Voting for Reproductive Freedom, no less...

Tim Barton is an anarchist and environmental activist and the administrator of BlueGreenEarth. He also produces excellent DJ mixes and writes reviews on new books and literary works as well as his own, unapologetic political thinking, which is something Sensitize are always keen to promote. Catch up with anarchist and environmental campaigns and thinking + all that BlueGreenEarth are working on through here. This forum is moderated by Tim Barton with assistance from Louis P. Burns aka Lugh.

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Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart
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Voting for Reproductive Freedom, no less...

Postby Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart » Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:25 pm

When does life begin? Who are you and when do you 'become'?

Some argue that conception is the moment. They presumably see the egg and sperm contact as the moment some immaterial spookiness allows a 'soul' to inhabit the burgeoning collection of cells.

As an atheist, I find this idea odd, with nothing whatsoever, beyond cultural-historical habit and untutored folk 'wisdom', to underpin it. I have to ask why a bronze age vision of the universe, immured in ignorance of everything ever discovered since, is deemed valuable at all, far less to the point where they would kill over it and deny all science.

For myself, I see science and scientific discovery as a tool/method for unearthing reasonable explanations, that over time become more sophisticated and, as a corollary, throw up more answers to other questions, some not even asked before. This ripple-effect of increasing knowledge is what justifies our preference of science to received wisdom: we can tell that progress is involved, and if we understand and follow the rules, we can also tell when the tool/method of scientific discovery is not an aid to understanding (usually due to the state of current knowledge, but some will argue due to 'other ways of knowing'), and also when the tool/method is being applied incorrectly (as I think it often is in contemporary big-bang, quantum and string theories, all of which unscientifically patch holes in their assumptions with yet more assumptions and wilfully ignore sins against the very logic of scientific discovery itself).

Currently, this is how I see us applying what we learn from the sciences to the pro-life debate (recalling that both anti- and pro- abortion camps have their own heartfelt interpretations of what 'life' is at the centre of their arguments, and that 'pro-life' anti-abortionists respect their version of when life meaningfully begins for a human [few are vegetarians, no doubt], and that pro-abortionists rarely [if ever] approve of abortion as a late morning-after pill, seeing their justification in being pro the life of the mother and /or the quality of life for the putative child):

Mammals, on average, begin to develop, in embryo, a nervous system from around a third of the way through term. For a human this is around three months. Before this you have a human-form vegetable. After this you begin to connect up synapses and neurons, but even so, have no full CNS or brain. Until electrical activity allows a threshold to be reached, does a person inhabit the foetus? I say, no it does not. So, the argument begins around the fourth month, and continues until, some will argue, almost toddlerhood or beyond, when a sense of self is said to develop (some say 6 years old or more). I say, OK, once brain activity is there we can begin to argue, whatever we believe (and I saw my daughter as a person the second she popped out, and am fairly sure that she was meaningfully a proto-person before that), about when abortion is or is not morally acceptable.

Thus, I am saying, abortion up to three months should be uncontroversial. Where it becomes morally difficult is after this, and it shifts quickly from uncertain, to dubious, to not unless abortion is a critical medical necessity over the weeks that follow. Debate here needs to take account of advances in neuro-science, as it is from this source that a more sophisticated view of how and when the electrical activity, that allows an 'I' to emerge in the morass of tissue, will come. We have to ask, if a few neurons connect does this create a person, when those few are below the level of a whelks nervous system? At what point of development does the active potential for human life manifest (the non-active potential is there earlier on, but that cannot, surely, define 'life', or we would be more conflicted than we are over 'spontaneous abortion', late periods, etc, and if we worry about this we will all go insane and embrace quietist inaction of an extreme type)?

Let's argue that between those who want to be very pro-foetus and those who are more pro-mother, etc, but let's not sweat those first three months, at the least.

And I think that if we start to develop a nervous system and synapses from around then, that, as it is a process over time, even at three months no person 'magically' inhabits the body at any given identifiable moment. Perhaps one day we will be able to define that, but I suspect that, even with more knowledge of neuroscience, a subjective element will exist. I'd say, let us be cautious and allow abortion up to three and half to four months with no qualms, but expect far more serious discussion of the pros and cons after that. And ask doctors to decide an upper limit based on their science, after which you can just forget it, except in extremis.

Hard choices are to be made after four months, they get harder from there, but, please remember that all concerned are 'Pro-Life' - it is a shame that religious fundamentalists have liars for PR-men that load the dice by hijacking the moral high-ground with their choice of terminology, implying those they argue against are 'anti-life': frankly, both sides should not be allowed to use emotive/manipulative bullshit phrases such as 'pro-life' at all, just as it is also unreasonable to chuck photos of bloody masses that include a human-like blob at ill-educated, already emotionally upset, young women as an 'argument' when most of us are very clear that form does not imply content (and most of the propagandists playing this game are not vegetarians, or bothered about non-humans in the same way - as I do not believe in souls, and if I did, I venture to say I would find it hard to deny the family dog the dignity of having one, I have no doubt that looking humanoid is not any argument for accepting personhood). Those whose argument stands or falls on proving fairy tales or using extreme propaganda to win the debate are on the defensive already, which no doubt explains their habit of resorting to violence to readily ('pro-life' indeed, tsk). Argue about real things and the debate is, frankly, more interesting and more fruitful.

The idea that "fertilized eggs" should have the same rights as a newborn is an absurd extreme that makes every miscarriage open to litigation as possible homicide. Let's be very thankful indeed that this is being countered. Allowing such a move would be an extreme victory for the forces of unreason, who no doubt will next try to ban fire and the wheel, just as they already think it sane to juxtapose velocoraptors and liitle cave man children in play scenes in their nutso 4004BC creationist museums, calling the fossil record and the results of carbon dating lies that are there to test our faith, ffs...

Tim


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/opinion/09sun3.html

Voting for Reproductive Freedom

Voters in three states did the right thing last week by defeating dangerous anti-abortion measures on their ballots.

In Colorado, an overwhelming vote of 73 percent to 27 percent rejected a wild initiative that would have amended the state’s Constitution to bestow on fertilized eggs, prior to implantation in the womb, the same legal rights and protections that apply to people once they are born. In addition to ending abortion rights, this doozy threatened to ban widely used forms of contraception, curtail medical research involving embryos, shutter fertility clinics, and criminalize necessary medical care.

In South Dakota, 55 percent of voters said no to a sweeping abortion ban that its backers had hoped to use as vehicle for challenging Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that recognized a woman’s right to make her own childbearing decisions. The defeated measure was a near-twin of the abortion ban handily rejected by voters just two years ago.

In California, meanwhile, voters turned back an attempt by abortion-rights opponents to mandate parental notification, the issue’s third ballot defeat in the state in four years.

It would be wishful thinking to think these outcomes mean supporters of reproductive rights can now breathe easy. Proponents of the losing initiatives have already said they plan to try again, and no doubt the future of Roe v. Wade will continue to be slugged out in the courts, state legislatures, and in Congress.

Yet, along with the election of a new president and at least five new senators supportive of reproductive rights, the fate of the three ballot initiatives is a powerful affirmation that this remains a nation that values women’s privacy and health.
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Re: Voting for Reproductive Freedom, no less...

Postby Louis P. Burns aka Lugh » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:22 pm

Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart wrote:When does life begin? Who are you and when do you 'become'?

Some argue that conception is the moment. They presumably see the egg and sperm contact as the moment some immaterial spookiness allows a 'soul' to inhabit the burgeoning collection of cells.

As an atheist, I find this idea odd, with nothing whatsoever, beyond cultural-historical habit and untutored folk 'wisdom', to underpin it. I have to ask why a bronze age vision of the universe, immured in ignorance of everything ever discovered since, is deemed valuable at all, far less to the point where they would kill over it and deny all science.


I also choose to identify as atheist and see the ridiculousness of religion as no longer relevant (if it ever was) to the times we're in where science has the upperhand always simply through the proof of repeatable demonstrations and experiments. So, anyone spouting a moral agenda based on the notion of a god/gods are tediously boring to me.

When it comes to your question on 'when does life begin?' I've wrestled with that one for years. Partly because of engrained catholicism which I now consider to be dangerous extremist christianity that got into my head through indoctrination and monkeyed about with my logic at an early age. Then there was peer pressure if I spoke out or condemned the religious around me. I remember stating I was atheist when I was 14 years old and an educated and fairly liberal person (a teacher) dismissed me by asking/saying 'don't you mean agnostic?' What he was implying was that I couldn't have formed a valid opinion at that age. I am reconciled now and try my hardest to ignore religion and the babbling loons it attracts where possible.

I view life as being the sum total of an individual's academic, creative and experiential awareness or memory. We take what we know, have been inspired by or learned and apply it in our own lives if we can. I see this aspect of human existence as the driving force behind all discovery. On occasion some of us do random new things which may be what others define as art.

I believe abortion is the right of the woman always. I understand that males who have bonded with females may go through grief if their partner terminates a pregnancy or has a miscarriage, but I view this more as a sense of loss of potential based on the anticipation and hopes for the new life. I have no memories of life inside the womb or for that matter anything before the age of roughly 3 or 4 years old. That doesn't mean I value life any less. I see children and pregnant women as something to be protected from harm but hold that this is part of instinct or whatever procreative imprinting humans and other mammals have. I am fascinated by humanity's apparent fear of falling or random loud noises (bangs/thuds). Do we fear these because they may be signifiers of a danger to life? Is this an essential herdlike awareness or genetic memory? That's the bit that captivates me because we seem to thrive collectively. The larger the group the better - it would seem. If it is the case it may also explain belief mechanisms such as religion that set about thwarting and diminishing the individual's experience and how they justify going to war with other communities.

You have mentioned the 'soul' up above Tim. I'm really glad you have too. I see what others may call the 'soul' as heightened awareness. I don't see this as spookiness or as ever being defined by religion. I see it more like the salivation we go through when we know a good meal is coming. Our bodies prepare for it. We become excited by the aromas because our base instinct has been alerted to the fact that it will soon be able to rest, fed and contented. Likewise for sexual encounters. I can only honestly say I've had what others call 'soulful' or 'spiritual' / heightened awareness (not pertaining to food/comfort or sex) under the influence of intoxicants like alcohol and drugs. For me it's like I function at one level for most of my day which ticks over and can on occasion become angered and stressed by external stimulae. Then there is this other level when I'm chilled out and relaxed that is open to all I've experienced and where I frequently get the ideas that become poems, songs and stories I go on to write.

I'll no doubt reply further to your post over time or on any points others posting to here may make. Sorry for wandering off-topic in this post at times. That's just me - rambling mind lol. Thanks for opening up the discussion Tim...
Last edited by Louis P. Burns aka Lugh on Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: adding text and spelling corrections
Louis P. Burns aka Lugh
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Re: Voting for Reproductive Freedom, no less...

Postby Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:33 pm

I too would like to think 'woman makes the decision, what has it to do with you guys, huh?' attitude is great. But I have to divide women, as I do men, into those with faculties to make an informed decision, and those that don't, lol... Seriously, that means I am suspicious of 'informed decisions' that disagree with mine AND can't or won't explain to me how they ended up elsewhere (not convince me, mind, just I'd feel more comfortable knowing their decision was as autonomous as possible, and as informed as is reasonable). I also acknowledge that it 'is not my business', and so am not looking to go out and find women in the unfortunate position of having to make a choice of this kind, and hassle them - oh, but the other lot bloody do they don't they!? ;-)

I also agree that 'spirit', 'soul', even 'god' can have post-enlightenment equivalents, but look at the quality of our alternatives! They can be looked at, analysed, have as few unspoken assumptions (that remain unanalysed) as possible. Proof denies faith? Well, that to me means faith is worth nowt, nada, zilch.

Your version of 'soul' seems to be impossible for foetuses to have one, even vaguely, until there exists a CNS and web of synapses, all firing, and perhaps with a dialogue gong on with external input as well.

Later,
Tim
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Re: Voting for Reproductive Freedom, no less...

Postby Louis P. Burns aka Lugh » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:58 pm

Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart wrote:I also acknowledge that it 'is not my business', and so am not looking to go out and find women in the unfortunate position of having to make a choice of this kind, and hassle them - oh, but the other lot bloody do they don't they!? ;-)

Don't they just? Hanging around abortion clinics yelling 'Sinners!' Feckin' nutjobs. What's the matter with them, eh? As if the decision to abort was ever an easy one for a woman to make in the first place. I've yet to hear women discussing their plans for the oncoming day: 'Breakfast with (insert other), work until 5pm, hairdressers, abortion clinic to have foestus lopped out, home, bath, value time with partner.' It's just not that casual, is it?

Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart wrote:I also agree that 'spirit', 'soul', even 'god' can have post-enlightenment equivalents, but look at the quality of our alternatives! They can be looked at, analysed, have as few unspoken assumptions (that remain unanalysed) as possible. Proof denies faith? Well, that to me means faith is worth nowt, nada, zilch.

Aye, you're on to something there but tell me, does that also imply the non-existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (was that its' name?). BTW, if FSM ever existed, some fanatic from another belief structure appears to have wiped out its Facebook group.

Tim Barton, BlueGreenEart wrote:Your version of 'soul' seems to be impossible for foetuses to have one, even vaguely, until there exists a CNS and web of synapses, all firing, and perhaps with a dialogue gong on with external input as well.

Later,
Tim


I agree fully and have yet to see a foetus form a band, based on soulful insight. Or, for that matter, paint a masterpiece or dance Swan Lake. In fact, I'd pay good money to watch that, even pay-per-view...
Louis P. Burns aka Lugh
Administrator, editor & owner of the Sensitize © online community of forums and domain for artists, e-poets, filmmakers, media/music producers and writers working through here. To buy the Kindle book of Illustrated Poetry, Sensitize © - Volume One / Poems that could be Films if they were Funded by myself with illustrations by Welsh filmmaker and graphic artist; Norris Nuvo click here for N. Ireland and UK sales. If purchasing in the U.S.A. or internationally then please click here.

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My writing is not covered by Creative Commons policy and may not be republished without permission. All rights reserved. All Sensitize © Arts sponsorship donations and postal inquiries to:

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Re: Voting for Reproductive Freedom, no less...

Postby Salvador Oria » Thu Nov 13, 2008 3:32 pm

It's mostly males that rule about what females can or cannot do with their bodies, isn't it?

But males are happy not using contraceptive means and then they are upset when she comes one day and shoots 'Dear, I think I'm pregnant'. Some males would like to keep the baby and others won't. Some women ditto, but it is their life and their bodies that are at stake and their decision is, to a certaint extent, the only valid one.

I feel that abortion is a matter for only women to decide, albeit I think that waiting for an embryo to grow and develop until say, 60 or more days is a bit too long. By then, an embryo is on its way to turning into a foetus with a human body, head, a pulsing heart and limbs.

When this state is reached, my opinion is that the woman who is bearing this human being in her insides - be it because she or her partner were foolish enough as to not using any contraception device or pill - has acquired an irrestrict responsibility with the society she is a part of, and should keep the baby, allow it to reach maturity and be born. Then, and only then, she can give the baby for adoption and "live her (barren?) life" again.

To me, it's not a matter of religion or cult, but of human responsibility. We live in a human society and should follow its simple rules, otherwise we will live just as the other mammals, sending down the drain the glorious differences we have with them: our intelligence and sensibility.

I'd therefore vote for a responsible, intelligent and sensible motherhood.

Argie.
"...my dreams were all my own; i accounted for them to nobody; they
were my refuge when annoyed - my dearest pleasure when free."
mary shelley in her author's introduction to "frankestein", 1831.


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