A Moderate Stance on Abortion - an essay

Hello! This is my first time posting here. I have an essay in the works and will be filling it in periodically…it so far LOOKS like a full essay but it is incomplete in some areas. It is a moderate stance on abortion incorporating Marquis and Warren’s positions into one. At the end I list where I will be adding. Enjoy.

A Moderate Stance on Abortion

by bgall

A woman may wish to have an abortion for a multitude of reasons. The developing fetus’ potential to kill or cause extreme physical harm to its mother, the fear of social repercussions due to pregnancy out of wedlock or scorned social conditions, the undesirable or forced nature of the pregnancy (namely rape or incest), the immense concerns surrounding the child’s ability to survive outside of the womb (especially without a “severely impaired” existence), and the inadequate financial or emotional support to provide a life without unusual hardship or unhappiness are all important considerations in any discussion of abortion. Despite such valid motives for abortion, the ethics of abortion are very complicated. This is due to the debate concerning the moral status of the fetus, the extent and significance of both the mother’s and the child’s rights, and abortion’s implications for both infanticide and the treatment of non-paradigm humans. Much of this debate stems from the fundamental question of, “Which is of greater value: life or liberty?” My attempt to answer to this question is part of the skeleton upon which the following abortion debate is structured. In the process of understanding the morality of abortion we must examine what life and whose liberty is involved, what is exactly at stake in an abortion, and judge the weight of each consideration. This paper will draw upon many modern views on abortion, starting with Pope John Paul II’s conservative stance, then moving to Mary Anne Warren’s liberal stance, continuing with Don Marquis’ moderation of the liberal stance, and finally ending with Judith Anne Warren’s moderation of the conservative stance to conclude that abortion is morally permissible only when the pregnancy is the result of involuntary or uninformed intercourse or is a legitimate threat to the mother’s life.

The conservative view on abortion, articulated by Pope John Paul II’s The Unspeakable Crime of Abortion, defines abortion as “the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being…extending from conception to birth.” Abortion, in accordance with the conservation position, is the murder of an “absolutely innocent” human who “in no way could…ever be considered an aggressor.” This position makes the assumptions that (1) a fetus is not an “aggressor” and is thus innocent, (2) the fetus’ innocence matters, (3) the fetus is an innocent human being from conception to birth, (4) and killing an innocent human being is morally indefensible. The former Pope argues that one then can conclude that (5) it is wrong to kill fetuses. Each of these assumptions will be analyzed to judge the validity of the conservative argument against abortion.

Let us begin with John Paul II’s first point. Admittedly, the fetus is not an “aggressor.” It possesses no intention to ruin its mother’s social status, kill its mother during pregnancy or birth, or cause harm to others. The fetus innocently requires of its mother a meager amount of nourishment, for her to carry it in her womb for roughly nine months, and to give birth. There is no physiological requirement (although there is debate over whether there is a moral obligation) for the biological mother to take care of the baby even a moment after birth. Yet while we can accept (1) as a valid point, (2) seems doubtful. If a bear eats a human because it’s hungry, does that make the deceased’s family’s anger unjustified? Surely not, for if we deem relationships as something of value, as many from Kant to Aristotle to Gilligan to Mill do, then we surely possess some justification for anger. If a leech drains you of blood until you can no longer work because of weakness, which results in you losing your job, which then results in your family starving, are you allowed to be upset? “Of course,” says any consequentialist. The invasion of rights in these examples would upset most deontologists as well. “Not meaning to cause harm” is not a very sound defense when one’s right to life (RTL) is infringed upon. Admittedly the existence of such a right is debatable, yet its discussion is outside the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, while the fetus may or may not be a moral agent or deserve moral consideration, there are many instances where the fetus’ innocence simply does not matter. This weakens the conservative stance, but does not directly defeat the complete conservative argument.

The Pope’s third point is the key to the conservative argument. Later in the discussion of Judith Jarvis Thomson’s position on abortion, it will be shown that (3) does not necessarily lead to (4), which consequentially doesn’t conclude (5). Regardless, as Mary Anne Warren explains in On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, the conservative position is not logically sound. Since the late Pope’s argument is based upon the previously articulated logical progression, this is a significant problem for the conservative stance on abortion. Warren remarks that if “human” is used in two different senses of the word, then “the conclusion [(5)] doesn’t follow.” She shows that (5) is not a conclusion of (3) and (4) by writing,

“[(4)] is a self-evident moral truth, and avoids begging the question about abortion, only if ‘human being’ is used to mean something like ‘a full-fledged member of the moral community.’ (It may…also be meant to refer exclusively to members of the species Homo sapiens.) We may call this the moral sense of ‘human.’ It is not to be confused with what we call the genetic sense…in which any member of the species is a human being, and no member of any other species could be. If [(4) is acceptable only if the moral sense is intended, [(3)] is non-question-begging only if what is intended is the genetic sense.”

The failure to differentiate between “human being” in the genetic sense and “human being” in the moral sense leads to difficult questions for the conservative stance. This explains why I will now use the term “person” for human in the moral sense and “human” for human in the genetic sense. Warren’s point in turn begs the question, “Is the fetus a person and not just a human?” As answers to this question are the basis of many arguments concerning the morality of abortion, this is a vital question that deserves examination.

The status of the fetus’ membership in our moral community is difficult to identify. The fetus is clearly a member of our own species and ultrasound examinations show relatively human features but a few months or even weeks into its development. In all likelihood the fetus will one day be a relatively paradigm person just like you and me. On the other hand, it is hard to discern any concepts of personhood in the fetus. The fetus usually cannot survive without its mother’s body, and the fetus has no definable experiences or memories that one can show as evidence of consciousness.
In seeking to identify moral status of the fetus, Warren provides a series of traits that are “central to the concept of personhood,” such as “consciousness,” “reasoning,” “self-motivated activity,” “the capacity to communicate,” and “the presence of self concepts.” Although she admits it is debatable how many and what level of these traits defines personhood, these provide a general outline of what characterize a person. This list sets the bar very high for personhood, which as will be discussed later leads to several unsettling conclusions. Nevertheless, the fetus possesses none of these traits. It is difficult to believe that the fetus truly understands itself to be alive, that it “thinks”, or that it in fact has its own, separate ends. Thus it seems impossible, at least according to Warren, for a fetus to be a person.
Since the mother’s right to her body, choice of action, and her moral status are presumably greater than the moral status, moral considerations, and rights of non-persons, Warren believes abortion is in nearly all cases moral. Let us look at the logical progression of Warren’s argument:
(1) Rights exist.
(2) Certain rights (let’s call them “fundamental rights”) may have more value than others.
(3) Among these fundamental rights are the rights to life, control over one’s own body, and freedom of choice.
(4) Persons possess at least some of these fundamental rights.
(5) The value of a person’s rights, whatever it is, is greater than or equal to the value of the rights of a non-person.
(6) The mother is a person.
(7) The fetus is not a person.
(8) Therefore the value of the mother’s rights, whatever it is, is greater than the value of the rights of the fetus.
(9) The value of rights determines which rights deserve respect with the greater value deserving more respect.
(10) Therefore the mother’s rights and the fetus’ rights or fundamental rights conflict, the mother’s rights deserve more respect because the value of her rights is greater than the value any of the rights of the fetus.
(11) Therefore if the woman’s right to her body conflicts with the fetus’ right to life, the woman’s right deserves more respect.
(12) Therefore abortion is always moral.

The above argument is full of assumptions. (1) seems probable and would find little to no argument with anyone besides a Darwinist. (2) seems to follow from (1), since our “right” to scratch our leg is clearly of less significance than the right to life. (3) is a controversial statement in that the extent of the rights of humans, persons, animals, and things are constantly being debated and will not be resolved in this argument. (5) is once again debatable. If (5) is true then it means animals and non-paradigm humans do not have equal rights as persons. This is an unsettling position to embrace. (6) and (7) are almost always true in accordance with Warren’s definition of personhood, but if Warren’s definition is wrong both are subject to change. (8) follows logically from points (5), (6), and (7). (9) is based off of the assumption that some rights are capable of being more important than others and should be weighed accordingly in decisions that may violate any rights. (10), (11), and (12) are all logical conclusions from the established premises. Thus while her argument does have a logical progression, the foundation is not as sturdy as one may believe.
Many of Warren’s traits of personhood are also not possible for newborn infants and non-paradigm humans. This denies their personhood. Accordingly, Warren’s stance allows for infanticide and the killing of non-paradigm human beings (the mentally handicapped, those in comas, those unable to communicate with paradigm humans, etc.) if it allows for the killing of fetuses. Warren denies that she per se supports infanticide, yet acknowledges that were a situation to arise of great magnitude that pit the life of a non-paradigm human against the well-being, liberty, and/or life of another person, then the person wins out. Do we believe, as Warren does, that infanticide is moral? The morality of infanticide is beyond the scope of this paper, nevertheless for many this problem makes acceptance of Warren’s position difficult. Warren provides a valuable point when she asserts that our disdain for infanticide is likely a social issue stemming from the assumption that other families would willingly adopt one’s child rather than let it die. While a vast majority of humans likely find infanticide and the killing of non-paradigm humans as disturbing, nevertheless this “unsettling” feeling is not a solid logical basis for an argument against Warren’s liberal position.

This temporarily adopted liberal position, that the fetus has no moral status until the moment of birth (and perhaps after), faces much criticism. Even Warren should concede that her traits are extremely chauvinistic. Her judgment of personhood is such that it largely ignores the developmental nature of the human psyche and the manner in which we “turn into” persons. Declaring a being a “human” one moment and a “person” the next does not seem to fit with the progression from human to person. Furthermore, rather than solve the abortion question, Warren merely changes the question from “At what point is a fetus a person?” to “At what point is a child a person?” Warren provides no answer, and it seems any suggested solution to this question would be as arbitrary as creating 1st, 2nd, and 3rd trimester-based regulation of abortion and/or as ambiguous as our concept of personhood. This question remains unresolved and is beyond the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, Warren’s responses do nothing to alter the strange implications of her stance for a pro-choice position, and her argument is seriously weakened by the lack of an account of personhood.

One must acknowledge that while the fetus is not a person, it is nevertheless highly probable that it will one day “achieve” personhood. We consider paradigm human beings to possess full-fledged moral status that must be generally considered (from an impartial viewpoint) of equal value to other paradigm human beings’ moral status. We need not look at the process, whether through a graduated spectrum or incremental growth, by which the atoms of the sperm and egg go from possibly deserving moral consideration yet possessing no moral status to being full members of the moral community. Nearly anyone will acknowledge that there is indeed are differences between a rock and a fetus in moral consideration, even if they not the same differences as between a rock and a person. Where do these differences come from? It seems that the difference would lie in that very capacity to be a member of the moral community, to be a person, by whatever definition of “person” one may contrive. Thus we should perhaps consider the fetus’ potential for personhood, the potential to be a full-fledged member of the moral community (“like us”), as something of value, as the destruction of such significant potential could provide a strong argument against abortion of the fetus. Don Marquis’ Why Abortion is Immoral examines the value of this potential. His moderation of the liberal position provides an argument for the significance of a potential “Future-Like-Ours” in the argument of abortion by explaining why death for anyone is terrible, then showing how a fetus is undeserving of death for the same reasons that any other person is undeserving of death.

The “Future-Like-Ours” Position (FLOP) concludes that “fetuses are in the same category as adult human beings with respect to the moral value of their lives…and the presumption that…abortion is immoral is exceedingly strong…[and] could be overridden only by considerations more compelling than a woman’s right to privacy.” To understand this concept, we must ask why killing is wrong in the first place. Is it the very act of killing? This question doesn’t answer “why” killing is wrong or provide any insight into the question. It answers the question of “Why?” with “Because it is.” Perhaps its wrongness is because killing “brutalizes the one who kills” or is due to “the great loss others would experience?” It’s doubtful that concern for the killer is the reason murder is wrong. There are many people who seem to enjoy killing and would benefit greatly in numerous ways (gaining power, money, safety, etc.) that would likely outweigh the “brutalization” of the murderer in terms of cost/benefit. Additionally, murder’s resulting loss for others doesn’t explain why killing a hermit would be immoral.

Marquis suggests that murder’s immorality lies in the self’s value of the experience of the future. “The loss of one’s life,” he writes, “deprives one of all the experiences, activities, projects, and enjoyments that otherwise have constituted one’s future.” Accordingly, “killing inflicts (one of) the greatest possible losses on the victim.” The value is not in what others would suffer or gain from the death or life of the murder victim, but rather in the fundamental value of life that the self holds. Believing the value is in others’ gains and losses leads to an acceptance of no individual rights, individual considerations, or moral decisions by the individual. If one were to embrace the concept that death is bad because of others’ losses, that person would have to additionally embrace many such problematic conclusions.
The value of life lies in the future, in and of itself. It does not matter whether the future is likely to be good or bad. Such qualities of life are (to at least a modest extent) in the hands of the individual and may, despite trends in peoples’ and the world’s actions, change at any moment. Consequentially we value the mere experience of the future. Admittedly this is making the assumption that we possess free will, yet this assumption is necessary in the discussion of any notion of morality. Marquis’ stance is strong because it addresses and values the fetus’ potential personhood while ruling out infanticide. It also accounts for the value of the lives of people who are temporarily in comas. Marquis resolves Warren’s personhood issue effectively. Practically, his approach supports abortion only when the loss of the fetus’ future is less morally valuable than possible losses or harms to the mother. Such instances, considering the large intrinsic value of a Future-Like-Ours, are quite rare and likely only include situations where the mother faces death due to the fetus.

Marquis’ stance does have several weaknesses. Marquis claims that his policy “does not entail…that active euthanasia is wrong” because it is the “value of a human’s future which makes killing wrong in this theory.” I fail to see any difference between euthanasia and murder in its deprivation of the future. Accordingly this is inconsistent with his other claims, as Marquis’ position deems the future as valuable for its own sake or valuable in its potential to be valued by the self. “Some parts of my future are not valued by me now,” Marquis writes, “but will come to be valued by me as I grow older and as my values and capacities change.” Indeed, his point suggests that future experiences are in and of themselves valuable, even if they are not always good. To use an extreme example, the captured soldier may one day value as the building blocks of his character or a gruesome but invaluable lens through which to view the world the torture and pain he suffered while the enemy interrogated him. Marquis tries to differentiate himself from a sanctity-of-life perspective, but he fails. This can be troublesome for euthanasia rights advocates, but as previously discussed, “troublesome” is not a good basis for the rejection of a position. His position champions above all the RTL, which is the right to the future. This means that abortion is prima facie immoral. If we can show that the moral importance of the fetus’ future, however, is commonly less than that of a mother’s rights, Marquis’ FLOP would have serious concerns, as this would acknowledge the FLOP while still endorsing abortion.

Judith Jarvis Thomson’s A Defense of Abortion defends abortion while granting its opponents the concession that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. She summarizes the conservative view of abortion as following:
(1) Every person has a RTL. (2) The fetus is a person. (3) The fetus, as a person, has a RTL. (4) The mother has a right to her own body. (5) A person’s RTL is stronger than a mother’s right to her body. (6) Thus the fetus cannot be killed, for it has a RTL stronger than its mother’s right to her body.

Thomson claims (5) and (6) are not true. Her example asks you to imagine waking up to discover that you were kidnapped in your sleep. You now share a bed with a world-reknowned violinist who is attached to you by hoses. You are asked by another person to be hooked up to the violinist for nine months, then each of you go on your own separate ways. If you unplug the violinist, he will die. The conservative stance dictates that the violist’s RTL requires you remain plugged to him. This is because killing an innocent person is only allowed in the conservative position in cases of self-defense. Thinking otherwise infers that different means of pregnancy yield different rights to life, which neglects the right to life as a concrete right.

Thomson then encourages one to consider what is entailed in a RTL. She imagines that Henry Fonda’s touch is vital to someone’s life. If Fonda touches that person, he or she will live. Otherwise, this person will inevitably die very soon. Thomson claims that surely that person’s RTL does not extend to ethically requiring Henry Ford to fly to their city and touch them. This shows the absurdity of the notion that we have a right to “the bare minimum one needs for continued life” beyond the negative right of not being murdered. Our own negative rights supposedly make remaining attached nonobligatory, so we could unplug (abort) the violinist (fetus). Thomson doesn’t argue against the RTL, but rather against the right to use another’s body, “as if one needs it for life itself.” Yet clearly this RTL is very strong, in fact strong enough to overcome the right to woman has to her body, assuming the pregnancy is voluntary (to be discussed later) and not dangerous for the health of the mother. Thomson proposes at one point that the RTL and the negative right to not be killed are contingent upon justice. A justified abortion is reasonable. Yet the definition of justice is vague and it seems that any consideration (including privacy and independence) other than another life pales in comparison to the RTL. Furthermore, considerations of social stress are cultural and lack consistency across group boundaries. They are weak indicators of moral cause to abort a fetus conceived through voluntary, informed intercourse, although it seems probable that the involuntary suffering of rape victims provides a basis for abortion.

The previous paragraphs should provide decent moral justification for a woman possibly having an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of involuntary intercourse or may have serious consequences for the health of the mother. Thomson provides the “People Seeds” example in an attempt to expand the morality of abortion from the scope that has been shown as ethical. The People Seeds example has us image “people seeds” that drift about like pollen. These people seeds are only able to mature into living people if they somehow take root in a home’s carpet. One can thus assume that if you open your windows, even with a mesh screen (contraceptive) designed to block out people seeds, there is an inherint risk that just one people seed may drift into your house, landing and planting itself in your carpet. This would result in a human fetus-plant that would one day (in all likelihood) develop into a child. This brings up an important question concerning rights and moreality. If you open your window because it is hot, fully understanding a seed may plant itself in your house despite your best attempts to keep it out, “does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house?” Thomson says, “Surely not.” She argues that there is a risk that any woman may get pregnant at nearly any time, whether from rape or voluntary intercourse. This is nonsensical. There are only two ways for an informed woman to become pregnant: through voluntarily or involuntarily intercourse. In cases of involuntary intercourse, I have already made clear that an abortion is permitted due to the lack of consent to the terms/obligations of pregnancy or motherhood. By not accepting these obligations, the most vital of which is to give birth to child, the woman is not required to help promote the fetus’ life. This is because the value of the woman’s unforfeited rights is more powerful than the value of the fetus’ future. Just as we sacrifice some of our rights to protect rights in a social contract, a woman sacrifices her rights for the fetus’ right to a future in voluntary, informed sex. By having consensual sex, you are in essence signing a waiver to accept the consequences of sex and the potential forfeiture of some of your rights. Any time you drive, you know you are subject to the liability of crashing. It is inconvenient to walk, but driving is not a necessity and carries risk. Such is the way of sex.

Marquis and Thompson, both trying to moderate the views presented by the former Pope and Warren, provide compelling arguments. Both look beyond the obvious “When is it a person?” debate. Marquis holds that the future (or life) of the fetus is as valuable as most any other person’s future (or life). He still allows instances when abortion would be appropriate. Thomson explains these instances and shows us that rape and the possibility of extreme physical harm or death allows women to place their own interests over the life of the fetus due to the lack of consent to the obligations of motherhood inherent in rape and our own RTL. Ultimately we find ourselves somewhere in the middle of the debate, realizing that abortion is moral at certain times and immoral at others.

I plan to:
-Incorporate ideas on voluntary euthanasia being immoral (sanctity of life position) which reinforces the notion of no abortion being moral. Doctrine of double effect, never being able to understand competence for euthanasia,
-Differentiate my sanctity of life position from others saying that while one’s own life is sacred, others’ is not necessarily as sacred as our RIGHT to life and our RIGHT to our own choices concernign anything but our own life which is dictated by a SOL position
-Show why having sex is ‘signing a waiver’ similar to a doctor’s waiver
-Use Locke’s social obligations view to show that an unwanted child is nevertheless okay to give birth to.

The Pope is wrong, as most popes are…It is not an unspeakable crime, but a simple sin…Abortiion rests on human freedom, which I suspect the church has asserted when convenient, and denied when not…Abortion as a sin, and as an immorality exists in a world of immorality, and the church wants that world of immorality, and gives it political support, but wishes to deny one of its consequences, which is abortion, as well as others, like extreme poverty and war…The fact of the matter is that they do not want to see the whole picture, and their place in it…They represent the wealthy, and they support wealth…Abortion is the result of individual freedom, which they were the first to put forward as an idea, and also from law, which treats all as individuals even when this means the breakdown of the family and all communities, which if extant, could support their members, and reduce single pregnancy and abortion…There can be no just law without human freedom, and each person, individual, must be free in their own bodies if they can be called free…What if there is little enough of just law??? All law, even unjust law rests on the power of the people to accept it unless the whole mass of humanity will be brutes of one form or another… If we have individual freedom, then we can express that freedom socially…If we do not have that freedom it is pointless for one group to tell another that a sin should be a crime, because their freedom is not freedom, but is only coercion which they suffer most of all…

A good summary of the big positions on the issue.

I’m interested to see where this will go.

Hello, thank you for an interesting and well-written essay.

Do you see a moral difference between murder and suicide in this case?

Taken as an objective third-person appraisal, in both cases a human’s future is removed. Looking perspectivally, however, in one case a third party removes the future of someone who wants to continue living and in that way prevents them from exercising their will, ever again. In the second, a person sees no value in continued existence and elects as a final act of will to remove their own future. Euthanasia is halfway between the two; on the one hand, a third party is acting to deprive a human of their future, on the other it is an act of will by the person to be voluntarily deprived of such.

Given that all humans have a right to life, does that entail that they have an absolute duty to it above all other considerations? Surely not. I may have the right to free speech or to bear arms or to education, but I also retain the right not to exercise them. Similarly, to have a right to life raises the question of whether we have a right to death. And of course, whether you have the right/duty to deny someone that right because of your inability to understand/believe their viewpoint.

It’s not directly relevant to abortion, of course, as I don’t think we can assume that all foetuses are suicidal. But if will has a role in morality (and it’s hard to conceive a meaningful morality that does not consider will as a primary factor), then the point at which a foetus has a meaningful will is an important discussion. And, I suppose, just as futile a debate as that of when the foetus develops an immortal soul.

If you drive recklessly or drunkenly, you forfeit rights in the event of an accident. If you take every reasonable precaution, however, you don’t. Similarly you could argue analogously that abortion is immoral in the case of drunken one-night stands where you couldn’t be bothered with/put youself in a state beyond the use of contraception, and the cases where careful family planning is disrupted by a fluke event.

As an additional point not yet touched upon, a modern development is the morning-after pill. This doesn’t abort a foetus, it prevents implantation. As such, it brings into question the status of the unimplanted foetus as a potential distinction point.

Why not enter this in the ILP essay contest…?

i find myself having immense difficulty in writing this paper without concluding that, well there is no answer! as i note in the beginning of the essay, the issue of abortion is not a debate over the fetus’ sentience. conclusions as to the fetus’ sentience are a long ways off in terms of proof either way and not practical in this argument. i firmly believe that neither extreme position can be adopted in any case, because even if it is proved the fetus is/isn’t a person, that throws the discussion into a whole different debate. believing otherwise is idiotic and avoids the bigger picture. what is this ‘bigger picture’? it’s the debates of rights vs. life of course! what is our ultimate value, and is it the same as the ultimate goal of ethics? utility? liberty? equality? property? life? prosperity? it seems foolish to choose one over the other, even as an avowed libertarian (ironically writing on why your right to an abortion is not a moral right!). it seems clear to me that if the woman and the fetus’ rights to life conflict, the woman wins out. i also feel like a woman should be able to have an abortion in times of involuntary intercourse. most, not all, people would agree with me. the difficulty i’m facing lies how to reconcile the fact that “life is the ultimate value yet there are some instances where rights trump it” (which is basically the position I take in a modified ‘future like ours’ stance) with the fact that there is a sort of sanctity of life that goes beyond rights. as i’m writing this response i’m getting some sort of idea: perhaps i need to emphasize the importance of life/the future TO THE SELF. If there is an instance where one can truly show that the self holds life or the future with little value, then it seems reasonable one could undergo voluntary euthanasia. this supports the idea that the SELF’S VALUE of the future is of greatest value in the world. If the fetus has a self, then its self-value of the future is trumped by the mother’s self value of the future and she may have an abortion in certain rare instances such as rape and possible death. If the fetus DOESN’T have a self, this makes the debate all the more easy because we recognize the lack of established self as somehow giving less value to the fetus’ future than a person’s future. Yet we still value this potential.
Thus there is a spectrum (from most important to least):

Person’s Potential Future <->Person’s right to CONSENTED function of their body ↔ Fetus’ Potential Future ↔ Person’s other Rights ↔ Fetus’ other Rights ↔ All other Considerations

I need to think about the implications of this and how to articulate my idea better. AKA we have a right not to be violated by others physically and physically forced to do certain actions. We sacrifice some of these rights by entering into society in a sort of social contract (thus when we punch another person we go to jail) but the negative right from rape is one of the rights that we recognize. why is this? because of the order of values i have listed above. a person’s rights to do many other things (drink, fight, etc.) are less than the fetus’ future (which we recognize in not allowing abortion all the time) but both of these values are less than a person’s right to consented function of their body (just as it is immoral to make someone pull the trigger on a gun to kill someone else).

i like this idea.

to directly address your question:

in a sanctity of life position, i would say no there is not a difference between murder and suicide. my rationale is that a person, even in terrible suffering, may still value life but be too blinded by pain, depression, etc to recognize the value of the future. yet this seems a very demanding position that I am having a hard time accepting. it seems there are instances where, say, a 99 year old dying woman would ask to have the plug pulled or for an injection where it would be reasonable to have “suicide” essentially. with non-paradigm humans we must value the future because we have not been given consent, and because of the above value spectrum. thus the plug should not be pulled, unless consent has been written in advance. i find voluntary euthanasia to be reasonable in some cases…but why? once again the SELF’s value of the future is the most important. the difference between my stance and sanctity of life is that one CAN declare that the future is not of enough value for them. where does this come from? i would ground it in reason. then, a SOL person would respond that when someone tries to kill themself they are not acting in accordance with reason. i would ask them about this thought experiment i just made up:

suppose you are one of two people alive in the world due to a nuclear apocalypse. you are currently in a medieval torture room and your skin is slowly being peeled off of you second by second as you shriek in pain on the table you are shackled to. you have been informed by the other survivor that he will kill you one week from today, as he slowly peels your skin off and applies flames and acid to your raw flesh, or tomorrowy, as he does the same. Surely you would choose to die tomorrow, and be justified?

i believe this scenario defeats the sanctity of life position and differentiates suicide from murder. murder infringes on the rights spectrum put up above and suicide is IN ACCORDANCE with the rights spectrums.

sanctity of life individuals would argue that one does. obviously rights have different values: my right to bear arms is not equal with the right to life. in some places there is a right to health care. is this actually a right? i think there are very few rights, and they are mostly negative rights (this is the libertarian in me).

I don’t buy this argument. If you drive a car, you AUTOMATICALLY, in driving it, understand there is a risk of getting in an accident. Every day you step outside, you understand there is a risk that someone may randomly assault you and steal your wallet. I can go on and on with these examples but I think you’ll understand. Consensual sex has certain risks. Birth control does NOT claim 100% efficacy. 99.9 efficacy still means it fails 1/1000 times. Understand that.

This is outside the scope of my paper and I’m not learned enough on the technical aspect of “Plan B”, but if the sperm and the egg have united and cells have started dividing, I would have a problem with that. If it stops one from reaching the other, by all means go ahead. I have no problem with contraceptives.

The question that I suppose arises is as to what extent they disagree on rational grounds. And that always leads me to the question as to what extent philosophical morality is post hoc justification of what we already feel - formulation of gut feelings in pretty words.

Nothing could trump an ultimate value besides more of the ultimate value, surely?

I think your approach is promising, but you have to be careful to differentiate between personal values, societal values and objective values - if you believe in the latter. A normal human being in normal circumstances holds his or her life (or maybe the life of their descendants) as the highest value. This doesn’t mean that a legal system, a moral system or a society should be compelled to do so - these are all emergent systems from assemblies of individuals. A society limits the rights of people to place themselves above all others at any cost, irrespective of how some individuals feel about that. However, it must also allow for the fact that its members have these values, or it will disintegrate. So to who is the Self-value of life/the future the greatest value? To the self, of course, but this need not guide policy on a moral or legal level. A society can hold things of value above the ultimate-value-to-the-self of life. And it does, in practice.

I’m curious what you mean by “truly show that the self holds life or the future with little value” - the only way you can know the individual’s values is to ask the individual. If you ignore or overrule the individual because you don’t believe her, you can’t appeal to anything besides your own power to do so. Not very libertarian, of course, but no-one said this was easy :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m also curious what you mean as “the fact that there is a sanctity of life that goes beyond rights” - is this a fact? What is sanctity of life (in the sense of the discussion) beyond a statement as to its position in a system of rights?

But to come back to the abortion issue - unfortunately, as I see it, all the new formulation does is change the problem formulation from “when is a foetus sentient?” to “when does the foetus become a valuing self?”

I would argue that values and reason have almost nothing to do with each other. De gustibus non disputandum est. Why would you prefer to be warm and hungry than cold and well-fed, and someone else prefer the opposite? Either is conceivable, and neither is irrational. Now, I think it’s safe to say that everyone would prefer to be alive and cold than dead - value scales are very broadly similar between humans, who share many physiological and existential characteristics, and reason can differentiate between things on this scale. Even so, it has no input into the valuations themselves, it merely acts to compare.

Now “alive and in intense, crippling pain for the rest of ones foreseeable life” or dead? I think the values are in a very similar ballpark. And it would take a very strong argument from an SOL proponent to convince me it could not be otherwise, to the extent that I would support keeping people alive and in crippling pain. One that I can’t conceive for myself, at least.

In the UK you have a right to healthcare. In the US (at least, right at the moment) you do not. Rights are granted, not discovered.

I understand that I may be assaulted, that doesn’t in anyway mitigate the assailant’s liability. I am in no way signing a waiver. If I walk through the rough end of Boston singing offensive songs about the Irish, the Red Sox and the Patriots, I am indulging in risky behaviour and my assailants will most likely get off with a warning.

Mitosis as a moral milestone? That’s a new and pleasingly alliterative theory :slight_smile:

The cells have started dividing. Without them successfully implanting, however, they will die, and this happens a lot perfectly naturally. One of the arguments for foetal personhood is that, without intervention, the foetus/embryo/trophoblast will in its present state continue to grow into a human being. That’s not true at the pre-implantation stage; left in the current stage the cells will die, and they’re unconnected to the mother’s body. I can see arguments for an against on both sides.

oh my god i just spent 30 minutes typing a response and i logged out. um, if i one day find motivation again i will respond. i’m going to work on this paper this evening then i’ll post it.

I’ve learned the hard way: always type really long responses in Word. That way nothing can go wrong.

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I feel for you.