You can think a foetus is a person and still think abortion is okay

On abortion, no, just no:

On the one side, it’s not a human, just a blob, entirely up to the woman what she wants to do with it.

On the other it’s one of God’s chosen creatures and so deserving of the same protections the rest of us get.

You can think a foetus is a person and that a woman is allowed to abort it.

If a woman’s body is her own – and it is – then even if someone is reliant on her for life she has the right to refuse that support. A foetus’s right to life does not involve the right to use someone else’s body…

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. [If he is unplugged from you now, he will die; but] in nine months he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.

So the argument should not be sidetracked by debates on whether a foetus is alive or not. The real crux of the matter is whether a woman’s body is her own or that of society.

You could say that the woman chose to have sex and that implies an obligation to the consequence of that. But that just underlines the real reason most religious people are against abortion; babies are punishment sluts for having sex.

Consider for example, if you really, actually, honestly thought life began at conception then you would be in constant mourning. At least half of all fertilised eggs fail to implant. That means that for every person born at least one has already died, the attrition rate makes abortion seem trivial. There is basically no better way to spend money to save lives than working to improve that statistic. Yet anti-choicers spend money punishing sluts campaigning to lower the termination limit on abortions.

Call it revealed preferences, anti-choicers like punishing women, but not working to improve embryonic implantation rates. Makes you question their motivations, no?

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9 thoughts on “You can think a foetus is a person and still think abortion is okay

  1. Glorious. So, OK, you’re more likely to get laid by some student bird who supports abortion rights.

    Hurrah!

    And do enjoy it, of course.

    And as to what I was actually saying,….the outrage, the argument, was that sex selective abortion was immoral and is illegal. And yet if we have abortion on demand….which largely we do and many more such as yourself say we should absolutely have….then gender selective abortion is just fine, isn’t it?

    Even if it is certain ethnicities/religious traditions who are saying kill the girls.

    As I put it:

    “There may be political lines one can draw: We want women to be able to kill the babies they don’t want but we didn’t mean killing babies just because they are female, as one example. But that’s not a viable moral line. Either there are reasons why women should not be allowed to abort a foetus or there are not. And if we have already said that it’s entirely the woman concerned’s choice then we have already decided that there are no reasons why not.”

    Now, as you’ve highlighted, I think A is wrong in almost all circumstances. You think it is righteous in almost all. Poof. Let us agree to differ.

    Now I want your defence of mother’s rights, always and without intervention, but still sex selective is either morally or legally wrong,

    1. One thing we can agree on is that I am getting more college totty than you, “Hurrah” is indeed the correct response in case you’ve forgotten ;-)

      It is a slightly interesting cognitive dissonance, that women can be in control of their bodies but not if they do that!

      This is probably because 1) people are irrational, go figure! 2) people think that women are being forced into using this freedom by men/society and so it isn’t really a woman controlling her body but the opposite or 3) people use different moral codes in different circumstance in a way which is not entirely internally consistent but entirely normal.

      Consequentialist with respect to economic policy, deontological with respect to abortion rights.

      One could go a bit public choice at this point and mention that one position benefits you personally and the other imposes almost no costs (assuming your college girl chasing days are truly behind you), but that would be cruel and cheap and I am merely point this out as an illustrative example.

      So people think in terms of a woman’s autonomy when discussing abortion, but in terms of women’s empowerment when discussing sex selective abortion. First deontological then consequentialist.

      Lastly, I don’t think sex selective abortion needs to be illegal in this country, because of 1) dangers of wronglful prosecution 2) crushing butterflies on wheels, is there really any need to prevent a handful of abortions because they are a bit ickier if it means a whole new edifice of state control? But this is well down my list of things to change.

  2. It’s interesting here that there’s a complete denial of female agency. So in the counterexample, the woman has been “kidnapped” and plugged into the violinist; no agency on her part. It’s a very strange example, since it is not related to reality (the problem is that the person-inside-a-person situation of pregnancy is unique). But let’s roll with it.

    Let’s supposed the violinist has been misled. He went to a kidney specialist, who told him he had a treatment; he goes under a sedative expecting surgery of a normal kind, and wakes up plugged into our young lady. Now, how morally do we react here? While the woman is in the situation against her will, is it still moral for her to kill the hapless, innocent violinist? Would she not more rationally see them both as in a bad situation not of their making? Would there not be some moral obligation to extract them both from the unfortunate situation, if possible without killing the violinist? I know that if I were she, I would not feel that I could just unplug him. It would still be murder, wouldn’t it?

    The second interesting point is that, again, the agency is denied.

    You could say that the woman chose to have sex and that implies an obligation to the consequence of that. But that just underlines the real reason most religious people are against abortion; babies are punishment sluts for having sex.

    Faced with the problem of her agency- she knowingly risked pregnancy, you don’t answer the question instead shifting ground to a “people against abortion are that way for this evil reason” argument. Maybe they are. But you’re still stuck with the fact that she made a conscious choice to risk pregnancy. Is she not responsible?

    Here’s another analogy. You are well aware that if you eat chocolate bars, you risk getting fat. You eat chocolate bars anyway, and get fat, which is a risk to your health and impedes your life in various ways. It will take you several months to get thin again.

    But whose fault is it? Can you really say that you have no responsibility for your own fatness? Does it help to say that you didn’t want to get fat, and other people eat chocolate bars and don’t get fat? It was just bad luck?

    You can’t get away from the fact that sex is a baby-making process and thus a pregnancy lottery. Many abortions are the result of people not even using contraception when they know full well that this will reduce the risk to very low levels. Men are portrayed as being responsible, in the condom paradigm- and face possibly nearly two decades of child support for not being responsible, with no option to demand the woman terminate.

    And yet the woman is not responsible for her condition at all? Do women really have no agency?

    I don’t think you’ve thought this through very well.

    1. “I know that if I were she, I would not feel that I could just unplug him. It would still be murder, wouldn’t it?”

      I’m pretty sure I would not, but then I think I could empathise with someone who did. Especially if after being disconnected you had to take care of the violinist for 18+ years.

      I think it is a morally ambiguous situation and one left to be solved by those affected. Hence my liberalism towards abortion decisions.

      “Faced with the problem of her agency- she knowingly risked pregnancy, you don’t answer the question instead shifting ground to a “people against abortion are that way for this evil reason” argument. Maybe they are. But you’re still stuck with the fact that she made a conscious choice to risk pregnancy. Is she not responsible?”

      Okay, lets concede that the slut is to blame for getting pregnant. Now what? Well we have established that the woman has some sort of duty towards the cells/life which have been created due to her and her partner’s actions.

      How does this impact on the right of a woman to control her own bodily integrity….it doesn’t much. The woman may owe some obligation but does that extend to the right to demand that she physically build a baby inside her, endure a dangerous and painful medical procedure and financially and emotionally support the resultant child for 18+ years.

      I cannot think of any other situation in which such an extreme debt/punishment is imposed for such a minor act/crime. Hence my instinct to once again defer that choice to the woman involved.

      One final thing… “It’s interesting here that there’s a complete denial of female agency. “

      You use the word agency, but you really mean “blame.” Which is typical of this sort of discussion.

      1. “Especially if after being disconnected you had to take care of the violinist for 18+ years.”

        A point which might be valid were it not for the fact that we live in a society with adoptions.

  3. “So the argument should not be sidetracked by debates on whether a foetus is alive or not. The real crux of the matter is whether a woman’s body is her own or that of society.”

    Further, this is entirely missing the point on the larger question. If a foetus is not a person then there’s no conflict of rights and so society doesn’t have to do anything to try and resolve that conflict. If the foetus is a person then we do have a conflict of rights and society does indeed have to do something. It can indeed be, as you say, that the rights of the mother trump those of the foetus.

    But whether the foetus is a person, has rights, is at the very heart of the erntire question.

    1. My point is that it doesn’t matter too much whether a foetus is a person or not with regard to policy because it is not the final

      Even if a foetus was definitively proven to not be alive (impossible, of course, but hypothetically) there would remain a significant group minority who wanted to ban abortion in order to impose on a woman’s liberty because they hate women and hate their position in modern society, esp. that which is possible in the age of modern contraception.

      1. If you refuse to support a position because some people support it for bad reasons, I don’t see how you could support any position whatsoever.

  4. The problem with gender-selective abortion (on non-medical grounds) lies not with the individual decision to abort, but with the wider social conditions which lead to it. One can think that gender-selective abortion is deplorable and morally wrong without opposing the freedom to choose one.Gender-selective abortion is merely one example of wider problems with gender in many societies.

    There were a couple of good threads on the topic over on The Crommunist Manifesto recently:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/01/25/both-sides-of-the-coin/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/01/30/wrong-per-se/

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