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Change the 8th to define a threshold of personhood

MichaelR

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Joined
Jun 1, 2006
Messages
1,924
Hello,

I was until recently of the pro-life persuasion but now, thinking of this, the position is at present probably unworkable. And the problem is that if the debate is framed in extremities, with "all life is sacred from conception" on one hand and "no rights until birth" on the other, we hand the victory to the second side - and thus jeopardize the ultimate aim of having a society where the rights of all humans are recognized. Which is the very aim that drives, at least, the pro-lifers who do not reference religion (or demographics, but the collectivist position of "no abortion to make more white children" is very marginal in Ireland anyway). For example, Cora Sherlock writes at Ireland has little room for a pro-life feminist in the abortion debate | CoraSherlock.com : "It’s a statement about the type of society we want – one that values everyone, born and unborn."

If we forgo collectivism, the twin questions in abortion are when the fetus has rights and how to balance the rights of the fetus to the rights of the mother. The 8th amendment is an attempt to answer the second question. It, however, fails to answer the first. "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn" does not define "the unborn". In actual legal practice "the unborn" is not defined from the moment of conception, as emergency contraception is legal in Ireland.

Theoretically the Dail could even legislate around the 8th by defining "the unborn" form the moment of viability outside the womb, thus creating the American system out of nothing, and then there would be a protracted legal battle with unclear results.

I would suggest, therefore, that a clear definition of when personhood starts be worked out and ideally passed in a Referendum to modify the 8th. And that person, then, should have their rights (as persons, not as citizens) vindicated fully - notably I'd include them in the Census and start Child Benefit payments.

My own proposal for personhood at the start of life is based on existing precedent at the end of life. By law, a person is a person only while they have brain activity. A brain-dead human is a cadaver, not a person, even if their heart is still beating.

I would use the same logic on the other end and recognize personhood at the onset of brain activity. I am not sure what week that would be, but I think it's roughly at the end of the first trimester.

Before that, abortion would then become available, while after that, the right to life of the fetus would be equal to that of the mother. This would also negate the need for rape and incest exceptions as there would be ample time to react.

As for fetal abnormalities detected later, these unborn persons would then be seen by law as disabled children, which would put the matter of their euthanasia to rest while also creating the framework for appropriate social protection payments and support.
 


sondagefaux

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 2, 2009
Messages
15,515
Hello,

I was until recently of the pro-life persuasion but now, thinking of this, the position is at present probably unworkable. And the problem is that if the debate is framed in extremities, with "all life is sacred from conception" on one hand and "no rights until birth" on the other, we hand the victory to the second side - and thus jeopardize the ultimate aim of having a society where the rights of all humans are recognized. Which is the very aim that drives, at least, the pro-lifers who do not reference religion (or demographics, but the collectivist position of "no abortion to make more white children" is very marginal in Ireland anyway). For example, Cora Sherlock writes at Ireland has little room for a pro-life feminist in the abortion debate | CoraSherlock.com : "It’s a statement about the type of society we want – one that values everyone, born and unborn."

If we forgo collectivism, the twin questions in abortion are when the fetus has rights and how to balance the rights of the fetus to the rights of the mother. The 8th amendment is an attempt to answer the second question. It, however, fails to answer the first. "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn" does not define "the unborn". In actual legal practice "the unborn" is not defined from the moment of conception, as emergency contraception is legal in Ireland.

Theoretically the Dail could even legislate around the 8th by defining "the unborn" form the moment of viability outside the womb, thus creating the American system out of nothing, and then there would be a protracted legal battle with unclear results.

I would suggest, therefore, that a clear definition of when personhood starts be worked out and ideally passed in a Referendum to modify the 8th. And that person, then, should have their rights (as persons, not as citizens) vindicated fully - notably I'd include them in the Census and start Child Benefit payments.

My own proposal for personhood at the start of life is based on existing precedent at the end of life. By law, a person is a person only while they have brain activity. A brain-dead human is a cadaver, not a person, even if their heart is still beating.

I would use the same logic on the other end and recognize personhood at the onset of brain activity. I am not sure what week that would be, but I think it's roughly at the end of the first trimester.

Before that, abortion would then become available, while after that, the right to life of the fetus would be equal to that of the mother. This would also negate the need for rape and incest exceptions as there would be ample time to react.

As for fetal abnormalities detected later, these unborn persons would then be seen by law as disabled children, which would put the matter of their euthanasia to rest while also creating the framework for appropriate social protection payments and support.
You're talking about a foetus which is either dead already in the womb or will be inevitably dead. Some fatal foetal abnormalities include where no brain has developed or the brain has developed insufficiently and can only govern involuntary functions, like heartbeat etc. Why treat these as 'unborn persons' if your criterion is that lack of brain activity means that you're not a person?

Anencephaly
Anencephaly (an-en-SEF-a-lee) is a defect in the neural tube, which is the part of the developing fetus that forms the spinal cord and brain. During early development, the neural tube fails to close and results in a missing or malformed brain or spinal cord. A fetus with anencephaly is born with no brain or only the very basic parts of the brain that control processes like breathing. Anencephaly is always a fatal condition and the infant may be stillborn * or die within days or weeks of birth.

The exact cause of this disorder is still not known. Some studies have suggested that a problem with the nutrition of the mother may be an important cause of this disorder. Lower than normal levels of the B vitamin folic acid in the mother may place the developing fetus at risk for anencephaly.

* stillborn means a baby who is not a live at birth.
Birth Defects and Brain Development - body, last, causes, The Developing Fetus, Anencephaly

BTW, your arguments aren't exactly novel.

They were used in Antiquity and in medieval times as part of arguments over when a foetus becomes human, although the arguments were often framed in terms of when the foetus acquired a soul rather than when brain activity began.

Some argued that this didn't happen until 'quickening' or 'ensoulment' which was reckoned to take place at various times (usually after the first trimester). On this basis, it was argued that pre-ensoulment abortion should be legal and this was the mainstream position in Christianity at varying times across the centuries. At other times it was believed that all abortion was murder.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist.htm
 
Last edited:

Skyrocket

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
3,873
No thanks.

I will vote NO on any proposals to undermine or repeal the right to life of the unborn.

Once Irish people become aware of the radical abortion agenda behind the 'repeal the 8th' campaign, a NO vote is assured.

 

MichaelR

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Joined
Jun 1, 2006
Messages
1,924
After the "age of personhood" I would treat these cases just as I would treat cases of a born person being pronounced dead. And that is *dead* not "will inevitably die".

So, if a baby already born with the condition would be pronounced a stillbirth, then allow abortion. Not in any other cases. I would agree with Paul Bradford that we really should be talking about life-limiting conditions as opposed to "fatal abnormalities": Paul Bradford: “There are no such babies as babies with fatal foetal abnormalities”
 

MichaelR

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 1, 2006
Messages
1,924
No thanks.

I will vote NO on any proposals to undermine or repeal the right to life of the unborn.

Once Irish people become aware of the radical abortion agenda behind the 'repeal the 8th' campaign, a NO vote is assured.
I actually do agree with you about the radical abortion agenda. Where we disagree is how best to deal with it.

This is a Republic, and numbers matter for the decision. And most people, realistically, are in the middle - not really pro-life and not radical pro-abortion. Very very few will oppose early abortion for mother's health (not just life), rape or incest. My problem with that definition is that it would strongly encourage false rape claims while not even protecting any unborn children (because anyone can claim rape); I would argue that the biggest wave of false rape claims in history, that in end-of-WW2 Germany, was caused by this very kind of abortion law.

A significant number of people don't really care one way or the other about first-trimester abortions. And yet very few would support the radical agenda you are speaking of.

So the choices are:

(1) Hold out with an absolute definition that does not even work at present (because of emergency conception), alienate the middle ground voter, and probably let the radicals have the victory in a few years' time as the demographics play in their favour - unless some miracle happens in between.

(2) Push through a compromise that firmly lays to rest ANY idea of late-term abortions - and anything post first trimester is late-term - for reasons outside the LIFE of the mother, with a fair chance of support from the middle ground, and isolate the radicals.

I would pick (2). This would buy enough time for the development of the artificial womb at which point the issue might become moot - as long as we don't let the radicals win in the meantime. The pro-abortion radicals want power of life and death over children, ideally those already born, too.
 

sondagefaux

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Joined
Jun 2, 2009
Messages
15,515
After the "age of personhood" I would treat these cases just as I would treat cases of a born person being pronounced dead. And that is *dead* not "will inevitably die".

So, if a baby already born with the condition would be pronounced a stillbirth, then allow abortion. Not in any other cases. I would agree with Paul Bradford that we really should be talking about life-limiting conditions as opposed to "fatal abnormalities": Paul Bradford: “There are no such babies as babies with fatal foetal abnormalities”
Obviously anencephaly, which inevitably results in either stillbirth (i.e. death) or later death, and in which the extent of brain activity is reduced to keeping the lungs, heart etc going, should be an exception by the standards you've set yourself, unless you think that the notion of personhood includes entities that merely respire and circulate blood, in which case lots of animals, including simple bacteria, should be included in your proposed definition of personhood. Then there are the difficulties that such an approach would raise given that life-support equipment can maintain circulation and respiration even when the brain can't. If 'personhood' includes people whose brains can only support respiration and circulation, shouldn't it also include people whose respiration and circulation can only be maintained through technological intervention? After all, technological intervention is what almost all modern medicine is about - if we decide that maintaining or restoring a bodily function through technological intervention doesn't change the legal status of a person, then we're going to have to accept that people who've lost both arms but have had them replaced (either through advanced bionic limbs or through transplant, and possibly in the future through laboratory growth of replacement limbs) retain their legal status as people unable to lawfully drive unadapted vehicles and artificial wombs (if they're ever developed) wouldn't change the status in law of a foetus that can be aborted lawfully under your proposals.
 

Half Nelson

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Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
21,410
Hello,
..
As for fetal abnormalities detected later, these unborn persons would then be seen by law as disabled children, which would put the matter of their euthanasia to rest while also creating the framework for appropriate social protection payments and support.
You're a dangerous loon, but at least you're not wriggling around the issue, unlike TFMR or the rest.
 

MichaelR

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Jun 1, 2006
Messages
1,924
Anencephaly probably would be an exception because one could be pronounced dead just for having it. But things like severe heart conditions - no.
 

MichaelR

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You're a dangerous loon, but at least you're not wriggling around the issue, unlike TFMR or the rest.
I'm not exactly sure what you are reading into my words. By "put the matter of their euthanasia to rest" I mean, of course, make it clearly illegal.
 

GDPR

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Jul 5, 2008
Messages
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After the "age of personhood" I would treat these cases just as I would treat cases of a born person being pronounced dead. And that is *dead* not "will inevitably die".

So, if a baby already born with the condition would be pronounced a stillbirth, then allow abortion. Not in any other cases. I would agree with Paul Bradford that we really should be talking about life-limiting conditions as opposed to "fatal abnormalities": Paul Bradford: “There are no such babies as babies with fatal foetal abnormalities”
"Personhood" is a pro abortion concept, it has no scientific basis.
Scientifically, we are either dealing with a unique human life from fertilisation or we're not, in which case, what are any of us arguing about?

What is fertilisation?

"Fertilisation is the moment when a sperm and egg join together, and the genes from the mother and father combine to form a new life."
 

Skyrocket

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Joined
Jun 23, 2010
Messages
3,873
I actually do agree with you about the radical abortion agenda. Where we disagree is how best to deal with it.

This is a Republic, and numbers matter for the decision. And most people, realistically, are in the middle - not really pro-life and not radical pro-abortion. Very very few will oppose early abortion for mother's health (not just life), rape or incest. My problem with that definition is that it would strongly encourage false rape claims while not even protecting any unborn children (because anyone can claim rape); I would argue that the biggest wave of false rape claims in history, that in end-of-WW2 Germany, was caused by this very kind of abortion law.

A significant number of people don't really care one way or the other about first-trimester abortions. And yet very few would support the radical agenda you are speaking of.

So the choices are:

(1) Hold out with an absolute definition that does not even work at present (because of emergency conception), alienate the middle ground voter, and probably let the radicals have the victory in a few years' time as the demographics play in their favour - unless some miracle happens in between.

(2) Push through a compromise that firmly lays to rest ANY idea of late-term abortions - and anything post first trimester is late-term - for reasons outside the LIFE of the mother, with a fair chance of support from the middle ground, and isolate the radicals.

I would pick (2). This would buy enough time for the development of the artificial womb at which point the issue might become moot - as long as we don't let the radicals win in the meantime. The pro-abortion radicals want power of life and death over children, ideally those already born, too.
(1) The X-case stated that the 8th Amendment is operative from implantation onwards, meaning emergency contraception (which acts before that stage of pregnancy) is not restricted by the 8th Amendment.

Every single poll I have seen on abortion shows that there is no majority support for 'abortion on demand' in Ireland. The average support for this is about 40%. Yes, that figure could grow in the coming years but I don't believe it will exceed 50% within the next two to three years when a referendum on abortion is most likely.

So long as there is no majority support for abortion on demand, any referendum on YES/NO for repeal of the 8th Amendment will likely fail, perhaps narrowly but fail nonetheless.

That's because the NO side will rightly make the campaign about 'abortion on demand' and that is what even some prominent repeal groups are calling for.

A NO vote will mean abortion is off the agenda in Ireland for at least 10 years. Yes, the repeal crowd will agitate for another referendum, but it would be political madness for any government to cave to them (FF are likely to be in government after the next election and they are the most conservative on abortion).

(2) A compromise to amend the 8th would satisfy neither side and both pro-life and pro-abortion campaigns would call for NO, and NO would likely be the result. Although this would seemingly be a pro-life victory on the surface as the 8th stays as it is, the repeal crowd could then say they were denied a straight YES/NO vote on the 8th and we are more likely to see another referendum on the issue.
 

Half Nelson

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Dec 12, 2009
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Anencephaly probably would be an exception because one could be pronounced dead just for having it. But things like severe heart conditions - no.
Children diagnosed with anencephaly sometimes live for months after birth.

 

Half Nelson

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I'm not exactly sure what you are reading into my words. By "put the matter of their euthanasia to rest" I mean, of course, make it clearly illegal.
In that case I may have misunderstood you. Apologies.
But using the term 'euthanasia' doesn't help your case. Abortion isn't euthanasia.
 

MichaelR

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Jun 1, 2006
Messages
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(1) The X-case stated that the 8th Amendment is operative from implantation onwards, meaning emergency contraception (which acts before that stage of pregnancy) is not restricted by the 8th Amendment.

Every single poll I have seen on abortion shows that there is no majority support for 'abortion on demand' in Ireland. The average support for this is about 40%. Yes, that figure could grow in the coming years but I don't believe it will exceed 50% within the next two to three years when a referendum on abortion is most likely.

So long as there is no majority support for abortion on demand, any referendum on YES/NO for repeal of the 8th Amendment will likely fail, perhaps narrowly but fail nonetheless.

That's because the NO side will rightly make the campaign about 'abortion on demand' and that is what even some prominent repeal groups are calling for.

A NO vote will mean abortion is off the agenda in Ireland for at least 10 years. Yes, the repeal crowd will agitate for another referendum, but it would be political madness for any government to cave to them (FF are likely to be in government after the next election and they are the most conservative on abortion).
That is a good point. Which might just be why, despite all the noise, the pro-abortion side is not really working to speed up a referendum. They might be counting on a change in demographics in 5 to 10 years' time.

And as one remembers from divorce (even not counting Lisbon because of external pressure) a referendum *can* get repeated.
 

sondagefaux

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Jun 2, 2009
Messages
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That is a good point. Which might just be why, despite all the noise, the pro-abortion side is not really working to speed up a referendum. They might be counting on a change in demographics in 5 to 10 years' time.

And as one remembers from divorce (even not counting Lisbon because of external pressure) a referendum *can* get repeated.
We've had more than one referendum on abortion. The first one, to insert the 8th amendment, passed two to one. Of the next three, two (to ensure that pregnant Irish women had a legal right to leave the state to get an abortion, to ensure that information about abortion could be legally made available in the state) passed while the third (to restrict the rights to abortion granted by the X-case judgment, by removing suicide as a ground for getting an abortion) failed. A second referendum attempt to remove suicide as a ground for getting an abortion also failed. I wouldn't bet the farm on Irish voters not removing the 8th in a referendum in the next couple of years. Apart from abortion and divorce, there have also been at least two referendums on whether or not to abolish proportional representation for elections - both attempts were defeated. Having one or more referendums on the same issue is not unprecedented in Ireland.
 


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