Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Show From: Oct. 14, 2009 (ABORTION RANT)

Abortion Rant

So, my topic for this week is abortion. This can be a touchy subject, and my particular viewpoints will not make the subject much easier to swallow. All the same, I ask you to hear me out to the end, as the final reasoning of my ideas make the face of my beliefs seem less extreme, or so I believe.
I do not have a problem with abortion, far from it. I fully support abortion, for any reason, of any unborn fetus. I believe that the happiness of any functioning human far outweighs any concern for what is no more than a small mass of cells.
And here comes the doozy: I support something that I term a “fourth trimester abortion.” Think about that for a second. Yes, I said it. I support the deliberate putting-to-death of an infant, up to three months after birth, in cases were the child is significantly mentally or physically disabled, to the point where we could reasonably determine that the negative experiences of their life would outweigh the positive ones.
You see, I put value on sentience—the power of experiencing sensation and feelings. With sentience we have the only thing that truly matters: the basis for the human condition, the ability to experience pain and experience joy. I do value different lives in different ways. Allow me to illustrate. In the hypothetical situation of choosing to save either the five year old or the fifteen year old, I choose the fifteen year old. Why? First, on the personal basis of the teen: he or she has the heightened ability to understand the value of life, and is in greater fear of death. They are fully conscious of the pain they will face and are able to consider the existential questions of what happens when I die, which add to the fear. They have formed connections and have memories, all of which they will b even more distraught to lose. Furthermore, the teen has had ten more years during which they have interacted with others, forming bonds with many more persons than the child. In this way, the death of the teen will cause significantly more people to grieve his loss. Returnging to the five year old, we must consider that they do not have the higher thinking ability and will not be able to consider the greater consequences of his or her death. The experience for them is significantly less traumatizing in this way. And, paralleling my example with the teen, the child does not have many connections to the people around them, and those they have been with have not had as much time to form as concrete bonds as the teen has. For someone like me, who values the greatest positivity in the world and the least negativity, there is a great difference in the value of a life.
But there are exceptions to this idea I have. What if the five year old is a child prodigy and the teenager is a severely handicapped person whose constant situation is to experience discomfort? In that case, who I save switches. Everything comes down to: how much positivity can we allow in the world and how much negativity can we prevent?
I save the adult over the child, the child over the dog, the dog over the ant, the ant over the amoeba. Descending levels of sentience, descending levels of value.
When it comes to destroying a fetus, we can be relatively certain that it has no emotional cognition. For that, you need a reference point. You need to know what sets off the pleasure center of your brain versus the pain center; you need to understand the value of being conscious before you can begin to concern yourself with the vagaries of the possibility of never being conscious again. Fetuses lack al of this. Therefore, their destruction leads to no positive or negative emotion from the fetus itself. Therefore, if the mother is made happy by the fetus’s destruction then we have introduced more positive emotion into the world.
Now, to defend my position on the so-called fourth trimester abortion, I say this: some abortions are too dangerous to do inside the womb, and some disabilities are not discovered until a little while after the child is born. Before the child grows up and has experiences, and begins to develop those reference points that allow them to begin to understand and better feel pain and terror, we could determine, somehow, if the child’s disability would lead to a significantly negative life. We draw an arbitrary line at three months so as to prevent things going out of control. This allows time for the child’s condition to develop and for the family and physicians to discuss the options and the child’s proposed quality of life. If the parents choose to keep the child and raise it as best they can, then alright. If the parents choose to be humane and allow the child to be killed, all the better. There is enough suffering in the world. Let’s stop some of it before it has a chance to get started.
Now I will discuss a few counterpoints. The biggest argument I hear is the “life begins at conception” idea. Any religiously based defenses of this are dismissed out of hand. People say that a fetus is human and humans have rights, therefore fetus’s have rights, QED. This particular argument is fundamentally flawed, and is easily demonstrated as such. First off, humans do not inherently have rights because we are human. Our governments and our society affords us that. Beyond that, we know that merely being human does not give you equal rights to every other human within the same social or political environment. Humans are given different rights based on a variety of different factors. You get sent to jail, you loose some rights. You’re born a male, you lose the right to enter a women’s room. You turn eighteen you earn the right to vote; you turn twenty-one you earn the right to drink alcohol. If you are born Native American you are given the right to cultivate an otherwise highly illegal substance. And, for the most part, if you are unborn, you have no right to life. There is nothing inherent in one’s genetic composition that affords it any rights.
And don’t give me the adoption argument. There are too many children needing to be adopted as is in this world. We don’t need any more.
The other big objection I hear is that of what I will call the “Baby Mozart Fallacy,” this idea that just because the child could turn out to be the next Mozart that it needs to live. First off, this argument dies when you propose that the fetus could also turn out to be the next Jeffery Dahmer. Secondly, potential proves nothing. It is not a real positive effect on the world, but an imagined one. And thirdly, the potentiality argument is shown to be a bit absurd when we consider that every one of my own ejaculations has the potential to be a person. Should I run to a sperm bank every time I need to masturbate? Should every woman, from the moment she begins to menstruate be required to conceive, lest she deposit hundreds of little potential Johnnies and Janies onto little Kotex pads over the course of her life? How would we even keep up with all that potential, what with the millions of viable sperm in every ejaculation and the severe dearth of women to accomadate that. Theoretically, I could produce enough sperm to bless every fertile woman on Earth with a little Edwin Jr. But then what about the potential of my co-host’s sperm? Granted, I may be taking this argument on a small trip down a slippery slope, but I’m trying to prove the point that you can put the moment of potential at any point on the line. Some people just want to place that arbitrary moment at the point when the sperm and the egg come together. I say, potentiality is imaginary, and is therefore insufficient to base legislation on.
To sum up my argument: if a woman wants to kill anything in her womb, even just for kicks, I say go for it. If the child has been born and a handicap that we could reasonably determine to cause more pain than joy can be identified within three months of the birth I say allow the parents to terminate the child. In my heart of hearts I’d honestly say we should require it.


Goliath said...

Hey there. Goliath (AKA Dan) here. Thought I'd share some of my thoughts on your rant with you. I'll even tie animals into it, somehow.

Let me start off by saying that I am also pro-choice. Let us first assume that there are no disabilities with the child or problems with the pregnancy. I would say that abortions should be allowed up until the point the child could be born and have a decent chance at surviving. That's about 20 - 22 weeks-ish, I think (correct me if I'm wrong). Any time before that, what is growing inside the woman is not human but a group of cells. But in that grey area (and it is quite a big grey area, which makes this a difficult issue) of 20 - 22 weeks or later, I would say that now that it could be born and survive, it has gained rights as a human being. Therefore, the woman could no longer get a legal abortion. I believe that 20 - 22 weeks is ample time to make a decision. If not, something should be done to make the decision process easier and more efficient. Thus, both womens' rights are protected as well as the rights of the now human growing inside her. You said, "...potentiality is imaginary, and is therefore insufficient to base legislation on." I partially agree with that, but once we know that the developing child can be born and survive, that is no longer potential; it is certain. Again, this is all assuming there is no problem with the pregnancy.

Why? Well, while you place value on sentience, and I do as well, life in general has value, too. When a mass of cells gains the ability to be born, it has become life (not at conception). This is where my being a vegetarian comes into play. (Stay with me on this, haha.) Late in May I decided that I could no longer eat an animal and feel like a moral person because I have caused harm, even if indirectly. What the meat industry does is absolutely cruel and inhumane, in my opinion, and the money one spends on meat goes to support them. Just because we possess power over animals does not give us the right to enslave them and abuse them as we do.

(cont. due to char limit)

Goliath said...

This goes for anything - those in power often abuse those who are weaker, but that is immoral. Now, if you own a farm and you are kind to your animals, or if you plan on hunting your own food, do as you wish. I don't have a problem with that. That is more humane and much less wasteful than modern industry. You may feel that it is ok to eat an animal, but I do not want to be a part of it. I refuse to take part in what I consider to be a massacre. I do, however, encourage people to eat LESS meat, not stop altogether, unless they desire to do so. If everyone in the US ate 33% less meat than they currently do, think of the health benefits! Also, a good chunk of global warming gases come from farming. Yes, billions of pounds of cow feces laying around does make a difference. Diseases from said cow feces can also seep into groundwater and find their way back to us. Meat industries don't care about where they dump their waste, even if it's in a local river. The food we grow to feed these farm animals can still be grown and shipped overseas to those less fortunate than we, so farmers can keep growing and selling as much as they do. It's a win-win. However, it is wrong of me to force my dietary choice upon you. We are not superior to animals in any way; we are just different. We possess abilities that they do not, but they also have abilities that we lack. When was the last time you produced sonar or made a venom sac? Our senses pale in comparison to some animals - hawks have good eyes, dogs have excellent noses and ears, etc. We have good brains, which just turned out to be the most advantageous. Also, a handful animals may actually be sentient; I learned this in psychology. There is some evidence that apes and dolphins are sentient, and I can go into this further if you wish. That being said, having the potential to be born and survive is the start of true life, and life I must respect, to the best of my ability, be it human or animal, sentient or not. Once again, we are assuming there are no complications or problems in the pregnancy.

For me, that hypothetical with the 5 year old and the 15 year old is like asking me to save my brother or sister. (Well, I don't actually have a sister, but you get the idea.) I don't know that I could make a rational decision because I would value my brother and sister equally, as I would the 5 and 15 year old. Perhaps I'd save a 15 year old over a 95 year old, but that's due to age.

(cont. again)

Goliath said...

I know you or someone else may have questions about the whole veggie thing and morality and animal rights and such but I will answer them another time. For now, back to abortion. Now, if there are problems with the pregnancy, this complicates things drastically. It depends on what kind of disorder they have (down syndrome vs. diabetes vs. HIV). This is extremely difficult. Having HIV/AIDS isn't a death sentence anymore, but it is still certainly not a "normal" life you're going to lead. Down syndrome is another story, yet diabetes is quite manageable. Ultimately, because we cannot hear the voice of what the child wants (maybe all babies DON'T want to live?), we must listen to the voice of those who carry it to term. So, it must be up to the parent(s). Perhaps we can come up with a long list of diseases/disorders that warrant an acceptable abortion or not. For example, it would be acceptable to abort a baby with down syndrome but not diabetes because it is far more manageable. That would be the moral thing to do, but it would take time.

I agree with you on trying to have as much "positive" and the least amount of "negative" in the world. As harsh as a fourth trimester abortion sounds, I cannot think of a point against it, so long as there is a complication of some kind. It may be more moral to end the suffering of an individual sooner rather than later. Though we hear success stories here and there, the vast number of children born with disabilities don't make it very far.

This is a tough issue to get a handle on and I'm sure there's even more to talk about. But one final point I'd like to bring up is outlawing abortion will not change anything. People will find a way to do something to themselves if they want to. We can't regulate what people do to their own bodies unless we watch them 24/7. People who want to smoke weed will find a way to smoke weed. Women who want to get abortions will find a way to do it, but it'll be more dangerous because they lack medical expertise. We can regulate what people do to each other (murder), but not what people do in private.