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Old 06-26-2009, 10:42 AM
mmacklem mmacklem is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 140
Default Re: Two Men, No Uteruses (Steven Waldman & William Saletan)

Originally Posted by soibois View Post
Not to derail the kinda-hate parade, but this diavlog touches on something I've been thinking about lately - I'm not going to defend Saletan, but I've long agreed, certainly before I ever heard it from him, that the "abortion is murder" position doesn't seem like a sincere one a great deal of the time. But I don't think the people who make that claim are actively lying, so what's under the surface? And I wonder if it's as simple (and primal) as so many adults' intense, visceral discomfort with talking to their kids about sex. That certainly seems to explain the anti-logic of being simultaneously opposed to abortion as well as to providing teenagers the information that would lower the odds of their being in a position of considering abortion.
I've given this idea a lot of thought as well in recent years, and in particular have asked many of my pro-life friends about this particular question, and here's the best I can come up with:

Consider the following two statements:
1. Abortion, as the taking of an innocent human life, is murder.
2. The pregnant woman and the abortion provider, engaging in a legal act of medical treatment, are committing murder.
The (natural) assumption, implicit in Saletan's article and in your above paragraph, is that the two above statements are equivalent: if an act is murder, then those committing that act are committing murder. That seems obvious when put that way.

Now consider the following analogy: in a slaughterhouse, there is a machine which, once turned on, proceeds to kill and butcher a string of animals lined up at the entrance to the machine. While the machine is off, nothing happens, the animals are not killed and remain at the entrance. Something has to happen for the killing of the animals to proceed: the machine has to be turned on, or the animals have to have been lined up at the entrance in the first place; or someone had to have designed the machine in the first place for the express purpose of killing the animals, or when the machine breaks down someone has to fix the machine to enable further use of it to kill moreanimals, and so on. In this example, it doesn't make sense, once the machine has been turned on, to say that "the machine" is killing the animals -- it is merely the tool used to enable the acts of killing to occur.

Translating this back to the issue of abortion, the question then is what roles in this analogy are the pregnant woman and the doctor? If you believe that the doctor is the "prime enabler", the person who turns on the machine for the express purpose of killing the animals, then abortion is murder and the doctor is a murderer. If you believe that the doctor is fixing the machine, knowing that when fixed it will kill the animals but will do so 'optimally' in some sense (with least pain, in shortest time, etc.) when it is working properly, then abortion is murder in the sense of taking a human life, but the doctor is guilty only of committing manslaughter, a view I have also frequently heard.

If on the other hand, you think the doctor is the machine itself, in the sense of working in a deterministic way within a structure that is defined around them, in which they are used to perform certain tasks that have a role within the society to the extent that the society itself has determined that this task 'must' be performed, at least in theory, then one can claim that abortion is murder in the sense of taking of human life, but that it doesn't make any sense to claim that 'the machine' itself is committing murder. In this mode of thinking, the act of murder is done not by the person committing the legal act, but by the definition of that immoral act as legal; thus it is the system that is committing murder by allowing murders to be committed legally, it is the lawmakers who commit murder in designing such an immoral system, and so on. The act of murder comes in the designing of the machine and the turning on of the machine, not in the act of the machine itself.

(And yes, this is all complicated by the fact that most of my conversations have never really considered the culpability of the pregnant woman, mostly due to considering them a victim of the entire process.)

So that's the closest I've been able to make sense of that.

Originally Posted by soibois View Post
In an older diavlog that I cannot seem to find, Bob makes a vaguely similar point in trying to unpack these motives; as I recall, his theory was about unplanned pregnancy as "punishment" for sex out of marriage, in which case abortion becomes some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card (apologies to Bob if I mucked that all up).
Was that the same diavlog where Bob was talking about abortion and gay marriage being somewhat different issues in saliency because the primary fear underlying much of the 'moral values' voting was fear of their daughter getting pregnant?
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