Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lucia Obama on abortion and intellectually untenable positions

A few days ago I became involved in an online conversation on Obama's support or lack thereof for abortion. It all started with an explanation on Obama's part for why he did not support Illinois' Infant Born Alive Bill - a bill which sought to gain protection for babies who failed to be killed by abortion and managed to get born alive. Obama did not support the bill because it sought to undermine Roe vs Wade, the infamous court verdict that guarantees virtual abortion on demand in the US.

I used to debate abortion online a number of years ago, so I thought I'd heard every pro-abortion argument there was. But this conversation has brought a new argument to my attention. That is, that a person can be both "pro-choice" and "anti-abortion". Now, being both for and against something makes no sense to me, but it appears that is how Obama is positioning himself in the abortion debate.

My understanding of "pro-choice" is a position where you give precedence to a woman's right to choose over any other consideration. So, even if you find abortion morally reprehensible yourself, if you believe that ultimately a pregnant woman is the only one who gets to decide whether or not to continue her pregnancy, then you are pro-choice.

"Anti-abortion" is a position where you are against abortion for any reason. Most pro-lifers are "anti-abortion" by virtue of believing that the tiniest human person has a right to life that supercedes any other right (such as the mother's right to choice).

I've been thinking about how a person could think of themselves as both "pro-choice" and "anti-abortion", and the closest I can get is that they themselves are morally offended by abortion so wish that it didn't occur but feel they cannot tell another person that they can't abort their own child. So the death of the unborn child is not as repugnant to them as telling someone else what to do is. It seems to be that to take this position would mean that the person does not consider abortion to be murder the way that killing a fully born person is murder, as most people have no problem with telling others they should not kill people.

It's easy to consider that a unborn baby is less deserving of protection than a fully born person. I mean, what has an unborn baby done? Very little. They've not spoken to anyone, no one's got to know them yet. They've not made their grand entrance yet, so no one even knows what they look like. For that reason they barely exist. They can be reduced down to a "pregnancy" only, rather than a person. So in order to protect the unborn, to consider them worthy of the same right to life as born people, you have to really use your mental faculties and consider the unborn child's humanity. They are human beings, they are just not yet ready to be in the world just yet. But they do exist, they are alive and if left alone to grow, they will get born.

For this reason I am anti-abortion, full-stop. I came to this position after realising that there is no difference between a born baby and a just fertilised human egg, except for maturity. If we can kill the fertilised egg with impunity, why not the born baby? Why not five year olds? Why not people who appear to be completely useless? Any argument that can advanced that justifies the murder of the unborn can be used on the born. So, we either protect people by virtue of the fact that they are human or we watch the lines being gradually moved again over time.

Related Links: Obama on Abortion ~ Servant's Thoughts
How seriously do I consider the murder of the unborn? ~ NZ Conservative

18 comment(s):

Lucia Maria said...

Note that I haven't addressed some of the issues raised, such as when does the state have a right to interfere in the family and is just reducing the stats enough, ie should it be the aim. I just wanted to focus in this post on the actual for and against argument.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid just focusing on the for and against argument does not properly represent the position you are arguing against - the idea of being anti-abortion, but pro-choice that is for me, based on finding a purely pragmatic middle ground.

Now you may argue that trying to reduce the stats is not enough, but surely we would all admit that it would be a better achievement than what we have seen so far - increasing statistics while a bunch of people try and outlaw abortion.

I for one would rather hold a position that could actually make a difference in the real world that includes a bunch of opposing ideas and warring factions that have achieved absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

and to add... it is the very consideration of the human life of the unborn child that forces me to find a position that will see less of those lives destroyed. I could stand by waving my anti-abortion flag as much as I like, but if it achieves nothing (which is exactly the case after 20 years) then if I truly care, I've got to find something else that actually works.... that's what I'm doing.

I.M Fletcher said...

Lucyna, ASA Jones has a very interesting article HERE at ex-atheist.com. Kerry made a very similar statement during a debate with Bush and Ms Jones really puts that argument in it's place.

Lucia Maria said...

Frank, but it is achieving something. If you follow the pro-life news, you'll see the real battle is now at the level of medical staff involved in abortions. Many younger doctors and nurses do not want to be involved with abortion at all because they know what it is. Abortion clinics in the US are being shut down. It hasn't had an impact on the stats just yet, but it's creating pressure. Intense pressure. New ultrasound technologies will continue to show the baby in the womb highlighting definitively it's humanity - and once the baby can be seen for what it truly is by the bulk of the population, things will really start to change.

But, if you don't have a sure foundation, an absolute understanding that you are protecting a human being in the abortion debate, then your position is undermining the undecided. ie if those who consider themselves anti-abortion are willing to compromise, saying some abortions are ok, then they don't truly believe in the sanctity of life as the sanctity of life is up for grabs to the nearest whim.

This debate needs an absolutely rock-solid foundation, otherwise it will go nowhere.

Lucia Maria said...

Fletch, yes, Kerry argued the similar argument of being personally against but believing in choice. I have heard that argument before.

It would work if were talking ice-cream flavours. I might personally favour chocolate but believe that people should be free to choose vanilla. But it doesn't work when we are talking life or death, as the murder of a born person example shows.

Lucia Maria said...

I'll add that the above argument doesn't work because it's not inherently evil to choose vanilla over chocolate but it is inherently evil to kill an innocent human being, therefore to reduce it to a mere choice illustrates that the person (ie Kerry and those like him) do not consider abortion to be evil. Or they feel no moral imperative to prevent others from doing evil, they just point out they don't like to do evil themselves.

Anonymous said...

I think because of your developed definitions of what it means to be pro-choice and anti-abortion you are misunderstanding the position people like myself hold.

To be pro-choice doesn't mean to be for abortion.

I am anti-abortion, but will allow the choice. I am anti divorce, but am allowing of the choice being represented in state law. I am anti smoking but am allowing of the choice by law... and the list could go on over "moral" issues.

The same goes for abortion. We live in a society where the choice is entrenched and I have an allowance for that choice to be present, but as with the others in that list my consideration of the fact that they are harmful (albeit on different scales) means that I am inherently anti them and actively, where I can , do my best to help people choose healthier options (quitting smoking, healing a problematic marriage etc).

Being for choice, does not inherently mean that one is for the thing that can be chosen. I am not for and against abortion... nor does the position necessarily lead to the notion that people who hold a position such as myself "feel no moral imperative to prevent others from doing evil, they just point out they don't like to do evil themselves."

Anonymous said...

The last comment deserves serious thought.

To be pro-choice doesn't mean to be for abortion.

I am pro choice but would not have an abortion myself.When we hear that someone's life is different than ours, we don't deny this; we accept the truth of the person's experience. That sometimes means supporting people in the decisions they need to make to live their lives with dignity, even if their choices and decisions are not ones that you would make.

Lucia Maria said...

Can I ask both Frank and Ruth, where are you on infanticide (ie once the baby is born)? Do you support the choice?

Anonymous said...

If you're trying to link my position to Obama's voting against the Born Alive bill then let's put his word's up to express his position:

I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

The other email rumor that’s been floating around is that somehow I’m unwilling to see doctors offer life-saving care to children who were born as a result of an induced abortion. That’s just false. There was a bill that came up in Illinois that was called the “Born Alive” bill that purported to require life-saving treatment to such infants. And I did vote against that bill. The reason was that there was already a law in place in Illinois that said that you always have to supply life-saving treatment to any infant under any circumstances

Let's make it very clear that when this bill was introduced there was already law in place to protect born children (even those born through induced abortion). That bit of fact is conveniently left out by those who use his vote on this as leverage against him.

I am also not going to be drawn into a discussion that goes along the lines of "if you don't support infanticide then you can't support the choice for abortion at any stage because it's all human life".

I am not going to be drawn into that discussion because it misses the point of my position.

I entirely agree, allow me to reiterate, I do not support abortion, I am not for it, I am not pro abortion.... it is for this reason that I cannot support politicians and actions that actively lead to a rise in abortions.

A politician's political stance on abortion law means nothing to me whether they be for or against. What I am interested in is their stance on issues that feed into the things that eventually place a woman in a situation where she feels she needs to have an abortion. Those factors are many and varied and a black and white view for or against abortion generally fails to discuss such things.

Lucia Maria said...


On the one hand we have a similarity drawn up by yourself between smoking, divorce and abortion (all are "moral issues") and on the other is a more realistic comparison - abortion and infanticide. I was just taking the conversation to the next level. Any sort of link back to Obama was purely coincidental on my part.

But since we've gone back to him, what you may not know is that the reason the Illinois Infant Born Alive Bill was drawn up was because any protection that live babies were supposed to have was not given to aborted babies who survived the initial abortion. Therefore a specific bill was written to include them to ensure that they would not be left to die, as was already happening.

This particular blog post has far more detail on the whole thing and even lays out some very interesting conjecture as to why Obama opposed the bill (he potentially had a real conflict of interest).

MathewK said...

Obama might waffle and weasel around, but from his record, i think it's safe to say he's pro even partial-birth abortion. And if you're in favor of partial-birth abortion, you probably won't bat an eyelid if the baby if killed after birth.

Andy said...

A man is lying at the top of the cliff, holding two people, one in each hand - who have just slipped over the edge. His strength is failing and he realises that he must let go of one of the people to have strength to rescue one of them.

Abortion is murder, there is no question about it - however I think that there will be the rare occasion when a judgement call has to be made, and this would be for the parents AND the doctor to decide on together.

Abortion should still be illegal in all cases however.

My 2c.

I.M Fletcher said...

This from Cardinal Pell's homily yesterday at the first Mass for World Youth Day in Sydney kind of spells it out -

The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians points us in the correct direction, reminding us all that each person must declare himself in the age-old struggle between good and evil, between what Paul calls the flesh and the Spirit. It is not good enough to be only a passenger, to try to live in “no-mans land” between the warring parties. Life forces us to choose, eventually destroys any possibility of neutrality.

Lucia Maria said...

Then there's what Our Lord said in Matthew 12:30

He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.

Qui non est mecum, contra me est; et qui non congregat mihi, spargit.

Nick C said...

Lucyna you shouldnt get too caught up over this one. "I'm pro choice, but not pro-abortion" is more of a slogan to try and make the person seem more moderate and caring then an actual variation of the pro choice position. Its true that many Liberal politicians in America use it (including John Kerry and Obama) but the one who I have heard it the most from is Hillary Clinton.

Her saying that doesnt nessesarily mean she sees that abortion is immoral. The reason she says she is 'pro choice but not pro-abortion' is the harm that abortion has on a womans mental wellbeing. So its not really an ethical position because if it was (as you point out) it falls over very quickly.

I.M Fletcher said...

ps, Lucyna, sorry for changing the subject completely, but I like the Yeats poem (Slouching Toward Bethlehem) at the bottom. Joni Mitchell put music to it on her Night Ride Home album and there is an *awesome* orchestral version on her Travelogue album.

The Yeats' people actually let her add a verse -

I love Yeats - the Yeats poem that I set to music [on Slouching Towards Bethlehem], though, I corrected... there were parts of it that I added; they let me do it, which was amazing. Because I think they sued Van Morrison for setting something. They just said, "You have to put 'adapted by'." And I think I did it pretty seamlessly because I understand his style - the third stanza is mine, and it's very much in the style of the first one, more so than his second stanza.

Anyway, below are the lyrics from her music version -

Turning and turning
Within the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart
The center cannot hold
And a blood dimmed tide
Is loosed upon the world

Nothing is sacred
The ceremony sinks
Innocence is drowned
In anarchy
The best lack conviction
Given some time to think
And the worst are full of passion
Without mercy

Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely it's the second coming
And the wrath has finally taken form
For what is this rough beast
Its hour come at last
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born

Hoping and hoping
As if by my weak faith
The spirit of this world
Would heal and rise
Vast are the shadows
That straddle and strafe
And struggle in the darkness
Troubling my eyes

Shaped like a lion
It has the head of a man
With a gaze as blank
And pitiless as the sun
And it's moving its slow thighs
Across the desert sands
Through dark indignant
Reeling falcons

Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely it's the second coming
And the wrath has finally taken form
For what is this rough beast
Its hour come at last
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born

Raging and raging
It rises from the deep
Opening its eyes
After twenty centuries
Vexed to a nightmare
Out of a stony sleep
By a rocking cradle
By the Sea of Galilee

Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely it's the second coming
And the wrath has finally taken form
For what is this rough beast
Its hour come at last
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born

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