In the recent presidential debates in the USA the Republican party expressed their wish to make abortion illegal once more, with an exception for cases where pregnancy was the result of rape or abuse. Do you think this line of reasoning makes sense? Is it enforceable? Is this even an issue that warrants the government’s involvement?



meetup group: Gentle Thinkers http://www.meetup.com/Gentle-Thinkers/

comments: Thor May - thormay@yahoo.com; http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay ; http://thormay.net

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topics already discussed: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm






This is an initial starter list for discussing the ‘abortion’ topic. The list makes no special claim to quality, and additions are welcome.


- Thor






Summary: 17th Gentle Thinkers Debate (minutes)


Posted on 22/11/2013 by yena @ http://conceptsandbox.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/summary-17th-gentle-thinkers-debate/


1. The legality or criminality of abortion doesn’t influence the number of procedures performed. It only affects the safety of it.


2. Abortions should be legal to increase the accessibility of having the procedure done in safe conditions by trained medical practitioners.


3. Government involvement would be necessary to ensure the regulation of legal abortions.


4. Being pregnant is different from raising an infant. Once born, adoption and other avenues enable people to opt not to bear the burden of raising a child. Which means that arguments for care of an infant are not relevant to discussions about abortion. This debate is really about the 9 months of pregnancy.


5. We have systems in place for infant (premature or full term) care if the mother chooses to relinquish the child after birth but we don’t have similar systems for aborted foetuses.


6. The rights of the mother, father and the foetus make this a difficult topic to develop a definite answer.


7. Most of the group agreed that abortion is the choice of the female as she is the primary stakeholder in this scenario.


8. One member argued that a male should have input regarding the decision to abort if both partners had full knowledge of the consequences and both consented to the sexual intercourse that resulted in the pregnancy.


9. Some thought that it would be only right for men to also have an equivalent option, where he lets the female know that, whether she to keeps the child or not, he has chosen not to be a father in any parental, social, financial or legal sense. And she can use this to inform her decision on whether or not to abort, adopt, etc. Otherwise, men can similarly be trapped in unexpected circumstances.


10. Some members noted that while there are some cultures or groups that act as large families who would care for an abandoned child, not all cultures would be willing to do this.


Interesting questions posed by the group:


11. Why do some countries/cultures/states/groups have more liberal laws than others?


12. Do we need doctors to publically declare they don’t do abortion referrals?


13. Is there a hypocrisy between the views of abortion, capital punishment and deployment of soldiers held by a person who has strong religious beliefs (particularly ones concerning the sanctity of life)?


14. Can we use religion as a means of delivering beneficial messages throughout society?

Additional content covered by the debate:


15. China’s One Child policy and its “success”


16. Ensoulment [Wikipedia]


17. The Oden Device [Sydney Morning Herald]


Points added by Thor:


18. Enforced abortion: (this did come up in the debate) : Mostly outside of the Australian context, and notably but not only in China, very large numbers of women have historically been subject to forced abortions. Some reasons for enforced abortion have included a) national population control policies; b) gender preferences for foetuses;; c) eugenic policies or beliefs; d) religious belief. The meetup members would generally concur that enforced abortion was undesirable.


19. A potent argument against abortion in the past was that it was medically unsafe. This is no longer true.





Notes by Thor


(these notes do not reflect any kind of expertise in the subject. They are intended only as discussion starter points).



1. I am not a woman. Implicit in that statement, for me in the context of abortion, and in the context of my culture, is the idea that abortion is women’s business. So my starting assumption is that while there is nothing nice about abortion, a woman in Australia may decide for an escalating range of reasons that NOT having an abortion is even less desirable. As a man I would not see myself as having any decisive role in a woman’s abortion choice. From a quick look at statistics, it seems that about 20% of conceptions in Australia are aborted.


2. In early pregnancy for some women abortion might not even seem to be a major decision, given that such abortions are now painless and medically efficient. If an abortion becomes necessary later towards term, then the implications are more major. Depending upon a person’s personal beliefs, for some the decision will always be major or even impossible.


3. Depending upon the legal environment (and these environments are not consistent within Australia, let alone nationally) abortion may be criminalized, which takes it beyond the realm of purely personal decision making for a woman or her family.


4. In the context of worldwide cultural histories – the historical pressures to increase or curtail populations (or more locally, family members) -  it is clear that the survival of foetuses has always been a major issue in which both women and men have played a large part beyond a simple nuclear family context.


5. The preservation or termination of foetuses has historically been part of a continuum involving the survival or death of infants and young children, as well as the death of women in childbirth. In fact for most of human existence life expectancy has been a brief 30 to 45 years, and embedded cultural and religious rules about childbearing should be understood in this context. Our current (effete?) delicacy about the sacredness of life would be hard for many of our forebears to comprehend.


6. The overall death rate for women in childbirth, the number of still-births, the early death of infants and children … all of these have been very high in most societies until the recent past (and in the Third World still are). Under these conditions, to preserve both family and society, many customs, prejudices, rules, laws and religious proscriptions can be found to circumscribe whatever personal preferences a mother might have.


7. In a country like Australia where such stark questions of group survival no longer apply, the old rules and controls may seem like an anachronism, but that is the nature of custom – it has a “long tail”, preserving practices and attitudes sometimes for centuries after they have become undesirable.


9. The emergence of medically safe abortion is quite recent. Although there have always been folk remedies, they have generally been ineffective, and often unsafe, as was physical intervention itself. Where populations themselves were under threat, this medical argument against abortion was quite potent.


10. The emergence of totalitarian regimes in the 20th Century was made far more virulent through the misuse of science, or pseudo science. This misuse included, and still includes, horrific misuses of medical knowledge and technology. Women as child bearers were, and are, often central to this abuse. Eugenics, the breeding of “super humans” was a prime tenet of Hitler’s 3rd Reich for example. It came together with the extermination or sterilization of “inferior races”. In this context, abortion could be used as a weapon. These ideas had a strong following outside of Germany also, including in the United States.


11. In many traditional societies where food survival was precarious, infanticide was quite common when abortion failed. This is still the practice in some places, such as rural India. At a national level, in China after the death of Mao Zedong, limiting the population came to be considered essential. The methods and their consequences both came from arbitrary and extremely ignorant decisions by politicians. Families were limited to one child (except for certain groups), and forced abortions occurred by the tens of millions, sometimes in the most brutal ways. The preference for male children resulted in the abortion of huge numbers of female foetuses, and well as the outright infanticide of female infants after birth. These are still raw issues in China, and people growing up in such an environment would have their views on abortion shaped by that reality.  









Children by Choice (n.d) "Australian Abortion Law and Practice". Children by Choice website, online @ http://www.childrenbychoice.org.au/info-a-resources/facts-and-figures/australian-abortion-law-and-practice


Chomsky, Noam (30 September, 2008) "Noam Chomsky on Abortion". Youtube video, online @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g003YbaxQ2g


Chomsky, Noam (3 November, 2009) "Noam Chomsky slams anti-abortion hypocrisy". Youtube video, online @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5RU2LqA1FQ


Cica, Natasha (31 August, 1998) "Abortion Law in Australia - Research Paper 1". Parliament of Australia, Law & Bills Digest Group, online @ http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp9899/99rp01


Conley, Dalton (December 1, 2005) "A Man's Right to Choose". The New York Times, online @ http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/01/opinion/01conley.html?_r=0


Donayre, Christine (13 November 2013) “What does giving rights to a foetus mean for women? Ask Alicia Beltran”. The Guardian, online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/13/what-does-giving-rights-to-a-foetus-mean


FPQ (July 2012) "Abortion Statistics". Family Planning Queensland, online @ http://www.fpq.com.au/pdf/abortion_statistics.pdf


Freakonomics (29 August 2011) "Abortions and Crime: Freakonomics Movie" Freakonomics Videos online @ http://freakonomics.com/videos/   as well as Youtube @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk6gOeggViw


Ganguli, Antara (Aug 12, 2013) “Paying Teens Not to Have Sex: What Mississippi Can Learn From Malawi”. The Atlantic, online @ http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/paying-teens-not-to-have-sex-what-mississippi-can-learn-from-malawi/278576/


Gibbs, Nancy (March 15, 2006) "A Man's Right to Choose?" Time magazine, online @ http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1173414,00.html#ixzz2jjesyw7n


Jabour, Bridie (21 November 2013) “Abortion to be legal in Tasmania after MPs pass bill nine votes to five”. The Guardian, online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/21/abortion-legal-tasmania-bill-wins


Kristof, Nicholas D. (February 7, 2014) "Meet the 90-year-old Australian 'Mother Teresa' in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize". Sydney Morning Herald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/comment/meet-the-90yearold-australian-mother-teresa-in-the-running-for--a-nobel-peace-prize-20140207-325lb.html#ixzz2sgRvPjib


Levitt, Steven D and Stephen J Dubner (2005) Freakonomics (A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything) Chapter 4 [based on the legalising or criminalising of abortion] online reference @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/


Mathews, Daniel (8 November 2013) “The new anti-abortion hero and the abortion death penalty”. Dan’s Blog, online @ http://danielmathews.info/blog/2013/11/the-new-anti-abortion-hero-and-the-abortion-death-penalty/


Milman, Oliver (12 November 2013) “Women who have abortions deserve to die, doctor claims”. The Guardian ( Australia), online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/12/women-who-have-abortions-deserve-to-die-doctor-claims


PHAA (2005) "Abortion in Australia - Public Health Perspectives". Public Health Association of Australia, online @ http://www.phaa.net.au/documents/phaa_abortion_kit.pdf


Singer, Peter (2013) "Abortion, Euthanasia, Infanticide". Wikipedia entry, online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer#Abortion.2C_euthanasia_and_infanticide


Stangroom, Jeremy (n.d.) "Whose body is it anyway?" Philosophy Experiments website, online @ http://www.philosophyexperiments.com/whosebody/Default.aspx


The Conversation (2013) The Australian university based discussion site, The Conversation, contains many articles on abortion. See them @ http://theconversation.com/search?q=abortion


Wikipedia (2013) "Abortion". online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion







Abortion?(c) Thor May 2013


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