religiously based (and yes, I know that many non-religious people may also define abortion as wrong, but bear with me).

    I think this is exactly where this ethical and moral thicket begins; can you be immoral in order to achieve an end that you believe is moral. And, is committing illegal acts under US law acceptable if it furthers your personal moral agenda?

    Now, legalities aside:
    Is it moral to lie to a woman to make her decide against getting an abortion?
    Is it moral to create a law under false pretenses?
    Is it moral to blockade clinics that provide abortion so women can’t enter?
    Is it moral to shout and demonize women going into clinics?
    Is it moral to shoot an abortion doctor?

    Where, exactly, does the line get drawn?

  7. Jack,

    But because this doesn’t involve Applebee’s, in any way, I love your comment.

    I’m intentionally not reading that post, as your title and description tell me that I’m going to want to kill you for misinformation.

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