The mumbo-jumbo of choice

coathanger We can accept that the embryo is a living thing in the fact that it has a beating heart, that it has its own genetic system within it, it’s clearly human in the sense that it’s not a gerbil and we can recognise that it is human life… but the point is not when does life begin but when does it begin to matter.
[ Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, major abortion service provider ]
JohnSmall
I was asked, yesterday,
“Are you saying that both the pro-life and pro-abortion lobby engage in ‘mumbo-jumbo’? “
Yes.  That was exactly what I had been saying.  Both lobbies are guilty.
Beyond a doubt, some members of the pro-life lobby do engage in what others will inevitably see as quite outrageous mumbo-jumbo, and rightly so.  The pro-choice lobby do not recognise their own mumbo-jumbo, which is more carefully concealed.  Even those who actively believe in the pro-choice mumbo-jumbo, seem blind to the fact that what they believe in, is actually just a different kind of mumbo-jumbo.
A tale of two demos
I have recently watched on video two sets of demonstrators in London, confronting one another. On one side of a barricade guarded by police, there was an angry, howling, jeering, guilty-looking mob, who didn’t seem to show any understanding as to why they were in the wrong.  On the other side of the barricade, there was a quiet, seemingly dignified, but ultimately misguided and embarrassing, procession of self-righteous-looking religious zealots, who didn’t seem to understand why they were in the right. 

rosaryThe processing pro-lifers were slowly advancing in an ultra-slow march, taking baby-sized steps forward every few seconds, fiddling with their worry beads, and muttering mechanically and in unison their apparent attempts to communicate with a dead woman, albeit, by all accounts, the one woman in all history, most blessed amongst womanhood, who most assuredly died “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection”, if anybody ever can.
Some of them were holding sentimental pictures, which they probably fantasised might have looked a bit like this heroine of theirs might have looked herself, during her lifetime.  They apparently imagined that she could hear them all speaking to her at once, in her grave, and countless millions of others, all speaking to her at once in their different languages.  Perhaps they hoped that she might be willing to send her ghost to haunt the rabble, and scare them into to changing their minds about abortion?  Or maybe they were talking to her, fantasising that she had somehow turned into some kind of goddess, who could listen to them all, and do all sorts of unexpected things beyond their wildest dreams, to save the boys and girls whom the abortion industry had been killing for nigh-on half a century?
I felt alienation from both of the two groups, and equal horror of both, and equal pity for both.

The “pro-life” were wearing their mumbo-jumbo, like a uniform of which they were proud.  The other group seemed diverse.  But all of the other group had, so-to-speak, the same pro-choice mumbo-jumbo underwear on, under their rainbow-diverse, people-together, outer clothing.  How do I know this?  Because I have debated before with pro-choice people, and I know where the argument always comes to a grinding halt eventually – whenever one confronts the pro-choicers’ own subtly hidden religiosity with hard science.
What is this alleged “mumbo-jumbo of choice”?
Every single pro-choicer relies upon a deceptive, unevidenced, dualistic doctrine, in order to “refute” (in their dreams!) the rational, scientific, legal, philosophical, secular and utterly indefeasible argument against decriminalising elective abortion (other than in extremis).  That argument can begin (for example) with the Article 2 human right to life of the human victim of every abortion, or (for the sake of the intellectuals) it can begin with wearing the “veil of ignorance” in the “original position”.

In every single case, the pro-choice lobby members deny the unborn, or at least some of the unborn, the right to life, because of a superstitious belief that every one of them holds, in one form or another.  A superstitious belief in a wholly unscientific piece of mumbo-jumbo that, fifty years ago, one might have imagined had died out in the middle ages, apart from vestiges still lurking in the world religions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, to name but a few, but not contemporary Christianity.
What is this superstition that pro-choice people believe in?  Why, it is none other than the biological fiction that man is a ghost who lives inside a machine.  He begins life as a machine without a ghost in it, they believe, and, at some subsequent point in time, as if by magic, suddenly acquires a ghost, by some undefined process or other, that could (I suppose) be described as “supernatural”.

ensoulmentThis fiction is called “ensoulment“, the hypothesised process or event by which the “soul” “enters” the “body” of a human.  Of course, there isn’t a shred of scientific evidence to support the existence of the ensoulment phenomenon, and nor will there ever be.  The very “hypothesis” that ensoulment occurs, does not pass muster, as a testable scientific hypothesis.  And yet, it is upon exactly this unscientific hypothesis, that the entire abortion industry depends, along with a modicum of selfishness, and the ruthless exploitation of the vulnerable, for our continued toleration of the merciless slaughter that the abortion industry inflicts upon countless millions of innocent humans every year, humans whom America’s rebels against king George once held to be our equals, self-evidently.

How is this deception perpetrated?

The deception that blinds many to the reality, lies in the modernisation of the original mediaeval language of this ancient mumbo-jumbo.  For example, the word “soul” is replaced by the word “personhood”, so that classical ensoulment should be renamed “enpersonment”, I suppose, for modern ears.
But, no matter how they might try to dress it up as something different, like the wolf dressed as Little Red Riding Hood’s granny, the pro-choice superstition remains the same antiquated, and in the present century anachronistic, mumbo-jumbo that it always was, for all this disguising of it as something more sophisticated and modern than what it really is.
Any scientifically-trained biologist will laugh the entire concept of ensoulment out of court, as being every bit as unreal as the Philosopher’s Stone, the Luminiferous Aether, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Russell’s Teapot.  It is one of those quasi-propositions that has no operational meaning in science, since it is simply impossible to devise a scientific experiment to measure when this supposed “ensoulment” event occurs.  That is why each pro-choicer feels he or she is at liberty simply to invent his or her own idiosyncratic beliefs, as to when ensoulment occurs, conferring upon the unborn human, for the first time in his or her existence, the human right to life that his or her elective abortion would infringe.  Whatever guess he or she makes as to when this mythical ensoulment event occurs, is as incapable of being proven, or disproven, scientifically, as anybody else’s guess.

Or you may, instead, come across a linguistic sophistry that is worthy of any General of the Society of Jesus himself, even Ignatius Loyola, the first such General.  You may hear it said, often smugly, as though the non sequitur asserted is all that is needed to put you in your place, that a being who is human might nevertheless somehow not be a “human being” yet.  This oft-encountered approach to disguising illogicality as sophistication is somewhat reminiscent of the Star Trek cliché  “This is life Jim, but not as we know it.”
But however the leap of faith in the pro-choice argument is disguised, it always boils down to the same old nonsense, and it is just as much mumbo-jumbo as fiddling with prayer beads or talking to the dead.  However, it is nowadays responsible for the deliberately-inflicted deaths of even more innocent civilians, at least in Europe and the Americas, than the more easily recognised mumbo-jumbo that some pro-life people still seem to be hell-bent on wasting their time on, poor fools.. 
So how can pro-life win?
Some pro-lifers like a bit of mumbo-jumbo themselves, but the pro-life argument itself is better off without any of it.   If only a strict “no mumbo-jumbo allowed” rule could be imposed and enforced, pro-lifers would win their arguments against pro-choicers hands down, every single time.  Except: you can seldom actual “win” an argument against a pro-choicer.  As soon as one gets close to exposing the flaw in the pro-choice argument, by drawing attention to the mediaeval mumbo-jumbo behind it, the dialogue tends to stop abruptly.  Or else diversionary tactics are used.  Or so I have found, in my considerable experience.
I am indebted to Andy Stephenson, of Abort 67,  for sourcing the quotation of Ann Furedi at the beginning of this posting, and for implanting in my mind the “thought bomb”, that exploded into this posting, when he wrote as follows, in Brighton newspaper The Argus, on 23rd February 2013,
Abort67 is supported by people of faith and no faith. …
Our case that the pre-born are human and alive from conception … is made using scientific evidence.
Our argument can be used by religious and non-religious persons.
Is the only way for pro-aborts to defend their position to accuse us of being “just religious” … ?
It is ironic that they accuse us of being religious when we rely fundamentally on a scientific case,
but those who support abortion end up relying solely on metaphysics.

Abort67

It’s only a cluster of cells, isn’t it?

Well isn’t it???

(Click on the picture, to see the truth, if you dare.)

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42 Comments

Filed under Children's Rights, Human Rights, Law, Political, Pro-life, Satire and humour

42 responses to “The mumbo-jumbo of choice

  1. kevin

    hi john hope you are well
    i think there is a strong link between governmental think tanks , and the thought conditioning[television media] of acceptance of casual termination of an unborn baby.along with the promoteing of gayness in schools, this must have a distinct effect on future populations,i belive this ties into a depopulation agenda
    THEY CAN KEEP THEIR BRAVE NEW WORLD.
    KEV T.I. GATESHEAD UK

    • Good to hear from you, Kevin. If there is another topic you’d like to discuss, apart from gayness, which is mentioned on this blog already, please click on the “Have Your Say” tab at the top of the page, and post any suggestions there. Or email me, any time.

      I hope all is calm on the northern front, though I won’t be surprised if you tell me it isn’t.

      “THEY CAN KEEP THEIR BRAVE NEW WORLD” [Kev]

      “Modern life is rubbish.” [Blur]

  2. Paul

    What a load of bull, “Every single pro-choicer”? You’ve spoken to them all? How about the idea that some of them just believe in choice? That some of them have thought long and hard about a balance between the rights of the woman and the rights of the unborn, that they have considered based on scientific evidence the potential suffering of the unborn rather than just plucked a date from a hat for the ensoulment as you put it? Why do both sides of the pro or anti debate have to come down to religion/superstition for you? Are people in your narrow mind not capable of making a decision based on scientific evidence or having moral values which aren’t dictated by some bizarre faith?

    • Every single pro-choicer I have come across so far, has resorted to the type of argument I characterised, once they have understood, and tried to respond to, the non-religious argument against abortion. I guarantee that you will do exactly the same, if you don’t wimp out first. (I’ll point it out to you when you do that.)

      Here is the argument you have to answer. In any balancing of a mere right to make personal choices, with the right to life itself, the right to life trumps any right to choose. Or, to put it another way, killing another person, isn’t a legitimate choice to make.

      “How about the idea that some of them just believe in choice?”, you ask.

      Do you “just believe in choice” yourself? I doubt it. If somebody killed your loved one, and his defence lawyer said that this wasn’t a crime, because the killer made a choice to kill your loved one, would you “just believe in choice” then? Of course not. How is the action of an abortionist any different from this hypothetical killer of your loved one, morally?

      Forget about what the law says, for a moment, in the Abortion Act. Think deeper than that. Not, how is the abortionist’s act legally different. How is it morally different? Think about what the law should be, and why. About how you would vote, if you were an MP, with the chance to decide what the law would be, and how you would justify your decision.

      As I have said, pro-life doesn’t need religion or superstition to make its winning argument. All pro-life needs is the relevant science – biology (as exemplified in Ann Furedi’s quote at the beginning of my posting), the idea, surely uncontroversial nowadays, that the right to life is recognised as a “human right” that all humans have merely because they are human, and the idea of the equality of all humans, that there is a sense in which nobody is more important than anybody else. Science, human rights and equality, the three foundations of the pro-life argument, are the touchstones of our civilisation. They are secular values, not religious values.

      The foetus killed by abortion is the equal of his or her mother, and of any one of the team of health professionals (or, in this case, death professionals), who choose to perform the abortion that the mother chooses to request. Choice is no defence to this homicide, any more than to any other.

      The only side that needs religion or superstition, is the “pro-choice” side. Without resorting to religion or superstition, pro-choicers have no answer – and you have no answer yourself – to this pro-life argument based on science, the human right to life, and the equality of all humans.

      My decision to be pro-life is based on the scientific evidence. Your counter-argument, when you manage to think of one, won’t be based on scientific evidence. It won’t mention any scientific evidence at all, or it will purport to draw conclusions that are not logically derivable from the scientific evidence, consistently with upholding human rights and equality, or, like every other pro-choicer’s argument, it will rely on the same old non-scientific mumbo-jumbo that every other pro-choicer I’ve encountered has had to resort to. Prove me wrong, if you can. (You won’t be able to.)

      Or wimp out. That’s fine, if you recognise that you’re beaten.

  3. Edd

    Why do you regard personhood as mumbo-jumbo?

    A zygote is not a person in any relevant sense of the word, unless you wish to make a mockery of the concept. We may disagree about what precisely constitutes personhood, but surely not about the fact that a zygote is not itself a person? When precisely it becomes a person may perhaps be impossible to answer in a way that is not in some sense arbitrary, but there need be nothing metaphysical about the transition – in the same way that there’s nothing profound about how many hairs a man has to have lost before you can call him bald.

    Relatedly, your appeal to human rights is I think confused. See Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

    First of all they are born free, not conceived free (according to the Declaration, but then you’ve referenced the ECHR as one of the grounds of your case against abortion, which is explicitly based on the Declaration anyway). Second of all, a foetus is not endowed with reason or conscience or the ability to act, let alone to act towards another human being.

    After the first article, all others use the words ‘everyone’, ‘no one’ and ‘person(s)’. ‘Everyone’, by common acceptation, means ‘every person’.

    So, human rights are not granted to human beings by virtue of being human. Rather, they are granted to human beings by virtue of being persons. (To this extent they are somewhat of a misnomer.) If they are granted to persons then they cannot be granted to foetuses unless foetuses are persons too.

    Your position then faces the following dichotomy:

    Either argue that (all?) foetuses are persons too, in which case you must also tell us why a gamete is not a person but a zygote is – without resorting to metaphysical claptrap, remember.

    Or you may argue that human rights should be granted to all humans by virtue of being human. – But why? You must then explain why being human is of itself a morally relevant quality.

    • And where is the science on which you base your personal belief that human beings only become “persons” at some subsequent point in time, some considerable time after they begin to exist as distinct, individual human beings in their own right? If there isn’t any science to back it up, then in what way isn’t your personal belief that there is “something else” (so-to-speak) just “mumbo-jumbo”? To me, and even objectively, your doctrine looks just like old-fashioned “ensoulment” by another name. Yes, it is metaphysics. That’s all it is. You’ll have to do better than that, I’m afraid.

      The linguistic distinction you would like to make between the archaic language in the UN declaration, “born equal”, and just the word “equal” on its own (implying conceived equal), is not properly construed in modern times as an intention on the part of those who drafted the UN declaration to assert that humans only attain equality with other humans at birth. “Born equal” no more negates “conceived equal”, than the archaic language of the US declaration, that “all men are created equal”, is properly to be construed as embodying an assertion that boys only become equal to men, in the intended sense of the word “equal”, upon reaching the age of majority, or an assertion that women are not equal to men, or, for that matter, as a religious statement that humanity is “created” by a creator god, as opposed, for example, to humanity having evolved, as many nowadays believe.

      A gamete is not a human being, however, as you very well know.

      You confuse the subjective and the objective. If any of my five surviving children died, now that I have got to know them all personally and “bonded” with them, I would be more upset than I was when (say) the baby my partner was carrying died a natural death in her womb, very early in her last pregnancy. That is because, subjectively, they have become more important than the one who died became before he or she died, to me. I would grieve for them more than I did for him or her, because they are people I have known for years and loved in a practical way, and in whom I have more invested. But, speaking objectively, the child who died in the womb, was just as important as the children who are still alive today. Science deals in objective truth. The opinions that you are expressing, are based upon extrapolating your subjective values to make them into a general rule that can be imposed on others, not least the unborn members of the next generation, whom your dangerous opinions place in mortal jeopardy.

      I stick by what I said. It is possible to base a pro-life argument on science, without resorting to mumbo-jumbo. It is impossible to construct a pro-choice argument, without resorting to mumbo-jumbo, that is merely an extrapolation of subjective feelings that pro-choice people have, or lack.

      • Edd

        My beliefs aren’t important here yet – we can discuss them afterwards if you’d like. I’m challenging your position.

        You must either agree that a zygote is not a person, or you must explain why being human is a morally relevant quality. Otherwise your argument is nonsense.

        • @ Edd

          “My beliefs aren’t important here yet – we can discuss them afterwards if you’d like. I’m challenging your position.”

          I thought you were stating beliefs of yours, when you wrote,

          “A zygote is not a person in any relevant sense of the word, unless you wish to make a mockery of the concept. We may disagree about what precisely constitutes personhood, but surely not about the fact that a zygote is not itself a person? When precisely it becomes a person may perhaps be impossible to answer in a way that is not in some sense arbitrary, but there need be nothing metaphysical about the transition …”

          Let’s take a step backwards, then, to the opening sentence of your previous message, when you wrote,

          “Why do you regard personhood as mumbo-jumbo?”

          Because you don’t explain what the term means, as distinct from a human. As you use the term personhood, whatever you mean by the term, which you don’t specify, it doesn’t mean a human. There’s no science in there. Nothing observable, or measurable, about the entire hand-waving appeal to blind faith.

          There is no event that a biologist can view through a microscope, filming it at the same time, and then play back the recording to a fellow biologist, who will exclaim in joy, “That’s it, Edd! I think you’ve actually captured the moment when a human organism became a person! You’ll get a Nobel prize for this!” There is no test or experiment that science can devise, which can measure in which of two possible states an organism is at any given time, personhood, or pre-personhood.

          That is my “position”. You have come nowhere close to “challenging” it.

          That pro-choicers cannot refute, using arguments based upon the scientific method, the human right to life, and the equality of all humans, or any other axiomatic, core, consensus values of modern society, and without resorting to mumbo-jumbo, the pro-choice argument that is based upon the scientific method, the human right to life, and the equality of all humans, and nothing else besides.

          Moslems (for example) can attempt to justify abortion, up to a certain age, by pointing to verses of the Koran that teach their doctrine as to when ensoulment occurs during foetal development. Modern, secular, scientifically-minded people cannot justify abortion without resorting to exactly the sorts of arguments that, ordinarily, only religious people (such as Moslems, in the example) resort to, and which modern, secular, scientifically-minded people typically reject and ridicule. Pro-choicers resort to religious-like arguments, just as you have done.

          Postulating that an unmistakeably metaphysical process or event occurs in nature, the acquisition of an undefined “personhood”, and then adding hopefully that “there’s nothing metaphysical about” that postulate, just doesn’t wash.

          Of course, you could define “personhood”, as the entitlement not to be aborted deliberately. But that would leave you with a circular argument, which is no argument at all.

          • Edd

            As I see it there are three topics in play here:

            (1) Your criticism of pro-choice arguments;
            (2) Your pro-life argument;
            (3) My beliefs or arguments.

            As regards (3) I concede that I was making some positive statements in an earlier reply. If you’ll permit me to recede a little, I think it best to try and stick to just one of the above (even if they will inevitably bleed into each other – especially (1) and (3)).

            I am most interested in (2) as set out by you in your reply to Paul above and parts of your comments to me. If you are willing I propose to start with that.

            Is this acceptable?

              • Edd

                Good stuff.

                As I understand it, and correct me if I’m wrong, your argument is something like:

                (i) All human beings have a right to life.
                (ii) A zygote is a human being.
                (iii) Therefore a zygote has a right to life.
                ((iv) Therefore abortion is wrong.)

                The problem is that if the terms ‘human being’ and ‘person’ are non-synonymous then (i) has not been established.

                Why is the mere membership of a particular species a morally significant consideration?

                • “Why is the mere membership of a particular species a morally significant consideration?”

                  Membership of the human species, is what confers upon a human, his or her human rights, such as the right to life, which is pretty much the only human right that you or I were able to exercise, when we were still only zygotes ourselves.

                  “The problem is that if the terms ‘human being’ and ‘person’ are non-synonymous then (i) has not been established.”

                  I think some explanation of what the dickens you mean by that sentence is definitely needed on your part. Until we get that from you, the sentence just sounds like the mumbo-jumbo to which I predicted you would resort. You are the one introducing this extra term “person”, potentially meaning something different from “individual human” (or so you suggest), but without saying what the term “person” you have introduced actually means.

  4. Edd

    I could have left out that one mention of ‘person’. It’s not relevant to what I asked. The point is still that the statement “All human beings have a right to life” is not established.

    But why do all human beings have a right to life? Why is the mere membership of a species a morally significant consideration?

    Your response that “Membership of the human species, is what confers upon a human, his or her human rights” doesn’t answer the question at all. It merely restates what is being queried.

    To put it another way: why does being human mean that I have the right to life?

    • “Why does being human mean that I have the right to life?”

      Because the right to life is a human right.

      • Edd

        Why is the right to life a human right?

        • “Why is the right to life a human right?”

          The right to life to which I have always intended that readers (such as yourself) should understand me to be referring, whenever I have mentioned the “right to life”, carelessly forgetting to stick the word “human” in front every time, is the well-known human right to life, mentioned (for example) in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Do you perhaps have in mind some other right to life, in humanity’s anthropocentric jurisprudence, of which I have yet to learn, perhaps extending to other species, to which perhaps more comprehensive right to life you mistakenly supposed that I was referring on the occasions of these lapses of mine in precision?

          • Edd

            I don’t suppose anything, which is why I ask the questions above, questions you have so judiciously avoided answering. It matters not what the Convention or Declaration says (though I admit I have previously referred to them, albeit for other purposes) or what the common understanding is.

            What is your understanding John? Apart from the de facto of the Convention, why should humans have a right to life?

            • My “understanding” is that we humans shouldn’t kill each other. If I was a judge, with somebody in front of me whom the jury had found guilty of murder, on whom I was obliged to pass sentence, I just wouldn’t know how to answer his question, if he asked, “But why shouldn’t I have killed him, if that was what I chose to do?” Apart from asserting feebly that killing other humans was obviously wrong. The court staff could drag him down to the cells, with his life sentence, for all I cared, kicking and screaming and protesting that I hadn’t explained properly why killing other humans was something he had to be locked up for doing himself, maybe for the rest of his life, if he wasn’t granted parole, without my feeling guilty.

              Because so many people – the vast majority of people – agree with this simplistic assumption of mine, that killing our fellow humans is wrong, it is a value judgment that can be said to be “conventional” so-to-speak. The “human right to life” cliché, is just one way of putting this conventional thought, in a great big thing called a “Convention”, that, in the UK, is honoured in The Human Rights Act.

              If you like, we can explore the “veil of ignorance” argument, that I said was for the intellectuals. I’ve never done it before, and I don’t suppose you have either, but we can both have a bash at it.

              But first, do you actually think we all ought to be allowed to kill each other willy nilly? And if not, generally, then what is your special reason for wanting to make an exception, when the human that is being killed is still only little?

              • Edd

                It is of course absurd for a judge to have to answer your convict’s question. The judge (at least the trial judge – appeal court justices are a different matter) is not there to ponder philosophical questions, he is there to administer the law as is.

                But we are not in a court. We are engaged precisely in a discussion about morals, and that requires that we ask questions of ourselves that perhaps ordinarily we would not. You have acknowledged as much in your response to Paul above:

                “Forget about what the law says, for a moment, in the Abortion Act. Think deeper than that. Not, how is the abortionist’s act legally different. How is it morally different? Think about what the law should be, and why.”

                Exactly, I say. The law – here, in this discussion – is beside the point, as is the fact that the vast majority of people might think this or that about the issue. That something is or isn’t ‘conventional’ is no guarantee of its rightness or wrongness, and to appeal to such convention simply doesn’t cut the mustard when I’m asking you to think deeper than that and justify your stance on the right to life in relation to humans.

                (Incidentally, if it’s permissible to appeal to convention, then can I not say that because so many people agree that nobody chooses their sexuality, we can therefore, for our purposes, assume that nobody chooses to be gay (or straight, or whatever)? Is this double standards from your quarter?)

                Nevertheless, I can see that you’re not going to answer the question I have posed. This is a fundamental weakness in your pro-life argument, which will not stand if it is not remedied. If you cannot explain what is so special about human beings that warrants their being granted the right to life, then you cannot – beyond mere arbitrary declaration – satisfactorily claim that zygotes also have the right to life. Your position reduces to childish fiat:

                “Zygotes have the right to life.”
                “Why?”
                “Because they are human.”
                “Why do humans have the right to life?”
                “Because I said so.”

                I might just as easily claim that all pine trees have the right to life. Why? Because they are pine trees. (Moreover, all of my numerous tree-hugging chums say so too.)

                Of course the mere fact that as it stands your pro-life argument fails doesn’t mean that the pro-choice arguments win the day by default, and it is to these that I turn now in answer to the question you have asked:

                “do you actually think we all ought to be allowed to kill each other willy nilly? And if not, generally, then what is your special reason for wanting to make an exception, when the human that is being killed is still only little?”

                Obviously I don’t think we ought to be allowed to kill each other willy nilly. Where I differ from you is in the reason for that ought. Killing a person – there’s that word again – is wrong not simply because they are a member of the human species. The accident of being human is not a good enough reason; it is arbitrary.

                In fact, I suggest that most would actually agree with me about that. They will, I think, acknowledge that there must be some reason more than simply being human that makes it wrong for us to kill each other (even if that reason is as unsatisfactory and question-begging as “because human beings are special”, at least it acknowledges in insufficiency of what you have been saying hitherto). As highlighted in an earlier response, the framers of the Declaration recognised this explicitly, in the first Article:

                “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

                They didn’t mean that every single human being is endowed with reason and conscience, surely. Human zygotes are certainly human beings, but just as certainly they are not yet endowed with reason and conscience. (Do you deny it?) This endowment, at least as far as the Declaration is concerned, is that ‘something more than simply being human’.

                Now, as we know, there is no probative value in the mere fact that this or that Charter says such and such, or in how many people endorse it. But there is, I contend, something morally significant in what is there laid out, insofar as it goes further than the base assertion of species membership. Perhaps it is not yet complete or fully coherent, but it will do as a start.

                “endowed with reason and conscience”

                Something like this could be what gives human beings a right life. Zygotes are not endowed with reason or conscience. Therefore zygotes don’t have a right to life (or any other rights). That is, reason and conscience could be morally significant qualities that entitle bearers of them to special consideration above other beings.

                Would this be to resort to mumbo-jumbo, as you are so fond of charging? Certainly not. The fact that one cannot pin-point when precisely a thing attains the qualities of reason and conscience does entail that there is anything mystical about the process. All that is necessary is to be able to identify in clear cut cases those beings that assuredly don’t have these qualities and those that assuredly do, even if there is a substantial grey area between in which it is not possible definitively to identify one way or the other.

                Consider the following farcical example:

                – Only human beings that are bald have the right to life.

                Note that no matter how stupid this suggestion, we can still use it to assign a right to life, and, importantly, without any so-called mumbo-jumbo. The reason we can do so is because we can readily identify a human being as bald or not bald. Sure, there is a substantial grey area where it will be impossible to judge one way or the other (unless we take ‘bald’ to mean ‘completely hairless’), but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it in clear cut cases.

                Yet there is no science in there. Nothing observable, or measurable about it. There is no event that a scientist can view through a microscope, filming it at the same time, and then play back the recording to a fellow scientist, who will exclaim in joy, “That’s it, John! I think you’ve actually captured the moment when a human became bald!” There is no test or experiment that science can devise, which can measure in which of two possible states an organism is at any given time, bald, or pre-bald.

                Does that mean the concept of baldness is mumbo-jumbo? Does that mean there must of necessity be some definite point at which a person magically attains the revered status of ‘bald’? Obviously not!

                As it is with baldness, so it is with reason and conscience possession. A being may acquire a quality by increment and only be a fully worthy bearer of that quality after a substantial number of such increments. It is no detriment if we can’t define by what process that incremental accumulation occurs, nor does it necessarily and unmistakably have to be metaphysical thereby, so long as we can identify clear cut examples at either end. The problem is semantic, not scientific.

                Ok. So, a possible reason why beings have the right to life is because they are endowed with reason and conscience, and that is why it is not a violation of a zygote’s rights to kill it.

                Perhaps we will find that possession of reason and conscience aren’t morally significant after all. Perhaps it is the ability to feel pain, or to be conscious, or to have preferences, or something else. I don’t know which, if any, of these I would subscribe to yet. The point is that there is some quality that some beings have that is morally significant enough to explain why those beings who have it may be granted the right to life and those who don’t may not.

                I’m sure I won’t have convinced you of this, but I am equally sure that it is a better answer than “just because”.

                • “Obviously I don’t think we ought to be allowed to kill each other willy nilly.”

                  Why not? What is “obvious” about that, to a man who apparently isn’t willing to hold any “truths” to be “self-evident”, as the American rebels once put it, or for the reason for any of his moral values to be “just because” (a phrase I didn’t actually use). “Self-evident”, “just because” and “obviously” are just different ways of expressing the same basic idea, are’t they?

                  “Zygotes are not endowed with reason or conscience”

                  Is that it? Is that your latest apology for an argument? Who do you think human zygotes are, exactly?

                  In what special sense were any of us not already “endowed with reason and conscience”, even when we were that small? Are you, who used to be a zygote, “endowed with reason and conscience” now? Yes? So when do you suppose you became endowed with reason and conscience? How did you become endowed with reason and conscience?

                  How much of his or her endowment of reason and conscience do you think a baby is able to exercise, when he or she is only a fortnight old? Do want bigger humans to have the right to choose to kill them too?

                  If you had been in a coma, for 76 weeks, am I allowed to stab you through the heart, because, for this long, you have been unable to exercise your endowment of reason and conscience? What’s the moral difference between your vulnerable 76 weeks in a coma, before waking up one day (provided I don’t stab you first), and gradually recovering fully over the next few months your ability to exercise your endowment of reason and conscience, and the vulnerable 38 weeks or so of your life so far that you spent in your mother’s womb?

                  Ultimately ethics is neither science, with laws of nature proven by experiment, nor mathematics, with theorems proven by tautology. In ethics, absent divine revelation, which will be apt to have its gainsayers however spectacular the manner of the revelation, the best we can do, in ethics, is to show consistency or inconsistency in our various approaches to an entire set of thought experiments, or real-life dilemmas, with the same subject matter and issues at stake.

                  You admit that it is “obvious” that we shouldn’t be allowed to kill each other “willy nilly”. But, inconsistently, you make up your own arbitrary exceptions to this “obvious” general rule, on a case by case basis, as you go along, clutching at straws in your successive vain attempts to dream up some rule or other that you mistakenly suppose that you are applying consistently to every case. Lately, you have struggled to avoid resorting to the usual mumbo-jumbo that I blogged about, but even you tried to get away with that mumbo-jumbo at first.

                  Your latest proposed rule (about which I say that it remains a moot point whether it is mumbo-jumbo or not), is incapable of being applied consistently, unless (frankly) you are content to be smothered in your sleep, any night of the week. (Provided, that is, that it isn’t the shallow REM sleep during which people dream dreams in which they sometimes experience, to some extent, the reason and/or the conscience that they experience whilst wide awake.)

                  I am consistent. You are inconsistent, so far. I hope you can see that.

                  Have another try, why don’t you? “Endowed with reason and conscience” doesn’t work, because zygotes are indeed already “endowed”, just not yet able to exercise their endowment of reason and conscience. Nor are foetuses, so far as we know. Being presently able to exercise one’s by-now fully developed endowment with reason and conscience doesn’t work either, unless you want babies to be fair game a fortnight after birth, or to be smothered in your sleep yourself.

                  Keep trying, if the mother’s right to choose to kill certain other humans is so important to you that you simply must win this argument, and you can think of another tack to take. Maybe you’ll be the first pro-choicer to dream up an ethical rule that can be applied consistently, to produce the desired result (the woman’s right to choose), that isn’t laughably arbitrary and irrational (like bald-headedness), which doesn’t have unwanted side-effects (like your getting smothered in your sleep with impunity), and which doesn’t sound too much like mumbo-jumbo.

                  Of course, if you watched the video, at the end of the “Dare to see” link at the end of my blog post, you might stop wanting to try to come up with something – anything. You might instead change your mind, and join the much-maligned pro-life “loonies”. You wouldn’t be the first. Have you taken a peek yet? Dare you?

                  You seem, wisely, to be trying to distance yourself lately, from “the mumbo-jumbo of choice” mentioned in the title of this blog post. I won my “bet” though, so-to-speak, because you did try mumbo-jumbo at least once, and you’d probably slip into it again, if did you try to answer my earliest rhetorical questions here. If you don’t drop out, and instead become enlightened enough to join the pro-life side, please don’t embrace any of the unnecessary mumbo-jumbo by which certain pro-life people make the rational pro-life argument unattractive. It gives me the creeps too.

                  No pine trees were harmed during the making of this comment.

  5. Edd

    “Who do you think human zygotes are, exactly?”

    I don’t think human zygotes are anybody, in the same way that a human skin cell isn’t anybody. Zygotes are merely single cells formed by the union of two gametes. A human skin cell is not endowed with reason either, and there is nothing controversial about that.

    I repeat then: zygotes are not endowed with reason or conscience. A zygote is merely a cell. For a being to be endowed with reason and conscience it must have, at the very least, the thing which so endows it – a developed brain. (Sleeping and comatose people are, therefore, endowed with reason and conscience.) If something may be endowed with reason and conscience without having a brain, why not extend these faculties to trees, or amoeba?

    “when do you suppose you became endowed with reason and conscience? How did you become endowed with reason and conscience?”

    I have already explained in my previous response why I don’t think I need to answer these questions. To reiterate: it doesn’t matter when or how one comes to be endowed with reason and conscience so long as we can recognise clear cut examples of beings that exhibit these qualities and beings that do not – because in that case, no matter how the process happens or when it is sufficiently progressed, at least we know that it does indeed happen. In terms of abortion, so long as we set an age safely before the being in question might exhibit reason and conscience (i.e. before the brain is sufficiently developed) as the latest date for any proposed termination, then the questions when or how precisely one comes to have them don’t arise.

    “How much of his or her endowment of reason and conscience do you think a baby is able to exercise, when he or she is only a fortnight old?”

    This is a good question. Nobody knows, though I understand there is some tentative evidence that pre-verbal babies are able to reason. That is why we might set the latest date for abortion safely before the foetus’ brain has developed and therefore safely before it might be able to reason or have a conscience.

    ———

    “Dare you [watch the video linked at the end of the original blog post]?”
    I did watch the video, yes, even before my first comment on this blogpost. It is an appeal to emotion, and proves nothing. Shocking it might be, but logically speaking it neither helps nor hinders the pro-life argument.

    • “zygotes are not endowed with reason or conscience”

      Presumably, this a hark-back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1, which reads, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

      So what? The declaration itself contains a fair amount of undefined, poetic language that is arguably just Something Understood-style mumbo-jumbo. The declaration is not designed for exegesis, as though it were the infallible scripture of a fundamentalist world religion, by which the United Nations hoped one day to unite men in all nations, under a single, humanist, worldwide hegemony, a new world order that no theocratic imperialism has ever been able to impose. (Or, not necessarily so.) Please let us not become bogged down in semantic arguments about the true, intended, or figurative or literal meanings of words like “free”, “equal”, “dignity”, “endowed”, “reason”, “conscience”, “spirit” or “brotherhood”

      “A zygote is merely a cell.”

      There is nothing “mere” about a human zygote! A human zygote is unique amongst human cells. No other human cell is itself an individual human. No other human cell behaves as a zygote behaves. For first 12 hours or so of his or her individual life, every human walking the earth has himself literally been a zygote.

      “For a being to be endowed with reason and conscience …”

      (the relevance of which has yet to be shown)

      “it must have, at the very least, the thing which so endows it – a developed brain.”

      I don’t think we ought to argue about Who, who or what “endowed” us with reason and conscience, or we’ll still be going round and round in circles in a year’s time. If the inspirer of your favourite “infallible” sacred text had intended us to know the answer to that deep question, surely he, she or it would have inspired the founding fatheads to have written (for example) “The Flying Spaghetti Monster has endowed them”, or “Their genetic material has endowed them”, or “their developed brains have endowed them”. Instead, your “scripture” merely tells us that, “They are endowed”. That is apparently all the doctrine that we are expected, according to the Preamble to the declaration, to be “keeping … constantly in mind”. The questions which Article 1 raises, without really answering any unanswered questions one had in the first place, are indeed plentiful, and must remain mysteries of the “faith” that you are not ashamed to profess, but which I do not wish to profess.

      Though all of us were zygotes in our day, we were only zygotes for about half a day before turning into morulae. Abortion does not kill zygotes. Pretty well nothing kills zygotes, in vivo. (In vitro, it’s another story.) Can we please talk about unborn children in general instead? I wrote about the “mumbo-jumbo of choice”. When referring to “choice”, I meant the mother’s supposed right to choose to have an abortion. I wasn’t referring to any hypothetical choice that somebody who was unrelated to the imperilled zygote, and who was wearing a white coat, might have to make, in a laboratory, about the fate of an in vitro zygote. I wasn’t thinking about zygotes at all, though you seem mighty interested in them yourself.

      “I did watch the video, yes, even before my first comment on this blogpost. It is an appeal to emotion, and proves nothing. Shocking it might be, but logically speaking it neither helps nor hinders the pro-life argument.”

      In what way did the video appeal to your emotions? It appealed to my emotions, because I already believed that abortion is wrong, other than in extremis, rather than an act that we have the right to choose to perform, like any other. The video is reported to have aroused emotion in some who had believed in the mental picture conjured up by the euphemism “just a cluster of cells”, to describe the victim of abortion. Seeing the reality shocked them, they said. But in what way could the video possibly have appealed to your emotions?

  6. Edd

    [I, John Allman, have edited in some comments into this comment of Edd’s, in reply to the preceding text of Edd’s comment in each case. My edited-in comments look like this. For clarity, I have converted Edd’s own words into bold text.]

    “Presumably, this a hark-back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

    Yes, that’s precisely what it is, as I explained when first I invoked it. I chose to talk about “reason and conscience” only because you had referenced the ECHR (which explicitly takes its leave from the Declaration) as a premise for your argument against abortion. It seemed a convenient place to start.

    [I have already responded to this reliance of Edd’s upon an “exegesis” of the UN declaration, building an entire case upon a handful of words, “endowed”, “reason” and “conscience”, as though the declaration had the authority of “scripture”. I have characterised this approach as “mumbo-jumbo”.]

    “A human zygote is unique amongst human cells. No other human cell is itself an individual human. No other human cell behaves as a zygote behaves. For first 12 hours or so of his or her individual life, every human walking the earth has himself literally been a zygote.”

    What is morally relevant about all of this?

    [I was simply responding to the description you gave of the human zygote as “a mere cell”, rather than asserting any moral relevance peculiar to the zygote, not shared by any other pre-born human.]

    “I don’t think we ought to argue about Who, who or what “endowed” us with reason and conscience”

    Ok, so lets not argue about it. A human adult has the capacity for reason and conscience because, amongst other things, it has a brain. A zygote doesn’t have the capacity for reason and conscience because it doesn’t have a brain.

    [Yes, I understand that, or at least that the zygote doesn’t manifest either reason or conscience. But from little acorns, mighty oaks grow, as the saying goes. You agreed not to argue about Who, who or what “endowed” us with reason and conscience, but you still seem determined to argue that, within the meaning of the word “endowed” as intended to be understood by the human writers of the UN declaration, or whatever supernatural entity you suppose inspired their poetry, lending it the special authority you claim for that particular sacred text, it is the *brain* that so endows the “human adult” with his or her reason and conscience.]

    “you seem mighty interested in [zygotes] yourself”

    I talk about zygotes because they are an uncontroversial example of beings that assuredly do not have the capacity for reason or conscience. It shouldn’t matter to you that I focus on them, since for you there should be no moral difference between killing a zygote in vivo and killing a 38 week old foetus, no?

    [There may be any number of “moral” differences, as you put it, and at least one practical difference, that, as far as I know, it isn’t technologically feasible to kill a zygote in vivo, without harming his or her mother in the process. But the common, *factual* similarity between killing a zgyote and killing an older human, is that both amount to killing a human. I don’t accept the authority of the UN declaration, as a work of scripture, whose use of the words “endowed with reason and conscience” is an adequate foundation for distinguishing, as far as the killing itself is concerned, between killing one kind of human and another, morally. I regard that as an appeal to “mumbo-jumbo”, as you already know.]

    “Unborn children” is too vague a term to be useful in this discussion (insofar as it could mean anything from zygotes to full-term foetuses) and will thereby only generate confusion.

    [I intended the term to generate clarity, rather than confusion. Let us call them “unborn humans” then. It was my intention to lump together all unborn humans, and to discuss them generically.]

    “in what way could the video possibly have appealed to your emotions?”

    Ignoring the insidious use of the word ‘possibly’ here, I said nothing about my emotions – only that the video is an appeal to emotion (it certainly is).

    [How? I saw the video as an appeal purely to fact. As I understand it, the visual material is intended to dispel the euphemistic myth that an unborn humans is (it is often said) “just a cluster of cells”. Speaking scientifically, there is a short period of time, after conception, and before a mother can possibly realise that she is pregnant (absent, say, the appearance of a trusted angel annunciating this news to her), when her unborn son or daughter is still literally a cluster of cells. But, by the time she knows that she is pregnant, her unborn son or daughter has long since ceased to be any more capable of being described as “just a cluster of cells”, than you, or I, or the mother herself, or the abortionist who stands to gain financially, if only the mother can be persuaded of the aptness of this euphemistic misdescription of her son or daughter. If the truth evokes emotion, it is for you to explain why.]

    • Edd

      After writing a full response to your comments above, it occurs to me that you have not actually argued against my position. The closest you have come is to say that you don’t regard reason and conscience to be an adequate foundation for a moral distinction between killing “one kind of human and another”. This is still not an argument, only a disagreement.

      Your charge that I rely on the authority of “scripture”in the form of the UDHR is specious. Earlier comments of mine explain precisely why. You can find them yourself.

      (If you would like responses to your other points I will happily provide. For the moment they are irrelevant.)

      • “you have not actually argued against my position”

        In the context of ethics, there isn’t any sort of “argument” that works “against” an “argument” such as yours, which is essentially just an “appeal to authority” (a phrase you used first). That applies whether the authority is the UDHR (your choice), the book of Leviticus, the Q’ran, the Constitution of the United States of America, that country’s Supreme Court that construes that constitution, or some personal, home-grown mumbo-jumbo favoured by one’s opponent.

        “you don’t regard reason and conscience to be an adequate foundation for a moral distinction between killing ‘one kind of human and another’. This is still not an argument”

        Are you dissenting from the consensus on the equality of all humans then? As I have pointed out, in ethics, tautological proofs and evidenced-based proofs are not available. All that can be proven, is that some people are more, or less, consistent, than others, and that some rely upon mumbo-jumbo differently from others. Your position relies on your mumbo-jumbo of choice, and it certainly isn’t consistent, unless you also support infanticide (and a whole lot more).

        See:

        After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

        • Edd

          “Are you dissenting from the consensus on the equality of all humans then?”

          Potentially yes. Depends what you mean by “equality”.

          “Your position isn’t consistent, unless you also support infanticide (and a whole lot more).”

          Not really. First of all it’s not my position; I have been arguing a hypothetical case. Secondly, I’ve already said that there is some evidence that babies have the ability to reason, therefore the argument I have been making wouldn’t support infanticide. And even if it did, there might be other reasons besides those revolving around the right to life that mitigate against infanticide.

          • The meaning of “equality”? Equality in dignity and rights is how the UDHR puts it.

            “it’s not my position; I have been arguing a hypothetical case”

            Perhaps you should clarify what your “position” is, and why.

            • Edd

              “Perhaps you should clarify what your “position” is, and why.”

              I will stick with the argument I have been pursuing so far – it serves as a test case to show that not all pro-life arguments admit of ‘mumbo-jumbo’, and in any case that the reasoning they exhibit might at least be more satisfactory than the philosophically inadequate bare assertion of your pro-life argument (note that I do not say all pro-life arguments).

              All the same, I’m not sure what the point would be in outlining my position if you’re not actually going to listen to it. You’re having a hard enough time responding to this one without worming out of it under the cover of a vacuous derision:

              “Your position relies on your mumbo-jumbo of choice”

              The strawman ‘mumbo-jumbo’ of your original blogpost meant something like talking about ghosts in machines and magical processes of ‘ensoulment’. I haven’t postulated anything like that. It seems your use of the phrase has shifted, such that now ‘anything-John doesn’t-agree-with’ qualifies for the abusive label ‘mumbo-jumbo’, obviating the need, in John’s eyes, actually to do any of the critical labour himself. How Daily Mail of you.

              Such is evidenced by your repeated red-herring whinings that I ‘rely’ on the ‘authority’ of ‘scripture’ in the form of the UDHR, in spite of plentiful evidence to the contrary:

              “your “scripture” merely tells us that, “They are endowed””

              and:

              “I have already responded to this reliance of Edd’s upon an “exegesis” of the UN declaration”

              and:

              “That applies whether the authority is the UDHR (your choice)”

              and most recently:

              “an “argument” such as yours, which is essentially just an “appeal to authority” (a phrase you used first).”

              Oh dear John. Repeating the same tired accusation over and over may well comfort you, but it doesn’t make its content true. As I’ve already said, the allegation is specious, and if you’d bothered to pay attention to what I was saying you’d know why. Either that or you’re deliberately ignoring or misconstruing what I’ve said. Neither of these options are particularly attractive.

              An appeal to authority is an argument that says its conclusion is true simply because the supposed authority says it. I have nowhere done anything like that in support of the position I have been advocating. You can check, if you’re not too lazy.

              “an “argument” such as yours, which is essentially just an “appeal to authority” (a phrase you used first).”

              What exactly do you think my argument is John? Perhaps we can see if you’ve been paying attention by reiterating it to me – without any vituperative distortion – and if it’s a faithful restatement we can continue the discussion.

              “an “argument” such as yours, which is essentially just an “appeal to authority” (a phrase you used first).”

              A phrase I used first? Really? – Where?

              “In the context of ethics, there isn’t any sort of “argument” that works “against” an “argument” such as yours…”

              Yes John, there is. Declaring the contrary without any explanation why just looks like another indolent attempt to avoid having to deal with it.

  7. Earonn

    What I would ask you personally: are you a vegetarian?
    Just because so many pro-lifers see life in the tiniest cell cluster but don’t seem to have a problem with a steak – or rather with the killing of the fully developed living creature it came from.

    Okay, apart from that, I’d say that there is no easy and perhaps not even a ‘right’ answer to that question. Would I have the right to kidnap you and remove your kidney against your will if you were the only person on earth whose kidney could be transplanted to me?
    Could a third party – the government, a religious group, people on the street who have nothing to do with either of us – legally force you to donate your kidney?
    I don’t think so, therefore I don’t think we are allowed to meddle with the pregnant women’s decisions.

    However, I am of the strong opinion that we should do much more to encourage women to have their baby and, if they really see no future with it, to give it into adoption, all the time getting full provision and psychological help.

    • Thank you for commenting, Earonn.

      I am not a vegetarian. I do not think you should be entitled to operate to remove my kidney without my consent, not even if you were working for a government or a religious group.

      “pro-lifers see life in the tiniest cell cluster”

      It is, rather, science that sees a distinct human life in “the tiniest cell cluster”, such as I was, and you were yourself, for about four or five days. That is also how Ann Furedi sees things, as you will see if you read the quote at the beginning of my post. The scientific facts of the matter are not in dispute, surely? That was my intendedly uncontroversial starting point, rather than any controversial conclusion that I was straining to reach.

      “I don’t think so, therefore I don’t think we are allowed to meddle with the pregnant women’s decisions.”

      The only word in that sentence I don’t understand, is the word “therefore”. I don’t see how that particular “we are not allowed” conclusion follows from the observations that some of us eat meat, and that we don’t tolerate the non-consensual harvesting of organs from kidnap victims, for donation in transplant surgery, not even at the behest of governments or religious groups. Besides, we already do “meddle” with all sorts of decisions people make, or want to make, including decisions of pregnant women, and including decisions about abortions. It is illegal. for example, to perform abortions in the UK, unless certain statutory criteria are met. It remains illegal, even if the mother decides that she would like an abortion.

      I think you might find several of my other recent posts more suitable than this one, for raising the particular points that you seem to want to raise. I also think that you would be likely to find those other posts are more enjoyable to read than you probably found this one.

      • Earonn

        Dear John,

        I’m sorry, for the confusion. You are right: it’s not just pro-lifers who see the first cell cluster as ‘life’ – science, does, too. I didn’t mean to make this distinction, which tells us something about communication traps. 🙂

        Although – if ‘science’ (what is that? A group? A single person speaking, whose views are disputed by another person?) would tell differently, wouild you mind?. You have your opinion, your values, inside your mind. This I mean as a compliment – you don’t ask for authorities, I think, but make up your own mind, which I find incredibly valuable.

        I found your post very ‘enjoyable’ – perhaps not in the way I find the last ’44 Scotland Street’ book enjoyable, but in the way of an exchange of ideas.

        That you ‘stumbled’, so to speak, over my ‘therefore’ is a wonderful coincidence, as I had some ideas since my comment, about what feels ‘wrong’ to me in the pro-life-argument:It’s the inconsequence.

        By demanding a woman to carry a child she doesn’t want one demands a huge sacrifice. I don’t think we can do that righteously if we are not ready and willing to do nearly the same (preach water, drink wine, you know).

        And I don’t get the impression that this is the case with all the people who are ‘pro-life’ – and I don’t even count those who argue pro life and pro penalty of death at the same time!

        Given the reactions to the Scotsman article, you’d think that most people in Scotland are against abortion. Let’s assume that in the Western World we have 40% against abortion.

        With all those people holding life in such high esteem – why do we lack the much needed organs for transplantation? Shouldn’t all who esteem life high enough to defend it even against the likewise rightful interests of the pregnant woman be more than willing to support it where it costs nothing?

        Vegetarianism is another point. If you find life worth protection in some cells, how can you sacrifice a whole living being just for the taste of its flesh? (I’m not vegetarian, just try to eat very little meat and get it from animals treated, ‘good’ in life and death, so there is no ethical reproach intended here.) Shouldn’t a pig be even more worthy of protection than a fertilised cell?

        Unless, of course, the distinction would be that it’s a *human* cell, but why should a human being be more valuable than a pig? (Ask the pig! ^^). That would be speciesm, no better than claiming to be more worthy because of being ‘white’ or ‘European’ or ‘female’.

        And shouldn’t everyone who demands a woman to go through pregnancy at least give some money to support the children already born (please allow me to mention here my supported group, the Hero Rats, they train rats in Africa to sniff out land mines – fantastic people)?

        And this is, why I think, that many who fight for the life of the fetus do this for some other reason. That’s okay. Everyone has the right to say that he/she just *wants* the woman to carry the child. Just that wanting something isn’t a base for making it a law.

        If today many women give ‘convenience’ as a reason for abortion (as it’s said again and again, although I don’t know the numbers), this just means that having a baby is a very big hurdle for a girl. Why not remove the hurdle? Why does a young woman has to think that the unwanted baby would be ‘the end of the life she wanted’ (it is when you are young, I speak from experience, although it was false alarm)? Why doesn’t she know about the many ways she can give life to her child and still study or finish her apprenticeship or become the next supermodel?

        We will never prevent every ‘unnecessary’ abortion – just as we will never prevent rape. Both is injustice, and some people are just, well, ‘sick’.

        But I firmly believe, that if pro-lifers and pro-choicers would listen to each other, if we would talk, make out the real problems and work together to remove them, we could save thousands of lives.

        Disclaimer: I don’t speak as a woman-who-could-get-pregnant: due to medical reasons I had a sterilisation and if I would get pregnant, believe me, it would be a mercy to the child to make an abortion, as I have to take heavy medcine.

        • Dear Earonn

          “demanding a woman to carry a child she doesn’t want”

          … is an expression that suggests as warped a spin on the facts of life as complaining that building a supermarket without a car park, a taxi rank, a bus stop, and a free door to door chauffeur-driven car service, which has a range of attractive and valuable special offer goods just before their sell-by date prominently on display near the exit, and clearly marked “all you can carry, totally free!”, and which gives out free carrier bags into the bargain, amounts to “demanding” that shoppers carry shopping they don’t want.

          I like the death penalty, as a symbolic statement of how we feel towards certain criminals. Just as long as it is never carried out. In Pennsylvania USA, the only people on death row who ever get put to death, are those who volunteer to be executed. “No hangings today folks. The prisoners all refused to sign their consent forms again.” Very civilised. I think we should have that system here, or automatic commutation to life imprisonment, with a humane tariff.

          Avoiding speciesism demands regarding swatting a fly as as every bit as serious as murder, or murder as every bit as trivial as swatting a fly.

          “I firmly believe, that if pro-lifers and pro-choicers would listen to each other, if we would talk, make out the real problems and work together to remove them, we could save thousands of lives.”

          Then you will enjoy “Thinking outside the botch”, also on this blog.

          John

  8. Marion

    Interesting video .As a matter of curiosity What gestation was the foetus shown born intact? I ask, as having had a miscarriage at 19 weeks and a premature birth at just under 24 weeks the foetus looks to me to be somewhere between these 2 gestational points.

    Interesting that such a late abortion is shown when so few in the UK are done at that stage unless the child is likely to be born seriously ill/disabled. I do not find the video shocking at all, which I am sure disappoints you. It is quite possible to view this and think – well what else would an abortion look like?

    I personally have had 2 children, one 19 week miscarriage and a baby born at 23 weeks 5 days who lived a mostly horrible life for 9 months and then died. I have also had an abortion at 5 weeks.

    Before I was ever pregnant I fully supported a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy up until a foetus had a chance of independent viability. I personally consider this to be around 24 weeks although I think the old limit of 28 weeks was also fine as very few babies born before that point do not have considerable health and disability issues so there is also an argument for that limit.

    My life experiences have not changed my view on abortion in the slightest.

    Incidentally I have no mental health issues and find your suggestion elsewhere that most women who have had abortions are mentally ill to be deeply offensive.

    • Earonn

      Marion,
      apart from the discussion, my condolences for the loss of your children. Especially to see your premature born baby suffering for such a long time must have been terrible.

      As for the video, well, there are many who can’t stand the sight of a birth (ask some of the young fathers I know ^^), but no one would consider that an argument against having children, right?

      • I must be unusual, in that I love watching births, even Caesareans. I find a birth to be an awesome sight, especially when I am present, and the father.

        I also found Marion’s story touching. I emailed her directly, in similar vein to your comment addressed to her, assuming she gave her real email address when posting her comment, which isn’t mandatory.

    • Dear Marion

      Thank you for a real quality comment, which it was a pleasure to read.

      I have to agree with you, Marion. I had also thought that the inclusion was inappropriate, right at the end of the video (which is not mine), of one shot of the intact mortal remains of victim of what was obviously an untypically late abortion by UK standards. I had been thinking of complaining to Abort 67 about this particular shot, and you have encouraged me to make that planned complaint without delay.

      I would like please to comment on the following abridged quote from your comment:

      “I have … had an abortion at 5 weeks. … I have no mental health issues …”

      Quite simply, you are part of a tiny minority, if you live in the UK (as it appears you do). In round figures, 98% of abortions in England and Wales during the year 2011, were conducted because the mother had a mental health issue. The remaining 2% of legal abortions, yours apparently included, were conducted for other reasons – all the other reasons added together, that is. Please see “Giving evolution a helping hand”, on this blog.

      “a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy up until a foetus had a chance of independent viability”

      It is a fallacy that an undamaged foetus doesn’t have a “chance” of “independent viability”, at any stage of his or her development. He or she has a very good chance of that happy outcome. Often, that chance is stolen, by aborting him or her too early in the pregnancy.

      On these particular issues, the viability issue, and the woman’s right to choose issue, please see “Thinking outside the botch” and “Catherine Schaible’s right to choose”, both on this blog. Both of these posts have a touch of black humour that I hope you will enjoy.

      Kind regards,

        John

      PS The email I sent you bounced. That’s OK. You’re perfectly entitled to use a fake email address, to protect your privacy, though it does prevent me from inviting you to subscribe, or notifying you when I have replied to a comment of yours. But here is what the bounced email said.

      66

      Subject: Your nice comment on my blog

      I very much appreciated your comment on my blog. I have posted a reply which I hope you will enjoy.

      I am happy for you, having two children, and sorry about the little one who died, and both of your miscarriages, including the one that was induced at five weeks gestation, other than for mental health reasons.

      Thank you very much for writing such a nice comment.

      John

      99

      • Marion

        Firstly ,I live in the UK, so I am afraid any similarity in my language to Roe vs Wade is purely coincidental. While I am aware of the case I have never read any of the in depth legal detail relating to it. [Ed: Marion is replying here to a passage of my original reply that I had edited out before Marion posted her reply, though Marion appears not to have noticed this.]

        I am pleased and surprised at your reaction to the inclusion of the late abortion footage. I will go further in my comments relating to that now in stating that I am not convinced that this is even abortion footage at all. In the miscarriage I had at 19 weeks, when my baby was actually born having been found to still be alive through a scan performed only a few hours earlier, he was nothing like the colour of the foetus/baby shown here. He was a much pinker colour reminiscent of a newborn. The baby/foetus shown here is a colour indicative of someone who has been dead for some time. If I am correct in this, this would actually be footage of a miscarriage/stillbirth. Obviously I have only my own personal experience to base this hypothesis on but nonetheless my suspicions are that this footage is not what the video’s makers would like people to believe. I find that, if it is true to be much more distasteful than the footage itself.

        Misleading in the name of education is a deeply repellent premise.

        You strike me as an intelligent, if in my opinion misguided individual. This makes me unable to decide whether your comments on the mental health of women having abortions are in fact wilfully missing the very obvious point.

        The ridiculous UK abortion laws, as I am more than sure you well know, do not allow “abortion on demand”, therefore women, or doctors helping them, have to be creative with the reasons given for the abortion to be allowed to proceed. My abortion will therefore presumably be one of those heralded by you as showing “proof” of my being mentally ill, despite actually being nothing of the sort! As my physical health was not endangered by proceeding with that pregnancy, I had therefore to be inventive with the state of my mental health or I would, under the Act not have been allowed an abortion.

        While I could quite reasonably claim that my actual reasons for having an abortion were private, in fact I do not have a problem with sharing them with you or any other interested party. It was an unplanned pregnancy at a time when to continue with the pregnancy would have caused a lot of disruption to my existing family for a variety of reasons. In addition my earlier obstetric disasters, as previously detailed, made me feel that I had quite frankly had enough of the whole business. Shortly after the abortion my husband had a vasectomy, so as such an incident would never happen again. I do not regret the abortion, although I regret becoming pregnant by mistake and I am not in any way apologetic that I had an abortion, I see no need to be, we all make mistakes.

        I would very much like to see clarity and sense introduced to the UK abortion laws, so as such nonsensical discrepancies can be removed. Abortion on demand such as exists in say France up to a pre decided limit and then later on for exceptional reasons is a much better way forward. If that were the case in the UK I think you would find that a lot of the women citing mental health grounds for their abortions would immediately and significantly decrease.

  9. Earonn

    @John
    I can imagine that watching a birth – especially if its your child (I take it that you are a father yourself, and I wish all the best for you and your family) – is an awesome sight. Just not for everyone. One of my friends vomited and the other almost swooned (today they are loving, dedicated fathers). My point was: just because something is a horrible sight it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
    Personally, I found the sight of my rat giving birth to her youngs a strange mixture of bah and wow. 🙂

    @Marion
    Your mention of the ‘pretenses’ you had to give for your abortion reminds me of the tricks my gyn had to use to get me sterilised at the quite young age of 23. This is, because the law in Germany was especially spiteful: it allows you to have a sterilisation but at the same time treads it as ‘bodily harm’ committed by the doctor. So, in fact, you could charge him for performing the very act you asked him to. Which means, of course, that almost no gyn takes the risk (I don’t know how the situation is today, this happenend about 1996).
    So, actually, being epileptic was ‘good luck’ for me and it’s the reason why I got sterilised, while the true reason was: I don’t want children (and other methods don’t work for me for medical reasons or safety concerns).

    Anyway, thank you very much for your openness.

  10. Dear Marion

    I have emailed Abort 67 about the video.

    Judging by your disappointment that the foetuses didn’t look freshly killed enough to you, you must have cried at the end of Watership Down, more than in the sad bits, when it said on the screen, “No bunny rabbits were harmed during the making of this movie.” Imagine having your emotions manipulated by special effects like that, all the time being deceived into believing that you’d been watching real bunny rabbits actually dying! Did you ask for your money back?

    Misleading in the name of entertainment is perhaps not as repellent as misleading in the name of education though. I don’t know though . . .

    As you didn’t pay to watch the Abort 67 video, I doubt you’d have had a valid lawsuit, even if it had said, at the very end, “No humans were harmed during the making of this movie. We lied. They all died a few days before we shot the scenes they were in.”

    I expect that foetuses who get decapitated and chopped up into little pieces inside the womb, probably bleed into the amniotic fluid. The loss of blood, and the seepage of amniotic fluid into the spaces where the blood had been, is the probable explanation for the pale colour of the human fragments by the time they become visible to the camera, and for the redness of the fluid.

    Your use of the word “footage”, in the context, was creepy. It brought me flashbacks.

    “As my physical health was not endangered by proceeding with that pregnancy, I had therefore to be inventive with the state of my mental health or I would, under the Act not have been allowed an abortion.”

    Be careful who else you admit that to, please. I’m now researching UK criminal law. I cannot ever remember a news report of a conviction for obtaining (or providing) an abortion by deception, but I am fairly certain that what you admitted, isn’t something to mention casually whilst queuing for the buffet, when your husband has had to buy a couple of tickets for the Policemen’s Ball to avoid a speeding ticket, and doesn’t want to waste them.

    John

    • Marion

      I was pleasantly surprised by your politeness and courtesy to my original posting. Your later descent into threat, vitriol and mockery therefore took me somewhat by surprise, though that was plainly naivety on my part as I have yet to find a pro lifer who does not become rabid and irrational at the drop of a hat.

      Of course I did not wish the video footage to be more gory, it was engineered to be nasty enough viewing as it was. I realised any suggestion that the “late abortion” was simply a miscarriage, where the foetus had previously died of natural causes would not be received well by you, but to compare fake/false abortion footage designed to shock and apparently to educate with entertainment special effects is beneath sensible argument. Speaking of which, you do realise that “foetus” in the palm of a hand you show on your blog is a model? Real tiny foetuses, as the footage of earlier abortions plainly shows, are inconveniently not that cutesy.

      FYI the bunnies in Watership Down are all hand drawn animation and therefore no one would be expected to believe they were real, which beats the abortion footage hands down. It was a very sad film though and much more moving than grim abortion footage will ever be.

      I would actually look forward to being the first person prosecuted for obtaining an abortion by deception, it might bring the ridiculousness of the current abortion laws into a bit sharper focus, plus everyone loves a martyr.

      I think you will find most women seeking abortion in the UK are being creative with the truth so, maybe a class action of millions of murderers who lied to get their evil way could be brought – what do you think?

      Since my first reply, I have read some of the rest of your blog and frightening reading it makes too. I didn’t realise that as well as being anti abortion, you were also a gay bashing conspiracy theorist ( though no mention I note of lesbians who would be somewhat pushed to get involved with the sodomy you are so clearly obsessed by, odd how homophobes always fixate so much on that one act not even practised by a large percentage of gay men hmm!) Are you a UKIP supporter?

      I also had no idea that you had a whole section on eugenics when I mentioned the inconvenient fact that women seeking abortion exaggerate the effects of continued pregnancy on their mental health. That is a bit unfortunate as it would appear to blow your whole theory of abortions carried out on the mentally ill out of the water, maybe that is what has so incensed you.

      Anyway, I shall bow out gracefully now as never in a million years are we likely to agree on anything and you have done nothing to allay my suspicion that men who wish to remove women’s right to abortion are of a misogynistic tendency.

      All the same it has been an entertaining few hours. It is always a joy to read the ramblings of the very confused, I have shown your blog to my teenage daughters as a caveat to developing extremist tendencies, so in a funny kind of way it has been educational after all.
      I don’t expect this will ever actually appear on your blog but thought I would share my feelings with you all the same . Toodle pip.

      • Oops! Sorry. I was trying to be witty. My attempt to raise a smile on your face obviously fell flat on its face. I tend to use understatement to mock, and hyperbole to be cheery. It wasn’t meant as “vitriol”.

        I don’t suppose an apology would be any good?

  11. Pingback: What’s offensive about graphic images of abortion victims? | JohnAllman.UK

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