Update: More Abortion Advocate Struggles With Ethics In The Midst Of The Planned Parenthood Videos Revelations


As the pro-abortion lobby has rushed to defuse the ticking time bomb of comprehension that might make lazy and inattentive American think. “Wait, that’s what happens in an abortion?,” its dishonest, desperate, and unethical arguments have been as revealing as the videos themselves, and as damning.

Frankly, I’ve been surprised: they really don’t have much that makes ethical sense, just “it’s legal!” and “It’s Our Bodies And We’ll Kill If We Want To!” (a little known B-side flop by the recently departed Leslie Gore.)  I recently wrote about their defenses in the posts Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments (Part One) and Part Two: Bad Analogies. As I wrote in the latter: “If an advocate has persuasive, honest, strong arguments not based on fallacies and rationalizations, I assume that those would be the ones he or she would use.”

More evidence that they don’t possess them and also don’t care to have an honest debate recently came to light.

The most bizarre was an article in the Washington Post ostensibly about the ongoing drama at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The female panda there gave birth to twins (“Awwwww!”) then abandoned and neglected the smaller one (“OH NO!!!”) which soon died. Before the little panda’s demise, those clever abortion advocates of the Post saw an opportunity, and had a female reporter, Sarah Kaplan, author an article which the Post titled “The perfectly sensible reason why panda mothers and other creatures selectively abandon babies.”

If you want to think it’s a coincidence, go ahead. I don’t. To Kaplan’s credit, she avoided any overt analogies to human beings, and played it straight, as she always does. (She’s a terrific reporter.) Still, there is that headline. It’s sensible to “abandon” babies that will be too difficult for the mother to care for, “abandon” in the wild being the equivalent of “kill.” This points to  Rationalization #51—the latest on the Ethics Alarms list-–as a defense for abortion: “It’s natural.”

Writes Kaplan: “Among bears, cats, dogs, primates and rodents, it’s common for mothers to eat a deformed or dying infant.”

All right, I’ll concede that abortion is much preferable to that.

More significant—I’ll concede that the panda article may have been just bad timing—was the hypocrisy of Vox, the progressive website launched by Post progressive Ezra Klein that purports to “explain” complex issues in the news. What Vox calls explaining is to argue that only the progressive side makes sense, and that any opposition is made up of, in President Obama’s dignified and presidential characterization of opposition to his Iran deal, “craizies.”

As reported by blogging philosopher Brian Leiter (whose excellent blog I need to add to the Ethics Alarms links), Torbjorn Tannsjo, Kristian Claëson Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University, was invited by Vox  to write a piece on the “repugnant conclusion.” The Vox editor wrote that he found Tannsjo’s argument for the “repugnant conclusion”—that people should have children—“very compelling.”

“It’s a fascinating problem,” the editor wrote, “and one that’s fairly easy for lay readers to get into — people care about population size, and ‘We have a duty to make the world’s population as large as possible’ is a proposition that demands peoples’ attention.”

Prof. Tannsjo did so, and submitted his essay to Vox.

It was rejected. Prof. Tannsjo was informed by the embarrassed editor,

“I ran the piece by some other editors and they weren’t comfortable running it; I think the concern is that people will misinterpret it as implying opposition to abortion rights and birth control, which, while I know it’s not your intent, is a real concern.”

Leiter commented ruefully about how difficult it is to present a thoughtful piece about a complex issue for an “audience which apparently is more concerned with taking the ‘correct’ view than with the reasoning.

After the episode was related by Leiter and picked up by the dreaded conservative media, so Vox, via its creator Klein, felt it had to explain itself. He wrote in part:

“The idea that every human being has a moral obligation to produce as many children as physically possible has, to say the least, a lot of implications. Two of them, though by no means the only ones I raised to Matthews, were that birth control and abortion are, under most circumstances, immoral. I am very, very uncomfortable telling anyone that it is their obligation to bear child after child, starting at the moment of first fertility and ending only at menopause. And I didn’t think the piece made its case convincingly enough for us to stand behind a conclusion so sweeping and dramatic.”

Then Klein tries to make the case that Vox is even-handed and objective on the abortion issue.

Vox isn’t even-handed and objective on any issue, though it may think it is. Not recognizing one’s biases is fatal, however, to good journalism and ethical punditry.

Klein’s argument doesn’t pass the giggle test. How does publishing a philosophical piece expressing the views of one scholar equal Vox, or Klein, “telling anyone that it is their obligation to bear child after child”? Moreover, that was exactly the article Vox requested!

Responds Leiter (I really like this guy!):

“If I were feeling generous, I would describe the response as pathetically stupid.  Prof. Tannsjo actually supports free abortion, as he told me.  But what he supports or doesn’t support is not the issue!  If you solicit a piece from a philosopher, knowing what their work is about (as was clearly the case here), you have an obligation to publish it, subject to reasonable editing.  What you can’t do, if you are an even remotely serious operation (and not an echo chamber), is reject it because someone not paying attention might think the argument supports a conclusion they find icky.  This rule for adult, scholarly discourse applies to the so-called “right” and to the so-called “left.”  Vox will be hard-pressed to get any serious scholars to write for them after this.  But the same warning applies to so-called “conservative” sites (who are terrible offenders on this score too).   If you really want to challenge your readers, then invite serious people with serious arguments, and don’t reject them because their conclusions might be deemed offensive to casual readers.  The Socratic ideal, which so many profess allegiance to, and so few act on, is to let the arguments run their course.  That is what Vox failed to do.”

Abortion advocates don’t want the argument about the ethics of abortion to run its course. After all…they might lose.


Sources: Washington Post, Leiter, Vox

47 thoughts on “Update: More Abortion Advocate Struggles With Ethics In The Midst Of The Planned Parenthood Videos Revelations

  1. Strange that so many people conflate abortion and birth control. Me, I support the use of birth control because it prevents abortions: you can’t kill a baby that you never had in the first place. It’s cheaper and safer for everyone involved, and it gets us closer to the ideal of no abortions at all. I wonder why don’t more conservatives push for easier access to birth control?

    • I do. And I’m pretty sure I’m a conservative, although I did take that political chart-test and discovered that I’m not as conservative as I thought. 🙂

      The Catholic Church and a few select Protestants and groups are against birth-control on principle, but I’m pretty sure most conservatives aren’t against it at all. I think a male birth-control pill that works for say, six months straight, would reduce abortion to the point that people would find it convenient to discover their spines and condemn it again. But such a pill has yet to be invented. Perhaps the potential inventor of such a pill majored in Women’s Studies instead of the sciences, and so humanity has lost out. Or perhaps that person was aborted. So we wait.

      • Hormonal birth control as it exists today is a simple matter of biological convenience. A women’s reproductive system has built in pauses; a women cannot get pregnant while an egg not been released (ovulation), and ovulation is regulated by rising and lowering levels of hormones. Supplement the hormones needed to keep an egg in place, and the egg will generally stay in place.

        Similarly, a man cannot get a women pregnant if his body does not release any sperm. Sperm production, however, is continuous, with no natural hormonal fluctuation’s that could be adapted to suppress it (chemical castration exists, but that comes with severe side effects).

        For the sake of completeness, I would point out that the first clinically reliable form of non-destructive birth control was specifically designed for male anatomy….

        • That last paragraph…You’d almost think that male anatomy and female anatomy was different, wouldn’t you? What the heck were they thinking!? I mean, I know it was in the 1500’s, but you’d figure they could find a more gender inclusive way of stopping the transfer of sperm, just think of all the innovations since! Like the female condom…. That caught on so well, didn’t it?

          This is the same logical retardation that led the FDC to approve Addyi: Men have 26 forms of relief to SDCC, and women have zero! That’s obviously sexist, never mind that for men it’s a physiological problem to do with blood flow and in women it’s a psychological problem to do with desire, all we care about is outcome, right?. So lets approve this drug. It doesn’t matter that in 73% of trials there were adverse effects, it doesn’t matter that in double blind studies with placebos there was only a .05 to 1 SSE per MONTH, which was eaten by the margin of error, GIRL POWER FOOLS. We want a pink pill! Science is obviously patriarchal, we just want pink shit.

          It’s interesting, however that 500 years later women have dozens of forms of birth control; pills, implants, surgeries, devices, abortion, et al and men still only have the condom. And so you’d think that the same groups arguing for Addyi on the basis of gendered outcomes would be right behind men getting a form of capsulized birth control… But no. The same feminist groups trumpeting Addyi actively oppose a male birth control pill.

          Because that just makes sense, right?

      • …And conservatives have, apparently, decided that “not forcing others to pay for someone else’s pleasure activities” is a higher ethical imperative than “stopping baby murder.”

        I would think if one really believes abortion is murder, that would be a small price to pay.

              • Huh? What does compulsion have to do with anything? I’m talking about what works. Providing subsidized contraception reduces the abortion rate by 70%. Do you dispute this?

                • No one compels people to get an abortion. If conservatives think it is something they should not do, then for arguments sake, it IS something they should not do.

                  It is unethical to pay people to not do something they shouldn’t be doing anyway.

                  Horrible precedent. Start of an ugly slippery slope.

                  It really is simple to grasp. It is concerning that you haven’t.

                  • You know Tex, in a perfect world where everyone is intelligent and has had even a halfway-decent upbringing, I would agree with you. You make good choices in life. So do I. But you can’t expect and demand stupid and/or ignorant and/or emotionally damaged people to make good choices — they don’t have the capacity. So basing your entire model on how society should work on this concept is doomed for failure — unless you first want to have a pogrom to kill anyone who isn’t up to snuff to keep them from reproducing.

                    Sometimes we have to do what works. Providing a small subsidy to teach birth control and family planning seems to be the sensible solution. It works. Your plan doesn’t.

                    • Uh… if someone hasn’t learned by high school, what makes babies and how to prevent such, they haven’t been paying attention to the ample education available in that regard. Sorry if people should be expected to live with the consequences of their decisions that they have been amply taught about.

                      And yes, you do design society around what people SHOULD do. What a dumb statement to say opposite. Otherwise you need to start designing society to accommodate thieves and murders and arsonists…cuz hey, it’s gonna happen anyway whether or not we say they Shouldn’t do that.

                    • “You make good choices in life. So do I. But you can’t expect and demand stupid and/or ignorant and/or emotionally damaged people to make good choices — they don’t have the capacity.”

                      And here we have the classic liberal elitist mindset brilliantly summed up.

                • “Otherwise you need to start designing society to accommodate thieves and murders and arsonists…”

                  I’m fairly certain reducing the number of thieves is one of the main justifications for the welfare state.

                  Should we expect people not to commit crimes and pay for their own crap? Yes. Do countries which invest heavily in education and healthcare have lower crime rates? Also yes.

                  It’s a question of effectiveness, and priorities.

                  What do you think actually has a bigger effect on reducing the abortion rate? Commenting about why abortion is wrong on a political blog, or providing free contraception?

                  • “I’m fairly certain reducing the number of thieves is one of the main justifications for the welfare state.”

                    I’ll add that to my list of silliest things I’ve ever heard. Charitable giving and, the exponentially less efficient, welfare are not “please don’t rob us” bribes. I’m not sure you said that with any seriousness, such a flippant comment is wrong on first review.

                    Charity is given, because, presuming a person aspires to good and demonstrate incredible self-discipline and would refuse to violate the rights of others before they behave unethically, would for all intents and purposes starve before stealing. But we don’t want people to die when we have surplus we could share until they get on their feet. That’s the ideal.

                    Now, please parallel that with your theories on the inevitability of abortion…

                    Doesn’t work.

                    Try again.

                    “What do you think actually has a bigger effect on reducing the abortion rate? Commenting about why abortion is wrong on a political blog, or providing free contraception?”

                    I’m not going to explain why that is a patently dumb set of questions.

                  • Should we expect people not to commit crimes and pay for their own crap? Yes. Do countries which invest heavily in education and healthcare have lower crime rates? Also yes.

                    What is per pupil spending on education in Washington, D.C.?

          • Again, Jack, I’m talking about what’s effective. Principles are very important, but not as important as people. Providing subsidized contraception to reduce abortion may be distasteful, even unethical. That still doesn’t change the fact that it’s the most practical, effective way to reduce abortion.

              • apparently 44 ¢ is obliteratingly expensive…

                Of course, the rejoinder will then be, “if they are that inexpensive, then conservatives should have no problem paying for them”

                Except that after run through a government bureaucracy ensuring procurement, distribution and administration of the process, they’ll probably cost closer to $2.50-3.00 per, knowing government inefficiency – and that is before the market capitalizes on having a mandatory buyer, which historically drives prices up even further.

                • The director of phallic sleeves will have to get together with the minister of pharmaceutical bubble packages and discuss new ordinances to see if installing a bubble packet on a phallic sleeve is viable. They’ll probably need financing to provide a comprehensive study. Maybe between 12:00 and 12:30?

              • I don’t know. I do know providing free contraception has been proven to reduce the abortion rate by up to 70%.

                Do you know this?

                • There are dozens of pre-conception “prevention of abortion”…forced sterilization, not having sex, early death, castration, wearing condoms, etc. Another really proven method to not have an abortion is to choose not to kill a baby. It really is remarkable.

                  But you do know that contraception isn’t “free”…it costs…tax payers…and compelling others to pay for someone else to avoid consequences of their conduct is a slippery slope and terrible precedent. Only a fool who hopes civilization can survive with no standards, values, or responsibility would assert what you assert.

  2. Here we have an excellent example of the adage that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

    In pre-Christian history, exposure (abandoning unwanted infants) was as common in humans as it is in animals. Most of the advanced civilizations all practiced it, as did primitive tribes. Most people today know about a few cultures famous for this (the Spartans) but don’t realize how ubiquitous it was worldwide.

    As moderns, we find the idea of leaving a baby alone to die (or killing it outright) barbaric, but that is because of the massive, sustained, uphill battle against social norms waged by Jews, Christians, and then Muslims for centuries. The difficult road to outlawing this practice and making it socially undesirable has gone unappreciated and ignored.

    With the current trend towards abandoning “religious baggage”…guess what’s back? Actual arguments positively in favor of infanticide. I’m referring mostly to this infamous story, in which two high-ranking British ethicists declared in a study that killing babies after birth is justified since a newborn is “morally irrelevant” and killing it is no different from abortion: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9113394/Killing-babies-no-different-from-abortion-experts-say.html. They were not being ironic.

    This is still not the position of the majority, but it is a position that is gaining ground. With no objective morality, it’s becoming popular to look to what is “natural” in the animal kingdom as a guide for human behavior, since humans are no more or less than highly evolved animals, after all. (Of course, these arguments cherry-pick which animal behavior to emulate and which not to, but that’s to be expected since any non-objective morality is by nature going to be arbitrary and not logically consistent.)

    I can’t help but notice that extremist, pro-abortion modern feminists identify with, and romanticize, paganism and goddess-worship, from what they erroneously imagine to be a less patriarchal time. Most pagan cultures did kill their unwanted infants, often in the form of sacrifice to gods. Of course, it was more likely the men who chose which babies died, and the victims were more likely to be female, but again, cherry picking.

    • All those mythological stories where some hero was raised in the wilderness by wolves or bears or some such? Yep. There were plenty of human babies out there for the taking back in them days.

      • In Roman times you could leave a baby out in a jar, and it wasn’t considered murder because there was a chance someone could save it (better than a sacrifice to the gods I guess.) In the Middle Ages people could leave their babies at the church, and this developed into the orphanage. Pretty fascinating.

    • Wait, what? “I can’t help but notice that extremist, pro-abortion modern feminists identify with, and romanticize, paganism and goddess-worship, from what they erroneously imagine to be a less patriarchal time.”

      Do you actually know any feminists? I don’t know a single one that fits that description. NONE of us identify with a time before we had the right to vote, or go to college, or earn a real income, or have a career other than secretary, social worker, or teacher.

      • I said “extremist” feminists. You and your friends probably aren’t on the fringe.

        Just google “goddess movement” or “feminist goddess” and enjoy a wealth of information about Wicca, New Age and neopaganism in 3rd wave feminism. Many, many, MANY books are available at your local New Age bookstore, or online, by prominent and influential feminist scholars and activists. It’s a massive movement within feminism. (I understand that there is no consensus whatsoever within feminism of what feminism is, but I think that last sentence is fair to say.)

        • That’s a small fraction of actual feminists Isaac. I’ve seen those books too — note that they are never on the bestseller list.

  3. http://www.lifenews.com/2015/09/09/pro-abortion-attorney-tells-congress-a-dismemberment-abortion-is-a-humane-procedure/

    After reading the description of the abortion procedure, Congressman Goodlatte asked Smith, “Do you believe this is a humane way to die?”

    In the video below, Smith hems and haws about whether the unborn baby is viable, but Goodlatte interjects that the Supreme Court discussed this abortion procedure happened to a baby who was eventually born alive but missing an arm because of a unsuccessful abortion.

    Eventually, Smith finally answered: “Yes, a D&E procedure is a very humane procedure.”

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