Memo to doctors: women are moral adults

A group of New Zealand doctors is challenging a proposed Medical Council guideline on abortion. The new guideline requires doctors to tell women who are unsure about their pregnancy that termination is a possibility. They are not required to provide the certification for abortion themselves (under NZ law, a woman must obtain signatures from two certifying consultants), they are certainly not required to provide the abortion themselves. However under the proposed guideline, they must tell women of the possibility of abortion, and refer them on to another doctor.

So this is an attempt to balance doctors’ freedom of conscience with patients’ needs. I’m already pretty unhappy with the balance in favour of doctors: why on earth should doctors be allowed to refuse to provide medical treatment in the first place. But this is hardly an imposition, that doctors should be required to tell patients about the possibility of a particular procedure.

I think the subtext from the doctors who oppose this new guideline is particularly nasty. It says that they will make moral decisions for their patients, because women can’t be trusted to make those moral decisions themselves.

I’m not interested in any medical doctor telling me what to think about moral issues. I’m interested in them telling me about what treatment options are available to me, what effects those particular options may have on me, what the likely outcomes are if we leave a condition untreated. But in no circumstance do I think that a doctor has any role in making moral decisions for me.

The text of the new guideline is under judicial review. It will be interesting to see what the court says about doctors as arbiters of morality.

Update: See the Queen of Thorns for an excellent snark about this, and there’s a discussion at The Hand Mirror too.

56 responses to “Memo to doctors: women are moral adults

  1. I remember a few years ago they had a Doctor refusing to supply birth control pills to patients. I actually think they need to ask hard questions as the medical interview process on these sort of issues.

    While a few will undoubtedly lie, they’d at least be able to weed out the fundies.

  2. If a doctor doesn’t want to tell a patient that termination is available, then they should have a whopping great sign on their door saying “No pregnant women”. They’re doctors, not priests. It completely baffles me that people with moral objections to something don’t think twice about forcing their morals onto everyone else.

  3. ” It completely baffles me that people with moral objections to something don’t think twice about forcing their morals onto everyone else.”

    More like abortionists trying to force their morals unto doctors who know abortion for what it is- murder. By telling them they have do something that goes against their conscience and their oath as doctors.

  4. Punisher, it comes down to this: if you don’t agree with abortion, then don’t have one. Simple.

  5. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself but I am Catholic. If I were a doctor I could not bring myself to participate in the termination of a person either directly or indirectly.

    As it stands at the moment doctors have to tell their patients ‘they can get the service or advice from another doctor or a family planning clinic.’ And that doctors’ patients must be told if the doctors’ beliefs may affect treatment.

    The new guidelines push beyond that and I don’t see that as necessary. Surely we can balance the rights of women to access legal medical procedures with the rights of doctors to not be forced into situations that they view as morally repugnant?

    I don’t see pro-life doctors as trying to be ‘arbiters of morality’, but as people who want to be able to practice their profession according to their values.

  6. @newswithnipples

    That’s about as useful for people who are pro-life as Jack the Ripper telling Ghandi “If you don’t like murder, don’t kill people.”

  7. @Tess

    That analogy is not apt. Murder is illegal. All (as far as I know) cultures and societies across the planet are in agreement that murder is wrong. There is consensus. Abortion is not illegal, it’s regulated (in NZ). People across the globe in cultures very similar and very different from ours have a wide range of beliefs about whether abortion is wrong or not. There is no consensus. If anyone’s view must trump the others, shouldn’t it be the one that allows maximum freedom for people to follow their own conscience?

    Why should your belief that abortion is wrong trump my belief that abortion is acceptable? Why should the law honour your beliefs and not mine? If the law honours my belief that abortion is OK, you are free to follow your beliefs and give birth and I am free to follow my beliefs and terminate a pregnancy. If the law honours your beliefs, I am prevented from acting upon my beliefs. Can you see the difference?

  8. Sorry Tess, it’s not like that at all because, like it or not, it’s not illegal to terminate a pregnancy. So you have to respect the right of some women to choose that option, just as we respect your right not to.

  9. Pingback: If we tell them about it it’ll just encourage them « Ideologically Impure

  10. By telling them they have do something that goes against … their oath as doctors.

    Their oaths as doctors require them to lie by omission to their patients and deny them full knowledge of the options? Tell me, Punisher, have you ever heard of the term “informed consent”?

  11. Perhaps a better analogy would be the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Whilst it may be legal to execute people I still find it morally repugnant. Or perhaps child slavery, which is common in parts of the world is a better analogy. Still, all analogies have their limits.

    My point is, if you are like me and you see an embryo/foetus as a distinct, fully human, individual person worthy of life, then abortion is going to be wrong. I recognise that many people don’t ascribe person-hood until different times in a human’s physical development. However I believe that we should err on the side of compassion and caution and be inclusive in our definition of human person-hood.

    I would add that pro-life doctors are in a minority. By allowing doctors freedom of conscience to send women to other practitioners are we really denying women access to abortion? I don’t think we are. Certainly all urban areas have Family Planning clinics, and many rural areas do as well.

    Realistically I would expect pro-life doctors to be very open about their position right from the beginning of a patient joining a practice, especially Catholic doctors who don’t proscribe contraceptives. It’s obviously more difficult if the doctor is a locum or with walk in patients.

    As the guidelines stand now the tension of competing freedoms is held in balance. Women who wish to have an abortion have access to doctors and doctors who will not participate in abortion are allowed to direct patients to doctors who will.

    It isn’t a matter of lying by omission, it’s matter of doctors being able to say that they are unable to be involved and here is the number of a doctor who can help further.

  12. “However I believe that we should err on the side of compassion and caution and be inclusive in our definition of human person-hood.”

    I include pregnant people.

  13. @lauredhel

    As would I, but you exclude the unborn.

    I would like to point out some things here.

    - I don’t regard pregnancy lightly. I’ve had four children, all of them high-risk difficult pregnancies.

    - I don’t see women as incubators. I believe that women are more dehumanised by abortion which destroys the bond between a mother and her child than by continuing a pregnancy.

    - I think the Government should provide MUCH greater support for women and children so that continuing a pregnancy is financially possible.

    - Pregnant women in danger of losing their life must be saved, if as a secondary effect, the unborn baby is lost then that is a tragedy but not a moral wrong.

    Suppose we outlawed abortion, but made contraceptives free and we raised the DPB to a realistic level and we made sure parents could access education, housing and health opportunities?

  14. DPB = Domestic Purposes Benefit. It’s the benefit which sole parents and other people who are caregivers are able to receive in New Zealand.

  15. “Suppose we outlawed abortion, but made contraceptives free and we raised the DPB to a realistic level and we made sure parents could access education, housing and health opportunities?”

    Suppose we did all those things except outlawing abortion?

    What do you think would be different between these two imaginary worlds?

    Wait, no I know what would be different. I wouldn’t live in constant fear of getting pregnant, lest I end up with a back-alley abortion and then in prison or dead.

  16. @lauredhel

    What you are implying is that even with access to contraceptives women are still going to have unwanted pregnancies.

    This depresses me no end… we have a plethora of reliable methods for stopping conception, an ability to control our reproductive function like never before and yet we still have abortion. Despite women in NZ having access to contraception it hasn’t really lowered the rate of abortions.

  17. Tess, what about pregnancy from rape? Should that woman be forced to have that baby? Sounds like you want her to be punished twice.

  18. “What you are implying is that even with access to contraceptives women are still going to have unwanted pregnancies.”

    Why yes, yes I am. Have you done the math?

  19. If a doctor was a Jehovah’s Witness, and genuinely believed receiving blood transfusions was immoral, would you expect them to give you information that a blood transfusion could save your life?

    Maybe doctors should have to disclose their religion to patients as a matter of course. I would want to know if my doctor believed in any sort of Great Sky Fairy that might be influencing the scientific information they decided to pass on.

  20. @lauredhel

    Actually the math is pretty good… If a woman is correctly using hormonal contraception or an IUD and condoms her chances of conceiving are less than 0.5 percent, about the same for sterilized people. (This is based on one year of correct use.)

    Then on top of that those few that do fall pregnant may be prepared to continue with the pregnancy, we can’t know how many would want to resort to a back alley abortion. Of course that’s not factoring in people who would decide to avoid sex on the basis of the possibility of conception without the backstop of abortion.

    Realistically sterilization and contraception used correctly will reliably stop pregnancy, the fact that we have these options and yet we are still performing around 18 000 abortions a year.

    The fact that so many abortions are performed is evidence that women can access doctors prepared to help them.

    @newswithnipples

    I don’t see pregnancy as a punishment. The unborn person is innocent of wrong doing and deserves life. I think the mother should be completely supported through the pregnancy in order for her to be able to cope with the hardship of it.

    Women now have access to contraception, there are anecdotal stories of religious sisters in Africa using the pill in case of rape. I’m not sure how reliable these stories are though.

  21. Yes Tess, even with “access” to contraceptives women are still going to have unwanted pregnancies, fancy that.

    Fancy you not being able to imagine all the millions of different scenarios women encounter in their lives, and fancy you thinking that even with your limited imagination you might still know better than they all do themselves what they should and shouldn’t do in their lives.

  22. Half to one percent per year over 30-35 reproductive years adds up. Fast. Add women who have been coerced or raped, and women with not unwanted but unsafe pregnancies, and it adds up reeeeal fast.

    I love it, Tess, that when I talked about my fear of pregnancy, you leap to the assumption that I didn’t _want_ to be have a child.

  23. @blue milk

    I think the onus is on us as a society to prevent rape and coercion. My point still stands… if you include the unborn as worthy persons then abortion becomes unacceptable. I just don’t think that ending the life of a person solves problems.

    @lauredhel

    “Half to one percent per year over 30-35 reproductive years adds up.”

    You are assuming that for those years all the women are unwilling to have an unplanned child. Not every unplanned pregnancy leads to abortion, therefore you can’t equate the number of unplanned pregnancies to the number of women affected by removing the possibility of abortion.

    “I love it, Tess, that when I talked about my fear of pregnancy, you leap to the assumption that I didn’t _want_ to be have a child.”

    I’m sorry.

  24. worthy persons

    So it’s just the foeti from good families we care about?

    No person, born, “unborn”, or undead, has the right to inhabit my body and use my organs and energy and nutrients for their own purposes. So frankly, Tess, whether or not a foetus is a person is irrelevant to me, because no person gets to make choices about my body except me.

  25. Tess, I didn’t say pregnancy was a punishment. But if a woman was forced to carry her rapist’s child – the second thing she has been forced to do – she would be getting punished.

  26. I’ve written about some of these ideas before, addressing the point that as a moral issue, women must be able to make their own decisions with respect to abortion, or we are treating them as though they are children – Trust women and Why feminists must be pro-choice.

    Tess, if you think that abortion is a moral issue, and your presence here arguing about it suggests that you do think it’s a moral issue, then you need to think about whether women should be allowed to make this decision for themselves, or whether someone else should be making the decision for them.

    Abortion as a moral issue is not analogous to murder or rape. One of the few things that most societies agree on, including New Zealand society, is that rape and murder are wrong. That moral consensus is reflected in our law. However, there is no such consensus about abortion. That suggests that unless you want to set up some entity or institution or profession as moral arbiters for all of us, then decision making about abortion needs to be left up to the individual.

    You will notice that I am not making an argument about the morality of abortion itself. I am making a claim about whether or not abortion is an ethical issue. You have claimed (elsewhere) to have had training in philosophy, so I’m hoping that you can see the distinction between the two sets of arguments. It would be nice if you addressed the argument the blog post is about, instead of just talking about the morality of abortion itself.

  27. @ Tess

    The other worry that you have raised is that by requiring doctors to tell women that a particular procedure is available, we may be requiring them to compromise their own morality. I really don’t see how. Julie has a nice formula that such doctors can use, in a comment over at The Hand Mirror: “I’m sensing that you are unsure about this pregnancy, so I’m going to refer you to Family Planning to discuss your options more fully, as you do have a range of options, including continuing with the pregnancy, adoption and termination.”

    Or should we require doctors who won’t deliver the full range of services to display a notice in their surgeries, saying that they will only practise in accordance with the beliefs of a particular religious code? That’s the point that Molly has made in her excellent comment above. I would be interested to see your response to her comment.

  28. @QoT

    “So it’s just the foeti from good families we care about?”

    That’s an assumption you are making. I see all persons as worthy.

    @Deborah

    Yes, I do see that’s it’s a different argument.

    For me personally, abortion is analogous with murder, murder being the killing of an innocent person (distinct from killing in other situations, say war or capital punishment).

    Sr Joan Chittister made a point about this in an interview with Lifesite News. She speaks about women being removed from discussion –

    “Well, the Church teachings on anything that separates a woman as a moral agent, or keeps women out of the discussions, the theological discussions and decisions that determine those questions – I have never ever made a pronouncement on the answers, but I am steadfastly committed to the fact that in the light of the continuing development of science and the social status of women everywhere, that these questions, whatever they are, about women in the Church, have to have women in the Church as part of the participating seekers and answerers of those questions. In other words, it’s a matter of saying, you know, everything written about us is written without us. If a woman is a full moral agent, then she should be part of the decision making process on those questions.”

    Sorry for the long quote. And here’s the url for you –

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/feb/100215a.html

    I disagree with her.

    For me and unborn person is equivalent to a born person. Would we allow women to make a moral choice about infanticide? Some people would and whilst I deplore that, I do think it is consistent with allowing abortion. There are cases of women who in depression and despair commit suicide, killing their children as well. Certainly people now argue that euthanasia should be legalised, would we give people the legal right to kill their children as well, saying that they should be allowed the moral agency?

    We don’t allow people moral agency when it comes to self-harm, for example people who wish to amputate healthy limbs. What about when parents refuse life saving treatment for their children, the State steps in and forces treatment. I’m thinking of children with cancer when the parents refuse chemotherapy.

    Our moral agency is never absolute.

    It is a fact of biology that women gestate, that’s not something we can change. It would be wonderful if we could develop a way in which women who didn’t want to face pregnancy could choose to have their child moved to another uterus, but right now we can’t. At most we can induce early.

    You say “If you deny a woman the right to make those decisions for herself, then you are denying her autonomy.” And “And if we do not allow women to make moral decisions for themselves, if we do not trust women, then we relegate them / ourselves to being subjects.”

    Yet aren’t you putting the unborn person into that very position of relegating them to being subjects?

    I think people are capable of making moral decisions, but those decisions can not damage others.

  29. @Deborah

    I think that formula is perfect and yes, I think doctors should publicly state what procedures they won’t do. That’s only fair.

  30. @Molly

    “If a doctor was a Jehovah’s Witness, and genuinely believed receiving blood transfusions was immoral, would you expect them to give you information that a blood transfusion could save your life?”

    I would expect them to tell me where I could go to obtain one.

  31. @QoT

    “No person, born, “unborn”, or undead, has the right to inhabit my body and use my organs and energy and nutrients for their own purposes.”

    I find this attitude really personally upsetting. For me there is a relationship between mother and child, to see the baby as a thing using your body, something one can get rid of, is deeply disjointed.

    I know women who have had hyper emesis gravidarum and they do become so sick that the baby is just hated causing problems with bonding after birth and postnatal depression. But to make a blanket ethical statement seems so wrong.

    I realise we aren’t ever going to agree about this, but I wanted to make the point that doctors shouldn’t be forced into promoting abortion. (I’m unsure if promoting is the right word here.)

    I do think doctors should be up front, ideally a woman should know her doctor’s position before she falls pregnant. I don’t think finding out when already in a crisis pregnancy is good. It’s too stressful as it is.

  32. Actually yes doctors should talk about abortion even if it goes against their beliefs.

    Just as we expect our teachers to teach the national curriculum even if it goes against their beliefs. You are employed to a job and if you have a problem talking about abortion in your duties then you need to think about a different profession. Whether you feel so against abortion that you want to wave plackards outside the clinic during your down time is none of our business. However on the job, you need to be a professional.

  33. @Stef

    Doctors usually own their own practices. As self employed people they can offer what services they wish. A doctor employed by Family Planning would be expected to deal with abortion, but GPs could do as they wished.

  34. I see all persons as worthy.

    Really I’m just being snarky here, Tess, but if you thought personhood alone conferred worthiness you wouldn’t have used the phrase “worthy persons”.

    I’m glad you choose to assume that a mother/child bond should make all pregnancies a wonderful shiny thing. I choose to acknowledge that not all women will feel this way and that they are allowed to dictate their own experience.

  35. GPs and other medical doctors collect substantial subsidies from the government. They are not private business people at all.

    If a GP wants to collect subsidies from the government for the patients she sees, then she may be obliged to deliver the services that the government thinks its citizens ought to be able to access, such as access to abortion, or at the very least, information about the availability of abortion.

  36. @QoT

    I do think person-hood alone confers worthiness, and I was trying to emphasise that point.

    I don’t expect all women to feel wonderful about pregnancy. I’ve had four high risk pregnancies. My last one was particularly difficult and painful, it was unexpected and I had 3 preschoolers to deal with at the time.

    But if mothers terminated their children every time they felt overwhelmed and upset and angry about them we’d have no children left… Why is termination before birth acceptable, but not after?

  37. @Deborah

    But you can’t force them to provide services, everyone should be free to follow their consciences including doctors. Why isn’t referral enough? That is the situation we have now. Are women missing out because of the actions of pro-life doctors?

    I think the current situation is working and acceptable to both patients and doctors.

  38. @Tess: For a very simple reason which I outlined above. Because before birth they are dependent on a single, specific individual’s body for survival. After birth, you can give them away.

    I think it’s very sad you honestly think women’s reasons for aborting are as trivial as “feeling upset”.

  39. @QoT

    I don’t think women abort for trivial reasons at all. I think women regard abortion very seriously and I think it can be a very hard thing for women to do. At the very least it’s an invasive medical procedure (I’m thinking surgical abortion here) as well as the emotional dimensions of it.

    But… abortion kills another person and that isn’t right.

  40. So you’re okay with the principle of allowing me to demand the use of your kidneys if mine fail? As long as we’re treating all people equally. As an anti-gay-marriage Catholic I assume you would dislike giving certain groups of people “special rights”.

  41. @QoT

    “So you’re okay with the principle of allowing me to demand the use of your kidneys if mine fail?”

    I think if parents can save their children through that kind of organ donation, then they should.

    Part of my point is that there is an ethical bond between mother and child. The mother, through her act of sex caused the child to be. Obviously this breaks down in the case of rape.

    The one person we expect to protect a vulnerable child is its mother and then its father.

    And yes… you can have my kidney if it would save your life. I couldn’t stand by and let you die. Sadly though you probably don’t want my kidneys because I’m diabetic and they are probably stuffed already.

  42. Thank you, Tess. Now we’re at the nub of the problem: you think women who willingly have sex should be forced to remain pregnant if they conceive.

    Now, I’m sure you’d be outraged if I phrased that more bluntly, which is to say: you think pregnancy should be a punishment for women who have non-procreative sex.

    And because there’s no need to punish a woman who has been raped, abortion is somehow less murder-y if a rape victim has one.

    Phrase it as a cuddly Hallmark card “special bond” if you like, but here’s your own words:

    The mother, through her act of sex caused the child to be.

    You have made this about the act of sex. You have introduced the obligation of a woman causing pregnancy to occur.

    This is not about precious unique lives starting at conception, Tess. This is about you and many, many antiabortionists wanting to punish women who have sex you disapprove of.

  43. Babies are not a punishment, and I don’t want to punish anyone. I just don’t want to see anyone’s lives lost.

    As I said on the other blog time for me to bow out.

  44. Re anti-abortion activists, like Tess, who believe abortion is murder I’d like to jump in with three points here.
    1. I assume for Tess this personhood ‘begins’, so to speak, at conception (if not, there are obvious problems with the argument) . This means that, for example, emergency contraception may also constitute murder. If in Tess’s ideal world abortion were treated as murder and outlawed in the same way murder is, then so would using, e.g., EC. This would also mean that a woman is effectively of equal moral worth to a single cell (the zygote). Which leads to my second point:
    2. (Many/most) anti-abortion advocates don’t REALLY believe abortion is murder, or at least they don’t behave that way. If you deeply felt you were living in a society that was “murdering” 18,000 PEOPLE a year, wouldn’t you leave? Wouldn’t you emigrate to a country that does not MURDER its citizens, like, say, Ireland? And let’s consider Ireland for a minute. If the Irish state really believed abortion was murder, which it officially does per its constitution, how could it allow upward of 6,000 of its citizens to travel to the UK or the Netherlands for the purpose of killing people? e.g. if it knew 6,000 women a year were flying into Heathrow, getting off the plane, murdering someone, then popping on a plane and coming home again, wouldn’t it do more than turn a blind eye? (Which is what it does.) In all of this, the use of the word “murder” is both inappropriate (I think this for obvious reasons since I’m pro-choice) but also not even really adhered to by its promoters. They don’t act as if they think abortion is murder (thank goodness, since we know where that leads) and nor should they. Because abortion is NOT the same as murder. It is as Deborah and others have carefully pointed out an open moral question which pro-choice supporters believe must be left up to the individual to decide.
    3. And finally, on the “abortion is not murder” theme, there’s a neat piece about the scourge of more than 200 million “deaths” that occur each year, “deaths” of the zygotes that naturally do not implant … and what that should mean for people who believe in personhood at conception and abortion is murder. It’s called “The Scourge: Moral Implications of Natural Embryo Loss” and it’s at http://www.amirrorclear.net/academic/papers/index.html (written by a philosopher)
    The article points out that if the ‘abortion is murder’ people were consistent, they would be up in arms demanding huge resources for scientific research be spent on trying to save these zygotes’ lives. Because, after all, they are of moral equivalent to and have the same right to life as full-grown women. (The argument that this natural zygote/embryo loss is ‘natural’ and abortion isn’t doesn’t fly — after all we spend considerable amounts trying to prevent deaths from ‘natural’ scourges like cancer and viruses and hurricanes.).
    I find the idea of being considered of equal value to a single cell pretty frightening, to say the least.

  45. It gets even more interesting, Captiver, when you consider what happens in the UK, where those women from Ireland go for their abortions. In the UK the limit for non-health-threatening abortion is 22/23 weeks, when the foetus is determined to be “capable of being born alive” – but the UK certainly doesn’t stop women past that stage of pregnancy from going to Spain for their abortions.

  46. @ Tess

    I think the current situation is working and acceptable to both patients and doctors.

    Well, no. At present in order to have an abortion, a woman has to get not one, but TWO doctors to agree that she may have one. I can’t think of any other medical procedure like that. Sure, people get second opinions, but they don’t need to get two lots of consent. In fact, it’s usually the patient who gets to give consent, not the doctor. There’s something really screwy about the way that NZ law makes women jump through hoops in order to get an abortion.

    Moreover, the current law is an ass. Sure, it kind of stumbles along, and more-or-less works, but it only works because people choose not to see the dishonesty in the law. It’s as hypocritical as the Ireland to UK, and UK to Spain transfers that Irish and British women are forced to go through.

    None of our parliamentarians have the guts to subject the law surrounding abortion to a serious examination.

  47. I simply could not agree with you more, Deborah.

  48. Actually I think the Hypocratic Oath does mention that they will not “provide an abortive remedy”, though I don’t think that’s particularly relevant since doctors in fact do that.

  49. As much as some people believe that embreyos are individual people, there are many of those that don’t. Also, the abortion process isn’t nearly as complicated as it seems, though it may relieve those who are anti-abortion and believe it is.

  50. Murder is illegal. All (as far as I know) cultures and societies across the planet are in agreement that murder is wrong. There is consensus.

    I would say there is probably less consensus globally than one might think, for example many societies do not share our definition of what constitutes murder.
    In the case of infants, we have a near consensus today that abandoning unwanted infants to die is murder. But the reason we have that consensus is due to the actions of the early church which opposed it in the Roman empire. It was a common practise historically but the rise of Christianity made it virtually unthinkable. If a critical mass of people saw an unborn child as a full person in the same way they now view a newborn baby as a person, then we would have a consensus on abortion as well.

  51. If a critical mass of people saw an unborn child as a full person in the same way they now view a newborn baby as a person, then we would have a consensus on abortion as well.

    But that’s just the point, Peter. They don’t. That is, there is no consensus on abortion. In the absence of some widespread, well reasoned agreement that abortion is wrong, each woman should be left to make up her own mind.

    As for unborn babies being ‘persons’, well, that’s highly debatable. All the more so in the early stages of pregnancy. Where the line of personhood cuts in, I don’t know. To me that’s a reason for being cautious, but not ridiculous. I’ve previously written at length about this: Speaking up for abortion and More on abortion – the infanticide objection.

  52. But that’s just the point, Peter. They don’t. That is, there is no consensus on abortion. In the absence of some widespread, well reasoned agreement that abortion is wrong, each woman should be left to make up her own mind.

    The way I see it, both the pro and anti-abortionists are attempting to create cultural change so that ultimately there is a consensus. I hope you don’t object to this analogy, but I see it like slavery. Slavery is something that a culture can’t be neutral about. Either it is accepted or it’s not. If the culture considers it something for individuals to make up their own mind about then that is a de facto acceptance.
    In the end abortion will be the same: either society will accept it or it won’t (and at this stage of the game it looks fairly obvious which way things are going).
    I think the best thing anti-abortionists can hope to achieve is to carve out a space for themselves where they can live by their principles without being coerced into facilitating it by the dominant culture in which they live. If our society is sensible, and lives up to its own principles, it will allow them to do so.

    As for unborn babies being ‘persons’, well, that’s highly debatable. All the more so in the early stages of pregnancy. Where the line of personhood cuts in, I don’t know.

    It’s certainly debatable, I’d say it isn’t a question which is open to reason or empirical analysis. The view that personhood begins at conception at least has this going for it, that it avoids the infinite arguments you would otherwise have about “cutoff points”.

  53. By the way Deborah, I hadn’t seen your reply to my post at http://inastrangeland.wordpress.com/2008/06/18/more-on-abortion-the-infanticide-objection/. Thank you, needless to say I don’t agree but it was a thoughtful response which I do appreciate.

  54. @Tess

    So, unborn “life” of blastocyst/embryo/foets > already existing grown human womyn?

    @Deborah

    You = my hero

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