UKC

/ Repeal the 8th Amendment (Ireland, abortion)

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Blue Straggler - on 26 May 2018

I may have missed something but I have not seen much discussion here about this huge issue, so here I open a thread for free discussion on this.

1
Ade in Sheffield - on 26 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

A good, pragmatic decision rather than one led by religious dogma ?

I doubt there'll be a 'rush' to deal  with the outcomes, don't think it will be the simple 'lifestyle choice' that the prolifers believe it will be.

Post edited at 22:43
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Jon Stewart - on 26 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

What's to discuss? A collective sigh of relief ain't a discussion!

It's a bit of evidence supporting the ideas put forward by people like Dawkins and Pinker that as people learn more about how the world works, they move away from superstition and nonsense towards liberalism and favour rational policies that militate against harm to fellow humans.

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baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Unfortunately there's usually at least one person harmed in a termination.

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Blue Straggler - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> Unfortunately there's usually at least one person harmed in a termination.

Jon Stewart does this answer your opening question?

captain paranoia - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Or one person that has an unwanted growth removed.

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Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> Unfortunately there's usually at least one person harmed in a termination.

OK, let's call the fetus a person for the sake of argument. The only definition of "harm" that makes sense is "suffering", requiring consciousness, so you're going to need to have developed a brain for "harm" to occur.

So, no brain, no harm. 

Let's take the case of a fetus with a partially formed brain. I think it's clear that an adult, or a child, has a far greater capacity for suffering than a fetus. So it's immoral, in my view, to prioritise the needs of the fetus with its very limited capacity for suffering, over that of any adult or child. The suffering caused by unwanted pregnancy may be severe. This is why, taking into account the harm caused to the fetus, a liberal policy on abortion is a policy that militates against harm to fellow humans. 

I can't understand a morality that prioritises the fetus over the adult. The arguments seem to me to rely on made-up concepts based in superstition or based on nothing. 

2
Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Jon Stewart does this answer your opening question?

I'm a bit surprised to hear the pro-life argument on this site tbh. But not at all surprised at the balance of opinion... Having never heard a reasonable pro-life argument in my life, I don't expect an interesting discussion here! 

2
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

You have assumed that the person I was referring to as being harmed was the foetus.

 

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thomasadixon - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Presumably then you think that prioritising those with limited mental capacity over the rest of us is just as wrong?  The vast sums of money used to care for them should all be diverted?

wintertree - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

About bloody time.  This leaves Britain as the most repressive nation for women’s rights in Europe, with the disgraceful situation in Northern Ireland.  

 

1
Ex Poster 666 - on 27 May 2018
In reply to wintertree:

Not much chance of that changing any time soon with the DUP propping up our hideous Government.

1
wintertree - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Lusk:

> Not much chance of that changing any time soon with the DUP propping up our hideous Government.

I’m rather hoping that this could be the wedge that sees that abominable coalition become untenable.  

I seem to be rather negative today.

climbingpixie on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Who else is being harmed?

Eric9Points - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> You have assumed that the person I was referring to as being harmed was the foetus.


Well perhaps you could express a coherent argument so people could engage with it. If you have one, that is.

1
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to climbingpixie:

The woman?

 

3
climbingpixie on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Probably not nearly as much as being forced to carry an child to term against her will.

1
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

'If you have one that is'.

And you expect me to engage in a serious debate with you about such an emotive issue when this is your opening gambit?

I don't think so.

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baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to climbingpixie:

That is true but terminating a child often comes with an extremely high and long term emotional price.

There aren't always winners in these situations and saying that nobody is harmed isn't always true.

1
climbingpixie on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Perhaps. But there are also many terminations that don't come with that price. Not every woman agonises about the decision and many don't consider a foetus as a child. And even if it is a hard and traumatic decision, it's still one that women must have access to.

1
Eric9Points - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> That is true but terminating a child often comes with an extremely high and long term emotional price.

> There aren't always winners in these situations and saying that nobody is harmed isn't always true.


There are never "winners" in these circumstances but your assertion that an abortion is likely to cause long term psychological or emotional damage to a woman is overstated in my experience. Further one must balance that against the consequences of not having an abortion which is likely to have long lasting negative consequences for the woman involved. Remember that no woman is ever forced to have an abortion but the repeal of this part of the Irish constitution stops the Irish State from forcing a woman to have a child she doesn't want. Why should the state force a woman to have a child she doesn't want because it thinks she may be subject to some emotional distress? That's her choice to make, surely?

In my experience no woman makes this choice lightly.

1
Postmanpat on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> OK, let's call the fetus a person for the sake of argument. The only definition of "harm" that makes sense is "suffering", requiring consciousness, so you're going to need to have developed a brain for "harm" to occur.

> So, no brain, no harm. 

>

  This is a random line you have drawn. On this basis it would be fine to kill anybody who is in a coma or unconscious.

  For the record I am in favour of abortion (along "English" lines although maybe 20 weeks would be a better cut off line). However, it doesn't seem outlandish or susperstitious to believe that life begins at conception (a no less random line) and therefore to have reservations about ending it.

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baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to climbingpixie:

Your assertion that some women don't agonise over a termination is one that bothers me.

Maybe I'm just being oversensitive.

1
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

The pro life argument was usually about protecting the unborn child rather than a woman's right to choose.

When one doesn't see a foetus as a person then that argument is a totally different one than when one thinks life begins at conception.

The Irish people have had their say and it will be interesting to see how the Irish government implements it.

 

Post edited at 11:53
Eric9Points - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Well you're now making a different argument but let's assume you've accepted that your first one has little merit and so we can move on to the next one.

Can you define what you mean by "life" and what is sacred about it?

1
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

I'm not accepting anything except that the Irish people have voted to change their abortion law.

 

 

1
Postmanpat on 27 May 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

 

>  what is sacred about it?

 

Can you, or don't you believe that life is sacred?

 

climbingpixie on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

That's fine, you're free to feel bothered if you like as long as you don't impose your morality on my bodily autonomy.

I had an abortion when I was 19 after getting pregnant due to carelessness with my long term boyfriend. I was young, in insecure employment and planning to start back at university the following September. I wasn't in a position to have a child. But more to the point, I didn't want a child. I never considered keeping it, I knew a termination was the right decision. This was 17 years ago and I've never had a moment of regret about it. Maybe it makes me sound callous but my right not to have my life ruined due to a stupid mistake outweighs the right to life of a 10 week old foetus.

TobyA on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Having never heard a reasonable pro-life argument in my life, I don't expect an interesting discussion here!

I firmly believe that a woman must have the right to choose what happens to their body, but I find it surprising that you have "never heard a reasonable pro-life argument in [your] life". You do seem to approach issues like this in what you conceive of as rationalist/materialist arguments where one side can 'win', as if there is always an almost "mathematically" correct answer. Any biologist will tell us that life begins at conception and while is seems ridiculous to me to give a few dozen or a few hundred cells "human rights", life is a continuum which is why this is so ethically difficult and complicated. I would be surprised if people didn't feel some qualms about the fact British abortion law now allows abortions to take place after a baby born incredibly preterm has some chance of survival. Indeed, for preterm babies born at 24 weeks there is now a 50% survival rate. I'm not personally sure if the limit should be lowered or not, but children being born at 21 weeks who survive and, in some case now seem to be developing as healthy toddlers, has to be a "reasonable argument" for changing the law at least, even if it is one that ultimately we don't agree with?

And I know for some women to have a termination is an easy decision and one that they never regret, but clearly for others it is a difficult decision that does  at times trouble them, even for those who ultimately are happy that it was the right decision for them at that time - I wouldn't want to ignore the experience of people who had either of those reactions.

 

 

Post edited at 12:29
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wintertree - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> When one doesn't see a foetus as a person then that argument is a totally different one than when one thinks life begins at conception.

This is an illogical comparison.  “Person” does not equate to “life”.  

The lawn I am sitting on is alive.  The little swimmer and the egg are both alive before conception.  The fertilised egg is alive after conception.  It’s not however a person.  The only people I’ve seen argue it is a person are doing so from theological thinking, not evidence based reasoning.

In my view a new kind of life begins at conception, but that it is not a person.

For sure there is a massive medical grey area around when a foetus becomes a person, and this is reflected in the wide range of abortion laws around the world.  I would also note that you do not have to be a person to have legal protection against unnecessary suffering in many countries - animal rights - and that for a foetus another pertinent question can be undue suffering which can be applied with a more scientific basis than “does it have a soul”.

climbingpixie on 27 May 2018
In reply to Postmanpat:

As a society we make trade offs and decisions about the sanctity of life all the time. It's inherent in decisions made about cost effective treatments in the NHS, military interventions or arms deals to Saudi Arabia. I'm not sure why everyone seems to think foetuses are more important than actual real living people. 

summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> I'm not accepting anything except that the Irish people have voted to change their abortion law.

No, they have voted to give women free will, a choice. Previously the religiously driven state was deciding for them. The changes won't force anyone to do something they didn't want to before. 

Post edited at 12:29
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goatee - on 27 May 2018
In reply to climbingpixie:

If a woman terminates a living healthy foetus and doesn't have a care in the world about doing so then perhaps this person needs to have a long look at themselves in the  mirror. Barbaric attitudes are still barbaric when coated in the cocoon of liberalism. Our laws were too restrictive. Many voted to repeal but with something of a heavy heart. Abortion should be an option but as a last resort. Responsibilities should also play a part.

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baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to climbingpixie:

The abortion as a means of contraception argument is one not often at the forefront of the promabortion lobby.

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summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to goatee:

The only thing that is barbaric is the historical treatment of mothers and either their unwanted child, or children out of born wedlock over the past few hundred years in Ireland. It is a small step towards the 21st century. 

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summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> The abortion as a means of contraception argument is one not often at the forefront of the promabortion lobby.

Morning after pill? Still abortion?

baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

But the changes will upset many people's beliefs.

Even if their beliefs are wrong and have caused pain for others do we need to see this reversal of the hurt situation as a cause for celebration? 

 

4
goatee - on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

Your grasp of the facts and knowledge of all things has left me suitably chastened and indeed humbled. Now go easy on the vitriol. Muck when it's let fly doesn't really care where it adheres to????

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wintertree - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> But the changes will upset many people's beliefs.

How do you “upset a belief”.  That literally makes no sense.

Many people will *choose* to upset *themselves* because of their beleif.  Democracy is telling them that the people aren’t going to cry them a river over their choices.

> Even if their beliefs are wrong and have caused pain for others do we need to see this reversal of the hurt situation as a cause for celebration? 

Yes.  Every single step that dismantles the influence of the catholic church over the weak, vulunerable and marginalised in Ireland is worth celebrating.  It’s not often I see an organisation as having acted with true evil  - but this is a church that strongly pushed to keep abortion denied to the people, whilst having unmarried mothers and their babies improsoned in their “care” and threw dead babies into their sewer by the hundreds.

 

Post edited at 12:45
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summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> But the changes will upset many people's beliefs.

Who cares. It is the rights of each individual person that matter.

> Even if their beliefs are wrong and have caused pain for others do we need to see this reversal of the hurt situation as a cause for celebration? 

No one will be force into an abortion; so their beliefs won't be impacted. 

1
summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to goatee:

> Your grasp of the facts and knowledge of all things has left me suitably chastened and indeed humbled. Now go easy on the vitriol. Muck when it's let fly doesn't really care where it adheres to????

Which facts about Catholic orphanages have I missed? Their secret graveyards perhaps...? 

2
Postmanpat on 27 May 2018
In reply to climbingpixie:

> As a society we make trade offs and decisions about the sanctity of life all the time. It's inherent in decisions made about cost effective treatments in the NHS, military interventions or arms deals to Saudi Arabia. I'm not sure why everyone seems to think foetuses are more important than actual real living people. 


>

  I agree, and my "trade off" is probably about the same as yours. I would never try and stop somebody in your position taking your decision. Indeed, if it were somebody close to me I would simply satisfy myself that they were sure about it, and then support them.

   That is actually why I object to the the absolutism of both sides of the debate.

   I can see that there is an argument to say that life begins at conception and that aborting a life is therefore wrong. I don't think it is a mad argument. I simply disagree with it on the rather vague basis that it is not really a "life" and that the harm or unhappiness caused to existing people by maintaining it would be greater.

  But because it is, as you say, a "trade off" I don't accept the equally absolutist that absolutist view that there should be no compunction or qualms about an abortion because they have drawn some arbitrary line about what constitutes a life..

climbingpixie on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Yes but mistakes happen. Carelessness isn't the same as 'using abortion as contraception'. It's pretty easy to miss a pill, to have a bout of illness or to just be a bit pissed and think you'll probably get away with it this time, especially when you're young. Having gone through it once I've made damn sure it doesn't happen again, though it's also a lot easier now with LARCs.

baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to wintertree:

Many people, possibly the majority in the world have beliefs based on religion.

These beliefs form the basis for the way that they live their lives.

Yet you assert that they choose to be upset. Is this not a normal reaction when a foundation of your life is dismantled and their are people in the streets celebrating this?

None of this is an attempt to defend the monstrous actions of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

2
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to climbingpixie:

Your situation as a youngster is unfortunately all too common even today.

As you said you made the choice that was right for you.

climbingpixie on 27 May 2018
In reply to Postmanpat:

I think we're in agreement then. I'm also not saying that abortions are totally cool and everyone should have them, left, right and centre. I know women for whom it was a difficult decision and who did find it traumatic. I just get irritated by the idea that it's massively traumatic for everyone who has one because I think that itself ends up making women feel awful.

wintertree - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> These beliefs form the basis for the way that they live their lives.

If they did, the world would be a better place.  More to the point, their beliefs should not form the basis for controlling the way others live their lives.

 

> Yet you assert that they choose to be upset.

I assert?  You appear to be asserting the improbable here, not me.  

You seem to think the people are so conditioned that they have no free will in how they respond to democracy.  If someone is that conditioned to be bereft or free will or the ability to think for themselves, then frankly they are not fit to have a say on the welfare of others.  For what it’s worth I think very few people are this conditioned - a lot of the anti-abortion hardliners are backed by extremist churches from the southern states of America, and are playing a political game.

> Is this not a normal reaction

It’s not a productive reaction.  The world is changing - individuals can either accept that or make themselves upset and deal with the consequences to their mental state.

> when a foundation of your life is dismantled and their are people in the streets celebrating this?

If a foundation of ones life is controlling what a woman can and can’t do with her body, then I suggest that one needs to look for a more enlightened foundation.   

 

Post edited at 13:21
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Dr.S at work - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I often think in animal welfare terms about the potential of a life. I can usually end a life with no associated suffering - as in the case of a foetus, even at point of birth in the case of a foetotomy. My choice about when to end a life will be heavily influenced by its future potential (1 year old dog with a broken leg vs 18 year old dog with a broken leg).

So, given the potential of a human foetus, my inclination would be to preserve it when possible, even though I’m confident there is no suffering for a foetus undergoing abortion. 

Toby A’s points about when a foetus may be transferred from maternal care to health care are interesting in terms of the timing at which abortion is allowed.

 

 

Timmd on 27 May 2018
In reply to wintertree:

> If a foundation of ones life is controlling what a woman can and can’t do with her body, then I suggest that one needs to look for a more enlightened foundation.   

A pagan friend was talking about this last night while drunk, that the Abrahamic religions in general seem to have dislike and control of women's bodies and sexuality as themes in them, general misogyny running through them.

Post edited at 13:49
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SAF - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Before being pregnant with my daughter, I would have described myself as pro-choice (but with limits, maybe 24 weeks, maybe 20 weeks... Who knows what arbitrary cut off would be best?!).

Now I'd say I'm pro-choice in the true sense of the word. I believe if women are to be truly respected in our society there should be no cut off for abortion and a women should be trusted to make the right decision for her life, her body and her fetus (as is very much the case with fetal anamolies).  Women do not take the decision to have an abortion lightly, and their are already safeguards in place where a women is not be able to make a balanced decision (mental capacity act, mental health act). True equality would be respecting women and their autonomy to make their own decisions over their own bodies and reproductive rights.

This doesn't mean I don't love my daughter or value her life. I had early downs screening due to my age, and was terrified the result would lead to abortion, and I went to my 20 week anomaly scan with a feeling of dread.

I also suffered nausea every day for a 8 months, that had a huge emotional impact on me...I did not enjoy being pregnant, and whilst I always thought I would have more than one child the thought of going through that again any time soon is terrifying... Not simply the suffering, but how to raise a baby/toddler in that state, and how to manage financially being unable to work for so long.

I hope I won't have to ever make a tough decision, as I hope whatever contraceptive I use works, either forever or until i have got over the horror of pregnancy.

But ultimately it is MY choice to make.

Post edited at 13:51
Timmd on 27 May 2018
In reply to Postmanpat:

>    I can see that there is an argument to say that life begins at conception and that aborting a life is therefore wrong. I don't think it is a mad argument. I simply disagree with it on the rather vague basis that it is not really a "life" and that the harm or unhappiness caused to existing people by maintaining it would be greater.

I guess there's the possibility too, that anybody born into a life where they're not wanted but are a mistake to deal with, is less likely to have a happy childhood and grow up without personal issues. 

 

Post edited at 13:53
marsbar - on 27 May 2018
In reply to goatee:

What an unpleasant, unnecessary and nasty thing to say to someone who has been open about sharing her experience, which doesn't happen to fit the "patriarchy knows best" line about abortion being damaging to the women who choose it.  

> If a woman terminates a living healthy foetus and doesn't have a care in the world about doing so then perhaps this person needs to have a long look at themselves in the  mirror. Barbaric attitudes are still barbaric when coated in the cocoon of liberalism. 

 

3
marsbar - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I'm thinking of the family of Savita, who died after being refused an abortion to save her life when a miscarriage was taking place anyway.

 I'm also thinking of all the women who have had to lie and hide and travel across the Irish sea for an abortion, adding extra stress and costs to an already difficult situation.  

I'm thinking of all the abused young girls who were forced to give birth to their rapists babies, and live with their children being taken or lies about them being siblings. 

I'm thinking of all the girls and women and children who suffered at the hands of the church in the homes and laundries.  

The outcome is cause for celebration and reflection.  

2
Blue Straggler - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I am just popping into the thread so as not to look like my OP was a troll, even if it is perhaps a bit like a "The Lemming" OP. Some interesting comments and viewpoints.

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marsbar - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Timmd:

It is certainly a thing in the Abrahamic religions, but there is no reason the rules made at a time of no reliable contraception and a different situation for women shouldn't be modernised now.  I'm not a believer, but for those that are they should be looking at the "wwjd" style of thinking, I doubt it would involve policing out of date rules.  

 

Timmd on 27 May 2018
In reply to marsbar:

Ditto to all that. 

marsbar - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Timmd:

Oh and as I mentioned patriarchy earlier, it is only fair to mention that within the Abrahamic religions it is actually my extensive experience that it is in fact other women who are often the most outspoken and cruel and effective in the oppression of women.  It is quite a paradox.

Whether it is teenage girls shaming moderate Muslim teenage girls who don't wear hijab, nuns in Catholic schools enforcing dress and behaviour codes or women from the pro-life groups trying to stop other women from having abortions even in London where it is legal, these attitudes may have come from a patriarchal religious background, but it is the "sisterhood" who continue to shame other women. Quite baffling really.  

1
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to wintertree:

I wish that I was so sure of my beliefs that, despite being in the minority in the world as you are, I could dismiss all others as wrong.

6
Eric9Points - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Postmanpat:

> >  what is sacred about it?

> Can you, or don't you believe that life is sacred?

Well obviously not. Would anyone argue that a lettuce's life or a plankton's life is sacred? Or has the definition of life been changed somehow?

Further, what I find curious about many "pro life" advocates is that they are in favour of the death penalty and I have no doubt that many in the USA will be owners of guns.

I broadly agree with your views on the subject however. I just believe the "pro life" argument tends to be poorly thought through.

Post edited at 15:57
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wintertree - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> I wish that I was so sure of my beliefs that, despite being in the minority in the world as you are, I could dismiss all others as wrong.

You are very disingenuous to paint me as being in the “minority”.  You earlier suggested religious belief is the majority situation but you can’t generalise that to anti-abortion sentiment.  Well, you could, but you would be a fool to do so. 

Or do you think all government decisions should be deferred to the global consensus based on faith?  No?  Then why is abortion any different?

Plenty of people of faith - including various Christians - are pro-abortion, so this clearly isn’t the simple faith issue you try and paint it as.

I don’t think I am in a minority or that “all others [are] wrong”.  Ireland another Northern Ireland have been in the minority position on abortion law in democtratic states for a long time.  Clearly in most states the majority are either in agreement with legal abortion or so unbothered by it it doesn’t affect their voting.

Post edited at 16:23
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to wintertree:

While not all religions or religious followers are anti abortion many are.

Probably the number is in the billions?

It’s your willingness to dismiss all these people and their beliefs and values that I find difficult to understand.

Is it not possible that there can be two different but acceptable points of view?

4
Dr.S at work - on 27 May 2018
In reply to SAF:

Just to extend your argument - if there is no legal cut off for abortion, should that extend to the newborn, and if not, why not? 

 

wintertree - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> While not all religions or religious followers are anti abortion many are.

> Probably the number is in the billions?

What’s that got to do with anything?  There are 2 bn people out there who won’t eat pork and 1 bn who won’t eat beef on religious grounds.   Would you accept calls to ban beef and pork from production and sale in the UK?   What is different about abortion?  I may sound like I am being facetious but I am not.  I’m not aware of any other presidents for global beliefs to decide local laws.  Quite aside from that the majority of the world’s people - many of them of faith - have already elected governments that have allowed abortion.

Falling back on “lots of people around the world believe X” is an incredibly weak argument.

> It’s your willingness to dismiss all these people and their beliefs and values that I find difficult to understand.

Clearly.  I do not dismiss them or their beliefs.  I recognise them.  I simply recognise the right of an individual woman to control her body as having significantly higher priority than the right of another to impose their wishes on that woman’s body.

> Is it not possible that there can be two different but acceptable points of view?

Points of view - yes.  Laws - no.  

summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> Just to extend your argument - if there is no legal cut off for abortion, should that extend to the newborn, and if not, why not? 

The point at which a baby can reasonably be expected to survive were it to be born prematurely.

summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> It’s your willingness to dismiss all these people and their beliefs and values that I find difficult to understand.

Beliefs which are entirely without evidence should not influence laws of society. A person is individually free to follow their beliefs, but can't expect a state to enforce them on non believers. 

Dr.S at work - on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

That would be my view for ‘elective’ abortions, but SAF suggested that it should be the individual woman’s choice up to the point of birth, and I’m curious about that position.

baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

Even English abortion law doesn’t give a woman the right to an abortion.

There are criteria that have to be met.

One could argue that the simple existence of any criteria and the actual form of those criteria is due to the Christian nature of the UK.

That the medical profession allows de facto abortion to occur is another matter.

2
Timmd on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> It’s your willingness to dismiss all these people and their beliefs and values that I find difficult to understand.

> Is it not possible that there can be two different but acceptable points of view?

In an abstract sense, it is, but I think different people ultimately see things in a certain way in the end. When the end result of abortion being outlawed, is women (in the past) having had babies before they're taken from them and buried in the ground by nuns, when women have to bring to full term the result of incest and rape, and one has people being born into circumstances where they are not a happy event, women buying risky medication off the internet to cause an abortion, are traveling to another country for the procedure, and the anti-abortion 'rules' about what happens to women's bodies are from religions written by men (who don't have to deal with the consequences in the same way), I think these things should probably inform what decision is reached, too, along the lines of causing the least amount of unhappiness/suffering within a society.

Others might see it a point of principle which is black and white, which is something I'd allow them, but I wouldn't agree with. 

Post edited at 17:40
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SAF - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> Just to extend your argument - if there is no legal cut off for abortion, should that extend to the newborn, and if not, why not? 

I actually read a really good article posing that exact question in a philosophy journal some years ago, I would love to be able to find it for you, but don't have a current Athens password.

I think whilst the baby is still inside the mother and continuous with the mother, and therefore totally reliant on the mother, but also a very really danger to the mothers life/ wellbeing, then the mother should have autonomy over it.  As all adults with mental capacity have autonomy over their body at any other point in their life (in the UK at least).

Once the baby is out, whilst I realise it is still totally dependent on others to care for its basic needs, those needs can be met by anyone, therefore it is an independent human being, with the same rights as any other human who lacks the capacity to make their own decisions.

I read an interesting statistic somewhere on the internet (therefore it must be true!!) that for a women statistically the next single day in your life that carries the same level of risk of dying, as the day you give birth is in your 94th year!! Why should anyone be forced to take this risk?

I can't really see a massive queue of third trimester pregnant women outside the abortion clinics, however the choice should still be theirs, as contrary to what some people and religions think, women are neither inherently crazy or stupid!

Also I think the whole premature baby/viability argument is a red herring and a separate issue that could be discussed in a whole thread of its own.  Just because one 21 week premie is featured in the local newspaper on their first day at nursery, unfortunately is not reflective of most premies of that gestation, most of whom won't even survive to leave hospital, and most of those that do will have a horrendously challenging life with disabilities that I imagine most posters on here would find unacceptable for themselves.  Medically ethics of extreme premies could do with answering some serious questions about what is and isn't okay.  On this note, I found the period from 20 weeks pregnant to 27 very stressful, and had some very frank conversations with my husband about the "what-ifs".

So I'll pose you a hypothetical question...

Lisa is a high flying intelligent and successful city banker who works hard and plays hard, due to here lifestyle of crazy hours and hard gym workouts, she has very low body fat and thus scant irregular periods, she is taking the contraceptive pill, but for some unknown reason it fails.  But life carries on.  Some point later she realises it's been 5 months since she last had a period and her jeans are a little tight despite her killer Ab muscles, she takes a pregnancy test, and it's positive, she is given an urgent appointment for a scan, which reveals a 32 week fetus that as far as the scan can tell is anatomically normal, turns out the last "period" was early pregnancy related bleeding (common and of very little consequence).

However, Lisa has always liked to work hard and play hard, and regularly winds down after work with 1/2 to a full bottle of wine, and on weekends will have a good old binge and a few lines of coke, and maybe a pill or two on a really big night out.  Due to not knowing she was pregnant or even at risk of being pregnant, this is something she has done around conception, during the crucial 1st Trimester and throughout the rest of the pregnancy.

She realises her baby is at high risk of Fetal alcohol syndrome, and who knows what else, but also "may" be just fine.  If the baby has fetal alcohol syndrome it could be profoundly mentally disabled, even if it is mild/sub clinical it could have a very challenging life with low IQ and challenging behaviour.

Should Lisa be forced to continue with that pregnancy with the likelihood of a mentally disabled child and the risks to her that all pregnancy and birth carry, or should she have the choice to make a decision for herself and her baby that feels right, despite the late gestation?

summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Exactly. English law on abortion is based on factual conditions, not rules from imaginary beings. Glad you agree. 

TobyA on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

> The point at which a baby can reasonably be expected to survive were it to be born prematurely.


Well that has changed, and but British law didn't. I have no idea how we can decide what "reasonably" means in this case, as survival of preterm babies doesn't preclude the possibility of serious disabilities.

summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> Well that has changed, and but British law didn't. I have no idea how we can decide what "reasonably" means in this case, as survival of preterm babies doesn't preclude the possibility of serious disabilities.

Would agree it is grey. But that is why there are medical councils and chief scientific advisers who decide or inform MPs. Not a bunch of single male Catholic bishops who don't publically acknowledge being a parent of any child. 

1
Postmanpat on 27 May 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

> Well obviously not. Would anyone argue that a lettuce's life or a plankton's life is sacred? Or has the definition of life been changed somehow?

>

  So what's wrong with war and murder?

 

3
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

English abortion law was framed as it is because there was no desire to give women the right to choose an abortion as some have argued for here.

The law is worded to meet the demands of those wanting to limit abortion to a medical need based presumably on religious grounds.

That doctors allow the system to be operate differently is a matter of fact.

4
summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

So why do thousands of Irish women travel to the UK every year to exercise a legal right to an abortion there? 

summo on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

Besides as someone who is pro Brexit? I presume you'll respect the voting majority and will shortly be 100% for abortion and the rights for women to decide for themselves within medical guidelines(not religious) ??   

1
Dr.S at work - on 27 May 2018
In reply to SAF:

 

If you know the journal I should be able to get a copy.

Good example to discuss - some further questions.

Is the risk of giving birth at full term significantly different from an abortion at 32 weeks? 

If Lisa gave birth, and the child did have FAS, why would it be wrong to euthanise the child at that point when the diagnosis was established? Would it not in fact be better?

FWIW I have no qualms about abortion, even quite late abortion, on medical grounds - I’m less sure about late abortions carried out because of maternal inconvenience and suspect Lisa has motives other than the risk of FAS.

At such a late stage there is a very good chance of the child surviving if birth was induced - so that seems to fit the foetus in a similar position to your 1 day old whom others can care for.

 

 

 

Dr.S at work - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Postmanpat:

>   So what's wrong with war and murder?

Maybe nothing?

i don’t think there is any ‘high justice’, just the rules we make up.

Eric9Points - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Postmanpat:

>   So what's wrong with war and murder?

The killing of a human being involves the ending of a sentient life.

Most of us humans, though not all, believe that our level of consciousness makes our lives of more value than those of other sentient beings. I guess there is some merit in this as I imagine a fish is less likely to be as alarmed about its own demise as a human or even a cow. 

Duncan Bourne - on 27 May 2018
In reply to baron:

If a persons beliefs cause hurt then in my view it is right to challenge them.

Or are you suggesting that it is wrong to upset people by challenging their beliefs?

Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to thomasadixon:

> Presumably then you think that prioritising those with limited mental capacity over the rest of us is just as wrong?  The vast sums of money used to care for them should all be diverted?

If you can think of an example where there are competing rights of an adult with a similar capacity for suffering as a fetus and another adult, then I'll give you a view on it. As it is, I don't accept that someone with "limited mental capacity" would have a similar capacity for suffering as a fetus (that is, next to none) - and nor can I think of examples of where their rights compete so directly. 

1
Pan Ron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> I firmly believe that a woman must have the right to choose what happens to their body, but I find it surprising that you have "never heard a reasonable pro-life argument in [your] life".

It is interesting isn't it.

I'm in the same camp.  Stridently pro-abortion and dismissive of the right-wing religious nut-jobs who claim anything from the point of conception is life.

...until I came in to contact with right-wingers, God-bothering and otherwise, making the case on far more philosophical and logical grounds than the pro-abortion shouters have done.  The term "reluctantly pro-choice" seems fair, and those of us who are pro-choice really should acknowledge there are a few elephants in the room that aren't rendered invisible by screaming louder or accusing anti-abortionists of being mindless freaks.

1.  At what point does the foetus become life?  I'm not going to claim knowledge on the answer to that.  But I am 100% sure that this is a very subjective issue.  I'm also 100% certain that foetus doesn't become life the moment its head emerges in to the light of day and therefore we must also accept that aborting a child at some point prior to birth, for reasons less than avoiding mortal injury to the mother, is to all intents and purposes philosophically no different from murder.  

2.  There appears to be a sliding scale as to where life occurs, or at least an intersection between two lines as to where harm to the parent and rights of the unborn child intersect.  If the mother is going to be killed in the process, then abortion up to a very late stage, if not birth, seems credible.  If the case is, "I like my life the way it is, I don't want the responsibility of a child" then that scale of acceptable abortion surely slides a long way back towards conception.  There is at least a discussion to be had about that and assuming those with more restrictive opinions on this are cruel zealots completely misses the point

3. The very fact we use terms like "pro-choice" and "termination" clearly shows we are very carefully tiptoeing around issues in a way that, any other contexts, we would find Orwelian.

4.  Anti-abortionists often aren't even making the case that the child must be kept.  Rather than it represents life, should be brought in to the world, and if not wanted then adopted.  There's no shortage of anti-abortion propaganda pieces/emotive appeals from nearly-aborted-now-young-adults making this case.

5. Probably fair to say the rights of the unborn child inhabit a grey area where usual rules do not apply.  Best to acknowledge it and discuss.  There are clearly well thought out and heart-felt arguments on both sides. 

 

Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Postmanpat:

>   This is a random line you have drawn.

No it's not. And it's not really a line. I'm arguing that the greater a being's capacity for suffering, the more rights it accrues. So a wasp has not a lot of rights, but a monkey has quite a lot. A couple of cells has no rights, but a fetus with a partially formed brain is starting to accrue some rights. The greater the capacity for suffering, the greater we weight its rights against those - e.g. the mother - whose might unfortunately be thrown into competition.

> On this basis it would be fine to kill anybody who is in a coma or unconscious.

This is a good objection. The trouble with killing people in comas is that it would in general cause a lot of suffering (of loved ones), so we shouldn't do it. My argument as I've made it so far does indeed imply that it's OK to kill someone who's unconcious (even just asleep) so long as no one else cared...but I think doing this would make everyone scared of going to sleep, which isn't a great way to run things - it would actually cause suffering. 

>   For the record I am in favour of abortion (along "English" lines although maybe 20 weeks would be a better cut off line). However, it doesn't seem outlandish or susperstitious to believe that life begins at conception (a no less random line) and therefore to have reservations about ending it.

I agree it's rational to have reservations about ending a life, but once you start to think about competing needs, I think it's clear that taking this to be the moral trump card (which wouldn't be justified anyway, unless by superstition or nonsense) leads to the worst outcomes and is therefore wrong.

Pan Ron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to SAF:

> Also I think the whole premature baby/viability argument is a red herring and a separate issue that could be discussed in a whole thread of its own. 

Is it really?  We have made all kinds of medical advances to get to where we are.  Care of premature babies is one of them.  That we can keep infants alive, in the same way we can keep HIV/cancer/diabetes sufferers alive, surely changes the dynamic of what "viable", "independent" and "alive" are?

While I agree with most of what you have written, I don't think we are in a position to philosophically argue that, simply because a natural-born baby would be dead in similar circumstances, a baby not born at full-term is not accorded the rights of all other human-beings.  

Pan Ron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I think there is a problem with making relative suffering claims.  You could argue fish suffer nothing at all when killed.  Collectively that suffering doesn't change the more fish you kill.  It would therefore be morally acceptable to kill all fish. 

More of an issue though is that suffering is so clearly subjective.  A fish, or an unborn child, lacks the ability to articulate it.  This is an area being researched intensely and I am pretty certain prevailing wisdom on it will swing radically over the next few centuries.  I'd be reluctant to make such a subjective measure the basis for deciding what lives and what dies.  Even if we make sense of it, the question about the suffering induced on a mother as a result of a child (plenty of mothers willing to admit the considered abortion but now, having not done so, are incredibly thankful).

That said, I have no idea where to draw the line.  Suffering may well be a good measure.  But it's clearly up for debate and far from clear-cut.  I can sympathise as much with many passionate anti-abortionists as much as I can vegetarians (I can't justify my meat eating) or those protesting over the death penalty.

 

 

1
Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> You do seem to approach issues like this in what you conceive of as rationalist/materialist arguments where one side can 'win', as if there is always an almost "mathematically" correct answer.

Yes, I take a consequentialist approach to moral dilemmas.

> I would be surprised if people didn't feel some qualms about the fact British abortion law now allows abortions to take place after a baby born incredibly preterm has some chance of survival. Indeed, for preterm babies born at 24 weeks there is now a 50% survival rate. I'm not personally sure if the limit should be lowered or not, but children being born at 21 weeks who survive and, in some case now seem to be developing as healthy toddlers, has to be a "reasonable argument" for changing the law at least, even if it is one that ultimately we don't agree with?

I don't have the knowledge or experience to make a judgement on a difficult question like the exact circs under which abortion should be allowed. But that's not what we're discussing! The pro-life position for which I have never heard a reasonable argument is that women should not be allowed access to abortion full stop (or making only extreme exceptions). I stand by my view that there are no reasonable arguments to support this, because the consequences of this position lead to so much avoidable (or reducible) suffering. 

The reason my tone was so cut and dried was because we're talking about a simple problem - should women be allowed access to abortion in Ireland - that *does* have a "correct" answer, i.e. one side has compelling arguments and the other has none.

> I wouldn't want to ignore the experience of people who had either of those reactions.

I would ignore all of them, basically. If someone had terrible regret for choosing to have an abortion, or if they didn't, then that has nothing to say about whether other women should be able to make that decision for themselves.

Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

> I think there is a problem with making relative suffering claims.

I think the only relevant concern in morality is suffering!

john arran - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

> I can sympathise as much with many passionate anti-abortionists as much as I can vegetarians (I can't justify my meat eating)

You've talked a lot of sense above, but this is a glaring inconsistency. Vegetarians, overwhelmingly, are not intent on denying meat-eaters a choice, although they would likely be keen to make sure meat-farming conditions are well regulated.

TobyA on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> The reason my tone was so cut and dried was because we're talking about a simple problem - should women be allowed access to abortion in Ireland -

But it's not that simple is it, the legislation that the govt. in Ireland is proposing is that women should be allowed to access abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, so these issues are hardly academic.

1
Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

> I think there is a problem with making relative suffering claims.  You could argue fish suffer nothing at all when killed.  Collectively that suffering doesn't change the more fish you kill.  It would therefore be morally acceptable to kill all fish. 

The question you have to ask is, "what are the consequences, in terms of suffering, on all conscious beings". If you ask this question, the answer is clearly, kill just the tasty fish and eat them, in a sustainable way.

> More of an issue though is that suffering is so clearly subjective.  A fish, or an unborn child, lacks the ability to articulate it.  This is an area being researched intensely and I am pretty certain prevailing wisdom on it will swing radically over the next few centuries.  I'd be reluctant to make such a subjective measure the basis for deciding what lives and what dies. 

So what other criteria do you suggest? I think we can make intelligent guesses about suffering, and the more we learn about it, the better judgements we can make.

> Even if we make sense of it, the question about the suffering induced on a mother as a result of a child (plenty of mothers willing to admit the considered abortion but now, having not done so, are incredibly thankful).

The question for anyone facing the dilemma is about which option will best reduce suffering. I am yet to hear a reasonable argument for the state taking that choice away from women!

> That said, I have no idea where to draw the line.  Suffering may well be a good measure.  But it's clearly up for debate and far from clear-cut.

I disagree, I think the situation in Ireland was absolutely unacceptable because of the suffering it caused. A good argument for the state prohibiting access to abortion would show that the suffering caused by access to abortion is greater - or would make some other rational argument that restricting women's right to choose what happens to their bodies makes the world a better place in some other way (although I don't think there is another sensible way to decide what makes the world a better place).

 

1
Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> But it's not that simple is it, the legislation that the govt. in Ireland is proposing is that women should be allowed to access abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, so these issues are hardly academic.

If you think the issue is in the detail, then we're talking at cross-purposes. The question I'm thinking about is should the current situation (terminations only allowed when the life of the mother is at risk, and a maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion of 14 years in prison), i.e. the pro-life position be supported or liberalised.

Saying "I want it liberalised, but only a bit" wasn't an option on the ballet, was it?

Pan Ron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to john arran:

My point was more that I eat meat for entirely self-serving, essentially frivolous, reasons (the dietary equivalent of an abortion at 8 months because I want to get pissed).  I believe that pretty much everyone else does the same.  Can't find much more to justify it and if it is unethical for me to eat meat it's probably equally unethical for other's to eat meat so I probably should be a rabid PETA type if I did go vege.  Hence, I'm not going to attempt to make an ethical argument in support of my choice - I have to take it on the chin and am simply thankful I live in a world so debauched that it barely questions the slaughter of animals.  It's possible that some making the same decision on abortion may just need to accept that, ethically, they are on shaky ground.  

There's a corollary here too to the argument that just because we have premature-birth care that this doesn't change the nature of unborn children's rights.  The counter-argument to this, which I support, is "things are different now" and technology has changed the moral equation.  Likewise, I should extend that to meat eating; the argument is often made that carnivorism is a necessary, or at least understandable, outcome of the Hobbesian existence - "Apex predators eat cattle, I'm an apex-predator, so I can eat cattle too".  Likewise though, "things are different now", and just because it could be justified once, doesn't mean I'm still living in that same Hobbesian world.  Morality changes with time, just as stigmatising and banning abortion probably made complete sense in a world where human numbers were at risk.

That said, the morality of it all makes my head spin.  Overall I just wish the folks at each end of the polarised spectrum weren't so dismissive of the counter-arguments.

baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

They don't have a legal right to an abortion.

They need two doctors to OK it.

baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to summo:

As I said before, the Irish have voted, it's their country and their choice but just like Brexit some people will put up a fight.

Post edited at 21:51
baron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

I Was suggesting that if you are in the minority then maybe it's your beliefs that need challenging.

Which doesn't of course mean that you are the one in the 'wrong'.

As you know it's complicated.

Pan Ron - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> So what other criteria do you suggest? I think we can make intelligent guesses about suffering, and the more we learn about it, the better judgements we can make.

I'm less confident.  We have got those questions catastrophically wrong in the past.  Animals were once considered no different from mechanical contraptions.  Humans of different races sub-human.  Its fair to say we probably haven't regressed in any of these judgements as the centuries progress, but we might be a long-way from being right.  It's entirely possible that we will uncover consciousness in entirely novel realms in decades to come.  The cautious approach of cause-no-harm might be prudent.

> The question for anyone facing the dilemma is about which option will best reduce suffering. I am yet to hear a reasonable argument for the state taking that choice away from women!

The state takes choices away from all of us, down to the speed we drive and the requirement to cover (in ridiculous ways) certain sections of our bodies.  When it comes to the taking of life, be it a stem cell, flora, a leading intellectual, or the terminally ill, there are clearly ethical questions at play - the state seems to be the logical arbiter at some point in that process.  As a keen proponent of euthanasia even I can see there must be stringent regulation.  

Perhaps what is lost in this discussion (and I get the impression this is because we are very careful to tiptoe around the feelings of those who have, or may wish to have, abortions) is that as much as there are rights of mothers there may also be obligations.  I know obligations are unfashionable these days, but as soon as you knowingly engage in certain behaviours there are obviously outcomes.  Have sex and there is a high possibility that you are creating life.  The anti-abortion view goes, the moment you engage in that act willingly, the legal status of your body goes from being your own to one shared.   

> I disagree, I think the situation in Ireland was absolutely unacceptable because of the suffering it caused.

It was. As I've said, I support abortion.  I'm just no longer quite so willing to pretend it is cut and dry with such certainty.

Perhaps the reason the debate has taken so long, or that abortion rights are on such shakey grounds in the US, is due to polarisation on both sides.

1
Dr.S at work - on 27 May 2018
In reply to john arran:

> You've talked a lot of sense above, but this is a glaring inconsistency. Vegetarians, overwhelmingly, are not intent on denying meat-eaters a choice, although they would likely be keen to make sure meat-farming conditions are well regulated.

But is that not in effect the view of many on abortion? They accept it occurs, but wish reasonable limits to be imposed on its accessibility. But there exists an extreme faction who wish it banned outright.

john arran - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

True. But from what I see and read, pro-lifers take auch less nuanced and less reasonable stance, that of seeking to prevent anbody from having an abortion at any time and for any reason.

Quite a big difference in approach, the way I see it.

Jon Stewart - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

> I'm less confident.  We have got those questions catastrophically wrong in the past.

Indeed - I support the view that the more we learn about the world, the better our moral decisions become.

> The state takes choices away from all of us, down to the speed we drive and the requirement to cover (in ridiculous ways) certain sections of our bodies.  When it comes to the taking of life, be it a stem cell, flora, a leading intellectual, or the terminally ill, there are clearly ethical questions at play - the state seems to be the logical arbiter at some point in that process.  As a keen proponent of euthanasia even I can see there must be stringent regulation.  

As a liberal, my view is that if the state is to take away a decision from me, it needs to be for a bloody good reason. If you can reduce RTAs with a law then fine, I'll have my freedom curtailed. While you imply that there are or may be reasons why the choice to have an abortion should be taken away from women, no one has managed to articulate any!

> Perhaps what is lost in this discussion (and I get the impression this is because we are very careful to tiptoe around the feelings of those who have, or may wish to have, abortions) is that as much as there are rights of mothers there may also be obligations.  I know obligations are unfashionable these days, but as soon as you knowingly engage in certain behaviours there are obviously outcomes.  Have sex and there is a high possibility that you are creating life.  The anti-abortion view goes, the moment you engage in that act willingly, the legal status of your body goes from being your own to one shared. 

And my question is, why is that the best legal status? What does such a view of obligations achieve? It seems that no one can articulate the reasons (except by appealing to nonsense).

john arran - on 27 May 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

Good, well-considered post.

summo on 28 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> They don't have a legal right to an abortion.> They need two doctors to OK it.

Can you link some news articles where someone in England is complaining because they were denied an abortion. 

 

baron - on 28 May 2018
In reply to summo:

No because it doesn't happen.

One of the criterea that has to be met is

  • 'That the abortion is necessary to prevent permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman'

The woman's mental health is always deemed to be at risk if an abortion isn't carried out and so that is what happens.

That's the way that the medical profession chooses to interpret the law.

Some doctors may refuse to sign off on the abortion. Then It's  just a matter of finding another doctor(s) who is willing to sign. There doesn't appear to be a shortage of doctors who will do the deed.

While there is no legal abortion on demand  that is in reality what usually happens.

summo on 28 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> No because it doesn't happen.

Thank you. 

Dr.S at work - on 28 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> And my question is, why is that the best legal status? What does such a view of obligations achieve? It seems that no one can articulate the reasons (except by appealing to nonsense).

As I think you have said upthread, this view easily extends to murder being ok as long as no suffering is involved. Consider the situation in which a mother does not want to carry a child to term but the father would like her to - or worse the other way around. The foetus as you say will not suffer, but both parents will, and so this seems to be a situation in which the choice to undergo abortion appears morally more complex - if I understand your position?

Duncan Bourne - on 28 May 2018
In reply to baron:

That is an interesting argument.

I am reminded of the 1978 film "An enemy of the people" starring Steve McQueen. A Norweigen town has a thriving tourist industry based on the theraputic powers of its spring water. McQueens character discovers the water is polluted and writes an article outlining the dangers. Which leads to his family becoming pariahs in the town.

Widely held beliefs can be just as wrong as minority beliefs and can be quite entrenched.

The problem with anti-abortion law is that removes a choice, ie that of the mother, by dictating only one course of action.

It also imposes one course of action on the father (I appreciate that the woman takes the lions share of responsibility on the outcome)

It is also argued that it offers no choice to the unborn child. But in reality that never had any choice in the first place.

Naturally society is not a free for all. We do not have complete freedom of choice, that would be chaos. But certain freedoms are necessary for the proper functioning of society and we try to construct laws that strike a balance that suits the majority. The rightness of wrongness of those laws will shift over time as society changes. At one time it was perfectly legal to fight a duel to the death, women were considered the property of their husbands, and it was illegal not to attend church. In some countries today I would be considered a criminal simply for being an atheist or drinking alchohol.

 

baron - on 28 May 2018
In reply to summo:

> Thank you. 

For what?

 

Duncan Bourne - on 28 May 2018
In reply to Pan Ron:

Suffering is an interesting point.

As Buddha said "life is suffering"

It is absolutely inescapable. If you terminate an unborn child you cause it suffering but save it a lifetime of suffering at the hands of abusive parents. If you kill a cow and eat it you cause it suffering but not eating it only means it will suffer in another way. When everyone is vegetarian and nobody eats cows anymore then cows won't exist (Save Indian sacred cows and possibly some wild cattle). More over as the human population expands it places greater and greater pressures on the world. The problem is not that we eat meat or are vegetarian but that we all want our western lifestyle, central heating, computers, cars, holidays in the sun etc. by our very existence we create suffering in the world. Plastic islands, decimated rain forest, buying up water, global warming and pushing back the natural world to the fringes.

I am not saying that we shouldn't care or shouldn't work to reduce the damage we cause. But honestly less people on the planet is no bad thing and if that can be achieved without starvation, war or disease, or even Logan's run euthenasia then so much the better.

summo on 28 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> For what?

For confirming that in England those within the number of weeks as stated by medical experts can obtain an abortion. 

baron - on 28 May 2018
In reply to summo:

Was this ever in doubt?

What isn't available is abortion on demand, supposedly.

 

1
summo on 28 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> Was this ever in doubt?> What isn't available is abortion on demand, supposedly.

I don't think anyone ever said it was a free for all. Myself and others have said there are medical guidelines decided by those qualified in that field.

The difference is the people deciding aren't religious leaders. I don't see Irish church leaders insistence on their stance being any different to say a Muslim cleric wanting shariah to be superior to UK or Irish law. 

If you were a low income Irish girl living in Ireland do you think your view might differ? 

baron - on 28 May 2018
In reply to summo:

If I was an Irish girl living in Ireland then my view would probably differ, but whether or not my view would be much more pro or anti abortion who knows 

3
marsbar - on 28 May 2018
In reply to SAF:

I’ve been thinking about the “Lisa” question.  I think a termination at such a late stage would probably be no less dangerous than giving birth and Lisa would have to deliver either way.  Probably (in my opinion) at such a late stage it would be better for her to have a live birth and give the baby up for adoption if she doesn’t want to parent a child with FAS, or indeed at all.  I imagine it would be very unpleasant to have a termination at 32 weeks.  However I’m not a doctor or an expert.  Just becuase I think it would be best doesn’t mean I’m the right person to make the decision.  

I saw a series of text messages regarding the Irish decision.  Something about how a yes vote wouldn’t stop the no people saying no, nor would it force the yes voters to say yes.  It just gives the choice.  I’m not pro abortion but I am pro choice.  

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Jon Stewart - on 28 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> As I think you have said upthread, this view easily extends to murder being ok as long as no suffering is involved. 

Yes it does, which is an interesting question! I think that killing someone is an act that has quite dramatic consequences and if it doesn't alleviate suffering, but it does completely wipe out another person's freedom over their own existence, then I think there are pretty clear reasons not to go ahead!

Of course an abortion also completely wipes out a person's freedom over their existence, if you believe a fetus is a person. I don't. One might want to consider the destruction of *potential* happiness and suffering...but I don't think this is very helpful because the fetus might grow up really happy and love their life, or they might be continually suicidal (in which case eliminating that potential was doing them a favour). If there seems to be sufficient information to judge potential happiness/suffering such as with really tragic genetic conditions, then it should be considered, but if there's very little useful information about the potential then it wouldn't form part of my reasoning. But the preservation of a person's basic freedom (such as to decide whether to carry on living or not) is something I would consider important, and would make the suffering-free murder wrong in my view.

> Consider the situation in which a mother does not want to carry a child to term but the father would like her to - or worse the other way around. The foetus as you say will not suffer, but both parents will, and so this seems to be a situation in which the choice to undergo abortion appears morally more complex - if I understand your position?

Absolutely - in my view, the best decision is the one that leads to the least suffering. Given the vastly greater effect on the woman, and her physical control of the situation, the decision rests with her and the father will have to lump it. If it's going to cause him a huge deal of suffering for her to have an abortion, then she needs to consider this in her decision. But it's her decision and to take that decision away from her is immoral for all the suffering that such a policy (the current law in Ireland) causes.

thomasadixon - on 29 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Of course an abortion also completely wipes out a person's freedom over their existence, if you believe a fetus is a person. I don't.

I don't see how you can hold that view based on the evidence we have.  A baby doesn't go through some sort of metamorphosis when they're born, we're not that kind of creature.  There's a gradual change from a cell to something you would call a person.  We learn more and more all the time about how much a baby learns in the womb - they feel pain, they react to stimulus, they are not a growth (a pretty offensive idea imo) in the mother they are more than that.   The problem with it being a gradual change is that there's no specific cut off point, but putting it at 40 weeks doesn't match the knowledge we have.  If it's wrong at 40.5 weeks it's wrong at 39.5.

> One might want to consider the destruction of *potential* happiness and suffering...but I don't think this is very helpful because the fetus might grow up really happy and love their life, or they might be continually suicidal (in which case eliminating that potential was doing them a favour).

You could say exactly the same about a baby, or a toddler, etc.  At 18 you're destroying potential happiness/preventing potential suffering.

Personally I'm happy with our law, I don't think at conception is a sensible cut off point any more than birth (and so the Irish law was wrong), and in the same way that if you need to kill one conjoined twin to save the other I'm happy with very late term abortion too. But we don't allow elective late term abortions here (it's a crime, whether an act by the mother or by another), we take women's decisions away in that respect, would you change that? On your point about harmed loved ones, I'd say that before being born most babies have many loved ones (other than the mother) that would be upset by it's death.

Post edited at 00:36
jkarran - on 29 May 2018
In reply to baron:

> While not all religions or religious followers are anti abortion many are. Probably the number is in the billions? It’s your willingness to dismiss all these people and their beliefs and values that I find difficult to understand.

I'm having trouble squaring away this newfound global perspective with your more commonly expressed nationalism and concern about the dilution of our culture by others. I guess like the rest of us you pick and choose the bits of evidence and experience that support your ingrained beliefs then try to tie it all up into something that holds together. Meant more as an observation than a criticism, we all do it.

I'm quite surprised to see anyone on here arguing the case for keeping Ireland's repressive laws though I think you may well have stumbled into a corner you've been pushed further into than you'd like while nobody has offered you a dignified way out.

> Is it not possible that there can be two different but acceptable points of view?

Yes. I think dark chocolate is best, you think white chocolate is best. Different views but I'm willing to let it slide, your wrong (obviously!) view does little enough harm for it to be acceptable, likewise mine. When it comes to an issue like abortion rights where strict laws, particularly those applied to a populace that no longer supports them cause great suffering we can differ in opinion but it's not acceptable to just shrug and let it slide.

jk

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baron - on 29 May 2018
In reply to jkarran:

I don’t think I’ve tried to defend Irish abortion law.

I have tried to understand the views of those who are anti abortion and I’ve taken their side in a devil’s advocate sort of way.

My personal opinion about abortion isn’t up for discussion on this forum.

 

Jon Stewart - on 29 May 2018
In reply to thomasadixon:

There's no disagreement here, but it is helpful to have what I've said challenged, because no moral theory that I know of makes total sense.

> I don't see how you can hold that view based on the evidence we have...The problem with it being a gradual change is that there's no specific cut off point, but putting it at 40 weeks doesn't match the knowledge we have.  If it's wrong at 40.5 weeks it's wrong at 39.5.

I agree with you - above I said:

> I'm arguing that the greater a being's capacity for suffering, the more rights it accrues. So a wasp has not a lot of rights, but a monkey has quite a lot. A couple of cells has no rights, but a fetus with a partially formed brain is starting to accrue some rights. The greater the capacity for suffering, the greater we weight its rights against those - e.g. the mother - whose might unfortunately be thrown into competition.

When I said "a fetus is not a person" above I was taking a shortcut. I should have said "a fetus is not automatically a person, they have to develop enough of a nervous system to be conscious for a start".

> You could say exactly the same about a baby, or a toddler, etc.  At 18 you're destroying potential happiness/preventing potential suffering.

My point about the potential for future suffering or happiness was that the 'consequentialist/minimise suffering' moral argument I've set out allows for the murder of unconscious beings that one one cares about (as pointed out by PMP above) and this doesn't chime with our moral intuitions (at least not mine) - so something must be missing. I suggested that it might be to do with potential for happiness but rejected that idea as being an unworkable consideration in moral judgements. Instead I think that as well as minimising suffering, one has to also maximise freedom, e.g. to carry on living.

In the case of abortion, then yes, the fetus' freedom to carry on living is curtailed. But I'm saying that at an early stage in its development, it's only accrued a tiny fraction of the rights of an adult. At full term, it has a lot greater capacity for suffering and its rights need to be weighted much higher in the moral judgement. But there is never a point at which an unborn child suddenly holds the trump card and everyone else should suffer in order that it can take moral priority.

I think that the moral arguments I've made are consistent with the types of policies we have here, but absolutely not with current Irish law.

> Personally I'm happy with our law

Me too.

> On your point about harmed loved ones, I'd say that before being born most babies have many loved ones (other than the mother) that would be upset by it's death.

Whatever suffering is caused by any action must be considered when thinking about its morality.

 

Post edited at 19:25
Yanis Nayu - on 29 May 2018
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I think it was the right outcome to repeal the amendment and allow women the choice. However, I don’t see it as an issue with a clear, obvious moral position to take - I can understand both positions and find some of the celebrations following the vote a bit distasteful given it’s such an emotive subject. 

MG - on 29 May 2018
In reply to Yanis Nayu:

I agree. While I am very clear of my own views on this - the change is a good thing, and laws in Britain about right -the tone of the feminists cheer-leading this is divisive and off putting.

Jon Stewart - on 29 May 2018
In reply to Yanis Nayu:

> I can understand both positions and find some of the celebrations following the vote a bit distasteful given it’s such an emotive subject. 

If you can understand the pro-life position, then for my benefit (since I might be being a distasteful feminist) perhaps you could articulate it, as no one else seems to be able to.

I understand that ending a human life makes us feel queezy, but that's an emotion, not a moral position.

 

Dr.S at work - on 29 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Is not the pro life position just an extension of your "acrual of rights" concept - they just feel the rights of a fetus at a very early stage to be equivalent to an adults. So they are at one extreme of a moral continum, in some ways its the simplest position as any human life is considered equivalent, there is no need for false precision about the point at which a fetus has acrued enough rights to be protected.

 

re your point about happiness, fair enough - but most people have happy lives, so if that was the crux of the argument then you would avoid abortion.

 

edit to add  -of course there is a further extreme position, that being that the use of contraception is wrong as it may limit the chance of a human being borne.

Post edited at 23:00
Jon Stewart - on 29 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> Is not the pro life position just an extension of your "acrual of rights" concept - they just feel the rights of a fetus at a very early stage to be equivalent to an adults. So they are at one extreme of a moral continum, in some ways its the simplest position as any human life is considered equivalent, there is no need for false precision about the point at which a fetus has acrued enough rights to be protected.

My argument is all about minimising suffering. The "accrual of rights" bit is just a way of encoding that - I don't think rights actually exist in themselves, they're not determined by the cosmos or anything. They're a way of saying, "my suffering has to be considered alongside yours". The pro-life argument (as I understand it, but I actually don't, because no one is prepared to stick their neck out and articulate it even though apparently it's all reasonable and lovely) is completely different. It takes the rights as fundamental, coming down from the cosmos/god/nonsenseland without justification, and doesn't give two hoots about who suffers. In other words, it's tripe.

> re your point about happiness, fair enough - but most people have happy lives, so if that was the crux of the argument then you would avoid abortion.

You say that, but some people think the opposite. David Benatar is with the Buddha, saying that life sucks balls. Personally, I dunno, I can only speak for myself and I'm not prepared to make any judgements based on a presumption of "life is good" nor like Benatar "life is bad". I'm totally unconvinced that it's reasonable to make the generalisation in either direction. Life is what it is. 

 

TobyA on 29 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I understand that ending a human life makes us feel queezy, but that's an emotion, not a moral position.

In your hyper-materialist world I would have thought that it would be pretty strong evidence for a moral position!

 

Jon Stewart - on 29 May 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> In your hyper-materialist world I would have thought that it would be pretty strong evidence for a moral position!

In my hyper-materialist (aka rationalist) world, a moral position is a justified position. An emotion is felt. We feel emotions because we've evolved to, and we've been socialised to (and we've evolved to be socialised to!). So quite often we feel an emotion (such as greater empathy with someone who looks more like us, versus more suspicion for someone who doesn't look like us), but we can't justify it (because it's racist!). So we should trust what we can justify rather than what we feel.

I'm well aware that as we live our lives, we are most often ruled by what we feel rather than what we can justify. Which is why I spend most of my waking hours with my head in my hands.

Post edited at 23:30
Dr.S at work - on 29 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I tend to agree with your religious views, but I don’t think a pro-life position has to come from that basis. I also agree with your ultimate view of the lack of rights as absolutes. So what we are down to really is practical ways of organising a society.

 

It seems reasonable to give every human similar rights to life. The difficulty when those rights become extant - defining that as the point of conception is simple, and avoids all of the impossible to answer questions like “at what stage can the foetus survive”? “ at what point can suffering begin?” 

 

your minimising suffering position is a good one - but I don’t see that the position set out above is much weaker - they both rest on dodgy ground ( human life is important, minimising suffering is important).

Jon Stewart - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> It seems reasonable to give every human similar rights to life. 

At face value, yes.

> The difficulty when those rights become extant - defining that as the point of conception is simple, and avoids all of the impossible to answer questions like “at what stage can the foetus survive”? “ at what point can suffering begin?” 

So, defining the point at which human rights are granted as conception is right because it requires the least effort?

> your minimising suffering position is a good one - but I don’t see that the position set out above is much weaker - they both rest on dodgy ground ( human life is important, minimising suffering is important).

I don't see the justification for preserving human life as a fundamental requirement. It doesn't chime with my moral intuitions, on suicide, on abortion, on euthanasia. So it totally fails these tests of a moral position. (Toby, I don't consider "moral intuition" and emotion to be the same thing, but it is quite a subtle difference).

On the other hand, the minimising suffering position rests on a simple assertion that the only thing that matters, that can matter, that has any way of mattering, is the experience of conscious beings. 

As such, one position looks like tripe to me, and the other doesn't.

Post edited at 00:13
Dr.S at work - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Both positions look like tripe to me!

I don’t especially mean that picking conception as the point at which to award ‘rights’ is sensible because it’s the least effort - but that other points in development are pretty arbitrary and conception encompasses all the others, and so I can see it as the most defensible.

 

Jon Stewart - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> Both positions look like tripe to me!

> I don’t especially mean that picking conception as the point at which to award ‘rights’ is sensible because it’s the least effort - but that other points in development are pretty arbitrary and conception encompasses all the others, and so I can see it as the most defensible.

To defend the pro-life position, you have to be prepared to defend prioritising the life of the clump of cells over the suffering of actual, conscious people who can feel pain, form memories etc. What is the justification for their suffering (e.g. The rape victim forced to bear the child who desperately wants not to)? 

What is it that you find difficult to accept about the idea that the best course of action is that which minimises suffering? What about this "looks like tripe"? 

Dr.S at work - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

The concept that human suffering is ultimately important.

My actual view is close to yours, but when I think about these things in any detail it’s hard to find a solid basis for ‘suffering’ having any real significance, any more than ‘life’ has. 

Jon Stewart - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

I'm sure your suffering matters to you. If it doesn't, then you won't mind if you get tortured to death. Every other conscious being cares similarly about their own, plus we have empathy and love and stuff, so we care about each other.

If you're looking for any meaning beyond that, you're going to have to give up a commitment to reason and turn to mysticism. But I don't see what's wrong with that 'significance', it's enough for me.

In contrast, I don't see the justification for saying that life must be preserved just because it should, even if that causes avoidable suffering. It makes no sense. 

Dr.S at work - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

What I’m asserting is what you state in your second sentence - that there is no ultimate rule, and so any moral judgments we make are arbitrary.

You feel suffering is a useful tool to make moral judgments (as do I) others might use life - I agree that the suffering position is better, but I can’t prove it, and so I could not totally dismiss a life based argument.

 

thomasadixon - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> So, defining the point at which human rights are granted as conception is right because it requires the least effort?

Because it entails the least risk.  We don't know when we become conscious and so worth protecting, so it's sensible to make it earlier rather than later to avoid the chance that you're killing the conscious.  Society does the protecting in the form of making rules because to allow individuals to decide when to take life would create chaos.  It might well be morally justifiable for the victim to kill a rapist, or a paedophile, we don't allow that in law though, we let the state make the decisions.

> I don't see the justification for preserving human life as a fundamental requirement. It doesn't chime with my moral intuitions, on suicide, on abortion, on euthanasia. So it totally fails these tests of a moral position. (Toby, I don't consider "moral intuition" and emotion to be the same thing, but it is quite a subtle difference).

Suicide and euthanasia are the same thing, and are personal choice by a person capable of making that choice.  Where we think people cannot control/protect themselves we prevent them from committing suicide - would you stop that too?  Euthanasia is restricted at the moment because of risk - the risk that people will be forced to do something that they don't want to do.  The same arguments that work there apply to abortion.

For a lot of your arguments above (the mother having personal control, etc) what you're doing is making a principle that solely applies to the situation of pregnant women.  They aren't real principles if they apply only to one situation.

marsbar - on 30 May 2018
In reply to thomasadixon:

I was able to make the decision to have my elderly suffering dog euthanised.  Much as it upset me at the time, it was the right decision, and I stand by it. I’ve never met anyone who is so “pro life” that they think I should have let him suffer.  However if I am suffering and elderly I have to suffer on until nature takes its course.  It’s time to revisit a number of issues in my opinion.  

thomasadixon - on 30 May 2018
In reply to marsbar:

I don't disagree, not sure what it's got to do with abortion though.  Animals aren't people though, it's perfectly reasonable for you to make that decision for your dog, but not for your mum.

Dr.S at work - on 30 May 2018
In reply to thomasadixon:

people are animals.

 

I think euthanasia and abortion are similar in that they are both situations when we kill something  for the benefit of either the subject or others involved with said subject (sorry cant think of a better word than subject). They are difficult because there are so many 'hard cases'.

thomasadixon - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

Yes, of course, but other animals are not people.  Dogs don't have the right to leave their owners if they choose, or make other decisions, they are property of the owner.

You have a rather different understanding of euthanasia to me - my understanding is that you ask for someone to assist you in suicide where you are not capable, not that the state will decide when to put people to sleep.  For that to be the case that person has to have chosen to ask to be assisted, that cannot possibly apply to minors.

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Dr.S at work - on 30 May 2018
In reply to thomasadixon:

Euthanasia can be elective, as in assisted dying, but it also can also include people or animals killed to prevent them suffering without the subjects consent.

 

marsbar - on 30 May 2018
In reply to thomasadixon:

Honestly, I’d want to if I could, why would I want my parents to suffer?  I saw my Grandmother in hospital as she was dying, I don’t wish to go into unpleasant details, suffice to say with age her body had ceased to function in many respects.  It would have been kinder not to leave her dying a slow and undignified death once it was clear that there was no question of recovery.  I find it astonishing that I can treat my dog better than my parents due to the peculiarly of human perception.  

It is relevant in the abortion debate when people are insisting that all life is somehow sacred.  As an atheist I believe that minimising suffering is more important than a blanket decision based on religious ideas.  

Jon Stewart - on 30 May 2018
In reply to Dr.S at work:

> What I’m asserting is what you state in your second sentence - that there is no ultimate rule, and so any moral judgments we make are arbitrary.

I don't see that there being no ultimate rule makes moral judgements arbitrary. Quite the opposite, I think that using suffering as the criterion for moral judgements, and justifying this criterion as I have above (that each person's suffering matters to them, and we care about each others', and that there is nothing else in the universe that cares about our moral judgements), makes such moral judgements the *precise opposite* of arbitrary: they are well justified!

> You feel suffering is a useful tool to make moral judgments (as do I) others might use life - I agree that the suffering position is better, but I can’t prove it, and so I could not totally dismiss a life based argument.

I'm not asking for proof. I've outlined an argument for why suffering is a good criterion for moral judgements. It matters, it's wide-ranging to many if not all problems, and it works (it chimes with my moral intuitions). No one has provided a decent argument for why preserving life above all else is a good criterion: it fails the tests of a moral theory. Without a decent argument to support it, I am perfectly happy to dismiss it. I don't understand why you won't. Although my guess is just that it feels impolite.

 

Jon Stewart - on 30 May 2018
In reply to thomasadixon:

> Because it entails the least risk. 

It entails the least risk of killing something you don't think is conscious but actually is. At the cost of loads of suffering for real people who are not only conscious, but can form memories, can be ostracised by families, can be traumatised and have their lives ruined, which they then have to live out.

So it diminishes a risk which I don't think it important (I don't think it's necessarily wrong to kill a just-about conscious fetus to reduce the suffering of adults or children) at an enormous cost. It's therefore a terrible basis for policy.

> Euthanasia is restricted at the moment because of risk - the risk that people will be forced to do something that they don't want to do.  The same arguments that work there apply to abortion.

I'm in favour of liberal but not free-for-all abortion; and I'm in favour of liberalised, very carefully considered in terms of risks and suffering, euthanasia.

> For a lot of your arguments above (the mother having personal control, etc) what you're doing is making a principle that solely applies to the situation of pregnant women.  They aren't real principles if they apply only to one situation.

I don't understand why you think that. All the arguments are in terms of completely universal principles of choosing the option that results in the least suffering. 


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