Home > Domestic Policy, Social issues > Blog for choice day

Blog for choice day

It’s the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, so today is blog for choice day. I thought I’d explain why I’m pro-choice.

Actually, I’m going to explain why I don’t believe abortion is immoral, first.

I believe people are valuable because of their individual cognitive abilities. Anything with the capacity for such abilities has moral value and it is wrong to kill them (outside of certain circumstances that I don’t need to explain). From what I can read, human brains are complete to some degree in the sixth month of pregnancy. There’s obviously plenty of growing to be done, but that’s not a bad marker. Some would like to use potentiality as a standard, but I find that odd. We don’t typically base moral decisions on what a person might do or become. In any case, it appears that from wherever you choose to mark a “beginning” to the end of pregnancy, the odds are against full development, so potentiality doesn’t really seem to be there. It has the capacity to develop the capacity for human cognitive abilities, but that seems too removed for moral worth. In any case, I also think my delineation avoids the mentally disabled and person in a coma counter-arguments, which has always seemed weird to me. The mentally disabled pretty clearly have individual cognitive abilities worth preserving and people in comas still retain the capacity for human cognitive abilities, though they’re temporarily unable to use them.

That’s my rather vague opinion, anyway. I shouldn’t have said abortion isn’t immoral so categorically above, as I implied that I find abortion after the second trimester immoral, which I do. I think we would do well to realize that this question is difficult and opinions will differ. Both sides should attempt to convince others of their position, but as a matter of law it becomes thornier.

It’s always tempting to simply decide what you believe is immoral should be illegal. Victimless acts that some believe are immoral can end in compromise fairly easily, as we can often agree to live and let live. Abortion is different because one side believes there is a victim that isn’t the person committing the act. The other problematic issue is declaring that victim a person under the law (which appears to be an inevitable consequence of the pro-life argument), when that seems nonsensical. And of course, isn’t the autonomy of the mother worth something?

It’s not an easy issue. I’m not going to solve it in a blog post and I’m starting to ramble, so I’m going to stop there. Maybe someday we’ll have a solution.

  1. S4R
    January 23, 2007 at 4:07 am

    I don’t take issue with killing anything in utero. There are enough babies born every day, and too many people alive living in abject poverty to waste time caring about people not even born yet.

  2. January 25, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    Which do you consider more immoral: Aborting a 7-month-old fetus who will be born to an uneducated, abusive, drug-addicted, irresponsible, poor, and otherwise fucked-up single mother or not? I’m not interested in starting a debate, because you know my position already. I’m just asking seriously what your thoughts are on that.

  3. January 25, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    I think it’s a false choice, because the child can be put up for adoption. Besides, doesn’t your logic allow you to kill basically anyone you deem a drain on society, fetus or not?

  4. January 26, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Right, because everyone wants to adopt the crackbaby. But I guess that’s neither here nor there.

    As for killing any drain on society, I think an important distinction is that the fetus has not developed relationships (of any sort whatsoever: family, friends, coworkers, even a sales person or an oft-seen stranger), and therefore no one would miss it in any personal way. Whereas you’d be hard-pressed to find a child or adult in the same position. Even the most down-and-out bum probably has family somewhere that would be affected in some way by news of his death. But, yes, I realize that a logical extension of this is that it’s OK to kill even a born baby up to a certain point, which I’m also fine with (i.e., I’d rather the inept mother who dumps the baby in a trashcan not be a mother. And the idea of adoption just seems moot, since I don’t see any inherent moral advantage to adding one more disadvantaged baby to the already overburdened and dysfunctional foster-care system. And that’s IF the woman inept enough to throw her baby in a trashcan actually found the wherewithal to put it up for adoption, which is a risk I’m not sure is worth taking).

  5. January 28, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    That doesn’t seem like a good distinction. Don’t kill a person because an acquaintance might miss him or her? Thinking of my acquaintances, I think I’ve caused more emotional distress by being a liberal than I would feel over one of their deaths. It seems strange to attribute value to human lives based on the value they have to others. Surely there are people out there who don’t have families and are generally disliked. One can think of strange thought experiments that seem to lead to obviously immoral actions being not being so (everyone believes person x is dead when he/she isn’t, killing him/her now won’t cause any emotional distress).

  6. January 29, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    You’re right that I haven’t worked out a proper, solid argument for what I feel. So here’s what I feel, on its own: Whether you terminate a pregnancy in month 4 or month 8, who cares? Who’s going to miss it? What is the harm done? Who is harmed? The fetus? Well, the fetus doesn’t care. (And, extending that to admittedly an extreme, a 6-month-old doesn’t care either. I should probably leave this part out, since it gets into convoluted policy issues. But I’m just explaining my gut reaction.) Is society as a whole harmed by not allowing the fetus to achieve its potential? Not at all, in my opinion. I’ve always hated the “but he could become president!” argument, as if we’d somehow have to endure 4 years *without* a president. There are literally billions more where that came from, so I’m sure society would get over its loss pretty quickly — pretending that society would even know of the supposed loss, which is wouldn’t. So I can’t find a victim in this.

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