“I think abortion is evil, but it is a necessary evil.” Discuss.

Foetus-435110

This blog doesn’t discuss evil very often because it is not a term appropriately associated with ethics. Evil is a concept related to morality. In an ethics discussion, I would take evil to mean something extremely, irredeemably unethical by any ethical analysis or system. The statement “I think abortion is evil, but it is a necessary evil” appeared parenthetically in a comment by Beth, a frequent commenter on Ethics Alarms who is a mother and a lawyer, regarding the Planned Parenthood videos. Though the news media appears to have successfully distorted that story by focusing only on whether the videos were evidence of illegal “trafficking in body parts” by Planned Parenthood, that was not the reason I posted the essays, and it is not the reason those videos are significant in the ongoing debate over abortion rights. Two high ranking individuals in the organizations casually discussed the crushing and crunching of the heads and torsos of living and helpless individuals with the sensitivity I would associate with stepping on a roach. If this doesn’t disturb you, it should. If it does disturb you, as it did Beth, what does that mean?

Abortion is one of the most important and difficult ethics issues in the culture, indeed in world culture. It involves millions of lives and millions of deaths, law, bioethics, religion, social policy, science, human rights and feminism, as well as society’s ultimate respect for life itself. I have written about the ethics of the abortion debate frequently (you can find most of the relevant posts here), but to summarize the Ethics Alarms views on the topic:

1. Abortion is an ethics conflict, meaning that there are ethical principles in opposition to each other, requiring society to set priorities.

2. The absolutist position on the anti-abortion side is that abortion involves the taking of innocent human life, which begins from conception, and is thus unethical in all cases. It is a strong position if one accepts the underlying assumption.

3. However, no absolute position is really absolute. Every ethics absolute has an exception, or several: there must be some circumstances when abortion is necessary and right. (This is not true of moral absolutes, since moral absolutes are self defining. If the power dictating a moral precept says it is absolute, it is so.)

4. The absolutist position on the abortion side of the argument holds that a woman’s right to have complete dominion over her body, reproductive activity and health justifies abortion in all cases. This is not a strong position, and in fact is one that cannot be honestly argued or sustained. It supports abortion on demand for any purpose or preference, entirely at the mother’s discretion.

5. To make that argument, extreme pro-abortion advocates have had to deny the humanity and human rights of unborn children, even to the point of arguing that they are not individuals at all, but mere “parasites,” or “tumors.” The removal of a second life from the equation that is at the core of the abortion problem makes the abortion decision easy and guilt-free; it also settles the debate by pretending the central issue doesn’t exist. That issue is that there is another life involved, not just the mother’s.

6. The debate over the ethics of abortion has been handicapped by the tactic of both sides to pretend a legitimate interest championed by the other doesn’t exist. A woman’s ability to control her own life, career and what happens to her body is an important societal issue, yet the term “pro-life” ignores it entirely. It is not the only important interest involved in the abortion decision, however, as the term “pro-choice” suggests.

7. Neither absolute position, whatever its theoretical virtues, is practical from a policy perspective. Desperate women who are pregnant will seek abortions, people will help then (or exploit them, or kill them), and public policy cannot pretend otherwise. Society will not tolerate punishing women for aborting their unborn children, whether they deserve to be punished or not. Yet allowing mothers to have unborn children killed on a whim leads to the callous, ugly, dangerous attitude toward innocent life on display in the Planned Parenthood videos. Callousness toward any human life, history has shown us, is a slippery slope with the potential of doing terrible harm to the culture.

8. Roe v. Wade was a premature Supreme Court decision and a badly reasoned one. Until and unless it is overturned, abortion is a right. That does not mean, and never meant, that abortion necessarily is right.

9. Because absolutism fails here, abortion is a problem that demands utilitarian analysis–balancing of interests and values, in the best interests of society, long and short-term, and everyone in it, according to the facts as we understand them.

10. Balancing requires an honest acknowledgement that there is something to balance. The “pro-choice” and “pro-life” dichotomy doesn’t acknowledge that in their most extreme incarnations, and since abortion is currently a right, the pro-choice lobby detects no reason to yield to logic, science and reality. Continue reading

KABOOM! TNT Promotes A Tainted Prosecutor As A Star

coldjustice

And all this time I believed that TNT reality star Kelly Siegler was a real star prosecutor who had actually convicted guilty people while observing the law and professional ethics.

Kaboom!

head_explodes

That was the sound of my brains exploding through the top of my skull, this time because they deserved to. I never learn.

Or is the state of prosecutorial ethics in the United States so wretched that Kelly Siegler is the best ex-prosecutor that TNT could find?

I’ll stick my neck out and say, “no.” I say that even though the state of prosecutorial ethics is pretty terrible. Kelly Siegler left her job as a Harris County, Texas district attorney in 2008 after successfully prosecuting 68 murder trials. In 2013, TNT signed her up to star in a reality show called“Cold Justice,” now in its third season on the cable network.

Good title! A state-court judge recommended a new trial for a Texas inmate named David Temple, prosecuted by Siegler in 2007  for allegedly killing his pregnant wife. He was convicted, but the court says the “legendary prosecutor” illegally withheld critical exculpatory evidence.  Wrote Judge Larry Gist in his opinion calling for a re-trial: “Of enormous significance was Siegler’s testimony at the habeas hearing that apparently favorable evidence did not need to be disclosed if the state did not believe it was true.”  Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “Rear Window” Ethics At The Ball Game

RearWindow1

The New York Daily News recounts the tale of two sisters attending an Atlanta Braves game who exposed a man’s cheating wife by taking photos of her as she apparently sexted another man with her arm around her husband. Delana and Brynn Hinson posted photos of her texts on Twitter.

The sisters said they slipped a note to the woman’s suspected husband as he was leaving, which read,

“Your wife is cheating on you. Look at the messages under Nancy! It’s really a man named Mark Allen.”

You can read the details—accurate or not—here.

I don’t care if the story is exactly as it was reported. Let’s assume it is.

The Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day is this:

Did the sisters behave ethically when they informed the husband about his wife’s secret texting?

Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “A Single Mother’s Irresponsible Defense of Single Motherhood”

fertility

Coming in on a four month-old post, first time commenter Amanda Bonarrigo’s Comment of the Day describes how she was pushed toward single motherhood by a system that operates in willful ignorance of the personal and societal problems the condition creates. These are some of the best and most enlightening comments that Ethics Alarms receives, when an individual with a personal experience related to the topic of an essay here reveals a relevant personal experience in frank and passionate term.  Opinions are great, but this is the most helpful of all.

Here is Amanda’s Comment of the Day on the post, A Single Mother’s Irresponsible Defense of Single Motherhood:

Continue reading

More Signature Significance: The New York Times’ Deceit At Hillary’s Command

Hillary is not pleased. Get with the program, NYT!

Hillary is not pleased. Get with the program, NYT!

From Dylan Byers at Politico:

The New York Times made small but significant changes to an exclusive report about a potential criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s State Department email account late Thursday night, but provided no notification of or explanation for of the changes.

The paper initially reported that two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation “into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state.”

That clause, which cast Clinton as the target of the potential criminal probe, was later changed: the inspectors general now were asking for an inquiry “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.”

The Times also changed the headline of the story, from “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email” to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,” reflecting a similar recasting of Clinton’s possible role. The article’s URL was also changed to reflect the new headline. As of early Friday morning, the Times article contained no update, notification, clarification or correction regarding the changes made to the article.

One of the reporters of the story, Michael Schmidt, explained early Friday that the Clinton campaign had complained about the story to the Times.“It was a response to complaints we received from the Clinton camp that we thought were reasonable, and we made them,” Schmidt said…

This is, quite simply, the New York Times spinning for Hillary Clinton. The switch to the passive voice deceitfully implies that only the e-mail account, not the individual who created and used it, is being investigated for criminal misconduct. An account is inanimate: it can’t break the law. Only a human can do that. If the account is illegal or is used illegally, then the user, not the account, has broken the law. The original version of the story was fair and accurate, but because it properly called attention to Mrs. Clinton’s habitual dishonesty as well as her deceptive defense that her conduct in this matter was beyond reproach, the Clinton machine demanded that the supposed exemplar of American journalistic integrity further the campaign’s strategy of misdirection. The New York Times meekly complied, in the dead of night, like the lapdog it has become. Continue reading

Of Course Sandra Bland Shared Responsibility For What Happened To Her, And Other Observations On The Bland Tragedy

Let us stipulate that trooper Brian Encina behaved unprofessionally and atrociously by any standard in his handling of the vehicle stop of Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas, on July 10, setting into motion a series of events that led to Bland’s death by apparent suicide in a jail cell three days later. The police work shown by the dashcam video is unforgivable, and could be used in officer trainings on how not to handle a traffic stop.

That does not make him responsible for Bland’s death, however. He was not responsible for an incompetent bail system that had this woman in jail for three days, apparently because it was a weekend, and if she did take her own life (agreed: since her family has no reason to trust authorities at this point, nothing is likely to convince them of that no matter what the evidence, and also agreed, the suicide verdict looks mighty shaky at this point), that is, by law and logic, an intervening cause that exonerate the officer in Bland’s death. Activists will make the obvious Freddie Gray comparisons, but in this case there is no reason to believe that the officer, no matter how wrongful his conduct, either intended or contributed to her death. At worst, Encina is guilty of bad policing and using excessive force. This is not the Freddie Gray case, unless there was a dark conspiracy of frightening proportions.

Once again, however, a black citizen is dead after a confrontation with a white cop. For many pundits, civil rights advocates and black racists as well as irresponsible elected officials, that’s evidence enough that this was a racial incident. It isn’t evidence enough, however. The racial identities of the participants do not mean race was a factor, and absent some other facts that we have not learned about yet, any effort to suggest otherwise is nothing but the Zimmerman con, assuming racism unjustly to advance a political agenda. Let’s see if the Justice Department launches a civil rights investigation this time….again, assuming nothing more suspicious turns up.  That would be the smoking gun evidence of this DOJ’s bias. I wouldn’t bet against it happening. Continue reading

Down That Slippery Slope They Told Me Didn’t Exist: Connecticut Democrats Drop Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson From The Name Of Their Annual Dinner

Jefferson Jackson Dinner

In the recent post, Stop Your Cultural Bulldozing, America: Disney World Taking Down Bill Cosby’s Bust Is Like Removing The Jefferson Memorial, I described the danger of removing well-earned cultural honors and memorials for individuals who later are found to have engaged in less than admirable conduct by current standards. I wrote in part…

“Sure, it’s uncomfortable having a bust of an unapologetic sexual predator in a Disney World attraction, and it might prompt some uncomfortable question from the kiddies. Well, good. It’s never too soon to learn that human beings are flawed, complex creatures, and that even the most brilliant and talented have dark sides, do terrible things,  and can be cruel, selfish, dishonest and even criminal. We honor Thomas Jefferson for his crucial role in giving this nation life, and defining its mission and values for the ages. We’re not honoring his hypocrisy, his cowardice, his own rapes,  or his slaveholding….

“First they came for Cosby, and we did not speak out…”

There is no stop to this slippery slope, and the political correctness mob will never stop.”

Some people I respect a great deal really went after me for that pronouncement, particularly on Facebook. “Hyperbole!” “Scaremongering!” “Just because a theme park doesn’t want to sport the bust of a rapist and stunning hypocrite in a TV Hall Of Fame doesn’t mean that there is any danger of politically correct zealots toppling the statue of Tom from his memorial!” “There is no such slippery slope,” I was scolded.

News Item: Continue reading

“Worlds Are Colliding!” If You’d Like To Meet The Ethicist And Blogger, Come See “Twelve Angry Men” And Meet The Director

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I’ve now received sufficient inquiries from readers to justify the risk of colliding my worlds as a professional stage director, an ethicist and a blogger.

The final production of my quixotic theater company in Arlington, Virginia, “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose, is playing through August 8. After that, the American Century Theater closes its metaphorical curtains (we perform in a black box theater, in the round for this show) forevermore after 2o rewarding, daring, frustrating years. I know a lot of Ethics Alarms readers live in the Washington D.C, area, and I would love to meet you face to face for a change, which, if you come to a performance, is easy (though you have to let me know when—I don’t see every one.)

You can get information and make reservations here; there are some representative reviews of the show here and here.  Some background on the theater’s closing is here. I’ve written about some ethics issues in the movie (which is the script I directed for the stage) here, here and here.

For many reasons, this is as good a version of the story as you are ever likely to see, and in all honesty and modesty, that includes the classic movie. The script is better live on stage than on film (it is about all the jurors and the jury as a unit, not just Henry Fonda), it cannot be done justice on a proscenium stage; the cast is superb, and the director is a lawyer, an ethicist and a successful stage director who has studied the script for 30 years and directed it three times before to work the kinks out.

If you come, I’ll seat you myself.

Hope you can make it.

Update: You can hear a podcast, hosted by me, about the production here.

This Prosecutor Was Fired For A Non-Apology Apology, But He Should Have Been Fired Long, Long Before That

Bias bone or no bias bone? Wait---WHAT THE HELL IS A BIAS BONE???

Does Karl Price have a bias bone or no bias bone? Wait—WHAT THE HELL IS A BIAS BONE???

Karl Price, up until recently an assistant Jefferson County (Kentucky) district attorney,  was suspended last month for making derogatory remarks in court about gays, immigrants and the disabled.  First he was reprimanded for disparaging a Korean American family, but The Courier-Journal published a story showing that Price had denigrated defendants  in court many times and had even been admonished for it by judges. This prompted a review by the county attorney’s office that turned up more such incidents. One example: At an arraignment of a black defendant who was caught after running away from police, Price, an African-American, said, “I thought you black guys could run, but you never get away from police!”

Query: What kind of supervisor only finds out about long-term misconduct by an employee in public proceedings after reading about it in the local newspaper?

County Attorney Mike O’Connell offered Price, who had worked as an assistant prosecutor in the office for 25 years (“without complaint,” we are told, which may only mean the newspapers didn’t report the complaints)  a chance to keep his job if he submitted a sufficient apology for his conduct. Price submitted a letter that qualifies as a Level 9 or 10 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale. It was  a “deceitful apology, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (#9) as well as “an insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply.” (#10).

Price guaranteed the #9 rating when he began his apology by including the magic phrase, “if I have offended anyone…” He cemented a #10 rating by loading his letter with rationalizations. He wrote that he had been treated unfairly, arguing that other prosecutors have been given “several second chances” [Rationalization 39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?”] and that his predecessor in arraignment court said “far more outrageous” things than he did [Rationalization Number 1: Everybody Does It].

Then this: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: “Women of Distinction” Magazine

Here is how to say, “You can’t believe anything in our magazine, and the whole thing is a marketing gimmick, but would you like to also fall for a scam, too?” in one, easy e-mail. Thank “Women of Distinction” for the helpful tip:

women of distinction

This was emailed to me…Jack Marshall….this morning. Note the nice personal touch: “Dear { FIRST NAME }. To append that to a letter adopting the tone of a specific message tailored to the recipient means “We think you are a moron. You know—like us.”

Based on the efforts of their crack research team, they think my profile meets their criteria for an accomplished, rising young professional woman. Sure they do. All I have to do is register before July 20.

Using my DeLorean.

This is in the category of incompetent fraudulent advertising. It is an insult to all direct marketing scamsters, liars and slimeballs, who work hard at their profession, despicable as it is, and have standards, dammit.! This kind of self-destroying garbage makes the whole field look bad. Or good.

You know what I mean.