AS201: Tommentary; Critical Comments

This episode, I look at a story from a few months back that I never got to comment on. It’s a very fascinating news item about a parent allowing her child to choose to end her medical care and thus end her life. But it’s done on the basis that she’ll go to heaven… Here’s the link.

In the second half, I discuss a comment that was very critical of my shows on abortion and how I dealt with it.

23 thoughts on “AS201: Tommentary; Critical Comments”

  1. Sezit’s comment echoes the emotionally charged outbursts displayed near the end of the Dillahunty/Kruszelnicki debate. They must first be dissected carefully, with a quivering and apologetic hand, in order to get at the substance worth discussing that’s held within.

    I’m tired of hearing you apologize for handling topics with intellectual honesty.

    1. “Dillahunty/Kruszelnicki ”

      Thanks for mentioning that. Kruszelnicki’s argument was largely. almost word for word, Tyler’s. They must have a script they pass around.

  2. I understand Sezit’s position, and agree. We don’t force people to donate organs to save a person.
    That being said, and perhaps Tyler would make this argument, the person (if we grant that a fetus qualifies), didn’t just magically appear in the womb (cases of rape, and incest notwithstanding). If you create the person, intentionally, or through negligence are your obligations different?
    What if in the case of an organ donation you were responsible for the the persons loss of a kidney (hit them with your car, shot them, stabbed them etc.), and unless one of yours is used the person will die resulting in you being guilty of murder. Would it be completely unreasonable for the state to force you as the responsible party to give up one of your kidney’s to save the person’s life?

  3. Hi Thomas, normally I do not leave comments on these sorts of things and I want to preface that I think you had an interesting discussion about abortion and I was not offended at all with your approach. I fully support you in your efforts to raise more civil discourse about the subject and you should be able to discuss it in your own way.

    However I do think you may want to reconsider adding to your approach to debating abortion. I firmly believe that we must first be able to humanize women, and truly empathize with the tough decisions, sacrifices and disgusting lack societal support that we grant motherhood, parents and families in this country before we can start having a debate about abortion. We tend to give this notion a polite nod “being a parent is hard yep” but wtf do people actually do to HELP? The idea of it being a choice, to a desperate woman, is like making the “choice” to cut of one’s arm to escape a bear trap. Women know all too well that the question is not just about right to life, its also about a right to a quality of life and how to provide this quality of life as well as worry for their own survival. What is the point of being granted life, it is a life of unwanted suffering, inadequate resources, and mental/physical unwellness? If you have not listening to this podcast about “changing minds” it’s worth listening to and relates directly to the abortion debate. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/555/the-incredible-rarity-of-changing-your-mind
    This study makes me believe that we must not discount the role of empathy when it comes to debating the topic and changing people’s minds.

    Also another thing that people must absolutely discuss when talking about “legality” of abortion is the following. How will you enforce this anti-abortion law? What will be the punishment for this kind of “murder”. How will you go about investigating legitimate miscarriages (which are incredibly common and not talked about enough) from illegal abortions? How will such laws be enforced while protecting against discrimination? Over profiling, vilifying and punishing of people of lower economic status and color is already a problem and would absolutely be a very real abuse.

    Should all women who miscarry be subject to criminal investigation since a human life was lost? There will be women who are denied abortion that will absolutely do what they can to “neglect” for their pregnancies in hope for a miscarriage. How should these women be dealt with? Is this considered okay, because she is most likely harming herself in the process? How should IVF to treated that we knowingly fertilize eggs thus conceive life despite that over 95% of those fertilized eggs will not survive?

    I think it’s immensely important to focus conversations about the REAL LIFE ramifications of what actual legal action against abortion has. And start having the REAL conversations about how if one cares about life, they need to also care about the quality of life. I don’t have time to look up all the statistics right now, but if people really care about making abortions rare, making them illegal won’t cut it. And throwing a bunch more people in jail in our over incarcerated society is just a laughable solution. We need programs that provide accessible birth control, family resources, paternity leave, medical insurance, affordable childcare ect ect ect.

  4. Mike, that case was tested (well, almost exactly that case). In 1978 McFall v Shrimp, the court decided that the state never has a right to force you to allow someone else to use your body. Even if you consented at some point in the past. It’s all about current consent.
    Forced pregnancy = forced labor = slavery.

    1. “Mike, that case was tested”

      If this debate were about legal rights this wouldn’t be a debate, Everyone would just say Rowe v Wade end of discussion.
      The argument is an ongoing one about whether it’s morally right. Even you need to concede that’s real issue. Otherwise you would have to say slavery was OK 150 years ago, 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford, or that stoning apostates, or adulterers, or atheists to death is OK in countries where it’s legal to do so.

      Also 1978 McFall v Shrimp said nothing about the scenario I used. McFall’s first cousin was in no way responsible for Robert McFall having a bone marrow disease,

      “forced labor = slavery”

      Slavery or involuntary servitude, is explicitly allowed by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when used as punishment for committing a crime. My point is simply labeling something as slavery does not necessarily make it illegal. If we as a society determined it were illegal to get an abortion, or attempting to get an abortion when you knowingly got pregnant, and there were no legitimate “health reasons” to get an abortion, we could make the sentence for attempting to get an abortion, forcing the woman to carry to term.

      Keep in mind please that I’m playing devils advocate here.

      1. “McFall’s first cousin was in no way responsible for Robert McFall having a bone marrow disease,”

        My point being if the first cousin had poisoned him, we could then legally force him to donate marrow as part of his sentence.

  5. Hi new listener here.
    I’ve enjoyed your take on several issues from other sources and enjoyed the start of your response to sezit’s comment where you acknowledged a legitimate issue that you didn’t focus on (A woman’s right to not consent and withdraw consent from another human using their body)

    However the tirade of apologies that followed quickly became excessive, you recognised that they raised a legitimate issue but not an avenue you chose to take, you recognised that they then overstepped their bounds with a demand that you change you approach and pointed out that talking about an issue, even an emotionally charged one in a philosophical manner is a perfectly legitimate approach. This should have been enough.

    I came here because I found your analytical approach refreshing but the backpedaling and apologising was gratuitous. I would recommend saying that you understand where they were coming from but disagree that analysing an issue and hearing the argument from the opposition implies disrespect.

  6. Listening to this episode, I very much appreciated your willingness to consider listeners’ feedback. Moreover, I appreciate that you were willing to share your thoughts as you processed and struggled with the comment.

    A thought that occurred to me while listening to this week’s episode was that you seemed to assume the commenter would rather you “get fired up” than engage in a rational conversation. I won’t speak for the original commenter, but I don’t believe you have to be “heated” to include women’s bodily autonomy in a debate about abortion. I’m not especially philosophically minded, but I assume there are sound, rational arguments to be made that aren’t “anyone who opposes abortion hates women.”

    I understand that you identified the “personhood debate” as the best outlet for engaging your guest, and as such, dismissed what was irrelevant to that topic (e.g., women’s bodily autonomy). I don’t think that was a mistake, for the reasons you mentioned in this episode. At the same time, listening to the debate episodes, the choice to set that aspect aside made the debate feel (for me) less relevant, or at the very least, incomplete.

    I hope that doesn’t come across as too critical. As you mentioned, it would be great to use future episodes to explore the issue further.

    Thanks for doing this podcast. I’m a newer listener, but I’m enjoying what I’ve heard so far.

    1. Thank you very much. I think you’ve made good points. The part that was”heated” to me was the tone of the comment and essentially the ultimatum that I have to talk about abortion on exactly the commenter’s terms otherwise I’m part of the problem. It’s possible I overstated that though. I think we’ll be able to clear it up when she comes on the show!

  7. Mike, I actually don’t think the argument is about the morality of abortion, because that is about beliefs, which are not legislatively enforcable. Instead, it is about sovereignty of ones own body. You can think its immoral yet still find it falls under the area of privacy and body integrity. Read the McFall v Shimp decision. It is very clear that there is no way to engage the slippery slope of legal taking of a person’s body without creating horrible implications, despite whatever moral disgust one has for their decision. And, those in power get final say, not the individual. Bodily rights would change and be at risk at the whim of the powerful.

    I think the argument should get off morals and instead be about practical implications. With pro choice, women live in dignity, engaging in life on their own terms. With anti choice, forced continuation of pregnancy, womens lives are under scrutiny and at risk of prosecution by the state, and they are unable to choose how to manage their own health and future. Women have and will die, or have ruined lives because of blocked abortion access. Their privacy would no longer be a right, they would no longer be sovereign in their bodies. Pro choice is practical and compassionate. Anti choice is impractical and cruel.

    Finally, if you are ok with shaming, blaming, and punishing women for engaging in sex, then own it. Saying you are “devil’s advocate” and arguing for the forced pregnancy position just aids and abets those who value the fetus over the woman and hate womens freedom of sexual expression. Using “devils advocate” as a free punch against those already under attack makes you look either disingenuous or just callous.

    1. “With anti choice, forced continuation of pregnancy, womens lives are under scrutiny and at risk of prosecution by the state, and they are unable to choose how to manage their own health and future. Women have and will die, or have ruined lives because of blocked abortion access. Their privacy would no longer be a right, they would no longer be sovereign in their bodies. Pro choice is practical and compassionate. Anti choice is impractical and cruel.”

      I agree with everything you just said, but it’s irrelevant to someone who believes abortion is literally murder. The argument can also be made that if abortion was illegal, and criminal, people would be more likely to only get pregnant when they were certain they were ready. So not only would fewer “babies” be murdered, fewer women would be put in the position where they would have make the choice to kill them.

    2. To me the ethics of abortion can’t hinge on bodily autonomy, because if a fetus is a person, then abortion violates the fetus’s “bodily autonomy” more so than pregnancy violates the bodily autonomy of the woman carrying it. *If* that were the case, abortion would be murder, and it would be unethical according to any system of morality I’d want to subscribe to. My desire to not be pregnant wouldn’t matter because the alternative to continuing pregnancy would be murdering an innocent person.

      Of course, abortion isn’t murder, and for me the reason has nothing to do with me not wanting to subject my body to pregnancy (although I don’t want to be pregnant), and everything to do with the fact that a fetus isn’t a person. It’s absolutely absurd to talk about a fetus that doesn’t even have the physical ability to sense anything, including pain, as being a “person” on par with the woman carrying it. It’s absolutely true that women need to be in control of our own bodies, but unless we first establish that a fetus can’t be its own person with its own claim to bodily autonomy, that point doesn’t do anything to address the very real ethical issues surrounding whether abortion ends a person’s life, or not.

  8. “because that is about beliefs, which are not legislatively enforcable.”

    Everything that we consider immoral, or not, and that we legislate for, or against is based on beliefs. If enough people share those beliefs it becomes a crime. Killing is wrong because as a society we share the belief it’s wrong, it’s acceptable in self defense, or war, or capital punishment, because most of us believe in those cases it’s acceptable,

    “Instead, it is about sovereignty of ones own body.”

    Of course you would like to frame it that way because it becomes a no brainer, particularly when you throw in the “women are never responsible for getting pregnant” argument.

    “Finally, if you are ok with shaming, blaming, and punishing women for engaging in sex, then own it.”

    Personally I don’t believe a fetus, or a newborn for that matter qualifies as a person, so responsibility is irrelevant. It is relevant however to someone who does. But to answer your question IF we were to determine that a fetus qualifies as a person then yes you would be responsible if you intentionally got pregnant because you would be making that decision with the knowledge that terminating the pregnancy was murder. To use an analogy. I’m not responsible for putting on my seat belt, or wearing a helmet except in jurisdictions where I know it’s illegal not to do so.

  9. Mike, the fetus has not been determined to be a person, but the pregnant woman is. Why do you entertain this argument of equating a blob of tissue with potential to an actual person? It is so demeaning to actual people.

    Also, if for no other reason, abortion can absolutely be justified as self defense. The risk of death is 20 times higher for full pregnancy (12 per 100,000) vs abortion (.6 per 100,000), and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the hundreds of pregnancy complications both common and uncommon, mild to debilitating, short-term and life-long impacts. Bodies are messy, no birth control is 100% effective, natural miscarriages happen in 30-40% of pregnancies, life is hard and condidions change unexpectedly. Real lives are complex, and real people are being hurt by these abortion strictures. Life has no guarantees, and people need to be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves.

    1. “Mike, the fetus has not been determined to be a person, but the pregnant woman is.”

      A significant percentage, if not a majority of people, disagree, and that is the problem. Suggesting that position should be ignored is like saying we should ignore people who don’t think capital punishment is murder in the death penalty debate when those are precisely the people whose opinions we need to change. Saying you simply refuse to entertain their opinion that a fetus is a person is simply going to harden their hearts and make them more resolved to prevent abortions.

      “The risk of death is 20 times higher for full pregnancy (12 per 100,000) vs abortion (.6 per 100,000)”

      I think that’s a rather counterproductive argument to use to try and convince people who consider abortion murder, Abortion is good because 20 women are saved for every 100,000 babies murdered.

  10. Mike, you are incorrect. More than 50% of people in the US support abortion, and personhood bills have failed every time they are brought up. The more advanced a country is, the better the access to early abortion. Abortion restiction in this country is done legislatively, not by popular vote. And those laws ruin lives:

    Bei Bei Shuai, 2010 in Indiana, charged with attempted murder for attempted suicide. She was jailed for a year on a plead down.

    Christine Taylor, 2010 in Iowa, charged with attempted fetal homicide after falling down the stairs, going to the hospital, and being reported for trying to end her pregnancy. She was investigated and charged even though feticide laws only apply in the 3rd trimester and she was in her 2nd.

    Anna Yocca, 2015 in Tennessee, charged with attempted murder for using a coat hanger to self induce abortion. When she went to the hospital for uncontrolled bleeding, she was investigated and charged.

    Purvi Patel, 2015, in Indiana, sentenced to 20 years for feticide and child endangerment for self induced abortion.

    A study in Texas determined that in the last year over 100,000 women have attempted self induced abortion because of lack of access. Many have ended up in hospital.

    I don’t accept your conclusion that we should argue on the grounds that the anti-abortion, pro-forced-pregnancy advocates define. I think good people who have not thought through the consequences can reconsider their rigid all-or-nothing stance by being continually exposed to and challenged regarding the sickening ruin their stance causes, and their inconsistancy of saying they want to stop abortions while acting against proven methods to reduction abortion. There are effective ways to reduce abortion without policing or punishing women. For example, good sex ed and free birth control are proven to make a huge reduction in abortion. I challenge that their hard line position is not consistant with their stated values.

    1. “Mike, you are incorrect. More than 50% of people in the US support abortion”

      May 2015 51% legal only under certain circumstances. I wouldn’t say that is more than 50% support in the sense you characterize it. That number includes those who only support it only in cases of rape, and/or incest. Only 29% legal under any circumstances. Also 24% of people want abortion laws stricter, only 12% less strict. 61% think abortion should be illegal if the reason is “the woman or family cannot afford to raise the child”.So I would say that my characterization that more than 50% consider a fetus a human person is correct.

  11. Mike, you seem locked into the position that people who are anti abortion really care about personhood. I don’t believe them. I think they (and others who may not be strongly committed) should be challenged on that. Their stated position does not match many of their actions. For example, look at the 6 year Colorado birth control program, 2009-2015. It was funded by a $28M private grant to give free long term birth control (implants, iuds) to women. 35 thousand women participated. Teen births dropped by 38%, abortion dropped by 42%. It saved $80M in medicaid. When the grant ended, the republican legislature shut it down. And no pro life lobby pushed for continued funding or implementing elsewhere. And there was no effort to compromise the program to meet their ideals. Anti abortionists wouldn’t take yes for an answer.
    I think they should be called out on that. If they really think fetuses are people, why wouldn’t they support a huge reduction in abortion? We should be skeptical of their claims. Don’t trust what they say, watch what they do.

    Now, Mike, I’m watching what you do. You say you are pro choice, but you insist on treating the anti choice claims with respect that is not deserved, based on the proven outcomes of their efforts, and you have not acknowledged the real harmful results of their positions. They do not lobby to fund families or help people, only to limit women’s rights. They have no programs or researchers working on new approaches for problem solving.  They are not doing research into how natural miscarriage (30 – 40% of all pregnancies) can be avoided to save more babies. They are not seeking funding into how unwanted fetuses and be transplanted into the wombs of sterile women who want children. I call bullshit. All they want to do is yell af women outside of medical centers and limit womens options. And maybe shoot up or bomb clinics. Its not an honorable position, yet you keep supporting it.

    1. “Mike, you seem locked into the position that people who are anti abortion really care about personhood. I don’t believe them.”

      Well that’s a problem isn’t. You begin the discussion assuming the other side is being disingenuous. Well I suspect the sentiment is often mutual. You know a fetus is a human person, but you deny if so you can avoid responsibility for getting pregnant by killing them.

      I don’t believe them when they make exceptions for rape, or incest. Because such a fetus is no less an “innocent victim”. In that case I suspect the “pro-choice” person is more interested in punishing a woman for what he sees as her immorality. If she is raped, or the victim of incest it’s not her fault, and no punishment is required.

  12. From my perspective tom and the commenter are talking about two different things.

    Tom is talking about what he thinks will convince someone who is pro-life and the commenter is talking about what is really important in the pro-choice or pro-life debate. What is important is not the same thing as what will convince someone else they are wrong.

    I honestly don’t think we should be focusing on convincing the stalwart pro-choice. The majority of people are not at the extremes and have not put a lot of thought into these issues. The middle should be the target audience for any discussions about abortion. They are the ones that will most likely change their minds about the issue

    I personally don’t think tom should focus on convincing the person he is talking to on his public debates. In public debates people pretty much never change their minds. The important part is that the audience sees the two sides of an issue and hopefully can see what is important or not

  13. Mike Paps, you disparage my skepticism of those who hold the personhood position, despite my numerous reasons for my position, which you haven’t acknowledged. You blame me for not taking them at their word, yet in your next paragraph, you say you don’t believe them either. Apparently, you think you have the right to be skeptical but those who disagree with you don’t. I’m not impressed.

    1. “You blame me for not taking them at their word, yet in your next paragraph, you say you don’t believe them either.”

      As I said I don’t take their word when they make exception for incest, or rape because it’s inconsistent, not because I’m just inclined not to believe them.

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