Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview: Heathen Republican

Bret: I’m here tonight with Heathen Republican, from the blog of the same name. HR, do you think atheism is under-represented in the Republican party?

HR: Officially, yes. I believe there are several prominent secular conservatives out there... the ones that never refer to God... but for the most part, the Party is assumed to be primarily religious. I still run into plenty of conservative bloggers who just don’t believe it’s possible to be both conservative and atheist.

Bret: Are there any core issues of Republicanism that you disagree with, and does your atheism play any part in that?

HR: I’ll address it as conservatism. Even though I’ve named myself The Heathen Republican, I still consider myself conservative first. Anyway, I don’t think there are any core conservative issues that I disagree with. My areas of disagreement are around faith-based positions like teaching creationism/intelligent design in schools, stem cell research, etc. So policy differences, but I can’t think of any core issues.

Bret: What is your stance on abortion?

HR: I’ve written about this some. Basically, I’m pro-choice before (about) 15 weeks, and pro-life after 15 weeks. I believe the entire issue revolves around when we define “human-ness.” Religious conservatives believe that to be at conception, but I think it comes later in the pregnancy.

Bret: So if you find someone living in your attic, you can’t kick them out if they’ve been there like 16 weeks?

HR: If for the first 16 weeks they are simply a mass of cells, have no brain stem, and don’t look like a human baby, then yes. I think that’s a bit of an unfair analogy, but I’ll play along.

Bret: Well, is it really about the fetus or the mother?

HR: It’s about both human beings, not one or the other. I’m sure we can both agree that at some point, the baby is a person and has its own rights. This is independent of the mother. Once the baby is its own person, the mother loses some rights to how she treats it. I don’t think that’s a controversial position.

Bret: Right, but no one has the right to use someone else against their will after their born. If I needed a liver transplant, and I only need 1/3rd of your liver to stay alive, I can’t force you to give it to me, even though yours will heal back completely. Why does a fetus have privileges a person with a birth certificate doesn’t have?

HR: I’m not seeing the connection. Are you saying aborting a 16 week fetus is like forcing someone to share their liver?

Bret: No, I’m saying forcing a woman into being a concubine after a certain arbitrary point in a pregnancy is a violation of a woman’s sovereignty over her own body.

HR: Okay, but I don’t think the point in time we’re talking about is arbitrary. 15 weeks is the line I draw, but I can’t make a scientific case for it. What I know is that there is a point in time when a fetus is its own individual person. Is your position that that point in time is the moment of birth?

Bret: It doesn’t matter if the fetus is a human or not, is what I’m saying. You’re focused solely on the fetus and its personhood. Let me ask you another question, then... Do you believe we have the right to use force to defend ourselves from a home invader?

HR: Of course.

Bret: Is a home invader a person? Assuming it’s not a bear looking for food of course.

HR: I assume so.

Bret: So it’s okay to use force when someone is doing something to you against your will?

HR: Yes.

Bret: Then why can’t a woman stop a fetus from ruining her life?

HR: Maybe you only heard the last part of my answer, but I believe that a woman CAN stop a fetus from ruining her life for the first 3 1/2 months of her pregnancy. I think after that, abortion is immoral.

Bret: Do you support planned parenthood funding?

HR: No, but on different grounds. I believe that our government has a very limited role, and that doesn’t include Planned Parenthood.

Bret: Do you realize that Planned Parenthood is one tool that helps women detect pregnancies earlier and take care of abortions before 15 weeks? Not to mention prevent the need for an abortion at all.

HR: I’ll save you some time. You can tell me all of the wonderful things that Planned Parenthood does, and I’ll agree with most of them. I believe they fill an important role in society (as I make your Republican readers’ heads explode). No matter how many good things they do, it’s not the role of our federal government to give them tax dollars. There are a lot of good things in the world. That doesn’t mean I’ll support giving tax dollars to support them.

Bret: But stem cell research is okay?

HR: Again, there are two factors here. I think stem cell research is okay. If it has as much promise as proponents suggest, then I see no reason why private industry won’t finance it. There’s a big payoff at the end if they’re right. That doesn’t mean I would support federal funding of research. And I would oppose banning of the research.

Bret: But that’s what Bush did, I believe. He banned federal dollars from funding stem cell research, which really means any university that receives tax dollars can’t do the research, which is every public university. Opposing a ban is essentially lifting the restriction from public research institutions.

HR: My understanding is that he banned federal dollars, but he didn’t ban the research itself. If he banned the research, then that’s something I would disagree with.

Bret: Right, but most money for research comes from the government. It’s certainly not coming from pharmaceutical companies who make billions selling overpriced pills. Which is why the research isn’t done if it can’t be funded using tax dollars.

HR: Assuming you’re right, I think that’s outside the role of government. I think there are arguments to be made for some kinds of research that fit within the government’s constitutionally-defined role. But the two examples you’ve offered I don’t think need funding from government sources.

Bret: What about abstinence education?

HR: You’re hitting me on a lot of issues I haven’t dug into before. My blog is more about big ideas than specific policy issues. I’ll get repetitive here, but the answer really doesn’t change no matter how many issues you throw out: when I read the words that define the government’s role, I don’t see anything that would include abstinence education. In my opinion, the federal government is involved in way too many social issues.

Bret: When you say that, are you simply deferring all of these decisions onto states?

HR: That’s one option, and the states have very different constitutions that could allow that kind of funding. There are also plenty of private organizations that raise money for a variety of causes. There’s no reason to think there aren’t some wealthy donors out there that would support an education program like that.

Bret: Well unfortunately there are, mostly churches. And abstinence education is a state choice, I believe, as are nearly all issues of school programs. So knowing that, how do you feel about abstinence education, keeping in mind that I will point out that it increases teen pregnancies and STD infection rates where it’s taught.

HR: Respectfully, I’m not comfortable offering an opinion based on your stated statistics. Personally, I’m not involved in those programs. If someone knocked on my door looking for a donation, I would turn them away. I support the right of people to create abstinence educational programs as much as contraceptive education programs.

Bret: I’m not sure why you’re so socially callous. It makes me think of the comment you left [on my blog] about how you see homosexual marriage as inevitable. Why do you see that particular issue as inevitable, but still something worth fighting against?

HR: Have we transitioned from the friendly portion of the interview? Naturally, I don’t see myself as socially callous. If you think I’m socially callous because I am not against an education program that increases teen pregnancy and STD infection rates, then I understand your position. I don’t know the source of your statistics, so I’m not going to jump on board quite yet. If it were demonstrated to me that a program was having the opposite effect that its proponents intended, I would agree that something should change. I would hope those proponents would also say the same thing. So I think you’re being unfair to throw statistics at me now, and when I don’t automatically accept them to label me as socially callous. As for same-sex marriage...

Bret: Sometimes I take for granted certain pieces of what I consider “common knowledge.”

HR: One of the things I’ve developed at The Heathen Republican is the idea of the three tensions of politics: the ideological, the political, and the pragmatic. From an ideological perspective, I’m predisposed to prefer tradition over change unless I see very compelling reasons to change. I’m not a fan of change for the sake of change (as most people are not). I think the traditional definition of marriage is a good one, and I have not heard good reasons why it should change. I know that you’re familiar with my post [The Non-Faith-Based Case Against Same-Sex Marriage], so I won’t rehash it here. My statement about inevitability is me being pragmatic: I assume that the progressive movement will win this cultural battle, and eventually same-sex marriage will be the law of the land.

Bret: I know you don’t hate gay people, and I am tempted to say, “Why not just join the winning side,” but on the other hand, I know you’ll be voting Republican regardless of your view on gay marriage, or abortion, or abstinence education... which basically means it doesn’t matter if you change your mind. Do you ever feel like Republican candidates don’t represent you or conservatives as a whole, who I have found to not be as homogenized as the Republican party’s politicians?

HR: Republicans generally represent my ideological views and Democrats never do, so my voting decision is an easy one. The problem that I see with politics is that people like me, a self-described ideologue, expect our politicians to always fight the fight and stand their ground. But there are always political and pragmatic reasons for compromising, which annoys the hell out of the ideologues. I see that this is also happening with the left right now. Many people are upset with Obama because he’s not toeing the ideological line, and they can’t stand to see him compromise. Frankly, the idea of the three political tensions has helped me to cope with the cognitive dissonance I sometimes feel when I watch Republicans and how they behave.

Bret: I have no problem understanding why politicians do what they do. It’s pretty similar to understanding why an old guy has a hot, young wife: money. Is that usually the “pragmatic” tension?

HR: Yes, but that’s true for both sides, so knowing that doesn’t help decide who to vote for.

Bret: I should tell you I’m not a Democrat, not that it matters. But I have nothing to sell in the political race. I’m of the opinion that voting for someone who doesn’t represent you is not worth doing.

HR: But am I wrong that you tend toward the progressive side? Based on what I’ve read, that seems true.

Bret: Oh, I’m left of liberal. I think Democrats are just Republicans who minorities vote for.

HR: So yes, it’s pragmatic, but also political. The Politico says things like “Republicans want to kill seniors.” The Pragmatist looks for people to make a deal with because they think voters measure them by what they get done.

Bret: So then you’re for cutting Medicare?

HR: I recognize that we have an established social safety net that includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, welfare, etc. While ideologically I think these are outside the realm of the government’s role, I recognize that we can’t take it away. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to. If I had been around at its inception, I probably would’ve opposed Medicare. Now that it’s established law, I’d rather get it so that it’s self-funded and doesn’t break the bank.

Bret: What do you see the role of government being then, just shooting foreigners and defending whatever laws are already on the books?

HR: If you read my post on limited government (in depth), it outlines the basics. The usual: common defense, administer justice, foreign affairs, ensure free commerce, coin money, post offices, and don’t infringe on individual rights. But remember, that’s the ideology talking. When I say things like maintain a social safety net, that’s the pragmatic side of me coming out.

Bret: Wouldn’t you say the government also has a role to defend rights, not just avoid infringing?

HR: That feels a little like a trick question (I realize you probably don’t mean it as one). I’ll give it more thought and post something if my answer changes, but off the top of my head, no, it’s not the government’s role to defend rights. Rights belong to individuals and the government is the greatest risk to those rights. I would not ask a fox to guard my hen house, either.

Bret: So I don’t have the right to drink unpolluted water or breathe unpolluted air?

HR: That’s a very broad definition of rights. But no, you don’t have an inherent right to those things, nor do you have a right to health care, a good paying job, or annual vacations (unless you’re in Scandinavia). I’d say we have a societal obligation to clean up our water and our air, but describing these things as rights takes it too far.

Bret: So we have the right to life... unless we’re being slowly killed for profit?

HR: I don’t have a brilliant retort for that one.

Bret: Well, I only say because I don’t see things so black and white. I don’t see government as the biggest threat in my life. I don’t even interact with the government on a day-to-day basis, but I do interact with private organizations, and many of them don’t treat me as though I have any rights at all.

HR: Do I really sound black and white? I used to think the one thing that progressives and conservatives shared was a distrust for government. But that only lasted while Bush was in the White House. Now it’s only conservatives that don’t trust government.

Bret: Don’t misunderstand me, I know government has the potential to infringe on my rights. What I see as a problem is, I look at the problem of individual rights being infringed by individuals, private organizations and government, while conservatives have tunnel vision and only blame government... unless a Republican is in office. When a Republican is in office, they blame Democrats and Muslims. And who can tell the difference between those two, right?

HR: I don’t think that’s accurate. We conservatives recognize when corporations do evil things, and they do them often. More accurately, they are amoral so they don’t actively do good things. We have faith in a system... capitalism... to control most corporations and to punish those that do wrong. When the system doesn’t do it, we believe that some government regulation is appropriate. We’re not whacky libertarians who think we don’t need regulation (that’s for Free). What I see is that progressives ONLY blame corporations. That’s who’s wearing the blinders when they can’t see the problems in government. I happily blame government even when Republicans are in office. There’s an inertia to government that it interferes and grows no matter who’s running it. While I trusted Bush, I never trusted “government” while he was in charge. And I’m ignoring the Muslim comment.

Bret: Does it bother you that we lost civil liberties in a big way under Bush?

HR: I’m not aware of any civil liberties that I lost. Which one did you lose?

Bret: Well for one, I don’t fly anymore for obvious reasons.

HR: I fly 25% for work, so I can tell you I haven’t lost any civil liberties there.

Bret: But it’s not about you and what you’re okay with sacrificing. Just as you don’t see what’s wrong with gay people not being allowed to marry someone of the same gender since neither can you, your own tolerance for tyranny isn’t really justification for nullifying freedoms we should all be afforded. Why does the government get to ignore its own basic bill of rights whenever it gets scared?

HR: You do realize that you just altered the argument because you couldn’t respond to mine? You made the question about me when you asked “does it bother YOU that WE lost civil liberties...”

Bret: Well, I’m asking why you’re callous to the feelings of others and only self-concerned. Like asking a white person in the South during the sixties if they have a problem with racism, and them saying “Well, it doesn’t bother me.”

HR: Sorry, I’ll try next time to answer your question as you meant to write it instead of how you actually wrote it. I’m not aware of the government under Bush ignoring the Bill of Rights. If you can offer me an example, I’ll be happy to respond to it. I’m angry that Obama is nullifying my freedom not to purchase health insurance, but I don’t see your anger over that. That’s my example; let me hear yours.

Bret: Do you have health insurance?

HR: I do.

Bret: So then it doesn’t affect you, why complain?

HR: So let me address the point you’ve repeated a few times: that I’m callous to the feelings of others. I opine on the topics of religion and politics. I try to talk about big ideas. I don’t believe a government can craft legislation based on its compassion or feelings for individuals. This way lies ruin. I am compassionate. I feel for the people around me. I want my government to abide by its defined role and make broad policy decisions that are good for everyone as a whole, not everyone individually. I realize my mistake has been to answer you in the same language that I blog, which has led you to think that I don’t care for the feelings of individuals. It’s not true, but I don’t write about my gay friend at work; I write about ideology.

Bret: Well, here’s what I see: I see someone who claims that they care about other people, but when it comes to changing anything that doesn’t directly affect themselves, they don’t really see the need to change anything... unless a Democrat came up with the idea fairly recently (but 80 years ago is okay now). I could say I love gay people all day long, that I have gay friends, and I could even have gay sex in bathrooms on weekends. If I oppose an issue like gay marriage, it doesn’t much matter what else I do, I’m standing in the way of people’s dreams for no reason.

HR: I’ll have to read back through the text of this and see how I gave you that impression. As you describe me, I don’t like me either.

Bret: That’s just it, you might be the most polite and nice guy in the world, but it doesn’t much matter what a person’s personality is if they support policies which ignore the rights of others. Like when you ask me if the PATRIOT ACT or some other Bush policy ever affected me, it’s not about me. I don’t make my choices about what to believe based on what I am, I base it on the concept that we live in a society with different people with different goals and aspirations.

HR: Sounds like we can’t leave the same-sex marriage issue behind. Just because you don’t like the reason stated, doesn’t mean I’m standing in the way of their dreams for no reason. I say it clearly at The Heathen Republican, but for those readers who don’t click that far, I fully support civil unions. I think they are the perfect compromise to allow equal rights for homosexuals and maintain the traditional definition of marriage. Our federal government should recognize them.

Bret: Right, but the “separate but equal” doctrine is always abused. It’s always been a tool used to try to placate people and stall the expansion of liberty.

HR: I don’t find the possibility for abuse to be a compelling reason not to support something. For the record, civil unions are one thing that progressives came up with that I support. On the Patriot Act, let’s not talk about you and me. Tell me the “concept” that violated the Bill of Rights. I love big ideas, but I haven’t heard specifics on what rights were lost conceptually, either.

Bret: Well let’s start with the basic principle of expanding the federal government’s power. I guess that’s only a problem when a Democrat does it?

HR: Do you have any specifics in mind? As I’ve said, common defense is a prescribed role for the government, so I won’t automatically object to government expansion for the purpose of national defense.

Bret: Well we’ll get back to that, since our interview has to wrap up. Final question, which for me is always a random tangent: would you rather have the right to bear arms or privatized health care? If you had to choose one.

HR: I think a government-run health care system would kill me faster, so I guess I’d have to choose privatized health care. Thank god (sic) it’s not a real choice that has to be made.

Bret: We also would have accepted “The right to bear arms, so conservatives could fight a Civil War to end universal healthcare.”

HR: Yeah, but that’s cheating. Basically a way to get both. I’m a conservative so I try to play by the rules.

Bret: Thanks for taking the time, and I’m sure we’ll do this again soon.

HR: It was fun.


  1. I only read half of this so far, but I will print it out and finish it. It is very interesting. The Heathen always entertains. Even when his position is nonsense, he has a consistency in his view that is appealing, even though I consider consistency to usually be the product of closed mindedness. In this case, his opinions are deep enough to perhaps be something else. He reminds me a little of Donald Rumsfeld. I know that sounds like a dreadful insult, but in this case it is not.

  2. I still have not had time to read this 11 page interview in full, but I have a question: was it done on the phone, or email correspondence or IM or telepathy or medium X?

  3. This one was done through gmail chat. All the interviews have so far been done via some sort of IM service, because e-mail would take years and transcribing a verbal interview would probably drive me insane.

  4. "I’m not sure why you’re so socially callous."

    Hah, what a way to start a question. I didn't read anything "callous" in the interview to that point, so I assume this is based on interaction outside of the interview.

  5. No Kevin, Bret's comment was based on his hearing of my responses, the same responses you read. He also references exchanges we've had in comments regarding same-sex marriage, but you're seeing the entire context, so you don't need any special knowledge to understand his comment.

    My take: Because I'm conservative, Bret believes that I'm socially callous and indifferent to the suffering of others.

  6. I said callous because it was the most polite why of phrasing how I felt. When I see people who have a strong opinion against gay marriage or a woman's control of her own body, but claim ignorance and shrug off faith-based brain-washing programs which are empirically hindering kids at public schools... yeah, callous is the more polite word for it. And since I want at least one more interview from HR, I'll leave it at that.

  7. Bret,

    I agree that the arguments presented against gay marriage are totally illogical. However, that does not make them callous.

    And it is bigoted to consider someone callous for considering the baby's body as well as the woman's body, as both are real things, and by the belief of a great many, both have feelings. You can disagree with his opinion on abortion, but caring about a second body is not callous. Interpreting that as having no compassion for the first body, the woman, is erroneous.

    I do consider Heathen’s social ideas to be misguided and based on many unpalatable ideas about fairness. However, most social ideas are subjective and there are compassionate people on both sides of the aisle. I will agree that progressives are generally more caring about others than conservatives are. That is a generalization, though, and nothing more. Conservatives perceiving justice differently than progressives do, does not make them callous.

    Certainly, Heathen’s ideas about abortion and about gay marriage are not indicative of callousness. His opinion about gay marriage is a bit ridiculous as he often presents it, but that is all it is, and if you dig deeply into it, it is really not that far off from what I assume is your own. I have done the digging.

  8. I'm not sure how it's "bigoted" to use a word like callous. If you want me to be frank, I think it's incredibly barbaric and medieval to treat women like concubines who ought to sacrifice their body against their will for another person. Anyone who would tell someone what they do with their own body is not someone who has any consideration for them, and it doesn't matter who needs the use of that person's body.

    I'm fairly certain no one would consent to society enacting forced live-organ donations, because no one has the right to tell another person they have to sacrifice their health and body for use by someone else, even if it means another person gets to live. Though HR is slightly consistent since he believes we have the right to be deliberately poisoned by industry.

    I'm sorry if you've become utterly warped by the modern "debate" over abortion. The fetus has no right to anything. It is either a welcome or an unwelcome intruder in another person's body, and there simply isn't another side to it that isn't boldly offensive to a woman's right to self determination.

    And don't try to make this about fairness; maybe you can tolerate intolerance, but I have no interest in such self-defeating forays.

    Standing in the way of gay equality or women maintaining control over what happens with their own body can be seen as anything but a blatant disregard for others. It's morally repugnant, and it doesn't matter that he sees himself as not hating gay people or women (as I assume he feels he can demonstrate by the classic "I have friends who are X"). It doesn't require hate in order to oppress people. Maybe he loves gay people and women, in which case he's hurting the ones he loves.

    Let's put it this way, I say he's "callous" becase he's either callously unmoved or ignorantly unaware of the problems that arise from his views. I chose to assume he's not a fool, since I decided to believe he couldn't possibly be dumb enough to be obvlivious of how policies he supports hurt others. I can't be the first person who has pointed out a gay couple has the right to marry or that abortion isn't something the federal government has any right to (unlike pollution or ending church education in public schools).

    See, I've already said too much. I knew I should have left it at "callous."

  9. Do I really have to go on record saying that I do not believe "we have the right to be deliberately poisoned by industry"? I hope your regular readers are intelligent enough to see through your demonization.

    As for "the classic 'I have friends who are X'" comment, I assume you're referring to my response "but I don’t write about my gay friend at work; I write about ideology." This was not me trying to say "I have a friend who's gay." This was me explaining that I don't write about individuals I know; I try to write about ideas.

    I'll assume that was not another attempt at demonization and just a lack of clarity in my response.

    (The quotes of yours used above came from the first version through email, not the second edited version you posted.)

    I'll also refrain from getting between you and John, even though I disagree with many of your comments. John can more than handle himself against your concubine challenge.

  10. Of course you don't believe we should be poisoned... we just don't have the right to not be poisoned.

    How long do you stretch before you do rhetorical acrobatics?

  11. I just finished reading this interview last night. I want to congratulate both of you on this post, as it is one of the most entertaining posts I have read in a long time. It appeals to me especially because Mr. Heathen, who gravitates toward the wrong position like dog hair on Velcro, is such a capable voice for his philosophy. It is not the accuracy of conservatism, of course, as conservatism has little accuracy. It is the application of his intelligence that I find appealing.

    The one thing that would have made the discussion better is a solution to this problem: both men are capable debaters and the interview became a debate in a few places. If it had been moderated by someone with the ability to be completely objective and then if it had been an actual debate that would have been awesome. For example, if the moderator had been given 12 questions by each debater and then he had to ask the 24 questions. His job would not just be to facilitate and keep the discussion moving in an orderly fashion, but would also be to make sure that if one debater asked a two part question or made a multi-part point, all points were addressed or explicitly dismissed by the other debater. Also, if a new questions or point was introduced before the current question or point was addressed, the moderator would shelve the new point to keep the debate orderly. Once the current point was resolved, the moderator would then reintroduce the shelved point.

    As for the whole abortion discussion, I am debating internally whether to respond right now. I keep getting pulled into these abortion debates and I keep having to satirize the same arguments over and over again on different sites. I have started an article that addresses many of them. I never have time to finish it because I have many articles in the hopper and I work twelve hour days. I may break down and respond. It usually happens. I hope I will remain strong, though. Suffice it to say, I get it. A woman should not have to share her liver with the baby she created that cannot survive without it. I know, some women are raped, what about them? Irrelevant. Work out an opinion on the common case, and then we can discuss the exceptional ones. See? I cannot let it go! I am already weakening.

  12. I personally never resort to rape/incest when discussing abortion. It's not even worth addressing: if you don't support abortion in those case, there's no hope for you. The only thing worth debating is whether any woman in any situation has control of her own body or if the needs of another person supercede the sovereignty of a person's body. Frankly, that isn't even debatable to me. I question why infanticide is illegal, since if we go by tradition, that is the most common form of birth control based solely on our past.

    I guess that's the problem with traditionalists, they only want to go back so far... usually only back to what they learned what right as a child from one's parents (or if their parents were lousy hippies, then what conservative culture tells them is the real tradition).

  13. Bret, because it is your site, you can set the terms of the debate here, but you cannot set them for everyone everywhere. To say that the debate over abortion is exclusively about whether a woman can control her own body is naive on your part. Your inability to see any other factors does not reflect well on your ability to think clearly.

    I do not wish to enter a drawn out debate of abortion, particularly on your site where you set the terms, however I would like to point out a logical inconsistency that you may be unaware of. You say:

    "The only thing worth debating is whether any woman in any situation has control of her own body or if the needs of another person supercede the sovereignty of a person's body."

    Follow me on this. At some point in time, that fetus becomes a "person." We may debate the when, but I think we can all agree that it will happen.

    Your statement proposes that no other person can supercede the sovereignty of another's body, yet you seem to accept that the mother can freely supercede the soverignty of the other body within her.

    Thus, there is another issue at play -- when does personhood begin -- and it is not exclusively about the mother's rights. I assume that you do not believe that personhood begins until the child is physically separated from the mother. There are very few who hold that position, many mothers in particular, but you are free to hold it and defend it.

    There are many reasonable people, like me, who believe that personhood begins sooner, while the child is in the womb. I do not believe it begins at conception, but many conservatives do. Thus the debate on abortion is more complex, your position is logically inconsistent, and you can't even recognize that your terms for the debate are childishly naive.

  14. Just as the personhood of a home intruder is not even at issue when it comes to self-defense (at least not for you or myself), I don't see how the personhood of a parasite that is unwelcome inside the body of another human being can even be considered an issue.

    I've been exposed to all the same propaganda as you have. It's not that I don't see what you're trying to say, I just see through it.

  15. HR

    Regardless of when the fetus "achieves personhood", it is an invasion on the mother's body. Forcing a woman to incubate an unwanted fetus is tantamount to slavery.

    Bret's analogy of organ donors is valid. It is my right to refuse donation, no matter how desperately the organs are needed, or by whom.

  16. Strictly from a biological viewpoint, a fetus is a parasite, and the mother the host.

    That's cold, but it is the bottom line.

  17. The only thing that interests me, because none of your parasitic arguments do, is why you insist on finding something to disagree about. I know that you heard the words pro-life come out of my mouth and nothing else, but you and I are closer to agreement than disagreement on the issue of abortion. I believe that a woman should be allowed to abort any fetus that she wants for (about) the first 3 1/2 months of pregnancy. After 3 1/2 months, she has, by default, decided to proceed with the pregnancy so I believe it's immoral for her to go ahead with an abortion. At (about) that time, the fetus has its own right to life.

    Do you have some hair-trigger that forces you to argue with anyone who is conservative or Republican? Why can't you see that I have a reasonable position on abortion, we disagree to a degree (but not in kind), and find something more interesting to discuss? Why not find a pro-lifer who believes that life begins at conception, and throw your masterful arguments at them?

    If you continue down this path, I'm going to grow bored and move on from your little site. There are many more interesting topics that we could discuss.

  18. Oh, HR, I thought of a rock-solid argument:

    Based on your claim that banning gay marriage is not infringing the rights of gay people (since straight people also cannot marry someone of the same sex), then by the transitive property of illogical nonsense, I am not denying the fetus any right the mother doesn't have. The unborn baby is free to abort any fetus growing inside of it, therefore I am not infringing on the rights of the fetus at all.

    Check and mate, my friend.

    I'm perfectly comfortable saying a fetus is a person, I just recognize that it doesn't matter. Even if the woman is pregnant with 100 fetuses, it's her choice if she wants to give birth to all of them or none of them. That is the only thing at issue here, everything else is noise.

  19. Do you have some hair-trigger that forces you to argue with anyone who is conservative or Republican?

    I argue with liberals, too.

    I don't think you understand that just because you compromised and only want women to give up the use of their body a little bit doesn't really matter to me. You could oppose partial birth abortions and I would fight you endlessly on it. There is no point, ever, where a woman's body is not her own.

    Suppose I suggested we kill all Republicans. After debating it for a few years, I agree that we should only kill Republicans over 50. Is this any less tyrannical? I think not, but maybe from a pragmatic viewpoint it is. The problem is, pragmatism is just a euphemism for intellectual prostitution.

    There is no compromise on what is right. In politics, whores compromise out of a pragmatic need to appear as though they are at least doing something, but in the world of ideas, I don't have to abandon anything. I can stick to what is right without any need to give up ground to what is wrong out of some misplaced need to co-exist peacefully. I would rather fight from now until the day I die than pretend for even a second that what is wrong is actually right.

    I'll make you this promise: in our next interview, we'll cover entirely new issues. I know your most important discussion topics aren't abortion or gay marriage, but you have to realize that when you publicly advocate for conservatism, you should expect these ideas (which are important to liberals) to come up.

  20. Mr. Heathen,

    It is unfortunate you chose to ignore his checkmate argument, as it is a very important point, perhaps not about abortion, but then about gay marriage. The argument Bret uses to defend absolute pro choice is the argument you made to deny homosexuals the right to marry (I admit that it turns out that you have no objection to homosexuals marrying. You only object to them using the term “marriage;” however, your argument to justify this was questionable, though I am mostly OK with leaving marriage to religious minded.

    I find the argument that you used and that Bret amusingly adopted very weak as a defense of the prolife stance (as I am sure Bret himself does). However, I found it equally weak when you used it, so for that reason I hoped you would answer his question.

  21. Oh, and more thing. Heathen and Bret have very different ideas about abortion. Bret believes abortion is OK and Heathen believes it is often very wrong. Heathen believes it is sometimes the taking of human life for the convenience of it (after 15 weeks). Bret believes that there is no human life involved.

    Though Bret’s position is ultimately absurd, I can see why he argues it. For him, there is really no difference in saying you cannot have an abortion at 20 weeks or saying you cannot have an abortion on day 1. Therefore, the similarity Mr. Heathen sees in their positions would seem utterly irrelevant to Bret.

  22. Mac,

    Forcing a woman to incubate an unwanted fetus is tantamount to slavery.

    Whether you apply the term “slavery” to the fact of what is happening or not is irrelevant. Your term does not change the morality of the action of abortion. I realize you have a moral imperative that says slavery is always wrong, and so you think you can construct a Syllogism around it to justify all abortions.

    However, I, and many others, do not build any kind of categorical imperatives around labels (such as slavery). Therefore, you cannot use your personal imperative to change my mind. You have to use logic as it applies to the situation. I am sorry about that.

  23. Strictly from a biological viewpoint, a fetus is a parasite, and the mother the host.

    I cannot dispute that. I have made the same argument many times.

    In fact, if morality were a biological question, your case would be won, sir.

    In case you are wondering, I am pro-choice, by the way. I will defend the pro-choice position by and by.

  24. Mac,

    (This comment was eaten by the spam filter once)

    Forcing a woman to incubate an unwanted fetus is tantamount to slavery.

    Whether you apply the term “slavery” to the fact of what is happening or not is irrelevant. Your term does not change the morality of the action of abortion. I realize you have a moral imperative that says slavery is always wrong, and so you think you can construct a Syllogism around it to justify all abortions.

    However, I, and many others, do not build any kind of categorical imperatives around labels (such as slavery). Therefore, you cannot use your personal imperative to change my mind. You have to use logic as it applies to the situation. I am sorry about that.

  25. Damn spam filter, can't live with it, can't avoid japanese dating sites without it...

    Bret believes that there is no human life involved.

    Um, no. Two human beings are involved. See the last paragraph here.

    I'm not sure you really understand my position. It doesn't matter that the fetus is a life form, it cannot commandeer a woman's body against her will, least of all by government mandate. Them's the facts.

  26. Relying on John's intellectual honesty (certainly not Bret's) I'll re-engage. Once I saw Bret rewrite his argument five times (via email), I have to admit I didn't even read his "checkmate" response.

    Here is John's challenge, as I understand it: IF Bret's argument is the parallel of my same-sex marriage argument and IF it's valid, THEN I have to agree with him that abortion is never wrong/immoral. Alternatively, IF I find it as ridiculous as John, THEN I have to change my position on same-sex marriage.

    So wait here a minute while I read it. [Reads "checkmate" argument.]

    John, I don't know if you're mocking Bret or me for forcing me to respond. I do not see these as parallel arguments, even though Bret attempted to structure them in the same way.

    My same-sex argument, relevant to this post: Maintaining the traditional definition of marriage (one man and one woman) does not violate the rights of homosexuals because heterosexuals also don't have the right to marry someone of the same sex. In other words, homosexuals and heterosexuals have identical rights.

    Bret's "checkmate" argument: The unborn baby (with no uterus) is free to abort any fetus growing inside of it (even though the mother's act of aborting it removes any current or future possibility), therefore the mother is not infringing on the fetus's rights.

    As I read both arguments, I do not see the parallel, even with Bret's acrobatic attempts to create one. Bret, your argument denies the fetus any right to life, therefore no future opportunity to live let alone have an abortion. If you actually believed this argument (instead of trying to bastardize mine) you would be pro-life recognizing that the mother's own act violates the rights of the fetus under the same reasoning.

    I've stated this many times: I do not have a positive argument against same-sex marriage; my position is that there is no good argument FOR same-sex marriage, therefore I favor traditional marriage. Also misstated by Bret, my goal is not to ban same-sex marriage; it is to uphold traditional marriage. Can your mind grasp the difference?

    John, instead of challenging your intellectual honesty, by dragging me back into an argument that I chose to leave I will assume you were using me to mock Bret's argument even though you and I both know you could have done equally well, albeit more artfully.

    Instead of being presumptuous and announcing "checkmate," I resign out of boredom. I said I did not want to debate abortion (mainly because I'm eagerly awaiting John's essay on the subject), but was drawn in by John. Unlike him, you are not intellectually honest, as you've demonstrated in several comments above. I dislike dishonest debates.

  27. Heathen's response is in your spam filter. I request you retrieve it, as it adds to the this already excellent post and comment thread.

    I am about to paste in a response to his response. Can you pull it out of the spam filter also? Thanks,

  28. Heathen,

    John, I don't know if you're mocking Bret or me for forcing me to respond. Let me just state that it does not have to be either / or. However, in this case, I was not mocking anyone. I actually found Bret’s argument to be somewhat of a zinger that seemed to force you to abandon one position or the other. Unfortunately, you wiggled your way out of it with an excellent response:

    Bret's "checkmate" argument: The unborn baby (with no uterus) is free to abort any fetus growing inside of it (even though the mother's act of aborting it removes any current or future possibility), therefore the mother is not infringing on the fetus's rights.

    I mean this with all due respect: your position on gay marriage (and the argument that goes with it) is so goofy that I had hoped Bret had identified a contradiction in your philosophy. The argument that Bret was resurrecting was where you use semantics to “uphold traditional marriage,” even though the rights of gays to marry is not even close to a semantic issue.

    I do not want to revive that debate, as I feel I have already won it, but with little satisfaction, since it turns out that the main reason you want to “uphold” traditional marriage” is because you see it as a semantic issue, which also explains your otherwise utterly goofy argument. I think your position is, to put it childishly, the heterosexuals had marriage first, so civil unions should be recognized by the federal government and should also have all the legal privileges that a marriage has (there are more than 1000, by the way). If this is in fact your position, then I do not feel like it’s worth my time to debate who gets the word “marriage.” I find quibbling over the term to be a pointless waste of brain cells.

    As for your attack on Bret’s debating technique, I consider it a little unfair. We all use methods that each other considers disingenuous and fallacious or intellectually shallow, and if you withdraw from the discussion as a result, then you will have very few people left to have discussions with. I have seen you use arguments on other sites that I considered suspect. I don’t point it out. I generally stay out of it when I see this unless I am otherwise engaged, as we are all guilty. I love reading debates and if I interrupt in that way, it would just mess up the debate.

    I do know you try to debate honestly, but you don’t always succeed. I am one of the few who will just come out and tell you that I don’t generally worry about debating honestly. I will choose a zinger over the truth every time. I do try very hard to be intellectually honest, though, and I am always willing to readily admit it any time I stray from the truth. I do love the straw man, though, and though I enrage people, they still debate me. Hopefully, they learn something. Regardless of my debating technique, I am virtually never wrong.

  29. Bret,

    I do understand your argument. I misspoke. I like the way you focused on that and ignored the other comments. However, it is for the best. I wish not to debate this right now, as I have too many thoughts on the matter to do it justice in back and forth comments. Suffice it to say, both you and I are pro-choice. Brothers!

  30. Bret,

    Oh, I notice where you said you argue with liberals too. I can vouch for you. I am a liberal and you argued with me.

    In a world of only liberals, you would be hated as a liberal and I would be a conservative. However, in this world, I am very liberal and I am hated alongside you, sir.

    Actually, liberals and conservatives hate me now for the most part. Bastards!

  31. The problem is, liberals are hated by conservatives and liberals alike. Reagan galvanized conservatives to rally around the party regardless of minor differences, whereas the left has had nothing to compare. Liberals busy themselves with arguing semantics amongst themselves while conservatives quietly hold the country back.

    It's a shame, honestly, that everyone can't just rally behind me and proclaim that I should be emperor... I mean... I would have to politely decline the honor, but I would be flattered.

  32. John, the only I reason I choose to withdraw is because I find debates over abortion to be too hotly contested and circular. I do not withdraw because of anyone's tactics here.

    In fact, I agree that use of zingers, straw men, and shallowness can be effective debating tactics, with the risk that one will be called on them. And I did not find Bret's attempt to recycle my own argument against me to be unfair; it's perfectly valid although, in this case, incorrect, as I think I demonstrated.

    I refer to our host as intellectually dishonest to be kind, because he resorts to name calling instead of rebutting arguments directly. From only his comments above I have been called barbaric, medieval, intolerant, morally repugnant, oppressive, callous, ignorantly unaware, and I have a blatant disregard for others. Oh yes, and I apparently believe we have the right to be poisoned by industry. When I corrected the record using his very own quote, he still decided to spin it against me. I call that dishonest.

    Ironically, our welcoming host believes this is how he'll get me to cooperate in a second interview.

  33. I only called you callous, the rest of that referenced views, not you directly (if you want to get technical about it).

    All I can do is give you the opportunity to set the record straight in a second interview (and why stop at two?). I'm even willing to let you pick what we talk about. But if you'd rather sulk about the mean liberal who is apparently calling you names, you're welcome to do so. I don't see you as the type.

    Then again, maybe you'll just be too bored with my little site to give me the time of day. Do you find a lot of liberals with the testes to actually stand up for themselves? Honestly, when is the next time you'll find another unicorn like me?

  34. Very interesting. I am enjoying an abortion discussion over at the Liberty's Rest blog. Heathen posted there and mentioned this blog. My curiosity got the better of me and here I am.

    Bret, with regard to your position on abortion which you stated as follows, "It doesn't matter that the fetus is a life form, it cannot commandeer a woman's body against her will.", I'm wondering if the fact that the parasitical fetus did not choose to invade the mother's body factors into your argument at all?

    It seems to me that your position completely exonerates the woman from taking any responsibility to conduct herself in a way that will not result in pregnancy. It's up to you whether you want to define that responsibility as abstinence, contraception, requiring that her male partner use contraception - what have you. Regardless, unless we're talking rape where the woman literally has no control over her own body when a fetus is conceived, why do you feel that the woman has both the right to engage in an act that could result in pregnancy and also has the right to predatorily end the pregnancy? Meanwhile, the developing fetus took no action of its own to cause it to come into being, let alone assume the role of parasite commandeering the body of its host.

    I guess what I'm asking is how did you decide (ie. what criteria did you use) to determine that the rights of one living being supercede those of a second person, particularly when the second person isn't given a choice as to whether or not it would like to be conceived in the first place?

    Based on your argument, it sure sucks to be a fetus! You can't choose if you're conceived, and if you are conceived, you have no rights unless and until you are born. If your mother so chooses, she can have a surgeon literally rip you apart limb by limb simply because you exist.

    Under your argument then, we should be overturning all laws that prosecute a pregnant woman who abuses drugs or alcohol while pregnant and gives birth to a substance addicted (and possibly birth defected) baby. Afterall, it is the woman's body and she can do what she wants to.

    I'm not trying to pick a fight with you. It's just that your position is so polar opposite from my own that I'm grappling with understanding it - and I AM sincerely trying to understand it.

  35. Intent matters to psychotherapists, not to me. “Whoops, I didn’t intend to latch onto you, suck you dry for 9 months, then cause you immense suffering as I rip my way out” is not a compelling case for the fetus.

    Sex is not signing a contract that states that a life may be formed and will have to be fostered. Today, sex is more recreational than procreational, and the archaic view that women ought to "keep it in their pants" (or out of their pants, however you see it) is not justification for stripping any woman of her right to control her own body and what goes on inside of it (regardless of who was or is inside her).

    My view is simple: no one can expect to use another person's body to live off of against their will. There aren't women out having hundreds of abortions (if only due to cost alone), so the point may be moot, but the right for her to decide to do so is not infringed simply because you or I find it to be irresponsible.

    This isn't a discussion about contraception or safe-sex practices. We could discuss why conservatives oppose funding programs that help women avoid abortion (like Planned Parenthood), or we can discuss why religious propaganda like abstinence education is still publicly funded, despite glaring failures. I would love to talk about safe-sex practices as a separate issue any time.

    Based on your argument, it sure sucks to be a fetus! You can't choose if you're conceived, and if you are conceived, you have no rights unless and until you are born.

    From a strictly "destruction of life" stand point, we do more horrible things to animals on a daily basis (then call it "fast food" or "veal" or "foie gras). These animals have more capacity for awareness, emotion, and memory than any fetus or new born child. I'm not advocating for veganism here, I'm just saying that we are a rather cruel bunch, if one chooses to see it that way. Abortion is the least of our vices (if you want to get into what is killing people, let's discuss war). Every culture in history practiced infanticide, so abortion is not a cruelty from a historical context, it is a mercy that evolved as our medical understanding increased.

    Regarding the overturning of laws that protect a fetus or child from the mother: even more important than substance abuse, I see this an issue in cases where a pregnant woman is killed (the leading cause of death among pregnant women is homicide). If a woman chooses to keep her child (like in a case where the pregnancy was planned), killing her and her fetus may not be seen as a normal homicide. I don't much care if it's prosecuted as double homicide or if pregnant women are given their own designation (like hate crimes), but I can understand why the distinction is important in this case in order to allow sentencing to reflect the full nature of the crime.

    You can understand my point of view in this way: suppose you are riding a motorcycle and you crash. As you lay bleeding on the street and the ambulance comes to pick you up, they stand over you for a time and chide you, saying, "You should have known this could have happened." After some more rude remarks which are unnecessary, they take you to the hospital... and proceed to remove one of your healthy kidneys in order to give it to another person who needs it to live. Do they have a right to use you, someone who made a mistake, as an arbitrary tool to keep another person alive?

    I cringe at the thought of a society that feels anyone's body is subject to the whim of the state or others. That is a dangerous road to tread down, and it's all the more infuriating to me that the entire idea of protecting a fetus is nothing but religious dogma from the bronze age

  36. I have to admit that I've not often heard someone make an argument that they don't care if a fetus is considered a human life or not because that life, even if accepted as such, has no expectation to be able to use someone else's life to sustain their own. I'm sorry, but that's the way a woman's body was designed. It is what it is. That's biology for you and it's not exclusive to humans. Doesn't matter whether you believe that her body was designed by a Divine Creator or just developed through some evolutionary process.

    If a government can't or shouldn't regulate who can/can't conceive a child/children (ie. if you object to the Chinese government's 1 child policy) then likewise, no government can or should be able to regulate who can/can't terminate a child's life.

    You may feel that Roe v. Wade sees to it that no government can regulate who can/can't terminate a life but Roe v. Wade wasn't based on your argument. It was based on the argument that it is a woman's right to control her own body. There's an important distinction to be made between those two arguments. You point out that distinction yourself when you make the statement, "I cringe at the thought of a society that feels anyone's body is subject to the whim of the state or others."

    Under Roe v. Wade, the child's body is subject to the whim of the mother by a right granted to the mother by the federal government ("the state").

    Your motorcycle analogy is slightly different from an unplanned pregnancy. The main difference is that in your analogy, the threat comes from an outside source independent of the mother. That makes it a garden variety criminal act of violence to slice someone up and take an organ without their consent. The pregnancy originates within the mother's body. She's not being sliced and diced in order to conceive (again excluding rape. Another exception to my argument here would be infertility treatments which do not originate in the woman's body but are undertaken with her consent).

    Your argument and analogy would make a lot more sense to me if they could be applied equally to the child's body as well as to the mother's and/or applied equally to the child's rights as well as the mother's - especially if you aren't disputing the fact that a fetus can be considered a human life.

  37. "if you'd rather sulk about the mean liberal who is apparently calling you names, you're welcome to do so"

    Bret, I have a general rule in life: If you reward bad behavior, you encourage bad behavior. Your attempts to bait me into a second interview qualify, and I have no desire to reward your bad behavior.

    John highlighted something early in the comments. "the interview became a debate in a few places."

    What was sold to me as an interview became a debate about my views. I expected to be asked what my position on abortion is and why, not told over and over why I'm an idiot for holding such views, and that my views have no merit.

    "If it had been moderated by someone with the ability to be completely objective and then if it had been an actual debate that would have been awesome."

    So, at the risk of rewarding your bad behavior, I'll agree to another interview, if you can play it straight. There will be plenty of room for you to ask questions that clarify my views during the interview, and then we can debate them alongside everyone else in the comments.

    But let's spread things out, milk it for our respective sites, and do a series of interviews over the next month or two (perhaps four more, one every two weeks). I don't want to pick the topics or see the questions in advance, but I want to limit each interview to no more than 90 minutes each (scheduled in advance).

    I would also be open to a series of debates if you simply can't contain your disdain for me with an interview. Perhaps we can find a blog-debate format that allows us to address specific topics, posted to our respective blogs, with responses and follow-ups. We could agree to abide by formal debate rules, plus some other rules like responses are limited to 1000 words, responses must be posted within 48 hours, and a moderator who calls foul when necessary.

  38. I'm sorry, but that's the way a woman's body was designed.

    It wasn't designed.

    That's biology for you and it's not exclusive to humans. Doesn't matter whether you believe that her body was designed by a Divine Creator or just developed through some evolutionary process.

    Okay... well if you're going to use animal comparisons, women should be allowed to eat her babies like a hamster, since you're so sensitive to doing what's natural. I'm joking, of course... maybe...

    I hold that rights are not universal, and I know for a fact that you agree with me in some respect. Capital punishment, self-defense, and warfare are just three examples where people acknowledge that something as basic as the right to life is debatable.

    If you needed an organ transplant to live, a condition that arose by no fault of your own, you would be welcome to ask others for an organ, but you can't just take it from the first match that is found. It's a shame fetuses can't hop bodies, but that's just how nature "designed" it. It's unfortunate for the fetus, but the fetus has no friends, no memories, and zero investment from society... so it ends up being a very minor event. We don't see it as a crime that fully grown adults or even young children wasting away in hospitals wait for an organ, but for some reason it's easier to scapegoat abortion because there's only one person who can be asked to sacrifice themselves for another. If you care about life, there's plenty of things you could constructively do, and forcing women to needlessly suffer is not one of them.

  39. If you reward bad behavior, you encourage bad behavior. Your attempts to bait me into a second interview qualify, and I have no desire to reward your bad behavior.

    If it makes you feel better, I was like this before I ever met you and I'll be like this long after you grow tired of me. You don't have to blame yourself.

    I expected to be asked what my position on abortion is and why, not told over and over why I'm an idiot for holding such views, and that my views have no merit.

    I never called you an idiot, nor do I use the word idiot. I don't like that word; it's offensive to retards.

    I would also be open to a series of debates if you simply can't contain your disdain for me with an interview. Perhaps we can find a blog-debate format that allows us to address specific topics, posted to our respective blogs, with responses and follow-ups.

    I would be interested in this, and I apologize that most of this has been on my blog... though I hope the links and discussion have led people to yours.

    I think 1000 words is awfully generous, though. I'm not sure that would fit in one comment (I think there's slightly over 4000 characters open per comment).

    The reason I suggest preparing issues for the interview in advanced is because I felt like we came to situation on a few issues (the USA PATRIOT Act for one, abstinence education for another). While I'm relatively sure I've heard of the things you would want to discuss, I may not be as familiar with it as I should be, and I don't think it's useful for me to spring issues on you don't care about.

    I think the real variable will be whether I can overcome my blatant and aggressive bias...

  40. Bret,

    When you say that you hold that rights are not universal, I take this to mean that you do not believe in the moral absolute of "Thou shall not kill". Hopefully, I'm interpreting you correctly but I trust you'll let me know if I'm not. I do believe in that moral absolute. Situations that are considered "mitigating circumstances" under U.S. law such as self-defense, the death penalty, and warfare exist in our society because our legislatures (state and federal) have declared them as such. So when someone violates that particular moral absolute by taking the life of another, they may not be found criminally responsible for their act under our system of jurisprudence, yet they still have violated the moral absolute. If the person believes in God, violating a moral absolute would mean something to them. If they don't believe in God, then it would likely be meaningless to them.

    The part of your argument that makes me step back is how you are so easily able to dismiss the rights of one group of people (unborn fetuses) in favor of another group of people (pregnant women). You're saying that even if an unborn child is generally considered to be a living human being, it doesn't matter in the least because as long as it is in it's mother's womb, the mother has a right to do away with it and she doesn't need any particular reason to do so because it's her body and she can do as she pleases with it.

    That line of thinking denies the child any rights to be born and live and in so doing, assigns superiority to the pregnant mother's body and inferiority to the developing child's body. Other than your explanation that a host organism is superior to its offspring, what is the criteria for determining superiority of an organism? It seems too arbitrary to me because even the very day a child is born, it has no rights one minute under your argument as long as it remains in utero. It literally has no rights until a minute later when it emerges from its mother's body - THEN, once born, the mother would no longer have the right to end its life. Or would she? When do you feel that a baby actually is recognized as a living organism and afforded his/her right to life (ie. should be protected from having his/her life terminated)?

  41. John, if you have any interest in being a moderator/referee, send me an email at heathen [dot] republican [at]

  42. Newcomer, I couldn't agree more that Christians are told to follow that absolute. I don't think "turning the other cheek" is the most successful strategy in a godless universe... just ask the cultures wiped out by Christians. You have to stand up for yourself or face annhiliation sometimes. It's a shame, because I don't relish violence, but sometimes it is necessary. I think kidnapping is a bad thing, but I wouldn't want to live in a world where the police cannot arrest criminals due to an ideological principle that takes a good idea to an illogical and impractical extreme.

    You're saying that even if an unborn child is generally considered to be a living human being, it doesn't matter in the least because as long as it is in its mother's womb, the mother has a right to do away with it and she doesn't need any particular reason to do so because it's her body and she can do as she pleases with her body.

    It's not a matter of location, it's a matter of situation. If the fetus was outside the womb but needed something from the mother to live, it wouldn't be expected of her to give it. For some reason, you think being in a womb means the fetus is entitled to something no other human being is entitled to: use of someone else's body, whether they like it or not. I think you have fundamentally ignored my position, which is not "Women have the right to kill a fetus," but that woman have the right to complete control of their body, and that no one (fetus or otherwise) has the right to physically use someone else. I'm not sure how many ways I can repeat that. I understand you are a member of a religion that preaches self-sacrifice, but you can't impose that belief on a woman just because you think the fetus is special. If you hate abortion, don't get one.

    It isn't about superiority, it's about equality. In your view, the fetus is clearly superior and must be considered above the mother.

    Would it make you feel better if I say a mother should be able to kill her baby even after it is born? I could adopt that position, since infanticide is traditionally very well accepted by every culture at some point. I mean, why not kill an infant? I don't remember anything before I was potty trained... that seems like a decent cut-off point. If you can't remember it, are you even really experiencing it? I say no. Besides, I was raised by parents who told me they brought me into this world, they can bring me right out of it. Seems fair enough.


  43. Bret,

    I want to thank you. You are 100% correct that up to this point, I have not properly understood your position. I've had a few debates like this with people whose views are far less conservative than mine and those usually end with slogans and insults being hurled at me. You could have easily done the same, but you took the time to have an open and honest exchange of dialogue with me, free of insults and militant accusations. I appreciate that.

    I still completely disagree with your position, but at least now, I properly understand it.

    We are in agreement that the abortion issue is not about superiority, or at least, it should not be about that. It should be about equality.

    My perception of your position has been that you feel that the mother's rights to her body are superior to the fetus' right to develop a body. And your perception of my position seems to be that I'm taking the opposing view. You seem to think that I feel that the developing fetus' body is superior to the mother's body. In fact, I feel that they should be considered equal. If that was the case, then the mother could not eliminate the child's body from her own because they should both be entitled to life equally, not one in lieu of the other.

    As to location, I feel that if the child has already been born and needs something from the mother to live (even something as simple as breastmilk in the days before formula and bottles) then yes, I feel it is incumbent upon the mother to supply it. Clearly you do not agree with me about this.

    It isn't just a matter of me being a member of religion that preaches self-sacrifice (which, I do), it's also an issue of the biological role of human motherhood. By its very nature, it is self-sacrificing. Ask any mother who has chosen to raise children. This includes adoptive mothers who did not give birth to their children but are mothers in every sense nonetheless. I get that you're saying that no government should be able to force a woman to be self-sacrificing if she doesn't want to be. I disagree. Most of our current laws exist to curb or limit our actions at the risk of infringing on the rights of someone else in our society. I can't drive my car at 120MPH just because I feel like it because I might lose control of it and do harm to someone else or someone else's property.

    At this point, the discussion must turn to the difference between freedom and license. Just because I CAN do something, doesn't mean that I SHOULD do it. I have freedom of speech, but I don't have the license to use that freedom in certain circumstances. I can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater. It could affect the rights of others if there's a stampede for the exit and someone is trampled to death.

    So what we disagree about is whether government has the right to make it legal or illegal for a woman to take the life of her unborn child for no good reason. That debate hasn't really taken place yet among a broad spectrum of our citizens because no law about this was proposed, publicly discussed, then voted upon. The legalization of abortion was enacted by a court ruling that only very few people had a say in. I highly object to that. I think that a law that affects so many millions of lives of both mothers and unborn children (yes, there have been over a million abortions since Roe V. Wade in 1973) is a law that people, especially women, on both side of the issue should have had an opportunity to thoroughly vet, form a position, and have had an opportunity to contact their Congress people to express that position. Then there should have been a proposed abortion bill and a proper vote. This has never been done. Instead, a high court has imposed this law on us which some see as offering freedom for women, but others see as limiting freedom for unborn children. It's for this reason that I want to see Roe V. Wade overturned and see a proper debate and legislative process conducted regarding this issue.


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