President Obama and DrRich Agree on Abortion! (Part 1)

DrRich | September 19th, 2012 - 12:36 pm

President Obama is widely regarded as the most pro-abortion President in history, and his public record supports this viewpoint. I, on the other hand, do not favor abortion in most circumstances. So it may surprise many readers to hear that President Obama and I actually agree on the most fundamental question raised by the abortion controversy.

Unlike those small-minded zealots who rage against abortion based on religious grounds – people who Progressives like to dismiss as being mired in superstition and magical thinking – I base my objections to abortion purely on reason and logic, tempered, of course, by my study of human behavior and human history. So it really should not be so surprising that my reasoning about abortion is not so very different from the reasoning of Progressives on abortion, since Progressives insist that their political and economic philosophy is also based on pure reason and logic. And thus, it also follows that my thoughts on abortion might have much in common with the thinking about abortion of the Progressive-in-Chief.

People who have read my book, “Open Wide and Say Moo!” (both of you) will know that my major objection to Obamacare is that it systematically destroys the autonomy of the individual in America, within the healthcare system and everywhere else. Among other things, it forcefully eliminates individual choice in making healthcare decisions. In other words, in every area of healthcare except abortion, Obamacare is anti-choice. Why this inconsistency when it comes to abortion?

In a similar vein, a few readers have now complained to me that my own anti-abortion views are glaringly incompatible with my overall “pro-choice in healthcare” message. How can I be “anti-choice” regarding abortion, and pro-choice everywhere else? Am I being disingenuous, insincere, or just plain stupid?

As it turns out, the reason that both Progressives and certain non-Progressives (such as myself) display a similar apparent disconnect between their pro-choice/anti-choice views in general, and their specific pro-choice/anti-choice views when it comes to abortion, is the same reason.

It has to do with this fact – at some point in time during the creation of a new human life, a new human life is created. And at that point (whenever we decide what that point is), that new human life is endowed with the same rights as any other human life. When that point is reached, we ought not to allow some other entity to act in such a way as to arbitrarily terminate this new human’s natural right to life, liberty, etc. Even Progressives agree with this (or, at least, if they do not agree with it they are unwilling to say so publicly).

Since we all agree (or are unwilling to say that we do not agree) that before a new human life exists a woman has a perfect right to do what she wishes with her own body, but that after a human life exists she only has that right to the extent that she does not infringe upon the natural rights which nature endows to that new life, then the crux of the problem is to define when it is, during the course of the creation of a human life, that a new human life is deemed to be present.

The most conservative definition of human life is when the egg becomes fertilized, and a new entity is created that has a genetic composition distinct from that of the mother. Prior to that, no new entity existed. After that, further distinctions are a matter of degree.

My entirely-non-religious argument against abortion is that the moment we allow our Experts to establish a less conservative definition of when a human life is present and when it is not, our Experts will necessarily be establishing that definition arbitrarily. And whatever logic they may use to determine what does and what does not constitute human life can be – and, based upon a study of human behavior, eventually will be – extended to many other categories of what most of us would consider today to be part of humanity. It is simply my contention that we ought to opt for a conservative definition of “human life” because anything else too easily bleeds into a definition that might exclude live babies, or toddlers, or Old Farts, or disabled people, or demented people, or fat people. These things have already happened within recent memory, and even though we’re Americans, I believe that they could happen again if we are not vigilant. So, I say again, my objection to abortion is entirely logical, that logic being further informed by the disturbing history of Progressivism over the past 120 years.

For readers who think I might be overly concerned about what might follow from a more liberal definition of human life than I have proposed, I will remind you of a recent article, published by two medical ethicists earlier this year in the Journal of Medical Ethics, entitled, “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” Here is the authors’ abstract:

“Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

These earnestly Progressive ethicists, in other words, propose to allow parents to kill their young children for any reason they might have invoked to abort that child prior to birth – that is, for any reason at all. The key point being made by these ethicists is that, by whatever reasoning a fetus can be considered a non-person, so can an infant, and perhaps even a toddler. And, while they do not say so, so can several other kinds of human life that may not meet their definition of “personhood.”

We should note that these ethicists were not attempting to be particularly provocative, but were merely producing (for the purposes of advancing their academic careers, most likely) yet another scholarly article that simply takes the next, entirely logical and completely unremarkable step in Progressive thought on the matter. Indeed, according to subsequent news reports, these ethicists were entirely stunned and very disturbed by the firestorm of anger their article produced. I mean, who the heck reads the Journal of Medical Ethics?

In any case, it turns out that it is regarding this very issue – that is, in being very, very careful about where we draw the line between human and non-human life – where, I have discovered, my reasoning on the matter turns out to be very similar to the reasoning of none other than President Obama. In a later post I will show exactly how this remarkable happenstance is true.

Here is Part 2 of this article.

________

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6 Responses to “President Obama and DrRich Agree on Abortion! (Part 1)”

  1. Maureen says:

    Dr Rich -
    I assume you are a male, although I’m quite aware that many anti-choice people are indeed women. Why do I ask? Because I don’t think that people who can’t “get pregnant” can truly be objective on the issue.
    You didn’t mention the criteria of when a new life can exist outside the mother’s body. And you didn’t give much attention to the mother’s contribution to the process of human creation, other than perhaps the recognition of her responsibility as the vehicle. So I’d like to know how you weigh in on that question.
    I remain in favor of the choice of going through with a pregnancy remaining the woman’s and suspect that a lot of the rage against this vital human right stems from a primal fear of recognizing a woman’s powers of procreation.
    Think of it. If women are more than passive recipients of pregnancy, but actual deciders of when and whether to bring forth life or not, they are much more powerful than mankind so far has felt comfortable acknowledging. It is the power to control the future of mankind. No small deal. No wonder the subject and its sub-subjects are so taboo.
    After all, it’s not just abortion we have trouble with is it? It’s contraception and unmarried sex, too. And Catholics even have trouble with married sex that doesn’t lead to pregnancy. Other religions don’t want their women to have had sex with other men before they marry, or with women showing an inch of body skin to anyone but her husband. Yes, I think we’re getting closer to the real 1000 lb gorilla in the room.
    So thanks for keeping the dialogue going.

    • DrRich says:

      Maureen,

      You thank me for advancing the dialogue, but only after you attempt to stifle the dialogue altogether by noting that I am not a woman, and therefore cannot have a legitimate opinion on this matter. So let’s just say for the sake of argument that, in truth, I don’t actually write any of this stuff. After all, I’m just a simple country cardiologist who doesn’t understand anything. Let’s conjecture that my wife actually writes this blog, my books, everything – and that being a very private woman she chooses to let me take all the credit (or blame). Now can we talk?

      I have not invoked any notion of man’s superiority over women, or any religious beliefs (or any ad hominem attacks) in this post. I am asking a simple question based on the logic of ethics, a discipline in which Progressives pride themselves in excelling. Is there some objective criterion by which it is OK to terminate a fetus, without also making it OK to terminate an inconvenient infant or toddler (or other types of inconvenient humans)? The ethicists I quote herein have determined that there is not. Further, as I will show in Part 2 of this post, President Obama himself also has determined there is not.

      I am actually quite sympathetic to a woman’s right to make healthcare decisions for herself. Also a man’s. That’s indeed what my recent book is all about. And in every case I will defend that right – except where those decisions bring irreversible damage to another innocent person. Allowing that to happen is not something that can be contained to just decisions about abortion. You can see the kinds of things Progressive ethicists are already saying are OK. If you would be so kind as to point out where that bright-line, non-arbitrary boundary to personhood exists, I would be most grateful, and subsequently will happily and with very great relief support you in celebrating a woman’s right to choose abortion.

      Rich

  2. Stephanie Bond says:

    Dear Dr. Rich,
    You ask, “Is there some objective criterion by which it is OK to terminate a fetus, without also making it OK to terminate an inconvenient infant or toddler (or other types of inconvenient humans)?”

    The objective criterion is that rights are inherent to every individual. “Inherent” means inborn. This is why the unborn must be born in order to acquire the inalienable right to life. As I see it, the full spectrum of rights to liberty, property and pursuit of happiness come gradually to each individual has various milestones are achieved. “Liberty” clearly is not a right that one permits toddlers and indeed young teenagers to have right from the beginning; it is understood that much education of the young individual is necessary before their full rights can be exercised.

    But the nature of rights as “inherent” is what makes it acceptable to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, for any reason the woman may wish to give. Equally, inherency is what makes it unacceptable to terminate the life of a newborn or a toddler etc. Now, in the case of a murderer, we aren’t simply talking about an inconvenient person but someone who has abridged the right to life of another, and as punishment may be sentenced to die.

    But back to the discussion. That life begins at conception does not alter the fact that rights properly begin at birth, when the potential human has become an actual individual human. To grant rights to a potential life – the embryo, fetus, whatever other stage one may care to name – is to eradicate the rights of the living woman, to render her a slave to the reproductive function. Rights properly defined are not contradictory nor conflicting and the same is true here. The newly conceived cannot be granted its life by right; it is at most the property of the woman, under her care or not as she chooses. The newly conceived is potential life and must successfully navigate its way through the gestation period and be born. Once born, the new person acquires inalienable rights.

    The navigation of the gestation period includes securing the woman’s consent to go through with the pregnancy. If she does go through with it, she has the added responsibility of securing care for the newborn, either supplied by herself or organizing an adoption.

    Certainly this is how I view the proper legal attitude that ought to exist. Such a view protects woman’s right to her life, liberty, property & pursuit of happiness (i.e., the right to direct the course of her life), and protects the right of the newborn to its life.

    To uphold individual rights requires knowing at what point in the continuum of development from fertilized egg to newborn baby it is that each individual acquires rights. I hold that the “bright-line, non-arbitrary boundary” at which a person acquires rights is at the moment of uttering that first cry and drawing its first breath. it is in short when it is born and it becomes a whole individual, separate and distinct from its mother.

    • DrRich says:

      Stephanie,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      I agree that the actual birth of a baby is a bright line that clearly separates one stage of life from another, and it could be used to make a clearly-delineated definition of human life. But a bright line is not the same as a principle. I could easily develop an argument, that uses the same principles you use in your argument, to declare that human life does not begin until a child has developed to the point of self-sufficiency; that, until that time, the viability of a child depends on the voluntary care of the parent, care that requires great sacrifice, self-denial, and risk to well-being, and that until a child has reached that point the parent has the right to “post-birth abortion.” This, in fact, is the very argument used by the Progressive ethicists I cited in part one of this post to justify infanticide.

      Second, if you agree that it is unethical to allow a living, breathing child who has been born to die for lack of care, then I assume you view the stance President Obama has taken in this regard with great horror.

      Rich

      • Stephanie Bond says:

        Dear Dr. Rich,

        Rights are principles.

        To develop your argument you would have to ignore the basic principle that the right to life begins at birth.

        As I already mentioned, the ability of a newborn to exercise the full spectrum of rights requires time to develop faculties. The basic right, the basic principle – is the right to life.

        To quote Ayn Rand, “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context.”

        A fertilized egg is a potential human. If it is granted rights from the moment of conception, that would equate a potential with an actual, and in the process wipe out the rights of the actual.

        It is “either/or.” It is only once the child is born that is becomes an actual human being, and there is no contradiction or “either/or.” The mother and the newborn are separate actual individuals, both with their rights to their lives.

        I used the terminology you used when you framed your question. I think that “birth” is as non-arbitrary and “bright-line” as it gets for determining how to apply the moral principle that is the right to life.

        As for the level of care that a newborn requires, and indeed the very incredible amount of investment needed to raise a child to adulthood, such investment and costs are strong reasons not to have additional children, or children at all, if one’s evaluates one’s resources as inadequate.

        I did allude to this area of discussion: “If she does go through with it, she has the added responsibility of securing care for the newborn, either supplied by herself or organizing an adoption.”

        I have yet to learn of anything 0bama is doing, proposing, advocating for or shoving down the country’s throat with which I agree.

        Rights begin at birth is a moral principle that maintains and secures the non-contradictory nature of individual rights. A woman may terminate a pregnancy for a silly reason or a good one. The reasons for which a woman elects to have an abortion are between her, her partner and her doctor.

        It is improper for government to have any role to play other than the same role it ought to have across the board – to protect our rights from coercion and fraud.

        The “abortion/when does life begin” discussion has for too long ignored the principle that Rights begin at birth.

        Potential human beings acquire rights when they become actual human beings, i.e., when a baby is born. This is important to establish now, especially in countries that permit research into human embryo development, including raising embryos and transplanted fetuses in artificial wombs. Isn’t that an exciting idea? While it would still require the consent of the pregnant woman, I think it would be marvellous if the anti-abortionists could put their money on the table and take on the responsibilities for incubating the embryo and bringing forth an actual child. There are many couples who would jump at the chance for this – infertile couples, women who seem to only miscarry, same-sex couples who would love to raise children.

        Contracts as between lovers, married couples or “mother for hire” would in a proper rights-respecting society be recognized especially if they have been registered at the courthouse. If a woman makes an agreement to give birth for a friend, or for money (or both) and is artificially inseminated, she agrees to carry to term and those contractual responsibilities would render the situation of that pregnant woman to be quite different from a woman who simply finds she has become pregnant with an unwanted child.

        What must be understood at the end of the day, is that no matter how much money & resources individuals or companies may spend, it will not change the fact that the human being born of that enormous investment will acquire his or her rights to his or her own life at birth, and will not be the property of said investors, just the way that a child is not its parents’ property but is a separate human being with inalienable rights that begin at birth. The child will be someone’s responsibility to care for and raise – and in these more difficult scenarios there may be a role for the Court to play to ensure that the child is not sold into child slavery or some-such. For the moment, I do not know how viable it is to transplant a 6 week old embryo and have it survive.

        It is extremely important that the principle of individual rights be fully comprehended and understood, Dr. Rich.

        Just as the government intervention into health care has trampled the rights of doctors and patients, so government intervention has trampled rights in every arena in which it is dictating how to live – when its only proper role is protecting the rights of all individuals from the initiation of physical force and fraud.

        The right of the pregnant woman to direct her life means that choosing to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth carries the responsibility for caring for the child or arranging for care. To leave the newborn in a ditch or a box in the garbage is some kind of manslaughter, gross negligence or even second-degree murder, especially as the taboo of having a child “out of wedlock” dissipates and there is simply NO excuse for mistreating a newborn in that fashion.

        The right to make the choice to terminate a pregnancy resides first and foremost with the pregnant woman. It is her right to life, liberty & pursuit of happiness that is involved. It is only the woman involved who has that right. The would-be father who finds himself in a predicament where his pregnant lover is saying she wants an abortion – and he is horrified – don’t you agree that that couple ought to have had more discussions about their views on having children BEFORE they had sex? I certainly think so.

        One last point: having a child is a costly long-term investment; the joys and rewards of it should be consciously sought & anticipated by the prospective parent(s). When a pregnant woman is not joyful at the news of her pregnancy, and views it as an arduous ordeal of self-denial and self-sacrifice, I’d encourage her to seek an abortion or consider adoption. Child-rearing is a large responsibility, not to be taken lightly. I think it is important that prospective parents be excited and pleased at the prospect of becoming parents. If all they can talk about is the enormity of their looming sacrifices, then having children sounds like the wrong choice for them. I disagree with you that child-rearing has to mean self-sacrifice and self-denial. Child-rearing should be a choice of what to do with a large part of one’s time and resources, a choice made for rational and loving reasons, not because government is coercively involved in making the choice for you.

        What we don’t need is more interference by government, with some law being passed forbidding women from seeking abortions, forbidding them from directing the course of their own lives, whether that course means 3 children, not 4; or just 1 child; or no children. If that means fewer babies are being born, so be it. What I fervently hope and rationally expect is that the more women are free to make the choices right for themselves, the more happier babies there will be. No matter how low the childbirth rate seems to go, there are plenty of babies being born. The important thing is to provide a safe and rational environment for them to grow into adulthood. That environment begins with the respect for individual rights of men, women and children.

        Yours truly,
        Stephanie Bond

  3. Pavlov says:

    I think we could safely state that any embryo too young to even have a neural crest cannot qualify as an actual human being, and can be aborted for any reason.

    That would safely exclude any fat, demented, disabled people.

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