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local decisions about abortion - Ilya Shlyakhter (notestaff) - letters to editors
September 21st, 2007
11:56 am


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local decisions about abortion

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:September 25th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)

Re: (eric's response concluded)

of course, we disagree about whether creating victimless crimes, i.e.
protecting people from themselves by threatening them with jail if
they do self-harmful things that harm no one else, is such a bad
thing. in general, most things currently defined as crimes in our
society _do_ have identifiable victimes other than the perpetrator.
that seems to be a reflection of a live-and-let-live consensus in our
society. i think this live-and-let-live approach is a large reason
for this country's prosperity and power, compared with more moralistic
and restrictive societies like iran.

you're right that my strong attachment to individual rights -- that
invasive things may not be done to you except to protect others -- is
an axiom. it is also tempered in many ways; e.g. i support higher
taxes to fund social programs, because taking away part of your income
is less invasive than controlling your medical procedures. and i
support gun control because, again, there are many alternative means
of self-defense, so the particular self-defense method of owning a
lethal gun is a less basic right than controlling whether you have a
child. most of all, "invading" your life by taxing your income or
restricting what guns you may owe is for a clear benefit to others.
invading your life by controlling whether you may abort a fetus that
is not a child, is of no benefit to others. these two considerations
-- how bad is the invasion of your life, and how big the benefit to
others -- must be balanced in all decisions. we just disagree about
what the acceptable balance is.

> (Incidentally, you are also leaving out a tremendous lot of work done
> by the pro-life community beyond banning abortion: especially crisis
> pregnancy centers. A few of my friends have even adopted babies who
> were going to be aborted. That is not easy.)

where did i say that such things are bad? on the contrary, i respect them
very much. but if you can reduce abortions by such voluntary means,
without criminalizing victimless behavior, then there is no need to do
something as drastic as defining a new victimless crime.

>We are
> not imposing any risk on others that we are not taking on ourselves.

that is certainly a welcome change from what many "conservatives" do
(like sending others' children to war but not their own). in practice,
the well-off would still have abortions available to them ( by traveling to
another state or country ), so overturning Roe would ban abortions
mainly for the indigent.

more important, that you live your moral beliefs is very respectable,
but not a justification to impose them on others. jehova's witnesses may
"abstain from blood" in a car accident, but may not force others to do so.
moral vegetarians may not impose vegetarianism on others.
living your beliefs is certainly necessary before you try to impose
them on others,
but is hardly sufficient.

>Just because I oppose abortion doesn't mean I like judicial
> fiats.

i understand that your commitment to democracy is real. we just disagree
about which personal behaviors may fairly be voted upon by others.
clearly not 100% of everything is up for a majority vote, as the Bill
of Rights shows.
exactly what _is_ up for a vote -- that we disagree upon.
Date:September 25th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)

Re: (eric's response concluded)

>DNA makes a fetus a person
all i was saying is that "having DNA" has nothing to do with personhood
(viruses have it, bacteria have it), so it was strange to hear DNA brought up
in the context of the discussion. certainly there are other biological
features of fetuses that may be elucidated by science, that will help clarify
when a fetus becomes a person. but "having DNA" is not such a feature.

>my position on legal abortion, and the Catholic Church's
> position, is *not* based solely on "defending the innocent."

Ok, good to hear that. It's also based on "protecting people from themselves
by threatening them with jail if they do something self-harmful, or by
with jail anyone who facilitates their willing self-harm". As noted above,
we disagree on whether this is ok. Certainly, if these things are ok, I don't
understand why cigarette smokers and makers are not jailed.

> in what sense does regulating
> medical procedures invade one's privacy (we regulate *every* other
> medical procedure

"Regulating" medical procedures involves letting you opt for a risky medical
procedure that may harm you physically and psychologically, as long as
the risks are explained to you. Regulating medical procedures does not
involve banning procedures simply because some people may have
regrets afterwards.

This is different for children, of course; the parents or guardians
decide what's
best for the child. But once you're an adult, you're allowed to take risks and
possibly harm yourself. The state is no longer your "parent" in the same sense
that your mother and father were.

>But you
> have not engaged the actual real world, where Roe is held to prevent
> malpractice cases against abortionists.

If women routinely don't have accurate information about what an
abortion entails,
the answer is to improve communication. There is no reason why "in
the real world"
you cannot communicate a message to people willing to hear it.
I'm all for pre-abortion counseling, perhaps by specially licensed counselors
unaffiliated witht abortion clinics. But ultimately, after all the counseling,
the choice must be the woman's, since it's her life and she has to live with the
consequences, and she's an adult.

>fatherlessness and abortion
> have climbed, in synch, at a rate disproprotionate to the rest of the
> country.

Correlation doesn't mean causation -- both these things could be caused
simultaneously by a third factor, such as an economic downturn that
disproportionately affects that group. But in any case, since there are
measures short of criminalizing abortion for reducing fatherlessness --
stronger enforcement of child support, better access to sex education and
contraception, educating women so they have more power and can
stand up to irresponsible demands by men -- the justification for doing
something as drastic as restricting women's choices is not there.
Of course, we disagree whether restricting abortion is such a drastic thing.

>your dogmatic attachment to abortion.

Of course, my attachment is not to abortion per se, but to not forbidding any
victimless personal behavior. I'm uncomfortable with abortion, as I am with
homosexuality for example; I'm just far more uncomfortable with controlling
people's lives in major ways, without justification rooted in public safety.
I do believe in helping people not harm themselves ( I volunteer on
suicide/listening hotlines, for example ); but I believe this should be done

Ok, I tried to address some of your points. Thanks again for taking
the time to write. Best wishes for your dissertation, your job search
and your family.


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