Ok, so the abortion debate is up now.
In most debates one realizes after it there were ways in which they could have responded or things that should have been said that were not. This is even more true when the debate topic is complex and the discussion time is short. So I am writing out my thoughts on the debate a few days after it, I will save this and post it after the debate has been put up because otherwise it would be unfair to both my readers and to Vocab.
So during the debate several things were brought up I want to comment on.
First, Vocab’s use of what I think may rightfully be called a deepity. He says that someone’s rights should not change simply because their location has changed. First off, it is a gross oversimplification of the issue to refer to the woman’s uterus as just another location. It’s as if he saying, “I’m at the store”, or “I’m in my home” or “I’m in a woman’s uterus” are logically indistinct. I’m sure there are some women out there who would be willing to point out that they are very different.
In addition to this, Vocab calls abortion murder as part of the same argument. The problem is that he seems to be treating all killing as equal, but most rational people already admit that there are valid contexts in which we can kill another human being. If I run out onto the street and shoot a random stranger I’ll be charged with murder, but if that same stranger breaks into my house and I shoot him people think I’m a hero who defended his home from an intruder. Odd that one of the main differences in these two scenarios is the other persons location, and another is the question of permission. Context matters, and the pro-life groups seem to want to selectively pretend it doesn’t.
My argument is that even if you treat a fetus as a human (Which I’ll address this in a bit) the context of pregnancy justifies the abortion, now if one wants to argue that this particular context does not justify said action we can have that discussion, but this was not the argument Vocab made as far as I can tell, and would require him credit the issue with being more complex than most pro-lifers like to admit. He seemed to be making a blanket statement that context doesn’t matter at all when you kill another human being. This seemed bizarre to me, since I can think plenty of contexts in which society would say that killing a person is justified and therefore not actually murder. I suppose it would be consistent if he takes the absolute position of a pacifist, but he never alluded to that and it would my first time meeting and evangelical who was also a pacifist.
Next, I tried to structure my own argument to avoid biology as much as possible. One because biology is complex and can’t really be adequately addressed in 45 minutes, but mainly because neither I nor Vocab are biologists and any thing either one of us say is going to sound the least bit intelligent to actual biologists.
Of course he was determined to bring this topic up since it is basically the main argument the pro life stance has that isn’t mired in religious dogma. I think he believed he scored a major victory in this arena, but he seemed to do it by speaking about one thing in embryology and then stopping at that because it seemed to support his argument and ignoring the rest of the science. Of course the point he brings up is that the fetus has DNA unique to either one of the parents. Of course I was not going to be able to lay out the actual complexities of fetal development in five minutes and he seemed to treat that as a victory, which is because short sound bytes work better than evidence in debates quite often.
As an example there is a debate about whether or not a fetus is even conscience until the point of actual birth. Many seem to think that the oxygenation level in the brain of the fetus is too low to support conscience thought in utero. Any movements made by the fetus are easily attributable to autonomic responses, and as it has never been conscious the fetus can’t possibly feel pain. Also as a being that has never been conscious it is difficult to refer to them as alive. Of course this may get into the rather hairy question of defining what consciousness (and what life) is, but neuroscience has certainly give us more insight into this question than religion ever did.
Further, studies have found that the neurological connections needed to be conscious or feel pain are not present until after 24 weeks.
One thing I brought up at the end was the need for a more reasonable approach, and that making abortion illegal would do little to stop abortions from happening. That being the case I presented a case for several things which have actually been shown to lower the number of abortions (wider access to birth control, and better sex education for teens) and mentioned that I support those things and would certainly have no problem with the number of abortions going down, and that I thought it was odd that so many fundamentalists oppose those things given their proven effect.
I felt he pretty much dodged the question entirely by just basically reiterating that he thinks abortion is wrong and failing to address my point at all. The best way of putting it, which of course I didn’t think of at the time, was if the pro life groups got exactly what they wanted and abortions were totally illegal would this stop abortions? No, in fact, statistics show that the numbers don’t seem to change much. Further, evangelicals have more recently been taking a strong stance against birth control as well, which will almost certainly increase abortions even with them illegal. So is that it? Make abortion illegal and then pat yourself on the back and go home? If your main goal is to decrease abortions why not do something that will actually do that, irregardless of the legality of the abortions? I don’t consider it my main goal to decrease the number of abortions but that number decreasing would not bother me if it was done in a way that respected women’s rights and intelligently engaged the topic of sexuality.
Understand while I’m not accusing Vocab of this, my hypothesis is that evangelical’s antagonism towards both abortion and contraception is part of a bigger issue. They want everyone to act in accordance with the sexual values of their religion (even though statistically most of them don’t measure up to those either) and they think by preventing access to anything that might negate the real world consequences to sexual behavior will push people to have less sex. Mind you, they think this despite evidence that access to birth control and abortion does little to change the sexual behavior of the average person. Oddly enough this ends up creating a situation where children are seen as one of the punishments for “immoral” actions like premarital sex, which is not exactly pro family.