Friday, March 6, 2009

Another way the Church loves kids

This is pretty fucked up, even for the Catholic Church, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised:
A 9-year-old girl who was carrying twins, and whose stepfather is suspected of raping her, underwent an abortion on Wednesday despite complaints from Brazil’s Roman Catholic Church. The stepfather has been jailed since last week, the police said. Abortion is illegal in Brazil, the country with the most Roman Catholics, but judges can make exceptions if the mother’s life is in danger or the fetus has no chance of survival. Fatima Maia, director of the public university hospital where the abortion was performed, said the pregnancy, which was in its 15th week, posed a serious risk to the girl, who weighs 80 pounds. But Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife in northeastern Brazil, said the girl should have carried the twins to term and had a Caesarean section. “It’s the law of God: Do not kill,” he said in comments reported by the newspaper O Globo.
So a 9 year old girl, who already suffered the horror of being raped, should be forced to elongate that assault by carrying her rapists offspring to term!? And at risk to her own life!?

Now I've heard people try to argue that the right to life of a mass of non-conscious tissue somehow trumps the right of a women to not have her body used as an incubator, but this is even wackier than that!

29 comments:

  1. I really do understand the right to life side of the argument, but to have no exceptions to the rule is insane.

    In this case in particular, it seems like it should be a no brainer. You have physical/medical AND mental issues that she would surely suffer through.

    This is just one more case where super-religious people feel they must stand firm because to allow this would open up other issues. What they never seem to see is that there are always cases that should be an exception to the rule for extenuating circumstances.

    That said, i think in a case like this most orthodox rabbis would allow the abortion.

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  2. I think you're right that most orthodox rabbis would allow an abortion in this case, they are usually less extreme pro-lifers than the catholic church (or Sarah Palin).

    That said, I don't think any religious considerations should be taken into account when deciding whether to prohibit abortions legally. You say you understand the pro-life side of the argument, do you have a non-religious pro-life argument? (i.e. no mention of a soul) If so I'm curious to hear it.

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  3. do you have a non-religious pro-life argument? (i.e. no mention of a soul) If so I'm curious to hear it.

    I don't know if you have kids or not, but I do. When I went for the sonogram, I felt like I was looking at my baby. Not looking at "just" a fetus. When I felt the baby kick, it was not "just" a fetus.

    I realize that there is a difference between a baby that is born and one in the womb, but there is certainly a mental preparation that one goes through and i think at some point it really hits home that there is a life inside that womb that is your baby. forget the whole soul crap, once you start seeing little fingers and toes and that heart beating, it is hard to say it is not some sort of living being in some sense.

    that said, of course there will be extenuating circumstances where you have to abort, but i do think it should be avoided if at all possible.

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  4. I understand your feelings, but the law should use reason when deciding whether to prohibit something.

    The scientific fact is that before the nervous system develops, the fetus cannot feel pain (or anything else for that matter). Seeing fingers and toes may trigger an emotional reaction that the fetus is a fully developed human, but the reality is different. So what reason is there to force the mother to go through nine months of pregnancy and delivery if she doesn't want to?

    I agree that any surgical procedure should try be avoided, especially one with such potentially difficult emotional repercussions, and this is why we should support better sex education and contraception.

    But if you want the law to force a woman to carry a baby against her will, you need a really good reason.

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  5. i didn't say that the pro-lifers where correct, i merely said that I understand their side. particularly when it comes to babies and life in general, emotions certainly effect our actions greatly. both on issues like this and end of life issues.

    Also, while you say that the fetus has no feelings, I think there is legitimate discussion on when that life is viable. If the baby could live if delivered at the point of abortion, then you have a much stronger case on the pro-life side. Of course, that is why there is much more agreement against 3rd trimester abortion than there is in the first 2.

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  6. I think we may be arguing about different things. I can understand why someone would feel wrong to abort a pregnancy, what I don't understand is how someone can justify making abortions illegal for other people (that's what I meant by the pro-life position).

    Also, I do agree that the situation is different when the pregnancy is more advanced, but I'm still squarely on the pro-choice side.

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  7. Apikores, I happen to agree with you in terms of the right to abortion (and on many other issues as well, but that's for a separate discussion), but the argument you're advancing seems weak. Are you arguing that it's justified to kill someone so long as they feel no pain, "or anything else for that matter"? Is your moral calculus predicated only on the present minimization of human suffering without taking the future into account? If so, I should be able to kill a sleeping person because his snoring bothers me - after all, he doesn't feel a thing and by killing him I will have slightly lowered the total amount of suffering in the world. At some point a moral "balancing act" between actual and potential has to be performed, in my opinion.

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  8. Anonymous,

    No, I'm not saying it's okay to kill someone as long as they feel no pain.

    And I do think we should take the future into account when deciding if a certain action will cause suffering.

    In the case of abortion, the fetus does not suffer in the present or in the future.

    In the case of the sleeping person, you may be causing suffering of others by killing him (his family, for example) and it seems to me that a society which allows such acts will have more suffering on the whole than a society which prohibits such acts.

    Anyway, I don't believe in objective morality, so I generally am suspect of any attempt to make something illegal; the burden of argument should be on those who want to take away a woman's ability to choose.

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  9. Also, it was not my intention to express my entire argument here, there is much more to say on the topic, I was simply responding to a previous commenter.

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  10. > The fetus does not suffer in the present or in the future.

    Right, but neither does the person that you've killed in this hypothetical scenario, being dead, you see. And what if he has no family, or if you're his only family (to make the case similar as possible to that of the fetus)?

    I do believe in objective morality, or rather, in an objective meta-morality: I believe people have the right to choose their moral values. I think you would not disagree with me on that.

    > There is much more to say on the topic.

    Your next installment is eagerly awaited!

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  11. "And what if he has no family, or if you're his only family (to make the case similar as possible to that of the fetus)?"

    I would be afraid live in a society where such acts are permitted.

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  12. That's not an argument. What does your fear have to do with anything? If you're afraid of being killed to prevent another's inconvenience, why do you deny fetuses that same consideration?

    To adopt terminology which you may or may not be familiar with (I have no experience with the derech halimud of Lubavitcher yeshivos), what's the chiluk between my hypothetical scenario and an abortion?

    (This is all devil's advocate, by the way.)

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  13. Being afraid certainly diminishes the quality of life, thus decreasing the overall utility of society. In other words, living a life of fear is itself a form of suffering; society as a whole has greater happiness when there is less fear of death.

    The chiluk between the two cases is that there is no suffering in the case of the abortion (except perhaps for the emotional distress of the mother, but it's her choice to take on that distress in exchange for not having to go through the ordeal of pregnancy), but there is suffering in the case of the sleeping man, as I explained.

    (incidentally, there's not much limud in lubavitcher yeshivos, in my experience, but we do know the lingo)

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  14. So in other words, we don't kill each other in our sleep not because it's wrong to kill, but because we're (irrationally?) afraid of death. I'll pile on one final hypothetical: what if only some people were "in on the know"? That is, these people would be ready and willing to painlessly kill people that bothered them whenever necessary. The "in group" would be small enough that any murders they committed could either be explained away and would simply pass below society's radar.

    Do you answer that in that situation, there is no moral issue? If you don't, do you assume Kant's categorical imperative? Or do you have another solution?

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  15. what makes killing someone wrong?

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  16. I think you're missing what I'm saying: When deciding what should be legal or illegal in a society, one should take into account whether a certain law will create a better or worse society, in the sense of utilitarianism. It should be illegal to kill because allowing such acts would lead to a society in which people have to constantly worry about being killed.

    On the other hand, I cannot answer whether it is right or wrong to commit a hypothetical murder in which there is no suffering at all involved in the present or future (although I doubt such an occurrence could actually happen) because I don't believe in objective morality. (My evolved sense of morality tells me murder is always wrong, but I can't justify that logically).

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  17. why does it have to be with out pain? so if we follow our logic its fine to kill. this world is guided by feeling and beliefs not by logic. thats what religion is you core beliefs.

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  18. fakewood,

    I don't really understand what you are trying to say. If you'd like a response, please clarify.

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  19. > I cannot answer whether it is right or wrong to commit a hypothetical murder in which there is no suffering at all involved in the present or future.

    So for you, human life is not an inherent good, but human happiness is. You don't seem to take into account potential happiness (i.e., that of the person you killed, or the fetus).

    > because I don't believe in objective morality.

    If you really don't believe in objective morality, how can you condemn societies whose moral code values potential happiness as well as actual? Admittedly, in a Terry Schiavo-esque case there's no potential happiness, so the religious position becomes much more difficult if not impossible to defend from a purely secular perspective, but certainly with regard to the abortion issue the moral issue can be separated from the religious one. Did that make any sense?

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  20. "So for you, human life is not an inherent good, but human happiness is."

    You're putting words in my mouth. Like I mentioned, I have no reason to believe that there is an objective morality, so the words "inherent good" are meaningless to me.

    "You don't seem to take into account potential happiness...how can you condemn societies whose moral code values potential happiness as well as actual?"

    Like I said, I just think that when we make public policy, our intention should be to create a society in which the people in that society are free to lead happy lives (for example, one in which women are not forced to be pregnant). I have no reason to actually think there is a substance called "happiness" which we should actively attempt to maximize.

    I just think we should try to do what works best, not try to live up to some contrived moral code.

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  21. > When deciding what should be legal or illegal in a society, one should take into account whether a certain law will create a better or worse society, in the sense of utilitarianism.

    So you do believe in general that a moral code must be utilitarian in some sense, but you're unwilling to stipulate what the "utility" to be maximized is because that would presuppose an objective morality.

    Nevertheless, you did seem to presume that, in some way, society should work to maximize happiness and minimize suffering. To quote:

    > Being afraid certainly diminishes the quality of life, thus decreasing the overall utility of society. In other words, living a life of fear is itself a form of suffering; society as a whole has greater happiness when there is less fear of death.

    In addition, in your last comment you stated that "our intention should be to create a society in which the people in that society are free to lead happy lives." In which case, the value you're attempting to maximize is freedom, personal choice.

    > I just think we should try to do what works best, not try to live up to some contrived moral code.

    Well, obviously, defining what "works best" depends on what your values are. For you and me, that means the minimization of suffering and maximization of personal choice, but for a Roman Catholic that means maximizing the quantity of human life produced, even if it involves a 9-year-old carrying a pregnancy to term.

    What I'm saying is you can't have it both ways. Either you say that there are certain "inherent goods" which society does not have the right to ignore in pursuit of something else, or you lose the right to criticize such societies which have a different definition of "inherent good."

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  22. Ugh! I'm tired of talking about this, and you're not listening to what I'm saying.

    All I am asserting is what the job of the government in a free society is, in a practical sense. You seem to want me to take a position on the philosophical nature of morality. As a scientist, I'm not willing to say there is any absolute measure of goodness or badness until there is evidence of such. As such, all I can say is what is the best way for rational people to set up laws. By best way, I mean best for society as a whole, in such a way as to infringe upon the freedoms of others as little as possible. Obviously this includes not forcing your personal sense of morality upon others.

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  23. In other words, I'm proposing that there is an empirical "right way" to run a society, based on a knowledge of history and human nature. I'm not saying that there is such a thing as "inherent good".

    The Catholics in question would like to run society in such a way as fits within their concept of inherent morality, irrespective of the outcome.

    I'm really just proposing a practical way to run a free society while assuming as little as possible about things like "inherent goodness" and objective morality. This seems to have also been the intent of the founding fathers when they wrote about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". I am definitely not trying to impose my idea of morality upon others, as the pro-lifers are.

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  24. Listen, I'm sorry if you feel this discussion isn't going anywhere, and I certainly don't demand another response if you think I'm just not getting it. But I personally find this stimulating, seeing as I have few other means of open-minded, honest intellectual engagement, being still stuck within the frum community.

    My question boils down to this: when you say you want to run a society in the most practical/empirically justified way, you have to define some criterion of practicality. In other words, when you say that a given way of running a society is the "right way", why is it the right way? What value is maximized in that type of society that is not maximized in other societies?

    You say (and correct me if I'm wrong) either that society should be effective at producing happy people and/or that it should ensure that everyone's freedoms are infringed upon as little as possible. Catholics say it should be effective at creating human life.

    So what gives? Why is your position better than theirs?

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  25. Sorry if I was too sharp earlier, it was before my morning coffee.

    The position of religionists is based on revealed dogma.

    My position (indeed that peoples freedoms should be infringed upon as little as possible) is based on a simple intuition that everyone has (as far as I can tell), namely that people want to be free to live their lives as they wish. I think its reasonable to assume that all rational people, leaving their biases aside, would come to a consensus that this is the best way to try to construct their society.

    You're right that ultimately my position must be based on something that can't be proven. As Descartes noted, the only thing I can know for sure is that I exist. However this does not mean that all assertions are equivalent. There are certain things that every rational person agrees with, and there are certain things that are simply made up by ignorant prophets and madmen. Ultimately all of our knowledge is based on unproven axioms, but shouldn't those axioms be as simple and universal as possible?

    For example, everyone agrees that the if I drop an object it will fall towards the floor, not towards the ceiling. Ultimately this cannot be proven, because even if I know that objects have always fallen to the floor in the past, I can't say for sure that the law of gravity won't change at some point in the future. Nevertheless, any rational person is willing to accept as a matter of practicality that the object will fall towards the floor. They will even be willing to bet their life that gravity hasn't reversed every time they get into bed (they are betting they won't be crushed when the bed falls towards the ceiling).

    So even though I can't strictly prove that gravity will still be working in ten seconds, we can still take it as de facto true, from a practical standpoint. But there are some propositions that clearly don't fit in this category, such as the proposition that it's evil to destroy a blastocyst, or good to cut off a baby's foreskin.

    So basically, I'm saying that reasonable people would want to construct their society in such a way as to be able to be as free to pursue happiness as possible. This is not equivalent to pulling some invented concept morality out of the pope's ass.

    Incidentally, you say you're stuck in the frum community, are you trying to leave? What type of frum community? You don't have to answer (obviously) but I'm just curious. Also, why don't you make up a name instead of anonymous?

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  26. Another way to think about it: Try to imagine what an intelligent alien civilization would accept as true. For example, it seems to me they'd accept the principle of uniformity of nature (i.e. the basis of the scientific method), but I really doubt they'd accept the "truths" put forward by the Catholic church. Thus not all unprovable propositions are equal. (and all propositions are strictly unprovable, except that I exist)

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  27. It seems that it was the biological father of the nine-year old girl who opposed the abortion.

    So now, the doctore who carried out the abortion was excommunicated, as well as the girl's mother, who approved of it. The girl herself was not excommunicated, because she is not yet in age to take a responsable decision.

    And guess who was not excommunicated either? The stepfather who used to rape her from age 6 on...

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  28. PS: I think that in theory the catholic church also accepts abortions if the pregnancy is life-threatening for the mother.

    So I do not really understand what went wrong here. Imagine: a nine-year old with twins...!!!!

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  29. They excommunicated the doctors but not the father/rapist!?

    Maybe we shouldn't be surprised, considering the church's history. They used to torture and kill people just for being accused of the crime of "host-desecration" (i.e. mistreating a cracker), but they couldn't even be bothered to excommunicate Hitler.

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