September 11, 2006

Autonomy and Abortion

by PG

Responding to Quaker and me, Will Baude says,

Surely it is entirely sensible, and not uncommon in the Anglo-American tradition of criminal law, to hold that an autonomy interest is insufficient to override the state's attempt to stymie a particular conduct, but that the autonomy interest is not irrelevent to questions of punishment. That is what it means to say that the autonomy interest is outweighed rather than ignored.
I am little unclear about what in the criminal law Will means; I cannot immediately think of an act that is prohibited to perform on another but legally unpunishable to perform on oneself or to have procured from another (indeed, one reading of Lawrence is that certain acts constitutionally protected when occurring between two people still would be prohibited if onanistic). Certainly there are competing interests recognized in criminal law, but my understanding is that these tend to end up in either-or decisionmaking: either it was self-defense and no crime, or homicide and a crime. Juries may tend to split differences, but rarely by legal instruction. (I'd consider the "guilty but mentally ill" option available in some jurisdictions to be an example of an unfortunate cop-out provided by the law.)

Similarly, Will's conclusion

Quaker's and PG's points may well establish that abortion regulations ought to be reformed, but they fail to establish at all the accusations of bad faith that started this exchange. People make messy and imperfect moral compromises; what else is new?
fails to note that ex ante rule-making that does not recognize the consequences of itself is either stupid or in bad faith. If the proponents of "punish the doctors but not the women who seek their services" were pushing their policy because they saw it as the best way to ensure women with unwanted pregnancies had unsafe abortions, I would deem them to be acting both intelligently and in good faith, albeit immorally. To promote such a law under the guise of kindness to women, however, strikes me as so obviously unlikely to accomplish its supposed goals, that I find it implausible that any thinking person could consider it thoroughly and still do it, except in bad faith. I can understand how it superficially would sound like a great idea: stop women from getting abortions, but don't punish them when they attempt it. In the real world, it's more likely to be a compromise that allows politicians to satisfy as much of their disagreeing constituencies as possible, without any sincere effort to make a good law.

September 11, 2006 11:16 AM | TrackBack

World wide there are over 3,500 terminations carried out every day. Thats well over 1.3 million every year. In the US fifty percent of all cases, birth control was used, forty-eight percent used no precaution, and two percent had medical reasons.
That's a stagering ninety-eight percent that could have been prevented had an effective birth control been used. That's sad.
Don't get me wrong, I suspect the figures in Australia would be much the same. Just a whole lot of unnessesary killing.

Posted by: aus blog at September 16, 2006 10:04 AM

It's a subject of much debate, and the debate is hotting up of late with the apparent change in policies of several countries. I am a pro-lifer who has no religious convictions at all . I didn't need the fear of god or anything else to come to my decision, just a good sense of what is right and wrong.
You see we were all once a fetus. Is it beyond the realm of possibilities that when your mother first learned she was carrying you, she may have considered her options? What if she had decided to terminate? Would that have been OK?
You would not exist, if you have children they would not exist, and your (husband or wife) would be married to someone else. You would have been deprived of all your experiences and memories. In this day and age with terminations being so readily available and so many being carried out, if you make it to full term
you can consider yourself lucky. Lucky you had a mother that made the choice of life for you.Don't you think they all deserve the same basic human right, LIFE?
I'm all for contraception, prevention is certainly better than termination.
Did you know you can get an implant that lasts for three years? Just think girls not even a show for three years, wouldn't that be great? I think too many people rely too heavily on the last option (abortion), I think if abortions weren't so readily available people would manage their reproductive system far better resulting in a fraction of the number of unwanted pregnancies.
RU-486- Many people describe this as a contraceptive, it is not, it is a termination drug, it doesn't prevent a pregnancy, it is a lethal cocktail for the unsuspecting fetus. In my opinion RU486 might be acceptable if administered within a day or two of conception when all you would have is the basic ingredients of human life. After that it's just wrong. It's a human life.
I am convinced that in the not to distant future,people will look back at many of the practices of today with disbelief and horror.


Posted by: aus blog at September 16, 2006 10:06 AM


Just to clarify the science, at one point we all were an egg and a spermatozoon, which united to become an embryo, which developed into a fetus, which was born to become a human. If my mother had decided to terminate me, it would have been not out of malice, but because she felt unable to complete the pregnancy, to raise the resulting child, or both. I would not judge her a bad person for feeling this way, and if as a fetus I'd somehow been capable of thinking or feeling anything, I presumably wouldn't have had reason to think that life outside my mother's womb would be such a boon.

You also have one of the more incoherent opinions on RU-486 that I have heard. First, RU-486 does not work within "a day or two of conception." You appear to have it confused with Plan B, which is a contraceptive inasmuch as it prevents implantation of the fertilized egg, which is the medically-agreed upon commencement of pregnancy. Such an enormous number of fertilized eggs never implant that to call each instance of a fertilized egg a pregnancy would be both ridiculous and incompatible with in vitro fertilization, wherein an embryo is created outside a woman's body.

Second, to say that even after conception "all you would have is the basic ingredients of human life" is incoherent. Conception refers to fertilization, the point at which the "basic ingredients of human life" have united to commence forming a human life. They no longer are disparate "ingredients"; they are a unified whole. Once fertilization has occurred, the only other factor required is implantation in a woman's body.

And of course, here is the crux of the abortion debate. If embryos were capable of developing into born humans without using an already-born person as the vehicle, abortion rightfully would be illegal, because then women simply could have the embryo removed from their own bodies and either implanted into a willing carrier, or put into decanters to finish developing. It is the demand put on an unwilling person who, if abortion were illegal, would be forced by the state to carry an embryo (and in some states would be prosecuted if her use of drugs or alcohol caused harm to the resulting baby), that makes a prohibition on abortion an abrogation of autonomy.

Posted by: PG at September 16, 2006 09:19 PM


Posted by: aus blog at September 19, 2006 02:12 AM

aus blog,
Considering the number of people who *do* hook up to the internet without an effective firewall and anti-virus program, you must think there are thousands of people not in their right mind. More accurately, these tend to be people who are not well-informed about computers; they lack tech ed, much as many of the people who fail to use effective precautions with regard to sex are those who lack sex ed. But in light of your own misunderstanding about reproductive health, I don't think you are in a position to condemn them too harshly.

Posted by: PG at September 19, 2006 09:37 AM

Have you checked out (abortionclinnicdays)-the reality show.

Posted by: aus blog at September 21, 2006 03:46 AM

At the point of conception is when life began for you. This was the start of your existance. Your own personal big bang. Three weeks after conception heart started to beat. First brain waves recorded at six weeks after conception. Seen sucking thumb at seven weeks after conception.

Posted by: aus blog at September 21, 2006 03:46 AM

UPDATE - At this point in time there are 1.3 million couples in America looking to adopt...(thats scary)...

Posted by: ausblog at September 24, 2006 10:44 AM
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