Arguments about abortion are stupid. Everyone believes that murdering people is wrong. The question then is whether or not a fetus is a person.

If you think a fetus is a person, then no arguments will convince you that it’s ok to abort the fetus.

Half Sigma supports abortion because stupid people get abortions and he doesn’t want more stupid people. I certainly agree that we should have fewer stupid people. However, I’ve relatively recently started believing that fetuses – at least after a certain point well before they’re born – are people.

While I’d be happy if there were fewer stupid people, I don’t support achieving this goal by murdering stupid people, regardless of how old they are. Frankly, if for some reason I was forced to pick an age range of stupid people to start killing off, it would not be the very young.

26 Responses to Abortion

  1. Eumaios says:

    Somebody pulled a really neat trick, a while back, actually getting conservatives to spend their wad arguing over the morality and legality of killing babies.

  2. aretae says:

    Again…McArdle has written about this brilliantly.

    Turns out there is roughly NO ONE who believes that fetuses are persons. If they thought fetuses were persons, they’d argue that it’s premeditated murder, and that aborting mothers deserved long jail terms or else death penalties themselves. Anything less, and it’s a person-like category that isn’t yet a person.

    It is also true that no one, certainly no one female who’s ever been knocked up, believes at a level beyond the rhetorical that fetuses are just warts.

    The question is ALL about the intermediate stage, despite massive amounts of bullshit rhetoric on both sides.

    • HEL says:

      What exactly is the benefit of leaping ahead to the theoretical punishment when attempting to criminalize behavior? Seems to me that this is getting ahead of the debate. Further, murder is already on the books in most regions, so perhaps there’s really no need to explain what the theoretical punishment for abortion would be.

      Pro-choicers love to imagine that pro-lifers would be horrified at the idea of abortionists going to prison, but this comes off as projection. Lord knows I’m not horrified at the idea. Perhaps other feel differently, but that the specific punishment doesn’t come up doesn’t seem very meaningful to me, for the aforementioned reasons.

    • Handle says:

      Be careful with opinion polls. There are plenty of people who believe exactly that, and would openly express such beliefs if they felt it was safe and socially acceptable to do so. They would also, were they to achieve real power, precisely make those punishments the law of the land. There are states, such as Missouri, who have indeed begun to extend the same punishments for the cause of the death of a child to those who cause the death of a fetus (for example, through a reckless driving collision with a pregnant woman).

      Here’s an example of a baby-killer. This woman is up for the death penalty. Insane or not, the world would be better off without her.

      Again, regardless of what people believe about the tricky question of when the magic line in gestation is crossed and in circumstances with no moral mitigation of culpability, there are plenty of people who would go along with the idea that, pass that line, anyone involved in an abortion is guilty and should indeed be punished for murder, just like that woman.

      It’s be interesting to see the true bell-curve on American opinion on the magic-line (and how it’s changed over time). My guess is that a good majority would indeed support appropriate sentences for murder for convenience-abortions in the third trimester – with perhaps only a quarter doing so in the first trimester. Still – that’s millions and millions of people.

      • Eumaios says:

        There are plenty of people who believe exactly that, and would openly express such beliefs if they felt it was safe and socially acceptable to do so.


  3. Red says:

    The question then becomes do all people have equal value?

    The true answer that most people can’t articulate is that human life has a sliding scale of value with age and utility.

    Unborn-> Toddler -> 5 year old -> 25 year old -> 35 year old
    1 -> 2 -> 4 -> 10 -> 8

    ect. That’s actually how people view the value of a human life.

    The numbers are quite arbitrary and at no point does human life have no value but the sliding scale system is accurate as far as I can tell.

    • AC says:


      “In a 1989 Canadian study, adults were asked to imagine the death of children of various ages and estimate which deaths would create the greatest sense of loss in a parent. The results, plotted on a graph, show grief growing until just before adolescence and then beginning to drop. When this curve was compared with a curve showing changes in reproductive potential over the life cycle (a pattern calculated from Canadian demographic data), the correlation was fairly strong. But much stronger – nearly perfect, in fact – was the correlation between the grief curves of these modern Canadians and the reproductive-potential curve of a hunter-gatherer people, the !Kung of Africa. In other words, the pattern of changing grief was almost exactly what a Darwinian would predict”

  4. K(yle) says:

    If they thought fetuses were persons, they’d argue that it’s premeditated murder, and that aborting mothers deserved long jail terms or else death penalties themselves.

    You do realize that a lot of people do in fact argue exactly this position, right? Theoretically the pregnant mother would be an accessory and the doctor performing the procedure would be the murderer.

    No doubt Eric Rudolph would agree.

    I hear this all the time from people. “No one believes, blah blah blah” on some position that is actually widely believed by many people.

    For example:
    Everyone believes that murdering people is wrong.

    No, I don’t believe murder is wrong. It’s completely contextual. It’s wrong some of the time. No, I’m not conflating murder, ‘unlawful killing’ with killing in general.

  5. K(yle) says:

    The numbers are quite arbitrary and at no point does human life have no value but the sliding scale system is accurate as far as I can tell.

    Yes, there have been studies on this. Losing a toddler is far more psychologically devastating to a parent than losing an infant and losing a near adult child even more so. High infant mortality was the norm for the majority of human history. We are wired to be able to cope with it.

    Not to mention the plain common sense that the longer you know someone the more you are attached to someone, even your own kids.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If they thought fetuses were persons, they’d argue that it’s premeditated murder, and that aborting mothers deserved long jail terms or else death penalties themselves.


  7. aretae says:


    I’ve been listening to the abortion debate for 30 years now, and I have yet to hear someone call for capital punishment or 20 year jail terms for premeditated murder for the mom who makes the decision to abort. If you can cite one?

    If anything, it’s equivalent to the mob boss and the shooter. Clearly the shooter has some culpability, but the worst crime is that of the boss…in this case the mom.

    Only reason that no one says this, is that we all, 100% of us, recognize this position as monstrous. Many folks are trying to shift the terms of the debate, to move the moral goalposts…but the “kill-the-mother” position is insane…and the standard correct position for pre-meditated cold-blooded murder.

    On further remembering, in most legal systems that I know, both triggerman and the one who hired him are equally culpable.

    So…kill the mom if she aborts? If no…you’re either not serious about fetus as person, OR you know that others will find your position insane, so you aren’t willing to say it in public.

    I repeat…NO ONE holds this position publicly.

  8. paladin says:

    aretae, kidnapping is a very serious crime; under some conditions it’s punishable by death in civilized societies. But the Southern slaveowners were not sentenced to death. Is this because nobody seriously believes that Negro ex-slaves are people, or is reality just a little bit more complicated than you think?

    • aretae says:


      Well said. However, my inclination would be to argue, from the rhetoric of the era, that your (intended to be farcical) supposition was correct. Almost nobody seriously believed, for a good portion of the antebellum South, that negroes constituted real people. Maybe they were similar to people in some ways, but they were a truly inferior race, for whom the protections due actual people were inappropriate.

      • AC says:

        Most abolitionists did not publicly advocate the death penalty for slaveownership either. Two conclusions:

        1. They were more circumspect in their public positions than in their private reasoning, because the consensus was so far out of whack.
        2. This doesn’t mean that they were not closer to the correct position.

      • K(yle) says:

        Further muddying the waters if I were to murder a pregnant woman I’d actually be charged with double homicide.


        So according to RvW a fetus in utero is not a person, unless someone that isn’t the mother kills it, at which time it becomes a person.

      • paladin says:

        aretae, from what I’ve read, the most common statement wasn’t that Negroes weren’t human; rather, it was said that they absolutely required keeping and looking after, and if left to their own devices simply wouldn’t be able to live. Far from “almost nobody believed”, most people did. Furthermore, I strongly suspect that most of the people expressing “Negroes aren’t people at all” were doing so in a context where they were in binary opposition to someone claiming that “no people ever should be kept in slavery” — binary opposition is a dangerous position for truth-seeking.
        My point: far from your claim “the protections due actual people were inappropriate”, the Southern claim was that the North didn’t give negroes appropriate protections, and they provided not only human rights, but MORE. Now interestingly, the North largely seems to have agreed with this, since many of their speakers said so, and they by and large passed laws intended to prevent negroes from moving in.
        Now, my argument was not really directed at the Southern or Northern opinions at large, but at the abolitionist opinion at large. This is a difficult position to measure, since it was a chaotic and sometimes even anarchic movement; but by and large, the abolitionist technique was not to slaughter slaveholders even where there was opportunity; it was to (1) smuggle slaves and (2) protest bad law. (Well, more protesting than smuggling, of course.)
        Someone posting as “Handle” made a point that some people do believe that abortion should be punished as murder and would say so if it were socially safe. This is true, and we can compare that to slavery again. Right now, the punishment for “buying” and working a person as a slave (in the same superficial manner as in the antebellum South) would be very severe, possibly up to death in states that still pretend to have such a penalty. Yet few would have detailed in public such a law change even in the North; it would have been not only political suicide, but impossible even from a position of power. It is altogether fitting and proper that they did this: it would be immoral to sentence people severely for acting under social arrangements which were systematically legal and given widespread justification. What needs to be done is that society needs to be changed so that law CAN line up with ethics, rather than changing law abruptly to line up with a small part of ethics and disregarding the rest.

      • Foseti says:

        I agree. Well said.

      • aretae says:

        Let me correct my standard bombastic rhetoric:
        1. I submit that _in the pro-life movement_…
        The number of people who think that standard punishments for first-degree, premeditated murder are appropriate to abortion is vanishingly small.
        The number of people who think that suggesting standard 1st-degree murder punishments for abortion constitutes insanity approaches, but doesn’t reach unity.
        And the number of people who think that when referencing their own children (What if your daughter did it…as asked of Bush II) is next to zero.

        2. The rhetoric — “Bob is not the same kind of entity as I am” remains a statement of deep and fundamental inequality, regardless of what fancy rhetoric someone cloaks it in. I don’t see any significant difference, paladin, between what you said and what I said. Negroes and normal people are different classes of entities, with different actions and obediences required, and power belongs in the hands of “people like me”. Your statements, stripped of lots of fancy words, say precisely the same thing.

        3. So does that mean that folks who argue in the direction of negro slavery being a correct historical position should also be arguing pro-abortion as a solid position — that classes of persons can fundamentally be not the same…regardless if they’re human?

      • paladin says:

        aretae, no; on the contrary, I’m pointing out that the changes in law were required to make kidnapping and enslavement punishable by law. Prior to that, they were immoral but not illegal; the punishments that should have been law at the time (and were law for almost identical immoralities) would have been impossible to enforce without violating other moral law.

        In the same way that the change in law allowed the punishment to fit the actual gravity of the crime for slavery, so also a change in legality for abortion would allow the punishment to be changed to fit the crime. Right now I don’t think it’s possible to even think about the problem clearly.

        This point is independent of the historical question of the reasons Southerners gave for keeping black slaves (and Northerners gave for excluding blacks). I think there’s some enlightenment to be had on the subject, but I’m afraid it’s beside the point right here.


  9. Nathaniel says:

    When I was a libertarian, I was strongly pro-life. Since my vetting as a Sith Apprentice, the issue has become more ambiguous to me. Why is murdering people bad? Because when someone who is not a part of the leadership murders someone, he is attempting to wrestle some measure of power from the status quo. While murder does do things like cause unhappiness and slightly cut the population, the greatest threat from it is that it is an attack on the order of society. Note that functional governments reserve the right to kill anyone they choose at any time. Because they have the ability to do this, it is rarely done.

    Then what do we say about abortion? My take is that in a society not dying of cancer, it is a non-issue, as families are much more able to take care of children at earlier and earlier ages, meaning the incentives to abort become so slight as to be trivial. This is only a theory, though.

  10. gokart-mozart says:

    Here’s the problem: A pregnant woman usually (normally) identifies the intrauterine entity as a person, as do all around her. They paint the baby’s room, they name him or her, they buy him or her clothes and toys, etc, etc.

    Unless she, at her sole discretion, wants to kill the little boy or girl, in which case it’s OK.

    It is an unstable situation at law to allow one’s nature and existence to be contingent on a single other, perhaps, especially, one’s mother.

    In this respect, the situation of the child in question is EXACTLY like that of a pre-13th Amendment slave. Exactly perceptually, judirically, and morally.

    • prcaldude@gmail.com says:

      There’s a history to the “fetus as nonperson” argument put forth by the Left, but as you said, everyone with a functioning conscience thinks the fetus is a person, especially the mother. Mothers willing to kill their unborn are sick people and are probably better off incarcerated or otherwise weeded out of the reproductive pool. The doctors should be punished capitally for being even sicker people who suck babies into garbage disposals.


  11. Eumaios says:

    Aretae, some of us still think we should stone adulteresses. We can’t have what we want, so why bother whining about it? Libertarians might take a cue from that.

  12. Dominic Caraccilo says:

    The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored and we are a large part of why that has happened.

  13. asdfjkl; says:

    I’ve always heard people saying “don’t abort your child because there are plenty of families out there who want kids but can’t have any.” my only problem with this statement is there are an estimated 132 million orphan in the world. There are 6.5 billion people in the world and 132 million of them are orphans. only 13 million have lost both their parents. Now I know that there are people who don’t want kids, who are too young to have kids or are too old to have kids. Pregnancy rates are up really high as well. So i think there are plenty of kids for all those people who want children.

    Also: there are studies that show aborted fetuses umbilical cords have stem cells, and stem cells could save peoples lives, help people who can’t walk, blind people to see. if abortions and stem cell research were both 100% legalized, then we would be able to perform miracles.

    but according to the laws of society, it wont happen.

  14. Wm Tanksley says:

    asdfjkl;, that’s not the end of it — I hear humans are entirely made entirely out of tasty and nutritious meat that could solve both overpopulation and world hunger in one stroke, and yet according to the laws of society, it won’t happen.

    Well, OK, there may be a few other reasons. But those apply against your modest suggestion as well.

    In the paragraph above… your math shows nothing to the point, unfortunately. All the “logical” weight rests on the conclusion alone, justified only by an “I think”, and that’s not an argument.

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