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Some Thoughts on Guns and Abortion

SayUncle seems to be warming up to Rand Paul, but isn’t happy about Rand Paul going against abortion rights. I am generally in Uncle’s camp on this particular issue, but I understand why the issue is so contentious, and why people are passionate about it. I don’t pretend to have any real moral insights into where life begins, and therefore where the rights of the mother need to yield. I think philosophically, it’s an issue that is far more difficult than many people who have strong opinions on it imagine it to be. At the end of the day, what has made me fall on the abortion rights side of the spectrum is that I can’t abide by the fact that enforcing an abortion ban would entail roughly the same kind of tactics we’re seeing right now with SAFE. This may not be a popular notion in today’s political climate, but I tend to think if you’re going to make certain behaviors serious crimes, they should generally be behaviors that pretty much everyone who isn’t criminally anti-social can agree ought to be crimes.

It’s with that I want to start in on a comment, and follow-up, that appeared yesterday by Peter Hamm, who used to work in the gun control issue, but has since moved on. Peter has always been a strong adversary, and a decent person, so I think his point is worth addressing in a post:

So, to clarify, gang, when you say enforce the laws on the books, you mean the laws on the books that pass muster with a broad cross-section of then gun rights community.

I respect you, and try not to ever treat you disrespectfully, but do we all get to choose the laws that we find acceptable, and disregard the rest? I for one am aware of many laws, such as the federal income tax laws, that I would rather opt out of, but have always thought that doing so wasn’t an option.

Consider this, for example. If one of these town officials says he won’t enforce a new gun law, you applaud him. What would you have thought if the National Park Service had said it wouldn’t allow concealed, despite the rider on the credit card reform bill?

We’re Americans. If we don’t like a law we’re free to fight for its repeal. We’re not free to disregard it. That gets liens put on your house, social services putting your kids in protective custody, stuff like that.

I think this can be a good starting point for a discussion on both the left and the right to develop a bit of understanding. That’s why this post started with the topic of abortion, because it is another very contentious moral and social issue that we argue very passionately about.

If abortion were generally made illegal, or very close to illegal in a state, would folks on who are passionate about abortion rights believe that women who smuggled abortion pills into the state ought to be subject to felony penalties and thrown in jail? Should they just obey the law, and stick to lobbying for repeal? What if the law makes traveling out of state for an abortion a felony? Is the woman who drives a friend worth throwing in prison for 10 years? If the state did an ad campaign targeting women’s magazines and television, telling other women to report if a friend or neighbor had an illegal abortion, with rewards offered for arrests, would you be outraged? What about doctors who refuse to obey the laws and decide carrying out safe abortions in medically sound conditions is better than women resorting to back alley abortionists and coat hangers? What about a woman who gets a botched abortion, gets a bad infection, and seeks legitimate medical treatment? Should she face a felony rap, and be forced to choose between sterility, and possibly death, or a lengthy prison sentence?

For those who are against abortion, this is what enforcement would mean. Sound familiar? Even if we disagree with each other’s moral compass on life’s starting point, you’re still dealing with fundamental issues of personhood, and those are always the kinds of topics we’re going to have the worst arguments over in America. Slavery was an issue of personhood, and we fought a bloody civil war over that.

Likewise, the gun rights debate is actually not about guns, but is rather a personhood debate, derived from the fairly common and historically pervasive American notion that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right of citizenship and personhood. The right to defend one’s home, one’s life, and one’s liberty is deeply rooted in our sense of personal autonomy, self-reliance, and in our relationship with those who govern us, or who would claim to govern us. It is just as much about a right to our own corporal integrity and dignity as it is to many who support abortion rights.

98 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Guns and Abortion”

  1. Mason says:

    I think you really hit the nail on the head with that one. It’s an uncomfortable comparison, but some times there are things that people well and truly disagree with. What they often don’t take into account is the fact that legislating a “fix” to said situation has the potential to cause even more damage than the action itself. I’m not a huge fan of abortion (who is, really?) but I think the current state of affairs is far better than the alternative.

    • Jack says:

      Amen brother. Forcing a woman to have an unwanted child is barbaric at best. We are over run with unwanted, uncared-for children now. Ask a pro life fan how many unwanted children they are caring for in their home and watch them squirm. There’s a quality of life that they totally ignore.

      • Arnie says:

        Dear Jack,

        Not to be contentious, but did you really mean to say “child” in your second sentence above? The reason I ask is because allowing a mother to kill her “child” so as not to have him or her to take care of would be the very definition of “barbaric.”

        I say this only to address Sebastian’s point. Once we agree on when personhood begins, from that point on there is no longer an argument of a mother’s right to choose a procedure affecting only her own body, because we’ve now agreed it’s not just her own body; it’s now a matter of an innocent young child’s body and his or her right to life. At that point, both legally and logically, we no more have a right to kill a person in the womb as we would a person in a high chair. And the killing in either case becomes equally “barbaric.” Your use of the term “child” actually works against the point I think you were trying to make.

        And as medical science gets better and better, we must face the possibility that science might prove human life, personhood, does actually begin at conception. In that event, the mother’s choice to “have her child” will have quite literally been made the moment she surrenders herself to a man. Will the law keep up with such science? Will a person’s right to life trump another person’s “right” to convenience? Will America’s moral compass point to life or to pleasure?

        I don’t know; but like the civil rights issues of the past, there will be bitter contentions, conflicts, and possibly civil war. The language we choose will be critical to the argument.

        Thankfully, with regard to the civil right to keep and bear arms, our side has the guns! :-)

        Respectfully,
        Arnie

      • It is not clear that the abuse problem starts with unwanted children. How, in the age of readily available contraception and abortion on demand (at least in the first trimester), can any child be unwanted, except after the fact?

  2. Richard says:

    Pretty much. Any law that draws active opposition from say a third of the population is unenforceable without huge amounts of repression, especially if it involves person-hood issues as you say. It brings discredit on the government and runs the risk of mass violence like the Civil War. I would add the complex of gay issues, the War on Drugs and perhaps Obamacare to the issues where the country is deeply divided and courting disaster.

    • Sebastian says:

      I tend to agree, though I think the War on Drugs mostly tends to get ignored, rather than resisted on principle, because it’s not a personhood issue. It’s not the kind of thing people will kill each other over (I mean in terms of political violence, obviously there’s a lot of violence associated with the black market in drugs).

  3. Steve says:

    Guns are about defending the innocent.

    Being pro life is the same thing.

    Gun owners pride themselves in being responsible. And accepting responsibility if it all goes wrong.

    Gun owners are usually the first and most fierce in hammering careless gun owners. But careless reproductive organ owners? Not so much.

    We draw strict lines as to what constitutes justifiable killing. Mostly.

    Carelessness, stupidity, simple convenience, income level…. None of those are usually considered justification.

    We have our rights. We demand them, and quietly threaten open warfare if an attempt is made to infringe on them.

    Who speaks for the unborn? Why don’t they have rights?

    Warning. Graphic:
    http://cnsnews.com/news/article/abortionist-joked-baby-big-enough-walk-around-me-or-walk-me-bus-stop

    • Kenn says:

      Your example is a red herring.

      Brutal late term abortions are already sufficiently illegal, as is amply demonstrated by the observation that the aforementioned “doctor” is indicted on several counts of murder.

      • Rob Crawford says:

        It must be nice to dismiss an argument with the words “red herring” — as if they have meaning. This guy killed more people than died at Newtown, but where are the legislators trying to impose more regulations on his industry?

        Why shouldn’t abortionists be required to keep records as complete as FFLs? Be subject to unannounced inspections? Face the complete loss of their livelihood over a paperwork error?

        • Nathaniel says:

          Because those requirements are onerous attempts to destroy through regulation. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I suspect (hope) you’re playing Devil’s Advocate, but we should not be advocating restrictions on others that we reject on ourselves.

          Nobody’s arguing here that abortion is a good thing. I hate it. Sebastian hates it. We all think it’s awful, especially those horrific, barbaric late-term abortions. The argument here is that trying to stamp abortion out using the law will destroy the lives of the already-born while failing to really protect the unborn, since women who really want abortions will find ways of doing it anyway. It’s just like our argument against gun control. If it’s true for guns, it’s true fot abortion.

    • Sebastian says:

      But careless reproductive organ owners? Not so much.

      Except people are born with those organs, and when they hit a certain age, their brains start compelling them to engage in acts that are highly likely to lead to reproduction. Most people’s brains don’t compel them to misuse guns.

      I think mothers tend to have rights that can be asserted, even if one agrees that the unborn may have certain rights as well.

      • Arnie says:

        I am not sure I would completely agree; granted I’m not born with guns, but I am born with fists, and the same brain that makes me drool in the presence of a comely young lady also makes me want to bury my fists in the skull of certain gun-banning, tax-raising persons in DC! ;-)

  4. asdf says:

    The way I see it, more abortions = less violent criminals. It’s probably much more effective at reducing crime than any gun control measure could ever hope to achieve.

    Besides, any state law to restrict abortion would be pointless. Women could simply travel out of state to where it’s legal. These days, there would be plenty of private financial assistance provided for those who couldn’t afford to do so on their own. I don’t see how their home states could prosecute them for an activity that is legal where it was performed. For example, New York State can’t prosecute a New Yorker for purchasing a 30rd AR magazine while in PA, as long as that magazine isn’t brought across the border into NY.

    • Arnie says:

      Which brings up the libertarian issue of the Founders. They left abortion and gun control to the States where they belong. That way, at least Pennsylvanians would not have to pay for the abortions or “gun crimes” of say, New York. For the federal government to force the issue either way upon the States would appall them. I thought these were Rand Paul’s sentiments also, at least on abortion (personally opposed, but let each State decide for itself), but I could be wrong.
      - Arnie

    • Alpheus says:

      This is one of the things that bothers me about the “pro choice” side of things. The justifications for abortion are often a bit too close to the edge of Nazi-esque arguments as to why we need concentration campus for “undesirables”. It comes back to personhood.

      How many people are born, unwanted, into horrible conditions, and yet manage to pull themselves out and do wonderful things? And how many people are born into wonderful homes, yet gradually find themselves living a life of crime?

      For the record, I’m a so-called “anarcho-capitalist”, which means I think everything should be legal, including murder. Or rather, all law should be between me and those I associate with….

    • Oleg Volk says:

      That’s not a certainty yet. US government prosecutes people for using drugs or having sex with underage (by US standards) partners abroad, so I wouldn’t put it past state governments to prosecute people for actions done legally in other states while listed as residents of the more oppressive jurisdictions.

  5. SDN says:

    Can anyone show me explicit language (as opposed to emanations and penumbras) guaranteeing the right to an abortion in our fundamental law? My Constitution shows that for guns. If you start by passing a Constitutional Amendment to make abortion legal, you can equate the two.

    • asdf says:

      @SDN: But there are many who might point out that up until McDonald, there really were no *federal* constitutional protections standing in the way of State gun regulations, up to and including complete bans.

      The idea that the federal government can intervene within the states to protect the right to get an abortion is based on almost identical grounds as the power to stand in the way of overly restrictive state firearm laws. Remember, the second amendment, as it stands alone, has nothing to do with the states. The 14th amendment is the only thing that changes that.

    • Sebastian says:

      I think the moral questions in abortion are separate from whether there’s a right in the constitution. It’s quite arguable, I think, that Roe is incorrect, and there is no right to be found in the Constitution, and judges aren’t particularly gifted with the moral insight into where life begins any more than you or I. Though, I’m not certain legislatures are either.

      • RAH says:

        You came up with hypothetical that a woman or person smuggling morning after pills would go to jail. Why is that different from a person smuggling cigarettes or drugs? The both go to jail if caught. I really do not see a difference. Drugs can be smuggled to provide pain relief or for intoxication.

        If a doctor decided to kill women then he would be considered a murderer. Killing a fetus is a living human being then the same guilt can be applied.

        The real connundrum is when a woman carries twins or triplets and the doctors do a selective abortion to ensure one healthy child. Then the motivation is not to get rid of an inconvenience but to get the greatest chance of a live birth.

        The problem of doctors killing their patients thru treatment is why it is a civil matter and not a criminal matter. Doctors use to bleed a patient sometimes to death.

        I personally think abortion should be illegal after the first trimester unless it is to save the life of the mother or another child.
        The more that science can get a fetus viable outside the womb makes this a real moral issue. Just as bad as slavery is to kill the innocent.
        As to women being charged with the crime of an abortion that almost never happened in the past and no reason for that now. However woman are charged when they kill their child that just got born.

        The more we can create our children in a test tube then the morality gets harder. Shall it to be murder not to implant all fertilized eggs and place them in a surrogate?

        Maybe it would be immoral not to implant fertilized eggs somehow. It could be a crime if the facility flash fried all non used fertilized eggs. I can see this happening in a lot of ways.

        I think a lot of people got the idea that more people being born is bad idea so abortion became useful. If a society really wanted more children to survive then the abortion as a crime becomes an imperative so does the restrict of birth control.

        I personally believe most abortions are for convenience and that is not a sufficient moral reason to kill a an innocent child.

        I have no problem with procedures and drugs that prevent the implantation in the uterus. Until the fetus gets implanted it is not a viable human. After that

        • Zermoid says:

          I personally feel I have no right to tell another what to do with their body, is a woman wants an abortion it’s her decision. (or at least should be)

          As to morality and the question of murder, this is all based on when you think a collection of human cells becomes an actual separate being and not just a growth within a person. How many cells does it take to go from a lump of cells (whether infant or tumor) to being a person?

          I have no answer.
          But the Bible does says that God breathed the breath of life into man to make him alive, so I defer to that reasoning personally, until the child is born and takes his first breath of life I feel it’s just a growth of the mother. And could be removed like any other unwanted growth. I have neither the knowledge or evidence to make any other decision.

          And am personally glad I’m not a woman and will never need to make that decision for myself.

          • Arnie says:

            I hope to become as libertarian as anyone, Zermoid, but just out of curiosity, do you also oppose laws that outlaw a pregnant woman from drinking alcohol or taking drugs that are known to permanently deform the “fetus”? Personally, I am torn on that issue. In a way I envy your certainty, and could truly wish I could just leave other people alone; but when I see them deliberately, or just carelessly, destroying the future of their child, I nosey, goodie-two-shoes in me starts squirming. I work hard to suppress that urge!

            I just wish the answer were as easy as you say.

            Respectfully,

            Arnie

            • Nathaniel says:

              Laws banning pregnant women from smoking or drinking sound a lot like the Bloombergian nanny-state paternalism of outlawing 32 oz sodas. Nobody’s arguing that these things are good; simply that the state should not use its violence to try to prevent them.

              You don’t have to approve of bad behavior. Judge all you want! But don’t go so far as approving of the state inflicting violence on those people. After all, your judgement comes from wanting them to be safer and more protected, right? Involving the state achieves the opposite.

              • Arnie says:

                I think I understand the dichotomy you’re expressing, Nathaniel, and I most likely agree. If I truly care about that child’s welfare, the last thing I should do is get the State (or Feds) involved. The liberals (not libertarians) do that and make things worse. Better I should attempt to persuade with loving information rather than intervene with the raw power of the State; and let God, not me, not the State, judge those who reject instruction and proceed to harm their own children. As I confessed earlier, it’s hard to do, but you’re right – if I want to be so treated regarding my private decisions about being militarily armed, then I must treat their private decisions the same way regarding their families.

                The question will be proffered: But is it different when a child’s life is involved? Isn’t that a different level than mere guns? And how far do I take it? What if the mother believes in prayer healing and refuses to take her 2-year old with an appendicitis to the doctor? That’s a hard one. I’m open to suggestion. I’m relatively new at this libertarian thing.

                Respectfully, Arnie

          • WallPhone says:

            Lev 17:11, the life is in the blood, and an implanted fetus has a blood supply distinct and separate from the mother.

      • Arnie says:

        Again, well spoken, sir!

  6. Abortions and gun control? Easy.

    Tell a pro-abortionist you will happily perform an abortion for them by shooting into the belly of the pregnant woman, thereby killing that pesky unborn baby.

    At that point, the conundrum arises: Wait, I hate guns but I love abortion? Should I be angry at the gun or happy about the abortion? So confused, so confused!

    • Sebastian says:

      Or maybe they’d just be concerned that the gunshot wound is just about as likely to kill or permanently maim the mother. Could be, I think.

      • Funny, that doesn’t seem to be a consideration when they rip the unborn baby out of a woman’s womb, where it is growing and safe and being nurtured.

        • Diane says:

          Have you ever known a 13-year-old who was carrying a baby that her father fathered? Is that a baby that is “growing and safe and being nurtured”? What happens when that father is put in prison for incest? Who is “safe and nurtured” at that point? And when that 13-year old becomes a totally irresponsible parent, whose problem is that?

          Seriously, I worked with a woman who had two children her father fathered before he was convicted for this behavior. Her mother kicked her out of the house for sleeping with her father. She used to leave the kids at home alone so she could come to work. She swore that the 4-year old was totally responsible. (Yeah really. Left the 4-year old home to watch the 3-year old.) As you know, the government shouldn’t provide for people who can physically go out and work so she needed to support her little family — at 18.

          Pro-lifers talk a bunch of crap but they never stand up for any kind of social welfare or support. You want to keep every single baby but you aren’t willing to support any of them. You’d like to see every one of them be born and then starve for lack of food because that is biblical morality to you.

          • Zermoid says:

            There are plenty of people out there who want to adopt an unwanted child, or one that cannot be properly cared for.

            The laws need to be changed so those who want and can care for an infant can get one that is unwanted/improperly cared for.

            I couple I know who could not have children of their own tried for years to adopt, to no avail. They were not wealthy and couldn’t afford all the legal costs to fight for a child, and (probably also because they were not well off financially) they weren’t just approved to adopt. Other than money reasons I have no clue why they were denied, they were wonderful people and would have raised a fine kid if they had been allowed to adopt.

            It’s sad that many people think that abortion or being stuck with an unwanted kid is the only options available.

            • Arnie says:

              Right on, Zermoid! I know a couple who adopted three children from overseas because of the STUPID red tape of adoption procedures here. Another couple open-adopted three children here for the same reason: to avoid government bottlenecks. I read back in the late 80s that 2 million couples seeking infant adoptions were turned away annually due to unavailable infants. Meanwhile, we aborted 1.5 million infants every year! No such thing as an “unwanted child” my friends. Even “crack babies” are desired by couples, including my sister’s parents-in-law.

      • Arnie says:

        Good point, sir, but in all fairness, many women have suffered severe, permanent damage both physically and psychologically from legal, qualified abortionists. Some have even died from the procedure. Granted, a lot of those injuries could be prevented by the government regulating the clinics and the procedures to better protect the heath of the would-be mothers, but, as an earlier blogger pointed out in a link, they don’t. And they will not! Even school clinics passing out aspirin are more regulated. Can’t understand that.
        - Arnie

  7. JR says:

    You will never hear me saying “enforce the laws [already] on the books” or anything of the sort. Nearly all of them, in a just world, would be rejected at all levels of the justice system, from district court judges, superior/state court judges, prosecutors, to LEOs, or better yet, not even become law in the first place.

    The only reason categorically unconstitutional and evil laws can exist for decades, centuries is because the government is effectively 100% immune from its own laws prohibiting civil rights violations and treason (unless someone wants to save innocent lives, then they get the book thrown at them, like it appears Bradley Manning has).

    Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges. -Tacitus

  8. HappyWarrior6 says:

    There is no such thing as “safe” as relates to abortion or guns. The difference is a trigger pull is not really a death. Abortion always results in one, mother and/or child. That’s the sole purpose of abortion. And no, abortion is not a constitutional right. Gun ownership is.

    If you still don’t understand how barbaric an abortion is or what it accomplishes I urge you to read the testimony of this Philadelphia abortion doctor that is now on trial for murder.

    I’m certainly all about calling something murder when I see it. I certainly hope all gun owners would as well.

    • Kenn says:

      Obviously, not all abortions are created equal. I’d like to point out that the doctor in Philly is being charged with murder under our current laws that allow abortion. As disgusting as what that guy did is, it’s a red-herring in the current discussion.

      I don’t claim to know where life begins. But no one is suggesting legalizing abortion at 8 months gestation.

      Late term abortions like your example are the pro-life version of “Shoulder thing that goes up.” It makes pro-lifers seem ridiculous.

      • craig says:

        Abortions are *already* legal up to the moment of birth. The SC gave an all-encompassing ‘health of the mother’ pass in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

        Gosnell’s indictments were for ‘abortions’ performed on the already-born.

      • Rob Crawford says:

        Red-herring, red-herring!

        Again, it’s an easier phrase than thought, I guess.

        And, yes, there are people demanding abortion be legal, some of them all the way up to the 1st birthday.

    • Sebastian says:

      Turn the clock back to the early stages of pregnancy when the embryo is just a cluster of cells. Should it be morally regarded as murder to take a drug that prevents it from implanting in the uterus? If so why? Because it has the potential to become a human being? With the right chemicals, we could turn your skin cells into a human, with the right habitat. Why isn’t it murder to take a shower? Or scratch an itch? What about fertilizing an egg in-vitro and then botching the implantation?

      • Sebastian,

        People don’t fear fire. People fear the spark that can become the fire. Fire prevention is not designed to stop fires. It is designed to prevent sparks which become fires.

        Kill that pesky glob of tissue, a fertilized egg, and voila!, no human baby, right? Whew! That’s a relief.

        • Sebastian says:

          I tend to fear the fire myself, and then only if it’s out of control.

          • Bryan S. says:

            Difference being that naturally, that glob of skin isn’t going to do anything but be food for some mites or microbes.

            Naturally, that group of cells will implant itself and grow into a full human with rights endowed onto it by its creator.

  9. motomed says:

    These two issues have very little in common beyond the agreed upon good of preserving life.

    Every abortion question boils down to the moral status of the fetus. If the fetus has full moral standing, it must be protected regardless of any other consideration (women’s rights, ease of enforcing laws, impact on crime…..). If it doesn’t have moral standing, kill it, it’s a wart, tumor, bag of cells, etc. Kill it early, kill it late, doesn’t matter. All questions surrounding abortion are subordinate to the moral standing question, and any discussion of the topic that doesn’t first answer this question is just silly….

    The libertarian notion that government should butt out and let women do what they want assumes that the moral standing questions has been answered with “bag of cells.” It’s entirely consistent to be rabidly libertarain but answer the moral standing with “fully human” in which case the life (the ultimate libertarian good) must be protected.

    Sebastian, if pretty much everyone who isn’t criminally anti-social agreed that gun control was cool, I highly doubt this standard would change your opinion on whether or not gun control is “right” or “wrong” on a fundamental level, nor would it leave you accepting the laws they come up with as being OK.

    • Kenn says:

      Abortion is actually a fairly divisive issue in Libertarian circles. As has been pointed out, the point where the fetus becomes an individual life is something that is not easily answered.

      • motomed says:

        agreed, but the point of disagreement surrounds the moral status question. I reject the notion that difficulty or disagreement in answering the questions lets us off the hook, especially if one chooses to voice an opinion on the issue. Every opinion voiced assumes an answer to the question whether the person voicing it realizes it or not. All I’m asking for is logical consistency and honesty. This is actually an area where those who argue the abortion issue at the highest levels actually agree. Every other question related to abortion has a necessary answer once one answers the moral status question, but we avoid the issue like the third rail, and this gets us nowhere.

        • patrick says:

          As we all devolve into what is the start of life. I say lets think about the birth of an idea. What is the birth of an idea?Is it when you get capitol to start it? When you actually open the doors? No, it is simply the conception of the idea, and it is protected under the laws of the U.S. I say by knife or by gun, murder is murder….

          • Sebastian says:

            That’s not really true. If you conceive an idea, it means nothing legally unless you patent it. If you do patent it, and someone disputes your patent, it will go down to whoever can prove they first conceived the idea. An idea doesn’t get legal protection merely by thinking it into existence.

            I’d also point out that system is currently being tossed out in favor of a first-to-file system, which is what’s in place in the rest of the world. I don’t think patent protection has the same moral dimension to it as when life begins. Patent protection is an entirely artificial construct of government.

    • Sebastian says:

      Sebastian, if pretty much everyone who isn’t criminally anti-social agreed that gun control was cool, I highly doubt this standard would change your opinion on whether or not gun control is “right” or “wrong” on a fundamental level, nor would it leave you accepting the laws they come up with as being OK.

      I don’t think law can necessarily settle all moral questions, and I don’t think it should really try. That wasn’t really my point, and that’s something for another debate topic. I’m sure there are people who could argue that some kinds of vigilantism and retribution that happened outside government are moral, even though our society regards them as murder. Some societies regard the practice of beating a spouse moral under certain circumstances. The question is how involved should the law become on topics that are a real moral quandary. I don’t buy arguments that go “You shouldn’t impose your morals on me!,” because all law is an imposition of morals. The question is really at what level can government use law to settle contentious moral issues about which large number of people feel very strongly about and disagree on.

      Keep in mind that in the gun control debate, it is the gun control advocates who are advocating the use of law to settle a moral question in their favor. Gun control laws don’t exist in a state of nature.

      • Arnie says:

        Sebastian: “At what level should government make laws resolving contentious moral issues?

        Sir, would I be wrong in saying that at the founding, the colonies and their follow-on States were originally created by groups of people who shared a common belief system as to both religious and moral (and even financial) standards? Puritans dominated Massachusetts, Anglicans controlled Virginia, Catholics in Maryland, Quakers in your own State, and any kind of Christian was ok in Rhode Island. Several States, like Virginia, had established religions, and the First Amendment was written to protect, among other things, those State establishments from federal interference (said Jefferson, et al.). And if a person disagreed with those standards, they could move to a State or Colony whose standards they found more agreeable.

        Disregarding the modern interpretations of the questionably ratified Fourteenth Amendment for the moment, does this sound like the Founders would answer, “the State governments,” as to what government level should make laws resolving the contentious moral issues of their people?

        Just curious.

        Arnie

  10. Patrick H says:

    I believe that gun control and abortion are both immoral for the same reason: they don’t protect innocent life. The question of how to enforce anti-abortion laws can be debated, but since I consider it murder, I think the same laws should apply.

    As fo the question of deciding which laws we like and want to follow, I think every citizen not only has the right, but the duty to ignore and actively resist unjust laws.

  11. TS says:

    One of the things that drives me nuts about the gun debate is how they act so flabbergasted that anyone would oppose their “reasonable” ideas. But most of them take a hardline stance when it comes to abortion rights. A perfect example is the trans-vaginal ultrasound bills. I haven’t seen a single liberal call that “reasonable”, though the authors can make the same claims we hear in the gun debate, “we’re not taking away anyone’s right to get an abortion, were just adding a little step. We respect a woman’s right to her body, but…” Compared to gun bills, the ultrasound bill is quite tame. It is like adding another FFL requirement, but not banning anything, or creating a bunch of crimes- but I still oppose it as a needless restriction. It doesn’t even pass the rational basis test.

    Personally, I am morally opposed to abortion, but I am politically opposed to the idea of foisting morals on large amounts of people who don’t share them. That puts me firmly in the pro-choice camp. Where I didn’t stand with the bulk of liberals was a few years back when California had a ballot measure for parental notification when a minor has an abortion (note, that’s notification- not consent). This abortion right directly clashes with parental rights (your child can’t even be given aspirin at school without you knowing about it), and it well established that rights can be applied differently to minors. The pro-choice side had little reason against it. One point was regarding abusive households, though there was a provision in the bill that exempted cases of domestic violence. Their objection was absurd given that they would rather let the child have a secret abortion and send them right back to the abusive house without anyone knowing what was going on, and that because of rare incidents of evil, we should essentially treat all parents as if they beat their children (where have we heard that logic before?). But, the other argument they made was, “these are the same people who want to ban abortion!” So the argument wasn’t against the bill specifics, it was: these are our political enemies and we will fight them at every step. And really, that is the only argument that had- and they narrowly won (this is California, so that means a lot of pro-choice people ended up voting for it). It got me thinking, that the pro-life side doesn’t try to dance around the way gun controllers do. Generally, they are more likely to embrace being the enemy of abortion rights.

    I can only imagine if this were the state of gun rights today. We’d have the Brady Campaign pushing for a measure that requires the FFL to give the parents of a 13 year old kid a phone call to inform them that their child is buying a handgun, and the NRA responding, “Piss off! You get nothing!”

    • Archer says:

      Now, THIS is the direction I come from. I have a hard time taking a definite stance on the abortion issue. On the one hand, my moral beliefs tell me abortions shouldn’t happen, but my political beliefs tell me not to force other people to share my beliefs.

      It’s the same for me and gay marriage rights. On the one hand, my moral compass says that family is important – “family” consisting of kids with both male and female parents – but on the other hand I can’t justify imposing that structure on others who don’t see it that way. Like the State telling you how to raise your children, it’s antithetical to freedom.

      And that’s the key factor that drives my decisions: freedom. Because I value freedom, I feel that, despite my moral objections, I can’t support the hardcore pro-life standpoint. But, for moral reasons, I also can’t support the hardcore pro-choice standpoint. I tend to stick to “first-trimester abortions are discouraged but allowed, and later abortions forbidden except in extreme cases threatening the life/well-being of the mother”. That, I think, is a reasonable compromise, especially when paired with teaching personal responsibility from a young age.

      Which dovetails nicely with gun rights. The government should generally butt out. I’m OK with limiting/restricting rights to convicted violent felons and domestic abusers (convicted, not arrested or suspected, and for only as long as they’re a danger to themselves or others). But nearly unlimited rights has never been a problem if the people exercising them show some responsibility. That is the balancing factor, and that, unfortunately, is what seems to be lacking in many of the country’s “problem areas”.

  12. Andy B. says:

    My thoughts as inspired by the above are somewhat tangential to these actual issues, but they are something I constantly have in mind.

    I seem always to be opening with bad examples, but what the hell, they’re my experience, so:

    Some years ago I was involved with a network of “No Compromise” gun groups in various states. It would be fair to say that for being nominal gun rights groups, they were almost totally pro-life, also. There was an example where one of them opposed an incumbent who (a rare commodity) had actually done a number of positive legislative things for gun rights. I.e., he had a pro-gun record to run on, not just rap. But, that incumbent was pro-choice, so they opposed him, while never saying in public that was the reason. Their private excuse was that so many of their members were strongly pro-life, that they would lose a lot of support if they supported, and didn’t oppose, a pro-choice candidate. That despite the fact they were nominally “single issue.” They were willing to sell out gun rights for the abortion issue. I also was pretty sure their excuse about their members was only an excuse; it was the management that couldn’t bring themselves to support a pro-choice incumbent. They weren’t “single issue” at all.

    Ever since, I have pondered how we can be single issue, because being complex humans, none of us really are. I pondered that because I have come this —->close<—- to founding a semi-professional statewide RKBA group, and I know I have my druthers. Truth be told, at a personal level I couldn't stand the majority of nominal “pro-gun” legislators in our state. So, if I were going to run a “single-issue” organization, how could I manage that when, if I put the RKBA aside, I’d prefer to see most of those heroes in the ground, rather than elected?

    The only way I can imagine doing that is to do only things that are stringently objective; for example, support only issues while not getting involved in promoting candidates or individuals at all. For example, despite what I see as its other faults, I always liked GOA’s practice, when they did it, of sending out candidate questionnaires and reporting only the for/against responses; as long as the questions and answers are only about gun rights, the candidates’ or organization’s position on abortion or gays is kept out of it. And, there are no subjective A, B, C grades to wonder what motivated them. You either like what the candidate said about guns or you didn’t; no one is telling you what to think, so that you have to wonder about their motivations for wanting you to think that. Meanwhile, sticking with the example of GOA, when they sort of pull out the stops for a candidate (e.g, drive across several states to appear at his campaign rally) you will almost always find the candidate has a much stronger social conservative record than gun rights record; there very plainly is an “other issues” criteria being applied, so you have to wonder where gun rights really come into the picture, beyond the candidate having learned the cliche’s.

  13. Matthew Carberry says:

    I tend to view abortion to save the actual life of the mother as morally equivalent to Justifiable Homicide. It’s a non-issue.

    Rape and incest, given the (usual) lack of consent involved by the mother, I’m willing to lump under Excusable Homicide, like a lifeboat scenario. The mother can deal with their god on the morality of their choice.

    Pre-implantation and very early (first trimester) is so squishy in terms of what is “personhood” that I don’t feel sanguine using the force of law to make that decision for someone else, no matter my beliefs. Again, their god will deal with them in their own time, the state can stay out of it. Implantation is a dice roll anyway and if their god wants them pregnant no birth control can stop it.

    Though, post-implantation, if the reason for killing the baby is simply -convenience-, especially if it’s been done repeatedly (which I personally know happens), that person deserves nothing but scorn in my view. Find a better way and take some responsibility.

    Once we have effective viability? That’s a person, however challenged, and killing it, absent it risking the mother’s death or grievous (physical) harm, is murder. Same as killing someone who requires support to live and has diminished personhood on the other end of life.

    Anyway, that’s the philosophical and moral place at which I’ve made my peace with balancing rights and personhood.

    I believe that the reasoning may differ but that’s about where most Americans fall as well. You’d not see much civil disobedience there I think.

  14. richard says:

    So I’m in the abortion rights camp until the fetus has reached a stage where is viable outside the womb. The only flaw with your argument is that the right to bear arms is a individual right that only applies to the individual. The discussion about abortion is about balancing the rights of unborn child and mother and therefore necessary affects two individuals. The question is what is a life? I would argue that a clump of cells is not; however, a fetus that has a full complement of organs, nervous system, eats, sleeps and dreams I think would most definitive be a human and therefore should have the same protections as anyone else, unless the pregnancy endangers the mother.

    In my view neither right is absolute. Most of us agree that once you commit a felon you should lose your right to bear arms (I’m not 100% in that camp but that another topic) and that is for a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

    • Diane says:

      I’m in this camp too. When the fetus can survive outside the womb, it’s a person.

      I don’t believe either right is absolute.

  15. Carl from Chicago says:

    I can’t pretend to have a universal answer on this issue. But what I can say is that there is no question where human life, as a diploid organism, begins. In all mammals, diploid life begins at fertilization. It takes no judgement of morality to conclude that.

    What does take a legal and moral call is to answer the question of where personhood begins. And I suspect that few rational adults can conclude that a zygote, or a blastula, or a gastrula is a “person.”

  16. Andy B. says:

    My most pragmatic position is that since anti-abortion laws are generally unenforceable, implementing them means vastly expanding the power and reach of government for no practical benefit to the individual or society; only to their detriment. Meanwhile, like the Drug Wars, the Abortion Wars would be another tool used to expand and normalize warrantless searches, paramilitary raids, property forfeiture, etc., etc., etc., allegedly as a response to the discovery that the laws are unenforceable and abortions are continuing apace. Only those who would take satisfaction that our society was “making a moral statement” should take much satisfaction in that.

    While I hear that umpteen million abortions have been performed since Roe v. Wade, I have not encountered anyone hazarding a guess as to how many were performed during a similar period when they were nominally illegal. Since no one kept records and statistics of illegal activities, there is no way to know. Anecdotally, my parents, who grew up in working class South Philadelphia in the 1920s and 1930s, always told me that abortion had been used as a routine method of birth control among their contemporaries, including married couples. The more affluent went to hospitals for what were alleged to be “other” procedures, while the working poor went to doctors who would do it for only a small premium over normal fees. They had no stories about botched “back alley” abortions, but I’m sure it happened. Knowing what I do about city benign corruption in those days, I’m sure enforcement against abortionists was only against those who didn’t have political “friends” or similar protection, and flaunted it.

    Still anecdotally, a somewhat older friend remembers as a young boy in the 1940s, attending a church picnic near Doylestown where he heard the church ladies openly discussing how and where to obtain an abortion. That sect today has become one of the fire-breathers of the pro-life movement, and most of its adherents seem to believe it always was.

    My bottom line is that prohibition might be OK if we could go back to the benign old days of the laws being generally ignored, before over-zealous SWAT teams and property forfeiture. But since government has learned how to fund itself and continuously expand its funding, power, and employment opportunities through the use of Moral Equivalents to War, too many genies are out of too many bottles, and the results would be a disaster worse than what we will be facing as things are.

    • “Still anecdotally, a somewhat older friend remembers as a young boy in the 1940s, attending a church picnic near Doylestown where he heard the church ladies openly discussing how and where to obtain an abortion.”

      Are you sure that he wasn’t hearing a discussion of something else, such as sterilization or contraceptives? Remember that in many states, you could not even legally get a doctor to sterilize a woman to prevent any more pregnancies into the 1950s. I am a bit skeptical that a discussion of something that was generally regarded with horror was actually taking place.

  17. Brad says:

    If gun rights enjoyed the same support as abortion rights, then we would have government subsidized machineguns being sold to minors without parental consent!

  18. Oakenheart says:

    If I had to call it, I’d say week 25, the baby can respond to sound and movement. At that point there is no doubt it’s a living human being with it’s own mind. Before that fine, after that it’s a person with all the rights people should have.

    • Sebastian says:

      Rodents respond to sound and movement. Is there any doubt that a rodent is a living human being?

      I’m playing quite a bit of devil’s advocacy here, because I know that emotionally it’s different, but the ability respond to external stimulus is a trait exhibited by most life forms.

      • Matthew Carberry says:

        That’s weak sauce. Human DNA is the decider on what is a -human- life, the question is where “being” or personhood enters the equation.

        There are snarky arguments and comments to be made and devil’s advocacy to be advocated, but they shouldn’t be strawmanny and dumb.

    • Diane says:

      When a baby can survive outside of the womb, it’s a baby, okay? This isn’t that hard, really.

      • Matthew Carberry says:

        That’s kind of simplistic if you unpack it, there are meaningful philosophical issues in play. It isn’t just religion.

        The womb is at root merely a support system, providing nourishment and oxygen to a seperate life that may or may not have what we call full consciousness.

        A person in a persistent vegetative state is in a similar, if not completely analogous state. To deny the former personhood, and thus allow them to be killed at the discretion of the third party ultimately providing the support, without denying it to the latter is a facile solution to a very real set of ethical questions.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong, or if there is an absolute “wrong”, but you can’t, with any intellectual or moral integrity, simply elide the larger issue.

        • Diane says:

          The womb is merely a support system, but a women owns that support system. It’s not community property.

          When science creates a way to transfer the contents of the womb to another support system, then others might have a say — but as long as a women owns that support system — she should be the only one to say what her womb can contain.

          • You argument would be more persuasive if the pro-choice movement was prepared to acknowledge that at a certain stage (certainly by 24 weeks), it is possible to transfer that fetus to an external environment without killing it.

            • Diane says:

              The pro-choice movement does acknowledge this. I don’t know of anyone who advocates for abortions in the second and third trimester unless it is for the health of the mother or child. Third trimester abortions are extremely rare occurances.

          • patrick says:

            Really? At that point there are two involved that makes it community property. All you are asking is why the chicken crossed the road.

            • patrick says:

              everything is community property until it involves sex and abortion…Wow! Listen to yourself.

      • Except that the pro-choice movement insists that right up to the day before delivery, the mother has a right not simply to evict the fetus, but to have its skull cut open and the brains sucked out.

  19. Diane says:

    Speaking as a woman, this thread is full of fail — and it’s part of the reason I find it very hard to vote for a lot of pro-gun Republicans.

    And to everyone who says “No one is going to do anything to your reproductive rights” take a look at what is going on in North Dakota right now. This is what happens when you allow pro-life Republicans to take over the statehouse. You can’t trust Republicans to stay out of your personal business.

    • Matthew Carberry says:

      Eugenics, and restricting limited public medical treatment resources to folks on utilitarian grounds of age or lifestyle choices is just one flip side to the “interference in private life” coin. The larger ethical questions are in play as long as public money is involved at any level.

      You can’t simply carve out certain facets of private life as sacrosanct by fiat or whim and maintain legal and ethical integrity.

    • Zermoid says:

      As a pro-gun Republican, and generally a very conservative one at that, this is one area where I tend to agree with the ‘other’ side and think abortion should be allowed.

      I do not think it should be Govt funded however, forcing those who do not want something to pay for it is just wrong on so many levels in my opinion. If private insurance wants to cover it (it should, just like it should cover any other medical procedure a person needs performed) or the woman can pay for it otherwise I don’t feel I have the right to say what she can or can’t do with her body.
      Just don’t tell me I need to foot the bill.

      • Diane says:

        North Dakota wants to outlaw abortions for birth defects discovered after 6 weeks. Children born with some birth defects never spend a day outside of a hospital so you can imagine how much that costs compared to the cost of an abortion.

        • craig says:

          It’s also cheaper to euthanize anyone over 80 than to pay for their medical care. Doesn’t make it right.

        • Alpheus says:

          It depends on what you consider a birth defect. If a child is going to be born without an arm, is that really a sufficient reason to abort him? On the other hand, I had a child that had cysted kidneys, and could not produce the amniotic fluid needed for lung development–thus, birth at *any* time would have been an immediate death sentence.

          If the law forbids the former, I’m highly sympathetic towards it, though I’m one for getting rid of government altogether (except that government agreed upon between any two people and their arbitrator); if it forbids the latter as well, I’m less sympathetic towards it.

    • I completely support your right to control reproduction. So control reproduction — there is a big difference between contraception and killing a baby that can survive outside the womb.

    • Michael says:

      Please, what about it is “full of fail”? You don’t address a single argument from the post. I’m honestly interested.

  20. bob r says:

    This may not be a popular notion in today’s political climate, but I tend to think if you’re going to make certain behaviors serious crimes, they should generally be behaviors that pretty much everyone who isn’t criminally anti-social can agree ought to be crimes.

    That is a necessary condition but it is not a sufficient condition. For some things it really doesn’t matter if 99% of the people think something should be a “crime” — it still shouldn’t</i be a "criminal" act; committing such an act might get you shunned but that's just life in a free society.

  21. Andy B. says:

    Diane wrote: “. . .it’s part of the reason I find it very hard to vote for a lot of pro-gun Republicans.”

    That is further complicated by, all of our “freedom” movements have been so infiltrated by “stealth” moralists and religionists, who in fact have minimal interest in the issues of the groups they have infiltrated, and strong interest mainly in banning abortion, that it is usually doubtful that “a pro-gun Republican” really cares that much about guns, and isn’t just using guns as a decoy issue.

    I will forbear telling the long version of my story about the Christian Coalition infiltrator we elected chairman of the nascent Keystone Firearms Coalition back in the ’90s, who did nothing but lobby us to branch out to “other” issues besides guns, and disappeared the evening his wife let slip that they never had guns in their house, and that she would kill him if he ever brought one home.

    I’ll also skip the story about the Christian infiltrator we elected president of the PA Libertarian Party, also in the ’90s, and the disaster that turned into.

  22. One of the great difficulties with both of these debates is advocates tend to ignore the need to persuade. As long as 20% of the population believes firmly that abortion is no big deal, trying to ban it is not going to make it go away. (It may make it quite a bit more rare, simply because it will be unlawful to advertise such services.) Pro-lifers need to be working a lot more aggressively on persuading Americans that abortion is a bad thing — and when 85% of Americans agree that it is a great evil, the judges won’t much matter.

    • Andy B. says:

      Looking at things the other way, I would speculate that Roe v. Wade happened because very few people in fact cared about abortion one way or the other. It was based on a morality that was expressed as law because everyone was willing to give lip-service to it in public, while privately they wanted the option for themselves. In that way it was very much like alcohol Prohibition, which initially a majority supported because it sounded good and was hard to criticize on a moral basis, while privately they intended to go on drinking and/or weren’t much offended when others did, too.

      • Arnie says:

        I’ve been thinking about that lately. How could prohibition have passed 75% of the States and yet been so overwhelmingly unpopular. Here’s my theory:

        Only a majority in each Legislaturre of, at that time 36 States, needed to ratify the 18th Amendment. It only takes 51% of the ACTUAL voters in 51% of the State legislative districts to elect a legislative majority. 51% x 51% x 75% = 19.5% of total ACTUAL voters. And generally, only half of all voters actually vote. So, in the worst case, less than 10% of all potential American voters could have been responsible for changing the Constitution, with 90% at least nominally opposed!!!

        If I’m not out to lunch on my logic, that would explain the national backlash on prohibition. It also serves as a warning to us that a small but loud and influential minority could repeal the Second Amendment!

        Prohibition was passed with a lot of emotion and no forethought. We know our opponents have no forethought. And Sandy Hook gave them the emotional issue they needed.

        Look out, my fellow armed citizens!!!

        Arnie

      • Alpheus says:

        Roe v. Wade is also funny in another way: a political science major once pointed out that the states were generally going the direction of legalizing abortion anyway, but by decreeing it should be legal everywhere, and forbidding states to make it illegal, they basically made it into the passionate issue that it is today.

        Of the Supreme Court had just left it a States Issue, the passion behind the pro life stance probably wouldn’t be where it is today!

        We can see a bit of this in the Gun Rights issue as well, on both sides: many people became passionate about this issue when the Assault Weapons ban was first passed; similarly, the push for gun legislation today may be a backlash against the Heller and MacDonald decisions (as was pointed out in a previous post by Sebastian).

        This is what makes the current situation so scary: it’s literally an existential battle on both sides, enough so that if something goes wrong, it may result in civil war. Fortunately for all of us, the abortion issue doesn’t have that same existential element to it!

        • Andy B. says:

          “by decreeing it should be legal everywhere, and forbidding states to make it illegal, they basically made it into the passionate issue that it is today.”

          I can’t argue that that contributed nothing, but if you read the account of the era by Frank Schaeffer, Jr., in his book Crazy for God, the campaign to make it a hot-button issue for purposes of political organization and recruitment was an entirely cynical process set in motion (among Protestants) by him and his father. If I call correctly he says they adapted quite a bit of their early arguments from TV Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

        • randki says:

          Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
          The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Safari.

          I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to
          let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon.
          Thanks

    • Sin Eater says:

      This I definitely agree with.
      Here is some information that will definitely confuse things.
      I believe that abortion is wrong. I believe that a woman dying from pregnancy is also wrong so the “justified homicide” statement applies to me. Take one life to save another and all that.

      My wife’s firstborn was stillborn. The little boy died at about 9 months in the womb. The infant was fully formed and quite a hefty baby.
      FYI I believe the cause of death was malpractice but that is a discussion for another day. The Catholic priest in my parish said the Catholic church did not recognize stillborns as people so no rites and no funeral would be allowed for the baby.
      The Baptist preacher at the church her mother went to said essentially the same thing.
      So..
      We asked the preacher who married us to say a few words at the gravesite and buried the little guy and that was that.
      Yet the abortion stuff keeps coming up where church officials say that it is a life at conception so who is wrong and who is right?

      • Arnie says:

        My sincere condolences on the loss of your child, Sin Eater. I am given to understand that the loss of a still-born infant is no less grievous to his or her parents than a post-partum death. Organized religious deninations may not have a word to describe what you lost, but the God of the Bible does: “baby” – Luke 1:41.

        Again, my sincere sympathies,

        - Arnie

  23. Peter Hamm says:

    Sorry to have wrought all this, Sebastian – but thanks for the opportunity to share a thought.

    On another topic, it appears that all that’s left of the Senate bill is some stem cells.
    http://www.theonion.com/video/proud-time-to-be-a-cowering-sack-of-shit-as-democr,31778/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=standard-post:headline:default

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