Freedom is Slavery

This press release is odd:

Easy abortion an abuse of women

“Any move to minimize the health risks of abortion and encourage a woman in a crisis pregnancy to terminate her pregnancy through medical or surgical means, is a cynical abuse of power and has no place in a professional Health Service,” says Annetta Moran, President of Voice For Life.

I think the argument is that decreasing the medical harm (i.e. the cost) of abortion increases the demand. Since there are psychological costs for the woman, reducing the physical harm of abortion increases the aggregate psychological harm. That’s true, of course, but I think a woman is in a better position to evaluate the potential psychological costs to  herself than is some religious type who is presumably worried about the blastocyst rather than the woman. The increased psychological harm is likely to be outweighed by the decreased physical harm.  

I wish folks would stick to the arguments they really believe (personhood begins at conception and so abortion is murder) rather than come up with any old argument that leads to their conclusion. As Eliezer Yudkowsky has said:

Arguments are soldiers.  Once you know which side you’re on, you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side; otherwise it’s like stabbing your soldiers in the back – providing aid and comfort to the enemy. 

I think everyone is guilty of this at times, particularly in politics but also elsewhere.

How Sincere are Anti-abortionists?

I find this video [hat tip: Francois Tremblay] confusing. Anti-abortion protestors are asked whether abortion should be illegal, and answer in the affirmative. When asked what the punishment should be, however, most say they haven’t thought about it and will not endorse time in prison, or any punishment at all. 

In addition to having a strange conception of what “illegal” means, these people  have something morally very strange going on. At one level they think abortion is murder, yet at another level they clearly see that it’s not. It’s as if they happily see abortion as murder at an abstract level when there is little at stake, but back off once they start to think about the practical consequences of what they propose. They are only being asked about punishment, however, and so there is still nothing at stake. Seems plausible to me that the punishment question puts them in a consequentialist state of mind. 

In one sense, this is heartening for those with liberal values: people aren’t really that willing to impose penalties on women who have abortions. In another sense it’s very worrying: with an appropriately framed policy platform, a political candidate could gain popular support for banning abortion, punishment and all, even if few people actually support punishment. 

The degree to which I favour anarchism just increased by at least .1, though it’s still slightly below .5. A couple more videos like this could well push me over the edge.