Monday, August 31, 2009

Impossible pro-life questions - The burning house

From time to time I get the "impossible" question designed to trip up the core argument of any pro-lifer thereby rendering his arguments powerless and securing abortion for women for centuries to come, muwahahahahaha!!!!...ahem, sorry.

One such example is the burning house question. It goes something like this; You are passing by a house that is on fire. You know that there is one young child passed out on the floor and in another part of the house are 100 frozen embryos waiting to be implanted. You only have time to save one or the other. Who do you choose to save?

The intention of the question is to get the prolifer to admit that either the embryo is not really as valuable as the born child, or you care nothing about born children in your zeal to protect the unborn at any cost.

On the surface it sure seems like a good "gotcha" question, but I have found that my answer fails to really satisfy the asker. My answer to this is always "It Depends". I am often accused at this point of trying to evade an answer, or trying to change the question, or even at one point I was accused of trying to argue in the hypothetical by questioning the question. (as though the question isn't already in the hypothetical).

So what does it depend on? I'm so glad you asked because few pro-choicers ever let me explain. The question does not provide enough information, as is, to give a definite answer. First let me say that I am not a fan of the IVF industry because of the practice of creating more embryos than are intended on being used. I know the process is costly and the idea is to create a surplus with the expectation that only a few will survive. In my mind this is another example of playing with life and death for financial reasons and that isn't a very large gap from abortion itself. I sympathize with couples who want to have their own child. I don't even need to point out the obvious availability of adoption. But If IVF is going to be attempted then I would have to insist that it is done on a one-at-a-time basis. You simply don't create life and then discard it whether it is in a womb or a petrie dish.

That having been said, when rescuers are sent into situations like this, they have to make life and death determinations. They do that by deciding quickly who has the best chance of survival. That viability is a very shifting sand. Many things come into play with this. How close is the EMT to one victim over the other? How badly injured are both parties? Can one be expected to recover from their injuries better than the other? I feel for anyone who finds themselves having to make that decision.

In this scenario, I would have to ask myself which group was more viable at the time I showed up. I am not trained in cryogenics at all so I would have no idea if the equipment was even still working and if there were any living embryos still inside. Even if I could know that, I would have to know that the embryos had a likely chance of survival outside of the building. Can cryogenics be mobiley supported? Even if I knew that the answer was yes so far, would I know that these embryos were dedicated to a couple? or were they already designated for destruction?

There are many factors involved in this question. Assuming that all things are equal and both the child and the cryogenic container full of embryos had equal chance of survival, I would have to save the 100 lives over the other single lost life. This is of course not realistic as all things would not be equal in my case. Why are there cryogenics in the house anyways? and where are the child's parents? Ah so much for hypothetical.

While I'm at it though let me ask a question of my own. If the unborn are indeed only potential life (despite all scientific evidence otherwise) then we should be able to equate that to other unborn life as being only potential and not actual. Therefore why can I not make my morning omelettes out of eagle eggs? Why do we protect their unhatched while we let our unborn die? If there is no eagle inside the egg but only a potential eagle then the egg should be as available as a chicken egg. Are eagle eggs even tasty?


  1. You can make your omelettes out of eagle eggs. Unless eagle eggs contain some chemical that is harmful to humans, there isn't really any difference between eagle eggs and chicken eggs. Eagles are just fewer in number and harder to raise in captivity than chicken are. They are not amenable to domestication. You can eat all kinds of animals and their eggs. Your question is quite absurd. Are you suggesting that people think eagle eggs are potential life, but chicken eggs are not?
    That aside, I read through a number of your posts, and you're quite stuck on your notion that abortion is equatable to murder. I just happened to come across your blog by chance, and it's likely I won't come by it again, but I have to leave this comment here. Abortion is not about convenience. It's about bodily autonomy. It's about the right to choose what one does with their bodies. Can I force you to donate blood? Can I force you to donate organs? Even after you've died? If you will that you don't want your organs touched, can I do anything about it? No matter how many lives I can save, I can't do either of these things without your explicit permission. It's because it's a basic human right to have the ability to choose what our bodies are used for. A fetus, whether you call it a child, a parasite, or whatever else you want, if unwanted, is in a woman's body without her permission. If she wants it out, it has no right to space in her body. None at all.
    In your seemingly blind insistence on the supposed value of the life of a fetus, you completely and entirely trample the humanity of the woman it is in. But you don't see that at all. A woman is not dependent on the fetus, the fetus is dependent on the woman. It has no right to her body to maintain its own survival. A woman has a right to her body to use it as she sees fit. This isn't someone going out of their way to murder someone. This is someone defending their own body against another being using it against their will. It's profoundly disturbing that men like you keep blathering on about life and all that, when you will never be subjected to such controls. Only half the population is subject to this kind of control, and mostly by the other half.
    The notion that the human life that is growing unwanted within another is valuable is not a definite. It's a value judgement made by people. It is valuable when it's wanted, it's valuable when it's not impinging upon the literal body of another person. My right to survival never supersedes another human's right to their body. No one can make another person support my life using their body. If they do, that is violation of human rights. I can't demand my mom's kidney for me. She has to choose to give it.
    If you really want to get into the depths of fetuses and life, then what's your opinion on parasitic twins that are absorbed into the body of the other twin? Should that twin be considered a cannibalistic murderer?
    These things can go on and on and on. It doesn't have to, but it will. Because people like you see women as inherently lesser. You won't admit it, you won't see it, but it's writ large in all your words.
    My questions here are rhetorical. I honestly hope you question yourself on these stances. If you're so invested in looking at this topic in an emotional way, the way you do with insisting on the whole abortion=murder thing, then try this perspective too: What does it feel like to be a person who has something in their body that they don't want, and it will grow and it will change their body, their only home, forever, and they're being forced to keep it there.
    I've seen people like you before. But you sir, are much more self-righteous and smug than many I've come across. So I had to comment. I doubt you'll bother to question your own hypocrisy, but well, who knows. You believe in miracles right? I'll hope for one too.

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  2. I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I am honored that you considered my writing to be worth commenting on. I would like to address the many points you brought up.

    It is illegal for us to handle Eagle eggs. They are a protected species. The PC argues that the unborn are only potential human beings. The compliment to this would be the egg. If the unborn are only potential, then the egg's inhabitant is also only a potential. We protect the eagle's egg yet we do not protect the unborn. It is inconsistent. There is a difference in chicken eggs and eagle eggs. Eagles do not lay unfertilized eggs and chicken eggs are not federally protected.
    I make it a point not to equate abortion with murder. Murder is a legal distinction and current law does not apply the word murder to abortion and so, neither do I.

    The correlation of organ donation to pregnancy does not work. You cannot temporarily offer the use of an organ when donating it while pregnancy is the temporary use of an organ.
    I no more invite calories when I engage in eating than I invite pregnancy when I engage in sex. Permission is not applicable here. It is a natural bodily function. The ZEF is no more of an uninvited guest than calories are.

    You brought up the gender card. Have you ever used a male gynecologist? Do you believe that any woman has any business commenting on circumcision, or vasectomies? Do you believe woman can be doctors in these fields? My qualification for being involved in this is that I am a former fetus.

    Rights are all subjective. All rights are going to "trample" on another right at some point. We have to decide as a society what rights are paramount and what rights become secondary. I do value the life of the unborn, as you said. I do not value the unborn any greater than I value the born. They are equal to me. I am not against abortion. It is sometimes needed to save the life of the mother. I am against the needless killing of the unborn. If abortion could be done without killing the unborn than I have no problem with it.

    We live in a world where abnormalities and malformations happen all the time. Sometimes it kills the unborn. That is a natural death. You attempt to equate a natural death with a killing. parasitic twinning is not a conscious act.

    I do not see women as lesser. In fact, the ability to create life is of monumental value. I find the woman's gifting of pregnancy raises them to a status far above men. We are mere drones in comparison to what a woman's body is capable of.

  3. I treat your questions as sincere. They are not rhetorical to me. If I came across as smug or self-righteous, I sincerely apologize. Please attribute it to my poor ability to communicate appropriately. If you feel I am smug and self-righteous simply because of my viewpoint, then I hope you can learn to see things from my perspective. I cannot help how you view me because of how I believe. I can only change how I communicate.

    I know that the question of abortion is not an easy one. I know how scary an unplanned pregnancy is. I can only imagine how scary it would be when there is no one around to support you. It is no simple thing and people are going to be in pain over it one way or the other. There are no clear winners in this debate. I hear the stories of women who have had abortions and the pain and fear that they had to deal with. I know it is not an easy decision. I feel for what they are going through.

    I am pro-life. I believe the unborn have a right to life. I do not believe it is acceptable as a society for us to kill healthy unborn children to healthy women. When there is a medical emergency, abortion is necessary. I think we would both be agreed in wanting to see a dramatic reduction in the need for abortion. I want a society that supports pregnancy. Too many times, abortion is considered only because of fear over what the future holds. If it was easy for women to continue school while having a baby, or to continue working, or to financially succeed, I think less women would consider abortion. There are too many barriers for single, pregnant, young women. I want to remove those barriers.

    Thank you for commenting and letting have a chance to further explain myself.
    I would welcome continuing our conversation.