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War of the Genders

A confrontational soapbox for rants and politically incorrect manifestos regarding feminism, chauvinism, dating and gender issues.

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Location: Jerusalem, Israel

This isn't a dating site. If you wish to propose marriage or to beat me up, leave me a note.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Your Body, My Choice

Typical debates over abortion argue whether a fetus is an individual with rights and whether abortion is therefore murder, or whether a woman has a responsibility towards her fetus even though it has no individual rights.

Since choice is not always present with pregnancies, responsiblity is a relatively weak argument, and if responsiblity is defined as an obligation to another dependent individual, then we are back to the issue of whether the fetus has rights.

The way I see it, it is meaningless to argue as to the definition of an individual using biological terms because any definition can be accepted as valid depending on the feelings of the law-maker. Perhaps a type of brain-wave would be the criterion during one decade, and heart beats would become the de-facto standard the next. What makes one biological function more critical to the individual than the other?

Case in point: pro-abortionists claim that biological autonomy is the only criterion for individual rights and this is the current popular definition. Simply put, an individual can only be an individual if it is a distinct biological entity. Combine this with the globally held position that a woman's body is her own and therefore her rights over her body have priority over a non-individual, and you have a valid pro-abortion argument. Who's to say they're wrong? Just flip a coin and decide.

Let's take this reasoning to its logical, absurd conclusions:

For example, this argument would have difficulties once it encounters siamese twins that share organs. How would the legal system logically handle a case where the more dominant twin claimed the dependent twin was getting in the way of his rights over his body, and since this twin is not a distinct or autonomous biological entity, he has no rights and should be kill... I mean aborted?

Also note that rationally, a woman's right to her body does not have validity in abortion decisions unless the fetus has no rights of its own. To say that a woman's discomfort over getting pregnant and raising a child has priority over another individual's right to live is ludicrous. If this were the case, then in a world where Countess Bathory's physical needs were real, she would be allowed to kill virgins to alleviate her physical discomfort.

There is also the claim that a fetus takes over a woman's body or that it removes the woman's right to control her body. This may be a valid legal argument and some even claim it is legally equivalent to slavery since even a partial abrogation is an annulling of the right itself, but I don't think anyone would accept this argument if it involved murder.

So it all boils down to the argument of whether a fetus is an individual. If you maintain a religious viewpoint and believe in entities such as God and the soul, then there is no argument. If you believe that as soon as the sperm fertilizes the egg, an individual soul is created, then removing it would be murder. This is obvious.

But much less obvious and much more controversial is the fact that the globally accepted statement 'a woman's body is her property and therefore her right to control' (AKA the principle of self-ownership) is also not a valid argument according to some beliefs. According to these lifestyles, not only is your body not defined as being you, but it is also seen as a tool lent to you in order to perform certain duties. Do you have full rights over a hammer you borrowed from your neighbour?

Conclusion: The current definition of a fetus is illogical and inconsistent and abortion debates are pointless. If you are religious, most abortions are wrong. If you aren't then the best you can do is flip a coin or try to convince the law-makers that your definition is better. Murder is a matter of ad-hoc definition and the law-makers are the ones deciding whether you must keep the baby simply by defining what makes a human an individual with rights. The only relevant decision as far as controlling your own body is concerned is whether it's murder or not and this never was your decision to begin with. You have no choice and never did.

32 Comments:

Anonymous lzzrdgrrl said...

"......There is also the claim that a fetus takes over a woman's body or that it removes the woman's right to control her body. This may be a valid legal argument and some even claim it is legally equivalent to slavery since even a partial abrogation is an annulling of the right itself, but I don't think anyone would accept this argument if it involved murder......"

Oh, Hell with that. 'Murder' is as arbitrary defined from 'killing', as 'person' is defined from human life.........

I have always seen this as a 'rights claims' conflict between the woman who is pregnant, and the unborn child.....

The matter resolves to which 'rights', are to be privileged based upon a rank order of values. Do you 'value' the personal autonomy of the adult woman over the unborn 'child's' life - or no?.....

Incidently, 'ludicrous' is an insufficient argument against values. If we loved Countess Bathory so much, her life would be worth any number of lithe young virgins to feed it.......

February 27, 2006 6:04 am  
Blogger Baron said...

While all human rights are legally seen as equal, conflicts between these rights arise all the time. It is up to the law-makers and judges to come up with a ruler by which to resolve such conflicts, otherwise many disputes would be unsolvable.

For example, this site claims that decisions are made by resolving which right is "more crucial for securing human dignity".

Alternatively, I suppose one could argue in the direction of moral relativism, hold all values relative and beyond good and evil, and simply declare that a woman's discomfort has higher priority over an unborn child's life. In which case abortion would technically be a killing of a human life but not 'legally' murder.

However, moral relativism is incompatible with the concept of universal human rights so by definition, pro-abortionists would have no claim if they were relativisits.

Fortunately, most of the civilized world disagrees with you and places priority on the right to live as the single crucial right which most other rights are dependent on. For example, in the case of siamese twins where one is causing physical discomfort to the other, society would not accept the killing of the troublesome twin. They may even use the word 'ludicrous' to describe such a notion.

What society has done in the case of abortion is simply define what is human life and thus disqualify the issue of murder, thus allowing the woman to 'choose'. Without such a definition that takes away the unborn child's basic rights, a woman's discomfort over getting pregnant would have no chance.

February 27, 2006 12:49 pm  
Anonymous lzzrdgrrl said...

Thank you for your response and for that link......

I'm barbaric enough to be skeptical about the notion of universal human rights, but I'm also a spinster, so I don't expect to impose the consequences of my 'uncivilised' behaviour on the life of an 'innocent' being, anytime soon......

'Pro abortionists', would have a claim to a 'right' to personal physical autonomy, in the same relativistic environment that would allow a 'pro lifer' to dismiss a woman's personal tragedy and internal conflict as a 'convenience'.....


".......What society has done in the case of abortion is simply define what is human life and thus disqualify the issue of murder, thus allowing the woman to 'choose'. Without such a definition that takes away the unborn child's basic rights, a woman's discomfort over getting pregnant would have no chance......'


I expect that social position to be 'defeated' in the near future, but I'm in no mood to accept it. That's because there is nothing in the 'ruling' of judges to make me existentially 'okay' with it......

February 27, 2006 8:48 pm  
Anonymous alan said...

Interesting remarks on the logical misconceptions of some contemporary ideas regarding abortion.

I don't know if abortions are legal in the US on the basis of having a codified law or just on behalf of court rulings explaining and defining legal practise. I know of countries in which abortions are not permitted on basis of a legal codification, but just tolerated within certain restrictions. I.e. law-makers carefully avoid that topic, leaving it to the bounds of general tolerance within a society.

Defining a fetus then wouldn't be a matter a consistency in achieving a stringent legal statement, it wouldn't be about legalizing at all. It would be a matter of legitimizing in a pure moral sense. And I suppose it would be more so in a woman's attempt of selflegitimizing to get rid of a pile of cells than it would be so to gain a social majority. It doesn't only need social tolerance or at least indifference, but also an assurance or conviction not to act completely immoral, which would have a restraining impact of the freedom of choice.

You juxtapose religious thinking to non-religious as an argument of being pro or anti abortionist. Though this might be true for American anti abortionists, debating along that line, it is not nesseccarily true within a broader frame. Jewry tends to be more liberal than Christanity towards certain ethical questions about life, e.g. genetics or cloning. But even Christian's stance on it is not so much a culture based on eternal principles as much more an outcome of a social process. Though intellectual flexibility of Christianity tend to act on lower levels of viscosity.

Abortion and contraception were widely used up to the late medieval time and I'm not aware of any clerical action against it. So the value of unborn life hardly qualifies to be a unique Christian principle over the time. Diseases, wars and existential external threads lead to an enormous depopulation in Europe. Renaisance, rebirth, was basicly the repopulation of Europe by the means of crushing the knowledge (holders) of contraception and abortion, the more ferocious the more in need of spare.
Europeans didn't so much conquer and dominate the rest of the world as they populated it. Just as they got a little annoyed over two world wars, running out of places to export their human surplus and slightly misguided by the false idea of economical saturation by technological superiority, they started to tolerate abortions and contraception again, which they had reinvented scarcely a hundred years ago.

What determines the mood of a society and thereby it's level of tolerance is economy, demography and security. So if abortion is not based on individual rights but on the mood of a society, then arguments in it's favour are neither illogical nor inconsistent but it's existence itself by it's sole definition volatile.

February 28, 2006 4:51 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

lzzrdgrrl:

I'm not sure I understand what point you are trying to make this time. Are you saying that in your relative moral viewpoint which is opposed to almost all of society and which would be just as relatively valid as anyone elses, a woman's 'tragedy' gets priority over a human life?

In that case I obviously have nothing to say.

February 28, 2006 9:01 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

alan:

So you're saying that some countries simply 'ignore' abortion from a legal point of view and leave it to society or the individuals to make their own moral decisions?

But even this would not negate anything I said because the only way the courts can logically and consistently 'ignore' or tolerate abortion is by first defining it as non-murder. Ignoring abortion without removing the fetus's rights first would be akin to legally ignoring the killing of black men.

You can't enforce human rights and punish murder and then make exceptions in the case of specific types of people without being extremely inconsistent and unconstitutional.

However, you're right that I over-generalized concerning religion. I do not know much about the history of abortion but I do know that Judaism has always been against it (unless the fetus is threatening the mother's life).

February 28, 2006 9:17 pm  
Anonymous alan said...

Baron,

I wasn't saying they ignore abortions, I said they try to keep it on a low profile, since law makers doesn't want to take responsibilty. I agree with your arguments on the logical inconsistency. I just pointed out, that this inconsistency is in accordance with it's social tolerance. From a universalist point of view this is bad. From a pragmatic point of view
this allows for making exemptions on a level of court rulings without touching the core of universalist rights when coding this exemptions.

The reason behind granting certain exemptions and shifts in moral estimation is based on economy, security and demography, as a matter of fact not logic or ethics.

I just read an explanation why Jewry doesn't regard a fetus as life, which was based on shemot 21:22-24. I'm not a Jew so I don't allow myself for an interpretation, but I do know that Jewry can't be seen as a religious and legal entity as strict as catholicism. So different interpretations are more common.

Again that doesn't negate your universalist stance and I'm not going to attack it. My historical example was meant to show that even organisations reputated for their universalist position change it on pragmatic reasons. If these reasons based on economy, demography and security describe a society's mood, then shifts in this mood awake quite a different beast than logical impurity.

March 01, 2006 1:29 am  
Anonymous lzzrdgrrl said...

'.....Are you saying that in your relative moral viewpoint which is opposed to almost all of society and which would be just as relatively valid as anyone elses, a woman's 'tragedy' gets priority over a human life....'

Since all it takes for a 'human life', is to be human and alive - yup......

Also; what is 'relatively valid' concerning the issues at stake seems to be better understood eighty years ago than it is currently, not that I expect that anyone is gonna do a serious re-evaluation of Margaret Sanger and her ideas anytime soon....

March 01, 2006 2:31 am  
Anonymous alan said...

Lizzard,

are you emphazising on the fact of birth control or eugenics? And do think we'll see anytime soon a situation comparable to what Sangers mother went through, having 18 pregnancies and 11 live births?

March 01, 2006 2:56 am  
Anonymous lzzrdgrrl said...

The fact of birth control, alan, and abortion is very effective birth control......

Hopefully, we will never again see a situation of 18 pregnancies resulting in 11 live births, but such situations serve well in clarifying the issues......

March 01, 2006 8:08 am  
Blogger Baron said...

alan:

What does "keep it on a low profile" mean exactly? If you mean that abortions are illegal but governments don't enforce this law, then they are in effect 'ignoring' murder.

I still don't understand this 'pragmatic approach' simply because it's not just a matter of logical consistency but a matter of not undermining the concept of human rights. If economy, demography and security necessitated the killing of Mexicans in the USA, would law-enforcers tolerate it? Obviously not.

How can one base a government on the notion of inalienable rights for all people and then allow the murder of a specific type of person just because society demands it?


A few comments regarding Judaism and abortion:

- A fetus is indeed seen as something different because its future is unknown and it is therefore a potential and not technically a full-fledged human life. However, even a potential life is seen as a human life according to Judaism and almost all agree that killing a fetus is therefore classified as murder, albeit a different kind of murder.

- There is also a different status given to a fetus during its first 40 days which changes its legal definition but it is still classified as human life because of its future.

- Besides murder, there are several other prohibitions related to abortion such as not saving a human life, wounding, destructing sperm, etc.

- What all this means is that the special status of a fetus may allow for abortions in very specific circumstances according to some viewpoints, and abortion does not carry the death penalty, but it is still seen as murder and the fetus is still classified as human life.

For example some hold that with certain lethal birth defects that would cause the baby to suffer and then die, abortion is allowed.

On the other hand these allowances are very strict and must be judged for each individual case. For example, you are supposed to have an abortion if the baby is making the mother suicidal but some argue that since depression and mental problems can be treated nowadays, many cases do not fall under this category.

- Shemot 21:22 is a case of accidental abortion. Pre-meditated abortion is quite different.

Note that giving the fetus a slightly different status is not the same as claiming that the fetus is not an individual with rights. Which is why in Judaism there is no such thing as giving a woman a choice.

March 01, 2006 8:35 am  
Anonymous alan said...

Thanks for your comments on Judaism and abortion, much appreciated.

I've heared the exact opposite of it, especially that only the woman has a right to choose by a secular jewish pro choicer, who happens to be a woman ...

I guess that's within the bounds of religious interpretation. Pardon me, but I won't judge one interpretation over the other. I'm not the judge anyway.

About the other part, I didn't say society demands it, I said society tolerates it or is indifferent to it. I just describe what I see. To answer your question about the potential killing of Mexicans in the USA if certain conditions were met: Under certain conditions I'd assume law enforcement would even take part in it. But it's extremly unlikely that these conditions are ever met, partly thanks to the immigration of Mexicans ...

I read a great posting in the forum of the 'Asia Times' by a guy named CarloB, like to cite it here:

"Let's say that the Supreme Court reviews Roe v. Wade and reverses itself. That would mean, NOT outlawing abortion nation-wide, but turning the issue back over to the states. "Red" states will outlaw abortion, "blue" states won't.

A nationwide ban on abortion cannot be obtained via the courts and it is unlikely there will ever be a large enough electoral majority to elect anti-abortion candidates in both the House and the Senate.

So, when abortion becomes a "states rights" issue (again), will you grudgingly accept the new status quo... or will you fight it, by any and all means available to you?

President Lincoln declared war on the Confederacy, not only to preserve the Union but because slavery was an evil of a magnitude that could not be compromised with nor countenanced. Will you agitate for a new Civil War, to push through a nationwide ban on abortion? Will you bomb abortion clinics and assassinate abortion doctors?

Abortion is the taking of a human life, therefore a moral wrong. At the same time, the fetus is inside a woman's body. The state should have no say about what goes on inside our bodies, male or female. Life and liberty, two of the inalienable rights are set against each other. There is no happy medium or compromise: no-one can be made content, except extremists at either end of the spectrum by one or the other legislative extreme. It's a tragic matter no matter how, or how much, the state intervenes."


BTW from a judicial point of view your analysis is brilliant.

March 02, 2006 6:23 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

When I said that society demands it I meant that it demands that the government tolerate abortion, not enforce the laws on murder, and leave it up to the individual. So allow me to rephrase my question: If Mexicans would be considered an invasion of privacy and 60% of society demanded that, because of the conflict of rights, the government leave it up to the individual to choose whether to kill his Mexican neighbour, what would be the result?

Of course you are right that this phenomenon does occur where social and economical pressures make law-enforcement agencies cover their eyes. But like we agreed, that still doesn't make it consistent, logical, constitutional or legal.


Regarding Roe vs Wade, Wikipedia has this to say:

"When weighing the competing interests the Court also noted that if the human fetus was defined as a person for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment then the fetus would have a specific right to life under that Amendment. However, given the relatively recent nature of abortion criminalization, the Court determined that the original intent of the Constitution up to the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 did not include the unborn."

This makes even less sense. They admitted that there is a problem with the fetus possibly having the right to live, but since the courts only started enforcing anti-abortion laws after the amendment was written, and the constitution does not mention anything about abortion or the right to live, it follows that the unborn could not have been included in the amendment and killing the unborn is constitutional.

This means that according to the Supreme Court decision, if I can prove that the courts weren't arresting murderers of Native Americans or Asians 200 years ago, since they weren't mentioned explicitly in the amendement, they are fair game.

In other words, this historical argument is not logical. They must prove one way or another that the fetus is not a 'person' otherwise they are in conflict with the fourteenth amendment.

Also see the article for other objections that include whether the court can dictate general law to all states, and the fact that abortion laws actually existed in 1821 whereas the fourteenth amendment was adopted in 1868. Which means that when the fourteenth amendment was written, abortion was already partially illegal and therefore the unborn could have been included in the term "persons".

Wikipedia also says:

"The Court's determination of whether a human fetus can enjoy Constitutional protection is separate from the notion of when life begins. To that, the Court said, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer."

So the USA supreme court concluded that since there is no definitive answer as to whether the fetus is a human life, they compromise and leave it up to the woman during the first trimester, and the state laws during the other trimesters.

This is a valid compromise assuming that the status of the fetus is legally unknown and that there is a conflicting basic right. In other words, they decided that the first trimester has the weakest claim to human life and the unborn's fate is therefore dropped in the woman's lap since she has a right to control her body, but after that, it's up to the state law.

Which slightly alters but brings me back to my original argument: Deciding whether the fetus is a human is the only relevant issue and this decision is first and foremost a legal decision. If the law decided that the fetus is a human life, women would not have a choice.

In the USA, the law decided that it cannot make a decision regarding this critical issue, but only in the first trimester is the fetus's status as a human truly weak enough to allow the woman to decide. Which still doesn't mean that it's the woman's choice because:

1. The courts had to decide first regarding the status of the fetus.

2. The fact that it's a woman's body and she has a right to control her body has no effect on the issue of whether a human can be killed or not.



And finally, a few off-topic comments regarding Judaism:

Any rational man would agree that not everything is up for interpretation in religion otherwise there could be no definitions in a religion. If someone decided that Buddhism is about achieving the ability to fly or that Christianity encourages homosexual relations then he would not be interpreting a religion but inventing a new one.

In addition, some religions believe that you have to be qualified and follow certain rules in order to interpret a religion and stay within the legal bounds. If you wander out of the boundaries then you are inventing a new religion. Call it Judaism 2 or Judainity but you can't change thousands of years of history and still call it the same thing.

By your own words she is a "secular" Jew. By Jewish history, abortion was never a matter of choice and it is against Jewish principles to murder an unborn child unless there are extreme mitigating circumstances. She is therefore not interpreting Judaism QED.

Of course, this leads to a raging debate about permissible religious interpretation which is complex and way off-topic.

March 03, 2006 10:40 am  
Blogger Yudah Toledano said...

Dear Baron
I would like to introduce a notion that I think has been overlooked in your debate when mentioning Judaism: “The right of a woman over her body”. According to Jewish thinking and law, nobody “owns his body”; every human being is just a depositary for his soul-life, follows then, that your debate as far as Judaism is concern has no room at all.

I would like to mention that your blog is interesting, profound and methodical, yet amusing at the same time. Great job!

March 05, 2006 1:14 am  
Blogger Baron said...

More on Roe vs. Wade (after reading the original syllabus):

1. As opposed to Wikipedia, the court did not reach direct legal conclusions based on the historical date when abortion was fully criminalized in some states. The judge was only pointing out that there was a period after the original constitution until the late 19th century that abortion at early stages of pregnancy was seen as a misdemeanor at best and the woman had more recourse to get such a procedure.

Afterwards, putting this view on early pregnancy together with the fact that the constitution mentions persons in the context of post-natal life, the judge concluded that the fourteenth amendment did not include a fetus before its quickening but may have had other views concerning a fetus in later stages of pregnancy.

However, a dissenting judge claimed that some laws proscribing abortion at any stage of pregnancy existed at the time of the amendment and therefore this conclusion is incorrect.


2. The judge pointed out that historically, the fetus was only considered a human life when it first started moving (quickening) and this was either at 40 days for the male and 80 days for the female, or during the 16th-18th week in more modern times. This is yet another example of an ad-hoc biological definition for life that was replaced purely out of convenience or dissenting beliefs.

Yet another definition is the opinion of some physicians who argue that the fetus becomes a human life when it is capable of living outside of the womb with medical aid.


3. I noticed that in alan's quote by CarloB and in several sites, people seem to think that Roe vs Wade placed the full decision in the woman's hands and that the supreme court overrode state laws. This is not true, as explained above. The states were given full control for the second and third trimesters. Not only that, but even in the first trimester, the woman's decision is subject to a physician's medical decision as to the safety of the procedure.

Not only that, but the dissenting judges disagreed that the right to have an abortion is included in the right to privacy in the first place!


4. A key statement by Judge Harry Blackmun (the judge that wrote the opinion of the court) seems to echo what I said earlier:

"Although the results are divided, most of these courts have agreed that the right of privacy, however based, is broad enough to cover the abortion decision; that the right, nonetheless, is not absolute and is subject to some limitations; and that at some point the state interests as to protection of health, medical standards, and prenatal life, become dominant. We agree with this approach."

And: "The pregnant woman cannot be isolated in her privacy. She carries an embryo and, later, a fetus, if one accepts the medical definitions of the developing young in the human uterus. As we have intimated above, it is reasonable and appropriate for a State to decide that at some point in time another interest, that of health of the mother or that of potential human life, becomes significantly involved. The woman's privacy is no longer sole and any right of privacy she possesses must be measured accordingly."

March 05, 2006 8:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Yudah,

If according to Jewish law no one owns the body their soul lives in, so how can anyone according to Jewish law, make any decision regarding their physical body? How can anyone consent to having sex or how can anyone claim they were raped? How can a Jew agree to an operation? How can a Jew sew and demand compensation for physical damage?

My guess is that just because you don’t own your body doesn’t mean you can’t make any decision regarding your body. I would guess you would even be obligated to make decisions that would ensure your body’s well being. No matter how you look at it you have to make physical body related decisions on a daily basis what to eat, drink, wear, how long to sleep etc.
Even if it doesn’t belong to you, you are still granted the extreme right to cut your body open and remove an organ if necessary. Orthodocs Jewish Rabies even permit plastic surgery today.
So, even if your body doesn’t belong to you, you are granted rights regarding your physical body all the time.
To claim there is no room for debate based upon the notion that women have no rights over their bodies anyway seems inconsistent with what Judaism does permit.
t-bear

March 05, 2006 4:56 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

If I may interject with my own answer here...

The approach is simple as far as I understand it: The body is a kind of rental. You have rights to use it in a wide variety of ways, and you have responsibilities to maintain it as well as protect it while it's in your hands.

In addition you are supposed to achieve certain goals with it so obviously there are concepts of misuse and abuse of the body. Etc.

Regarding plastic surgery: From what I know, this is only allowed in cases of mental or physical suffering or when the need is great, and each case is judged individually.

So it simply follows that if you only have specific rights over your body for its intended purpose but you don't actually own it, then it would be inconceivable to use the body as an argument to validate the killing of human life.

March 06, 2006 12:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...sauf dans un cas de légitime défense. L'avortement ne pourra jamais être circonscrit au meutre au niveau des principes sans risquer de tomber dans la sophistique.

March 06, 2006 1:50 pm  
Anonymous alan said...

So if the legal status of an abortion relies on the definition of life, then the laws are arbitrary as you have shown, ranging from conception over quickening to delivery. It's not only that these different definitions compete with each other along the boundaries of different social or religious groups, but even within certain organisations they changed over time. The catholic idea of ensoulment taking place at the time of conception was reintroduced only about 1850, before that back until the 12th century it was quickening. The protestant stance on the topic was quickening, hence it was the commonly practised approach in Northern America.

Looking on the legal history of abortions I even found a more estranging practise in Austria of the time of Mary Theresa. Abortions were considered to be illegal and a subject to death penalty by beheading. Nevertheless unmarried women who had aborted were 'only' whipped. The only explanation I could think of, regarding this quite substantial difference in punishment, is that the potential life of an illegitimate child was considered to be of less value.

Of course this dates back to a time when human rights weren't regarded to be all to inalianable. It was only with modernity that human rights involved civil rights defining the realm of freedom and personal autonomy, though far from being unrestrained. So if personal autonomy and liberty, the individual right to choose are cornerstones of the modern secular concept of freedom and justice than it places an inevitable contradiction directly into the womb of every woman. Most national laws and most religions declare special protection towards the unborn life. By quite some national laws injuring a pregnant woman causing her to abord, is not considered to be an abortion or a misfortune but manslaughter, quite unlike shemot 21:22; though it makes a difference if done so intentionally or accidentially.

Furthermore this contradiction cannot be solved within the legal frame of national laws but only by social norms which in turn are hardly to be enforced by the law itself. If a woman by her sheer body is deprived of personal autonomy, and they know best they are, then this calls for a bold step to limit male autonomy as well, at least for the sake of social balance and personal trust.

Thanks to Yudah Toledano for pointing out, that in Judaism a person is not considered to be the owner of his body but a vessel borrowed to an eternal soul. This is true for Christianity as well.

The classical approach to limit male autonomy was in fact patriarchy. Unlike modern feminist misconceptions about patriarchy it was less a prize to get than price to pay. Convergence of physical and social fatherhood aka marriage and family is a patriarchic concept unknown to matriarchy. This is well displayed in Jewish matrimonial tradition where only man's duties are codified in a Ketuba, as well as in Christian matrimonial tradition making a marriage inescapable by prohibiting divorce. Showing special respect to women in pre modern times was probably a way to share a common knowledge of limitations to one's freedom and to the greater limitation of a woman's freedom especially.

It was only the French Revolution marking the beginning of secular modern times when divorces being codified in civil law were made available to all citizens. There are some sociologists explaining that allowing for divorce but not for female votes was intended to crush female privileges personified in Marie Antoinette. However it was the beginning of a demographic decline in France uncompared to any other nation in modern times. Of course it didn't kill patriarchy but gave it another spin, less responsibility and limitation more dominance. Other societies which were less egalitarian as e.g the British pushed galantry to suicidal heights. As the example of the HMS Birkenhead shows, manifesting the ship tradition of "Woman and Chlidren first". In times of catastrophies a woman's life was seen to be more valuable than a man's life. A brutal and indeed tragic variant to this is the sinking of the Titanic, which displays that woman and children first doesn't mean they were equally first but was meant to be taken literally. Almost all women of the first and second class were saved, their children as well. A resonably large part (80%) of female crew members were saved as they were suspected to serve the elitist women of the first and second class. From the women of the third class about 60% were saved but only about 50% of their children, slightly more girls than boys. The point here is that the seats in the life boats were only used roughly to half of their capacity, ie. all children could have been saved without any additional woman loosing her life. The reason why it didn't happen was the privilege granted to the women of the first and second class, who selfishly exploited it. They were so reluctant to board the life boats that the kids of the third class had no more time left. Looking on the male side of this tradegy reveals a larger number of saved male passengers of the first class, about 40%, some 20% of male crew members who had to steer the life boats, about 15% of male passengers of the third class who took their chance to jump and swimm to the life boats but only 2% of male passemgers of the second class. That is 98% of what could be called the technical elite of a society commited an altruistic suicide. That just as an anecdotal symbol to what followed in WWI which could be described as the suicide of patriarchy in Europe, completing the French Revolution.

It took yet another war, having a more balanced death toll in terms of gender distribution to have women ask for their right of personal autonomy in form of abortion. Besides the fact that giving bith and raising kids had lost it's economical function of earning a pension, when pensions were solely based on labor work, which happend only after WWII. So not granting a woman the right of her personal autonomy would be obscene, taking into account that economical and social factors developed to protect a woman's vulnarability and to limit a man's capability to escape his responsibility had been altered drastically.

Of course divorce laws, custody issues and alimony have been changed much in favor to women, so that an unrestricted right to abort further enforces an imbalance in favor of women. The weakness of the concept in having a right to chooese is easily discovered when masculists ask for the right of an abortion to be enhanced to men as well. From a freedom to choose point of view men should have the right to invoke an abortion when being tricked into fatherhood or at least a right to opt out their parental duty in this special case. Furthermore they should be granted the right of forcing the woman to deliver when compensating her financially and taking the sole responsibility of the child or otherwise being compensated financially themselves.

Besides some practical flaws in defining a male's right for abortions regarding possible misuse, most women will respond a little bit ill-tempered about the proposal, pointing out that a pregnancy is slightly more inconvinient than donating the sperm. Though they were quite successful in turning men into sperm donating wallets during the last three decades. Nevertehless this example shows the limitations of the concept of freedom of choice to the good or the bad, concerning the fact that certain degrees of freedom are simply limited by plain body functions. It's not so much a logical inconsistency, nor a sell out of inalianable human rights but a contradiction in the sole definition of civil rights itself with no remedy at ease. Declaring an unrestricted right to abort on demand would place any law maker in a situation to define boundaries of legal and legitimate killing; ruling out an abortion and thereby limitating the privacy and personal autonomy of a woman by simply 'suffering' from having female body functions would make her a second class citizen. Both annotations bear a severe impact on human and civil rights and could easily expand to more far fetching implications of barbarism.

If your posting was intended to show only that a woman is virtually not free to choose because she's acting within a judicial predefined realm of freedom, then your posting is useless, since that's true for any action. The ability of pregnancy is as much a limitation as a tremendous power, which could be used to oppress either males or females or to enrich them both. The crucial question is how to restore the balance after patriarchy vanished.

Shared parenting, maybe even forced, should provide men with their choicelessness of taking responsibility, as well as limitating female strategies to fraud in family affairs. Abolition of alimony and widow pensions should provide women with the need to work and hence all economical resources necessary to live a life on their own, facing the same limitations of freedom men have ever encountered.

March 07, 2006 1:25 am  
Anonymous alan said...

I just read an article that an Australian woman had won 100,000$ over a failed abortion. The decision was justified as a compensation for a psychic trauma, and by the costs of raising that unwanted child. The first argument is justified if depressions are accepted as a reason to permit an abortion. The second argument raises the question why men aren't permitted to sue over an unwanted child. Because they have no right to legally promt for an abortion?

March 07, 2006 2:55 am  
Blogger Baron said...

alan:

My post was not about realms of freedom. That would indeed be useless. My points are: 1. The statement 'my body my choice' is invalid from most points of view 2. The argument of abortion boils down to the definition of human life and there are many definitions, each more meaningless than the next.

Regarding #1, ignoring the fact that 'my body' is a moot point, both rationally and legally, the fact that you have control over your body has nothing to do with the decision whether you can have an abortion. I explained why this is so above, so I will not repeat it. This has nothing to do with realms of freedom, it has to do with bad argumentation. If pro-choicers would say 'i want to have the right to choose whether to have an abortion' that would be different. But they are basing their position on the fact that they own their bodies and that this would have an effect on whether they can abort, and that is invalid both logically and legally.


Regarding the rest of your comments, I agree with most of it. Your approach to history from a freedom point of view is interesting and I agree that women have been getting the better end of most of the liberating changes such that there is now an imbalance.

However, just because a woman's body restricts her simply by the fact that it can get pregnant does not mean that we must waive any other basic human right in order to help women achieve their freedom. Of course one can argue like lzzrdgrrl that a woman's choice and freedom is above everything else including murder, but I don't think most of society would agree with her.

Also, if a natural physical disadvantage that restricts your choices automatically makes you a second class citizen, then what is stopping women from claiming lack of freedom simply because they can't play in men's league basketball or work in physically demanding jobs such as movers. I.e. just because nature places restrictions on you that aren't global to all humans, why should that make you a second class citizen and why should we bend over backwards to correct this? I agree that we should help women with their restrictions but there are limits, and murder is one of them.

Your argument that the restriction on women due to pregnancies can be shared with men when they are made fully equal in terms of responsibilities and choices is also a good one. Although we argued this point previously, it gives it a new angle. Women want their cake and to eat it too. They want to make pregnancies their own problem and therefore their own choices and they want men to take responsibility (i.e. financial) only when it suits them.

March 07, 2006 11:29 am  
Blogger Yudah Toledano said...

To anonymous

Sorry for the delay, but in any case Baron took charge of your questions.
“I would guess you would even be obligated to make…that would ensure your body’s well being”. You are absolutely right; it is a Jewish low to do all the necessary for the well being of your body. Now, obviously we will have to define “well being” and in a an unclear situation, for instance: cosmetic surgery when its not elemental, you may want to tattoo your body, make a piercing, donate an organ some time in order to save somebody’s else life. You my “feel” that you need cigarette-“nicotine”, you may want taking a physical risk in case where this risk will end as a benefit to yourself or to a friend, you may even risk your life in order to save your platoon and finally you mat just want to kill yourself---you are fed up.
All this situations and thousand more are stipulated in the Jewish ethical code, you are not going to get lost. The laws are not arbitrary or senseless, most of the time you will be surprise to discover an incredible insight, after you agree to certain principles, these laws are logical, rational and consequent.

Plastic surgery depending on the case as Baron mentioned, its not: or everything yes, or everything no!

“You are granted rights”, sorry but it is much better to say “you had be given obligations”.
The word right almost doesn’t exist in Jewish law. (All of us have obligations---the rights are natural fallouts emerging from the “other’s” obligation.

“To claim…women have no have no rights over their bodies…” No they don’t! They have obligation towards the body that “serve” them, its true some things are neutral, like using make up and so on, but that never will be the case with her organs---to go to the doctor she is forced, the same for a needed operation---nothing else.
Finally, what come out is that the fetus isn’t here’s, unless she is risking her life, and then it is an all different ballgame!

March 08, 2006 5:39 am  
Anonymous alan said...

Here's an interesting case of a British woman who lost a legal battle to use her frozen IVF embryos to have a baby from her former partner.


The European Court of Human Rights confirmed the right of the former spouse to veto. I'm just wondering, if that could yield to a man's right to veto any unwanted pregnancy, aka a man's right to prompt for an abortion

March 11, 2006 12:31 am  
Blogger Baron said...

Well, in her case the embryo isn't in her body so even the marketing slogan 'my body my choice' can't apply. In the case of abortion, one would also expect the courts to take into account the father's right to decide whether he should become a father or not.

But of course it doesn't work that way. For some reason, as soon as the embryo is in her body, he has no say in anything despite the fact that becoming a father is a life-altering event. There are also other points to consider in the case of abortion which I discussed previously.

It can become a new marketing slogan: "My life, my choice".

It's typical of this woman to say 'think of what you're doing to me' and ignore the fact that his life would change as well. If he were a responsible man, he would feel the need to visit and raise his child, which could possibly lead him to custody battles with a wife whom he divorced years ago and wants nothing to do with, and she may even have legal recourse to sue him for child support once the child is born based on his permission.

To say nothing of the fact that it may not be good for the child to be born to a divorced, fighting couple.

But there's an interesting point here: They signed an agreement before the embryo was fertilized that either could veto the right to use the embryo. I wonder what would happen if a man signed a contract with a woman before they had sex where they both agreed that in the case of pregnancy, they could both demand a morning-after pill and/or abortion.

Let's take an employee contract as an example: The employee is obligated to work (i.e. do things with his body he doesn't want to do) but he still has a choice because, after all, an employee contract isn't slavery. Regardless of the issue of choice, if he refuses to come to work, the employer can simply not pay him or even sue him if his refusal to fulfill his contractual obligations causes damage. Wouldn't it be funny if in the case of an explicit sexual contract, the father could sue the mother for pecuniary compensation because she forced him to become a father by refusing to take the morning-after pill? At the very least, if she refuses to fulfill her contractual obligation to abort because it is her choice as a free woman, then he shouldn't owe her child support.

Perhaps contracts are the answer to this disregard of fatherhood responsibilities. Let's consult with a lawyer and spread the word.

Absurd as it sounds, in the world of sexual politics, a sexual contract would be a fitting conclusion. Why not? The answer to unfair divorce laws became pre-nuptial agreements. Women made marriage into a battlefield; We may as well ruin sex as well.

March 11, 2006 9:35 pm  
Blogger Baron said...

alan:

Your article about the Australian woman is also interesting and provocative but I am missing some critical technical details of the case.

For example, it seems that although she signed a form that claims the procedure may not work, the doctor was accused of negligence and unprofessional handling of the case.

Also, the article may have gotten it wrong when it says that she was awarded the money to include the costs of raising her son. Another article I read says that she was awarded the $100500 for her trauma.

Of course, if she truly got the money for raising her child, then it couldn't be a more blatant example of hypocrisy and discrimination.

I also noticed that the judge was female...

March 12, 2006 12:18 am  
Anonymous alan said...

I don't have more information on the Australian case, but under certain national laws it would be possible to sue the doctor for child care as well. I heard of a German case in which a doctor was sussessfully sued to pay child care when he was proved to be guilty of neglect when he applied a long term copper based contraceptive that failed due to unprofessional handling.

The idea of a sex contract that allows for a male's right of an abortion or to sue over an unwanted fatherhood could be a good one, but again has to be seen within a national frame. Such a contract is private law and if it contradicts or undermines civil law it could be void.

Of course any discussion of a man's right to prompt for an abortion is only valid an the assumption that a woman's right for arbortion is based on her choice. The USA are an exeptional example as the factual terms are not specified as it is in the European countries. The way I read Roe v. Wade is to give a right for abortions in the first trimester and health and crime exeptions to the second and third.

However in most European national laws abortions are permitted on the notion of a timeframe, thus admitting that an embryo has an inferior status of life. But now something interessting, suspenseful and not without a certain ironic occurs.

On demand of EU Legislation all EU National States prepare laws to protect personal and property rights of its citizen regarding their genetic integrity and to limit misuse of their genetic information. Basicly these laws restrict gathering of genetic information by third persons as employers and insurance companies. But these laws expand as well to private gathering of genetic information which in the meanwhile has become easily available, affordable and popular under the name of paternity tests. Actual national implementation differs. Conducting a private DNA Test in Belgium is punished by a mild financial penalty and legal paternity tests are available on demand within a year after a child's birth. In Germany a person is threatened by a year's term of prison and legal paternity tests are almost unavailable unless the child differs ostensibly.

In short, the proposed laws extensively enhance a person's property rights on his own genetic code. Stating that a persons DNA is not only the most complete description of him but the upmost authentic and private information that makes him a person in the first place. This information is considered to be so crucial to a person's autonomy and privacy, that not even the parents have a right to gather it in an unrestricted manner, they have no right to choose.

Quite clearly these laws put an end to any pro choice argumentation by emphazising the fact that a person's autonomy, privacy and his sole existence itself is based on the integrity of his DNA Code package.

The DNA package that according to these laws is supposed to establish privacy is completed in a zygote, which is in short a pro-lifers wet dream arguing that life starts with conception. The funny thing is that if a DNA package is the sanctum of privacy, than a zygote no longer could be assumed a minor form of life, it's not just alive, but has fully fledged rights of his privacy. I mean privacy not just personality.

So that makes a hard time for anyone who believes abortion is based on choice, and of course that renders any idea of a male's right for abortion useless. These laws are not in favour of males as they make it more difficult to prove fatherhood. But let's see. If the inner sanctum of privacy is the DNA Code package, if it is prohibited to collect information about it, than it should be prohibited to replicate or distribute it without the consent of it's owner. The problem here is that a `morning after pill` would do the trick, but not an abortion, as the zygote got its own privacy. I don't have a soluition, but one could think of an equivalent of a rape, if a man's sperm, thus his DNA package, which marks the inner sanctum of his privacy according to these laws, is used against his will.

March 12, 2006 9:34 am  
Blogger Baron said...

Actually I take back what I said about suing a doctor for child support. In the case of a doctor, he has a contractual obligation to rid her of her fetus and thereby stop her having to raise a child. In the case of a woman, she has no such obligation to her man... unless they had a contract?

You're right that a sex contract would depend on whether she has a choice to abort. This would definitely apply in Canada for example, where abortions are legal during all terms of pregnancy (they declared a fetus as having "no inherent right to life in Canadian law, and no legal protection as a person until born alive").

I'm not sure how you reached the conclusion that DNA as private information means that a fetus is a human life. I.e. just because DNA is defined as the most private and basic information so that even children have a right to their DNA, this still presupposes that the person under question is actually a person and has a right to privacy in the first place. I can easily argue that the fetus is not a person and therefore its DNA is up for grabs.

Unless, of course, the claim is that DNA defines human life.

March 12, 2006 2:29 pm  
Anonymous alan said...

I'm not sure if any European country has an unrestricted right for abortions, I don't think so. The Canadian example raises a question. If somebody intentionally injures a woman, causing her to abort, how is this judicially defined. If a fetus would be considered as 'something alive' but not human it could be a killing of a mammal within laws of animal protection. If it is considered to be not alive, it could only be a material damage or maybe a theft since it's property of a woman.

According to German law e.g. such a case is considered to be a homicide because the fetus has it's own privacy and personal autonomy and hence rights similar to a human. Protection of the life of an unborn is defined on a constitutional level not just by some 'minor' law.

The killing of a mammal (pet) would not be considered as a material damage only thus within civil law, but also as an act of cruelty against an animal within criminal law. Nevertheless it's not a homicide. I.e. killing a fetus is a more severe crime than killing a living mammal. To declare the killing of a pet to be an act within criminal law needs a definition of it's personal autonomy first, but it's not considered to have a privacy, that's what differs a mammal from a fetus.

Certain groups of persons as ederly or ill or disabled have a lower status of autonomy and thus privacy for practial reasons of caretaking, nevertheless they aren't deprived from their right of privacy.

If a DNA Package defines the inner sanctum of privacy and that package belongs to a zygote that develops to a human which already possesses a special protection under constitutional law, than it can hardly be defined as not living. It's somewhat reduced rights of personal autonomy then expands to fully fledged rights of privacy, not just of a fetus but already of an embryo.

You 're right, it depends on national laws, anyway it could yield some interessting discussions within EU.

March 12, 2006 9:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if your mindset is that the rights a fetus, i.e. a potential human being that is not viable and capable of rational thought, should take precedence over the rights of a rational, thinking, viable human being, i.e. a woman, then you are just another mouthpiece for patriarchy. You are just another male who wishes to exert control over women in a time honored tradition by rallying against reproductive freedom for women. In addition, you place no value on a woman's life by saying a fetus, essentially a parasite that grows for nine months in utero, should trump her rights over her body. How about some responsibility from men in the form of birth control? It's my body and my choice, so deal with it. How many times have you been pregnant? Did you know that women have always had abortions even when they were illegal. Men should keep their nose out of abortion, which is fundamentally a woman's issue because it involves a woman's body.

September 26, 2008 4:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a post script, why should I be forced to endure a pregnancy that I don't want to go through with for physical, emotional, or financial reasons? It's easy for a male, who has 100 percent chance of never being in that position, to declaim that I should be subjected to compulsory childbirth. Isn't that a violation of my rights as a human being?

September 26, 2008 4:21 am  
Blogger Baron said...

To anonymous:

Did you even read what I wrote? What do your knee-jerk pre-canned pro-choice rallying cries have to do with what I said in any way or form?

Hint: the article is about the logic behind giving the woman a choice, not whether it is correct to give her a choice or not.

By the way, how can a fetus be also a 'potential human being' and also be 'not viable'. Do you even understand what you are saying?

Go back to your pro-choice picket-waving demonstration where you belong.


-A controlling member of the patriarchy

September 26, 2008 11:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Did you even read what I wrote? What do your knee-jerk pre-canned pro-choice rallying cries have to do with what I said in any way or form?"

Sure did. And I still stand by my statment that a rights of a fetus cannot and should not trump the rights of an adult woman. If I don't want to follow through with housing a fetus (parasite) in my uterus, it is my fundamental right as a human being to evict it. You are trying to strip women of their basic rights as human beings, as all males in a patriarchy love to do.

"Hint: the article is about the logic behind giving the woman a choice, not whether it is correct to give her a choice or not."


That you would even question the logic as to whether or not a woman should have the right to choose whether or not to reproduce speaks volumes on how much you despise women. If men bore the burden of pregnancy and childbirth, abortion would be encouraged by this patriarchy.

"By the way, how can a fetus be also a 'potential human being' and also be 'not viable'. Do you even understand what you are saying?"

Do you understand what I wrote at all. Can a fetus live outside the womb like a human being can? It has the potential to become a human being in the same way an acorn has the potential to become a tree. An acorn is not a tree. An embryo is not a human. Read what I wrote again.

"Go back to your pro-choice picket-waving demonstration where you belong."


You're damned right I will...


"-A controlling member of the patriarchy"


That's about the only thing you've typed thus far that's correct.

October 05, 2008 8:31 pm  

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