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Explanations Asked

with 7 comments

A month or so ago, I wrote a post that outlined my position on the legality of abortion.

Note–I said the LEGALITY.

The moral issue is entirely different.

I am ONLY talking about whether or not a government has a right to compel a woman to continue a pregnancy against her will.

This is important, because my take on the morality of (most) abortions is much different than my take on their legality.

My take on the LEGALITY is this–law and precedent are clear that no person can be compelled to give the use and benefit of  his physical body (NOT his time, or his money, but his actual blood and skin and bone) to another person against his ( and I should hope also her) will.

If your twelve year old child requires  your bone marrow to survive leukemia, or one of your kidneys to survive childhood diabetes–even if, without it, there is a certainly the child will die, the courts have said you cannot be compelled to provide the body part.

This seems to me to be an exact analogy to abortion–a child in the womb makes use and has the benefit of its mother’s body, the mothers’ blood and skin and bone, through all nine months of pregnancy.

If that mother could not be compelled to provide bone marrow to that child once born, why can she be compelled to provide her digestive system, circulatory system and all the rest to a child in her womb?  Why can she even be compelled to provide the housing?

Somebody commented on that post by saying that the two cases were not similar, and I couldn’t make them similar just by saying so.

And I didn’t respond to that at the time.

I didn’t respond to it because I was just flabbergasted–I can’t find a way in which the two cases are NOT similar? 

In fact, the only thing that is at all dissimilar between the two things is that pregnancy is far more invasive on just about every level.

The commenter said that the two cases couldn’t be similar “just because the mother provided nourishment.”

But in fact the provision of nourishment as a taking of her physical body WOULD make the two cases similar, all on its own.

And in pregnancy, the woman does NOT “just provide nourishment.”

In fact, for many months, the child uses almost all the mother’s body systems, and uses them in such a way that they alter the mother’s body functions as long as she lives.

Sometimes that alteration is minor, and sometimes it is major, but it always occurs. 

So I’ll ask now what I should have asked then:

In what way is pregnancy NOT a case where one human being (the fetus) is making use of the physical body (blood and skin and bone) of another human being (the mother).

And if the child is definitely doing that–and I really can’t see how you can argue otherwise–then why may the mother be compelled to provide the service against her will, when a few short months later she could NOT be compelled to provide bone marrow or a kidney to that same child?

This is what happens when I try to take a day off.

Written by janeh

August 27th, 2012 at 9:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'Explanations Asked'

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  1. I don’t think life and death issues can be separated from morality. With that caveat –

    It might be remotely possible to find another donor for a kidney or bone marrow if that is denied a child. It is not possible for a child denied the use of its mother’s body for the first part of the pregnancy to survive. The certainty of death of the weaker human being in the abortion scenario makes the difference.

    The physicality of the pregnancy example doesn’t make as much difference to me as it does you – The labour of my body goes to provide money to pay for many provisions of society, some of which I disapprove of entirely.

    But physically – OK, I can’t be forced to give up a kidney to my child, but if I don’t provide it with the necessities of life, I’ll be put in jail. So if it’s OK to use, well, terminal force to stop it from feeding itself on me before birth, why can’t I just not bother to feed it, or give it to someone who will, after it’s born? After all, it’s still using my resources, ones I need or want to maintain my body.


    27 Aug 12 at 12:42 pm

  2. I was thinking along some of the same lines as Cheryl… after a child is born, you are indeed obligated to put your own work, effort, money and time into nurturing it, otherwise they call it neglect and charge you with a crime. Either that or you have to terminate your parental rights and give it up.

    But as the courts have said, you don’t have to contribute any portion of your physical body to that effort, even the replaceable bits like blood or bone marrow. I wonder why not? I mean really, a kidney or lung, that you have limited numbers of and that will not grow back, okay, draw the line there. Why not enforce contribution of blood, bone marrow, skin, other things that will replenish themselves with no lasting harm to the donor?

    We’ve already had cases where parents have had a child (or two) in hopes that child will be a donor for an older sibling. Apparently, since the younger sib is a minor, it’s okay to rummage for extra organs if mom & dad say okay. This has always seemed very wrong to me. I wonder if there’s ever been a case of parents authorizing the donation of an organ from child to parent, despite the desires of the child?

    Is the legal limitation on not being obliged to provide body parts to a born child based on if it can be forced in the case of parent/child, it could also be forced in the case of a stranger? And that just leads to the land of creepy corruption, doesn’t it?

    So back to pregnancy, where Those Stupid Old White Men want to force women to carry to term, no matter what the women want. Why is it different from donation? We can’t ignore, I don’t think, that pregnancy is the result of sex, which women must be punished for having. (as if they have it alone)

    How can I say that? Well, look at the people trying to enforce it. They say they want to prevent abortion. The most effective preventative methods have proven to be efficient, easily available birth control, and honest, widely disseminated sex education. The same people who want every pregnancy to progress to term do their utmost to restrict both birth control and sex ed. Oh, and if you’re raped, or the minor victim of incest, well, then, support that child, it is far more important than your physical or mental health. If these people don’t want to be seen as punishing women for having sex (even forced sex), perhaps they ought to look at every action they take and wonder why they’re all punitive to women. :/

    Jane, there’s no way to explain how a fetus isn’t using it’s mother’s body, unless you can also twist your mind into believing that restricting birth control and eliminating sex ed is consistent with reducing abortions. I can’t. You can’t. But somehow the Old Dudes can.

    I shocked my husband the other day, by telling him there’s no point at which I believe that a fetus is not “human life.” It is, it must be. It’s not a wombat. But that I also believe that a woman should be able to kill that human life, if it becomes necessary. (and yes, she gets to define necessary, to her) I really hate that people cannot look the issue straight in the face and say, “Yes, this action is awful, but it’s the best of many bad choices.”

    For me, it gets all squishy when the fetus is viable to live outside the mother. I do NOT think such babies should be left (or helped) to die. If a wanted premature baby has been saved at X weeks, an aborted fetus of X weeks age should be saved, if possible. If the abortion happens because of anencephaly or other condition precluding life, then the baby should be held, medicated for pain, and allowed to sleep until they stop breathing.

    This is a sliding target, of course, as younger and younger preemies are saved, and as medical technology improves. Soon enough, an entire pregnancy may be possible outside the womb.

    Abortion, as such, is a terrible action. Nobody should be forced to choose it. But the alternative, that nobody CAN choose it, is far worse.


    27 Aug 12 at 5:00 pm

  3. Well–in response to Cheryl:

    First, our courts have been clear, even if there is no chance in hell that an alternate donor can be found, even if the child will die, no other possibility, neither the parent or anybody else can be compelled.

    And if they can’t be compelled when the death of a 12 year old is certain, I don’t see why a mother can be compelled when the child is still in the womb.

    Second, there’s not much difference between being required to support a child with your money and being required to support him with your body parts IF there’s no difference between being required to buy your neighbor’s lunch and being required to allow him to lunch by biting off parts of your arm.

    As to Lymaree–I DON’T think all prolife people are trying to punish women for sex.

    I have a hard time finding a MORAL justification for abortion–in a case where continuing a pregnancy would result in the mother’s physical death, then the right to self defense would kick in, but that’s as close I can get.

    But a right is an area in which the government is forbidden to act, and that is all it is. You have the right to be free of government interference with your procuring an abortion from a willing provider, but that doesn’t mean the government has to pay for the procedure or provide you with health insurance to pay for the procedure, or that your employer has to pay for it, either.

    But it DOES mean that if the child is viable and CAN be born alive, then the government may require that the child be born alive and kept alive.

    Your right is to terminate the pregnancy, not to kill the fetus per se. Most of the time the two are unavoidably linked, but in any case where they are not, both things, not just one, must be done.


    27 Aug 12 at 6:00 pm

  4. As phrased, the question admits of a single answer–which was the point. So I’ll be annoying instead. An analogy, and a few other questions.

    Analogy. I believe very strongly in private property as the bedrock of civilization, and perhaps the most important right. With no logal alternative, would I let my family starve next to a full bakery? Best not to count on it.

    Question: You’ve seen the glorious victory in court: little Mary is dying before your eyes and will be dead in a month because her father won’t give up some body substance which will grow back. Would you be willing to hold him down for five minutes in an alley while someone else extracted the marrow? If someone else did, would you aid the police in their search?

    Question: would the law stand if a million young people a year were dying for lack of parental bone marrow?

    Question: Would the law stand if the million victims were old enough to vote, lobby and organize?

    Question: Should life and death be decided by whether the victims can deliver a swing state in November?

    Now I’ll go annoy someone else. Enjoy.


    27 Aug 12 at 6:01 pm

  5. The problem allows of only one answer because there IS only one answer, and the examples are irrelevant.

    The question is not what morally right or wrong in this case, but what the power of the state should be in this case.

    And I don’t think you are any more interested than I am in allowing the state to commandeer our body parts any time they think somebody else needs them, life or death situation or not.


    27 Aug 12 at 6:06 pm

  6. There is a difference between the transplant case and abortion.

    In the case of the transplant, the parent did not cause the illness which generates the need for a transplant.

    The death of the healthy fetus is due to the deliberate action of the parent.


    27 Aug 12 at 10:12 pm

  7. I wonder if/how the law of contract might be brought to bear on this issue. Does a foetus ever get to attain a contractual right to the occupation of a woman’s body? Should the state force a woman to bear an unwanted child? Perhaps that should depend on how the woman came to be hosting an unwanted child. Perhaps a solution might be, in a case of extreme negligence or irresponsibility, to kill the mother in the process of killing the unwanted child. Why should the mother get to survive and not the child?

    Obviously pregnancy as a result of proven rape would be an exception, but then, inevitably, all women pregnant with an unwanted child would claim rape. Perhaps in that instance the state could dictate that the rapist die in lieu of the mother.

    Boiled down to its essentials, there is no rational argument to justify taking an innocent life, and the the only innocent in all pregnancies other than those that result from rape (rape being defined as including incest) is the foetus. Looked at in any other light, we must accept that Peter Singer is a rational and perhaps even a sane individual, and that simply doesn’t compute.


    28 Aug 12 at 12:55 am

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