"Mad Mike" Williamson is an interesting character, a guy whose books I have enjoyed, as well as his dissections of gun control freaks. That said, there are times when his more liberal and athiest tendencies show, and no more than in his recent "Reproductive Health Actually is What it Says".
To get a few things out of the way - I am very sorry for what happened to his mother, and nearly happened to his wife. I am profoundly happy that they are OK. I also agree 100 percent with the decisions made that saved them. You see, despite my hatred for moral-relativistic lifeboat excercises and how they are usually run, sometimes there are moral quandaries where what you're choosing between is what you value most. Not killing vs letting your family die, for example. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy where the state of the art of modern medicine still only gives us the choice of "baby gets killed or they both die" I would pick the same thing for the sake of the other kids, to save the mother, even if she wasn't my wife. I am also sorry for his losses - of a potential sibling, and a potential son or daughter.
I profoundly disagree with the general conclusion he reaches at the end.
You can tell where it's going even at the beginning, when discussing his mother's trials, there's an offhand remark, "Part of it was some cultural legal BS at the time that the doctor wouldn't do what he had to without the husband's permission."
Further down, you get
Get that? The medical treatment for an ectopic pregnancy that might kill the mother is a chemically induced abortion. It's not "because she's lazy" or "because she couldn't keep her legs together." It's because she might die.
THAT is what happens in nations where they obsess over "The life of the unborn." The mother is legally an incubator with no rights.
And as I've referenced here before http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=433 we live in a nation where the Dept of Education has a fucking SWAT TEAM to collect on arrears student loans. So I'm not taking a bet that if a law here said that "only if the mother's life is in danger," there'd be too few, or too procedural, or too assholish of bureaucrats, and we'd have to wait for my wife to scream in agony and start hemorrhaging before anything was done.
This is one of many reasons I support absolutely unlimited abortion access, discussed between doctor and patient (and pretty much no doctor will perform the largely mythical just-before-birth abortion unless the mother really IS going to die, because doing so is very dangerous and worse than delivery, if delivery is an option at all, and there's no fucking time to have a bureaucrat sign papers).
Because today a late stage embryo, barely a fetus, dies before any brain to speak of exists, and my very much alive little girl will still have a mother, and my very much alive wife will stay that way, and have a lot of emotional anguish, because we really wanted another child and we're both reaching age limits.
As to the first point, yes, we covered it. Most of his audience is not stupid, and those of us of a pro-life bent are well aware that it's "because she might die". I can't think of anyone off the top of my head who would sacrifice both the mother and no-longer-possible child to avoid "having an abortion". Maybe Mike has, and he certainly linked to a case where mistreatment and failure to diagnose a life-threatening condition caused the death of a pregnant woman in Ireland. I'm sure that case, and other's like it are the source of "So I'm not taking a bet that if a law here said that "only if the mother's life is in danger," there'd be too few, or too procedural, or too assholish of bureaucrats, and we'd have to wait for my wife to scream in agony and start hemorrhaging before anything was done." - but even there it was because the doctors screwed up, not because they said no when there was obviously a problem.
Medical terminations had previously been performed at the University Hospital when life-threatening complications had clearly arisen in pregnancy, including cases a year previous to Halappanavar's death, as it is Irish law to save the life of the woman in such cases.
The report indicates the first key causal factor was inadequate assessment and monitoring. This would have allowed medical staff to recognise and respond to indicators that the infection was causing a deterioration in Savita's condition. Additionally, staff failed to devise a plan of care recognising that: (1). Infection was the most likely cause of the patient's miscarriage, and, (2.) With increase in time following admission, and the rupture of the patient's membranes, the risk of infection and sepsis increases.
The panel identified the hospital's failure to offer all management options to a patient was a second key causal factor. The panel points out that the patient was "experiencing inevitable miscarriage of an early second trimester pregnancy where the risk to the mother increased with time from the time that membranes were ruptured."
The panel found that hospital staff failed to adhere to clinical guidelines which relate to severe sepsis and septic shock. These relate to timely and effective management of sepsis when it is diagnosed.
Not even the Catholic Church - granted, their moral capital on life of late is lacking - does not teach that the life of the infant is more or less important than the life of the mother.
So yes, it was a bureaucratic screwup, and again, I can see why he wouldn't want to "take that bet", but as I'll get to, there is the seen, and there is the unseen - or the unaddressed. There's what's good for one person, and good overall.
First of all - "incubator with no rights"?
I usually expect better than such strawmen from MZW. Leaving aside other general rights and just focusing on those of the woman's rights over her own body, she did have the option, despite MZW mocking it earlier, of "keeping her legs together".
Barring rape, a woman is pregnant because she chose to have sex. She may have been trying to get pregnant, or forgotten to take her pill, she or the guy may have forgotten to ensure he was wearing a condom, or (rarely) actually and simply had it fail. Unless you utterly discount the life of the embryo/fetus/child and what it would generally grow into, it is no longer just her body, and her previous choices and actions now place a responsibility upon her.
This is known as consequences.
Since we're talking anecdotes here, I have over my life directly known several women personally who were well off enough to have a child, but chose to abort because it was inconvenient. Several of those were a result of seeing the wives of at a military command that had a earned reputation of sleeping around when their husbands were deployed (no, I wasn't one of the men they slept with, but did directly know a guy who was), and didn't want their husbands to ask awkward questions about what they had been up to while hubby was away. Again, unless you discount the life of the child-to-be, this is morally reprehensible.
I don't know if Mike is hypocritical enough to tell a guy to "keep it in his pants" if he complains that he has no say in keeping the kid but is legally a "wallet with no rights" if the woman carries the child to term and raises it, but that's an argument I've heard from others.
Outside of the realm of anecdote - he may be worried about bureaucrats and doctors being too slow or cautious or petty, but the worldwide trends towards euthanasia and the fact that "good" pro-choice liberals like those at Slate are aghast at, but cannot argue against "after birth abortions" because the concept is simply the arguments for abortion taken to their logical end, do not bode well if one assumes that a baby in the womb is not "alive" and thus worthy of assumed protection. Hell - if you presume how long the child is dependent on the parents instead of a vested adult, one could extend that argument for years.
A lot does hinge on "when does life start." Me, I go with "just after conception."
No, not because the Catholic Church told me to - I came to this conclusion a long time ago on my own.
Sure, there are arguments of "no brain in an embryo", or "no heartbeat", or "cannot feel pain yet" - but once the sperm enters the egg, and it settles into the wall of the uterus, it will carry to term, and a baby will be born. This is of course barring complications such as Mikes mother and wife have dealt with or a miscarraige, etc., or human intervention.
The moment of birth is an easily identified breakpoint, but arbitrary. If the delivery is a little late, or a little premature, the baby will still live. Simply because one scheduled to induce delivery on a Friday instead of a Thursday doesn't mean it's not alive Thursday night.
But as to other milestones - a nervous system, a brain, response to environment, a heartbeat, the wonders of modern technology do give us some idea when we absolutely have those. But there is also a huge gray area where we might simply not detect it, especially given how often we don't know the exact day or sometimes even week of conception. If you choose one of those as a breakpoint you still have to be extremely conservative to not get a false negative - how often do we still fail to get the sex of a baby right?
And ultimately, no matter which of those breakpoints we choose, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that they are not human, yet, it doesn't change the fact that once conceived and embedded, barring again, complications or intervention, it will grow and change and be born and become an infant, a child, and then an adult.
Maybe you can convince yourself with some justification that abortion is not killing a full, complete, "real" person, and in scenarios like those MZW lays out there may not be a better choice, but excepting such cases it sure as hell is choosing to snuff out a potential human being that may otherwise live. It is also a choice a fair number of people make out of unwillingness to face the consequences of their previous choices instead of out of medical need.
Ultimately, while I might agree on what must be done in the specific type of case Mike presents, I do not believe the general conclusion he makes follows.