Saturday, March 8, 2014

How Can A Wrong Be A Right?

I'm working on something having to do with rights and I want to get some added perspective to part of that issue.

I'm not a commenter at Neanderpundit, but I am a semi-regular reader.  Some time back, Og wrote an entry that in passing well captures one of the issues I hope to discuss.  He wrote:  

Beginning with Roe vs Wade, we have institutionalized slaughter of innocents on a scale the likes of which could not be imagined. Something on the order of 57 million abortions have been performed since 1973. More than twenty times the US casualty rates in every war since 1776. More than twice the population of the top 15 cities in America ...  If you have faith in a Creator and you meditate on this it becomes clearer and clearer. The lesson of Abraham and Jesus is clear; Only the Creator is empowered to give and thus take human life.
Stipulated for the sake of discussion, it is a given that it is both wrong to kill another while also legal to do so sometimes.

I want to posit a circumstance for specific discussion (should anyone actually read this - I'm mostly just putting this down in exposition for later adaptation):  since self-defense is an explicit legal concept in US law, to what degree can abortion be justified under that legal construct?  If a man does not contribute to the conception of a child/human fetus, he can still find himself legally and financially responsible for the child for at least the first 18 years of his/her's life.  Is that man ethically exercising his self-defense rights by facilitating (not a euphemism for "forcing") the newly pregnant woman (presumably his legal spouse) to seek out an abortion?  Could this same justification be equally ethically extended to all US taxpayers in the case of an unwed woman becoming pregnant?  Given that "self-defense" requires an imminent threat being present, can it be logically asserted that the certainty of legal and financial obligation being inflicted on the man immediately upon the child becoming a legal person is ethically (and ought arguably be legally) equivalent to imminent threat?

I'm well aware of the moral/religious doctrine on these questions, I'm deliberately confining this to the legal issue.  When is a person ethically justified to assert his/her rights?  What are some of the ethical justifications for denying someone the exercise of those same rights?  Specifically, the right of self-defense.

I deliberately choose an extreme example, but I think it relevant to offer my own belief that abortion is justified in US law because US legislators have taken the position (if only by default) that a "person" is one who exists physiologically independent from any other and is at least theoretically able to exercise a human being's rights and responsibilities (vote, pay taxes, etc either directly or by proxy) independently from any other (which absolutely requires a specific exemption for conjoined twins).  By that logic, an unborn child cannot  meet the legal definition of "person", therefore cannot be subject to the protections the law provides to such.

Again, I'm clear on the moral questions (or clear enough for these purposes); my focus is on the ethical exercise of legal rights and behavior, and the process by which we make these type determinations generally and in particular as regards self-defense.

Update:  I have edited my late-night (and quite garbled) prose to make more clear the lack of biological relationship between the man potentially responsible for the welfare of the non-aborted child in US law.


og said...

Two questions:

"A man does not contribute to the conception of a child/human fetus, but will find himself legally and financially responsible for the child for at least the first 18 years of his/her's life." Are you unclear on how babies are made? A man does indeed contribute to the conception of a child. If you mean a man who has not contributed to the conception of a child is on the hook until it's 18 regardless of who the father is, I think this changes state to state, but this is not an issue of the fetus, it is simply bad law.

As for " By that logic, an unborn child cannot meet the legal definition of "person", therefore cannot be subject to the protections the law provides to such." That sort of reason is what allows people to take innocent lives. That 'Fetus' is a human, and has been a human since it was conceived. It is not a virus or bacterium to be forcibly removed, it is not going to be a dog, or a giraffe, or a toaster, it is a human. If there is a time frame for humanity it is only a matter of time before humans above a certain age have no rights. And if it is a matter of condition or capability, that removes rights from a huge portion of the population.

No, humanity and personhood is a situation of genetics alone. Once you are genetically a human you are so beyond all other standards. That is the only ethics test that matters.

Interesting approach. Thanks for the link.

Will Brown said...

The questions I suppose I'm getting to answering are, who has a "right to self-defense" and "when does that right exceed the accepted/established bounds of morality/ethical conduct" in US society? In the example your earlier post suggested, the unborn child is, while entirely human, not an independent "person" (even the genetics are a mix of the two parents DNA along with the developing child's own unique DNA which continues until after delivery). Or so I was lead to believe when my own two children were incubating a third of a century ago. :)

In trying to focus on the legality of the ethics involved, I think it necessary to separate those from the moral/religious basis those standards derive from historically. Too complex a lesson results in badly understood instruction. When the topic is literally life-or-death, narrowing the focus of attention seems just good sense, however limited the resulting understanding might actually be.

Thanks for making it a discussion rather than just an empty echo chamber.

Bob S. said...

First off -- and I think OG addressed it well but missed a point I'll make; the man contributed to the conception of the child.

Not only contributed but did so knowing the risks; even if using birth control.
That differs greatly from the concept of self defense in several ways - first it isn't just 'imminent threat' but of great bodily harm or loss of life( deadly force). The presence of a child does not even come close to the level.
Second, and this is most important; the man assumes the responsibility for his own actions in the case of pregnancy. In the case of using deadly force for self defense; it is the actions of the other person that prompts justification.

Can't start something then say "I don't like how this turned out".

By that logic, an unborn child cannot meet the legal definition of "person", therefore cannot be subject to the protections the law provides to such.

I think your logic is twisted here in a very warped way.

How can you harm the unborn child without a.) mother's permission or b.) without her permission without harming her?

The child isn't a child until it's born; until then any action taken is against the mother.
Again -- all this is moot because the man knowingly engaged in behavior which could cause the harm.
To use a bad analogy or two; like a boxer killing his opponent out of the ring because in the ring he was knocked out. Or a football player killing an opponent for a hard hit.

I think there is a grave imbalance and injustice in the current social and legal scheme regarding decisions for abortions. Some times the father wants the child but the mother does not....yet the father has no legal recourse. Frankly I wish some judges would rule that the woman knowingly took the risk and therefore has to go with the consequences; if the father wants the child. She doesn't have to raise it -- she can pay child support also.

og said...

At the present, the legal point you are making, if I understand correctly, is that the law is ignorant. I can't disagree.

The right to abort is not the right to self defense. The left in this country would have you believe that there is no inherent right to self defense, but that the right to murder the innocent is sacred and can never be questioned under any circumstance. Perhaps what you are trying to say is that the legalities as they exist are contradictory and nonsensical, and in that regard, I agree wholeheartedly. However, for my money, the law is useless. And I do not turn to religion when I say abortion is immoral, it is immoral to an atheist as well, if that atheist has any kind of morality.

Will Brown said...

The writing project this is all in aid of seeks to outline the practical definition of the legal term of art "self-defense". How can people carry arms and undertake training in martial arts without basing that activity on the legal principle that makes using the training and weapons a legal option?

Taking the limits of the early discussion to such an extreme measure allows me to walk back the context of the topic in a more manageable fashion. I hope.

BobS: I wrote this quite late at night. :) The man responsible for the child being conceived is not the man going to be held legally responsible for funding the next 18 or so years (the pregnant woman's husband usually). I'm definitely going to have to pay better attention to sentence structure in future.

Self-defense is commonly presented as a straight-forward confrontation between fairly obvious opponents. I'm looking to refine the broadest limits for such a legal claim and abortion seemed well outside the usual metric applied in divining the limits of self-defense.

Will Brown said...

Let me see if I can bring this a little closer to the more usual limits of a self-defense discussion.

If you are credibly told that you will have your property taken from you by force, at what point are you justified in exercising your right to defense of self (and as specifically allowed by law here in Texas) and property? How is shooting someone while robbing you at gunpoint any ethically different from the abortion-based example I posited as a matter of self-defense law?

My intent is to point out the practical limits of this particular right and how that ought to be the foundation of any training or course of action any of us ought to undertake in exercising this right.

og said...

"How is shooting someone while robbing you at gunpoint any ethically different from the abortion-based example I posited as a matter of self-defense law?"

They are exactly the same, in the way driving a car and picking your nose are exactly the same. There is no connection and there is no comparison whatsoever. Is that your point? because if it isn't I have no clue what you're trying to say.

Bob S. said...

I think you are confusing the actors. The child isn't the one who is creating the legal oblgation; the interaction between the man and the woman is.

The correct legal response isn't to murder the child but to sue the woman to stop the child support.

Again, the man - even if not biologically the father knew that he would be on the hook for any child conceived. This is not a new concept, not a surprise to any one with an ounce of common sense.

Nor is the correct response to terminate the child; again -- the child is innocent of any wrong doing.

og said...

let me see if I can clarify further, using the "Robbing you at gunpoint" analogy. When you are robbed at gunpoint, you are being threatened by the robber, and the weapon the robber uses is the gun. You have a right of self defense, and can kill the robber should you consider your life to be in danger.

In the case of pregnancy, you are being threatened- not by the infant, or fetus, who can in no way harm you at all- but by the mother. The fetus or infant isn't even the weapon, because absent guilt on your part, she can't even call on you to do anything. No, the weapon is the law, and the woman is using the power of the law to threaten you. Absent the law, you can walk away. Absent conscience, you can walk away. The contradictory law that will allow the woman to treat the fetus as an inconvenience to be disposed of, on the one hand, and as an asset to enslave a man with on the other hand, that is the problem, the inconsistency, the error in our judgement as a species. That legal contradiction should not exist.

Will Brown said...

Thank you, Og, that's the point I was pursuing; the contradictory nature inherent to "rights" generally and especially as regards self-defense. And you as well, BobS; we are all "held hostage" to some degree in the exercise of our rights. Making the distinction between the participants affected by our doing so is the critical distinction as to how and when we choose to exercise our rights, both individually and collectively.

Rights have both an individual and a collective aspect to their nature; understanding how that influences our options and actions is important to gaining general acceptance, if not active support, for our exercising our rights.

Thank you both.