A Bizarre Contradiction

 

feticideWhile abortion is legal throughout the US — with some restrictions varying state-by-state — fetal homicide (feticide) is not. In most states, it is treated as murder. How are the two different? Presumably, if the woman carrying the fetus consents to the feticide, then she’s just exercising choice. If she doesn’t consent, people go to jail.

Thirty-eight (38) states currently recognize the “unborn child” (the term usually used) or fetus as a homicide victim, and twenty-three (23) of those states apply this principle throughout the period of pre-natal development.

Yet, paradoxically:

These laws do not apply to legally induced abortions. Federal and state courts have consistently held that these laws do not contradict the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a handy compendium of state laws and rulings on the matter. For example, my home state of California defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought,” with explicit exceptions made for doctors attempting to save the life of the mother during childbirth or if “the act was solicited, aided, abetted, or consented to by the mother of the fetus.” So … that’s clear.

Furthermore:

Fetal homicide laws, as well as ordinary murder statutes, are increasingly used to prosecute pregnant women accused of intentionally or recklessly causing miscarriages or stillbirths.

Many of you may already be aware of this. Nevertheless, it’s worth repeating this point to pro-choice folks’ claim that a fetus is just a clump of cells and not a person. If so, how can anyone be prosecuted for destroying a clump of cells like a wart? If not, and the pregnant woman can exercise life-or-death control over another person, isn’t that akin to slavery or tyranny?

There are some fundamental internal contradictions in the law that will have to be resolved in favor of life or in favor of death. I can only hope we make the right choice.

Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil.

— Albert Schweitzer

There are 29 comments.

  1. Member

    Yes!

    • #1
    • January 12, 2016 at 5:41 pm
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  2. Inactive

    You have to wonder how long these contradictions can coexist together.

    • #2
    • January 12, 2016 at 5:50 pm
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  3. Inactive

    Wow. The things I learn on Ricochet.

    • #3
    • January 12, 2016 at 6:16 pm
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  4. Member

    I remember a discussion while out with some co-workers, years ago, about the Scott Peterson case. One of them mentioned that he was being charged with two murders, that of his wife and her unborn child.

    “That makes no sense at all,” I said. “If Laci Peterson had advocated for and sought to obtain an unrestricted late-term abortion, you’d have no shortage of like-minded women out there demanding she be allowed to exercise that right. But instead, she was a happy, expectant mother, so suddenly the whole world is outraged at the extinguishing of two lives, rather than one. Thus it would seem that the legal precedent being set in prosecutions like this one is, viability arguments be damned, the real governing factor in whether or not an unborn child is indeed its own person, with its own right to life, the taking of which merits prosecution for the offender, is whether or not that child was wanted.”

    “That’s ridiculous! I don’t agree with that at all!” snapped my co-worker (who never spoke to me again after that night, by the way).

    Never said I agreed with it, either. Just stating what I saw as an obvious and ugly double-standard.

    • #4
    • January 12, 2016 at 6:38 pm
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  5. Inactive

    Wanted. Of course, only if wanted by the mother. The father’s opinion does not matter.

    Pastor Rick Warren asked Obama when a fetus gains human rights. Obama famously dodged the question, and got away with that.

    The correct answer is that the fetus gains human rights when his mother says she wants him.

    At least, according to American law in most states, that is how it works.

    • #5
    • January 12, 2016 at 7:15 pm
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  6. Member

    MJBubba: Wanted. Of course, only if wanted by the mother. The father’s opinion does not matter.

    Very true. I’ve never understood how this business of hunting down “deadbeat dads” squares itself with “MY body, MY decision” either.

    • #6
    • January 12, 2016 at 7:30 pm
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  7. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Merina Smith:You have to wonder how long these contradictions can coexist together.

    You’d be amazed how long contradictions such as thing coexist. Actually, I’m sure you would not be amazed at all. For example, consider slavery vs. founding principles of this country. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one continued for a comparable period of time.

    • #7
    • January 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm
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  8. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    kelsurprise:

    MJBubba: Wanted. Of course, only if wanted by the mother. The father’s opinion does not matter.

    Very true. I’ve never understood how this business of hunting down “deadbeat dads” squares itself with “MY body, MY decision” either.

    It doesn’t. Human affairs are rife with contradictions. It falls to thoughtful people to point them out, or raise consciousness as the Lefties say.

    • #8
    • January 12, 2016 at 7:35 pm
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  9. Member

    drlorentz: For example, consider slavery vs. founding principles of this country.

    Perfect example of how the most horrific injustice can not just be tolerated but condoned, simply because the perpetrators deem the victims of it to be less than human.

    There’s not a liberal I’ve met yet who won’t harp on the historical hypocrisy there and yet, they put the partisan blinders on when it comes to the contradiction you pointed out, the perpetuation of which is aided by a very similar claim.

    • #9
    • January 12, 2016 at 7:45 pm
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  10. Thatcher

    I use this in my abortion arguments with liberal friends. Why is it that if a womyn was driving to a Planned Parenhood clinic for an abortion and she had an accident with a drunk driver that the driver would be charged with murder but if she did not have the accident that it is perfectly legal for her to off the kid? It would seem that the driver would not be guilty of killing the child or the womyn would be.

    • #10
    • January 12, 2016 at 8:09 pm
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  11. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Fake John/Jane Galt:I use this in my abortion arguments with liberal friends. Why is it that if a womyn was driving to a Planned Parenhood clinic for an abortion and she had an accident with a drunk driver that the driver would be charged with murder but if she did not have the accident that it is perfectly legal for her to off the kid? It would seem that the driver would not be guilty of killing the child or the womyn would be.

    What response does this elicit from your liberal friends?

    • #11
    • January 12, 2016 at 8:19 pm
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  12. Thatcher

    Varied.
    Most seem to think I am stupid since from their point of view the difference is obvious. Though when pressed to articulate this obvious difference they can not and usually get mad. A few see my point and instead of getting trapped in the argument seem to want to make the death of any unborn legal. Oddly one seemed to think that I needed to be schooled on biology explaining how the unborn were nothing more than a group of cells like a pea thus had the same legal rights of a pea, that being none. He got mad when I suggested that if he thought that his wife had peas in that area that maybe we have struck upon why they were having problems conceiving. That was unkind of me but we were drinking and he was being very stupid.

    • #12
    • January 12, 2016 at 11:44 pm
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  13. Inactive

    This is the topic on which the modern American Left is the least reasonable, and our muddled legislative convolutions reflect that irrationality. Every single line of argument falls apart either under the burden of internal contradictions or through inconsistent application of principles, and those desperately reaching for consistency surrender any vestige of human respect or decency by necessitating the equivocation of all of the most hedonistic whims and impulses and the most fundamental tenets of human civilization.

    • #13
    • January 13, 2016 at 7:01 am
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  14. Member

    Abortion is never about children. It is about the unencumbered right to sexual gratification.

    • #14
    • January 13, 2016 at 7:05 am
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  15. Inactive

    The King Prawn:Abortion is never about children. It is about the unencumbered right to sexual gratification.

    This.

    • #15
    • January 13, 2016 at 8:06 am
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  16. Coolidge

    I understand that words are important. I also recognize that when the words I’m using lead to an apparent contradiction or can be extrapolated to ridiculous ends, I need to examine my thinking to determine if my thinking is incorrect or if I just chose my words poorly. In the case of fetal homicide statutes, I believe the latter is the case.

    Yes, the term “fetal homicide” suggests an independent life has been taken and is inconsistent with legal abortion. However, even if you used the term abortion every time fetal viability is ended as a result of deliberate or negligent human action, I see no logical or moral contradiction in distinguishing between abortions with and without the consent of the “mother”, and enacting stiff penalties for the latter. It’s perfectly legal for me to donate a kidney, but very illegal for somebody to take mine for their use.

    This should not be interpreted as me endorsing legalized abortion. I only offer it as a possible explanation regarding why this argument holds little sway with abortion rights supporters. It may appear to them as a purely semantic argument.

    PS – If we’re going to reconsider the language commonly used in the abortion debate, let’s take a look at “mother” as well.

    • #16
    • January 13, 2016 at 9:57 am
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  17. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Chuck Enfield: Yes, the term “fetal homicide” suggests an independent life has been taken and is inconsistent with legal abortion. However, even if you used the term abortion every time fetal viability is ended as a result of deliberate or negligent human action, I see no logical or moral contradiction in distinguishing between abortions with and without the consent of the “mother”, and enacting stiff penalties for the latter. It’s perfectly legal for me to donate a kidney, but very illegal for somebody to take mine for their use.

    You make an interesting point. This is probably the best shot at bringing consistency to the situation, probably one that a smart pro-choicer would use. Nevertheless, the contradiction remains and is more than just semantic. If someone takes your kidney, he would not be accused of murder (assuming you survived). As currently constituted, the law recognizes killing a fetus as murder in most states. Your reasoning only works if killing a fetus were prosecuted as aggravated assault on the woman. By categorizing feticide as murder, the law is implicitly endowing the fetus with humanity. Humans can be murdered, kidneys cannot.

    • #17
    • January 13, 2016 at 10:23 am
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  18. Member

    Chuck Enfield: I see no logical or moral contradiction in distinguishing between abortions with and without the consent of the “mother”, and enacting stiff penalties for the latter. It’s perfectly legal for me to donate a kidney, but very illegal for somebody to take mine for their use.

    But if I were to rip a kidney out of someone without their consent, with what, exactly, do you think I would be charged? Assault? Grievous bodily harm? Theft, maybe? Or would the prosecutor decide to tack on kidnapping, under some insane theory that with a donor’s consent, an organ’s just an organ, but without the donor’s consent, an organ suddenly becomes a sentient, separate being, capable of injury that must needs be redressed separate and apart from whatever violence was visited upon its “host”?

    When the very same violent act is legal, lauded and supported for one but means prison for another, then we are not just talking about a difference of semantics.

    • #18
    • January 13, 2016 at 10:38 am
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  19. Member

    CuriousKevmo:

    The King Prawn:Abortion is never about children. It is about the unencumbered right to sexual gratification.

    This.

    I think it is even worse than this. Abortion is about hatred of God and hatred of those, mostly Christians, who want to save the children.

    • #19
    • January 13, 2016 at 11:06 am
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  20. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    A personal note:

    When I lived in Boston many years ago, there was a case of a woman who killed during a mugging. She was pregnant, so this also resulted in the death of the fetus. Everyone seemed to agree that this was a double murder. Indeed, the fact that she was pregnant seemed to be the reason the crime was so notorious. It’s almost as if killing the fetus were even more heinous than killing the woman.

    At the time, I didn’t make the connection between this case and abortion. Only recently have I been thinking about the ethical framework of abortion. This contradiction has been sullenly staring me in the face for decades, yet this experience from the distant past only recently came back to mind. I can’t explain why this contradiction was not evident to me years ago except to note that the cultural environment in which we are immersed has the ability to obscure the most obvious facts.

    • #20
    • January 13, 2016 at 11:15 am
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  21. Coolidge

    kelsurprise:

    But if I were to rip a kidney out of someone without their consent, with what, exactly, do you think I would be charged? Assault? Grievous bodily harm? Theft, maybe? Or would the prosecutor decide to tack on kidnapping…

    You and drlorentz make a good point. I got hung up on “homicide”, but the unborn child being identified as a separate victim is the contradiction. That said, this contradiction could be overcome by making the mother the victim and the death of the fetus an aggravating factor accompanied by stiff penalties. In fact, there’s a reason to advocate this. If all you demand is consistency, then it can be achieved by eliminating the fetal homicide laws more easily than by criminalizing abortion. I can’t imagine that’s the outcome you have in mind.

    When the very same violent act is legal, lauded and supported for one but means prison for another, then we are not just talking about a difference of semantics.

    I think this statement confuses poor moral judgement with logical contradiction. You see it as the same violent act. Abortion rights advocates see it as different acts. In a sense they see the fetus as the mother’s property. If that’s your perspective then the crime is victimless if the mother doesn’t want the child, and is egregious if the mother does want the child.

    • #21
    • January 13, 2016 at 1:47 pm
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  22. Coolidge

    drlorentz:

    You make an interesting point. This is probably the best shot at bringing consistency to the situation, probably one that a smart pro-choicer would use. Nevertheless, the contradiction remains and is more than just semantic. If someone takes your kidney, he would not be accused of murder (assuming you survived). As currently constituted, the law recognizes killing a fetus as murder in most states. Your reasoning only works if killing a fetus were prosecuted as aggravated assault on the woman. By categorizing feticide as murder, the law is implicitly endowing the fetus with humanity. Humans can be murdered, kidneys cannot.

    I apologize for the repetition in my last comment. I started to comment and got sidetracked, by the time I got back to it I pretty much ended up repeating much of what you said. I hope you accept it as flattery.

    • #22
    • January 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm
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  23. Member

    Chuck Enfield:You and drlorentz make a good point. I got hung up on “homicide”, but the unborn child being identified as a separate victim is the contradiction. That said, this contradiction could be overcome by making the mother the victim and the death of the fetus an aggravating factor accompanied by stiff penalties. In fact, there’s a reason to advocate this. If all you demand is consistency, then it can be achieved by eliminating the fetal homicide laws more easily than by criminalizing abortion. I can’t imagine that’s the outcome you have in mind.

    I didn’t say anything about criminalizing abortion or what outcome I’d prefer because that’s not what I saw as the point of the post. I am indeed commenting only on the point of consistency, here. And if one justifies the termination of a pregnancy by insisting that the product of that procedure is nothing more than a “clump of cells” then consistency dictates that the taking of that “clump” without the owner’s permission can’t be termed a “homicide.” The mother would be the sole victim, in such a case and if she survived, then certainly some sort of “aggravated” penalty might be due from the perpetrator but I just don’t see how a murder charge can hinge solely on someone’s personal attachment to what was taken from them.

    When the very same violent act is legal, lauded and supported for one but means prison for another, then we are not just talking about a difference of semantics.

    I think this statement confuses poor moral judgement with logical contradiction. You see it as the same violent act. Abortion rights advocates see it as different acts. In a sense they see the fetus as the mother’s property. If that’s your perspective then the crime is victimless if the mother doesn’t want the child, and is egregious if the mother does want the child.

    I honestly didn’t mean to make a moral judgment with the use of the word “violent.” In fact, I realize now that I’m quite ignorant of the actual, potential causes of the loss of a fetus, by way of an attack on the mother. I just assumed that such a dire outcome must certainly involve violence to them both. I made no such assumption, however, when considering the various ways and means of legal abortions currently available. If there’s a single one of them that doesn’t put the fetus through some level of violence, then I do not know about it. All I meant by “same violent act” was, regardless of the initiator or the motive, the act itself is violent and the outcome, desired or not, is the same.

    • #23
    • January 13, 2016 at 4:48 pm
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  24. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Chuck Enfield: …this contradiction could be overcome by making the mother the victim and the death of the fetus an aggravating factor accompanied by stiff penalties. In fact, there’s a reason to advocate this. If all you demand is consistency, then it can be achieved by eliminating the fetal homicide laws more easily than by criminalizing abortion. I can’t imagine that’s the outcome you have in mind.

    Agreed, that would make everything consistent. Looking at the map in the original post, you can see this is precisely the approach adopted by the green states: Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, etc. These states treat it as an assault, nothing more.

    I didn’t write the post to advocate any particular outcome. However, I would point out that there is a larger point than the strictly logical/legal one. Most people seem to have a visceral reaction to the intentional destruction of a fetus when it’s in the context of a crime that goes well beyond the level of an assault. At least that’s my experience. This larger the contradiction cannot be eliminated by reducing feticide to assault on a woman. The law is a reflection of people’s moral sense, or at least it should be. I suspect the reason that states like Oregon can define feticide down to assault on the host is that it rarely comes up. If there were many cases of pregnant women being stabbed in the belly, the law would be changed.

    • #24
    • January 13, 2016 at 5:10 pm
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  25. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Chuck Enfield: In a sense they see the fetus as the mother’s property.

    You mean, like people once saw slaves? That didn’t turn out so well.

    • #25
    • January 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm
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  26. Coolidge

    I apologize for reading intentions in the post and comments that were not intended. I was prejudiced by debates I recalled from when the federal law was being considered about 10 years ago. Some conservatives suggested that popular support for fetal homicide legislation meant the end of abortion. I’m convinced that several states passed the laws for exactly that reason.

    I agree that contradictions and ambiguities in the law are worth addressing for their own sake. It’s precisely these sorts of legislative defects that allow prosecutors to abuse their power and appellate court judges to interpret the law in whatever way strikes their fancy.

    • #26
    • January 13, 2016 at 6:53 pm
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  27. Member

    Chuck Enfield: Some conservatives suggested that popular support for fetal homicide legislation meant the end of abortion. I’m convinced that several states passed the laws for exactly that reason.

    That’s exactly the point I was trying to make to my co-workers, so long ago (since I knew full well that they were all vocal supporters of abortion): “If you think this “fetal homicide” concept through logically, shouldn’t the possible precedent it sets concern you? And how do you reconcile your support for the Peterson verdict of double-homicide with your completely opposite justification for why it’s not homicide in the case of a voluntary termination?”

    Unfortunately, I think they just saw it as my trying to foist a “pro-life” political discussion onto a more casual conversation. (Hence the one co-worker’s writing me off afterward.) But I was truly interested in their answer – – which never came.

    My query had a lot more to do with my having been brought up by a lawyer who loved to play devil’s advocate and make me think through and defend everything I said, through any number of hypotheticals. I found that trying, at the time but ultimately, very beneficial. Apparently, my co-workers just found it trying. :)

    • #27
    • January 13, 2016 at 7:29 pm
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  28. Member
    drlorentz Post author

    kelsurprise: …I was truly interested in their answer – – which never came.

    And it never will come. There doesn’t need to be an answer. People have not arrived at their views on abortion (or anything) through analytical thought and skeptical inquiry. Such views will not survive scrutiny and challenges to them will be met with annoyance or hostility.

    kelsurprise: …think through and defend everything I said, through any number of hypotheticals. I found that trying, at the time but ultimately, very beneficial. Apparently, my co-workers just found it trying. :)

    I know what you mean. Thinking is hard work. It’s easier to just stick to your guns without having to explain why.

    • #28
    • January 13, 2016 at 7:39 pm
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  29. Coolidge

    drlorentz: Thinking is hard work. It’s easier to just stick to your guns without having to explain why.

    For me, thinking is a lot like sex. I find it very enjoyable, but wish I was better at it.

    • #29
    • January 14, 2016 at 11:41 am
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