The Cognitive Dissonance of Abortion “Rights”
© 2019 Vernon Miles Kerr, vernonmileskerr.com
There are three intellectual fictions, which must be accepted in order to avoid cognitive dissonance in supporting the concept of a “right” to abort one’s own fetus, on demand, and without the mother’s own life being endangered by a full-term pregnancy. The first fiction is that an unborn child is part of a woman’s body and therefore is in her complete purview and control. The second fiction is that a fetus’s protections under society’s homicide laws can be decided by arbitrary agreements on when a fertilized egg becomes a human being. And the third fiction is that the laws, which do indeed protect an unborn fetus from negligent or criminal homicide, should not apply when a Medical Doctor kills the fetus. We will examine each of those fictions in order.
Fiction 1. The Fetus’s Right to Life is within the Sole Purview of the Mother
Why should a fetus’s right to life be at the whim of the mother when a successfully delivered infant’s welfare and right to life is not within her sole purview at all? Widely enacted child-protective laws declare either parent’s right to the possession and rearing of a child as conditional, not absolute. In the U.S., both parents’ rights are conditioned upon not abusing or neglecting a child and thereby violating those laws. In all U.S. jurisdictions the child-protective laws are the sole arbiters of parental rights. Parents who break those laws are subject to being replaced by foster parents.
When child-protective laws are violated, the community’s interest in an infant supersedes the interest of the parents. The fiction that must be accepted to resolve cognitive dissonance, is that a fetus does not satisfy the legal definition of “child” or “infant” and therefore the community has no interest in its welfare. But physically — and perhaps mentally — speaking, a third-trimester fetus is identical to a delivered infant. Why should society’s interest in this individual not include its time in utero? Arbitrarily ignoring these broadly accepted child-protective laws and concepts is one way to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.
Fiction 2 . Arbitrary Agreements About When a Fertilized Egg Becomes a Human Being Should Define Culpability/or Lack of Same in Homicide Prosecutions
During the long line of cases leading to Roe v. Wade the definition of a human being, for purposes of deciding feticide cases, gradually evolved from “at conception” through various intermediate stages describing “viability to survive outside the womb” to “birth of the head” and more recently, “when a fetal heartbeat is detected.” To avoid cognitive dissonance, it has to be legal to intervene in the infant’s gestation up to, but not including, that moment defined as “birth;” therefore in some cases, the abominable, though rare, practice of partial birth abortion cannot result in homicide prosecution.
Fiction 3 . Laws that do define fetal homicide and manslaughter should not apply to Medical Doctors performing “legal abortions.”
In a majority of U.S. states, anyone else but a Medical Doctor can be prosecuted for murdering or negligently causing the death of a fetus. In other words, the same act can legally define “murder” for one class of person while totally absolving another class. Some states have attempted to avoid cognitive dissonance by specifically inserting exculpatory wording, which exempts Medical Doctors performing otherwise legal abortions from prosecution for “feticide”. The National Conference of State Legislatures (http://ncsl.org) summarizes these exculpatory laws as follows:
Currently, at least 38states have fetal homicide laws. …At least 23[of those] states have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy (“any state of gestation,” “conception,” “fertilization” or “post-fertilization”);
Of those 38 states many specifically exempt Medical Doctors who are performing “otherwise legal” abortions from culpability. Such laws do nothing to resolve cognitive dissonance but rather increase it by bringing some or all fetuses under their protection, but then selectively nullifying themselves by exempting the medical profession when performing an abortion with the permission of the mother. Until this sorry age, murder has always been murder unless the state performed it in the form of a capital execution. Now, in our national “wisdom”, we have given the Medical Doctor the power of the executioner—actually greater power because he or she can exercise it without giving the victim the benefit of a fair trial. The death of a potential human being comes at the whim of the mother by the hand of a legally untouchable co-conspirator.
When a basic longstanding moral concept such as the prohibition against homicide can be tweaked and argued to the point of absurdity, who can respect our legislative bodies or even the rule of law itself? If there is a Supreme Being and there is an ultimate Judgment Day, America is in trouble — until we stop living in this near-psychotic state of denying reality.
Why do the proponents of abortion-on-demand go through these mental gymnastics?
To some, an unwanted pregnancy is an inconvenience. Being responsible for an infant for eighteen years would be an inconvenience. Carrying the infant to term, then putting it up for adoption would be an inconvenience. While killing a human being might be repugnant to this person, simply removing an unwanted “fetus” is not. After all — this thinking goes — the “fetus” is part of her body, and no one should dictate what she does with her own body. Removing this “fetus” is a women’s health issue and no one should be able to make arbitrary health decisions for her. It’s like passing a marble, mistakenly swallowed, out into the sewer. This type of thinking is the greatest willfully-adopted fiction of all.
Once human life is conceived it is, in reality, another body, separated by the blood-barrier at the interface between womb and placenta. As an individual, that new life logically deserves the same societal protections as does any child. To argue otherwise yields nothing but cognitive dissonance, even insanity.
25 thoughts on “Opinion | The Cognitive Dissonance of Abortion “Rights””
In a recent blog post, Mitch Teemley has the best illustration of “cognitive dissonance” I’ve ever read:
“Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance: the uncomfortable state of living at odds with what we believe.* To resolve it, we have to make one of two choices: either live what we believe, or believe what we live. The first takes effort. And humility. The latter is easy, but requires some mental twisting. E.g. Do you steal from the company you work for? Don’t stop stealing, just tell yourself, “They underpay me and they know it. It’s expected!” Voila! You now officially believe what you live.”
i always encounter people who default to the “rape argument”. I have a friend who is the product of both rape & incest. He always asks those people “Who are you to say my existence is invalid?” My own answer to the rape argument is that rape is a crime that is so terrible that we in a free country commonly discus the validity of executing a child in punishment for his father’s crime.
You make TWO, good points, Lloyd. Combined, we might say “Given that someone’s conception was the result of rape or incest, should society allow a medical doctor to be both judge and executioner and kill the innocent baby for its father’s crime? Actually, in such cases the mother and/or those who influence her, join in the conspiracy to deprive the little person of his or her right to life; but that would definitely not sell well with the Women’s movement’s current extreme stance.
What nonsense. Doctors possess certain rights and legal immunities simply because they have been certified to do so. Like so many other different classes of people. Such as drivers of cars. Get a license, you may drive on a public street, an act that would see an unlicensed person charged and punished.
Thanks for your comment. With all the faults of the medical profession and our American healthcare system, there is still quite a stringent set of requirement to get that “MD” after your name — and an equally stringent ordeal to pass the board-exams to get a license to practice (at least, in California, where I live). So, I can’t think of anyone more qualified to make a finding than a board of obstetricians In — as I emphasized several times — the “remote” instance of a claimed danger to an expectant mother’s life from carrying full-term.
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Let’s take this a step forward, since we are proposing federal law intervene in the rights of a woman over her body and grandstanding religious beliefs on the welfare of a fetus. Move forward to the actual birth, when there is a breathing human living in poverty, of the willingness of our government to look the other way, to abolish (or in the process of abolishing) social programs to help feed that child when it is hungry, homeless, unable to receive proper medical care, education, all the essentials of life; To do away with food stamps, welfare….shame on you all. Your concern for the unborn supersedes the welfare of the living child. Get your priorities in order, then talk about abortion.
In addition, where is your concern for the children snatched from their parents, held in cages, in the most horrendous conditions, no mention… I want to puke at your high handedness and obliviousness to this human catastrophe.
Then you have not read my numerous tweets against this outrage on our border (@kerr_vernon)
I left a comment. I’m not about to have a back and forth defense of it. Enjoy your opinion and have a good day.
All true. But it is more cognitive dissonance to claim that it’s an either/or situation. How about respecting both the born and unborn? VMK
Unfortunately our government couldn’t care less once that child’s is born. Rather they work tirelessly to reverse all social agency ( including social security, Medicaid etc). they want no part of assistance for the less fortunate and that includes babies.
I would have to agree, if we are talking about the “current” government, the current administration. It certainly seems that way. The results surely seem to speak louder than their empty words. But I fear this will be true of any Democratic Party administration as well. Both parties are overly dependent and subservient to large contributors. I hope the young of the world will keep demanding , and eventually receive, government with more “heart” and more “humanity.”
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Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:
My Featured Blogger this week is Vernon Miles Kerr of the same-named blog site. Vernon and I don’t agree on everything–far from it. But for some time now we’ve followed one another’s blogs because we appreciate each other’s reasoning. Vernon is a student of logic and rhetoric (as well as drama, poetry and fiction) who has studied under some notable teachers, including S.I. Hayakawa and Manfred Wolf.
I chose to reblog this particular post because of the way in which Vernon thoughtfully and persuasively counters the notion that virtually all arguments against abortion are either religious or misogynistic (anti-women).
It was, in fact, an atheist woman who first convinced me that my pro-choice views on abortion were wrong.
Read, think, and consider.
Amen, Vernon! One of the best thought out and most rationally argued presentations I’ve seen on the subject.
I’m honored. I really respect you and your work, Mitch. As you may have noticed though, I deliberately left “Bible Authority” out of the thesis because I wanted it to be palatable to the liberal unchurched. I knew they would probably disagree but hoped that they would stay with it and hear the arguments without rejecting it out of hand because of suspected religious bias. Thanks for your kind words.
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I did notice that, Vernon, and appreciate it. One of the widespread misconceptions about abortion is that only religious people are against it. If a fetus is a human being, then abortion is murder. The person who first convinced me of this was an atheist.
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There are open minded atheists then, on this subject. Okay, then there’s hope that maybe some sanity will prevail, with more time. I wonder if there is also an element of “doubling down” by the Women’s movement, in general. They took a stand and even though it is illogical, it’s hard to show weakness by admitting error. One young liberal with whom I discussed my essay is entrenched in the position that a fetus is not a person if it has not been given a name yet. I was aghast. I wonder how widespread that rationalization is.
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That young liberal’s logic is horrifyingly constructed, and it frightens me a bit that they can vote and reproduce.
I’m not sure abou this, but I suspected the logic was something inculcated in college recently. I asked the person later if they had read my article after we spoke. They said “I scanned it and I still disagree with you” ><
Interesting points. I think we agree that abortion is a horrific thing to contemplate.
As for reducing abortions, I think the following measures would be hugely effective: 1) Federal crime felony with mandatory life sentence for any man to impregnate a woman without her written permission. Of course, there would have to be some additional provisions to make sure it wasn’t signed under duress or while drunk. BTW, this is MUCH MUCH easier to enforce than an abortion ban. The police need do nothing until a pregnancy is detected and the woman complains that she was raped or seduced. The crime is then easily proven with DNA testing. By contrast, an abortion ban requires, in principle, surveillance of every woman of child bearing age 24 x 7. In some cases, it would be very difficult to discriminate between an actual intentional abortion and a pregnancy that ends due to spontaneous abortion. This alone would cause a huge drop in abortions. 2) Pass the ERA so single women have a better chance to raise a child. 3) Provide day care and after school programs again mainly so women will be economically capable of being a single parent. 4) Provide a large range of options for adoption, co-care, foster care, etc. 5) Make sure sex education and condoms are provided at an early age. I know that this *seems* as though it might be counter-productive, but actually, studies show this works to reduce both unwanted teenage pregnancies taken to term and teenage abortions. By contrast, coercing kids into signing “chastity pledges” and such actually *increases* unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Thanks for your comments, those are creative ideas that might actually work, except for the death penalty for something that may have been a stupid teen-age indiscretion. The death penalty is probably on the way out anyway. I am not religious and do not base my repugnance of feticide on the Bible. I’m curious about your opinion of the “morning-after” pill. True, it is technically an abortion of a zygote containing the full genetic compliment of a delivered human being; however, because it is not (even remotely) viable, I think I could support the morning-after pill. A woman could exercise “choice” at that point, but not after “heartbeat” detected. Thanks again for your kind response.
Sorry, you were only advocating Life imprisonment not the death penalty. My bad. But, we already have laws against assault, battery, rape and statutory rape. The Cosby case shows that sometimes justice happens, but I’ll agree not often enough. When it doesn’t, we can probably blame the remnants of “patriarchy” which are, hopefully, also on the way out.
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with the ease, with which in some areas lethal weapons are made available to almost everybody, and with different judicial outcome when used with death as consequence, depending upon ones ancestry… with the ease ‘collateral damage’ meaning casulaties among civilians are accepted in countries that not are own… with purchase of vehicles that are twice the size and weight of others, that at collision define outcome (…), there is certainly some variation how value of life is appreciated at different conditions…
Good point. And it all contributes to the arbitrariness that causes cognitive dissonance. Thanks for your comment. VMK