Monday, October 10, 2005

Pretty Words

Today I attended an abortion debate at U.C. Berkeley: Dr. Dennehy versus Ndola Prata - it was quite a nice debate, with Dr. Dennehy emerging from the skirmish with banners unfurled and St. Michael hovering in the wings.

The position of Prata was that in countries where there are "unsafe" abortions, there are also higher death rates for mothers ergo abortion should be made safe and legal for all countries - not a very sound argument, and inconsistent, too. Prata, you see, showed a slide that showed the number of deaths due to "unsafe" abortions versus number of deaths due to "safe" abortions. The quirk was that she posted the number of deaths from unsafe abortions but percentages from safe abortions in the U.S., calling the number of U.S. deaths 'negligible.'

Now the catch: the percentage point was 0.2 thru 0.5 of 1.3 million abortions (last year). The combined number of deaths due to "unsafe" abortions was actually *less* than the number of deaths due to safe abortions, according to the very statistics she provided. Who'd'a'thunk?

She also said that abortion was an ethical issue, that we can't tell whether or no a fetus is a human life, woman's body, etc.

Dennehy pounced at her clumsy arguments (in a nice way - Dennehy is always extremely polite towards his opponents) and pointed out the age-old example that hunters simply do not shoot into brush when it rustles. It is a Bad Idea. There is no clear view of what is being shot at and it could be a human being - if it is, and you shoot the person, the courts hold you responsible.

Likewise, one should not kill something that is has the potential to be a human being if we really don't know whether it actually is (which doesn't make sense as actuality procedes potentiality, but Dennehy didn't get into that) - because to kill a fetus without knowing whether or no it *is* a human being implies a willingness to kill a human being.

The arguments against abortion are so extremely simple and elegant. It is a wonder people simply don't agree with them. Arguments from appearances were denounced during the course of this debate, the human DNA unfolding versus parts being added to a fetus, conceptual thought was brought up, and Dennehy managed to slip in Ligers, the Terminator, and other pop-culture references that woo'd the class sympathy to his side, while Dr. Prata sat looking slightly uncomfortable and eternally serious.

In any case, Dr. Dennehy was in rare form, easily disproved the arguments of Dr. Prata, and effectively answered the questions that students put to him. It grieves me to think that he will not be able to do these debates for much longer as he is elderly - who will do them then?

The best quote was one of Dr. Prata's, who said something like: "Well, you can talk about philosophy and use a bunch of pretty words, and it sounds very nice, but you have to look at reality." Tee hee! Hee! Hee! Haaah.


JHP said...

Well, now a new study says that a fetus can't feel pain until 29 weeks. I'm glad that's finally cleared up, because I can see no harm in killing something that doesn't feel pain.

As Cicero says, it's a sign of a very weak and cowardly spirit to view pain as the greatest evil.

Deirdre said...

The pain of being 'unwanted,' the pain of the mother, the pain of...etc.

Dr. Dennehy related an anecdote:
After one of his debates, a man approached him and said that in college, his mother had become pregnant and had an abortion. He was so glad his mother didn't have to endure the pain of dropping out of college and losing any hope of a career.

Dennehy replied - well, you came at the right time. What if that fetus had been you?

Anonymous said...

who will do them then?