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

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Kurt_and_Hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-21-08 09:31 AM
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The Obama "infanticide" smear wouldn't trouble me even if it were true.
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Edited on Thu Aug-21-08 10:30 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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