I have been engaged in a discussion elsewhere regarding my position on abortion. I wanted to run this by the atheistnexus community as the perspectives here are particularly rational and helpful most of the time. Before I start, just know my mind is not made up. That is reason I am starting this discussion. Here are my arguments for my positions, which I openly admit may not be completely sound.
I support the practice of a death penalty. Yet I am resistant to some of the arguments of the pro-choice movement.
Regarding the death penalty, I am aware of the problem of wrongful convictions. This is a problem for the legal system. But in principle, I have no problem putting criminals to death that lack any hope for rehabilitation (mass murderers, genocidal war criminals, etc) if we can know for sure they are indeed guilty. The amount of evidence required needs to be extremely high to justify the death penalty. But if overwhelming evidence exists, then why keep these animals alive?
But abortion to me is the killing of innocent infant humans. It is a matter of location. If the child was only one minute 'old', having exited the womb, then killing the child would be murder. But because it is still inside a woman, we give it a different term 'abortion' and make it a choice. Isn't abortion just a nice way of saying unborn-infant-murder?
A common argument is that of choice. It is a matter of a woman's right to make decisions that affect her body. The pro-choice movement treats the opposition as weirdos that want to pass laws restricting what she can and cannot do with her own body. I feel they miss the point completely. There are TWO bodies in question, and the laws restricting abortions address the OTHER body - that of another human - living inside the woman.
I understand there is a huge grey area here. When does the fetus become a human with the intrinsic right to life? Is it only when the brain has developed? But at what point in the brain development? I get it. It is not an easy question. That is why I do not actively oppose the pro-choice movement. I am still collecting information on the subject to refine my position. I certainly don't support the pro-life movement either. I am currently unable to form a completely justified position either way.
I can see abortion as necessary or preferable in the cases of rape or to protect the mother's life. That makes sense. In other cases, where it is just promiscuity that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy, I feel a vacuous moral subjectivity seeping into society.
I also do understand that for the vast majority of mothers, the decision to have an abortion is not an easy one and continues to affect them emotionally well after the event. But that is how it should be. We should not be just OK with the idea of killing infants. It should be taboo. Abortion should be thought of as terrible, whether you support the practice or not. Would this perspective of taboo discourage irresponsible sexual encounters? Would this would discourage inception when not in stable healthy relationships? For some who have abortions for selfish reasons, it certainly does not seem that the taboo nature of the act has any affect on their habits. It is not unheard of for some women to get multiple abortions in their life time. How the heck does that happen?
And of course, 99% of the time, this only applies to people willing to engage in unprotected sex. Why on Earth would you engage in irresponsible unprotected sex? Accidentally? Broken condoms?
I have no problem with recreational sex. But we have several highly effective birth control methods. If a woman is on the pill and the male uses a condom, the chances for an unwanted pregnancy approach zero. If for some reason a birth control method fails, adoption is an option preferable to the death of a human.
Abortion is not a birth control method. It is a life control method - the act following a decision to kill an innocent human. It is a decision we give no other person in society. It is illegal in ALL other cases to kill an innocent human. But since it is a woman, and the human in question is inside her, we grant the woman this unique ability, even in cases where the pregnancy was just due to irresponsibility.
So please be kind and help me out here. I am not going to bash anyone's personal position on the matter as I want my own position to be as sound and fair as possible. I just want to hear the opinions, specifically from people with superior understanding and life experience. I might challenge a bad argument, but it only be to seek clarification, not as an attack on any individuals beliefs.
Specifically, my questions are as follows:
1. In the case of irresponsible conception, why do we permit women to kill another human?
2. If it can even be answered, when does a human fetus get the intrinsic right to life? This is an unalienable right of all Americans (and all humans, I would argue. When does this right kick in?
3. Why are many atheists opposed to the death penalty but absolutely (in all cases/situations) pro-abortion? How is that at all morally consistent?
4. Is the practice of abortion detrimental to the social health of our society? Is the religious right to blame for a lack of sex education?
Luara, your entire post here is well said.
Let me point out that everyone has "unfinished business." This term could be used of someone murdered, their families, or any person that died for any reason. Unfinished business is often used by phychics or any of those who believe the supernatural. If I die tomorrow I will have much "unfinished business."
As for black people getting the wrong end of the stick in convictions and the death penalty, I believe this all has to do with wanting to deal with the crime quickly, even manipulation of evidence, and the fact that most of the justice system and law enforcement are white. Make them all black and you would see more whites being convicted, possibly even wrongly convicted just like the blacks. I'm not sure this is all racial, but it does have to do with ability to have a good defense. Poor people of any color are then at risk, and if you are a gangbanger and into drugs, don't look for the gang to divert any profits to defend you. It means you are simply screwed.
As for one race or another being geneticly predisposed to do something or to commit a crime, drugs is more likely the culprit here. With this being so, you can see why people in prison might change. Not everyone in prison has access to drugs. For those who claim to have "found Jesus" in prison it might be said that he was part of the Mexican cartel. (Pun intended.) People might change in prison, but they do get out and often look for what they were familiar with from before. Rehabiliation programs are not working for the most part.
I have 3 grandchildren and they have all been in prison. The granddaughter was the first to go. The 2 grandsons are in there right now. In state prison because of drugs and disillusionment with drugs. They think this is the "real world" but I would point out that the one with authority to send you to prison is probably from the real world. You do not "pass go and collect $100" here. One of these grandchildren was a hairs breadth away from a murder, but did not actually commit the murder.
You mention eyewitness testimony, and I agree that it is most unreliable. My opinion is that this is not evidence unless it is caught on camera. If a person cannot recall who starred in their favorite movie, how are they going to identify someone they saw only briefly? In fact, I knew a black man who worked as a stuntman in hollywood at one time. He showed me scenes of his work and you could zoom in and see the stunt was done by a black person. Ironicly, the people he was most often doing the stunts for were white. This makes eyewitness testimony totally useless.
I like your ending that people convicted of horrible crimes could be given a choice of life in prison or taking the death penalty at any time. This would put their fate back into their own hands to a degree. Attorneys would fight against it. They charge mega bucks just to keep your loved one from the death penalty.
Keep in mind that my ideas here are about using a different form of judge and prosecuting attorney. This would involve different defense as well. It would involve evidence beyond a doubt. Confessions would be filmed and presented to the professional jury panel for evaluation. All evidence would add up and nothing would be assumed. In many cases there would be no conviction for a lack of good evidence, and there could be no re-trial unless new evidence was found. In my ideas of the system there would be less railroading.
It seems everyone has a place where the draw a line, in terms of respect for life. Some people have not respect for life. That makes an easy choice.
But if one does, where are the rational limits to set, on ending life? What are the consequences?
Is the limit that, human life is respected, but not other life forms?
Is it sentience? Consciousness? Experience of pain and pleasure?
Is it DNA? Are humans to be respected, but other creatures that experience pain and pleasure, and appear to know fear and love, are not?
Does guilt or predation mean a life is not to be respected? Is that because each creature has free will, and is fully self determinative? We should destroy, say, lions and tigers, and herbivores like cows and sheep that appear to be without predatory intent? But humans, the most predatory of creatures, deserve different respect?
If the decision for maintaining a fetus at its mothers expense, is that it can appear to experience pain, why is that a reason to avoid abortion, but nonhuman creatures are OK to kill?
Please know, I am not promoting an animal rights agenda, or making a statement that animals and humans are the same, in a moral sense. But I honestly don't know why we deserve different consideration. If we set the line at sentience, or set the line at experience of pain or pleasure, or at having human DNA, my question is, from an ethical sense, how can we be consistent, and why is that a valid place to draw the line?
We can all suffer; perhaps that knowledge can bring us closer to the other inhabitants of this planet. I can find no moral ground for our predatory lifestyle. We write our own history from the winners' perspective, and it gives us a warped view, because we have written our family out of our history.
I'm thinking of the story - don't really know if it's true - that American Indians apologized to the animals they killed. That seems to me a way to acknowledge a killing that cannot be defended by rights. I've apologized often, and I found that it keeps me close to our family. But it's not something for our horrible slaughter houses - I'm so sorry, sister Cow...
Perhaps it is more for the human who had to kill the animal than it is for any supernatural purpose. It is a way to avoid taking for granted the limited resources on which we rely.
That is indeed my way of looking at this subject - although I'm not very sure I belong to a higher life form. Explaining things in English can be a nuisance.
Like you, GPD, I understand and respect that idea. I can still see the picture of the mile high like carcasses when the government tried to exterminate the buffalo to eliminate the Indians' food supply. Very ignorant all the way around.