More Relevant Kinds of Arguments

[But there is much more to this. See the above section in the main essay:

1–5, were recorded in the Nannerl Notenbuch

I am simply interested in this paper in the moral arguments about abortionwithout regard to whether they might also support some particular Scripturalinterpretations or not. This paper will deal, not with unsubstantiatedand unargued, non-reasoned claims for ethical principles based on authority,but with evidence that is given either for abortions in certain cases oragainst them in others, evidence that is meant to be logical and also compassionateand understanding. Such a method is not infallible, but the mistakes itengenders are at least correctable by use of the method itself. Logic isalways open to other logical rebuttal; and compassion is always open tocompassion that encompasses more correct understanding. The nature of arational, intelligent, compassionate ethical discussion gives the hopethat if error of either sort is made, it can be discovered and correctedby further thought, understanding of experience, and discussion. Presentpolitical and judicial rhetoric and decisions do not give me that hope.I am also not given that hope by some seemingly entrenched, unreflective,and irrationally dogmatic religious views or by some of the equally unreflectiveand irrationally dogmatic supposedly "liberal" or "modern" views. Neitherthe total "pro-life" nor the total "pro-choice" side seems to me to havea monopoly on the right or even on being reasonable on this issue. In thispaper I also wish to point out the lack of merit, and sometimes even thetotal lack of relevance, of some of the more politically popular or well-publicizedarguments on both sides of the abortion issue. I think there are betterand more relevant considerations that can shed more light on the subject.

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There are a number of cases I wish to consider in terms of the rightnessor wrongness of abortion. These are (1) conception due to rape, (2) unwantedfetus or embryo conceived by non-negligent accident, (3) unwanted fetusor embryo conceived by negligent accident, (4) fetus or embryo whose birthendangers the life of the pregnant woman, and (5) fetus or embryo thatis likely to be born to a life of very low quality because of either (a)severe physical and/or mental birth defects or (b) some reason other thansuch defects, for example, malnutrition and likely starvation in a drought-stricken,impoverished country.

I also wish to discuss these kinds of cases of abortion not only inregard to science and society as they are at this writing, but as to howsocietal or social perspectives might be philosophically modified and howmedical science is likely someday to be, the latter in ways that will bringwhole new problems to the question of abortion -- as well as whole newsolutions. The particular medical science developments I wish to take intoaccount are those of transplant or machine maintenance of a human embryo(though particularly a later stage embryo, which as of this writing isstill not medically feasible; transplant is already done in other animals,notably cattle); and the particular social perspective changes I wish totake into account are (1) some sort of "nurturing" assistance for the childrenof educationally and socially disadvantaged families -- not necessarilyjust "ghetto" families and not necessarily welfare nor governmental assistance,but personal relationships and mentoring that will give expectation thata child will not have to be born into such a hopeless or terrible situationthat an abortion might be better for it, (2) a change in adoption policyand child-rearing that would enable people who "give up" babies for adoptionto have some influence over, and some direct knowledge of, their child'sdevelopment, (3) elimination of unfair discrimination, particularly jobdiscrimination, based on unwed motherhood and the stigma attaching to someone'sbeing an "illegitimate" child, and (4) a change in the way we view theresponsibility for rearing children, both in regard to financial obligations,and in regard to their moral, physical, and academic education. I wishto consider these four social changes because it seems to me that theywould drastically reduce the number of abortions by reducing many people'sfeeling of need for an abortion as their only alternative to a very unhappyor wrongful birth. And to eliminate or reduce abortions voluntarily, byeliminating or reducing the (perceived) need for them, would be a goodthing.

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There are also some people who seem to have a particularly inconsistentview -- those who hold that all conceived babies should be allowed to beborn regardless of their quality of life because life is a virtual absolutevalue, and who also hold that it is right to let people (let alone makeor draft people to) go to war in defense of something such as property,liberty, economic and/or social system, where defense of life is not atissue. One cannot consistently hold that life is the most important thingthere is and that it is all right for one to risk his life for somethingof less value. This inconsistency seems particularly odd since it seemsto put greater value on (potential) life that is not yet self-consciousthan it puts on life that is already self-conscious and may even have areasonably known particularly (deservedly) bright future.

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The issue of whether seriously unhealthy or seriously malformed fetuses should be identified and aborted:
since quality of life does seem to be a consideration, and since certainkinds of defects assure suffering and preclude even minimal quality oflife, it seems that anyone arguing severely deformed or fatally or morbidly ill fetuses should beallowed to be born (or "forced" to be born and thus forced to suffer) needsto have and to show some very good reasons why. The simplistic argumentthat abortionists are playing God is not sufficient. We are playing Godeither way, since we have the power either way (assuming the real God doesnot intervene the opposite way and really play God) for bringing aboutabortion or live delivery. We are playing God just as much to make someonebe born as when we keep someone from being born.

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I once ventured upon some adolescent boys getting ready to torture ayoung cat by throwing it into a mass of sticker bushes to see how it woulddo. I interceded on behalf of the cat. The main antagonist, a fairly largeboy, was displeased by my intervention and said that I had no businessinterfering with their fun. His main comment was that it was his cat andhe could do anything he wanted to it. I take it that this is a form ofthe privacy (and private property) argument, that this was a private matterand I had no right to intervene. I did not at the time see fit to arguethe merits of the case on that particular issue and instead gave him othergrounds which I thought might appeal to him. I suggested that if he couldnot see any reason to see the similarity between the cat's feelings andhis own that I might help him see the relationship in this instance betweenthe cat's well-being and his own. This convinced him for the time at leastthat harming the cat might not be in his own best interest. But it occurredto me later that the cat's being his cat gave him not less responsibilityfor its well-being, as he seemed to think, but gave him even more responsibilityfor its well-being. In general, the owners of pets and the parents of youngchildren are held responsible for at least certain minimal standards oftheir charges' welfare. Recently enacted laws in a number of states requiringparents to have their children in car restraints while the car is in motionis another example of balancing parental privacy with child welfare onthe side of the welfare rather than privacy. And it does seem to me, havingseen so many parents who dangerously, carelessly, and recklessly allowtheir children to ride standing up on the front seat (as if to give theirheads better aim at the windshields in case of sudden braking or frontalcollision) that the innocent child should have a champion in the stateif the parents do not fulfill reasonable obligations. In general, a womandoes have some responsibility toward her children and even toward her unbornfetus. How much is open to discussion. And in general parents cannot justifablytreat their children any way they would want to, especially if that meansharming or killing the child, or risking its life or health needlessly.I would expect there to be made similar cases for fetal rights, thoughjust how much, and whether it could preclude abortion or not, and underwhat circumstances, is what is at issue. The point here is that privacy,by itself, is insufficient to morally justify abortion and/or other sortsof fetal harm -- regardless of the Supreme Court's legal decision.