Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A few thoughts on Roe v Wade

It’s universally accepted that life begins at conception. To quote the American College of Pediatricians: “At fertilisation, the human being emerges as a whole, genetically distinct, individuated zygotic living human organism, a member of the species Homo sapiens, needing only the proper environment in order to grow and develop. The difference between the individual in its adult stage and in its zygotic stage is one of form, not nature.”

This is not some fanciful doctrinal pronouncement from a bunch of desiccated old men wearing weird clothes in the Vatican. It’s a clinical statement from medical professionals describing a biological reality.

The point here is that it’s impossible to arbitrarily determine any moment after fertilisation when a foetus suddenly and magically morphs from being a lump of tissue to becoming “human”, since it’s already a genetically unique and complete living being. Any such theoretical point (12 weeks? 20 weeks? The point at which the baby can survive outside the womb? The moment of actual live birth?) can be chosen only for reasons of convenience, pragmatism or sentiment – or perhaps all three.

If we accept the biological fact that life starts at the moment of conception, then it follows inexorably that abortion at any point during the development of the foetus involves extinguishing a human life. Whether you choose to call that murder is another matter. Society chooses not to, generally preferring to regard murder as a crime that can be committed only on a living, breathing, sentient human. (I say “generally” because the Crimes Act provides for a jail term of up to 14 years for someone “who causes the death of any child that has not become a human being in such a manner that he or she would have been guilty of murder if the child had become a human being”. I’m not a lawyer, but I think this offence is used in cases where a pregnant woman is violently assaulted, resulting in the loss of her unborn baby.)

The idea that abortion is murder is usually dismissed as unrealistic and absolutist, even fanatical, yet it’s one that can reasonably and logically be held.  Society rejects it, however, because a consensus view has evolved that there are circumstances in which abortion is justified, necessary and humane. Placing time limits on it, as most abortion laws do, is essentially a pragmatic compromise aimed at making acceptable what might otherwise be unthinkable. Thus society is prepared to approve thousands of foetuses being aborted at, say, 12 weeks – although even then a baby is fully formed, with all its organs, muscles and limbs in place – but recoils in disgust at the idea of a near full-term baby being removed from the womb alive and left to die, cold and gasping for breath, in a hospital back room. (Couldn’t happen? Oh, but it did.)

At whatever point the abortion takes place, the timing is still arbitrary. There is no magic line marking a point beyond which snuffing out a human life (often by violent means, including dismemberment) suddenly becomes unacceptable. But what has happened in New Zealand, as in other “progressive” democracies, is that as society has become more inured to the idea of abortion, limitations on when the procedure can be carried out have been stretched to the point where they eventually disappeared altogether. Under the Abortion Legislation Act 2020, there’s nothing to prevent babies being aborted even when they are capable of surviving outside the womb. All that’s required is for two doctors to agree that the late-term abortion is “clinically appropriate”.

At this point, abortion really is tantamount to murder, albeit carried out with the sanction of the state; in other words with our concurrence. But we’re not told how often this happens in God’s Own Country, because since the passing of the Act there’s no longer any provision for the collation and publication of information about abortions* [see footnote]. It’s legal now, you see, so the public is deemed to have no more interest in knowing about abortions – how many are performed, the reasons for them and the gestational age of the baby – than it has in knowing about tooth extractions, facelifts or hernia repairs.

This probably suits most people perfectly well, since what they don’t know won’t trouble them. Society has been conditioned by decades of feminist indoctrination into believing abortion is a human right and a women’s health issue. What it actually entails – that is to say, the moral implications as well as the physical detail – is something people prefer not to dwell on. Easier just to ignore the whole thing.

The morality (or otherwise) of abortion has suddenly been brought back into sharp relief by the furore over the US Supreme Court’s reversal of the Wade v Roe judgment. Much of the reaction – for example, the grotesquely hysterical scenes at American protest rallies and the ostentatious displays of hand-wringing by the likes of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi (both nominally Catholic, incidentally) was predictable. What was less so was the desperate attempt by abortion rights activists in New Zealand, assisted by their allies in the media, to make political capital out of the decision despite it being of no direct relevance here.

Even in America, the primary consequence of the majority ruling is simply that decisions on abortion laws will be handed back to the states, which is where they belonged in the first place. This has been wilfully misrepresented as a deliberate assault on American womanhood when in fact it’s an acknowledgement that decisions on issues like abortion should be made by elected legislatures in state capitals, not by a judicial elite in Washington DC. (Last time I checked, American women were allowed to vote, so are free to exert influence on their politicians via the ballot box.)

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, we were subjected to the unedifying spectacle of politicians from across the spectrum scrambling to clamber aboard the abortion rights bandwagon, each trying to outdo the others with their pronouncements of woe and despair. Even David Seymour, who has arguably the least to gain and the most to lose by pandering to leftist feminists, couldn’t resist joining the chorus of denunciation. It wasn’t the first time Seymour had allowed his obvious antipathy toward the anti-abortion lobby to get the better of his political judgment. So much for ACT’s greatest political virtue, which is that it isn’t like the other parties. On this issue Seymour hunted with the pack.

Less surprising was Christopher Luxon’s eagerness to convince the media that a National government would leave the abortion laws alone. This was a no-win situation for Luxon; people who hate National didn’t believe him anyway, while people who might be inclined to support the party probably thought less of him for his moral equivocation, given that he has previously declared himself to be pro-life. He should have taken a less defensive stance. As it is, voters are entitled to wonder whether Luxon (a) has any bedrock values or (b) has been intimidated by the media into watering down his personal principles in order to appear more woke.

Instructing his MP Simon O’Connor to take down a tweet welcoming the Roe v Wade decision didn’t help. Abortion has traditionally been treated as a personal conscience issue for MPs, so O’Connor’s exercise of his right to free speech need not have been seen as a threat to the party. By censoring him, Luxon achieved the unusual feat of simultaneously appearing timid and a control freak.

As for the New Zealand media – well, needless to say they covered the issue with their customary detachment and unstinting commitment to neutrality and balance. The tone of the TV coverage was a blend of despair, denunciation, alarmism and moral panic, and overall only marginally less hysterical than the footage of a woman shown on her knees sobbing inconsolably in the streets of Washington. The dominant narrative, shared across all mainstream media but with no obvious basis in fact, was that women’s abortion rights were threatened in New Zealand too, although exactly how or by whom wasn’t explained.

I was able to predict with almost 100 percent accuracy the pro-choice activists who would be wheeled out to tell us what an appalling setback for women the court’s decision was. Both channels had 87-year-old Dame Margaret Sparrow (Newshub honouring her with the adjective “legendary”) and the voluble American Terry Bellamak - media favourites both -  plus an unfamiliar (to me) American academic from the University of Otago who baldly pronounced, with no basis, that Luxon shouldn’t be believed when he said National would leave the abortion law intact. In an item that took up much of the first segment of Sunday night’s 6 pm news, Newshub could find no room for a single pro-life voice. (TVNZ, to its credit, did.)

At the heart of the protests over Roe v Wade is the notion that abortion is a human right - a very recent idea that has somehow taken precedence over the right to life, which is at the core of most moral values systems. This can only be explained as a triumph of ideology over humanity.

When I did a rough calculation in 2018 (the last statistics were published in 2019), the number of babies aborted in New Zealand since the law was first liberalised in 1977 was creeping up towards the half-million mark. In the US, more than 40 million babies were aborted between 1973 and 2019 – more than the population of Canada or Poland. Pro-abortion lobbyists celebrate this as a triumph for women’s rights, but it seems a tragically perverse way to assert women’s autonomy. 

Footnote: I was incorrect in saying abortions statistics are no longer published. In fact the Ministry of Health has published detailed statistics for 2020, which can be seen here. I apologise for the error.




Brendan McNeill said...

Thank you Karl

"As it is, voters are entitled to wonder whether Luxon (a) has any bedrock values or (b) has been intimidated by the media into watering down his personal principles in order to appear more woke."

Arguably (a) and (b) are not mutually exclusive.

There are many things to be encouraged about with respect to the dismemberment of Roe vs Wade in the US. The Supreme Court engaged in Judicial fiat 50 years ago, and that aberration has thankfully been rolled back, with jurisdiction now being placed where it rightfully belonged, in the hands of the people's elected representatives.

The other encouraging fact is this so called 'setback' for the progressive agenda demonstrates that the 'arc of history' does not bend towards an ever increasing liberal, woke lawless narrative, with our unborn children being continually sacrificed on the alter of convenience. It's to Luxon's great shame that he instructed Simon O'Conner to take down his post. I'm sure Christopher is completely in favour of free speech, except when it might impact upon his chances of electoral success, in which case censorship is his default setting.

Honestly, how could anyone with a conscience vote for such a man, his profession of Christ not withstanding.

I understand his desire to 'win' an election, but at what cost?

Zoroforever said...

Agree with everything you've said Karl. Think of all the Mozart's, Shakespeare's and Rembrandt's that we have most probably lost. For the life of me I can't come to grips with why so many people get emotionally worked up over wanting to kill babies. When abortion was made legal in Ireland women were lining the streets celebrating like they had won lotto. What is to become of us?

Russell Parkinson said...

Thanks Karl, very well said. I don't have a religious bone in my body but logic dictates that abortion is a fancy name for the heinous murder of innocent helpless unborn children and for what purpose? So we can indulge in recreational sex without consequences? for convenience? so women can follow a career?

The fact that billions of women have been brainwashed into believing killing their own children is a right and an issue of "reproductive health" is alarming and shows how powerful the liberal media have become. The fact that this agenda is pushed at all is scary in itself.

I wonder if in hundreds of years time society will look back at us in the same way we look back at witch burning and slavery and shake their heads in bewilderment.

I hope so.

Doug Longmire said...

Karl, Russell and Zoroforever have summed it up completely.
It has always baffled me that abortion (= killing a beating heart) is persistently described as a woman's "health" issue, or a "reproductive health" issue.
Hello !! Health !!! Not healthy for the slaughtered foetus/child.

homepaddock said...

Coverage of abortion is almost always divided into two extremes and from a liberal perspective, depicting it as either a woman’s choice or anti-women.

Those extremes might reflect the views of some people who believe abortion is never, ever right and those who believe it is never, ever wrong.

But in between are shades of grey.

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception but that abortion is right to save the mother when the baby can’t survive in cases like this recent one: https://abc11.com/abortion-malta-andrea-prudente-jay-weeldreyer/11992566/ .

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception and accept that while abortion isn’t right for those who believe that, there are cases where it could be necessary for others.

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception and accept it as an option in some circumstances including when the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape; it is being carried by a child; carrying the baby endangers the life or health of the mother, be it mental or physical; or when the mother for myriad reasons couldn’t cope with a child.

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception and accept that the consequences of illegal abortions, when that’s all there are, require and legitimise safe and legal ones as the lesser of two evils.

Then there’s the shades of grey on the other side.

It is possible to believe that abortion is a woman’s right and accept there’s intellectual inconsistency when what’s aborted is regarded as merely a bunch of cells but what’s lost in a miscarriage is a baby with all the grief that goes with such a loss.

It is possible to believe that abortion is a woman’s right in early pregnancy but not in later stages, especially once the baby could survive outside the womb.

It is possible to believe that abortion is a woman’s right but that the child, and the father have rights too.

It's not a simple black and white issue and it's one with which politicians with conservative views will always lose because their opponents, and most of the media, will paint it like that which is why Luxon is in a no-win position regardless of what he says.

But why are we importing indignation from the USA when it's a conscience issue and no party plans to change legislation here? There are more than enough domestic issues to foment indignation without introducing USA culture wars. Ele Ludemann

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

This media coverage has done something for me: I will now endeavour to be more outspoken about my pro-life convictions. Abortion has only been (technically) legal in NZ for two (2) years. Now apparently it's a sacrosanct human rights issue that we never challenge that? I will not be ashamed to say that I support the human rights of all humans, beginning with the first and foundational right: life.

Andy Espersen said...

Your balanced take on abortion and on the US Supreme Court decision is spot on, in my opinion. May I add that I think the Court’s new judgement is the correct one : How can abortion ever be “a constitutional right”? Quite the opposite, in fact : murder of innocent individual fellow citizens is a crime – if I read the constitution correctly.

But necessarily, we must have rules governing abortions – it is unconscionable not to. Whether we like it or not, infanticide (as well as the agreed acceptance of letting old folks die prematurely) is a necessary part of humankind’s development, culture and traditions. When times are really tough there may not be enough food to go round – as simple as that. Adult, productive members of a community must be saved – or everybody will die.

So we must compromise – and that is precisely what this court decision now forces each US state and each democratic country to do. In my opinion, the 2020 NZ Abortion Legislation Act goes much too far – and should be amended. I too am disappointed in David Seymour’s knee-jerk reaction to this – and would invite him to reconsider it. .

For this to happen free speech and the right to freely protest is crucial. That is where our efforts must now be concentrated.

Karl du Fresne said...

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution.
I am not an absolutist on abortion. I have always been careful to avoid saying abortion can never be justified under any circumstances and I accept that there is sometimes a compelling and humane case for it in the situations you describe.
The danger is that what start out as exceptions soon become the rule, and abortion ends up being resorted to so readily that society ceases to recognise the gravity of the act.

Trev1 said...

Brilliant writing, an important post about this troubling issue. Abortion is the antithesis of a human right and the Justices read the Constitution faithfully. The Progressives' anti human agenda is showing.

Doug Longmire said...

I also am not an absolutist on abortion.
The foetus is a living human being. However, it is not sentient and has no personality or identity.
I can accept that under some extreme circumstances (for example, rape, incestuous sexual assault, extreme danger to mother's health),then abortion may be the most humane and "lesser of two evils" option.
However, I do not accept that it is somehow a "woman's right" to have an abortion on demand.

Rosemary said...

The foetus of a parent belongs to the same species as the parent - so the foetus of a human being is of course another human being. But the question of what rights attach to that human being is a moral question, not a biological one.

Generally speaking rights come with responsibilities - they are given to those living beings who can discharge the duties that each right brings. And so the short answer to the question of whether the foetus of a human being has any rights is no.

This may seem a little glib. We extend certain rights to babies, to domestic pets, to farm animals, to things we love even though their ability to discharge any reciprocal responsibility is moot. So let us conduct a thought experiment in order to examine the moral issues here... Let us suppose that the foetus in this case is a fully responsible adult human being who has discharged all the rights and responsibilities of an adult for many decades - let her be Mother Teresa. She has suffered complete organ failure and can only survive if attached to another individual for 9 months while her organs recover. And let us suppose that you, Karl, are the human being to whom she has been surgically attached and you have woken up one morning to discover that you & your organs will be her only means of support for those months. After 9 months she will be removed but the removal may kill you, or it may disfigure you permanently. Even if it doesn't, carrying her to a second term will take an enormous toll on your body, and on the choices you are able to make on how you conduct your life for the coming 9 months at least. (And let us suppose that this occurred in 1965, say, when, like me, you still had dreams to achieve and a world to make your own, rather than now when you might think to yourself, well, why not?)

The moral question is what rights do you have to say no to this attachment? Until you woke up you had the right to have your body to yourself unsaddled by Mother Teresa. Have you lost this right? Has it been extinguished and replaced by the duty to bear Mother Teresa to a new life?

Some may answer that you lost that right to your own body because you had consensual sex the night before and Mother Teresa's attachment is a consequence of that. However, Karl, you had that sex with a partner and she has woken up untrammelled by any duty to be the sole support of Mother Teresa's continuing existence for 9 months. So her right to her body has not been extinguished by that act of consensual sex. Indeed, millions of people had sex the night before and their rights not to bring Mother Teresa to a second term have not been extinguished. And it is in the nature of rights that they are universal so if they still have that right, you do too.

Some people may say well, them's the facts of life, Karl. You had the sex and it's your body she's been attached to. Your rights have been extinguished while your partner's haven't. This response is an argument from is to ought and it begs the moral question we are trying to answer. To say that the facts of life extinguish your moral rights is like telling the victim of a burglary that he has lost the moral right to own those stolen goods. Surely the punishment of the perpetrators of crime is the justice system reassertion of our moral right to the things that crimes have denied us.

So we are back to the question, what extinguished your right to refuse to bear Mother Teresa? Why is this now a duty of yours? And the answer is that your right has not been extinguished. And from this we can take comfort that a society that allows people to take on the duties of parenthood from choice is the better for it.

Hiko said...

It has been reported that !.5 million women in the USA have abortions every year
In NZ the figure is 15000 Also it has been reported that these figures equate to around one in every four or five women or thereabouts will have an abortion in their lifetime
It is obvious that the vast majority of these unwanted pregnancies are the result of recreational sex in a time of readily available contraceptive methods.
Abortion is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff scenario as a result of a lack of responsibility.
It surely is not so much the parents dont deserve the foetus but more the other way round

R Singers said...

"The point here is that it’s impossible to arbitrarily determine any moment after fertilisation when a foetus suddenly and magically morphs from being a lump of tissue to becoming “human”, since it’s already a genetically unique and complete living being."

So would you also argue that it is unethical to turn off the life support for someone who has suffered brain death?

You're also engaging in sophism. We understand fetal brain development. We understand *rationally* exactly when a fetus really is just a collection of cells, and when synaptic activity begins. The use of the word "form" in what you quoted is also not about the personhood of the individual but about its genetic makeup.

Karl du Fresne said...

You say that rights come with responsibilities, but obviously this isn’t applicable in the case of a foetus, a baby or a young child. So is there such a thing as a right to life – and if so, at what point does it kick in? Your tortuous hypothesis doesn’t seem to deal with these rather important points.

Karl du Fresne said...

R Singers,
The case of someone who is brain dead is not analogous. We're talking about foetuses that are alive.

Karl du Fresne said...

R Singers,
In response to your second point, which I overlooked earlier, I pose much the same question as I put to Rosemary: at what point do you suppose "personhood" begins?

Brendan McNeill said...

For a media personality to have a miscarriage is a tragedy eliciting messages of sympathy and support for the loss of her unborn child. For a media personality to intentionally kill her unborn child is a non-negotiable human right to be celebrated in our Parliament at the highest levels of Government.

Until the day before yesterday, we understood that human life was sacred from conception to natural death. This insight was obtained by our forebears from the Scriptures, the book of Genesis in particular where God created us male and female (a topic for another day) in His likeness, in his image. Unlike the rest of creation we bear the image of our creator, we are sentient self aware beings who can differentiate between good and evil, life and death.

Never the less, we also understood that we live in a world distorted by sin, such that even creation is groaning under the weight of human depravity. Consequently we permitted abortion in limited circumstances where the consequences of failing to act in this way caused a greater evil than the loss of the unborn child. Think of a mother with several children whose continued pregnancy would in the view of her doctor, result in the loss of her life. In this ‘no win’ situation, one had to settle for the lesser evil.

Imperfect choices made in an imperfect world.

However, we have now moved far beyond that understanding to a place where the individual rather than God is sovereign, nothing is sacred, millions of unborn children are aborted each year in the USA, and thousands here in New Zealand on the basis of convenience alone. That this act should be removed from the criminal justice code and perceived as nothing more than a health related medical procedure, demonstrates the level of depravity to which we have fallen.

I have little doubt that the increased level of violence we now see in our nation is directly linked to our public depreciation of the value of human life. Nothing is sacred, all we have left is the will to power.

I remain a hopeful Christian, but unavoidably a cultural pessimist. The principal of sowing and reaping works in both the natural and the spiritual.

Rosemary said...

Karl: "You say that rights come with responsibilities, but obviously this isn’t applicable in the case of a foetus, a baby or a young child. So is there such a thing as a right to life – and if so, at what point does it kick in?"

I suppose I should preface my answer with the claim (no room for this argument here) that the only natural right we have is to do whatever we please that we are capable of. Society or the state removes that right and replaces it with a duty to limit our actions to those that harm no-one else. (The term 'action' needs teasing out here because we excuse accidental harm to others. To understand what an action is, we need to introduce the notion of moral agency, recognising various levels of responsibility due to age or psychological infirmity.) In obliging us to do no harm to others, the state guarantees our right to be free of harm from others. This might be called a 'right to life' but it is state-given and limited to what the state is capable of - or what the state requires of us (as in soldiers having a duty to risk their lives in the event of war).

This makes our right to life dependent for its extension on the state; and the moral issue, to whom and what should the state extend this right? Well, because what has been denied us in according that state-right is the right to do whatever we like and are capable of, then the right to life should be guaranteed to those who have given up their natural right. That is, it should be extended to those who are capable of actions, those who are moral agents capable of carrying out the duty to do no harm to others.

The level of responsibility accorded to children grows as they age. But we extend this right to life to them from birth before they have the ability to perform any actions. This extension is not a reciprocal right but an honorary one, based on what they will become by gradually taking on responsibilities. (Equally we extend it to domestic pets and many animals, based not on their ability to take responsibility for their actions, but on our feelings or use for them.)

Because a foetus is incapable of doing what it pleases, thus having no rights to give up, the state owes it no reciprocated right to life. It can neither be given nor denied a right. There is no moral issue to debate here, any more than there is about how many prime numbers there are. Whether we as individuals should extend an honorary right to an ‘unborn child’ (a curious phrase) is a matter of personal choice rather than a matter for the state to decide. It is simply not a moral issue.

R Singers said...

Hi Karl. A brain dead person is exactly analogous to a early term fetus without brain activity. Both are a collection of living cells, and both are only alive because something else is keeping them alive.

A fetus isn't capable of any form of consciousness until its 24th-28th week of gestation. Obviously if you think something is a person because they have a soul - something we have absolutely no evidence for - you are going to assume that they are a person from the moment of conception. But abortion is a medical procedure, not a religious one. At best it can be helped by philosophy (Hume's bundle theory of self et al). So from a medical perspective a fetus isn't a person until its third trimester.

I don't have any issue whatsoever with you being opposed to abortion on religious grounds. Article 13 of BORA grants you freedom of religion and conscience and that's a good thing. What I object to is a spurious argument for it. And that largely is the problem with the Christian opposition to abortion. There is no direct prohibition against it in the bible, and passages are taken out of context and twisted to make an argument.

Karl du Fresne said...

R Singers,
First point: I'd rather engage with people who use their real name, and I suspect you don't.
Having said that:
1. A brain dead person has no future; a foetus has. There's a fundamental difference between artificially sustaining a life that has effectively come to an end on one hand and, on the other, preventing a foetus from ever attaining it.
2. So "consciousness" is now the determinant of whether a foetus should be allowed to survive? This is another arbitrary decree aimed at making abortion seem more palatable. In fact 22 weeks is the point at which a baby can survive outside the womb, so I don't think your argument gets us anywhere.
3. Defining abortion as purely a medical procedure is another rationalisation to make us feel better about it. It denies the (im)moral nature of the act.
4. I'm not a "religious" person. That's another convenient copout used by pro-choice people to delegitimise opposition to abortion. ("Oh, they're just religious cranks.") I would describe my opposition to abortion as being essentially humanitarian rather than religious, though it's true that we get many of our ideas about right and wrong from religious teaching.

Karl du Fresne said...

I've published your comment because I believe in free speech, even for people who don't identify themselves. However I can only describe it as an elaborately abstruse rationalisation aimed at making abortion sound acceptable. It reads like a textbook piece of post-modernist theory that uses all manner of intellectual and philosophical contortions to make what is essentially a pretty straightforward issue - i.e. the right to life - seem far more complicated than it is, and contingent on a whole lot of contrived qualifications. I'll leave it to readers of this blog to form their own conclusions.

Brendan McNeill said...


I would like the opportunity to briefly refute R Singers claim that “there is no direct prohibition against it (abortion) in the Bible”.

“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life.”
Exodus 21:22-23

In this passage the Scriptures clearly give the unborn child the same status as those outside the womb by demanding a ‘life for a life’ if either the mother or child’s life is taken by violence.

As to the status of the unborn the Psalmist writes:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Psalm 139:13

And of the Prophet Jeremiah God says:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5

The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be “with child and give birth to a son”. In the first century, and in every century, to be pregnant is to be “with child”, not with that which might become a child.
Luke 1:31

The Scriptures are clear; the unborn child has unambiguous status as a human being with the same legal rights and protections afforded to them.

Karl du Fresne said...

R Singers,
For what it's worth, I was once party to a decision to take a family member off life support. Not a nice situation to be in, but I never had any doubt that it was the right and humane thing to do. My brother-in-law’s life was over. That’s the crucial point of difference with the unborn, whose life is ahead (or would be, if the foetus was allowed to be born).

Rosemary said...

Karl, I'm rather appalled to be described as a post-modernist. Post-modernists believe truth is relative. There is no point in discussing anything with the aim of understanding what is & isn't true if it is relative. You also accuse me of sophistry; I hope I am not. I believe that our legal system is predicated on arguments of the sort I have outlined.

R Singers said...

Hi Karl, yes I do post under my own name. I have since the early 90s.

If the criteria is being humane then you have to also consider the grounds where allowing abortion is humane, such as mental health grounds and rape. If the criteria is the potential that that life has then you have to consider everything we know about bringing children into a life of deprivation, especially to young parents.

Tangentially, if you want people who are unable to care for children not to terminate a pregnancy, they need to be able give that child to someone who can care for it and NZ hasn't amended the Abortion Act since 1955. Thankfully the Ministry of Justice are consulting on it and if done right may lead to fewer abortions.

I've experienced both an abortion (as the potential father) and a brain dead close relative having life support switched off. Both were deeply upsetting experiences and both were the right choice at the time. That experience is why I don't think whether or not a woman is allowed an abortion is a decision I should get to make for them.

Karl du Fresne said...

R Singers,

I apologise for the erroneous assumption that you used a pseudonym.

I assume you mean the Adoption Act, not the "Abortion" Act. An understandable error in the circumstances.

Hilary Taylor said...

This blog is a vital and compelling discourse on current affairs. The commenters too.
I've already stated, on another occasion, my immense relief that my reproductive life gave rise to no disturbing decision-making needs, despite being an 'elderly primi gravida' & having 2 amniocentesis procedures to detect genetic flaws in the foetuses. We had 2 female children and we didn't face the circumcision matter either.
My position on abortion has hardened as Ive aged, to the conservative end of the spectrum. I concur with Ele L entirely and Hiko too...as Clinton said, abortion should be safe & rare. Thatcher abhorred abortion as a means of birth control. Any sentient adult would concur, surely.
Someone on twitter said just how is it that abortion is a 'right' and a 'healthcare' matter when all my life contraception has been freely available. How is that adults cannot 'adult'?! People are flawed, chaotic lives are common and distressing procedures get routinised and tolerated.

Unknown said...

Thank Karl
Sometimes when I stand outside the hospital on the days abortions are performed I feel my 15=30 year old self cringeing at what I am doing there. I totally 'get' all the yelled abuse, middle fingers and trashed signs. Perhaps if I had read something like this blog back then I would have been doing what I do now (plus a whole lot more) without any pangs of incredulity.
We ALL need to do more.
Catriona Kynoch
P.S. The Project could have found many men who bitterly regret their partner's abortions too. We meet them regularly.
P.P.S. The other great 'silence' since this SCOTUS decision comes from our 'Pope'

Anonymous said...

Wow that’s a stupid comment about Mozart a. Think of all the paeodophiles, mass murderers and Stalin’s we’ve saved the planet from