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I don't expect the mother to donate her uterus, I expect her not to ask others to kill the embryo, e.g. to do nothing.

But you are not asking her to "do nothing." You are asking her to surrender control of her reproductive organs, to carry (and feed) a foetus she does not want to carry and go through an invasive medical procedure. That's hardly "doing nothing."

In the case of the stowaway, your criterion for determining that the captain was not morally obliged to keep the stowaway on the boat was that the stowaway had not paid for the journey. Prey tell, how has the foetus paid the woman for the use of her organs (even leaving aside the rather sticky question of whether organs should be traded in such quid pro quos)?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 23rd, 2008 at 02:27:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Organs should not be traded at all, but then the example of the stowaway is simply badly chosen. Why should the stowaway have the right to get to the place he want to go at all. There are a lot of reasons, why comercial organ trade is forbidden. For what does the women need the organs so importantly that it justifies to kill someone? And a birth is not necessarily a medical procedure at all. The medicine is used to prevent damage to both the mother and the baby.
The captain should do nothing which results in the killing of the stowaway and a pregnant woman shouldn't do anything what kills the embryo. If you don't like to define it as doing nothing, well, that's your thing, but I'm asking her not to do anything to kill the embryo, so I'm really asking her to do something not.
Finally usually she has already done something which has produced the embryo, so even the stowaway example would have to be one, where the captain has invited the stowaway in the first place, but even if he hasn't he shouldn't do anything what results in the killing of the stowaway.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat Feb 23rd, 2008 at 03:16:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why should the stowaway have the right to get to the place he want to go at all.

So you're saying that a foetus has a better claim to right of passage than a fully human stowaway?

For what does the women need the organs so importantly that it justifies to kill someone?

Why do you need your kidney so badly that it justifies killing a kidney patient?

And a birth is not necessarily a medical procedure at all. The medicine is used to prevent damage to both the mother and the baby.

But by that logic, healing a broken leg isn't a medical procedure either. The leg will heal on its own, after all, and putting the cast on it just helps avoid further injury. Childbirth, as you will recall, was one of the leading causes of non-violent death for women of fertile age until giving birth became a medical procedure.

None of which, of course, alters the basic fact that we're talking about an extremely invasive procedure, whether you want to call it medical or not.

The captain should do nothing which results in the killing of the stowaway and a pregnant woman shouldn't do anything what kills the embryo.

Ah, but first of all that's not the analogy I proposed. You claimed a moral equivalence between killing a foetus and denying it use of the uterus. The question was whether there was a similar moral equivalence between robbing the stowaway and throwing him off the ship.

Having noted that, however, your re-purposing of the analogy doesn't help you much. If our stowaway is dead broke and attempted to migrate because he couldn't find a job, he might very well die if he is simply tossed off at the harbour in a country where he doesn't necessarily speak the language, doesn't have a place to live, doesn't have a job, doesn't have any food...

Is the captain morally obliged to check that the stowaway has all those necessities before he kicks him off his ship? Is he obligated to make sure that the stowaway is immunised against any vicious local diseases like malaria? How long must the stowaway survive after he's kicked off the ship before the captain can wash his hands and say "well, it's not my fault that he died - after all, he was fine when I left him."

If you don't like to define it as doing nothing, well, that's your thing, but I'm asking her not to do anything to kill the embryo, so I'm really asking her to do something not.

No, you're asking her to grant use of her uterus to the embryo (actually, I don't have a problem with you asking her - what I have a problem with is the fact that you want the state to demand it of her). That is very much doing something.

Finally usually she has already done something which has produced the embryo, so even the stowaway example would have to be one, where the captain has invited the stowaway in the first place,

Well, he transshipped cargo at a harbour somewhere. That's normal for a ship to do. You can hardly blame him for the fact that he got a stowaway in the process.

Similarly, presumably the pregnant woman had sexual liaisons at some point, which I believe is what you are so tactfully alluding to. That, however, is normal for a human adult to do, and you don't get to blame her for any accidental pregnancy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 23rd, 2008 at 07:58:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To the last point, I can and I do.

To the other, I had then misunderstoodwhat you meant with the example, but I dismiss this a valid analogy in the way you have made it.

I don't kill the kidney patient. I'm not active. I'm ignoring him.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat Feb 23rd, 2008 at 08:09:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the woman is to blame for an accidental pregnancy?

And how is removing a foetus from the uterus in the first or second trimester any more active than removing it from the uterus at the end of the third trimester? It's going out anyway, the only difference is the amount of time it gets to spend in the woman's body. Why doesn't she get to evict the little squatter?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 23rd, 2008 at 08:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course the woman is to blame. I assume that responsibilty is a combination of the capability to influence something and the need to bear the consequences.

If you look on the laws in civilised countries, the father of baby is assumed to be responsible for the existence of the baby - fully. In Germany a court had in its reasons for the judgment literally parents have to share their shirt off their back with their children.
Assume we have a case of an "accidental" pregnancy and the father want to get rid of the baby, but the mother says, she wants to have it. Even if the father then wants to have contact with the child and the mother prevents that contact after a court rules he has the right to, he is responsible for the next 25 years or so for the child and can not defaut and start new or whatsoever. No company can do this, no company can pawn the father in a similar way. I think this has as well serious impact on the mans live. So if you would have a similar view of what responsibilty means to what I have, it seems, the father is held pretty much responsible for the "accidental" pregnancy, and I of course fully support that.
So why should the mother not be held responsible in a similar way as the father obviously is? Either both are not responsible or both are responsible in the same way (And please, if you answer, don't introduce rape, which would be a seperate discussion).

Well, so let the squatter live there forever, I guess he will come at some point more or less from alone, but of course nothing speaks agains activly removing him, if it doesn't kill him.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun Feb 24th, 2008 at 08:51:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I assume that responsibilty is a combination of the capability to influence something and the need to bear the consequences.

But you and I are able to influence whether the kidney patient in my example survives? This appears to be in contradiction of what you said above.

So why should the mother not be held responsible in a similar way as the father obviously is? Either both are not responsible or both are responsible in the same way

Yes, parents should be equally responsible for their children. And they should be equally responsible for pregnancies. But I don't understand where you're going with that. It almost sounds as if you think that the man should have a say over what happens to the pregnancy. Which is ludicrous: It's the woman's body. She can do with it what she wants, and unless she actively involves him in the decision, it's none of the man's business - or the state's - what she does with her body.

---------------

I think this discussion is going in circles, and I think that I'm partially to blame for that. After all, early in the discussion, I accepted for the sake of the argument that the foetus is as worthy of protection as a born child. Which is patent nonsense, and furthermore an assumption that seems to prevent discussion of the real ethical issues.

Because there are, of course, ethical issues with terminating a pregnancy. However, those issues involve a tradeoff that cannot be meaningfully debated if a pre-implantation zygote is equated to an adult human. The ethical tradeoff, in my opinion, involves on one side the degree of sentience in the foetus and on the other side the burden that it imposes on the mother, on the parents and/or on society.

In pre-industrial societies it was not unheard of to leave newborn babies to the wolves if the household, village or tribe could not support them. The tradeoff then was the life of the baby vs. the life of the tribe. Fortunately, in a first-world country with adequate government support for babies that their parents can't - for whatever reason - handle, the tradeoff is less stark. And so infanticide is illegal.

Precisely when the burden imposed on the parent begins to outweigh the foetus' right to life is, of course, not an issue that can be settled by applying a simple formula. Personally, I think - and IIRC Danish law agrees with me - third-trimester abortions should be avoided except in exceptional circumstances: The gain for the woman in a late-term abortion, both in medical, psychological and social terms, is judged to be too small to justify terminating a foetus with a moderately developed central nervous system. But it can, of course, be argued that the line should be earlier or later in the pregnancy, and what constitutes "exceptional circumstances" can also be debated.

And it may be that in the future we find a way to safely extract an embryo in the early stages of development and - say - freeze it and store it for later implantation in an involuntarily childless couple (or even growing it in an artificial womb). In which case I would think that terminating the pregnancy in more old-fashioned ways would be highly frowned upon.

But we are not there yet, and I have yet to hear a single convincing argument for granting a homunculus with less brain power than an uncommonly stupid Golden Retriever full equality with a born baby, much less a grown human (frankly, I find the latter comparison insulting).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Feb 24th, 2008 at 02:01:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I take the consequences, which are for me, uhmmm, nothing?

I don't assume lending an uterus to be a more life changing thing than what fathers have to do (law enforced) for a child, when comparing the effect with the 9 months uterus lending plus a from-the-birth-bed-away adoption. And it is as well a kind of responsibility you can't get otherwise. So fathers have by law enforcement higher burdens to shoulder for a pregnancy than mothers (which are none at all, if you assume that abortion is unregulated). To make it similar, you can chose, if fathers get the right to just run away if the mother wants to get the baby against the will of the father or if they can demand the mother to abort.

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Although I disagree with you, I can accept when people don't think embryos are humans. I can't accept that people find it OK to kill them, if they assume they are humans.
One of my arguments for protecting embryos is the eroding of respect for life, so if you feel insulted to be compared with an embryo, it is unlikely that this has consequences in other cases, and it is unlikely that you have this opinion only because of convinience.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun Feb 24th, 2008 at 04:00:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose that's fair enough, and a case can indeed be made for paternal "legal abortions" in which the father denies claim and cost for the child. But that is a question of how to structure people's financial obligations to one another. I consider that to be in an entirely different category than the right to your own body.

--------------------------------------

There are several different meanings to the term human, and they tend to get confused - partly because they are partially overlapping.

As it happens, I do think that a human embryo is more valuable than - say - a pig embryo. For instance, I think that a human child with a mental handicap that puts it on the level of a chimpanzee (as far as we can measure, and keeping in mind that measuring mental prowess is hardly an exact science) should still be accorded more rights and protection than a chimp. In short, I think that careful thought must be given before terminating a viable human embryo, and I think that there is an ethical case to be made against abortion.

But at the present time, there is also a powerful ethical case to be made for it, just as there is a powerful ethical case to be made for the practise of infanticide by some pre-industrial cultures in areas and ages of tightly constrained carrying capacity. As technology changes, that may change - in fact I hope that it will. But that will be then, and now is now.

And the fact that an ethical issue can be argued both ways with almost equally compelling arguments leads me to believe that the decision should be made by the individual person, not the government.

If a woman thinks abortion is wrong, full stop, she can refrain from having one (forcing women to have abortions is probably an even bigger abomination than prohibiting them). If, on the other hand, she thinks that, on balance, she would rather not have the child, and finds that position ethically defensible, then I cannot in good conscience claim that she is obviously and clearly in the wrong.

Thus, I cannot in good conscience approve of the state using its power to prevent her from doing it, even in cases where I would disagree with her about the ethical soundness of the position she takes. The alternative would set a standard for government interference in both private matters and matters of conscience that I would find greatly troubling.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 25th, 2008 at 09:53:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, that you clarified that.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2008 at 11:29:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're welcome. I think it was too verbose, though...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2008 at 06:57:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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