An argument that the pro-life movement does not consider women to be moral agents

April 4, 2016 § 122 Comments

Consider the following premises:

  1. Women are moral agents.
  2. Abortion is a kind of murder.
  3. Murder either committed or procured by a moral agent should be subject to some kind of punishment.

Pro-lifers profess to believe (2).

(3) is self-evident.

The recent Donald Trump abortion kerfuffle clearly showed that the pro-life movement does not believe that women should be subject to any kind of punishment for procuring an abortion.

Therefore, the pro-life movement rejects (1).

§ 122 Responses to An argument that the pro-life movement does not consider women to be moral agents

  • donalgraeme says:

    Well, either this or perhaps, just maybe, they are all a bunch of hypocrites who are engaged in political grandstanding for the sake of self-aggrandizement.

  • Ryan says:

    I think they’d deny (3) and insist that abortion is an extra-special case, given that a lot of women who procure abortions are under “duress” and ignorant of the personhood of the fetus. So, I imagine they’d say someone who is normally a moral agent is nevertheless not exercising moral agency in the case of abortion.

    I’m not suggesting this is a sound argument. But from my interactions, (3) is more likely to be denied than (1).

  • Zippy says:

    Ryan:

    I imagine they’d say someone who is normally a moral agent is nevertheless not exercising moral agency in the case of abortion.

    That isn’t a rejection of (3) though. It is an attempt to selectively reject (1): women are moral agents unless the act we are evaluating morally is abortion. (Probably divorce, immodesty, and other characteristically female sins as well).

  • I throw in with Ryan.

  • Zippy says:

    Women are moral agents except when they do something morally wrong.

  • caethan says:

    I did always find this a bit odd. I think under our current circumstances, moral ignorance is sufficiently widespread that culpability for abortion may often be diminished. But of course in a rightly formed community abortion or the procuring thereof would be proscribed and punished appropriately.

  • I’m not aware of anybody under age 70 who seriously considers women to be capable, in principle, of being moral agents, or even adults. And even they understand that women under 70 or so are hopelessly incapable in practice.

    Dalrock is right: They’re just terrified of offending the poor dears.

    Everybody knows a baby is being killed. Even women have enough brains to know that pregnancy results in birth. I’m amazed by the imbecility of the cucks who pretend to believe anybody can fail to connect those two superimposed dots. What exactly do they think girls get abortions FOR? To pass the time? Nothing on TV? Did they think they were at the mall, and mistake the abortion mill for Forever 21?

  • Jack says:

    Of course Zippy is correct. The argument that women are under duress when they get abortions is already baked into the law. For example, if someone kidnaps your child and says they’ll kill him unless you drive the getaway car for a bank robbery (and assuming the facts bear it out), your culpability is weighed properly and your peers decide of what crime, if any, you’d be guilty.

    The complete outrage by people people claiming to be Catholic (and therefore claiming to be sane) is particularly galling for this reason: the position that women are not moral agents is a kind of ‘false mercy’, of the kind certain German bishops are peddling and a certain pope is convinced is “theology on its knees.”

    From this day forward I will use this particular case to decide if people are truly as sane as they appear. Among the many things the Frankfurt school abolished in the university was the teaching of real logic. We are a country full of people that no longer know how to think, and – worse – don’t know that they don’t know how to think.

  • Paul Hamilton says:

    Or, the pro life movement generally thinks the overton window is no where close to permitting that discussion.

    The problem with premise 3 is the ‘should’. Courts shouldn’t make abortion the supreme law of the land. But they did. People should be smart enough to know that an exception for rape and incest undermines their case that abortion is murder. But people aren’t rational on this issue, as on many things. And coming out and saying women who procure abortions should be punished shouldn’t be controversial, but it is. So we have a clear case of Aristotle’s distinction between what is best absolutely and the best we can do with this people in these circumstances.

  • Patrick says:

    have cake/will eat

  • William Luse says:

    Zippy,
    You don’t watch enough TV. In their hosts’ haste to distance themselves from Trump, the incessant refrain on the talk shows was that “the woman is a victim too.” Elided was the fact that the woman lives and the baby dies. Maybe all victims are created equal.

    The woman became pregnant with the assistance of some male’s sperm. He needs to be corralled too. The hit man with M.D. after his name can have the death penalty.

    You can’t reject 3 without rejecting 1. This has consequences. Porn ‘actresses,’ for example, should be left alone, for they know not what they do.

  • jamesd127 says:

    Divorce and abortion are examples of the feminine imperative.

  • Ryan says:

    I think they’d accept (1) and want to modify (3) to (3′): Murder either committed or procured by a moral agent, A, should be subject to some kind of punishment if and only if A exercises his* moral agency in committing or procuring the murder.

    They’d argue: “Of course women are moral agents, and of course abortion is murder. But being a moral agent doesn’t entail being able to exercise one’s moral agency in every possible moral case. Most women, given society/mean boyfriends/cultural propaganda/paralyzing fear/poverty, are, through no fault of their own, rendered incapable of exercising their moral agency whenever faced with the option of abortion. Their normally possessed moral agency becomes inaccessible, because it’s obstructed by all the things I mentioned.”

    Then again, there’s always the possibility I’m trying to make too much sense of incoherence.

    *The typical advocate of (3′) would, of course, use “his or her” here.

  • Zippy says:

    Paul Hamilton:

    Or, the pro life movement generally thinks the overton window is no where close to permitting that discussion.

    Sure: an alternative outside the bounds of the premises in the OP is that Pro-Lifers Always Lie, just like SJW’s.

    Quite a lot of discussion can be brought to an end simply by assuming that the speakers are liars. If speech is not veridical as representation of belief then it is just noise.

  • Zippy says:

    Ryan:

    Then again, there’s always the possibility I’m trying to make too much sense of incoherence.

    Could be. I think Bill Luse is correct that you can’t really deny (3) without denying (1). Diminished culpability due to ignorance and incompetence is now the eighth sacrament. Lack of agency has replaced baptism and confession.

  • Zippy says:

    Jack:

    the position that women are not moral agents is a kind of ‘false mercy’, of the kind certain German bishops are peddling and a certain pope is convinced is “theology on its knees.”

    It is theology on something, that’s for sure.

  • I’ve been reading a bit from canon lawyer Ed Peters and commentary on him.

    My understanding vis-a-vis Church punishments regarding women who have abortions is that they are only excommunicated IF they know about the potential penalty when getting the abortion.

    In other words – everybody who has actually gotten an abortion is probably not excommunicated anyway.

  • Zippy says:

    Malcolm:

    Sure. Abortion – as a form of murder – should be illegal, and should be punished in at least some manner, and this should be widely publicized so that ignorance is no excuse.

    But having rules that nobody knows about affirms everyone in their okayness twice over. The existence of the rules affirms us in our doctrinal orthodoxy, and widespread ignorance of them affirms us in our conviction that everyone is really a good person who just doesn’t know better.

    Ignorance, self-distancing from the truth, isn’t just the eighth sacrament in modern Catholicism: it is the most important sacrament in all of modernity, source and summit of the religion of man-centered humanism. A self-affirming willed inner Cartesian experience of “good intentions” – the divinely sovereign inner “I” – taketh away the sins of the world.

  • Lobbyists don’t want to resolve the issue they lobby about. They’d lose their jobs if they did that. I doubt they will ever actually make it illegal, but if they ever did, then no penalties for the women means there would continue to be demand. And, just like drug dealers, some abortion providers will accept the higher risks in return for higher profits.

    But what’s mostly been happening, it seems to me, are a variety of so-called pro-life ‘wins’ that really just reorder the industry away from small clinics and into larger medical institutions. Looks good for the pro-life lobbyists and works for the corporate medical people too.

  • For that matter, in my reading, contra Ed Peters, I’m not seeing where women specifically are mentioned in these “lack of knowledge” clauses, as opposed to all involved.

  • Zippy says:

    malcolm:

    If fully grasping the consequences of sinful behavior is necessary in order for choosing it to be proscribed and punished, then it is hard to see how anyone could ever be guilty of sin or punished.

    Who can fully grasp Hell? For that matter, who can fully grasp what it means to offend God at all? Heck, who can fully grasp what it is to murder another human being?

    I find these things to be unfathomable mysteries, myself. Does it follow that it is impossible for me to do moral wrong?

    Of course canon law is just the juridical rules of the Church. Nobody ever guaranteed that the positive law would be rationally coherent.

  • DJ Jazzy Cornelius says:

    Zippy,

    Living in our anti-realist society, many do not grasp that the fetus is a human being, even at the earliest stages of development. Some of these are intelligent and informed enough that they should know better, but some are not. The culpability of this latter group is at least somewhat diminished, even though the act is objectively evil.

    As you point out, this only underscores the importance of public proscription and penalty under the positive law, so that all are left without excuse.

  • King Richard says:

    I see that zeitgeist is useful everyday. I had a discussion about this less than 12 hours ago.
    Of course people who cooperate in evil should face punishment. And yet, so many in the pro-life movement seem to think that there is a class of people that are almost exempt from this. After speaking with some of them on this topic I have a few theories;
    1) In the 40+ year struggle over abortion many on the pro-life side have conceptualized women who choose abortions as being so misguided and misinformed that they lack moral agency as a form of emotional defense *for pro-lifers*. If you accept that women who procure abortions are fully informed moral actors making a conscious choice then disliking, even hating, them is almost unavoidable and the pro-life movement must reach out to them with Caritas. To avoid a fair amount of mental anguish they conceive of them as, essentially, ‘invincibly ignorant’.
    2) Pro-lifers, for a number of reasons, spend a great deal of emotional capital focusing on the most marginal of cases; minor girls, drug addicts, etc., who are very literally forced to get an abortion against their will. Since these true victims are often uppermost in the minds of pro-lifers they think of how difficult it may be for courts to recognize the difference and would prefer others avoid just punishment to prevent unjust punishment for these poor souls.
    3) The movement as a whole attracts and is often led by the most merciful among us and this has become a habit of thought and deed to the detriment of justice.
    4) Some people are incoherent in their beliefs and without time to think, consult, and ask they respond to new things incoherently.

    I suspect it is a combination of these and more, besides.
    One rather interesting statement presented to me was [paraphrased],
    “So many women have been told so many lies about pregnancy and abortion from ‘it isn’t a person’ to ‘it is a parasite’ that waiting for a decade for them to learn the truth before imposing penalties might, might, be justified.”

  • AureliusMoner says:

    In regards to the comments by Malcolm and others about diminished moral agency in the case of abortion, and Zippy’s replies about this being the eighth “sacrament… ”

    It is a thought that often occurs to me, these days, that this lie about diminished culpability is now so stressed as to imply that it would actually be more dangerous to preach the Gospel than to hide it. For, the less people know, the less is their responsibility, right?

    Woe to them who have heard the Gospel! Woe to them who have prayed their rosaries and contemplated the Mysteries of Faith; woe to them who have prayed the Office, absorbing the teachings of the holy Fathers, Doctors and supreme pontiffs! Woe to them who have learned the Faith, for they have incurred full guilt for everything they do, and the Lord shall surely roast them on a spit for their infirmities, for ever and ever!

    But blessed are they who gird their loins with strawberry flavored latex and relish unnatural vices! Blessed are they whose depressing vacuity is cloaked in the sauce of boozy asininity, and who recall the most outrageous celebrity boob-jobs! Blessed are they who studiously conform to the Magisterium of Cosmo and The View, for verily, God shall pardon everything to the dear, morally exculpated sweetie-pies.

    This is the serious implication of the stress placed on this idea in modernity, and it is offensive to pious ears. I’m not denying that genuine ignorance can have an exculpatory effect; that’s clear enough in moral theology and canon law. But this is only when the culpability for the ignorance itself is also diminished. People are not unaware of the fact that these are matters of moral controversy, and that there is a threat of damnation hanging over our heads – indeed, they are especially outraged and offended that anyone still dares to bring this up. We also live in a society where all the information people could want is at their fingertips (just last night I was poring over a two-hundred year old Caeremoniale of the Dominican Rite, explaining the reverences made during the Sacred Liturgy; it’s easier still to find basic information about the Faith, morality, philosophy, etc.). Ignorance at present is largely without excuse.

    I will also say that, generally, I believe women have more difficulty than men in the independent exercise of moral agency, which is why men have the burden of managing public life and affairs, and women are supposed to be kept safe under their patronage. But, enough women have become saints, for us to know that the expectation of real moral agency is proper. I don’t doubt that some leniency will be shown to women, as I’m sure is shown to older children/adolescents. But I expect that most people assume the leniency to be far greater than it really is.

  • DJ Jazzy Cornelius says:

    Aurelius,

    Your argument with respect to preaching the gospel would only be correct on consequentialism, if even then. Needless to say, none of us here are consequentialists.

  • From my experience, I think most pro-lifers think (to the extent they do, a lot of this can be explained by people not having really thought through their beliefs at all) of abortion as being like a form of mutilation performed on the woman, and think it should be illegal for the same reason that consensual mutilation is (in principle, but not in medical practice) criminal. They might acknowledge that women who have abortions are behaving immorally, but they see this as being immoral in the same way that suicide and self-mutilation are immoral.

    Also on the canon law point, canon law presumes that Catholics are aware of its precepts, inculpable ignorance is an affirmative defense the burden of proving which belongs on the defendant (culpable ignorance is not a defense at all).

  • Aethelfrith says:

    Aurelius,

    –I don’t often agree with you, but you’re certainly on to something there. One of the Left’s arguments against evangelization and proselytization is that if a pagan people hear about Christ and reject him, they are condemned to hell; but if they never hear about Christ, they can’t reject him, and because of them living rightly by their own moral code, they will get (at worst) Limbo. Unfortunately, many zealous apologists try to “save” God’s righteousness by arguing that a righteous [ignorant] pagan will go to Hell no matter how much in line with the Good his actions in life are.

    All of this begs the question that God is in fact the author of damnation, so it makes one wonder why, if God is evil, the clergy would even bother preaching Him.

  • Dalrock says:

    @Zippy
    If fully grasping the consequences of sinful behavior is necessary in order for choosing it to be proscribed and punished, then it is hard to see how anyone could ever be guilty of sin or punished.

    Who can fully grasp Hell? For that matter, who can fully grasp what it means to offend God at all? Heck, who can fully grasp what it is to murder another human being?

    I find these things to be unfathomable mysteries, myself. Does it follow that it is impossible for me to do moral wrong?

    Of course canon law is just the juridical rules of the Church. Nobody ever guaranteed that the positive law would be rationally coherent.

    As best as I can understand it, the argument is that abortion is so morally heinous that it cannot be punished in any way unless the offender fully understands how heinous the crime is. So while it is not a problem to write an out of towner a speeding ticket for exceeding an unposted speed limit, even a small fine for killing an unborn child is unconscionable, because we know the offender can’t really understand the moral implications of what they have done. At the same time, completing medical school and seeking out a specialization in abortion is proof that one understands the moral problem with abortion.

    However, I’m basing this on the only pro lifer who I’ve been able to find that tried to make a logical case for this position. The rest are wise enough avoid trying to make a logical case for this position, and settle for accusing Trump of not having thought the issue through.

  • Zippy says:

    Dalrock:
    Let me see if I have it:

    1) No mother would choose this if she understood how vicious and execrable it is.

    2) She chose this.

    3) Therefore, she does not understand how vicious and execrable it is.

    One wonders how this logical structure might apply to, say, a mother who drowns her born children.

  • Kurt says:

    I have heard pro-lifers deny 2. The reason goes, so many women have had abortions, so it can’t possibly be murder. Furthermore, you don’t really think it’s murder either because you don’t believe in capital punishment for all these women. So it’s acknowledged that abortion is bad, but there is confusion about what abortion really is. These pro-lifers argue that it is damaging to the movement to call abortion murder.

  • Kurt,

    I have only ever heard pro-choicers make that argument.

  • Dalrock says:

    @Zippy’
    Let me see if I have it:

    1) No mother would choose this if she understood how vicious and execrable it is.

    2) She chose this.

    3) Therefore, she does not understand how vicious and execrable it is.

    I was actually getting at something different (but your point is good nevertheless). Suppose a woman didn’t see the parking meter/no parking sign/faded red curb in front of the abortion clinic and received a parking ticket; I can’t imagine the pro life community would put up such a fuss if she received a fine for being illegally parked. Yet the thought of any punishing her for seeking the abortion is beyond discussion, because you can’t prove that she knew the abortion was wrong. And this is in a hypothetical context that abortion was illegal. So unless they are arguing that the vast majority of women would in said hypothetical unknowingly procure an illegal abortion, we are talking about a woman who knew she was breaking the law. So it comes down to:

    1) Unknowingly break a law with minimal moral ramifications: You deserve to pay a fine!

    2) Knowingly break a law with enormous moral ramifications which you may or may not fully understand: Any punishment would be unjust!

  • Dalrock says:

    The more serious the crime, the more impossible it is to levy even the most minimal punishment.

  • Zeb says:

    Interesting how liberals and conservatives have come together to denounce the mainstream pro-life position. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/04/donald_trump_abortion_comments_exposed_the_incoherence_of_the_anti_abortion.html

  • Zeb says:

    I think there are at least two big flaws I the argument here. First, it seems you are  begging the question, but the three premises are not clear enough for me to say which one contains the conclusion. Can a moral agent never be inculpable when committing an objectively immortal act? Or is a murder for which no one is culpable not a murder? And is criminal murder necessarily and always identical with moral murder? Second, you can’t just say that 3) is self evident.

    I think there are several coherent mainstream pro-life rebuttals possible. For 1) it is that women are moral agents in a dilemma, an impossible situation where they are forced to choose between two goods and two evils – their own well being or ruin, and their child’s life of death. The doctors, on the other hand, face no such dilemma. So while we must encourage and support the pro life position for mothers, we are justified in codifying and enforcing it only on doctors. On 2) it is that abortion is morally murder but legally it should not be because it happens inside a woman’s body and because it is strictly gendered. So the fetus, while a full human person, lives outside the purview and sovereignty of the state, and it would be a particular injustice to obligate the labor, pain and incapacitation of pregnancy and childbirth on women when men get off Scott free. That’s basically Roe, but pro-lifers can still support criminal sanctions on doctors because abortion is not a valid medical procedure. It violates the hippocratic oath, and it is in the purview of the state to regulate medical practice.

    And the on 3), the pro-lifer can simply say that we are all guilty of procuring every abortion and that the particular woman procuring a particular abortion should not be punished any more than the society that put her in that impossible (and sexist) dilemma. Charlie Camosy makes this point well here: http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/sanctity-of-life/our-current-abortion-law-as-a-product-of-men/

  • William Luse says:

    …the three premises are not clear enough for me to say which one contains the conclusion.

    Let me point it out: “Therefore, the pro-life movement rejects (1).”

    So the fetus, while a full human person, lives outside the purview and sovereignty of the state…

    Unless the state wants to give its approval to the woman’s procuring the murder of this fully human person, at which point sovereignty kicks in big time.

    …the pro-lifer can simply say that we are all guilty of procuring every abortion and that the particular woman procuring a particular abortion should not be punished any more than the society that put her in that impossible (and sexist) dilemma.

    As a scapegoating mechanism, the invocation of collective guilt is a wonderful means of erasing responsibility, and might make a good argument if it weren’t completely insane.

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    … it is that women are moral agents in a dilemma, an impossible situation where they are forced to choose between two goods and two evils – their own well being or ruin, and their child’s life of death…

    The “I was in a dilemma” defense against a murder charge is even better than the “not guilty by reason of insanity” defense.

    Both are morally exculpatory and therefore rule out punishment per se, but the latter carries with it a requirement to be restrained and ‘treated’ for one’s own safety and the safety of others. The former doesn’t even require a hint of politically correct authority.

  • Zeb says:

    William, you say “As a scapegoating mechanism, the invocation of collective guilt is a wonderful means of erasing responsibility.” That’s so interesting because it is literally, exactly the opposite of that. Scapegoating is when a people choose one person to punish so as to absolve their collective guilt. As a society we’ve created a world in which women will desire, sometimes desperately and madly, to abort their pregnancies. By punishing them we are able to wipe away our own guilt for creating that world.

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  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    By punishing them we are able to wipe away our own guilt for creating that world.

    Nonsense. Refusing to treat murder as murder – even just verbally in discussions on the Internet – is a lazy way of materially cooperating with the perpetuation of that world, because telling the truth might get us disinvited from cocktail parties.

  • It’s amazing how people never notice how all this verbiage can be used to justify literally *any crime whatsoever*.

  • Zeb says:

    I would be interested to see you actually engage the arguments. Psychologizing is a low and dull form of rhetoric.

    As for “treating murder as murder,” if every abortion is just another murder like any other then you have the duty not only to call for punishment of the one who procures it, but to intervene directly yourself to stop it each time an abortion is about to occur. The fact that you don’t, that almost no pro-life person does, raises a big question.

  • Peter Blood says:

    Thanks Zippy for cutting to the heart of the matter.

    It seems the pro-life movement has adopted a sentimental Victorian view of women.

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    I would be interested to see you actually engage the arguments.

    What arguments? I haven’t seen anything that rises to the level of having the dignity of being called an argument.

    The fact that you don’t, that almost no pro-life person does, raises a big question.

    I am not pro-life, I am anti-abortion. (And anti-murder, and anti-theft, and anti-all-sorts-of-things).

    I also don’t personally seek out and stop all thefts in progress. So I guess I don’t really believe that theft is theft.

    The fact that you aren’t personally in Africa finding starving people to feed means that you don’t care about hunger.

  • Zeb says:

    If there were a business downtown that was openly murdering five year olds at the clip of a couple dozen a day, and there were no armed guards there and anyone could just walk right in, and the government were declining to stop it, would one not have an obligation to go down there immediately and try to intervene?

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    … would one not have an obligation to go down there immediately and try to intervene?

    No. There are no unqualified positive obligations to act. Only the negative moral laws oblige without exception, and in particular acts of violence (even in self defense or defense of another) require rigorous justification.

    This is very basic moral theology.

    Veritatis Splendour:

    In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. But the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception.

  • Marissa says:

    I have exactly zero duty to go to Southeast Houston and prevent the daily murder which occurs there due to young black men acting like fools. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s murder when it does inevitably happen. How many times have I seen two dodgy cars pass each other by for a quick handoff–apparently not jumping in to stop the crime as the Vigilantess means I’m soft on drugs! And these are against the law, so I can report these crimes to the police; abortion is the law of the land.

  • Zeb says:

    “There are no unqualified positive obligations to act.” Ah, well then you’ve conceded. “Treat murder as murder” is meaningless and your premise 3) is not only not self evident, but is false.

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    Ah, well then you’ve conceded.

    I can’t even identify something coherent to which I might concede, if concession was my goal.

    Obviously (and doctrinally), the obligations (and authority) of governments are different from the obligations (and authority) of particular persons (the latter also differing from each other). For example, under the just war doctrine only competent authority may declare war.

    Again this is extraordinarily basic background. For my part I generally have to assume that my readers have certain fundamental, basic background understandings (actually every writer assumes this, though some with more self-awareness than others). When readers come along who lack the basic background I generally do try to help, especially when they demonstrate sincerity.

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  • I would be interested to see you actually engage the arguments. Psychologizing is a low and dull form of rhetoric.

    I have no idea what you mean by that. I’m not accusing you of anything, merely pointing out that what you’re saying can be applied to literally all crimes. I don’t really care about your mental state.

  • Zeb says:

    malcolmthecynic I was accusing Zippy of psychologizing (“because telling the truth might get us disinvited from cocktail parties.”), not you.

    As to your comment, so what? So what if an argument obtains undesirable results? And if it’s merely the case that an argument can be abused to obtain false results, then so what? That may be an indication that we need to scrutinize the argument more, but it doesn’t mean the argument is invalid. And anyway I have not justified any crime, I have called into question the asserted obligation to punish some people who are involved in a certain way with some crimes in a particular context. I’m curious if anyone here has anything other than hand-waving dismissal in response.

  • So what if an argument obtains undesirable results?

    Because the conclusion it leads to is ludicrous and absurd?

    Have you ever heard the term “reductio ad absurdum”?

    Your argument isn’t just bad. It’s terrible. It’s embarrassing. It doesn’t deserve a fair hearing because it hasn’t even attempted to take anything we’ve said seriously. IT doesn’t work as a response to US.

  • Zeb says:

    malcolmthecynic I did take the post seriously and responded in detail to its specific claims item by item. From you, just more hand-waving. “Oh I couldn’t possibly deign to address such an absurd argument. Suffice it to say, again and again, I am right and you are so very very wrong.” Useless.

  • William Luse says:

    Scapegoating is when a people choose one person to punish so as to absolve their collective guilt.

    Sometimes, sometimes not. Ever heard of white privilege?

    What you’re doing is absolving one woman of guilt by scapegoating the rest of us.

  • William Luse says:

    Hey, Zeb. When a particular woman hires a particular doctor to abort her child, are these two parties guilty of murder? Hint: the possible answers are either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

  • Zeb says:

    William you’ll have to provide your personal idiosyncratic definition of scapegoat, because the way you are trying to use it is directly contradictory to its conventional and historical usage.

    To your murder question, my current answer is “undetermined; needs definition.”

    I’d like to say to everyone, I don’t have a strong position on this yet and am trying to work out the strengths and weaknesses of all positions. I found Zippy’s argument interesting and persuasive at first, so I brought it to the attention of Charlie Camosy, a moral theologian at Fordham and frequent writer about pro-life issues. He didn’t get into a long back and forth but answered a few questions and pointed me to this longer essay which I found also pretty interesting and persuasive. But since it didn’t address Zippy’s argument directly I have tried to bridge the gap here and see where the chips fall.

    It’s also worth looking at Camosy’s short exchange with Will Saletan who wrote a pro-choice essay employing a simplistic logical construct much like Zippy’s: “First, “unborn children” deserve the same legal protection as born children. Second, a woman who hires someone to kill her unborn child should not be punished. From these two principles, a third proposition logically follows: A woman who hires someone to kill her born child shouldn’t be punished, either.”

    Rather than playing ‘denounce the Other and WIN’, it’d be fun to try actually having a conversation about this contentious and complex reality.

  • tz says:

    This is my opening thought contra libertarians since it is worse than you say.
    For it to be moral agency, the person must be able to know the result of something, and be able to act on that knowledge.

    Do Women know where babies come from? I know, they put the condom on the cucumber but it didn’t work. But assume they aren’t THAT stupid.

    Are women able to act on the knowledge of where babies come from? (On a related topic, Mattress Girl and Jackie featured in RS make me doubt it – drunken frat party, what could go wrong?).

    Of course Sandra Fluke demands contraception – apparently she won’t get treatment for her nymphomania.

    So in general, like the insane and infants, women need conservators or guardians (but see Terri Schiavo) who can insure they don’t get into a position to get into trouble and otherwise act on their behalf. They really don’t have moral agency.

    Ironically it was a woman, the recently late Nancy Reagan who created “Just say No!”.

    (The case of specific non-consent being overridden – rape or incest – requires a different argument, but rhetorically this should be more fun and diverting; Of course “life of the Mother” involves classic double-effect).

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    As far as I can tell, the supposed counter-argument (such as it is) is just that the social situation has removed women’s moral agency when it comes to abortion, and that the social situation is all men’s fault not women’s fault.

    But that isn’t really a counter-argument. It is simply confirmation that — for whatever reason — the belief is that women in fact do lack moral agency, in general, when it comes to abortion.

    Substantively that constitutes agreement with my argument, not disagreement. (My argument, I remind you, is that mainstream pro-lifers think that women lack moral agency).

    Asserting rationalizations as to putatively why women lack moral agency when it comes to abortion is not — as should be obvious — to dispute the conclusion that (it is believed by mainstream pro-lifers) women lack moral agency when it comes to abortion. Affirming what I suggest in the OP – under whatever rationalization – is not disputing what I suggest in the OP.

    Personally I think the contention that women in general lack moral agency when it comes to abortion is breathtakingly contemptuous of women in general.

  • Zippy says:

    Shorter version:

    Presenting reasons why Bob thinks that women lack moral agency is not to dispute that Bob thinks that women lack moral agency.

  • Scott W. says:

    Women’s moral agency in two words: Mary’s Fiat.

  • William Luse says:

    William you’ll have to provide your personal idiosyncratic definition of scapegoat, because the way you are trying to use it is directly contradictory to its conventional and historical usage.

    Dictionary.com: “A person or group that is made to bear blame for others.”
    So when I say that “What you’re doing is absolving one woman of guilt by scapegoating the rest of us,” you do understand what I’m saying. Right?

    To your murder question, my current answer is “undetermined; needs definition.”

    Those ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ questions are a bitch. If you don’t have a working definition of murder, you’ve stumbled into the wrong combox.

    Rather than playing ‘denounce the Other and WIN’, it’d be fun to try actually having a conversation about this contentious and complex reality.

    Yeah, it’s all so complicated. We need to talk about it, and talk some more, because the more we talk the less pressing the need to assign moral agency to women who have their babies killed. Sorry, I meant “who killed their babies because people like me have created a cultural ambience that forces them into it.” Somehow. Even though she killed it and I didn’t want her to. I’m still learning.

  • Marissa says:

    I’m curious how “society” forced a woman to not only become impregnated but to have the child killed as well. It certainly removes culpability from not only the woman herself but from actual individuals who do evilly coerce women to have abortions, such as pushy parents or intimate partners. Is this simply rehashed patriarchy conspiracy theory one hears from the feminists?

    I can see how Zeb (!?) has already conceded that women lack moral agency in this particular capacity, but there are still other issues with this whole worldview that men (which men? All men?) have connivingly setup society to be more difficult for women (all of them?) to act virtuously.

  • Useless.

    Frankly, my reaction to this is actually less polite than Zippy’s. It can be summed up as “Okay, you’ve convinced me not to care what you think”. Have fun thinking yourself into pretzels to avoid holding women accountable.

  • Zeb,

    I’m going to put it to you this way. Imagine that the government passes a law that says white men are allowed to slaughter black men with impunity, and fighting back is grounds for the death penalty. The only thing is, they can’t actually do it themselves, but need to hire a hispanic hit man.

    A man goes on the air and says “If this is illegal, should white men who do this be punished?” And when somebody responds “Yes, duh”, there is outrage followed by a quick condemnation of the hispanic hit men, since they’re the REAL problem. And, like, society! We can’t possibly ARREST white people for this.

    Hispanic hit men, however, are the devil and need to die.

    And if you understand this you get why people are having a very hard time taking anything you say seriously.

  • […] (Cross-posted and elaborated on from here.) […]

  • Ryan says:

    To get these pro-lifers to understand how their argument looks to us, it helps to reverse it to something they’d find abhorrent. So, let’s imagine rape had been decriminalized in 1973 and that since then it’s been rampant — to the point of widespread social acceptance. Men had come to expect their “right to sexual fulfillment,” not to be judged for it, etc.

    Naturally, a large cohort of Catholics have opposed this since the beginning (while, also naturally, many compromised with the world). Since then, the pro-consent Catholics have rallied and lobbied to overturn the court ruling. But the pro-consenters break into three camps:

    1. those who effectively endorse rape by claiming the “anti-rapists” don’t care about men, but only wish to punish the poor men who, through no fault of their own, are losers without the prowess to woo the ladies. These Catholics instead push for further degradations: they want to decriminalize prostitution, set up government-funded dating for the sexually incompetent, increase access to pornography, redistribute wealth to help men pay for sex — basically, whatever men say they need in order to not rape, they should get, or else it’s society’s fault.

    2. Those who mostly reject (1)’s platform, but nevertheless are exceedingly likely to accept their premises, especially regarding the lack of agency and need for sympathy for the loser men. These Catholics want to change the law on rape, but they’re too compromising and confused to ever get anything done.

    3. The sane Catholics, who see the situation and say, “This must end now, and we must punish rapists.” When (1)s and (2)s respond, pointing out all the sob stories and insisting society has to overhaul its economic and penal systems to cater to men’s increasingly hostage-like behavior, the (3)s reply, “Or these men could just not rape people. I don’t care how much they feel they need to rape; there are some things you just don’t and can’t legally do. So you don’t do them, no matter what. And if they do, they’re punished. And if they can’t deal with that, they were never fit for our or any civilization. Period.”

    Of course, in this hypothetical scenario, the “victims” are men, and not just any men — loser men. So, those who promote the victimhood of women (at the end of the day, feminists of one sort or another) will be especially repulsed by this proposal. And maybe then they’ll understand how we see them. (Okay, who am I kidding? They’ll never see it.)

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:
    I expect that has a disparate impact on men, because we know which of the sexes dominates the sell side. Women can only be victims, even when they are the perpetrators.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    Perhaps then this revelation is positive? I mean, women are of course moral agents, but the culture gives them a warped personal agency they didn’t have in ages past. It is this unnatural state of affairs that they exploit to kill children for convenience. Maybe this could fuel the position that women’s autonomy is out of control, something ‘conservatives’ right now won’t dare entertain because it’s wrapped in the yellow and black tape of Liberal ‘settled issues’.

  • […] reasons why you believe that women lack moral agency is not the same as disputing that you believe that women lack moral […]

  • Aethelfrith says:

    Women have moral agency except when they don’t. This is another case of weaponised nihilism. https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/weaponized-nihilism/

  • Zeb says:

    Zippy, I have provided three reconciliations for why one can believe that women have moral agency and yet the state does not have a duty to punish them.

    1. The moral dilemma – A woman is put in an ‘impossible situation’ where she have to choose between two apparent evils. So a woman can know abortion is an evil and can have the capacity to choose against it, but the state cannot rightfully punish her because her other options were all so bad.

    2. The limits of state power – abortion is a moral evil for which a woman may be morally culpable, but because the location of the evil act is outside the limits of state power.

    3. Collective guilt – The woman is morally culpable for procuring an abortion, but so many other people (who cannot be personally identified) are also culpable that it would be unjust to punish just the woman.

    Camosy, in his writing, seems to pretty much go with 3., with a bit of 1. thrown in. And he has acknowledged that in a much different societyal context there could be a duty to punish a woman for procuring an abortion, but we are no where near that world now. One may disagree with an disprove all of these reconciliations, but I have yet to see how you interpret them as implying a lack of moral agency for the woman. Remember, they are not arguing that the woman is justified in choosing abortion, only that the state is justified in declining to punish the woman (or perhaps more strongly, that the state is NOT justified in punishing the woman).

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    (1) agrees with the conclusion of the OP: that mainstream pro-lifers believe that women lack moral agency. We are not supposed to notice the projection of an exceptional particular – a special case in which the acting subject actually does lack moral agency, say by reason of insanity or retardation – onto the general case. To insist that women should never be punished for procuring the murder of their own unborn children is to make a general principle out of diminished culpability (lack of agency) for what is otherwise deliberately procured murder. Again, this is simply to assert that women lack moral agency in general while providing rationalizations why that is supposedly the case.

    (2) Is simply a rephrase of the pro-abortion slogan “my body, my choice”. Since the OP addresses mainstream pro-lifers as a group, I do them the courtesy of rejecting the idea that they really are just pro abortion and pretend not to be.

    (3) Also agrees with the conclusion of the OP, under a different rationalization. Women are not responsible for their own choice to procure the murder of their children (that is, they do not possess moral agency) because many other people materially cooperate with their choice to murder their children and encourage them to murder their children. In effect it is a kind of Neuremberg defense without the feature of actually having been ordered to commit the murders. The Neuremberg defense is quite precisely a defense based on the claim that the soldier tossing in the cannister of Zyklon B lacked personal moral agency, and is therefore not personally guilty of any punishable wrongdoing.

  • King Richard says:

    Mark,
    You may have made an important error; believing that even a significant fraction of pro-life sorts speaking about this are conservative.

  • Zippy says:

    I would respect Camosy’s position if he just came out and said that because of our peculiar modern circumstances women in general lack moral agency when it comes to abortion. Of course he can’t say that without becoming a pariah, so instead we get verbose rationalization.

    In effect what he is attempting to do is produce a simple rule – ‘the state should not punish any woman who procures abortion’ – from an initial assertion that the situation is too complicated to allow for simple rules. But if he is right that the situation is too complicated to allow for simple rules (with exceptions made, as with other kinds of murder, in cases of demonstrated lack of moral agency) then he is himself unjustified in attempting to assert his simple rule that women should not be punished for procuring abortion.

  • Zeb says:

    What do you mean by “moral agency”? Something other than “capable of acting with reference to right and wrong”?

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    Something other than “capable of acting with reference to right and wrong”?

    There is nothing especially wrong with that definition — understanding the limitations of definitions.

    I would probably say that to be a moral agent is to be responsible for the behaviors you choose. Mainstream pro-lifers do not believe that women are capable of moral agency — at least not when it comes to abortion.

  • Zeb says:

    Well then what about my reconciliations (1) and (3) does not preserve the moral agency of the mother? In both I stipulate that the mother may know that her abortion is wrong and may choose it freely. It is not the responsibility of the mother that is denied, but the duty of the state to punish her.

  • Zippy says:

    Zeb:

    It is not the responsibility of [all mothers who choose abortion] that is denied, but the duty of the state to punish [any of them].

    That is a denial of premise (2) and/or (3) in the OP.

  • Zippy says:

    IOW, your options are:

    1) Deny that women have moral agency.

    2) Deny that abortion is murder.

    or

    3) Assert that the government should explicitly permit and refuse to punish some deliberate murders (known and acknowledged to be murders) committed in full knowledge and by deliberate choice.

    All of the wiggle room is in (1), because there are actually cases – exceptional cases – of diminished capacity.

    The mainstream pro-life position depends upon extrapolating the exceptional cases of diminished capacity to include all women in general.

  • Zeb says:

    Yes, it’s a denial of (3) in the OP. This whole time I’ve been open about pro-lifers rejecting that one, not (1). This assumes “murder” just means “wrongful intentional killing of a human person,” and that no criminal justice implications are baked in (which would be question begging).

  • Zippy says:

    Sure: you can embrace the idea that criminal law should as a normative matter selectively and explicitly authorize people to murder (where it is fully and unequivocally acknowledged it is murder) each other. (Or rape each other, etc).

    If you start from the premise that government should only do just precisely what you say it should do, nothing more, nothing less, then you can get whatever result you want. As to who is begging the question, well, I’m happy to leave that as an exercise for the discerning reader.

    But I don’t take it to be the mainstream pro-life position that people ought to be able to just murder each other without legal consequences.

  • Mrsktc says:

    Reblogged this on To our bodies turn we then and commented:
    Its simple really . . .

  • domzerchi says:

    It’s ironic that many are saying that Trump’s “gaffe” proves that his claim to have recently changed his mind about abortion is insincere when it seems to be evidence that he is sincere. Someone who has sincerely and recently become pro-life is likely to admit that of course since abortion is homicide the law can threaten some women who have abortions with punishment–it’s obvious. The political tactic of shutting up about moral and legal culpability when it comes to the mother and only talking about her as a second victim is not so obvious.

  • Zippy says:

    domzerchi:

    Good point. If it had been a calculated political move he would have just looked up the talking points well ahead of time and regurgitated them at the camera.

    Another possibility is that it isn’t about sincerity as much as it is about how he thinks.

    Many people remember things by memorization, and those sorts of folks tend to think that everyone else is like them.

    But in my experience successful executives tend to remember a few key bullet points about any given subject and then speak/respond spontaneously from the hot seat by staying consistent with those key points. The inconsistency here is so flagrant and self-serving – and in a way that panders to stupid and cowardly people – that his executive-brain may not have been able to keep it in his head. The less he cares about abortion at all, the more likely something like this would be the explanation (as opposed to sincerity).

    One qualitative difference between business executives and politicians in modern democracies is that in the case of the latter the ass-kissing goes both upstream and down. Not so under more hierarchical arrangements, even the faux-hierarchy of the modern business world. Executives aren’t really used to granting credence, or even much thought at all, to the incoherent views of low level know-it-alls — know-it-alls who are low level precisely because they don’t have the faintest idea what it takes to actually run things and make it all work. In fact ignoring the stupid ignorant inconsistencies of lower-downs is necessary: you can’t clutter up your mind with that kind of noisy nonsense and get anything important done.

    So anyway, it may be general mindset more than specific conviction. But you do raise a good point, and sincerity is not an unreasonable explanation.

  • Men pay for the abortions, and I don’t mean tax dollars. Men are hiring the hit men, particularly in the case of the unmarried women who make up a majority of abortion-seekers.

    It’s an old trope for a reason. Women have moral culpability for getting up on that table, but they all too often aren’t the ones putting the money into the abortionist’s hand. That’s usually a man, baby.

  • William Luse says:

    This assumes “murder” just means “wrongful intentional killing of a human person,” and that no criminal justice implications are baked in (which would be question begging).

    Actually, it’s question begging not to bake in the criminal justice implications, for moral condemnation is built in to the word ‘murder,’ as it is not in other kinds of homicide, such as killing in self-defense or by accident. If a certain form of murder is not to be punished, then there is no point in calling it by that name, since the perpetrator is presumed to be exempt from that built-in condemnation, which can be true only if she lacks moral agency. Murder and punishment are inseparable; without the latter, the former is devoid of meaning.

  • Zippy says:

    The Practical Conservative:

    Men are hiring the hit men, …

    That is likely true, but also a straw man. Nobody has suggested that co-conspirators in murder should not be punished. Quite the contrary. All co-consprators in and accessories to murder should be punished in at least some way. Exceptions are people who literally lack agency: who are physically forced, who are mentally ill and need to be locked up for that reason, etc. (As Dalrock points out, being under pressure or ignorant isn’t even exculpatory in the case of a parking ticket).

    What is ludicrous and irrational is the simultaneous contention that abortion is murder and that women who deliberately procure them are innocent victims, not perpetrators of murder (along with the abortionist and any other co-conspirators).

  • domzerchi says:

    Murder and punishment are practically separable in the sense that the state may fail to prosecute. National Right to Life says that In the decades preceding Roe vs. Wade, most American states did not have criminal statues imposing punishment on the mother and regularly declined to prosecute the mother. A state cannot make the law go away, though. Murder is murder, and a statute positively denying that truism would not deserve to be called a law.

    Anyone who is prolife must surely think it intolerable that no one be punished. Maybe many in the prolife movement believe that, while there is no way for a state to justly eliminate the possibility that mothers who get abortions be punished, it can as a matter of policy regularly decline to prosecute mothers. In terms of political strategy, maybe many in the movement are declining be totally frank or are positively lying. Insofar as they may be positively lying they would be deligitimizing the movement and perhaps unintentionally contributing to its failure.

    What Trump’s success should show politicians and strategizers is that frankness and honesty can work. I’m sorry he back-pedaled.

  • Zippy says:

    domzerchi:

    National Right to Life says that In the decades preceding Roe vs. Wade, most American states did not have criminal statues imposing punishment on the mother and regularly declined to prosecute the mother.

    Leniency is like tolerance. It is sometimes the magnanimous thing to do in particular cases, especially as a boon granted to people with diminished capacity.

    But it is only leniency or tolerance in the first place because the tolerant or lenient man is justified if he chooses not to be tolerant or lenient. When and how to punish is subject to the prudential judgment of those in authority; but the domain over which this prudential judgment is exercised is those who deserve punishment.

  • domzerchi says:

    Zippy,

    I cannot disagree with that, thank you for explicating.

  • Mike T says:

    I know I am late to the discussion, but I will simply repost the gist of a comment I left in response to Doug Wilson’s post that is making the rounds with approval in certain quarters. It addresses the “knowledge gap” that so many of these women are said to have that denies them moral culpability:

    When a woman wants to keep the child in defiance of the father, she declares “I am keeping the baby.” When she wants an abortion, she dehumanizes it to a clump of cells. No neurotypical woman screams “I’m keeping the f#$%ing ‘clump of cells that lacks personhood’ whether you like it or not!!!!!” at her boyfriend.

    Then, probably not winning any more friends or influencing enemies there, I compared their argument roughly to a KKK member declaring blacks to be monkeys and the act of killing them to be putting down animals. That is to say, the false beliefs would just serve as fuel to stick the needle in all the more.

  • William Luse says:

    It addresses the “knowledge gap” that so many of these women are said to have that denies them moral culpability:

    It’s an attempt to impute some degree of invincible ignorance to women whose faculties of reason and moral agency are fully intact, and who have a responsibility to know what it is they are killing. I would never shoot through the undergrowth at what I suspected was a deer and not a person.

    In fact – setting aside the exceptions Zippy has noted – I think most of these women go ahead and shoot because they know exactly what they are killing. The pro-life movement claims them as ‘victims’ for no other reason than that they believe it to be strategically advantageous. But the strategy is underpinned by a lie.

    And if they do believe that the perpetrators are victims, then they don’t really believe that the unborn are human beings.

  • GJ says:

    Focusing on what ‘these pro-lifers’ could possibly be thinking in the subjective theatre of their minds is missing the forest for the trees. The response to Trump was not ‘well, this is one natural conservative response but we disagree because expediency/less agency/ignorance/mah feels/’. Rather, they denounced the view and those who hold it, trying to shut them out from ‘true conservatism/pro-lifeism’.

    And so the illusion that being pro-life remains one outpost that conservative Christians still stand fast on is utterly shattered. The supposed stronghold has been long compromised and the culture war is lost.

  • Zippy says:

    GJ:
    They don’t want me or people like me in the pro-life movement. We are not “true conservatives”, because we engage in the crimethink that women are responsible for the behaviors they choose.

    So I am not pro-life. I have been read out of the movement, but it is just as well; because unlike pro-lifers and “true conservatives”, I am anti-abortion: I believe that abortion is murder and that women presumptively have moral agency, and can hold both of those thoughts in my head at the same time without wetting myself.

  • Step2 says:

    With the obvious caveat that I ultimately think there is an inconsistency in the prolife position, my sincere loathing for a certain presidential candidate forces me to admit that a major justification for that claim is based in a modern context. Legally, one of the main reasons abortion was never prosecuted against the woman was because she was nearly always the person testifying against the abortion provider. In those cases her situation was a straightforward plea deal of testimony in exchange for immunity. If there was evidence of a crime, and often there wasn’t, so long as the woman and the provider both stuck with the story it was only a miscarriage it made prosecution far less certain. Culturally, social norms of previous centuries didn’t grant that women were fully independent people. Yes, women had agency but with limited roles proscribed for jobs outside the home and an elevation of homemaker as the quintessential female ambition. That sort of patriarchal attitude carried over into criminal proceedings where the woman was seen by judge, jury, and prosecutor as a pawn in a man’s world.

  • Zippy says:

    Long time no “see”, Step2.

    Good point about evidence and plea bargain.

    I’ve been assured by modern liberals and conservatives alike that there are plenty of historical instances of women being (e.g.) stoned for adultery. Then there is that whole story of Eve, not to mention Mary. The notion that modernity suddenly discovered that women have moral agency doesn’t pass the laugh test.

    I don’t think the mainstream pro life movement has the excuse of residual cultural patriarchy. The very thought of patriarchy makes them soil themselves. What the class clown candidate accidentally exposed isn’t rooted in “old culture”: it is just an expedient bundle of lies, political correctness Trumping principle, the conversion of particular exceptions into a general principle through the magic of special pleading. It is just lies, lies, and more lies.

  • Mike T says:

    Step2 makes a good point. It is not as though the pro-life movement is zealous, but pragmatic on that point. There is a strong case to be made that the most effective route to ending abortion is simply to provide legal cover to get women to turn on the abortionist. However, to do that the woman has to be incentivized to do so. How does one do that without charging her with at least a low grade felony? The mainstream pro-life movement has written that possibility out by insisting that women face no threat of any serious legal consequence. For many women, a misdemeanor conviction for abortion would be a decent price to pay to be rid of the pregnancy. A felony is the only way to make the consequences real.

    Another thing, the mainstream pro-life movement often gets strident about pushing for conspiracy charges for the people in the woman’s life who urge her to abort, but even then cannot bring themselves to charge the mother as a conspirator with the doctor. In fact, that seems to be the go-to “rebuttal” to any point on moral agency. “Yeah? What about the boyfriend? Yeah? What about her parents?”

    To my knowledge, goading someone to commit a crime is a rather flimsy basis to be charged under law. It is also not sufficient to form a conspiracy charge for the simple fact that all you did was use legal measures (speech/withholding affection and money) to get someone to break the law.

  • Mike T says:

    I propose another, less charitable reason why they want to blame the doctor so much rather than just call him the hitman to the woman’s mafia don in the scenario: it gives them another chance to blame a man for the woman’s decision. Most medical practitioners at the higher levels are still men. Most abortionists are probably also men (the majority I see in the news are). It fits in well with the general pattern of blame the boyfriend, blame the husband, blame daddy (and mommy just so we don’t establish a pattern so obvious even a lab rat could identify it), but never blame the mother of the child as the party ultimately responsible for entering the clinic, swiping the credit card and agreeing to the procedure.

  • “To my knowledge, goading someone to commit a crime is a rather flimsy basis to be charged under law. It is also not sufficient to form a conspiracy charge for the simple fact that all you did was use legal measures (speech/withholding affection and money) to get someone to break the law.”

    This is incorrect. Telling someone to break the law (under circumstances where it is not inherently unlikely that they will act on it) makes one an accomplice, and subject to the same penalties.

  • Mike T says:

    Good to know. Even so, there is an obsession with making it sound like most women are coerced into doing against their better judgment.

  • Zippy says:

    Abortion is such a horrific scourge that in my judgment people who advocate for it at all, even just in general and in the abstract, should be subject to criminal charges.

    But in any case the “but what about the man” nonsense is just an attempt to change the subject. Of course everyone involved in a conspiracy to commit murder should normatively be subject to prosecution and some sort of punishment. This obviously includes the person who decides that the murder should take place and actually commissions/authorizes it.

  • Zippy says:

    It is rather precious that the mainstream pro life movement thinks it can win a game of dishonest euphemism against the devil.

  • Step2 says:

    “The notion that modernity suddenly discovered that women have moral agency doesn’t pass the laugh test. ”

    If that was what I had claimed I would gladly agree but IIRC you don’t like to have your points mischaracterized by paraphrasing so I’m inclined to reject this interpretation. Clearly there is a difference between full moral agency and lesser degrees of moral agency; for example between adult, adolescent and child. Stating that women were in some areas of activity treated with less than full moral agency in previous centuries seems obvious to me but this does not imply they were never treated as moral agents.

    “It is just lies, lies, and more lies.”

    Um, okay. It is a tradition of lies that for 100 years prior to Roe and with 22 states having laws making them co-conspirator or accomplices produced exactly two indictments and no convictions against women for conspiracy to commit abortion.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    If that was what I had claimed I would gladly agree but IIRC you don’t like to have your points mischaracterized by paraphrasing so I’m inclined to reject this interpretation.

    The part you quote wasn’t intended as a paraphrase of you at all. If it came off that way that is my bad.

    Clearly there is a difference between full moral agency and lesser degrees of moral agency; for example between adult, adolescent and child.

    Right. So you can either go full James Donald and assert that all women normatively need to be legally under the supervision and authority of particular men (as children and adolescents normatively need to be legally under the supervision and authority of particular adults) or you can grant that the kind of agency we are talking about is the kind of agency we impute to adults, not children.

    If we want to modify the basic claim from “the mainstream pro-life movement acts as if it believes that women lack agency” to “the mainstream pro-life movement acts as if it believes that women are no more or less morally responsible for their own actions than children” I am OK with that modification.

  • Mike T says:

    I think Step2’s characterization of reduced moral agency is probably not that far off from how women were seen. Even Peter referred to women as the weaker sex which, depending on how you take it, means that women are more susceptible to being deceived and lead astray. In practice women do often have a much harder time taking responsibility for their actions than men and are more likely to hold other women less accountable if there is any thought that such a thing might be something they’d like or need to do later. (Insert NAWALT caveats)

    Ironically, this is one of the reasons why chivalry actually made sense. When women were held in a lower position of authority and accountability and under the authority of particular men, chivalry made a lot more sense. Most “conservatives” today cannot see how outside of that, where women are “free and equal” that the demands of chivalry on men necessarily amount to something closer to slavery than noble obligations. This is how chivalry has gone from being the code of powerful men, to a mating strategy utilized most often by chumps.

    Abortion is such a horrific scourge that in my judgment people who advocate for it at all, even just in general and in the abstract, should be subject to criminal charges.

    I am certainly open to that in general. The only caveat would be that often there is probably no practical way to form a fair legal proceeding against many of the people who are involved in that conspiracy outside of the mother and the medical staff. Much of it would come down to he said, she said between relatives and lovers.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Just to be clear, I am not suggesting a relaxation in the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal cases.

  • Mike T says:

    I didn’t think you were.

    There are a number of things about outlawing abortion that would have to be handled delicately, such as providing strong safeguards against trying to label a miscarriage as an abortion unless there is clear and convincing, admissible evidence that the miscarriage was intentionally inflicted.

  • Mike T says:

    Sorta tangent, but one reason I find myself drawn more to the Alt-Right and Neoreaction is the behavior of mainstream conservatives. The jury is still out on the former, but the latter often prove your argument about liberalism when you scratch the surface. Across the board, the CBMW, pro-life movement, FoF, FRC and so many other groups always have one toe in the politically correct waters and just enough out of it to look distinctly different from their nominal opposition.

  • To expound on the “women have reduced moral agency” argument, it’s worth pointing out that even children (those above whatever the state judges to be the age of reason) are subject to some legal punishment if they commit murder.

    Mike:
    As far as I’m aware, there’s not any problem with SID deaths being wrongly labeled homicides, I don’t see why there would be an issue with miscarriages being wrongly labeled homicide.

  • Mike T says:

    I think I’ve seen a few examples outside of the US where they were prosecuted (miscarriages). One thing to bear in mind in general with prosecutions is that the US still has a problem with allowing voodoo pseudoscience like bite mark matching into its legal proceedings.

  • I’ve seen articles claiming that El Salvador prosecutes women for having miscarriages, but the articles never hold up to logical scrutiny. They always depend on the presumption that if a convicted murderer claims innocence, it must be true.

  • Mike T says:

    I never paid them much attention, but it is worth being proactive on because there are plenty of unethical prosecutors who would stoop to carrying out a malicious prosecution to try to raise due process issues before the SCOTUS on the issue.

  • […] it all is – precisely as I have suggested – a belief (or, equivalently from my standpoint, actions and words perfectly consistent […]

  • […] Pro-lifers are even willing to do whatever it takes legally to punish all of the abortions caused by men who manipulate poor helpless women. […]

  • […] Like Donald Trump the authors of the law made the mistake of taking pro lifers seriously in the contention that abortion is a kind of murder, when in fact the mainstream pro life position in the Current Year[tm] is merely a variation of pro choice. The mainstream pro life position is that the provision of abortion should be restricted and heavily regulated, but women who procure abortions should never face any sort of legal penalty for doing so. Abortion victimizes the perpetrator and is the fault of abusive men; it isn’t a choice made by women who are responsible for their own choices. […]

  • […] child.  Liberalism (in its feminist aspect) isn’t always and necessarily what motivates individual choices to abort.  Sometimes it likely isn’t a significant factor at […]

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You are currently reading An argument that the pro-life movement does not consider women to be moral agents at Zippy Catholic.

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