April 25, 2007

Dopey Philly Inquirer Letter of the Week

George Magakis Jr. of Norristown is consistently inconsistent in his criticism of the recent US Supreme Court decision regarding partial birth abortion (emphasis mine):

The Supreme Court ruling upholding a ban on "partial birth abortions" - a political term, not a medical one - without taking into account risks to the mother's health is not necessarily a victory for the "pro-life" movement.

Doctors now are more likely to practice defensive medicine in cases where the need for such a procedure might arise in late-term pregnancies and may be more likely to counsel women in such cases to terminate pregnancies in earlier stages.

These actions would be reinforced because of the perceived liability to doctors should a mother die - because the doctor cannot perform such a procedure if the need arises during delivery - and also because of the risk of being second-guessed by zealous prosecutors. (Recall that Attorney General John Ashcroft tried to subpoena delivery room records.)

Thus, in their attempts to preserve the life of the fetus, "pro-life" ideologues may end up with the unintended consequence of a greater number of abortions.

Magakis is probably being nebulous on purpose. True, the recent decision does not make an exception for the health of a mother (but, again, it is incorrect to assume the SCOTUS -- as well as lower courts and Congress itself -- did not hear myriad testimony as to why the procedure is not necessary to preserve a woman's "health"), but it does make an exception for the mother's life. Thus, there's an inconsistency in his first and third paragraphs. His last sentence is just laden with the same political terminology he himself laments at his letter's beginning. Partial birth abortion has nothing to do with a "fetus." It has to do with a viable baby.

Liberals who are currently chastising conservatives to "face reality" on the war and other topics (rightly so, in many cases) ought to take a long look in the mirror on this issue.

Posted by Hube at April 25, 2007 03:26 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

It is misleading to say that PBA pertains to a viable baby. That is inaccurate. Many mothers-to-be late in their pregnancy discover through their doctor that they have fetuses that will not survive birth because of gross disformities such as hydrocephalus, for example.

Also, it is still legal to do saline abortions & D&E within the womb through dismembering the fetus. How is that a better decision?

Many mothers suffer psychologically with the decision to abort late term because of the lack of viability of the fetus. Many prefer the PBA procedure than saline or D&E, because they can hold the "baby" rather than a dismembered fetus.

PBA is now defined as a fetus that has been removed above its navel from the womb & this is the procedure that has been banned. So the defintion of intact D&E still retains the word fetus.

You tell a partial truth & explodeit into a major lie. I am not a liberal. That is simply an ad hominen attack. In fact, with the use of fallacies & false dischotomoies extreme positions like your would collapse.

No doubt, the intended consequence of this bizarre ruling is to throw doctors into doubt & keep them guesing about what they do. And there will be zealous prosecutors making a name for themselves when there is a death in the delivery room.

You have loow tolerance for the complexity of life & suffering & the difficult choices people have to make.

Finally, are you a conservative? Henry David Thoreau said that if he knew if someone was comnig to his house to do good for him, he would run like hell. So, conservatives to leave others alone.

Posted by: George Magakis, Jr at April 28, 2007 12:50 PM

George: If a fetus with "gross deformities" will not survive birth, then what it is something like a Caesarian section for? Are you now purposely muddling the life of the mother with the life of the fetus/baby? IOW, if the fetus is already dead, then a PBA isn't an issue.

How is that a better decision?

It isn't. But again, the issue isn't one where the baby will NOT survive birth, it's where they WILL. I'll ask you again, just like in the post: Are you seriously arguing that the Congress and all the various courts HAVEN'T heard this exact testimony and made a summary reasoned judgment about it? Are they just incredibly stupid?

What I have a low tolerance for, George, are people like yourself who continually twist the issue (you did it again in your comment), and attempt to find a reason for the utterly unreasonable. It says something that a society deems "cruel and unusual" the killing of a mass murderer by painless lethal injection, yet cannot so deem a barbaric procedure on an INNOCENT life that serves no useful purpose. And my position is far from extreme -- a very clear majority of the public oppose this procedure. It is YOU who have the extreme view, sir. Wake up and smell the Maxwell House.

Oh, and the "liberal" label wasn't necessarily meant to describe you. It was a general sentiment about the whole definition of "life" debate.

Posted by: Hube at April 28, 2007 01:40 PM

Nothing like a false dichotomy. Either the court made a reasoned judgement or an incredibly stupid one. I think that there is some gray in between in the kind of reasoning they engaged in. It is perfectly alright, from your point of view, to call the dissenters liberals, but not to look at the political motives of the majority. They, I suppose, had God on their side.Like Bush does in all of his decisions. Which God? Of course, this is how people like you always pose the argument. In extremes, black & white terms, no in between.

Finding a reason for the utterly unreasonable? What is the unreasonable part? Again you set up a straw man. There are situations in which the procedure is a perfectly reasonable alternative that is safer for the mother, than a Cesarian section. (It seems using the Cesarian section as you suggest is done for the sake of ideology at the expense of the mother's health. She should suffer some pain & risk for ideological purity. I know, I know what you are going to say: it's a baby, not an idea!) I did not say that I advocate the procedure in any and all situations as you imply. But there are situations in which the medical profession has deemed this a safer procedure. This would involve gross deformities of the fetus where the fetus may live for a short time after birth.

You continually twist the debate by trying to frame the argument in terms you choose. Innocent life? Baby? When does a fetus become a baby? Is a zygote a baby? Is an unfertilized egg half a baby?

Thomas Aquinas did not believe that the soul was implanted into the fetus until the "quickening" at about 12 weeks after conception. So where do you draw the line?

So you debate by attacking which words are used & by implication attack the person because of the callousness they have. The words I used are accepted medical terms. You want to take the debate to the philosophical and metaphysical level. But there it becomes a matter of belief & faith, not science. So my reference to Thomas Aquinas.

Implicit in your argument is that doctors who use this procedure are baby-hating, Hannibal Lechter, Joseph Menengeles. Rather, than professionals making a difficult decision with mothers-to-be. These decisions are not made as flippantly or lightly as you imply.They are also made rarely. I think that the health of the mother is important & I think that decision should be made by the mother-to-be with the doctor. Also, health risks can suddenly turn into life risks for the mother. I do not see the callousnes of that position.

Of course, I believe in a New Testament God who is forgiving, understanding, and realizes the imperfection of humans & the dilemmas that occur in life for which there are no easy answers. I trust the medical profession to help people make some of these decisions. If I believed in a punitve, murderous, intolerant Old Testament God, who punishes the wicked & kills thousands, including the innocent, in Tsunamis because of their sins like one clergyman claimed, then I might agree with you.

False dichotomy again: why protect murderers and not the unborn? I do not see the connection. It's not like people are running around keeping murderers alive and killing babies. That's a liberal straw man. There are a variety of opinions on these issues where some people maintain both or don't.

Being against abortion does not mean that a person belieives in the sanctity of life. Not if they believes in war & captial punishment. Back to the 12th century. Theologians had a hard time with killing in war until they came up with a solution. Save the Holy Land & it was alright to kill infidels.

Anyway, if it was the 12th century, you would probably want to burn me at the stake for apostasy. But it's not & thank God, the Consitution still allows for free speech.

Posted by: George Magakis, Jr. at April 28, 2007 06:16 PM

LOL. Talk about arguing in circles. I won't indulge your invocation of God and the Bible b/c they don't apply to me. Or my argument. You're making assumptions about me that aren't even close. But that's OK; you have little to go on other than this post and that's understandable.

That being said, as if there ARE no right or wrongs in life, George. Once again, my crack against liberals was NOT directed at you and indeed is a generalized comment at the different philosophies in general. get it? And you can forget the invocation of GW Bush here. I know you despise him, but attempting to tie my philosophy to him is so off-base as to be a knee-slapper. Just peruse this blog a little.

I noticed you didn't respond to the fact that the vast majority of the American public are against the procedure. That is wise. I should have also noted that a majority of doctors are against the PBA, too, which I'm sure you're aware. But even with the SCOTUS decision, the federal law:

permits use of the procedure if: necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

To me, that sounds like enough of that "gray area" of which you speak, based on your complaints here. That, and Justice Anthony Kennedy (if you read the decision) virtually invites a challenge to the recent decision.

Just take a cursory examination of the testimony surrounding the procedure. With the exceptions of the rare instances which you note here and which sure appear to be adequately covered in the law, this procedure is a gruesome act. And yes -- doctors who perform this procedure merely for the convenience of a mother are indeed akin to Hannibal Lecters. "Do no harm," George? You've heard of that, right? This goes to the heart of my point at the end of my post: Liberals (and anyone else) who cling to the legal definition of a "person" to deny the obvious -- that a baby partially delivered is a living, breathing human being -- are in utter and complete denial. Much like GW Bush is regarding Iraq, wouldn't you say?

Posted by: Hube at April 28, 2007 06:53 PM

My descriptions of God were not aimed at you. I do not know your religious beliefs & I was not tying my arguments to yout beliefs, but to people who invoke relgious views as the end point of an argument.

Your conclusions are based on surveys about the vast majority of Americans & doctors? Who did these surveys? How were the questions framed? I know how surveys can be used & misused. Again, you are arguing that I beleive whole-heartedly in the use of this procedure. That is not true, but you keep repeating it over & over.

Your argument is tautological: a baby that is partially born is a living breathing, human being.
A baby is a human being. But the definition of a baby according to the D&E procedure rests on whether the fetus is to the point above or below its navel. How's that for being metaphysical?
I recall when my son was born that he didn't start breathing until after birth, when he was out of his mother's womb & the doctor used suction, etc to get him breathing on his own. So I do not think that the baby(fetus) is breathing as it is coming out of the womb! Do I beleive that a viable fetus that is partially outside the womb & can survive (the argument also rests on what you mean by survive) on its own after birth is a human being? Yes. But that does not mean that I agree wholeheartedly with your position. You set up a false dichotomy by the way you frame the question. Either/or questions are often set-ups like yours.

My argument is line with the federal law you quoted. I resist the pars pro toto fallacy you engage in as my argument is circumscribed & your description of it is too inclusive. In other words, you put words in my mouth & don't like the fact that I will allow doctors some leeway. Where do you draw the line on Hannibal Lechter doctors? I am sure that it is not where I would. You also really don't like the words I use as if they detract from the sanctity of life.

I will leave you with this contradiction. Until recently, it was ordained that babies that died at birth or in infancy without being baptized in the Catholic Church went to everlasting purgatory. How's that for a sanctity view of life?
But now, they go to heaven by papal decree! Such arrogance!

Anyway, in the church I was raised in, when a baby died in child birth & was not baptized, it was buried in an unmarked grave in unsanctified ground. It probably is still that way in that church.

So, the church may speak for God & have good on its side, but it often does not act with humaneness or decency. How do you think such parents feel about the baby they lost when it ends up like that?

So, humans make decisions all of the time about how to define a baby, afetus, or a soul. And the debate will go on for a long time.

It is you that goes round & round not me. Why do I think this? Because I will not bow to your use of words or be painted into a corner by your false choices.

Posted by: George Magakis<,Jr. at April 28, 2007 07:42 PM

Fine by me, George. Your words more than speak for themselves.

But I will close by saying that I too would surely give doctors some leeway (as you claim I don't like the fact that you do). I wouldn't agree if there was no exception for the mother's life. And how 'bout this, George -- I am actually pro-choice, at least until the point of viability (and no, I won't get into your round-and-round about "Well, suction is needed to get it breathing ..." nonsense). This procedure is, when used as a standard abortion tool (meaning for convenience), is barbaric.

And read my last posted comment again: I said I deem "Hannibal Lecters" as those who would do a PBA merely for the convenience of the mother! Wasn't it plain enough?

Thanks for commenting, at any rate.

Posted by: Hube at April 28, 2007 08:20 PM

I agree that when the intact D&E is used as a standard abortion tool (meaning for convenience)it is barbaric. No question about it. I am also not an advocate for late term abortions as a convenience. I was never arguing for that.

My letter to the editor argued that there may be unforseen consequences by simply banning the procedure without spelling out conditions regarding exceptions for the health of the mother versus convenience of the mother in line with Ginsburg's arguments about leaving this out of the ruling. I understand that the opportunity for changing this exists, but then again this ruling & the way Roberts & Alito behaved (not saying much, to maybe sway Kennedy later on) may be a way to open the door to challenge Roe v Wade & redefine other procedures as meeting the same defintion.

Nonetheless, I think this ruling may have some impact on how doctors practice & decisions they make, not necessarily positive. That was the essence of what my letter was about.

Anyway, you're welcome. And thanks for an interesting discussion.

Posted by: George Magakis, Jr. at April 28, 2007 08:51 PM