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Despite global population pressures which many hold responsible for endemic hunger, overcrowding and environmental impacts, pro-life advocates, largely on religious grounds, argue that it is proper that the numbers of mankind increase, and that it is up to humankind to figure out how to support and care for the products of unwated pregnancies without denying them life. Pro-choice forces point to the misery index of unwanted babies, raised in a hostile environment, and the manner in which an increase of such infants might contribute to a panoply of social ills, from increases in crime, to a broadening of the population base of those living below the poverty level, to a ballooning of the state welfare rolls.

This is a perfect example of text that fails to adhere to a neutral point of view. If you want to contribute to Wikipedia, you must make a very strong effort to write from a neutral point of view. If you think this is impossible or a bad idea, please see neutral point of view, where all is made clear and plausible. Wikipedia is not a platform for advocacy of any kind, period.

By the way, I think the above could be rewritten and included, but I don't have the time and energy to do it. I hope someone else will. --LMS


I agree with Larry on this one, if the pro-life position was correctly stated. Something along the following lines would be much more accurate than what is written: "Pro-life advocates largely adhere to the view that life begins at conception. Thus abortion is considered murder, proscribed in most religious traditions."

No disputing that many pro-lifers carry an excessive amount of accessory cultural baggage that appears at least archaic if not incomprehensible to many contemporary people, but the "abortion is murder" theme is the basic issue. DMD


I think it's better now...


Superb. DMD


I didn't like Hank's evisceration of the religious basis for the pro-life argument. It is simply a fact that most pro-lifers are such for religious reasons, and it's dishonest to soft-pedal that. --LDC

Hm, but I think it has gone too far the other way now, esp. with the statement about a vague biological basis. I'm anti-abortion personally for religious reasons. I'm also against it politically, but here I switch to a biological and civil argument rather than expecting everyone to adopt my religious views. I'll put those arguments below for everyone's amusement, but the point is that I think there's a danger of taking the fact that we're religous to imply that our political argument is also fundamentally religous.

If you think its too anti-religion now I certainly won't object to a more neutral wording, so long as it is clear that the majority of of pro-lifers hold their view for religious reasons; that's simply a fact. They also _justify_ their beliefs by appeal (rational and otherwise) to non-religious argument, but that's a reaction after-the-fact. They know that religious arguments don't wash with pro-choicers, so they have to resort to non-religious arguments for a point of view that they still nonetheless hold for religious reasons.

BTW, is the pro-abortion side any more grounded biologically?

The idea of an average timeframe in which a fetus is viable isn't really disputed, nor is the idea that a fetus is always of species homo sapiens. The arguments I see from both sides tend to be on a civil rights basis, anyway. Where's the controversy (or room for vagueness) in the biology itself?

I don't think there are any arguments about the biology: the arguments are about social policy. We do want to enact social policies forbidding certain kinds of harm to certain persons in certain situations. The question is whether that desire is rationally applied to fetuses in conflict with our equally valid desire to protect the self-determination of the women carrying them.

Anyway, here's my argument from the non-religous point of view. Biologically, we're always the same species from conception. In terms of civil rights, then, to argue that babies which can't survive without mom don't warrant protection as other homo sapiens is to judge the right to life on essentially technological grounds - if somebody invented a machine which could support a 1 week old fetus outside the mother after, say, it was removed by induced labor, and then let it develop to maturity, we should then move the legal cutoff back to 1 week, since we could, with no difference to the mother, raise the child to maturity. But this philosophy says that we let the state of available technology affect what we elsewhere call inalienable rights. And how different is that from selectively offering rights based on the business concept in which one holds a receipt for purchase of a slave?

I'm certainly not arguing "technological grounds". "Viability" is certainly one other point at which we might say the state can step in, and it is perhaps a more rational one than conception, but I don't think that pro-choicers in general hang their argument on that one hook. Even if there were some technical means to bring any conception to term, I for one would certainly not require it--that would be even more horrific. The majority of conceptions have genetic defects and either never implant or are spontaneously miscarried without the woman ever knowing. It would be just as irrational to interfere with that natural process to protect every zygote as it would be to interfere by aborting every zygote.

Or even more fundamentally, in a balance between a women's freedom to choose a non-critical (to her own life or long-term health) medical procedure and the question of whether a certain creature is considered human, shouldn't we adopt a person-until-proven-otherwise attitude? Biologically, sure, there are differences in how a pre-natal fetus must be provided its oxygen and food (from an umbilical connection to its mother) and how an infant must be provided its sustenance (by being slapped on the butt and then fed by hand), but what bearing does that have on human rights? We have negligence laws for people who let infants die by not feeding them, even if they live out in the woods and can't give them away without taking a 9-month long hike to town. Here neither biology /nor/ religion are really at issue, AFAICT.

The question to ask is WHY we wish, as social policy, to protect persons from harm in ways we don't apply to other things like objects, animals, human tissues, and similar things? A dog is an aware, sentient being no less than a person, but we don't protect them unconditionally. My own skin cells are living cells with my unique DNA no less than the few cells of the zygote from which I came, yet I shed thousands of them to die regularly. What is it about people that makes us want to protect them? I think it is rational to point to things like feeling: people experience feelings, perceptions, thoughts; they have memories, opinions, intentions. Murdering a person puts an end to all those valuable things, while my shedding a few skin cells (or even killing a few brain cells with a drink) does not. Killing a cow might cause it to experience pain, but we even allow that on grounds that the benefit to society of the food is great enough to justify it. If we make these kinds of judgments about other biological things, why should we not make the same judgments about zygotes? Clearly, an 8-cell zygote that hasn't even started cell differentiation yet, and has no nerve cells, no brain, no sense organs, etc. does not possess any of those qualities--intentions, memories, thoughts--that we find special about "people", so applying the protections we grant people to those cells is as ridiculous as applying them to my skin cells. On the other hand, one might reasonably argue that an infant at some later point of development does have some of those things--so it might be reational to apply some of those protections at some point before birth. This argument has nothing to do with "viability".

So again, the question is not biology; it's social policy and religion. If you think it is rational to use force (and make no mistake--if you advocate laws, you are advocating force) to restrict a woman's freedom to protect some cells that don't have any special properties my own skin cells don't have, you must convince me WHY it is rational to do so. If your only reason is that those cells have a "soul" or something, then I remain unconvinced. --LDC

I think it might be helpful if we let pro-life people rather than pro-choice people characterize the pro-life position, and vice versa. Rebuttal to the pro-life positiion should be included with the pro-choice position of which it is a part, rather than inserted in the description of the pro-life position. --HWR

I wouldn't disagree--as long as you present the position honestly and accurately, that is, as long as the argument accurately reports what most people on that side of the argument actually believe and what arguments they actually use. I would expect the same from the pro-choice side. So while I, for example, do not think "viability" and "dependence" have any relevance to my position on the issue, those arguments are in fact used by many others on the pro-choice side, so I would expect them to be included here. --LDC

It is simply wrong, in terms of biology, to suggest that there is no difference between a zygote and a somatic cell from the skin. The zygote is a developing organism, the skin cell is not. What the zygote posseses is not a "soul" but a "life", as an individual of the species homo sapiens. --HWR

I am more concerned here about what coverage of the arguments belongs in an encyclopedia article than in the arguments themselves, but as long as we're here--please don't dignify your semantic arguments by calling them "biology". Real science doesn't hide behind definitions and wordplay, but actual observable facts. Every cell of every organism has some unique feature; something that distinguishes it. "Developing organism" is meaningless; all cells develop in some way. If I put a skin cell in a Petri dish with food and water it would live, metabolize, grow, divide, and continue living and developing for many generations, no different from an amoeba or any other living cell. If I implanted into someone geneticially similar to me, it would attach itself and go to work. Unlike a fertilized egg, it will never become anything but a skin cell--but neither will an amoeba become anything but an amoeba. You can't say that, however, about cord-blood stem cells. They can develop into anything, from a heart to a brain, and they've always been discarded for all of history. If you judge the "value" or "worth" of a cell by what it can become, then cord-blood stem cells deserve equal treatment to embryonic stem cells. If you emplant a cord-blood stem cell into a developing embryo at the right stage, it will attach itself and divide and become part of the growing organism just like any of the other cells, and the embryo will grow up to be a genetic chimera (which occur naturally from time to time as well).

If you don't want to use the word "soul", then tell me why you seem to think that (1) there is some definition of "life"--using only physically observable facts of nature--that applies to a newly fertilized zygote that does not apply to a cord-blood stem cell; or (2) why you think it is rational to apply laws designed to protect "people" from harm to entities that have no means of experiencing harm or anything else. You can't even say that a zygote is unique in that it can become a human being while other cells can't--that's not true anymore. Somatic cells can be cloned and develop into full organisms. And you certainly can't say that clones won't have rights--because then natural identical twins wouldn't either. --LDC

As I said, each human life begins at conception. This is a basic fact of human reproductive biology. Natural conception results from the union of parental gametes, but it may also be possible to achieve conception through various artificial cell manipulations. In either case, a human life is created. A zygote does not "become" a human being, it "is" a human being. (This would be true of zygotes produced by cloning as well as fertilization.) A human life is not a property (or a potential), it is a process. The beginning of that process is conception. -- HWR

That's not a fact, it's a definition. Definitions aren't facts, they're just semantic games. If that's the way you want to play it, then fine--I totally concede your definition of "human life" to include zygotes (although you don't specify at what point that achieve this--"conception" is not a point, it is itself a multi-stage process). It's also clearly a mistake to say that anything is "created" at conception--a fertilized egg does not contain any atoms or energy that didn't already exist in the gametes, so I fail to see your point there. But so what? That's just a definition, it doesn't actually say anything. Your argument seems to be: (1) "Human life" includes people at all stages of development; (2) The state should step in to protect "human life"; (3) Therefore, the state should protect zygotes. Premise 1 is a completely rational definition, and I think many pro-choicers would even agree. But then premise 2 becomes false, because the majority of people don't believe that the state should protect zygotes at the expense of their mother's autonomy. So in order to make your argument work, you must explain why premise 2 remains true under your definition of life that includes zygotes, using real political arguments, not just sematic wordplay. Until you do that, you're just blowing hot air.

Secondly, all of this belongs on commentary pages. The "Abortion" page should report on the basics of the arguments, and maybe even link to some more detailed ones, but it should not contain the arguments themselves. --LDC

I agree that the debate itself should happen here. Deciding how to characterize the positions from a neutral point of view is a tricky one, though, and I like the suggestion that it represent the most common arguments from each side, whether they be religous or whatever. I started looking around for demographic info, but so far the normal rhetoric is all I'm finding. Anybody know of sources which have attempted to survey how many people hold a particular view on abortion? -J


In the ideal world, the debate over abortion would not happen here. It would be left to Usenet. In the ideal world, debate about how to characterize the debate about abortion would happen here.

Hank, and anyone else who hasn't done so, read neutral point of view carefully. If you cannot abide by it, you are simply not welcome here. --LMS


Do to the extreme and persistant anti-abortion prejudice displayed in the deletion of attempts to some remove obvious phrasing bias, and to create a objective observation of the facts in the pro-choice discussion the value of having this article is mitigated, and perhaps should be reduced to something simple.

I, and others before me, dedicated substantial thought and time to objectifying this article only to have an unexplained reversion of all changes and additions. Since my attempts to neutralize prejudicial words and phrases were completely removed without thought, dicussion, or examination it seems as if the process is broken in this case. Futhermore, the following summary definitions might make a good unbiased overview, but I would expect someone in particular to modify it to remove the word freedom and add the work baby killing or something equivelent.

Sorry about shouting in the first revision of these comments, but perhaps with the above explanation you can see the reason for my frustration. I have contributed to a few other articles, but never felt so insulted as by the dismission of my work. --Jonathan
I don't know who wrote this (please sign your comments if you're going to make dramatic statements), but I totally disagree. We can find a way to state this fairly, and we will. --LMS

After all Hank Ramsy will delete anything that doesn't strictly support his particular (uncommonly secular) version of the anti-abortion position. Thus all attempts at fair observations will (perhaps) be limited to here. Perhaps something as succinct as the following might be made to stick, but I really doubt it.

Abortion: A generally accepted, but highly contentious way to ending pregnancy for medical or other personal reasons. Pro-Choice: People who believe that the decision to end a pregancy is a personal freedom issue which should be left up to the pregnant mother. Pro-Life: People who believe that the fetus should actually be considered independent person in the eyes of the law thus making abortion equivalent to murder.


I wonder whether there perhaps this article should be split up into two or perhaps three? At the moment it is about three different topics, which are approximately

  • What abortion is, and what methods are used
  • The general arguments for and against abortion
  • The legal situation in the US

As all of these are different perhaps they should be separated?


The topic of this article is abortion, and we would be neglecting our duty if we were to ignore stating the leading views about it simply because, allegedly (actually, I don't know if this is true, and I don't care to investigate it), one person insists on making the article biased. With sufficient public reprimanding, such a person will be brought to see the merits of the neutral point of view, or he will leave. --LMS


Now, I am going to edit this article so that it presents the views fairly, or as fairly as I can make them right now. If you disagree with my edits, explain below why you think they are mistaken. --LMS


What exactly is a religionist? Could another term be better used here instead? Does it mean 'religious person', or 'religious leader', or 'religious authorities'? --Simon J Kissane


http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=religionist

OK, I'm done with my edits now. I have integrated objections to all arguments, as is perfectly reasonable to do (it's extremely useful information, for one thing). I have also done something that no one thought to do so far, namely, to distinguish the different positions it's possible to have about abortion. Frankly, I think there are only two reasons why someone cannot continue on in this fashion I've tried to demonstrate: (1) the person is so irremediably biased that he or she is incapable of it--in that case, please go work on some other article; (2) the person just doesn't know the subject very well--ditto. I'm rather disgusted with the way you all have handled this controversy. In the future, please try to be more adult about it. --LMS


Looking at the definitions at the link you have provided above, I note that two of its three meanings are perjorative, and the third denotes simply 'religious person'. So I am going to change the word 'religionists' to 'religious people'. -- Simon J Kissane


Very reasonable--fine by me! --LMS


A fantastic revision, Larry. --KQ


Revised and signed my earlier talk comments (please review)... This revision is a substantial improvement, though I still feel that the introduction uses some "hot" language without explaination. Specifically, "deliberate termination" and "unwanted pregnancy" are strong phrases from the perspective of the mother who may need to exercise the option for personal medical reasons, pontentially severe birth defects, because of rape, or even fear of being beaten by the family or the person who's sperm fertilized the her egg. I have never talked to one woman who actually WANTED to have an abortion; in fact of the small subset of these who have had an abortion every single one was traumatized by every step of the experience that they had been forced into. (BTW Larry, it would be nice to see these points incorporated too.) Alternate suggestion reducing socially heated phrasing: "electing to end an unfavorable/adverse/detrimental pregnancy". Please note that this is in line with the common case as per the article's introduction. Therefore not noting the adversity of the majority case is biased by virtue of being insufficently qualified.

--Jonathan


I just deleted the word "unwanted", but kept the word deliberate on the grounds that it has to be distinguished from accidentally induced miscarriage. Simon J Kissane


Why not replace "deliberate" with "elected" and "terminate" with "end"? This way meaning is still explicit, but the hot terms are mitigated. --Jonathan


I would suggest someone put arguments for and against abortion into a sub-article, and flesh them out in more detail? I am too tired to do it right now. -- Simon J Kissane

Larry, I'm afraid that part of the problem is that there is no agreement as to what is a "neutral" presentation. What exactly was the objection to the phrase "deliberate terminatation", for example? Why is this claimed to be a "strong phrase"? It is succinct and accurate. Does anyone seriously claim that the abortions being discussed (that is, excluding spontaneous abortions) are not "deliberate"? Or that they do not cause the "termination" of the pregnancy (not to mention, which I didn't, the life of the unborn)? The objection seems to be that the phrase was not sufficiently sympathetic to the feelings of the people choosing the abortion. In other words, my phrasing didn't adequately express a "pro-choice" bias. Now if I had said something in the definition about "killing of an unborn child", there would be cause for complaint. But "deliberate termination"? I would suggest that the problem here is not my lack of neutrality, but that of the"pro-choice" advocates. Similarly, the phrase "unwanted preganancy" is a very common usage, mostly by the "pro-choice" side in fact. Even in the case of theraputic abortions, whatever the reason, clearly the pregnancy being terminated is "unwanted", even if a pregnancy in general is. I suppose one could argue that this is obvious so the use of "unwanted" is superfluous. But I would not agree that my use of it violated neutrality. Of course it is entirely appropriate to include in the article a thorough discussion of all the reasons why one might want to choose terminate a pregnancy. But failing to enumerate them in the introductory definition is not an indication of bias. I can assure you that I had no intention to violate neutrality, and did not believe I did so. I made changes that I thought improved the accuracy and neutrality of the text. I was particularly concerned with what I felt were distortions of the "pro-life" viewpoint, that were obviously written by someone of the opposing view. As someone on the "pro-life" side, I felt I was more qualified to present the argument from that side than its opponents. I expected my arguments to be rebutted, but instead they were rewritten. Where I disagreed with the rewrite, I replaced it. Obviously endless rewrites are unproductive. But what is the alternative? I suggested clearly separating the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" perspectives, but that wasn't respected. I might add that I don't appreciate your scolding. I think the question of how to address this kind of disagreement is a serious issue concerning the wiki paradigm. That's the only reason I pursued it. If you have a solution, I'd be happy to hear it. Or maybe your solution is simply to tell people you disagree with that they're "unwelcome". Hey, I guess I can live with that. - Hank Ramsey


The idea is not to provide two biased arguments, but rather to attempt to use neutral and clinical language to present the facts and describe the positions themselves. Furthermore the introduction is intended to provided a descriptive overview in the most socially neutral possible language. (For example: the phone company destroyed my connection to my friend vs. the phone companies equipment dropped the call while I was talking to someone). In other words it is possible to be linguistically accurate without being socially neutral which is exactly what you were doing. Futhermore you misrepresented the 'Pro-Life' position which is predominently religiously founded because it doesn't represent your uncommonly secular 'Pro-Life' position. It's no surprise that neutralizing the language weakens the fire of anyone rhetoric, but for an encyclopedia that is the goal not a failure. Don't forget (as detailed in my previous entry) virtually NO pregnant woman WANTS to have an abortion, and that language that implies otherwise is in itself biased.

--Jonathan--

Which of course brings us back to bias in the other direction, if I may jump in. You cite these as reasons why people wouldn't /want/ an abortion and supply an anecdote that everyone you've known hasn't actually /wanted/ one: medical reasons, pontentially severe birth defects, because of rape, or even fear of being beaten by the family or the person who's sperm fertilized the her egg.

And these are valid reasons why someone might opt for one as the lesser of evils in a very difficult situation. (And of course these ideas are here on the talk page, which means that they don't have to be unbiased). But here's my point: all the claims I've heard (which makes my claim also essentially anecdotal, admittedly) are that the majority of abortions are done for convenience, not for medical, danger, rape or incest reasons. Those abortions are specifically excepted by many pro-lifers that I know, and were legal long before Roe vs. Wade. Okay, so much for tired rhetoric from my point of view. I'm just trying to point out that while your rewording was more neutral in one way, it also reflects biases of your own.

Which brings me to the second point of contention, that of a religous base for the pro-life side. We've now seen two wikipedians who've come across that idea and said "hey, /I'm/ pro-life for other-than-religous reasons." Which makes me suspicious of that concept. So again, if we're really so set on reporting what the /majority/ believes, we really ought to find some good statistics somewhere.

Or just stop trying to characterize the "majority" of either group, which is always going to bother almost everyone. A pro-life moderate won't like to be classed with a bunch of zealots, zealots won't like being classed with a faithless moderate, ad nauseum.


Jonathan, I used the word "deliberate" as a synonym for "intentional" and an antonym for "accidental" or "natural". That is, I believe, a correct usage. Would "intentional" be more "socially neutral"? I don't see how. I suppose the word "deliberate" might be taken to imply thoughtful, careful consideration as well as mere intent. But how could that be objectionable? Surely an abortion decision is never made capriciously. As for intent, I do not doubt that every woman who chooses to have an abortion regrets having to make that choice. But if she did not want to have the abortion, it would not happen. It is a matter of her choice (as in "pro-choice"). That is what is meant by "intentional". Also, I would disagree that it is not appropriate for the article to include a clear presentation of arguments that are used to support various positions in the debate. But I do understand why that would make the "pro-choice" side uncomfortable, since their political success depends largely on obfuscation. As for the idea that the "pro-life" position is "religiously founded", that is of course a central dogma of the "pro-choice" side. But it is most certainly false, at least insofar as it is intended to suggest that the "pro-life" position cannot be advocated on a non-religious basis. - Hank Ramsey


I also think it is simply inaccurate to describe abortion only as the "early termination of pregnancy", since a premature cesarean delivery also terminates pregnancy, but is not considered abortion because it does so in such a way as to preserve the life of the fetus. If the fetus does survive an attempted abortion (admittedly extremely rare) the abortion attempt is considered to have failed. So the concept of abortion clearly requires the death of the embryo or fetus, as well as the termination of the pregnancy. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Editon) makes this explicit in its definition. But I am hesitant to make the necessary correction to the Wikipedia page because I would undoubtedly by accused of "pro-life" bias and be reminded that I am unwelcome. - Hank Ramsey


Actually, that's a good change, and I just made it. Some of us actually do care about honesty and accuracy more than our own political views. --LDC


Minor Point:

Do you actually think that your change removed any doubt in the mind of ANY potential readers as to the meaning of the previous revision? It's not a question of your change being technically inaccurate so much as it not actually affecting the objective knowledge conveyed to the reader.

Sure, 99% of readers already know, so belaboring the point is useless for them. But they aren't the audience. An encyclopedia article should be clear to the 1% who are reading because they have no prior knowledge of the subject at all, and I do think the change is clearer for them.

Major Point:

I really wish some people would try to come up with some sort of statistical survey results especially when those same people don't have any non-threatening personal contact with the unfortunate people who need to get abortions. Pop literature and propaganda literature tend to be very one sided, and can't really be trusted without contact with the people involved on the receiving end of the process.

My number one question to ask women who have abortions: Are you afraid of the consequences of not having an abortions? If ANYONE can find a statistically meaningful set across the women having abortions for whom the majority answer to that exact question is NO I will be shocked.

My number one question to ask "Pro-Life" positers: Do you feel that abortion is wrong in the eyes of God? If ANYONE can find a statistically meaningful majority across the people advocating a "Pro-Life" position who Don't answer YES I will be shocked again.

In addition to all of my reading my emperical evidence strongly suggests these conclusions, and I haven't seen anyone quoting anything emperical to oppose it.

--Jonathan--

Why do you think statistics on people's beliefs are that relevant? They may be interesting from a political point of view, but they are necessarily time-sensitive and culture-sensitive, and not really appropriate for an encyclopedia article. The article should cover the scientific facts, and should outline the political debate and what the sides are. But how many people are on each side and why isn't really important to history, only to present politics. Maybe a separate page on "20th century American political debate on abortion" wouldn't be a bad idea, but I still don't think it's that important in the long run. I'm also rather puzzled by your first question above. My own experience is very limited, having known only one woman who chose abortion--but she was indeed very frightened of the consequences of not having it; not so much the physical risk of childbirth, but the family and social ostracism, loss of options due to loss of time and money to parental responsibilities, having forced continued contact with a man she no longer liked or respected, the prospect of harm to the child from an immature mother and possibly absent father, the possibility that the child might itself share undesirable traits of the father such as violent tendencies, and many other consequences. --LDC

I would not necessarily agree that this kind of information is "not really appropriate for an encyclopedia article". I am inclined to believe that it is appropriate for wikipedia to include any factual information which anyone might want to know.

Having said that, I think Jonathan is almost certainly correct in his prediction of the results of a contemporary survey on the questions he wants to ask. But I am not sure why he considers these questions important. - HWR


I suggested statistics as a more objective way to characterize the sides of the debate, though as I stated above I still think it's not very useful. The problem is that bias creeps in when we try to represent The pro-life side, and then The pro-choice side. As someone who is pro-life, I might want to characterize pro-choice people as entirely driven by selfish convenience, aborting 8-month-old fetuses because they don't fit into their career plans. Contrariwise, I don't like it when pro-lifers are characterized as bible-thumping zealots who think the law ought to reflect their religous dogmas.

Actually, I feel that the debate is obsolete - the current article does a good job characterizing what I see as the major bases for argument, without labeling any particular set of arguments as one side's position. All the bases are belong to us, so to speak. The edits seem to have settled down as well, so I see it as a great success of the Wikipedia. -J

On that note, perhaps someone can do a refactoring of this /Talk page? That means summarizing old comments, or outright deleting them if they're no longer of any interest to anyone. Just please try to be fair in doing the refactoring! --LMS


The big problem with the current state of the abortion dialog is that neither side listens thoughtfully to what the other side is saying, and people in the middle (most people, actually) don't listen to either side anymore. Nearly everybody is tired of the debate. They don't want to hear about it. They especially don't want to THINK about it. This, of course, means victory for the pro-choice side, since their position is the status quo.

In defense of the pro-life side, there is some justification for their not listening much to the pro-choice side. That's because most of what the pro-choice side has to say must be trivially dismissed by the pro-life side. I am referring here to what could be called the "infanticide test". When an issue is advanced as a justification for abortion, you first consider whether it would be regarded as a justification for infanticide. For example, would you regard "family and social ostracism, loss of options due to loss of time and money to parental responsibilities, having forced continued contact with a man she no longer liked or respected, the prospect of harm to the child from an immature mother and possibly absent father, the possibility that the child might itself share undesirable traits of the father such as violent tendencies" as justification for infanticide? Most people wouldn't. The point is that if you believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, then most of the pro-choice argumnents are simply irrelevant. This fact has the potential of greatly simplifying the debate, by focusing on the central issue, but that appears to be threatening to the pro-choice side.

Be all of that as it may, what interested me about this discussion is not so much the abortion issue per se, but rather how the wikipedia paradigm can or should deal with controversial issues. One solution, of course, is refactoring to eliminate unpopular viewpoints. I am not sure that is the best one...

Er, is this a rant in general, or specifically in response to Larry's suggestion that we refactor this Talk page? I don't think anyone's suggesting that we remove comments which are still important and relevant (whether they be popular or unpopular) - just issues which have been resolved in the current incarnation of the Abortion article. I do think they should be preserved somewhere, perhaps on an Abortion/Talk/Old page, so that new people don't come along and fight it all out again. -J

Mostly just a general rant. Actually I agree with Larry (if I understnnd what he's saying) that the discussion here could be summarized, but it would have to be done with care since much of the discussion was about misrepresentation of views. I also agree it could be useful to preserve the original dialog as a warning to others. Perhaps as Abortion/Rants?


It would be nice to see this discussion refactored to enumerated and indexed to address point and counter-point as to what the issues are and what the flow of discourse has been for that issue. Perhaps an FAQ format? First we have the question of feature coverage and then how to cover those features objectively and represent positions accurately. Minority "Pro-Life" or "Pro-Choice" positions should not be charactorized as the common case. However they SHOULD be represented as a minority case. (i.e. A FEW women have abortions because is it a good form of birth control. MOST women who have abortions greatly fear the consequences of not having one. A FEW "Pro-Life" advocates consider the debate in purely secular terms. MOST "Pro-Life" advocates consider abortion wrong in the eyes of their God.) Ignoring the complexity of the discourse would be a simple answers for simply minds failure. Is privacy a right? Is each sperm cell sacred? How about each zygote? Each embryo? Each fetus? At 19 weeks? At 29 weeks? Should there be a funeral for every failed implantation? For every spontanious abortion? Is excessive exercise during pregnency attempted murder? What is a person? How different does it have to be from a pig? From a crawfish? From a chimp? From any other internal organ? Does it have a spirit? When? What is it? If a woman only has enough food for one child and then has another child who gets to live? Do both starve? Who did you kill? Is it societies responsibilty to feed someone elses children? Is that Socialist? Is that bad? If abortion is murder is it ever okay? To save the mother's life? To save a twins life? With severe brain damage? With mild brain damage? What about a 50 year old woman who was raped? What about an 11 year old girl who had consensual sex with an 11 year old boy? Should an article attempt to answer, present, or ignore the issues? What about clones? What about drug addicts? What about the likelyhood of unwanted births resulting in violence at home, on the street, and crime in general? Is society responsible for causing the birth, but not raising the child? When does it become the mothers responsibility?

--Jonathan--


So, you're looking for something like the following?

Is each sperm cell sacred?
No. A sperm cell is simply a cell, not a human being, which is an organism. In fact, like the egg cell (ovum), the sperm cell has only one-half the genetic material of a human body cell. That is because these cells are specialized for the purpose of reproduction. It is the union of sperm and egg, in which their genetic material is combined, which creates a new human being.
How about each zygote? Each embryo? Each fetus?
The terms zygote, embryo and fetus are simply words which describe human beings at various stages of life. They are analagous to the terms infant, juvenile, adolescent and adult. Thus a zygote is not something different from a human being, it is a human being at the initial stage of its life.
What is a person? How different does it have to be from a pig? From a crawfish? From a chimp?
A person is a human being, an individual of the species homo sapiens. Pigs, crawfish and chimps belong to completely different species.
From any other internal organ?
A human being is an organism, not an organ.

And so on?


In a sense yes; such a thing might be a good starting point perhaps not for the primary article so much as for a FAQ about the politics surround the issue. Of course it would be good to include questions provided by as broad a range of people as possible with multiple responses to each question in order to properly reflect the diversity of the debate. Futhermore, it is increasingly clear to me that reducing the debate to only two camps is both incorrect and unfair especially to the "Pro-Life" camp for which the variation in exception cases and prerequisite motivations is very relevant to a given individuals postion. Such a document would need evolve in terms of breadth, phrasing, and depth with occasional efforts at consolidation, but as with anything premature optimization is the cause of many failed equations. If done well something like this could be very helpful to anyone trying to understand the scope and varied nature of the politics surrounding abortions. The best anyone can expect with issues this complex and heavily debated is probably our current semi-stable compromise which is not satisfactory to the more dedicated members of any of the major groups. Most of the rhetoric uses inflamatory or subversive language to make a fairly simply point, and I would like to make sure that no one feels as if any of those points are lost. At the same time it would be a great achievement if we can mitigate the framing inflamatory language used in expressing those ideas. Once again, however, getting the format and the ideas expressed needs to come before any sort of fair and objective clean up and consolidation can occur. Once developed a format for addressing highly debated issues like this could be adapted to debate faqs for use in areas like Gun Control, addition Civil Liberties debates, Environmentalism, and many others.

--Jonathan-- (Who hopes we can fairly and productively have everyones' position made clear.)


9/10ths of this article discusses people talking about abortion - perhaps that can now be considered "covered"? Perhaps further contributions should look towards abortion itself - history, methodologies, statistics, and more of a world-wide view?

(I came looking for a history of abortion ...)


I don't get the connection between the bullet point and the next sentence:

  • Abortion should always be illegal, except in some special circumstances, for example, when the mother's long-term health or life is at stake, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
The latter position represents a point of serious controversy among abortion foes, who feel that, in those cases where the completion of a pregnancy would likely result in severe permanent physical injury or death for the mother, abortion is morally permissible and/or should (continue to) be legally permitted.

Sounds like they're saying: P should be forbidden except when Q is true. And that foes disagree on the grounds that when Q is true, P should be permitted.

Now, unless I'm having a really bad day, this sounds more like a excellent ground of compromise -- exactly the opposite of the point of contention.

Someone please clue me in. Ed Poor


As I read the article, that part is trying to say that the exceptions for rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in serious danger are the cause of some controversy within the anti-abortion movement. That part of the article is somewhat clumsy, though, IMHO. --Robert Merkel
Thanks for cluing me in, Robert. I would try to revise it, but I think I've worn my NOPV stick down to the nub with Creationism