This Week’s Special: Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion”

By Daniel A. Kaufman

http://myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/nmarkos/Zola/Thomson.Abortion.pdf

It is rare that one will find near universal agreement as to the most important paper written on a particular subject, but that is exactly what we find with Judith Jarvis Thomson’s 1971 paper, “A Defense of Abortion,” whose impact on the discussion on the morality of abortion cannot be overstated.

One enormous service that Thomson’s paper does in the debate is dispense with a significant red herring, one that has done nothing but confuse the public conversation on the topic and render it irresolvable.  That red herring is the personhood of the fetus, an issue that will likely never be resolved – because it is a conceptual, rather than an empirical matter – but which fortunately, need not be, insofar as it is irrelevant to the issue at hand.  That x is a person and x has a right to life does not entail that y must always be wrong in killing x, as is clear in the case of self-defense and just war. Merely establishing the personhood of the fetus, then, tells us nothing, one way or another, about whether it is sometimes morally permissible to end its life, and it is perhaps a testament to philosophy’s lack of effect on the civic conversation in the US that the public debate about abortion still primarily revolves around the status of the fetus, with pro-choicers engaging in dismissive rhetoric regarding the personhood of blastocysts and pro-lifers earnestly counting fetal fingers and toes.  Thomson, however, is not misled for a moment, on this front, and begins her argument by stipulating that the fetus is a person and has a right to life.

One commonly hears pro-lifers say things like “The mother may have her right to live and to flourish, but the fetus has an equal right to live and flourish, so it is unfair to privilege the mother, by giving her the ultimate say over whether or not the fetus gets to live.”  But this is to misunderstand the situation.  Suppose that I have worked and saved up my money to buy a winter coat that will keep me warm, in what turns out to be a life-threateningly cold winter.  You, unfortunately, have no such coat and cannot afford one and demand that I give you mine, on the grounds that you too have a right to life, and since my right to live is no more important than yours, it would be unfair for me to decide who gets the coat.   The correct answer, of course, is that as I own the coat, I am therefore privileged with respect to what is to be done with it, regardless of any rights you might have.  Analogously, the bodies that fetuses inhabit belong to the respective women, whose bodies they are, meaning that those women are in a privileged position, with respect to what is done with them. No one is denying that it would be very nice, if I gave you my coat, at my own expense, and similarly, no one is suggesting that it isn’t a lovely thing when women carry their fetuses to term.  The question is whether there is an obligation to do so and whether a person is morally blameworthy for refusing, and this, at least is far from obvious, once we recognize that the situation is not the even-steven scenario that pro-lifers would like to paint.

Another great service that Thomson has done to the debate, then, is to recast what it is fundamentally about – to take what pro-lifers would like to describe as a matter of parity, in which equal parties are in competition with respect to some life-giving resource, and change it into one, in which the question at hand is to what extent people are morally obligated to give life-sustaining assistance to others, when the cost to themselves is great.

It is with this recasting in mind that I turn to the most famous of Thomson’s examples, that of the ailing violinist. This violinist suffers from a fatal kidney disease, and as it turns out, you are the only person with a compatible blood type. You have been kidnapped in the middle of the night and hooked up to the violinist, so that your kidneys can be used to filter his blood, but you are told by your captors not to worry, because your ordeal will be over in nine months.   Again, it would be quite nice of you – laudatory, in fact – if you acceded to this situation and allowed the violinist to use your body for the allotted period of time, but Thomson suggests that it would represent a gross affront to our most basic intuitions to suggest that someone is morally bound to do so; that to refuse to accede to this situation and to detach yourself from the violinist is to act wrongly and thus, in a blameworthy fashion.  This seems even more clear, if we alter the example slightly, as Thomson does, so that the primary cost of being hooked up to the violinist is not nine months of your life, but rather, your life itself; that is, where helping to save the violinist will have the effect of killing you.

These examples provide analogues for pregnancies that are the result of rape or which pose a substantial threat to the life of the mother and offer a way of understanding the moral permissibility of terminating a pregnancy in such circumstances, not necessarily a small thing, insofar as there are versions of the pro-life position, according to which abortion is morally impermissible, even in such circumstances.  And yet, the pro-lifer will certainly want to point out that most abortions are performed on women whose pregnancies are neither the result of rape nor life threatening in any substantial way.  Now, a question remains as to whether the length of time of a pregnancy – nine months – in itself represents a sufficient burden on a person, such that our intuition that to carry the fetus to term is non-obligatory can be sustained, but I want to focus on a different point that arises in considering these most common sorts of abortions, namely, that of consent.

The pro-lifer may say, “I can see how, when one has been raped or is facing a potential death sentence, carrying a fetus to term can be seen as a burden too great to reasonably demand of a person, but in a case where one has freely engaged in sexual intercourse, with the full knowledge that pregnancy may result, one has tacitly accepted the burdens associated with pregnancy and, in essence, given consent to the fetus to use one’s body for nine months.  Under these circumstances, abortion represents a reneging on a promise – a tacit granting of permission – with a fatal result, and this is clearly wrong.”  Since such cases represent the overwhelming majority of cases in which abortions are performed, the pro-lifer would seem to retain a very strong argument against abortion, even if some small number of abortions are deemed morally permissible.

Thomson, however, is skeptical as to whether we normally think this way about our behavior and the conditions under which we grant even tacit consent.  Suppose that it is stuffy in my house, and I open the windows to let the air in, even though I know that in doing so, I make it easier for burglars or squatters to enter my house.  Suppose, then, that this happens – that burglars or squatters do enter my house, through the open windows.  Have I, by opening them, thereby granted consent – even tacitly – to the burglar or squatter using or occupying my house?  In order to see that we do not, simply put yourself in the place of the squatter and imagine trying to convince someone – say, a judge — along these lines.  “Oh, no, your Honor, I wasn’t trespassing.  You see, I was given permission to be in the house.  Not any sort of explicit permission, of course, but rather, tacit permission.  How so?  Well, by opening the windows and knowing that doing so would make it easier for me to get in, the owner gave me the permission.”  Such reasoning would provoke laughter and a quick trip to the clinker.  And of course, the case for tacit consent would be even less plausible, if I had gone to the trouble to take precautions to keep people out, like putting iron bars in all of my windows.

It is difficult to see then, how by having sex, one has tacitly granted the fetus the right to live in one’s body for nine months, and it is even harder to see this, when one has taken precautions to prevent a pregnancy, through the use of birth control pills, condoms, etc.  For the fact simply is that we don’t generally take actions like these as granting the sort of consent that is implied, and in good part, this is  because we think it is unreasonable to demand of people that they never do basic things, like open windows – or have sex – unless they are willing to give consent to squatters, whether of the fully grown or fetal variety.  Such demands in themselves constitute an unreasonable burden.

Thomson’s conclusion is that while we have a duty to be minimally decent Samaritans – to help others, when we can, and when such help is not too onerous or costly to ourselves – we do not have a duty to be good or “splendid” Samaritans – i.e. to help others at substantial or extraordinary cost to ourselves.  This is a general conclusion that she reaches, by way of consideration of precisely the sorts of cases we have discussed, one with respect to which the case of abortion is simply a single instance.

25 Comments »

  1. Alternatively, I tend to hold that it is never moral intentionally to kill a person, hence war and the death penalty are wrong, and even self-defense ought to be achievable without intentionally killing. On the other hand, abortion is permissible precisely because the fetus is NOT a person. For one thing, you assert that the mother owns the fetus, while a person cannot own another person. We don’t think a monkey fetus is a monkey, or that a fertilized egg is a chicken.

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  2. Astro, just curious, do you also find all cases of euthanasia to be wrong as well? I ask because you said any time someone intentionally ends the life of another person it is morally wrong. Just curious if you bite that bullet as well.

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  3. Certainly one can’t kill a person in order to end his/her suffering as one might a horse. Assisted suicide is another matter, defined differently in different countries and states. Maybe it would be better to use the expression ‘take a life’ rather than ‘intentionally end a life’. ‘Take’ implying ‘against the will of the party’: therein lies the sin.

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  4. Astro:

    Yeah, we simply disagree on some of our base intuitions. I do not believe that it is always wrong to kill another person — or more precisely, I do not believe it is the case that the obligation not to kill a person can never be overridden.

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  5. Dan, that disagreement could be probed down to some essential issues–is it moral to enjoy killing someone if you are forced to do so, by commanding officers, eg? etc.Where is morality located? In the committer or the committee (pun intended)? But regardless, I still don’t see why we must acquiesce to the idea that a human fetus is a person. As I said before, a monkey fetus is not a monkey, a fertilized egg is not a chicken.

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  6. Everyone does, and should, have their own opinion on the morality of abortion. All, however, should by now understand that a new human life does begin at conception, and that much can go wrong before there is a birth of a healthy infant. There are many reasons for ‘miscarriages’. How one should value the life of a 28 day embryo or a 28 week fetus varies widely, depending on community, culture and politics.

    In the US, the only question that seems to matter nowadays is the one of when does the new human life gain legal protection. When does one become a legally protected person in the eyes of society? Society, after all, does have the responsibility to make rules that protect us from each other. The laws vary in each state. In most states there are some protections for the unborn, starting around 20 weeks of gestation which is the earliest that a fetus could survive outside the uterus. In some states there are no protections and late abortions are legal up and until the actual moment of spontaneous birth. In these cases there is no other reason for an abortion after 30 weeks other than to terminate a viable fetal life: a surviving baby would be an undesirable outcome, hence an abortion is performed rather than a life preserving c-section. This form of birth control is repugnant to most women.

    Clearly, as the pregnancy proceeds, the claim that the mother has absolute control over her own body becomes less accepted by most people in this country. The Catholic Church is the one entity that makes a big deal of the sanctity of the conceptus from day one, they even go as far as to argue against artificial birth control. For most of the rest of us very early abortions are ‘not so bad’, although I would argue that each such case represents a moral failure of some degree.

    Providing legal protections to defenseless creatures is well established in our legal systems. In NY there was a recent case in which a chimpanzee sought legal recognition – the question may still be pending. Animals, in general, are protected from cruelty, abuse and neglect, in some cases to a greater degree than fetuses. Apparently, it is too much for us to actually see the squirming agony of an abused animal, but, since abortions are now done with minimal fuss in an aseptic operating room, the act of killing helpless individuals can escape our consciousness.

    A recent spate of videos purporting to show writhing fetuses as their organs were being harvested for research has disturbed many of the public.

    Human beings respond intuitively and emotionally to the willy-nilly killing of creatures that are identical to our own children. Thompson’s cerebral analysis is probably off-putting to most, and I doubt if anyone would be persuaded to change their opinion by that. There is no absolute prohibition against killing another person, however, outside of war and self-defense, one runs the risk of being accused of murder or manslaughter. The fact that millions of embryos are being terminated for no other reason than convenience raises questions about the coarsening of our culture.

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  7. Liam: I appreciate your point of view. If you have any actual arguments to bring to bear against Thomson, I of course would be happy to engage with them. I find them quite persuasive.

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  8. Daniel it sounds like this was a well argued paper on morality, which also became important regarding the legality of abortion. Might we take this to mean that philosophers have had a bit more practical influence than they’re often given credit for? (I presume Thompson to be a philosopher, in spirit at least, given this quite effective morality argument.)

    If you don’t mind me tying the topic here back to your recent morality post, which resurfaced last time with Mark English’s post, I do find it peculiar that we enact laws based upon perceived morality. The morality that you’ve presented was as an intuition based concept, and I believe that I’ve contributed by demonstrating its empathy and theory of mind origins, along with a macro governing propensity. What I don’t understand however, is why we place so much practical importance upon determining that which is “moral,” when this concept is not actually theorized to represent that which is “good”? Wouldn’t it be worth a shot to directly theorize “instrumental good/bad,” regardless of morality, and then see what these theories suggest about how to better lead our lives and structure our societies? This has been my own approach, and I do hope that you’ll give this “instrumentalism” some earnest contemplation as well.

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  9. Liam,

    I don’t believe *human* life begins at conception. Homo Sapien is a biological category, *human* is an ontological category. I deny the two are identical.

    Thomas Aquinas argued that no human life came into being until an infant demonstrated personality, demonstrating that the soul had been implanted in the body, which he reckoned to be about four months. The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion doesn’t hinge on the existence of ‘human’ life in the fetus, but on the life *in pontentia* pre-determined by god.

    You squall about the ending of life in the womb. Then develop a system of incubation, whereby the excised fetus can be brought to maturation outside the womb. Find funding for the raising of these children afterward, rather than condemning them to the ‘care’ of women who do not want them, cannot afford them.

    “What if your mother had chosen abortion?” I wish she had, putting an end to years of manipulation and abuse.

    My mother had a different idea: If she had enough children, perhaps her drunkard husband would stay married to her. When that failed, then maybe she could manipulate her children to die before her, she could live forever. (It worked with my two sisters, RIP.)

    Your whole argument stands on the assumption that the ‘nuclear family’ is natural and inevitable, shored up with instinctual caring, which the surrounding community re-enforces. That’s untrue.

    Nothing you’ve said addresses the problem of the right of a woman to her body. My mother didn’t know any better. Now women know that some parasite in their body is no reason to devote their entire lives to the result of rape, brutality, oppression and enslavement.

    Return to coat-hanger abortions in backrooms? 100,000s of women suffered injury or death in those days. Already existent persons suffering because of religious hypocrisy pretending to be law. No thanks.

    I wish the whole world vegetarian. But that’s not so. Wishing a world where abortion is not a reasonable choice is unrealistic. I must accept women’s claim to controlling their reproductive destiny. Not doing so is profoundly unjust.

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  10. Dan,

    I accidentally put double quotes (indicating direct quote) rather than single quote marks around the sentence, indicating hypothetical additional interlocutor. My bad, sorry.

    I wasn’t going to post anything on this thread at all, because I know the topic raises emotional responses – including, obviously, my own. So I wanted to cut short appeal to personal emotion, by indicating that some theory of universal self-interest or universal sympathy in this matter is doomed to cancellation by confrontation with personal experience and differently directed sympathies.

    The weight of justice seems to me to favor the interests of the living women who make this choice, not possible persons the present ontological status of which remains in debate.

    It may indeed be the case that the legalization of abortion contributed to the “coarsening of our culture” – but there are important legal reasons why this cannot be undone, and my position is that justice weighs in favor of accepting this, and considering the whole issue in a manner that allows us to live with it.

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  11. Let us try and directly engage the arguments in the post:

    (1) Thompson stipulates that the embryo/fetus is a person with a right to life – but with nothing else. I.e. it is an empty person and has no means by which to claim its rights, or its due. The stipulation is therefore almost meaningless and begs the question of what it means for the fetus. The debate will therefore continue; is a fetus a real person or not? As I had indicated  above, a fetus is a rapidly evolving entity, very quickly acquiring the characteristics of a human, even the capacity for learning. (E.g. newborns may prefer the language of their mother.)

    (2) “But this is to misunderstand the situation. Suppose that I have worked and saved up my money to buy a winter coat that will keep me warm, in what turns out to be a life-threateningly cold winter. You, unfortunately, have no such coat and cannot afford one and demand that I give you mine, on the grounds that you too have a right to life, and since my right to live is no more important than yours, it would be unfair for me to decide who gets the coat. The correct answer, of course, is that as I own the coat, I am therefore privileged with respect to what is to be done with it, regardless of any rights you might have.”

    But this illustration would have been much more apropos if the person asking for the coat was your freezing infant son or daughter begging for warmth. Then the answer  would be, of course, let me take care of you. The law even requires it. I daresay there are a small minority of adults who would walk away and shrug their shoulders. Sorry kid, you are on your own. These are the psychopaths amongst us – some of them may even be extremely brilliant and charming. (Politics might be a suitable career path.)

    The mother does have an obligation to protect the body of the fetus inside her body. She is not one, but two. She is responsible for the fetus because she made it happen. She has ‘absolute’ control over her own body, but not over that of the fetus. By falling pregnant and having children adults lose their freedom because they become obligated to other persons. Remember the stipulation above. In fact, the mother is morally obligated to stop drinking and smoking, refrain from harmful activities, to exercise and eat healthy, if you ask me.

    (3) “.. the question at hand is to what extent people are morally obligated to give life-sustaining assistance to others, when the cost to themselves is great.”

    At 36 weeks most of the costs have been born and any decision to terminate at this point is an indication of the desire to kill, since a c-section would be an otherwise comparable option. At this point arguments of what a great burden the baby would be have nothing to do with the pregnancy, and has everything to do with infanticide. The mother, for her own psychopathic reasons, wakes up to the realization that she does not want a child. Thompson’s pro-choice arguments do not apply at this point. The only remaining justification is that it is ‘my body and I have absolute control’. That is clearly false, see the stipulation above, and it is difficult to see at what point an abortion of an unwanted pregnancy would become morally neutral. The emphasis should be on birth control and sex education. However, the abortion industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that buys a huge amount of influence in Washington. Their talking point is that abortions should be safe, easily available, but rare.

    The problem, overall, is indeed a difficult one. I would guess that the vast number of abortions occur in young adults and teenagers. There is a large cohort of neglected and ill-educated children that ‘get into trouble’ at many levels. Arguments that rationalize this carnage in our young people are actually contributing to their dysfunction.

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  12. “These are the psychopaths amongst us – some of them may even be extremely brilliant and charming.”

    “At 36 weeks most of the costs have been born and any decision to terminate at this point is an indication of the desire to kill, since a c-section would be an otherwise comparable option. At this point arguments of what a great burden the baby would be have nothing to do with the pregnancy, and has everything to do with infanticide. The mother, for her own psychopathic reasons, wakes up to the realization that she does not want a child.”

    ———————————————————————–

    I am afraid I cannot engage with you on this topic, so long as this is the rhetoric you are going to employ, with regard to those on the other side of the argument. I also will not allow such rhetoric in the future, though I thought it important to allow it through once, just so people can see it.

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  13. I’m afraid that I must come to Liam’s defense somewhat for this one, though I most certainly don’t share his position itself. I believe that he has presented something reasonable, though obviously with some added rhetoric. Consider the following argument of my own:

    Let’s say that I am a woman with a nearly to term pregnancy, and that I’ve even developed quite a love for this child inside of me. But then all sorts of unfortunate circumstances occur, and so the great hope which I once had in this regard become dashed. At this point I’m convinced that the birth would actually be horrible for me, but somehow perhaps not for the child itself. Wouldn’t it then be immoral for me to put my own interests over this living child that I do personally know and love? I don’t believe that anyone who has followed our recently provided “intuition” morality definition, will object.

    Here I do not mean to suggest anything about the best legal stance on abortion itself, but merely that “a woman’s right to choose” might indeed bear immoral choices from time to time. (Furthermore if we throw in beliefs that a person who sacrifices such a “soul” shall suffer eternally for thus affronting “God,” and that those who tolerate this practice shall be similarly guilty, yes I can see why great passions are evoked on this side.)

    At this point I’ll be told, “We’re not saying that women inherently choose to do moral things with their bodies,” though I also didn’t presume that this was implied. My simple point happens to be that if two people begin from fundamentally different premises, then even reasonable arguments can seem unreasonable to the other side, and especially given the passions regarding this specific issue. If we begin as objective observers from Liam’s specific premise (as we should when we’re considering his arguments), I see little cause to moderate him so far.

    Moving things back to myself however, I consider the entire concept of “morality”to be a flawed one from which to decide the legality of abortion. For anyone who would like to consider how my “instrumental” approach would reason out, I suppose that I’ll present this here soon enough…

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  14. ejwinner,

    I appreciate your concerns, but I feel that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that we must tread very carefully! It is very difficult to tease out the various components of an argument, especially one as emotional as this one.

    You say that human life does not begin at conception; a fertilized ovum or a morule of 64 cells is not a human. I concur ca. 99.9%, but as the pregnancy continues I become less and less sure. After 20 weeks, survival ex utero becomes increasingly routine. I would then disagree with you ca. 95%. Certainly a healthy full term infant can let out a lusty cry by which to announce their presence and to start the juices flowing, literally. The mother’s breasts start filling and a new human is making a difference in the world. The conversation has begun.

    I agree with you that there is an ‘ontological category’ of the human. That is the idea of what it is to be human, and it is the question that we are wrestling with here. Aquinas thinks 4 months is when we get there? I suspect that no one has ever gotten there completely – we are always striving.

    Dan,

    My very critical remarks were not directed at “those on the other side of the argument”, but rather those that had acted against others. In the first instance I was addressing a small minority of adults, those that callously abandon their children. In the second I was addressing those that opt for the actual termination of life of fully formed, viable unborn ‘children’. Psychopathy is a major determinant of human behavior while denial is a major ego defense mechanism. (I happen to see Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man” last night. It is a nice illustration of what I am talking about.)

    I apologize for the discomfort that my choice of words may have caused.

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  15. Philosopher Eric:

    The point is not the substance of the position. The point is referring to women who have late-term abortions and to those who find Thomson’s arguments compelling — as I do — as “psychopaths” and as being in favor of “infanticide.”

    One can take whatever position one likes on abortion, here. But what one cannot do is blatantly, explicitly insult one’s interlocutors and accuse people of being psychotic. That breaches the bounds of civility and of what we are going to permit here, by way of discussion.

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  16. Liam: You described women who have late term abortions as “psychopaths.” You also seemed to think that term applies to people who find Thomson’s “winter coat” example compelling. (I happen to be one of those people.)

    You can take whatever positions you like. But you cannot name-call and accuse. At least not here. You can do it on a public street corner, if you really need to.

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  17. Hi Dan,

    The act of killing other persons should not be taken lightly. This has not always been the case in our history, and it is certainly not true for some other cultures today. The basic argument that you and Thompson are making is that killing of other persons is justified under certain circumstances:

    “That x is a person and x has a right to life does not entail that y must always be wrong in killing x, as is clear in the case of self-defense and just war.” (Certain states, societies and cultures also arrogate to themselves the authority to kill.)

    The point of your exercise is to show that pro-life arguments based on the fact that fetuses are persons are not valid. However, in that scenario, the burden of proof would be on the mother’s side since there is no blanket right to kill ‘persons’ of any class. One can not say that a person has a right to life and at the same time say that that person is a member of a class that has no right to life. Therefore the mother must show that the demands imposed by the pregnancy in that particular case represent an intolerable and unbearable threat to her life. After all, the pro-choice side has conceded that the fetus is a person and has rights. The mother must respect those rights and cannot act unilaterally. The problem for the side of the fetus is that its rights have not been codified and so it is quite easy for the mother to trample on those rights – which is what you are, in effect advocating.

    As I have already indicated, I am wholly unpersuaded that the vignettes offered on the mother’s side in justification meet the high standards that would be required for the killing of a person (fetus). Yes, the fetus is a burden, yes the fetus makes great demands even as it is not formally invited, but none would ordinarily rise to a capital offense. A clear exception would be when the fetus threatens serious bodily harm or death. In that case the mother would be fully justified to ‘stand her ground’ and kill in self-defense.

    Continuing further the narrative of a fetus being a person with rights, one would expect that the fetal side would mount a vigorous defense of her right to life. Without such a defense, one is certain to lose with tragic consequences. Thus we strenuously argued against the claims of the mother, showing them to be trumped up and misapplied. Furthermore, we also suggested that the mother’s motives could be viewed as cold, callous, self-serving and without conscience by injecting the pejorative term ‘psychopath’, hoping that this would awake the judge from any moral torpor that he might be afflicted with.

    The jury is still out, but while we wait it is worth mentioning that polls show that about 80% of our citizenry oppose very late term abortions. It is also worth mentioning that the emotional effects of late term abortions are quite disabling, 20% or more exhibiting features of PTSD as well as other complications. These also become more frequent and more severe as the pregnancy advances, even the risks of morbidity and death.

    (BTW psychopathy is not a psychotic disorder, rather it is a type of personality disorder of which there are about 13, depending on definitions. These disorders and their milder versions are so common as to suggest to some that they may not be valid entities. “Antisocial (or dissocial) personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. There may be an impoverished moral sense or conscience and a history of crime, legal problems, and impulsive and aggressive behavior.” Psychopathy and sociopathy are now included in this group. Wikipedia.)

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  18. So now for my “instrumental” rather than “moral” approach for the abortion issue. It is my belief that “qualia” represents the ultimate measure of good/bad, or punishment/reward, for the conscious entity. Thus without it, existence should remain perfectly inconsequential. In fact I even term this stuff directly as “self,” and its magnitude shall exist as an aggregation of positive/negative qualia over a given period of time, for any personal or social subject.

    So from this position, the abortion issue does become quite simple. If we want to know the best policy on abortion for a given society, then we assess its qualic effect upon that specific subject. In a country full of Catholics, perhaps legalizing abortion would thus be quite negative. In most places however, I tend to think not.

    This issue is one that I’ve hated since my college days, and especially given the position which my own “Right to choose” side espouses. What an idiotic notion it is, I think, that women must inherently be given the right to kill those who reside in their bodies. This is an association that I do not enjoy.

    Does it disturb me that Liam would lable me as a “psychopath” for choosing to kill my unborn baby? Not at all! I both understand his position, as well as respect the sincerity in his convictions. And perhaps from my own utilitarianism, he does even happen to be right while I am wrong – perhaps having an abortion would indeed condemn me to an eternal existence of negative qualia!

    One last thing. In the next post I argue that philosophy hasn’t yet (for whatever the reason) been able to achieve accepted understandings, but should be able to at some point. Well couldn’t the passions which are evoked on issues like “abortion,” which are considered from “moral” rather than “instrumental” premises, contribute? I don’t mind if morality does continue to be explored, but we surely also must theorize the nature of reality itself. This may be the final key needed to build a community with generally accepted understandings.

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  19. Liam:

    The fact that you want to continue to refer to women who have late term abortions as “psychopaths” — as well as call them other names — is unfortunate, and it is unfortunate that one of the other mods allowed it through. It is not, however, a conversation that I am willing to have, so I’m afraid you are going to have to discuss this subject with someone else. If I see this sort of language applied to women or to your interlocutors again, however, I will not allow it through.

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  20. Philosopher Eric wrote:

    This issue is one that I’ve hated since my college days, and especially given the position which my own “Right to choose” side espouses. What an idiotic notion it is, I think, that women must inherently be given the right to kill those who reside in their bodies. This is an association that I do not enjoy.

    ———————————————————————

    Given that you are not a woman, you don’t have to enjoy it. Fortunately for you, as a man, you will never be in such a position. Be glad.

    Thank goodness for legal abortion. And thank godness we had the sense to limit the reach of government to the boundaries of one’s physical person. Police need a warrant just to enter your house or search your records. The idea that the state should be empowered to compel women to bear children represents a degree of invasive power that should never be granted.

    And it’s never going back. Pro lifers are simply delusional on this point. There is zero chance of abortion ever being illegal again, in the US.

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  21. Really

    “Thank goodness for legal abortion. And thank goodness we had the sense to limit the reach of government to the boundaries of one’s physical person. Police need a warrant just to enter your house or search your records. The idea that the state should be empowered to compel women to bear children represents a degree of invasive power that should never be granted.

    And it’s never going back. Pro lifers are simply delusional on this point. There is zero chance of abortion ever being illegal again, in the US.”

    Unfortunately the fact that it is legal does not mean that there are no other ways to force women into not having an abortion. Such as the insane amount or restrictions that are put into them by the legal institutions, these restrictions would be totally unreasonable if they applied to people who want to buy alcohol or get birth control.

    Also, I think it is interesting that the persuasiveness of the argument relies on accepting the proposition that we own our bodies, Which is not going to persuade anybody who is religious and therefore believes that it is god who owns us and our bodies.

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