Monday Midnight Ethics Madness, 6/27/22: Dobbs Freakout Hangover

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of the mouth-foaming anti-Supreme Court rants from people who can’t mount any kind of a coherent legal or ethical argument. The absurd attempts to compare the earlier Bruen ruling on gun rights and Dobbs were particularly forced, but then so are the claims that Dobbs is based on Catholic theology [See Seth Tillman’s neat debunking of a Columbia prof on this silly assertion here…] and that the opinion portends the banning of birth control. I found it particularly disheartening that a smart, usually rational lawyer friend echoed back those MSNBC talking points. I know she watches the shameless leftist-propaganda network, but assumed that she had the brains and integrity to know when she was being fed garbage. I guess not. Scary.

Meanwhile, I have been surprised to see how so many of the media defenders of abortion so quickly defaulted to ugly, transparently unethical (and immoral) reasoning. On HLN, for example, a special report cautioned that states ending the wholesale slaughter of the unborn would face serious economic hardships as scores of women had to deal with unwanted pregnancies, keeping them out of the workplace. I am beginning to believe that an unexpected salutary result of Roe’s fall, which I was not expecting or in favor of, may be that a larger proportion of the public will realize just how brutal, callous and unethical the “pro-choice” movement is and has been all along.

Remember, abortion isn’t an ethics conflict, in which there are two strong ethical values pulling in opposite directions. It’s an ethical dilemma, with a powerful, indeed the most powerful, ethical consideration—life—is being opposed by non-ethical considerations like convenience, ambition, avoidance of unpleasant consequences and finance. The pro-abortion movement, some of it anyway, understands that, and also understands that framed as a an ethics dilemma, their position is a loser. Thus it has pretended that the life side of the issue doesn’t exist. It’s amazing that they got away with this deception for so long, but in the desperate efforts to justify their outrage, they are only revealing their lack of respect for human life for all to see.

1. Why does anyone pay attention to this woman? Writer, pundit and progressive activist Saira Rao tweeted, “This country is a racist transphobic homophobic xenophobic ableist classist Islamophobic misogynistic dumpster fire. As such, seeing the American flag makes me want to vomit.” The statement is an expression of hate only, and deliberately insults not only the nation of her birth but also every normal American who is justly proud on the nation, its history and culture. One of the benefits of the U.S. is that you can say or write offensive stuff like that, but if your perception, values and judgment is that poor, I don’t care what you think. You’re untrustworthy and incompetent. Rao has made a lot of money in publishing and has organized various organizations to pursue her warped beliefs—like “giving up” on white people, which she declared after losing a run for Congress—but she seethes with hate for America. She’s a lawyer, she went to elite schools—what made her like this? How many more like her are there, and what is the culture doing wrong?

2. Funny, Donald Trump never was this vulgar… Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot took the stage at a “Pride” event–she is gay, after all—and declared, “Fuck Clarence Thomas!”

Stay classy, Chicago—Democrats—Protectors of Democratic Institutions and foes of inciting violence!

3. The question is, how could the college think this was fair and tolerable? Brown University was offering a “mindfulness” course exclusively to black, Latino and Indigenous students, an online “teacher training class in mindfulness-based stress reduction” that Asian students were also excluded from the New York Post reported. Brown reportedly established the course because…well, hell, it doesn’t matter what its reason was, does it? You can’t do that. It’s against the law. Yet Brown had to be threatened by FAIR, whose lawyer informed  Brown President Christina Paxson that “establishing a teacher training program based on skin color or ancestry violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.” Brown gets federal aid, so it must comply with the act.

Dang! said Paxson! How could I have missed that invidious discrimination thingy? And so Brown announced that even those evil whites and achievement-crazed Asians could enroll too.

It’s universities with leadership like Paxson’s that will have hordes of Saira Rao clones swarming over the land before we know what hit us….

4. This is disturbing…Here I am, defending the conservative Justices against accusations that they are tilting toward religious biases, and they issue a suspicious ruling like this one. 

Back in April I previewed the case of Former Bremerton (Wash.) High School assistant football coach Joseph Kennedy, who knelt in prayer at midfield after games, and was often joined by members of the team. The school officials fired him from his job in 2015 when he refused to stop his on-field prayers, which his superiors claimed violated the Constitution’s prohibition against government endorsement of religion. Bremerton sued, and the case finally reached the Supreme Court. Was the school illegally suppressing the coach’s religious expression?

I concluded, “The school can’t forbid the coach from praying, but it can forbid him from making praying part of his players’ school activities or doing so in a manner that suggest that the school approves, endorses, or is enabling the practice of religion. Kennedy should have been fired.”

Well, I was right and SCOTUS, which ruled 6-3 that Kennedy’s firing was illegal, was wrong. Read the dissent, which is properly indignant. [Pointer: valkygrrl]

33 thoughts on “Monday Midnight Ethics Madness, 6/27/22: Dobbs Freakout Hangover

  1. Just had a flash — nothing at all to do with Dobbs. It occurred to me that if I have to specify my pronouns, I believe I’ll go with “I / me”.

    I mean, that’s what I use, right? What you want to use if referring to me is your business.

    • That’s a brilliant bit of culture jamming, Diego. If you insist on those pronouns, clear communication will be all but impossible. Watching people try to accommodate those pronouns, twisting and torturing the meaning of every sentence would be highly entertaining. I love it!

  2. At this point, the response of the pro abortion left is basically just the equivalent of vomiting sewage. Unless you were born a lot earlier than 1973, you all came to be in a world where abortion was a fundamental right, essentially on the order of free speech. The most ridiculous comparison I ever heard was in the Atlantic in which the author compared Roe v Wade to Prohibition, same both issues began in the 70s, came to a head in the twenties, and presumably both will be eventually wiped out. The author also said that both represented the rural conservative part of America trying to impose its values on the more sophisticated urban part of America. The comparison is garbage. The use of alcohol at least has a somewhat positive history in the West, with wine used for ceremonial purposes, etc. Alcohol may create a danger, but it doesn’t always take a life, in fact I’m sure for every death that results from someone having had too much, there are a hundred more drinks consumed with no ill effects. Also, for one thing that is really a major danger involving alcohol, drunk driving, is considered a terrible crime and treated accordingly. Beyond that danger, what’s the real danger of alcohol? A stupid bar fight, a best man’s embarrassing speech at a wedding, maybe an unintended birth, but not too much beyond that. Abortion takes a life every time. It’s frankly painful to watch these pro-abortion folks turn themselves inside out trying to justify it, saying that a heartbeat is not really a heartbeat until x, or pointing out that men have the capability a fathering multiple children at a time while women normally only give birth to one at a time, which makes absolutely no difference, and it’s just annoying to hear them shrieking about anyone who isn’t in favor of abortion is a woman hater. It’s the same argument that anyone who doesn’t agree with them with regard to CRT is a raaaaacist!

    1. So this woman’s an America hater. There’s the door, no one says she has to stay. Next!

    2. No, fuck you, Mayor Beetlejuice. This behavior is a reflection on her, not on the court. Some ugly woman yelling and ugly language isn’t going to change anything.

    3. If you don’t know the answer to this one, then you haven’t been paying attention, and I know you have. This kind of crap is par for the course for American higher education at this point. It’s pathetic that we’re turning out a generation of people with no skills, no knowledge, no interest, and almost no capabilities. This is the kind of garbage that gave us occupy Wall street, where these kind of people were demanding the kind of income that goes with actually being skilled and working. It’s also what’s giving us the so-called anti-work movement, which goes well beyond fighting back against crappy bosses and unfair pay, like work itself is the enemy. Got news for you, there isn’t any Big Rock Candy mountain where they “hung the jerk who invented work.”

    4. I don’t find it disturbing at all. If people have a problem with Tim Tebow kneeling to pray in gratitude, but no problem with Krappernick’s antics (he just had a workout with the Las Vegas raiders that apparently ended in disaster, by the way), they are the ones with the problem. Ask yourself this: if the coach had been a Muslim, with the school have indicated they had a problem with what he was doing? I think you have your answer.

    • I believe Justice Thomas posed that very question: Would the school have done the same had the coach taken a knee to protest the national anthem? In either case, coercion could be inferred. The problem with that argument is that anything the coach does that someone does not like could be claimed coercive. The only reason this got this far was because it gave an atheist student who wanted to exercise his hecklers veto a perception of power over a believer.

      I am not a religious person but if some guy wants to pray mid-field on a football field or layout an eastward facing prayer rug in a school cafeteria and it is not hurting anyone why should I try to stop the practice unless I am trying to impose my religious beliefs (theistic or non-theistic) on them. Now that would be coercive. That is my interpretation of the 1st Amendment’s free exercise clause.

      • “if some guy wants to pray mid-field on MY football field”…and is seen by those who are or believe they are subject to his favor and whims. Come on. The school told him to pray on his own time, when his message and meaning was unambiguous and could not be considered a statement or influence to students. The school’s permission is also likely to be seen as endorsement or approval.

        • In long train of this building up – when was the coach’s practice errant?

          As soon as he did it the first time and no one noticed.
          As soon as the first kid joined him.
          As soon as enough kids joined him that others might have reasonably felt compelled to do so also.
          As soon as the first parent complained & the school told him to stop but he didn’t.

    • 4) The question doesn’t hinge on whether or not the coach was ok doing what he was doing – which there was no problem with – until circumstances made his prayer more than a personal prayer time. The kids gathering to him created conditions that other kids might have felt compelled to take part in since other kids were doing it and they wouldn’t want to potentially lose favor (however small) with the coach.

      It really hinges on if that’s a reasonable expectation from these older children – that they felt compelled by a governmental authority figure to participate in an act of worship.

      Or is it reasonable for these young citizens to recognize that they are free to join or free not to join and rely on their coach’s ability to remain unbiased in the circumstances.

      It’s a thin dividing line here between black and white.

      • If nothing else, them having the opportunity to learn how to decline to go along and stand in opposition to the popular trend seems to me a good thing. Would that more children had a chance to learn that with so few repercussions at such an early age! We might have a few less muddle-headed sheep wandering around.

        • This is why I’m on the fence on this event. Are the kids reasonably expected to feel coerced or are they young citizens who voluntarily joined a coach who could reasonably be expected not to treat the kids unfairly based on their responses.

  3. 2. I have some Facebook acquaintances who lean pretty far to the left and seem to regularly seek out stuff they know they will disagree with and then spew hatred in response. I have unfollowed them, because, well, why should anyone pay attention to them? My reaction to Rao (and some others who have been featured here) is exactly the same, and I usually just skip over those posts entirely. I don’t know who Rao is, I don’t care who she is, and I don’t care what she has to say. I understand the concept of the ‘duty to confront’, but I don’t believe that obligation exists in cases like this. Are we to suppose that our confronting her comments will make any difference? Is she a reader of Ethics Alarms? And even if she were, would she now reconsider her rant?
    As to the questions, ‘How many more like her are there, and what is the culture doing wrong?’, we won’t find the answers by ranting about her.
    There does seem to be a neurobiological benefit to anger, and perhaps that’s why Rao makes comments like the one quoted here, and perhaps that’s why her comments receive angry reactions.
    Some people seek out reasons to be angry. That’s not for me.

  4. 4. While I am not given to frequent overt public expressions of my faith (Matthew 6:5-6) I do try to live a humble but openly Christian life and set a Christ-like example, and I will pray publicly with like-minded folks and not concern myself with anyone who doesn’t like it. Public prayer is also endorsed in scripture, but we must also be aware of our motives in public prayer and particularly beware of hubris. Praying publicly so as to be thought righteous is not honoring God. On the other hand, avoiding praying in public for fear of embarrassment or out of fear of disapproval is also not biblical. (Romans 1:16) Both public prayers, properly motivated, and private prayers are biblically supported and have a place in the life of a believer.
    The events of the past few decades have convinced me that almost anything any level of government “allows” as an expression of faith, rather than enforcing an outright ban on the practice of religion, will be construed by some anti-faith people as proof that the government “approves, endorses, or is enabling the practice of religion.” The “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses of the First Amendment simply mean that the government will not establish a state religion (think “Church of England” or Lutheranism in Germany, Scandanavia et al.), and will not forbid or hinder religious expression. I find nothing “suspicious” about returning to interpreting the Constitution as written and amended, rather than twisting it into a pretzel to reach a desired result, as has been done by previous activist SCOTUS decisions. I am suspicious that, with America already fast becoming a “post-Christian” society, there is so much opposition to a coach praying after a football game. Horror of horrors, that some observer might be exposed to a Christian prayer and a Christian example! Of course, no one should be coerced into participating in a religion, but voluntary participation absent any evidence of undue or improper influence (such as negative consequences to non-participants) is not coercion.
    Many aspects of our culture frequently remind me of the quote (Sorry, I forget who said it), “”When you deny the existence of God, you sever ties with reality and will embrace any kind of absurdity.” Worshipping the god of self, the god of ego, the god of intellect or the god of popular culture, are no different in their outcomes than making a burnt offering to a golden calf or stone idol. I believe, as a preacher once told me, “We’re all going to live forever, the only difference will be ‘location, location, location.'”

    • It’s a simple principle, though: this isn’t his stage to perform on. It’s identical to the Olympic runners doing the black power salute, but worse, because a group of kids that depend on his favor are “invited” to grandstand with him. You know, like my boss “invited me” to pledge to the United Way, or another boss “invited me” to volunteer for his favorite charity event.

      It’s a binary choice: for or against. The school cannot allow that.

      • I have not read the decision (still wading through the dissent in Dobbs), but my gut reaction is that this would be covered by a Time-Place-Manner type restriction. He can pray all he wants but this is not his field and it is close enough to the event that implicit endorsement by the school could be inferred.

        By contrast, the parking lot would be different. If he prayed in the parking lot, he is where anyone in the public can be and do most legal things. And, it is definitely AFTER the school event is done.

        Again, I have not read the decision, but I am thoroughly outraged by it!

        -Jut

      • On #4, I read the decision and the dissent. A key quote in my opinion is “The District disciplined him
        only for his decision to persist in praying quietly without his players after three games in October 2015. See Parts I–B and I–C, supra.” It sounds like they didn’t bring the previous action in as part of the as a reason for disciplining him at first, only later in the appeals process when their original arguments were not working as well as they hoped. I’m not convinced the dissent was correct to consider the context to the extent it did while ignoring the additional context of the districts previous requests and the changes he made . No reasonable observer aware of the districts interactions could presume the district endorsed his prayers. It also feels like the district retroactively changed their reasoning, which is always suspect to me.

        I’m still considering this, but I tentatively think the decision has the better argument overall. I find the idea that a similar coach chatting with friends in the stands after the game is not work related speech but that his silent prayer with similar timing would only because it happens to occur on the field to be just a little unreasonable.

  5. Re: No. 1; Rao’s Rant.

    Rao stated, “This country is a racist transphobic homophobic xenophobic ableist classist Islamophobic misogynistic dumpster fire.” Something’s missing. What could it be? Hmm . . . . . Thinking . . . thinking . . . thinking . . . Oh. I know. Sexist. That’s it. It should read: “This country is a racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic, ableist, classist, Islamophobic, misogynistic dumpster fire.”

    Whew. I feel better.

    jvb

  6. I suspect that you’re right that some people base their stance in favor of abortion on what is convenient for them rather than any considered or principled beliefs about personhood. I concur with you condemnation of these people for that reason. That said, I do think it would be more persuasive to offer them measures that could address their concerns about being able to choose if and when to have children while being able to live a life that, for good or ill, they were raised to regard as normal and healthy. This is an opportunity to think outside the box in order to get them to step away from something you think they should not be doing.

    From the other side, I rarely see you engage with the stronger argument for allowing abortion, which is the idea that a fertilized egg does not have ethical value on the level of a person. I can understand why it’s an intimidating idea: if we remove the hard line that a living human organism always counts as a person, we have to find some other way to define a person.

    The problem with that objection is that we have to define a person anyway. Continuing to avoid it will only cause more problems. We have to have some reason for why we don’t ascribe personhood rights to other animals other than “might makes right”. If humans had any foresight, they would also have some system of rights in place for people that aren’t entirely human, such as artificially intelligent software, organisms genetically uplifted into sapience or created from scratch, or even extraterrestrial intelligences. I severely doubt we can rely on the goodwill of the human populace or on bureaucratic loopholes to protect such beings.

    I think it impoverishes the field of ethics if we feel we have to create what amounts to a legal fiction that an inchoate human organism has rights of its own because we are afraid to examine what a person is and why we want to protect them.

    I realize that we want to avoid the risk that corrupt people may attempt to exclude other people from the definition of “person”, as they have done in the past. Speaking as someone who has worked out most, if not all, of the aspects of conscious existence, I can say with some confidence that failing to explore the nature of consciousness (or personhood, or whatever distinct concept you feel is most appropriate) will only give advantage to those who would distort its definition to withdraw protection from their fellow beings.

    To sum up, both proponents and opponents of abortion rights are shying away from the existential philosophical questions at the core of this issue. Proponents avoid these questions because they’re afraid of considering the possibility that they’re wrong, or of the actual answers being less convenient than perhaps they’d like. Opponents avoid these questions because they’re afraid of what happens if we define personhood in a way that isn’t trivially easy to empirically observe; it would indeed make certain questions much more complicated than people are currently prepared to deal with.

    I’m here to guide people through these questions because I’m sick and tired of these stalled conflicts. Humans cause so many unnecessary problems and have so many destructive habits that if I were a ruthless utilitarian instead of a precedent utilitarian, I’d just let the stupid ones destroy each other. As it stands, I think that would be a waste of functional brains that can still learn some useful things, and if I were one of those brains I’d want someone to show me there are more aspects of reality than just what I’m familiar with.

    What say you?

    • Extradimensional Cephalopod,

      Since you asked, I think the opposing view is supportable philosophically.

      Biologically, fertilization creates a bright line in the creation of a genetically unique human organism.

      To use the language of Aristotle, the acorn contains the oak tree. The telos of the acorn is an oak tree and it is there from the beginning. The human being is there in the fertilized egg in a way that it does not exist in the sperm or the egg. Unimpeded, the acorn will become the oak tree; the fetus is analogous.

      Then, Kant said that the moral dignity of a person was in its moral CAPACITY, not its CAPABILITY. By virtue of their humanity, they had the capacity for moral agency, even if they were not capable of moral reasoning. Thus, children, psychopaths, etc. could not be mistreated just because they were not capable of moral judgment (a gross simplification), because they had the capacity, nonetheless. The same would apply to the unborn.

      (To illustrate the capacity/capability distinction, a quadriplegic has the capacity to walk (nerves, bones, muscle, etc.), but lack the capability to walk by virtue of an injury or defect.)

      These things, taken together, avoid many of the more arbitrary dividing lines of proponents (implantation, fetal pain, viability, birth, etc.)

      -Jut

      • Thanks for engaging, Jut!

        I would disagree with that reasoning on a few points.

        First, there are other fairly bright lines in the creation of a genetically unique human organism. The formation of nerves, the beginning of a brain, and complex brain structure sustaining thought more complicated than that of a non-person animal are obviously not as bright as the fertilization line, but it’s possible to establish conservative timelines for when they take place, and they have the the advantage of most people knowing they’re pregnant by that point.

        Second, it’s not the genetics of the organism that matter, I would hope, but rather its capacity for thought and volition. Otherwise we have to worry about making sure we don’t mistreat any non-human people we may eventually coexist with.

        Third, “capacity” seems somewhat ill-defined and certainly more arbitrary than “capability”. What an entity can do in its current form seems more relevant than what other forms it may eventually develop into (if I understand the definition of “capacity” correctly).

        Fourth, as an existentialist I’m not entirely sure I agree with the idea that life forms have an inherent “telos”, depending on what you mean by it.

        Fifth, the future development of an organism is at least partially dependent its environment, thus blurring the definition of its capacity and what constitutes impedance with it. An acorn needs soil, water, air, and sunlight. A human fetus needs a human uterus, placenta, and umbilical cord.

        I do believe the question of whether these organisms depend on external support is more or less irrelevant to the question of whether they have ethical value, but the premise of a fetus or an acorn as a self-contained system that just needs protection from attack seems a weak basis for an ethical argument. It does, however, raise the question of at what point, if ever, a human organism loses the right to have people maintain a free food source for it, and why.

        Sixth, the idea of capacity and capability does not answer the question of why we care about human life while we hardly care about the life of an oak try or acorn except insofar as it serves our desires. What makes the capacity or capability of a human take ethical precedence over that of a plant?

        Does that all make sense? I’m looking to explore the logical implications of your position and reasoning to see if you’re alright with where they lead, and to offer alternatives that might be more robust for all our purposes.

        • The acorn quote was not meant to suggest a legitimate analogy with human beings—to begin with, there is nothing unethical about killing an acorn, which analogizes more closely to a sperm than a fetus—that’s why oaks from hundreds of them.

          I see the issue as startlingly simple. Is the fertilized egg seprate gentically from its temporary host? Yes. Is it alive? Yes, because it grows. Is it human? Of course. And if left alone, it will think. The argument for allowing some early incarnation of the nascent human being to be sacrificed in the non-life-and death-interests of the mother is pragmatic, not ethical. And sometimes pragmatism wins. All the other maneuvering to somehow justify ending a human life strikes me as searching for a justification for what one wants to do anyway.

          It does not surprise me that the pro-abortion rationalizations slide so easily into eugenics and infanticide, but I did not expect the activists to be so open about it. Well, good.

          • From a biological standpoint, the acorn is analogous to a fetus, not a sperm cell. It’s already fertilized. There are many acorns because plants are almost always r-strategists (producing large numbers of young and abandoning them) rather than K-strategists (producing relatively fewer young and caring for them.)

            I understood the point of the acorn quote; I just used oaks as an example for my question about why we care about humans more than other living organisms, for which I’m still looking for an answer.

            I’m also looking for an answer to the question of what it means to “leave [an organism] alone”, given that every organism needs an environment that sustains it, including an ecosystem to participate in. You wouldn’t think it would be okay to “leave alone” a child by denying it food and socialization, would you? So what do we owe a human organism, and why, and for how long?

            The issue isn’t that complicated, but it’s not quite as simple as you’re making it out to be, because you’re refraining from asking questions that would challenge the significance of the questions you’ve already asked. “Is the fertilized egg separate genetically from its temporary host?” Does that really matter? What if the zygote is a clone of the mother? Does that make aborting it okay? Can we abort identical multiples as long as we leave one of them unharmed? If not, why are we using genetic uniqueness as a criterion for whether something has rights? We can do better than that.

            To address your other points, which I assume were inspired by a more recent update on the situation, my opinion of eugenics is similar to my opinion of communism. It sounds like a benevolent idea on paper but left to human administration it has a disappointing tendency to lend itself to corruption and atrocity incredibly easily. I want people to live long, healthy, intelligent lives, but how we get there matters.

            Infanticide should be a warning flag for any course of action. Anyone who goes so far as to plan for it had better be prepared to show how every alternative is somehow worse.

            • “Is the fertilized egg separate genetically from its temporary host?”
              Does that really matter?

              Yes, because the claim that its only one “body” involved falls if there are two individuals rather than one.

              “What if the zygote is a clone of the mother?” A technical rather than a real distinction from the usual situation. A clone is produced separately from the mother, and that, rather than the genetic make-up, is why it is also an individual. “The Island,” the movie I discussed on Ethics Alarms, handles that ethical issue deftly.

              “Can we abort identical multiples as long as we leave one of them unharmed? If not, why are we using genetic uniqueness as a criterion for whether something has rights?” Same as above. The multiples are still individuals. Thus killing four of five septuplets in the womb is still killing individual human organisms.

              All of these are (not by you, but when used in the “pro choice” debates) are examples of arguments devised to justify killing nascent humans. In essence, they are rationalizations devised to assuage guilt and avoid reality. Abortion didn’t begin with the thought, “Hey, these aren’t really separate individuals who don’t deserve any more consideration than a ward or a tumor or any other set of annoying cells in or on one’s body, so might as well get rid of them!” It begins with the thought and motivation, “Hey, I don’t want to be responsible for this human life I created or to go through the trouble of letting it mature and exist!” and all of the subsequent arguments were developed to somehow justify the killing by pretending it isn’t killing at all.

              I disagree about acorns, which do not germinate and start to become trees until they are planted 9like sperm), but it’s not worth arguing about, since we’re really not concerned abut acorns.

              • “I disagree about acorns, which do not germinate and start to become trees until they are planted (like sperm), but it’s not worth arguing about, since we’re really not concerned abut acorns.”

                The analogy helps because it clarifies what we care about. It sounds like even though the acorn is a unique oak organism, you don’t regard it as such because it doesn’t start developing unless it’s in a suitable environment. I would argue the same could be said for a zygote, but I acknowledge that at least the zygote starts out in such an environment by default.

                I consider genetic uniqueness irrelevant for ethical purposes, which is why I am puzzled that people keep bringing it up. Having a non-unique genome doesn’t mean you’re not a person, so why would having a unique genome mean an organism is a person? On what basis are we saying it’s sufficient but not necessary?

                You seem to be focused on the body, while I’m focused on the mind. The mind is a slipperier concept than the body, but it’s also what matters more.

                For example, how many votes does a pair of conjoined twins get? How about a person with genetic chimerism, who has tissues with at least different genomes?

                These aren’t rationalizations designed to avoid reality if reality doesn’t work the way you keep saying it does. How abortion “began” culturally is irrelevant to whether it is ethical. Doing something for a selfish reason does not automatically make that thing unethical.

                Even so, some research I did for an earlier comment on this topic indicates that Augustine of Hippo did not necessarily believe that an early-stage abortion was murder, and was explicitly uncertain as to when a human organism received a soul. However, he opposed abortion in general for the religious reason that procreation is part of the purpose of marriage. I salute his intellectual honesty; he could have said that the soul existed from conception in order to lend urgency to his opposition to abortion.

                In any case, that means that no, the argument that a human organism does not start out from conception as a person with all the rights thereof is not necessarily a rationalization to avoid facing responsibilities. At least one Christian intellectual seems to have honestly believed that people needed to face parental responsibilities in spite of their unborn offspring not yet having a soul. Can we please stop saying that all arguments to the contrary are assumed to be in bad faith?

                • Not all arguments, EC, just arguments that obviously were developed to reach a pre-determined conclusion.The entire structure of the “pro-choice” movement fails if it admits that a zygote, fetus, child up to the moment of birth is, in fact 1) human and 2) a life. So they turn themselves into pretzels trying to come up with a reason why they aren’t a life, so nothing is “killed.” It’s an intellectually dishonest approach to any problem. Do you believe that the advocates for slavery really believed that the slaves weren’t human beings? Once that legal fiction was wrecked, all they had as a fallback was “property” (a non-ethical consideration, like “choice”) and “States rights.”

                  • I think it would be beneficial all around if you engaged more with the arguments that were not developed to reach a pre-determined conclusion.

                    I don’t care if something is human. I don’t even care if it’s a living biological organism as we understand it, and I don’t think anyone else should, either. I believe that there are criteria beyond “living human” that we can use to figure out how we should treat other entities. I believe that advocates for slavery were dishonest when they applied these other criteria to the people they were enslaving. We definitely don’t want a repeat of that. But we also don’t want to have an ethical system under which we could commit atrocities against extraterrestrial civilizations under the premise that they’re not human, so we need another reason to regard them as ethically significant, and I don’t see why we wouldn’t apply that same reason to humans.

                    A pair of conjoined twins is a single human organism. How many votes do we give this organism? How many social security numbers? If a person kills the organism, how many counts of murder is that person charged with?

                    • I haven’t seen such an argument. The argument I would regard as such would be: “Abortion should be recognized as a justifiable and legal homicide, like capital punishment or self-defense, on the grounds that society’s interest in facilitating full opportunities for women is sufficient to overcome the ethical and moral mandates of placing human life above all objectives, because the nascent life is, though human, a lesser life at its present state of development.” I’ve never heard an abortion advocate make that argument, because it is a loser, and they know it. So they come up with ways to pretend that no life is ended in an abortion at all.

                      Now, being from another dimension, you can be excused for not thinking the fact that the fetus is a human life should be paramount. But in this culture, society and planet, it is and has been for centuries. Oaks have no right to life. Neither do dogs, cows or chickens, despite PETA’s efforts to argue otherwise. It is the human factor that makes abortion ethically indefensible, except in a reality and pragmatically driven compromise.

                    • Being that the nascent life is indeed, though human, a lesser life at its present stage of development, I question the use of the word “homicide” to describe its deliberate destruction, but other than the wording I’m pretty sure many people do make that argument. I’m disappointed that it’s not the leading argument among those who support a right to abortion, but it’s definitely being talked about.

                      This “human factor”, though, that separates humans from the beasts of the land, air, and sea, and from the plants and other growing things… what is it? Whenceforth is it derived? It can’t just be because we’ve always done it this way; that’s no basis for an ethical principle.

                      And how many votes does a pair of conjoined twins get, and why?

                    • Thank you both for this exchange. I wish all back-and-forth discussions around abortion could be handled with this kind of grace and respect. What I am most excited about is that – for the first time in my lifetime and for many older folks, the first time in half a century – these kind of debates and discussions will (hopefully) be happening in all 50 state houses around the country. We now get to have an actual say in how abortion policy is decided…this is power that I have never had, and I think it’s glorious.

                      For those who decry – like Senator Schumer – the “unelected and unaccountable Nine” who overturned Roe, you should rejoice that those “unelected and unaccountable Nine” were gracious enough to give it back to you. Now YOU (and I) are accountable for it.

                    • Glad to help, and thank you for the kind words!

                      With the help of the Visionary Vocabularies toolbox of foundational concepts, I aim to bring this level of discourse (or even better) to all substantial disagreements. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of world we can build out of it.

  7. “On HLN, for example, a special report cautioned that states ending the wholesale slaughter of the unborn would face serious economic hardships as scores of women had to deal with unwanted pregnancies, keeping them out of the workplace.”

    I find it equal parts amusing and infuriating that many on the left, having spent decades decrying the dehumanizing experience of working for large corporate entities, are suddenly worried about the bottom lines of these poor companies who might lose the opportunity to exploit some women who, through no fault of their own, of course, end up mysteriously saddled with an unplanned pregnancy. Perhaps one day Science will figure out what causes these things to manifest – I understand there is some promising research on storks being done in Denmark, and a possible link to cabbage patches is being explored at Rutgers.
    But until Big Pharma (another villain-turned-recent-hero of the left) develops some kind of device or medication that can prevent “people who menstruate” from spontaneously manifesting babies inside their bodies, we’ll just have to keep destroying the little pests so that America’s Big Business can continue stealing the most productive years of the lives of the unfortunately XX-chromosomed.

    Stay strong, sisters! We will eventually figure this out. But in the meantime, get your ass back to work!

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