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Author Topic: The Unborn Victims of Violence Act
LSWellington
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I am curious to get peoples reaction to this. President Bush signed The Unborn Victims of Violence Act into law today. It is now a crime not only to attack a pregnant mother but if you hurt the child too, you may be charged with two different crimes.

Bush Signs 'Laci and Conner's Law'

quote:
The bill defines an "unborn child" as a child in utero, which means "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."

That definition angers abortion rights supporters, who say the legislation defines life as starting at the point of conception and therefore confers person-status to the fetus. They add that the law will threaten a woman's right to choose.

I believe this could give the pro-life movement a legal platform to build from as far as defining when a child is a child. What are your thoughts?
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rocketman
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The first thing that pops into my mind here is the issue of choice, and the way it makes sense in my head is to compare it to suicide.

As far as I know, suicide is legal. A person can choose to end his or her own life. Assisted suicide is not legal. No one can legally end another person's life.

Abortion is legal. A woman can legally choose to terminate her pregnancy. Assault is not legal. An assault that results in the death of the victim is a crime.

The difference between abortion and the assault of a pregnant woman is that an assaulted woman does not choose to terminate her pregnancy, or her own life if that's the case. I lean more towards the anti-abortion side, so I'm not saying that an aborted fetus is any less valuable than a delivered baby, but isn't the main argument of pro-abirtion that it should be the woman's choice? What woman chooses to be assaulted?

I realize this perspective is shaky and that this bill could be a foot in the door for anti-abortion proponents, but if we can draw a line between suicide and assisted suicide, why can't we draw a similar line between abortion and assault to the unborn?

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RickyB
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I agree, rocketman. As a (yes, proud) liberal, I think it's very important for "my side" to acknowledge the significance of a fetus, even though we believe in the mothers right to terminate the pregnancy. William Saletan at Slate made this point very eloquently recently (sorry, no have time or energy to look up the link).

Despite the well founded fears of foot in the door, that's not a good enough reason to reject a justified law. We'll fight the anti-abortionist when (not if, mind you...) they try to capitalize, and in the meantime we'll stand up for what's right.

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Malcoren
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I agree with Rocketman as well. This has nothing to do with whether one supports or opposes abortion because, for either side, it's an outside factor that causes the child to die--quite against the will of the mother, beings as she usually doesn't want to be attacked in the first place.

I see it as a great way to legally smack down such assaulters. The only problem is, as LSWellington has pointed out, one side in the abortion conflict may use this as a legal basis to support their views. I won't choose sides here on this issue (beings as I'm not sure myself), but that would definately be a dirty trick to pull and neatly circumvent the whole argument.

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Gary
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IIRC, suicide is considered a crime but it's kind of pointless to arrest and prosecute the perpetrator of the crime ...

This does give a legal platform to the pro-lifers. It highlights a strange duality of the pro-choice advocates who also support this law. You can't kill an unborn child unless you're the mother? This seems a contradiction, is killing it OK or not? Why does being the mother make it acceptable?

This appears to me to be an end run around Roe v. Wade to outlaw abortion.

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Everard
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I don't think the pro-choicers who back this position are in any contradiction. It only appears that way because of the manner in which the law specifically got written.

Basically, pro-choice is about a woman's ability to choose when to have children. Its not that we don't recognize the value of a fetus, but that we don't recognize it as a person. When someone assaults a pregnant woman, and kills the fetus, that person is committing the crime of assault, but also taking away a woman's control over when to have children, by ending a pregnancy. I don't think there are any pro-choicers who would say that assault that ends the life of a fetus, and assault that doesn't, are equal crimes, because the first does more damage then the latter.

Anyrate, the way the law was written is an end-run around roe v wade. Its why I'm sorta pissed at the law. THis COULD have been done without using the word person to describe fetus', but then it wouldn't be accomplishing the purpose of the bill, which is to give a legal opening to pro-lifers to ban abortion.

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LSWellington
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quote:
THis COULD have been done without using the word person to describe fetus',
Is there another way to write it that would have made it clear what they are talking about? How would you have written it Everard?
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Ray Bingham
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Interesting, but I think you're right, evard and rocket, etc. I would think prochoicers could really get behind this and say that they're not against protecting the fetus when a choice is involved. It might be a good way to let a lot of wind out of the political antiabortion hype around it.

--Ray

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jedilaw
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Here is the fundamental thing in all of this: politicians writing laws have the right to set definitions as they choose. Defining a fetus as a person is fully their perogative. They have the power, constitutionally, to alter common-law definitions which state that a fetus is only a person if born alive. They have the power to define non-consensual harm to a fetus by a third party as a crime against a person. They have been prevented by the courts from defining consensual harm to a fetus as a crime against a person. Essentially, a fetus is the legal hostage of its mother until at least the end of the first trimester (which is when abortion can begin to be restricted under Roe and its progeny. As long as the mother pulls the trigger and shoots herself n the belly, there's no crime. If she hands you a gun and says do it, there's no crime. If you do it on your own, that's a crime.

One of those three scenarios makes sense to me.

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Kamisaki
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Could you clarify? Which scenario makes sense to you? It seems you're implying only the last one, but I thought you were pro-choice.

If I'm remembering wrong please correct me. I'm just a little confused about your point in that last part.

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ben5
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What would happen if a pregnate woman assulted someone and the person defended themself and injured the woman, but killed the fetus? Who would be blamed for the fetus's death?
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LetterRip
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Jedilaw,

quote:
Here is the fundamental thing in all of this: politicians writing laws have the right to set definitions as they choose.
Hmmm... A person, woman, child, and other references to age, race, or gender shall mean white males over the age of forty.

I think it is fairly clear that they don't have an unlimited right to choose definitions. Indeed, there are many definitions that would likely be unconstitutional.

LetterRip

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Kamisaki
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I'm pretty sure jedilaw was aware of that, LR. Just because the courts have the power to put checks on the legislators' definitions doesn't mean that the legislators' don't have the power to define things.
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Anglachel
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ed, took out jedilaw quote, as it seems to of been address in previous post.

Gary:
quote:
Why does being the mother make it acceptable?
I think the pro-choice argument is based on the observation that, at least early in pregnency, one can argue that the fetus and mother are still one organism, and therefore she has rightful control over herself as a single organism.

Thus a pro-choice person would not necassarily see the pregnanet woman destroying the fetus a man destroying the fetus as equivilant actions, as one involves one organism, and the other involves two organims. Therefore a law banning the man from killing the fetus but not the pregnant woman would not be self-contradictory.

I'm not trying to take a position, I'm just trying to flesh out the argument so that both sides can understand and attack each other better.

I'm still kinda swingy about my stance.

[ April 02, 2004, 05:28 PM: Message edited by: Anglachel ]

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CardassianScot
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I think you'll have a hard time defending the idea that a fetus is part of the same organism as the mother. While the fetus is dependent on the mother it is genetically distict from the mother. A fertilised egg which is pre-fetus can be removed and implanted in someone else I am therefore forced to regard it is a seperate organism. Whether the fetus is a person or not is a different issue that people argue over, but I don't think there's much evidence for considering a fetus as the same organism as the mother.

[ April 02, 2004, 06:51 PM: Message edited by: CardassianScot ]

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Yossarian5555555
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I don't understand the point of this law. If you attack someone haven't you already commited a crime? Why do we need to have two charges against the attacker? [Confused]
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Kamisaki
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It's just putting into law the idea that it's worse to commit a crime against a pregnant woman because you are harming two lives instead of one. Even if you don't believe a fetus is a person, you have to admit that a person will grow from a pregnancy, barring unusual circumstances.
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Wayward Son
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quote:
A fertilized egg which is pre-fetus can be removed and implanted in someone else. I am therefore forced to regard it is a seperate organism.
Although I won't argue with the genetics definition, this one is poor. You can plant a heart or a lung in another person, too, yet they are not seperate organisms.
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Anglachel
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Would identical twins be considered one organism then because they are not genetically distinct?

[ April 02, 2004, 08:04 PM: Message edited by: Anglachel ]

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LetterRip
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Well, the odds of spontaneous abortion are 50%. Things llike pollution, food and chemical producers, and activities such as participation in vigorous sports, dieting or poor nutrition increase those odds.

Are we going to throw in jail the producers of the above?

I could understand a law, and even support a law that increased penalties for assualt that was for the purpose of inducing an abortion. However, it would certainly have to take into account both gradual personhood, and the reality that most pregnancies spontaneously abort or are induced via accident.

LetterRip

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Rte66
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To further complicate things,
Most poeple know when an embryo splits, they grow into two separate identical twins.

What many do not know is two paternal twin embryos can fuse into one person. The fused twins can even be a boy and a girl, resulting in a person of both genders. My best friend at work actually know one of these people. Another was profiled in Time Magazine a couple weeks ago.

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LetterRip
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Anglachel,

quote:
I think the pro-choice argument is based on the observation that, at least early in pregnency, one can argue that the fetus and mother are still one organism, and therefore she has rightful control over herself as a single organism.
No, I don't think so. It is fairly clear that it is an organism. Of course, being an organism is not particularly a big deal. Any microbe or plant is an organism. The general arguement and disagreement is at what point does human life become deserving of the states protection. It is generally agreed that by birth it definitely does, barring extraordinary circumstances. However, a clear cutoff prior to that point is much more difficult to agree upon.

Some have decided that their religious doctrine dictate that conception is the only acceptable point. (It is worth pointing out that there is much open for interpretation in the scripture used to support this claim.) Others have interpreted the same religious doctrine and find other points in time acceptable (ie some point or timeframe of ensoulment, some particular sign of physical development such as 'quickening' etc.) Others argued for assorted rational basis - ie formation of the brain, or innervation of certain body parts, or the functioning of a particular vital organ, or arguements about viability (ie could survival outside of the womb occur if birth were induced, if so what measures would be needed for such viability (ie viability with extraordinary measures), etc.).

Unless you are convinced that their is a strong doctrinal basis for protection at a particular stage of development such as conception or quickening (or even before conception - ie the Catholic Churches anti contraception stance). Finding a piece of ground which you can definitively say - at this point yes, before this point no, is hard.

I personally find it most plausible that gradual ensoulment/personhood occurs as the brain develops.

LetterRip

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Doug64
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quote:
You can plant a heart or a lung in another person, too, yet they are not seperate organisms.
Basic fundamental difference - an implanted heart or lung, left undisturbed, will not grow into a completely independent life form.

[ April 02, 2004, 09:38 PM: Message edited by: Doug64 ]

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CardassianScot
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quote:
What many do not know is two paternal twin embryos can fuse into one person.
I did know this, or that it happened in mice anyway. It's my primary reason for rejecting personhood at conception. Take an embryo, one person, split it in two, now we have two persons, joing them together and now we have one person. Have I just killed one person? I can't honestly say I have, therefore I have had to revise my view on when a fetus is considered a person. But I would probably draw the limit much earlier than most pro-choicers would be happy with, making me mostly pro-life (although many within that camp wouldn't be happy with my views.)

[edited for spelling]

[ April 03, 2004, 05:21 PM: Message edited by: CardassianScot ]

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Doug64
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quote:
Take an embryo, one person, split it in two, now we have two persons, joing them together and now we have one person. Have I just killed one person? I can't honestly say I have, therefore I have had to revise my view on when a fetus is considered a person.
Speaking scientifically, there were two individuals that became one. The only difference I can see is religious, when the soul enters. And since we've never been able to detect a soul, that would be a purely religious argument.
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noah
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quote:
Basic fundamental difference - an implanted heart or lung, left undisturbed, will not grow into a completely independent life form.
Neither will an egg. It needs a special organ in the mother called a placenta, which is grown specially for this purpose.

It also requires the equivalent of hooking a person up to a feeding tube, heart/lung machine, catheter, etc., plus growing them a few new organs.

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Crush T. Velour
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Comparing a fetus to a surgically transplanted heart or lung has so completely left the road of reason that I don't know where to begin to set it right.

[ April 03, 2004, 08:28 PM: Message edited by: Crush T. Velour ]

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Zyne
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An attempt at an end-run around privacy, for sure.

There are so many things about this law I hate. Let's start with the nickname--There was no being called "Conner" because the thing that perhaps would have become an individual was never born and never named. I don't think for a second that the Powers feel badly about this particular dead fetus, only that it provided an opportunity to take another step on the road that will ultimately take away my soverignty over my body.

Perhaps most importantly, this law didn't need to define a fetus as a victim in order to be valid. In addition to our laws against harming persons, we have innumerable laws that punish the destroying of property. We don't have to engage the debate whether a fetus is an individual or whether it is property; a fetus is either a person or it is property, and since the law would be equally permissible either way, we don't need to answer that question. Therefore the definition is unnecessary, it's deadweight, and its only function can be to further the Powers' nefarious plan to take away our God and Government given right to choose.

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WarrsawPact
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Zyne - Give us a break.

A fetus could never be called property. That's so unreasonable it's sick.

The argument is whether to treat it as a person or as a part of the mother.

And saying "perhaps would have become an individual" is denial. It has its own gentic code, which is determining how its new cells are created... it is the most biologically obvious fact in the world that conception is the beginning of a distinct biological individual.

Being fed, even intravenously, does not make you less of a biological individual.

Whether a biological individual is a "person" is up to us.

And please, the law is not equally okay with you destroying your property or your children. This is ridiculous.
Under the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constituion, all persons must enjoy equal protection of state laws. That includes murder laws. As such, if a fetus is a person (it is certainly a distinct human biological entity, but at this time its location and level of development deny it personhood) it would thus be a totally illegal and harshly punishable offense... premeditated murder (aka Murder in the First Degree).

You do not have some much-vaunted/never-proven "right to choose" whether a person is a person in your view. For the moment, you have a "right" handed down to you by a court whose rulings, if upheld today, would make abortion illegal.
They asked then (in Roe v Wade), is the fetus a living human? They did not know. We know now that the answer is yes.
They used that uncertainty in Roe v Wade to justify making it an issue of a controversial "right to privacy," which certainly does not pertain to ANYone if a crime is being committed.No end run needs to made around privacy.

BECAUSE the issue -- the ONE and ONLY issue -- is, "is the fetus a person?"

It is living. This much is not in doubt.
It is a distinct biological entity. Same goes here.
It is human. Ditto.

Is it a person? That is the only debate that matters for now.

If it is ever established that an unborn child is a person, then we will make arguments for how other state laws apply, like self defense (which even the Catholic Church makes the exception for...).

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WarrsawPact
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Anglachel - Twins are genetically distinct. VERY similar, but genetically distinct.
Calling the fetus and the mother the same organism is never true. Ever. That's about as true as saying a tapeworm is part of you just because it resides in your gut and feeds at your expense.
The difference between a tapeworm and a fetus is that a fetus is a human and human beings have always been designed with the equipment to aid the bearing and birthing of human children.

LetterRip - Your point about white males over 40 illustrates the point pretty well, actually. It is statesmen who have decided what the definition of "person" is. At one point that did not include blacks, but now it does.
Funny, huh?
At some point enough people stood up and said "The color of a person's skin does not determine their personhood." Then, magically, the Constitution covered blacks.

Yssarian:
quote:
I don't understand the point of this law. If you attack someone haven't you already commited a crime? Why do we need to have two charges against the attacker?
You're ending TWO human lives, though your motivation and intent may only be to kill one. At very least that's manslaughter against the fetus, if indeed the fetus is a person.
I mentioned the Fourteenth Amendment before.

quote:
Well, the odds of spontaneous abortion are 50%. Things llike pollution, food and chemical producers, and activities such as participation in vigorous sports, dieting or poor nutrition increase those odds.

Are we going to throw in jail the producers of the above?

A spontaneous abortion is an accident, not a murder. We don't charge a whole city full of smokers, automobile drivers/manufacturers, and factory owners when a person dies of lung cancer. You usually have to pin the cause down much more closely than that.

If a person maliciously exposes a fetus to toxic chemicals, and if a fetus is a person, then that person is just as guilty as if he did it to a one-year-old or a twenty-year-old. Why would level of development change anything?

Rte66 -
You brought that up in an old abortion debate, as I recall. I still don't have a definitive answer to how many persons are involved in a chimera.
We certainly treat two kids conjoined at the head as two different persons. I have a nagging feeling that the level of separation doesn't change that it is two persons, however extraordinarily conjoined they may be.

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Everard
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As Warsaw says, the entire issue is whether or not a fetus is a person.

The religious answer to this, as well as the historical legal answer, and the philosophical answer, vary tremendously. Catholics, as we all know, believe that conception marks the beginning of personhood. Jews, depending on sect, believe its anywhere from quickening to a short length of time after birth. Legal answers have varied from quickening to birth, historically. And philosophical answers, well, they are all over the spectrum depending on the philosophies view on the soul.

What I find most useful is the defintion of personhood used by most philosphers- a being granted rights and responsibilities. A fetus has rights, but no responsibilities. As such, I dont consider it a person, anymore then I consider the pets I had when I was younger people. I'd be extremely upset if someone murdered my pets... and, in fact, I stopped being friends with someone who left the door open to my house accidentally, during which time my dog left the house and was struck by a car. I never forgave him for that, but I never thought of thinking that it was manslaughter, or criminal negligence.

I'd be significantly more upset if something similar caused a hypothetical wife to miscarry. Why? Because the lost life is a human life, although in my opinion still not a person. As such, I grant it more rights then I do a dog, or any other pet. This is my own philosophy. THere are those who grant dogs as many rights as a human, and those who think dogs aren't worth jack in the grand scheme of things, and so thinking beating a dog, or killing it for fun, is ok.

Does the state have an interest in protecting human life that isn't a person? Yes. It does. And Roe. V Wade put that into the equation. I think that legislating abortion makes sense, but I do not think it should be banned, because I think doing so actually hurts the state, rather then helping it. The compelling interest, in my view, of protecting human life, does not come into play until, somewhere between the middle and end of the second trimester. I think prior to that point, banning abortion causes greater harm then its worth, as abortion is one of the aspects of the women's rights movement that has allowed women to move towards equality with men, as well as protecting women's safety. I think that equality and safety outweighs the human, but not person, life that exists, under my philosophical framework.

All of this is to say that I think that the word "person" should not have been used in this legislation. I think its a mistake, and it won't lead to any good. REplace person with human, and I am fine with the legislation.

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WarrsawPact
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Everard - We do not grant/ascribe responsibilities to young children either... even when we think they have the slightest degree of autonomy they are less responsible for their actinos than a vicious dog is: we blame the parents/owners, respectively.

... Which is why I question using responsibilities as a method for describing what a "person" is.
As far as the Constitution is concerned, there are differing degrees of "personal" responsibility without changing degrees of personhood.

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LSWellington
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Everard,

quote:
abortion is one of the aspects of the women's rights movement that has allowed women to move towards equality with men, as well as protecting women's safety. I think that equality and safety outweighs the human, but not person, life that exists, under my philosophical framework.

I am just curious as to your line of thought here. What about abortion makes women more equal with men? And what about abortion protects women’s safety considering that it is a procedure that can be extremely harmful to a woman physically as well as psychologically?
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Everard
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Warsaw-
As soon as a child is born, we start teaching them the responsibilites we'll one day expect them to hold to. As children grow older, we hold them to more and more of these responsibilities. Even at the earliest ages, we teach children what is expected of them... even if the first of these is usually only to sleep at night.

Wellington-
In terms of safety, legal abortion makes the procedure significantly more safe then if it were illegal. Since there will always be women who choose to have an abortion, I'd rather see hospitals and clinics perform the operation, rather then back-alley surgeons in unsanitary conditions, or worse, even more young women dumping babies in dumpsters.

In terms of equality, one major difference in the biology of men and women IS pregnancy. Carrying a child to term greatly effects a woman's ability to choose her life's path, whereas, men never have to face the decisions a pregnant woman has to.
My grandmother has always said that the invention that made the women's rights movement possible is the condom. Sex HAPPENS, in or out of marriage. Without birth control, this ends up meaning woman at home, man does as he pleases. Legal abortion, though I hate to see it used as birth control, is an extension of that. It allows women to make choices about their life, the same choices that men have after getting a woman pregnant. Obviously, using abortion that way is highly problematic, but the fact of the matter is that without abortion, failed contraception is a burden on women... to a much greater degree then to men. When we say "Be responsible for your actions," in regards to pregnancy, we forget that the vast majority of the responsibility we are assigning is to women, despite the fact that "it takes two to tango."

Thats probably as clear as mud, but I'm tired. SO forgive me if you don't understand what I'm saying, I'll try to clear it up tomorrow.

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Doug64
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quote:
At some point enough people stood up and said "The color of a person's skin does not determine their personhood." Then, magically, the Constitution covered blacks.
Actually, at one point someone stood up and said that the color of your skin does determine whether you are a person as far as the Constitution was concerned, and helped kick off the Civil War. The 14th Amendment was added to say that's wrong.

quote:
As soon as a child is born, we start teaching them the responsibilites we'll one day expect them to hold to.
No, we don't. It takes awhile before a baby becomes something more than someone that takes food in one end, expells waste out the other, and ruins your sleep.

quote:
Sex HAPPENS, in or out of marriage.
For the most part, people choose to have sex, in or out of marriage. Elective abortion is simply a way for people to duck their responsibility for the result of their actions.

quote:
When we say "Be responsible for your actions," in regards to pregnancy, we forget that the vast majority of the responsibility we are assigning is to women, despite the fact that "it takes two to tango."
That's exactly why unmarried women should be extra careful if they don't abstain - they're the one who have to deal with what may result.
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LetterRip
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Warsaw,

quote:
A fetus could never be called property. That's so unreasonable it's sick.
Fertilized eggs are considered property and the way that most people use the word imprecisely they often mean to include things like neonate, fertilized egg, etc. under the terms of fetus.

Also, dead fetuses are also property, although presumably ownership is fairly restricted.

Human remains in general are also property.

Children are treated in many legal senses as property, indeed in the US up till the 1920's they were considered 'chattels' of the father- which refers to personal property and effects. Indeed in some nations they are still considered such.

LetterRip

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Crush T. Velour
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quote:
What I find most useful is the defintion of personhood used by most philosphers- a being granted rights and responsibilities. A fetus has rights, but no responsibilities. As such, I dont consider it a person, anymore then I consider the pets I had when I was younger people. -Ev
quote:
We do not grant/ascribe responsibilities to young children either -WarsawPact
quote:
As soon as a child is born, we start teaching them the responsibilites we'll one day expect them to hold to. As children grow older, we hold them to more and more of these responsibilities. Even at the earliest ages, we teach children what is expected of them... even if the first of these is usually only to sleep at night. -Ev
Ev:
You can't be serious. Teaching an infant when to sleep at night is not a responsibility. That's like saying Pavlov's puppies were "responsible" for salivating.

Responsibilities require the ability to form societal contracts. No child has the ability to do this at any level until he/she reaches an age of accountability -- and age where he "ought to know better". No one holds a baby "accountable" for going to sleep on time. It's time to abandon this hopeless defense.

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Everard
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"responsibilities require the ability to form societal contracts."

That is not how I'm using the word "Responsibilities." Responsibilities are social bindings, not contracts, and the society can be EXTREMELY limited... in this case, the society is 3 people... mother father infant. Regarldess, we don't hold infants responsible in the sense that we punish them for failing. But we teach them what we expect of them.

"You can't be serious. Teaching an infant when to sleep at night is not a responsibility."

Infants don't have an internal clock. They do not, naturally, sleep during the night. If you don't train infants to sleep during darkness hours, they won't. One thing that new parents always have to do is try to train their children to sleep when the parents are sleeping.

" It's time to abandon this hopeless defense."

Its time for you to understand the defense, rather then pretending you know what I'm talking about.

[ April 04, 2004, 04:29 PM: Message edited by: Everard ]

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Crush T. Velour
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quote:
Its time for you to understand the defense, rather then pretending you know what I'm talking about. - Ev
I'm pretty sure I got it. I'm not sure you do however:
"responsibility" =equals=
babies sleeping at night =equals=
puppies salivating at the sound of a bell =equals=
fleas learning to jump towards a light

I'm saying that someone cannot be "responsible" unless you can hold him responsible, and only nutter would hold a baby responsible for going to sleep.

I'm saying that you are taking this tact in order to differentiate between a fetus and an infant and it is not working. Furthermore, even if it did work, it would not protect infants that are 3 months old or less from their parents "putting them down" in the "household pet" sense of the word.

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Everard
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Crush-
Apparently, you REALLY don't get it.

From my initial post on this matter
"As soon as a child is born, we start teaching them the responsibilites we'll one day expect them to hold to"

You didn't even bother to read my post before dismissing it. Rather... arrogant to assume you can read my mind.

I am NOT stating we hold infants responsible. I am saying we are starting to teach them about the responsibilities we will hold them to.

[ April 04, 2004, 10:48 PM: Message edited by: Everard ]

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