For your background, here is our twitter convo:
Now, let me preface my response to "abortion and the Law" by first saying that I do not believe that either the ZEF's or the mother's rights are more important than the others - their rights are, in my opinion, equal in value and consideration. They are both, after all, human, and so both have basic human rights (including the rights to life and liberty).
The million dollar question therefore is: does the baby encroach on the rights of the mother, or does the mother encroach (through abortion) on the rights of the baby?
From the author, Heather's friend "J":
"Here's where what you believe meets what actually is."
Ugh. Don't you just love it when people are condescending? That being said, what "actually is" is actually what is under debate (btw, if you're wondering, I had fun writing this sentence!). What I, and other prolifers, believe is that the unborn baby "actually is" a person, endowned with all the basic rights born people should enjoy - with the addition of a right that children enjoy. That is, the right to basic care (and children deserve this right because, self-evidently, they are not able to achieve their right to life without the aid of someone older than themselves).
"The real issue is whether [the fetus] is a person [in the legal sense]. If it is a person, then it has a right to life. If it is not a person, it has no constitutional rights at all."
We agree on this one. It is very rare to find a pro-choicer willing to admit that this is the major question in the abortion debate. Awesome!
"The woman is a person. There is no issue with that. It is not a matter of debate."
It was once. And it still is in many corners of the globe. And this is one thing I find very disturbing about pro-abortion/pro-choice feminists - they are having the very same debate about their children that was once applied to them - that is, whether certain individuals are property or people.
"[The woman] has certain liberty interests that are constitutionally protected. One of those is privacy: the right to be left alone."
The right to privacy is very much a conditional standard. If you are committing a crime, and the police have probable cause, then you no longer have the right to be left alone. You get arrested, your house is searched (providing there is reason for the issue of a warrant), and you go to jail. Or, a more apt example would be child abuse. Should child protection services have reason to believe you are neglecting or abusing your children in some way, you no longer have the right to be left alone. The government enters your life, makes your business its business, and can even go so far as to take away your wanted children - all in order to protect your children's rights. And so we come back to the central question: does the unborn baby have rights, and are these rights worth protecting?
"The issues of abortion, pregnancy, and family are private matter which the woman is entitled to control and safeguard against government interference. So what you have now is a situation where a non-person would have greater rights than a person."
This is the author's premise (which, in the case of family, we have already established to be untrue in cases of abuse). "J" has not, in any way, shape, or form, proven or supported this premise. So forgive me if I ignore the "non-person having greater rights than a person" argument, because the author has not proven that the baby is not a person. While it is true that the baby is currently not defined as a person in US (or Canadian) law, that does not mean that the current law is correct. Otherwise women, blacks, Jews, Native Americans, people with disabilities (etc. ...) were all once non-persons who only became people once governments decided to define them as such. And I sincerely hope that we don't look to the government alone to define for us who is or is not a person, because they have (evidently!) been very, very wrong in the past.
The second thing that the author needs to defend, and has yet to do so, is why providing babies with a right not-to-be-killed (i.e.: a right to life) somehow gives the baby greater rights than the mother. I contest that this is not so. But right now, the burden is on Heather and "J" to explain exactly why an unborn baby is not a person, and why its right to life gives it greater rights than the mother (after all, the unborn baby, in the vast, vast (it cannot be said enough) vast majority of cases does not threaten the mother's life, nor her liberty, nor her pursuit of happiness - unless one wants to argue that pregnant women are willing slaves to their unborn children - and I hope that sounds as ridiculous to you, dear readers, as it does to me).
"There are major major problems with defining a fetus as a person ... [including] the government suddenly having the ability to control everything about a pregnant woman's life from her diet to her workout schedule specifically because the fetus now has liberty and life rights. The slippery slope there is too great. Every study that came out saying that mothers who watched TV while pregnant had higher incidence of miscarriage would potentially result in government intervention in the TV-watching habits of pregnant women - you know, because they have to protect the person that is the fetus."
Bravo, excellent job of fear-mongering, and excellent use of the fallacy form of the "slippery slope" rhetorical device. This is a fallacy here for two reasons: (1) The author ignores any possibility of a middle ground and (2) the author does not demonstrate a process which could lead to this extreme state of government control. This slippery slope is very obviously, ridiculous. To demonstrate, let us compare pregnancy to a natural, common relationship that is as close to pregnancy as possible - that is, the relationship between parents and the born children who are under their care. There are countless studies which show that the things that parents allow their kids to do every day may not be in the best interests of their kids' health: watching TV, eating candy, eating fast food and heavily processed food, playing video games, watching R-rated movies, drinking alcohol, smoking around their kids, raising kids as a single parent, raising kids in a home where both parents are working ... the list goes on. Kids who eat lots of junk food and sit around watching TV and playing video games are more likely to be fat, and have all the toher health problems that come along with poor diet and exercise habits. Kids who watch violent and sexually explicit movies at a young age can be adversely affected emotionally. Kids who are raised by single mothers are more likely to grow into a life of drugs and crime. Kids who have a sip of beer or wine from a parent's cup (and teenagers whose parents allow them to drink at home) have underdeveloped brains which could be adversely affected by alcohol. Working parents do not have as much time as stay at home moms and dads do to spend time with and care exclusively for their children. But do you see the government jumping in and controlling every aspect of these parents' lives, even once these children exhibit negative health consequences unto natural death? Do you see the government mandating that one parent must stay at home, that single mothers must marry to give their children fathers, that parents must serve only certain foods at certain times to their children, and that children are only allowed to sit in front of a TV for a certain number of hours a week - all this, of course, to ensure that children are cared for in the very best way possible that research can demonstrate?
No, you don't see this happening. And you don't see this, in spite of the fact that kids are considered people under the law, and kids really are at the mercy of their parents' habits and customs.
What you do see is the government becoming involved in the severe cases - cases where children's lives are threatened to an unnatural degree: where they are neglected, starved, beaten, and not cared for in even the most basic of ways.
That is when the government becomes involved in the care of vulnerable people (or rather, vulnerable humans - humans just like unborn babies).
So please, spare me the whole "women's lives will be controlled in every imaginable way" sob story. It is not true. If it becomes true, we'll have a lot more to worry about than just pregnant women being controlled by the government, because the exact same thing will happen to anyone who has a vulnerable person under their care.
"This is why, regardless of whether you find abortion morally or religiously offensive, you cannot legislate on it."
The vast majority of countries on this earth, who actually do have laws regarding abortion (including western countries who are largely considered to be "free" nations), would beg to differ. This also contradicts an earlier statement by the author - specifically, if unborn children are people then they have a right to life. "J" completely ignores this question and claims that they cannot be considered people, not because of any intrinsic characteristics of the unborn babies themselves, but because of the supposed consequences of this view, which "J" has yet to demonstrate as plausible.
"you don't like abortion, don't have one."
This is a tired, worn-out, ridiculous statement that, quite frankly, pro-choicers should stop using. Replace "abortion" with anything else, and you can see how ridiculous it sounds when the person you are talking to believes abortion is a grave human rights violation. You aren't convincing any pro-lifers by using this statement, after all, we can just shoot back: "Don't like rape? Don't rape someone. Don't like slavery? Don't own a slave. Don't like mobs? Don't participate in one. See how ridiculous that sounds?" ... and on and on we go, constantly talking past one another.
"[T]he personhood status of women who are already here, already independent human entities, has to be eroded. You cannot have both women and fetuses be considered persons. It is a legal impossibility."
Why? Please, try to explain this without using a fallacy. And while you're at it, explain why conjoined twins also cannot be considered persons under the law.
"So if the "right to life" movement wants to end abortion, they're going to have to focus on alternative ways"
Oh gee, its a good thing we are already doing that then! (hint hint: pregnancy care centers are just one example of this).
"[P]rohibitions on abortion are notoriously ineffective in reducing the incidence of terminated pregnancy"
Given the difficulty of obtaining statistics for abortions performed legally vs. illegally, and (in Canada at least), the utter failure of the government to compile any kind of reliable stats on abortion at all, this statement is absolutely impossible to prove or disprove and should not be presented as absolute fact. This, or course, ignores the inherent fallacious nature of such a "it will happen anyway" argument. Just because something will happen anyway, does not mean that it should be legal, nor does it necessarily mean that it should be illegal either. Criminal activity happens whether we legislate against it or not - does that mean murder, theft, slander, drugs, domestic violence, or child abuse should be legal? Nope. "It will happen anyway" is a statement which neither supports nor denies a particular thesis, and should not be present in any discussion of the legality or the ethics of any action, including abortion.
"That's it, that's the abortion issue in a nutshell."
Actually, the author ignored pretty much every opjection that pro-lifers have to abortion, and the ones he or she did mention were not refuted. So no, this is not the abortion issue in a nutshell. This is the author's opinion, presented as argument, and supported by fallacies, in a nutshell.
"All this other crap about people accepting responsibility for their actions, taking advantage of the abortion "faucet", respecting life, or whatever your emotional argument is, that's all completely irrelevant."
Right, because claiming that illegal abortion will lead to the utter and complete control of women's lives by the government is not emotional at all.
And if one dismisses "respecting life" as an emotional argument, one has relegated to the corner a compelling reason against murder and abuse. After all, are we not called to respect the people around us? And I would be seriously surprised if the author did not believe in personal responsibility. Otherwise, I hope she spends just as much time protesting against the legal system which assumes personal responsibility in order to charge people for their possible crimes and the consequences of such crimes (for instance - drunk driving. People who drive intoxicaed to not mean to get into accidents, and yet, if they do they are considered responsible for the destruction that their intoxication caused).
"... your purpose is to blame women for pregnancy in an effort to imply they are not really entitled to personhood status."
Hyperbole, ridiculousness, and a blatant attempt to completely disregard and misunderstand the actual pro-life position. Also, it is true that the vast majority of abortions are performed on women who risked the possibility of pregnancy by engaging in consensual sex. This is not a "blame" game - this is a fact. Pregnancy can lead to babies. Shocking, I know. But true nonetheless. Accepting reality does not mean you are "blaming" someone for something. And pregnant women, simply by virtue of being pregnant, are not denied their personhood, nor any of their rights. Unless you bleieve that people have rights which allow them to kill someone who does not threaten their own lives in any way. And from the standpoint that we all have a right to life, this is utterly ridiculous.
As for the "Note on international human rights, rather than US Consitutional rights": this is simply a reminder of what pro-lifers are attempting to change. We know that the unborn are not considered persons. We know that they currently do not enjoy a codified right to life. Quoting articles which are formed based off this understanding does not present an argument - it presents a conclusion, and as such, it is not something that will convince anyone who has an opposing view.
Now, I spent most of this article demonstrating how the author(s) did not do a good job of arguing the case for legal abortion, but I did not make a complete case in opposition. So please refer to my blog posts here and here, which discuss whether or not a woman has a responsibility towards her unborn child. Also, please see discussions from Life Report here and here on this topic. I also am in the process of compiling essays and arguments for/against bodily autonomy as I have come across them (along with other issues related to the abortion debate) - you can find them here.
In conclusion, I wish to summarize what I believe Heather and J's main points are:
(1) Unborn children are not considered persons and are not endowed with the right to life in either the US consitution or in international human rights documents.
(2) Giving the unborn a right to life or personhood status necessarily degrades the rights of the pregnant women by subjecting her to government control and violating her privacy.
(3) Abortions happen anyway, whether illegal or legal.
Here are my main points in response:
(1) This is not an argument, it is a conclusion, and it is the very thing that pro-lifers are trying to change.
(2) This conclusion ignores any possibility of reasonable middle ground and is demonstrably false when compared to any other relationship in which one of the persons involved is vulnerable.
(3) This is not an arugment in favour of either legality or illegality; it is simply a statement which can by applied to any legal or illegal action.
But again, for an in-depth discussion of the pro-life perspective on this topic please read through the links I provided above.
That's all for now! Let me know if you think I have misunderstood Heather's and J's arguments in any way! Ciao :)