The Daily Show on Personhood

 Posted by on 31 May 2012 at 11:00 am  Abortion, Funny, Personhood
May 312012
 

The Daily Show mocks the “personhood” movement:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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“Can I be tried for past crimes? Because, I have to tell you, I’m like Sperm Hitler.”

Save the Welfare State!

 Posted by on 3 April 2012 at 7:00 am  Abortion, Immigration, Politics
Apr 032012
 

Kelly and Santiago Valenzuela offer a good reductio ad absurdem of the argument that immigration must be limited due to the burdens that illegal immigrants impose on us via the welfare state on Mother of Exiles:

A common argument I hear against immigration is that we don’t need a further drain on the American welfare state (i.e., health care, social security, school system, etc.) As we’ve pointed out before, the problem with the welfare state is the existence of the welfare state, but many like to claim that stopping the flow of immigration into this country will somehow help or solve the problem.

Under that logic, we should make having kids illegal. After all, every child born becomes a burden to the system, another mouth to feed, another brain to educate, another job to eventually fill. Of course this is preposterous, especially coming from a pregnant woman, but hear me out.

There are arguably 10-20 million undocumented immigrants in the country, which have accumulated over the past couple decades. By contrast, 4 million children are born each year in the US. If you want to worry about the welfare state from the standpoint of adding people to the welfare rolls, the second number is way more worrying than the first.

The next time that I hear some conservative trot out that argument, I’m going to propose — with tongue firmly planted in cheek — that a better option would be to force abortion on any pregnant women living below the poverty level. Why not?!? After all, conservatives claim that the government is entitled to massively violate the rights of peaceful, hard-working people seeking a better life for themselves, plus the rights of Americans who wish to employ or trade with them, in order to save the welfare state, which massively violates rights in and of itself. To compel poor women to have abortions would simple be a more effective way to keep those welfare payments manageable. Sure, doing so would violate rights, but clearly, that’s not something of concern to anti-immigration conservatives.

Of course, conservatives would be horrified by that argument — and that’s precisely the point. It’s never okay to violate rights, and it’s particularly vile to systematically violate rights in one way in order to be able to persist in systematically violating rights in another way. (Notably, most conservatives regard abortion as a violation of rights, which is completely wrong. Abortion is a woman’s right, and forcing her to abort is just as much a violation of rights as preventing her from doing so.)

The fact is that the argument about welfare is just a rationalization for conservative opposition to immigration. Perhaps a good reductio is just what they need to break through it.

Mar 222012
 

The latest issue of The Objective Standard was recently posted online. In it, Ari Armstrong and I replied to a letter from Walter Hudson on our essay in defense of abortion rights. Hudson is a writer for PJ Media and the chair of Minnesota’s North Star Tea Party Patriots.

For the full story, first read Ari’s and my essay: The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties. Then read Hudson’s letter and our reply: An Objective Case Against Abortion?

Hudson’s letter begins:

The thing I most admire about Objectivism is its uncompromising affirmation of life. No other philosophy I have encountered consistently holds thriving human existence as its chief value. I was therefore disappointed to read Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong’s argument for an alleged right to terminate the life of the unborn (“The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties,” TOS, Winter 2011-2012).

In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that I am a Christian, and thus not an Objectivist. I nonetheless consider myself an advocate of Objectivism’s prescriptions for civil society, and I am cognizant of the necessity for objective rational argument in the craft of public policy.

Our reply begins:

Walter Hudson’s letter regarding our article neglects our central argument and relies on a faulty theory of rights.

Hudson rightly recognizes that the philosophy we subscribe to, Objectivism, entails an “uncompromising affirmation of life”; however, this must be understood in its proper context. Each individual properly acts to sustain and advance his own life, neither sacrificing himself to others nor others to himself. As concerns pregnancy, the key question is whether an embryo or fetus is a person with the same moral and legal rights as a born infant (in which case abortion is murder) or not (in which case abortion is a woman’s right).

Now… go read the whole exchange: An Objective Case Against Abortion?

Jan 312012
 

Rick Santorum says that pregnant rape victims should “accept the gift of human life” and “make the best out of a bad situation.” And yes, that’s what every advocate of “personhood for zygotes” must say.

As Ari and I said in The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties:

In [a] 2004 survey, around 1.5 percent of women who got an abortion cited rape or incest as the cause of the pregnancy. Forcing a woman to carry an unwanted fetus to term when the pregnancy was caused by a sexual assault victimizes her yet again. Even if she gives up the child for adoption, she must live with the ever-present physical reminder of her assault for the duration of her pregnancy. Moreover, the woman might feel a torturous conflict over the born child: she might desperately want to raise her own child, but abhor the thought of raising the child of her rapist.

That last point, I think, is particularly important.

Jan 172012
 

In a recent discussion among fellow opponents of “personhood,” someone raised the question of how to effectively counter the claim made by “personhood” advocates that “science establishes that life begins at conception [i.e. fertilization].” Here’s how I answered… and yes, I did write more than I intended!

Here’s my take on these issues:

The discussion of “when human life begins” just isn’t relevant to the question of rights in pregnancy or “personhood” for zygotes. Biologically speaking, a zygote is a new human life… but that doesn’t imply that the zygote has any rights. The crucial question is philosophical: When does the embryo/fetus become an individual, meaning a person in its own right, such that rights apply to it?

Those questions can (and should) be answered based on a fact-based theory about rights. So to say “God imbues the zygote with the light to life” — as “personhood” advocates do — will not suffice. People are entitled to hold that view as a matter of personal faith and practice it in their own lives. Yet for them to attempt to impose it on others by force of law is a violation of our rights, as well as a violation of the proper separation of church and state.

To answer questions about rights in pregnancy, we must first understand the nature and purpose of rights. Rights are not part of our DNA; they’re not some kind of organ that develops at some point in fetal gestation. Instead, rights are moral principles that establish boundaries for our social interactions: they permit people to interact only by mutual consent, so that no one is robbed, enslaved, theatened, murdered, and otherwise brutalized by others. Right are — or should be — the basic moral principles governing society: by demanding that every person respect the life and autonomy of others, they enable people to live peacefully and happily together.

On that understanding, rights only apply to autonomous beings in society — meaning to biologically separate individuals. That’s why Ari Armstrong and I argue that rights begin at birth — because only then do you have autonomous individual. The infant is a person, entitled to the full protection of rights. The embryo or fetus is not: it’s wholly encased in and hence a part of the pregnant woman. The pregant woman has rights, and her rights protect the embryo or fetus from assault and other harms if she wishes to bring the pregnancy to term — or permit her to abort, if she doesn’t. Any attempt to grant rights to the fetus (even at the point of viability) denies rights to the pregnant woman, including the right to make her own decisions about medical care, giving birth, etc.

Whether you agree with that analysis or not, I’d recommend explicitly rejecting the debate about “when human life begins.” That’s not the relevant question, and the “personhood” advocates will gain the upper hand by framing the debate in those terms.

Instead, remind them that they’re not proposing to write biological textbooks, but to fundamentally change our laws by granting rights to embryos. Insist that they defend that. If they attempt to say — as they usually do — that every human life has rights, then you’ll have to ask them whether kidneys or lungs have rights. Why not? Because they’re not individuals, but just parts of a person. That gets you to the question of what qualifies as a person — and that’s the critical question. Or, you might remind them that all rights are individual rights — and demand that they explain how the zygote can be an individual when wholly encased in and depending on the pregnant woman.

More generally, remember that our opponents have the burden of proof here. It’s clear that infants and onward are persons. We might debate whether viable fetuses are persons. Advocates of “personhood” are making the extraordinary claim that embryos are persons — before any awareness, before any movement, before the development of functional organs, and even before pregnancy begins at implantation. Such an extraordinary claim requires an extraordinary proof — meaning a compelling and detailed argument about the nature and source of rights — not glib assertions about “the tiniest boys and girls.” If they fail to provide that proof, then you’re entitled to reject their view, even if you’re not quite certain of your own.

Moreover, you’re entitled to reject “personhood” on the grounds that granting legal rights to embryos would violate the known rights of known persons, such as the right to birth control and in vitro fertilization. (Rights can’t conflict — if they do, then you’re not talking about rights but something else like interests or desires.) Hence, to establish that granting rights to embryos would violate the rights of women is to proof enough that “personhood” is wrong.

Whew! I wrote more than expected… but I hope that’s helpful!

For further exploration of these issues, I recommend Ari Armstrong’s and my recent paper for The Objective Standard: The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties, as well as our much longer 2010 policy paper, The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life.

 

Earlier this week, Ari Armstrong’s and my new paper on abortion rights — The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties — was published in the The Objective Standard. Happily, our article is available for free to everyone.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

In recent years, antiabortion activists have stepped up their attacks on a woman’s right to abortion and have achieved a series of victories in their efforts to outlaw the procedure. This increasing assault poses a major threat not only to women’s right to abortion, but, more broadly, to individual rights as such. Rights form a logical unity, and to the extent that any are threatened, all are threatened. The antiabortionists’ war on a woman’s right to her body is ultimately a war on all our rights, including our rights to property, free trade, and freedom of speech. To demonstrate this, we will briefly survey the goals, methods, successes, and rationale of today’s antiabortion movement; we will then turn to the reasons women seek abortions, to the nature of rights and the positive case for a woman’s right to abortion, and finally to the reasons why any restriction on abortion rights necessarily clears the way for violations of other rights.

If you like the article, please share it with friends and fellow activists. Given that conservatives tend to be hostile to abortion rights — or at least squishy about them — we think that our article is one that desperately needs to be circulated in free-market and tea-party circles.

Again, you can read the whole article here: The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.

 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I took an early look at the 2012 election, then surveyed four GOP candidates — Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson. I’ve posted all five questions as videos, and so here they are!

The first question was:

What’s your view of the upcoming 2012 election? By what standards do you judge the presidential candidates?

My answer, in brief:

In a presidential candidate, I’m not looking for either John Galt or “Anyone But Obama.” I’m looking for someone who will do more good than harm to the cause of liberty in America.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The second question was:

Should I support Mitt Romney for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Romney deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?

My answer, in brief:

Mitt Romney is a smooth talker, but his proposal reveal that he has no understanding of individual rights or the economic problems facing America. He’s no better than Obama – and likely worse, because the opposition will vanish. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The third question was:

Should I support Newt Gingrinch for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Gingrinch deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?

My answer, in brief:

Newt Gingrich is explicitly theocratic, and a major threat to the separation of church and state. He advocates and practices “active governance,” meaning right-wing social engineering, not liberty. Like Obama, he is enamored of bold transformative ideas, which could be okay or horrible for liberty. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The fourth question was:

Should I support Ron Paul for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Paul deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?

My answer, in brief:

Ron Paul is not even libertarian, but a neo-confederate conservative Christian, albeit with some grasp of basic economics. He’s a rationalist, driven by ideology, and not open to facts. He would be very dangerous to elect as president, not just for actual policies, but as a supposed advocate of liberty. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The fifth question was:

Should I support Gary Johnson for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Johnson deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election? Also, should supporters of Gary Johnson vote for him on a Libertarian Party ticket?

My answer, in brief:

Gary Johnson is not John Galt. However, he’s fundamentally oriented toward facts, plus he has good basic principles about liberty. Alas, he was shut out from the race by the media and the establishment GOP. I recommend voting for him in the primary, as well as in the general election, if he runs as the Libertarian Party candidate. I still reject the Libertarian Party, but a protest vote can be delimited to endorse him and not the party.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoyed these video, please “like” them on YouTube and share them with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

Video: Voting for Horrible Politicians

 Posted by on 14 November 2011 at 4:00 pm  Abortion, Election, Politics, Videocast
Nov 142011
 

In last Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast (Nov 6th), I discussed when and why people should vote, given that politicians are mostly horrible. The question was:

All the candidates are nearly perfectly horrid, just in different ways. Why should I even bother to vote?

My answer, in brief:

We’re not always faced with choice between two varieties of evil in elections, and in those cases, it’s proper to vote. Also, it’s good to vote for ballot measures. So vote selectively!

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

Best.Comment.Ever

 Posted by on 28 July 2011 at 7:00 am  Abortion, Coalition for Secular Government, Funny
Jul 282011
 

I’ve been blogging here on NoodleFood and elsewhere for nearly ten years now. In all that time, I’ve never gotten as wildly inane a comment as this one on my CSG post on the efforts to impose anti-abortion “personhood” laws on Mississippi. The comment is from “Carol Arens532.” Brace yourself:

Think about it before abortion was made legal, the abortionist had to worry about maternal deaths from abortion, simply because these could very easily lead to an investigation by the FBI, after all if you are going to break the law the last thing that you would want to do is leave behind evidence of your illegal activity so that there can be an investigation. Thus before Roe vs Wade should a pregnant woman be seriously injured from an illegal abortion, she would be brought to a hospital and should she die there, there would be an oddtopisy done to determine the cause of death, the medical personal of the hospital would then be required to report this to the police clearly letting them know that someone is breaking the law, and initiate an investigation. Now however that abortion is legal the abortion can botch as many abortion as he wants without having to worry about there being an investigation, infact he can have a number of women die from abortion at his facility and never have to worry about the police or the FBI investigating his activity. It sure is good to think that the state of Mississippi thinks that it’s women and children are worth protecting from this. Sincerely Carol

When I posted it to Facebook and Twitter, many people noted that they hoped that they’d never have to have an “oddtopisy.” But my favorite comment was posted by Roberto Sarrionandia to Facebook.

This is hilarious. Presumably the same thing is true for all surgery. Paul can get away with strangling his patients, because radiography is legal and thus the authorities aren’t concerned with investigating it.

Similarly, when people are stabbed, nobody bothers investigating because knives are legal.

Exactly!

Nov 182010
 

Unfortunately, Personhood USA won a major victory in court recently: a “personhood” measure has been cleared to appear on the ballot in 2011 in Mississippi. Here’s their press release:

Victory for Personhood Mississippi, Planned Parenthood/ACLU Lawsuit Dealt Major Blow

Sponsors of the Mississippi Personhood Amendment, Initiative Measure Number 26, have been notified that the motion to remove the Amendment from the Ballot, filed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, has been denied.

ACLU and Planned Parenthood attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi Secretary of State in July, seeking to disallow Mississippi voters from voting on the Mississippi Personhood Amendment.

Amendment sponsors and volunteers exceeded state signature requirements on February 17, becoming only the fourth successful ballot initiative since 1992. The amendment, Initiative Measure Number 26, reads, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

The ACLU then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the Personhood amendment, which seeks to define the term “human being”, modifies the Bill of Rights, which is expressly prohibited by Section 273(5). Steve Crampton, Liberty Counsel attorney for Personhood Mississippi, explained that Section 273(5) does not prohibit the definition of an otherwise undefined term, such as “person”. Crampton went on to explain that the Personhood Amendment complies with section 273(5)(a) because it does not propose any new right and does not modify or repeal any existing right guaranteed under our bill of rights. Instead, the Personhood amendment merely defines the term “person”, and does not modify the Bill of Rights in any way.

The Court decision read “Initiative Measure No. 26 has received more than the required amount of signatures to be placed on the ballot and the Constitution recognizes the right of citizens to amend their Constitution.” The decision was ordered by Judge Malcolm Harrison.

“Isaiah 59 tells us that, ‘the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear’ so we first give all praise and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ for hearing our prayers and giving us the victory in this round” explained Les Riley, amendment sponsor. “We are grateful from this clarification. From the early days of the petition drive those opposed to the amendment have claimed that our amendment was flawed and did not meet the Constitutional muster based on a surface level researching of the law. We have been certain that we have the right to define the term ‘person’, and that right was affirmed by the Circuit Court and Judge Harrison. The Personhood Amendment, in defining the term ‘person’, merely seeks to recognize the rights of every innocent human being in Mississippi. The people of Mississippi have spoken – they want to vote to recognize those Personhood rights in November 2011.”

“It is time for Mississippi voters to recognize that all human beings are people, and every person should be protected by love and by law,” added Cal Zastrow, co-founder of Personhood USA. “We are praising Jesus that Planned Parenthood was thwarted in their efforts to protect their billions with frivolous lawsuits.”

First, it’s clearly false that a personhood amendment would not “propose any new right” or “modify or repeal any existing right guaranteed under our bill of rights.” Sections 14 and 15 of Mississippi’s Bill of Rights say:

Sec. 14. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property except by due process of law.

Sec. 15. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state, otherwise than as punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

To grant rights to embryos and fetuses would violate the life and liberty rights of every pregnant woman. At the moment of fertilization, the woman would be be legally bound to provide life-support to the embryo or fetus. She would be obliged to subordinate her values, her goals, her health, and perhaps even her life to it. That’s involuntary servitude. For details, see Ari Armstrong’s and my discussion of rights in pregnancy in in our policy paper on the “personhood” movement.

Second, when an organization quotes scripture and thanks Jesus in its press releases, you need not doubt that it’s goal is to impose theocratic law. Such appeals to religious dogma are the life-blood of the “personhood” movement, and that’s part of why “personhood” measures violate the proper wall of separation between church and state. For details, see Ari Armstrong’s and my discussion of “personhood” and the separation of church and state in our policy paper.

And third, we have a year to inform the public and fight this measure. Sadly, that’s the only good news.

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