Thanks to the Prime Directive blog, I belatedly came across a long list of “Questions for Pro-Choice People” by Prof. Michael Pakaluk. I’ve already responded to most of them with the spectrum argument, but here are three extra questions taken from this list that explore new ground and are worth highlighting.
17. Imagine a woman seeing an ultrasound of her unborn baby. Sometimes the hands and feet are visible, and the baby is sometimes sucking its thumb. Why aren’t such images shown to women considering abortions as part of informed consent?
Works for me. But let’s add conditions to make this practical.
- This should be an option rather than part of a mandatory gauntlet forced on women considering abortion.
- This should not be the first time the woman has seen this information. That is, education should teach about the stages of fetal development as part of comprehensive sex education that would minimize the chances of her having this unwanted pregnancy in the first place.
- The woman’s choices should be made available as soon as possible. Putting obstacles in her way—by closing down nearby clinics, encouraging pharmacists to refuse to offer morning-after pills, and so on—increases the age of the fetus she must consider aborting. If an abortion is to happen, let’s make it early so that the woman doesn’t see a fetus sucking its thumb.
18. “Does anyone wish that his mother had chosen abortion for him? And, if not, then how can he consistently wish that any mother choose abortion for anyone else?”
This is a more eloquent version of my question 4, in an earlier post.
In the first place, if I’d been aborted, I wouldn’t be here to care. In the second, this thinking isn’t far removed from the Quiverfull movement (my thoughts on that here), which encourages no restraint on birth and childishly “lets God decide” how many children to have.
Where do you draw the line? If we are morally obliged to bring to term a 2-week-old fetus, are we also morally obliged to bring to term the thought, “Gee, I wonder if we should have another baby …”?
Seeing life as a spectrum is the only way to make sense of this. Yes, that leaves unanswered the question of where to draw the line for abortion, but let’s first agree that a spectrum exists.
19. Let’s suppose that we’re doubtful that the unborn child is a human being with human rights (there is no doubt, but let’s imagine there is). Given this uncertainty, shouldn’t we err on the side of the child?
I agree that there’s no doubt, but I’m sure my confidence is the opposite of yours.
A fetus is not a person. Play games with the name all you want (“The fetus is a Homo sapiens, ‘human being’ is simply a synonym, and if a fetus is a human being, it must have human rights!”), but there’s no ambiguity here. Despite your word games, a newborn baby is still not the same thing as a single cell. There is a spectrum.
- Find the first post in this series about abortion here: A Defense of Abortion Rights: The Spectrum Argument.
- The text of the opinion in Roe v. Wade is available here. Though written in 1973, it gives a thorough analysis of both sides of the issue. Anyone who objects to this decision should probably know what this decision actually says.
- William Saletan, “The Pro-life Case for Planned Parenthood,” Slate, 12/11/08.
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What good is your spectrum argument if you can’t distinguish when a human ball of cells deserves the right to be calleda human being?
First things first.
First we agree that there’s a spectrum; then we work on where the line goes. If there is no spectrum, you’re right and the line goes before conception–easy. But if there is a spectrum, then we need to roll up our sleeves to figure out your question. But let’s get agreement on that first item first.
On a biological level there may be a spectrum. However, the discussion of abortion goes deeper than this. It is a moral question. The question is, “Does a single human cell have any rights?” I would argue that it does. It is a human cell. It is a cell that, without tampering, will become a human being in your view.
We can look at biology to complement our moral arguments but “oughtness” goes beyond biology. I am confused as to why one would use the “spectrum” argument without being able to identify the different parts of the spectrum. You cannot tell me when a human being becomes a human being. Doesn’t your argument then become useless? You are a thoughtful guy so I would think that since you can’t answer my previous question shouldn’t we be cautious in our discussions of abortion when we are talking about the lives of others including the unborn?
This all depends on how you define “tampering”. Technically, “without tampering” from the mother to support the growth, these cells would immediately die. Also, as we all know, spontaneous abortions and miscarriages happen all the time without any outside “tampering”.
So what do you base your “oughtness” on Travis? Is it the Bible? Is is a feeling that God gives you? Is it from your personal experiences?
So when exactly does a human being become a human being? How did you come to this answer?
This is a change of topic. Let’s first agree on the existence of the spectrum.
If we can agree that, in the spectrum from blue to green, blue is not green, we can know that we may need to treat blue and green differently. Similarly, if a single cell is not the same as a newborn, we may need to treat them differently.
If you read my post 5 Recommendations to the Pro-Life Movement, you’ll see that IMO seeing the spectrum compels dramatic changes within the pro-life community. That is, they can still hold on to their beliefs, but ignoring the spectrum puts them out of touch with reality. Or, contrarily, if they accept the spectrum, their movement becomes much more relevant.
An invisible cell is radically different from a newborn baby. Your own nurturing instincts will tell you this. (I don’t have much nurturing feeling for something I can’t even see.)
And if you choose to treat these different things equally on the question of abortion (that is, neither should be aborted), that’s fine. Just don’t conclude that this is so obvious that you have the right to remove the choice from other people’s lives.
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