Sunday, December 15, 2013

If Babies Had Guns....

Taking a stupid idea way too seriously.

So I haven't remarked on the Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) bumper sticker "If babies had guns they wouldn't be aborted", primarily because I refused to believe it wasn't a parody. But for some reason, I felt like actually taking the idea seriously. If babies had guns, would they be less likely to be aborted? I doubt it -- in fact, I think the abortion rate would increase.

We'll analyze the hypothetical under two conditions. Under the first, "more realistic", scenario, the baby lacks the cognitive capacity to understand what a gun is or how to fire it. Under the second scenario, the baby is fully aware of the nature of a gun and how to use it, and of the prospect that the mother could potentially abort it.

Under the first scenario, abortion would become far more attractive. You have floating in your uterus an entity constantly and unknowingly interacting with an active firearm. This is not a comforting thought. I'd be inclined to abort that sucker before it gives a kick and accidentally blows my small intestines out my belly button.

The second scenario is far more interesting. The baby has a gun, the mother has the ability to abort the fetus. Both know of the other's capacity to use lethal force, but neither can know (until it's too late) if such force is actually going to be deployed. And we'll stipulate that each party will survive the use of lethal force against the other (the woman survives the abortion, the fetus can blast its way to freedom).

This scenario is probably one of those modified prisoner's dilemmas (stag hunt, chicken ... I'm too lazy to check which). But think of it this way: you and a partner are locked in separate rooms, without the ability to monitor the other. Each room contains a button which, if pressed, immediately (a) detonates the other room and (b) releases you. If neither of you presses the button for nine months, you'll both be released without harm.

It is possible, to be sure, that both parties will exercise tremendous willpower and not press the button. But the temptation would be very strong. Applied to the abortion context, it probably will just lead to more deaths on one side or the other -- whoever's nerves break first.

So there you ago. If babies had guns, the abortion rate would probably stay the same or go up. Thank you for your patience as I take a stupid idea and take it way too seriously.

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