Adventures in Homeschooling in Southern Indiana

Friday, November 7, 2008

Weighing rights

I've been thinking a lot about abortion over the last few days, since Obama promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as he's elected.

And I've been trying to think of ways to explain the problem to some of my more pro-choice friends and acquaintances without resulting to religion, or even natural law (since some of these people believe in neither.)

So, how about this one? (Please feel free to critique my argument in the comments, if anyone reads this, since I'm trying to build a more convincing case.)

For a moment, assume that abortion has no negative effect on the mother. (I don't believe this, but we'll assume it for the sake of argument.)

In that case, abortion is an act that delivers a good to the mother by ending her pregnancy. At the same time, it deprives her child of a good, by ending his life.

Now, if abortion were "fair", the good delivered would equal or exceed the deprived good.

So the good delivered (assuming that without abortion, the mother in question would just continue the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption), is about 9 months of the mother's life where she doesn't have to deal with the inconveniences and discomforts of pregnancy, plus an avoidance of childbirth( which many women seem to fear unreasonably.)

The baby, on the other hand, is deprived of 60-70 years of life.

Clearly, in this case, the harm to the baby outweighs the good to the mother... so we must be giving the mother's rights a LOT more weight here than the baby's.

You could probably draw a parallel to slavery, where the good to the master (cheap labor that allowed greater agricultural output) did not counterbalance the slaves' loss (many people deprived of liberty for generations). In this case, also, the slave owner's right to a comfortable life was given a lot more weight than the slaves' right to freedom.

So, at this point, my question for pro-choice friends and acquaintances is: What current circumstances justify weighting the abortion equation to give the mother's rights such a high priority over her child's?

Obviously, this is not the entire argument for the pro-life side. For instance, I would argue that the abortion industry as currently formulated also does grave harm to women. Especially since a dog being spayed has, under current law, MORE right to expect competent care and sanitary conditions than a woman at an abortion clinic does.... but we'll put that problem aside for now...

Anyway, if this blog has any readers (I'm not sure it does!) does anyone have a comment on the argument above?


Anonymous said...

Your argument makes a number of assumptions (in addition to the assumption that abortion harms the mother, which I would dispute). For example, you assume that giving up a child for adoption has no harm to the mother, when in fact I would imagine that is a very difficult thing to do. You also assume that after having a child a mother would give it up for adoption, as opposed to, say, putting her own life on hold (which could include education and the chance at a better life). You assume the child will be born healthy and live a full life. And, you incorporate a basic assumption of many religious people - that abortion deprives a child of a life - when in fact many would argue that there is no life yet. Think about this: Why do you believe abortion is wrong before the developing fetus is at the point of viability? It must be because you believe life starts at conception. In that case, you are pushing your religious beliefs on others. Law should have more of a basis than religion. Keeping abortion legal means you don't have to have one, but others can if they believe it is the right choice for them.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Anon, first of all, thanks for responding in such a kind and polite way! I think one of the things that really helps in this discussion is when people can argue it without getting so emotional.

I'm going to respond to your points out of order, if you don't mind, because I have a couple different trains of thought on them, and I don't want to derail my brain! =)

>In that case, you are pushing >your religious beliefs on others. >Law should have more of a basis >than religion.

First of all, I'd liek to remind you that many changes in US law began as a result of people's religious beliefs. For instance, Abolition and the Civil Rights movement.

Also, if pro-lifers are unfairly forcing their religion on others by holding marches/lobbyinjg congressman/ trying to change minds then

So are Quakers who protest wars,

Anti-death penalty activists, (there are plenty of religions around the world that have a PRO-death penalty tilt)

and even atheists who work to remove "under God" from the pledge"
(Most US law now defines religion as ANY strongly held set of beliefs, whether part of an organized religion or not...)

(cf. not the best source, I know, but I haven't had my tea yet!)

I would argue that all of the above cases are perfectly legitimate ways of trying to persuade your fellow citizens to come closer to your way of thinking on something.

There is not really a way to FORCE religion on people in the US.. one of the beauties of our constitution is that only a great deal of PERSUASION can really make any changes. And if times change (like with Dred Scott, Plessy V. Ferguson, or even prohibition) you can always undo those changes later.

I DO think the pro-abortion side does a itself a great disservice when it refers to pro-lifers as equivelant to the Taliban. After all, most of the unpersuaded middle of Americans can tell the difference between calling your Senator and throwing acid on a woman because she's not wearing a burka.... another reason why the rhetoric on both sides needs to be ratched down if we want to get anywhere!

>Why do you believe abortion is >wrong before the developing fetus >is at the point of viability?

two points: 1. Does this mean you'd be willing to ban abortions AFTER viability? (instead just deliver a live baby, pop them in the NICU, and go from there?) Because right now abortions after viability ARE legal in the US (though not in most other countries.) Actually, in the US abortions are legal UNTIL THE CHILD IS BORN, and a few years ago, a judge in Illinois ruled that it wasn't a crime to kill a newborn as long as the cord hadn't been cut yet.....

meanwhile, the wait for the domestic adoption of a newborn (any race, any disability) is 3-5 years in our state.

(And all sorts of asset requirements exist, and you need something like 50,000 in cash up front...... supply in demand at work... the poor can't adopt because there are no babies!)

Maybe one of the reasons this discussion is so much more heated in the US is because our abortion laws are just that much worse than Europe's? (Just my opinion, btw...)

2. Viability is not really the same thing as life. Viability is when the baby can exist on his own, outside the womb. Life (by the old bio book definition... I'm just using campbell's third edition for this, page 6) is defined by:

Order- And unborn child's organism, even before viability, is ordered.

Reproduction- True, a baby can't reproduce. Neither can an eight year old. But the reproductive organs begin developing at week 14, and obviously the genes for them are there from conception.

Growth and development -from day one

Energy Utilization - yup.

Response to environment - also a yes. Some studies have shown babies actually respond to the TASTE of Amniotic fluid... drinking more when Mom's been eating sweets. Also, once they have ears they respond to noise. And they also kick more with certain foods than others. (I have a friend who's unborn child went balistic every time she ate mushroom,.....)

Homeostasis - The womb is a pretty stable environment, but the unborn have a great ability to survive changes for a while...

Evolutionary adaptation - Well yes, it's there in the genes, of course.

So you can't really deny that the dividing cells are alive. I think the question you MEANT to ask is are they Human life? Well, geneticallym, yes. And then next question, the one that's the whole crux of the argument is "how shall we assign value to this tiny life?"

So the argument, I think, comes down to, what gives a human life its value?

I would argue we cherish human life BECAUSE it is human life. (Yes, this is a religious belief. But, I think most people, even those who don't belong to an organized religion, share some version of this belief. Notice for instance, that the Nazis first had to define the Jews as 'less than human' before they killed them, and that American slave-owners defined Blacks as 'less than human' in order to enslave them, and that in many societies where women are oppressed,(like parts of Africa and the Mideast) they're also defined as 'less than fully human.')

So clearly the special place of HUMAN life is a universal. It's just that different societies define human differently.

However, In my opinion, the science clearly states that an unborn child is Human, and alive. (Even if she requires her mother's womb for 9 months.)

Oh, random question: If the artificial womb is perfected, would you then favor outlawing abortion and instead letting mothers have the babies removed and popped into an artificial womb?

Or, to put it more bluntly, is the purpose of abortion to end a pregancy, or to end the life? (An important distiction, I think, especially with the rapid advance of technology)