Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pro-Choice is the “Compromise” Position?

Or at least that’s what Sam Sedaei claims in an op-ed for the Huffington Post which was also posted at the RH Reality Check Blog. What’s truly interesting about this piece is that Sedaei recognizes (unlike many pro-choicers) what the pivotal question in the abortion debate is. He writes (my emphasis),
But at the heart of these questions and the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade that started this 3-decade long debate on abortion is a central question: Is a fetus a human being?

We’re off to a good start here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long as Sedaei fails to use any kind of relevant biological evidence to determine whether the unborn are human beings. He continues,
If it is, it must possess all the characteristics of a human being, not the least of which is independent biological viability.
Huh? Since when does an organism have to possess “all the characteristics of a human being” to be a human being? Human beings have innumerable characteristics (such as two legs, two arms, 10 fingers, 10 toes, two eyes, two ears, etc., etc.) which some human beings don’t possess. One is left to wonder if Sedaei believes that war veterans who’ve lost limbs to IEDs are human beings.

It should also be noted that many other human beings whom I’d guess Sedaei wouldn’t characterize as non-humans don’t have “independent biological viability” - infants, the severely disabled, individuals on life support, for example.
While there may be other elements on which one can rely to determine the viability of a fetus, the concept of independent viability remains the central characteristic of any living organism, including human beings.
And the evidence for this statement would be????? It remains a “central characteristic” because Sam Sedaei says it does?
Science clearly establishes that an unborn or unhatched vertebrate cannot be considered to be a human even after attaining the basic structural plan of its kind - hence the term "fetus" to refer to all vertebrates at this stage.

Instead of looking to an embryology textbook to figure out if the developing unborn child is a human being, Sedaei claims they are not because scientists use a term to describe unborn organisms at a certain stage of development. This is like someone saying teenagers aren’t human beings because science clearly calls some vertebrates who aren’t yet adults “adolescents.”

Plus, while Sedaei used the Merriam-Webster dictionary to find the definition of viable, he curiously didn’t use that same dictionary to find the definition of fetus, which reads, in part, “a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth.”
However, there continue to be millions of American who -- because of their church's teachings, genuine belief or as an excuse to control women's health decisions - matter-of-factly claim that a fetus is a human being while relying on no scientific or empirical arguments.
This is rich coming from a guy who just defined the unborn as non-human while not relying on scientific or empirical arguments but instead on matter-of-fact assertions.

Here’s how Sedaei tries to argue the pro-choice position in the compromise position:
What's important to note about the ruling is that while it did not declare abortion unconstitutional or force the viewpoint of the anti-choice camp over the pro-choice camp, it also did not force anti-choice Americans to accept the biological and scientific definition of what constitutes a human being. The ruling rather allowed those who believe a fetus is a human being to keep their fetuses and carry their offspring and those who believe a fetus is not a human being to choose whether they are socially, economically and emotionally ready to have a child.
So a ruling which took away every state’s ability to regulate abortion is a compromise position because it didn’t force prolife people to have abortions and believe the unborn aren’t humans? Yeah... Okay... This is kind of like saying Dred Scott v. Sandford was a compromise position because it didn’t force non-slave owners to own slaves and think of slaves as mere property.
But that was not good enough for most ardent anti-choice advocates. Since 1973, they have organized themselves around the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v. Wade and force their nonscientific and subjective definition of human being on everyone else.
Can you imagine the gall of those prolifers? They just can’t accept only being allowed to keep their own unborn children, they want to prevent others from killing unborn children.

There’s so much more to comment on but this post is long enough as it is. The moral of the story is that when pro-choicers recognize the central question in the abortion debate and attempt to argue unborn children aren't human beings, they don't come off looking very competent.

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