Thursday, July 08, 2004

Abortion and Nuance Continued
As usual, someone has said it better than I could: / News / Politics / Presidential candidates / It's time to quiz Kerry: "So, Kerry's conscience is not at odds with church teaching, just with his voting record? By any measure, that is an odd definition of conscience. Forget church teaching for a moment. Conscience is a moral concept, as well as a religious one, after all. If you believe that life begins at conception, doesn't your conscience compel you to vote in concert with that belief? Just as, if your conscience tells you capital punishment is state-sanctioned murder, you would vote against the death penalty? Or if you believe that gay marriage is a fundamental civil right, you would vote against a constitutional amendment to ban it?
I, and I suspect many others who support legal abortion, had mistakenly assumed that, on this very personal issue, Kerry's conscience was at odds with the teaching of his church. His consistent record in favor of abortion rights, family planning, and reproductive freedom was, I thought, a courageous reflection of an independent mind."

'Nough said, at least for now.


Anonymous said...

OK, we're playing the logic game again. This time the propositions are:
1. Kerry believes LIFE begins at conception
2. Kerry votes to allow woman W to have an abortion

And it the argument is that this is inconsistent by analogy to the voting on the death penalty:
4. X votes to not allow the STATE to have CAPITAL-PUNISHMENT

and on gay marriage:
5. X believes HOMOSEXUALS can have a MARRIAGE
6. X votes to allow HOMOSEXUALS to have a MARRIAGE

Let us grant that the death-penalty and gay-marriage scenarios are consistent. We're still left with the problem of showing that they contradict the abortion scenario.

The death penalty alignment depends on the assertion "abortion is MURDER", which we established in the previous thread does not necessarily follow from the belief that life begins at conception.

The gay marriage alignment, on the other hand, actually demonstrated the consistency of the abortion scenario. In both cases, the vote grants a RIGHT to an action, based on what another person may LEGITIMATELY believe. Again, one's own beliefs are irrelevant as long as one believes that it is possible for a person to LEGITIMATELY hold beliefs leading to abortion or gay marriage.

If you'd like, I can expand these sketches into more exhaustive proofs.


Tanstaafl said...

I've been thinking about my comments from yesterday.

While you can split hairs on distinctions between life and personhood, and when a fetus/baby is entitled to protection from harm, I don't think that Kerry was doing that. He wasn't engaging in a philosophical debate about the beginning of life or its associated rights. He was trying to have it both ways. He was appeasing the pro-choic people on his left flank, while trying not to lose liberal Catholics. Obviously this is not unusual amongst politicians, and I think that calling him a hypocrite would be a bit silly. I think it does show that for him, this is more of an intellectual exercise than a moral or faith based one, but judging by the debate that raged below, it is for several of us too.

Which brings me to my next point. Jake, it doesn't matter what kind of logical proof you come up with, because that will always rely on some fundamental assumptions, and those assumptions are different for different people. The primary underlying issue is what constitutes murder. I think Brian's right that opposing murder through legislative means is laudable. If you believe abortion is murder, no matter what motivates that beliefthen by all means, try to outlaw it. However, to call Kerry out for not doing so misses a big point. Kerry didn't say that abortion is murder, he said that life begins at conception. As several commenters showed below, the termination of a life is not necessarily murder.

Brian, while you may believe that any termination of human life is a murder, Kerry doesn't necessarily. You may not like his view on this, and feel free to let that influence your vote, but again, I trying to paint him as a hypocrite or heretic goes a bit too far. It smacks of someone who's looking for any reason to criticize Sen. Kerry.

So, how about we focus all of our debating efforts on issues where we can produce constructive debate. Rarely will anyone change their mind on abortion, so most of this writing over the last two days is wasted effort.

RFTR said...

James, you were doing so well until that last sentence. Proper grammar would be "rarely will anyone change his mind," not "their mind."

And yes, that's my way of dismissing an argument I can't contradict legitimately.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I prefer not to use logic as a basis for policy or belief, for the exact reasons that you point out, James. However, if Brian wants to claim that something is logically contradictory, he'd best be prepared to defend that statement. If he can't, he'll hopefully acknowledge that fact.

Most good public policy is generated as a result of win-win compromise between the positions of people who hold wildly different views and different assumptions. In order to get a compromise like that, you have to credit the other person's views with legitimacy.

That's a difficult balancing act when a person feels passionately about something, and even worse when you're trying to find the balance in a hard question like abortion, where much of society has settled on an uncomfortable range of compromises, and a small but extremely vocal faction is uncompromisingly absolutist in their positions.

It is important for people cleaving to those absolutist positions to recognize the position that they are, in fact taking. A standard example in the question of abortion is what to do when the mother's life is significantly endangered by the pregnancy: where do you draw the line, and who should be the person to make that decision? If a person holds an absolutist position that all abortion is murder, and must therefor be outlawed, then that person needs to recognize that in fact they are appropriating the right to make that decision.

I don't know whether you do, in fact, hold this position or not Brian, and I'd be interested to hear more about how you approach this issue, in general. It's rare for me to encounter a pro-life person whose position isn't basically, "The mother's opinion doesn't matter because she's going to Hell if she has an abortion," and I'm interested in how you've come to hold your beliefs.