No woman should be forced to carry a child?

As the ASC abortion appeal starts,  Blair Mulholland argues that as human life starts at conception, abortion should be avoided, but as no woman should be forced to carry a child against their will, it should be free and legal.

So what woman is actually FORCED to carry a child?

Any woman (or man) having sex has freely chosen to run the risk of pregnancy. No contraception method is foolproof. So any woman becoming pregnant from consensual sex has freely chosen this. No-one is forcing her to carry a child, she put herself in that situation.

So we don’t need free, legal abortions to stop women being forced to carry children, abortion just allows both women and men to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

The ONLY time a woman is forced to carry a child is when she is raped, and conceives (which is rare from rape as it is hard to conceive in that stressful situation).

Therefore, as no woman should be forced to carry a child against her will, rape should be illegal. It already is? Oh, good.

The only time this argument can possibly be valid is when arguing for an abortion after rape, and even then the morality of abortion can be disputed. Otherwise this argument is irrelevant.

More posts on abortion.

Is an embryo a person 2 – Twinning

One argument commonly put forward for why the embryo is not a human in the first 14 days or so of life, before implantation, is that it may yet divide into twins. If it can become two individuals, the logic goes, how can we say it is now a person? It must be in a pre-person state until it becomes two separate people.

Twinning is basically a cloning process, or a form of asexual reproduction. The one embryo splits into two pieces, which each grow into identical twins.

If we consider this from a purely atheistic perspective, the argument rapidly falls apart. Just because something may later become two individuals doesn’t mean it is not an individual before then.

If a bacterium divides to produce two identical clones, does that mean it was not an individual bacterium before the cloning? Of course not.

If the technology ever becomes available to clone a human adult (some claim it has already been done), a human adult could later become two humans. Does this mean the adult was not a human before the cloning?

The embryo is one human. If at some later point it can become two humans, that does not detract at all from the fact that it is already human. It only means that by killing it you have cut off the potential for two lives rather than only one – which is twice as bad.

Now if we add the Christian perspective, that humans are not only physical but also have a soul, you may be able to say the embryo is not human before it divided because the individual twins were not given souls until they separated.

But how do you know? This is pure speculation. God may do that, or He may give one soul at conception and a second one when twinning occurs, or (knowing twinning will occur) he may give both souls from the start… The Bible never says. We can speculate for ever but will never reach an answer. It is best to forget this line of reasoning and focus on the physical.

So whether you are atheist or Christian, the twinning argument holds no water. And anyway, most embryos don’t twin – how many identical twins do you know?

For a far more detailed refutation of the twinning argument, check out this excellent article by Alexander Pruss of Baylor University (hat tip MandM). Matt’s response is here, but he does not appear to really counter what Pruss says, just disputes some minor points.

I have discussed other issues around abortion in these posts.

Is an embryo a person?

This question is at the heart of the abortion debate. A pro-choicer may admit that genetically and scientifically an embryo is a human, but they will then argue that they do not yet have “personhood” so it is ok to kill them.

Before addressing the question of whether or not a human embryo is a person, let’s look at the question itself.

Where on earth did the idea come from that you can be “human” but not a “person”? What is the difference?

For an atheist, who believes only in the physical, an embryo is genetically human, and it is clearly alive. Therefore it is a living human. A living human is a person, because only the physical is real and they are a physical person.

However the Christian, who believes that a person is both a physical body and a soul, may believe that personhood is not physical. They may be able to believe that an embryo, although scientifically human, is not a person because they do not have a soul. In my opinion this is a poor argument, as we have no idea when the soul is imparted into the body, can never prove any view on this, so must stick with the science that says life starts from conception. But it is an argument that sounds plausible.

The atheist must accept the embryo is a person. The Christian may choose to believe otherwise (although this is illogical in my opinion).

So why are so many pro-lifers Christian, and so many pro-choicers atheists? Why are people expressing a pro-life position so often accused of being religious fanatics?

It’s really quite crazy when you think about it.

The pro-choice position is not based on atheistic logic. It is more often based on emotion – people have had an abortion or know someone who had an abortion, want to believe that that was ok, and come up with philosophical or religious reasons to justify their position. This process may be subconscious.

If you look into it hard enough, you may quickly conclude that abortion is wrong. Check out the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League, Libertarians for Life, and this excellent article on “Why should Atheists be Pro-Life”. But many people are unwilling to look at the issue with cold, hard logic, and become blinded by emotion.

So, in your opinion, can a human ever not be a “person”? If so, when does the embryo become a “person”? And WHY do you believe this? Logically, not emotionally.

Research into attitudes towards pre-natal testing

Auckland University is doing a study on attitudes towards prenatal testing.
“This research aims to investigate men’s and women’s opinions regarding prebirth testing for genetic risk for diseases and disabilities.”

If you are interested in participating, send a blank email to:
prenatal@auckland.ac.nz

They will then send you out the information on how to fill in the online survey (it takes 10-15 minutes).

Note that they will probably ask you about testing for a hypothetical condition that affects 1 in 2000 babies, and there is a 1% risk of miscarriage from the test – a very plausible scenario. But remember to think through those stats for yourself – this means if you test 2000 babies, one will have the condition, and 20 will die as a result of the procedure….

Breast cancer? You don’t deserve to live.

That is the message of the latest so-called “treatment” for breast cancer that was featured on the news last night. The report was on the first British baby born after screening for a gene that contributes to breast cancer risk. The BBC has more info here.

The first baby in the UK tested before conception for a genetic form of breast cancer has been born. …

The embryo was screened for the altered BRCA1 gene, which would have meant the girl had a 80% chance of developing breast cancer. …

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) involves taking a cell from an embryo at the eight-cell stage of development, when it is around three-days old, and testing it.

This is before conception – defined as when the embryo is implanted in the womb.

Doctors then select an embryo free from rogue genes to continue the pregnancy, and discard any whose genetic profile points to future problems.

Firstly, the BBC need to ensure their medical reporter knows some basic science – they have no clue about what conception is, basic early high-school biology. Stupid sentences like “This is before conception – defined as when the embryo is implanted in the womb” really destroy what reputation the BBC may still have.

Basically what they do is produce a number of babies, test them, use one they like and kill the rest.

The media are calling it a “treatment”, or “gene therapy”. But it is nothing of the sort. A treatment is when someone has a disease and you treat them. This is simply killing off those that have an increased risk of developing a disease. You don’t treat anything. Nor do you prevent anything, as the “murdered ones” may never have developed the disease anyway, and the “chosen one” could still develop it regardless.

This process is actually called “eugenics”, killing off or sterilising the “undesirable” humans. It was pioneered in the USA before WWII, where many disabled people were sterilised. Hitler became a big fan, and set up death camps where millions of disabled people, Jews, Gypsies and gays were killed. Following the exposure of these camps at the end of the war most of the world rejected eugenics and suddenly no-one had ever supported the idea. But the philosophy lived on, and now it is coming back with a vengence.

In this situation, they are basically saying that if you have this one gene that increases the risk of breast cancer you don’t deserve to live. Already we have many Downs syndrome babies aborted, because people believe they don’t deserve to live either.

Where is the moral outrage that we saw at the end of WWII? Back then the West was dominated by Christianity. Now it is dominated by atheism. The moral fibre has gone.

So now eugenics is back. And many people don’t care because if you kill them before they are born you don’t have to hear them scream.

Abortion increases mental health problems

I have discussed previously how most abortions in NZ are authorised on the grounds that continuing the pregnancy would result in “serious danger” to the “mental health” of the woman. However the latest NZ research shows that abortion is more likely to INCREASE mental health problems, not decrease them.

The long-term Christchurch study of more than 500 women found a link between having an abortion and an increase of nearly a third in the risk of disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Reporting their findings in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the Otago University researchers say that abortions account for 1.5 to 5.5 per cent of the overall rate of mental disorders.

They said their study backed up others overseas which concluded that having an abortion may be linked to an increased risk of mental health problems.

This is supported by previous work in New Zealand that showed a 35% increase in mental health problems among mothers who aborted rather than carrying their child to term. It is also supported by similar research in the USA.

So lets get this straight – we’re doing something that increases the risk of mental health problems, to try and prevent mental health problems. You may as well try and put out a fire by pouring petrol on it.

Hat tip: Family First

How can we improve NZ abortion law?

Following on from my previous posts on the morality of abortion, a refutation of pro-choice arguments, and current NZ abortion law, I would now like to discuss ways we can improve the situation and reduce the number of abortions. Some of these ideas are my own, some are Family Party policy, some have been previously suggested by Chuck, and I would be very interested in hearing any other suggestions you may have.

  • Abortion should not be state funded.
    • The state has no money itself, rather it just spends taxpayers money. Regardless of the actual morality of abortion, many taxpayers believe it is immoral. They should not be forced to pay for something they strongly disagree with.
    • If people had to pay for abortions they might think twice about it, and the abortion rate would drop.
  • Life should be defined as starting from conception.
    • This is completely logical, and would simplify the issue enormously. But it would be difficult to get through democratically. This is a goal to aim for, but we must pursue more workable measures at the same time.
  • Marriage should be promoted.
    • Marriage provides the ideal environment to raise children in. If someone gets pregnant while married they are far more likely to keep the baby than if they were pregnant out of wedlock.
  • Parental consent (or at least notification) should be required for teenage abortions.
    • This may directly reduce abortion rates a little.
    • At present, a girl can have sex knowing if she gets pregnant she can have an abortion on the sly and her parents need never know. If she requires parental consent, or even just parental notification, she knows from the start her parents will find out. This may encourage her to make better choices and not get pregnant in the first place.
    • Some object to this because some parents may not treat the girl well about it. But through all of history parents found out when their daughter got pregnant. The current situation where they may not is artificial and invented by the State. Requiring parental consent / notification is just returning to the natural state of society.
  • Sex education needs to be truthful.
    • In my experience of Family Planning, I have found them blatantly lying on a number of occasions (lying about how contraceptives work for example, and the effectiveness of contraceptives against STDs). They promote contraception in a way that encourages sex, then promote abortion as the solution if you get pregnant.
    • Teenagers (and anyone seeking information) need to be told:
      • Sex is to make babies (duh! But currently it is mainly talked about as something fun).
      • If you have sex you may, and probably will eventually, get pregnant.
      • Boys, if you get a girl pregnant, YOU MUST PAY CHILD SUPPORT AND THIS IS HOW MUCH IT COSTS!
      • It is best not to have sex until marriage.
      • If you choose to anyway, these are your options for contraception and this is how they actually work (so teens can avoid those that allow conception but then kill the embryo).
      • This is what abortion is actually like, this is what a baby is like at that age.
      • These are the risks of abortion and the medical issues it can cause for you (e.g. increasing the risk of breast cancer).
      • There are X number of couples currently waiting to adopt a child, and they’d love to have yours if you get pregnant and don’t want to keep it.
      • Here are a list of agencies who offer counselling, adoption services, support for keeping the baby etc.
    • We need to either completely overhaul the Family Planning Association, or just get rid of it.
  • If a woman seeks an abortion, she needs to be given honest information about the procedure, her baby, the medical risks and complications it can cause, and be shown a scan of the baby in the womb to ensure she really knows what she is doing.

If you have any other ideas, stick them in the comments.

NZ Abortion Law

It may surprise many readers, but abortion is actually a serious crime in New Zealand. The Crimes Act 1961 states that anyone carrying out an abortion may be imprisoned for up to 14 years. This is perfectly consistent with law throughout much of history, as abortion has generally been a crime. It was also a crime in our former Offences Against The Person Act 1866, a copy of the same British law from 1861 (read it here) – in this law abortion was punishable by “penal servitude for life”. Even back in the old Jewish law, anyone who caused an abortion had to pay the father whatever he demanded as compensation (Exodus 21:22).

Let me stress this – abortion is, and always has been, a serious crime.

However, subsequent to 1961, abortion has been allowed under very limited circumstances, under the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, which also added section 187A to the Crimes Act.

  • Any abortion must be signed off by 2 certifying consultants
  • Abortion is only allowed if:
    • Continuing the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the mother.
    • The child is likely to be severely handicapped.
    • The child is the result of incest or rape.
  • Abortion is not allowed after 20 weeks gestation except to save the life of the mother or prevent “serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health”.
  • The woman MUST be advised of her right to seek counselling from any appropriate person or agency.
  • It is illegal for any woman to procure her own miscarriage.

The intent of this law was obviously to allow abortion only under specific severe circumstances, where it is believed to be the lesser of two evils. Abortion is still illegal, however abortion practitioners have an immunity from prosecution when conducting an abortion under certain circumstances.

However despite this, we now effectively have abortion on demand, and one of the highest abortion rates in the world. This is because the excuse of “mental health” is being used as a catch-all reason for abortion. I understand around 98% of NZ abortions are for the reason of “mental health”.

This practice is probably illegal. Right to Life has taken the Abortion Supervisory Committee to court over this, and earlier this year Justice Millar ruled that, in his own words:

There is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants. Indeed, the Committee itself has stated that the law is being used more liberally than Parliament intended.

This decision is being appealed by the Crown (so Right to Life is paying for the Crown’s legal costs through their taxes, then has to come up with their own legal costs too… but that’s another issue). But if it is upheld, this could cause a major shakeup in our abortion system.

Just ensuring that the current law was administered correctly, and abortion was only provided where it would actually prevent great harm to the mother, would probably dramatically decrease NZ’s abortion rate. This can be achieved with little or no change to current law. That is not to say we can’t do better, I will address that later. But even within the current law, if applied correctly, we should not have abortion on demand. Abortion is a serious crime.

Refutation of pro-choice arguments

John Smith commented on my last abortion post, and managed to fit pretty well every classic pro-choice argument there is into one paragraph. So I thought I’d go through his comment and discuss each of his arguments:

Abortion should be allowed because it is a personal choice that should not be dictated by law.

But it is a choice regarding somebody’s life. If it is to be a personal choice, that is a choice for the child, not the mother. As we don’t know what the child would choose, but can assume they would choose to live (wouldn’t you?), we can only allow the child to live.

Many children are born into bad families. To single mothers or abusive parents, and in some of these cases the parents blame their kids for their hardships. Abortions are typically performed on mothers who do not want to be mothers,

If they didn’t want to be a mother, what on earth were they doing having sex? The birds and the bees are pretty obvious, if you have sex you may (and probably will eventually) end up pregnant. Sex is to make babies, and it is very good at it. It happens to be pleasurable to ensure people actually do it – if it wasn’t fun the human race might die out! If you aren’t prepared for pregnancy, don’t have sex.

If they don’t want to be a mother, but still get pregnant, it isn’t as though abortion is their only option. Many couples are crying out to adopt a baby, and there aren’t enough babies available, because so many are aborted. Adoption is a far better option to abortion, and there are plenty of organisations and individuals who will pay all the legal expenses associated with it to ensure that the baby’s life is saved. Having more adoptions would save the lives of babies, give children to parents who want them, and provide a simpler and cheaper option to infertile couples considering IVF treatment – saving a lot of public and private money.

women who cannot afford to take proper care of kid,

Irrelevant in NZ, our state welfare system pays you more if you have children. And they can adopt the child out.

someone who had been raped,

This is a red herring, as it is extremely rare. Few women conceive due to rape, as it is hard to conceive when under stress, and rape is one of the most stressful situations a woman can be in. Furthermore the odds are she won’t be at a fertile part of her cycle. Just because a child is the result of rape doesn’t mean it should be denied the right to live (kiwipolemicist explains that well here), and some women can actually find having a child therapeutic after rape, as she has something good in the middle of the terrible situation she is dealing with. But ignoring the moral aspects, even if you allowed abortion due to rape, but stopped the rest, abortion in NZ would nearly disappear because abortion due to rape is so rare anyway.

and many other reasons. Those women should not be denied their individual right to abort their pregnancies and many are doing it for the well being of their developing child.

I’m going to kill you. It’s for your own good, trust me. Huh?

In this country people are not allowed to force a religious or philosophic belief through force of law and by getting rid of abortion our country would be doing just that.

But abortion forces the belief of the mother (that she can kill her child) on the child, in a completely irreversible way. Allowing the child to live is PREVENTING someone forcing their belief on it.

I understand that with today’s knowledge people can be informed while the child is still developing if the baby will have any sort of complications. If the baby will have any mental problems or if they will be handicapped and I agree that mothers should not base their choice on those outcomes.

Glad to hear that, we agree on one point!

I think abortions should have regulations for those types of problems but I do believe that women should be able to make the choice of having an abortion. Should abortion ever become illegal and a woman still wishes to have an abortion it may lead to people doing illegal abortions which are very serious. Many illegal abortions end in death for both the mother and her child.

The flaw in this reasoning is the idea that abortion becomes safe if it is performed in a state hospital. It doesn’t. Abortion is a risky procedure, sure you can reduce some of the risks, but ultimately you cannot get rid of them. Women still die from abortion. Furthermore, abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, and can have other detrimental effects on the mother, all of which exist whether or not the abortion is performed in a hospital. I understand the international experience is that when abortion is restricted, the number of deaths due to abortion is actually lower.

These common myths about abortion are refuted all over the net, one example is here.

The morality of abortion

In my opinion, as I have stated before, the biggest issue facing this country today is abortion. Over 18,000 babies are killed every year by abortion. If we had 18,000 people killed on the roads every year there would be an outrage, but when this occurs behind closed doors we somehow manage to ignore it.

I believe abortion is murder. I don’t believe this for religious reasons, the Bible doesn’t go into detail on when life starts. Rather I believe it for scientific reasons, and my Christian faith then tells me that murder is wrong.

The key issue here is when life starts. There is only one scientific point when a new human being is formed, and that is conception. At this point the new baby has a unique genetic makeup to its mother – her immune system actually has to be repressed to ensure it doesn’t kill the baby, as it is recognised as not being part of her body. There is no other point that can be defined scientifically as when life starts.

Sometimes people say life starts at implantation (which would justify the morning-after pill, which prevents implantation, but would not allow abortion). But nothing really changes at implantation for the child, rather it just goes from floating freely to being attached to the uterus – implantation is really just a change of location. Sometimes people say life starts when the child is conscious. But life has nothing to do with consciousness – when you are asleep it isn’t ok to kill you, when you are in a coma you aren’t dead, when you wake from a coma you haven’t come back to life – you are still alive, and still a human, regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not. There are all sorts of definitions, but none stands up to scientific scrutiny. Generally these definitions are used specifically to try and accommodate abortion, rather than to genuinely work out whether or not abortion is wrong.

If a child truly is a living human from conception, and killing a human is murder, then abortion is by definition murder.

This is a terrible thought to have to deal with for most people in our society today, as many people have had abortions, and pretty well everyone knows someone who has had one. As a result many people are not willing to address the issue and even entertain the thought that a child in the womb may have rights. Most teenagers these days have been raised to think the foetus is just part of the mother’s body and she has the right to destroy it if she wishes, and many are not willing to consider the implications of if this is not true.

But we must consider the implications, because if true, this is a massive moral outrage.

Furthermore, abortion is not just a simple procedure. Generally the baby is torn to pieces with no anaesthetic, it is a terrible way to die. Abortion can also have health implications for mothers, which people aren’t generally told about in NZ.

One emerging problem with abortion is eugenics. Eugenics is the belief that some people are “inferior” (such as disabled people, black people, homosexuals, Jews or pretty well whoever you want to define as “inferior”), and it is ok to sterilise or kill them to ensure the human race as a whole is healthy. This is an idea that was popular in the early 20th century, started in America, and formed the basis for Hitler’s slaughter of the mentally ill, homosexuals, Jews and gypsies. Before the Second World War many people favoured eugenics. After the War, seeing the horrible reality of what it actually meant when put into practice, eugenics was suddenly unpopular.

But it is back. Increasingly, genetic tests are available that will allow you to determine all sorts of things about a child in the womb. At present you can detect genetic disorders such as Downs syndrome, but the tests are becoming more accurate, and can conceivably be used to determine everything from whether you have a risk of developing cancer when you are 50 to your eye colour. As a result, parents can choose to abort children that are defective.

This is eugenics all over again – find the “defective” humans and cull them. But there is little outrage, as the moral standards of Western society have declined since the War and fewer people actually recognise that this is wrong. Effectively you are saying that disabled people don’t have a right to live, and it is ok to kill them. This is exactly what Hitler was doing, the only difference is that you kill them before you can hear them scream.

For more information, check out:

MandM’s excellent series on abortion from the perspective of liberal philosophy:

Is Abortion Liberal? Part 1, Part 2, Sentience Part 1, Part 2

Klan Parenthood – abortion and eugenics in America

Pictures of what abortion is really like from CBR and Priests For Life

Risks to the mother from afterabortion.org and abortionfacts.com

What are your views on the issue? Remember abortion is already illegal in NZ, the abortions that are carried out are done through a legal loophole, and although we effectively have abortion on demand this was never the intent of NZ’s abortion law.

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