Your Single Most Non-Negotiable Issue

Allow me to take a page from the book of Russell and Rose and frame a post around a seemingly but not so stupid question: What stance on a moral issue would you least expect to see yourself altering even if your political, religious, and philosophical outlooks fundamentally changed?

For my part, I would least expect to find myself advocating torture, defined as the infliction of physical or mental torment in such a way that renders the one tortured incapable of making a fully rational and volitional decision, robbing the person of his or her rationality and freedom, and consequentially the power to love and act out of and in accordance with love.

My first inclination was to answer with my opposition to killing, but given my already in place exceptions—for example, I think killing can be morally justified when it’s an unintended secondary effect to an otherwise just action of self-defense—I can imagine myself changing my views here, at least to some degree.

What about you? What’s your single most non-negotiable moral issue?

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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99 Responses

  1. Fred says:

    Christ is present. That is, the one who satisfies beyond measure my human need for truth, beauty, justice— he is here. Although this is not negotiable, it is tested as my self awareness broadens and deepens.

  2. James Hanley says:

    I had several thoughts rolling around in my brain in your first paragraph, then I saw your second ‘graph and locked right in on torture. Yeah, that’s got to be a contender. Then I thought slavery. And I’d put those two right together, and I’d be surprised if anything else came close.

  3. Mark A says:

    If we are talking purely political issues then the death penalty. I’m with you on the turture issue but death is irrevocable which puts it at the top of my list.

    If we’re simply talking moral objection – with no opposing political sides – then I would choose abuse of any kind. I differentiate it from torture in two ways: abuse is personal or individual (child or spousal abuse, say) rather than institutional in nature and that it is performed only for the purpose of pleasing or assuaging the abuser.

  4. The easy, knee-jerk answer is same-sex marriage, but I think that’s probably a wee bit too simple.

    The difficulty is finding the core of your question. What would remain foundational for me, despite a profound change in my political or religious outlook? So hard to tease those things apart, when I think about it.

    I think I would always object to our society’s ongoing and perverse reward for indecent behavior, by which I mean the inexplicable celebrity of people because of nothing more than their willingness to debase themselves and treat other people horribly. Anything that degrades civility and respect for our shared humanity.

    And I think I would always object to people using their religious beliefs to dictate the moral behavior of other people.

    • Rodak says:

      “And I think I would always object to people using their religious beliefs to dictate the moral behavior of other people.”

      But, isn’t that exactly the basis for opposition to same sex marriage? And (although you don’t bring it up here) abortion, as well?)

      • Glyph says:

        Opposition to abortion need not have any religious component at all.

        • Rodak says:

          I disagree. Of course, one can oppose anything on any basis–or without any basis at all–but the only deal-breaking argument against abortion is based on the theological supposition that a fetus has a soul that was made by God.

          • Glyph says:

            Hi Rodak,

            On another thread, you yourself stated that we have the right, perhaps duty, to defend another creature that is being abused, yes? Then why need I believe the fetus has something called a soul (or is even ‘human’, however you want to define) to believe that depriving it of nutrition, shelter and bodily integrity (and, you know, its life) is ‘abuse’, and therefore worthy of opposition?

          • Stillwater says:

            I’d add that appealing to God isn’t an argument – or rather, it’s an argument that begs the question – independently of how passionately a believer agrees with the conclusion.

          • Will Truman says:

            Appealing to God is an argument so long as the person you are talking to believes in the same God you do, more or less. Otherwise, you gotta find other arguments because any single argument in favor of something that requires a longer discussion and more arguments than for what you are initially arguing in favor of, it’s a tactical loser.

        • GordonHide says:

          “Opposition to abortion need not have any religious component at all.” —

          I have no problem with atheists seeing abortion as a bad thing but which is worse: Abortion or forcing a woman to bear a child she doesn’t want at a risk to her own life and bringing an unwanted child into the world.
          So for me an atheist has to be some kind of moral absolutist to be opposed to abortion, especially if he’s a man.
          I basically deny the Catholic idea that you can’t choose one bad act to prevent a worse situation. – I read that several posters think slavery is pretty bad. Yet anti-abortionists have no problem co-opting a woman’s body against her will in order to protect their own sensibilities.

          • Glyph says:

            Hi Gordon, I have already been over my position pretty exhaustively with Rodak in this thread. But on the off chance you are still reading:

            “I basically deny the Catholic idea that you can’t choose one bad act to prevent a worse situation” – I am with you here, in that I do believe we permit a bad act (legal abortion) to prevent another evil (state intervention in a private matter with sticky medical and self-ownership and consent issues). But I still oppose (or maybe ‘disapprove of’ is a better formulation) the act itself, in most cases.

            But the slavery comment is more troubling to me. I get your analogy; but draw an analogy where the ‘slaves’ are very very young and small humans (because surely, that is what they are, and their DNA precludes them being anything else, and we were all of us one) that are treated strictly as non-human property, uncounted until they reach an arbitrary date on a calendar, kept or disposed of at the will of another – and you get blank stares from the pro-choice crowd, like *this* analogy is just completely nonsensical.

            So, and this is purely rhetorical – I hear you, I get your analogy, and agree it forms part of the basis why I believe we must reluctantly permit it to at least some degree, though I remain unconvinced that the current solution’s absolute nature serves us well philosophically, scientifically or politically.

            But can you say you at least get my analogy? Is it possible to see any nuance in the other side, to concede at least the possibility that others’ rights (mens’ & fetuses’) may be being abridged in favor of not abridging womens’; even if there is perhaps little to be realistically done about that situation?

            Or is it just that black and white?

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      What would remain foundational for me, despite a profound change in my political or religious outlook? So hard to tease those things apart, when I think about it.

      Indeed. I like to think my various positions logically arise out of my overall outlook, but I ask myself this question to entertain the opposite.

      • Rodak says:

        Glyph —

        Because statute law does not recognize the fetus as a “person” until it is viable outside of the womb. As such, it has no legal rights for you to defend, at least until the third trimester, at which stage of gestation most people would be with you in calling it a baby and defending its life.

        • Trumwill Mobile says:

          Morally speaking, it doesn’t matter whether the law sees the fetus as a baby. If you do, or if you see the fetus as a creature worthy of protection, you can oppose abortion on moral/philosophical grounds if you are not religious. I know atheists who believe this. Though it’s usually tied to God, it really doesn’t have to be.

          • Glyph says:

            Thanks Will, this is basically what I was trying to say.

          • Rodak says:

            Understood. I believe that I stated as much above. The question remains, however, if you oppose abortion and want it to be eliminated as a choice for everybody, what argument do you pose to your opposition that is not based on religious assumptions?

          • Glyph says:

            Hi Rodak, I am confused.

            Wouldn’t the argument we just laid out be the one to use? That is, that the fetus is a creature that is being abused? Perhaps fleshed out with the observations that its DNA marks it as homo sapiens, and that it evinces the qualities that we normally term ‘life’ (takes in nutrition, converts that to energy/cellular reproduction in a way that differs from the uncontrolled and erroneous way a tumor does)?

            As an aside, I have often wondered why we don’t use ‘beginning of detectable brain activity’ as the starting boundary, since the tech is there now and getting better, and we generally accept ‘cessation of detectable brain activity’ as our boundary for death.

            My point is that an appeal to science, reason & mercy would seem a good approach. It just does not seem all that controversial.

            Now, the twist in my case is that I do in general oppose abortion (the act itself ), yet also reluctantly oppose allowing the state to criminalize the act due to the danger of allowing the state’s authority into such an intimate area (between patient and doctor, and the near 100% unknowability of whether the fetus is the result of consensual sex, etc). There’s just no way that the state wouldn’t screw that up in some cases through incompetence or malice.

            But boy oh boy, do I wish we could somehow come up with a better compromise between womens’ rights, and protecting the small things we all once were, than we currently have.

          • Glyph says:


            I believe that taking the characteristics together forms a fairly strong argument – yes, other animals have brainwaves, but not human DNA; a human fingernail or liver has human DNA, and takes in nutrition and cellularly reproduces, but it does not have brainwaves; etc. And we have a fairly strong basis in English common law for the preservation of human life, even human life which cannot currently vote for one reason or another.

            Hell, we proscribe animal cruelty, and I am A-OK with that.

            I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree, but it seems to me one has to be trying fairly hard to miss the implications of (A + B + C=?). It is this very tendency that often frustrates me with many on the pro-choice side; instead of saying, well, yeah, it’s a life we are ending, a human one at that, but there may be valid reasons to do so (or at least not legally prevent someone else from doing so), they wave that first part away, the part consisting of fairly basic and mostly-commonly-agreed-upon terms & principles of biology and taxonomy and common law.

            It feels dishonest, like an argument most would make in few contexts other than this one, and as Jaybird has pointed out elsewhere on this site, it feels at times uncomfortably reminiscent of arguments made to justify treating slaves as subhumans & property.

            Anyway, thanks for taking the time to reply in such courteous and thoughtful fashion. I hope what I have written here does not offend, and for all I know may not apply to your own views at all. It’s an easy topic to get really riled up over, I think in part because it is not as simple as the bulk of either side wants it to be.

          • Glyph says:

            Also, what is up with the threading on this thing? My back and forth with Rodak just won’t stay threaded. Sorry Rodak and I hope you still see this here.

          • Kimmi says:

            Solve this through SCIENCE!
            Artificial wombs are the way to go.

        • Mo says:

          One can look at abortion as a human version of the heap problem. Some may define the heap as the single grain of sand and others may wait until 9 months later. In the end, it’s largely a philosophical debate on when in the development cycle is a human fetus a “person”. For many people their religion defines it for them, but that does not necessarily have to be the case.

  5. Will Truman says:

    I’m not sure there is any single issue (other than something specifically relationship-related like “I don’t believe in marriage” or “I believe it’s immoral to have children”, or ones expressly related to narrow views of God and religion), but there is an aggregate of difference that would make a relationship prohibitively difficult.

    • Will Truman says:

      Well, okay, if she took the perspective that interracial marriage was morally wrong and should be legally prohibited, that would be a deal-breaker. In part, though, because of the wider implications of that view rather than specifically the view itself.

      • Rodak says:

        In the last sentence of my reply to Glyph above, I see that I wrote “do make” where it should read “do not make.” Kind of changes the sense! My bad.

  6. Ryan Noonan says:

    I was going to say something about “dignity” or Kant’s Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative (which is probably the absolute bedrock of my ethics) here, but then I saw you explicitly called out the possibility of philosophical change. So maybe I’m not allowed to keep my ethical commitments.

    Slavery’s easy because I’m never confronted with it and the consensus has long since become “it’s real bad, you guys”, but I’m reading Akhil Amar’s “boigraphy” of the Constitution and I’m repeatedly confronted with what an awful, pervasive stain it was on the early U.S., and very few things rile me up like it does.

    Contra Russell, I think I’m going with same-sex marriage. It’s virtually the only thing in my regular experience of politics that has the capacity to reduce me to tears (of either rage or joy, depending) when it’s in the news. I’ve changed a lot of political positions over time, but never that one, so it’s already a decent contender anyway.

    • Just to clarify, my reason for skipping over same-sex marriage is that it impacts me too directly, and seemed too facile an answer from one such as me for Kyle’s question.

      But, y’know… it’s totally cool for you to feel that way.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      I’m interested in whether people are tied more to their overall outlook or to specific positions on specific issues, so I asked about a particular moral stance that one would least expect to give up even if one were to have a grand change of outlook.

  7. dhex says:

    the war on drugs. it is the linchpin of so much evil.

    • GordonHide says:

      What is “the linchpin of so much evil”? The war or the drugs. I think making drugs illegal is a failed paradigm. Legalisation would be cheaper and could hardly be worse.

      • Dhex says:

        The war on drugs itself. I am only being mildly hyperbolic when I call it the engine of our state-sponsored domestic terrorism.

        • GordonHide says:

          I’m afraid you’ll have to enlarge on “state-sponsored domestic terrorism.” I don’t know what you are alluding to.

          • Glyph says:

            I don’t know if the WOD is my ‘non-negotiable issue’ or not. I guess it is at least theoretically possible to come up with a sci-fi PKD drug that would be so dangerous it would justify prohibition.

            But I do know that in this world, there are few other policies that we actively pursue that can get me so het up. Our addiction to the sheer stupidity, waste, futility and counterproductiveness of it all, WHEN WE COULD STOP ANYTIME WE WANT, REALLY, HONEST – drives me absolutely nuts, and I get ranting.

            It just seems so obvious, that whether you look at the WOD from first (American/human) principles (freedom of choice/consciousness, and the idea that I own my body, not the state or anyone else), or the metrics (illegal drugs are not rarer nor weaker today; addiction rates may in fact drop in the WOD’s absence, cf. Portugal) , or the side effects (big bucks and black markets creating untold add-on misery via ruthless violence, see the craziness in Mexico; corruption, abuse & decreased efficiency in law enforcement, see Balko; lopsided effect on minorities/poor; citizens dead or sickened due to impure/unknown product or needle re-use) that it is so much worse than a failure – it does not do what it nominally sets out to do, PLUS it makes the world worse in many additional ways.

            See? I even got ranting in just this combox. It really bugs me.

  8. Patrick Cahalan says:


    Do we regard our own fallibility in this hypothetical? I can see myself hypothetically committing all sorts of acts that I may regard as immoral for a laundry list of exigent circumstances, but that wouldn’t change my opinion as to the morality of the action.

    Is this, “Stuff you would never do, that you regard now as unthinkable” or “Stuff you think is evil under all circumstances”?

  9. Rodak says:

    Because failure to love is the cause of every other moral failing, mine would be the attempt to follow the commandment to love my neighbor as myself.

  10. GordonHide says:

    I’m a consequentialist, so, in principle. I don’t rule out anything. If I were to become something other than a consequentialist, depending on what that was, I guess I might develop an absolutist position on any number of possible actions.

    • Patrick Cahalan says:

      Ah, but do you regard your consequentialism as absolutist?

      • GordonHide says:

        No. Accepting the fact that I am human and prone to mistakes, I will usually reject a moral solution that is likely to cause harm as part of the best outcome in favour of a worse overall outcome that does not involve harm.

  11. Kyle says:

    I think rape is non-negotiable for me. I don’t think something so violative could never be morally acceptable.

    But this question forces you to examine the justifications offered for things like slavery, torture, and realize that not everyone who supported such institutions thought themselves evil or morally reproachable. The thing that separates me from them is my philosophical, religious, and moral outlook.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      True. Often what we consider unspeakable horrors were perpetrated by people who sought to justify their transgressions, to themselves if no one else. And for the most part, maybe altogether, people do wrong for the sake of some perceived good.

  12. karl says:

    This question is probably unanswerable for those who have never altered their religious faith, etc. The amount of disinterested self-awareness needed to imagine a different you is enormous.

  13. Burt Likko says:

    I would like to say slavery and torture but these things get a little bit slippery when you get down into the weeds about what slavery and torture really are.

    Slavery could theoretically be a rather pleasant existence, depending on the circumstances of the enslavement (particularly if one were kept ignorant of the fact of being owned by another).

    What you might think of as “torture” I might consider “merely unpleasant.” Utilitarian ethical models can justify it. Rape, as Kyle points out above, seems as though it would be unjustifiable under any circumstances, but again we get into definitional problems in marginal cases — is a prostitute raped when she plies her trade? This is not the partner she would have chosen for herself, after all; her apparent consent may be in fact coerced from a variety of circumstances notably including violence or the threat of violence dispensed by her pimp.

    Killing, as you point out, can be envisioned in some circumstances to be morally justifiable.

    So, I’m not at all sure there is such a thing as a moral absolute. Not even the categorical imperative, although that’s as close to a philosophical articulation of a moral absolute as I can imagine. That’s not to say there aren’t… firm, shall we say, guidelines of what is moral and what is not. But “firm” is not “absolute.”

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      I try to avoid the slippery slope by defining torture in reference to the effect of the inflicted pain rather than the degree.

      Regarding absolutes, I think we can speak of them in at least two ways, maybe more. There are intentions that are always and everywhere immoral, e.g., the intention to cause harm for the purposes of deriving pleasure; and there are acts that are intrinsically immoral, morally wrong in themselves regardless of time, place, intention, or circumstance. Deliberately murdering a child, for example. Granted there are marginal cases that cloud definitions, but these do not prevent us from speaking intelligibly about specific intentions or specific acts or from judging these according to specific criteria.

  14. Michael Drew says:

    I would have to say slavery in the specific form of kidnapping and selling children into captivity as sex toys or concubines for rich men which I believe is a practice very much still in existence, or into forced prostitution or the production of pornography.

  15. b-psycho says:

    Light beer. ’tis simply an abomination.

  16. Rodak says:

    Taking the “than” into consideration, I would have to say that the kind of cruelty shown by those school kids to that elderly female monitor, the clip of which went viral, and which has been much discussed on cable talk TV, would be higher on my list than some of the more obvious moral outrages, such as torture and murder, etc. It is these little, but constant, meannesses and indignities, expressive of our failure to love, that make of even a normal, non-tragedy-enlarged, day a low-level torment. Sartre expressed this quite well in his play “No Exit”: hell is other people.

  17. Will Truman says:

    Obviously, I shouldn’t have answered on a cell phone because I completely misunderstood the question. To answer the actual question instead of the one I tried to piece together trying to read the post on a phone in daylight…

    Gay marriage is the big one. I formed my view at 17 and it never changed. Given how much my views have shifted over time, it may be the only view that hasn’t. Abortion, war, torture, welfare… all of these have changed. That’s been one of the few constants.

  18. Tod Kelly says:

    I have three things that I absolutely, positively, in no way will not budge on opposing:

    1. Anti-gay marriage laws
    2. Religion being presented as science at public schools
    3. Snuggies

    • Will Truman says:

      I almost mentioned #2, but truth be told that I can be sold to some degree on Intelligent Design if it can be demonstrated that it defuses the atmosphere to the point that kids will listen to and come to understand the whole evolution thing being taught beside it. I do sometimes wonder if kids are warned against science instruction in general over this, so they simply don’t listen and therefore learn less about how it works.

      • GordonHide says:

        Well, I never had a biology lesson but I would have thought the whole thing about evolution was unguided natural selection. Dump that and you might as well not bother.

        • Will Truman says:

          Oh, I’m not talking about dumping evolution. Intelligent Design and Evolution are incompatible. Throwing out something false as a possibility before talking about the possibility that has far more substantial evidence… well, if it helps. I would rather they learn about natural selection and reject it than tune it out altogether.

  19. Kimmi says:

    Torture, for me too.
    The reasons are quite personal, so…

    I include in my blanket prohibition on torture
    people who have intended me harm,
    people who have murdered solely for their own pleasure
    people whose actions have willfully and maliciously caused the deaths of many.

  20. GordonHide says:

    @Glyph –
    Morality is a de facto contract between members of a group who are capable of being moral agents.
    It’s clear to me that the reason we do not accord many of the unborn the protections of society is that they are not moral agents:
    They cannot act morally.
    They cannot reciprocate.
    They are not self aware.
    They mostly do not suffer.
    We could make them “honorary” moral agents in the same way we partly do for many others:
    The mentally retarded.
    The dead. – We honour their last wills.
    The demented.
    New borns.
    The completely physically incapacitated
    Convicted criminals.
    Animals that can suffer.
    I think it would probably be useful to think about why we accord some moral protection to some but not others.

    • Glyph says:

      Thanks Gordon, this is interesting. Something to chew on. Some of the ‘honorary’ ones you list I had considered (basically, those that are physically or mentally incapacitated either temporarily or permanently – coma patients and unconscious people. We obviously don’t lose all our rights when we go to sleep. That would make it very hard to get a good night’s rest).

      • GordonHide says:

        OK getting back to your cris de coeur for the unborn. When I used the slavery analogy it was in respect of women who are contributing moral agents within our society.

        We perhaps often forget that morality evolved without the benefit of philosophers or theologians. In its evolved form the “reciprocal contractual arrangement” was only meant to apply to those in the “in group”. It does not apply to those who are not moral agents within the “in group”. The only way that morality could have survived and prospered in evolutionary terms is by offering a competitive advantage to the “in group” members.

        So your analogy doesn’t hold up as the unborn are not considered independent moral agents within the “in group” the way that women are.

        You could say “What about all these other non-contributing members in your list?” But there is a key difference. When we give the mentally retarded “honorary” membership we are not seriously impacting the freedoms of other members. No individual has their body co-opted by the physically totally incapacitated as a matter of law.

        If we were to treat the unborn as members of the “in group” entitled to its protections we could only do so at the expense of the “in group” rights of women.

        There is also another point perhaps less important but still worth mentioning. Many individuals classified as belonging one of the categories in my “honorary” list have been contributing “in group” members during their lives. Not only that but every currently contributing in group member can see that they themselves might become a non-contributor. I suggest it would have a deleterious effect on society if its members thought they would lose the protections of society as soon as they became non-contributors. On the other hand no current moral agent is in any danger of joining the unborn. So that pressure to admit them to the “in group” does not exist

  21. Teresa Rice says:

    I know I’m late to the game here but… here’s my two cents.

    Actually one only needs to look at science to be able to make a case for the protection of the unborn — 1) the unborn child, embryo, or “fetus” is human and very much alive, 2) that the embryo or unborn child is a separate body from the the mother’s body. If one is talking about viability or stages of development in order to define the unborn as human then one could use an arbitrary standard when the baby is outside of the womb or for any human that has been born. We are all in different stages of development. Development does not define what is considered to be a human being. Just as viability is not really an indicator of one’s humanness. When we see a 2-year old kid who is lost and starving we know that he/she doesn’t have the capacity to take care of herself but as a person who has seen that child are we just going to do nothing, leave the child alone, and let that child starve just because the child doesn’t know how to eat, take care of herself and sustain her viability on her own? The same goes for the unborn child in the womb. The fertilized egg and embryo are developing as a separate being within the mother’s womb. The embryo is dependent on the nutrients from the mother for her development much in the same way a 2-year old is dependent on her mother to provide nutrients after her birth using milk (breast or formula) and other foods as the baby further develops.

    “At the moment of fertilization, the baby’s genetic makeup is complete, including whether it’s a boy or girl.” This is from webmd, a slideshow on conception.

    The question is not whether a woman has the right to control her own body. The question really is: Do women have the right to decide the fate of another being which happens to be inside of their bodies, an unborn baby which needs their nutrients for development?

    • James Hanley says:

      one only needs to look at science to be able to make a case for the protection of the unborn

      One cannot make a really compelling case out of the science, because the science does not tell us when the living tissue becomes a human being. It could be at the moment of conception, but that’s not a scientific (empirical) claim.

      • Teresa Rice says:

        @James Hanley

        “One cannot make a really compelling case out of the science, because the science does not tell us when the living tissue becomes a human being. ”

        I don’t see how anyone can say this except out of ignorance of what science does, in fact, tell us. I am not a scientist. I am not an embryologist. If you are not a scientist either, then we are in same boat. If we want to know what science says about this or that, we must find out what the scientists are saying that science says (was that complicated enough for you?)…

        ” A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). Human development begins at fertilization” (from Moore, K. and T.V.N. Persaud. 1998. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology 6th ed., page 2)

        “Fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed” (O’Rahilly, R. and F. Muller. 1996. Human Embryology & Teratology, page 5)

        “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” (Dr. Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic) – [since cellular life is there before that, because the sperm and the egg are living cells, he is clearly talking about the life of the human being that is conceived as a result of those two cells joining].

        And so on – all the textbooks and experts say the same thing. I saved the best for last:

        “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception” – Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard University Medical School.

        So if you disagree, go to Harvard and take it up with Dr. Matthews-Roth.

        • Kim says:

          I do not hold myself to a moral obligation to donate half my liver to the next person needing a liver transplant. This is emphatically not to say that it is not a moral good to do so, just that it is not a duty.

          Do you think otherwise? Even if so, do you consider it to be such a moral obligation that we ought to solidify it in law (here, for the sake of a decent argument, I’d like to say it will not be the government forcing you to give up part of your liver. We don’t do that with anything sex-related, choosing to delegate to Planned Parenthood et alia)?

          • Teresa Rice says:

            If this is not a strange change of subject but rather a furthering of the discussion, then I need more information. Why is “the next person” in need of a liver transplant? Did he or she get that way because of you? What is the natural connection between your body and the body of this “next person”? Is there one? And if there is one, which of you had more to do with it being so – you or this “next person” in need of half your liver. Does he or she need, not merely half a liver, but half of YOURS in particular (in other words, would any liver do, or just yours)?

            If you can’t make sense of those questions then you will not be able to use this “next person” (Unconscious Violinist?) to defend abortion. If this “next person” is in this state of dependence on you, not because of something he did, but, at least in part, because of something YOU did (whether you did it for that purpose or not), and not at all because of his or her actions, and if the half-liver would automatically be drawn from you into the next person, again, because of what you did and not at all because of what he or she did, and if the only way you could put an end to this sad state of affairs would be to violently and horribly kill this “next person”, then I suppose, yes, you would be obligated to let the half-liver drift into the other person, and yes, if you killed him or her to prevent that, you should be prosecuted.

          • Kim says:

            More information’s certainly fair enough.
            I’ll reserve the rights to change these later (with warning!) 😉
            1) why? Let’s assume that it’s involuntary, and not as a result of anyone (“act of god if you will)
            2) Natural Connection? — hmm, I think I want your answer both ways, on this one.
            A) Close Relation — [reading your next question: does it really matter if it’s your child or your mother? do you see a moral difference in terms of -obligation-?]
            B) Perfect Stranger
            3) Can someone else substitute — hmm, I think I want your answer both ways… (I think we’re up to four cases now!)

            Do you see some difference between acts of violence towards a fetus, and failing to take folic acid supplements with the explicit intent of “not having a baby to deal with”? [sorry if it feels like I’m putting words in your mouth, this is an honest question]

            I see that you’ve answered one of the scenarios, which brings up an interesting point: “What if the woman did not do any actions that would result in pregnancy?”

            Does that actually have much moral bearing on your arguments about the need to carry a child to term?

            (I honestly think this may be more of the crux of the matter between us — I think there are many more times than often recognized where a woman did absolutely nothing to get pregnant. nonconsensual sex if you will, or at least “nonconsensual impregnation”)

  22. GordonHide says:

    There is no argument that a foetus is alive and consists of human tissue. The question is should we defend it against a mother’s right to control of her own bodily functions? And should we bring another unwanted child into the world?

    The important questions are moral not technical. The moral questions should be informed by real world knowledge. You have likened the foetus to a lost two year old. I would point out that you allow thousands of toddlers to die every day because they are outside the jurisdiction of your country. You cannot protect them all. So there are large numbers of humans to whom you feel very little responsibility.

    I venture you are unwilling to take responsibility for the unborn children of others but you want the power to force someone else to protect them.

    I would say just as you choose not to help as many children in dire straights as you could so a pregnant woman is entitled to the same alternatives as you. She, after all, would have to give up a fair portion of her personal freedom. You would only have to give up your wealth.

    You should trust your fellow women to make the decision on the assumption that she aspires to reduce or not increase the overall level of human suffering.

    We are not altruistic and moral if we are forced by law to be so. Only a decision to be so as free from outside coercion as possible is meritorious.

    So I guess it comes down to the stage at which we believe we should treat the foetus as having the same right to life as those who currently have that right and is the downgrading of women to permanent second class status, slave human gestation facilities of the state, worth extending the right to life to unconscious human tissue which does not suffer and is unwanted.

    • Kevin Rice says:

      “There is no argument that a foetus is alive and consists of human tissue.”

      The foetus is more than just something alive that consists of human tissue. The foetus is a human organism, which is to say, a living human being (there is no difference between a human organism and a human being).

      “The question is should we defend it against a mother’s right to control of her own bodily functions? And should we bring another unwanted child into the world?”

      If women were getting pregnant by stepping on loaded daisies…if free floating zygotes were flying like spores off flowers and zooming up women’s skirts and self-implanting by no consensual action on the part of the mother, that question might have been worth asking.

      ” is the downgrading of women to permanent second class status, slave human gestation facilities of the state, worth extending the right to life to unconscious human tissue which does not suffer and is unwanted.”

      If women were being forcibly impregnated by the state, the above quote would not be the specious b.s. that it is.

      • Kim says:

        Yes, because we know that all rapes are in fact illegal. That failure to obtain consent is in fact a prosecutable offense.
        That men never rape a woman without her knowing about it.

        Victim blaming, victim shaming is not okay.

        • Kevin Rice says:

          “Victim blaming, victim shaming is not okay.”

          Is it okay to argue as if women who have not conceived as a result of rape have no responsibility for the fact that they are carrying another member of the human family within their bodies as a result of their own consensual behavior? Because that is what the “slave gestation faciltity of the state” comment does. It is very patronizing and even infantilizing toward women who are not victims of rape to treat them as if they had nothing to do with their pregnancy and have no more obligations or responsibility for their actions than irresponsible children.

          Bringing up rape is more specious b.s. for several reasons:

          1. Most pro-lifers would countenance legislation that recognized a rape exception in outlawing abortions since this would save many babies’ lives without advocating for any additional babies’ deaths.

          2. Most pro-choicers, while willing to argue on behalf of the right to abort because of rape, are not in favor of limiting abortion rights to rape victims.

          3. Even if abortion were prohibited without exception, juries would nullify the application of that law to rape victims. They would never convict a rape victim of murder for aborting. It’s an exception that does not need to be made, and impregnated rape victims would, not, therefore, be in any danger of prison time for their refusal to carry the child of their rapist to term.

          • Kim says:

            I believe that they do have a responsibility, just not one that needs or should be part of the legal system. The family does not need to be regulated by the government. (heh. you’re going to start calling me scotch irish, yes?).

            Most juries will not convince a man for raping a woman unless she says no. Even if she didn’t realize any sexual contact was being made (okay, assume she’s older than twelve). This is still not the woman’s fault.

            And yes, the “slave gestation” is really going over the top too, and if you had merely called him out on that I wouldn’t have responded.

  23. Teresa Rice says:

    And you believe its okay for a woman to murder an innocent human being. I don’t. So what does that make you? An immoral ….. ? Just because you can’t see the innocent child in the womb you’d rather let the mother murder another human being all in the name of choice. Thank you “little Hitler”. And don’t you even dare assume or presume things about me like you just said that are unfounded. Like I come into contact with 2 year olds in other countries every day? Have you ever heard of giving an example or trying to draw a comparison? There are plenty of people who are unable to have children that would do anything to be able to have a child but your okay with these babies being murdered instead of being up for adoption and care for with love and human dignity. And I am one of them so yes you darn well struck a nerve and people like you who spew your garbage pretending to care about kids but then when it really counts in defending the vulnerable, the unborn, you really don’t give a care. You just care about the wrong rights, the wrong liberties – having the right to murder all in the name of selfishness. You hold no regard for the facts, human dignity, basic fundamental principles of life but just accuse others with your smug, arrogant, know-it-all attitude of not doing this or that when you don’t know a dang thing about the person. That’s okay you believe the garbage and falsehoods that you want to and be okay for advocating immorality and be judged by our Lord. That’s your choice in this world. You’ll just have to accept the consequences for your choices and those things you advocate for in the next life.

    • Kim says:

      Okay. Let’s play your game (calmly! let’s have some fun! it’s just a game!).

      Murder. It sounds awful, doesn’t it? And it is. It’s a decision fraught with moral consequences.

      But let’s look at this calmly. How many people would you need to save in order to kill an innocent? To consider that morally righteous, if under difficult circumstances? Does that number change based on how old the innocent is?

      Ten people. A hundred people. A thousand people. The decision weighs on you, it does not involve the other people, after all.

      Hard questions, aren’t they? It’s rather cavalier and easy to simply go Kantian, and say that “I’d kill a thousand people, merely for the 33% chance that that embryo would implant and grow up to be a kid.”

      And, naturally, it gets more sticky if you’re asking, “but what if the child dies too?”

      These are naturally hypotheticals, and could be easily disarmed by saying, “but if there’s one woman, and she’s pregnant, you could get each person to just give a little…” But I’d like to ask you not to do that.

      I will at this moment, explicitly affirm that I’m not going to try and change your mind on this one. If you’re going to be completely Kantian (no Murder, Never! Damn the Consequences) — that’s fine, I let this drop.

      • Teresa Rice says:

        Call me Kantian then. No number would do it. Murder is wrong. I would not commit a murder to save any number of people. I might consider killing in order to save a life, but not murdering. There is a clear difference.

    • GordonHide says:

      @Teresa Rice
      Murder is a legal term and applies to some forms of illegal killing of human beings. Abortion is not illegal and an unborn foetus is not a human being and citizen in law with the protection provided by the law. Your use of term in this case shows the emotional weakness of your argument.

      Your argument about adoption would carry more weight if there were not already tens of millions of children in the world awaiting adoption. Your categorisation of women who have abortions as selfish is an unfounded generalisation. Many of them have other responsibilities to people who rely on them which they would be unable to meet if they saw a pregnancy through to birth. Others would be damaging their health or even imperilling their life.

      Human dignity is not served by depriving women of the right to control their own bodies. Neither is it served by bringing unwanted children into the world in the name of a dubious “basic fundamental principle of life”.

      It seems to me that what you mistake for compassion for the unborn what is in fact a self serving sentimentalism. You cannot see the consequences of what would be the decisions that you made if you had the power to make them. You cannot see the cost in human misery that you would incur to protect your cosy delusion of reality.

  24. NewDealer says:

    I am a firm supporter of the welfare state and the moral good of public school, public roads, public libraries, public transportation, etc. I cannot seriously vote for any candidate who believes privatizing and deregulation are the solutions for all problems.

    • Teresa Rice says:

      ” I cannot seriously vote for any candidate who believes privatizing and deregulation are the solutions for all problems.” I don’t believe that deregulation and privatizing is the solution for all problems. But I do believe that our government has become too big to be able to take care of the needy properly or the best way possible. Plus, many of the public schools are failing kids, not teachings the basics, social studies, maths, or sciences adequately. IMO there needs to be competition with vouchers which will help to encourage the public schools to better their educational system so as to keep the kids in whichever public school.

      • Kim says:

        I don’t like the Catholic Church or the Red Cross terribly much, either. I think we could come up with some cool ways of helping people (looked at Occupy Sandy recently?), but people are busy making these 1930’s organizations still function, rather than making newer, smaller, better run organizations.

      • NewDealer says:

        I don’t really get people complaining about big government unless they have a fantasy yeoman version of what life is like.

        The United States of 2012 is 300 million people, non-Agarian, geographically and ethnically diverse and going through paradigm shifts in terms of how labor and employment work.

        Big problems demand big solutions.

        • Kim says:

          Just ask Occupy Sandy! or the Arab Spring.
          Big problems demand cooperation and coordination.
          Cooperation may or may not involve big solutions.

  25. Teresa Rice says:


    I apologize for losing my cool in my last comment. Nothing you wrote merited the degree of my ire. I overreacted a bit. It’s just that I would gladly take in a child who was not wanted by his or her biological parents. I would do it in a heartbeat. So you are wrong about that. Most of the people I know who are pro-life would say the same. But even if it were not so, would that justify infanticide? If it would not justify infanticide, then the “argument” that those who abhor abortion and want the life of a child in the womb protected should pay to raise that child has no weight. It assumes that the child in the womb is not just as human right before he or she is born as right after. There is no reason to believe that, let alone to assume it.

    • Kim says:

      PLEASE, Adopt! There are so many poor, abused kids out there, who need help! Not just innocents, but innocents whose very innocence has been brutally ripped from them.

      I’ll put this on record: if at any point the adoption system is empty, and a woman has accidentally gotten pregnant (assuming a relatively ideal world, where she wouldn’t lose her job for being pregnant.), I’d hold it as a moral imperative for her to take the child to term and give it to well-meaning (aka non-abusive) parents. It’s not that much of a cost…

      • Teresa Rice says:

        Thank you Kim for your kind response. I’d love to adopt but unfortunately it is expensive to adopt. I had my hysterectomy in late September so that’s why I’m a wee bit touchy. Once I get back to work hopefully we will be able to save up in order to adopt. Foster care is an option and that can lead to adoption down the road.

        • Kim says:

          *puts on the crazy liberal hat for a moment*
          Wonder how many people would be willing to chip in so that some “ideal parents” could adopt?
          I figure there’s probably a good deal of folks who would like to adopt, but don’t have -nearly- enough…
          [Note: i don’t see something like this as happening via the government. That would be a Bad Plan.]

    • GordonHide says:

      There is no question that the foetus is human. What it is not is a child who has legal recognition as being entitled to the full protection of the law. The term infanticide is therefore inappropriate.

      If you don’t want to pay for the extra 20 million children who would exist today in the US if all abortions had been brought to term who do you think is going to pay? Perhaps your concept of human dignity would prefer that they starved and froze in the street?

      • Teresa Rice says:

        “The term infanticide is therefore inappropriate.”

        I wasn’t using the term infanticide to refer to abortion. Are you confused about that, or are you saying that my analogy does not work? If the foetus is now granted even by you as a human being, then the analogy certainly works and the term is appropriate for an analogy to abortion. It is the justness of law itself that is in question for denying a certain class of human beings the full protection of the law that they are entitled to. If post-natal infanticide were made legal, I would oppose that as well, and I would call it murder even if the law did not. I would also reject all cold, callous, inhuman arguments based on economic statistics (they would be the same ones – how much it would cost to raise how many “unwanted” children) as further symptoms of the moral sickness that blinds those who use them to the truth. The truth is that deliberately and unjustly killing a human being is always wrong, and defending it also gravely immoral. My concept of human dignity is that every one of those “20 million” children that you call “extra” should have a chance. The difference between my concept of human dignity and yours is not about who starves. I am not in favor of starvation. The difference lies in what you are in favor of: tearing those children apart limb from limb and tossing them in small bloody pieces into a garbage before they can take even one breath of the air you don’t wish to share with them.

        By the way, I put quotes around “unwanted” above because I reject the use of that label. A child who is not wanted by his own biological parents is often still wanted by someone. I speak as just such a someone.

        • Kim says:

          yes, you speak as such a someone. much praise to you (and I truly mean that, hope i don’t sound sarcastic).
          Still, there are tons of kids who remain within the system until they’re no longer minors. I believe that shows that the number of kids who are wanted is below the number of kids we are producing. (alternative, valid, view: people want “shiny cute babies” not “broken abused teens”)

  26. Teresa Rice says:

    I think private doners whether it be by way of organizations or charities – Catholic or non-Catholic – would be a good way to help support and fund those people who would like to adopt but are unable to afford to do so.

    But why is adoption so expensive in the first place? If it is possible for the cost of adoption to be reduced I think it should be.