Great cartoon asking: what if war were treated the way abortion is now, and vice versa?
31 Responses to After the Revolution
Abortion News & Views | People v. State -
June 25, 2011
[…] I replied to Roderick: A one-day old baby is pretty mindless too, and it is not viable independently of external care and support, but killing it would be immoral. “Self-defense” against a child in the womb would apply only in cases of rape, where the mother isn’t responsible for the presence of the child within her body. A woman who engages in consensual sex and becomes pregnant is responsible for the presence of the child within her body, even if she uses birth control and the birth control fails. But since it would be unjust to prohibit abortion in cases of rape, and since rape is often very difficult to prove, and we don’t want to create a powerful motivation for false allegations of rape or force women who have been raped to make that allegation to “authorities,” for pragmatic reasons this necessary exception should be allowed to swallow and preempt any rule prohibiting abortion during the first trimester. And this rationale for not criminalizing abortion but limiting it to the first trimester (a woman who has been raped can be presumed to know that she was raped and to discover her pregnancy and to make a decision about whether to have an abortion within 12 weeks after the rape) rests on far more principled grounds than the currently extant “viability” rationale, which is a completely arbitrary line. […]
Then some murder would be easier, and some murder harder.
Killing a mindless collection of cells isn’t murder. And killing a person in self-defense isn’t murder.
A one-day old baby is pretty mindless too, and it is not viable independently of external care and support, but killing it would be immoral. “Self-defense” against a child in the womb would apply only in cases of rape, where the mother isn’t responsible for the presence of the child within her body. A woman who engages in consensual sex and becomes pregnant is responsible for the presence of the child within her body, even if she uses birth control and the birth control fails. But since it would be unjust to prohibit abortion in cases of rape, and since rape is often very difficult to prove, and we don’t want to create a powerful motivation for false allegations of rape or force women who have been raped to make that allegation to “authorities,” for pragmatic reasons this necessary exception should be allowed to swallow and preempt any rule prohibiting abortion during the first trimester. And this rationale for not criminalizing abortion but limiting it to the first trimester (a woman who has been raped can be presumed to know that she was raped and to discover her pregnancy and to make a decision about whether to have an abortion within 12 weeks after the rape) rests on far more principled grounds than the currently extant “viability” rationale, which is a completely arbitrary line.
There’s a difference between an undeveloped mind and no mind at all.
I take that line of argument to have been refuted forty years ago, in Thomson’s article. (See in particular Watkins’ explication.)
Additional point: one’s right of control over one’s own body is inalienable (thus no slavery contracts), so a woman cannot irrevocably grant her fetus the right to exist inside her body.
I have also carefully read your article on Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights. I confess I wasn’t able to grasp your distinction between the pilot who flies passengers aloft and then bails out with a parachute, leaving them to die in a plane crash, which would be wrong, and the woman who aborts her child, which would be not-wrong. I fail to see how the fetus’ “invasion” of the woman’s body can be characterized as “wrongful,” even given your definition of “wrongful” as not necessary to counteract any “invasion” on the mother’s part, and even though you state in footnote 49 that “we surely do not violate a person’s rights merely by bringing him or her into existence.” If the woman, like the pilot, is responsible for her passenger being there, she has no right to kill her. I’ve already acknowledged that pragmatically and politically if a woman says she’s not responsible for the passenger being there (because, e.g., she was raped) we should take her word for it in the first trimester of pregnancy. (Actually, we should not even require her to say that.) But it’s much harder for a woman to say, or for us to assume, she’s not responsible for a second- or third-trimester passenger being there in the second- or third-trimester. If the unborn child is indeed a person (as your argument assumes for the sake of argument), and the mother voluntarily brought her there, she like the pilot has an obligation to bring her passenger to a safe landing. The body of the pilot who would prefer to bail mid-flight is likewise “enslaved” by his moral and legal obligation to return his passengers safely to the ground. Bringing a person into existence, while it may not constitute a violation of that person’s rights, surely does make one responsible for that person. Otherwise, it seems a mother could indeed abandon her newborn infant to the elements without fault.
Well, my reply to your argument is the same one I gave in the paper, so if you didn’t understand it there, there may not be much utility in repeating it here. But let me ask you: do you believe slavery contracts or indentured servitude contracts are legitimately enforceable?
Well, I think you’ve acknowledged that if the woman actually gives birth to the child she’s bound to take care of her unless and until she finds a substitute caretaker. (And I don’t think for purposes of the argument we can assume that the ready availability of another person willing to adopt the child.) This is commonly understood to be quite a heavy burden and responsibility — a form of indentured servitude, if you will. And I think it’s also commonly understood that the prospect of this burden is more frequently a motive for abortion than the physical burden of the pregnancy itself.
Well, you’ve made a pretty quick slide from finding a substitute caretaker to finding someone willing to adopt. Can’t she just leave the baby on the steps of the nearest hospital?
Or, can’t she just leave the baby on the steps of your house? I think you’d have the right not to be very happy about that. Furthermore, I think you’d argue you’d have no enforceable obligation to assist the newborn. So the mother would be abandoning the child to the elements. It’s the fact that the mother has brought the child into existence that imposes on her an enforceable obligation that you, arguably, wouldn’t have.
I can’t see how the second claim is supposed to follow from the first.
Let’s put it this way: is it safer to leave a baby with a) someone who is obligated to care for it, but won’t, or b) someone who isn’t obligated to care for it, but will?
I’ve read Thomson’s article and Watkins’ explication. I note that with respect to the line of argument you take Thomson to have “refuted,” her article states: “For there are cases and cases, and the details make a difference. . . . It seems to me that the argument we are looking at can establish at most that there are some cases in which the unborn person has a right to the use of its mother’s body, and therefore some cases in which abortion is unjust killing. There is room for much discussion and argument as to precisely which, if any. But I think we should sidestep this issue and leave it open, for at any rate the argument certainly does not establish that all abortion is unjust killing.”
I acknowledged in an earlier post I wrote on this subject: “There may be genuinely ambiguous situations where consent is ambiguous.” I might acknowledge that a situation where a woman voluntary engages in sexual intercourse that she knows carries a risk of pregnancy, and becomes pregnant because contraception failed, might count as such an “ambiguous situation.” I personally think it is immoral to voluntarily engage in intercourse in circumstances where if a pregnancy results the woman would choose abortion, but that’s just me.
But again, as I suggested in my initial comment, this ambiguity appears to only justify abortion in, say, the first trimester. Libertarianism supposes that people take responsibility for their actions and the natural results of their actions. Beyond the first trimester, you start running into evidence of fetal pain as early as 16 weeks after conception, and an ever stronger claim that the fetus is a person.
a) The Thomson article stipulates for the sake of argument that the fetus is a person, so offering evidence that the fetus is a person doesn’t do anything against her arguments.
b) If you look at the context, the qualifications that Thomson makes are much more limited than you need.
I did recognize that the Thomson article stipulates for the sake of argument that the fetus is a person. I added the comment about there being an ever stronger claim that the fetus is a person the closer the pregnancy gets to the due date because I recognize that the argument that the fetus is not a person in the early stages of pregnancy is still part of the general “pro-choice” argument. That is, it seems to me that Thomson’s argument only justifies not prohibiting abortion during the first trimester. And it just so happens that beyond the first trimester another pro-choice argument (i.e. that the fetus is not a person) begins to have far less weight.
I don’t understand what you’re saying. It sounds to me like this:
1. Thomson’s argument doesn’t depend on the assumption that p.
2. But some other arguments with the same conclusion as Thomson’s depend on the assumption that p.
3. And not p.
4. Therefore Thomson’s argument fails.
What am I missing?
You’re confusing me with algebra, at which I was never exceptionally good.
My comment above didn’t conclude that “Thomson’s argument fails.” Rather, I suggested that she’d made a somewhat cogent argument (using, inter alia, the “people seeds” analogy) in favor of the proposition that a woman can’t be said to be “responsible” for a pregnancy that results from a combination of voluntary intercourse and failed contraception, but that, while this argument might absolve a woman of responsibility for the existence of a fetus in her womb during the first trimester, it wouldn’t absolve her of responsibility for the existence of a fetus in her woman in the second or third trimester. (And I don’t think Thomson explicitly argues that it would — hence, I’m not saying that Thomson’s argument “fails,” but that it goes only so far and no further.) Later in her article she clearly acknowledges that a woman who voluntarily gives birth is responsible for supporting the child. The same logic would suggest that a woman who doesn’t abort a child in the first trimester and who “voluntarily” continues the pregnancy into the second or third trimester is responsible for the coming into existence of a rights-bearing “person.” (She insists in the final paragraph of her article that a very young fetus is not a “person.”) Indeed, a “person” who might very well experience physical pain during the process of being killed by an abortion.
In this connection, I thought this footnote from your article on “Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights” was interesting:
I didn’t use any algebra.
But a) she’s not making an argument by analogy, she’s making an argument by counterexample; and b) she’s not arguing “in favor of the proposition that,” etc. She’s arguing against a certain premise used in an anti-abortion premise. If that premise is false, it’s false; the issue of early vs. late abortions doesn’t come into it.
The immediately following sentence that you left out is pretty important.
What is your view on the morality/immorality of abortion in Gene Callahan’s hypothetical situation in which “bioengineering has advanced to the point where viable artificial wombs can be created, and fetuses can easily be extracted from a pregnant woman without harming her–the process is, say, clearly safer than an abortion”?
It seems your concern for proportionate response would morally preclude abortion in this case. No?
Thanks for telling us about it. Although he linked to a post here, the software Callahan is blogging on doesn’t support pingbacks, and he didn’t come here to announce the post.
I talk about that case in the article. Though I haven’t thought about it for a while and so I’m not sure whether I still agree with what I said there.
With all due respect, your article doesn’t actually address the issue. All I can find is your claim that even if pregnancy was painless and did not threaten physical injury, the mother still has a right to abort since the fetus “uses her body in the most deeply intimate and personal way, without her consent[.]”
So, this addresses whether or not you believe the mother could be forced to carry her pregnancy to term, but it doesn’t consider Gene’s hypothetical where the fetus could safely be transported from the womb alive, rather than aborted. Does this change your view of the woman’s right to abort?
On your terms, it really seems aborting would be disproportionate to the threat from the fetus because “lesser measures would be successful” to end the boundary-violation. No?
It’s in footnote 40.
It is addressed in footnote 40. I was mistaken.
In this case, I hope you still agree with what you said there.
There are arguments against it which I haven’t fully assimilated or considered.
I think John Kindley is getting somewhere here…
Couldn’t the very act of bringing someone into existence commit the person who performs such an act to certain responsibilities toward this someone?
Well, I’ve already stipulated that the answer to that is yes. And I’ve argued that one can answer yes and still defend abortion.
It’s already linked above. It’s the article that John Kindley has been talking about.
By that do you mean that you no longer agree with your statement that:
Or with Charles’ statement that:
Or are you making a different point altogether?
I haven’t changed my mind. I’m just referring to the argument in my original article.