• Bob Ross
    1k
    Abortion is not a simple topic, as it forces a person to dive quite deep into their normative and applied ethical theories. Given the complexity, I would like to propose my thoughts on and solutions to typical abortion ethical considerations and seek the community’s opinions on the matter.

    Firstly, I would like expose some of my prerequisite thinking towards tackling this issue (of abortion), so as to provide as much clarity as I can to the reader. Since each of the prerequisites could be entire discussion boards themselves, I will only briefly elaborate on them and leave it up to the reader to invoke any suspicions, contentions, or otherwise grievances they may have with them (and I will be more than happy to go into further detail).

    Prerequisite one: Normative Idealism

    I find that when one is evaluating a scenario through the lens of morality they should try to intuit, to the best of their ability, whether the act progresses, regresses, or neutrally impacts one’s moral ideal(s). By ideal, I mean an absolute moral principle, which is the unwavering goal of applied ethics. P.s., this is a form of deontology. I think that general moral principles, for pragmatic purposes, can be derived imperfectly from the ideal(s), but that the ideal(s) are what the moral focus should be on.

    For me, I find that my ideal is that one should strive towards a world in which there is maximal sovereignty of life. By “maximal”, I do not wish to allude to utilitarianism, as I disagree with that normative ethical theory, but rather to distinguish it from the self-refuting view of achieving “absolute sovereignty of life”—as the absolute sovereignty of a life entails the violation of sovereignty of another.

    Prerequisite two: Epistemic Conservatism

    I think that one should take their beliefs and intuitions about reality at face value (as true) until sufficient counter evidence is presented that demonstrates their unreliability. Thusly, if a situation strikes a person as seemingly A, then they should, all else being equal, hold A until there is some sort of counter evidence that suggests its unreliability.

    Gameplan:

    Within the conversation of abortion, I am assessing the most basic abortion scenarios in relation to some general moral principles, of which imperfectly align with the ideal (that was expounded in prerequisite one), that I teased out of intuitions about other scenarios (some of which I will share in this post).

    First Basic Scenario: Consensual Sex

    In the case of consensual sex, I find that I am pro-life; for a person who is culpable for the condition of a life thereby has the duty to amend the situation, and a woman who consensually has sex is culpable (along with the man, of course) for the condition of the new life (in the event that she becomes pregnant). Amending the situation entails, by my lights, that what is the most feasible and reasonable means of amending the situation (viz., protecting and saving the life in this case) must be taken. This means that one cannot abort in this situation, as that is the antithesis of amending the situation of the condition of that new life.

    I think “culpability entailing duty to resolve the situation” is a very useful, and widely accepted, general principle. For example, if I were to damage someone’s property or damage them, then I have to legally do whatever is necessary to amend the situation: I cannot just throw my hands in the air and not consent.

    Second Basic Scenario: Unconsensual Sex

    In the case of unconsensual sex, culpability is a principle that is completely useless (quite obviously), so there must be some other factor (or factors) involved that determine it as either wrong or right (i.e., progressing, regressing, or neutrally affecting the moral ideal). Long story short, I am pro-choice, as I think that consent matters in the case of actions which (1) are not related to any sort of culpability and (2) have the potential for significant unwanted bodily modifications. I do not think, on the contrary, that consent (just like ‘right to life’) as an absolute principle works, as there are clear scenarios to me where I don’t care if one consents or not: they have a de facto obligation to save the person’s life. For example, if it is just me and a little kid at a pool and that kid starts drowning in the deep end, then I cannot just say “Oh, well, I can swim, but I don’t really want to risk getting an ear infection”. My consent is completely irrelevant because there is no reasonable inference of significant unwanted bodily modifications. Whereas, for example, if I couldn’t swim (and thusly would likely drown with the kid), then I could not consent to jumping in and saving them but, rather, would still be obligated to find someone to help them. Likewise, this is why (I would argue) we don’t blame anyone who doesn’t consent to running into a burning building (as it is reasonably inferred that they could have significant unwanted bodily modifications), whereas we do blame a firefighter if they get on the scene and chicken out (since they consented to doing exactly that: running into burning buildings).

    Thusly, a rape victim has the option to abort or not, because she is not (1) culpable for the condition of that new life and (2) pregnancy reasonably poses the potential for significant unwanted bodily modifications.

    Third Basic Scenario: Incest

    I think that this one is mostly derivable from the previous two (depending on if it is consensual or not) but with the extra punishment (irregardless) of both parties involved since incest greatly decreases the likely quality of life conceived from it.

    Fourth Basic Scenario: Consensual Sex + Endangerment of the Mother

    Although I think this is an unpopular opinion, I find that the mother has the duty to carry on with the pregnancy even if their life is endanger (unless the fetus’ life is also likely to perish as well), for she is culpable for the condition of this life. This is no different, to me, than if I were to go stab an innocent person in the heart, they get rushed to the ER, I get arrested, and I am the only person that can save them if I were to give them my heart: I am obligated to give my heart, since I am culpable for their condition and the only feasible means of amending this particular situation (as stipulated in the hypothetical) is to give them my heart.

    Fifth Basic Scenario: Unconsensual Sex + Endangerment of the Mother

    Being pro-choice in the case of unconsensual sex, I think that the mother, in this case, has the option to contemplate (for a reasonable amount of time) whether to abort or not in light of the news that there is a strong chance she may die or be abnormally impacted by the pregnancy.

    What are your guys’ thoughts?
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    I don't think the issue is as abstrusely "complex" as you suggest above.

    From an old thread "Abortion" ...
    In my understanding: before 24-26 weeks of gestation, a human foetus lacks intact thalamocortical circutry and therefore isn't sentient (i.e. feels pain as an independent organism with the potential for learning to anticipate pain in other organisms (empathy)) – not a person, so excising it is a lumpectomy, not homicide ...180 Proof

    I elaborate further ...
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/694450
  • Benkei
    7.1k
    I have a totally different take nowadays. Let me know what you think! :wink:

    I actually think approaching it as a person/not-a-person invites complexity as it introduces issues of potentiality and presumes only persons are worthy of moral consideration. The latter in particular doesn't sit well with me due to my preference for consistencies in moral frameworks. I think this isn't the right way to go. The environment deserves moral consideration but also works of art or information etc.

    I'm pro-choice and find that in the inviolability of our physical integrity. I choose what goes in and comes out of my body. Having others tell a woman she must carry to term just sounds like a violation in itself.

    The gestation limit is somewhat arbitrary but the main problem I see is people will always argue: "yes but a healthy foetus will grow into a person". My position would be more absolute; there should be no time limit. As long as the baby hasn't been born a woman should be able to decide to have it removed. However, doctors do not have the obligation to kill a viable baby. Indeed, they have the opposite duty to save it. The consequences of the choice of removing a baby late, e.g. an operation that is effectively a ceasarian, should be borne by the person making the choice. E.g., if you're too late and the baby is viable, you have to take care of it - either giving it up for adoption, get family involved or doing it yourself. It should also be easier to have more complex family structures to support different ways of making sure the child starts life in a safe and caring environment, preferably with a view of having the mother involved in its upbringing to the extent she wants and also allowing for her to change her mind.

    The choice, even at early stages of gestation, is a tough one for women. At least that's my understanding having spoken to those that had an abortion.I doubt many of them take such choices lightly - although this might be a consequence of selection bias (the women I talk to and make friends with aren't really a good representation of society). Such a choice presumably only becomes more difficult the longer it is postponed. As a result, "late" decisions will probably be very rare and as such not a real problem.
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    :up: I think we take (slightly) different routes to the same ethically & legally defensible destination: "pro-choice" (I prefer pro-woman).
  • universeness
    6.3k
    Female bodily autonomy is imo, the most important controlling factor in any abortion scenario.
    I agree that if the decision to abort has been made, medically, 'too late,' then major efforts have to be made to try to convince the person to opt for alternatives such as adoption etc or the state agreeing to take full responsibility for the birthed child.
  • RogueAI
    2.3k
    I don't think it's complex. A woman's bodily autonomy right trumps the fetus's rights at every stage, even if it's a person at the moment of conception. Bodily autonomy rights are that important.
  • RogueAI
    2.3k
    Having others tell a woman she must carry to term just sounds like a violation in itself.Benkei

    Yes. If bodily autonomy is violated because of x, then it will get violated for y and z and pretty soon people are claiming that a woman can never have an abortion for any reason. Best not to go down that road in the first place. The woman's rights always trump the fetus's, regardless of personhood.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    Here's the problems I have with personhood arguments:

    1. I disagree with the stereotypical physicalist notion that the brain must be present, fully or adequately, for one to consciously experience. An embryo is consciously experiencing, just more rudimentary then ourselves (as fully developed adults). I thusly would extend personhood to the developing human being (in the womb) so long as it has any sort of autonomous movements (e.g., a heartbeat), which is significantly sooner than your 24 week mark.

    2. Personhood does not absolutely matter. Just because the developing human being is a person, it does not have the right to use a rape victim's body to develop without consent because it posing a reasonable risk of potentially significant unwanted bodily modifications (and she is not culpable for its condition).

    3. If we were to grant persons absolute rights to their lives, then that would lead to unwanted consequences. For example, a person who is walking passed a burning building and hears someone scream would be obligated to protect and save that life, even if they do not consent to that level of risk of bodily danger. The only way to refute this is to concede that personhood is relative principle and consent does matter in some cases. Even arguing that the person has a right to their own life (and thusly doesn't need to put it in danger to save the other person) is contingent on consent/bodily-autonomy arguments.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    A woman's bodily autonomy right trumps the fetus's rights at every stage, even if it's a person at the moment of conception. Bodily autonomy rights are that important.

    I agree that bodily autonomy rights are important, but they are not absolute. If they were (as you are suggesting), then I can unconsent from saving the kid who is drowning in the pool (given there is no one else around to do it) because there is risk to my body getting an ear infection. Forcing me to do it would, indeed, violate my right to bodily autonomy. I find this to be blatantly wrong, as I am de facto obligated to save the kid in this situation: no one should care if I consent or not. No one has an absolute right to life, nor to bodily autonomy.
  • RogueAI
    2.3k
    If they were (as you are suggesting), then I can unconsent from saving the kid who is drowning in the pool (given there is no one else around to do it) because there is risk to my body getting an ear infection.Bob Ross

    1), I'm not sure you should be forced to save a drowning kid. It would be nice if you did, but do we want government compelling charitable acts?
    2) Forcing a woman to give birth is not even close to risking an ear infection. It entails months of pregnancy and birth has all sorts of complications and a non-trivial mortality rate.
  • T Clark
    13k
    What are your guys’ thoughts?Bob Ross

    I'm not convinced by your arguments, but for me that's beside the point. Do you think your moral judgments should be used as the basis for laws restricting access to abortion? If not, no need to argue further. If so, then we are in strong disagreement.

    Some additional thoughts. I think abortion is really terrible method of birth control and should be avoided if possible. It's a bad thing. Good access to sex education, birth control, and support for pregnant mothers and families should be the first line of action. Anyone who wants to restrict abortion and birth control should be sent to live in Alabama.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k
    As others have mentioned a woman ought to do whatever she wants with her own life and body. The moral standard for me is bodily autonomy and absolute freedom, so long as it does not interfere with the bodily autonomy and absolute freedom of anyone else. The question of abortion, though, is does she have the right to do what she wants to the life and body of the unborn?

    As far as i can tell, the task of the pro-abortionists has been to diminish and belittle in the conscience the body of the unborn. To kill it with a clean conscience, for example, one must sneak in and sever its life before this or that occurs, before it has feelings or a heartbeat. At least then will the killer be satisfied with herself and her humanity. Also, the unborn is not autonomous, but entirely dependent. Bodily autonomy is not a question until it is, until the unborn itself becomes autonomous. Rather, a foetus is more like a parasite or an organ, a mere extension of the mother, despite having its own DNA. But at what point in another's life does autonomy occur, and is killing a child before that occurs remain the right of the mother to kill her own? I'm not so sure.

    In the end, I carry a principle that conflicts with itself. So I have to quell the dissonance and remain satisfied that it isn't up to me wether someone wants to kill the life growing inside of her. I leave that to her, but will always remember that they are killing a life that is not their own, and will judge accordingly.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    As far as i can tell, the task of the pro-abortionists has been to diminish and belittle in the conscience the body of the unborn. To kill it with a clean conscience, for example, one must sneak in and sever its life before this or that occurs, before it has feelings or a heartbeat. At least then will the killer be satisfied with herself and her humanity.NOS4A2

    You're a mind reader?

    People make all sorts of choices in life which leave them with a dirty conscience. For instance, I feel bad about using plastic grocery bags whenever I forget to bring reusables to the store. Even if I'm able to somehow rationalize it the feeling remains and my task isn't to diminish and belittle that feeling. My task is to do better.

    I have to quell the dissonance and remain satisfied that it isn't up to me wether someone wants to kill the life growing inside of her. I leave that to her, but will always remember that they are killing a life that is not their own, and will judge accordingly.NOS4A2

    Her choice but you judge her guilty of murder? That means you're pro-life. Your libertarian friends will be so disappointed in you. :meh:
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    One can disapprove of an act while at the same time disapprove of any act that would infringe on another’s right to choose to act in such a way. Disapproving is not infringing on anyone’s choices, I’m afraid, so your statist friends don’t have much to go on.
  • praxis
    6.2k


    So you merely disapprove of killing human life and don't consider it murder. Your libertarian friends will be very very impressed. :starstruck:
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    I would not consider it murder because there is a valid excuse for it. It is homicide by definition, though. I’m sure most people disapprove of homicide. What about you?
  • praxis
    6.2k
    I would not consider it murder because there is a valid excuse for it.NOS4A2

    If I'm reading you right, what you seem to consider a valid excuse is that "the unborn is not autonomous". That doesn't make sense. Babies, young children, and those with debilitating injuries or health lack autonomy. Those conditions may be temporary. They certainly tend to be in the case of the unborn.

    Are you able to clarify what you consider a valid excuse to kill human life?
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    No, what I consider a valid excuse for abortion is if the unborn is a product of rape or if the mother is too young or if the fetus is malformed.

    What are your own views on the matter?
  • praxis
    6.2k
    No, what I consider a valid excuse for abortion is if the unborn is a product of rape or if the mother is too young or if the fetus is malformed.NOS4A2

    In the case of rape, I suppose that it would need to be a proven case of rape, like a criminal conviction?

    Assaults%20to%20Perpetrators%20that%20Walk%20Free.jpg

    Regarding age, you're pro-life for adults? What's the age cutoff?

    What are your own views on the matter?NOS4A2

    If I were able to vote on it, I guess that I'd go along with 98.3% of the population, around 16 weeks.

    27696.jpeg
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    In the case of rape, I suppose that it would need to be a proven case of rape, like a criminal conviction?

    None of that is up to me.

    Regarding age, you're pro-life for adults? What's the age cutoff?

    I wouldn’t use the terms pro-life or pro-choice, both of which are stupid. The debate is around the act of abortion in particular, not choices or life general. I prefer the terms pro or anti-abortion, none of which applies elsewhere. I am anti-abortion.

    If I were able to vote on it, I guess that I'd go along with 98.3% of the population, around 16 weeks.

    What do your principles say? Going along with what is popular is fine and all but that could all change.
  • Benkei
    7.1k
    1), I'm not sure you should be forced to save a drowning kid. It would be nice if you did, but do we want government compelling charitable acts?RogueAI

    There are plenty of states that compel a duty of care actually. The Netherlands and most continental European countries have this. Penalties are relatively mild though up to 6 months if I remember correctly. @Tobias maybe you remember more details?

    Even in some States in the USA. I looked it up at some point and wrote about this before on this site. If you want to know more I can search for it.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    None of that is up to me.NOS4A2

    None of any of this is up to us. If you don't want to answer that's fine. I don't care.

    I am anti-abortion.NOS4A2

    Until a certain age, apparently. I asked what the cut-off age is. Again, I don't care if you don't want to answer. That is up to you.

    What do your principles say?NOS4A2

    They say around 16 weeks. If you're asking which are strongest on this issue it's hard to say. Like you, I'd say that autonomy is high on the list. Unlike you, I'd say that equality is also high on the list. That I look to the norm suggests that I value cooperation and tolerance, perhaps. Could go on and on but I don't see the point.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    Until a certain age, apparently. I asked what the cut-off age is. Again, I don't care if you don't want to answer. That is up to you.

    I have no cut-off.

    They say around 16 weeks. If you're asking which are strongest on this issue it's hard to say. Like you, I'd say that autonomy is high on the list. Unlike you, I'd say that equality is also high on the list. That I look to the norm suggests that I value cooperation and tolerance, perhaps. Could go on and on but I don't see the point.

    They say…what if they said something else? The problem with appealing to popularity is that popular opinion often gets it wrong.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    I have no cut-off.NOS4A2

    You said that a valid excuse is being too young. That means that those not too young do not have a valid excuse and you consider them murderers (unlawful killers). To be clear, saying adults getting an abortion are killers is different than saying adults getting an abortion are murderers. The latter is considered criminal. You used the term "murder" here:

    I would not consider it murder because there is a valid excuse for it.NOS4A2

    They say…NOS4A2

    You asked me what my principles said, not what popular opinion said. It's an awkward question, and redundant since I just answered it, but that's what you asked. I did go further though, and you seem to have ignored that part.
  • Tobias
    984
    1), I'm not sure you should be forced to save a drowning kid. It would be nice if you did, but do we want government compelling charitable acts?
    2) Forcing a woman to give birth is not even close to risking an ear infection. It entails months of pregnancy and birth has all sorts of complications and a non-trivial mortality rate.
    RogueAI

    There are plenty of states that compel a duty of care actually. The Netherlands and most continental European countries have this. Penalties are relatively mild though up to 6 months if I remember correctly. Tobias maybe you remember more details?Benkei

    I believe it is three months max penalty, if one does not aid a stranger who is in direct danger of losing his or her life. If it is someone who is in your care though, like your child or pupil then the penalty may be two years.

    The max penalty is I think not that relevant though. It is indeed a signal that the criminal law sends that we expect of you to aid someone who's life is on the line. I do not like criminalization in general, but how terrible is it that one should aid someone in need if one can? Some sort of self ownership argument but I feel those arguments are bollocks anyway. You live your life aided all the way by society and its order, why not expect from people to give something back? Of course it should not impinge on autonomy, but arguably being able to count on the aid of others increases the autonomy of individuals overall.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    You said that a valid excuse is being too young. That means that those not too young do not have a valid excuse and you consider them murderers (unlawful killers). To be clear, saying adults getting an abortion are killers is different than saying adults getting an abortion are murderers. The latter is considered criminal. You used the term "murder" here

    I used the term murder because you did. I clearly said I don’t consider it [abortion] murder. It’s homicide by definition.

    You asked me what my principles said, not what popular opinion said. It's an awkward question, and redundant since I just answered it, but that's what you asked. I did go further though, and you seem to have ignored that part.

    I asked what your principles were because when I asked your view on the matter you said you would go along with 93% of the population. 16 weeks. I don’t remember asking for any stat, any number of weeks, any cut-off. I asked for your views on the matter, that matter being abortion. 16 weeks is your view on abortion.

    You’re just too strange and laborious to philosophize with, praxis. I gave it a shot.
  • RogueAI
    2.3k
    There are plenty of states that compel a duty of care actually. The Netherlands and most continental European countries have this. Penalties are relatively mild though up to 6 months if I remember correctly. Tobias maybe you remember more details?

    Even in some States in the USA. I looked it up at some point and wrote about this before on this site. If you want to know more I can search for it.
    Benkei

    I thought it was just if you were a member of certain occupations. Looking it up, I see California, the state I'm in, has no "duty to rescue". Only three states require you to help someone (beyond calling 911): Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    I clearly said I don’t consider it [abortion] murder.NOS4A2

    If that were the case I wouldn’t have needed to pull teeth for an answer. Your position is still not clear.

    You’re just too strange and laborious to philosophize with, praxis.NOS4A2

    We were never philosophizing.
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    Here's the problems I have with personhood arguments: [ ... ]Bob Ross
    :chin:
    A seed is not a tree. A sapling is a potential tree. A pre-26th week old unviable fetus is not a person. A viable fetus aka "baby" is a potential person.180 Proof
  • Tobias
    984
    I thought it was just if you were a member of certain occupations. Looking it up, I see California, the state I'm in, has no "duty to rescue". Only three states require you to help someone (beyond calling 911): Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Vermont.RogueAI

    That merely says that duties of care in the criminal sense are rare in the US, not that they are rare in most legal systems. Perhaps the US is the odd man out. I think here the difference shows between continental (civil law systems) and Anglosaxon (common law) systems. There are problems of jurisprudence with the notion of good samaritan duties though because it is difficult to establish what behaviour is required exactly.
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