Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

A response to Judith Jarvis Thompson’s violinist argument for abortion rights

Amy posted this on the Stand to Reason blog, and it got a ton of comments.

Excerpt:

The “Violinist” argument for keeping abortion legal is an illustration created by Judith Jarvis Thompson for the purpose of clarifying our moral intuitions about abortion by considering a parallel situation. The Violinist story goes like this (see the full, original story here): A woman wakes up to find she’s been attached without her consent to a famous violinist who needs the help of her kidneys for the next nine months in order to live. If the woman detaches herself from him, he will die.

According to Thompson, since it’s clear that the woman ought not be forced by law to remain attached to this man (though he is a person with rights), in the same way, the law ought not force a woman to remain attached to an unborn child who is similarly using her body to live (though he is a person with rights).

In response to this bodily rights argument, Stephen Wagner, Josh Brahm, and Timothy Brahm (along with others—see acknowledgments) have developed a new illustration that more closely parallels the situation of a pregnant woman (including those who are pregnant by rape), which they call “The Cabin in the Blizzard.” From Stephen Wagner’s paper, “De Facto Guardian and Abortion”:

Imagine that a woman named Mary wakes up in a strange cabin. Having gone to sleep in her suburban home the night before, she starts to scream frantically. She goes to the window and sees snow piled high. It appears she is snowed in. On the desk by the window, she finds a note that says,

“You will be here for six weeks.
You are safe, and your child is, too.
There is plenty of food and water.”

Since she just gave birth a week ago, she instinctively begins tearing through each room of the cabin looking for her infant son. She finds an infant in a second room, but it is not her infant. It is a girl who appears to be about one week old, just like her son. Mary begins to scream.

Pulling herself together, she goes to the kitchen area of the cabin and finds a huge store of food and a ready source of water. The baby begins to cry, and she rightly assesses that the baby is hungry. Mary sees a three-month supply of formula on the counter in the kitchen area.

Now imagine that the police show up at the cabin six weeks later, and Mary emerges from the cabin. After determining she is in good health, albeit a good bit frazzled, one policeman says, “We’ve been investigating this situation for some time. The Behavioral Psychologists from the nearby University of Lake Wobegon are responsible. We’ll bring them to justice. We’re so glad you’re okay. Is there anyone else in the cabin?”

Mary said quietly, “There was.”

“There was?” The police hurry past her to the cabin. They search the cabin and find the infant formula unopened on the counter. They find the infant dead on a bed. The coroner confirms that the infant died from starvation.

We can see that Mary was wrong for not feeding the baby in this situation, regardless of the fact that she did not consent to these demands being placed on her. As Wagner points out, our moral intuition tells us her obligation to feed the child exists even if her only option is to use her own body to breastfeed that child, causing her great discomfort.

Another problem with the violinist argument is that it neglects the fact that the baby is there as a result of the woman’s own decision to have sex without being ready for a baby. In the violinist example, the woman is a helpless victim of some group of music lovers. But in a real pregnancy, the woman had to have made a decision that resulted in the baby being born, (except in the case of rape).

Triablogue explains it thus:

Thompson seems to make a distinction between consent to pregnancy and consent to sex (as Beckwith and others point out). But it seems that pregnancy is the designed result of sex, even though it may not be the desired result. It would seem that our sex organs have the purpose of being ordered towards procreation. Applying this to the violinist then: What if I engaged in an activity, say, spelunking, that regularly created rare kidney diseases in violinists? Say that every time I dropped 50 ft into the cave, a violinist was almost sure to develop the disease that only I had the blood type to correct or fix. If I did so, should I not be hooked up to him, voluntarily or not? Say that there was protection, some kind of spelunking helmet. Say that it was not 100% effective. If my helmet ripped, should I be attached to the violinist? Or say I tried to “pull up” before I hit 50 ft. Unfortunately, it felt so good to decend that I pulled up a little too late and my right foot passed the 50 ft mark. Should I be attached to the violinist? I don’t see why not. Indeed, say that the statistical evidence was that the first two people that ever spelunked together would eventually cause 6 billion violinists to come down with rare kidney diseases, I dare say the Society of Music Lovers, and almost everyone else for that matter, would call for abstaining from spelunking unless you agreed to take care of the violinists until they got better. This seems fatal to Thompson’s argument.

It’s very helpful illustration for dealing with pro-abortion people who admit that unborn children are human persons, but who still think that women should have a right to terminate their pregnancy.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the unborn? A look at the scientific evidence

This is from National Right to Life.

Excerpt:

Before deciding how we ought to treat the unborn—a moral question—we must first be clear about what the unborn is. This is a scientific question, and it is answered with clarity by the science of human embryology.

The facts of reproduction are straightforward. Upon completion of the fertilization process, sperm and egg have ceased to exist (this is why “fertilized egg” is an inaccurate term); what exists is a single cell with 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) that is called a zygote. The coming into existence of the zygote is the point of conception—the beginning of the life of a new human organism. The terms zygote, embryo and fetus all refer to developmental stages in the life of a human being.

Four features of the unborn (i.e., the human zygote, embryo or fetus) are relevant to his or her status as a human being. First, the unborn is living. She meets all the biological criteria for life: metabolism, cellular reproduction and reaction to stimuli. Moreover, she is clearly growing, and dead things (of course) don’t grow.

Second, the unborn is human. She possesses a human genetic signature that proves this beyond any doubt. She is also the offspring of human parents, and we know that humans can only beget humans (they cannot beget dogs or cats, for instance). The unborn may not seem to “look” human (at least in her earlier stages), but in fact she looks exactly like a human at that level of human development. Living things do not become something different as they grow and mature; rather, they develop the way that they do precisely because of the kind of being they already are.

Third, the unborn is genetically and functionally distinct from (though dependent on and resting inside of) the pregnant woman. Her growth and maturation is internally directed, and her DNA is unique and different from that of any other cell in the woman’s body. She develops her own arms, legs, brain, central nervous system, etc. To say that a fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body is to say that the woman has four arms and four legs, and that about half of pregnant women have penises.

Fourth, the unborn is a whole or complete (though immature) organism. That is, she is not a mere part of another living thing, but is her own organism—an entity whose parts work together in a self-integrated fashion to bring the whole to maturity. Her genetic information is fully present at conception, determining to a large extent her physical characteristics (including sex, eye color, skin color, bone structure, etc.); she needs only a suitable environment and nutrition to develop herself through the different stages of human life.

Thus, the unborn is a distinct, living and whole human organism—a full-fledged member of the species Homo sapiens, like you and me, only at a much earlier stage in her development. She is a human being.

That’s what they assert in the introduction. The rest of the article cites textbooks, scientists and even a Senate Judiciary report to substantiate the claims, then refutes common objections. Not many pro-abortion scholars are going to contest the full humanity of the unborn, but it’s still nice to review the science. In case this is your first time looking at this, might want to save it for later. Also, if you want a good introductory book on the case for the pro-life view, there’s none better than Scott Klusendorf’s “The Case for Life“.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , ,

NHS appeals decision allowing midwives to conscientiously object to performing abortions

What happens when you let a secular government take over health care provisioning?

Here is a story from the BBC about the state-run health care system in the UK.

Excerpt:

The UK’s highest court will hear legal arguments on whether midwives have a right to refuse to take any part in abortion procedures on moral grounds.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde appealed to the Supreme Court after judges in Scotland said Roman Catholic midwives had a right to conscientious objection.

[…]Five judges in London will hear the case. A ruling is expected next year.

Ms Doogan, from Garrowhill in Glasgow, and Mrs Wood, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire, were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

[…]This landmark case tests the balance between those whose religious beliefs do not allow them to play any part whatsoever in abortion, and the health authorities’ duty under the law to enable women to have an abortion. Many Christian groups back the midwives’ position.

The midwives’ counsel, Gerry Moynihan QC, told the court in the women’s earlier successful appeal that the law was clear that the right to conscientious objection contained in the Abortion Act was intended to apply to the whole team whose involvement was necessary to achieve the procedure.

If the Supreme Court upholds the midwives’ earlier successful appeal, it could set a legal precedent, allowing other midwives who object to abortion to take the same stance.

The Royal College of Midwives and the women’s charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service have both warned that any such ruling could have severe implications for the care of women choosing to terminate their pregnancy.

The BPAS is the largest abortion provider in the UK. I blogged before about their leader, Ann Furedi, who supports sex-selection abortions. I thought then that sex-selection abortions was the worst thing about abortion, but now I see that she would actually force her moral views on other people, compelling them by the power of government to act against their beliefs. There is something deep inside me that just recoils from making a person do something that they think is morally wrong. But I guess pro-abortion people don’t share my concern.

When I blogged before about these two midwives when they won their appeal case, I wrote this:

If the health care system were private, then it would be easy for midwives to find another company to work for that did not violate their consciences. But when the government runs the whole health care system, where are you supposed to go? They are a monopoly and they make the rules. Yet another reasons for Christians to vote for smaller government. In a free market, if you don’t want to buy something from one store, you can go to another store. There is competition. But where are these nurses supposed to go? They are midwives, and the government and the courts make the rules in a government-run health care system.

This is why we need to keep the government OUT of health care. When you work for a government monopoly, and they want you to do something that you don’t want to do, you have two choices – do what they want or leave the country. If the only health care system is government-run, then if you want to practice health care, you have to leave. That seems unfair to me.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Republican Scott Walker beats Mary Burke to win Wisconsin Governor race

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

The man Dennis Prager calls “the nemesis of the left” wins again.

Read it:

With less than one-third of precincts reporting, ABC News and Fox News project that incumbent Republican governor Scott Walker has defeated Democratic challenger Mary Burke. While most of the polls showed a tight race (except for the Marquette poll that showed Walker winning by 7 points), Walker will likely win by a commanding margin.

With a lot of votes left to be counted Walker leads Burke 58 percent to 41 percent. Walker’s lead will shrink considerably as the votes are tallied, but he may be on track to win by a greater margin than he did during the 2010 Republican wave.

Walker, who survived a 2012 recall election, which was spurred by backlash to his budget reforms, has now won election in Wisconsin (a state Obama carried twice) three times in four years. He now stands poised to be a serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

At my time of writing, it’s 55-44 with 55.4% counted.

Read a little more about him:

Scott Kevin Walker (born November 2, 1967 in Colorado Springs, Colorado) is the current conservative Governor of Wisconsin and a member of the Republican Party. Previously he was Executive of Milwaukee County and a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, and while in college he ran a student pro-life organization. He faced a recall election on June 5, 2012 and won it by a landslide. By late May liberals were already beginning to blame each other for Walker’s lead in the polls: “Top union officials are lashing out at Washington Democrats, claiming they haven’t done enough to help them unseat Gov. Scott Walker (R) in Wisconsin’s recall election.”

Scott Walker became a leader of conservatives nationwide when he supported and then signed into law a repeal of the collective bargaining rights of most government workers. Walker took this historic step to prevent the State from continuing on a path of financial ruin.

Perhaps due to bad political advice, Walker first focused on union issues first and accomplished virtually nothing meaningful on the abortion issue in 2011, despite having overwhelming majorities on his side in the legislature. But in 2012 Walker began signing into law pro-life legislation, which earned him the support of many in the working class, and he then swept to a massive victory in the recall election.

He’s my pick for the Republican nominee in 2016, and he is the most vetted Republican we have. They have tried EVERYTHING to beat this man in Wisconsin. Nothing sticks. All he does is win.

Related posts

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Several abortion clinics close after court enforces Texas law HB2

Good news from Life News.

Excerpt:

Two years ago, there were over 40 abortion facilities operating in Texas with very little oversight. Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that could result in the immediate closure of 13 abortion facilities, leaving only seven open by this weekend.

A spot-check conducted by Operation Rescue early Friday morning of several facilities that are in known non-compliance with the law shows that some have already shut down while others continue to operate.

The ruling blocks a stay issued by a lower court on enforcement of Texas’ HB2, which provides minimum safety standards for abortion businesses, until the State’s appeal of the lower court’s decision that the law is unconstitutional can be heard.

The ruling allowed the full law to be enforced immediately, including portions that were previously blocked by the lower court that pertained to the requirements that abortionists maintain hospital privileges within 30 miles of their abortion facilities and that those facilities meet Ambulatory Surgical Center standards.

“This is a huge victory and gives us every confidence that all the provisions of HB2 will prevail upon appeal,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue, who has coauthored the new book, Abortion Free, that outlines how to implement strategy to stop abortion, including those used in Texas will soon be responsible for closing 83% of all abortion centers in that state. Previous closures have already caused abortion numbers in Texas to plummet.

[…]“Documenting and exposing abortion abuses can serve as the foundation for safety regulations that can shut down substandard abortion mills and save lives. As a result of yesterday’s ruling we expect thousands of women will be spared the trauma and tragedy of abortion and that precious baby boys and girls will grace their lives with blessings,” said Newman. “Protecting the lives of women and their babies is what our work is all about.”

When I posted about the ruling a few days ago, some jackass came on and talked about how now women would be able to kill their babies more safely. It never ceases to amaze me how people can claim to be pro-life and yet practically be pro-abortion. Being pro-life means saving as many unborn children as possible. If you don’t like this law, then you are pro-abortion. Period. End of issue. You don’t get to take credit for the pro-life effects of this law if you opposed it.

I think the take-home lesson on people who oppose incremental pro-life measures that reduce abortion is this: not everyone who claims to be pro-life is intelligent enough to support laws that actually do something to protect unborn children.

 

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

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