Is Abortion Justified by an Inalienable Right to Sex?

I wrote an article two weeks ago describing the first part of my conversation with a student I’m calling “Brent.” If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to check that out first. It has the first half of this story as well as four practical dialogue tips I think you’ll find helpful in your conversations.

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Trigger warning: This is a story of me grappling with the view Brent had that abortion is necessary so that people can have sex without consequences. I challenged Brent to change his view with a thought experiment. I had to push Brent pretty hard though, and the thought experiment became pretty grim. If you’re sensitive to dark thought experiments involving born babies being killed, this may not be the article for you.

I had a suspicion that there was a part of Brent’s view that we hadn’t talked about yet, so I took a chance and asked him:

Tim: I have a guess about something that’s going on in the background for you. Do you think people have a fundamental right to have sex?

Brent: Yeah I do. It’s like, one of the most important things in life.

Tim: That’s really interesting. I think if the right to have sex is inalienable and if limiting that right is immoral, then you’re right, abortion does needs to be legal. Birth control fails sometimes, and sometimes people don’t want to have kids. In order to protect an inalienable right to sex, legal abortion is necessary.

Brent: Yes, exactly. And it’s especially necessary for women to have equality. Men can have sex without being forced to take care of children, they can skip out, but women need abortion to be equal.

Tim: Yeah, I think this is an important point, and I think it’s one of the reasons people want so strongly for abortion to be available. The way pregnancy works, it doesn’t create symmetrical responsibilities for men and women. You can curse God if you want, maybe it isn’t fair, but you’re right, it’s not symmetrical. This is one of the reasons I’m strongly in favor of harsher punishments for men that don’t pay child support. Given this asymmetry, a just society should compensate by protecting women from being taken advantage of. It’s similar to how a just society should respond to the fact that men are generally physically stronger than women by working as hard as it can to stop men from assaulting them, sexually or otherwise.

Brent: Yeah, that makes sense.

Tim: I don’t think the right to have sex is the kind of fundamental right that justifies killing children though. Sex is important, but the right of one person to live has to be above the right of another person to have sex.

Brent: I disagree. Stopping people from having sex is like slavery. It shuts down their ability to live life in a human way.

Tim: I’m a bit confused, help me understand your view better. What if two guys both wanted to have sex with the same girl, and she was open to having sex with either of them but not both of them. Do they each have the right to kill the other? It would seem weird if they did, because the same thing that would justify killing the other (the right of the guy to have sex) would also make it wrong to kill the other (restricting someone’s right to have sex, which you can’t do if you’re dead).

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Brent: That’s tough. I guess they don’t have the right to kill each other because that would restrict each other’s opportunities. It’s more important to not restrict someone else’s ability to have sex than to enable your own ability to have sex.

Tim: If that’s true, I think I could argue that killing the fetus is preventing him from ever having sex when he grows up, but I think there’s a bigger problem with your view. Let’s go back to the example of John Paul we used earlier. He wants to go out, party, and hook up with girls, but he can’t because he has to watch his kid. The kid is totally limiting his ability to have sex. Does he have the right to kill his kid so he can have sex whenever he wants to?

Brent: No, he doesn’t have to kill the kid. He should just put it up for adoption.

Tim: Well pregnant women can’t immediately put their kid up for adoption, so let’s adjust the story to reflect that. Let’s say the adoption agency tells him he’ll have to wait nine months. Should he go nine months with limited sexual opportunities, or can he kill the kid?

Brent: That’s a hard one. I guess he can’t kill the kid. But he’s a guy, and abortion is necessary for women’s equality.

Tim: Okay, let’s try another one. Suppose a woman gave birth to a child at the hospital. Her dirtbag boyfriend is out of the picture. The kid is gross-looking, she doesn’t want to take care of him, and she knows if she has to take care of him, he will dramatically limit her opportunities, including her opportunities to have sex. Let’s suppose the hospital has a shredder installed for just this purpose, kind of like what they use for Christmas trees. Can she dump the born baby into the shredder?

Brent: Well, that doesn’t seem necessary. She can just leave it at the hospital and walk away.

Tim: Again, that isn’t an option in pregnancy, so let’s change the story again to reflect that. What if she couldn’t just leave the kid at the hospital? Let’s suppose the government has cracked down on child-abandonment. They’ll let you put a kid in the shredder but not abandon him. If she takes care of the kid for nine months, the adoption agency can take over. Should she take care of the kid for nine months, or can she put the kid in the shredder?

Brent: I guess in that case she can put him in the shredder.

This is the picture Tim pointed to in our brochure. It's an image from iStockPhoto.

This is the picture Tim pointed to in our brochure. It’s an image from iStockPhoto.

Tim: But. It’s. A. Baby. She can put a baby that looks like this [pointing to a picture of a newborn in the ERI brochure] into a SHREDDER??

Brent: I don’t like it either, but I don’t want to say she has to take care of the kid. It seems unfair to her. It’s like a no-win scenario.

Tim: I’m sympathetic to that. Either we put a kid in a shredder, which is pretty bad, or we require a woman to take care of a baby for nine months. Unfortunately, we’re kind of stuck. Which one of those options is worse? Is it really better to put this baby [pointing again to the newborn picture] into a shredder than to limit her options for nine months?

Brent: I guess not. But I think the difference is that you think the embryo is a child, and I don’t see it that way.

Tim: Now we’re getting somewhere! [Then I made my case that the unborn is human, and the conversation became more standard.]

There is a profound cultural gap between pro-life and pro-choice people. The way pro-life people tend to think about abortion is very focused on the unborn, so we hear pro-choice arguments through the lens of thinking about the unborn. In some ways this is good because some pro-choice arguments aren’t appropriately considering the unborn. But in other ways this can be extremely harmful to our conversations because sometimes it causes us to misunderstand what pro-choice people mean. It’s like we’re speaking different languages without knowing it. They say A but we hear B; or we say X but they hear Y. Even pro-life advocates that are trying hard to listen well can still completely misunderstand the other person if they don’t understand that person’s culture.

Obviously, Brent’s way of thinking about sex differed significantly from mine. It should be obvious that we shouldn’t legalize killing in order to enable people to have more sex, at least when you put it like that. But Brent hadn’t put all the pieces together. He knew he didn’t want anyone to be prevented from having sex, and abortion was necessary to protect that, but he had to rethink his view once the logic was clearly stated. This is one of the reasons I ask so many clarification questions in my conversations. I want to shine a spotlight on the pro-choice person’s view, partially so I can understand it better, but also so they can understand their own view and all the implications that come with it.

beyondBrent also brought up the subject of women’s equality. He was very frustrated with how women have been mistreated in the past, which made him even more squeamish about limiting their opportunities. Fortunately, Dr. Charles Camosy recently helped me understand this part of pro-choice culture significantly better with his chapter on abortion and women in his book Beyond the Abortion Wars. While Charles and I have some philosophical disagreements, I think he gets pro-choice culture better than almost any other pro-lifer, and this chapter of his book should be required reading for any pro-life advocate.

His chapter starts off with this statement:

Men have been deciding what happens to women’s bodies for most of human history. Any man who is thinking and writing about abortion should always keep this fact squarely in the front of his mind.

When I first read that sentence, I viscerally reacted to it because I have heard that kind of statement used so often to justify abortion. If you’re like me, and you’re already feeling defensive or frustrated, I’d like to remind you that Charles is pro-life. He isn’t justifying abortion. He’s trying to help us understand the context of arguments about abortion, and he happens to be right! Men have been deciding what happens to women’s bodies for most of human history. That fact doesn’t justify women killing their children, but it is a fact, and that fact is a huge part of the context for pro-choice views. They are understandably and justifiably concerned about any legislation that restricts what women can do with their bodies, especially if men were at all involved in writing and/or passing the legislation. In the case of abortion, we should restrict women from killing babies inside their bodies, but most attempts throughout history to restrict what women can do with their bodies have been incredibly unjust.

Please hear me. Learn what this historical context means to the pro-choice person you’re talking to, and react appropriately. If you are unwilling to acknowledge that women have been mistreated, then you are just being stubborn and uncompassionate to women. You can care about women and care about the unborn. You can acknowledge that men have been deciding what happens to women’s bodies for most of human history without giving up on protecting the unborn.

Pro-life advocates need not fear this conversation, but we need to approach it compassionately. The fact that women have been treated unjustly in the past is no justification for allowing them (or anyone) to destroy children.

Question: In what ways do people’s beliefs about sex inform their beliefs about abortion? How should pro-life people respond to this worldview difference? Share your thoughts below!

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The post “Is Abortion Justified by an Inalienable Right to Sex?” originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”

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Director of Training

Timothy Brahm is the Director of Training at Equal Rights Institute. He is interested in helping pro-life and pro-choice people to have better dialogues about abortion through 1) taking care to understand what the other person means, 2) using more carefully-constructed arguments, and 3) treating each other with care and respect. He graduated from Biola University with a B.A. in philosophy and is a perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute.

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  • Catholic Mouse

    Well done, Tim!

  • Christina

    In talking with pro-choice people, I’ve also found a lot of them have an “inalienable right to sex” assumption. I’ve heard it phrased, “even when a woman is being responsible and using birth control, and she gets pregnant, you’re STILL going to force her to continue her pregnancy?” (Abortion is considered the right to back-up birth control.) How would you answer something like that?

    • Here’s how I’ve answered that. I came up with a modification to the “baby-making machine” thought experiment that I think Scott Klusendorf came up with. The context is talking about responsibility as a key difference between the way pregnancy usually happens and Thomson’s violinist thought experiment for bodily autonomy arguments.

      In the original story there’s a baby-making machine with a big button that when pushed, gives you a very pleasurable experience, but occasionally a baby comes out a chute at the bottom, that arguably you now have to take care of because you engaged in the act that you knew might result in the creation of an inherently needy child that you now owe compensation to. (More on this in the speech audio at http://JoshBrahm.com/dfg)

      When someone brings up the idea of someone using birth control, they’re usually trying to argue that the person isn’t responsible to the baby now because they tried to not get pregnant. But imagine if the baby-making machine had a bunch of buttons on it, correlating to different types of birth control and how effective they are? So you could have a “pull-out” button that barely reduces the pleasure, but doesn’t reduce the likelihood of pregnancy very much, as opposed to a “condom” button which reduces the pleasure the most, but only leaves a 1% chance of getting pregnant, and everything in between. It seems clear that even if you push a button that reduces pleasure with the objective of minimizing the risk of a baby being make, IF the baby still comes out, you’re still on the hook. You still engaged in an act that you knew might result in the creation of an inherently needy baby, and are thus still responsible for either caring for it or transferring that care to somebody else. Clearly you can’t walk away, indirectly killing it, or bashing its brains in, directly killing it.

      • Christina

        That helps a lot. I’ve heard of the baby-making machine but the extra buttons help clarify responsibility more. Sometimes it’s just difficult to answer because the statement has a rhetorical force (“forcing pregnancy”) that’s hard to argue with in person.

      • Crystal

        With all due respect, and without wanting or meaning to attack you personally or make you feel terrible for your answer, I disagree entirely with your comment because responsibility to accept the potential consequences of sex is not why we are against abortion at all.

        This woman says it best:

        “My Least Favorite Argument Against Abortion That We All Need to Stop Using Immediately:

        “Consent to sex is consent to pregnancy!”

        No. Stop. That is NOT why we are against abortion. We are against abortion because it kills an innocent human life. That’s it. That’s our problem. It’s not about women taking “responsibility” it’s not about what she should or should not have done with her legs. Abortion is wrong because abortion kills.

        The argument above assumes that the mother had consensual sex, and that therefore she just needs to deal with the consequences.

        Not every pregnancy is the result of consensual sex.

        Preborn children are children, not consequences.

        We are here to protect children, not to shame women.

        So stop talking about what the woman “should have done” or “should have thought about”.

        Start talking about the humanity of the preborn and compassion for the woman in crisis.”

        http://prolifeproliberty.tumblr.com/post/127875521047/my-least-favorite-argument-against-abortion-that

        I feel I owe you an apology of sorts, for butting into an inquiry that someone else found helpful, sounding a little harsh, and popping off at you, but I needed to say it, and if you ask me why I object so strongly to “responsibility” I’ll be happy to expound further. I’d also appreciate an explanation of why you seem to perceive responsibility differently from me, if you would humour me please.

        Thanks for letting me comment; I understand it as a great privilege and I hope I am keeping the rules very well.

        • You say: No. Stop. That is NOT why we are against abortion. We are against abortion because it kills an innocent human life.

          A part of the reason women should carry it to term is because they have a special responsibility because of their part in creating that uniquely dependent situation.

          Responsibility and parental obligation has a lot to say about this. You have a responsibility not to kill someone (especially your own child) to erase your obligation to compensate them for a uniquely dependent situation you put them.

          So I’m sorry but no. I won’t pretend that responsibility magically disappears because hard cases like rape exists. That would be irrational and disingenuous.

          • Agnete Winther

            Pregnancy can only natually occur if two people have sex. Since no type of contraception is 100% safe it follows that if you have sex no matter how well you protect yourself there is a chance a child will come into existence as a result of that action. Now, this is just a nutral fact. It is not an attempt to shame anyone. The mother and the father are equally responsible for the existence of this new life, however the mother is the only one with the legal option to kill the child, plus she is the one (sadly) who often stands with the decision alone because she is carrying it inside her – that is why the argument focuses on women. It has nothing to do with discrimination based on gender.

            Are you familiar with the violinist thought experiment? You say repeatedly that you think abortion is wrong because we have the same responsibility toward our unborn children as to anyone else – to not kill them because of their human nature (am I understanding you correctly?) Well in the violinist analogy Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that we do not have unlimited responsibility towards all human beings. The point of the analogy is to show that you do have the right to deny another human being to use your body even if it means they will die. If someone is somehow hooked up to you and depend on your body to survive it is your right to withdraw that “life support” and it is not your fault if they can’t survive without it.
            The “responsibility” argument replies to this claim by saying: What if the only reason this person exists and depends on you for survival is because you engaged in an action that sometimes creates needy, dependent human beings? Wouldn’t that give you a responsibility to at least let that person use your body until it can survive on its own?

            You are probably right, that many women are not aware that birth control is not 100% safe. Some of them get pregnant even though they thought it wasn’t possible. So what if we alter the babymaking-machine thought experiment a bit. Maybe it didn’t say on the “condom button” that it was only 99 % safe. Maybe it was written in tiny letters somewhere you wouldn’t notice. So this person pushes the button unaware that he/she is risking anything. A baby pops out. Do you think the person is less responsible than if he/she had known of the risk in advance?
            Suppose you went out to play baseball with your friends. You don’t want any accidents so you find a remote place where it is safe to play. However, at one point the ball goes beyond a row of trees and through a window of a house that was hidden behind them. Don’t you think you should pay for the damage? Even if you didn’t know the house was there?

            To which degree are we responsible for the lives of others? Are there limits to that resonsibility and what are they? How far are we required to go to keep someone alive and what factors are relevant to this responsibility?
            That is the kinds of questions the violinist-argument and the responsibility-argument tries to answer. It’s a perfectly valid filosofical discussion and has nothing to do with punishment of “sinful women”.

            • I don’t think this was meant as a response to me.

              • Agnete Winther

                It wasn’t. Sorry about that. It was a response to Crystal.

            • I’m well aware of these arguments. I never said it was to punish sinful women. I don’t even believe in sin.

          • Alex

            obligation to compensate them

            —————————————————
            This is an absurd argument.For what loss should the woman compensate the fetus?THe fetus never had its own life ,never had its own body ,so how can the fetus be compensated for something that it never had?And putting someone in a dependent situation does generate an obligation to provide help only if this situation is worse than before.Let s suppose that this situation would be better in comparison with the previous state.I do not think that in this situation you would have an obligation to help me.

            • The woman is responsible for the type of need, the dependency on her and her alone, that she caused in virtue of her voluntary sex act. It is plausible to consider that if you cause someone to be in this unique dependent situation then you owe them that need.

              You’ve given no reason to suppose otherwise. You just assert it as the case.

              I’ll wait until you give proper justification for your claims. You’ll probably trot out McMahan’s or Kamm’s claims. I’ll wait until you do that to answer the objections in more detail because as it stands now you are simply asserting.

              • martin

                It is plausible to consider that if you cause someone to be in this unique dependent situation then you owe them that need

                ———————————————————————————
                Only if this situation is worse than the previous state.

                • You haven’t argued for this. What reason to I have to consider the previous state as opposed to the consequence of not providing that need? If I don’t provide the need then the fetus will die. If I, by virtue of my voluntary act, caused this uniquely dependent situation and if I don’t provide the need then it will die then it seems plausible to me that we owe that compensation. I don’t see why previous state matters and the consequence of neglecting that need does not.

                  • martin

                    Well,the fetus will die ,but its short existence is not worse off than never existing ,especially if its death is not painful and the fetus is not conscious .

                    • I can’t go anywhere with mere assertion.

                    • martin

                      And you did not come with assertion?Did you make a demonstration of your argument?

            • “The fetus never had its own life, never had its own body.”

              Both of those statements are demonstrably false.

              • Crystal

                Can you prove how to this guy?

                I mean, I shake my head at the inconsistency because when I see a picture of an unborn person I just can see it’s human (especially in the later stages; this is less recognisable earlier on in the pregnancy). Or am I thinking from a different wavelength here?

        • I don’t think the author you’re quoting fully understands the responsibility objection, at least not the way I make it, or the way I’ve seen other philosophers make it. It seems like the version in her head is like a slut-shaming argument. “Since she didn’t keep her legs closed, she should have to deal with the consequences.”

          Obviously my primary reason for being opposed to abortion is because it kills a valuable person, and we talk about that all the time. It’s the subject I speak publicly on the most.

          What Thomson does is accept the premise (for argument’s sake) that the unborn child is a person, and argues that women can have abortions anyway because they shouldn’t be forced to be hooked up to people, like the violinist.

          This is where the responsibility objection comes in. It’s specifically to respond to Thomson’s argument that places the question of personhood to the side. The most significant difference between the violinist analogy and pregnancy is how the situation came to be. Pregnancy when not as a result of rape is because of consensual sex, which isn’t analogous to being kidnapped and hooked up to a stranger via your kidney. I think the baby-making machine analogy is a helpful way of understanding why responsibility matters. Unless Thomson is only talking about pregnancies as a result of rape (where responsibility has nothing to do with it) I would argue that her argument fails to justify the vast majority of abortions.

          Does that help?

          • Crystal

            Thank you for your response. I understand where you are coming from and I do find your explanation helpful in the sense that you explained your beliefs on the question fairly well. Also, if someone would be more likely to believe in prolife because of what you said then you would have fairly adequately defended your position. I realise you personally do not intend to use the responsibility argument to sl*t-shame. What you are saying is that if you have put someone in a tight spot (created or otherwise) you have a responsibility to help them and not kill them, do you not? I can understand that, in fact I agree. But I think the way it is argued can be hurtful rather than helpful to us, for so many reasons; among them being that the woman seems to be blamed horribly for having sex while being female.

            Let’s go through what you have said so I try not to misunderstand here:

            “This is where the responsibility objection comes in. It’s specifically to respond to Thomson’s argument that places the question of personhood to the side. The most significant difference between the violinist analogy and pregnancy is how the situation came to be. Pregnancy when not as a result of rape is because of consensual sex, which isn’t
            analogous to being kidnapped and hooked up to a stranger via your kidney. I think the baby-making machine analogy is a helpful way of understanding why responsibility matters. Unless Thomson is only talking about pregnancies as a result of rape (where responsibility has nothing to do with it) I would argue that her argument fails to justify the vast majority of abortions.”

            You are using *responsibility* as a response to Thomson’s violinist because of how the situation came to be, aren’t you? Because we have a moral obligation to help our offspring due to our creating them and their needing to survive through our help, would that be correct? BTW, I think it’s a very interesting and creative analogy although I find it a little problematic. I believe her argument fails to justify the vast majority of abortions anyways, because you *can* get more than one donor for a kidney, but an unborn person has only *one* shot at living, and that’s inside *you*. Don’t people have a natural obligation to help their offspring anyway?

            I agree completely that people do have a moral obligation to help their offspring and not kill them just because they happen to be in the way. I also believe that if someone is weaker and more vulnerable than you that *increases* your moral duty to help them. But when we say something like “You put them in that situation so you’re obligated to help them”, well, if that’s the case, wouldn’t it have been in *ignorance*? Most women do *not* intend to get pregnant. I agree if you create someone and they are dependent on you to live that you have a moral duty *not* to kill them but I do not think that moral duty arises out of “consequences” but rather out of “the humanity of the unborn person.”

            I think we need to phrase these things differently. While I agree that we should not take another person’s life because they are human and our offspring, I don’t think we should not refrain from taking life because it is our “responsibility” to accept punishment for female sex.

            I tend to say it like this: “I’d say it’s more the obligation to help your offspring live the same way you’d help any other person – by not killing them and making every effort possible to help them live.” Because you feel the moral burden of taking another person’s life, that’s why, and we would agree on that. Where we disagree is that I believe it’s got nothing to do with cause and consent. Also, I need to remind you that consent to sex is *not* consent to pregnancy, either.

            I hope you don’t mind if I explain why I dislike responsibility, from my own POV:

            I said:

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/secularprolifeblog/secular_pro_life_perspectives_why_focusing_on_the_unborn_child_is_so_crucial/#comment-2264645097

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/secularprolifeblog/secular_pro_life_perspectives_dear_bill_nye_wheres_the_science_guy/#comment-2280750656

            I studied feminist theory for a while – a long while. That’s one reason why I see “responsibility” different from most.

            “Briefly stated, I think that we do have a responsibility to help all human beings to live and enjoy life, including and perhaps especially our offspring, because they belong to the human race. Creation of offspring might have something to do with it but I’m not totally certain of that. I’d say it’s more the obligation to help your offspring live the same way you’d help any other person – by not killing them and making every
            effort possible to help them live. What I don’t believe
            is that pregnancy is an obligatory consequence of sex because that kind of talk is devaluing to the unborn and women. When dealing with rape, I’d deal with it similar to the way any other prolifer should, though, but sometimes fails to do – “the humanity of the unborn person and compassion for the woman in crisis” (supporting position quoted).”

            blog.equalrightsinstitute.com/my-pro-life-journey-began-in-front-of-this-abortion-facility/#comment-2328781170

            Another reason I object to responsibility is this: are the unborn consequences of our actions or human beings like us? I mean, if they’re consequences of our actions, isn’t that dehumanising? How would you like to be told, “You are a consequence of your mother’s actions because she was sinful enough to be intimate with an unmarried man?” I imagine that would really *hurt*. If the unborn are consequences for sex, then abortion is potentially permissible, because women can “take responsibility for their actions” by having an abortion, can’t they? I thought unborn persons were blessings of God regardless of how they arrived here. Why do we mention “consequences” when a woman has had sex outside of marriage? What about male consequences? They never have potential prices, and even if they do, nothing can equate to pregnancy (not that pregnancy is necessarily a negative thing, mind you). Also, every single pregnancy can potentially threaten a woman’s life. So talking about “consequences” seems just a bit too heartless to me.

            You said:

            “I don’t think the author you’re quoting fully understands the responsibility objection, at least not the way I make it, or the way I’ve seen other philosophers make it. It seems like the version in her head is a slut-shaming argument. “Since she didn’t keep her legs closed, she should have to deal with the consequences.”

            Actually, that’s where responsibility philosophy can lead people to argue. I believe this is because many in the prolife movement are Christian and consider sex outside of marriage to be sinful and possibly worthy of punishment. I do not.

            Take this heartbreaking example, written by a woman I respect deeply and who has influenced me so strongly in so many ways:

            “At that point, I did what any good pro-life woman would: I called the local Crisis Pregnancy Center. When I tried to explain my situation—that I was afraid of my fiancé, that I didn’t know what to do because my Christian college would expel me if they found out I was pregnant, that I didn’t know how my parents would react—the woman on the other end of the phone told me that “this is the natural consequence for not keeping yourself pure.”

            I hung up and called Planned Parenthood, the reproductive health clinic I’d picketed just a few months before. They comforted me, soothed me, directed me to websites that had all the information I needed to make any decision, abortion or not. I read it all, every single shred of it, and I realized that the pro-life movement had lied to me about a lot of things.”

            http://www.xojane.com/issues/pro-life-activist-to-pro-choice-christian

            You seriously have to read the whole story. It hurt inside just reading that. It’s because of people like that worker assuming she should “take responsibility” and because she was raped that she is an advocate for legal abortion today. Before that, she was a fighter for the unborn.

            Also, rape is way more common than we’d like to admit.

            “The majority of sexual assault are not reported to the police (an average of 68% of assaults in the last five years were not reported).1 Those rapists, of course, will never spend a day in prison. But even when the crime is reported, it is unlike to lead to an arrest and prosecution. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 2% of rapists will ever serve a day in prison.”

            https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates

            https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

            I believe we have to be very careful when discussing this, for the reasons above. I realise the argument is not used in rape cases but for all you know, the woman you are speaking to *might* have been raped.

            Even if it was the case that the woman consented, is having sex whilst in possession of a uteri sinful somehow? I mean, are married women sl*ts now? Because that is where “taking responsibility for consequences” can lead someone.

            Many advocates for legal abortion object to “responsibility” for these very reasons and possibly more.

            I hope that I am showing you respect as I disagree with you, and actually listening to what you are saying rather than just waiting to talk.

          • The author quotes “Consent to sex is consent to pregnancy!” and then says, “That is NOT why we are against abortion.”

            I think she means “The reason that we are against abortion is not that we think consent to sex is consent to pregnancy. Our reason is not that we think the woman has responsibility, or that we think the woman is a slut and ‘should have to deal with the consequences.’ We DO in fact probably think the woman has responsibility, but that is not our reason.”

            Since neither belief in responsibility nor belief in slut-consequences is “our reason” for opposing abortion, and since what Crystal liked was “our real reason” and the rejection of any other reason (whether the other reason is “responsibility” or “slut”), then even if the author does strawman the responsibility argument as a slut argument, that does not detract from Crystal’s point.

            It seems to me that Crystal, on her own terms, had a valid objection to the comment of yours she was replying to: You were addressing responsibility or lack of same as an important factor in opposing abortion, and she (and the author) were responding, “It doesn’t matter if the woman lacks responsibility. She absolutely shouldn’t kill her baby, so we shouldn’t even talk about responsibility.”

            • Crystal

              Thank you for attempting to understand my position. It means a lot to me that you would do that. I’d have to read through your comment again and point out anything else you got wrong other than the point below but it was a fair go, mate.

              “You were addressing responsibility or lack of same as an important
              factor in opposing abortion, and she (and the author) were responding,
              “It doesn’t matter if the woman lacks responsibility. She absolutely
              shouldn’t kill her baby, so we shouldn’t even talk about
              responsibility.”

              Perhaps on the author’s part but not on mine. People do have the responsibility *not* to take another person’s life and to look after them if they are dependent on them for survival but that’s about it. They don’t have the responsibility to accept punishment for having sex while female.

              And no, I don’t believe the author was strawmanning anything. She (and I) have seen people say that pregnancy is a punishment for women being naughty with their naughty bits way too many times. I’m getting really tired of having my sexuality talked about like that (not that you, Josh, or Tim were trying to do that, though).

              • Let’s distinguish between two kinds of responsibility.

                You think a pregnant woman’s responsibility not to take a life is important. But in the comment of yours that I was trying to interpret, weren’t you saying that her responsibility for having gotten pregnant, or lack of same, does not change the degree of her responsibility not to take a life?

                If you were not saying that, what did you mean by “responsibility to accept the potential consequences of sex is not why we are against abortion at all” and “why I object so strongly to ‘responsibility'”?

                You also said, “I’ll be happy to expound further.” I guess now I’m the one asking you to expound further.

                • Crystal

                  “But in the comment of yours that I was trying to interpret, weren’t you saying that her responsibility for having gotten pregnant, or lack of same, does not change the degree of her responsibility not to take a life?”

                  That would be correct.

                  • When I said, “she [Crystal] (and the author) were responding, “It doesn’t matter if the woman
                    lacks responsibility. She absolutely shouldn’t kill her baby, so we shouldn’t even talk about responsibility,” I meant that you were responding:

                    “[A pregnant woman’s] responsibility for having gotten pregnant, or lack of same, does not change the degree of her responsibility not to take a life.”

                    When I interpreted you as saying “we shouldn’t even talk about responsibility,” I was using “responsibility” in the sense of “responsibility for having gotten pregnant.” I was interpreting you as saying that any possible responsibility for having gotten pregnant “is not why we are against abortion at all.”

                    • Crystal

                      And that would be absolutely, 100%, on the spot, correct!

                      I do argue against that type of responsibility, for the many reasons I listed out.

                      Do you think I am hurting myself by doing this?

                    • “Do you think I am hurting myself by doing this?”

                      The two replies of mine to you, previous to this one, were motivated not by a concern of mine about your position on abortion, but by trying to understand what I got wrong in my reply to Josh Brahm. The last two replies of yours (“correct,” “absolutely correct”) confirmed that I had interpreted you correctly in the posts of mine that you were replying to, and I think those interpretations were the same as in my reply to Josh Brahm, so does my reply to him now seem okay to you?

                      Anyway, are you hurting yourself?

                      I agree with you that a woman should not be allowed to abort even if she has no responsibility for having gotten pregnant (rape). Here in this blog post I talk about a “distress exception,” but basically I agree with you, and I believe Josh Brahm does also.

                      But I (and Josh Brahm, I believe) think that if the sex was consensual, the argument against legal abortion is even stronger than in a rape case.

                      “Do you think I am hurting myself by doing this?”

                      I don’t think you’re hurting yourself in any way by expressing that position on this pro-life page. But for myself, I feel that there are some people out there who will never be brought to a pro-life (make-abortion-illegal) position if I fail to point to point out the responsibility that most pregnant women have for having gotten pregnant. If I point out that responsibility, they may come to a pro-life position for at least those 99%.

                      In saying “at least those 99%,” I have also hinted at my incrementalist position. In a reply of yours to me on the “Brent” page, you have argued against an incrementalist position. I intend to reply to those posts of yours that you made on the “Brent” page, though I may save some of my replies to those posts for our discussion over at SPL, if that takes place. But here let me mention the key argument for the incrementalist position:

                      This argument was used in a recent debate to which the Brahm brothers would probably have the link. The argument is — suppose an immediatist opposes parental consent laws, saying, “That’s incrementalism.” Parental consent laws are saving the lives of some unborn children. So the immediatist is in effect advocating that some unborn children should be allowed to die, who could have been saved.

                    • Crystal

                      Your response is fine.

                      I understand your concern at losing a potentially good tool, but I am distressed that this kind of talk is used to humiliate and devalue pregnant women.

                      You mentioned consent laws, strategies, and SPL. Why don’t we take that discussion over to this page? You can type up a comment here; I’ll see it and reply when I can:

                      http://blog.secularprolife.org/2015/10/common-ground-in-abortion-debate.html

                      Is that proposal acceptable to you?

                    • That sounds good. I have posted a comment: http://blog.secularprolife.org/2015/10/common-ground-in-abortion-debate.html#comment-2330977427

                      As I wrote on the “Brent” page: “(SPL moderator — if you’re reading this, maybe you can accommodate two
                      of your friends in this small way!)”

                      Apart from your reply to that comment providing a means for us to start communicating, I would appreciate hearing your reply to the comment itself.

          • Hey Josh

            I was curious what your thoughts are on Francis Beckwith’s response to the Thomson view.

            Now I don’t agree with Beckwith and many Catholic pro-lifers on the substance view of persons but I am still compelled to this side by conscience and Marquis’s account (and some other related philosophical accounts I agree with about harm).

            I am, however, very sympathetic to his metaphysical objections to the bodily rights arguments.

            So Beckwith holds that Thomson makes two metaphysical presuppositions: (1) Pregnancy is not a prima facie good and (2) consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy.

            I agree with Beckwith in regarding these two presuppositions as false.

            I was a bit worried about the talk of telos in the book for supporting the rejection of (2).

            I’m an atheist so I’m suspicious when it comes to talk of teleology. I’m open to a naturalized kind of teleology (e.g. Nagel), though.

            Anyway, Beckwith had a great line in his book that caused me to worry less about the metaphysical implications of allowing in teleology:

            And even if one were to deny the metaphysical foundation that some believe grounds sex as part of pregnancy, one would have to admit that the belief that sex is part of pregnancy is at least as well grounded a moral intuition as one may extract from Thomson’s violinist illustration, McDonagh’s analogies of lung cancer, a hurricane, and a hungry grizzly bear, and Boonin’s story of Ted forgetting his money at the restaurant.

            Now that seems right to me.

            Do you have any thoughts about Beckwith’s replies to the bodily rights argument?

            He also goes into Boonin’s defense of Thomsons but I’d be interested to know if you’ve ever run into someone that makes the Boonin line of argument about drawing a distinction between responsibility for existence versus responsibility for neediness given existence (if you’re curious about a response to this Gerald Lang has a piece on this called “Nudging the Responsibility Objection” where he responds to Boonin and has some other objections to McMahan in there as well).

            Thanks.

            • Alex

              1.Pregnancy is not a prima facie good
              ———————————————————–
              And she is right ,because pregnancy violates woman s right to body autonomy.

              • That’s just your presupposition. You haven’t argued for this. You’ve given no reason for us to suppose that pregnancy is a prima facie violation of bodily integrity. It certainly doesn’t align with my own intuitions regarding pregnancy. For me it seems to be an extraordinary good.

                • martin

                  That’s just your presupposition

                  ———————————————-
                  And your reason for considering pregnancy a good is not also a presupposition?Is it an objective fact?

                  • If you are a doctor and are responsible for the care of an unconscious pregnant woman and you don’t know the circumstances of the pregnancy, what do you do? Can you immediately abort the fetus because it’s a prima facie violation of bodily integrity? If it’s a prima facie violation like walking on someone raping her in her unconscious state then it seems as though you are obligated to stop the violation. It doesn’t seem at all that you should treat the pregnancy as a prima facie violation.

                    • Ann Morgan

                      ** If it’s a prima facie violation like it seems to be for someone to rape her in her unconscious state then it seems you are obligated to stop the violation**

                      It’s a violation, if it’s without her consent. A person has the right to consent, or to not consent, to anything they please, regardless of your sad feelies in the matter.

                      In the case of the unconscious woman, if you happen to know that she specifically gave her consent to someone to have sex with her while unconscious, it is not a violation, and you should not stop them.

                      The thing here, is , sex is qualitatively different from pregnancy in that first of all it has probably not been going on for weeks or months, during which the woman would have taken steps to end it if she did not consent to it, and you can, in the face of doubt as to whether it is consensual or not, stop sex temporarily and it can continue later on with little harm done.

                      In the case of pregnancy, a woman who is unconscious and pregnant had plenty of time to end the pregnancy if she wanted to, so it’s reasonable to assume that she consents to the pregnancy. And you cannot end the pregnancy under the assumption of it being a violation, then put the fetus back with no harm done.

                    • uninvolved

                      The point of the illustration is that we don’t know if she consented. It’s meant to point out that intuitively most people realize that pregnancy is not, prima facie, a violation.

                    • Ann Morgan

                      They know that because of your highly *conditional* scenario in which the woman was pregnant for some time, prior to becoming unconscious. Therefore had plenty of time to get an abortion if she wanted one, so most people are going to reasonably assume she has consented to the pregnancy.

                      How about a scenario where a woman became pregnant while in a coma? She will wake up in a year, but the pregnancy, like all pregnancies, endangers her life and health. In such a scenario, she could not consent or not consent to pregnancy. She hasn’t specifically said she DOESN’T consent to it, but neither has she said she does. Think most people would recommend getting an abortion then?

                      And your whimpering about the question of whether pregnancy is a violation is just more handwaving. NOTHING, prima facie, is a ‘violation’. Not pregnancy, not sex, not fellating or being sodomized by donkeys. It becomes a ‘violation’ when the person does not consent to it.

                    • uninvolved

                      You don’t understand the issue here. My scenario doesn’t say that we know anything about how long she was pregnant before she went into a coma. The point is that we don’t know that. We have no idea if she was in a coma when she became pregnant or not.

                      Still, we do not think it’s appropriate to abort her baby while she is in a coma. This is because we recognize it’s not a prima facie violation.

                      Also, I’m beginning to suspect you have no idea what prima facie means because there are obviously prima facie violations. Walking in on someone who is having sex with an unconscious person is a prima facie violation.

                      Please learn what words mean before you attempt to criticize someone’s argument when it’s clear you have no idea what the argument is or what the words it is using mean.

                    • Ann Morgan

                      uninvolved: I have been thinking over your scenario. First of all, in order to make it work, you have to have a very carefully constructed scenario, in which a woman was in a coma for a very long time and we are unable to determine whether or not she knew she was pregnant – and would have had a chance to NOT consent – prior to entering the coma.

                      Secondly, an awful lot of your premise is based on human biology and what is usual customary human behavior, rather than mere ‘violation and consent’, as you are portraying it. The thing is, pregnancy is qualitatively different from sex in a number of ways, mainly due to it’s length. Given that people have to sleep, it’s inevitable that most women will be unconscious due to sleep at various points during their pregnancy. Most women also, unless they have lived as a hermit their whole lives, are probably aware of the possibility of being rendered unconscious (or in a temporary coma) due to illness or accident and would normally expect their pregnancy to continue despite being unconscious, just as it continues while they sleep.

                      It is NOT normal human behavior to have sex with an unconscious person. Nor does sex go on for months. If this were different, we might have to rethink whether sex with an unconscious person were a prima facie violation. If most men had, say, a necrophilia fetish, so the the majority of women accomodated this by either agreeing to be rendered unconscious (say, by drugs) before sex, or it was usual for a wife to expect her husband to have sex with her if she happened to become unconscious, we would have to rethink that.

                      There’s also a cost-benefit analysis to take into effect, due to our biology. While a particular woman may want to accomodate her husbands peculiar fetish by allowing him to have sex with her, while she is unconscious, the only ‘cost’ of stopping it is slight annorance on both their parts, and once the situation is resolved, they can go back to their fetish sex with no harm done. Also, his having sex with her will probably greatly interfere with giving her medical treatment if she needs it.

                      On the other hand, in the case of abortion, if you do not give the woman the abortion, even if she did not consent to the pregnancy, it costs her far less than giving her the abortion if the pregnancy was wanted. And you can’t put the embryo or fetus back, afterwards.

                      To get back to human biology, suppose that sex were rather more like pregnancy, and it took months to have sex, and stopping sex before it was done would cause harm to the man, ranging from either killing him or merely having his penis fall off. If that were the case, then would we not allow a man to keep having sex with an unconscious woman, even if we were not certain if she had agreed before becoming unconscious? It could be that he is an unwanted rapist, but then again, he could be her dear husband who she would not want injured or killed.

                      So, anyway, all this is why – should we stop this going on with an unconscious person – is NOT a good standard for determining what you call a ‘prima facie’ violation. In the case where ‘sex takes months and stopping it would kill the man’, I would hold that sex would STILL be a prima facie violation, but should not be stopped, due to the alteration of cost vs benefit compared to our current means of having sex.

                      There is a far better standard for determining if something is a ‘prima facie’ violation, I think. That would be, given someone currently in a coma, who has left no written document (or video recording or whatever) regarding their wishes in the matter, would we normally allow someone to initiate X act on that coma patient? Ever? There are acts, some of which are very invasive, that we do to coma patients, which we would not do to someone conscious who specifically said ‘No’, including dental care and pelvic examinations. That is because these acts are not Prima Facie violations. But there are some acts we cannot initiate with coma patients because they ARE Prima Facie violations and do require the person’s active consent.

                      For instance. Mrs. Smith is in a coma. Her husband claims that she has indulged his necrophilia fetish for years, but has no written document regarding this. Do we allow him to have sex with her while she is in the coma?

                      How about this. Mrs. Jones is in a coma. Her husband claims that she is a member of the ‘Quiverful’ movement, and told him that she wants to be pregnant and have babies constantly, even if she were in a coma. Again, he has no written document expressing her wishes regarding this. Do we allow him to have her artificially inseminated while in the coma?

                      If we do not allow Mr Jones to artificially inseminate comatose Mrs Jones, in order to make her pregnant, I would say this is good evidence that pregnancy is, in fact, a Prima Facie violation. It requires the persons volitional and ongoing consent, and the only reason we allow pregnancy but not sex to continue in the hypothetical situation of not actually being able to determine consent is our biology causing the different risk-reward ratio of continuing vs stopping the two acts.

                    • uninvolved

                      No. Pregnancy is not the prima facie violation in your scenario. You’re piggy-backing off the obvious prima facie violation of sexual relations with an unconscious person.

                      I have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re talking about in the rest of comment and I don’t think you do either. As far as I can tell it’s not at all relevant to the point.

                    • Ann Morgan

                      So, if there is a comatose woman, and pregnancy is not a prima facie violation, then you see nothing wrong with either artificially inseminating her until she becomes pregnant, or, if there is a precious frozen zygote from an IVF clinic and the comatose woman is the only available fertile female that could save the zygote’s ‘very life’, according to you, there is nothing wrong with implanting her with it.

                    • uninvolved

                      Implanting an embryo in a comatose woman is clearly a violation. But that is rape. That parallels the case of someone having sex with a comatose patient.

                      A pregnant, comatose woman. She just arrives at the clinic. There’s no information regarding why or how she got pregnant. No one thinks that pregnancy is violating her. No one rushes to stop that “violation.” No one runs to get the curettage to pull the fetus out limb-by-limb to stop it. Pregnancy isn’t the kind of thing where people see a prima facie violation of her body. It’s not seen intuitively as a violation as people like Thomson and Boonin want to see it. It’s certainly not seen as a rape as McDonagh would see it.

                      Most people just simply do not see it that way. Most people do not share that intuition.

                    • Ann Morgan

                      **Implanting an embryo in a comatose woman is clearly a violation. But that is rape.**

                      Yes, but then you go on to say:

                      ** Pregnancy isn’t the kind of thing where people see a prima facie violation of her body.**

                      If pregnancy is not a violation, then why not implant a comatose woman? We do all sorts of things to comatose people without their explicit consent, such as dental care. And what about the ‘very life’ of the precious frozen embryo. We don’t know for sure that the woman would not consent to be implanted, so why not implant the embryo for it’s ‘very life’ and if the woman wakes up and objects, she can always have an abortion then.

                    • uninvolved

                      insemination is not the same thing as an already established and ongoing pregnancy.

                      Do you think the proper thing to do to the pregnant woman in the coma is to immediately abort the fetus? If not, then you must agree pregnancy is not a prima facie violation.

                      Pregnancy does not equal insemination.

            • martin

              (2) consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy.

              —————————————————————-
              And she is wrong ,because consent to sex means consent to pregnancy.However ,just because the woman consented to the existence of the fetus ,that does not mean that she has an obligation to continue its existence.

            • Good questions.

              Josh and I both see the Marquis argument as being helpful and on the right track, but not quite right. We think robbing someone of their valuable future experiences is sufficient to establish the prima facie wrongness of killing someone, but not necessary. If it was necessary, then it would be morally justified to murder people that we know are very close to dying.

              I’m sympathetic to your suspicion of teleology. I try to avoid responses to the violinist like the “organ-use objection” (the uterus was designed for the fetus so the fetus has a right to it, unlike your kidney in the violinist story) for this reason.

              I don’t currently put much weight on the idea of pregnancy being a prima facie good, at least as an argument. I’m not convinced that that’s the kind of assumption that undermines the pro-choice argument. Something can be a prima facie good and still not be obligatory. Why do you think this point is important?

              I think consent to sex is absolutely consent to pregnancy.

              I’ve never encountered someone that made the Boonin response of distinguishing between responsibility for existence versus responsibility for neediness given existence, which is good because I think it’s a total non-starter for the pro-choice person. It’s not a relevant difference. Every now and then I’ve had people take the kind of approach that Brent did with the Up analogy about Russell following Carl home. Currently I think the most effective thing a pro-choice advocate can do in response to the responsibility objection is to attempt to muddy the water enough to create confusion to conceal how clear this case is. What is precisely the difference between Russell following Carl home and Carl inviting Russell over? What is the nature of causation? What about the uncertainty of different results? These are all distractions.

              • I don’t currently put much weight on the idea of pregnancy being a prima facie good

                I don’t think it’s so much that pregnancy is a prima facie good where the argument comes in. The argument is when pregnancy is considered to *not* be a prima facie violation of bodily integrity.

                Beckwith’s point, as I understand it, is that if this claim is not granted then the violinist type appeals don’t work.

                You can see how McDonagh’s argument collapses when you reject the claim that consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy.

                Likewise, Thomson-Boonin must support the claim that pregnancy is a prima facie violation of bodily integrity to make their argument work (or seem plausible, anyway).

                Beckwith is really wanting to say, I think, that these two claims “smuggle in” a view of the person that makes the argument work but, Beckwith is saying, begs the question even though they say they are granting personhood.

                I don’t know how this argument will translate into debates with the person on the street. It might be fruitful to talk about how they view pregnancy in moral terms. Do they consider it a prima facie violation of bodily integrity? Do they consider it intuitively plausible that consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy? I’m sure the latter question gets used with person-on-the-street discussions all the time.

                I’m wondering if the former is talked about as much.

                • Shifty

                  Hi, I’d like to know where you think you get off on pining for the state to criminalize pregnant women who drink coffee. I smoked cigarettes with both my children and I think you should butt out. Pun intended.

              • Crystal

                “I think consent to sex is absolutely consent to pregnancy.”

                And that is where we absolutely DISAGREE!

                If you consent to drive in a car, do you consent to have an accident and end up in hospital with a broken arm or do you take precautions against that happening?

                The same is true of pregnancy. If you take every precaution via contraceptives then you have most certainly said a clear NO to wanting to be pregnant!

                However, we do agree that once a life has begun that taking that life is wrong – NOT BECAUSE the woman consented to pregnancy but rather because taking another person’s life is a moral wrong regardless of how that life came to be.

                • Crystal, I think your car analogy makes Tim’s view of responsibility more compelling than your own. Obviously people take precautions against accidents, (some more than others,) but if you do cause an accident, you are still responsible for the damages.

                  I think it was Scott Klusendorf that used a similar analogy. If I’m playing baseball with my sons and we hit a ball in such a way that it breaks the neighbors window, it would be really weird to tell the neighbor, “I’m sorry about your window, but I didn’t consent to break your window, I only consented to play baseball. So I’m not paying for your window.”

                  This is just not how responsibility works. Wisdom dictates that we should try to avoid unwanted situations like car accidents and breaking windows, but even if we do our best to avoid those things, if we participate in the kinds of activities where those unwanted situations sometimes occur, we’re still responsible for the results.

                  • Crystal

                    I will respond more properly to your comment later. Be assured I am listening and not dismissing your points, but I am on a tight run and wanted to jot down a few thoughts on this issue before resuming my job.

                    “Wisdom dictates that we should try to avoid unwanted situations like car
                    accidents and breaking windows, but even if we do our best to avoid
                    those things, if we participate in the kinds of activities where those
                    unwanted situations sometimes occur, we’re still responsible for the
                    results.”

                    I appreciate your writing back, and I find it difficult to articulate what I think sometimes, so thanks for bearing with me. With respect, I am a little nervous and fear stirring a hornet’s nest, but I believe my thoughts on the issue have to be said. I think the real issue comes down to this: Is sex for a woman a sinful act or not? Also, is sex outside of marriage, or for pleasure, sinful? Do church attitudes on sex have any bearing on the sanctity of human life? If not, why bring them into the equation?

                    I do not believe that sex outside of marriage is wrong. I am not a Christian. But, assuming that you are a conservative Christian, you do. The mainstream prolife movement is run by religious people who believe sex outside of marriage is inherently sinful (especially if you are female). What religious people fail to recognise is that people are going to engage in sex. Period. Rather than stopping them, why not give them the tools to improve their *not* getting into this mess in the first place? Is it not responsible to:

                    1) tell them the consequences, both positive and negative, of their actions

                    2) make sure they have the tools they need so they can engage in responsible sex if they want, and abstain if they want

                    Abstaining from or engaging in sex is a choice. Abortion is not because now more than one person is involved.

                  • Crystal

                    Oh, and, just for your info, when you answer back:

                    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/11/03/in-video-young-afghani-woman-who-eloped-with-her-lover-is-stoned-to-death-by-taliban/

                    Please read this story and tell me if she was responsible for the consequences of her actions. She eloped with her lover to escape an arranged marriage and you know what happened? She’s been stoned now.

                    One commenter wrote thus, and it was odious to see:

                    “Just like Raifi, she knew the consequences for her actions and took the risk. Much like the Charlie Hebdo killings, people need to realize you can’t just go kick a tiger in the face and not expect to get bitten.”

                    And of course, people, including myself, REACTED because it’s wrong to talk like that. Perhaps what she did was irresponsible, but seriously?? Do you think it is acceptable to argue that way for people in such situations? Couldn’t such an argument be construed to imply that it’s that poor girl’s fault she got stoned?

                    If such logic shouldn’t be applied to her situation, why should it be applied to the situation of a girl who got pregnant outside of marriage?

                    I read one heartbreaking story of one woman being shamed and pointed at before her school for being pregnant outside of wedlock (and this was before abortion became legal in the US). And she suffered at the end of the process as well, cursing; it really was that bad. So isn’t that cruel? Isn’t such an attitude towards pregnant girls going to, well, encourage the very thing we don’t want – abortions? You see, this is where this kind of talk *could* lead if abortion did become illegal. Then again, it might not. But it is possible and that is why I am so concerned about it.

                    Perhaps I am missing the point here. I am *completely* aware that pregnancy is a natural result of sex. But I also think it’s a beautiful one because it brings new life into the world, and taking another person’s life is inherently wrong especially if there is no other way they can survive other than being attached to your womb for nine months. I also think pregnancy in an unconventional state is a noble effort to break free of a patriarchal system that demanded that fertility be controlled by men, and one that people have been demeaned for far too often. I realise completely what you are trying to do with your argument, and I commend you for the effort! I just think the “responsibility argument” has serious downsides to it that need to be examined even as we create new and better arguments to deal with the situation of acknowledging unborn persons are human yet saying it is “acceptable” to kill them anyway, or for any other situation we are debating an advocate for legal abortion on.

                    I genuinely would appreciate your feedback on this. Please know I am taking your thoughts into consideration even as I type this and have every intention of properly responding to your actual comment ASAP, and I hope I’ve been respectful despite feeling a little frustrated. Thanks for being understanding.

              • martin

                It’s not a relevant difference.

                ————————————————————-
                In fact ,it is .In the case of responsibility for neediness given existence ,it is not neediness itself that generates an obligation to provide help.It is rather the fact that you worsened the situation of another the thing that generates a moral obligation to provide help.The idea of Boonin was that if the woman had not worsened the situation of the fetus by creating it (even if it was created in a dependent state) ,then she would have had no obligation to let the fetus to use her body.

        • Agnete Winther

          It seems to me you are misunderstanding the context of the “responsibility argument” that Josh is talking about.
          No one is disputing that the rights and the value of the unborn is the sole reason we believe abortion is wrong.

          But you see in this case we are talking about a pro-choice person who concedes that the unborn is human and STILL thinks it is OK to kill it, because the pregnant woman has no responsibility towards this human being inside of her.

          So the question relevant in the conversation is no longer “what is the unborn?” but rather ” does a pregnant woman have a responsibility to not kill the human being inside of her even if that limits her bodily freedom for a while?”

          When asking whether or not you are responsible for a needy being whom’s life depend on you, don’t you find it relevant whether or not you caused the situation? Most people will find that relevant. Of course “the baby making machine” thought experiment doesn’t apply to women who have been raped. You’d have to argue differently for those cases. But if it applies in 99 % cases, Isn’t it worth bringing up?

          The object is by no means to shame women. And I completely agree that we are not pro-life so we can punish women whom we think live sinful lives and laugh behind their backs when they are forced to go through a pregnancy. If that is what you saw in the comment, I believe you misread it.

          Please let me know if I totally missed the mark. I apologize if I have misunderstood your concern.

          • I have attempted at this link on this page to understand Crystal’s position.

          • Crystal

            There is nothing to apologise for, it is perfectly fine :)

            Nothing helps like a little debate, LOL. Thanks for explaining, BTW.

            “But you see in this case we are talking about a pro-choice person who concedes that the unborn is human and STILL thinks it is OK to kill it, because the pregnant woman has no responsibility towards this human being inside of her.

            So the question relevant in the conversation is no longer “what is the unborn?” but rather “does a pregnant woman have a responsibility to not kill the human being inside of her even if that limits her bodily freedom for a while?”

            That’s a fair question you raised. I admit that, despite my objections, I have not taken that into account as well as I could have, and that is a point that definitely needs to be answered. I agree completely that, in such a case, the story does change somewhat, and we absolutely need to create scenarios to answer that objection. I appreciate the fact Josh tried. It might not have been to my satisfaction but he tried.

            What I disagree with is the way these things are argued. I feel that the strength of our arguments lies in stating not just because the unborn person is human, but also because we owe it the moral responsibility we owe any other human being, not to kill it – and although I understand that if someone is dependent on you you have greater obligation to help them I tend to say, nevermind how it arrived here. Perhaps it might have something to do with it being dependent on us because it’s offspring, but I’m not completely sure about that. I know for sure it doesn’t lie in talking about “you do the crime you do the time.”

            I wish I could have a nickel for every time a prolifer said that, or something very close to it. That kind of thing is utterly demeaning to both unborn and pregnant persons. So my concern is not with speaking about moral responsibility we owe all people but the *way* these things are argued so yes, you did misunderstand where I was coming from. Sl*t-shaming is truly evil to me (among other reasons, it encourages abortion rates to skyrocket) and it’s time someone called it out for the sorry excuse that it is. We can’t pretty it up with words like “responsibility” and “consequences.” The real implications in the way many prolifers have argued this is that women are naturally defective so they need to be punished for yielding to sexual desires, which belong in the realm of the male.

            And no, I don’t think Josh intended his argument that way at all. Although I don’t agree with every aspect of his thinking, he was meaning it to say we owe all humans the responsibility not to take their lives but rather to look after them because they matter. He wasn’t meaning to hurt anyone with his words, I realise that.

            But this thing about “YOU put the person in this situation so YOU have to look after them” really bothers me because most women *don’t* intend to get pregnant and try not to. So how could they have done this knowingly? I mean, they probably knew they *could* get pregnant from the act but that doesn’t mean they set out to be.

            Last thing: You have a pretty avatar name :)

            I also hope we’ve given each other a lot to think about, and I look forwards to hearing back from you.

            • Agnete Winther

              Thank you! You are giving me a lot to think about! :) I never considered those things in regards to this argument before.

              I want to make one thing clear. Shaming women for having had sex is cruel and unloving. I hate it too! It has no place in a civilized conversation and I am truly sorry to hear that many pro-lifers speak this way about women and look at the abortion issue through that lens. I believe that is very wrong! That attitude is demeaning to women and hurtful to the case for life! :) We need to show compassion and love for the person we engage in conversation and also, maybe especially for the woman who is facing an unwanted pregnancy.

              Bottom line: I hear you and I totally agree!

              Here is where I don’t agree. I don’t believe the responsibility-argument goes down that road at all.

              I find it interesting and valid to talk about how our causing someone to exist and be dependent on us might gives us an extended moral and legal obligation towards that person compared to strangers we meet on the street.

              Pregnancy can only natually occur if two people have sex. Since no type of contraception is 100% safe it follows that if you have sex no matter how well you protect yourself there is a chance a child will come into existence as a result of that action. Now, this is just a neutral fact. It is not an attempt to shame anyone. The mother and the father are equally responsible for the existence of this new life, however, the mother is the only one with the legal option to kill the child, plus she is the one (sadly) who often stands with the decision alone because she is carrying it inside her – that is why the argument focuses on women. It has nothing to do with discrimination based on gender.

              Are you familiar with the violinist thought experiment? You say repeatedly that you think abortion is wrong because we have the same responsibility toward our unborn children as to anyone else – to not kill them because of their human nature (am I understanding you correctly?) Well in the violinist analogy Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that we do not have unlimited responsibility towards all human beings. The point of the analogy is to show that you have the right to deny another human being to use your body even if it means they will die. If someone is somehow hooked up to you and depend on your body to survive it is your right to withdraw that “life support” and it is not your fault if they can’t survive without it.
              The “responsibility” argument replies to this claim by saying: What if the only reason this person exists and depends on you for survival is because you engaged in an action that sometimes creates needy, dependent human beings? Wouldn’t that give you a responsibility to at least let that person use your body until it can survive on its own?

              You say that consent to sex is not the same as consent to pregnancy and you are right in the sense that women who wish to have sex do not necessarily wish to become pregnant. That is not really what consent means though in this context. If I go out to play baseball I don’t intent to smash someone’s window. However, if I do break a window I still need to pay for the damage. I can’t just say: “Sorry, but I only wanted to play ball, I didn’t give my consent to breaking your window.”

              You are probably right, that many women are not aware that birth control is not 100% safe. Some of them get pregnant even though they thought it wasn’t possible. So what if we alter the babymaking-machine thought experiment a bit. Maybe it didn’t say on the “condom button” that it was only 99 % safe. Maybe it was written in tiny letters somewhere you wouldn’t notice. So this person pushes the button unaware that he/she is risking anything. A baby pops out. Do you think the person is less responsible than if he/she had known of the risk in advance?
              Suppose, again you went out to play baseball. You don’t want any accidents so you find a remote place where it is safe to play. However, at one point the ball goes beyond a row of trees and through a window of a house that was hidden behind them. Don’t you think you should pay for the damage? Even if you didn’t know the house was there?

              To which degree are we responsible for the lives of others? Are there limits to that resonsibility and what are they? How far are we required to go to keep someone alive and what factors are relevant to this responsibility?
              That is the kinds of questions the violinist-argument and the responsibility-argument tries to answer. It’s a perfectly valid filosofical discussion and has nothing to do with punishment of “sinful women”.

              I hope I am not just going in circles, talking right past you. I really want to understand your concern properly.

      • Crystal

        In regards to my comment below, I feel I need to once again state that I have very strong feelings on the matter of prolife arguments (especially responsibility ones) but I do not believe I communicated that with as much grace as I should have, and for that, I apologise.

        • FYI – I don’t see anything wrong with your comment below. You’re being very respectful and explaining why you disagree. You’re fine. :)

          • Crystal

            Thank you. I make it a policy to always try to be respectful even when others are not. So I have been respectful, mostly, basically from the beginning of my online forum activities (although I slipped up occasionally).

            I appreciate that I can talk about this and you and others can disagree without insult too. Thanks for treating me like a person and focusing on the argument rather than how *bad* I am for disagreeing with you.

  • “Brent: I disagree. Stopping people from having sex is like slavery. It shuts down their ability to live life in a human way.”

    Um, excuse me but I’m pretty sure other animals have sex too. There is nothing specifically human about it.

    • He probably meant sex in a pleasurable, unifying way. There aren’t very many animals that have that kind of sex.

      • flyingdutchman

        He probably did. But does refraining from sex make one like a slave? A slave to what? As far as I know there is nothing more slavish about one who abstains than about one who doesn’t.

        • Crystal

          If they’re forced to refrain and suppress their natural sex instincts, absolutely it’s like slavery. But if it’s a voluntary choice to abstain, without guilt or dogma, then it is not slavery at all, and imposing the opposite on a person when they are either unwilling or unready to do it would be slavery.

          It all comes down to consent, and not just any type of consent. It’s called enthusiastic consent.

          Read this paper and see what you think:

          http://samanthapfield.com/2015/09/04/consent-isnt-enough/

          (I miss commenting on her website. She is so brilliant, no kidding!)

        • Whether or not they have sex, they are a slave to whatever causes them to desire to do what they do. So in reality one isn’t more slavish than the other.

      • Crystal

        I wish I could give examples, but I think at least some types of animals have more pleasurable and unifying sex than we think.

        • My guess is that non-human animals are more likely to experience it than humans can. In any case there is no way to really know.

          • Crystal

            Yes, animals do have the ability to do things that humans don’t tend to understand much less appreciate. Because they *can’t speak* unlike us. It’s so pitiful and pathetic, and an attempt to justify an oppression because they don’t belong to Homo sapiens :(

            • Completely agreed there. My reasoning is that I don’t know what other humans are experiencing either nor do I speak most of the languages that different humans do.

              • Crystal

                Well, what do you think of taking your empathy and your personal fear of pain and misunderstanding and applying it to another person’s or animal’s situation? Because that’s how I see it.

                And of course we agree on animal rights and oppression of the smaller creatures, which is good to know :)

                • I always assume that another form of life feels and thinks as I do because I can’t imagine anything else. This of course can be wrong sometimes, but it turned me anti-abortion and vegan because I don’t want anything done to someone else that I would not want done to me. So it’s a good guideline I think.

                  • Crystal

                    Me too.

                    How do you answer a woman who calls her unborn child “Zero” because it’s not born yet? How do you handle that situation with grace and truth? Because, you see, it’s a person even before it’s born, but by calling it “0” they’re denying that.

                    • That’s strange. I’ve never heard someone call their child Zero, but it reminds of a video game character from the Megaman X series.

                    • Crystal

                      I have.

                      The worst part was that she was telling her small child that it was “zero” because it wasn’t born yet. That tells me even basic pregnancy info doesn’t always help people understand that the unborn person is a person. Our morals have sunk really, really low.

                    • Our definitions of what a person is are also unclear. My own father did not consider children people.

                    • Crystal

                      “My own father did not consider children people.”

                      Sometimes I believe them more human than the adults meant to lead them … but I could go off topic if I’m not careful.

                      I’m sorry about your father believing that though as he was dead WRONG :(

                    • When I saw the errors of my father, I wanted to be the complete opposite of him. Children are amazing and much more honest than many adults who have been corrupted with the dogma of society.

                    • Crystal

                      The poet William Wordsworth considered children to be more innocent and by that logic more, shall we say, evolved, than their adult counterparts, or some very similar idea. So he would agree with you if he were still alive.

                      I’m sorry about your father though; that sounds positively terrible! My father and I had a very close relationship throughout my preteens and teens and we still spend time together. I will always appreciate my father because he cares about me.

                      Children’s rights matter to me too. So why wouldn’t children be people?

                    • Crystal

                      Why did he believe children weren’t people – if you wouldn’t mind sharing, that is.

                    • My mom told me a story of him being asked to count how many people were in a vehicle. He didn’t count a baby that was present at the time. When my mom questioned him about that, he said the baby wasn’t developed yet.

                      But the way he treated me and my siblings is another sign that he didn’t see us as equals to himself. We were tools to use. Sadly this is the case with many parents.

                    • Crystal

                      “We were tools to use. Sadly this is the case with many parents.”

                      It’s a common parental attitude. As is the case with fundies I know of.

                      Read this article. I hope it brings comfort and understanding:

                      samanthapfield.com/2015/09/18/despising-our-youth-ageism-in-fundamentalist-culture/

                      I’d talk about this more, but it’s veering a little off-topic.

                    • Yeah we are kind of off topic. If you want, maybe you can email me and we can talk about whatever.

                      chandlerklebs@gmail.com

                    • Crystal

                      Let’s take it to SPL then:

                      http://blog.secularprolife.org/2015/10/common-ground-in-abortion-debate.html

                      I’d prefer not to give my email address over the web – privacy reasons.

            • I didn’t say that no animals have pleasurable sex. Dolphins, for example, have pleasurable sex. But when animal scientists talk about that, they talk about it as if it’s very unique in the animal kingdom. I’m not using that to justify oppression…

              • Crystal

                “I’m not using that to justify oppression…”

                Respectfully, you misunderstand my comment. I wasn’t meaning that as a jab at you, or even what you were saying. I was simply pointing out that there are people in this world who will do anything to devalue animals and justify their abuse because dominion mandate, etc. But I wasn’t accusing you of doing it, and I apologise for conveying such an impression, especially after you have explained yourself.

      • What do you mean “unifying”?

        • The unitive aspect of sex, meaning the emotional, relational positive aspects of sex to a relationship. It’s not just breeding.

          • I guess that’s something I’ll never know.

          • Crystal

            If mourning doves and certain species of penguin mate for life, wouldn’t they experience the unitive aspects of sex too?

    • eruden

      Regardless of what animals do, sexuality and the actions of sex have been an intrinsic part of the human experience (n.b. the arts, sacred texts and oral tradition). Our sexuality (as a desire for unity or pleasure) undergirds much of what we do and how we live our lives. And our ability to cognitively reflect upon our own sexuality and actions is unique to human life. By taking away a person’s “right to sex” we are depriving them of a fundamental experience of human function. That being said, I don’t think being pregnant takes away my right to sex. Nor do I think access to abortion ensures it. Pregnancy may pause accessibility for a time, but it does not irrevocably take away that right. I have a right to happiness according to the constitution, but I can’t insure I won’t ever grieve and be unsatisfied and therefore “unhappy”.

  • “Question: In what ways do people’s beliefs about sex inform
    their beliefs about abortion? How should pro-life people respond to this
    worldview difference? Share your thoughts below!”

    I’m pretty sure that someone’s sexual orientation plays the biggest part in someone’s views about abortion. When you consider that it only applies to heterosexuals, it becomes clear that gay or asexual people are more likely to be pro-life because pregnancy is extremely unlikely to be an issue in their life.

    I can’t help but wonder if I would have ended up being pro-choice if I had been straight. The thought of that terrifies me, but right now such a theory makes sense.

    • Crystal

      “I’m pretty sure that someone’s sexual orientation plays the biggest part in someone’s views about abortion.”

      I disagree. I am a recovering tokophobic person but I am prolife, which is extremely rare. I do not want to marry or have kids ever. But I’m against abortion a lot despite my potential to become pregnant because abortion kills.

  • “They are understandably and justifiably concerned about any legislation that restricts what women can do with their bodies”

    The president of Feminists for Life explained in a well-known speech that insistence on abortion rights is not a necessary part of feminism. It is even contrary to true feminism as she understands it. But in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, she says, the majority of feminists were persuaded to make abortion rights a plank of their platform.

    If not in that speech, then elsewhere, I think, she or other FFL representatives have said that the majority of feminists not only made abortion rights a plank of their platform; they made it the cornerstone of their movement. To many, abortion rights became identified with women’s rights.

    Thus when anyone opposes abortion rights, many feminists will see not someone who is troubled by killing babies, but someone who wants to roll back women’s progress and restore the horrific oppression of women that went on for millennia.

    “They are understandably and justifiably concerned about any legislation that restricts what women can do with their bodies”

    Understandably, completely. And I guess it’s justifiable to be concerned. You probably wouldn’t say that it’s justifiable, after thinking deeply, to oppose.

  • Crystal

    “Is abortion justified by an inalienable right to sex?”

    Simply put – NOPE.

  • For Judith Jarvis Thomson the question was, Is one’s arguably inalienable right to abortion — which is based on bodily autonomy — abrogated because of responsibility for the unborn incurred through consensual sex?

    Her answer was a little confused. First she used a burglar analogy to come to the conclusion that it would always be absurd to say yes to the question, and still more absurd if the couple had taken careful precautions.

    Then she used a people-seeds analogy to come to the more moderate conclusion that a couple who had taken careful precautions, specifically, would be free of responsibility. The implication was that couples who had not taken careful precautions would bear responsibility.

    A further difficulty arises in understanding her because she admits of the possibility of another kind of responsibility — the de facto guardian type — but without calling it “responsibility.” She calls it “Minimally Decent Samaritanism”.

    Crystal, you have argued on this page that responsibility is irrelevant — “Abortion is wrong because abortion kills.” But you probably wouldn’t argue against killing in self-defense. If a woman stands to be harmed somewhat by carrying a baby, it seems to me that what could logically offset her right to self-defense would be some kind of responsibility — either the incurred kind or the de facto guardian kind.

    But I said, “what could logically offset her right to self-defense . . .” I would be the first to agree, if you argued it, that what ultimately validates rightness or wrongness is not such conscious logic, but our moral intuitions. Those intuitions may operate based on some kind of unconscious logic, but even if they do, that logic remains hidden from us. I would agree with you that abortion is wrong. That is your moral intuition, and mine. Consciously I reflect that there is a right to self-defense and that there is some kind of responsibility offsetting that right to self-defense, but I don’t know for sure that my unconscious, which is where my moral intuitions are determined, is using that same logic. That would be just a conjecture.

  • Crystal

    “we should restrict women from killing babies inside their bodies”

    How about a system of rewards and incentives? Two reasons I don’t like this kind of language:

    1) we should be talking about elimination, not restriction
    2) we should be talking about replacement, not restriction

    In regards to restriction, I am against restriction. Restriction is too conditional and feels very oppressive. Eliminating for the sake of life is a far better strategy than restricting someone from doing something. Also take into account that restriction means X number of people are still dying and banning 7% of abortions is, I believe, not helpful to prolifism in the long-run.

    In regards to replacement, it is better to offer an incentive to someone to help them NOT to do something than to punish them *for* doing something. That being said, I am for abortion being illegal. But this won’t work if we don’t consider this all-important fact that people need all the encouragement and the resources in the world so that they will not want to commit the deed because there simply will be no need to. Reduce it from the supply AND the demand side.

    So, in short, elimination through replacement coupled with laws to enforce both elimination and replacement should be our goal.

  • Ann Morgan

    **This is one of the reasons I’m strongly in favor of harsher punishments for men that don’t pay child support. Given this asymmetry, a just society should compensate by protecting women from being taken advantage of. **

    Uh huh. So if a child is being molested, rather than doing something to stop the abuse, it’s better to make sure the abuse continues, but in the name of ‘justice’ to molest adults as well in order to ‘compensate’ children.

  • Val

    You were right that this thought experiment was rather gross.
    Another way of phrasing a thought similar to this might be better because it was actually TRUE in the past.
    One could start out by asking Brent what he thought of ancient infanticide/child abandonment to eliminate unwanted children.
    He would likely cringe at the idea.
    Then you could explain that birth control was highly unreliable back then, abortion was likely even more dangerous for the woman than childbirth was, and unwanted babies could not easily be adopted out.
    You could ask Brent if he thought they had any less right to sex-without-the- responsibility of children back then than people do today.
    If (there is always the danger that he would excuse ancient infanticide), he said ‘no’, they were still wrong to kill/abandon unwanted newborns, then he would be agreeing that the ‘right to sex’ has limitations.
    The next step, of course, would be to get him to understand that abortion IS our modern-day version of infanticide–the victim is just younger.
    Another related question would be if he believes women have total body autonomy no matter what, what would he think of women who simply refuse to breastfeed their unwanted baby–both past and present–when they are capable of doing so and NO other alternative feeding method is available?