The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Points about abortion

One reason that, although I am closer to the so-called “pro-choice” side in the debates on abortion than the so-called “pro-life” side, I still cannot accept all the ideas of the former, is that to me the primary issue is not “a woman's right to choose,” as most “pro-choicers” make it. For me, in fact, the big issue is a First Amendment freedom-of-religion issue.

The Catholic Church (and some Protestant groups) wants to impose its view of “personhood” on others. The idea that “human life begins at conception” is clearly the tenet of a particular religious community. (In Judaism, for example, there is a point — not clearly fixed in time — when the neshama [approximately translated as “soul”] is put into the developing fetus by Divine intervention; prior to that it is not considered human.)

Because I see this as a religious freedom issue, I am perfectly willing, say, to accept laws that forbid the State from forcing Catholic hospitals or Catholic medical doctors to perform abortions, because they too have First Amendment rights. Because I see this in other terms than “a woman's right to choose,” I am willing to allow some people other than the pregnant woman to be involved in the decision. (I have no problem with parental-consent laws when the pregnant “woman” is in fact a girl who would not herself be empowered to consent to some other forms of surgery on her body. I honestly believe that, when a married couple conceive as a result of an act entered into voluntarily, if the husband wants the child he should be able to insist that the birth take place.) So I feel uncomfortable with both sides' positions in the abortion debate.

While we have no way of knowing when the neshama enters the fetus, I feel that the best clue to when to consider it a new human being is the viability criterion — if you could deliver it, and it could survive outside the uterus, then it is a new human being; not before. Some argue that technology changes; we could deliver a baby in 2013 that would not have survived in 1963. I say “so be it.” We do not judge the doctors who attended Pres. Garfield as murderers, because they did not conform to modern standards of antisepsis, although it is clear that their filthy hands were actually the cause of his death. Since, at that time, the role of infection was becoming known, they come in for some criticism. But not what doctors in 2013 would incur if they did as those doctors did. The standards of any particulat time must apply.

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