Abortion Arguments

Abortion and Moral Personhood: A Manifesto

The purpose of this document is to persuade the reader to reconsider their views on abortion. (If they oppose mine, of course). I will address contentions that people have with my position, which is shown in the introduction. The contentions sections will represent the opposition to my position, with justifications being the reasoning for such opposition. The rebuttals section will show each contention, and provide rebuttals to the justifications people in opposition to my position have for their contentions.

Introduction

I am pro-choice, to a certain extent. As a rule, I give moral consideration to agency. Because we do not know when a fetus/baby develops agency, and we do know agency requires a brain and some form of consciousness, to stay safe we draw the line of when a woman can abort at about 25 weeks when a fetus has a brain and some form of consciousness. It is impossible to have some form of conscious experience unless there are afferents connecting to the cortical plate, which gives the fetus some form of experience or awareness of its surroundings. Afferents connect to the cortical plate at around 25 weeks.

With my introductions, there are often two routes people take. I will be covering the popular abortion takes, and then the more particular ones in a separate part of this document. I will list the two main takes, and justifications that stem from them. While doing this, I will attempt to debunk these justifications. *** signifies an analogy.


Contentions/Justifications

The following will include the contentions people have with my position, and their justifications for such contentions.

Contention 1: The woman should be able to decide if it is in her body.

  • Justification 1: Because it is a part of her body, it is her choice to decide what she does with it. Whether it is alive or not or is a person or not is irrelevant, as it is attached to the woman’s body and thus the woman cannot be forced to keep the baby. Forcing her to is a way of controlling what should be a woman’s bodily choice.

  • Justification 2: We can’t know what a good line to draw for valuing human beings, which means we should defer it to the woman since it is her body, and it can simply be her choice.

  • Justification 3: The consequences of having a child fall on the women alone, and therefore, the decision to bear those consequences or not should be made by the woman. Women often can’t afford a child, and a child may ruin their life.

Contention 2: Consciousness isn’t a good measure for giving something moral consideration.

  • Justification 1: We should value humans, and a fetus is human.

  • Justification 2: Although consciousness is of value, a fetus will eventually develop consciousness, and thus, should be protected.

  • Justification 3: A fetus is living, so we should give it moral consideration.

  • Justification 4: It is already in the process of developing naturally, so we should let it continue and grow into a baby.

  • Justification 5: Though consciousness is of high consideration, moral agency is a much better measure of whether or not to give something moral consideration. Until a fetus/baby can be aptly held as responsible for its actions, it is not an acting moral agent and as such should not be held in moral regard unless it is regarded by an acting moral agent.


Contentions/Rebuttals

The following will include the contentions people have with my position, and rebuttals to their justifications for such contentions.

Contention 1: The woman should be able to decide if it is in her body.

Rebuttal 1:

If a woman forces a person into a situation where it must rely on the woman, it is the woman’s responsibility to sacrifice her autonomy. A fetus is not like a parasite that attaches to a woman’s body. A fetus begins to exist based on a woman’s decision. Whether on purpose or on accident, pregnancy is a result of sex, and if a woman forces a fetus into her body, it is her obligation to sacrifice her autonomy for it. For example, my friend is drunk driving and ends up crashing. I end up in a hospital, and my friend is hooked up to me. She can go about her daily life, but will have mood changes, more physics, difficulty moving, etc. Can my friend kill me so she will not have to experience the inconvenience of being hooked up to me, even though she put me there in the first place? The answer is absolutely not, because someone’s temporary inconvenience, or even if there are some permanent bodily effects, does not trump my life, especially if they put me and themselves in that situation in the first place.

Rebuttal 2:

We do know a good line to draw. We do not value humanity, nor do we value living things. Consciousness/agency is the only consistent measure for giving moral consideration. We do not give a beating heart moral consideration, because it cannot think or feel, even though it is both human and living. Read the introduction for further explanation.

Rebuttal 3:

This one is nonsensical, as it relies on other justifications. When a woman has a child, she can put it up for foster care, for adoption, or ask a family member to take care of it. There are many totally viable options.

Contention 2: Consciousness isn’t a good measure for giving something moral consideration.

Rebuttal 1:

There are several holes in this justification. On one hand, what constitutes as human? If it is human DNA, we would thus have to value human skin cells individually. If it is a fully developed human being, do we value brain dead people who are fully developed, even if they will be forever brain dead. Plus, a fetus isn’t fully developed. “Human” itself barely has a definition, nor intrinsic value.

Rebuttal 2:

To give a fetus the same value that we give to a conscious life must mean that the fetus is being treated as a conscious life because of its potential for consciousness. The statement that Y will be X, so Y is X, is wrong, and if accepted, creates a world and moral system which falls into absurdity. Because my axiom is that I give value to conscious life, and a fetus is not a conscious life, I do not give value to it until it is. For example, if we know a child will grow up to be a construction worker, do we put that child on a construction site and tax them? The answer is no, because the child is not yet a construction worker, so we put them to work and tax them once they do become a construction worker.

Rebuttal 2a:

If we value any potential life, it means a breakup in which a couple decides not to have children is the termination of a future life, which has an infinite regress, and thus, falls into absurdity. The only argument against this is that terminating a fetus is terminating a life which is actively alive and developing, and simply hasn’t reached the point of development in which it is conscious. This is a form of special pleading, because if the thing we care about is potential for life, whether that life is currently developing or will be developing doesn’t matter, as they both have the property of potential for life. Making a special exception for development for no reason is pointless.

Rebuttal 2b:

It is argued that potential consciousness matters, because otherwise we must live in a world where we can kill someone who is temporarily unconscious, like someone in a coma. As a rebuttal, I will say that a coma, or sleep, are both temporary states of unconsciousness during a continuity of conscious life. If you end a person’s life during a coma, you are ending a continuity of conscious experience. For example, imagine I randomly select a movie on Hulu. Before it even starts, my friend ends it. I did not know what it was about, and thus could not express a preference to keep it playing. However, imagine that in an alternate scenario I watch the movie halfway through, and an ad plays. During the ad, my friend ends the movie. He says “It’s fine because I didn’t end the movie, I ended the ad.” Obviously, that is ridiculous because the ad was simply a temporary phase between the movie. The fetus’ temporary phase before its conscious experience is a phase in which it cannot express a conscious preference to live, so we do not value it. The reason that we don’t kill people in comas, even though they often don’t outright say they want to live, is because we assume that a person who needs medical care wants to live unless expressed otherwise, because that is pragmatically necessary for medically treating people. The reason that we don’t assume a fetus has a preference to live is because it doesn’t even have the conscious capacity to express a preference to live, so we wait until it has conscious experience, and only then do we assume that it has an expressed preference to live.

Rebuttal 3:

We do not give inherent value to living things. Skin cells, plants, brain dead people, for example.

Rebuttal 4:

This is an appeal to nature (naturalistic fallacy), which states that because something occurs in nature, we should give that thing or process inherent value. Like saying “Reproduction occurs in nature, so all humans should reproduce.” This doesn’t bridge the “is, ought” (“is, ought” fallacy) gap, and therefore is invalid. This also comes with a lot of moral baggage. For example, cancer occurs naturally in your body and develops, does that mean we should not remove it? Assuming lethality makes a difference, imagine it’s not lethal and just creates a massive lump on your arm. Can we not remove it?

Rebuttal 5:

Outside of the moral baggage which is created with this position (treating babies and young children as property rather than people, meaning we can rape and kill young children), which any consistent person would accept, there are a few issues. On one hand, it is important to know what is special about moral agency. The reason we value consciousness is because a thing has an assumed preference to live, which it cannot have without consciousness. There is intrinsic value in this preference. However, a value in moral agency does not value the preference of others, it only values preference of a thing which can understand morals. For what reason? If we value these individuals only because they have the ability to add to society, do disabled individuals not have some kind of value? If we value these individuals because they can form an agreement with us that respects our preferences? If so, does any person who refuses to form an agreement to value any preference you have, have a right to be killed? This justification may be as axiomatically justified as the position of consciousness, but also creates way too much unnecessary moral baggage (raping children, killing people who refuse contracts, etc.) to try and answer the question of whose preferences we respect. The justification also tries to answer when to respect preference, but participates in special pleading by arbitrarily deciding that we only value preference of moral agents, rather than all conscious individuals.

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