October 20, 2006


Medical Ethics: Doctors join South Dakota's effort to ban abortion (Jonathan Cohn, 10/20/06, TNR Online)

It's not often you see large groups of physicians speaking out against abortion rights. Maybe it's because their scientific training makes them less likely to accept the dictates of faith. Maybe it's because they tend to be well-off financially, and wealthy people tend to be more liberal on social issues. Or maybe it's simply because they don't like outsiders telling them when they can and cannot perform medical procedures. Whatever the reason, though, anecdotally, the medical community has generally supported giving women the right to obtain abortions. In fact, it's the one issue on which the medical community seems to lean most conspicuously to the left.

That's why a new television advertisement running in South Dakota is so striking. [...]

[W]hen doctors don the white coats to address the public, they create the impression that they will be conveying medical information and hard facts--that they will be acting as scientists, not moralists. And yet moralizing is precisely what the physicians in that commercial are doing. Consider that first statement: "Science now proves that life begins at conception." This is an apparent reference to a finding by the state task force that laid the intellectual groundwork for the new ban. It's also absurd on its face. Science can prove a lot of things about the process of human reproduction, like what happens when a sperm and egg meet, how the newly formed zygote behaves after that point, when it implants in a woman's uterus, and so on. But the one thing science cannot "prove" is at which point in this process life actually begins--because, by definition, that is a subjective judgment based as much on moral and religious beliefs as on observable scientific facts.

The statement that 96 percent of abortions in South Dakota are for birth control is, in some ways, more curious. Insofar as the point of abortion is to end a pregnancy, and therefore control a birth, it would seem that every single abortion is a form of birth control--in the same way, say, that steering a car could be called a form of motion control.

Of course, the point of this ad is to imply something else: To suggest that women are having abortions for frivolous reasons. The figure, 96 percent, comes from survey findings that only 4 percent of abortions are performed because of rape, incest, or concerns over the mother's health. The unstated assumption, then, is that all other abortions are, in the parlance of the right-to-life movement, "abortions of convenience."

But who's to say which reasons for an abortion are frivolous and which ones aren't? Is a woman with several children, already struggling to provide for them emotionally and economically, being cavalier if she chooses to end an unplanned pregnancy? What about a woman who simply doesn't feel ready to have a child?

Which is sillier, the notion that doctors oughtn't express traditional moral judgements or that inconvenience isn't a frivolous reason to kill a dependent?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 20, 2006 1:41 PM

"I swear by Apollo. . .."

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 20, 2006 1:51 PM

What about a twenty-something slacker or fortyish high school teacher who doesn't feel ready to be a father to his fifteen year old girlfriend's kid? (Besides, that statutory rape conviction really messes up your career development.)

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 20, 2006 1:54 PM

Yeah, but MD's only support abortion in the abstract. How many of them will put their money where their mouth is and perform one?

Posted by: Pepys at October 20, 2006 2:36 PM

I love the bit where the author tries to start an arguement about when Life begins. No one argues that life doesn't begin at conception. The question is when the "clump of cells" becomes human.........

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at October 20, 2006 3:42 PM
[T]he one thing science cannot "prove" is at which point in this process life actually begins--because, by definition, that is a subjective judgment based as much on moral and religious beliefs as on observable scientific facts.

It's relatively easy: As Ramesh Ponnuru has pointed out, it is obviously true that at one time you were a fertilized egg, or a fetus in development. In contrast, it is crazy to say you were once a sperm or an egg cell.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 20, 2006 4:51 PM

Nowadays "science" has become pretty subjective. I'll stick with trying to subjectively understand revelation. Humility required.

Posted by: jdkelly at October 20, 2006 6:41 PM

The humanity of the unborn may be, for some, a "subjective judgement based as much on moral or religious belief as on scientific fact." It is well that it should be as much for those for whom it were more purdent to defer to moral and religious authority than to guess at a matter of great consequence.

It is not only that, however. It remains a meatphysical judgement to be deduced from the evidence both derived from human experience and from that provided by science. Most assuredly this is not something out of sacred scripture, like saying Moses spoke to God in a burning bush. This one may believe or not, depending on how one reads the Bible. Nor is it like something one sect or denomination teaches and another may not, such as the the nature of the Holy Ghost, whether it may proceed from the Father and the Son or from the Father and the Son.

The pro-death side would like to trivialize our opposition the the Kindermord by reducing it to faith or theology. On the contrary, from what science tells us about conception and gestation we deduce with the highest degree of logical certainty, first, that the unborn possesses complete humanity, and second, that he or she will mature into an adult individual unless an outside force interferes with the presently existing process of developement.

Let the murdering pig who wrote the words, "Who's to say which reasons for an abortion are frivilous and which ones aren't?" have his answer. Lou Gots is to say. The South Dakota doctors are to say. Social, economic and cosmetic convenience are trivial reasons to take a life.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 20, 2006 8:15 PM

A little riled up tonght, Lou? It's OK. Your're right.

Posted by: jdkelly at October 20, 2006 8:25 PM

With each passing moment comes another chance to turn it all around.

With each new generation comes the realization of the mistakes of the former.

That's how human-kind progresses to the ultimate goal'


Want to know how to find humanity-?

True humanity can only be achieved, by concidering others/ caring about others, as much as, if not more than yourself.

Until we do we are no more than an uncivilisation,

with all the uncivilised things that we do...

Something for Pro-choicers and Pro-lifers to concider.....

World estimations of the number of terminations carried out each year is somewhere between 20 and 88 million.

3,500 per day / 1.3 million per year in America alone.

50% of that 1.3 million claimed failed birth control was to blame.

A further 48% had failed to use any birth control at all.

And 2% had medical reasons.

That means a stagering 98% may have been avoided had an effective birth control been used.

I am a 98% pro-lifer, 2% Pro-choicer, who has no religious convictions at all . I didn't need the fear of god or anything else to come to my decision, just a good sense of what is right and wrong.
You see we were all once a fetus. Is it beyond the realm of possibilities that when your mother first learned she was carrying you, she may have considered her options? What if she had decided to terminate? Would that have been OK?
You would not exist, if you have children they would not exist, and your (husband or wife) would be married to someone else. You would have been deprived of all your experiences and memories. In this day and age with terminations being so readily available and so many being carried out, if you make it to full term you can consider yourself lucky.
Lucky you had a mother that made the choice of life for you.

Don't you think they all deserve the same basic human right, LIFE?

At the point of conception is when life began for you. This was the start of your existence. Your own personal big bang. Three weeks after conception heart started to beat. First brain waves recorded at six weeks after conception. Seen sucking thumb at seven weeks after conception.

I am convinced that in the not too distant future, people will look back at many of the practices of today with disbelief and horror.

Posted by: ausblog at October 20, 2006 8:30 PM

"I am convinced that in the not too distant future, people will look back at many of the practices of today with disbelief and horror."

Me, too.

We already look upon the 20th century as a bloodbath and I think our descendents will lump legalized abortion together with the holocausts and genocides and consider them as related. I just wish the 20th century will hurry up and end.

Posted by: Emma at October 20, 2006 9:55 PM

Five Ways to Kill a Man (Edwin Brock)

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man.
Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see
that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2006 10:11 PM

ausblog - ditto.

Posted by: erp at October 21, 2006 10:03 AM