Bioethics, Ethics, Pro-Life

The Epistemic Argument Against Abortion

demolitionEpistemology is the study of knowing. That is, it is the study of how we know something is true. Here, I will offer an argument against abortion which concerns the question: what do we know about the unborn?

An Analogy*

Suppose you are a demolition expert. You’re sitting outside a building you are to blow and you are about to hit the button. The area has been declared clear and so you have flipped the cover of the button up and you’re about to blow the building. Suddenly, someone cries out–a little red tricycle has been discovered outside the building. Fortunately, however, the people who spotted the tricycle tell you there is only a 20% chance that the child made his or her way inside the building. The equipment being used is expensive and your company is paying more Shrugging while thinking “Time is money,” you go ahead and press the button, blowing up the building. After all, you’re 80% sure there is no one inside.

…Wait a second. That’s horrible! Shouldn’t you check and be sure that there is no one inside the building? After all, that person’s life is worth so much more than the extra money your company will have to spend as the child is searched for.

The question then must be asked: what percent is low enough for you to press the button? Suppose you were 90% sure the child was not inside the building, would you pull the button then, confident that you gave your best effort? How about 95%? 98%? It seems to me the only morally permissible situation would be certainty. The building has been swept entirely from top to bottom and cordoned off, you are positive no one is inside. Then, you may press the button without moral culpability: you are certain you are not killing anyone whether directly or indirectly.

*I should note this example is from Kevin A. Lewis. I modified the scenario slightly.

The Argument Stated and Defended

The argument is actually very simple:

1) If it is possible that the unborn is a human person, we should not kill the unborn.

2) It is possible that the unborn is a human person.

3) Therefore, we should not kill the unborn.

Premise one seems obviously true to me. In order to deny premise one, the advocate for abortion must claim that we may destroy “fetuses” even if it is possible that they are human persons. That is, the pro-choice position must hold that it is permissible to blow the building at 80%; or perhaps even at 98%. Given a similar situation: the doctor with the tools for abortion goes and destroys the fetus with the possibility that, like the red tricycle sitting outside the building, they may not know whether they are killing a child; instead, they go forward with the procedure, even though they may be murdering a baby.

Note that what I’m claiming here is a very small claim: it may be even a .5% chance that the fetus is a baby (of course, I am convinced that from conception, we have a human being, but for the sake of argument I will grant even .01% chance), but then the doctor, like the demolition expert, goes ahead and “blows the building” anyway.

Premise 2 also seems to be obviously true. In order to show me that it is wrong, the pro-choice party must make an argument towards the claim that the unborn is not a human person. Why must they try to prove a universal negative? Well, my claim is very broad: It is possible the unborn is a human person. I have argued towards this end multiple times, and would be willing to engage someone on those points. But the bottom line is, even if my arguments fail, I still think that it is possible the unborn is a human person. I just need reasonable doubt here, not epistemic certainty. Unfortunately for those who are pro-choice, their position must yield epistemic certainty, but it cannot.

The conclusion follows from the premises via modus ponens. Thus, the argument succeeds.

Objections

We can never be sure about anything

Perhaps the most thoughtful answer a pro-choice advocate might make for this argument is that we can never be sure of anything. After all, we cannot be certain that when we drive somewhere, a child might run in front of our car and get hit and killed. Indeed, in the case of a demolition expert, one could always have a helicopter drop a small child onto the building at the last second, or a child could tunnel underneath and get in, etc.

My response to this argument is fairly straightforward. In abortion, we are intentionally going in and killing the fetus (or dismantling it; however you want to put it). The analogy with driving simply doesn’t work. In order for it to be even close to accurate, the driver isn’t driving safely. Instead, it would be like driving drunk along a sidewalk in Chicago. You shouldn’t do it.

The problem with the ‘certainty’ objection is that while it is true we cannot be 100% of just about anything, it is also true that there are some steps we should take in order to give ourselves epistemic certainty. That is, there is a line between saying something is broadly logically possible and saying that it actually reduces one’s epistemic certainty of a proposition. Certainly, it is possible for a helicopter to parachute a child onto the building in the seconds before it explodes, but does that reduce one’s epistemic certainty pertaining to the situation? I do not think so.

You’re A Man

Unfortunately, I run into this argument far more often than one might think. It should be pretty obvious that this argument is completely fallacious. Whatever my gender happens to be, I am capable of reasoning.

Sometimes, the argument is put forth as “get out of my womb” or something similar. Well again, if the unborn is a human being, then I am attempting to protect a distinct human being. Thus, this objection not only begs the question, but it is also insulting. It is nothing more than a rhetorical device.

We can never be certain that the fetus is not a human being

A response like this basically grants my argument. As I have argued, if this is the case abortions should be impermissible. We shouldn’t just bank on uncertainty to gamble with lives. Of course, I am not going to merely appeal to uncertainty, I have positively argued that the unborn are human beings. Period.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Be sure to check out my other posts in which I argue for the pro-life position. Particularly relevant to the present discussion are “From conception, a human” and “The issue at the heart of the abortion debate.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons Chixoy.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Advertisements

About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

66 thoughts on “The Epistemic Argument Against Abortion

  1. Well, let’s accept your argument that the foetus is a person.( I haven’t read your other posts, so I don’t know how you’re defining person, but there are many people who could mount a good argument that a developing embryo which is not yet producing brain waves and which has no independent existence is not a person.)

    But this is not your point. Your point is that if the question is even potentially ambiguous, the moral choice is to accept the possibility that the embryo/foetus is a person and proceed from there.

    Which is fine, except your analogy doesn’t work for abortion, which is about the competing demands of two individuals. About prioritising the rights of one in such a way that it will cause harm to the other. That’s the crux of it.

    Posted by bodycrimes | July 29, 2013, 7:13 AM
    • >>Which is fine, except your analogy doesn’t work for abortion, which is about the competing demands of two individuals. About prioritising the rights of one in such a way that it will cause harm to the other. That’s the crux of it.

      The analogy can be modified to account for that and I think JW’s argument still goes through. Suppose you’re sitting outside the building, waiting for it to be demolished, so that a new building can be constructed. The reason you’re out there waiting is because until the new building is to be condo. Until the old building is demolished they can’t get to work on your new home. Suddenly, someone cries out–a little red tricycle has been discovered outside the building. There is a 20% chance that there is a little girl inside the to-be-demolished building. JW’s argument still obviously goes through in this modified scenario. The fact that you may otherwise be killing a little girl is worth your being inconvenienced to ensure you don’t. Any morally sane person should be able to see that.

      What about “harm”? First, abortion activists usually define harm so broadly that the modified scenario above would qualify as an instance of harm. For instance, the psychological trauma or stress of having to delay the demolition and, thus, remain homeless for that much longer. Second, even if we modify the example to include some obvious instance of bodily harm it would still be clear that bodily harm should be suffered to ensure that a little girl is not killed. Suppose for instance that the building must be demolished by pushing a button. The button is old and rusted and must be whacked with a hammer to get it to press. As a man is swinging down the hammer he hears the cry that there is a 20% chance that there is a little girl in the building. The man can only avoid hitting the button if he diverts his swing to hit his hand. Would anyone not think this man a moral monster if he said he would rather have taken the chance of killing a child than breaking his hand?

      Posted by The Janitor | July 29, 2013, 7:26 PM
      • That’s a very poor analogy. Argument by analogy is fraught anyway, without using making it worse by using bad examples. Use one like kidney donation. My brother is dying of kidney failure and my kidney matches. Do I have a moral right to deny him one of my kidneys? If I go through with the kidney donation, there will be lifelong medical and/or financial consequences for both him and me. Nevertheless, many people would be very uneasy if I decided to deny my kidney.

        OK, my sister’s unborn baby needs a kidney. (I know that kidney donations aren’t made to the unborn, but run with it.) Am I obliged to offer up one of my own? The baby will die without it. But, again, the baby and I will face lifelong consequences of some kind if I do so. My sister is fertile and can have other children. In this instance, I would not give up a kidney.

        The difference, which people recognise in the real world, is that there IS a distinction to be made between a fully- formed, distinct, in-the-world person and an unborn one.

        Posted by Chloe | July 29, 2013, 10:12 PM
      • It is telling that you grant the unborn is a baby. Consider your argument in that light. Basically, you are saying that because your relative could have other children, you are under no obligations to help the current baby live. Why could we not apply that to your brother? Assuming your parents are still fertile (I don’t know), they could always have more children and replace your brother with a better, healthier one.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 29, 2013, 10:21 PM
      • My hypothetical brother is a fully formed person who is autonomous and with whom I have a lifelong relationship. He exists as part of a community. An unborn embryo/foetus/baby/child/proto-human is not a fully formed person who is autonomous. Hence does not have the same claim on me.

        Posted by bodycrimes | July 29, 2013, 10:32 PM
      • This entire response begs the question.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 29, 2013, 10:34 PM
      • If you thought that you should have stopped the analogy in its tracks first thing. Yet you let the argument run until it came to the obvious conclusion, at which point you suddenly said it’s not an argument.

        The crux of your post is that the unborn have the same claims to personhood as fully formed adults. You haven’t proved that – you’re just offering an opinion. My opinion is that they don’t.

        Posted by bodycrimes | July 29, 2013, 10:45 PM
      • No, you are misinterpreting my argument entirely. My argument is epistemic in nature, it is not ontic. You are confusing the categories. Your response in this latter part begs the question because all you are doing is making bare assertions without any arguments whatsoever.

        You wrote, “The crux of your post is that the unborn have the same claims to personhood as fully formed adults. ”

        Right, this is the conclusion which follows via modus ponens from the premises. You have to interact with my actual premises in order to try to refute the argument itself, and you have not done that. Therefore, the argument stands unchallenged.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 29, 2013, 10:58 PM
      • I should clarify. In order to try to make an argument against what I have actually argued, instead of misrepresenting my argument, you need to deny one of these two premises:

        1) If it is possible that the unborn is a human person, we should not kill the unborn.

        or

        2) It is possible that the unborn is a human person.

        But you seem to be denying 3, which is the conclusion that follows necessarily from the premises. Thus, you must deny one of the premises. Which do you deny?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 29, 2013, 11:02 PM
      • Unfortunately, no. Your entire argument is by false analogy, a well known logic fail.

        Posted by bodycrimes | July 29, 2013, 11:05 PM
      • Okay, I can see this is not going to be fruitful any longer. You have devolved into internet-slang in order to insult me. I will conclude by simply noting that my argument in no way depends upon the analogy. My argument is clearly stated in the post and is in the form of modus ponens. Your responses have failed to interact with the argument I have presented. Should you desire to do so, feel free to interact with the actual argument. Until then, I am glad we were able to have what discussion we did enjoy. Here is the argument restated:

        1) If it is possible that the unborn is a human person, we should not kill the unborn.

        2) It is possible that the unborn is a human person.

        3) Therefore, we should not kill the unborn.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 29, 2013, 11:08 PM
      • Define human person.

        Posted by bodycrimes | July 29, 2013, 11:08 PM
      • You can’t run with an argument and then declare it’s not an argument. Furthermore, you can’t then retreat into what the ancients would have called Merda taurorum animas conturbit. But I will desist at this point and go back to bed. Thank you for the discussion.

        Posted by bodycrimes | July 29, 2013, 11:12 PM
      • You aren’t actually responding to my argument. I restated it very clearly. Please feel free to respond to it if you desire.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 29, 2013, 11:16 PM
      • I can’t answer your question because I don’t know how you define human person. I have to know what it is being killed before I can draw any moral conclusions about whether it’s permissible or not. Your argument is – human persons should not be killed. If it’s possible that the unborn are human persons, we therefore should not kill them. But maybe the first premise is wrong – that human persons should not be killed. What is a human person and why should they not be killed?

        Posted by bodycrimes | July 29, 2013, 11:41 PM
      • I would define human person very simply: A living member of the species homo sapiens.

        I don’t see any reason to deny this definition. I leave those who would disagree with it to show how it is mistaken.

        A person, I would argue (using the definition from Boethius), is a substance of a rational nature.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 30, 2013, 4:37 PM
      • >>That’s a very poor analogy.

        You haven’t shown how it’s a poor analogy. It looks like you just don’t like it because it exposes the fact that it’s wrong kill a fetus even though we may not be 100% sure a fetus is a human person and that this is true even where refraining from killing the fetus may cause us some harm.

        >>Argument by analogy is fraught anyway, without using making it worse by using bad examples.

        Argument by analogy is fine, so long as the analogy is analogous in the relevant ways. You haven’t shown us how the analogy disanalogous in any relevant way.

        >>Use one like kidney donation.

        Your kidney analogy is disanaloguous in the following relevant ways:

        (1) If the natural state of affairs is left to play out in your kidney analogy your brother will die–ceterus paribus. If the natural state of affairs is left to play out in pregnancy the fetus will live–ceterus paribus. Your brother is dying. A fetus is maturing. To stop your brother from dying you have to intervene. It’s not the case that you have to intervene to stop the fetus from maturing. It may be ambiguous in some cases whether we have a moral obligation to intervene to stop a natural death from occuring. It is not ambiguous that we have a moral obligation to refrain from killing an innocent person.

        (2) In your kidney analogy we have no reason to think you’re responsible for your brother’s or nieces kidney failure. But in pregnancy a *very* high percentage of mothers are responsible for the fetus being alive. To fix your analogy and make it more analogous we would have to amend it in the following way: Suppose we live in an alternate universe where drinking Pepsi usually and naturally results in your brother (or unborn niece) having kidney failure. You drink Pepsi, which results in your brother (or unborn niece) having kidney failure. This is analoguous to our universe where sex naturally and regularly results in creation of new life. Now it becomes obvious that you, being responsible for the kidney failure, have some moral obligation to prevent the brother (or unborn niece) from dying of kidney failure. Likewise, a mother is responsible to preserve the life of the child, being responsible for bringing it into existence.

        You may object “what about cases of rape: so someone forces me to drink pepsi.” Okay, given that it may be less obvious that you have an obligation to prevent your brother (or niece) from dying of kidney failure. But then are you willing to grant that abortion is immoral in all cases except for rape? If so, we can discuss cases of rape separately, but if not then your objection shows itself to be disingenuous.

        >>Nevertheless, many people would be very uneasy if I decided to deny my kidney.

        And given the disanalogy between pregnancy and kidney failure, the fact that so many would think you do have some moral obligation (even if not legal) to help your brother (or niece) only makes it a sort of a fortiori for pregnancy.

        >>The difference, which people recognise in the real world, is that there IS a distinction to be made between a fully- formed, distinct, in-the-world person and an unborn one.

        You jump to that assertion out of the blue, so to speak. Nothing you said elsewhere in your reply supports or is connected to this. You analogy didn’t have any relevance to level of development. And the question isn’t whether there is any distinction, obviously there are, just as there are many distinctions between me and you, the question is whether there is any *relevant* distinction, which you’ve done nothing to argue for.

        In response to your 10:32 reply to JW,

        >>>An unborn embryo/foetus/baby/child/proto-human is not a fully formed person who is autonomous. Hence does not have the same claim on me.

        A six month old child is not fully formed or autonomous. Yet everyone recognizes the six month old child not only has all the claims upon her mother that a 30 year old woman does, but has even greater claims upon the mother than a 30 year old woman does. You need to tell us why placing the child in the mother’s womb somehow negates that.

        In response to your 11:05 reply to JW,

        >>>>Unfortunately, no. Your entire argument is by false analogy, a well known logic fail.

        You haven’t even attempted to show how JW’s arguemnt is a false analogy. You only asserted it was a false analogy and you only tried to offer an alternative analogy.

        In response to your 11:08 reply to JW,

        >>>>>Define human person.

        JW’s argument doesn’t rely on any particular definition of human person so this is a red herring. However we define a human person, you would agree that a 5 year old is a human person and that if there was a 20% chance of killing a 5 year old in a demolition that we should not go through with the demolition.

        What always amazes me in these discussions is how poorly the pro-abortionist argumentation is… and yet how hard they strive over it. Clearly a sad case of moral depravity.

        Posted by The Janitor | July 30, 2013, 9:47 AM
      • Perhaps it is worth reminding people what “modus ponens” means. At its most basic, it is

        PREMISE 1: If A then B.
        PREMISE 2: A is true
        CONCLUSION: B is true

        This form of argument is pretty universally considered valid.

        JW is arguing that the two premises he listed are true. If he is right, then the conclusion follows logically. So to defeat this line of reasoning, you must argue that one (or both) of the premises are false. So the counter-argument must be that either …
        * even though the unborn might be a human person, there are still reasons it might be OK to terminate its existence.
        or
        * it is not possible for the unborn to be considered a human person.

        Posted by tjfolkerts | July 30, 2013, 2:25 PM
      • Yes, this is it exactly. And I already made a case for each premise in this post already.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 30, 2013, 4:42 PM
      • TJFolkerts,

        I think you might be responding to my remark regarding your counter-argument. Obviously you’re correct. But to clarify: I was looking at JW’s argument from the subjective angle of what makes a cogent argument; in part, the audience the argument is aimed at. So for instance, if I present to a theistic audience an argument that God has the property of benevolence by the premise that God has all the virtues and the premise that benevolence is a virtue then to say “Well some people don’t believe there is a god!” strikes me as more of a shift in topic than an actual counter-argument given my target audience. I would respond to such a person that I wasn’t trying to convince them anyway. My argument wasn’t for them. However, if I’m making the argument to an atheist then he would be perfectly justified to point that out and I would then have to defend an implicit premise in my original argument: that God exists. I would then have been begging a question.

        Now I was taking it for granted that JW was simply targeting those persons who say “Well we can’t know for sure whether the fetus is a person or not.” (I’ve had several Christians use this excuse, particularly that they don’t know when a body is ensouled, to justify abortion.) Looking over JW’s post agian maybe I was wrong to think that and reading too much into it.

        Posted by The Janitor | July 30, 2013, 9:03 PM
  2. if the unborn is a human being, then I am attempting to protect a distinct human being.

    Funny you threw in that word ‘distinct’, implying it is is separate and independent from the mother and thus somehow separate and independent from the mother’s distinct concerns! It’s almost as if the mother and her concerns is relegated to being nothing more and nothing less than a generic incubator. Obviously, this is not ever the case. So how to account for the mother and her legitimate concerns about her fetus in her womb using her body to develop… apparently into what it already is: a distincthuman being?

    I think it is plain to see that there is something fundamentally wrong with your epistemology in order to reach such an inaccurate ontology.

    In the real world, sometimes it is right and proper to kill another human being. Sometimes it is wrong. The tricky question is figuring out how can we know which action pertains to which situation. And it is here where the rubber of intention meets the road of reality and becomes of primary concern in answering questions of ethical and moral values. It is here where the legitimate concerns of the mother must be calculated against the potential life of her fertilized egg. And the people best capable of doing this difficult and often heart-wrenching determination is not me and not you but each and every woman in her unique situation medically advised by her health care provider. Eliminating this choice in the name of protecting life is intolerable and unenforceable tyranny that accomplishes exactly the opposite of its intentions, namely a loss of dignity and respect for real people in real life who really are distinct individuals with distinct lives forced into unpardonable suffering and unnecessary death by anti-choice people in the name of pie-in-the-sky morality.

    Posted by tildeb | July 29, 2013, 10:34 AM
    • TILDEB,

      You haven’t shown how the human being is not distinct in any relevant sense. It is obviously a distinct human being in that it is an individual.

      >>It’s almost as if the mother and her concerns is relegated to being nothing more and nothing less than a generic incubator.

      This looks more like your knee-jerk defensiveness than anything JW said.

      >> So how to account for the mother and her legitimate concerns about her fetus in her womb using her body to develop… apparently into what it already is: a distincthuman being?

      1) You imply that there is some tension from the fact that the human being is the mother’s child, in the mother’s body and the child being distinct. But I must be dense because I can’t think of what relevant non-distinctness you must have in mind.

      2) In any other case of a conflict of interests between two or more parties, under what conditions do we think an acceptable resolution is to *kill* one of the other persons or parties involved?

      >>I think it is plain to see that there is something fundamentally wrong with your epistemology in order to reach such an inaccurate ontology.

      The only thing plain to see from my angle is your reactionary reading into JWs post which causes you to caricature it as though he presented mothers as a “nothing more and nothing less than a generic incubator.”

      >>In the real world, sometimes it is right and proper to kill another human being. Sometimes it is wrong. The tricky question is figuring out how can we know which action pertains to which situation.

      Actually in the vast majority of cases it’s pretty easy to see when it’s wrong to kill another human being. But I guess if you’re going to try to make the case for abortion I can see how that would be tricky.

      >>And the people best capable of doing this difficult and often heart-wrenching determination is not me and not you but each and every woman in her unique situation medically advised by her health care provider.

      Does this apply to mother’s of six month old children? If not, why not? How has the woman suddenly lost the competence to decide the difficult and heart-wrenching determination to abort a six month old toddler?

      >>Eliminating this choice in the name of protecting life is intolerable and unenforceable tyranny that accomplishes exactly the opposite of its intentions, namely a loss of dignity and respect for real people in real life who really are distinct individuals with distinct lives forced into unpardonable suffering and unnecessary death by anti-choice people in the name of pie-in-the-sky morality.

      That rhetoric begs the question against the fetus being a real person with a real life (the fact that the fetus is an individual is really beyond dispute). Try this one: Allowing a class of humans to be killed by the whims of another class is tyranny that complishes the accomplishes the exact opposite of its intentions, namely a loss of dignity, respect, and, most importantly, life for real people in real life (though I’m not sure where else real people exist except for real life… But I guess you’re just getting carried away with the rhetoric).

      Posted by The Janitor | July 29, 2013, 7:39 PM
  3. And my apologies for the poorly constructed responses… I just finished a 14 hour work day so I let my mind get ahead of my fingers in both my replies. But I assume it’s coherent enough that you can fix the broken sentences and typos yourself.

    Posted by The Janitor | July 29, 2013, 7:43 PM
  4. The main counter-argument I see relates to:
    “2) It is possible that the unborn is a human person.”

    I think people who want abortion legal believe that indeed the fetus is NOT a “functioning, actual person”. This would be the same argument that someone in a persistent vegetative state is no longer a “functioning, actual person” and withholding nourishment and/or medical support is an ethical decision. If that is allowed, then it is much more difficult to argue that similar treatment of a fetus should not be allowed. Both involve a collection of living cells with a unique set of DNA.

    ***************************************************************

    I actually find the implications of the analogy more challenging. This argument seems to change the question from a moral issue to a “cost/benefit” analysis. How certain do we need to be? How direct of actions do we need to consider?

    If there was even a 1% chance that there was a child inside, should the company spend $10,000 worth of time and manpower to hunt for the potential child? Why not go ahead with the demolition and donate $10,000 for food or vaccinations for poor children, which would almost certainly save several lives? What if aborting the child saves the mother’s life?

    And if $10,000 will save several lives, am I morally obligated myself to sell my nice car and to take a second job so that I can save some lives?

    Posted by Tim Folkerts | July 29, 2013, 10:02 PM
    • I would argue there is a definite difference between actively doing something which may kill someone and not spending every dollar on things which will help others.

      That is, there is a difference between supererogatory actions and obligations. We have an obligation in the case of demolishing a building to be sure that there is no one inside. After all, we would not want to actively kill someone. However, we do not have an obligation to spend all of our money to promote the good of others. To do so would be a supererogatory good, but it is not an obligation. Of course, we could argue that if we had a certain amount of wealth, we are under moral obligations to other human beings to use it for their good. I do not want to dive into those complicated waters, and they aren’t terribly relevant for the current argument.

      In order to avoid the conclusion of this specific argument, one would have to argue that we are indeed not obligated to be sure that we are not actively killing someone. Some pro-choice advocates do indeed make such arguments by arguing that we are allowed to kill the unborn (and in some cases, even born children). At that point the argument could proceed at that level. However, my argument here is directed towards those who would not wish to promote infanticide or killing the unborn should the unborn be a human being.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 29, 2013, 10:16 PM
    • >>I think people who want abortion legal believe that indeed the fetus is NOT a “functioning, actual person”.

      Then JW’s argument doesn’t even apply to them. JW’s argument applies to cases where one isn’t sure about the status of the fetus. So your proffered counter-argument it’s not really a counter-argument. At this point the focus shifts to a different set of arguments: arguments for the non-personhood of the fetus. Briefly, in reply to your suggestion of where one might go with this: I would note that virtually everyone I’ve read agrees that the really relevant factor in persistent vegetative cases is the *persistent* factor, a factor not relevant to a fetus.

      >>I actually find the implications of the analogy more challenging. This argument seems to change the question from a moral issue to a “cost/benefit” analysis. How certain do we need to be? How direct of actions do we need to consider?

      There is obvious overlap between moral issues and cost/benefit issues. It’s funny though that the majority of people who are pro-abortion would actually be more inclined to say that if there is a very small chance (~5%) of causes innocent death that persons are morally obligated to refrain from engaging in the relevant action. I’m reminded, for example, of a video clip you can find on YouTube of a young Michael Moore arguing along similar lines that if there is even a very small chance of a vehicle having a design flaw that may result in the death of its passengers that the manufacturer should not make the vehicle. Such pro-abortionists would be disingenuous, therefore, to raise that objection. But anyway your point here only turns us to the question of how unsure we are of the fetus being a child.

      Posted by The Janitor | July 30, 2013, 10:02 AM
  5. We don’t actually have to get into the ethics of abortion to see why this argument doesn’t work.

    It doesn’t work because it’s confusing a semantic issue with an epistemic issue. It’s like talking about the “chance” that Pluto is an actual planet and not just a dwarf planet. Definitions are not things that just pop out of objects; they are given to things according to how agents with interests wish to discriminate.

    Posted by Stan | July 30, 2013, 10:38 AM
    • A key point, and one that continues to be ignored in favour of elevating the logical form to be sufficient based on highly selective nebulous premises that present only possibilities.

      But there are rafts of other relevant premises of possibilities that are also being conveniently ignored, namely, the dependency factor on a second involved human person whose medical well-being plays zero role in the calculation to the potential well-being of a zygote that we are to believe has equivalent ‘rational capabilities’ to the person sustaining the incubator.

      Posted by tildeb | July 30, 2013, 6:24 PM
      • I’m not sure if you’re saying “rational capabilities” in response to my definition, but if you are you are clearly misrepresenting what I said.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 30, 2013, 8:27 PM
      • 1) If it is possible that the unborn is a human person, we should not kill the unborn.

        2) It is possible that the unborn is a human person.

        3) Therefore, we should not kill the unborn.

        So, bodycrimes asks quite reasonably to define a human person (that is unborn). You answer that a human person is “A living member of the species homo sapiens.” That covers the human part so you add that a person is a substance of a rational nature. Well, what on earth might you mean by a rational nature if not having the capability of being rational? In effect, you are arguing that a zygote has this capability, which is ridiculous. It has the potential after massive development entirely dependent on the mother to reach the equivalent status of rationality that the mother already possesses but you’ve already dismissed this necessary developmental factor in your assertion that “I am attempting to protect a distinct human being”. What distinct human being? The zygote is no more distinct from the mother as a human person at this stage than is her nose from which she scratches off thousands of potential human beings by the loss of stem cells. When you confuse potential (possibility of development) with actual (the full development of the mother), you’ve made a fundamental thinking error called false equivalency. The zygote is not a person in the same sense that the mother is because it simply doesn’t have the actual capabilities.

        Another way to look at this question is to take your position to its logical conclusion with a little thought experiment – protecting every single ‘distinct’ human being from fertilization to birth. Would this achievement result in a moral good? With only a slight stretch of the imagination, we can determine this would cause all sorts of nastiness… from widespread famine and starvation to uncontrollable predation of the biosphere to meet the escalating needs of uncontrolled and compounded population growth. I think this would clearly be an unmitigated disaster for the continuation of our species and the eventual destruction of the biosphere. The scale of human suffering and death caused by explosive population growth would dwarf all the suffering by humans to date. And this is what you are attempting to argue by keeping your logic in front of reality and thinking yourself a champion of those who do not a voice. This is why we have to remind ourselves from time to time to have a reality check and utilize it to keep our opinions and beliefs in check.

        Posted by tildeb | July 30, 2013, 10:31 PM
      • I think this comment is far off track. For example, you wrote, ” That covers the human part so you add that a person is a substance of a rational nature. Well, what on earth might you mean by a rational nature if not having the capability of being rational? In effect, you are arguing that a zygote has this capability, which is ridiculous.”

        I’m sorry, but at this point I think you are clearly not reading what I’m saying. I am explicitly not defining personhood as capability. Moreover, I was offering a definition for human persons and then a broader definition for what makes a person generally. So again, I was misread here.

        You yourself have revised my definition. Although I feel no need to respond to this straw man of my definition, I will do so anyway. Capabilities are not what makes persons. Nature (in the philosophical sense) is what makes persons. Suppose you’re right and the definition of personhood is defined by the capability of being rational. In that case it is extremely difficult to see how an infant is a person. Moreover, what about children under 8, when higher rational functions finally begin to manifest such that children can begin to understand arguments more effectively? Well it seems they would not meet this criterion either. What about people with mental disabilities? Again, they do not have the capability to act rationally, so are they not persons?

        No, the problem is that your redefinition of personhood makes all sorts of difficulties. My definition does not rely upon capabilities; it relies simply upon the nature of a being. I see no reason to respond to the rest of your post because I frankly have no idea what your point is supposed to be, nor do I see its relevance.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 31, 2013, 9:25 AM
      • >>elevating the logical form to be sufficient based on highly selective nebulous premises that present only possibilities. But there are rafts of other relevant premises of possibilities…

        You’re letting verbiage stand in for a clear counter-argument.

        >>whose medical well-being plays zero role in the calculation to the potential well-being of a zygote

        One issue is what I already pointed out above: that pro-abortionists use “well being” or “health” etc in such broad ways that in the end simply the psychological dissatisfaction with having to have a baby qualifies as too much a burden to ask a mother to bear. Thus, it becomes another disingenuous argument by the pro-abortionists, like the pro-abortionist who raises the issue of rape even though they don’t think abortion should be limited to cases of impregnation by rape. In this case, they use the issue of the well-being or health of the mother even though in practice that term turns out to be so nebulous as to include any woman who desires an abortion.

        The second issue is that cases of abortion are rarely dealing with a zygote since at the zygotic stage no woman even knows if she is pregnant yet.

        But to throw your own verbiage back: There are rafts of other relevant premises of possibilities that you are also conveniently ignoring, namely, the pro-life arguments which interact with “the dependency factor of a second involved human person.”

        Posted by The Janitor | July 30, 2013, 8:48 PM
      • Perhaps you are singularly unaware the real women die every day in real life from not having access to safe abortions, although I suspect you really don’t care or you would allow the mother’s health and well being to play at least an equal role in consideration of fetus. Therapeutic abortions are a central tenet of providing healthcare. But you just wave it all away in your anti-choice rhetoric. And, no, the zygote will not develop into a mature human being without the mother’s constant and ongoing participation to provide for its dependencies. That’s why the potential for development I was talking about is the same as the discarded stem cells. You, like JW, continue to confuse potential with actual and this confusion fuels that attack against women as distinct human persons and not a subset of fetal rights.

        Posted by tildeb | July 31, 2013, 3:00 PM
      • TILDEB,

        >> The zygote is no more distinct from the mother as a human person at this stage than is her nose from which she scratches off thousands of potential human beings by the loss of stem cells.

        False. The zygote has its own unique human genetic code, which if left to itself will develop into a mature human being. The stem cells on mother’s nose are just pieces of the woman. Looks like you’re in need of a reality check of your own.

        Posted by The Janitor | July 31, 2013, 9:24 AM
      • >>Perhaps you are singularly unaware the real women die every day in real life from not having access to safe abortions

        If you’re trying to make the case that a woman’s health should be a part of our consideration in the issue then this is a pretty ridiculous example to use. First of all, I’d like to know where you got your data from that “real women die every day in real life” from this cause. But the more important point is that if pro-lifers are correct that abortion is murder, then think about what you’re saying. You’re saying that someone trying to engage in murder may die from attempted murder in unsafe conditions. All I can say is, tough. Don’t try to engage in murder. I’m sure it’s often the case that a teenager dies of drug over-dose or contracts a disease from unsafe drug use. Yet no one thinks this means we need to legalize drug use and provide safe places for kids to engage in drug use. How many times do robbers end up being injured or killed from attempted robbery? Perhaps you think we should legalize robbery and provide safe places in the city where robbery should occur?

        >>I suspect you really don’t care or you would allow the mother’s health and well being to play at least an equal role in consideration of fetus

        You’ve continued to ignore the issue of the ambiguity of the health of the mother that I’ve pointed out twice now. Are we talking about cases where the mother’s life is at risk? In which case, all you would be trying to make an argument for is the legality or morality of abortions in those cases in which carrying the pregnancy to term will most likely result in the death of the mother. But that would only account for about 4% of abortions (http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/facts/reasonsabortions.html) and probably even less (since it’s not clear that the health report means life-threatening or simply self-reported (e.g., the mother says she can’t handle the stress). But in the end you just end up ignoring the fetus’s health and well being and you won’t allow that to play an equal role in considering the issue. For if it’s a choice between someone being killed and someone being harmed or inconvenienced it’s obvious that it’s better to avoid killing someone than to kill someone in order to not harm or inconvenience yourself.

        >>Therapeutic abortions are a central tenet of providing healthcare.

        Abortions for the health of the mother (again it’s not clear from the study I referred to whether this means life-threating issues or just health in a much broader sense) only account for about 4% of abortions. If you want to make abortion illegal in all other cases then fine, I’m willing to start there. We can agree that about 95% of abortions are performed immorally and should be illegal. Then we can discuss that other 5% separately (I’m including the less than 1% of abortions due to rape and inflating it to 1%, simply because I’m sure you’d jump to that next) . But I suspect that this is just a disingenuous appeal, as I pointed out a long time ago. You’re not really willing to grant that 95% of abortions are immoral and should be illegal. Rather, you’re just using the very small percentage of abortions that occur due to health reasons to obfuscate.

        >>And, no, the zygote will not develop into a mature human being without the mother’s constant and ongoing participation to provide for its dependencies. That’s why the potential for development I was talking about is the same as the discarded stem cells.

        The same could be said for a six month old child. So according to your logic a six month old child is the same as stem cells on a mother’s nose. Just as she can scrape off her stem cells and flush them down the drain, so she should be able to shove her six month old down the toilet. After all, it won’t develop into a mature human being without the mother’s constant and ongoing participation to provide for its dependencies.

        This is the depravity of man’s reasoning. We’ve seen it in the past when people treated blacks like animals, when Nazi’s treated Jews like dirt. Today the same morally depraved reasoning is just applied to children in the womb.

        >>That’s why the potential for development I was talking about is the same as the discarded stem cells.

        No, it’s not the same. The stem cell is not a human being. It has no potential to develop into a mature human being until it is made into a human. The zygote is a human being. It has the potential to mature, the same way that a six month old has the potential to mature. All the zygote needs is shelter and nourishment. A stem cell needs to become fundamentally different. Shelter and nourishment won’t make it mature into anything, because it is fundamentally different than the zygote. One is a human that naturally matures into an adult human. The other is not. Your moral depravity is what keeps you from seeing or acknowledging the difference.

        >>You, like JW, continue to confuse potential with actual

        You’re the one confusing the potential with the actual. A stem cell is only potentially human. A zygote is actually a human, with the potential to mature into an adult.

        >>fuels that attack against women as distinct human persons and not a subset of fetal rights.

        Just rhetoric. I’m confident other readers aren’t fooled by it.

        Posted by The Janitor | August 1, 2013, 9:21 AM
      • I’m not trying to fool anyone. I’m trying to show that abortion is a medical concern and not a moral one because framing it in moral terms distorts reality. And the reality is that women – and not your morality – control their wombs. By providing medical access, you can reduce the kinds of abortions you deem to be immoral. If your goal is to promote life, you will become an advocate for free and accessible abortion services. And yes, I have the stats to back that up. But think of it this way: we arm our citizens with knowledge by offering driving lessons and licensing requirements to our youth. It would be foolish to claim driving is a moral issue and that arming our youth with this knowledge is granting approval for highway mayhem and death. Arm women with knowledge and medical support and you’ll find abortion rates plunge in the same way that safe driving is. But by sticking to your moral certitude, you condemn women to second class standing in favour of their fetuses and promote unsafe, unsanitary backstreet abortions that kill many women – including many mothers – unnecessarily. Support of the anti-choice crowd achieves exactly the opposite of what you claim to champion, namely, the dignity, safety, and health of being a human person.

        Posted by tildeb | August 1, 2013, 9:37 PM
      • >>I’m trying to show that abortion is a medical concern and not a moral one because framing it in moral terms distorts reality.

        You’ve done nothing to show it’s a not a moral issue. And saying it is a medical issue does not itself make it not a moral issue. Medical issues, such as euthanasia, consent, etc. are both medical and moral issues.

        >>And the reality is that women – and not your morality – control their wombs.

        The question JW raises in this post is whether a woman has the right to kill a fetus that is possibly a child. At this point you’ve been reduced to making blank assertions like “women control their wombs.” That’s a vacuous observation.

        >>By providing medical access, you can reduce the kinds of abortions you deem to be immoral.

        Will providing medical access to cocain reduce the immoral use of cocain? Doubtful. Will providing safe places for robbery to occur reduce muggings and theft? Doubtful. In the case of abortion, we are dealing with murder. In the context of JWs post, we are dealing with at least the possibility of murder. The society prevents murder is by outlawing it.

        >>If your goal is to promote life, you will become an advocate for free and accessible abortion services.

        At this point your plea comes off as desperate rhetoric. You come off as the drug addict giving a last ditch attempt to turn the tide of opposition by grandly claiming that providing free and accessible drugs will convince those who oppose drug use that legalizing drugs will somehow reduce drug use incidents.

        >>And yes, I have the stats to back that up.

        So I guess you just like to keep them secret?

        >>But think of it this way: we arm our citizens with knowledge by offering driving lessons and licensing requirements to our youth. It would be foolish to claim driving is a moral issue and that arming our youth with this knowledge is granting approval for highway mayhem and death.

        Driving is a moral issue, actually. You can drive in such a way that endangers the lives of others. That’s immoral. Given your odd dichotomies I’m not sure what possible could count as a moral issue for you.

        >>Arm women with knowledge and medical support and you’ll find abortion rates plunge in the same way that safe driving is.

        A claim that is easily shown to be false by looking at any chart on abortion rates since 1973 after Roe v Wade. After abortion became legal, abortions skyrocketed. At this point abortions have declined slightly and leveled off (though still above pre-Roe v Wade levels), but that slight decline and leveling off has also obviously not been due to “arming women with knowledge and medical support” from abortion providers and institutions like Planned Parenthood. On the contrary, that decline and leveling off is attributed to legal restrictions on abortion at the state level and crisis pregnancy centers. Thus, what we need if we want to see abortion rates plunge is to repeal Roe v Wade and then allow each state to establish its own restrictions on abortion.

        Imagine your advice given to the issue of safe driving, in particular DUI driving incidents. To make driving safer, does it make sense to legalize drunk driving and then give morally neutral information about what’s involved in the process of driving drunk, and then establish some organization like Planned Drivinghood to place a bottle of alcohol in every teenager’s care? Yet that’s the level of moral “wisdom” most people have in our society today when it comes to abortion. I imagine that if I had a time machine and traveled back to the 1930s I would experience a similar madness in trying to convince a Nazi about the status of Jews.

        >>But by sticking to your moral certitude,

        Recall that JWs argument was not based on certitude. We haven’t stuck JWs argument of course, I’ve follows you down your rabbit trails. But it’s not like seeing the immorality of abortion requires us to have certainty.

        >>you condemn women to second class standing in favour of their fetuses

        I suppose a mother who can’t kill her six month old is condemned to being a second class citizen. A blue-eyed blonde who couldn’t be allowed to live with his Jewish neighbor being placed in a concentration camp was being condemned to second class standing. That’s the rhetoric of someone who can’t win by reason.

        >>and promote unsafe, unsanitary backstreet abortions that kill many women – including many mothers – unnecessarily.

        Uh, every woman killed by backstreet abortions is a mother… Even pro-abortionists have pointed out that it’s arbitrary and silly to call a woman who wants her pregnancy a mother but not a woman who doesn’t want her pregnancy. Desire isn’t what makes a mother. And I don’t feel sorry for the robber who gets hurt trying to steal from someone. Why should I feel sorry for the woman trying to steal her child’s life?

        >>Support of the anti-choice crowd achieves exactly the opposite of what you claim to champion, namely, the dignity, safety, and health of being a human person.

        And we’ve seen that the support you’ve tried to give for this conclusion in your statements above ring hollow.

        Posted by The Janitor | August 2, 2013, 8:48 AM
      • Janitor, you state that Medical issues, such as euthanasia, consent, etc. are both medical and moral issues. But you don;t leave it there, do you? You cross the line of whose morality will be used and insist without justification that your should take precedence over not just the morality of the pregnant woman but over her health care. Turn around is fair play. You have no right to do this unless you willing to allow others (perhaps me) to impose some other moral framework ahead of your life and welfare. Something tells me you’re not quite so willing all of a sudden.

        By all means refuse to get an abortion because of your moral concerns. I am willing to grant you that right. But you have no basis in reality or rationality to think yourself that being a champion for a fetus trumps the responsibility you have to support the same rights for others. By assuming the act of terminating a pregnancy takes precedence by way of your morality over the intentions behind it in any rational consideration shows you are brutal in your moral certainty incapable of appreciating the health and welfare of real people in real life if this concern interferes with your moral certainty. And this speaks to not just to the quality of your character that is lacking but your willingness to disregard the rights and freedoms you enjoy in its name. That makes you a danger to others. You see, Janitor, sometimes an act is right and sometimes its wrong. You will never know which is which because you stop thinking, stop being a reasonable and compassionate person, when you have entrenched your beliefsand certitude into the act itself and dismiss in the name of misguided brutal piety the lives of others.Your dismissal is exactly the same cause that leads to real suffering and real death of real people fully developed. You have no clue what living with a terminal and debilitating illness means in actuality if you think your moral certainty trumps the rights of others to choose how they will live and die when it is they and not you who has to live minute by minute with the abject loss of dignity you impose on them. And for this brutality, you have no excuse but your moral certainty to assuage your very real guilt that promotes suffering in the name of your piety. This brutality you embrace is unconscionable to any compassionate person and unworthy of you as a person.

        Posted by tildeb | August 2, 2013, 7:35 PM
      • >>You cross the line of whose morality will be used and insist without justification that your should take precedence over not just the morality of the pregnant woman but over her health care.

        All laws and regulation impose an ethic. You say I do it without justification. Yeah, I haven’t tried to stake out my case against abortion. I’ve simply rebutted your replies to JW, who did try to stake out a case against abortion.

        >>You have no right to do this unless you willing to allow others (perhaps me) to impose some other moral framework ahead of your life and welfare. Something tells me you’re not quite so willing all of a sudden.

        First I reject your framing of the issue, as though being against abortion is placing the fetus above the life and welfare of the mother. I’ve already gone around this merri-go-round with you, so I won’t bother repeating the points I’d make in response to yet again. Secondly, sure I am willing to allow others to impose moral framework on me. If I was a woman I would allow others to impose some anti-abortion laws on me, thus restricting my ability to have an abortion.

        >>By all means refuse to get an abortion because of your moral concerns. I am willing to grant you that right.

        BodyCrimes already tried that line. See my response to her.

        >>But you have no basis in reality or rationality to think yourself that being a champion for a fetus trumps the responsibility you have to support the same rights for others.

        A woman doesn’t have the right to murder her children. So opposing abortion isn’t a failure to support the right of women.

        >>By assuming the act of terminating a pregnancy takes precedence by way of your morality over the intentions behind it in any rational consideration shows you are brutal in your moral certainty incapable of appreciating the health and welfare of real people in real life if this concern interferes with your moral certainty.

        You’re still in the habit of letting verbiage stand in for clear argument.

        >>And this speaks to not just to the quality of your character that is lacking but your willingness to disregard the rights and freedoms you enjoy in its name. That makes you a danger to others.

        And you are dangerous to children, both inside the womb and outside the womb (since the logic you try to use to support abortion of unborn children is equally applicable to new born children).

        >>You see, Janitor, sometimes an act is right and sometimes its wrong.

        Deep.

        >>You will never know which is which because you stop thinking, stop being a reasonable and compassionate person, when you have entrenched your beliefsand certitude into the act itself and dismiss in the name of misguided brutal piety the lives of others.

        I’m not sure this means anything.

        >>Your dismissal is exactly the same cause that leads to real suffering and real death of real people fully developed.

        Your dismissal is exactly the same cause that leads to real suffering and real death of real people not yet fully developed…

        >>You have no clue what living with a terminal and debilitating illness means in actuality if you think your moral certainty trumps the rights of others to choose how they will live and die when it is they and not you who has to live minute by minute with the abject loss of dignity you impose on them.

        But of course you don’t think abortion should be limited to cases of triage do you?

        >>And for this brutality, you have no excuse but your moral certainty to assuage your very real guilt that promotes suffering in the name of your piety. This brutality you embrace is unconscionable to any compassionate person and unworthy of you as a person.

        Could you buy me a coffee mug with that accusation? I’d be glad to use it regularly.

        Posted by The Janitor | August 3, 2013, 9:04 PM
      • A woman doesn’t have the right to murder her children.

        I agree. But we’re not talking ‘murder’ (a tautology) nor ‘children’ (a designation which is applied only after they are born).

        Because you don’t recognize the difference, you don;t recognize just how far over the line of rationality you have stepped and think of your willingness to be a tyrant as being synonymous with being a champion of human rights!

        I’m sure the irony escapes you completely.

        Posted by tildeb | August 5, 2013, 9:35 PM
    • Stan,

      I’m not entirely clear what you’re talking about. What do you identify as the semantic issue in JWs post and what would be the epistemic issue? It *looks* like you’re saying whether a life is included in the category of “human being” is an arbitrary matter since the demarcation of the category is arbitrary, in the same way as the category of “planet” and the discussion of whether Pluto is included in that category? If that is what you’re saying, it actually raises more difficulties than it solves and I doubt many abortion rights activists would find that a desirable solution.

      Posted by The Janitor | July 30, 2013, 8:53 PM
      • “it actually raises more difficulties than it solves”

        Difficulties in terms of systemic complication? Of course. Realizing that definitions don’t just pop out of objects, but have contingent references to pattern-recognizers-with-preferences, is a huge complication. The falsehood that definitions pop out of objects with no such contingent references is much simpler. Echo that for the similar falsehood about value, and the similar falsehood about morality.

        “I doubt many abortion rights activists would find that a desirable solution”

        I don’t at all care what abortion rights activists find desirable at this time. My rebuttal of Mr. Wartick is that he is treating a semantic issue as an epistemic one, and he definitely is. That rebuttal works irrespective of the complications it reveals, the uneasiness it prompts, and the uncertainty it catalyzes.

        Posted by Stan | August 2, 2013, 4:54 PM
      • Stan,

        You haven’t answered my original question. Also, your response of “tough luck” just isn’t practical. A cogent argument should have premises which the parties involved can be reasonably expected to accept. My point was that your rebuttal requires adopting a position which even those on your side of the abortion issue would find more implausible than its denial. Suppose I offered you the following argument: Either God exists or nothing exists. Something exists. Therefore, God exists. That argument is valid and, I believe, has true premises. So it’s sound. But it’s not cogent. I can’t reasonably expect *you* to agree with the premises. How impressed would you be if I gave you a devil-may-care attitude with “So what? It rebuts atheism.”

        Posted by The Janitor | August 3, 2013, 8:49 PM
  6. Is a foetus a human being?
    It’s part of the human species, yes. It’s scientficially incorrect to describe it as a parasite, as some pro-choice advocates too.

    Does this mean it’s a person?
    No.It’s not conscious. It’s not developed. It can’t feel pain. It’s not autonomous. It has no independent life.

    Does that mean the mother can abort it? For non-medical, convenience, ‘selfish’ reasons, as well as medical ones?
    Yes.

    Why?
    Until the foetus is viable, autonomous, independent and conscious, it depends totally on her body. Her body, her choice, because she’s best placed to understand her own life and fertility needs, and the best thing for her family. T Unless she lives in a totalitarian regime that doesn’t recognise basic human rights, like China.

    Is there ever a time it’s wrong to kill the foetus?
    Yes. At the point the foetus is viable outside her body.

    Isn’t that abitrary?
    To an extent, abortion times are determined by law and convention. The law recognises that there is a qualitative and moral difference between a fertilised egg and a nearly-developed baby. The laws in most countries where abortion is legal permit first trimester abortions for any reasons and then it becomes progressively harder to obtains one. Late stage abortions are done generally because the foetus is gravely deformed. These laws are largely consistent internationally, suggesting a near-universal agreement on what constitutes personhood and how the competing rights of mother and child can be arbitrated.

    If there’s even a vague possibility a fertilised egg is a person, then it’s MURDER.
    Oh well. Selfish women, eh?

    Sorry, you’re just wriggling here. Abortion is MURDER.
    Then don’t get one. Simple.

    Posted by bodycrimes | August 3, 2013, 2:02 AM
    • >>Does this mean it’s a person? No.It’s not conscious. It’s not developed. It can’t feel pain. It’s not autonomous. It has no independent life.  

      If you get knocked in the head with a coconut you may become unconscious. Do you lose your personhood at that point? No.   A 16 year old isn’t developed. Is the 16 year old not a person? No.   Suppose we took away your ability to feel pain. Would we have taken away your personhood? No. A six month old isn’t autonomous. Is a six month old not a person? No. And of course no one has an independent life.

      Nothing you list seems to be the essential property of a person. In each case it’s plain to see that person can exist and yet not be conscious, not feel pain, not be fully developed, etc. And the obvious problem with trying to tie personhood to some functioning capacity is that suddenly not everyone is equal. So a child with Downs syndrome becomes less valuable, of less worth, than a child without Downs or than an adult with Downs (since at least the adult with Downs has the advantage of being fully developed, which according to you makes it more of a person).

      >> Does that mean the mother can abort it? For non-medical, convenience, ‘selfish’ reasons, as well as medical ones?
      Yes.

      No, because you’ve failed to make the case that the fetus isn’t a person.

      >> Her body, her choice,

      An arbitrary and vacuous slogan. We aren’t just dealing with her body. We are dealing with the body of the human being inside her body.

      >> she’s best placed to understand her own life and fertility needs, and the best thing for her family.

      An assertion without an argument. We could make the same assertion regarding a mother and her new born infant. Isn’t she still the best placed to understand her own life and the best for her family? So we can just assume that if she decides the new born infant needs to be drowned in the tub then let’s permit it! After all, she’s in the best position to decide right?

      >> Unless she lives in a totalitarian regime that doesn’t recognise basic human rights, like China.

      *Human* rights? If you’re concerned about *human* rights then why aren’t you concerned about the fetus’ rights since you agreed it was *human*? Of course you don’t really care about human rights or the contrived category of “personhood rights”. You only care about securing abortion by any argument you can muster.

      >> At the point the foetus is viable outside her body.

      Viability is an arbitrary criterion. A child may be viable in America at the time of birth but not viable in Africa until after the first year. You aren’t viable in most conditions under water. Is “personhood” really based on such a ridiculous criteria? Of course not.

      >> Isn’t that abitrary?
      To an extent, abortion times are determined by law and convention.

      Funny that you want to turn away from a question about the morality of abortion to a question about what the laws happen to be. Of course that’s a bait and switch tactic, as though laws determined morality. There was a time when most laws in most countries allowed for slavery. Suppose you objected to slavery on some moral grounds and I started defending it on some admittedly arbitrary criterion because, after all, most laws agree! I’m sure you’d have no trouble seeing how ridiculous that is in the case of slavery. Your prejudice blinds you to the biggest human rights issue of our contemporary society.

      >> Sorry, you’re just wriggling here.

      To anyone who hasn’t had their head warped by the moral depravity of the left on the abortion it’s clearly you and TILDEB doing the wriggling, desperately trying to find something that will stick.

      >> Abortion is MURDER.
      Then don’t get one. Simple.

      Is that how you approach all instances of murder? Is stabbing your wife ten times in the chest murder? Tsch… so just don’t do it. But don’t try to tyranically outlaw it you Chinese communist! This is getting too absurd to parody.

      I’ll reply to TILDEB and Stan when I have more time. Yesterday I started focusing on some other pojects and can’t play whack-a-mole forever with whatever-the-pro-abortionists-try-to-come-up-with-next-since-their-last-attempt-obviously-failed. At any rate, this is obviously a case of “try to find a reason for our position” instead of letting reason lead you to your position.

      Posted by The Janitor | August 3, 2013, 2:51 PM
      • I think I’ve been too taunting in some of my replies. While I don’t think taunting is necessarily out of place (Elijah, God, and Paul all utilize it at different times), I’m probably not the best judge of when it is appropriate and not. In which case I should simply refrain from using it. I apologize for that.

        Posted by The Janitor | August 3, 2013, 8:42 PM
  7. If you think my definition of what constitutes a person is, then give me one. Saying “it’s human therefore it’s a person” is meaningless. Doesn’t tell me anything about what a person is. And why a woman has to carry it, at all stages. Your examples of Downs Sydnrome etc don’t make sense because they don’t acknowledge the fact that these are humans outside the womb. They’re not taking up somebody else’s body or trying to barge into one. And that’s the crux of this – the competing rights of foetus and woman. You give all the rights to the foetus.

    Posted by bodycrimes | August 5, 2013, 5:33 PM
    • After Janitor explicitly stated earlier that he did not say that abortion is immoral under all circumstances, your claim of giving all rights to the fetus is disingenuous. He made it clear that in all the situations where the mother is not in danger of dying as a result of carrying the child, abortion is murder. He also backed up his claim about the percentage of abortions that were the result of life-threatening circumstances or rape.

      Additionally, before repeating your assertion that there’s somehow a significant difference between a human inside and outside the womb, the burden is upon yourself to refute Janitor’s challenge of determining when it is justifiable to kill another human without falling victim to arbitrary or irrelevant criteria. By seemingly admitting that the person with Down’s Syndrome has a right to life while the fetus does not, you imply that cognitive ability is not a criterion that gives a human a right to life. Even if you mean degree of cognitive ability is a deciding factor, one must qualify what degree is acceptable without succumbing to arbitrariness.Thus, the only criterion you leave us with is the human’s location relative to the mother’s womb, which is irrelevant. You have thus far not succeeded in meeting this important, relevant challenge.

      Furthermore, your attempt at describing a pregnancy as one body “barging” into another’s is laughable. Are you not aware that “barging” is intrusion without permission and requires that an agent make a conscious choice to put themselves in this situation ? Except in the case of rape, which Janitor pointed out is the reason for abortion in a negligible number of cases compared to the total number of abortions, “barging” is a completely inappropriate term to use. By having sex, each person is implicitly giving consent to the possibility of a pregnancy. You’ll have to make a case that everyone has a right to sex without consequences and responsibility.

      Finally, you’ve lost all credibility when you state that if abortion is murder, then the objector should not get an abortion. You are then condoning murder in the name of your distorted version of freedom. Discussion over at that point. Freedom requires responsibility.

      Remember, we are talking about abortions that took place as a result of non-life-threatening circumstances, which make up a tiny, tiny fraction of all abortions.

      If your career is in journalism, it would be wise to sharpen your reasoning skills before uttering another word to the public.

      Should you decide to respond, choose your words wisely if you desire serious discussion.

      Posted by James | August 9, 2013, 7:41 PM
      • Remember, we are talking about abortions that took place as a result of non-life-threatening circumstances, which make up a tiny, tiny fraction of all abortions.

        Pardon the error. This should be revised to state that an overwhelming majority of abortions take place as a result of non-life-threatening circumstances.

        Posted by James | August 10, 2013, 10:58 AM
      • …the burden is upon yourself to refute Janitor’s challenge of determining when it is justifiable to kill another human without falling victim to arbitrary or irrelevant criteria.

        But this is another discussion entirely, suffice to say that in law sometimes it is justifiable. And this where the anti-choice argument goes off the rails.

        As far as law is concerned for the establishment of legal rights, it has been determine to be upon birth (and the separation of fetus from mother that turns the fetus into a legal individual – a child – armed with legal rights). Before that time in law there is no ‘killing another human being’; there is terminating a pregnancy. The former is legal language, the latter medical. The law establishes this boundary, although medical ethics rests on a sliding scale based on gestation; what is ethical at four weeks may be unethical at four months, and so medical intrauterine interventions are usually stopped by 23 weeks because medical practice can allow for a successful separation with tremendous medical intervention. You fail to differentiate at all between the legal and medical boundaries and so toss around words that favour only your position.

        What medical reasons can there be for legitimately terminating a pregnancy? THIS is the question, and the answers (for there are more than one) rest between the woman who carries the pregnancy and has the final say over her womb, and her medical advisers. What you seem unable and/or unwilling to do is allow pregnancies to remain an intensely private medical issue and instead wish to turn it into a public legal one by way of manipulating and disguising this intrusion under the excuse of religious, rather than secular, morality. And there is a significant difference in that only secular values inform secular law, meaning rights, freedoms, and responsibilities to the state recognized in law. Theology has no legitimate voice at this table because it brings nothing of moral secular value to it. It brings faith-based tyranny clothed as divine moral authority, which stands incompatible with secular authority based on individual legal autonomy. You are crossing this necessary boundary. And it is exactly this secular value of individual autonomy you are attempting to overthrow by abusing secular law to impose your religious tyranny. You are wholly in the wrong to do so.

        Posted by tildeb | August 10, 2013, 2:36 PM
      • TildeB,
        Why must you always dodge questions and challenges when those being presented to you are actually relevant ? You sure do waste a lot of words not addressing the point.

        Your objection is irrelevant when you claim that distinctions must be made between legal and medical language. You fail to address the question of whether or not “terminating a pregnancy” is actually unjustified killing of a human. Calling murder by a different name and sheltering it from scrutiny because it’s “medical language” doesn’t disqualify an act as murder.

        We’ve already made the case medically that at conception, a new human exists. Then, I clarified that abortion (i.e., killing a developing, viable human inside the womb) is unjustified when the mother’s life is not in danger or her pregnancy did not result from rape. At this point, someone might deem this as a necessary, but insufficient criterion for granting an individual human rights. Predictably, the ad-hoc and entirely subjective criterion of “personhood” is tacked on by the objector. Therefore, the objector must be able to define personhood in non-arbitrary terms that don’t strip other humans that lack those qualities of their rights. Following that, that description must be verified to match the actual state of the fetus.

        This is where we arrive at J.W.’s argument: since we can’t achieve the goal of defining personhood and verifying that the definition applies to the fetus and other humans who have already been granted their rights, why should we recklessly assume that this individual in the womb is not worthy of human rights ? The default assumption should be to err on the side of caution by granting human rights to the fetus, not the opposite. I will repeat once more: all rights of both the mother and the fetus are not merely ignored wholesale in favor of the other; whose rights ultimately come out on top depend upon the circumstances I already mentioned.

        Additionally, your description of a particular legal definition completely ignores the reality that laws and interpretations of them change. Just because a legal definition already exists that states when an individual is granted human rights does not at all mean that this cannot and should not be changed. That’s why we’re giving reasons to change it in the first place ! Laws are informed by reason, are they not ?

        All your bluster about how this is a theological argument against abortion is just an ad-hominem-laced assertion with no force behind it.Nowhere in this post or the related comments have J.W., Janitor, or I made any arguments that depend on deity of any sort. Furthermore, what about pro-life atheists and agnostics who make the same arguments as we have ? Are you going to accuse them of being closet theists ?

        Do we believe that the triune God of Christianity frowns upon abortion outside of some very special cases ? Of course ! However, if no mention of Him is implied in our premises, then you must refute those premises. If reasons ultimately win the argument, TildeB, then why do you not address ours instead of hiding behind ad hominems and red herrings ?

        Also, you falsely accuse me of not framing the issue in terms of when intentional killing of another human is justified. When looking at it from a medical perspective, I already implied that in the scenarios of life-threatening complications or rape, the answer to the question is much more difficult. As I took pains to mention in my reply to BodyCrimes, I am objecting to abortions that result from non-life-threatening circumstances. You seem to conveniently ignore that point every single time, as well.

        As for the accusation of “intruding” into another person’s private matters via proxy of law, you’re simply ignoring the question of whether the abortionist’s “tools” are harmfully intruding upon the life of another individual, worthy of human rights, inside the womb. As has been demonstrated amply and on numerous occasions, there is nothing at all wrong with interceding on another’s behalf via law. Hence, the personhood challenge stands in determining whether the fetus qualifies for these rights.

        So, TildeB, I leave you with a couple options: either

        1.) Cut out the nonsense with the ad-hominems, red herrings, and emotionally-loaded rhetoric (e.g., labels of anti-choice, tyranny, intrusion and other such drivel) and address the arguments that have been presented.

        or

        2.) Don’t bother expecting a reply from me at all. I’ve seen your antics on various other blogs and know that you have a serious problem with addressing the relevant issues.

        Posted by James | August 12, 2013, 8:32 PM
      • I’m sorry you are having such difficulty appreciating the pointed response I am making to your assertion that a fetus is worthy of being considered a human being deserving of the same protective rights in law as the mother that carries it, and so it is unjustified to ‘kill’ this ‘person’. Calling me names and smearing my intentions and labeling my criticism as ‘antics’ that don’t address the ‘relevant issue’ won’t fix the fatal problem your argument has that I am pointing out.

        You are failing to denote the meaning in law of these terms you so carelessly apply to a fetus so you fail to recognize the sand upon which your argument of supporting fetal rights has been built. Changing the law to change the legal boundary of when these terms apply means changing the very definition of these words in law. So what, you might say; isn’t protecting a human life worth changing a few words?

        Well, the fact of the matter is that a fetus is not equivalent to being a human individual with legal rights. A fetus is developmentally less than an autonomous human individual; in fact, it is in all ways fully dependent on the mother. This legal status changes upon birth, upon separation from the mother, and so the law recognizes this fact. You assume that by changing the language of the law, you can change these facts and extend individual autonomy recognized by law into the wombs of women to suit your moral authority in the name of ‘protecting’ the fetus to be superior to the autonomy already protected in law for the mother. You fail to realize that such an extension will in fact reduce the autonomy of the mother to be secondary to those you want to afford to her developing fetus and this directly undermines the legal notion of what autonomy means, which directly threatens the basis on which protective laws – the very laws YOU want to use to justify protecting a fetus – now function. There is something very wrong with any argument that tries to show that up is another kind of down, white another kind of black, and now a fetus as another kind of autonomous human individual. It simply isn’t true in fact. It’s a word game with consequences. Your argument when viewed from the legal perspective is self defeating and fails utterly to address its legal consequences.

        Because a fetus is not an autonomous legal individual but a dependent part of a woman’s body, the law recognizes that this makes any treatment of that fetus in utero to be a medical issue that falls completely within the boundary of that woman’s autonomy. This is not a trivial matter but one that is under threat from those who wish to usurp that autonomous authority and control it from afar by abusing the law to do so. This is the mistake you are making.

        You write Calling murder by a different name and sheltering it from scrutiny because it’s “medical language” doesn’t disqualify an act as murder.” This is your tautology problem that leads you into making this mistake and not mine for pointing it out because it’s not a murder by definition unless you change the language, and by changing the language to make it a murder, you change the legal basis on what defines the sense you are trying to use it!

        Posted by tildeb | August 13, 2013, 7:33 AM
  8. James – if you believe that being a fertilised egg or an embryo is enough to confer the full status of human being, then what is your view of embryos created for IVF? There are millions of these frozen in storage across the world. According to your definition, they are full human beings with full human rights. If so, what should be done with those whose parents don’t want to implant them? Kept frozen forever? Should the parents be forced to implant all of them? Clearly, discarding them would be murder, under your definition. So how can their human rights be asserted? Is it OK to leave millions of humans in suspended animation?

    Posted by bodycrimes | August 13, 2013, 1:19 AM
  9. I don’t have time to read all the comments that have been made to date, and it is possible that someone has already made this point. I object to your premisses, both (1) and (2). they cannot be substantiated. (1) If it is possible that the unborn is a human person, then we should not kill the unborn. I submit that you have yet to demonstrate that a human person should not be killed. There is ample evidence, all around us, of exceptions to the basic precept “Thou shalt not kill…or murder…or whatever.” I think what you want to say is (1) It is wrong to kill human beings. (2) The unborn are human beings. (3) Therefore, it is wrong to kill the unborn. Stated in this way, I still must insist that there are numerous exceptions in society where the taking of human life is morally defensible. Your first premiss as you wrote it, and as I changed it, are both patently false. And thus, the second premiss becomes irrelevant. I have another concern. You stated your argument in terms of modal logic. I don’t understand modal logic well enough yet, but I think there is something wrong with the argument. Suffice to say, modal statements of possibility are very weak claims. In effect what you’re claiming is that “such-and-such’ is true in some possible world (perhaps not in ours).

    Posted by Nicholas Gerolamo | August 19, 2013, 1:37 AM
    • I continue to be disturbed by how many people immediately distort my argument. You, like many others, have confused my epistemic argument for an ontic argument. Your comment seems to intentionally misrepresent what I have actually argued.

      Further, your alleged modal concerns demonstrate the misunderstanding if my argument. Your comment there betrays a confusion of the meaning of possible in the sense of epistemic uncertainty with the meaning of possible in the sense of modality.

      Thus, I fail to see how your comment has interacted with my post in a meaningful way. I reiterate: the argument I have presented here is epistemic. I do not think I can make it more clear. It is not a claim about ontology. It is a claim about epistemology.

      Perhaps an example will help. There is a difference between “1+1=2” and “knowing that 1+1=2.” The former is ontic, the latter is epistemic. My claim is in the latter category.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 19, 2013, 7:32 PM
      • Mr. Wartick: I will continue to work at understanding your argument and perhaps get back to you soon, after I have mastered the ontic/epistemic distinction. In the meanwhile, let me offer you a word of advice: if I were disturbed by how many others are confused by my argumentation, I would first ask myself, “How might I be contributing to their confusion?” You have assumed the role of ‘teacher’, and the mark of a good is not to blame the eager student for failing to learn. Best wishes to you.

        Posted by Nicholas Gerolamo | August 20, 2013, 12:45 AM
      • I will reiterate the example I gave. There is a difference between “x” and “knowing that x.” My post is dealing with the latter, your comment shows that you are taking my post as dealing with the former.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 20, 2013, 5:03 PM
  10. Assume that your nation is at war, and the survival of the entire free world depended on your country’s defeating the enemy. You are ‘the decider’ with respect to how bombing missions are to be carried against the enemy. It is necessary that major cities be bombed regularly, but there are large civilian populations upon which your bombs will rain. The probability is very high that there are pregnant women among the civilians (better that 97%). If you bomb, then it is highly likely that pregnant women will be killed along with the fetuses they carry. If you don’t bomb, then your country will lose the war and the entire free world will be enslaved. What will you do, Mr. Wartick?

    Posted by Nicholas Gerolamo | August 21, 2013, 3:44 PM
    • Your scenario seems very odd. First, it is unclear why in this scenario pregnant women are given precedent over the other innocent civilians. It seems that you have intentionally weighted this scenario to be rhetorical rather than as an actual thought experiment. Second, I can think of no reason why it would be “necessary” for a major city to be bombed regularly. Third (and related to the first point), I see no reason why the consideration would not be just that “there are innocent people who may be killed.”

      And then the question is basically that which the Allies faced in WW2, without the technology to direct bombs necessarily towards military targets, is it permissible to bomb a civilian center? Or for that matter, what about the atomic weapons which were utilized against Japan?

      But then I would have to ask: what possible relevance does your scenario have for abortion? The question you are raising here is the question of just war. Innocents are killed in war. Is it possible to wage war justly?

      Your scenario attempts to highlight “pregnant women” but I fail to see how it would be any less a difficult question if I were 100% certain there were no pregnant women in the area but rather only non-pregnant innocent civilians. Just reword the whole experiment to say that “The probability is very high that there are innocent civilians who will be killed,” and it loses its rhetorical value. Moreover, the question would remain just as difficult to answer.

      Thus, I have to argue your thought experiment fails the test of relevancy. You have provided no reason for thinking that the case you provided is somehow linked to the question of abortion. Instead, your experiment is a question of just war. Is it permissible to bomb innocent civilians to further military ends in some scenarios? That is the question your thought experiment presses. The question of whether there are pregnant women among the innocent civilians seems to be clearly slipped in for purely rhetorical value.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 22, 2013, 1:27 AM
      • I asked what you would do in this situation, and why. You avoided giving a reasonable response and you seem to be accusing me of trying to trick you. I had hoped to could shed more light on the matter of how to go about making decisions regarding who lives and who dies (including the unborn). Your response was disappointing and intellectually dishonest.

        Posted by Nicholas Gerolamo | August 22, 2013, 2:20 AM
      • Really? Show me what relevance your question has for abortion. I have already demonstrated that in your thought experiment there is no relevant difference whether there are pregnant women involved or not. The difficulty in your thought experiment is that innocent life is on the table. The tradeoff seems to be: either everyone is enslaved, or you kill some unknown # of innocent lives and those who remain are not enslaved. But I fail to see any relevance this question has for the question of abortion.

        You accuse me of intellectual dishonesty. Document it. Show me where I have been intellectually dishonest. Show me how your thought experiment is relevant for the question of abortion. Show me how it does not collapse into a question about just war as opposed to abortion. I have demonstrated that it does collapse, and I have shown that it is irrelevant. Then you deign to turn around and accuse me of intellectual dishonesty? Demonstrate it.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 22, 2013, 9:23 AM
  11. Those who want to check out this site (bodycrimes) linking in should be aware of the claims made there. I addressed them in a comment on the blog (pending approval as of now). Essentially, “bodycrimes” grants that my argument uses formal logic to prove “to [my] own satisfaction” that abortion is murder. But then bodycrimes never actually interacts with the content of the post. Yes, she has commented here, but you’ll note that this person never actually even attempted (or understood) my argument. In fact, from the first comment onward they made the mistake of confusing my argument, which is epistemic in nature, with an ontological argument. I pointed this out and then bodycrimes immediately retreated to a semantics game. I find this very telling. Bodycrimes is incapable of interacting on a logical level with logical arguments against the pro-choice position. So instead of doing so, bodycrimes simply retreats to name calling and semantics.

    Moreover, on bodycrimes’ site, they write that of the horrors of “backyard” abortions. This is a myth that pro-choice people need to put to rest. It shows they haven’t reflected, even in the slightest, with reality.

    Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 26, 2013, 11:04 AM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Aren't sure when life begins? - Personhood Iowa - July 30, 2013

  2. Pingback: Crazies on the internet: beatings, breeding and abortion | bodycrimes - September 26, 2013

  3. Pingback: The Supreme Court Strikes Down Violation of Free Speech | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - June 26, 2014

  4. Pingback: Abortion 101 – Laying a Pro-Life Foundation « ElijiahT - January 23, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,221 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
%d bloggers like this: