May 19, 2009

"How bad can he be on abortion if Notre Dame is willing to honor him?"

"It was precisely the message President Obama wanted to send."

Well played, Mr. President, says William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal. In contrast, we see "the poverty of Notre Dame's institutional witness."
In a letter to Notre Dame's Class of 2009, the university's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, stated that the honors for Mr. Obama do not indicate any "ambiguity" about Notre Dame's commitment to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life. The reality is that it was this ambiguity that the White House was counting on; this ambiguity that was furthered by the adoring reaction to Mr. Obama's visit; and this ambiguity that disheartens those working for an America that respects the dignity of life inside the womb.
And here's the Rush Limbaugh treatment of the topic:
The New York Times in a story today, headline: "At Notre Dame, Obama Calls for Dialogue on Abortion." Now, what exactly has been going on in this country for 40 years? It's no different than the libs saying, "You know what, we need to have that national conversation about race." What have we been doing since the founding of this country but having a conversation about race? What have we been doing the last 40 years but having a dialogue on abortion? And Obama appealed to partisans on each side to find ways to respect one another's basic decency and even work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.... I have often asked, "Where is the middle ground between good and evil? Where do you compromise? Where's the compromise between life and death? Where's the compromise between killing and birth? Where do you compromise on that?"

So the assumption here is, find ways to respect one another's basic decency. Well, what's decent? Language still matters to me. What the hell is decent about abortion? What's decent about it? This is the first time I've ever heard abortion categorized as a form of decency. Even the pro-choice crowd in trying to justify it, has tried to say that pregnancy is a disease, or that pregnancy is a sickness that can threaten the life of the mother, or a fetus is an unviable tissue mass. But I've never heard them say that abortion is decency. But Obama has now just said that both sides of the argument feature people who are advocating decency.
Ambiguity... compromise... You see the point. Obama's side of the debate wins simply by getting people to think that there can be a debate. By allowing Obama to be heard at all on the subject of abortion, Notre Dame loses ground, because the pro-Life position is not debatable, ambiguous or subject to compromise. That's a big political problem for pro-Lifers — their unwillingness to engage with the other side. And Obama is successfully exacerbating it.

182 comments:

Pogo said...

Dulce et decorum est pro mater mori.

TMink said...

"That's a big political problem for pro-Lifers"

Indeed, it is.

I believe it is much less a problem for my Father.

Trey

rocketeer67 said...

Heh. Good one, Pogo.

O tempora! O mores!

Hoosier Daddy said...

A talk show host I listened to in the evenings said he once rain for Congress in CA and was asked what his views were on abortion and his reply was he was glad his mother didn't have one and instead chose adoption. I think that is about the best response to abortion I ever heard.

Obama's side of the debate wins simply by getting people to think that there can be a debate..

Parents do the same thing with kids when they ask if they can get something or do something and the parent replies with: "We'll see." That really means no but it leaves the possibility open to the kid. Obama is doing the same thing, lets have a dialougue but we're not going to actually do anything about it.

By allowing Obama to be heard at all on the subject of abortion, Notre Dame loses ground, because the pro-Life position is not debatable, ambiguous or subject to compromise..

Do they? Considering that over 50% of Catholics voted for the empty suit, I'd say they already lost ground on more than just the abortion debate.

traditionalguy said...

The Roe v Wade decision and its susequent fleshing out simply tells us that murder can be a "private matter". That is the end. The Obama Smile is given to us as our reward for accepting that status quo and abandonong all hope for rescue of inconvenient children. The mirror message is that the murder of elderly life can also now be only a private matter. When Grandma is given a merciful poison gas by her current family to sleep forever and save medical costs, no complaining allowed from outsiders. Be warmed by The Smile and accept your fate. Frankly this is not an American tradition, except in the private Kingdoms of large slavery plantations. The revenge of Obama is brutal under that Smile.

sean said...

I don't get this debate and compromise stuff. I thought the Supreme Court had made it pretty clear that the issue is decided, and it is time for the people to stop arguing and obey. What would the debate or compromise be about, since the law is immutable?

rocketeer67 said...

What would the debate or compromise be about, since the law is immutable?

Sean, is that comment supposed to be sarcasm? I'm asking sincerely. This is America. No law is immutable.

Pogo said...

As in the discussion yesterday, the debate remains about the demand for acceptance, over against mere tolerance.

That is, you must believe in abortion as a decent thing, not just permit it as an awful thing some find necessary.

Der Hahn said...

That's a big political problem for pro-Lifers — their unwillingness to engage with the other side.I guess that was a big problem for the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights marchers, the Jews in Germany….

Maguro said...

Obama can afford to appear magnanimous and allow "debate" on abortion because he's got Roe v. Wade on his side.

When the law is not really on his side, though, as in the Chrysler bankruptcy negotiations, he doesn't hesitate to tell the opposition to shut up and fall in line.

O's commitment to dialogue has its limits.

Hoosier Daddy said...

That is, you must believe in abortion as a decent thing, not just permit it as an awful thing some find necessary..

That pretty much sums it up Pogo. Well said.

sean said...

"No law is immutable."

That's not what Casey said. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the debate is over. I don't understand what Prof. Althouse is talking about.

rhhardin said...

The whole thing exists only because voters aren't allowed to settle the controversy.

That's the situation that ought to be unsettled.

Where it can be voted on, there's no story, whichever way it goes.

The function of bar bets is to head off altercation. It's the same with voting.

ricpic said...

Is Notre Dame a Catholic university? You coulda fooled me.

Lem said...

Now, understand--understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it--indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory--the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.

He didn’t really say anything new. What was new was an avowed abortion on demand loyalist getting honored by a stalwart pro life institution.
It was a political cue.

His unspoken mantle of race seems to blind people into a state of suspended reality and belief.

elizabeth said...

What more or other dialogue do pro-choicers want? They have the pill, the IUD, now something that removes the period for three months; polluting our (kids) water system with the chemicals from some of the above choices. Let's see - Roe v s Wade, Partial Birth Abortions - and in India, China and NOW - Sweden - gender preference abortions. The choices are all there (socalised healthcare in many high rate abortion countries) and yet - abortions are not reduced or rare.

What is our excuse for this genocide really going to be - "I did not cry out or stop it, because I was not a fetus?" But we were and were lucky to *get in* - and so, now what...
Talk is cheap - prayer is powerful, and I am on my knees from now on, communicating with the only ONE that can help us.

rhhardin said...

the pro-Life position is not debatable

I don't see why not.

You can go quite a way by drawing out distinctions between predicated "human" and "a human" that they make every day.

The only defense is to keep things from going wrong by keeping them from starting to go wrong, and you can debate that starting-to point and show they don't believe what they claim to believe.

What they want is for you to see the fetus as a child, which everybody can do; but it is also not a child.

Fen said...

Nah, its subhuman. Slaves, savages, fetuses. All disposable lifeforms once we define them as such.

Me? I'm pro-choice. I need sex so bad I'm willing to kill for it. As are most American women. Whores.

But I like whores. They're subhuman.

Fen said...

And we can do whatever we want with the subhuman. Yummy.

rocketeer67 said...

The Supreme Court has made it clear that the debate is over.

There is a Constitution that can be amended, or, simpler still, a future SC can just decide to essentially ignore precedent. It's happened before.

It's America. No law is immutable.

fromwembley said...

Obama won a big PR victory. Notre Dame got to be hip and progressive and got to see the first black president do what he does best - run his mouth. Yeah Obama should have declined the invitation, but his ego would not let him. Obama sees himself as more important than faith or conviction. But he did make it easy for the Catholic school. All Notre Dame had to do was compromise - and they did that just fine.

Really it looked painless. A few people protested but some of them were outsiders they weren't even students. Most people cheered Obama.

Painless. Like being under anesthesia. You would think it would hurt a lot to give in on principles but apparently it didn't this weekend. Maybe others will hurt later for what Notre Dame did. I hope so. It is just, it is right for people to hurt when they do the wrong thing. Lyn fromwembleypark.com

Peter V. Bella said...

It is all about the money folks. The pro-life groups and the pro-choice groups raise millions of dollars in tax free money and the leaders get CEO salaries. Bot sides are doing nothing more than justifying their existence.

Their predatory advertsing is making copywriters a very nice buck. In the new AmeriKa, the next robber barons will be those who start non-profit organizations for to assauge and anger those with a so called social conscience.

Send for my free ebook on how to make millions with a social predtory business plan. It is only $199.97. Go to http://ripoffthedogooders.com/ebook

peter hoh said...

Likewise, torture proponents (and torture apologists) win simply by getting people to think that there can be a debate.

Pogo said...

Abortion exists not only for rape or the mother's health, but so that the Obama girls aren't punished for getting pregnant, that women smarter than Palin delete their Down's DNA errors (among others), for choosing the preferred sex, for population control, and for eugenics, as Planned parenthood founder Margaret Sanger argued, to:
1. "eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world"
2. "reduce the birthrate among the diseased, the sickly, the poverty stricken and anti-social classes, elements unable to provide for themselves" and
3. stop "breeding and perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents."What could possibly be wrong with those reasons?

elHombre said...

sean wrote: "That's not what Casey said. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the debate is over."

Exactly. And Dred Scott closed the debate on slavery and Plessy closed the debate on segregation. Right? Oh. Wait a minute ....

Obamacide rules at quasi-Catholic Notre Dame. The Pope should quit tinkering with world affairs and get his own house in order.

OldGrouchy said...

Apparently, the question is not whether it's Ok to kill, it's a question of what or who we're killing!

Executing, killing, a cop killer is wrong. But, killing a killer's girl friend's pregnancy is just fine! The difference being what? Is it that a fetus, a potential human being, is not worthy of protection? But a mean psychotic racist killer must be loved and protected even set free to roam and do "it" again?

Well, the debate still is ongoing and mght need extra innings and stronger referees/ It appears that bigoted racists won this last national election and we'll somehow pay whatever price Obama wishes us to pay! 2012 cannot get here fast enough but we'll wait and then see how the debate goes forward from there!

Aaron said...

Actually, when i started law school Bush appeared at my campus. a few graduating seniors felt they had to protest over Bush v. Gore, and i said to them, more or less, "he's the president. can't he just come here, say a few vague words on how you are the future, blah, blah, blah, without dragging politics into it?" I voted for Bush, twice, but now the shoe is on the other foot, I feel exactly the same way. I despise graduation protests, all of them, whatever the cause, person, issue, etc. Its beneath the dignity of the occassion, and in the case of a president, beneath the respect you should inherently show the office.

I have even come to think that ASU was needlessly insulting when it came to the issue of honorary degrees. i am not saying that Obama should have gotten one. They are right in principle, but the way to not do it is quietly, so it doesn't sound like a snub. I will confess i laughed a little when i heard them explain that he hasn't accomplished enough, but it was wrong of me to do that. And in his favor, he was extremely gracious on the issue in his speech to ASU. the joke issue aside, his point was surprisingly gracious.

Invisible Man said...

The spittle and hatred is almost poring off of my monitor. This comment thread should be one for the ages.

Synova said...

We pro-lifers are still waiting for even a single one of the things supposedly so necessary to make abortion "rare" to do anything but increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Shall we find common ground?

Should we respect the essential decency of the other side?

Some of us have listened and watched as the "pro-choice" message has changed over the years and we're still waiting for some indication that the decision is not made "lightly" or that anyone thinks it's at all important for abortion to be "rare".

When the words say one thing and every last policy encourages the opposite... it's not about necessity or the oppression of women, and it's sure not about medical need...

It's about seeing children as a plague on the Earth, a punishment to our daughters (and their parents) and a problem that must be made to go away.

It's about a 'choice' that's approximately as weighty as deciding to eat dessert or not, except the proper choice is *not*.

elHombre said...

Likewise, torture proponents (and torture apologists) win simply by getting people to think that there can be a debate.

And here comes the inevitable secular progressive moral equivalence crowd, because we all know that waterboarding "stills a beating heart" -- oh yeah.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The difference being what? Is it that a fetus, a potential human being, is not worthy of protection?.

Evidently not. In any case a human fetus certainly doesn't measure up to the same protection liberals place on nest of spotted owl eggs.

Lem said...

What they want is for you to see the fetus as a child, which everybody can do; but it is also not a child.

What they want is for you to see the dog as a friend, which everybody can do; but it is also not a friend.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I think that Notre Dame has foolishly made a political move that will come back to bite them in the butt.

Donations from alumni will be less generous in the future They may need to cease to exist as a Catholic university and go the secular direction.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Synova: "It's about seeing children as a plague on the Earth, a punishment to our daughters (and their parents) and a problem that must be made to go away."

Its uncanny how well you understand Althouse and other pro-choice people.

elHombre said...

[H]e was extremely gracious on the issue in his speech to ASU. the joke issue aside, his point was surprisingly gracious.

No, the gracious thing at ASU would have been not to mention it at all, but narcissism forbade that.

The gracious thing at Notre Dame would have been to do what Tom Ridge did at Gannon University, decline the invitation out of respect for church doctine and the American bishops' guidelines. Narcissism forbade that too.

Quayle said...

Yes, by all means we should continue our national discussion on abortion and find the common ground.

And I hop that discussion will flourish, in our state legislatures and our national legislature, and not limited to a single group of only nine people.

Darcy said...

Really proud of the pro-life comments here. Unwillingness to engage? I don't find that at all. Could be the "choicers" choose not to listen?

rhhardin said...

What they want is for you to see the dog as a friend, which everybody can do; but it is also not a friend.

Right, it's a dog.

It's not a substitute spouse or a substitute child.

What you can do with a dog is what makes it interesting.

Anybody interested in how language works should get one. You'd be surprised how well they do.

elHombre said...

Donations from alumni will be less generous in the future They may need to cease to exist as a Catholic university and go the secular direction.

No problemo. "Federal funds will be available to all los amigos of the party line." - Hugo Chavez

rhhardin said...

The pro choice side doesn't seem very well represented.

Least of all on Rush, which is a major programming mistake as well. Half his audience simply tunes out until he gets over it.

I'd recommend Marge Piercy on Right to Life, poem here, provocatively at Democratic Underground's site but they're the only place I've seen that respects the original formatting.

Pogo said...

Notre Dame is Latin for 'Our Lady', a reference to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, through whom we obtain everything; every hope, every grace, and all salvation.

At least, Catholics used to believe that.

But the Son of Man wouldn't have a chance surviving the pregnancy in the US today, given as we are prone to smashing the fruit of the womb into pulp.

Rename it:
Notre Dame Infecundus

hdhouse said...

What ho! another abortion debate with Rush Limbaugh framing it.

Oh the hummanity.

Lem said...

Right, it's a dog.
It's not a substitute spouse or a substitute child
.

I was hoping to make you see that by saying that a fetus is not a child you are unwilling to distinguish btwg a fetus and a dog a fetus and pretty much anything else imaginable.

I used a dog seeing how much affinity you have for them.

An affinity, however that falls short of a greater good.

Pogo said...

hummanity:
Hummus made from aborted foetuses.
Yummy clump of cells.

Try the new improved Tex-Mex version.

rhhardin said...

Stanley Cavell shows the way a debate ought to go, here, pp.372-375.

Look Inside search on "abortion", click 372, read through 374, and click the 375 result to get the last page.

Book is The Claim of Reason.

Lem said...

If we are willing to call a dog a friend, surely we could find room for a "fetus".

Or is that too much to ask?

rhhardin said...

I was hoping to make you see that by saying that a fetus is not a child you are unwilling to distinguish btwg a fetus and a dog a fetus and pretty much anything else imaginable.

Thanks for arguing but I don't see the plan.

I definitely distinguish between a human fetus and a dog fetus. One is human, one is dog.

What the human is not is "a human." It's human as opposed to wolf.

As far as I can follow what actually happens, meaning what we're inclined to say in unforced language, elevation to being a human has a lot of social criteria around it as well as genes.

It's hard to follow because you're seeing with the language that you're trying to see; so some poet has to come up with good examples to notice for the first time.

It's easy to grab a position and theorize it into eternal truth, but not very interesting. The debate has to keep that from happening.

rhhardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

2 formatting mistake, trying again

If we are willing to call a dog a friend, surely we could find room for a "fetus".

Or is that too much to ask?

You're underestimating dogs a lot.

But if somebody says his dog is his friend, he's analogizing. What he means is that his dog likes to be with him, as a friend does.

traditionalguy said...

Pogo at 8:40 tied abortion back to the goal of Eugenics, which is to have less and less people to have to share the finite resources with. That goes hand in hand with the goal of Stopping the capitalist wealth generator system from using energy of natural resources to make the pie bigger. The Philosophers of Ecology who say they nobly want 1/3 of all existing people eliminated are just the same old crowd that wants to kill people and take their stuff. They are merely thieves and murderers based entirely on selfishness. The sign of a genuine Christian is a life of unselfishness rather than selfishness.

Fen said...

Some of us have listened and watched as the "pro-choice" message has changed over the years and we're still waiting for some indication that the decision is not made "lightly" or that anyone thinks it's at all important for abortion to be "rare".


They could start by defending the hypocricy of calling it "choice". We know that birth control is not 100% effective, but we CHOOSE to take that risk anyway, knowing full well there is a small chance it will result in the taking of a human life.

But we do it anyway. And lament about "choice" afterwards. Hypocricy.

Paul Zrimsek said...

My idea of engaging with the other side is "Here's why I think your position is wrong"-- not "Let's take my position on abortion as given, talk about some peripheral issues where we're likelier to agree, and call that a dialogue on abortion."

Fen said...

It all moot. Our grandaughters will all be wearing burkas.

Hey, maybe the Celebrity-In-Chief will give me $100 billion to retool the fashion industry?

rhhardin said...

We know that birth control is not 100% effective, but we CHOOSE to take that risk anyway, knowing full well there is a small chance it will result in the taking of a human life.

Does it seem like it would have to be a human life without a human when it's a bunch of cells, to you?

It seems like there's no human, to me.

It's important that it is in fact valid to see it as a human - there's a guy on the radio right this instant talking about plans for next Wednesday when it's time to try for a child again - but I think that's not a property of the fetus but rather a property of the parents; they support a social relation that pulls the concept into humanity, for purposes of this or that exposition.

I think that's universal but a fact about human language, not a fact about fetuses.

Flexo said...

That's a big political problem for pro-Lifers — their unwillingness to engage with the other side.

"unwillingness to engage with the other side"?? Huh?

The pro-life community is all too eager to engage with the other side. But it is because of the pro-choice/pro-abortion crowd that there is not and can not be any substantive engagement. Specifically, Roe, Casey, and their "progeny."

The autocratic, antidemocratic Supreme Court and much of the judiciary have told pro-lifers to SHUT THE HELL UP.

You want to discuss the matter publicly? Fine, we'll slap a prior restraint injunction on you, and then accuse you of RICO violations if you continue to speak out.

You want to make an abortion related statement on your license plate? Fine, we'll strike down laws permitting them.

You want to pass laws to ensure authentic informed consent -- a fundamental right that any patient has? Hell no. Struck down.

You want political engagement on the issue? The Supreme Court has said, screw you, it's not a political issue, it's OUR issue,
WE decide, not you. Shut the hell up, pro-lifers!

You want to actually do something substantive in the law regarding abortion? Hell no. Struck down.

The pro-life community is all too eager to have real, authentic, and substantive engagement on the issue. When can we start??

Pogo said...

Marge Piercy wrote:
"We are all born of woman"
Well, clearly no longer all.

"I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine,
not your calf for fattening,
not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
"

Mother Teresa put it much better, I think: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."

...and: “The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts – a child – as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners."

elHombre said...

Does it seem like it would have to be a human life without a human when it's a bunch of cells, to you?

If human embryologists agree -- and they seem to -- that life begins at conception, what kind of life would you say it is? If you say it is not "human life," at what point would you say it becomes human life or, if you prefer, "a human."

holdfast said...

"Parents do the same thing with kids when they ask if they can get something or do something and the parent replies with: "We'll see." That really means no but it leaves the possibility open to the kid. Obama is doing the same thing, lets have a dialougue but we're not going to actually do anything about it."

-Haven't you been paying attention? This is Teh Obamassiah's version of bi-partisanship. This version of post-partisanship is "I won, debate's over and shut up!" I guess that in Obama's dreamed-of one-party state there is no partisanship.

Flexo said...

Now, with all due respects to you non-Catholics, but at root, Obama at Notre Dame is not first and foremost a matter for the public at large, much less political factions.

This is, first and foremost, a matter between Catholics. What you non-Catholics have to say on the matter of abortion, interesting though it may be, is really beside the point.

And, as a purely Catholic matter, Notre Dame has been hurtling toward an anti-Catholic, quasi-Protestant view of the Church for quite a while. From Fr. Hesburgh to Professor McBrien to the Land of Lakes declaration to Mario Cuomo, who first professed his infamous "personally opposed, but . . ." argument at Notre Dame, that particular university, like many "Catholic" universities in America, have sought to reject everything about Catholicism except the name.

And now Notre Dame, befouling and desecrating its very name -- Our Lady, who carried and carries the living Lord in her womb from the moment of His conception at the Annunciation -- has given honors to Obama. And not any honor, but an honors in law. Law, the very vehicle of his war on humanity in the womb.

This is a Catholic matter, with all due respect to you non-Catholics. And now, the abortion extremist and anti-Catholic Obama has come to a Catholic institution to make the audacious claim that it is those who are faithful Catholics who are the dissenting extremists!

(to be continued)

Michael McNeil said...

If we are willing to call a dog a friend, surely we could find room for a “fetus.”

As I pointed out on another thread, the crucial distinction is whether the developing fetus has a brain — which doesn't even start its long gestational development until around the beginning of the second month after conception.

A dog — indeed any life form including human that one can sensibly form a “friendship” with — has a brain.

Thus, one might note, at the opposite end of the nine-month term of gestation, the so-called “partial-birth abortion” — where a ready-for-birth baby complete with full-blown human brain is cut up in the womb and basically flushed down the toilet — really is infanticide and hence an abomination.

The same cannot be said for an early-term abortion.

Jeremy said...

As a follow on to Flexo's comments, is there a single "compromise" that pro-choice advocates have ever made?

-The Other Jeremy

Synova said...

"Pogo at 8:40 tied abortion back to the goal of Eugenics, which is to have less and less people to have to share the finite resources with."

The tie to abortion and birth control, via Sanger, to eugenics isn't to have *less* people... it's to have *better* people by encouraging the poor not to reproduce.

"Sanger espoused the thinking of eugenicists -- similar to Darwin's "survival of the fittest" -- but related the concept to human society, saying the genetic makeup of the poor, and minorities, for example, was inferior. (Pivot of Civilization, by Margaret Sanger, 1922, p. 80)"

etc.

Pogo said...

...to have fewer of the wrong kind of people.


And well-stated, Flexo.

Flexo said...

This is a Catholic matter. This is about Notre Dame not only failing in its Catholic obligations -- the obligation that any and every Catholic person has toward truth, including and especially the truth of the human person -- this is about Notre Dame engaging in damnable scandal.

Scandal -- leading others to fall away from the faith, leading others away from truth and into error and death.

Far from teaching its students about the truth of the human person and the truth of Catholic teaching, Notre Dame has taught its students the exact opposite -- that there is no "truth," that all so-called truth is relative, every viewpoint is valid, and that we should all agree to disagree amiably. But Notre Dame has done a disservice to its students. Far from setting them free with truth, it has foisted upon them the dictatorship of relativism. And, sadly, all too many students cheering Obama at the ceremony are all too eager to embrace that lie.

This is, first and foremost, a Catholic matter. It is, first and foremost, not about what President Obama said, but about what the president of Notre Dame said.

And here is what Archbishop Charles Chaput has to say on that point --

"Most graduation speeches are a mix of piety and optimism designed to ease students smoothly into real life. The best have humor. Some genuinely inspire. But only a rare few manage to be pious, optimistic, evasive, sad and damaging all at the same time. Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, is a man of substantial intellect and ability. This makes his introductory comments to President Obama’s Notre Dame commencement speech on May 17 all the more embarrassing.

"Let’s remember that the debate over President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame was never about whether he is a good or bad man. The president is clearly a sincere and able man. By his own words, religion has had a major influence in his life. We owe him the respect Scripture calls us to show all public officials. We have a duty to pray for his wisdom and for the success of his service to the common good -- insofar as it is guided by right moral reasoning.

"We also have the duty to oppose him when he’s wrong on foundational issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research and similar matters. And we also have the duty to avoid prostituting our Catholic identity by appeals to phony dialogue that mask an abdication of our moral witness. Notre Dame did not merely invite the president to speak at its commencement. It also conferred an unnecessary and unearned honorary law degree on a man committed to upholding one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history: Roe v. Wade.

"In doing so, Notre Dame ignored the U.S. bishops’ guidance in their 2004 statement, Catholics in Political Life. It ignored the concerns of Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Notre Dame’s 2009 Laetare Medal honoree – who, unlike the president, certainly did deserve her award, but finally declined it in frustration with the university’s action. It ignored appeals from the university’s local bishop, the president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, more than 70 other bishops, many thousands of Notre Dame alumni and hundreds of thousands of other American Catholics. Even here in Colorado, I’ve heard from too many to count.

"There was no excuse – none, except intellectual vanity – for the university to persist in its course. And Father Jenkins compounded a bad original decision with evasive and disingenuous explanations to subsequently justify it.

"These are hard words, but they’re deserved precisely because of Father Jenkins’ own remarks on May 17: Until now, American Catholics have indeed had “a special expectation, a special hope for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world.” For many faithful Catholics – and not just a “small but vocal group” described with such inexcusable disdain and ignorance in journals like Time magazine -- that changed Sunday.

"The May 17 events do have some fitting irony, though. Almost exactly 25 years ago, Notre Dame provided the forum for Gov. Mario Cuomo to outline the “Catholic” case for “pro-choice” public service. At the time, Cuomo’s speech was hailed in the media as a masterpiece of American Catholic legal and moral reasoning. In retrospect, it’s clearly adroit. It’s also, just as clearly, an illogical and intellectually shabby exercise in the manufacture of excuses. Father Jenkins’ explanations, and President Obama’s honorary degree, are a fitting national bookend to a quarter century of softening Catholic witness in Catholic higher education. Together, they’ve given the next generation of Catholic leadership all the excuses they need to baptize their personal conveniences and ignore what it really demands to be “Catholic” in the public square.

"Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has suggested that Notre Dame “didn’t understand” what it means to be Catholic before these events began. He's correct, and Notre Dame is hardly alone in its institutional confusion. That's the heart of the matter. Notre Dame’s leadership has done a real disservice to the Church, and now seeks to ride out the criticism by treating it as an expression of fringe anger. But the damage remains, and Notre Dame’s critics are right. The most vital thing faithful Catholics can do now is to insist – by their words, actions and financial support – that institutions claiming to be “Catholic” actually live the faith with courage and consistency. If that happens, Notre Dame’s failure may yet do some unintended good."

Synova said...

Synova: "It's about seeing children as a plague on the Earth, a punishment to our daughters (and their parents) and a problem that must be made to go away."

Joseph: "Its uncanny how well you understand Althouse and other pro-choice people.
"

I think that Althouse can speak for herself.

But I listen to the "choice" arguments and have for 20 years... and an "unwanted" child is presented as an unmitigated, horrific disaster for women. Not just a difficulty or a challenge... but something horrible and anyone who suggests that a woman carry and deliver a child must certainly hate women.

Our President, not me, used the word "punished". A baby, his grandchild, would be a punishment for his daughters if they make a mistake and get pregnant. Not a blessing. Not even a difficulty or challenge. A punishment.

rhhardin said...

If you say it is not "human life," at what point would you say it becomes human life or, if you prefer, "a human."

I'd say we say "a human" when there's a social relation to others, not as a theoretical position but as an observation how the language is used naturally, something that is hard to dig out but worth honoring. It isn't arbitrary.

We have a legal bright line that more or less reflects that: at birth then it's a human, reflecting its having all sorts of relations to people who find it cute and take on protective attitudes towards it.

Is that all there is to it? Maybe.

Synova said...

If we define "human" by relationships we can also define "human" by... relationships.

If someone caring about another person makes them human we can define whole races as not-human because we define them by the attitudes of other people.

A person with no family thus has no place and no humanity. A person who doesn't belong and isn't loved isn't human.

Ah, but if you say... but someone *else* cares about that person and so they are human even if the person who cares does not have a relationship, then it's true that there are people who *care* about the human unborn... and that makes them human.

OldGrouchy said...

Now the message on the Mount has come yet again! That message remains the same, in terms of words or meaning, that there is no god but Me.

Except it's not God speaking, it's a messiah wannabe come again in a Human guise.

While it's right in that the argument is between those who wish to claim dominion over Catholics, it's not simply a Catholic issue.

It's almost an issue of what we're willing to kill! Some would kill most of humanity but never animals. Some would kill a fetus but never a dirty rotten racist killer who we shall all love and set free. Some would kill that killer but never a fetus, even to in fact save the mother's life.

We are a complex people with much to gain from that complexity except some understanding of what we are! Still, if it's acceptable to "kill" a fetus, may we do so after it's come forth screaming into the world? At which point may we not do so? Why? Is my pistol allowed to be a tool of choice or must I use forceps or what else?

rhhardin said...

A person with no family thus has no place and no humanity. A person who doesn't belong and isn't loved isn't human.

That's pretty common as an inclination, isn't it? The loner serial killer is a monster. ``He doesn't seem human.''

Why doesn't he seem human?

As opposed to a well liked serial killer.

Flexo said...

Getting back to the point of pro-lifers engaging the other side.

Not only has the Supreme Court shut down any real discussion or engagement, but Obama himself slammed the door on any engagement or dialogue is his Notre Dame speech!

As Bishop Robert Finn noted,

I think the message of the day was this – that the President of Notre Dame said that they had invited the President of the United States and decided to honor him for the sake of dialogue. And then the President got up and said that the differences that we have on abortion – namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were “irreconcilable.” And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt. Father Jenkins’ expressed desire for dialogue, whether it was well-founded or justified, at that point got thrown back in his face. The President shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion. To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear.

Synova said...

It's not really that hard.

If a clump of cells is too much to accept as a person even though it is alive and a distinct organism...

... how about we go with brain activity?

It's nicely symmetric; defining both the beginning and end of life. So when that clump of cells creates its first two little neurons and one little neuron fires off the first little bolt of energy to the other little neuron... from then until the brain activity stops again, its alive.

rhhardin said...

then it's true that there are people who *care* about the human unborn... and that makes them human.

Cavell, linked above, says that they don't care; or rather that they don't fully mean it.

It's a sterile sort of care. There's nothing they want for the fetus, except that it not be killed.

The *emphasis* is an attempt to get the word, which has gone on holiday, to mean something.

rhhardin said...

You don't do it on brain activity because the language doesn't do it on brain activity.

The debate ought to discover what we mean when we say something is a human, not just make stuff up.

Trooper York said...

It is hard to confront evil when it has a smiling face and an engaging personality. President Obama by his efforts to prevent a bill that would have given a baby that survived an abortion a chance to survive has rendered any dicussion of abortion with him moot. He is obviously not willing to put any restiction or checks on the abortion industry. He is perhaps the most extreme pro-abortion President we have ever had. For Notre Dame to honor him is both a sin and a scandel.

One that they may never recover from in the eyes of many Catholics.

elHombre said...

This is a Catholic matter, with all due respect to you non-Catholics.

You should probably pass that on to CatholicVote.org, which solicits money and support without regard to denomination on this and other issues.

Is it possible that the issue here is Obama's and Notre Dame's support for abortion, not Catholic provincialism?

Lem said...

Obama seeks a supreme with empathy...

check that.. not with empathy for the unborn. sorry.

Clarification... (you need to be specific with the help wanted adds)

Synova said...

"Cavell, linked above, says that they don't care; or rather that they don't fully mean it.

It's a sterile sort of care. There's nothing they want for the fetus, except that it not be killed.
"

Without actual relationship all care is a sterile sort of care, isn't it?

Like caring for people who are slaves. If I don't know them personally, no matter my commitment to holding down my little outpost on the underground railroad, my care is sterile. Any care for genocide, any care for any human tragedy that doesn't touch me directly is a sterile sort of care.

Anyone who says different is lying.

Anyone who says that a sterile, intellectual, *reasoned* care for other humans is not legitimate is likely self-delusional about their own relationship to the world around them.

Michael McNeil said...

rhhardin sez:
You don't do it on brain activity because the language doesn't do it on brain activity.

“The language” doesn't “do it” on brain activity? What language? English? Doesn't do what?

The (legal) language of human death is that it's defined as brain death — which is eminently sensible, as opposed to defining death as the stoppage of a mere pump. Why not similarly define human life as brain life?

rhhardin:
The debate ought to discover what we mean when we say something is a human, not just make stuff up.

Since the brain is the seat of everything that we mean by being “human” — thought, emotion, memory, experience (of anything) — considering the start of brain activity as being the beginning of human life itself is perfectly in accord with what it means to be human and not animal.

Synova said...

Language is a servant.

Not a master.

elHombre said...

rdhardin: I'd say you begged the harder question which is -

If human embryologists agree -- and they seem to -- that life begins at conception, what kind of life would you say it is?

Try again, please.

BTW: Other than seeking sustenance from mom, a continuation of the relationship in the womb, newborns don't have social relationships. One-sided dotage by parents and others is not "relationship," linguistic or otherwise.

paul a'barge said...

engage with the other side...

This you say is true of Pro-Lifers.

Wow. Just wow.

Maybe you can give us some examples of how Planned Parenthood or NARAL have engaged with the other side? ..

Would that be the willingness to not report sexual abuse of a minor by an adult?

Would that be the unrestrained support in Kansas of a doctor willing to murder an unborn baby at the age of 9 months minus one day?

Would that be the promotion of the most pro-abortion politician in the United States to head of a US Department?

Would that be the use of the RICO statute to prosecute pro-lifers exercising their 1st Amendment rights to peacefully protest at abortuariums?

I'm just wracking my brain trying to find examples of how abortion peddlers are trying to engage with the other side. Maybe you can help me out.

Synova said...

I think that brain activity is a wonderful compromise.

It's a painful one for people who prefer to recognize conception because it allows any number of early interventions and methods of pregnancy termination or methods of birth control that don't prevent conception.

Mostly, it's elegant.

MadisonMan said...

I think the pro-life movement went off the rails when it started shooting doctors. That's what led to injunctions, etc., and to losing less vocal anti-abortion thinkers. Marching around with bloody pictures isn't helpful either.

Notre Dame's (heh, mistyped as Damn's) problem probably stems from the University trying to boast about Graduation Speakers. One envisions the University Presidents playing a game on one-upmanship in who got who to bloviate at their Commencement: You got the Head of Chrysler? Hell, We got the effin' PRESIDENT OF THE USA! In your HAT, Holy Cross!

I can seriously picture them doing that. There must be an annual Conference of American University Presidents where the chief scuttlebutt in between Break-out sessions is Commencement Speakers.

PatCA said...

I have to agree with Rush on one thing: I'm sick to death of calls for dialogue. We have been talking for decades and decades, and it serves no one except politicians.

I still want to know how one can justify government paying for abortions here and abroad, if abortion is a privacy right, a decision so personal that no government interference whatsoever may intrude.

As I say, this dialogue favors politicians.

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael McNeil said...

If human embryologists agree — and they seem to — that life begins at conception, what kind of life would you say it is?

This is wrong. What science informs us is not that “life begins at conception,” but that life never begins — or rather, life began, however it began, once, back in the mists of time of the early Earth billions of years ago — and all life since that time has continued as an unbroken chain, from generation unto generation, up to the present day. The father and mother are alive, their egg and sperm are alive, and the composite being that their union forms is no more or less alive than it was before.

What the fetus lacks in terms of being “human” — for another month after conception — is that seat of all the qualities which make us human and not animal: the brain.

Trooper York said...

Abortion extremists like President Obama would have no problem if the mother of that trans-gendered child would have that troublesome child aborted. Or if it was gay. Or female. Or a Down’s syndrome Baby. Or a child with brown eyes instead of blue.

To them it is not a baby, just a lump of cells. An inconvenience. Like a mole.

TMink said...

MadisonMan wrote: "I think the pro-life movement went off the rails when it started shooting doctors."

Agreed. The six murders committed by those people were horrid.

Of course none have happened in 6 years or so. Does this mean the pro-life movement is back on the rails?

Trey

TMink said...

elHombre wrote: " a continuation of the relationship in the womb, newborns don't have social relationships. One-sided dotage by parents and others is not "relationship," linguistic or otherwise."

You are wrong.

The current brain scan based science on neurological development shows that the mother's experience is shared with her infant starting at least by as early as 20 weeks when the prefrontal orbital cortex begins to develop. This is the part of the brain that controls our ability to bond to others and self soothe when we are upset.

From at least 20 weeks on the baby feels, tastes, smells, and experiences much of the mother's life. That is why good prenatal care and good emotional support for mothers is critical. A stressful pregnancy for the mom harms the baby.

At the moment of birth, the child prefers the sound of the mother's and father's voice, and the smell of the mother's breast milk to that of another mother. This is before the child has tasted the breast milk of the mother. "Dotage" cannot account for these relational preferences.

The old theories, that is to say those from the mid 80s were observationally based, but the new work in this area involves measurements of brain scans. It is hard science, though fairly new.

You view almost certainly makes it easier to support terminating the life of the unborn, but it is not accurate science.

Trey

rhhardin said...

If human embryologists agree -- and they seem to -- that life begins at conception, what kind of life would you say it is?

Embryologists have exactly zero to say about it, unless they're studying langauge and what is a human.

Synova said...

You're going to have to do more to support this "language" thing. Words are squishy and have multiple meanings.

What argument are you trying to make?

rhhardin said...

Language is a servant.

Not a master.

Fine, but it grows exactly on human interests, which it can then discover where they may be momentarily submerged by warring dogmas.

rhhardin said...

Without actual relationship all care is a sterile sort of care, isn't it?

Like caring for people who are slaves. If I don't know them personally, no matter my commitment to holding down my little outpost on the underground railroad, my care is sterile. Any care for genocide, any care for any human tragedy that doesn't touch me directly is a sterile sort of care.

Right, and you can read the Cavell a few further pages and read about slaves, the general topic at hand being ``seeing something as human.''

Slavery ended when it could no longer be justified, having little to do with seeing as human except as a final thrust at a defense of a traditional economic policy.

But an argument based on *caring* replaces the argument you ought to be making, but perhaps in the case of abortion can't.

rhhardin said...

Since the brain is the seat of everything that we mean by being “human” — thought, emotion, memory, experience (of anything) — considering the start of brain activity as being the beginning of human life itself is perfectly in accord with what it means to be human and not animal.

Animals have brains. Dogs, to take one I know really well, make sense of all sorts of human activities, and find a place in them.

Vicki Hearne is particularly good at arguing against the psych 101 view of animals, as to their place in the moral universe. I recommend the essays on Washoe and How To Say Fetch.

Brent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

Has anybody ever raised a wild bird from just-hatched?

There's an interesting effect on you.

Namely that it's pretty mechanical for about a week - it senses you but only to open its beak; and then after a week the bird starts recognizing and addressing you.

The inclination is to say that at that point the bird develops a personality.

Brent said...

No compromise? Decency?

I am completely pro-life. I do not "get" why the other side doesn't fully get my point, but I don't for a minute believe that that everyone who is pro-choice is "evil" or hateful or "completely self-centered".

I do believe however in the Bible.
And the Bible could not be more clear that every life from conception on is a life that God Himself created and does not give the "choice" to others to take away while it is innocent of any crime.
`

The Biblical perspective is this: People who believe in the right to abortion are not on their way to hell because they believe in the right to abortion. It's the other way around: They believe in the right to abortion because they are already on their way to hell (John 3:17). Expecting people who have not accepted the Bible and it's resulting thousands of years of Judeo-Christian morality as an authority in their life to "get it" is a complete waste of time.
'

So, the question really then remains: Is there an acceptable civic and moral reason apart from Biblical belief to cease the right to abortion?

rhhardin said...

rh Animals have brains. Dogs, to take one I know really well, make sense of all sorts of human activities, and find a place in them.

From Sunday, what does it mean when you look from the kitchen and see the dog by the door holding a tennis ball in its mouth?

She is tailoring a question to what she thinks I will understand.

It's a pretty ordinary but extraordinary performance.

rhhardin said...

You're going to have to do more to support this "language" thing. Words are squishy and have multiple meanings.

What argument are you trying to make?

Ultimately that dogma is inferior to curiosity.

Michael McNeil said...

Animals have brains. Dogs, to take one I know really well, make sense of all sorts of human activities, and find a place in them.

Sure they do, and it's their brains that make them capable of the behaviors and emotional rapport that we love about them.

However, dog brains are much smaller — particularly in the advanced cerebral cortex region — than human brains, and thus dogs are incapable of many of the things (such as language and the ability to engage in abstract thought) that make us fully human, and not some other animal.

former law student said...

Here are some facts on who has abortions in America. They are mostly
1. The young
2. The unmarried
3. The poor

More than half were using birth control.

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

It's a sterile sort of care. There's nothing they want for the fetus, except that it not be killed.

Pro-life people can demonstrate how much they care by taking in a young, single, poor woman, and helping her raise her child to adulthood. This is concrete care.

Alternatively, men can follow the dictates of the Pope, and have sex only within the bonds of marriage, and only when they are open to the possibility of a child. The only virgin birth was Jesus -- men have to shoulder their share of responsibility for the one million plus feticides a year.

One thing to realize about the pro-life movement is that only a portion of it is part of the forced birth movement. People making individual choices to cherish the new live in their womb are not the same as those who would force all pregnancies to term.

rhhardin said...

However, dog brains are much smaller — particularly in the advanced cerebral cortex region — than human brains, and thus dogs are incapable of many of the things (such as language and the ability to engage in abstract thought) that make us fully human, and not some other animal.

You're using a human language which grows to support the interests of humans.

It's the language you ought to be looking at, not the brain, in making sense of what it is to be human.

It will do it anyway, and it's best to know it's doing it.

Synova said...

Didn't you say that relationships created value and defined "human"? Something like that anyhow.

I disagree.

I agree that we really don't love or care for people we don't know and don't have relationships with. That doesn't shock or worry me.

It's the difference between concrete and abstract. Abstract is only and ever a reasoned construct. Yes, sterile and a little bit unreal, but the ability to construct those abstracts is probably what makes us sentient.

I was thinking about that after seeing the Star Trek movie the other day. In the end the compassionate response wasn't the one based on feelings. The compassionate response was the one based on reason. Compassion was made possible by emotional detachment.

Anyhow, I wanted to know what you were trying to get at about language. I disagree that language is a determining factor in any real way. It's descriptive... and usually poorly.

But I'll try...

Life: McNeil is quite right (as well as being in line with Lutheran doctrine about the soul) that life is continuous... it doesn't start new. Not only is a fertilized egg "alive" but so were the sperm and the unfertilized ova.

Human: Has to be defined by DNA. Human DNA is human. We can identify any portion of human tissue as belonging to a human organism. A fertilized egg has unique human DNA. It is a unique human. If it splits into twins or triples, a clone is formed. A clone (plant or animal) has the same DNA but is a separate organism.

What might be a more important word in our language is:

Person.

A person doesn't even have to be human to be a person. A person might be an alien. A person could (theoretically) be an AI. A person could be a chimera. A Neanderthal would be a person, but not a human.

Often when people say "human" they mean "person." Non-human, non-person.

In context it works just fine to interchange the words human and person. (Since at present we don't have any real AI's, alien visitors, Neanderthals, or chimeras to worry over.)

former law student said...

the Bible could not be more clear that every life from conception on is a life that God Himself created and does not give the "choice" to others to take away while it is innocent of any crime.

Actually, the Bible could be more clear. Exodus 21 makes it clear that the life of a fetus is not equal to the life of its mother, because the penalty for injuring a woman so that she loses the fetus is much less than the death penalty for killing the woman would be:

22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

`

rhhardin said...

abstract caring

I've claimed that love is not a feeling. You take your kid to the dentist because you love her, but you're not feeling anything.

If you didn't take her, people would say you don't love her.

So it's abstract in that sense.

But it's not so abstract as if you're saying all kids ought to go to the dentist.

It's your kid, and you take her, and that you love her is your explanation.

But it can't be the explanation of your wanting all kids to go to the dentist.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

The president showed what a masterful social person he is. In many ways his speech was a victory for the abortion rights group. OTOH it was a victory for its foes. He talked about abortion as 'morally troubling.' I think this means wrong, perhaps murder. What we are then left with is a situation where murder is permitted. It is just impractical to prohibit it as abortion would still be sought and both mother and baby are likely to die. Though a much different situation this is something like our approach to alcoholism. The state has laws to intervene if you seem likely to kill yourself or someone else out of mental illness. OTOH one can be severely alcoholic, which is not approved of, moral or healthy, but the state doesn't intervene unless you are driving.

Lem said...

I think the pro-life movement went off the rails when it started shooting doctors.

Out of all the comments I have red form you MM in over a year, this is the most disappointing.

By equating all abortion terrorist with pro-lifers, you are equating all Muslims with Islamic terrorist.

William said...

There's more shambiguity than ambiguity in Obama's position. He is not opposed to partial birth abortion. That, in my view, is an extreme position. His measured tones and reasoned words are meant to obfuscate and not clarify the absolutes of his position. He nowhere acknowledges that it is even possible for a woman to make the wrong decision for the wrong reason....The philosopher climbed the mountain and instead of seeing the line between black and white, he saw endless fields of gray. I am very glad to be living in a country where so many people are so strongly opposed to abortion. That said I see a huge difference between a morning after pill and a late term abortion. I know this view doesn't make logical or even biological sense, but that is how I feel. I also feel that waterboarding is torture but not in the way that throwing acid into someone's face is torture. Differences of degree are, in fact, differences of kind. I do not wish to be the next Pope or the next president of NOW (no matter how hard they beg). I hope the pro life people continue to back the pro choice people into a smaller and smaller corner and that neither side ever wins absolutely.

MadisonMan said...

Of course none have happened in 6 years or so. Does this mean the pro-life movement is back on the rails?

Well, people have long memories. (I'm thinking none happened during the Bush years). It shows you how the good works of many can be derailed by the few. For how long? Who really knows.

I would wager that many many people, if polled, would say anti-abortionists kill people, but paradoxically, pro-choice people don't! There's irony for you.

Michael McNeil said...

I do believe however in the Bible.
And the Bible could not be more clear that every life from conception on is a life that God Himself created and does not give the “choice” to others to take away while it is innocent of any crime.


This is wrong. Nowhere does the Bible even mention conception — indeed, nobody knew what conception was until the age of modern science.

The early Church considered abortion wrong not because it supposedly killed an ensouled human being, but because it could be used to hide the visible consequences of the sin of fornication. St. Augustine, for instance, wrote: “But who is not rather disposed to think that unformed fetuses perish like seeds which have not fructified.”

Eight centuries after Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas thought much the same way, as this review makes plain:

“Aquinas developed an ontological argument. Technically called hylomorphism, the argument states that there is no human life in the womb until the fifth or sixth month when quickening occurs. Until then, argued Aquinas, we are dealing with vegetative life and animal life, both of which are produced by human semen and both of which cease to exist when the fetus attains full sensation and a human form. It is then that a rational soul is infused into the fetus from without and by God.

“God cannot infuse a soul into a small cluster of cells because body and soul belong together; a cluster of cells is not a human body. Aquinas believes in delayed hominization. Indeed, hylomorphism is essential to his philosophy and his definition of what it means to be human. Two subsequent ecumenical councils (Vienne in 1311 and Trent in 1545) taught that no human embryo could have a human soul.”

Aquinas's philosophy fits in precisely with what we now know about the human brain, and how it's necessary to serve as a vehicle for all truly human qualities.

elHombre said...

rhhardin wrote: Embryologists have exactly zero to say about [when life begins], unless they're studying langauge and what is a human.

Do you realize how fatuous that statement, standing alone, appears to be.

What is that, some sort of aberrational Heideggerian hermeneutic?

Pardon me while I check with the linguistic oncologist to see if the tumorous lump under my arm can be called "a tumor."

Michael McNeil said...

It's the language you ought to be looking at, not the brain, in making sense of what it is to be human.

You're putting the cart before the horse. Symbolic language requires the human brain's linguistic apparatus in order to exist.

former law student said...

There's more shambiguity than ambiguity in Obama's position. He is not opposed to partial birth abortion.

On an issue like partial birth abortion, I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I’ve said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn’t have that.
Part of the reason they didn’t have it was purposeful, because those who are opposed to abortion have a moral calling to try to oppose what they think is immoral. Oftentimes what they were trying to do was to polarize the debate and make it more difficult for people, so that they could try to bring an end to abortions overall.

As president, my goal is to bring people together, to listen to them, and I don’t think that’s any Republican out there who I’ve worked with who would say that I don’t listen to them, I don’t respect their ideas, I don’t understand their perspective. And my goal is to get us out of this polarizing debate where we’re always trying to score cheap political points and actually get things done.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: presidential series Apr 27, 2008

Obama voted against this bill in the 90th Ill. G.A. It turned doctors into felons, and made no exception to preserve the health of the mother.

SB230 Engrossed LRB9001038DJcdB
1 AN ACT concerning abortions.
2 Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
3 represented in the General Assembly:
4 Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the
5 Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act.
6 Section 5. Definitions. In this Act:
7 "Partial-birth abortion" means an abortion in which the
8 person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a
9 living human fetus or infant before killing the fetus or
10 infant and completing the delivery. The terms "fetus" and
11 "infant" are used interchangeably to refer to the biological
12 offspring of human parents.
13 Section 10. Partial-birth abortions prohibited. Any
14 person who knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and
15 thereby kills a human fetus or infant is guilty of a Class 4
16 felony. This Section does not apply to a partial-birth
17 abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother
18 because her life is endangered by a physical disorder,
19 physical illness, or physical injury, including a
20 life-endangering condition caused by or arising from the
21 pregnancy itself, provided that no other medical procedure
22 would suffice for that purpose.
23 Section 15. Civil action. The father of the fetus or
24 infant and the maternal grandparents of the fetus or infant,
25 if the mother has not attained the age of 18 years at the
26 time of the abortion, may in a civil action obtain
27 appropriate relief unless the pregnancy resulted from the
28 plaintiff's criminal conduct or the plaintiff consented to
29 the abortion. The relief shall include money damages for all
SB230 Engrossed -2- LRB9001038DJcdB
1 injuries, psychological and physical, occasioned by the
2 violation of this Act and statutory damages equal to 3 times
3 the cost of the partial-birth abortion.
4 Section 20. Prosecution of woman prohibited. A woman on
5 whom a partial-birth abortion is performed may not be
6 prosecuted under this Act, for a conspiracy to violate this
7 Act, or for an offense under Article 31 of the Criminal Code
8 of 1961 based on a violation of this Act, nor may she be held
9 accountable under Article 5 of the Criminal Code of 1961 for
10 an offense based on a violation of this Act.
11 Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect 60
12 days after becoming law.

Smilin' Jack said...

Roughly one-third of conceptions spontaneously abort. God is the greatest abortionist.

Pogo said...

For Notre Dame Our Lady now refers not to Mary, but to Margaret Sanger, or maybe a pole dancer.

Once we believe that as a matter of decency a mother can or should or will kill her own child, then everything is permitted.

What basis have we to say no?
Surely not morals.
We can kill a child, then we can do anything at all.
Laws are mere cultural friction, shed over time as the underlying struts of tradition rot away, and cede to popular demand.

Where once Kate Bush sang that "Mother stands for comfort", one must add "except when she changes her mind." The borderline personality disorder or sociopath as role model.

For when there is no separation between she who gives life and she who takes it away, it is granted or rescinded like pulling a weed or turning off a faucet, lacking any more meaning than a river or a rodent or a bit of rice.

Lacking inherent human dignity, we become mere things, dependent on the sufferance of the powerful in all our affairs, who can at a whim let us live or die, with no more thought than given to lunch.

At least, that's my imperfect take on the matter; it's how I see the whimper-not-a-bang effect come true again at Notre Damned.

holdfast said...

"MadisonMan wrote: "I think the pro-life movement went off the rails when it started shooting doctors.""

I think Islam went off the rails when it kept blowing up the WTC.

I think that the environmental movement went off the rails when it started burning housing developments and car dealerships.

I think that the anti-war movement went off the rails when it bombed the US Capital.

Whee, this is fun - I could do this all day.

holdfast said...

FLS said - "All I’ve said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn’t have that."

Which means the bill/law is utterly useless, because, as we've learned from our English cousins, "health" includes mental health, which means depression or just feeling bad, which means no restriction because some pro-abortion doc can ALWAYS be found to say the abortion is necessary to the woman's mental health. Saying "life of the mother" at least has more teeth. If you want to kill your unborn child because it is inconvenient, please at least have the decency to make up you frakkin mind before the child is viable.

former law student said...

That was Obama, not me, but I ran out of html crayons.

former law student said...

If you want to kill your unborn child because it is inconvenient, please at least have the decency to make up you frakkin mind before the child is viable.

Partial-birth abortion is the name of a medical procedure. It has nothing to do with convenience or the lack thereof, or even viability.

An anencephalic fetus will not survive more than a few days outside the womb. Read about "Baby K" for a hideous story resulting from carrying such a child to term.

elHombre said...

TMink wrote: "[elHombre] your view almost certainly makes it easier to support terminating the life of the unborn, but it is not accurate science."

You might want to read my posts in the context of responding to rhhardin (and maybe twice). There is nothing that I said that supports abortion or can be reasonably interpreted to do so.

My use of the word "dotage" was incorrect. It should have been "doting." Within the context of rhhardin's loose use of "relationship," my comments were otherwise accurate.

Joseph Hovsep said...

This comment threat illustrates precisely the point Althouse was making--that the pro-life perspective on abortion is inherently closed to negotiation or debate. This is not a partisan slam on pro-lifers. This is just the nature of the debate. The leadership and "true believers" of the pro-life movement ultimately want to end access to abortion under all circumstances because abortion is a grave sin, regardless of whether the woman was raped, when the abortion takes place, or the viability of the fetus. There are certainly radical people on the pro-choice side, but the pro-choice side's goal is to accommodate the woman's right to control her own body, which, unlike the pro-life position, is open to negotiation and consideration of competing values.

Pogo said...

Baby K is not a story about abortion except if, because it survived to full term, you mean to remove any limit marked by a merely arbitrary 'delivery', and counsel killing live infants post-term, and not just gestationally as we do now.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Synova: "We pro-lifers are still waiting for even a single one of the things supposedly so necessary to make abortion "rare" to do anything but increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions."

The rate of abortion has steadily decreased since the peak in 1980.

Brent said...

Thank you Mr McNeil for the cemetery, uh, seminary analysis of what various theologians throughout history have thought.

Read the Bible itself. Do not hide behind someone else'e view.. Start at Psalm 139. Explain.

elHombre said...

FLS wrote (12:19): Here are some facts on who has abortions in America.... (Citing http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html)

You have taken editorial license with these data which were skewed toward pro-abortion to begin with.

For example, modifying your claim that "more than half (54%) were using birth control," the report clarifies, "76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently."

So your point must have been that most women who have abortions eschew birth control, right?

Jeez!

MadisonMan said...

holdfast, I can't tell: Do you agree with me or not?

rhhardin said...

Tootle went off the rails when he started picking flowers.

Cedarford said...

That's a big political problem for pro-Lifers — their unwillingness to engage with the other side.I think Althouse is 180 DEG off on this. From her time in NYC and at Madison, she should know that the Left draws grassroots strength from attempting to ban speakers as "morally" unacceptable. Then...when they lose that phase of the Left's battle ...then Bill Bennett, Kissinger, Herr Ashkkkroft, Cheney, any military officer, etc. shows up to speak, shouting them down. All too frequently succeeding and avoiding any punishment for doing so.

In contrast, when a liberal speaker is invited to a conservative setting, they are shouted down.

--------------
peter hoh said...
Likewise, torture proponents (and torture apologists) win simply by getting people to think that there can be a debate.
I think you are trying to make the case that the state may never use coercive power to get people to obey law, control others when civilian law enforcement becomes irrelevant or cannot extent to the foe of the State (wartime). Or force a criminal or enemy combatant to reveal plans or associates intending harm to the state.
Which is nonsense.
Happens all the time. And it works all the time.

Even in America with plea bargains and threats "I see your wife also signed this business tax return" - to drag mostly harmless parties in unless cooperation is secured.

What is prison but a long period inflicted, of low-level but occasionally high level "mental and physical torture"?
=======================
"We are a nation of laws, not men."

The man who said that was John Adams, partially in defense of his highly unpopular laws, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts. He was opposed by Jefferson, who said he and other Drafters placed the People and Natural Law sovereign over any man-made law. Jefferson also believed the Constitution must yield to the Will of new generations of the People - so they were not bound by the Tyranny of past leaders they never elected or appointed.

For most of our history, Jefferson's view prevailed. Then we entered a new phase of Rule of Law(yers) with the Warren Court.

Michael McNeil said...

Brent sez:
Thank you Mr McNeil for the cemetery, uh, seminary analysis of what various theologians throughout history have thought.

I was raised Protestant, but it's news to me that non-Catholic Christians feel perfectly blase about categorizing folks of the caliber of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas as mere “theologians,” whose writings such as The City of God ought to be blithely dismissed. In lieu of what?

Brent:
Read the Bible itself. Do not hide behind someone else'e view.. Start at Psalm 139. Explain.

Will do! All that Psalm 139 says on this subject (as an aside to praying that God smite His enemies) is:

“You it was who fashioned my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.”

Nothing there implies that the human being instantaneously vaults together whole cloth out of nowhere. Rather that “knitting” process, as we all know, takes nine months.

Trooper York said...

The fact of the matter is that any restriction whatsoever that might be put on abortion will never be supported by President Obama. That includes aborting a full term viable fetus for reason of it's hair color. Even if through a miracle a baby survives an abortion, President Obama signed on to letting that baby die. No problem for him.

To say that he would suppport any restrictions on abortion whatsoever is quite simply a lie. One of many that he tells with a smile and a wave.

former law student said...

Baby K is not a story about abortion

Baby K is the goal of the pro-life movement: keeping alive the "viable" fetus that late-term abortions would unconscionably destroy.

Revenant said...

Obama's side of the debate wins simply by getting people to think that there can be a debate.

I don't think so. Not unless it is the kind of debate Obama usually prefers, where only his side gets to talk.

The reality is that the current legal arrangement established by the Supreme Court has nailed the abortion issue in place well to the "left" of where most of the public wants it. When you poll Americans on specific abortion issues, you soon discover inconvenient truths, such as that the vast majority of Americans are opposed to the abortion of viable fetuses from consensual sex. That is, of course, what virtually all abortions are. Popular support for Roe vs. Wade exists because people don't understand Roe vs. Wade. A true debate on the issues would help the pro-life position.

Anyway, I think Rush is confusing "debate" with "negotiation". You can certainly debate an issue that has no room for compromise. You just can't negotiate over it. Obama isn't calling for negotiation on the abortion issue; if he did, he'd have to explain what he was willing to give up. He's calling for "debate" -- i.e., for us to spend more time talking about less time trying to act.

former law student said...

"more than half (54%) were using birth control," the report clarifies, "76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently."

So a smoker who takes Fridays off is not a smoker? And if I get dead drunk only five days a week I'm not an alcoholic?

People are inconsistent -- that keeps dental hygienists employed.

Michael McNeil said...

… the vast majority of Americans are opposed to the abortion of viable fetuses from consensual sex. That is, of course, what virtually all abortions are.

Sorry, Rev — “virtually all abortions” are not third trimester, which is when fetuses (at least with present day technology) become “viable” — i.e., able to live outside the womb.

Revenant said...

An anencephalic fetus will not survive more than a few days outside the womb. Read about "Baby K" for a hideous story resulting from carrying such a child to term.

If you're going to claim that an anencephalic fetus dies a few days after birth, you might NOT want to immediately follow that up by pointing to an anencephalic fetus that lived to the age of 30 months.

Anyway, the argument against wasting care on anencephalic infants is that they are already incurably deprived of all higher mental functions. It isn't that their expected lifespan is short, or that they will require constant care. If I walked into a terminal cancer ward and started shooting the patients, they'd still put me away for murder. We judge whether a killing is wrong based on how the current state of the killed -- not based on its future state. In the long run we're all going to die, after all.

Revenant said...

Sorry, Rev — “virtually all abortions” are not third trimester, which is when fetuses (at least with present day technology) become “viable” — i.e., able to live outside the womb.

Sorry, I mis-spoke. I meant "viable" in the sense of "able to develop into a healthy baby", not "able to currently survive outside the womb".

Let me clarify the statement: most Americans think that if there's nothing seriously wrong with a fetus, and the mother got pregnant as the result of consensual sex, then she should not be allowed to have an abortion. But almost all abortions fall into that category.

Pro-choice activists like to point to the extreme circumstances -- the rapes, the incestuous pregnancies, the horrifying birth defects, the serious health threats to the mother, et al. But those are rarities. The overwhelming majority of women who have abortions do so simply because they don't want a kid. Now I personally think there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm definitely in the minority in feeling that way.

Revenant said...

So a smoker who takes Fridays off is not a smoker? And if I get dead drunk only five days a week I'm not an alcoholic?

You've got it exactly backwards.

You're trying to argue that a pregnancy counts as "accidental" even if the couple didn't always use birth control. That's like a lung cancer victim arguing that his condition can't be due to smoking because he never smoked on Fridays, or a cirrhosis victim arguing that he never drank on the weekends.

If you bang your girlfriend without a condom and she gets pregnant, you don't get to say "but it was accidental! We NORMALLY use condoms!". Not unless you "accidentally" put your penis in her vagina.

Pogo said...

"Baby K is the goal of the pro-life movement"
As if.
But do go on.

"keeping alive the "viable" fetus that late-term abortions would unconscionably destroy."
No worries, dude, because with the coming National Medicare plan, such outcomes will be impossible. Like the Dutch, ICU care of theses cases will be forbidden.

Crisis of the anencephalics solved.

I still don't get how this has anything to do with abortion.

Unless you're arguing that anencephalics shouldn't be allowed to be born in the first place.

And Revenant is quite right. You're obfuscating. The majority of abortions have nothing whatsoever to do with anything except convenience.

garage mahal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garage mahal said...

We need to seriously consider revoking voting rights for women if they can't be trusted to do the right thing with their own bodies. How can they be trusted to vote for what's the right thing with other peoples bodies?

AJ Lynch said...

Mad Man said:

"You got the Head of Chrysler? Hell, We got the effin' PRESIDENT OF THE USA! In your HAT, Holy Cross!"

You placed Obama and an auto company mahoff in the same category. Was that a Freudian slip?

AJ Lynch said...

Let's revoke Garage's ability to comment. Heh.

Revenant said...

We need to seriously consider revoking voting rights for women if they can't be trusted to do the right thing with their own bodies. How can they be trusted to vote for what's the right thing with other peoples bodies?

Garage, it is the pro-choice side that wants people forbidden from voting on abortion. If you let women vote on the legality of abortion I suspect the pro-lifers would celebrate. After all, the majority of *women* are opposed to ending healthy, consensual pregnancies too.

In fact, according to that Gallup poll Althouse mentioned a few days ago, pro-life women currently outnumber pro-choice women. Still sure you want to give democracy a chance, garage? :)

rhhardin said...

I agree with garage about revoking the female vote, but wonder if he realizes that it would mean no soap opera in election campaigns.

I do think the 60% of women who vote like men will realize that they have to take a hit for the team to get rid of the votes of the 40% that are ruining the nation.

The 60% will get the same result anyway whether they vote or not, under the new plan.

garage mahal said...

Revenant
I'm not so sure I trust your data, especially since you didn't offer any. But I will say that the abortion divide will always be approx where it is now, unlike say gay marriage, which took off like a rocket way ahead of Dems, which is pretty pathetic when you think of it.

Revenant said...

I'm not so sure I trust your data, especially since you didn't offer any.

I pointed you to the poll Ann linked earlier, whiner. But there's a link below if you're too lazy to look on the Althouse front page.

But I will say that the abortion divide will always be approx where it is nowI doubt that. It isn't in the same place it was ten years ago, or twenty, or thirty... opinions change.

But even if it were true that people weren't changing their minds, that would be bad for the pro-choice position. After all, only 22% of Americans agree with the status quo of unrestricted abortion. That's in contrast to 60% who believe it should be legal only in a few circumstances or not at all.

If the American public had its way, women would be able to receive abortions if they were raped, if the fetus was seriously defective, or if their lives were in serious danger. Otherwise they'd be shit out of luck. That's more abortion than the pro-life position wants, certainly -- but it is *vastly* less abortion than pro-choicers want. That would be something like a 90% drop in legal abortions.

unlike say gay marriage, which took off like a rocket way ahead of Dems, which is pretty pathetic when you think of it.

Took off like a rocket? Perhaps, but in the wrong direction. Due to the huge voter backlash against court rulings it is now harder than ever for people to vote for gay marriage in the future.

Fen said...

Josheph: This comment threat illustrates precisely the point Althouse was making--that the pro-life perspective on abortion is inherently closed to negotiation or debate. This is not a partisan slam on pro-lifers. This is just the nature of the debate. The leadership and "true believers" of the pro-life movement ultimately want to end access to abortion under all circumstances because abortion is a grave sin, regardless of whether the woman was raped, when the abortion takes place, or the viability of the fetus. There are certainly radical people on the pro-choice side, but the pro-choice side's goal is to accommodate the woman's right to control her own body, which, unlike the pro-life position, is open to negotiation and consideration of competing values.

Wrong. I'm for exceptions in the case of rape or incest. You cling to them as the standard. But only 3% of abortions are due to rape or incest. While 68% are of "convenience" - ie. "mother doesn't think she's ready to raise child, mother doesn't want her body changed by birth, baby would crimp her party life, etc"

Fen said...

Does it seem like it would have to be a human life without a human when it's a bunch of cells, to you? It seems like there's no human, to me.


"Seems". Thats the problem. There is "reasonable doubt" but we execute anyway. Its all backwards.

If we started executing criminals, deliberately ignoring "reasonable doubt", the Left would riot in the streets.

elHombre said...

FLS wrote: "So a smoker who takes Fridays off is not a smoker? And if I get dead drunk only five days a week I'm not an alcoholic?"

Cowboy up and take the hit, candyass.

You were clearly trying to convey that a "majority" of women who have abortions were using birth control and became pregnant through no fault of their own. You just "forgot" to pass on the large percentages of that group who were not doing so consistently when they got pregnant.

You just can't play it straight, can you?

garage mahal said...

I pointed you to the poll Ann linked earlier, whiner. But there's a link below if you're too lazy to look on the Althouse front page..

Yea, I seen it. It's a dubious poll in that the finding is based on the premise that the two parties are tied in party ID, which is contradicted by other surveys done by Gallup itself! Gallup attributes the 10 percentage point increase in Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who call themselves pro-life from the previous year. That can only have occurred if there are more Republicans and Republican-leaning independents today than a year ago. Possible, but again, doubtful.

Dale said...

“You it was who fashioned my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.”

Nothing there implies that the human being instantaneously vaults together whole cloth out of nowhere. Rather that “knitting” process, as we all know, takes nine months.
And it takes months for a child once born to develop further faculties and the ability to feed his or her self, for just one extension on your logic. And yet we have laws that punish infanticide.

And by your logic, the "life" could be any time after birth.

Why the cutoff in the womb? Who gets to decide?.

You may have been raised Protestant, but your attempt to extrapolate additional meaning where it is clear is surely tortured, Mr McNeil.

Dale said...

“You it was who fashioned my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.”

Nothing there implies that the human being instantaneously vaults together whole cloth out of nowhere. Rather that “knitting” process, as we all know, takes nine months.
'

And it takes months for a child once born to develop further faculties and the ability to feed his or her self, for just one extension on your logic. And yet we have laws that punish infanticide.
`

And by your logic, the "life" could be any time after birth. Why the allow the cutoff in the womb? Who gets to decide?.

It is clear from a plain reading that God considers personhood and the soul in existence in the womb. Knitting is often translated "covered" and "protected" and "Weaved".

Sorry Michael,thou art straining at a gnat.

Revenant said...

It's a dubious poll in that [whatever]

It may be incorrect in saying that pro-life voters now outnumber pro-choice ones; it is an outlier in that respect. But its findings that most Americans support increased restrictions on abortion are consistent with the last 35 years of that Gallup poll.

Revenant said...

And by your logic, the "life" could be any time after birth. Why the allow the cutoff in the womb?

You're looking at it the wrong way. The correct question to ask is "after birth, what moral justification does the mother have for killing the child"? Her claim that it is part of her body no longer applies, since the infant is now an entirely distinct organism. After the moment of birth it is no longer a question of the mother's rights versus the infants, but of the infant's rights (whatever those might be) versus the mother's desire to kill a living thing.

We generally place a low moral value on the desire to kill, and require that it serve a higher purpose. What higher purpose is served by infanticide? It doesn't even have the entertainment value of duck hunting; babies just lie there.

F15C said...

In these times, if we are to have a real national debate on abortion we should have a thorough and realistic understanding of the subject.

Every voter and member of congress should watch video of several early stage abortions and partial-birth abortions.

Then, we can begin the real discussion.

MadisonMan said...

Was that a Freudian slip?

No, I just think Chrysler is a funny word.

But I see your point. After the Head of Chrysler, just about anything is a step up, even a politician.

Don't all Freudian slips have to do with sex, anyway? That certainly was not my intent.

Michael McNeil said...

And by your logic, the “life” could be any time after birth. Why the allow the cutoff in the womb? Who gets to decide?

It is clear from a plain reading that God considers personhood and the soul in existence in the womb. Knitting is often translated “covered” and “protected” and “Weaved.”

Sorry Michael, thou art straining at a gnat.


What's “straining at a gnat” is imaging that that meager Biblical verse can be shoehorned into having any applicability at all to the question of when “human life” begins.

Nor am I suggesting that that moment should be regarded as lying after birth or even close to the end of gestation — because as noted before the sensible dividing for considering the start of “humanity” within the developing embryo and fetus to have occurred lies when the brain — the seat of all qualities that make us distinctly human rather than animal — begins its long development, which occurs long before birth at around the beginning of the second month of gestation.

One could quibble, and argue that that the early brain and central nervous system at that point and for many weeks to follow remain exceedingly primitive — consisting for a long time of only the lower parts of the brain (the autonomic nervous system and the like, acting to keep the newly-formed heart beating but incapable of experiencing anything, much less emotions and “higher thought”), and that is so. However, if one is looking for a truly sharp as well as sensible dividing line, one could hardly do better in my view than zero in on the initial stirrings of the brain itself.

Fen said...

because as noted before the sensible dividing for considering the start of “humanity” within the developing embryo and fetus to have occurred lies when the brain begins its long development

So you choose brain development as an indicator that its not subhuman? Can we apply that standard to brain activity in the elderly?


if one is looking for a truly sharp as well as sensible dividing line, one could hardly do better in my view than zero in on the initial stirrings of the brain itself.


And when is that exactly? Down to the minute. And is it the same with each "subhuman", or do they become "human" at different rates? Be careful with that scalpel - you're allowed a pound of flesh and no blood.

Synova said...

"Baby K is the goal of the pro-life movement: keeping alive the "viable" fetus that late-term abortions would unconscionably destroy."

Oh, that's BS and you (ought to) know it.

What amazes me is that, if we can talk about accepting the essential decency of the opposing view for a moment, that I've talked to otherwise highly intelligent people who have not the first doubt in their minds that "Pro-life" does, indeed, want to force women NOT to have medically necessary abortions... that they want women to die... that they absolutely refuse to allow a fetus without a brain or that is not viable to be aborted.

It's not true and never has been.

Just because pro-Choice chooses to mangle the meaning of the phrase "medically necessary" and "life of the Mother" to mean "I'm going to be distressed if I end up with stretch marks" does not mean that pro-Life people who object to that mangling want to force women to continue with a dangerous pregnancy.

Oh, except that pro-Choice has also mangled "dangerous" to mean "carries the minimal chance of going wrong that any perfectly healthy pregnancy carries."

Synova said...

For what it's worth, my understanding of Lutheran teaching is that the soul is received from the mother and father in the same way that life is received... NOT NOT NOT a new creation, and not transferred from some repository of souls awaiting the chance to be born.

In which case, it's conception that marks the new being.

Michael McNeil said...

Fen sez:
So you choose brain development as an indicator that its not subhuman? Can we apply that standard to brain activity in the elderly?

Not “brain development” per se but brain existence aka brain life.

And we do apply “that standard” — in reverse, that is: brain death — as marking the end of human life, and for everybody, whether the person concerned is “elderly” or not.

Are you objecting to that standard? In lieu of what? The stoppage of a mere pump? That's risible.

And when is that exactly? Down to the minute.

It's worth observing that conception is hardly a perfect dividing line for the onset of unique human individuality either. Not only does the fertilized ovum typically take a number of days (up to a week or so) before implanting in the uterus, but for days after that, cells can be teased (either naturally or artificially) from the developing “clump of cells” known as known as blastomeres, any one of which is capable of growing into an entirely distinct individual.

Thus, unique “human life” clearly does not commence until long after conception. Nor is that “life” even then human in the sense that the vehicle for all the characteristics that make us human and not animal — i.e., the brain — has yet come into existence.

buster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buster said...

rhhardin:

A fetus is both human and a human.

A fetus is not an infant, or a child, or an adolescent, or an adult. But every human being living out a natural lifespan pases through all these stages and keeps the same identity throughout.

I know you don't agree, but could you explain just what it is abnout a person that makes him a human, as opposed to merely human? What accounts for the transition?

buster said...

rhhardin:

I just read your post at 9:43 a.m. which seems to answer my question: there are "social factors" that account for the difference between a fetus (which is human) and a person (who is a human). Fair enough, I suppose, as an account of how we use language. But the question raised by the abortion debate is whether these social factors are morally significant in the sense that they justify killing a fetus because the factors do not obtain. Many pro-choicers talk about "personhood", etc., but never explain (at least not convincingly) why that should matter.

The fact is that a fetus is a human being at a stage of development that every human being passes through. Why is it not entitled to the same respect due other human beings?

Michael McNeil said...

The fact is that a fetus is a human being at a stage of development that every human being passes through. Why is it not entitled to the same respect due other human beings?

Because the embryo (until the beginning of the second month) is brainless — just as a person near the end of their life, whose organs still (mostly) function, whose heart still beats, but whose brain has ceased all (higher) activity, is regarded as being dead.

Moreover, taking your argument a bit further, the not-yet-uhited egg and sperm are also “at a stage of development that every human being passes through.” Why shouldn't full “human rights” therefore be awarded to them?

Revenant said...

So you choose brain development as an indicator that its not subhuman? Can we apply that standard to brain activity in the elderly?

Think of what it would mean to have your brain reduced to the state of a newborn infant.

No ability to communicate or understand communication. No control over your body -- not the legs, not the arms, not the bowels, nothing. No ability to understand the world around you, no ability to reason. No ability to recognize other people except your mother, who'll be dead by then anyway. Reduced to a squalling imbecile who shits himself constantly. Nothing but a burden to the people around you -- and, unlike with a baby, no hope of improvement.

Not only MAY you kill me if I'm reduced to that -- I'd appreciate it if you did!

Michael McNeil said...

CHILDREN:
Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

GIRL:
Let the heathen spill theirs
On the dusty ground.
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can't be found.

CHILDREN:
Every sperm is wanted.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Monty Python

buster said...

Michael McNeil:

1. The egg and sperm are not a human being (or part of a human being) before fusion because the biological process that underlies humnan life has not yet begun. There may be an argument that life does not begin until the embryo attaches to the uterine wall, but I don't know enough about embryology or genetics to have an opinion.

2. I understand the urge to point to some milestone in fetal development (e.g., the appearance of brain structure) as the point at which a fetus becomes a human being. But my whole point is that every human life begins when the sperm fuses with the egg (or the embryo attaches to the uterine wall) and continues without interruption (or change of identity) until death.

I don't deny that there are morally significant differences between a fetus and an infant after birth. (For example, the law has never treated abortion as murder, even when abortion was a crime.) But I don't think those differences constitute the difference between a non-human-being fetus and a "real" human being.

buster said...

rhhardin:

Slightly OT, it would be fun to speculate what Wittgenstein's views on abortion were, assuming he had any. (He must have discussed the subject at least occasionally with his protegee G.E.M Anscombe, who eventually occupied his chair at Cambridge, and who was an outspoken opponent of abortion.)

Do you think Wittgenstein even thought that linguistic practice like Cavell describes were even relevant to questions like whether abortion is morally justified? He said that philosophy leaves the world untouched.

BTW, I don't really know very much about W.

Dale said...

Michael McNeil,

I respect your holding to a view regarding when "distinctly human" life begins.

What I want to make clear that you do not hold a Biblical view.

When unique DNA, unique and separate from that of the mother and father are formed - and that is at conception - a human life is created. That's when it begins.

The questions that you pose are not seriously concerned with when life begins - I just pointed out to you when it does. Your statements here rather have all been about the (to those who agree with you) varying value of life at different stages.

Synova said...

I realize that I suggested neural activity as a handy, and symmetric, place to define the beginning and end of life. Not that it was the definition I preferred, but that it was a logical and consistent measure.

OTOH, there are problems that will come from defining life as brain activity that surpasses some test of cognition rather than mere activity. Rev touched on it. If someone is injured or if someone fails to develop properly, what counts as having enough of an understanding to count as human? Rev describes severe debilitation... the point at which he would rather not live. (And I think that a brain injury terrifies many of us far more than major and permanent physical trauma.)

But people make that choice for Downs babies and there are any number of different degrees of injury or debilitation or failure to develop and we are very quickly moving into some nasty eugenics theory if we say that *this* person is not aware enough and may be killed or let die, and *that* person is a real person and must be protected.

Also, it does matter if the condition is something that can be gone *through* or not. A brain that is developing will not remain limited. An injury may heal. If the condition is temporary it *does* make a difference from if the condition is permanent.

Someone up-thread talked about new understanding of what a baby knows at 20 weeks. As a parent of four, I'm convinced that the stage of "knowing" at 20 weeks gestation continues until at least 6 or 8 weeks postpartum if not longer.

(But maybe I'm the only mother weird enough to look into my babies' eyes a couple of months after they were born and have the feeling that they finally arrived.)

Birth itself seems more a trade-off from one life-support system to another than a truly significant developmental event. If we're going to put value on human life at all, logically, it ought to be valued at some point before the birth event. Unless, of course, it really is all about the life-support system and not about the baby at all.

And I've never had much sympathy for the notion that your rights depend on where you live.

Michael McNeil said...

I respect your holding to a view regarding when “distinctly human” life begins.

What I want to make clear that you do not hold a Biblical view.

When unique DNA, unique and separate from that of the mother and father are formed — and that is at conception — a human life is created. That's when it begins.


Since you claim to know, and that the foregoing is, the “Biblical view,” please point me to anywhere in the Bible that it talks about “unique DNA” (or even un-unique DNA), conception, and/or the moment when a human life is officially created (other than Genesis I, which also fails to so much as mention conception, indeed bypasses it altogether).

I've already pointed to accepted Church doctrine, authored by the most famous Saints of the medieval Christian Church, which held a very different viewpoint.

Synova said...

Before I was formed in my mother's womb you knew me? (Or some such.)

True enough, the Bible is not a biology text. I think that most traditions counted "quickening" as important (which is about 5 months) and other traditions hold off naming babies for some amount of time after birth to see if they counted as a live birth or not.

The early theologians didn't understand biology much but they spent a great deal of time considering the soul. I've already mentioned that my understanding of Lutheran doctrine is that, since nothing new has been created or could be created after the 6th day, that the soul is received from the mother and father in the same way that life is received. It doesn't come from elsewhere to inhabit the baby.

And I don't believe that people in Biblical times didn't understand where babies came from... what the "seed" was for.

Michael McNeil said...

I don't believe that people in Biblical times didn't understand where babies came from… what the “seed” was for.

To a degree they did — but, using the analogy of agriculture as they did, folks in antiquity believed that the male's “seed” was all there was — i.e., they had no conception, so to speak, of the woman's parallel contribution of her egg — whilst the female in the affair was thought to only provide the equivalent of “earth” in which the “seed” could grow.

Revenant said...

we are very quickly moving into some nasty eugenics theory if we say that *this* person is not aware enough and may be killed or let die, and *that* person is a real person and must be protected.

Is the risk that significant? The current trend in natural rights is towards granting them to things that obviously AREN'T human -- dogs, cats, even horses and cows. I don't see any real risk in having genetic humans classified as non-human unless they are *so* mentally damaged that they can't even be plausibly compared to a smart animal.

Revenant said...

If we're going to put value on human life at all, logically, it ought to be valued at some point before the birth event. Unless, of course, it really is all about the life-support system and not about the baby at all.

Logically, I think it ought to come AFTER birth. A newborn has the brains of a bowl of porridge.

Placing the "you're human now" demarcation at the moment of birth makes sense in part because the infant clearly ISN'T mentally there yet. Granting "human" status at that point avoids any possibility of denying a mentally human being his or her human rights.

Dale said...

Your attempt to use church theologians of your chosen persuasion, as an authority OVER the Biblical text would be amusing Mr McNeil if it weren't damnable.
That said, to quote Augustinian thought skirts the issue - Augustine knew nothing about the fetus or DNA. He was attempting to explain according to what was known and observable at the time. And it is both presumptious and disingenuous of you to assume that he would approve of abortion at anytime, particularly since he condemned abortion in other texts. How Nancy Pelosi of you.

The reason we can stand on DNA is that we now understand it. But the Bible has never wavered in it's portrayal of God knowing each person in the womb. Not knowing about. Knowing.

Your efforts to parse something of which you yourself are admittedly uncertain is of the mindset of Machiavellianism. It is beyond belief that you would cede moral ground over the disposal of the lives of other human beings simply on the belief of "Oh well, who knows?"

Tell me - would you be as morally reticent were the issue the imminent rape of a member of your family? Rape without fear of consequences to the rapist is rampant in certain parts of the world even as you read this. A "might makes right" philosophy still pervades in much of the world today. Would you therefore cede a moral judgment on rape in such a part of the world because you are yet uncertain as to whether or not there is value in seeking to stop it?

Michael McNeil said...

Dale sez:
But the Bible has never wavered in it's portrayal of God knowing each person in the womb. Not knowing about. Knowing.

So Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas (arguably among the very greatest of the Church's saints) were, according to you, naively ignorant of the Bible? Supposedly they knew far less than little ol' you about the Christian Holy Book? Sure they did — not.

“In the womb” covers nine months of continuous incremental development of the human form, while precisely when each person is “known by God in the womb” isn't clarified anywhere in the Bible; certainly you haven't done anything — other than vigorous arm-waving, whilst damning me to Hell — to identify any Biblical text asserting the kind of knowledge and authority over the nature of the early fetus that you claim.

Nor is latching onto to the exact moment when a person's DNA (already in existence in the egg and sperm) reassembles itself into a slightly new shape, anything other than an arbitrary distinction, without essential scientific basis as the “magic” defining point for the onset of what we regard as a uniquely “human” existence. Once again, human development — including through the point of conception — is continuous.

As for your characterization of my position as being one of “Oh well, who knows?” — a phrase I've never employed in this discussion — there's no scientific doubt about the critical importance of the brain in the existence of all the qualities that make us essentially human, nor is there the slightest doubt about when the brain commences its long development in the human fetus.

Beyond that, speaking of being “beyond belief,” the remainder of your posting, seeking to draw some kind of obscure relationship between the rape of a real human being and the existence of an utterly brainless fetus (prior to the origin of its brain), is stupid beyond belief.

kentuckyliz said...

The Big O told those kids to stop chasing the American Dream because it's selfish. Now they're supposed to not act like the Obamas, and just live for other people and charity and service and servitude. To hell with their own goals and desires in life. Be selfless!

Selfless in everything except murdering oopsie children.

Sofa King said...

FLS:

How can you say that the bill you refer to made "no exception" for the health of the woman, when the VERY TEXT you pasted contains:

16 This Section does not apply to a partial-birth
17 abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother
18 because her life is endangered by a physical disorder,
19 physical illness, or physical injury, including a
20 life-endangering condition caused by or arising from the
21 pregnancy itself, provided that no other medical procedure
22 would suffice for that purpose.

Do you even read the things you copy/paste?

Revenant said...

Do you even read the things you copy/paste?

I'm not even convinced he reads the stuff HE writes. :)

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