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I submit this "essay" to revise until it becomes palatable enough for pro-choice advocates to accept these sections on the pro-life page, which currently lacks any pro-life arguments at all. They keep deleting this instead of being more productive and editing the sections to include their objections. Such editing is a constructive process. Revisionism is a destructive one.
The right to life
The right to life argument posits that, by virtue of being a living “being”, a fetus inherently possesses the right to life. Due to the centrality of the right to life in the abortion debate, this section will cover the right to life in some detail, and defend it against common criticisms.
This view, however, raises several major objections. First, a fetus is not a human insofar as that it is not a rational, autonomous being. Moreover, fetuses lack sentience early in pregnancy. If we define a human being as rational and autonomous, a fetus is therefore not human. If we moreover maintain that only rational, autonomous beings can bear rights, a fetus cannot possibly bear rights.
If we observe the above argument, then infants, the mentally deficient, and the severely disabled neither possess nor ever could possess rights. We therefore bear no obligations toward any such class of “entities”. Such a conclusion, however, defies the common use of language and modern moral sensibilities, particularly as relate to the Disability Rights Movement.
The question naturally arises whether a being must possess rationality or autonomy to bear rights, the answer to which we may predicate on the above observations. By the universalizability criterion, if we object to denying rights and obligations to infants, the mentally deficient, and the severely disabled, on the basis that such people are neither rational nor autonomous, then such criteria are highly suspect.
To resolve this apparent conflict, we need only revise our criterion for moral considerability to include sentience as a sufficient, if not also necessary, condition for the attribution of rights. We therefore extend rights to formerly excluded persons, such as infants, the mentally deficient, and the severely disabled, and, for that matter, any sentient being, including many animals.
Nevertheless, even after expanding the concept of moral considerability, pro-life advocates still have no ground on which to dismiss the objection of fetal insentience. To this extent, pro-life advocates must broaden the criteria for moral considerability to include “potential” persons, or, more generally, potentially sentient beings.
Pro-choice advocates may object to the argument from potentiality on the grounds that what a thing is and what a thing can be are importantly and logically distinct.
Granting this objection, pro-life advocates may further distinguish between probable and improbable potentials. While a chimpanzee may become a college professor, the actual professorship of a chimp is laughably improbable. For a severely gifted child with an IQ of 160, however, professorship is drastically more probable.
Moreover, it would seem the potential of a child with an IQ of 160 has some relevance in considering his future. Such would also be the case for the less gifted and even the marginally retarded. Once more by the universalizability criterion, we should extend moral considerability to cases of potentiality, with greater weight assigned to more probable potentialities.
While such distinctions may abridge the argument from potentiality, they nevertheless fail to provide direct justification for extending rights to non-sentient beings.
Nevertheless, a plausible basis exists for questioning even the sentience criterion. Since humans tend to value rationality, autonomy, and sentience, out ethical theories tend to disfavor animals and “lesser beings”. Anthropocentric bias therefore limits our capacity to judge beings unlike us, and may lead us to assign unfair values to non-humans, which may be valuable independently of such assignation.
Such dissent culminates in biocentrism, the belief that life is intrinsically valuable. Trees, for example, are intrinsically valuable in that they possess interests of welfare as self-preserving, living entities. As ethicist Kenneth E. Goodpaster argues in “On Being Morally Considerable”, life is the most fundamental, non-arbitrary criterion for moral considerability, to say nothing of moral significance (1).
Applying biocentric arguments to abortion, it becomes clear that a fetus, at the very least, deserves moral consideration as a living being. The combination of this argument and the argument from probable potentiality only increases the significance of fetal moral considerability, from which the right to life argument derives considerable strength.
The equilibration of rights
Contrary to popular belief, pro-life advocates do not strictly argue that we must preserve the right to life of the fetus at all costs. At the same time, while pro-life advocates tend to emphasize the right to life of the fetus to the diminution of the mother’s right to life, pro-choice advocates tend to emphasize the rights of the mother to the near or total exclusion of the rights of the fetus.
Under a more just worldview, however, we would consider the mother’s claims and those of her fetus on the merits of those claims. Weighing these claims against each other constitutes that grand act of calibrating the scales of justice.
Loose guidelines may be prescribed to determine, given isolated variables or smaller clusters of variables, which rights should take precedence in which conditions. Such guidelines will all factor into the moral calculus of the decision of whether or not to abort.
The right to life is influenced by the probability that the mother and/or child will die, the expected quality of the mother’s and child’s life following natural pregnancy or abortion, the expected lifespan of the mother and child following natural pregnancy or abortion, and various combinations of these factors.
In general, the fetus’s right to life will outweigh the mother’s right to life; out of nearly four million live births in the US each year, only 650 women die of pregnancy-related complications (1, 2). Moreover, only 13% of mother’s in a 2005 survey choose “possible problems affecting the health of [my] fetus”, even when given the opportunity to check off as many reasons they sought abortion as possible, and write in reasons not listed (3), indicating that a comparatively low number of abortions are sought to protect the child’s welfare, and even fewer with demonstrated or expected disability.
1. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf#table01 2. http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-relatedmortality.htm 3. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/psrh/full/3711005.pdf
The numerical argument
Given that roughly 40% of all pregnancies, both documented and undocumented, end in miscarriage, we may strongly and reasonably assume that roughly 40% of abortions occur in cases wherefore the fetus would die regardless (1). However, it follows that roughly 60% of abortions result in the death of children who would otherwise have been born alive. Consequently, abortion must be strictly justified in depriving such children of life (2).
1. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199906103402304 2. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/principles-medical-ethics.page?
The utilitarian argument
Following the mantra “the greatest good for the greatest number”, we may derive useful utilitarian arguments against abortion, depending on the value we select. In classical utilitarianism, that value is suffering. Though modern utilitarians may select alternate values, such as happiness, as the ultimate or intrinsic good, their moral considerations still obey the same hedonistic calculus, variables of which include intensity, duration, certainty, and propinquity (1).
By the right to life, “the greatest good for the greatest number” consists of two competing variables, a) the number of the living and b) the respective quality of their lives. Through the hedonistic calculus, we may optimize both.
Such remark, however, fails to directly provide utilitarian arguments for or against abortion, for which we resort to general observations. We count, among these observations, the simple fact that most beings cherish their life, so much so that they are willing to persevere through horrendous conditions to preserve it. We may also count the simple fact that life is a rewarding experience, and that for all its misery, there remains tremendous joy, the joy we actively strive to achieve. (As an aside, non-existence is a misery of its own, for it neither provides comfort, nor ever the relief of tribulation overcome.)
An objection arises in that, if suffering is the ultimate evil, then we should eliminate suffering entirely. And since the only option presently available to achieve this end appears the extermination of all life, including human life, such an objection defies our foremost moral sensibilities. Moreover, this objection tacitly assumes that neither nature could create nor could man ever synthesize beings which, though capable of suffering, cannot process such suffering, i.e., a being whose interests may be violated, but whose capacity for experiencing pain is nil.
From these considerations arises not only the conviction that we should respect the right to life of beings, but also ensure that humans thrive via the optimization of our competing variables. It stands to reason, that, in general, forsaking a child to nothingness, denying him life in all its wondrous complexity, is a grave evil for which, even as a profoundly anti-religious man, I believe we should repent (2).
1. http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/calculus.html 2. http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion/
Argumentative Essay on Pros and Cons of Abortion
Abortion is a very sensitive issue. Many people are constantly debating whether or not abortion should be allowed or not. Some people think abortion is very bad and that it should not be allowed at all. They think abortion is like committing murder as it is killing the human fetus. Others feel that the parents should have the right to choose and it is not murder until the baby is born. People who think it is bad say that the fetus is something alive, a human being who is partly formed and to do abortion is to kill it and commit murder. The people who think it is ok say that it is not murder until and unless the child is born. I think that abortion has to be seen about which stage the fetus is in. If it is in the very early stage, then it is not murder. But if it has already developed into a larger fetus, it can be considered as murder.
There are other times when abortion is also fine. For example if there is a complication in pregnancy and the mother can suffer because of the child, I think it is ok to do abortion. It is important to understand the various ideas that go behind abortion. The right of an abortion for a mother should be left on her own decision as the mother knows best about her condition. She is going to be the 'host body' for the baby, even though her own, for nine months and according to Thompson, the mother should have the right to decide if she wants to foster and go through with the ordeal.
Abortion should not be considered as murder in the early stage, which is the first ten to twelve weeks. Scientific research has proven that even though the fetus starts to develop a face, arms, legs, etc by the tenth week, it does not have a consciousness and it does not constitute as a human being. There have been many arguments over what is right about abortion and what is not. The Pro-Life activists claim that it is an absolute crime to have an abortion at any stage of pregnancy while some of the extreme pro-abortionists believe that the mother should have the right to kill her baby even a week before full birth. These two extremes form the continuum over which all the debate has been made over the past few years over the topic of abortions and no concrete decision has been derived out of them. It is, however, common sense that prevails and leads a person to hold a position that a fetus is not exactly a human being during the first few weeks of conception and that a mother is morally, ethically, and medically permitted to undergo an abortion if she wishes as such (Niebuhr).
People who think like this, such as the National Organization for Women, want abortion to remain legal and allowed as they think that everyone has a right to choose whether they want to keep the baby or kill it. I think it all comes down to realizing when exactly the act of abortion can become murder. For this, many people think of the ideas about exactly when the human fetus becomes a human being. Many people, those who are pro-life and against abortion, consider the fetus as a human being, as a person from the moment that the cell is conceived. Thompson writes there are many people in this world who think that a fetus is a human being as soon as it is conceived, but that is not the case. A fetus is not human until very late in the pregnancy and in the first few weeks it is only a biological entity that is amidst its developmental stage.
It can be very difficult to exactly state at which point the embryo becomes human being. However, many people agree on the fact that the fetus takes up human form and becomes a human a long time before birth. If they think of the fetus as a human being right when it is conceived, then abortion at any stage would be considered as murder. But even then, is the baby not part of the mother? And does she not have the right to choose to kill her baby if she wants to?
Overall, throughout the many years of American history, a constant debate has been made on finding out whether abortion is good or bad. The people who think that abortion is good are called abortionists and those who think it is bad are called non-abortionist. They have been debating for a very long time and they have protested strongly. In 2003, President Bush signed a law to prevent abortion procedures through out the country. This sparked a lot of controversy and organizations like National Organization for Women opposed this strongly. They think it is the invasion of the rights of women. This group wants abortion to remain legal and accessible as they think that everyone has a right to choose whether they want to keep the baby or kill it.
So, even though many people want abortion, and others do not want it, it is not a clear line and no one has been able to find a decisive definition of when abortion becomes murder and when it should be allowed. All in all, it should be left up to the mother and the father to decide if they want to go abortion. But the choice should not be left up to them after the embryo has developed to a stage where it gets the human traits. They should only be allowed to do abortion in the first ten to twelve weeks of pregnancy and doctors should not allow them to do abortion if the fetus is in the later stages of development. This should be the law in all states and it should be put into effect everywhere at once. This would make it equal in all states and no parents could cheat the law by driving to another state and getting abortion done there. Abortion is a serious issue and it should be researched upon more. The problems with the abortionists and the non-abortionists should be solved with active dialogue.
Niebuhr, Reinhold. Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1932.
Thompson, Judith Jarvis. “A Defense of Abortion.” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1, (1). 1971