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The Obama "infanticide" smear wouldn't trouble me even if it were true.

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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 10:31 AM
Original message
The Obama "infanticide" smear wouldn't trouble me even if it were true.
Edited on Thu Aug-21-08 11:30 AM by Kurt_and_Hunter
I understand the political potency of the issue. My comments are only about the logical sense of the thing, not the politics of the thing.

The smear is that Obama didn't support a bill requiring the protection of babies who survive botched abortions. The explanation is that they were already protected, the bill had bad trojan-horse features, etc. Which is all good.

But the fact this could even be a controversy shows just how incapable most people are of rational thought on the emotional subject of choice.

A pregnant woman goes into a room with a doctor. The idea is that when she leaves the room the fetus will no longer exist. Assuming that is legal, it makes no difference what happens in that room. None. Zero. Nada. (Newsflash: Everything that happens in a operating room is disgusting.)

If the doctor dispatches the fetus with a hand gun it doesn't change any moral question posed by the original situation. The mother and doctor are legally empowered to terminate the fetus in that room on that day. The method employed is trivial compared to the moral question posed by the abortion itself.

A doctor intends to cut a fetus into little bits in the womb, or introduces a lethal poison, but some freak accident occurs and the poisoned or partially dismemebered fetus pops out in one piece and somehow draws a feeble breath. Then the doctor is supposed to treat the situation as if the fetus had just walked into the emergency room requesting help. Why? What status has the fetus gained? Viability? If a fetus remains viable after a botched abortion it was even more viable before. Viability does not arise from a botched abortion. Quite the opposite. (A premature fetus is obviously more viable in the womb than out.)

The idea underlying this controversy is that life begins when a fetus leaves the womb, no matter the circumstances. Since ALL anti-choice people believe that life begins well before that the position is more than disingenuous.

It is a matter of supreme indifference to the fetus whether it is terminated in the womb or twelve inches away. The outcome is the same. The interests of the fetus, if any, are exactly the same in both scenarios. The interests of the woman and the doctor are the same in both scenarios.

The reason people feel this issue emotionally is that folks feel there must be some thresh-hold beyond which an infant is a person, and if it isn't conception then at LEAST it ought to be birth. And if a fetus somehow makes it out of the mother then that's birth.

Medical technology complicates the definition of birth as physical separation from the mother, so it seems that the idea of life beginning at 'birth' should be the primitive default view. Ironically, 4,000 years ago when they didn't have all our modern medicine human ethical systems did not hold that person-hood began at birth. Person-hood more typically began at christening. Neo-natal mortality was so high that you waited a while before deeming a new born to be a person with a name.

(Among some African nomadic hunter gatherers, thought to be the modern human groups most like primordial society, when a woman goes into labor the female relatives and tribal female elders take the mother out into the brush, midwife the birth, and then decide, in consultation with the mother, whether the baby is healthy enough and whether the tribe has enough food at the time. If it is decided that the baby is a go it is then brought back to the tribe and introduced as a new person. If not, it is left in the brush. I don't propose this as a good idea; merely offer it as a counter to the idea that abortion is a novel evil of modern society at odds with our fundamental moral nature, and to note the intriguing fact that even in a primal patriarchy no man is involved in the decision.)

There actually is a right answer to this, but it doesn't seem to appeal to people. It is what I said at the beginning. We have decided that the state has an interest in protecting a person (which is the basis for all of this stuff) and that person-hood attaches primarily as some function of time. (Roe v. Wade is primarily about time... trimesters and all.)

If it is legal for a medical professional to terminate a given fetus on April 22 then it is, or should be, legal for her to terminate the fetus in the womb, half-way out of the womb, or entirely out of the womb. The definitive factor is the date, not the location or any accidental medical circumstance.

A counter view suggests that fetal development is less important than particulars of medical procedure. How can a 187 day fetus be considered closer to being a person merely because it is separated from the mother through a mistake in a medical procedure? It runs counter to the underlying idea that person-hood arises through time.

A hypothetical ten year-old who happened to remain attached to his mother through some medical freak circumstance is a citizen. A microscopic frozen embryo is not a citizen, even if it is viable and a thousand miles from its mother, and thus obviously "born." When I say an embryo is viable that means it could turn into a citizen someday with enough medical intervention. The same goes for all premature babies. (Even a four year-old is not viable in the sense of being able to survive on its own if dropped off in the woods.)

I know people have violent disagreements on whether fetus X can be terminated on April 22, but it is grotesque sophistry and trouble-making to parse the particular circumstances of whatever happens on April 22.

It is like death row inmates who sue for stays because they are too fat or ill to execute. The lawyers who take those cases pro bono are opposed to the death penalty in ALL cases, not only in the case of overweight inmates. I happen to oppose the death penalty and support vigorous legal advocacy even to the point of absurdity, but since I'm not a lawyer with a client on death-row I'm not going to pretend that the death penalty is generally okay, but this guy here is just too heavy to execute.
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Smarmie Doofus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 10:47 AM
Response to Original message
1. K. To reread later. Interesting analysis. nt
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sharesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:09 AM
Response to Original message
2. The definitive factor in Roe is biological viability upon separation.
This is the threshold where you will find the political center in this country.

It is the compromise which pro and anti-choice forces have both grudgingly been required to accept, because the principle appeals to common sense as a place to draw the line.

However, advances in medical technology are pushing that threshold earlier and earlier, favoring the anti-choice position. (Follow this to the logical conclusion that the state has a compelling interest in your genetic material, and this leads to the state owning all of our hides.)

Couple that with the controversy over whether there should be a uniform standard from sea to shining sea, or whether it is a matter for the individual state legislatures to decide. (Appeals to people's sense of "home rule.")

The Obama infanticide smear is absurd but effective. You can only take comfort from knowing that he favors a uniform national standard and that he has the courage and vigilance to fight against the chipping away of reproductive self-determination by even the most stealthy and insidious means.


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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:13 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Quite true. I forgot to add this thought experiment in the OP > > >
Edited on Thu Aug-21-08 11:42 AM by Kurt_and_Hunter
I doubt any advocates of these fetal rescue bills would car to answer this:

Imagine a doctor midway through a Cesarean announcing, "Watch as I create human life" and then lifting the infant two inches out of the incision in the womb.

Anyone witnessing that would think the doctor insane. Whatever constitutes creating human life, it cannot possibly be lifting an infant two inches in the air, but that is precisely the idea underlying "partial-birth" laws and "fetal rescue" laws.
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TooBigaTent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:09 AM
Response to Original message
3. "how incapable most people are of rational thought on the subject of choice" is so true.
You do a great job of laying out a coherent, rational argument. Unfortunately, it will be ignored, attacked, and sent to the land of "didn't I hear someone say something rational about that topic once" solely because it is such an emotional issue for many.

How dare you try to inject reason into the conversation.
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sharesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:21 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. You can't really fault people for being sentimental about babies.
Or kittens and puppies and cubs and hatchlings.

Programmed into our DNA.
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TooBigaTent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. A smear of cells is not a baby. A gestated-for-nine-month fetus is closer. nt
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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:55 AM
Response to Reply #5
9. Liking babies is indeed programmed into our DNA.
And not considering newborns to be babies also seems programmed into us.

Some mothers have an ingrained reaction of hostility to their newborn that fades over time. A mother is supposed to be emotionally able to walk away from a deformed newborn. I suspect that fierce conflict between instinct and socialization accounts for some of post-partum depression.

(Anyone who has seen a lot of mother cats with her newborns is familiar with the harsh calculus that goes on sometimes.)

I have never read about an ancient society that did not "expose" certain newborn infants. (Leaving them outside to die.) In the Old Testament a baby under one moth old has an entirely different legal status. And, as mentioned in the OP, most societies have had some christening process.

Here's another thought experiment. Catholics used to believe that unbaptized babies went to limbo or hell or someplace outside the grace of God... dogma changes, but the point is that they didn't go to heaven. (Until the 1960s, I think)

To get into heaven you had to be baptized.

Now then, when was a baby baptized? Obviously at the moment of birth, since its soul was in peril!!!

But that's not the case at all. Babies were, and are baptized some period after birth. That reflects what seems to be our instinctual idea that new borns grow into person-hood during the early stages of post-natal life.
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bcoylepa Donating Member (438 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:44 AM
Response to Original message
7. it is garbage
to say those 2 words jointly - Obama " " do not go there
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Iggo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 11:50 AM
Response to Original message
8. To paraphrase Audie Murphy...
"We can kill 'em. But we can't eat 'em. That's against the law."



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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 12:32 PM
Response to Original message
10. One more thought re: the idea of life beginning at separation
I wrote: "Medical technology complicates the definition of birth as physical separation from the mother..."

In our age of miracles we can now lift a three or four month fetus from the uterus, perform surgery and pop it back in to be carried to term. (Most procedures would be performed without lifting the fetus out of the womb, but some require being able to move the fetus around.)

When was that baby born? The early surgery included a Cesarean section delivery as part of the procedure, so it was it born, then unborn, then born latter on?

Was it briefly a person, then not a person, then a person again? Or was its proximity to the uterus not definitive of person-hood?

And, to anticipate one possible out, if anyone wants to say life begins when the umbilical cord it cut then we are really in some deep, deep water! (Though it's really not less arbitrary than other measures it conjures the bizarre image of a full-term, naturally born, healthy, crying newborn who isn't a person yet... 'snip' there you go.)

It's all tough. If life begins at conception then identical twins have only one soul between them! Try that on for size. (Unlike fraternal twins, Identical twins are conceived as one embryo or zygote or whatever the term is for the very first splits of a fertilized ovum. There's only one ovum involved. They divide into twins a while after conception.)
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pajamamama Donating Member (7 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 01:13 PM
Response to Original message
11. Is it really a MORAL question?
Edited on Thu Aug-21-08 01:14 PM by pajamamama
You say: "..it doesn't change any MORAL question posed by the original situation." To me, abortion is an ETHICAL question--not a moral one. In other words, a woman ought to be able to do with her body as she chooses--including committing suicide. However, a fetus (although dependent upon the mother for survival) has separate and unique DNA. As an atheist and a scientist--this is the ethical argument I can never escape.

Progressives ought to recognize ALL human rights violations--even POTENTIAL human rights!
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redqueen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. When does a zygote become "human" in your opinion?
At conception?
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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 01:49 PM
Response to Reply #11
16. I wasn't arguing it as a moral question, but noting that no moral question raised would change
The point is that no matter how anyone frames the equation vis-a-vie religion, morality, ethics etc., the nuts and bolts of botching a medical procedure shouldn't change that equation any.

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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 02:29 PM
Response to Reply #11
18. Progressivism has involved a steady expansion of rights, however...
Progressivism has involved a steady expansion of rights, however that does not argue for the infinite expansion of rights.

Rights are not goods in themselves, but in how they protect the autonomy of individuals.

The unique DNA argument suggests that perhaps I should be able to kill one of a pair of identical twins with impunity.

I do not offer the following for real, nessecarily, but as an example:

A person is best defined as an individual conciousness, which avoids the identical twin problem. "Cogito ergo sum." Consciouness is a funtion of continuity of memory. So the continuity of a *person* ranges from that point she first forms memories that can persist throughout life... when she first contibutes to that unique chain of conciousness that we will always call Jane X. So Jane X isn't really Jane X until she's 2-3 years old. But 2 year old Jane has a distinct personality, is learning language, etc.

Is 2 year-old Jane really jane, or is she a template in the process of becoming Jane?

Within 100 years it may be possible to make a machine that could churn out trillions of unique embryos, even running through the genetic permutations of only two parents. Since the world cannot support trillions of people, all those folks are going into the trash can no matter what. Will that be genocide?

So I always fall back on common sense, A person is a gentically human entity with which a person can meaningfully empatise without jumping through the sort of hoops I just laid out. At the very least, a person should be a category than cave people knew existed. Our human empathy evolved without a single person knowing how babies were manufactured. No one had every recognized an early stage embryo. It was not a category that existed throughout our eveolution. So to call it human (which is an innate concept) is a stretch. It's like calling chimpanzees human. There's an argument to be made, but the argument is based on a lot of electron microscope stuff of which no one was aware when we developed our sense of empathy.

The expansion of rights as a project untio itself--rights for the sake of rights--encounters a reducto ad absurdum pretty fast. Do Vegans eat living things? Yes, they do. And no matter how far they push their ethics into the extrapolative realm they still will. The monsters! Heck, I just inhaled millions of bacteria that are doomed to die (I hope!) within my mouth and nose.

If we can expand rights to entities beyond our basic sense of human being without limiting the autonomy of folks we know for SURE are human beings, I'm all for it.

But since the fetus is an ethical project and the mother is unmistakably Human waith a capital H, I know where I stand on this one.

I do believe fetuses deserve much protection as an incredibly valuable and special sort of proprty of the mother, and to the father if that doesn't conflict with the mother. If I intentionally caused a miscarraige in a woman who didn't want to miscarry I should be punished quite harshly. It just probably shouldn't be called murder.

(We have the same penalty for everything anyway... you can get sent away longer for drugs than for intentionally blinding someone.)

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Hugabear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 01:17 PM
Response to Original message
12. K&R
In the end, it comes down to CHOICE.
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redqueen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 01:20 PM
Response to Original message
14. I hadn't even heard this smear...
:wtf:
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endthewar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 01:40 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. It was made against him by Alan Keyes back in 2004
when he was running for the IL US Senate seat. He smacked him down big time in a debate. That's when Keyes started grasping for straws claiming that Jesus wouldn't vote for Obama. :rofl:

Youtube link to that 2004 debate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Op8fMbtAlw&feature=rela...

Infanticide smear by Keyes starts at 2:40. I'm sure Obama is just licking his chops hoping that McCain brings it up in a debate to smack him down too.
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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 01:50 PM
Response to Reply #14
17. It's BS, but it's making another round
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