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The Economics of Life

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The pro-life movement is celebrating a victory, because after over 30 years of Roe v. Wade, the scourge of abortion, or at least public support for it, has waned and is now the minority position. South Dakota passed an outright abortion ban, believing the time was right to challenge the law. Poll after poll demonstrates that the public knows that conception is the “moment that changes everything” where a new life is created and begins its journey to birth. Are we a pro-life nation then? The answer to that question is still ‘no’.

It seems a contradiction to say while most oppose abortion it does not follow the nation has become pro-life. That is, until you take a look at the new battlefields of the pro-life movement. Terri Schiavo is the most popular example.

An unbiased observer would certainly be taken aback at the concept of the individual making decisions for Terri was a husband who had since gotten engaged to another woman and had two children with her. There is an obvious conflict of interest there. However, the public was largely unconcerned with that.

The point where support for Terri fell the most was when the cameras showed images of Terri Schiavo to the world. The public saw someone who was unmistakably alive but unmistakably having a “low quality of life”. Most felt that it was not worth being alive in those circumstances. Suddenly, it didn’t matter what Michael Schiavo’s motivations were or his conflict of interest. He was making the “right” decision to end a life not worth living.

It is known that the abortion movement grew out of the eugenics movement and it should come as no surprise that the husband of the lawyer who litigated Roe v. Wade lobbied Bill Clinton to approve RU-486, not for easy access to abortion or women’s rights, but because “twenty-six million food stamp recipients is (sic) more than the economy can stand.” It isn’t about life, it is about a productive life (in Ron Weddington’s case, where the financial output is greater than the input).

This can also been seen in the recent burst of “futile care” cases (where hospitals unilaterally decide who should die independent of the families wishes or objections). While few would argue that those who are alive only with the help of life support equipment (i.e. respirators, not a feeding tube) can be “unplugged”, futile care laws have been used to try to kill children, including a child perfectly able to heal, the uninsured, and Katrina evacuees that were “no worth moving”. With talk of universal health care, one wonders if that will finally put complete control on whether (poor) patients should be left untreated.

One could argue that doctors know best and if they determine care is futile, then it really is. However, in the case of Haleigh (the girl who recovered above), doctors can be and are wrong. Medical advances developed a year later may have helped Terri Schiavo recover. Then there is the possibility of using a futile care law to avoid dealing with poor and uninsured patients and leaving them to die legally. After all, more is going into them than is coming out.

Going back to the original premise, it can be seen that the nation isn’t becoming more pro-life, per se. What has lead to the downfall of support of abortion is the realization that unborn children have the potential to be productive citizens unless some external force prevents them. The rise of an anti-abortion culture is the convergence of pro-life forces with those who believe that the potential of productive life should be allowed.

What the pro-life movement has yet to effectively challenge is the rising notion of reducing human life to matters of economics. Taking whatever subjective equation is used, if someone comes out having a “negative” balance, they can be killed. If they have a positive balance, they can live. This quantification system, even if it aligns with those against abortion, is decidedly not pro-life, usually because the poor and minorities (however they are determined) tend to cluster on the “negative” balance side of the equation.

The value of a human life has been determined. The problem is that those subjective measures mean that the most vulnerable in society will be the ones most likely to be considered “without value”. Fighting against the valuation of life is the next big pro-life challenge.

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About John Doe

A political activist and security expert.
  • You are correct, Mr. Bambenek. The vast majority of Americans are anti-abortion, always have been. After all, it is an abomination, a most vile act of self-mutilation.

    The vast majority of Americans also believe the notion of “white power” is offensive, irrelevant and anachronistic, but they will nonetheless acknowledge that people who hold such opinions have a right to express them and they would never dream of outlawing such “hate speech.”

    The same is true with regard to abortion. Most people do not like it and wish that nobody would do it any more.

    However, nearly two-thirds of Americans are pro-choice, even if most of that two-thirds take that position reluctantly, knowing that outlawing abortion would only make it into something worse than it already is while also setting a precedent that limits the right to self-determination.

    Your take on the economics/eugenics angle is a most interesting one. Whether we care to admit it or not, regardless of how civilized and democratic we strive to be in the 21st century, our base human nature has not really changed all that much over the past 200,000 years or so. We still form hierarchical societies in which the strong oppress and tyrannize the weak, we’re just not as blatant and cruel about it as we once were — but we do place a higher value upon life now than we ever did in the past.

    Have you ever considered that campaigning to outlaw abortion is not the best way to go about promoting the value of life? Wouldn’t it be more productive to work toward promoting the idea that every child is a blessing, regardless of the mother’s age, marital and economic status, or the circumstances under which it was conceived and that such young women might need moral, social and economic support so that they do not feel that abortion is their only viable option?

    I think you and I are in the same moral place with regard to this issue, we just have different political ideas about how to go about getting there.

  • Well, to be strictly technical, I’m not campaigning for anything, I’m just a guy with a blog. I also don’t see say legislation against abortion and providing economic, moral, and social support for mothers as mutually exclusive. In fact, if there was that support for motherhood, I doubt that abortion would even be on the table in the first place.

    However, since we aren’t there I don’t think that means we should throw up our hands and give up, certainly when there are cases of abortion that should simply be legislated away. There is absolutely no reason for partial birth abortion. It would be medically simpler, safer, and cheaper to just deliver the child at that point and put it up for adoption. (Where the waiting line for any infant is years long).

    I think if we are going to ban abortion, we need to deal with the women in crisis. Just banning abortion and letting those women hang is just not keeping up with out end of the deal.

  • The larger issue here is that society’s stance on ethics has been subverted by the mega-insurance corporations’need to turn a healthy profit. The bean counters are really the ones who decide life or death.

  • Maurice

    My oldest son is mentally and physically handicapped. He doesn’t speak and is not able to walk without assistance. He wears a diaper but often has potty successes just by ‘timing’. Thanks to social security he is able to live in a group home with 24/7 caretakers. He also gets physical therapy once a week and occupational therapy once a month. He consumes much and contributes nothing. I am glad I live in a country that provides this benefit for the disadvantaged.

    We must care and respect all life.

  • Ray-

    While I’m no fan of insurance companies, somehow I doubt they’ve affected the moral fiber of society. Doctors, maybe. Hospitals, maybe. But the consumer? I doubt it, especially considering we hold them in so low a regard that they rival Congress for the gutter.

  • A couple of points:

    As Margaret indicated, I think it’s a mistake to suggest that supporting abortion and supporting Roe v. Wade are the same thing. Roe v. Wade has such substantial support that it can be fairly said that mainstream America supports it. Mainstream America is not, however, in favor of abortion.

    Secondly, my personal experience has seen insurance companies putting profit before ethics when it comes to the consumer as well. My father was nearly killed–with 19 broken bones, a kidney and gall bladder that had to be removed, 55 percent blood loss–by an uninsured driver who

    * had TWICE lost his driver’s license for reckless driving;

    * was driving his mother’s car illegally because he’d totaled his own car in the traffic incident that had most recently cost him his license;

    * hit my father at 65 miles an hour–AFTER leaving a 30-yard skid mark trying to brake from God-knows-what speed (i.e., AFTER hitting the brake for 90 feet, he was still traveling at 65 mph when he made impact with my dad’s car);

    * got ANOTHER citation for reckless driving two weeks after the accident with my dad;

    …the insurance company still refused to pay out. They cited contributory negligence, although three separate investigations (including the official poice report) concluded that my father had operated completely within the law and all reasonable standards for safe driving. The reason behind their claim of “contributory negligence”? My father had looked in his mirror before the accident, but “he should have looked in it twice.”

    So forgive me if I can’t quite agree that insurance companies haven’t had an adverse effect on ethics for the consumer.

  • In point of fact, John, they have. It’s not a question of morality–it’s about expediency and the bottom line. I would disagree that you can hold doctors and hospitals responsible–the insurance giants are pulling their strings, too. And I would also submit that the insurance companies could care a whit less about that level of esteem in which they’re held–it’s profit that drives them.

  • Bambenek:
    I am horrified when pro-death degenerates such as yourself claim that human life doesn’t begin until the moment of conception. What about our sperm bretheren or as I call them the littlest, most helpless humans? How many hundreds of millions of these defenseless little guys do you coldly destroy every time you find some alone time with the victoria’s secret catalog? Even worse, how many of these mini-humans do you simply allow to waste away and be canibalistically reabsorbed back into your body? It’s mass murder on a scale dwarfing Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, and Ted Bundy put together. When will you realize that the only morally acceptable way to live is to beat off into a ziplock bag three times a day and store it in your freezer until the day that scientists figure out what to do with it all? When will you realize that meiosis is the “moment that changes everything.”

  • Ray and Michael-

    Now the claims has changed. I was making a statement on social values, you responded that insurance companies have driven our social values, I disagree, and then you show how insurance companies have adversely effected consumers. Those are different issues. Of course insurance companies try to limit their costs, that’s what business do. The problem with insurance is that it allows an entity to externalize all risk on society instead of taking it on themselves. That’s all interesting economic theory, and likely we’ll agree, but that has nothing to do with how our moral framework has been influenced.

    The Fifth Dentist-

    Sperm doesn’t spontaenously generate into life. It’s only after conception that a full genetic code is present to create a biological human. You would know that if you weren’t a product of public education. And in unrelated news, I don’t have a 7th grade sexual maturity, I don’t beat off the second I see a girl in a bra, or for that matter, don’t go searching for pretty little pictures to fantasize over. You don’t need to project your sexual pathologies unto others…

  • The very fact that insurance companies “externalize all risk on society instead of taking it on themselves”, as you put it, has everything to do with our moral framework. That’s not economic theory–that’s rationalizing evil.
    Let me reiterate–the corporations place profit above ethics,and no spin can alter that fact. If turning people away from medical care because the policy doesn’t cover it isn’t immoral, I don’t know what is.
    Insurance in general is a con game– you’re betting something bad will happen–the insurer is betting it won’t. And since they run the table, they almost always win.

  • Dave-

    A single skin cell is not a human, it’s part of a human. Let’s have serious arguments please. I’m one person, not billions of little cell-people. A post-conception cell isn’t the same as skin or blood cells. Can we attempt to pretend we’re intelligent here?


    You are talking about **THEIR** ethics, I’m talking about societies’ ethics. I’d be prefectly happy to get rid of insurance all together because in almost all cases it is nothing more than welfare for lawyers and actuaries. Did I create that system? No. Did anyone who is reading this thread? No. I fail to see how they’re actions are changing my morality, and that’s my point.

    The reason people are turned away by their insurance companies when they need medical care is because the patients aren’t the customer. Insurance companies are paid be either (a) employers, (b) the government, or (c) no one. If health insurance companies had to fight in a meaningful way for customers, you’d see alot less pissing off customers.

    There are ways to align the profit motive so that you get ethical results. Rule one for doing that is by making every business internalize their costs, not externalize them (With insurance).

  • “Their” ethics become “our” ethics when we sit idly by and not admitting we allowed this system to happen. To say that we have to make businesses internalize their costs rather than externalize them through insurance is ludicrous.
    Talk to the seniors whose medication is no longer covered, to the millions who have to choose between meds and food, to all the Americans who have seen their options systematically stripped away by the new trend towards privatization before you hold insurance companies blameless.
    You are right in one regard, though. We are on the path to creating a super race–and it will be ruled by those who can afford to live in the corporate world.

  • John Bambenek writes, “I also don’t see say legislation against abortion and providing economic, moral, and social support for mothers as mutually exclusive. In fact, if there was that support for motherhood, I doubt that abortion would even be on the table in the first place.”

    To be sure, stating that the two are mutually exclusive is a false dichotomy, even if the latter would actually reduce the number of abortions, while the former would not be very effective at all.

    That last sentence was the exact point I was trying to make. If we were to give meaningful support to motherhood, the abortion matter would eventually take care of itself, regardless of the status of Roe vs. Wade.

    Did you know that most late-term abortions are performed because the fetus has died inside the womb and that these procedures are necessary to save women’s lives?

    Women who obtain abortions for the purpose of “convenience” almost always do so in the first trimester, before they start gaining weight. Women who are vain enough to use abortion as a form of retroactive birth control do not usually procrastinate about these things — and almost all of us womenfolk can tell that we are pregnant within a week of the onset of amenorrhea.

  • Okay, I mixed up “former” and “latter” in that last comment. Sorry about that.

  • No, I did not mix them up. I just got confused for a second. Sorry.

  • Did you know that most late-term abortions are performed because the fetus has died inside the womb and that these procedures are necessary to save women’s lives?

    And sometimes the fetus has died and the procedure is necessary to save their sanity.

    My mother once had a pregnant friend whose baby formed without a head. And even worse…she knew it had no head, yet still carried the baby fullterm and gave birth to it.

    That was going to be horribly traumatic for her either way. But even she said that it would have been much easier for her if she’d had a late term abortion.

    Instead she carried around a headless baby, growing larger and larger, having well-meaning people ask when she was expecting and “do you know the sex?” “Have you picked out a name?” for a child that was already gone.

    Many would say that she did the right thing by not aborting it. But no person of conscience would have considered her a monster if she’d had the abortion.

  • Ray-

    Their ethics don’t become our ethics until we start doing the same thing. If you want to make another point, fine, but that has nothing to do with what I’m saying. We can get into a fine discussion about our responsibility for the insurance system, but our legal system has done it’s finest to keep the “common man” out and relegate laws, litigation, and legislation in the hands of a specialized elite. If your suggestion is simply more of the same socialist nonsense, I’m sorry, history has shown that to be a far worse setup.


    I simply don’t accept that we must allow complete unfettered access to abortion simply because any regulation wouldn’t have any effect. Do we throw up our hands with rape laws and say we must allow rape to occur because the law won’t have any effect? That’s just absurd. While I don’t think we should prosecute mothers, I do think if we make abortion illegal we should nail providers to the wall. No one to provide abortion, abortion goes down. However, I want to reiterate, if we outlaw abortion we are implicitly taking on the responsibility to deal with women in desperate situations. Ignoring them is no solution either.

    If the fetus is dead, then it isn’t abortion. You don’t go to Planned Parenthood to deal with a miscarriage.

  • Aside form the civil rights aspect of the matter, there are practical considerations, too.

    Outlawing abortion today will have the same effect as it did before Roe vs. Wade. Abortions will be unregulated and the criminal element will seize the opportunity to benefit from that deregulation, regardless of the severity of the punishments.

    No matter the intent, this always happens when we attempt to impede the natural laws of supply and demand because our human nature always finds its way around such impediments. Prohibition (1920-1933) and the current war on drugs are two classic examples of this dynamic. Gun control legislation is another.

    I understand how this notion of eschewing interdictive measures and bowing to supply and demand can be misconstrued as “giving up.” It makes no sense to repeal laws — or to not enact them at all — simply because some people violate them regardless of the degrees of the penalties.

    However, in a free country, laws are not supposed to be made for the purpose of regulating the behavior and personal choices of the people for the good of the collective society, but rather to protect and defend the individual rights of the people.

    Legislation against abortion does not protect or defend the rights of the people unless we recognize fetuses as people, which is, realistically speaking, an unworkable proposition.

    This is not a simple issue and it has gotten even more complicated since Roe vs. Wade because, in the last 30 years or so, modern science has confirmed that a fetus is a living thing from the moment of its conception.

    The question now is not really a matter of what qualifies as life, it is one of what qualifies a living thing as a person.

  • Margaret-

    Aside of the fact that the right to commit murder isn’t a civil right, outlawing does have a practical affect on the numbers of abortions. There was nowhere near the number of abortions per capita before Roe than there is now. You could say the same thing for rape, murder, theft, etc. Outlawing it would make in unregulated. Of course it would, but that’s not the point. There may be a demand for rape victims, that does not necessarily follow a just society should supply that demand. There are simply some things we shouldn’t leave up to the market.

    I’m not sure why recognizing conceived but unborn children is unworkable. Roe v Wade tried to draw a line (albeit the wrong ont). The line when life begins NEEDS to be drawn somewhere. It is simply arbitrary that the line is at “birth” (and in practice “abortions” have been done after birth).

    The danger with playing with terms of what qualifies as a “person” is that people develop convenient self-serving definitions. The same was true for slavery, the Holocaust, and pretty much any human abuse throughout history. People simply developed terminology to dehumanize whoever was on the business end of their atrocities. The psychology of racial (and other) slurs is a fascinating (albeit horrifying) testament to the ability of human beings to define away someone else’s humanity.

    We can come up with philosophical constructs that make this a much easier problem to solve. Conception is the “moment that changes everything”, not birth. Birth is an inevitable result of conception, not vice versa.

    We can handle the issues of life-threatening illnesses to the mother (i.e. treat the illness which except in the case of an ectopic pregnancy is almost never being pregnant). We can handle the cases of an already dead child in the womb.

    The civil rights issue you speak of, the woman’s right to her body is dealt with in consent laws. If a woman consents to sex, she implicitly consents to the results that naturally come about from sex. I support a woman’s right to choose which is why I support the vigorous enforcement against the (what should be) capital crime of rape. However, the choice is made manifest when she decides to have sex. By pretending that the decision to have sex and the decision to get pregnant are two seperate events, women and men simply don’t take as much precaution as they would otherwise, or even **gasp** abstain from sex.

  • Since abortion was unregulated until 1973, nobody has any way of knowing how many abortions were performed. Therefore, you may be right or you may be wrong about those pre-Roe statistics.

    The laws of supply and demand don’t actually apply to criminal acts that violate the rights of the people, even if criminality is sometimes, unfortunately, a part of doing business for some people.

    It is easy to determine what is or is not a crime in a free society, it is an act that violates the rights of another person.

    Murder, the intentional killing of a person, violates the victim’s right to life. The crime of rape is actually violation of several of the victim’s civil rights.

    Now, speaking of rape — not in an unseemly manner, of course — in those cases, a woman doesn’t get to choose whether or not to have sex or to implicitly consent to the results that naturally come from that act, yet she can still become pregnant with her rapist’s child.

    (Yes, I know that very very few rape victims actually get pregnant.)

    Now, if a fetus is a person, entitled to the right to life, there can be no exceptions made in the case of rape. Ever. Because fetuses conceived via rape have the same right to life as fetuses conceived under any other circumstance.

    Even in situations in which the mother’s life might be in jeopardy, but her fetus is not dead and the pregnancy is not ectopic. Nevermind the options, who would make that decision?

    As far as the choice to have sexual intercourse and the implicit consent to the natural outcomes of it, I can only remark that contraception sometimes fails. I got two of my four kids that way!

    Which brings me to the personal side of it. Sure, I got pregnant by accident, twice. But I was — and still am — happily married, in excellent health and financially stable (for the most part, at least).

    No matter how disgusting and vile I find the very idea of abortion, I just can’t sit in my “ivory tower” and decide how other consenting adults should conduct their private sex lives or decide what other women — especially the ones who are far less fortunate than I — may or may not do to their own bodies.

    A fetus is a living thing, for certain, but it doesn’t become an actual person until it comes out. I’ve been pregnant four times and that’s how it always worked for me. I loved my children before they were born, but they were a living part of my body, which was a very precious and special blessing, until the moment they were born and became people, separate from me.

    I do not take my radically pro-choice position easily or lightly, I just cannot think of any other way to reconcile the unfortunate reality of abortion with my personal experiences and my principles.

  • Here’s a question, and I’m not being facetious in posing it.

    How would you react to the concept of someone voluntarily selling themselves into slavery to another person?

    What about a relationship where the woman consents to an physically abusive relationship?

  • Bliffle

    JB: “It’s only after conception that a full genetic code is present to create a biological human. You would know that if you weren’t a product of public education.”

    How then to explain parthenogenesis?

  • Bliffle


    You’re very courageous to be the first republican (that I know of) to say that The Culture Of Life leads inevitably to Universal Health Care.

  • I think JB sees that as a bad side effect of the ‘culture of life’, Bliff.


  • Let’s put it this way… should there be Universal Health Care? Sure. As long as the government does it run it or pay for it (which would inevitably lead them to running it).

  • JR

    John Bambenek: How would you react to the concept of someone voluntarily selling themselves into slavery to another person?

    That’s called “getting a job”.

    What about a relationship where the woman consents to an physically abusive relationship?

    And that’s called “masochism”.

    Both must remain legal, no matter how distasteful to the majority of us.

  • cat

    No one to provide abortion, abortion goes down.

    Really? So women jamming coat hangers up their vaginas, overdosing on whatever pills they can acquire, and/or seeking “back alley” abortions — all of that just magically disappears *POOF* because the government ceases to provide women with a safer, more sanitary alternative? Have you even bothered to look at the statistics showing the number of women who died because of or in relation to illegal abortions pre- and post-Roe v. Wade?

    And you account for these occurances in the past…how: because “motherhood” isn’t “supported” by public opinion and governmental policy? I’m especially curious about this argument since illegal abortions were practice in the days which so-called family value oriented politicians wish to return; a time when Americans valued the two parent family: headed by a strong, breadwinning male and cared for in the home by non-working, servile women.

  • Bliffle

    “Let’s put it this way… should there be Universal Health Care? Sure. As long as the government does it run it or pay for it (which would inevitably lead them to running it).”

    Huh? Please explain.

  • JB-

    Slavery means something specific, and getting a job isn’t it. Unless you want to denigrate the slavery of black people for a century or so in this country. And for reference, (1) you cannot sell yourself into slavery, that’s illegal. (2) You cannot consent to abuse even as an adult, that is also illegal. (I wasn’t talking about BDSM anyway, get your mind out of the gutter, I was talking about run of the mill wife-beating).


    I’ve read the horror stories of coat hangers, and guess what, I just don’t buy the urban legends. There simply not true. Would it reduce it to 0, probably not. But it would reduce it, yes.

    To put it another way… a woman is in a desperate situation. Maybe she has an abusive boyfriend, maybe abusive parents. Maybe both. It just happens she gets pregnant (which, in unrelated news is not the problem). She is so desperate that she is about to engage in an extreme act of self-mutilation to end her pregnancy. So, to the rescue, comes Planned Parenthood to help saying “don’t use that hanger, we’ll use sanitary instruments!”, charges her about a grand, then deposits her back into her abusive situation without thinking twice.

    If this were any other company in any other situation, it would be called profiteering and univerally decried by the left as more evil megacorporations and executives at work screwing the poor.

    But listen, it’s like this and there’s no way getting around it. If you all you can bring to the table is demogogery (“they just want to have servile women!”) with this issue, or others like gay marriage, we’re just going to overrule you at the ballot box and do what we want. If you want to contribute to society, you need to do so without running around shitfacing people and creating radical redherrings and straw men conspiracies.

    If the defining mark of women being equal to men is the ability to murder their babies, I’m sorry, but that’s just a sad testament to society. I’d rather that defining mark being able to choose when to have sex. Or better yet, the ability to get a job, vote, or otherwise be given the full measure of dignity they are entitled to.

  • Bliffle-

    Everyone complains about how insurance companies don’t give a shit about patients, and rightfully so because the system takes the patient as far out of the loop as possible so its no wonder that’s how it worked. They cater to your employer not you. Hospitals cater to the insurance company not you. Why? Because in each case, people are catering to the person paying the bills and it isn’t like the patient can choose their vendor. Now, that’s private insurance (a system I do want changed).

    Take all those problems and multiply them by 10. That’s government run health care. Doctors and hospitals are refusing to take Medicare in droves because the government simply won’t pay the bills on time on top of making it a pain in the ass to collect.

    You don’t trust the NSA to listen in to your most likely extremely boring phone calls. You trust the government with your medical records and to make medical decisions for you? What happens when the government decides it is no longer “worth it” to keep you alive? Well, you’re pretty much fucked.

    If we can’t trust the NSA to determine what are or are not important phone calls to listen in on, how the hell can we trust them with the power of life and death over us?

    This is in addition to the fact that every bureaucracy throughout the history of mankind has always been (1) wasteful, (2) inflexible, and (3) power hungry. A government run health care system would be MORE expensive than we have now, if someone needed something outside the “rules”, they’d be left high and dry, and would simply work to establish its own power at the expense of the patients and most likely doctors too.

  • Interesting questions.

    “How would you react to the concept of someone voluntarily selling themselves into slavery to another person?”

    This was called “marriage” back in the bad old days when women were still legally considered chattel. And, indeed, for some folks it is also called “getting a job,” as JR remarked.

    In certain circles, selling oneself into slavery is what you could call a “lifestyle choice.” Now, this sort of thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but consenting adults — be they dominant or submissive — are pretty much allowed to do whatever they please in private.

    Some people might say that convicted criminals implicitly chose to sell themselves into involuntary servitude when they committed the crimes for which they were found guilty and sent to prison.

    The 13th Amendment only covers involuntary servitude. You can sell yourself, you just can’t sell other people.

    “What about a relationship where the woman consents to an physically abusive relationship?”

    Unfortunately, a number of women (and some men, too) implicitly consent to this when they do not stand up for themselves, either by demanding better treatment and counseling for the abuser or by ending the relationship.

    But some people are masochists who are content to have relationships with sadists. There are some strange people out there, you know.

    Freedom can be pretty freaky sometimes. That’s why America is called the land of the free and the home of the brave. One must be possessed of many virtues to live in a free a diverse society like ours, such as courage to accept that other people may pursue happiness in ways that we might find distasteful.

  • The 13th Amendment only covers involuntary servitude. You can sell yourself, you just can’t sell other people.

    Damn your quick thinking, Margaret! That’s what I was going to say! 😉

    (Of course, the law against “involuntary servitude” apparently makes an exception for Selective Service, but that’s another story.)

    And as for this:

    What about a relationship where the woman consents to an physically abusive relationship?

    You do know, don’t you, John, that a man is only prosecuted for spousal abuse if his wife chooses to press charges? So when a woman consents to a physically abusive relationship, essentially it IS legal.

  • I had more pressing matters, but now I find I’m a “socialist.” I’ve been called worse. And as far as being allied to some vague elitist cadre, I’ll readily cop to that.
    But let’s talk mano y mano, shall we, John? We’re both guys, and, shocking as this may seem to you, we really can’t relate to abortion. We just don’t get what goes on in a woman’s mind or body. Am I making simple enough for you so far?
    If all you’re writing is a “pro-life” agenda, then your arguments are flawed at best. There is nothing “pro-life about the pro-lifers any more than there is anything pro-abortion about people who believe that women have a choice about their future.
    Now to say that the current state of insurance in this country has nothing to do with what you’re saying, to shout that it is a business practice that is somehow disconnected from a perceived march toward creating a master race is at the very least asinine.
    Pro-life means not letting the living die needlessly, too.

  • Margaret-

    Please don’t start on marriage as slavery. I know it’s “common knowledge” but the more I hear it and the more I read about it, the more it really just doesn’t seem true.

    But regardless, (1) slavery is illegal, you can’t sell yourself into it., (2) domestic abuse is illegal, even if YOU don’t want them to, the police can and do press charges.

    If you want to argue that it shouldn’t be so, I guess that’s a position, I just didn’t figure you held it.

    I don’t see the cause of freedom hindered by the fact we take battered women and prosecute their abusers, even when they don’t agree. That kind of freedom is the freedom of might makes right within limits. You’re ok if you manipulate people into giving up their freedom, as long as you don’t go “too far” outside the line… I just don’t think that’s a society we want to live in.

  • Michael J. West-

    I can’t speak of how it is everywhere, but I know for Illinois, a wife-beater can (and I know of cases where it has happened) be prosecuted even if the wife explicitly DOESN’T want charges pressed.

  • Ray-

    The idea I have no say about abortion is just outright stupid and anti-democratic. I live in this country and I have an investment in its laws. Women get pregnant from men, so it isn’t precisely true that men aren’t involved. They are involved in the decision to have sex, and they are responsible for everything after that. Just because I don’t own slaves doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion about slavery. Or just because I’m black doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on racism. You get the idea.

    And I’m not sure what you mean by not letting the living die needlessly. I’m not Pat Robertson, I believe people should have health care and I’m against murder and for that matter, capital punishment.

  • Ray-

    Insurance companies don’t influence my morals.

    And unless you are willing to admit that insurance companies dictate your morals too, you are making too different points and switching back and forth for convenience.

    If you want to talk about insurance company ethics, fine. If you want to talk about society’s ethics, fine. But they aren’t synonomous.

  • Of course marriage isn’t slavery in this day and age! But way back when wives used to be the legal property of their husbands, it was.

    Technically, if you’re selling yourself into slavery, it is not involuntary servitude, it is an oxymoron.

    When the police press domestic abuse charges and the victim doesn’t want them to, it is usually not the victim who calls the police, but a third party who reports a disturbance (screaming, glass breaking, etc). The police are obliged to investigate all calls and maintain the peace by arresting whoever is causing a disturbance.

    It is unfortunate that some people will stay in abusive relationships, but you cannot help people who will not choose to help themselves and call it freedom — especially in this day and age when there is so much awareness of domestic abuse and its victims have so many options, so when they want help and ask for it, they should be able to get it.

    No, the cause of freedom is not hindered by the fact we prosecute domestic abusers even when their victims don’t agree. But that’s because we have a right to peace and because the right to privacy carries with it the obligation to keep private matters private and out of the public’s eyes and ears.

  • If we are talking the western world, no, I really don’t believe this idea that women were property. It’s certainly completely irreconciliable with even the most generous reading of Scripture in dealing with marriage. (The Christian tradition at least).

    And that’s a unique view of why we prosecute domestic abuse… simply because someone was making noise. If that were true, it would be a ticket like a noise violation, not a criminal offense in which the court can order you out of the domicile for reasonable cause.

    I’m guessing we’ll have to agree to disagree on this point, but I refuse to accept that freedom requires that we must stand by and allow those with the greatest power of manipulation, fear, or persuasion to oppress and use the weakest members of society, simply because they lack the power to protest.

  • JR

    I thought we were talking about those who lack the desire to protest.

  • With battered woman syndrome, there are some woman who lack the ability to protest. It’s a well known psychological phenomona which is a good part of the reason we prosecute wife-beaters regardless of what they have to say on the matter. We aren’t talking simple BDSM here.

  • Bill

    The Schiavo case was simply about what her wishes would be in the circumstances.

    Because of the perceived husband’s conflict of interest, Richard Pearse, the second guardian ad litem, recommended a bench trial take place to determine Ms. Schiavo’s wishes.

    That is exactly what happpened – the court itself made the determination, after 2 trials and multiple appeals (the appellate court granted a second trial)

    No guardian ever had the authority to remove the feeding tube on their own.

    Only the court could order that (technically, the appellate court ordered the trial court)

    The Schiavo case was NOT about futile care theory.

  • If you believe that, then you didn’t pay attention to the case. There was never any hard evidence that Terri wanted what she got. And it most certainly was about futile care because she was perfectly alive when she had the feeding tube removed.

  • Bill

    I’m speaking about the legal case, not about opinion on the case.

    The issue of futile care NEVER came up in any legal proceeding – the legal case was exclusively about her wishes.

    Under Florida law, orally expressed wishes MUST be considered, see:

    In public opinion, her parents chose to claim it was about futile care, since they lost legally very early on, after they admitted they would simply ignore her wishes in favor of their own:

    “Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony
    by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that
    they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs.

    Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her
    intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it.” (p. 14)

    Wolfson Report pdf

    Were you familiar with any of the above?

  • The way arguments are framed in court means nothing to me. It was about futile care, regardless of how they wanted to present their case in court.

    I’m familiar with the parents wishes… it’s an interesting hypothetical, but entirely irrelevant. What matters, if we are limiting ourselves to law, is whether or not she expressed those wishes, not whether the parents would follow through.

    However, I’m sure you are familiar with the fact that Michael was engaged to another woman who he had two children with at the time of the end of the Terri ordeal. Is that not a conflict of interest too?

  • Bill

    Under Florida law, oral wishes must be considered, but do not automatically rise to the standard of “clear and convincing.”

    Which is why there was a trial.

    The Schindlers were never able to present any testimony that she would want to leave the feeding tube in place.

    In contrast, 3 other witnesses testified that she would not, and the trial court agreed that met the “clear and convincing” standard under Florida law.

    Even the appellate court noted they would make the same decision as did the trial court, on the facts of the case.

    Considering that the Schindlers themselves were the first ones to urge their son-in-law to go out and date, it’s hard to see how that is a legitimate conflict of interest.

    As they admit, they did not merely acquiesce, but actively encouraged him to go out with other women.

    You can find most of the legal aspects of the case discussed here:


  • You’re repeating the same crap everyone already knows. And the Schiavo’s were encouraging him to move on with his life INSTEAD of putting Terri to death, not both.

  • I believe that he was so anxious to end her life because if she were to miraculously wake up she might tell a story that would put him a way for a while.

  • Bill

    I hope you would not suggest it is acceptable to ignore someone’s wishes in favor of your own.

    Legally, and morally, we are bound to respect others’ end of life wishes, no matter if we agree with them or not.

    But, again, the legal case never was about futile care theory, only determining her wishes about whether or not to continue with the feeding tube.

    There is at least one recent case in Texas that does concern futile care, however:

  • Bill-

    Sometimes it is acceptable to ignore someone’s wishes, I’ve commented on my thoughts on prosecutors charging wifebeaters against their wife’s/gf’s/etc wishes. Mentally ill people would be another blanket category. Criminals another. Children yet another. Sometimes you should go against the wishes of others. You just need to do it at the right time for the right reason, blah blah blah. End of life issues are a new subject but since we are dealing with actions that directly bring about that end of life, I’m not so convinced. Put it another way, if she had a documented living will that had her wishes, I’d think it was wrong and a form of suicide, but we wouldn’t have had the big media blitz. The only real evidence was a husband who has already taken another woman as his fiancee, had two kids with her, and based his testimony on an offhanded comment in response to a TV show years ago. That’s somewhat anorexic as evidence goes.

    You are reframing my argument to make this strictly about the law, I’m sorry, that’s not my point. It was a futile care issue, regardless of how the lawyers framed their arguments. The theory was that it was futile to keep her alive and she wouldn’t want to remain alive in that state.

  • Bill

    Yet you present no evidence to support your statement “that it was futile to keep her alive.”

    As for the issue of ignoring end-of-life wishes, within her own faith tradition, the current “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” makes it clear it is the patient, not a family member, who ultimately determines whether or not a medical treatment constitutes extraordinary care, which can be forgone:


    Neither you or I have standing to make such a judgement.

    And when the patient makes such a judgement to discontinue care, following those guidelines, it is not suicide, though it lead to their death.

  • It was futile in the way it was defined… she had no hope of recovery. I don’t need to present evidence, that’s the definition of the word. If you want evidence, I suggest you look at OED as to what futile means.

    If you want to talk about her faith tradition, one which I share and am a graduate student in theology of that tradition, you are making a radical misinterpretation of what that means. Food and water is specifically and clearly outside the scope of that directive and it may never be withheld for the purpose of speeding the death of a patient. That Catholic Church is quite clear in its position that the giving of food and water is not medical care but a humanitarian necessity.

    In short, I’m perfectly capable of making that judgement because you are speaking quite directly to a field of my expertise. Now if Terri was kept alive with a respirator, you’d have a point.

  • Bill

    What you are forgetting are the complications that come from the long-term use of a feeding tube, and thus the issue of benefit vs. burden of the tube itself.

    Ms. Schiavo suffered from repeated hospitalizations, some of which were as a direct result of the feeding tube being mispositioned, causing her to choke/vomit/aspirate and develop pneumonia.

    The Schindler’s own book relates no less than 3 hospitalizations to cure a single instance of pneumonia in 2003.

    Ms, Schiavo could have elected to discontinue the feeding tube, based alone on the physical burdens the use of it imposed on her, as the “Directives” allow (“we may reject life-prolonging procedures that are insufficiently beneficial or excessively burdensome.”)

    You could argue, of course, that you personally wished to suffer the significant consequences of the long-term use of a feeding tube (haven’t even discussed the life-threatening infections that can occur), but looking to the “Directives” it is clear you cannot impose such a requirement upon another member of your faith.

  • I’m sorry, but are you Catholic by any chance? Do you have any expertise in Catholic social teaching we should be aware of, because I do.

    You are completely misappropriating Catholic teaching on this point. The Pope himself, along with many bishops in the United States have made it unequivocably clear what the teaching means, and it doesn’t allow to remove a feeding tube simply because it’s too hard or because of medical negligence. Food and water is specifically considered medical care and can only be withdrawn when a patient is terminally ill and near death. Terri Schiavo was neither, nor was the feeding tube a burden that even comes close to outweighing the duty to provide food and water.

    Unless you have some expertise in Catholic moral/social/theological teaching, I suggest you don’t venture to cherry pick a couple of sentences to tell me what my faith says. Especially when I’m a graduate student in theology of that same faith.