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Mississippi Voters Defeat 'Personhood' Initiative
Abortion & Life
Written by laika   
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 17:45

At Fox News:

Mississippi voters Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would've declared life begins at conception, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide.

The so-called "personhood" initiative was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling.

emperorbma  - "unpersons"   |2011-11-10 09:46:04
Obviously the weight of "personal convenience" and a philosophically contrived ambiguity about personhood for "minimally sentient genetic humans" is greater than the weight of the moral case of protecting human life in any form. From this, we can deduce that if you, yourself, somehow become "inconvenient" or lose your mental clarity to enough of an extent, then you, too, can have your life ended prematurely. The people have spoken, the "undesirables" can be killed with only the whim of their host.

For this libertarian, the case is obvious that personhood extends to all conceived humans (i.e. all presently protected humans were once "unborn" and therefore all "unborn" are worthy of the same protections) and therefore, since it is pursuant to the duty of a [night watchman] state that it protect all persons, the rights should extend to the unborn. Obviously, now, however, we must consider the unborn "unpersons," due to the conclusion of this vote even if they are still demonstrably genetic humans. So, while I disagree with this vote's conclusion morally, at the very least they aren't forcing people to use abortion, though, and those of us with genuine moral qualms can object by disuse of this farcical "right."

TFA wrote:
Amy Brunson voted against the measure, in part because she has been raped. She also has friends and family that had children through in vitro fertilization and she was worried this would end that process.

I disagree with the rationale of this. While I think the life of the mother being at actual risk is a valid qualifier, unlike some, I do so on the grounds that one cannot force someone to risk her life for another rather than on the grounds that the fetus is an unperson. There is no valid, properly moral, way to assert this "right" for personal convenience in any form. Sorry, but rape while it is tragic and horrible, doesn't mean someone has the right to kill the innocent [in the legal sense, rather than the theological one] unborn human unperson inside them. Neither would a genetic condition for much the same reasons as any eugenic crusade is wrong. Of course, since personhood is the whim of the state I wonder who the next class of people we decide are unpersons will be.

Also, the only issue with in vitro is that they make more than they should and don't implant them. There's no problem with making one embryo unperson and implanting one embryo unperson, but alas "personal convenience" again rears its ugly head and the doctors create a myriad of unpersons for every in vitro client.

(Yes, I plan to call the unborn "unpersons" because it highlights the absurdity of the human rights arguments if they can refuse to protect a certain class of completely human life forms. Isn't that why the term was invented in 1984; except that these "unpersons" never did anything to earn their exile?)
whitemice  - re: "unpersons"   |2011-11-14 06:25:39
emperorbma wrote:
philosophically contrived ambiguity about personhood for "minimally sentient genetic humans" is greater than the weight of the moral case of protecting human life in any form.

I strongly disagree; I think the real flaw is the anti-abortion side taking up the 'personhood' argument. A fetus is not a person; it just isn't.  Not by the myriad ways people use the concept of person-hood every day. I'm willing to extend person-hood even to some animals. But (a) I'm pro-life (although skeptical that legislation is an effective approach) and (b) eat meat. This isn't about person-hood, it is about respect for human life (which is not the same thing). If pro-life people pursue legislation using the person-hood argument they will loose - and they should, the argument is simply absurd. An entity with essentially no faculties at all does not possess personhood; but it may be human life.

emperorbma wrote:
"inconvenient" or lose your mental clarity to enough of an extent, then you, too, can have your life ended prematurely.

Only if you accept the notion that human life == personhood.

emperorbma wrote:
For this libertarian, the case is obvious that personhood extends to all conceived humans

To me I see no reasonable or possible argument at all that several thousands cells is a person, has awareness, or interacts in any substantive way with its environment beyond respiration.

TFA wrote:
Amy Brunson voted against the measure, in part because she has been raped. She also has friends and family that had children through in vitro fertilization and she was worried this would end that process.

I wouldn't have any issue with ending in vitro fertilization.
SteveGus   |2011-11-14 10:30:26
The entire episode stands as an object lesson in the dangers of ideology.

Historically, it never was about saving sacred fetus lives. It was always about ensuring some level of social control over sexual activity by making sure that 'wayward' women suffered the full humiliation of a public pregnancy. Anti-abortion laws make sense in this context. When it was a crime, it never was murder or even close. But this motivation was out of step with the times; and the social environment it presumed was no longer one that most Americans lived in.

They needed to be "for" something. The 'right to life' of the fetus was public relations talking. It is a foreign ideology. The problem started when people started to take it at face value. The fact that it interfered with in vitro fertilization and other apparently 'pro-life' technologies did not faze the foreign dictator who sponsored it. His institution still has an incomprehensible problem with condoms.

Even the people who want abortion to be a crime usually will allow it for rape or incest: given the original purpose of the law, this makes sense. No point in shaming someone with a pregnancy that wasn't the result of consensual sex. It can't be reconciled with the doctrine of embryonic personhood. All the screaming that your neighbors are murderers tended to make the movement look rather crankish, too. All this made the movement seem comically extreme in many eyes, an even more maudlin version of PETA.

The absolute last thing this country needs is something else to put people in prison for. For people who scream that their neighbors are murderers, everything about their demeanor suggests that it would be a catastrophe to give these people the power to write laws or imprison or execute people. This is apparently even becoming obvious in Mississippi.
emperorbma   |2011-11-14 12:14:00
For myself, my pro-life sentiment has nothing to do with the "foreign dictator" you describe. It is simply about the basic consistency of the application of law and fulfilling the basic purpose of a state.

Thusly, I define (for the purposes of my own philosophical thought) the "basic purpose of a state" as a Divinely established (i.e. Romans 13) and citizen supported (i.e. Social Contract) "territorial monopoly" on the "force of arms" that exists to:
1. provide the means to protect from international invasions.
2. provide the means to protect from physical threats and prosecute them.
3. provide the means to protect one's property from unjust incursions.

Philosophically, this can be termed a "night watchman state" which is one of the more basic types of minarchy that a libertarian such as myself might endorse.

Now, pursuant to the objectives of purpose #2, the state is remiss if it doesn't provide a legitimate way for a human being to assert his or her life against a threat.  As the unborn are genetically human life forms, hence, there must exist either a handwaving to deny the humanity of the unborn (as presently exists) or a legitimate response from the government to provide a just framework for which such cases when abortion is required to be handled. The former is simply wrong, as far as I am concerned. I see no legitimate reason to deny the humanity of the unborn.

I don't think it needs to be handled by a trial court, per se. In fact, it is probably better that it were not. However, I do believe that there needs to be a legal realization that abortion is the ending of a human life. Even if it means admitting that it is sometimes necessary for a state to permit such an activity, it still needs to be legally admitted that a human life is being taken away.

I do concede, however, that I think the moral case should be handled pastorally and not left to lawyers. Morally, I think the only defensible reason for having an abortion is to protect the life of the mother from a real health problem. The other justifications amount to punishing the innocent for things that they had no part in. However, my conscience doesn't determine the path for other people's souls and nor do I expect it should.

SteveGus wrote:

The absolute last thing this country needs is something else to put people in prison for.

Now this is something that should be framed and put on a national monument...
laika   |2011-11-18 13:25:20
SteveGus wrote:
Historically, it never was about saving sacred fetus lives. It was always about ensuring some level of social control over sexual activity by making sure that 'wayward' women suffered the full humiliation of a public pregnancy. Anti-abortion laws make sense in this context. When it was a crime, it never was murder or even close. But this motivation was out of step with the times; and the social environment it presumed was no longer one that most Americans lived in.

I would venture that most of the men that I've observed to be passionate on the subject are really just interested in keeping the womens in their place. Anti-abortion stands for something else, but of course that's not something one can prove.
laika   |2011-11-22 00:07:32
SteveGus wrote:
Historically, it never was about saving sacred fetus lives. It was always about ensuring some level of social control over sexual activity by making sure that 'wayward' women suffered the full humiliation of a public pregnancy. Anti-abortion laws make sense in this context. When it was a crime, it never was murder or even close. But this motivation was out of step with the times; and the social environment it presumed was no longer one that most Americans lived in.

I was just re-reading this. So you're saying that an abortion would have circumvented the humiliation? The public pregnancy was the scarlet letter, so to speak, and an abortion did an end-run around the stocks and the public censure of the (male) clergy.

Interesting, SteveGus, very interesting!
emperorbma   |2011-11-14 11:49:07
whitemice wrote:
I strongly disagree; I think the real flaw is the anti-abortion side taking up the 'personhood' argument.

We currently prosecute the killing of other human beings under the principle of personhood, but this is not all that personhood consists of.  Clearly, Roe v. Wade indicates that the people wish to make a legal concession in reproductive cases to deny this provision of prosecution for killing. While I disagree with this case law, morally, this is not my only reason for desiring for the unborn to be considered persons.

The only difference between the unborn and the born is a matter of time and at some point each of us was unborn, too. They are genetically complete human life forms, are they not? What makes the unborn human being any less worthy of the kind legal consideration we afford to any other human?  Consider that the concept of person is NOT limited to human beings in jurisprudence. Have you heard of the concept of "corporate personhood?"  By law, it is established that a business or corporation has all the legal rights associated with a person.

To wit, I might even concede considering the unborn a different class of "personhood," namely a "pre-sentient human" sort of person, but I see no reason to deny them that they are, in fact, "persons." (You mention "animal rights" and I think it is just as fair that they might be considered for another class of persons if it were necessary to do so) If the concept of person can be so egregiously applied to clearly non-human entities as corporations, then why would there be any legitimacy for not applying it to all human entities for whom the concept of "person" was originally created?

tl;dr.  I'm arguing for consistency of application rather than merely the moral aspect.
laika   |2011-11-18 13:12:02
whitemice wrote:
An entity with essentially no faculties at all does not possess personhood; but it may be human life.
An entity with essentially no faculties at all does not possess personhood; but it may be human life...
To me I see no reasonable or possible argument at all that several thousands cells is a person, has awareness, or interacts in any substantive way with its environment beyond respiration.

I find abortion for convenience distasteful, but I have to agree with you here; a collection of cells lacking a wired-up human brain is not exactly a person. A potential person, yes, certainly, but early on, at least, "personhood" seems a bit of stretch.
emperorbma   |2011-11-19 00:34:41
Let's step back for a second and analyze this.

Why is it that "personhood" seems like a stretch to some people but not to others?

My contention is that the word person itself is vague and undefined. On the basic level, it means something human-like, but that's not all it means. The government also calls businesses and organizations a "person."  Some people call animals persons. Some people call the unborn persons, too. An animist might even confer personhood onto rocks and rivers.

The problem is that the word "person" is not a logical term but an emotional term. (... and, in fact, it is etymologically derived from the Christian theology of the Trinity... but that's another story for another time) The word "person" is a reflection of what the individual concerned considers worthwhile to defend, in a legal sense, from the threat of harm.  There's not even a specific reason for this defense other than this abstract quality of "personhood." It is a self-existent, abstract, and somewhat unique quality that is presumed to exist in some cases but not in others.

We sure as hell don't confer the concern about murdering people that we do businesses, but it manifests itself more as a concern against harmful litigations. Personhood, therefore, is a notion that exists to abstract our "thou shalt not kill" principle to other entities than just adult human beings and apply it in an appropriate contextual manner.

From a philosophical perspective, the only reasonable way to analyze this is to say that "your mileage may vary" and, as far as I am concerned, I believe the usage of "person" is valid for the unborn. Obviously, I respect the disagreement of others, but I honestly don't comprehend it.
laika   |2011-11-20 01:45:15
emperorbma wrote:
From a philosophical perspective, the only reasonable way to analyze this is to say that "your mileage may vary" and, as far as I am concerned, I believe the usage of "person" is valid for the unborn. Obviously, I respect the disagreement of others, but I honestly don't comprehend it.

What person-like qualities do the unborn have as early as conception?

Please notice that I'm not saying that the unborn don't deserve protection; I just don't see how it's helpful to call the potential for a person a person. Do we call a box of cake mix a cake?
emperorbma   |2011-11-20 14:21:21
laika wrote:
What person-like qualities do the unborn have as early as conception?

While I will grant that this hypothetical unborn isn't a fully developed human life, the creature still has the still the basic qualification of being a human lifeform. This is, formally, determined by
a) being alive. (Dead things don't count, obviously)
b) having a human genome.
c) being a distinct lifeform from the parents.

The rationale for these is somewhat deliberate because there are some cases that don't really fit this criteria but are still quite possible. For example, the embryo can naturally split into identical twins. In that situation, we would need to confer separate humanity on both new embryos since they are both distinct from each other and from the parent.

There is also the possibility that adult human cells can be coerced into a similar degree of totipotency as an embryonic cell. (i.e. adult stem cell therapy) In that case, it is not truly separate from the parent, yet. However, if we continued to develop that lifeform separately from the parent it might, at some point, be required to consider this distinct from the parent life form and then we would probably have to recognize this as a separate human. Of course, this sort of thing doesn't come with the same easy answer that biological reproduction has because it's a bit of a liminal case.

In any case, for the basic biological process of reproduction we know that everything that is needed to qualify as a separate human lifeform already exists at conception. If enough time and resources are permitted, then the lifeform will become indisputably a person. Likewise, every person who ever was (with reserved exceptions) existed in this state at one point.

What I'm saying is that, as a separate human lifeform, this unborn fulfills the basic legal criterion for affording individual rights to a person. Furthermore, humans are the only species that are known to, indisputably, qualify for personhood. Therefore, we can say that they are, to some extent, a person. I have already admitted, however, they are not a fully-developed human being. Consequently, I would admit that they are not a fully-developed person.

The problem really is that if we used something as complex as consciousness as a criteria we can probably exclude even toddlers from being human or a person. Nobody has memory back before the point of age 2 or so and it is likely that the consciousness simply hasn't fully developed.  Would we exclude these? In ancient Rome, there was a tradition that allowed the abandonment of the infant by the same reasoning. Why couldn't we choose to do the same thing?

Basically, as far as I can see, the alternative to "conception being ensoulment" implies that the unborn (and maybe even some of the born) are actually nonpersons and that God somehow sends the "soul fairy" at some unknown point to make the unborn being a "person." What happens if God chose not to send a fairy but then someone grew to be an adult? Should we treat them as philosophical zombies? (For that matter, how would we know if we weren't one of them!) This notion of "ensoulment," while it is found in Scholastic and Thomistic theology, has been abandoned by even the Catholic Church because it simply isn't consistent with the observation that human life is the basic criteria of humanity.

In order for a consistent moral criteria, the person needs to at least include the basic state of having humanity. Otherwise, we can come up with a myriad of different functional scenarios and criteria that are required for "being a person" that will inevitably exclude some human being from the mix. In fact, I can guarantee this. Because of Godel's first incompleteness theorem it is impossible to come up with any formal set of criteria (e.g. a program or set of rules) that is both consistent and complete for all cases when dealing with something that is at least as complex as basic simple math. There is always going to be some question that the ruleset cannot answer without having a paradox; in this case it's that "adult stem cell" and the "identical twin" scenarios. Since humans are more complex than math, it is impossible to boil down humanity to a simple set of axioms.

Fortunately, having an infinite number of options for making answers means God doesn't actually have such a problem; although the answers might not boil down to any rules we know about or may involve consolidating seemingly different rules which make distinctions that are actually trivial.
laika   |2011-11-21 00:35:25
emperorbma wrote:
While I will grant that this hypothetical unborn isn't a fully developed human life, the creature still has the still the basic qualification of being a human lifeform. This is, formally, determined by
a) being alive. (Dead things don't count, obviously)
b) having a human genome.
c) being a distinct lifeform from the parents.

Choices a and c are negated by the fact that the tiny entity would not be viable outside the mother's womb. A tape worm living in the mother would be a distinct life form, but it wouldn't be a person.

Referring to a fertilized egg as a person just seems like an attempt to sentimentalize in order to protect.

emperorbma wrote:

Basically, as far as I can see, the alternative to "conception being ensoulment" implies that the unborn (and maybe even some of the born) are actually nonpersons and that God somehow sends the "soul fairy" at some unknown point to make the unborn being a "person." What happens if God chose not to send a fairy but then someone grew to be an adult? Should we treat them as philosophical zombies? (For that matter, how would we know if we weren't one of them!) This notion of "ensoulment," while it is found in Scholastic and Thomistic theology, has been abandoned by even the Catholic Church because it simply isn't consistent with the observation that human life is the basic criteria of humanity.

Good questions. We think of the very young as "innocents" - as if they were little blank slates not subject to God's judgement.
emperorbma   |2011-11-21 09:15:43
laika wrote:
Choices a and c are negated by the fact that the tiny entity would not be viable outside the mother's womb. A tape worm living in the mother would be a distinct life form, but it wouldn't be a person.

I dispute the negations of both premises:

In the case of premise a:
What kind of "reliance" precludes personhood? Person does not require someone to be "entirely independent of reliance in a relationship." I could make the argument that all of us depend on someone else in some way or other. Even viability itself doesn't serve as a valid disqualifier.  What about a human being on life support? Or, a human being undergoing open-heart surgery? Or, a human being who suffers a brain injury and are in a coma? Are these not persons? Yet, they are entirely dependent upon someone to medically provide for them at some point or other. Do they cease to be persons while this is the case?

In the case of premise c:
My use of "distinct" is specific in this case. The parent and the embryo/fetus are separate lifeforms despite the obvious sharing of resources. Namely, the embryo/fetus has its own unique genetic code that isn't the same as either parent life form.  Of course, there have been numerous comparisons of the unborn to parasites, but if we took that logic to its extremity are we not all parasites of the Earth's resources? Why begrudge a fellow human lifeform of what we ourselves are to some extent?  My point is that, unlike a tapeworm, the unborn human being is still a human being.
laika   |2011-11-21 19:52:10
emperorbma wrote:
The parent and the embryo/fetus are separate lifeforms despite the obvious sharing of resources. Namely, the embryo/fetus has its own unique genetic code that isn't the same as either parent life form... Why begrudge a fellow human lifeform of what we ourselves are to some extent?

Yes, the potential person has its own unique genetic code, not shared by the parents. I understand your point, but having that definition doesn't make a zygote a person, hence my dragging in the tapeworm.
emperorbma   |2011-11-22 12:31:16
At any rate, my point wasn't really to convince anyone to alter their perspective so much as to demonstrate that "the word person itself is vague and undefined" from a purely rational perspective. We can argue constantly about the criteria but at the end of the day, I'm using a different thought process to determine what I consider a person than someone who doesn't consider the unborn as valid persons.

You can see that I'm using a different perspective to determine what I consider a person. At the same time you know that your perspective doesn't agree about those criteria. That's pretty much the best we can do given the philosophical tools we have.

The reason I'm emphasizing this is to make intimately clear why the debate isn't something that we can resolve through pure reason. We all have differing criteria about what should be a person and nobody has really set down what exactly is a person.
PineHall  - Losing hope   |2011-11-10 09:24:31
If it can not pass in Mississippi, can it pass anywhere else?
Entity  - Yes   |2011-11-11 16:26:20
Yes, at the right time. Right now, this would be 4-4-1 at SCOTUS. The one unknown - Kennedy - makes it dangerous to send this to the judiciary as SCOTUS rarely reverses itself. Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy are all old enough that they will probably have to retire soon. That's why it is vitally important to elect a pro-life president for the next term. If the Personhood Amendment is guaranteed to pass SCOTUS, Right to Life and the Catholic Church will back it and it should win. But if it is rejected by SCOTUS, it makes the fight much harder.
laika  - re: Losing Hope   |2011-11-13 17:34:20
PineHall wrote:
If it can not pass in Mississippi, can it pass anywhere else?

That's a good question. I can't imagine a better place to try such an approach.
whitemice  - re:   |2011-11-15 06:08:58
SteveGus wrote:
The entire episode stands as an object lesson in the dangers of ideology.

I think there is truth to that. But on the other hand, with age, I've become wary of anti-ideology as well. Anti-ideology is, after all, an ideology. Everyone has one - it is best just be honest about that. I prefer ideology + humility. I fear an enormous amount of hubris on both sides (pretending there is only two sides for a moment) of this debate. This is one reason I'm ambivalent about abortion legislation; they are all trying to encode some very 'philosophical' (for lack of a better term) conceptions into law.  Concepts that will be applied in all manner of ways in a myriad of situations that differ in subtle but potentially significant ways.

SteveGus wrote:
Historically, it never was about saving sacred fetus lives.

I'm not terribly sympathetic about what it was about historically.

SteveGus wrote:
It was always about ensuring some level of social control over sexual activity by making sure that 'wayward' women suffered the full humiliation of a public pregnancy.

And the pro-choice person would make an argument that moves me - that his humiliation was done also at the expense of the child.

There also doesn't seem to be any equivalent to "humiliation" in modern culture.

Instead what rabid US pro-life positions are, under our current [foolish] economic system, is an express ticket for the mother and children into a life of poverty.

SteveGus wrote:
Anti-abortion laws make sense in this context.  When it was a crime, it never was murder or even close.

The "murder" people make me very uncomfortable. I find abortion to be morally reprehensible - but it isn't walking up to someone on the street and stabbing them in the chest.

SteveGus wrote:
The fact that it interfered with in vitro fertilization and other apparently 'pro-life' technologies did not faze the foreign dictator who sponsored it. His institution still has an incomprehensible problem with condom

Personally I don't see the inconsistency. The Catholic notion is that sex is for the purpose of procreation - period, full-stop. Therefore the opposition is to anything that interferes with that goal. I disagree with the premise but I very much admire the Catholic church's consistency on the issue. They are just about the only party in this debate which has even a reasonably consistent position. It probably helps that they begin the argument by dealing with sex (an act between two persons) rather than trying to build an argument on a potential outcome of the behavior.

SteveGus wrote:
Even the people who want abortion to be a crime usually will allow it for rape or incest: ... It can't be reconciled with the doctrine of embryonic personhood.

+1 These kind of situations add to my ambivalence about legislation. I just don't want to inject my views into the dreadful decisions that need to me made when dealing with tragedy.  These situations are loaded down with deeply personal and private issues that the outside observer can't be aware of. Much too often in real life - all choices suck.
emperorbma   |2011-11-15 09:56:15
whitemice wrote:
The "murder" people make me very uncomfortable. I find abortion to be morally reprehensible - but it isn't walking up to someone on the street and stabbing them in the chest.

The problem with this is that there are two aspects of the term. There is the religious commandment and the civic statute.

As far as the civic statute is concerned, abortion isn't murder.  Not because it isn't "walking up to someone on the street and stabbing them in the chest."  Rather, as per Merriam-Webster, murder is the "the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought." Murder is, except for the few insane people who think the unborn aren't human life forms, clearly a homicide act. However, it lacks some of the other elements that make the civic offense of murder.

However, from a religious perspective, this isn't the case.  Jesus defines murder as including the mere act of hate for one's fellow man. It is not hard to see that this should also include anything that physically deprives another human of life. In that vein, I think it is fair to say that abortion is, from a religious perspective, something approaching the sin of murder.

But... the government cannot make a religious teaching into law. (That's not its jurisdiction, it doesn't and MUST not preside over the spiritual teaching)  Rather, as I have said before, I think that the state should simply admit that this is a type of homicide that it cannot legitimately prosecute under its jurisdiction. The thing is that the state cannot enforce a religious perspective. To do so would violate one of the principal regulations imposed upon it, the freedom of religion. Obviously not everyone agrees that this is the conclusion of the religious teaching or even the Christian religion. (or, Jewish or Muslim... which have similar qualms as Christians in this regard)

In a sense, this is sort of like the "gay marriage" issue. As far as civil society is concerned, there is no way to prevent such a thing legally because not everyone has a religion that considers it immoral. However, just because it is permitted from a civil perspective does not justify it in the eyes of God.

The problem is the state has a delusion that it is a substitute God. If it cannot fulfill one of its tasks, instead of relying on the grace of God and admitting its imperfection, it instead tries to deny the humanity of other humans and imposes draconian laws on other things in its place such as the War on Drugs and the nanny laws to decide what our kids are allowed to eat in school. It displaces its own "existential crisis" as into a false ambiguity about the humanity of the unborn. Instead, it should direct people to their own consciences.
SteveGus   |2011-11-15 12:56:10
"whitemice" wrote:
Instead what rabid US pro-life positions are, under our current [foolish] economic system, is an express ticket for the mother and children into a life of poverty.

Someone on another site posted a link to a New York Daily News story about a 10 year old young Native woman in Mexico who had given birth to a child. This was a great scandal to them. And perhaps it is; but the story only reported that she had given birth.

I pointed out there that contemporary Western attitudes on the appropriate age to begin families are fairly extreme outliers in the context of history. I mentioned that my understanding is that most Bible scholars think that Mary was between twelve and fourteen when she gave birth to Jesus. To some American Christians, saying so is blasphemy.

I mentioned that our culture makes early pregnancies tragic mostly because we have judged that it is vital to their future status as citizens to study algebra and the Cliffs Notes to The Grapes of Wrath. The prison-like schools where these things are done are not built to accommodate young mothers. These values may not apply to a Mexican in a Native tribe.

Expressing these opinions shocked and dismayed the other message board members. It apparently was imagined that I was offering an apologia for pedophilia.

So long as this value system remains in place, I fear that access to abortion is going to be a practical necessity. We never should have tried to shame sexual transgressors with forced pregnancy. That was wrong in the past. We shouldn't have so many institutions and social pressures that are hostile to pregnant women, especially young ones. If it's important to study the Cliffs Notes to The Grapes of Wrath, young women with children should be given the opportunity to do so.
emperorbma  - The Great Victorian Moral Panic   |2011-11-15 18:56:49
It's the holdover from that accursed Victorian Era when decent moral temperance was twisted into a perverse wave of anti-sexuality. One need only consider the examples of visionaries like Kellogg and Graham to realize the horrors that awaited down that path. Fortunately, people weren't so insane as to embrace it completely but its ripples continue to echo today.

For males, this insane standard quickly relaxed into the "boys will be boys" trope. However, for girls it, rather tragically, morphed into this ridiculous notion that "good girls" didn't desire sexual activity at all. This double standard took root in the more radical wings of the feminist movement. Unlike the more reasonable wing, which only argued for equal opportunities, the radical feminists recast male sexuality as some sort of brutal savagery that exists to debase women and defile them. Finally, as more women become aware of how stupid that ideology is, this standard is slowly relaxing.

However, it is being replaced with the fervor to "protect the children." My contention is that the recent pedo witch hunt is just the latest incarnation of this Victorian bugbear...
PineHall  - The Bible   |2011-11-19 18:08:08
I am surprised that the Bible has not yet entered the discussion. I don't want end to the discussion in a Godwin's Law sort of way, but it does have something to say on the top, at least indirectly. Here are a few examples.

John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb for joy at the sound of Mary's voice (Luke 1:41,44). John is also referred to as a baby. (The angel also proclaimed that Mary would be with child (Luke 1:31).)

Jeremiah was set apart before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5).

David proclaims that God knit him together in his mother's womb (Psalm 139:13-16).

Do these passages and many others with scripture as a whole confer personhood on the unborn? For me the answer is yes. Do they need protection? Again I believe the Bible says yes we should protect them for they are helpless. Do you agree? What do you think?
emperorbma   |2011-11-19 22:09:08
While I agree with your conclusion, there is sufficient ambiguity for some to reach a different conclusion than we have. Some have suggested that these are specific to certain prophets and Christ. Others take the examples where the women and their unborn children were put to the sword in the Old Testament or that potion made from the dust on the Temple floor which was used to determine the fidelity of a wife (by aborting a child of a faithless union) as a justification for denial of the full humanity of the unborn.

In any case, I agree that it seems implicit from the Scriptures that abortion is wrong, but others have managed to come to their own conclusions somehow...
PineHall  - Dust and the Breath of Life   |2011-11-21 23:00:01
emperorbma wrote:
that potion made from the dust on the Temple floor which was used to determine the fidelity of a wife (by aborting a child of a faithless union) as a justification for denial of the full humanity of the unborn.

Interesting idea but Numbers 5:11-31 uses the bitter potion of holy water and dust from the Temple floor, with a curse, to determine if she has been unfaithful as accused by her jealous husband who has no evidence. There is no mention of a unborn child. If she is guilty, her womb/abdomen is suppose to swell and her thigh waste away. That does not sound like an abortion to me.

Another argument I had heard of uses Genesis 2:7 and says that since God breathed into Adam the breath of life the child becomes a person only when he starts breathing. Again I feel it is a stretch that does not fit with the many passages that imply a pro-life position.
laika  - re: Dust and the Breath of Life   |2011-11-21 23:51:38
PineHall wrote:
Another argument I had heard of uses Genesis 2:7 and says that since God breathed into Adam the breath of life the child becomes a person only when he starts breathing.

That one is interesting. It certainly makes a kind of symbolic sense, being sort of the defining moment for any kind of independent, self-sustaining existence.

I wonder how sacrifices or baptisms play into the idea of full person-hood? There seems to be an acceptable period of time during which a newborn isn't shielded by baptism from God's enmity toward a being born into sin (the newborn person's genetic inheritance). Or does being an enemy of God begin at conception?
laika  - - re: Dust and the Breath of Life   |2011-11-22 00:42:53
Answering my own question to further the conversation (emphasis mine).

At a Synod of African Bishops, St. Cyprian stated that "God's mercy and grace should not be refused to anyone born," and the Synod, recalling that "all human beings" are "equal," whatever be "their size or age," declared it lawful to baptize children "by the second or third day after their birth."

If this is representative of ye olde Fathers of the Church, it seems to be taken for granted that it is a post-partum being that is in need of baptism. The parents of this little "human being" are obliged to have it baptized within a few days of its birth.

I'm sure someone will crank out an instance of pre-natal baptism, but 2,000 years of standard operating procedure seems to attach some significance to birth - which dovetails nicely with your Genesis 2:7 explanation, BTW.
emperorbma   |2011-11-22 13:01:01
laika wrote:
Or does being an enemy of God begin at conception?

I'm pretty sure it has to be at conception.

Now, this is NOT because the unborn inherits any guilt from the parent. Scripture explicitly says that the "son will not share the guilt of the father." (Ezekiel 18:20)  What is not forbidden by Scripture is the inheritance of a corrupted nature from one's parents. [and it is hinted at in David's lament in Psalm 51:5] In fact, the Apostle Paul explicitly describes us as being "by nature" sinful Ephesians 2:3. The corruption of our basic nature, unlike guilt, is quite transmissible.

The existence of this corrupted nature means that the "original sin" itself exists in such a way that even if no physical action were ever possible, that corruption still exists. The physical act of sinning is merely a manifestation of the corruption of our human nature by the Fall. In short, it would be impossible for even an unborn child not to be sinful "by nature," even if they were completely innocent "by acts."

What we do not (yea, and cannot) know yet is whether or not God provides a means of grace for the unborn to enter His Communion apart from having been Baptized. (Baptism, being that it drowns out the sinful "old Adam" is the counteraction of the inborn nature-corruption by Christ's authority) This is a matter of grace and the Scripture doesn't provide any insight in respect to how the unborn can or cannot receive it. We can, however, hope based upon God's promises of mercy that there is indeed such a means.

In either case, it's pretty clear that it is entirely outside of our hands and that is exactly how it should be.
laika   |2011-11-22 13:24:44
emperorbma wrote:
The existence of this corrupted nature means that the "original sin" itself exists in such a way that even if no physical action were ever possible, that corruption still exists. The physical act of sinning is merely a manifestation of the corruption of our human nature by the Fall. In short, it would be impossible for even an unborn child not to be sinful "by nature," even if they were completely innocent "by acts."

We share that understanding.

emperorbma wrote:
I'm pretty sure it has to be at conception.

That would certainly put a fresh spin on the pedo- vs credobaptism debate.
emperorbma   |2011-11-22 15:45:45
laika wrote:
That would certainly put a fresh spin on the pedo- vs credobaptism debate.

I see. It makes sense why Lutherans have always been paedobaptist, then. Lutheran theology has always maintained the distinction between "nature sin" and "actual sin". It would not surprise me if Orthodox and (maybe) Catholic theology made a similar distinction somewhere.

Credobaptist theology probably lacks this distinction. For most low-church Christians, sin is just the deed not the altered nature that produces the deeds. It also seems to explain the propensity of low Church fundamentalists to want to make the government enforce restrictive laws. If you can keep people from committing actual sin by coercion, then it's something like saving them from sin. (Presumably seen as following Christ's example purely...)

Obviously, this is absurd when we believe that the corrupted nature and not the deed is the root of the sin. Then, it is clear that only Christ can save us through Word and Sacrament. Then, it is also clear that Sacrament cannot be merely symbolic but must also be an actual work of God...
laika   |2011-11-22 18:30:55
emperorbma wrote:
Obviously, this is absurd when we believe that the corrupted nature and not the deed is the root of the sin. Then, it is clear that only Christ can save us through Word and Sacrament. Then, it is also clear that Sacrament cannot be merely symbolic but must also be an actual work of God...

And if person-hood begins at conception, the debate should be about zygoticbaptism vs credobaptism.
emperorbma   |2011-11-22 20:31:01
I must congratulate you. You surprised me there.  I never saw that one coming. An excellent reductio ad absurdum. Even if I don't agree that it necessarily denies personhood to the unborn, you have made a rather witty demonstration of a disastrous and undesirable side-effect of taking the argument for unborn personhood to its extreme.

However, I do think that this would be a level of literalism that I don't think Scripture itself supports.  Baptism, I think, by its very nature requires someone to have been born. Namely, because:
1) it is impossible to baptize someone still in an amnion.
2) it couldn't qualify as being "born again" through water and the Word.
3) is in stark contrast to the Biblical praxis of Baptism.  (i.e. "Baptized [x] and their entire household in the name of Jesus.")
4) it would be turning baptism into a human work rather than a means of grace.

In any case, I get the point. We can't treat the unborn as the same sort of person as a born person. I thought I acknowledged this though. The fundamental thing about means of grace is that they rely on God's grace not human merits.

As a Lutheran, I believe that it's not "ex opere operantis" (by doer of the work) nor is it "ex opere operato" (by the work being done) but rather it's solely "ex opere Christo." (because of the work of Christ)  Being Christ, He has access to tools we don't have and (consequently) even the unbaptized unborn still can have the hope of Heaven...
laika   |2011-11-22 23:04:44
emperorbma wrote:
However, I do think that this would be a level of literalism that I don't think Scripture itself supports.

Hmmmm... so this is what it feels like to be accused of taking the OT too literally ;-)

emperorbma wrote:
1) it is impossible to baptize someone still in an amnion.

With the unborn being more or less as one with the mother, I don't see why not, unless you feel that the "power" of baptism is in the contact with the water itself.
emperorbma wrote:
2) it couldn't qualify as being "born again" through water and the Word.

Mere semantics, unless one believes that birth is a greater milestone than conception. You yourself present the spectrum of fertilization, attachment, development, and birth as one smooth continuum of personhood. Plus, a newborn or fetus neither one likely better understands the Word or the ritual any better.
emperorbma wrote:
3) is in stark contrast to the Biblical praxis of Baptism. (i.e. "Baptized [x] and their entire household in the name of Jesus.")
Which only argues that the Bible presents person-hood as a post-partum condition.
emperorbma wrote:
4) it would be turning baptism into a human work rather than a means of grace.
But baptism is a work that humans perform and attach great meaning to. I don't see how fetal baptism would change that.

Interesting, isn't it all? I'd like to hear from other of our knowledgeable ones about whether the Bible is a good place to look for support for person-hood at conception. You guys have once again brought an old subject into new territory as far as I'm concerned.

I think it's healthy that people are concerned for the unborn. I certainly regard them as at least potential persons. My only real reservation regarding anti-abortion legislation comes from the fact that childbirth is often a deadly undertaking for the mother, so I'm not sure that women should be forced in all cases to go through with it.
SteveGus   |2011-11-21 23:50:38
It seems obvious from the Numbers passage that the bitter water breaks her babymaker and induces miscarriage at the very least, and strongly suggests that it will induce a miscarriage if the woman is currently pregnant. The whole point of the passage is a trial by ordeal in case of suspected adultery.
PineHall  - Dirty water   |2011-11-22 09:40:26
It is not obvious to me that a miscarriage by dirty water would happen and the resulting swelling of the abdomen and her thigh wasting away does not sound like a miscarriage to me. I must say I don't see how dirty water could do that either from a purely scientific view. To me the curse must be the key action.
laika  - re: Dirty Water   |2011-11-22 14:08:30
PineHall wrote:
I must say I don't see how dirty water could do that either from a purely scientific view.

Reminds one of Jesus spitting on the ground and curing blindness with the resulting mud, or of God forming humans from clay. These examples also don't make scientific sense to many, but we believe that they happened.
SteveGus   |2011-11-22 16:53:24
I'm not sure that this worked by anything other than direct intervention by God, either. On the other hand, all translations specifically mention that the woman will be able to bear children if she passes the ordeal, which suggests that the effect of the potion is in fact to induce miscarriages.
emperorbma   |2011-11-22 23:40:47
If I may conclude my arguments before opening the floor, laika...

Well, I know this is rather tongue in cheek by now but I do think it is fair to argue the point to its conclusion at least.

laika wrote:
With the unborn being more or less as one with the mother, I don't see why not, unless you feel that the "power" of baptism is in the contact with the water itself...

Which only argues that the Bible presents person-hood as a post-partum condition.

As I see it, I don't believe that the Bible ever taught that the unborn is "as one with the mother." The Bible seems to recognize Jesus and John as distinct from the mother who bore them even as they were unborn.

Moreover, I think that anything which includes the mother in the baptism would amount to either baptizing or rebaptizing the mother, not the child. The latter case triggers the "one Baptism for the remission of sin" issue. Even supposing the mother herself was unbaptized at the time, there is no indication that the Bible has a notion of vicarious baptism.  The soul that is baptized is the soul that receives the Sacrament directly; just as the soul which sins is the soul which is guilty. (Since, as a means of grace, the baptism carries the remission of guilt...)

Whether or not, however, Christ is capable of enacting a baptism even without someone ever having been born in order to be baptized, however, was the extraordinary issue that I felt could pose a concern here. To that end, I also believe that Christ has a way to handle these cases when a child is stillborn.

In any case, while don't believe that the unborn can receive a baptism directly, I do not believe this means that the unborn isn't a person. rather, I think that this is impossible simply because the unborn lives inside the mother's body. The two couldn't be separated without harming one or the other until very late in the game and by that point it is safer simply to birth normally. At any rate, my reason for denying "zygote baptism" is that there is no direct access to the person dwelling inside the mother and no Biblical necessity like there is with pedobaptism where Christ says not to hinder the little ones from coming to Him. (Plus its obvious state as spiritual fulfillment of circumcision which occurred traditionally on the 8th day of life...)

laika wrote:
Mere semantics, unless one believes that birth is a greater milestone than conception. You yourself present the spectrum of fertilization, attachment, development, and birth as one smooth continuum of personhood. Plus, a newborn or fetus neither one likely understands the Word or the ritual.

Pedobaptism kind of assumes that understanding is secondary to God's grace. That is what distinguishes it from credobaptism, since it relies on Christ Himself and not the power of the individual to comprehend Christ. The visible means conveys that grace in a real form, but there is no valid way to convey the visible means into a "zygote baptism." Furthermore, "zygote baptism" was never implied nor indicated Biblically.

laika wrote:
But baptism is a work that humans perform and attach great meaning to. I don't see how fetal baptism would change that.

Baptism is a means of Divine grace. The work is a sign by which that grace is conveyed. To claim that the unborn require a means which is literally impossible for them to receive places a precedence upon the work which the Scripture itself does not.

laika wrote:
Interesting, isn't it all? I'd like to hear from other of our knowledgeable ones about whether the Bible is a good place to look for support for person-hood at conception.

With that, I digress and open the floor to my fellow Theophiles, for this topic as per laika's request... :P
laika   |2011-11-23 11:40:20
emperorbma wrote:
With that, I digress and open the floor to my fellow Theophiles, for this topic as per laika's request... :P

Feel free to carry on yourself, respected emperorbma; I was just hoping to enlarge the conversation through the collective knowledge of the group, but I'm always all ears for what you have to say. You and PineHall have really got me thinking about what the Bible has to say about abortion, and it would be interesting to see what others came up with.

With all the prayers for miscarriages and dry breasts, abortive potions, the ripping open of pregnant women, the dashing of the young on rocks, and whatnot, I'm beginning to think that an anti-abortion stance might not be particularly a religious stance. The OT, at least, doesn't seem to be as sentimental about the very young as we are now days. Maybe we'll find something to counter that notion.
emperorbma  - Err... I wall-dumped again   |2011-11-23 13:52:38
Fair enough, really. I thank you for availing me to continue, although at this point I may be just another "chime in the wind."

In any case, I feel that I should comment on your most recent summary:
It seems to me like it would help if I delved into the narrative themes of the Christian Scripture and how I think they play into this Christian perspective against abortion. What we're hitting is that Law and Gospel distinction that is so important to Lutheran theology.

The violence and destruction fits into two specific categories in Scripture. There is the Divine judgment aspect where violence is used to subdue and remove transgression, which falls directly under the Law. There is also the numerous places throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, where human violence is strictly rebuked and condemned. The former carries with it the Divine judgment. The latter aspect warrants Divine judgment. Both aspects are a reminder that we are all deserving of of Divine judgment against us and are clearly aspects of the Divine Law in some respect. However, as Christians, we know also that this isn't the final chapter of the story.

The violence and judgment of God is also tempered with the command that "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." The Old Testament does not lack a condemnation for those who thrive on violence and the Divine wrath is posed, not as a gleeful and happy thing, but as a dreadful necessity of dealing with sinners such as ourselves. The Lord commands justice and sometimes that justice involves violence. Indeed, the soldiers of the wars of Israel were required to cleanse themselves as a reminder of this dread. This is also, however, why Divine mercy is clearly prophesied throughout the Old Testament. This also present throughout the Scriptures of the Old Testament, but it is clearer in some places than others. This mercy aspect only reaches fulfillment, however, in Jesus Christ.

By the Law, we are made aware that we are all, by nature, guilty and would deserve the receiving end of Divine wrath. The focus on our revenge and violence is tempered when we realize we also deserve destruction. In Christ, we see the fullness of this Law being meted upon the innocent Christ in our place. The Gospel of Divine grace triumphs over the righteous judgment against mankind and, on the third day, God raises Himself from the borrowed tomb. In this act of triumph, we are called to repent of our own sin and seek the mercy of God in Christ, our intercessor and redeemer from these sins.

It is the Law which makes us aware of our transgressions for which Christ suffered. The merciless dashing of the children on a rock is tempered with the fact that, in the end of this cycle, this child was Christ Himself. Hence, the preaching of the Gospel takes precedence over the dread judgment of the Law. The Law, however, continues to serve its purpose righteously reminding us with its dread call that we are transgressors worthy of the same punishments Christ bore. In the Gospel, however, God's mercy triumphs through Christ's own redemptive act.

From a mindset that follows this, it is impossible, then, to see the dashing of children on rocks as the intended prescription of the Law for the unborn or for anyone else. It is, rather, a klaxon which blares the reality of our human nature as it appears before God. Christ's own life brings us to the truth of the promise, which is that God's mercy is abundant and available to all who repent and seek Him.

It follows, then that Christians see abortion, when viewed in light of the Cross, as something that must be clearly repented of. We were once just like these unborn, at the mercy of our mothers' decisions whether or not to keep us around. In the same way, before Christ, we were once at the mercy of sin and our own fallen nature. Our mother could have "dashed us on the rocks" as it were and what justice would have come of it? Would it not be as if we have again crucified our Lord? Or, perhaps more dreadfully, would it not be as if Christ had never bore our sin in our place? Instead, we are called to be merciful and repent of sin. Can the destruction of the unborn ever be reflective of Divine grace? Or, is it better reflected when a mother has mercy to spare the life of her unborn child?

A mother who is not reminded of this with the dreadful call of the Law upon her conscience will never realize that she has fallen again under the Law of sin and death which bound us from Christ's mercy. Another child is destroyed, but had the mother learned anything? Would she seek mercy for her own trespass? However, there is another mercy to be shown. We must be forgiving of the mother who sins thusly. We should not multiply transgression by adding her blood. Rather, bring her to seek the blood which is shed by Christ as the her own redemption from sin.

There is no denying that both Law and Gospel are a part of the Scriptural narrative and they both have their purpose. Indeed, the common focus of all sincere Christian devotion must be on the Gospel's mercy aspect overcoming the common judgment of the Law which righteously stands against all mankind. However, if we do not frame the Gospel with the Law's dread call, then of what use will the Gospel be? From what sins have we been saved? Therefore, as Christians, we lament that we have sinned and transgressed our Heavenly Father's commands but rely all the more upon the mercy which He freely and abundantly provides through Jesus Christ. Amen.
laika  - re: The Dread Call of the Law   |2011-11-24 00:20:44
So, it's gonna be piecemeal instances torn from the Book placed back into an overarching framework of context, is it? Well, very nicely done, empy, very nicely done! You're a credit to our kind.

If I weren't in a sleep deprivation delirium, I'd have more to say. I do appreciate your willingness to reach deep to illuminate your position. Once again I find good food for thought.
laika  - re: The Dread Call of the Klaxon   |2011-11-24 00:32:03
ps - I forgot to mention ravening bears sent to tear the young folk asunder in my list. Oh, and the monetary value placed on sound children once they reached the age of one month; I thought that might have been some significant OT measure of viability re: person-hood.

pss - All my life I thought it was "klaxton," not "klaxon." The things a person can learn on TheoPhiles...
emperorbma  - Of bears and "young men"   |2011-11-24 11:32:28
"Children" itself is a mistranslation, though. The word used can mean anything from adolescents up to middle-aged men. The context is basically that Elisha was about to be mugged by a gang of (possibly teen-aged) thugs of the Ba'al cult...
laika  - re: Of bears and "young men"   |2011-11-24 21:21:34
emperorbma wrote:
The context is basically that Elisha was about to be mugged by a gang of (possibly teen-aged) thugs of the Ba'al cult...

Yes, if by "mugged" you mean that they made fun of his bald head, then that's the incident to which I refer.

Being a KJV man, I did assume that "little children" referred to what I called "young folk." If you say it was 42 middle-aged guys of little stature taunting him, then that's enough to set me looking at other translations.

Elsewhere you labelled me too literal-minded, which is true despite my efforts to be more flexible in my approach to the Bible. It's gonna be disappointing, though, if I find that this story is really about a mugging by a band of over-the-hill thugs and doesn't involve bears at all. It'll just suck all the piquancy out of it if "bears" turns out to be a mistranslation, too.
emperorbma   |2011-11-25 03:35:39
laika wrote:
Yes, if by "mugged" you mean that they made fun of his bald head, then that's the incident to which I refer.

Context, my friend. "Bald head" wasn't merely an insult. It was a claim that God is powerless to defend Elisha. Remember that hair thing with Samson? Regional cultures considered hair a source of strength...

Put in cultural context, they're basically saying "your god is powerless to defend you and there's 42 of us, so just try to "get up" to Bethel"

laika wrote:
Being a KJV man, I did assume that "little children" referred to what I called "young folk."

See, children usually tends to imply people younger than say... 10 years of age. 13 was the age of majority in those days.

The words specifically are:
na'ar (boy, child or young man) qatan (small) and yeled (youth)

As you can see, plainly, the words themselves don't exclusively describe those under that age. One of the readings of na'ar includes middle-aged men, albeit that's an extreme and unlikely reading due to the presence of qatan and the use of yeled later on to describe the same group. If we're going to take the simplest reading these probably weren't 7-year-olds but more like a gang of 12-15 year olds. (i.e. "small adult" + "youth" averages a with a teen-ager) So, yes, the KJV does translate it wrong.

Now, I don't know how that looks to anyone else but 42 of them were converging on one man? That doesn't look like an innocent little teasing to me. More like a gang of young ruffians with a mugging in mind. Even supposing there were young children involved (which is possible, if they were dragged along by the older ones) it was more than likely as part of a gang-type behavior rather than Elisha sicing God's bears on a playground.

What we are not dealing with here is God sending bears to smack around kids just for calling people names because the context itself doesn't support that scenario. Although, I admit, to an average reader with no knowledge of Hebrew culture, it probably might be seen that way due to ignorance and bad translations.

Now, as for bears, it's actually she-bears. Anyone who knows anything about bears knows that you don't want to get caught on the wrong side of a mother bear and her cubs...
emperorbma   |2011-11-25 04:02:05
Oh, one more thing for grins. I think I can explain why KJV translated it as it did. Guess what moral lesson the Elizabethians would have wanted people to take from this story? See, back in those days kids speaking back to their elders was taken as a bad thing. Simply put, translating it that way was an expedient way to tell kids to shut up and listen to their parents. Nowadays, we see the death of children as an atrocity, but back then with the plagues and famines, a quick death by mauling was probably seen as merciful.

Moreover, this translation also enforces the notion that one should always obey one's betters *cough*the nobles and priests*cough* and guess who funded the KJV translation. (answer... king=a noble)

Funny thing how a little cultural context sheds some light on all these things, isn't it..?
emperorbma  - Necropost time   |2012-02-23 17:27:23
I found this nice discussion. I'll just leave this here. :P
laika  - re: Necropost time   |2012-02-23 18:17:42
Interesting article! Good find, empy.

"It had me wonder how many Americans avoid an honest look at the abortion issue because of the cultural dimensions of the debate. How many Americans instinctively turn to the pro-choice camp because pro-life proponents aggravate their secular sensibilities?"

I don't know know about "secular sensibilities," but pro-life proponents generally strike me as unhinged, a strange brew of gloopy sentimentality and misplaced anger. In short, they frighten me.

I think the author is on to something, and that there are lots more Americans out there who, at the very least, are squeamish about late-term abortions.
emperorbma   |2012-02-23 19:41:04
I think what the author means to say is that hardcore "pro-life" advocates are offputting because they don't seem to have any concern for the distressed mother. It violates the common sensibility not to be unfair or cruel. For many pro-life advocates it's all about the baby's life not about whether the mother is really able to handle what she's just stumbled into.

Obviously, while I don't agree with the "pro-choice" conclusion, I do think that "pro-life" could stand to do with a little more compassion for these women who unwittingly stumble into more responsibility than they bargained for.

What I found most interesting was the discussion it generated. The basic "pro-life" calculus is simple: There's a human being that was conceived and a mother who doesn't want the baby.

However, even though this site is libertarian we find people on both sides. The pro-life assertion is that the unborn is a human and, therefore, has a right to life. The pro-choice assertion is that the woman shouldn't be forced to share her body. It really presents a special kind of dilemma because it's a basic conflict between the right not to be coerced unfairly and the right to life. Despite claims to the contrary, it really is a bit of a Catch-22. One can and probably will have a moral stance on it but if one does anything to change it, then the other side will be able to raise the coercion/aggression card.
laika   |2012-02-23 22:35:47
emperorbma wrote:
I think what the author means to say is that hardcore "pro-life" advocates are offputting because they don't seem to have any concern for the distressed mother.

Well, it's very possible that I forced his meaning through the filter of my latest bout of disappointment with human beings, but don't we arrive at the same conclusion?

emperorbma wrote:
I think what the author means to say is that hardcore "pro-life" advocates are offputting...

I'm not sure that they have any concern for the unborn, either, except as a symbol for some uneasiness with something else. I shouldn't be speculating when I'm in a foul humor, but I generally get the impression that neither the mother nor the baby is the real issue.

Suffice it to say that the author is uncomfortable with the way the issue is articulated by these "hardcore 'pro-life' advocates" and feels that many others are put off too. I think he's right and I think it's something for Christians to think about. Thanks again for bringing the article to our attention.
emperorbma   |2012-02-24 00:06:29
laika wrote:
Well, it's very possible that I forced his meaning through the filter of my latest bout of disappointment with human beings, but don't we arrive at the same conclusion?

...I generally get the impression that neither the mother nor the baby is the real issue.

Well, being that I'm kind of "pro-life" myself, I naturally need to qualify my statements lest I hoist myself with my own petard.

However, I do think that it's certainly possible that some who call themselves "pro-life" are more concerned, for example, with shaming womenfolk into obedience to "morals" than with compassion.

I doubt, however, that this is the only possible motive behind "pro-life" being that I don't exactly possess an interest in having more tyrrany. As I see it, the real "pro-life" concern is about acknowledging the sad truths about abortions and doing our best to help people to avoid making the wrong decisions if they will listen.

Abortion is more of a matter for pastoral guidance than government regulations, which should be merely serving as the night watchman not the nosy neighbor. An unborn human's death will clearly and tragically be involved, but there's no good way for the state to morally regulate it without infringing on even more of our privacy and freedoms. The last thing we need to do is give even more tools to that fine institution behind such things as MKULTRA, ECHELON, the PATRIOT Act and DOMA...
laika   |2012-02-24 00:08:46
emperorbma wrote:
However, I do think that it's certainly possible that some who call themselves "pro-life" are more concerned, for example, with shaming womenfolk into obedience to "morals" than with compassion.

As they used to say around here, "Ding!"

emperorbma wrote:
I doubt, however, that this is the only possible motive behind "pro-life" being that I don't exactly possess an interest in having more tyrrany.

When will you learn that I never paint so broadly as to include you in my suspicious and negative outlook? I can't fathom your naive faith in the magic panacea of the Free Market, but other than that, you're solid gold as far as I'm concerned.

emperorbma wrote:
As I see it, the concern is about acknwoledging the sad truths and doing our best to help people to avoid making the wrong decisions if they will listen.

Yes. And I believe that the article is proof that we're doing a lousy job of articulating those sad truths.
emperorbma  - The eyes of 2412   |2012-02-24 00:40:54
I suspect I am every bit as suspicious and negative as you regarding many things. The way I'm seeing things, a little suspicion is a good thing and actually somewhat justified.

Of course, I don't think you were including me in your criticism, either. I'm just trying to be as thorough as possible so that if anyone consults our posts in the future they won't be thoroughly confused.

It's one of those things I think would have probably helped us understand the Scriptures and the Church Fathers a bit better, if they had given us a little more context when writing stuff. (Not that I blame them, they did the best with what they were given and God has done a wonderful job preserving what we do have) Who knows where our stuff will end up in 300 years? People might well be relying on such random posts on the Internet like we rely on the Church Fathers and later theologians to help us understand Scripture. Or, perhaps, it won't even survive that Internet Dark Age that I suspect is coming that is being foreshadowed by SOPA/PIPA... Who can say?
laika  - re: The eyes of 2412   |2012-02-25 20:48:33
emperorbma wrote:
... if they had given us a little more context when writing stuff... Who knows where our stuff will end up in 300 years?

"As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and, try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our own day."

Professor Pieixoto, speaking at the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies, June 25, 2195. From Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.
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