Pro-Abortion Ethics: Amanda Marcotte’s Defense Of The Planned Parenthood Fetal Organ-Harvesting Video Is Even Uglier Than The Video Itself

Planned Parenthood is hustling to deal with the public relations embarrassment of a sting video (above) by an anti-abortion group, catching a PP executive enthusiastically discussing the harvesting of tiny livers and other fetal organs.

Over lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant, two of the group’s activists, posing as employees from a biotech firm, met with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research. They made a surreptitious video capturing Nucatola over a three-hour span as she chatted about Planned Parenthood’s work providing fetal tissue to researchers. The hit job—these stings are per se unethical, no matter what they reveal, no matter who they target, and no matter how virtuous their motives—emerged as a shortened, edited version of the session featuring the most disturbing  of Nucatera’s comments. The group responsible, the Center for Medical Progress, is accusing Planned Parenthood of illegally trafficking in aborted fetal organs.What is more significant from an ethical perspective, however, is the stunning callousness of this executive’s attitude toward unborn human beings.

She casually describes “crushing” fetuses so that their internal organs remain usable for research. “I’d say a lot of people want liver,” she as she munches on a salad. ( I wonder if she a vegan, since it’s, you know, unethical to kill animals for food, and we’re so cruel to cattle and chickens. ) “And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps.”

Nucatera later boasts, “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

I continue to believe that a tipping point may lie ahead for the abortion controversy. When a cultural equivalent of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” cuts through the deceit and fantasy, forcing the public to confront the ethical and moral depravity of the most extreme pro-abortion position, civilization may come to view the current period with shame akin to how we now look at the slavery era.

Maybe not, however. I don’t understand how the ghoulish rhetoric of abortion advocates hasn’t already had this effect. Perhaps the ethical corruption of the culture on the topic of destroying innocent human life in the womb has already proceeded too far. Perhaps groups like Planned Parenthood have succeeded in imbedding the factually untenable concept that the welfare and life of only one individual is at stake in an abortion choice, rather than two.

“The promotional video mischaracterizing Planned Parenthood’s mission and services is made by a long time anti-abortion activist that has used deceptive and unethical video editing, and that has created a fake medical website as well as a fake human tissue website that purports to provide services to stem cell researchers,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

This is the equivalent of an ad hominem argument: whether the Center for Medical Progress is shady or not does not explain or excuse the Planned Parenthood exec’s comments.

For example, Nucatola says at one point,

“Every provider has patients who want to donate their tissue, and they want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as: This clinic is selling tissue. This clinic is making money off this. In the Planned Parenthood world, they’re very, very sensitive to that. Some affiliates might do it for free. They want to come to a number that looks like a reasonable number for the effort that is allotted on their part . . . ”

When one of the fake biotech firm representatives  asks,

“Okay, so, when you are — or when the affiliate is — determining what that monetary . . . So that it doesn’t raise the question of . . . ‘This is what it’s about’ — What price range would you . . . ?”

…Nucatola replies,

“You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what’s involved. It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there that’s going to be doing everything . . . is there shipping involved? Is someone going to be there to pick it up?”

The Washington Post found a medical ethicist who explained why this kind of talk should set off ethics alarms. Arthur Caplan, director of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, pointed out that when an abortion provider undertakes a procedure with the primary intention of preserving organs, there is an instant conflict of interest.  “I think the only relevant goal of an abortion clinic is to provide a safe and least risky abortion to a woman,” Caplan said. “If you’re starting to play with how it’s done, and when it’s done, other things than women’s health are coming into play. You’re making a huge mountain of conflict of interest around a period for many people is morally difficult.”

Ironically, his statement sets off ethics alarms of its own. Quick: what considerations other than the mother’s interest must “come into play,” or at least be considered? Isn’t there another human being’s life and health involved here, although one unprotected by law and abandoned by the culture? Think hard now. Caplan, of course, is beyond even pausing to ask the question. The fact is that an abortion by definition creates a conflict of interest for the mother, the doctor, and society.

The most eloquent indictment of the horrifically callous attitude of Planned Parenthood to a human body ripped to shreds juuust carefully enough to cash in some little organs is the disturbing post yesterday by Slate’s Amanda Marcotte, the site’s resident pro-abortion feminist militant. Titled “Live Action Puts Out Another Titillating but Misleading Video About Planned Parenthood,” it shows a furious abortion-on-demand absolutist using every rationalization and logical fallacy she can muster to deny the res ipsa loquitur status of Nucatola’s attitude, which is fairly summarized as, “These aren’t human beings we are aborting, they are just inconvenient meat.”

Here are the low-lights of Murcotte’s article, a window into the mind of a radical abortion-lover. My comments are in bold. :

“The conservative media is a-flutter thinking they have a “gotcha” against Planned Parenthood: a video supposedly exposing the organization for “selling” fetal body parts, which is against the law.”

I know I make this point a lot, but is it really true that only conservatives would be disturbed by this video and the comments recorded? If so, progressives and liberals have lost a big chunk of their humanity to ideological purity. They need to start looking for that chunk, and quick. Who knows what will fall off next…

“But the legal accusations are just the fluff, easy to disprove and not really the point of the video. No, the real meat of the video is capturing Nucatola speaking candidly about the process of getting fetal tissue, which the heavily edited 8-minute “highlight” reel released by Live Action dwells on in great detail, in order to gross out the viewer. This is Live Action’s typical method: being as lurid and grotesque as possible to titillate its largely conservative audience. As William Saletan laid out in painstaking detail for Slate in 2013, Live Action really knows how to zero in on those gross medical details for maximum impact.”

This is more ad hominem, and an especially desperate strain. Imagine a Holocaust denier  making exactly this argument but with “concentration camps” substituted for “the process of getting fetal tissue,”and  “Jewish” for “conservative.” How outrageous to expose the most disgusting aspect of what is going on, right, Amanda?

“As someone who is squeamish, it was extremely difficult for me to listen to Nucatola talk about extracting liver, heart, and other parts to be donated to medical research. (I nearly fainted when a friend showed me the video of her knee operation once.)”

A false analogy for the ages. Come on, guys! Extracting organs from a human embryo you just killed is just like a knee operation! What are you getting all emotional about?

“But people who work in medicine for a living do, in fact, become inured to the gore in a way that can seem strange to those of us who aren’t regularly exposed to it.”

Blow that whistle, Amanda, and let the parade of rationalizations commence!

“Everybody does it!”

“It’s not the worst thing!”

“If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

“If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”

“She also thought she was speaking to people in her profession who would be similarly accustomed to this sort of thing.”

Ah. So as long as there is someone who shares your ethically dubious sensibilities, it is unfair for one who does not share them to characterize them as unethical. Marcotte is actually arguing that the video is unfair because Nucatola would never have expressed how she really feels if she knew someone who disagreed with her would hear it.

I’m trying to remember: did Nixon use this defense to claim that it was unfair to use the White House tapes against him?

“Abortion is gross, no doubt about it.”

Stop: What’s gross about it, Amanda? Oh, that’s right: it’s like knee operations. But nobody’s really being hurt, right? So the gross-out is irrational.

“It becomes grosser the later in a pregnancy it gets. But so is heart surgery. So is childbirth, for that matter.”

Amanda is confusing “gross” with “messy.” If messy is the issue, then by all means, lets add “So is biting the head off a kitten. So is tossing a dog into a spinning airplane propeller. So is slaughtering a Blue Whale.” And also “So is capital punishment. So are ISIS beheadings. So is Steve Buscemi being fed into a woodchipper.” All of these are better comparisons, because they involve  killing something. The point where the pro-abortion advocates leave honesty and fairness…and ethics….behind is when they persist in the myth that nothing is killed in an abortion.

“We don’t deny people who need help in those cases because the help is gross. Nor should we deny people that help when it comes to needing abortion.”

This is a blatant appeal to the logical fallacy known here as “The Blind Man’s Trap”:

“The fable about the six blind men who each mistake the character of an elephant because each is touching a different part of the beast illustrates the fallacy. Because an argument is true of part of a position doesn’t necessarily mean it is applicable to the whole, and for a critic to represent the part as the whole hopelessly warps the debate.”

“We also shouldn’t deny women who want to donate fetal or embryonic remains to science any more than we would deny someone who wants to be an organ donor, even though the latter is also quite gross to ponder.”

Does it not occur to Amanda that there is a material difference and an ethical distinction between donating your own organs and those of someone else? No, it doesn’t. This is what radical abortion theology has done to women’s consciences.

“Live Action is, above all, a group of propagandists who roll out lurid and titillating videos to push an agenda that expands far beyond just trying to ban legal abortion. We have noticed that the rise in the availability and use of cheap birth control coincided with increases in the rates of sex addiction, divorce, unmarried childbearing and abortion,” Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action, wrote in a 2012 Politico piece. In the same piece, she also declared that “the surest way for a young woman to attain stardom is by performing in and releasing pornography” and bemoaned “that something precious is lost when fertility is intentionally excluded from marriage.”

Look! Straw men! The video raises issues about abortion. It has nothing to do with banning pornography, birth control, or divorce.

“This latest attack on Planned Parenthood are not just about abortion, but about demonizing an organization that makes sex safer and easier, while making it possible for women to plan when they have children.”

And to kill the ones that arrive unplanned, making sure that their heads are crushed carefully enough to preserve their livers for research.

Amanda Marcotte has reached the point where she cannot perceive what rational people find ethically and morally troubling about live, healthy  embryos, which unimpeded would grow, be born, live, love and inherit full human rights, being killed while as the abortionist carefully makes sure to protect their valuable livers and other organs. She does not see how it should bother anyone more than a knee operation. As Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Simon Legree was typical—typical!—of many slavery proponents who believed that their property could be raped, sold or killed without shame, crime or compunction—the killing part was sometimes gross, though—so Amanda Marcotte is typical of the 21st Century abortion advocate.

Thanks, Amanda.

Your Slate piece may not be “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

…but it’s a start.






75 thoughts on “Pro-Abortion Ethics: Amanda Marcotte’s Defense Of The Planned Parenthood Fetal Organ-Harvesting Video Is Even Uglier Than The Video Itself

  1. I saw that video yesterday, Jack. Many of us were already aware that this was going on. But, as you mention, the utter callousness of woman during the meeting was the thing that brought it all home for many. She sat there in that cafe, merrily munching on her meal, while she described procedures and policies that would sicken any decent person. You might have been hearing some concentration camp guard recalling Dr. Mengele’s experiments and how they disposed of the corpses afterwards. And these are babies! Anyone who can calmly and with aforethought engage in such practices (and for profit) is someone capable of any crime in the book. she even describes procedures that, even with the permissive laws now in effect, are illegal and constitute acts of infanticide. But for her- and for Planned Parenthood- this is business as usual. It’s to be remembered at this point that taxpayer dollars are somehow authorized to fund these operations. We might also recall the organizations that back these people, to include the Democrat Party and (God help us) the Girl Scouts of America.

    • I think Marcotte was worse, though. She either knows how wrong this is and resorts to illogical and dishonest arguments to defend it, or really has no sense of decency, pity and compassion left.

      • I think the otherwise overly blunt Matt Walsh hit it on the head when he said that abortion is the highest liberal sacrament, right above gay marriage. It’s an article of faith on the left and those in favor of it simply can’t see any argument to limit it in any way. If you want to limit it even the slightest, or point out any ethical or other problem with it, you must be either sexist, since only sexist, oppressive men want to limit women’s freedom in any way. or stupid, since the SCOTUS settled this 43 years ago.

        I also find her scoffing at the “ick factor” here to be VERY disingenuous in light of the fact that the left frequently recoils at the death penalty, the military, hands-on law enforcement, and even contact sports for the very same reason. It’s simply another case of one group imposing its views and tolerating no further discussion once that happens.

  2. My first thought when I saw this video was “This has to be a hoax.” I was partly right (it was deceptively obtained, deceptively edited, and deceptively presented) but also partly wrong (that’s an actual Planned Parenthood director, and she means what she’s saying).

    Still, even with these horrors in mind, I hesitate to outlaw abortion because I don’t want to turn miscarriages into crimes, and anti-abortion measures often do just that:

    • I don’t understand that argument, and not just in this case. Let’s not make a law that is needed because it might be misused, used unjustly, or mistakenly. Huh? Any law can be condemned on that basis. Accidents are prosecuted as arson. George Zimmerman is prosecuted for murder. Honest mistakes are prosecuted for fraud, Jean Valjean is persecuted for stealing a loaf of bread. And It’s not hard to draw a clear legal distinction that would make it impossible to prosecute miscarriages.

      • I guess that my objection, such as it was, was that since there have been so many bad laws (I was surprised by how many laws have been proposed or passed that criminalize miscarriages), it seems unlikely that there could ever be a good law passed. But this is a weak objection, and you are right to dismiss it.

        Still, the political reality leaves me feeling depressed. The Left seems to enjoy killing unborn children, and the Right seems to enjoy jailing miscarrying mothers. Doesn’t anyone do things out of love?

  3. All of your arguments against Marcotte rely on the premise that abortion is morally wrong. Which is fine, but it’s obviously a premise Marcotte doesn’t share, and you’ve made no attempt (at least in this article) to get to the root of the disagreement or the reasons for either of those premises, so it really just reads like you’re talking past her instead of engaging in any meaningful rebuttal of her positions.

    For example, you say that the “grossness” of abortion could more accurately be compared to the cruel killing of animals and/or people, but Marcotte would disagree on the basis that fetuses (except in the rare cases of late term abortion) do not have functioning neural cortexes,and thus cannot think or feel pain. Most pro-choicers believe that personhood cannot be applied before consciousness exists. Others argue that fetuses may be considered persons, but the rights of the mother outweigh the rights of the fetuses. Without addressing these arguments your article can’t possibly be convincing to pro-choicers.

    • Morally wrong? You mean believing that killing a human life is, like, wrong? If she doesn’t believe that—if YOU don’t—then civilization is calling, and asking that she leave the party. That’s not the belief in question at all: I guarantee that 99.99% of abortion advocates agree with all the moral basics. They just have convinced themselves against all facts and evidence that a human fetus isn’t a human life, drawing lines and restrictions to get the result they want. That’s unethical. This isn’t a religious issue: I don’t write about morality, except to point out that it is different from ethics. I’m not basing this on holy book.

      What Marcotte’s weird post suggests is that she is in denial and deluded.

      Read what I’ve written on this subject (Search for ABORTION) and we can continue. I’m not trying to convince pro-abortion advocates (pro-choice is a euphemism, and another clue someone is lying to themselves or not thinking hard). Here, I’ll summarize: most “pro-choicers” believe what they feel they have to in order to support abortion rights without feeling like monsters, just as slavery advocates CHOSE to believe blacks weren’t human beings. That is not how we make ethical judgments. You don’t say “this is what needs to be true for the decision to come out the way that is convenient for me,’ and arrange your beliefs accordingly. That’s what the abortion lobby does, and that’s why, like Marcotte, it often gets trapped like this. Look, a knee doesn’t have a liver, and women don’t have two. I would love it if I could objectively look at the balance in abortion and conclude that a human embryo isn’t any kind of being with rights, but even pro abortion advocates really believe that: if someone killed their unborn child in their womb, they would approve of a murder charge.

      And the kinds of abortions that produce the best livers ARE late term abortions—and Planned Parenthood, and that ghoul who was taped, supports those too.

      • “And the kinds of abortions that produce the best livers ARE late term abortions—and Planned Parenthood, and that ghoul who was taped, supports those too.”

        Partial-Birth Abortions.

        Doesn’t anyone in the abortion industry see the irony in that term?

      • I don’t really care for “pro-abortion” either. Given their stance on abortions at 24 weeks and later, I think pro-infanticide is more accurate for some of them.

        I really don’t have an issue with it until the brain is there and functioning (about 10 weeks I believe). That seems like a more legitimate cutoff than “able to live outside the womb” to me.

        • “I really don’t have an issue with it until the brain is there and functioning”

          I think this is the position of most pro-choicers.

          “(about 10 weeks I believe).”

          It’s actually closer to 23.

          • Please don’t use that term here. The issue is abortion. I don’t care what term you use, as long as that’s in there somewhere, but cover words and euphemisms are not acceptable on an ethics blog. Pro choice was invented to avoid the central issue, focusing only on one part of the equation. I object to it, as it is deisigned to deceive.

          • I suppose it depends on how you define functional.. which is of course in dispute. It’s formed, but apparently only brief bursts of activity can be detected by external ekg. I was going by a list which said all the major organs were in place and beginning to function around then.

      • “They just have convinced themselves against all facts and evidence that a human fetus isn’t a human life, drawing lines and restrictions to get the result they want.”

        Either you haven’t even tried to understand the pro-choice position, or you’re deliberately misrepresenting it; given that you are an ethics blogger, I’ll assume the former.

        The argument is not that fetuses are not “human lives.” They’re human, and they’re alive–no serious person could argue against that. The debate is over whether they should be considered PERSONS–and that again goes back to consciousness, which you didn’t address.

        • Human beings are persons. You just zoomed in on the dishonesty of the argument. The idea that a human could be human and not a person was invented for slavery and later abortion. I understand the pro-choice position quite well, thanks. A mother gets to decide whether her unborn child is a living human being, or just an inconvenient parasite, and nobody has any right to challenge her call, no matter what the reason for it. The child has no rights or recognized interests until an arbitrary deadline is reached, and often not even then. Got it.

          • Jack is correct. Once you concede it is a human or a person, the debate is either over or you’re advocating murder.

          • We can’t define all human bodies as being inhabited by people if we want to maintain that brain-dead humans are not inhabited by people. I define personhood not by physical form, but by consciousness. A conscious entity can transcend limitations in pursuit of a result or ideal.

            Regardless of the origin of the idea, it is a true distinction: being genetically human and being a conscious entity are two separate concepts, however strongly they tend to be associated in reality. If we can separate the idea of consciousness from the idea of humanity so as to conceive of sapient beings that aren’t human, we can also subtract the idea of consciousness from the idea of humanity in order to conceive of humans that aren’t sapient. Jonathan Swift actually wrote about such a species in Gulliver’s Travels, called the Yahoos.

            That said, a lack of consciousness must be established by encouraging conscious behavior and verifying that it is nonetheless absent. An entity simply being inactive is insufficient evidence for lack of consciousness.

          • I disagree that a functioning neural cortex is an “arbitrary deadline.” Doesn’t consciousness have a lot to do with life-or-death decisions? If a patient is braindead, we allow their loved ones to decide whether or not to continue life support, even if there’s a chance the patient might recover some day. As an ethicist, do you object to this?

            It seems to me that this situation is comparable (though not exactly similar) to an abortion where no consciousness has developed yet.

            • But unborn children are not brain dead. Their brains are developing. No patient with low brain activity would be terminated if the evidence was that given time, he would be fully functioning.

              • The difference between killing a person in a coma who will eventually wake up and killing something that [i]will[\i] develop a brain (but hasn’t yet) is the same as the difference between destroying the future of a person who actually has existed in the past (which I’d consider murder) and destroying the entire existence of a person who currently exists only as a potential.

                Nonexistent people are important; for example, we want to avoid destroying the ecosystem so they can live in a nice world. However, they only gain such consideration once we agree that we want them to exist.

                If we really think that all nonexistent people have a right to exist, and we want to criminalize preventing them from being born, that would lead to the impossible situation where everyone would have to have kids with everyone else, because every pair of humans capable of having children represents a few dozen potential humans, and not to have them would be illegal.

                Up until a physical structure develops a consciousness, it doesn’t necessarily have the right to exist. If it’s ever developed a consciousness, the ethical thing to do is to keep that consciousness in the world, even if it has lapses in existence. Avoiding creating something is not the same as preserving something or trying to recapture what was lost.

                • Who says? You’re making up rules and distinctions that don’t exist. If something will grow into an adult human being absent outside interference, it is not a potential human being, it is a current human being in development. If consciousness is inevitable absent a catastrophe, it is disingenuous to say that the absence of consciousness at that moment removes the right to live. You might as well advocate the shooting of sleeping adults…after all, they are just potentially awake. The individual who is no longer conscious of the world around him is far less deserving of life, since he or she has NO potential of becoming aware and useful to society, happy or productive. An embryo HAS potential, but the potential is of real value to society—the fact of mere consciousness is a near certainty.

                  Verdict: you are rationalizing.

                  • I agree that the potential of an embryo is worth a great deal more to society than the potential of people who have demonstrated they are more interested in leeching value from the world than generating it, but that’s a separate issue.

                    As far as I can tell, I’m drawing a distinction that is quite real. I was kind of expecting it to be obvious. I [i]did[/i] say that it’s unethical to destroy the future of a person who has actually existed. Sleeping people fall under that category.

                    On the other hand, your statement implies that a zygote has all the rights of a person, because absent a catastrophe, it will form a human. You might as well ban contraception because an egg and a sperm cell, absent a condom, can form a human.

                    Thought experiment time! If I build a device which creates a new person every day, is it ethical to turn it off? Absent a catastrophe, it will create more people. Does it count as infinite human beings in development? If you dismantle it, will you kill infinite people?

                    Pondering previous paragraph, protecting potential people proves preposterous.

                    • No, because a sperm or an egg will NOT, absent a major intervening event, grow at all. This isn’t rocket science—why would you make such a strange distinction? And yes, from the moment of fertilization, it’s a human life. We can make an arbitrary line someplace else as a utilitarian compromise, but it’s still a human life—the clock is running, and it gets More human” every second. There are only two clear points of demarcation: birth and conception. You and many others have attempted to devise a rational and ethical justification for placing the line anywhere else, but its futile.

                      By teh way, my biology teacher in college and the best teacher I ever had, BY MILES, Nobel Prize-winner George Wald, also concluded that birth and conception were the only possibile lines–and, good liberal that he is, concluded that an abortion should be allowed right up to birth!

                      That’s nuts, however. There is no significant difference in humanity between a 9 month unborn child and a born one. The line between conception and pre-conception, however is huge and black. There is literally no being in existence pre-conception, and there may not be, ever.

                    • In reply to Jack:

                      I agree completely with your last paragraph, depending on what you mean by “huge black line”; see below. It may even be true that the line between egg/sperm and zygote is the only place that is both ethical and practical to draw the line legally.

                      That said, just because those are the only clear, easy lines that can be drawn doesn’t mean that a zygote, a single cell with all the consciousness of an amoeba, inherently has a right to continue existing because it will grow into a structure that develops a consciousness in the future. The zygote is just as inanimate as the egg and the sperm that formed it were. If you implied by “huge, black line” that a zygote was somehow ethically different from the egg and sperm rather than just easy to define and distinguish through observation, then I guess I don’t agree completely with your last paragraph. I would argue that it would be better to draw the line when the neurons of the brain begin forming, which I think is still ethical, though perhaps less practical. In my paradigm, a future brain doesn’t count as a brain.

                      In order to clarify the situation, I would like to know what your definition of “major intervening event” is and why you think it is a meaningful distinction between the situations.

                  • “You’re making up rules and distinctions that don’t exist.”

                    I think it’s pretty silly to act like our ability to think and feel is irrelevant to our moral value. Consciousness seems like a pretty bright line.

                    Why should a fetus with no consciousness have more rights than a woman with consciousness? What gives something with no consciousness the right to live in a woman’s body for months if she doesn’t want it too?

                    “An embryo HAS potential, but the potential is of real value to society—the fact of mere consciousness is a near certainty.”

                    It’s really not–are you aware of the miscarriage rate prior to 28 weeks?

                    • Wow: “Why should a fetus with no consciousness have more rights than a woman with consciousness? What gives something with no consciousness the right to live in a woman’s body for months if she doesn’t want it too?”

                      1. I explained this: there is no “living human being without consciousness have no rights” rule. When I made the comparison to adults who are no longer conscious, another fake rule was made up: those who onece had consciousness but never will againj are more human than those who will have full consciousness if they are allowed to exits a bit longer. This is called “making up rules to reach the result you want. Nothing more.

                      2. If the mother’s life or the child’s is the choice, a good argument can be made that the mother’s right to life is greater. The mother’s right to fit in her prom dress, however, is not justly superior to the right of a human being to LIVE. “Why should a fetus with no consciousness have more rights than a woman with consciousness?” is a straw man, and a pretty blatant one. You do know that rights that takle precedence are superior rights but not MORE rights, I presume? If so, why did you write that?

                      3. “It’s really not–are you aware of the miscarriage rate prior to 28 weeks?” Yes…and that fetus still has a much better chance of achieving consciousness than someone in a coma or advanced dementia, since their chances are ZERO.

                    • 1) Jack, of course we’re making up rules. Where do you think ethics come from, other than the efforts of human beings to make up rules that are consistent, fair, and just? Just saying “there is no ‘living human being without consciousness have no rights’ rule” doesn’t tell us anything useful; it would be more productive to explain why you believe such a rule is unethical.

                      2) There is no right to fit into a prom dress, but there is certainly a right to bodily autonomy. Are you familiar with the violinist analogy?


                      3) “Yes…and that fetus still has a much better chance of achieving consciousness than someone in a coma or advanced dementia, since their chances are ZERO.”

                      Many people have awoken from comas, and advanced dementia is not a complete lack of consciousness, so this statement is completely false.

                    • 1. But you are making up rules from a biased position, making them up not based on an objective view, but making them up to justify a result you already favor…legal, ethical abortion. Me, I’d love to justify abortion. But the bogus superiority of unconscious human vegetables over health, developing, babies in the womb based on some imaginary grandfather clause is a bridge too far.

                      2. The violinist analogy, which I have used in seminars, is spectacularly lame. Did the unwilling blood donor wreck the violinist’s kidneys? No. Does she have any responsibility for the violinist’s plight? No. This is the “alien invader” view of fetuses—gee, what role does the mother have in that “invasion”? The “thought exercise” is, at best, a dubious hypothetical to argue for allowing abortion in the case of rape….except that nobody would hold that the kidnapped involuntary blood donor would have the right to KILL the violinist.

                      Frankly, the existence of such pathetic defenses argue for the weakness of the pro-abortion position.

                    • “1. But you are making up rules from a biased position, making them up not based on an objective view, but making them up to justify a result you already favor…legal, ethical abortion.”

                      And you know that HOW, exactly? How do you know I didn’t oppose abortion prior to being persuaded by the consciousness argument? You seem to be making quite large assumptions about those you disagree with.

                      “2. The violinist analogy, which I have used in seminars, is spectacularly lame. Did the unwilling blood donor wreck the violinist’s kidneys? No. Does she have any responsibility for the violinist’s plight? No. This is the “alien invader” view of fetuses—gee, what role does the mother have in that “invasion”?”

                      There are versions of the argument in which the unwilling donor was at least partially responsibile for assuming the risk of being kidnapped–for instance, in one version, the unwilling donor knows that there have been a rash of kidnappings at violinist concerts, and that being forced to donate is a possibility…but decides to go to the violinist concert anyway, and carries protection (mace, tazer) just in case. Does that influence whether or not she should still have to donate?

                      “The “thought exercise” is, at best, a dubious hypothetical to argue for allowing abortion in the case of rape….except that nobody would hold that the kidnapped involuntary blood donor would have the right to KILL the violinist.”

                      If that’s the only way to escape, then yes, that’s exactly what proponents of this analogy hold.

                    • 1. “And you know that HOW, exactly? How do you know I didn’t oppose abortion prior to being persuaded by the consciousness argument? You seem to be making quite large assumptions about those you disagree with.”

                      Wait—are you saying that you did adopt this argument from a neutral position? Or not? I believe this because I don’t think anything but confirmation bias explains a rational person accepting it as reasonable.

                      2. Unless the kidnappers are agents of the violinist, the violinist is still blameless for the kidnapping. And unborn children are always blameless for the mother’s pregnancy, no matter how one tries to spin it. It’s a rotten analogy—it shows how easy it is to get famous with crackpot bioethics arguments.

                    • “Wait—are you saying that you did adopt this argument from a neutral position? Or not?”

                      I was on the fence about abortion for many years. Finding out when consciousness develops did make me fall more on the pro-choice-to-abort side than I was previously. I don’t think abortion should be legal after the point of consciousness.

                      “I believe this because I don’t think anything but confirmation bias explains a rational person accepting it as reasonable.”

                      At this point all I can say is we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think the ability to think and feel is a perfectly reasonable line to draw.

                      “2. Unless the kidnappers are agents of the violinist, the violinist is still blameless for the kidnapping. And unborn children are always blameless for the mother’s pregnancy, no matter how one tries to spin it. It’s a rotten analogy—it shows how easy it is to get famous with crackpot bioethics arguments.”

                      No one believes a fetus is to “blame” for a pregnancy. That is not relevant to the argument over whether or not the woman has a moral responsibility to carry the fetus to term.

                    • I should probably clarify that I had no intention of supporting any right to life of completely brain-dead humans, which are living human bodies with no consciousness. I simply meant that if there were a feasible way to restore the consciousness that they had, I would think it would be a good idea.

                      Chris seems to have already handily covered the rebuttals to Jack’s points, but I’m still seeing a disconnect between these two paradigms.

                      I just had an idea which seems obvious to me in retrospect: To make this easier by removing any possibility of a conflict of interest between mother and child, let’s imagine that humans lay eggs. The ethical issue I want to cover will still stand, but nobody will get bogged down in the whole “bodily autonomy” thing, and importantly, nobody can accuse anyone else of getting bogged down in it. There is no conflict of interest here, no “prom dress” at stake, as you put it, Jack. Any unwanted eggs get put up for adoption, no hassle. Yes, we are completely ignoring the fact that the egg has to develop inside a body in the first place, because that just brings us back to the original problem, for which this is a much more straightforward substitute.

                      Assuming everyone accepts the above premise, we can consider three different human eggs: One is about to hatch. One is much younger, and only has a homogeneous yolk inside, but if properly incubated, that egg will develop an baby human which will hatch as well. The third egg is unfertilized, and in physical structure is at present nearly identical to the second egg, except it doesn’t have a full set of human DNA.

                      For ethical purposes, I treat the second egg the way I treat the third egg, because neither of them have brains. Do you think I should treat the second egg like the first egg, because they both are living humans? I put brains over DNA. I’ll sacrifice any number of persistent vegetative humans to save one intelligent space alien. I see nothing inconsistent about this. I think protecting consciousness is less arbitrary than protecting living humans regardless of whether they have a consciousness. What makes humans more valuable than other organisms, if not their sapience? I’m eager to hear if there’s any counterpoint of substance to this.

                • Can’t you even see how convoluted that line of rationale is, Poddy? Or do you think that you can play people for idiots that easily? Either way, your diatribes are increasingly disturbing.

                  • Whether or not you can follow it doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not it makes sense. You’re going to have to come up with some substantial criticism based on the consistency of my reasoning and on determining whether differences between ideas are relevant or not. I’m not sure you know how to do any of that, since your mind seems to crash and reload from a previous version every time I press you for your own rationale.

                    I’ll thank you not to insult me and impugn my motivations if you’re not willing to seriously explore the possibility that you may be wrong, because that alone is making your mind far more twisted and depraved than you imagine mine is. Your self-righteousness is preventing you from seeing how absurd and baseless your normative statements are. Snide remarks are not a substitute for critical thinking.

                    I challenge you to abstain from expressing contempt, and instead only articulate the specific contradictions you see in people’s statements, or the information from reality that gives you reason to doubt their assumptions or conclusions.

                    • Look Poddy, nothing more was needed to be said. I kept my remarks “pithy” because your dislogic was so manifest as to require nothing more. And get off your sob sister podium, will you? You’d think I dumped the head of your favorite racehorse on the foot of your bed!

                    • Well, there’s your problem. If you go around thinking that the answers to everything are “obvious,” then not only will you fail to develop the ability to explain your point of view to people that disagree, but you will also fail to recognize that what is obvious to you is not necessarily correct. In short, you will be an arrogant fool.

                      Also, you are mistaken in your attempt to discern my emotional state. I am not distressed; I am merely calling you on your lack of basic respect. Apparently your parents and peers failed to hold you to baseline human standards of social interaction in your childhood. Or maybe they taught you you only had to respect those who agree with you about what’s “obvious”?

                      My challenge still stands. Please refrain from expressing contempt. It only makes you look smug and spiteful to all except those who both agree with you and have crippling confirmation bias.

                    • Yeah, I’m seeing a lot of “Basing personhood on consciousness is arbitrary/makes no sense!” but nothing in the way of an actual rebuttal or explanation as to why. Just calling it arbitrary isn’t a rebuttal, it’s a dodge; a way to disengage from the argument instead of engaging with it.

                      Why is consciousness an arbitrary line to draw when determining rights, especially when abortion involves a conflict of rights between mother and fetus?

                    • I just explained why—wait, well, to a later comment: it’s an irrelevant road block to life concocted to justify taking life by pretending it isn’t one. It’s like the Jim Crow voting restrictions: Oh, Blacks can vote? Ok, but only if they own property (arguments why this isn’t arbitrary follow). Oh, that won’t work? OK: only it the blacks are “literate.” How can you argue against that? Literacy’s relevant to voting! No? OK, how about a poll tax? This process isn’t free, you know! And so on. If it wasn’t consciousness, it would be something else, because pro-abortionists don’t want/dare to look at the process and the balancing issues honestly and objectively. Two lives have competing interests, and it’s a zero sum game. Basing the result on mere power (the woman has it, the child has none unless it comes from her) isn’t ethical, it is MIGHT MAKES RIGHT. So let’s get to balancing, which is what utiliarianism is for. Stop pretending only one life counts.

                      NO respectable bioethicist argued that a fetus’s lack of consciousness made it killably inhuman until abortion was being pushed as a right. Gee, I wonder why? You know why: it was a way to get around the ugly moral problem. Let’s find a reason why it isn’t killing a human life—that makes the problem disappear. Literally.

                    • “NO respectable bioethicist argued that a fetus’s lack of consciousness made it killably inhuman until abortion was being pushed as a right. Gee, I wonder why?”

                      Uh…perhaps because that argument would be completely irrelevant to any other subject but abortion?

                    •, biological research and the study of the human body makes many discoveries and comes to many conclusions that have no policy or legal applications. “The developing fetus has no consciousness and is neither human or technically alive until Week X” would have been as useful as any other knowledge about gestation for its own sake. The “discovery” wasn’t “made” until it was politically useful to make it.

                    • I just can’t agree with your equivalence between the ability to think and feel, and literacy tests. The ability to think and feel is crucial to our humanity, far more than simple DNA. Consciousness matters. It’s not arbitrary at all. In fact, it’s the most rational dividing line I can think of.

                    • I’m not sure when exactly scientists were able to pinpoint when, exactly, consciousness develops–could have been prior to the abortion debate in the 60s and 70s, but I think it was after–but that’s a seperate discussion from whether or not consciousness gives the fetus rights, or whether the fetus already has rights. That’s not the realm of science–that’s the realm of philosophy and ethics. There would be no reason for a scientist to say a fetus “is neither human or technically alive until Week X” until the abortion debate. (And that terminology is misleading anyway–all thinking people who support abortion rights understand that a fetus is “alive” and “human.” That is not the argument.)

      • I myself haven’t studied human development enough to know how consciousness develops in a human brain, so all I know for certain is that a bundle of undifferentiated cells doesn’t yet have a consciousness, while a human child has a consciousness. There isn’t a discrete cutoff that I am aware of when consciousness “switches on,” but rather I assume it continuously develops from nothing into a person, probably starting from when the brain structure starts to form.

        It would at some points equal and overtake the level of consciousness we ascribe to various animals. Anyone who is fine with killing those animals should be fine with aborting the fetus at that point. Anyone who isn’t fine with killing those animals but is fine with abortion at that point is a hypocrite. The facts that the organism is genetically human and that it will eventually develop to have a higher consciousness mean nothing to me for the purposes of this judgment. I have read that unborn babies (at least in week 29) learn phonemes by hearing human speech, so that indicates some sort of learning ability and therefore an aspect of consciousness. I’m not sure whether this learning can be said to indicate a particular level of consciousness, since animals can also learn words, but humans ultimately learn to understand words in a more comprehensive manner.

        I should also note that the mentality of a person who would approve of abortion but also prosecute someone for murder if their unborn child were killed might be that stealing is wrong, but a person’s possessions are theirs to dispose of. I don’t think that’s particularly inconsistent (though not necessarily correct, either), except for the part where murder charges are more serious than thievery charges.

        What bothers me most are the cavalier attitude towards an important matter and the hypocritical viewpoints held by philosophically illiterate people. If people in the general populace on both sides of this issue bothered to honestly check the consistency of their viewpoints and took this intellectually seriously, I would feel less alienated by them.

        • You lose me with the silly animal analogy. Many dementia patients and mentally deficint children are no more conscious than those animals. Is it hypocritical to object to killing them too?

          • Even if they have the same level of consciousness, there are some factors that make those situations different, starting with the fact that as of now we can’t actually measure “level of consciousness,” so it’s safer just to legally protect all humans. Also, dementia patients are usually emotionally connected with other people even without their full consciousness.

            On a societal level, though? I don’t have a hard cutoff between “okay” and “not okay” when it comes to killing an organism. I would file those cases under “not okay, but a bit less not-okay than some other humans.” It’s a triage system; I’m hoping we can keep all entities alive, but some cases would have to take priority in a crisis.

            In an ideal situation there wouldn’t be any killing. It’s not a binary between “person” and “non-person” but rather a question of what situations it would take for ending an entity’s existence to be considered the better option, “better” of course being somewhat subjective. I derive “better” from the advancement of consciousness and sustainable systems, because not to prioritize those would be self-negating, but even as objective and non-arbitrary as those principles are, the ways to most effectively “advance consciousness” can be pretty subjective. Situations where an entity’s death may be the better option (usually because all the alternatives still involve somebody dying) don’t come up very often, thankfully, and but some entities have fewer such situations while others have more. Does that make sense?

        • To steal a note from aaronpaschall, if we’re at the point of extracting organs for medical research, we’re also long past the point of dealing with undifferentiated cells, or else we’re dealing with magic.

          • Well, it could be argued that some organs may be suitable for transplant while others are still undeveloped, but I think it’s more likely that you’re right, and this could be verified empirically. Anyhow, I think it’s dishonest to argue on the basis of whether the gestating human could survive on its own or not, since that’s irrelevant to whether or not it has a consciousness. It could be viable outside the womb and still not be a person, or it could be unable to survive on its own and still be a person. The person part is what matters to me.

    • Groan. Do we have to re-do this whole argument?

      We’ve had about 10 separate LONG dialogues on this topic. Pro-abortionists have been sent packing every single time.

      They have no logical basis unless their premise ultimately relies on babies being a type of human property or babies just not being human or humans not being really human until certain arbitrarily chosen sensory/emotional criteria are met.

      Just keep this short: you are wrong.

  4. …titillate its largely conservative audience…

    Titiliate? I couldn’t watch more than two minutes total of the unedited version… The sheer glee that the abortion spoke with of dissecting a child “for parts” was too much…

  5. As one of the very few token liberals here, I have absolutely no problem stating my opposition to abortion on demand. Technically I am opposed to abortion, period, but I imagine that there might be a set of circumstances where one could argue for it as the least wrong thing. I guess.

    My impression of those who favor abortion is that they have allowed themselves to become desensitized to the horrific reality. And God forbid you should make someone like Marcotte actually see images of what abortion actually does. As she notes, it’s “icky.” People have objected wildly to the anti-abortion activists who stand outside of abortion clinics with posters depicting the results of abortions. What a shame that someone contemplating abortion should have to be faced with the reality.

    I am tangentially involved with a local pregnancy clinic, as our church funded the facility’s purchase and staffing of an ultrasound machine. Many women contemplating an abortion go to this clinic in order to obtain an ultrasound which is required of them for the abortion. The staff there are gentle people and are committed to not putting any pressure on these women, whom they see as being in crisis. What they find is that they know for a fact that at least 60% of the women who have the chance to see their unborn child in the ultrasound choose to carry the baby to term instead of seeking an abortion.

    I find the concept of PP and other abortionists “shielding” their patients from the realities — the live unborn child or the horrific images of an abortion — to be the most unethical part of the process, other than the actual abortion. Shouldn’t the concept of informed consent require this type of pre-procedural education?

    As a woman, I am aware that I am seen as being insensitive to other women. Meh.

  6. When you say that “such stings are per se unethical” do you include undercover work by law enforcement?

    • I don’t mean to speak for Jack, but this subject has been covered here before.

      The short version is that undercover work by law enforcement is ethical when there is no other way to gather the necessary evidence, and assuming that controls and safeguards are in place to prevent its misuse.

      It is a utilitarian balancing of the good derived from convicting the guilty party against the bad derived from the intentional deception–along with the potential dangers to the undercover officer.

      A ‘sting’ for political purposes will never pass that utilitarian muster.


    • MEDIA MATTERS, Bill? Seriously? The video is definitely NOT a fake—an unfairly edited video is not a fake video. The Bigfoot video is a fake video—- and the editing makes no difference at all in relationship to my post. Is PP selling fetal organs? Legal issue, not germane here. Does this PP exec exhibit the regard for human life I would identify with Ed Gein or the SS? Absolutely. Why would you ever pass on a knee-jerk, progressive talking point machine like MM??? It’s a propaganda organ, and that’s all it is.

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