Forgive me if it's been posted before, but are there any on here that anyone disagrees with?
Forcing a woman to gestate against her will is just as much rape as forcing a women to have sex against her will. Rape is rape.
Oh my god. I just read that link. It was entirely hideous, but the part about selling the children broke my heart.
Just so you know.
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Hello englishrose -
'Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I was away with my family in an area with very spotty Internet service.
I think it is fair to say that we are making some progress in understanding one another, and also with regards to the issue itself. You've raised a number of new and interesting questions along those lines. I want to deal with everything you said, but I'm going to do some rearranging of your comments, to be as clear and cogent as possible...
I think the arguments in this thread are converging. Let me begin by quoting the following:
I agree, this is the main point of the discussion as you said in a previous post.<<<<<
Excellent! That's significant, I think, that we can agree on the central question -- the moral status of the unborn -- in a very controversial and politically-charged debate that's lasted, at least in my country, for some 36 years. How long in England?
Now let me pair your conclusion with another line of argument in this thread. We were talking about my analogy to slavery in the antebellum South:
No, it's not the same. As Holly said, the slave does not present an immediate physical risk to the owner by the mere fact of his existence. The slave is not reliant on the owner's body for continued survival. The master could free the slave, thus ridding himself of all responsibility and risk to that individual.<<<<<
I don't want to pursue this line of argument to the extent that we get off track, so let me try to cut to the chase: The relevant matter, from what you've said, centers around the risk to one's body. And why is that? Let me try to lay out a few reasons; you can agree or disagree with them as you like. First of all, there is (for lack of a better term) a "closeness" with the body that is perhaps rivaled only by the closeness of our own thoughts.
Bodily freedom is important to us; our bodies are the next step beyond our thoughts, as vehicles for interacting with the world around us, for expressing ourselves, for making ourselves known, and for seeing our thoughts come to fruition in ways that affect, and hopefully benefit, other people as well as ourselves.
Not only this, but the integrity of the body is important in our general well-being. Health is, as Aristotle wrote, both useful to pursuing other goods or ends, and an end in itself. It is more difficult to live when one's body is compromised in some way.
Finally, one might say that the closeness of the body is really a unity -- that we are, by nature, embodied beings, so that when there is an injury to the body, it is "I" (the person) who has been injured. It might be going too far to say, "I am my body", but not going far enough to say, "I have a body." The reality, I think, lies somewhere between the two; not that there aren't philosophical concepts and terminology that can resolve this paradox, just that it is probably not necessary here.
For all these reasons, and perhaps more (I would be happy to entertain others), the body is very significant in our experience as human beings, even in our nature itself; that's how "close" it is to us. So when something (e.g. pregnancy) alters the body, or presents risks to the integrity and well-being of that body, that is a very real concern, a central concern for a human being, as a human being, having a bodily nature.
Fair enough? I welcome your thoughts on this, and hope that I am digging a little deeper here to get to the root of things, and to express, as much as I can with my limited vocabulary, the reasons behind what is often illustrated or articulated at a higher level, a level of assumption.
(All of this to "cut to the chase"... ;-)
But this is where, I think, the central issue reappears, for there is not just one body, but two involved. We know that the second body (the unborn -- the zygote/embryo/fetus) is human in its DNA: is it also fully human? That is, is it not merely a potential person, but a person with great potential? If the former, then abortion also threatens the body of that child, a body of parallel closeness with him or her, a body unfolding and developing so that it can serve as a vehicle for interacting with the world, for expressing his or her personality (which begins with movement and pretty soon, kicking mom!), and eventually affecting that world in greater ways. That body is slowly unlocking the individual within and freeing her to fully realize her nature. Abortion, then, not only threatens her immediate bodily integrity, but also cuts short that process of unfolding what is within herself; it violently severs any chance of that future freedom, pursuant to her own flourishing, that would have been enjoyed otherwise.
What is the moral status of the unborn? What is the unborn? That is the issue that informs all the other aspects of this debate. So all that by way of wrapping up the different lines of argument.
Let me turn to some of your other comments.
>>>>>If a fetus could be beamed out of one woman into another, or into an artificial womb, then I would most likely be PL. But we aren't there yet, and the biological fact is that the pregnant woman faces the risk of pregnancy alone.<<<<<
Yes, I agree, and I think that some kind of technology might be applicable here (like an artificial womb). That would be a compromise position, and one that I have thought about a few times myself. Another overarching concern, though, is human flourishing in general. What I mean is, I think it would be, in most cases, a significant loss if women began to opt for gestation via artificial womb over carrying the child to term themselves, despite the difficulties of pregnancy. We know that the relationship between the mom and the child does affect both of them, the child developmentally at least, and certainly the mother, in terms of her relationship to the child. The latter is a good that men will never experience, either, but women can.
We have already departed so far from what could be in terms of human flourishing: as you said, not all pregnancies are wanted. In some cases, understandable, but in many, that counts as a loss. To add to that, others hand over their children to the state, or to some other party to raise them, and that is another loss. Add artificial wombs to the equation, and as society turns to those as an *alternative* rather than a necessary resort under duress, and another loss is incurred. I believe that human happiness is inextricably tied to all of this, and the further we go down this road, the more risk we take in terms of failing to secure that happiness, and the more likely it is that we lose ourselves in the process.
I stop here to say all this because I've already seen a couple of posts that are moving in this direction, and are not at the heart of the issue we're discussing, but do conflict with this larger concern I have regarding human flourishing.
This is a bit OT, but I'm English. My knowledge of your history is fairly basic, for the most part.<<<<<
Neat. I'd love to travel to England, but haven't the money yet. My son and I are learning some history of Britain together this summer as we prepare for his upcoming school year on American history. Most of our schools just skip right over the important history of your country, and go right to American history, so we're trying to fill that gap for our kids.
You went on to write,
>>>>>It is not merely my opinion that the unborn are not fully human persons - as far as I know, no nation gives the unborn legal personhood. That is because it isn't possible.<<<<<
American law is inconsistent on the matter in some ways. E.g., if a pregnant woman is in a car accident, and the baby is killed, the responsible party can be charged as if the unborn child is a person. But in many other ways, more explicitly, you're right that the status of personhood is denied.
That is also an artifact of history, as most if not all states in the U.S. at one time outlawed abortion, and as many have done in a variety of cultures across history.
Finally, I'll make that parallel to the antebellum South again. If I said, at the time, that the nation did not grant legal personhood to blacks because it isn't possible, one can see that it would be a rather hollow statement. I understand where you are coming from, but we return to the main issue of personhood, and the reasons for and against. That's where the debate has to stay.
>>>>>I believe that the weight of the evidence shows that fetii are not full persons until birth. They are potential persons, but not actual. To demonstrate this, let me bring up something you previously mentioned.
You say that you would support abortion to save the mother's life. Why? If the child can be saved at the cost of the mother's life, why should she get precedence? Because she is the legal person.
The criteria we use here is whether a human can survive without total parasitic dependence on a single other human. A born child in any condition of health can be cared for by anyone, it doesn't have to be the mother. The unborn are exclusively dependent on the mother, who may be filled with horror at what is happening inside her body.<<<<<
So your question is, if the two are equal in status, morally speaking -- if both are persons in the fullest sense -- shouldn't it be a toss-up between the two? Wouldn't it be arbitrary to save the mother's life?
No, because if humanity is equal among both, then it is no longer a factor, and we can turn to other criteria that do not directly inform basic human value, to make that decision. Just as an example of such criteria in another sphere, the law considers me to be a fully human person, legally. It also considers a policeman to be a fully human person, legally. But if both a policeman and I are murdered, there will be more charges brought against the accused for the death of the (on duty) policeman than there would be for me. Why? Because the policeman also represents the law and society in a way that I do not. This doesn't directly translate to the situation at hand; I'm just presenting it as an in-principle argument that there may be other criteria by which to judge situations, and ones that do not deny that the parties are equally human/persons.
Now, in the relevant case, we might give various arguments like, doesn't this woman, at her age, also have other roles in society that would be compromised by her death? Almost always, the answer is yes.
Furthermore, we would not consider it a duty to surrender one's life to ensure the survival of another, even one's child. That is something that can be refused. I wouldn't say that it absolutely has to be refused, though, if a mother voluntarily sacrificed her life for the life of her child. Certainly that has happened in the past.
There might be other arguments, too, that could be given. But all of this is given within the framework of understanding human life as significant and outweighing other competing concerns. Forgive me for citing the American creed, but "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" seems to be the right order of things, though we all wish to see that picture completed.
>>>>>You relate seeing your child move in the womb at 18wks old. I saw my son in the womb at 12 and 20 wks, and it's a truly magical experience. But put yourself in a different situation for a moment. What if you had been brutally, violently raped (assume you're a woman). What if you saw that 12wk fetus moving around inside you, and it felt like there was a monster in your belly, the spawn of the most hideous, evil person you had ever encountered?
Could you really stand before a raped, pregnant 14yo and tell her that she had no choice, that she MUST gestate that pregnancy? In her place, I would be inclined to find an old woman with a hazel stick, if no legal assistance was available.<<<<<
This is a huge topic itself, and I'm not sure I can do it justice here, but I will try to sketch out my thoughts as best and briefly as I can. I think to evaluate my answer seriously, though, is difficult to do unless we see eye to eye on the moral status of the unborn. But here goes...
First of all, the girl has been seriously violated -- morally even if not psychologically (e.g. even if she was unconscious for the rape, and has no memory of it, it is still an egregious wrong and she has been harmed). Our Supreme Court has said, rightly I believe, that rape is just second to homicide as "the ultimate violation of self." I think the death penalty for rape, which the Court eliminated in a split decision in the same case, is at least worth considering, if not ultimately warranted. The injury to the woman is that significant. After that, I like the castration option. Sorry to be explicit, but I think it is an incredibly heinous act and one that should be punished severely, plus the threat of castration would be a serious detriment to those who consider committing the crime.
Second, as I've said already a few times, I do think that the choice to have sex prior to pregnancy is itself a serious moral consideration. If a woman consents to sex, I think it does contribute to the case against abortion, because she willingly contributes to a foreseeable, natural situation in which another person (her child, even) is put in a vulnerable position -- that vulnerable situation (dependency) cannot be taken advantage of to justify killing the same individual. But in the case of rape, that choice has been removed, and I do not think that the pro-life case is as strong. So, if our society decided with pro-lifers in cases of consensual sex, but not in cases of rape, I could understand that.
That being said, I think the other things you said to argue for abortion in the case of rape are probably not good reasons. Consider the following: (1) Is the rape the fault of the child? If not, (2) do we want to subscribe to the principle that those who are not at fault, those who are morally innocent, must nonetheless be subject to harm or even death because they were involved in a terrible and tragic situation? Do we want to put on children the sins of their parents? Do we want to subscribe to the principle that if one person **reminds you** of another person, a moral monster, that the innocent can be put to death? Are there not two victims here (if the unborn are fully human persons), rather than one? Do we not rather want to minimize the harm done, rather than add to it by harming and killing another human being, and making him or her a victim twice over, for a crime they had no part in committing?
I think these questions need to be wrestled with, even if a society comes to conclusions that are not in line with most pro-lifers. What is really best to do in a very difficult situation, where our first reaction is very emotionally driven, and painful? BTW, I have three daughters, so this is not a completely abstract question to me. This could happen to one of them; I want what is best for them in the fullest sense, and I don't want them to suffer further loss after the initial violation. That would be to add tragedy to tragedy; it would be to allow the rapist to win twice.
>>>>>This is becoming a very long post, lol! I apologise for my verbosity, <<<<<
Hah! I think I have far outdone you on that score, and therefore must apologize all the more.
>>>>>but I must raise one final point. If we can force women to gestate, can we also force people to donate a piece of liver to a dying child? The risks and difficulties are significantly less than those of pregnancy, and it grows back very quickly. What about a kidney? What about assumed consent, so that everyone who dies has their organs automatically harvested? If we're going to tell women that their bodily autonomy is to be subjugated to save the life of another, why stop there?<<<<<
No, the parallel to organ donation does not hold. Just as the body is significant because of our nature as human beings, and just as consent to sex is morally required because the nature of humanity includes a rational element, so is pregnancy -- a term in the womb -- a natural aspect of human conception and subsequent development. We are made for wombs, and not petri dishes, when we enter this world. Pregnancy is not an artificial situation, like surgery, nor is it a departure from the norm; rather it is what we have all passed through as part of being human. As such, it is quite unlike donating a piece of liver to a dying child; it is part and parcel of who we are, and can therefore be an appropriate expectation in the duties of a parent to her children.
BTW, because of the difficulties inherent in fulfilling that obligation, I believe that women are owed additional credit.They do have, by nature, the harder part of parental obligations, and that cannot be helped, but they can be afforded greater appreciation for it as they fulfill those obligations. The world would be a better place if women received the admiration they deserve in that arena.
>>>>>Similarly, I have also given the matter a great deal of thought and consideration. I was raised PL, and became PC in my 20s.
You are obviously a thoughtful person and I am sure to learn from you as we continue to discuss and debate this issue.
Hello, adamsmumma -
I was reading through your post, which contains a great many interesting and provocative questions, and began to address them as they came, but it became clear about halfway through that we do not agree on the moral status of the unborn: you believe that they are only potential persons "until birth" or the acquisition of "consciousness", whereas I believe that they are human beings like you and me, from conception on. That disagreement should be the focus of our conversation before getting into many, if not all, of the questions that you have posed; otherwise, we will only keep talking past each other, and revolving around, but never addressing, the central issue. That will only serve to generate more heat than light, and I take it that you are more interested in the latter. I will give you an example to make clear what I mean. You wrote:
>>>>>Are you saying that socioeconomic reasons do not matter or are unimportant? They may be VERY important to the person/couple who is making the decision. I far more admire the couple who makes the tough decision to end a pg early because they know that they can't afford any more kids and more kids would make it that much tougher to feed their existing kids than I would ever admire the couple who continues to have children, knowing they can't afford them, just because "all life is sacred".<<<<<
Suppose I changed your paragraph to read in the following way:
"Are you saying that socioeconomic reasons do not matter or are unimportant? They may be VERY important to the person/couple who is making the decision. I far more admire the couple who makes the tough decision to terminate their baby early (say, soon after birth, or sometime in the toddler stage) because they know that they can't afford any more kids and more kids would make it that much tougher to feed their existing kids than I would ever admire the couple who continues to have babies, knowing that they can't afford them, just because 'all life is sacred.'"
Now, if I were you, I might feel misrepresented by this paragraph, since the substitutions I made concern a "real person", and not, e.g., a fetus. But the point is to illustrate that you've begged the question in introducing a distinction between the unborn and "existing children" in your original paragraph. I just reversed your assumption, and plugged in those individuals that you would recognize as fully human and worthy of our protection, to expose the real issue: the personhood of the unborn. When that is done, it becomes obvious that human life, the life of an innocent child, trumps socioeconomic concerns.
BTW, there are people who are quite friendly to the pro-choice movement, but who are not afraid to take the argument further, and suggest that those children who survive an abortion should nevertheless be killed. There are those who go further and suggest that parents should have a window of opportunity after birth (say, 10 days) in which to decide whether or not to keep or dispose with their child. And there are those who go further and argue that children up to the age of four or so, for various reasons, are not really persons as the rest of us are, and can be killed with impunity (one of the first people I debated on this issue, years ago, in a forum like this one, argued in exactly that way). So while the act of rewriting your paragraph was simply to make clear the point of our disagreement, and where we ought to focus our conversation if we genuinely wish to make progress on this issue, it is by no means a complete fabrication.
With the question of personhood before us, then, it would be profitable to examine your criteria. You wrote:
>>>>><>The "child" isn't a child until it is born. Before that point, it is just a being that has the potential to become a child.<>Victim? Hmmmm. Not the way I see it. Especially if we are talking about 1st T abortions, I highly doubt that the z/e/f has enough consciousness to even realize what is going on. But that is just my beliefs. The studies are inconclusive.<<<<<
So we have birth and conciousness. Birth is a change in two things: (1) location; and (2) dependency. Neither of these have a bearing on our humanity or personhood.
Why should location make a difference to one's moral status? That's similar to the situation of blacks who were considered less-than-personal, slaves in the South, but free in the North during the civil war. The reality was that they were as human as whites, despite their location.
Dependency doesn't fair any better. The fact is that many outside the womb are dependent on external helps to survive - we have people on respirators, pacemakers, kidney machines, and so on. Can we consider them non-persons due to their physical vulnerability and need for support?
I'd be glad to discuss consciousness in more detail, but it's a slippery term, so I would ask you to clarify what you mean by it. There are probably 8 or 10 definitions floating about in the literature related to this issue.
Thanks for your willingness to discuss; I do admire your passion, just believe that you have come to the wrong conclusion (so far ;-). So I hope we can continue to dialogue. I have seen people change their minds, and believe that progress can be made, as long as people are willing to talk and consider a different point of view.
An attitute that places the woman's duty to procreate above all other aspects in her life does not change the fact that the fetus is subject to the decisions that a woman makes over her own body - and that is a very different, far more interconnected relationship than that of a born parent to child or an independently existing human to human relationship.
Or it can be used to describe a parasitic relationship between two living beings. It no more dehumanizes pregnancy than referring to the fetus as a fetus, or a uterus as a uterus (rather than child or womb.)
To characterize a woman that does not wish to have a child in the same light as a woman wishing to kill an infant or toddler is a convenient way to dehumanize the woman to an incubator, so as to demonize them when they have sex without the consequence of childbearing. Reducing childbearing to an obligation disrespects childbearing, and with it, the woman. Like marriage or sex, childbearing should never be forced on a woman or girl.
"To characterize a woman that does not wish to have a child in the same light as a woman wishing to kill an infant or toddler is a convenient way to dehumanize the woman to an incubator, so as to demonize them when they have sex without the consequence of childbearing. Reducing childbearing to an obligation disrespects childbearing, and with it, the woman. "
I'm seeing quite a bit of "woman as incubator and she ought to be glad for it" in the arguments here.