Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Complicate Bad Logic With More of It?

Of course, it is preposterous.

Dr. Alberto Giubilini and Dr. Francesca Minerva wrote a February 2012 web article for the Journal of Medical Ethics arguing not only that a fetus and a newborn share a moral status, but that status entitles society to kill them on either side of the womb.

In other words, not only do Giubilini and Minerva believe that abortion is OK, but infanticide is, too, since the lumps of flesh they consider pre-birth and post-birth blobs of flesh can't contribute to society.

"Merely being human,” they write, “is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life."

So they say that both after-birth abortions should be as legal as pre-birth ones.

Okay, so let's make them both illegal!

Indeed, pretty much every evangelical Christian worldwide scoffs at such scholarly irrationality.  Not only because Giubilini and Minerva take historic morality and, in a bizarre twist of over-confidence, turn it on its head.  Either morality is true from one culture to another, from one time to another, or it's not morality.  Murder is either wrong both 2,000 years ago and today, or murder is not wrong.

But Giubilini and Minerva should know that a medical, scientific theory needs to be replicated and validated.  Yet we have the whole of human existence to practically enshrine life on our side of the womb as human - from the killing of infants to appease deities in tribal cultures, to our modern, nearly- universal murder laws.  To the extent morals can be measured and analyzed, this claim by these two doctors apparently has only been affirmed by the tiny Netherlands, the only country on Earth with legalized infanticide.  Not exactly a fail-safe scientific validation.

After all, the Dutch aren't known for morality.  Depravity, thy name is Holland.

On Christianity Today's female-centric blog, Her.menutics, Karen Swallow-Prior takes a good look at the fallacy being perpetrated by Giubilini and Minerva, but then takes an unfortunate detour by dragging the recent Personhood movement into the debate.

Swallow-Prior says Giubilini and Minerva's argument that a fetus is a human being helps to affirm the Personhood movement, which advocates for ascribing legal "person" status to every fetus.  But after giving an erudite synopsis of the article in Journal of Medical Ethics, Swallow-Prior fails to support her inclusion of Personhood into the fray with equal gusto.  She simply admits that it may actually be a sloppy way of extending pro-life guarantees to pre-birth human, but she leaves hanging her apparent endorsement of the Personhood movement itself.

As I've written before, the Personhood movement is a misguided and ill-advised risk that its pro-life advocates have not thought through well.  So for Swallow-Prior to bring such faulty logic into an already international and brittle debate lends pro-lifers little integrity.  When it comes to abortion, the moral argument is already on our side, Giubilini and Minerva notwithstanding, so why cloud our position with a viewpoint even America's National Right to Life committee does not endorse?

She writes, "Such language makes more justifiable recent attempts to define “personhood” to include unborn children... Yet even among pro-life advocates, views on personhood legislation are not uniform... Some who favor other efforts restricting abortion say such laws are ... symbolic at best ... or dangerous at worst. This may be true.

"But it’s also true that symbols are important. Symbols have power... But when legalized abortion turns into an argument for killing newborns, any debate about symbol vs. substance is dead in the water."

How does that quick wrap-up of this discussion help anything?

Instead, consider the Personhood movement's three interrelated problems:

1. the inability of state-by-state legislation to overcome America's Constitutional amendment allowing abortion (in other words, any state victory for the Personhood movement would automatically be deemed void),

2. the legal exposure state-by-state legislation would experience could potentially open it to worse interpretations of abortion law by the courts, and

3. the language relevant to the interpretation of "person" in expansive, extant state laws could be threatened by other legal applications where pre-birth humans would be concerned (can pre-birth humans own property, for instance?)

All Swallow-Prior does is admit that people like me may have a point.  But she leaves her article with an implication that the Personhood movement carries equal weight as Giubilini and Minerva's salvo in this fight.

Which, considering the fact that neither the Personhood movement nor Giubilini and Minerva are right, then maybe Swallow-Prior has a point, too.

Even if that wasn't the point she was trying to make.

How much room does this debate have for such fanciful journalism?  The chances of medical experts perusing Her.meneutics for scientific validity when it comes to abortion may be slim, but encouraging her evangelical audience with spurious associations won't help in terms of galvanizing troops around authentic strategies.

The truth - indeed, the Truth - is on our side.  We don't need to manipulate it.

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