Reply re Marta Russell and Doyle Saylor

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Sun Sep 5 23:16:09 MDT 1999

Greetings Comrades,
    Philip Ferguson makes this point:

In terms of 'the purpose of variation in human babies', I cannot see that
there is any such thing.  There is no 'purpose' in babies having different
physical features, for instance.  Moreover, 'natural selection' and
'genetic mutation' doesn't apply in the human world; we left it behind in
the process of becoming human.  We are entirely distinct from the animal

Human beings are not external to the natural world, our culture is external
to the natural world.  There are many examples of the need for human
biological diversity, immunity to diseases is often found through research
in people whose immune system effectively fights the disease.  That is a
natural process.  We are not then entirely distinct from the animal and
plant world.  We need to pay attention to the ecological balance of the
world, for example in the nature of energy regimes.  Biological diversity
such as different faces are not necessarily important to us, but the whole
human body with it's rich array of chemical adaptations is important.

What we build historically arises out of the natural world.  So that if we
find out how the human brain works, which is probably going to happen within
the next twenty years or so.  I mean much more than the crude general
understanding that has arisen in the last twenty or so years, we still must
observe what it is that brains did for animals over the last 1 billion
years.  We will some day probably be distinct in the sense you say above in
the sense that we do it all.  When we are there and we'll know it more
clearly than it seems now, your point would make some sense to say.  So I
can't see your first point.

Carrol Cox and Philip Ferguson both responded concerning rights:

Marta, I don't want to get into a length argument with you over
this -- primarily because you are mostly correct -- but it is
wrong, very wrong, to include abortion in a list with euthanasia
and infanticide. Both of the latter involve existing humans. The
former does not. But more importantly, and for intensely
practical reasons, it is wrong to inquire into a woman's reasons
for seeking an abortion. Hence it is wrong to speculate about
what correct and incorrect reasons might be.

The right to abortion is incompatible with any inquiry into the
woman's motives.

I'd look at it from a quite different view.  Namely, that of women's right
to abortion.  It isn't a question of some power-that-be genetically testing
all fetuses; it is a question of all women having the right to information
about the fetus they are carrying.  If a woman decides to abort a fetus
because it has a disability, so be it.  It's no-one else's business.

Andy (Andrew Wayne Austin) brings up an issue in abortion that for practical
reasons have to be faced by Marxist.  The general state which we want to
construct must consider whether or not if a significant number of women
decide they do not want female babies that their having abortions based upon
that reason is acceptable to the social system itself.  Where abortions are
aimed at genetic knowledge of a fetus, then the decision is not simply a
private decision because the state is providing the means to know that.
That is what Philip admits to in saying "it is a question of all women
having the right to information about the fetus they are carrying."  The
state has a right to know, and to decide that aborting a child because it is
female is not permitted.  In similar circumstances where ignorance rules
concerning disabilities it is necessary to confront the bigotry and
prejudice that shapes the decision to have an abortion because the fetus is

Where Carrol says that the right to an abortion is incompatible with an
inquiry into a woman's motives, I believe what Carrol refers to is the
slippery slope of losing the right to an abortion.  He can correct me if I
am not understanding.  I can only ask how if a society can decide we don't
want female babies, we don't want gay babies, we don't want babies that get
breast cancer, how we can deal with that?  Much of that sort of knowledge is
based upon scientific prejudice finding what supports their opinion.  If
abortion is decided by a woman without regard to knowledge of the fetus
itself at least the decision would not have the consequence that Philip
advocates which is provide the information that tells a woman my fetus is
"gay" and let her decide to abort it.  That general right to an abortion is
acceptable.  But when a woman is getting genetic testing about the fetus,
then in a broader sense we have a right to decide as a whole system what we
want.  Our social system can decide to end class relationships, our social
system can decide other components of our social system as well.

I have seen Carrol's arguments elsewhere about the right to abortion.  I
will say this as clearly as I can, a woman has a right to an abortion in any
system I can envision, but what must be taken into account is the social
reasons for the act.
Doyle Saylor

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