Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rights of the Fetus

Ryan Whittaker's blog, Vancouver Barefoot, has a nicely written post on the rights of the fetus. Thanks, Ryan!

I encountered Ryan's blog after his fascinating comments in a recent post of mine (the 7th comment), where he shares a remarkable story of a friend of his. (Her story is consistent with so many stories of people in and out of the Church who engage in family history work - there is something amazing going on.)

26 comments:

Brian Duffin said...

Thanks for providing the link. Ryan indeed presents a compelling and thought-provoking post on the rights of the unborn child.

I'll have to add Ryan to my blogroll.

Ian said...

Very interesting post. I have thought the very same things for quite some time, but not being familliar enough with law I could in no way vocalize it that way at all.

I think that a legal stance must be taken if abortion laws are to be changed. The arguement "because it's not right" doesn't hold much water in the court of law.

Anonymous said...

You missed another fundamental right - liberty. Should a mother's womb be held hostage for 9 months to provide life to another person? Isn't that the basis of slavery? Does it matter if slavery is a temporary condition? Does it matter if this other person (fetus in this case) was initially invited?

Would YOU use force (physical restraint for up to 9 months) to prevent a woman from having an abortion? If you don't have this moral right can you grant it to government?

There is no easy answer. I think the LDS church has it correct - The choice for abortion is between a woman, her God, and her doctor.

Osvaldo said...

"I think the LDS church has it correct - The choice for abortion is between a woman, her God, and her doctor."

I also think the LDS church has it correct - in cases of rape, incest, or potential death, the choice for life is between a couple, God, and their bishop.

Anonymous said...

I think the LDS church has it correct - The choice for abortion is between a woman, her God, and her doctor.

Does someone know where this can be found? When has the Church made a statement like that?

ltbugaf said...

The Roe v. Wade ruling, and the cases that followed it, have really engaged the question of personhood for the fetus only once. In the original opinion, Justice Blackmun searches within the corners of the Constitution for a use of the word "person" that refers to an unborn person, and doesn't find one. He therefore concludes that the Constitution does not safeguard rights to the unborn because they are not "persons" within the Constitution. Later rulings never touch the concept of whether the unborn is a person. They leave it alone entirely.

I think Justice Blackmun's reasoning is inadequate. The Constitution is a good place to begin looking, but not a good place to end looking, when defining personhood.

AlexG said...

You can find this response on the Mormon.org website:

"The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer."

You also involve the presiding priesthood authorities over the members that are deciding over the issue of abortion.

I believe that Ryan presents a valid point. Would you terminate someone's life just because it is inconvenient to you (leave politics out of this)? The mother has still the option to decide, but I guess that a fetus shuold be provided with a choice.

Ian said...

"The choice for abortion is between a woman, her God, and her doctor."

Every moral decision is up to the individual, that's the point of this life. On the other hand, the church also has the option to excommunicate or disfellowship those who participate in abortion.

We had a woman ready for baptism who had once had an abortion. She had to get the first presidencys premission before she could be baptised.

NateT said...

The slavery issue? Should we bring up the numerous governments in the 20th century, the Nazis, Soviets, Chinese Communists, the Khmer Rouge, etc. who eliminated human life, the life of their countrymen, because they were inconvenient? Plus under the reasoning of pregnancy = slavery all wanted births would be the equivalent of slavery and thus immoral. After all did you not say

"Does it matter if slavery is a temporary condition? Does it matter if this other person (fetus in this case) was initially invited?"

Would parenthood then be slavery?

In any case the interpretation of the father having contractual obligations toward his children could also extend to a mother who is pregnant. She has as much a contractual relationship towards the health and welfare of her fetus/child/whatever as the the father does.

garnet said...

I think the slavery issue is addressed in part 1 of the analysis when he uses the word "autonomy."

Anonymous said...

Nobody has answered:

Would YOU use force (physical restraint for up to 9 months) to prevent a woman from having an abortion? If you don't have this moral right can you grant it to government?

Anonymous said...

Anonymouse at 5:51, what are you talking about? Why would you need to physically restrain a pregnant woman? The subject is not physically stopping all women from potentially having abortions, but we're talking about having abortions illegal (except in certain tragic circumstances).

Should we force (physically restrain) every person who can breathe so they do not partake of an illegal substance? That's just silly. If someone breaks the law, they are punished accordingly.

John said...

That is interesting logic. Anonymous @5:51, would YOU use force to stop someone from using illegal drugs? From running a stop sign? From doing anything that is currently illegal? Of course not. It's not your moral right. Does the government's enforcement of these things also offend you?

Contrary to popular belief, the government is not some alien entity. It is ours. As a people, we make the laws and consent to their enforcement. The government is our arm to enforce our decisions. We have decided that certain drugs are immoral and damaging to society, so we have made them illegal. Do you have moral objections to the big bad government doing a drug bust? How immoral! After all, you wouldn't physically stop someone from lighting up a mary jane. Where does the government get off enforcing these things, anyway?

Bookslinger said...

Ian,
Back in my day, it was the mission president who did the interview/approval for baptism candidates who had had (or performed) abortions.
Does the mission president now refer those cases to the 1st Presidency?

NateT said...

Anonymous @5:51

You did not answer my challenge.

According to your logic all wanted births would be slavery too. Would anyone having a child then be making an immorial decision of self-enslavement?

Amour said...

Ok, this conversation is just getting crazy. I think everyone would agree that abortion is NOT a positive thing - in any way shape or form.

So, I think we should be focusing more on preventing "unwanted" pregnancies in this country than focusing on the abortion issue.

The fact in this matter is - Women that don't want babies are getting pregnant. Ok, now this seems like rather than bickering over whether the woman has a right to continue or abort the pregnancy, we should be spending time trying to educate these women on how to PREVENT these pregnancies. If these women don't want to be pregnant, lets find a way to help them NOT get pregnant in the first place.

The answer - EDUCATION. My opinion of course, but I don't think any woman really wants to have an abortion. Well, I can't imagine that any woman would want to, so help them to be educated to prevent pregnancy.

I think we need stronger moral values at home, in our schools, and in society. If we can impress upon the future generation - PREVENTION and its importance this issue would be a lot less impacting.... Also, for those whom want to engage in sex - make sure they have access to birth control - even anonymously.

I do agree that if a woman gets pregnant, it didn't just happen to her unknowingly - she was a participant, and should be held accountable for her actions. As the father would be held accountable if she chooses to have the child. But, there are many mitigating circumstances as well, so no hard fast lines can be made, as such we need to make a serious effort to prevent as many unwanted pregnancies as possible...

Walker said...

Bookslinger,

That's how it worked in my mission as well, which was not too long ago ;)

Some may be surprised at this, but I actually agree with our friend Al Gore on this one (assuming, of course, that he was sincere in this belief rather than just playing the populist): "Abortions should be safe, RARE, and legal." Elder Packer himself noted that he includes abortion under those sins which are forgivable (thus excluding it from the category of murder). It's heinous, but it's not murder in the theological sense. I would argue that it's more akin (though by no means identical to) child abandonment.

Anonymous said...

John 6:24

When and how did I consent the laws and their enforcement?

The only moral laws are based on not harming others - everything else is tyranny (whether enacted by a dicator of one or 50% +one), to which I do NOT consent.

The government is a concept, not a person, not an entity. Who or what gives a policeman, prosecutor, jailer the moral right to fine, jail, or execute a woman (and/or doctor) who aborts?

No, I would not force someone to stop using illegal drugs or illegal sex. Who or what gives ME (OR YOU) the moral right to determine what any person VOLUNTARILY puts in their body?

In fact Mosiah (a rigtheous king) said "I judge them not" (Mosiah 26:16) and the Lord told Alma that the punishment for those that commit "iniquity" is excommunication (26:32).

So tell me, where you get your moral authority to punish those who commit iniquity? And if you don't have that authority how can you grant it to the policeman, the prosecutor, or the jailer (all who are acting in your name)?

John said...

Anonymous,

ANON: "The only moral laws are based on not harming others"

I agree.

ANON: "No, I would not force someone to stop using illegal drugs or illegal sex. Who or what gives ME (OR YOU) the moral right to determine what any person VOLUNTARILY puts in their body?"

I want to understand you correctly. Are you saying that certain drugs, abortions, and illegal sex (don't remember bringing that up) do no harm to anyone besides the participant(s)?

ANON: "In fact Mosiah (a rigtheous king) said 'I judge them not' (Mosiah 26:16) and the Lord told Alma that the punishment for those that commit 'iniquity' is excommunication (26:32)."

(Mosiah 26:16- "And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them." --???)

As impressive as your scriptural references are, I am left wondering your point here.

ANON: "So tell me, where you get your moral authority to punish those who commit iniquity? And if you don't have that authority how can you grant it to the policeman, the prosecutor, or the jailer (all who are acting in your name)?"

I have absolutely no desire, and I assume many here share this view, to make my religious beliefs law. You have suggested that this is what we are trying to do here. I contend that the very items you have defended ARE, as you've put it, "harm[ful to] others" and damaging to society. My neighbor running a meth lab directly affects me and my family. My son's third grade teacher smoking crack affects me and my family. Abortions, although admittedly less obviously and directly, affect society and, therefore, me and my family. It is my right, and the government's by extention, to make these "victimless crimes" illegal. I consent to the government enforcing these laws for my own protection. And should I be the one with the meth lab, I would understand my neighbor's concerns.

Anonymous said...

Abortions, although admittedly less obviously and directly, affect society and, therefore, me and my family.

How does some woman's abortion effect you and your family?

It is my right, and the government's by extention, to make these "victimless crimes" illegal.

Last I checked abortion was legal.

And should I be the one with the meth lab, I would understand my neighbor's concerns.

So you would be an understanding meth head? OK, sure.

John said...

Anonymous,

I said that abortions impact society, which in turn affects all of us individually.

One of the principal fears associated with immorality, coupled with disease, is that of unwanted pregnancy. Fear of negative consequences is a major deterrent for action. Abortions being (as you've so keenly noted) legal and acceptable provides an escape clause for those that choose immoral behaviors. As this safety-net from responsibility extends, immorality becomes ever so slightly more (seemingly) consequence-free.

This "free" immorality attitude has woven it's way through our entire culture. TV, movies, billboards, internet sites, magazines, ect., are all evidence of this attitude. While legal and readily-available abortion is not solely to blame, or even the biggest culprit, it certainly hasn't helped the cause. Everyone is subjected to this attitude from a young age. The list of problems that arise from this is nearly endless, from sexually abusive men and confidence-shattered women, to emotionally scarred children. Thus, it has it's effects on the individual members of society.

In addition, abortions trivialize the value of a human life. This particular argument necessarily leads back to the original post referencing Ryan Whittaker's post. These effects also run deep.

The point being, anonymous, that nearly everything we do will affect someone else in some way. The scope and severity of these effects depend on the action and situation, but there is little that is truly consequence-free. Should abortions impact enough people in strong enough ways, then yes, morally, we have the right to make legislation against it. Unfortunately, right now there are just not enough people who see it that way.

John said...

And yes, if I were to become a meth head, I would definately be understanding. Ya gotta be nice, right? [me rolling my eyes]

Anonymous said...

I said that abortions impact society, which in turn affects all of us individually.

No, you didn't.

One of the principal fears associated with immorality, coupled with disease, is that of unwanted pregnancy.

It is? By whom? Immorality, you don't know what the word means. Stop using jr. sunday School language and join the adult classes sometime.

Fear of negative consequences is a major deterrent for action.

Sorry, wrong again. Please support this with some fact based study. You were not a criminal justice major. I can tell.


Abortions being (as you've so keenly noted) legal and acceptable provides an escape clause for those that choose immoral behaviors.

You needed someone to point out to you that they are legal? geesh

As this safety-net from responsibility extends, immorality becomes ever so slightly more (seemingly) consequence-free.

Sorry wrong again. You are writing fiction.

This "free" immorality attitude has woven it's way through our entire culture. TV, movies, billboards, internet sites, magazines, ect., are all evidence of this attitude. While legal and readily-available abortion is not solely to blame, or even the biggest culprit, it certainly hasn't helped the cause.

More fiction. Do you ever say anything based on actual facts or studies?

Everyone is subjected to this attitude from a young age.

And you say that because?? You like to throw out these general statements that don't mean much.

The list of problems that arise from this is nearly endless, from sexually abusive men and confidence-shattered women, to emotionally scarred children. Thus, it has it's effects on the individual members of society.

MORE FICTION, you have nothing to back these statements up with.


In addition, abortions trivialize the value of a human life. This particular argument necessarily leads back to the original post referencing Ryan Whittaker's post. These effects also run deep.

Trivialize the value of a human life to who?
"It necessarily leads back to the original post..."?? What?

The point being, anonymous, that nearly everything we do will affect someone else in some way. The scope and severity of these effects depend on the action and situation, but there is little that is truly consequence-free. Should abortions impact enough people in strong enough ways, then yes, morally, we have the right to make legislation against it. Unfortunately, right now there are just not enough people who see it that way.

In what part of back water US do you live? Are there more of you there that swallow this fairytale fiction.
You write as if you have actually read studies that would back up your statements. Please, don't bother answering unless you can provide something that shows that any of your mindeless drivel is actually fact based.
Take some classes and actually know what you are talking about first. I suggest, Crime Justice and Corrections 381, Deviant behavior and Social Control 380 and Applied Social Statistics 205 all taught by some great profs at BYU.
And one more thing, get over yourself. It's always the ones that YELL the loudest that know the least. You yell pretty loud dude.

John said...

John: "I said that abortions impact society, which in turn affects all of us individually."

Anon: "No, you didn't."

Actually, yes, I did. This is a direct copy-and-paste of what I originally said:

John: "Abortions, although admittedly less obviously and directly, affect society and, therefore, me and my family."

Anonymous,

You have not shown the ability to maintain civil, intelligent discussion and I refuse to respond to your hollow list of condescending insults and unsubstantiated dismissals. Should you decide to shed your contentious attitude and offer something of even moderate value to this conversation, I will respond, citing plenty of classes I have taken and several of your coveted "factual studies" to back up my points (ironically enough, your several cries of "Fiction!" were wholly unsupported. Take your own advice). Until then, adieu.

Anon: "It's always the ones that YELL the loudest that know the least."

Amen.

Melissa said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I would like to add that perhaps we should consider the possibility of pregnancy as a something people who willingly engage in sexual relations willingly consent to as a possibility whether or not they use any contraceptive device (I've never heard anyone say that those were 100% effective). It's the same legal theory as used in Torts and Criminal Law, an actor is strictly liable for the results of certain behaviors/outcomes even if they took appropriate precautionary steps. It leaves room to allow victims of rape and incest to have an abortion, if they so chose, and an exception allowing for one in the tragic circumstances where a mother's life is at stake it would be relatively easy to carve out another exception.

Madelene said...

"Should a mother's womb be held hostage for 9 months to provide life to another person? Isn't that the basis of slavery? Does it matter if slavery is a temporary condition?"

This comparison is tenuous at best.
A slave cannot choose it's master. He (or she) also has no say in whether or not he can "abort" his owner. A slave is basically at the mercy of the slaveowner.
A mother has a right to choose: she chooses whether or not to have sex. She can also choose whether or not to abort her fetus. (The issue of rape in abortion cases is another debate--but still it's not the fetus' fault that the woman is pregnant, and thus the slave/kidnapper analogy still falls short) She can also choose, once giving birth, to give the baby up for adoption. It is the fetus (your "slave master" by analogy) that is at the mercy of the mother (your "slave")
A fetus is a helpless, vunerable lifeform, who is completely dependent on the mother for life, and certainly has no power to take anyone "hostage."
A slave owner (the fetus under your analogy) has the power to control the life of the slave.
Yet it is the mother, not the fetus, who holds the power to first create the life, and then to destroy it. She can, if she wishes, choose to carry it to full term. This is a noble sacrifice, yes. But it is not "enslavement."

Even if a mother really were a "slave" to her baby--a ridiculous thought, then is such a slave justified in killing her "master," because she does not want to endure 9 months of "bondage?" I am no lawyer, but I think it would be very hard to justify this murder in any court of law. I'm sorry, but it doesn't make sense.
On the issue of freedom: if my freedom comes at the price of someone else's freedom, whose freedom is more important?
How about the freedom to remain in existence, over the freedom from morning sickness, financial burdens, weight gain, etc? Again, this is called a sacrifice, not something that a little fetus is imposing on the mother.
The issue of abortion is more over whether a fetus is in fact, a lifeform, has the same rights of any other person, etc. or not. But when you already aknowledge that the fetus is a person (i.e. the fetus taking the mother's womb hostage) then you make your argument for aborting that person very weak. Even a slaveowner is entitled to life.

I know that I sure am glad that my mother didn't call the police when I, as an "evil" little fetus took her womb hostage, and refused to give it up until I "forced" her call me her daughter.

There are a lot of hurtful, stupid, wrong and awful things that we do to eachother. It's a shame when we have to resort to blaming fetuses for our troubles.