Scrudato: Thanks for the logic bomb

If there’s one thing Yale has too much of, it’s overbearing, sentimental moralizing. Which is why I’d like to commend James Mendelson for his emotionless, logical approach to abortion in his recent column, “Marching for Reason” (Feb. 6).

As he rightly points out, “In all pregnancies, there exists an extraordinarily high likelihood of miscarriage.” The implication, naturally, is that a fetus cannot be a “meaningful, organized being,” because it’s very likely it won’t be around for very long.

Mendelson may be on to something. Life is a dangerous proposition. It seems not a day goes by that a morsel of this or a dollop of that isn’t found to cause cancer or some other malady. I hear they were only days away from stamping newborns with, “This item is known to cause cancer by the state of California.” If only that budget crisis hadn’t killed the funding. But I digress.

Fact: Life has the unavoidable side effect of death, and you may experience the onset of symptoms any day. Apply one part Mendelson logic — one cannot really claim that something is a person if there’s a good chance it might die, and … bam! People who might not survive, namely all of them, are not really people. Whoops.

But we can go further. Mendelson’s clever use of reductio ad absurdum reveals how strange it is to claim that killing a fetus is murder when so many commonplace actions increase the likelihood of that death. Coffee increases the risk of miscarriage, but no one would accuse Blue State’s proprietors of accessory to murder — celebrating an atmosphere of exclusion perhaps, but no serious crime.

Certainly no one would argue that actions and products that indirectly and marginally harm fully grown people — or rather, homo sapiens sapiens specimens — should be outlawed. Well, except for all those campaigns to outlaw hazardous substances like French fries and stamp out “bad” behaviors, but that’s still not murder. If we knowingly forced someone to drink coffee until they died, that still wouldn’t be murder. Oh wait, it would be, because intent is a large part of our criminal justice system.

You see, there is a great deal of difference between chance and certainty. A man who murdered his aged father for an inheritance could claim nature might have beaten him to it, but it was his bullet that turned that chance, however large, into certainty. It is this finality, this theft of another’s future no matter what our assumptions about it, that our society has always seen as a most grievous crime.

Mendelson’s cold logic falls flat because it fails to account for the complex nature of life versus death and the human desire for a richness of experience. Every activity besides sitting in a sealed clean room with a treadmill and carefully metered nutrient paste is likely to bring you closer to your inevitable demise, but who would fault a parent for not raising their child like that? Who would choose such a life for themselves? The human condition brings a certain fondness for experience which leads us to actions that logic and probability alone do not always warrant. There are a great many unhealthy and dangerous things that we allow others to do to themselves and others merely for the experience and pleasure of them.

Granted, we permit them only so long as we are reasonably certain they will not result in irreparable harm to others. Where that line may be is not as clear as we might hope, but you cannot deny that causing another human’s demise knowingly and purposefully crosses that boundary by a mile. Argue if you will over what constitutes a being worthy of the term human, but “they might have died anyway,” is a pretty poor attempt to strip babies of the term.

John Scrudato is a senior in Morse College.

Comments

  • alevien
  • areweforserious

    I really, really wish we could get some better response to the horrifyingly ignorant and misogynistic opinion piece that Eduardo wrote. One (man) writes an emotionally cold and wholly inadequate rebuttal focusing on technicalities, and another (man) rebukes the him on similarly technical premises? Really, Yale? Is that the best we can do?

  • The Anti-Yale

    Abortion is the accepted price society pays for impulsive, ubiquitous, erotic exercise. And society has paid that price 59 million times since 1973. IF—and I say If because no one really KNOWS, those 59 million interrupted growths WERE human beings, then nearly 1/3 of our current national population was destroyed.

    That’s a lot more than ground Zero.

  • River Tam

    > I really, really wish we could get some better response to the horrifyingly ignorant and misogynistic opinion piece that Eduardo wrote. One (man) writes an emotionally cold and wholly inadequate rebuttal focusing on technicalities, and another (man) rebukes the him on similarly technical premises? Really, Yale? Is that the best we can do?

    People like you are what’s wrong with Yale.

    /woman.

  • RexMottram08

    Amazing that a Yale student cannot understand the difference between natural miscarriages and murder…

    or the the difference between intended and unintended consequences…

    Yale’s #1 export: moral relativism.

  • jnewsham

    Supply and demand.

  • mr09

    well crafted, Mr. Scrudato.

    “One (man) writes an emotionally cold and wholly inadequate rebuttal focusing on technicalities, and another (man) rebukes the him on similarly technical premises? Really, Yale? Is that the best we can do?”
    – someone is in denial of the emotionally cold, technical truisms that shape life and death…

  • ds747

    Well, that was an adventure in poor reasoning.

  • River Tam

    > But we can go further. Mendelson’s clever use of reductio ad absurdum reveals how strange it is to claim that killing a fetus is murder when so many commonplace actions increase the likelihood of that death. Coffee increases the risk of miscarriage, but no one would accuse Blue State’s proprietors of accessory to murder — celebrating an atmosphere of exclusion perhaps, but no serious crime.

    This is the most poorly reasoned argument I’ve seen since Rory Marsh called for Death to Those Who Insult Islam.

  • Madas

    @River Tam:

    You realize that was from Mendelson’s column, right?

  • graduate_student

    Abortion is not murder. Murder is illegal homicide, and is almost universally prohibited in every human society. Abortion is not.

    Abortion laws are riddled with contradictions. In most all of the Northern Hemisphere, abortion is legal on request. Only a small handful of countries in the entire world outlaw abortion without exception.

    The rest have various exceptions that would seem preposterous if the murder analogy were applied. Conception resulting from rape is often exempted from abortion laws. Abortions are allowed when childbirth might have deleterious effect on the mother’s life. And so on. I can’t imagine such exceptions in homicide law.

    Of course, homicide law does have a class of cases that are not murder. It’s called manslaughter.

    So, I recommend a new slogan for the anti-abortion movement: “Abortion is manslaughter!”

  • Madas

    @graduate_student:

    Forgive me for bringing up unpleasant facts, but the inconsistancy of abortion bans is due more to the fact that the legal system is trying to between pro-lifer and pro-death (look, I can play with labels too!!! ;-). Simply because something is legal or legal is most places does not make it right. For example, it was once considered fine and dandy to kill someone’s slave if you provided the appropriate compensation. Once upon a time people thought that was right too.

  • graduate_student

    >Forgive me for bringing up unpleasant facts, but the inconsistancy of abortion bans is due more to the fact that the legal system is trying to between pro-lifer and pro-death

    I congratulate you on your familiarity with the domestic political debates of dozens of disparate nations in the world. I do somewhat suspect that abortion isn’t a wedge-issue trumped up every two years in France or India or Tunisia, but I suppose that I will simply have to defer to your “unpleasant facts.”

  • RexMottram08

    France, Tunisia, India = 3 places I would never want to live.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “theft of another’s future”

    This is linguistic slight of hand.

    “The problem is the word “another”. A fetus is an organism with the “potentiality” of being an ‘another’. It is not yet an “other”.

    Tedious semantic nitpicking,I admit, but necessary if this debate is not to descend into hysteria.

  • graduate_student

    >France, Tunisia, India = 3 places I would never want to live.

    Yeah, yeah… I know, USA! USA! USA! and all that. But we’re talking about every developed country and a good handful of developing countries in the world.

  • areweforserious

    Considering many anti-choicers accept birth control, which often works by preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall, the “life starts at conception” argument becomes even more absurd.

    As far as “potentiality,” another favorite of anti-choicers… Shall we outlaw jacking off as well, since it destroys “potential life”? Think of all the murdered babies!
    And menstruation! Think of all of the hundreds of potential children carelessly flushed from the womb every month! Oh, the horror!

  • Madas

    @areweforserious:

    You don’t go here, do you? Sperm cells and unviable ova are not human life. They’re missing half of the human genetic code. Did you miss that lesson too?

  • RexMottram08

    areweforserious tries to claim the mantle of science for the pro-aborts…. and trips after 2 steps…

  • The Anti-Yale

    Vox Clamantis in Deserto: 59 million and counting.

  • squash

    A fetus is not a person. Its physical dependence is more akin to a parasite. The 3 month fetus is no more complex and deserving of the title “self” than an insect. I excrete more rational discourse than the pro-life movement has ever used. I am not pro-abortion; I am pro-choice.

  • Madas

    @squash

    It isn’t what it is, but it will become. At the heart of every cell is human DNA, and its purpose is to become something less revolting to your delicate sensibilities. Your reasoning that since it hasn’t reached the stage you declared necessary for respect entitles you to kill it is no different from reasoning used throughout history to commit genocide, mass murder, and other horrific crimes. Slaves, the mentally ill, the Jews – they were all targeted under the same thinking once. Granted there’s a difference in degree (I’m not arguing any one of those groups is less developed than a Fetus), but the basic thinking is unchanged. I think anything so broadly applicable cannot be quite right, no?

    So you pro-deathers can claim the mantle of rationality, but what you really possess is that of the weasel. You cannot even admit to yourselves what you are doing, and you’ll jump through every hoop imaginable to make yourselves feel “justifed” about your support of abortion.

  • Labanite

    These arguments are THE MOST POINTLESS things ever. Does anyone see any opinions changing?

    Pro-Life people–make it easier to be a mother on campus, and you’ll actually be doing some good. All I see from you so far is articles, which mean nothing. Pro-Choicers should do the same–the deal with Yale is Abortion or Nothing. Does that take Women’s rights into account? I think not.

  • dalet5770

    Will Yale ever change its name or is it written in perpetuity. With news of Egypt breaking it is safe to say our ears are temporarily out of slavery, that is until YBC plays the bomb