Defending the legality of abortion

In this post I will argue on behalf of the legality of abortion. I will consider the issues from the stance of the unborn fetus, the parents, and society. I will also briefly consider the issue of abortion in the case of rape. I will not, however, consider abortion from the perspective of religion. While I am perfectly willing to consider moral arguments from religious texts, I will not give the arguments any special priority simply because they came from the Bible, the Qur’an, or some other religious text. My argument will revolve around rational consideration of human and societal well-being.

From the perspective of the unborn fetus:

There is absolutely no reason to believe that the unborn fetus will experience any sense of loss. Like anyone else, once you’re dead you’re dead (Note: an obvious rebuttal will be, Well then why don’t we just legalize murder? I will address this issue in the section on society). We have no reason to believe that the person will suffer after they die. We cannot disqualify the possibility, but we have no reason to believe such that any suffering will happen. We can be pretty certain, however, that accidental parents will suffer if they are forced to bring an unwanted child into the world. Given that the state of the fetus’ neural development at the time of the first trimester is extremely impoverished, whether it has any conscious experience of the abortion at all seems to be highly doubtful. I’ve heard of pro-life organizations showing video footage of a fetus dodging out of the way of an abortion probe. Even if it were doing this, this is by no means proof of conscious experience. There are plenty of simple forms of life that will reflexively recoil when poked. And even if, for the sake or argument, we assume that the infant is consciously fearful, on what reasonable grounds do we prioritize an infants momentary fear over the 9 months of unwanted pregnancy of the mother, and the disruption to the life of both parents and their families?

The parents’ perspective:

Obviously, the parents do not want the child. The pregnancy was an accident. I have often heard pro-lifers speak against abortion as if they were talking about gambling: if you can’t afford to have a baby, then you can’t afford to have sex. I’ve even heard an analogy to crime be made: Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. I personally do not view child birth as something that should ever be treated as a sort of punishment or a simple consequence of an accident. We have the ability to terminate a pregnancy in a manner that is relatively quick and easy. There is no reason to believe that the infant will experience any sense of loss, but there is every reason to believe that the parents will suffer if unable to terminate the pregnancy. Why would we prioritize potential suffering for which there is no evidence for belief over the completely anticipable and surely real suffering of the parents, among others?

Another point is that of the right to control one’s own body. If the woman does not want this infant, then this infant is an unwanted parasite on the body. It is bringing discomfort, sickness, interfering with the woman’s life, and is very demanding of resources. Why should the woman not be able to defend itself against this? A set of rebuttals to this point may be: Well, why should we have social welfare programs? And, Why shouldn’t wealthy people be able to kill of poorer people whom take in the tax dollars of the wealthy? A few replies. Firstly, we can be confident that poorer people do experience suffering; the same cannot be said of an unborn fetus. Secondly, these poorer people are likely to be a part of social networks, so killing them off also hurts their family, friends, work associates, and so on. An unborn fetus is not a part of any of these social networks. Thirdly, the wealthy depend on the poor. The wealthy need the poor to work in their organizations, to work in society to keep society running, and so on. Fourth, if the wealthy are not going to help protect the health, safety, and so on of the poor, how can they expect the poor to not revolt? Moral considerations run both ways. If the wealthy are going to let the poor waste away with a complete lack of regard for their well-being, the poor can hardly be expected to respect the humanity of those who so callously dehumanize them. More importantly, who would question their desire to defend their health and safety and those of their kin? In my view, morality is first and foremost about people having a genuine respect for the well-being of other sentient agents. We have no reason to believe that early trimester fetuses fall into this category, but we have every reason to believe that accidental parents and the poor do.

From the perspective of society:

Allowing abortion poses no threat to society the way that allowing murder would. When a fetus is aborted, there is no reason to believe that it suffers, that social networks of the fetus will be disrupted (there aren’t any), and risky precedents need not be set by allowing abortion. If we allow the core of ethics to be the genuine respect for the well-being of other sentient agents, what negative consequences would abortion pose? It’s not like it would serve as some sort of justification for murder. Unlike the case of abortion, allowing murder would create a permanent sense of angst in society over the unjustified killing of oneself, one’s kin, and one’s associates. Allowing murder could create an air of angst-ridden societal instability.

The closest thing that abortion brings about to the disruption of social networks is that some people will not want the mother to abort the fetus. Perhaps the grandmother wants a grandchild. Should the mother be obligated to satisfy someone else’s desire for their infant, though? I don’t see why they should.

The rights of the parents and society versus that of the unborn fetus:

When one argues against abortion, they are prioritizing the supposed feelings and rights of the infant over the well-being of the parents and society generally. When someone says that abortion is not allowable, they are saying that the (for all practical purposes) non-existent feelings of the fetus are more important than the real feelings of the parents and society. In a society in which we are able to terminate unwanted pregnancies, if we tell people that abortion is not an option, we are telling them that they will have to accept some unnecessary risk for their sexual behaviour. Why should we do this? Why should we actively oppose people’s ability to have consensual sexual pleasure, and to punish the unlucky people, out of consideration for the (for all practical purposes) non-existent feelings of fetus, and out of consideration for the loss of life that the fetus will never know about anyway? Why should we prioritize unfelt feelings and unexperienced loss over the happiness and freedom from suffering of those who will experience such positive and negative emotional states?

A brief statement on abortion in the case of rape:

Some pro-life proponents are willing to allow for abortion in the case of rape. I personally do not see how they can do this. While it certainly is very unfortunate that a woman has been raped, I hardly see how this affects the fetus’ supposed right to life. Do rape babies deserve any lesser consideration than non-rape babies? It’s not like the baby chose to be the product of rape. It’s not like the baby would feel any less negative affect (e.g., sense of loss) if they were the product of a rape. While I certainly stand on the side of allowing abortion in the case of rape, as I do with simple consensual sex accidental pregnancies, I hardly see how a pro-lifer could make such a distinction.

Final statements:

In choosing to side with or against the legality of abortion, we have a choice. We can prioritize the feelings and experience of loss of those who we have no reason to believe will feel or experience loss, or we can prioritize the feelings and experience of those who we have every reason to believe will experience positive and negative psychological states. This is a forced-choice situation. Society either says yay or nay for the legality of abortion. In such a situation, why would we prioritize an unborn fetus who doesn’t seem to have the capacity for conscious experience or a sense of loss over such considerations as the woman’s ability to control her own body, of people’s ability to engage in enjoyable sexual activity without having the burden of an unnecessary risk, and the like. On what ethical grounds do we prioritize probably non-existent sentience over full-fledged conscious experiencing agents?

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Comments
62 Responses to “Defending the legality of abortion”
  1. Colin says:

    I think that your view can be shown to be an inadequate justification for abortion.

    I will grant for the sake of this argument that:

    1. There is no objective morality. Society decides what is right and wrong.

    2. Religious reasons will be out of bounds.

    3. Rights are granted by society and are not inherent in human nature.

    I assume from your post that:

    1. Society has decided that killing people after they are born is ‘wrong’.

    2. The unborn is genetically/biologically human. (You seem to have a pretty good grasp of how biology works and do not deny that the unborn is genetically human.)

    I will criticize your view from within what I believe to be your view. I apologize if I misrepresent your view.

    ———–

    1. The unborn has no sense of loss or of suffering.
    I will grant your argument that the unborn feels no pain and has no sense of loss. But, I do not think that these points are sufficient to allow us to abort.

    Your argument here is based on the fetus’ *current inability* to feel pain or experience suffering. Certainly, if it were allowed to continue its natural development, it would develop the ability to feel pain and suffer loss. The problem is that the kind of society that you want where there is “genuine respect for the well-being of other sentient agents” should not remove the right to life from an individual who does not currently display the characteristics of sentience (including pain and loss), but who will in the future.

    Imagine (God forbid…no,damn!…hopefully not…) that your mother was tragically in a car accident and in a coma. Doctors are very confident that in a short time, she will regain consciousness and recover completely. She would be in exactly the same position as the fetus that you say can be aborted. She feels no pain and would have no sense of loss if she died. Would it be permissible to kill her? Should she lose her rights as a human?

    It seems that when we are in a deep sleep, or under anaesthetic, or temporarily unconscious, we remain identical to our ‘pre-loss-of-conciousness’ selves and a genuinely respectful society should grant that humans in that state should be granted rights.

    Parental Suffering.

    You say that the parents will suffer loss if they are forced to carry the child to term. While I grant that it is difficult to experience an unwanted pregnancy (My kids are 8 and 10 years old, I had a vasectomy 7 years ago, and my wife is two months pregnant…I understand). A respectful society should not use these facts as grounds to allow abortion.

    I am identical to my 20-year old self. I am the same person that I was 15 years ago. I am also the same person that I was in November of 1973, a month before I was born. There is a continuum of natural development from conception to natural death where the being that begins to exist remains identical to itself throughout its development.

    We would not allow a woman to kill her two-week-old infant because it would cause her financial distress. Why would we allow the same woman to do the same thing to her pre-born fetus (who is the exact same being in a different location)? A respectful society should not permit the killing of anyone who is inconvenient.

    Parental rights.

    “If the woman does not want this infant, then this infant is an unwanted parasite on the body.”

    What if the woman, when she finds out that she is pregnant initially wants to keep the baby, then decides that she does not want the baby, then changes her mind again?

    Does the nature of the being growing inside her change based on her desires? Are not a host and parasite different species? Does the fetus change species at his mother’s change in mind?

    What if a woman has a tape-worm in her uterus and decides that she wants a baby. Does the tape-worm have the ability to change into a human fetus?…certainly not. Yet we seem to have to allow for that in the other direction. This is absurd.

    “It is bringing discomfort, sickness, interfering with the woman’s life, and is very demanding of resources.”

    The same can be said for every infant, toddler, adolescent, teenager. Since these beings are identical to their pre-born selves, there is no justification for aborting a fetus who will become an infant, toddler, adolescent and teenager. A respectful society does not kill infants, toddlers, adolescents or teenagers, nor should it kill fetuses (who are humans at a different stage of development).

    [You then talk about fetal suffering which I have addressed]

    Social networks…there is no reason to say that the fetus is not part of a social network. Its network is very limited, but there is very definite interaction between a mother and her pre-born child. Also, given its natural development, it certainly will develop social networks.

    “The wealthy depend upon the poor” just as society depends upon its young for survival. There is a reason that Japanese politicians are urging women to have more babies. The future of the society is in jeopardy.

    Societal rights…

    More talk about feelings and rights…again, just because the fetus cannot currently feel pain (just like an adult in a deep sleep) does not mean that a respectful society should not grant rights.

    I have no problem with people experiencing sexual pleasure. I do have a problem with people assuming that they don’t have responsibilities related to their choices.

    Our society looks down on ‘dead-beat dads’. We feel that if a man has fathered a child that he has a special responsibility to care for that child, even if it is only monetary. Even if a man unknowingly fathers a child, we hold him responsible. We hold him responsible if he takes precautions and explicitly tells his partner that he does not want a child. Should we not also hold a woman responsible for her child? Should men have the right to choose an abortion for their wives or girlfriends or mistresses? Should a man be able to coerce his girl into an abortion against her will? The child costs him just as much.

    Rape…

    I agree that this is a horribly tragic situation. I do not support abortion in the case of rape. Ron is right, there is no difference between a ‘rape baby’ and a ‘non-rape baby’.

    Abortion in the case of rape is punishing the wrong person.

    I would support abortion in cases where the mother’s life is genuinely at risk and only one of the two can be saved.

    Final statements…

    I disagree that we are forced into a choice. I think that a compassionate society that is genuinely respectful of sentient beings should find solutions that benefit both the mother and the child. We need to do much more as a society to support women who are experiencing difficult pregnancies. We also need to recognize as a society that disqualifying certain individuals in our society from having rights based on their current abilities is not respectful.

  2. Katie Kish says:

    Colin – You’re right, Ron’s post is rabid with assumption – but you make the worst one of all… That a few cells are somehow equal to a human.

    “What if the woman, when she finds out that she is pregnant initially wants to keep the baby, then decides that she does not want the baby, then changes her mind again?

    Does the nature of the being growing inside her change based on her desires? Are not a host and parasite different species? Does the fetus change species at his mother’s change in mind?”

    When I was pregnant I changed my mind a good 18 or 19 times. And yes – it did change from being a good thing in my body to a horrible thing in my body – every single time. But I was allowed this freedom of mind and freedom to choose what I wanted to do with something that would alter my entire life – and that certainly wasn’t any sort of sentient being.

    “Abortion in the case of rape is punishing the wrong person.”

    Making a woman live with her rape for at least 9 months isn’t punishment? Please.

  3. Juanito Epstein says:

    @ Katie Kish

    “Making a woman live with her rape for at least 9 month isn’t punishment? Please?”

    After a rape the bad memories will be with the woman for the rest of her life, aborting the child will not make the victim of rape forget it ever happened to them. Pregnancy is only one of the consequences of rape, remove that consequence and there are still many others. Having abortion will not get rid of the woman’s PTSD or nightmares or other anxieties associated with her rape.

    I am not saying abortion should be illegal, I am just saying this is one of the most naive arguments that could be made. With or without the pregnancy after rape there will be a long time before the woman has healed (and there will most likely always be some residual pain). I don’t accept that the pregnancy will serve as a constant reminder of the rape, since the pain caused will be a constantly in the thoughts of the woman for a long time. Putting the child up for adoption after birth would allow for the happiness of a couple who cannot have children on their own, and while this would only be an n=1 study, I have seen that witnessing the happiness the child brings to another can help with the healing process.

  4. We already acknowledge that children are less than full human beings. They can’t vote, their parents can beat them, they can’t buy cigarettes, porn, or alcohol, etc.

    It’s not a stretch to acknowledge that lumps of cells have even less (none) rights than children. After all, they aren’t children, they are lumps. Parasitic lumps, on top of that. Ultimately, the woman has control over what happens in her body.

  5. Colin says:

    Katie,
    You are making the assumption that the unborn is not human. that it is human is a fact supported by biology (Law of Biogenesis) and philosophy (there are only four differences between the unborn and the new born…size, level of development, environment and degree of dependence…none of which are sufficient to deny rights).

    The nature of the being growing inside you did not change. Only your thoughts towards it changed.

    Disallowing abortion in cases of rape does not punish women, it does not prolong their suffering. They will always remember the experience regardless of whether they kill the child.

    TBM,
    That we protect children from destructive behaviours indicates that we value them as human beings. That we restrict their right to vote indicates that they are immature…a respectful society should not deny rights to those who are immature.

    this ‘lump’ that you speak of…it is an independently growing, genetically distinct, whole being, not a part of a being, but a whole being with everything that it needs to develop naturally into a mature, independently growing, genetically distinct, whole being.

    Parasites are different species from their host. Nice try.

  6. Colin:

    If it’s protection, why are they allowed to be publicly beaten by their parents. That sounds like the opposite of protection. Your not allow to beat a dog after all. It makes it seem like children are less than fully human. We don’t even let them sign contracts.

    Mothers make antibodies against fetuses, as they are foreign organisms. Sometimes, those antibodies can cause harm or even the death of the fetus. I’m going to stick with parasitic as an accurate description. Tapeworms can be quite beneficial, but we don’t argue about killing them.

    On a related note, I think euthanasia should also be legal and that Robert Latimer never should have gone to jail.

  7. Colin says:

    We don’t allow public beatings.

    We don’t allow them to sign contracts because they are immature. That does not disqualify them from the right to life.

    Mothers make antibodies FOR fetuses and in the process confer immunity to many diseases. Can things go wrong…sure, but that does nothing to diminish the humanity of the unborn.

    We kill tape-worms because they ARE parasites and they are NOT human. Even if they could be beneficial.

    We should not kill babies because they CANNOT be a different species, (therefore they cannot be a parasite) and they ARE human, even if they cause inconvenience and temporary illness.

    Your parasite ‘argument’ denies plain science.

  8. http://www.nospank.net/n-h93.htm

    A parking lot is a public place, and a bare bottom spanking of a 5 year old is a beating. Public beating of children is OK. They don’t have the same rights as real people.

    Sure, parasites benefit from their hosts, but mothers also produce antibodies against their fetuses. RH is the most well known case, but there are all kinds of theories these days that suggest mothers antibodies could be have effects on fetuses. In some cases, fetuses actually grow aggressively and kill the mother (parasites do that sometimes).

    Relevant links to be provided.

  9. ronbrown says:

    Responses to Colin:

    “Your argument here is based on the fetus’ *current inability* to feel pain or experience suffering. Certainly, if it were allowed to continue its natural development, it would develop the ability to feel pain and suffer loss. The problem is that the kind of society that you want where there is “genuine respect for the well-being of other sentient agents” should not remove the right to life from an individual who does not currently display the characteristics of sentience (including pain and loss), but who will in the future.” [Okay, but as it stands, they will incur no loss or pain. They will not suffer the decision at all. So why prioritize what they won’t experience over what the parents will experience? I understand your point about how they would have had the ability to feel loss and pain, but at the relevant point in time they do not. Absolutely no suffering is brought on. Why should the mother obligated to go through the 9 months and then the adoption process (or raise the child) when if she was to end it all and save herself from this huge unwanted and unnecessary life disruption, the baby wouldn’t suffer or experience loss anyhow?]

    Imagine (God forbid…no,damn!…hopefully not…) that your mother was tragically in a car accident and in a coma. Doctors are very confident that in a short time, she will regain consciousness and recover completely. She would be in exactly the same position as the fetus that you say can be aborted. She feels no pain and would have no sense of loss if she died. Would it be permissible to kill her? Should she lose her rights as a human? [I agree that there would be no suffering or sense of loss to her. But what about the issue of social networks? But what if she was a part of no social networks, you might ask. In this case, one might actually be able to make a good parallel argument for how it would be okay to let her go. If she is not going to suffer or experience any loss, and no one is going to be hurt by her being gone, then if she is currently taking up healthcare resources it could be defensible to let her die. I specify healthcare resources for a reason. If healthcare resources are being used, then observers have a stake in her being alive—her being alive is dependent on their allocation of scarce resources to her as opposed to others (e.g., people who are currently experiencing pain, people with social networks that would be affected should they die). However, it would be very impractical to go around and find out if every person in a coma is a part of a social network (and in most cases, they will be). So, for the sake of practicality, I would stand against allowing the comatose person die because chances are that their death will be suffered. In the case of abortion though, there aren’t social networks.
    I expect that a lot of people will disagree with this position, so I expect this point to be the subject of further discussion.]

    Parental Suffering.

    You say that the parents will suffer loss if they are forced to carry the child to term. While I grant that it is difficult to experience an unwanted pregnancy (My kids are 8 and 10 years old, I had a vasectomy 7 years ago, and my wife is two months pregnant…I understand). A respectful society should not use these facts as grounds to allow abortion.
    [Why not, though? Why prioritize that which will not suffer or experience loss over those that will?]

    I am identical to my 20-year old self. I am the same person that I was 15 years ago. I am also the same person that I was in November of 1973, a month before I was born. There is a continuum of natural development from conception to natural death where the being that begins to exist remains identical to itself throughout its development.
    [Well, I don’t agree with this. I’d hardly call a 35 year old identical to the zygote that gave rise to him. The genetic material may be the same, but that’s it. There’s no reason to believe that you had consciousness, desires, fears, love, loved ones, responsibilities, or anything of the sort prior to your birth.]

    We would not allow a woman to kill her two-week-old infant because it would cause her financial distress. Why would we allow the same woman to do the same thing to her pre-born fetus (who is the exact same being in a different location)? A respectful society should not permit the killing of anyone who is inconvenient.
    [That’s not a bad point. I’m going to say here that really, to a large degree, I think what is happening here is that I and you (and other people on either side of this issue) to a large degree are being guided in our decisions on this by underground emotions, and are using reason to back us up. In this particular argument, I could say that if the child is not a part of any social networks and the procedure could be done in a way that made any pain extremely brief, then why not? No experience of loss, little-to-no pain, and no disruption to the feeling of safety of others in a society that allows this. The cap for maximum age of a relatively painless procedure for death would be very soon after birth. Why? Because the infant would have to be socially unattached and unable to live in fear of being killed. If the infant was capable of fear of being killed and such a thing were allowable, we’d be allowing for a society which allows infants to be fearful. However, the max age would have to be lower than the beginning of understanding of death because if it wasn’t, then a system may be created whereby people who are unsure if they want to keep their child will willfully keep the child away from others so that the child doesn’t become socially attached, thereby foregoing the option of the killing.

    Now, surely, all of this may well sound quite bad. But what would be bad about such an arrangement where, say up until the first few weeks or so after birth, a child with no socially attachment beyond the caregiver could be killed an manner that was quick and painless (or very nearly painless)?

    Actually, scratch all that. A better idea for post-birth would be to say that the mother no longer has a claim to decide upon the infant’s life as the infant need not any longer depend on her. At this point, if the mother does not want the infant, their recourse may be to take it to an adoption agency. There are people who want to adopt, the mother has no claim to decide on the infant anymore, so this route seems better.]

    Parental rights.

    ““If the woman does not want this infant, then this infant is an unwanted parasite on the body.”

    What if the woman, when she finds out that she is pregnant initially wants to keep the baby, then decides that she does not want the baby, then changes her mind again?

    Does the nature of the being growing inside her change based on her desires? Are not a host and parasite different species? Does the fetus change species at his mother’s change in mind?”

    [The relevant factor, as I see it, is not the issue of species, but the issue of an unwanted entity in the body that is interfering with the mother’s life. I am indifferent to the fetus not changing as a function of the mother’s desire. The infant is unwanted, there is no reason to believe that it will suffer any loss or pain, and the mother is able to remove this unwanted life-interference. I don’t see how prioritizing an infant that cannot experience loss or pain over the mother, who can experience both, is warranted.]

    “What if a woman has a tape-worm in her uterus and decides that she wants a baby. Does the tape-worm have the ability to change into a human fetus?…certainly not. Yet we seem to have to allow for that in the other direction. This is absurd.” [I agree that it’s absurd, but not for the reason that you do.]

    ““It is bringing discomfort, sickness, interfering with the woman’s life, and is very demanding of resources.”

    The same can be said for every infant, toddler, adolescent, teenager. Since these beings are identical to their pre-born selves, there is no justification for aborting a fetus who will become an infant, toddler, adolescent and teenager. A respectful society does not kill infants, toddlers, adolescents or teenagers, nor should it kill fetuses (who are humans at a different stage of development).”
    [There is no reason to say that these older individuals are the same as the fetus. The only similarity is genetics. There are plenty of differences. These older classes are socially attached, and beyond toddlers are capable of fear. Why create a society which enables such fear of death? Neither of these considerations are true of the fetus. So, in the case of the fetus, there is no loss or pain to be felt. For toddlers and above, there is social attachment (which is felt both ways—by the young child and by those attached to it) and soon enough, the possibility of fear.]

    “Social networks…there is no reason to say that the fetus is not part of a social network. Its network is very limited, but there is very definite interaction between a mother and her pre-born child. Also, given its natural development, it certainly will develop social networks.” [But the mother is the one choosing. Moreover, I am not concerned with what will happen in the future. The fact is that at the time of potential abortion, we have the option of favouring real feelings or feelings that aren’t real, but that could later be real, but won’t be affected if we end the life now. I don’t see why we are prioritizing non-suffering over suffering. The non-sufferer never has to suffer. The sufferer does. Why be so incompassionate?]

    ““The wealthy depend upon the poor” just as society depends upon its young for survival. There is a reason that Japanese politicians are urging women to have more babies. The future of the society is in jeopardy.”
    [Why should an individual set of copulators who accidentally conceive be obligated to help generate these needed future generations? Secondly, the world is quickly approaching overpopulation. If we need young people, perhaps immigration of people who would love to come to a country like Japan would be a better option than forcing the birth of infants to unwanting parents.]

    “Societal rights…

    More talk about feelings and rights…again, just because the fetus cannot currently feel pain (just like an adult in a deep sleep) does not mean that a respectful society should not grant rights.” [But society should prioritize the non-existent feelings of that which cannot feel over that which can? If you stand against abortion, you’re basically saying that you care more about the infant than you do about the mother and father, even though the mother and father will feel the consequences of the decision and the infant won’t. This seems to me to be very uncompassionate. In a forced-decision situation, why favour no-suffering (that would be followed by consciousness if there is no abortion) over suffering?]

    “Our society looks down on ‘dead-beat dads’. We feel that if a man has fathered a child that he has a special responsibility to care for that child, even if it is only monetary. Even if a man unknowingly fathers a child, we hold him responsible. We hold him responsible if he takes precautions and explicitly tells his partner that he does not want a child. Should we not also hold a woman responsible for her child? Should men have the right to choose an abortion for their wives or girlfriends or mistresses? Should a man be able to coerce his girl into an abortion against her will? The child costs him just as much.”
    [This is another set of issues—though it is surely related. This is the issue of who gets to decide on the abortion, whether the man is financially responsible if he doesn’t want the baby, and so on. If possible, I’d prefer to stay clear of this here in that it’s just another discussion in and of itself. If you will allow it, can we for the sake of this discussion assume that both parents want the abortion? I’m not trying to avoid anything here, but this will result in a whole other set of issues.]

    “I disagree that we are forced into a choice. I think that a compassionate society that is genuinely respectful of sentient beings should find solutions that benefit both the mother and the child. We need to do much more as a society to support women who are experiencing difficult pregnancies. We also need to recognize as a society that disqualifying certain individuals in our society from having rights based on their current abilities is not respectful.”
    [But we are forced into a choice. Either abortion is allowable or it isn’t. Either we favour the desire of the mother or the non-existent but potential sentience of the potential infant. Surely, I would support programs geared at making things easier on pregnant mothers. But there is still the forced choice.]

  10. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    The fetus is only human in terms of its genetics. Genetics is hardly what matters in terms of morality, I would argue. If genetics were what mattered, then we might treat corpses and scabs as being worthy of human rights because they both contain the genetics. Now, of course, neither of these will develop later on into moral agents, but the fetuses aren’t moral agents now. So why prioritize non-suffering and non-loss over that of those who will suffer and lose. By abortion, we stop the possibility of pain and feeling of loss.

    I would argue that the root of our considerations should be the well-being of sentient agents. We should work to promote policies that promote well-being of sentient agents, and work against policies that promote suffering. Our considerations should not be based on genetics or yet-to-be-realized-sentience, but on promoting wellness. Now, this of course, is not easy to do. There are lots of scenarios in which we are pitting one set of interests against another, but in the case of abortion, I can’t favour the favouring of non-suffering over suffering.

  11. http://harvardmagazine.com/2006/09/prenatal-competition.html
    http://www.nlu.edu/~palmer/Mother.htm

    There are two examples of the competition for resources which occur during pregnancy. There are times when pregnancies end spontaneously due to factors like this. What’s wrong with making a conscious choice to do the same thing?

    If I had something growing in me that I didn’t want, I’d get rid of it.

  12. Colin says:

    The way I understand your position is that the primary reasons that you allow abortion is that the fetus would feel no sense of loss, is unable to suffer and has no social network.

    The problem with that reasoning is that it allows us to kill a whole host of other people who fall into the same category.

    Does a sleeping recluse have a right to life?

    He is not aware of any pain of suffering and would not experience loss with a quick painless death, he also has no social network. I think that this individual would indeed have a right to life in a respectful society.

    I do not dispute the lack of pain and loss on the part of the fetus. My point is that this fact is not sufficient to disqualify the fetus from the right to life.

    I do not dispute that the parents will be inconvenienced, possibly harmed. But that is not sufficient to deny fetal rights.

    In order to deny human rights to the fetus, you must show that the fetus is not human. There is no such thing as an innocent human that should not be given rights.

    I don’t think that we need to frame the discussion in terms of prioritizing rights. We need to maximize the compassion shown to all members of the human race.

    In order to disqualify the fetus from the human race, you have to show that the fetus is not human (which is in direct contravention of the law of biogenisis), you also have to show that the fetus is actually something else that ‘becomes’ human at birth…(bio-alchemy anyone?)

    The fetus is a whole, self-integrated, self- directed human organism with the inherent capability of sentience (although sentience is currently latent). Possessing latent abilities should not disqualify anyone from the right to life.

    The key question is “What is the unborn?”

    Imagine you are doing dishes at your sink and your niece comes into the kitchen behind you and asks “Uncle Ron, can I kill this?” Would your first question not be something close to “What is it?” If it is a spider, then yes. If it is your sister, then no.

  13. Early on, the unborn is a lump of goo, at some point it becomes a baby with limited rights and eventually and adult with full rights.

    There are times when its obvious what category the fetus belongs to. In the beginning it’s a lump, at the very end it’s a baby. Somewhere i the middle, the transition occurs. When in doubt, err on the side of the rights of the mother, there is no doubt on which side of the line she stands.

  14. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    My rebuttal against being able to kill the sleeping recluse:

    Firstly, to allow one to kill a sleeping recluse without legal consequences would result in the establishment of a society in which one could not become a sleeping recluse and be safe. Secondly, what legitimate claim would the killer have to the recluse’s life? In the case of the abortion, the aborter is the one that is potentially giving the person their life in the first place, and the fetus is re-directing the course of the pregnant mother’s body and life (as well as the lives of others).

    My considerations of well-being and suffering apply more broadly than simply to the fetus and the mother. In considering any moral argument, I also consider the effects of prospective policies on society.

    Really, the core of our difference seems to be a divergence in fundamental axioms. I prioritize well-being and suffering most highly, whereas you attach the highest value to human life, over and above considerations of well-being and suffering. Clearly, you do value well-being and suffering, but you value human life itself more so.

    I’m not sure if we’ll be able to reconcile here. But I’m definitely in favour of continuing the discussion, giving counter-cases and so on.

    I have to say, this is by far the best discussion you and I have ever had.

  15. BD says:

    Americans, feel so differently than Europeans to the pro-life, abortion issue.

    I’ll be back here…

  16. Stoobs says:

    A fetus is not even an animal. A cow is capable of suffering pain and fearing death in a way that a fetus is not. People have no problem with killing a cow because it provides them with a better life. Hell, I have no problem with killing a cow, as long as it’s done reasonably humanely (which, sadly, it usually isn’t.)

    A fetus is not just less than a cow, it’s less than an ant or snail. They at least are capable of aversive reactions. A fetus is about on the level of an acorn.

    If a woman changes her mind, that’s her prerogative. If she has an abortion and changes her mind after, well, that’s her problem. The law isn’t there to protect people from the bad consequences of their own actions, its there to protect us from the negative consequences of other people’s actions. I’ve made many foolish decisions in my life, some of which I would certainly change if I could go back and do things over. Does that mean that the law should have barred me from making those decisions? I should hope not.

    The woman in a coma is not a good analogy for abortion. A better analogy would be if you were to bang your head and lose consciousness, and wake up to discover that someone has hooked a comatose woman up to you, using your body as a life support system, without your consent, as a result of an accident. You are able to continue to live your life, as long as you wheel the comatose woman around with you in her wheelchair, and can put up with the discomfort and nausea that you suffer due to the extra strain on your organs.

    Of course, for the analogy to be perfect, the woman in the coma must have no social connections whatsoever, nothing invested in her life, and require you to care for her and support her for the next 18 years after she recovers from the coma, despite the fact that you never wanted to have anything to do with her in the first place, but just got involved through bad luck.

  17. Colin says:

    Stoobs…some embryology for you as you seem to be confused.

    “The question came up of what is an embryo, when does an embryo exist, when does it occur. I think, as you know, that in development, life is a continuum…. But I think one of the useful definitions that has come out, especially from Germany, has been the stage at which these two nuclei [from sperm and egg] come together and the membranes between the two break down.”
    [Jonathan Van Blerkom of University of Colorado, expert witness on human embryology before the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel — Panel Transcript, February 2, 1994, p. 63]

    “Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression ‘fertilized ovum’ refers to the zygote.”
    [Moore, Keith L. and Persaud, T.V.N. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993, p. 1]

    “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).
    “Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being.”
    [Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]

    “The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”
    [Langman, Jan. Medical Embryology. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975, p. 3]

    “Embryo: The developing individual between the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism…. At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun…. The term embryo covers the several stages of early development from conception to the ninth or tenth week of life.”
    [Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943]

    “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
    [O’Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12}]

    “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
    [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

  18. Colin:

    Rights are social constructions, they are not inherent in anyone or anything. We do not confer rights on small groups of cells in our society, plain and simple. Full grown women, on the other hand, are free to do with their bodies what they choose.

    No one should have to put up with a foreign being in their own body, competing for nutritional resources to the point where it can at times cause permanent health effects. On top of that, the psychological effects of an unwanted pregnancy make the idea of denying an abortion completely inhumane. Or is torturing women OK?

  19. Colin says:

    Ron,

    “Firstly, to allow one to kill a sleeping recluse without legal consequences would result in the establishment of a society in which one could not become a sleeping recluse and be safe.”
    [Is there any reason that this shouldn’t apply to a fetus? A fetus is certainly not safe in the womb of a distraught woman. Your criteria of pain, loss and social networks are still not enough to disqualify a fetus from the right to life.]

    “Secondly, what legitimate claim would the killer have to the recluse’s life? In the case of the abortion, the aborter is the one that is potentially giving the person their life in the first place, and the fetus is re-directing the course of the pregnant mother’s body and life (as well as the lives of others).”

    [I would ask the same of the unborn. The only differences between a fetus and a toddler/adolescent/teenager/adult are size, level of development, environment and degree of dependence. None of these differences are morally relevant. We don’t give parents the right to kill their toddlers just because they are causing financial distress, illness, career adjustments, or melancholy. However, if the mother’s life is truly and immediately in danger and only one of the two can be saved, abortion would be justified to save the one that can be saved.]

    I don’t think that either of your points make a relevant distinction between a fetus and a sleeping recluse. Maybe I missed something.

    You make an interesting point about our axioms…

    The relationship between life, suffering and well-being is a big question.

    I would say initially that I do value human life and strive to promote wellness among my family and my students. However, I do not think that suffering is always a bad thing. I do not think that it should be permissible to cause another innocent human to suffer. But sometimes we suffer for any number of reasons, and while suffering sucks in the midst of it, I have found that such times make me a better person. So I think that there is value in suffering. Suffering itself is not good. Becoming a better person through suffering is good.

    Suffering is also pretty subjective. One person may find a certain situation to be causing suffering, another (or the same person in a better mindset) may find the same situation to be enjoyable.

    In the case of abortion, we should not seek to cause suffering. To me that means that we give the fetus the benefit of the doubt. We do not cause the mother to suffer by not allowing abortion. Assuming that the child was conceived through consensual sex, the ‘suffering’ of the woman was arguably caused by her having sex.

    It also means that even if the woman finds the pregnancy to be overwhelming and the cause of suffering, she should not automatically assume that the difficulties she faces are always going to be negative in her life. Perhaps having an abortion is a short-sighted solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. Perhaps giving birth would be difficult but would lead to tremendous good.

    This is something that I will have to think about…

  20. Assuming that the child was conceived through consensual sex, the ’suffering’ of the woman was arguably caused by her having sex.

    And if a careless construction worker drops a palette of bricks on me, my death would arguably be caused by my decision to take a walk that day.

    What a clear case of misdirection and a horrible attempt to suggest that women who have sex deserve whatever the consequences to their health and life are afterwards. That is perhaps one of the most hateful attitudes I have ever seen.

  21. Colin’s last post exposes the kind of hateful thinking that is disguised as “pro-life”. The simple fact is, it doesn’t matter at all how a woman becomes pregnant, the only thing that is material is whether a woman wants to be pregnant. Lumps of cells, regardless of their DNA, do not have rights. Rights are granted by society, and grown women have the right to do as they please with their bodies.

    This kind of thinking, that she willingly had sex so she is morally obligated to live with whatever consequences follow, is the same bigotry that blames rape victims because they wore provocative clothes and leads to fathers strangling 16 year old Moslem girls who won’t wear the head gear. It is plain and simple hatred of women.

    No woman takes abortion lightly. I have a great deal of respect for both women and doctors, and those are the only people who need to be a part of the decision process. Women are capable of choosing what’s best for them and doctors know the ethical limits of what they are capable of. Leave them alone.

  22. Stoobs says:

    I don’t see the relevance of your quotes. I accept that an embryo or zygote is alive. So is an acorn. So is pond scum. Is it a life worth protecting, however? Not in my books. When brain development is sufficiently advanced for the fetus to plausibly feel pain or fear, then it is as deserving of protection from pain and fear as any other animal. When it can talk, then I consider it a human being.

  23. Colin says:

    Stoobs,

    So infanticide is ok until about two years old when most kids learn to talk?

    I have already shown that latent abilities should not disqualify a fetus from rights.

    TBM…

    Hateful shmateful…speaking of shameless redirection.

    When someone goes for a walk, the logical consequence is that they become more healthy. The bricks are totally unrelated.

    When someone dresses provocatively, they should expect to be treated with respect and dignity. I would never excuse a rapist based on the woman’s attire.

    When two people have sex, a logical consequence is that pregnancy may occur. Sexual reproduction evolved (assuming you are right about our origins), not for our pleasure, but for the propagation of the species. When someone has sex, they should expect pregnancy to occur and they should then take responsibility for their actions.

    If nobody was willing to take responsibility for their actions, our society would crumble.

    This really isn’t a difficult concept.

  24. Sexual reproduction evolved (assuming you are right about our origins), not for our pleasure, but for the propagation of the species.

    We are hardly limited to our purely biological function. We also evolved brains, language, intelligence and the capacity to decide things for ourselves. We observe other species engaging in mutual sexual gratification that has no chance of resulting in pregnancy (Bonobos), why shouldn’t humans do the same.

    An abortion is ultimately an act of a woman taking responsibility for her own life, deciding if and when she will become a mother. That really shouldn’t be a difficult concept.

    Interestingly enough, the lowest abortion rates are found where it is safe and legal and meaningful sex education is provided. Why do Christians propose ignorance and intolerance as a solution?

  25. Colin says:

    “We are hardly limited to our purely biological function. We also evolved brains, language, intelligence and the capacity to decide things for ourselves.”

    Ok, you are right. But there is still the fact that sexual intercourse does have the function of propagating the species. Possibly it evolved to be pleasurable so that we would have incentive to copulate and reproduce.

    the woman who aborts is taking responsibility for only her own desires (except in cases where her life is in danger), she is abandoning her responsibility to her child.

    As I mentioned before, we hold men responsible for their children, even when it is inconvenient and they do not want them. We ought to do the same for women.

    If the practice is inequitable where men get off a little easier, then we need to take steps to ensure that women are supported AND children are respected.

    That is what a compassionate society should do.

  26. Because of course, women have had it so easy throughout history that one more thing in their favour is just too much. Sure, that makes complete sense.

    Has it occurred to you that making the decision to abort and actually having the abortion are alaready a bit of a burden. Why would you intentionally take a bad situation and insist that it must be made worse, despite the fact that there is an option to do otherwise. Let’s bring more children into the world whose mother’s don’t want them. Brilliant idea.

    You seem attached to some fictitious idea of design or “telos”. The notion of emergence and natural selection is that organisms can evolve in ways, which in new contexts have new and unpredictable uses. Sexual pleasure might have increased the likelihood of reproduction, so what? Now it might serve and unexpected social purpose, it might help forge relationships, contribute to personal wellbeing, even serve to stimulate the economy. Who knows? Get over the idea that we are bound by some fictitious purpose or design.

    Humans make up their own purpose as they go along, they decide on their own ethical standards as they go along. Trying to impose needless burdens on people strikes me as needlessly cruel and trying to justify it by appealing to god or biology is just silly.

  27. ronbrown says:

    Response to Colin:
    ““Firstly, to allow one to kill a sleeping recluse without legal consequences would result in the establishment of a society in which one could not become a sleeping recluse and be safe.”
    [Is there any reason that this shouldn’t apply to a fetus? A fetus is certainly not safe in the womb of a distraught woman. Your criteria of pain, loss and social networks are still not enough to disqualify a fetus from the right to life.]”

    [The difference is that legalizing abortion does not create a culture of fear. That is bad for society. There is no culture of fear created by allowing abortion, as the aborted fetus isn’t even capable of such fear or knowledge of the possibility of being aborted.]

    ““Secondly, what legitimate claim would the killer have to the recluse’s life? In the case of the abortion, the aborter is the one that is potentially giving the person their life in the first place, and the fetus is re-directing the course of the pregnant mother’s body and life (as well as the lives of others).”

    [I would ask the same of the unborn. The only differences between a fetus and a toddler/adolescent/teenager/adult are size, level of development, environment and degree of dependence. None of these differences are morally relevant. We don’t give parents the right to kill their toddlers just because they are causing financial distress, illness, career adjustments, or melancholy. However, if the mother’s life is truly and immediately in danger and only one of the two can be saved, abortion would be justified to save the one that can be saved.]”
    [You’re considering this argument in isolation. If you consider all the points I made at once, you can find counterarguments for allowing most of these other types of killing. I’ve already gone through arguments against killing toddlers and all those whom are older than toddlers. The only possible area I left for post-birth killing is during the first few weeks of life outside of the womb, and even in this case I suggested that the better option is to simply offer the baby up for adoption.]

    “I do not think that suffering is always a bad thing. I do not think that it should be permissible to cause another innocent human to suffer. But sometimes we suffer for any number of reasons, and while suffering sucks in the midst of it, I have found that such times make me a better person. So I think that there is value in suffering. Suffering itself is not good. Becoming a better person through suffering is good.” [Very well, but this isn’t really an argument for forcing suffering on unwanting parents]

    “Suffering is also pretty subjective. One person may find a certain situation to be causing suffering, another (or the same person in a better mindset) may find the same situation to be enjoyable.” [Okay, but then one of these people will have the abortion and the other won’t]

    “In the case of abortion, we should not seek to cause suffering. To me that means that we give the fetus the benefit of the doubt. We do not cause the mother to suffer by not allowing abortion. Assuming that the child was conceived through consensual sex, the ’suffering’ of the woman was arguably caused by her having sex.” [And if we live in a culture in which we ban abortion, we increase suffering for everyone because now they have to live a life in which they have to worry about unnecessary unwanted consequences of sex. Why oppress ourselves like this? We have the ability to take the risk of unwanted child birth away while causing no pain or suffering of loss to the infant. Further, whether one has an abortion or abstains from sex, either way the potential life is not going to be lived. Either way we’re removing the possibility of life. Why not remove it in a way that allows those who are already alive to live more enjoyable and choice-driven lives while causing no discernible pain or suffering to a fetus? This is another reason why banning abortion prioritizes the non-suffering of the fetus over society.]

    “It also means that even if the woman finds the pregnancy to be overwhelming and the cause of suffering, she should not automatically assume that the difficulties she faces are always going to be negative in her life. Perhaps having an abortion is a short-sighted solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. Perhaps giving birth would be difficult but would lead to tremendous good.” [Perhaps, but this doesn’t mean that the woman should not be allowed to have the abortion. There are lots of decisions people can make that could be good or bad for them in the long run. Part of living in a free society is allowing people to make their own choices. We can provide advice, but we can’t force their hand. And why prioritize the situations in which abortion will later come to be regreted over those in which the person will continue to be in favour with their decision? And why prioritize the cases in which abortion would be regreted over those who would wish they could have an abortion but can’t?]

  28. ronbrown says:

    TBM: I don’t think Colin is being hateful. I do think he’s prioritizing the fetus over the mother and everyone else, but I don’t think he’s being hateful. In his mind, the right to life of the fetus that will never know of any loss or feel any pain trumps the right to avoid suffering by the parents and society. I disagree with his assessment, but I don’t think there is any hate involved. Likewise, neither you or I are hateful of unwanted fetuses.]

    Colin: “When two people have sex, a logical consequence is that pregnancy may occur. Sexual reproduction evolved (assuming you are right about our origins), not for our pleasure, but for the propagation of the species. When someone has sex, they should expect pregnancy to occur and they should then take responsibility for their actions.” [This is a naturalistic fallacy.]

  29. Call it what you want. When he compares the financial obligation that we impose on men to the burden of pregnancy, birth, and lifelong commitment that an unwanted child poses for the mother, I don’t find that to be a respectful statement. Choose your own adjective, but when you blame someone for their own problems while denying them a safe and effective solution, you are not spreading love.

    We do not cause the mother to suffer by not allowing abortion. Assuming that the child was conceived through consensual sex, the ’suffering’ of the woman was arguably caused by her having sex.

    Assuming that a person gambles their money away, we should let her starve because it’s the natural consequence of being broke. Intervening would fail to teach them a lesson. Their suffering is good for them.

    Wasn’t it Jesus that said something about forgiveness?

  30. Colin says:

    TBM…If you read my post carefully I specifically stated that as a society we need to do more for pregnant women to support them during difficulties. I would never condone leaving someone on their own to deal with their issues, whatever the issues may be.

    I have never ‘blamed’ anyone. I have simply said that people need to take responsibility for their actions.

    TBM, you are chronically disingenuous, you have repeatedly shown that you are unable or unwilling to actually read and understand my posts.

    Forgiveness does not remove the consequences of a person’s actions.

    The “But Jesus would forgive.” argument is silly because it leaves us with absolutely no recourse for misbehaviour.

    -we can’t allow capital punishment because Jesus would forgive.
    -we can’t allow imprisonment because…
    -we can’t allow fines…
    -we can’t allow a slap on the wrist…

  31. You are equating an accidental pregnancy with a crime. The consequences of an accidental pregnancy are only what is forced on a woman who is forbidden to make the choice she wants.

    We don’t lock up murderers for their own good, we do it for our safety.

  32. Colin says:

    I didn’t intend to equate a pregnancy with a crime and I can see how you got that from the structure of my post.

    I don’t see a need for forgiveness when someone is accidentally pregnant…unless maybe one of the two was deceitful.

    the ‘forgiveness’ comments apply to criminals, not pregnant women. sorry for the confusion.

  33. Colin says:

    Should women be allowed to drink alcohol during pregnancy? Would it be reasonable for a woman, knowing that she is pregnant and knowing the considerable risk of FAS, to binge drink while pregnant?

  34. ronbrown says:

    Colin: I think you and I will share the same opinion on that: no. Why? Because she is knowingly choosing to do something will very possibly bring suffering onto the developing being and society. What she is doing will decrease its ability to function effectively, will invite negative differential treatment from others, and likely result in the being being highly dependent on society for life needs.

    None of these effects would result in the case of abortion, however.

  35. Colin says:

    I thought we might agree. But I say that she would be wrong to do so because it harms her child.

    For further thought…

    David Boonin, in his book “A Defense of Abortion” begins with this passage:

    “On the desk in my office where most of this book was written and revised, there are several pictures of my son, Eli. In one, he is gleefully dancing on the sand along the Gulf of Mexico, the cool ocean breeze wreaking havoc with his wispy hair . . . .In the top drawer of my desk, I keep another picture of Eli. The picture was taken September 7, 1993, 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clearly enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended toward the mouth. **There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows the same little boy at a very early stage in his physical development.** And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point. (pp. xiii, xiv)

    It is obvious that the harm done to the fetus persists after birth. (As an aside…how could that be if they are different entities as assumed by the ‘its not a human’ argument?)

    Is not the greater wrong the intentional harming that causes the suffering of an innocent human being as opposed to ‘harm’ (financial) to society?

    You say that none of these effects would result in abortion…I disagree.

    “What she is doing will decrease its ability to function effectively”…abortion will eliminate its ability to function.

    “will invite negative differential treatment from others”…abortion is the ultimate in ‘negative differential treatment’.

    “and likely result in the being being highly dependent on society for life needs.” …well that one would be taken care of.

  36. Potentiality does not equal actuality. The simple undeniable fact is that there are no inherent rights, especially the right to exist. These rights are granted by society.

    Few doctors would perform a late term abortion unless the life of the mother was in immediate jeopardy. Once a fetus is viable outside the womb, it’s not likely to be aborted except in extreme circumstances.

    It’s also undeniable that the fetus is a foreign body which competes with the mother and has potential long term health effects. There are times when the mother’s body spontaneously aborts the fetus (miscarriage) because it’s not in her best interest to carry it. Yet, you would deny her the choice to do something her body does for itself. Is her conscious desire to preserve her well being not as valid?

    Women have been aborting pregnancies since ancient times. It’s really only in the last few hundred years that it has become a significant legla issue. Apparently the church didn’t object til about 150 years ago. Did they just recently figure out where babies come from? More likely it was part of some political struggle, begun when women started to demand more rights. What right is more fundamental than the right to one’s own body?

    A lump of cells that does not feel or experience or understand does not constitute a human being. It does not have rights on the same scale as the mother. Similarly, we have declared that it’s ok for parents to publicly beat a 5 year old in Macdonald’s parking lot. Children are not regarded as full persons and fetuses are not fully children. You can point to some middle ground where it is hard to decide, but that doesn’t mean it is hard to decide in the beginning. It’s not a child it has no rights.

    Of course I’d rather women who intend to follow through with a pregnancy take care of their health and that of the future child. But, if it never becomes a child, i don’t care. That’s not my decision to make. It’s between a woman and her doctor.

    Your argument starts with “I think it should be so” and seeks justification. The problem is that it isn’t so, it never has been, and it won’t be. Fetuses aren’t persons by any measure because “person” is a social concept and fetuses don’t get out that much.

  37. Wow! Reading the responses of the two of you (ron and tbm) is chilling. You two are some of the the coldest, most dispassionate people around. Right in the mold of secular, humanistic, evolutionists. It’s a good thing for you that neither of your mom’s wanted to get rid of the disgusting parasites that clung to their uterus like a cancer! But in your thinking you were one of the survivors. Those on the evolutionary journey who now command the upper hand. Like Hitler and Stalin (evolutionists) you desire to cleanse the humen race of all parasites. Right now it is the fetus (of which you were one), next the elderly (of which you may become) and then anyone who might be somewhat incognizant (which might happen to you) that your evolutionists will want to destroy. It is the natural progression of your thinking and where it will go. Those in power, the elitists, will determine life and death for everyone (Hitler, Stalin). This is where your worldview will take us. It might not be you personnally, but with time this will happen, if more people start thinking like you. I wouldn’t want to be one of your next of kin because if anything happened to me you might be at my bedside sticking the needle in my arm to get rid of me. Ron, you’re a 25 year old kid who thinks of himself as all knowing. Your in the mold of the Greek intellectuals who sat around and spouted off, the elitists of their day, thinking of themselves as better than everyone else.

  38. Stoobs says:

    Another thing worth taking account of is that the Earth is already overpopulated. The simple fact is, every child that is born today is going to be competing for an ever-shrinking pool of resources. Every child born makes the lives of every other child that little bit worse. Individually, the impact is negligible, but the cumulative impact is massive. Every aborted child means a better chance for the ones who are born to live decent lives. Anything which helps reduce this problem helps, and allowing women who don’t want a child to not have one accomplishes this without doing any harm to anyone.

    Since no one will accept mandated limits on reproduction, and no one will accept killing people who are already around to lower the population (I can’t say I blame them on that last one,) any time someone voluntarily avoids reproduction it is a good thing, and if anything they should be rewarded, not punished. If anything, it’s the women who choose to give birth and then put the child up for adoption who need punishing.

  39. ronbrown says:

    Dave Anderson:

    “Wow! Reading the responses of the two of you (ron and tbm) is chilling. You two are some of the the coldest, most dispassionate people around [How am I cold? I think, in fact, that I’m very warm. In this particular discussion I am favouring the well-being and freedom from suffering of those who will experience such things (parents and society) over fetuses, which will not experience any pain or sense of loss. I am standing up for compassionate policy. How is this chilling?]. Right in the mold of secular, humanistic, evolutionists. It’s a good thing for you that neither of your mom’s wanted to get rid of the disgusting parasites that clung to their uterus like a cancer! [And if they had, it’s not like either of us would have known any different, nor would society be capable of missing us because they never knew us]. But in your thinking you were one of the survivors. Those on the evolutionary journey who now command the upper hand. Like Hitler and Stalin (evolutionists) you desire to cleanse the humen race of all parasites [Wow. This has nothing to do with evolution. And you are confusing the Is of evolution with Ought. Evolution, I hate to break it to you, is a scientifically established fact. It’s the way it is. But this has no moral consequences. Nothing in evolutionary biology suggests that we *should* actively try to weed out humans that are less intelligent, attractive, or whatever. Evolutionary biology is a science, not a moral philosophy. The fact that some people misunderstand it as a moral philosophy is not an indictment against the truth of evolution, or the fact that it is not a moral philosophy. I figure, based on the fact that you appear to be an evolution denialist that you are probably from the states. Congratulations for your profound ignorance. Not only are you making an ass of yourself, but you’re embarrassing your country in the eyes of the world.] . Right now it is the fetus (of which you were one), next the elderly (of which you may become) and then anyone who might be somewhat incognizant (which might happen to you) that your evolutionists will want to destroy [Completely false. Had you actually really read my comments, you would have seen that my position was one of compassion. It was one of great consideration for well-being and freedom from suffering. There is no reason to believe that the fetus would suffer or that society would suffer as a consequence of abortion. Hence, my comfort with abortion.] . It is the natural progression of your thinking and where it will go. Those in power, the elitists, will determine life and death for everyone (Hitler, Stalin). This is where your worldview will take us [Completely false. My position is one that highlights compassion. There’s hardly was. The only thing we have in common is the acceptance of evolution, a scientific fact.] . It might not be you personnally, but with time this will happen, if more people start thinking like you. I wouldn’t want to be one of your next of kin because if anything happened to me you might be at my bedside sticking the needle in my arm to get rid of me. Ron, you’re a 25 year old kid who thinks of himself as all knowing. Your in the mold of the Greek intellectuals who sat around and spouted off, the elitists of their day, thinking of themselves as better than everyone else.”[I don’t think I’m all knowing. I also don’t think I’m better than others. But I do think deeply and put my views out there to be challenged. The fact that people like you can do no better to criticize my position than to draw false analogies to Hitler and Stalin, misunderstand evolution, misunderstand my position even though I have very clearly laid it out, and take a position that is just as strong as mine but then have the gall to say that I’m the one who is arrogant is not my problem. If you want to actually go back and read through the comments and then offer rational retorts that don’t depend on a handful of blatant misunderstandings, you’re welcomed to.]

  40. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    “It is obvious that the harm done to the fetus persists after birth. (As an aside…how could that be if they are different entities as assumed by the ‘its not a human’ argument?)” [Except in the case of abortion where birth doesn’t happen]

    “Is not the greater wrong the intentional harming that causes the suffering of an innocent human being as opposed to ‘harm’ (financial) to society?” [Again, the fetus experiences no harm, no loss, no suffering. As far as we know, its existence is over. So why prioritize that which cannot feel over those who can? There is no reason to believe that any harm is done via abortion, but there is every reason to believe that it is done via not allowing abortion to those who want it]

    ‘“What she is doing will decrease its ability to function effectively”…abortion will eliminate its ability to function.” [But there would be no experience of suffering or difficulty in the case of abortion]

    ““will invite negative differential treatment from others”…abortion is the ultimate in ‘negative differential treatment’.” [And the aborted fetus will never experience it. Why prioritize negative differential treatment of that who would never experience it over those that would (the parents, society)?]

  41. Right now it is the fetus (of which you were one), next the elderly (of which you may become) and then anyone who might be somewhat incognizant (which might happen to you) that your evolutionists will want to destroy.

    Slippery slope. Slippery slope. Slippery slope. Oh no, what will we do?

    Helplessness is not the justification for abortion. Fetuses are not persons with rights. Old people and the disabled are. Fetuses have never been persons with rights. Oddly enough, abortion was no big deal until around the time women wanted rights. Suddenly, fetuses became more important than women.

  42. Colin says:

    Apparently abortion causes more harm and suffering than it relieves…
    From The Times Online…

    “Women may be at risk of mental health breakdowns if they have abortions, a medical royal college has warned. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says women should not be allowed to have an abortion until they are counselled on the possible risk to their mental health.

    This overturns the consensus that has stood for decades that the risk to mental health of continuing with an unwanted pregnancy outweighs the risks of living with the possible regrets of having an abortion. ”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3559486.ece

  43. L. Ron Brown says:

    Counseling is fine.

  44. No one ever suggested that abortion is a choice that should be taken lightly. Pro-choice activists routinely use the phrase “safe, legal and rare” to describe the ideal conditions for abortion.

    Part of living in a free society is allowing people to take risks. We pretty much know that smoking is a bad choice, we even discourage it, but we allow people to make that choice for themselves.

  45. L. Ron Brown says:

    Also, not that I’m saying that you were using this as an argument for illegalizing abortion, but given that your position is one that is primarily concerned with the child, as long as the potential problems are not ridiculously prevalent and severe (and even if they were, serious debate would need to be had with regard to what level of prevalence and severity is sufficient, the person’s right to choose, etc.) and the mother is given the counseling and is able to make an informed choice and be told about the sorts of things she needs to know (e.g., warning signs for psychological problems, routes of action, etc.), this shouldn’t really affect your position too much. I mean, if the research showed that there were no ill-effects, or that for some reason women actually felt happier after the abortion than they did before they were even pregnant (perhaps due to hormonal shifting), it’s not like you would have become more accepting of abortion. For this to be used by an anti-abortionist as reason to ban abortion would be like the case where a racist nation ran tests to see if a black male’s sperm could impregnate and ape and if an ape’s sperm could impregnate a black woman. If the results were positive, the racist nation would have used these findings to bolster their racism. But if the results were negative, which they were, it’s presumably not too likely that the nation would seriously reconsider their racism.

    To be clear, I’m not attempting to implicitly link you to oppressive racism.

    And again, I’m not saying that you would consider this to be a reason to ban abortion—you may have just been presenting valuable information.

  46. Colin says:

    It is relevant information from a reliable source and it seems to me that it argues against your ‘suffering’ argument.

    You seem to support abortion because it relieves the suffering of the mother. This statement argues that abortion causes more suffering than it relieves, contra your position.

    TBM,

    Why would you say that abortion should be ‘safe, legal and rare’? When Hilary Clinton clarified what she meant by rare, she said that she meant ‘very rare’.

    Your smoking analogy seems to suggest that abortion is a bad choice…why is that?

  47. I wouldn’t say abortion is a bad choice, but I think it’s probably a difficult and unpleasant choice, as well as an unpleasant thing to go through. I think we should dedicate as much resources as we can to sex-ed, make birth control widely available, and even provide other options to women (like decent support for adoption services). The stats show, when we do those things, the rate of abortion drops, and that is a good thing.

    I have never met someone who eagerly had an abortion, but I know a few people who’s lives would have been dramatically different without one.

    I don’t support taken a person’s rights away to do what they will with their body, and I don’t include fetuses as persons. They aren’t. They eventually become persons, but in the womb they are not persons.

    My smoking analogy is meant to serve as an example of a choice people are allowed to make that I would rather they didn’t make, nothing more.

  48. L. Ron Brown says:

    My position does place a high value on suffering and well-being, but it places a high value on personal autonomy as well.

  49. Colin says:

    Personal autonomy is great, but rights always come with responsibilities.

    The right to free speech comes with the responsibility to avoid hateful speech.

    The right to vote comes with the responsibility to vote wisely.

    The right to do what you want with your body comes with the responsibility to respect the integrity and dignity of other human bodies, especially those who are dependent upon you (like deadbeat dads and pregnant women).

  50. Colin says:

    TBM, you say:
    ‘…the rate of abortion drops, and that is a good thing.’

    ‘No one ever suggested that abortion is a choice that should be taken lightly.’

    ‘I have never met someone who eagerly had an abortion,…’

    ‘…an example of a choice people are allowed to make that I would rather they didn’t make,’

    and…

    ‘…I don’t include fetuses as persons.’


    The first four statements only make sense if the fetus is a person. If it is not a person, as you state, then why the difficulty in making the decision? Why is it good if the abortion rate drops?

    Nobody anguishes over a decision to remove a tumor, or grieves its death. Nobody commits suicide after being overcome by grief after the removal of a tapeworm.

    Your own words show that you think that the fetus is more than just a blob of tissue or a parasite.

    You say:
    ‘…*in the womb* they are not persons.’ (emphasis mine)

    Should abortion be legal through all nine months of pregnancy?

  51. No, the first four statements make sense because I see having an abortion as a hardship for the woman who goes through it. Especially because narrow minded people who like to make other peoples business their own go out of their way to stigmatize something that should be private.

    I see abortion as the least economical and least pleasant form of birth control available. If I had the choice to make, I would choose safe reliable birth control, then RU-486 then abortion / adoption, depending on the circumstances.

    I personally don’t believe the fetus is more than a blob, but lots of people have an emotional response to the whole issue. An irrational emotional response, while unpleasant, isn’t grounds for taking away peoples rights. Compassion for someone who is making a difficult decision isn’t grounds for taking away peoples rights either.

    Choosing to have a child, or not have a child, is obviously an important and meaningful choice. Lot’s of people want babies, but don’t have the means to care for them and can’t bring themselves to give them up. An abortion may be a very traumatic experience, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the option.

    I don’t care one bit for the blob of cells called a fetus, but the feelings of the actual persons faced with a choice they find difficult is worth my compassion. The point is, I believe the choice is theirs, not mine to make. I am willing to trust other people to make the best decisions for themselves. I respect other people. I even recognize their pain and care about it.

    Abortion should be a choice made between a woman and her doctor with no legal restrictions. I trust the integrity of both to make the right decision when the time comes. Plain and simple. Experience has shown that when women can control their bodies, have access to education and economic options, life is better for everyone. Opposition to abortion is little more than contempt towards women.

  52. Colin says:

    Now that we are clear…

    Would it be acceptable for a woman to choose an abortion at 39 weeks gestation?

  53. If a woman and her doctor determine the need for an abortion at 39 weeks, I’m good with it. As I mentioned, I have a belief that: a) abortion isn’t an easy choice, b) women and doctors are good people, and c) it’s not my business to get involved in a situation that doesn’t affect me.

  54. Colin says:

    What is the difference between an abortion at 39 weeks and infanticide a couple days (hours?) later?

  55. The difference is that there would have to be solid medical grounds for going ahead with it. Then again, I’m on Robert Latimer’s side on this one. I think you should be able to wait the couple days and make the decision then.

    I don’t really think there is much grounds for a later term abortion, but then there is always an exception to the rule. I am willing to let the doctor’s and women involved make the decision.

  56. Colin says:

    So now the child isn’t even a person when she is outside the womb.

    A while back you said that the disabled are persons with rights, now you say that we need to decide whether or not they have rights…

    When does your ‘logic’ meet a moral barrier? Is sex-selection just cause for an abortion? What about intelligence? Skin color, eye color?

    It seems to me that according to your view, anything is permissible. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  57. Rights are fictional constructions, often conflicting with each other. Your need to formalize a set of rules that you can run around and hold people to reveals a basic mistrust of people, maybe even of yourself. As Neitzsche put it “The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly.”

    If an animal is suffering with no hope of recovery, we do the humane thing and end it’s misery. You seems to want to deny that basic act of decency to human beings for some completely arbitrary reason. You seem to think that people would recklessly and maliciously go around exterminating babies, disabled people and the elderly.

    These are medical decisions and should be made by medical professionals. Over time, medical advances will change the nature of these decisions, but in each case, the people directly involved should come to the best decision for the particular circumstances.

    It’s true, I don’t see the need for rigidly defined codes of morality, they very rarely apply to the actual world we live in. The people who propose the need for these kinds of rules seem to assume the worst about people. Perhaps this is some kind of commentary on how they feel about themselves.

  58. Aaron says:

    This was a very interesting conversation to read. How come it died?

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  1. […] of a culture of fear or set some sort of dangerous precedent? For my position on abortion, see here (note that extensive discussion took place in the comment section). It appears that in considering […]



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