On Some Replies to the Abortion Blog
I write a blog about language and the abortion issue and to my great surprise the blog explodes with replies. There were many interesting responses and I would like to deal with a few here, rather in the reply section. But, first, I should thank the many positive things you said about this and other blogs on this site. It inspires me to continue.
Some persons -- notably Christian Pro-Lifers -- charged me with exhibiting bias. This is ironic since if I have an actual bias in regard to the abortion issue -- a point of view I bring to any thinking I do on the subject -- it is to oppose abortion. My wife and I dealt with an unexpected pregnancy by having our child. However, I have thought my way to the other side of the issue as the result of valuing other moral considerations over those I adopted as a result of early indoctrination by my religious teachers. One of these is my belief that I do not have the right to impose my personal morality on another person.
It was never my intent to debate the abortion issue but rather to speak to the role of language in this debate. Today I got a reply that leads me to engage in this debate in a small way to illuminate a more fundamental problem:
What reason is there for considering a human foetus not a human life? It is definitely made up of human cells, it is alive (if not aborted), and - as I illustrated earlier, it is uniquely individual. So what else is there?What else is there? While the foetus may be "alive" in some sense of the term, it is not self-sustaining unless born in one way or another and even then requires constant supervision and nursing to stay alive. So, we have two things to think about here. The first is that the foetus can stay alive only within the womb of a woman for some period of time, which brings me to the second point. In a free society, it is understood that the government cannot interfere with what men do to their own bodies in ways that do not apply equally to women, such as restricting us in regard to what drugs we may consume -- either by prohibiting the use of illegal "recreational drugs" or limiting the use of legal drugs. Yet there are some that believe that the bodies of women who are pregnant are property of the state in that they can be required to carry a foetus to term. I find this differential treatment between men and women intolerable. As a man, I would never take the position that I could require my wife to carry a foetus to full term. I would have the option to divorce her if she didn't do so. Indeed, I exist only because a man -- my father -- did divorce his first wife because she had an abortion (actually three -- he was a bit dim about recognizing the outward signs of pregnancy so it took awhile before he could lay down his ultimatum). There are other reasons to come down in favor of Roe v. Wade of course but this is the main one.
Our Pro-Lifer had more to say, including
Really, to believe that a human foetus is not a living human being, one has to rely entirely on aesthetic judgements, right? If there is another way to come to such a conclusion, please enlighten me. You can leave a comment on one of the posts at my blog at [this site]I gave "another way" to get to the position of defending Roe v. Wade in my preceding paragraph. What I would like to note now is that we have here the signs of someone who doesn't have a clue as to what would and would not constitute an argument against those who support the Roe v. Wade decision. Never, ever have I heard an "aesthetic" argument in favor of a woman's right to do with her body what she wants to do. What in the world would constitute an aesthetic consideration that would favor having an abortion? Could it be that this poster believes that those who wish to have an abortion do so only because they don't want their bellies to expand making them less attractive (an aesthetic consideration) to their husbands? What we have here is an example of what happens when our educational system fails to train people how to think, and that includes not just our K-12 schools but our universities as well.
The ability to think consists of an ability to (a) frame hypotheses, (b) recognize the difference between empirical and nonempirical hypotheses, and (c) recognize the strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses on empirical and logical grounds. A serious problem with the abortion debate is the inability of many or even most participants, especially on the Pro-Life side, to recognize the difference between relevant and irrelevant arguments (quoting the Bible does not constitute giving an argument of any consequence whatever) and to evaluate the distinction between good and bad relevant arguments. This same problem has infected the debate over creationism and intelligent design, but since I so far have nothing of linguistic interest to contribute to these controversies I shall not blog on them now. But as a citizen I find myself dismayed by the continuing effort of the Right Wing Christian Fundamentalist movement to force their views on the American people. If you are Pro-Life because you, like I, sang the bible school song starting off "Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so" and you have generalized that confidence in the Bible to other issues than whether or not Jesus loves you such as the abortion issue I worry about you. After 9/11, we should all recognize the danger of religious fundamentalism, including Right Wing Christian Fundamentalism..