Objectively murder, subjectively only like unto it

February 28, 2006 | 54 comments
By

I’ve argued before that abortion is objectively murder but that the mother who permits her child to be aborted or the father who encourages it are not committing the sin of murder, but only something like unto it.*

Why? Because children while in the womb are not as obviously human as others are, because they don’t interact with our faculties of touch, sight, smell, and sound the same way. Unborn children are largely invisible, though better ultrasounds and better science are changing that. When they do become visible, in the abortionist’s chambers, abortionists keep their bodies out of the public eye (abortionists themselves are much closer to murder, since they do their work among a litter of tiny limbs).

Because our society does not present a clear voice on the evils of abortion. Commanding voices excuse it, obfuscate it, and justify it. With murder, our society helps to clarify our consciences, but with abortion our society clouds it.

And *possibly* because the responsibility for abortions is generally more diffused than the responsibility for murder. Abortions often involve a great deal of family and cultural pressure.

Ramesh Ponnuru advances an argument today in the Corner for (1) the equality of unborn and born human life and (2) for the moral and practical inequality of abortion and murder. He is mainly concerned with abortionists, and he is mainly concerned with how the law should treat murder and abortion, while my arguments above are concerned with women and others, and how the gospel should view them. But even given these differences, I cannot be nearly as exculpatory for abortionists as he is. But he is right about one thing: ending the legal protections that allow abortion to flourish is much more important than the punishment of the guilty.

He has developed this argument at much greater length in this piece in First Things. There he rebuts the abortion-defender scare tactic that most pro-lifers, either in theory or in practice, want to prosecute women for first-degree murder.

*I am talking about the vast majority of abortions where rape and incest are not involved and where the life of the mother is not at stake in any way.

54 Responses to Objectively murder, subjectively only like unto it

  1. Seth R. on February 28, 2006 at 11:22 am

    I guess Adam, that while you are more concerned about ending the legal protections that allow abortion to flourish, I am more concerned about ending the societal conditions that allow abortion to flourish.

    The law is simply a mirror of society, at least to some extent. You cannot legally coerce where there is no consensus.

    But I think we are both agreed that it is less productive to focus on punishing the guilty.

  2. Nathan N. on February 28, 2006 at 11:41 am

    Adam…your post sparks a question. We see that killing is not illegal in society, only when it is done under certain conditions. So, I look at the killing pie representing the killing activity of our society and I see a small piece that is illegal, a smaller piece that is prosecutable and the even smaller piece that is convictable. Legal abortions, executive branch justified killing (police action, war, etc.) and other “lawful” killing comprises the rest. But that has been the situation for as long as our government has existed is not the basis of my question. My question is whether we can take that same pie model and apply it to our religion and ask where is killing okay and where is killing not okay. How is the pie sliced theologically? I for one, have a hard time slicing it anywhere or having anything to do with it. I know the doctrine suggests that it may be something I should have to do under certain circumstances (acting on behalf of the public good to end the life of a harmful criminal, defending my family, etc.). But deep down, I feel like I want nothing to do with it. Ever. Thoughts?

  3. john f. on February 28, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    “less productive to focus on punishing the guilty”? I’m not following you here. Depending on your views of justice, whether punishment is productive or not is entirely irrelevant as whether society should punish.

  4. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    “I guess Adam, that while you are more concerned about ending the legal protections that allow abortion to flourish, I am more concerned about ending the societal conditions that allow abortion to flourish.”

    Ending the legal protections will be difficult but feasible, and will do much to change the social toleration for abortion that allows abortion to flourish. But changing the societal condtions that allow abortion to floursih, in the sense you seem to mean it, is utopian.

    Also, having the law legally protect life is a worthy goal in itself. Even if no one performed abortions, it would still be preferable to have a law against it.

  5. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    “”“less productive to focus on punishing the guiltyâ€?? I’m not following you here. Depending on your views of justice, whether punishment is productive or not is entirely irrelevant as whether society should punish.”

    John F.,
    punishing the guilty and protecting innocent life are both goals a society ought to have, but in a fallen world a society will sometimes have to trade them off against each other, unless there is some reason that punishing the guilty should be viewed as a paramount goal that trumps all other considerations. The model I have in mind is Joseph Smith’s proposal to compensate slave-owners for freeing their slaves. I think slavery then is akin to abortion now in that the practice was reprehensible but people who were actually caught up in weren’t completely morally guilty. But they were guilty enough that they did not *deserve* to be compensated for their slaves. Compensation was nonetheless a good idea because it would preserve social peace and offered some hope of actually freeing the slaves.

  6. DHofmann on February 28, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    I can’t understand the whole all-or-nothing mentality that a lot of people and politicians seem to have about abortion. I think we can find some middle ground.

    Start by making partial-birth abortions illegal, except in the case of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. At the same time, create a Constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to an abortion in those cases. It would be a victory for pro-lifers while not hurting the pro-choice movement too much. Later on, we could try to make any abortion illegal except in the cases where the Constitution guarantees the right, but it doesn’t have to be right away.

  7. Mike Parker on February 28, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    The Church certainly doesn’t consider abortion to be equal to murder. Someone who wishes to be baptized but has committed murder has to have their baptism cleared by the First Presidency, while someone who has submitted to or participated in an abortion can have their baptism cleared by a local authority (such as a mission president).

    Equating abortion with murder is dangerous simply because attempted murder ethically compels witnesses to save the victim by restraining (or even killing) the perpetrator. Those who kill doctors who have performed abortions rationalize their actions precisely that way — “How can I stand by when a murderer is about to kill?”

    Abortion for the purposes of convenience? Bad. The same as murder? No.

  8. Boris Max on February 28, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    Adam–

    Abortionists do their work “among a litter of tiny limbs?” That’s a vivid image, but I’m a little confused. Are you saying that abortionists are also bad because they don’t keep their offices very clean and thus there are actual tiny limbs on their floor? Or are you suggesting that the creatures being aborted have multiple limbs, thus creating a “litter” at the time of the abortion?

    Or maybe you just can’t stay away from cheap sensationalism as you discuss this morally complex topic? You just can’t resist portraying physicians who perform abortions as Grendelesque monsters, even though they are doing something that they think is morally justified? Or do the physicians who perform abortions on 13-year-old girls who have been raped by their fathers keep their operating rooms cleaner?

  9. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    “The Church certainly doesn’t consider abortion to be equal to murder. Someone who wishes to be baptized but has committed murder has to have their baptism cleared by the First Presidency, while someone who has submitted to or participated in an abortion can have their baptism cleared by a local authority (such as a mission president).”

    I agree that the Church does not think that abortion is subjectively murder, and that different requirements for repentance would be in order. Far from rebutting my post, its one of the features of Church doctrine that my post attempts to explain.

    “Equating abortion with murder is dangerous simply because attempted murder ethically compels witnesses to save the victim by restraining (or even killing) the perpetrator. Those who kill doctors who have performed abortions rationalize their actions precisely that way”

    This is media thinking–judging the efforts and beliefs of millions of people over three decades of time by several incidents that were given wide publicity in an attempt to discredit them. Its the same thinking that led Jon Krakauer to condemn Mormonism because some nuts in Provo decided God wanted them to kill their sister-in-law. No significant number of pro-lifers are violent, so in practice your thesis is wrong. Its also wrong in theory–believing that abortion is objectively murder does not require that one use force to prevent abortions, since they are legal in this country, no more than you would be morally required to use force to free someone you thought was wrongfully sentenced to death. Anyway, suppose that you were right and thinking that abortion was murder led to widespread killing of abortionists. How would that prove that abortion is not murder?

  10. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    [Removed by author for unbearably witty snarkiness]

  11. john f. on February 28, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    re # 5, I can see your point, thank you. The difficulty I have with abdicating a sense of ultimate justice that transcends our petty moral deductions is that punishment is rarely “productive” in an economic sense. That does not diminish the demands of justice. And this is not necessarily in the context of abortionists, so it is actually a tangent. I am thinking more of the application of this idea in the area of the death penalty.

  12. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    Another point, Mike Parker. If abortion isn’t murder, but only akin to it, wouldn’t we still have a moral duty to try and stop it under your theory? After all, systematically breaking someone’s bones isn’t murder, only akin to it, but it seems to me we would have a moral duty to stop that akin to our moral duty to stop murder.

  13. Mark B. on February 28, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    Regarding Boris’s comment:

    “Sensational”? Probably. Inaccurate? Literally, yes, unless you have a very messy clinic.

    On the other hand, it’s probably a necessary counter to the incessant drumbeat of “a woman’s right to choose” spoken in stentorian tones and omitting always the thing that the woman is choosing to do and whom she is choosing to do it to.

    As to Nathan: I think your pie doesn’t fit reality, unless you include accidental deaths among the killing. If you omit those, government sanctioned killing (by soldiers in wartime, or by law enforcement personnel) are a small fraction of the intentional killings in the US (at least since April of 1865.

    Mike, you have misunderstood the legal doctrine that justifies the use of deadly force as badly as those who think that they are justified in shooting abortionists or bombing abortion clinics. A civilian is not permitted to use deadly force against someone who has committed a homicide, or against someone who might in the future commit a homicide. The rules require immediacy, so that vigilantism does not become our “solution” to the problem of crimes. I don’t think that criminalizing abortion would require us to rush the abortion clinic to stop an abortion “at the point of attack,” just as laws criminalizing homicide do not require us to patrol the rough neighborhood looking for crimes to prevent.

  14. Mark B. on February 28, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    The Lafferty murders occurred in American Fork, not Provo.

    But what’s 15 miles on I-15, anyway?

  15. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks for the Lafferty correction and the clarification about when the law permits us to stop murder, Mark B. When we are morally permitted or morally obliged to stop murder might differ from the law in some respects but I’m pretty sure the law and morality mostly overlap.

  16. Geoff B on February 28, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    I know that this is primarily a philosophical post, but there is a relatively easy solution to the abortion debate: overturn Roe v. Wade and let each state decide how it wants to handle abortion, just as we do with capital punishment. Abortion is THE ISSUE in American politics precisely because the courts have interfered in the democratic process (which was already legalizing abortion in a few states before Roe v. Wade). Abortion is a non-issue in most of Europe precisely because the democratic process has been allowed to proceed. Today we have three states — South Dakota, North Dakota and Mississippi — with only one abortion clinic each. In these cases, the population is so opposed to abortion that outsiders must be flown in to the Planned Parenthood clinic to provide abortions. In a world where Roe v. Wade is overturned, perhaps half of the states will ban abortion in most cases and the rest will allow it to continue. But the populations of each state will feel that their wishes have been respected and the whole abortion debate will subside. BTW, I support the Church’s position on abortion and feel that many states would eventually have positions similar to the Church’s position in a post-Roe v. Wade world.

  17. D-Train on February 28, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    John F.,

    As for the punishment issue, the argument that punishment is intrinsically valuable is nonsense. We punish for a reason: be it deterrence, the satisfaction of justice (for some reason beyond “making someone pay”), or an opportunity to societally condemn an action for socialization purposes. If none of those reasons are present, punishment is nothing more than sadism. I’m not sure that you’re really arguing against this since you do mention justice, but what is your view of the proper reason to punish?

  18. john f. on February 28, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    the satisfaction of justice

  19. Mike Parker on February 28, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    Adam and Mark, allow me to rephrase my earlier post by asking a question:

    The birth control pill works primarily by blocking ovulation. However, if ovulation and fertilization occur, the pill also works by making the lining of the endometrium unreceptive to implantation of the fertilized egg should one get as far as the uterus; the blastocyst is disposed of during the woman’s next menstrual cycle.

    Before the birth of our first two children, my wife and I used the pill to prevent pregnancy. Does that make us, objectively, possible murderers?

  20. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    Was it your intent to kill? Did such killing occur?

    You’ll have to explain to me how this is a restatement of your earlier post.

  21. Seth R. on February 28, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Adam,

    I wasn’t planning on practicing in constitutional law, so I didn’t trouble myself to remember the details of the Roe v. Wade decision after the exam, but …

    Didn’t Roe v. Wade allow for different levels of government interference depending on how far-along the pregnancy was? I.e. didn’t Roe v. Wade allow for stricter laws depending on how much the fetus resembled a person.

    All I know is that nobody ever mentions these distinctions in public debate. To hear some people talk, you’d think the choice was between:

    a) no abortions after conception or

    b) crushing the heads of fully formed babies

    But that’s just not what Roe v. Wade said, at least as far as I understand it. Perhaps someone more familiar with the case could elaborate.

  22. john f. on February 28, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    I.e. didn’t Roe v. Wade allow for stricter laws depending on how much the fetus resembled a person.

    Try telling that to Planned Parenthood.

  23. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    In practice, doctors can crush the heads of fully-formed babies, as long as someone (a doctor, the mother, whoever) is willing to state that its for her health, including her emotional health. That’s why the Supreme Court struck down the partial birth abortion laws.

  24. Mike Parker on February 28, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    Adam #20: “Was it your intent to kill? Did such killing occur?”

    We used the pill with the knowledge of how it worked (as I described in #19), aware of the possibility that a fertilized egg may be destroyed.

    Assuming that a fertilized egg was destroyed in such a manner, does that make my wife and I murderers (objectively)?

  25. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    Yes, but was that your intent? Were you using birth control as some kind of morning after pill?

    Also, I’m just taking your word for it that birth control causes the death of a zygote with any frequency. I’m not sure if that’s the way things work, myself. It seems I’ve heard arguments to the contrary.

    And I still have trouble seeing the relevance of this line of questioning. If using birth control is morally indistinguishable from abortion, than using birth control is objectively murder by my standards. But it still would be really bad by your standards. Both of us are in the same boat: if we want to justify birth control, we have to find some way to distinguish it from abortion.

  26. D-Train on February 28, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    What does the satisfaction of justice mean, John? Does it mean the strict eye-for-an-eye standard? Restitution? What if restitution can’t be made?

    As you noted in your original comment, there are lots of views of justice. Mine would tend to find its expression in societal good (in the realm of punishment). It’s ok to punish someone to the extent that the society benefits at the most benevolent level at which that social benefit can be attained.

    I don’t see any reason to think that we have to suffer as much as we inflict to satisfy justice. Isn’t that the point of the Atonement?

  27. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    D-Train, John F.,
    save it for later.

  28. john f. on February 28, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    That’s interesting D-Train.

  29. a-train on February 28, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    I have two questions:

    1. If you were in a clinic and it was burning down and you had a choose between saving a crying two-year-old or a petri dish with (whatever number) of embryos in it, which would you save?

    2. And why shouldn’t we be more concerned with in vitro feritilization (compared to abortion), since it causes far more “deaths” than abortion?

  30. john f. on February 28, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    (I’m just going to defer to Adam on this that we shouldn’t be having this discussion right here since it is a thread-jack (my fault) from his desired content.)

    [Editor: Thanks, John F.]

  31. Mike Parker on February 28, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    Adam #25: “Yes, but was that your intent? Were you using birth control as some kind of morning after pill?”

    Does it matter if my wife took it once or continuously? If the intention was the same — prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation or by destroying a fertilized egg by preventing it from attaching to the uterine wall — why would it matter when the pill was taken?

    “Also, I’m just taking your word for it on how birth control works. I’m not sure if that’s the way things work, myself. It seems I’ve heard arguments to the contrary.”

    Yes there are arguments to the contrary.

    My point here is to determine (a) at what point you believe a fertilized egg deserves legal protections, and (b) how far you are willing to go in pursuit of your conclusions. If the pill causes destruction of fertilized eggs in the manner I described, should the pill be banned? And should otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints be called into account for their use of the pill?

  32. D-Train on February 28, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    Cool. My apologies if I diverted from the discussion at hand.

    [Editor: Thanks, Mr. Train]

  33. Adam Greenwood on February 28, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Mike Parker,

    Please see the last paragraph of comment #25.

    A-Train,

    The two-year old, of course. Your intuition that where duties to people conflict we should go with the people we most experience as people is an intuition I share. This is why I and everyone else spend time and money on our own children that could save multiple lives in Africa if redirected.

  34. meems on February 28, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    Scientifically (medically?) speaking, a woman is not considered pregnant (and her body doesn’t consider itself pregnant), until the blastocyst has been implanted in the uterine lining and is an embryo. Only 3 in 10 fertilized eggs ever implant themselves into the uterine lining. Prior to that, I don’t think you can really make a case of calling it (the death of a fertilzed egg) murder.

    BTW, nothing happens if you take a birth control pill “once.” BC pills are not hte same as “morning after” pills.

  35. dsilversmith on March 1, 2006 at 12:43 am

    In 1855 You could kill a preson who was a slave if you owned them, or if the person who did own them did not object. IT WAS NOT MURDER!!! It still was wrong. Abortion may not be against curent laws, but it is still wrong.

  36. Kaimi Wenger on March 1, 2006 at 1:43 am

    Dad,

    Good point. However, as a lawyer, let me nitpick it slightly. I think that status of slave law was slightly more complicated than you argue — I’ll have to look it up tomorrow, when I’m in my office, but I believe that there were a relatively small number of cases where a slave owner was prosecuted for killing his own slaves. However, as a general matter, slave owners had broad authority to mistreat slaves in ways that were perfectly legal, but also very much wrong. On a broader level, the slave analogy serves well to highlight the wrong-versus-legal divide — some acts are fully legal, but are also wrong as a moral matter.

    (Interestingly enough, Chief Justice John Marshall, the influential early Supreme Court justice, wrote that slavery was against natural law but that it was allowed under the positive law. That is, slavery was contrary to the ordinary nature of things, which serves as the baseline for laws, but that man-made laws could override that natural law baseline, and did so in the case of slavery).

  37. Brad Kramer on March 1, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    The question of legal protection for the unborn is a sticky one with a whole host of potential implications for the legal status of pregnant women. In the first place, state protection of fetuses presumes the legal conference of some kind of personhood upon the fetus, and with it rights which the state is obligated to use its power to protect and enforce, preeminent among them being the right to life. In the case of living (i.e.born) children, the state has several mechanisms by which it can intervene to protect a child. If a child is being abused, endangered, or threatened by her parents, the state can remove the child from the custody of the parents, appoint a new legal guardian, prosecute the parents, etc. But how does the state intervene in the interests of the unborn? If a doctor has good reason to believe that a crime is going to be committed, that obviates her patient/client obligations and she is required to notify authorities. What if, in the aftermath of a law change criminalizing abortion and offering state protection for the unborn, an ignorant woman consults her physician about the possibility of terminating an unwanted pregnancy, thereby indicating her intent to violently harm–murder (since taking the life of an innocent, rights-bearing person is, I think, the very legal definition of murder)–her unborn child? What should the authorities do? Should the court appoint a separate legal guardian for the yet-unborn child? Does the biological mother then effectively become an incubator for a child whose interests the state is actively intervening to protect? Does she get to see hte child after it is born (since her murderous intent toward the child obviously precludes the possibility of her being fit for custody)? Do we really want pregnant women — especially poor, young, or scared ones — avoiding seeing a doctor and getting proper prenatal care because they don’t want the DCFS to start intervening in their affairs? What if we see a pregnant woman smoking or ingesting alchohol or riding a roller coaster?

    These might seem like extreme or silly extrapolations, but let’s take the example of a real case:

    A couple of years ago, in Utah there was a bizarre case that made national headlines. A woman was pregnant with twins and was told by her doctor that, due to complications, the best chance for the babies’ survival was for her to undergo a C-section. She refused, delivered both children vaginally, and one of them died. The DA here attempted to charge her with neglegent homicide–for actions she took (or refused to take) during her pregnancy that contributed to the post-birth death of her child. I had very little sympathy for this woman, especially since she refused the C-section because she knew the operation would expose her heroine addiction. The charges ended up being reduced and the case went away, but no one (at least that I’m aware of) discussed the almost frightening implications of the case: if her act of criminal neglegence consisted in refusing to have a C-section, then does it follow that the state can intervene by FORCING her to allow a doctor to cut open her abdomen? What if the stakes aren’t quite as high? What if, in spite of the fact that the risk is considerably less, a doctor advises a patient that the best interest of her child will be most likely served by a c-section rather than a natural birth? Should Mom even have a choice (the million-dollar word) in the matter?

    I recognize that this is a very complicated issue, and as a man, I have a hard time truly empathizing with the concerns of women over their personal autonomy and control of their bodies. But I can sympathize to a certain extent. I also don’t think that legalized abortion necessarily increases the physical or sexual autonomy of men, since irresponsible men, directly or indirectly, have an interest in abortion as a form of birth control and are still capable of coercing the choice of women. I think that sensible measures to decrease poverty (not all measures are utopian), major efforts to combat the objectification of women and comodification of female sexuality, laws protecting the workplace status of all women (including pregnant women), serious health-care reform, policies that allow husbands to meaningfully participate in the child-rearing process (like paid paternity leave), can all contribute to the reduction in the number of abortions women choose to have. We also need to look seriously at government subsidization of the adoption process. If the government had in place a program similar to LDS family services, that would be an important step in the right direction. It might also necessitate an increase in taxes (gasp!!!). And, quite frankle, based on the data I’ve seen, I’m skeptical about the feasability of criminalization as means of reducting abortion rates. Abortion is pandemic in countries with strict legal prohibitions (like Latin America) and a much less serious problem in Western Europe. That might also have something to do with poverty rates, accessibility of health care, etc.

    Abortion is a social evil — certainly as much a tobacco or alcholol. I think that if political parties in this country devoted half the resources they do to pandering and demonizing–using the issue to label their opponents as chauvenists or baby-killers–to actually trying to reduce the number of abortions women choose to have, this could be a dramatically less serious problem. I also think that the worst thing that could happen for the parties (especially the republicans) and the best thing that could happen for abortion policy per se would be the overturning of Roe. Let’s have a serious, adult discussion about aboriton policy. Republicans should look at overturning Roe as an opportunity to deliver real results to their prolife constituents that have been supporting them faithfully (inexplicably) for nearly three decades; Democrats should look at it as an opportunity to bring middle-class women back into their coalition.

    Sorry if this was off point or too much of a rant. For those interested, Judge Michael McConnell has written two very thoughtful, provocative pieces on abortion policy in the U of Chic law review. Maybe Nate O. can track them down on the web or scan them and post links.

  38. anonymous on March 1, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    I had an abortion when I was in high school. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I emphatically state that the ease in which I was able to obtain a medically safe abortion greatly influenced my decision to do it. It even influenced my (lax) approach to birth control and to sexual activity in general. Please understand that I look back on these attitudes and choices with the deepest abhorrence–I’m just contributing a viewpoint from someone who’s been there.

  39. Concierge on March 2, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    From Comment 1:
    I am more concerned about ending the societal conditions that allow abortion to flourish.

    I too believe we need to be more concerned about ending societal conditions through alternative means to making laws. There are many laws being made that will ultimately ban abortion, but in the process of making those tiny laws, we are also going to lose a whole host of rights. While the media focus is on changing abortion laws – other laws and rights that seem innoculous now, but will affect abortion later, are being chipped away with astonishing future implications:

    Accutane (also under a variety of other names and manufactured by other drug companies) is a drug that is a high dose of vitamin A. It shrinks pores, and rids sever acne suffers of the condition which ultimately helps protect them from types of skin cancer and open wounds that let in infection.

    To obtain the drug, one needs to get a prescription – a couple years ago, this was a simple process. Now it is a major ordeal. Timed blood work and a pregnancy test need to be done prior to each monthly MD visit. Patients must sign that they will use two types of birth control. Patients, doctors AND pharmacists MUST register each montly prescription into a national database, and all of the questions asked by the database have to match up between the three (patient, MD, pharmacist). One small glitch in the process delays the treatment. Yes, even men need to go through the above steps!

    Why? Accutane is know to prevent birth defects. The President of the March of Dimes (pro-lifer) has pushed forth this rigourous regulation. The problem is, that there are far worse, and more commonly used drugs (tetracycline, the “pill”, estrogen for hotflashes, aspirin, prostate drugs, chemotherapy during pregnancy, etc.) that also cause birth defects. People, and especially women (driven by a “beautiful culture” – hence the need for social changes and social views that promote health above beauty) with acne often desperately want a cure from the pain and “hideous” breakouts.

    The goal is to make Accutane so difficult and time consuming to obtain, that MDs and pharmacists will see the drug too much of a hassel to prescribe because of all the extraneous reporting. Also, pharmacists that are pro-life, can opt not to give out Accutane because women are required to use birth control. If birth control is outlawed over the life begins at conception notion, then a whole hosts legislation can move forward banning droves of pharmaceuticals that affect the fetus – putting the life of the child before the health of the mother in all cases.

    People that live near the border of Mexico, and Canada, often hop the border rather than go through the hassels in the US to obtain Accutane. There is now legislation moving through to make it illegal to obtain a procedure or drug on foreign grounds that is illegal in the US. If abortion is banned, contraceptives are banned, then drugs that affect the fetus are banned or highly, highly regulated, we will become slaves in our own country.

  40. Mike on March 3, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    I think this whole abortion issue is gasping its final hours. In a few short years pharmaceutical agents that cause a pregnant uterus to expel the fetus will be widely available over the Internet and maybe even in drug stores. Need to terminate a pregnancy? Visit a website and pay a few sheckels. Get some pills and take them. Maybe in the mail. At the minimum from a drug store, or from a physician, midwife or such. We can’t control access to illegal and dangerous drugs like crystal meth. or cocaine or marihuana. These kind of “medications” will become widely available, either legally or illegally. Then the number of abortion procedures will fall to close to zero and the debate will cool.

    I believe that in prior centuries women were allowed to kill their very young children without many social or legal consequences. And when school age children, working in the mines for instance, were killed; that was not viewed with as much of a sense of tragedy and loss as when an adult was killed. The value placed on human life was based somewhat on age and the young had less value. By extension, the unborn had far less value. The abhorence we feel today when a very young child of say, a few months old, is killed by its parents; abhorence to the point that we want to charge them with murder and incarcerate them for a very long time, is a relatively recent development. Our ancestors did not feel the same sense of horror at these deaths of the very young as we do. Perhaps because so many of them died from infectious diseases anyway.

    And we must not forget what J. Golden Kimball said; “I believe parents should have the right to kill their children, up to the age of 17 years old.” (just kidding.)

    I agree that all of this disrepect for human life is a gross sin. But it will shortly have far fewer social implications and easily be hidden. The drive for government to solve the moral problem will dry up. The moral implications will continue to be an academic topic for discussion. But a woman will be able, easily and quietly, to do whatever she wants to do. The government will not have anything to say about it any more, for better or for worse.

  41. Mark B. on March 3, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    “Assuming that a fertilized egg was destroyed in such a manner, does that make my wife and I murderers (objectively)?”

    I’m sorry I missed this comment. The use of that wonderful word “objectively” immediately after the wrong use of the nominative rather than the objective case is just too good to be true.

    The answer, of course, is that nothing can make “I” a murderer, unless Henry Higgins sentences you to be taken out and hung for the cold blooded murder of the English tongue.

  42. Adam Greenwood on March 5, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    “These might seem like extreme or silly extrapolations”

    I agree.

    “I think that sensible measures to decrease poverty (not all measures are utopian), major efforts to combat the objectification of women and comodification of female sexuality, laws protecting the workplace status of all women (including pregnant women), serious health-care reform, policies that allow husbands to meaningfully participate in the child-rearing process (like paid paternity leave), can all contribute to the reduction in the number of abortions women choose to have. We also need to look seriously at government subsidization of the adoption process. If the government had in place a program similar to LDS family services, that would be an important step in the right direction. It might also necessitate an increase in taxes (gasp!!!). And, quite frankle, based on the data I’ve seen, I’m skeptical about the feasability of criminalization as means of reducting abortion rates. Abortion is pandemic in countries with strict legal prohibitions (like Latin America) and a much less serious problem in Western Europe. That might also have something to do with poverty rates, accessibility of health care, etc. ”

    The root-causes approach to abortion is mostly an illusion, a sort of halfway covenant. I need to do a post on this, but let me address a few points.

    1) If rape were legal, would any serious person suggest that we would have to leave it legal and look at the root causes? Saying that raising taxes to pay for a host of social programs is the solution to aborting the unborn suggests that what you really want is social programs.

    2) Why are root causes and legal approaches mutually exclusive?

    3) The root-causes people ignore that changing the law will often change attitudes.

    4) You say that changing the law won’t affect abortion rates, but
    (a) abortion rates skyrocketed by orders and orders of magnitude after Roe v. Wade made abortion legal
    (b) Western Europe isn’t a good counterexample. Not only are they different culturally, but Western European countries have stricter abortion laws than we do, often much stricter.

    “Abortion is a social evil — certainly as much a tobacco or alcholol.”

    Because the number of people who die of second-hand smoke each year, or because they’re hit by a drunk-driver, is remotely comparable to the number who are killed in abortions. Pretty much the same thing, yep.

    “the best thing that could happen for abortion policy per se would be the overturning of Roe.”

    Yes. I am pleased with the strides that have been made towards that end.

  43. Brad Kramer on March 6, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    Adam,
    You accuse me of wanting social programs as though that is something to be ashamed of. And since when is subsudizing the adoption process some kind of extravagent social welfare measure? I made the comment about “seeming” extrapolations only to underscore that things aren’t necessarily what they seem. The story I related–about the pregnant junky who refused to have a c section–was real. (I’m sure, if you’re as committed as you seem to ending legal abortion that you already knew the story). And state supreme courts, in Florida and Colorado, have already heard cases involving efforts to appoint separate (i.e. not the biological mother) legal guardians for unborn children. It’s not unreasonable to think that a legal climate in which a woman’s carrying of a child means that the state can start exercising varying degrees of control over her body independently of her personal interests, is going to lead to women being reluctant to get proper prenatal care, to pregnant teenagers being reluctant to talk to their parents or other people in a position to help, and instead seeking the advise of underground abortion doctors. Also, I don’t know where your numbers are coming from, and maybe all the stats I’ve read are way off, but I still don’t think Roe significantly impacted abortion rates–if at all. I think it affected the numbers of legal abortions, but not abortions overall. And western europe does have more restrictive laws (and much more reasonable, rational laws) but not significantly more restrictive. I agree that law changes can impact attitudes, but that doesn’t solve the quandary of confering enforceable rights upon the unborn without relegating pregnant women to second-class status as citizens. I’m sorry if my tone here is combative. I think you and I agree to about the halfway point. You think (here I am making an obvious presumption) that the radical pro-choice movement is threatening families and the well-being of children. I think that the radical pro-choice movement is working hand in hand with the radical pro-life movement in the service of those ends.

  44. Adam Greenwood on March 7, 2006 at 12:07 am

    The number of abortions doubled in the first seven years after Roe v. Wade, from c. 700,000 to c. 1.4 million, using statistics from Planned Parenthood’s research institute:
    http://www.nrlc.org/news/2003/NRL01/randy.html

    There’s no good stats available from before Roe v. Wade, that I can find, but the fact that abortion increased dramatically after Roe v. Wade tells me it was even lower before.

    If you think pro-lifers are as much a threat to the family and to children as pro-choicers, you are mad. A handful of isolated and *unsuccessful* incidents to keep mothers from destroying their babies with alcohol or drugs are no way equivalent to the 1.3 million children who were killed last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

  45. Brad Kramer on March 7, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    I agree that 1.3 million is worse than the hitherto unsuccessful attempts — incidents — mentioned above. In fact, the incidents in themselves are not even the problem. I even think that the fact that abortion is being used as a form of birth control (which, as far as I can discern, is, or should be, the only form of abortion under discussion here) is a greater evil than the handful of prolife extremists who advocate shooting abortion doctors. But I’m trying to akcnowledge that this is not a simple b/w issue and to craft an argument about the problems created by the abortion question that amounts to something more than a “baby-killers, baby-killers” mantra. On paper it seems highly commendable that society would try to prevent mothers from destroying or endangering their unborn children with drugs, alchohol, or other kinds of seriously irresponsible behavior. But I’m concerned with the impact that granting legal status of any kind to the unborn will have on the legal status of pregnant women. I’m concerned with how enforceable laws designed to protect the unborn from their mothers will affect expecting mothers that have no ill intentions toward their unborn children whatsoever. If the state gets to decide when abortions are or aren’t appropriate, will expecting mothers with severely deformed or anancephalic babies get the option of not aborting them? Or will HMOs get to make these kinds of decisions, in the absence of a woman’s absolute right to choose (prenatal care for an anancephalic baby is likely to cost an insurer as much as 100 times as much as an abortion — we’re all capitalists, right?)?

    I know that abortion-on-demand is a slippery slope that can have devastating effects on children, women, families, and society. But so is abortion-as-murder. All this talk about killing innocent children only underscores the over-simplicity and untenibility of the uncompromising prolife position. If abortion is a murderous act of violence against an innocent child, then maybe the discussion is about more than just abortion as birth control. After all, if abortion is murder, then the fact that a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest is no more cause for killing the unborn child than it would be for killing the child after he/she is born. The reason that the afformentioned incidents are isolated and unsuccessful is that, much to the chagrin of the prolife movement, no real legal standing has been confered upon the unborn. My co-indictment of the prochoice/prolife movements comes from the fact that I believe abortion-as-murder to be just as ridiculous a concept, frought with just as many terrifying social implications as abortion-on-demand. To say nothing of the fact that the position of the Church is crystal clear: abortion is not murder and is morally justifiable in cases of rape, incest, when the life or HEALTH of the mother is in jeopardy, or when the fetus has no chance for survival post birth. And the Church’s position gives no consideration to which trimester the abortion in question might take place during (sorry about the awkward wording).

    I think overturning Roe is a step in the right direction because it will only encourage the country to start thinking and talking like grownups about this terribly complex, difficult question while marginalizing the Planned Parenthood/Eagle Forum folks. And it looks like things will come to a head soon (i.e. this is on its way to the Sup Court for a major showdown) thanks to the brave efforts of the prolife governor of S. Dakota who just signed into law a bill that would mean that an LDS woman who found herself pregnant as the result of a rape and did not want to carry the child would have to go to another state to act in perfect compliance with the counsel of her bishop.

  46. Adam Greenwood on March 9, 2006 at 8:11 am

    “I know that abortion-on-demand is a slippery slope that can have devastating effects on children, women, families, and society. But so is abortion-as-murder.”

    1. Arguing that recognizing unborn children as full human beiings will have unpleasant consequences does not prove that they are not full human beings. Even if the consequences you predict were accurate, that does not somehow make the children unhuman.

    2. I won’t repeat this point any further, but you are setting up a false equivalence between the millions of abortions and a handful of unsuccessful attempts to keep mothers from taking drugs or whatever while pregnant.

    “After all, if abortion is murder, then the fact that a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest is no more cause for killing the unborn child than it would be for killing the child after he/she is born.”

    Not so. There is a respectable moral distinction to be made because in these cases the woman has not invited or contemplated the pregnancy. There’s a discussion of this over at Unofficial Manifesto.

    3. “To say nothing of the fact that the position of the Church is crystal clear: abortion is not murder and is morally justifiable in cases of rape, incest, when the life or HEALTH of the mother is in jeopardy, or when the fetus has no chance for survival post birth.”

    Bunk. The church says that abortion is a sin akin to murder. In the Original Post, which I presume you have read, I explain why an unborn child can have full rights to life but abortion would still be a sin only akin to murder. The Church does not say that abortion is morally justifiable in the cases you outline, it says that couples should prayerfully make the decision themselves. And I have never heard of this no-chance-for-survival exception that you are talking about.

  47. Brad Kramer on March 9, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    I’m NOT NOT NOT setting up an equivalence between the act of aborting children and efforts to stop pregnant women from harming their children. I’m talking about the broader, longer-term social and political implications of creating enforceable laws that reflect either the principle that abortion is an absolute right or that abortion is murder. And your respectable moral distinction on the rape question (which I accept) vanishes the moment you allow that the unborn are full human beings with rights (which I don’t accept). Why, if the unborn child is a full person, can a woman who was raped abort the child but not kill it after it has been born, under the logic that says both that abortion is murder AND that it is justified in the case of rape. I’m just saying that the hardcore, prolife position (no abortions expect to save the mother’s life) is much more morally and ethically consistent and defensible than the one I interpret you as articulating, under which fetuses are full human beings but all the abortion caveats still exist..

    From “True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference,” published by the Church in 2004, under the heading “Abortion” (p. 4-5):

    “[S]ome exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by a competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by a competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.”

    I admit that my post should have read “abortion is not murder and MAY BE [instead of IS] morally justifiable…” since the passage above goes on to say that even under such circumstances the decision to have an abortion should only be made in consultation with Church leaders and through earnest prayer.

    The Handbook of Instructions states that abortion is not murder (my source here is Elder Nelson’s “Reverence for Life” in the May 1985 Ensign).

    Let me be clear: I would never try to morally justify using abortion as a form of birth control. I would never encourage a loved one — or anyone — to get an abortion except under the circumstances listed above. But I am still concerned (as your silence on the subject indicates you are not) about the implications that granting legal status to fetuses will have on the legal status of pregnant women. I’m assuming we’re about on the same page when it comes to abortion as a moral or ethical question. We diverge when the question moves into the legal/political realm. I’m saying that within a rights-centered, democratic political system that values individual autonomy, the goal we should shoot for is a society in which the fewest number of women possible choose to have abortions, in other words a society where abortions are safe, legal, and rare. You appear to lean more in the direction of criminalizing abortion as a means of reducing the number of abortions women have. I’m not sure if our respective positions are rooted in our own political/ethical assumptions (our own right/left proclivities) or simply in the fact that we each believe that our respective approaches will be more effective. I’m not sure that reducing the number of abortions is a noble enough end to justify the means of severely restricting the personal autonomy of pregnant women, and evidently you are. That’s a fine position to take. Just don’t pretend like it’s the only morally reasonable position or the only one consistent with the gospel. If it can be morally justifiable (by Church standards that is) to do something under certain circumstances, what’s wrong with it being legal to do it under the same circumstances (unless you want laws that say abortion is only appropriate if you’re LDS and get your bishop’s blessing)?

  48. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2006 at 10:00 am

    I think we’ve reached the point either where I’ve answered your objections already or I don’t understand you.

    As per rape and incest, you can get a taste of the sophisticated arguments here:

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/06_03_05_corner-archive.asp#092044

  49. Brad Kramer on March 11, 2006 at 11:32 am

    I don’t need convincing that there should be exemptions for rape, incest, etc. I just need convincing that such exemptions are ethically consistent with the position that fetuse are full human beings.

  50. Brad Kramer on March 12, 2006 at 1:13 am

    Adam: my main objection/concern is what confering enforceable legal rights upon fetuses will mean for the legal status of pregnant women. I don’t think you’ve tried to provide an answer unless a) accusing me of drawing a moral equivalence between killing the unborn and trying to protect them and b) telling me that I’m wrong, constitutes an answer. I’m not saying I have the answer. I’ve had several conversations with what I consider to be one of the smartest conservatives in the world — Judge Michael McConnell — on this subject and he doesn’t claim to have an answer either. I do think he’s doing the most sophisticated thinking on the topic of anyone I know. He’s written two fantastic pieces on the abortion debate — both book reviews — which I mentioned in an earlier post. It’s obvious to me that you’re a pretty bright guy yourself, and I’m not trying to browbeat you with this question or use it as a trump card. I really want to know if my logic is flawed, but I can’t see how it’s possible in a rights-based society governed by rule of law to give fetuses rights (most importantly the right to life) which the state is obligated to protect without diminishing the legal standing and rights of the women who carry the children. I wish we could get Kaimi or Nate in on this because they both know the law a heckuva lot better than I do. If you have answers though, I would welcome them. No matter how much we may disagree here, I think you have to believe that I’m not any happier with the status quo than you are and that using abortion as a form of birth control is not a problem I take lightly.

    I was able to locate one of McConnell’s articles online:
    http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/rawls5.html

    I can’t find the other, but here’s the info if you want to look up a hard copy:
    Michael W. McConnell, “How Not to Promote Serious Deliberation About Abortion,� 58 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1181, 1196-97 (1991).

    Besides these two, this the best thing I’ve read on the subject:
    http://www.harpers.org/GamblingWithAbortion.html

    I’d truly be interested in hearing your response to these if you have either the time or inclination.

  51. Adam Greenwood on March 13, 2006 at 1:38 am

    “but I can’t see how it’s possible in a rights-based society governed by rule of law to give fetuses rights (most importantly the right to life) which the state is obligated to protect without diminishing the legal standing and rights of the women who carry the children.”

    Interesting. My abolitionist, uncompromising response is to say that its not a question of giving fetuses rights, its a question of acknowledging the God-given, inalienable rights that they already have.

    I also have a gentler response. First, I don’t think its true that most pro-lifers want the full panoply of criminal law applied to abortion. A law stripping aborters of their medical licenses and criminalizing performing an abortion without a license might be enough to do the trick. I’m a little unclear, but you seem to be worried that the law will read something like “unborn children are human persons with all the rights pertaining thereto,” and that such a broad statement will have all sorts of unintended consequences. I don’t think that the law will generally be so broad. If it is, I am inclined to think it won’t have the sorts of effects you think it will. Unborn children are children, which means society traditionally leaves the parents a fair amount of room in which to do as the parents please. There are limits, of course, but I don’t find them very objectionable.

  52. Brad Kramer on March 13, 2006 at 2:01 am

    I never thought about it like this before, but maybe there are grounds for restricting elective abortion other than defending the rights of the unborn. I can’t speak from personal experience (I’m not aware of anyone I know having an abortion), but I get the sense from what I read that the real untold victims of easy access abortion are the women who have them. It is traumatizing and often has a lifelong impact. Maybe the social-circumstances approach I have been advocating also needs to incorporate an approach that says personal autonomy shouldn’t license the self-destructive act of abortion as birth control any more than it should license heroin use. I still think reducing the number of abortions women choose to have is a more reasonable and achievable goal than reducing abortions by prosecuting doctors. I also have a hard time believing that even the most hard-lined, anti-DCFS, government-is-evil person who thinks abortion is murder would have any problem with prosecuting pregnant smokers. There’s a difference between acknowledging on a moral plane that the unborn are persons and acknowledging the same thing in the legal sphere. All things considered, it sounds like you and I are not that far apart here when we peel away the layers of partisan baggage. I think we are just both mistrustful of the motives of our opponents based on political assumptions that go far beyond the question of abortion (i.e. you think liberals hate religion and the traditional family and I think conservatives hate poor people and the environment, or something like that).

  53. Adam Greenwood on March 13, 2006 at 2:17 am

    The effects on women are frequently discussed at http://www.afterabortion.org/ and http://www.feministsforlife.org/

    “I still think reducing the number of abortions women choose to have is a more reasonable and achievable goal than reducing abortions by prosecuting doctors.”

    If you advocate getting rid of Roe v. Wade, as you seem to, then I don’t see how this could possibly be true.

    ” I also have a hard time believing that even the most hard-lined, anti-DCFS, government-is-evil person who thinks abortion is murder would have any problem with prosecuting pregnant smokers.”

    I believe the risks of smoking while pregnant aren’t too far off from the risks of letting your kids ride without a carseat or keeping loaded guns in the house that are accessible. Neither has launched a spate of criminal prosecutions. Both car-seat rules and trigger-lock rules have limited parent autonomy in some ways. I am probably mildly opposed to them both, for that reason, but I have a hard time getting worked up about it.

    “i.e. you think liberals hate religion and the traditional family and I think conservatives hate poor people and the environment, or something like that”

    Liberals *do* hate religion and the traditional family. Conservatives don’t hate poor people and the environment, but they are mostly indifferent to them. So there.

  54. Brad Kramer on March 13, 2006 at 4:22 am

    That might have been a little uncalled for. My statement was tongue in cheek. I don’t know any conservatives who *hate* poor people. But I know tons of liberals — I’m a grad student in history — and I can count on one hand the ones that *hate* religion or traditional families. The majority of liberals I know are Mormons — and good, faithful, temple-going Mormons. Maybe I misunderstood you. (My sarcasm meter is less than perfect when it comes to written print). But if you think all or even most liberals hate religion you need to get out more.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.