Wal-Mart and the morning after

Politics is nasty enough when it’s about real issues, because it
always reduces to somebody holding a gun on somebody else. But
somehow I find it hardest to take when it’s about faux issues, all the
machinery of coercion enlisted to no purpose other than for fools to
posture at each other.

Here’s a perfect example. The state of Massachusetts, responding to
a lawsuit backed by abortion-rights groups, has ordered
Wal-Mart to sell emergency contraception, the so-called “morning
after” pill that prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in the
uterine wall.

Leading off the parade of morons in this little drama is the
Religious Right, for huffing and puffing that the action of this pill
is tantamount to killing a human being. Way to go, guys! Keep those
women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen where they belong; perish
forbid they should be allowed any control over reproduction just
because pregnancy can easily kill them. Your new slogan, I guess, is
“Every child of rape is a child of God.”

No less idiotic are the three women who sued. Hello, girls? The
effect period on the pill is less than the amount of time to ship the
little suckers from Canada. Order on-line and save. Better yet, show
a little forethought: buy in advance from some local pharmacy that
wants the business Wal-Mart isn’t getting and keep ‘em handy.

Ahhh, but that sane and sensible course wouldn’t do anything
for the public visibility and fund-raising of the groups backing them.
The First Law of Victim-Group Politics is: You can never have too many
victims. If they don’t occur naturally, you must create them.

Bringing up the rear, and the worst of the lot, is whatever meddler
in the Massachusetts legislature thought it was a peachy idea to
mandate what Wal-Mart sells. Repeat after me: it isn’t any of your
damned business
what Wal-Mart sells. There’s this concept called
“free enterprise”. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

And all this foofaraw is completely meaningless. Because the bluenoses
can’t actually prevent anyone from buying morning-after pills, there is
absolutely no point in political mandates intended to ensure that they can.
But Wal-Mart does its propitiatory dance to the right, and Massachusetts
politicians do their propitiatory dance to the left, and nobody anywhere
gains a damn thing.

Nobody, that is, except professional busybodies — people who want
to politicize all choices. A swift death to all such vermin would
leave the rest of us far better off.

93 thoughts on “Wal-Mart and the morning after

  1. Excellent! Now that the precedent has been established, there are a few other changes that I’d like to force on Wal-Mart: Henceforth, they should have to carry firearms and ammo at all their stores. After all, I have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and if Wal-Mart can be forced to protect a woman’s right to abortion, surely my second amendment rights are just as worthy of protection. After that, I’d like to force them to carry porn flicks and rap music with lyrics that incite violence, because, after all, my first amendment rights to free speech need protection as well.

    (Yeah, I realize the stupidity of these ideas. Evidently, the proponents of the abortion pill requirement have reached a different conclusion.)

  2. This is a great example of the fallacy of trying to fix a complex mess by diking out just part of it. Everything in this post would be reasonable if arbitrary sellers were allowed to sell the drug. As things stand, free marketers of prescription drugs are almost invariably sleazoidswho sell unreliable junk, because the ordinary corrective mechanisms for people who sell junk don’t work in this two-tier market. And what Wal-Mart carries in its pharmacy, beginning with who it can sell the stuff to, is already regulated six ways from Sunday.

    I know you advocate for complete deregulation (and so do I). But in this environment, less regulation isn’t necessarily more freedom. Popping the regulatory stack is better than pushing it, but doing neither is intolerable.

  3. Better yet, show a little forethought: buy in advance from some local pharmacy that wants the business Wal-Mart isn’t getting and keep ‘em handy.

    They’re prescription items.  Pills are only available from pharmacists without an advance prescription in only 6 states.

    Demanding that women do something that’s somewhere between difficult and prohibited by law (or they’re irresponsible) shows a profound lack of sympathy.

  4. John Cowan and Engineer-Poet are both missing the point. You need a prescription to get morning-after pills from Wal-Mart. You need a prescription to get morning-after pills from a local pharmacy. If there’s anything ‘unreasonable’ in what women are required to do to get them, it has nothing to do with whether Wal-Mart is forced to sell them or not. Similarly, the fact that many on-line drug marts may be sleazoids is relevant only if no local pharmacies exist outside of Wal-Marts.

  5. I’m usually nodding in agreement, but I have to take issue with one of your statements. You don’t have to be a member of the “Religous Right” to object to abortion (which, arguably, the “morning after” pill is a form of). As an agnostic/borderline-atheist and a libertarian, I find it hard to follow the logic of fellow libertarians who hold the rights of man as paramount, but can’t define concretely when the “man” begins. When dealing with human life, it seems to me that erring on the side of caution (ie. conception) is not such a bad idea.

    The last thing I want is to fight over abortion, since I’ve found that those arguments are unwinnable. However, the prinicipled stand in defence of unborn life – regardless of whether the result of rape, incest, or a loving partnership – may be unpopular, but it is not moronic. The last century has shown the horrors that can result when the value of human life is debased.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. quoting ESR: Similarly, the fact that many on-line drug marts may be sleazoids is relevant only if no local pharmacies exist outside of Wal-Marts.

    It is received wisdom among the left that the building of a Wal-Mart immediately destroys all ‘local’ businesses, and that those ‘local’ businesses are prima facia superior in every way to Wal-Mart.

    Who knows, it may even be true…

  7. Well after reading the article it seems that WalMart must stock the pill because they are certified as a pharmacy.
    It seems a legitimate rule that if someone says that they are a pharmacist that there is a certain baseline of products that you are guaranteed to find there.

    Whether this pill belongs on that list is another story but then the issue is not freedom of enterprise anymore in my opinion.

  8. Defending unborn human life is not silly. Supposing that a fertilized egg is human life is silly. You can’t get ‘human life’ out of a pre-mitotic egg for the exact same reasons you can’t get the 1812 Overture out of a kazoo — the informational complexity to support ‘human life’ simply isn’t there yet, and no amount of religious fabulation can make it be there. But the real reason I dismiss the Religious Right as morons is that they’re not even willing to engage these material facts. Instead, they invoke an obscuring cloud of untestable hypotheticals to cover the fact that they’re just repeating their prejudices like a kind of duckspeak.

    We have no trouble at all defining when human life begins — and ends. Is there a humanlike EEG in the frontal lobe? This is not an extreme or unusual position; it’s exactly the same one most medical ethicists use in evaluating potential organ donors. Fine, let’s err on the side of caution, I’m in favor of that: humanlike EEG can’t manifest in fetuses until well into the third trimester because the brain structures for it aren’t there yet, so we’re on the safe side if we put the cutoff date at six months. If you abort a third-trimester fetus with human-level brain activity, I’m willing to call it manslaughter at least.

    But pushing that back to conception is ridiculous. So ridiculous, in view of the facts of morphogenesis, that anyone maintaining such a position has to be considered to have exited the realm of rational argument based on observable facts.

  9. Your analogy doesn’t seem accurate. A kazoo on a table will not – if left to its own devices – grow into a 30-piece orchestra. A fertilized egg, in all likelihood, will develop into a viable human life. Premature babies as young as 20 weeks have survived birth, even without a human-like EEG, and have developed outside the womb. Given your definition of human life, would hospital staff be justified in euthanizing such a baby immediately after birth? Thousands of premature babies younger than 26 weeks are born each year, so it’s not exactly an “untestable hypothetical”. I believe most would consider them human. If it’s human ex utero, why not in utero?

    To take take thing even futher… Governments mandate vaccinations for infants in the interest of public health. If we all agree that early-term fetuses are not human, what principled argument can be made against a government that mandated abortions of unwanted (ie. disabled, diseased, not blonde-haired and blue-eyed) early-term fetuses in the interest of public health? We can argue about whether government has the right to compel its citizens or the efficacy of either , but how does one differ substantially from the other? They don’t, and that scares me.

  10. I’m not sure it applies to Wal*Mart, but I believe there have been some cases (Target?) where the pharmacist confiscated the prescription, then refused to fill it for religious reasons.  That should be illegal!  But Massachusetts is a nanny state and it is not atypical of them to require that certain drugs be carried in order to have a pharmacy license, just as certain procedures (abortion) must be covered in order to get a health-insurer license.

    Why is there no “preview” button here?

  11. That a fertilized egg will likely turn into a human capable of a biologically independent existence (not economically, or socially, independent; I speak here of being able to survive without being hardwired to another human) does not mean that it is one yet. We cannot make policy based on likelihoods, only on facts.

  12. Then there’s the fact that women who’ve had abortions tend not to recommend the practice — the sick story of Amy Richards, who aborted two of three triplets because she didn’t want to be doomed to shop at Costco notwithstanding. And the fact that Planned Parenthood is trying to restrict the availability of ultrasound in some jurisdictions; human-like EEG or no, if it has an identifiable little face and little fingers and toes, the expectant mother is likely to form an emotional bond or attachment to it — and become hesitant to abort it.

    All of which is, of course, semantic hairsplitting in the present context. We’re talking about zygotes here — specifically a drug that makes the uterus hostile to their implantation, and doesn’t even kill them outright. And, of course, Wal-Mart. Somehow I doubt it’d be as picked on if it didn’t so thoroughly exemplify and represent the condition of American normotic illness.

  13. I tend to agree. However, there need to be some restrictions on selling, for instance, fully automatic weapons, howitzers, nerve gas, high explosive etc. Not saying they should be banned, but some checks would be in order, no?

    And no, I’m not being sarcastic/ironic or whatever that word is…

  14. Both Eric and Jeff are missing the point.  Eric first:

    You need a prescription to get morning-after pills from Wal-Mart.

    You said “… buy in advance from some local pharmacy….”, which means that someone who has no need (not anticipating date-rape, perhaps) will go out, make a doctor’s appointment, get a prescription and fill it.  If the pills were OTC (and the religious right wasn’t trying to let the sales be blocked by self-appointed guardians of the public morals) you would have a position worth taking seriously, but they aren’t and the moralists are succeeding.

    And Jeff Read says:

    Planned Parenthood is trying to restrict the availability of ultrasound in some jurisdictions…

    I call bullshit.  Trying to keep the S.A.G.O.T.P.M. from requiring ultrasounds as a condition of access to abortion is not a restriction.

  15. A fertilized egg, in all likelihood, will develop into a viable human life.

    And an unsheathed penis, combined with internal combustion, is more likely to cause human life than wearing a condom or pulling out. So we shouldn’t wear condoms and/or give the ladies a map of hawaii on their forehead?

    Further, sperm inside of a uterus is more likely to cause human life than sperm inside a Britney sock. Is diverting sperm to non-copulative purposes therefore bad?

    In fact, frequent masturbation decreases sexual desires. Whenever I have the urge to plow a groupie, I have the potential to start a process which can trigger a reaction which can begin a growth which can develop into a viable human life. By decreasing my sex drive, I interrupt this process — isn’t that bad?

    And if a woman does get pregnant, and then goes for a 7 day, 100 mile hike, she stands a high chance of causing miscarriage. If she does it on purpose, is she a murderer? If she does it unwittingly, is it manslaughter? Is her guide an accessory to murder in the case of the former?

    You see where I’m going with this. Where do you draw the line, and by what epistemology and/or moral philosophy do you determine where that line should be drawn? That’s the only question that really matters. It’s all well and good to say “fertilized eggs are the moral equivalent of a human being,” but it’s only halfway there. You also have to develop a consistent moral/epistemological philosophy which determines that the line should be drawn there. Otherwise, you’re just plucking that condition out of thin air because it suits your fancy. I fail to see why whacking a girl in the gut in her 8 month with a hockey stick (assuming her consent) would be any less valid if we’re going to play the “because I said so” game.

  16. Jeff: do you support the legalization and de-regulation of Anabolic/Androgenic Steroids? And if America is so normotically ill, what does it say about places like Germany, where Ginko Biloba and Alpha-Lipoic Acid are prescription items (not so in America)? I’m not putting you on the spot here (for once), I’m genuinely interested to hear your position on these matters.

  17. Pete and Jay are correct. Anybody who thinks a fertilized zygote is human-equivalent just because it might develop into a human better be prepared to sing Monty Python’s “Every Sperm Is Sacred” and mean it. The alternative is to admit that some actual property — not just potential — is needed.

    Scanian: “fully automatic weapons, howitzers, nerve gas, high explosive etc.” We don’t have laws against possession of nerve gas. Nor do we need them. I could explain why, but you’ll get more insight if you figure it out yourself.

    Engineer-Poet, you’re still not making any sense to me. Why is buying in advance at a local pharmacy any more problematic than buying in advance at Wal-Mart?

  18. >It is received wisdom among the left that the building of a Wal-Mart immediately destroys all ‘local’ businesses, and that those ‘local’ businesses are prima facia superior in every way to Wal-Mart.

    Idiots. There’s a Wal-Mart five miles from me in Exton, PA. My little town of Malvern has two independent pharmacies, and I can think of at least two more within minutes of me.

  19. /* [Engineer Poet]: If the pills were OTC (and the religious right wasn’t trying to let the sales be blocked by self-appointed guardians of the public morals) …
    */

    Although the Atheist Left is using similar pressure to keep silicone breast implants from becoming legal, which goes back to the “freedom of the choices I’m willing to give people” issue. For the record, I’m not a libertarian, and I have no problem with the government taking action based on public morals. But I say so publicly. The Left (and, please, don’t think I’m saying you’re part of the Left — I don’t know enough about you to say that) makes a big deal about the freedom rhetoric unless they happen to disagree.

    For instance, the Left “supports science” by encouraging embryonic stem cell research, but the same Left deplores scientific animal testing. And, going full circle, the Left considers animal cruelty a capital offense because animals feel pain, but declares that a fetus’s ability to feel pain is beside the point.

  20. “For instance, the Left “supports science” by encouraging embryonic stem cell research, but the same Left deplores scientific animal testing. And, going full circle, the Left considers animal cruelty a capital offense because animals feel pain, but declares that a fetus’s ability to feel pain is beside the point.”

    I’m convinced that’s because the Left likes animals–and hates people.

  21. This is just weird:

    the Atheist Left is using similar pressure to keep silicone breast implants from becoming legal

    What does atheism have to do with breast implants?

    the Left “supports science” by encouraging embryonic stem cell research, but the same Left deplores scientific animal testing.

    When did “the Left” become a monolith?  Where’s your proof that those two groups you’re talking about even have significant overlap, other than being non-right-wing?

    the Left considers animal cruelty a capital offense because animals feel pain, but declares that a fetus’s ability to feel pain is beside the point.

    You’ve really out-done those you’re describing for over-generalization and silly conclusions.  Very ironic.

  22. ESR – I think a zygote *is*, by definition, fertilized…and *will* (of its own accord, barring unforeseeable external influences outside its control) develop into a living, breathing individual – it has *every* bit of ‘information’ needed to do so. Yes, it requires a uterus and a hormone soup to be its ‘petri dish’, much like a seed needs soil and water-yet is essentially fully equipped to become a plant. Sperm and ova, considered separately, are ‘life’ *in potentia*…not so for the zygote…so no, Pete, I don’t think your reasoning about condoms and masturbation is appropriate. In fact, if some people *do* feel this way, then I will agree that they *should* be singing Monty Python! :-)

    Back to ESR – I don’t agree with your stance on abortion, but am at least rational enough to debate it rather than screaming bloody murder ;-) In particular, I consider your assertion that ‘anyone thinking “zygote = human equivalent” is an idiot’, uncharacteristically sloppy. I consider the zyogote as most *essentially* human…not medically or visually recognisable as such, true, but still *human*.

    You clearly define the quality of being human as being contingent on certain medical criteria (EEG etc). I see your point of view. I respectfully disagree…to me, this is a woefully hasty and crude definition. My own definition is somewhat more abstract, admittedly, and follows a more moral/philosophical line of reasoning. It stems from the underlying principal in the DoI’s reference to *inalienable* human rights. Combine this with my own dissatisfaction with your style of ‘medically discernable as human’ argument, instead injecting my (perhaps ‘transcendental’) notion of ‘human’, and we arrive at my stance.

    Which is – All abortion is homicide. Whether it is justifiable or not is yet another debate. I do not consider all abortion to be unjustifiable, hence I do not wish to outlaw abortion. As a derivative position, I do, however, consider the death penalty for rape (if it results in a pregnancy & abortion) to be appropriate.

    Sincere apologies for hijacking…I rarely get involved in ‘abortion’ debates, for many of the same reasons David mentions, but you strike me as someone prepared to have a serious, calm, rational discussion…ie. *not* one of the frothing pro-life | pro-choice rabble ;-)

    PS. Regarding your *actual* post…damn straight…”it isn’t any of your damned business” :-) Amen to that!

  23. /* [me] the Atheist Left is using similar pressure to keep silicone breast implants from becoming legal

    [Engineer Poet] What does atheism have to do with breast implants?
    */

    I only used “Atheist” because you used “Religious Right.” My main point is that the same people complaining about the political pressure on the FDA over contraceptives use political pressure on the FDA over other issues. Either they are hypocrites or they have a view of the world I simply haven’t understood yet.

    /*[me] the Left “supports science” by encouraging embryonic stem cell research, but the same Left deplores scientific animal testing.

    [Engineer Poet] When did “the Left” become a monolith?
    */

    About the same time the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy started handing out membership cards.

    /* Where’s your proof that those two groups you’re talking about even have significant overlap, other than being non-right-wing?
    */

    Hmm, I’ll have to find a survey on that. For the record, what do you think about the two issues?

  24. /* My main point is that the same people complaining about the political pressure on the FDA over contraceptives use political pressure on the FDA over other issues.
    */

    Proof of this: National Organization For Women. Two current alerts at http://www.now.org are “Stop the FDA from Approving Silicone Breast Implants while Manufacturer is under Criminal Investigation” and “Women’s Access to Contraception.” Hmm.

  25. But, for a poor-man’s survey, guess what answers Senators Clinton, Feingold, Feinstein, Kennedy, Kerry etc. would give to the following questions (as they have probably done surveys):

    “Where do you stand on animal testing?”

    “Where do you stand on embryonic stem cell research?”

  26. >I think a zygote *is*, by definition, fertilized…and *will* (of its own accord, barring unforeseeable external influences outside its control) develop into a living, breathing individual

    That’s actually not so. You need a fertilized egg plus the right circumstances; it has to implant in the uterine wall, for starters, and then a fairly elaborate series of maternal hormone regulations has to go right so a placenta grows around it. It takes external influences outside its control to make the process not fail.

  27. As far as the bible is concerned there is no line, women have been seen as sinners because they have a period. It was well known then that every month a potential human was being washed from the womans body. Misscaridge was seen that the woman has sinned. Masturbation is seen as a sin.
    I pity any fool who believes in this book that was only written to as a control mechanism to keep the masses in fear and give the minority power.
    Back to the real topic I am pro abortion, but I believe the UK date for termination should be reduced from 24 weeks (I have no idea what it is in the USA).
    As far as the manslaughter/murder issue is concerned a Doctor in New South Wales in Austarlia has just gone on trial for giving a woman some pills to abort. When she got home the she took them, edjected the foetus which stayed alive for 4 hours in her toilet. Should the Doctor be up for manslaughter for perscribing the drugs despite the fact the Mother requested them?

  28. “normotic” is not in the dictionary.

    What’s the matter with silicon breast implants?

    I see no reason to require a pharmacy to stock certain items. Should we require a grocery to stock bread? Any drugs that must be taken immediately should be taken in an emergency room, no?

    People who steal prescriptions instead of filling them should be charged with theft as well as something like attempted assault. But at the time when it is actually perpetrated, a fuss should be made, handguns should be drawn, and that evil, God-fearing pharmacist should be forced to give the prescription back. But no… *sigh*

  29. A fertilized egg has an n% chance of implanting on the uterine wall, meaning there’s a 100-n% chance of no pregnancy.

    If I’m not mistaken, then the rhythm method reduces n slightly, and the morning-after pill reduces n to zero.

    But if the “no pregnancy” outcome means that a baby has died, then that means the Religious Right might use that to mandate that anyone who has sex must take drugs to make their uterine wall as sticky as possible, and go to jail if the egg falls out. It’s only a matter of time before someone sells this idea to Pat Robertson and starts a movement, particularly if such drugs actually exist.

  30. Nick:

    Intent has everything to do with it. If you had sex with an intent to have a child, but no child was conceived, it was God’s work and you’re in the clear. If you had sex and intentionally blocked the development of the embryo, then you killed a human life and should be damned to hell.

    Same with the other side: the humanity of an unborn fetus is dependent on only one thing: the intent of the woman carrying that fetus. It is a “baby” if the mother wishes to give birth to it and a “bundle of tissues” if she doesn’t, period. No other criterion is admissible.

    Both sides of this debate are like mirror-image alternate-bearded-Spock-universe duplicates of one another. I wish the hardline pro-lifers and pro-choicers would just run at full speed into one another and annihilate one another, poof, like electrons and positrons. Then maybe sanity could be restored to discussions of reproductive decisions.

  31. I think that a more libertarian way to look at abortion is that at some point there is only a woman, and at some other point there are two people — one of whom is inside the other. At all times human beings have rights, even if they are dependent upon another human being for their survival.

  32. I think that a more libertarian way to look at abortion is that at some point there is only a woman, and at some other point there are two people — one of whom is inside the other.

    Problem is that all the criteria for choosing a cutoff point other than fertilisation are kind of arbitrary, including EEG traces.

  33. The human embryo develops to the blastocyst stage five to six days after fertilization. A blastocyst is a hollow ball of approximately 60-100 cells. The cells that make up the surface of the ball will attach to the uterine lining, initiate implantation and later provide the sac in which the embryo will grow. Contained within this hollow ball is another group of cells called the inner cell mass. The inner cell mass will become the fetus. The blastocyst also includes the trophectoderm (the part of the blastocyst that is going to be the placenta).

    During a natural cycle, the embryo develops to the early blastocyst stage within the Fallopian tube and arrives in the uterus late on the fourth day following ovulation. The embryo must reach the blastocyst stage before it is capable of attaching to the uterine wall and initiating implantation. The ‘morning after pill’ works by blocking the attachment process.

    Certainly we have in-vitro fertilization now, and the current leading IVF method is to transfer the blastocyst around day 5 or 6 after insemination of the egg.

    When embryos are cultured to the blastocyst stage in the I.V.F. laboratory, it is common to see about half of the embryos stop growing by the end of the third day. This rate of attrition is normal and is a result of the poor developmental potential of some of the embryos. Once an egg is fertilized, no genetic instructions are required for the embryo to reach the four-cell stage of development. However, on the third day, when the embryo is between the 4- and 8-cell stage of development, new genetic instructions are required for continued growth. About half the time, the genetic information required for growth beyond the 8-cell stage is conflicting, garbled or missing and the embryo simply stops growing.

    It is therefore unlikely that we can cry “life exists” before day 4.

    It is important to also note that since the environment within the uterus cannot influence the genetic make up of the embryo, the same attrition is observed when the embryos are transferred to the uterus on day three. That is, transferring genetically compromised embryos to the uterus on day three does not improve their chances of continued development.

    Another point worth considering is that to although some embryos technically reach the blastocyst stage, there are too few cells allocated to the inner cell mass. These “embryos” are capable of initiating implantation, but result in “chemical pregnancies” or an “empty sac” on ultrasound a few weeks after implantation. No human being results, so we can’t even use uterine attachment as a test for “life exists!”.

    At some point, transfer of the embryo to a (properly prepared) uterus will not need to occur. The complete cycle of embroyogenesis and fetal growth will occur outside the uterus. When it does, Mr. Nelson’s remark will be rendered moot, as there will it will not longer be necessary for one person to be (developing) inside the other.

    Also of note is the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004″: http://www.nrlc.org/Unborn_Victims/Key Facts on Unborn Victims of Violence Act.pdf
    in which an “unborn child” is defined as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb and who is injured or killed during the commission of a federal crime of violence…”

    The act does have an exception for consensual abortion. Whats interesting here is that the act otherwise defines “human life” occurring at “any stage of development”, including, presumably, conception.

  34. David: But at the time when it is actually perpetrated, a fuss should be made, handguns should be drawn, and that evil, God-fearing pharmacist should be forced to give the prescription back. But no… *sigh*
    I’m wondering what will happen when the pharmacist calls the cops and they find a weeping teenage girl pointing a gun at a pharmacist? Cos I don’t think they’d give her much chance to make a complaint… assuming, of course, that the pharmacist wasn’t armed and they don’t find the aftermath of a messy shootout.
    [Yeah, yeah, in a perfect libertarian world there would be no need for cops. So the girl would be shot by the pharmacist's insurance company's mercenaries instead. Somehow that doesn't make me any happier.]

    Jeff: Both sides of this debate are like mirror-image alternate-bearded-Spock-universe duplicates of one another. I wish the hardline pro-lifers and pro-choicers would just run at full speed into one another and annihilate one another, poof, like electrons and positrons.
    That sounds brilliant. Do you think we could do the same with ESR and Chomsky?
    [I'd say ESR and Michael Moore, but I have treasured memories of MM's early work and look forward to a day when he can start being funny again.]
    Oh, and please stop with the “normotic”/”Murkan”/”hegemony” stuff. It makes you sound like an ideologically-infected idiot. Which I don’t think you are, by the way, but please don’t undermine your own credibility like that.

  35. Last night I lost my better judgement and asked Engineer Poet /* For the record, what do you think about the two issues? */. That was wrong.

    I have to report that I haven’t found any professional surveys showing how much overlap exists between pro-embryonic stem cell liberals (“have to do everything we can to find a cure”) and anti-animal testing liberals (“can’t do that”). But I did go to my nearest University English department, and it’s apparent some overlap exists. Anybody interested can repeat this experiment anywhere in the country. To be fair, I’m sure I’d get more consistent answers from the Biology, Chemistry, or Physics departments. But the point still stands.

  36. “That’s actually not so.”

    OK…I’m certainly no medical expert :-) I understood “zygote” to simply mean “fertilized ovum”.

    “You need a fertilized egg plus the right circumstances; it has to implant in the uterine wall, for starters, and then a fairly elaborate series of maternal hormone regulations has to go right so a placenta grows around it. It takes external influences outside its control to make the process not fail.”

    Quite so…a truth I believe I acknowledged right off the bat. I wonder whether this is sufficient reasoning to discount such a zygote as exhibiting ‘human life’, however. After all, don’t we *all* need a rather elaborate series of external influences for us to continue our existence…a blend of gasses, liquids & solids? We need one environment to survive our growth in the womb, and another to continue to survive outside it.

    Adrian mentioned the “arbitrary” nature of many thresholds we commonly debate as marking the beginning of ‘life’. Isn’t one particularly non-arbitrary threshold that between “separate sperm & ova” and “zygote”…I mean, that’s a pretty clear line in the sand, no? Of course, in accepting the “life begins at conception” premise (as I do), a whole bunch of thorny issues have to be immediately confronted…namely that “all abortion is technically a homicide”…and the ensuing flame war over which, if any, can be considered justifiable.

    Ultimately, it seems we both stand against the outlawing of abortion, but for very different reasons…and perhaps with different standards. :-)

  37. >don’t we *all* need a rather elaborate series of external influences for us to continue our existence

    Don’t change the subject. You defended the “humanity” of a fertilized egg by saying that, left to itself, it would develop into a fully human being. I demonstrated that this is not so, and you have admitted this is not so. That we all need food and water is true but irrelevant to the argument you were (fallaciously) making.

  38. Let me clarify: I was using a joking tone, but I really did mean that such a pharmacist should be treated as a mugger.

  39. “Don’t change the subject.”

    Sorry…didn’t realize I had done so…

    “You defended the “humanity” of a fertilized egg by saying that, left to itself, it would develop into a fully human being.”

    No. I had not mentioned the “humanity” aspect at that point (the beginning of my first post). I was actually commenting on your original notion that “the informational complexity to support ‘human life’ simply isn’t there yet”…which necessarily involved, as you correctly highlight, my admission that the zygote requires a bunch of external influences to successfully develop.

    I did not intend to execute a fallacious shift in my second post, when I mentioned “…sufficient reasoning to discount such a zygote as exhibiting ‘human life’ “. I understand your criticism in light of this. Mea culpa. I was actually trying to *continue* the line of reasoning at that point…moving from my (arguable) understanding that all the info necessary for human life exists within the zygote…to wonder whether the agreed truth of its dependence on external influences is sufficient reasoning to somehow devalue or negate its essential humanity.

  40. Let me through Dan Kane a bone — from esr’s “Top Ten Reasons I’m Neither a Liberal Nor a Conservative” (http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=153):

    “Abortion: The liberals’ looney-toon feminist need to believe that a fetus one second before birth is a parasitic lump of tissue with no rights, but a fetus one second afterwards is a full human, … [and] The conservatives’ looney-toon religious need to believe that a fertilized gamete is morally equivalent to a human being has done the other half of making a reasoned debate on abortion nigh-impossible.”

    IOW, esr is not an advocate for extremely late-term abortions, but he’s not convinced that a zygote is a human. Perhaps that will make your discussion a little easier.

  41. Thanks Max :-) I am sincerely *not* interested in engaging in some looney-toon argument from either extreme. I am honestly interested in understanding others’ viewpoints better.

    Actually, my principal interest in the whole debate is understanding what constitutes our essential *humanity*…that to which we ascribe inalienable rights…”life” being of paramount relevance here, of course.

    As I have mentioned, ultimately I come down on the same side of the fence as ESR and many others here, but perhaps by a different path. That I agree with their conclusions does not diminish my interest in others’ reasoning.

    Finally, it is refreshing to chew this over with people that don’t burst into flames and start slinging ‘bible thumping’ or ‘nazi baby murderer’ vitreol around ;-)

  42. >understanding that all the info necessary for human life exists within the zygote

    Ah. That’s where the discussion went wrong. It’s not the case that all the information necessary for human life exists within the zygote. To develop into a human life, the zygote requires a complex environment that includes a placenta, maternal hormone regulation, and other factors not yet well understood.

  43. I see…well here I have to hold my hands up and again confess biological/medical ignorance. I understood that the zygote has all the necessary ‘building blocks’…DNA & whatever…and that all the rest – the external factors we both recognise – are actually providing the critical *environment* within which the zygote can ‘do its job’, but that although they clearly and undeniably *influence* the development, they do not constitute additional ‘building blocks’.

    If I am wrong, as you rather convincingly assert I am :-) then when *can* it be said that we have, in utero, an essential ‘nugget’ of human life? At some point, other than requiring a protective environment and nutrition, the zygote/embryo develops ‘under its own steam’…

  44. PS. belated ‘hat-tip’ to Jim…didn’t mean to ignore you ;-) Your summary of the process was informative.

  45. Dan, nobody’s quite sure what the answer to your question is, because (among other things) the affects of maternal hormone regulation are not yet completely understood. We have a few clues about them mainly from what happens when they go badly wrong, and lots of related suspicions; there’s one camp of researchers, for example, that thinks homosexuality (or a predisposition to it) is caused by a hormone-regulation screwup.

    Jim Thompson is, however, certainly correct that the embryo has still not expressed all critical genetic information before day 4. There is one floor on ‘potential humanity’ there, but there are probably later ones based on critical thresholds we don’t understand yet. But the direction is clear; learning more about morphogenesis will push ‘potential humanity’ later in gestation, not earlier.

  46. Very interesting…time to pursue a deeper education in morphogenesis…thanks ;-)

  47. > Ah. That’s where the discussion went wrong. It’s not the case that all the information necessary for human > life exists within the zygote. To develop into a human life, the zygote requires a complex environment that > includes a placenta, maternal hormone regulation, and other factors not yet well understood.

    … yet we understand well enough that this describes pretty much all organic life, does it not? Even born, grown, adult humans are never really ‘done.’ We change – according to our own genetics, the environment, accidental influences, etc. – right up until the moment we die. And then we change even further, of course.

    So the zygote in question will not thrive – or even survive – without the required support system. Agreed. But again, exactly what does this prove? Is there a life form on this planet that does not require some kind of nurturant environment to maintain its biological processes?

    (I am pro-choice myself, by the way.)

  48. My point is not that if you remove the “support system” that “the life” will fail to thrive (though perhaps esr said that, or something like it). My points are:

    1a) Its nearly impossible to tell if the zygote is viable before day 4-5.
    1b) We can’t even use placental attachment as a sign of potentially viable life
    2) At some point, we will master an “artificial womb” for human life, proving Nelson’s comment hollow, if not false.
    3) There are federal laws on the book that define life as beginning at conception.

    In terms of embryonic growth, yes there are species that are fertilized and gestated completely outside the womb. I suspect this was not your query, however.

  49. adrian10: yes, all choices are arbitrary, and yet you MUST make a choice to respect everyone’s human rights. If you choose not to choose, you have stilll chosen.

    A friend of mine has a more radical proposal (ESR: Rebekah): acknowledge that abortion no matter when is killing, and also acknowledge that sometimes it’s necessary. I don’t like it, but it’s definitely different.

  50. Well, I suppose my view reflects both Jim’s and Russell’s comments: Yes, a zygote is human life. Yes, I believe there are times when terminating a pregnancy should be an option.

  51. David: I agree completely about treating the pharmacist as a mugger.

    Thanks for the morphogenesis information, Jim: so lovely to see an abortion debate with actual information

  52. “A friend of mine has a more radical proposal (ESR: Rebekah): acknowledge that abortion no matter when is killing, and also acknowledge that sometimes it’s necessary. I don’t like it, but it’s definitely different.”

    As of now, this is essentially my position also (I say “homicide” rather than “killing” FWIW), and I too acknowledge that it is sometimes necessary…sad, but true…

    Thanks to the varied input here (esp. ESR & Jim) I have some deeper medical info to bear in mind…perhaps this will result in a modified position, but as of right now, I am still unsatisfied…but I will follow the truth wherever it leads ;-)

  53. “Is there a humanlike EEG in the frontal lobe?”

    What species is a human fetus? Human. What species is a human embryo? Human. Therefore any EEG it has is, by definition, “humanlike”. The nervous system begins to develop in the third week, and brain waves are detectable by the fifth week of pregnancy. This is still in the embryonic stage; the fetal stage doesn’t begin until the eighth week. Cogito ergo sum – a thinking member of a sapient species has a right to its life.

  54. No, “humanlike EEG” is not a concept you can make vacuous by playing silly word games. If it were, medical ethicists wouldn’t check the EEGs of potential organ donors in vegetative states.

  55. Wow, the one time I ask a question of Jeff merely to hear his opinion I get — silence. Heh. I’ve spent so many posts trying to prove the logical inconsistency of his position, and the relative madness of the European “model” countries compared to the USA, and one off-hand remark accomplishes what all those posts failed to. Odd.

    As for the debate at hand: what about what I said? You guys who are of the position that — because zygotes turn into babies — killing zygotes is tantamount to killing, how is wearing a condom any different? Or how about timing intercourse with your girlfriend so that a zygote *will* form, but it won’t be able to implant in the uterus — would that be killing?

    In other words, your position is that, once you start the ball of life creation rolling, you are obligated to keep it rolling, or be guilty of homicide/murder/killing/whatevah. The thing is, you’ve answered one question (When is abortion murder? As soon as a the process of life creation begins.) but spawned a second one (When does the process of life creation begin? With a fertilized egg… because I said so.). Your answer to the first question might not be arbitrary, but your answer to the second one is. We are right back at pulling limits out of thin air.

    What I’m pointing out is that, apart from Irk’s position, all of the alternative stances can readily have holes poked in them. The only thing that’s come close to a refutation of the EEG test is Rich’s semantic warfare over the definition of “humanlike EEG” — and semantic warfare is right down there with argumentum ad hominem in terms of worth.

  56. David, Pyesetz: I asked a friend who used to be a pharmacist about the pharmacists-confiscating-prescriptions thing, and she says that in this country (the UK), it would indeed be considered theft (unless the prescription was forged or something) and the pharmacist concerned would probably be struck off. They would be entitled to refuse to fill the scrip as long as they didn’t take it off you, but they would be ethically obliged to tell you where you could get it filled.

    Of course, you can get the morning-after pill over the counter here too…

  57. Just to be clear, Pete, homicide is not murder. Murder is unjustifiable premeditated homicide, which I do not necessarily consider abortion to be *at all*. :-)

    My concern is this: since (I believe) we can at least agree that we are considering issues surrounding the termination of a process fundamentally concerned with the creation of human life…and we presumably all value innocent human life and do not desire to see it thoughtlessly destroyed…it surely behooves us to fully understand what impact we are having, if any, on that human life, and whether we can justify it.

    Given we all agree that what emerges after 9 months gestation is most definitely human life, and that said human life *did not* exist *before* conception, then said human life came into existence at *some point* inbetween. Hence my dismissal of concerns over your “condom” argument, Pete.

    If we try ‘working backwards’ from birth…at 8 months gestation (still human life? Yes?)…7, 6, 5, 4 (still human life? I think so)… we quickly run into the rather narrow band of time at the earliest stages of ‘morphogenesis’, which, as has been well commented by ESR/Jim, is where things start to get a little unclear. Given the range of unknowns, I have opted to err towards “life at conception”. With greater research and education, I may well discover good reason to shift that threshold.

    My objective here is not to say “ha! life exists at *this* point, therefore all abortion afterwards is murder”…no. My objective is to honestly identify our point of origin. When we can agree the defining moment of ‘human life’, we surely have to acknowledge that all abortion from that point forwards is technically homicide. The further debate surrounds “when is that homicide justifiable?”.

    Again, for the record, I do not currently wish to see abortion outlawed. I consider the abuse of abortion as ‘retrospective contraception’ abhorrent, but I cannot begin to imagine the myriad reasons a woman would sincerely/tragically wish/need to end her pregancy. No wonder it is traumatic…I have every sympathy. Yet I also find it saddening to consider that an essentially innocent human is being denied the opportunity to enjoy ‘the miracle’ of life.

    Far worse than any of this, though, is the spectre of a state powerful enough to force women to have children.

  58. Given we all agree that what emerges after 9 months gestation is most definitely human life, and that said human life *did not* exist *before* conception, then said human life came into existence at *some point* inbetween. Hence my dismissal of concerns over your “condom” argument, Pete.

    This is entirely different than the position to which I thought you subscribed. If you’re concerned with the actual point at which human life emerges, then I think Irk answers that question with the EEG of the frontal lobe matching that of a human.

    I also was not aware of the difference between homicide and murder, thanks for the lesson.

    Last, as a random factoid, you may find it interesting that I am an atheistic, 21 year old college student — and celibate. Why? Because I don’t ever want to be tasked with deciding whether or not I should request that my unborn son be aborted. So, at least when I drop my facetious facade, I am definitely, without a doubt, not of an “ABORTIONS ARE TEH W00T!” mentality. For whatever that is worth.

  59. My personal view on abortion is that no male has any business making decisions about abortion. So much for that.

    The question of when human life begins is just another instance of the ancient Paradox of the Heap. Take a grain of sand from a heap of sand, it remains a heap; but by recursion we eventually get down to the 1-grain and even the 0-grain “heap”. Yet there is no saying which grain, when removed, renders the heap a non-heap. Life is hard, and a priori reasoning doesn’t help much.

    To return to Wal-Mart, I don’t actually know whether it tends to press local pharmacies to extinction. Does anyone have figures? But in any case, pharmacies are essentially monopolies, in the original sense — chunks of state power in private hands. What can be sold and to whom is state-controlled; only the price is subject to the free market (a limited and distorted form thereof, because the recipients aren’t really the customers). That being so, the extension to regulating what must be sold is essentially insignificant.

  60. Bessman, you will not evere be tasked with that decision because it is not your decision. John Cowan is right: decisions about abortion are the right of only women because childbirth is the burden of only women.

  61. To answer your questions, Bessman:

    I don’t think anything good can come from drug enforcement and regulation, especially in this country. There is far too much of a history of racial bias for me to consider the War on Drugs to be tantamount to anything but a War on Black Men. No, steroids aren’t as exemplary of this principle as, say, crack cocaine; but it’s the same devilish apparatus at work and it is not to be trusted.

    As for Germany, I never said Germans were not normotically ill; that peculiar institution that rose in German politics just before the middle of the twentieth century should confirm it. I’m not sure what makes you think you can demolish my arguments by trotting out a euro-socialist strawman; in my estimation the entire anglosphere, and most of the rest of the west, is fuxxored.

  62. John Cowan is right: decisions about abortion are the right of only women because childbirth is the burden of only women.

    Best bumper sticker – “Against abortion? Don’t have one.”

  63. >My personal view on abortion is that no male has any business making decisions about abortion.

    I would agree — if no male could be forced to pay child support. There are two possible moral premises here; either (a) the child is a joint project of both parents, in which case the father has a legitimate stake in the abort/carry-to-term decision and has a responsibility to support the child after birth, or (b) procreation is solely a female responsibility, only the woman’s choice about abortion matters, and men have no enforceable responsibility to support children.

    You can consistently choose either of the above. If you chose a system in which women have sole choice of whether to carry a child to term but men bear the cost of that decision regardless, you are putting power out of balance with responsibility. Neither women nor men will make good choices under it.

    In fact, both consistent versions have been tried; anthropologists and population geneticists call them the Eurasian and African family patterns respectively. The verdict of human history is pretty clear about which one leads to better outcomes. Among other things, the African pattern only works in tropical zones with abundant food sources; also, it leads to extemely high rates of promiscuity and is thus thought to be a major contributing factor to the high incidence of AIDS in Africa.

  64. > No, “humanlike EEG” is not a concept you can make vacuous by playing silly word games.

    I don’t see how it’s “silly” to object to dehumanizing an individual. If you mean “an EEG like that of an adult, conscious, human”, then you should say so. An EEG of any member of the human species is by definition “humanlike”, and claiming otherwise to “prove” that said individual isn’t “really human”, and thus has no right to its life, is really nothing more than circular reasoning. You’re drawing an arbitrary line between “human” and “not human” based on what’s “normal” for an adult, and there’s nothing to stop others from drawing other arbitrary lines to dehumanize whole classes of individuals whom you would never consider “not human”; it’s a slippery slope.

    > If it were, medical ethicists wouldn’t check the EEGs of potential organ donors in vegetative states.

    There’s a big difference between being brain dead and having a damaged or underdeveloped brain. While it’s clear that no life exists in the former case, in the latter doctors and MEs have, on many occasions, been dead wrong.

    > My personal view on abortion is that no male has any business making decisions about abortion.

    If men can’t object to women murdering their children, then women can’t object to men murdering their wives. Poisoning the well is fun, isn’t it?

  65. Men are responsible for their children, but on different grounds: a man has a 100% reliable, safe, and fully legal method to ensure that a woman does not bear a child fathered by him (short of an attack by a woman armed with a cattle prod, at least). Without safe legal abortion, women have no such methods.

  66. Men are responsible for their children, but on different grounds: a man has a 100% reliable, safe, and fully legal method to ensure that a woman does not bear a child fathered by him

    Refusing to sleep with her? That could require all *kinds* of willpower and self-control.

    (short of an attack by a woman armed with a cattle prod, at least).

    She’d better bring some Viagra, too.

  67. “Men are responsible for their children, but on different grounds: a man has a 100% reliable, safe, and fully legal method to ensure that a woman does not bear a child fathered by him (short of an attack by a woman armed with a cattle prod, at least). Without safe legal abortion, women have no such methods.”

    Women can use the exact same method: Don’t have sex with the men in question. I mean, come on John. That’s two clunkers in a row – first the “men should have no say” thing and now this.

  68. adrian10: Viagra is about erection, and erection has little to do with consensual penetration and nothing to do with ejaculation. I know whereof I speak, as I’m one of the 40-50% of the men for whom Viagra has been prescribed that it doesn’t work on. So I switched to a hardware strategy, which has its own disadvantages.
    I admit to not having tried the cattle prod, but if it works on bovines it probably works on domesticated primates too.

    Brain: “Spousal rape” was a contradiction in terms until fairly recently.

  69. JC, this whole discussion presupposes consent. Elective abortion in cases of rape is another issue entirely.

  70. I find it interesting that, AFAIK (or can tell), all the folks commenting on this article are male (including myself), and thus will never have to ask a pharmacist to fill their own prescription for this medicine.

    Those who identify themselves as pro-life or anti-abortion couch their arguments in terms of protecting the unborn. That, or keeping the woman from making a mistake she’ll regret, yadda-yadda.

    If their aim really was to reduce the number of abortions, they would be much more supportive of efforts to educate people about contraceptives and making them more, not less available. I don’t see them doing this.

    Their real goal seems to be making damn sure that those promiscuous, sexually active sluts suffer the just consequences of their immoral behavior.

  71. Hey electo-dude, you said….
    *After all, I have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and if Wal-Mart can be forced to protect a woman’s right to abortion, surely my second amendment rights are just as worthy of protection*
    What I want to know is where in the constitution does it specify the right of anyone killing their babies? It isn’t there.

  72. >My personal view on abortion is that no male has any business making decisions about abortion.

    If the woman welcomes the male in her bed without proper precaution, she is welcoming his business, and gives up complete control if any ‘consequence’ makes an appearance. Half of that forming human, is his.

  73. One crucial element of the abortion debate that the anti-abortion side studiously ignores is their view of the role of goverment in enforcing their views, and it strikes me that this is the most important part of the debate – because it ends it.

    At some point (day 0, day 90, day 180) we tell the goverment to end the debate: abortion is then illegal and if you have / provide one, you don’t pass go and you don’t collect $200.

    So what is it. Murder? Then, consistent with the law of murder, it is clearly first degree, premeditated (extremely premeditated) murder. No one has an abortion “in the heat of the moment.” In fact, it’s hard to come up with a more premeditated form of homicide – hell, we have statutory waiting periods for abortion. So we assume the anti-abortion folks are in favor of life imprisonment without parole for women who have abortions, and execution in those states that have that. Otherwise, their statements that abortion is murder are not serious.

    And what about doctors and nurses? Trained assasins. And serial murderers to boot. And for that matter, women who have more than one abortion (an apparently quite common occurence – it appears that a substantial number of abortions given to women who have had more than one). Surely the death penalty for serial premeditated homicide, right?

    If not treated as murder in spite of statements that it is murder, then the anti-abortion folks concede that it’s well, more like drunk driving or something.

    Which gets to the point. Instead of debating what it is, debate what you want the Federal Bureau of Prisons to do about it? Anything at all? Fry ‘em? Community service? What?

  74. FWIW, a certain non-trivial percentage of pregnancies result in spontaneous abortion/miscarriage in the first trimester and maybe a month or two into the second. Thus, *it does not follow* that a fertilized egg will form into a fully functioning adult human. In fact this can be the result of various causes, from just not developing properly to the environment of the mother. In such cases, the physical bodies of the mother and fertilized egg have made the programmatic decision to abort the pregnancy. Given that humans have so much more control over their environment, and are making other changes to the natural progress of evolution, it seems only right in the first trimester, that a mother’s conscious brain could also make the decision to abort. And given how much people seem to focus on cognitive liberty, it seems that people who are for it, should be for letting adults choose what to do with their selfhood, and certainly when it falls in the natural timeline of what the physical body under unconscious control might do of its own accord.

  75. > If their aim really was to reduce the number of abortions, they would be much more supportive of efforts to educate people about contraceptives and making them more, not less available. I don’t see them doing this.

    In my community, birth control is available on a sliding scale starting at free. Education is already in the schools.

    While there may be some unwanted pregnancies that result from lack of birth control availability, a huge fraction are actually the result of “what the heck”.

  76. The morning after pill has one distinct difference from an abortion, and that is the fact that you don’t know if you need it. I took it once the day after a broken condom. If I’d waited until a pregnancy test showed positive, it would have been too late. Given the time of month, chance are there was no fertilized egg to worry about, but it was a Good Thing to be sure I wasn’t going to be pregnant.

  77. Vidar said: “It seems a legitimate rule that if someone says that they are a pharmacist that there is a certain baseline of products that you are guaranteed to find there.”

    Why is that legitimate? What if the pharmacist considers the product to harmful? What if he thinks that the product is a quack remedy? Why is it legitimate for the state to force me to sell products?

  78. Jay says: “We cannot make policy based on likelihoods, only on facts.”

    Why not, we do it all the time. For example, we make drunk driving illegal because of the likelihood that a driver under the influence of alchohol will cause injury, death and damage to property, not because they actually have done so. Same thing with speeding, reckless driving, and many other traffic laws. We do, indeed, make policy based on likelihood all the time. That doesn’t imply that the policy is good, or bad, but that it is done and considered normal.

  79. Brain: Where is this presupposition of consent? The word appears only once, and it’s in the context of consent to abortion.

    Dan Kane: No stigma.

    DoctorOfLove: This is precisely the argument used (if not necessarily so well articulated) by people who bomb abortion clinics and murder doctors: they are trying to punish and prevent murders that the law leaves untouched. (Note: I am not supposing that you support the argument merely because you state it.)

  80. JC: If a woman is raped, and becomes pregant as a result, but fails to abort the pregrancy during the first month, she has taken on the responsibility of caring for the child until either a) she finds someone else willing and able to take responsibility for it (this is solely post-birth for now, but technological advances may change that in the future) or b) the child has matured to the point where it can take full responsibility for its own life.

    DoctorOfLove: While the “from conception” standard is rather absurd, if it has developed into a thinking human, however underdeveloped its thought processes may be for the moment, it has a right to its life. Any standard which is based on how well developed one’s thought processes are can easily be used to justify euthanizing the mentally retarded and people who’ve suffered brain damage. As a thinking human has, by default, a right to his or her own life, abortion past the first month is murder, regardless of whether or not one is a statist. What do I think should be done with those who murder their children? In criminal cases where the victim can make no claim for restitution (such as murder), whoever first homesteads the criminal gains the legitimate claim to the restitution. In cases of great crimes, such as murder, the individual with the rightful claim to restitution may do whatever they wish with the criminal; they can (as you put it) “fry ‘em”, put them to work, try to rehabilitate them, or anything else they might do with their legitimate property. If an innocent life is taken, then the life of the offender is lost in restitution; the criminal loses all title to their person in such cases. If the government steals the criminal from the rightful owner (the victim or homesteader), it’s a separate crime, but partial restitution for that theft may be made if the government uses the stolen property in a manner more in line with how the victim of the theft would wish it to be used. If the government, acting as a proxy for “the people”, legitimately homesteads the criminal on their behalf, then the way in which the criminal is treated is up to “the people”; as one of “the people”, I think that either murderers should be sold off as slave labor or, if no one wants them, they should be publicly scourged and crucified.

  81. John Cowan.

    This issue – the enforcement side of making abortion illegal – is the dirty little secret of the abortion debate. And it is what the debate is in fact about. I would venture that fewer than 5% of the US adult population would be in favor of actually treating abortion as if it was murder – life/execution. In fact, I would be surprised to find a serious poll that shows anything more than a modest percentage of the most ardent anti-abortion folks in favor of executing women and doctors over it.

    I don’t care about what you think about what I am doing, yucky, disgusting, an affront to god, whatever. I care only about what you intend to do about what I am doing. So you don’t like abortion. Who does? Know anyone who says – yeah baby, lets all go out tonight and have our uteruses (uterii?) vacuumed? Thus, don’t tell me abortion is bad, tell me where you want to set up the re-education camps and how much razor wire to order. Otherwise, you can assume my apparent lack of interest in your opinions is actually real lack of interest.

    The anti-abortion folks know better than to debate penalties, because they know they have no meaningful support for anything beyond a parking ticket level of enforcement. And, given that Roe will be overturned in the next 24 months (actually possibly in the next 6) the anti abortion folks will inevitably overplay their hand on the penalty front real soon now, and discover the true limits of their support.

    Abortion isn’t murder, it’s failure to have an up-to-date emission sticker in your windshield.

    Any hardcore anti-abortion folks here want to get off the angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin-when-does-life-begin bs and talk turkey about penalties? Bueller?

    If I was either a Democratic party strategist or a bus operator on the US / Canadian or US / Mexican border, I would pray every morning with deepest sincerity that Roe be overturned. Praise god and pass the ticket receipts (and votes from all those borderline republican female voters whose heads explode when congress passes a national prohibition on abortion – St. Hillary anyone). A whole new market for Jet Blue and Southwest. Mexicans will have abortion clinics in the airport lounges. Hell, just circle the jet over bahamas airspace and perform abortions right in the seat.

    What I can’t figure out though is who will be the new Al Capone of Abortion smuggling.

  82. JC: If a woman is raped, and becomes pregant as a result, but fails to abort the pregrancy during the first month,

    The first month? You don’t understand much about female physiology if you think most women know they are pregnant within 1 month of intercourse. 1) many women don’t have a perfectly regular menstrual cycle 2) Stress (such as a rape, perhaps?) can cause your cycle to go irregular 3) It is not uncommon for bleeding to occur that mimics a period during the very early stages of pregnancy.

    Then, after learning of the pregnancy, deciding whether to abort isn’t exactly an easy decision. Perhaps you could be a little more generous and give her the first trimester for all of this?

  83. tina: By the time the second trimester begins, the child is well developed both mentally and physically. There’s already detectable brain wave activity by the beginning of the second month, and a thinking human has a right to its life. One person’s inconvenience does not trump another person’s rights. I’m well aware that most women don’t know that they’re pregnant within the first month, but that doesn’t change the rights of the child, or the responsibilities of the parents. Whenever anyone engages in sexual activity, they’re responsibility for the consequences; if they don’t want that responsibility, there’s abstinence, contraception, and the “morning after pill”. In the case of rape, there’s the “morning after pill”, and if that doesn’t work, or if the woman chooses not to take it, she’s still responsible for the child until she can transfer responsibility to another individual; a child’s rights aren’t negated because of the actions (or inaction) of their parents.

    DoctorOfLove: I talked about penalties in my last post; you ignored it.

  84. Rich Baumann

    Ah, the paranoia and grandiosity of the internet. I didn’t ignore your post, much worse, I didn’t even notice it. Draw whatever conclusion from that that makes you feel tingly, although the correct one to draw is – I didn’t notice it.

    I gather from your post you are in favor of life imprisonment/execution for women, doctors nurses who have/participate in abortions. Good, at least you are consistent. You would be more honest in your debates on the matter by pointing that out. Lots of people are troubled by the morality of abortion (actually, I suspect nearly everyone is except for a few extremists in NARAL), but many are also troubled by the size and scope of government. As a result, your view on enforcement has absolutely no chance of becoming law anywhere in the US that actually treats abortion as murder. Not even Mississippi. And, those who pushed for such levels of punishment would probably end up looking to the great majority as as wackadoo as NARAL does.

  85. Mr. Baumann, there’s brain-wave activity in a GECKO. In and of themselves, brain-waves don’t mean much unless the waves are part of a brain capable of sustaining something like human thought.
    Frankly, fetuses don’t have the infrastructure for human thought, or even monkey-level thought, until five or six months.

  86. Replying to Voorhies, I’ve always used a practical rule of thumb as whether the organism could survive apart from the host mother to determine whether the choice was moral, or not. Everything else descends into meta-conversations that just don’t allow for any real world solutions to the issues. Aside from that, each extreme position has clear problems and moral contradictions that cannot be easily resolved.

  87. i think the morning after pill guves woman a chance to realize the importance about life and that if they get raped they can change the pregency part if that. thats alwyas a great thing. but i wont stop them from feeling pain.

  88. “Life begins at conception” is a religious position.
    “Life does not begin at conception” is a religious position, even if you belong to no religion at all.

    The 2nd Amendment covers both, so neither can pass laws imposing their views on the other.

    The issue is settled, except that it is red meat for the adherents of both position, they can’t let it die.

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