Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Your Body, My Choice

Pro-lifers take a lot of grief for supporting capital punishment. It goes without saying that there is a very large difference between the murder of an unborn child and the termination of life of a confirmed criminal. Tookie Williams may have been reformed--it is difficult to tell--but he was a murderer. Killing him may not have been a pro-life thing to do, but it is a far cry from abortion. After all, actions have reprucussions, and society would be less just if killers were allowed to roam the streets in a spirit of forgiveness.

In other words, the supposed hypocrisy of the pro-life movement is, if problematic, less of an issue than commonly protrayed. Of course, if we would just lock up all murderers, rapists and child molesters for life, we need not suffer this constant talk about hypocrisy.

Yet, for all this talk concerning pro-life inconsistency, the pro-choice movement suffers from a similar ailment. I should probably clarify that not all pro-choicers fit into the classification that will follow. The two-party system has given rise to a strange and often false dichotomy. Most individuals will not agree with their party on everything. Thus, the pro-choice hypocrisy will only apply to a limited number of leftists.

My home state of Minnesota is considering a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants. While it is good that this issue is being decided by the states, I would have the state decide not to ban tobacco. A brief word from Minnesota Public Radio:

Minnesota could go smoke-free as early as this summer under a proposal to be introduced at the Legislature. A bipartisan group of lawmakers says momentum is building behind a smoking ban that would cover virtually all indoor public spaces. A similar measure failed last year, but several cities and counties have adopted various smoking restrictions that are creating pressure for a uniform statewide standard.

Apparently, counties have adopted conflicting standards for the ban. This may seem to illustrate the problem with local control. For those who set county precedent have realized what anyone with an even amateur understanding in free enterprise knows: if people wish to smoke when they drink, they will smoke when they drink. If Hennepin County wishes to prevent folks from choking down a couple of Marlboro Reds when they have a cold brew, they will travel to Washington County where they can legally indulge in both habits.

There have been a series of poor economic studies claiming that the smoking bans in these local counties has not hurt business. This is rubbish. Anyone with a second grade education know sthat kicking smokers out of bars is going to hurt the bars. By coming up with inconsistent standards, the counties are trying to force a statewide showdown.

This is all a bit of back story. My point was to demonstrate that pro-choicers should support the choice of individuals who are of legal age to smoke. After all, if "my body, my choice" applies to abortion, it should apply here as well. The MPR piece has a surprisingly selfish comment that illustrates the absurdity of the argument of the anti-smoking zealots.

Sarah Morales, 21, is a college student who's making ends meet by waitressing -- but she says the extra money may be taking its toll on her health.

"Unfortunately, because other people choose to make poor and unhealthy choices by smoking, I lose out," Morales says. "And it is my right that I shouldn't have to sacrifice my health in any workplace."

There are three things I would ask Miss Morales, as well as anyone who holds a similar opinion. First, why should you decide who gets to smoke? It makes much more sense that the person who will suffer should make the decision. This is the land of the free, dear, and if a grown man or woman wishes to pollute his or her lungs, sobeit. There is another person--not Morales--who should have a say in this, and that is the proprietor of the restaurant. Legislators forget whose choice is most being run over, and whose livelihood is most harmed by these egregious bans.

Secondly, didn't you know that waitressing in a restaurant would mean an exposure to the always dreaded secondhand smoke? Why would you take the job if you knew it would be unpleasant? Is it perhaps, because the sacrifice is in fact worth it? After all, waitresses make much more than those who work in fast food or at the equally dreaded Wal-Mart. If you wish to avoid secondhand smoke, I suggest you find a new job.

Thirdly, have you read anything about the effects of secondhand smoke? Or do you simply believe the rhetoric that the anti-smoking zealots spew? Secondhand smoke may be unpleasant, but it is not the hazard to health it is often portrayed as. The World Health Organization's website's search function wasn't working, so I got this from a page from some Wisconsin fellows. It's reputable because I've heard this study quoted multiple times from different sources.

The largest study ever made on [secondhand smoking] was conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) extending over 10 years and 7 countries. In October 1998, the results were published, showing no statistical relationship between environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lung cancer. The American media and the anti-smoking zealots has ignored the results of the WHO study choosing to cite the EPA study. This in spite of the fact that the EPA study has been thoroughly debunked by science and legally vacated by a federal judge, it is still regularly quoted by government agencies, charity organizations and the anti-smoking movement as if it were legitimate.

Shocking. Smoking may not be as evil as once thought. For the sake of the argument of the anti-smoking crowd, I will grant that secondhand smoke is a health concern. Yet it needs to be determined just how big a health concern must be in order to allow government intervention. Terrorism, so-called conservatives argue, demands we let go of some civil liberties. Evidently secondhand smoke allows the government to revoke the right to use a legal product. Yet cars kill many more people per year than secondhand smoke. Will there come a day when the government takes away our right to drive to save us from ourselves?

The ban on smoking is tyranical. If cigarettes are that bad, we need to make them altogether illegal. This won't happen because of the tax revenue involved. It's unfortunate that this simple liberty is going by the wayside because we need to protect ourselves. What is even more unfortunate, is that liberals are the culprits in this preposterous scheme. I thought that if anyone understood the danger of giving away liberty, it would be my friends to the left. Evidently the right to smoke is less important than the right to privacy. Is it only the libertarian who considers them the same?


American Lung Association of Minnesota said...

Well, that was....different.

For a VERY different perspective on this issue, I invite you to visit the blog of the American Lung Association of Minnesota.

Bob Moffitt, communications director, ALAMN

troutsky said...

Are you arguing for tyranny (government can say what you do with your own body) or liberty? The government can't tell me to smoke outside but it can tell me to carry my pregnancy to term? The government doesnt have a mandate to protect the general welfare? The EPA study is bunk? You might want to do a little more research.You would be better off arguing God wants us to kill ourselves and others with smoke but finds life precious in most other cases.( with a few exceptions:death penalty, just war,etc)
What technology allows the Lung Association to find you like that?

troutsky said...

Let me try to parse this a little more clearly.The person who kills someone in pre-meditated cold blood gives up his right to life through his own action and the state has the right to protect society (I dont believe in the death penalty but understand the rational).People in a public place have a right to not have their health affected by anothers actions (one cant yell fire in a crowded room, one can't put a toxic waste dump on ones property ).A woman has a right to make medical decisions concerning her own body.

Each of these rights is extended to a POINT where they must be balanced with other,conflicting rights.The killer may get a lesser sentence if there are mitigating circumstances (insanity, incompetance)and his right to life outweighs societies right to protection. It is also decided by degrees if my right to wear cologne, for example,trumps the rights of the one person in a restaurant who might be alergic to it.(of course it does) So it is that the right to life of a fetus is decided by degrees (measured in trimester weeks)and balanced against the womans rights.

In your analysis the fetus gains rights of personhood at the moment of conception because it is your religious view that the soul begins to exist at this moment.Take away the soul argument and we are left with the issue of viability.Established law says your right to exist trumps the womans right to do what she pleases with her own body when you are able to exist independently of her.Prior to that moment you exist at her whim, after that moment she cannot purposfully harm you.Prior to that moment you are not a Separate Individual, you cannot exist separatly,after that moment you are.

Personally, I believe in the soul (though I cannot prove its existence)as I think the vast majority of people do.This is why abortion is a traumatic experience and rarely taken lightly.The law is cold and rational but it must be so.As for the innate value of life, this is a philosophical question with religious dimensions (does human life have extra value? etc)with history again showing us a real disregard.

On the issue of proportionality, even if we call abortion "murder", I consider people who starve to death victims, I consider civilians killed in conflict and crime victims and I consider soldiers (to a lesser degree) victims as well.Their numbers are relativly staggering and my energy towards achieving justice is placed accordingly.Whew.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

I'm not sure about the ALAMN. That's kind of creepy actually.

Nietzsche once wrote that "All truth is simple... is that not doubly a lie?"

He was a bit of a pessimst, but the point can be valid. I struck out in two directions with this post, which is ill-advided.

My points were twofold. First, the alleged hyporcrisy of the right on life issues is at best, unproven. Secondly, the left is acting in an egregious manner when it comes to these smoking bans.

You made the point that, "Each of these rights is extended to a POINT where they must be balanced with other,conflicting rights" which is pretty much the sum of the whole debate. I think I conveyed that, but it may have been covered up in my rant. Thus, I'll recap.

For the sake of the argument of the anti-smoking crowd, I will grant that secondhand smoke is a health concern. Yet it needs to be determined just how big a health concern must be in order to allow government intervention. Terrorism, so-called conservatives argue, demands we let go of some civil liberties. Evidently secondhand smoke allows the government to revoke the right to use a legal product. Yet cars kill many more people per year than secondhand smoke. Will there come a day when the government takes away our right to drive to save us from ourselves?

Secondhand smoke is not good for a person, but does it justify trumping the rights of property owners to decide whether or not a legal product is used in their establishments? Evidently. I still contend that this is inherently anti-choice.

Also, in regards to abortion, I think you are right about my subjectivity. Unfortunately, other than the brain-waves/beating heart argument, the matter is a bit less than a matter of simple truth.

American Lung Association of Minnesota said...

It wasn't "advanced technology" that helped me find your blog, just a simple Google search by a flesh and blood person -- me!

Putting aside tha science behind secondhand smoke for a moment, did you know that workplace smoking bans -- and bars, restaurants and clubs are workplaces for thousands of Minnesotans -- significantly increase the percentage of people who quit?

It's true -- an estimated 100,000 New Yorkers quit after that city went smokefree. The same has happened elsewhere, and it will happen in Minnesota as well.

A point to ponder...

Bob "No Spam!" Moffitt

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Thanks Bob. I'm less creeped out now.

If the goal is to get people to quit, that's fine, but it seems to make more sense to just make the product illegal.

Then again, prohibition and all... I guess I'll have to do some thinking on this.

Still though, aren't we forgeting the owners of the bars and restaurants in all this? We're cutting into their livelihood for the sake of health. In fairness, the same applies to those who perform abortions--that is, if I was able to do away with abortion altogether.

The reason I have no problem doing away with the abortionists livelihood is that the practice of abortion is a large enough health threat because it results in the murder of a child. Secondhand smoke is a health concern, but is it enough of one to justify taking away the right of bar owners to decide if their patrons may indulge in a legal habit?

In other words, what is the standard which allows the government to infringe on personal liberty in the guise of a concern for safety?

It is the same question we are asking on a federal level because of Bush's "spying". We need answers.