Abortion and Planned Parenthood defunding!

The first thing that I will be hitting on with the blog is a very contentious one! Abortion!

I was prompted to write about this from seeing all sorts of discussion on Planned Parenthood and on defunding it. Even though I am against defunding Planned Parenthood, the rhetoric of many pro-choice people often irks me and I think is unfair and oversimplifying of the issue. But more than just talking about Planned Parenthood, I was trying to fall asleep and just had all of this stuff in my head rumbling around about abortion and what it really means. It’s at the center of all of this controversy, of course. It seems impossible to me that we could resolve an issue like this without first getting our ideas of what abortion really is out there. So that’s what I’m going to write about first. My ideas of abortion.

I apologize in advance for my confrontational attitude. I’m on the side of legal abortion without exceptions, and on the side of planned parenthood. However, most of my criticisms are focused on my side. This isn’t because I don’t disagree with Republicans and pro-lifers and so on, it’s just that I feel like in the liberal environment of social media today it’s easy enough to see criticisms of the right wing. It’s just about all I ever see when I log onto Facebook or browse many sections of the news. I often get more irritated by the self-righteous and pretentious attitude of so many progressives and liberals than I do about conservatives. I promise I’ll be meaner to them in the future. And if you’re a self-righteous and pretentious progressive or liberal, I hope that you can still at least consider what I have to say before you make your own judgments about it. (Not that I mean to villify or alienate progressives/liberals, I realize this sounds kind of harsh. I respect your views, I just get bothered when people don’t respect anyone else’s.)

Just a heads up, the abortion part of this post is very long and is much more my personal views and conjecture than it is really based on relevant literature to the subject. You may want to simply skip down to the Planned Parenthood part if you don’t want a long and convoluted non-answer to a somewhat unformed series of questions.


If there’s one thing speech and debate (and life in general) taught me, it’s that there’s rarely one easy answer to a given issue. In my opinion, abortion is one of the hardest questions to answer because it crosses on so many unanswered, and indeed unanswerable questions itself. I will use this space to develop and share my thoughts on abortion to the best that I can articulate, and hopefully make you understand in the end why I support abortion being legal in every scenario, though I personally cannot say whether I would be able to accept it in my own personal life. Further, I will continue to argue that ultimately I do not believe Planned Parenthood should be defunded, or at least not the way that the Republicans want it to be.

So, why is abortion so tricky? Many people seem to find it an easy issue to make a judgment on. To some, it is a matter of protecting the most vulnerable and innocent in all of human life from a gruesome death. In such a situation it becomes impossible to justify. For others, it is a simple question of a woman’s right to her own body and her own health. Both sides end up essentially bypassing the other, as implied in the rhetoric of “pro-choice vs. pro-life.”

A fetus is biologically reliant on the mother for it’s very existence, and physically occupies the space of the mother’s body. I’ve heard some go as far as to call a fetus a parasite, and that somehow that makes it completely justifiable to kill it off. After all, we don’t mourn over removing and killing a tapeworm that may have grown inside of someone’s stomach. Of course, a tapeworm isn’t a human life, which to me is a pretty big disanalogy between a fetus and a typical parasite. But from there, many argue that a fetus isn’t adequately a human life. This gets into the argument of life beginning at conception. I’ve seen a bunch of people say life doesn’t begin at conception, that it’s just a cluster of cells. When life does begin, if that is not the case, I don’t know of any convincing argument. Biologically a fertilized egg is a form of human life, just in an earlier cycle of development. As much as people try to say pro-lifers are anti-science, I haven’t seen any legit scientific argument for when exactly life does begin. So it’s almost like a smokescreen. “We don’t know when life begins! It’s just a cluster of cells! it’s okay to kill it!” Okay. I saw something like this in a video someone posted by Bill Nye. Sure, lots of scientists are pro-abortion. I am pro-abortion too. But it seems to me like another case of liberals accusing everyone else of being anti-science to justify their own beliefs, which are not any more scientifically supported.

It’s problematic to me when people make arguments that imply that, because a fetus is entirely reliant on the mother and cannot live on it’s own, it is justified to kill it off. To me, that same principle would justify killing an infant baby as well. The only real difference between the infant baby and the fetus in the womb, that I can see, is the development stage and the physical location (in the womb versus out of the womb). As far as development stage, there isn’t a hard line that I’m aware of where a fetus becomes a baby, and if there is, it certainly doesn’t seem like birth would be one. Merely expelling the fetus out into the world does not in my mind fundamentally change the value of that creature from OK-to-kill to a human deserving of rights and protection from infanticide. Furthermore, there are countless other situations in which a human life is dependent on another. The first example that comes to my mind is a person who is hospitalized from severe injuries or other disability. In that case, the person may be completely reliant on life support and continuous medical care from other people. If in a coma, the person doesn’t seem to possess the capacity to make choices. Would it then be justified to have a law that said we can terminate the lives of the comatose without punishment? You may think of this as a right-to-die question, but it isn’t really. Someone may be put into a temporary coma after a car accident. If the doctor then said “Well, this person is utterly reliant on me and incapable of surviving on their own, so it is ultimately my decision whether I kill them or not,” and killed that person, it would be a crime. And it wouldn’t just be a crime of violating contract and failing to do one’s job, that would be an actual case of murder in most cases.

And just about everyone would scoff at that example. Of course we don’t want doctors murdering anyone who is temporarily incapacitated. Those people will wake up eventually. Other doctors could care for the person instead. However, those same arguments apply, in a sense, to the unborn. A fetus will eventually become a human (“wake up”). After birth, that child could be put into adoption, and someone else could care for it (OK I know people don’t put newborn babies into adoption usually, this is just a mental exercise). The biggest disimilarity between them that I see is, once again, that the comatose person is not physically inside of the doctor like a baby is inside of it’s mother. Is that the primary moral reasoning between whether someone lives or dies? That they are physically occupying the space of another human? Is it that the baby is reliant on the body of the mother, feeding off of substances her body manufactures, whereas the comatose person is feeding off of synthetic substances? In that case, once again we are brought to the example of a newborn baby. A newborn baby feeds on it’s mother’s biologically produced milk, yet it is still not forgivable to kill it.

There’s also a common argument that, well, a fetus may fail to develop from a number of different things, and is not a guaranteed human life particularly at an early stage. This sounds legit, until you add that the exact same thing is true of pretty much everybody. Anybody might die. Children may die and never live to become adults, comatose patients may die or they may recover. It’s never 100% one way or the other. Even if a person might die on their own from a fatal disease, if you kill them prematurely you are still a murderer. In the same sense, I don’t see how one can justify killing a fetus because it might expire on it’s own. So I’m left wondering again – is the moral distinction between killing a fetus (depending also on the stage of development) and killing a baby or comatose person simply a matter of it’s physical location? If that’s the case, I’m sorry to you who have read this far, because I have an even more absurd example to provide. If a person was surgically opened up and another person was placed inside of them, would they be justified in killing the person inside? I know you’re thinking “this makes absolutely no sense who cares about what happens when someone is sewn inside of someone else” but please, humor me. Say that a baby or small child was put inside of somebody, perhaps in their stomach, and they managed to both survive. Could the person carrying the small child or baby kill the one inside of them? This question isn’t one that I think makes enough sense to even answer in the first place. Of course you could justify performing surgery to take them out. I think in some scenarios, killing them if it was a matter of life or death for the carrier could almost be considered self-defense. But even if this example seems entirely absurd, doesn’t it seem like the idea that we can kill those that physically occupy our space seem arbitrary?

Now I know these circumstances may all seem very arbitrary themselves. There’s rarely if ever a way to create a perfect moral distinction between any act. Instead, we usually use some of our common sense or utilitarian-style ethics or some combination of qualifiers to make the distinctions. Perhaps it’s not the physical occupation itself, but the combination of biological reliance upon the mother, physical occupation of the mother, and incapacity to make decisions of one’s own that ultimately fabricates a separate category of killing. Alternately, it goes without saying that if one finds infanticide morally acceptable, one should also find abortion morally acceptable. And there are some that would argue for both. However, as with the idea of a sudden death for comatose patients, it comes across to me as a little counter to the usual liberal ideals. After all, it sounds kind of Social Darwinistic to say that those that are powerless to take care of themselves may be killed without punishment.

There’s too much missing from this moral quagmire to make any kind of headway. Up till now we haven’t even addressed the question of the value of a woman’s choice in circumstances that will ultimately impact their life and health, and the additional very important considerations of the effects on society that abortion has, and of course the question of a ‘soul’. The point that I hope to have made with my musings above is mostly that you can’t easily categorize the taking of a fetus’ life as inconsequential while simultaneously holding that life is precious in all other areas, unless you have a moral justification I’m not aware of (in which case please comment it!).

One other thing I’ve heard is a parallel between abortion as murder and masturbation as genocide. Basically, the idea that if all forms of human life are sacred, surely sperm must be too. A fetus is a human life, just in a different stage of development. in this argument, it’s kind of making the point that we can’t treat all human lifeforms as equal even when they are in different stages of development, otherwise we end up with uncountable sins for some pretty common things like protected sex or masturbation. To me, there’s also not a totally easy answer to this question, because it gets into what the value of a human life even is. To some, the value of a human life is inherent due to the existence of a soul. That relies on a supernatural/religious argument, of course. As an atheist I conveniently sidestep that whole problem because I don’t believe souls exist. So, killing a fetus is not damning it to an eternal life in hell because it has not been baptized, for example. To avoid getting into another massive discussion about what determines the value of human life for an atheist, I’ll try to summarize that I think that whether or not we actually have inherent value as humans, we must live and structure society as if we do. Because a society where every life is not valued to some extent is a society that is not conducive to survival and continued human progress and existence, or at least that’s what I think.

Now, this argument creates a sort of utilitarian argument for the value of human life. It says that we need to value human life in order to create a society that’s good for humans to live in. We can debate all day about what exactly constitutes a human life. I would argue that sperm have yet to fertilize an egg and thus do not have all the parts that make up a human, although the same could be said in many cases for fetuses, babies, or even just regular people (Missing a kidney? You are no longer human. Prepare to die), but it lacks even the genetic structure to grow into human life without the addition of an egg. A fetus is at a stage where it needs basically only food and time to turn into a full-fledged human, unless there is some complication that occurs.

So we’ve established a bunch of arguments for what sort of isolates the killing of a fetus into it’s own category, or at least I hope we have. And here I hope the complications are clear. In the observable world, we don’t have a clear line to decide what is worthy of being called a human and what is not. We generally don’t include sperm in that, but many people include fetuses in that – and many people don’t, or at least not until later in development. So we really can’t say one way or the other that it’s justifiable to kill a fetus. The ultimate point that I am making here is that I do not believe that anyone can claim that killing a fetus is fundamentally different from killing a human, except through simple matters of degrees of development. Considering we don’t consider killing a child to be less worthy of punishment than killing an adult, that doesn’t seem a justification of it’s own. My point is that I don’t know of a pro-choice argument that would effectively brand an abortion that occurs after a few weeks as not murder. At least once a fetus has developed the capacity to feel and be at least somewhat aware of it’s surroundings, it seems to me that abortion is indeed murder, of sorts. I have certainly not put forth all moral arguments in favor of abortion that exist, that would be impossible and I don’t know of all of them. But I have yet to see one that was convincing enough that it could alone counter this point, unless it substantially differed from the morality of most of society (a moral system that did not view infanticide as murder, for example).

Of course, this may seem like I’m hitting abortion heavily against it, while still leaving the strongest arguments in favor of it untouched. But I’m simply trying to categorize different aspects of it. If we can categorize abortion as murder (which I’m sure many of you disagree with, and if you do I’d love to hear about why in the comments), then we can move on to discern whether it is justified or not. This part is also very hard. It strikes me that the most common exceptions for abortion are in cases of rape, in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, and in cases where there may be a complication in the child’s life. This all strikes me as a bit weird. If abortion is really murder, then why does it being done after a rape make it okay? Whether or not the child was conceived voluntarily doesn’t seem to me to be a condition upon which the innate value of human life is contingent. It seems to me that if you were to truly take the stance that abortion is the murder of a child, and that these children must be protected, it would be pretty un-principled to make exceptions in cases. When a mother’s life is in danger it makes some sense, if only because then it is a question of life versus life – and something like self defense, saying that she should not have to sacrifice her own life to sustain another, might come into play. It seems to me that people should generally be either in favor of abortions being legal or against abortions being legal, without exception for circumstance.

However, the exceptions for circumstance ultimately play into a very important part of the abortion debate. A mother’s right to her own decisions is the primary counter that comes up against a fetus’ right to life. Perhaps it is true that abortion is murder, but maybe we say that the value of the murder is somehow less than the value of the woman’s choice. To me, murder versus life choices seems like an evaluation that we don’t usually make for the rest of society. We don’t say it’s okay to kill someone because doing so allowed you to get enough money to go to college and have a good life, at least I don’t think we do. The value of a woman’s choice is extremely high, but the thing is – it needs more. It’s not enough to defeat abortion = murder trump card, in my book. In order for it to win the debate, abortion must either not equal murder or there must be additional reasons to allow abortion that propel it’s importance above the importance of murder of a fetus. This can also be accomplished by an important step that I haven’t gotten into yet – reducing the importance of murder of fetuses. That sounds horrible, but it’s what I may very well do later on. If we can get at exactly what makes a murder so bad, perhaps we can develop a model that will allow a woman’s right to choose to exceed the negative value of abortion.

I’ve certainly heard arguments that attempted to devalue the importance of killing a fetus. One such argument that I’ve heard is that the child may be born into a situation where the mother has no capacity to adequately care for it, such as when the father has left and the mother is still young and not financially secure. In this instance, it seems that people argue that letting the fetus live would mean bringing another person into the world who will only suffer. While this point may be convincing in some ways, to me it does not fundamentally counter the argument, still, and furthermore provides a very fatalistic view on humanity. I do not believe that a difficult life is one that should not be lived. We do not kill people who are suffering unless they ask us, which the fetus has not done. To me, this argument does not justify it. However, it touches on a very important point.

The approach that I take to justifying abortion from here on is the pragmatic one, the area that I feel abortion advocates have the strongest case. The problem with everything I’ve discussed until now is — even if all of my scatterbrained musings on whether or not abortion is murder and whether that is ultimately the most important thing are accurate — it still remains, so what? As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the construction of a humane society necessitates treating humans as though they have inherent value even though we don’t know if we do or not. The fundamental point to ethics and morality in my opinion is to create a society that is better adapted to serve human interests, progress and existence. Taking a hardline moral stance on any issue is questionable if it potentially harms society. The value that we attach to crimes is only what is necessary to facilitate better societies. Legal abortion means less unplanned pregnancies, less women losing their careers or potentially lives, less impoverished people being added to a country that already has massive inequality, less crime, less back-alley abortions, less overpopulation and resource consumption, and greater autonomy of women in controlling their own fates. All of these things serve to push society forward into one that is more capable of adapting to the challenges of the 21st century.Particularly, uplifting women and providing greater autonomy and access to education and economic opportunities may be the best way to save the human race from death by overpopulation. The level of education received by women in a country tends to be a great contributing factor in reducing the birth rate, part of the reason we have a much more stable population growth here than in many areas of the developing world. Access to abortion and contraception in general is critical to constructing a society in which women are valued for more than just their uterus.

Now I might sound like a hypocrite, because I already specifically went through some of these arguments and said why they don’t ultimately trump the value of murder. But here is where I argue that we put the value of murder into question. The reason that we must have laws against murder is because of the ways our society would be damaged were they not there. Families are torn apart by murder, companies are disrupted. One of the greatest goals of society in achieving progress is clamping down on sources of disruption to the wellbeing of members of that society. Now this may seem purely utilitarian, but there is a place for virtue ethics as well, albeit one that is subservient to utility. In the case of abortion, were it made illegal I do not believe that it would ultimately be reduced dramatically. Back-alley abortions would still occur, and more unplanned pregnancies would happen which may lead to a cycle of more dysfunction that would lead to even more abortions down the road as well. Of course, it’s a tough question still. If legalizing murder somehow produced a society where people murdered each other even less (perhaps because they were afraid of retribution or something like that), would it then be a good idea to legalize murder? I would still say no, though cautiously. Simply because even if the overall murder rate went down, there would still be cases where a person’s family member or friend was murdered, and there was no way to achieve justice without murder itself, which one may be opposed to doing. Essentially, even if an act occurs while it is illegal, branding it as legal may reduce the capacity for the concept of justice.

It’s hard to weigh what these concepts are. The best way that I can think of is to view the adherence to a virtue as a form of utility. The sense of justice is itself a creator of a better society. Now, where abortion comes into this is a mixed bag. If people do not value a fetus’ life to the same extent that they value another child’s life, then losing a fetus does not produce a large negative reaction in that society. We don’t care about fetuses, thus it does not harm us if they die. In that sense, murder then becomes justifiable simply because no one has any real attachments to the one that is murdered. This is a troubling concept as well, unfortunately. If a lone hermit is murdered in the forest, there must still be a trial. I’m missing something here. I think the thing that pushes abortion into the realm of acceptability is all of the societal benefits that I mentioned earlier. Murder is, in the vast majority of cases, detrimental to society. Abortion is not. This is if we view “society” as sort of the human race itself. Our struggle to survive as a species is, ironically, made easier by the elimination of the unwanted unborn. I understand that this more and more sounds evil. I don’t know how to say any of this in a way that doesn’t sound evil. I think maybe it is evil. It’s dangerous to view things as justifiable solely in the lens of what advances the species, it strays scarily close to certain forms of eugenics. (perhaps not a coincidence that the founder of Planned Parenthood was a strong advocate of eugenics?)

It’s why I ultimately think that abortion must be legal. Perhaps we could debate when exactly in the development stage we consider the fetus to be human enough for abortion to count as murder, based off of when awareness or certain organs or other features are developed. But it seems to me to be a moot point. I surrender to the immorality. I cannot justify abortion except to see it as a necessary evil in the survival of society. I do not believe that it should be taken lightly. Not that I believe most women who are undergoing the procedure would ever make the decision lightly. But it seems to me that when people are so quick to equate abortion as a question of women’s health, they sidestep the entire moral question of it in the first place. If I ever became an unintended father, and abortion was an option, I believe that it would be immoral of me to advocate for one. Ultimately it would be the woman’s choice, but I think that a choice to abort the child would be an immoral one. Perhaps it could be considered moral in the servitude of the common goal of society’s survival. To me that seems like a societal justification rather than a personal one. I believe strongly in the principle of self-ownership. A woman’s self-ownership is infringed when abortion is illegal. I said earlier why that may not trump a fetus’ self-ownership, it’s right to live. But it’s still damned important. Ultimately, the vast majority of the negative consequences of legal abortion that I am aware of are, essentially, abstract. Or supernatural. Because we do not as a society truly feel the loss of these fetuses, tragically we are left in a position where we must choose between tangible benefits to a society at the cost of an unknowable and unquantifiable moral evil.

My final point in this one is that there are also social elements of abortion. Both in having it legal and having it illegal. Ultimately I haven’t mentioned these as swaying it one way or the other because I am not a believer in legislation as an act of attitude control. But there are also obviously other consequences of abortion – like the way it may make the woman feel who had it. After all, she’s pretty much the only one (possibly the father) who’s going to feel the loss of the fetus, both physically and emotionally. The reason I don’t consider this is because I believe that, as autonomous beings, making a choice that you will later regret doesn’t mean that the choice should be banned. That’s for the woman to decide. And considering 95% of the women surveyed, from the source I read (Reuters) said it was the right choice for them and they didn’t regret it, it seems those women are probably making the right choice for themselves at least. Granted, I’ve often heard people say that having a child was the best thing that ever happened to them, and rarely have I heard people say they regretted it. But attempts to force women to get medical procedures and so on to show them the baby and try to guilt-trip them into not getting an abortion should not be mandated. Either let abortion be legal or try to ban it, don’t pressure women that are already likely in a vulnerable state in order to subvert actually challenging the law.

Planned Parenthood!

Now that the rest of that is out of the way, the actual politics at hand are much easier to talk about for me. If you were uncomfortable with the abortion stuff I talked about or thought it was just a bunch of random bullshit hypotheticals then you’re in luck, there will probably be less of that here, considering it’s much less of a moral quandary for me.

For defunding Planned Parenthood, as I mentioned earlier, I’m against it. The thing is, though, I understand it. Many people who are standing with planned parenthood declare that the defunders are “anti-women”. This bothers me for a few reasons. First off, however justified you may feel in making that accusation, it’s still just an attack of character on a very large group of people, many of whom are women. I’m going to first make my arguments against many of the arguments stating that the defunding attempts are solely an anti-women issue, before I argue why I support Planned Parenthood anyway – even though I’m a libertarian who generally opposes government spending.

So one argument that seems convincing that defunders are anti-woman is the argument that Planned Parenthood provides much more services than just abortion, and in particular – that abortions do not receive federal funding in the first place, due to the Hyde Amendment in the 70s. To really argue against this I think that there are some things to establish. Planned Parenthood statistics say that only 3% of the services they provide are abortions. Wow! Abortions are a very small part of what they provide, for sure. Except that that values all of the services equally. That values getting a contraceptive pill at the same level as getting a second trimester abortion. And what does that 3% number really look like? It’s about 330,000 abortions per year.

So what? Well. I talked about this under the abortion section. But if someone is pro-life and they really believe that the murder of a fetus is equivalent to the murder of a child or adult, then picture it this way – here’s an organization receiving federal funding that is responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Americans. That number is many multiples of deaths caused even by the largest armed conflict in the world today, the Syrian civil war. Honestly it seems to me that if you truly believe abortion is murder, then Planned Parenthood is a genocidal organization that needs to be shut down at all cost, no matter what other services they provide. Now, the point gets brought up, what I said before – federal funding doesn’t go to abortions. But that doesn’t really mean as much as people seem to think it does. Even if our tax dollars aren’t going directly to abortions, they are still helping to support Planned Parenthood’s other services, which helps the organization grow, spread it’s influence, and open more clinics and such. And if they weren’t receiving the roughly 500 milliion dollars we give them, they would likely have to shrink and contract in size. Even if it is indirect, it’s still the same organization.

If you had a violent government that killed millions of people, but also provided numerous services that helped everyone out, I don’t think you would say “well our tax dollars only go to the nice services and not to the genocide, so I’m fine with it.” You would want nothing to do with that organization. You would say this dictatorship needs to be shut down and we need to bring in a new government that can still do the nice things but not do the genocide. That’s essentially what a lot of the defunders are arguing – defund Planned Parenthood and put the money into other programs that can still help women’s health without performing abortions. Now this rhetoric may not be totally accurate, I’m sure many of the defunders wouldn’t put that money back into women’s health. But it still stands as a valid point to me that pro-lifers, given what they believe, are absolutely justified in not wanting to support Planned Parenthood. In fact, I think it speaks to a certain level of desensitization amongst our overall society that also afflicts even many of the hardest pro-lifers we have here, that this is ALL they are doing, and that they needed a bunch of doctored “sting” videos to propel them to action.

If you truly believe abortion is murder then it should be the most important issue affecting our society today. Massacre on an unparalleled scale. But many of today’s pro-lifers are content to just wait around, generally harrassing or disrupting or fighting against abortion clinics and organizations that provide them or politicians that support them. But they haven’t been trying to federally defund Planned Parenthood until now, after a bunch of videos talking about selling baby parts. Even if those videos weren’t doctored up, I would honestly have to say – does that even compare? Selling organs doesn’t seem nearly as evil to me as committing mass murder. But I digress.

The point that I wanted to make is just that you can’t accuse them of hating women. In essence, they are trying to protect hundreds of thousands of unborn women, which would heavily outweigh the good caused by Planned Parenthood. Ultimately, I do not think they are anti-woman, just firm adherents to a principle that I believe is misguided. In a way, I have more respect for the ardent pro-lifer than I do for someone who offhandedly dismisses any anti-abortion efforts as anti-woman and proclaims that a woman’s choice trumps everything, without even stopping to consider the true moral meaning of what they are advocating. Not that I’m saying everyone who is pro-choice is that way, or even a majority. But I do think the polarization of our society has led people on both sides of the issue to dismiss the other side too quickly. And there are certainly individuals in the pro-life movement that are anti-woman, there is no way I’m going to exclude that. I’m just stating that the movement itself should not be considered anti-woman in my opinion.

I also wanted to provide some arguments in defense of Planned Parenthood from the perspective of a libertarian that generally opposes government spending. I’m not a hardline libertarian against all spending, debate has made me a little more moderate. But as far as a lot of these services are concerned, I don’t believe that government is the most effective way to produce a good healthcare system. Nonetheless, government is in the business of healthcare now, and has been for a long time. We spend massive amounts of money on different healthcare programs. Ultimately, Planned Parenthood’s federal benefits are about 500 million dollars. That sounds like a lot. And yes, it’s a lot. The government deals in large quantities of money. The stats I found for 2014 said we spent about 600 billion dollars on just Medicare. The money we give to Planned Parenthood doesn’t even come slightly close to comparing to what we spend on a K-12 education system that doesn’t work, an imperialistic military that creates more problems than it solves, welfare programs to support those in poverty that often keep them in poverty (look up the welfare cliff as an example of this), and so many other things. And yes, other organizations could do the things that Planned Parenthood does. But why not have PP do it? Women’s health with a particular focus on contraception, family planning and abortion services are pretty damn important and worth having separate organizations specifically dedicated to them, particularly because I don’t have a lot of trust in large sections of our healthcare system.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is not any solution to the federal debt. If we want to start cutting excessive government spending I’m all for that, but I wouldn’t pick out PP as the lone target of those cuts when I believe that abortion and contraceptive access ultimately reduce the future costs to our system (how much more would we have to provide in services for over 300,000 new births a year, large portions of whom would be unwanted or grow up impoverished?).  I also just had to edit this post to add in an argument that I’ve seen in defense of Planned Parenthood that I think is pretty convincing – all the non-abortion contraceptive procedures they provide! If we’re going to effectively reduce the rate of abortions in this country, I strongly believe that we’re going to have to have a population that uses contraceptives more and is safer about sex. And PP provides a lot of those services, for women and for men, too. So even though they may get hassled for the abortions they provide, in the end it would possibly be counter-productive in the quest to reduce abortions to defund them.


I was re-reading this post and found that I missed or skimmed over some things that I think are more important than I gave them credit for. I’m just going to use this space to add a few more paragraphs of stuff so that I don’t have this incomplete feeling inside.

First one is on the point that I made under the abortion section about involuntary conception not reducing the value of human life (rape exceptions). I meant to add more about that in a later section but never did. I think the reason that abortions in cases of rape are more excusable are a few; first, an unwanted pregnancy being added to a woman when she has already been subjected to a traumatic and damaging event is compounding the way her life is affected. It doesn’t mean that the fetus’ life is any less valuable, but I still think it increases the importance of the woman having autonomy over her own body, considering her autonomy was stripped away in the act that conceived the child. I just wanted to add this part because I feel like I sort of underplayed the importance of issues like these, and where the mother’s life may be in danger or when the fetus has complications.

Second one I wanted to add was a kind of random argument about abortion/planned parenthood that I forgot to fit in anywhere before, and doesn’t really relate to the morality or planned parenthood but is just sort of a pet peeve of mine. And that is the argument that I’ve often seen that men shouldn’t be legislating women’s bodies. This usually goes like, “Oh, look at all these old white men telling women what they can do,” and to me makes no sense. First off, if we are arguing over whether or not abortion is murder, men have just as much say in preventing a murder from occurring. Obviously they do not have the concern of being pregnant ourselves. But it still is completely unfair to say “this doesn’t affect you,” when clearly, if abortion is murder, it should affect everyone. That’s like saying if a single mom kills her own child, men shouldn’t be able to say anything about it. I mean, not exactly. But it’s close enough.

But I actually have another argument to add to that point as well. When people accuse male elected officials of doing this, they are really subverting the entire process of a representative democracy. The congresspeople are obligated to represent their constituencies. As much as people like to give shit to men for being anti-abortion, it turns out women are in many areas more opposed to abortion than men. http://www.theguardian.com/science/the-lay-scientist/2014/apr/30/why-are-women-more-opposed-to-abortion
Statistically more women call themselves pro-choice than men and more men call themselves pro-life than women. But when you get down to the specifics, women tend to take more extreme sides (legal in all cases, illegal in all cases) on issues like abortion than do men, who tend to take less radical stances (probably because men are less directly affected by the consequences of it). People love to advocate that men are waging a war on women, but protecting the unborn is something that is extremely important to many women. Considering that women voters make up a very large portion of the constituencies that get these politicians elected, if they weren’t acting in accordance with the female voters’ interests then they would likely not be elected. Saying that male representatives shouldn’t have a say over this is also saying that all the women who elected those male representatives shouldn’t have a say in it. And I don’t get that logic in the first place – it’s not as if we require our congresspeople to be somehow involved in every issue that they legislate over. That would be impossible, and trying to apply that principle ONLY in the case of abortion just seems dishonest.

Abortion and Planned Parenthood defunding!

6 thoughts on “Abortion and Planned Parenthood defunding!

  1. Julia says:

    I largely agree with most of this and I think it is very well written. As far as I’ve ever seen its a completely unheard of argument to argue the morality of murder and not if it is murder but hey at least you’re honest. You mentioned this breifly but even by those standards it is likely to severely effect the father and somewhat if not severely effect others such as grandparents. Your argument also seems to have somewhat of a “purge” vibe (as in the movie). Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to agree with abortion and believe it is murder (not a combination of beliefs I have ever seen before) so does that mean you believe there are circumstances when murdering a born child would be okay? If it didn’t effect anyone else, helped society, etc?
    Another thing you mentioned was that it seems one should be either full pro choice or full pro-life. I definitely understand that argument but because you appreciate other opinions I thought I would share my reasons for being in that middle ground. Although I believe it would be morally wrong for a mother to abort her child because her life was threatened (if she believed it was a child) you still legally force a parent to care about their child more than themselves even if it’s the right thing to do. (Although I know you weren’t suggesting that.)
    But an analogy I thought of is that of a parent taking a bullet for their 5 year old child – in my opinion they should love their child enough to do that but if they don’t you can’t send them to jail for it.
    And lastly this is kind of unrelated but I thought of it for the first time while reading your post so I will share. As far as the topic of illegal and dangerous abortions that could harm the mother – who cares? If you really believe it’s murder then you shouldn’t be too concerned about that. For example if someone is on their way to a daycare to shoot a kid and accidentally shoots themselves on the way over that most people would be relieved.
    Anyway I hate to make any critical comments because I loved the post and you were very thorough and I’m sure you would have said some of that stuff if your post was a novel but you also asked for opinions so here is mine.
    Thanks for the great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Julia! Thanks for commenting. That’s definitely a good question to press on me, about whether I think killing a born child would be ok, because in many ways I never found the line that I wanted to separate fetuses from babies.
      In all honesty, it’s a very hard question for me to answer. I tend to adhere to the Non-Aggression Principle, the idea that we shouldn’t initiate violence or coercion on others except in self-defense. The principle has some limits though – or perhaps self-defense is vague enough. If some crazy turn of events made it so that one person’s life could be ended to save thousands, I would support the ending of that life even though it would be an immoral means to a moral end. As far as a child, I would apply that same principle regardless of the age.

      However, that’s a little different than abortion obviously. I believe that killing a very young child, like an infant, isn’t necessarily more immoral than killing a fetus. It’s really just a difference of development and circumstance. But I think on a wider, societal scale, allowing infanticide is perhaps more damaging – the baby has already been brought out into the world, medical services were already used to care for it, it was likely named, perhaps given baby shower gifts, and so on. The birth of a newborn baby is typically a cause for celebration, which means it’s already created those attachments in the world that it now lives in. In most cases of abortion, it’s a first trimester abortion where others may not even know that the woman was pregnant. I don’t see a lot of benefit to society in allowing infanticide to occur, however there might possibly be extenuating circumstances in which it would be justified – just like any other action could be justified. But I would still think it deserving of legal action.

      As far as the discussion on exceptions, I totally agree with you. I mean, when I stated it doesn’t make sense to include exceptions, that’s kind of my hyperbolic tendencies to choose one extreme or the other speaking. The way that I justify abortion – societal implications, woman’s choice, etc. could all be weighed differently depending on a person’s values, and in many cases I think the fallout from cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger could be enough to push abortion into justifiable territory, whereas without those circumstances it wouldn’t be. It would still be a horrible action, but like you said – a woman shouldn’t be legally required to die for her child, particularly in cases where the child may die too.

      The last point is also an interesting one to bring up, I didn’t really think about that kind of scenario and just took it for granted. If I understand what you mean, it’s kind of like – if abortion is illegal, then the mother getting a back-alley abortion is committing a crime, thus we shouldn’t concern ourselves with what the consequences to her of committing that crime are. If I’m viewing abortion as murder, then the mother attempting to get an abortion would be an attempted murderer, and thus dying in the act of attempted murder is not a big loss. I see that logic, but at the same time it’s troubling for me. This is good because it forces me to consider something I didn’t consider before, something that’s pretty integral to the idea that abortion is murder.

      If I view abortion as murder, does that mean that I view women who get abortions as murderers? Someone should be murderer, either her or the doctors involved, or both, in order for it to be considered in such a way. But somehow it doesn’t feel right to me to consider the mother to be a murderer, and certainly it doesn’t feel right to me to consider the doctor a murderer either. I mean, they are pre-meditating the killing of a fetus, which I determined before was a kind of murder. So they must be. I have to confront my own inconsistency here. I don’t want to call any woman who gets an abortion a murderer, or consider them as such. Because to me it is less of an act of cold-hearted psychopathy, and more an act of desperation, it doesn’t have the same connotations. A drunk driver who is responsible for the death of a pedestrian or someone will often be accused of manslaughter. Not that I mean to deny the agency of women who have chosen to get this procedure or compare them to drunks. But it’s sort of a matter of the intent of the crime, you know? If someone accidentally killed someone else, or murdered someone out of a need to protect their family, or other circumstances, I would still have sympathy for them and desire for them not to get hurt. This is more how I feel about someone receiving an abortion. A true-blue murderer, like a serial killer, who dies in the act, will elicit no sympathy or sadness for me (except as far as whatever turned them into that kind of person in the first place). So I still would be concerned if women were dying getting back-alley abortions. These women have families, friends, businesses, often other children that they would be leaving behind. I don’t think it would be conducive to a society’s progress and survival if substantial portions of women of all different demographics in all areas of the country were being funneled into black-market procedures like these, which would likely have substantial death rates, and I think it would produce an effect somewhat similar to what we’ve seen in the war on drugs and other instances of prohibition, where society is more dangerous and criminal activities are more powerful than they would otherwise be.

      That’s all I’ve got, I hope those answers are sufficient but those were definitely good questions that I still need to mull over. Thank you again for commenting, and thanks for reading and I’m glad you liked the post!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. drew says:

      @Julia: “As far as I’ve ever seen its a completely unheard of argument to argue the morality of murder and not if it is murder but hey at least you’re honest.”

      This isn’t as intrinsically flawed as you might expect — it isn’t clear that killing a person is unequivocally bad. Depending on your metaethical system, all sorts of killings might be justified, or even positively moral. From self defense, to war, to assisted suicide, to infanticide, to the death penalty, and so on.

      Preempting a common abuse of words, often it’s responded “But murder is an unjustified killing! To kill out of self defense isn’t murder, so it isn’t wrong.” In which case, one would, of course, never argue that an unjustified killing is justified, and with that shared vocabulary, they’d simply note in their argument for abortion, “Sure, a fetus is a person, but to kill it isn’t murder, because there are reasons which justify it, much like self defense is a justified killing of a person, but isn’t murder.”

      The property of “being a person” does not seem to mean that you ought never be killed. So someone arguing for justified abortion of fetus-persons would simply include the set of “fetus-persons” as being included in the set of “people who can be justifiably killed”, which “fetus-persons” would neighbor sets like “people trying to hurt you,” and, “people trying to hurt others”.

      “Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to agree with abortion and believe it is murder (not a combination of beliefs I have ever seen before) so does that mean you believe there are circumstances when murdering a born child would be okay? If it didn’t effect anyone else, helped society, etc?”

      There are certainly conceivable situations where abortion of fetus-persons would be, if not totally okay, not obviously wrong. And this sort of situation could probably be built up to a similar “post-birth-abortion” kind of situation, that would be similarly difficult to decide.

      For example, consider the kind of person who has an abortion, but has a child later in life, with a partner that they get along with better, while in a more stable situation where they can better raise the child. For the fetus aborted, let’s call him Matt (a personification to highlight the personhood of the fetus,) its existence is mutually exclusive with the other child who’s born, call her Sally.

      In a hypothetical like that, with the benefit of hindsight (to note, statements like “this was moral” are distinct from statements of the form “this will be moral”,) why would we prefer the existence of Matt over the existence of Sally? They are at utter odds with each other, yet it’s beyond a zero-sum-game. While nothing is certain, in terms of probability, Sally will live a better life than Matt, and the people around her will have a better life because she exists rather than Matt. Is Matt’s temporal advantage a good reason to reduce the utility of everyone involved?

      The person who argues for abortion, even if it’s killing a person, would say that in a scenario like that, to prefer Matt’s life due to temporal advantage is -biased-, as there’s nothing preferable about Matt’s life when compared with Sally’s.

      I don’t have any conclusion on whether abortion is okay, only that the answer is clearly not an obvious or easy one, and no simple argument will suffice in either direction.

      anyways, @sam: I’m far less knowledgeable about the politics of abortion and planned parenthood (the useful stuff lol,) so I don’t have the most to say about that section, which is the meat of the post. But a few thoughts.

      I agree entirely about the shallowness of most pro-planned-parenthood arguments. The accusations that pro-lifers are anti-woman is blatantly offtopic, and is way too common — the worst kind of rhetoric. It’s a horrible strawman that takes the smallest moment of empathy to destroy.

      It seems like a big crux of your argument about planned parenthood, though, is that abortion is fine to begin with. That is, you seem to think that if abortion is wrong, then planned parenthood is, by extension, simply wrong. So on the ethics of abortion.

      Say I grant you that there are scenarios where abortion is okay: Health of the mother, extreme birth defects, if the birth is a result of rape, etc. Suppose we agree that, in these scenarios, as a general rule, abortion is a utility-increaser, or that it’s good to have an option to rectify those specific situations because of properties specific to them beyond just “abortion”.

      How might you go from, “Abortion is okay in special circumstances,” to, “Abortion is okay in all circumstances, up to the arbitrary will of the mother.”?

      If I understand correctly, you seem to advocate the position that it is entirely up to the mother. In which case, as an extension, why is it up to the arbitrary will of the mother, rather than any of the people which the birth greatly affects?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry for taking so long to get back to this, I didn’t have time to respond to it earlier and then I forgot. =/

        I wanted to respond to one of your arguments that wasn’t aimed at me as much, first, before I got into some of your points directed at me.

        The part I was reading that I wanted to rebut was the point about Matt’s life versus Sally’s life. You make some very good points about how ultimately, Matt’s life precludes Sally’s life as it is one or the other, so we should prefer the life that will be better lived and more prepared for overall. This argument makes sense as a utilitarian concept similar to what I was talking about before, and really focuses entirely on just our lived experiences and so on. However, it ignores a big part of the whole debate in the first place, which is essentially that there is some innate wrongness in the act of killing in the first place.

        What I mean by this is that although if Matt lives, Sally will never be born, that does not make Matt’s survival equivalent to an abortion of Sally. Because Sally never existed, there is no “murder” that takes place, no life that is ever extinguished. Whereas if we choose Sally over Matt, it is because Matt was brought into existence and then subsequently removed from it. I don’t believe that the state of non-existence is wrong, I believe that the act of removal from existence is wrong (I mean, generally, for reasons I’ve described before). And that’s one reason why I think that this comparison is not entirely justifiable. Particularly because it opens the door to many other arguments – condoms prevent life from coming into existence, thus they are equivalent to killing? Couples that adopt or choose not to have children are not bringing children into existence, thus their actions are equivalent to killing? It does possibly ring a familiar note about some very very staunch anti-birth control advocates, particularly hardcore Catholics. who are against all forms of birth control and are against gay marriage and other actions that would be less likely to include procreation. However, I don’t think that’s the perspective you have nor myself. That to me is an excruciatingly unsustainable path that would lead human populations to immense explosion in size followed by subsequent war and disease and famine and more likely lead to death of the species.

        So anyway, that’s why my argument is that it’s more than just Matt’s temporal advantage, it’s the fact that he has already come into existence and the only way to stop that is through an act of killing, snuffing out the life, rather than the simple non-existence of Sally due to circumstance.

        Now to get into the arguments you made more directly towards me.

        It seems your primary question is about why the mother’s choice is ultimately the supreme choice in the matter. This is definitely a good question, and I’ll try to provide a clear answer as to why.

        Alright, so on the point of how we go from abortion being okay in special circumstances to it being okay in all circumstances. In my main post, I actually placed a pretty low weight on “special circumstances”as compared to a higher weight on the mother’s bodily autonomy and a utilitarian, societal benefits approach. First on societal benefits, I don’t find the special circumstances hugely important in regards to how society develops. The vast majority of abortions do not occur due to rapes or health defects, from any of the statistics I’ve seen. Most of them are due to life choices, like not being ready for a child, or in cases where mothers already have children and don’t want to care for more. The main crux of my utilitarian-sorta argument was that abortion helps reduce overpopulation, helps reduce future crime rates, costs on society, and so on – mostly due to preventing more unwanted babies from entering into the world. This argument is not contingent on the baby being a product of rape, for example, because unwanted pregnancies can occur from all sorts of situations which would not be accounted for solely under a rape exemption (birth control doesn’t work/breaks, accidents, lack of sex education, etc) and so society would still have numerous unwanted children that it would have to deal with. As mentioned earlier, on an individual basis that doesn’t mean killing them is justified, but on a societal basis in a long-term approach, the potential benefits to human progress and survival are too large to discount in my opinion.

        So then we get to why should it be up to the arbitrary will of the mother. That comes down to be a few reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, it’s her body that the baby is growing in – she’s the one who’s health is at risk, and who will most likely be responsible for taking care of the child and thus having her life plans have to wildly change. While the birth of a baby may greatly affect others involved, such as the father, grandparents, relatives, etc.. – none of them have the same stake in it as the mother. Although I have previously argued that I don’t think the choice of the mother necessarily overrides the right to a fetus’ life, when we couple that with the social benefits of allowing abortions in general, it becomes imperative in my opinion that abortions be made universally accessible. And if they are to be accessible, from a legal basis, someone needs to be the one who can consciously make that decision – we all are considered responsible for our own decisions, when we are adults who are capable of legal consent. It wouldn’t make any sense from a legal perspective, and would completely violate the rights of the mother, if anyone other than the mother were allowed to consent to her getting an abortion. If the father, for example, who may be greatly affected (even if he doesn’t get involved in the child’s life, he may very well be sued for child support and have to pay for the next 18 years of the child’s life – money that he may not be able to afford, and may bring him to financial ruin) was allowed to decide, against the mother’s will, that she should get an abortion – a horrific violation of her rights would occur in which she would be forcibly restrained, have potentially life-altering surgery performed on her, and deprived of the child that she was seeking to be a mother to. And if she was the one who wanted an abortion, but the father (or others involved) decided against it and their decision outweighed hers on a legal basis, it would also completely violate her right to self-ownership which I believe is extremely important to respect for a free society. Even though the abortion affects more than the mother, it is ultimately only her and the baby that are at stake and who’s rights would be being violated depending on the circumstance.


  2. drew says:

    My bad responding so hella late lol, totally forgot.

    “What I mean by this is that although if Matt lives, Sally will never be born, that does not make Matt’s survival equivalent to an abortion of Sally. Because Sally never existed, there is no “murder” that takes place, no life that is ever extinguished. ”

    It’s surely a utilitarian argument, but that’s part of its usefulness as an argument: To dismiss it on those grounds is to dismiss utilitarianism; that is, the “obviousness” of the murder itself being wrong is directly connected to the obviousness of utilitarianism being wrong. If utilitarianism is still on the cards, it isn’t very clear that one situation is worse than the other.

    But, sure, with a different metaethics (that you’d have to decide on beforehand), there’s intrinsic wrongness in the act of killing.

    If you agree on that, I’ll leave it there/give you the last word, as metaethics is, as best as I can tell, axiomatic and undecidable.

    “The main crux of my utilitarian-sorta argument was that abortion helps reduce overpopulation, helps reduce future crime rates, costs on society, and so on – mostly due to preventing more unwanted babies from entering into the world.”

    The following might seem nitpicky, but once we’re in utilitarianism-land, these kinds of facts suddenly become the most important part. So I’ll hit these one by one real quick:

    “abortion helps reduce overpopulation”
    I wouldn’t contest that it does, indeed, reduce population, which would, of course, reduce overpopulation — if there were overpopulation. As best as I understand, overpopulation isn’t an issue, especially in western society. I recall reading convincing, peer reviewed sources that indicated the growth of population was slowing, and that in some 30-50 years, population would begin to decrease. I could try to find the sources if you’d like.

    Unless you’re familiar and have contradictory evidence?

    “helps reduce future crime rates”
    I’m guessing you’re talking about the Donahue-Levitt study from a few years ago and written in Freakonomics?
    I’m not a sociologist, but as best as I’ve gathered, it’s not taken particularly seriously among active sociologists (which you could fairly easily change my mind about.) I recall the decline of crack, harsher sentencing, unleaded gasoline, cultural shifts, etc as being larger components of the decline in crime, and that it’s not obvious abortion was singled out in that study. I’m not an analyst or a sociologist, so all I have is, at best, my understanding of the consensus in those communities.

    At the end of this summer I read Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (good read, do recommend,) which was well sourced on each of these topics. There was a particular argument I found convincing against the Donahue-Levitt hypothesis, that the underlying assumption about unwanted children being aborted is somewhat inaccurate: The primary demographic which gets abortions is young, middle class, white girls, which is a demographic that isn’t likely to raise criminals disproportionately. I could look for a source, since I could easily be misremembering, or have misinterpreted it in the first place.

    “costs on society”
    I have no idea how to analyse this one. It might be true that we lose net-money with fewer abortions, but I’d need to see a source or elaboration? There are so many very complicated variables that I have nothing close to an intuition on what this would mean.

    “As mentioned earlier, on an individual basis that doesn’t mean killing them is justified, but on a societal basis in a long-term approach, the potential benefits to human progress and survival are too large to discount in my opinion.”

    I think that this is probably a valid point of view, and all of these things have to be balanced, but you would agree that this, as a fundamental justification, is at least… a tricky precedent, right? I don’t mean to strawman you, pull it off topic, put words into your mouth, etc, but if we live in a world where it’s okay to sacrifice individual rights and utility for societal, aggregate utility, what’s the simple argument against eugenics, and everything in that direction?

    If someone ended their argument for killing *insert low/mid IQ demographics* with the exact sentence I quoted, how might you retain your view of abortion, and dismiss those other things? (It’s sometimes easier to get rid of justification for that icky stuff when we don’t view something like abortion as a net utility increase.)

    More broadly, how do you avoid “utility traps” in a world where abortion is a utility increaser (if it actually does increase societal utility)?

    “It wouldn’t make any sense from a legal perspective, and would completely violate the rights of the mother, if anyone other than the mother were allowed to consent to her getting an abortion. ”

    Since the precise topic is the rights of the people who are greatly affected by the fetus’ abortion, who are neither the fetus nor the mother, I’ll leave alone the low hanging “What about the bodily autonomy of the fetus?”

    Instead in another direction, consider the scenario where the mother wants an abortion, but the father does not (and the father would be willing to raise the child on his own if need-be.) In such a scenario, is it clear that the societal benefits of abortion — the decrease in unwanted children — would still hold up?

    Just so you know which direction this dilemma goes to save time:
    If the father, in such a scenario, has no rights to save the fetus’ life, even if it’s positive-utility for him to raise the otherwise aborted child, doesn’t that indicate that all of the above arguments for the positive utility of abortion were just a word-game meant to make the -real- reason for abortion, the end-all bodily autonomy of the mother, seem stronger than it actually is? That, in actuality, that’s the one and only reason which matters in the topic. It would indicate that the societal utility of abortion could be net-negative, and a woman’s bodily autonomy would outshine all of that anyways.


    1. Hey sorry I missed this. I think I got rid of the thing that was requiring comments to be approved so they should show up now, though I still need to get on and actually reply.

      Getting into it – first off, the Matt/Sally argument is a question of more than just meta-ethics. It’s an arbitrary question that you make. The fact that Sally is never born means nothing at all if she was never conceived. Every day that someone has heterosexual intercourse and the woman doesn’t get pregnant is a time a life wasn’t conceived. But we would never attribute that to being the same as aborting an early fetus. You argue that I must believe in an inherent wrongness of killing – I do believe in that, to an extent, but that isn’t all this argument is predicated upon. Matt is an existing being, while Sally is one who’s existence is precluded. Because she never exists she is never harmed in any way, nor are the people who may become attached in some way. When Matt is conceived, he has already made his small mark on the world – mostly on the mother, but still. He is in his own right a living being. And you may say it doesn’t matter to kill him – but in that context I would question when it does matter to kill someone. Would it be justified to end an adult’s life in order to ensure that some arbitrary amount of children were conceived? Sacrificing a man so that 50 women might become pregnant, for example (some demonic fertility ritual it sounds like), One is a life that already exists in the world and has connections and in my value system has some kind of “right to live” that others can’t just take away. That part of the system is most certainly just an arbitrary aspect of my value system, not some universal truth or logical proof. Although his existence precludes the existence of those 50 children, they never existed in the first place to have their rights taken away. This example is a bit extreme because it is one life precluding 50 other lives, rather than one life precluding one life. And it’s shaky, obviously – if one man had to die so that a thousand infertile women could have children, it wouldn’t be an easy choice (although who is qualified to make that “choice” in the first place is always questionable). But that’s kind of the gist of my argument..

      Onto the purported benefits of abortion – yes. The United States doesn’t have a big overpopulation problem. But it does have a big problem of overconsumption of resources per capita. The question of abortion as a whole reducing overpopulation extends outside of just the US boundaries though, as it affects numerous countries around the globe. I know bringing it internationally is not the best approach considering limiting our discourse to the US helps define exactly what we’re talking about, but I am certainly of the opinion that more unwanted – stress on unwanted – children will likely be detrimental in many ways to society (though not universally).

      As for the young middle class white girls point. Any study I’ve seen on the matter has generally found a very large correlation between single mother households and increased violence and criminal behavior, and abortions often occur in instances where the father would be absent. Furthermore, I would argue that regardless of race, young women going into child-rearing alone, unprepared, and usually without the financial security to provide for the child (or having yet attained the education level likely to secure such financial security) is unlikely to yield the most effective parenting results that will ultimately benefit the rest of society. I believe that that would lead to a greater proportion of under-educated children who have less access to the resources they need to become more productive workers and entrepreneurs, thus – if not increasing crime – at least increasing the ratio of impoverished citizens who become reliant on government support. This is what I’m talking about with costs on society. I’m not going out and finding studies for this because I think it’s pretty much a basic logical construction and also one that would be fairly hard to empirically prove. Mostly, we have to look at warning signs. And I am not saying all un-aborted children would be detrimental to society, but I am saying that access to abortion increases the opportunities available to the children that are born, because they are more likely to occur when the parent is ready.

      I’m glad you bring up the tricky precedent thing. It’s part of the problem in my original thesis, and I knew it (and commented on it a little bit) when I was writing the post. It’s one area where I have to endure a little cognitive dissonance to justify it. I certainly do not make all of my moral decisions as to what should be legal and what is right or wrong based off of what ultimately produces the greatest net productivity of society. I value individual ethics systems and non-initiation of force and the non-validity of the government in most matters of intervention, which runs pretty much straight counter to a lot of the rhetoric that I make in this post about “we as a society” or, if you will, micro-managing policy to ensure some purported greater good at the expense of the lives of the fetuses. The problem I have found with any system is that a 100% rigid set of principles is not ideal for helping to produce a better world. And though I don’t believe that all actions we take should be in the service of some greater cause, I do believe that our moral philosophy and political legislation and law should generally have to check back every so often and make sure that that’s what it’s generally accomplishing.

      So, in that sense – when you say we live in a world where it’s okay to sacrifice individual rights and utility for societal aggregate utility, I believe that already happens. Not to say that because it already happens it is justified. But that we generally recognize there are areas where individual rights are sacrificed for aggregate gain – I am a very firm advocate of the first amendment, but I don’t intend to contest laws forbidding someone from screaming fire in a crowded theater or going around making death threats. We do ultimately have to ground ourselves in whether or not the individual rights provides tangible benefits to the wider society (whatever that means). Particularly in a case of abortion, it is the question of one’s individuals rights versus another individual’s rights. The fetus’ right to life may, by default carry somewhat more weight than the woman’s right to bodily autonomy (at least in this discussion), but in the context of the other factors involved – a mother’s full cognitive awareness versus the fetus’ partial or no awareness; the mother’s family, friends and future that may be affected by this birth; the economic and cultural utility generated by the mother in comparison to the in some cases negative utility generated by the fetus. It’s taking a holistic, or inconsistent if you prefer, view that encompasses both the “general good” and the individual’s rights and attempts to weigh them together, even though they are entirely separate concepts. It is flawed in methodology but I believe it is at least somewhat grounded in what’s “best” for the human race. (Based off of what we know and the challenges we know we face – rather than the unknown and possibly non-existent challenges associated with the soul and religion and so forth).

      Because of all this, I believe it is possible to believe in abortion the way I do while still generally asserting that eugenics is wrong. While abortion may be a certain form of eugenics, it is a highly contained act in which many many other factors are at work, none of which (except for an unknowable, nebulous value in the death of an un-loved fetus) go against abortion. In cases like these, minimizing government interference in individuals’ lives can be pursued while still preserving what I believe is in the greater interests of women and of mankind in general, is a good thing for a whole host of other reasons that I believe in (prohibition bad, government abuse of citizens, funding associated with it, etc). Whereas eugenics in it’s more vanilla form is usually from what I understand a more active attempt by a governing agency to forcibly seek out and remove members of a society, legalized abortion is allowing individuals with the most at stake to make this complex and morally questionable decision on their own. An argument for eliminating all poor people or something like that is a tricky one. It is so immediately revolting and despicable, but in the long run hard to argue against without focusing on just the sheer loss of life involved. People love to point out Sweden and Norway and other small, highly educated European countries and talk about how great they have it, but rarely attribute that to the fact that those countries don’t have heaps of under-educated and under-productive citizens that are suffering in America and are also generally bringing our aggregate data down in comparison to the rest of the world who generally don’t have that same degree of poverty or inequality historically. So numbers-wise, things might actually go up if poor people in the US were all just gone somehow. But there’s so much more to it than that. This isn’t the same as the abortion scenario because no one’s basic human autonomy/right to life is being questioned. If poor people exist, it does not prevent me from existing or end my career so that I can take care of them. Most obviously as well, the sheer implications of mass genocide against impoverished groups is so horrible as to outweigh any imagined positive effects, not to mention the fact that society couldn’t function properly if the government was going around killing millions of people in it’s own country, and things wouldn’t just continue as normal otherwise.

      With the father’s choice question it’s also answered in some similar ways. The societal benefits argument is only sufficient in conjunction with the proposed moral value of the mother’s right to her own body and her own life. While programs like child support may ultimately bring the father’s future into question (a problem which I believe is sufficient to be in need of a solution of it’s own), for the most part this burden rests on the mother and it is her right to bodily autonomy that is in question, not his. If the father is willing to take care of the child but the mother is not, I do believe that it would reduce the societal benefits of abortion aspect of unwanted children, because the child IS wanted and would have a caretaker – however, the only way to enforce that would be through a gross violation of the mother’s rights that would require dangerous government intervention and these two factors combined would bring in such a whole host of societal detriments so as to once again sway it in favor of the mother’s choice and her choice only.

      However, these arguments still do not adequately rebut in my eyes the over-arching theme of this presentation. My concept that abortion is beneficial on a societal level is not going to be universally true. There will certainly be instances where you can find that to be false, for certain individuals. This is why I further argued that abortion may be difficult to justify on an individual level. The argument to me is that, although some abortions may not be justifiable under this model, enough of them are to warrant it being legal as a general principle. From there, I further believe that the general principle should not be made more specific because it requires the government to be put in the place of making decisions as to which abortions are justified and which are not, which is something that you and I can’t even get close to fully solidifying a hypothesis on, let alone one that an entity like the government could sign into formal law. The value of a woman’s bodily autonomy is added as sort of a static variable (possibly adjusted by factors like medical complications – which could turn it from a woman’s choice vs. a fetus’ life to a woman’s life vs a fetus’ life and thereby swing the balance further in her favor) in each individual instance of abortion, which contributes to the overall value of the practice from a societal level. It’s something that could be in a way summed up on a mathematical level. Obviously there are conversion issues – converting an ethical concept of a “right” into a numerical value, comparing that with another right which is just as vague, and combining that number and putting it into equivalency with an additionally complex and individually-varying array of social utility numbers and trying to portray that as a net positive. Though it may be imperfect, I see it as the best way to blend my different value systems to fabricate a justification for something that I believe is too valuable to be taken away.


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