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Abortion

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Title: Abortion


1
Abortion
2
Rights-based Arguments
3
Rights-based Pro-life Argument
  • A fetus is a person
  • A person has a right to life
  • So, a fetus has a right to life
  • Its wrong to kill something with a right to life
  • So, its wrong to kill a fetus
  • Abortion kills a fetus
  • So, abortion is wrong

4
Personhood
  • Is a fetus a person?
  • What is a person?
  • Person is vague and normative people have
    rights
  • We need criteria for being a person

5
Criteria for personhood
  • Biological genes, appearance, brain activity
    (Noonan)
  • Independence (viability)
  • Consciousness
  • Self-consciousness
  • Physical separation
  • Autonomy self-concept, plans for future, etc.
    (Warren)

6
Four weeks
  • Genetic pattern established since conception
  • Heart, eyes, nervous system formed

7
Six weeks
  • Arms and legs formed
  • Skeleton complete, reflexes active
  • Brain waves present

8
Seven weeks
  • Brain activity present
  • Appearance complete

9
Eight weeks
  • Now officially a fetus
  • All systems in place
  • Just need to develop and increase size

10
Eight weeks
11
Eleven weeks
  • Arms and legs move, sucks thumb
  • Inhales and exhales amniotic fluid

12
Twelve weeks
13
Twelve weeks
14
Sixteen weeks
  • Grasps, swims, kicks, turns somersaults

15
Eighteen weeks
  • Vocal cords work fetus can cry

16
Twenty weeks
17
Twenty-four weeks
18
After Birth
19
Criteria for Personhood
  • Conception genetic makeup
  • First trimester appearance, brain activity,
    consciousness
  • Second trimester
  • Third trimester viability
  • Birth physical separation
  • Well after birth self-consciousness, autonomy

20
Inadequacy of Later Criteria
  • Autonomy, self-consciousness
  • develop well after birth
  • So, babies arent people
  • Babies have no right to life
  • Warren If its wrong to kill them, its because
    other people care about them (like works of art)
    (!)
  • Physical separation, viability
  • Morally irrelevant
  • What about people on ventilators, etc.?

21
Two Pro-life Views
  • Early criteria succeed, and imply that most or
    all abortions are wrong
  • Being a person doesnt depend on having these
    characteristics, but on a capacity for them
    having the right dispositions
  • An early fetus is like a comatose patient who
    will recover

22
Fetuses have rights
  • A comatose patient has a right to life because of
    what he/she will be able to do
  • But fetus (generally) will be able to do those
    same things
  • So, fetus has a right to life too

23
Fetuses have rights
  • A mother who drinks, takes drugs, etc., while
    pregnant and risks harming her fetus acts
    immorally
  • Someone who intentionally injures a fetus acts
    immorally (Cf. doctor who tore arm off fetus in
    botched abortion attempt)
  • But killing someone is worse than injuring them

24
Killing what has a right to life
  • Its wrong to kill anything with a right to life
  • A fetus has a right to life
  • Others have a perfect obligation not to interfere
    with the fetuss living
  • Others have a perfect obligation not to kill the
    fetus
  • Abortion is wrong in fact, unjust

25
Can right to life be outweighed?
  • Punishment irrelevant
  • Self-defense protection of mothers health (1-3
    of abortions)
  • Prospects of life not worth living (severe
    defects
  • Greater good (happiness)? But we dont let
    people kill people who might make them unhappy
  • Privacy? But we dont let people kill in private

26
Rights-based Choice Arguments
  • Roe v. Wade (Justice Blackmun)
  • Mother has a right to privacy concerning
    fundamental liberties
  • Whether to bear a child is a fundamental choice
  • So, mothers right to privacy include a right to
    abortion
  • The state may protect the mothers health before
    viability the fetuss life only thereafter

27
Roe v. Wade
  • First trimester right to privacy no regulation
  • Second trimester may regulate only to protect
    mother
  • Third trimester viability may regulate to
    protect the fetus, but mothers health comes
    first
  • Birth fetus has full rights

28
Thomsons Argument
  • Thomson criticizes the premise that its wrong to
    kill anything with a right to life
  • A fetus has a right to life others shouldnt
    kill the fetus unjustly
  • So, we can conclude that abortion is wrong only
    by showing that it is unjust killing
  • Justice is prior stems from mothers right to
    her own body

29
Violinist
  • You may unplug yourself from the violinist, even
    if doing that kills him
  • You have not given him a right to use your body
  • So, unplugging yourself is not unjust killing
    (analogy rape,
  • Burglars and people seeds voluntary acts done in
    knowledge that pregnancy might result still dont
    give right to use

30
Obligations to others
  • Maybe the mother is obligated even so (imperfect
    rather than perfect obligation)
  • How much must we do for others?
  • Our obligations are minimal
  • But abortion is wrong only if we must be good
    Samaritans toward others

31
Degrees of generosity
  • Splendid Samaritan risks life to help others in
    need
  • Good Samaritan endures significant cost to help
    others in need
  • Minimally Decent Samaritan does something to
    help others in need

32
Englishs Argument
  • Self-defense You may injure someone somewhat
    more severely than you are threatened to protect
    yourself
  • Abortion is justified if the mother
  • Faces death or serious injury from continuing the
    pregnancy
  • Faces seriously diminished life prospects from
    pregnancy
  • But only in early stages

33
Kantian Pro-life Arguments
  • Everything has a price or a dignity
  • Human beings have dignity, not a price
  • What has a dignity should not be used merely as a
    means
  • Abortion generally uses a fetus for the mothers
    ends
  • Abortion is generally wrong

34
Kantian Pro-life Arguments
  • Possible exceptions when abortion does not use
    fetus for mothers ends, but done for the sake of
    the fetus
  • Prospects of a life not worth living Severe
    birth defects, diseases, etc. (
    abortions)
  • Self-protection (threat to mothers health 1-3
    of abortions)

35
Kantian Pro-choice Arguments
  • Isnt the fetus also using the mother?
  • Respect for moral agency requires voluntary,
    informed consent
  • Respect for the mothers agency requires her
    consent
  • No one has the right to force her consent

36
Kantian Pro-choice Arguments
  • Roe v. Wade (Justice Douglas)
  • People have a right to autonomy over development
    of intellect, interests, tastes, personality
  • Freedom to choose lifestyle, including marriage,
    procreation
  • Childbirth may deprive woman of preferred
    lifestyle
  • So, a woman has a right to abortion

37
Kantian Pro-life Response
  • Problem what are limits on autonomy? May a
    woman kill her children if they interfere with
    her preferred lifestyle?
  • Solutions I may do what I want so long as I
    dont hurt (Mill) or use (Kant) others
  • But abortion harms and almost always uses the
    fetus
  • If the fetus has dignity, thats immoral
  • So, the argument depends on the fetuss status

38
Suffering
  • Is a fetus a person?
  • One option (Benthams) Can it suffer?
  • This suggests a criterion the fetus deserves
    moral consideration only after it gains the
    ability to feel pleasure and pain (around 7-8
    weeks)
  • Even after that, its pleasures and pains lack
    complexity low quality

39
Vagueness
  • Is a fetus a person?
  • Another option Vagueness
  • Maybe there is no fact of the matter
  • Maybe person is vague its indeterminate
    whether fetuses are people in a morally
    significant sense
  • We have no choice but to decide which social
    policy is best

40
Potential people
  • But its not so simple
  • To decide which policy is best, we must do moral
    calculus
  • But how do we count the interests of fetuses?
  • We dont have to count them as 0 or 1, as nothing
    or as a full adult we could count their
    interests as something in between
  • Their pleasures and pains are low in quality

41
Utilitarian Pro-life Arguments
  • Harms of abortion
  • Death of the fetus 1 million last year, 40
    million since 1973
  • Thats an abortion every 30 seconds 25-30 of
    fetuses die from abortion
  • Pain of the fetus (half of all abortions
    performed after the fetus can feel pain)

42
Utilitarian Pro-life Arguments
  • Harms of abortion
  • Loss of future happiness of fetus and all who
    would have been affected by him/her
  • Risk of injury, infertility for woman
  • Loss of respect for life
  • Increased child abuse
  • Increased acceptance of euthanasia
  • Decreased respect for women

43
Utilitarian Pro-life Arguments
  • Abortion is unnecessary there are less harmful
    alternatives
  • Birth control 50 of abortions performed on
    women who used no other form of birth control
  • 40 of all women who have abortions have more
    than one
  • Adoption 2 million couples waiting to adopt, but
    only 50,000 babies put up for adoption each year

44
Marquiss Pro-life Argument
  • What makes death bad, and murder wrong?
  • The loss of a human future
  • A fetus has a human future
  • Abortion deprives it of that future
  • So, abortion is wrong, and for just the same
    reason that murder is wrong

45
Utilitarian Pro-choice Arguments
  • Harms to the mother
  • Physical harm
  • Psychological harm
  • Caring for child can be a burden
  • Physical and mental health
  • Distressful life and future
  • Inability to care for child

46
Utilitarian Pro-choice Arguments
  • Child may suffer
  • From being unplanned and unwanted
  • From unhappiness of mother and other family
    members
  • From material disadvantages
  • Legal abortion saves lives of women who otherwise
    would seek illegal abortions
  • In 1972, 39 women died from complications of
    abortion
  • In 1977, 21 did, though number of abortions more
    than tripled

47
Burkean Pro-life Arguments
  • How do we balance competing claims?
  • Right to life outweighs other rights
  • We dont kill sick patients because curing them
    will be inconvenient, expensive, etc.
  • Analogies with comatose patients, animals, injury
    to fetus, premature infants
  • Experience consequences of legal abortion have
    been serious
  • Legislatures are structured to balance competing
    interests

48
Analogies with neonates
49
Burkean Pro-Choice Arguments
  • Sometimes abortion is permissible
  • Sometimes not
  • Theres no principled way to distinguish
    permissible cases
  • Any law about abortion will be unjust, outlawing
    permissible abortions, or allowing impermissible
    ones, or both
  • Best to leave decision to those who can strike
    best compromise in the circumstances the woman
    and her doctor
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