Quarantines and Double Standards

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From our American correspondent, Esteban:

OK, this may seem like quite a stretch, but there seems to be an inconsistency from many people re: forced quarantines and abortion. No, really, hang with me a minute, I’ll get there.

Assuming you believe that a fetus is a human being, the moral argument for permitting abortion is that you cannot preserve its life without imposing a significant burden on the pregnant woman. If she doesn’t want to go through another 6-7 months of pregnancy and you tell her, sorry, you must, that’s no small imposition on her life. Somewhat analogous to being told that you’re a great match for someone who needs a kidney and you have a spare.

A quick, but probably necessary, aside to deal with the “just a clump of cells” thing. That’s bollocks, it may be effective politically, but it’s bollocks. You sit with a woman who is happily pregnant, look at her sonogram and tell her that the image that looks like a baby sucking its thumb is just a clump of cells or meaningless tissue. Good luck with that, mate.

Now let’s move to the current quarantine situation. Young, healthy people are being ordered (in many places) not to go to school, work or recreation. Why? Because other people (old and/or with immune system issues) are at risk from the Wuhan virus and we need to slow the spread. So, you have to surrender your freedom because it might be beneficial to others.

Mind you, I’m not sure what the right answer is to either situation. In the case of abortion, if you believe the fetus is a human being you still have a clash of interests or rights. Likewise, re: quarantines, there is a risk of nightmare overloads in ICU units and desperate measures may be necessary.

But it strikes me that those who see no issue with being pro abortion and pro forced quarantine aren’t being consistent. Or perhaps I’m missing something?

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jgh
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jgh

I think the closest common factor is selfishness with a dash of authoritarianism. It’s *my* body I’ll do what *I* want. *I* don’t want them icky sick people anywhere near me, lock them up! What? No, don’t lock *me* up, I’m not one of the icks. I’m one of the controllers, not one of the controlled.

Snarkus
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Snarkus

@jgh: Good summary of the attitudes IMHO. Bit like the “Save the whales”/ whatever lot. Usually in old cars or SUVs, driving dangerously for other road users, especially motorcyclists

Spike
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Spike

Esteban biases the debate. OF COURSE “the fetus is a human being.” The relevant question is: Is it, should it be, a “legal person”? That question is nowhere near settled; the closest anyone has come is, “Yes, except when the consequences are untenable” (rape, incest). The consequences of Yes are always untenable: Gov’t gets the power to search for unborn persons, to dictate lifestyles to expectant mothers, and to prohibit pills that prevent persons from implanting in the womb.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

I’m not following your argument. The question is surely why would a human being not be a “legal person”? You seem to be saying because that might make stuff difficult. Hard luck. As for your specific points, why does the government get to do any of that? We don’t let the government dictate what our children can eat (OK, we shouldn’t) and government can’t search for anyone without good reason. What possible reason would it have to search for a fetus? As for the Pill, that’s a moral question, not a government one – is possibly preventing implantation (we cannot… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

The limits of legal personhood and “murder” are a policy decision by the legislature, and like all policy decisions, are made after considering the consequences. Endowing fetuses (or animals) with rights they can’t exercise, transfers power from certain adults to others. “What possible reason would [gov’t] have” to test if a woman is pregnant and compel her to live healthy for the sake of that other “person”? The joy of busybodyism. Gov’t obeys no principle that would prevent this.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

OMG another would be philosopher who thinks that the answer to any problem can be found in playing elegant games with words. Dear Spiky, open the dictionary and look up “live” and “life.” My dictionary lists over 60 definitions, and I would never choose to die on the battlefield of defending one of those definitions above all other.

Grendel
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Grendel

Nice try Tim, but no cigar.
“Assuming that” is not a strong start to an argument 😉

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

Of course it is, if the point being assumed is either a generally accepted point, or not the key point being argued. If you don’t think a fetus is a human being, what is it? It’s alive by every sensible criteria, and so must belong to a species. Which species do you suggest then?

Grendel
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Grendel

This is the line of argument that because y is x and z is x, y must also be x. That holds in mathematics but not in the real world. My point being that by simply rejecting the assumption, the whole argument fails. There is no particular problem in someone agreeing the species of a foetus whilst also holding that it is not actually that thing yet. The statement about the moral case for abortion has a similar problem – if someone does not agree that a early stage human foetus is a human being then to them there is… Read more »

Boganboy
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Boganboy

Quite a while ago, I was wandering through Brissy, when a bloke (I think he was conducting a survey) asked me what I thought of abortion.

So I pointed out that I’d certainly nuke a city or turn a flame thrower on a mob if I thought it desirable. Thus I saw no reason to deny women a similar privilege.

Since he didn’t seem to want to continue the discussion, I wandered off again.

Esteban
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Esteban

Grendel has a point – if someone decides a fetus isn’t human they don’t see any conflict, a bit like the Democrats in the 1860s with slavery. This does get tricky though – if a friend miscarries do you tell them “quit yer whining, it wasn’t human”? If I force a woman to miscarry, can it be considered murder? Perhaps it’s a matter of lying to oneself.

Grendel
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Grendel

It’s an interesting analogy and good to highlight why so many people have such a strong negative view of abortion, given the weight of evidence that slavery is so evil. An alternative analogy might be to consider that you injure yourself on a mountain climb, and your friend is providing the care to keep you alive. Most might agree that – whilst selfish – it is not a crime for the friend to withdraw that care should it be necessary for their own well-being, and your death would be the unfortunate result; not dissimilar in many ways to a mother… Read more »

Esteban
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Esteban

At the end you hit my point in the article – inconsistency. And true enough, people often change their position on principles as it suits their purpose.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Except that every argument, debate or discussion is by definition based on assumptions.

Bongo
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Bongo

Not an argument I agree with, but I can see why it’s attractive is to look at all trade-offs in terms of who is the most vulnerable and can the most vulnerable do something about it.
For the CoronaVirus we can have a royal epidemic amongst the not-vulnerable, and let it run riot for 12 weeks. Those aged 70+, or the COPD, diabetics, Parkinsons types at least have the option to live free and run with the wolves or hole up in their caves until the epidemic is over.
The fetus doesn’t get any information, and gets no options of its choosing.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

Almost every citizen of this planet has been exposed to the virus, ten times, fifty times, a hundred times or more, depending. As Peter Drucker wrote, there is nothing more futile than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. The lockdown is simply politicians who would sacrifice a whole nation’s welfare in order to hang onto their jobs.