Rape, Abortion, and "Personhood"

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Nov 1, 2012.


Do I support this proposition?

Poll closed Nov 1, 2013.
  1. Anti-abortion: Yes

    0 vote(s)
  2. Anti-abortion: No

    0 vote(s)
  3. Pro-choice: Yes

  4. Pro-choice: No

  5. Other (Please explain below)

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  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Rape, Abortion, and "Personhood"

    The 2012 election cycle has brought a number of controversial declarations about rape to the fore. In 2011, Congressional Republicans sought to restrict Medicaid funding for abortions to "forcible" rape, in effect demanding that poor children who are victims of statutory rape should be forced to carry any pregnancies that result from the crime. Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan was a co-sponsor of that bill.

    Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who ran for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, explained that if a rape was an "honest rape", he would overdose a woman with estrogen in order to compel a miscarriage.

    Missouri Senate candidate, and current State Representative Todd Akin, went so far as to suggest that if a rape is a "legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that down".

    Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who won his Republican primary race against conservative stalwart Sen. Richard Lugar, declared that a pregnancy resulting from rape is God's will.

    Washington congressional candidate Josh Koster (R-1) simply refers to "the rape thing", and suggests that it is inappropriate to abort a pregnancy resulting from rape because it is "putting more violence onto a woman's body". He apparently does not believe there is any violence about forcing a woman to carry a rape pregnancy to term and risk permanent physical injury from delivery.

    And all of this is because Republicans, who disdain birth control, oppose abortion. None of the anti-abortion advocates can explain what happens to a woman's status as a human being during pregnancy.

    Perhaps the problem is in our laws.

    Thus, a proposition. In the end, politics in effect is an art of compromise, and as much as I disdain the proposition of compromising on human rights, we need to recognize that however distasteful we find anti-abortion misogyny, there might well be some middle ground.


    • Acknowledging "personhood" (life at conception), from the moment of conception, a woman's general human rights are suspended. Legislation affording them specific interim "maternal rights" will be crafted to preserve all but the woman's right to govern her own body and what takes place within it.

    • Any rape is to be charged as a federal civil rights crime carrying a minimum sentence of life in prison, in addition to state laws pertaining to rape itself.

    • Any pregnancy resulting from rape demands a second federal civil rights charge on behalf of the "person" created by the crime.

    • Any miscarriage or other loss of pregnancy resulting from rape brings a charge against the rapist of Murder in the First Degree With Special Circumstances. (As long as capital punishment is in effect, it is a viable sentence.)

    • The public trust, either federal or state, assumes paternal financial responsibility—i.e., child support—until the offspring reaches twenty-one years of age measured from conception; if the offspring is enrolled in college, the state obligation for educational assistance extends to the completion of a degree program.

    • Public responsibility for financial support is not severable by adoption or other transfer of child custody or parental authority.

    • Any rape of a minor female that results in pregnancy will oblige the public trust to rehabilitative, medical, educational, and other financial support of the rape survivor, as well as the offspring.

    • Any rape of an adult female that results in pregnancy will oblige the public trust to rehabilitative, medical, and other financial support of the rape survivor, as well as the offspring.

    • Any person found to be complicit in any rape will be charged as an accomplice to whatever crimes are charged against the rapist. (To wit, if the pregnancy miscarries, resulting in Murder 1 Special, the complicit individuals will be charged as accomplices to that crime.)

    • The public trust willingly accepts these and other responsibilities in exchange for its authority to suspend a woman's general human rights.

    And that's just for starters. There are other complications stemming from the "personhood" argument:

    • Any miscarriage or other termination of pregnancy must be investigated as a potential homicide.

    • Menstrual irregularity in heterosexually active women must be investigated to ensure that there has been no miscarriage.

    • Any person found to have contributed to miscarriage or other termination of pregnancy will be charged with Murder in the First Degree With Special Circumstances.

    One might certainly point out how complicated this is, and note the difficulty of enforcement. But these are not excuses for refusing to enforce the law. After all, this whole "personhood" suggestion of life at conception isn't just about abortion, right?

    If a pregnant woman continues to work, and miscarries after tripping over a plastic chair-mat and colliding with the desk, this must be investigated as a homicide.

    If a husband slams on the brakes to avoid a deer running into the road, and his pregnant wife suffers a seat-belt miscarriage, this must be investigated as a homicide.

    As is well-known, in questions of pregnancy and termination, I assert a dry-foot policy; as long as an organism exists inside another person, it is that other person's jurisdiction.

    Quite clearly, anti-abortion advocates disagree with this outlook.

    Very well; if they want "personhood" at conception, these are the minimum demands before that outcome is even negotiable.

    After all, it is also well-known that I am a voracious advocate of equal protection. If a blastocyst is a person, it has human rights. And if the excuse for not enforcing those rights is that it is too complicated or expensive, the lie of the "personhood" argument is exposed. Time for the pokies, indeed.

    So ... these are the minimum terms for getting my outlook to the table in order to negotiate "personhood". And when I say minimum, let there be no question: There will be no watering down of a rapist's culpability. There will be no dilution of the public trust's responsibility. We can pile onto the rapist and public trust as much as one thinks is necessary, but we will not diminish these minimal obligations.

    I find the whole "personhood" assertion unethical and distasteful. But if I am to compromise on these points at all, yes, I have a list of demands.

    My fellow liberals and feminist neighbors need not remind me that I am a man and have no standing to bargain for a woman's human rights. Nor do I need to remind them that I am a parent of a daughter, and responsible for defending and upholding her human condition.

    So I would note to my pro-choice neighbors: I know, I know.

    But this exercise is more intended for anti-abortion, pro-life, "personhood", or whatever else we might call it, advocates.

    Is this an ethical compromise, in their outlooks? Is it just? Or is this whole "personhood" thing really just about putting women back in their places?
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  3. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    The whole issue is very complicated. Where I support a woman's right to make choices regarding her health, I also recognize that where there is life, there's a potential person. I much prefer to leave the question with the women involved. Am I an accessory to murder by doing so? I think so.
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  5. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    I can't vote. The proposal is too convoluted, with too many absurd extremes. I suppose that's the idea.
    Really, the issue needs to be simplified.
    1. What is the role of government in the lives and welfare of citizens?
    2. How do we define a citizen?
    3. Government serves the same function in the life of every citizen - regardless of age, gender and income.
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  7. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    I think the issues of personhood breach into issues of obligation.

    Generally it is expected that if an individual is obligated to support someone, it is criminal/unsavory/cruel for them to reneg on the obligation, even if its performance is demanding.

    Hence employers, parents, police officers, teachers, politicians, doctors, pet owners etc (in fact anyone who can be drawn up as existing in a state of authority or responsibility) face issues above and beyond simply "their rights" since other individuals exist in a state of dependence or even subsistence from them.

    I guess the complexity of pregnancy is that we live in a society that gives mixed messages - namely sex is esteemed almost to the point of being the ultimate in self expression while pregnancy is almost on par with STD's.

    IOW we live in a society that generates a need for abortion while it simultaneously runs against our moral fabric (IOW we usually don't find it acceptable to kill others because they are "inconvenient" or whatever).

    Usually the way society deals with such socially conflicting issues is to adopt a type of political speech to indicate the act but in a more palatable manner. Hence "abortion" becomes "tissue removal" etc.

    In that sense, I think introducing notions of "personhood" broadens the issue to a more honest perspective, but until attitudes on sexuality come to the table, it will still essentially remain problematic.
  8. Neverfly Banned Banned

    Lightgigantic, you hit the nail on the head.

    There's a double standard held, here, that I believe is heavily influenced more by political correctness than it is supported by anything that has to do with our nature.
    I'll admit, L.G. that I find you an odd source for agreement.

    What it comes down to is how obligated we are forced into being. Those that tell us we're obligated to take care of eachother in society are quick to tell an expectant mother she's not obligated to be a mother. It makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever. Suddenly, the goal posts shift. Smokers are obligated to think of others health, but a mother is not obligated to think of her child's life?

    I can understand how in the first trimester, there isn't really a baby there. It will become one, but sperm can become one if it combines with an egg. I do get that. I'm talking about a stage of development and these shades of gray, that it is within a persons body- they are simply our nature. It's not cut from a mold of perfection- it's whatever worked to survive and we just have to deal with it. The system ain't perfect and to have a strong position of absolute certainty is nonsense.

    I can understand the necessity and natural requirement of miscarriage or abortion and often, both are emotionally painful for an expectant mother.
    But obligation to eachother, honor of ones duty; these are real concepts to humanity.

    So, in another thread, someone says Jacobs brakes are bad. Yet, they save lives, prevent horrifying road accidents by preventing brake failure- they opt to obligate the driver to take that risk so that some people don't have to feel annoyance at the noise a jake makes.
    Yet, that same person may turn around and say an expectant mother is not obligated to the child within- simply because her body is the incubator. I'm sorry, but we didn't design us; we didn't make ourselves this way. It isn't sexism. This is just how we are as animals.
    It's just how we are!
    We have to kill and eat plants and animals to survive! We have to routinely wipe poop off our anus, day after day. And we flush it down and forget about it.

    But it really is true, that we eat dead things and are full of shit. This double standard is the flushing and forgetting about the unpleasantness of our bodies. Sometimes, we're obligated- to be honorable and true. We cannot flush it away in order to ignore how imperfect we are or how unpleasant sometimes things can be.

    We're obligated to care for our world. To care for eachother. We're obligated to preserve life, defend it, protect it. We're not obligated, in a fit of selfishness and declaration of some "rights" to forgo our obligations in order to put up the front of Political Correctness.

    When I joined the U.S. Army, I wondered if I truly was capable of taking a life. I was concerned that I might flinch; I might fail. I found out that tragically, I am capable of taking a mans life. I'm capable of killing men just as I'm capable of killing hogs or deer- I am capable of Killing to Survive. I can and will kill to save lives.

    So, a mothers life is threatened by the child within her, I believe she has her right to choose. I believe it's her choice to save hers or the childs. I do not believe anyone else can make that decision for her anymore than someone could have for me in combat. No one could tell me, "You must let him shoot you down so that you don't take a life."

    A mother is threatened by rape, I believe the choice is hers while that within her is not yet a child.

    But when it is a child, that choice becomes an obligation. It becomes a duty. It becomes a matter of honor. Maybe not one of morality, but of ethics and duty and honor.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2012
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    The absurd extremity of life at conception "personhood"

    It is convoluted, but it is also simple:

    • These are not absurd extremes; they are logical outcomes according to "personhood" and Equal Protection.​

    If you were found dead, with a hole in your chest, would society refuse to investigate your death as a homicide because it is too complicated, or too expensive?

    If that blastocyst is a person, those "absurd extremes" are nothing more than the implications.

    "Life at conception" has a certain political value, but what is its real value in terms of morality and, functionally speaking, justice?

    There are moral implications to the principle, and if it is set into law, there are legal implications as well.

    It is my belief that these "absurd extremes" are nothing more than the logical implications of life at conception.

    If that "person" inside a woman dies because of someone else's action?

    The simplification is, well, simple enough to express:

    • What happens to a woman's human rights once she becomes pregnant?​

    Last year, we at Sciforums explored the notion that, "It's a child not a choice ... but not if you were raped", which examined the anti-abortion rape exceptions. It's a thirty page thread, all of five hundred eighty-two posts. I will say that I'm impressed, to some degree, that the question has moved into the American political arena; as I wrote last year:

    It's a matter of appearances being more important than principles.

    "Abortion is murder!" they cry. But they also don't like to be seen as misogynistic. They don't want to be seen as hostile to rape survivors.

    And that's all it is.​

    What we've seen during this election cycle is that some anti-abortion advocates are trying to move past the "child, not a choice" question as it pertains to rape. To the one, I might suggest that took a certain amount of political courage. To the other, the next thing they need to do, ethically speaking, and in order to establish our society's legal outlook and definition of justice in this sector of jurisprudence, is to reconcile the implications. In that discussion last year, I also explained, "I can envision a world that completely outlaws abortion, but the reality is that nobody would go along with it."

    And every time I raise the implications of "personhood", someone will point out the extremism and absurdity. What this suggests to me is that life at conception really is just about abortion and putting women back in their place. After all, the practical juristic implications of "personhood" include Equal Protection. Thus, if a blastocyst is a "person", what are the implications of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?:

    No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    (Boldface and bold-italic accents added)

    What are we going to do about that?

    Now, I'm not trying to oblige you to formulate an answer; it is a difficult answer, or set of answers, which is my larger point. If we intend to establish "personhood", this is the next phase of the discussion.

    But this is the simplest expression of the "convoluted" question: How do you provide equal protection for the "person" who exists inside a woman?

    You might consider the proposal a collection of absurd extremes; perhaps it is easier to start with two questions and let everyone else devise their own proposals:

    (1) What happens, under life at conception "personhood", to a woman's status as a human being at the moment of conception?

    (2) How do you enforce Equal Protection for the "person" growing inside a woman?​

    The first set or proposals, pertaining to rape-induced pregnancies, generally respond to the apparent suspension of a woman's human status.

    The second set, pertaining to pregnancy in general, is comprised of further implications of enforcing Equal Protection for the "person" inside a woman.

    "Personhood" has a certain political aesthetic, to be certain, that many find attractive. But it also carries tremendous juristic implications.

    It is my opinion that if those implications are absurd and extreme, then so is life at conception "personhood".


    Constitution of the United States of America. 1992. Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School. November 2, 2012. http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/overview
  10. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    I would think that she becomes responsible for the life within, whether or not it is by choice (rape). This is the logical conclusion of such a situation: the embryo's life trumps the liberties of the victim where her choice to terminate the pregnancy is void. There can be no other outcome--right or wrong. I am without any parallel that might compare or provide example of a similar circumstance. This is truly unique to the abortion question.

    The laws would be applied much as you suggested. The embryo's life would be protected by law, and any harm to that embryo would be addressed by law.

    Certainly this would be a 180 degree turn in how we presently view life in the womb. If we do define it as being a person at conception, then we must protect its life as we would any other.
  11. siledre Registered Senior Member

    I don't think we should be legislating this issue for good or bad, this is between a woman and whatever god is out there making that determination.
  12. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    Don't you think we shoulder some responsibility as a community? We wouldn't stand by and watch a mother kill her child under any other situation. I also would leave this question to the mother, but that just makes me culpable as well.
  13. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    I'm not sure why it is so absurd in contrast how we provide equal protection to children residing outside of their mothers. Its not so much an issue of enforcement but entitlement and provision (whether in the form of bias in divorce cases, or maternity leave or some other government/societal based grant/concession for rearing a child).
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2012
  14. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

    'Acknowledging "personhood" (life at conception), from the moment of conception, a woman's general human rights are suspended.'

    This has to be one of the most evil things I've seen.
  15. Neverfly Banned Banned

    One of the most evil things I've ever seen was a fetus fighting against the suction tube for all it was worth to no avail.

    Your statement was inaccurate- the "general" rights of the person are not suspended. She simply would naturally do what her body naturally does.

    Are my general human rights 'suspended' when I get the flu?

    For fucks sakes, try to be honest.
  16. Bells Staff Member

    Oh please, don't be so dramatic and false. You're carrying on as if it was trying to crawl away in the confines of the womb. Having witnessed such images and footage myself, your words are, to put it bluntly, false and it is the exact language used by the type of pro-life camp who force their children to march holding placards holding photos of aborted foetus'.

    I'm sorry, but a 12 week old foetus/embryo has no right to personhood because it is not a person.

    She should have full rights over her own body. It is her body.


    No.. Really?

    One could say the same for you and several other people in this thread.


    You stand by and watch soldiers kill children all the time in situations of war and do nothing about it as a community, nor have I ever seen you declare yourself culpable.

    But if a woman decides to dare exercise her rights over her own body and end a pregnancy, you think the community needs to speak up and that you are somehow culpable?
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Normally I try to stay out of the abortion debate under Mrs. Fraggle's orders: "I'll give a flying fuck what men think about abortion the first time one of you assholes gets pregnant."

    But this post raises a linguistic issue and that's my bailiwick.

    This debate has wrought havoc with our language. People who used to be called "pro-abortion" so everyone knew their position are now called "pro-choice." Duh? And people who used to be called "anti-abortion" for the same reason are now called "pro-life." Double duh?

    Does that mean the "pro-choice" people believe that you have a right to choose whether to obey a "No Right Turn" sign? And the "pro-life" people never eat meat except from an animal that was found already dead on the highway?

    Anyway, our beloved English language has two words. A baby is a human being that was born alive and is still so young as to be completely incapable of caring for himself. A fetus is an embryo that is still inside the mother's uterus. A fetus becomes a baby at the moment of (live, successful) birth.

    To call a fetus a baby is just as stupid as to call a baby a fetus. Both are almost as stupid as calling a dog a refrigerator.

    The anti-abortion crowd (I refuse to use the idiotic phrase "pro-life" until they prove that they have never killed a mosquito) is playing games with our language, trying to convince us that a fetus is just a baby with the odd attribute of having an age expressed as an (impossible to calculate accurately) negative number.

    It's not.

    So to talk about "a mother killing her child" when you really mean "a mother killing her fetus," is to bastardize your language as part of an insidious plot to plant the propaganda in people's minds that there is no difference between a fetus and a baby.

    There is. So please cut it out.

    -- The Linguistics Moderator
  18. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    Call it what you like, it still has the potential to become a person. And it's human at any level of development. Everybody I know was a fetus at one point in life, including you and me.
  19. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    I think there's some truth to that. Maybe we are culpable as a community for the war crimes on children, but then again, maybe our ability to do something about it is limited. Certainly the health of the unborn is closer and within our grasp as a community, should we ever decide to go that direction.
  20. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

  21. Neverfly Banned Banned

    Absolutely, really. If someone can claim their General Rights are suspended under a pregnancy, I can say my general rights are suspended if I'm sick with Influenza just as validly.
    In other words, the claim isn't very valid when you examine the very premise of the complaint: That our bodies already function the way that they do. Maybe I don't like my body being used to incubate e.coli in my lower intestine. I demand it be removed (Never mind I Won't be able to digest food, anymore.)
    In a fit of sexism, you have no issues at all with not only suspending the fathers rights, but stripping them away entirely.

    I do agree that a few clusters of cells is not a person. I refer to late term abortions.

    Let's just ignore that there are two bodies involved, right? We always ignore that bit. Always.

    And I did mention this double standard sharply in post number 5.
    No, Fraggle, this is the stupidest comparison I've seen. A dog and a fridge are radically different objects while the other is a matter of semantics depending on as little as 30 seconds between when it's not born and is born.

    And you raised this a linguistics issue?! Really?! Comparing an unborn infant with a born infant is the same as comparing a dog to a refrigerator?! Last I knew, dogs don't turn into refrigerators when they get squeezed down a tube.
  22. Bells Staff Member

    So does every sperm and egg.


    Live children are being bombed on a daily basis in some part of the world or other. I have yet to see your outrage in any of the threads that is always ongoing about the wars on this forum or you declaring that as a community, we must save the children or declaring yourself and others culpable for their actual murder. Hypocritical of you, don't you think?

    No one is disputing that.

    But every single miscarriage was also a fetus at one point in life. If you are going to apply this standard of yours, than it would stand to reason that women should be getting checked to make sure she did not "kill her child" each month and putting women on trial for a miscarriage.

    Oh wait...

    Miscarriage is already criminalised in some parts of America..

    Feel proud.

    Oh please. Your ability to do something about it is just as "limited" as is your ability to control a woman and her rights to her uterus from across the country. So why do you do nothing about the killings of live children yet feel you should do something about what women do with their own reproductive organs?

    What gives you the right over the wombs of women that you feel you should have a say over what they do with said womb and its contents?

    No, really, I'd like to know.

    Since you have not said a single word about the deaths of thousands of children around the world on any given day due to war and famine caused by war on this forum - as in I have never seen you even particpate in such threads on this forum, why do you feel that your rights and expectations should be upheld against women and their rights over their wombs around the world?

    Some parts of America is already moving in that direction. Does it bring you comfort that women are being put on trial for miscarriage?

    What's next? Checking women's pads to make sure they haven't miscarried each month, just in case?

    Or reporting and investigating every miscarriage? Oh wait, that's right, someone is already trying to do that in Georgia in the US. And guess what? They have made it a crime worthy of the death penalty. Welcome to the world of granting personhood at the point of conception.
  23. Neverfly Banned Banned

    How Dare this little "refrigerator" suspend peoples rights:

    Bells, you posted links but you forgot to mention that the reason those women were charged was due to heavy drug use while carrying the child. Another woman ingested Rat Poison.
    So a woman that leaves her child in a bathtub can be charged with murder- and that's ok with you, right? But if she dopes herself up a week before delivery and kills the child- that's not grounds for murder? How, exactly, do you justify this very selfish and arbitrary line you've drawn?

    You talk about finding some peoples position on topics appalling while you condone killing children. Really? You call us appalling? Absolutely amazing...
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