Not Saussure

June 6, 2007

Nadine Dorries MP on abortion

Filed under: Abortion, UK — notsaussure @ 10:33 pm

Nadine Dorries MP has written a couple of posts about abortion (she’s agin it) and has had the shit deservedly ripped out of her by Trixie at Is There More To Life Than Shoes?, DK and Unity at Ministry of Truth.   Nevertheless, I will add a few words to the debate.

As I’ve said elsewhere, to my mind objections to abortion such as those raised by Ms Dorries are, essentially, theological ones; they depend on beliefs about the soul and when life begins and, quite simply, these are beliefs that a great number of people, rightly or wrongly, do not share with Ms Dorries. It is, quite simply, wrong for MPs to legislate on primarily theological grounds. The reason we have laws against murder and theft are not, as I keep on saying, because God forbids such activities (though I believe He does) but because you can’t have any sort of complex society in which people can go around murdering and robbing people with impunity. Society can, however, knock along reasonably well despite some of its members committing adultery and worshipping graven images, which is why we don’t ban those activities despite the fact that we have it on equally good authority that The Almighty disapproves of them, too.

My views on abortion are very much coloured by personal experience. Some twenty years ago, my then girlfriend found herself pregnant as a result of a condom bursting (baby oil and condoms do not mix, experto crede). What to do? This is two intelligent professionals in their 30s we’re talking about, remember, and it wasn’t an easy decision for either of us. One thing we were both completely clear about, though, was that, ultimately, it had to be her decision and — this was what was foremost in my mind — was that whatever my views on the matter, ultimately the only honourable thing I could do was support her in whatever decision she took.

Unfortunately, at least from my point of view, she decided — unwillingly — that an abortion was the least bad option. I didn’t agree, but I could see it from her point of view and, as I said, all I could honourably do was give her all the love and support I could in what was, I know, a very difficult decision for her.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, if anyone had the right to interfere with her decision, it was me. And I certainly didn’t think, and still don’t think, I had that right.

That being the case, I’m bloody sure no MP, nor any Cardinal of a church to which she did not belong, has any say in the matter. She asked me to drop her off at the end of the road where the clinic was, so she could walk in by herself (and, if she chose, turn round by herself). While I am not by nature a violent man, unless circumstances demand it, there is no law of God nor man that would have saved anyone who tried either to stop her or force her through those gates at the end of what I know was a very difficult walk for her, no matter what were my views on her decision.

42 Comments »

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Not So

    The other point i would add is that those who refuse to countenance abortion are usually the same crew who are willing to let terminally ill patients die in prolonged agony.

    What right have they to play God?

    It’s a brutal decision for women to make, and one that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives, but it’s their decision, not some interfering, ignorant, prejudiced government bureaucrat.

    Comment by pommygranate — June 7, 2007 @ 6:44 am

  2. It’s truly useless to try to convince BARBARIC WOMEN not to kill their own babies. Put up two rings, side by side, and in one ring put WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION champions in an all out bloody brawl and in the second ring, put an expectant mother on a gurney helping another WOMAN turn her late term, unborn BABY around so she can watch the babys perfectly formed wiggly little legs thrash around and she clamps down as tight as she can so as not to let the head pop all the way out so the other WOMAN can gash a hole in the back of that tiny BABY’S head and with her BABY’S blood gushing all over, they both watch as they take a vacuum and suck the BABY’S brains out and then throw the now MURDERED BABY on the floor. NOW. . .EVERYBODY VOTE! Are the BARBARIANS in ring number 1 or ring number 2??????

    Comment by Thom — June 7, 2007 @ 7:38 am

  3. See now, there’s a point at which even the most reticent of lurkers will just HAVE to say something. This is a truly emotive subject and I have been in the same position as NotSo’s former partner and made the same choice, with the same support from my then partner, so hats off to you NotSo.
    This whole issue is muddied by relatively late abortions now that science can works wonder with very prem babies.
    And if we’re worrying about the rights of a mother to terminate a baby’s life why aren’t we equally incensed about those who knowingly impose foetal alcohol syndrome, drug addiction or other damage upon their unborn? As far as I’m aware it’s not illegal to do that, but it should be. After all, that’s child abuse and everyone, rightly, gets very upset about that too.

    Comment by Josephine Public — June 7, 2007 @ 8:29 am

  4. It’s one thing to “abuse” a baby, and we all hate that, but aborting a baby is NOT in the catagory of “abuse”. . . that catagory is MURDER. Abused means they went through something horrible but they survived. Babys do NOT survive being MURDERED.

    Comment by Thom — June 7, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  5. For those who might be “wrestling” with the “when does LIFE actually begin” question, it’s simple and scientific.

    Every person starts out as the combination of egg and sperm. Both the egg and the sperm are ALIVE!!!!

    I’ve personally held 3ft x 6ft pictures of an aborted fetus lying on a table next to, and the same size as a DIME; and it CLEARLY has eyes, ears, nose, torso, arms, legs, 10 fingers and 10 toes! It was NOW DEAD, but a few minutes earlier IT WAS ALIVE!

    IT WAS MURDERED for no crime that it did. The MOTHER was the MURDERER! No FEMALE, in the United States of America, is FORCED to have an abortion. The mother lies there holding the baby and does NOTHING to prevent another PERSON from killing it!! The MOTHER and the DOCTOR are equally guilty of MURDER.

    Supremely STUPID judges passed a law saying you could not prevent a woman from having an abortion, but that law says NO WHERE that a woman is REQUIRED to have an abortion.

    Comment by Thom — June 7, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  6. MURDER is a capital offense. It is punishable by either DEATH or Life in Prison without the possibility of parole.

    But I’m EASY. Tell the public that you’re absolutely sorry for murdering your baby and it was your first time and you were confused about the whole issue and you would NEVER do it again now that you know it’s really murder to do such a thing; and I’ll be the first one to stand on your side and say FORGIVE IT and let her go this time, and don’t ever bring it up again UNLESS she does it AGAIN! Then she pays the penalty of a murderer.

    Comment by Thom — June 7, 2007 @ 9:57 am

  7. NS, what do you think of the view that if one says one’s against abortion, the only logical position is to want to ban it?

    Comment by alabastercodify — June 7, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

  8. Thom, you say:

    Every person starts out as the combination of egg and sperm. Both the egg and the sperm are ALIVE!!!!

    So what you’re saying also is that masturbation is murder, because that kills sperms cell prematurely when they might otherwise survive for much longer in the testes.

    Oh, and of course sex kills millions of sperm cells as well and women’s kill at least one egg cell every 28 days due to menstruation.

    And then there’s the fact that 80% of fertilised eggs, which you consider to be alive, fail to implant in the womb and expelled from the woman’s body while still living?

    How do you account for that? Are you the kind of person that puts things down to ‘god’s will’ in which case doesn’t that (and miscarriages, of course) also make god an abortionist and, by your own arguments a murderer?

    Should we execute god for killing children on an unimaginable scale?

    Sorry, NS. I know I shouldn’t really play with the trolls but sometimes its hard to resist the temptation…

    Comment by Unity — June 7, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  9. Alabaster:

    Personally I’d say that the logic is faulty.

    It is perfectly possible, and reasonable even, to oppose something on moral/ethical grounds and yet still concede that that which you oppose may be a matter of necessity or take the view that, whatever you own views are, you do not have the right to impose them on others.

    Either position is a valid alternative to that which holds that you personal opposition to something demands that it should be banned outright.

    Comment by Unity — June 7, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  10. Thank you for this thread, ‘NS’, which reminds me why, despite my very slight tendency towards controversy, I try to avoid the subject of abortion over at my place. There is simply no middle ground upon which reasonable people might meet and compromise.

    I would make the following points without any hope or expectation of convincing anyone else.

    1: It is, I believe, encumbent upon pro-abortionists to make clear and unambiguous the point at which a foetus becomes a human and the scientific reasons for choosing that particular moment in time.

    2: Thom is wrong, I think, to suggest that independent sperms and eggs are in any way human. However, she would have a stronger case for saying, as I believe to be the case, that once the two fuse together the life process is up and running and should not be interfered with except under extreme and dire conditions – your real-life example would not be one in my view.

    3: I think you are being a little, dare I say ‘lawyerly’, in besmirching the case of the anti-abortionists by linking them with politicians and cardinals, after all, it was those same politicians, reflecting part of the society of the time, who brought in the legalisation of abortions. What Caesar gives, Caesar may take away – or something like that!

    4: Finally, society does have a right to interfere in such delicate maters because no social activity is ring-fenced. Thom exaggerates the case but it is a fact that in our country respect for human life has decreased in the last 60 years. If once you begin in one area to cease to cherish human life, it will rapidly spread to other areas, such as the euthenasia of the incurably ill, the elderly, then the mentally deficient and, hey-ho, we’re of to Hell in handcart.

    Comment by David Duff — June 7, 2007 @ 1:02 pm

  11. Okay, David – seeing as you’ve thrown down the gauntlet, here goes:

    My position is that I support the law as it stands now with one exception, this being that there should be no requirement on women to show medical/mental health grounds for abortion prior to 24 weeks.

    As to how I justify that position, my thinking runs as follows.

    1. My first consideration is that what we are dealing with here are two incommensurable rights – a woman’s right to self-determination and sovereignty over her own body and a foetuses notion right to life.

    One cannot give absolute precedence to one without denying the other, which leave one only with the option of identifying the best possible balance between the two.

    2. As to how one assesses what might the best possible balance of right, the principles one should try to apply are those of affording each the maximum rights while causing the least harm.

    3. Only now does the question of how one defines ‘being human’ enter the picture and the respective rights of the two parties are not equal until they are of equal status, at which point the balance must be struck – this question is not about science, btw, but a matter of philosophy. A dead body, after all, is human in the biological sense but one wouldn’t accord it the right to life.

    What is human? Personally I take the Cartesian view ‘cogito ergo sum’ as my starting point – to be human is to think.

    That leads me to the view that the point at which the rights of both parties equalise (or start to equalise) is that point at which the capacity of for thought comes into play – and in the case of the foetus that means not only thought, but feeling and emotion, understanding, awareness and voluntary movement and control over bodily functions.

    4. Now we finally get to a science, as studies of foetal neurological development demonstrate clearly that the cerebral matter and structure necessary to support and sustain the higher brain functions cited above do not develop until the third trimester, starting at around 24 weeks gestation.

    From this it follows that one should not limit a woman’s right to self-determination and sovereignty prior to the third trimester not should one take away the foetus’s right to life during or after it, except where there are extenuating medical circumstance to be taken into account, which must be assessed according to the actual situation.

    Provided that a woman can regain her full rights at or very near the point of birth by ethical means – i.e. that adoption is available as an option should she not wish to keep the baby once it is born, then this leads me to the view that the best possible solution sets the point of balance at 24 weeks gestation and that the subsequent temporary loss of rights experience by the woman after that point and up until birth is the position that affords the least possible harm.

    I have, therefore, a position that is not perfect but is, to my mind, the best possible resolution taking into account both the philosophical and scientific dimensions of the situation.

    Now, having said all that and on the assumption that you are anti-abortion, please to me the courtesy of laying out the argument that supports you position in broadly the same rational terms and with reference to god, the soul or other supernatural phenomena, concepts that carry no weight from my perspective as I do not accept their existence.

    After all, if you are going to ask those of us who support the right of access to abortion services to justify our position in such exacting terms, then you should be prepared to provide justification for your own position on the same fundamental basis.

    Comment by Unity — June 7, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

  12. Sorry that should say ‘WITHOUT reference to god, the soul, etc…’

    Comment by Unity — June 7, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

  13. Could David also attempt to at least define, if not quantify, the “respect for human life” we are meant to have lost in the last 60 years?

    Considering that 63 years ago we had just thrown an army of conscripts into the German defences of Normandy, and were about to blast the French city of Caen down to nothing to get after the Germans, this is a remarkable claim that requires remarkable evidence.

    It won’t do to say that abortion is a bad thing because we have lost our respect for human life, and that the evidence of this is that abortion is legal.

    I strongly suspect that the phrase “respect for human life” here means “stuff I agree with that I think was more common in what I think was a past golden age”.

    Comment by Alex — June 7, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

  14. Unity, I will do my modest best but please understand that I am not trying to convert you – in any sense, that is, because I am an orthodox agnostic of the most fundamentalist kind! I take your points in order.

    1: A woman’s right to self-determination. But such a ‘right’ does not exist. You , and me, come to that, are proscribed in all sorts of ways, that is the price we pay to live in a society. (I will forbear from asking where such (any?) rights come from, that would lead us to far away from the topic.) Even in matters of abortion, your ‘rights’ are proscribed, as you, yourself, describe above.

    In the matter of precedence, of course, you are not comparing like for like. On the one hand you have the difficulty/delight (I use both words to avoid perjorative descriptions) of motherhood; on the other you have life and death!

    2: Thus, in my view, the “balance of right”, as you put it, needs to be weighted to allow for the huge imbalance of outcomes.

    3: You eschew the use of religion in deciding exactly when a foetus becomes a human being but then go on to tell me that the answer lies in philosophy. Apart from the belief in a deity, I cannot see much difference between the two; as opposed to science which is very different, being exact and testable, but which you tell me must play no part in this decision of life or death.

    You then move into deeper waters by quoting Descarte’s notion of ‘I think, therefor I am’. This shows, I suggest, a misunderstanding of his words which imply a knowledge of self, or self consciousness, something that a baby does not possess for some time, let alone a foetus in the womb.

    I would suggest that life is a process. Some people are born brain-damaged and are unable to think, let alone be self conscious, but they live because a biochemical process is underway which started the second the sperm hit the egg. At that time the blob of cells cannot think, but then again, when I’m 99 (I intend to be a nuisance for some time yet!) *that* blob of cells will probably be unable to think, either; so apparently, I might be in danger of elimination under your rules! (And that last thought, of course, is extremely pertinent as an example of how the mission creep of the killers slowly seeps into other areas of life – and death!)

    4: Now here, suddenly, you bring science back with, if I may say so, some high-falutin’ phraseology, such as, “cerebral matter and structure necessary to support and sustain the higher brain functions” which according to you does not arrive until after the 24th week. I must have imagined that little baby, then, who was born a few months ago at 20 weeks and survived! Also, if the *lack* of sustainability is an important factor in a general sense, any baby is at risk until around the age of 5 or 6 from what one can judge from various third world disaster areas.

    Finally, you have confused me with this:

    “Provided that a woman can regain her full rights at or very near the point of birth by ethical means – i.e. that adoption is available as an option should she not wish to keep the baby once it is born”.

    I have no wish to put words in your mouth but are you implying that if a woman does *not* have adoption as an option she should have the ‘right’ to terminate at any time?

    Alex, your point is so, how shall I put this politely, whimsical that I will assume it is a joke.

    Comment by David Duff — June 7, 2007 @ 4:35 pm

  15. Unity will no doubt answer for himself, but I just wanted to make a specific comment on this:

    “I must have imagined that little baby, then, who was born a few months ago at 20 weeks and survived!”

    Completely irrelevant. It’s not unreasonable to imagine medical technology improving to the point where a just-fertilised egg could be kept alive until it grew to a normal baby, but that wouldn’t mean that a just-fertilised egg had the “cerebral matter and structure necessary to support and sustain the higher brain functions”.

    I made this point slightly differently in an older entry on my blog.

    Comment by thesamovar — June 7, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  16. Precisely so, ‘Samovar’, and in exactly the same way that you would not withdraw medical treatment for some one with brain damage, neither would you (or should you) do it to a foetus. The brain function is not the ‘be all and end all’ of a human being.

    Let me put it another way, all living things change second by second. Already, by 18.49 hrs I am different to what I was a 08.49 hrs. That is the life process. And I think it behoves those who wish to terminate it to come with some jolly good reasons before they do so, if only because, if you can do it at this point in time, you can do it somewhere else.

    Comment by David Duff — June 7, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  17. Unity, of course that’s so (referring to your answer to my question). What I was getting at though is that abortion is not like most other subjects – if you oppose it, then you presumably see it as murder.

    Now although NS originally mooted that we ban murder purely on grounds of social necesity, I’m not sure that’s true. One can conceive of ways society can function to a degree without banning murder – such as the death-money paid in pre-christian germanic society. But most of us would be unhappy at the idea that if one could arrange society in that way, then we need no longer enforce the prohibition on murder.

    Thus, for at least 90% of people who oppose abortion, they will view it as murder. So, can you oppose murder without wanting to ban it?

    Comment by alabastercodify — June 7, 2007 @ 6:22 pm

  18. “The reason we have laws against murder [is] because you can’t have any sort of complex society in which people can go around murdering … with impunity.”

    But are laws not often determined more by moral sentiments than by utilitarian arguments? And are moral sentiments not typically derived from some belief system or other? Most people seem to have moral beliefs which cannot strictly be justified, some based on religion, some not.

    Apart from the wishes of the individual woman, and whether it is strictly legal, is there not also the question of how ready doctors and others are to advise in favour of it?

    Comment by Heraklites — June 7, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  19. Crikey, what a lot of comments to deal with.

    Alabaster, Heraklites; my point was primarily aimed at people who want to argue that abortion should be banned because it’s equivalent to murder in the eyes of God. My particular problem is that it’s a view of abortion with which I have a lot of sympathy.

    Nevertheless, though, I certainly don’t want to see abortion banned, partly because I do still have difficulty seeing it as murder, even though I fully understand the theological arguments about why it’s murder, but mostly because, rightly or wrongly, most people wouldn’t accept the basic premise on which the argument depends.

    If you do accept the basic theological premise about life beginning at conception, a lot of consequences follow; it becomes, for example, very difficult to justify abortion in the case of rape (not the unborn child’s fault, after all) and — I think — even when the mother’s health is at stake (after all, we wouldn’t look kindly on someone who killed their infant child in order that they might survive) and I’m not sure that’s a legislative road down which many of us would wish to go. That’s one reason why I actually have my doubts about a lot of people who say they think abortion is murder; I don’t think there are, in fact, that many people — even though they find abortion abhorrent for other reasons — who do, in fact, regard abortion in quite the same way they’d regard something we’d all agree was murder.

    As to the more general point about laws and moral systems, I’m perfectly willing to agree that utilitarian considerations and moral ones often coincide, but in general I’d certainly argue that laws work best — and last longest — when they seek to regulate the conflicts that inevitably arise when you’ve got lots of people living in close proximity rather than try to make them live moral lives.

    I’m not quite sure what the death money example is supposed to prove — I just don’t know enough about pre-christian germanic society to comment. Presumably there was a sanction if you didn’t pay up, for example. Was it not just another way of regulating people’s behaviour towards each other? It’s a way we’d regard as somewhat odd, obviously, but we aren’t pre-Christian Germans living in a tribal society, so I’m not sure how applicable the example is.

    As to Mr Duff’s concerns, I take the point, but I think it’s an example of ‘the argument of the beard.’ We wouldn’t say that a man with one hair growing on his chin has a beard, nor a man with two hairs on his chin … but, even though there’s no definable point at which a clump of hairs on your chin becomes a beard, we recognise that some men have full beards and some just have a couple of hairs they missed shaving.

    This gets us into arguments about euthanasia and assisted suicide, and I want to think a bit more about this before responding in a post. It’s a matter to which I had to give very serious consideration during my late wife’s last illness — thank God it never came to it, but it was obviously something we discussed at length — and I’ll come back to it in the next day or so.

    Comment by notsaussure — June 7, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  20. Just a clarification to the person who said I said that “independant” eggs and sperm are “HUMAN”. I never said that nor intoned that.
    I said the egg is ALIVE and the sperm is ALIVE. Individually they ARE alive but they are NOT in any sense a “HUMAN BEING” by themselves. It takes both of the individual “LIVING” organisms to
    create a HUMAN. The point being, there is not a point “down the road” at which LIFE “begins”, it has ALWAYS BEEN ALIVE, and remains ALIVE unless it dies naturally or it is WILLFULLY KILLED. Willfully killing a baby, which is innocent of any crime is MURDER. This,of course, is to be diferentiated from the foetus that DOES commit crimes in the womb and therefore are not innocent and should be killed!

    Comment by Thom — June 7, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  21. How do you account for that? Are you the kind of person that puts things down to ‘god’s will’ in which case doesn’t that (and miscarriages, of course) also make god an abortionist and, by your own arguments a murderer?

    Unity, 100% of all organic created things die at some point, at the beginning or whenever. They get off the ground, or they don’t, or they get halfway there, or they’re still there long after it ought to have been game over. That’s what an independent, free world does in creating and maintaining itself. I don’t think that’s a killer (ho ho) argument against a deity.

    It sounds to me like you’re building a straw man because I’m not sure anyone on this thread has said what you claim (that they think it is all God’s will). Unless you’re basically advancing the old “problem of evil” against theism here (which is a problem for theists, but which is not “dealt with” – loads of philosophers, like Plantinga and Swinburne still discuss it with atheist philosophers and debate ideas such as the Best Possible World hypothesis – not convincing, I’ll agree, but part of the debate).

    Comment by Tin Drummer — June 7, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

  22. Well we’re drawing different conclusions David. I take it as almost axiomatic that a just-fertilised egg can be aborted without there being any moral or ethical concerns. From this, I would draw the conclusion that – as NS put it – it’s the argument of the beard. (Incidentally, haven’t come across that before. I tend to think of it as ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ argument, but the beard is better.)

    Comment by Dan | thesamovar — June 7, 2007 @ 8:05 pm

  23. ‘NS’, I look forward to what will be, I am sure, a thoughtful response, but please, no silly analogies! Yours was simply a semantic quibble on the meaning of ‘beard’. What I am talking about is the chemobiological process that begins with fusion of sperm and egg and ends with death at which all processes end (except decay). That is what I call life, or if you like, the life process.

    I should add that, as always in human affairs, there are untidy bits around the edges, like the ones you raised above but perhaps it would be better to stick to the main argument and we could discuss the exceptions later and who knows, we might find ourselves in agreement!

    Comment by David Duff — June 7, 2007 @ 8:12 pm

  24. UNITY, this is worth a repeat, but the rest of your argument up in Response No. 8 is “drivel”. Even we “Trolls” are smarter than that.

    Just a clarification to UNITY who said I said that “independant” eggs and sperm are “HUMAN”. I never said that nor intoned that.
    I said the egg is ALIVE and the sperm is ALIVE. Individually they ARE alive but they are NOT in any sense a “HUMAN BEING” by themselves. It takes both of the individual “LIVING” organisms to
    create a HUMAN. The point being, there is not a point “down the road” at which LIFE “begins”, it has ALWAYS BEEN ALIVE, and remains ALIVE unless it dies naturally or it is WILLFULLY KILLED. Willfully killing a baby, which is innocent of any crime is MURDER. This,of course, is to be diferentiated from the foetus that DOES commit crimes in the womb and therefore are not innocent and should be killed!

    Comment by Thom — June 7, 2007 @ 8:33 pm

  25. It wasn’t meant to be a quibble; the argument of the beard is a very ancient paradox to do with trying to differentiate between things that are clearly distinct but are on a continuum. You can use exactly the same argument with voting ages or the age of consent.

    I suppose I would argue that laws have to work from a broad consensus, a common feeling. And — illogical though it may be — there’s certainly common agreement that there’s a distinction between an unborn child and someone who has been born. Broadly speaking, I’m happy with the idea of viability as the test, though I realise there are — as you put it — ‘untidy bits around the edges’. In particular, I think, there’s the question of ‘how viable’? and the circumstances in which late-term abortions are normally performed; my understanding is that it’s a pretty rare procedure that’s normally (not, I agree, exclusively) performed only when late tests reveal something very seriously wrong with the child. I’d certainly distinguish — how, I’m not sure, but I would — between discovering that the child will be born with some serious abnormality that condemns it to a short and painful life and discovering (as someone mentioned over at Devil’s Kitchen) that the child suffers from something easily corrected by surgery.

    I think, as Heraklites perhaps intimates (though I may have misunderstood him), that such matters are best left to serious discussion between the parents and the doctors.

    The difficulty is, to my mind, that we’re dealing here with the least bad option rather than the best one.

    Comment by notsaussure — June 7, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  26. Thom, please calm down. This is my blog and I don’t particularly like rants in the comments.

    Comment by notsaussure — June 7, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

  27. Thanks for the “TROLL” label, Unity, I’ll forever wear it without shame.

    Comment by Thom (The "TROLL") — June 7, 2007 @ 8:39 pm

  28. Notsaussure, my sincere appologies to you. I’ve not meant to be “Ranting”, as you put it. Not that I’m quite sure what makes what I have to share a “Rant” verses what anyone else has to say on the topic. The only thing I can see that might be upsetting anyone is the word “Murderer”. I’m sure I could rephrase everything I’ve said into “Politically Correct” jargon, but that would take too long to write and even longer to un-ravel.

    Comment by Thom (The "TROLL") — June 7, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

  29. Thanks, Thom. Just give Unity a chance to reply before blasting off at him again — he’s a busy guy and, while I don’t always agree with him, he does normally put a lot of thought into what he posts.

    Comment by notsaussure — June 7, 2007 @ 8:53 pm

  30. Not really going to get into this one, I’d get upset :)

    but..

    “What right have they to play God?”

    Pommy, do you possibly see the irony of your statement in SUPPORT of abortion?

    Comment by Lord Nazh — June 7, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  31. Dan, sorry, I missed your comment with this sentence in it:

    “I take it as almost axiomatic that a just-fertilised egg can be aborted without there being any moral or ethical concerns.”

    I smiled at the ‘almost’! And of course, it is anything but axiomatic for the reason I stated above, that is, once the process of life has started it should not be interfered with except under the most rigorous (onerous?) terms.

    Interesting discussion and I hope to contribute tomorrow morning but then I’m away until Saturday night.

    Comment by David Duff — June 7, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  32. David – that’s OK I just changed the name my comments come with because it’s kind of weird being called ‘Samovar’. ;-)

    The word axiom is an interesting one. When I said that a just-fertilised could be aborted without moral concerns, I couldn’t imagine any reasonable way in which anyone could convince me otherwise. Note, this is not to say that any reasonable person would have to agree with my point of view, but that there is no more basic proposition to argue from. It was in this sense that I was using the word axiomatic, which I appreciate is slightly different from the normal usage as meaning incontestably true (see the last paragraph of this comment for a very tangential point about this).

    Now in this sense it’s ‘almost’ axiomatic rather than just axiomatic because it’s just about conceivable that there is a more basic proposition to argue from. I don’t accept your argument that because in certain circumstances it’s possible that a fertilised egg could develop in a certain way it ought to. The same could be said about an unfertilised egg and a single sperm swimming around quite near it on a collision course. If you didn’t do anything to stop it, the egg and sperm could fuse and go on to develop into a baby. For this reason, if you think that aborting a just-fertilised egg is not OK then presumably you’d also have to think that using the Progestogen only contraceptive pill is also not acceptable? If so, at what point does this sort of argument fail to hold? Is Unity right then that masturbation is the same as genocidal levels of murder?

    Final tangential point, may be interesting to some but has nothing to do with the thread: There is some debate in the history of mathematics about the original meaning of the term ‘axiom’ in ancient Greek mathematics. In his “Proofs and Refutations”, Imre Lakatos cites someone as arguing that the term was originally used to indicate a proposition that couldn’t be proved rather than one that was self-evidently true. In other words, axioms were used to define precisely the area of uncertainty in an argument rather than as a certain starting point. I don’t have my copy of Lakatos’ book to hand so I can’t tell you what the reference is, but it might be this 1969 paper (unfortunately requires a subscription to the British Journal of the Philosophy of Science or access to a university computer network). This is the view also of Wittgenstein in Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics: “Something is an axiom, not because we accept it as extremely probable, nay certain, but because we assign it a particular function, and one that conflicts with that of an empirical proposition. … An axiom, I should like to say, is a different part of speech.”

    Comment by Dan | thesamovar — June 8, 2007 @ 12:04 am

  33. Nazh

    No, i don’t. Most pro-lifers are so because they believe in the religious sanctity of life. In effect, they who are playing God. “You must not die”. But if you do believe in God, how can a mere mortal make this call?

    I believe in freedom to choose in all aspects of life. If people want to kill themselves or help a terminally ill person die quicker to relieve their pain, that is their choice. I am not God. I do not have the right to prolong someone’s suffering, nor do i have the right to ban someone from taking their life, if that is what they wish.

    Re abortion – the decision should be taken as quickly as possible. The current timeframe is too long.

    Comment by pommygranate — June 8, 2007 @ 1:38 am

  34. Very quickly – you will be relieved to read!

    Dan, thanks, and I was teasing on the “almost axiomatic”!

    However, “an unfertilised egg and a single sperm swimming around quite near it on a collision course” is a totally different circumstance and interference with that is a different argument. I cannot stress too strongly that it is *the process* once the fusion is made that we should treat with awe? respect? – choose you rown word.

    ‘PG’, “I believe in freedom to choose in all aspects of life”. Oh goody, I’ll be round later on today to nick your car!

    Comment by David Duff — June 8, 2007 @ 7:17 am

  35. Oh goody, I’ll be round later on today to nick your car!

    Would that be one of your serious non-whimsical arguments then? Wanker.

    Comment by Alex — June 8, 2007 @ 9:27 am

  36. Ah! Take it you didn’t really mean “all aspects of life” then?

    Comment by David Duff — June 8, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  37. David – why is it different? In both cases if you do nothing to stop it life will result. In both cases, something active has to happen before life will result.

    Comment by Dan | thesamovar — June 8, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  38. […] — notsaussure @ 5:30 pm In the course of replying some of the many comments to my piece on Nadine Dorries MP on abortion, I said I’d also give my views on the related — but, to my mind, distinct — topic […]

    Pingback by Compassionate killings and euthanasia « Not Saussure — June 8, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

  39. David.

    [life] begins with fusion of sperm and egg and ends with death at which all processes end (except decay)

    But your cut and dried definition of death is plain wrong. All processes (except decay) do not end at the moment of death; hair and fingernails for instance continue growing after it. Individual cells in a dead body will take a while to die.

    So should we accord a just-fertilised embryo any more respect than a single still-living cell from an a corpse?

    Comment by Larry Teabag — June 8, 2007 @ 6:19 pm

  40. The baby your girlfriend aborted all those years ago was your child.
    At one time you were your mothers child in the same vulnerable position, a baby in the womb.

    No matter what you say or how you justify it to yourself, when you dropped your child and girlfriend off that day you were abandoning them.

    Comment by eodon — June 18, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

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