Comment Of The Day (on) “Comment Of The Day: ‘Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up… Dobbs Freakout Edition”

Mrs. Q has gifted Ethics Alarms with another trenchant post. I almost framed it in her currently dormant (but still open!) column for Ethics Alarms, but I know Q is a perfectionist, and even though the comments she dashes off put most of us to shame, she would want a column entry to be carefully massaged.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day, in response to this post, and the Roe demise generally:


“We seek power and equality in society, and then we continually play the victim”.

Agreed. I saw a meme the other day (yes memes are reductionist) that captured a part of this whole debacle. It said something about being able to wear a mask for two years but not being able to wear a condom for 48 seconds. Continue reading

Maryland Leaps On The Deadly Abortion Slippery Slope

When you think about it, this shouldn’t surprise us, as horrible and unethical as it is. The steps from abortion, to late-term abortion, to legal infanticide have always been smaller than abortion advocates have been willing to admit.

In one of the efforts underway in several Democratic-controlled legislatures to protect abortion rights if the Supreme Court alters or strikes down Roe v. Wade, Maryland is considering Senate Bill 669. The bill’s language states, in addition to protecting abortions themselves from prosecution, that no person can be investigated or charged for “experiencing a miscarriage, perinatal death related to failure to act, or stillbirth.”

The perinatal period consists of “the period shortly before and after birth, from the 20th to 29th week of gestation to one to four weeks after birth.” Mark Tapscott concludes,

In other words, it’s anywhere up to four weeks after the birth of the child you and your sexual partner conceived, and you decide you really don’t want the child, hey, no problem, just don’t feed it, don’t get medical care, don’t do a thing. Eventually, the child will die.

And that, under the meaning of the bill’s text, is OK.

The bill, which Tapscott believes is certain to pass and withstand a veto by Maryland’s Republican governor, also bans any investigations into perinatal infant death while creating the private right the right to sue for civil damages if one is investigated for causing a perinatal death through neglect. Continue reading

Evening Ethics Catch-Up, 2/26/2020: Goodbye Baby Peggy And Baby “Whoops!”

Sorry, this is later that I intended…

I’ve been working on accounting ethics, which always slows down my metabolism to Galapagos tortoise levels…

1.Worst lie of the year (so far)…In Winter Park, Florida, Jorge Torres was found dead , zipped into a suitcase. Suspect Sarah Boone insisted that it was all a tragic mistake. They  were playing hide and seek, she said, and he just hid too well. A cellphone video, however, caught his cries for help from inside the suitcase, as she said, “That’s what I feel like when you cheat on me!” Boone, however, told police that the wacky couple thought it would be funny if he got inside the suitcase. They were drinking at the time and who hasn’t zipped up a loved one in a suitcase when spirits run high? Unfortunately, Sarah passed out on her bed, and when she woke up hours later, poor Jorge was dead.

That’s her story, and she’s sticking with it.

2. Remember “Baby Peggy”? Probably not, but she was probably the last living link to the silent movie era, and she died this week at 101. She was also one of the earliest examples of the child abuse that became routine in Hollywood. Baby Peggy, real name Peggy-Jean Montgomery, had made about 150 movies by the time she was five-years-old, and was a multi-millionaire at four. As has been the norm with child stars from Peggy through Jackie Coogan to Gary Coleman, Peggy’s parents stole her money and spent it all. They also let her risk life and limb in pursuit of her “art” that she was too young to understand. During her silent-film career, “Baby Peggy”  was thrown from a speeding pickup truck, narrowly escaped a horse trampling and survived near-drownings and incineration. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/31/18: To Be Honest, This Is Yesterday’s Warm-Up That I Was Too Sick To Write…

This isn’t how I look. This guy looks BETTER than I look…

Today I feel like one of those guys I used to see nodding of in a heroin haze when I lived on Capital Hill…

1. Governor Ralph Northam endorses infanticide. Said Virginia’s Democratic Governor this week, explaining a bill that barely failed to pass in the Virginia legislature, “[Third trimester abortions are] done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” Northam, who is a pediatric neurosurgeon, told Washington radio station WTOP. “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” How can this possibly be interpreted as  anything but post birth euthanasia? Marco Rubio tweeted, “I never thought I would see the day America had government officials who openly support legal infanticide.”

Really? I did. The pro-abortion movement has been moving relentlessly to this point for decades. (New York just legalized late term abortions.)If progressives and feminists want to see Roe v.Wade substantially weakened by the Supreme Court, this is the  way to guarantee it. Of course, Northam gives all sorts of indications that he might be an idiot. His response to the predictable criticism of his statement was this tweet:

“I have devoted my life to caring for children and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting.

Yeah! Why would anyone question my devotion to  children just I advocate killing the ugly ones right after they are born? After all, they’ll be made “comfortable” until they die. (I have to admit, the “comfortable” bit really annoys me, as if that mitigates what is being done.) Continue reading

The Unlikely Ethics Dunce, And Why Nobody Pays Attention To Ethicists And I Don’t Blame Them

Wait, how can the nation's most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It's not easy...

Wait, how can the nation’s most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It’s not easy…

Ethicists have managed to make ethics nearly invisible in our cultural debates, and nearly useless as a decision-making tool, when it ought to be the most useful tool of all. They accomplished this over centuries of work, making the discipline of ethics abstruse, elitist, abstract, and worse of all, boring. Nobody should be bored with ethics, hence my statement, “Ethics isn’t boring, ethicists are.” Once ethics was pigeon-holed in the realm of philosophy, however (it belongs with “crucial life skills” and “critical thinking”) and philosophy became associated with scholarship, advanced degrees and academia, the jig was up.

The problem is that academic ethicists teach and write about abstract ethics, and life is not abstract. Their quest is for one formula to determine right from wrong, and life and human beings are more complicated than any one formula can encompass. When I started this blog, I got a lot of grad students writing me who demanded to know whether I was a Utilitarian,  Kantian Deontologist, a follower of Natural Law Ethics,  a Virtue Ethicist or a devotee of Stakeholder theory. My answer was “all of the above and none of them.” All of these and more are useful tools of analysis, but none work all the time, and the amount of words loaded into jargon to explain and debate the nuances of any of them render them all useless except for  writing scholarly papers.

The ethics that the public learns, as a result, are what pop culture and society teach them, and most of that isn’t ethics at all. For example, in the cable series “The Affair,” a well-educated older man was advising a young woman, the mistress in the affair, about how to think about the illicit relationship that broke up he lover’s marriage. Wise and thoughtful, he described his own adulterous affair, and then said, “What you did wasn’t wrong. You didn’t kill anybody. You didn’t break any laws.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  There is no ethics in that statement. Itis just employs two popular and facile rationalizations (#4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,” and #22, the worst of all, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”) with another lurking but unspoken one, the Cheater’s Special, #23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants,’ underlying the whole scene.

That’s ethics, I would guess, to about 90% of the population. Scary. This is, however, where ethicists have taken us. They could be so important to the culture, if they would get their heads out of their asinine models and explain ethical principles that are relevant to real lives in a manner that doesn’t make normal people become hostile to the subject.

This brings us to Peter Singer, Princeton’s acclaimed professor of bioethics who has been called the most influential ethicist alive. It is admittedly faint praise, but probably correct. Continue reading

“Baby-Killing” Ethics

No "moral right to life"?

Aided by Rick Santorum’s over-heated rhetoric, the concept of infanticide (I’m against it, by the way) has been hot in the marketplace of ideas lately.

A group of medical ethicists at Oxford made headlines by arguing that parents ought to have the option of killing their newborns because they are “morally irrelevant” and thus ending their lives is no different from abortion. After some recent examples of the press mangling the real message of scholarly papers, I was dubious about the news reports, but son of a gun, that’s what these ethicists wrote.

The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was authored by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, who argue, Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote of the Month: Canadian Judge Joanne Veit”

The Comment of the Day, by Eric Monkman, is one of many excellent comments on yesterday’s post on the words of a Canadian judge in allowing a woman who murdered her newborn infant to go free.

There are many threads in the discussion, and I am not caught up. I officially apologize to combatants Eric and tgt especially for not being able to respond in sufficient detail, or in some cases at all, to their thoughtful posts. This an example of the limitations of the blog comment format. I wish I could organize a conference call.

The discussion went into so many directions that the initial post’s point was distorted, in part by me. Here is how I would summarize it:

Judge Veit’s quote, the actual focus of the post, strikes me as ethically offensive because 1) the statement that “many believe” abortion is a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex suggests that abortion is acceptable as a primary method of birth control. The commenters object to my interpretation of the judge’s phrasing to mean that she personally believes the adverse of the statement, that abortion is an ideal solution to unprotected sex. (The ideal solution to unprotected sex is not to have unprotected sex.) OK. I see their point. I still read it differently, and my comments are based upon my reading. At best, it is a sloppy, imprecise statement. 2) The comparison, and equivalency, between grief for the child—who is dead, and who was killed by the person who was most responsible for her welfare—and grief for the murderous mother, who is alive, and who is avoiding legal sanctions for her crime, shows a warped set of ethical values. The implication is that the life of a child is no more important, nor has any more regard from the society, than the emotional comfort of the mother. I know that is the standard in Canada, and in much of the US. It is wrong.

The subsequent discussion about how acceptance of abortion leads to acceptance of infanticide was focused on the U.S., but mistakenly assumed that this was the order of events in Canada. It was not; I think that is affirmatively strange, as one would assume that a human life would not be less valued in a society as it became more viable. It doesn’t change my analysis regarding the U.S., however.

Eric asks some good questions which I will address at the end. Here is his Comment of the Day, on “Unethical Quote of the Month: Canadian Judge Joanne Veit”: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Canadian Judge Joanne Veit

“…While many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support…Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother.”

—- Canadian Judge Joanne Viet, announcing that Katrina Effert, who strangled her newborn child and threw the body over a fence into the neighbor’s yard when she was 19, will serve a three-year suspended sentence with no jail time for the murder, reflecting a “fair compromise of all the interests involved.”

This is a cautionary ethics tale indeed for those who deny that a callous attitude toward human lives in the womb, giving them no standing against a mother’s desires and convenience, will gradually, inevitably, coarsen and warp a culture’s respect for life and its comprehension of wrong. [Addition: Many commenters have pointed out that Canada had designated infanticide as a relatively minor crime before fully legalizing abortion. That is a strange progression, though once infanticide had been declared “understandable,” abortions days were numbered. In the US, the gradual de-valuing of young life is moving in the more obvious way, from younger to older. The process, however, is the same.] Continue reading