Monday, January 26, 2009

Pro ? part two

My first elaborate post on the future of abortion predictably only garnered comments from Dr. Clam, but that is ok. I know there are a couple of other interested readers (eg Lexifab???), but I really wanted to knuckle down on breaking down the discrepancies between our future visions (which we believe to be realistic within our lifetimes). These seem to be:
1) The plausibility of the commoditisation of surrogacy/adoption/fostering such that it impacts on the demand for abortions.

2) The plausibility of artificial wombs as a way to replace abortions with transfers of the fetus to be incubated, then brought up by interested NGO's or government organisations.

Obviously from my posts and comments I believe 1) to be plausible and 2) not to be plausible, and I guess these were implied axioms in my argument that contradict Dr. Clams'. These points deserve more attention a they are fairly definitive points of difference.

As for the first one, there is a tension between very strong instincts to favour bringing up ones own genetic offspring rather than an adopted child. For example, the amount parents are willing to pay for an IVF surrogacy of their own DNA ($100,000) over the cost of an overseas adoption ($20,000) demonstrates both that there is already a nascent (or limited) market for babies, and that there is a distinct tension between what buyers expect, and what sellers can readily deliver. I believe that gradual increased scope of these markets, combined with reduced natural fertility from couples that desire a baby will erode that tension. ie. as it gets harder and harder to fall pregnant (compared to the whims of the individual), naturally and then via IVF etc., domestic paid-for adoption will become more attractive. As the demand for babies goes up, so will the price, changing the economic calculus of those who would otherwise have an abortion. There is obviously more to it than just that, but the cost of BRINGING UP a baby is usually the primary concern more than the cost of bringing the baby to term. The choice at the moment is mainly economic. If the choice is between abort and adopt, abort brings the better individual outcome (for the parent). If it was between abort and sell, it would depend on the price, and the imagined future for the child.

To point 2: I strongly believe that breakthrough artificial womb technologies will be irrelevant to replacing abortion. My objections are two fold -
a) I don't believe it to be technically feasible.
and
b)It presumes a certain societal dynamic which contradicts the societal dynamic that I perceive.

To start with, I don't believe that just because neonatal units can keep babies alive if born at 24 weeks, that an "unwanted" pregnancy that reaches that point ought to be terminated by caesarian section and the baby fostered out. Increased survival rates for premature babies does not translate to earlier separation of mother and child being a good idea under any imaginable circumstance.

The societal dynamic of abortion that is ignored is that for an aborting mother the concept is of a reversal of the pregnancy. The early removal of the live fetus is not the same thing, and if it was the mothers decision, the perceived effectiveness of the receiving entity to deal with children would be the deciding factor. In a society where pregnancies were automatically registered at conception, sexual norms would radically alter depending on various laws, changing the whole spectrum of who's pregnancies would become unwanted in ways dependent on a number of independent variables. In itself the extra option of early live removal of a fetus will not be perceived as a replacement for abortion by women with undesired pregnancies any more than adoption is now.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

a) I don't believe it to be technically feasible.

Well, *what* particular technical obstacles do you 'believe' to be insurmountable? When I don't believe something is technically feasible, I have reasons, and I am happy to share them with people.

...the extra option of early live removal of a fetus will not be perceived as a replacement for abortion by women with undesired pregnancies any more than adoption is now.

What, so people would not be willing to undergo *no* additional inconvenience to go away from an abortion with a *completely* clear conscience, but they would undergo great pain, permanent physical damage, elevated risk of death, months of severe unpleasantness and the social stigma of having everyone they know *know* they messed up, for a paltry few tens of thousands of dollars? If I believed people were like that, I would be working night and day for their conversion into HumefreshTM protein feedstock ("just like parental entity alpha used to make!") by the Cephalopod Overminds of Omicron Ceti Prime.

You didn't respond at all to my previous post pointing out a viable alternative to the dodgy Anglospherical 'democratic' systems you are keen on, but I will forgive you, I know my comments are doubtless worthy of ignorage. I will never be able to fill the shoes of that modest and self-effacing intellectual Hercules, the late great Dr Clam (pbuh).

Marco said...

As far as the completely clear conscience goes, you are not taking into account the dynamics of the situation. To bring up an analogy to explain : The fact that one "can" take unwanted litters of puppies to the RSPCA with a completely clear conscience, does not mean that people don't put down unwanted puppies themselves for a variety of reasons. An offer from the RSPCA to take any unwanted puppies, no guilt, no questions asked and they will look after them all, will both encourage people not to desex their pets, and for the system to quickly become overloaded. Without some sort of price signal feedback or a euthanasing program, the static choice of whether to put down the puppies or take them to the RSPCA guilt-free is a meaningless tautology.

Equally, the ability to guilt-freely rid oneself of an unwanted pregnancy would both encourage dubious behaviour, and soon overload any downstream system imaginable to deal with the children.

but they would undergo great pain, permanent physical damage, elevated risk of death, months of severe unpleasantness

People undergo these kinds of things for money all the time, especially in the poorer segments of the population where abortion rates are high.

and the social stigma of having everyone they know *know* they messed up

This, admittedly, is a proximal barrier to adoption, but the stigma in society has lessened a great deal, especially if the mother has an independent income.

Marco said...

a) I don't believe it to be technically feasible.

Well, *what* particular technical obstacles do you 'believe' to be insurmountable? When I don't believe something is technically feasible, I have reasons, and I am happy to share them with people.


I will break this up into parts:

1) I don't believe there is any technical obstacles for artificial wombs to be as adequate replacements as formula is to breast milk.

2) The lesser adequacy of artificial wombs compared to the natural womb will limit its possible use as an equivalent guilt-free alternative.

Anonymous said...

Okay, must exterminate humans, gotcha.

You should be selling t-shirts in Second Life.

Marco said...

Do you want a bird clock with that?