Saturday, August 25, 2012

In which I respond to my first raving "pro"-lifer

I admit it took longer than I thought it would to attract my first truly raving "pro"-lifer to my post on the personhood movement, but it finally happened. An anonymous commenter left two responses that I thought required a more detailed response than that which can be provided in a simple comment, so I decided I would write a new post in reply to them.

One request though, please read and understand the original post before reading this, which is certainly more than our anonymous commenter did. Our intrepid "pro"-lifer merely repeats things I dismiss in the original post (as if repeating something shown to be stupid somehow makes it right the second time) or parrots all the usual talking points that they have heard from their pastor, priest, right wing radio host, right wing website, right wing friends. Nothing new or exciting, except the incoming Godwin, which I admit to hearing for the first time in the context of the abortion rights argument.

One further warning to our anonymous friend - pick a nickname/psuedonym to post under. Any subsequent anonymous comments will be deleted, not because you are right, not because I cannot respond, not because I'm afraid of the truth etc etc. So many comments get made by anonymous drive by commenters that having a name associated to your comment means I can respond to the right people. It's easy to do, you don't even have to register anywhere - just select 'Name/URL' from the drop down box labelled 'Comment As' underneath the text box you type your comment in, then pick a name, anything as long as it can be used to direct replies to.

For the purpose of this post, I will refer to the anonymous commenter as Gloria. In honour of renowned feminist and pro-abortion rights activist Gloria Steinem.

On with the show

Gloria writes:

Ok so when does life begin??? if the point when the egg and sperm meet is not the time when? for all of us it was a very important moment and without it we would not be here.


I don't particularly have an answer for the first part, I think that is a question better left for biologists - but that wasn't my point anyway. My point was, and if Gloria had read and understood my post she would know this, was that defining life as beginning at the moment of fertilisation is stupid and arbitrary. I make this point quite clearly in the first post, but I will go over it again slowly just for Gloria's sake. Try and keep up this time dear.

We. Don't. Know. Exactly. When. Fertilisation. Occurs. That. Means. We. Don't. Know. When. Life. Begins. Under. Your. Definition.

Do you get it yet Gloria? With me so far?

If we decide that life begins at fertilisation how do we determine exactly when fertilisation has occurred? If you can't answer this question Gloria, then everything else falls apart for you. You do understand the biology involved here, don't you? My guess is that actually, you have no fucking clue about the biology involved here. Let me help. Read that and come back.

Done? Good. Then really there should be no need to carry on. But my guess is that learning stuff has not changed your mind one bit, has it?

Didn't think so.

So, indeed you are correct, fertilisation is a very important moment for all of us. But what makes that more important than when the blastocyst attaches to the uterine wall, 6 days after fertilisation? If indeed it actually does. Without that moment we would not get any further. Why is fertilisation more important, since it means nothing without the attachment to the uterine lining? In fact, pregnancy isn't really considered to have begun until this occurs - so are you pregnant from fertilisation onwards, or from the attachment to the uterine wall onwards? Why? Why not?

First question for Gloria

Now you've learned a bit, let me ask you this first difficult question regarding your black and white position - is the removal of an ectopic pregnancy an abortion, since life begins at fertilisation according to you and the personhood movement? If it is, does that mean there should be no treatment for ectopic pregnancy? Do you believe the woman should just be left to die, painfully? Do you believe doctors who remove an ectopic pregnancy are performing an abortion, and thus should be prevented from doing so?

Second question for Gloria

If life begins at fertilisation then is a molar pregnancy a life? If not, why not? If yes, then is a doctor who removes a molar pregnancy performing an abortion? Do you believe molar pregnancies should go untreated, with all the subsequent risks to the mother?

Third question for Gloria

There are a number of (mostly rare) abnormalities that can develop in a foetus, do you believe that an abortion should be prevented in cases such as anencephaly, bilateral renal agenesis or platyspondylic lethal skeletal dysplasia. No? What about Meckel Syndrome? The list goes on and on. Do you think that abortions should not be allowed in any such cases? You don't accept any reasons for a medical termination? In short, do you ignore all the medical evidence that abortions are often necessary?

 You also assume abortions are good for women "a choice".

Where do I say that abortions are good for women? There is an assumption made here, but it isn't mine. I do not assume abortions are good for women (whatever that means in your mind). I am arguing that women and doctors should have the choice, but that is not the same thing. If you can't see the difference there is little point in carrying on with the argument, because you won't get it.

 do you know abortions increase the risk of depression and suicide in women

You know, the only sources I can find that support this statement are, surprise surprise, anti-abortion sites. Not surprisingly, you're probably wrong. This study, since I know you are not going to read it, found:

None of the literature reviewed adequately addressed the prevalence of mental health problems among women in the United States who have had an abortion. In general, however, the prevalence of mental health problems observed among women in the United States who had a single, legal, first-trimester abortion for nontherapeutic reasons was consistent with normative rates of comparable mental health problems in the general population of women in the United States.

 In fact, the best studies in this area all seem to say the same thing. Most of the studies that show a link are poorly designed, and the evidence just isn't there to show a link between abortion and increased mental illness, but that one of the things that is a factor is the mother's mental health prior to the pregnancy. See the full PDF of this UK Department of Health funded study, which states:

Evidence from the narrative review and meta-analysis indicated that for the majority of mental health outcomes, there was no statistically significant association between pregnancy resolution and mental health problems. Where we found a statistically significant association between abortion and a mental health outcome, for example increased rates of self-harm and lower rates of psychosis, the effects were small (psychosis) and prone to bias (for instance, there were common factors underlying seeking an abortion and later self-harm) .... When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, rates of mental health problems will be largely unaffected whether she has an abortion or goes on to give birth.

In short - you are wrong, and so are the people you are parroting. You're spreading lies, bravo.

We are made to love and protect our babies.

True of some people in a very trivial sense (and clearly not true in others), but what does that have to do with a zygote in a Fallopian tube? Are you claiming a baby is the same as a tiny sack of cells not even attached to the uterine lining yet? Seriously? Are you that clueless?

Fourth question for Gloria

Do you think we should give a full human burial to the remains produced in every miscarriage? Since one in five pregnancies ends as a miscarriage, that is a lot of human remains to be disposed of in your system, isn't it? What about the fact that some pregnancies will spontaneously abort without the mother knowing they were pregnant, and will simply appear to be heavy menstrual flow? Should we grant a full burial to every used tampon, just in case? Why not? You said life begins at fertilisation - that could be a baby on that tampon, according to you.

 To assume we are like men is a lie.

Nope, you've lost me now. When and where do I, or have I, ever assumed that women are like men? And what does that have to do with the abortion rights argument? Are you making the ridiculous claim that men don't love and protect their children? That's so fucking stupid I'm not even going to dignify it with a longer response.

 To assume we can kill our babies at any point and it not hurt us to our souls is a lie!!!

What are you talking about? First, there's no such thing as a soul. Second, where and when do I assume that an abortion is free of both mental and physical pain? Third, there you go again, a tiny bag of cells or a foetus without a brain is compared to a baby. It isn't. The closest you could get to arguing it is a baby comes after it is viable outside the womb - and then abortions are rare and legally carried out only for medical reasons. You could at least try being honest.

Of course, I can also take this opportunity to point out that the fact that abortions can be a terrible choice that come with anguish and pain does not mean that they are wrong - and that if the choice is hard for women that is an argument for better support before, during and after an abortion, not for banning them and shoving them off to illegal back alley clinics where care will be worse than it is now.

If women do suffer from mental health issues after abortion, then people like you are one of the biggest causes of this - proclaiming them to be murderers and baby killers and telling them they should be ashamed and making people who are already often desperate and alone at the worst moment in their lives feel even more so. You and your like are the ones who should be ashamed because you make this even more difficult than it already is for these women.

When are babies worthy of life in your opinion?

In my opinion abortions should no longer be carried out after a pregnancy is viable outside of the womb unless there is a medical necessity or the subsequent child will have a very poor quality of life. Once its body can function and survive seperate from the mothers, then it has the right to a shot at life. As to saying when someone is worthy of life, that's a question for each person to reflect on at the end of theirs isn't it?

After they are born?

Well duh.

 If they are wanted? 

Before or after they are born? Of course, my two answers above already cover this.

after they can care for themselves? when they can drive? when are they worthy of protection in your eyes?

Now you're just being an idiot. You are comparing fully grown adults to undeveloped foetuses, if you can't see the difference there's not really any helping you and you really should start collecting those tampons for human burial procedures.

only if they are planned, perfect, white, black, hispanic, who do you think is worthy of life?

Oh I get it, I must be a bigot of some kind to be pro-choice. Don't be so stupid. I already told you - once the pregnancy is viable it is my opinion that abortion should only be used because of medical necessity. I make no claims about the worth of its life.

I believe ALL babies are worthy of life from the moment the egg and sperm met.

This is not the moment of fertilisation. You could at least understand the biology of pregnancy if you are going to talk about it.

And how do you propose to determine and monitor this moment? Is a representative of the government to be present at every moment of intercourse and for three days afterwards? Or should we simply notify the government when we have sex so they can immediately come and check? How will this test be carried out, are women to lie on a table with their legs open and with some kind of camera inserted and following the sperms progress, from the moment of ejaculation?

Fifth question for Gloria

How will you know the moment that the sperm and egg met?

because without that there is nothing.

Without ejaculation there is nothing. Without attaching to the uterine lining there is nothing. Without development of the heart there is nothing. Without development of a functioning central nervous system there is nothing. Without development of lungs there is nothing. Without surviving to birth there is nothing. Without birth there is nothing. What's your point?

Have you seen an aborted baby?

Depends on your definition of baby actually, and whether you count spontaneous natural abortions - i.e. miscarriages. Have I seen what the doctor pulled out of my wife after our second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage? Yes. was it a baby? No. Have you seen one, in person and not just carefully selected pictures that may actually have been faked? I'm going to go ahead and guess no you haven't.

could you watch a aborted baby fight for life and do nothing?

An aborted foetus would be dead. How then would it fight for life? And what exactly could I do, since I am neither a doctor nor a miracle worker? What exactly would you do Gloria? Apart from harass the mother and threaten her and the doctor. You know, like the usual compassionate "pro"-lifer.

God have mercy on your soul for writing how unimportant you believe the most precious of our society is.

A few points in answer to this:

  1. There almost certainly is no God.
  2. There is no such thing as a soul.
  3. I never wrote anywhere and never will that I think pregnancy and/or children are unimportant - so you can go and fuck yourself for implying I have you smug, self important, arrogant shit stain. How dare you pretend you know something about me simply because you were too fucking ignorant, ill educated and stupid to understand my position and consider it carefully without falling back on ridiculous notions like the invented deities of ancient goat herders and the disgusting lies and half truths of the rabid morons you parrot. It isn't me who wants to condemn mothers to death and pain and mental anguish by banning all forms of abortion under all circumstances. It isn't me who downplays the importance of life by comparing a tiny recently fertilised cell that may still not make it, to a pregnancy carried to term and born living and breathing. There is only one of us devaluing life here, and it isn't me.

Been wanting to say that for quite a few paragraphs. Feel better now.

Unfortunately, Gloria goes on in a second response. 

big government wants you to believe in abortions because it leads to population control and class control.

Is it me, or did it get crazy in here? Big government wants us to believe in abortion because it leads to population and class control? What the fuck?

Sixth question for Gloria

How? Show your working.

Personhood gives a definition of life

A really bad and unenforceable one, yes. The definition of life as beginning at fertilisation is ridiculous for reasons I've outlined more than once - you have given no reason whatsoever to change my position, you have refuted nothing I have said. Because you can't.

I have not heard of this law punishing the mother if her baby dies even if she does drugs and causes it.

Because it's not law yet. Thankfully. You don't have much of a clue about this whole topic, do you? You could at least try and know something about what you are talking about. The point is that the definition of life as beginning at fertilisation will have all kinds of unintended consequences, and will lead to exactly the kind of situations I talked about in my first post on the subject. When someone ends a life by accident, they are punished by law, so if life begins at fertilisation and the mother ends a life in the womb by accident - what?

And here it comes, the Godwin I just didn't see coming:

How do you think nazi's felt about abortion?

I confess, I wasn't entirely sure so I looked it up. Which is apparently more than you did because then you said:

they liked it. they could make people believe their babies weren't people so they could decide the races that survive.

The Nazis were neither completely pro-choice nor completely anti-abortion. They outlawed abortion in 1933. Then they allowed abortion for women other than healthy 'Aryan' women and introduced severe punishments for healthy 'Aryan' woman who had an abortion. In 1943 this became the death penalty. In 1936 Himmler setup the 'Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung der Homosexualität und Abtreibung', which means 'Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.' It wasn't to hand out ponies to the lucky winners.

In short, as usual, this is not as black and white as "pro"-lifers want you to believe, and there is not much information available that isn't from crazy right wing websites and heavily biased.

A further question arises from this Godwin though. Hitler was in favour of God and Jesus and Christianity. So if associating him with abortion makes abortion bad, then associating him with God and Christianity makes them what?

Big government always supports abortions not the opposite

Oh don't talk bollocks. Do you have evidence for this, or are you just parroting Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing crack pots you worship? Big government would be telling women what they can and can't do with their pregnancies. Big intrusive government would be the only way to enforce your personhood law.

If you can't see that, if you don't call government legislating a woman's reproductive and medical rights 'big government', then we are most definitely done here, I see no point debating with an uninformed fool.


  1. This and your original post are GREAT. It baffles me to no end when people continually spit out Religious dogma and merely repeat the point that you already disproved. These people should not respond in a debate-like manner when they know damn well that they do not intend to ever rethink their decisions. (i.e. "Aint no way someone's gonna tell me Abortion is okay", etc) You are awesome and I have bookmarked these pages for future use when arguing these points with close-minded people.

  2. Tim, I am pro-life. I enjoy this site for its point of view (because I consider myself open-minded). However, when you type that last sentence I have to wonder who is the, "close-minded people", me or you? This is the type of bullshit that makes me want to punch you. You sit there on your high horse and your own dogmas and belittle those that are different thinking than you. You are the same as the person you are so angry with. Idiot.

    1. Is it just me that sees the large diconnect between claiming to be pro-life and saying you want to punch someone because they said something you didn't like?

      Yeah, I think I do know who is close minded. And who was Tim supposed to be angry with anyway?

    2. Jimmy,
      Ha, that is so funny that you would say there is a large disconnect between pro-life and wanting to punch somebody. Guess I need to be one of those kind and meek Christians and try not to offend others. I merely think it is funny when people label me closed minded for my views. I may be but I do not care if others have their views that differ from mine nor do I try to convert them into my thinking. I just find it funny when I get labeled close minded when the person that is labeling me that way is just as close minded. I am sure your views on God are very close minded just like mine are. Do you see the point? Tim's comment can go both ways, the same things can be said about him. Love the site by the way. Okay, so he did not use the word angry but that is how I read it.

    3. I think you missed the point.

      There is clearly a large disconnect between claiming to be pro-life and yet threatening violence - there's nothing remotely funny about that kind of hypocrisy. But then, I have noticed how quickly people who claim to be pro-life often resort to or threaten violence. The hypocrisy evident in this seems to pass most of them by.

      Guess I need to be one of those kind and meek Christians and try not to offend others.

      Of course, if you read the Bible this is exactly what Jesus expects Christians to be - meek, humble, kind and non-violent. I would have thought someone claiming to be a Christian might have known this and perhaps taken it seriously - I know it and I don't even consider the stories to be true or sacred scripture. Funny how most who claim to be Christian don't seem to understand Jesus' message, even though he is frequently explicit about it in the Gospels in both word and deed.

      I am sure your views on God are very close minded just like mine are.

      You don't need to point out your assumptions to me, I gathered them from the start. Since I was raised as a Christian for 18 years, then examined the evidence and changed my mind - and yet I am still open to new evidence that shows the existence of God - I'd say you don't have a clue what my mindset is on the matter. In case you hadn't noticed, I have a blog whose purpose is examining the ideas and viewpoints of others and seeing how they stack up against mine, and where the evidence leads, and then coming to a conclusion.

      How very closed minded of me.

      I am prepared to accept evidence for the existence of God, and know what that evidence would need to be. Are you prepared to accept the non-existence of God (since faith does not require evidence, the answer is self evident - but will you dare admit it?). I think I know which of us is closed minded.

      Do you see the point?

      I do, the point is that you don't. I am prepared to accept the existence of God - no christian is prepared to accept his non-existence.

  3. First off, I'm pro-choice. I think for society it's best we allow abortions. My first girlfriend had an abortion of a ??? we created. That said I don't see the issue as so clear.

    You seem to be making a strawman argument. Because we can't know when fertilization happened we can't do anything? It seems pretty straight forward. It happened. Your vast interesting scenarios aren't really any more interesting that saying that because we can't solve all crime we should enforce any crime.

    The comment I came to make though is I find the pro-choice arguments often disingenuous. We're all pro-life. We just disagree on when life starts or when life deserves protection. I don't think any pro-choice person would be ok with raising the "abortion" age to 5yrs old. Let's play that game though. Let's assume Somalia passed a law making it ok to "abort" any child up to 5yrs old. In such a case you would be in favor of military action to save the children from getting killed? I assume 99.99999% of people would want to see intervention to protect those children. They wouldn't argue that those children aren't wanted and so will have a bad life anyway or that those parents are poor and so won't be able to give the children a good life or all the other random excuses usually used as justification. Those are BS justifications. In other words, the tactics and violence of pro-lifers are sadly arguably just as valid as similar tactics of most people would be in the Somalia thought game above.

    Back to the thought game, so we keep lowering the legal age to abort. Is it okay at 1yr out of the womb? No? How about 1 month? 1 minute? How about 1 minute before? 1hr before? etc etc etc. It doesn't matter where you set the needle some amount of the population is going to disagree. Science doesn't really help here or at least doesn't seem to because none of the science markers are currently used. Viability outside the mother, Heartbeat, Brainwaves, Self Awareness, etc. are not considered in the current laws and if they were they'd be unlike to be accepted by either side. The only answer that it's not murder is to choose at conception.

    I haven't heard of any way to resolve this. I'm okay with the 1st trimester law even if is murder by some people's definition (they already have brainwaves, locomotion, and heartbeats by then) because I think the world is a better place with that option but other than personal opinion that it's best I know of no way to resolve it. As pointed out by the thought game nearly all justifications don't hold any water.

    1. You seem to be making a strawman argument.

      Nope. Please try and understand terms if you are going to throw them around.

      Because we can't know when fertilization happened we can't do anything?

      This, however, IS a strawman of what I was saying. How embarrassing for you.

      It seems pretty straight forward. It happened.

      And how and when do you determine this if you are going to base a law on it? If it has occurred, and to a lesser extent when, is at the very heart of the debate. If you don't understand why from what I have said here and in the original post, please don't bother coming back.

      Your vast interesting scenarios aren't really any more interesting that saying that because we can't solve all crime we should enforce any crime.

      Terrible comparison. Missed the point completely. Another strawman, essentially. On top of that I don't give vast interesting scenarios, I give examples of real world situations that actually happen and ask what that means for the personhood movement.

      We even have real world references for my one central theoretical about what might happen to mothers if we define a person as beginning at fertilization, from El Salvador.

      I don't think any pro-choice person would be ok with raising the "abortion" age to 5yrs old.

      NO. Really? Maybe because that would be murder, and what you are really trying to do is transparent. "Let's play semantics to lay out my stupid thought experiment that is actually a lame effort to argue against abortion disguised as something else."

      Let's assume Somalia passed a law making it ok to "abort" any child up to 5yrs old.

      Let's not, because that wouldn't be an "abortion". You wouldn't be saying it is OK to "abort" anyone since to "abort" means (in this argument) to end a pregnancy. Transparent trolling is transparent.

      They wouldn't argue that those children aren't wanted and so will have a bad life anyway or that those parents are poor and so won't be able to give the children a good life or all the other random excuses usually used as justification.

      Srawmanning is still strawmanning. Where do I give any of those excuses, for example?

      In other words, the tactics and violence of pro-lifers are sadly arguably just as valid as similar tactics of most people would be in the Somalia thought game above.

      Riiiiiggghhhttt. Because a sack of cells is exactly like a 5 year old child. No differences at all.

      Fake "pro-choice" troll is fake.

      Back to the thought game, so we keep lowering the legal age to abort.

      Your bias is obvious, stop pretending. It is not an abortion if the birth has happened. Stop trying to poison the well by deliberately misusing the term, it highlights your intellectual dishonesty.

      Is it okay at 1yr out of the womb? No? How about 1 month? 1 minute? How about 1 minute before? 1hr before? etc etc etc.

      Or how about at all, right? Or maybe ejaculation. Or failure to attach to the uterine lining.

      The only answer that it's not murder is to choose at conception.

      Bollocks. There are other equally usable parts of the cycle just as important - as I have highlighted here and in the other post and comments, why not them? I think we know the real reason you are asserting conception, don't we?

      As pointed out by the thought game nearly all justifications don't hold any water.

      That thought game pointed out nothing of the kind other than your own intellectual dishonesty.