Cabbie

Partial Birth Abortion versus Abortion

45 posts in this topic

I'm sure this has been hashed out frequently here but this is the first time I've felt I've reached a clear understanding on it so I'd like to share my thoughts. To me there is a difference and I propose that partial birth abortion is murder and abortion before the beginning of the process of birth is not.

If one seeks to understand why abortion is the right of a woman, one has to understand that rights are possessed only by actual, formed human beings. A fetus that is developing into a human inside a womans body has no rights because it is not actually a human yet. It is a part of the woman's body and it is absolutely her right to terminate it if she wishes.

But what of partial birth abortion? Definition of partial birth abortion

Up until the beginning of labor, which is an objectively definable process that begins with vaginal dilation, the entity can be terminated. Upon exodus, it has succeeded in separating from the mother which it no longer required for autonomous biological function. What of in between?

As always, we have to turn to the facts relevent to this context to understand what is happening. Specifically, what is the relationship between pregnancy and of labor? Labor is an objectively distinct process apart from the development of a fetus, and is a perceptually visible result caused by the complete development of a life. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters are all part of the growth of a fetus into an independent biological being. To assert that labor is NOT distinct and that pregnancy is simply a constant process of birth since birth is the end result is as fallacious as saying that by being alive I am constantly in the process of dying since I will eventually die. The beginning of labor is the end of development and heralds the formation of a rights-possessing entity. The process of labor is the process of pregnancy termination. The fetus is now a child possessing rights, if only it can liberate itself and the issue is of exodus.

Asserting that the entity has no rights until complete physical separation from the mother is a denial of the fact that it is an independent biological being. That the entity is only halfway out of the woman (wrongly assuming that means it has no rights) is as much an irrelevent physical fact to whether it has rights as much as the fact it gives off brainwaves at 20 weeks (wrongly assuming that it does have rights). That ignores the fact that the child, when the process of labor is begun, is a fully formed being. The single most important fact of this is that is why the process of labor is occurring. The only possible way to justify the termination of a life while the pregnancy is being naturally terminated is that the health of the mother is at risk. The only way to logically forbid the fully formed life inside of her from liberation is that it holds an objectively defined threat to her well-being, which has to beassessed using what facts are available, ideally by a medical professional.

The implication of this is that a mother has no right to terminate a life once the natural termination of a pregnancy has begun unless there is an objective threat to her health. Her life is the default to be saved since it has been her struggle, though she may decide to risk her life carrying out a risky birth and some women decide to do so. There is no conflict of rights to life here. The developed child must be allowed to leave if it can be safely done within reason.

To me, this reasoning not only clarifies what could be a muddying of the waters, but enhances an understanding of what it means to become a child instead of a fetus.

Thoughts?

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Cabbie,

I'm sure others will bring up this issue, but what about the fact that rights cannot contradict? Your argument makes sense to me, but I think there is still a contradiction of rights between the mother and the child. I know you say there isn't, but it seems like you're simply saying that the mother's right takes precedent. I understand why you think her life takes precendent (and agree with the reason for it), but I'm not convinced any life should ever take precendent over another in any legal issue or written law. Now, one might make the arguement that as soon as the baby endangers the mother's life, the baby has somehow initiated force and is, therefore, stripped of his rights. I hope you can see this is not a valid argument, as the baby has no choice in the matter of whether he endagers his mother's life or not.

Based on your thoughts, I think this discussion will yield an answer much more easily than most other abortion debates I've participated in, but I'm not sure we're there yet.

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Cabbie,

I'm sure others will bring up this issue, but what about the fact that rights cannot contradict? Your argument makes sense to me, but I think there is still a contradiction of rights between the mother and the child. I know you say there isn't, but it seems like you're simply saying that the mother's right takes precedent. I understand why you think her life takes precendent (and agree with the reason for it), but I'm not convinced any life should ever take precendent over another in any legal issue or written law. Now, one might make the arguement that as soon as the baby endangers the mother's life, the baby has somehow initiated force and is, therefore, stripped of his rights. I hope you can see this is not a valid argument, as the baby has no choice in the matter of whether he endagers his mother's life or not.

Based on your thoughts, I think this discussion will yield an answer much more easily than most other abortion debates I've participated in, but I'm not sure we're there yet.

Being fully as opposed to halfway out of the birth canal is as irrelevent to being an autonomous biological being as is forming of fingers or a heartbeat. The mistake I observe is not examining the nature of childbirth, and reality provides a perceptually visible, objective way to define the initiation of such an event. Doing so reveals that such an event occurs because development is accomplished in a physical, biologic sense and that liberation is a right if it is safe for the mother. The rights do not contradict because the decision has been made to carry the child to complete development. When labor begins, that has been accomplished. Its impossible to imagine terminating the life as the pregnancy is being naturally terminated as being unlike the implicit decision that the woman is now responsible for (by herself or arranging for it) rearing the child. Otherwise, notice the absurdities one is forced to concede, such that an entity suddenly becomes a being in possessing of rights once the umbilical cord is cut, or when the head is FULLY outside the womb. One has to say it can kill this autonomous biological human before that, and completely ignores the facts of what is occuring or the nature of the entity in question.

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The only possible way to justify the termination of a life while the pregnancy is being naturally terminated is that the health of the mother is at risk. The only way to logically forbid the fully formed life inside of her from liberation is that it holds an objectively defined threat to her well-being, which has to be assessed using what facts are available, ideally by a medical professional.

In actual fact, partial birth abortions are rarely performed constituting only .17% of all the abortions in the US and, because it is risky to the mother, seem to only be performed because the birth itself does pose a grave threat to the mother's life.

Many anti-abortion partisans are using this as a wedge issue to oppose all abortions, but hard cases make bad law and borderline cases like this one make terrible law.

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I don't see how the OP can be used to oppose all abortions as its formulated. There's a distinction between all stages of development (where abortion is a right) and what is occurring during labor with respect to the entity in question; specifically, in the former the entity is not an autonomous biological entity and the latter is. Being born does not make it an independent being, being an independent being is why it is being born and the mother has agreed to carry it to term just as she will have to raise it. It's too late once labor begins to legally abort, properly. A pregnancy carried to the point that the process of labor has begun has been carried to the point of creating a fully formed human and that's all that matters in this context. Terminating the life during the natural pregnancy termination is only appropriate to protect the health of the mother. I am finding that thinking otherwise leads one to rely on nonessentials such as whether the head is inside the woman or the umbilical cord is attached to inappropriately determine whether its an independent human.

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I don't think you were saying I was trying to condone a unilateral ban on abortion, I just wanted to clarify how the formulation in the OP distinguishes the situation where its properly illegal.

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When did the name change from late term abortion to ''partial birth''?

It makes it sound like if the baby is killed while it is given birth to, wich is certainly not the case.

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I don't think you were saying I was trying to condone a unilateral ban on abortion, I just wanted to clarify how the formulation in the OP distinguishes the situation where its properly illegal.

There is no situation that could be determined in advance (and a legal right must clear in advance), wherein an abortion is "properly illegal," because the individual rights of the woman are always at stake. If her rights are not at stake, she is already dead. Any actual or apparent conflicts of the rights of individuals, are extremely rare by nature (if they exist). And any such case, if it exists, is by definition a borderline case. A borderline case with regard to some supposed conflict of individual rights is UNCLEAR by nature, and so cannot be used as a basis for "clarifying" when individual rights are "properly illegal." Individual rights are NEVER "properly illegal."

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I don't think you were saying I was trying to condone a unilateral ban on abortion, I just wanted to clarify how the formulation in the OP distinguishes the situation where its properly illegal.

There is no situation that could be determined in advance (and a legal right must clear in advance), wherein an abortion is "properly illegal," because the individual rights of the woman are always at stake. If her rights are not at stake, she is already dead. Any actual or apparent conflicts of the rights of individuals, are extremely rare by nature (if they exist). And any such case, if it exists, is by definition a borderline case. A borderline case with regard to some supposed conflict of individual rights is UNCLEAR by nature, and so cannot be used as a basis for "clarifying" when individual rights are "properly illegal." Individual rights are NEVER "properly illegal."

I don't see an apparent conflict of rights in this situation, and a borderline case only develops extremely rarely, as the figures Betsy posted suggests.

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When did the name change from late term abortion to ''partial birth''?

It makes it sound like if the baby is killed while it is given birth to, wich is certainly not the case.

I'm not an expert on the issue, but partial birth indicates that the fetus is partially removed from the womb before it is aborted. A late term abortion takes place entirely within the womb.

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I was specifically referring to abortions performed while giving birth, not forcibly delivering an undeveloped fetus to terminate it. I see I was confused on some things that the term 'partial birth' implied.

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There is no conflict of rights to life here. The developed child must be allowed to leave if it can be safely done within reason.

Within whose reason? The women owns everything in her body, since it was her biological process that grew what is in her body. Just as a farmer owns his crop, a women owns her fetus and can dispose of it as she sees fit.

The alternative is to see a gravid woman as a brood-mare. That is slavery pure and simple.

Bob Kolker

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Just as a farmer owns his crop, a women owns her fetus and can dispose of it as she sees fit.

What's being born is not a fetus, its a fully formed human.

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When did the name change from late term abortion to ''partial birth''?

It makes it sound like if the baby is killed while it is given birth to, wich is certainly not the case.

I'm not an expert on the issue, but partial birth indicates that the fetus is partially removed from the womb before it is aborted. A late term abortion takes place entirely within the womb.

As liberals have pointed out during public debates, "partial birth abortion" is not a medical term and is neither used nor recognized by the medical profession. Rather, it is a deliberately-loaded phrase coined by abortion opponents.

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Cabbie, I think you've reasonably addressed your chosen topic, but I think the topic you've addressed is non-essential to the issue of abortion.

I think the primary issue regarding the morality of abortion is not the development of the fetus, but the separateness of the fetus. Until the fetus/baby occupies a different space than the mother's body, the mother has dominion over it. However unique this particular part of her body, it is still, literally, part of her body, i.e., actually occupying her bodily space. Discussion of its progress toward fully-developed being is irrelevant. If the process of birth were somehow cosmically skipped and the fetus developed into a 34-year-old tax accountant... it still wouldn't matter: the owner of that living space has the right to evict the occupant under any terms she chooses.

One could combine these points to say that "development" is not truly complete until separateness has been achieved.

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the owner of that living space has the right to evict the occupant under any terms she chooses.

I see what you're saying but I don't know if I agree whether separateness is essential. The most important fact to me is that the baby has achieved fully formed status and the mother has an obligation to it just as she does post-partum. Once labor has begun, she has to deliver it (or have c-section) no matter what and once delivered must feed and care for the child no matter what (or put up for adoption).

Please continue to post your thoughts.

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Just as a farmer owns his crop, a women owns her fetus and can dispose of it as she sees fit.

What's being born is not a fetus, its a fully formed human.

If a fetus is removed before (natural) birth it is property disposed of. Once the fetus is born, viable and cut loose from the female, it can be cared for by others who wish to care for it. If the fetus is removed before it is viable then there is no question of what it is not, something that is NOT a fully formed human. I don't see where such things have any rights one is bound by either morality or law to respect.

In any case, it is the female's call, because it is her body which is occupied.

Bob Kolker

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If a fetus is removed before (natural) birth it is property disposed of. Once the fetus is born, viable and cut loose from the female, it can be cared for by others who wish to care for it.

So the entity can be killed while it's fully out of the womb but still attached by the umbilical cord?

If the fetus is removed before it is viable then there is no question of what it is not, something that is NOT a fully formed human.

Disagree, women don't give birth to non developed humans. They give birth to fully developed and viable humans. This thread is about what happens from the beginning of labor onwards.

In any case, it is the female's call, because it is her body which is occupied.

Disagreed for reasons already stated.

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Disagree, women don't give birth to non developed humans. They give birth to fully developed and viable humans. This thread is about what happens from the beginning of labor onwards.

Not so. Spontaneous miscarriage is birth because there are contractions, hence labor. The result is the extrusion of a fetus not ready to survive. There is a middle ground of pre-mature birth which can be survived by technological means. In the old days, a baby born 12 weeks premature would surely die. Such a birth is also a miscarriage.

Bob Kolker

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Disagree, women don't give birth to non developed humans. They give birth to fully developed and viable humans. This thread is about what happens from the beginning of labor onwards.

Not so. Spontaneous miscarriage is birth because there are contractions, hence labor. The result is the extrusion of a fetus not ready to survive. There is a middle ground of pre-mature birth which can be survived by technological means. In the old days, a baby born 12 weeks premature would surely die. Such a birth is also a miscarriage.

Bob Kolker

Are you suggesting that expulsion alone grants rights?

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Are you suggesting that expulsion alone grants rights?

Not at all. To have rights, one must be a person. Being shot down the birth canal does not make one a person.

Bob Kolker

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... But what of partial birth abortion? Definition of partial birth abortion ...

Again, "partial birth abortion" is not a medical term and is neither used nor recognized by the medical profession. Rather, it is a deliberately-loaded phrase coined by abortion opponents.

Just who authored the "definition" you're relying on? Scrolling down to the bottom of the page you linked to, I find:

Provided courtesy of:

Eternal Word Television Network

5817 Old Leeds Road

Irondale, AL 35210

www.ewtn.com

Though the Eternal Word Television Network offers some alleged quotes by members of the medical profession, I personally would not accept such quotes as accurate or in context, unless independently verified (something I have no time to do). The Eternal Word Television Network claims that my life (and yours) belongs to some supernatural potentate up in the sky, Who commands us to wash in the blood of a human sacrifice, or else burn in hell; hence I'm reluctant to believe that what they're purveying is actual knowledge arrived at by objective means.

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I'm glad to see that the postings in this thread overwhelmingly support a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. Even Cabbie (who started the thread) seems to support it in 99.83% of abortion cases. (This percentage comes from Betsy's estimate of "partial birth" abortions occurring 0.17% of the time.)

It may be helpful to take a second look at a very vivid, concrete description of one of those 0.17% abortions. Such a description is given in the web link that Cabbie provided in posting #1:

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/PARTBIRT.TXT

(Echoing Bill Bucko, I hasten to note that the attribution at the end of that web page, as well as the material on the ewtn.com home page, makes it clear who is behind the attempt to ban "partial birth" abortions. The web page comes from the aptly named Eternal Word Television Network, a religious organization.)

Here is the abortion description that I am referring to, edited to focus on the mechanics of the procedure:

The mother was six months pregnant.... The doctor went in with forceps and grabbed the baby's legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby's body and the arms-everything but the head. The doctor kept the baby's head just inside the uterus.... Then the doctor stuck the scissors through the back of his head... The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening and sucked the baby's brains out.

This is certainly a gruesome-sounding procedure, one that any serious would-be parent could well find utterly repugnant and appalling. But what are its essentials, in comparison to a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy?

1. The woman was not in labor. She apparently wasn't even in a state of unnatural drug-induced labor, although she probably had been given something to produce dilation.

2. The fetus came partially outside the womb, feet first, only because the doctor pulled it out with forceps.

3. Since the head was still inside, the fetus could not have been breathing on its own; so the umbilical cord must still have been attached.

4. The method of killing the fetus was probably about as simple, swift and minimally painful (and safe for the mother) as any, although there are undoubtedly other possible methods.

If the goal is to end the pregnancy without resulting in a new baby to care for, and without more risk than necessary to the woman, and if that goal is to be upheld as a woman's legal right (apart from any moral evaluations of it in the total context of the woman's life), then what possible legal basis can there be for prohibiting this kind of procedure (and variations of it), gruesome as it may be? (Animal rights advocates may well object to the killing and eating of animals on similar grounds.)

Incidentally, note the philosophical bias that is built into the quoted description of the procedure -- the repeated references to "baby" rather than "fetus," and to "his" rather than "its." (The bias is even more blatant when references to the fetus' appearance and reactions are included in the description of the procedure instead of being edited out, drawing attention away from the procedure itself and from the right of the woman to her own body.)

It may be tempting to say, ok, let's ban the 0.17% case (one in 588) and make it clear that we absolutely will not ban anything more than that. But then what happens? Those who seek a wider ranging ban, seeking it more consistently on religious grounds, are incited to keep pushing for it, and are given a concretized legal case to use to say that what they want to ban next isn't really so different, fundamentally, from what the opponents have already conceded with the 0.17% ban. If anyone doubts that this can happen, look at the language of H.R. 1833, which was also included in the web link that Cabbie provided. H.R. 1833 apparently defines the proscribed procedure as:

...an abortion in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery.

This legal description encompases the whole range of possible procedures and alternatives in which a fetus is partially removed vaginally while it is still alive. If adopted as law, it would apparently mean that the fetus must be fully killed while still entirely within the womb (or removed surgically through the uterine wall, as in a cesarean birth). How would opponents of "partial birth" propose to kill a 6-month old fetus in utero? And how could that possibly be less dangerous for the woman than "partial birth" methods?

Such a law would undoubtedly provide highly potent fuel to abortion opponents seeking to impose a broader obligation on all medical professionals to make every possible effort to save the life of the fetus, whether in utero or not. The fundamental problem is that abortion opponents regard a fetus as a baby, i.e., a human being having a right to life, even while it is still inside a woman's body and physiologically dependent upon it through the umbilical cord and placenta. (Secular collectivists may regard all fetuses as potential babies that belong to the state in order to serve the state when they grow old enough.)

In another context, Ayn Rand once expressed a principle that applies to abortion as well:

"It is not very inspiring to fight for the freedom of the purveyors of pornography or their customers. But in the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right's least attractive practitioners. In this case, the disgusting nature of the offenders makes it a good test of one's loyalty to a principle."

[From "Censorship: Local and Express," The Ayn Rand Letter, August 13, 1973, p. 230 in the bound volume, republished as Chapter 15 in Philosophy: Who Needs It .]

"Partial birth" abortion may be more gruesome than disgusting, but the basic principle is just as applicable, as I see it. Unnatural pregnancy termination means killing the fetus, pure and simple. It is what it is; A is A. Abortion opponents want to dispense entirely with the rights of a woman to her own body, her own biological processes, her own life. No one should think for an instant that handing over a 0.17% concession will make the enemies of individual rights go away. It will do the opposite. It will embolden them to press their agenda all the harder, and they know it.

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Go to EWTN's home page, and you'll see they are the Global Catholic Network.

It's not an instance of the ad hominum fallacy to go for technical information to those qualified by training and experience to provide it (i.e. to the medical profession, rather than to a witch doctor), or to note that when engaged in controversy, contemporary religionists (despite their claim to morality) frequently attempt to deceive. This is blatantly obvious in the case of creationism and "intelligent design": most of their quotes from Darwin or from genuine scientists are taken completely out of context.

EWTN's area of expertise is religion, not medicine.

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Bill and System Builder,

In post 11 I said this:

I was specifically referring to abortions performed while giving birth, not forcibly delivering an undeveloped fetus to terminate it. I see I was confused on some things that the term 'partial birth' implied.

I was inaccurate in framing the OP with that term, it is clear, and would like to make discussion about what I had intended: terminating the entity once labor has begun.

Not at all. To have rights, one must be a person. Being shot down the birth canal does not make one a person

What are you suggesting does make one a person possessing rights?

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