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Is 'personhood' important?

Is personhood important?


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molten_dragon

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One of the points often brought up in abortion debates is over whether or not fetuses are (or should be) legally recognized persons with rights. However, it was recently brought to my attention that some people don't see this as important at all. I'm curious how many other share this view, so I thought I'd try to find out.

Do you believe the question of whether or not a fetus is a person in the legal sense is important to the abortion debate? Why or why not?
 

molten_dragon

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Personally, I believe that it is. Not only do I believe that it's important, I believe that it's pretty much the only part of the issue worth debating. If fetuses are not legally recognized persons (as I believe), then they have no rights, and abortion is not an issue. However, if they were legally recognized as persons and given rights, then I believe the majority of current abortion methods would be homicide, and therefore illegal.
 

Black_Zawisza

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If you mean what I think you do when you say "personhood", then absolutely. After all, if it could be proven (never mind how) that a fetus was as much a person as an adult was, then abortion would obviously be murder.

And then think about how the law treats adult humans. I understand moderate pro-lifers even less than I do pro-choicers, funnily enough. We criminalize the killing of people, except for capital punishment. While the circumstances leading to a murder alter the punishment of the action, that doesn't change the fact that it's still a crime. Assuming a fetus is a person, why should it be any different with it? Why legalize abortion in cases of incest, rape, and when the mother's life is endangered by the baby?
 

Orion

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It's important to pro-life people. It's what their entire opinion rests upon. To pro-choice people, it doesn't come down to universal rules, but rather what the mother thinks it is.

One group's brand of morality vs. another. I am pro-choice because it encompasses both.
 

Black_Zawisza

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It's important to pro-life people. It's what their entire opinion rests upon. To pro-choice people, it doesn't come down to universal rules, but rather what the mother thinks it is.

One group's brand of morality vs. another. I am pro-choice because it encompasses both.
Okay, let me get this straight. You're saying that even if it were somehow proven that a fetus was a person, abortion would still be okay because all that matters is whether the mother thinks it's right or not?

That really doesn't work. You apply that reasoning to anything else, and you can't have any laws whatsoever. Can a serial killer do his thang 'cause he doesn't think it's wrong? Can a Southern hick chain up a black dude and whip him to death if he doesn't think it's wrong? Do you think just about every law in existence ought to be abandoned in order to accommodate their "morality"?

Have fun trying to keep a morally relativistic society alive, brother. There's a reason why you and I have never heard of one.
 
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Orion

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Okay, let me get this straight. You're saying that even if it were somehow proven that a fetus was a person, abortion would still be okay because all that matters is whether the mother thinks it's right or not?

That really doesn't work. You apply that reasoning to anything else, and you can't have any laws whatsoever. Can a serial killer do his thang 'cause he doesn't think it's wrong? Can a Southern hick chain up a black dude and whip him to death if he doesn't think it's wrong? Do you think just about every law in existence ought to be abandoned in order to accommodate their "morality"?

Have fun trying keep a morally relativistic society alive, brother. There's a reason why you and I have never heard of one.
You're calling me morally relativistic. Yes, that's exacty what it is. It's all moral relativism. You're taking an inherently irrational system (abortion) and trying to apply rational rules like "personhood" to it. You can't. The bolded part will never happen in any universal or objective sense, which is why the rest of your argument is easily debunked. Personhood, even for autonomous, adult human beings, is subject to change and is to subjective according to what period of history you look at.

A serial killer murders human born individuals. There is no such thing as a serial killer who kills fetuses. The murder argument is emotional and illogical, and I won't cater to it anymore

If abortion were to become illegal, it would not be because society has arrived at an objective truth about fetuses and personhood, anymore than our own human rights are objective and inalienable; all it would mean is that a particular brand of morality got its way, and that usually happens through mob rule. :shrug:

But by all means, keep taking the moral high ground by telling yourself that you have arrived at some kind of objective truth which is somehow applicable to the rest of us. What you don't understand is that you are not in control here. Whether or not abortion is illegal, women will have abortions if they want them. The only thing the law does is incentivize unsafe procedures in lieu of modern medical technology, and to increase the burden on the penal system. It has no long-term benefit to society.
 

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You're calling me morally relativistic. Yes, that's exacty what it is. It's all moral relativism. You're taking an inherently irrational system (abortion) and trying to apply rational rules like "personhood" to it. You can't. The bolded part will never happen in any universal or objective sense, which is why the rest of your argument is easily debunked. Personhood, even for autonomous, adult human beings, is subject to change and is to subjective according to what period of history you look at.

A serial killer murders human born individuals. There is no such thing as a serial killer who kills fetuses. The murder argument is emotional and illogical, and I won't cater to it anymore

If abortion were to become illegal, it would not be because society has arrived at an objective truth about fetuses and personhood, anymore than our own human rights are objective and inalienable; all it would mean is that a particular brand of morality got its way, and that usually happens through mob rule. :shrug:

But by all means, keep taking the moral high ground by telling yourself that you have arrived at some kind of objective truth which is somehow applicable to the rest of us. What you don't understand is that you are not in control here. Whether or not abortion is illegal, women will have abortions if they want them. The only thing the law does is incentivize unsafe procedures in lieu of modern medical technology, and to increase the burden on the penal system. It has no long-term benefit to society.
The bolded part is the objective truth.
 

Demon of Light

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A serial killer murders human born individuals. There is no such thing as a serial killer who kills fetuses. The murder argument is emotional and illogical, and I won't cater to it anymore
I am not emotional about it or illogical. I consider it murder because I consider every individual human life, even one that is poorly developed, to be as worthy of protection under the law as my own. Like I said in the other thread look at how often the pro-choice side intersects with the assisted suicide and euthanasia crowd.

When someone declares a certain level of human life acceptable to kill it opens up the flood gates by making the developmental state of life a factor. Eugenics has always been a rationally compelling idea and the practice of killing off the feeble and diseased makes good sense from all practical perspectives. You subject the right to life to qualitative evaluations and you end up with mass democide.

If abortion were to become illegal, it would not be because society has arrived at an objective truth about fetuses and personhood, anymore than our own human rights are objective and inalienable; all it would mean is that a particular brand of morality got its way, and that usually happens through mob rule. :shrug:

But by all means, keep taking the moral high ground by telling yourself that you have arrived at some kind of objective truth which is somehow applicable to the rest of us. What you don't understand is that you are not in control here. Whether or not abortion is illegal, women will have abortions if they want them. The only thing the law does is incentivize unsafe procedures in lieu of modern medical technology, and to increase the burden on the penal system. It has no long-term benefit to society.
This last part highlights the danger legalized abortion poses. There are many lives that definitely provide no long-term benefit to society, are you going to say it is ok to kill all of them? Hell, why should it even matter if a woman wants the child or not? It is better that certain unborn children are killed so that we might decrease the surplus population. If one takes the position that there is no rational basis for morality and therefore it should not be a factor then it is an embrace of nihilism. "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" would become the law of the land.
 

molten_dragon

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I understand moderate pro-lifers even less than I do pro-choicers, funnily enough. We criminalize the killing of people, except for capital punishment. While the circumstances leading to a murder alter the punishment of the action, that doesn't change the fact that it's still a crime. Assuming a fetus is a person, why should it be any different with it? Why legalize abortion in cases of incest, rape, and when the mother's life is endangered by the baby?
Well, the last one is easy enough to explain. The law has always supported the legality of killing in self defense. If your own life is threatened, it is generally okay to kill the person who is threatening it. I'm as confused as you are though by the people who believe a fetus has a right to life but still think it's okay to kill it if it was conceived through rape or incest.
 

molten_dragon

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This last part highlights the danger legalized abortion poses. There are many lives that definitely provide no long-term benefit to society, are you going to say it is ok to kill all of them?
The difference is that those lives (assuming they're born people) aren't leeching off of someone else's body and risking that person's health to stay alive.
 

The Uncola

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"Personhood" is nothing more than another in a long line of indefinable, relativist, appeals to emotionalism. It means squat.
 

Aunt Spiker

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One of the points often brought up in abortion debates is over whether or not fetuses are (or should be) legally recognized persons with rights. However, it was recently brought to my attention that some people don't see this as important at all. I'm curious how many other share this view, so I thought I'd try to find out.

Do you believe the question of whether or not a fetus is a person in the legal sense is important to the abortion debate? Why or why not?
To me it's not important.
My thoughts on the issues have absolutely no consideration to the *fetus* what so ever - but the mother, the father, the other siblings. The mortgage, the bills, the rent, the long adoption lists and on and on.

In fact, in a question of abortion - the actual "child" is far from my thoughts because there are so many other things that are more important.

Some has to carry the child, birth the child, make arrangements to adopt out the child, then someone has to nurse/feed the child, change the child, be an overall parent . . . child has to go to school, be sheltered and nutured until they're old enough to live on their own.

Someone's gotta do it - and there just aren't enough rich married straight couples out there.
 

Demon of Light

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The difference is that those lives (assuming they're born people) aren't leeching off of someone else's body and risking that person's health to stay alive.
Not directly, but they are an unnecessary burden on society from a purely rational point of view. Why keep people alive when they will be of no use to society and only serve as a drag on society depleting resources that could be directed to those who can be of use to society? Overpopulation is a serious threat to every person's health.

Consider this argument:

"Personhood" is nothing more than another in a long line of indefinable, relativist, appeals to emotionalism. It means squat.
You begin to equivocate about personhood and you end up with positions like this that eventually render our entire system of law moot. Ultimately you have a nihilistic view of society that is later subsumed by a statist mentality that views the benefit of society as outweighing all other factors.
 

molten_dragon

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Not directly, but they are an unnecessary burden on society from a purely rational point of view. Why keep people alive when they will be of no use to society and only serve as a drag on society depleting resources that could be directed to those who can be of use to society? Overpopulation is a serious threat to every person's health.


Consider this argument:



You begin to equivocate about personhood and you end up with positions like this that eventually render our entire system of law moot. Ultimately you have a nihilistic view of society that is later subsumed by a statist mentality that views the benefit of society as outweighing all other factors.
Slippery slope fallacy. There's no proof that one would (or should) flow from the other.
 

Orion

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I am not emotional about it or illogical. I consider it murder because I consider every individual human life, even one that is poorly developed, to be as worthy of protection under the law as my own.
I don't.

If a zygote has personhood then a skin cell on my arm has personhood. They are at the same level of development. You offer nothing that makes me believe that some cells in the womb (which could easily miscarry) deserve personhood, only your say so.

Like I said in the other thread look at how often the pro-choice side intersects with the assisted suicide and euthanasia crowd.
Euthanasia and abortion are hardly the same thing. If you can't tell the difference then there really is no hope for you in this debate.

When someone declares a certain level of human life acceptable to kill it opens up the flood gates by making the developmental state of life a factor.
As I mentioned previously and in other threads, the level of development is not as relevant as the subjective importance that the woman places on her fetus. It is the difference between being a woman with an unwanted life growing in her, and a mother. The woman decides the importance of her pregnancy, not you.

Eugenics has always been a rationally compelling idea and the practice of killing off the feeble and diseased makes good sense from all practical perspectives. You subject the right to life to qualitative evaluations and you end up with mass democide.
This is well beyond the scope of the abortion debate. Eugenics has little to do with what we're talking about, since genetically healthy pregnant women abort their fetuses all the time. There is no selection bias in abortion, though I do believe that on a societal level abortion has benefits. If all women who conceive are forced into remaining pregnant, they will either abort through unsafe means or they will be unprepared mothers, both of which are a danger to the integrity of society. I am not willing to sacrifice that integrity for your hysteria over "personhood", especially given how non-compelling the arguments of pro-life people are.

This last part highlights the danger legalized abortion poses.
Abortion in an illegal setting is far more dangerous, given the threat it poses to the woman in addition to the fetus which will be aborted regardless. Planned parenthood has the greatest benefit to society and abortion is a tool in that.

There are many lives that definitely provide no long-term benefit to society, are you going to say it is ok to kill all of them?
No not really... but that is quite another debate, isn't it. Which people - those that are born, mind you - are worthy or survival and which aren't? Well, luckily we have constitutions to protect those people. But fetuses need not apply, because birth is the first criteria of personhood under law, and it should remain that way. Fetuses die every day for many, many reasons. I think it's a solid eugenics argument that if a fetus spontaneously aborts, it is better off dead. It probably had something wrong with it in the first place.

Nature makes no distinctions about personhood. If you are weak, you die. If you are strong, you live. Women aborting has been a natural process for all time, in practically all epochs of human history, even the most conservative ones. They always have and always will abort if they want to. It is nature which transcends this trivial debate.

Hell, why should it even matter if a woman wants the child or not? It is better that certain unborn children are killed so that we might decrease the surplus population.
It's not really about quantity, but quality. I'm in favor of family planning which ensures the highest level of success for the next generation, as opposed to wanton abortion laws that force people into parenthood. The latter degrades the quality of our society. Actually, I think forced parenthood is probably one of the most detrimental things you could do to a flourishing civilization. And anyway, it's not up to me, it's up to pregnant women everywhere.

If one takes the position that there is no rational basis for morality and therefore it should not be a factor then it is an embrace of nihilism. "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" would become the law of the land.
That's a tad bit of a strawman there. I am not applying the same rules for irrationality across the board. Some things have rationales that we can all for the most part agree on. Arbitrary labels like "personhood" placed on fetuses is not one of those things. Even the pro-life sect cannot agree on the sanctity of life. Some of you are for abortion in the case of rape or incest. So it seems that some of you even have a cozy little view on eugenics and morality that transcends "personhood".

I frankly find you all hypocritical and emotionally hysterical. The only way your morality can ever become law is through popular vote, manipulation of people's emotions, and selective infiltration into seats of government power. You will never win this debate on reason because that is the one thing you lack and it's why the courts sided against you in Roe v Wade.
 

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As I said before, some (all?) women consider their grown children their "babies".
It doesn't mean they are.

Some women who aren't even pregnant yet but are trying talk about their "babies"- babies that don't even exist yet, and may never exist if these women never manage to get pregnant.

What mothers think of their (real or imagined) offspring has no bearing on objective reality, and should have none in legal matters, either.
The relationship between mothers and their offspring tends to be highly emotionally charged, and not very logical.
I mean, mothers of death row killers still insist that their "babies" are good boys at heart and didn't mean any harm.
Should we let them out, just because their mothers say (and actually believe) that?

We don't legislate based on an inherently irrational and idealized emotional relationship.
 

Black_Zawisza

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I don't.

If a zygote has personhood then a skin cell on my arm has personhood. They are at the same level of development. You offer nothing that makes me believe that some cells in the womb (which could easily miscarry) deserve personhood, only your say so.
The fact that a zygote could randomly miscarry is utterly irrelevant to the debate. Any one of a trillion natural disasters could happen and people would die. Does that mean murder is okay?

I don't have a whole lot of time, so I'll post later why I think a zygote is a person.

Euthanasia and abortion are hardly the same thing. If you can't tell the difference then there really is no hope for you in this debate.
Point to where he said they were the same thing. If you can't tell the difference between "pro-choicers tend to be pro-euthanasia" and "abortion = euthanasia", then there really is no hope for you in this debate.

As I mentioned previously and in other threads, the level of development is not as relevant as the subjective importance that the woman places on her fetus. It is the difference between being a woman with an unwanted life growing in her, and a mother. The woman decides the importance of her pregnancy, not you.
Irrelevant. The same argument can be made against murder laws.

Abortion in an illegal setting is far more dangerous, given the threat it poses to the woman in addition to the fetus which will be aborted regardless. Planned parenthood has the greatest benefit to society and abortion is a tool in that.
You're completely ignoring the fact that the dangerousness of illegal abortion and fact that it's illegal will deter plenty of people from it. Not everyone who aborts under the current system would abort under that one.

No not really... but that is quite another debate, isn't iat. Which people - those that are born, mind you - are worthy or survival and which aren't? Well, luckily we have constitutions to protect those people. But fetuses need not apply, because birth is the first criteria of personhood under law, and it should remain that way. Fetuses die every day for many, many reasons. I think it's a solid eugenics argument that if a fetus spontaneously aborts, it is better off dead. It probably had something wrong with it in the first place.
Something wrong, eh? Are you imperfect? Clearly, because you thought Demon said abortion was euthanasia. You're better off dead. shoots you in the face
Nature makes no distinctions about personhood. If you are weak, you die. If you are strong, you live. Women aborting has been a natural process for all time, in practically all epochs of human history, even the most conservative ones. They always have and always will abort if they want to. It is nature which transcends this trivial debate.
More ridiculousness. This same argument can be made for laws against murder, rape, and slavery.

It's not really about quantity, but quality.
And yet more ridiculousness. If it's all about quality, how about I go and kill every other person on the planet? Imagine...the standard of living...drools :roll:



That's a tad bit of a strawman there. I am not applying the same rules for irrationality across the board. Some things have rationales that we can all for the most part agree on. Arbitrary labels like "personhood" placed on fetuses is not one of those things. Even the pro-life sect cannot agree on the sanctity of life. Some of you are for abortion in the case of rape or incest. So it seems that some of you even have a cozy little view on eugenics and morality that transcends "personhood".
It doesn't matter what other people think. Why don't you stick to challenging the reasoning of...oh, I dunno...the people you're actually debating against.
 
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Demon of Light

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Slippery slope fallacy. There's no proof that one would (or should) flow from the other.
It really annoys me when people only respond by naming fallacies they claim the other person is using as if that makes their argument more compelling. What I am describing is the way I have seen this line of logic develop. I haven't found a poll on the issue, but I imagine if there was you would see far more people who are pro-choice also support assisted suicide and euthanasia than in the general community.

If a zygote has personhood then a skin cell on my arm has personhood. They are at the same level of development. You offer nothing that makes me believe that some cells in the womb (which could easily miscarry) deserve personhood, only your say so.
A skin cell won't turn into a baby naturally no matter what you do. As for miscarriage it is quite irrelevant if a pregnancy is likely to miscarry, though studies suggest most pregnancies do not miscarry by the time a person is aware of the pregnancy, because in the end you are talking about a natural death. If someone has a chance of dying it does not justify killing them.

Euthanasia and abortion are hardly the same thing. If you can't tell the difference then there really is no hope for you in this debate.
What is the difference between someone in a permanent vegetative state and a fetus?

As I mentioned previously and in other threads, the level of development is not as relevant as the subjective importance that the woman places on her fetus. It is the difference between being a woman with an unwanted life growing in her, and a mother. The woman decides the importance of her pregnancy, not you.
What is relevant is whether we are talking about a legal person with all protections that result from it. When the level of development is the basis for determining personhood it most certainly is relevant. Also, what the woman thinks is quite irrelevant as the right to life cannot be subjected to individual subjective evaluation. You cannot decide one life has a right to live and another identical life doesn't.

This is well beyond the scope of the abortion debate. Eugenics has little to do with what we're talking about, since genetically healthy pregnant women abort their fetuses all the time. There is no selection bias in abortion, though I do believe that on a societal level abortion has benefits. If all women who conceive are forced into remaining pregnant, they will either abort through unsafe means or they will be unprepared mothers, both of which are a danger to the integrity of society. I am not willing to sacrifice that integrity for your hysteria over "personhood", especially given how non-compelling the arguments of pro-life people are.
It would be a perfectly rational argument that the mentally disabled are a danger to the integrity of society. So how about some eugenics? Do you see the point there?

Abortion in an illegal setting is far more dangerous, given the threat it poses to the woman in addition to the fetus which will be aborted regardless. Planned parenthood has the greatest benefit to society and abortion is a tool in that.
I think you are assuming too much. Some people like to chatter about abortion rates before Roe v. Wade, completely ignoring that it was legal in many states at the time the decision was reached and where it wasn't many penalties were mild.

No not really... but that is quite another debate, isn't it. Which people - those that are born, mind you - are worthy or survival and which aren't? Well, luckily we have constitutions to protect those people.
Why should they be protected? Honestly, can you give a strong rational argument for why people who add nothing to society and are certain or likely to never do so should be allowed to live and needlessly deplete our natural resources?

But fetuses need not apply, because birth is the first criteria of personhood under law, and it should remain that way. Fetuses die every day for many, many reasons. I think it's a solid eugenics argument that if a fetus spontaneously aborts, it is better off dead. It probably had something wrong with it in the first place.
Birth? What about a minute before birth? An hour? A day? A week? Those differences are rather small and the child is hardly any different in comparison. Once more you imply miscarriages are much more common than they actually are. The chance of a miscarriage after 12 weeks is extremely rare.

Nature makes no distinctions about personhood. If you are weak, you die. If you are strong, you live. Women aborting has been a natural process for all time, in practically all epochs of human history, even the most conservative ones. They always have and always will abort if they want to. It is nature which transcends this trivial debate.
The fact people die naturally does not justify killing them.

It's not really about quantity, but quality.
Quantity certainly is relevant. There are a limited amount of resources in the world and the more people you have the more those resources are exhausted.

That's a tad bit of a strawman there. I am not applying the same rules for irrationality across the board. Some things have rationales that we can all for the most part agree on.
By all means share them. What of a person who is mentally retarded and paralyzed from the neck down? Do you not agree this person would represent an unredeemable burden on society? Also, unlike a fetus that person's condition is quite possibly permanent. Should that individual's selfish desire to live allow them to deprive society of crucial resources other more useful people might need? How can you rationally justify allowing that individual the right to live?

Arbitrary labels like "personhood" placed on fetuses is not one of those things. Even the pro-life sect cannot agree on the sanctity of life. Some of you are for abortion in the case of rape or incest. So it seems that some of you even have a cozy little view on eugenics and morality that transcends "personhood".
While any restriction of abortion is a step in the right direction I see the same problem with allowing exceptions like rape and incest as I do with allowing it by request. The right to life should not be subjected to equivocation.

The only way your morality can ever become law is through popular vote, manipulation of people's emotions, and selective infiltration into seats of government power. You will never win this debate on reason because that is the one thing you lack and it's why the courts sided against you in Roe v Wade.
Have you read the whole decision? I can hardly imagine someone reading that legal decision and concluding that they were logically coherent.
 

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The difference is that those lives (assuming they're born people) aren't leeching off of someone else's body and risking that person's health to stay alive.
Untrue. Anyone who is dependent upon another is leeching off of that person's body. This would include young children, old folks in nursing homes, people in comas, etc...
 

molten_dragon

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It really annoys me when people only respond by naming fallacies they claim the other person is using as if that makes their argument more compelling. What I am describing is the way I have seen this line of logic develop. I haven't found a poll on the issue, but I imagine if there was you would see far more people who are pro-choice also support assisted suicide and euthanasia than in the general community.
Well, don't argue with logical fallacies if you don't want to be called with them. You're probably right about more pro-choice people supporting assisted suicide and euthanasia (I support them) but that doesn't mean that leaving abortion legal will lead to killing off people we don't believe are useful to society.
 

molten_dragon

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Untrue. Anyone who is dependent upon another is leeching off of that person's body. This would include young children, old folks in nursing homes, people in comas, etc...
Indirectly perhaps, but not in the direct parasitic way in which a fetus does. And the other major difference is that if a young child or an old person in a nursing home is dependent on you, you can stop that dependency and they won't immediately die.
 

iangb

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People are upset by death - not because some human DNA has been removed from the gene pool, but because a person has died. Personhood is key.

The Uncola said:
"Personhood" is nothing more than another in a long line of indefinable, relativist, appeals to emotionalism. It means squat.
The same could be said about 'human rights'. Both mean things because we give them meaning.
 

thatguymd

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Not only does personhood matter, it is the only aspect of the abortion debate that matters. This is simply because if the fetus is undeniably a person (picture a mini adult with the exception of viability), then abortion makes no sense. Anyone that attempted to say that it doesn't matter has ended up stating why the ZEF isn't a person - which automatically means that personhood does matter.

For anyone who thinks they can justify abortion even if the fetus is a person, start out by answering me two simple questions. Who has more responsibility for creating the situation (i.e. the pregnancy)? Who suffers more from any proposed resolution to that situation?
 

thatguymd

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The woman having the abortion. Consciousness is a pre-condition to suffering.
Hooray for semantics!

First of all I said to picture a mini adult with the exception of viability – so that would include consciousness. Also, prove your assertion that you need a consciousness to “suffer”. It seems to imply that pain is the only way to suffer. If I died on the operating table where I was unable to feel pain, I’d still consider that I “suffered” the loss of my life.

But in an attempt to make you happy would you consider this a better rephrase, “Who inherits the greater penalty from any proposed resolution?” or “Who has the greater violation of their rights through any proposed resolution?”
 
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