Counting Pregnant Women (Pt. 2)

By Cyberquill 07/29/201219 Comments

One of the survivors of the Aurora shooting, a pregnant woman that took a bullet to the stomach, has suffered a miscarriage in direct consequence of her injuries. Should the perpetrator be charged with one additional murder, raising the total from 12 to 13?

In other words, does killing an unborn amount to killing a person?

Justice Antonin Scalia is on record saying that, from a strictly constitutional perspective, it does not. In his view, when the Constitution says “persons,” it “clearly means walking-around persons. You don’t count pregnant woman twice.”

As per this reading, it would be up to the states, i.e., the people, to determine whether the unborn are persons or not and, by extension, whether and under what circumstances the premeditated termination of a fetus amounts to murder.

The 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, however, has, at least in part, taken this call out of the hands of the majority, by ordaining that the premeditated termination of a fetus less than three months of age does not amount to murder, at least not when performed at the behest of the mother.

Hard to say whether the reasoning behind Roe v. Wade implies—and whether Roe v. Wade supporters would concede—that premeditated first-trimester abortion amounts to murder when performed against the mother’s will.

If it does not—and unless one simply subscribes to the Founding Fathers’ view on personhood as per Justice Scalia, which says that life begins at birth, period—at what point during a pregnancy does forced abortion become the equivalent of killing a person?

More perplexingly, why should an entity’s personhood status hinge on who decides upon its termination? It doesn’t seem to make much sense to argue that if the mother decides to terminate her unborn, the unborn is not a person, but if someone else decides to terminate it, it is.

The woman in Colorado was six months pregnant at the time her unborn was terminated against her will.

So was it murder?

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  • Richard

    Justice is not served if we delay our laws until they are shown to be consistent.

    Moreover,  justice is a human creation and so inherently inconsistent.

    Pure logic might mislead us. Suppose , as a matter of argument, a charge of murder was available only if the act was committed against someone who is, or has been conscious? Quite apart from the difficulty the nature of consciousness  presents, consciousness might arrive long after birth.  A charge of murder could, though, be consistent with abortion.

    It is, of course, preferable that laws are logical and consistent, but they need to be driven intuitively by our sense of right and wrong.

    • Richard

      The laws of Nature, by contrast, appear to be consistent. We do not, for example, wake up some mornings to find ourselves pinned to the ceiling rather than the floor. The source of that consistency eludes us.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        The source of gravity may have eluded Newton. In the meantime, though, I believe it has been discovered that  we wake up to find ourselves pinned to the floor rather than the ceiling because matter always moves along the shortest path in a curved spacetime. Being pinned to anything indicates that we’re in a perpetual state of motion, except that our travels are being impeded by whatever we find ourselves pinned to, i.e., the floor. 

      • Richard

        All those are observations, not explanations.

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          The curvature of spacetime doesn’t explain its own origin, but it sure explains why we consistently find ourselves pinned to the floor rather than the ceiling.

          • Richard

            ‘fraid not. It complies with certain rigorous conventions in order to describe the observation.

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              I see. So if, in addition to the familiar feeling of being pinned floorward by gravity, one day I’m having some extra difficulty rising out of bed in the morning because someone handcuffed me to the bedpost while I was asleep, my being handcuffed to the bedpost would fail to qualify as an explanation for this extra difficulty getting up, but would merely comply with “certain rigorous conventions” that describe the observational effects of being cuffed to the bedpost? 

              If I punctured the tires of your car, would that explain why your car has diminished in height by a few inches, or would my having slashed your tires merely “comply with certain rigorous conventions in order to describe the observation” of your car having shrunk?

              Is there even such a thing as an explanation in Richardland? 

            • Richard

              No. There’s no such thing as an explanation anywhere.  The observations you seek  to describe are more complex than you suggest.

              Explain that.

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              Why should I explain what you mean? 

            • Richard

              No need to, CQ. Just read my preceding comments. :)

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              Yeah, it seems that for you,  an explanation that doesn’t explain everything, including the origin of the universe and the meaning of life, doesn’t explain anything, and is hence unworthy of being termed an explanation.

            • Richard

              Not quite, Peter.

              What masquerade as explanations are not explanations at all, only descriptions.

              Mathematics is a language and is used by scientists to describe what goes on in the universe. The universe came first and then the mathematical descriptions. It is a common fallacy that mathematics accounts for the universe. I don’t believe either Newton or Einstein would have subscribed to it. Both worked their descriptions within the parameters which they set themselves, parameters drawn from observation, directly or indirectly. Both remain correct within those parameters. Einstein himself expressed his wonderment at the connection between mathematics and the laws of Nature.

              You recount a mishap with a bedpost. You would never maintain that your words explain the event, only that they describe it. In the same way, the mathematics of Newton and Einstein merely describe. Newton’s mathematics was not displaced by Einstein’s, it’s just that Einstein’s is a description more in accord with observation. Einstein’s description itself may soon be displaced, but that will not invalidate his mathematics. You have the universe on the one hand and Man’s struggle to describe it on the other; if it was of a different form then the descriptions would be different, but the difference would not be explained.

              The reason for this is that our tools for describing the universe derive from the universe itself. Nothing can explain itself. That is at the root of Godel’s incompleteness theorem: he shows brilliantly that his tools are not up to the job by using them in two different ways to arrive at a contradiction and that what goes for those tools goes for all logical process.

              No, logic is not enough if we wish to frame just laws because it is necessarily restrictive.

              Will that explanation do for now? :)

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              The fact that I’m having difficulty leaving my bed doesn’t explain itself. But my being cuffed to the bedpost certainly explains it. Being cuffed to the bedpost, in turn, doesn’t explain being cuffed to the bedpost, but my girlfriend having an offbeat sense of humor explains it. This, again, doesn’t explain the genesis of her humor nor of humor in general. And so on and so forth, until we work ourselves back to the big bang and the “first cause.” 

              Of course, strictly speaking, we cannot observe causation. We can only observe correlation. So if you punch me in the face and my nose begins to bleed immediately thereafter, my nose may have started to bleed at that precise moment anyway, even without your punch. I can’t say with 100% certainty that your punch caused my nose to bleed, nor can I say with absolute certainty that my derogatory comment about the Queen’s latest choice of hat caused you to punch me. You may have punched me anyway. I can only “describe” what happened immediately before and after you punched me. Unknown forces might be in play. And even if I could establish a definite causal link between the events in question, it wouldn’t explain why noses bleed when punched, nor would it explain the provenance of your aggressive proclivities. 

              For all practical purposes, however, I’m perfectly happy with the conventional and unenlightened understanding of “explanation.”

            • Richard

              Yes. That’s about the measure of it.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Regarding a range of issues, such as abortion, our sense of right and wrong tends to vary greatly from individual to individual. Although most people will concur in that it is wrong to abort a woman’s unborn against her will, those that are pro-choice will most likely shrink from calling it an act of murder—rather than, say, assault and property damage—as calling it murder would amount to an admission that abortion is murder. 

      Murder, of course, is an act of premeditation and choice by definition, so for a woman to choose to terminate her unborn would be an act of murder if that choice, when made by someone else in her stead, amounted to murder. 

      Therefore, speaking of intuition, I suppose that those who are pro-life will be more inclined to regard the murder of a pregnant woman as a double-murder than will those that are pro-choice. And if someone that is pro-choice intuitively feels that murdering a pregnant woman amounts to double-murder, that person will have some explaining to do.  

      • Richard

        I suppose that’s why we have democracies . Bit hit-and-miss, though.

  • Nepenthe

    Wow. I have to admit, you do have a point here. Perhaps he should be charged with something else entirely, like Unlawful Termination of Unborn Child.  

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Damage of personal property perhaps. 

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