Melt it down and make it into a coat hanger.
July 2, 2008 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Canada allows for legal abortions, thanks to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who yesterday received the Order of Canada. He was instrumental in the fight against the abortion provision in the Criminal Code of Canada; the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that said provision was unconstitutional, as it violated a woman's right under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to "security of person." Morgantaler served time in prison for his trouble but was eventually acquitted. That he received the Order of Canada has of course enraged anti-abortion groups, and has deeply annoyed some pundits.
posted by illiad (120 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Each time I eat an omlette, I think of the three chickens which were killed to make it.
posted by mullingitover at 4:44 PM on July 2, 2008


... when instead, you should be thinking of the billions and billions of chickens that were never born. That never had the chance to be an omelet.
posted by Krrrlson at 4:52 PM on July 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


"murderer of the unborn" = lolwut. That doesn't even make sense.

YOUR ATTEMPT AT FRAMING THIS ISSUE HAS FAILED
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:54 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Go Canada.
posted by chunking express at 4:58 PM on July 2, 2008


Every time I eat an omlette, I think of the three chickens' unfertilized ovulations it took, and how I'm basically eating a poultry period.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:58 PM on July 2, 2008


I think it's spelled "omelette." (caution - link may be NSFW)
posted by jabberjaw at 5:00 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


"The decision provoked Art Hanger, Conservative MP for Calgary Northeast, Alberta..." Eponysterical!
posted by micketymoc at 5:05 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Holy crap, that Ian Hunter commentary is the first thing I've seen that has made me not want to be a Canadian.
posted by BeReasonable at 5:14 PM on July 2, 2008


Thank you, Dr. Morgentaler. From a non-Canadian.
posted by Tehanu at 5:25 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


BeReasonable: Just think of the National Post as the Fox News of Canadian newspapers.
posted by ssg at 5:26 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every time I eat a chicken, I think "Mmmmm, chicken."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:27 PM on July 2, 2008


Anyone who thinks Canada is a shining beacon of freedom undimmed by the smoke from the south really needs to read the comments section of that pundits link.

Granted, the National Post is pretty far to the right of center, but it is one of the biggest papers in the country. The similarities in 'reasoned' argument in those comments sound pretty much like anything you'd read on any number of American right-wing blogs.

Same all over.
posted by rokusan at 5:28 PM on July 2, 2008


Tehanu: You are thanking him for Canadian abortions?
posted by Slap Factory at 5:29 PM on July 2, 2008


Wow. Ian Hunter, Doctorate of Douchebaggery.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:31 PM on July 2, 2008


And, yes, thank-you Morgenthaler for establishing that it is the woman herself who gets to choose whether she remains pregnant. Personal choice is preferable to forced childbirth.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:33 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


That he received the Order of Canada has of course enraged anti-abortion groups, and has deeply annoyed some pundits.

Oh, Canada. *sigh*
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:33 PM on July 2, 2008


Anyone who thinks Canada is a shining beacon of freedom undimmed by the smoke from the south really needs to read the comments section of that pundits link.

Yeah, and we don't care for that free speech nonsense either.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:37 PM on July 2, 2008


Thank you, Dr. Morgentaler. From a Canadian.
posted by klanawa at 5:41 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tehanu: You are thanking him for Canadian abortions?

I wouldn't have any reproductive rights if there hadn't been people within the medical profession who risked their careers and at times their lives to challenge what was then the status quo. So yes, I am. Like five fresh fish points out, before abortion laws were determined to be unconstitutional (is there a word like this for a charter or is it the same?), men decided whether a woman could abort, and a woman's options were much more risky.
posted by Tehanu at 5:43 PM on July 2, 2008


Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever.
posted by konolia at 5:50 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


konolia: "Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever."

No, they weren't. NONE of those abortions were of children.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 5:56 PM on July 2, 2008 [11 favorites]


konolia writes "Some of those abortions were of female children."

Ok, now I'm confused. I thought only fetuses were aborted. If someone is putting children into wombs, then killing them, whoa. That's wrong.
posted by mullingitover at 5:57 PM on July 2, 2008 [14 favorites]


oh boy an abortion argument eh K?


But beyond that, just the fact that he received such an award during the administration of Harper (the wanker) does say something for the general thrust of Canada. YAY!
posted by edgeways at 5:59 PM on July 2, 2008


Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever.

So you've interviewed a female-gendered fetus and been able to communicate coherently in the English language, eh?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:00 PM on July 2, 2008


Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever.

That's true. I don't take abortion lightly at all, and I don't make the life/non-life distinction many other pro-choice people seem to make. I'm sure I could go through an abortion myself even if I was raped. But I do think the right to make that choice for myself is extremely important. The broader consequences of denying women reproductive choice are quite dire, mostly for women and children who are also innocent. This is why I also support good sex education so that there are fewer young women getting pregnant on accident who aren't willing to carry a baby to term.
posted by Tehanu at 6:06 PM on July 2, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'm sure I could go through an abortion myself even if I was raped.

There should be a NOT in there.
posted by Tehanu at 6:07 PM on July 2, 2008


I read about this murder attempt at a Texas abortion clinic (the bomb didn't go off) on an anti-abortion forum, and the participants were by and large upset that the device didn't have a chance to "do its work." So after reading about Morgentaler and the Order of Canada yesterday, I sent the forum a link to Morgentaler's story as well as a link to this decidedly Canadian song. [NSFW]

Petty, yes. Very. But somehow, given the context, I just don't give a shit, you know?
posted by illiad at 6:08 PM on July 2, 2008


I love any issue that sees the Post get its panties all twisted. Yeah order of Canada. And to be fair, the Post is a large paper, it's also essentially free. I'm a subscriber due the fact they called one night after a few glasses of wine and offered me a year for twelve bucks. Hell yeah. I find it very useful as a check of my personal compass; As long as I don't agree with anything on the editorial page, I'm okay.

And I'm convinced that they publish Father DeSouza just to give me something to get irritated by.
posted by Keith Talent at 6:08 PM on July 2, 2008


Now if only women actually had access to abortions in all 10 provinces. I wonder if this award will finally shame PEI's hospital boards and provincial government into the 20th century on this.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:09 PM on July 2, 2008


illiad said: " Canada allows for legal abortions, thanks to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who yesterday received the Order of Canada."

Uh, just to clarify that first sentence if I may, abortions have been legal in Canada for a long time -- it's just that the honour was recently given to one of the most prominent crusaders. I don't know if that was so clear.
posted by loiseau at 6:10 PM on July 2, 2008


Ian Hunter said, in his commentary, "...the Canada where I was born, where I was educated and grew to manhood, came to an end..."
You know? I am perfectly okay with that.
Dr. Morgentaler is a man of honor, who listened to the women in his care and helped make it possible for them to take control of their ability to bear children, or not, as they decided. I'm glad he got the Order of Canada.
posted by sandraregina at 6:11 PM on July 2, 2008


Well, technically humans have their babies pretty stupid early. If you defined any morality objectively, relative to other mammals, then abortion after birth might become reasonable. But morality must be informed by reality. Science, technology, medicine, etc all repeatedly & fundamentally change moral reality, while religion just morphs from a cultural survival meme to an evil perversion.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:11 PM on July 2, 2008


There are douchebags in Canada, and giving them a pen at the Post helps everyone else navigate the waters of small-h-humanism more directly.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:22 PM on July 2, 2008


Whoah. I'm not surprised that this story hit the blue, but very surprised that nowhere in it do you mention that the Prime Minister has distanced himself from the awarding of the Order to Morgentaler.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:35 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Turtles the Canadian will now hold forth: God Bless Henry Morgentaler. He has thanklessly defended the right to abortion as long (I think) as I've been alive. I think abortion is icky and terrible and is ill-used and often-used as a birth control method by young, inexperienced girls. But the alternatives, either back-alley abortions or unwanted pregnancies, are worse by orders of magnitude. Middle-aged youngsters like me, who came of age in the seventies, and assumed everyone thought as we did, have no idea what kind of courage it took for Dr. Morgentaler to speak out, and act out, as he did. Nor what continuing courage it took to continue to fight for reason against religious and other intolerance.

Bravo!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:42 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


So why is it that when a pregnant woman is killed, the law is that the murderer is charged with two homicides, instead of just one? Yet for a woman, that life is a "choice"? Illogical.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 6:50 PM on July 2, 2008


Seekerofspledor:

There is no such law in Canada.

From the CBC article: "Edmonton Tory MP Ken Epp, who has a private member's bill before the House of Commons that would allow criminal charges to laid if a fetus dies or is injured in an attack on a pregnant woman..."

From the quick poll on Ken Epp's website: "When a pregnant woman is murdered or assaulted, the Canadian Criminal Code does not provide for any charges to be laid in respect of the unborn child who is injured or dies as a result."
posted by CKmtl at 6:56 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm all for abortions, the less people around, the better.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:58 PM on July 2, 2008


So why is it that when a pregnant woman is killed, the law is that the murderer is charged with two homicides.

That's a clever trojan horse maneuver that's often lobbied-for by some anti-abortion activists. It's seen as an "easy sell" that will get emotional support. If gained, such a law is a convenient step toward outlawing abortion... which is most certainly the original impetus for pushing for such a law in the first place. It's deceptive, manipulative, duplicitous and tacky.

It also doesn't exist in Canada.
posted by rokusan at 7:05 PM on July 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


Hey, the fewer Canadians, the better. There'll be fewer of the fuckers around to guard all that precious water...
posted by rokusan at 7:06 PM on July 2, 2008


So why is it that when a pregnant woman is killed, the law is that the murderer is charged with two homicides, instead of just one?

This is not true in Canada, where Dr. Morgentaler practices. A fetus is not a legal person under the Canadian Criminal Law. All physical rights of a person accrue to the woman, according to the Supreme Court. There's a short summary of the legal precedents here.
posted by bonehead at 7:15 PM on July 2, 2008


Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever.

Some of those abortions were of potential future time travelers. They didn't get to choose whether to go back in time and kill Hitler. Are you happy, Henry Morgentaler? Or should I say... Heinrich Morgenazi?
posted by regicide is good for you at 7:15 PM on July 2, 2008 [21 favorites]


"Abortions for some, miniature Canadian flags for others!"

We may be a nation of rednecks, but we're the nicest rednecks you'll ever meet.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:32 PM on July 2, 2008


Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever.

Me and Mrs. Bronzefist are thinking about kids. If we decide against, those potential kids will also never get to decide anything. Never colour their first scrapbook. Never play their first game of soccer. Ride a bike. Kiss a girl or boy. Graduate from school. Have kids of their own.

Then again, if we do have a couple of kids, what about potential kids three and four? Or if four, what about five through nine?

OMG, WE ARE DEPRIVING HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN THEIR EXPERIENCES!!!!!!!!111
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:54 PM on July 2, 2008 [9 favorites]


Hey, the fewer Canadians, the better. There'll be fewer of the fuckers around to guard all that precious water...AND OIL.
posted by notreally at 8:18 PM on July 2, 2008


Well, I'm all for Morgentaler but we gave the Order of Canada to Atom Egoyan and Dan Aykroyd so it's really not that special an award.
posted by dobbs at 8:30 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think abortion is icky and terrible and is ill-used and often-used as a birth control method by young, inexperienced girls. But the alternatives, either back-alley abortions or unwanted pregnancies, are worse by orders of magnitude.

This, in spades. Do I wish I lived in a world where abortion wasn't necessary? Absofuckinglutely. Do I realize that since such a world doesn't exist, people must have the freedom to decide what to do, safely and legally? Absofuckinglutely.

A more deserving recipient of the OC I cannot think of.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:35 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


And Mulroney!
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:35 PM on July 2, 2008


Just think, konolia, in the 4 years that I was an adult virgin (from age 18 to 22) I could have been running around out there, spreading my seed and creating whole villages of brand new babies.

But I didn't, so now there are at least several hundred kids who will never be born, who will never get a chance to make any choices, ever, all because I took the "true love waits" pledge.

Virginity kills.
posted by Avenger at 8:37 PM on July 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


I mean, fat cat Mulroney got an Order of Canada too.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:37 PM on July 2, 2008


Oh jeez. Really tasteless headline, though. The worst I've seen, I think.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:40 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever."

Alright, I'll bite. For the sake of argument, let's equate a fetus with a person:

Stop occupying another person's body against her will, you perpetrator of continuous rape!

.....

I cry for the millions of brain cells this anti-intellectual exercise killed.
posted by fatehunter at 8:45 PM on July 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm generally pro-choice, but last summer I decided to play devils advocate to see how sure I was in my position. It turned out I had a completely wrong-headed conception of my own side. At first I thought the debate was about when the transition from "gleam in parent's eye" to "person" happened. I prepared all kinds of clever arguments about the helplessness (read aliveness?) of infants, and the cultural value (read soul?) of a "potential person" trumping that of an "old person". Imagine my surprise when most of my pro-choice friends agreed with these arguments unchallenged. Instead, they argued this "telling a woman what to do with her body denies her security of person" argument (as advanced by Dr Morgentaller) trumped all others. Fair enough.

But it got me thinking. What if both the security of a woman's person, and the life of the fetus could be guaranteed. For instance, what if the artificial uterus were perfected, and the transplant procedure made no more risky than a surgical abortion. Could the state then ban abortions without dispute? If so, would society accept the attendant burden to raise all the beaker-grown wards of the state? Conceivably the artificial process could be made less risky to both child and mother than a natural gestation. In that case, using the same arguments, wouldn't the state have a moral duty to outlaw pregnancy altogether?

this, of course, would be a great premise for a movie. You'd have menacing government institutions vs a rebel force of pregnant ladies with guns. Producers - call me!
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:51 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever.

A-yup. Sucks to be a embryo. Almost forty percent of the time you get spontaneously aborted. Mother Nature is a bitch. Or God is a bastard, take your pick.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:53 PM on July 2, 2008 [6 favorites]




I mean, fat cat Mulroney got an Order of Canada too.


Well yes. That was sort of a dark moment.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:53 PM on July 2, 2008


But beyond that, just the fact that he received such an award during the administration of Harper (the wanker) does say something for the general thrust of Canada.

Indeed, Canadians thrust often.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 PM on July 2, 2008


But it got me thinking. What if both the security of a woman's person, and the life of the fetus could be guaranteed. For instance, what if the artificial uterus were perfected, and the transplant procedure made no more risky than a surgical abortion.

What if I could have a circus pony?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:03 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's an intellectual exercise fff. Thinking about these hypotheticals helps clarify the ideas behind the current debate.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:08 PM on July 2, 2008


Some of those abortions were of female children. They didn't get to choose anything, ever.

And on they went, straight to Heaven, without the possibility of sin separating them from God. If pro-life Christians really believed that abortion kills a human being with a soul, they wouldn't consider it a crime.

They'd consider it a sacrament.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:15 PM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


"What if both the security of a woman's person, and the life of the fetus could be guaranteed."

That's a tough one to chew, alright. You've got viability at 24 weeks or so - you could just take it out, then, and adopt it out, or put it in a beaker to cook some more. There's plenty of people wanting a newly hatched babe - regardless of the unwanted living children already available.

Pro - baby gets to live, "mom" doesn't have a child to worry about, etc. Con - "mom" worries anyhow, and so does "dad".

Arguments in my head are like this: adoption is the choice to not parent. Abortion is the choice to not give birth. Just like using contraception is exercising the choice not to conceive. So the decision is going to be about what the mother really wants - to not conceive, not give birth, or not parent? Which is the most important? What happens when one or more of the choices fall through?
posted by no, that other sockpuppet at 9:31 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


what if the artificial uterus were perfected

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books posit something like this. Not as a central theme, but as part of the world that her major protagonists come from.

In one of the books (sorry, can't remember which one, except that it's later in the series), there's mention of a controversy over whether a woman should incubate a fetus in her own body, or let an artificial womb do it. Controversy, because some old guard men insist that a woman should choose a "body birth" to prove her love.

Can't remember if she brings up the effect of this technology on her society's perspectives on abortion, though. I think maybe that in that world, birth control has been perfected, so abortion is not an issue. (It's been a while since I read the books.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:36 PM on July 2, 2008


But beyond that, just the fact that he received such an award during the administration of Harper (the wanker) does say something for the general thrust of Canada. YAY!

I somewhat suspect that if Harper's political career hadn't worked out he'd be known as some slightly bitter nerd. I suspect he is probably an atheist, but doesn't make that known since it would be impolitic in his party.

Anyway, the people who receive the OoC are determined by a board of some sort, the PMO and parliament in general don't have anything to say about it.
posted by Deep Dish at 9:37 PM on July 2, 2008


As I linked to above, Harper has expressly distanced himself from the awarding of the OoC to Morgentaler.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:59 PM on July 2, 2008


Is it wrong that reading a thread about abortion makes me hungry, thanks to the first few posters?

I personally like cheese with my fowl periods. With loads of pepper, but only a dash of salt.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:09 PM on July 2, 2008


i never considered that harper could be an atheist, but it's possible. the problem is his credulous base are a pretty religious lot and they need to be lead by someone who knows the code.
posted by klanawa at 10:18 PM on July 2, 2008


When I lived in Miami, this dish was referred to as "period chicken"(período de pollo)
posted by lysdexic at 10:18 PM on July 2, 2008


A-yup. Sucks to be a embryo. Almost forty percent of the time you get spontaneously aborted. Mother Nature is a bitch. Or God is a bastard, take your pick.

This. I forget who said it but the gist was that God is the most prolific abortionist around.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:26 PM on July 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ah, it was Sam Harris:

"20 percent of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. There is an obvious truth here that cries out for acknowledgment: if God exists, He is the most prolific abortionist of all."
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:41 PM on July 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Conrad Black and Alan Eagleson have also recieved the OoC, so, uh, it's not like the things put you in great company anyway (Though they did strip The Eagle of his, as well as David 'The Jews are a disease and Hitler was trying to clean up the world when he fried six million of them' Ahenakew's).

Kidding aside, while kudos to Morgentaler and hurrah for basic human rights, this is really craptastic Wiki/News/OutrageFilter, with a lameass title.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:50 PM on July 2, 2008


And now...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:00 PM on July 2, 2008


The state can create criminal sanctions to address the situation in which an assault upon a pregnant woman harms or kills the fetus without us getting all freaked out about it conflicting with abortion rights. The crime is the criminal assault upon a pregnant woman -- the crime can be enhanced (if the state wants to) when the assault creates a particular harm.

Me, I think the fetus is a *kind* of life, and of course abortion ends that. But whether there is fetal life or not doesn't determine some answer. There are other values -- values that enable people (women) to live, with agency, self-determination, health, equality. People (women) out here, their feet on the ground, adults or near-adults. Lots of times the various values don't conflict -- the same policies serve all of the values. But when the values do conflict during the first half of pregnancy, I am so glad that our laws, policies, and medical system vote for the agency and equality of women.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:39 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Me Mom and Morgentaler" was a fun band from the early 90's.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:56 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Part of what makes the abortion debate so maddeningly static is that hardly anyone even has clear criteria for what makes a morally considerable person, to say nothing of any kind of common ground upon which to build arguments. In most ethics debates, the exact nature of moral considerability isn't relevant, but when we start talking about the very beginnings of what will become a person, the general consensus of every life having equal value breaks down. There is a general consensus that a toddler is a person, entitled to the same basic right to life and happiness as a full grown adult; likewise, describing a zygote as entitled to these same rights is completely incoherent. Somewhere in between lies an uncomfortable truth: a gradual ascent to personhood, from a microscopic collection of undifferentiated cells bereft of any qualities that make people different from slime moulds, to a full blown feeling, thinking, suffering person.

This disconcerting spectrum between non-person and person, with the attendant gradient of moral considerability, is anathema to the rightly important axiom that all persons lives are of equal value. This tends to lead to people drawing an arbitrary personhood threshold, be it birth, conception, the end of the first trimester, or some other milestone irrelevant to what actually makes human life something of value. Talking about these assumptions makes us unsure of the very foundations of our morality, so we don't. Instead, we pick a line, and we shout arguments that assume our threshold at people who pick a different one, and no meaningful dialogue can be accomplished.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:02 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


what if the artificial uterus were perfected

Drop me a mefi mail the moment that happens, and we'll have this discussion again, based on the then-current data.
posted by DreamerFi at 5:26 AM on July 3, 2008


if God exists, He is the most prolific abortionist of all

WTF? If God exists, he is also the most prolific murderer. Ought we legalize that, as well?

Seriously, those comments make me want to become pro-life.
posted by FuManchu at 5:44 AM on July 3, 2008


...if God exists, He is the most prolific abortionist of all

Hosea 13:16 - "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open."
posted by xmattxfx at 5:59 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


This tends to lead to people drawing an arbitrary personhood threshold, be it birth, conception, the end of the first trimester, or some other milestone irrelevant to what actually makes human life something of value. Talking about these assumptions makes us unsure of the very foundations of our morality, so we don't.

Perhaps you don't. Until there is brain development, there is nothing there that is recognizably human. I'd say that's fairly relevant to what 'actually makes human life something of value', as our brains are our dominant defining characteristic.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:39 AM on July 3, 2008


our brains are our dominant defining characteristic. But then you also get into Peter Singer-esque results where chimps are valued more than invalids. There are some arbitrary lines that people draw and get emotional about. It kills me that people don't see that they've drawn their own arbitrary lines and mock those with different lines.
posted by FuManchu at 6:45 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


But then you also get into Peter Singer-esque results where chimps are valued more than invalids.

Perhaps you do. I think that's ridiculous.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:18 AM on July 3, 2008


It kills women when people's arbitrary lines result in abortion being made illegal.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:19 AM on July 3, 2008


It also kills people when people's arbitrary lines result in recreational drugs being made illegal. And that doesn't even have the messy concern of another living being involved. It's a crazy world we live in.
posted by FuManchu at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2008


Right.

You don't actually have a cogent argument of any sort to present here, do you?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 AM on July 3, 2008


FFF: I happen to agree with you, and probably FuManchu does too. But lay off dude. Just because you've got it all figured out, doesn't mean the rest of us can't discuss the moral conflicts. We're not going to repeal R. v. Morgentaler in this thread.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:14 AM on July 3, 2008


dirtynumbangelboy I'd say that's fairly relevant to what 'actually makes human life something of value', as our brains are our dominant defining characteristic.

You don't think that's arbitrary as well? Newborns are dumb as a post. My cat can probably compete in a problem solving contest with a two or three year old. Why does the newborn deserve more consideration than my cat? For that matter, many would argue that a child's life is worth more than a brainy adult's (women and children first and all that). I've been down this road, and I don't think there's a strong argument for any particular definition of "onset of personhood". Best to go with the security of the mother's person argument. It's more coherent.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:22 AM on July 3, 2008


You don't think that's arbitrary as well?

Not particularly, no. Intelligence has nothing to do with it; our brains (as in complexity thereof) are as far as I know unique on the planet.

Security of the mother's person isn't much of a useful metric when we are talking about the point at which it's not okay to have an abortion.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2008


Ian Hunter : Today, I cannot bring myself to re-read the decision or my critiques; abortion no longer seems a subject for scholarly analysis and debate, but rather an evil to be fled from.

So, would you say that you were...

*drumroll*

Once Bitten, Twice Shy?


Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Tip your wait-staff.
posted by quin at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2008


fff: Huh? We were arguing? If so, I would have instead written: It kills babies when arbitrary lines result in abortion being made legal. But I'd rather not and just critique the aruments themselves, as I was doing before.

I was just making the point that illegal things are inherently riskier. The people choosing to do something illegal are de facto choosing to accept those risks. You're not going to convince a person to think something shouldn't be illegal by citing that risk. If that person thinks that action is morally wrong, you're arguing past each other.

E.g., "Human trafficking results in thousands of girls dying from medical treatment being denied to them! We ought to legalize it so the traffickers have no fear of taking them to doctors!"
posted by FuManchu at 9:09 AM on July 3, 2008


Ah well. Give it 15 years, do you think crime will go down? :P
posted by malusmoriendumest at 9:19 AM on July 3, 2008


It kills women when people's arbitrary lines result in abortion being made illegal.

That's certainly true. And I never said that all arbitrary lines are of equal value, or are equally arbitrary. On the contrary, quite often the lines we draw are based more on irrelevant underlying assumptions, especially our specific religious and cultural traditions.

For an example, I'll use myself. My religious tradition is one that historically denied the full personhood of anyone not an adult male of the right class colour and creed, stresses fecundity as a virtue, and still believes that the almighty Creator punished women with the pain of childbirth for the sin of being sentient and desiring to know right from wrong. It's easy to see why I might feel personhood is more inclusive in utero than post natal. This is less about the limits of personhood, especially since this ideology firmly eschews any modern concept of the equal value of every person; what my culture's objection to abortion is really about is the imperative that a woman should be kept in her place, lest she aspire to being more than heir incubator, unpaid labourer, and occasional pet. If she protests, it's her fault for having the same genitals as Eve. Simple as that. Here the arbitrary line is drawn at conception or perhaps even before primarily to maximize fertility, and then dressed in an elaborate justification of sectarian shibboleth.

Obviously, I have a low opinion of this arbitrary line, but I still accept that my line, the point at which the fetus is viable outside the womb, is still an arbitrary line for the sake of making a binary distinction from a continuum. Where the debate lies is in the justification for where you put the line. Myself, I don't believe newborns are in all truth persons in a sense that the animals we routinely butcher for meat are not. That doesn't mean that when I draw my line I want to exclude newborns, because I think it wise to err strongly on the side of inclusiveness. I'm happy with my line because it is as inclusive as possible without conflicting with a woman's right to bodily integrity.

This brings me to another point I don't think is raised often enough, which is following moral precepts to their logical conclusion. For example, if we are to truly believe that a fetus has a right to life that supersedes the mother's right to bodily integrity, and furthermore, that women and men have equal rights, then we shouldn't object to the state forcing healthy people to donate a kidney to someone who would otherwise die without one; that is, unless of course, we are still acting on the assumption that childbirth is woman's punishment for sin. And herein lies another bizarre and immoral result of superstition based morality: the persistent visceral discomfort of contemplating our own mortality is a large barrier to presumed consent post mortem organ donation. It astounds me that there are people walking around who dearly hold a belief in the superiority of the embryonic right to life over a woman's bodily integrity, yet that same bodily integrity is presumed inviolate after death, even if it means others will certainly die.

Well, now I've laid bare my own assumptions and moral inconsistencies. Have at it.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:46 AM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ah well. Give it 15 years, do you think crime will go down? :P

Strangely, yes. There are all these women and doctors committing less crime. Who'da thunk it?
posted by Tehanu at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2008


"If we are to truly believe that a fetus has a right to life that supersedes the mother's right to bodily integrity, and furthermore, that women and men have equal rights, then we shouldn't object to the state forcing healthy people to donate a kidney to someone who would otherwise die without one;"

I can kind of follow the logic of forcing organ donation, since forced birth is the forced donation of an entire body.

"that is, unless of course, we are still acting on the assumption that childbirth is woman's punishment for sin. "

It took me a while to see how those statements fit together. I think you're saying that we don't force organ donation but we might force childbirth because pregnancy is the wages of sin.

We kind of already know this, though - is this statement a way of trying to persuade the "pro-life" people or waverers that their position leads to horrors not to be imagined? Some sort of state control of *our* bodies, not just the sinners'?
posted by no, that other sockpuppet at 10:09 AM on July 3, 2008


No, no, that other sockpuppet, what I am trying to show is that any argument that a fetus's right to life somehow supersedes the right to bodily autonomy, unless you are content with an internally inconsistent morality, must be extended to any other state control of our bodies, if it helps keep others alive, and comes at a comparable cost and risk to childbirth.

A laproscopic nephrectomy carries only marginally higher risk and recovery time compared to childbirth. As things exist today, people control their own bodies, and by and large choose not to become living kidney donors--my wonderful girlfriend being an exception; she has already sailed through the many medical tests, and is going to be giving one of her kidneys anonymously--the consequences of people exercising this right has a cost. If the state could compel people to donate kidneys, lives would undoubtedly be saved.

However, call me old fashioned, but I would prefer to live in a state that doesn't assert a right to use my organs for some greater good, thanks.

Now, punishing those knocked-up, craven teenage sluts. That's a moral principle I can get behind!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:18 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


expletive deleted: Respect++. Few people have the balls to carefully examine and acknowledge their own moral inconsistencies. I would do the same for myself, but I of course have no such problem. :-) :-) :-)
posted by illiad at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2008


"...unless you are content with an internally inconsistent morality..."

I'd say most of us are accustomed to internal inconsistencies .

"she has already sailed through the many medical tests, and is going to be giving one of her kidneys anonymously"

That is hard core. My hat's off.

"However, call me old fashioned, but I would prefer to live in a state that doesn't assert a right to use my organs for some greater good, thanks."

I certainly agree! Although I think individual sovereignty is a relatively new concept.

We may be saying the same things in a different way. If I overly politicized your argument, well, it's because all politics is local, and this is as local as it gets.

"Now, punishing those knocked-up, craven teenage sluts. That's a moral principle I can get behind!"

:o) I'm just going to leave that one alone.
posted by no, that other sockpuppet at 11:55 AM on July 3, 2008


So, would you say that you were...

*drumroll*

Once Bitten, Twice Shy?


Ian Hunter is only anti-abortion because he's so concerned about All the Young Dudes.
posted by rocket88 at 12:09 PM on July 3, 2008


Hypothetical-filter: Adult conjoined twins. One has a liver, the other doesn't. If separated, the one without will die. Can the one with a liver legally demand a separation?
posted by FuManchu at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


... or morally? bah
posted by FuManchu at 12:12 PM on July 3, 2008


WTF?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:14 PM on July 3, 2008


Sorry -- a derivative thought of [expletive deleted]'s extreme situation where the state can demand the use of a citizen's body. I mean, in theory it's pretty cut and dry, but these hypothetical marginal situations definitely make me think twice.
posted by FuManchu at 12:20 PM on July 3, 2008


FuManchu: Yow, way to push the edges with that one. Parents are often allowed to choose one sibling over the other if they're young. If they're adults, I imagine both would have to accept the risk. I don't know where the fuzzy line would be drawn in this case, but the comparison with abortion is apt.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:22 PM on July 3, 2008


The comparison with abortion isn't even close.

Basing ethics in everyday situations on hypothetical marginal situations is ridiculous.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:23 PM on July 3, 2008


Re-read my first link. It was the state, not the parents in that case which ordered the death of one twin to save the other, so its even more apt. I wonder if the ruling would be different if they were adults. (ie, would that be a case where security of person is trumped by right to life)
Maybe the stronger twin could come up with a good "self preservation" murder defense. Ugh.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:28 PM on July 3, 2008


dirtynumbangleboy: Basing ethics in everyday situations on hypothetical marginal situations is ridiculous.

Can the state decide who to torture (what about the marginal case where police capture innocents)? Should we protect artistic expression (what about the marginal case where art is used to provoke genocide)? Etc. Remind me never to ask you any hard moral questions.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:33 PM on July 3, 2008


WTF? I'm fine with hard moral questions. As I said--gee, yet again someone is deciding to put words in my mouth--it is ridiculous to define your ethics in terms of edge cases.

Of course the state cannot decide to torture. Torture is illegal and pointless.

Police capture innocents, it happens. Let them go.

Yes artistic expression should be protected, right up to the point where it becomes hate speech.

Stop being an asshole.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:37 PM on July 3, 2008


Popular Ethics -- that is one doozy of a story. I wonder how on earth that came to court. I would imagine the UK is also stricter towards Christian Science-like medicine practice. It also shows a complete 180 degree reversal from the previous slippery slope -- not only does the state not demand another person's body ensure another's life, it did demand preservation of the single body.
posted by FuManchu at 12:41 PM on July 3, 2008


Adult conjoined twins. One has a liver, the other doesn't. If separated, the one without will die. Can the one with a liver legally demand a separation?

FuManchu, that is a spectacular hypothetical. It's a total collision of all sorts of moral intuitions and axioms, from the rights to life and bodily integrity to--comparing with the kidney donor case--action versus inaction to kin-preferential altruism. This definitely tests the limits of any system of ethics applicable to these kinds of cases.

Unfortunately, the way I see it, this is a false dilemma. In what way can Romulus claim this shared liver in a way that Remus cannot? After all, being conjoined twins dependent on at least one shared organ, they are essentially two people in one body. Since they are adults, they have both grown up with a shared liver, so who gets to claim it? It seems completely arbitrary to decide that since, if separated, Romulus would have the liver, and Remus not, that therefore Romulus has the right to demand 'his' liver and a separation procedure, at the expense of Remus's life.

Of course, this gets muddled if remaining conjoined presents serious risks. If remaining together will almost certainly cost both of them their lives, then I think it justifiable for Romulus to demand Remus be cut adrift, although it certainly isn't very brotherly. Of course, then we can construct a marginal case, where the risk of both dying is slightly better than even if no separation is performed. What to do in this case becomes quite ambiguous. That said, this whole exercise brings up heaps of nuance that is better suited to a hospital's ethical review board than moral philosophers trying to develop universal moral precepts.

Of course, there is an even easier way out, Remus could probably convince a hospital to separate him from Remus if he agrees to donate a liver lobe to him, which is a relatively routine procedure these days.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:02 PM on July 3, 2008


Romulus could probably convince a hospital to separate him from Remus...
*sigh*
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:04 PM on July 3, 2008


FuManchu, it seemed to me that the case in Popular Ethics's first link was a choice between letting the parents have their way and both children dying versus performing the surgery and preserving the chance that one child would live. That isn't much of a moral quandary in my mind. The state has a duty to intervene when the parents would otherwise allow both to die because they believe their deity demands it. Likewise, the doctors of the conjoined twins have an obligation to the welfare of their patients, not to the religious sensibilities of the parents. This case seems to be closer to that of Jehovah's Witnesses demanding that an infant of theirs dying of blood loss not receive a blood transfusion.

This brings to mind another sticky case: imagine that the aforementioned Jehovah's Witness child is a teenage car accident victim, one day away from the age of majority, and is refusing a blood transfusion that is vital to her immediate survival. Personally, I think the girl's doctor or the state has an obligation to intervene, against the will of the minor child. However, say the car accident had taken place a day later, and this teenager is now 18, and a legal adult. Now, she can refuse treatment, and her doctors and the state have no obligation or prerogative to force a transfusion. Now that's an arbitrary distinction. How do I reconcile it? I don't really have an answer.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:36 PM on July 3, 2008


To make matters worse, the state could decide to not treat someone against the family's wishes.

At root, the problem is - is one life worth more than another? If it is, when? Why? How?

We answer "NO" whenever we can, because that's the human thing to do. We don't want someone deciding *we're* less than they are.

We answer "YES" sometimes, because it's the humane thing to do. Sometimes we have (or want) to decide someone is less than us.

From a larger article:

"Without a clearer moral philosophy, any cause of behavior could be taken to undermine free will and hence moral responsibility. Science is guaranteed to eat away at the will, regardless of what it finds, because the scientific mode of explanation cannot accommodate the mysterious notion of uncaused causation that underlies the will.

Either we dispense with all morality as unscientific superstition, or we find a way to reconcile causation (genetic or otherwise) with responsibility and free will… Like many philosophers, I believe that science and ethics are two self-contained systems played out among the same entities in the world... The science game treats people as material objects, and its rules are the physical processes that cause behavior through natural selection and neurophysiology. The ethics game treats people as equivalent, sentient, rational, free-willed agents, and its rules are the calculus that assigns moral value to behavior through the behavior’s inherent nature or its consequences.

Free will is an idealization of human beings that makes the ethics game playable. Euclidean geometry requires idealizations like infinite straight lines and perfect circles, and its deductions are sound and useful even though the world does not really have infinite straight lines or perfect circles. The world is close enough to the idealization that the theorems can be usefully applied. Similarly, ethical theory requires idealizations like free, sentient, rational, equivalent agents whose behavior is uncaused, and its conclusions can be sound and useful even though the world, as seen by science, does not really have uncaused events. As long as there is not coercion or gross malfunction of reasoning, the world is close enough to the idealization of free will that moral theory can be meaningfully applied to it.

Science and morality are separate spheres of reasoning. Only by recognizing them as separate can we have them both."
posted by no, that other sockpuppet at 1:57 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hypothetical-filter: Adult conjoined twins. One has a liver, the other doesn't. If separated, the one without will die. Can the one with a liver legally demand a separation?

Hypothetical-filter: Two adult women. One is pregnant in circumstances where she doesn't want to be, and so is the other. One thinks abortion is her best option and the other is morally opposed to it and will bear the baby and adopt it out. Should the government dictate that neither woman has the right to decide for herself whether or not it is moral to abort? Will a law or lack of access drive the first women to seek an abortion in much more dangerous circumstances and in secret?
posted by Tehanu at 2:47 PM on July 3, 2008


I am relieved to see that the thread at CBC is an order of magnitude more sane than the one at the National Post.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:46 PM on July 3, 2008


For those not listening to the CBC (or following fff's link), A BC Priest is, somewhat predictably, returning his Order of Canada in protest.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:43 PM on July 3, 2008


One should point out, for the sake of completeness, that this very same priest has been convicted of child abuse, and was referred to as "an immediate danger to the public."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:31 PM on July 3, 2008


This is what is wrong with Canada. The Order of Canada was created for those who have performed a service on "behalf of all canadians". Forget the abortion side of the argument, although it does come into play. This is a purely political move done by the liberal appointed GG for appearances sake. Dr. Morgentaler is no more deserving of this than my kids orthodontist.

Oh, and NO THANK YOU Dr. Morgentaler. From a Canadian.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 8:41 AM on July 4, 2008


Dr. Morgentaler is no more deserving of this than my kids orthodontist.

If there were laws in place which forbade children from receiving hygienic and professional dental care and your children's orthodontist was instrumental in repealing those laws, then yes, he would deserve the OoC.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:05 AM on July 4, 2008


The Order of Canada was created for those who have performed a service on "behalf of all canadians".

Which Morgentaler has clearly done. He forced safe and legal abortion into the mainstream, which is inarguably a good thing for all Canadians in general, and all female Canadians specifically.

This is a purely political move done by the liberal appointed GG for appearances sake.

Really? Actually, nominations are processed by the Advisory Council. The GG just makes the nomination public; I highly doubt that she would refuse or override the decisions of the Council.

Dr. Morgentaler is no more deserving of this than my kids orthodontist.

Why?

Forget the abortion side of the argument, although it does come into play.

Oh, that's why. The thing is, the abortion side of the argument is precisely why he was nominated to the Order. That is his notable accomplishment. One might as well say of Karen Kain that you should forget the ballet side of the argument. People get nominated for their achievements. Morgentaler's is making abortion safe and legal.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:17 AM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


A Q&A with a historian who wrote The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History and Development. There are some interesting insights into the recommendation and approval process.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:30 PM on July 4, 2008


(said article, for instance, repudiates uninformed opinions such as that demonstrated by fox_terrier_guy)
posted by five fresh fish at 4:32 PM on July 4, 2008


An excellent interview, although the spelling...eeesh.. it burned.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:31 PM on July 4, 2008


History of Morgentaler.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:59 PM on July 5, 2008


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