Well I’ve come to a point where I’ve been far enough from the abortion debate, which the Philadelphia kerfuffle has brought back to the front burner, that I feel I can’t muster a coherent argument for abortion at all. So, what I’m going to try to do here is mention the two or three points/arguments that I know for that case and see if anyone out there can fill in the gaps or offer argument not mentioned that are stronger.
The primary argument for abortion comes from the “Famous violinist” … from wiki:
- You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. [If he is unplugged from you now, he will die; but] in nine months he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.
Thomson takes it that you may now permissibly unplug yourself from the violinist even though this will cause his death: the right to life, Thomson says, does not entail the right to use another person’s body, and so by unplugging the violinist you do not violate his right to life but merely deprive him of something—the use of your body—to which he has no right. “[I]f you do allow him to go on using your kidneys, this is a kindness on your part, and not something he can claim from you as his due.”
For the same reason, Thomson says, abortion does not violate the fetus’s right to life but merely deprives the fetus of something—the use of the pregnant woman’s body—to which it has no right. Thus, it is not that by terminating her pregnancy a woman violates her moral obligations, but rather that a woman who carries the fetus to term is a ‘Good Samaritan‘ who goes beyond her obligations.
There are a number of crucial flaws to this argument. First being it wasn’t an anonymous secret society that sought you out making you pregnant … it was a voluntary act of yours. A better beginning might have been “there are a pool of available donors … the society has offered a reverse lottery … they pay you $100 bucks for each ticket you wish. Then there is a drawing. If you are selected then ” well, what then? Then we come to the other problem. Pregnancy is not equivalent to being bed-ridden for 6-9 months. Sorry. It’s just all that terrible, while I’m male I’ve seen it at somewhat close hand, my wife had two … delivered both by C-Sec. By aborting the fetus, you’ve violated your implicit contractual agreement to bear the child by participating (and taking the payoff) can on occasionally result in children. I suspect Ms Thomson was being intention in her selection of “violinist” instead of “popular rap star” or “future hall of fame basketball/baseball/football star”. Most of her audience despises classical music. She knew that. Children are a wonder. Don’t forget that part.
The second argument is that the fetus does not (unlike Thomson’s argument’s starting point) have a right to life. “It’s just a clump of cells” … which at various points which abortion supporters do not back away from, feel pain, react to sound, are viable if delivered (like the 7 of the victims mentioned in the Philly case … delivered and killed because that was the intent and they were mistakenly brought out alive). But the principle question here is at what point of development (if you take the premise that personhood depends on non-ontological aspects of the creature in question). But those who claim “this fetus” (or that one) isn’t a person yet are squishy about it. I’ve never seen the argument taken to the point of quality X is required, lacking that … the creature is a non-person. OK. So name a quality or set of qualities. Ms Delsol in her essay/short-book “Unlearned Lessons” points that much of the mass killings of the 20th century depend on defining personhood by attribute (and noting that some human creatures lack particular attributes and therefore can or should be killed) and that an ontological assignment of personhood to all human creatures is a first defense against this mistake.
The final argument is that not supporting abortion is unfair. Men can walk away without responsibility from the sex act, but a woman who gets pregnant cannot. There are two problems with this. It is in fact, morally irresponsible, reprehensible, and wrong for a man to do so. That a woman finds it harder to be horrible in this situation is not a flaw but a feature. The second problem is that this position depends on an objection that women aren’t men. That’s like complaining that there is a problem because matter and anti-matter exist in different proportions or that magnetic monopoles are rarer than electric monopoles or that nature isn’t completely symmetric. The French have a saying, viva la difference. I fail to see the meat of this argument as well. Yes, men can’t get pregnant. So? Men also can’t nurse and form the same kind of relationship with their progeny as women.