Category Archives: Pro-Abortion

We MUST talk about aborting future disabled lives.

There is a contingent within the pro-choice ideology which is getting uncomfortable about the exploitation of disability in pushing abortion to anti-abortion people. This entry on the pro-choice site RH Reality Check is a good example of the kind of criticism that is being leveled.

I am not pro-choice and therefore I have no horse in this race. But what I do have is the following strong conviction:

All children have the inalienable right to the highest standard of health.

I discussed this right in this entry. And yes, I brought up disabilities there as well.

I have absolutely zero sympathy for the arguments that advocating the abortion of fetuses that will grow up to be disabled individuals is demoralizing to disabled people. As an antinatalist, I don’t believe I should have been born. Yet I am not demoralized by that fact. Why should I be? To state that I should not have been born is not to say that my life is worthless: my life is obviously valuable to me, since I am alive. I also realize that being alive is a net negative.

Anyone who encourages others to refuse to examine the issue of aborting damaged fetuses is encouraging others to ignore the most fundamental right of all new human beings, their right to the highest standard of health, in the name of not offending certain people. And I find the fact that disabled children are purposefully being brought to term much, much more offensive than hurting some people’s feelings.

Because hurt feelings are not a “rational” argument, the author, Lenzi Sheible, has to make it sound as if talking about disabilities in the context of abortion means denying people’s humanity:

When people who aren’t usually pro-choice (like most Texas legislators) start making exceptions for fetuses with “abnormalities” in the same way that feminists do, I get nervous. I have to conclude that the rhetorical choice to justify abortion this way sacrifices the humanity of all people with disabilities on the altar of feminism.

The “fetal abnormalities” argument actually does devalue the lives of real people. When we rely on that stance, we’re trading on discourse that says, “No one would want to live if they had disabilities like those,” or “No one would want to take care of children with those kinds of disabilities.” What does that say about the people who are living with disabilities like those? That they should have never been born?

I included that first sentence because this is the standard tactic used by anti-feminists: associating feminists (people who want to abolish the exploitation of women) with conservatives or religious types (people who hate women and wish to continue exploiting them). She is part of the queer community, which is traditionally anti-feminist, so this comes as no surprise. The fact that both feminists and anti-abortion people realize how cruel it is to let disabled people be born does not mean that we need to start equating them.

As an antinatalist, I can say that no one should have been born, including myself. This fact exists beyond the scope of my personal feelings. I realize that this is a minority position. But if you agree with the principle that we owe children the highest standard of health, then you must agree that people with disabilities should not have been born.

Commentators on this entry have pointed out that there’s no contradiction between fighting for the rights of disabled people and not wanting more disabled people in this world. Obviously no one wants more disabled, exploited, suffering, unhappy people in this world. I can’t imagine anyone, not even the most cruel person, would argue otherwise.

Most importantly, I can’t imagine Sheible would say otherwise, either. So what exactly is her argument here? I can’t for the life of me figure it out. This is the fundamental confusion in this whole line of reasoning, I think.

Disabled people may be offended by the suggestion that they should not have been born, but I think that betrays a lack of understanding of the difference between aborting a fetus and protecting the people who do exist. A fetus is not a person, and aborting a fetus does not translate into an evaluation of the worth of any living human being. All human beings are equally valuable, no matter how disabled they are. All human beings have the right to health. Advocacy for disabled people and pro-abortion advocacy are both based on these principles.

Now, I do think Sheible makes some good points:

However, feminists have said little about how a pregnant person with mobility issues might have a more difficult time reaching their nearest abortion clinic; how a person with a chronic condition may have a more expensive abortion because of medical complications; or how a pregnant person with mental illness might have to choose their medications over their pregnancy.

I agree with all these points, but I can’t for the life of me see their relevance to the abortion of damaged fetuses. Again, I agree that disabled people should be defended, because they are human beings with their own rights and values. Fetuses are not human beings, and they don’t have rights that stand apart from the possibility of growing to become human beings with rights.

I also agree that, in the long term, making a strong distinction between damaged fetuses and healthy fetuses does probably end up delegitimizing the choice rhetoric that pro-choice advocates use. But the choice argument is complete nonsense, and so its weakening does not bother me at all. What bothers me is that some people are using anti-ableism as a pretense to argue against promoting the abortion of damaged fetuses. That really has to stop.

What I would like to see is an abortion clinic in every neighborhood, all abortions being easily accessible and free of cost, and legal or financial penalties to families who refuse to abort, especially if they give birth to non-viable or disabled persons. And I don’t see the pro-choice “abortion is bad and we all want fewer of them” rhetoric will be anything but run counter to that goal in the long term.

A Defense of After-Birth Abortions.

Above: What happens to assholes who follow a twisted, corrupt, ignorant worldview when they are confronted with the obvious truth that sometimes child suffering should be ended.

Perhaps the most counter-intuitive conclusion from the pro-abortion position is its defense of after-birth abortions. I was a little too wary to address it because, after all, it wasn’t relevant to defining the pro-abortion position. I knew people would howl about it and that it would distract from the really important arguments. But given that my introduction for a new position has faded into obscurity, I can address the issue fully without fear of getting in anyone else’s way (yes, I did at some point think that my pro-abortion series would catch on; a delusively optimistic expectation in retrospect, especially given my confrontative attitude at the start of it).

An excellent starting point on the after-birth abortion issue is the paper After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?, by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva (they use the term “after-birth abortion,” and I follow them in this usage, because it is a form of abortion and should be labeled as such). Giubilini and Minerva argue a number of points:

(1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people

Much of their energies are devoted to showing that the “potential person” argument applies equally to fetuses and to newborns. Everyone knows this, but no one is allowed to say it because it goes against the two major factions in the abortion debate. Giubilini and Minerva’s paper attracted death threats because they basically said something that is still a taboo in our society: that there is no magical difference between a fetus and a newborn, that they are only two stages in a progression of development.

The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense…

Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.

This is the crux of the issue: both pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates implicitly or explicitly believe there is a moment before birth or at birth when a non-person becomes a person and is entitled to protection by law (I have analyzed the arguments presented to me by anti-abortion readers). Now, I know most pro-choice advocates would argue that they don’t really believe in such a moment. But all the scientific evidence tells us that personhood keeps developing throughout childhood; given that the pro-choice advocates must select some cut-off date (it could hardly be a viable political position if they didn’t), whether it is birth or some point before that, such a cut-off date must be arbitrary.

The only position compatible with the belief that there is no defining moment is the pro-abortion position. As the paper discusses, it cannot be proven by any logical means that a 9-month old fetus and a newborn are significantly different from the standpoint of personhood. Giubilini and Minerva use the presence of conscious values as their measure, but any other definition of personhood used will give you the same result.

I expect that pro-choice advocates will reply that pro-abortion advocates must also have some arbitrary cut-off point in mind, and that without such a cut-off point legislation is impossible. First of all, I don’t see why I should be particularly concerned about legislation, especially since I am an anarchist. But that objection aside, I see no particular reason why an arbitrary cut-off point must be chosen. If personhood can be roughly determined in any single individual, then we can judge every after-birth abortion on a case-by-case basis. Cut-off points may be convenient, but we see how well that works out for the age of majority.

In response to all this, our opponents argue that the conclusion of after-birth abortion is so horrible that we should reject using ethical principles in this instance. But this is merely a special pleading fallacy. If we could just ignore reality and reject ethical principles whether we feel bad about them, we should allow anyone to murder, steal and cheat in the name of their feelings. This is philosophy for sociopaths, not moral human beings.

Another defense is that we consider some newborns “unworthy of life” and that this is pure misopedia. Furthermore, according to us, Stephen Hawking shouldn’t have lived, and yet he’s done so much. We just need to look beyond our hatred and accept that life is precious, and so on and so forth.

I have to say I find the Hawking argument so contemptible that it’s hardly worth a reply. How dare anyone use the fact that Stephen Hawkins suffers every day from Lou Gehrig’s disease to trivialize his suffering and declare that it was good that he was forced to live a life of constant muscular atrophy, unable to move or speak on his own. It requires quite a callous person, insensitive to the pain of others, to even start such an argument. Besides, Lou Gehrig’s disease cannot be diagnosed in the womb or in a newborn, so the point is entirely moot. Therefore the Hawking ploy is a lie, nothing more, akin to the anti-abortion advocates who complain that an abortion could kill the next Einstein. It could also kill the next Dahmer, so what? An argument from ignorance is still an argument from ignorance.

As for the more general argument, it is not true that we hate newborns; we don’t hate them any more than we hate fetuses. But we hate parents who keep a compromised child alive despite the suffering we expect the child to encur throughout eir life. For these parents I have no pity whatsoever, none at all. They deserve the worse fate their society has to offer. But it is no more hateful to kill a newborn to counter their future suffering than it is to perform an assisted suicide.

Pro-life advocates should be cheering this intellectual development (sadly, that would require intellectual subtlety far beyond the meager means of even the best theologian). If one admits that fetuses and newborns have a similar personhood status, and one believes it’s taboo-level unacceptable to abort newborns, then all forms of abortion must be just as unacceptable. Of course I think the latter premise is stupid beyond recognition, although it is popular.

Which brings the question, why even bother taking on such an unpopular position? I know I have to repeat this often, but people keep asking me this. The answer, of course, is that a truth is a truth regardless of its popularity. I welcome counter-arguments from my pro-choice and anti-abortion opponents, but I don’t expect any. I do expect a lot of insults, though.

“You don’t get to choose for someone else!”

A common retort against pro-abortion and antinatalist positions is that no one should make decisions for anyone else, and to enshrine such a delegation into law is tyrannical. So telling people they should abort or should not have children is wrong. They should decide for themselves whether they should do so, decisions about their lives are theirs to make.

There are many problems with this retort. One of them, as I’ve pointed out before, is that we already do this all the time. We prohibit murder, theft, rape, assault, and we “take the decision” for people who commit these actions that they should not repeat them. If this is tyrannical, then every society in history, including Anarchist ones, have been tyrannical. Surely this is nonsense.

But then we cannot say that it is tyrannical to, say, forbid a woman to give birth to a compromised child. Given the fact that all children have the right to the highest standard of health, giving birth to a compromised child is the equivalent of assaulting and severely injuring a healthy person. If forcibly making a person’s health compromised is a criminal act, then so it creating a person’s health as compromised.

People ask, where do we “draw the line”? They try to reduce it to an issue of choice, because people will always disagree. But disagreement does not mean the issue is an issue of personal choice. Billions of people think evolution didn’t happen, but it’s not an issue of choice, it’s a fact. Hundreds of millions of people think you go to some extra-dimensional cubical city when you die. So what? Arguing from dissent, without dissenting evidence, is not rational.

Given that, what evidence can anyone present to demonstrate that giving birth to a compromised child is not a criminal act? Well, they would have to either prove that children do not have a right to the highest standard of health (but even if children only have a right to living below a certain level of illness or disease, something which must still be proven, that still excludes many births), or that having a compromised health is somehow inconsequential.

The problem is that this request for evidence would never be answered, because to them children don’t have rights, period. Children are property, and therefore irrelevant from an ethical standpoint. In fact, they will look at pretty much everyone’s rights before even starting to consider the child’s rights. Which leads me to my next point…

“Choosing for someone else” is exactly what they’re doing! By deciding to start a new human life, they are deciding that the risks of life are low enough to make new lives desirable. But that’s their opinion. Everyone has a different threshold as to how much suffering or hardship they find acceptable. To some people, only concentration camp-level suffering makes life not worth living. To others, the threshold is much, much lower.

Unlike the previous point, there are no facts here, only preferences. People have different levels of tolerance towards risk, because that tolerance depends on a lot of other factors, some of which are personal. Some people wouldn’t even try skydiving, even though the chance of dying from a jump is 1 out of 100,000 (granted, the chance of injuring something is somewhat higher). Some people become firefighters, an occupation which is considered risky by others, especially where wildfires are concerned.

The point here is that, while any person can decide to try to be a firefighter, it would be wrong for that person to force anyone else to become a firefighter. This is exactly what people do when they start new human lives: they judge the risks of living sufficiently low that procreation seems reasonable, to them.

Furthermore, it’s important not to forget what happens after the new life is started: 18 years of parenting. After all, what is parenting if not constantly making decisions for someone else?

Some may reply that it is necessary to do so in order to raise children properly. That may be so, but such a reply misses the point. I am not passing judgment on the institution of parenting, merely pointing out that parenting does imply “choosing for someone else.” That’s all I’m talking about here.

The root of this objection is a desire to use voluntaryism and self-ownership as an argument. At this point I refer you to my entry “Voluntaryism: it’s not just about capitalism…” for further discussion on this line of argument.

A follow-up challenge to pro-choice atheists…

Dear pro-choice atheists…

After the complete failure of your anti-abortion brethren, I would like to address you a challenge as well. If you believe there is a moment (either the moment of birth, or some other moment) where life/beingness/personhood/etc begins (as opposed to the gradual view, which I hold), then can you provide a secular (i.e. not based on the soul or any other spiritual claptrap) argument that demonstrates it?

Note that, as for the anti-abortion advocates, I am not asking you to debate me on the topic. I don’t ask for a valid argument. All I want is a cogent argument, i.e. a series of statements that use evidence to logically demonstrate the truth of the belief in question. I am curious to know if you can do it, since anti-abortion people have failed so miserably at doing so.

I am a gradualist (not to mention pro-abortion), so I don’t agree with you regardless, but can you at least present an argument to defend your view? Like I said as regards to the anti-abortion side, this is a fundamental premise of your position, so you should have no problem justifying it. If, on the other hand, you do not believe in a moment and are a gradualist like me, then the challenge does not apply to you and you don’t need to answer (although I would question why you are pro-choice, but I am not going to debate that here).

Comments are for answers to the challenge only. It is not your personal soapbox. All comments that do not pertain to the challenge will be deleted.

Anti-abortion atheists still can’t meet the challenge…

Above: pretty much a typical reaction to my challenge.

You may recall that, during my pro-abortion series, I issued a challenge to anti-abortion atheists to present a non-religious argument which supports the claim that “life/beingness/personhood/etc begins at conception.”

I am still getting responses to this entry from people who think they can meet the challenge. The trouble is, no one actually has an argument; what I get is a litany of “but of course it’s possible!”, over and over again. No one can explain to me exactly how it’s possible to have such a secular argument. No one is willing to actually articulate an argument. But everyone is quite sure that it does exist.

So let me go through the comments that have been made. First, from Sure:

If you use logic, life actually begins when a fertilized egg attaches itself inside the mother in such a way as to not be dislodged. From that point on, left unmolested and given nutrients, there is a high likelihood of being born… If you take away that collection of cells, you are denying life to a being.

In our very first example, we have an argument from affirmation: it is too a being! It is too the “begin[ning]” of “life”! (are the sperm and ovum not alive?) But what argument could one possibly use to justify this conclusion? When pressed, Sure replied:

Is an embryo eventually a fully featured human, despite vast physical differences? Same answer.

That may be so (in many cases it is not: see “miscarriage”), but either way, it is not an answer to the challenge. I am not asking if conception may eventually lead to a full human, but rather what argument can be used to prove that conception is the moment when “life/beingness/personhood/etc” begins. So Sure fails the challenge. Ey then led me into a merry-go-round, trying to get to know my position so ey could debate it (my relevant position here is that “life/beingness/personhood/etc begins at conception” is a religious belief which can only be argued with religious dogma, and that all that matters anyway in terms of rights is whether it is a person or not, which is a too complex issue for the very simplistic anti-abortion and pro-choice positions). Sure tried pretty much everything except answer the challenge.

Our next contestant is Gregorio, who had a lot to say, so I am going to move step by step through his points.

Hello Francois, I would like to know why you don’t take the DNA statement as a proof of a new human being and why you don’t consider a fetus a human being… Just to get your facts right this fusion of the DNA and the re-arrangements occur as soon as the fertilization takes place and not 16 days after (as you wrote above).

For the sake of not making possibly inaccurate statements, I have removed the sentence I wrote about DNA fusion taking place 16 days after conception. But whether the DNA is fused or not is not relevant to whether there is a human being there that wasn’t there before conception. There is no particular reason to call it either human or a being.

But ey continues:

A different living organism has two characteristics: it has its own DNA structure (unique) and it follows its own evolving cycle. This two characteristics apply for the new cell that has been formed since the moment of fertilization. A way to see it is that the new cell is considered a human being in the first stage of its own evolution…

A human being can’t be defined by its functions, characteristics (physical or emotional) nor by his attributes. It is defined because it has a human being DNA, and this DNA is what defines the functions, characteristics and attributions.

Again there are a number of assertions that we have a “human being” here, but what is the argument? It is a human being because it has “human being DNA,” but what is “human being DNA”? In answer to an analogy with cancer (a tumor, after all, has “human being DNA” too), ey replies:

A cancer cell is a cell that has mutations on its DNA, loosing its original form, its original functions and its original DNA. So a cancer cell is no longer a human cell since it has no longer the DNA structure of a human cell.

From what I understand of cancer, this is an extremely dubious claim. The DNA of cancer cells was mutated so that mitosis could no longer be inhibited, and this is why tumors keep growing. If the DNA was inoperative, the tumors would not grow at all. So the claim that a cancer cell does not have “human being DNA” but a zygote does is strange, to say the least.

So what is the secular argument for conception that Gregorio puts to us? Conception creates a “human being,” and we know this because it has “human being DNA,” which a cancer cell doesn’t have, so there’s basically no way to tell what this “human being DNA” can or cannot be. So essentially nothing was said, but it took us a long time to say it.

Next we have haha, who again jumps to the conclusion:

Weather you’re only made up of one cell or multiple cells, you’re a living being. You don’t need to be an expert to know this.

It’s funny how they always brag about how obvious their conclusion is, but can never provide any actual argument for it. The reference to “experts” is especially ironic since Gregorio claimed to be an expert and still couldn’t back anything he said. Anyway, when I press haha for an argument, ey replies:

I don’t see how claiming that a fetus as a human is a religious issue. It’s totally logical.

If it’s not a religious issue but rather a “logical” issue, in the strict sense of the term, then it should have logical arguments to back it up, not doctrinal beliefs. So where are these logical arguments? I prodded haha again for an argument, and ey didn’t answer.

This may all seem like I am asking for something complicated, but I am not. I am not asking any anti-abortion atheist to present a valid argument, merely to present a cogent argument, any argument (not just saying you’re obviously right and reaffirming your conclusion five more times).

Since the belief that life begins at conception is the basic premise of their ideology, they should have such an argument ready at all times. This should be easy for them. So why don’t they? Furthermore, why have all the prominent anti-abortion atheist organizations and proponents I emailed either ignored or failed my elementary challenge? This is about as bizarre as an official representative of a political party being totally stumped when asked why one should vote for their party or asked to justify one of the party’s core principles. Why should this be a stumper at all? It should be an easy hit out of the park for anyone who advocates for any position, let alone in an issue as charged as abortion where positions are routinely challenged.

In my initial entry, I presented two possible reasons for this:

1. Perhaps they know that this question relates to a fatal flaw in their position, and thus they evade it consciously.
2. Perhaps they believe that the proposition that “life/beingness/personhood/etc begins at conception” is self-evident or so obvious that even asking why this is the case is seen as idiotic.

I am not sure which is the case, although I think it’s probably the latter. In my discussions, both on this blog and by email, my opponents mostly do not try to attack me or otherwise deflect the issue. Rather, they seem genuinely bemused, or even astonished, at my questions and think that repeating their belief is a sufficient answer. And I think they genuinely don’t understand what it would mean to argue for their belief, because to them it is simply self-evident and beyond analysis.

The trouble is that this belief is not self-evident at all (never mind that it’s actually, you know, nonsense). There is no intuitive reason why the moment of conception, amongst all moments in the creation of a person, should be considered of any greater importance then any other moment, at least as regards to humanity, life, beingness or personhood. All these things develop gradually through a period of years and years, only part of which takes place in the mother’s body.

So I wrote this entry to point out that my initial challenge remains, and that’s because its basic premise is correct: any anti-abortion position which hinges around conception is religious in nature and captures the imagination through the belief in ensoulement. There is no other possible origin for it.

And just so that’s clear, too, I am not saying there is no justification for an atheist to be partially anti-abortion (e.g. against abortions done after a certain time). It’s an idiotic position that’s easily refuted, and I’ve done so quite extensively on this blog (as I did for the pro-choice position as well), but at least there’s no blatant self-contradiction. My challenge only pertains to beliefs about the moment of conception.

Abortion: the endgame. [part 2/2]

Let me be more systematic now and look at each of the other positions compared to mine. First, let’s look at pro-abortion versus anti-abortion. Are forced childbirths worse than forced abortions? Yes, definitely. Childbirth is a dangerous, physically and psychologically traumatic procedure which entails grave consequences for one’s whole life (either to the child by adoption, or to the woman by raising the child). Abortion is not dangerous, entails much less trauma, and does not engender life consequences. So I don’t see how a pro-choice advocate could seriously call the pro-abortion position as bad as, or worse than, the anti-abortion position; consequentially, it just doesn’t add up.

Now, let’s look at pro-choice versus pro-abortion. Granted, an anti-abortion advocate is always going to be more likely to choose the pro-choice position as preferable. That goes without saying. But what is the balance sheet? Pro-choice advocates will argue that a lot of women will be desperate to have children and may rely on illegal means. A lot of women may also be depressed because of it.

On the other hand, the end result of pro-choice policies is some great lives, a lot of mediocre lives, a lot of terrible lives, and some agonizing lives. Yes, some children will be born with spina bifita, Tay-Sachs, leukemia, some form of mental retardation, and so on. Many will experience constant hunger and thirst, and will die of various preventable diseases. Others will live a stultified and brutish, but tolerable, existence. The fortunate few born in a Western country will benefit of a relatively wonderful existence at the expense of those other children, but will still experience psychological distress, suffering, disease, and death. This is what the pro-choice position demands that we accept.

Also consider the voluntaryist aspect of the pro-choice position. If we accept the belief that the consequences to the future life are of no importance, then so are the consequences of the future lives, such as the accelerating consumption of the resources of this planet. Yet rationally, this is an insane position. How can the collapse of our planetary resources be irrelevant?

The fact that we are all part of a finite ecosystem is incontrovertible. There are limits to growth within a closed system, and no whining about “the rights to my own body” or “God’s law” is going to change that… People are going to start dying in droves- not in the usual course that we are habituated to rationalize, but in dense concentrations that might actually make folks sit up and notice. For some reason, it seldom dawns on parents that they’ve delivered a death sentence upon their children’s downy-soft little noggins, but the jolt of ubiquitous screaming headlines will get their attention…
Jim Crawford, Confessions of an Antinatalist

We’re not wishing for mankind to be plunged into horror. But that’s what continuing to procreate does. The more people there are on this planet, the faster we bring disaster on ourselves.

Not to mention the more mundane forms of ecological damage, such as the fact that having a child perpetuates the pollution of our common environment (having a child will create an average of five times the carbon emissions that the parent is responsible for), the deaths and ill-being caused by this pollution (some studies contend that pollution is the #1 killer in the world), as well as the continued growth of urban development.

Politically, population growth also helps sustain the capitalist system which leads to these ecological disasters. Capitalism is predicated on unending growth, and that can only be achieved either by getting people to consume more, or by getting people to create more people.

Finally, from the point of view of virtue ethics, childbirth is wrong because it puts people in a situation of near-total control over other human beings. Not only that, but ultimately one only has children for selfish reasons, and therefore by treating those children as means to an end, which is itself a great evil. What it does is condition people to see others as means to their ends, and to adopt patronizing attitudes towards others (“I know what’s best for you”). Interestingly, both these are also functions of Christian indoctrination.

The only way the anti-abortion and pro-choice advocates can go to try to deny the evil consequences of their position is to fall back on the insufferable delusion that we have a privilege, a right, nay, a duty to inflict suffering. I think I have more than adequately answered those arguments in this series.

It is the fact that they both seek to bury in the sand the harm entailed by childbirth that makes them so odious and disgusting. It is the equivalent of war advocates omitting to talk about the murder of civilians (or as they love to say, “collateral damage”) while making a pro-war case. It is an insult to all the people who have suffered, it is an insult to our intelligence, and it is an insult to our sense of morality.

Because of this, I would like to suggest new terms, in the vein of people relabeling each other to make them look bad (except that my terms are actually accurate). I think we should call anti-abortion and pro-choice people pro-harm, and that we should call pro-abortion people anti-harm. While the former category includes many basically good people who wish no harm on anyone, they don’t give a shit about the harm of treating women and children as means to an end.

Another valid term is anti-responsibility and pro-responsibility, because my opponents don’t believe parents should bear any responsibility whatsoever for their failed “experiments” (I am referring here to children who suffer or grow up to make others suffer). If they did, they would hold that at least some abortions should be mandatory (in cases where we know that the future human life will be a life not worth living, or where there is a obvious risk of such a situation occurring, such as genetic defects in the parents). Since they do not, then they must properly be called anti-responsibility.

Before I end this entry, I also want to point out that a lot of the assumed bad consequences of pro-abortion policies (although not all, obviously) come from the assumption that making abortion legal or illegal is the very best one can do, and that any bad consequences that arise from it are inevitable.

I don’t think that is the case at all. Anarchism provides valuable insight into this issue. What we need to effect social change is not to pass laws, but to change the social context in favorable ways. People’s decisions are always mediated by the incentives of the social institutions they operate under.

It is true that making childbirth illegal would generate bad consequences, but these can be mitigated by social institutions operating under healthy incentives. At the very least, we can stop subsidizing procreation, start holding people responsible for their procreative acts, abolish marriage and promote alternate sexually-oriented lifestyles, and give more women access to a proper education (by which I mean something better than public schools and the standard school curriculum) and the financial means to pursue the profession of their choice.

As such, procreation is no different from any other real social issue. Yes, I would rather there be pro-abortion laws than there not be, but laws are not the answer. They can only at best act as a bandage in stopping the ongoing flow of bodily fluids (as they do in the case of murder, theft, rape, etc), but they cannot address the underlying festering, seeping, disgusting wound. Statist policies can never reduce the extent of social problems, because politicians and other people whose livelihood depends on the capital-democratic system cannot re-examine the premises of that system.

One final consequentialist argument I want to refute is the argument that being pro-abortion is useless because it will never be accepted by any sizable proportion of the population. But such arguments could be raised against any new position, and no one can predict the future anyway, so why should we care about such doomsaying?

The belief underlying this way of thinking is that a position is only worth adopting if it is popular. But ideas are not a popularity contest. Sadly, some people are so addled that they really believe reality is a democratic contest. They have not grown up enough to realize that democracy is a human construct and has nothing to do with the real world. Ideas either stand the test of reality or they don’t. Popularity has nothing to do with it.

And the pro-choice and anti-abortion positions do not pass the test of reality. Not only are each of their arguments easily countered, but I think I have shown that they fail consequentially as well. I think I have successfully proven that the pro-abortion position is the only reasonable position on abortion.

If you agree with me, please give generously to Project Prevention and the Women’s Medical Fund.

Thank you for following this series. I hope you liked it.

Abortion: the endgame. [part 1/2]

There is a pragmatic approach used by the pro-choice position that makes a lot of intuitive sense. Women, they say, will have abortions or make children no matter what the laws say, and so passing laws is pretty futile and only gets in the way.

At one level, I agree completely. Women will do whatever they want to do regardless of what the laws say. At another level, it’s completely irrelevant, because we can say the same of any crime. We don’t consider it futile to have laws against murder (private murder, anyway) even though people still kill each other. The same is true for mandates: the fact that we are mandated to pay our taxes doesn’t mean everyone will pay them.

The pragmatic objection is based on a misunderstanding of what laws are for. Laws do not serve the purpose of stopping a category of actions, and in no way can making a law itself stop anyone from doing anything. The intended effect, at least rationally, is to make it harder for people to commit these actions, and to stop those who have committed them; for actions which we consider dangerous to others, we seek to isolate those individuals from society as a whole.

As such, the purpose of a law for or against abortion is not to nullify the concept of “choice,” which doesn’t exist anyway. The purpose is to make it harder for people to have an abortion, or to have a child, and to punish those who have done so. Obviously the standard to establish this is higher than the standard to establish that something is unethical; one can believe that something is unethical without believing that we need laws against it (for instance, some of the particularly nasty things people do to each other in relationships).

I think we can expect laws against childbirth to be far more effective than laws against abortion, simply because childbirth and child-raising requires a lot more resources and a lot more social interactions than abortions. Unsafe abortions can be performed easily: it is known that certain foods or physical activities can bring this about, as well as, famously, sharp implements such as coat-hangers or sticks. Obviously, safe abortions require more equipment and know-how, but still far less resources than what is necessary to give birth and raise a child in our modern societies (barring the cases of depraved child rapists who imprison their children, but one can hardly call such slavery “raising a child”).

Unless there is a severe breakdown in civilized society, in which case children may be held effectively as slaves like they were in our feudal past, there is much greater disincentive for women to have a child in a pro-abortion context than for women to have an abortion in an anti-abortion context. So there is good reason to believe that pro-abortion laws would be considerably more effective than anti-abortion laws were.

I think the debate has been muddled because abortions are relatively easy to bring about, at the physical level. So there is sort of an illusion that choice is the natural default, and that law has little to do with it. But this obviously does not equally apply to child-raising, so pragmatic reasoning can only take us as far as saying that the anti-abortion position is relatively futile, but not that the pro-abortion position is relatively futile.

I am only addressing pragmatism insofar as it is part of the abortion debate. Generally speaking, I consider pragmatism to be entirely irrelevant to any serious debate. All that matters to me is whether positions can be backed by some logical argument or empirical evidence. If the answer is affirmative, then those positions deserve to be rationally considered and weighted, even if they are counter-intuitive or even repulsive. If the answer is negative, then those positions do not deserve to be rationally considered, no matter how popular or comforting they are.

Throughout this series, I have used logic to try to defeat pro-choice and anti-abortion arguments, and have used logic to propose arguments of my own. This entry, however, is not about logical arguments, but about something which is ultimately fallacious: the appeal to consequences.

Now, the appeal to consequences is used regularly against unpopular opinions in order to scare people against them. As such, it is a fallacy: the hypothetical consequences of an ideology do not prove that the belief itself is right or wrong. To borrow the example from the page I linked to, arguing that belief in evolution leads to immorality may lead us to conclude that teaching evolution is wrong, but not that evolution itself is false. There is no logical relation between the fact that all life can be traced back to common ancestors and the rate of shootings in American schools.

Likewise, some people may argue that forced abortions are too evil and that they therefore cannot accept my arguments, or that a pro-abortion position would, over time, lead to evil results. But these points, however valid, are not relevant to whether the pro-abortion position is true or not. They may be relevant to the issue of whether one should believe in it or implement it, but that’s a different issue; one can admit the validity of something without believing in it or wanting to implement it (both of which are active commitments).

Given that I’ve made a solid case (or at least a credible case) as to why the pro-abortion position is valid, can I also demonstrate that the pro-abortion position entails better consequences than the other two positions? Because of most people’s innate revulsion towards any procreation-unfriendly position, this at first seems like a tall order.

I’ve asked you to answer a question in order to post comments during this series. I did not do so in order to vex or frustrate you. My main objective was to get you to engage the topic at some level before you start arguing the same standard arguments and concepts. My other objective was to engage the consequentialist issue and keep it in your mind while I was going through the logical arguments, that behind all the pro-choice and anti-abortion logic lies very real suffering. It’s easy to forget that while keeping the discussion in the abstract, as I have done.

So, let’s review the two questions I’ve posed to you:

What maximum number of women dead from botched back alley abortions per year do you consider a fair and just tradeoff to prevent all abortions that would happen under a pro-abortion scheme?

What maximum number of children afflicted with spina bifita/Tay-Sachs/leukemia/cancer/Downs Syndrome/etc a year do you consider a fair and just tradeoff to prevent the distress of women who would not be allowed to have a child under a pro-abortion scheme?

Of course, my answers to both questions is a loud and clear zero. This may seem counter-intuitive to natalists. After all, women dead from illegal abortions and children born with degenerative diseases are just part of the collateral damage of bringing people into the world; without it, there would be no people at all, and that’s obviously worse. That some girls may grow up to become women who die from illegal abortions, or that some children may grow up to be diseased, is of no concern to them.

But this reasoning begs the question of whether a world without people is obviously worse. The trouble with such evaluations is that there can be no such evaluation without observers. A world without people is neither good nor bad; it just is.

But more importantly, consider that non-existing people cannot suffer and are not deprived of pleasures, and a world without people can’t be such a bad thing after all. So when I talk about deaths and horrible deformities being the price to pay for starting new human lives, what we’re actually talking about is a price to pay for an action which can never bring about a better state of affairs. No pleasure we experience is a net positive because non-existing people cannot be deprived of them, and the suffering we experience is a net negative because it cannot be experienced by non-existing people.

So saying that suffering is the collateral damage of starting new human lives is like saying that it is okay for an army to massacre civilians because it’s a collateral damage of conquest. Conquest is not a useful or productive goal for anyone but the elite doing the conquering. Likewise, procreation is not a useful or productive goal for anyone but the elite benefiting from the future exploitation of the new human lives. I know I’m not gonna get a lot of agreement on this but that’s the naked truth of it. If you’re not willing to accept this right now, then look for yourself; who benefits from population growth, who would suffer most from population degrowth, who is pushing and subsidizing population growth, and why are they doing so?

Go to part 2.

“Childbirth is our purpose!”

Because we are subject to so much indoctrination designed to elicit an affinity towards procreation and a desire to procreate, many confused people are led to the conclusion that procreation must be instinctual, that it’s part of what it means to be human, and even that it must somehow be our ultimate purpose to procreate. in the same way that it is a hammer’s purpose to drive nails and a train’s purpose to carry people and goods over long distances. Any procreation-unfriendly position is likely to run against these ideological obstacles, therefore it seems appropriate to address them.

First, let me dispel the belief that we have a procreative instinct. If we did, then with a rise in health care technology, fertility treatments, artificial reproduction, and so on, we should observe a sharp rise in procreation. Instead, we observe the exact opposite in the Western world, as reproduction rates keep going down. We also observe that this holds true for individual families (rich families are more likely to have some children, but the vast majority of families with more than three children are poor).

No, it is clear that what we have is a sexual instinct, not a procreative instinct, procreation being a side-effect, and a nasty one at that, of coital sex. Before the widespread availability of birth control, coital sex did entail the ever-present possibility of procreation (while homosexual sex, on the other hand, never has). But now, coital sex does not have to mean procreation; because we have no procreative instinct, and in fact many of us have some aversion (however slight or deep) to procreation, birth control is used widely.

These supposedly sex-specific instincts have been used as tools of sexism for centuries, especially the belief that “women are nurturing by nature” and that “women are meant to have children.” The fact is that we have plenty of counter-examples, but that because of social taboos we are unable to really evaluate how prevalent, or not prevalent, non-nurturing or voluntarily childfree women are. But because they are used as tools of sexism, we must reject claims of such instincts prima facie until the taboo is lifted and we can rationally assess, after a generation, whether they were entirely elicited by indoctrination and propaganda, or if something meaningful remains.

The very fact that such propaganda exists is inherently suspicious. We have no need of propaganda to tell people to breathe, eat, have sex, or sleep (although we may tell people how do to these things in a healthy manner).

There is a vicious circle in which indoctrination and propaganda become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, because they create a social climate where disagreement is suppressed (either explicitly by law or implicitly through intimidation and censorship) and agreement becomes normal, accepted, natural. Dissidents feel alone and scared, and don’t dare to speak up. In fanatically religious societies, the assumed benefits of religion and the assumed naturalness of religion are not questioned. It is simply posited that humans are naturally religious and that’s all there is to it. Same for natalist societies.

In a natalist society, the individual must, whether willingly or unwillingly, take on procreation as part of eir very identity. The human being is not just a being living in human systems, but becomes responsible for the perpetuation of those systems (be it the economy, the State, the family, the race, etc). We say that in capitalism, profits are privatized and losses are socialized; in natalism, we have the exact opposite: the benefits of procreation are socialized and the hardships are privatized. But while many people are rightly coming to the realization that capitalism is a false bill of goods, they are more than happy to take on the numerous hardships and risks of procreation for the benefit of abstract systems. In fact many are explicitly proud of this sacrifice.

This leads to a great deal of confusion about what is or is not natural for human beings. We always tend to believe that the institutions that exist in our present society are timeless and reflect something real about how human beings are made (we need government because people are innately evil, we need organized religion because people need salvation, we need nuclear families because that’s how it’s always been, we need a penal system because people who disagree with the norm can be converted by punishing them, etc).

No one will argue that procreation is not, in itself, natural. Of course procreation itself is a natural biological process, but so is cancer. The fact that procreation is a natural biological process does not have any direct ethical consequences.

Many people, however, believe that procreation is our objective purpose. Implicit in such a belief is an insult: anyone who does not procreate is objectively useless. This belief, therefore, serves to reinforce the indoctrination on childbirth; you are either objectified (“you are an evolutionary dead end”) or vilified (“you’re so selfish [for not submitting yourself to the mandatory sacrifice like we did]!”).

Science-minded people use the theory of evolution to try to prop up this belief. Because evolution works by differential reproductive success, with the “fittest” leaving more offspring and spreading their genes, we associate procreation with “winning.” This metaphor is then taken as literal fact and used to talk about purpose. The purpose of all living thing, it is surmised, must be to procreate, and so we must procreate too, or we will “lose.”

I have analyzed this bizarre set of beliefs in my entry debunking Richard Dawkins and my entry on the Ice Cream Argument. It is not really one single belief as much as a gradient of ignorance going from science-like metaphor-gone-awry (analyzed in the former entry) down to outright sports-fan thinking (analyzed in the latter entry).

What they, and the God’s will argument, all have in common is the desire to reduce human lives to the status of means to some abstract, inhuman end, whether it be God, evolution, or “mankind.” To which we have to reply: why are we beholden to these abstract concepts? A hammer and a train suit their purpose because they are inanimate, unthinking objects. We are not inanimate, unthinking objects (although many of my opponents think very little). We are able to deny any abstract purpose and put human values front and center, where they belong.

In fact, we already do so in the three categories I’ve mentioned. We have already issued our “fuck you” to natural selection with modern medicine; by the way we treat each other, we obviously don’t believe in “mankind”; and organized religion is constantly “reinterpreting” God’s will in accordance with secular morality.

Since my opponents have no qualms treating children and (in most cases) pregnant women as means to an end, in order to fully debunk the argument, I should answer this question: why is it wrong to treat human beings as means to an end? Why should we care? Because the proposition that we should not treat human beings as means to an end is fundamental to our conception of justice. We oppose murder, theft, fraud, assault, and we don’t want to be subject to them, because they harm us, but the basis of this harm is that we are treated as a means to someone else’s end instead of being treated as moral agents. There are plenty of actions which are painful or harmful which we gladly accept because they help fulfill our values.

Furthermore, treating people as means to an end goes against the most crucial social values: freedom, equality and cooperation (people using others as means to an end elevate themselves as an elite class exempt from the manipulations they inflict on others), consent (using people as means to an end is either done against their consent, or by manipulating their consent) and human rights (to use others as means to an end is to prevent them from fulfilling their own values). The ultimate end result of treating people as means to an end is slavery, which is also the opposite of being in society; slaves are objects, not equals. But the more we treat someone else as a means to an end, the more we treat them like slaves.

All of this may seem uncontroversial to my opponents, but, if that is the case, they must explain why they believe it is perfectly fine to use children and pregnant women as means to an end, when they already agree that it is wrong to treat people as means to an end. And if my premises seem controversial to them, they must explain why they believe it is fine to use people as means to an end given all that I’ve already said. Both prospects seem rather daunting, although I am open to refutations.

Note that I am not saying that pro-choice advocates should not believe in “mankind” or in choice, or that anti-abortion advocates should not believe in God or in “ensoulement.” What I am saying is that they should not seek to impose concrete harm on the basis of these abstract concepts. Whether their ends are justified is a separate issue, which I think I have sufficiently addressed in previous entries. But either way, whether these ends are justified or not, it is still wrong to treat people as means to an end (I wholeheartedly reject the consequentialist argument that it is okay to sacrifice lives as long as it serves a greater justified purpose).

The only right conclusion, I believe, is that there cannot be such a thing as a right or duty to impose harm on others. And the only position compatible with this conclusion is the pro-abortion position.

Now, I mentioned God’s will regarding procreation, but I left the discussion of this topic for the end, so that you may skip over this theological ending if you wish. Now, it is true that Genesis 1 states:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it

However, contrary to what Christians believe, this is not a command given to humans but rather a blessing. Not only does it say so in the verse itself, but consider these other verses in Genesis 1:

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

Obviously God is not commanding the whales and the fowls to procreate. How would a whale or a fowl understand commands? It is very obviously a blessing, not a command. So the belief that God commands humans to procreate in the Bible is plainly false on its face.