A Clinical Ethicist’s Perspective on Creating a New Abortion Statement

I think this statement can be applied generally to those who seek to undo Roe v. Wade. Whatever your personal beliefs, abortion should remain available as a matter of public health & safety.

We know in great detail what happens when it is not available. Which is in large part why Roe v. Wade exists.

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Do you still remember Dorr Road in Toledo?

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Yes. Actually there were busses that went that way.
I had 2 ways I could take busses to school [North Cove, Auburn].
Coming home, I could take my time and had 4 choices. One was
riding into downtown with my buddy who lived across the river in
East Toledo, and ride from downtown home.
Sometimes we would stop in the Dime Store and buy 10 cents worth
of candy or nuts. I got 25 cents a week allowance. I was encouraged
to save it. One year I had saved enough to buy my own winter coat.

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Roe v. Wade is settled law, if anything is settled law in this country. As Christians we sometimes confuse mans laws and Gods laws. That is not to say they can’t be one and the same. Settled law makes it difficult to change and settled law doesnt mean that it can’t do an about face. IMO, Roe will not be overthrown but that doesn’t mean those who hold that abortion is murder forfeit their constitutional right to be against abortion.

As to the churches position paper of 1992, a almost thirty year old position paper, unless there are circumstances that endanger the life of the mother, baby or a crime was committed each person must make their holding between those directly involved and God. It is risky business to attempt to make these choices for God. I supose the argument can be made that “leadership” stands in loco parentis in policy or position for the church’s membership. However, the motives of these leaders could be questioned. The saying of follow the money might be more correct if it was follow the votes as was evident in San Antonio.

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Would a clinical ethicist be inclined to reconcile the difference in legal standing between an unborn child in the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (Public Law 108-22) and an unborn child that is aborted? It seems to me that the personhood of the unborn child should be regarded consistently and not conferred a victim status in one case yet have no rights in another context such as abortion. Why should society confer a different status onto Conner Peterson (Case of Scott Peterson et al) than it does to any other unborn child? Is personhood really to be bestowed at such a whim - depending on the value that each mother happens to place on her unborn child?

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Hi Steve, I thought you might find this post interesting. A friend sent it to me earlier today. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2019/09/28/episode-17-what-does-the-bible-say-about-abortion/

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Dear “efcee,” Your response, in turning toward law or legal matters, is a very common response to clinical ethics work. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone challenged an ethical justification offered in clinical context by citing a law. Not that your point isn’t well taken but law is not ethics and ethics is not law. By way of illustration, if law always settled ethical issues our country would not still be in a battle over abortion. Or to turn your illustration against you, abortion is legal so if law resolves our ethical issues, then there ought not be anything more to argue about. I’ll grant your point that if and when law and ethics do nicely coincide, then most of us are more comfortable moving in a particular direction.
I hope I’ve understood your point. It is a good one to make.
Thanks.

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There’s this satire article a while ago… in every joke there’s a part of a joke.

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When I read about this push to ban abortion the question that comes to my mind is, “When will it end?” That is, when will the conservatives in our church be content and stop making our church so extreme?

We already have a strongly conservative bias (we believe in God and read the Bible as our guide to life), but the recent hardening of attitudes towards women’s ministry, creationism and homosexuality has been exhausting. There seems to be a race against other Christians (viz. Evangelicals and Catholics) to be the most conservative. Conservatism is not a biblical principle!

And we do this to ourselves despite Jesus’ example of pushing back against the conservatism of the Pharisees, and Paul’s Spirit-led discernment.

Even though our membership is broad-minded, you wouldn’t know that from the current direction of our world leaders.

How can we stop this self-defeating drive to define away uncertainty and shift our focus back to healing our society with the tools Jesus gave us?

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Thanks for your response, Mark. True, to cite law as a challenge to an ethical justification would be to put the cart before the horse. However, one must frequently cite ethical justifications to challenge law, or in this case, institutional policy. In a democratic society, an ethical discussion typically precedes the establishment of law; so the two are as unequal as the cart and the horse. But they do bear a very close relationship. The laws and institutional policies regarding abortion and unborn victims are conclusions drawn from ethics debates. My question is, how can society be content with such very different conclusions having been drawn from what is, to me, the same moral dilemma (i.e., does an unborn child have personhood/rights)?

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To your question, efcee, I’ve heard and read two specific things: First on the “Rights” of the unborn (please note I do not personally use the term “unborn” to refer to a fetus). Rights are something that demands agreement. If society doesn’t agree that I have the Right to walk into a hospital and receive healthcare, then I don’t have a Right. All Rights are only two directional, that is if someone doesn’t agree we me when I assert a Right then I just don’t have one, no matter how often or loud I repeat myself. A fetus is not the same kind of human as a mature human. Of course, genetically they are similar, but I don’t ascribe to a genetic determinism for resolving all ethical arguments that include biology. So, a fetus, as a human does likely have some Rights but they are not a full set of Rights such as those enjoyed by the potential parents. They are Rights held in earnest for when the fetus is born and the child grows up. I think this is easily illustrated by comparing the idea of an absolute Right to be born with any other of the Rights we presently, typically agree upon (like education, fair trial, etc.)
Secondly, I would urge you to check out some of the literature in personhood theory. When does a mass of cells develop a person (ality)? Clearly the definition of person is meant to capture traits of individuals such as trustworthy, bright, expressive, etc. In the article in Spectrum that I referred to in this abortion piece, where I question what the Church teaches about when life begins, I added a chart that tries to portray graphically two ways to imagine the moral status of the human; one is a straight line from fertilization to death, the other an arch from fertilization to death with the peak of the arch matching the straight line. The moral status of the person increases over time as the potential for birth and life continues to develop. We intuitively understand this arch or developmental approach when we give the one respirator in an Emergency Department to the 16 year old in a car crash with his 85 year old grandfather.
Well, I’ve gone on long enough…Sorry for being so long winded…
Mark

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Thanks Mark. Worthy thoughts and I don’t take issue with your position as it is yours personally and it follows a certain logic - but I’m still trying to wrap my head around society’s ability to convict a person of murder (albeit 2nd degree) for the death of a fetus (or “unborn child” - using the term written into the Unborn Victims of Violence Act) - as in the Scott Petersen case. How can society be intent on granting personhood/rights to a fetus in one instance and not in another? It seems the argument in favor of one position/situation severely undermines the other and that I would have to be content with a glaring dissonance, or guilty of not thinking altogether, in order to accept both lines of reason simultaneously.

I’m not determined to propose a solution which would satisfy a teen-aged girl in trouble as well as Laci Petersen’s family et al, I’m just pointing out what I understand to be two contradictory moral arguments that society is implementing simultaneously to determine the value or destiny of a given fetus. Perhaps it is best for society to let the mother withhold or confer personhood on whatever it is inside her. Though, as a solution to the dilemma, it seem capricious to me.

The law is full of seemingly incongruent cases like this. In many cases, I think it has to do with rights and ownership and agency.

For example, it is illegal to j-walk and it is also illegal to hit the j-walker with your car, even though they are breaking the law.

It is illegal to burn down someone else’s house, but you can burn your own house down legally (as long as you don’t make an insurance claim.)

It’s illegal to speed, but it is also illegal - some states - to drive down the left lane blocking those trying to speed.

These are of course trivial things when compared to abortion.
Still, the same sort of rule applies. If you deprive someone of their healthy pregnancy, which will become a child, that is an affront. But if a pregnant mother cannot or is unwilling to carry the pregnancy, that is at the same time her choice - and as pointed out in the several current articles here regarding abortion, there are many reasons someone might make such a choice.

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And all you fine 55mph ers in the left lane I have three words for you. Rear view mirror

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Fantastic explanation, Tim! If more US citizens understood how our laws get enacted and the process…many things would be more clear.

Current US laws do not grant autonomous rights to a fetus. I have heard some argue this point on this site. Most of these arguments tend to be philosophical/religious in nature which overall doesn’t reflect our current societal viewpoints. Which brings me to another point- that laws generally ( if not always) reflect the culture in which they are enacted. Roe vs Wade is a good example of this in practice.

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Here’s a fun test:

  • Close your eyes and think of the back end of a Prius.
  • Now that you have a clear picture of the Prius, try to think about the front end of the car.

Which is clearer? For me, the heinous back end of the car is so much clearer, probably because I spend so much time starting at the back of these cars - while they are in the left lane on the interstate.

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And here all along I thought was was the crazy driver but I can see that I am a rank amateur. You are well advanced in your thinking.

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Are they also sporting a “Coexist” sticker?

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