Today we bring our readers a short story by Philip K Dick, whose short stories have inspired a number of films including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau.
The Pre-Persons is about a world in which children may legally be aborted until they are twelve years old.
In the future Dick describes, children are not considered fully human until they have developed the reasoning ability needed to understand basic algebra. Parents can call an abortion truck (much like a dogcatcher) to take younger children to the local abortion center to be euthanized.
The story follows an adult, Ed Gantro, whose son is found without his “Desirability Card” and picked up by an abortion truck. Gantro protests the legal situation by demanding that he, too, be aborted. Although he studied math at Stanford, Gantro claims that he has forgotten everything beyond arithmetic, and thus can no longer legally be considered fully human.
Published in 1974, the year after the Roe v. Wade decision on the US, “The Pre-Persons” is Dick’s reductio ad absurdum of the extreme pro-choice position. The question posed, as Thomas Disch puts it in his introduction, is, “if abortion, why not infanticide?”
Or, as Ed Gantro asks,
If an unborn child can be killed without due process, why not a born one? What I see in both cases is their helplessness; the organism that is killed had no chance, no ability, to protect itself.
Dick recognizes that to justify abortion on grounds of a mother’s rights to privacy and free choice is to assert that the fetus has no rights of its own worth considering. He sees also that attempts to specify a precise point at which a gradually developing human acquires individual rights are necessarily arbitrary.
The whole mistake of the pro-abortion people from the start, he said to himself, was the arbitrary line they drew. An embryo is not entitled to American Constitutional rights and can be killed, legally, by a doctor. But a fetus was a “person,” with rights, at least for a while; and then the pro-abortion crowd decided that even a seven-month fetus was not “human” and could be killed, legally, by a licensed doctor. And, one day, a newborn baby- it is a vegetable; it can’t focus its eyes, it understands nothing, nor talks…
…even then, where was the line to be drawn finally? When the baby smiled its first smile? When it spoke its first word or reached for its initial time for a toy it enjoyed?
Dick’s argument has become more trenchant with the continuing progress of medical science and medical imaging including the recent advent of 4d ultrasound.
“The Pre-Persons” was, naturally, a controversial story. Dick later wrote of it,
In this I incurred the absolute hate of [fellow science-fiction writer] Joanna Russ who wrote me the nastiest letter I’ve ever received; at one point she said she usually offered to beat up people (she didn’t use the word people) who expressed opinions such as this …I am sorry to offend those who disagree with me about abortion on demand… But for the pre-person’s sake I am not sorry. I stand where I stand: “Hier steh Ich; Ich kann nicht anders,” as Martin Luther is supposed to have said.
The line of reasoning Dick takes in “The Pre-Persons” has been followed to the obverse conclusion by (philosopher/Princetonprofessor/animal rights activist) Peter Singer. Singer would agree that birth and fetal viability are not morally significant points, but concludes not that abortion at any stage is always wrong but that infanticide is sometimes justifiable, as in the case of severely disabled infants.
The concept of “The Pre-Persons” was turned to a coarse end in an episode of South Park. In episode 202, Cartman’s Mom tries to obtain a fortieth-trimester abortion for her eight year-old son.
The Pre-Persons is included below and we have also put a pdf copy of the short story on our website here – this should come in handy for those who would like to view it offline or on tablets/smartphones.
Past the grove of cypress trees Walter — he had been playing king of the mountain — saw the white truck, and he knew it for what it was. He thought, That’s the abortion truck. Come to take some kid in for a postpartum down at the abortion place.
And he thought, Maybe my folks called it. For me.
He ran and hid among the blackberries, feeling the scratching of the thorns but thinking, It’s better than having the air sucked out of your lungs. That’s how they do it; they perform all the P.P.s on all the kids there at the same time. They have a big room for it. For the kids nobody wants.
Burrowing deeper into the blackberries, he listened to hear if the truck stopped; he heard its motor.
“I am invisible,” he said to himself, a line he had learned at the fifth-grade play of Midsummer Night’s Dream, a line Oberon, whom he had played, had said. And after that no one could see him.
Maybe that was true now. Maybe the magic saying worked in real life; so he said it again to himself, “I am invisible.” But he knew he was not. He could still see his arms and legs and shoes, and he knew they – everyone, the abortion truck man especially, and his mom and dad — they could see him too. If they looked.
If it was him they were after this time.
He wished he was a king; he wished he had magic dust all over him and a shining crown that glistened, and ruled fairyland and had Puck to confide to. To ask for advice from, even. Advice even if he himself was a king and bickered with Titania, his wife.
I guess, he thought, saying something doesn’t make it true.
Sun burned down on him and he squinted, but mostly he listened to the abortion truck motor; it kept making its sound, and his heart gathered hope as the sound went on and on. Some other kid, turned over to the abortion clinic, not him; someone up the road.
He made his difficult exit from the berry brambles shaking and in many places scratched and moved step by step in the direction of his house. And as he trudged he began to cry, mostly from the pain of the scratches but also from fear and relief.
“Oh, good Lord,” his mother exclaimed, on seeing him. “What in the name of God have you been doing?”
He said stammeringly, “I — saw — the abortion — truck.” “And you thought it was for you?” Mutely, he nodded.
“Listen, Walter,” Cynthia Best said, kneeling down and taking hold of his trembling hands, “I promise, your dad and I both promise, you’ll never be sent to the County Facility. Anyhow you’re too old. They only take children up to twelve.”
“But Jeff Vogel –”
“His parents got him in just before the new law went into effect. They couldn’t take him now, legally. They couldn’t take you now. Look — you have a soul; the law says a twelve-year-old boy has a soul. So he can’t go to the County Facility. See? You’re safe. Whenever you see the abortion truck, it’s for someone else, not you. Never for you. Is that clear? It’s come for another younger child who doesn’t have a soul yet, a pre-person.”
Staring down, not meeting his mother’s gaze, he said, “I don’t feel like I got a soul; I feel like I always did.”
“It’s a legal matter,” his mother said briskly. “Strictly according to age. And you’re past the age.
The Church of Watchers got Congress to pass the law — actually they, those church people wanted a lower age; they claimed the soul entered the body at three years old, but a compromise bill was put through. The important thing for you is that you are legally safe, however you feel inside; do you see?”
“Okay,” he said, nodding.
“You knew that.”
He burst out with anger and grief, “What do you think it’s like, maybe waiting every day for someone to come and put you in a wire cage in a truck and –”
“Your fear is irrational,” his mother said.
“I saw them take Jeff Vogel that day. He was crying, and the man just opened the back of the truck and put him in and shut the back of the truck.”
“That was two years ago. You’re weak.” His mother glared at him. “Your grandfather would whip you if he saw you now and heard you talk this way. Not your father. He’d just grin and say something stupid. Two years later, and intellectually you know you’re past the legal maximum age! How–” She struggled for the word. “You are being depraved .” “And he never came back.”
“Perhaps someone who wanted a child went inside the County Facility and found him and adopted him. Maybe he’s got a better set of parents who really care for him. They keep them thirty days before they destroy them.” She corrected herself. “Put them to sleep, I mean.”
He was not reassured. Because he knew “put him to sleep” or “put them to sleep” was a Mafia term. He drew away from his mother, no longer wanting her comfort. She had blown it, as far as he was concerned; she had shown something about herself or, anyhow, the source of what she believed and thought and perhaps did. What all of them did. I know I’m no different, he thought, than two years ago when I was just a little kid; if I have a soul now like the law says, then I had a soul then, or else we have no souls — the only real thing is just a horrible metallic-painted truck with wire over its windows carrying off kids their parents no longer want, parents using an extension of the old abortion law that let them kill an unwanted child before it came out: because it had no “soul” or “identity,” it could be sucked out by a vacuum system in less than two minutes. A doctor could do a hundred a day, and it was legal because the unborn child wasn’t “human.” He was a pre-person. Just like this truck now; they merely set the date forward as to when the soul entered.
Congress had inaugurated a simple test to determine the approximate age at which the soul entered the body: the ability to formulate higher math like algebra. Up to then, it was only body, animal instincts and body, animal reflexes and responses to stimuli. Like Pavlov’s dogs when they saw a little water seep in under the door of the Leningrad laboratory; they “knew” but were not human.
I guess I’m human, Walter thought, and looked up into the gray, severe face of his mother, with her hard eyes and rational grimness. I guess I’m like you, he thought. Hey, it’s neat to be a human, he thought; then you don’t have to be afraid of the truck coming.
“You feel better,” his mother observed. “I’ve lowered your threshold of anxiety.”
“I’m not so freaked,” Walter said. It was over; the truck had gone and not taken him.
But it would be back in a few days. It cruised perpetually.
Anyhow he had a few days. And then the sight of it — if only I didn’t know they suck the air out of the lungs of the kids they have there, he thought. Destroy them that way. Why? Cheaper, his dad had said. Saves the taxpayers money.
He thought then about taxpayers and what they would look like. Something that scowled at all children, he thought. That did not answer if the child asked them a question. A thin face, lined with watch-worry grooves, eyes always moving. Or maybe fat; one or the other. It was the thin one that scared him; it didn’t enjoy life nor want life to be. It flashed the message, “Die, go away, sicken, don’t exist.” And the abortion truck was proof — or the instrument — of it.
“Mom,” he said, “how do you shut a County Facility? You know, the abortion clinic where they take the babies and little kids.”
“You go and petition the county legislature,” his mother said.
“You know what I’d do?” he said. “I’d wait until there were no kids in there, only county employees, and I’d firebomb it.”
“Don’t talk like that!” his mother said severely, and he saw on her face the stiff lines of the thin taxpayer. And it frightened him; his own mother frightened him. The cold and opaque eyes mirrored nothing, no soul inside, and he thought, It’s you who don’t have a soul, you and your skinny messages not-to-be. Not us.
And then he ran outside to play again.
A bunch more kids had seen the truck; he and they stood around together, talking now and then, but mostly kicking at rocks and dirt, and occasionally stepping on a bad bug.
“Who’d the truck come for?” Walter said. “Fleischhacker. Earl Fleischhacker.”
“Did they get him?”
“Sure, didn’t you hear the yelling?”
“Was his folks home at the time?”
“Naw, they split earlier on some shuck about ‘taking the car in to be greased.’ ”
“They called the truck?” Walter said.
“Sure, it’s the law; it’s gotta be the parents. But they were too chickenshit to be there when the truck drove up. Shit, he really yelled; I guess you’re too far away to hear, but he really yelled.”
Walter said, “You know what we ought to do? Firebomb the truck and snuff the driver.”
All the other kids looked at him contemptuously. “They put you in the mental hospital for life if you act out like that.”
“Sometimes for life,” Pete Bride corrected. “Other times they ‘build up a new personality that is socially viable.’ ”
“Then what should we do?” Walter said. “You’re twelve; you’re safe.”
“But suppose they change the law.” Anyhow it did not assuage his anxiety to know that he was technically safe; the truck still came for others and still frightened him. He thought of the younger kids down at the Facility now, looking through the Cyclone fence hour by hour, day after day, waiting and marking the passage of time and hoping someone would come in and adopt them.
“You ever been down there?” he said to Pete Bride. “At the County Facility? All those really little kids, like babies some of them, just maybe a year old. And they don’t even know what’s in store.”
“The babies get adopted,” Zack Yablonski said. “It’s the old ones that don’t stand a chance.
They’re the ones that get you; like, they talk to people who come in and put on a good show, like they’re desirable. But people know they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t — you know, undesirable.”
“Let the air out of the tires,” Walter said, his mind working.
“Of the truck? Hey, and you know if you drop a mothball in the gas tank, about a week later the motor wears out. We could do that.”
Ben Blaire said, “But then they’d be after us.” “They’re after us now,” Walter said.
“I think we ought to firebomb the truck,” Harry Gottlieb said, “but suppose there’re kids in it. It’ll burn them up. The truck picks up maybe — shit, I don’t know. Five kids a day from different parts of the county.”
“You know they even take dogs too?” Walter said. “And cats; you see the truck for that only about once a month. The pound truck it’s called. Otherwise it’s the same; they put them in a big chamber and suck the air out of their lungs and they die. They’d do that even to animals! Little animals!”
“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Harry Gottlieb said, derision on his face, and disbelief. “A truck that carries off dogs.”
He knew it was true, though. Walter had seen the pound truck two different times. Cats, dogs, and mainly us, he thought glumly. I mean, if they’d start with us, it’s natural they’d wind up taking people’s pets, too; we’re not that different. But what kind of a person would do that, even if it is the law? “Some laws are made to be kept, and some to be broken,” he remembered from a book he had read. We ought to firebomb the pound truck first, he thought; that’s the worst, that truck.
Why is it, he wondered, that the more helpless a creature, the easier it was for some people to snuff it? Like a baby in the womb; the original abortions, “pre-partums,” or “pre-persons” they were called now. How could they defend themselves? Who would speak for them? All those lives, a hundred by each doctor a day. . . and all helpless and silent and then just dead. The fuckers, he thought. That’s why they do it; they know they can do it; they get off on their macho power. And so a little thing that wanted to see the light of day is vacuumed out in less than two minutes. And the doctor goes on to the next chick.
There ought to be an organization, he thought, similar to the Mafia. Snuff the snuffers, or something. A contract man walks up to one of those doctors, pulls out a tube, and sucks the doctor into it, where he shrinks down like an unborn baby. An unborn baby doctor, with a stethoscope the size of a pinhead. . . he laughed, thinking of that.
Children don’t know. But children know everything, knew too much. The abortion truck, as it drove along, played a Good Humor Man’s jingle:
Jack and Jill Went up the hill To fetch a pail of water
A tape loop in the sound system of the truck, built especially by Ampex for GM, blared that out when it wasn’t actively nearing a seize. Then the driver shut off the sound system and glided along until he found the proper house. However, once he had the unwanted child in the back of the truck, and was either starting back to the County Facility or beginning another pre-person pick-up, he turned back on
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Thinking of himself, Oscar Ferris, the driver of truck three, finished, “Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.” What the hell’s a crown? Ferris wondered. Probably a private part. He grinned. Probably Jack had been playing with it, or Jill, both of them together. Water, my ass, he thought. I know what they went off into the bushes for. Only, Jack fell down, and his thing broke right off. “Tough luck, Jill,” he said aloud as he expertly drove the four-year-old truck along the winding curves of California Highway One.
Kids are like that, Ferris thought. Dirty and playing with dirty things, like themselves.
This was still wild and open country, and many stray children scratched about in the canyons and fields; he kept his eye open, and sure enough — off to his right scampered a small one, about six, trying to get out of sight. Ferris at once pressed the button that activated the siren of the truck. The boy froze, stood in fright, waited as the truck, still playing “Jack and Jill,” coasted up beside him and came to a halt.
“Show me your D papers,” Ferris said, without getting out of the truck; he leaned one arm out the window, showing his brown uniform and patch; his symbols of authority.
The boy had a scrawny look, like many strays, but, on the other hand, he wore glasses.
Tow-headed, in jeans and T-shirt, he stared up in fright at Ferris, making no move to get out his identification.
“You got a D card or not?” Ferris said. “W-w-w-what’s a ‘D card’?”
In his official voice, Ferris explained to the boy his rights under the law. “Your parent, either one, or legal guardian, fills out form 36-W, which is a formal statement of desirability. That they or him or her regard you as desirable. You don’t have one? Legally, that makes you a stray, even if you have parents who want to keep you; they are subject to a fine of $500.”
“Oh,” the boy said. “Well, I lost it.”
“Then a copy would be on file. They microdot all those documents and records. I’ll take you in
–” “To the County Facility?” Pipe-cleaner legs wobbled in fear.
“They have thirty days to claim you by filling out the 36-W form. If they haven’t done it by then
–” “My mom and dad never agree. Right now I’m staying with my dad.”
“He didn’t give you a D card to identify yourself with.” Mounted transversely across the cab of the truck was a shotgun. There was always the possibility that trouble might break out when he picked up a stray. Reflexively, Ferris glanced up at it. It was there, all right, a pump shotgun. He had used it only five times in his law-enforcement career. It could blow a man into molecules. “I have to take you in,” he said, opening the truck door and bringing out his keys. “There’s another kid back there; you can keep each other company.”
“No,” the boy said. “I won’t go.” Blinking, he confronted Ferris, stubborn and rigid as stone.
“Oh, you probably heard a lot of stories about the County Facility. It’s only the warpies, the creepies, that get put to sleep; any nice normal-looking kid’ll be adopted — we’ll cut your hair and fix you up so you look professionally groomed. We want to find you a home. That’s the whole idea. It’s just a few, those who are — you know — ailing mentally or physically that no one wants. Some well-to-do individual will snap you up in a minute; you’ll see. Then you won’t be running around out here alone with no parents to guide you. You’ll have new parents, and listen — they’ll be paying heavy bread for you; hell, they’ll register you. Do you see? It’s more a temporary lodging place where we’re taking you right now, to make you available to prospective new parents.”
“But if nobody adopts me in a month –”
“Hell, you could fall off a cliff here at Big Sur and kill yourself. Don’t worry. The desk at the Facility will contact your blood parents, and most likely they’ll come forth with the Desirability Form (15A) sometime today even. And meanwhile you’ll get a nice ride and meet a lot of new kids. And how often –”
“No,” the boy said.
“This is to inform you,” Ferris said, in a different tone, “that I am a County Official.” He opened his truck door, jumped down, showed his gleaming metal badge to the boy. “I am Peace Officer Ferris and I now order you to enter by the rear of the truck.”
A tall man approached them, walking with wariness; he, like the boy, wore jeans and a T-shirt, but no glasses.
“You the boy’s father?” Ferris said. The man, hoarsely, said, “Are you taking him to the pound?”
“We consider it a child protection shelter,” Ferris said. “The use of the term ‘pound’ is a radical hippie slur, and distorts — deliberately — the overall picture of what we do.”
Gesturing toward the truck, the man said, “You’ve got kids locked in there in those cages, have you?”
“I’d like to see your ID,” Ferris said. “And I’d like to know if you’ve ever been arrested before.”
“Arrested and found innocent? Or arrested and found guilty?”
“Answer my question, sir,” Ferris said, showing his black flatpack that he used with adults to identify him as a County Peace Officer. “Who are you? Come on, let’s see your ID.”
The man said, “Ed Gantro is my name and I have a record. When I was eighteen, I stole four crates of Coca-Cola from a parked truck.”
“You were apprehended at the scene?”
“No,” the man said. “When I took the empties back to cash in on the refunds. That’s when they seized me. I served six months.”
“Have you a Desirability Card for your boy here?” Ferris asked. “We couldn’t afford the $90 it cost.”
“Well, now it’ll cost you five hundred. You should have gotten it in the first place. My suggestion is that you consult an attorney.” Ferris moved toward the boy, declaring officially. “I’d like you to join the other juveniles in the rear section of the vehicle.” To the man he said, “Tell him to do as instructed.”
The man hesitated and then said. “Tim, get in the goddamn truck. And we’ll get a lawyer; we’ll get the D card for you. It’s futile to make trouble — technically you’re a stray.”
” ‘A stray,’ ” the boy said, regarding his father. Ferris said, “Exactly right. You have thirty days, you know, to raise the –”
“Do you also take cats?” the boy said. “Are there any cats in there? I really like cats; they’re all right.”
“I handle only P.P. cases,” Ferris said. “Such as yourself.” With a key he unlocked the back of the truck. “Try not to relieve yourself while you’re in the truck; it’s hard as hell to get the odor and stains out.”
The boy did not seem to understand the word; he gazed from Ferris to his father in perplexity.
“Just don’t go to the bathroom while you’re in the truck,” his father explained. “They want to keep it sanitary, because that cuts down their maintenance costs.” His voice was savage and grim.
“With stray dogs or cats,” Ferris said, “they just shoot them on sight, or put out poison bait.”
“Oh, yeah, I know that Warfarin,” the boy’s father said. “The animal eats it over a period of a week, and then he bleeds to death internally.”
“With no pain,” Ferris pointed out.
“Isn’t that better than sucking the air from their lungs?” Ed Gantro said. “Suffocating them on a mass basis?”
“Well, with animals the county authorities –”
“I mean the children. Like Tim.” His father stood beside him, and they both looked into the rear of the truck. Two dark shapes could be dimly discerned, crouching as far back as possible, in the starkest form of despair.
“Fleischhacker!” the boy Tim said. “Didn’t you have a D card?”
“Because of energy and fuel shortages,” Ferris was saying, “population must be radically cut. Or in ten years there’ll be no food for anyone. This is one phase of — ”
“I had a D card,” Earl Fleischhacker said, “but my folks took it away from me. They didn’t want me any more; so they took it back, and then they called for the abortion truck.” His voice croaked; obviously he had been secretly crying.
“And what’s the difference between a five-month-old fetus and what we have here?” Ferris was saying. “In both cases what you have is an unwanted child. They simply liberalized the laws.”
Tim’s father, staring at him, said, “Do you agree with these laws?”
“Well, it’s really all up to Washington and what they decide will solve our needs in these days of crises,” Ferris said. “I only enforce their edicts. If this law changed — hell. I’d be trucking empty milk cartons for recycling or something and be just as happy.”
“Just as happy? You enjoy your work?”
Ferris said, mechanically. “It gives me the opportunity to move around a lot and to meet people.”
Tim’s father Ed Gantro said, “You are insane. This postpartum abortion scheme and the abortion laws before it where the unborn child had no legal rights — it was removed like a tumor. Look what it’s come to. If an unborn child can be killed without due process, why not a born one? What I see in common in both cases is their helplessness; the organism that is killed had no chance, no ability, to protect itself. You know what? I want you to take me in, too. In back of the truck with the three children.”
“But the President and Congress have declared that when you’re past twelve you have a soul,”
Ferris said. “I can’t take you. It wouldn’t be right.”
“I have no soul,” Tim’s father said. “I got to be twelve and nothing happened. Take me along, too. Unless you can find my soul.”
“Jeez,” Ferris said.
“Unless you can show me my soul,” Tim’s father said, “unless you can specifically locate it, then I insist you take me in as no different from these kids.”
Ferris said, “I’ll have to use the radio to get in touch with the County Facility, see what they say.”
“You do that,” Tim’s father said, and laboriously clambered up into the rear of the truck, helping Tim along with him. With the other two boys they waited while Peace Officer Ferris, with all his official identification as to who he was, talked on his radio.
“I have here a Caucasian male, approximately thirty, who insists that he be transported to the County Facility with his infant son,” Ferris was saying into his mike. “He claims to have no soul, which he maintains puts him in the class of subtwelve-year-olds. I don’t have with me or know any test to detect the presence of a soul, at least any I can give out here in the boondocks that’ll later on satisfy a court. I mean, he probably can do algebra and higher math; he seems to possess an intelligent mind. But –”
“Affirmative as to bringing him in,” his superior’s voice on the two-way radio came back to him.
“We’ll deal with him here.”
“We’re going to deal with you downtown,” Ferris said to Tim’s father, who, with the three smaller figures, was crouched down in the dark recesses of the rear of the truck. Ferris slammed the door, locked it — an extra precaution, since the boys were already netted by electronic bands — and then started up the truck.
Jack and Jill Went up the hill To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down And broke his crown
Somebody’s sure going to get their crown broke, Ferris thought as he drove along the winding road, and it isn’t going to be me.
“I can’t do algebra,” he heard Tim’s father saying to the three boys. “So I can’t have a soul.”
The Fleischhacker boy said, snidely, “I can, but I’m only nine. So what good does it do me?”
“That’s what I’m going to use as my plea at the Facility,” Tim’s father continued. “Even long division was hard for me. I don’t have a soul. I belong with you three little guys.”
Ferris, in a loud voice, called back, “I don’t want you soiling the truck, you understand? It costs us –”
“Don’t tell me,” Tim’s father said, “because I wouldn’t understand. It would be too complex, the proration and accrual and fiscal terms like that.”
I’ve got a weirdo back there, Ferris thought, and was glad he had the pump shotgun mounted within easy reach. “You know the world is running out of everything,” Ferris called back to them, “energy and apple juice and fuel and bread; we’ve got to keep the population down, and the embolisms from the Pill make it impossible –”
“None of us knows those big words,” Tim’s father broke in.
Angrily, and feeling baffled, Ferris said. “Zero population growth; that’s the answer to the energy and food crisis. It’s like — shit, it’s like when they introduced the rabbit in Australia, and it had no natural enemies, and so it multiplied until, like people –”
“I do understand multiplication,” Tim’s father said. “And adding and subtraction. But that’s all.”
Four crazy rabbits flopping across the road, Ferris thought. People pollute the natural
environment, he thought. What must this part of the country have been like before man? Well, he thought, with the postpartum abortions taking place in every county in the U.S. of A. we may see that day; we may stand and look once again upon a virgin land.
We, he thought. I guess there won’t be any we. I mean, he thought, giant sentient computers will sweep out the landscape with their slotted video receptors and find it pleasing.
The thought cheered him up.
“Let’s have an abortion!” Cynthia declared excitedly as she entered the house with an armload of synthogroceries. “Wouldn’t that be neat? Doesn’t that turn you on?”
Her husband Ian Best said dryly, “But first you have to get pregnant. So make an appointment with Dr. Guido — that should cost me only fifty or sixty dollars — and have your I.U.D. removed.”
“I think it’s slipping down anyhow. Maybe, if –” Her pert dark shag-haired head tossed in glee.
“It probably hasn’t worked properly since last year. So I could be pregnant now.”
Ian said caustically. “You could put an ad in the Free Press; ‘Man wanted to fish out I.U.D. with coathanger.’ ”
“But you see,” Cynthia said, following him as he made his way to the master closet to hang up his status-tie and class-coat, “it’s the in thing now, to have an abortion. Look, what do we have? A kid. We have Walter. Every time someone comes over to visit and sees him, I know they’re wondering. ‘Where did you screw up?’ It’s embarrassing.” She added, “And the kind of abortions they give now, for women in early stages — it only costs one hundred dollars. . . the price of ten gallons of gas! And you can talk about it with practically everybody who drops by for hours.”
Ian turned to face her and said in a level voice. “Do you get to keep the embryo? Bring it home in a bottle or sprayed with special luminous paint so it glows in the dark like a night light?”
“In any color you want!” “The embryo?”
“No, the bottle. And the color of the fluid. It’s in a preservative solution, so really it’s a lifetime acquisition. It even has a written guarantee, I think.”
Ian folded his arms to keep himself calm: alpha state condition. “Do you know that there are people who would want to have a child? Even an ordinary dumb one? That go to the County Facility week after week looking for a little newborn baby? These ideas — there’s been this world panic about overpopulation. Nine trillion humans stacked like kindling in every block of every city. Okay, if that were going on –” He gestured. “But what we have now is not enough children. Or don’t you watch TV or read the Times ?”
“It’s a drag,” Cynthia said. “For instance, today Walter came into the house freaked out because the abortion truck cruised by. It’s a drag taking care of him. You have it easy; you’re at work. But me –”
“You know what I’d like to do to the Gestapo abortion wagon? Have two ex- drinking buddies of
mine armed with BARs, one on each side of the road. And when the wagon passes by –”
“It’s a ventilated air-conditioned truck, not a wagon.” He glared at her and then went to the bar in the kitchen to fix himself a
drink. Scotch will do, he decided. Scotch and milk, a good before-”dinner” drink.
As he mixed his drink, his son Walter came in. He had, on his face, an unnatural pallor.
“The ‘bort truck went by today, didn’t it?” Ian said. “I thought maybe –”
“No way. Even if your mother and I saw a lawyer and had a legal document drawn up, an un-D
Form, you’re too old. So relax.” “I know intellectually,” Walter said, “but –”
‘ ‘Do not seek to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee,’ ” Ian quoted (inaccurately).
“Listen, Walt, let me lay something on you.” He took a big, long drink of Scotch and milk. “The name of all this is, kill me. Kill them when they’re the size of a fingernail, or a baseball, or later on, if you haven’t done it already, suck the air out of the lungs of a ten-year-old boy and let him die. It’s a certain kind of woman advocating this all. They used to call them ‘castrating females.’ Maybe that was once the right term, except that these women, these hard cold women, didn’t just want to — well, they want to do in the whole boy or man, make all of them dead, not just the part that makes him a man. Do you see?” “No,” Walter said, but in a dim sense, very frightening, he did.
After another hit of his drink, Ian said, “And we’ve got one living right here, Walter. Here in our very house.”
“What do we have living here?”
“What the Swiss psychiatrists call a kindermorder ,” Ian said, deliberately choosing a term he knew his boy wouldn’t understand. “You know what,” he said, “you and I could get onto an Amtrak coach and head north and just keep on going until we reached Vancouver, British Columbia, and we could take a ferry to Vancouver Island and never be seen by anybody down here again.”
“But what about Mom?”
“I would send her a cashier’s check,” Ian said. “Each month. And she would be quite happy with that.”
“It’s cold up there, isn’t it?” Walter said. “I mean, they have hardly any fuel and they wear –”
“About like San Francisco. Why? Are you afraid of wearing a lot of sweaters and sitting close to the fireplace? What did you see today that frightened you a hell of a lot more?”
“Oh, yeah.” He nodded somberly.
“We could live on a little island off Vancouver Island and raise our own food. You can plant stuff up there and it grows. And the truck won’t come there; you’ll never see it again. They have different laws.
The women up there are different. There was this one girl I knew when I was up there for a while, a long time ago; she had long black hair and smoked Players cigarettes all the time and never ate anything or ever stopped talking. Down here we’re seeing a civilization in which the desire by women to destroy their own –” Ian broke off; his wife had walked into the kitchen.
“If you drink any more of that stuff,” she said to him, “you’ll barf it up.” “Okay,” Ian said irritably. “Okay!”
“And don’t yell,” Cynthia said. “I thought for dinner tonight it’d be nice if you took us out. Dal Key’s said on TV they have steak for early comers.”
Wrinkling his nose, Walter said, “They have raw oysters.”
“Blue points,” Cynthia said. “In the half shell, on ice. I love them. All right, Ian? Is it decided?”
To his son Walter, Ian said. “A raw blue point oyster looks like nothing more
on earth than what the surgeon –” He became silent, then. Cynthia glared at him, and his son was puzzled. “Okay,” he said,
“but I get to order steak.” “Me too,” Walter said.
Finishing his drink, Ian said more quietly, “When was the last time you fixed dinner here in the house? For the three of us?”
“I fixed you that pigs’ ears and rice dish on Friday,” Cynthia said. “Most of which went to waste because it was something new and on the nonmandatory list. Remember, dear ?”
Ignoring her, Ian said to his son, “Of course, that type of woman will sometimes, even often, be found up there, too. She has existed throughout time and all cultures. But since Canada has no law permitting postpartum –” He broke off. “It’s the carton of milk talking,” he explained to Cynthia. “They adulterate it these days with sulfur. Pay no attention or sue somebody; the choice is yours.”
Cynthia, eyeing him, said, “Are you running a fantasy number in your head again about splitting?”
“Both of us,” Walter broke in. “Dad’s taking me with him.” “Where?” Cynthia said, casually.
Ian said. “Wherever the Amtrak track leads us.”
“We’re going to Vancouver Island in Canada,” Walter said.
“Oh, really?” Cynthia said.
After a pause Ian said, “Really.”
“And what the shit am I supposed to do when you’re gone? Peddle my ass down at the local bar? How’ll I meet the payments on the various –”
“I will continually mail you checks,” Ian said. “Bonded by giant banks.” “Sure. You bet. Yep. Right.”
“You could come along,” Ian said, “and catch fish by leaping into English Bay and grinding them to death with your sharp teeth. You could rid British Columbia of its fish population overnight. All those ground-up fish, wondering vaguely what happened. . . swimming along one minute and then this — ogre, this fish-destroying monster with a single luminous eye in the center of its forehead, falls on them and grinds them into grit. There would soon be a legend. News like that spreads. At least among the last surviving fish.”
“Yeah, but Dad,” Walter said, “suppose there are no surviving fish.”
“Then it will have been all in vain,” Ian said, “except for your mother’s own personal pleasure at having bitten to death an entire species in British Columbia, where fishing is the largest industry anyhow, and so many other species depend on it for survival.”
“But then everyone in British Columbia will be out of work,” Walter said.
“No,” Ian said, “they will be cramming the dead fish into cans to sell to Americans. You see, Walter, in the olden days, before your mother multi- toothedly bit to death all the fish in British Columbia, the simple rustics stood with stick in hand, and when a fish swam past, they whacked the fish over the head. This will create jobs, not eliminate them. Millions of cans of suitably marked –”
“You know,” Cynthia said quickly, “he believes what you tell him.”
Ian said, “What I tell him is true.” Although not, he realized, in a literal sense. To his wife he said,
“I’ll take you out to dinner. Get our ration stamps, put on that blue knit blouse that shows off your boobs; that way you’ll get a lot of attention and maybe they won’t remember to collect the stamps.”
“What’s a ‘boob’?” Walter asked.
“Something fast becoming obsolete,” Ian said, “like the Pontiac GTO. Except as an ornament to be admired and squeezed. Its function is dying away.” As is our race, he thought, once we gave full rein to those who would destroy the unborn — in other words, the most helpless creatures alive.
“A boob,” Cynthia said severely to her son, “is a mammary gland that ladies possess which provides milk to their young.”
“Generally there are two of them,” Ian said. “Your operational boob and then your backup boob, in case there is powerful failure in the operational one. I suggest the elimination of a step in all this pre-person abortion mania,” he said. “We will send all the boobs in the world to the County Facilities.
The milk, if any, will be sucked out of them, by mechanical means of course; they will become useless and empty, and then the young will die naturally, deprived of any and all sources of nourishment.”
“There’s formula,” Cynthia said, witheringly. “Similac and those. I’m going to change so we can go out.” She turned and strode toward their bedroom.
“You know,” Ian said after her, “if there was any way you could get me classified as a pre-person, you’d send me there. To the Facility with the greatest facility.” And, he thought, I’ll bet I wouldn’t be the only husband in California who went. There’d be plenty others. In the same bag as me,
then as now. “Sounds like a plan,” Cynthia’s voice came to him dimly; she had heard.
“It’s not just a hatred for the helpless,” Ian Best said. “More is involved. Hatred of what? Of everything that grows?” You blight them, he thought, before they grow big enough to have muscle and the tactics and skill for
fight — big like I am in relation to you, with my fully developed musculature and weight. So much easier when the other person — I should say pre-person — is floating and dreaming in the amniotic fluid and knows nothing about how to nor the need to hit back.
Where did the motherly virtues go to? he asked himself. When mothers especially protected what was small and weak and defenseless?
Our competitive society, he decided. The survival of the strong. Not the fit, he thought; just those who hold the power. And are not going to surrender it to the next generation: it is the powerful and evil old against the helpless and gentle new.
“Dad,” Walter said, “are we really going to Vancouver Island in Canada and raise real food and not have anything to be afraid of any more?”
Half to himself, Ian said, “Soon as I have the money.”
“I know what that means. It’s a ‘we’ll see’ number you say. We aren’t going, are we?” He watched his father’s face intently. “She won’t let us, like taking me out of school and like that; she always brings up that. . . right?”
“It lies ahead for us someday,” Ian said doggedly. “Maybe not this month but someday, sometime. I promise.”
“And there’s no abortion trucks there.” “No. None. Canadian law is different.”
“Make it soon, Dad. Please.”
His father fixed himself a second Scotch and milk and did not answer; his face was somber and unhappy, almost as if he was about to cry.
In the rear of the abortion truck three children and one adult huddled, jostled by the turning of the truck. They fell against the restraining wire that separated them, and Tim Gantro’s father felt keen despair at being cut off mechanically from his own boy. A nightmare during day, he thought. Caged like animals; his noble gesture had brought only more suffering to him.
“Why’d you say you don’t know algebra?” Tim asked, once. “I know you know even calculus and trig-something; you went to Stanford University.”
“I want to show,” he said, “that either they ought to kill all of us or none of us. But not divide along these bureaucratic arbitrary lines. ‘When does the soul enter the body?’ What kind of rational question is that in this day and age? It’s Medieval.” In fact, he thought, it’s a pretext — a pretext to prey
on the helpless. And he was not helpless. The abortion truck had picked up a fully grown man, with all his knowledge, all his cunning. How are they going to handle me? he asked himself. Obviously I have what all men have; if they have souls, then so do I. If not, then I don’t, but on what real basis can they
“put me to sleep”? I am not weak and small, not an ignorant child cowering defenselessly. I can argue the sophistries with the best of the county lawyers;
with the D.A. himself, if necessary.
If they snuff me, he thought, they will have to snuff everyone, including themselves. And that is not what this is all about. This is a con game by which the established, those who already hold all the key economic and political posts, keep the youngsters out of it — murder them if necessary. There is, he thought, in the land, a hatred by the old of the young, a hatred and a fear. So what will they do with me? I am in their age group, and I am caged up in the back of this abortion truck. I pose, he thought, a different kind of threat; I am one of them but on the other side, with stray dogs and cats and babies and infants.
Let them figure it out; let a new St. Thomas Aquinas arise who can unravel this.
“All I know,” he said aloud, “is dividing and multiplying and subtracting. I’m even hazy on my fractions.”
“But you used to know that!” Tim said.
“Funny how you forget it after you leave school,” Ed Gantro said. “You kids are probably better at it than I am.”
“Dad, they’re going to snuff you,” his son Tim said, wildly. “Nobody’ll adopt you. Not at your age. You’re too old .”
“Let’s see,” Ed Gantro said. “The binomial theorem. How does that go? I can’t get it all together: something about a and b.” And as it leaked out of his head, as had his immortal soul. . . he chuckled to himself. I cannot pass the
soul test, he thought. At least not talking like that. I am a dog in the gutter, an animal in a ditch.
The whole mistake of the pro-abortion people from the start, he said to himself, was the arbitrary line they drew. An embryo is not entitled to American Constitutional rights and can be killed, legally, by a doctor. But a fetus was a “person,” with rights, at least for a while; and then the pro- abortion crowd decided that even a seven-month fetus was not “human” and could be killed, legally, by a licensed doctor. And, one day, a newborn baby – - it is a vegetable; it can’t focus its eyes, it understands nothing, nor talks. . . the pro-abortion lobby argued in court, and won, with their contention that a newborn baby was only a fetus expelled by accident or organic processes from the womb. But, even then, where was the line to be drawn finally? When the baby smiled its first smile? When it spoke its first word or reached for its initial time for a toy it enjoyed? The legal line was relentlessly pushed back and back. And now the most savage and arbitrary definition of all: when it could perform “higher math.”
That made the ancient Greeks, of Plato’s time, nonhumans, since arithmetic was unknown to them, only geometry; and algebra was an Arab invention, much later in history. Arbitrary. It was not a theological arbitrariness either; it was a mere legal one. The Church had long since — from the start, in fact – - maintained that even the zygote, and the embryo that followed, was as sacred a life form as any that walked the earth. They had seen what would come of arbitrary definitions of “Now the soul enters the body,” or in modern terms, “Now it is a person entitled to the full protection of the law like everyone else.” What was so sad was the sight now of the small child playing bravely in his yard day by day, trying to hope, trying to pretend a security he did not have.
Well, he thought, we’ll see what they do with me; I am thirty-five years old, with a Master’s
Degree from Stanford. Will they put me in a cage for thirty days, with a plastic food dish and a water source and a place — in plain sight — to relieve myself, and if no one adopts me will they consign me to automatic death along with the others?
I am risking a lot, he thought. But they picked up my son today, and the risk began then, when they had him, not when I stepped forward and became a victim myself.
He looked about at the three frightened boys and tried to think of something to tell them — not just his own son but all three.
” ‘Look,’ ” he said, quoting. ” ‘I tell you a sacred secret. We shall not all sleep in death. We shall
–’ ” But then he could not remember the rest. Bummer, he thought dismally. ” ‘We shall wake up,’ ” he said, doing the best he could. ” ‘In a flash. In the twinkling of an eye.’ ”
“Cut the noise,” the driver of the truck, from beyond his wire mesh, growled. “I can’t concentrate on this fucking road.” He added, “You know, I can squirt gas back there where you are, and you’ll pass out; it’s for obstreperous pre- persons we pick up. So you want to knock it off, or have me punch the gas button?”
“We won’t say anything,” Tim said quickly, with a look of mute terrified appeal at his father.
Urging him silently to conform.
His father said nothing. The glance of urgent pleading was too much for him, and he capitulated.
Anyhow, he reasoned, what happened in the truck was not crucial. It was when they reached the County Facility — where there would be, at the first sign of trouble, newspaper and TV reporters.
So they rode in silence, each with his own fears, his own schemes. Ed Gantro brooded to himself, perfecting in his head what he would do — what he had to do. And not just for Tim but all the P.P. abortion candidates; he thought through the ramifications as the truck lurched and rattled on.
As soon as the truck parked in the restricted lot of the County Facility and its rear doors had been swung open, Sam B. Carpenter, who ran the whole goddamn operation, walked over, stared, said,
“You’ve got a grown man in there, Ferris. In fact, you comprehend what you’ve got? A protester, that’s what you’ve latched onto.”
“But he insisted he doesn’t know any math higher than adding,” Ferris said.
To Ed Gantro, Carpenter said, “Hand me your wallet. I want your actual name. Social Security number, police region stability ident — come on, I want to know who you really are.”
“He’s just a rural type,” Ferris said, as he watched Gantro pass over his lumpy wallet.
“And I want confirm prints offa his feet,” Carpenter said. “The full set. Right away — priority A.”
He liked to talk that way.
An hour later he had the reports back from the jungle of interlocking security-data computers from the fake-pastoral restricted area in Virginia. “This individual graduated from Stanford College with a degree in math. And then got a master’s in psychology, which he has, no doubt about it, been subjecting us to. We’ve got to get him out of here.”
“I did have a soul,” Gantro said, “but I lost it.”
“How?” Carpenter demanded, seeing nothing about that on Gantro’s official records.
“An embolism. The portion of my cerebral cortex, where my soul was, got destroyed when I accidentally inhaled the vapors of insect spray. That’s why I’ve been living out in the country eating roots and grubs, with my boy here, Tim.”
“We’ll run an EEG on you,” Carpenter said.
“What’s that?” Gantro said. “One of those brain tests?”
To Ferris, Carpenter said. “The law says the soul enters at twelve years. And you bring this individual male adult well over thirty. We could be charged with murder. We’ve got to get rid of him. You drive him back to exactly where you found him and dump him off. If he won’t voluntarily exit from the truck, gas the shit out of him and then throw him out. That’s a national security order. Your job depends on it, also your status with the penal code of this state.”
“I belong here,” Ed Gantro said. “I’m a dummy.”
“And his kid,” Carpenter said. “He’s probably a mathematical mental mutant like you see on TV.
They set you up; they’ve probably already alerted the media. Take them all back and gas them and dump them wherever you found them or, barring that, anyhow out of sight.”
“You’re getting hysterical,” Ferris said, with anger. “Run the EEG and the brain scan on Gantro, and probably we’ll have to release him, but these three juveniles –”
“All genuises,” Carpenter said. “All part of the setup, only you’re too stupid to know. Kick them out of the truck and off our premises, and deny — you get this? — deny you ever picked any of the four of them up. Stick to that story.”
“Out of the vehicle,” Ferris ordered, pressing the button that lifted the wire
mesh gates. The three boys scrambled out. But Ed Gantro remained.
“He’s not going to exit voluntarily,” Carpenter said. “Okay, Gantro, we’ll physically expel you.”
He nodded to Ferris, and the two of them entered the back of the truck. A moment later they had deposited Ed Gantro on the pavement of the parking lot.
“Now you’re just a plain citizen,” Carpenter said, with relief. “You can claim all you want, but you have no proof.”
“Dad,” Tim said, “how are we going to get home?” All three boys clustered around Ed Gantro.
“You could call somebody from up there,” the Fleischhacker boy said. “I bet if Walter Best’s dad has enough gas he’d come and get us. He takes a lot of long drives; he has a special coupon.”
“Him and his wife, Mrs. Best, quarrel a lot,” Tim said. “So he likes to go driving at night alone; I mean, without her.”
Ed Gantro said, “I’m staying here. I want to be locked up in a cage.”
“But we can go ,” Tim protested. Urgently, he plucked at his dad’s sleeve. “That’s the whole point, isn’t it? They let us go when they saw you. We did it!”
Ed Gantro said to Carpenter, “I insist on being locked up with the other pre- persons you have in there.” He pointed at the gaily imposing, esthetic solid- green-painted Facility Building.
To Mr. Sam B. Carpenter, Tim said, “Call Mr. Best, out where we were, on the peninsula. It’s a 669 prefix number. Tell him to come and get us, and he will. I promise. Please.”
The Fleischhacker boy added, “There’s only one Mr. Best listed in the phone book with a 669
number. Please, mister.”
Carpenter went indoors, to one of the Facility’s many official phones, looked up the number. Ian Best. He punched the number.
“You have reached a semiworking, semiloafing number,” a man’s voice, obviously that of someone half-drunk, responded. In the background Carpenter could hear the cutting tones of a furious woman, excoriating Ian Best.
“Mr. Best,” Carpenter said, “several persons whom you know are stranded down at Fourth and A Streets in Verde Gabriel, an Ed Gantro and his son, Tim, a boy identified as Ronald or Donald Fleischhacker, and another unidentified minor boy. The Gantro boy suggested you would not object to
driving down here to pick them up and take them home.” “Fourth and A Streets,” Ian Best said. A pause. “Is that the pound?” “The County Facility,” Carpenter said.
“You son of a bitch,” Best said. “Sure I’ll come get them; expect me in twenty minutes. You have Ed Gantro there as a pre-person? Do you know he graduated from Stanford University?”
“We are aware of this,” Carpenter said stonily. “But they are not being detained; they are merely
– here. Not — I repeat not — in custody.”
Ian Best, the drunken slur gone from his voice, said, “There’ll be reporters from all the media there before I get there.” Click. He had hung up.
Walking back outside, Carpenter said to the boy Tim, “Well, it seems you mickey-moused me into notifying a rabid anti-abortionist activist of your presence here. How neat, how really neat.”
A few moments passed, and then a bright-red Mazda sped up to the entrance of the Facility. A tall man with a light beard got out, unwound camera and audio gear, walked leisurely over to Carpenter.
“I understand you may have a Stanford MA in math here at the Facility,” he
said in a neutral, casual voice. “Could I interview him for a possible story?”
Carpenter said, “We have booked no such person. You can inspect our records.” But the reporter was already gazing at the three boys clustered around Ed Gantro.
In a loud voice the reporter called, “Mr. Gantro?”
“Yes, sir,” Ed Gantro replied.
Christ, Carpenter thought. We did lock him in one of our official vehicles and transport him here; it’ll hit all the papers. Already a blue van with the markings of a TV station had rolled onto the lot. And, behind it, two more cars.
ABORTION FACILITY SNUFFS STANFORD GRAD
That was how it read in Carpenter’s mind. Or
COUNTY ABORTION FACILITY
FOILED IN ILLEGAL ATTEMPT TO. . .
And so forth. A spot on the 6:00 evening TV news. Gantro, and when he showed up, Ian Best who was probably an attorney, surrounded by tape recorders and mikes and video cameras.
We have mortally fucked up, he thought. Mortally fucked up. They at Sacramento will cut our appropriation; we’ll be reduced to hunting down stray dogs and cats again, like before. Bummer.
When Ian Best arrived in his coal-burning Mercedes-Benz, he was still a little stoned. To Ed Gantro he said, “You mind if we take a scenic roundabout route back?”
“By way of what?” Ed Gantro said. He wearily wanted to leave now. The little flow of media people had interviewed him and gone. He had made his point, and now he felt drained, and he wanted to go home.
Ian Best said, “By way of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.”
With a smile, Ed Gantro said, “These kids should go right to bed. My kid and the other two.
Hell, they haven’t even had any dinner.” “We’ll stop at a McDonald’s stand,” Ian Best said. “And then we can take off
for Canada, where the fish are, and lots of mountains that still have snow on them, even this time of year.”
“Sure,” Gantro said, grinning. “We can go there.” “You want to?” Ian Best scrutinized him. “You really want to?”
“I’ll settle a few things, and then, sure, you and I can take off together.” “Son of a bitch,” Best breathed. “You mean it.”
“Yes,” he said. “I do. Of course, I have to get my wife’s agreement. You can’t go to Canada unless your wife signs a document in writing where she won’t follow you. You become what’s called a
‘landed Immigrant.’ ” “Then I’ve got to get Cynthia’s written permission.” “She’ll give it to you. Just agree to send support money.” “You think she will? She’ll let me go?” “Of course,” Gantro said.
“You actually think our wives will let us go,” Ian Best said as he and Gantro herded the children into the Mercedes-Benz. “I’ll bet you’re right; Cynthia’d love to get rid of me. You know what she calls me, right in front of Walter? ‘An aggressive coward,’ and stuff like that. She has no respect for me.”
“Our wives,” Gantro said, “will let us go.” But he knew better.
He looked back at the Facility manager, Mr. Sam B. Carpenter, and at the truck driver, Ferris, who, Carpenter had told the press and TV, was as of this date fired and was a new and inexperienced employee anyhow.
“No,” he said. “They won’t let us go. None of them will.”
Clumsily, Ian Best fiddled with the complex mechanism that controlled the funky coal-burning engine. “Sure they’ll let us go; look, they’re just standing there. What can they do, after what you said on TV and what that one reporter wrote up for a feature story?”
“I don’t mean them,” Gantro said tonelessly. “We could just run.”
“We are caught,” Gantro said. “Caught and can’t get out. You ask Cynthia, though. It’s worth a try.”
“We’ll never see Vancouver Island and the great ocean-going ferries
steaming in and out of the fog, will we?” Ian Best said.
“Sure we will, eventually.” But he knew it was a lie, an absolute lie, just like you know sometimes when you say something that for no rational reason you know is absolutely true.
They drove from the lot, out onto the public street.
“It feels good,” Ian Best said, “to be free. . . right?” The three boys nodded, but Ed Gantro said nothing. Free, he thought. Free to go home. To be caught in a larger net, shoved into a greater truck than the metal mechanical one the County Facility uses.
“This is a great day,” Ian Best said.
“Yes,” Ed Gantro agreed. “A great day in which a noble and effective blow has been struck for all helpless things, anything of which you could say, ‘It is alive.’ ”
Regarding him intently in the narrow trickly light, Ian Best said, “I don’t want to go home; I want to take off for Canada now.”
“We have to go home,” Ed Gantro reminded him. “Temporarily, I mean. To wind things up. Legal matters, pick up what we need.”
Ian Best, as he drove, said, “We’ll never get there, to British Columbia and
Vancouver Island and Stanley Park and English Bay and where they grow food and keep horses and where they have the ocean-going ferries.”
“No, we won’t,” Ed Gantro said.
“Not now, not even later?”
“Not ever,” Ed Gantro said.
“That’s what I was afraid of,” Best said and his voice broke and his driving got funny. “That’s what I thought from the beginning.”
They drove in silence, then, with nothing to say to each other. There was nothing left to say.
Over the weekend, former National Party leader Don Brash posted the following status update on his Facebook page:
“My daughter recently took her 19-year-old cat to the vet because it was wasting away and not eating or drinking. The vet advised that the cat was almost certainly terminally ill, and put the cat to sleep. That was regarded as the kind and humane thing to do.
Recently a very dear friend was diagnosed with cancer. She was in constant severe pain, and increasingly suffered from nausea. She wanted to die, and contemplated going to Switzerland to seek help in dying. When she was diagnosed with kidney failure, she welcomed that, because she knew it would shorten her life and end her suffering. She got excellent treatment in a hospice, and they were able to largely control the pain, though not the nausea.
But why do we regard it as humane to end the life of a sick animal, even though the animal has no ability to participate in the decision, but regard it as a crime to end the life of a terminally ill human being who, being in full possession of her mental faculties, desperately wants to die? Yes, there would have to be safeguards to avoid pressure from those who might benefit financially from somebody’s death, and to avoid those with temporary depression seeking help to end their lives. But the present situation is crazy.”
We’ll leave aside the glaring flaws in comparing animals to human persons and suggesting that the later should be treated no better than the former (there are actually very good reasons why KFC stands for ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ and NOT ‘Kentucky Fried Children’ Don), and the serious concerns we should have about anyone promoting suicide as a good thing.
Instead I want to focus on the “yes, there would have to be safeguards to avoid pressure from those who might benefit financially from somebody’s death, and to avoid those with temporary depression seeking help to end their lives” aspect of Brash’s declaration.
This is a common cry of pro-euthanasia supporters, who, in their zeal to normalize and legalize suicide, seem quite unwilling to face up to the reality of the serious harms associated with their cause, usually trying to gloss over these serious issues with flippant one-liners about ‘legal safeguards’.
But this is like suggesting that we could legalize drunk driving, and at the same time prevent all harm that such a change would result in by making sure we had appropriate ‘legal safeguards’ in place.
There’s no doubt that there’s probably certain individuals out there who believe that they should have the right to do whatever they want with their own lives, and that laws against driving drunk are a serious imposition upon their personal autonomy.
‘Of course, driving drunk isn’t for everybody’, they’d probably say, suggesting that it should be legislated in such a way as to only ever be a free choice, and never as something that is forced upon people against their will should they find themselves needing to travel from one place to another after a session of alcoholic over-indulgence.
There would also need to be appropriate legal safeguards in place to prevent people from driving while excessively drunk, and we’d definitely want a lower speed limit for drunk drivers, and probably rules about them only being allowed on less congested roads, etc.
And with all of this in place, it’s quite conceivable that some people would be able to drink and drive without ever hurting themselves, or doing harm to others (heck, men in my father’s generation regularly drove while over-the-limit and there’s plenty of them still around to tell the tale).
There’s just one rather glaring problem.
While some people might be able to drive drunk without it ever ending in catastrophe for others, our society rightly recognizes that the serious risks associated with drunk driving, and the social harms that would result from legalized drunk driving, coupled with the fact that there is simply no legitimate need to legalize drunk driving, is reason enough to maintain strict laws against it.
I would argue that the same is true of euthanasia.
The harms, and serious risks that would result from legalized euthanasia, coupled with the fact that there is no legitimate need for us to be terminating sick, elderly or disabled patients prior to natural death (we definitely have the technology and facilities to offer such persons a truly dignified existence, and final passing) is all the reason we need to maintain the strictest legal prohibitions against euthanasia.
Ultimately, legalized euthanasia represents a major failing on the part of any society which embarks down such a path, a failing which exposes the most vulnerable members of society (the elderly, disabled and infirm) to serious harm at the hands of the very institutions that are meant to exist for their good – the healthcare sector and the state.
No, legalized euthanasia is NOT a step forward, far from it.
It’s actually a massive stumble backwards (the kind where you end up lying on your back, winded, and trying to figure out exactly what just happened to you) to a less enlightened time, where, just like the Greek era prior to the embrace of Hippocratic medicine, the healthcare sector presented serious risks to patients, and there was absolutely no guarantee that the physician had healing or patient care on the agenda for you.
A baby girl born prematurely at a UK hospital barely escaped death after doctors discovered that she weighed just enough to be considered “viable” according to their standards of infant care.
What doctors did not realize was that it was a pair of scissors left accidentally on the scale that bumped up the baby’s weight to their acceptable standard.
Maddalena Douse was born at 23 weeks. UK ethical guidelines suggest that “extremely preterm infants” weighing less than 400 grams be left to die while receiving “compassionate care only.”
A media investigation last month revealed that the UK’s Liverpool Care Pathway — what has been called a “death pathway” — is being used by doctors to end the lives of sickly babies. One doctor admitted to starving and dehydrating 10 babies to death in a neonatal unit in a London hospital.
Doctors at the Royal Sussex Hospital thought that little Maddalena—along with her twin sister Isabella who unfortunately passed away—was too small to survive.
Doctors put Maddalena on the scale and were surprised to discover that she weighed 453 grams, well above the acceptable standard. They decided to fight for her life.
It was only after Maddalena was receiving treatment in the Neonatial Intensive Care Unit that doctors discovered their mistake of leaving a pair of scissors on the scale that had artificially bumped up the little girl’s weight.
Maddalena was later found to weigh only 382g.
This happened six months ago. The little girl has since been discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health.
“We never thought we’d ever bring Maddalena home,” said Maddalena’s mother Kate, 31, to The Sun, who calls her little girl a “miracle.”
“She now weighs five-and-a-half pounds and is getting stronger by the day,” she said. “She’s our little miracle and we’re so glad to have her home in time for Christmas.”
Pro-lifers around the world love Maddalena’s story, since it shows what modern medicine is capable of achieving when it smiles upon life.
Cross posted from LifeSiteNews.
In the past couple of days I have found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the way some pro-lifers have opted to use the horrifically tragic events of the Connecticut elementary school shooting as a platform to draw attention to another horrific act – the killing of innocent unborn human beings via abortion.
As far as I am concerned, the truly pro-life response to this crisis is to mourn the loss of these innocent lives, to grieve with the survivors and relatives left behind, and, if you are so inclined, to offer up your prayers for all involved.
I am firmly convinced that this is NOT the time to be making comparisons between this tragedy and the act of abortion, and the thousands of innocent US children that it claims on a daily basis.
I say this not because I don’t think that there is some logical connection between these types of events, but rather because now is not the time for lobbying, now is the time for grieving, caring and loving.
Perhaps there will be a time in the future for such comparisons to be made (because, as I said, I do believe that there are logical connections that can be made between these events), however, by making such comparisons at this present moment in time we are effectively hi-jacking one tragic killing in order to highlight another.
By using the Connecticut shooting as a platform for activism I believe that we are trampling on the memory of those innocents who were killed, and we actually end up creating the impression that:
a) the Connecticut deaths are not as important as the deaths of children killed by abortion
b) the Connecticut deaths are not worth mourning, or shouldn’t be mourned while abortion goes unmourned in America
c) the Connecticut deaths only have meaning in comparison to abortion
I am absolutely of the mind that the first thing to cross our mind, or our Facebook wall, in the wake of such a tragedy as this should NOT be a self-serving comparison to another tragic killing (abortion). The first things that should cross our mind, and be expressed by us are horror at the events, sorrow for those lost, and solidarity with those who are left behind to mourn.
These were human persons, and of all people, we as pro-lifers should understand that their intrinsic value and worth, and the awful magnitude of their murder has nothing to do with whether or not America sanctions the killing of other human persons.
These were not objects to be used as springboards for pro-life activism, they were innocent persons. Persons just as innocent as those unborn ones killed that same day in abortion clinics across America, and we fail in our cause when we treat the victims of this shooting as anything less by our speech and conduct.
I would also suggest that we fall into a Utilitarian error when we start comparing the number of innocent lives lost in the two different acts (abortion and the Connecticut shooting), which is what I’ve seen some pro-lifers subtly doing (probably without realizing it) in the days since the killings.
The deliberate killing of several thousand innocent human beings is no more worse or terrible than the deliberate killing of 26 innocent human beings, or even the deliberate killing of just one innocent human being. Their value and worth is not found in their volume, but in the unique and profound dignity that each and every human person possesses by virtue of their unique and exceptional nature.
For me it’s pretty simple, hi-jacking someone else’s tragedy and grief in order to draw attention to our own tragedy and grief lacks a certain authenticity and humanness that should be the hallmark of genuine pro-life expression.
Like I said earlier, there will come a time when drawing the comparisons between the killing of innocents at Connecticut and the killing of innocents in US abortion clinics is appropriate, but that time is not now. Right now the truly compassionate and pro-life response is to mourn those precious innocents who were lost while standing in solidarity with those who grieve their unjust killing.
By doing that we show to the world that we truly do mean it when we say that ALL human lives have a profound value and worth, and that the spilling of ANY innocent blood is a grave injustice which must not go unnoticed.
LONDON – For years, abortion promoters have traded on the slogan that legalised abortion is needed in Ireland so that women do not have to go to the UK to get the “life-saving treatment.” The only problem with the claim is that the statistics show it is utterly fictional, Ireland’s leading pro-life group has found.
An examination of the data from the UK government going back 20 years has shown that all the abortions carried out on Irish women traveling to Britain have been for social or economic reasons. Not one woman travelling from Ireland to the UK for an abortion did so out of any urgent medical need.
The Committee for Excellence in Maternal Healthcare, (CEMH) a group of obstetricians, gynecologists and other experts in maternal care, examined the data available under the freedom of information act from the Department of Health. They found that between 1992 and 2010, no abortions were carried out on Irish women under Section F of the UK Abortion Act, which requires records to be kept of abortions that were carried out to “save the life of the mother.”
The same data show that no abortions were carried out on Irish women, in the same period, under Section G, which allows abortions to “prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.”
Dr. Eoghan de Faoite, a spokesman for the CEMH, called the claims of the media and the abortion lobby “misleading,” “false,” and “without foundation.”
“This data makes clear what Irish women have known all along – they do not have to leave Ireland to seek abortions if their life is in danger. In fact, not one abortion has been carried out to save an Irish woman’s life since the X case, despite the frequent and misleading claims of those who support the provision of induced abortion,” de Faoite said.
The CEMH issued the Dublin Declaration in September, following an International Symposium on Maternal Health. It said, “The prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”
Indeed, the data from the World Health Organisation and other international health groups have shown that Ireland’s rate of maternal mortality and morbidity is the lowest in the world, with their abortion prohibitions in place.
Niamh Ui Bhriain, head of the Dublin-based Life Institute, told LifeSiteNews.com, “We hear this constantly in the Irish media that when a woman has a condition that is life threatening they are forced to travel to Britain for ‘life saving’ abortions there. It is the constant refrain that a woman who has cancer or other serious conditions must go to England or they will die in Ireland. This simple investigation into the public data, however, has shown this claim to be entirely untrue.”
Ui Bhriain commented on the importance of the revelation in light of the uproar in Ireland over abortion. She said this “hugely significant” information will be brought to the attention of government immediately.
“The evidence is in – and it completely dispels one of the most-repeated myths of abortion campaigners.”
Cross posted from LifeSiteNews.com
I stumbled across yet another classic example of the logical inconsistency of the pro-choice ideology last week.
It was an article on the militantly pro-choice website RH Reality Check, and it was about a pregnant woman who was fired after her employer claimed that she was taking too many toilet breaks and trips to the bathroom for morning sickness.
The pro-choice blogger from RH Reality Check quite clearly considered the treatment of this woman to be unjust and completely out-of-line – and, of course, she is absolutely right, it was totally unjust conduct on the part of the employer.
But there’s just one problem, her opposition to the treatment of this pregnant woman is completely inconsistent with the pro-choice ideology she chooses to preach in her other blog columns.
This very same pro-choicer who regularly claims that women should not be forced to have babies they didn’t consent, is actually more than happy for employers to be forced to accept babies that they never consented to.
As a pro-lifer, there is absolutely nothing inconsistent with me opposing the actions of this woeful employer.
But when a pro-choicer demands that employers should be forced to accept and adjust their working lifestyle in order to accommodate the difficulties that a baby in utero brings to their workplace, they are effectively denying that employer the right to be pro-choice about unborn human beings like they are.
In effect, they are demanding that the employer be forced to endure a pregnancy that they never consented to, and that employers should be forced to suffer the financial losses associated with pregnancy which, according to these same pro-choicers, pro-choice woman should never have to endure.
I wonder how this zealously pro-choice blogger would feel if I said to her; “don’t like employers who mistreat pregnant employees? Well don’t work for one then”.
Or: “my corporate body, my corporate choice”.
Isn’t it funny how, with one magic wave of the ideological wand, the very same feminists who think that women shouldn’t be forced to accept babies they never consented to, actually start demanding that employers (many of whom are women) should be forced to accept babies that they never consented to.
I chuckled when the pro-choice RH Reality Check blogger ended her post with the bold assertion: “women are in the workforce. Women get pregnant. Companies simply have to find a way to cope.”
I doubt she’d be so sympathetic if a pro-lifer retorted: “women have sex. Sex makes babies. Women simply have to find a way to cope.”
One of the more exciting hobbies of The Guttmacher Institute — besides receiving annual donations from Planned Parenthood — is demanding greater legal access to abortion in countries where abortion is restricted. This demand blooms from studies of these countries — usually Guttmacher’s — which consistently find high numbers of illegal abortions and abortion-related maternal deaths.
Their message is simple: Legalize abortion, for there exists a massive need for it, and women are dying in their attempt to meet that need with unsafe, illegal abortion. And for the past thirty years or so, we’ve all nodded dutifully, thanked Guttmacher for their hip-as-all-get-out videos explaining this, worked up compassionate faces, and legalised abortion.
Here’s the issue: The methods with which The Guttmacher Institute and researchers of the same vein use to procure these drastic numbers are decisively inaccurate.
A study published recently by Koch et al. in the International Journal of Women’s Health entitled “Fundamental discrepancies in abortion estimates and abortion-related mortality: A reevaluation of recent studies in Mexico with special reference to the International Classification of Diseases” — which I will be quoting from — politely points this out.
The Guttmacher Institute determines the number of induced abortions in a given country through the use of surveys.
First, they pass out what’s called a Health Facilities Survey to subjects who work in — you guessed it — healthcare facilities, asking them “to remember the total number of women who received post-abortion care ‘in the average month and in the past month.’” Once this recalled number is obtained, they move on to stage two — the Health Professionals Survey.
Guttmacher surveys healthcare professionals “selected on the basis of their professional affiliation, training, experience and specialization on the subject.” (1) Who these people are remains unavailable, as do their qualifications (what counts as specialization?), as do the questions asked in the survey (and whether those questions contain any relative bias), thus rendering the survey unrepeatable — an issue for any scientist. But the Guttmacher Institute is resolute, well-funded, and undeterred by such trifles. The Health Professionals Survey is used to estimate “an expansive multiplier of abortion rates (x3, x4, x5, etc)”, which is then applied to the numbers obtained by the Health Facilities Survey. Voila, the number of abortions.
Even a lay person like myself can see why this is iffy at best. As Koch et al. state, such “estimation methods are subjective in nature and extremely subject to selection and recall bias”, that is, to the intentional or unintentional manipulation of answers by those biased on the issue of legalized abortion. Furthermore, there is no information on how the subjects of the Health Professionals Survey were selected, and if the sample size is enough to represent the total population of medical professionals in Mexico.
Don’t take my word for it though. The numbers show how drastically this survey-method of “counting” abortions overestimates reality.
Guttmacher — using their surveys — estimated that for the year 2006 in the Federal District of Mexico (Mexico DF) there were between 137,145 and 194,875 induced abortions. Normally their word would have been taken as gospel truth, but because Mexico DF offers abortion on request to any woman up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy — one of the few Mexican states in which abortion is legal – there exists another way of counting abortions in the same area — actually counting abortions via the required reporting of abortion rates by hospitals.
The number of recorded abortions in 2007 — the year abortion was legalized in the Mexico DF — was 10,137. This number, for those interested, is less than 137,145 and 194, 875. We are left with two options.
Option 1: Either immediately upon abortion being legalized in the Federal District of Mexico, from 2006 to 2007, the abortion rate experienced an epic, up to 2000% decrease. This would be bizarre, given that, as Stanley Henshaw of the Guttmacher Institute itself has explained, “In most countries, it is common after abortion is legalized for abortion rates to rise sharply for several years” (2) and that it defies common sense.
It wouldn’t be a bad argument to make that, since legal abortion was new in the year 2007, there were still illegal abortions taking place, abortions that would have been included in the Guttmacher surveys but missed by the actual counting of legal abortions. However, as the study points out:
…the figure of legally induced abortions carried out in the five cumulative years from April 2007 until April 2012 (ie, a period of time probably long enough to replace illegal abortion with legal procedures in Mexico DF) was 78,544; which is nearly 50% of the original estimate by the [Guttmacher Institute] for only a single year .
We move, therefore, to Option Two: The survey method of obtaining abortion rates is inaccurate, verging on ridiculous. Yet still it continues:
[The Guttmacher Institute] have recently conducted another study insisting on the use of the same methodology and showing figures of induced abortion overestimated by approximately 1000% for 2009 (ie, estimating 122,455 induced abortions instead of the actual figure of 12,221 for Mexico DF in 2009) despite the existence of epidemiological surveillance on this matter by an independent non-governmental agency.
Which, by and large, was dumb. Now that legal abortion is available in Federal District of Mexico, and has been legal long enough so as to make illegal abortions a negligible percentage of total abortions, the Guttmacher Institute still demands we believe that abortion rates are 1000% higher than reported. There have been problems with underreporting regarding the recording of legal abortion rates, but there is no serious consideration that underreporting could be this low. As Koch et al point out:
We acknowledge that underreporting of legal abortions may limit the reliability of estimations based on actual records in Mexico DF. Nevertheless, Mexican health authorities have been actively working towards decreasing the underreporting of maternal mortality statistics which, at least in terms of MMR, have decreased to a negligible percentage since 2003. Even if such efforts have yet to be translated into a decrease in the potential underreporting of legal abortion records in Mexico DF, especially within the private sector, the figures proposed by [the Guttmacher Institute researchers] would still be overestimated. For instance, speculatively assuming an underreporting of 1- to 3-fold, the figure proposed by these authors would be overestimated by 2.5 to 5 times.
Now there is a similar issue with the method by which researchers currently determine induced-abortion-related mortality, that is, the number of women who die from abortions.
Abortion-related mortality is determined by dividing the number of abortion-related deaths by the number of live births.
The International Classification of Diseases considers abortion-related mortality to include deaths by “all pregnancies with abortive outcome”. While this may sound straightforward enough, the reality is complicated, for death by all “pregnancies with abortive outcome” does not necessarily indicate death by botched illegal abortions, but refers to “causes of death ranging from abnormal products of conception to unspecified, and other abortions.” This, as Koch et al show, includes such complications as miscarriage, “hydatidiform mole [and] ectopic pregnancy”.
Again, the study does the universe a favor by pointing out the obvious:
[These] should not be included in the assessment of abortion mortality, particularly when the focus of the study is to address the influence of illegal abortion on maternal health. For example, if one wanted to measure the deleterious effects of alcoholism on the liver, one would want an indicator specific to alcoholism. If that indicator instead included liver damage caused by fulminant hepatitis, Wilson’s disease, and drug-related liver damage, then the specific damage attributable to alcohol would be obscured. Similarly, if one wants to determine mortality from induced abortion, then deaths from other causes (such as hydatidiform mole or ectopic pregnancy) should be excluded.
But studies such as Schiavon et al, “Analysis of maternal and abortion related mortality in Mexico over the last two decades” do include these “abortion-related deaths”. Thus their frightening conclusion, that “(u)nsafe abortion continues to represent a significant proportion of all maternal deaths in Mexico” is rendered a skeptical one.
When Koch et al. removed the “abortion-related deaths” that were not specific to induced abortion — which, after all, is what was being studied — and looked at the numbers again, they found the following:
When taking this into consideration, even though the AMR shown by Schiavon et al displays discrete changes between 1990 and 2008, unspecified abortion (O06) combined with other abortion (O05) between 2002 and 2008 shows a downward trend, with a 22.9% overall decrease from 1.44 to 1.10 deaths per 100,000 live births. This observation further supports the notion that the apparent lack of progress in abortion-related maternal mortality in Mexico is likely to be related to causes other than unspecified abortion (O06) and other abortion (O05), and therefore seems to be unrelated to illegal induced abortion. (Emphasis my own.)
The study goes on to suggest that the apparent lack of progress in abortion-related maternal mortality seems more strongly correlated with an increase in violence against pregnant women in Mexico.
Obviously, there is much more to the study, including recommended alternatives to Guttmacher’s surveys and the the general use of ICD codes to determine abortion-related mortality. But these two points represent a paradigm shift in the way we view the legalization of abortion. If the primary method of establishing abortion rates in countries that restrict abortion is flawed, producing impossibly exaggerated numbers, the oft-repeated argument that legalizing abortion is a dire necessity is rendered null. If the primary method by which researchers determine the number of women dying from illegal abortions is flawed, including deaths that are not the result of induced abortion, then the oft-repeated emotional argument that women are dying from the lack of legalized abortion is similarly called into question. In fact, the argument sidetracks the conversation, and detracts resources away from the issues that truly do effect maternal mortality, such as the “adequate medical treatment of conditions such as hemorrhage, gestational hypertension, eclampsia, and indirect causes of maternal death, mainly characterized by pre-existing chronic diseases.”
The importance of this study cannot be understated. The lessons of Mexico should, at the very least, curb our enthusiasm for the widespread legalisation of abortion.
1. Singh & Bankole, Ginecol Obstet Mex 2012;80(8):554–561. Article in Spanish
2. Stanley Henshaw, Guttmacher Institute (16 June 1994)
Cross-posted from LifeSiteNews.
A couple of weeks ago, on the bigthink.com website, blogger Adam Lee published the blog equivalent of an open letter to the pro-life movement challenging pro-lifers to answer 11 different questions that, by the looks of things, he seems to thing pose some serious challenge to the validity of the pro-life ethic.
I chuckled when I read through the list, as it’s little more than a shopping list of tired old pro-choice chestnuts that are actually largely just logical fallacies in drag.
But in the spirit of Christmas giving, I’ve decided to reply to his questions anyway…
1. Biological evidence suggests that a large number, if not a majority, of fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted at a very early stage of pregnancy (by some estimates, as many as 50%). Do you consider this an ongoing humanitarian crisis that urgently needs medical research?
I am tempted to dismiss this one outright by simply asking Adam Lee whether he believes that the fact that 100% of human beings die is a massive humanitarian crisis that urgently needs research so that no more human beings will die, ever, but that would be a bit cheeky, so I’ll spend a bit more time on this one.
Firstly, the biological evidence on this matter is far from certain – there are actually good reasons to doubt whether the majority of these ‘embryos’ lost to natural wastage are actually even embryos at all.
Let me quote from an earlier blog post where I addressed this very issue:
The key point here is that it is almost certain that it is many of these types of entities which are lost in very early spontaneous abortions, as opposed to healthy human beings (the pro-life position is NOT that every meeting of a sperm and an egg is necessarily a conception of a new human being, by the way).
More importantly, from an ethical perspective, is that Adam is comparing an act of homicide with natural death.
Spontaneous abortion is a case of natural death (i.e. caused by mother nature), abortion, on the other hand, is an act of homicide (the deliberate killing of an innocent human being).
And here’s the important bit – while it is ethically wrong to deliberately kill an innocent human being, it is NOT ethically wrong to allow mother nature to run her course and allow a human being to die naturally (assuming that we are talking about a spontaneous abortion that has occurred after the meeting of a sperm and an egg that has actually resulted in the conception of a human being, and not something else).
Think of it like this – anti-whaling groups are NOT being inconsistent if they try and blockade whaling ships in order to prevent them from harpooning whales, but at the same time do nothing to save whales dying of natural causes elsewhere in the ocean.
There are two different ethical questions/acts involved here, and it is an absolute logical fallacy to suggest that one needs to oppose both, or work to resolve both in order to be ethically consistent.
Like I said earlier, this is about as logical as suggesting that anti-whaling campaigners who protest Japanese whaling, but refuse to try and prevent whales from dying natural deaths are somehow being ethically inconsistent or hypocritical.
I wonder if Adam is just as consistent in his reasoning when it comes to someone like Oskar Schindler, who, according to this logic, was quite clearly a moral hypocrite for saving all those Jewish lives from the murderous Nazis while never doing anything to try and prevent all the cancers that killed Jews during WW2. Surely if he really truly cared about Jews he would have also done something to stop cancer, which also kills Jews, right?
Or, if we take the African continent as another example, and applied the logical fallacy Adam Lee is falling into with this question, we’d have to say that anyone who worked in that region to bring about positive change, but who didn’t try to overcome EVERY single problem hurting the African people (from HIV, to poverty, to disease, to starvation, to corruption, to war, to lack of proper healthcare, to child soldiers, to economic strife, to education, etc.) would quite clearly be an inconsistent hypocrite who didn’t really practice what they preach.
2. If you could write the law however you saw fit, how would you enforce a ban on abortion? For example, in El Salvador, when women come to hospitals seeking treatment for a miscarriage, they can be detained until a forensic vagina investigator can arrive and perform an exam to see if they had an illegal abortion. Would you have something like this? If not, what enforcement mechanism would you have?
Ah yes, the logical fallacy of ‘false dichotomy’. What Adam Lee seems to be trying to imply with this question is that it’s either ‘illegal abortion with vaginal exams’, or ‘legal abortion and no vaginal exams’.
Only problem is that this is a false dichotomy which frames this issue as if vaginal exams for miscarriage are some sort of necessary requirement in a legal framework which outlaws abortion.
I’m sure I don’t need to labour the point that no such thing would be necessary, and neither was it something that happened prior to legalization of abortion in most countries, so I’m not sure why he’s even raising this as an issue.
3. Why do you think it is that so many proposed abortion bans have no exception for the woman’s life or health? (For example, anti-abortion laws with no health exceptions exist in Chile, Honduras, Suriname and El Salvador. Even in the U.S., similar bans have been passed by Republican legislatures in Indiana and South Dakota.) Do you think there should be such an exception?
Probably because direct abortion is not therapeutic, and it is not actually needed to save the life of a mother.
Do I have any problem with the lack of such clauses? No (assuming we’re actually talking about direct abortions – more on this below).
Let me put it another way, does Adam Lee think that anti-infanticide laws should include an exception to allow for the killing of infants to save the life of a mother (maybe organ harvesting, or rare blood type donations, etc)? If not, why not?
What Adam Lee probably doesn’t understand is that the principle of Double Effect actually allows for life-saving treatments to be administered to pregnant women, even if such treatments are likely to cause the premature death of the unborn child.
Such treatments are NOT direct abortions, and therefore they would still be permissible even when abortion is outlawed – any country that doesn’t allow such treatments has not constructed its laws in this area properly (according to sound ethical principles), and therefore the fault is NOT with the pro-life ethic, but with the way that specific legislation has been drafted.
4. Would you permit exceptions to an abortion ban in the case of rape? If so, how would this work? For a pregnant woman to get an abortion, would she have to accuse a specific person of the crime, and would he have to be tracked down, arrested, charged, put on trial and convicted, all before the point of fetal viability?
No, anti-abortion laws should not permit abortion in the case of rape.
Once again, let me put this another way, should anti-infanticide laws include an exception that allows rape conceived infants to be killed (after birth obviously)?
Let’s say that a sexually active married woman was raped in her home one night, and it wasn’t until after the child was born that she discovered that the child was NOT her husband’s, meaning that it could only be the child of her attacker, should she be allowed to end the life of that infant?
Or what about a rape victim who initially says yes to keeping her baby, but she is still in a traumatized state of mind, and immediately after the child is born she claims that if the child is allowed to keep on living it will psychologically destroy her – should she be allowed to have that infant killed?
Rape-conceived human beings are no different to you and I, so why should they be granted any less rights than you or I are just because of the manner of their conception?
5. What do you think the penalty should be for doctors who perform abortion?
Barring some sort of exceptional circumstances, I would suggest that doctors who perform abortions should receive the same prison sentence that any other person guilty of committing an act of homicide would receive.
6. What do you think the penalty should be for women who seek out an abortion?
This would depend entirely on the circumstances – just like it does in any other criminal case – but, as a general rule, the women who seek out abortions should definitely not be treated as harshly by the law as the actual abortionist who commits the act of homicide and kills the unborn child.
7. If your answers to the last two questions are different, why are they different?
Is this even a necessary question to ask? I would have thought that it would be quite obvious why there are differences between the actions of the abortionist and those of the pregnant woman.
Firstly, a pregnant woman is only an accessory, while the abortionist is the one who actually carries out the homicide.
Secondly, and more importantly, the pregnant woman is extremely vulnerable, is almost certainly not in full possession of all the facts, and is extremely desperate to find a way out of the crisis pregnancy that she now finds herself involved in.
The abortionist exploits a pregnant woman’s vulnerable state, and kills her child for their own financial gain, and therefore they are treated more harshly by the law because their culpability is obviously far greater.
Such an approach to prosecuting criminal offending is not at all novel either.
There are many, many instances where different punitive measures are taken against the different people who engage in a crime, and these same factors of their level of involvement, their psychological and emotional state leading up to, and at the time of the crime, etc, are all taken into account when determining their personal culpability for what has transpired.
8. Since IVF clinics also create and discard fertilized embryos, would you also be in favor of outlawing IVF?
And not just because of the destruction of human embryos that takes place, but also because of the other ethical problems and social harms that are associated with IVF.
But I’m really not sure how this could be surprising, or is Adam Lee expecting a pro-lifer to say to him ‘I am totally opposed to the destruction of innocent human beings prior to birth, unless destroying those human lives is part of a process that can produce a good outcome (in the approximately 20% – 25% of cases where it works)?
9. Since abortion has been legal in the United States for decades and doesn’t seem to be on the verge of being outlawed, do you think it would be a good idea, as a fallback, to make effective contraception more widely available so that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies and less need for abortion? If not, why not?
Once again, let me quote from a previous blog post where I addressed this very issue…
It seems to me that this is one of the key flaws in this arguments, because what [he] is trying to suggest is that if you simply find a way to stop pregnancies, then there will be less abortions.
However I would suggest that in actual fact, the important point here is the issue of these pregnancies being “wanted”, or not – that’s not a matter of whether someone gets pregnant or not, but whether they have a respect for human life that is absolute, and that they adhere to, even when a pregnancy is not planned, or it requires sacrifice on the part of the mother (as they all do).
The key point is that increased contraception doesn’t lead to an increase in respect for human life, and human rights in the womb, and therefore, at best, it is little more than a band aid over a gaping wound (by the way, the wound here is NOT the existence of the babies, but our cultural beliefs and treatment of those babies – get it?)
There are also some serious factual flaws in [the] argument.
For example, an Alan Guttmacher Institute survey, of more than 10,000 women who had procured abortions in 2000 and 2001 in the USA, found that only 12 percent of these women stated that problems obtaining contraception was the reason for their pregnancies.
This result was backed up by a second Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of teenage mothers in the USA which similarly found that only 13 percent of the teens reported having had trouble getting contraception.
Or there is the important research that was recently pointed out by Ross Douthat in his New York Times column (emphasis added):
“Another Guttmacher Institute study suggests that liberal states don’t necessarily do better than conservative ones at preventing teenagers from getting pregnant in the first place. Instead, the lower teenage birth rates in many blue states are mostly just a consequence of (again) their higher abortion rates. Liberal California, for instance, has a higher teen pregnancy rate than socially conservative Alabama; the Californian teenage birth rate is only lower because the Californian abortion rate is more than twice as high“
Once again, I think it’s fair to say that the supposed bullet-proof solution to the problem of abortion (more contraception) isn’t actually as foolproof as some pro-choicer’s would to think, or claim that it is.
Then there is also the fact that chemical contraceptives are one of the known risk factors for increasing the chance of ectopic pregnancy (where the embryo implants and grows outside the womb, a situation which can kill both mother and unborn child if left untreated).
Most importantly of all, this reasoning doesn’t seem to have considered the fact that the Pill doesn’t actually save the life of any unborn children.
Instead what the Pill would do (assuming that it worked perfectly and prevented all possible conceptions, which NEVER happens in the real world, by the way) is PREVENT new human life from coming into existence, but that is NOT the same thing as saving a human life – to save a human life, that life actually first has to exist (which wouldn’t happen if the Pill worked seamlessly every time).
This is why it is completely flawed to imply that pro-lifers are somehow failing to attempt to save lives (therefore being inconsistent) if they refuse to endorse the Pill.
Just stop and think about the totally ludicrous nature of what her position actually entails for a moment – what is being suggested here is that if pro-lifers refuse to endorse an action that could prevent a natural death by preventing that person from ever existing in the first place, then they are somehow being inconsistent.
But why should this reasoning apply only to unborn human beings and not ALL human beings?
After all, the pro-life movement isn’t just concerned with unborn human life, but with a respect for the dignity of all human beings from conception to natural death.
But then, according to this reasoning, in order to be consistent about saving human lives, wouldn’t pro-lifers actually have to support the sterilization of ALL humans, as this would be the only way to stop any more human beings from being conceived and then going on to die natural deaths at some point in their existence, either before or after birth?
10. If you would, address this purely hypothetical situation: There’s a five-alarm fire at a fertility clinic, and you’re the first firefighter to enter the building. On one side of the building, there’s a petri dish with half a dozen frozen embryos. On the other side, there’s a cowering five-year-old girl. You only have time to save one. Which would you choose and why?
This thought experiment is a total red herring.
It doesn’t matter which human being(s) you saved, the outcome would only be different by degree, in that you would end up saving either one, or many human beings, or in one scenario the human being(s) saved would be different in age than they would in the other.
Let me put it another way – if you were in a house that was burning down, and there is an elderly woman in one room, and an infant in the other, and you only have time to save one person from the fire, which one would you save and why?
Ultimately, no matter who you choose to save you have still saved at least one human life.
Adam Lee seems to think that this thought experiment is somehow intended to expose some flaw in the pro-life reasoning, but it simply does not – it literally is a red herring that provides little more than an interesting discussion starter about motivations for the rescuer’s actions.
Let me give you another thought experiment: There’s a five-alarm fire at a hospital, and you’re the first firefighter to enter the building. On one side of the building, there’s a bed with an anesthetized child on it, and this child will not awaken before the fire claims her life. On the other side, there’s a cowering five-year-old girl. You only have time to save one. Which would you choose and why?
The reason I have presented this altered version of the thought experiment is to point out that someone could choose to save the cowering five year old girl for reasons that have nothing at all to do with whether they believe she is a human being or not (or, alternately, whether or not the embryos are human beings entitled to the right to life or not).
It would be quite ethically logical for a pro-lifer to weigh the situation in the fertility clinic and decide that, because they can’t save both the embryos and the cowering five-year-old, they would choose to save the cowering five-year-old girl, due to the fact that, unlike the embryos, she will suffer a painful death if she is not plucked from harms way, whereas the embryos, even though they will tragically be lost, will not suffer in such a death.
This would be similar to choosing a cowering five-year-old over an an anesthetized child who will never awaken before the fire claims her life.
In such a scenario the pro-lifer is not choosing one over the other because they consider one to be human, and the other not, or they consider one to have rights and the other not, instead they are making their decision based on other considerations.
Either way, they have NOT violated the pro-life ethic, or the truths that it proclaims about the beginning of every human life with their actions. There simply is no ethical contradiction here.
11. Bonus question for evangelical Christians: Until the late 1970s, many prominent evangelicalswere pro-choice. Clearly, opinions on this matter have changed very dramatically in a relatively short amount of time. What do you think accounts for this?
What’s your point?
This is yet another red herring (plus there’s the whiff of the logical fallacy of ‘appeal to authority’ in this one too).
In previous eras many prominent Christians also supported slavery. Why do you think that was? Clearly, opinions on this matter have changed very dramatically over time. What do you think accounts for this?
Perhaps these Christian leaders came to realize that they were actually supporting a grave evil, and a serious violation of human rights by supporting abortion, and so they rightly adjusted their position on the issue, just as their forebears did regarding slavery.
So there you go – 11 pro-choice chestnuts, 11 pro-life answers which show why these questions pose absolutely no challenge at all to the logic of the pro-life ethic.
News broke on Monday that Prince William and Kate Middleton are having a baby, but one top pro-abortion advocate website already has mistakenly referred to the baby as just that, a baby.
“Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby,” the announcement said. “The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news.”
The announcement also indicated Middleton was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in Central London with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a sever case of morning sickness associated with an early pregnancy that affects about 1 percent of women.
“As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, Her Royal Highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter,” the statement said.
William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, got pregnant four months after her wedding in 1981. Like Kate, Diana had morning sickness for months and complained of constant media attention.
“The whole world is watching my stomach”, Diana once said.
Abortion activists are reluctant to recognize the humanity of the unborn child, but the pro-abortion advocate news web site Gawker did just that today. “CONFIRMED: THERE IS A HUMAN BEING GROWING INSIDE KATE MIDDLETON #baby #baby #baby” it tweeted.
The twitter watchdog Twitchy caught the tweet and applauded Gawker for finally getting something right.
It said: “For once, Gawker is right. A zygote conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being, not merely a “blob” or a “bunch of cells” or “potential human life.” At this stage of pregnancy, the baby’s heart has begun to beat and, by six weeks, brainwaves will be present.