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Author Topic: Hypothetical on Abortion -- Now For All to Consider
Alcon
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So I've been working on an essay on the topic of abortion, if for no other reason than to sort out my own views on the subject. In the course of it, I've hit on a hypothetical future scenario. In this scenario I felt like it would only make sense to make abortion illegal. It was no longer needed. However, upon suggesting the scenario to three women whom I highly, highly respect. I've discovered they all disagree with me. I was shocked to discover that. They are all logical, reasonable people and I discovered that their reasoning for being pro-choice differed utterly from my own. I'm curious to see what every one here would do in this hypothetical.

The hypothetical is as follows: In a future world an artificial womb has been developed. The womb can take a fetus from pretty much the time it is conceived straight through to birth with out any help from the mother. Let us further theorize that the act of removing the fetus/embryo from it's mother is entirely safe, quick, and painless. Upon the realization of an unwanted pregnancy, the mother can simply go to a clinic, have her fetus easily removed, and walk away never worrying about it again. To boil down the issue we'll say that there is a more than satisfactory adoption system to handle the care of the child once it emerges from the womb, and that population control has also been dealt with by our theoretical deus ex machina.

So short version, a hypothetical world where the there is an operation that does effectively the same thing as abortion where the mother is concerned, only the child survives.

For those of you who are pro-choice, in this scenario, would you still favor legal abortions? Why?

[ August 01, 2008, 01:20 PM: Message edited by: Alcon ]

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King of Men
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Well, obviously I would favour making the operation you describe legal, which is in some sense an 'abortion'. I do see some difficulties with the scenario; if you make it effectively cost-free to become pregnant, you might get rather a lot of orphans to take care of after a while. I don't see any reason to keep what is currently referred to as abortion legal, though.
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kmbboots
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In this hypothetical I can understand why a person would have some discomfort with a child of hers "out there" somewhere. I don't think, though, that such discomfort outweighs the potential "rights" of the fetus.

In the world as it is, I don't think that the possible rights of a potential human outweigh the rights of an actual woman to sovereignty over her body.

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Alcon
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quote:
In the world as it is, I don't think that the possible rights of a potential human outweigh the rights of an actual woman to sovereignty over her body.
Agreed. But let's keep this to the hypothetical, the real world issue has been beaten into the ground here already.
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Trent Destian
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I don't think that would really count as abortion, at least in the terms in which we associate the word. So to say "I agree with abortion if it's like this" is a bit broad and obtuse to the original definition and mindset of the word. This is more along the lines of "advanced giving up for adoption".
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Dagonee
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quote:
I can understand why a person would have some discomfort with a child of hers "out there" somewhere.
It should be noted that this discomfort is not one that men have any right to take action against at all once pregnancy begins.
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Alcon
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quote:
I don't think that would really count as abortion, at least in the terms in which we associate the word. So to say "I agree with abortion if it's like this" is a bit broad and obtuse to the original definition and mindset of the word. This is more along the lines of "advanced giving up for adoption".
You misunderstand the hypothetical. My question is, we given that we have the hypothetical operation I described in the OP, would you still favor legal abortions as we know them now in addition to the hypothetical operation.

IE if there was an operation that would allow the fetus to survive and was equivalent to or better than an abortion in every other way, would you still believe that it is the mother's right to decide whether to use that operation or have a classical abortion?

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Alcon:
quote:
In the world as it is, I don't think that the possible rights of a potential human outweigh the rights of an actual woman to sovereignty over her body.
Agreed. But let's keep this to the hypothetical, the real world issue has been beaten into the ground here already.
I was just throwing that in to give some context to my answer.
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The Pixiest
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Abortion should still be legal. But I think I would have a hard time thinking good thoughts about anyone who would choose abortion over an "Early Safe Surrender" such as you describe.
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manji
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Why would women even bother with pregnancy at all, if it is as cost effective as you say? Just put the fetus in the artifical womb and take custody of the child after nine months.
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Trent Destian
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quote:
IE if there was an operation that would allow the fetus to survive and was equivalent to or better than an abortion in every other way, would you still believe that it is the mother's right to decide whether to use that operation or have a classical abortion?
To sum up: This process is in place, but mother could still kill the fetus if she chooses(the old method).
If this is the case then my paradigm has shifted a bit. I would have to say take the option away. If you are with child you may choose to keep it or give it up.

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Alcon
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quote:
Why would women even bother with pregnancy at all, if it is as cost effective as you say?
For the same reason women still choose to breast feed over bottle feeding. It's more natural and allows for better bonding with the child.
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scifibum
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Alcon, I was thinking about the exact same question the other day and I also thought that when the cost + risk + inconvenience of a legal abortion is greater than or equal to the C+R+I of transplanting the fetus, and the mother can be absolved of any further responsibility, it only makes sense to outlaw the abortion. (I can't really buy any arguments that your sovereignty over your body is being infringed upon when the alternative you wish to remain free to choose is no less invasive. If they bring up the existence of their offspring as something that bothers them, tough noogies. That's not their body.) Note the cost has to include finding a willing & capable guardian for the child.

Note, however, that we don't allow the fathers to give up both parental rights and responsibilities unless the mother agrees to give up the baby for adoption. If a mother was similarly detached from the biological process of producing a baby from the fetus, would it make sense to put her in the same position: responsible for support of the child unless and until the child was adopted?

The social and logistical challenges of your scenario are actually quite large. I'm not sure that our society will be able to cope with them as soon as the technology gets there.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
I can understand why a person would have some discomfort with a child of hers "out there" somewhere.
It should be noted that this discomfort is not one that men have any right to take action against at all once pregnancy begins.
A completely valid point!

Under the circumstances Alcon describes, I can not think of any legitimate reason why a person would seek an abortion. This hypothetical technology would effectively separate the rights of the woman/mother from the child's right to life. Under these circumstances, I would strongly favor making killing the fetus illegal. I'm curious what reasons

I'm very curious about the reasoning used by those who would still favor legal abortion under these circumstances.

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ClaudiaTherese
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kmboots speaks for me quite eloquently. Thanks!
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Corwin
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To me the biggest problem is the "adoption system" that would make this possible. I see no reason to ban abortion if the woman thinks there's no way she can help the child lead a normal life, and there's no adoption system that will certainly integrate him in a loving and caring family. If, for some reason, the very big (99,99% ?) majority of these children could be guaranteed families, than it would make very little sense to still perform abortions.

There are though a few cases in which abortion could still be legal: if the baby suffers from a fatal genetic defect, or in the case of a rape. I'm not sure what to think of those in your hypothetical world. Suppose a child conceived through rape one day finds out about this; what would his reaction be? Should we or shouldn't we let the mother decide whether she wants to bring someone who'd have to deal with this into the world? I don't know. Should the eventual adoptive parents know he was conceived through a rape? Would you be certain that even these children would find loving families? By the way, are the adoptive parents told if this is the case nowadays?

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scifibum
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Corwin:

"I see no reason to ban abortion if the woman thinks there's no way she can help the child lead a normal life, and there's no adoption system that will certainly integrate him in a loving and caring family."

You realize that the "right" to abortion has nothing to do with the availability of a happy, normal life for the child? (Although I'm certain that's a factor in many individual decisions.)

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Dagonee
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quote:
Suppose a child conceived through rape one day finds out about this; what would his reaction be?
What is the likelihood that the person finding that out would prefer to not exist?

quote:
Should we or shouldn't we let the mother decide whether she wants to bring someone who'd have to deal with this into the world?
If the issue is really about the child at this point, why should the mother be the one to make that decision? I understand that we generally want parents to make decisions about their kids, and that allowing the father to have input in this scenario would be particularly bad. The general reason we have for deferring to parents is a presumption that the parents want what's best for the child.

But the decision in this case wouldn't really be made by the mother, but by the person who doesn't want to be the mother. Moreover, the mere existence of the child is inextricably linked to what is surely an incredibly traumatic event for the mother. I don't think the presumption applies here.

In the case of fatal genetic disease, I can't think of any good reason why the father should have less input than the mother in deciding whether a shortened existence is better than no existence. (Of course, I'm still against the whole idea of aborting disabled or ill children in general, but I'm trying to extract that from my analysis of your statement.)

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Threads
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quote:
I'm very curious about the reasoning used by those who would still favor legal abortion under these circumstances.
Why go through so much effort to preserve a fetus or an embryo when it costs virtually nothing to create another? That's a highly inflammatory question but I think the answer to that would explain why or why not a given person in this hypothetical future would still favor abortions. It seems like a person who believes that an embryo is worth preserving is either pro-life or is pro-choice but believes that abortion is a necessary evil. I find the latter position extraordinarily peculiar since I would certainly not be pro-choice if I thought that abortion were evil (I'm not aware of a logical moral weighting system that would make killing an embryo evil but have it be less evil than forcing a woman to go through birth***). One of the strongest pro-choice arguments is that most abortions occur during a period where the fetus or embryo is not conscious. I would argue that the way that society places value on human life is almost entirely based around our consciousness. For example, the concept of harm requires a conscious being to make sense. You cannot inflict mental or physical harm on something that cannot perceive anything. From this point of view it does not make sense to go through extra effort to preserve a fetus.

To be honest, I find the whole "rights of the woman" argument to be an enormous red herring. The crux of the abortion issue is the value of the life of the fetus. If you identify how you determine the value of that life then the answer to Alcon's question becomes virtually self-explanatory. For example, if you believe that fertilized eggs and up have souls and that murder is the destruction of the soul (as opposed to being limited to the killing of a conscious being) then it is obvious why you would not favor abortion. On the other hand, if you believe that human life becomes valuable at the onset of consciousness then it is obvious why abortion is not a necessary evil.

EDIT: Obviously it is not a binary choice between two positions. I just spelled out the two extremes since I happen to fall at one of them.

EDIT2: ***Logical is the wrong term to use here since you can design a logical moral system for any set of beliefs as long as you assume enough things a priori. I'll leave that question in there since I don't usually remove mistakes from my posts but I'll admit here that it is flawed.

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Threads
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Under the circumstances Alcon describes, I can not think of any legitimate reason why a person would seek an abortion. This hypothetical technology would effectively separate the rights of the woman/mother from the child's right to life. Under these circumstances, I would strongly favor making killing the fetus illegal. I'm curious what reasons.

Do you just assume that a fetus has a right to life or do you derive it from some other principal?
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kmbboots
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Threads, this is not, I suppose, the place to discuss it further, but I disagree. It is entirely possible to weight the potential for a human life as valuable yet not trumping the rights of the mother.

You may not agree, but you are now "aware".

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rollainm
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My problem with this is I can't imagine a world in which all or at least most of these abandoned children would be adopted into reasonably decent households. I'd much rather the child never be born than have a significantly high risk of living a horrible life. That aside, I have no issue with abortion other than the potential disregard for responsibility and the idea of life. But that's hardly an issue a government should be concerned with, and I still wouldn't see the need to make abortion illegal.
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Corwin
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Dag: About the rape situation, in part the problem is what the person would think - and really, I can see people depressed to find this out, and likely to hurt themselves if not given appropriate counseling - and in part whether they would find a loving adoptive family. Otherwise we're actually providing two different services (adoption for the "normal" people, no adoption for those born from rape) that will probably lead to them having different qualities of life. I'm not saying that all people in this case would lead problematic lives, and I don't know what the situation is right now when women give birth but then give up the children they conceived through rape. I'm thinking I'd rather live if it were me in the situation; but I'm not sure where to draw the line since I don't have enough direct experience or talked to enough people who have had this kind of experience to have a strong opinion one way or the other.


Also: good point about the father getting more input in fatal genetic disease cases.

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Dagonee
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quote:
My problem with this is I can't imagine a world in which all or at least most of these abandoned children would be adopted into reasonably decent households.
There are a significant number of people seeking adoption who are unable to find a child.

The only children that face significant difficulty are those with disability or disease - which make up a very small percentage of abortions.

Of course, we can't know if the number of children transplanted under Alcon's hypothetical would greatly outnumber the number of abortions. But I think it's pretty easy to imagine a world where most children who would otherwise be aborted would be bale to find good adoptive parents. We live in one.

quote:
I'd much rather the child never be born than have a significantly high risk of living a horrible life.
Have you talked to people who actually are living a horrible life to see if they would prefer not to have existed? It seems awfully presumptuous to decide for someone else that they are better off not existing.

quote:
Dag: About the rape situation, in part the problem is what the person would think - and really, I can see people depressed to find this out, and likely to hurt themselves if not given appropriate counseling
Counseling could be arranged. I'm not sure how the child would actually find out. Certainly the probability of finding out could be made low, which would multiply with the probability of harm occurring if he did find out.

quote:
and in part whether they would find a loving adoptive family.
I see no particular reason why a family considering adoption should be told about the rape.

quote:
Also: good point about the father getting more input in fatal genetic disease cases.
Thank you.
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Corwin
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
Counseling could be arranged. I'm not sure how the child would actually find out. Certainly the probability of finding out could be made low, which would multiply with the probability of harm occurring if he did find out.

---

I see no particular reason why a family considering adoption should be told about the rape.

Both good points. I was not sure what the situation is right now about adoptive families.
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Dagonee
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quote:
I was not sure what the situation is right now about adoptive families.
There are opened and closed adoptions. There is also a movement to grant adopted children the right to open sealed records. So the answer is "it's complicated."

I am guessing that Alcon's system would create a big pushback for more closed adoptions, but of course I can't be sure.

***

Why is there an ad for turtles at the bottom of the page?

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Belle
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Depends on the type of adoption. In open adoptions adoptive parents know a great deal. In the more traditional closed adoption they may know little to nothing.

I know someone who adopted a baby and knows only the age and city of origin of the child's mother. My sister-in-law actually knows the name and has met the birth mother of her adopted daughter.

It just really depends on how the adoption is handled.

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Mucus
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I was kinda curious, so I checked the Wikipedia article on abortion in Canada.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Canada
Honestly, I would probably just prefer the law remain the same as it does now even in this hypothetical world.

I can sympathize with pro-life if I view it from their angle and I would strongly encourage women in the third term to consider this option in the same way that I would strongly encourage people not to wantonly kill a monkey. (I don't say this lightly, how we treat them now does disturb me significantly)

However, I can't agree with changing the law to make first or second abortion illegal. The existence of an alternative doesn't change whether the fetus is human or not, and thats the main linchpin for whether I can support abortion or not.

(my two, and likely unpopular, cents)

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scholarette
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An interesting hypothetical and I have not yet fully processed it but here are my initial thoughts.

If someone found out 100% that the child would have a fatal disease, living for maximum 2 months in extreme pain, I can see a parent saying, let's abort before consciousness. I am not sure exactly where I am willing to draw the line on this. I think if you knew the child had down's and wanted to abort, that would be wrong though.

Right now, there are lots of fertilized eggs out there frozen, waiting for a womb. I don't consider those life and if there was an artificial womb out there, I would not be pushing for people to take all those fetuses and make them into babies. So, this hypothetical really just adds age to those fetuses.

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Dagonee
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Mucus, in that scenario (where this no extra cost of any kind on the mother going through Alcon's hypothetical procedure or an abortion), why wouldn't you at least want the father to have some say in the outcome?
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rollainm
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Dag, most people who exist certainly have a strong will to survive. It's also not really possible to truly imagine not existing, and that tends to strengthen that preference of existing rather than not. More to the point, an existing person has every right to continue to survive; a non existent or potential person has no rights because, well, they don't exist. This reasoning is of course dependent on the belief that a fetus is not equivalent to a human life.
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Mucus
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Dagonee: Could you be more specific? For example, what kind of system/change in law would you propose to accomplish that under the Canadian system?
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
This reasoning is of course dependent on the belief that a fetus is not equivalent to a human life.
They don't have to be equivalent for that reasoning to work.
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Dagonee
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quote:
Dag, most people who exist certainly have a strong will to survive. It's also not really possible to truly imagine not existing, and that tends to strengthen that preference of existing rather than not.
Can you explain how this is a reason to think you're doing them a favor by preventing them from existing?

quote:
More to the point, an existing person has every right to continue to survive; a non existent or potential person has no rights because, well, they don't exist. This reasoning is of course dependent on the belief that a fetus is not equivalent to a human life.
But you're weren't talking about rights. You advocated a preference that it is better that a person not exist than existing with a high chance of a "horrible life."

(BTW, I still think you're vastly overstating the chances of that.)

quote:
Could you be more specific? For example, what kind of system/change in law would you propose to accomplish that under the Canadian system?
I'm talking about Alcon's hypothetical world. Say a woman wants to have an abortion rather than a transplant. Assume the father is a normal guy (not a rapist). Before the abortion, should the father be allowed to say "I want this child and will absolve the mother of all responsibility for him," resulting in a transplant rather than an abortion.
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Dan_raven
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This is a good hypothetical to make Pro-Choice people ask serious questions of themselves.

But I love to be the devils advocate, so here is my spin...would Pro-Life people allow this system to be created?

For this to work it would have to come at no cost to the mothers. Who foots the bill? The Government? Ultimately the Tax Payers.

Most conservatives have a strict "Pay for your mistakes" belief system. Would they allow or condone a system where their tax money is used to pay for the "mistakes" of the parents?

"You couldn't keep your legs crossed, so I have to spend umpteen hundred thousand dollars to run this womb-machine then feed, house, clothe and educate this kid? Wrong. Its your jollies, you pay."

Would Right-To-Life conservatives care enough about the unborn fetus to allow tax money to cover this system, or is their moral sense of fair play and justice such that it would rather risk the mother getting an abortion then to risk being forced to pay for the child.

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scholarette
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I think giving some kind of rights to the father would be nice, but I am not sure of the feasibility of it. If you require the father to sign off, what if she doesn't know who the father is? If there are many potential fathers, does she have to get all of them to agree? Do a genetic test first?
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Dagonee
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quote:
would Pro-Life people allow this system to be created?
I do oppose research into artificial wombs that would result in the death of (what I believe to be) human beings while they work out all the problems that will arise with such a system.

quote:
Would Right-To-Life conservatives care enough about the unborn fetus to allow tax money to cover this system, or is their moral sense of fair play and justice such that it would rather risk the mother getting an abortion then to risk being forced to pay for the child.
I wish people would do a modicum of research into the millions of dollars and countless hours donated by pro-life activists to help with either adoption or the parent(s) being able to keep the child in cases where abortion is likely before questioning how much they care about unborn fetuses.

quote:
Most conservatives have a strict "Pay for your mistakes" belief system.
This is a gross oversimplification of a very complex idea.
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Alcon
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Dan, you jumped to the second part of my hypothetical -- which occurred to me after the initial post.

Which is this: if you are pro-life as it stands, would you be in favor of the development and deployment of such a system if it would mean that we could outlaw abortions almost unanimously?

Would you be willing to have the government fund and run 'womb clinics' and the adoption system that would have to accompany them to make it work at a reasonable level (and what would you consider a reasonable level of funding)?

What if the development of an artificial womb would mean the loss of some fetuses, is that a deal breaker? If it could be done so only animal fetuses were lost, then would you be able to support it?

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Corwin
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_raven:
Who foots the bill?

I made this point on another forum: having even more children would pose economic problems. But we (humans in general) don't seem to be very conscious overall that at our current rate of growth we'll run into problems soon anyway. I don't think anyone actually favors we keep all the babies (maybe even ban contraceptives?) without finding a solution to the finite resources problem.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
Before the abortion, should the father be allowed to say "I want this child and will absolve the mother of all responsibility for him," resulting in a transplant rather than an abortion.

Hmmm, tricky, but I don't see that it significantly changes the equation for me from a father and mother disagreeing on abortion in real life.

In real life (for me), if a father or mother disagree on abortion, the choice issue tilts the balance in favour of the woman deciding. In this scenario, the choice issue is less convincing, but not totally non-existent. Even if this new procedure is painless, this procedure would still have to be done against the woman's will if* she disagrees.
I think that still resolves my balance in favour of the woman deciding if the two disagree.

There is also the added complication that I do not think parents (either parent) should have a right to absolve their responsibility for a child. One problem, for example, if the father absolves the mother but then dies shortly afterward, is no one responsible for the child?

* Honestly, in this hypothetical, I suspect that the number of abortions that would be performed against the father's will would drop massively anyways rendering the issue partially moot

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Scott R
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quote:
would Pro-Life people allow this system to be created?

I am. I'm also willing to help fund such a project.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
There is also the added complication that I do not think parents (either parent) should have a right to absolve their responsibility for a child.
Do you not think that adoptive parents should ever have the same rights as other parents as long as the biological parents are still alive?
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Dagonee
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quote:
Would you be willing to have the government fund and run 'womb clinics' and the adoption system that would have to accompany them to make it work at a reasonable level (and what would you consider a reasonable level of funding)?
Yes. No idea on the funding level.

quote:
What if the development of an artificial womb would mean the loss of some fetuses, is that a deal breaker? If it could be done so only animal fetuses were lost, then would you be able to support it?
I answered the first question above. The second is absolutely, I would support it then. But I think it's the only part of your hypotheticals that is flat out impossible.

***

The mere existence of such a reliable artificial womb - government funded or not - would put all abortions in the post viability category under current constitutional law. This means that abortion in those circumstances could be banned by the state, with exceptions for health of the mother.

quote:
There is also the added complication that I do not think parents (either parent) should have a right to absolve their responsibility for a child.
Well, I agree entirely there (excepting adoption, which is what I was analogizing this to). I was framing it that way to remove all possible responsibility from the mother, which is the central idea behind Alcon's idea.
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fugu13
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One way that could lead to the development of an artificial womb that those opposed to experimentation with human fetuses might be the attempted use to treat conditions that lead to the death of the fetus or the death of the mother with very high probability.
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Dagonee
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That's a good point, fugu (if I understood you correctly - I mentally added "ok with" after "might be").
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
would Pro-Life people allow this system to be created?

I am. I'm also willing to help fund such a project.
I agree.

I do have issues with experimenting on unwilling participants (the babies), and I'd hope that first they'd perfect the technology with animals and later work out the human kinks in situations where the technology could be potentially life-saving.

edit: Or what they said.

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lem
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quote:
I would argue that the way that society places value on human life is almost entirely based around our consciousness. For example, the concept of harm requires a conscious being to make sense. You cannot inflict mental or physical harm on something that cannot perceive anything.
*emphasis added by me

I don't think I agree with the value we place on human life being tied to consciousness. If that was the case then why prohibit sexually molesting a brain dead person in a coma? Why disallow abuse or why not subjugate them to medical experiments if they are brain dead and in a coma?

As a society we have decided that we can take them off of life support, but we haven't allowed their living bodies to be abused. There may be a case to be made that we outlaw it because of what it does to the abuser or because it might encourage abuse as acceptable, but I also think there is value still placed on a person who is not aware.

Their consent, even if unattainable, is necessary for certain uses of their body--effectively prohibiting certain said uses.

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Mucus
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mph: I think it greatly depends on which particular right. The glib answer is that I don't think responsibility is zero-sum, adoptive parents can gain responsibility for a child but it should be much harder for parents to remove that responsibility. The potentially long answer is "it depends".

Dagonee: Good point.
I can wrap my mind around the development of a new technology that removes all barriers to abortion. But technology cannot remove the responsibility that a mother has to her child, so if that is how we read the OP then I would contend that we're commenting on an impossibility.

For my part, I read "walk away never worrying about it again" as a possible consequence for the mother rather than as a result of the procedure. (Does that make any sense?)

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Alcon
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Woah! I hadn't realized how close artificial womb technology really might be. Check this out:

quote:
Which led at last to the bubbles. In 2003, in an experiment that hasn’t received as much attention as one might expect—perhaps because Liu hasn’t published her results, due to her qualms about how those results will be received by politicians, activists and desperate would-be parents—a mouse embryo grew almost to full term in one of Liu’s artificial wombs. It moved. It breathed. It bubbled. “And not just one bubble,” Liu says. “We saw bubble, bubble, bubble.”
http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2005-08/artificial-wombs

That was five years ago! Wonder where it is now, and why we haven't heard more about it?

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Sterling
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Regarding the hypothetical:

Should a serial rapist be allowed to father children over and over again until he is caught?

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