Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) – Congress needs to pass it, Obama needs to sign it

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has been languishing in committee, just like Bill the bill, for many years now. Under Bush and his cronies there was no chance it would pass, so shelved it has remained. Until now.

President Obama, as a senator from Illinois, co-sponsored the 2007 version of this bill, so he should be happy to sign it in 2009. Congress should re-introduce it. As soon as Franken is sworn in and all the other electoral disputes are resolved, Congress needs to pass it so Obama can sign it and end the abortion fight once and for all.

FOCA declares…

(a) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.

(b) Prohibition of Interference- A government may not–

(1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose–

(A) to bear a child;

(B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or

(C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or

(2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.

(c) Civil Action- An individual aggrieved by a violation of this section may obtain appropriate relief (including relief against a government) in a civil action.

The point of a debate, after all, is to argue until a problem is solved. The point of a debate is not to keep arguing forever. The freedom of a human being to control their own body is as rock-solid fundamental to the concept of personal freedom as it is possible to be. If the government can tell you precisely how you may or may not use your internal organs, there is really not enough freedom left to bother using the word. This extends to the brain, by the way, and the ways an individual wishes to alter their consciousness… but that is another argument.

The general debate of abortion centers around the conflicting ideas of the fetus being 1) a human being or 2) not. By genetic identity every fetus is indeed a potential human being, but remains unformed until the processes of embryonic development guided by the placenta diminish enough relative to those guided internally by the fetus itself, and the creature can continue its development on its own (assuming food, water and care are sufficient and ongoing).  Prior to that organizational point the fetus is an extension of the mother’s body, not unlike a wart. But a wart can never think. At some point – and from that point on – a fetus thinks.

My position on abortion is more or less that of Carl Sagan, which he outlined in Demon-Haunted World. Basically you become human when your brain begins to create human-like patterns of sentient thought. Now, though it appears true that a continuum of cognitive ability separates the human mind from those of other animals, including our near genetic neighbors, the chimps, there remains a fairly abrupt transition in cognitive power when one moves from chimps to human beings. We are capable of self-referential thought that can model the causes and effects of events along an arbitrarily long timescale, while even our closest kin can only barely handle the concepts of “right now”, “not right now” and “soon”. We can count to arbitrarily high numbers, while chimps run into trouble not far past “one” and “many”.

It should be possible to at least qualitatively define a suite of brain activity patterns uniquely characteristic of our species relative to our closest but only marginally sentient kin-species. That is the point where we become human, when the construction project of our developing brains reaches a sufficiently advanced level of completion that our awareness-processing abilities start to come online. Prior to that point we are not capable of sentient thought, past that point we are. Once we figure out when that normally happens to human feta (shouldn’t that be the plural of fetus, instead of fetuses?), we’re on solid scientific ground. We can establish that as the cutoff point, beyond which abortion is constrained. Sagan made the point that this cutoff works out to about the beginning of the third trimester, give or take…. which is already where most viability laws pick up.

Of course, to someone less interested in honest questions about what makes us who we are, and more interested in spreading the fatuous dogma that tiny immortal genies live inside fertilized cells, such arguments are wasted effort. The debate over abortion policy should ignore such delusional, lazy thinkers. Perhaps their own cognitive proximity to the lower limit of minimal sentience makes them nervous. No doubt that’s it. In any case we cannot build public policy based on delusions. We have to build it based on rational thought and intellectual honesty.

In the meantime, we have to make sure that women aren’t victimized by narrow-minded bigots, morons and fundamentalist zealots running some of our less ethically-evolved states and counties. FOCA needs to be passed now, so we can move on to deal with real threats to our free society… like domestic terrorists who murder doctors and bomb clinics.


~ by Planetologist on January 24, 2009.

39 Responses to “Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) – Congress needs to pass it, Obama needs to sign it”

  1. Holy parthenogenesis, Batman! That is too funny.

    I actually agree with you 100%. I think your position is both reasonable and compassionate with the right proportions of each. There is a time when the potential becomes a human and until that time, the mother should have control over her body. Thanks.

  2. YOU sir, are the one who wants to tell people how to live their lives. Do you know that FOCA would potentially FORCE a mother to recieve and abortion if her child had fetal deformaties or conditions such as down syndrome. You may want to force your belief that the fetus is just a “blob of tissue belonging to the mother” on others, but some people aren’t buying it. My stance on abortion has nothing to do with religion; it is how I feel about human life. And yes, I’m sure calling you a communist wouldn’t be far off base. Again, though, you aren’t answering the most basic questions of my argument:
    What do you believe will happen to you when you die?
    What if that so-called (by you) “potential human” would grow into the man who would discover the cure for cancer, this savinghundreds of thousands of lives. Could you then even condone the killing of “potential humans”?
    What was the U.S. Before Roe vs. Wade? Some radical extremist controlling country lacking in freedom?
    So in conclusion, move to china. I’m serious. China encourages abortion. You shouldfeel right at home there. I can’t prove there is a God, and YOU can’t prove there isn’t. You don’t want to believe, that’s fine. But I have every right to. Again, China is mostly secular. You would LOVE China. It’s the perfect place for leftists like you. And Kathy W, I applaud you for all your arguments and comments. So, dude, are you EVER going to answer my questions?

    • You know… I’m actually letting this comment in, despite its near incomprehensible spitting and hissing, because the author now asserts a claim. You have claimed FOCA is designed to force an abortion in the case of deformity. Now, prove it.

      Look it up. I’d like to see a specific reference to a government (.gov) website hosting a PDF of the FOCA legislation package, and along with that I’d like a link or specific reference – verbatim and in context – from FOCA as it is written today, mandating forced abortions in case of Down’s syndrome. You quote that condition specifically, so I can only assume you were struck by how unjust including Down’s Syndrome in FOCA was, after you’d personally studied the document in detail.

      So, put up or shut up. Here’s your homework: Provide a searchable, authentic reference to existing language in the FOCA document now in circulation in the federal legislature, that supports your claim. Until then, no soup for you.

      • Oh, yes, I forgot to also mention that you other nutjobs from Jesusland don’t get to post anymore, either, until you’re willing to make rational points. No moving goalposts, no dodging my points and swinging around with some idiotic non-sequitur, no more hissing squawks about half-articulated, talking-point lists your preacher told you to memorize, but you just couldn’t quite handle that much information at once. So please, continue with your current efforts to ring up everyone on your pro-fascist telephone tree, with anxious alerts about the atheist on the internets who said something pro-choice, who must be stopped at all costs. Please continue with that, because I enjoy the idea of forcing you all to waste your time writing long, anguished notes for my spam filter.

        Don’t let the firewall port hit you on the way out.

  3. You don’t get it. When you FORCE the entire country to recognize abortion under the law as a fundamental “right”, you go down the road of medicaid funded abortions (which means my tax dollars), as well as stripping doctors of conscience clauses that would keep them from having to perform procedures that they personally recognize as murder- the snuffing out of an innocent life for no other reason that that the mother does not WANT to have a baby bump for nine months, get stretch marks, or have to deal with the “trauma” of giving her baby up for adoption.

    You might want to dismiss this as a slippery slope argument, but if FOCA passes, you will see in the end that I am right about this. I mean seriously, if FOCA is considered a fundamental right, and people who disagree are considered to be on the wrong side of the law, then what in the world would stop the ACLU from going after doctors who refuse to perform these procedures?

    FOCA takes us down the road of forcing everyone to go along with and eventually pay for an act that they feel is morally reprehensible. And for what? How does it strengthen the country? How does it strengthen the family? The only thing it accomplishes is to make it easier for one gender of people to escape the consequences of their decisions, and therefore encourage more irresponsibility, and dehumanization of humans growing in the womb. By the way, when you vote for FOCA you are basically overriding Bush’s ban on partial birth abortion. You will therefore end up legalizing the abortion that you yourself have admitted as ethically unjustified. That the baby can feel pain, that the baby is a sentient being… these are irrelavent factors in the pushing for FOCA, because all that matters is that the woman in not hindered in any way in her desire for an abortion.

    It’s a sad world we live in when we have decided that squashing fetal skulls, sucking out brains, ripping limbs off… are all morally acceptable, but that a woman carrying a baby to term, potentially getting stretch marks and then having to face the difficult choice of whether to raise the child or give it up for adoption is considered some sort of terrible tragedy. It’s almost mind-boggling the way convenience has become the holy grail of this rights issue, and not the basic right for life.

    • Yes, that’s the spirit! Preach to us with wild-eyed emotional pleas full of gore and shock. Agonize publicly over how other people dare to disagree with you about anything whatsoever, and shriek for laws to enforce your will. Suddenly, your earlier and fairly respectable language dissolves into a frenzy of memorized, stereotyped talking points. Suddenly, all women who seek abortions are just wanton harlots of Babylon, awash in a sea of orgies and heedless depravity. All women who agonize over the personal complexities of their own lives and futures, then fail to make the choice you decree, are whores. What a wonderfully simple little world you cower in.

      It’s completely true that a small, very stupid minority of people in this country agree with you and feel that any legal policy that violates their own spiteful little church-rules should be immediately overturned. Lots of people on the right think the Constitution privileges them to protection against people unlike them. Well, it doesn’t. You don’t have a right to never be offended. Yes, FOCA would mean that your taxes might pay for things that you hate. Sorry, but deal with it.

      I really enjoy when theofascists lose fight after fight in their war to put a collar around everyone’s necks, and then they start crying about being oppressed, and about how the commie liberal atheists want to send their tax dollars to the wrong budget items. Wow, do we all get to say that, or just you? Where’s my right not to contribute taxes to faith-based initiatives, or to subsidies I might disagree with, or to some bridge in a town where there’s a guy I don’t like, or to fight criminal wars started by publicly-elected traitors? Do I get a line-item budget veto, too? Or is it just you who gets to be an armchair empress?

      And I notice you still prefer dancing around and moving your goalposts, instead of simply admitting you want to tell people how to live their lives.

  4. I am for the argument that says, “be personally responsible,get a job, make the money to buy your own damn birth control and pay for your own damn abortions.” I do not want my tax dollars going to Mexico or India or anywhere else, the US, poor women or teenage and college girls who cry, “Oh crap, I had sex and now I am pregnant, someone please fix this for me!” How irresponsible. I do not want to pay dollars for some woman’s irresponsible use of her body. If women and men were using birth control responsibly, or for that matter, just getting sterilized so they could have sex without the complication, threat, or nuisance of pregnancy, then we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. Egad! Birth control pills and condoms are not that expensive. Neither is getting a vasectomy or tubes tied. Adults need to be responsible for NOT getting pregnant in the first place so other adults don’t have to pick up the tab for their unconscious choices.$.02

    • Agreed, adults should be more responsible. No problem, there. How to encourage responsibility? Sex education, easily available contraception, and a free society that isn’t under the thumb of theofascists who’ve already decided for me what all my personal decisions will be throughout my entire life.

  5. You know, the sad thing here is that i am most likely about 35 years younger than you, but i am clearly much smarter. You are obviously not inteligent enough to understand these issues. Even if i were not religious, i would still be anti-abortion. It is an issue of human life. The fetus, IS, morally, and scientificly a human being. This is my opinion, and it is supported by science. If you would like to delude yourself into thinking that it is not, that is your opinion, however wrong it may be. Just as if you would prefer to call me crazy for embracing Jesus, even though it does not matter if i believe in him or not, He is real either way. I can choose not to believe in computers, and i can tell myself that they are just a figment of my imagination. That does not make them any less real. They are still valid and substancial, just as the fertilized egg, from the moment of conception, is a human being, and just as Jesus, whether we acknowledge him or not, is true and living. In fact, by not believing in God, you are only embracing the gift of free will he has given you. So very juxtapositional to what you prefer to think, religion does not leave you a slave, but rather gives you freedom. Ironic, isnt it? I mean all of this in the nicest way. Even though you love to criticise those who oppose you, i truly believe that that is the precise reason you blog to begin with. I also find it infinitely humorous that you call me the insane extremist, when you claim to be a cat herding, ranting, slacker. Even say, if i did believe as you do, and i was absorbed in thinking of the fetus as only a POTENTIAL human. So what would you say if the POTENTIAL human exterminated in abortion, would have become the man or woman to discover the cure for cancer? Would you then even condone the killing of POTENTIAL humans? It seems to me you have been surreptitiously avoiding the fundamental questions i have been asking. What do you believe happens when we die? We are simply worm food? Well you have fun believing that, but i WILL, if i choose to, believe in a Higher Power. It gives me hope; gives me purpose. Another avoided question: What do YOU live for? The founders of America, were indeed Christians. Are you also aware that Roe vs. Wade was passed fairly recently in American history, legalizing abortion. So what was America befor the “freedom of choice” was embraced? Some radical, controling, nation that lacked in freedom? I think not. I will continue to pray for you, even though i know that as you are reading these very words, meant only as happy wishes, you are scoffing at me. And i can live with that. I can live with myself. Can you live with yourself?

    • Easy, I can live with myself because I’m not under the delusional spell of fictional characters in the sky, and therefore I don’t believe that the world would necessarily be better if I made everyone else’s personal decisions for them.

      Thanks for playing, Reagan, but now your mike is off. When you can grow up and construct a rational argument that doesn’t depend on lies, delusions and ad hominem attacks, you can come back. And no, you don’t have to agree with me, but on my blog you do have to play by my rules: rational arguments, no emotional appeals, and no mindlessly repeating lies just because you want them to be true. Bye, bye.

  6. By the way, I am unusual agnostic in the sense that I accept the pros and cons of religions, and have decided to view religious belief, and really various kinds of faith in a generally positive view. In fact, I am slightly jealous of all the great men and women throughout history who arguably owe part of who they became and what they accomplished to the fact that having faith in SOMETHING was an important part of them, and helped to shape their life.

    Yeah, there is always the other side of the coin, but in my experience the people who fixate on every negative aspect of religion, and have decided the cons far outweigh the pros are usually overly obsessed with the topic due to some personal baggage from their own life that they have yet to get over.

    What can I say- even if it bothers me that my Christian friends can’t go that extra step to see things from an objective point of view, outside of their circular reasoning, at least they tend to be nicer more well-adjusted and less bitter people than a lot of the atheists I’ve met. And for all the talk about Christians being holier than thou, atheists are usually far more judgmental, condescending, and think they know it all. How’s that for warm and fuzzy?

    People always bring up the history of religions. The things is oppressive Monarchies and Totalitarian Dictatorships tend to take away the warm and fuzzies whether they operate under the banner of a religion or a secular ideolody. And within those countries, many people, both religious and secular, just want to live their lives and raise their families. It’s government power that is the real bad guy, not the banner it uses to justify its actions!

  7. “The question of ethics regarding a woman’s right to choose isn’t something the pro-freedom side has to make. It is self-evident.”
    You mean it is self-evident to you! This idea of women’s “freedom” of choice is based off of the idea that she should be able to escape the consequences of life by terminating a life that will be an inconvenience to her own.

    How about this one? Perhaps you are such a staunch true-believer in abortion, that you see nothing ethically wrong with women using abortion as a form of birth control, however even most people who have been convinced to vote pro-choice still find that ethically dubious. Why? If there is nothing ethically wrong with abortion, then it should be perfectly acceptable for women to talk about having multiple abortions simply because they don’t “like” to use condoms.

    At best, most people realize there are ethical problems, but accept it as a sort of “necessary evil” in a society where so many children are brought into this world “unwanted”- or many of them fall for the sob stories presented by the Pro-Choice side of the classic impregnated rape victim. These sob stories are misleading on two accounts. 1) They use an extremely rare scenario as a basis for a broad legalization of all abortions on demand (for convenience). 2) They still do not address the ethical concerns laid out. I’m sure there are tons of rapists, murderers, serial killers, you name it-who have sob stories explaining “why they did it”, but no matter how brutal their life or their circumstances, that never changes the fact that they victimized someone else. It never changes the fact that their victims were unjustly, unethically attacked or killed by them.

    However long, complex, and risky…. the odds of an embryo or fetus becoming a human infant are just a tad bit higher than that of a can of dog food, wouldn’t you say? I suppose that’s the “miracle” of life that such a complex sequence of events does in fact work out almost every single time, barring any external interference.

    “ When the major neural processing routines and stream-of-consciousness emulation buffers come online, then we have a person.”
    Is a reversibly comatose person a person? What about someone who temporarily loses consciousness? Do they seize being a human until its regained?

    “ but the administrator of that process is ultimately the mother.”
    Look, I know we have a long human history of patriarchism, so people don’t naturally worry about the man’s rights, but we are getting to the point now where this is a reverse discrimination to say that there is no way for a man to even have a say in whether or not his child can live or die. At the very least, if abortions will always remain legal, there should be legal protections for a father to overrule an abortion decision, based upon signing a custody contract where he is willing to take full responsibility, and the mother never has to so much as pay a cent for the child. (That way she is not “burdened” with it for the rest of her life.) A child is NOT “unwanted” if its father still wants it, wouldn’t you say? Its bad enough that people can go around killing babies they don’t want, but its worse to say mothers can kill babies that expectant fathers still want to raise. Then again, I guess it depends on one’s priorities… perhaps stretch marks are more of a ‘tragedy’ than a parent being robbed of their child in the Pro-Choice world?

    “But don’t expect the government to hand you a shortcut and force the rest of us to do your bidding.” Don’t act like only one side is trying to FORCE their view upon everyone.

    • And finally we get to the part where the best response you can make is to pick nits and go personal. Congratulations, you’ve just lost this argument.

      I’ll try to make these short. They’ll be easier to grab out of context and obsess over:

      Yes, freedom of choice is self evident to me, because it’s self evident to anyone who isn’t absolutely certain of their own inerrant moral superiority. Hem and haw all you want, but at the end of the day, my position advocates to get out of people’s private lives and let them make decisions for themselves. Your position is to enslave the country to your personal view of what is right and wrong.

      Abortion as birth control? I think that would be a stupid use of an invasive surgical procedure, and any doctor facing a girl who’s in for a third abortion in as many months should probably tell her to grow up and stop acting like a petulant brat. Why is it necessary for you to dodge the issue of choice by setting up such a straw man (or woman, in this instance)? And… one more time… I’m not a believer in abortion, I’m a believer in freedom. What’s next, calling me a communist?

      Actually the odds aren’t so good that any particular fertilized ovum will grow to term, even left alone. But guess what? The odds aren’t relevant. Nice attempt at an argument-dodge, there, but I’m not playing. Likely or unlikely, result of rape or love, conceived on purpose or by accident… the fetus is an object belonging to the mother, until it becomes self-aware. The decision is not yours, it’s hers. Just say it outright… you might feel better: “I know what’s best for everyone else.”

      The father question. Yes, you’re right this is a tricky issue. Even as an inanimate object, a fetus is literally made up of half the tissue of the father. There’s a good case to be made for the father having a say… and yet… I can’t agree with requiring the consent of the father. I realize you might not agree, and so might a lot of people not agree, and that’s fine. My position on this isn’t settled. But allowing the father to veto the decision essentially takes the decision away from the woman, by allowing the father to trump whatever the woman decides. It would be functionally the same as allowing anyone else to veto the decision… such as the church the father goes to, or the government the father calls in so he can get his way. Nope, no father veto.

      You know what? I will act like only one side is trying to FORCE their view on everyone… because you are. I’m advocating… here we go, one more time… freedom of choice. What I mean by that, in case it goes over your head, is freedom of choice. The woman gets to make up her own mind. You, on the other hand, advocate forcing a woman to obey your perfect morality, and you attempt to support your position by claiming (lying) that I want to impose abortions and “rob” a woman of her choice? Project much?

      Let’s review: My position = the woman can decide for herself. Your position = the woman must do what you tell her. Who was forcing their views on whom, again?

  8. I don’t really get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I hear the word, Religion.

  9. I again have to disagree. I do have the freedom of religion, and I will be part of a church, and very religious if I wish. There is nothing wrong with that, contrary to what you would have me believe. At least I have a passion in life; I have something to live for. I live for Christ. What do you have to live for? Internet blogging and liberal policies? Can you really not believe the human race, who WAS given the unique ability to think above all other organisms, has no higher calling in life than that? Were not the forefathers of our country religious? And they were the ones who laid down the basis for this country, which I have no doubt is anti-abortion. My religion does not control me, it is what I truly believe is right and wrong. Also, the practices of my religion did not come from neandrathals who did not know how to boil water. It was derived directly from God, who inspired deciples to write the Gospels. Yes, abortion has been around for ages, but does that make it right? So has thievery, and murder, and adultery, but does that render you able to condone them? I think not.
    God bless, as always,

    • And here we finally see the true face of opposition to FOCA or similar attempts to protect human freedom from the bludgeon of unexamined, absolute belief in things that do not exist. When all the rational, empirical arguments for why freedom of reproductive choice is a fundamental human right and sound public policy have won the argument, and all the irrational, emotional appeals of the evangelical fascists have been tossed onto the ash heap of history, we finally see the face behind the mask. God. It always comes back to religion, and I’m sorry to inform you of this, but religion alone cannot inform the basis of public policy in the US, under any circumstances whatsoever.

      The rest of us live in the real world, and if you want to promote public policy that, essentially, uses your Bible to club people into being your slaves… well, you’re going to have to produce some really good reasons why we should all vote for that. I won’t go into the old, bald-faced lie about the founding fathers of the US being all fundamentalists who built a Christian nation. They didn’t. It did not happen, period. Many others have addressed this issue, too many times to count… the US was founded as a secular republic, which categorically rejected – rejected specifically, every time it came up for a vote during framing of the Constitution – any connection with the doctrines of any religion whatsoever. Please look into that topic elsewhere, because I’m not going to rehash it here.

      Public policy cannot be predicated on gods, because gods do not appear to exist. What you claim to worship is, within the scope of all verifiable human experience, imaginary. That might be fine with you, and if so have fun with your mental masturbation. But don’t force the rest of us to be your fluffers.

  10. Sure, it seems a little off topic, but part of your reason for supporting FOCA is in the philosophical belief you hold about a woman’s” right”, and your ethical justification for terminating a life. You talk about choice, but most would not choose to have their life terminated before it’s begun. There are many adopted people who have gone on to live long, full lives, and they could have been robbed of those lives if their mothers had decided it was her “choice” to decide for them if they should have the opportunity to live or die. Even if you want to say that it’s no harm no foul because a fetus will never know what it missed out on… an infant would not know that either, but you don’t see us legalizing the murder of infants.
    I think it’s interesting that you classify rape as natural. While it is true that people can give into their baser “natural” urges for self-gratification, etc… I think the natural compulsion that all species have for survival and self-preservation runs supreme. In communal animals, such as ourselves, that self-preservation can go beyond oneself, to include self-preservation of the group as a whole. Cultures have repeatedly come to the conclusion that individuals who seek to do harm to others are bad for the group… thus making laws against rape, murder, etc. It’s not a perfect system… i.e. war and slavery can often be justified as a means of group self-preservation, depending on the circumstance. Still, this “natural law” might be the best basis we have for dealing with ethical decisions. The choice to value life is a good, logical building block for any human society. A society where life is devalued, and more emphasis is placed on a person’s “freedom” to escape the consequences of life, abandon responsibility, and reject the duty of raising the next generation… would seem to be a sign of a breakdown in the strength of that community.
    I’m sorry if you think I’m going off on a tangent here, but I still think this movement to see abortion as a “woman’s right to choose” has yet to appropriately answer these types of ethical problems with the idea they are promoting. It is one thing to have a court precedent, built on a rather dubious case (RoeVWade), but it is another thing to say that the Pro-Choice side has sufficiently made the case that abortion is ethical, and should be codified as fundamental “right” within our society.

    • The question of ethics regarding a woman’s right to choose isn’t something the pro-freedom side has to make. It is self-evident. What would require extraordinary measures to make the case for, would be a claim that we should adopt as public policy the legal fiction that fertilized cells are human beings. Such a proposal would be only slightly less terrifyingly delusional than declaring canned food to be human, because of its potential to become human tissue if consumed and processed into human biomass. A cell is not a person, period. Case closed. It is a cell, or a cluster of cells, which may become a thinking product after a long, complex, and risky chain of events that play out over the better part of a year. An ovum is a thing, it is a bodily secretion, a kind of genetically chimeric gland. Until it is well and far along the road of embryonic development it possesses less cognitive awareness than a paramecium. Really, we need to get over this fetishism over blastulas.

      The only viable question on this issue is at what point the gland graduates to a functional factory-floor model that is ready to ship: when it is a working model in standby mode, cognitively. When the major neural processing routines and stream-of-consciousness emulation buffers come online, then we have a person. Before that point is might become a person, or it might not… and we can always hope for the best… but the administrator of that process is ultimately the mother. We can’t invade her decision-making authority on this, unless we’re prepared to live as some kind of Orwellian fundamentalist hive. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really down with that.

      You can believe personally in the specialness of an embryo all you want. Write books about it, give speeches where you try and convince individuals to not ever have abortions. You have that basic right to express your individuality and your personal creative drives however you see fit. But don’t expect the government to hand you a shortcut and force the rest of us to do your bidding.

  11. Okay, I hear you, and from what you say it seems you don’t believe in keeping people alive on life-support if they have irreperable brain damage. Am I correct?

    Either way, the key difference is that a person with irreperable brain damage, if nature is left to do it’s course, will never become a fully thinking, mentally aware human being ever again. On the other hand, if nature is left to do it’s course in the case of a developing fetus, it most certainly will lead to who knows how many years of life as a mentally aware, living, thinking human being. Does this not raise ethical questions about abortion- which artificially terminates the growth process of a developing human being, that has it’s own unique human DNA?

    I don’t believe in souls either, although it’s not because I *refuse* to believe. I just can’t convince myself that there is a good basis for such a belief. This doesn’t have to do with souls, but I will say that religious laws and traditions often developed for the sake of cultural/human self-preservation. Is it so strange then, that religious beliefs would tend to go hand in hand with preserving human life at all costs? Perhaps there is a validity to the self-preservation compulsion which spawned these religious beliefs… and you shouldn’t be so quick to scoff at anyone who subscribes to them.

    • FOCA doesn’t deal with brain-damaged people on life support, but to answer your question… it’s not up to me, it’s up to the person’s next of kin or their living will (if they have one). But no, I don’t really see the point of hanging onto existence without a brain. I wouldn’t want to persist in such a state, but others might feel differently. That’s my point…. it’s up to the person or their next of kin, not some church, and not the government. I leave such decisions to those afflicted with the choice. I refuse to assume the role of dictator, blindly confidant in my moral superiority. But the very religious do not extend to us the same courtesy. To them, all such questions have very clear answers, written centuries ago by people who didn’t even know how to clean water by boiling it.

      The nature argument is a non-sequitur. It’s “natural” to die of infections left untreated by antibiotics. It’s “natural” for me to kill someone in another tribe, and take their stuff. It’s “natural” to father children via rape. It’s “natural” to die in childbirth, in the rain, while hyenas wait for you to stop moving. It’s “natural” to starve to death if you can’t scrounge up enough carrion to gnaw on, out on the dusty savanna, with lice in your hair and worms in your gut. And do you really believe that women haven’t been aborting their own unwanted pregnancies for thousands of years, using “natural” herbal medicines, or “natural” pointed sticks, while the murderous brutes who raped or purchased them weren’t looking? All of the following are “natural”: influenza, malaria, botulism, tetanus, cobra venom, earthquakes, gangrene, and winter. Shall we live in thrall to those, too?

      And don’t be too quick to glorify ancient traditions as accurate guides to preserving human life. Most of those traditions are gleefully accommodating to the slaughter of endless queues of human beings at the drop of a hat woven from mixed threads, or at a single word spoken at the wrong place or the wrong time. The overwhelming majority of ancient traditions are nothing but codified ritual brutality.

  12. By the way, my perspective is NOT based off of religion. I’m willing to hear people out in seeing a difference between a zygote and a small person that is developing its own hands and feet, spinal cord, nervous system etc.
    Where I have personally ended up on this issue is that the baby already has its very own heartbeat at 4-5wks old. To me, that’s a person! It seems highly unethical to place the *life* of one person on the back-burner for the *convenience* of another. How do you reconcile the fact that one human being has “fundamental” rights to choose a particular medical procedure, while another human being does not even have the right to live?

  13. On the one hand, I am tempted to agree with you that we should follow the argument of sentient thought in order to decide when it is that we recognize abortion as the unethical termination of a human life. On the other hand, doesn’t this set us up for justifying the murder of people in various stages of mental retardation, whether due to brain injury or birth defect?? Is a human life only worth protecting when it’s faculties are operating at a certain level??
    Not everyone who disagrees with you because they are too “lazy” to think through this issue and form a solid foundation for their opinions.

    • You raise a perfectly valid point, in expressing concerns over people with brain injuries and whatnot. But if a person doesn’t possess a brain, or more than a brain stem, then no… I wouldn’t consider them a person. A person has a mind of some sort, even a “retarded” person is sentient, simply impaired in a few specific ways regarding information uptake capacity. But if the brain were scooped out there’d be no possibility of there being a mind there, and you’d be left with only a body… and if hooked up to a life-support machine, that body could retain a beating heart.

      For that matter, a few thousand heart cells in a Petri dish (literally) can start beating in sync; it’s just part of their biochemistry. A heart doesn’t mean anything. Does someone walking around with an artificial heart qualify as dead? Of course not. Hearts and fingerprints are insufficient criteria for humanity. A semi-formed fetus without a functioning brain inside its partially constructed skull is not a person, anymore than a chassis sitting on an assembly line is a Mercedes. A thinking, living human is a naturally-occurring device carrying uniquely valuable and irreplaceable software and coded memory stockpiles. That data is the human part. The rest is replaceable meat.

      I reconcile rights by applying logic, given the premises I’ve spelled out in previous comments in this thread. I state my premises outright. That’s why I get frustrated with anti-freedom zealots; they too-often cloak their true premise (magic pixies inside fetuses) with maudlin appeals to heartbeats and little toes. That kind of tripe gets us nowhere.

  14. Tell me if you would recommend an abortion in this situation:
    The mother of the child finds out she is pregnant. She is engaged to be married. Her fiancée is not the father of the baby. Her parents would be shamed in society if they found out. Abortion?
    If you said yes to abortion, you would have killed Jesus Christ. Now, I don’t know what you believe, but as you are preaching to everyone about human rights realize that every person has the right to an opinion,
    and freedom of speech, not just you. We also have the right religion, and I am a Catholic. Therefore you also cannot discriminate against me for my religious beliefs, ALL of which are against abortion. You need to understand that you criticize far more than you rationalize. Jesus said, “I knew you before I formed you in the womb.” There – undeniable proof that God knows and recognizes our humanity even before we take the place of a fetus in our mother’s uterus. It is evident that we are people, living humans, from the moment of conception. Stating that we are not is the most fallacious facade I have ever heard. What if a mother aborts a child who would POTENTIALLY find the cure for cancer? You speakmuch on potential, but might I comment you know little. Yes, we all have potential to be great. But those killed in abortions have all potential taken from them before they can reach any of it. And if teens and others would save sex for marriage, do you know how greatly abortions would be reduced? Rape and incest is also a topic of debate. Are you aware, though, how little pregnancies occur during those occasions (rare to begin with)? Often timesthe woman is too traumatized to become pregnant at all. The mother’s life is also almost never threatened, statisticly, compared to all those child births that take place safely.
    In conclusion, I strongly disagree with almost every point you make, however, such is the beauty of America. I have no doubt that you will comment back, with all of your belittling and deprecating words. Obviously, you will not change your beliefs, even if you are in the wrong. I also have no intention of changing mine. But maybe, just maybe, some of this get through to you, and maybe someday, not to day, nor tomorrow, but someday, Jesus will call you and you will answer. That is all I can hope for. In the mean time, I will pray for you. I love you, because you are truly a child of God. Be a leader. Just lead in the right direction. Thank you. Goodbye.

    • Thanks for a perfect example of how bat-excrement-crazy religious people can be. No further comments are required.

  15. Actually, I do apologize for my initial comment as it wasn’t directed at your blog. I just now realized this.

    I do feel that a topic as controversial as abortion should not be in the hands of any particular group of people, but the people involved, because each case is different. For example, rape, birth complications, abortion used as birth-control and so on. So with these differences, it should be left up to the doctors and patients to decide if they wish to do such things. However, I guess I meant in the case of obvious negligence, legal repercussions should result, not that states should have the ability to ban abortions if they so choose.

    My mistake was trying to successfully summarize my entire view on the subject in a comment.

    • Oh! Well, why didn’t you say so? Fair enough, and no harm done. I agree completely…. and I always want to err on the side of what creates the least misery. I plan to write more on that, actually, but haven’t had the time. I think it’s important to state the premises upon which an argument is based, especially ethical arguments. The most basic ethical premise I have is the starting assertion that suffering is bad, in all cases, and people should work to minimize it. That should be the point of our laws; to diminish the amount of overall suffering endured in life. In my opinion, that’s a sound and self-evident basis that people ought to be able to agree on. It’s a primal imperative: avoid harm, especially to creatures that can feel… and humans appear able to think and feel more than any other species, so far as we know.

      That’s the basis of my ethics. Try to do the least total harm, physically and psychologically. In the case of abortion, the woman’s well-being is always top priority, because she’s here already, but at some point the controlled tumor she’s growing goes online as an independent organism that can think on its own. The fetus becomes an ur-human, or proto-person, and no one should mistreat it for capricious, callous or cruel reasons.

      After that point but before birth-separation, in a life-or-death situation where there can be only one survivor – woman or pre-infant, but not both – in my opinion the woman still wins, and here’s why. Both woman and infant have functioning minds, but the one mind is active and formatted by a lifetime of accumulated memories and social bonds… while the other mind is empty, running only its basic operating system but without any memory applications directing it yet. I have to conclude that the more ethical choice would be to preserve the woman. When there are no other options, I think it would be less unethical to snuff out a running but empty mind – humanely, still – than a living mind full of memories and desires. Either outcome is a tragedy, but they’re not both tragedies of equal magnitude.

  16. Exactly. You as a citizen should have a say where your taxes go. That’s the whole point of being a citizen and why this country was created in the first place.

    If the President wants to create a bill allowing abortions, in my opinion, it should not allow funding to come from tax dollars, and pro-life doctors should not be forced to abort babies if they do not want to.

    People do have the right, but there should be a line that people should not cross; in this case, I mean abortions of nearly fully developed babies.

    • I agree with your point about late-term abortions, as you’d have realized upon reading my blog post all the way to the end. When a fetus establishes the network of brain tissue allowing its sentience software to go online, it becomes a thinking, self-aware entity. At that point it should be preserved – in my opinion – and the mother enjoined from ending its life for arbitrary reasons. However, when a fetus is yet unformed to the degree its brain is on par with that of a reptile, when it does not physically possess the ability to think, much less think as does a conscious person, it is not a human being. It is a potential human, just as every cell in your body is a potential clone of you.

      If an unformed fetus must be terminated, it should be treated as one would ethically treat an animal – destroy it humanely, without causing it undue pain if it possesses the physical apparatus to perceive pain. If a woman wants to abort an early term fetus, I’d personally rather she’d have displayed enough foresight to avoid an unwanted pregnancy in the first place. But I am not prepared to crown myself the keeper of all humans. I am not so in love with my own sense of moral superiority to every other person alive, that I would casually say to a woman in early pregnancy that she is less capable of controlling her body and private life than I am of controlling hers for her. What kind of arrogant, insufferable megalomaniac would I be to assign myself such a kingly role?

      And it’s quite strange to me, all this talk of freedoms and rights for states, used to advocate against freedoms and rights for individuals. Perhaps it’s not so important who passes laws to put women in their place, as long as such laws get passed?…

      The US is a Republic, on that point you are correct. By definition, a republic elects people to make governmental decisions in our stead. About the states issue you are wrong. States have some rights, just as counties and cities have some rights, to govern themselves locally. This is reasonable because local priorities vary. But we elect a federal level of government to define the US as a nation, and pass laws that affect all citizens. We fought the Civil War to make this point clear. The US is not a loose collection of wacky, go-it-alone states, it is a single country that strives for fair and consistent protection of human rights, and it has been for some time now. I imagine this will come as unwelcome news to dwellers in armed compounds in Montana, or jobless parasites on society who picket outside Planned Parenthood clinics, but them’s the breaks.

      Bye, bye.

  17. Your first paragraph is also illogical.

    In addition, if you kill something inside of a woman and that something has a heart that is pumping blood, has a brain that thinks, two legs, and two arms, abortion is murder and should not be allowed because that, “something” although unborn, is a life and has rights and freedoms as well.

    The United States is a Republic, and states should have more say than the federal government, just as the founders intended. You’re wrong in so many ways; I’d rather save the energy because a person like you is too far removed from the idea of right, wrong and logical thought.

  18. I disagree in regards to my tax dollars being used for it, which is what the act states. Not everyone has the same opinion, so tax dollars should not be used.

    • Taxes should be spent according to the individual wishes of each and every person? Really? Okay then, I’ve got quite the list prepared for where I want my taxes spent…. and not spent.

      Unanimity is not required. Deal with it.

  19. First of all, this type of power shouldn’t be in the hands of the Federal Government, but the Individual States.

    • Wrong.

      Reproductive freedom is a basic human right, and basic human rights must be protected by the most effective agency available, which in this case is the federal government. The most compelling aspect of this issue is the freedom of humans to live their private lives without government intrusion, not some antiquated ideology of “state’s rights”.

      Of course the states run by moron hicks want more power to control people’s lives, which is why we have a federal government in the first place… to try and avoid the tyranny of the majority. Religious zealots miss this point nearly every time: our democracy isn’t the type where two wolves and a sheep get to vote on what’s for dinner.

      There are also mentally defective narcissists (they call themselves Libertarians) who think there shouldn’t be any government, because they’d like to be able to do whatever the hell they want, whenever they want, to anyone they want. I invite such people to emigrate to Somalia, which is a perfect Libertarian paradise of zero taxes, zero laws, and zero civilization.

  20. This was an excellent description of my own feelings on the matter. Thanks for giving me some plain language to use when I talk about this in the future.

    Penn’s symmetry argument is also very persuasive.

    • Well, I aim for plain language… or at least plainly understood language. As a scientist I’m tightly constrained when I write a scientific paper, which has to be clear, supported by evidence, logical, and with everything described and defined. I’m not supposed to slip in any fuzzy words or thinking, which would be spotted quickly by my peer-reviewers, who would ask me to fix that part or else I don’t get published. When I try and think through other types of problems in general life I try to apply the same criteria, and abortion is a great example. To justify my position I prefer to try and think it through, and break down all the parts of the argument to their constituent significant aspects. If the foundation is sound, it’s safe to build.

  21. Unfortunately, knowing is purely a result of my liberal-arts education, I assure you. And while it may seem odd that someone with this background would be reading your blog, I believe that it’s important for people who will be writing and applying laws one day to have a firm understanding of relevant scientific issues. Abortion is a huge part of that. Frankly, having a solid, logical position to base laws on is something that we sadly lack in North America.

  22. FYI, Penn Jillette also supports something similar to the Sagan position on when a fetus becomes a person. His argument is for symmetry between the beginning and end of life. We already recognize that the lack of human-like thought patterns in the brain of an adult means they are dead. The logical consistency of applying the same criteria to a fetus appeals to me.

    As for “feta,” the plural of “fetus” is widely recognized as “fetuses” in English, and if we were to apply Latin grammar to the word, the plural would be… “fetūs.” The word is fourth declension masculine or feminine, so the plural could not be “feta,” which ends in a suffix (-a) only acceptable in second and third declension neuters. Betcha didn’t think someone would actually answer that one, eh?

    Anyway, as usual, you’re right on the money with what you’re saying – keep it up!

    • Wow, no I didn’t think anyone would come up with an answer to the fetus-plural question, but I’m sure glad you did. I was going from the analogy of “bacterium” and “bacteria”, which demonstrates accurately my limited knowledge of Latin declensions.

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