Monday, March 21, 2011

Replies to "Mary" and "SallyStrange" regarding their dehumanization of unborn children

Edit: Well, that explains it. P.Z. Myers linked to my Abortion vs. Miscarriage post, which is why I've had some pro-abortion commenters taking issue with my terminology. (For those of you unaware, P.Z. Myers is the atheist who seems to believe that the behavior of a fair, open-minded, tolerant individual can involve deliberate desecration of the Eucharist.)

To clarify for all visitors from that site: I realize what the "official" medical terminology is for abortion and miscarriage. My argument is that the terminology isn't accurate and should be changed in light of the drastic differences between spontaneous and procured abortion in the post-Roe v. Wade era. Medical terminology in this regard is still stuck in the pre-1970's, but I'm sure the AMA is too busy defending the dehumanization of unborn children to care what I think.

That being said, I welcome civil debate and discussion. Bear in mind that any comments that are insulting, lewd, obscene, etc. or contain any of the latter, on this or any other post, will be deleted. If necessary I will turn on comment moderation.

I received some replies to my follow-up post regarding my Open Letter to Congresswoman Jackie Speier that deserve a post of their own for rebuttal.

Without further ado, the first comment comes from Mary (by the way, Mary, this reply will also serve to respond to the comment you left on the original open letter post; it was in the spam folder and I just released it):

JoAnna, you said: "Why doesn't the hospital perform the procedure on women with living, healthy babies? Obviously, there is some difference, otherwise there would be no need for abortion facilities."

First, you meant "fetuses" not babies. Please use the correct terminology.

"Fetus" is a Latin word that literally translates to "little one." MedlinePlus' definition is as follows: "an unborn or unhatched vertebrate especially after attaining the basic structural plan of its kind ; specifically : a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth."

Now let's compare it to the definition for "baby": "an extremely young child."

Is a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth also an extremely young child or "little one"? Yes.

Additionally, Mayo Clinic's website on first trimester fetal development begins, in part, "Fetal development typically follows a predictable course. Find out what happens during your baby's first three months in the womb by checking out this weekly calendar of events" (emphasis mine).

Have you also written to the Mayo Clinic, that bastion of unscientific terminology, and quibbled with their use of baby versus fetus?

(Edit: Stacy pointed out that the Oxford English Dictionary defines a fetus as "an unborn offspring of a mammal, in particular an unborn human baby more than eight weeks after conception.")

By drawing an arbitrary line between a "fetus" and a "baby," you are attempting to dehumanize the unborn so as to assuage your conscience when you advocate for their deaths; or, more specifically, for the alleged "right" to cause their deaths. Unfortunately, this is not a new strategy. In the pre-Civil War era, pro-slavery advocates worked hard to dehumanize black people so that their rights could also be denied. The Nazi party worked hard to dehumanize Jewish people so that the German government could pass the Nuremberg laws. Same story, different chapter.

"Secondly, the difference is political, not medical."

Says the person who wants me to use correct "medical" terminology when discussing a "political" situation. If they are two separate issues, then there should be two separate terminologies. However, the two issues intertwine.

Finally, you know that Crowepps is right, you said it yourself when you said "Technically, this is true." Yes. The law is technical, and details are important. Definitions of words are especially important.

Absolutely, especially when such language is being used politically in order to dehumanize an entire population, such as when pro-abortion advocates attempt to use the word "fetus" to mean "an organism that is not human and thus is devoid of human rights."

I understand that you believe that terminating a pregnancy is wrong under certain circumstances.

Correction: I believe that deliberately killing (i.e., murdering) a blastocyst, zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, toddler, child, or any other human being is wrong under all circumstances.

Most certainly is would be wrong for you.

Not true, as neither truth nor morality is subjective. But please do go on, I'm interested as to how you defend subjective morality.

But you are not able to speak for all people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

I leave that up to our elected officials, whose job it is to pass laws that represent the desires of the majority of their constituents.

What you are saying will be just the right advice for some people, but not all people.

Not true. Murder is never justifiable. (Killing may be justified in some circumstances, but murder, never -- and abortion is always murder.)

Legislation needs to work for all people, just like a bridge needs to work for all traffic loads, not just the average. (Yes, my profession is technical design and analysis). Legislation is just too unwieldy to cover difficult and personal medical decisions.

Legislation does not, by its nature, work for "all people." If that were the case, we'd need to legalize pedophilia to satisfy the .001% of people who want to abolish the age of consent. (I made up that statistic, but you get the point.)

Also, I guess I can go ahead and murder my one-year-old child when she wakes me up at night because she's teething and has a fever. That's my personal medical decision to make on her behalf, after all, and there should be no legislation prohibiting it. It's easier for me to kill her then to cure her fever, and you have no right to interfere with my personal medical decisions, or the ones I make on behalf of my minor children.

I realize that's an extreme example, but come on. There are PLENTY of medical decisions that are legislated. I can't force a doctor to amputate a healthy limb because I've decided I really want that handicapped parking sticker. A doctor couldn't legally or ethically damage the hearing of a healthy child because his or her deaf parents would prefer a deaf child. I can't take drugs that aren't legally prescribed to me, or that are illegal in this country. Et cetera.

Whatever your thoughts are the rights of a fetus, the scope of decisions on this matter that you have a moral right to make is limited to yourself.

It should not be so limited, however. Human rights are not subjective and arbitrary. As I referenced above, the pre-Civil War era of American history is an example of a time when human rights were arbitrarily decided by the majority. Do you think it was morally acceptable for slave owners to decide that black people weren't human beings? That's exactly what you're proposing in terms of unborn children.

The government does not grant human rights, it merely recognizes that such rights exist. Sometimes it doesn't recognize those rights (e.g., black people, Jewish people, unborn children) and thus the populace has to work to change that circumstance.

Even if Government did have right to make this call for all women, it would be a very difficult, technical piece of legislation that would fail because it could not cater for all situations. Such legislation would cost women's lives, make no mistake.

It worked quite well up until 1973, actually, and I debunked the myth of "Omg making abortion illegal will KILL WOMEN!" in my previous reply to Crowepps. You can also look at this information from SecularProLife.org.

The argument between pro-choice and pro-life is uninteresting to me because it is ultimately futile in practical terms. If women are to have safe, appropriate care then the government needs to let people get on with it, and not interfere with heavy-handed legislation.

Granting rights to human beings -- especially the right to LIFE -- is not "heavy-handed legislation." It is necessary for a civilized society.

The long and short of it is that you believe that personhood is an arbitrary, subjective distinction that women should be able to bestow upon or withdraw from their unborn children (or fetuses) at their leisure. I believe that those unborn children, or fetuses, are human beings with the right to life from the moment they come into existence. Of our two opinions, which one more closely mirrors the arguments of slave owners and Nazi government officials?

You might want to think about that.

The second comment is from SallyStrange:

That's great that you saw a baby when you looked at your ultrasound. My sister, who's pregnant right now, sees a baby when she looks at her ultrasounds. Me, I didn't want to be pregnant, so when I looked at my 9-week ultrasound, I saw a blurry thing that looked like a lumpy kidney bean.

Thankfully, we don't have to rely on subjective feelings and emotions when determining what is and is not a human being. We can determine this based on science.

Here's the ultrasound picture of my now-six-year-old daughter at 9 weeks, 6 days (7 weeks, 6 days after conception):


Here's a rendering of a 9-week-old fetus (7 weeks after conception) from Mayo Clinic's website:


Here's an image of an actual 9-week-fetus (again, 7 weeks after conception):


Neither of these can be accurately described as "blurry thing[s] that look like a lumpy kidney bean." They can accurately, and scientifically, be described as genetically unique and distinct human beings. You are allowing your own personal feelings about your pregnancy to affect your view of your (former) unborn baby. This is ironic in light of your following statements.

I felt regret that my birth control had failed, and that my boyfriend and I were both broke and heading off to different grad schools, but I didn't feel regret about getting the abortion itself. Rather I felt grateful and relieved that I didn't have to be pregnant and give birth when I really didn't want to, and wasn't ready to.

First of all, I'm sorry that you felt you had no other choice. No woman should feel that way about a pregnancy, and we as a society need to work to improve that.

I have to ask, though -- given your situtation, why were you having sex at all? Wouldn't the more responsible decision have been to not have sex if you weren't prepared to be pregnant, especially given that all birth control has a failure rate?

Your son or daughter was not to blame for the circumstances of his or her conception. S/he was a human being with a right to life from the moment of his or her conception, but you chose to take his or her life away because you were unable to face the consequences of your poor choice. This is not a judgement on you but a statement of the facts. I too have made mistakes and have suffered the consequences, and I am by no means a perfect human being.

I'm also sorry you didn't explore all of your options. You could have given birth to that child, and given him or her a home with someone like my stepsister, who is a happily married, responsible adult. She is also infertile and currently waiting to adopt a child.

It is your attachment to the baby-to-be that causes you to regard your potential human being as a "baby" rather than a "fetus." And that's understandable.

Not at all. All fetuses are human beings with a right to life regardless of any personal feelings attached to them. Feelings do not determine our humanity nor our personhood.

But your personal feelings about your own fetus have no relevance to any other pregnant women.

No, but the objective criteria of humanity and personhood, as well as human rights, do.

Only the eager anticipation of a woman who's ready to become a mother can transform a fetus into an unborn baby.

Can you scientifically prove that, or is that based on your own subjective and personal feelings?

See my above reply to Mary to read more about the dangers inherent in dehumanizing a group of people for your own convenience.

12 comments:

  1. Wow, the person who responded to you blames you of using emotion then goes on to defend her thought that developing humans aren't human solely based on her feelings. Apparently genetics that say the child is human can be altered to something else by mental telepathy!

    Amazing what kind of mental aerobatics people must go through to hold two conflicting opinions at once.

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  2. JoAnna, God bless you girl! Here's a link for you too, but what does Oxford know about the English language?

    definition of "fetus"

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  3. Got here from Stacy's page. I appreciate your entering into this dialogue. I, too often, throw up my hands and head to the door.

    The facts are there - it's the problem of evil which is hard to combat.

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  4. Way to go, JoAnna! You're rocking. I've been really awed by your clear-headed and well-researched responses on Leila's page lately as well. You're so awesome! Keep it up!

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  5. JoAnna,
    Definitions again. You are using a lot of misdirection. We are not looking at the Latin usage, but the medical usage:
    "Fetus: The unborn offspring from the end of the 8th week after conception (when the major structures have formed) until birth. Up until the eighth week, the developing offspring is called an embryo."

    Remember that "abortion" means the premature termination of a pregnancy [or other process] without reference to how or why this happens. Miscarriages are included.

    Like it or not, the secular, legal definition of a human being in the USA begins at birth. That means your statement "abortion is always murder" is simply not true, since murder only applies after birth in the USA. It's an emotive slogan, but quite ridiculous.

    Please don't use such sloppy language, it makes the argument look either ignorant or deceitful, and I know that you would not want to give that impression.

    I understand that you believe that a zygote has a right to life, as does a fetus. So say that, clearly, without the "abortion is always murder" trope. My personal experience with abortion is second-hand and is limited to wanted pregnancies that were killing the mother, or where the zygote or fetus was already dead or dying (six months along, in two cases). These were terribly traumatic events, and I would hate to imagine the additional trauma these mothers (yes, these were all second and third pregnancies to married women) would have gone through in the USA.

    I think abortion is to be avoided if possible, but not by using a blunt instrument like an anti-abortion legislation. Would you support improved access to contraception to avoid abortions?

    Remember, this law would apply to non-Catholics, so the Catholic prohibition on contraception is not relevant to this argument.

    One thing I am resolute on is that another woman's reproductive life is none of my business. I do believe that if you want to take the proposition that "abortion is tantamount to murder" as true, then the appropriate action is to boost access to contraceptive options.

    If you think differently, then why? Is it really the unborn that is your main concern? Or is it other women's sexual activity?

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  6. Actually, Mary, dead babies in the womb cannot be "aborted". They can be delivered, but delivering an already-dead baby is not an abortion.

    As for contraception reducing abortion, actually the opposite is true. Check it out.

    Calah, you are so right. She is as sharp as a tack and her mind is a blessing to the Church! :)

    JoAnna, the best line in your awesome post is this:

    By drawing an arbitrary line between a "fetus" and a "baby," you are attempting to dehumanize the unborn so as to assuage your conscience when you advocate for their deaths; or, more specifically, for the alleged "right" to cause their deaths.

    Actually, the whole post was the best line! :)

    Rock on, girlfriend! Those sweet babies are worth it.

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  7. Leila,

    "As for contraception reducing abortion, actually the opposite is true. Check it out." OK. You're asking for citations. Fair enough.
    Paper 1:
    http://fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/Network/v21_4/NWvol21-4abortcontception.htm
    Paper 2:
    http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/13625189709167459

    The situation is actually quite complex.
    In summary,
    Contraception does reduce abortion. But if the demand for smaller families outstrips the availability and effectiveness of contraception, then the abortion rate will rise until the disparity between family size and use of contraception is stabilized.

    The Netherlands really gets this balance right, with one of the lowest abortion rates, good access to family planning, good education of teenagers, and small families.(Ketting et al., 1994)

    From the first paper:

    "Demonstrating that contraception reduces abortion is primarily a matter of timing, Dr. Westoff notes. "It depends on when in the fertility transition you catch it," he says, citing as an example South Korea, where contraceptive prevalence and abortion rates rose together during the 1970s.

    From 1970 to 1996, total fertility in South Korea dropped from 4.5 to 1.8 births per woman, and contraceptive prevalence rose from 25 percent to 79 percent. After peaking at 64 abortions per 1,000 women in 1981, South Korea's general abortion rate had fallen to 20 per 1,000 by 1996.

    That pattern is typical of most countries as they make the transition to smaller families, particularly when desired family size declines quickly. This creates a sudden new demand for contraception that family planning programs are initially unable to meet. A rising number of women experience unplanned pregnancies, some of which they abort, increasing abortion rates. As access to family planning services improves, however, so does contraceptive prevalence. Consequently, abortion rates eventually decrease.

    However, the rate at which contraception replaces abortion varies among and within countries. In Hungary, for example, the abortion rate began to fall shortly after an increase in contraceptive prevalence began in the mid-1960s.17 A study in three Latin American countries found regional differences in abortion trends, with rates increasing from the mid-1970s into the early 1990s in most of Brazil and Mexico but decreasing substantially in the largest metropolitan areas of Colombia and Mexico as contraceptive use stabilized or increased."

    From the second paper:
    "Although undoubtedly widely used in all historical ages, abortion has come to be regarded as an event preferably avoided because of the impact on the women concerned as well as considerations for fetal life. Policies to reduce numbers and rates of abortion must acknowledge certain observations. Criminalization does not prevent abortion but increases maternal risks. A society's 'openness' in discussing sexual matters inversely correlates with abortion rates. Correlation between contraceptive use and abortion is also inverse but relates most closely to the efficacy of contraceptive methods used. "

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  8. Mary, my reply was too long so I put it in a new post.

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