Abortion vs. The Death Penalty

If you ever want to get everyone falling over you, raise both issues and claim you can't be against only one of them because the only difference between them is the age of the person you're murdering. Of course, you'll be telling a blatant lie, since the differences are legion, but if you ever want to see the worst in people who are quick to take something personal, prepare for a good tyrade.

Once they're done, it's your turn to point out that they really should have looked at what you had said, instead. Abortion, when applied at the right time, does not kill anything sentient. It just does what the word implies: it aborts the process by which a pretty much inanimate clump of matter ends up forming the basis upon which a sentient system is built. The reason most countries use the 22-25 week as maximum period in which abortion is legal is because it takes into account that as long as there is no synaptic activity, the lump of matter is simply no more alive than fungus or a plant. If you took it out, it simply had as much ways of telling that something bad was happening as a rose has a way of telling that it's been cut off a rose bush; preciously little.

The bottom line is really that you cannot murder something that isn't sentient or even in a limited sense reactive. And now we hit upon language land, that boon of humanity: murder is bad. It's bad, because that's what we took as primary reason to distinguish between murder, and killing. A lion kills a wildebeast, and then eats it. That's nature, nothing wrong with it, nothing cruel about it, and any realist will acknowledge this. Murder, on the other hand, is the act of killing for no justifiable purpose. Welcome again to language land: justifiable? Well, yes, justifiable to the rest of relevant group.

In a group where killing your wife for fornication by stoning is de rigeur, this isn't "murder"; it's "justice". If in that same group people eat meat, then killing your cattle because you want to eat isn't "murder", it's just the necessary act before carving, preparing and consuming.

In a group where people should have the right to make their own decisions, including who they have sex with, killing your wife for fornication is considered murder, not justice. But if in that same group eating meat is considered normal, then killing your cattle is still not murder.

In a group where all life is revered and even stepping on an ant is considered murder, no form of killing by someone from that group is "just" killing. It's all murder.

The difference between killing and murder is whether or not it's bad in a particular groups's view (and yes, at this point you should have realised that the word "group" is synonymous with "society"). If it's bad, it's murder; if it's not, it's killing. And this is where things get tricky, because the two groups pro and contra abortion are really two different groups. How do you explain to each other why you think something is bad?

The answer is remarkably simple: as best you can. And ,if you can't explain it, then that's your own shortcoming. Blaming others for not understanding your views when you cannot explain them is blaming the wrong person.

The pro abortion group is fairly clear: until synaptic activity takes place, the clump of mammalian matter is not sentient, conscious, or more alive than a sprouting plant. It's just growing towards something that will allow synaptic activity, at which point it can be considered more alive than a sprouting plant by virtue of allowing a form of sentience. Even if the thing ends up growing into something with retarded mental faculties.

Contra abortion groups are not quite so clear. "All life is precious and therefore should be protected" is an easy rally cry, but also one that needs a hell of a lot more explaining. "Precious" to who, for instance? If you mean precious to you, then you may want to rememeber that the little clump of matter is not yours. You get to voice an opinion, but extending that opinion to a right of ownership is a pretty big leap. If you mean 'precious to everyone' then you're clearly just wrong, because there are plenty of people who indicated that they disagree. If you mean 'precious in the eyes of [insert your deity/deities here]', then you've really lucked out - religious matter apply to the religious population, and are ordained by religious leaders. They do not apply to people who do not share that religion. If you find their non-invasive behaviour offensive, you haven't quite mastered the art of understanding the difference between "us" and "them" yet, which is odd, since that's one of the few hardcoded traits in human beings.

More importantly, where is the "therefore" in the rally cry? Just because something is precious, does not necessitate it being protected... So you need some justification there, too. Yes, I realise that contra abortion groups don't always appreciate logics, but then logics is really the only thing we have to convince each other that we are right, or that we are wrong, but that our reasoning at least is correct. If there are gaps in the logic, then either you didn't think things through, in which case you are not explaining yourself properly, or you're intentionally leaving things out, in which case you are not a very worthwhile person to listen to in the first place.

The really interesting part comes when you look at the problem of when something is alive. Strictly speaking, the little clump of matter that's slowly growing to form the basis of a living mammal has never been "not alive". Both the egg cell and sperm are alive onto themselves (while they can or be fertilise(d) they are alive, once they die they lose that ability) and when the come into contact the combination of the two doesn't suddenly stop being alive for a brief moment - there is never a moment between ovulation and ejaculation and inception, that the components of what will become foetal matter have not been alive. Life does not "begin at inception", as many christians will try to tell you, life never "began". The couple is alive, and through succesfull coupling that life simply gets perpetuated without any kind of hitch. The life part is the trivially boring bit. The "when is it a human" is the interesting bit. And that's at synaptic activity, after 22-25 weeks.

Monty Python weren't wrong when they wrote that all the sperm is sacred... if you think abortion is murder, then by extension jerking off into a tissue, or deciding not to have sex so your ovulated eggs will die, is murder too. Rational thought on the matter reveals some very uncomfortable things for lots of people...

But leaving that for a moment, the death penalty.

The fun keeps going!

The death penalty is a way to deal with crimes committed within a group for which no punitive measure is deemed sufficient. No amount of punishment will set right or even satisfy the aggrieved party or parties, so the offending one is removed from existence.

There is no question about the fact that something sentient and conscious is being killed - it's a prerequisite for being charged and sentenced to death. If you are not sentient or conscious, you cannot commit a crime that may result in the death penalty in the first place.

Is the death penalty bad? Frankly, it depends on how you look at it. In reality, the death penalty means twenty years in prison, before you're either executed, your sentence is converted into "life", or your sentence is overturned entirely because DNA evidence finally cleared you. In the future that last part will most likely vanish with the use of DNA profiling in pretty much every case these days, but for the moment it's still possible. So there you are, the tax payer, and that means the people who wanted to see you executed, too, have been paying for you to be kept alive for twenty years. Does that make sense? Don't know, not thought about it long enough yet. Frankly, don't care that much, either. Judicial punitive measures are only that - punitive measures. Laws that prescribe which measures follow which crime do not prevent crimes, they just give you an indication of how big the hand is going to be that slaps you for committing it. So there's a far more interesting problem in that the death penalty is more an indication that the punity measures system is not adequate because killing someone is not a punishment. Punishments are endured. Death doesn't need enduring, it's one of the easiest tricks in the books when you're a human. You can bank on the fact (and life insurance drives this point home quite well) that no matter what situation you are in, no matter how limited your options, not matter how good or bad things are, you'll always be able to die. It's the easiest trick in the book of human tricks.

So what are the problems with the death penalty? For one, it's irreversible. Once someone's been executed, that's it. New evidence that clears them of whatever crime they committed can bring them back. And saying that "the justice system" will just have to "live with that" is nonsense. There is no "the justice system", just individual people all of whom will be affected by the knowledge that they got someone who apparently did not deserve to be murdered, murdered. This is why I personally like to see the worst punitive measure to be life imprisonment, with the voluntary option of being executed instead. Free up some resources, be less of a drain on a society you're never, ever, going to see again, ever, anyway. Sure, your deity might not let you into whatever heaven there is for your religion, but then if you got life imprisonment it would be unlikely that you were getting in anyway.

So, abortion and the death penalty... Two very different things, for either of which you need to form a well reasoning opinion before you start to opine about them. Do the world a favour, sit and think. Then talk. Not only does it make things more interesting, but you might even end up being able to explain why you think what you think. Imagine how much better life would be if we could all do that.

No, seriously, go imagine it.

Maybe it will motivate you to form a proper opinion for a change.


Death penalty is a good verdict for a criminal. So that it is good and it just shows how big and unlawful crime a criminal committed. And is the legal thing for having a victim's justice.The current recession has taken a toll on anything, including the amount of death sentences and executions. Legal and ethical issues and costs are among the chief reasons for the decline in the capital punishment. It is not as likely that people will face the death penalty now. (See http://www.newsytype.com/13999-executions-death-sentences/ for more info)

By Emavel D. |

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