Wednesday, November 05, 2008

One Man's Vote

Paul Windsor has been remarkably transparent on his blog in explaining his reasoning for voting for United Future. It seems that if the Family Party is the Destiny party, then UF is fast becoming the Baptist or at least the Carey party! I jest mostly. I'm not sure I'm with Peter Dunne on abortion but even in NZ there's no sensible middle ground on abortion. You're either a child murderer or a woman oppressor. So that's hardly a vote turning issue.

I continue to observe and research my own electorate. I discovered this fascinating article in the NZ Herald on the racist attitudes in the new Botany electorates. I love it that the people interviewed didn't want to be classed as racists - more they didn't want anyone to know they are racists! I happen to know the lawyer who faciliatated the local candidates forum who shares a surname with one of the candidates. He may be ethnically Asian but was born in Christchurch. So he's an immigrant of sorts(!) but where do these ignorant whites get off insulting my kiwi friend?

Most fascinating was the voting attitudes of some new immigrants really disturbing! Will this be the most ethnically driven election experience in NZ?


Damian said...

"You're either a child murderer or a woman oppressor"

False dichotomy. Please press any key to continue...

BJ said...

Ha! Of course I agree these extremes are a fallacy but you're hard put to find anyone who will occupy the middle ground and say something like:

The State has an interest in protecting the rights of the unborn child. The mother also has rights of varying weight in the areas of personal bodily autonomy, parental autonomy and psychological health. The State must therefore prescribe and monitor rules in which the rights of the unborn child may be overridden by the rights of the mother in the above areas. Currently the rights of the mother are being elevated consistently above the rights of the unborn child in the numbers of abortions that are being permitted on the grounds of pyscholigical wellbeing (18,000 pa, roughly 25% of the total number of pregnancies). The balance needs addressing so that abortions are less readily available as contraception but still available at the woman's choice in circumstances of necessity brought about by (for example) danger to the mother's life, pschiatric wellness and factoring such circumstances as the health of the unborn child. In line with the desire to prevent abortion being used as contraception, education and welfare programmes must also address the underlying causes of NZ's high unwanted pregnancy rates.

Maybe I am wrong, but is anyone saying that and actually meaning it? Mostly I've heard the either/or extremes. Happy to be directed to the voice of wisdom (that sounds most like mine) so start digging in your favourite parties' websites so you can prove me wrong and help me vote on the abortion policy of a party!

Rhett said...

United Future:

The intention of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 was to ensure that in New Zealand, abortions were safe and rare, according to UnitedFuture MP Judy Turner, in response to the recent ruling by Justice Millar in the Wellington High Court on the judicial review of the performance of the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

“What Justice Millar seems to be saying is that while abortions may be safe, they are by no means rare and that the Abortion Supervisory Committee seems to be misinterpreting its function and powers,” she says.

“Regardless of what side of the debate one takes on this polarising issue, it is clear that everyone agrees that our rate of terminations is unacceptably high.

“My concern is that politicians, fearing the polarising nature of the issue, will choose not to engage in the debate as to how to bring our statistics down based on the common concern that does exist.

“While I share concerns about the application of the law by the current supervisory committee, I think that we also need to be taking a serious look at our failing messages about sexual and reproductive health.

“For decades we have thrown money at the same providers of health messages despite their demonstrable failure to have any impact,” says Mrs Turner.

Damian said...

There are two main approaches to this issue; the binary approach where personhood is off/on at conception and the gradual approach where personhood gradually emerges over time.

If you are a spiritual person you are likely to believe in a binary approach largely because you believe there is another dimension to the material world and somehow 'personhood' overlaps these dimensions. (Of course, there are exceptions but you know what I'm talking about)

If you are naturalistic you are likely to believe that we don't suddenly become a 'person' in the same way that we don't suddenly become an adult at 16.

Those of us who are in the naturalistic camp can see that there is a very blurry line between two unfeeling, uncaring cells and a fully grown adult with dreams and aspirations.

Abortion is binary and so the naturalistic approach has been to draw a binary line somewhere during the development of the foetus but we admit that this line is arbitrary and negotiable (just as is the 16-year line for becoming an adult).

Because most of NZ's major parties are based on naturalism (usually because it's the most inclusive approach on many issues) they have generally let themselves be led by our current understanding of suffering and complexity and weigh these up against that of the mother.

It's sometimes difficult for a spiritual person to understand that a person like myself has absolutely no problem with someone having an early abortion other than the potential trauma they themselves experience and the additional cost to the health system. Really, no problem at all.

Parties who's foundations are more spiritual than naturalistic are obviously going to be the ones talking about the issues around abortion more than the rest of us.

I think it is important to talk about the issues and where we draw that line and why. But here's my beef: We can't have this conversation if the underlying goal is to treat even a two-cell embryo as a fully-fledged human. And when the discussion is initiated by people who believe this to be the case it's hardly surprising that others are not that fussed in talking about it.

I personally would love it if naturalists would talk more about issues like this but it's the spiritual people with (what we perceive as) unfounded beliefs who are making this conversation difficult to have.

However, if you are spiritual and you have concerns over issues of suffering then the best way to convince the rest of us is to use scientific evidence to show that the line ought to be moved back a bit. Not because a theoretical supernaturally-sanctioned soul is being destroyed but because the balance of suffering (or cost, etc) is lop-sided.

And if you have no evidence then the only thing that will work is using your power to vote or to convert the rest of us or to readjust your own views and concede that this particular binary concept of 'personhood' might be imaginary.

(sorry for the uber-long post!)

A. J. Chesswas said...

Your comment, Damian, is that essentially that causing harm is only wrong when the object of harm is sentient. You say, quite flippiantly, that people with a differenmt view are not worth yours or anyone's time ("it's hardly surprising that others are not that fussed in talking about it.")

I think these are two very unfounded statements.

I think most people who squirm at the thought of abortion do so because they have a gut-feeling about the sanctity of human life. They are not people concerned about sentience - most are probably carnivores.

Now if there's any fact in this discussion then it is that human life - that is the potential for an organism to develop its own person - begins at conception.

So if we are to interfere with human life, and eliminate an entire life, then if it is ever acceptable it surely must be at a time when another life is seriously endangered.

Unless you are an unber-green Gaia hypothesist, then if you care and have affection for this thing we call humanity your only conclusion can be that two lives are better than one, no matter how challenging. And surely no-one at all has a right to take any other human organisms' humanity.

Simple. And, BJ, there's no middle ground here. Even the Kiwi party are to the pro-choice side of the middle ground anyway! An honest party wth integroty would be looking to uphold the ruling of the high court judge earlier this year and reform the abortion supervisory committee.

Damian said...


BJ said...

Dunne: Yes, and my own view is, that in today’s circumstances for a whole variety of reasons, technology being amongst them, the procedure of a woman, her doctor and two certifying consultants is somewhat cumbersome. I think probably, you should be looking at the woman, her doctor and informed consent. I have a very strong view that – and I appreciate the moral issue involved here – but the moral issue is actually the individual’s morals. I don’t think it’s a matter of the state imposing a moral code. I mean, there is a moral dimension as to whether you should have an abortion and that issue is still there – but that’s not a call that the state should be seeking to make on behalf of the people involved.

Campbell: Or an behalf of the fetus ?

Dunne : That is the most difficult area. Who speaks for the -

Campbell: One can ask the question this way : during the first trimester, do you think the fetus does, and should have, protection under the Bill of Rights Act ?

Dunne : I think that’s where it gets very difficult, frankly.

Campbell: Is that a yes or a no?

Dunne : No, no what I’m going to say is that …a large part of me says no. Then you’re faced with the question well if you say no during the first trimester, at what point do you then make the call where the answer is yes. I think you can say, and I don’t have any problem with saying that up until, roughly those first three months period, the issue doesn’t arise. But does it automatically arise three months and one day afterwards? That’s difficult…and its where you need a little bit of sensitivity.

Dunne is frankly very confused!

BJ said...

AJ - I see my "middle ground" statement as being very much in the spirit of the High Court judgment - Im interested in your view on my view.

BJ said...


This reminds me of law lectures too long ago!

AJ is quite right to "call" you on the fiction of sentience as the justification for first trimester abortion. I know you were simply explaining the naturalist position on sentience and human life, but it doesn't underpin the broad rationale for abortion in our society nor the stance of our political parties on abortion.

Abortion is based on a legal fiction. There isn't a country in the western world that doesn't prosecute people for unlawfully causing the death of a fetus whether its sentient or not.

In Roe v Wade the disinction was viablity of the fetus outside the mother's womb - which was a crude initial attempt to draw one of your lines on what is human and what is not. 7 months was the average at the time. But at the heart of the Supreme court decision were 2 principles - the right of the mother to privacy and the right of the mother to interference from state intrusion.

What abortion really is, is a contest of human rights. That is why the child is deemed to not be human, because to do so would infringe the rights basis on which the mothers pre emptive right is claimed. But the confusion comes because the original paradigm in Roe v Wade related to the mother v the state in its contest of rights.

And of course the draftsmen of the US constitution never intended to grant any such rights with anti abortion laws being common at the time.

Now NZ has laws which at least attempt to weigh the respective interests/rights. Unlike the US we don't have a constitutional right to have an abortion.

In fact, to take your argument to its natural conclusion (excuse the pun) you could even say that for the naturalist, abortion restrictions amount to a restriction on freedom of religion. Simply because the sanctity of human life argument that you refute from conception is in many cases based on a theistic world view.

In fact, naturalist world views are as sectarian as theistic world views in that they require adherence to a belief about the existence of a soul. If you want to get really objective you have to look to a more secular justification than either divine impartation or sentience. A number of rights theories(Rawls for example) draw on the idea of actual or potential autonomy as a secular foundation for human rights which is not a big distance from sentience, nor free will for that matter. Simply put, all humans have a right to autonomy as long as they do not infringe the autonomy of others.

The point is this: why draw the line? Does naturalism compel the drawing of the line? No naturalism as its expressed here, justifies the drawing of the line, it does not explain the need for drawing it. And I'm not going to make some throw away line about abortion being survival of the fittest gone awry!

Damian said...

BJ and AJ, the point of my comment was to highlight the difference between the binary view of 'personhood' (commonly held by spiritual people) and the gradual view.

At no point did I bring up the issue of sentience because my point was to highlight the difficulty of negotiation between people with these two views.

Peter Dunne seems to at least acknowledge that personhood is not an on/off state during the development of the embryo and I agree.

Whether you are naturalistic or spiritual, if you agree that we are emergent (no, not in the sense of the current silly Christian trend) beings then we can address the issue of where and when a binary line is drawn.

BJ, do you believe that a two-cell, just-conceived embryo should be treated as a full human? If so, why? If not, then let's try to find common agreement as to where we ought to draw this uncomfortable binary line through this analogue process.

We have to do it all the time with the age of consent, driving, drinking, species, colours, and, yes, even the definition of life itself. And the best way forward is to acknowledge that whatever line we draw is going to be arbitrary (despite our desire to have things neatly in their categories) and subject to negotiation as more evidence comes to hand.

In the meantime, we use democracy to try to find a middle-ground based on our best understanding of how things work. If you've looked at all the evidence and still believe that personhood is binary then, by all means, go and vote for a party that shares your views if you think this is an important issue.

But perhaps if there are conflicts within your own particular religion (Dunne's view vs. AJ's, for example) it would be best to discuss the issue with them so as not to muddy any conversations with more fundamental differences like the question of the existence of a god or not (which many of these arguments tend to be based on at the end of the day).


A. J. Chesswas said...

BJ, the first part of your paragraph seemed to place waffly things like "personal bodily autonomy", "parental autonomy" and "psychological health" as priorities over the life of the unborn child. The second half of your paragraph, however, talked about "danger to the mother's life", "pschiatric wellness" and "the health of the unborn child", and this was better. These things are stipulated in the act as it stands, I think. The only issue is what we mean by "psychological health" or "pschiatric wellness". I thank God than an ex-hippie ex-LSD addict with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and Hepatitis C was allowed to have a child otherwise I wouldn't be here arguing for the rights of the unborn in the first place.

Damian, I think more efficiency with your words would be helpful.

A. J. Chesswas said...

ps did you notice that when pressed on abortion last night, Clark quickly began to use pro-choice rhetoric, while Key merely said there will be no change to the law. He didn't spout pro-choice. This leaves him wide open to be interpreted to agree with the law and therefore seek to bring supervisory committee practice into conformity with the law. This would actually be a bigger commitment than anything the Kiwi Party have said, I think. Bill English attended a large pro-life conference in Nelson two weekends ago. I think abortion is the biggest political issue this election, and I'm voting National.

BJ said...

"BJ, the first part of your paragraph seemed to place waffly things like "personal bodily autonomy", "parental autonomy" and "psychological health" as priorities over the life of the unborn child."

Nah, they are simply the sources of the mother's rights and I identified them as being of varying weight.

The second half are what i termed factors that might give rise to necessity. I believe that we need a test of "necessity" to justify abortion.

Damian, are you saying that naturalism places no value on 'potential' human life? I understand perfectly what you are saying about naturalism providing justification for abortion. But why should it provide inspiration? I assume it does not. You've still got to enlighten me how naturalism empowers maternal choice over and above potential human life. On a simple causation basis, abortion removes the potential for human sentience. They're not just a couple of friendly cells - they're loaded with enormous potential.

I have a side question as well: do naturalists value human life for its own sake as much as many theists seem to ie confer a degree of sanctity (I know the term is loaded).

I did specifically move the discussion away from our sectarian views to a more truly secular view and am happy to play on that middle ground as well! But I will concede I'm a bit rusty on rights theories.

Rhett said...

So I hate to be crude, but can you put this in a sort of "Abortion for Dummies" style for me, Brett? I feel like I'm missing a lot.

What I THINK I'm hearing you say is that there is a tension between the mother's rights and the child's. Sort of like: you (Brett) have a right to be alive, but if scientists managed to shrink you and put you in some body-traveling spaceship, it would be my right (because of bodily autonomy) to deny you access to my body (wasn't there a movie about this in the 80's)?

So it almost becomes this thing of, a baby has a right to live, but not a right to "invade" a woman's body, if she does no consent?

If I'm missing the understanding on this one, correct me please. But if I'm not, I have a queation...

As far as the law is concerned, how does the fact that the foetus has no choice in the matter (and actually, excluding rape, it is the mother's choice for the child to come into existence) come into play?

Surely, if we pass laws to protect dissabled people who cannot live on their own, a foetus should be protected in a similar way?

And one last thing... AJ, I am (ever so slightly) hoping for a National government too. I'll probably vote UF, though. But I have to say (again, from a lay person's perspective) that I thought Clark and Key's views on abortion were remarkably similar. And while they both played the "I live my life by Christian tents" card, neither convinced me they would make ethical choices in a way that would represent the kind of process I would like.

BJ said...

Hey Rhett - yes you're right on the tension between rights being the issue. The state is supposed to protect the marginalised. So really its the state who has the duty and interest to play that role on behalf of the unborn child. That's why pro-choice groups have to find reasons for saying a foetus or its cellular predecessor is not human. Because it loads the thing in favour of the woman's choice. Now if a foetus is legally considered human, then you have a quite different rights argument.

This is one reason the HC decision of Justice Millar was so important. For the first time the Courts held that the Abortion legislation plus the Bill of Rights Act did give rise to a state concern in protecting the unborn child and that the legislation needed to be monitored more tightly on that basis. Its not binding on those points but it does reorient the debate - here's the quote(s):

Data from the Abortion Supervisory Committee tended "to confirm (the) view that New Zealand essentially has abortion on request", 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".

There are a ton of inconsistencies in our laws - the disability example is one as you say. My personal favourite is the anti smacking law: you can go to jail for spanking a child; but the state will help you kill it before the spanking becomes necessary. Its a bit rhetorical I know, but the point is still there.

All you need to do in NZ is say having a child will give you depression and you can get an abortion. Now some will think I'm being trite. Not so:

Christchurch GP Pippa MacKay, who performs abortions at Lyndhurst Hospital, said "As far as I'm concerned, I apply the law. If someone says to me they will suffer depression if they have a child, then I accept that."

Ironically, one of the risk factors for post natal depression is having a previous abortion.

Rhett said...

Thanks BJ.

I mean, the key question for me - and one which our politicians seems either confused on or desperately keen NOT to talk about - is at what point life begins.

I want to agree that it is complex. Even I am not sure I would want to say personhood begins at conception. I am no expert but I have read that the zygote can split into twin embyros (however it does that) 3-8 days after fertilisation. So obviously, it is a clouded issue. I'm not sure we can draw solid lines as to when an embryo is a "person" and when it isn't.

But unlike pro-choicers, this leads me to the opposite conclusion. Surely if we cannot determine the exact stage when an embroy becomes "human", we are playing with some kind of ethical fire by coming up with timeframes within which abortion is acceptable?

And surely the onus is on pro-choicers to decisively prove that an embryo is NOT human until a certain stage, as abortion in the first trimester is drawing lines which are not backed up by science?

Damian said...

Damian, I think more efficiency with your words would be helpful
Cheers for the advice.

Damian, are you saying that naturalism places no value on 'potential' human life?

But why should it provide inspiration? I assume it does not.
Correct. Other matters of inconvenience and suffering provide 'inspiration'.

On a simple causation basis, abortion removes the potential for human sentience.
So does contraception. So does dressing badly at a party.

You've still got to enlighten me how naturalism empowers maternal choice over and above potential human life.
Try avoiding contraception and you'll find enlightenment. 'Potential' is itself a fuzzy line.

They're not just a couple of friendly cells - they're loaded with enormous potential.
So are the pluripotent stem cells that are destroyed every time you scratch your skin. The kind of potential you talk about is largely in the minds of other people who invest an interest. (Or a god, if you happen to believe in it - which is probably the crux of this issue).


The issue I raised was that of the binary view vs the emergent view. There are fellow Christians of yours who acknowledge the emergent view and so it might be best to duke it out with them to avoid unnecessary angst.

BJ said...

BJ: "On a simple causation basis, abortion removes the potential for human sentience."

Damian: "So does contraception. So does dressing badly at a party."

Not so fast. This discussion is about abortion, not contraception. There is no real human potential prior to conception. Something new comes into being at conception. ou can't derail a causation argument with a de novo point. Deal with the argument, don't insert another one. Does abortion remove the potential for human sentience or not? I infer from your answer that it does.

Now if other matters of inconvenience and suffering provide the inspiration, surely they need to be weighed against the removal of the potential for human sentience? These are the competing interest that need to be weighed are they not?

It's easy not to engage the arguments by simply saying: because you believe in God you are fatally flawed from being rational.

Rhett I agree the onus should shift to those wishing to end human potential.

Scientifically, all the major genetic choices are made at conception. A new life has begun. I assume its life?

Frank said...

Damian, I have the utmost respect for you, but you need to stop inserting things like this:

(Or a god, if you happen to believe in it - which is probably the crux of this issue).

It makes you look like an arrogant dick.

I'd berate someone if they said they couldn't really talk to you and engage your thoughts because you're an atheist... if you're going to enter the discussion just engage the points put forward. I'm enjoying the read, but I cringe every time those comments are thrown in and you've done it a few times here.

Damian said...


Frank, the full context of that comment of mine was "The kind of potential you talk about is largely in the minds of other people who invest an interest. (Or a god, if you happen to believe in it - which is probably the crux of this issue)."

i.e. the 'potential' would be in the mind of a god if you believed in a god.

And in this type of belief often lies the binary view that humans pop into existence rather than gradually emerge.

That's harsh bro.

Frank said...

You know I love you and would happily give you a man hug in public ;)

Dale Campbell said...

You know I love you and would happily give you a man hug in public ;)

Now that kind of talk is what will REALLY decrease the potential for human life... :)

Jack said...

Sigh - this topic again, and again no mention of father's rights or responsibilities. Do they suffer depression after their child is aborted? I'm guessing no-ones bothered to ask. Perhaps if society demanded more from the fathers of these children, mothers would feel they had more choices.
I see nothing wrong with Damian's point on contraception either - given that I've just heard the morning after pill advertised on the radio and many commonly used contraceptive pills also work in part by preventing the fertilised egg implanting. If you are going to take 'conception = life' then you would also have to make these forms of 'abortive'contraception illegal. And you would have big problems with all the spare embryos that result from IVF procedures.
This article ( talks about police wanting legal back up to charge mums who drink booze during pregnancy as it harms the unborn baby. If someone murders a pregnant woman are they charged with double murder?
At the end of the day, as much as you may want to, you can't protect an unborn child from its mother - they are too entwined (it's hard enough trying to protect born children from their parents actions). Making abortion illegal or more difficult to obtain certainly wouldnt stop abortion. Instead it would be worth taking an honest, non judgemental approach to the issue and instead of making mums sign up for depression to get an abortion, we could scrap those mental health conditions and actually ask them the real reason. Then maybe we could start to get an idea of what needs to be done to reduce terminations.

Dale Campbell said...

Jack, mention of father's rights or responsibilities. ...Perhaps if society demanded more from the fathers of these children, mothers would feel they had more choices. I think everyone would heartily agree. Men need to be responsible too. It's certainly not either/or, but both/and.
Damian's point on contraception... ...morning after pill... preventing the fertilised egg implanting...(etc.)
I think it is too... trying to find the best word to use... 'narrow' to endlessly debate where some 'line' might be. I actually agree with Damian that such notions of a line are quite arbitrary. This issue is hugely more complex (I suspect we'd all agree) than just whether or not taking a specific pill or having a specific surgery done is moral or not. It's about being responsible with sex and valuing life - both quantity AND quality. I think the best contraceptive is a healthy dose of self-control, respect (for life and our bodies) and responsibility (both men and women). Time and money spent on imparting these in such contexts as families, schools and communities is time and money not wasted. The stuff article (which clearly highlights yet again the need for self-control, respect and responsibility - in this case especially with alcohol; which any police officer will tell you is involved nearly every single case they handle) is - among other things - yet another example of the complexity of life. This partnership (between people who cannot control their alcohol consumption) is not one which should be sexually - let alone reproductively - active. I don't particularly think better laws is the answer here. If it will help the police then that's great. But the more urgent need is for that couple to have family, friends, community... heck anybody to get along-side them and model, teach, inform, love, support, guide, mentor them in the ways of self-control, respect and responsibility (in probably more areas then alcohol - anger comes to mind, reading this very, VERY sad article). This kind of stuff is the stuff of changed lives, and of infinitely more value than getting a law in place, etc.
If someone murders a pregnant woman are they charged with double murder?
I think in some places, yes. And they should be, in my view.
Making abortion illegal or more difficult to obtain certainly wouldnt stop abortion. Indeed. In my view, good laws are better than bad laws, and I'll always vote accordingly; but yes, they don't ultimately change people.
instead of making mums sign up for depression to get an abortion, we could scrap those mental health conditions and actually ask them the real reason. Agreed.
Then maybe we could start to get an idea of what needs to be done to reduce terminations.The issue is indeed complex at many points, but at the same time, it's quite simple. Terminations occur when there is an unwanted pregnancy. Why not reduce terminations by reducing unwanted pregnancies? And yes, this means reducing not only (again, trying to find the best word) irresponsible sex, but also working hard at preventing rape (education on how/when/where rape occurs - i.e. late night jogging through remote, poorly-lit areas; attending a party alone and drinking heavily, [geez, drinking heavily is pretty useless, isn't it?], etc.).
To be clear, I'm all about down-to-earth, non-condescending, REAL help for REAL women who have REAL concerns, needs, questions, etc... I just think that sexual self-control (not to mention self-respect - I mean, really, letting some bloke knock you up and not be responsible to be a dad has a name: it's called being used.) would go a long way in all this...

(mammoth post over)


Rhett said...

"I actually agree with Damian that such notions of a line are quite arbitrary."

- On thing I'd love to hear some engagement on is this... I also agree that the line is fuzzy. From my limited reading, so do many scientists.

Yet, most laws on abortion do draw lines. Most at the end of the first trimester. If the line is fuzzy, would it be ethical to extend abortions for the full nine months? If our law was to represent that view, surely we would say it is up to the mother to decide where that line is for the full nine month period?

But, of course, we don't. So, how is it that our law is drawing "lines" and yet we say we actually can't do that?

BJ said...

Jack - the rights/responsibilities of fathers is an interesting wrinkle - and it didn't come up because this is one of those involuntary comment streams that really started with Damian asserting that our political parties are naturalistic and therefore pro abortion. I don't know whether that assertion has been the subject of contraception or was still born ;) Personally, I don't think it was well-conceived.

But the issue of men's rights/responsibilities on this issue are actually sidelined by the almost absolute assertion of the mother's right to self-determination around bodily integrity. The State doesn't hold men responsible until there is a live birth and even then initial guardianship rights flow from whether the father is named (by the mother) on the birth certificate. I'm not saying whether I agree or disagree :) just framing the status quo.

Which brings me to Rhett's comment if we cant draw a line then shouldn't it be the woman's choice? The problem I have with this is, it seems to me that objectively a line can be drawn quite early based on the science of it all. Or at least we could say the line should be drawn no later than a given time. But it doesn't follow that the mother should have the sole choice - it does under the present system because the mother is seen as having the pre emptive right. And that is why the HC decision is interesting because it suggests that our Bill of Rights Act in concert with the Abortion legislation gives rise to a claim on the community's conscience on behalf of the unborn child. Not a right however.

My contention is that we should be analysing this more as a human rights issue. But we are forestalled from doing so by the persistent claim that the unborn child is not human and therefore doesn't attract human rights.

Which then brings one back to the main thrust of this comment thread: what makes a human? I have said "human potential" immediately post conception when all the genetic decisions have been made that determine personhood. The naturalistic view is sentience.

It follows by the way that contraception that is abortive in operation would fall foul of my view.

BJ said...

Also Jack - I liked your comment about asking the real reason for abortion. Although I'm not sure how one would weigh those reasons against the right to life which I assert. You then have the State making subjective determinations. I think we should be objectively framing something which justifies abortion on the grounds of necessity and then being relatively clear about what circumstances are in and what are out. And then resourcing at both ends of the issue - education etc that prevents unwanted pregnancies and significant resources that make it possible for people to make the choice to keep children, even those surprises that may seem inconvenient.

Jack said...

I wasn't meaning to ask mothers the real reason for terminating with an aim to use that answer as the basis of allowing or not allowing the abortion to proceed. As soon as you have standard reasons then people will just play the system and say what you want them to hear, eg "I'm terminating because this baby would cause me depression." I was meaning to scrap the legal requirement for a reason totally. The mental health reason is just a standard reason for reasons sake and it tells us little. I was meaning to ask it in a non-judgemental way so that honesty can flourish. Were they raped? Did they have difficulty accessing contraception? Do they have self confidence or communication issues? Do they feel too old or too young to cope with a child? Only then can real resourcing can begin.
I was meaning to trust women with the choice once they have had a chance to talk honestly about their reasoning and have had a chance to see what support is actually on offer should they choose to continue with the pregnancy.

BJ said...

That's a pretty important clarification! Thanks for making it. You're so right in that what you measure is what you get: if you measure depression, then you'll get it.

BJ said...

The Last Word. This was never a post about abortion so shall we move on? Thanks for the contributions - enjoyed people's opinions and the general level of respect shown. It's not an easy issue at any level and its the reductionism at the extremes that makes it hard to talk about - which was perhaps my only point in the initial post :)