Tuesday, March 13, 2007

America: The Only Country Where People Go Hunting on a Full Stomach

This post is in response to CapeTown's post about individual rights, gun control and abortion; and about the ensuing debate between CapeTown and Andy D (who blogs at Political Friends) in the comments section to CapeTown's post.

First off, I want to mention how great I think it is that (1) people aside from us are actually reading this thing and (2) are even making comments and (3) that we have people of different opinions engaging in civilized and respectful debate. I am appreciative of the fact that people are even reading this, so I would like to take the opportunity to engage those (well, the one, so far) readers and respond in an actual posting. Hope that's cool, Andy.

Before getting into the ring I should probably recap the points that I want to respond to (for the actual text of the debate click here). CapeTown began his post by voicing a general preference in favor of a libertarian perspective on political issues: "It just seems logical, human, and American to allow for as many individual freedoms as possible; the burden should fall on the side of those who argue to limit our rights not those defending them." Thus CapeTown believes that things like abortion and gay marriage - personal matters hardly relevant to national security - should be legal. Despite finding the general notion that the government should stay out of our beeswax except when absolutely necessary to protect the hive intuitively appealing, CapeTown then feels like a hypocrite for (again intuitively) favoring gun control. Andy disagrees on both issues. In voicing his opinion that abortion should be illegal he correctly states the limitations of the libertarian doctrine: "I believe we have rights until those rights infringe on others rights. Abortion is a perfect example. If a woman has the right to decide what affects her body, why doesn’t the unborn baby get the same right?" And now, so as not to offend the pugilists that you see at the top of the screen, I need to disagree with some people.

First I want to say why I don't think CapeTown is a hypocrite (not that it even matters in the first place -- why can't you be conservative on some issues and liberal on other issues!). Now I too think that there is a lot of sense to the libertarian perspective, and for many people it is a "best of" of Republican (economic freedom) and Democratic (personal freedom) policies. After all, our founding fathers created this country and wrote our Constitution in an attempt to avoid the draconian situation under British rule where, for example, police could search anyone anywhere at any time without any reason.

As Andy points out, however, the individual liberty and freedom to make our own decisions has to stop at a point before our personal decisions are endangering others. In terms of gun control, I think it is perfectly sensible to favor regulation (as opposed to a ban) only because guns are just unavoidably dangerous. Think about driving: it's an activity that is essential to our personal lives, but no matter what precautions are taken it is still an extremely dangerous activity in comparison to the other things that most of us do on a daily basis. Hence speed limits and other rules infringing on our personal choices. Guns are similar because while this is a private activity, there are still a lot of things that can go wrong and that justifies regulation. How much regulation is the hard part.

Now I don't agree with CapeTown on everything (I happen to like Maureen Dowd!), but I am also going to agree with CapeTown on abortion in that I support the woman's right to choose. The counterargument, of course, is that the unborn American has rights too. Now smart people can disagree over when the unborn child becomes an individual human being, and there is no clear answer to that.

Two deer, most likely debating the various political issues of the day such as gun control and abortion; issues upon which smart people can disagree.

However, the Fourteenth Amendment grants the aforementioned individual rights (life, liberty, property, due process, equal protection, etc) to "persons born or naturalized in the United States," so it seems that unborn fetuses - be they individual humans or not - are not given any rights in the Constitution.

So what we have now is a fetus with the same rights as, say, a 50-year-old French guy visiting the Vineyards in Nappa. Not at all protected by the Constitution, but I think you could still get in trouble if you got drunk and hit him over the head with the empty wine bottle. Which brings us back to the question of whether the fetus is an individual human being, or a part of the mother.

One way to look at it is to say that the mother's Constitutional right of freedom over her body invalidates any law against terminating her pregnancy, given that the fetus does not enjoy the same Constitutional right. Another way to look at it is based on the question of whether or when the fetus becomes an individual, as I think there is a big difference between taking the morning after pill and...well...doing something towards the final stages of the pregnancy. In light of this I believe that abortion should definitely be legal at least during the early stages (I think the current law is no regulation until after the first trimester), while as it gets later into the pregnancy the arguments become stronger for some kind of government regulation.

In closing I would like to offer an apology, because you really didn't have to read my post to get all you need to know about the abortion issue, rather you could (and should) have just consulted the wisdom of the great sage Chris Rock. (WATCH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)


Andy D said...

Good post. I think you have some valid arguments, and I hope to give you some counterpoints:

First, while your quote from the 14th amendment is correct, we extend those same rights to anyone in our borders. We give illegal immigrants the same rights that you mention, and they are neither born or naturalized US citizens. I also believe (and haven’t done my homework to find out for sure) that most states vary when an abortion is legal and illegal.

My personal belief is that an unborn fetus is an individual. As I stated in the original post, I would have said something totally different before my wife got pregnant. I believe my daughter was her own individual prior to being born. Because of that, I feel that abortion is morally wrong, and except in the most extreme circumstances, should be outlawed.

BostonDissentator said...

Okay, first off, you are right about the 14th Amendment extending to all "persons" on US soil.

Thus, as I said in my post, the debate ultimately ends at the question of whether and if so when the unborn is a "person." This is a highly subjective issue, and you are entitled to your (highly subjective) opinion.

So you think abortion is morally wrong and others think it is not. There is no right answer, but whose view should control? For me a question like this is clearly resolved in favor of leaving each individual to make their own personal, subjective choice for themself. Thus those who believe abortion is morally wrong are free to not have abortions, and those -- for whatever personal reasons completely foreign to and no business of any would-be third party decisionmaker -- would chose to have abortions are similarly free.

Lastly, in my opinion, threre is a problem with your statement that "abortion is morally wrong, and except in the most extreme circumstances, should be outlawed." If something is morally wrong, it would seem that it should be allowed under no circumstances whatsoever, while if there are circumstances where it could be allowed, then it must fall short of being morally wrong. Regardless, subjective, personal and moral views alone, in my opinion, are always a suspect justification for third parties constraining the behavior of another citizen in their personal life.

Stan said...

"the Fourteenth Amendment grants the aforementioned individual rights (life, liberty, property, due process, equal protection, etc) to "persons born or naturalized in the United States...'"

This is where you falter.
The Constitution grants zero rights.
It protects pre-existing rights. Is man so arrogant to think they are the granter of rights??? If such a man thinks so, I'd bet you an eye that he's dangerously tyrannical.

The whole concept of the BoR was to limit the power of government. Please stop thinking the Constitution "grants" any rights.

BostonDissentator said...

"Grant's rights," "grants the protection of pre-existing rights," what difference do the semantics really make?

What are these "pre-existing rights" and where did they come from? Isn't any answer to that question going to be a matter of one's subjective opinion that many would disagree with them on?

Why didn't the Bill of Rights just say "the government will not infringe upon any pre-existing rights"? They could have saved a lot of ink!

The reason is because there is a difference between natural (or whatever word you want to use for pre-existing) rights and civil rights. Natural rights is a very subjective concept. Some would say we have a natural right to life but ever since there has been life, living things (people, animals, teenage mutant ninja turtles) have been killing one another. The civil society was something man created to get out of "nature" - where we have total freedom but are always in danger - and to move to civil society - where we do not have total freedom, but rather, our rights are constrained, and in return for giving up some of those rights we get the protection of the police (sometimes including Sting) and the army. This means that the government isn't going to allow us all of the rights we had before the government existed, it is going to take some of them away. I mean we can still do whatever we want but they can punish us and stuff. Of course the government intendeds to limit the things that it can tell us not to do and/or sanction us with its army for. This is where the Bill of Rights comes in. As opposed to acting like a totalitarian government, which can do whatever it wants to the people, a government can legally (important because if they try anything we can sue their ass) surrender some of its powers to do certain things, thereby "granting" certain rights to the people. Sure, the government didn't invent "life" and "liberty" but I don't think it is false to say that the government grants its citizens a right under the society that it maintains.

In closing, I have neither the time, nor the inclination to answer to a man who rises and sleeps under the very blanket of the freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.