Egg-as-Person State Law Campaigns Attract New Faces, Old Radicals


The so-called "personhood" movement promoting
constitutional rights for fertilized eggs got a fresh shot in the arm in recent
days with ballot initiatives gearing up in Florida and renewing efforts in
Colorado and Montana. And a host of familiar nationally-known and emerging
local activists from hard line anti-abortion groups are leading the new charge
to ban abortion, contraception, and other comprehensive reproductive health
care.

 

Pat McEwen, a veteran of Operation Save America clinic
blockades, is a co-sponsor of the ballot initiative under the aegis Personhood
Florida. She now works with Life Coalition International led by Rev. Keith
Tucci, a close associate of anti-choice zealot Randall Terry.

Tucci is most notorious as Terry’s hand-picked successor to
lead Operation Rescue after his own inner-circle attempted to oust him. Under
Tucci’s command, the group staged a six week long intimidation campaign
targeting Dr. George Tiller’s clinic in Wichita, Kan., in the summer of 1991
that resulted in more than 1,700 arrests. In a 1993 letter to the group’s
supporters, Tucci reportedly wrote, "It is
your God-given right to destroy
any man or woman calling themselves
doctors who willingly slaughter innocent children."

With Operation Rescue facing federal racketeering charges
Tucci left in 1994 turning it over to another long-time Terry associate, Rev.
Flip Benham, who renamed the group Operation Save America and expanded it to
fight pornography, gay rights and Islam.

When Tiller was assassinated on May 31 by Scott Roeder, an
associate of Troy Newman’s rival Wichita-based group Operation Rescue West, McEwen wrote a vicious press release for Operation Save
America
blaming Tiller for his own death.

McEwen has also been long associated with the Population Research Institute, a virulently
anti-family planning organization that purports to debunk global overpopulation
issues while smearing United Nations Family Planning (UNFPA) and U.S. Agency
for International Aid (USAID) reproductive health programs.

Despite McEwen’s deep associations in the antiabortion movement,
Personhood Florida has an uphill battle. The Tampa Tribune reports that the
group will need to "collect 676,811
petition signatures by Feb. 1
for its proposal to make the 2010
ballot."

Prominent state politicians are already distancing
themselves from the proposed state Constitutional amendment that would define a
person as "from the beginning of the biological development of that human
being."

The group is expected to file the measure with the Florida
Secretary of State following a Sept. 11 kick-off rally in Tallahassee.

By all accounts, the Florida group appears to be mimicking
its Colorado personhood forerunner last year — build a coalition from a
tight-knit group of people who oppose comprehensive reproductive health care to
lead the drive and count on the American Life League to bankroll the effort.

And already those purse strings appear to be getting
stretched quite thin. 

Personhood USA, the national coordinating campaign, claims
it has launched 27 state initiatives, including a second try to radically
change the Colorado Constitution. At the same time, the Statesman notes that
the 2010 Colorado personhood ballot is aiming to run as an all-volunteer
effort
— a curious and politically risky strategy considering how much
money the national groups, like ALL, have proven they can raise.

The latest Colorado attempt also includes the newly tweaked
language avoiding the term "fertilized egg" for the more ambiguous
"from the beginning of biological development" that was suggested to
the foiled 2008 activists by Georgetown U. bioethicist Dianne Irving.

After inexplicably kicking off the petition drive Aug. 25 at
a non-descript Denver post office, the group has since fanned out at the
heavily-trafficked Colorado State Fair and popular "Taste of
Colorado" festival to begin collecting 76,000 valid petition signatures by
the Feb. 15 deadline.

While the two co-sponsors of the Colorado proposal, ALL’s
former legislative analyst Gualberto Garcia Jones and Colorado Right to Life
activist Leslie Hanks
were previously profiled by RH Reality Check, the
Montana proponents whose Constitutional ballot language was approved Sept. 3
have a much lower national profile.

Kalispell physician Annie Bukacek, president of the Montana
ProLife Coalition, will be going it alone with support from the Personhood USA
mothership. The Great Falls Tribune reports that Montana Right to Life, Montana
Catholic Conference and other anti-abortion groups oppose the statewide
personhood strategy
as an overly broad and ineffective legal tactic for
ending abortion.

Like its Rocky Mountain neighbor Colorado, the Montana group
will also not employ paid petition circulators to collect the approximately
40,000 voter signatures needed by July 2010 to qualify for the ballot. Its
first all-volunteer effort in 2008 to change the state Constitution, fell
nearly 50 percent short of its signature goal.

But the first real test of the new-and-improved personhood
movement will occur in Mississippi where activists are working to beat an Oct.
1 deadline to collect 90,000 petition signatures. How the campaign is
progressing is anybody’s guess.

There’s been a virtual news blackout of the group’s efforts
since late July when it was reported by state bloggers that Personhood
Mississippi had just one-third of the total signatures needed. Even Jackson,
Miss., evangelical activist and father of nine Les Riley, who’s heading up the
group, stopped writing about the petition drive on his own blog months ago. His
more pressing interest now seems to be organizing and speaking at conservative
Tea Party protests.

In a wide ranging interview Colorado
Personhood supporter and Christian talk show host Bob Enyart
— whose
long-running feud with Focus on the Family’s James Dobson for not being
anti-abortion enough is the stuff of local legend — talked to Riley in April.

Said Enyart to Riley, a
one-time ultra-conservative Constitution Party candidate, "So many
pro-lifers over a period of 30 years have been taught, by example National
Right to Life. ‘Don’t mention God. Don’t quote the Bible. We’re going to win
this on the laws of science.’ But the problem with that, Les, is the laws of
science don’t use the terms right and wrong. By the laws of science, you can’t
prove that the Holocaust was wrong. So right and wrong come from God."

Look for more state updates on
the personhood movement in the coming weeks.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • viennaprelude

    Written by Robert P. George, Maureen Condic & Patrick Lee
    Monday, July 20 2009 18:18
    “The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.” (Langman’s Medical Embryology, 7th ed., 1995)
    For people who advocate the killing of embryonic human beings in the cause of biomedical research, the Holy Grail is an argument that would definitively establish that the human embryo, at least early in its development, is not a living human organism and therefore not a human being at all. The problem for these advocates is that all the scientific evidence points in precisely the opposite direction. Modern human embryology and developmental biology have shown that fertilization produces a new and distinct organism: a living individual of the human species in the embryonic stage of his or her development.

    Some proponents of embryo-destructive research are willing to face up to these biological facts. They concede that human embryos are living individuals of the human species, but deny that this gives them the moral status of being persons. According to this argument, not all human beings are equal; not all possess inherent dignity and a right to life. Some, including those at early developmental stages, are not (or are not yet) “persons,” and they may therefore (at least in some circumstances, or in the pursuit of some goals) legitimately be killed.

    There is much to be said against this position, but its defects are philosophical, not scientific. Its proponents recognize that there is no Holy Grail out there to find, and they are willing to defend the killing of human embryos while facing up to the biological facts. But then there are the Grail searchers. These people are determined to prove that what modern human embryology has been telling us is wrong, and to this end they scavenge the fields of molecular biology and human genetics.

    Among the Grail searchers, there is none more determined than Ronald Bailey, science writer for the libertarian magazine Reason. Every now and then Bailey pops up to make a dramatic announcement: The Grail has been found! A few years ago, for example, he used a reductio ad absurdum that employed an analogy to cloning. Bailey offered to prove that every cell in the human body has as much potential for development as a human embryo. Therefore, he wrote, human embryos are the biological and moral equivalent of body (“somatic”) cells; they have no greater dignity than, for example, the skin cells that we rub or wash off our bodies every day.

    Here is how the argument went: Each cell in the human body possesses the entire DNA code; each has become specialized (as muscle, skin, etc.) by having most of that code turned off. In the scientific process known as cloning, the portions of the code that were previously deactivated are reactivated. So, Bailey concluded, quoting bioethicist Julian Savulescu: “If all our cells could be persons, then we cannot appeal to the fact that an embryo could be a person to justify the special treatment we give it.” Since plainly we are not prepared to regard all our cells as human beings, we shouldn’t regard embryos as human beings.

    Unfortunately for Bailey, his analogy between somatic cells and human embryos collapses under scrutiny. The somatic cell is something from which a new organism can be generated; it is not itself, however, a distinct organism. On its own, it remains just what it is (a constituent cell of muscle, skin, etc.). For it to contribute to the generation of a complete living being, significant interventions are needed, including the addition of critical molecular factors provided by a human egg cell.

    A human embryo doesn’t need that. It already is a distinct, self-developing, complete (though immature) human organism. If someone tried to implant a somatic cell in the prepared uterus of a woman, nothing would happen — just as nothing would happen if someone tried to implant a sperm or an unfertilized egg. But a human embryo implanted in the prepared uterus of a woman will, barring some defect or accident, grow and develop, emerge from the womb some months later, soon begin walking and talking, and in a few years be asking mom and dad for the car keys.

    So Bailey hadn’t discovered the Holy Grail after all. But now he’s back, claiming once again that it has been found. His claim comes in an online post criticizing an argument we made in response to some other Grail searchers.

    Those searchers are William Neaves and Gerard Magill. Their candidate for the Holy Grail is an argument purporting to show that human embryos are the ontological and moral equivalent of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Again the form of the argument is reductio ad absurdum. No one supposes that iPSCs are human organisms, so if it can be shown that iPSCs are the equivalent of embryos, then embryos cannot be human organisms either.

    What are iPSCs? They are a widely touted class of cells that have been produced by Shinya Yamanaka in Japan and James Thomson in the United States. They are made by reprogramming (or “de-differentiating”) ordinary somatic cells to the pluripotent state — the state from which they can be coaxed to become virtually any type of tissue: heart, liver, nerve, you name it. What is exciting about these cells is that they have the medically useful features of embryonic stem cells, yet they can be produced without killing (or even using) embryos.

    According to Neaves and Magill, however, iPSCs are not merely the biological equivalent of embryonic stem cells; they are the equivalent of the embryos that are destroyed to produce embryonic stem cells. On what basis do they advance this idiosyncratic view? (It is, incidentally, a view plainly rejected by Yamanaka and Thomson, who have explained that the significance of iPSCs is that they do not raise the ethical problems associated with killing human embryos.) Neaves and Magill claim that an iPS cell, though obviously not an organism, is the biological equivalent of an embryo because it can develop into a human organism.

    How is that? Well, when joined to a tetraploid “embryo” (an entity created by fusing the first two cells of a normal embryo into a single cell that contains twice the normal amount of DNA), an iPS cell will contribute to the development of a mature organism of its species (as has been shown with mice). In this procedure, according to Magill and Neaves, the iPS cells are merely being provided with a placenta — which they view as a “component of a supportive environment for development,” like a uterus, rather than as an integral part of the developing organism. Just as a human embryo needs only a suitable environment to develop itself to a mature stage, so does an iPS cell need only the suitable environment supplied by a tetraploid “embryo.”

    Replying to Neaves and Magill, we demonstrated that their claim that iPS cells develop into a complete embryo is scientifically inaccurate. Rather, they become part of a distinct, developing organism, consisting of structures derived from both the iPS cells and the tetraploid cells. The key question is whether a placenta is just a “component of a supportive environment” or an actual organ of the embryo, and anyone familiar with human embryology will recognize that it is a mistake to classify a placenta as a mere “environmental requirement.”

    Here’s why: The developing organism requires information provided by both inner cell mass cells and trophectoderm cells (the precursors to the placenta). So in the prenatal stage of development, the placenta is an integral part of the developing human, functioning as a vital organ and even sharing a common blood circulation with the rest of the developing embryonic body. In contrast, the uterus of the mother is clearly part of a distinct organism that is not integral to the embryo itself, but merely provides a supportive environment and a source of nutrition. Hence a placenta is an organ of the embryo, albeit a transitory one. This means that together, the iPS cells and the tetraploid cells constitute an entire, integrated whole — an organism. In stark contrast, at no point does an iPS cell function as a whole organism by itself. So any argument resting on the claim that an iPS cell is the biological equivalent of an embryo simply won’t fly. The Grail searchers will have to search on.

    But Ronald Bailey just doesn’t want to give this one up. In “Do Skin Cells Have Souls?” he deploys the tedious and shopworn strategy of writing as if only religious zealots think human embryos are human organisms — thus his reference to souls in the title and a reference to angels on the head of a pin in the concluding sentence of his essay. But as he well knows, biology and human-embryology texts have for a long time been quite clear that a new human organism comes into existence at fertilization. That is, in human reproduction, when sperm joins ovum, these two individual cells cease to be, and their union generates a new and distinct organism. This organism is a whole, though in the beginning developmentally immature, member of the human species. Readers need not take our word for this: They can consult any of the standard human-embryology texts, such as Moore and Persaud’s The Developing Human, Larsen’s Human Embryology, Carlson’s Human Embryology & Developmental Biology, and O’Rahilly and Mueller’s Human Embryology & Teratology.

    Bailey characterizes our argument in the exchange with Neaves and Magill as “convoluted.” At one point he even calls it “desperate.” But one would be hard put to decipher from Bailey’s account of that exchange what the basic issue was. In various places we have made explicit what is generally assumed in biology: If an organism has all the internal resources, along with an active tendency or disposition, to develop itself to the stage where it performs the functions specific to an organism of a certain kind, requiring only a suitable environment and nutrition for that development, then it is an organism of that kind, at an immature stage of its life cycle. Only thus can one recognize a chrysalis as an immature member of Lepidoptera, or a tadpole as an immature member of a frog species. Human embryos, whether they are formed by fertilization (natural or in vitro) or by successful somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT — i.e., cloning), do have the internal resources and active disposition to develop themselves to the mature stage of a human organism, requiring only a suitable environment and nutrition. In fact, scientists distinguish embryos from other cells or clusters of cells precisely by their self-directed, integral functioning — their organismal behavior. Thus, human embryos are what the embryology textbooks say they are, namely, human organisms — living individuals of the human species — at the earliest developmental stage.

    Neaves and Magill attempted to refute this argument by pointing to “tetraploid complementation.” But in this process, the iPS cells function as part of a distinct, developing organism, consisting of structures derived from both the iPS cells and the tetraploid cells. It is plain that the iPS cells do not survive the tetraploid complementation procedure, any more than sperm and egg cells survive the process of fertilization. Like the sperm or the ovum, the iPS cells function only as part of a larger whole.

    Near the end of his comments, Bailey discusses “induced totipotent cells,” but in the course of his remarks, he reveals a failure to grasp the central question about them. We do not have to wait for scientists to produce such “induced totipotent cells” and speculate about whether they would be considered embryos; such cells already exist. By Bailey’s definition of totipotency (i.e., the ability to produce all cell types, including those of the placenta), many human tumors and all human embryonic stem cells and human iPS cells are “totipotent.” But although human iPS cells are able to produce all cell types, they are not able to organize these cells into a coherent body, and therefore they are not the biological, moral, or ontological equivalent of embryos.

    The truth is that iPSCs are not “totipotent” in the same sense that embryos are totipotent. Embryos not only make all cell types; they also orchestrate all the complex events of development needed to generate a coherent, integrated living body. And therein lies the characteristic that distinguishes embryos from non-organismal cells, including iPSCs. The artificial production of a totipotent cell capable of such an integrated developmental sequence has, of course, already occurred in cloning. Our point was that, so far, biology indicates that the production of a totipotent cell (a new embryo) requires factors derived from the oocyte (an egg cell). If those factors could be derived in some other fashion, their combination would generate a new entity, rather than allowing an already existing entity (such as a stem cell) to actualize an innate capacity. Yet even if that could be done, it would not negate our view of what constitutes an embryonic human organism; it would merely confirm, as cloning already proves, that there is more than one way to produce an embryo. So the Grail searchers would even then have to remain on their never-ending quest.

    Robert P. George is Founder of the American Principles Project; Maureen Condic is an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine; Patrick Lee is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and director of the Institute of Bioethics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

    Originally published on National Review on July 20th, 2009 as “The Grail Searchers: Despite endless efforts to prove the contrary, science shows that an embryo is a human being.”

  • gabbyhayes

    When I begin seeing the anti-choice activists at the cemetery every month with tiny caskets and headstones burying their menstrual flow and nocturnal emissions, I will believe that they really equate an egg with a human being. Meanwhile, keep feeding them egg salad sandwiches whenever they order chicken salad, and fried eggs at KFC, daring them to admit they know the difference.

  • chelley

    Michelle Cory
    bravo Gabby hayes, once and for all, A fetilized egg is a zygote, It is a living organism. a living organism is not a person. a living organism can be algae. Now, you need an incubator willing to nourish this embryo, if a woman does not want it to become a person, then she is responsibe not to continue the pregnancy. if she continued the pregnancy, she would be creating a person, an unwanted ,unloved, person, and forcing her to maintain a pregnancy is an act of violence and slavery.

    MEN: wear a freakin condon, and if thats too uncomforable get a vasectomy. that way you wont impregnate a woman, and she will not need or want an abotion.
    Grow up ! and wise up. take responsibility, we are not 2nd class citizens .
    sincerely Michelle Cory.
    as far as Fl. gov. Charlie christ , he better get his act together. or he wont be gov. for long.

  • captiver

    Your readers may be aware of a delightful paper by a British-based philosopher Toby Ord about the implications of "eggs are people too". Only around 50 percent of fertilised eggs survive from conception to implantation — and a smaller percentage more are lost after that point. Since pregnancy isn’t detected until implantation, any loss of an embryo (I use this term for convenience though it’s not strictly correct) up to that stage goes unnoticed. Most people, then, are unaware of the huge amount embryo loss taking place around them every day. That natural loss, Ord argues, translates into the “deaths” of around 220 million embryos a year – or "people", if the eggs-are-persons folks prefer. Ord (facetiously) calls this a “scourge,” and points out that it is indiscriminate, affecting people across the globe, killing its victims within weeks of onset and, perhaps most cruelly, killing “only the very young and innocent.” Since embryo loss through other means, including abortion and IUDs and morning after pills, pales in comparison to this toll, he argues that one would think the proponents of embryos-as-persons would be calling for a huge commitment of research dollars to stop or at least minimize this scourge. We would expect, Ord argues, a call to arms, or at least heated discussion in journals or the church. Nada!
    Ord has counter-arguments to the predictable objections, like "but this is natural" while IUDs, Plan B and abortions are not: Cancer and hurricanes are ‘natural’ but we make every effort to prevent deaths from them, so why not from natural embryo loss? Anyway, you can read the paper by visiting
    http://www.amirrorclear.net/academic/papers/index.html
    and click on:’The scourge: moral implications of natural embryo loss’, American Journal of Bioethics 8(7) 12–19, 2008. Also, perhaps it was on this site, I’m not sure, but Mikhaela Reid has a wonderful cartoon from 2007 ("Egg Rescue Squad: Defending the Right of Microscopic Americans Everywhere!") here:

    http://www.mikhaela.net/2007/11/egg-rescue-squad-defending-rights-of.html

     

  • ahunt

    Thank you for this. Very much. I’d been hoping for a cogent walkthrough of the logical and "moral" consequences of implementing any "fertilized egg as person" policy.

  • gabbyhayes

    One of the easiest rules to understand in law is known as the M’Naughton rule, which is what is used to determine sanity. If you literally can’t tell the difference between a cabbage and your wife’s head and you decide to make yourself a nice coleslaw, the homicide can be forgiven because the alleged killer, even if found guilty, is recognized as unable to tell the difference between right and wrong. It’s very basic and easy to understand and you can probably see why so few people use the “insanity plea” successfully. Just about everyone can tell the difference between a cabbage and his wife’s head.

    Can you tell the difference between something that is obscene and something that is not? A supreme court decision was based on the fact that, for reasons he couldn’t readily explain, Potter Stewart could tell the difference when he saw it–this is another example of a simple virtually univerally shared understanding of a word or concept.

    Therefore, when I am faced with a person who claims that abortion is murder on the basis that a fetus is a child, I propose that he hold a child in one arm and a fetus in the other just to see if he can tell the difference between the two. If he can’t, he’s probably insane and needs a caretaker–or, at the very least, some sort of spotting card similar to the ones used by air raid wardens during World War II. These cards were posters with silhouettes of various enemy planes so that when the warden called in a sighting, he could say more than “there’s a plane up there” but be able to make some judgment about whether it’s a fighter, a bomber, or a transport, whether it was German, Italian, Japanese, or British (later, American), which direction it seemed to be headed, etc. We could print silhouettes of fetuses and children on it, perhaps also a few silhouettes of ova and sperm cells to help the person learn to make this simple distinction. But if the person can’t begin to tell the difference after a reasonable period of time, he should probably be adjudicated insane, or provided with a keeper or a room in a facility somewhere to prevent him from turning his wife into coleslaw.

  • paul-bradford

    The Great Falls Tribune reports that Montana Right to Life, Montana Catholic Conference and other anti-abortion groups oppose the statewide personhood strategy as an overly broad and ineffective legal tactic for ending abortion.

     

    I applaud the bishops in Montana, as I do the bishops in North Dakota and Colorado for coming out in opposition to these ‘personhood’ initiatives.  Those who care about the well being of the very young need to understand the distinction between 1) believing that human life begins when fertilization takes place and 2) believing that it would be good policy to enshrine that idea into law.  Like the bishops, I believe that zygotes and blastocysts are people — but I see no possible advantage in equipping the state to prosecute women for what happens to their conceptus children.  No advantage whatsoever.

     

    one would think the proponents of embryos-as-persons would be calling for a huge commitment of research dollars to stop or at least minimize this scourge.

     

    The fact that PLCC does not support ‘personhood’ bills does not mean that we aren’t concerned about the ‘scourge’ of lost life due to a failure of so many young persons to implant.  Yes!  Let’s invest some money into scientific research for increasing the percentage of blastocysts who are able to successfully advance into the embryo phase of human life.  It may be (no, ahunt, I don’t have a crystal ball) that there are measures — measures that would not unduly constrain a woman’s everyday activities — that would give her children a better chance of surviving and developing.

     

    Since pregnancy isn’t detected until implantation, any loss of an embryo (I use this term for convenience though it’s not strictly correct) up to that stage goes unnoticed. Most people, then, are unaware of the huge amount embryo loss taking place around them every day.

     

    What you say is true of the situation today — but who’s to say that in the future women won’t have the means to know that they have a baby on the way even before implantation (which is about the same time she would notice that she’s ‘missed her period’)?  Instead of waiting two or more weeks to learn whether she had conceived, the woman of the future might be able to know — just hours after coitus — that she had become a mother.  Who would argue that such knowledge would limit a woman’s freedom?  What woman wouldn’t want to know, as soon as possible, that there was a young life developing in her body?  Ignorance doesn’t advantage anyone.

     

     

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • paul-bradford

    when I am faced with a person who claims that abortion is murder on the basis that a fetus is a child, I propose that he hold a child in one arm and a fetus in the other just to see if he can tell the difference between the two.

     

    Gabby,

     

    If you’re going to disagree with someone’s opinion it would serve you well not to distort that person’s opinion by playing with words.  I shall promise to make every effort to understand what you say, in the way you want it to be understood, and I hope that you will do the same for others.

     

    A child is a human being whose age is between birth and eighteen years.  That’s a definition we all understand.  A child is also the offspring of a particular mother and father.  Most of us can tell the meaning of the word by context.  When my mother is asked if she has any children she includes me in the count even though I’m fifty-five.  If she says, "No, I have no children at all — I only have adults", the person speaking with her will realize she’s being light-hearted and humorous.  She would be playing with the word ‘child’ — as you did.  The difference is that you weren’t being lighthearted. 

     

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • colleen

    Oh I see, so when some moron drives around with a bumpersticker that says, “It’s not a choice, it’s a child” or when you start inappropriately cooing about the ‘children’ in the fallopian tubes of women you don’t know y’all aren’t speaking of an actual CHILD but, rather, the “offspring of a particular mother and father”
    Would you care to look up the definition of
    ‘offspring’ ?because I’m pretty sure that, when applied to humans ‘offspring’ means ‘child’.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • ahunt

    Who would argue that such knowledge would limit a woman’s freedom?
    What woman wouldn’t want to know, as soon as possible, that there was a young life developing in her body? Ignorance doesn’t advantage anyone.

    Okay Paul…you just made me spew Bass Ale onto my laptop. Are you  suggesting that a contracepting woman who has no interest in being pregnant should, as a matter of general procedure, undergo some futuristic home pregnancy test everytime she has sex? Why? So she can live her life in perpetual fear?

  • mrpisces

    Well said Colleen

     

  • paul-bradford

    ahunt,

     

    Tell me what you think.  Do sexually active women who do not wish to have a child ever worry that they’ve become pregnant?  Do they ever use pregnancy tests?  Do they ever have a feeling of relief when the test is negative?  Do they ever wish that they had gotten the reassurance that they weren’t going to have a baby sooner than they did?

     

    Another question.  Do you suppose that the women who want to have a baby would be curious to know if they’d conceived? And suppose, just suppose, that the government heeds my request to spend some money on researching the science of implantation.  And suppose, just suppose, that we develop a pill that increases the likelihood that a blastocyst will develop into an embryo.  Don’t you suppose that the woman who wants a baby would be happy to know as soon as she conceives so she can start taking the pill?

     

    You act as if pregnancy tests (or the futuristic conception test) will increase fear.  I argue that it will alleviate it.  For heaven’s sake, don’t you suppose that women sometimes don’t bother to put their diaphragm in?  Don’t you suppose that men sometimes don’t bother to put a condom on?  Don’t you suppose that a woman, after having sex, sometimes gets a ‘sinking feeling’ because she realizes she forgot to take her birth control pill?  Don’t you think that couples, in that situation, live in fear until it’s time for the woman’s period so they can find out if their little mistake turned into a little angel? 

     

    You claim that ignorance is bliss.  I say that knowledge is power.  I suppose that you and I are going to be arguing about this for some time.

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • princess-rot

    It would seem, ahunt, that the best way to be a fertile woman and have a stress-free sex life in Paul’s ideal world is to be a lesbian.

     

  • paul-bradford

    Nice to have you weigh in on this discussion.

     

    I suppose I spend too much time reading evolutionary science, where the word offspring is used to describe the result of a genetic combination.  Would you be happier with ‘son or daughter’? 

     

    I’m going to make a statement, but before I make it I’m going to predict that you’re going to have NO TROUBLE WHATSOEVER in understanding what I mean because you have that marvelous organ called the human brain and you benefit from the brain’s tremendous language capacity.

     

    Statement: "Every human being is the child of a human mother and a human father.  Every child of a human mother and a human father is a human being."

     

    Did you understand it?  I’ll bet you did, but maybe you’re going to feign ignorance in order to disagree with me.  Very well, I’ll modify the statement.

     

    Modified statement:  Every human being is the son or daughter of a human mother and a human father. Every son or daughter of a human mother and a human father is a human being. 

     

    Feel better? 

     

    S/he’s not a choice. S/he’s a son or daughter!

     

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice  — Proud member of Team Zygote

  • paul-bradford

    Princess Rot,

     

    Lesbians have sex, but they don’t have the kind of sex that has the potential to ignite human life.  People who engage in the kind of sex that doesn’t have the power to ignite human life (and you don’t have to be a homosexual to perform that kind of sex — every sexual activity that homosexuals have discovered has also been discovered by heterosexuals) can avoid the ‘stress’ of producing life.

     

    Fertility and virility can be a burden, or a tremendous power.  Why does it surprise you that those who exercise power have the ‘stress’ of wondering whether they’ve used their power for good? 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • colleen

    Would you be happier with ‘son or daughter’?

    I would be happier if you confined your finger wagging to performances in front of a mirror.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • ahunt

    You claim that ignorance is bliss.

     I make no such claim. 

     

    The question was…are you suggesting that contracepting women, should, as standard operating procedure, take some futuristic pregnancy test every time they engage in PIV? If so, why?

    Unless a woman is actively pursuing pregnancy, or as you point out, has an "oops" moment, and wants to get ahead of the situation…there is no reason to inject the "test" into one’s sex life.

     

     

     

     

  • princess-rot

    Fertility and virility can be a burden, or a tremendous power.  Why does it surprise you that those who exercise power have the ‘stress’ of wondering whether they’ve used their power for good?

    Paul, having a body that functions correctly is not a ‘power’. Most mammals reproduce, it’s not fucking special. Neither is having control over that function using contraception and abortion. Female bodily autonomy shouldn’t be something that is held up as a conditional "responsibility", revokable the moment a ZBEF is present, in order to fall in line with what pro-lifers say is good and caring. The right to create/destroy conceptus should be a given, just as your bodily rights as a male already are. It’s always men who say "Well, my bodily rights are a given from birth, but sorry straight ladies, you don’t deserve a life decoupled from reproduction. You can spend 30+ years of your life "caring for the unborn", but no matter how much I pose, postulate, and bleat about my supposed love for conceptuses, I know in my heart that the same things I demand of you will never be made of me, and therefore I am safe from any limitations."

    Lesbians have sex, but they don’t have the kind of sex that has the potential to ignite human life.  People who engage in the kind of sex that doesn’t have the power to ignite human life (and you don’t have to be a homosexual to perform that kind of sex — every sexual activity that homosexuals have discovered has also been discovered by
    heterosexuals) can avoid the ‘stress’ of producing life.

    Thanks, Captain Obvious, for explaining to me that lesbians can’t make babies by themselves. I totally needed this concept spelling out for me, and my last comment wasn’t really a facetious attempt to make light of a ludicrous situation.

  • princess-rot

    I understand, intellectually at least, that reproductive health will often be fraught with moral issues, so that makes it all the more important to allow free access to all services and let individuals make their own decisions. It’s better than setting up an either/or dichtomy where one kind of decision is the only moral and true one and everyone should always elevate the unborn, because not doing so is considered selfish and unwomanly. Women=/=reproduction, kay? There is no conflict of interests between woman and fetus – the unborn don’t have interests. It is the domain of the pregnant woman to decide whether that fetus becomes a born individual or not, until then it’s simply a part of her body which she can do as she wishes with. Unfortunately for pro-lifers, for this to work you’d have to butt out and learn to trust women as people, not baby vessels.

  • ahunt

    Not following. Again, absent the desire for "procreation"…why is it necessary to follow up every act with a test? There is no reason for it.

  • paul-bradford

    ahunt,

     

    We keep getting into this jam and I, for one, would like us to get past it.

     

    I have stated that it would be good — good for women, good for their children, good for the society — if we 1) developed a means to detect conception before implantation takes place and 2) developed methods to make implantation more likely.

     

    You keep asking what women would ‘have’ to do.  I’ve suggested that many women might like to have these aids.  You say that sometimes women might not want to avail themselves of these aids.  I don’t see where our disagreement is.  Some women might use the aids, some might not, some might want to but wouldn’t be able to afford it.

     

    You seem to be expecting that the development of a new technology will entail some sort of compulsion to use it and you’re so alarmed by the possibility of the compulsion that you are opposed to the technology. 

     

    I have also stated that women who believe, as I do, that human life begins at conception would be particularly interested in this information and that the more women who have that belief, the more demand there would be for the technology.

     

    When have you ever heard me say anything about laws?  I don’t call for the repeal of Roe, I think Pro-Lifers err by attempting to restrict access to the abortion procedure, I don’t think abortion ought to be a crime and I can’t imagine how we could feasibly give control of making pregnancy decision over to anyone but the mother.

     

    I do believe that it makes sense for those of us who consider the very young to be brothers and sisters in the human family to call for people, particularly the mothers of the unborn, to treat their lives with respect.

     

    Eventually, respect for the unborn will be as commonplace as respect for the born; and when it is, there will be far fewer procured abortions and far more interest in lowering the rates of spontaneous abortions.  At that point it will seem normal to try to get as much information as possible about the existence of very young people.

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • paul-bradford

    I know in my heart that the same things I demand of you will never be made of me, and therefore I am safe from any limitations.

     

    I would, at the very minimum, expect that a father would have to support his child for the duration of childhood.  Furthermore, I think men should be liable to compensate the women they impregnate against their will.  It seems to me that that risk would compel men to abide by some ‘limitations’.

     

    A man who cares about the well being of his own child wouldn’t agree to have sex with a woman with whom he couldn’t negotiate some plan for that child’s care.  In that way he’d be limiting himself out of concern for his own flesh and blood (which is just a saying, I know, since men don’t actually SUPPLY flesh and blood to their children but since I’m in the habit of saying obvious things I’ll say that as well.)

     

    Speaking of obvious, I wasn’t pointing out that lesbians can’t have children — I was pointing out that heterosexuals can be as free from the risk of impregnation as homosexuals are if they, like homosexuals, limit themselves to oral, anal and manual sex.  It’s not the sexual orientation that makes babies, it’s the type of sex. 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • paul-bradford

    You know, colleen, I consider it a celebration of life to contemplate the fact that a pregnancy involves not just one, but two people.  In fact, the first thing I ever did in my life was to participate in a pregnancy.  It’s a fundamental aspect of my experience.  I can identify with, and care about, the people who themselves are ‘participating in a pregnancy’ because I’ve been there myself.

     

    Of course, if I believed, as you do, that only one person participates in a pregnancy, I would have no stomach for ‘finger waving’.  If a woman’s relationship to her unborn child were the same as her relationship to part of her own body, or to one of her possessions, my even having an opinion about a woman’s pregnancy choice would be unacceptably intrusive.

     

    But, as it happens, the unborn are people who would face much better odds of survival if we all cared more about them.  The main reason that these young children are at risk for dying in a procured abortion is the simple fact that so many of their fellow humans have the attitude that they needn’t be treated like actual people.  It’s the attitude of indifference that leads to violence and lethal neglect.  We can’t stop the violence unless we deal with the underlying cause, which is ageism.

     

    You know, colleen, I’ve never assumed that you are carrying an unborn child, so my reason for discussing these things with you is not to influence your pregnancy decisions.  I try to get into a dialogue with you because your attitude of indifference has an influence on other women’s pregnancy decisions.  If attitudes changed, behaviors would change.  If attitudes don’t change, it’s stupid to try and wag your finger at the mothers of the unborn. 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • paul-bradford

    There is no conflict of interests between woman and fetus – the unborn don’t have interests. It is the domain of the pregnant woman to decide whether that fetus becomes a born individual or not, until then it’s simply a part of her body which she can do as she wishes with.

     

    The only reason you are free to ‘butt out’ of other women’s pregnancy decisions is because you believe the things you just said.  It had better be true that the unborn have no interests, that they are simply a part of their mother’s body, because if you’re wrong about that, you’re wrong about the ‘moral and true’ part as well,

     

    It matters a great deal whether or not the very young are, in fact, simply a part of the mother’s body.  When you shift from one axiom to the other, you arrive at two very different conclusions about the proper way to respond to a woman’s pregnancy decisions.  But if you shift back and forth in your mind enough times you’ll begin to see how unfair it is for Pro-Lifers to call those on the ‘Choice’ side amoral, or "baby killers" and you’ll also see how unfair it is for Pro-Choice types to accuse Pro-Lifers of unjustified intrusiveness or of a lack of sensitivity to women.

     

    Is the fetus simply a part of a woman’s body?  If you answer that question correctly the path of correct behavior is obvious — and it is either/or.  For example, if the fetus is part of the woman’s body, either you butt out of her decision or you’re a menace to privacy and human decency.  There’s no ‘gray area’.  It’s simply, utterly, and absolutely the case that you have no business whatsoever in inserting yourself into her decision.  No two ways about it.

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • captiver

    Jumping back a few comments to Princess Rot’s comment about Paul’s “Fertility and virility can be a burden, or a tremendous power” (Princess Rot: Paul, having a body that functions correctly is not a ‘power’) touches on something I’ve been thinking about lately – and I’m with Mademoiselle Rot on this one. It sometimes feels a little creepy the way the fetus has become a kind of object of worship. It’s almost like it’s a tiny, weeny god, or at the very least, “man before the fall” or something. So of course how could women not be the ultimate devils in choosing to abort gods and creatures straight out of The Garden. Do any readers know of any good analyses of the whole fetus worship phenomenon? I’d love to read something. I know, I know, humans are soooooo terribly special, which is why other creatures’ sexual reproduction isn’t in the least bit miraculous or awe-inspiring. That makes women special too, right. Or (for some of us) evil for not treating it with the reverence it deserves. Sigh.

  • paul-bradford

    So of course how could women not be the ultimate devils in choosing to abort gods and creatures straight out of The Garden.

     

    Captiver,

     

    I don’t know anything about you — what should I know? 

     

    I think it’s an enormous mistake to ascribe the tragedy of abortion to the idea that women are the ‘ultimate devils’.  I also think you miss the mark when you conceive of fetuses as ‘gods’ or innocent creatures ‘straight out of The Garden’.  The problem with your analysis is that it’s far too simple.

     

    Where does this simplicity originate?  I wonder if you’re too focused on the idea that the mother has ‘free choice’ to decide whether or not to abort.  That makes it seem as if it’s all up to her, but there are other forces at work.  I’ve said this on a lot of other threads, but I truly believe that men’s neglect of fatherhood causes more abortions than women’s neglect of motherhood.

     

    There are other factors as well: poverty, lack of education, sexual abuse, lack of social services, lack of comprehensive family planning, lack of adequate health care.  To say that it’s all on the woman because of her ‘free choice’ is to imagine that women have a lot more power than they actually do. 

     

    Now, as to Princess Rot’s comment that ‘having a body that functions correctly is not a power’.  I suppose that’s all in how you view it.  The fact that there’s an easy-to-perform behavior that enables human beings to ignite new life seems pretty powerful to me; and the fact that so much harm can be done if that function is exercised in a distracted way leads me to think that it ought to be called a ‘power’.

     

    I personally don’t think of fetuses as an appropriate object of worship.  What comes to my mind isn’t godliness but incredible youth.  I’m middle aged now, but I was once a fetus, and the body I have now is the same body I had then.  That’s something I like to contemplate.  We change, but we stay the same.  I look a lot different, but I’m still me.

     

    I know, I know, humans are soooooo terribly special, which is why other creatures’ sexual reproduction isn’t in the least bit miraculous or awe-inspiring.

     

    Some people claim we’re species-centric.  They’ve got me in mind when they level that criticism.  I’m exceedingly partial to the homo sapiens. You can certainly argue that the natural world has its miraculous and awe-inspiring aspects — but I’m continually blown away by the things human beings do.  Even our capacity to appreciate the wonders of nature has been tremendously enhanced by scientific advancement on the part of humans.

     

    Treating life with reverence begins, I think, with treating other living people with respect — that means, for one thing, moving away from the good/evil dichotomy.  You’re not really respecting someone when you’re demonizing her/him. 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • emma

    That ignores a couple of things, though.
    Statements like ‘Just as a human embryo needs only a suitable environment to develop itself to a mature stage’ manages to dehumanise pregnant women, don’t you think? The argument basically suggests that a woman is nothing more than an ‘environment’ supplied for embryos to ‘develop themselves’. They don’t just develop, you know. There is an actual person whose body is being used by an embryo, whose bodily resources are being put under strain by this cosmically significant embryo. I know you guys have trouble with this concept, but women are like, you know, people, not just environments for the Precious, Adorable Foetuses.

     

    I’m also loving the part about foetuses ‘emerging’ from the womb. Dude. They don’t just ‘emerge’. Women give birth to them, remember? Labour is often protracted, painful, and can threaten women’s lives. Pregnancy and birth are processes women experience; it’s not just a matter of a foetus developing in a placental vacuum and then wandering out without any pain, suffering or effort by the person generous enough to allow another organism to hang out inside her body for forty weeks.

     

    I think we’re all aware that conception produces a cell with unique human DNA, and I don’t think anyone is unaware that the cell needs to be alive in order to reproduce itself. What isn’t self-evident to me, though, is why this is of such great cosmic significance. Why is it of more significance than the conception of a new feline cell? I’m not really sure how one can ascribe so much significance to a cell without some kind of religious perspective that god inserts a soul into a cell at concept, which is a silly, superstitious belief I reject.

     

    In other words, why, exactly, should I care?

     

    Also, line breaks would have made your post a lot more readable.

    • saltyc

      I had the same exact reaction, to this idea, that an implanted embryo will develop into a child without intervention. Hello? Pregnancy IS an extreme intervention, by the pregnant woman, who solely knows whether or not she is able to do it right. The woman’s personhood HAS to be erased in order to make pregnancy and childbirth seem like an apple falling off a tree. It is daily work and effort.

      You know, we need to say this again and again because the airtime is taken up by the ones who want to burden women with guilt in order to control, and their side is winning.

       

      Also, how can personhood start at conception, when an early embryo can split any number of times. Are identical twins the same person? Rubbish.

       

  • emma

    It may be (no, ahunt, I don’t have a crystal ball) that there are measures — measures that would not unduly constrain a woman’s everyday activities

    Such as? Any specific ideas? In this future world, will all women want every pregnancy? Will there be any legal coercion of any possible women who don’t want to be pregnant? Do you think there might be measures men will all want to take (or be required to take? You’ve never really specified how much legal coercion you think should be involved; you always dodge that question) in order to ensure their sperm are all genetically fit, reducing the chances of any conceptus they help produce being discarded?

    but who’s to say that in the future women won’t have the means to know that they have a baby on the way even before implantation (which is about the same time she would notice that she’s ‘missed her period’)? Instead of waiting two or more weeks to learn whether she had conceived, the woman of the future might be able to know — just hours after coitus — that she had become a mother.

    Yeah, perhaps someone could invent some kind of technology that would send a signal from conceptus to woman like ‘hi mummy!! I’m here! I’m a brand new cell with unique human DNA and I love you!’.

    Who would argue that such knowledge would limit a woman’s freedom? What woman wouldn’t want to know, as soon as possible, that there was a young life developing in her body? Ignorance doesn’t advantage anyone.

    Yeah, perhaps some technology could be invented – some kind of implant in the brain, maybe? – that would make all women want to continue all pregnancies. Something along the lines of the chip implanted in Spike’s head in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  • emma

    gabbyhayes, I think you just won the internets. I loved that post!

  • emma

    I’ve said this on a lot of other threads, but I truly believe that men’s neglect of fatherhood causes more abortions than women’s neglect of motherhood.

    I’m extremely uncomfortable with that statement. It suggests that women are awfully pliable, passive, subject to male influence and unable to make our own decisions. It sounds as if you’re assuming that, absent of external influences, all or most women would choose to continue all pregnancies. This would seem to imply that all women have some essential mother-woman nature, which is essentialist, sexist, and frankly, rubbish. We do actually have thoughts and emotions and opinions that aren’t contingent upon you or other men. It’s not all about you. Not all women want kids, be it at a particular time or at all. Even with a supportive partner, financial stability and all of that, there are going to be women who do. not. want. kids. Women who do not want to be pregnant.

     

    And please spare me all this stuff about xyz external factors make such women unable to see the value of zygotic life and their essential mother-self essence or some such, because I find it insulting. Biology isn’t destiny. Not all women want to be mothers. This is not a result of poor social conditioning or fundamentally flawed beliefs; it is just as natural as wanting to be a mother. Terminating a pregnancy is morally equal to continuing it.

     

    You’re choosing to deny the fact that it’s about women’s choices, but you’re incorrect. Pregnancy is an active endeavour. Continuing a pregnancy is just as active a decision as terminating it. As long as women get pregnant, women will be making choices about whether they want to be pregnant. This is unavoidable. As long as women’s bodies are required to sustain pregnancies, there are going to be women who choose not to do so. Your idea that at some point in the future, all women are going to believe zygotes are people and are going to choose to continue every pregnancy is a fantasy, and it’s a fantasy based on some creepy essentialist beliefs about women.

     

    I’m also uncomfortable with this stuff about your ‘participat[ing] in a pregnancy’. You may have supplied some sperm and helped your partner out during her pregnancy, but the bottom line is that it was her pregnancy, not yours. It was her body that sustained the pregnancy, not yours. I can’t quite figure out how to word this, but it feels like you’re trying to…appropriate the experience, I guess. You’re trying to make it much more about you than it actually is.

     

    I value my cat’s life over and above the life of a single-celled human organism. I do not see why a microscopic organism is of such huge cosmic significance just because it has human DNA. You say you’re exceedingly partial to humans and find them awe-inspiring, but that doesn’t really tell me why human life is of more value than non-human life. Honestly, I look at my cat sometimes and am just amazed at her – she’s survived life-threatening illness and a massive knee injury, but she’s lived and adapted and it’s quite incredible, really. Of course she’s not the only being or event or thing I find awe-inspiring. Sometimes I find humans awe-inspiring, too, but I’m not sure how that translates into obsessing over human zygotes because of their DNA.

     

    I really do feel there’s a degree of foetus-worship going on with the anti-abortion people; this sense of foetuses as demi-gods. Foetolatry, if you like. A disturbing loss of perspective, at the very least. I would prefer not to partake in that.

     

     

  • captiver

    It’s not so much my analysis, Paul, re women being cast as devils/evil for having abortions (for killing the demi-god fetus), it is what we are accused of being. One thing you might know about me, since you ask, is that I was screamed and abused and yelled at on my way into a clinic some 20 years ago. I suppose it does color one’s perspective ever so slightly of the people wanting to help fetuses. Re the fetus worship, I’m just observing this, and wondering about it. I haven’t really engaged in any serious analysis of the language, philosophy etc. behind this aspect of the anti-abortion movement, which is why I asked if anyone knew of any good analyses. I appreciate, by the way, the measured and respectful posts you write. As Emma writes, one frequently has a sense of the fetus as being seen as some kind of demi-god. I noticed this just the other day when reading about a campaign by a right to life group to have, as part of mandatory counseling, women be told that when they have an abortion the procedure (and I quote) “Will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” This particular group has made much of the separateness of the fetus from the woman, and I think that plays into what I see as this “demi-god” (to again use Emma’s terminology) aspect. Of course I’m not saying it’s the whole story, I don’t think any of the commenters who see there’s something like this going on think it’s the whole story. And, Paul, I know very well it’s complicated. Though I actually don’t think it should be, because I do focus (“too much” you suggest) on it being a woman’s choice.
    Also, like Emma, I’m pretty uncomfortable with the statement about abortion not being all about women’s “neglect of motherhood”. Well, I guess I rather like Emma’s entire post, so no need to restate it, probably badly.

  • ahunt

    Well Paul, we appear to agree that sexually active women have no moral obligation to live their lives as if they are perpetually pregnant. Works for me.

  • princess-rot

    Furthermore, I think
    men should be liable to compensate the women they impregnate against
    their will.  It seems to me that that risk would compel men to abide by
    some ‘limitations’.

    To not put too fine a point on it: are you high? I’m not in favor of (effectively) taxing people for having sex. Are you trying to say that if men were charged for impregnating women and it couldn’t be explicitly proven that pregnancy was planned (which brings a whole ‘nother level of prying into it), it would be fine to impose as-yet-unspecified limitations on women also, just on the vague possibility a few more babies might be born? Is this really about babies, or is it about control? I’m betting its the latter. What I meant by you being "free from limitations" is your societal privilege of being male. I do not propose to remedy this by sticking a financial obligation on sexually-active men, just as I am not in favor of imposing limits on women for "the unborn". Would I prefer it if men took their half of responsibility for birth control, helped to eliminate rape culture and patriarchy (giving up male privilege in the process), had decent, pro-woman sex ed and shunned misogynist porn? Yes.This is why I’m not in favor of "balancing out" gender inequality by making things suck for both sexes. Financially penalising men for fucking – and how the hell would that be enforced? How would cases be proved? – does nothing to ease the burden on women. Even if it did in some marginal way, it would still be wrong.

    I was pointing out that heterosexuals can be as free from the risk of
    impregnation as homosexuals are if they, like homosexuals, limit
    themselves to oral, anal and manual sex.  It’s not the sexual
    orientation that makes babies, it’s the type of sex. 

    A common thing I’d hear from fundie relatives growing up was: "Damn gays, they wouldn’t be AIDS if they stopped having buttsex!" 

    Is the new meme: "Damn hets, there wouldn’t be any abortions if they’d have more buttsex!" rotflol