Abortion, Infanticide, Murder, and Slippery Slopes

From Huffington Post back in November 2009, waiving off the accusation that abortion is a slippery slope to murder:

The [South Carolina State House "born alive"] bill legitimizes the myth of the baby-killing doctor and seizes upon a fictional abortion scenario to imply that, even if the abortion is first-trimester and the fetus is palm-sized, it’s a slippery slope from abortion to murder. And the kind of people involved with abortion — doctors, women, activists — are so morally reprehensible that they can’t be trusted to observe the boundaries between a legal medical procedure and a crime.

Then, less than two years later, there’s this story from CBC News in Canada (via Mark Steyn):

The Wetaskiwin, Alta., woman convicted of infanticide for killing her newborn son, was given a three-year suspended sentence Friday by an Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench judge.

Katrina Effert was 19 on April 13, 2005, when she secretly gave birth in her parents’ home, strangled the baby boy with her underwear and threw the body over a fence into a neighbour’s yard.

She silently wept as Justice Joanne Veit outlined the reasons for the suspended sentence. Effert will have to abide by conditions for the next three years but she won’t spend time behind bars for strangling her newborn son.

. . . .

The fact that Canada has no abortion laws reflects that "while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support," she writes.

. . . .

"Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother."

The girl who killed her baby only faces actual jail time “for throwing her baby’s body over the fence.”

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at gmail.com.


  1. I’m sure that pretty soon we’ll see people telling us that infanticide was the default state of humanity, just like teenage pregnancy, and so we shouldn’t make moral judgements about it because after all it’s only natural (and it really ought to be the mother’s decision, anyway, because after all she’s the one who’s got to take care of it.)

    • Infanticide was unnecessary, when you lost 50% of babies before the first year.
      Well, except for the Scotch Irish, who maintained it as a cultural feature.

  2. Obviously, this one horrible case is proof we should eliminate a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health.

  3. Yawn. you can count me in the pro-infanticide camp, if needs must. I’d condone doing most anything positive to avoid that, of course (including abortions, throwing cash at pregnant mothers, paying extra for good non-stigmatizing schools for pregnant mothers). And I’m not going to judge people too harshly — sometimes people do what they have to do.

    • Yawn. you can count me in the pro-infanticide killing-innocents camp, if needs must. I’d condone doing most anything positive to avoid that, of course (including abortions, throwing cash at pregnant mothers, paying extra for good non-stigmatizing schools for pregnant mothers). And I’m not going to judge people too harshly — sometimes people do what they have to do.

      mistake corrected

      The issue is not whether infanticide can ever be wrong. The issue is whether in the original position we would have wanted to be free to do so if that meant that the previous generation (our parents) was also free to do so.

  4. In Canada, infanticide is a separate crime from homicide, and applies specifically to the infant’s mother:


    Infanticide occurs when a female person causes the death of her newly born child when her mind is disturbed as a result of the effects of giving birth.

    The maximum sentence for infanticide is five years in jail. There is no minimum sentence.

    That is, the suspended sentence was applied because the mother was deemed not to be responsible for her actions.

  5. Tim – Can you flesh out your argument a bit? I am not understanding why a sentence that you are I might disagree with in the murder of a person who has been born relates to abortion. Is there a legal underpinning to this argument? I am not getting the point. Help?

    • Tod,

      Slippery slope arguments are often ridiculed by making bold claims about what could “never” happen. “The individual mandate presents no slippery slope problem because the government will never mandate broccoli consumption.” This sort of argument is meant to quiet those objections to the loss of a limiting principle. At some future time, however, and perhaps many, many years from now and well after everyone has forgotten about the arguments about jettisoning the limiting principle, we go ahead and start doing the things we said we’d never do. At that point, those opposed to abolishing the limiting principle are proven right, though to no avail, as there’s no hope in turning back the clock.

      This is happening before our eyes in the abortion context. Does a human being have rights while in the womb? Womb, schwomb. That debate is so 20th century. What we want to know now is, does a human deserve rights if she’s still breastfeeding? If she still needs someone to change her diapers? Until she can articulate her objection “please don’t kill me”?

      • Sorry, but to be blunt. Go f yourself with a spoon.

        Even in this current article you posted, the woman got convicted. Of infanticide. Now, you may or may not agree with the length of the sentence, but acting like she avoided punishment because Canada doesn’t ban abortions after an arbitrary date is total bullshit.

        You’re slippery slope argument is a _failure._

        But, please keep on thinking there’s any sane world where a supporter of abortion rights would support infanticide . I’ll continue to believe that people who write for web site named in pure hyperbole that attack unions is a tool who doesn’t understand he’s being used by the top one percent who would happily too him overboard in a second.

        • Jesse, don’t you love this new, “open tent” thingamajig?

          Why a spoon? I would have thought you might go for the plunger thing or even better, one of those drain opening snakes that plumbers use.

      • Slippery slope arguments are often ridiculed by making bold claims about what could “never” happen.

        Remember McCain arguing DOMA made a constitutional amendment unnecessary?

      • Tim, what has led you to the conclusion that the sentence given this woman was due to a the court deciding that it’s ok to kill babies?

        I’m trying not to see this as a “I think abortion is horrible and I think a woman killing her daughter is horrible, so one obviously caused the other” but I confess I’m having a hard time.

        If that is the case, I might suggest you spend more time trying to empathize with your liberal foe. Sometimes I hear pro-choice people tell me that all pro-life folk are misogynists. I think that this comes from assuming the very worst of not only your opponent’s possible outcomes, but their motivations as well. Assuming that people on the other side of the fence don’t care if babies die is… well, it’s a little too willfully trying to assume the worst, ya know?

        I will admit error, or course, if you can mind me but one pro-choice person (not fictional) that advocates a pro- post-birth infant killing law.

        • Tod,

          I take your point.

          Nonetheless, challenge accepted! I don’t recall the fellow’s name, but there’s at least one serious philosopher I came across some months back who maintains it is morally permissible to terminate children up until three years of age, I believe it was. I’d be willing to bet there are more where he came from.

          • “I’d be willing to bet there are more where he came from.”

            And I’d be willing to bet you can find just as many that think William Shatner has an awesome singing voice. But still, come on… even with those guys in your pocket, you know that’s not what your friends, neighbors and coworkers that you disagree with really think, right? I mean, this post you wrote, it wasn’t directed about that guy you can’t remember on the internet, was it?

          • Tod,

            No, I don’t think those people think that. I was merely pointing out that a judge in Canada thinks infanticide was not a big enough deal to warrant any jail time. Seemed to me this could suggest that, without a strong limiting principle, the needle might move even further. Again, these attitudes take years to change, so our conceptions of what direction human attitudes will take will differ.

          • And I am suggesting you are assuming evil intent without any evidence that there is any. If I came back to you later about someone that had killed a 30 year old and was given, for whatever reason, a suspended sentence (and I’m pretty sure we could find a few), would you take that to mean that these abortion laws have now extended to anyone under 40?

            The thing I hate, hate, hate about this particular controversy is the degree to which people – on both sides – assume evil intent on the part of their neighbor and the lengths they will go to to refuse to even try to even ask themselves why another believes as they do.

          • It is hateful but it is completely consistent with what each side sees as the stakes. One side really is terminating life that the other side sees as fully human. The other side really is trying to control people’s decision about their own bodies and health using the law. Maybe you don’t have to see the people themselves as evil, but you’re going to revile their positions. It’s going to get ugly.

          • When one side is murdering doctors and nurses, blowing upm clinics and engaging in other acts of terrorism, it’s hard not to see them as evil. Especially when outlawing abortion has not been shown to significantly reduce the abortion rate — it does increase the fatality rate of women who need abortions, however.

            So called “late-term” abortion is extremely rare (all the more now that the “pro-life” forces murdered Dr Tiller), and is only done under extreme circumstances. Yet to hear “pro-life” advocates tell it, third trimester abortions happen every minute.

            I would also like to remind Mr Kowal that the ideal for the left is that abortions be “safe, legal and RARE”. We really prefer other alternatives (like good counciling, readily available birth control, etc. — things the “pro-life” groups are usually against).

          • “the ideal for the left is that abortions be “safe, legal and RARE”. We really prefer other alternatives (like good counciling, readily available birth control, etc. — things the “pro-life” groups are usually against).”

            Contraceptives of all sorts are readily available. Roughly 50% of women who obtain abortions got pregnant while using birth control. Clearly pushing for more birth control is not making abortion rare, rather it is making abortion more popular–it is making abortion a type of birth control. Which, if you really think about the literal words “birth” and “control”, abortion does exactly that. The mother is controlling how her child is going to be born–dead.

            The rate of abortions is not declining, it is going up. 1.5 million abortions in the U.S. every year. That is not “rare” at all. That’s a grand failure.

            Pro-life groups all across the board are all for more counseling. It’s why there are sidewalk counselors handing out information and free ultrasound coupons to abortion-bound women. It’s why there are 4,000+ pregnancy resource centers across America staffed with volunteers, counselors, and registered nurses, ready to assist pregnant women in a crisis. They provide free pregnancy tests. They provide free counseling for pregnant women and post-abortive women. They are often stocked with diapers, formula, clothing, and larger items needed for the mother and her baby. On several occasions, including for my own infant son, my local pregnancy center (Save-A-Life) gives out a very unique formula that is incredibly expensive for the mothers’ babies who need them.


            What would be nice if abortionists and their staff would do some real counseling and let the women see the image on the ultrasound machine before doing the deed. Too many cases, they have pressured pregnant women to choose abortion and then denied the women their right to unbiased information regarding the children they were carrying. Too often Planned Parenthood is fighting against ultrasound laws that would allow women to be fully informed before making their decision.

            Half of the clients who commented reveal PP lied to them:



            As for accusations of violence, ever hear of Gosnell?

            There are more documented cases of pro-choice hate, aggression, and physical violence than all the murders of abortionists and clinic bombings combined. The moniker of “choice” has so often been used to defend abortion (and really, that’s the heart of the debate) that those who are truly pro-abortion use “pro-choice” as a reason to force abortions onto women.
















            And there are so many more you can find on the net, even more cases that go undocumented.

          • Cheri,
            can I ask you a question?
            This is a hypothetical, but a rather germane question…

            Imagine yourself, age 12. Pregnant by your dad, who has been regularly taking you to seedy motels to impregnate you.

            Do you still want to see that potentially twisted thing inside you? Are we furthering your abuse by forcing you to look at that thing?

            Do you support parental notification in this case? How about in the case of an eleven year old, who refuses to tell you (the doctor who may be performing an abortion, or counseling her on the pregnancy) who did it?

            You’ve got severe selection bias on website comments. Hence disregarded, as they’re pro”your view.”

            Gosnell was a monster. The guy who killed Dr. Tiller was also a monster. Thing was? they both should have been stopped! Can we agree on that, at least?

            I would really argue that some money ought to be going to ensuring that girls can have babies and continue schooling without losing a beat (and normalizing that decision).

          • “Do you still want to see that potentially twisted thing inside you? Are we furthering your abuse by forcing you to look at that thing?”

            The abuse and fear is being furthered by your dehumanizing terminology, “that thing.” However, I’m going to grant for the sake of discussion that we keep abortion legal in cases of rape and incest. Will you join me in supporting legal restrictions on those abortions done for convenience which, as studies show, make up the overwhelming percentage of abortions?

            If an 11 year-old refuses to reveal the father, don’t you think that’s a red flag that should cause the abortionist and staff to pause and help protect this little girl from her abuser who has intimidated her into silence? We can both agree that being sexually assaulted at such a tender age is a crime, so shouldn’t the focus be on helping the girl escape the abusive situation first before the irrevocable act of abortion? It begs the question to assume that a child simply must have an abortion because of the circumstances of her pregnancy. Not to mention robs her of an informed choice, period. No one should force a young girl (or anyone, for that matter) to have an abortion.

            You’ve got a severe bias against any negative abortion experiences. Hence your disregard is disregarded, as it is pro “your view.”

            Gosnell could’ve been stopped. Thing is? Protecting abortion is top priority for pro-choice lobbyists, not patients. They are trying to block the very regulations that every other surgical center has to adhere to. The guy who murdered Dr. Tiller killed one man. He killed to stop further killing. Gosnell murdered a woman, seven aborted-alive babies, and of course the countless thousands of prenatal babies that never survived the abortions. He killed for money. I agree with you that both were in the wrong, but you cannot compare the two at all.

            I am all for making education and parenting seamless. On that, I most definitely agree with you. Students for Life is beginning a new initiative called Pregnant on Campus, the goal being to assist pregnant and parenting students by making their educational experience easier while raising their families.


            Online degrees are also available. This is a great cost-saving option, it provides a flexible schedule, and allows parents and their children to stay together instead of having to find a daycare on top of finding an accommodating college campus.

          • Cheri,
            Many of those women you cite were not using birth control consistently. This is either because they were incapable of asking/demanding birth control (and, obviously, informed consent to sex) or because of insufficient education. It’s not difficult to know when to use birth control — it should be all the time.

            And do you really oppose abortions (particularly “as soon as I can learn I’m preggo” abortions) if a woman’s been using multiple forms of birth control and still got pregnant? (how about if one of those was compromised without her consent?)

          • Kim,
            “It’s not difficult to know when to use birth control — it should be all the time.”

            So what you’re suggesting, is that women must always be using birth control. How lovely. The modern woman’s duty is to inhibit her fertility. Doesn’t sound very pro-choice at all. More like enslavement of women.

            I oppose all abortions and abortifacients. For the very simple, scientific reason that a human being’s life begins at the moment of fertilization. An embryo and a fetus are not sub-humans, nor are they separate species. They are stages in human development. If a woman miscarries her child by accident, meaning she did not try to miscarry or abort, this is not a crime.

            It shouldn’t matter how a human being looks, or his/her size, or how what he/she can or can’t feel, or how dependent upon his/her mother s/he is, or whether or not s/he is “wanted”: these are arbitrary excuses that we do not permit as exceptions for other members of the human race, it should not be permitted for the prenatal members of the human race either.

            Why is it that contraceptives and pills are so readily available, just like what pro-choicers want, and yet 50% of abortions result from contraceptive failure? How much longer will pro-choicers keep blaming women for the failure rate of birth control, instead of admitting that it offers a false sense of security? Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics are quite literally banking on it. It astounds and pains me to see how many women have been exploited and abused by the pro-choice movement by means of enticement and guilt-tripping.

          • Tod,
            Your link is nearly 10 years old.

            This is the most recent study from Guttmacher, August 2011:

            Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.[8]


            That means a whopping 27% failure rate of contraceptives used properly. 54% of aborted pregnancies while using any birth control during the month of conception.

            If we can all concur that the goal should be to make abortion “rare”, then we can see that more birth control and more pressure to use it has failed to procure this result.

            As for education: for goodness’ sake, the instructions are on the condom box and the doctors prescribing the pills are responsible for educating their patients on how to ingest them.

            The best thing the pro-choice movement has to offer is the mindset that a woman should be popping pills every day, at the same exact hour, as “protection” against her own body’s natural functions. That being “responsible” means she needs to suppress her delicate hormonal balance with injections and implants. That “safe” sex is only when you have a boundary between you and your partner. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of having sex, which is to be as close as intimately possible with your partner? Birth control is slavery to infertility, isolation, and fear.

            I have something better. Educate people and schools on prenatal development of the child and mother. Stop making pregnancy sound so negative, it’s a vulnerable stage to be in even with support. That’s the time women need to be surrounded with support for their babies, not pressured to “choose.” When people accept the humanity of their prenatal children, abortion will become unthinkable.

          • If you follow the footnote source to the statistic that she cites from her article, it leads to… your article. In other words, her numbers are as old as yours.

            And, in fact, she is reading her numbers wrong. The 13% and 14% are not 13% and 14% of 100%, but rather at most 13% and 14% of the 54% who were using contraception, which means a maximum of 14.6% (the number could be lower than that).

            The failure rate of the pill is .3% with perfect use and 8% with typical use. The failure rate for condoms is 2% and 15% (over the course of a year). This is defining “failure rate” in the traditional manner (how many people who use this method will be pregnant over the course of a year) instead of how Cheri is defining it (how many people who get unwanted pregnancies swear up and down that they used contraception perfectly).

            I take the problem to be people using contraception inconsistently, improperly, or not at all rather than the contraception failing. I’m skeptical of post-pregnancy claims.

            Source: http://www.contraceptivetechnology.org/table.html

          • Well done, Trum. Still, our new friend Cheri has given a pretty good account of herself and her position. Props, more light than heat.

            My own figures from memory rather agree with yrs: condoms are ~86% effective. The 14% is improper use, and they do break even with proper use.

            Oral contraceptives 99% effective, another 5% failure fate with improper use [forgetting to take yr pill?].

            I’m skeptical of post-pregnancy claims.

            Dunno what you mean here. I’ve done some work on this and can say with confidence that abortion psychologically scars a significant percentage of women for life. Planned Parenthood and the abortion-friendly academic psychology establishment have cheated this one bigtime.

            Migod, Will, if I had taken part in the abortion of my own child back in my scufflin’ days, I can assure you that not one day would go by today without a stab in my heart. And I was just the sperm donor.

          • “My own figures from memory rather agree with yrs”

            Not read right, this makes you seem awfully impressive, back in your singles days.

            I think what WIll means is that when “accidents” haven, especially with young people, he is dubious about their claims that they were being really responsible. At least that is my guess. (And my suspicion as well.)

          • Without getting into the full exchange of bodily fluids thing, I think you’re saying that self-reporting on these things should not be taken as gospel truth.

            I couldn’t agree more. People lie. Chimps lie, fer crissakes. It’s how we’re wired. Sort of puts social science on the ropes a bit, since it often bases its conclusions on self-reported data, perhaps the most unreliable of all.

            —Do you regret yr abortion?

            Hell, no.

          • Forgetting to take your pill or taking it at the wrong time of day and hoping for the best. I can’t help but think that I would be crappy, crappy, crappy with taking a pill within the comparatively short window.

            I know you’re wary of people getting too personal, but… in my mind, the personal is relevant here.

            I’ve actually had two break. Tempted as I might be to brag about my awesome anatomy, my guess is that I was mishandling them and/or I should have done a better job of keeping my fingernails trimmed. I’m not sure if that counts as “perfect use,” statistically speaking.

            As you may or may not know, I substitute teach. I got a handful of 5th/6th grade assignments last year (more than anything except junior high). That’s how old the kid from the first scare would be (a… strange revelation, that, when it occurred to me). That odd sensation would have had a more haunting feel if there had been an abortion (which, there probably would have been, despite any objections on my part). I was staunchly pro-choice going into that pregnancy scare. My views after that became… more complicated.

            For women, I think it depends on what you mean by “psychologically scar.” I have an ex that had three (before I met her). Each time it took her longer to go through with it than the previous. And she voiced regrets and fears of infertility out of some sort of karmic justice. But… never indicated that she would ever do differently. I don’t know if that counts as “scarred” or not. I’m not sure what the threshold is or should be.

            Tod is correct on what I meant by post-pregnancy claims. People remembering or claiming perfect usage so as to demonstrate that they did everything right and it is not their fault.

          • I have an ex that had three [abortions] (before I met her)…But… never indicated that she would ever do differently.

            What a person says to others [esp a pollster] and what they feel inside their heart of hearts may be two different things, we might agree.

            I don’t know if that counts as “scarred” or not. I’m not sure what the threshold is or should be.

            Not quantifiable, and speaks to the limits of social science as any guide to anything of any real human importance beyond eating, drinking and shitting. That would be what I’m getting at, Will, the ineffability of this human thing.

            I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.

            I am not a statistic, and neither is she. They can take their social ‘science’ and shove it up their ass.

          • Grim but true.

            [why do comments sometimes not appear underneath the comment you commented to? weird. This is a reply to Michael Drew.]

          • I believe that it happens on the off-chance that a comment was deleted. Spam that made it through, perhaps. An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.

          • I was merely pointing out that a judge in Canada thinks infanticide was not a big enough deal to warrant any jail time.

            That’s a tendentious and inaccurate representation of the facts. As usual, one quotes Mark Steyn at his own peril.

          • Are you referring to Peter Singer? If so his position is more complicated than that. If not, feel free to ignore this comment.

          • Peter Singer, 2003. The author has since died of the complications of her congenital illness.

            Unspeakable Conversations
            By Harriet McBryde Johnson
            Published: February 16, 2003

            He insists he doesn’t want to kill me. He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like mine and satisfy the reasonable preferences of parents for a different kind of child. It has nothing to do with me. I should not feel threatened.

            Whenever I try to wrap my head around his tight string of syllogisms, my brain gets so fried it’s . . . almost fun. Mercy! It’s like ”Alice in Wonderland.”

            It is a chilly Monday in late March, just less than a year ago. I am at Princeton University. My host is Prof. Peter Singer, often called — and not just by his book publicist — the most influential philosopher of our time. He is the man who wants me dead. No, that’s not at all fair. He wants to legalize the killing of certain babies who might come to be like me if allowed to live. He also says he believes that it should be lawful under some circumstances to kill, at any age, individuals with cognitive impairments so severe that he doesn’t consider them ”persons.” What does it take to be a person? Awareness of your own existence in time. The capacity to harbor preferences as to the future, including the preference for continuing to live.



          • In fact, I’m going to go one step further, and ask a question of you. But first, walk with me…

            Let’s assume that in this day of advanced science and medicine we can agree to certain physical, if not moral, certainties. Let’s say we (enough of us, anyway) can agree that at 6 months (or whenever) a fetus has a developing brain, a degree of sentience, and is not just “alive” but for all intents and purposes has crossed over some line that makes it human. And let’s say we (enough of us, anyway) can agree that 24 hours after an egg has been fertilized it is still a very small group of random cells, that it is in fact alive but has yet to have the ability to even approach sentience.

            Now, let’s assume that we all (enough of us, anyway) recognize that not only were women property not all that long ago, it was within the past generation that society decided a husband couldn’t force themselves on the sexually should be considered immoral. And let’s assume we (enough of us, anyway) see this a something to take into consideration, both from a legal but also from an empathic viewpoint when discussing these issues.

            Also, let’s assume that we (enough of us, anyway) agree that a husband and wife, when faced in certain very rare circumstances, might be put in a situation where the life of the mother is at risk that decides to opt for the one-in-the-hand, so to speak, might not always be doing so out a perverse love of infanticide.

            Next to last, let’s assume that we (enough of us, anyway) begin to look at our opponents’ views with enough empathy to know where they are coming from, rather than what might allow us to win arguments and feel really good about our virtue.

            Lastly, let’s assume we (enough of us, anyway) try to sit down, in good faith with the whole confusing and emotionally volatile mixed bag above, and try to work to get to some solution that we, as a society, feel comfortable with as best we can.

            My question for you, Tim, is this:

            Why would that not be a good thing?

          • Tod,

            I’m afraid I don’t understand this question. Also, it seems like a lot of questions. Are you asking me about the man and woman in a predicament in which the mother’s life is being put at risk by an already-born baby?

          • No, it is one question. The situation is imagine a world where we can all agree on those things, first and foremost that at some point a fetus is a living, sentient being that should have some rights. You’re also supposed to imagine in this world that your opponent recognizes your good intentions and you his.

            There is only one question, and it’s this:

            That world, the one we just imagined – why do you think it’s a bad thing?

          • Tod,
            because I think the threshold is not “can sense pain” but is “probably mostly smarter than an ape” (and that comes after being born, and getting the chance to integrate sensory experiences into brain parts waiting for them (like sight)).

            I’m all for people being sane, and having a good discussion.

          • You think that’s bad, my mother petitioned a court to allow her to terminate her child who was at the age of 15.

            Petition, denied…sort of.

        • Tod,

          I know of one pro-choice woman who believes women’s reproductive freedom includes killing a newborn child who still has the umbilical cord attached to the placenta, which is still inside the mother’s body. This is not uncommon for several minutes to pass before the afterbirth is delivered, after which it is safe to cut the cord. Her reason? Because she thinks the child is still attached to the mother’s body. Her name is Colleen Campbell, last I talked to her she was living in Augustus, GA, and I blocked her after that last conversation.

          Another pro-choice woman I debated with briefly also supports infanticide, in her own words, as “a common practice around the world.” She had no qualms about it whatsoever. She is from Australia and this discussion was made between me and her and other members in the Atheist and Agnostic Pro Life League Group on Facebook.

          These two women I spoke with only a few months apart from each other this year. To say that legalized abortion leads to protection for mothers who commit infanticide is not a wild assumption. It’s a pro-choice dream come true–a facade of compassion, justice, equality, and liberation for women.

          There, now you can admit your error.

          • Cheri,
            anyone who doesn’t have profound moral qualms about infanticide really needs to sit down and ask themselves if they’re not a sociopath. And then ask it again.
            Still, talking with soemoen from the other side tends to set people’s backs up, so these people might not be as crazy as they sound.
            Me? I’m in favor of infanticide up to 6months, but my utilitarian bar goes up so quickly, that in any place where the adoption system is reasonably sound (it’s not everywhere, I know), I’d be perfectly fine with prosecuting people once the baby is born. [I understand that some people may be unable to put the child up for adoption for other reasons, such as being unable to claim that child as your own (12yrold incest victim, say) — they’ve got Different Issues Than Normal.]

      • slippery slope arguments are often ridiculed by making bold claims about what could “never” happen.

        My own problem with slippery slope arguments is not so much that the undesirable things will never happen. Rather, it’s that people who make such arguments usually do not posit a mechanism by which that undesirable thing will happen as a result of whatever is being complained against.

        Usually, these slippery slope arguments involve unstated, often question-begging assumptions.

        • Usually, these slippery slope arguments involve unstated, often question-begging assumptions

          Slippery slope arguments are often basically overton window arguments. Consider a hypothetical situation where X,Y and Z lie on a spectrum.

          Everyone knows that Z is horrible horrible bad and wrong.
          Y is believed to be wrong by most people, though some may admit that there are some circumstances where it may not be so. X is a controversial case where 50% think its wrong, 49% dont and 1% are sitting on the fence.

          The argument is that once we as a society say that X is okay, over time everyone will come to think of X as okay and Y will be believed to be wrong by 50% and Z will be considered a reasonable course of action by some. That is because the overton window has shifted and Y and Z are not seen as extreme positions as they once were.

          In so far as the wrong making features in Z are seen to be there to a greater extent than in Y and in turn X, the slippery slope argument has force. Existing qualitative distinctions are not sure fire defeaters of slippery slope arguments. In time, the force of certain qualitative distinctions may fade or be seen to be irrelevant. Reasons for legalising X would then be salient reasons for legalising Y even if previously they were unsuccessful because the distinction in question was considered relevant.

          The problem when it comes to legislation is this. Unless the people are all strongly liberal individualists (or by and large so) a lot of them are going to see law not just as a corecive tool by government, but as having certain expressive qualities. If laws are expressive, then, the fact that a democratic society bans something is expressive of the fact that people in general think it is wrong to do that. Similarly, when it is legalised, it expresses that society thinks its ok. This would be the case whatever reasons the legislators had for legalising it. The effect is already seen when it comes to inter-racial marriage. The very same people, from viewing it as an abomination against God have become more accepting of it just because it was legalised.

          Because people who advocate for X are products of their generation, they may think that their are enough salient differences between X and Y that the argument in favour of X being legalised are not strong enough to overcome said differences.

          Given the track of history where the previously unthinkable is now often considered desireable, (and given that a slippery slope argument is fundamentally conservative) liberals should give more weight to slippery slope arguments than they often do.

      • That’s very good, Tom. Powerfully good. Just be careful if you find a horse’s head in your bed, because abortionists will launch an effort to smear you, even to the point of destroying your family–WATCH OUT!! These barbaric murderers don’t think twice about squeezing the brains and blood out of a baby one minute before it’s to be born.

        If Roe v. Wade is overturned, they’ll launch a King Herod Massacre of the Innocents before the new law goes into effect. Mark my words, these executioners will stop at nothing–abortion is a more sacred right to these moral reprobates than life itself.

    • She was convicted of unlawful disposal of trash without a permit.

      Read it. They’re are nice, clean, words to make you feel better about yourself–you know, when murdering an innocent. Does it work? Now, when a pregnant woman is murdered, it’s always considered a double murder. Why the double? Could it be that it only rests on who the killer is?

      “Tom, can you please flesh out your argument a bit?” That’s funny.

  6. I used to disbelieve in slippery slopes and I continue to recognize that they are logically fallacious. Fallacy, however, is no impediment whatsoever to developments in politics.

    It all comes back to same-sex marriage: people outraged by the potential for overturning anti-miscegenation laws said, “If we get rid of these laws, what’s next? Two guys? Looking to marry each other? Har-de-har-har!” Then along comes Loving v. Virginia and lo and behold in two years there’s a petition for same-sex marriage. Gets denied, but a generation later the idea is not so far-fetched anymore and half a generation after that there’s six states where two guys can get married and a reasonable shot at a Supreme Court holding that there should be same-sex marriage nationwide — and the holding in Loving is a centerpiece argument in that new claim that previously had been dismissed as laughable by the very same people who argued against miscegenation laws back in the 1960’s.

    FTR, I am in favor of same-sex marriage and find the use of the word “miscegenation” to describe a marriage between people of different skin color to be more than a bit repugnant. So in this case, I sort of like where the slippery slope has led. What I’m pointing out is that slippery slopes do have political reality, despite their logical fallaciousness.

    So when Tim says that permissive laws with respect to abortion could lead to moral tolerance of infanticide, I don’t think it’s a sufficient dismissal to say “That’s a slippery slope fallacy, you must be wrong,” and consider the subject closed. As we’ve discussed elsewhere not so very long ago, the law and the culture have a reciprocal feedback relationship to one another.

    Where I think I depart from Tim is, if it becomes the case at some point in the future that a majority of voters decide that infanticide is, at least under some conditions, morally tolerable, while I am uncomfortable with that personally and in the context of the present culture, I don’t think it’s my place to bind the hands of future generations to decide moral issues for them. I can’t imagine what sorts of pressures they might face (severe overcrowding, massive food riots, enslavement by aliens?) and I have a hard enough time with the moral ambiguities of my own time without seeking to bind the hands of people as-yet unborn.

    Naturally I would hope that people in the future make good moral choices instead of bad ones and my only index of what is a “good” or “bad” moral choice is my own sense of right and wrong. Many commenters here are quick to point out that we cannot use contemporary ethics to weigh the moral acts of people in the historical past; to the extent that is true, we also cannot use contemporary ethics to guide the moral choices of people whose lives will occur in the future.

    • The slippery slope argument is that a position presents no non-arbitrary stopping point and before it could logically lead to absurd or horrible outcomes. What was the principle washed away by Loving? That two people of different races should not marry? I don’t know of any well-founded moral tradition that that was based on. My understanding is that it was of recent vintage, a product of time, place, circumstance, and pretty wrongheaded thinking. Perry presents a slippery slope problem, however, that is bigger than SSM, since Walker ruled that any law based solely on moral views could not pass rational basis review. This doesn’t *necessarily* mean that, were this the law of the land, prostitution, animal cruelty, and many environment regulations would become illegitimate. But we’d need some other principle to support them.

      Ugh, I’m reminding myself why I posted these excerpts without comment…

      • Walker ruled that any law based solely on moral views could not pass rational basis review. This doesn’t *necessarily* mean that, were this the law of the land, prostitution, animal cruelty, and many environment regulations would become illegitimate. But we’d need some other principle to support them.

        Bingo, Mr. Kowal.

      • I don’t know of any well-founded moral tradition that anti-miscegenation laws are based on, either. Anti-miscegenation activists, however, frequently cited the Bible (Genesis 28:1, Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 7:2-3, Acts 17:24-26, and sometimes also Deuteronomy 22:9, Deuteronomy 23:2, and Jeremiah 13:23).

        This doesn’t mean that they were being faithful to the properly-understod meanign of those Biblical passages, nor should you think for a moment that I accuse the Judaic or Christian traditions, fairly understood, of supporting this particular form of racism. I point out that people thought and believed that the Bible gave moral support to their racism.

        The racist reasoning of the Lovings’ original trial judge referred to both his ideas of Christianity as being coextensive with good morality, and the writings of an early anthropologist, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who published a “five human races” theory in 1779 based on scientific research into human anatomy and (mainly) differential analyses of skulls done from the 1750’s to the 1780’s.

        Whether you want to call this a moral basis of “recent” vintage in 1967 is a judgment call based on the focus setting of the telescope you’re using to survey history.

        (Amazingly, his contemporaries considered Blumenbach to be a progressive on matters of race; he insisted, provocatively in his day, that at least some individual members of any race were capable of high intellectual performance in things like science and the arts and thus that there were no “inferior” races.)

        • Is it worth asking whether if God had not contramanded his order Abraham, whether killing Isaac would have been wrong?

          • Ah yes. Theodicy, divine command theory, Euthyphro, and the Epicurian riddle. Delicious, I agree.

            It may be sufficient to note here that Christians believe Jehovah is just and good, and they need not confront the hypothetical because Jehovah did tell Abraham to stay his hand, and thus (for them) the story is an illustration of the inherent moral value of faith. It is men, not God, who do evil, and the question of whether God is capable of evil is academic and hypothetical, because in reality God does not actually do evil things.

            My mileage, of course, varies from that, but that would be a different issue still.

        • Likko, you teleported from the track to the winner’s circle without crossing the finish line.

          Loving is supported by the text of the 14th Amendment; the Bible must stand moot.

          Back on the track,

          Walker ruled that any law based solely on moral views could not pass rational basis review. This doesn’t *necessarily* mean that, were this the law of the land, prostitution, animal cruelty, and many environment regulations would become illegitimate. But we’d need some other principle to support them.

          Michael Vick’s dogs were his property, to do with what he wished or willed. See also Peter Singer in a very important article I linked above. Peter Singer is a reasonable man; we are all reasonable men.

          On a personal note:

          We have all the time in the world, or at least what is left [or allotted to us]. We can discuss stuff to mutual benefit without trying to force a rhetorical win.

          Frankly, I’ve been wondering what to do with this sub-blog, now that I’m on it. I’m consigned here while they pass out mainpage privileges like Rockefeller dimes to members of the same ideological tribe regardless of quality.

          Likko & Kelly alone as regular visitors would probably make it worthwhile. Trumwill. This Corneille guy I like; although I don’t know where he’s coming from yet, he’s been interesting enough to respond to in the past.

          And this Kowal guy is pretty good in his own right; he writes of reality, not fantasy, fictional or political. People interview him on the radio. He also took me in to share his blog like a stray dog when management was trying to figure out what to do with me here. Arf.

          I can live without

          Go f yourself with a spoon.


          When one side is murdering doctors and nurses, blowing upm clinics and engaging in other acts of terrorism, it’s hard not to see them as evil.

          because this is grenade-toss shit, not cooperative inquiry. If they said that shit at Plato’s Republic or Symposium, the only record we’d have of them is the police report.

          Mr. Drew is an estimable and reliable foil; this kenB fellow is reliably incisive; Mr. Schilling is my stalker on this blog whose only advance of the discussion is to prove my points by disputing them; Kim-person, I like. Sincerity goes a loooong way with me.

          My own love of the internet is down at the comments sections, which is why I don’t mainpage so much, here or even at my homeblog, American Creation. It’s about pursuing the truth, not about giving speeches. Not monographs but dialogues. Hit me up here if you hear this; I think Tim won’t mind. What I want to do is clear out the grenades and bring in the scalpels for his post and argument here, because this is some serious motherlode.

          As one philosopher said, we should discuss the serious things seriously.

          You don’t bring a scalpel to a grenade toss.

          • Regarding your personal note…

            I am unsure if I am to take this a note that you might not post any longer. If I’m wrong, never mind; if I’m right, I’d like to strongly encourage you to reconsider. I like both you and your stuff a lot, and if anything I’d like to see you write more. I get what you say about giving speeches, but for my own part I mostly post about stuff I’m trying to figure out and want to find out what folks here would say (yourself included), but that I don’t see anyone else posting about. It’s like having a hive mind that doesn’t agree with me at my disposal.

            Otherwise regarding the “f yourself with a spoon” stuff, yeah. “This new bloggy hobby of mine,” as I’ve been referring to it with the fam, is odd in a whole lot of ways that I wasn’t expecting. I do find that a big chunk for the regulars & writers here – you, JB, Burt, Tim, Will, and a whole bunch of other ones make it (for me) worth the “go f yourself with a spooner”s. For me, anyway.

          • Tom both

            1. Drags my name into discussions purely for the purpose of insulting me.
            2 Calls *me* a stalker.

            Enough said.

          • I can’t tell you how honored I am to be on your short list.

            Given the sheer number of comments and commenters here, the signal-to-noise ratio is higher on LoOG than any other website I’ve visited, excluding extremely low-volume ones. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some unfortunate noise, though. I’ve more or less set parameters around who I will discuss what with. Otherwise, I’d have to go back to avoiding political discussions like the plague.

          • Woohoo, I made the second team! Consider the appreciation reciprocated.

            I’ve spent most of my time in blogdom haunting the sort of site that attempts to foster moderation and across-the-aisle communication, and I’ve never understood why some ideologues feel the need to descend on these places and drop their rhetorical bombs in the middle of a conversation when there are any number of ideological sites that would welcome such contributions. As Will said, best solution is to ignore them and hope that others do as well.

          • Well Tom, you know what they say to a neurosurgeon, “One slip of the scalpel, and there goes 10 years of piano lessons.”

          • Thx, gents. The question is whether this corner of the league is found by enough worthy people. There is clearly a critical mass. Again, thank you.

    • Formally speaking, slippery slope arguments aren’t inherently logically fallacious. In fact, I’m sure you could find reductio ad absurdum arguments from several decades ago that have turned out to be facts on the ground in 2010.

      In fact, Likko locates one here based on Loving. The reductio ad absurdum is the extreme variety of “slippery slope,” but as we have seen, the only limits to absurdity are those of the imagination.

      • The fact remains that if a given moral boundary exists only to stop the deluge that we fear after its removal and is not set there because of a compelling argument, then it is arbitrary and hence has no particular moral force at all. Such markers are destined to be challenged and overcome. The better choice is to search for principles undergirded by moral logic, and accept that where they cannot be found, that is how the world actually is. Better to have no moral answer on any given question than just embrace one we know is nothing but either fiction or, at most, convention. People should not enforce false moral doctrines upon one another, and the fact is that in practice most morality amounts to the enforcement of preferences on people over whom the enforcers have no actual moral authority. This is a bad thing.

        • if a given moral boundary exists only to stop the deluge that we fear after its removal and is not set there because of a compelling argument, then it is arbitrary and hence has no particular moral force at all

          I think these “slippery slope” arguments are brought up during discussions about real-world policies and politics, not in abstract moral reasoning. If someone’s pulling on the other side of the rope, then my decision about how hard to pull on my side has to account for that.

        • Mr. Drew, I would say that changing the rules to allow for the worthy exception is what starts the slip down the slope. Because everything is like something else in some respect, we end up with a chain of weak syllogisms that eventually leads to, as you put it, “the deluge,” one that even the most solid of principles has difficulty standing against.

      • Tom, good lord,we’re both consigned to the dungeon?? I was briefly reassured that this was a solitary confinement type of deal. I pay my monthly $$ to whomever the top honcho is in exchange for my own personal Krazy Korner. But the damn dungeon?? My future strategies will have to change dramatically and radically.

        That’s okay. This damn place is getting more gulagish by the day. Given that well over 90% of my comments get deleted for completely ideological reasons, the idea of one big happy family of soul-searching Libertarians is nothing less than a total flop. The pungent waft of Liberalism grows thicker and stronger by each passing moment–what really puzzles me about this League is the utter lack of intellectual curiosity– about anything and everything. The Dullards rule and that’s just a damn sad shame. Oh well, time for bustin’ rock in total darkness.

        • You know, you’re allowed to get your own blog and link back to this one. You can even link directly to comments.

    • You jumped from “law and culture have a reciprocal feedback relationship to one another” to “bind[ing] the hands of people as-yet unborn ” and that jump begs the question of the OP.

      Our laws today will help form the moral culture of tomorrow. So there is a distinct difference between using contemporary ethics to judge previous generations (over whom we have no influence) and future ones (whose morality will arise from the world of law and culture they inherit). That is precisely why the slippery slope is treacherous.

      By bringing up the SSM issue (with which I agree was positive), you show precisely that past generations do not really tie the hands of future ones.

  7. Eugene Volokh provided similar example where “slippery slope” arguments were dismissed, only to be proven prescient, this involving state ERAs that were explicitly referenced by judges overturning laws against SSM.

    I read a few decades ago that “slippery slope” as a logical fallacy has nothing to do with the common usage of this term — it refers to the cases where a chain of inferences is used to prove a conclusion but where one of the inferences is faulty. But apparently that battle has been good and lost, because wikipedia doesn’t even mention it.

  8. I know that, Michael. But I don’t have to like it.

    On the other hand, the lack of civility elsewhere makes me especially grateful for this place.

  9. Why is there not more uproar from “pro-life” groups against fertility clinics? These places “murder” embyros on a regular basis. You’d think that they’d be targets for “pro-life” terrorism…

    • The pro-life movement has made its view on IVF pretty clear. It came up pretty regularly during the stem-cell debate.

      Asking why there isn’t more terrorism in the face of all of these dead embryos is not much different than asking why there isn’t more terrorism in general with so many abortions going on each year.

      Essentially, it’s a way to say “If you’re not a terrorist, you don’t believe what you are saying. So pick one: terrorist or hypocrite.”

      I, for one, am thankful that comparatively so few people take the attitude that abortions and the like justify acts of violence on their part.

  10. I’m an extreme moderate, Mr. Kowal. I believe anybody not in favor of moderation and compromise ought to be castrated.

  11. Wow, did people suddenly forget how to use the “reply” button to thread their comments when I was in my meeting?

  12. Since Kim has not answered my question:

    “…I’m going to grant for the sake of discussion that we keep abortion legal in cases of rape and incest. Will you join me in supporting legal restrictions on those abortions done for convenience which, as studies show, make up the overwhelming percentage of abortions?”

    The answer is almost always no, to which I reply, “Then why did you bring rape up except to mislead us into thinking you support abortion only in the hard cases?”

    If pro-choicers think abortion should be legal for all nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever, including sex-selection and convenience, they should defend that view with facts and arguments. Cashing in on the tragedy of rape victims is intellectually dishonest.

    • Cheri, if I may plant something to think about, that’s lost in all the heat on the abortion question:

      The reason that exceptions are made for rape and incest is because the woman/girl/female had no willing part in the conception of the child.

      It took me a long time to peel back the onion on that dynamic. never quite understood it. Every other pregnant woman willingly participated in sex and so can be considered to have an obligation to the child in her belly. Not so the pregnant girl who was victimized.

      It’s an ethical problem, not a cosmic or religious one. I hope you can see the distinction. The world operates on ethics at best, not cosmic or religious truth.

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