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That diamond crucifix in his ear is used to help ward off the fear that he's left his soul in someone's rented car

by anna at 01:41 PM on June 28, 2003

Day after day I scour the wire services in search of ethical questions that might conceivably stump Chris the Thoughtful Commentator. And for once I think I’ve got it.

Say what? These two romantic rivals get into a tussle, one’s fetus winds up stillborn and the other is guilty of murder? The parallels to abortion are inescapable. If causing the “death” of a fetus is murder, then what is the act that abortionists commit daily---harassment? What about the man at the center of this dysfunctional love-hate triangle? Can he now seek damages? (Believe it or not, their homeowner’s policy might cover this loss.)

Now I am not blind to the differences, primarily that a woman having an abortion is usually a consensual deal whereas one who loses her baby to an assault is not. But that consent is the expectant mother’s, not the fetus’s. No in vitro consultations with the little bugger take place. And this defendant was charged with the murder of the fetus, not the mother who remains alive.

Also, assuming a soulless fetus can somehow qualify as a murder victim, under what circumstances is killing one permissible? (Aside from abortion, which Roe vs. Wade explicitly endorsed as a constitutional right.) Suppose a drug-crazed pregnant woman attacks you and you fight back. What if the fetus dies in the ensuing struggle? Would that constitute justifiable homicide under this “seldom-used” Pennsylvania law? Or what if she’s only two months pregnant, scarcely showing, and you accidentally terminate her pregnancy in a catfight? Are you then a murderer too? In other words, is there a minimum age?Lastly, do you suppose Corrine Wilcott considers this crazy-ass law “seldom- used” as she serves out here 7-14 year sentence? I think not.

Justifiable homicide is a thorny question indeed. Most would agree that vampires and self-defense are good reasons to whack somebody. Others would argue that there’s no such instance. Yet, until recently in the South, this would be considered perfectly apropos: A cracker staggers into his trailer to find his wife kneeling before another man, bobbing on his knob with her hand between her thighs. He empties his chamber into the interloper’s head just as he empties his into hers. “Ma sister never done ‘at fer me ’n we bin hitched a good ten years,” does he declare.

Chris, help!

comments (10)

Dare I take the bait after spending the last 7 hours emptying a keg with the building inhabitants of the entire floor below me, and escorting unwanted male company away from the bachelorette party going on across the hall?
I would first say that one needn't think of a fetus as soulless, or as something less than human. A fetus is human, but it requires something more than will on the part of others to survive. It requires the resources of the mother. By allowing abortion, we give the mother the right to decide if she is willing to give those resources or not. Thinking of it as a matter of states, humans that exist outside the womb all have very similar states in terms of their rights. Kill someone in an act of bad intention - it's murder. But those who haven't been born exist in several poorly defined states. It's believed that 30% of conceptions spontaneously abort naturally; should we not have medical research programs devoted to decreasing this rate? Two celled embryos that do not adhere after cell division can give rise to more than one individual; should we intentionally tease apart embryos at this stage so that everyone has twins so we can maximize the human life coming from a conception? Isn't it the ultimate act of good Samaritanism to give a cell the chance to be an entirely new individual rather than just half an embryo? One can digress, but another such state is that of a fetus eligible for abortion. This mass of human cells, without the willful cooperation of the mother is deemed only a mass of cells that can be discarded. However with the willful cooperation of the mother, a positive commitment to shepherd the mass of cells into humanity outside the womb, the fetus might be thought of as existing in a potentiated state. To this potentiated state, the sum of the fetus and the will of the mother, we grant some set of rights. Basically, the state of the fetus depends on the mother; only the mother can decide to sever her resources and end the life of the fetus. For anyone else to do so is a crime against the potentiated state. So as to your question, "Under what circumstances is killing [a fetus] permissible?" the answer is: when the mother wants to, and no one else. Of course, I wonder what happens if Corinne attacks the mother while the mother is on the way to the abortion clinic. The fetus may be physically the same with or without the will of the mother, but the pregnancy is not.

by chris at June 29, 2003 5:07 AM

You are amazing, even after helping to drain that keg. I'm tempted to say that in the scenario you posited, it's 6 of one half a dozen of another. But that would undermine the whole Mother's Choice concept, no?

And guys are such pigs, always trying to crash the bachelorette party.

by anna at June 29, 2003 9:34 AM

Chris, that argument is indeed simply amazing-- the best one I've heard, ever. Bravo!

by jean at June 29, 2003 2:26 PM

Oh and Anna, the last paragraph in your post was masterfully grotesque. Yecch! I laughed; I cried.

by jean at June 29, 2003 2:27 PM

After Chris' comment I don't think I need to post. Bravo my man.

Anna, we need to drink some wine one of these fine days, out at the ranch, and discuss quantum physics or something.

by Ezy at June 30, 2003 3:30 PM

Actually I have access to a ranch of sorts. It is stocked with many boxes of dubious vintage vino---no bottles. We'll do it. But no quantum physics please, I'll go with the "or something." Talk to you.

And I get the impression that Chris the Thoughtful Commentator is a woman.

by anna at June 30, 2003 5:27 PM

Ok. The "something" sounds good ;-)

You think? I haven't been around for a while so I'll have to read a few more comments before making a rash decision.

by Ezy at July 1, 2003 9:17 AM

Hmm, well that is a tough ethical question. Now what about this unborn mother's business.

by sydney at July 1, 2003 1:13 PM

O...my...god. I wish these geneticists would just quit screwing around with this stuff. I also wish they'd come and pick up my trash cuz the trashmen sure aren't. And Ezy, the clue as to Chris's gender is actually right above.

by anna at July 1, 2003 5:17 PM

Dooh! Little slow these days Anna.

by Ezy at July 2, 2003 7:39 AM

comments are closed