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Bradley Butterfield’s column (Thursday’s Tribune) that said the abortion debate should  focus on women’s rights reflects flawed thinking and makes false representations of the pro-life view.

Butterfield says asking when life begins is the wrong question. He also says many pro-lifers believe they should be allowed to force their beliefs on others.

There is a reason why the abortion debate centers on when life begins instead of when rights begin because it’s generally agreed that all people have a basic right to life.

If the unborn are people, they deserve our protection. Pro-lifers are not imposing a religious belief on others by taking this view, they are extending a principle that even liberals accept.

Butterfield’s preferred starting point, however, illustrates that “personhood” status is not particularly relevant to him or other liberals.

By way of example, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minverva, paying homage to Peter Singer as Butterfield does, argue in a 2012 Journal of Medical Ethics article that the fact that both fetuses and newborns “are potential persons is morally irrelevant.” They say that “when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”

If we no longer link rights with personhood, what becomes our guiding principle?

According to Butterfield, the highest moral virtue is to avoid cruelty. To suffer requires cognition, which, he says, the human fetus is incapable of. You cannot be cruel to something, he says, that cannot suffer.

Obviously, there is no reason this principle can’t be extended. Indeed, Peter Singer argues that children up to age 2 don’t necessarily have a right to live.

But why stop there? In a June 2010 opinion column, Singer asks how good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world? He argues that if we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.

On this view, everyone will suffer to some extent, so we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. His conclusion: Everyone in the world should sterilize themselves. Why cause unnecessary suffering to future generations?

Or consider bio-ethicist Jacob Appel, who takes issue with parents of children born with birth defects having the choice to kill their child. Why? Because doctors should make that choice, not parents.

In a 2009 journal article, he argues that a child with a birth defect will endure several years or even decades of extreme suffering, which trumps the suffering the family might endure if the state intervened and killed the child. He argues that this is “an inevitable consequence of our progress toward liberal humanism.”

And indeed it is.

Appel, like Singer, is anything if not consistent. In a 2009 Huffington Post article he argues that we ought to allow women to pay their way through college by conceiving babies, aborting them and then selling the body parts.

“If a woman has the fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy, why not the right to use the products of that terminated pregnancy as she sees fit?” Appel asks.

If someone “incapable of basic cognition and of suffering of any kind” does not have an intrinsic right to life, what about someone under general anesthesia? By definition, such people are incapable of suffering.

The liberal argument appears internally inconsistent. If it’s applied consistently, we see outrageous outcomes, seriously suggested the harvesting of fetal organs, euthanizing of already-born children with — and without — parental consent, all the way up to and including the actual elimination of the human race. That would solve Butterfield’s concerns about overpopulation, I think.

I actually agree that the important question is not “when does life begin?” However, the right one is not “when do rights begin?” but rather “where do our rights come from?”

Butterfield believes that society imparts those rights. Therein lies the true difference in our views. We know of societies that have elevated “don’t cause unnecessary suffering” over even the right to live.

Historically, where “when do rights begin?” has been taken as the starting point, only horrors have followed. Choose your starting points carefully; whatever your intentions, your final destination may not be what you had in mind.


Tony Horvath is a past president of Wisconsin Lutherans For Life.

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(44) comments

B Butterfield

@Sol: “Very true. The point you seem to miss is that is your very beliefs are one such invented reason.”

All “beliefs” are “invented reasons.” So what? If you think yours aren’t, you’re wrong.

“No, just by and large it's just been generally miserable for everyone. The number of people it hasn't been as such, probably isn't even enough to sustain a viable gene pool.”

Just because Schopenhauer said life is generally miserable for everyone doesn’t make it so, but what’s the point? (that people have some sort of moral duty to live even though life supposedly sucks?). I guess I’m one of the lucky ones, because I love my life dearly, even if I’m sometimes miserable.

“I'm just a realist who understands human nature . . . thinking a "happier world" can ever be achieved by our own efforts is thus foolish idealism.”

Well, I’d call you a cynic, not a “realist,” if you think this is as good as we can do. Life has improved quite a bit, generally speaking, due to the efforts of your so-called “idealists” over the centuries.

“And thus why even most Liberals accept the premises that people shouldn't have their lives take from them. Even by society. Sadly, your arguments seem to undercut that basic principle.”

No, because I don’t accept your definition of “people” (you’d call a fresh zygote a person, I would not), so stop playing this trick where you pretend we both agree and can therefore share the same conclusion.

“All one needs to do is change the definition of "person" or "human being" or whatever, and suddenly it's not even "murder" any more, just as it was done for blacks, Jews, etc. not too long ago.”

So what? That’s just reality, Mr. Realist. Do you think the definition of a word comes from the sky or something? People decide between them how to define a word, then make the rules they want out of their definitions. Your definition of a “person” is no more objective than anyone’s, it's just the one you prefer, for your own personal reasons.

“Of course, if you were actually paying attention to Horvath's article you'd note that he already lists plenty of Liberals who argue that such reasoning applies even after one leaves the birth-canal.”

I don’t know what you’re saying here—your reasoning is muddled by this idea that allowing abortion means we have to all kill each other and ourselves—but Horvath lost all credibility for representing what liberals think when he (and you) blatantly misrepresented Peter Singer’s position.

“…the Holocaust, when that's exactly what your arguments and beliefs justify.”

Only if we go by your definition of a “person,” which I don’t. Those Jews were people, aborted fetuses are not yet people. Stop trying to pretend that we define "people" the same.

“If the only objection you can make is for you to pout and stomp your feet and cry "I personally don't like it!" then obviously that's not good enough.”

That’s all you have too, your personal preference, your personal belief. Look Sol, if you have some evidence that your moral beliefs are somehow “objective,” i.e., verifiable as facts or as ordained by some deity, then lay it on the table, otherwise, we’re all in the same boat when it comes to deciding what’s right and what’s wrong.

“A lot of people shared a preference for blacks to be farm equippment, and for the "undesirables" to be carted off to gas chambers. And all of it was 'Society Approved.'”

Exactly, which is why people who oppose cruelty need to convince others not to support such practices ever again. I have no absolute proof that cruelty is bad, nor do you that abortion is bad; all we have is our preferences for anti-cruel behavior or anti-abortional behavior, and we believe the world will be a better place for more people if we can convince others to share them.

“No, objective standard of morality means no objective standard of "importance."”

No, importance is decided by people’s preferences and interests, and a lot of people have an interest in the outcome of the abortion debate, whereas nobody cares what kind of ice cream people prefer.

“…the fact that everyone appeals to an objective standard of morality, such as what you do when you appeal to "compassion" and "avoiding suffering" as objectively good, is one of the ways we can verify an objective morality does indeed exist. ;)”

No, the preference for avoiding cruelty is not an “objective standard” (as in some kind of absolute Truth handed down by God), it’s a subjective feeling that I hope to make more universal. Again, I can’t prove that cruelty is the worst thing we do any more than you can prove that your moral values are the Correct/True ones. All I can do is explain why I think my morals are more preferable and hope others will agree. That’s just life, Mr. Realist. Anything else is just wishful, "idealistic," thinking.

Fred Waiss

I wanted to toss in my two cents worth. I am not conceited enough to believe I know the right answer to the abortion question. Yes, we might have another million wonderful human beings, but we might also have hundreds more Ted Bundys or Charlie Starkweathers or Jeffrey Dahmers.
My concern is that a federal law banning abortions would be a step in the wrong direction. Remember, this "august body" we call the U.S. Congress (both houses) took over 100 years to decide that women should have the right to vote. They passed an Amendment ( Prohibition), then changed their minds after seeing the damage it had caused. It is one small step from "you must remain pregnant" to "you must get pregnant" or "you must not get pregnant" or "you are required by law to keep your natural born child and raise it no matter what." We do not want to go down that path, but putting that power in the hands of our elected idiots removes the barriers.

Sol

"All “beliefs” are “invented reasons.” So what? If you think yours aren’t, you’re wrong. "

Well my beliefs are based in reality. And I do believe reality to be "invented" in a sense, though I doubt that's what you mean.

"Just because Schopenhauer said life is generally miserable for everyone doesn’t make it so, but what’s the point? (that people have some sort of moral duty to live even though life supposedly sucks?). I guess I’m one of the lucky ones, because I love my life dearly, even if I’m sometimes miserable."

And? You just prove the point. Even if you love your life you still endure suffering unnessecerily. Thus the "merciful" thing to do would been to "spare you" such pain. That you've developed some pseudo-masochistic tendencies, doesn't really change that.

"Well, I’d call you a cynic, not a “realist,” if you think this is as good as we can do. Life has improved quite a bit, generally speaking, due to the efforts of your so-called “idealists” over the centuries."

And I'd call reality to be far more on the cynical side of the scale. There was disease, war, poverty, corporate greed, etc. 6000 years ago, and there will still be these things 6000 years from now (assuming humanity still shuffles on in that time). Nothing fundemental to Mankind changes. It just takes on a different coat of paint every once in a while.

"No, because I don’t accept your definition of “people” (you’d call a fresh zygote a person, I would not), so stop playing this trick where you pretend we both agree and can therefore share the same conclusion."

And other's didn't/don't consider other minorities "people" either, as already stated. But that's not what I'm refering to. I'm refering to this notion that Society is the decider of 'rights' and such. If Society decides you don't have a right to live, for whatever arbitrary reasons, the debate on whether one is a 'person' or not is ultimately moot. One could concede the whole notion that blacks and Jews are 'people' and still be justified in exterminating them under your view.

"So what? That’s just reality, Mr. Realist. Do you think the definition of a word comes from the sky or something? People decide between them how to define a word, then make the rules they want out of their definitions. Your definition of a “person” is no more objective than anyone’s, it's just the one you prefer, for your own personal reasons."

No, actually that's just the Liberal argument. Which I don't believe is that well grounded in reality (if even sanity). And you seem to confuse the difference between "definition" and "label." This would be obvious to anyone who's remotely aware that more than one language exists. There is indeed an objective reality of "definitions" even if different sounding "labels" are used. That people can switch the label for 'toilet' and suddenly start calling them a 'rose' doesn't mean they'll start smelling just as sweet.

"I don’t know what you’re saying here—your reasoning is muddled by this idea that allowing abortion means we have to all kill each other and ourselves—but Horvath lost all credibility for representing what liberals think when he (and you) blatantly misrepresented Peter Singer’s position."

I'm not saying anything so much as refrencing what other Liberals do indeed say the reasoning behind abortion logically and consistently justifies.

"Only if we go by your definition of a “person,” which I don’t. Those Jews were people, aborted fetuses are not yet people. Stop trying to pretend that we define "people" the same. "

And that's going by YOUR definition of "people" which German Society obviously didn't agree with. Which according to YOU is perfectly acceptable and justified. It's really not that complicated.

"That’s all you have too, your personal preference, your personal belief. Look Sol, if you have some evidence that your moral beliefs are somehow “objective,” i.e., verifiable as facts or as ordained by some deity, then lay it on the table, otherwise, we’re all in the same boat when it comes to deciding what’s right and what’s wrong."

According to your beliefs what's "right and wrong" are purely figments of our imaginations and personal prefrences. Thus making these appeals to avoid cruelty or the need to provide verifiable facts as if they were 'objectively good' quite contradicting and utterly meaningless.

But you'll still do it. Because you can't help but appeal as if an objective standard exists. And thus it's this innate contradiction between your behaviour and your world view, that leaves people to believe your world view is out of sync with reality.

"Exactly, which is why people who oppose cruelty need to convince others not to support such practices ever again. I have no absolute proof that cruelty is bad, nor do you that abortion is bad; all we have is our preferences for anti-cruel behavior or anti-abortional behavior, and we believe the world will be a better place for more people if we can convince others to share them."

Why should people be concerned with making the world a "better place?" It's not like it's an objectively 'good' thing, right? ;)

If you have nothing to say such behaviour is objectively 'bad,' then you have no reason for why people should oppose or even refrain from it. All you have to say is you personally don't like it. And there's no reason to care what your personal likes are. Just like people may not personally like vanilla icescream, means other's don't need to refrain from indulging in it.

"No, importance is decided by people’s preferences and interests, and a lot of people have an interest in the outcome of the abortion debate, whereas nobody cares what kind of ice cream people prefer."

So like I said - no objective standard for 'importance.' Appeals to ad populum are irrelevant.

"No, the preference for avoiding cruelty is not an “objective standard” (as in some kind of absolute Truth handed down by God), it’s a subjective feeling that I hope to make more universal."

If a subjective feeling is all it is, then by it's very nature it will never be "universal." 6 billion people on the planet each with there own personal prefrences. No one need care about yours any more than they need to care about an ant's presonal prefrence.

"Again, I can’t prove that cruelty is the worst thing we do any more than you can prove that your moral values are the Correct/True ones. All I can do is explain why I think my morals are more preferable and hope others will agree. That’s just life, Mr. Realist. Anything else is just wishful, "idealistic," thinking. "

And thus you have nothing meaningful to appeal to in imposing your moral values onto others. The fact that you act like there is and you do just shows how contradicting you are in your behaviour and beliefs. That's also a fact of reality. ;)


olderthandirt

Wonderful opinion. I cannot understand the pro-abortion crowd. Especially women who have had a child. If all the "fetuses" were left to develop, just think of the millions of great humans there would have been in our world today. Who the heck are we to destroy a life in the name of convenience? I certainly do not want to support this horror, by paying for it with my tax money!

B Butterfield

@Sol: "And thus why it logically follows that humans can invent reasons for certain unwanted and undesirable groups of other humans to die off."

I don't see your point. Humans can and have always invented reasons for all sorts of things, including wars and genocides. That's the danger of being a human (i.e., other people might invent reasons to do some terrible things unless we invent some better reasons not to do them).

"The planet has been a "miserable place" before written history. Thus why the total extinction of the human race logically follows for the same reasons one justifies abortion."

The planet has always been miserable for some and wonderful for others. The most miserable have often committed suicide, and why shouldn't they, if their life brings them nothing but misery and pain? It's not up to you to decide for them, but that's no reason for the entire race to extinguish itself, unless the entire race is someday so miserable that no one wants to live anymore and they all choose to die. There's no reason why allowing women the right to choose abortion logically leads to the extinction of the human race. Really, you don't have to worry about that. Trust me.

"That he entertains starry-eyed dreams that the world will turn into some hedonistic utopia as an excuse is just a testament to the man's inability to face reality."

You really hate this guy, don't you? He just says that he thinks we can make the world a happier place if decent people keep trying to do so (nothing about a hedonistic utopia).

"Killing others logically follows from your beliefs."

I don't understand. Killing others has always been a choice that people can make, but the majority have a vested interest in outlawing such behavior, because they don't want to get killed, so we invented laws (the right not to get killed) to protect ourselves. Why should allowing abortion logically lead to allowing murder? Millions have a preference for allowing abortion, but few have a preference for allowing murder, so again, you don't need to worry.

"And the only objection you seem to be able to make is stating your subjective preference in how far you would personally take it."

This is all anyone has. There is no verifiable "objective" standard for morality. Morals were invented by humans as means to purely human ends. You can believe they come from God if you want (is that what you're arguing?), but there is no credible evidence that that is the case. Meanwhile, if I pitch a good enough case for why my moral values are preferable to yours, I'll persuade more people to follow my example and preserve Roe v. Wade, which is what I'm trying to do.

"Why on earth should anyone care what your personal prefrence is, when there are about 6 billion others with their own?"

Again, a lot of people share my preference for legal abortions (which is a lot more important than anyone's preference of ice cream), and if we can convince even more people to share it, then we won't have to worry about religious fundamentalists forcing our womenfolk to live by their interpretation of their religion.

Sol

"I don't see your point. Humans can and have always invented reasons for all sorts of things, including wars and genocides. That's the danger of being a human (i.e., other people might invent reasons to do some terrible things unless we invent some better reasons not to do them)."

Very true. The point you seem to miss is that is your very beliefs are one such invented reason.

"The planet has always been miserable for some and wonderful for others."

No, just by and large it's just been generally miserable for everyone. The number of people it hasn't been as such, probably isn't even enough to sustain a viable gene pool.

"You really hate this guy, don't you? He just says that he thinks we can make the world a happier place if decent people keep trying to do so (nothing about a hedonistic utopia)."

No, I'm just a realist who understands human nature and that nothing has fundamentally changed in the last 6000 or so years of human history. And as such, thinking a "happier world" can ever be achieved by our own efforts is thus foolish idealism. Which still doesn't change the underlining conclusion that the human race should go extinct to "spare suffering" an iota.

"I don't understand. Killing others has always been a choice that people can make, but the majority have a vested interest in outlawing such behavior, because they don't want to get killed..."

And thus why even most Liberals accept the premises that people shouldn't have their lives take from them. Even by society. Sadly, your arguments seem to undercut that basic principle.

"Why should allowing abortion logically lead to allowing murder?"

Obviously for the same reasons one allows abortion - 'Society' decides who has what rights, and as you note: "there's no absolute or essential reason why people shouldn't kill themselves or others"

All one needs to do is change the definition of "person" or "human being" or whatever, and suddenly it's not even "murder" any more, just as it was done for blacks, Jews, etc. not too long ago. Of course, if you were actually paying attention to Horvath's article you'd note that he already lists plenty of Liberals who argue that such reasoning applies even after one leaves the birth-canal.

"This is all anyone has. There is no verifiable "objective" standard for morality.'

Yes, under your beliefs there isn't. And as such it's baffling to rational people, why you take such confusion and outrage at comparisons to the Holocaust, when that's exactly what your arguments and beliefs justify. If the only objection you can make is for you to pout and stomp your feet and cry "I personally don't like it!" then obviously that's not good enough. Thus why people who reject your beliefs need to oppose them from beginning to end.

"Again, a lot of people share my preference for legal abortions (which is a lot more important than anyone's preference of ice cream), and if we can convince even more people to share it, then we won't have to worry about religious fundamentalists forcing our womenfolk to live by their interpretation of their religion."

A lot of people shared a preference for blacks to be farm equippment, and for the "undesirables" to be carted off to gas chambers. And all of it was 'Society Approved.'

And no, actually under your belief an opinion about when to end life is indeed no more important than an opinion about one's favorite icescream. No, objective standard of morality means no objective standard of "importance." To say otherwise is massively inconsistent, but then the fact that everyone appeals to an objective standard of morality, such as what you do when you appeal to "compassion" and "avoiding suffering" as objectively good, is one of the ways we can verify an objective morality does indeed exist. ;)

B Butterfield

Okay Sol and Horvath, I just read the Peter Singer opinion piece you both refer to (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/should-this-be-the-last-generation/) and this is what I mean about conservatives taking quotes out of context and using them as scare tactics. Singer does NOT support sterilizing everyone, he's presenting a hypothesis that forces us to justify future life by working to make life on this planet better for future generations. Read his last paragraph! Here's the meat:

"I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now."

It's unconscionable that you would quote him out of context and make it look like he favors human extinction when he ends on this note. Either you didn't read the whole article, or you'll do anything to "win" a debate (like Romney and other Republicans), or, like so many conservatives/fundamentalists, you're so literal minded that you can't comprehend analogies and ironies. An example of such literal-mindedness: human DNA = human = equal rights.

Sol

Or like most typical Liberals you think subjective feelings has any relevance to what logically stems from basic premises. That Singer is personally uncomfortable with the thought of a universe devoid of ALL "sentient" life, doesn't really change the underlining conclusion that human beings should die if all we face is the kind of life/lifestyle liberals deem "undesirable". It just reveals an inconsistency and no small amount of personal cowardice on Singer's part.

B Butterfield

Your reply is incoherent. Singer is not inconsistent. He does not believe in God, he believes humans invent their own meaning of and reason for life. If we make the planet a miserable place for everyone, why shouldn't everyone sterilize themselves? You'd say "because of God," I assume, or because of some other absolute principle that you believe in but cannot prove. I, like Singer, would say there's no absolute or essential reason why people shouldn't kill themselves or others, there's just the preference for things like life and equality by those who enjoy things like life and equality. That's all there's ever been, until proven otherwise.

Meanwhile, you guys have purposefully quoted Singer out of context, making him look like he said the opposite of what he really meant, which makes every other claim you make suspect. How do we know all your references aren't equally deceitful?

Sol

"He does not believe in God, he believes humans invent their own meaning of and reason for life."

And thus why it logically follows that humans can invent reasons for certain unwanted and undesirable groups of other humans to die off. Hence, why things like concentration camps and gulags popped up.

"If we make the planet a miserable place for everyone, why shouldn't everyone sterilize themselves?"

The planet has been a "miserable place" before written history. Thus why the total extinction of the human race logically follows for the same reasons one justifies abortion. Singer fully acknowledges this. That he entertains starry-eyed dreams that the world will turn into some hedonistic utopia as an excuse is just a testament to the man's inability to face reality.

"I, like Singer, would say there's no absolute or essential reason why people shouldn't kill themselves or others, there's just the preference for things like life and equality by those who enjoy things like life and equality. That's all there's ever been, until proven otherwise."

See? You even concede the underlining point - Killing others logically follows from your beliefs. With the scale going from the unborn all the way up to the entire human race. And the only objection you seem to be able to make is stating your subjective preference in how far you would personally take it. Which is about as meaningful as you having a preference for Strawberry icescream. Why on earth should anyone care what your personal prefrence is, when there are about 6 billion others with their own?

TonyHorvath

Before you go around accusing people of quoting him out of context, you may wish to consider just how far what I said really attributes that view to Singer. That is how you chose to take it, but the published statement only says such things are seriously discussed. However, as it happens, the Trib edited my statement. Here is what I originally said:

"But why stop there? In a June 2010 opinion piece Singer asks: "How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?" He suggests, "If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone." On this view, "everyone will suffer to some extent [so] we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely." His conclusion: everyone in the world should sterilize themselves. Why cause unnecessary suffering to future generations?"

The published text:

"But why stop there? In a June 2010 opinion column, Singer asks how good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world? He argues that if we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone. On this view, everyone will suffer to some extent, so we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. His conclusion: Everyone in the world should sterilize themselves. Why cause unnecessary suffering to future generations?"

It's close, but there is one important difference in the context of your complaint. It's the word 'suggests.' I think that phraseology is consistent with "he's presenting a hypothesis that forces us to justify future life by working to make life on this planet better for future generations."

At any rate, you miss the point. It doesn't matter if he comes around and says he doesn't see such a thing happening. The point is that he believes his worldview is consistent with that hypothesis. It is clear he does, even if he is still (irrationally) 'an optimist.'

B Butterfield

@Sol: “"...this is built in to their assumption...." So too is a society telling blacks, homosexuals, Jews, etc. that they don't have the right to live, built into yours.”

No, it’s not at all. Where do you get that? These people are capable of suffering, it would be cruel to make them suffer, and they have a vested interest in continuing to live. This qualifies them for a right to life, according to my assumptions.

You can call zygotes and fetuses “people,” but then not all people are equal when it comes to the claims they can make on society. Those who think and feel and have interests have a far greater claim than those who don’t.

Here’s what I wrote below (all in one package here):

"So what? "Rights" come from society, according to you. If it says living breathing blacks, . . . don't have a right to life, then you don't have a logical leg to stand on."

Rights have always come from society (who do you think makes the laws?). If you don't want some kind of genocide to happen, you have to convince society to follow reasonable moral guidelines (like the ones I lay out), which is what I'm trying to do. Just telling society "because God says so!" isn't going to work with those of us who require evidence for such a claim.

"That you think such "differences" even matters is you being blinded by yours. From the other side it just seems like arbitrary discrimination."

Think about it Sol, would you really allow one five-year-old to be murdered if it meant you could prevent two or more abortions? If so, you have no human compassion, only an ideological fixation on an abstract equation (human DNA = human life = equal value/rights). Morality should begin with our compassion for the suffering of others and our deep knowledge that causing unnecessary suffering is bad. An abortion causes no suffering, but your letting that 5 year old be killed would cause horrible suffering, not to mention your taking away a life that someone had a strong preference for continuing to live.

Sol

"No, it’s not at all. Where do you get that? These people are capable of suffering, it would be cruel to make them suffer, and they have a vested interest in continuing to live. This qualifies them for a right to life, according to my assumptions."

I get that from your basic belief "rights" come from society, and therefore if society says minority groups don't have the right to live, then under your argument, they just don't. I also note that concerns about 'feelings' and 'sufferage' and so on is just your subjective feelings on where one can discriminate. It's not that complicated.

But even under such a view, all Germany would have had to have done was drug everyone unconcious THEN kill them off to be completely consistent with your concerns. No 'thoughts,' no 'feelings,' no 'suffering,' still the same body count. Do you really think there's a meaningful difference between millions dead by gas chamber, and millions dead by anesthesia and morphine?

"You can call zygotes and fetuses “people,” but then not all people are equal when it comes to the claims they can make on society. Those who think and feel and have interests have a far greater claim than those who don’t."

Oh yes, 'All are equal, but some are more equal than others.' And you get so offended when people connect your basic beliefs to justifying some of the worst atrocities in the last century.

"Rights have always come from society (who do you think makes the laws?). If you don't want some kind of genocide to happen, you have to convince society to follow reasonable moral guidelines (like the ones I lay out), which is what I'm trying to do."

And Germany made the laws. They weren't convince to follow "reasonable moral guidelines" (and I'd love to here your explanation on where you think THIS comes from), and actually thought what they were doing WAS reasonably moral. It seems pretty darn consistent to your beliefs, and all people can seem to do is shrug their shoulders if they personally don't like it.

"Just telling society "because God says so!" isn't going to work with those of us who require evidence for such a claim."

*shrug* Telling people we need be concern about suffering, feelings, and "compassion" just because some joe off the street says so, doesn't really do much better, does it?

"Think about it Sol, would you really allow one five-year-old to be murdered if it meant you could prevent two or more abortions?"

I don't really see how I'm compelled to make such a choice given I think they all have equal right to life. Naturally I'd thus choose the five-year old live as well as prevent two or more abortions. That seems to me far, far more compassionate than anything you've said so far.

burnout

B Butterfield, you claim you are not " out-reasoned".

Here is one link to destroy all of your "reasoning":

http://lifenews.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/picchina9.jpg

Try again to defend your position, this is what you advocate, the MURDER of an innocent baby. No amount of your twisted logic justifies this.

Sol

"If a fetus is considered to have all the rights of a BORN child where does it end? We would have to investigate EVERY miss carriage that a woman has? Maybe that one glass of wine mom had during the pregnancy could have caused a miss carriage or maybe a pregnant woman should not be allowed to drive a car, what if the seatbelt she is FORCED to wear tightens up and kills her fetus during a hard breaking or a car accident?

By your logic just because a man/woman dies in a car accident and we have to investigate any signs of fowl play, then no human being deserves any right to life simply because "we" would have to do a little leg work. Obviously that's ridiculous. But so too is this insinuation that the fragility of life when one goes through day-to-day living, can be compared with the VERY intentional act of deliberately destroying it.

"Go ahead "pro-lifers" and argue against abortion on your religious morals, but please stop the argument that a fetus has rights."

So too did those say about the blacks, the 'feeble-minded,' the disabled, the Jews, the homosexuals, etc. etc. The irony of it all is, if the almighty society were to say you don't have the right to have an abortion, then you don't really have a leg to stand on.

B Butterfield

Living, breathing blacks, the feeble-minded, the disabled, homosexuals, Jews etc all have feelings, memories, hopes, fears, preferences. The fetus has none of the above. To compare the abortion of a fetus to the killing of these people, to say that a fetus, which has no hopes or memories or preferences or fears at all should have equal rights to these people, is an insult to these people. If you guys really can't see the difference between these two types of "beings," you've been blinded by your ideology.

Sol

"Living, breathing blacks, the feeble-minded, the disabled, homosexuals, Jews etc all have feelings, memories, hopes, fears, preferences. The fetus has none of the above."

So what? "Rights" come from society, according to you. If it says living breathing blacks, the feeble-minded, the disabled, homosexuals, Jews etc. with all their feelings, memories, hopes, fears, and prefrences don't have a right to life, then you don't have a logical leg to stand on. We've seen that done with societies many times over the last century and even being done today. So your reaction to brush such things aside as not being possible seems naive in the extreme.

"If you guys really can't see the difference between these two types of "beings," you've been blinded by your ideology."

That you think such "differences" even matters is you being blinded by yours. From the other side it just seems like arbitrary discrimination.

B Butterfield

@Sol:

"So what? "Rights" come from society, according to you. If it says living breathing blacks, . . . don't have a right to life, then you don't have a logical leg to stand on."

Rights have always come from society (who do you think makes the laws?). If you don't want some kind of genocide to happen, you have to convince society to follow reasonable moral guidelines (like the ones I lay out), which is what I'm trying to do. Just telling society "because God says so!" isn't going to work with those of us who require evidence for such a claim.

"That you think such "differences" even matters is you being blinded by yours. From the other side it just seems like arbitrary discrimination."

Think about it Sol, would you really allow one five-year-old to be murdered if it meant you could prevent two or more abortions? If so, you have no human compassion, only an ideological fixation on an abstract equation (human DNA = human life = equal value/rights). Morality should begin with our compassion for the suffering of others and our deep knowledge that causing unnecessary suffering is bad. An abortion causes no suffering, but your letting that 5 year old be killed would cause horrible suffering, not to mention your taking away a life that someone had a strong preference for continuing to live.

FR0G

Wow! Amazingly well thought out and well written response to Mr. Butterfield!
Mr. Horvath, your logic and reasoning clearly sliced and diced Mr. Butterfields arguments to the ground and exposed the ugly core and revealed that his flawed logic has led to horrible tragedies in the past (Holocaust).
While I think that the point of asking yourself the question of when does life begin is very important, I also think that your point about recognizing where your rights come from is an equally important point.

FUBAR

.I love the ole' standard of comparing the Holocaust to abortion.....that in itself is a complete and utter disrespect for those that actually were ALIVE and LIVED through the horrific Holocaust. Ask yourself if YOU remember ONE day inside your mom's stomach...now ask a Holocaust survivor if they remember 1 minute of their ordeal....I bet they say yes and you say NO. Quit the drama there is NO comparison to the Holocaust.

B Butterfield

Right on Mr. FUBAR! We're outnumbered here, but we're not outreasoned.

Dagda

The unborn is not a person.

B Butterfield

and since the question of where rights come from is moot (they come, obviously, from the social contract), the proper question to focus on is when to assign legal rights to what kind of being.

FUBAR

I agree with you B.
If a fetus has legal rights and is considered a living child...where in the heck is my child tax credit for those 9 months? But, let us think this through here people. A fetus is connected to the woman until birth. That fetus IS connected to that woman until the cord is cut and I am sickened that people think they should be able to tell a woman what they can and cannot do to their bodies. For you "pro-lifers" if a fetus has all the rights of a BORN child where does the investigation end? A woman has a miss carriage why not investigate it? Why don't we investigate the miss carriage to find out if mom ate too much fast food, drank too much fluorinated tap water, ate foods that were treated with chemicals or accidently fell down the stairs and caused a miss carriage? You go ahead and give a fetus ALL the rights of a born child and then we can go ahead and spend our resources investigating woman for murder for having a miss carriage. Get ready ladies, if you have the tragedy of having a miss carriage (my sister had 3) you will then be forced to be investigated by our police force for murder. Anything you do as a pregnant woman can be scrutinized as murder if you miss carry. So lay off the Cheetos ladies, because the "pro-lifers" will throw you in the cage for eating them.

B Butterfield

Ha ha, good point!

Sol

"...let us think this through here people. A fetus is connected to the woman until birth. That fetus IS connected to that woman until the cord is cut and I am sickened that people think they should be able to tell a woman what they can and cannot do to their bodies."

Does that outrage extend to outlawing certain drug usage, alcohol for minors or when driving, etc. etc.?

"For you "pro-lifers" if a fetus has all the rights of a BORN child where does the investigation end? A woman has a miss carriage why not investigate it? Why don't we investigate the miss carriage to find out if mom ate too much fast food, drank too much fluorinated tap water, ate foods that were treated with chemicals or accidently fell down the stairs and caused a miss carriage?"

And Butterfield scoffed at a conservative using the 'slippery slope' argument. One wonders why clinics are even needed, if terminating a pregnency is as simple as you make it sound.

FUBAR

That is my point SOL...Dah...If a fetus is considered to have all the rights of a BORN child where does it end? We would have to investigate EVERY miss carriage that a woman has? Maybe that one glass of wine mom had during the pregnancy could have caused a miss carriage or maybe a pregnant woman should not be allowed to drive a car, what if the seatbelt she is FORCED to wear tightens up and kills her fetus during a hard breaking or a car accident? Go ahead "pro-lifers" and argue against abortion on your religious morals, but please stop the argument that a fetus has rights.

B Butterfield

FUBAR'S right, Sol. This is not a slippery slope, this is built in to their assumption. If the fetus is a person with equal rights, then the death of a fetus must be investigated the same as the death of any other person. If you'd say they shouldn't be investigated the same, then you're admitting that their deaths are not at all the same, which is our point.

Sol

"...this is built in to their assumption...."

So too is a society telling blacks, homosexuals, Jews, etc. that they don't have the right to live, built into yours.

"If you'd say they shouldn't be investigated the same, then you're admitting that their deaths are not at all the same, which is our point."

If that's your concern than no human being has the right to life, simply because everyone's death needs to be investigated. Why should we even have clinics? If we're aiming to coast through life as lazily as possible it seems providing abortions seem to take too much work, when FUBAR seems to believe all pregnencies can be terminated with a simple wine glass or seat belt.

B Butterfield

Mr Horvath writes: “Butterfield employs a lot of additional words to basically agree that I am right: the right question is where the rights come from.”

No, rights come from humans putting their preferences into law (like the preference not to be killed while under anesthetics), until you can prove otherwise, which you cannot. Just insisting you are right does not make you right. I can prove my assertion, you cannot.

“He has his answer and I have mine, but I am not allowed to act on mine. This is what liberals call 'tolerance.'”

No, you are allowed to act on your answer, as it pertains to your own life, you just can’t force my daughter and my wife to live by your answer when you have nothing more than your interpretation of your religion to back it up. To each his/her own. This is what liberals call tolerance.


“What he rejects as 'dramatic philosophical speculations' have actually been tried in recent history….”

Conservatives love this slippery slope scare tactic: Obamacare will lead to death panels! Gay marriage will lead to bestiality! Abortion will lead to harvesting infants and the elimination of the human species! They take some reasonable position and exaggerate it to an extreme that few reasonable people would agree with, then conclude that the position is unreasonable because it already implies such extreme an conclusion. It’s a silly game.

“He concedes my point: he believes rights are assigned by society.”

Yes, because they are. Why don’t you come out and say who you believe assigns rights? If you think “God” assigns rights, prove it. What evidence do you have that rights come from God and not people via the social contract? To try to force others to live by your religious convictions when you have no valid evidence for them is a dangerous game, the kind they play in Iran etc. We live in a democratic society, not a theocratic society, which means you’re allowed to practice whatever religion you want within the bounds of your own life. This is what liberals mean by tolerance.

Sol

"Abortion will lead to harvesting infants and the elimination of the human species!"

Uh, newsflash. That's not a "scare tactic" or "exageration" of pro-lifers. That's the conclusions notable liberals Appel and Singer have made and openly stated.

B Butterfield

Uh, I don't agree with that prognosis at all, but where does Singer say that allowing abortion will lead to the elimination of the human species? I suspect you're quoting him out of context here, but if that's truly what he's in favor of, I'd be surprised.

Sol

He has said everyone in the world should sterilize themselves. He justifies this as being for the same reasons and arguments as those justifying abortion. The connection isn't exactly a leap.

TonyHorvath

Butterfield employs a lot of additional words to basically agree that I am right: the right question is where the rights come from. He has his answer and I have mine, but I am not allowed to act on mine. This is what liberals call 'tolerance.'

What he rejects as 'dramatic philosophical speculations' have actually been tried in recent history and are actually being tried today. Eg, "Life unworthy of life" and the Groningen Protocol, to name two. Just because they are not his conclusions do not mean they are not consistent with his own principles, are not actually believed by other liberals, and not actually being brought to fruition in part or in whole in some neck of the woods; and possibly ours, unless we reject his viewpoint as flatly unacceptable.

There really isn't anything else to say. He concedes my point: he believes rights are assigned by society. Live by it, die by it; what society gives, society can take away. It's a simple inference, and should make you think long and hard before you sign on to the idea that society gives.

MidwestAtheist

"He has his answer and I have mine, but I am not allowed to act on mine."

Of course you can act on yours. You don't think it is right to have an abortion because your god says so? Fine, then don't have one.

TonyHorvath

You are not thinking clearly. I addressed this point in the article. Once a determination is made that there is a life worthy of protection, it ceases to be a matter of one's own, private beliefs.

Based on your argument, if we were sitting around debating whether or not Jews were persons worthy of protection, and I said they were, and you said they weren't, you would say: "Of course you can act on yours. You don't think it is right to kill a Jew because your god says so? Fine, then don't."

Absurd; but it is your argument. And of course, the example stings because there really was a time when people with your beliefs sat around discussing whether or not Jews, 'defective' children, unfit, blacks, gypsies, etc, were persons worthy of protection. They concluded "No." On the view you and Butterfield represent, with society being the final arbiter of morality, ethics, etc, they were right to do so. Just because you would like society to come to a different conclusion doesn't mean that their answer is inconsistent with your starting principles.

There is nothing particularly 'religious' about what I'm saying. Even secularists will generally agree that people should not have their lives stripped away from them and that society has a proper role in keeping that from happening.

That makes your statement a red herring at best.

The real issue is that on your view, it doesn't even matter if we DO declare the unborn to be separate human beings, distinct from their mothers. EVEN so, according to all your thinkers, there STILL ISN'T an intrinsic right to be allowed to live. And sorry, you can label this a religious belief all you like and hope I'll just bow out of the public discourse, but you may as well ask me to step aside while you gas the Jews, just because you think I shouldn't kill them just because 'my god says so.'

Ain't gonna happen. Sorry.

If you make the protection of life a 'religious' issue and succeed in driving it out of the public discourse, don't be surprised if the larger society comes to a different conclusion than you had hoped for. Don't say I didn't warn you.

B Butterfield

Tony Horvath writes: “Once a determination is made that there is a life worthy of protection, it ceases to be a matter of one's own, private beliefs.”

No, it is your own private belief that a fetus is life worthy of protection, not mine. You are allowed to act on your belief by protecting your own fetus, not by forcing me to protect mine. If my own private belief was that I should be allowed to force you to have an abortion, I would be just as out of line if I claimed the legal right to do so.

“Based on your argument, if we were sitting around debating whether or not Jews were persons worthy of protection, and I said they were, and you said they weren't, you would say: "Of course you can act on yours. You don't think it is right to kill a Jew because your god says so? Fine, then don't." Absurd; but it is your argument.”

No, it is not. I argue that beings who prefer to go on living should have a right to go on living, unless someone else’s preferences somehow outweigh theirs, which I find hard to imagine. You can do whatever your “God” tells you to do within your own life, but you can’t interfere with my life just because your God tells you too. In that case, I could say my God tells me it’s okay to kill you (and I’d call you “intolerant” of my religion if you tried to stop me).

“On the view you and Butterfield represent, with society being the final arbiter of morality, ethics, etc, they were right to do so.”

No, they were not “right” to exterminate the Jews according to my view (which says our laws should try to cause as little unnecessary suffering as possible and that people with a preference for preserving their life should be allowed to preserve their life). But yes, society is where our “rights” come from. I’m trying to convince society to follow my pragmatic philosophy, you’re trying to convince society to follow your conservative interpretation of Christianity.

“Just because you would like society to come to a different conclusion doesn't mean that their answer is inconsistent with your starting principles.”

No, their answer was not consistent with my starting principles (as stated above).

“Even secularists will generally agree that people should not have their lives stripped away from them and that society has a proper role in keeping that from happening.”

Stop trying to play this trick, i.e., pretending that we agree on the definition of “people.” We don’t, which is why arguing over this definition will get us nowhere. A zygote is not at all the same as a breathing child. You can define a zygote or fetus as a “person” if you want, but killing it is different from killing a breathing child in a way that is so absolute and fundamental that to ignore it is an act of willful ideological blindness.

“The real issue is that on your view, it doesn't even matter if we DO declare the unborn to be separate human beings, distinct from their mothers. EVEN so, according to all your thinkers, there STILL ISN'T an intrinsic right to be allowed to live.”

Yes, it does not have an intrinsic right to live. If it does, show us that right. Prove to us that it exists. You can’t. You just have your faith in God, which is fine, but you can’t expect my daughter and wife to share that faith. Only beings who experience life and have a preference to continue their experience should qualify for a “right” to life. This is a reasonable claim. “Because my God says so” is not.

And your repeated insinuation that a society that allows abortion will soon be gassing the Jews is ridiculous. Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for some time now, and the only fascists I see out there are on the extreme religious right (and it’s not the Jews that they’re persecuting, it’s the gays, and women who engage in what they consider immoral sex).

B Butterfield

Mr. Horvath, another man arguing against the rights of women, has done a good job interpreting my words in the most extreme and negative light possible and trying to catch me in semantic inconsistencies. This, as Richard Rorty says, is what arguing is all about: recasting the other’s position in a negative light so as to somehow “win” the argument. But arguments can’t be “won,” therefore either compromises must be made or one side just has to take the field by force, which is what “Wisconsin Lutherans For Life” hope to do come election day. But for the sake of argument, let me respond to a few of Horvath’s points:

“If the unborn are people, they deserve our protection.”

Asking whether a zygote or fetus is a “person” by definition is an unproductive question, because we’ll just be arguing over definitions until the cows come home. If you insist on framing the argument this way, I’ll insist on defining a “person” as one who has experience, hopes, memories etc and we’ll never agree. This is why we have to focus on deciding when something qualifies for legal rights, not on the definition of that thing.

“…what about someone under general anesthesia? By definition, such people are incapable of suffering.”

This is a silly way of arguing, because you already know my answer. A person under anesthesia has already established a vested interest in her life and it would therefore be cruel to take that life away just because they went in for surgery. You know what cruel is, you’re just playing word games, looking for ways to interpret my words in a negative light.

“However, the right question is not 'when do rights begin?' but rather 'where do our rights come from?' Butterfield believes that society imparts those rights. Therein lies the true difference in our views.”

Alas, this is what it always comes down to. You believe (without a shred of credible evidence) that “God” gives us our rights, whereas I believe what is demonstrably, inarguably true: “society imparts those rights” through its system of laws. I can prove this. I can point right at those laws and explain how and why they were formed, by humans. Until you can bring your “God” down here to back you up, you’ve got no business forcing others to live by your superstitions.

All these other questions about organ harvesting and toddler killing are just dramatic philosophical speculations. Reasonable people will likely agree that killing a two year old for its organs is cruel and will therefore not prefer it, whereas aborting a pre-conscious fetus is a far different thing.

And of course life entails suffering, the point is not to cause unnecessary suffering if we can help it. But there is no absolute guide for what’s “right and wrong,” there are just people trying to articulate their preferences. I can’t prove that causing unnecessary suffering is cruel and therefore wrong, it’s just how I and many others feel. For Mr. Horvath, on the other hand, cruelty is not the worst thing we do; going against his interpretation of his religion is, and he believes in forcing that interpretation on the rest of us by making it the law of the land.

Lucenut

Well said Tony. I cannot believe the hateful evil-doers in this town that honk and flip the bird to 8 year old girls standing on he side of Losey Blvd praying and holding signs saying "Abortion Kills Children". They really know they are doing wrong and are torn about it.

FUBAR

I think it is disgusting that people have their 8 year old children stand on a corner holding anti-abortion signs. 8 year olds should be out having fun and probably shouldn't even know what abortion is. You don't need to involve your kids in an adult topic. Let them be kids and let them pick their own battles when they are old enough. Leave the kids at home while you fight YOUR fight.

Buggs Raplin

Excellent comment.

Lucenut

If abortion is so great why shouldn't an 8 year old know about it? I know. You understand it's a horrible thing to do, you are just in denial.

FUBAR

First off I NEVER said abortion is "great”. we as adults do not NEED our children with us to fight our battles. Again 8 year olds should be out having fun not fighting abortion. Imagine if I decided to take my 8 year old to work to 'help" fight my GROWNUP battles? I do not think either one of my girls would have enjoyed their time serving in the Marine Corps with me fighting ADULT battles. Leave your kids at home and let them enjoy life and grow up before you force them into an adult battle. Or a better idea...instead of forcing certain beliefs on your kids let them decide what is important to them on their own and THEY will fight their own important battles...battles they choose on their own and is their own decision.

CelticMan

Wow, an extremely well-presented argument. Thank you, sir. Although you and I may come to different conclusions, you represent your beliefs as well as anyone, and better than most.

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