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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

Great column, but the footnote is incorrect from my experience. I have relatives who have purchased the cemetery plots and held the funerals in cases of miscarriage. There is no lack of authenticity to their belief in personhood. I think it is a major mistake many liberals and progressives make to think otherwise.

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It's interesting that even someone who seems to try to escape the bubble can't quite do on this issue.

It's a belief of a significant minority of Americans, and yet...hands are just thrown up helplessly and some quip about 'religious people believe all sorts of strange things, so who knows?' are uttered.

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I think that at least as far as Catholic doctrine is concerned, Matt is correct that it's strange. I was taught that life begins at conception and that abortion is always wrong. The church did teach that having an abortion was a mortal sin, but they were content eternal damnation and social opprobrium rather than criminal prosecution as punishment for the mother. There was no concept of formal Catholic rites to mourn and bury miscarriages. In general, one had to be baptized as a prerequisite to receiving other sacraments, and one had to be born to be baptized. We had a special not-Heaven called Limbo where infants that died before baptism were sent for eternity. This was different from Purgatory where baptized souls with unabsolved venial sins waited for their survivors and descendants to procure indulgences to promote them to Heaven. Perhaps some these things are fairly classified as "strange". That characterization doesn't bother me.

I'd just add that I don't think that mourning and holding services for a miscarriage is a strange practice regardless of what one believes about personhood or legality of abortion.

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Having a miscarriage is a very sad event and irrespective of one’s perspective people need to funds ways to cope.

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It can be a hard bubble to get out of. For me, as a Reform Jew living in an area where most of the churches are liberal, not a ton of engagement with pro life folks. Plenty of republicans, but of a different strain. The discourse on substantive abortion rules post Dobbs can feel very alien.

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I'm an Alabaman, and we don't have very many ardently pro-choice around here, but we have all still been exposed to and engage with their arguments.

I think this is probably part of the media supremacy of progressives/liberals.

Y'all don't get exposed to our views. At least not with any degree of nuance or good-faith (maybe at some snarky level?)...but we get saturated with your side's (effectively) propaganda.

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I think Jonathan Haidt has shown that conservatives are much better at articulating progressive views than progressives are at articulating conservative views.

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founding

I'm never convinced by these sorts of arguments because they require a representative sample of views and issues from both sides. I'm not convinced that there is a neutral way to select such a representative sample, and it's not clear whether they've just selected issues where the progressive viewpoint is simple and the conservative one complex or what.

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Really? Wow.

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Yes I remember that as well

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"we" is doing a lot of work here. It would appear that an increasing part of the gop base is increasingly consuming its news/politics only via its insular media that very much does not engage in good faith with liberal views, and does a poorer job presenting them than MSM does for conservative views. It's true that the highly educated and elite conservatives on average understand liberals far better than the other way around, but I wouldn't be so sure about the base and rank and file. It's also increasingly the case that the parties are being re-aligned on education basis, so that among the college educated conservative are more and more saturated with liberal views and on the defensive, while liberals are less and less exposed to conservative views, but among the non-college educated the opposite dynamic is afoot.

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No one in the rest of my extended family has a college degree.

Most of them are, basically, bumpkins. (I love them, but it's true)

Nevertheless, I think they mostly understand the liberal/progressive views on things.

Not necessarily the theory or academic stuff, but I think they have a basic understanding of y'all's arguments for various things. They just disagree. Vehemently.

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And where is that understanding/info coming from?

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Maybe so. But abortion feels different (e.g. more closely tied to Christianity), in that if you reject the divinity of Jesus Christ, there's not much to talk about, since the pro-life doctrinal supports tends to more new-Testament. And there is something of a taboo with engaging adversely with someone else's faith political (the doctrine runs strong in her). Ben Shapiro apparently is pro-life, but a short google suggests the overwhelming majority of his comments on the issue have been since the Dobbs leak.

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Anti abortion is not a Christian thing, imo. Catholics are traditionally against abortion (as are Eastern Orthodox, I believe), but US Protestantism only went heavily against abortion in the late seventies. Worldwide, Protestants aren’t typically easy about abortion but near complete bans, that’s for communist Romania and for Muslim countries, mostly.

(and as an aside: Mormons aren’t even quite sure when a foetus becomes human life somewhere between conception and birth)

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founding

I'm not sure the New Testament really has much to say about this, does it? This is all about the contemporary religious traditions, and not really anywhere in scripture, except where it's been read in (the same way it was read into the 14th Amendment).

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Yes, there is almost nothing directly relevant to abortion in the Bible, and very little in the New Testament in particular. It's not a coincidence that sola-scriptura Prots were late comers to the abortion debate.

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I reject the divinity of Jesus, but I'm pro-life.

I don't think it's not -that- uncommon.

Really, I don't see how Christian theology has much to do with it, besides maaaaybe some kind of vague 'protect the innocent' sentiment.

I think that it is just something that conservative christians (at least protestants) latched onto due to the cultural revolution stuff from the 60s.

It's incidental, not directly required by their faith. I think.

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Give me a break, given that the Roman Catholic Church is driving the campaign. (6 Supreme Court Justices — all in the majority on Dobbs. Wonder why.)

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Your side wouldn’t ever do propaganda, huh? As usual, everyone thinks the other side is crazy. It’s sad, but the only answer is to fight it out. Let’s hope guns aren’t involved.

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Of course we engage in (attempts) at propaganda.

But how often are liberals/progressive exposed to conservative prop, compared to the inverse?

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I think there's an interesting thing that happens where a lot. of liberals are very literally refugees from very conservative communities. I'm one of them. Then a lot of people who've lived in progressive communities hear from us and not the people who are perfectly happy going to church and living by the rules.

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I guess, do you know any vegans? Can you understand why someone would think it's wrong to kill/eat a shrimp? It's not much of a leap, imo...

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I know a ton of vegans. None of them are militant PETA-types who have a problem with the fact that I eat meat or seek to ban meat, though as a matter of politeness I might not dig into a steak in front of them. I don't read the pro-life movement as taking that approach.

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Fair point.

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Seems right to me.

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not so much strange as utterly bizarre and illogical?

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Is it illogical? I consider it to be the most internally consistent position in the abortion debate.

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To believe a clump of cells is a person and then not prosecute the killer(s)? Yes, that's illogical.

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It's perfectly logical to believe that some clumps of cells are persons, since we are clumps of cells. And it's perfectly logical to not prosecute people who kill some such persons, since they believe, though no fault of their own (or not much), that they are not killing a person. If science discovered tomorrow that, surprisingly, flies were persons, it wouldn't make sense to prosecute all of us who have killed flies, since we didn't know we were killing persons.

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Besides THPacis point, I would also argue that "ignorance of the law is no defense".

And that's a well established and important principle and for very good, practical reasons for running a legal system.

So the "we forgive them because they do not know what they're doing" falls flat.

Also - I would take issue with the "through no fault of their own". Clearly, women alive today and modern society have had a lot of time to think about the morality of abortion. So those decisions are taken with eyes open.

Finally, this is the only time I've ever seen "law and order" conservatives express any kind of sympathy for "criminals". How suspicious it happens to be in the case where mere talk of strict enforcement would be politically unwise...

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No, we would not be prosecuted because the law does not define flies as people, but we would immediately advocate for fixing this. That they mostly do not is what exposes the lack of logical consistency/hypocrisy.

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That describes a huge % of 'cultural' things in almost all societies.

If you just can't -understand- (not agree with...just understand) a view or belief that is common in your society, the problem is with you.

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I mean, some of our views or beliefs really are the manifest product of cognitive dissonance, which isn't a super satisfying form of "understanding" even if it's accurate (even if you hold the same views!). "Lambs are adorable and I would like to pet one and see it come to no harm" and "I like lambchops" are pretty facially incompatible beliefs but I have to assume that those (and other similar animal welfare-related beliefs) are held by a *wide* assortment of people visiting a petting zoo.

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founding

What does it take to "understand" a view? I think it's very hard to understand a political view without being convinced by the arguments for it - I think it's even hard to understand views that one supports. (Like, what does it take to "understand" views like open borders, or single-payer health insurance, or the idea that there should be 150,000 green cards a year, or employer-sponsored health insurance for the employed and government sponsored for the retired and unemployed? I'm not sure that I really "understand" any of those policies, let alone the arguments for or against them, and yet I have opinions about them, like nearly everyone who cares about federal politics.)

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So if I can’t understand Trump supporters’ hatred of democracy and desire to overthrow our system of government, the fault is with me? Not maybe with the insanity of their beliefs?

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Do you think Trump supporters think that they hate democracy and want to overthrow our system of government?

And we are talking about the abortion debate here.

Do you think you can give a fair summary of their views and arguments, even if you disagree with them?

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I think a lot of Trump supporters do indeed believe that. They say so. Hard to guess what percentage of his stans take that view.

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My best friend is Pro-life, and I recognize the difficulty of the question. Sadly, almost no one on any side of the question hears the others.

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Easily. Can you?

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See also Rick Santorum and his wife bringing their stillborn child home to "meet" their (living) kids.

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"See also Rick Santorum and his wife bringing their stillborn child home...."

Yeah, I've always thought that Santorum's wife should have been investigated for murder. I mean, she *says* it was a natural death. But how can we trust a woman to tell the truth here, given the strong conflict of interest? An innocent person has died under suspicious circumstances. Let her clear her name in a court of law.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

I'm sure you think that's clever, but the delivery happened in a hospital and was presumably attended by a doctor. Courtesy of "Homicide: Life on the Streets," I know that if someone dies in a Maryland hospital with a signed death certificate from a licensed physician, the body doesn't have to go the morgue for examination by the county medical examiner, and I would anticipate that same principle applies in most, if not all, other states, because the vast majority of deaths of actual persons are clearly never the subject of law enforcement investigations. In any event, while I'm 100% pro choice, I've always found the, "Every miscarriage/stillbirth/etc. will be treated as a potential murder" assertion to be dumb -- there are literally something like two orders of magnitude more such deaths than there are outright homicides in the US each year. Thus there's never going to be the deployment of law enforcement resources to investigate miscarriages, stillbirths, etc. without "plus factors" like other suspected criminal activity by the mother. People can make solid pro choice arguments without being ridiculous.

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"Thus there's never going to be the deployment of law enforcement resources to investigating miscarriages, stillbirths, etc. without "plus factors" like other suspected criminal activity by the mother."

Or plus factors like not being married to a Republican politician in good standing, or like being poor, black, or single.

You are awfully sanguine about how the criminalization of abortion will play out. These scenarios will all seem absurd and ridiculous until we open the newspaper to read about an ambitious prosecutor on Texas who is charging a woman with murder and requiring her to prove in court that her miscarriage was natural.

It won't be a joke then.

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My experience is that pro-life /pro-natal folks have many miscarriages because many space less and want larger families. Miscarriage witch hunts are a liberal fantasy. Conservatives will go after abortion doctors while most OBs showing discretion will be left alone. Again, it's the religious people having 5+ kids who have the most need for women's health services.

You're murder accusations are slanderous and should be deleted with an apology. That's below even you.

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I'm not sure I agree. There are conservative pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for misoprostol as treatment for miscarriages because they do not trust that the woman is not using it for abortive purposes. It seems naive to think a woman in, say, Texas, who expresses reticence about her pregnancy then "mysteriously" miscarries will never be reported to authorities for investigation.

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"You're murder accusations are slanderous and should be deleted with an apology. That's below even you."

I'm having a good chuckle from the "even you," which is nicely slanderous as well. Or would be if you were not joking, as I was.

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Your grasp of the burden of proof in the American legal system is weak, however.

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Every death might not be investigated, I'm sure enough will to make everyone's life miserable.

"I know that if someone dies in a Maryland hospital with a signed death certificate from a licensed physician,"

I seriously doubt this is true. Particularly within 24 hours of ER admission, the ME probably has to hear about all deaths and make a determination.

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Actually, I ran one last search and hit the jackpot. The statement about Maryland law is basically correct -- Maryland MEs investigate, "homicide, poisoning, suicide, criminal abortion, rape, drowning, or dying in a suspicious or unusual manner, or an unattended death of an apparently healthy individual . . . ." Maryland MEs expressly do *not* investigate:

(i) A stillbirth or a neonatal death, or accident room or hospital death in which the cause of death has been established by the hospital physician and is due to disease, and free of evidence of criminal or accidental nature;

(ii) A case which is dead on arrival at the hospital and the physician who pronounces death has been in previous attendance on the patient; or

(iii) A death which occurs in a hospital within 24 hours of admission merely because the death occurred within 24 hours.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/coroner/maryland.html

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

"I seriously doubt this is true. Particularly within 24 hours of ER admission, the ME probably has to hear about all deaths and make a determination."

I have to get to work so I don't have time to run down the issue specifically as to Maryland, but from a very quick Google search it appears to be "mostly true" for California in Snopes' parlance. Per the linked page, California MEs are only engaged in the event of "violent, sudden or medically unattended deaths," where "medically unattended" means not seen by a licensed physician within 20 days of death: https://medicalexaminer.sccgov.org/death-investigation/frequently-asked-questions As I read it, if you die in a California hospital and your cause of death isn't identified as "suicide, homicide, accident, infectious or communicable disease," then the ME isn't involved.

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Yeah, this might be uncommon but it's way more common than some people think.

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Full personhood for a fetus is very much part of antiabortion thinking. Especially in evangelical and Catholic circles. Matt is simply wrong on that one.

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This is true. Though interestingly, the Bible does not actually say that personhood begins at fertilization (though it does say that it begins at some point in gestation). That wouldn't necessarily make a difference to Catholics, but believing in personhood at fertilization is not required for evangelicals.

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I've read that the Southern Baptist church actually put out a statement in support of Roe when it was first decided! The pro-life movement as we know it didn't really take off until later in the 70s at the behest of conservative activists.

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I recently learned that even St. Thomas Aquinas considered an embryo "vegetable-like" and not endowed with "personhood" until past the quickening point.

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Perhaps if you asked a Bishop, but I spent several decades in the Catholic church and was never exposed to these concepts in practice.

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Really?? I grew up Catholic, this was certainly common knowledge.

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Hm. What dysphemistic treadmill said but generalised and without the snark.

Or what Matt said. Even religious 'authentics' dont't want to prosecute women/doctors for murder. Or if they do, they certainly never say so.

See Trump saying "there should be consequences" (because, for once, he was being logical) and being quickly clued in that's not the official party line.

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They absolutely do just say it! Does no one remember the Kevin Williamson controversy at the Atlantic?

The idea that a commonly held minority belief is fake and insincere is very frustrating.

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They say women and doctors should be prosecuted for murder?! I wonder what subset of the "fetuses are persons" demographic that would represent...

And by all means, let's push them on that because it'd be even more politically toxic than "force the girl to carry her rapist's child to term"

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To be fair, the more sophisticated pro lifers do have an answer for that. David French I believe explained that it’s not murder not because it’s not fully a life but because the mother doesn’t *intend* or some such and doesn’t have mens rea. To be clear it think that’s pure sophistry , but at least some high brow prolifers (who are also lawyers) are trying to find logical-sounding excuses.

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Even if one believes this, you can prosecute the mother for charges other than murder. Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, for example. Besides their position being patriarchal and demeaning of women and their ability to make rational choices, it still doesn't make sense. Would these people saying it's not murder say the same thing if a mother hired a person to bash in her five year old's head?

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Don't shoot the messenger. I don't agree with this view, and I'm probably not the right person to paraphrase it either. I just heard it expressed on the (generally excellent) Dispatch podcast. I may have butchered it, or it may just be that bad for all the reasons you mention. It's just worth noting that there are at least some pro-lifers aware of the issue and trying to square the circle via lawyerly arguments.

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No, I butchered it. That was meant to be a generic "you" rather than an I'm looking at you THPacis "you."

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No intent when it comes to miscarriages but abortions are very clearly intentional.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

Yeah. It’s along the lines of she’s not really understanding what’s she’s doing or some such. Or I may be doing injustice to his argument. Or perhaps it’s just not a very good one?

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I think I remember the French newsletter you might be referencing and yes, his argument was around the woman ‘not understanding’ that what she was doing was murder.

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This would maybe fall under the category of "mistake of fact," which is a recognized mitigating circumstance in Anglo-American criminal law theory, but I agree that it's weird

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

It's just practicality concerns on the murder charges.

Many/most strong pro-lifers would like to see a woman who intentionally aborts an otherwise healthy 24 week old baby charged with murder. Assuming no extenuating circumstances.

But they know it is politically unlikely and will jeopardize their push to restrict abortion more generally.

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How many abortions of otherwise healthy babies take place at 24 weeks without extenuating circumstances?

But those abortions are routinely unpopular even in Europe. And I am personally uncomfortable with those too.

But it's the 10 week old abortion being prosecuted for murder that would really be politically toxic, not the 24 week one...

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Zero. Zero take place.

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founding

"Zero" is a very strong claim. I think, from a public policy point of view, it might as well be zero. But I think it's not completely obvious that it's less than the number of people who are killed by mass shooters with assault rifles. And public discussion doesn't treat that number as effectively zero.

Over 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but that still leaves 4,800 after 21 weeks in 2019 (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/ss/ss7009a1.htm#T10_down). I think it's very plausible that 99% of those have "extenuating circumstances", but that would still leave 48 without.

This appears to be very close to the number of mass shooting deaths per year - somewhere in the mid-to-high-double-digits in the 2010s: (https://www.statista.com/statistics/811504/mass-shooting-victims-in-the-united-states-by-fatalities-and-injuries/).

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I think that if ~500 of these cases had really happened over the last decade, at least one would be mentioned daily on Fox News.

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Seems like you're close to my own estimates... :)

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Indeed. Something like 1 in 5 women have an abortion at some point. It's just not going to be possible to lock up ~10% of the population for murder.

Just as it's more efficient to go after the drug dealer vs the user, or to collect sales tax from businesses instead of the customer, they want to go after the doctors and not the women. Doesn't mean they wouldn't.

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The strategy of minimizing abortions indirectly by locking up or deterring legal providers of abortions is probably where the movement is going to have to stay.

It's a politically defensible position.

Going after women is going to backfire, because inevitably some really sympathetic figure is going to be prosecuted, and then is going to be used as the figurehead.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

Wait a minute. Why are we talking about 24 weeks all of a sudden?? What happened to five minutes after conception ?

P.S.

Let’s clarify we’re talking about embryo/fetus, yeah? This is not a political point but one of literal clarity. A “24 week old baby” usual means one that has already been born (and even the strictest pro lifers calculate birthdays from birth last I checked ?) and for those the law for felony murder is already universally in the books and universally supported …

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I used 'baby' because that is how they see it.

And I get tired of typing out "embryo/fetus/baby/whatever" to indicate that I don't care what term people prefer.

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I used it as an example.

There are definitely those that believe that fertilized egg = baby, and intentionally killing it is murder.

But even among strong pro-lifers, there don't seem to be many who -really- feel that way.

They may think it based on their stance, but they aren't going to make a big deal about it.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

But this “not really “ is *precisely* Matt’s point is his footnote, because they all *claim* to really feel that way, and nothing in their philosophy explains why they would want murder charges at 24 weeks and not 5 minutes.

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"and nothing in their philosophy explains why they would want murder charges at 24 weeks and not 5 minutes."

It doesn't need to to be a workable compromise.

It seems like y'all are simultaneously castigating them for having "extreme" beliefs and also for not being sufficiently strict in those beliefs.

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"What dysphemistic treadmill said but generalised and without the snark."

Specificity and snark are two of my favorite things about dysphemistic treadmill. The snark is absolutely non-negotiable.

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Indeed, there's a reason that many states (even California) now provide certificates of stillbirth upon request.

That said, here's a thought experiment I'd be curious to know the answer to: suppose that a person who believes in personhood starting at conception (one of your relatives?) comes across a burning fertility clinic. They run inside to help and see an woman who's injured and can't walk and a freezer full of hundreds of embryos. They can wheel the freezer outside and save the embryos or carry the injured woman out, but they don't have time to do both. Which one would they save? Hundreds of embryos or one adult?

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founding

These people would also think it's forgivable for a person who can save a dozen lives or can save their spouse to save their spouse. They think that relationships matter in a way that numbers don't. (I don't know that anyone who thinks this has a consistent way of thinking about it.)

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Just to be clear: in the thought experiment I proposed, there are no preexisting relationships between any of the adults or embryos.

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founding

My thought is that being able to see an injured woman and talk to her is a kind of relationship that one can’t have with a freezer full of embryos. On this sort of view, it doesn’t give her more moral worth, but it makes you a bad person for not responding differently nonetheless.

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You can keep pushing this past these barriers though. Just say she's unconscious; in fact, you're not even sure yet if she's still alive.

Or just get rid of the woman altogether. Would a person risk their own life to save the freezer of embryos? It sounds absurd to me, but maybe someone would surprise me.

But really, as much as I think these hypotheticals start to reveal logical flaws in others, perhaps the bigger flaw is in me expecting people to be (or even to want to be) completely consistent in their views.

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founding

If it's not a freezer of embryos, but the Mona Lisa, or the roof of Notre Dame, I think we wouldn't be surprised to learn that many people are happy to risk their life to save it, or to save it rather than a few people next door.

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A) What James C. said.

B) I don't buy this communication argument. If I had to choose between the lives of 100 random people that I could neither see nor communicate with and the life of one random person who I could see and communicate with, I'd still choose the 100. I'd just feel worse about it.

There's an argument in some comment defining personhood in terms of ability to communicate. That's fine, but it doges the question by making the embryos not people. If I truly believed that embryos were people with a value like any other people, I don't see how I could choose the one person over the 100 --- communication or not. (It's not like you're doing to communicate much inside a burning building anyway.)

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I see this thought experiment get raised a lot and I don't really understand why. It seems that this thought experiment only really works as an analogy for choosing between the life of the mother and the fetus, which has never been the controversial kind of abortion case.

It seems perfectly reasonable for a pro-lifer to answer your thought experiment as follows:

"Of course I would save the woman, but, outside of this 'which do you save' trolley problem, I would never just kill one of those embryos if another person's life didn't depend on it. And since every abortion ban that has ever been passed in America ALLOWS abortion when another person's life depends on it, we really should be talking about whether YOU would think it morally justifiable to walk into that clinic and destroy an embryo without dire cause. That's the actual analogy that describes the operative issue."

Or something like that. As I said, this thought experiment, while interesting, seems like a poor analogy to what the actual arguments are about in abortion policy (nobody argues about life of the mother exemptions), and so throwing it at pro-lifers like it's an own seems kinda dumb.

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Aug 10, 2022·edited Aug 10, 2022

"It seems that this thought experiment only really works as an analogy for choosing between the life of the mother and the fetus, which has never been the controversial kind of abortion case."

No, I'm asking this question to try to understand what personhood means. Making it about the mother distorts the question: If the mother's pregnant, the choice is between a) doing an abortion or b) letting the mother --- and by extension the fetus! --- die. This is a no-brainier: either one dies or they both die. Of course you choose the former. There is no need to weigh the value of the fetus' life against the mother's because the fetus will die either way.

In other words, making it an analogy about the mother totally avoids the difficult question and answers an easy question. In the thought experiment I proposed, there's no weaseling out of comparing the value of an embryo's life vs the value of an adult's life. Either the adult lives or 100 embryos do. What does one choose? And if the choice is the adult, what does that mean about the "personhood" of the embryos?

I stated the thought experiment the way I did for a reason. I really mean it as stated.

Addendum: "should be talking about whether YOU would think it morally justifiable to walk into that clinic and destroy an embryo without dire cause"

I wouldn't walk into a clinic and destroy ANYTHING without cause. I wouldn't destroy a lamp. Of course I wouldn't destroy an embryo that took thousands of dollars to create. What sort of question is this?

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Let's strip the experiment down to its bare essentials. You must choose one of the following:

1) Either one adult dies and 100 embryos are saved from death.

2) One adult is saved from death and 100 embryos die.

One adult vs 100 embryos. Pick.

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That may be but I think that's a small minority among pro-lifers. The Catholic Church doesn't promote this practice

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It is very true. Some of my friends have put pictures of pre-miscarriage ultrasounds alongside the rest of their family photos.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

In Trump’s case the incuriousity seems justified: if you ask him, he will produce some word salad that involves saying his own name repeatedly and otherwise carries no actual meaning. In practice he will sign any bill that a republican legislature puts in front of him. (This set of affairs applies to most policy questions outside immigration and trade.)

Making McCarthy and McConnell answer the question on the record seems like a better use of everyone’s time.

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>>>if you ask him, he will produce some word salad that involves saying his own name repeatedly and otherwise carries no actual meaning.<<<

And, critically, his fans either won't notice it's word salad or won't care. His line about commiting murder on 5th Avenue was the understatement of the century. I'm old enough to remember people describing Ronald Reagan as the Teflon President. Trump's the Force Field President.

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And yet he won and then lost. Some people do care.

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He did get 12 million more votes in ‘20 than ‘16. I wonder how many Trump-Biden voters materialized?

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Once the midterms are over, I think the media machine is going to focus on amplifying any kind of Trump vs DeSantis feud to ensure it is as damaging as possible.

Its just too early at this point to get much traction.

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And Trump will fall for it the way he fell for the Trump/Bannon fued. His ego won't let him do otherwise. Thank goodness the guy is such a doofus. If he were competent we'd all be in big trouble.

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founding

He is very competent at getting his name into the headlines. That's the only thing he has ever cared about, and he's been very good at doing it.

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Matt, what's up with that footnote?

There are bills in several state legislatures that specifically seek to charge women who receive abortions and doctors who perform abortions with murder (LA, NC, TX). Even if they don't have a strong chance of passing, it's pretty clear that some subset of republicans thinks this way. This seems consistent with a belief in full personhood.

And there are definitely funerals and funeral services for miscarriages, including services at hospitals that will cremate or otherwise inter the dead fetus. You can get a casket for a baby lost to a 1st trimester miscarriage. The mourning is real whether you follow the theological logic or not.

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Yes, and even many people who aren't religious feel like they lost a born child when they miscarry.

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I'm not entirely sure how to think about "mourning". Because most people don't think that *you* in particular should mourn *every* death (after all, there are millions of deaths a day, and very few people mourn many of those). They also don't even necessarily think that you *should* mourn deaths of people that are connected to you (maybe you should celebrate that your loved one is now in heaven?)

My personal thought is that death itself isn't what one mourns, but loss, and loss can be loss of the life of a loved one, or loss of another sort (one might mourn a favorite jacket that got stained or ripped, or might mourn a building fire, or the failure to get a job that seemed opportune). From that perspective, the question of whether one mourns a stillbirth seems completely orthogonal to the question of whether the stillbirth is a loss of life or something else - even if it is a loss of life, one might not mourn it if one didn't get to know it, and even if it's not a loss of life, one might mourn it if it's a loss of a possibility.

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Re: the footnote, most with very strong pro-life opinions do mourn a miscarriage like the death of a child, and some do think women should be prosecuted for murder. But others have resolved the obvious cognitive dissonance of prosecuting women by telling themselves she didn’t know what she was doing, she bought the pro-choice lie that it isn’t a life, and she’s a victim in all this too. But don’t kid yourself, pro-lifers really do deeply, genuinely believe a fetus/unborn child has the same moral worth as a newborn. And if you’re comparing a post-viability fetus with a preemie newborn, this is very easy to understand and frankly, hard to argue with.

Edited to add: if you want to know what the Catholic Church officially thinks about the women who have abortions and it’s assumptions (arguably flawed/biased) about why women do, you can read it directly: https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/post-abortion-healing/a-special-word-to-women-who-have-had-an-abortion Of course, lots of conservative Catholics think the pope is a libertine.

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I’m with Matt - I’ve never seen someone convincingly make the case that they do value life equally from conception to death other than spouting the usual platitudes. Miscarriages now likely outnumber abortions, and there’s never been any political action on reducing miscarriage. We also don’t shame women who keep trying to have a baby even after numerous miscarriages (yes that’s absurd, but it’s the logical extension of the all-lives-are-equal rhetoric). I’ve asked many pro-lifers on the trolley problem (save 1 born baby or 100 embryos from a catastrophe) and they all refuse to answer, say it doesn’t matter, deflect, etc. Yet that’s actually the tradeoff with IVF, which again they’re silent about. So no, still not convinced

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I know pro-lifers who are anti-IVF, and also support efforts to reduce miscarriage. But they generally have an ethos of “natural is better” so they think “God” should decide who lives or dies. These are definitely the very religious ones though. I don’t know of any secular argument against IVF.

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Catholicism forbids IVF.

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I’m aware- I said I didn’t know a secular argument against it though.

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Yep. Though among real life Catholics, this policy is not well known or agreed with.

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I can see the secular, pro-natural / anti-tech types who oppose vaccines rejecting IVF.

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Are they secular though ?

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Agreed, that's a tough call.

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I think if I truly believed that a human life begins at conception then the fact that well over half of all humans ever so brought into this world don't make it past the earliest stages of the pregnancy would fill me with incapacitating existential despair and make me question the cruel God who so designed the world to create such an unending holocaust of the unborn.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7670474/

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I don't get this take. Does the fact that every person dies fill you with incapacitating existential despair? Historically it was common for half of children born to not survive until 5, was it a tragedy for mothers to have children then?

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We mourn the death of a child far differently than that of a 90 year old who has lived a full life. We don't expect immortality, but we do expect or at least hope for the chance of a meaningful life.

My understanding of historical childhood mortality was that it *was* a source of the deepest anguish for parents even as (or especially as) it occurred so often. Read about how the death of 10 year old Anne shook Charles Darwin to the core, to take just one example out of millions. Early childhood mortality is a nightmare of history that thankfully we have mostly awakened from. It was the horrific plague of our species. But if there is a "life begins at conception" person who has suffered the same emotional trauma from the failure of a blastocyst to implant in the uterine wall, I've never heard of it.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

I feel like you changed direction here. You expressed that the concept of all lives beginning at conception would fill you with dread because half of pregnancies end in miscarriages and such a holocaust would be horrible. I didn't understand that perspective given that death is a constant and has been historically much more prevalent, yet we generally avoid be overwhelmingly depressed by that or equating that to mean that its okay to go around killing people because they got in our way.

Now your discussing how people don't feel emotional trauma over the death of fetus at 1 week the way they do at later stages. My response to that would be threefold:

1) I agree that early childhood mortality is a nightmare from history, hoping that someday society finds the compassion to feel the same way about 6 month old fetus as it does about a 6 month old baby

2) In the time it has taken you to read this, someone in the world has died. Do you feel emotional trauma over that? If not, do you think that person deserved fewer rights because you don't? If a 10 year old orphan dies and no one feels trauma, are they less worthy of being protected by the law?

3) Equality is not required for protection. We don't value pets the same way we do people, but we have laws against their mistreatment. We don't give children the same rights as adults, but that doesn't mean they are unprotected by law. Even if you don't think that a 3 month old fetus has the same value as a 3 year old child, you could still think it reasonable to prohibit killing them for no reason.

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(1) I'm open to the 6-month fetus argument; somewhere along there in the 40 weeks of pregnancy the balance is shifting from potential to actual human. But that's not my focus; I'm looking at the very first stages and talking about how people respond to that emotionally.

(2) I think people can feel despair in the abstract for the vast carnage of death, but that is an intellectual rather than an emotional response: how you respond to reports of a child in Africa dying from hunger compared to how you feel if your next-door neighbor's child dies in a traffic accident. You regret the horror of the first but don't feel it in the gut the way you do with the second.

The societal emotional despair I'm describing is basically the accumulated responses of people facing the tragedy in their own lives. To imagine how that would manifest itself regarding the "unbearable tragedy" of the blastocyst failing implantation, think about how if SIDS killed say 50% of all infants and you put your newborn to sleep every night with a shockingly high chance that the baby would be dead by morning. The latter would be the greatest emergency our society ever faced; I strongly doubt that anyone -- even pro-lifers -- gives more than a thought or two to the former.

But I'm not talking about legal rights and protection under the law.

(3) Again, I'm not arguing about legal protection. But no I wouldn't give a 3 month fetus legal protection against being aborted.

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Yeah… I did IVF and if every embryo was a child, I’d be a mother of 18 😳 But only 6 even made it to day 5. To me, the high mortality up through 10 weeks is a very strong reason to support liberal access to abortion in the first trimester. But the calculus definitely changes from there.

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You could feel that same feeling by walking through a pediatric cancer ward. The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a thousand is a statistic.

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What?

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It's a quote from Stalin. We feel differently about an individual persons death (particularly if we know them) than we feel about the death of a bunch of people. Would you feel worse about losing someone you know in a car accident, or the knowledge that 40,000 people die every year in car accidents? And we also don't feel the same when we compare a mass shooting to a multi-car accident that kills the same number of people. We generally just don't care that much about accidents. And we care less about a cause of death the higher the count gets. That's just how we are.

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No, I got that. The comment just made it sound like a pediatric cancer ward was more like a statistic than the death of a single person. I assumed you didn't mean that, so I was confused.

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Miscarriages have always outnumbered abortions by a significant level, and there is a great deal of work done to try and decrease miscarriages as they are often heartbreaking for people wanting a child. We don't shame women who keep trying to have a baby even after numerous miscarriages for much the same reason we don't shame women for giving birth at all even though her kids are going to die at some point.

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Decreasing miscarriage has been a goal of the medical and scientific community, not of the pro-life community. In fact, many of the predictors of maternal mortality are also correlated with miscarriage risk, and many red states are failing in that domain.

Everyone is going to die, clearly. We’re talking a specific risk to a fetus (being conceived by a mother who is at a high risk of not carrying to term). If all life is equal from conception to old age, this is a significant driver of mortality and we should maybe at least encourage women in that situation not to conceive. For the record, I think that’s super fucked up, and a really bad way to think about life. A lot of pro-life folks seem to agree with me, which is perplexing given what they claim to believe..

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You assume there is no overlap between the medical and scientific community and the pro-life community. I know a number of medical practitioners and scientists who are pro life which informs and guides their actions.

On your second point, I think you fundamentally misunderstand the basis of most pro-life thought - which is that life (specifically human life) is fundamentally good. Therefore people trying to create more life is generally a good thing - even if it sometimes fails. Abortion is specifically wrong because is mostly ends life without sufficient cause. With sufficient cause like self defense to protect another life, in this case the mother, then there is acceptable reason to end life. But the vast majority of abortions aren't for that reason.

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Yes, many doctors/scientists work on issues involving miscarriage irrespective of their beliefs about abortion. The extremely well-funded pro-life movement has not pushed for policies to fund those efforts broadly.

“All life is good, no matter how small” is definitely moving the goalposts on the rhetoric that has been the foundation of the pro-life movement. Pro-life groups love to spout the 60mm “lives” lost to Roe and frequently compare it to the holocaust. I heard pro-lifers argue that COVID was NBD because 1 million deaths is nothing compared to abortion. The 1 fetus=1 life logic is core to keeping people motivated on the pro-life side.

I actually see a lot of parallels between the most extreme pro-lifers and militant animal rights activists. Nuance and history is considered bad, black-and-white thinking is encouraged, and extremely emotional imagery/arguments are used as fuel. When you think you’re a crusader against the next holocaust, it can be extremely motivating.

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It is of course quite easy to read bad intent into the people who disagree with you. The pro-life movement contains a multitude of people - some who are focused on legislative efforts to change an unjust law, some who are focused on supporting pregnancy centers that help care for women you are pregnant or new mothers. There are others who support/do research into helping women have healthier pregnancies and fewer miscarriages.

This feels like an isolated demand for rigor as I don't expect you (nor would I) demand than someone or some group that opposes police misconduct specifically fund homicide research before they are credible in their attempts to influence legislation. Even though far more people are killed in homicides than are killed by the police.

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Atheist, but mostly pro-life...and while I would not claim that a fertilized egg is equivalent to a newborn, I think that once you are comparing an otherwise healthy 12 (maybe 16) week embryo/fetus/whatever, the difference is pretty minimal.

By that point it's past the usual miscarriage point, and assuming no defects, it is basically "on track" to become a full human.

That's where I'd say the moral value comes from. Potentiality, or some such.

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This is essentially the Dietrich Bonhoeffer position minus God.

I mention this because Matt's "religious people believe lots of odd things" comment was a bit obnoxious. Just about everyone can say "[X] people believe lots of odd things" about some stand-in for X, but that does not get us very far towards understanding the issue being discussed.

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This is not correct. If you want to divide secular and religious people, there is no requirement to believe any particular absurd things in secularism. There is for essentially every religion. That isn't to say that secular people don't frequently believe odd things. However, it isn't a requirement of the classification.

(This certainly isn't specific to western religion. Buddhism started with Buddha's teachings (which didn't lack silliness) then after his death the Hindus decided he needed some deities to make it more salable. Then as it traveled from country to country it just acquired more and more mysticism to allow it to fit in. A bit like how Christmas and Easter became key Christian holidays to improve salability. Is that enough oddity for you?)

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We can't get from the "is" to the "ought" with any rational system. So I think MY's comment is a glib way of pointing out that the _internal_ moral logic of religious systems might not be particularly self consistent (and that might not be a goal of the system).

But non-religious moral systems are still going to rest on some base set of axioms that we just have to posit.

While a lot of the clash over abortion divides by religion, I think we could have irreconcilable differences of opinion about what is morally right without religion being involved.

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One could argue that it is impossible to have any morality at all when you are just following what it says in a book (or what is told to you by a pastor). Morality should involve careful consideration of consequences and sometimes difficult choices.

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From a historical perspective, to believe in secularism is itself, unquestionably, 'to believe in odd things'. It's extremely peculiar! (WEIRD, in the way Jeffrey Arnett uses the term.)

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Being secular doesn't mean one believes in secularism. Much like "not collecting stamps" isn't a hobby. So, what, "odd things," exactly is it that "not ascribing to religion," forces me to believe???

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Mysticism is a requirement for religion, but Matt called the belief that "it’s wrong to subject abortion rights to a utilitarian calculus or to let a woman’s interests trump those of an embryo" odd. That reads as a much wider net than mysticism.

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So are you for abortion up to about 12 or 16 weeks? If so you’re close to the American median and would be labeled by most as (soft) pro choice …

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The Catholic church is publicly against IVF. Some people are actually consistent.

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Why arguing from first principles is a mistake and how the Catholic Church justified murdering millions of indigenous Americans.

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As they say, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. In the case of abortion it certainly is, and also some other similar life-and-death issues like euthanasia and assisted suicide. A lot of the antiabortion position comes down to people having a black-and-white view of things and being uncomfortable drawing arbitrary lines. But any abortion policy short of a total ban with a possible exception for life of the mother is all about drawing arbitrary lines, for pragmatic, practical reasons, and being okay with that. Because as others have pointed out, if you start with an infant the moment after birth and work backwards to conception, there is no meaningful objective moral difference between infanticide and abortion; it's a societal legal consensus to draw a arbitrary line somewhere and say this side is this, and the other side is that. There's no other, better way to resolve the issue, than to have faith in ourselves that we can, with thought, debate, and perhaps some trial and error, generally resolve these issues in an acceptable, satisfactory way.

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"...faith in ourselves that we can, with thought, debate, and perhaps some trial and error, generally resolve these issues in an acceptable, satisfactory way."

Where the relevant "we" in this case means "the woman and any advisors she wants to consult on the question," rather than "the Opus Dei members of a court packed by Republicans who lost the popular vote."

Where the details are messy, and matter, it is best for the government to stay out.

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"Where the details are messy, and matter, it is best for the government to stay out."

To what all do you apply that logic to? There are all kinds of VERY personal things where the details are messy and matter - spanking, incest, polyamory, vaccines, discrimination, age of consent, drugs, etc, etc.

Where do you draw the line?

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I agree that's the right place to draw the line, but don't agree that it doesn't involve a "we" that includes all the voting members of society drawing an arbitrary line.

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"a _foolish_ consistency is the hobgoblin"

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The native Americans were largely doomed from the moment a vector of Old World diseases arrived in this hemisphere.

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Many of them are still alive. Pretending that they're all dead is another way to continue to mistreat them.

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That certainly did not do any favors to their population (did most of the damage). But for hundreds of years following the introduction of those diseases there would have plenty of time for those populations to rebound significantly if not for the intentional displacement and murder of most who remained.

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I personally don’t believe there is one, but I acknowledge the instance where a woman is pregnant presents different medical risks to her than the instance where she is no longer pregnant.

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Likely not a lot, but in medicine we still value the woman’s life in cases where there’s a catastrophic issue, up until birth. Not that we should take those questions lightly.

My opinion is that there’s no one moment when a life becomes a life, but obviously we know a born baby is a life. So maybe at 6 weeks of pregnancy we have something that is 1/100,000th of a life. Lots of miscarriages happen very early on, and it makes sense that humans don’t get overly distraught about that (miscarriages can be hard, nonetheless). But trying for another pregnancy is always good, in my opinion. Maybe at 18-20 weeks we’re at 1/100th of a life, and questions are termination need to be taken more seriously. In the weeks before birth, we’re at 1/10th of a life - so the moral questions become much, much trickier. This is just my take take though.

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I actually use a similar mental approach for coming into life-ness, but I consider 18-20 weeks to be maybe 90% of a life, and 24 weeks (viability) to be 100% of a life. A preemie is 100% of a life, no?

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Would be interesting to ask this question to a lot of people and actually graph out the results. The curve of my graph would be exponential, but it sounds like others see it very differently.

My feeling is that I think it’s bad to overvalue fetal life give how common miscarriage is. Miscarriages are terrible, but believing that a fetus is 90% of a human means we should mourn it 90% as much as losing a child. Many women will have multiple miscarriages. If you follow this to it’s logical extension - women who have issues carrying to term should just not try, because the weight of the mourning is too much. I think that’s bad! Women should keep trying. 1 born baby is worth the 5+ miscarriages. We call that a miracle, not a tragedy!

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Totally agree… I myself experienced three miscarriages before I had my son. It was awful. But the latest of the three was at 9 weeks, and miscarriage rates drop off precipitously at 10-12 weeks. By 20 weeks, it would not even be classified as a miscarriage, but a stillbirth. Very rare and sad. This is why a fetus halfway through is way more than 1/100th of a life, to me. A stillbirth at 20 weeks is worth 90% of the mourning of the death of a newborn (if one can even stomach this kind of calculus).

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I’m so sorry for what you went through and am happy things worked out with your son! Also good point about the stats and terminology. The numbers I gave are approximate and obviously impossible to calculate. My feeling generally is that life starts with something infinitesimally small in terms of moral weight, and that rises exponentially throughout the pregnancy. And even if the risk to a given mother of something like stillbirth were quite significant, that should not be a hindrance to conceiving, if that’s what she wants to do. I just don’t see how that squares with the actual state of pro-life rhetoric, though

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I would be very interested to see that graph.

Given that there is pretty widespread public support for many restrictions on abortion after 12 weeks, I -suspect- that people are generally closer to Marie's weighting than to yours.

(Not intended as a criticism, btw.)

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Somewhat related, I think this argument actually extends further than one day.

When I was a fetus, ultrasounds were super low resolution. My mom saved some sonograms, and they're super blurry. I'm amazed they managed to figure out which genitals I had from such crummy images.

Nowadays, ultrasounds have crazy-high resolution, and you can see them in real time. They can even do 3D scans. It's really amazing how much the technology has improved. So you can see fetuses in the womb do normal baby things (at 20-something weeks) like squirm about, suck their thumbs, and stick their feet in their mouth. Really, the only new things they do once they're born is breathe, eat, poop, and cry. (The last three are arguably downgrades from the in-womb behavior.)

When looking at old sonograms, it was really easy for me to say, "eh, it's just a fetus". After looking at modern sonograms, it's hard for me to say that a 20-something-week fetus is really that different than a baby.

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I don't think there's a significant difference in moral worth any more than I think there's a significant difference in voting capacity of a person 1 day before or after their 18th birthday, or ability to drink responsibly 1 day before or after their 21st birthday. Unfortunately, laws require sharp lines.

I am not at all convinced that birth, or birth+18 years, or birth+21 years are the right lines for these things, but birth is pretty much the brightest of bright lines anywhere in the vicinity, and it's much harder to fake which side of birth an event occurred on than it is to fake which side of 20 weeks or whatever it did.

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Only commenting to intensify the upvote.

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The difference one day before it’s born it is in the woman’s body and one day after being born is no longer in the woman’s body.

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I think the “still inside a woman’s body” is an important distinction because there very occasionally are instances where people have to choose between saving the mother and saving the almost-born baby, and presumably at that point everyone will be distraught and cry and mourn the event—but most people would choose saving the life of the mother.

And that is how we know that I’m a hierarchy of importance, a mother is more important to protect than her pregnancy.

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I’m team the government shouldn’t be involved in body regulation. Whether it’s tattoos, abortion, trans issues, just stay out of what people do to their bodies.

To the second point: When most people get pregnant they can not abort a fetus in week 39. And any number of doctors can refuse to abort a fetus at week 39 or week 1-38 if they want. The government shouldn’t be in the business of regulating bodily autonomy.

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When does the fetus gain bodily autonomy? Only when it is outside it’s mother’s body? I’m not trolling, I just think this is the million dollar question and too many on the extreme pro-choice end brush it off.

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Yes when it is outside the mother’s body. That’s my view. Most people’s view based on polling is the end of the first trimester. And I’m good compromising on it, if it doesn’t ban abortion but my view is that as long as the preborn baby (to use the anti-abortion term for slight effect) is inside the mother, the mother controls it’s fate.

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I think we just found out from the IRA passage (so far!) that Democrats are smart enough to settle for the good instead of failing to get the perfect. I'm sure they would sign on to a bill forbidding 39-week abortions (unless an emergency to save the mother's life) if they otherwise got sweeping protections of women's choice.

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Sure, my view is unpopular and a 15 week limit is better than what Indiana (my current home state) has now. I have no issues compromising.

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The difference would be the conflict with the mother's right to bodily integrity. From a self-sovereignty standpoint, women should have an unlimited right to terminate pregnancies through birth. There's no other clear line to apply.

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Hard disagree on that one there.... is a parent allowed to say they have absolute sovereignty over their home and are allowed to kick their infant child out on the street where they will surely die? No, no they are not. When a fetus is well past viability and is full term or near full term, I think there’s a much stronger argument to be made that a parent has a legal responsibility to make sure their child is safe until they can safely be transferred to another caretaker (unless it puts the parents life at risk).

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That analogy fails because once the child is born there's not a conflict with the mother's bodily integrity and abandoning a newborn at a fire station or other safe harbor isn't significantly more burdensome than throwing it in a dumpster.

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I’m extremely sympathetic to protecting the rights of women who are in precarious situations health-wise during pregnancy. But in a healthy pregnancy, a claim to “bodily integrity” as an excuse to extinguish a viable life is, frankly, weak sauce.

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Also I think this hypothetical is so rare as to likely not exist. So why do those of us who support broad access to abortions waste our breath defending the least morally defensible edge cases, anyway?

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OK. My view is that bodily integrity/self-sovereignty is literally the most fundamental of all rights and basically everything else in terms of human rights flows from that.

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And at what point does a fetus gain sovereignty over their body? Where does this sovereignty come from? Again, I think this argument could be made in favor of elective early induction of labor, but not dismemberment of a viable fetus.

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Labor itself is something that can kill a woman, even a healthy woman who had a "normal" pregnancy. So it's no small thing to say that a woman has to go through labor for the sake of "fetal sovereignty." Even women who don't die in labor can suffer from massive health consequences. My mom, for example, had to get multiple blood transfusions after I was born.

I, personally, think someone should get the choice to take that sort of risk. I don't think the law should make them do it. And incidentally, my position is consistent with the common law, which generally lets people prioritize their own lives, health, and bodily integrity over other people's.

So, for example, you're not legally required to donate blood, bone marrow, or organs, even when the risks to you are small. Live organ donation has a statistically similar risk of death as childbirth does. It, like childbirth, can also involve health complications and prolonged recovery. Do you think healthy people should be legally forced to donate an organ? Lives depend on it, after all.

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"Always legal", the position you think Democrats secretly actually believe, has always outpolled "Never legal", which has been the dominant Republican position for a long time. The official Democratic position is "sometimes legal", which is what Roe created. It has always been the more-or-less majority opinion in America (I do see a 48%). I see no particular reason to believe it isn't what most Democrats really believe.

https://news.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx

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Republican politicians almost universally endorse the least popular, "never allowed", view. Democratic politicians mostly endorse the most popular, "sometimes", view, although a few say "always". Some of those politicians, in all three camps, may be triangulating, but I suspect most are sincere. Matt has written about how politicians' sincerity is underrated, and I agree. Beyond that, "always" is hardly a position that's unheard of and that people would be shocked to discover. It's a minority position, but it's been out there in solid numbers for a long, long time. And it has always outpolled the "never allowed" position.

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Fortuitously, I'm not a Democrat. Democrats aren't going to adopt this position because they reject self-sovereignty.

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I don't have a full philosophical definition of personhood, but one I've toyed around with for a while is "Can you communicate with me to convince me that you're a person?" (a "Turing test" for humans, as it were). An unborn fetus is literally wrapped inside a woman's body, and so any form of communication (kicks?) must travel through her body to reach the outside. In practice, the mother's body absorbs those information carriers, so that only she has the relevant information to decide whether the fetus is a person. A baby can wail (or if mute, wave) to communicate with many people, and so it is practically impossible to achieve a consensus that they are not a person.

(I'm sure there are many philosophical and practical problems with the above; I don't fully endorse it. For example, what do we think about locked-in people? Is proof-of-personhood transitive — there are 1.5bln humans in China, but I've communicated with exactly 0 of them; should I deny them personhood? If you can feel a fetus' kicks through the mother's stomach, and that convinces you that the fetus is a person, does the above argument fail? But if you're looking for a reason to draw the line at birth, then it seems like a good place to start.)

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I actually think the capacity to form relationships with other humans, even weak relationships, is a key factor in whether we consider someone else a person. And to form a relationship, some degree of communication or information exchange is needed. The locked-in case is sad because either they or someone else is depriving them of human relationships, which we consider to be a key part of being human. I also think this is why the end of the first trimester/“quickening”—when the fetus is strong enough to at least make their presence known to their mother, even if they’re not consciously doing it—is so historically significant, and such an intuitive line in the sand for 50% of Americans. It’s also around the time a woman starts to “show.” Prior to ultrasounds, it was the earliest a mother or anyone else could start to think of the fetus as a developing new person. One could argue, I suppose, that the embryo secreting the hormone hcg to trigger the production of progesterone in the mother is a form of “communication” but it’s quite a stretch, I think. At the end of pregnancy, however, a fetus can actually hear sounds from outside the womb, and will turn to move away from light or pressure. And many can kick so forcefully that you can see it with the naked eye. Pretty damn human, in my book 🤷🏻‍♀️

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I must not be understanding what "communicate with me to convince me that you're a person" means, because I would have thought that a baby very clearly *can't* do that. I mean, an adult dog can communicate to me far more clearly that it's a being with thoughts and feelings and intentions and desires than a human baby can.

The technicality of being within the womb doesn't seem to cause any more difficulty than being in the next room does.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

In fairness, I think almost all of us have some level of cognitive dissonance as to whether babies in utero are people — the median answer is something like “Kinda, it depends on why you’re asking” and that might be less ideologically pure but it’s more honest and reflective of the how the line between life and not-life is actually pretty fuzzy.

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"...it’s more honest and reflective of the how the line between life and not-life is actually pretty fuzzy."

Revising that to "person and not-person," I probably agree.

(But only probably. For me, the line between agree and not-agree is fuzzy, too.)

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I sometimes wonder if pro choice people argue to protect "all mom all the time" because they're terrified to give even an inch of ground and open the door to 'fetal rights'/'unborn rights' type arguments. Jamal Greene argues that in the US we treat our legal rights as too absolute, and therefore the arguments of them are too high stakes, and this seems like that.

(Otherwise you might be like "wait, aren't progressives usually concerned about harm reduction for the powerless, what happened here.)

The other side of pro choice is being libertarian and saying that none of this is the state's business - "get big government out of the dr's office." The issue there isn't whether a fetus has QALYs but whether the state legislature gets to weigh in on the trade-offs.

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It seems to me the standard answer for some conservative presidential candidates will be “Well, I’m personally pro-life but I believe it should be left up to the states” and then just whistle past that graveyard. If asked about anything at the federal level it will just be an attitude of “congress gonna congress but I believe it should be left up to the states”. That’s the safest conservative position firmly based in states rights ideology.

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Doesn’t that fall apart a bit for DeSantis particularly, since he’s the governor of one of those states? It seems like the natural follow-up would be “then what should Florida do?”

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I think that he then just plainly states what he thinks his state should do. It’s not really a gotcha or anything.

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It’s not meant to be a gotcha. The premise of the “states rights” deflection is that it’s politically useful to *not* plainly state what should be done about abortion. If DeSantis thinks that it’s helpful to just say what he thinks about the issue, then what’s the point of deflecting at all?

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Every reporter might not mean it to be a "gotcha" but some would and that's the reason they would ask. I think the best position to be in as a pro life Republican is a governor of a state that is Republican and is pushing to pass some restrictions on abortion. You can answer the question of the state issue as the governor of that state (defend your position) but then switch to "Hey, I'm running for the presidency and as the president I believe this is a states rights issue. If the peoples elected representatives in congress want to pass something at the federal level that is up to them." It's the most "eat your cake and have it too" argument a pro life president could make.

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founding

It is though, since voters don't choose a presidential candidate by what they say they're going to *do* - they choose them based on what kind of *person* they think they are.

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Matt, let's clarify odd beliefs...while only some religious Christians hold those beliefs about fetuses, importantly, as I think you know(?), religious Jews hold an opposite belief. The life of the mother takes precedent over the fetus in all cases for religious Jews. If the pregnant woman's life is endangered, abortion is required. That odd belief you describe is specific to a particular religion, not to religious people.

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It’s particular to the plurality religion in the country, and the majority religion in one of the two major parties. Conflating it with ‘religious’ generally seems fair in practice.

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So Jewish sources differ over the justification for allowing (or actually requiring) an abortion to save the mother’s life. Most Jewish sources do not ascribe personhood to fetus, and justify abortions to save a mothers life as a result. The fetus is generally considered as water up to 40 days, and thereafter is treated as a limb of the mother, and not a separate individual, until either the head or the majority of the body emerges.

Notably, some Jewish scholars however, did classify a fetus as a person and killing a fetus as homicide. So the justification for requiring an abortion in the case of a threat to the life of the mother is that the fetus has the status of a pursuer (like someone chasing after the mother with a knife about to harm her). You’re allowed to kill a pursuer even though the pursuer is a person!

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This is a laugh. 'Jewish sources' all men I'd guess, rationalize abortion by it's being equivalent to being run down the block by a back dude in Crown Heights. I'm pro-abortion, but if this is the best the Rabbis can come up with I may change my mind.

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Also I’m sorry Maimonides writing in 11th century Egypt wasn’t woke enough for your taste. And yet on this topic, despite all of his antiquated views of women, he still ends up more progressive on this issue than the leaders of the anti abortion movement in 21st century America

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What is this about? Are you just ignorant of Judaism? Why so rude? Judaism has a history of debate to try to understand God's intent from scripture. Granted it is an unusual analogy but it hardly seems deserving of your scorn.... (I'm atheist FWIW)

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God's intent? Scripture? Please enlighten us more.

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Aug 9, 2022·edited Aug 9, 2022

I mean as I was trying to explain, Jewish sources are conflicted and ambivalent on the topic of personhood of the fetus, yet all agree in allowing abortion to save the life of the mother.

Your comment comes across as overall disrespectful. I do respect the fact that you disagree with the idea of a pursuer (for what it’s worth I do to because I think abortion should be available on demand not only to protect the life of the mother). But I would not rely on hurtful stereotypes to make your point

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