AS199: Debating Abortion, with Tyler Vela Part 2

Here’s part 2 of a 2 part spirited debate with Christian and past guest, Tyler Vela. Tyler hosts a podcast called the Freed Thinker, which you can find on iTunes or through google.

I will be doing a commentary and break down of exactly how this debate broke down on Thursday’s show.

15 thoughts on “AS199: Debating Abortion, with Tyler Vela Part 2”

  1. Actually personhood occurs at the age of nine months. My friend and his wife had a kid who I knew from the time he was six hours old and saw nearly every day. Up to the age of nine months, the kid was this little blob of undifferentiated baby, definitely alive, definitely human, but nobody in particular. At nine months he began to develop a personality, to have likes and dislikes, to get into mischief, to try to imitate his parents and the people around him. Because I was in at least weekly contact with him till he was fifteen or so, I can say that he became or really began to become the person he turned out to be at nine months of age. If I hadn’t known him well before nine months and for a significant period of time after, I couldn’t say this with any certainty, but I can ’cause I did.

    In this area I have a sample size of one. All of the other kids I’ve ever known I met after they had already become little persons of one description or another. Has anyone else noticed this? Can people who’ve actually had kids pinpoint an age at which the infant/toddler was unmistakably the person they turned out to be?

  2. Tyler does have to KNOW it’s a human person to justify the suffering he’s going to put the woman through, and has to KNOW the baby is going to be born healthy, and not suffer, and die shortly after birth to justify making abortion illegal. Because both of those things are worse than terminating the pregnancy IF a fetus is not a person.

    1. In fact even if it is a person those consequences could be worse than terminating the pregnancy. Or we could get even more absurd. What if the fetus became a mass murderer, and you didn’t allow the a woman to have an abortion knowing that was a possibility? :p

      1. In part I added that last absurdity because you often hear anti-choice advocates pointing out that you could be killing the next Beethoven when it’s far more likely to be the next serial killer.

  3. Firstly good job on persevering in the interview.The point about animals not being conscious should have been explored. Where did the assertion that humans become conscious come from?
    Tyler’s position if I understood correctly was that a person was any stage of a species that when fully mature was conscious, sentient, could feel pain etc. Where does this come from? Does he know that for a “fact”. So even knowing that an entity is human for a fact you have to go back to why does that matter?
    I thought your comments about conception were a distraction.

  4. Also the point about future person was confusing. Killing a person is not about stopping them having future experiences. You are hurting the person now and all the persons around them, as in casuing suffering to persons who feel suffering at that moment.

  5. Thanks for doing this. The pseudo intellectualism that your guest demonstrated is both disingenuous and fully and only rooted in a religious world view. Trying to posit it as one a from secular humanist world view could get behind is simply preposterous.
    How you can do this and remain as calm as you do is a gift.

    I’m not pro or anti abortion; it presently doesn’t affect me either way. My wife and I didn’t ever do the downs test with her latest pregnancy even though we were in the “risk” category ’cause the information wouldn’t have changed anything for us, as the pregnancy was intentional..neither of the resulting twins had downs; not that that would have mattered to us.

    My problem with the anti-abortion side, especially the very religiously motivated, is that the best way to reduce abortions to as close to zero as possible is to have an aggressive contraception campaign, making both the education and the means of contraception as freely available as possible, especially to the groups at the highest risk of unintended pregnancy. If they did that, I would take their stance of anti-abortion more seriously.

    1. Amen. You’ll know the ones who are really for real anti-abortion because they’re the ones who will be vigorously promoting sex education and contraception. The rest are just promoting their religion and multiplying their misogyny.

  6. For me, personhood isn’t important for I see the life of animals as equal to humans because we are animals. Therefore, once an animal develops in the womb to the degree that it has developed to a point we can sustain it through artificial means, then it is capable of life on it’s own and thus has the right to live.
    However, so long as the animal requires the mother like a parasite requires a host, it is not it’s own being and is not separate from the mother, it is part of the mother.
    1. A being that has the ability to survive on it’s own has rights to life.
    2. A being that doesn’t have the ability to survive on it’s own separate from the mother is categorized as part of the mother. Medical equipment doesn’t count as it is a machine designed to prolong the life of a being. A baby on life support machines is not categorized as part of the mother.
    3. Therefore a fetus that is not able to survive on it’s own (or with medical machines) and is dependent on the mother’s body is not granted rights.

    I allow for the exception of medical machines allows advances in technology to theoretically one day be able to sustain a baby in an artificial womb weeks into a typical pregnancy. As long as the fetus is separated from the mother, the question of rights is simple. At that point the fetus is living on it’s own and being supported by a machine is vastly different in the question of rights than being supported by a mother.

    Your idea that the being doesn’t have rights because it doesn’t have what we identify as consciousness is absurd to me. I understand the consistency but I believe that my idea on rights to be superior as they are not limited to any species.
    However, I would appreciate feedback on my idea on rights to identify any problems I am not currently seeing.

    1. That’s the most cogent argument I’ve heard so far. I personally don’t like the idea of abortion, but I like less the Government, any government, telling a woman, her partner and her doctor what they can and cannot do. Identifying the fetus as part of the mother until it is by some means independently viable, makes a lot of sense.

  7. There is no “fact” about when a person is a person, or when a human “factually” has human rights. That is wholly a human construct and, as you said, has varied as our species has evolved. Early humans did not have the means to care for others with disabilities. A premature baby would not have survived. A person could not be put on life support indefinitely. As we continue to have more ways of keeping humans alive in a state that they previously would not, our philosophical concept of “human” is going to change. We are in a position in our cultural evolution to be able to make moral or philosophical decisions about life and death, as opposed to a hunter gatherer society who would have no choice but to leave behind a dying member out of necessity.
    We all understand biology and know that an embryo and a fetus are going to become a human in time. But we already make a distinction on the “humanness” of this being. There is a difference between a miscarriage and a stillbirth. There are no birth and death certificates issued in the case of a miscarriage.
    One final thing, I think we too often focus too much on semantics. A woman who finds out she’s pregnant and is happy about it is probably going to immediately begin referring to it as her “baby,” and that’s a lovely thing. So if someone makes a slip in their terminology, let them retract if need be without saying that they’re changing their view.

  8. Two points:

    1. You were on the right track with talking about the point of conception being a process. You were making a philosophical point how absurd his criteria was because you could go back to just sperm and egg damage. The problem he side tracked you on is that the point of conception is a human understanding of a “process” as you correctly called it. For example, looking at evolution when was the first “human” born. There was never a point in the process where you can say a non-human mother gave birth to a human child. We need to categorize reality in order to communicate and make sense of it. So finding that the point of conception is an arbitrary human construct it, undermines his argument.

    2. Since the mother is another person involved here as you pointed out, she has rights. A mother can not be made to give her kidney even to her own child if the child would die without it. Is that murder or manslaughter if she doesn’t? NO So even if we grant some kind of rights to the fetus, at each stage of development the mothers rights must counter balance. The fetus does not exist without using the mothers body to grow and develop. So it is a continuum of shifting rights. In order for the woman to maintain bodily autonomy she must be able to make those decisions. Of course, this has practical considerations when the life of the mother is at stake. It can’t be murder to remove a fetus at any stage if the life of the mother is in danger. She is a person for sure and even if the fetus is sort of a person it isn’t the same.

    3. He was using black and white thinking. I heard this somewhere. Say a fertility clinic is on fire and 100 frozen embryos are in a container in one room and a toddler is in another. You can only save one. Which do you save? This illustrates how personhood isn’t very relevant because we don’t live in a black or white reality. Defining a person is a human catagory but we shouldn’t get caught up in absolutes.

    1. If you listen closely to the “Pro-Life” rhetoric: Fetuses are sacred; children are not. That’s why it’s murder to abort an embryo or fetus, but it’s not murder to let a toddler die for lack of a kidney. The abortion issue is MUCH, MUCH more about controlling others, women in particular, than it is about respecting life or obeying “God.”

  9. If the fetus is a person and the mother has no right to commit murder or manslaughter (per guests suggestion), then we could imagine some absurd scenarios. For example, why not have a law that after a rape, incest or even consensual intercourse, a woman would legal have to report to a special clinic where they wait to see if conception occurs. If it does they keep her their and control her activities, food intake to protect the fetus. He wants us to say that we are dealing with 2 persons, so even if a life threatening complication occurs, doctors would feel that the fetus can’t be sacrificed to save the mother. I think this will lead to more suffering because you are protecting something that isn’t as human (or might not be a person) as the mother who is a human person.

    I just realized that adding the mother in shifts the burden of proof back to your guest to show that the fetus is a person. Because the mother is a person and her rights need to be protected. You better “know” that the fetus is also a person before taking away the rights of the mother to control her own body. Of course, I’m just playing on the guests person or not person false dichotomy.

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