Posted by: bridget | 27 May 2007

Debunking the Pro-Choice Argument, Part IV (Edited)

The pro-life movement is often portrayed as male, Christian, and socially conservative. Most pro-choice people believe that the only justification for abortion is a religious one, such that outlawing abortion is an imposition of morality and religious beliefs on the public. The newest pro-choice argument is:

Abortion is legislating morality; the only people who oppose abortion do so for religious reasons. (In other words: you can’t be a pro-life libertarian.)

Many of our laws have a policy basis (such as environmental regulations) that do not fit within a traditional moral structure. There are many things that people find to be immoral that are legal (such as drinking, smoking, gambling, or, in Nevada, prostitution). The prohibitions against murder, rape, theft, and incest all correlate to religious prohibitions; yet, not many people say that we should make murder legal, because outlawing it is “legislating morality.” Obviously, morality is both over-inclusive and under-inclusive in terms of deciding what to regulate. Nevertheless, the fact that some of our laws happen to correlate with traditional or religious prohibitions does not stop us from outlawing that.

It is not enough to say that we can legislate that which has a moral basis: the question is whether abortion is more like theft or gambling. Is this something that, although it may be immoral, should be legal anyway?

The basic libertarian philosophy opposes the inititation of force against another person: there is the right to do anything, so long as it does not intrude upon the life, liberty, or property rights of another person. The Libertarian Party says, “We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose…. Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. We must accept the right of others to choose for themselves if we are to have the same right. Our support of an individual’s right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices. We believe people must accept personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions.”

Ayn Rand said, “There are no ‘rights’ of special groups,… there are no ‘rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn.’ There are only the Rights of Man — rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals.” (Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights,” The Objectivist Newsletter, co-edited and published by Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden, vol. 2, #4 (April 1963), p. 13.) John Locke, who advocated for a very limited government, believed that it was the purpose of government to protect people’s rights to life, liberty, and property.

Oddly, though, many libertarians do not extend those principles to abortion. Many pro-choicers believe that the correct stance for a libertarian is to oppose government intrusion into the private decision of a woman. The pro-choice position, however, is inconsistent with the principles above.

The only way that a libertarian could oppose the use of force against another human, but be pro-abortion, is to think that a fetus is not a human worthy of protection against aggression. In the alternative, they may believe that women should be exempt from the personal responsibility requirements of libertarianism. Libertarians believe, generally, that if your own actions get you into trouble, it is not the job of the government to bail you out nor to sanction the use of force against others to ameliorate the situation.

The progeny of two humans is always a human. That’s just biology. While libertarians believe that one human should not live at the expense of another, this does not apply to abortion. Between two people, the woman who could prevent the pregnancy and risked it, and the fetus who is incapable of preventing its dependence upon its mother, the harm should rest upon the person who could prevent the situation. A rational actor, knowing that pregnancy is undesirable, could abstain, use birth control (over half of women who abort do not use birth control), or could use redundant methods of birth control. Either way, she is able to prevent the undesirable state (pregnancy) that she seeks to ameliorate, while her child can neither prevent its dependence upon a woman who does not want it, nor lead an independent existence.

Many pro-abortionists state that abortion is justifiable because sex is enjoyable and therefore, one should be able to have it simply for enjoyment. A government prohibition on abortion, in the eyes of a pro-choicer, amounts to the imposition of a view of sex as procreative only. To a libertarian, that argument is a non-starter. The enjoyment of an action does not excuse one from its consequences: there is no libertarian philosophy that one is always entitled to solely pleasurable actions. The government may not interfere with someone who tries to seek pleasure (such as by outlawing extramarital sex), but may always prevent him from achieving his ends by depriving another person of life, liberty, or property. Outlawing rape does not impose a narrow view of sex on the populace: it merely stops the rapist from achieving his ends at the expense of another person. The utility of the ends is immaterial to a libertarian; only the methodology is important.

From a libertarian perspective, harm should not be shifted from the actor onto another human (or society in general). When the government does not prosecute abortion, it sanctions the taking of human life. That isn’t libertarianism; that’s anarchy.

Related Posts

  1. Part I: If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child? And, It’s wrong to bring unwanted children into the world.
  2. Part II: Why should a blob of tissue have more rights than a woman?
  3. Part III: If you don’t support abortion, you don’t support women.
  4. Part IV: Pro-lifers want to legislate morality; you can’t be pro-life and libertarian.
  5. Part V: Since so many babies die of spontaneous abortion, how can you be pro-life unless you want to save them first?
  6. Part VI: What about this violinist? If we don’t force people to donate organs, why do you want to force people to remain pregnant?
  7. Part VII: If abortion is murder, pro-lifers should want to imprison women
  8. Part VIII: Sherry Colb on abortion.
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Responses

  1. once again, perfect logic!

  2. Theo…. Reading your post has inspired to complete my own post on the subject. I’ll repeat a paragraph of it here:

    “Thomas Aquinas has summed it up the best as far as I am concerned. He said that when an action is to be taken that the actor must first establish the morality of such action. In this case, determining when human life or personhood begins is incumbent on the person that would take the moral action, otherwise, according to what Aquinas said, that person must follow the “morally safer” course. In the case of Abortion it is the responsibility of the “pro abortion” crowd to prove that human life does NOT exist and therefore the law of society and the civil rights of the individual do not come to bear. Since I have never heard any evidence that disproves the personhood at conception or otherwise establishes personhood at a later date, this moral dictum applies to the would be abortionists and would serve to stop that action, otherwise the result would be “immoral.” This is a long held and understood mandate that has been understood by others in addition to myself. Allow me to quote some of them:”

    MORE: http://stevereenie.wordpress.com/2007/05/27/the-morality-of-abortion/

    You have such a good way of developing the logic of your thesis. ….. Next Stop Lauderdale

  3. […] just read a post from Helvidius, a Pachyderm including the quote above by theobromophile its owner.  You should check it out.  I was going to […]

  4. Your characterization of libertarians is not completely accurate. I see where you got your information from, but the Libertarian Party certainly does not represent the views of all libertarians. There is a strong faction of libertarians who hold pro-life views. In fact, if you apply the libertarian principle of not opposing force to another person, you are still left to decide the definition of person. Thus there is a libertarian split on this issue; the same split as pro-life and pro-choice camps.

    Case in point, look at the South Carolina GOP post debate interview with Republican candidate Ron Paul. Paul ran as a Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1988. In the interview, Allan Combs tries to drill Ron Paul the this very issue and you should listen to his response.

    Watch the interview, particularly starting at 1:50:

    Ron Paul, often referred to as a libertarian AND the most conservative member of congress. It’s interesting that he is described as both. I think it’s safe to say he is probably the most pro-life candidate out there.

  5. This may be my favorite post so far in your Debunking series. :) If there’s anything I have learned since becoming more involved in the pro-life movement locally, statewide, and nationally, it’s that there is really no complete stereotype for pro-lifers. I’ve met people of all religions (and none), all ages, male and female, and all political persuasions (more righties than lefties, but there still are some lefties). Really, being pro-life can be justified from so many angles – which is what makes it such a reasonable philosophy. On campus, I notice that the pro-choicers get the angriest when it’s young, intelligent women who are leading the pro-life movement. There’s really nothing they hate more, which obviously makes it more fun for me! ;)

  6. Yes, it is great (but not surprising!) to see young, intelligent women make the case for life. It debunks many myths.

    Great analysis as usual, Bridget. Pointing back to the humanity of the unborn is key to debunking nearly every pro-choice argument.

  7. Jim, (#4)

    Not to cause a polemic (seriously), but I watched the attached video. I am not so sure what the difference is between what the President wanted to do with bin Laden (i.e. invade Afghanistan because they were in defacto support of bin Laden and hence the attack on 911 and Paul’s sponsorship of the Marque & Reprisal Act of 2001. It seems that it is designed to cause the same outcome with a different approach and pretense (but both at gunpoint), and I would believe that it would generate the same animosity of the Middle Easterners as the way it has been handled otherwise.

    I don’t want to pan Mr. Paul (though there are maybe some problems with his previously expressed views on matters that he is not being fully candid about now) but when he says that our Foreign Policy over time has contributed significantly in causing these people to want to dislike us leading to bombing us (i.e. 911 and many other incidents) and then I ask “was our foreign policy so bad as that their response is reasonable or unreasonable?” You can’t be accountable for others formulating an unreasonable response to your action.

    So you are left with the proposition, was our action reasonable, legal, etc. If you break down our response in Gulf War I, we were responding to an act of aggression and sent troops to 3 countries (not including Iraq) at the request of their governments to liberate Kuwait and protect the others from further aggession. This seems like at least reasonable and even charitable act on our part to me. …….. Next Stop Lauderdale

  8. Jim, with all due respect.
    I don’t want to speak soley for briget, (so briget come out on this one)…
    but i think she may be a pro-life libertarian herself? I could be wrong, but i *think* i remember you saying that B. I don’t think she was saying that libertarians couldn’t be pro-life but rather that the logic of their convictions should make them pro-life, but for some reason many of them aren’t. Is that right briget?

  9. I read somewhere (probably on a blog) the you always legislate morality, why else would you pass a law? The question is: whose morality should we legislate?

    I guess not passing a law comes down to the same thing.

  10. Another excellent post Bridget. Keep it up.

  11. Thanks for the input everyone.

    Stevereenie, you raise a good points and I’ll reply by posting on your site so as to not divert the current discussion.

  12. […] have much to add here other than a link to the video that spawned this thread, posted by Jim here at the Helvidus a Pacaderm site.  I am transferring the posts on my blog and a couple off […]

  13. Finally getting around to responding…

    Thank you, MommyZabs! :)

    Steve ~ great post. I’ll leave my comments when I have time to breathe. ;) Very happy that I insipired you.

    Jim ~
    Thank you for stopping in. Zabs is right: I’m responding to the idea that one cannot be both against abortion (as more than a personal matter) and be libertarian. While I do appreciate that libertarians are often pro-choice, I do think that it’s misguided. It’s not wholly irrational, but it basically makes a massive exception in the basic libertarian philosophy.

    I have gotten bashed for being against abortion and libertarian. My “debunking” series is aimed at coming at pro-choice arguments from a philosophical and legal perspective.

    Sunday School Teacher ~

    Depends on how you define “morality.” Not trying to go all Bill Clinton on you, but does a zoning regulation count as morality?

    As for not legislating or not enforcing: exactly! When the government does not legislate in areas, it is implicitly imposing its own view of morality. Very few things are truly victimless crimes… if the government were to stop prosecuting rape, it would be saying that rape is acceptable and women 1) may not stop themselves from being raped with any use of force; and 2) they may not avenge it.

    TT ~ Thank you. :)

    All ~ no worries about diverting the discussion! Ruckus away. ;)

  14. […] just read a post from Helvidius, a Pachyderm including the quote above by theobromophile its owner.  You should check it out.  I was going to […]

  15. Hello

    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!

    Bye

  16. I can’t believe it, but I’m actually pretty close to joining you on the pro-life side of the argument.

    As you have clearly shown, the only relevant issue to be discussed in regards to abortion is the status of the fetus. Women’s rights, libertarianism, etc. etc. only become meaningful arguments when the value of the fetus’s life is presumed to be negligible.

    What keeps me hovering in the pro-choice camp is therefore this issue of the value of the fetus’s life. As I noted in a previous comment, I do consider sentience to be a legitimate factor when determining the value of one’s life. After all, what is value? Is value truly inherent, or is it constructed by the human mind? An unconscious fetus is incapable of valuing its own life. It is incapable of pain. So what does the fetus care if it lives or dies? When we say that it is terrible to kill a fetus, does that fetus think it is terrible? Of course not–it lacks the capacity to understand something as terrible. In other words, we project value onto the fetus. Same thing with people living in a vegetative state. What value is there life? Value according to who? Do those people value their own lives? Do they care whether they live or die? No, for they have lost the capacity to value anything.

    What endows us with our rights to life, liberty, and property other than the fact that we simply want these things? Why do we not endow lab rats or cows with the right to life? Is it just because we are a different species than they are, or is it because we place value on sentience? Both, I think.

    In fact, not only do I consider sentience to be a legitimate measuring stick for the value of a life (in the way we’re talking about “value”–so in this sense one’s actions or value to others is irrelevant), I consider it to be the only one. This is because the only one who can make a life valuable is that life itself! If a life is incapable of valuing itself, then the life has no value.

    But a problem remains.

    My little philosophical exercise here all depends on the total unconsciousness of the fetus. Once the fetus starts to develop even the slightest spark of awareness, my discussion falls apart. For at that point one is faced with the task of determining how much sentience a fetus must have before being endowed with the right to life. This is a morally impossible task. The complete absence of any meaningful reference leaves the door open to concluding that babies, mentally retarded people, unintelligent people, etc. all lack the right to life because well, they don’t reach the arbitrary bar of sentience that we have established. I suppose that one could constrain this issue only to the unborn, but that too is arbitrary.

    Can we be certain that a fetus is totally unconscious? Do we even have a trustworthy theoretical basis regarding the nature of consciousness on which we can rely to assess such a thing? Clearly we do not. And in fact, I imagine that babies with detectable brain activity are routinely aborted. Maybe such brain activity does not constitute consciousness, but again, how can we be sure?

    Therefore, my philosophical argument collapses. Even if we take sentience as the only meaningful way of determining the value of a life, we are still left with the morally impossible task of setting a cut-off point regarding the level of consciousness at which one is no longer endowed with the right to life.

    In the second comment under this post, stevereenie applies Thomas Aquinas to the issue of abortion:

    He said that when an action is to be taken that the actor must first establish the morality of such action. In this case, determining when human life or personhood begins is incumbent on the person that would take the moral action, otherwise, according to what Aquinas said, that person must follow the “morally safer” course. In the case of Abortion it is the responsibility of the “pro abortion” crowd to prove that human life does NOT exist and therefore the law of society and the civil rights of the individual do not come to bear.

    I don’t know how anyone could argue against that… Unless, perhaps, they lack a certain degree of sentience (so maybe we should kill them?).

    Did I say in the beginning of this comment that I was “pretty close” to becoming pro-life? Well, with the help of you and Mr. Aquinas, I’ve talked myself into it. Congrats, you’ve got a new recruit.

    Which reminds me of something terrible Reagan once did…. haha, just kidding.

  17. By the way, is it annoying that my philosophical discussion used question after question to make its point? Damn, yet another question…

  18. Not annoying at all. Nothing wrong with a little rhetoric.

    Busy these days – will get to this later today or tomorrow. If I don’t, post a comment and it will be sent to my email.

  19. Take your time.

    But for what it is worth, I posted my little philosophical diatribe on sentience with the full expectation that you would tear it apart. You already began to do so with your response to a different comment of mine. I am fully confident that in due time you will complete the job. No rush though!

  20. Ah, here goes.

    You theorise that consciousness/sentience determines value of life. Nothing wrong with that; most Americans would agree with you. Let’s take that to its logical conclusion.

    In fact, not only do I consider sentience to be a legitimate measuring stick for the value of a life (in the way we’re talking about “value”–so in this sense one’s actions or value to others is irrelevant), I consider it to be the only one. This is because the only one who can make a life valuable is that life itself! If a life is incapable of valuing itself, then the life has no value.

    If you are justified in killing something that does not value its own life, could you kill a chronically depressed person without being charged with murder? Would it be a defence to murder? Could you kill a suicidal person?

    If we are discussing the capacity to value one’s own life (which a suicidal person possesses, but does not act upon), would you be justified in killing an infant, if it were found that infants could not value their own lives?

    (Biologically, at 12 weeks after last period (i.e. 8 weeks after first missed period), a baby has reflexes. Not a bad guide for “valuing its life,” as, evolutionarily, it can marginally protect itself.)

    The logical consequence of “no value in life until sentience” is infanticide. Peter Singer takes it to its logical conclusion:
    https://helvidiuspachyderm.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/not-a-sophies-choice/ and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer

    (The first is a post of mine, wherein I analyse Prof. Singer’s madness. The second is a wiki entry about him & his philosophy. When I googled Peter Singer, I had a tough time finding anything neutral. Sure, 99% of it supports my side, but that’s still not unbiased.)

    Now, what if we allow someone dignity and life based on someone’s love for them? Does that mean that we could execute the homeless without repercussion? What would you do if a father desperately loved and wanted his unborn child and the mother did not care for it? Should we take a poll before we allow an abortion?

    Some of the reason that we have governmental-run justice programmes is to reduce blood fueds (where one’s only incentive to not off someone is retaliation from the victim’s family) and to ensure that everyone can seek justice. I’m highly skeptical of any philosophical model which seeks to undercut that.

    The complete absence of any meaningful reference leaves the door open to concluding that babies, mentally retarded people, unintelligent people, etc. all lack the right to life because well, they don’t reach the arbitrary bar of sentience that we have established. I suppose that one could constrain this issue only to the unborn, but that too is arbitrary.

    Yes. Even if we were to establish some basic level of functioning, we would be allowed to harvest the organs from someone in a persistent vegetative state.

    If we require sentience in order to protect the bodily integrity (of which one’s life is preeminent part) of a person, why are there statutes on the books against desecration of the dead?
    See, http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=ut&vol=supopin&invol=reddmdz

    Why do we find it morally reprehensible to dig up coffins? Why is there such a furor over plasticised corpses?
    See, http://www.beachbrowser.com/Archives/eVoid/April-2001/Plasticized-Corpse-Exhibit.htm

    (That, of course, doesn’t even touch the fact that such exhibitions are steeped in gruesome practices. See, http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,668874,00.html)

    We can gather that someone doesn’t even have to be alive in order for humans to want to protect their bodily integrity. We aren’t talking about minimal functioning; we aren’t talking about the potential to function; we are talking about something which has been alive, once, and is most certainly dead.

    Neil (and others) often talk about the “Toddler Test,” whereby you substitute a toddler for a fetus in the proposed reasoning. In some respects, you can even substitute a corpse for this: would you be okay with laws which allowed people to do to the dead what is done during the abortion procedure?

    Can we be certain that a fetus is totally unconscious? Do we even have a trustworthy theoretical basis regarding the nature of consciousness on which we can rely to assess such a thing? Clearly we do not. And in fact, I imagine that babies with detectable brain activity are routinely aborted. Maybe such brain activity does not constitute consciousness, but again, how can we be sure?

    Should human rights change as science progresses? If we think that consciousness occcurs at week 15, and later findo out that it is at week 17, should we then change our laws to deny human rights to those who are between 15 and 17 weeks in utero?

    Moreover, why use consciousness? At five weeks beyond last menstrual period (i.e. a week after first missed period and a few days after first positive pregnancy test), an embryo has a heartbeat. See, http://www.babycenter.com/mybabycenter/105.html
    For their method of counting duration of pregnancy, See,
    http://www.babycenter.com/help/howto/timing

    (Note: I use babycenter for my fetal development facts because it’s non-partisan. It’s not a pro-life nor a pro-choice political organisation.)

    Why heartbeat, when we discuss consciousness? To the extent that abortion resembles end-of-life issues (quality of life, etc), a heartbeat free from artificial measures is one way to measure whether or not that person’s life is worth saving. (DNRs usually only apply to measures to restart the heart or lungs.)

    Imagine that you are in a horrible car accident and enter a coma or a persistent vegetative state? (For definitions and explanations, See http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/coma/coma.htm) Are your rights suspended until you come out of it? Would someone be justified in killing you to save another’s life (such as harvesting your organs)? What about for their own gratification – for non-essential organs? Should it matter whether your chances of coming out of the coma or PVS are negligible or 88%?

    A month after implantation, an embryo has an 88% chance of surviving to birth. See, http://discovermagazine.com/2004/may/cover/article_view?b_start:int=1&-C=

    I hate to open this can of worms, but is it important that most people who abort are doing so to fetuses that, on the whole, would survive until birth? We would be simply appalled at a medical community that would routinely take infants off artificial life support if there were an 88% chance of survival. Why do it to fetuses?

    More in a few. Taking a break.

  21. Apologies for the tons of questions. I do not mean it as sarcasm (upon re-reading, it sounds that way), nor as revenge for your questions. ;)

    It’s more rhetorical, and I’m hesitant to come out and say, “We can’t allow this,” for the simple reason that nutjobs like Peter Singer exist. Also, it’s nearly impossible to prove a negative (such as, that abortion is not acceptable). The best way to do that is to reduce to absurdity, which requires presuming the opposite to be true and proving that it is absurd by taking it to its logical conclusion.

  22. Peter Singer is awesome! I mean, you could sink an entire armada with the holes in his philosophy, but it’s still totally cool (so long as it doesn’t become influential!). And I am totally jumping on that Great Ape Project once I finally return from Latin America in a year or so. Fighting for the rights of large monkeys is definitely a priority we should focus on even as the rights of countless human beings are gruesomely violated on a daily basis.

    On to the questions you raise…

    If you are justified in killing something that does not value its own life, could you kill a chronically depressed person without being charged with murder? Would it be a defence to murder? Could you kill a suicidal person?

    My discussion was based on total unconsciousness. It would be impossible to prove that a chronically depressed/suicidal person does not value his/her life at all. I think that only the absence of sentience can assure such a thing.

    If we are discussing the capacity to value one’s own life (which a suicidal person possesses, but does not act upon), would you be justified in killing an infant, if it were found that infants could not value their own lives?

    No, I could not justify that. I can’t come up with a philosophical basis for it, but clearly the idea is instinctually totally revolting. This is essentially the problem I have with the pure theory I posited in that previous post. I can philosophize all I want, but the logical conclusions that such ideas lead to (as you point out) inevitably go against my fundamental nature.

    The desecration of the dead thing doesn’t do anything for me though. Look, if you want to dig up someone’s corpse and do weird, grotesque things to it, well, good luck to you with being well-adjusted in other areas of your life. But I don’t think the dead person cares too much. This is an example of total projection–we maintain a connection of the body to the past form when it was alive and consequently project this living form onto the dead body. In this way, the body continues to live for those external to it. The biological reality is, however, that it has become no more than a lump of tissue (unlike the unborn fetus, as you pointed out in one post in this series…)

    You ask: “Why use consciousness?” especially in light of such biological phenomena as a heart beat. Well, consciousness is what creates meaning, value, etc. One could view a heart beat as nothing more than a mechanical, biological action akin to photosynthesis. We don’t give value to the individual lives of plants based on their non-conscious features, so why humans?

    Imagine that you are in a horrible car accident and enter a coma or a persistent vegetative state? Are your rights suspended until you come out of it? Would someone be justified in killing you to save another’s life (such as harvesting your organs)? What about for their own gratification – for non-essential organs? Should it matter whether your chances of coming out of the coma or PVS are negligible or 88%?

    The difference between a coma victim and a fetus is that the coma victim, upon regaining consciousness, will continue to build on years of previous experience, unlike the fetus. The precise way in which this translates to a moral right of life difference is admittedly not clear to me though, if it exists at all.

    However, there a very problematic analogy surfaces if we take it down a few notches from killing the person in a coma to simply abusing him/her. The pure philosophy we are working off of would have to maintain that any abuse of an unconscious person would not be morally wrong under two conditions: 1) the unconscious person, by the time he or she regains consciousness, has totally healed from such abuse and will never suffer (physically or mentally) at all from the abuse inflicted. 2) the person inflicting this abuse knew beforehand that the abused person would never suffer from it and held a moral perspective governed by the sentience-philosophy that I proposed.

    The first condition removes the immorality from the consequences, the second condition removes it from the actions. But even if such conditions are met, I would not feel remotely comfortable. Such a case could be extended (and more probably so) to the sexual molestation of an unconscious person. Again, I find such a possibility totally revolting.

    I can’t come up with any solid arguments against the argument that I initially made regarding the relationship between sentience and value (although in Singer’s case, the clear evolutionary need to prioritize our own species over others does trump sentience for me, and I tend to support the idea of potential as opposed to his view that future senses of personhood are abstract and ultimately vacant (a source of major contradiction in his philosophy, as far as I can tell from Wikipedia)). But, taken to its logical conclusions, I am left feeling very morally unsatisfied, to say the least. And this is where Aquinas’s words about the morally “safer path” come in to play and cannot be resisted.

  23. Finally, a chance to respond:

    I am assuming that your first paragraph was laced with sarcasm. ;) (Note: I’m a vegetarian, but like to say that I’m pro-choice on the subject of eating meat.)

    No, I could not justify that. I can’t come up with a philosophical basis for it, but clearly the idea is instinctually totally revolting. This is essentially the problem I have with the pure theory I posited in that previous post. I can philosophize all I want, but the logical conclusions that such ideas lead to (as you point out) inevitably go against my fundamental nature.

    Whether you be religious or Darwinistic, there is something in the human psyche that is revolted by the idea of killing children. Agreed there.

    As a general matter, I don’t like the idea of human rights being based upon the results of scientific experiments. If you have time, read “Laboratory of Justice,” which gives a history of how science (especially social science) has been used by the Supreme Court to make constitutional law. Very often, it is used to discriminate: “science” shows that blacks are inherently inferiour to whites and are more like animals or that women cannot survive the harsh training conditions at Virginia Military Institute. When human rights are granted or denied based upon a principle other than that of human dignity that attaches to all persons, we create a situation in which social scientists may do “research” (scare quotes because it often comes with an agenda, and the research is to confirm a pre-made conclusion) that alters the ability of some persons to have human rights.

    The difference between a coma victim and a fetus is that the coma victim, upon regaining consciousness, will continue to build on years of previous experience, unlike the fetus. The precise way in which this translates to a moral right of life difference is admittedly not clear to me though, if it exists at all.

    It seems as if you are really arguing for the fact that the coma victim is known and loved by others. Intuitively, there is a huge value to that – after all, if our friends were suddenly removed from our lives, we would consider ourselves worse off.

    The desecration of the dead thing doesn’t do anything for me though. Look, if you want to dig up someone’s corpse and do weird, grotesque things to it, well, good luck to you with being well-adjusted in other areas of your life. But I don’t think the dead person cares too much. This is an example of total projection–we maintain a connection of the body to the past form when it was alive and consequently project this living form onto the dead body.

    I agree with you re: being well-adjusted in other areas of your life, but disagree that it is simply projection. Perhaps the Christians can answer better, but the Bible speaks out strongly against desecration of the dead, and the whole freakin point of the Bible is that once you are dead, you have gone on somewhere else (Purgatory, heaven, or hell – either way, you are in the afterlife or waiting for it). Your soul and your body part ways at death, but bodies are still treated with dignity.

    The first condition removes the immorality from the consequences, the second condition removes it from the actions. But even if such conditions are met, I would not feel remotely comfortable. Such a case could be extended (and more probably so) to the sexual molestation of an unconscious person. Again, I find such a possibility totally revolting.

    Ditto that. If you ever take Torts, you’ll read cases in which a patient underwent surgery for one condition, while the doctor did that and other things, and the patient sued when she found out upon regaining consciousness. Abortion is similar: it is battery without assault. (Other situations in which that occurs are, for example, walking up behind someone and hitting them over the head.)

    But, taken to its logical conclusions, I am left feeling very morally unsatisfied, to say the least. And this is where Aquinas’s words about the morally “safer path” come in to play and cannot be resisted.

    I concur, although I find Aquinas to be somewhat unsatisfying. It is a great principle, but I tend to think of it in other ways. Mostly, if you propose to do something (i.e. act affirmatively), it is your duty to demonstrate the morality (or amorality in the true sense – i.e. moral neutrality*) of such an action. Ergo, it is incumbent upon the person who proposes to do the action to demonstrate that it is not immoral. Applied to abortion, it is the responsibility of the pro-choicers to demonstrate that abortion is morally neutral or morally good, not the job of pro-lifers to demonstrate that it is not so.

    (Legally, that’s somewhat anti-libertarian unless we posit that “an act which does not aggress against another is prima facia morally neutral and therefore legal,” and only require us to justify, to the government, why acts of aggression are morally acceptable. Likewise, the government should hold the duty to justify its actions as within its enumerated powers and as morally acceptable or morally neutral.)

    *Say, for example, eating ice cream – that which has no moral effects for healthy persons, or those effects are so attenuated as to be negligible.

    My final thought about all of this as it relates to abortion: such philosophising only tells us that it should not be legal as practised today. The fact that abortion is morally wrong does not mean that we should outlaw it and call it a day. We can set up (on state or local levels) charities which help pregnant women; we can develop overlapping adoption laws, so that a mother may choose that which she wants (open adoption, sealed record, etc); we can make fathers and mothers jointly and severally liable for labour and delivery costs (as, after all, she didn’t get herself pregnant). After all, we outlaw robbery but we have created a system in which robbery is not necessary.

  24. […] Part IV: Pro-lifers want to legislate morality; you can’t be pro-life and libertarian. […]


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