November 23, 2012

God — "one of most popular words in urban dictionary."

"Did you know that the word god has over 500 definitions?" That's definition #6 (of 647, as of just now).
1. God 1805 up, 425 down
An entity whose opinions on the consumption of pork has been a matter of hot debate amongst the world's religions...

2. God 392 up, 110 down
Universal scapegoat.

When people can't justify their actions through reality, they justify their actions through God

3. God 22594 up, 9000 down
A guy who talked to some Jewish guys, some Christian guys, and some Islam guys, and accidentaly caused more people to die than anyone else in human history. And people wonder why he doesn't talk much to us anymore.

4. god 1301 up, 539 down
dog backwards.
person1:"Hey look its god"

person 2: "No thats a dog"
I arrived at that page in Urban Dictionary because I Googled "God Dog." It's a song title. Here's the song, by The Incredible String Band. If you were in existence back in the 1960s, maybe you had "5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion," "Hangman's Beautiful Daughter," and "Wee Tam and the Big Huge" (which you can buy — in one $35 boxed set — at Amazon, along with all your other Black Friday items). Me, I still have all of that on vinyl, and yesterday Meade dug up some old live-concert CD — old, but not as old as the vinyl — and got the iMac playing "God Dog," because we'd just been out on a long Thanksgiving walk with our (borrowed) dog-named-after-a-God Zeus:

Untitled

She will not learn language/nor will she bear scorn/but she is the best little dog
that ever was born
.

That song and another song on Meade's live-concert CD had lyrics about unborn babies, and I said that abortion rights ideology — which says that any given pregnant woman holds the sovereign power to determine the humanity of the entity within — has eclipsed the old cultural expressions magnifying the unborn child. "God Dog" has "I have lain in the womb of the rocks cold and chill/while she speaks in my heart with the voice of the hill." And the other song — sorry I haven't successfully Googled the lyrics — spoke of an unborn baby safe and warm within the womb, which made me think about how the womb isn't — within abortion rights ideology — a safe place to be anymore. It's a place where your humanity depends on the will of the Goddess of the small universe you still inhabit. She, being autonomous and free, has the power "to define [her] own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." In that legal landscape, there are no wandering hippie minstrels singing songs about unborn babes.

Meade says there was a hippie pro-life movement. He remembers hippies urging women not to have abortions and saying give your babies to us and we'll give them back to you whenever you want. I don't remember that iteration of hippie values, I don't know how the urging would have been done in pre-internet days, and my Googling fails again as I try to research the hippie pro-life movement. As I'm writing this paragraph, Meade phones in from Frautschi Point, where he's walked with Zeus. He's returning my call, which I made to get permission to publish the photograph (above). I don't extract the needed reminiscences about hippie times when there were subcultures in the counterculture. I was stranded in the north country (Ann Arbor) and he'd sojourned into the backwoods of North Carolina.

I can see from my window that it's blustery in the backyard, and it must be raw out there on the Lake Mendota landscape. Are Meade and the god dog cold? Meade laughs and says little. The god/dog — who will not learn language/doesn't talk much to us anymore — says nothing.

78 comments:

Surfed said...

Tis cold and blusteryyy here in Wisconsin after days of beautiful waether. I won't comment on the unborn hippie pro-life movement but I do remember well the day my son found (decades ago now) my record collection and asked why our cd's were black and so big.

caplight45 said...

I'm not sure being a god is all its cracked up to be. I doubt God spends time second guessing his decisions and their irreversible consequences.

EDH said...

"[Meade]'s returning my call, which I made to get permission to publish the photograph (above)."

It's a place where your humanity depends on the will of the Goddess of the small universe you still inhabit. She, being autonomous and free, has the power "to define [her] own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." In that legal landscape, there are no wandering hippie minstrels singing songs about unborn babes.

Being enveloped within the womb of Althouse (the blog), why should there be any need to recognize intellectual property rights, especially for a man and a husband?

That's so... hippy?

Surfed said...

Dog/God - That's a palindrome to me.

Ann Althouse said...

"unborn hippie"

Phrases like that will boost support for abortion rights.

Exactly who is left unborn in a world with abortion? Picture the alternate landscape, strewn with unwanteds. Will you have them, unbidden, in your world?

Ann Althouse said...

It's like illegal immigration.

Surfed said...

Except for Freckle the poco el Diablo of a Chihuahua that owns mt elderly aunt. He would be the antonym of God.

Ann Althouse said...

"Being enveloped within the womb of Althouse (the blog), why should there be any need to recognize intellectual property rights, especially for a man and a husband?"

I'm the copyright holder to the photograph I created with my efforts and artistry.

I merely chose to honor his preferences about displaying his image.

Surfed said...

Only people that have been born support abortion.

Surfed said...

That said, if my daughter was raped and turned up preggers I'd be holding her hand at clinic the next day for a safe and legal procedure to kill the unwanted spawn.

Erika said...

Picture the alternate landscape, strewn with unwanteds. Will you have them, unbidden, in your world?

I admit that I don't always follow Artsy Althouse but it sounds like you are making that old hollow argument about all those unwanted babies having no one to care for them. To answer your question, as an adoptive mother, hell yes. And the thousands of people on adoption waiting lists also say, hell yes, dear God, please send us a child.

carrie said...

I think the hippie pro-life movement was in communes and not in main stream hippie culture.

Maguro said...

I think you could make the same argument to justify killing small children at the mother's convenience, could you not? Wouldn't want a landscape strewn with unwanted 2 year olds, would we? Best just to let mom put them down if they're cramping her style. Maybe Casey Anthony had it right after all...

Craig said...

http://www.google.com.ph/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=diamonds%20in%20the%20mine&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCgQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DodKyTEw3bFw&ei=05CvUPasD9CdiAf0kIDwAw&usg=AFQjCNFAFI9sKNTlln8EJNq6AqX1PNGQ6Q

carrie said...

Marguro's comment made me think of a place called the "Doe Farm" that existed in Dane County, Wisconsin in the 1970s. If I recall correctly, it was essentially a lesbian commune. I remember seeing a brochure for it once and it said that women with babies were welcome, but male babies were welcome only if they were less thatn 18 months old and still nursing. I always wondered what the mothers with male babies did when their sons were weaned and they became a bar to entry to a place where the mom wanted to be.

Ann Althouse said...

"I admit that I don't always follow Artsy Althouse but it sounds like you are making that old hollow argument about all those unwanted babies having no one to care for them. To answer your question, as an adoptive mother, hell yes. And the thousands of people on adoption waiting lists also say, hell yes, dear God, please send us a child."

I didn't say that, but I am pointing out that the rarely voiced practical basis for supporting the woman's autonomy is the collective benefit — which couldn't be sought directly — of avoiding children who aren't wanted at a particular time. Obviously, I know people want babies to adopt and this post cites a movement which was about caring for other people's babies with such an open heart that the children would be returned if and when the mother or father wants the child back -- something that ordinary we-want-to-adopt people won't do.

My agenda here is to shine a light on the whole subject, including the parts some people would leave in the shadows.

To that end, I'll also say that many women who go through with an unwanted pregnancy will not give up their children to adoption. They will raise them as best they can, within their own economic and emotional limitations. Other children, who would have been born later, to more secure, more prepared and happy women, are never born, because the woman doesn't want more children and, being more mature and adept, she successfully avoids pregnancy.

If you are anti-abortion, you don't much care about these unborns, because they were never conceived, but they are great potential fellow human beings, maybe better than the accidental children of young, relatively inept women.

I know. That's eugenics. You're not supposed to say that. But it influences beliefs, so I want to smoke it out.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think the hippie pro-life movement was in communes and not in main stream hippie culture."

If that's the case, I suppose adoption isn't an option for them, since they wouldn't qualify.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think you could make the same argument to justify killing small children at the mother's convenience, could you not? Wouldn't want a landscape strewn with unwanted 2 year olds, would we? Best just to let mom put them down if they're cramping her style. Maybe Casey Anthony had it right after all..."

Once they've gestated, the babies can be raised by someone else. The mother has a special role for the pre-born, which no one else can step up and fill.

Neglected babies and toddlers will, in fact, be taken away by the collective (the state) and put with someone who will take care of them.

So you actually can't make the same argument. We are talking about the woman's role as a gestator. Will it be required or will it be optional?

Surfed said...

Pretty early in the morning to follosw these arguments. Need more drugs...mmmmm caffeine. Navy style, so stong you can stand a spoon up in it. Now what are y'all talking about?

Erika said...

Thank you for expanding your thoughts on this.

Erika said...

I have yet to have it explained to me convincingly that a woman's right to avoid the experience of pregnancy and birth is more important, on balance, than the right of a child to not be murdered. I used to be pro-choice and I couldn't explain it then, either. Don't all other arguments rest on that? Why shouldn't the woman's role as gestator, once a conception has taken place, be required, because for it to be optional means that another person has to pay with his or her life. Why should that be?

McTriumph said...

There's nothing wrong with eugenic. The great old left US foundations and academics applauded, held conferences and helped finance Hitler's eugenics in the 30s till it became politically embarrassing. Abortion is just a subset of eugenic, let's be honest.
Does everyone else remember the packs of feral unwanted children roaming the streets prior to Roe v Wade?

edutcher said...

Ann, the man is not only your husband, he's crazy about you. You don't have to call him to use a photo he took.

He'll understand.

(man, you can take the conlawprof out of the law, but you can't take the law...)

McTriumph said...

eugenics, sorry

virgil xenophon said...

Ann/

I was stationed in the UK as a USAF pilot period Dec 68-Sept 71 and have all of the Incredible String Band's records on English vinyl, which is superior to the US vinyl in that it is so much thicker with deeper grooves--which admits to many more multiple playings w.o. degradation of the sound. As a result of my fortuitous assignment a huge part of my record collection is of the superior UK stuff. (and therefore I get to "wax superior"--pun intended, lol--about the technical superiority of my albums/collection) FWIW, IMHO the tonal nature of ICB's music makes it great to play on a quiet Sunday morning reflecting while nursing a hang-over, drinking bloody mary's, etc.--unfortunately not many people in the US know of the band, which, btw, takes its name from a pub--"The Incredible"--where they used to be the "house" band (of a sort, lol)

wyo sis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

McTriumph said...

There's nothing wrong with eugenic. The great old left US foundations and academics applauded, held conferences and helped finance Hitler's eugenics in the 30s till it became politically embarrassing. Abortion is just a subset of eugenic, let's be honest.
Does everyone else remember the packs of feral unwanted children roaming the streets prior to Roe v Wade?


No, but go into any supermarket these days and you'll see plenty of them.

wyo sis said...

Erika
I agree. When you get down to the very basic truth of the abortion argument you almost begin to believe that pro abortion people want to kill babies for some purpose they're not willing to express.

In a way it's like the ID requirement for voting. Ultimately it's about something very different from what is being argued.

caplight45 said...

How do you measure the effect of abortion on the "collective," as you term it? Are we a better people for having expressed maternal sovereignty over 50,000,000 children? Are we kinder? Do we value life more? Perhaps the very self-centered nature of the abortive act is making us the selfish people who would rather have a no consequences ethos that spreads far beyond abortion. And why not kill unwanted children up to say the age of two? Just because it makes you squeamish it didn't make the Romans. Replace Patria Potestas with Matria Potestas. And in the end who will judge, gods or God.

""How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."
The Parable of the Madman, Nietzsche

"They have sown the wind they shall reap the whirlwind." Hosea 8:7

BrianE said...

"If you are anti-abortion, you don't much care about these unborns, because they were never conceived, but they are great potential fellow human beings, maybe better than the accidental children of young, relatively inept women.

I know. That's eugenics. You're not supposed to say that. But it influences beliefs, so I want to smoke it out."- Ann Althouse

It's hard to believe you are making that argument in favor of abortion. Talk about twisting the English language.

That's less an argument than silliness wrapped in some sort of new-age spirituality.

You've said before your fine with an indefensible position on abortion-- it's murder but OK for the woman to commit such murder, since she does so in an impenetrable space that 'the collective' is not allowed to go, but the idea to kill the known for the unknown, since we somehow must deduce from circumstances that the known could not enjoy or be enjoyed to the extent the unknown would be is nonsensical.

Maguro said...

Well, you've changed your argument, haven't you? Before it was about preventing us from being overrun with unwanted kids and preserving the mother's lifestyle options to make her a better, more productive citizen in the future. Practical, utilitarian points that, as you acknowledge, closely resemble the original arguments for legal abortion by Margaret Sanger, etc. Society will be more pleasant if we permit abortion. Well, maybe and maybe not, but ithese arguments don't address the moral aspect of abortion at all. And perhaps societal pleasantness is in the eye of the beholder.

Now, you bring up the special burden borne by the mother as the gestator, which is more of a moral argument - it isn't right for the state force a woman to carry that burden. Which is a valid point. It is problematic for the state to compel that kind of consideration from one person to another.

That said, the personhood (or not) of the fetus/unborn baby has to be addressed if you purport to make a moral argument. Is the fetus at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 8 months a person or not? If yes, doesn't that person have some rights as well? How do you balance the rights of the mother against the rights of the unborn? Is there a point in the unborn's development that his/her right to live outweighs the mother's right to control her own body? I believe that is the rationale that places like Germany use for restricting late term abortions but not early ones. When you have two parties involved with competing rights, some balance has to be found between the two.

I think that that whether the fetus/unborn baby is a person or not has to be has to be addressed if you're going to make an argument for abortion based on the human rights of the mother. Are there two competing sets of humsn rights or only one (the mother's)?

Baron Zemo said...

Ann Althouse said....
Exactly who is left unborn in a world with abortion? Picture the alternate landscape, strewn with unwanteds. Will you have them, unbidden, in your world?

That says it all right there. The next time someone claims that the Professor is a conservative you need to point them to this.

David said...

Nice post. Good dog. Good man.

Capt. Schmoe said...

What do you get when you cross an atheist and a dyslexic?

Someone who doesn't believe in dog.

ricpic said...

God: A guy who talked to some Jewish guys, some Christian guys and some Islamic guys...

Wrong. Allah is utterly indifferent to and utterly distant from Islamic guys. There is no appeal to Him. Or from his utterly arbitrary acts. This cruelty is at the heart of Islam. In fact cruelty defines Islam. The denial coming from our ruling class is going to get greater and greater, shriller and shriller, as Islam moves in for the kill. Our kill.

YoungHegelian said...

There has always been a much larger pro-life contingent among liberals than the liberal power structure wants to admit.

For one, while liberal on most social issues, the Catholic Church is implacable in its opposition to both abortion & the death penalty ("The Seamless Garment" approach).

When the Progressive magazine ran an issue dedicated to the pro-life left, it was the second largest selling issue in the history of the Progressive (the first was their issue on how to make an H-Bomb in your basement). The Washington Monthly issue called "What's Right with Right to Life" was also a big seller for the magazine, and if you can find it, it's very much worth a read no matter what your opinion on the topic.

RichardS said...

If memory serves, the rising generation is somewhat more comfortable with restricting abortion than are older folks.
On the other hand, the other side seems to be very much dug into the idea that individual autonomy is the ultimate good and that, therefore, abortion must be acceptable, as it must also be acceptable for a pregnant woman to drink or do drugs if she chooses.

One problem with Roe is that it makes it impossible for we the people to make pragmatic (although theoretically problematic) laws on abortion. The problem with Casey is it reinforces the idea that each of us had the right to define truth for outselves. But if that's the case, why is slavery a wrong?

William said...

I'm in favor of capital punishment and abortion, so there's a certain logical consistency to my beliefs. Nonetheless I'm glad that there are robust anti-abortion and anti-capital punishment movements in this country. You're on a slippery slope on whatever side of the mountain you position your skis.....There are people like that fuck in Norway and Milosovec and Charles Taylor that should be executed. Keeping them alive cheapens our concept of life.....If you wish abortion to be rare, it is necessary for someone somehere to express disapproval of the act. That said, no man should ever pontificate about the moral need for a woman to carry a rapist's child to term.

cf said...

There is no question in my mind that every abortion is a tragedy, a terrible choice for any woman to have to make, but nonetheless it is one she ought to be able to choose freely.

Bill Clinton said it succinctly, "abortions should be safe, legal and rare."

A commenter speaks of rape, and I tire of the rarity. I worry more for those women who find theirs has the spina-bifida complication, or the 36 year old who knows she does not have it in her to raise a Down's syndrome child.

I am blessed to have not had to face such a possibilities, but I know "older" gestaters who braced themselves when they first confirmed a child was in them, and held off announcments until the late, slow test results gave an "all clear!". If the tests were otherwise, it is like nothing, a child never known or spoken of, an untold story, and any who know avert their eyes and are stoic.

I can only have compassion for all involved.




Crunchy Frog said...

I was in existence in the 60's, but since I was only 3 when they ended, I have no affinity (or sympathy) for them. Nowadays, the prevailing "counter culture" is to be a practicing Christian.

We practice, because nobody ever gets it perfect.

It was not too long ago that state and county adoption agencies would not allow minority babies to be adopted by white families, because they would be subjected to "cultural confusion".

God forbid they grow up in a middle class home in a white neighborhood. They won't share the same values as their brothas in the hood. They might even grow up to (gasp!) vote Republican! Different Strokes, writ large. Can't have that, no siree.

Now I guess it's not so much of a problem, since we kill most of them in the womb anyways.

YoungHegelian said...

@William,

hat said, no man should ever pontificate about the moral need for a woman to carry a rapist's child to term.

But it's okay to pontificate that a child is morally responsible for the circumstances of his own conception?

That some anti-abortionists believe that logical & moral consistency drive them to the position that a raped woman is morally obligated to carry the child to term may be seen as some pro-abortionists as a reductio ad absurdum of the pro-life position.

Beware of thinking that conventional wisdom on any thorny moral topic holds up under close scrutiny. Because, you know, there's a guy sitting in an endowed chair of moral philosophy at Princeton (Peter Singer) who has thought about it long and hard, and he thinks that the moral logic of abortion supports infanticide, and that infanticide should be legally permitted.

That "reductio ad absurdum" knife cuts both ways.

ndspinelli said...

Jaywalker!

Phil 3:14 said...

If you are anti-abortion, you don't much care about these unborns,

Professor;
Please don't presume what I care for or do not care for.

rhhardin said...

A parallel to being a person rather than a fetus (a fetus is human - not wolf - but not a human)

"Freedom awakens gradually as we become conscious of our ties, like the sleeper of his senses. Then, finally, our actions have a name."

(Jabes, Book of Questions)

A handy bright line is being born, the point at which society takes an interest by way of cuteness.

rhhardin said...

Althouse is following Marge Piercy Right to Life.

Which is a side of the argument that has to be taken into account, though it doesn't touch the fetus not being a person that I take as most important (on the same side of the argument).

amba said...

abortion rights ideology — which says that any given pregnant woman holds the sovereign power to determine the humanity of the entity within

Years ago I tried to write about precisely this. Some of you may have read it back then. I'm considering writing the planned Part III and trying to publish it as an e-essay, but I don't know if it's worth it. No one wants to read that early abortion is a gray area, though it is. People want to read something that reinforces their own black-and-white beliefs -- or that says the opposite so they can get all up in arms again.

People on the left generally do not want to hear one bad word about abortion, and people on the right do not want to consider that first-trimester abortion should nonetheless stay legal (and, better yet, be eliminated by better implantation prevention technology, which anyone opposed is free not to use).

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, the man is not only your husband, he's crazy about you. You don't have to call him to use a photo he took."

He's a talented man, but I don't think he took that picture.

amba said...

Ann mentions eugenics. There's another aspect of eugenics about abortion that no one ever mentions, except it's called "sexual selection" and is a perfectly legitimate concept in evolutionary biology:

Abortion has a LOT to do with a woman's judgment on the man who impregnated her. She is the gatekeeper of who gets to pass on his genes. She is handing out a kind of Darwin Award.

Now I fully grant you she should have made that judgment before she opened her legs to him -- in a perfect world. Bwahahahaha.

I also grant you that genetics is such a wild-card business that a man deemed unworthy may father a very worthy child. He may also be genetically a-OK himself, but environmentally, experientially damaged. Or just not that woman's cup of tea. So sexual selection isn't very informed or rational.

Nonetheless, the phenotype is a crude advertisement for the genotype, and it's a buyer's market.

As for the never-borns whose existence is ruled out by scrupulously bearing every child conceived: I myself owe my existence to abortion, because my mother does: her own mother had two (in the vicinity of 1920) between her older sister and her.

Ann Althouse said...

virgil xenophon said... "I was stationed in the UK as a USAF pilot period Dec 68-Sept 71 and have all of the Incredible String Band's records on English vinyl, which is superior to the US vinyl in that it is so much thicker with deeper grooves--which admits to many more multiple playings w.o. degradation of the sound. As a result of my fortuitous assignment a huge part of my record collection is of the superior UK stuff. (and therefore I get to "wax superior"--pun intended, lol--about the technical superiority of my albums/collection) FWIW, IMHO the tonal nature of ICB's music makes it great to play on a quiet Sunday morning reflecting while nursing a hang-over, drinking bloody mary's, etc.--unfortunately not many people in the US know of the band, which, btw, takes its name from a pub--"The Incredible"--where they used to be the "house" band (of a sort, lol)"

I'm glad to hear that military guys enjoyed that music!

Ann Althouse said...

"It's hard to believe you are making that argument in favor of abortion. Talk about twisting the English language."

As I said, I am shining a light on the ideas, not doing advocacy. I'm not trying to persuade anyone, just to make people think about everything that is actually involved (to the extent that I can see it).

"That's less an argument than silliness wrapped in some sort of new-age spirituality."

It's not silly or spiritual to refer to the children are not born when a woman chooses to bear unplanned children at an earlier point in her life than she would have chosen.

"You've said before your fine with an indefensible position on abortion-- it's murder but OK for the woman to commit such murder"

Quote me. I'd like to see the statement you feel you are remembering and think you are properly paraphrasing.

"... since she does so in an impenetrable space that 'the collective' is not allowed to go, but the idea to kill the known for the unknown, since we somehow must deduce from circumstances that the known could not enjoy or be enjoyed to the extent the unknown would be is nonsensical."

You're connecting 2 ideas that I've talked about separately:

1. If you believe abortion is murder, you can decide that you will not do what you think is murder and then whether you also think you should impose that belief as a legal requirement on a woman who doesn't share your belief (as opposed to simply leaving her alone or limiting yourself to trying to persuade her not to have an abortion). This is the question who decides, the individual or the democratic majority. When I say abortion is murder but the woman should have the power to decide for herself, I am not saying abortion is okay. I am talking about the scope of a woman's right to control her own body, and not taking the easy way out of denying that the unborn is a person.

2. There is the practical effect of abortion on society: who is born and who is not born -- who makes up the population in this country. Different people are born, and they have different circumstances in life, notably the economics and the emotions in their family homes. This has an effect, and our acceptance/rejection of abortion may be influenced by this reality, even if we don't like talking about it. There's a chapter in "Freakomonics" theorizing that crime has gone way down because of abortion. This is just factual material that you can do what you want with. I'm not impressed by people who act aghast or deny that this is anything, and I'm not pushed back by people who try to make me feel bad about pointing to some uncomfortable realities.

Ann Althouse said...

Maguro said... "Well, you've changed your argument, haven't you? Before it was about preventing us from being overrun with unwanted kids and preserving the mother's lifestyle options to make her a better, more productive citizen in the future. Practical, utilitarian points that, as you acknowledge, closely resemble the original arguments for legal abortion by Margaret Sanger, etc. Society will be more pleasant if we permit abortion. Well, maybe and maybe not, but ithese arguments don't address the moral aspect of abortion at all. And perhaps societal pleasantness is in the eye of the beholder."

Again, I am not making an argument.

Ann Althouse said...

Maguro, cont'd: "That said, the personhood (or not) of the fetus/unborn baby has to be addressed if you purport to make a moral argument. Is the fetus at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 8 months a person or not? If yes, doesn't that person have some rights as well? How do you balance the rights of the mother against the rights of the unborn?"

The question is whose judgment about what the unborn is will control. The abortion rights answer says the best place for the decision to be made is in the mind of the mother. She has moral autonomy about what is happening to her. That is the scope of the right, legally. It's not rights vs. rights, but the scope of the right that the woman has as against the government, which would try to regulate her behavior. Ideas about the unborn affect how we interpret the scope of the right.

"Is there a point in the unborn's development that his/her right to live outweighs the mother's right to control her own body?"

The question is at what point does the collective (the government, representing the democratic majority) have enough of an interest in the unborn that it can compel the woman to continue with pregnancy and childbirth. The case law says at viability.

"I believe that is the rationale that places like Germany use for restricting late term abortions but not early ones. When you have two parties involved with competing rights, some balance has to be found between the two."

Well, that's the law here going back to Roe v. Wade, that the woman has a nearly unrestricted right to abort until viability, after which abortion can be banned (with a life/health exception). But in the U.S. , this isn't thought of as a balance between competing rights, and it doesn't work to say there are "two parties involved," because the constitutional right is held against the govt, and the government isn't requiring the abortion. The private citizen is making a choice.

RichardS said...

Absent legal abortion, or even with more restrictions, many more children would be born to middle class and upper middle class teenage girls. In many cases, their families would probably do a good job raising the child.

The question cuts two ways.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think that that whether the fetus/unborn baby is a person or not has to be has to be addressed if you're going to make an argument for abortion based on the human rights of the mother. Are there two competing sets of humsn rights or only one (the mother's)?"

Only the mother has a constitutional right in this situation because only the mother is subjected to state action. The unborn is the victim of the actions of the mother and the doctor, private citizens. That's always the case with murder (unless the killer is a govt agent). If you kill and intruder into your house, you haven't violated its constitutional rights. Whether you've committed murder in a legal sense will depend on another analysis. And, by the way, the moral answer to the question may be different from the legal answer.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think that that whether the fetus/unborn baby is a person or not has to be has to be addressed if you're going to make an argument for abortion based on the human rights of the mother. Are there two competing sets of humsn rights or only one (the mother's)?"

Only the mother has a constitutional right in this situation because only the mother is subjected to state action. The unborn is the victim of the actions of the mother and the doctor, private citizens. That's always the case with murder (unless the killer is a govt agent). If you kill an intruder into your house, you haven't violated his constitutional rights. Whether you've committed murder in a legal sense will depend on another analysis. And, by the way, the moral answer to the question may be different from the legal answer.

RichardS said...

What about the right of the people to live under laws to which we have consented? The connection of that right with individual rigths, used to be a commonplace.

Hence in the founding era, the problem of slaver was not simply to eliminate slavery, it was to end it with the consent of the people. In the founding era, that was only possible in the North.

On the other hand, it was the lack of respect for the will of the people of the country as a whole that wrecked the French Revolution.

Putting this question back into play, politically, would be the best thing, in terms of respect for the rights of the people, letting steam out of the culture war (at the moment, the Court only allows shouting, since we cannot act through the democratic process on the issue, except at the margins),and for highlighting the importance of consent in our politics.

One of the greatest threats to our liberties nowadays is the degree to which laws are being made by people with lifetime tenure--either in the bureaucracy or in the Courts.

Ann Althouse said...

Baron Zemo said..."Ann Althouse said....'Exactly who is left unborn in a world with abortion? Picture the alternate landscape, strewn with unwanteds. Will you have them, unbidden, in your world?' That says it all right there. The next time someone claims that the Professor is a conservative you need to point them to this."

Baron, you are perceiving questions as implying a particular answer. Read the questions again an imagine that they could have been intended to prod the listener to the opposite answer. Think about what the Socratic method is.

RichardS said...

"Only the mother has a constitutional right in this situation because only the mother is subjected to state action."
That's what the constitution has been understood to be saying for the past few decades. Before that, the question was understood differently. Presumably, a living constitution can "live" in more than one direction.

And remember, as Sandy Levinson notes, the idea that the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force is not the traditional American view.

RichardS said...

The Socratic method would question what law is, what a right is, what a person is, what politics is, what a state is, etc. It would allow for more than one answer to each question and would, if we follow Plato, find that the best answer is somehow to be found in the dialogue itself.

Ann Althouse said...

"Professor; Please don't presume what I care for or do not care for."

I'm sorry if my statement contained that presumption. I said: "If you are anti-abortion, you don't much care about these unborns..."

I should have said: Those who focus on the importance of life beginning with conception tend not to talk about the loss of those who were never conceived, but who will be conceived if the woman has the power to end the unwanted pregnancy.

Those beings who never exist may have no moral importance, but it makes sense to think about the value of the alternate futures that our decisions affect.

If you are seriously anti-abortion, then you probably never go on to think about that. You are stuck at this insurmountable problem: killing a human being.

That's why I said "If you are anti-abortion, you don't much care about these unborns..." But I invite you to get past the seemingly insurmountable problem and talk about this other subject. I was rash to assume you don't care. Feel free to show me that you do and how much you do.

Ann Althouse said...

rhhardin said..."Althouse is following Marge Piercy Right to Life. Which is a side of the argument that has to be taken into account, though it doesn't touch the fetus not being a person that I take as most important (on the same side of the argument)."

Thanks for the link to that poem. I think the idea there, to the extent that I would follow it, does touch on the question whether the fetus is a person. It simply puts the answering of the question within the mother's decisionmaking power. Anyone is free to influence her to think of her pregnancy that way, but she gets the ultimate choice. The question whether the unborn is a person is or should be central to that decisionmaking.

Ann Althouse said...

"That's what the constitution has been understood to be saying for the past few decades. Before that, the question was understood differently."

When was state action not required? If you're saying only that there was a time before Roe v. Wade when there was no abortion right recognized that will not establish that there was a time when the unborn had a constitutional right to be left unkilled.

Ann Althouse said...

"And remember, as Sandy Levinson notes, the idea that the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force is not the traditional American view."

You have to integrate that proposition with something you want to say about abortion. I don't see what that is. A private citizen legitimately uses force in self-defense, for example. So a pro-abortion argument might say the woman legitimately defends her body against an unwanted pregnancy. But how do you get to a right of the unborn not to be aborted?

Erika said...

You seem to be saying that those of us who are "stuck at this insurmountable problem: killing a human being" aren't giving proper consideration to other aspects of this moral question, namely A. exercising control over the mother by denying her the means to escape serving as an incubator, and B. the effect that that denying an abortion may have on the prospects of future human beings from the same mother to be conceived and born.

I can see those considerations just fine. I just have yet to see a convincing argument--as I said above, which did not merit a response--that either aspect is meaningful, especially as compared to the willful destruction of innocent human life. Who cares? Who can know? If my children were to die tomorrow, I would certainly try to bear more children. As it stands now, I am not going to have any more children. Am I denying those potential children the right to life by refraining from murdering the children I already have?

Baron Zemo said...

My dear lady please stop with the Professor Kingsfield imitation.

I am merely trying to help you disprove the base canard that you are a conservative.

RichardS said...

The state is the acting on behalf of the sovereign people. It's important to separate the means with the responsible party.

When the law blocks something, it is we the people who responsible for the blocking, just as when I drive a car, it is me, not the car that is acting.

Blaming "the state" makes it seem that the state is the force that is responsible for the law and for its enforcement.

rhhardin said...

@althouse It simply puts the answering of the question within the mother's decisionmaking power. Anyone is free to influence her to think of her pregnancy that way, but she gets the ultimate choice. The question whether the unborn is a person is or should be central to that decisionmaking.

That's not how Piercy's mother decides. For her it's whether she wants to be the incubator.

I'd say that the decision goes the other direction, from deciding she'll carry the baby to the fetus being a person.

The fetus being a person is not a fact about the fetus but a fact about its relation to somebody, in that case a mother-to-be who speaks for it.

Having a soul means having relations to others.

That's an argument that's based on noticing something about the language.

A lot of words work backwards from the way you'd think.

Call them contravariant words.

Maguro said...

I'd say that the decision goes the other direction, from deciding she'll carry the baby to the fetus being a person.

The fetus being a person is not a fact about the fetus but a fact about its relation to somebody, in that case a mother-to-be who speaks for it.


If that's the case, then the fetus is not a person. Personhood can't be contingent on some other person's feelings.

Otherwise, you'd have to conclude that all those people who are alone in the world - the elderly shut-ins, the nursing home residents that no one visits, the mentally handicapped in insitutions - are not really persons at all. Or perhaps they were persons at some point, but aren't anymore because no one cares about them.

It's a monstrous idea.

rhhardin said...

If that's the case, then the fetus is not a person. Personhood can't be contingent on some other person's feelings.

Feelings isn't the right word, but that's how the language works. And you think with that language.

It goes against a theoretical picture, is all.

But it's the wrong picture.

YoungHegelian said...

rhhardin: Having a soul means having relations to others
That's an argument that's based on noticing something about the language


maguro: Personhood can't be contingent on some other person's feelings.

Encapsulated in these two succinct comments is why abortion is such a sticky-wicket. It is applied metaphysics, and remains such no matter what legal or theological edifices are built on the metaphysical base.

YoungHegelian said...

And, rh, Wittgensteinian anti-metaphysics I consider another example of metaphysics.

rhhardin said...

@yh You can, however, as what you'd be inclined to say if ...

And that's empirical, about language.

Baron Zemo said...

Maguro said....

Otherwise, you'd have to conclude that all those people who are alone in the world - the elderly shut-ins, the nursing home residents that no one visits, the mentally handicapped in insitutions - are not really persons at all. Or perhaps they were persons at some point, but aren't anymore because no one cares about them."

That is exactly right. That is what Obama's death panels will be set up to take care of once Obamacare is full force. Non-person is what they will be. And they will just as comfortable getting rid of them as they are a baby in the womb.

Wait and see my friend.

BrianE said...

"It's not silly or spiritual to refer to the children are not born when a woman chooses to bear unplanned children at an earlier point in her life than she would have chosen. "

But she did choose. She chose to roll the dice where the consequences were pregnancy.

The only truly innocent person is the baby. Guilty of trespass. Sentence is death. And the trespass, is more like the consequences of car theft when you leave your keys in the car. That itself is a crime. I'm not suggesting that here, only that society transfers some of the responsibility to careless car owner.

Beyond that, it's mere speculation that the woman's life would be better to have a child at 25 instead of 20; or 30 instead of 25. At 15 the child could be put up for adoption and a life of potential remorse could be avoided. And any of those other ages, the baby could live and the woman could go on with her life.

And it's speculation that the baby born at 20 couldn't produce a motherly love that transcends any speculative hardship from having an unplanned baby.

Our third child was unplanned. He potentially could have been a hardship. Somehow it seems so selfish to deprive a baby that exists for the potential of a baby at another, more convenient time.

As has been stated before, love is a choice. And love covers a multitude of missed opportunities.

rhhardin said...

One thing that comes up in Cavell:

The family is eating out and the four-year-old wants to pay for the meal.

You give him the money and he gives it to the cashier.

Did he pay for the meal?

It's a "What would we be inclined to say" moment; not fully, perhaps - but take it another direction, part of the deal is you taking it as him having paid for the meal. You take on a relation for him, for him to practice and grow into.

Goffman's "say-foring" is another example, "He says thank you, don't you honey."

Taking him at birth as a person is another example, one which society adopts.

Parents-to-be can do that before birth; or not.

RichardS said...

"Encapsulated in these two succinct comments is why abortion is such a sticky-wicket. It is applied metaphysics, and remains such no matter what legal or theological edifices are built on the metaphysical base."

Very well said. That's why I think this issue belongs in the legislative arena, at the state level. The average person is no worse a metaphysician than the average judge.

amba said...

Having a soul means having relations to others.

There you go. But can a soul exist without relations to others?

Goju said...

The underlying objective of Eugenics is the betterment of society by the uplifiting of the genetics of the individuals within that society. Sounds nice, but it also included the elimination of the "low classes" to insure that the remaining persons would be the only ones contributing to the gene pool. That idea did not originate with the Nazi doctors. It was part and parcel of the whole eugenics movement before there was even a Nazi party. The nazi doctors actually studied their craft in California. They put into practice what their mentors could only theorize about.

Eugenics uses abortion as a means of reducing or eliminating the socially undesirable elements. The abortion argument in the present tense is focused on individual choice and the effects of that choice upon the one individual above all others or society. Where in all the noise that surrounds abortion is the discussion of the father's rights?