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February 18, 2009 1:41 PM   Subscribe

North Dakota's House of Reps has passed a bill granting personhood to fetuses, making abortion murder and creating a challenge to Roe vs. Wade.
posted by FunkyHelix (354 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting timing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:42 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


wtf?
posted by Lizc at 1:42 PM on February 18, 2009


Oh, North Dakota....
posted by smackfu at 1:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, there's a "north" Dakota?
posted by found missing at 1:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sen. Octomom cast the deciding vote.
posted by Mister_A at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


And here we go, kids!
So all the sparring over FOCA was just distraction for a surprise knockout punch?
posted by cimbrog at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2009


So...what would be the punishment for someone who "murders" one of these persons?
posted by Biblio at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2009


I'm assuming this also has to pass the state senate (and the governor?) to become an actual law, right?
posted by jsonic at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Saddle up the horses and wear your Sunday best.
posted by cashman at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2009


Didn't South Dakota try something like this and having it overturned by referendum? Let's see... yes they did, Twice, actually.
posted by delmoi at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2009


If a microscopic collection of cells had feelings, it would feel proud today.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2009 [25 favorites]


I'm assuming this also has to pass the state senate (and the governor?) to become an actual law, right?

According to School House Rock, yes.
posted by found missing at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2009 [49 favorites]


I love how some nominally pro-choice people say that Roe v Wade is safe because nobody would ever pass a law like this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:47 PM on February 18, 2009


North Dakota is the poor man's South Dakota.
posted by Roman Graves at 1:50 PM on February 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm assuming this also has to pass the state senate (and the governor?) to become an actual law, right?

According to School House Rock, yes.


Considering that the House of Representatives passed a measure last week granting personhood to bills in process, it's unlikely the Senate or Governor would kill it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:50 PM on February 18, 2009 [36 favorites]


I'm assuming this also has to pass the state senate (and the governor?) to become an actual law, right

Yeah, but this looks like it may fly.
posted by cimbrog at 1:50 PM on February 18, 2009


A developing fetus is a life. You can argue that it's not a human life, but it's scientifically incorrect to say that a growing fetus is not a living organism. And if that living organism is not killed, then barring a miscarriage, it will become a human being.
posted by jsonic at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


The article mentions that this would also make contraception illegal, but then doesn't elaborate. Any ideas?
posted by cseibert at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2009


"So...what would be the punishment for someone who "murders" one of these persons?"

Death. Unfortunately, the law also prescribes death for the executioner, leading to an unending chain of carnage.

That's why conservatives warn us about unintended consequences.
posted by klangklangston at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2009 [18 favorites]


I look forward to the lawsuits against the police officers who refuse to enforce trespassing charges against these so-called "people" by the women whose bodies they are trespassing upon.

I look forward to the state of North Dakota fining women who suffer early miscarriages/failures to implant, because disposal of the "corpse" of a "person" may not be done via toilet.

I could go on with absurd examples of the logistics of granting personhood to fertilized eggs, but I won't. Suffice to say, I don't believe a mass of human tissue is a "person" until it is capable of living outside of another person. Before that point, it is a parasite, living off the woman's body, and a woman should have the right to remove it.

Which is to say that I also don't believe in murder charges for an assault that results in a miscarriage of an early-term pregnancy. It would be horrible for sure, but it's important to stand firm, as wishy-washy definitions of "personhood" lead to bullshit like this bill.
posted by explosion at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2009 [28 favorites]


The good news is those zygotes will have rights if they are gay.
posted by found missing at 1:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


what
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good for them this should be a state's rights thing anyway.
posted by spicynuts at 1:55 PM on February 18, 2009


So, could they pass a bill granting personhood to chickens?

Not that chicken = fetus. Just that it is amazing that legislators feel empowered to decide what is and what is not a person.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:55 PM on February 18, 2009


A developing fetus is a life.

Oh god...wendell.
posted by spicynuts at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2009


Any provisions for the health of the mother? Rape? Incest? Do they even give a shit?

Sure, declare a wad of cells a "person" - all you gotta do is transfer a little personhood away from the mother.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Oh for fuck's sake. I grew up in North Dakota, and while it's certainly got issues, it always seemed less full on conservative crazy than South Dakota.

I'm actually surprised to hear this. *sigh*

I hope the ND senate has more sense.
posted by flaterik at 1:57 PM on February 18, 2009


Would Canada like another few new provinces?

Yes? Maybe? You're shaking your head. But have you seen these leather seats? You know, every state is backed by our 100-point warranty, and we have a special going on undercoat treatments. Still shaking your head. OK, what can I do to get you into one of these states today?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:59 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


A developing fetus is a life. You can argue that it's not a human life, but it's scientifically incorrect to say that a growing fetus is not a living organism.

Hmm, you seem to have confused terms. It's definitely human life, as it's a biomass of human cells. I'd potentially object to the use of an article, "a human life" as opposed to just "human life," mostly because when we talk about "a life," it is synonymous with "a person," rather than "stuff that's alive." We talk about trees and lichens as "life" as well, without referring to the felling of a tree as "taking a life."

Regardless, the issue at hand is the issue of personhood, which is not necessarily the same as being a human anyway. A theoretical intelligent alien or sufficiently self-aware robot should be considered a "person," while a fertilized egg or zygote is not a person, but a collection of human cells that might become a person.
posted by explosion at 1:59 PM on February 18, 2009 [9 favorites]


So then if you cook up a bunch of embryos via IVF, you would be legally obligated to gestate them somewhere, correct?
posted by Mister_A at 2:01 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm confident that this time we'll get this whole thing sorted out to everyone's satisfaction.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2009 [34 favorites]


So if a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, would she be guilty of intoxicating a minor?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


Next: ND Sperm given Most Favored Nation Status. Arrest warrants issued for 99% of ND teenagers for "interfering with state trade laws."
posted by tkchrist at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would say that the first time a woman goes to prison for "murdering" her rapist's "baby" will be the end of this bill, but then I realized it was North Dakota, which hasn't had a fucking thing good about it since the early 18th century.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you keep a zygote in liquid nitrogen for 18 years, does it get to vote?
posted by Mister_A at 2:03 PM on February 18, 2009 [23 favorites]


So then if you cook up a bunch of embryos via IVF, you would be legally obligated to gestate them somewhere, correct?

B-b-but that's different 'cuz I'm owed a baby.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:03 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does that mean that having sex with a pregnant woman counts as sexual molestation of a minor in North Dakota?

*sigh*

Something ALWAYS ruins my vacation plans.
posted by Benjy at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


I look forward to the sonogram machine at the DMV. Get ID for junior at 8 weeks!!!
posted by mattbucher at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2009


Cool Papa Bell: "Would Canada like another few new provinces?"

We'll take California and Hawaii. I'm afraid you're going to have to deal with the Dakotas (North, South, and Fanning) on your own.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


So this bill was passed in the state capital of Hitler, North Dakota?
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair only a fetus would want to live in North Dakota.
posted by tkchrist at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


jsonic: "A developing fetus is a life. You can argue that it's not a human life, but it's scientifically incorrect to say that a growing fetus is not a living organism. And if that living organism is not killed, then barring a miscarriage, it will become a human being."

lol, no.

An organism must be capable of maintaining homeostasis, and a fetus is simply not. It's as much of a living organism as my tonsils are.
posted by mullingitover at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2009 [35 favorites]


Not be overlooked: before this gets to the Supreme Court, there will be other lile-minded states that will also try to pass similar legislation. Which means, a woman will get an abortion in a state that allows for abortions. Eventually the situation will end up before the Supreme Court. Good thing whathisname is out of office.
posted by Postroad at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2009


...this should be a state's rights thing anyway.

By what logic? The type that reasons "Since we can more easily get the law passed by state legislatures, it's obviously a "state's rights" matter?"
posted by Thorzdad at 2:06 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dipsomaniac, you've already got Florida, how much more do you want?
posted by yerfatma at 2:06 PM on February 18, 2009


The comments in the article point to A Defense Of Abortion, which I've never seen before. Interesting argument posed by Judith Jarvis Thomson on why abortion is morally acceptable, even if life begins at conception. I'd recommend reading it if you haven't yet, regardless which side of the argument you favor.
posted by ShadowCrash at 2:07 PM on February 18, 2009 [17 favorites]


This is kind of tangential, but a couple of years ago Texas passed a similar law to protect unborn children from being killed. One of the things that happened was a girl tried to get an abortion and her doctor lied to her and told her was impossible, that she couldn't have one, etc.

So she tried to induce a miscarriage by doing things like jump down stairs and actually asked her boyfriend (the father) to kick her in the stomach, which he did.

She ended up miscarrying and the boy was charged under the new law and sent to prison for a while. The mother was not charged because the law specifically excluded mothers from being charged under it.

So, is the N.D. law simply a similar law to the Texas one? The reason I ask is, the case was brought up on meta filter, and a lot of people said, oh the guy is terrible, he deserves to go to jail, etc. I was really surprised at that, I mean why, if it should be legal to kill a fetus at an abortion clinic, why shouldn't it be legal to do it yourself?

But if that Texas law is reasonable (and actually it does cover abortions, but those are legal due to Row v. Wade, just as Texas law bans gay sodomy) when a fetus isn't killed by an abortion doctor, do you think this law would be reasonable when applied to people who are not abortion providers?
posted by delmoi at 2:07 PM on February 18, 2009


If you go to another state to have an abortion, are you a murderer in North Dakota?
posted by doctor_negative at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't let you babies grow up to be fetuses.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:09 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I mean why, if it should be legal to kill a fetus at an abortion clinic, why shouldn't it be legal to do it yourself?

Yeah my dad was supposed to have brain surgery next week so I just started jamming a screwdriver in his head and the cops got all up in my grill about it. WTF?
posted by ND¢ at 2:10 PM on February 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


A developing fetus is a life. You can argue that it's not a human life, but it's scientifically incorrect to say that a growing fetus is not a living organism.

If the argument is that a fetus should not be terminated because it is a living organism, and that it should be criminal to terminate a fetus on that basis, you should understand that you are also arguing that male masturbation and female menstruation are criminal acts, in that sperm and eggs are living entities which suffer death due to the actions of sexually mature human beings.

Putting aside your recognition of the legal rights of fetal tissue, jsonic, you seem also to be happy with the idea that menstruating women are to be placed into prison.

It would be appropriate to identify you as a misogynist, but then you have already expressed opposition to reproductive rights, so that is besides the point. In any case, I suggest you think a little more carefully about the ideas floating around your head before expressing them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:12 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is at least a degree more intellectually honest than some of the other attempts at proclaiming abortion as the equivalent of murder.

I sincerely hope that they follow this through to letter of the law they just passed. Once there are enough teenage mothers and medical professionals placed in jail for killing fetuses, perhaps the insanity of this position will be firmly illustrated once and for all.

Of course, if you're a parent in North Dakota, and you give your child any support in their quest to abort an unwanted pregnancy, you are an accessory to murder.

If the pill is, indeed, classified as illegal as a result of this, best to avoid traveling through North Dakota. I mean, if you're pulled over by a enthusiastic deputy who wants to search your car and turns up your birth control stash, you're basically screwed.

Get raped in North Dakota? Better plan on having that baby. No morning after pill for you.

North Dakota is comfortable playing politics with the lives of its daughters. This is monstrous. That said, if they won't follow through on this to its logically conclusion, its also cowardly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:13 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm curious to read the text of the law itself. I'm curious if this is actually their idea of good legislation or if this is just some sort of stunt to challenge RvW that they don't actually expect to win.
posted by cimbrog at 2:13 PM on February 18, 2009


This raises a question:

If a pregnant woman is driving in a carpool lane in North Dakota, wait, North Dakota has roads now?
posted by Benjy at 2:13 PM on February 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


ND¢ don't turn this into another cop-bashing or neurosurgery-bashing thread.
posted by Mister_A at 2:14 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you keep a zygote in liquid nitrogen for 18 years, does it get to vote?

Just make sure you thaw your zygote out in the first two years to get it vaccinated. I'm not having my frozen zygotes put at risk by your irresponsibility.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [27 favorites]


Awesome, robocop.
posted by Mister_A at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2009


The good news is those zygotes will have rights if they are gay.

The right to be tied to a fence and beaten to death, where, if Lord Jesus Christ wills it, the defendents will have the right to a gay zygote panic defense.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


If a pregnant woman is driving in a carpool lane in North Dakota

Hold up! Womenfolk can't drive in North Dakota.

Sheesh. Next thing you'll tell me is that they can vote.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2009



If the argument is that a fetus should not be terminated because it is a living organism...


Good thing nobody is making that argument then.
posted by jsonic at 2:17 PM on February 18, 2009


Fuck the neurosurgeon, comin' straight from the underground.
A young arnold-Chiari malformation got it bad cause I'm a downward displacement of the cerebellar tonsils and the medulla through the foramen magnum, sometimes causing hydrocephalus as a result of obstruction of CSF outflow.
posted by ND¢ at 2:19 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


North Dakota - added to the list of place I never need to visit. Not that it was high on the "must visit list anyway. Morons.
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:20 PM on February 18, 2009


I'm curious to read the text of the law itself.

The text of the law itself (pdf):
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF NORTH DAKOTA:
SECTION 1. References to individual, person, or human being - Legislative intent. For purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens.

SECTION 2. STATE TO DEFEND CHALLENGE. The legislative assembly, by concurrent resolution, may appoint one or more of its members, as a matter of right and in the legislative member's official capacity, to intervene to defend this Act in any case in which this Act's constitutionality is challenged.
posted by Knappster at 2:21 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


If we're talking about kids who would have been born into North Dakota, wouldn't that be considered a mercy killing? Shit, that's against the law, too...
posted by you just lost the game at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


How do things like ectopic pregnancies work under this law? Will it be like El Salvador where women have to wait until the fetus is unviable or the fallopian tube ruptures? Is selective reduction banned? Is an unviable fetus the same as a viable one?

This is a topic that is so personal and so filled with nuances that it's kind of heartbreaking to see a law that lawnmowers through that so cavalierly.
posted by Alison at 2:24 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Good for them this should be a state's rights thing anyway.

How? New rule: you automatically lose the "state's rights" argument unless you're willing to explain how geography dictates the case. Exactly what is biologically different about people living in North Dakota that a fertilized embryo there is a human being and anywhere else, it's not?

Do you believe a woman has a right to have an abortion? If not, what does where she live have to do with your reasoning?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:24 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


So does anyone have any actual information about where the ND Senate is likely to stand on this?
posted by mediareport at 2:26 PM on February 18, 2009


'with the genome'? So...the whole genome? Parts of it, or the whole thing?
posted by cobaltnine at 2:26 PM on February 18, 2009


Good thing nobody is making that argument then.

Don't be dishonest. You certainly are trying, without being explicit, to frame an aspect of reproductive health as murder of a human being. And you have expressed your disapproval of reproductive rights here, many times before.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2009


The saddest thing is that the first person to get convicted under this law (if it passes) is going to have to take this shit to the supreme court which will take months only for the law to be struck down in a 5-4 decision.

So the ND legislature is wasting taxpayes funds, the supreme court's time, a year or two of a person's life all for a bullshit symbolic gesture.

ND's stereotype as a state of godfearing hicks is the only thing that's going to be held up here.
posted by Talez at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


...includes any organism...

Hmmm... one could certainly make a case that a zygote, while containing a human genome, is not an organism. Then the question turns to "when does a zygote/embryo attain organismhood," which is probably a simple matter to settle.
posted by Mister_A at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


A developing fetus is a life. You can argue that it's not a human life, but it's scientifically incorrect to say that a growing fetus is not a living organism.

Way to state a highly controversial point as if it were obvious there, jsonic. By this loose intuitive definition of "life," I've got two sack fulls of millions of wiggly, squirmy living organisms in my pants right now, just full of the potential to bring hundreds of new human beings into the world. (Sperm have all the usual features of organisms, they appear to engage in goal-seeking behavior, they carry human DNA, they require nutrients to survive, etc.)

Obviously, my wife alone won't be up for the task of bringing all those potential human beings into the world (there are certain physical and other practical limits to consider, the occasional octuplet births notwithstanding), so I guess monogamy's out of the question. (Just think of all the unborn children my horn-dogging will save!)

And every woman who turns down my sexual advances from now until I'm no longer capable of producing viable sperm is, by extension, a party to mass murder. Makes sense to me.

This is such BS. Nobody knows what life is, much less when (or if) it actually begins.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I hope this does become law, so all the legal consequences brought up in this thread get a public airing.

Wouldn't this law make trying to get an abortion conspiracy to commit murder (ie, hiring a hitman?) I believe in some states, the punishment for conspiracy to commit murder is the same as first degree murder, the death penalty. Is North Dakota going to start executing young mothers for trying to get abortions?

We should also be careful in these discussions about the difference between fetuses and fertalized eggs. According to the article, the text of the law uses "fertalized egg". So, yeah, artificial insemination clinics would be guilty of mass murder in ND.
posted by heathkit at 2:30 PM on February 18, 2009


What if a pregnant mother doesn't take prenatal vitamins? What if she drinks? What if she smokes? Since we know those things can harm a fetus, can she get arrested for assault? What if she does those things before she knows she's even pregnant?

As someone at high risk for an ectopic pregnancy, I have the same questions as Alison, above. Would they wait until the tube ruptured, risking my life, in order to not kill a "person" who has no chance of surviving to term anyway?
posted by chowflap at 2:30 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know if viability is really the standard we want to use to judge personhood.

"An organism must be capable of maintaining homeostasis, and a fetus is simply not."

"I don't believe a mass of human tissue is a "person" until it is capable of living outside of another person."


Thing is, medical science keeps pushing viability back. Is our definition of personhood going to be dependent on whatever the current state of medical tech happens to be? That slope is slipping more and more all the time. What about when our tech is such that fetuses are viable from conception?

Even with the current state of medical technology, most people would agree that an abortion performed, say, a week before the due date, is undesireable to say the least. Should that procedure be available upon request? Current law says no; I'm curious what the posters quoted above would say.

On the other hand, spontaneous miscarriages happen all the time, all through the first trimester, and most people, I think, wouldn't mourn these like the death of a child.

So, leaving absolutist positions aside, what most people would like, I think, would be some reasonable way to navigate the middle ground, and find a place to draw the line. Efforts to that end seem more useful to me than demonizations of one side or the other, which of course is what the majority of the "debate" consists of. For reasons listed above, viability doesn't seem to me to be that promising an avenue for finding that line. What other ways might there be? And how should the law reflect them?
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 2:32 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow.

And I thought people here hated CALIFORNIA.

Please remember this has only passed the house there, not the senate. And that North Dakota has had a D-ND in the senate for as long as I can remember. It's probably less conservative than most of the South, or even much of the midwest.
posted by flaterik at 2:32 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


As if North Dakota needs to provide its sexy young women one more reason to leave the state.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:36 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are miscarriages involuntary manslaughter? What if the woman was working/drinking coffee/eating spicy food/not pleased enough about being pregnant? Would that raise it to voluntary manslaughter? What if a woman gets pregnant and has a miscarriage and nobody ever finds out? Would she be guilty of concealing a crime?
posted by hydropsyche at 2:37 PM on February 18, 2009


I've got two sack fulls of millions of wiggly, squirmy living organisms in my pants right now, just full of the potential to bring hundreds of new human beings into the world.

Ahh, the 'every-sperm-is-sacred' argument for abortion. If you don't kill a growing fetus, then barring a miscarriage, a human being will develop. The same is not true of sperm. Conflating the two might be funny when Monty Python does it, but is nevertheless nonsensical.
posted by jsonic at 2:43 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


[Let's go ahead and defy all odds and try to not let this be reduced to personal attacks, hey? Hey? Crazy idea, but give it a shot. Thank you.]
posted by cortex at 2:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Conflating the two might be funny when Monty Python [or the Catholic church] does it
posted by found missing at 2:45 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


*boinks cortex*
posted by Mister_A at 2:45 PM on February 18, 2009


If you don't kill a growing fetus, then barring a miscarriage, a human being will develop.

...and?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:46 PM on February 18, 2009


Cortex's mother dressed him funny ever since he was a fetus is a very good moderator.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:46 PM on February 18, 2009


...and, that's how babby is formed!
posted by found missing at 2:47 PM on February 18, 2009


I don't know if viability is really the standard we want to use to judge personhood.

That's what Roe v. Wade essentially does. "Roe v. Wade centrally held that a mother may abort her pregnancy for any reason, up until the "point at which the fetus becomes ‘viable.’" The Court defined viable as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks." . . . Blackmun said of the majority decision he authored, "You will observe that I have concluded that the end of the first trimester is critical. This is arbitrary, but perhaps any other selected point, such as quickening or viability, is equally arbitrary." Stewart said the lines were "legislative" and wanted more flexibility and consideration paid to the state legislatures, though he joined Blackmun's decision. The "viability" criterion, which Blackmun acknowledged was arbitrary, is still in effect, although the point of viability has changed as medical science has found ways to help premature babies survive."
posted by mattbucher at 2:48 PM on February 18, 2009


Pointing out that someone's rant is utterly devoid of logic is not an insult. It's the true, objective sense of the word "stupid." It lacks intelligent thought.

Individual sperms and individual eggs do not engage in cell division. The statement that whatever applies to blastocysts also applies to oocytes is, objectively, stupid. So is the speaker of that statement.
posted by jock@law at 2:48 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please remember this has only passed the house there, not the senate. And that North Dakota has had a D-ND in the senate for as long as I can remember. It's probably less conservative than most of the South, or even much of the midwest.

Please don't make the mistake that democrat = liberal automatically. Both Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad (both D-ND) were two of the many democrats voted yes on DOMA for instance.
posted by Talez at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2009


...and?

"And it's wrong to kill a human being, so it's wrong to terminate a fetus, because even if a fetus isn't a human being, it might be one some day, just like a sperm or an egg. But I won't say any of that because I want to be coy and string people along."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was a bill introduced in Virginia a few years back that "would have criminalized a Virginia woman's failure to report her miscarriage to the police. Penalties could have included a fine and jail time."

The language of the bill: Report of fetal death by mother; penalty. Provides that when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the proper law-enforcement agency within 12 hours of the delivery. Violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
posted by rtha at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2009


It looks like the term "fetus" isn't actually used, but "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens." This is potentially important, since fetus could be construed to mean a certain developmental stage, a more defensible position than the apparent phrasing.
posted by weston at 2:52 PM on February 18, 2009


Pointing out that someone's rant is utterly devoid of logic is not an insult.

Flatly declaring someone to be an idiot is not an argument with merit, either. Please re-read and try to abide by the note at the bottom of the comment box. If you have any more to say about this, take it to metatalk.
posted by cortex at 2:53 PM on February 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


It looks like the term "fetus" isn't actually used, but "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens."

This could also be a sly backdoor allowing for North Dakota's controversial "Destroy The X-Men" proposition.
posted by Damn That Television at 2:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Conflating the two might be funny when Monty Python [or the Catholic church] does it

[citation needed]
posted by jsonic at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2009


What an odd decision.

This means, among many other things, that N.D. fetuses can have a license to bowhunt . Fetuses are now subject to the safety laws of the state; requiring that they be placed in a child seat while in a car.

If a married couple has a divorce, the father may sue for visitation rights of his child. Child-care facilities may have a tendency to favor non-pregnant women as the fetus would ostensibly count against the state's child:caretaker ratio.
posted by boo_radley at 2:57 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Please don't make the mistake that democrat = liberal automatically. Both Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad (both D-ND) were two of the many democrats voted yes on DOMA for instance.

I don't, and I'm aware. They don't always make choices that I agree with, and frequently make choices that I disagree with. The same is true of my current D-CA representatives.

I'm just saying the knee-jerk ND hate here is more than a bit over the top here, and it's a somewhat more complex state than people are giving it credit for. Clearly I don't love the place, since I've lived in CA since 97, but still.
posted by flaterik at 3:00 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Random.

Why exactly are they discussing this in the first place.

Also, this is the first I've seen either of the Dakotas in the news in quite some time.
posted by CaptKyle at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2009


First, let me state that I'm against this bill.

Now, on to the fun:


North Dakota is comfortable playing politics with the lives of its daughters. This is monstrous. That said, if they won't follow through on this to its logically conclusion, its also cowardly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:13 PM on February 18


The daughters of North Dakota have vote for their state representatives and governor. The government there represents them in the same abstract sense it represents their fathers. So consider the possibility that the daughters of North Dakota may actually be against abortion and may support this law. Then consider why that might be.

You certainly are trying, without being explicit, to frame an aspect of reproductive health as murder of a human being. And you have expressed your disapproval of reproductive rights here, many times before.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:27 PM on February 18


Why can't the argument be framed that way? Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being. Capital punishment is not murder because it is lawful, but people make arguments against capital punishment by framing it as murder. Same with war.

The moral issue is that abortion does in fact terminate a living organism. A fetus is at least quasi-human, and an abortion kills that thing. So likening it to murder is in no way unreasonable. The fact that it is a very difficult argument to refute from a moral standpoint doesn't mean they can't use it. The problem abortion opponents have with this argument is that there are lots of state and public-sanction killings of actual adult people that aren't legally murder either. So convincing people abortion is murder won't change its status under the law, and doesn't really advance the cause.

Ultimately, the issue is that people are generally uncomfortable with female sexuality. Further evidence of this can be found in the term "slut," and mothers admonishing their daughters that their boyfriend "won't buy the cow when he can get the milk for free." See, because sex is a valuable service that should only be exchanged for a lifetime of security, but not directly for money because that makes the girl a whore. See also, those creepy parties where daughters pledge to their fathers to remain virgins, etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 3:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


Good for them this should be a state's rights thing anyway.

Well I agree (sort of) on principle. It's still a heinous and stupid decision, but states have the right to regulate to some degree even laws that are federally mandated, as long as they dont utterly ignore them. Gun ownership laws are different in every state and perfectly legal as long as the 2nd Ammendment isnt totally violated (recent case). States certainly have the right to determine what constitutes the definition of a criminal case of murder. Or to have specific rules for certification of doctors, etc. Presumably the elected officials are acting according to the wishes of the majority of their constituents.

That being said, of course, it's totally retarded and barbaric and I can't believe it would ever make into law.
posted by elendil71 at 3:05 PM on February 18, 2009


Thank you Pastabagel, great post.
posted by jock@law at 3:06 PM on February 18, 2009


jsonic: "Ahh, the 'every-sperm-is-sacred' argument for abortion. If you don't kill a growing fetus, then barring a miscarriage, a human being will develop. The same is not true of sperm. Conflating the two might be funny when Monty Python does it, but is nevertheless nonsensical."

No more nonsensical than arguments such as saying that pregnancies resulting from rape or incest are worth less than those conceived willingly, and so deserve an exception to the 'fetuses are people' and 'abortion is murder' rules.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:06 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Aren't corporations also "persons"? Think about it the next time you read "aborted hostile takeover".

it would have been nice if Haliburton had been strangled at birth
posted by Rumple at 3:07 PM on February 18, 2009


Perhaps this is their version of the stimulus; it's gonna take a lot of people to scan all those used kotex for criminal evidence. Jobs creation ahoy!
posted by emjaybee at 3:09 PM on February 18, 2009


If you don't kill a growing fetus, then barring a miscarriage, a human being will develop.
You left out the fact that it's growing inside a woman's body and sucking away nutrition, water, and oxygen from her while depositing its wastes back into her body, all the while crushing her organs and altering her body permanently.

It's not like the fetus just develops into a person all by itself.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:09 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Religion is for stupids.
posted by Damn That Television at 3:09 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Religion is for stupids.' is for stupids.
posted by jock@law at 3:12 PM on February 18, 2009


Hmm, I've never thought of it that way.
posted by Damn That Television at 3:13 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Constructive dialog going on here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:13 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


''Religion is for stupids.' is for stupids.' is for stupids.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:14 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


The moral issue is that abortion does in fact terminate a living organism.

So do masturbation and menstruation, which dispose of sex cells that would otherwise form a human being. So does getting too much sun, which kills layers of living cells underneath your skin. So does eating plants and animals, which otherwise would probably enjoy living and dividing. So does breathing in air containing bacteria and viruses, which otherwise would get to reproduce themselves.

In other words, suggesting that a reproductive health procedure is morally wrong because it terminates a living organism means that many normal, day-to-day activities are also morally wrong.

It doesn't make for a tenable existence when "morality", taken to its logical conclusion, doesn't even allow you the option of drawing a breath.

If you're going to say that a fetus is a human being, just say it. Don't be dishonest, just say that a fetus is a human being so that you can be informed why you're wrong and we can try to move on. All this "terminating a living organism" garbage is just senseless word games.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


'''Religion is for stupids.' is for stupids.' is for stupids.' is for stupids.
posted by jock@law at 3:16 PM on February 18, 2009


So do masturbation and menstruation, which dispose of sex cells that would otherwise form a human being.

Objectively incorrect.
posted by jock@law at 3:16 PM on February 18, 2009


Blazecock, your suggestion that "getting too much sun" "does in fact terminate a living organism" betrays your confusion about the distinction between cells and organisms. Please please please please please, and I'm trying to say this as sincerely and non-abrasively as possible, review basic biology before further discussing this topic here or elsewhere.
posted by jock@law at 3:18 PM on February 18, 2009


Pastabagel: "The moral issue is that abortion does in fact terminate a living organism. "

There's another moral issue going hand-in-hand, which is that fundamental human rights shouldn't depend on whether or not someone is pregnant.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:19 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dispomaniac, which fundamental human rights do you have in mind?

Fundamental human rights = life, liberty, pursuit of happiness

Nowhere in there is the right to infanticide.
posted by jock@law at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2009


Why should the rights of things that could possibly become persons ever take precedence over the rights of existing, actual persons?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


jock, infanticide refers to the murder of children. Fetuses are by definition not children.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:22 PM on February 18, 2009


Some days, I thank God I'm not a breeder.
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:22 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


X -> 'X' is for stupids.

So, what is the legal definition of "organism"? The scientific definition includes that it be capable of homeostasis. Therefore, a fertalized egg (and I think even a fetus) wouldn't qualify. For all the hulabaloo we're making, it seems like this law sets a standard that's the same as, or looser than, Roe vs Wade. Is there a legal distinction between an "organism" and a "viable fetus".

Hooray for lawmakers using language they don't understand. Or maybe they do, and this is a way to pander to their constituents without actually doing anything.
posted by heathkit at 3:23 PM on February 18, 2009


Pope Guilty, nobody's proposing that "the rights" of A take precedence over "the rights" of B. They're proposing that the most important right of A take precedence over a particular quasi-maybe-sorta-possibly-arguable right of B.

I understand the argument about a woman's body, etc. etc. etc. And I welcome that discussion. But at least be intellectually honest about it.
posted by jock@law at 3:23 PM on February 18, 2009


The more I read about this, the more I have a (admittedly totally unfounded in fact) suspicion that it's just to try to rattle Obama.

However, since the Senate and the Governor of ND are also Republican, this does look like it might actually, you know, pass.
posted by Damn That Television at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2009


A doesn't have rights, though, not being a person.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


And no, fetuses are not by definition not-children. In fact, one of the earliest terms for being pregnant is the phrase "with child."
posted by jock@law at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2009


jock@law: "Dispomaniac, which fundamental human rights do you have in mind?

Fundamental human rights = life, liberty, pursuit of happiness

Nowhere in there is the right to infanticide.
"

Self-determination. The right to deny the use of one's body. The right not to be a slave to the state. It's pretty fatuous to say that life, liberty, happiness are the only three, and besides, compelling pregnancy is a pretty damn big violation of the 'liberty' one.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


PG, whether A is a person is part of the debate, and you can't go into it assuming you've already won. That's circular reasoning. Furthermore, even if A is not a person, lots of non-persons have rights in a lot of places.
posted by jock@law at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2009


And no, fetuses are not by definition not-children. In fact, one of the earliest terms for being pregnant is the phrase "with child."

I'm curious as to why you think an archaic idiom for pregnancy is meaningful or useful in this debate.

(well, I'm not, it's because you're arguing poorly for a despicable and thoroughly authoritarian viewpoint which has no support in reality, but...)
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dipsomaniac, nobody compelled pregnancy. Compelling pregnancy would be a pretty damn big violation of the 'liberty' one, yes. However, there's a distinction between "compelling pregnancy" and "forbidding termination of pregnancy once begun."

Just as "compelling childrearing" would be a major violation of liberty rights, but forbidding abandonment of already-born children is (except in NV I guess) the law.
posted by jock@law at 3:27 PM on February 18, 2009


Does this mean gay fetuses can get married in North Dakota?
posted by Jeremy at 3:28 PM on February 18, 2009


A developing fetus is a life. You can argue that it's not a human life, but it's scientifically incorrect to say that a growing fetus is not a living organism.

As someone whose wife just went through a miscarriage, I often wonder how many people who've experienced a miscarraige would really consider a fetus to be a proper, viable human life. It just isn't. Shit, the suckers are often alive but aren't even viable as people even past the first trimester. Pregnancy in general is a crazy fuckin messed up process that is highly tenuous and fails about 1/5th of the time. It's not a person. It's a potential person. Big difference.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:28 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Pope Guilty, it hardly surprises me that someone of your intellectual stature would claim to be talking about definitions, but flatly refuse to look at how language is used in order to come up with those definitions. If you're not going to be intellectually honest, I'll ignore you.
posted by jock@law at 3:29 PM on February 18, 2009


jock@law: "Pope Guilty, nobody's proposing that "the rights" of A take precedence over "the rights" of B. They're proposing that the most important right of A take precedence over a particular quasi-maybe-sorta-possibly-arguable right of B.

I understand the argument about a woman's body, etc. etc. etc. And I welcome that discussion. But at least be intellectually honest about it.
"

(Missed this on preview).
Saying life is more important and thus takes precedence is also simplistic, at best. For instance, it's already part of the law that a person can't be compelled to do something as harmless and easy as give blood, even if there is a life at stake, because that person's body is not to be for the state's use.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:29 PM on February 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


PG, whether A is a person is part of the debate, and you can't go into it assuming you've already won.

Nobody has proposed giving fetuses any "personhood" rights other than to be born. This does not suggest that pro-lifers believe that fetuses are, in fact, persons.

PG, whether A is a person is part of the debate, and you can't go into it assuming you've already won.

None of them have the right to compel an actual person to allow them to occupy and distort their body and drain them of nutrition.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:29 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


And for what it's worth, I support the "in esse/ in posse" idea Pope Guilty mentioned. If N.D. wants to up and outlaw abortion, fine (well, not fine, but fine in the sense of exercising of states rights), but the current bill just muddies up the water. It's reminiscent of mandating Pi to exactly 3.
posted by boo_radley at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


The right to be tied to a fence and beaten to death, where, if Lord Jesus Christ wills it, the defendents will have the right to a gay zygote panic defense.

For the record, that was Wyoming, not North Dakota.

The moral issue is that abortion does in fact terminate a living organism. A fetus is at least quasi-human, and an abortion kills that thing. So likening it to murder is in no way unreasonable. The fact that it is a very difficult argument to refute from a moral standpoint doesn't mean they can't use it. The problem abortion opponents have with this argument is that there are lots of state and public-sanction killings of actual adult people that aren't legally murder either. So convincing people abortion is murder won't change its status under the law, and doesn't really advance the cause.

The difference between capital punishment and abortion - well, one of the differences anyway - is that capital punishment takes the life of a viable human organism. It can survive without being physically attached to the vital systems of another human being, it possesses self-awareness and consciousness, and can feel pain. A fetus has none of these qualities. This is the difference that abortion opponents don't get, and why they counter "Well if capital punishment is murder why isn't abortion? In both cases you're taking a life." There is a world of difference between a fetus and an adult human being, and the law reflects that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2009


Fundamental human rights = life, liberty, pursuit of happiness

*slaps forehead*

This. This is what our woeful civics education hath wrought.

*aborts participation in thread*
posted by joe lisboa at 3:31 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty, it hardly surprises me that someone of your intellectual stature would claim to be talking about definitions, but flatly refuse to look at how language is used in order to come up with those definitions.

I didn't talk about definitions. I called you out for using the phrasing of an idiom to support a point about the nature of reality, which is absurd and silly. That you are insulting my intelligence for doing so does not speak well of you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:32 PM on February 18, 2009


The daughters of North Dakota have vote for their state representatives and governor. The government there represents them in the same abstract sense it represents their fathers. So consider the possibility that the daughters of North Dakota may actually be against abortion and may support this law. Then consider why that might be.

By "daughters," I meant "non-voting teenage daughters." I confess, I wasn't clear in regards to this. What I'd first written was a little more callous:

"North Dakotans had the chance to vote these people out of office and they didn't, so it stands to reason that they are comfortable with sacrificing the lives of their daughters to make a political point."

As far as "considering why that might be," I recognize that people with different religious beliefs than mine have very different views on what constitutes ethical behavior. In my personal world view, the sledge-hammer like nature of this particular ruling - which draws no distinction between situations that could be life-threatening to the mother and situations where its simple a matter of convenience - is monstrous.

There are, perhaps, intelligent ways to deal with this situation that would reduce the overall number of abortions - a position that I think everyone would support - while still respecting the many dreadful situations that could result in (and result from) pregnancy. The fact that this law does not respect the many situations where an abortion would be life saving or merciful is what makes this monstrous. And stupid. And, if they're only doing it for show without intent to enforce, cowardly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:32 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


A developing fetus is a life. You can argue that it's not a human life, but it's scientifically incorrect to say that a growing fetus is not a living organism. And if that living organism is not killed, then barring a miscarriage, it will become a human being.

Sure, but where's the cutoff point for that? The blastocyst? The zygote? The spermatoza or the ovum? The individual proteins? The DNA strands?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:32 PM on February 18, 2009


jock@law: "Dipsomaniac, nobody compelled pregnancy. Compelling pregnancy would be a pretty damn big violation of the 'liberty' one, yes. However, there's a distinction between "compelling pregnancy" and "forbidding termination of pregnancy once begun."

Just as "compelling childrearing" would be a major violation of liberty rights, but forbidding abandonment of already-born children is (except in NV I guess) the law.
"

So compelling childrearing is a violation, but compelling childbearing after compelling the continuation of the pregnancy, with the attendant physical risks and damage, is not? That doesn't make any sense at all, and you're splitting hairs between compelling pregnancy and compelling a pregnancy to be continued.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:33 PM on February 18, 2009


Pope Guilty: "Fetuses are by definition not children."
Pope Guilty: "I didn't talk about definitions."

QED
posted by jock@law at 3:35 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would also note that people who don't want to have children are going to not have children. Abortion bans do not force pregnancies to be carried to term; they only force women who do not wish to give birth to resort of methods of termination which are more dangerous and damaging to their bodies.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:35 PM on February 18, 2009 [15 favorites]


I'm terribly sorry, jock, I believed you were referring to the idiom. That's my mistake.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:36 PM on February 18, 2009


Dispomaniac: "you're splitting hairs between compelling pregnancy and compelling a pregnancy to be continued"

I disagree. A LOT of "intuitive" ethics is predicated on the distinction between action and inaction.
posted by jock@law at 3:36 PM on February 18, 2009


So do masturbation and menstruation, which dispose of sex cells that would otherwise form a human being.

There are people who actually believe this is a problem, and I don't have much respect for their views, given that there's a pretty clear differentiation between the potential of separate gametes and those fused into a fertilized egg. I suspect you also don't have much respect for their views, but you're reinforcing their argument, and doing so with a pro-choice viewpoint tends to lead towards reliance on the idea that if it hasn't found its way out of the womb, it's categorically not a human life, an idea which is at least as problematic as the idea that conception means insta-humanity and accompanying legal protection.
posted by weston at 3:37 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Blazecock, your suggestion that "getting too much sun" "does in fact terminate a living organism" betrays your confusion about the distinction between cells and organisms.

Just to be clear, you are taking one very narrow definition of "organism" that is not universally applied in all contexts, and one which I am not using in the context of that quotation. Back to law school with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:38 PM on February 18, 2009


Blazecock, please cite to any peer-reviewed source that refers to an individual skin cell as an organism. Doing so will elicit an apology from me and learning on the part of the community of MeFites
posted by jock@law at 3:40 PM on February 18, 2009


jock@law: Blazecock's lack of knowledge of basic biology shouldn't stop him from engaging in this discussion. It certainly didn't stop the ND representatives.

Also, I'm concerned about your own knowledge. Particularly your mixing of legal and historical terms. Specifically: Fundamental human rights != life, liberty, pursuit of happiness (these are just nice words in the Declaration of Independence). And, yes, "with child" is an old (very old) term for being pregnant but I wouldn't say that if proves that fetus = child legally. It's just a turn of phrase.
posted by dithered at 3:40 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


jock@law: "Dispomaniac: "you're splitting hairs between compelling pregnancy and compelling a pregnancy to be continued"

I disagree. A LOT of "intuitive" ethics is predicated on the distinction between action and inaction.
"

The problem with intuitive ethics is that intuition is not necessarily going to lead different people to the same conclusions. There is not 'inaction' in this law as you see it, I believe - legislators are going out of their way to deny rights to pregnant women that are not denied to women that are not pregnant; and indeed, to grant rights to fetuses that would not be granted to any person.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:42 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Intuition is not a reliable nor useful source of information or principles for ethics.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:42 PM on February 18, 2009


In fact, one of the earliest terms for being pregnant is the phrase "with child."

People also sometimes refer to a pregnant woman as being "knocked up." That doesn't mean she's actually been hit so hard she flew up in the air.
posted by EarBucket at 3:43 PM on February 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


dithered, I didn't quote "with child" to prove that it was a child legally. Pope Guilty had said that fetuses were "by definition" not children; my counter was to point out that the word does in fact refer to fetuses in some contexts, and so it's impossible for "the definition" (by which I mean the lexical inference based on the corpus of the English language) of "child/ren" to exclude fetuses. It wasn't a statement in and of itself, merely a counter to Pope Guilty's ill-conceived comment.
posted by jock@law at 3:43 PM on February 18, 2009


I take it that "bun in the oven" suggests that fetus are in fact yummy baked goods.
posted by found missing at 3:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [13 favorites]


"BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF NORTH DAKOTA:
SECTION 1. References to individual, person, or human being - Legislative intent. For purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens.
"

Man, this is gonna fuck up the census but hardcore.

Also, something to remember is the rhetorical choice regarding terminating a pregnancy—"killing" the fetus. The fetus isn't self-sufficient. If the argument is against killing the fetus, you'd be fine with abortions that simply removed the tissue (blastocyst through fetus) and let the tissue die on its own through lack of intervention?

Finally, I gotta say, from the outside a lot of this looks like magical thinking and post hoc ergo propter hoc. Just because something becomes a human doesn't mean that it's a human, and the absence of common metrics for delineation of human means that it just becomes an argument from authority.
posted by klangklangston at 3:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


dithered, also, life liberty and property, sometimes phrased as the pursuit of happiness, are recognized as the most fundamental human rights by a number of englightenment-era thinkers. If "fundamental [citizen] rights" -- a much more fluid concept, unfortunately -- were meant, it should not have been phrased that way.
posted by jock@law at 3:45 PM on February 18, 2009


I take it that "bun in the oven" suggests that fetus are in fact yummy baked goods.

clearly, you are very poor at reading comprehension.
posted by jock@law at 3:46 PM on February 18, 2009


Stop your calls, we have a winner for biggest dick in thread.
posted by found missing at 3:47 PM on February 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


dithered, also, life liberty and property, sometimes phrased as the pursuit of happiness, are recognized as the most fundamental human rights by a number of englightenment-era thinkers.

Tragically, On Liberty isn't US law.

(some day!)

If "fundamental [citizen] rights" -- a much more fluid concept, unfortunately -- were meant, it should not have been phrased that way.

For someone who's calling people stupid for discussing defiinition, you've got an awfully transparent house there.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:48 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody called anyone stupid for discussing definition. Please be intellectually honest.
posted by jock@law at 3:48 PM on February 18, 2009


If you don't kill a growing fetus, then barring a miscarriage, a human being will develop.

What will you do if a mother miscarries due to neglect? What if she accidentally 'falls'? Are we going to investigate all miscarriages for nefarious intent?
posted by empath at 3:50 PM on February 18, 2009


What will you do if a mother miscarries due to neglect? What if she accidentally 'falls'? Are we going to investigate all miscarriages for nefarious intent?

Hey, it's working out so well in El Salvador...
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:51 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


jock@law, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Pope Guilty was saying that by a biological definition, fetus are not children. You cannot argue against a statement like this by citing some vagary of the English language.
posted by dithered at 3:52 PM on February 18, 2009


empath: "What will you do if a mother miscarries due to neglect? What if she accidentally 'falls'? Are we going to investigate all miscarriages for nefarious intent?"

If a fetus is a person under the law, then miscarriages should be investigated to see if it was a homicide, I suppose.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:53 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


QED
posted by jock@law at 3:35 PM on February 18 [1 favorite +] [!]

1 user marked this as a favorite:
jock@law February 18, 2009 3:37 PM


Classy, dude.
posted by dersins at 3:54 PM on February 18, 2009 [39 favorites]


This. This is what our woeful civics education hath wrought.

Not just civics. Leaving out insulting anyone in this thread, the failure of education along all sorts of different axes (basic science, ethics, critical thinking, sociology, law and more) is manifesting itself like a motherfucker these days.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


dersins, some sort of sense of misplaced humility is supposed to keep me from liking what i post? and a kind of humility which operates even in places people have to put forth effort to see is an extreme form indeed.
posted by jock@law at 3:55 PM on February 18, 2009


Pastabagel: "The moral issue is that abortion does in fact terminate a living organism. A fetus is at least quasi-human, and an abortion kills that thing. So likening it to murder is in no way unreasonable."

A chimpanzee is more quasi-human than a zygote, and yet there isn't a nationwide movement to treat chimpanzees as human.

This is such a tired argument. I wish people could just come out and talk openly about how they want to punish women for their sexuality, instead of this idiotic vague dispute about how an undeveloped cluster of cells is equivalent to a grown human.
posted by mullingitover at 3:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


dithered, cite to the "biological definition" of a child?
posted by jock@law at 3:56 PM on February 18, 2009




mullingitover, it's disingenuous to ascribe bad intent ("punish[ing] women for their sexuality") just because someone disagrees with you.

what about a "cluster of cells" that isn't undeveloped? what about one with a functioning nervous system, that exhibits reaction to stimulus? because that happens around 12-14 weeks -- at which point the fetus is still, by almost anyone's definition, a fetus.
posted by jock@law at 3:59 PM on February 18, 2009


So much disrespect for our founding fathers, who never went there. So they want to force people to breed on their terms, so they can scowl and scorn some more at the unwed parents and drug addicted fetuses. And this is from those who whine constantly about their rights to make personal life or death decisions, such as owning guns and/or implementing the death penalty.
posted by Brian B. at 3:59 PM on February 18, 2009


"killing" the fetus. The fetus isn't self-sufficient.

Well, by that criteria, neither is a new-born baby.
posted by jsonic at 3:59 PM on February 18, 2009


Classy, dude.

OH SUH-NAP!
posted by Talez at 3:59 PM on February 18, 2009


Blazecock, please cite to any peer-reviewed source that refers to an individual skin cell as an organism.

I don't know if you'll get the answer you want, but certainly it is possible to grow cancer tissue cultures in flasks in our lab, so if skin cells (with a few self-imposed genetic modifications) can live outside a human being, I would consider that to meet most of the qualifications for a "living organism" in the context of the discussion we're having.

Granted, a cell in a tissue culture doesn't have its own unique genus or species, but relative to the rest of your vapid comments in this thread, I think I can live with losing that part of your word game.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:00 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Interesting link, PG. Thanks for providing it. Who is "they" supposed to be?
posted by jock@law at 4:00 PM on February 18, 2009


I tell you when it turns out that fetal tissue will make your dick bigger and harder North Dakota will be selling fetuses in road side stands.
posted by tkchrist at 4:02 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blazecock, great. But you're still not supporting your earlier claim, and engaging in circular reasoning (it's your position that being an organism is predicated on being able to live outside a human being, you can't use that proposition to prove your point).
posted by jock@law at 4:03 PM on February 18, 2009


a kind of humility which operates even in places people have to put forth effort to see is an extreme form indeed.

Yes -- best to be humble only when it'll be easily noticed.
posted by JohnFredra at 4:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe this is all just a ploy to get more reps after the next census? Next up will be the "cows are people too" law.
posted by graventy at 4:06 PM on February 18, 2009


I'm constantly perplexed as to how in these discussions people can argue until exhaustion about the definition of life out of recognition of the importance of defining the terms of the debate, while at the same time flippantly tossing around phrases such as "fundamental rights" with only rare attempts to discuss what one means by 'rights.' In this context, "fundamental right" is a very legally specific term with a very important impact on the legal analysis.

And I also wonder whatever happened to this way of thinking:
To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility. Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the Nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country. This Court has the power to prevent an experiment. We may strike down the statute which embodies it on the ground that, in our opinion, the measure is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. We have the power to do this, because the due process clause has been held by the Court applicable to matters of substantive law as well as to matters of procedure. But in the exercise of this high power, we must be ever on our guard, lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles. If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.
New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting).
posted by dios at 4:07 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


equal rights for undifferentiated tissue!!!

I mean it might become human right?
posted by edgeways at 4:08 PM on February 18, 2009


the criminalization of orgasm within ten years, i'm calling it now
posted by waraw at 4:08 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


jock@law, your numerous, brief and bothersome comments, accusations of "disingenuousness" and annoying citation requests are really ruining this thread's slim potential for productive discourse. Could you step away for a while, or at least not react to every little thing? Original arguments are always more interesting, even when incorrect, than facile dismissals of same. The signal to noise ratio is presently not so great around here.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:09 PM on February 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Come on, how intellectually honest is it to sit around and argue the semantics of an organism vs. a cell, when you know full well that the fundamental argument on abortion has nothing to do with the distinction, but rather which life stage defines a conceptual human being?

Yes, you win. a zygote is a single-cell human organism. Congratulations. Can we now move on from what is ultimately a completely pedantic and distracting argument?
posted by Brak at 4:09 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I notice that "state's rights" pretty much never comes up except when one state decides that a particular segment of the population isn't fully human.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:10 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Blazecock, great. But you're still not supporting your earlier claim, and engaging in circular reasoning

Not really, I'm just putting rest to your dim-witted suggestion that I should "study basic biology". I know enough to make a living from it. But I'll let others decide how narrowly or widely they want to interpret one part of a larger and valid point. Keep breathing, killer!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:10 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


jsonic "Well, by that criteria, neither is a new-born baby."

Great point, and this is why through infanticide has been a common practice since the beginning of time.

Heck, the Jews don't mourn for an infant until it survives the 30th day, after which it's believed to finally have a soul.

dios writes "It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

Oh! Oh! I know this one. It's because banning abortion in South Dakota would impact the interstate abortion market, and thus regulation rights fall to the federal government under the Commerce Clause.
posted by mullingitover at 4:10 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


The moral issue is that abortion does in fact terminate a living organism.

Good lord. So does chemotherapy.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:12 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Next to Whole Foods, the Interstate Abortion Market has the freshest meats.
posted by found missing at 4:13 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think the states-as-laboratories-of-democracy argument is a good one, dios. But surely there are some experiments we don't need to know something's a bad idea. If Wyoming legalized slavery, say, no one would point to that argument in favor of letting things work out for themselves. Now, of course, there's nowhere near the level of consensus on abortion that there is on slavery, but hasn't the Supreme Court essentially put it on the same shelf of banned experiments?
posted by EarBucket at 4:14 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


jsonic: "If you don't kill a growing fetus, then barring a miscarriage, a human being will develop."

Untrue. A fertilized ovum will nidate in less than 50% of all cases. This means a "human being" by your definition will die in more than half of all attempted pregnancies without any external influence.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:14 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Well, by that criteria, neither is a new-born baby."

Yeah, um, see, the thing is, I think that Peter Singer makes a pretty convincing case, and I tend to believe that humanity comes with consciousness (and I recognize gradation within both consciousness and "human," or "worthy of not being killed"), so that wasn't exactly the zing you thought it was. I think that a newborn deserves more protection than a fetus, which deserves more protection than a blastocyst, but none of them deserve as much protection as a child.
posted by klangklangston at 4:15 PM on February 18, 2009


found missing: "Next to Whole Foods, the Interstate Abortion Market has the freshest meats."

Dude, not cool. That's like eating veal.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 4:15 PM on February 18, 2009


I want to take this back a notch, conceptually.

"Freedom" comes down to Property Rights. The state of "Being Free" means YOU own your-self, while the opposite -- "Being Enslaved" -- is when some other entity owns you.

Ownership conveys an absolute right to do with your property whatever you wish -- including despoiling it if that's your choice.

When The State tells a woman what she is permitted or proscribed from doing ( as opposed to specifying legal penalties for making what The State considers a bad choice ) that looks a lot like she's a slave of The State.

I *really* don't like that idea.

But what of the foetus? ( damn this UK spell-checker setting.... )

The foetus is the Mother's creation. It is part of her body while gestating, and that means she owns that too.

Unless you're going to suggest enslaving either the Mother or the foetus to the State, nothing can be done morally and ethically to prevent a Free Woman from doing what she chooses with her property.
posted by mikelieman at 4:17 PM on February 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


Next to Whole Foods, the Interstate Abortion Market has the freshest meats.

I'm appalled that someone favorited that. I need help, please don't encourage me.
posted by found missing at 4:18 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


mikelieman: "The foetus is the Mother's creation."

I think you mean Jesus' creation. Careful, you're starting to talk blasphemy here.
posted by mullingitover at 4:19 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I notice that "state's rights" pretty much never comes up except when one state decides that a particular segment of the population isn't fully human.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on February 18


That's the second time I've seen this ignorant comment here. So I'll just cut and paste my response from last time someone made a similarly uninformed comment based on their personal observation:
I will observe that you *NEVER* hear about anyone winning a case about so-called "state's rights" in any context but bigotry.

Never hear about? Maybe. I can't speak to what you have heard. I can tell you that the argument is made all the time outside the context of "bigotry." In fact, you can see an entire list of cases dealing with federalism/states' rights on wikipedia (there's more, these are just notable Supreme Court ones), and the majority do not have anything to do with "bigotry."

I can observe that the entire scam of "state's rights" has to the best of my knowledge never, not one single time, been used successfully to cover for anything but bigotry, and that the supporters of the state's rights scam all vanish when the cause is anything but bigotry.

Now you may not have heard of them because they involve reasoned application of law instead of ham-fisted, hot-button issues of "bigotry." But your lack of knowledge about them does not preclude their existence."
posted by dios at 4:20 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Booooooooooring. Isn't there some sort of double-jeopardy law we could apply to abortion so people would shut the fuck up about it already? Abortion is legal, get over it - this is America, and if you don't like our freedoms, move to the middle east. Or something.
posted by Bageena at 4:20 PM on February 18, 2009


Burn, found missing, burn!
posted by fleacircus at 4:20 PM on February 18, 2009


dios, buddy, I'm not talking about the courts. I'm talking about how the rhetoric of state's rights in debates like this one is rhetoric that does not appear to be used other than by right-wingers attempting to defend heinous shit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


If Wyoming legalized slavery, say, no one would point to that argument in favor of letting things work out for themselves. Now, of course, there's nowhere near the level of consensus on abortion that there is on slavery, but hasn't the Supreme Court essentially put it on the same shelf of banned experiments?
posted by EarBucket at 6:14 PM on February 18


Well, there is an explicit constitutional provision dealing with slavery, so the state could not do so. No similar law proscribes the ability of a state to define when "life" occurs for purposes of state law, which is what is going on here. As to what the particular state defines "life" as, the definition would be subject to constitutional review say under the equal protection law. That is, a state could not define "life" as only counting boys or Methodists or white people. But in this instance, I do not see why the definition given would run afoul of any constitutional provision.

The underlying issue here is of course abortion. And to answer your question, abortion is not on the same shelf. Law as it relates to abortion is entirely court-created. Slavery is prohibited by express constitutional dictate; abortion is not permitted by express constitutional dictate. Rather, it is a reasoned application of law by the Court and has lasting effect by nothing other than the doctrine of stare decisis. The doctrine of stare decisis is far from immutable; the prohibition of slavery is immutable.

There are certainly areas that touch on or relate to the issue of abortion in which the laboratories of democracy can function and experiment. Whether the particular limitation passed constitutional muster based on the stare decisis effect of the Supreme Court's abortion precedents is a hard one to predict.
posted by dios at 4:32 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


"It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

It seems like you are referring to North Dakota here. If so, there is a long history of experimentation with outlawing abortion in the United States:

The criminalization movement accelerated during the 1860s, and by 1900 abortion was largely illegal in every state. Some states did include provisions allowing for abortion in limited circumstances, generally to protect the woman's life or pregnancies due to rape or incest. Abortions continued to occur, however, and increasingly became readily available. Illegal abortions were often unsafe, sometimes resulting in death, as in the case of Gerri Santoro of Connecticut in 1964.

Some activist groups developed their own skills to provide abortions to women who could not obtain them elsewhere. As an example, in Chicago, a group known as "Jane" operated a floating abortion clinic throughout much of the 1960s. Women seeking the procedure would call a designated number and be given instructions on how to find "Jane".

In 1965, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut declaring a constitutional right to contraceptives, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a controversial medical bulletin declaring that drugs which halted human reproduction between fertilization and implantation were contraceptives instead of abortifacients.

In 1967, Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or in which pregnancy would lead to permanent physical disability of the woman. Similar laws were passed in California, Oregon, and North Carolina. In 1970, New York repealed its 1830 law and allowed abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Similar laws were soon passed in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. A law in Washington, DC, which allowed abortion to protect the life or health of the woman, was challenged in the Supreme Court in 1971 in United States v. Vuitch. The court upheld the law, deeming that "health" meant "psychological and physical well-being," essentially allowing abortion in Washington, DC. By the end of 1972, 13 states had a law similar to that of Colorado, while Mississippi allowed abortion in cases of rape or incest only and Alabama allowed abortions only in cases where the woman's physical health was endangered. In order to obtain abortions during this period, women would often travel from a state where abortion was illegal to states where it was legal.

posted by Brian B. at 4:32 PM on February 18, 2009


Cool.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 4:34 PM on February 18, 2009


Man, so, I realize this is nuts, but that Body Laws title? In my head, I keep hearing, "Let's get physical, physical, I wanna hear your body laws…" and it's burning away my sanity.
posted by klangklangston at 4:48 PM on February 18, 2009


I would also oppose laws granting Olivia Newton-John personhood.
posted by klangklangston at 4:48 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Xanaduuu... XanaduuUUUuuu ...

You're welcome.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:50 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


202 comments and me late to the party.

Something close to half of fertilized eggs spontaneously die, without the mother ever knowing she was pregnant.

Therefore the mothers are demonstrably unfit, and are now in violation of the law.

Put them all in jail, or better yet, have the RNC devise some medieval punishment suitable for the perpetrators of crimes against unborn Christians. Crushing by rocks, perhaps? Or removal of the jaw so that they starve to death, or die of infection first? It's God's will.
posted by Xoebe at 4:51 PM on February 18, 2009


Since nobody has brought up my particular stance on this issue, I'll drop it here: I'm willing to grant the pro-lifers their contention that a fetus == a human (purely for the sake of argument, mind you). My counter argument is: so fucking what? Unless you are an absolute pacifist (no capital punishment, no war, no self defense) and refuse to ever choose your own needs over those of any others (starving children in [name your favorite forgotten nation]), then you've long since learned to devalue the human "other" plenty far enough to throw in microscopic cell clusters and lizard brain uterine tumors on faith. And speaking of faith, if pro-lifers really had any, they'd realize that aborted fetuses have all the luck. With no chance to sin, they're pretty much a lock for the pearly gates. You'd think someone with real faith would want to kill all the fetuses. And the whole argument that an aborted fetus might have been destined for some particular thing is also strangely anti-faith. I mean, if God is infallible, and God has a big master plan, then the master plan is also infallible. If God exists and wants somebody born, they will be born.

So, in summary: Abortion may end a potential human life before it really begins, but there are more than enough unwanted human lives already, and abortion does not equal murder until you outlaw it. So don't fucking outlaw it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:51 PM on February 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


And I also wonder whatever happened to this way of thinking: the 14th amendment?
posted by empath at 4:55 PM on February 18, 2009


With no chance to sin, they're pretty much a lock for the pearly gates.

The Church thought of that years ago, with "Original Sin". They scrambled like dogs after bacon when Louise Brown was born! Now in vitro fertilization is a sin, but don't tell infertile Catholics that! Woops!
posted by Xoebe at 4:56 PM on February 18, 2009


Another thing I find absurd about anti-choice arguments is that whole "if you don't abort the zygote, a human being will be born, so abortion prevents a baby from being born". So do lots of things. If I sabotage my best friend's date by showing up at the restaurant where he's having dinner with his girl, inviting myself to sit at their table, and recounting a string of terrible stories from his college days, then I, too, have potentially prevented a baby from being born.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:58 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


With no chance to sin, they're pretty much a lock for the pearly gates. You'd think someone with real faith would want to kill all the fetuses.

Oh, if only god weren't an asshole. No, all those fetuses and miscarriaged are getting flushed right down the drain and straight into hell. No baptism, no forgiveness from original sin. Sorry, tiny humans!
posted by empath at 4:58 PM on February 18, 2009


Wait.

Let's go back to this part: this is designed to pose a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade. It wouldn't just ban abortion, but also contraception.

Forget about abortions for a minute, do the legislators seriously think they can ban contraceptives, or was that just an unforeseen consequence? Because that is crazy mad. Speaking as a person of a certain age (51) that would give me the possibility of a) not having sex with my husband or b) taking a gamble on a very, very bad thing happening. Oh wait, I'm forgetting c) using rubbers. I'm sure my husband would love to start using rubbers.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:58 PM on February 18, 2009


LOL. Dios did you actually read any of those case links in the wiki link you posted? If you were attempting to show that States Rights cases somehow typically advanced freedoms or some such, you failed. In fact most of those are in no way applicable to the discussion at hand at all. Not sure I get your point. Pope was correct. In the parlance of current politics the discussion of "states rights" as a political concept - not a legal precedent - is almost always code for "we want to have the right to discriminate against some weaker demographic."
posted by tkchrist at 5:00 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is a position held by some pro-lifers that the pill (progesterone, iirc?) causes fertilized eggs to be flushed out of the body, therefore killing fertilized cells.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:02 PM on February 18, 2009


If I sabotage my best friend's date by showing up at the restaurant where he's having dinner with his girl, inviting myself to sit at their table, and recounting a string of terrible stories from his college days, then I, too, have potentially prevented a baby from being born.

YOU!

I am, for the record, staunchly anti-cock-block-ist.
posted by tkchrist at 5:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Scalia's got wood 'cause now he can start writing his inevitable dissent. Seriously pro-lifers? This is what you bring to the rumble?

Oh, wait, this isn't even about me is it? Congrats to all you crazy-ass North Dakota Republicans who have ensured your perpetual reelection without having to do any actual legislative work. I'm sure your constituents are proud. (I really am! How crazy is that?)
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:06 PM on February 18, 2009


Oh, if only god weren't an asshole. No, all those fetuses and miscarriaged are getting flushed right down the drain and straight into hell. No baptism, no forgiveness from original sin. Sorry, tiny humans!

It's a bit more complicated than that and there isn't really a consensus on this. Like a lot of things in the Bible, there are contradictory messages given with regards to what happens to babies or fetuses when they die. Original Sin doesn't even have one set definition.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:06 PM on February 18, 2009


So I'll just cut and paste my response from last time someone made a similarly uninformed comment based on their personal observation:

And I'll just point out like the person did in the last thread about how almost none of said cases, if any, deal with an individual's right over their body. So, again, I'll thank you for proving the very point you're whining against.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:11 PM on February 18, 2009


Scalia's got wood 'cause now he can start writing his inevitable dissent. Seriously pro-lifers? This is what you bring to the rumble?

Oh, wait, this isn't even about me is it? Congrats to all you crazy-ass North Dakota Republicans who have ensured your perpetual reelection without having to do any actual legislative work. I'm sure your constituents are proud. (I really am! How crazy is that?)


Sure. And this is also another attempt at knee-capping Obama. They want this to turn into a big ruckus in the courts and in the media for 2010 congressional elections with the hope that Obama will have to make a stand on abortion and further polarize the country. They want this to be bloddy and expensive. Right at a time when we can LEAST afford this kind of bullshit.

These stupid mother fuckers actually want Obama to fail. They really do. They want people to be unemployed and lose their houses and become impoverished and uneducated. They want us to lose the wars in the worst ways possible.

Fuck these idiotic republicans. What scumbags.
posted by tkchrist at 5:14 PM on February 18, 2009 [15 favorites]


Oh, if only god weren't an asshole. No, all those fetuses and miscarriaged are getting flushed right down the drain and straight into hell. No baptism, no forgiveness from original sin. Sorry, tiny humans!
It's a bit more complicated than that and there isn't really a consensus on this. Like a lot of things in the Bible, there are contradictory messages given with regards to what happens to babies or fetuses when they die. Original Sin doesn't even have one set definition.

Not to mention the fact that I am by no means certain that the drain pipes in my house lead to hell.
posted by Brak at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Despite being largely illegal, abortion in Mexico is far more prevalent than in the United States

I'd suggest that anyone who cares about policies for reducing the incidence of abortion, as I do, spend some time at the website of the Guttmacher Institute. It will be more enlightening than reading this thread, unfortunately.

Short summary of a longstanding finding: Across the globe abortion rates do not correlate with the legality of abortion. Abortion rates are closely correlated with ease of access to contraception. Unwanted fetuses (or unborn children, if you prefer that term) are aborted, regardless of the nation's laws.
posted by ferdydurke at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


I wonder, does this mean a pregnant woman can file a restraining order against her own fetus? What then? Remove the embryo to comply with the court's stay away order!?
posted by mano at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2009


And I'll just point out like the person did in the last thread about how almost none of said cases, if any, deal with an individual's right over their body. So, again, I'll thank you for proving the very point you're whining against.

When ever somebody leaves Little Green Footballs they erase their memory so they can't give away the secret handshake. And the less secret pass phrase. Which, btw, is always "IT'S CLINTON'S FAULT!"
posted by tkchrist at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2009


Oh, North Dakota. I used to ENJOY telling people I grew up there. No one had ever met someone who was raised in North Dakota. You made me like a unicorn.

Why'd you have to go and ruin it?

Bad form, North Dakota, bad form.
posted by Windigo at 5:20 PM on February 18, 2009


I'd suggest that anyone who cares about policies for reducing the incidence of abortion

Everyone *ahem* remembers konolia, right? One of her more memorable moments was when she said that it didn't really matter if a ban reduced abortions or not, but that America was a country that banned it, for some barely-comprehensible theological reason.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:22 PM on February 18, 2009


Fundamental human rights = life, liberty, pursuit of happiness

Nowhere in there is the right to infanticide.


Wow. If jock@law meant that sincerely, which I frankly doubt, this is a strong candidate for the single dumbest thing ever written into Metafilter.

There is a fundamental right to liberty...

...which liberty, apparently, is maintained when the State forces you under pain of criminal punishment to undergo a months-long, debilitating medical condition with, often, lifelong medical consequences, capped by a life-threatening event with a one in three chance of grievous, but usually repairable, damage to her body.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:23 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you were attempting to show that States Rights cases somehow typically advanced freedoms or some such, you failed. In fact most of those are in no way applicable to the discussion at hand at all. Not sure I get your point.
posted by tkchrist at 7:00 PM on February 18


And I'll just point out like the person did in the last thread about how almost none of said cases, if any, deal with an individual's right over their body.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:11 PM on February 18


What the hell? Can you not follow the thread of a discussion?

Claim: '"States rights' is only ever argued to justify discrimination."
Response: "No, there are a ton of cases in which 'states rights' are argued in cases which have nothing to do with discrimination such as economic decisions, so it is wrong to say it is only used to deal with discrimination."

Retort: "Dios you are dumb. Those cases don't have anything to do with discrimination/individual rights."

Uhh... no shit. That was my point. Follow the argument before you tell me I'm wrong.
'States rights'--or as it is more properly called 'federalism'--is a frequently advanced and valid constitutional argument and is often used in cases other than this. Therefore it is stupid to say 'states rights is only code for _____.

Federalism is a constitutional principle that has many applications, including in this topic. Though you may think it is only means X, that is a fault with your understanding of the topic and not of the idea of federalism.

And I also wonder whatever happened to this way of thinking: the 14th amendment?
posted by empath at 6:55 PM on February 18


So wait.... are you saying that as an answer? Are you are suggesting that the 14th Amendment, which had already been law for like 70 years, somehow killed off the idea of 'laboratories of democracy,' as set forth by Brandeis in a case that dealt with the 14th Amendment itself?
posted by dios at 5:25 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Freedom, ROU, always comes with leathery nipples, stretchmarks, and unending pediatrician bills.
posted by tkchrist at 5:26 PM on February 18, 2009


Across the globe abortion rates do not correlate with the legality of abortion. Abortion rates are closely correlated with ease of access to contraception. Unwanted fetuses (or unborn children, if you prefer that term) are aborted, regardless of the nation's laws.

That doesn't matter to these people, just like it doesn't matter that capital punishment isn't a deterant. The point isn't to actually do away with abortion but to punish those who get one. If they cared about creating a world without abortion, they'd favor sex education, free contraception, and a stronger social safety net.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Therefore it is stupid to say 'states rights is only code for _____.

Dios if they granted Oscars for obtuseness and disingenuous arguments you would be a life time achievement winner.

State rights, in when it pertains to current mainstream political discussion, AKA: Talk Radio and your stomp'n ground LGF, is almost ALWAYS code for some sort of bigotry.

Nobody was deneying anything about the use of the phrase as a LEGAL concept in courts.

But hey. We can argue in circles all night.

And the Oscar goes to...
posted by tkchrist at 5:31 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay fair enough. I maintain that I disagree, and I think that the organism vs. cell distinction IS important to the discussion. But I do think that my involvement in the conversation is well past productive. cortex, feel free to delete my posts in this thread. In fact, I'd really like that. Sorry for getting myself (and others?) riled up. G'night y'all.
posted by jock@law at 5:32 PM on February 18, 2009



Okay fair enough.

That was a refreshing dose of honest insight and an apology. Well done sir.
posted by tkchrist at 5:35 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Removing your comments and the replies to same at this point would be a huge complicated mess, so that's pretty much a no go. In the future, please just put some serious effort into avoiding getting yourself into riling-up territory in the first place.
posted by cortex at 5:39 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dios if they granted Oscars for obtuseness and disingenuous arguments you would be a life time achievement winner.

State rights, in when it pertains to current mainstream political discussion, AKA: Talk Radio and your stomp'n ground LGF, is almost ALWAYS code for some sort of bigotry.


I could not care less what you think it means in the context of "current mainstream political discussion." It has important constitutional meaning and it has a legal application here, and that is the manner in which I use it and used it herein.

Either address my arguments substantively or don't bother responding. If all you are going to offer to this discussion is ad hominem and pounding at your strawman by accusing me of being a freeper or whatever, it'd be great if you would just bow out and let the adults have a discussion here.
posted by dios at 5:48 PM on February 18, 2009


I personally don't really care either way on the abortion issue aside from a queasiness at extreme late-term terminations, but it's amazing to me that some people who freak out about the ethical implications of splicing frog DNA into a cauliflower as if DNA has some kind of mystical significance suddenly revert to form as base materialists and scream "it's just a blob of cells! it's only chemicals!" when abortion comes up.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:52 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you start being a person at age -9 months instead of age 0 in ND, can you vote 9 months earlier? Drink at age 20 and 3 months?
posted by NoraReed at 5:54 PM on February 18, 2009


If all you are going to offer to this discussion is ad hominem and pounding at your strawman by accusing me of being a freeper or whatever, it'd be great if you would just bow out and let the adults have a discussion here.

Okay. The freeper thing was unfair. Sorry about that.

However I think your argument has been addressed by others rather well, buddy.
posted by tkchrist at 6:02 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Republican Party politicans want the USA to fail as a nation. WTF? Why?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on February 18, 2009


Okay fair enough. I maintain that I disagree, and I think that the organism vs. cell distinction IS important to the discussion.

If you do sincerely feel that way, barring further explanation and discussion, we can simply agree to disagree, and leave it at that. No hard feelings.
posted by Brak at 6:04 PM on February 18, 2009


I could not care less what you think it means in the context of "current mainstream political discussion."

In an effort to try and clear up some confusion here, the thing is that when this entire back-and-forth between you and PG started, you were responding to his complaint that the argument "state's rights" is only evoked in public discussions when it comes to defending bigotry. He even clarified this point. So he wasn't even trying to argue against the existence of state's rights cases in the court of law. It's interesting to see how state's rights has been argued in court and all, but you were arguing against a point he wasn't even making.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:04 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


ethical implications of splicing frog DNA into a cauliflower as if DNA has some kind of mystical significance

I think that has less to do with how sacred DNA is and more to do with the significance of splicing it into vegetable and possibly causing some horrific unintended consequence down the line.
posted by tkchrist at 6:05 PM on February 18, 2009


Republican Party politicans want the USA to fail as a nation. WTF? Why?

So it can be reborn to perfection. Of Course.
posted by tkchrist at 6:07 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I could not care less what you think it means in the context of "current mainstream political discussion."

Which is a damn shame given that what it means in the context of current mainstream discussion is, you know, what people were actually talking about, but no, we had no idea you went to law school and we'd love to hear some more subtle reminders about that instead.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:07 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


"BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF NORTH DAKOTA:
SECTION 1. References to individual, person, or human being - Legislative intent. For purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens."



At some point after conception, a single fertilized egg (a "person") can divide into twins, (two "persons"). Since there is no known way to predict which eggs will so divide, nor when, and since the fissioning rate may be as high as 5% (there is a very high rate of the miscarriage of a single twin when the other will survive, so the fissioning rate is higher than the identical twin rate), we can see that a large number of fertilized eggs are not a potential person, but potential persons. Furthermore, these eggs presumably have single souls which then also bifurcate. I imagine both of these create theological and legal difficulties as there is, indeed, life at the point of conception, but no necessary single "person" or "soul".
posted by Rumple at 6:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


you were responding to his complaint that the argument "state's rights" is only evoked in public discussions when it comes to defending bigotry

Well, I responded to PG's original comment which was 5 after my original comment, which contains itself a reference to federalism. And while I accept PG's clarification, it is unfair to diminish the states' rights/federalism argument in toto by suggesting that its abuse by some political forces somehow discredits the concept or its efficacy as a justification for state action.

Federalism is a fundamentally important part of our governmental system. Defending state action by point to the sovereignty of the state is a valid argument. That it is oft abused argument is a problem with the abusers, not with the argument.
posted by dios at 6:28 PM on February 18, 2009


If you start being a person at age -9 months instead of age 0 in ND, can you vote 9 months earlier? Drink at age 20 and 3 months?

You had to go and tempt me!

I will link to Mitch Clem at the drop of a hat. It's true.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:32 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


That doesn't matter to these people, just like it doesn't matter that capital punishment isn't a deterant.

Many pro-life proponents, such as Catholics, are also opposed to the death penalty as well as things such as unnecessary wars.

The point isn't to actually do away with abortion but to punish those who get one.

Or maybe they just don't like the killing of what they consider to be innocent, defenseless life.

and a stronger social safety net.

There are many pro-life folks who support massive charitable organizations (such as Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services) whose entire reason for existing is to provide for those in need around the world.
posted by jsonic at 6:38 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Federalism is a fundamentally important part of our governmental system. Defending state action by point to the sovereignty of the state is a valid argument.

Yeah, well it interferes with the right to copulate indiscriminately and terminate the consequences conveniently, so, you know, fuck that shit.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 6:38 PM on February 18, 2009


There are some things that, while able to be killed, cannot be murdered. I don't feel guilty about brushing my teeth and killing thousands of bacteria. I didn't feel guilty about bug-spraying that black widow behind my garage. I didn't feel guilty about having a person vacuum a dime-sized blotch of tissue out of my uterus. These things are not on the order of human beings.
posted by BabySeven at 6:48 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you go to another state to have an abortion, are you a murderer in North Dakota?

I know this is a (half) joke, but here we go anyway...

SCARIER THAN YOU THINK FACTOR #1

If this passes, and isn't immediately struck down, can this bring up a full faith and credit issue? The reason this is scarier than it at first appears is that it comes at around the same time that we're going to be looking at full faith and credit as a gay marriage issue. Does the court want to be seen as mandating recognition of gay marriage within all states, but denying the necessity to recognize the "personhood" of a fetus?

While this seems far-fetched, look for this to start coming out of the mouths of Rush, Glen Beck, et al., before it becomes a rallying cry that libruls care more about protecting sodomy than states' rights and babies.

SCARIER THAN YOU THINK FACTOR #2

If the article is correct, and this legislation also outlaws contraception, then we're not just looking at a Roe v. Wade challenge, but a Griswold v. Connecticut challenge as well. What these two cases have in common is a basis in privacy as a fundamental right - a basis which is still controversial in legal circles. This law appears to be blatant SCOTUS-baiting (although it'd be ideal if the 8th Circuit struck it down and SCOTUS denied cert - we don't want any distinguishing going on.) If SCOTUS does take it on, then we're talking about a ruling based upon whether privacy is a protected and fundamental right - a position which Scalia and Thomas at the very least vehemently disagree with.

LESS SCARY THAN YOU THINK OVERRIDING FACTOR

It's going to be struck down. Seriously, this is stunt legislation, and no court in the land is going to have to search far and wide to look for reasons that it's untenable and ridiculous and, yes, unconstitutional. (Personally, I'd love to see a mother seek injunctive tort relief against her "human" fetus in order to deny care, but I doubt any attorney in ND or anywhere else for that matter is quite that cheeky.) It sucks that this stuff has to come up somethimes, but this is what the court system was designed for.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:48 PM on February 18, 2009


That doesn't matter to these people, just like it doesn't matter that capital punishment isn't a deterant. The point isn't to actually do away with abortion but to punish those who get one. If they cared about creating a world without abortion, they'd favor sex education, free contraception, and a stronger social safety net.

This, dear Jesus on a popsicle stick, thisthisthisthisthis.

My god, we get endless debates about how alive a fetus is when it dances on the end of pin, and almost never anyone asking "hey, what actually reduces abortions?" Because making access to the Pill and sex ed is, mysteriously, not sexy, but turning women from full human beings with rights over their own bodies into state-owned baby-receptacles from the moment they boink, now that's red meat for the base, my friend.

I don't care how much scientific lingo gets blathered about by these people, they are giant fucking hypocrites, whose laws would cause an amazing increase in what they say they're trying to prevent.
posted by emjaybee at 6:50 PM on February 18, 2009 [17 favorites]


I think one of the many reasons we collectively have a difficult time addressing the issue of abortion is because it is really the symptom of a problem as opposed to the problem itself - that problem being unwanted or accidental pregnancies.

If I may draw out a tortured metaphor - and I think Metafilter is the ideal place to do just that - it is like listening to a variety of laymen offer medical advice on how to deal with a homeless person's persistent cough without addressing the fact that the person probably has the cough because they live outside and are constantly exposed to the elements.

By the time a woman has to choose whether she needs to abort or not (which is an awful decision to have to make and one that, I imagine, almost nobody makes without some emotional repercussions), the problem (to whit) has already happened.

We get unwanted pregnancies (and, thus, abortions or unwanted children) because of sex.

Evidence seems to suggest that the best way to reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies is comprehensive sex education and ready availability of birth control. As Bristol Palin astutely reminded the world the other day, abstinence is not a reasonable solution.

As others in this thread have mentioned, the legality or illegality of abortion has a negligible effect on the total number of abortions that occur. Sex education and birth control has the effect of reducing the number of abortions in a society because it reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies.

So, if a person genuinely wants to do something to reduce the total number of abortions in the world, the most effective way he or she could do that would be to aggressively advocate for the best possible sex education and birth control for their community. This doesn't mean they can't include abstinence in the education packet- or that they have to approve of unmarried sex.

It just means they have to recognize that humans, as a group, like to fuck and neither fear of God, fear of AIDS nor the fear of going to prison in North Dakota for murder because you took the morning after pill is a strong enough deterrent to keep them from fucking.

10,000 years of religion, angry parents, enraged cuckolded spouses and misguided legislation hasn't drilled it into people's heads that they shouldn't fuck. One more law is only going to make the fucking slightly more inconvenient. I promise you, in North Dakota, where abortion is illegal, fucking is going to go on as previously scheduled.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


(sorry "when abortion is illegal" not "where abortion is illegal.")
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:56 PM on February 18, 2009


almost never anyone asking "hey, what actually reduces abortions?"

If Republicans are really interested in reducing abortions, they might want to sign onto legislation raising the amount of money spent on social services. A recent study by a pro-life Catholic group found that increasing low-income family assistance payments by $100 per person led to a 20% drop in the abortion rate. Doing that nationally would cost about $30 billion a year. That's a fifth of the cost of the war in Iraq, or less than a tenth of the cost of the Bush tax cuts or the Obama stimulus package.

Priorities.
posted by EarBucket at 6:58 PM on February 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


For someone who's calling people stupid for discussing defiinition, you've got an awfully transparent house there.

A-huh... Nope, he's right. I'm such a idiot [sic] I even up and favorited the comment where he demonstrated by rigorous logical proof that I'm "objectively stupid"... He's quick, that one. He ruthlessly shredded my silly joke outrageously stupid and offensive assertions about how philosophically complex questions about how we define life and its boundaries are with his disproportionately venomous ranting clear-headed, airtight reasoning, and I for one thank him for it.

/should know better than to comment at all in a thread like this; this subject always brings out the crazy in people

posted by saulgoodman at 6:58 PM on February 18, 2009


All fair points, jsonic, and I didn't intend to pigeonhole everyone who opposes abortion. Hell, I oppose abortion. I think Jim Goad is the only person I know of who's pro-abortion. Nobody likes them. I was addressing that particular evangelical flavor of anti-choice, who seem more concerned about people's private sexual lives than they do children per se.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:58 PM on February 18, 2009


three cheers emjaybee.

You know the other thing that the focus on "OMG abortions and ZOMG! Sex!!!11" drowns out is that, for a lot (but not all) of expecting mothers, adoption would be a great course of action, and open adoptions in particular. Abortion needs to remain safe and legal, but as I've said before, nobody raises their freak-flag for more abortions. I disagree with the pro-lifers on when life begins, but if we can all agree that mothers who don't feel like they can bring a child to term/raise that child will find deal with it one way or another, then maybe we can focus on:

The safety of the mother.

Safe-sex education which would diminish unwanted pregnancies.

Ways to ensure that mothers who don't want to abort the fetus may still have some role in the child's life if they choose to give it up for adoption.

This whole when-does-life-begin argument distracts from what the real goals should be, even more when it overshadows neonatal care and similar issues on the national scale.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:02 PM on February 18, 2009


dios, correct me if I'm wrong, but the basis of your argument is that this action by North Dakota should be seen in the non-political and strictly legal terms of a "States Rights" struggle.

This still concerns me. I'll take your use of the Slavery concept to support your argument about "laboratories of democracy". I think your argument is valid in the current context of time, i.e. that Wyoming can no longer "experiment" with slavery since there's a Constitutional Amendment against it. However, that wasn't always the case. So prior to the 13 Amendment, it's perfectly legal for Wyoming to "experiment" with Slavery?

The answer to that question, in a strictly legal sense, seems to be yes. The problem I see here is that your argument is posited in a vacuum. Laws have political, and beyond that, real world impacts. Slavery's real world impact being a causative agent of the Civil War, and still overarching frame for race relations in the US. It's great to have philosophical legal debates about States Rights, but it is a valid argument to me only when context is considered. PG's frustration with the State's Rights argument is that it has been co-opted for use outside the strictly legal debate and with devastating effect against minorities.

You acknowledge that, but then write it off as simply a problem with the abuser of the argument. I posit you can't simply divorce the argument from those who posit it, or their motives in positing it. Context is essential to the discussion of whether this is a State's Right's issue, or rather a way for a religious majority to, through the law, push it's religious views on the citizenry.
posted by herda05 at 7:03 PM on February 18, 2009


I was addressing that particular evangelical flavor of anti-choice, who seem more concerned about people's private sexual lives than they do children per se.

Understood, and agreed.
posted by jsonic at 7:11 PM on February 18, 2009


Also, if this passes, will the state of North Carolina recognize fetuses as dependents for tax purposes? How about for food stamps and welfare payments? What about frozen embryos? They certainly fall under the definition of an "organism with the genome of homo sapiens." Can I have a dozen eggs fertilized, freeze them, and write them off as children on my taxes?
posted by EarBucket at 7:11 PM on February 18, 2009


(Sorry, North Dakota, rather.)
posted by EarBucket at 7:13 PM on February 18, 2009


Holy fuck, people.
posted by gman at 7:22 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


"state's rights" is only evoked in public discussions when it comes to defending bigotry

I've heard the idea of States Rights invoked to defend California's medical marijuana system pretty often.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:26 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Organisms. Sure, a standard definition from here
An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis. It can be a virus, bacterium, protist, fungus, plant or an animal.
An embryo will fulfill these requirements to exactly the same degree as a uterine tumor. In fact, some uterine tumors are fetal in origin (obligatory). The only argument for difference is that one day an embryo could be something we care about. Saying that a fetus is a human being confuses meat with meaning.

The observation above that barring not surviving, maturity would happen is comical. Yes, p+q=1. It also ignores the active role that mothers must take to advance the survival of their parasite along with themselves.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:26 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Many pro-life proponents, such as Catholics, are also opposed to the death penalty as well as things such as unnecessary wars."

Man, I would give that so much more credit if I didn't see Catholics repeatedly prioritizing abortion above those other concerns, especially by voting for politicians who wage wars, support the death penalty and oppose actions that would lower the incidence of abortion.

So, for me, either a lot of the vocal Catholics I hear declaiming on the sanctity of life are really only het up about the idea of saving cute widdle babies and the rest is just lip service, or they're fucking retarded when it comes to actually practically acheiving their goals.

To be fair, actual, practical work is much harder than just latching onto an ideology and shouting about it all the goddamn time.
posted by klangklangston at 7:27 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's really not entirely fair, klang. Catholics don't vote solidly for one party or the other, and Catholics on up to the Pope have been against the Iraq war.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:29 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thing is, medical science keeps pushing viability back.

This was posted waaaaaaay upthread but no one else has addressed it yet and so I will, because it's one of the anti-abortion arguments that I really hate, for its blithe ignorance.

Yes, it's possible now to keep alive preemies that twenty, even ten, years ago would have died at birth. But the younger the preemie, the greater the chance of serious problems later, both physical and cognitive. And the 24 weeks boundary has held for the past five years, at least.

It's very, very clear that there's a physiological cut-off right around six months that we'll never get past. Not until we can grow fetuses to term in vitro.

Which would present the anti-abortion crowd with an interesting dilemma. If they get their way and every potential abortion is developed to term—then what?

Who's going to come up with enough jobs to support all those parents and children? Or keep them fed and housed without jobs? Who's going to pay for parenting classes to help keep unwilling and unprepared mothers from abusing their unwanted children? When some of them abuse the kids anyway, who pays for the system that intervenes to protect the child? All those kids have to go to school. Who's going to pay for that? And those kids will need jobs at some point—and we're back at the beginning.

And in case anyone was thinking about bringing up adoption—don't. The market has spoken, and the market wants healthy white babies. All the others are on their own, and there are lots of others already.

Take a look at the voting record of any anti-abortion legislator, anywhere. He or she will be on record as opposing just about everything that these unborn citizens would need postborn, unless they happened to be born into nice middle- or upper-class families. But nice well-bred kids needs jobs too, right? Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Tax cuts!

So no, I'm wrong. It's not an interesting theoretical dilemma. It's the dilemma in front of them now, and they've made it clear what they would do, based on what they've already done.
posted by dogrose at 7:50 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


"And in case anyone was thinking about bringing up adoption—don't. The market has spoken, and the market wants healthy white babies."

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dogrose.
posted by BabySeven at 8:00 PM on February 18, 2009


I'm disappointed no one brought up my preferred logical conclusion: Sonograms would be child pornography.
posted by shen1138 at 8:15 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


"That's really not entirely fair, klang. Catholics don't vote solidly for one party or the other, and Catholics on up to the Pope have been against the Iraq war."

Eh. Maybe it's because I'm not up on the newsletters, but I didn't hear a lot of condemnation from the church when folks started talking about denying liberal politicians communion.
posted by klangklangston at 8:16 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


The real question for ND people is, (and this is a question with a built-in time limit, so get cracking here people) can you claim fetuses as dependents? Can you take a deduction for them?
posted by newdaddy at 8:30 PM on February 18, 2009


sigh.
posted by lunit at 8:31 PM on February 18, 2009


Sorry, on review EarBucket beat me to it, and had better spin-offs. Bravo!
posted by newdaddy at 8:33 PM on February 18, 2009


I've long wondered if there wasn't some nervousness amongst the anti-choice folks about details of how a supernatural soul gets inserted into a body. If they don't demand that life begins at conception then doesn't the whole "do we really have souls?" thing get kind of messy? If you believe that there is something more than biology to you then doesn't that "thing" have to be added at some point? of course all sorts of questions about twins, chymeras, etc. are also messy. Since this never comes up in discussions about abortion I could easily be wrong :-)
posted by sineater at 8:49 PM on February 18, 2009


Oh my God, what is wrong with you people?

Do you really seriously not have the ability to understand the other side's argument or position? I don't mean do you have the ability to characterize it, I mean, do you have the ability to understand their argument and their support for it from their own perspective? If you can't do this, I'm sorry, you should not be debating the topic. It's jsut two sides yelling at each other.

And Jesus, everyone go back and take 10th grade biology. Sperm, egg, skin cells are cells, not organisms. And a chimp is closer to a human than a zygote? On what planet? A zygote has all the DNA needed to become a baby. A chimp does not have human DNA, it has chimp DNA. Specifically, the zygote is an early stage in the development of the human organism.

All those people arguing that pregnancy is dangerous health condition: you do realize that human women were giving birth to children in caves prior to the discovery of fire. And that was when most mothers were teenagers. Is puberty a dangerous condition for boys, what with all that new testosterone? Don't counter absurd arguments with absurd arguments of your own.

And these arguments don't even matter. I could argue that abortion should be illegal because the State has an interest in growing the population. A larger population allows for economic specialization which leads to technological progress. Period. Forget the rights of the mother or the baby, the State's rights trump all. Just be thankful they aren't making that argument.

All the law cares about is identifying the rights on all sides, and weighing them against each other. All you have to do to make the pro-choice argument is state that the law should balance the liberty interests of the mother against the liberty interests of the fetus in favor of the realized life of the mother instead of the prospective life of the not-quite-a-baby. The reason the balance should weigh this way is simply because the rights of the woman, in this context, vest at conception. The fetus's rights don't vest until the organism at least has a brain. That's all you have to do. You don't have to convince people they are wrong, or that you are right. You just have to get the law on your side. Which it already is, by the way.

So ND declares that fetus are persons. That's nice. They can still be aborted until the third trimester. I just hope ND is prepared to grant additional tax deductions to pregnant moms and provide welfare and Medicaid for these new people, because if fetuses are people, they have a right to those entitlements.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:05 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel, while I agree with the point of your post, your own "all you have to do" misses the the other side's argument that, in their opinion, the right to life of the fetus outweighs the rights of the mother, regardless of when her rights vested. And saying that "You just have to get the law on your side" is precisely what the idiots in ND are trying to do and we're having this discussion.
posted by sineater at 9:10 PM on February 18, 2009


This thread should be left out on the hill to die.
posted by nola at 9:21 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can I have a dozen eggs fertilized, freeze them, and write them off as children on my taxes?

Or better yet, collect welfare on them. It'll be like crack babies x100!

I wonder what North Dakota plans to do with all the unwanted infants. Even a dozen unadopted children a year is a hell of a thing to deal with. You have to have a lot of infrastructure in place: nurseries, play rooms, dorm bedrooms. Industrial washrooms and showers and kitchens and dining rooms.

At only a dozen a year, you're eventually going to have two-hundred odd children to house and feed and "parent" and take to the doctor and buy new clothes and on and on and on. From birth until they leave the group home and become a part of adult society.

Helluva thing for a society to take on properly. Helluva responsibility.

Of course, it's not done well at all. Not done properly. The government might create a situation in which there are far, far more unwanted, parently children — but it'll be damned if it's going to be held accountable and responsible for that decision.

"You can't have an abortion and the child will be raised in conditions that essentially guarantee he graduates into adult society as a criminal or failure." This so-called “Adoption System” is such a compassionate response to the moral challenge.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:28 PM on February 18, 2009


"Many pro-life proponents, such as Catholics, are also opposed to the death penalty as well as things such as unnecessary wars."

Yeah. I find that position morally untenable even though it's consistent. I mean - let's grant that in war you do kill people. So even if we're calling a fetus "people" - we have established that under certain circumstances it's ok to kill. At least legally. And this "innocent" thing is off the table. As long as there is war, there will be collateral damage and innocents harmed.

So we've made the choice that some things are preferable to life, even innocent lives, under certain circumstances. Less quick and dirty than war - say - liberty. So given there are things more precious than life, the valuation of life itself is not an adequate defense.

I think there's an argument to be had on intent when it comes to the fetus' potential to become a human being. But that's a self-negating (or affirming) argument.
If my wife and I wanted to have a baby, and someone forcibly aborted that child, I'd call that murder (and a host of other crimes). And if we want the child, we're not going to abort it (given certain circumstances predicated again on our intentions).
But by the same token if it's not our intention to have a child - that becomes a different matter of intent.

But - point being - I'd hold the violation of forcing my wife to have a child and forcing her to have an abortion as equal. Yet one is murder (to my mind) and one is not.
Really though, the fact that I (or other folks) might think it's murder isn't as relevant as the equivalence there in terms of the crime.
Clearly - something other than just 'life' is at stake here. And the state cannot prioritize one over the other. To force my wife to have a child or to force her not to is in both cases a violation, for the state to use that force would be an act equivalent to murder.
The state merely wouldn't be ceasing her physical processes: her heart from pumping, her lungs from breathing.
But (as JC said) man cannot live by bread alone. One can not like abortion, but to force the issue is to do the equivalent of murder. Doubly so if the state abandons the child to its fate.

Between depriving someone of their lives and depriving someone of their freedom - that is - the control in their lives there is no real difference. Just a matter of time. And the amount of time taken is only a matter of degree. We've established limits to the level of power the state can impose itself - we no longer have slavery for example - but more importantly we don't have peonage or indentured servitude (certain goofy immigration laws aside). Those kinds of contracts can no longer be made since the state will no longer enforce them. The similarity there between pregnant mother and indentured servant forced by the state to serve another is obvious.
So it's not merely a life vs. freedom argument (although that's more than enough in my mind). It's a matter of what liberties are we willing to cede - not just to the state - but to a proxy of the state?
If an unborn child can lay this kind of claim - who else can? And if the state can presume on their behalf - who else can they do that for?
posted by Smedleyman at 9:46 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a good thing no one in the ND House understands biology at all because it's going to make it a lot easier for that law to be laughed out of court.

For the record this is the definition of an organism from one of my biology textbooks: An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis.

A fetus is not an organism by that definition or, I suspect, by any definition of organism found in a scientific text.

If they insist on rewriting the definition of organism "for legal purposes" to get rid of the bothersome "maintain homeostasis, react to stimuli, and reproduce" bits I suspect they will also end up inadvertently banning organ transplants, fertility treatments, chemotherapy and most cancer treatments. And forget about throwing away placentas! Those stem cells are people!
posted by fshgrl at 10:48 PM on February 18, 2009


I take it that "bun in the oven" suggests that fetus are in fact yummy baked goods.

Ever wonder about that line in "Silent Night" describing the baby J as "tender and mild"?
posted by telstar at 10:58 PM on February 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


This bothers me a lot, and it comes at the end of a terrible day. Oh, what to do now?
posted by fuq at 11:05 PM on February 18, 2009


For the record this is the definition of an organism from one of my biology textbooks: An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis.

A fetus is not an organism by that definition or, I suspect, by any definition of organism found in a scientific text.


That's a pretty problematic definition. A 5-year-old girl can't reproduce, but no-one would claim she isn't an organism. Of course, she has the potential to be able to at a later date, but by that standard a fetus is an organism too.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 11:12 PM on February 18, 2009


A fetus can not maintain homeostasis without life support.

Much the same debate goes on at the other end of the line, too: who has the right to turn off Granny's life support? The costs ultimately fall back to the State: if there is no next of kin to pay the bill, the taxpayer is going to foot it. Do we force the State to maintain life support regardless the cost? We can keep a human alive indefinitely these days: even without brain activity, even if organs fail, we can keep the flesh alive.

To repeat myself, even a dozen living dead a year is a hell of a thing to deal with. You have to have a lot of infrastructure in place: hospital beds, specialized doctors and nurses, the latest medical marvels.

Helluva thing for a society to take on properly. Helluva responsibility.

And of course, we don't. We pull the plug, because it is the only practical and sane decision. Same as at the other end of the line (except in North Dakota.)
posted by five fresh fish at 11:38 PM on February 18, 2009


Personally, I think we should go by Bill Hicks' definition of when life begins: you're not a person until you're in the phone book.

Oh, and good job with this, Christian Soldiers of North Dakota. Keep thinkin' up new ways to punish them filthy harlots for fucking. It's as good a way as any to occupy your mind and block out your self-hating guilt over your weekly meetings with a twink rent-boy in a gas station bathroom.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:52 PM on February 18, 2009


I wish they'd just control their own and leave the rest of us alone.
posted by batmonkey at 11:54 PM on February 18, 2009


All those people arguing that pregnancy is dangerous health condition: you do realize that human women were giving birth to children in caves prior to the discovery of fire. And that was when most mothers were teenagers. Is puberty a dangerous condition for boys, what with all that new testosterone?

You do realize, don't you, that maternal mortality during pregnancy and childbirth has been very high at least since humans evolved very large heads? (Which, incidentally, was well after the discovery of fire, or, rather the discovery of the means to control fire) And that it is just as high today in many parts of the world without the benefit of Cuban, or Slovakian medecine (I want to add "American medicine", but I am not sure maternal mortality is, in fact, particularly low in that country). And with every slip backwards in living standards, so does the health of mother and infant suffer correspondingly? Humans were doing a lot of things in caves; I am not sure they should form the blueprint for what humans do now.


Don't counter absurd arguments with absurd arguments of your own.


Heh. Physician, heal thyself.
posted by Rumple at 1:32 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm sorry the discussion moved away from the definition of "organism", since that's the really interesting part to me in the context of this bill. How would a court define "organism", and what would that imply about when during pregnancy this law applies? Since there doesn't seem to be a definition in the law, what happens? Do they go to expert witnesses? Wikipedia?

Seriously, this law says "any organism carrying the human genome". As I understand things, the correct definition of "organism" would imply a viable fetus, which is the same standard Roe vs Wade sets. Am I right in thinking that this law doesn't actually change anything?

I really wish instead of turning this into yet another abortion fight, people had kept it to the consequences of the article. My favorite was shen's comment about sonograms being child porn.
posted by heathkit at 5:19 AM on February 19, 2009


Also, this is the first I've seen either of the Dakotas in the news in quite some time.
posted by CaptKyle at 6:01 PM on February 18 [+] [!]


Was it really that long ago that John McCain offered up his wife to the bikers at the Sturgis rally in a desperate bid for a few skeezy leather fetish votes? Also, you know, a couple weeks ago, a former South Dakotan named Tom Daschle was in the news quite a bit. Plus the wheat and corn crop was pretty good last year. Finally, in other news, North Dakotans don't really want to be made to wear seat belts.

Wait, what are the rest of you talking about here?
posted by aught at 5:59 AM on February 19, 2009


Want to end abortions?

Mandatory homosexuality.
posted by Goofyy at 6:01 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the birth control aspect would have huge consequences-- the percentage of women on the pill vs. the percentage of women considering an abortion is vastly greater. Numbers are hard to pin down, but the most common figure I've seen quoted is 36 % of American women are taking birth control pills. I can think of many reasons why it might be medically advisable to prevent pregnancy (such as a patient about to undergo chemotherapy) but the passage of this bill would force women to choose total abstinence or a tubal ligation. Do the doctors of ND intend to sit back and let the legislators decide what prescriptions they can write? Are the pharmaceutical companies not concerned over the potential loss of customers? Also it would be horrifically ironic if the outlawing of birth control methods led to an increase of unwanted pregnancies which then end in illegal abortions.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:14 AM on February 19, 2009


Want to end abortions?
Mandatory homosexuality.


No more Robert Heinlein for you!
posted by cimbrog at 6:17 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


What exactly do you mean by homeostasis? There's a general biological idea of what homeostasis means for humans... but no plant organisms have anything like it. I think the term is troubling just because there are so many definitions of it. What do you mean exactly?
posted by jock@law at 6:47 AM on February 19, 2009


There's a general biological idea of what homeostasis means for humans... but no plant organisms have anything like it.

what
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:00 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Homeostasis refers to the body's ability to regulate its own systems, and is the key difference between a viable fetus and a nonviable one. It means your brain keeps you breathing and regulates your temperature, your kidneys filter toxins from your bloodstream, and so on. This is why the point that's often made by people that a newborn baby can't feed itself or change its own diaper is misleading--the point is not that a human is born fully capable of caring for itself. It's that an embryo in early development literally could not survive without being attached to its mother. Its body is fully dependent on the mother's organs, as it hasn't yet achieved homeostasis.
posted by EarBucket at 7:20 AM on February 19, 2009


(And the idea that "there are so many definitions of it" is nonsense. It's a very precisely defined medical term.)
posted by EarBucket at 7:21 AM on February 19, 2009


Sperm, egg, skin cells are cells, not organisms.

Single-celled organisms are organisms not cells. Give me a concise, legally-defensible argument for why. Arguably, sperm even reproduce through a kind of cellular division.

"The process of sperm production starts with the earliest germ cell, called a spermatogonium (precursor of sperm). These cells divide and pass through many stages as they divide, including a major change in shape, from a round cell to the familiar ‘tadpole-like’ sperm structure."

The point of my reductio absurdum argument is that if we're going to allow arguments informed only by a "common sense," layman's understanding of the biological realities of human sexual reproduction to inform laws regarding reproductive issues (as suggesting that it's an obvious scientific fact that a fetus is a living creature does, in my opinion), then we open the door to all sorts of pseudo-scientific legal craziness dressed up as sound science based reasoning.

For example, suppose some nitwit actually did seriously argue that human life begins with sperm, that an individual sperm represents the earliest stage in the human life cycle (drawing the obvious crude analogy to how frogs go through a tadpole stage). Viewed this way, fertilization of the egg, the argument might go, doesn't represent the first step in the development of a new life, but rather, merely the next step in the development of an existing life that undergoes a radical metamorphosis early in its development. Having reached the next stage in its development if fertilization is achieved, the sperm organism now enters its zygote stage, then its embryonic stage, etc., eventually maturing into a fully formed human being.

There's no clear, consistent, and universally-accepted definition of biological life. This, in fact, represents one of the best known and most difficult problems in biology. So if there's not even a theoretical basis for a consistent legal definition of life, then how in the world are we supposed to craft a rigorous legally-defensible definition of when life begins?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:41 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Drawing a counter factual argument back from a baby to a fetus (if you did nothing X would happen) doesn't privilege the moment of conception. No magic took place. Imagine a sperm in a tube that you could stop; if you did nothing seconds later there would be a fertilized egg. Why isn't that counter-factual just as valid? If you didn't put a condom on that sperm would have met that egg and nine months later a baby would exist.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:55 AM on February 19, 2009


If you keep a zygote in liquid nitrogen for 18 years, does it get to vote?

It's not an American citizen: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

This might be a problem, too: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:19 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States

I don't know how that would apply to or inform against this law by the N. Dakota legislature. For the most part, the privileges or immunities clause is largely a constitutional artifact--a vestigial organ that has been ignored since the Slaughterhouse Cases in 1872. No one really knows that it is supposed to mean, and any attempt to give it content is typically superfluous or duplicative because the content given is already covered by another provision of the Constitution. There have been some attempts to give it life, notably Dean John Hart Ely's classic Democracy and Distrust. But there is no currently existing constitutional precedent that would result in the P or I clause pre-empting this statute.
posted by dios at 8:50 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regarding my earlier comment on funding for social services: if those numbers held true on a national level, allocating $30 billion annually for things like food stamps and housing assistance would mean as many as a quarter million fewer abortions every year. Add to that the fact that food stamps are one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, and you'd think they'd be a no-brainer, even for Republicans. So what's the first thing the GOP tried to get pulled from the stimulus package? Food stamps, of course.

In the end, though, there's about $100 billion in there in assistance for struggling families, which may ironically make the recovery bill the largest and most effective tool for reducing the abortion rate in history--not because it forces women to carry babies, but because it makes having a child a more realistic and attractive option for a woman who's worried about how she'll support it. And every single Republican in the House and all but three in the Senate opposed it.
posted by EarBucket at 9:52 AM on February 19, 2009


I like North Dakota a lot, and I'm hoping the state senate will come to their senses.
posted by Sassenach at 10:49 AM on February 19, 2009


Homeostasis refers to the body's ability to regulate its own systems, and is the key difference between a viable fetus and a nonviable one. It means your brain keeps you breathing and regulates your temperature, your kidneys filter toxins from your bloodstream, and so on. This is why the point that's often made by people that a newborn baby can't feed itself or change its own diaper is misleading--the point is not that a human is born fully capable of caring for itself. It's that an embryo in early development literally could not survive without being attached to its mother. Its body is fully dependent on the mother's organs, as it hasn't yet achieved homeostasis.
posted by EarBucket at 10:20 AM on February 19 [+] [!]


(And the idea that "there are so many definitions of it" is nonsense. It's a very precisely defined medical term.)
posted by EarBucket at 10:21 AM on February 19 [+] [!]


That can't be the same "homeostasis" as the one being used as a criterion for "being an organism" since many many many organisms don't have bodies, brains, breathing, kidneys, or bloodstreams. That's why I asked for a clarification -- one which I'd still like to know. If being an organism requires maintaining homeostasis, then what do you mean by homeostasis? You cannot possibly mean the definition you've given us, unless you want to deny that trees are organisms.
posted by jock@law at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2009


Speaking as a person of a certain age (51) that would give me the possibility of a) not having sex with my husband or b) taking a gamble on a very, very bad thing happening. Oh wait, I'm forgetting c) using rubbers. I'm sure my husband would love to start using rubbers.

You'd have to go with "a", Secret Life of Gravy. The only reason to have sex is to procreate.

That's what it all comes down to, right? Punishing women for having out of wedlock sex. Because, lord knows, that married woman never have or want abortions.
posted by deborah at 11:40 AM on February 19, 2009


That can't be the same "homeostasis" as the one being used as a criterion for "being an organism" since many many many organisms don't have bodies, brains, breathing, kidneys, or bloodstreams. That's why I asked for a clarification -- one which I'd still like to know. If being an organism requires maintaining homeostasis, then what do you mean by homeostasis? You cannot possibly mean the definition you've given us, unless you want to deny that trees are organisms.

I'm assuming you're trolling in a deliberately disingenuous way here, jock@law, because nobody-- not even a law student-- can be that obtuse. Trees may not have bloodstreams, but they have xylem and phloem; they may not have "breathing," but they have photosynthesis; and so on. This is a tree's ability to "regulate its own systems," per Earbucket's definition. Don't be a fucking idiot.
posted by dersins at 11:53 AM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's not being obtuse to expect a concise, well-worded answer that doesn't resort to name-calling. I'd still very much like that answer.
posted by jock@law at 12:05 PM on February 19, 2009


It's not being obtuse to expect a concise, well-worded answer that doesn't resort to name-calling. I'd still very much like that answer.

Trees may not have bloodstreams, but they have xylem and phloem; they may not have "breathing," but they have photosynthesis; and so on. This is a tree's ability to "regulate its own systems," per Earbucket's definition.
posted by EarBucket at 12:11 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great. Thanks for the example. But examples aren't explanation. "Regulation" and "system" are very fuzzy concepts. Is a placenta part of the mother or the fetus? What's an objective test for whether something "regulates its own symptoms"? If photosynthesis is part of regulating one's own systems, and therefore part of homeostasis; and maintaining homeostasis without help is a requirement for being an organism; then wouldn't that mean that early plants with early chloroplasts -- really, cyanobacteria, a separate organism -- weren't regulating without help, and therefore weren't organisms by that test?

I'm glad for the examples, but I feel like the treatment of this question has been kinda facile.
posted by jock@law at 12:16 PM on February 19, 2009


"regulates its own systems" sorry for the mistype.
posted by jock@law at 12:17 PM on February 19, 2009


"Regulation" and "system" are very fuzzy concepts.

Only if you don't understand SCIENCE!
posted by dersins at 12:20 PM on February 19, 2009


dersins, then it should be a simple matter for you to delineate what is or isnt part of an organism's "system" -- what test decides that question?
posted by jock@law at 12:33 PM on February 19, 2009


Christ on a fucking crutch stop trolling and start reading.
posted by dersins at 12:41 PM on February 19, 2009




The term "homeostasis" occurs exactly once in that article, and not as a prerequisite to being an organism. "All organisms, at least in some form..." Humans, at least in the form of having been born, maintain homeostasis. That's perfectly compatible with the article, and yet doesn't imply in any way that fetuses aren't organisms.

I'm not trolling. I'm asking you and other people going down this "homeostasis" route to have more than a surface-level discussion. I'm being very genuine here. Convince me.
posted by jock@law at 12:46 PM on February 19, 2009


You'd have to go with "a", Secret Life of Gravy. The only reason to have sex is to procreate.

That's what it all comes down to, right? Punishing women for having out of wedlock sex. Because, lord knows, that married woman never have or want abortions.


And this ends up being the defense against gay marriage as well -- the only reason to marry is to have sex, which you only do to procreate. Since gay people can't procreate, they can't marry.
posted by garlic at 12:47 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


This gives a great definition. Homeostasis refers to a self-stabilizing system. I think the next argument will have to be whether or not parasites can be self-stabilizing.
posted by domo at 12:49 PM on February 19, 2009


I'm being very genuine here.

No, you're not. You're saying things like "trees don't have kidneys lol"* and pretending to present that as an argument against the clear and concise definition of organism that EarBucket presented.



*Those are "summary quotes," of course.
posted by dersins at 12:53 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well plenty of parasites are considered, broadly, to be organisms. And biologically, a parasite is no different from a symbiote -- the only difference is whether another animal (the host) benefits from the relationship.

Since nobody wants to give a clear answer, let me ask this: is any regulation of any biological system sufficient to satisfy your homeostasis criterion? if so, aren't fetuses "organisms" by your criteria as soon as they start producing insulin or glucagon?
posted by jock@law at 12:55 PM on February 19, 2009


dersins, there's nothing clear or concise about a definition that references a technical term that is predicated on two not-all-together-clear terms. And yes, I am being genuine, and frankly you're not qualified to speak on whether I am or not. You can continue, if you like, to insist arrogantly that you know my mental state, but it doesn't make you any more correct. I'd rather not get derailed by that from the discussion at hand, though, so I'd appreciate if you'd redirect that invective toward my MeFi mail or your bit bucket. Thanks.
posted by jock@law at 12:58 PM on February 19, 2009


I think it's a sign of arguing in bad faith, jock@law, when you argue consistently from a negative position. In doing this as repeatedly and consistently as you have, you sort of muddy the water. This bunny trail you've gone down (trees, cyanobacteria, etc) don't serve to clarify the matter at hand, and don't serve to provide relevant definitions: if eukaryotes were found not to be organisms under the definition, would it matter? Further, if they were found to be organisms, would you question the underlying endosymbiotic theory as to why they should be?

You might be more compelling in your argument if you were to go to some authoritative source for the missing piece (say, the definition of homeostasis) and argue your position based on that definition. If you find the responses simplistic, you can look at your own participation for possible causes.
posted by boo_radley at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2009


That should read "would you question the underlying endosymbiotic theory as to why they should not be?" at the end of the first paragraph. Sorry.
posted by boo_radley at 1:06 PM on February 19, 2009


I'm not arguing from a negative position. I'm asking people to explain things that they say that are unclear. There's nothing bad faith about it. I'm sorry if you or others feel that way, but those feelings are truly your own.

When people say things like "an organism must be capable of maintaining homeostasis, and a fetus is simply not," that's arguing in bad faith, not only because sufficiently well-developed fetuses are capable of maintaining homeostasis, but also because it doesn't appear to me to be true that an organism, in order to be an organism, must be capable of maintaining homeostasis, particularly not with the implied qualification that it must be unaided by other organisms like mothers, acidophilous, or cyanobacteria.
posted by jock@law at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2009


Ok, we seem to be in agreement that parasites (living things that cannot survive without another living thing providing for it) are organisms. So where does that leave us? Are eggs, sperm, and tumors organisms? Perhaps. And who would argue that it is the responsibility of a host to sustain a parasite?
posted by domo at 1:17 PM on February 19, 2009


I wonder if a new life insurance market will spring up that's basically betting on whether or not a pregnancy will end in miscarriage?
posted by small_ruminant at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2009


May I suggest, then, the following definition of homeostasis?
Human homeostasis refers to the body's ability to regulate physiologically its inner environment to ensure its stability in response to fluctuations in the outside environment and the weather. The liver, the kidneys, and the brain (hypothalamus) help maintain homeostasis . The liver is responsible for metabolizing toxic substances and maintaining carbohydrate metabolism. The kidneys are responsible for regulating blood water levels, re-absorption of substances into the blood, maintenance of salt and ion levels in the blood, regulation of blood pH, and excretion of urea and other wastes.

An inability to maintain homeostasis may lead to death or a disease, a condition known as homeostatic imbalance. For instance, heart failure may occur when negative feedback mechanisms become overwhelmed and destructive positive feedback mechanisms take over. Other diseases which result from a homeostatic imbalance include diabetes, dehydration, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, gout and any disease caused by the presence of a toxin in the bloodstream. Medical intervention can help restore homeostasis and possibly prevent permanent damage to the organs.
(from wikipedia)

I would ask, in return, for a definition of "sufficiently well-developed fetus".
posted by boo_radley at 1:42 PM on February 19, 2009


jock@law, the problem is that you're taking something that every biologist agrees is a defining characteristic of organisms and arguing that it's not a defining characteristic of an organism. It's like dropping into a thread about a court case and claiming that "plaintiff" and "liability" are fuzzy concepts that no one agrees on a definition for. It's the gambit found in Conversational Terrorism under "Nit-Picking."

Now, as I've said already, you're correct that a viable fetus is homeostatic. In fact, I'm personally comfortable with pretty strong restrictions on abortion once a fetus has brain activity and homeostatic viability. (Around 26 weeks or so.) But to pretend that this is capable of maintaining itself as a static and cohesive unit in the same way as this (or even this) is just silly. It's not true.
posted by EarBucket at 2:11 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jock@law: Do you believe people should be forced to give blood? Many people depend on donated blood to survive, but there always seems to be a shortage. Why doesn't our government force people to give blood? It only takes about half an hour, with no lasting effects. And yet many selfish, cruel people refuse to support individuals who need their blood to survive. Can a family member be jailed for refusing to give a kidney? Why not?
posted by domo at 2:20 PM on February 19, 2009


Not just a family member. Most people would do just fine with only one kidney and really we should have national compulsory registration of blood typing so that if someone is in need of your kidney, anywhere in the country, it would just be a matter of knocking you out and cutting that sucker out and getting it to someone who really needs it.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2009


We're rehashing old arguments here.

A Defense of Abortion


But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you--we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you." Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation?
posted by empath at 2:32 PM on February 19, 2009


Parasites have homeostasis, and are a different issue than fetal viability or homeostasis as defining fetuses as independent organisms.

Really, it just does muddy the water.
posted by klangklangston at 2:40 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Parasites have homeostasis, and are a different issue than fetal viability or homeostasis as defining fetuses as independent organisms.

Really, it just does muddy the water.


The whole thing was a buildup to the argument that granting rights to anything within the broad definition of "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens." is more than a little pointless. Here we are arguing whether or not a fetus is an organism, as if calling it that makes any difference or grants it a special status. It is not an animal, it is a parasitic lump of cells.
posted by domo at 3:00 PM on February 19, 2009


These stupid mother fuckers actually want Obama to fail. They really do. They want people to be unemployed and lose their houses and become impoverished and uneducated. They want us to lose the wars in the worst ways possible.

Yeah, no surprise that they equate Obama failing with America succeeding. Welcome to ultra polarized politics. But your argument makes about as much sense as when right wing conservatives accused liberals of treason and sabotage for wanting to pull out of Iraq. What we are all going to march in lockstep, no room for disagreement on methods, no questioning of authority or even competence? Should Obama continue the appointment policies of the Bush administration, where loyalty tests come first second and third, and competence is a distant fourth? I detest that attitude no matter which side of the political spectrum it comes from.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:10 PM on February 19, 2009


I couldn't care less about the science of the thing. My body, my choice.
posted by deborah at 3:38 PM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jock@law: Do you believe people should be forced to give blood?

Discussion of negative vs positive rights in a general sense loses some of its punch with regards to the abortion debate when you realize that pregnancy isn't generally a randomly occurring condition that's forced upon an unwitting woman. It's a result of a choice. Hopefully an informed and conscientious one, sometimes less so, human beings what they are.

Pastabagel's observation (that this issue is connected with views on human sexuality) is right on and strongly related to this, though I'd put it more kindly than he did when it comes to discussing conservatives. I don't think it's a complete discomfort with female sexuality, but rather a strong non-acceptance of the modern idea that you can disconnect sex from the moral questions surrounding new incipient human life. They're incorrect in one sense: correct use birth control means that most of the time, you can. However, they're also correct in a strict sense because there is no 100% means of birth control... which means that even with birth control, if you're going to have sex, you either need to be prepared to accept a potential pregnancy and child, or you have to be ready to justify termination of a pregnancy.

Once you understand this, a lot of how people organize into polar camps makes sense, and it's easy to see that it isn't just the conservative camp organizing this way, the abortion debate is also about sex from the liberal/choice side as well: the flip side of refusing to accept any disconnection of sex from the moral-life questions is an insistence that they should be disconnected -- or even that they certainly are.

Personally, I don't think either pole is particularly defensible, and IMHO this is part of what's wrong with a lot of abortion discussion.

I also, however, think that while a lot of the energy in the debate comes from the fact that it's a proxy fight over attitudes towards sex, it's pretty important not to go so far as to say that's what it's all about. There are couples who are completely prepared to have children, even want children, who still have to face terrifying choices where abortion might be the best possible answer. That's reason enough alone to avoid ham-fisted blanket bans, though heaven knows there's plenty more to look at the issue with a lot more subtlety than that with which it's often treated.
posted by weston at 6:24 PM on February 19, 2009


All this argument about what constitutes an organism is just silly. "Organism" is just an arbritary label we use to mark off certain things in the natural world. There is a huge gray area between the living and the non living.

Take viruses, when I went to school we were taught that they were not alive. But there is now a theory that the eukaryotic nucleus actually came from a pox virus. So we as eukaryotes are literally viruses.

Blazecock, please cite to any peer-reviewed source that refers to an individual skin cell as an organism. Doing so will elicit an apology from me and learning on the part of the community of MeFites

I can't give you a skin cell, but there have been claims that individual cervical cells are organisms. To be precise, the HeLa immortal cell line which was derived from human cervical cancer cells. It is viable on it's own, so much so that it often gets out of control and starts to contaminate other cell lines in laboratories.

Under the horrible phrasing of the ND law, it would seem quite likely that the HeLa cell line would be considered a human since it is an "organism with the genome of homo sapiens."
posted by afu at 9:28 PM on February 19, 2009


which means that even with birth control, if you're going to have sex, you either need to be prepared to accept a potential pregnancy and child, or you have to be ready to justify termination of a pregnancy

I will not stop having sex, and you can not have the right to stop me from the act when I'm in a loving, monogamous hetereosexual life-long civilly-recognized marriage. A marriage in which if I don't have sex, can be dissolved as if we were never married to begin wth.

I can not agree that the government be allowed to raise a child: the government does a lousy job of raising children; so bad a job that I suspect it can be proven to be long-term detrimental to society.

I will not raise a child myself.

One way or another, contraceptives are a requirement for a society in which conventional marriages exist, the government and charities can not do an upstanding job of raising a child to be a benefit to society as an adult.

We need reversable vasectomies and tube-tying at the first sign of puberty. With one or the other tied or snipped or plugged, the odds of impregnation are a zillion to one. There would be no need whatsoever for voluntary abortions: people would untie/rejoin/unplug the tubes and only when they both did so would there be opportunities for having one's own child.

Children would become something desired. Something wanted instead of just had. Maybe we'd cherish the little buggers as being more valuable, and do a way better job of raising them.

The religionists hate this idea. It requires acknowledging that the human condition is one of wanting to fuck. And that having babies isn't the point of most of the fucking.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


That can't be the same "homeostasis" as the one being used as a criterion for "being an organism" since many many many organisms don't have bodies, brains, breathing, kidneys, or bloodstreams.

Yes it can jocklaw because the law refers to "organisms" that carry the HUMAN GENOME. So it's exactly, precisely, the exact precise definition of the homeostasis they are referring to. btw, homeostasis is a state, it's not something inherent to an organism, it is dependent on the environment so they should really better define that term in this context as well as "organism".

Really that is a terribly written law. A 15 year old with access to Wikipedia could have done a better job.

And, to be nitpicky, every human has at least two genomes (mitochondrial + nuclear).
posted by fshgrl at 12:41 AM on February 20, 2009


when you realize that pregnancy isn't generally a randomly occurring condition that's forced upon an unwitting woman. It's a result of a choice.

Right. Talk to me when you've eradicated all forms of rape and non 100% consensual sex.

a strong non-acceptance of the modern idea that you can disconnect sex from the moral questions surrounding new incipient human life.

If it can't be disconnected, then it can't be disconnected for men either. If individual women who choose to have sex are on the hook individually, I think it's fair that individual men who choose to have sex and thus bring new life into the world are on the hook collectively. Like maybe extra taxes to support the mothers and babies, and mandatory kidney/blood donation. Or not?

which means that even with birth control, if you're going to have sex, you either need to be prepared to accept a potential pregnancy and child, or you have to be ready to justify termination of a pregnancy.

Why would one need to justify the termination to any outside person? There's the control of women's bodies right there.

On its face termination of pregnancy justifies itself. Pregnancy is super arduous and hard on the body, full of risks, full of costs. Truly, saying that a woman needs any additional, personal/subjective justification doesn't show much respect to the value of a woman's body and quality of life.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:23 AM on February 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


Why would one need to justify the termination to any outside person? There's the control of women's bodies right there.

Well that's the heart of the disagreement right there, isn't it? A lot of these people seem to assign very different sets of standards with regards to sex to men and women. Men are pretty much absolved of responsibility, because they're always on, controlled by their sex organs and just can't be expected to know any better when it comes to having sex. Women, by contrast, must view every sexual encounter as a deeply moral decision, and if, Heaven forfend, she wants to have sex for purely physical and/or emotional enjoyment, she's walking on thin ice. Should God smite her with a baby, she has no right to terminate the pregnancy, because to do so would be to shirk her divinely ordained responsibility to make children. How dare she have her cake and eat it, too? How dare she be permitted to enjoy the privilege which is man's sovereign right and his alone?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:10 AM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I will not stop having sex, and you can not have the right to stop me from the act when I'm in a loving, monogamous hetereosexual life-long civilly-recognized marriage."

Uh, no one should really have the right to stop adults from having sex with each other even in the absence of a marriage.
posted by klangklangston at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2009


For that matter, no one should really have the right to stop adults from having sex with each other in a non-heterosexual relationship, either.

Adults are adults, and should be allowed to have sex with any other adult(s) they prefer, without interference or question, so long as all parties involved are fully consenting to what's going on.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:19 AM on February 20, 2009


By the way, that's not intended as a slam on you, fff -- my point, which was obviously expanding on klang's there, is that the genders and presence or absence of a legal document doesn't have a goddamned thing to do with the fact that people like to fuck, have fucked since the dawn of time, will continue to fuck, and should be allowed to do so without being subjected to some asshole's interpretation of morality.

which means that even with birth control, if you're going to have sex, you either need to be prepared to accept a potential pregnancy and child, or you have to be ready to justify termination of a pregnancy

Justify termination of a pregnancy? To whom, exactly? You? God? My mom? My partner? Myself? James Dobson? Do tell.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:26 AM on February 20, 2009


Right. Talk to me when you've eradicated all forms of rape and non 100% consensual sex.

As I said at the end of my last comment, I think there's a number of good reasons to avoid ham-fisted blanket bans on abortion. Rape stands at the top of the list.

If it can't be disconnected, then it can't be disconnected for men either.

Contrary to Marisa Stole the Precious Thing's assertion, it's my understanding that most people and laws (in the U.S. at least agree) with you. Men are seen as legally and morally responsible for the support of children they father, despite generally having less discretion (and justifiably so) in most decisions regarding a continued pregnancy, baring being put in a pretty frightening situation like the one I linked to above.

I don't necessarily think that asking a man to be responsible to some degree for the health of a woman he's been involved in impregnating is unreasonable, either.

Why would one need to justify the termination to any outside person?

You don't, necessarily. You definitely have to be prepared to justify it to yourself, unless it's never even occurred to you that there might be a moral dimension to the choice.

Outside of that, no one, unless you're involved in a conversation, whether legal or philosophical, with a larger community that has a lot of people who believe once you've created a life by your own choice, the decision to end it isn't morally simple any more.

Pregnancy is super arduous and hard on the body, full of risks, full of costs. Truly, saying that a woman needs any additional, personal/subjective justification doesn't show much respect to the value of a woman's body and quality of life.

I agree that the claim that women should have no choices at all once the fertilization of an egg happens has the problems you describe and more. But I don't agree that any assertion which states there may be other matters of equal moral weight at different stages in a pregnancy is devaluing of women.

Uh, no one should really have the right to stop adults from having sex with each other even in the absence of a marriage.

I strongly agree.

Justify termination of a pregnancy? To whom, exactly? You? God? My mom? My partner? Myself? James Dobson? Do tell.

Yourself. That would be healthy. Any God you're on speaking terms with is probably a good choice to clear things through. Your mom, if you and she care to have the discussion. Your partner, if you care about each other, because if you can't come to grips over that, it will likely affect your relationship. Me, only if for some reason you care about convincing me at all, as goes with the rest of society who isn't directly connected to your life. James Dobson if you're into futile tasks as recreation.
posted by weston at 1:40 PM on February 20, 2009


Contrary to Marisa Stole the Precious Thing's assertion, it's my understanding that most people and laws (in the U.S. at least agree) with you.

I never asserted anything of the kind. "A lot of these people" refers to the anti-choice crowd, not to everyone else in America or American laws.

Although I seriously doubt it can be said with a straight face that we've achieved gender equality with regards to sexuality or pregnancy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:53 PM on February 20, 2009


"A lot of these people" refers to the anti-choice crowd, not to everyone else in America or American laws.

I appreciate the distinction, but I still think it's tenuous to assert the pro-life side of the debate is disinterested or casual about responsibility of fathers. Most of the bible-believing crowd I'm acquainted with seems to think a man who "does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." And my experience is those whose various objections to abortion aren't primarily religious tend to have a progressive basis for finding a "women get stuck, men just leave" state of affairs completely unacceptable.
posted by weston at 3:38 PM on February 20, 2009


Most of the bible-believing crowd I'm acquainted with seems to think a man who "does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." And my experience is those whose various objections to abortion aren't primarily religious tend to have a progressive basis for finding a "women get stuck, men just leave" state of affairs completely unacceptable.

I'm glad that's been your experience; it hasn't been mine. There's a definite anti-sex, anti-pleasure, misogynist streak that radiates through this movement, which is evident in where they place their emphasis - in the uterus, at the steps of clinics, screaming in the faces of young women going to see their doctors about a private health matter.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:51 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


What MStPT sez. In Ohio's Abstinence ‘Till Marriage rape victims aren't to be believed. You're paying that troglodyte organization nearly a million a year to teach your community's children that it's okay to get shitfaced and rape your girlfriend 'cause she's sexy.

This is the society you are making.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:42 PM on February 20, 2009


“The young girl learning to understand her changing body often has no idea the effect it has on surrounding males. Signals she doesn’t even know she is sending can cause big problems.”

Also, alcohol makes people less inhibitive. Jason was extremely vulnerable to his circumstances (like his recent breakup, crying, and being with a “hot” girl who comforted him).

Unfortunately, we are left to judge Ro’s honesty by her character and her actions … Monica implied Rochelle had a promiscuous reputation and the whole school seemed to know it.

This is what you're teaching them. This is what a generation of children is going to believe as adults. This takes back fifty years of slow progress. This sets your society back to when it was okay to hurt people.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:47 PM on February 20, 2009


The Waxman Report: The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs.
The report finds that over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over two-thirds of SPRANS grantees in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.

One curriculum says that “the popular claim that ‘condoms help prevent the spread of STDs,’ is not supported by the data”… erroneous statements are presented as proven scientific facts.

One curriculum states that 5% to 10% of women who have legal abortions will become sterile; that “[p]remature birth, a major cause of mental retardation, is increased following the abortion of a first pregnancy”…

Another curriculum calls a 43-day-old fetus a “thinking person.”

One curriculum teaches that women need “financial support,” while men need “admiration.” Another instructs: “Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.”

One curriculum incorrectly lists exposure to sweat and tears as risk factors for HIV transmission.

…youth who pledge abstinence are significantly less likely to make informed choices about precautions when they do have sex

Collectively, these three programs reach millions of children and adolescents in the United States each year. In fact, given the scarcity of comprehensive sex education courses in schools across much of the United States, abstinence-only education programs may be the only formal reproductive health education that many children and adolescents receive.

President Bush had proposed $270 million for abstinence-only programs in fiscal year 2005
More than a quarter billion dollars paid to have your children taught lies and raised to believe men can behave badly and women should stay at home.

This should be done as a comprehensive FPP. This site's got pull. If there's going to be change brought on by Obama, it is going to start at the grassroots. If the US public can make it known that they are collectively sick of this bullshit, significant change could happen simply by strengthening the separation of church and state.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:01 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then do it, fff.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:19 PM on February 20, 2009


Yes, indeed. Which State and Federal representatives should I contact?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:59 PM on February 20, 2009


Yes, indeed. Which State and Federal representatives should I contact?

Those you vote for. A campaign donation will go a lot farther.

There's a definite anti-sex, anti-pleasure, misogynist streak that radiates through this movement,

They're guilt-laden, almost beyond recognition to the guilt-less. This causes a tendency to deflect their shame and throw it onto someone vulnerable. Closer to scripture, they cite the ancient slave method of maximum breeding, quantity over quality (because quality bred citizens demands so much more later). The religious trick was to tap into the primordial ooze, by getting people to obsess on purity and associate the fetus with a moral blank slate (regardless of the genetic tendencies of the would-be parents who have admittedly made a mistake). Each day the child then lives, it becomes more worthless to the purists, especially when they finally demand rights over their own bodies, which brings us to now.
posted by Brian B. at 8:26 AM on February 21, 2009


I believe it is illegal for me to donate money to State and Federal representatives. Also, I can not vote for them.

I could write them, but I get the impression that US politicians don't much listen to people who aren't part of their constituency.

I think maybe I'm basically limited to informing the sorts of folk who can do all those things.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2009


There are couples who are completely prepared to have children, even want children, who still have to face terrifying choices where abortion might be the best possible answer.

I can vouch for this from the worst kind of firsthand experience. Sometimes an abortion isn't a choice, or even the "best possible answer," but a tragic, life-shattering medical necessity.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:13 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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