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« The Death of a Fetal Human is Different Than the Death of a Dying Human | Main | Ryan Anderson: What Is Marriage? »

February 06, 2013


It is indeed remarkable, the mental gymnastics people force themselves to go through to deny what even a young child understands at its most basic level - that a woman who is pregnant has a baby 'in their belly'.

The baby is not in the stomach, obviously, but important part of the equation - that this is a BABY - is obvious even to children!

If you can look at the 3D photos/video that are available now and still claim this is 'just a clump of cells', I really don't know what to say to you anymore.

And you know what? We shouldn't have to. I'm not saying we should give up the fight entirely. But at some point, evidence is so strong that you shouldn't have to always be making the case. The case is made already.

It's the evil of people who choose to deny reality that is the source of the problem.

Do they actually hold those beliefs or are they simply tactics to deflect the view that all life is sacred, unless it is inconvenient, without looking bad?

Amy, you have not presented evidence that the pro-abortion side is equivocating, that is trying to deceive by using words that have two or more interpretations. The word life actually has more than one meaning, and the user's intended meaning can be determined from the context. What you seem to be implying is that the use of the word life should be restricted to only one of those well understood definitions. If someone uses life to describe "the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual" (definition #2 from Webster's online dictionary), then that's how they are using the word, and I don't think anyone is confused by what they mean.

The case against abortion is strong enough without parsing words don't you think? It seems to me that this kind of arguing seems to make the pro-life side look petty and desperate. We can do much better.

Briane, the words we use affect the way people view things, and they matter. (And if pro-choicers didn't agree with this, they wouldn't be spending time trying to carefully choose the words by which they want to be described--see the article I linked to about Planned Parenthood.) Read this quote from above again:

Let’s imagine a scenario in which we admit that abortions may involve an obliteration of something that could legitimately be called life but that they are done to protect something that could also be called life.

So there we have a direct example of how they're trying to make the two claims morally equal because they can both be referred to with the word "life." Though they can both be referred to with the same word, the meanings are different (as you noted), but he's explicitly trying to say they're morally the same by using the same term for both. And the comment above is asking people to consider them the same because the second "could also be called life." It's a deliberate introduction of confusion.

It's important to be conscious of this in our conversations so we can clarify our position and theirs. If we're ready for it, we can remember to ask them to specifically explain what they mean by each use of "life" so that the two claims can be openly compared.

Ultimately, the purpose of this is to consciously clear up confusion introduced by vague terms so that the issue is made as clear as possible. That's important.

Well done! With this dual-meaning of "life", I can envision a time in which actual pro-choice advocates will be able to proclaim themselves as being "pro-life" - all with a straight face!

Because I've been researching the teachings in what I term "hyper-charismaticism" within the "Church", I'm well aware of these sorts of tactics. This redefining of terms and concepts is a semantic dance of the enemy.

Isn't this exactly what Susan Smith did in 1994 when she tried to improve her "life" by killing her two sons? We need to trot out Susan Smith when this kind of thinking comes up.

Again, it's not about the word. It's about the meaning as Amy has said. I have read the article to which you refer. The author's thesis is that autonomous life, life that is self-determined (presumably), is more inherently valuable than non-autonomous life. How do we know the mother's biological existence is autonomous? Because she lives it. So the author is essentially using the concept of personhood to argue that murdering an innocent preborn human being is justified because of the greater inherent value of the mother's life. At this point one could trot out the SLED test, and point out the moral inconsistency of this argument by asking if it would be morally justifiable to kill your toddler if he interfered with how you lived your life. After all, he us much less autonomous than the mother. This is where you trot out Susan Smith as Harold suggests.

Yes Amy, words have meaning, and meaning is discerned by context. The author of the article is not talking about life in the same sense as you are, but rather, is trying to argue that the biological meaning is morally inferior to the social/anthropological meaning. That's were the discussion needs to happen.

are you referring to this?

What about the life situation of the “something that could legitimately be called life”? Let's take a very close look at Planned Parenthood's statement:

“It may be that a change in language frees those who believe in an absolute right to abortion to a more honest wrestling with the issue. Let’s imagine a scenario in which we admit that abortions may involve an obliteration of something that could legitimately be called life but that they are done to protect something that could also be called life. Planned Parenthood is, after all, in the business of protecting women’s lives, their futures, their ability to pursue education, to establish security, to have homes filled with future children, and their freedom to decide how best to use their short time on earth.

One could interpret the italicized portion as totally contradicting the first part of the statement, with its comparison/contrasting of the unborn fetus’ “life” to the mother’s “life”, if the unborn fetus is a female. [Would this mean it’s only OK to abort males as opposed to females?]

More importantly, this italicized portion, on its face, can be construed as both/and, i.e. referring to the pregnant mother AND the unborn fetus. So, given this statement in toto, until gender is determined one cannot proceed with an abortion “to protect something that could also be called life” in the interest of “protecting women’s lives, their futures” (both pregnant mother and fetus) and the potential for “homes filled with future children” (of both pregnant mother and fetus). And from what little I know, it seems gender cannot be determined until at least 15-16 weeks, which is well outside the first trimester.

In fact, one could further argue that aborting the fetus (if it's a female) would be an infringement on the unborn fetus' (future) “absolute right to abortion”, for how could we know whether or not she would have an unplanned pregnancy and, hence, wish to then abort so as to change her own life situation? Oh, but then we’re back to the fact that she cannot infringe upon the (future) “absolute right to abortion” of her unborn fetus; and ‘round it goes.

Sorry, I see the above is a statement in Slate and NOT Planned Parenthood's.

Interesting, the notion that autonomous life is inherently more valuable than non-autonomous life:

1) On what basis? Just because?
2) What about a 3 month old baby? Is he autonomous?

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