Enigmatic commenter Extradimensional Cephalopod (that’s not him in the picture, just a relative) returned to Ethics Alarms after an unexplained absence (though who knows how time passes in his dimension) to provide one of several excellent observations on the post and poll about “Judith,” the expectant mother whose faith in a “freebirthing” cult cost her unborn child his life. The comments of Tim LeVier, Humble Talent, JutGory, and Mrs. Q, among others, were all Comment of the Day worthy, but for now, I’m going to award EC the prize.
Here is the current state of the poll…
…and here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on “Who Killed Judith’s Baby?”
First off, I’m grateful for all the nuanced and well-considered opinions here. I can always count on getting reasonably well-balanced information about human society from people’s experiences here, and the encouragement that reasonable people are not alone–just not yet organized.
The poll didn’t let me vote multiple times, but I’m tempted to select “all of the above,” in the sense that “responsible” can mean “contributing to the problem and needing to change.” For “primarily responsible,” I’m obligated to go with “Judith,” since she is presumed to have ultimate decision-making authority in this case.
That survey question by the National Partnership for Women & Families spins so hypnotically, I’d like to take it off its axle.
“Giving birth is a natural process that should not be interfered with unless absolutely medically necessary.” Who wouldn’t agree to that?
1. Yes, giving birth is objectively and literally a natural process, in that humans didn’t deliberately design it. (Although I wouldn’t put it past them to have done so under a tight budget of time and money. I’ve supported software rollouts that were just as awkward and painful.)
However, stating something to be “a natural process” in so many words implies on an emotional level that it is by default perfectly healthy and should remain purely natural, which is an appeal to nature fallacy. “Cancer is a natural process.” “Epidemics are a natural process.” “Hurricanes are a natural process.” There are plenty of natural things that I am very grateful civilization has altered or wants to alter using technology.
2. “interfered with” is a very negative way of referring to an outside party changing the outcome of an event. It implicitly assumes the outside party is unwelcome. By definition, people don’t want “interference,” but they may want help. A scene from “Firefly” comes to mind:
Zoe: “This is something the captain needs to do himself.”
Captain Mal (fighting for his life): “NO, HE DOESN’T!”
Zoe: “Oh.” (starts shooting)
3. “unless absolutely medically necessary” Oh, boy. First off, most people don’t want medical procedures that aren’t medically necessary. Medical procedures are often painful and expensive. “Don’t have a medical procedure that isn’t medically necessary,” is, for most people and most medical procedures, a trivially obvious statement.
But “absolutely” medically necessary? That sets a high bar indeed. By the time we know whether a treatment is “absolutely” medically necessary, a good portion of the time it’s already too late to do it.
On a separate note, I understand that a group trying protect people from being peer-pressured into taking the mainstream option might make rules preventing the mainstream option from being brought up. Dogma raises warning flags for me, but as I write this I realize that the solution isn’t to ban groups from having dogma (which is itself dogma) but to make sure people don’t spend all their time in dogmatic groups as they make a decision. At some point they need to work in a space where they’re allowed to weigh all the options against all the evidence and against their own priorities.
That’s why JutGory mentioned people don’t like being told what to do. Many people can recognize dogma when it’s being foisted upon them regardless if the dogma happens to align with the preponderance of the evidence (as long as they don’t already have an emotional connection to it). I find that the most effective method of getting someone to make a healthy decision is to outline the consequences–good and bad, as perceived by them–of each option. Of course, that requires me to have a decent understanding of the matter at hand, and of the person making the decision. If I don’t have those understandings already, my first step is to get them, or else any “help” I offer is nothing more than my own empirical and normative biases.