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The Myth of "Fetal Pain"


WARNING! Parts of this article may be triggering!

Technical language is involved in this article. Attempts will be made to simplify as necessary.

A number of state legislatures are passing legislation outlawing abortion after the twentieth week on the basis of "fetal pain". This is just one of many, unscientifically founded assertions regarding abortion that are being codified into our laws in different states; laws that are not only founded on mistruths and misunderstandings but, in the end, may actually run counter to their stated purpose. (I'll get into their actual purpose later in this article.)
Part of the misunderstanding of "fetal pain" has to do with the idea that a developing fetus feels pain the way an adult feels pain. This is an impossibility.
The ability to feel pain is dependent on a functioning neocortex in the brain. It is a part of the cerebrum, or "gray matter" of the brain. This part of the brain doesn't even begin to develop until midway through the third trimester of pregnancy (approximately 29-30 weeks gestation) and is still not complete at birth. In fact, the neocortex continues to develop after birth until well into adolescence. Because of this, it's an impossibility for a fetus to feel pain as we feel pain.
This doesn't mean that a fetus doesn't react to trauma. Hard coded into a part of the brain called the limbic system, one of the first parts of the brain to develop, are reflexes; crude reactions that are independent of actual sensory stimuli. This means if you poke a fetus in the womb, it will reflexively move away. But does it even "feel" the poke? No. Some of these reflexes stay with us all of our lives; others recede and eventually fade entirely away as the neocortex develops and assumes the jobs those reflexes used to do.
In an odd way, what these laws do is "anthropomorphize" a fetus. I use that term deliberately because, technically, a fetus isn't a human. It's a potential human and most fetuses have the ability to eventually become human but they lack all of the defining characteristics of an actual "human".
Because of these neurological FACTS, anesthesiologists (at least those trained at reputable medical schools) are taught that fetal anesthesia for surgeries and therapeutic abortions isn't needed prior to the thirtieth week of gestation. Indeed, these facts have often been used to comfort women who have had stillbirths or needed a late term abortion to save their own life or because their fetus had gross abnormalities. It means a great deal to a woman to know that her baby didn't suffer. Because here is a fact that most anti-abortionists don't want you to know; any woman that has a late term abortion does so because she has to, not because she wants to do so. Let me repeat that; any woman that has a late term abortion does so because she has to, not because she wants to do so. And the very fact that her fetus can't feel pain is one of the things that, frequently, keeps these women from suffering more than they have to.
Now, here's the thing; these laws, ostensibly to "save the fetus pain", forces a woman to carry to term a fetus that may very well have severe anomalies and gross congenital malformations and will die at birth. This may very well put that fetus into a position of suffering due to it's deformities. This runs directly counter to the law's stated "compassionate" purpose. Additionally, a handful of states are actually passing legislation to permit physicians to actively lie to and withhold information from women about the health of their fetus to prevent them from aborting. Other states are passing legislation that deny the right of a physician to declare a fetus nonviable.
So why do legislators pass these cruel and inhumane laws? Because they are cruel and they are inhumane. A handful of legislators just might be that naive. But I fully believe that the majority of them know exactly what they are doing. They pass these laws for one of two reasons; either they believe it's what their constituency wants and they are playing to the lowest common, ignorant denominator for the sake of getting elected; or else their own anti-abortion beliefs are so radically and deeply rooted in their religious beliefs that they will let any woman and any fetus go through incalculable suffering to satisfy that belief. Part of that belief is the need to subject women and to refuse them control of their bodies. They simply cannot trust women to make the "right decision" and they will wrest that control from her no matter the cost.
So what's the answer?
EDUCATION! The more women (and men too, for that matter) know what lies and mistruths, misconceptions and misinformation are being presented to them by their legislators, the more ammunition there is to fight back and challenge them. LEARN what these people are saying and LEARN whether or not it's the truth. Wrap yourself in the righteousness of fact as much as they wrap themselves in the righteousness of religion and emotion. You just might have a chance.


Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

This article was critiqued and assistance was given to me in it's writing by a neonatal neurologist and a developmental neurobiologist. There isn't anything in it that isn't hard line fact. I have no doubt that I will get some replies that are emotional knee jerk reactions (kinda like the reflexes described in the article) but just as there is a huge difference between reflex and actual sensory response, there is a huge difference between emotion and fact. Now, go forth and castigate me.

Liberty275 3 years ago

"Hard coded into a part of the brain called the limbic system, one of the first parts of the brain to develop, are reflexes; crude reactions that are independent of actual sensory stimuli. This means if you poke a fetus in the womb, it will reflexively move away. But does it even "feel" the poke?"

That makes sense. It raises the question though if a has has developed to the extent that the limbic system is hardcoded, then it is at least a living organism.

As for potential, every life is as potential as not being pushed in front of a bus. Does that make it right to push people in front of busses? Does it make it more right if the human is pushed in front of the bus before all his or her organs are mature?

All we have left is deciding if the freedom to make the choice is worth the life of a human, regardless of how developed they are. Do you value life or freedom? I value freedom, hence my stance. I don't need the euphemisms. I draw the line at birth because that's when the child is no longer physically part of the mother.

I realize you on the left have trouble making hard decisions, so you should just pursue when a human is and isn't statistically viable outside the womb. You get to keep your charade about not killing humans as you can argue it is still part of the mother, and you still get to kill something.

You can make up a million excuses like "potential human", but those are only little white lies you tell yourself because the truth is too ugly for you to handle.

verity 3 years ago

"I realize you on the left have trouble making hard decisions, . . ."

When you make comments like that, you lose all credibility.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

"All we have left is deciding if the freedom to make the choice is worth the life of a human, regardless of how developed they are. " I have no problem with this as long as you agree that women should be included in your definition of human and not just unborn fetuses. I actually think the truth is just a little too ugly for you to handle; the truth that the rights of women MUST be balanced with the rights of the fetus and that women, and women alone, MUST be trusted to make those decisions regarding their lives and the lives of their potential children without interference from the state or anyone else.

Liberty275 3 years ago

"I actually think the truth is just a little too ugly for you to handle; the truth that the rights of women MUST be balanced with the rights of the fetus and that women,"

My ugly truth deprives the fetus of any rights in favor of the mother's right to freedom. You can't even go a paragraph without trying to rationalize that horror.

Do you not see a problem with:

."rights of women MUST be balanced with the rights of the fetus and that women, and women alone, MUST be trusted to make those decisions"

If the fetus has rights, which are by definition protected by law, how can the mother sit in judgement of those rights? Unless she is a judge, she would be in no position to do so.

Come out and say it. The fetus has no rights, therefore it is not protected at all from the whims of the mother.

Better yet, why don't you as a minor spokesman for a woman's right to abort their pregnancy explain to me the rights that a fetus does have, as you plainly noted above.

Katara 3 years ago

If it is true that a fetus feels pain the way that already born people feel pain, then birth has to be one of the most painful things a fetus goes through.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

Actually, birth is one of the biological reasons a fetus doesn't feel pain like an adult. If it did, it wouldn't survive it and every baby would die at birth.

seili 3 years ago

Unfortunately, we might never know for sure if a fetus feels less or more than we do because of their stages in development so it's really not proven fact, though. It's usually accepted that it probably doesn't happen until at least 20 weeks.

But, I, too, don't like the 'fetal pain' bills that keep coming up because they seem to just focus on ultrasounds, etc. They are too political. I really do wish that someone would come up with a way to make sure a fetus is not feeling pain, though. That's a fetal pain law that I would get behind because I think that is truly important no matter what side you might be on, but it's one that the political pro-life and pro-choice movements will not totally accept because they all like to only stick to agendas and not whole truths. Some woman have very real reasons to consider and it would be better for everyone if we were ensuring there was no pain.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 3 years ago

Does a DNA test prove that hair, sloughed skin and sperm are human?~)

Frederic Gutknecht IV 3 years ago

What is OF a specific specimen is NOT necessarily a specimen of the species.

Paul Wilson 3 years ago

So much for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I thought protecting the weak, innocent, and those who can't defend themselves was the cornerstone of liberalism. Why then are liberals so quick to defend the bully?

Paul Wilson 3 years ago

I've got to say that this has to be one of the most disturbing posts I've read. You remember the sinking feeling the first time you saw an actual person get shot on TV? That's the way I felt when you referred to the child as a parasite trying to live. Are you human? Is this a joke?

jafs 3 years ago

What an odd concept.

Applying "property rights" to the question of a developing human being in the womb.

ivalueamerica 3 years ago

no more odd than the opposition feeling the right to force women to breed.

jafs 3 years ago

Actually it is odder, to my mind.

The idea that a fetus is the "property" of the woman seems to be a particularly inappropriate use of that template.

Whereas, the idea that a fetus is some sort of life is a little bit more appropriate.

Not that I agree with forced breeding either.

Liberty275 3 years ago

That's the only way to square abortion. It's virtual slavery if you can kill a human on a whim. That's the horror Caitlin won't face. Until she does, she's just posing like a good victim.

The fun doesn't stop there though. At what point do children cease being property? Birth? 12? 18? What do the circumstances need to be for the state to take property because the parent spanked or otherwise abused them. Abortion is about lots more than terminating a pregnancy.

jafs 3 years ago

Well, I take the "middle road" on this one.

A fetus is neither just part of a woman's body, nor is it a separate fully developed human being - it's something in between, and it's status changes over time.

At the beginning of gestation, it's more like part of the woman's body, and towards the end, it's more like a separate life.

I don't consider children the property of their parents after they're born either - it's a funny idea.

Liberty275 3 years ago

Middle road is cool. But think of this. If kids aren't your property, why can't your neighbor come over and take one if the kid wants to go?

You can call it something else, but all we know it is stealing.

jafs 3 years ago

That's an interesting question.

I'll have to think about how to answer it without considering children property.

Property for me only makes sense when we're talking about things, not people, particularly things that are bought and sold for money.

So it also doesn't make sense to me to call one's own body property.

I thought we decided a long time ago that one can't own people, didn't we?

jafs 3 years ago

I think the better way to understand that would be via "informed consent".

Children aren't able to form that, and so, even if they want to go with their neighbor, we need to protect them from harm.

It's like statutory rape, even if it's consensual.

But, I have a lot of sympathy for kids who want to leave home - they must have some very good reasons for that.

Armstrong 3 years ago

The physiologiacal facts you have are pretty accurate, new borns and a fetus as well have a nervous system unable to centralize pain ( they know what pain is but can't pin point the area ). That said, the end result is still on the losing end for the baby to be.

KansasPerson 3 years ago

Cait, If the neocortex is still not fully formed at birth, and isn't (as you say) full formed until adolescence, what is your opinion of the type of pain felt by newborns or children?

Second question: What is your opinion of the article published by Journal of Medical Ethics by the Melbourne bioethicists who were promoting "after-birth abortion?" The journal article and abstract have apparently been removed from the online edition of the JME, but the salient points were these:

"... the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible."

"In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk."

"Although fetuses and newborns are not persons, they are potential persons because they can develop, thanks to their own biological mechanisms, those properties which will make them ‘persons’ in the sense of ‘subjects of a moral right to life’: that is, the point at which they will be able to make aims and appreciate their own life.

"The alleged right of individuals (such as fetuses and newborns) to develop their potentiality, which someone defends, is over-ridden by the interests of actual people (parents, family, society) to pursue their own well-being because, as we have just argued, merely potential people cannot be harmed by not being brought into existence."

Interested in your opinions; thanks for your feedback.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

I don't live in Australia but I can say this; there are many people who practice "post birth abortion" by denying children the right to basic food, shelter, health care and education even in this country. I frequently say that the current GOP in this country doesn't care about a child unless it's still in the womb. I have a feeling there are a lot of people that feel the same way.

jhawkinsf 3 years ago

Cait, Your blog starts with the premise that this is a scientific paper, one that can be looked at in a purely scientific way. Yet you throw in a little philosophy, a little psychology, a touch of ethics, religion, add a splash of guesswork as to the intent of legislatures, and on and on. That's fine. It's your blog and your opinion. What it's not is a scientific paper. Now if you'd like to limit it to pure science, give us your name and qualifications for making these scientific claims. You say this blog was made with the assistance of a neonatal neurologist and a developmental neurobiologist. What are their names and qualifications. Are they agreeing with the parts of you blog that are scientific in nature? Are they also agreeing with the parts that are opinion? Can we have some sort of a break down? Have your doctors written papers that have been peer reviewed and then published in reputable journals? Obviously, this forum, has it's limitations. It works well for quick little opinions, which you've presented here. And I thank you for your opinion.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

Actually, it's not a "scientific paper". I'm not qualified to write one. I simply did research and had the science parts vetted for accuracy (and yes, they did agree with the parts that are scientific in nature). My opinions are my own. I tend not to reveal real names because you and I both know that there are people on the internet, indeed on this very board, who have no compunction about harassing people who have opinions that run counter to their own. Let me just say that one of the people who approved the science in it is from here: http://neurotree.org/neurotree/peoplelist.php?searchinst=University%20of%20Washington and did post doc work at Vanderbilt prior to going to UW. I'm afraid for reasons of privacy I don't want to go beyond that.

jhawkinsf 3 years ago

I understand your desire to remain anonymous, as well as the others that you referred to. For the very same reason, I, too remain anonymous. That said, I think you could have done a better job clearly stating what are facts, what are opinions and what is guesswork.
I'll mention just one line from your blog, when you state a fetus, or even a newborn doesn't feel pain like an adult. Quite frankly, I haven't the slightest idea of what you are saying. However, it comes across as something akin to saying they feel no pain. That would be a very different statement, wouldn't it? I'm no scientist, but I would have to wonder if a statement like yours would pass peer review muster. It's vague. It's potentially misleading. What it is, is your opinion wrapped in a blanket of "science". As I've said in the past, with this very charged subject, I'm very much on the fence. In the absence of a perfect world where perfect choices can be made, I think a woman has the right to an abortion in the first trimester. I'm highly skeptical of third trimester abortions unless the mother's life is in danger or there is significant physical damage to the mother being a significant possibility. I haven't the slightest idea about the second trimester. you might as well ask me to prove or disprove the existence of God. I think that qualifies me as a middle of the road person, not a zealot. And with that, it seems that these discussions need to be clear as to what we are all talking about. Clearly defined. Vague, misleading, potentially misleading, whatever your intent, of which I have no idea, just lead to confusion.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

I think there's a pretty clear break after the third paragraph where it goes from fact to my opinion. I also pretty clearly stated that after the thirtieth week there is a good chance a fetus does feel pain, although not in the same way an adult feels it. Adults feel localized pain with separate and disparate characteristics (i.e "sharp", "stabbing", "dull", "aching", "cramping" etc.) whereas newborns and preterm infants feel it as a global distress reaction. (You can actually see some of the explanations in the links that selli provided below.) The ability to differentiate pain is something that comes as the neocortex develops after birth. Even verbal three year olds can point to an ear and say "it hurts" but still not be able to tell you what kind of pain it is, even though they have the words for it.

tolawdjk 3 years ago

Your Delta Tau Chi name will be "Sham".

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

I never said that newborns "can't feel pain". In fact, it's precisely because they can feel pain that I am against "fetal pain" bills because it forces women to carry fetuses past the point that they can feel it. This is from my own post above: "Now, here's the thing; these laws, ostensibly to "save the fetus pain", forces a woman to carry to term a fetus that may very well have severe anomalies and gross congenital malformations and will die at birth. This may very well put that fetus into a position of suffering due to it's deformities. This runs directly counter to the law's stated "compassionate" purpose." Just tell a woman who has a fetus with osteogenesis imperfecta that it's "compassionate" to force her to carry that baby to term. I dare you.

seili 3 years ago

That's why I believe we should giving fetuses anesthesia. Even if we made abortion illegal, there would still be women who have to choose abortion to save their own lives, woman who believe they have to choose abortion to help the baby and probably rightfully so, women and girls who are raped, girls who are pressured by parents to get an abortion, etc. The only way to end an unknown pain is to be humane and administer anesthesia. If the baby was born and in pain, we would be doing all that we could to manage or end the pain. If an animal was in great pain, we would try to be humane and end it's life by putting it to sleep, in an effort to save it from pain. We should be humane enough to know that doubt about pain should encourage us to stop it. I don't think that we can ever totally end abortion, thus, the best option would be to end the potential for pain.

Christine Anderson 3 years ago

This article kinda makes me want to reach out and touch somone.

booyalab 3 years ago

"and is still not complete at birth." So a newborn baby does not feel pain the way an adult feels pain?

I always figured the abortion vs murder line was arbitrary, no matter how much it's dressed up with "technical" language. This just proves it.

Mike Ford 3 years ago

wow....I just love how the gop and libertarians go for the dumb dumb conversation when a Democrat is in office....if you perceive smart go stupid.....the dummies will follow every time.....

rtwngr 3 years ago

Abortion is murder. You can call it fetal tissue, mass of cells, "potential" human, etc. What we see when we look at a child in the womb is brain activity, autonomic neurological responses, separate DNA from the mother and father, a heartbeat, and other reactions to the world around it just like an infant directly out of the womb. All of these things can be medically verified at a very early point of the first trimester in a pregnancy.

We will continue to speak out against this atrocity that you like to call freedom of choice because we see it as murder. Now, you can call me a religious zealot or bigot or whatever you please but I will say this. There is a Truth written upon the heart of every person and we all inherently know what that Truth is. If you don't believe in God, then supporting abortion won't scare you but I do believe in God. One of us is correct. If you're correct then we all end up as worm food in the end and none of this means a hill of beans. If I'm correct, then you will have to stand before that God someday and give an account of how you could defend this. I am not willing to gamble with my immortal soul, if that is the case. Don't bother with taking scripture out of context to defeat my opinion because it won't work.

Abortion is murder plain and simple and I categorize you with the masses of Europeans that saw Jews slaughtered by the millions and refused to speak out. Over 50 million "potential" humans slaughtered since Roe v. Wade.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 3 years ago

Truths emerge from the anus of reason. Everybody has some, and it all stinks. By the way, your "context", along with your fear for your immortal soul, defeat your opinion. No further truth need be extruded.

headdoctor 3 years ago

Abortion is murder plain and simple and I categorize you with the masses of Europeans that saw Jews slaughtered by the millions and refused to speak out. Over 50 million "potential" humans slaughtered since Roe v. Wade."

Interesting that you bring up the slaughter of the Jews in an abortion thread but while were on the subject, I suppose the slaughter of millions of lives over the centuries involving religion is justified because of your beliefs.

Many of those against abortion have set up an unworkable gauntlet that they expect everyone else to follow but them. You have a problem with contraception and education. You want to make every pregnancy regardless of how they got pregnant make it to term even if it kills the woman. Once the baby is born you want nothing of the responsibility. You really expect this don't do as I do but as I say to work. Don't plead ignorant about this and bring adoption into this because it isn't going to help because we all know how well the adoption route doesn't work. Many of the religious people do the same thing when their wife or daughter gets pregnant. Hiding how you take care of it doesn't justify it. It just helps the religious one to appear more pious.

You have every right to your beliefs. You do not have the right to force your beliefs on everyone else.

rtwngr 3 years ago

I'll take this one at a time:

The slaughter of people in the name of religion is never justified. To infer that I have no right to have a stand on a modern day moral issue because of history is intellectually dishonest.

I am not going to be dragged into a discussion on contraception and education as those are two different subjects altogether. I will speak to the point on a woman taking a pregnancy to term even if it means the death of the mother. This is a false assertion by those on the left. I am Roman Catholic and the Church teaching hinges on the intent of the procedure. If the procedure being performed is intended to save the life of the mother, and the child is lost, then nothing that was done has the intent of evil. If the procedure being performed is for the sole intent of removing the child from the mother, this is has the intent of evil. You see, you would like to put it all in one big package that says that there is no evil. There is no right and wrong. Whatever a person decides to do is right or wrong for them. That is called moral relativism. There really is truth. We see movies about expectant mothers and how excited they are. Some movies portray them with headphones on their bellies, playing music to the child in the womb. Some are movies about moms trying so hard to get pregnant that they hire surrogates to have their babies and end up being pregnant on their own. Then we leave the theater and pretend that life does not exist in the womb and that it can be discarded like so much refuse.

There is a procedure called a "chemical abortion" where a saline solution is injected into the womb and the child is, basically, poisoned and dies. Then the child is removed. Some children survive this procedure. A bill was proposed in the Illinois state senate that, basically, said if a child survived this kind of procedure and was born alive, then the child would be treated as any other child and be admitted to the NICU and be given life saving medical care. Then Senator Obama voted against this bill. So now do you know what they do? They take the child and set it to the side until it dies. There's a little bit of truth for you.

impska 3 years ago

Your assertion that women don't get late term abortions unless they absolutely have to is not supported by statistical evidence.

Late term abortions are inflated by teenagers. The top reasons for having a late term abortion (supported by a study done by a Planned-Parenthood affiliate in the United States 1987 and more recently by a pair of British universities in 2007) are that the woman did not know she was pregnant, did not understand how far along she was, and that she was afraid to tell parents. Also high on the lists are difficulties scheduling an abortion or that it took a long time to decide to have one.

The number of late term abortions performed due to fetal abnormality is around 2% of total late term abortions.

I am pro-choice myself, and for a long time believed the myth that women only choose late term abortions because of fetal abnormality or to protect their own physical health. But it's a myth.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

Can you please give me some links to back this up? I would really like to see these stats. I'm not saying you're wrong, but every person I have ever known or spoken to that had a late term abortion did so because she was, herself, threatened (abruptio placenta being a biggie) or else (more frequently) it was discovered after the routine 20 week sonogram that her fetus had gross abnormalities. I also knew one woman who made the decision to do an early delivery at 28 weeks because she was pre-eclamptic and her condition was deteriorating. Unfortunately her baby didn't survive the early delivery and was still born. As it involved a deliberately induced pregnancy interruption, it honestly fits the definition of "abortion".

impska 3 years ago

Yes. Here is a link to an overview of the British study:


If you scroll down, it provides information about where to go to see the results and study, if you want to confirm the accuracy of the article.

The 1987 study is titled "Why do women have abortions." It has information about abortions as a whole and then the subset of late term.


It's unfortunate that nothing more recent is available for the U.S. - but in the current anti-choice climate, I doubt many abortion providers are willing to subject their patients to what may been seen as interrogation.

impska 3 years ago

And Cait, the only women I've known personally who have considered late term abortions were in the same position. They were presented with an intensely difficult choice involving abnormalities and non-viability during planned pregnancies. It was heart-wrenching to witness what these women went through.

But I also don't associate with many teenaged girls who have zero sex education - who apparently make up the majority of late term abortion seekers.

jafs 3 years ago

It's just not true that we need to view our bodies as "property" in order to use concepts like consent.

We could also use the ideas of freedom and will to do so - informed consent means consent of our will to certain activities, and the idea that people can't act in certain ways with us if we don't consent has to do with our freedom to say no.

Where did we buy our bodies? How much did they cost? What's the warranty period? Can we return or exchange them if we're not happy with them? Etc.

impska 3 years ago

Property is not defined as something you buy and sell. It is defined as something you own. Do you own your living body or does society own your body? Who makes the choice about what to do with your body? As an adult with capacity, you get to make every decision about what to do with your body - barring illegal acts such as suicide or prostitution.

jafs 3 years ago

Ownership is defined by purchasing.

Nobody owns bodies, except if they purchase dead ones for scientific research or the like.

I make choices - that's why I used the term will.

And, from my perspective, suicide and prostitution should be legal, but not because of "property rights", because of freedom and the right to choose.

impska 3 years ago

You're wrong about the definition of ownership. Think of all the things in your life that you own that you did not purchase.

If you pick up a stray kitten from the street and bring it into you home and take care of it for awhile, there is a high probability that you own it, even if someone has a previous claim.

If a squirrel buries an acorn on your property and a tree grows - you own that tree. If someone comes and cuts it down, you will likely be awarded damages, even though you didn't purchase it.

If I grow a tomato in my garden, I own that tomato. I didn't buy it, but it's mine. If you come along and eat it without my permission, you may be required to compensate me.

If someone gives you a gift of a green ceramic chicken - it's yours. It doesn't belong to the gift-giver any more, even though they purchased it and you did not.

It's easy to see how a person can argue ownership of their own body, given that they have nearly complete freedom to do what they want with it and other people may be required to compensate them if they damage it.

jafs 3 years ago

Well, I don't consider animals property, either.

The idea that a valuable companion is like a table I bought at Target seems off to me.

When you buy property, you buy the land that goes with it - that's what gives you ownership of that tree (although I will say that I find land ownership to also be a little bit odd, as did Native Americans).

You bought the seeds, right? Then the tomato plant grows from them.

The gift example is a good one - but the original owner (at some point in the chain) had to buy the item, and then transfer ownership through the gift.

It's easy to see how they can argue it, but I think the idea is flawed.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

The idea of children as "property" is rooted in the same instrument that teaches people to view women as property; the Bible. This is a highly enlightening article.


"As futurist Sara Robinson has pointed out, traditional rules that govern male-female relationships are grounded more in property rights than civil rights. Men essentially have ownership of women, whose lives are scripted to serve an end—bearing offspring. It was very important to men that they know whose progeny they were raising, so sexual morality focused primarily on controlling women’s sex activity and maintaining their “purity” and value as assets. Traditional gender roles and rules evolved on the presumption that women don’t have control over their fertility. In other words, modern contraception radically changed a social compact that had existed for literally thousands of years. "

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

Neuhaus' patients were children and victims of rape. They would have qualified for abortion solely for that reason. Neuhaus' exams were an over reaching mandate by the state that forced those children to go through "mental health" exams. But you've made it abundantly clear you would have no problem with forcing a 12 year old to carry a baby to term, no matter how much it tore up her own insides. However, I will point you back to something I said to you earlier, which you did not respond to: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/feb/22/loss-license-ordered-kansas-abortion-case/#c1967001

That said, I'd like to know with which parts of the scientific research you disagree?

jafs 3 years ago

Ownership is not necessary for consent - if I consent to sex, it's because I consent to the activity, not because I allow somebody else to use my property. If somebody rapes me, it's an offense against my liberty, not my property.

The 3 basic rights in the D of I are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". No mention of property there. Later, in the due process clause, we get "life, liberty and property".

They didn't say "property, property, property", and it isn't even in the D of I, and it's last on the list in the due process clause.

Clearly, they believed that the rights of life and liberty are unalienable, separate from and regardless of property rights.

jafs 3 years ago

"All rights are essentially property rights"

This is the Libertarian reductionism with which I disagree.

I can't consent for another person to have sex because I don't have the right to make decisions for them - their will is what counts. The belief in "ownership" of one's body is not necessary.

You have proved nothing, simply asserted the same thing over and over again as if it's fact, rather than opinion.

Ignoring the fundamental texts of our founding is a neat way to avoid the flaws in your argument.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the unalienable (God given) rights established in the D of I - that's our founding document.

If somebody kills me, they are violating my right to life. If somebody enslaves me, or rapes me, they are violating my right to liberty. If somebody says I can't marry whom I wish, they are violating my right to pursue happiness (in my view).

Further on, in the due process clause, we get property instead of pursuit of happiness.

Thus, if somebody steals my car, they are violating my right to property.

Reductionism is never appealing to me, and always seems wrong - many people like it, for some reason, they like to take complex situations and oversimplify them.

jafs 3 years ago

One could simplify in other ways, of course, as well - one might argue that all rights are essentially "life" rights, because without life, none of the others apply.

jafs 3 years ago

Victims don't make decisions for rapists, they simply make decisions for themselves - they have the right to decide not to have sex.

Liberty rights of one person don't trump another, so one person's liberty doesn't extend to kidnapping, rape, etc. One doesn't need to believe in "ownership" of the body to balance liberty rights of different individuals.

I don't agree with the idea of "natural" rights as well.

If you want to believe in natural rights, and that all rights are property rights, go ahead, that's fine with me. But, when you allege to have "proven" such things, I have to disagree. You simply assert them, as if that's proof.

I assert that you are wrong - there are no "natural" rights, the nature of human beings is complex, not easily observed, and all rights are not property rights.

But, you know, this is a rather pointless conversation - it makes little difference whether we agree or not on these points - they're simply philosophical questions.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

jafs, I don't agree with the idea of all rights being "property rights" either. But you have to understand that the idea of any rights being "property rights" was baked into the desert religions well over 5,000 years ago and has carried forward via that conduit clear up into the 21st century. It actually makes what our "founding fathers" did over 200 years ago that much more remarkable, as they were some of the very first to challenge that idea and a big part of the reason why they were so insistent on separating government from, not just Christianity, but all religion. They espoused the idea that there were natural rights. Remember the Declaration of Independence and that famous line, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This document wasn't written and fired off in a day. It went through multiple drafts, discussion in the Continental Congress and revisions. It said exactly what they meant it to say. And for the first time in Western history (to my knowledge) the belief was espoused that their were "natural rights" completely separate from "property rights" and, on that belief, was founded an entire nation who used that reason for self governance.

Cait McKnelly 3 years ago

"But you have to understand that the idea of any rights being "property rights"..." This was supposed to have read all rights being property rights, not any.

Do_the_research 2 years, 11 months ago

When I clicked on this article, I was expecting proof that the fetus does not feel pain at 20 weeks. Instead, we get a re-definition of human pain that is apparently supposed to rule out not just newborns but adolescents. I hardly see how making such comparisons helps the pro-choice movement. How far are pro-choicers willing to push this argument, should parents be allowed to "terminate" their adolescents just because the latter are inconvenient and "cannot fell pain the way 'we' do:" Who is this we? Mature adults? Since when is it only mature adults that have rights? It seems that two can play that game that pro-choicers like to spread mis-information and bogus arguments as much as pro-lifers. Lets be hones and admit that pain is pain.

Cait McKnelly 2 years, 11 months ago

"I was expecting proof that the fetus does not feel pain at 20 weeks. Instead, we get a re-definition of human pain that is apparently supposed to rule out not just newborns but adolescents." And you would be TOTALLY wrong. A functioning neocortex is necessary to feel pain but once it is in place and as it develops the WAY pain is felt does change. In other words, the way even a three year old feels pain is different from that of a teenager but at no point did I EVER say that even a newborn doesn't feel pain, much less a teenager. Thing is, in reading your post I came to realize that your (mis)understanding was most likely deliberate and an obvious exercise in deliberate obtuseness. Frankly, that kind of comparison doesn't give your side much help.

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