Chad Perrin: SOB

22 November 2006

the anti-pro-abortion argument

Filed under: Cognition,Liberty — apotheon @ 08:30

The argument in favor of what is commonly known as the “pro-choice” side of the abortion debate that I have encountered more often than all other arguments put together is, in fact, more accurately something of a “pro-abortion” argument. It does not specifically encourage abortion per se, but it does specifically encourage the notion that the option of aborting a pregnancy is a fundamental characteristic of a woman’s individual rights. The argument goes something like this:

During a pregnancy, what grows inside a woman’s body is a part of her body. We all have a right to do with our bodies whatever we desire. As such, our rights as human beings extend to abortions.

The particulars may vary from case to case. For instance, one might define the growth of a new life as being part of the mother’s body only until medical “viability” (when it can be kept alive outside the body if need be), or until the cells that make up the growing blob begin to differentiate from one another, or until it has a measurable blood type of its own, or until it suits some textbook definition of a human body, or any of a number of other criteria. In general, however, until that (generally kind of arbitrary) cut-off point is reached, the argument is as presented above: the undefined thing inside the womb is “part of the mother’s body”. Just as a woman has a right to get a wart removed by a dermatologist, the argument goes, she has the right to get the potential child removed by someone in the ob/gyn clinic.

Guess what: the “part of the body” argument is crap and nonsense, unless you are ready to accept that the bacteria living in your mouth and intestines, viruses you contract from infected sex partners, and parasites from undercooked pork are also “part of your body”. One does not amputate a bacteria, just as one does not amputate a fetus. The dividing line between mother and child during pregnancy is, in fact, DNA. The mother’s DNA differs from that of the child: by the same token, the mother and the child are not one, even if the child is dependent upon the mother for continued life.

This is not to say I’m a so-called “pro-lifer”. On the contrary, blanket bans on abortions (even with exceptions for the mother’s health) are anathema, as far as I’m concerned. There does need to be some criteria by which we can judge whether an abortion is allowable, but “when it is no longer part of the mother” ain’t it, no matter how you define that distinction. I do not seek to demolish the “part of the mother” pro-abortion argument to weaken the case for keeping abortion legal. Far from it. I seek to eliminate that specious argument specifically because its obstinate popularity harms the argument for what I believe to be right, the legality of abortions, by virtue of the fact that it is recognizably wrong to someone who bothers to examine its merits (or lack thereof) and has the capacity to recognize a fallacious argument when (s)he encounters it.

Ultimately, laws regarding abortions should be chosen the same way all laws should be chosen: by deriving them from a fundamental, self consistent system of ethics based on a bare minimum of axiomatic principles. The ultimate result of such a means of deriving laws related to abortions, so far as I’ve determined thus far, consists simply of a need, if a person is to be judged a criminal in choosing abortion, to prove one of the following:

  1. the person willfully acted to end a life that should reasonably be believed to be an ethical being
  2. the person acted to end a life that should reasonably be believed to be an ethical being out of depraved indifference

There’s also the possible outcome of finding that the person is not actually responsible, in an ethical sense, for acting to end the life of a presumed ethical being because the acting individual is not qualified to make such a decision or, for that matter, to recognize the fact that (s)he is not qualified to make such a decision. This is the “insanity defense”, basically, though it applies to unavoidable ignorance and the fact that the accused may not be an ethical being him/her self.

It should be noted that I use the term “ethical being”, a shorthand version of the term “ethically significant being”, in a very specific manner here, with a very specific meaning. I refer to a being that is capable of ethical reasoning, and thus to make ethical decisions responsibly. This capability need not be measured in necessary experience. The mere fact of having the raw intellectual capacity for ethical reasoning, regardless of the knowledge required to apply such capacity, is sufficient to qualify one as an ethical being. It is the potential at the current state of physical capability to achieve ethical reasoning after the necessary experiences of social life that defines one as an ethical being.

Any argument, even if it agrees in results and goals with the ethical argument, that is based on patently false presumptions like “it’s part of the mother” is counterproductive. It makes those who know what the hell they’re talking about look bad by association, and make the job of getting the point across just that much more difficult. If you are inclined to making such half-baked assertions in defense of the notion that you should not be legally prevented from getting an abortion, please, don’t “help”.

The problem with the ethical approach I have outlined as a valid argument in favor of keeping abortion legal is, of course, that we don’t know at which point the life in the womb becomes an ethical being. We (where “we” means “experts”) can make educated guesses, and certainly we should not be giving abortions after that point, but before the point where an educated guess simply cannot be reasonably sure of the ethical reasoning capability of a fetus, we cannot be certain of the criminal character of an abortion.

Because of this fact, a burden of proof in the accusation of guilt is not met, and no violation of law should be deemed to have occurred. Period. If you can’t prove that the person should reasonably have believed that a murder was being committed, the act wasn’t murder. It boils down to the presumption of innocence, and it’s ultimately that simple — innocence not of a violation of law, but innocence of an unethical decision. Law should follow ethics; ethicality does not follow law.

8 Comments

  1. No, the argument is not “what grows inside a mothers body is part of the mothers body”, and it never was.

    The problem is that when a baby is put inside her, at a minimum a year and a half of her life is forcably and radically restricted, and so restricted it is up to the rest of her life, as well as the rest of her child’s life.

    The fact is this isn’t fair to the mother: the father doesn’t take the responsibility, and cannot be just as forced to. Any law or viewpoint that ignores this fact is therefore discriminatory to women.

    The fact is this isn’t fair to the child: The child might not be fed or clothed properly or (in your case) educated propertly, and social services and orphanages are overflowing as it is. Any viewport that ignores this fact is therefore discriminatory to children.

    I move therefore that royalists which refer to themselves as “pro life” are actually “anti-feminist” and “anti-child”, since they would rather ruin two lives than save one.

    Comment by Anonymous — 22 November 2006 @ 11:55

  2. the argument is not “what grows inside a mothers body is part of the mothers body”, and it never was.

    You speak for everyone in the world, then — or at least everyone that identifies as “pro-choice”? Perhaps I should quote something from my post, which it appears you just skimmed rather than reading very closely:

    The argument [. . .] that I have encountered more often than all other arguments put together

    I happen to know, personally, from experience, that what you say isn’t “the argument”, because “the argument” implies that there is a universal consensus and an official argument that takes precedence over all others, and I have certainly run across a number of arguments that do not perfectly agree with yours. Some, in fact, would directly contradict it.

    Furthermore, your argument does one of two things — it either assumes the argument I presented on behalf of the hundreds of people I have seen/heard making that argument as a necessary precursor, or it condones murder because the responsibilities imposed by the existence of the new life is “unfair” to the mother.

    The problem is that when a baby is put inside her

    Babies are typically not “put inside” women. Rather, they grow there because of an act known to lead to the growth of that life, an act normally engaged only with the mother’s consent. Please try to refrain from making the woman a victim of pregnancy. Pregnancy is not a crime perpetrated upon women by the vast white male conspiracy.

    at a minimum a year and a half of her life is forcably and radically restricted

    I’m not sure whether that’s a tremendous rounding error, turning nine months into eighteen, or you just missed that day in sex ed when it was made clear that the incubation period of the average pregnancy is around nine months.

    The fact is this isn’t fair to the mother: the father doesn’t take the responsibility,

    Is this a subtle reference to events in your own life, generalized to paint all fathers with the same vitriolic brush where you imply that all men are unwilling or incapable of participating in providing for the health and well-being of the child, or was that just a colossal error in phrasing? I might have assumed you meant only that the father doesn’t have the responsibility pressed upon him as a direct consequences of his participation in the act of starting the gestation of an embryo in the first place, except that you immediately contrasted the above quoted phrasing against just that when you said “and cannot be just as forced to.”

    Any law or viewpoint that ignores this fact is therefore discriminatory to women.

    That assumes the law should be about fairness, and not about defending the rights of individuals without violating the rights of others in the process. I find that assumption ludicrous and, even worse, dangerous.

    The fact is this isn’t fair to the child

    You have a point, there — so long as we’re talking about abortion that is not provably the ending of the life of an ethical being. If it is, however, such an act, then I think the “unfairness” of the circumstances of life imposed by a mother and father who are too resentful or negligent to provide proper care pales beside the “unfairness” of murder. I’m not saying abortion is murder, mind you — just that some abortion likely qualifies, depending on when and under what conditions it takes place.

    . . . or would you condone “abortion” while the mother is in labor? That’s the implication of your argument, that such a late-term abortion is justified by the unfairness of subsequent life for the child imposed on the mother and of subsequent life conditions for the child imposed on it by the mother (and father). If that’s your belief, you may as well take it somewhere else to argue your point, because I will never agree that the “unfairness” factor is so important that it could possibly be seriously considered as justification for “abortion” under such conditions as the last five minutes before birth by anyone with half a brain and an ethical bone in his or her body (unless there is reason to believe it’s not an ethical being until some as-yet unspecified point after birth). If that’s seriously your position, you’re a sociopathic menace to the people around you and should be locked up. Seriously.

    or (in your case) educated propertly

    That was asinine and pointless. If you would like, I could direct you to a number of websites with clear, safe instructions for how to insert such large, ugly objects as your personal attack on someone (I assume) you don’t even know from behind cover of anonymity into your rectum — sideways.

    I move therefore that royalists which refer to themselves as “pro life” are actually “anti-feminist” and “anti-child”, since they would rather ruin two lives than save one.

    I’m not sure how the term “royalists” comes into this, but I agree that people who would impose a blanket ban on abortions within the framework of the current understanding of medical science is indeed a bit of an ethical wasteland incapable of reasoning his or her way through the basics of what constitutes individual rights and realistic consequences of action. Too bad the same seems to apply to you.

    Comment by apotheon — 22 November 2006 @ 04:18

  3. I’m 98% pro-life and 2% pro-choice, though the 2% didn’t come easy.

    World estimations of the number of terminations carried out each year is somewhere between 20 and 88 million.

    Over 3,500 per day / Over 1.3 million per year in America alone.

    50% of that 1.3 million claimed failed birth control was to blame.

    A further 48% had failed to use any birth control at all.

    And 2% had medical reasons.

    That means a staggering 98% may have been avoided had an effective birth control been used.

    Australia (with a population of 20 million) terminated over 100 thousand young people last year. I’ve done the figures and Australia do more per head.

    Abortion has got to be by far the Mother of all holocausts, the most extensive crime against humanity the world has ever seen.

    Though it pains me to say it but, there may always be a need for the 2% medical reasons and such, but that’s all.

    So how do we get the other 98% to be responsible……………….

    How do we get them to be honest with themselves, about when life begins.

    egg+sperm = human being

    Sadly many prefer to have an occasional abortion over using birth control, they have all kinds of reasons, each of them selfish.

    Then there’s the christian impossition,(all a bit talibanish), and their men in high places.(church and state should never entwine) their stance against b/c has only added to the numbers.

    Sanity must provale, abortions should remain available and safe to the 2% and such and the rest need to have a good look at themselves and get their act together.

    I’d like to see effective birth control made available to all who can’t afford it.

    People have to stop using abortion as birth control…..

    If you think the point of conception is NOT when life begins, and all you have is a clump of cells and not a living human being. Then at least concider this –

    Soon after you were conceived you were no more than a clump of cells. This clump of cells was you at your earliest stage, you had plenty of growing to do but this clump of cells was you none the less. Think about it. Aren’t you glad you were left unhindered to develope further. Safe inside your mother’s womb until you were born.

    Comment by ausblog — 22 November 2006 @ 09:52

  4. Sorry, until it can exist outside the mother, it’s part of the mother. Just as Inuit would bury nursing infants with their dead mother, a pre-thought fetus is a tumour until zoom wombs become widely available.

    Comment by Phia — 23 November 2006 @ 09:21

  5. in answer to ausblog:

    egg+sperm = human being

    If you think the point of conception is NOT when life begins, and all you have is a clump of cells and not a living human being.
    You seem to lack any concern for whether there’s any logical basis for your beliefs. Could you perhaps provide some kind of supporting argument for these statements?

    Soon after you were conceived you were no more than a clump of cells. This clump of cells was you at your earliest stage, you had plenty of growing to do but this clump of cells was you none the less. Think about it. Aren’t you glad you were left unhindered to develope further. Safe inside your mother’s womb until you were born.
    Sure. I’m glad my mother decided to have sex with my father, and that my grandparents weren’t all killed in a meteor strike before my parents were born. That’s completely immaterial in determining the ethicality of an abortion.

    in answer to Phia:

    Sorry, until it can exist outside the mother, it’s part of the mother. Just as Inuit would bury nursing infants with their dead mother, a pre-thought fetus is a tumour until zoom wombs become widely available.
    You seem to be contradicting yourself slightly. Is it medical viability outside the womb or thought in the developing fetus that determines the (un)ethicality of an abortion? From what you said, you appear to be equating these conditions with each other — but they’re not the same thing.

    Comment by apotheon — 24 November 2006 @ 11:08

  6. Many OB/GYNs do seem to agree though that the human fetus is a parasite and it seems to be defined as just that, a parasite. Not that I use that in making my arguments for/against abortion.

    For that, I turn to what I believe to be ethical.

    1) The government has no business in defining the line. While I agree that there are too many people who use abortion as birth control, to just ban it out right would deny those in medical need. Blanket ban violates the rights of the majority. 2) Ayn Rand (and I’m fixing to mangle one of her quotes) once said (here it comes): if a being cannot take the necessary steps to ensure it’s survival, then it has no right to survival.

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 27 November 2006 @ 12:06

  7. I need to amend my previous comment, it violates the rights of the minority. I was trying to get the comment typed in less then 2 minutes.

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 27 November 2006 @ 12:24

  8. […] note: A number of people who came to this site specifically to disagree with me on the subject of justification of abortion in my SOB entry the anti-pro-abortion argument may, if the see this, be surprised. It probably looks like I’m inconsistently advocating extremes at both ends of the spectrum. Such people will probably disagree with me in this case as well, and may describe their reactions as “horrified” or something to that effect. These people, should they read this and come to these conclusions, would likely have done so by failing to think things through very clearly, refusing to understand my actual points (and thus refusing to understand how they are not actually contradictory) because they want instead to believe that their own ideas are infallible in this case. It would be interesting to see whether any of this happens for the reasons I surmise. Track with co.mments You can also bookmark this on del.icio.us or check the cosmos […]

    Pingback by Chad Perrin: SOB » the ethical argument for infanticide — 22 June 2007 @ 01:38

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