Abortion on demand and without apology (Kiwi edition)

(Via The Hand Mirror 2008-06-11, via The Hand Mirror 2008-06-17, via comments on feministe 2008-06-16.)

New Zealand’s abortion law, unlike, for example, the United States’s existing case law, does not recognize a basic privacy right to abort a pregnancy without government interference. The law is restrictive in theory, but applied fairly liberally in practice; like many abortion law reform proposals that were entertained in the United States in the years shortly before Roe v. Wade, it requires a woman to get permission from institutionally-privileged consultants before she can get an abortion, but the criteria for permitting a therapeutic abortion are broad enough (especially under the heading of the pregnant woman’s mental health) that they can be, and are, handed out pretty liberally. But as Cindy Cisler pointed out in 1969, no matter how superficially liberal an abortion law regime may be, these kind of requirements for mediating reproductive choice through politically-anointed medical experts are really a dangerous trap, just waiting to be sprung. Thus, witness Justice Forrest Miller’s recent ruling on the workings of the Kiwi Abortion Supervisory Committee:

In a review of the workings of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, initiated by Right To Life New Zealand, Justice Forrest Miller said there was a reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions.

Jusice Miller was delivering his judgment following a hearing at the High Court at Wellington in April.

Right to Life had claimed the Abortion Supervisory Committee had failed to properly interpret the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act, so full regard is given to the rights of unborn children.

It sought to find the committee had failed its statutory duty to review the procedure for abortions and enquire into the circumstances in which consultants authorised abortions on mental health grounds.

It said the committee had failed to seek proper information on the mental health grounds from consultants.

It also sought to find the committee had failed in its duty to ensure adequate counselling facilities were available.

A registered practitioner can only lawfully carry out an abortion if they act under a certificate issued by two certifying consultants.

The Abortion Supervisory Committee said it had no power to review or oversee the clinical decision-making process.

It denied New Zealand had abortion on request, and said there was no evidence of this.

In his judgment Justice Miller found the Abortion Supervisory Committee had applied the abortion law more liberally than Parliament had intended.

There is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants, he said.

Justice Miller said the abortion law neither confers or recognises a legal right to life of the unborn child.

However, he said the Bill of Rights, through the abortion law, had recognised the unborn child had a claim on the conscience of the community, and not merely that of the mother.

— stuff.co.nz (2008-06-10): Abortion law being used too liberally

Give me a call when the fetus has a claim on the bodies of the community, and not merely that of the mother.

Then maybe they can have something to say about it. In the meantime, though, as long as it’s just weighing on their consciences and not on their abdomens, it really is merely the mother, not the rest of the community, whose conscientious deliberation ought to matter when it comes to continuing the pregnancy. Of course, the bellowing busybody blowhard brigade has every right to be just as loudmouthed as they want to be, on their own time, in their own space, and on their own nickel, about what their consciences tell them ought to happen in other people’s wombs. But certainly neither they, nor the government, has any right to commandeer another woman’s reproductive system against her will, or to coerce her into even one more day of pregnancy or forced labor for the sake of satisfying their own qualms.

Abortion on demand and without apology.

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  1. Natasha

    What constitutes the “community”, and how does the judge know that “it” cares?

    Sounds like rhetoric that masks a claim by the right to lifers over a woman’s body.

    Ok. That was really pointing out the obvious ( : ( :

  2. Araglin

    Rad,

    I know that this is a highly contentious area, and one about which I am not entirely well-versed, but as I respect the heck out of you, and agree with you on nearly 100% of your published views, I thought I’d ask you a couple of questions to help clarify what differences, we may have on this issue, and what your reasons are for those points about which we differ…

    You said: “But certainly neither they, nor the government, has any right to commandeer another woman’s reproductive system against her will, or to coerce her into even one more day of pregnancy or forced labor for the sake of satisfying their own qualms.”

    Questions:

    What would be your response to someone who agrees entirely with the above-quote, but who says that by itself this only goes to show that a pregnant woman has a right to have the foetus removed from her woman, if her means of doing so is conforms to the principle of proportionality? Just as, for example*, if I own an airplane and I take someone up to 10,000 feet, and thereafter decide that I want my passenger to vacate the premises, I can’t simply push the passenger out the cargo bay (without, in the very least, providing a parachute…), let alone cut the passenger up into small pieces and then throw those pieces out the cargo bay.

    I’m not totally up on the science and the relative dangers of c-section removal vs. standard abortion techniques, so please forgive the unrealism of the assumptions I’m going to make, but here goes:

    Supposing that (1) foetus can be rights bearers; (2) that a particular foetus happens to be “viable”; (3) that removal of that foetus from the womb with the intention of keeping it alive, so that it might be given up for adoption, were no more dangerous to the mother than the standard procedure (as I understand it) of killing the foetus and then removing it piecemeal

    …wouldn’t it follow that to abort the pregnancy in the usual life-ending way could be a rights violation against the foetus, because under the above-stipulated conditions this means of ending the pregnancy were not properly proportional?

    It seems like both you and Professor Long take the principle of proportionality quite seriously (he has that great example about how if someone steals your diamond ring and swallows it, you can’t take it back that instant by slashing open the thief’s stomach, but may detain the thief until the ring “passes” the usual way), but I have never heard you mention in it the context of the abortion debate. Just as many right-libertarians might be overinclined to come to the defense of a land owner who shoots trespassers on sight and without warning so as to defend the sanctity of private property, I wonder if your support of “Abortion on demand and without apology” might not be an instance of a similar left-libertarian error vis-a-vis the sexual autonomy of women…

    If this comment strikes you as utterly ridiculous or offensive, please cut me some slack, as I truly would like to learn more about your position on this question.

    Regards, Araglin

  3. Discussed at anthro.pophago.us

    anthro.pophago.us » del.icio.us links for 2008.06.18:

    […] Abortion on demand and without apology (Kiwi edition) […]

  4. John K.

    “Without apology,” huh?

    I’m as libertarian as they come, but thank God God gave me a free mind to recognize a morally reprehensible act when I see it, and to call a spade a spade as occasion warrants. Shame and regret over an abortion is a reasonable and redeeming response to having made such a mistake and the mistakes that led up to it. Not that I get my jollies over the thought of women who’ve had abortions being plagued by guilt their every waking moment. I hope they may find peace despite the violence they have introduced into the midst of their own lives.

    A certain brand of “feminist” may want to exclude and expunge any and all sense or feeling that there is anything wrong with abortion, anything to be “sorry” at all for. Their efforts do not convince me to see things their way, and their shamelessness invites only my contempt. Live and let live, or let kill in the case of abortion. But I’ll be damned if I let myself be fooled into thinking that my commitment to the libertarian non-aggression principle entails not recognizing that murdering a baby in the womb is reprehensible and deserving of the stigma that naturally attends it.

  5. Natasha

    John K,

    The issue under dispute is whether a fetus really qualifies as life in a human sense of the term.

  6. John K.

    Natasha,

    As I see it, the issue currently under dispute, the one I was addressing, is the seemingly gratuituous use of the “without apology.” RadGeek meant something by that phrase, and I think it’s fairly clear what he meant.

    I don’t generally get quite as worked up about abortion as my previous comment might suggest. I do think our common sense tells us there is some difference between murdering a fully developed human being and killing a young unborn person who will naturally in the course of things, absent violent intervention, grow up to be a fully developed and realized human being. That doesn’t mean, by a long shot, that the latter is just A-OK, that it is not a contemptible act.

    I get more worked up by people who assert that there is nothing shameful about abortion. I beg to differ. They may not care what I think, but to the extent they’re going to go out of their way to let me know they don’t think they have anything to be sorry for, I’m going to let them know what I think. We’ll just have to agree to disagree, and I’ll just have to base my evaluation of their professed moral character on what I will. They may in turn think I’m a rube for that evaluation.

    Note that I don’t go out of my way to make moral judgments about people who by my lights have apparently made mistakes. I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself, and it’s not for me to judge others’ souls. It’s the people who proudly admit to having done such and such, and loudly proclaim in so many words “so what?”, that almost necessarily require others to judge the worth of their characters as they’ve presented it to the world. It’s not so much what the person has in fact done, but the person’s own evaluation of his or her own conduct, that invites the judgment.

  7. anikhaque

    If you talk to most people, there’s generally very little disagreement concerning the difference between right and wrong on the issue. However when the debate is framed ideologically as opposed to one about a medical procedure, then the debate tends to become polarized for some reason. The debate seems to be more about language more than anything else. When people argue about whether abortion is right or wrong, they are usually not talking about the circumstantial ethics of a medical procedure because there really isn’t much disagreement about that. As a society, we’ve come to a consensus on that. If you can avoid thinking about the issue in ideological terms, there’s really very little to discuss.

    In this specific case, I believe Charles is right. It’s the woman who decides, and she shouldn’t need the State’s authority get the procedure.

  8. Aster

    Well, Charles. Do you see why I consider libertarianism to be hopeless? You believe you can make a socially progressive movement with these people?

    The reality of abortion in New Zealand as I understand it is that while the law on the books is pretty bad, in reality anyone with even a moderate ability to work the bureaucracy (which employs a substantial number of feminists and allies) can obtain an abortion. But I absolutely agree with you that this is a time bomb waiting to go off, and to trust the system to remain liberal is grotesquely naive and irrational.

    When I first read the NZ statute text on abortion a few years ago, it left me numb and depressed for a week. It killed all of my enthusiasm for immigrating until some time later when I felt I simply had to get out; only this did I read more closely and get a sense of the de facto law.

    Incidentally, what I think is grotesquely immoral is all the people (including libertarians) who support prostitutes’ rights on the gounds that they want prostitutes available and then want to ban abortion- and believe me, I’ve had this angry conversation with men a few times. Makes me want to throw blunt objects.

    Abortion is more than just another right- anyone who doesn’t believe that women have an absolute right to do what they wish with their own body are either pushing for stark slavery or don’t really recognise women as human beings. For those who believe in an ethos of individualism and self-actualisation, it is properly a sacrament.

    I’m forwarding your post to a Wellington anarcha-feminist list I’m on.

  9. Araglin

    Aster said: “Well, Charles. Do you see why I consider libertarianism to be hopeless? You believe you can make a socially progressive movement with these people?

    Out of curiousity, based upon my above-comment, was it your intention to class me above the “these people,” who you would consign to the outer-darkness of unprogressiveness?

    Aster said: “Abortion is more than just another right- anyone who doesn’t believe that women have an absolute right to do what they wish with their own body are either pushing for stark slavery or don’t really recognise women as human beings. For those who believe in an ethos of individualism and self-actualisation, it is properly a sacrament.”

    On every libertarian conception of justice that I’ve ever encountered, one’s right to do anything one wishes with one’s body stops when what one does with it amounts to an unconsented to boundary-crossing vis-a-vis the moral sphere of another. Perhaps you reject that conception of justice, but supposing you accept some version of it, let me ask you this:

    Let’s stipulate that a pregrant mother may do “what she wishes” with her own body, and that she has no primary positive obligations to the foetus. How would you respond to my questions regarding the moral requirement of proportionality?

    Which if any of the premises I set forth do you reject? Or, if the answer is none, is there some flaw in my reasoning?

    Thanks, Araglin

  10. Bob Kaercher

    John, this is going to come off as awful glib, but your replies imply a certain amount of arrogance of which you seem rather unaware.

    Judging by your name I assume you’re not capable of bearing children. You therefore have an awfully comfortable position from which to evaluate what women may or may not do with their bodies. The last time I checked, a foetus develops within the female anatomy.

    But the more important point is that nobody has any right to force or coerce anyone to do anything with their own bodies, or to coercively restrict them from doing anything with their own bodies, regardless of gender and the subject under discussion, which is certainly inclusive of a woman’s choice of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to full term.

    If there are any women out there who feel guilt or shame over having had an abortion, it just may be more due to the constant haranguing by self-righteous self-anointed keepers of other people’s bodily functions who help to reinforce those feelings, rather than to the actual fact that such a woman is exercising self-government over her own body and the biological workings thereof, for which abosolutely nobody—female or male—should ever have to apologize to anyone.

  11. John K.

    Bob:

    I generally agree with you that laws prohibiting abortion are wrong and immoral. But in the same breath I would also emphasize that abortion itself is also wrong and immoral. Both represent unwarranted acts of coercion and violence.

    Just because something is wrong doesn’t mean the State has the right to punish people for doing it. I think it’s outrageous to put people in jail for engaging in prostitution, but a ho is still a ho.

    Legalize and stigmatize. Perhaps if our culture was more informed by moral sense and gave more scope to good old-fashioned social censure the people who want to use the State to coercively impose their moral values would have less support, because there would appear to be less call for such coercive and punitive measures.

  12. nath

    I might point out that Charles may be pointing out that a woman shouldn’t have to apologise to someone else. If a woman experiences regret over an abortion it is a personal matter, and if a woman doesn’t, what are you going to do about it? Subject them to verbal abuse? Tell them they’ll burn in hell? Beat them up? Burn them at the stake?

    What is “good” social censure anyway? Isn’t understanding better than promoting guilt to bury women in a hole where they get no support? This is a reversal of social progress in my view.

    To perhaps broaden the debate, one might say that the simple-minded pro-life position tends to ignore the fact that there is no guarantee a healthy baby is going to emerge. I think once you’ve seen some of the grotesque natural things that can happen to fetuses it should be a bit difficult to be so narrow-minded about it. What about babies with clearly identifiable conditions that can make life unbearable? Unless you can blithely assume it’s “god’s will” you have to think about what a woman may have to consider.

    But that’s what the core principle comes down to. I don’t think you can really be serious about non-aggression when you believe in a certain kind of emotional aggression to enforce a moral belief in a mob-like way, even if it does not originate within the state. I think you could draw a parallel between the tendency of a more powerful social group to impose its “normal” values on a less powerful one and the growth of the state mind you.

  13. Aster

    “Out of curiousity, based upon my above-comment, was it your intention to class me above the “these people,” who you would consign to the outer-darkness of unprogressiveness?”

    If the shoe fits.

    I’m not interested in debating you.

  14. Natasha

    John K,

    On what grounds is a prostitute immoral? A free culture is not one where women are stigmatized for engaging in prostitution.

  15. Aster

    Natasha-

    Do you really expect a rational response?

    Natasha and Charles- (on the same issue)

    See what I mean? Does this person desire freedom or desire libertarianism as part of a politics of unfreedom? This is what happens when you define ‘liberty’ as ‘opposition to the state’, absent the context ofindividualism and a love of individuals living their own lives in reason and passion. Ayn Rand was right, even if it has been the leftist liberation movements which have better articulated what the politics of a life of one’s own requires if is to apply to more than just the privileged. Freedom without the mind and soul of freedom is nothing- it’s not even freedom; it’s just renaming and moving the vile essence of the state back to other authorities who nakedly hunger for their until recently unchecked power to dominate and repress. In opposing the state what they want is to take a partially liberalised rival out of their way, and they are making use of a dwindling number of idealists who truly care about real liberation to do it. They are no more a viable opposition to statism than Islamism is an acceptable alternative to Western imperialism, and actually for extremely similar and parallel reasons.

    • a proud once and future ho, who is (gee, I wonder why) no longer a libertarian
  16. Bob Kaercher

    John:

    I’m not sure that you fully understood what I wrote in my initial reply.

    There is no reason for you or anyone else to “stigmatize” or “censure” a woman for exercising her own control over her own body by terminating the further development of a fetus that could only be biologically possible in the first place with the organic material of that woman’s body.

    If you wish to stigmatize or censure a woman for having an abortion, that’s certainly your prerogative, but I sure wouldn’t be joining you in the stigmatizing and censuring.

    And I would suggest that if “our culture was more informed by moral sense,” nobody else would, either.

  17. Robert Hutchinson

    As always:

    People supporting abortion, please note that at least some people who oppose it are making arguments from the premise of fetuses at least possibly being humans with rights, and also sometimes the premise that expelling humans from one’s own property can rise to the level of homicide. Responding to that with “personal autonomy la la la” without addressing the actual arguments is not helpful.

    People opposing abortion, please note that at least some people who oppose it are making arguments from the premise of fetuses not being humans with rights, or sometimes the premise that expelling humans from one’s own property does not rise to the level of homicide in this particular situation. Responding to that with “fetus murderer la la la” without addressing the actual arguments is not helpful.

    Thank you.

  18. Robert Hutchinson

    Oh, and I’m looking in the direction of the comments—Charles has actually addressed the issues I mentioned in the past, and will no doubt do so again. I can disagree with some of his conclusions, but at least I’m disagreeing with his conclusions and not what I imagine he’s “really” thinking.

  19. smally

    Aster, there’s no contradiction in the possibility that John is genuinely committed to freedom and also a complete asshole.

  20. smally

    Araglin, your plane analogy doesn’t really throw any light on the matter. If you own a plane and no longer want to put up with the company of your invited guest, the only cost to you of not killing him even though you really want to is putting up with his company until you find somewhere to land. The cost for a woman carrying a fetus she doesn’t want to term, and has not necessarily “invited”, is far greater. Among other things, it takes 9 months, risks postnatal depression, risks death, and permanently alters her body.

    Similarly, waiting for someone to pass a ring they’ve swallowed is not a big inconvenience. If someone bit your finger off, it would be a different matter.

  21. Anon73

    The best analogy I’ve heard for abortion is you wake up one morning surgically joined at the hip to a famous violinist, and the question is is it ethical to separate him at the cost of his life. The main problem with this analogy is people have to engage in behavior which carries a risk of creating the pregnancy, unlike with the violinist. (The ethics of saving a drowning man are completely different if you are the one who threw him in!)

    Frankly I don’t buy the rhetoric about a “woman’s womb”, “right to choose”, etc. If it’s not a person then sure yeah a woman has a right to choose, but if it is a person then ownership doesn’t matter. For example it’s not in accordance with rights to throw someone in a lake and then not offer them a life-jacket just because it’s your life-jacket, or you “have the right to choose” what to do with your life-jacket, etc. It’s obvious Charles feels particularly strong about this issue, otherwise he wouldn’t constantly allow himself to fall into propaganda-mode to preach about it.

  22. Aster

    Charles-

    You in the top 1% of progressivism in the libertarian community. And yet you still get this sort of tripe in your own forum.

    Life as duty. Women as wombs. Don’t have sex (if you’re a girl) unless you’re prepared to sacrifice your life to motherhood. “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live my life for another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” Sound familiar? But how many libertarians take this seriously today, or understand the soul of it, or are willing to apply it whenever its application flies in the face of accepted convention and privilege?

    Are you prepared to spend your life fighting this uphill battle, at immense potential risk to yourself, with no reward and a vanishingly low hope of success? I’m grateful for all of the noble things you have defended- but it’s 1932, and the anti-Nazi groups also preach about Jews, father, nation, and cultural pollution. When a culture gets to this stage it’s hopeless.

  23. smally

    Anon73, I reckon that even if you agreed to have the violinist joined to you to save his life, you would have the right to have him removed from your body even if it causes his death. Even if a woman deliberately gets pregnant, I think she has the right to remove the fetus from her body, even if it is a person. To say otherwise is to say that her self-ownership is alienable.

  24. smally

    Also, do you really think a woman’s sovereignty over her own womb is comprable to someone’s sovereignty over a trifling, fungible, alienable item of property like a life-jacket? Do you think the costs of pregnancy are similar to the cost of risking the loss of a life-jacket?

  25. John K.

    Aster,

    The reason I periodically visit this forum is that, in addition to being a libertarian, I’m also pretty far to the left economically (and in fact believe that being a true libertarian necessarily entails being on the left economically). It would be a pretty dull and unproductive world if we only engaged in discussion or “debate” with people who agreed with us on every single issue.

    I think it’s interesting that Zeno, the father of Stoicism, is also by many considered to be the “father” of anarchism. This may go a long way towards explaining the co-existence in my mind of a strong commitment to freedom and a strong commitment to what many might consider a stern or prudish moral code (but which I would describe as respect for the highest moral ideals). In the real world and in my real life I don’t spend a lot of energy actually engaging in “social censure” or encouraging others to do so. But the open assertion that we should have abortion “on demand and without apology” is really an assertion that there’s nothing immoral about abortion. As people living in society we care, not only for our own sake but also for the sake of others living in society, about promoting a truer understanding of what constitutes noble and ignoble conduct. The incorrect assertion that there is nothing ignoble about abortion (or prostitution) invites dispute.

  26. Araglin

    Smally said: “Araglin, your plane analogy doesn’t really throw any light on the matter. If you own a plane and no longer want to put up with the company of your invited guest, the only cost to you of not killing him even though you really want to is putting up with his company until you find somewhere to land. The cost for a woman carrying a fetus she doesn’t want to term, and has not necessarily “invited”, is far greater. Among other things, it takes 9 months, risks postnatal depression, risks death, and permanently alters her body.

    Similarly, waiting for someone to pass a ring they’ve swallowed is not a big inconvenience. If someone bit your finger off, it would be a different matter.”

    I really appreciate your replying to my question, Smally.

    You’re right to point out the non-trivial differences between abortion and the two examples that I gave of cases in which the principle of proportionality limits the means by which one can properly vindicate one’s rights. However, my point in raising those examples was not to force a conclusion that abortion is always and everywhere a rights violation vis-a-vis the foetus, but only that under certain circumstances it could be a rights violation.

    As I understand it, whether something is a proportional response to the invasion by another of one’s moral boundary depends to some extent on one’s available alternative means of responding.

    Accordingly, if the only available alternatives were either ending a pregnancy NOW in the usually life-ending way, or carrying the child to term (I’m presuming “term” is defined non-circularly as a full-9 month gestation period), it might be absolutely true that there was nothing extra-propropotional about having an abortion. On the other hand, if (as in my example), a foetus was already “viable” (and, recall, viability obtains at a much earlier stage of development now than it once did, so this condition would probably regularly obtain), and there were a safe means by which the foetus could be removed NOW without intentionally killing it, the moral evaluation of an abortion might come out differently.

    Whether a particular foetus is “viable,” and what the differential costs and risks are associated with non-life-ending foetus removal are to a large extent an empirical matter, and could be expected to differ from case-to-case and also over time. This is why I am very uncomfortable with categorical statements like “abortion on demand, and without apology…”

    To show my cards, I incline towards a position very close to practical pacificism. I think almost all cases where one person uses lethal force against another, are incapable of justification, even in most cases where the person so using lethal force is trying to prevent or vindicate a legitimate rights claim. If having such a high threshold for the justified use of lethal force makes me an arch-reactionary, or makes my entire point-of-view “tripe” (I don’t know example why it’s tripe since Aster is comfortable insulting me but isn’t “interested in arguing with me”), then so be it.

    Cheers, Araglin

  27. Bob Kaercher

    “People supporting abortion, >please note that at least some >people who oppose it are making >arguments from the premise of >fetuses at least possibly being >humans with rights, and also >sometimes the premise that >expelling humans from one’s own >property can rise to the level of >homicide.”

    Robert, the premises that fetuses have rights and that terminating a pregnancy is analogous to killing someone for merely walking onto one’s property uninvited are premises that need to be proven, not just assumed.

    And when someone suggests that feelings of guilt and shame following an abortion are natural consequences, that warrants a response of its own.

  28. Araglin

    Bob said: “There is no reason for you or anyone else to ‘stigmatize’ or ‘censure’ a woman for exercising her own control over her own body by terminating the further development of a fetus that could only be biologically possible in the first place with the organic material of that woman’s body.”

    I think it’s extemely important not to conflate terminating-the-pregnancy (that is, removing the foetus so as to prevent its further inhabitation of, and development within, the womb) with terminating-the-foetus (that is intentionally ending the life of a foetus which happens to be inside the womb at the time). Sometimes the latter may be the only feasible means of accomplishing the former, but it’s not self-evident why this should always be so. When it is not so, talk about the woman’s “control over her body” is not an adequate response to my position, because I’m not arguing that the woman has an ongoing obligation to remain pregnant and to allow her organs to be used for the further development of a life within her womb. Perhaps she does have such an obligation (but not an enforceable one), but that has not been argued here. The question is whether she has an absolute and unconditional right to kill the child arising straightforwardly from her bodily autonomy, or if under certain conditions such killing would be itself violative of the child’s rights (not rights to continued sustenance, but to not be intentionally killed) and therefore unjust.

    Thanks, Araglin

  29. Robert Hutchinson

    Robert, the premises that fetuses have rights and that terminating a pregnancy is analogous to killing someone for merely walking onto one’s property uninvited are premises that need to be proven, not just assumed.

    Yes. That is a good reason to engage them in debate, and if they are not willing to debate, then mock away. But “if the shoe fits” is not engaging in debate.

  30. Robert Hutchinson

    “Them” being the people with those premises, of course. I’m tempted to laugh at my inability to express my thoughts with complete accuracy in both replies I’ve made to an abortion discussion.

  31. JOR

    Libertarianism, consistently applied, legitimizes abortion, infanticide, and all the rest of it. I won’t argue with that.

    But as with the cases of hiring assassins, or starving your children to death, or torturing kittens, I think this is a good reason to not be a consistent libertarian.

  32. shiva

    I would also really like to hear Charles’s reply to Araglin’s question.

    I am absolutely unshakeable in my belief that a woman has the absolute right to get a fetus out of her body, at any stage of pregnancy, by any means necessary. Her body, her absolute sovereignty.

    However, i also don’t think there’s much meaningful difference between an already-born baby and a viable fetus which is still in the womb. (Both my closest friend and myself were born earlier than fetuses are routinely aborted in the UK for reasons of prenatal diagnosis of disability, whereas for non-disabled fetuses the limit is set at what is considered to be the limit of viability - which discrimination i consider to be frankly eugenic) - and i am definitely not comfortable, for similar disability-rights-related reasons, with Peter Singer’s infanticide-justifying position.

    I think a woman definitely has the right to induce labour if she is past the stage of viability, and to give the baby up for adoption and never touch or look at it again. But i don’t know if she has the right to kill it…

    (Unlike Araglin, i’m not a pacifist - i do believe that killing human beings is sometimes justifiable - eg, a rape victim killing her rapist, or an invaded people fighting back against an imperialist army. But, a) I do believe that the ethical thing to do is to minimise violence wherever possible, and b) a baby hasn’t done anything equivalent to rape or imperialism…)

  33. Anon73

    Even if a woman deliberately gets pregnant, I think she has the right to remove the fetus from her body, even if it is a person. To say otherwise is to say that her self-ownership is alienable.

    I don’t agree. Your argument is the same as saying if I steal X dollars then I don’t have to return it because my ownership of dollars is inalienable. Or if I’m a woman and I kidnap and surgically remove someone else’s womb for myself I don’t have to give it back because “the right to the womb is inalienable”, etc. Under libertarianism, let alone common sense, if you deliberately put someone else in life-threatening danger or harm them in some real, measurable way then that creates an obligation to remove the danger, restore that which was harmed, etc. If the fetus is a person, then the act of engaging in sex creates a real risk of putting a person into life-threatening danger, and hence creates an obligation to remove that danger, either by carrying the fetus to term or having it surgically removed and put in a incubator, given up for adoption, etc. You can see this principle in action when some right-to-lifers approve of abortion in cases of rape; the presumption is that if the woman did not have any choice in placing the person’s life in danger, then the person doesn’t have the right to be saved by that woman.

    Do you think the costs of pregnancy are similar to the cost of risking the loss of a life-jacket?

    If there were a single perfect analogy for abortion then someone would already have come up with it by now. :)

    Of course 9 months of pregnancy is not “trifling”, but remember we’re talking about a hypothetical person’s life here. Most people (including most libertarians I would hope), put the value of a person’s life far higher than either life-jackets or the discomfort of pregnancy.

    Charles is an intelligent and decent person, and I can’t imagine he is ignorant of these facts. Therefore I guess that, like myself, he doesn’t believe the fetus is a person, and therefore doesn’t feel bad about engaging in all the hyperbolic “right to choose”, “woman’s body is her own” rhetoric.

  34. Robert Hutchinson

    Libertarianism, consistently applied, legitimizes abortion, infanticide, and all the rest of it. I won’t argue with that.

    I will. Libertarianism tells us how to treat people, but it doesn’t provide any means of consistently and unambiguously categorizing the group known as “people”. Thus, some disagreement on child-rearing, and a good bit more disagreement on dealing with fetuses.

  35. LadyVetinari

    Your argument is the same as saying if I steal X dollars then I don’t have to return it because my ownership of dollars is inalienable.

    What utter nonsense. There is a clear difference between your body and stolen dollars. If you don’t see this, you don’t have much connection to reality.

  36. smally

    Anon73: >Charles is an intelligent and decent person, and I can’t imagine he is >ignorant of these facts. Therefore I guess that, like myself, he doesn’t >believe the fetus is a person, and therefore doesn’t feel bad about engaging >in all the hyperbolic “right to choose”, “woman’s body is her own” rhetoric.

    I have some other stuff to say, but for now this quote from a comment R.G. made earlier in a similar discussion might help:

    For what it’s worth, my position on abortion doesn’t have anything in >particular to do with a thesis about fetal personhood. I believe that if a >woman had a full-grown philosophy professor whose survival depended on >remaining lodged in her uterus, she would have the right to terminate that >pregnancy, too, even at the cost of the professor’s life.

  37. Rad Geek

    Araglin,

    I’m sorry I haven’t replied to your comments sooner. I have been either on the road, or preparing to be on the road, for the past few days. (Recent posts were prescheduled and are appearing on schedule, while I personally have little time to do anything but approve new comments out of the moderation queue.)

    The short answer to your question about proportionality is that I think that force up to and including lethal force simply is proportional to the moral seriousness of having your body invaded and your reproductive organs used against your will continuously for several months, especially when said has serious and sometimes life-threatening health consequences for the woman whose organs are being used. (For what it’s worth, this is also Roderick’s position, last I checked; cf. his article on abortion and abandonment.)

    shiva,

    I think a woman definitely has the right to induce labour if she is past the stage of viability, and to give the baby up for adoption and never touch or look at it again. But i don’t know if she has the right to kill it…

    Araglin:

    On the other hand, if (as in my example), a foetus was already “viable” (and, recall, viability obtains at a much earlier stage of development now than it once did, so this condition would probably regularly obtain), and there were a safe means by which the foetus could be removed NOW without intentionally killing it, the moral evaluation of an abortion might come out differently.

    Well, O.K., but then the issue is no longer the moral legitimacy of aborting the pregnancy. It’s the moral legitimacy of using one particular abortion procedure rather than a different abortion procedure.

    As far as real-world cases go, in the tiny minority of abortions which are performed late enough that the fetus might in principle be viable, procedures that result in the killing of the fetus, such as intact D&X, are almost always chosen over, say, simply inducing labor, specifically in order to make the abortion safer for the pregnant woman. (D&E/D&X are preferred over labor induction, hysterotomy and hysterectomy procedures, where they are possible, specifically because they have documented lower morbidity and mortality rates. Reason why is that, as it happens, trying to shove an intact human head out through your cervix and vagina is an extremely painful and medically risky thing to do. I do not think that proportionality demands taking on significant additional pain and risk of illness or death in order to evict an unwanted user of your internal organs, any more than it demands not evicting them.)

    Moving from real world cases to imaginary cases, sure, if you invent a magical means of teleporting viable fetuses out of the uterus without having to pass them through the cervix and vagina, and without having to cut them out, and the magical teleport procedure has no complications that would make it in any other way riskier than D&E/D&X, then I’d be willing to accept that if a fetus is a rights-bearing person (a premise I’m not convinced of, but also have not ruled out of court as of yet), then you might have a moral obligation to use that particular procedure to abort the pregnancy rather than to use D&E or D&X. But, again, that would not be an exception to the call for abortion on demand and without apology; it would only be an argument for choosing one method of abortion on demand as opposed to a different, less practically rational method.

    Anon73:

    For example it’s not in accordance with rights to throw someone in a lake and then not offer them a life-jacket just because it’s your life-jacket, or you “have the right to choose” what to do with your life-jacket, etc.

    1. The demands of proportionality are different with regard to use of a life-jacket and with regard to use of your body and reproductive organs. The latter is a much more serious invasion and thus permits a much more serious response.

    2. As I’ve argued elsewhere, I think arguments by analogy with these chucking-a-passenger-off-the-boat, evicting-a-passenger-out-the-airlock sorts of cases are fundamentally bogus, because the cases are fundamentally disanalogous. The reason that throwing somebody out into a lake creates a duty of rescue for you is because of your prior violation of their rights by throwing them in the lake. But I don’t consider conception to be a violation of the rights of the creature conceived. Therefore the pregnant woman doesn’t incur a duty of rescue as some form of compensation, as in the life-jacket example.

    Similarly, the reason that taking somebody aboard a boat or a spaceship creates a duty for you to deliver them safely — which is a close variation on the duty of rescue — is because your actions put a formerly independent person (voluntarily or involuntarily) in a situation where they are dependent on the continuous use of your property in order for them to survive until they eventually can recover their original state of independence. If there is a duty to safely deliver, then it only exists in virtue of their right to recover their prior state of independence. But a fetus which has never been in a prior state of independence has nothing to recover. Helping it achieve a new and unprecedented state of independence, by your own life’s blood, is just a positive benefit, which a fetus has no more right than anybody else to demand.

    There’s a lot more here that I will hopefully be able to come back to when I have more time to sit and write.

  38. Anon73

    But a fetus which has never been in a prior state of independence has nothing to recover.

    I guess this is where we disagree then, because my moral intuition is that it’s still right to offer that person a chance at living independently even if they had no previous independent state.

    And as long as we’re discussing fantastical scenarios, I’ve always thought that genetically grown “super soldiers” in scifi were examples of rights-violations, because even though they did not exist before being created it’s still a violation of their rights to create them with inborn loyalty to evil arch-villains who want to take over the galaxy. I’m curious, would genetically creating a slave race of docile, obedient serfs like in Brave New World be objectionable to you, and if so on what basis?

  39. Rad Geek

    John K.:

    I agree with you on the general principle that there are some things which ought to be socially stigmatized, although they should not be legally prohibited. (I take that proposition to be central to any thick conception of libertarianism.) I strongly disagree with you about which specific things those are. I’d be happy to discuss why in the near future, when I have more leisure to write about it.

    However, for the time being, I will say that I enjoy wide-ranging discussion and reasoned debate, but my website is absolutely not a forum for slagging on women in prostitution, and there are certain common slurs which I think damage rather than contributing to the discussion. Please do not use a word like ho here again. Thank you.

  40. John K.

    Rad Geek:

    No prob. It’s generally not my style to use words like that. It seemed appropriate at the time in the context of the discussion and related to the point I was trying to make, but I understand that ultimately on this forum its use was not constructive.

  41. Araglin

    Rad Geek,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and courteous reply to my question. You’ve given me a great deal to think about, and accordingly any counter-argument on my part will have to come later.

    To make sure I understand your position, though, I would like to ask you a couple of follow-up questions regarding the importance your argument ascribes to a person having a “former state of independence” so as to distinguish abortion from spaceship or duty-of-rescue type analogies.

    You said: “Similarly, the reason that taking somebody aboard a boat or a spaceship creates a duty for you to deliver them safely — which is a close variation on the duty of rescue — is because your actions put a formerly independent person (voluntarily or involuntarily) in a situation where they are dependent on the continuous use of your property in order for them to survive until they eventually can recover their original state of independence. If there is a duty to safely deliver, then it only exists in virtue of their right to recover their prior state of independence. But a fetus which has never been in a prior state of independence has nothing to recover. Helping it achieve a new and unprecedented state of independence, by your own life’s blood, is just a positive benefit, which a fetus has no more right than anybody else to demand.”

    What if, to pursue the space ship analogy a bit further, the situation were as follows: -I legitimately own a space ship, which is capable of interplanetary travel. -I agree to take aboard two passengers, John and Jane, for a trip to Mars, by their purchase from me of two tickets (each of which tickets entitles exactly one person to safe passage to Mars and back, meals and lodging while on board, etc.) -While in transit, John and Jane (board to death by the lack of other entertainment aboard the ship) have sexual relations, which results in Jane becoming pregnant. -She gives birth to a child, Jane Jr., midway through the trip. -I politely refuse to convey Jane Jr. back to planet Earth, on grounds that John and Jane only purchased two tickets, not three, and further argue that Jane Jr., whose entire existence from conception to birth took place on my space craft, had no “former state of indendence.” -Accordingly, I toss Jane Jr. out of the spacecraft, to her parents’ dismay, whereafter she floats off to her death.

    Have I successfully avoided violating Jane Jr.’s rights (and the rights of John and Jane?)? Does this more stylized analogy adequately capture the “former state of independence” which your distinction in the above-quoted passage relies upon?

  42. Robert Hutchinson

    Well, O.K., but then the issue is no longer the moral legitimacy of aborting the pregnancy. It’s the moral legitimacy of using one particular abortion procedure rather than a different abortion procedure.

    I think that’s somewhat disingenuous. If my problem with abortion is that potentially viable fetuses aren’t given a chance to survive, then saying “aha, but induced labor is still abortion so you support abortion!” is meaningless, because the part of abortion that I don’t like is that the termination of the fetus is a foregone conclusion, not simply that the fetus has been removed from the woman.

    I’m also going to agree with Anon73 that I don’t see a human’s past lack of independence having any fundamental impact on the issue. I’m not dismissing it as not possibly having an impact; I just mean that I would need to see arguments from first principles, on the level of “why do we treat people the way we treat them” philosophy.

  43. Rad Geek

    smally:

    Even if a woman deliberately gets pregnant, I think she has the right to remove the fetus from her body, even if it is a person. To say otherwise is to say that her self-ownership is alienable.

    Anon73:

    I don’t agree. Your argument is the same as saying if I steal X dollars then I don’t have to return it because my ownership of dollars is inalienable.

    But nobody believes dollars are inalienable possessions, so nobody other than a strawman ever would give that argument. (Your general right to own dollars may be inalienable, but your right to those particular dollars certainly can be alienated.) Some (most) libertarians are inalienabilists about one’s own body and its organic parts; as far as I know no libertarians have ever been inalienabilists about moveable property. If a right to X dollars were inalienable, then I certainly would argue that you don’t have to return those specific dollars to the person you stole them. (You could be required to give something other than those specific dollars as compensation; just not those specific dollars.) But then the issue turns on whether or not you believe that a right to one’s own body and its organic parts is or is not alienable. If you want to deny that position, then some libertarians have (e.g. Walter Block), but you’ll have to give some arguments in defense of collapsing the distinction.

    Or if I’m a woman and I kidnap and surgically remove someone else’s womb for myself I don’t have to give it back because “the right to the womb is inalienable”, etc.

    I don’t think that if you steal a body part and have it implanted in you, your victim has a right to recover that specific body part by strapping you down and cutting it out of you by force. (For the same reasons that I don’t think that you can rightfully recover debts by, e.g., enslaving the debtor.)

    If you agree to be strapped down and have the body part removed, then they can certainly take that as compensation (plus some additional compensation for their time and suffering). But if you refuse, I don’t think they have the right to take it by force, although they do have a right to extract (very, very heavy) compensation from you out of alienable property you may possess.

    Araglin:

    I politely refuse to convey Jane Jr. back to planet Earth, on grounds that John and Jane only purchased two tickets, not three, and further argue that Jane Jr., whose entire existence from conception to birth took place on my space craft, had no former state of indendence. -Accordingly, I toss Jane Jr. out of the spacecraft, to her parents’ dismay, whereafter she floats off to her death.

    Have I successfully avoided violating Jane Jr.’s rights (and the rights of John and Jane?)? Does this more stylized analogy adequately capture the former state of independence which your distinction in the above-quoted passage relies upon?

    No, on my view you have violated Jane Jr.’s rights, but you’ve violated them in virtue of violating the principle of proportionality, not in virtue of violating a duty of rescue (which in this case is unintelligible, because a duty to rescue only exists where there is a change of condition to rescue somebody from). But then that just returns us to the difference between having to convey somebody in a space ship and letting them out the front door, versus having to convey them inside your body and having to shove them out through your cervix and vagina, head first.

    Of course, that may seem like an awfully opportune bit of fine hair-splitting. But I think one way to think about it is this: while proportionality demands that Jane Jr. not get put out the airlock, I think it does not demand that she be transported to the nearest safe harbor for free; the owner of the space ship would have a right to demand payment for delivering the child to the next safe point of exit. This generally is not the case in situations where the active principle is fulfilling a duty of rescue — for example, if I take you out into the middle of a lake on my boat, at-will rather than according to any contract, and then decide to evict you from my boat, I do have to return you to the nearest safe harbor, rather than simply evicting you into the middle of the lake, and I also have to do so gratis; I can’t rightly demand repayment for the conveyance, because a duty of rescue doesn’t create a claim for post facto compensation in exchange for the immediate exercise of liberty that I’d have to forgo, in the same way that an exercise of restraint in the name of proportionality might.

    Robert Hutchinson,

    I think that’s somewhat disingenuous. If my problem with abortion is that potentially viable fetuses aren’t given a chance to survive, then saying “aha, but induced labor is still abortion so you support abortion!” is meaningless, because the part of abortion that I don’t like is that the termination of the fetus is a foregone conclusion, not simply that the fetus has been removed from the woman.

    Well, my point here doesn’t have to do with finding a way to call somebody an abortion rights supporter if they’re really against almost all forms of abortion. Certainly someone who believes that any form of abortion in which the fetus is killed or left to die is morally unacceptable will certainly not join me in my subsequent argument that, in real-world cases, where any form of labor or hysterotomy or hysterectomy significantly increases the medical impact, pain, and probabilities of morbidity and mortality, women do have a right of self-defense to avoid that by, e.g., having the provider collapse the fetus’s skull before it is pushed through the cervix. But the point of mentioning the shift to a debate over the legitimacy of procedures is to point out how it would not make sense to call me anti-abortion, or someone who agreed with my argument, even though under a certain very tightly constrained and extremely implausible set of circumstances, where there is no significant difference in impact on the mother from the standpoint of self-defense (e.g. the completely imaginary post-viability magic teleporter case; I do not think there are any non-imaginary cases where these requirements are fulfilled, at least given the present state of technology), then I might argue that a method of aborting the pregnancy in which the fetus is not killed could in principle be preferable to a method in which the fetus will be killed (such as intact dilation and extraction). Because there the issue is not opposition to any form of abortion but rather preference of one viable abortion procedure over another viable abortion procedure. The point of mentioning it is not to spring a gotcha on somebody else, but rather to avoid a gotcha being sprung on me.

    I certainly agree that people who are O.K. with induced labor under certain circumstances but are opposed to virtually all other kinds of abortion, on the grounds that they oppose any procedure in which the fetus is actively killed, or in which the fetus is sure to die, or whatever, should be considered anti-abortion, not pro-choice.

    Anon73:

    I guess this is where we disagree then, because my moral intuition is that it’s still right to offer that person a chance at living independently even if they had no previous independent state.

    Well, what do you mean it’s still right? Maybe it’s meritorious to offer a being a hand up out of their existential state of dependence into a newly independent life. Who knows; for all I’ve said so far, maybe it’s even unethical to deny them the hand up. But my point, at this stage in the argument at least, is simply that there is no rightfully enforceable claim that the being has on getting that hand up; and, in particular, that being in that existential condition doesn’t, just by itself, create a positive duty of rescue on the part of the woman inside whom it exists. That positive duty depenends on a series of conditions, and a specific reduction of liberty from a prior state, which just don’t exist in the case of conception and pregnancy.

    And as long as we’re discussing fantastical scenarios, I’ve always thought that genetically grown “super soldiers” in scifi were examples of rights-violations, because even though they did not exist before being created it’s still a violation of their rights to create them with inborn loyalty to evil arch-villains who want to take over the galaxy. I’m curious, would genetically creating a slave race of docile, obedient serfs like in Brave New World be objectionable to you, and if so on what basis?

    Well, it would be objectionable to me, but not necessarily because it involved a violation of the rights of the people being genetically engineered. Clearly this kind of engineering, if possible, would be horrible, and would also be extremely dangerous, but I don’t think that anybody has the right to be born with some particular genetic makeup. (Suppose your parents chose to get pregnant even though they knew you likely develop male-pattern baldness or hemophilia after birth. Does that count as a violation of your rights, for which you can seek redress?)

    (Just to pick nits, Brave New World is actually a bit different, in the sense that the programs operated not just through eugenics, but mainly through the extensive use of non-genetic techniques, after conception and birth, such as fetal poisoning, forced drugging, etc. I’d be willing to call those rights-violations, because they involve active harm and intervention against an existing process of development; but I wouldn’t say the same of the simple fact of creating a child with a particular genetic profile.)

  44. Anon73

    but I wouldn’t say the same of the simple fact of creating a child with a particular genetic profile.

    Ah I can see the story in “Universe Today”:

    According to sources the giant firm StellarCorp has just acquired an additional 200 planets in its bid to “take over the known galaxy”. Through its program of offering parents cash-payments to allow their children to be genetically modified to be absolutely obedient to StellarCorp the biotech giant verges on the edge of total domination. Says the C.E.O. of StellarCorp: “The real beauty is our loyal servants voluntarily sell us the valuable land of their planets, enabling us to build new facilities and grow exponentially. What’s good for StellarCorp is good for the whole galaxy!”

  45. Robert Hutchinson

    Rad Geek: On my point that you responded to, at least, I will concede that I may have misread your point.

  46. quasibill

    What if Jane Jr.’s existence is a threat to(but not necessarily a definite nullification of) the spaceship’s chances of arriving safely at its destination. For example, if her existence increases the demands on the resources available for other passengers, including the pilot to the point that there is a significant chance they all will die before reaching destination?

    Is it still a violation of proportionality to flush her out? Her demands are being made at the expense of your biology, although perhaps not directly.

    I’m thinking that much of this discussion is exactly opportunistic hair-splitting, precisely because “proportionality” is a near meaningless term in a value subjective universe - it requires an appeal to a objective, universal standard of evaluating risks and benefits. I’ve yet to be convinced that any such objective standard exists, and that is precisely why I am a libertarian.

    I end up on the “pro-choice” end of the spectrum because I don’t think anyone has the right to interfere with the subjective risk/benefit evaluations inherent in a proper doctor - patient relationship. If we can envision Rad Geek’s alternate “teleporting fetus” universe, I might be persuadable otherwise. Until then, not so much.

  47. Araglin

    Quasibill,

    It definitely sounds right to say that the rightness of jettisoning Jane Jr. is far easier to establish under the conditions you posed. Just how great the increased danger to me and my ship has to get before I’m justified in throwing her out, though, I can’t say for sure. This is just the sort of problem that can’t be satisfactorily handled from the armchair, and why even the most diehard of apriorists have to resort so often to custom, precedent, phronesis, etc.

    Regarding subjective value and the difficulty of making determinations regarding proportionality, you’ve pointed out a real problem. However, the same problem rears its ugly head any time you want to make determinations as to what level of compensation may be recovered following a rights violation. Ex post, one can’t simply ask the victim how much she would have required in order to consent to the interaction (because, at that point, she has every incentive to lie). To say, though, that there’s some objective “just price,” seems itself problematic on value-subjectivism grounds.

  48. Aster

    I notice that in all these discussions of fetuses and spaceships, no one cares to mention the actual female human self: her desires, her control of her life, her ambitions, her passions, her dreams. All of this discussion treats women as inert theoretical objects, with little or no consciousness of what it means to have one’s body reduced to a tool for someone else’s use in the capacity of forced childbearing. A person who is deprived of the ability to life a life of her own, except at the price of repression of her sexuality, is deprived of a chance to life a total human existence and reduced to the status of a breeding animal.

    The entire pro-life position rests inescapably upon altruism, or patriarchy, or sex-hated, all (usually) all three. Women are to exist for the sake of others. Those who believe that someone should be forced to passively play host to another human being either deny to human beings generally or to a specific class of human beings a right to their own destiny, or do so specifically in the cateogry of sex. Either metaphysically other-directed, or we all should be, or we are somehow to live while omitting one of the most central expressions of our selfhood, passion, pleasure, and happiness.

    The hidden premises here are either that women should live without (heterosexual) sex unless they are to reproduce, that women are less than fully human, or that human beings in general are sacrificial animals. Without any of these life-denying premises none of these discussions could get off the ground.

    It’s undue generosity to treat this as a matter of rational debate. The same libertarians who cry bloody murder at the thought of their mere money being taken to save starving any number of starving children don’t object to a woman’s physical sovereignty being hideously violated for the sake of a potential child. What makes it all possible is an anti-self, anti-woman, and/or anti-sex worldview. Everyone knows it, any nobody says it because they aren’t willing to defend one portion or another of the notion that women are independent human beings with a right to life their lives for their own happiness, including sexually.

    Abortion rights activists have been me-too-ing the Christians for decades because they refuse to defend these principles. And thus the world is being lost.

    There should be no compromise or grant of the presumption of goodwill to those who could hold such a position. If you wish to be happy and live on this Earth, if you have kept the love of life you had in your youth, and if you want to see women included in this (because, for instance, you’re female yourself)- then straightforwardly defend your own life and happiness and treat the anti-lifers with the contempt that those who wish to reduce you to misery deserve.

    Note to libertarians: if you refuse to defend the rights that matter most crucially to the kinds of individualistic women most actually likely to value themselves and their liberty (or do so with zero passion and lots of cold and distant analysis which conveys that the human lives of women will be sacrificed with tomorrow’s throw of the logical switch), then don’t be surprised if your movement can’t appeal very well to women! Do you expect oppressed people to join you out of awed admiration for a dutiful theoretical rigour while you remain obliviously indifferent to their lives and happiness? And if this approach does attract people, what kind of people do you think it’s going to attract? And remember, this is the loudest pro-abortion site on the radical left fringe of the libertarian web!

    Charles, thank you. Again, I truly hope you can somehow succeed at this mission impossible.

  49. Araglin

    Aster,

    Look: some of us think the default position should be that killing people is bad and shouldn’t be done. The closer we incline to pacificism the more that general presumption against killing takes on a categorical and indefeasible character. Rather than try to shoe-horn my comments on this blog in recent days into yet further evidence in support of your general anti-libertarian position, why not exercise a bit of interpretive charity? Your smugness makes me less likely to come around to your position on this question, and I doubt that I’m alone in feeling that way.

    Lots of people (including politians and other sociopaths) have “ambitions, passions, and dreams” that they try to advance by killing people. Usually, however, the mere fact that the lives of those that these ambitious and passionate dreamers would rather be rid of constitute obstacles to the fulfillment of these ambitions and dreams does not justify their killing.

    To do that (that is, justify killing people), one has to show how such killing accords with the canons of justice, which in libertarian terms, means showing how the use of lethal force was a proportional response in defense one’s rights (or the rights of others) to one’s (or others’) person or justly-acquired property. Nowhere have I denied, nor would I ever want to deny, that all women have a general right to determine the uses of their bodies (including their reproductive organs). However, this general principle is subject to the proviso that any such use of one’s body must not infringe the equal liberty of other persons. For me at least, the sticking points in moving from the principle of bodily autonomy to a position of “abortion on demand and witout apology” are as follows: (1) whether certain things a woman does at one point in time can oblige her to do things that she wouldn’t rather not to at some later point in time (duty-of-rescue type situations). I’m frankly not clear on this point having been largely persuaded by Charles’s arguments; and, (2) whether killing a foetus always and everywhere accords with the principle of proportionality (given the dependence of this question on the existence, safety, and costliness of alternative procedures - hence the relevance of the empirical question of whether something similar in effect to Charles’s imaginary teleportation technology exists or might hereafter come into existence).

    Finally, you say: “The entire pro-life position rests inescapably upon altruism, or patriarchy, or sex-hated, all (usually) all three.”

    As for “patriarchy” and “sex-hatred,” the arguments in favor of the pro-life position that I’ve encountered, would apply equally in a world populated entirely by women, who through the magic of cloning, in vitro fertilization, and/or some other biomedical technology were able to get themselves pregnant without the intervention of either men or sex. Perhaps there are arguments out there that rely on veiled patriarchalist or sex-hatred (or perhaps these values motivate certain proponents of the pro-life position) but I haven’t seen any proffered here.

    As for the sneering reference to “altruism,” I have to admit finding it a bit funny. Not being a Randian, I don’t revolt in horror at the notions that human beings might have unchosen obligations to others (though, perhaps these are unenforceable for standard libertarian reasons), and that the promotion of the good of others is essential to the leading of a good life. Perhaps due in large part to the influence of Randianism, I think that the virtues of liberality/generosity and hospitality have been consistently undervalued by most libertarian thinkers, who tend to spend pretty much all of their time on the virtue of justice. This problem, then, tends to bleed over into an overemphasis on market-type exchanges at the expense of gift giving in imaginining alternatives to state power. In the end, bleating about our rights and the manifold violation thereof by the omnicompetent state (or, by the patriarchy), is probably not going to do a bit of good in actually changing things useless we can begin to cultivate the sorts of cultural practices one might find in one of Dorothy Day’s Houses of Hospitality: That is: Actually giving a shit about other people, especially people that are effectively without a voice or the material resources to look after themselves.

    Cheers, Araglin

  50. Aster

    Araglin-

    But I’m not trying to convince you. Why would I? The primary person to whom I’m writing here is Charles. There are a few others. I see no reason to justify myself to people whose values and standards I absolutely reject- and I see no reason on Earth why I should accept your conception of justice or morality.

    Incidentally, I agree that liberality and hospitality are values which I would have liked to see more fully recognised by libertarians, but not for these altruistic reasons. One can dislike shallow economism on aesthetic or eudaimonic grounds without wishing to get within a 10’ pole’s length of altruism. And a gift-giving virtue has nothing to so with unchosen obligations- as anyone who really desires to give a gift knows.

    As for caring about other people, I care a great deal about living and fiery spirits, including those suffering from social injustice (I know a little about that myself). For instance, I care about women threatened with forced childbearing (I’m sterile myself)- it outrages me precisely because the kinds of women who refuse to breed on comment are people who matter to me, and I can’t stand the thought of every young girl who hasn’t yet had her soul mashed in facing the kind of nightmare anti-choicers want to place her in.

    But this kind of caring is very different from the kind aiming to sacrifice women to fetuses- it’s a caring for something valuable, not a demand for fake caring against what human beings actually value. An honest person cares for others because these other matter to them personally or out of solidarity with the value of a kind of world they wish to see. Demanding ‘care’ and emotion out of some overhanging morality is a psychological monstrosity for the same reasons that faith is an intellectual monstrosity.

    And I don’t consider rights-talk ‘bleating’. And those who do so are not going to liberate anyone and don’t at heart want to. And if you find those who stand up for themselves unattractive then you love very different things in human beings than I do- personally, I’d run to join a political movement which really did vibrate empowerment and self-assertion. It’s that kind of spirit that real liberation movements tap into. Those teaching service by constrast enable only slavery, whatever their explicit claims to the contrary.

  51. Araglin

    Aster,

    Thanks for replying. I must say, though, that you’re pitching your message to a vanishingly-small set of persons. Think about this: I read Rad Geek everyday, and have done for several years now (and Roderick Long’s blog for even longer), and find myself in total agreement with almost every bit of content herein contained, although at times it has taken a while to think through exactly why he’s right. Somehow, however, despite this near unanimity, because I have dared to ask a couple of bona fide questions motivated by concern for all people and my commitment to non-violence, you deign me beneath your notice. Why? Because you can just tell that I am one of those “people whose values and standards I absolutely reject.” The fact that I have spent at least the last four or five years trying to working on questions relating to the achievement of “voluntary socialism” by market anarchist means counts for nothing because you detect “other-directed metaphysics” lurking beneath my prose.

    As for eudaemonism, sure, I follow Professor Long on this point (although, my conception of virtue is colored by my reading Augustine, the theurgic neoplatonists, and the “Blue Socialist” tradition of William Cobbett and John Ruskin). I’m for that reason, inter alia, also more than a bit queezy about self-obliterating sacrificial imperatives. My point is that sometimes the other who makes demands upon us (in the register of hospitality, not justice) comes unbidden, is a stranger, or otherwise confounds our plans, and that openness to the receipt of some as yet unexpected counter-gift from this stranger is part of what living well in times requires.

    I’m not interested in “sacrific[ing] women to fetuses,” but neither am I sanguine about sacrificing fetuses to women (or men, for that matter). Just as it is wrong to treat women as inert objects to be manipulated by men for their pleasure or convenience, it seems similarly wrong to treat an unborn child this way - by, for example, describing it not in terms of what it is, but by talking about its consistuent elements, a “clump of cells”… In the end, we’re all clumps of cells, but that doesn’t settle the matter.

    It seems to me that your emphasis on the fully individuated, “fiery spirits” as the only worthy recipients of care or concern is clearly going to bias you against the more undetermined being of the unborn, the old, the retarded, the handicapped, etc. Following MacIntyre, it seems to me that almost no one ever achieves the sort of rational independence that you rightly laud until after being nutured, supported, maintained, and educated for a long period.

    Good point about rights-talk as not being bleating. It’s really important, obviously, but it’s not the only important thing. Similarly, individuals are really important, but some things that are important are bigger than one person or take longer than one life to realize.

    Thanks, Araglin

  52. quasibill

    Aster,

    It is quite clear that you don’t share the basic values of decency and respect with most who comment here. The mere fact that you support the state for your favored outcomes makes me significantly less sympathetic to your claims of oppression. So long as you are okay with oppressing others to accomplish your goals, don’t expect extended sympathy when your vehicle of oppression gets hijacked by those who are more ruthless than you and used to oppress you and yours. Karma’s tough like that.

    Araglin,

    I think there is definitely an issue when you get to truly “hard cases,” like life-boat scenarios. We shouldn’t get too bogged down with them, but they do tend to demonstrate the limits of certain modes of problem solving.

    As far as RG’s argument against “rescue obligations”, I don’t buy it. First, children are born dependent on their surrounding community. And since they consume resources (such as food) that can be in short supply without contributing to productivity, they indirectly make claims on the biology of the community members. I’m not sure I can endorse the belief that passage through the birth canal is some sort of magical event that transforms a dependent fetus into a fully independent human being. It just doesn’t work that way, as long as you’re willing to consider context and not just rejecting inconvenient facts out of hand. (especially when you consider children who are born with severe congenital birth defects who will never become independent from the biological sacrifices of others).

    Similarly, it is not necessary for there to be an intentional rights violation for the duty to rescue to arise. If I negligently knock someone over a bridge, and they are hanging onto my arm so they don’t fall to their death, I personally don’t think I have the right to shoot them to get them to let go. I have a duty to attempt to rectify my negligent act - even at the cost of some risk to myself. Of course, the amount of risk I must assume is a valid area for debate.

    My objection to the pro-life position is more on the pragmatic or practical side, as opposed to the principled side.

  53. Rad Geek

    quasibill,

    I agree with you that the duty to rescue doesn’t require intentional rights-violations to obtain. I don’t consider conception to be any kind of rights violation, either intentional or unintentional. However, I don’t think that anything in the argument ultimately turns on this, because I don’t think that the duty of rescue, at least as I’m using that term, requires a rights-violation of any kind to obtain, either. (Thus, if you invite Jones into your canoe, on a strictly at-will rather than a contractual basis, and then you paddle out into the middle of the lake, you can’t just decide to evict Jones into the middle of the lake; a duty of rescue requires that you at least transport Jones back to the nearest safe harbor. But there’s no issue of a rights-violation here; Jones’s transport out to the middle of the lake was voluntary.)

    However, I deny that this kind of reasoning can be handily applied to an embryo or a fetus (which, never having existed before conception, never was invited, and which has no prior state to recover, and thus nothing that it would make sense to say you are rescuing).

    I’m not sure I can endorse the belief that passage through the birth canal is some sort of magical event that transforms a dependent fetus into a fully independent human being.

    I’m not sure I can endorse that belief either, but I don’t think that that belief is one of the premises of my argument.

    The issue here isn’t some kind of transition from dependence-full-stop to independence-full-stop. It’s a transition from dependence on a particular arrangement to independence from that particular arrangement. In particular, since we are discussing an infant being shoved out through one particular woman’s cervix and vagina, and then separated from the remaining umbilical contact with her uterus, the issue is that, whatever the newborn may now be dependent on, it is no longer dependent on her or her body specifically, on staying in that woman’s womb or being able eventually to get out through that woman’s cervix and vagina. This represents a definite change in the conditions of its survival.

    Consider a case where there is a clear, and clearly delimited, duty of rescue. If a child gets on an airplane which ascends to 20,000 feet the child now depends on staying in that plane to stay alive; when it gets off the plane, she no longer depends on that plane. The child may depend on other things, for all I’ve said, and there may be other people who have other, different duties of rescue towards that child, for all I’ve said, but whatever duties of rescue the owner of the plane may have had are discharged. Because the duty arises from particular relationships of dependence on particular arrangements and particular histories behind those particular relationships; not with the general existential condition of dependence just as such.

    The overall point here is that the notion of rescue makes no real sense to begin with except where there is some kind of prior state to be recovered; otherwise we are talking about something other than rescue, something much more like charity, which may or may not be meritorious; may or may not a prima facie or defeasible obligation; may or may not even be an absolute, indefeasible obligation; but certainly is not a rescue, and is not well established by looking at thought experiments where the duty is one of rescuing a person from an emergency predicament to the state that they were in before your current course of conduct.

    It just doesn’t work that way, as long as you’re willing to consider context and not just rejecting inconvenient facts out of hand. (especially when you consider children who are born with severe congenital birth defects who will never become independent from the biological sacrifices of others).

    I’m not really sure what this is intended to prove. I think that parents have a right to abandon children that have been born just as a pregnant woman has a right to abort a pregnancy. (Although the form that the abandonment can take obviously changes along with the change in the facts on the ground.) So if this is intended as some sort of reductio or afortiori argument, it’s going to flop because I’m just as willing to grasp the nettle in that case.

    If it’s just intended to prove that my contrast between the independence-dependence-independence situation of a rescuee, and the (nothing)-dependence-independence situation of a child’s development and birth, then I’ll just refer back to what I already said about that.

    If it’s not intended to prove either of those, but rather to prove something else, then I’m not sure what that something else is.

  54. quasibill

    To cut to the chase here, this:

    “The overall point here is that the notion of “rescue” makes no real sense to begin with except where there is some kind of prior state to be recovered”

    is what I don’t think I can agree with. I don’t think the notion of rescue requires any such antecedent state, other than life (in the generic sense) or “rights bearing” (in the sense used for the moral duty of rescue).

    One need not have been anything other than “rights bearing” and in imminent danger of serious physical harm. And for the duty to arise, some level of “but-for” causation between its current state and your prior, voluntary actions.

    Of course, this does return us to the question of what is a “rights bearing” being. And I haven’t been convinced of any clear, bright lines on this issue, either, including the magical birth canal line.

    Further, I locate myself on the pro-choice side because I don’t think that 3rd party interference in this decision-making process is likely to improve the justice involved. If the mother can find someone willing to do the procedure (or supply the drug, or whatever) according to their own conscience, then that’s the best dispute resolution we can hope for in this problem. It may not satisfy everyone’s conception of justice, but there are some issues that we just have to trust in each other’s moral rectitude.

  55. LadyVetinari

    I don’t think the notion of rescue requires any such antecedent state, other than life (in the generic sense) or “rights bearing” (in the sense used for the moral duty of rescue).

    But why not? How can you be rescued—how can you have any right to be rescued—if you have nothing to lose, i.e. no prior state that needs to be restored?

    And what on earth is wrong with the “magical birth canal” line? Coming out of the birth canal radically changes the fetus’s interactions with its environment and makes safeguarding the baby’s rights no longer at odds with the bodily integrity of the mother. It’s the perfect place to draw the line.

  56. Aster

    A fairly lengthy post of mine has been devoured by a hungry astral dreadnought lurking in cyberspace.

    Therefore, the condensed version:

    Araglin: referencing Augustine is SO not the way to impress me. Eew. Gross. Stop reading. Debate extremely over.

    Quasibill: Disagreement with libertarian reifications of freedom is not opposing freedom; your approach presumes antistatism is morally essential and that feminism (anti-capitalism, etc.) is a disposable ‘outcome’; I could just as easily play the reverse for moral points and treat libertarianism as the petty preference and patriarchy (etc.) as the uber-sin. I don’t support statism but do oppose libertarianism’s out-of-context opposition to the state, partially for (left-)anarchist/feminist reasons and partially for Randian reasons; mainly because the ‘state’ is just one rationalised and centralised form of coercion which is just one kind of oppression and making everything about ‘are you against Teh Tsate’ seems rilly silly. And it’s sillier to decide that oppression doesn’t exist because you don’t like me. Hate me as you wish, but don’t decide feminism (etc.) doesn’t manner because I don’t hate the state like you do. Even I don’t think I’m that important.

    Yes, I’ve been rude; some of my worst vices have been wildfiring of late (write and I’ll tell you why), and that is generally a bad thing. But I’ve taken worse from the libertarian world than I’ve given, and almost everyone but Charles shrugged at it for four bloody years and made endless excuses. Courtesy is wonderful where others actually respect you, but not here, and I’ve learned that it gets you nothing if you’re not in the equals club to begin with- which I finally get I’m not; I did try the courteous path and got stepped on anyway. Being a saint wouldn’t have made a slightest difference except to draw it out; ask a saint: Chris Sciabarra. He did everything unspeakably, inhumanly, perfectly for over a decade. And then got the same as I did for it. Given that, the moral condemnations here don’t make me feel much. I see the game now.

    So, OK, can we cut this conversation? I’ve spent the last few hours data-entrying pamphlets for the Freedom Shop collective, including a piece or two on D.I.Y. abortion. Way more proud of that than anything I ever did with libertarians. And I’ll be back in mye biz the moment I’ve the means to and I can’t bloody wait, for which some of y’all think I’m lower than dirt. Point: we’re on inescapably different sides. You guys want to put down things I’d die and kill to defend and generally have interests and values everywhere I don’t. You think I support murder (to start with); I think you support slavery (to start with)- beneath that disagreement are much worse ethical conflicts. There’s no possible agreement or discussion here, and I don’t enjoy talking to you and vice versa. I’ve felt just an impossible anger at libertarianism but it’s pointless to vent it here any more- and anyway it’s starting to just feel ‘past over’ and none too soon. So can we please just not talk? See you, if ever, on the barricades. I want my own life and I give up finding that here- libertarianism is still ‘their world’.

    And Charles-

    I’m so sorry. The efforts you have taken on occasion to defend me have been very deeply appreciated. But I just feel nothing but pain and fear and anger every time I deal with libertarians, even here. I feel awful for marring your site which such venom, but I don’t think what I think and feel is wrong. I’m going to force myself to stop reading anything to do with libertarianism- I just can’t deal with seeing this stuff any more. So goodbye; I’m not appearing on this site again, and this was the last one. But thank you for writing with such fire the kinds of things I had so desperately wanted to see in print for so many years. May you have any good fortune I can give.

  57. Araglin

    “Araglin: referencing Augustine is SO not the way to impress me. Eew. Gross. Stop reading. Debate extremely over.”

    Brilliant move, Aster! because if you reference someone in connection with one particular topic (the nature of virtue) you are obviously thereby endorsing that person’s entire worldview (up to and including, belief in double predestination, hell for unbaptised infants, and the justice of killing of the Donatists). I suppose you would then have to “stop reading” Wittgenstein or Bertrand Russell or Frances Yates or Saussure, as well since he had the gall to read Augustine, as well, rather than dismissing him summarily on account of his status as a Father (eek) of the Church (double eek).

  58. Araglin

    Aster, You should “stop reading” this website as well, since in the following post, Charles also seems to have made the mistake of endorsing a quotation from Martin Luther King, in which King himself endorsed a position explicitly held by “Saint Augustine” regarding unjust laws:

    http://radgeek.com/gt/2005/01/03/robert_e/

    Charles said: “As another famous Southerner once said:

    You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”

    —[Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail][LBJ]”

    I hope you’re happy now in your cocoon of ideological purity, where no one you read ever reads anyone with whom you fail to achieve total homonoia.

  59. Araglin

    Finally, You should never read Roderick Long again, either, since, in the following post, entitled “Two Cheers for Modernity,” he made these unforgiveable references:

    http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Long/TwoCheersfor_Modernity.shtml

    “I wish to introduce a cautionary note. Certainly on many major issues, the Enlightenment culture is right, and the medievalists and postmodernists are wrong. But from the standpoint of Objectivist principles, is it really true that defenders of the Enlightenment have nothing to learn from the medievalist and postmodernist critiques?

    “Objectivists typically give the Enlightenment high marks for its attitude toward reason, by contrast with the eras preceding and following. But the scoring procedure is suspect. Late medieval advocates of reason, like Thomas Aquinas, are treated as forerunners of the Enlightenment, as implicit rebels against the medieval worldview; their points are in effect awarded to the modernist rather than the premodernist party. Likewise, 18th-century thinkers who attempted to draw limits to the effectiveness of reason — e.g. Rousseau, Hume, Burke, Kant — are treated as enemies of the Enlightenment; their demerits get assigned to the postmodernist rather than to the modernist camp.

    “Yet Aquinas is a paradigmatically medieval thinker, having far more in common with Augustine than with the Founding Fathers. (Augustine, incidentally, is by no means the despiser of reason depicted in Objectivist lore; indeed, we all owe an incalculable debt to Augustine for championing the Greek philosophical tradition against those Christians who sought to jettison all pagan thought. Without Augustine, there would have been no Aquinas.)”

    I can play this game forever, but as it is admittedly rather asisine, I’ll stop for now.

    Next time, though, rather than expressing disgust or nauseua (“eww. gross.”), I’d hope that you’d do the hard work involved in honestly and courtesouly dealing with your interlocutors and their arguments.

    Thanks, Araglin

  60. quasibill

    LadyVetinari,

    “But why not? How can you be rescued—how can you have any right to be rescued—if you have nothing to lose, i.e. no prior state that needs to be restored? “

    Because if you can “die”, you can be rescued, in the most generic meaning of the term. The only necessary antecedent state is “alive”. I’ll grant that in the moral context, “alive” changes to “rights bearing”, if for no other reason than to avoid the equally messy question of animal rights.

    I’ve seen no common definition of rescue that requires the rescued to have been in an independent state prior to rescue. To me, that’s opportunistic definition grafting.

    “And what on earth is wrong with the “magical birth canal” line? Coming out of the birth canal radically changes the fetus’s interactions with its environment and makes safeguarding the baby’s rights no longer at odds with the bodily integrity of the mother.”

    I disagree, as I set out before (and Charles, to some extent at least agreed) - the road from dependence to independence is not one of “voila!”, it is a continuum, at least for most people (some never become biologically independent). When the baby exits the mother’s body, it still requires other entities to provide for it, and in that sense, sacrifice for it, for it to continue to live.

    Now, if you accept what seems to be Charles’s position, that you can go to a remote place, give birth, and then just leave the baby there to slowly starve to death or get eaten by a predator and violate no moral duty, then I’ll grant that you can call the passage thru the birth canal a bright line in the moral arena. I’m just afraid that if that’s your morality, we’re not walking the same path.

  61. Soviet Onion

    Aster,

    Sorry to see you go.

  62. LadyVetinari

    When the baby exits the mother’s body, it still requires other entities to provide for it, and in that sense, sacrifice for it, for it to continue to live.

    Exactly—other entities. Not one, singular, particular other entity, the biological mother, which is what the fetus requires. The baby can get by with its father, or an adoptive parent, or a clan-group or community (which has historically been the most common practice). The fetus can’t. Even a viable fetus requires the assistance of the mother’s body in order to get out of the mother’s body, although it may be theoretically capable of living outside. Whereas a baby could exist with no help from the mother at all. That is a huge change in its relationship to the surrounding world. It’s not a question of categorical dependence versus categorical independence, because everyone is “dependent” in some ways and “independent” in others. It’s a question of leaving a particular and severe type of dependence behind.

    As for “rescue,” I think we’re getting into semantic territory here. But even on semantic grounds, I think you’re still wrong. “Rescue” implies that you are in some peril that did not exist before—you “rescue” someone from a fire, or a flood, or a violent attack. You do not “rescue” someone from a state they have always been in from the moment their existence began. That is more what people would describe as “charity” rather than “rescue.” I have never heard, for instance, helping someone with a congenital illness described as “rescue.”

  63. quasibill

    “Whereas a baby could exist with no help from the mother at all.”

    Not in my hypo involving a remote place if only the mother is there during birth.

    “The baby can get by with its father, or an adoptive parent, or a clan-group or community (which has historically been the most common practice). “

    So, does those entities have duties to the birthed child, or do you agree with Charles’s apparent position of zero duty, ever? Why does it make a difference whether it is a collective duty or an individual one? (personally, I don’t believe in collective duties at all - common duties, but not collective ones)

    ““Rescue” implies that you are in some peril that did not exist before”

    Yeah, I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree here. To me, rescue merely requires saving someone from imminent death or serious injury. I’ve never seen any definition contain the caveat you and Charles are adding to the term “rescue”.

    But I will agree that “rescue” is a poor term to use to describe a scenario where you are discussing whether you have a right to kill the subject. But that’s why I’m suspicious of anyone who thinks that they have the unassailably “right” position on abortion. It’s the veritable “hard case”, although a common one in fact.

  64. Rad Geek

    quasibill,

    Now, if you accept what seems to be Charles’s position, that you can go to a remote place, give birth, and then just leave the baby there to slowly starve to death or get eaten by a predator and violate no moral duty,

    That is certainly not my position.

    First, because the only things I’ve said in regard to abandonment have to do with respect for rights, not with moral duties broadly. I think that there are a lot of cases where it would be immoral to abandon a child but not a violation of that child’s rights.

    Second, because in the specific case you mention, I think that exposing the infant would be a violation of its rights. The mother has no enforceable duty to provide ongoing care for the infant (any more than she has enforceable duties to provide ongoing care to anybody), but if they are available and if it is possible for her to do so, she does have a duty to take the infant to the nearest safe place where it might be cared for (e.g. a hospital, foundling home, fire department, whatever) before she leaves it. Reason being that proportionality can potentially demand carrying a babe in your arms for a while, although it cannot demand that you continue a pregnancy or go through labor and birth. (If you don’t see the difference, well, then I can only gently advise that you talk with someone who has gone through labor and birth about it. If you think, as you indicated earlier, that most or all appeals to proportionality are just so much hocus-pocus, then of course the distinction I’m trying to make here won’t look too solid. But just about nothing in my views on war, land, and any number of other things will look too solid, either; it’s certainly not something that I just came up with to justify my views on abortion in particular.)

    Speaking of which, I meant to reply to your earlier comment on that, but have neglected to due to my (currently more dicey than I would like) Internet access situation:

    I’m thinking that much of this discussion is exactly opportunistic hair-splitting, precisely because “proportionality” is a near meaningless term in a value subjective universe - it requires an appeal to a objective, universal standard of evaluating risks and benefits.

    I have to say I find this mighty puzzling. As you know, I’m not a value-subjectivist (in the ethical sense; I’m happy to accept methodological subjectivism about economic value as expressed in rational action, but that is of course a different sort of claim), and in fact I think that anarchism is completely indefensible (as is any other universal theory of political right) without appeal to objective and universally binding ethical norms. So if it turns out that proportionality entails abandoning a value subjective universe, you can either treat that as a reason for giving up on the former or giving up on the latter, and I’m not about to be phased by losing something that I never hoped to preserve.

    That said, I’m not sure I understand the basis for claiming that a principle of proportionality violates value-subjectivism in the first place. Is there supposed to be an illicit intersubjective utility comparison that’s supposed to be going on somewhere? If so, where and how? (It’s true that on most versions, proportionality requires something along the lines of a judgment that the seriousness of the harm for Jones imposed in the act of self-defense must be proportional to the seriousness of the harm to Smith that Smith is defending herself against. But whatever, exactly, proportionality in this sense comes to, it’s explicitly not a relationship of equality between the degrees of harm (as often pointed out in order to justify the claim that, e.g., lethal force can be used against non-lethal threats, such as rape or enslavement), and it’s not a relationship of quantitative ratios between the degrees of harm, either. In fact it’s generally not any kind of direct relationship between degrees of harm to the person harmed at all, but rather between something else that’s related to those, viz. the moral seriousness (to use Roderick’s phrase) of each of the relevant harms. That may very well take into account the subjective valuation, by the person harmed, of the harm (so that, for example, destroying something more highly-valued by its owner is considered more “morally serious” than destroying something little valued by its owner, even if there are no other salient differences between them), but it’s not clearly identical to the degree or ordinal rank of that harm.

    I’ll tell you right now that I don’t have any fully worked-out philosophical story of all the details here, although I have some idea of some of the details. What I do know is that I have very serious and strong philosophical reasons for holding on to the basic idea and doing my best to work out whatever account I can, rather than simply abandoning the project as so much mumbo-jumbo. I suspect that you have such reasons to. (If Jones is about to steal a grape from your fruit stand, and the only way to stop her at this point is to shoot her in the head, would it be in line with a strictly defensive use of force to shoot her rather than let her get away? If so, why? If not, doesn’t that commit you to working out at least some kind of account of proportionality?)

    I disagree, as I set out before (and Charles, to some extent at least agreed)

    I agreed that there is no bright line between being Dependent, as some kind of global existential condition, and being Independent, as the same. Many of us may, no doubt, never become fully independent of other people. (I certainly would die pretty quickly if stranded on a desert island.) But that’s not the salient issue involved in cases where there is a duty of rescue, as I mentioned above, and there is a bright line, at the moment of delivery, between one particular kind of dependence and independence from that which you had previously been dependent upon — specifically, staying in the mother’s uterus and coming out through her cervix and vagina. For reasons that I think should be obvious, that form of dependence and the very well-defined point at which it ends have a lot of salience in figuring out the relevant factors when it comes to pregnancy and abortion.

  65. Araglin

    Rad,

    I completely agree with you about how accepting what Professor Long calls descriptive value subjectivism” in explaining economic behavior, price formation, and the like, does not require that one also accept normative value subjectivism. I also agree that the principle of proportionality is indispensable to fully working out a libertarian conception of rights.

    However, I think that Quasibill really has pointed out a serious problem, which is, that if the utility of taking certain actions, or the disutility of having to suffer certain actions from others, is a necessary component of making proportionality determinations, how does one go about learning what those valuations were in a particular case?

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, there are good reasons not to rely upon the self-serving reports of the relevant parties (who have an incentive to exaggerate the utility they attach to doing or having this or that, or the disutility associated with having to undergo this or that).

    How, then can one ever know what level of restititon would be make an aggrieved party whole? Does accepting descriptive value subjectivism require that one say that it’s completely useless to even try to match the level of restitution to the harm suffered by a rights violation?

    I would appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks, Araglin

  66. LadyVetinari

    Quasibill, for your definition of “rescue,” curing someone born with a fatal disease would count as “rescue.” I’ve never heard it used that way. The most common uses of “rescue,” again, are in the situation of a natural disaster or a violent attack.

    Not in my hypo involving a remote place if only the mother is there during birth.

    Even in that case, the baby wouldn’t need to be physically attached to its mother in the way that a fetus would. It would need care, but it wouldn’t need her to be an incubator.

    Still, though, if it’s a remote place and the mother can’t easily get to civilization to abandon it, I’d be prepared to say that the mother could kill/abandon the baby. I am not 100% opposed to early infanticide, I just think birth is the best place to draw the line if the mother is living in a society and not all by herself in the wild.

    So, does those entities have duties to the birthed child,

    Yes.

    or do you agree with Charles’s apparent position of zero duty, ever?

    No.

    Why does it make a difference whether it is a collective duty or an individual one? (personally, I don’t believe in collective duties at all - common duties, but not collective ones)

    It’s not a “collective duty.” Rather, it’s a question of several individuals (family and community members) who each have an individual duty to do something for the baby’s upkeep. Each individual’s duty is far less invasive than being forced to give birth.

    Furthermore, abortion rights aren’t just about a lack of duty. A woman has the right to an abortion, not simply because she has no hard and fast duty to give birth (though she has the duty to consider the fetus’s welfare, which I’ll get to in a moment), but because her position as the sole provider of intimate 24/hr care of the fetus gives her a great deal of authority over the fetus. She has the responsibility to think of what’s good for the fetus, but it’s not necessarily the most important consideration, and she also has the authority to decide if it’s best for the fetus to be born. Once it’s born, there is no one in a position vis-a-vis the baby that’s analogous to the pregnant woman’s position vis-a-vis the fetus. So no one has that kind of authority over a baby (except in your extreme hypothetical of a woman stranded by herself far away from any other people).

  67. LadyVetinari

    To clarify, since I may not have been clear: I should add that my views on this probably don’t fit into any libertarian orthodoxy. I’m not sure libertarian thought is equipped to handle the issue of babies, frankly. (Teenagers and older children, yes. Infants, perhaps not.) Basically, I think the greater the level of dependence on any single person, the greater authority that person has. A fetus is not only 100% physically dependent on its mother for survival but it’s also mentally incompetent to make any decisions, so the mother has great authority. A baby’s dependence on any one person is much lesser in degree, so no one person can have that kind of authority. A severely physically disabled but mentally sound person would be subject to no authority, as she should be able to simply dismiss any caretaker who displeased her. I think the issue of authority is as important as a lack of duty to rescue—the total lack of physical or mental powers on the part of the fetus increases the mother’s authority.

  68. quasibill

    Charles,

    I’m short on time as well, so I’ll cherry-pick for now:

    “That said, I’m not sure I understand the basis for claiming that a principle of proportionality violates value-subjectivism in the first place.”

    Araglin hits on it, or at least appears to from my reading. Proportionality requires some sort of balancing of risk v. reward. What is the risk to me if I don’t act in “self-defense”? If it is (somehow) objectively less than 100% death, then I assume proportionality is said to come into play (though not necessarily controlling). However - risk assessment is a subjective assessment. Some risks I’m willing to take, others, not so much. But in the end, those are subjective decisions on my part. And the level of risk (as in probability of bad outcome) is subjective in many different aspects.

    So, while not having spent a tremendous amount of time researching your precise position on the subject, I’ve become fairly adverse to any kind of “proportionality” concept. It involves subjective value calls on at least two axes (value of resultant harm, and probability of harm occurring). I’m not sure how proportionality could be defined otherwise, unless you concede that it is only something that can be applied in hindsight. I think you’d know why I’d object to that out of hand.

    “The mother has no enforceable duty to provide ongoing care for the infant (any more than she has enforceable duties to provide ongoing care to anybody), but if they are available and if it is possible for her to do so, she does have a duty to take the infant to the nearest safe place where it might be cared for “

    Ah, but that IS a claim on her body and resources. You can argue that it is a difference in degree, but it is NOT the difference in kind that you are implicitly assuming it is.

    And you can keep your snotty “walk a mile in their shoes” defenses, I’ve been at the table, I’ve empathized. No, I haven’t actually gone through it, but if we’re going to reserve comments on morality to only those subjects we have personally gone through, well, then, I think there will probably be a heckuva lot less discussion on morality. Just to retort, I’ve also been there when a fetus is spontaneously aborted - and I would never think of forcing you to justify your opinions in light of the fact that you were not aborted. Both statements are highly offensive, and have no place in a rational debate.

    If you’ve never seen what happens to people who get subjected to onerous child support payment plans, you may not realize the toll on health they can become. Once you’ve seen it, though, you quickly realize that bodily integrity doesn’t end at the skin. As you noted before, it’s not a question of bright lines, but of degrees. For example, what about a concentration camp serf is who forced to labor for the master’s survival. No, it’s not direct dependence, but the effect on the health of the slave is very, very real.

    Lady Vetinari,

    “but because her position as the sole provider of intimate 24/hr care of the fetus gives her a great deal of authority over the fetus”

    I think that with this statement, we are in complete agreement. I just refuse to move further down the line of reasoning to conclude that this negates any possibility of rights in the fetus, absent someone actually convincing me of it. Which no one has yet (but I’m still open to the possibility).

    But I am in full agreement that, to the extent that the mother has that much natural authority, and to the extent that the presumption that she is acting with the fetus’s interests in mind is not conclusively negated, she is entitled to exercise that authority as she sees fit. Since the practical realities are such that the presumption is highly unlikely to ever be conclusively negated in any particular case, I am firmly against involving third parties in teh decision-making process. Such inclusion is unlikely to make any decisions better, and in fact, is likely to make many such decisions worse, due to knowledge and bias problems, and in fact will violate the rights of both mother and fetus in most cases.

  69. Anon73

    Ah, but that IS a claim on her body and resources.

    Roderick Long recently posted some thoughts on abortion where he made a distinction between “basic positive rights” and “derivative positive rights”. A`basic positive right would be something like a right to health care or a comfortable place to stay, etc. A derivative one derives from some negative right. For example if you steal my stapler, it creates an obligation to mail it back to me, carry it to my house, leave it at a friend’s house, etc, all of which are positive claims. Roderick gives the example of the driver of a speeding truck careening toward a small child. Since the child has the negative right not to be killed, this creates a positive obligation for the driver to turn the wheel and steer around it. For it would be ridiculous of the driver to say “Well I have no positive obligations toward others - therefore I’m not really running someone over, I’m just failing to turn the steering wheel”! Thus if you accept that derivative positive rights exist, it’s a short leap to show that the mother has an obligation to care for the child until another provider can be found (e.g. she can’t just throw the baby in a dumpster).

  70. LadyVetinari

    Quasibill,

    Fair enough. I don’t object to the idea that the fetus has some claim on the mother’s decision-making process, I just object to the idea that said claim is a) overriding and b) legitimately enforceable by a third party.

    I just refuse to move further down the line of reasoning to conclude that this negates any possibility of rights in the fetus, absent someone actually convincing me of it.

    I think here’s where we get into semantics, e.g. what different people mean when they talk about “rights.” I tend to think of “rights” as clear-cut entitlements for Person A and obligations for Person B that are enforceable by a third party, so I do object to the idea of a fetus having “rights” in that sense. I do not object to the idea of moral consideration for the fetus, but to me that means a different thing than rights.

  71. Anon73

    Actually Roderick discussed the meaning of “rights” in his piece also! Check it out:

    http://praxeology.net/RTL-Abortion.htm

· July 2008 ·

  1. quasibill

    anon73,

    I find that reasoning very consistent and useful. The problem in the context of this discussion is whether

    “it’s a short leap to show that the mother has an obligation to care for the child until another provider can be found (e.g. she can’t just throw the baby in a dumpster).”

    also has some application in utero. I think that, in the abstract, it does. But back here in the real world, with the practical limitations of actual life, it’s nearly impossible for a third party to enforce such a derivative positive right.

    Again, my “pro-choice” conclusion is not one based upon fundamental principles so much as one based on pragmatic concerns.

    “I just object to the idea that said claim is a) overriding and b) legitimately enforceable by a third party.”

    Just to clarify, I would object to such claim being overriding in most circumstances. I can think of extreme examples (which I have no idea whether they are actual circumstances that ever obtain in the real world) where I would claim that the fetus’s rights do override the mother’s right. But even in those examples, I recognize the practicalities of a third party learning the circumstances and enforcing the right, and the possibility of creating perverted incentives in other scenarios, such that I don’t support giving a third party the power to enforce the rights, beyond mere failure to cooperate.

    “I tend to think of “rights” as clear-cut entitlements for Person A and obligations for Person B that are enforceable by a third party”

    Yes, I’ve been a little sloppy with the terms, but then I think I’m starting to move away from your position (which I have held) that posits strict categories, to something that allows for more fuzziness at the boundaries. I think enforceable rights in the way you are using the term are formed “from the ground up” from fundamental morality concerns. And as I’m working my way through this, I’m coming to the conclusion that in certain cases, multiple different resolutions in the legal sense are fundamentally just, depending on subjective features of the fundamental morality (i.e. the weight one places on values such as mercy). It’s all a function of community morality, which you in some respect choose to accept when you choose to reside in that community (at least it would in a more de-centralized, less hierarchical world than what we have today), so long as these variations are only in these hard cases.

    I’m not entirely invested in this new way of looking at the issue of rights, but I’m starting to lean this way, and that’s probably why I’ve been fairly sloppy with the terminology.

  2. LadyVetinari

    I can think of extreme examples (which I have no idea whether they are actual circumstances that ever obtain in the real world) where I would claim that the fetus’s rights do override the mother’s right.

    Ah. Well, I tend to be thoroughly uninterested in cases that don’t obtain in the real world—morality is about the real world, after all. So, yes, I’m quite willing to say that the fetus’s claim never overrides the mother’s, because I can’t think of any real-world situation where it would. And also, of course, because I don’t think the fetus has any enforceable claim over its mother anyway, whatever non-enforceable moral claims it may have.

  3. Rad Geek

    Me:

    The mother has no enforceable duty to provide ongoing care for the infant (any more than she has enforceable duties to provide ongoing care to anybody), but if they are available and if it is possible for her to do so, she does have a duty to take the infant to the nearest safe place where it might be cared for (e.g. a hospital, foundling home, fire department, whatever) before she leaves it. Reason being that proportionality can potentially demand carrying a babe in your arms for a while, although it cannot demand that you continue a pregnancy or go through labor and birth.

    quasibill,

    Ah, but that IS a claim on her body and resources.

    Of course it’s a claim on her body and resources. I didn’t deny that it involved a claim on her body and resources.

    What I do deny is that the claim is of the same order of severity as the claim involved in continuing to carry a pregnancy and going through labor. That’s a difference of degree, yes; and so what? I only said that there was a difference between the two, not that there was a difference in kind. Proportionality often is about matters of degree. (In a sense, there’s also only a difference in degree between tripping a would-be candy-bar shoplifter while she tries to run away, and running her down with your car in the parking lot. But lots of honest and decent people would think that that mere difference of degree does make some difference to the moral status of each use of force.)

    Of course, again, you could recur to your objections to proportionality. But my aim in explaining the difference above was primarily to explain what my position is (which you had apparently misunderstood), and why I hold it. While I’d like to convince you (among others) that that position is the right position, first what the position is ought to be made clear, and in doing so, it should be my beliefs about proportionality that are at issue.

    If you’ve never seen what happens to people who get subjected to onerous child support payment plans, you may not realize the toll on health they can become.

    I have no idea what the point of this is. I don’t support forcing non-custodial parents into paying for child support, either over a short term or over 18 years of minority. I think non-custodial parents should be free to terminate any non-contractual child support arrangement they like, for the same reason that I think custodial parents should be free to give up custody of their children. If I believed in a right to abortion and abandonment of custody but accepted a right to impose child support on non-custodial parents then I’d agree that this involved inconsistency, and probably a certain tone-deafness to the severity of restriction that some child support payment plans can impose. But I don’t, so I don’t see where this is going.

    No, I haven’t actually gone through it, but if we’re going to reserve comments on morality to only those subjects we have personally gone through […]

    That wasn’t the purpose of the remark.

    The purpose of the remark wasn’t to disqualify anyone from making a moral argument. The purpose was to underline the importance of not downplaying certain distinctions that, in my experience, men, including men who have been present at a birth, have a tendency to play down, especially when they are trying to make an abstract, philosophical argument. If I didn’t think you were capable of understanding or commenting intelligently on it, I wouldn’t bother to say anything about it to you at all, nor could I consistently presume to have anything intelligent to say about it myself. I did not mean to presume that you, personally, were downplaying the difference; I did want to head such a dialectical side-trip off before it came up. If my words didn’t convey my meaning, then I’m sorry for that.

    Proportionality requires some sort of balancing of risk v. reward. What is the risk to me if I don’t act in “self-defense”? If it is (somehow) objectively less than 100% death, then I assume proportionality is said to come into play (though not necessarily controlling). However - risk assessment is a subjective assessment. Some risks I’m willing to take, others, not so much. But in the end, those are subjective decisions on my part. And the level of risk (as in probability of bad outcome) is subjective in many different aspects.

    Well, O.K., but I don’t see how this clarifies the problem that value-subjectivism poses for proportionality. If you’re using subjective in the economic sense, then saying that a value is subjective certainly is not the same thing as saying that it’s somehow unreal, or indeterminate, or unknowable. Economic values, though subjective (in the sense that they are relative to the agent and are not commensurable between different agents), are potentially objects of public knowledge. There are knowable right and wrong answers about them, at least some of which can be discovered by what is revealed in action. So just the fact that a subjective value is involved somewhere in the process hardly means that the whole thing has to be thrown out as useless for purposes of interpersonal ethics or policy.

    In any case, if you do intend to chuck propotionality, then it is incumbent on you to figure out what you’re going to do about the sorts of things that proportionality was introduced to handle, and that includes some cases that ought to be easy in addition to cases where there is some more controversy. E.g. running down a fleeing candy-bar shoplifter in the parking lot, or shooting someone in order to stop her from stealing a grape, or cutting open someone’s belly in order to get your stolen-and-swallowed ring back. You could argue that proportionality is bunk, and that, in these cases, anything goes, and the uses of force are legitimate defense. If so, I think this position is far crazier than any philosophical commitment you may have to sign onto in order to get a principle of proportionality working. If, on the other hand, you want to agree that in those cases the level of force exceeds what can legitimately be done in self-defense, given the level of force being defended against, but don’t want to use a principle of proportionality to explain the difference between those cases and cases where an appropriate degree of force is used, then you’ll have to explain just what does make the difference, and how what you’re invoking is different from what is invoked by advocates of proportionality. In either case it will be a pretty weighty decision which demands an account ranging pretty far beyond just the issue of abortion.

  4. Jeremy

    I’m sorry to see Aster go, too. Her perspective reminds me of the constant need for compassion in our political approach. She doesn’t seem to understand where I’m coming from, but compassion is a great motivator for me as well, and her fierce example of love for the visceral liberty of being yourself is one I’ve always marvelled at (even if, yes, I think it’s sometimes naive - I have my own flaws).

    Libertarians talk about the marginalized, yet rarely do they participate in our intellectual discussions. Obviously, Aster picked up on this. Too often, libertarians are intellectual brutes who, to paraphrase Charles’ words in another conversation, conflate being a dick with rhetorical skill. I have benefited greatly from her writing in the past, though as an independent mind I have reached different conclusions than those she insists upon. Fair enough - I have my standards, too.

    More importantly, I hope that she can find peace and happiness. If that means swearing off talking to libertarians, that is a vanishingly small price to pay. I think, however, she kids herself if she thinks it’s not a loss to us.

  5. quasibill

    “If I believed in a right to abortion and abandonment of custody but accepted a right to impose child support on non-custodial parents “

    Ah, but you did, as you conceded in the first paragraph of your reply. You accept the right to impose a duty to support the child until it can be brought to a responsible caregiver, of some sort. That is a claim. A difference in degree, certainly, but not a categorical difference that allows for the premise that the fetus never has any possible claim to rights because you don’t believe in any right to care. Since you do believe in such a right, albeit in your mind a de minimus right, it is incumbent upon you to provide what exactly is the differentiation in degree that provides the bright line distinction that you want to draw. My point is, again, merely that your bright line isn’t so bright. That bodily integrity cannot be so cavalierly confined to merely what happens inside the skin.

    “There are knowable right and wrong answers about them, at least some of which can be discovered by what is revealed in action.”

    I think the problem here is “right”, and its definition. If there are “right” subjective preferences, then all sorts of statism is permissible. Since I reject that premise, I don’t think I can agree with the rest of your reasoning.

    “at least some of which can be discovered by what is revealed in action.”

    But the fact that my subjective valuation is revealed by action has absolutely nothing to with whether it is “right”. The fact that you can discover my subjective valuation has no impact on the fact that it is, at its base, a subjective determination.

    “In any case, if you do intend to chuck propotionality, then it is incumbent on you to figure out what you’re going to do about the sorts of things that proportionality was introduced to handle, and that includes some cases that ought to be easy in addition to cases where there is some more controversy.”

    I disagree with this burden shifting. I could simliarly argue that the burden is on you to figure out, in detail, exactly how society could function in the absence of the state about the sorts of things that the state was introduced to handle.

    It doesn’t work that way. If x is false, it’s false. It’s ability to work as a proxy to solve some questions doesn’t change that condition. I needn’t prove the theory of general relativity to disprove the assertion that the sun orbits the earth, even though that assertion does have certain predictive uses here on earth.

    The fact that you and I both believe that killing a five and dime shoplifter is not justified in your hypo has to do with our subjective cultural preferences. Proportionality can be a part of that subjective (and therefore to some extent arbitrary) cultural preference, but it cannot be more, and it’s use is confined by its cultural underpinnings.

  6. quasibill

    quick comment on proportionality:

    RG posted about a woman getting “dry-humped” by an attacker while a crowd looked on. One particular crude commenter mentioned that the victim violated proportionality in her response to the attack.

    I don’t think there is an objective way to reject that argument out of hand if you claim that the victim must consider proportionality in her attempt to escape the assault.

    The point being - none of us have any way of knowing just how scared the victim was at that moment. None of us have any way of knowing just how violated she felt by the attack (I can certainly conceive that she might have felt more violated than she would have if the attacker had broken both her legs and left it at that, but I can also conceive the opposite). None of us can know how she balanced all of her options at the moment. Engaging in an analysis of whether her response to the assault was “right” is, IMO, to re-victimize her by judging her on her response to being a victim.

    I think that, instead of proportionality, one should consider whether there was an ongoing rights violation, in which case proportionality is not (or should not be) a concern, or a past rights violation, in which perhaps proportionality can play a role. Or rather than proportionality, perhaps “mercy”, or “restraint”, or “compassion”. Each of those are better descriptors, I think, than proportionality. And I think that each of those fall much more on the side of purely moral considerations, as opposed to enforceable rights justice considerations.

· August 2008 ·

  1. LadyVetinari

    That bodily integrity cannot be so cavalierly confined to merely what happens inside the skin.

    But sure it can. There’s a clear difference between having to support someone financially and having to carry that someone around inside of you, and the bright line between those two things is birth. The latter is 24/7 inseparable care, the former is not. The latter involves literally giving someone your life’s blood, the former does not. Yes, you use your body to work and make money, but the money is not a part of your body the way blood or a uterus is. You are not directly giving a part of your body to someone else, and yes, that is a clear categorical difference as well as a difference of degree.

    A petty thief has not violated your bodily integrity by stealing a lipstick that you bought with money that you earned with your body. To say that he has is a denial of basic realities of human experience. To compare such a crime with rape, where someone does use your actual body against your will, is ridiculous. Comparing financial support to gestation is similarly ridiculous. Stuff you earn with your body =/= your actual body, either in degree or in kind. Your body is not a separate entity from you, and your money is.

  2. Elinor

    Do you expect oppressed people to join you out of awed admiration for a dutiful theoretical rigour while you remain obliviously indifferent to their lives and happiness?

    Well, yes, that does seem exactly what many reflexively male-identified libertarians (male-identified, not necessarily male) ask of us. In another discussion, Athena suggested that libertarians should not “wring their hands” over not appealing to women, since pandering to “women’s issues” is not what libertarianism is about.

    Well, okay, but what in the libertarian tradition justifies asking me not to look out for my own interests?

    I understand Aster’s despair. I’m rather tempted to return to it myself. My womb is not some kind of purse that I carry around; it’s literally my guts, and I don’t live in a world of abstractions where blood and pain and sickness can be discussed in terms of life jackets and spaceships.

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