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Leftist lawyers for libel [Updated]

In an update to his original post, and evidently seeing the need to offer at least some feeble justification for his libelous charge against me, Brian Liar quotes Jeremy Shipley’s comments on my original piece on Tiller as if they were especially insightful. They are not at all insightful. Some brief replies to Shipley’s remarks (which are in italics):

Do the poster and commenters think that a relevant disanalogy arises from the fact that Tiller performed late-term abortions only when either the fetus was discovered to have a severe defect or when the woman's health was threatened? If not, why not?

No, there is no relevant disanalogy. Murdering a one-year-old down syndrome child – or a 5-year old or 15-year old down syndrome child – would be gravely immoral. It is no less gravely immoral to murder such a child when he is still in the womb. Nor can the (notoriously vague) “health of the mother” dodge ever justify the direct killing of an unborn child. The standard pro-life arguments for these claims are well-known and I’m not going to rehearse them here. Anyone familiar with those arguments should, even if he does not buy those arguments himself, understand why pro-lifers would regard Tiller’s actions as monstrous.

It certainly seems to me that even if I thought Tiller and others had reached the wrong conclusion that I could recognize the moral question as sufficiently difficult that a comparison with Jeffrey Dahmer was beyond the pale. Indeed, what is the purpose of making such a comparison? Surely it is not meant to rationally persuade others to your conclusion.

My original post was – quite obviously – not intended to convince “pro-choice” advocates that abortion is immoral. It was intended instead to persuade people who are already sympathetic to the pro-life cause, or at least to the Christian morality that often underlies it, not to let the fact that murdering Tiller was immoral lead them into the error of whitewashing, minimizing, or keeping silent about Tiller’s own crimes. In fact what immediately motivated me to write the post were the breathtakingly over-the-top things my colleague Hugo Schwyzer had been saying in praise of Tiller from an ostensibly Christian point of view. Less immediate, but still a motivation, was a desire to counter the tendency of some conservatives to couple their condemnation of Tiller’s murder (a condemnation I have endorsed) with a reluctance to acknowledge or at least publicly discuss the magnitude of Tiller’s evil.

You can't possibly have sat down to write this post thinking that you would change anyone's mind by this argument.

If by "change anyone's mind" Shipley means “convince a firmly pro-choice person that Tiller was a monster,” no, of course not. Obviously I was not trying to do that. If he means “convince someone who is already pro-life or at least sympathetic to Christian morality not to think of Tiller as anything less than a monster,” then yes, I did hope to change some people’s minds about that. Regular readers of this blog already know what point of view I am coming from. It would be silly to expect me to rehearse the complete pro-life case every time I comment on the subject of abortion, just as it would be silly to expect Schwyzer or Leiter to rehearse the pro-choice case every time they comment on it.

Furthermore, your injunction against vigilantism rings a bit hollow. Do you really mean for this to be an absolutely inviolable principle?

Of course not. What does Shipley expect, a full-length treatise on political morality? Again, the point of the post was to argue that despite the fact that killing Tiller was wrong, he was still a moral monster and that the circumstances of his death provide no justification whatsoever either for turning him into a martyr or even softening our condemnation of his actions. My rejection of vigilantism was not intended to be a complete treatment of the subject, but rather a brief indication of the reason I think killing Tiller was wrong.

This is a large topic, but in brief I would say that while a person might lose the right to his life by virtue of his murderous actions, it doesn’t follow that just anyone, in ordinary circumstances, might punish him or even deter him from future evil – any more than the fact that a certain child merits punishment or deterrence for some offense (picking on his siblings, failing to do his homework, etc.) entails that people other than his parents have the authority, in ordinary circumstances, to punish or deter the child. In normal circumstances it is the parents alone who have that right, and they can lose it only under extreme conditions (e.g. when they are sexually molesting their children, or whatever). Similarly, in ordinary circumstances it is government alone which has the right to punish and deter evildoers. If the government is basically just, then while we can work within the system to change it where it is flawed, can assist it in its functions (via “citizen’s arrests” and the like), we nevertheless cannot usurp its authority. Now, that authority can be lost when a government has degenerated to the point that it is essentially no less criminal than the people it is supposed to be protecting society against – as in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. But I do not think the American political system has degenerated to such a point, and thus I do not see a case for anyone taking the law into his own hands.

Obviously this is an issue that could be pursued in greater detail, but going into it in such detail was not essential to making the specific point I was trying to make. Nor are there any grounds for Shipley to go on to say, as he does:

I suspect insincerity.

Yeah, well I suspect a desire on Shipley's part to score cheap points rather than to read what I wrote charitably, or even with minimal fairness.

Shipley concludes by expressing a further suspicion that I “know” that my views actually entail a defense of Tiller’s murder, and Leiter opines that “of course” I know this. (Leiter also adds to this scumbaggery by not-so-subtly trying to link me to domestic terrorism.) Note how it is not enough for such people to claim even that “Feser doesn’t see, or isn’t willing to see, where his arguments lead.” No, they have to go beyond this and assert, on the basis of no evidence or argumentation whatsoever, that I intended subtly to encourage acts like the murder of Tiller.

This is the sort of madness one is led to when one begins with the premises that inform the thinking of the Leiters of the world. The murder of 9 month old fetuses comes to seem a matter of indifference, or even praiseworthy. Those who oppose such murder come to seem “apologists for murder.” And libel comes to seem a legitimate way for a law professor to indulge a personal animus or advance a political agenda.

UPDATE 6/6: Leiter has updated his post yet again, objecting, as is his custom, to the temerity of anyone who defends himself against one of Leiter’s smears. He also throws in what looks like yet another lie, claiming that I have offered no reply to his libelous charge – a charge which is too ludicrous to merit a reply, but to which I have replied anyway in this very post. Common decency would have led Leiter to call his readers’ attention to it, but since uncommon indecency is Leiter’s bag, that was never likely.

UPDATE 6/8: Though he frantically assures us he doesn’t spend his whole day reading blogs, Leiter has now updated his post one more time in response to my criticizing him for not informing his readers of this reply. He says he simply hadn’t seen it. I will extend to Leiter the basic courtesy he refuses to extend to me and take him at his word. After hysterically and libelously calling me an “apologist for murder,” Leiter now has the brass to suggest that I “calm down.” I will when you do, pal.

Comments (71)

Like I said in a previous post, the Leiter Reports, Wrongly

When one's mind sees the world as neatly and unambigiously divided between the "Texas Taliban" and one's "right thinking" fellow travelers, it is difficult if not impossible to summon one's imagination to exercise the virtue of charity on matters over which such factions divide. For to do so would mean to call into question the very philosophical arrangement that has done all the work in one's mind defining and establishing one's moral superiority in what one perceives as a sea of steeples that house the dangerous practitioners of lowbrow ignorance. In other words, Professor Leiter has inadvertantly revealed that he, like his target of straw-theists, is insulated from evidence. In an age of irony, if Jack Nicholson were channeling Richard Rorty, he would say that's about as good as it gets.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/05/the_leiter_reports_wrongly.html

Do the poster and commenters think that a relevant disanalogy arises from the fact that Tiller performed late-term abortions only when either the fetus was discovered to have a severe defect or when the woman's health was threatened?

"A severe defect" might even aggravate Tiller's culpability (if that's possible), since the child is being killed precisely because of his infirmity, which normally should summon forth an extra measure of solicitude. But since all the unborn are to Tiller infirm by virtue of their utter dependence on the goodwill of another, perhaps such distinctions are meaningless. What he means by "the woman's health" I have no idea. It sounds like a justification malleable to the needs of the moment.

I suppose what's most distressing is that concocting rationales for the murder of the innocent has become a respectable academic enterprise among those charged with teaching young people how to think straight. That sense of gentlemanly fairplay you would like to see from these opponents will likely never be forthcoming. Moral deracination requires a rabid defense.

Using defects as a basis to judge the merit of a life is a slippery slope. To someone with a 130 or higher IQ, those with the national average IQ of 100 are as difficult to deal with in many respects as someone who has Down Syndrome would be for most people of average intelligence. Those of average intelligence and function would defend their derision of the Down Syndrome child's life saying that they don't meet a basic standard. Sort of like one of those signs at an amusement park that says "you must be this high to get on the ride."

It doesn't work like that. From the perspective of someone with a genius level IQ, a person with a normal intelligence and level of function is as disabled as someone who has Down Syndrome is to someone of average intelligence and level of function. That is part of why it is critical that we simply not go there.

(That is not to say that those with above average intelligence tend to support eugenics and abortion less or that those of average intelligence tend to be bigoted toward those with Down Syndrome, but merely that if we use intelligence and mental development as our basis, the higher you get up the scale, the more inferior everyone beneath you would appear.)

Ok, so Tiller is an immoral beast, but what about the following? Could some of Tiller's murders come under the doctrine of double effect? So, perhaps he only intends to save the mother's life, but the child dies as a consequence. Will that work to lessen the degree of his crime?

I think the answer is no because he used methods unnecessary to save the woman's life. In many of these cases, a c-section would have saved her life as well. But I can imagine a case where there is no other way to save the woman's life than to kill her fetus, but I imagine such cases are extremely rare.

If it makes you feel any better, Ed--not that I think you need cheering up; you seem like a happy guy--thinking about the issues you have raised has changed this philosopher's mind into thinking that Tiller was a monster.

That would be gratifying in any case, Bobcat, but is especially so coming from someone I respect as much as I respect you. Thank you.

Bobcat, there's a series of posts on Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, that might change your mind back. A large number of readers have written in with personal stories of being helped by people like Dr. Tiller. People who found out late in their pregnancies that their children were going to be born without brains (encephalopathy); whose children were going to be born only to live extremely brief lives filled with extreme suffering; whose children had already died in utero but were nevertheless not going to be "born" for weeks. Maybe you'll read the series and still think he was a monster. And no doubt, not everyone who obtains an abortion does so under such extreme circumstances. But I think the posts show that what he was actually trying to do was to help people through horrible, agonizing ordeals. Which, though YMMV, I don't think makes him a monster. And it definitely doesn't put him on a par with Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and ate people because it gave him sexual pleasure.

The Octogon,

Cases such as you describe are extremely rare, though they do happen. And Dr. Tiller was one of about three people in the US who had experience with them.

apologies: I meant 'enencephalopathy' rather than 'encephalopathy'.

Mr. Zero,

Two points:

First, if the pro-life arguments are correct, then none of that is relevant. No amount of distress on the part of a mother can justify murder -- and since mothers and fathers are ordained by nature precisely to protect their offspring, who are vulnerable even in the best cases, the fact that it is precisely the mother or father who wants the abortion only adds to the depravity rather than detracts from it. That is why so many women feel so guilty after abortions -- not because pro-lifers are running around yelling at them, but because their own consciences have been hard-wired by nature to tell them that they must protect the life that is within them, and they have willfully closed their ears to nature.

Second, Mengele and Co. also did what they did, not for sexual kicks etc. but for what they sincerely thought were high ideals, the benefit of mankind, etc. And yet they were monsters, and worse than Dahmer, for all that. Tiller was no better.

Brian Leiter, rightfully, condemns torture, eschewing utilitarian justifications for it, e.g., the ticking bomb scenario. That is, even if torturing X may lead to the saving of many lives, torturing X is not justified and ought not to be performed by any moral agent. Suppose our government tortures X, an Al-Qaeda operative who has participated in many murders prior to his capture. Our government's torturing, not surprisingly, results in important intelligence that leads to the government thwarting a terrorist plot that would have resulted in the horrific deaths of an estimated 2,000 U.S. citizens, including hundreds of elementary school children. Suppose that Leiter condemns the torturing as unjustified and a grievous wrong, but at the same time condemns X as an immoral person responsible for the deaths of many innocent human persons.

Would, at this point, Shipley suggest that Leiter is "insincere," or would he do the intellectually decent thing and examine the moral philosophy that informs Leiter's judgments on such matters. And if he did, he would see that Leiter's judgment is perfectly consistent and hardly the consequence of a character defect called "insincerity." And would real-world Leiter (or "Leiter Prime," LP) say of Imaginary-world Leiter (or IL) that IL is an "apologist for murder"? What not we think that LP does not truly grasp IL's point of view, or would we say that LP is "insincere." You be the judge.

(Posted as a separate entry on 6/6/2009, feast of St. Norbert)

Um, Mr. Zero, pro-lifers have no problem with removing the body of an actually dead child. Why the dickens would they? And what fool or deceiver would imply that they do? Now, if the child was dead because Tiller had injected poison into its heart before birth (which I have read was his claimed method after Congress passed a PBA ban), then that, of course, was the moment when the child was murdered.

I think we pro-lifers do well to bear in mind that there are those on the left who would like to criminalize pro-life statements that abortion is murder as "hate speech" and "incitement." I won't go so far as to claim that Brian Leiter is one of these. But his insistence that Ed endorses Tiller's murder _because_ Ed says that Tiller was a murderer is certainly the kind of rhetoric that would be useful in a campaign in which that was the endgame. It is for that very reason that Ed's original post and follow-ups are so important. If pro-lifers capitulate preemptively and start muzzling themselves, considering that it is too inflammatory, etc., to refer to people like Tiller as murderers and monsters, they merely play into the hands of those who want to treat such language as beyond the pale and, in the end, criminalize it.

The following is a do-over of my 4:31 pm comment above. I wrote it in haste and thus did not proof it.

Brian Leiter, rightfully, condemns torture, eschewing utilitarian justifications for it, e.g., the ticking bomb scenario. That is, even if torturing X may lead to the saving of many lives, torturing X is not justified and ought not to be performed by any moral agent. Suppose our government tortures X, an Al-Qaeda operative who has participated in many murders prior to his capture. Our government's torturing, not surprisingly, results in important intelligence that leads to the government thwarting a terrorist plot that would have resulted in the horrific deaths of an estimated 2,000 U.S. citizens, including hundreds of elementary school children. Suppose that Leiter condemns the torturing as unjustified and a grievous wrong, but at the same time condemns X as an immoral person responsible for the deaths of many innocent human persons.

Would, at this point, Jeremy Shipley, who recently accused Ed Feser of insincerity, suggest that Leiter is "insincere," or would he do the intellectually decent thing and examine the moral philosophy that informs Leiter's judgments on such matters. And if he did, he would see that Leiter's judgment is perfectly consistent, and hardly the consequence of a character defect called "insincerity." And would real-world Leiter (or "Leiter Prime," LP) say of Imaginary-world Leiter (or IL), that IL is an "apologist for torture"? Would not we think that LP does not truly grasp IL's point of view, or would we say that IL is "insincere." You be the judge.

(Posted as a separate entry on 6/6/2009, feast of St. Norbert)

Professor Feser,

First, perhaps it's true that if the pro-life position is right, then it is monstrous form of murder to obtain a late-term abortion for a fetus that has no brain, as in enencephalopathy, or to perform a dialation & extraction (so-called partial-birth abortion) to remove an already deceased fetus (which Dr. Tiller was uniquely qualified to perform) or to spare a doomed fetus from a brief, agonizing life (read the relevant posts at the Daily Dish). If so then the pro-life position is wrong, for such abortions are not murder. If we are hard-wired by nature to feel guilty for doing something like that, then that is really too bad, because it's nothing to feel guilty about.

Second, Mengele absolutely did not perform his experiments with the goal of benefiting humanity. He performed his experiments because he enjoyed killing and torturing people. Many of his experiments were obviously of no medical value whatsoever; the remainder could have been performed far more humanely than they were. Say what you want about Dr. Tiller, he was no Mengele.

I can't believe Mr. Zero keeps bringing up this "removing an already dead fetus" thing. What sort of person thinks this has anything to do with the pro-life position? I mean, seriously. You have to have no understanding whatsoever of the pro-life position to think that or to imply that. It's possible that Tiller sometimes removed the bodies of dead children whom he had not killed. It's definite that he removed the bodies of dead children whom he had killed, deliberately, by an earlier injection. That the child was first injected in the heart and killed was his _own defense_ after the PBA ban was passed at the federal level.

For Mr. Zero, an excerpt from my book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007):

[The Anti-Equality Account of Human Beings, AEA] (cannot account for the wrongness of intentionally creating unequal human beings who are not intrinsically valuable (according to the AEA’s perspective). For example, what would be wrong in a developmental biologist manipulating the development of an early embryo-clone in such a way that what results is an infant without higher brain functions, but whose healthy organs can be used for ordinary transplant purposes or for spare parts for the person from which the embryo was cloned? Given the dominant accounts of moral personhood—views that claim that a being’s possession of intrinsic value is contingent upon some presently held property or immediately exercisable mental capacity to function in a certain way—it is not clear how intentionally creating such deformed beings for a morally good purpose is morally wrong. I suppose one could argue that it is morally wrong because the unborn is entitled to her higher brain functions. But as abortion-choice propoent Dan Brock argues, “this body clone” could not arguably be harmed because of its “lack of capacity for consciousness.” Yet, he concedes that “most people would likely find” the practice of purposely creating permanently non-sentient human beings “appalling and immoral, in part because here the cloned later twin’s capacity for conscious life is destroyed solely as a means to benefit another.” This, however, only makes sense if the cloned twin is entitled to his higher brain functions. But acording to the view embraced by most AEAs, one cannot have rights (including entitlements) unless one has interests (and interests presuppose desires), and the pre-sentient fetus has no interests (because she has no desires). So, the entitlement account does not do the trick for the AEA. It seems to me that the substance view is the account of human personhood that best explains the moral repugnance that one feels when one first appreciates the propect of these activities becoming common place in our society under the rubric of reproductive rights: it is prima facie wrong to destroy the physical structure necessary for the realization of a human being’s basic, natural capacity for the exercisability of a function that is a perfection of its nature. Although this provides moral warrant for the legal prohibition of intentionally producing deformed human beings for an apparently good purpose, it also grounds significant legal restrictions on abortion, a procedure that destroys the physical structure necessary for the realization of a human being’s basic, natural capacity for the exercisability of a function that is a perfection of its nature.
(endnotes omitted)

And would real-world Leiter (or "Leiter Prime," LP) say of Imaginary-world Leiter (or IL) that IL is an "apologist for murder"?

Frank,

Don't you think we have enough Leiters as it is without inventing new ones?

Good point, George.

Dr. McGrew,

The reason why I mention the case you object to (in the midst of other, equally compelling cases you haven't mentioned) is that it happens. And because late-term abortions are illegal, mothers to whom this happens must give birth, even when a dilation and extraction procedure is medically indicated. And the late Dr. Tiller was one of the few competent and legally permitted to perform such a procedure.

I'm sorry if you thought it was irrelevant. I would say the same thing about your "hate speech" rant. There are those on the right who would walk into a church and gun down a provider of abortions. Guess whose fringe is the more objectionable.

(hint: yours)

Leiter (from his 6/6 update):

"Anyone in their right mind can see what the point of comparing an abortion provider to a serial killer/cannibal actually is, and it isn't to lend weight to your two or three (prudent) sentences expressing nominal objections to his murder (cf. Mr. Shipley's remarks, quoted above). *The entire profession*, except perhaps a few fringe lunatics (most of whom are already your co-bloggers), *understands what's going on*, *which is why no one objects to my calling you on it*."

Wow. WWwtW is a great blog, but I didn't know that the "entire profession" was following the discussion here.

Also, apparently every philosopher who is not a lunatic and/or who is not associated with this blog has been in contact with Leiter since yesterday, since (1) he claims that the *entire profession* "understands what's going on." We can also conclude that Leiter must've been in contact with the entire profession since he claims that (2) "no one [in the context of the sentence, no one from the entire profession sans WWwtW bloggers and lunatics] objects" to his conclusions. After all, the mere absence of any response from all or most members of the profession wouldn't justify (2), and it wouldn't justify the notion the entire profession is simply refraining from "calling [Leiter] out on it" because they agree with him as opposed to, say, agreeing with Professor Feser and refraining from commenting, having no firm conclusion on the matter, etc.

Just more evidence, Eric, of how detached Leiter is from reality.

In another comment I distinguished between those professional philosophers who were afraid to criticize Leiter, and those who approved of his vile tactics. But there is a third (and, I suspect, sizable) category, namely those who regard him as simply beneath their notice, a vulgarian and thug with whom it is not worth interacting. Some of these people have some stature in the profession, and while I certainly understand their reluctance to comment, I think that he has done, and is doing, significant enough damage to the profession that they ought to consider doing so.

And because late-term abortions are illegal, mothers to whom this happens must give birth, even when a dilation and extraction procedure is medically indicated. And the late Dr. Tiller was one of the few competent and legally permitted to perform such a procedure.

Let's just say--you are misinformed on several counts. Count 1: Late-term abortion is not illegal. Roe and its companion Doe v. Bolton made that quite clear. Indeed, even the nominal "health of the mother" limitation states are ostensibly allowed to have (turned by Doe into a loophole through which you could drive a truck) would permit the removal of a dead child's body. And indeed, for legal purposes, there would be no reason even to regard such a removal as an abortion. I would love to see documentation of someone's being prosecuted for removing an unborn child's dead body under any abortion law, anywhere in the country, in the past 30 years. Count 2: Dilation and extraction _is_ giving birth. Newsflash: The mother's cervix must be dilated in either event, and indeed, a mere medical labor induction using pitocin would be _less_ invasive and unpleasant than the forcible dilation over a period of days of the cervix by means of laminaria (seaweed). Reaching in with hand and forceps, turning the child (or child's body) around to a breach position manually, and sucking out the brains are also invasive for the mother. The child's body still comes out vaginally, but in this case with additional manipulation and invasion of the vaginal canal by the doctor. If--as would usually be the case--it is medically indicated for the child's body to be delivered quickly, medical induction by drugs would do the trick much more easily and with less "beating up" of the mother. There is nothing about brain-sucking or dismemberment of the child's dead body that is specially medically helpful for the mother. Those additional manipulations merely insure that if the child is alive to begin with it isn't anymore by the time it gets out. Delivery, in any event, is delivery.

Hi Mr. Zero,

Thanks for the pointer to Sullivan's blog. I'll take a look.

Also, I, for one (and maybe the only one!) really enjoy your comments on this blog and also on your own blog.

Ok, I can correct you some more.

Count 1: Late-term abortion is not illegal.

I'm sorry, but you don't know what you're talking about. Roe permits states to place many more restrictions on third-trimester abortions than those during the first- or second-trimesters. 13 states prohibit abortion after the 24th week. The carveout concerning the health of mother and fetus has no traction against the sorts of case I mention.

Dilation and extraction _is_ giving birth.

Did I deny this? No, I did not. In the case I referenced, the woman whose unborn fetus died in utero had to wait for a long and painful induced labor, rather than undergo the speedier dilation & extraction. The point isn't whether it is technically giving birth; the point is that she was legally denied the medically indicated treatment.

If--as would usually be the case--it is medically indicated for the child's body to be delivered quickly, medical induction by drugs would do the trick much more easily and with less "beating up" of the mother.

Maybe you're right. However, I think that decisions like this should be between a woman and her doctor, and that a self-described homemaker and home schooling mom who has a Ph.D. in English Literature but whose CV contains no evidence of any medical training and who is otherwise completely uninvolved should mind her own business.

Anyways, the point is that sometimes this sort of thing is medically necessary, and the most experienced, best-qualified person in the country, by far, was murdered in his church. If you, or Bobcat, to whom my initial post was addressed (thanks, B--backatcha), thinks he is a monster, that's your right. However, before you make that judgment, I think you should try to see what his work was really about, and what he was actually trying to accomplish. That's why I posted the link to a webpage containing such stories. The abortions he performed were not failed birth control; the lion's share of people he helped were people in awful situations whose desired pregnancies had gone tragically wrong, and who had few, if any, other options.

"Anyone in their right mind can see what the point of comparing an abortion provider to a serial killer/cannibal actually is, and it isn't to lend weight to your two or three (prudent) sentences expressing nominal objections to his murder (cf. Mr. Shipley's remarks, quoted above). *The entire profession*, except perhaps a few fringe lunatics (most of whom are already your co-bloggers), *understands what's going on*, *which is why no one objects to my calling you on it*."

Because Leiter does not know Catholic moral theology, he does not understand how the tradition can assert that an unjustified killing may in fact have a moral monster as its victim. But, come to think of it, the American legal tradition holds precisely the same view. One cannot, for example, kill O. J. Simpson, even if one believes that it was a gross injustice that he had been acquitted for the murders of Ron and Nicole.

Feser's "prudent sentences," as Leiter inaccurately calls them, are not prudent at all. They are principles that are deeply embedded in the moral tradition that Feser embraces. They are not tangential considerations that come into play to rescue some anomalous intuition; they are part of its root and branch.

Also, appealing to the "profession" is to commit the bandwagon fallacy, a mistake in reasoning even if everyone in the profession disagrees.


Cheer up, Lydia. Mr. Zero is only in favor of the "medically necessary" murder of defective infants. For all the other slaughters perpetrated by Tiller, Zero probably thinks him a monster.

Mr. Zero, you are _so_ ignorant (or, charitably, disinformed). _Nobody_ has _ever_ been told that a dead child's body cannot be removed because "late-term abortion is illegal." If you even _think_ you know of such a case, you are obviously wrongly informed. If the child is really dead, it isn't even an abortion, and nobody even thinks it is. If you know of a woman who had trouble getting a D & E with a dead child, it could only have been because the doctors immediately and readily available to her did not believe it was medically indicated or that they could do as good a job that way as by way of induction. And if they told her they couldn't remove the child's body by some other procedure because "late-term abortion is illegal" or anything of the sort, then _they_ were misinformed. (Oh, and I don't know where this "more quickly" junk comes in. The dilation in PBA takes place over _several days_. Labor induction usually doesn't take anything like several days.) The federal and state PBA bans _expressly_ refer to a _live infant_.

As for what Tiller was about, yeah, killing severely disabled children is *so damned noble*, my heart is just uplifted by thinking of somebody who committed his life to helping women do it. Because they had no other options. By the way, I personally know some people whose child had a diaphragmatic hernia. It was discovered late, and his lungs developed only minimally. He died peacefully in his mother's arms a couple of hours after birth. His big sister got to hold him, too, before he died. Those are _exactly_ the sort of people who, if they had had their baby's brains sucked out or his heart injected with poison, would get characterized by the Tiller-loving crowd as having been in such a tragic situation that this was what they were somehow forced to do. But their very existence and their baby's life prove that to be wrong, wrong, wrong. He died with care and love around him, not at the end of a pair of scissors.

Dr. McGrew,

Perhaps I have failed to articulate the point of the example to which you continuously object in a way that you can understand. The point is not that the dead-fetus extraction might count as an illegal partial-birth abortion. The point is that the dead-fetus extraction is a complex and difficult procedure, with which very few doctors are experienced. Late-term abortions are often illegal, which means that very few doctors have had any opportunity to gain experience with them. I hope I don't have to spell out the importance of experienced medical professionals.

Again, just to be absolutely clear, the issue surrounding the dead-fetus extraction concerns competence and expertise centrally, and legality only peripherally, as it bears on the central issue of competence and expertise.

I'm sorry for your friend, and I am glad that she was able to find a resolution she could live with in such an agonizingly awful situation. We who are pro-choice know that there are people like your friend, and we want them to do what they think is right. We also recognize that not all neonatal deaths could be described as "peaceful," that some could only be described as "painful" or "agonizing" or "filled with horrible suffering." We recognize that to generalize from a single, unique case to a principle binding on all mothers in all situations would be deeply wrong. The fact that your friend did not have an abortion does not prove any part of the pro-choice position wrong: we think your friend should have a choice, not an abortion. We think that women, like your friend, are able to make these decisions for themselves, and that these decisions are best left to them.

We who are pro-choice do not find our hearts uplifted when we think about these sorts of situations. We find them tragic and awful. We support the right of all mothers, whether they and their situation are just like your friend and her situation or not, to search their conscience and do what they think is the least wrong in horrible circumstances. We wouldn't presume to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy.

I appreciate the clarification, Mr. Z. It did indeed sound like you were saying something different before. Late-term abortions, however, are not "often illegal," provided that a doctor is able and/or willing to get someone (if a second opinion is required) to say that it is for the health of the mother in states that claim to have that limitation. Some doctors are willing to say this under almost any circumstance (as they are permitted and indeed encouraged by Doe v. Bolton to do), and the law is not able to stop them in that case. Others are not willing to do that, and to this extent even such paper "health-of-the-mother-only" exceptions do probably deter late-term abortions.

We who are pro-choice do not find our hearts uplifted when we think about these sorts of situations. We find them tragic and awful.

For the mother, I presume, since the baby's murder doesn't seem to be the tragic and awful thing that bothers you.

the baby's murder doesn't seem to be the tragic and awful thing that bothers you.

I wonder why you think this. Apart from the fact that it's not murder, the death of the fetus is exactly what I think is tragic and awful. But sometimes it's the best we can hope for, and when it is, it's indescribably sad.

Here's a story told by a woman who had a second-trimester abortion. Two things stand out to me when I read it: 1. the agony she is in over the suffering of her unborn twins; 2. the way she did what she knew to be best in unimaginably brutal circumstances. Her act was merciful, and I can't begin to imagine looking her in the eye and telling her she's a murderer. If you can, I think you're the monster.

We who are pro-choice

Don't do this. The repeated invocation of a non-existent "we", as though there were such a consensus in your camp, Zero, is a rhetorical flourish that is nothing short of a lie.

We who are pro-choice know that there are people like your friend, and we want them to do what they think is right.

Do "we"? Is that what is encouraged at all of the planned parenthood clinics in the country? You would vouch for this?

Holding someone's hand and patiently explaining to them how it is perfectly natural not to want a baby and taking at vantage of their distress isn't helping them to determine "what they think is right."

We recognize that to generalize from a single, unique case to a principle binding on all mothers in all situations would be deeply wrong.

That's very interesting, considering that that is exactly what you have been doing throughout this entire thread.

couple that with this:

But I think the posts [from the daily dish] show that what he was actually trying to do was to help people through horrible, agonizing ordeals.

And I would say that you are dancing on a very thin rope. Also consider that you just dismissed anecdotal evidence from the argument with Dr. McGrew and started this thread by invoking it. You might owe her an apology, because when it comes to an experience like she related, anecdotal evidence does matter. Especially considering that her friend, had she been in different circumstances and more impressionable, would very likely never have held her child--nor would it have been by her choice. That fact happens to be very inconvenient to your camp and it is difficult to square with the earnest chant of "choice" continually ringing in all of our ears. It takes enormous blindness to really think women's choice is what we have secured in the past half century. We have done much more to empower doctor's expediency and zealous humanitarians than we have the women and children that enter an abortion clinic.


Dear Brett,

Of course I don't speak for every pro-choice person in the world, nor can I "vouch" for the behavior of every employee of Planned Parenthood clinic in the country. However, I know a lot of pro-choice people, and this is how we feel. So, by 'we' I mean us.

I stand by what I wrote. I didn't say anything that even hints that I think there is a single thing that every mother in any possible situation ought to do, other than make her own decision based on the best medical advice possible. Which, again, I stand by.

I didn't dismiss Dr. McGrew's story. I did point out that not all neonatal deaths are peaceful, but that's hardly a dismissal. I said felt bad for the friend, but that I was glad she made up her own mind and did what she thought was right. I tried to suggest that I thought that the friend was uniquely qualified to decide what was right, and that this--being in a position to decide--is what I hope for everyone in that situation. Furthermore, the fact that her friend did hold her baby, and did not have an abortion, is hard to square with your suggestion that women in a pro-choice environment are subject to irresistible pressure and paradoxically lack choice. Had she lacked the ability to opt against abortion, she wouldn't have opted against abortion. But she did opt against abortion. And it was her choice.

I'm sorry if I upset you. But I really have no idea what your problem is or what you're talking about.

Although I have yet to take a stand on pro-choice versus pro-life, I would like to anyway applaud Mr. Zero's line of comments on this post, which are patient, good-willed, and logically sound, in contrast with some of the disparaging comments that target him. Bracketing out his stance for a moment, I think his *manner* of argument is exemplary: at large, calm and even-headed.

Apart from the fact that it's not murder, the death of the fetus is exactly what I think is tragic and awful.

Except that the links you keep referring us to highlight the emotional agony of the parents rather than what's actually being to done to the child. You use the word 'death' as though these babies were dying of natural causes, when in fact they are quite deliberately being killed. But since these are the kinds of stories you use to buttress your case, then I take it that apart from these "tragic and awful" cases of malformed and diseased infants whose conditions understandably put their parents through great distress, you are opposed to all other rationales for abortion.

In the last case to which you referred us, the mother, post-abortion, says, "After I awoke, the nurse brought my daughters in so that my husband and I could hold and bond with them." I understand mourning a dead child. I don't understand trying to bond with the dead body of the child you've just had killed. You don't see anything monstrous in this, some kind of wicked inversion of the normal human way of doing things?

For example, this couple. I'm sure their distress is acute beyond imagining. And that you will say not that they are doing the right thing, but rather praise God that they have the right to choose. For whether they kill the child or let it live is no matter of great moment, but only that they get to decide.

Except that the links you keep referring us to highlight the emotional agony of the parents rather than what's actually being to done to the child.

Agony over what? A fallen souffle? Over their child's illness and how best to ease its suffering. That is, the agony of any parent with a mortally ill child.

You use the word 'death' as though these babies were dying of natural causes, when in fact they are quite deliberately being killed.

I use the word 'death' to mean "death," which is silent about cause and therefore covers both kinds of case. This is the first time I have ever been criticized for using a word deliberately to mean what it means. Whether or not the proximate cause of death was a deliberate action is less morally important than whether the death prolongs suffering, or eases it.

I understand mourning a dead child. I don't understand trying to bond with the dead body of the child you've just had killed.

So what? I know you don't understand--it's obvious. That's your problem: you don't get what these people are going through. And although you so thoroughly don't understand, and although you know it, you nevertheless have the temerity to claim that you know what all people in all such tragic situations ought to do. Perhaps the fact that you don't understand these people or what they went through should give you pause, and cause you to try to understand, and try to see things from their perspective, rather than cause you to make an ill-informed and incorrect moral judgment.

I don't want to come on too strong, but the fact that you can't see the parents's agony, love, and mercy for what they are, and the fact that you think there is a single obvious right answer in all these cases--the fact that you don't see this for the deep and intractable moral problem it is--makes me suspicious of all your moral judgments. Especially these ones.

And that you will say not that they are doing the right thing, but rather praise God that they have the right to choose.

Yes, I'm glad they had the right to choose to do what they thought was right. I'm glad they found a solution they could live with, which is not guaranteed. It's not my place to say whether it was right or not.

Maybe someone already brought this up, though casual browsing of the comments suggests not. Professor Feser, you claim that the government is basically just and that vigilantism is therefore immoral. You claim that the government can only lose its authority in extreme cases like that of Nazi Germany. And yet you compare Dr. Tiller to notorious serial killers and Nazis and acknowledge that the government allowed him to perpetrate his allegedly monstrous acts of murder. How do you square these claims? If you think Tiller was as bad as a Nazi how can you possibly think the government hasn't lost at least some authority and how can you continue to think that citizens remain unjustified in taking the ("natural") law into their own hands?

Rather than rebutting the charge of insincerity, you seem merely to have given further grounds for it - well, for that or a charge of obliviousness.

Nathan, I really don't know why you folks are so hell-bent on charging me with insincerity rather than simple error, if not because you've got a political agenda you want to advance by smearing pro-lifers. Anyway, if you really still don't understand why someone would sincerely believe that anti-abortion vigilantism is immoral even though he also holds that people like Tiller are monsters, check out the article by John Zmirak I linked to in another post above.

Here's the tactic these folks seem to be deploying: "Give me an absolutely knock-down, conversation-ending, airtight, fully-worked-out, bulletproof argument that no one could possibly raise even the slightest objection to for why a pro-lifer could reject vigilantism; otherwise you are obviously being insincere."

What the hell is that?

"Give me an absolutely knock-down, conversation-ending, airtight, fully-worked-out, bulletproof argument that no one could possibly raise even the slightest objection to for why a pro-lifer could reject vigilantism; otherwise you are obviously being insincere."

If anyone could do that on something that does not naturally lend itself to mathematical proofs, I would be impressed. Regardless of the topic.

Prof. Feser - I put things in terms of a disjunction. Either you're being insincere or oblivious (I suppose I should have included the possibility of irrationality too). The possibility of error is included in that disjunction (not all errors are excusable). How criticizing your position and accusing you of insincerity, obliviousness or irrationality amounts to smearing the pro-life position is beyond me. I don't consider your position representative of the pro-life position and I doubt that all of the others criticizing you do either. What is particularly troubling is the comparisons you draw between Dr. Tiller and serial killers and Nazis (and what that might entail about the permissibility of his murder). Perhaps that is representative of pro-lifers in general, but I'm not going to assume so and it certainly doesn't seem like the only way to formulate the pro-life position (nor does it seem to follow from all versions of the pro-life position - one would need criteria of blameworthiness too and the pro-life position in itself doesn't seem committed to any particular criteria of blameworthiness from which it would follow that Dr. Tiller was as bad as you want to claim he was). Moreover, I don't see any of your critics demanding a knock-down proof. What we'd like is some semblance of a plausible argument that your claims don't commit you to holding that the murder of Dr. Tiller was permissible. You've failed to meet both standards.

I've read the piece by Zmirak. As you can guess, I'm less than impressed. I fail to see how what Zmirak says plausibly speaks against the murder. Insofar as his claims might plausibly speak against anything, they seem to speak against an organized, concerted - truly warlike - movement to kill abortionists. They simply doesn't seem to plausibly speak against a lone person killing what you (and the murderer, presumably) consider one of the worst of the worst. Zmirak's criteria for what counts as war is ridiculously broad: "When the State allows an activity, and you use force to prevent it, you are declaring war on the State." This would make all sorts of things count as declarations of war that simply aren't, including a lone gunman's murder of Dr. Tiller. I could go on in more detail (some of his criteria for just war are highly questionable), but I won't.

I suppose you could maintain that Tiller's murderer really did something permissible, but that saying so is wrong because it would encourage people to kill abortionists, which in turn would risk causing an unjust war. Perhaps suspicion that that's what you're really thinking is contributing to the charges of insincerity.

Nathan, what is murder and why is it wrong?

Nathan,

What I meant by "error" -- quite obviously -- is "honest error," i.e the sort of error someone might fall into even if sincerely believes that the arguments he has for a position provide good evidence for it.

My position is not at all idiosyncratic, and if you really think it is than you evidently have little awareness of pro-life arguments, or at least of the sort of natural law arguments which I, as a Catholic, tend to favor. From the classical natural law POV, abortion is not only murder but worse than ordinary murder insofar as it involves the murder of particularly vulnerable persons by those who have a special duty to protect them (parents and doctors). It is nothing less than monstrous.

Classical natural law theory is also committed to just war theory of the sort Zmirak appeals to. And you are obviously missing Zmirak's point, which is that even an individual act of vigilantism, since it presupposes that the individual can justifiably usurp the power of government, thereby implies (whether this individual realizes this or not) that government has lost its authority and therefore may in general be justl resisted. The individual vigilantist act entails this whole package, and thus is ruled out if just war theory rules out going along with the whole package (as it does in the present case).

Hence the position I'm taking is, again, not idiosyncratic with me, but part of a long and sophisticated tradition of moral theory that I've only been summarizing. If you want to disagree with that tradition, fine, but to pretend that no reasonable person could possibly accept it is simply preposterous, and, it seems to me, motivated by nothing more than a political agenda at smearing pro-lifers as "secretly" committed to murder.

And that's why I've been saying that you seem to be supposing, obviously unfairly, that only a bulletproof argument could rescue people like me from the charge of insincerity. For the objections you're raising are just that -- objections, queries, etc. that one could raise aganst any moral theory he is not familiar with, disagrees with, etc. (as you are obviously unfamiliar with natural law theory). That is, you are treating your ill-informed, just-came-up-with-it-for-the-combox objections as if they showed all by themselves that natural law theory is obviously irrational, etc. -- a standard you would never apply to any other theory.

Mr. Zero:

That's your problem: you don't get what these people are going through. And although you so thoroughly don't understand, and although you know it, you nevertheless have the temerity to claim that you know what all people in all such tragic situations ought to do. Perhaps the fact that you don't understand these people or what they went through should give you pause, and cause you to try to understand, and try to see things from their perspective, rather than cause you to make an ill-informed and incorrect moral judgment.
There was this woman who killed her sick and defective child out of sincere compassion, and someone condemned her for it. But that someone obviously didn't get what the woman was going through, or else he wouldn't have condemned her. Even though he so thoroughly doesn't understand, and knows it (since he's never had that sick and defective girl before), he nevertheless has the temerity to claim that he knows what ALL people in ALL such tragic situations ought to do; that is, not kill the child (it's not "murder" because she disagrees). Perhaps the fact that he doesn't understand these people or what they went through should give him pause, and cause him to try to understand, and try to see things from her perspective (even though you'll never really know, unless you agree with the pro-choice position), rather than cause him to make an ill-informed and incorrect moral judgment. In the end, it's the woman's choice whether to kill her child or not. Anyone who disagrees and who would call such a sincere and compassionate woman a murderer is simply a monster.

This is emotional rhetoric. It's the same kind of silliness that allows you to cite anecdotes from the Daily Dish while condemning Lydia's use of anecdote as an attempt to prove through anecdote, which is not what she (or you, I assume) was trying to do.

It's the same kind of silliness that allows you to cite anecdotes from the Daily Dish while condemning Lydia's use of anecdote

Who condemned? I didn't condemn. Why are you being so obtuse? How many times must I answer the same questions?

Look. For the last time. I acknowledge Dr. McGrew's anecdote. I respect her friend, and her friend's wishes. I'm glad she had a chance to bond with the baby. Though I think it's terrible that the baby died, I'm glad the baby's death was peaceful and surrounded by love. Can we stop pretending I think it was wrong not to have an abortion? All I did was acknowledge the obvious reality that not all neonatal deaths are peaceful or painless, and that relevantly different circumstances warrant relevantly different actions.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll say this. I need a lot more detail about your case before I can say what I think. Among the things I'd want to know: how old of a child are we talking about? 16? 8? or are we talking about an embryo? How sick and "defective"--your word, not mine--is the child? Is the child's condition fatal? Is the child in much pain? Is the pain unbearable? Is there any hope for a meaningful recovery? Will the child ever know anything other than agony? Because if the man you describe were to leap to the judgment that the woman was a monster without knowing or even being curious about the answers to any of those questions, that would be pretty monstrous.

Mr. Zero

Can we stop pretending I think it was wrong not to have an abortion?
Um, what are you talking about? I was making the simple point that while you condemned Lydia's use of anecdote to prove a moral point concerning abortion here:
We recognize that to generalize from a single, unique case to a principle binding on all mothers in all situations would be deeply wrong. The fact that your friend did not have an abortion does not prove any part of the pro-choice position wrong: we think your friend should have a choice, not an abortion.
(note the bolded section) you keep on citing anecdotes yourself. So, you're both citing anecdotes, so why do you think Lydia was trying to use the anecdote to "prove any part of the pro-choice position wrong" when she's simply responding to your use of anecdotes? Note, once again, that I am not saying that you believe that it is wrong to choose not to have an abortion. Where you got that I have no idea...

Onto the main point: let us assume that the child is 6 years old and in chronic, moderate pain that varies in intensity but is completely bearable. There is slim hope for a "meaningful recovery." The woman decides to kill the child out of sincere compassion.

Should that be a legal choice for the woman? If not, how can you determine that without imposing your own values on the woman when you "so thoroughly don't understand [the situation], and although you know it, you nevertheless have the temerity to claim that you know what all people in all such tragic situations ought to do."

With respect to my first point, I'll again re-phrase so that you don't think I'm being obtuse. My issue with your prose was one of how you argued rather than the conclusion you drew. You assumed Lydia was attempting to "prove [some] part of the pro-choice position wrong" by using an anecdote, when she was simply using anecdotes to counter your citations of anecdotes and not trying to logically argue. I assume when you were citing anecdotes, you likewise were not trying to logically argue a point, but were simply indicating the existence of tragic situations where people chose abortion. So why did you not extend the same courtesy to Lydia when she cited her anecdote?

Does that make sense...? Am I still obtuse?

I use the word 'death' to mean "death," which is silent about cause and therefore covers both kinds of case.

Let me translate: I use the word 'death' to mean "death" so that I won't have to discuss the moral difference between dying by natural cause and by the deliberate act of another human being.

Whether or not the proximate cause of death was a deliberate action is less morally important than whether the death prolongs suffering, or eases it.

Another translation: If someone is suffering and is going to die anyway, it's okay for someone else to kill him ahead of time. (Btw, death never "prolongs suffering" and it always "eases it.")

So what? I know you don't understand--it's obvious. That's your problem: you don't get what these people are going through...I don't want to come on too strong, but the fact that you can't see the parents's agony, love, and mercy for what they are, etc.

Translation: I don't know anything about you or what you've been exposed to in life; therefore, I am entitled to speak entirely from ignorance and attribute to you bad motives.

I'm glad they found a solution they could live with, which is not guaranteed. It's not my place to say whether it was right or not.

I don't want to come on too strong, but that's moral cowardice. For the third time I'll ask: aside from these exceedingly rare, emotionally wrenching 'hard cases', do you or do you not support abortion in other cases?

Dear Albert,

let us assume that the child is 6 years old and in chronic, moderate pain that varies in intensity but is completely bearable. There is slim hope for a "meaningful recovery."

You've described a textbook meaningful recovery. The pain, though chronic, is bearable. I don't want to go too far outside the text, but it seems like you intend it to be possible for the person to live a long, fruitful, fulfilling life--nothing in your comment contradicts this supposition. It's a six-year old. You're kidding around, right? You didn't really think that I would support euthanasia in a case like this. Please tell me you don't think this is the pro-choice position.

You assumed Lydia was attempting to "prove [some] part of the pro-choice position wrong" by using an anecdote

I don't think I assumed it. I just read what Dr. McGrew wrote. It's in the text. Here's how she closed her anecdote: "But their very existence and their baby's life prove that to be wrong, wrong, wrong. (my bold) It seems to me as if she's emphatically saying that her anecdote proves me wrong. Read the quote in context if you like. I can't imagine how she could have been more clear.

Dear Luce,

I use the word 'death' to mean "death" so that I won't have to discuss the moral difference between dying by natural cause and by the deliberate act of another human being

The idea that there is any such moral difference is pretty controversial. A lot of people, and I include myself here, think it's obviously false. It's not that I don't want to have to discuss it, it's that I don't think it exists. James Rachels wrote a nice paper on this topic. It's in a couple of anthologies.

If someone is suffering and is going to die anyway, it's okay for someone else to kill him ahead of time.

Sometimes. Not all the time. Again, you really ought to read Jim's paper. It's a really fruitful discussion of a lot of these issues.

[ironically] Btw, death never "prolongs suffering" and it always "eases it."

What is with you? Who said anything about always? Sometimes it does. Sometimes. Did you really not know that death sometimes eases suffering?

Translation: I am entitled to speak entirely from ignorance and attribute to you bad motives.

I don't think it was entirely from ignorance; you express incomprehension about why the woman would want to hold her baby after the procedure, even though she was only trying to ease the suffering of her two deathly ill, wanted fetuses. That she would want to bond with them makes perfect sense to me, anyway. It's clear as day. And it's pretty common in these kinds of cases. Do some research.

And I didn't say anything about your motives. I explicitly confined myself to the reliability of your moral judgments.

For the third time I'll ask: aside from these exceedingly rare, emotionally wrenching 'hard cases', do you or do you not support abortion in other cases?

Spare me. It's no big secret. You don't have to pretend I'm dodging the question. I'm pro-choice. You really can't figure it out?

Dear Luse,

I'm sorry I wrote your name wrong. It was unintentional.

The idea that there is any such moral difference is pretty controversial. A lot of people, and I include myself here, think it's obviously false.

Yes, it's become apparent that we live in very different moral universes.

Did you really not know that death sometimes eases suffering?

No, it always eases suffering. No exceptions. In fact it eliminates it entirely. Did you not know this?

...you express incomprehension about why the woman would want to hold her baby after the procedure...

The baby she's just had killed.

...even though she was only trying to ease the suffering of her two deathly ill, wanted fetuses.

By killing them. What she wanted was the babies she had hoped for, not the babies she actually had. If she'd wanted them she wouldn't have killed them.

That she would want to bond with them makes perfect sense to me, anyway.

How do you bond with a dead baby? The one you've just had killed?

Do some research.

There you go again, speaking from ignorance.

You don't have to pretend I'm dodging the question. I'm pro-choice. You really can't figure it out?

Of course I figured it out. I just wanted it made explicit that reference to these heart-wrenching, morally "intractable" cases is a smokescreen of irrelevance, with abortion on demand hiding behind it.

Dear Luse,

Yes, it's become apparent that we live in very different moral universes.

It was apparent the instant I joined this conversation, when in my first post on this thread I denied that Tiller was a monster. But it's not as though I occupy my moral universe for arbitrary or capricious reasons. I've rejected a silly superstition that killing is worse than letting die, and though I don't want to ignorantly assume you haven't read Rachels's paper, you don't seem like you read it. Rachels argues persuasively that "letting die" is wrong if killing is, and sometimes is worse than killing (when it needlessly prolong suffering). So I can defend my moral views. All you've done so far is to proudly display your moral incomprehension.

How do you bond with a dead baby? The one you've just had killed?

How? Personally, I don't know, and I hope I never find out. However, in order to help you, I've provided links to a clearinghouse of examples. The fact that you don't understand them reveals a limitation (I don't know what kind. Cognitive? Moral?) on your part, not a defect on theirs.

What she wanted was the babies she had hoped for, not the babies she actually had. If she'd wanted them she wouldn't have killed them.

Again, you're not getting it. In the example you refer to, the babies's illnesses were fatal and horribly painful. She wanted babies who were going to live for more than a few hours after being born, and whose minutes-long lives were not going to be filled with agonizing pain, and she did not get such babies. So I guess that she didn't get the babies she wanted. But it's not as though she simply said, "I don't want babies like you, so now I'll kill you." She acted from mercy rather than malice, selflessly rather than selfishly, to end suffering rather than prolong it, and the fact that you can't comprehend how this is possible indicates a problem on your end.

And who hopes for a baby with a fatal illness that will cause extreme pain and neonatal death? And if you got babies like that, you'd have to be a pretty sick monster to purposely and needlessly prolong their suffering.

Do some research.

There you go again, speaking from ignorance.

You really don't seem like you've done the research. You say you don't understand this phenomenon that really obviously makes sense and furthermore is an extremely common reaction to the kind of case we're talking about. So you should try to gain an understanding of this normal reaction. You should do some (more) research.

I didn't make an unwarranted assumption; I inferred from the available evidence that whatever research you had done, more was necessary.

I just wanted it made explicit that reference to these heart-wrenching, morally "intractable" cases is a smokescreen of irrelevance, with abortion on demand hiding behind it.

This thread is about George Tiller. Dr. Tiller specialized in late-term abortions and has be characterized in this thread as a monster. My point is that the late-term abortions Dr. Tiller performed were not a monstrous form of birth control; they were medical solutions to serious, life-threatening and/or inevitably fatal medical problems. Since these cases occur and were the reason for Dr. Tiller's murder, they are not a "smokescreen." They are "the topic of this discussion."

Mr. Zero:

I don't think I assumed it. I just read what Dr. McGrew wrote. It's in the text. Here's how she closed her anecdote: "But their very existence and their baby's life prove that to be wrong, wrong, wrong. (my bold) It seems to me as if she's emphatically saying that her anecdote proves me wrong. Read the quote in context if you like. I can't imagine how she could have been more clear.
Your first mistake is not acknowledging your error in accusing me of pretending you think it is wrong not to have an abortion. Remember when you said this: "Can we stop pretending I think it was wrong not to have an abortion?" So, already, I'm wondering if you're even arguing in good faith.

Next, the key is to understand what the "that" in "prove that to be wrong" is referring to. "that" refers to the belief that abortion "was what [mothers of fetuses with physical defects] were somehow forced to do" due to compassion. Lydia used her anecdote to show that it is possible and in fact has happened that compassion leads mothers to choose life rather than abortion. She did this NOT to show that "the pro-choice position" is wrong (Did you seriously believe a philosopher thinks anecdotes are sufficient to disprove the pro-choice position on abortion?), but to list examples of stories to counter your citations of Daily Dish pro-abortion stories. Read her post again. That's all she did, and that's why I was annoyed that you would take the cheap shot and accuse Lydia of trying to use anecdote to prove "any part of the pro-choice position" wrong.

Does that make sense? I think you took a small cheap shot there.

You've described a textbook meaningful recovery. The pain, though chronic, is bearable. I don't want to go too far outside the text, but it seems like you intend it to be possible for the person to live a long, fruitful, fulfilling life--nothing in your comment contradicts this supposition. It's a six-year old. You're kidding around, right? You didn't really think that I would support euthanasia in a case like this. Please tell me you don't think this is the pro-choice position.
Nice evasion. I asked you specific questions and your hand-waving does not constitute an answer. I asked:
Should that be a legal choice for the woman? If not, how can you determine that without imposing your own values on the woman when you "so thoroughly don't understand [the situation], and although you know it, you nevertheless have the temerity to claim that you know what all people in all such tragic situations ought to do."
In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am demonstrating that the pro-choice position is not merely inconsistent when it supports the choice of women to kill unborn children and born children, but the manner of argument is inconsistent as well.

So, answer the questions with something more than "Well, darn it's obvious so I don't have to deal with the incoherence of my position!"

The last line should be:

So, answer the questions with something more than "Well, darn it's obvious so I don't have to deal with the incoherence of my position and rhetoric!"

Dear Albert,

I'm sorry if I've misinterpreted you.

the key is to understand what the "that" in "prove that to be wrong" is referring to. "that" refers to the belief that abortion "was what [mothers of fetuses with physical defects] were somehow forced to do" due to compassion.

That couldn't possibly be it. The existence of one mother who was not forced by her sense of compassion to choose abortion in the face of a terminally ill fetus does not threaten my point that there exist (other) mothers (in other situations) who were. There's no way that's what she means.

Lydia used her anecdote to show that it is possible and in fact has happened that compassion leads mothers to choose life rather than abortion.

That's not her point, because she would have to know that I accept that point. This suggestion is why I thought you accused me of thinking it was wrong not to have an abortion. But I have said all along that it is possible in certain situations for compassion to lead mothers to choose life. Nobody denies this. My point is that it is possible in certain other, extremely different situations for compassionate mothers to choose euthanasia.

Again, it's not that I dismiss or condemn the anecdote or the use of anecdotes in general. It's that this particular anecdote doesn't contain any factual or moral information that I have any difficulty accepting whatsoever.

Furthermore, Dr. McGrew's friend did not choose life; life was not one of her alternatives. That's what makes the story so tragic. She chose a natural death over an unnatural death. My point is that sometimes unnatural deaths are preferable to natural deaths, because sometimes, in certain rare circumstances some of which are the topic of this discussion, unnatural deaths are vastly easier and less painful than natural ones. In those thankfully rare circumstances, compassion might lead someone to choose an unnatural death.

Dr. McGrew says that her friends's "very existence and their baby's life prove [something] to be wrong, wrong, wrong." Maybe I'm confused about exactly what the something is. But it doesn't matter, because no matter what it is, there's nothing about it that contravenes anything I believe or anything I've said anywhere on this thread.

Nice evasion. I asked you specific questions and your hand-waving does not constitute an answer.

Did you really find that answer evasive? Ok, here's a non-evasive answer: no, I do not support involuntary euthanasia for a six-year old with bearable chronic pain and every opportunity for a long, fruitful life. Do you think this is a serious question? Do you think I am hesitant to answer it, or that it poses a difficulty for me? It is an easy question.

Should that be a legal choice for the woman? If not, how can you determine that without imposing your own values on the woman when you "so thoroughly don't understand [the situation], and although you know it, you nevertheless have the temerity to claim that you know what all people in all such tragic situations ought to do."

I am demonstrating that the pro-choice position is not merely inconsistent when it supports the choice of women to kill unborn children and born children, but the manner of argument is inconsistent as well.

I think I see what you're saying. I think you're saying that if I think it would be okay for a mother to choose active euthanasia for an unborn, terminally ill, horribly suffering fetus with no chance for survival, then I must also think it's okay for her to choose active euthanasia to a born, six-year old, non-terminal, chronically uncomfortable child with a 100% chance of survival. And if I think it's permissible in one case and not the other, I must exhibit temerity and impose my own values on the mother in an objectionable way, analogous to what I accuse Luse of doing.

I'm sorry, but this is silly. For one thing, my objection to Luse is not that he has the temerity to impose his own moral judgment in cases that don't involve himself. It was that he has the temerity to apply his moral judgment to cases he knows he doesn't understand. His admitted failure to understand is what leads him into error.

For another, I have already explained the obvious moral difference between terminal illness accompanied by unbearable pain and non-terminal illness accompanied by bearable pain. It's obvious that these differences are morally relevant and warrant relevantly different attitudes and behavior. It's also obvious that in saying so I don't contradict myself or apply my own judgment in a way I find objectionable in Luse; I have made a successful effort to understand relevant details of the cases.

Mr. Zero:

That couldn't possibly be it. The existence of one mother who was not forced by her sense of compassion to choose abortion in the face of a terminally ill fetus does not threaten my point that there exist (other) mothers (in other situations) who were. There's no way that's what she means.
The bolded words are the problem. You misread her again; she wasn't saying that it was YOUR point. She was saying it was the point of "the Tiller-loving crowd." See her relevant post here:
As for what Tiller was about, yeah, killing severely disabled children is *so damned noble*, my heart is just uplifted by thinking of somebody who committed his life to helping women do it. Because they had no other options. By the way, I personally know some people whose child had a diaphragmatic hernia. It was discovered late, and his lungs developed only minimally. He died peacefully in his mother's arms a couple of hours after birth. His big sister got to hold him, too, before he died. Those are _exactly_ the sort of people who, if they had had their baby's brains sucked out or his heart injected with poison, would get characterized by the Tiller-loving crowd as having been in such a tragic situation that this was what they were somehow forced to do. But their very existence and their baby's life prove that to be wrong, wrong, wrong. He died with care and love around him, not at the end of a pair of scissors.
Now, if I were you, I would have simply denied that all people in "the Tiller-loving crowd" believe that, and that you certainly don't. BUT, that's not what you did. Instead, you took a weird cheap shot and accused her of arguing against the pro-choice position on abortion using anecdote, when 1) you yourself cited anecdote, and 2) the best understanding of both your and her use of anecdote is NOT that either of you were trying to prove the pro-life or pro-choice position wrong, but that you were both using anecdotes as examples of what pro-choice or pro-life positions look like in real life. That was the point of your anecdotes right? So, I called you out for the cheap shot.

That's not her point, because she would have to know that I accept that point.
Yes, it was her point as I've demonstrated above because her goal was not to tell you "anecdotes exist" as an abstract point (as if you didn't know) but to actually describe a concrete, real-life example of pro-life love. She apparently thinks hearing such concrete details and stories matter (even if you already know such stories and their factual and moral info exist in the abstract). The funny thing is, you likewise implicitly think it's important for people to hear such stories because you cite them yourself! (I happen to agree with both you and Lydia) Now, how would you like it if someone read your citations of anecdotes and then accused you of believing such anecdotes somehow prove the pro-life position on abortion wrong? You would think that's ludicrous, since that's not even the point of your anecdotes. So, it struck me as extraordinarily cheap for you to accuse her of using anecdotes in that way while using anecdotes yourself. So I called you out on it.
Maybe I'm confused about exactly what the something is. But it doesn't matter, because no matter what it is, there's nothing about it that contravenes anything I believe or anything I've said anywhere on this thread.
But your hypocritical argumentation does matter. That's what I'm getting at, rather than your conclusions concerning abortion. How you argue does matter.

On to the substantive point:

I'm sorry, but this is silly. For one thing, my objection to Luse is not that he has the temerity to impose his own moral judgment in cases that don't involve himself. It was that he has the temerity to apply his moral judgment to cases he knows he doesn't understand. His admitted failure to understand is what leads him into error. For another, I have already explained the obvious moral difference between terminal illness accompanied by unbearable pain and non-terminal illness accompanied by bearable pain. It's obvious that these differences are morally relevant and warrant relevantly different attitudes and behavior. It's also obvious that in saying so I don't contradict myself or apply my own judgment in a way I find objectionable in Luse; I have made a successful effort to understand relevant details of the cases.
Acting as the pro-choice mother of the 6-year-old in pain, here are my pro-choice arguments which you yourself have used (altered for difference in cases).

My first pro-choice response, using your argument to Dr. Feser:

First, perhaps it's true that if [your position on the wrongness of killing the 6-year-old] is right, then it is monstrous form of murder to euthanize a child who suffers greatly and who will do so for years and years. If so then [your] position is wrong, for such euthanizations are not murder. If we are hard-wired by nature to feel guilty for doing something like that, then that is really too bad, because it's nothing to feel guilty about.

My second pro-choice response, from your post to Dr. McGrew:

Maybe you're right[, Mr. Zero]. However, I think that decisions like this should be between a woman and her doctor, and that a self-described [whatever you are] who is otherwise completely uninvolved should mind her own business.

Here's the next from a post from you to Mr. Luse. See how fun it is to argue with pro-choice people who miss the point?

[With regard to your claims of the "obvious" moral distinctions] So what? I know you don't understand--it's obvious. That's your problem: you don't get what these people are going through. And although you so thoroughly don't understand, and although you know it, you nevertheless have the temerity to claim that you know what all people in all such tragic situations ought to do. Perhaps the fact that you don't understand these people or what they went through should give you pause, and cause you to try to understand, and try to see things from their perspective, rather than cause you to make an ill-informed and incorrect moral judgment.

Mr. Zero, you don't really understand what it's like to have that woman's child in pain for years and years and watch him in pain. Even though you make arguments that your understanding of the situation is sufficient (typical of pro-lifers), you don't know her whole situation. You don't know what it's like to have that tragic situation. Mind your own business.

I'm glad [she] had the right to choose to do what [she] thought was right. I'm glad [she] found a solution [she] could live with, which is not guaranteed. It's not my place to say whether it was right or not.

Here's the best part, Mr. Zero, right out of your post.

We who are pro-choice do not find our hearts uplifted when we think about these sorts of situations. We find them tragic and awful. We support the right of all mothers, whether they and their situation are just like your friend and her situation or not, to search their conscience and do what they think is the least wrong in horrible circumstances. We wouldn't presume to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy.

--------------

Now, Mr. Zero. Please understand why pro-life people find pro-choice arguments so vacuous. Because they are 99% of the time like the ones I've given to you, namely appeals that MISS THE POINT that what is critical is not the severity of pain (though it is secondarily important), not the complete "understanding" of the situation (though that is secondarily important), that these questions are no longer "obvious" (what is "obvious" to you today was not "obvious" to people 20 years ago and what is "obviously" wrong to you today may not be so obvious to people in 10 years), that good intentions are not primarily important.

What critically matters is the moral status of the human person at all stages of human development, and your posts here (along with 99% of the pro-choice arguments I see) have done nothing to address the central point at the heart of the pro-life critique. Nor do I believe there exists any arguments to refute the ones made by the likes of Dr. Beckwith, Robert George, etc.

That's a lot of pretty good work, Albert. Since, in Zero's world, murder of the unborn is something that cannot happen, I hope you won't be disappointed when you discover that you haven't made a dent.

You misread her again; she wasn't saying that it was YOUR point. She was saying it was the point of "the Tiller-loving crowd."

I thought she was responding to my point because she addressed her comment to me. If you're right and she wasn't responding to my point, I don't see why I am obligated to answer.

Anyways, you're wrong. She was responding to my point, which was that Tiller was no monster, that Tiller's work involved mercy, that euthanasia of a terminally ill, suffering fetus can be noble (although I didn't put it this way), that sometimes there is no other viable option. She says, my friend chose a natural death, and her baby died peacefully with love. She says, these are the people who are supposed to be compelled to abort. But they didn't and they weren't and so Zero's point is wrong, wrong, wrong.

My point stands. Her friend isn't the kind of person I'm talking about, and her friend's existence doesn't prove anything wrong. If you think this is such an illegitimate use of an anecdote that no philosopher would ever do it, I suggest you take it up with her.

I would have simply denied that all people in "the Tiller-loving crowd" believe that

I did. I denied that I believe it. Peaceful natural deaths do not compel euthanasia. My point is that if the death had been less peaceful, euthanasia might have been more warranted. If the death had been accompanied by substantial suffering, insisting upon a natural death would have been cruel.

here are my pro-choice arguments which you yourself have used (altered for difference in cases).

The silliness of your "argument" is exceeded only by the silliness of the claim that any pro-choicer would be compelled (either by plausibility or by principle) to accept any of its premises. All of the alterations you make are sufficient to render it unacceptable to anyone who accepts its sound ancestor. Among its problems are 1. the non-fatal nature of the illness; 2. the bearable nature of the suffering; 3. the self-awareness of the child; 4. the capacity of the child to formulate and express its own wishes. A central feature of the euthanasia-by-abortion cases is that the fetus has no capacity to formulate or express any desire one way or the other, so the mother must decide on its behalf. The six-year old, by contrast, can formulate and express desires.

Your analogy holds only if there are no morally relevant differences between the cases, or it's hard to know what the differences are, or it's hard to know whether the differences obtain. Your analogy fails on all counts.

Mr. Zero, you don't really understand what it's like to have that woman's child in pain for years and years and watch him in pain

What makes you say that? When did I ever indicate that I don't know what it's like to have a loved one in chronic pain? What makes you think I don't know exactly what it's like? (hint: I know exactly what it's like.)

Please understand why pro-life people find pro-choice arguments so vacuous.

You first. The pro-life position finds compassion in the needless prolonging of suffering; finds cruelty in the relief of suffering; fails to realize that all unborn fetuses require someone to make decisions on their behalf, even when they involve life and death; apparently can't comprehend the difference between terminal and non-terminal illness or between unbearable and bearable suffering. I don't know if it's vacuous, but it's pretty nuts.

See what I mean, Albert?

This is just a quick post to say thanks to Mr. Zero for the superb commentary. That was a lot of work. You argue sensibly, thoroughly, and patiently. Well done!

"in Zero's world, murder of the unborn is something that cannot happen, I hope you won't be disappointed when you discover that you haven't made a dent."

Just so. If someone is convinced the earth is flat, you'll have difficulty proving to him that he can't fall off the edge.

Thanks, Mr. Zero, for your remarkable patience and good manner in this thread. Even if I don't know whether to fully agree with you, I think your style, in contrast to many here, is a credit to you. It is easy to appeal to emotion, to use loaded words, to overgeneralize, and to draw vivid analogies without regard to quality. It is difficult to have the patience to listen to such from your opponents, and to persistently rebut them with reason.

Mr. Zero:

I thought she was responding to my point because she addressed her comment to me. If you're right and she wasn't responding to my point, I don't see why I am obligated to answer. Anyways, you're wrong. She was responding to my point, which was that Tiller was no monster, that Tiller's work involved mercy, that euthanasia of a terminally ill, suffering fetus can be noble (although I didn't put it this way), that sometimes there is no other viable option. She says, my friend chose a natural death, and her baby died peacefully with love. She says, these are the people who are supposed to be compelled to abort. But they didn't and they weren't and so Zero's point is wrong, wrong, wrong.
It's revealing how you don't quote Lydia in context, or else it would be clear that she while she was responding to your comment, she wasn't talking about YOU. You know that is possible, right, to respond to someone and talk about others? Like how right now, I'm responding to you, Mr. Zero, and talking about Lydia?

She explicitly stated that she was talking about "the Tiller-loving crowd" who claim that the only compassionate thing to do in circumstances like the one her friend went through is to abort. "Mr. Zero" is not equivalent to "the Tiller-loving crowd" so I do not see why you choose to believe she was talking about you contrary to her clear and explicit words. I can only attribute this to defensiveness on your part.

My point stands. Her friend isn't the kind of person I'm talking about, and her friend's existence doesn't prove anything wrong. If you think this is such an illegitimate use of an anecdote that no philosopher would ever do it, I suggest you take it up with her.
What are you talking about? I explicitly stated that neither your nor Lydia's use of anecdote was illegitimate since they were both simply illustrations of real-life examples. What is wrong with you?
Among its problems are 1. the non-fatal nature of the illness; 2. the bearable nature of the suffering; 3. the self-awareness of the child; 4. the capacity of the child to formulate and express its own wishes. A central feature of the euthanasia-by-abortion cases is that the fetus has no capacity to formulate or express any desire one way or the other, so the mother must decide on its behalf. The six-year old, by contrast, can formulate and express desires.
Why does the non-fatal nature of the illness matter? It doesn't to the mother who must make the decision. The suffering of her child is not bearable to the mother. Why does the self-awareness of the child matter? That seems to be a pseudo-religious claim of yours that the mother does not share. Why does the "capacity of the child to formulate or express any desire one way or the other" matter? It only matters to you. Not to the mother, whose decision it is. You clearly don't understand her situation.
A central feature of the euthanasia-by-abortion cases is that the fetus has no capacity to formulate or express any desire one way or the other, so the mother must decide on its behalf.
So if a child wants to kill herself, we should let them because they have the capacity to formulate their desire? I can't believe you don't see these obvious responses to your arguments.
What makes you say that? When did I ever indicate that I don't know what it's like to have a loved one in chronic pain? What makes you think I don't know exactly what it's like? (hint: I know exactly what it's like.)
No, you don't. But you sure think your experiences apply to others. You aren't the mother in question. Therefore, you don't really understand her situation. You don't and you never will. You've only lived your own life and had your own difficulties. Not hers. So, in your own words, you should mind your own business instead of imposing your moral categories on her when you don't know what she's going through. Understand the pro-choice argument here?

You:

You first. The pro-life position finds compassion in the needless prolonging of suffering; finds cruelty in the relief of suffering; fails to realize that all unborn fetuses require someone to make decisions on their behalf, even when they involve life and death; apparently can't comprehend the difference between terminal and non-terminal illness or between unbearable and bearable suffering. I don't know if it's vacuous, but it's pretty nuts.

Me:

What critically matters is the moral status of the human person at all stages of human development, and your posts here (along with 99% of the pro-choice arguments I see) have done nothing to address the central point at the heart of the pro-life critique. Nor do I believe there exists any arguments to refute the ones made by the likes of Dr. Beckwith, Robert George, etc.

Yes, those two paragraphs sound substantively the same. I thought you argued in good faith. Based on your intentional ignoring of my summary of the pro-life position, you do not. Do you even know what natural law is?

With your posts we have a demonstration of the pro-choice inability to justify the moral categories of "1. the non-fatal nature of the illness; 2. the bearable nature of the suffering; 3. the self-awareness of the child; 4. the capacity of the child to formulate and express its own wishes." Which means they are arbitrary.

Why should those things be important to anyone but you? Why should those things be imposed on others through legal force? You can only appeal to what's obvious to your intuitions, which is not obvious to the mother's intuitions, and since you do not share her precise experiences, you can not claim what she is doing is wrong. In the end, it is her choice, not yours. That's where the pro-choice position leads. One mother's moral intuitions versus another mother's moral intuitions.

Sorry for the delay, by the way, I was out of town for the weekend.

William Luse, well it sounded at first like Mr. Zero was reasonable enough to examine his own moral intuitions and assumptions. But once we crossed the line into justifying why our moral categories are valid for all regardless of personal experiences and whether our moral intuitions are agreeable, he seemed to get defensive.

I suspect he began to see that the pro-choice logic and rhetoric of "choose your own moral intuitions" is incompatible with public morality and law. When the discussion moves to where the pro-life community has been for decades to what the boundaries of legitimate choices are, they find they are unable to justify their own moral categories and framework.

It's revealing how you don't quote Lydia in context...

I'm getting pretty tired of McGrew exegesis. Her original quote and our respective positions are on record here, and interested persons can make up their own minds about precisely what point she was responding to, what point she was making, and the relevance and cogency of that point. I see no reason to engage in further discussion.

Why does the non-fatal nature of the illness matter?

Look. I could write a primer on the relevant literature surrounding the ethics of euthanasia. Or, I could do something else and suggest you consult the Stanford Encyclopedia or Wikipedia or something.

Why does the "capacity of the child to formulate or express any desire one way or the other" matter?

Very simply, because if the child can formulate its own wishes, then the mother has a prima facie duty to carry out those wishes. In cases where the child cannot, the mother must exercise her own judgment about what the child's wishes would be, and then carry out those wishes. This is true whether the mother is pro-choice or pro-life.

So if a child wants to kill herself, we should let them because they have the capacity to formulate their desire? I can't believe you don't see these obvious responses to your arguments.

Of course, I was hoping that you'd attend to the various other relevant features of the case, rather than deliberately ignore them in order to attack a straw man. If the child were competent to make the choice, and fatally ill, and suffering unbearably, and wanted to commit suicide, then yes, I think we should let her. If not, not. I can't believe you don't see these obvious responses to your arguments.

No, you don't. But you sure think your experiences apply to others.

Why not? What makes you think they don't? What's so different about my experiences vis-a-vis loved ones with chronic bearable pain that makes them inapplicable?

Look. Here's what I object to in Luse. He takes a very common thing that people in these situations do--bond with their children postmortem, even in cases of active euthanasia--and says, I don't get it and I think what they're doing is wrong. He finds their behavior hard to square with his pretheoretical belief that women in these circumstances just didn't get the babies they wanted and so feel justified in murdering them. But it is obvious to me that this is not what's going on and why someone would behave that way, and anyway, it is pretty common. So I wonder why he's so confident in his judgment that this phenomena, which he admits he doesn't understand, is wrong.

On the other hand, you're just saying that there's something I don't understand. You don't say what it is, or why you think I don't get it.

With your posts we have a demonstration of the pro-choice inability to justify the moral categories of "1. the non-fatal nature of the illness; 2. the bearable nature of the suffering; 3. the self-awareness of the child; 4. the capacity of the child to formulate and express its own wishes." Which means they are arbitrary.

I didn't argue for them because I thought that anyone with any level of familiarity with these issues would find it obvious what I was doing. But since you ask, I'll sketch some defenses. (I take them in reverse order for ease of exposition.)

4. I have already defended the moral relevance of this condition in this post and elsewhere upthread.

3. The idea that self-awareness is crucially connected to the right to life has a long history, and there is an extensive body of literature surrounding it. Rather than devote a bunch of space to defending it, I suggest you consult some anthologies and encyclopedia articles.

2. If someone suffers bearably, there is a good chance that the person's life is worth living. There is a poor chance that the person's life is not worth living. Whether or not the person's suffering is bearable therefore represents one boundary condition for the permissibility of euthanasia--the point of which is to end only those lives that are not worth living; to end only those lives such that the earlier it ends, the better off the person whose life it is will be. If the pain is bearable, then ceteris paribus the life is worth living. (Again, the literature on this topic is vast.)

1. This condition is often given epistemological justification. There are always difficulties surrounding judgments concerning whether euthanasia is warranted in particular cases. In cases involving non-terminal illnesses, these difficulties are compounded. I assume I don't have to explain how. In terminal cases, however, the problems can sometimes be manageable. In such cases, it is sometimes possible to know that the illness is terminal; that the associated pain is unbearable; if the patient is competent to make the decision, that she is competent; if the patient is incompetent, then it may be either possible to know what the patient's wishes would be, or else the person who is charged with making the decision on the patient's behalf may exercise his judgment. In such cases, euthanasia may be warranted. The neonatalness of neonatal cases is not an additional complicating factor; it is included in the "competence" condition. And in such a case, the mother must make a decision one way or the other; choosing a natural death is choosing. And yet again, the literature on this topic is vast.

I know you don't believe any of these things, but that doesn't mean that they're indefensible, or undefended, or incorrect. The fact that you think I can't defend the claim that these details are relevant, or that you thought no defenses could be given, or that you thought no defenses had been given really just shows that you lack background familiarity with the basic issues and literature surrounding this topic.

So, in your own words, you should mind your own business instead of imposing your moral categories on her when you don't know what she's going through. Understand the pro-choice argument here?

There is no pro-choice argument here. Your argument is that if I think that people should mind their own business in one narrowly described case, then I am compelled by consistency to think that everyone must always mind their own business in every possible case, irrespective of the details. But that is, of course, super-duper silly and totally incorrect. I can point to morally relevant differences between the cases, and I can explain why they're morally relevant, and I thereby prove that your analogy fails.

Why should those things be imposed on others through legal force?

Legal force? What are you talking about? Nobody's using legal force. The only one who used force was Scott Roeder.

You can only appeal to what's obvious to your intuitions, which is not obvious to the mother's intuitions, and since you do not share her precise experiences, you can not claim what she is doing is wrong. In the end, it is her choice, not yours. That's where the pro-choice position leads. One mother's moral intuitions versus another mother's moral intuitions.

For one thing, this always happens when intuitions clash. For another thing, sometimes it is her choice, not yours. For another thing, I can defend my intuitions. So far all you've done is forcefully state your intuitions, propose obviously specious and obtuse analogies, and make simple, direct appeal to a moral theory that nobody on the other side of the debate is the least bit inclined to regard as remotely plausible.

I don't have time to go back through the thread, but I brought up my friend's case because often people defending Tiller's actions will use phrases and terms like "desperate," "had no other choice," and the like. I have no doubt at all--though, of course, Zero may say that the following statement does not apply to him--that if my friends had had their child's brains sucked out, there are _many_ in the pro-choice crowd who would have used such phrases of them. Oh, and I would also include, "What else could they do?" There is a very strong fatalistic bent in much rhetoric surrounding abortion, especially of disabled children--an unstated but implicit idea that people are somehow forced by these horrible circumstances to have their children killed. The fact that many people do _not_ have their children killed under these circumstances shows that this is false. I do not attribute this position to Mr. Zero, though I wonder, if circumstances were different, just how he would talk about people in my friends' position who did choose to abort. As we will probably never know, I won't push on that, though.

Mr. Zero:

I'm getting pretty tired of McGrew exegesis. Her original quote and our respective positions are on record here, and interested persons can make up their own minds about precisely what point she was responding to, what point she was making, and the relevance and cogency of that point. I see no reason to engage in further discussion.
This was true at any point of the discussion. My hope was to understand why you insisted on reading her as accusing you of something when she explicitly referred to _not_ you in her comment. I also was confused as to why you would adopt a double-standard with respect to her and your use of anecdote. But I agree that you're not likely to admit error here, so it's up to readers.

Look. I could write a primer on the relevant literature surrounding the ethics of euthanasia. Or, I could do something else and suggest you consult the Stanford Encyclopedia or Wikipedia or something.

Nice punt that misses the point.

Very simply, because if the child can formulate its own wishes, then the mother has a prima facie duty to carry out those wishes. In cases where the child cannot, the mother must exercise her own judgment about what the child's wishes would be, and then carry out those wishes. This is true whether the mother is pro-choice or pro-life.
You seem to misunderstand the point of my question. The point is not to ask you to re-hash why you believe a mother's ethical duty obtains, but why--from a pro-choice perspective--your opinion on the matter should be imposed on a mother who does not so think. The pro-choice argument is not an "anti-suffering" argument or a "pro-compassion" argument. It is not even a pro-abortion or pro-euthanasia argument. It is the argument that the resolution of these difficult questions should be up to the choice of the mother and not imposed by the choices of others. That's why it's called "pro-choice" and not anti-suffering or pro-abortion.

The Supreme Court justices who ruled in Lawrence v. Texas, who apparently understand what the pro-choice position is much better than you do, wrote this to defend the choice of an individual with respect to these kinds of questions:

The Casey decision again confirmed that our laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. Id., at 851. In explaining the respect the Constitution demands for the autonomy of the person in making these choices, we stated as follows: "These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.
So, again, the point you keep on missing is that no one cares what your personal opinion is on what you would do if you were the woman with a child in pain. The question is how the pro-choice position allows you to impose your moral opinion on another woman and still be pro-choice.
If the child were competent to make the choice, and fatally ill, and suffering unbearably, and wanted to commit suicide, then yes, I think we should let her. If not, not. I can't believe you don't see these obvious responses to your arguments.
I see the obvious responses, but your obvious is incoherent or perhaps arbitrary. If the child is "competent" to make the choice, how is it "pro-choice" to legally forbid suicide because the child is not fatally ill or in "unbearable" pain. The pro-life position has a coherent, non-arbitrary answer. The pro-choice position necessitates the use of factors external to choice that are arbitrary additions; that is, if what matters ultimately is choice, then, other moral factors are merely arbitrary options one could choose to accept or not, but do not form a basis for public enforcement, as the pro-choice Supreme Court justices understood. You, apparently, do not.
Why not? What makes you think they don't? What's so different about my experiences vis-a-vis loved ones with chronic bearable pain that makes them inapplicable?
Because your experiences are not the woman's experiences. Therefore, you don't understand exactly what she's going through and have no right to impose your opinions on her. Again, this is the pro-choice position, which I find incredible.
Look. Here's what I object to in Luse. He takes a very common thing that people in these situations do--bond with their children postmortem, even in cases of active euthanasia--and says, I don't get it and I think what they're doing is wrong. He finds their behavior hard to square with his pretheoretical belief that women in these circumstances just didn't get the babies they wanted and so feel justified in murdering them. But it is obvious to me that this is not what's going on and why someone would behave that way, and anyway, it is pretty common. So I wonder why he's so confident in his judgment that this phenomena, which he admits he doesn't understand, is wrong.
Okay, I think I understand what you're getting at here and it's somewhat reasonable. I actually don't know what Luse said, but I'll just say this: I don't think it's unreasonable for him to sharply criticize the practice of bonding with corpses of children put to death by the parents without understanding why the parents did it. How can these be? In the same way no one has to understand why a man steals bread (maybe he's starving or his kids are starving) to know it is wrong. Surely you must admit it is possible that one may know enough without fully understanding why someone does something to know that an action is wrong.

As for the specific knowledge that would enable someone to legitimately criticize a parent for bonding with a corpse of a child they killed even while not understand the intentions of the parent, I haven't thought it through, but it strikes me at first that there's a fundamental kind of self-centered and self-sure despair inherent the parents' actions which is disrespectful of the life of the other in that it actively ends it rather than caring for it till natural, non-human initiated death. I'm sure you disagree, but I don't think that it's fair for you to reduce Luse's thoughts to "I don't get it and I think what they're doing is wrong... women in these circumstances just didn't get the babies they wanted and so feel justified in murdering them." Do you think that might be a possibility? Maybe, for instance, pro-lifers recognize the "good, compassionate intentions" of SOME parents and yet find those intentions lacking as a justification of homicide. Possibility? I know you really really really think it's OBVIOUS that unbearable pain for the fatally ill is a sufficient justification for homicide that anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy or evil, and you may or may not be willing to question that assumption, but at least can we say that it's a possibility that we are neither crazy nor evil nor agreeable to your assumption. And maybe you should try to understand why.

Secondly, I think it is often the case that pro-choice people like yourself will cite the "best" case scenarios to illustrate their position and criticize people like Luse for criticizing the most egregious (ab)uses of a pro-choice position NOT because those cases make up the complete set of pro-choice cases but because they happen and the pro-choice community doesn't criticize it, much like they largely do not criticize rich, healthy girls who get pregnant with a healthy baby and decide to kill the baby just because they don't want to deal with it. At the very least, pro-choice people who want their position to be recognized by pro-life folks as serious would publicly oppose these "cheap" abortions.

I didn't argue for them because I thought that anyone with any level of familiarity with these issues would find it obvious what I was doing. But since you ask, I'll sketch some defenses. (I take them in reverse order for ease of exposition.) ... I know you don't believe any of these things, but that doesn't mean that they're indefensible, or undefended, or incorrect. The fact that you think I can't defend the claim that these details are relevant, or that you thought no defenses could be given, or that you thought no defenses had been given really just shows that you lack background familiarity with the basic issues and literature surrounding this topic.
I apologize. I was being unclear. I did not mean to communicate that you didn't have justifications for believing that certain factors are morally relevant. I understand that you do and am aware of there existence.

There are two things going on here: one is the question of whether certain moral factors are relevant and justified. This is the question you gave an answer to, and I am aware that those arguments exist. The second thing is whether it is coherent for the pro-choice position to impose those moral conclusions on others while still remaining pro-choice as articulated by many pro-choice people and implied by the would-be philosophers on the Supreme Court.

Does that make sense? So when I say that "we have a demonstration of the pro-choice inability to justify the moral categories," I don't mean the first thing, I mean the second thing. Which, by the way, you still have not succeeding in doing, and that's been my main substantive point. Please understand that I am aware of arguments for actually choosing abortion/euthanasia; my concern is whether the pro-choice position itself is compatible with those pro-abortion/euthanasia arguments while still remaining pro-choice, and I used a test case with a suffering child to demonstrate the intrinsic incoherence and arbitrariness when trying to impose moral categories other than choice from a pro-choice position.

I may have confused things because, with respect to "the first thing," I believe that pro-lifers have adequately dealt with pro-euthanasia-for-those-suffering, etc. arguments and mentioned Dr. Beckwith and Robert George among others as having done work that has refuted them (see Embryo for one treatment) and remained unrefuted themselves. The fact that you are still harping on "unbearable suffering" and "fatal illness" as relevant moral categories tells me you haven't engaged with pro-life arguments. On the other hand, it's pretty easy for pro-lifers to engage pro-abortion or pro-euthanasia arguments because they are so common in academia and media.

The frustration for pro-lifers comes when pro-choice people attack pro-life people for imposing their moral categories and conclusions, and then proceed to impose their own moral categories and conclusions with a rhetoric of impartiality that pro-choicers are all about choice and compassion. Kind of like when you said this:

We who are pro-choice do not find our hearts uplifted when we think about these sorts of situations. We find them tragic and awful. We support the right of all mothers, whether they and their situation are just like your friend and her situation or not, to search their conscience and do what they think is the least wrong in horrible circumstances. We wouldn't presume to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy.

Vacuous double-standard. You would "presume to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy" if they chose morally objectionable choices, right? So the real question is whether it's a morally objectionable choice, right? So why use the stupid, emotional, manipulative rhetoric? Not "presuming to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy" follows from the truth of the claim that the choices being contemplated are morally neutral or good, so it's unnecessary to say self-righteous, arrogant and ultimately ignorant statements like that.

Your argument is that if I think that people should mind their own business in one narrowly described case because of the logic of specific pro-choice beliefs, then I am compelled by consistency to think that everyone must always mind their own business in every possible case, irrespective of the details.
I fixed that for you. The devil is in the details, isn't it? None of your moral factors which you deem to be relevant is valid under pro-choice logic and rhetoric. Shall I quote your sanctimonious quote to yourself again?
Legal force? What are you talking about? Nobody's using legal force. The only one who used force was Scott Roeder.
So, you wouldn't legally prohibit a mother from killing her child suffering moderate pain if she believed it was compassionate to kill him? Interesting.

Perhaps the problem is that you don't have the first clue what "pro-choice" means. For example, you say,

if what matters ultimately is choice, then, other moral factors are merely arbitrary options one could choose to accept or not, but do not form a basis for public enforcement, as the pro-choice Supreme Court justices understood. You, apparently, do not.

and

The question is how the pro-choice position allows you to impose your moral opinion on another woman and still be pro-choice.

and

The pro-choice argument is not an "anti-suffering" argument or a "pro-compassion" argument. It is not even a pro-abortion or pro-euthanasia argument. It is the argument that the resolution of these difficult questions should be up to the choice of the mother and not imposed by the choices of others. That's why it's called "pro-choice" and not anti-suffering or pro-abortion.

This is a really stupid, simple-minded, inaccurate, obviously false misinterpretation of the pro-choice position. The pro-choice position is that there are situations in which abortion is permissible (but not obligatory). In those situations it is the woman's right to choose. And no others. It is not a version of nihilism or agent-relativism. It is not the position that choosing is intrinsically good, that choice is the only thing that ultimately matters, that everyone always ought to mind their own business, or that there are no objective moral standards. It is the position that there are objective moral standards, and they sometimes permit abortion.

Most pro-choicers, for example, think that post-viability abortions are morally wrong except in extreme circumstances. I believe that, and the pro-choicers who wrote the opinion in Roe v. Wade at least thought it was a sensible position. Since your six-year-old case is obviously not one in which "abortion" is morally permissible, it is not the woman's right to choose.

The Supreme Court justices who ruled in Lawrence v. Texas, who apparently understand what the pro-choice position is much better than you do, wrote this to defend the choice of an individual with respect to these kinds of questions:

This is an interesting suggestion, that Lawrence v. Texas is relevant to abortion and euthanasia, and that their understanding of my moral beliefs is superior to my own. I thought it was about the Constitutionality of laws prohibiting consensual homosexual interactions between autonomous adults. I really had no idea that if I accepted the court's reasoning in Lawrence v. Texas, I would be thereby compelled on pain of inconsistency to accept the pro-choice position with respect to involuntary euthanasia for six-year olds with chronic moderate pain.

I bet that Justice Kennedy would be enlightened to know this information. I think you should write him a letter and explain it to him.

But seriously. Think about it for a second. If the Court's reasoning in Lawrence v. Texas had the consequences you claim, then its issuance would have rendered laws prohibiting involuntary euthanasia for six-year olds in moderate pain unconstitutional. Do you think that this, or anything like it, was an effect of Lawrence v. Texas?

Therefore, you don't understand exactly what she's going through and have no right to impose your opinions on her. Again, this is the pro-choice position, which I find incredible.

I see why you find the pro-choice position incredible. It's your fault, though, because you've completely failed to comprehend what it is.

the point you keep on missing is that no one cares what your personal opinion is on what you would do if you were the woman with a child in pain.

The point that you keep missing concerns what the pro-choice position is.

The second thing is whether it is coherent for the pro-choice position to impose those moral conclusions on others while still remaining pro-choice as articulated by many pro-choice people and implied by the would-be philosophers on the Supreme Court.

Ok, I'm sorry. I see your point, now. I misunderstood you because I thought you knew what you were talking about. Again, your point predicated on a misunderstanding of the pro-choice position. Once you understand what position pro-choicers hold, it is easily seen to be coherent.

Mr. Zero:

This is a really stupid, simple-minded, inaccurate, obviously false misinterpretation of the pro-choice position. The pro-choice position is that there are situations in which abortion is permissible (but not obligatory). In those situations it is the woman's right to choose. And no others. It is not a version of nihilism or agent-relativism. It is not the position that choosing is intrinsically good, that choice is the only thing that ultimately matters, that everyone always ought to mind their own business, or that there are no objective moral standards. It is the position that there are objective moral standards, and they sometimes permit abortion.
I understand that pro-choice individuals like yourself believe that pro-choice reasoning is compatible with moral standards besides choice. Therefore, you simply condemn anyone who argues otherwise as not understanding the pro-choice position. However, you have no where demonstrated that pro-choice reasoning is compatible with moral standards besides choice. You have simply asserted that you hold to pro-choice reasoning and, simultaneously, these external moral standards. I agree and understand that you believe the both pro-choice rationale and also these moral standards external to choice. But, again, for the reasons I outlined above which you ignored in your rush to declare I simply don't understand the pro-choice position, it is incoherent for you to adhere to the pro-choice rationale and also to external moral factors that don't depend on choice. So again, I know that you believe these two incompatible sets of concepts; but you do so incoherently and are, still, unable to justify the compatibility. The only thing you can do is simply declare it to be obvious that they are compatible and therefore condemn me as misinterpreting the pro-choice position--which is precisely what your last post consists of. This is why I say that you continue to miss the point.

Most pro-choicers, for example, think that post-viability abortions are morally wrong except in extreme circumstances.
But is their rationale for doing so coherent? Surely you must admit the possibility that most people live with philosophical contradictions, that they believe two things simultaneously that are rationally incompatible. And as time goes on, the incoherence of their position leads them to embrace still greater and greater evils. Sure, most pro-choicers (might) think that post-viability abortions are morally wrong except in extreme circumstances. But is that position coherent? I would say no.
This is an interesting suggestion, that Lawrence v. Texas is relevant to abortion and euthanasia, and that their understanding of my moral beliefs is superior to my own. I thought it was about the Constitutionality of laws prohibiting consensual homosexual interactions between autonomous adults. I really had no idea that if I accepted the court's reasoning in Lawrence v. Texas, I would be thereby compelled on pain of inconsistency to accept the pro-choice position with respect to involuntary euthanasia for six-year olds with chronic moderate pain.
I think you're trying to go for a cheap shot again, Mr. Zero. Based on my estimation of your intelligence, I think you should have realized that while it is true (and I never said otherwise) that Lawrence v. Texas is about "the Constitutionality of laws prohibiting consensual homosexual interactions between autonomous adults," the reason for my bringing it up is that the philosophical rationale for their position is precisely the same conception that underlies the pro-choice position with respect to issues like abortion. You should have understood this from the quote I gave from the Court opinion:
The Casey decision again confirmed that our laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. Id., at 851. In explaining the respect the Constitution demands for the autonomy of the person in making these choices, we stated as follows: "These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”
If I played dumb and tried to take a sarcastic, cheap shot like you did, I would say it's obvious that the Court was thinking about other issues than laws concerning homosexual relations since they mentioned "procreation" and "contraception"--or do you believe homosexuals are worried about getting each other pregnant? Haha! See how easy it is to take a sarcastic cheap shot?
I bet that Justice Kennedy would be enlightened to know this information. I think you should write him a letter and explain it to him.
Well, I won't write him a letter, but it's because I don't think he will be enlightened even if I explain it to him.
The point that you keep missing concerns what the pro-choice position is.
The pro-choice position on abortion is the pro-choice rationale as applied to the issue of abortion in the context of other moral factors external to choice. I even will accept your individual formulation of it. But, the point that you keep missing, and therefore ignoring, is that the position itself--comprised of the pro-choice rationale/logic plus external moral factors, applied to the issue of abortion--is internally incoherent.
Once you understand what position pro-choicers hold, it is easily seen to be coherent.
Well, I guess "it's easily seen to be coherent" if people already agree with you that it's just obviously coherent such that you don't have to refute arguments but may simply assert that two incompatible sets of concepts are compatible. I see the light now!

I've been getting increasingly disappointed with your posts, Mr. Zero. Your cheap-shot blunder with respect to the opinion of the Supreme Court was certainly an unforced error. Also, your lack of engagement with my criticism here:

The frustration for pro-lifers comes when pro-choice people attack pro-life people for imposing their moral categories and conclusions, and then proceed to impose their own moral categories and conclusions with a rhetoric of impartiality that pro-choicers are all about choice and compassion. Kind of like when you said this:
We who are pro-choice do not find our hearts uplifted when we think about these sorts of situations. We find them tragic and awful. We support the right of all mothers, whether they and their situation are just like your friend and her situation or not, to search their conscience and do what they think is the least wrong in horrible circumstances. We wouldn't presume to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy.
Vacuous double-standard. You would "presume to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy" if they chose morally objectionable choices, right? So the real question is whether it's a morally objectionable choice, right? So why use the stupid, emotional, manipulative rhetoric? Not "presuming to tell your friend how to cope with such a tragedy" follows from the truth of the claim that the choices being contemplated are morally neutral or good, so it's unnecessary to say self-righteous, arrogant and ultimately ignorant statements like that.

... and your lack of comprehension combined with an irrelevant cheap shot here:

Legal force? What are you talking about? Nobody's using legal force. The only one who used force was Scott Roeder.
So, you wouldn't legally prohibit a mother from killing her child suffering moderate pain if she believed it was compassionate to kill him? Interesting.

... and a refusal to acknowledge your errors makes me believe you are not as intellectually open-minded as I had believed. Or perhaps you are impatient, which I could understand since we've gone on for multiple comments, except that your lack of comprehension of what I am writing means you have not earned the right to be impatient.

But perhaps I am not being clear enough myself in my writings.

Dear Albert,

I'm sorry that you haven't been satisfied with my replies, and that you think I'm taking cheap shots. It's just that you don't understand the pro-choice position. Your accusations of incoherence, inconsistency, and incredibility are all due to your own failure to comprehend what the pro-choice position is, what background moral beliefs inform it, which moral principles are primary, and how these beliefs interact with each other.

A case in point is this business about Lawrence v. Texas. It’s just not an abortion case. The business about laws prohibiting contraception has a long history, going back to Giswold v. Connecticut, and although the Court applied the same reasoning there as it did in Roe--that there exists a right to privacy--it is not as though pro-choicers argue from the fact that there exists a right to contraception that there exists a right to abortion. Apparently we can add legal precedent to the list of things you don’t understand.

The case has absolutely nothing with whether involuntary euthanasia for six-year olds in chronic moderate pain is legally or morally permissible. The constitution, as it is currently interpreted, says that the State has an interest in protecting the mother’s right to privacy at the expense of the embryo/fetus during the first trimester, but that this priority begins to shift during the second trimester, and is reversed by the end of the third. Morally speaking, the pro-choice position has some difficulty distinguishing between certain fetuses and certain infants, but none whatsoever distinguishing between fetuses and six-year olds. Maybe you don’t think these positions are defensible, but you haven’t demonstrated that they’re incoherent. Anyway, I'm sorry I misinterpreted your point about legal force. I had no idea that you were making such a ridiculous point. Do you really think that Lawrence v. Texas introduces a privacy-based constitutional prohibition on laws against killing six-year-olds? Because it doesn’t.

And your suggestion that homosexuals cannot get each other pregnant is not, as you claim, a sarcastic cheap shot. It's just another naked display of ignorance. Did you really not know that homosexuals can reproduce and have an interest in securing reproductive rights for themselves? Artificial insemination. Surrogacy. Adoption. Didn’t you know that some people enjoy sex with people of either gender, and that such people have an interest in using contraception?

Furthermore, the legal, constitutional argument that abortion ought to be legal are independent of the moral argument that abortion is sometimes morally permissible. I'm not aware of any pro-choice ethical argument that makes the right to privacy a centerpiece. Thomson, Tooley, and Warren, for example, focus on the fetus's moral status (Thomson denies this, though there’s controversy about how seriously to take this denial), which rights it has, and the manner in which its rights interact with those of the mother.

The pro-choice position, properly articulated, is not incoherent. It says that at least some abortions are permissible, and that in those cases, it is the mother's right to choose. It is not the view that "choice" is of central moral importance, and that all other moral considerations are secondary. The right to choice is not a fundamental right; it is derived from other, more basic principles. In all cases. It is consistent with some abortions being impermissible, and with the mother having no right to choose in such situations. I know you're getting tired of me telling you that you don't understand what "pro-choice" means, but on the other hand, you keep insisting that the pro-choice position is this really stupid thing that has no relationship to the actual pro-choice position. I'll stop if you stop.

There is ongoing controversy among pro-choicers about the precise necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for the permissibility of abortion, but all pro-choice views have this basic structure. It's not "internally incoherent"; it's exactly like all other applied-ethical views in that respect. For example, I'm pro-choice about drinking beer. I think it's morally permissible to drink beer, and for each person it's her choice whether she wants to drink beer, and others should mind their own business. Of course, there are exceptions. Air-traffic controllers should not drink beer on the job. People who are about to drive should not drink beer. Beer-drinking autonomy is valuable, but it can be outweighed. This doesn't introduce incoherence; it just means I have a nuanced, slightly complex view about the morality of beer drinking. It would be pretty obtuse for someone to give me a hard time about how I reconcile my pro-choice beer position with the existence of external moral factors and constraints.

There are a number of possible reasons to think that some abortions are permissible while others are not. You might think, with Thomson, that abortion is permissible in those cases in which the pregnancy does not result from some voluntary action with knowledge of the consequences. You might think that because suffering is what is morally important, abortions are permissible as long as the fetus doesn't suffer, or as long as it causes less suffering than the alternative. Or you might think, as Tooley does, that the fetus doesn't have a right to life until it achieves psychological personhood, which occurs sometime during the toddler stage. If you thought that, you might think infanticide is not wrong, or is wrong for some reason not related to the infant's right to life. Or you might think that there is some other threshold. You might think that the fetus's attainment of moral standing is gradual, and that there is no precise threshold. You, Albert, may find these positions to be counterintuitive, or even morally repugnant, but they are not incoherent.

I am getting a little impatient with you. It's just that you don't know what "pro-choice" means; you don't know which court cases are relevant or what the legal consequences of those cases are; you lack basic familiarity with the relevant philosophical literature and arguments. I mean, you didn't know that gay people can reproduce, use contraception, or that they have an interest in securing reproductive rights. You thought that the pro-choice position is that choices are the ultimate objects of value. You think that Lawrence v. Texas is the definitive statement of the pro-choice view. You think that if I accept the court's reasoning in L v. T, then there's no coherent way for me to hold that involuntary euthanasia for six-year olds is wrong (illegal?). You’re trying to tell me that not only have I failed to understand Lv. T, but so has the Justice who wrote the opinion. At every turn, there's something crucial and basic that you fail to understand. At every turn, you find something incredible because you don't know what you're talking about.

And then you accuse me of taking cheap shots and being intellectually dishonest. You are, in many ways, the worst kind of interlocutor. You combine near-complete ignorance with near-complete self confidence. And then you keep coming back and saying it's my fault because I keep misunderstanding you. Well, I do keep misunderstanding you. And every time I've misunderstood you, it's been because I've overestimated the quality of the point you were making. For these reasons, I really don't see the point in continuing this conversation. Feel free to continue without me, but I can't help but feel that this is a waste of my time.

Mr. Zero:

Sorry, I was away for the weekend, again.

As an aside, readers may note Mr. Zero's apparent difficulty with correctly understanding and rephrasing my comments, which he does not even quote, instead setting up strange artifices that cannot even qualify as straw-men representations of my words. Here's one example:

A case in point is this business about Lawrence v. Texas. It’s just not an abortion case. The business about laws prohibiting contraception has a long history, going back to Giswold v. Connecticut, and although the Court applied the same reasoning there as it did in Roe--that there exists a right to privacy--it is not as though pro-choicers argue from the fact that there exists a right to contraception that there exists a right to abortion. Apparently we can add legal precedent to the list of things you don’t understand.
I agree pro-choicers do not "argue from the fact that there exists a right to contraception that there exists a right to abortion." In fact, I haven't run across an argument so simplistic even in my dealings with pro-choice folks, which is why I do not suggest such a thing. My argument is not of the form "X -> Y" but is instead of the form "if A -> X, then A -> Y" which is obviously different and should appear as such. I do not understand why Mr. Zero insists on mischaracterizing even the basic form of my argument, but I admit it makes my response much shorter, which might be what he is aiming for, judging from his last paragraph.

The case has absolutely nothing with whether involuntary euthanasia for six-year olds in chronic moderate pain is legally or morally permissible. The constitution, as it is currently interpreted, says that the State has an interest in protecting the mother’s right to privacy at the expense of the embryo/fetus during the first trimester, but that this priority begins to shift during the second trimester, and is reversed by the end of the third. Morally speaking, the pro-choice position has some difficulty distinguishing between certain fetuses and certain infants, but none whatsoever distinguishing between fetuses and six-year olds.
Again, the underlying pro-choice rationale concerning the relationship between criminal law and morality and assumptions concerning issues relating to "marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education" (Lawrence v. Texas) include assumptions concerning the moral status of the embryo/fetus. That is why Lawrence v. Texas references Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
It must be acknowledged, of course, that the Court in Bowers was making the broader point that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives. These considerations do not answer the question before us, however. The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law. “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.” Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 850 (1992).
Again, your overwrought protestations that I just don't understand the pro-choice position notwithstanding, I do. This is the pro-choice rationale that undermined laws against abortion and laws against sodomy. It says that the Courts cannot impose a moral code on others, which presupposes an understanding of morality, religious belief, law, etc., which is quite incoherent with opposition against infanticide and the compassionate killing of 6-year-olds. I wish the pro-choice position were more intelligent, but this is what actually undermined the laws against abortion and sodomy. As for the pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia arguments, some of those are certainly more intelligent but have been adequately refuted by people you will probably never read.

I look forward to your evasions and protestations.

Anyway, I'm sorry I misinterpreted your point about legal force. I had no idea that you were making such a ridiculous point. Do you really think that Lawrence v. Texas introduces a privacy-based constitutional prohibition on laws against killing six-year-olds? Because it doesn’t.
Right. It's so ridiculously obvious! Yawn.
And your suggestion that homosexuals cannot get each other pregnant is not, as you claim, a sarcastic cheap shot. It's just another naked display of ignorance. Did you really not know that homosexuals can reproduce and have an interest in securing reproductive rights for themselves? Artificial insemination. Surrogacy. Adoption. Didn’t you know that some people enjoy sex with people of either gender, and that such people have an interest in using contraception?
??? This is what I said:
If I played dumb and tried to take a sarcastic, cheap shot like you did, I would say it's obvious that the Court was thinking about other issues than laws concerning homosexual relations since they mentioned "procreation" and "contraception"--or do you believe homosexuals are worried about getting each other pregnant?
You see, when homosexual people have sex with each other, they can't get pregnant. In the context of the Lawrence v. Texas Court decision, which I clearly was referencing seeing as I explicitly wrote "Court," this means that when a man sodomizes another man, he can't get the guy pregnant. I wrote this to make the point you apparently find difficult to understand that the Court had other things in mind (procreation, contraception) when writing their opinion on the legalization of sodomy, not to talk about whether technologies exist today where the genetic material of two gay men or two gay women or one gay man and an unknown surrogate or a lesbian and a gay or bisexual man can be used to create an embryo. Do you understand now? It's probably a good idea not to take someone out of context. That's also understood to be a cheap shot.
And then you accuse me of taking cheap shots and being intellectually dishonest. You are, in many ways, the worst kind of interlocutor. You combine near-complete ignorance with near-complete self confidence. And then you keep coming back and saying it's my fault because I keep misunderstanding you. Well, I do keep misunderstanding you. And every time I've misunderstood you, it's been because I've overestimated the quality of the point you were making. For these reasons, I really don't see the point in continuing this conversation. Feel free to continue without me, but I can't help but feel that this is a waste of my time.
You do take cheap shots, as is quite evident by now. You also fail to understand my words and the relevant historical background material for understanding the arguments at stake, which is also quite evident by now despite your repetitive walls of text by which you valiantly strive to maintain an appearance of knowledge and depth while missing my points. I am sure none of this will dispel your explicit belief in my "near-complete ignorance," but I'm perfectly willing to let the comments stand for now since you have demonstrated an inability to engage competently with others who disagree with you.

I would suggest you actually read some pro-life material, though. It would seem you've spent enough time reading pro-choice writings which have only served to close your mind off to different perspectives by hardening the plausibility structures of your thinking into shapes that mal-form pro-life arguments that enter your mind into something you can understand with a fundamentally pro-choice paradigm but which distorts the meaning of those arguments, if those pro-life arguments don't immediately bounce off your brain uncomprehended.

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