Why the case against abortion is weak, ethically speaking
Many medical procedures are ethically similar to abortion — but without the outcry. Why?
By NATHAN NOBIS - JONATHAN DUDLEY
APRIL 11, 2021
The article really is about more than what the title suggests. Here's an important paragraph:
Enabling more people to more productively engage the many ethical arguments about abortion won't, by itself, solve any social or political problems: no single strategy would. But ethics education is an essential part of any successful comprehensive strategy to ensure abortion rights and access, and so pro-choice advocates should engage in it. More generally, our political culture needs genuinely fair and balanced, honest and respectful engagement of arguments and truth-seeking: more people practicing this with the complex topic of abortion would help set a better intellectual and moral tone that would enable us all to better engage the many other polarizing issues that confront our society.
Some critical responses that we've see are here:
- Salon Piece Says ‘Pro-Choice Ethics’ Prove Abortion Isn’t Murder, Townhall, Katie Yoder, 4/24/2021.
A quick response:
Dear Ms. Yoder,
Thanks for this response. I am curious though about your claim about babies: do you really think that babies aren't conscious or aware or feeling? Surely you have been around a baby, so why do you suggest they are not conscious?
Second, you write that "it’s wrong to commit an action with the sole purpose and intent to end the life of an innocent human being." But that's not the sole purpose and intent behind abortions: the main purpose is to end pregnancies, for a variety of reasons.
If you meant to say that "it’s wrong to commit an action with the purpose and intent to end the life of an innocent human being," the point of the article was to observe that if that's true, then killing human beings for organ donation is wrong, as is letting anencephalic die. But these aren't wrong, although they involve "intentionally destroy[ing] the life of an innocent human being"--and this is best explained by their lacking a functioning, consciousness-making brain, and so at least early abortion is wrong. Yes, there are differences here, but they don't seem to matter. For more on that, see Thinking Critically About Abortion at www.AbortionArguments.com
A longer response: Response to Katie Yoder’s “Salon Piece Says ‘Pro-Choice Ethics’ Prove Abortion Isn’t Murder.”
- Nobis and Dudley on Abortion by "Brandon" (I don't think we can know who this person is?).
What does anyone think of these responses? Please share any thoughts in the comments!
Here is an explanation of the argument, or one interpretation of the argument:
- Organ donation procedures and the treatment of anencephalic newborns are morally permissible.
- If organ donation procedures and the treatment of anencephalic newborns are morally permissible, then it’s permissible to end the lives of biologically human organisms without functioning, consciousness-making brains.
- If it’s permissible to end the lives of biologically human organisms without functioning, consciousness-making brains, then early abortions, of fetuses without functioning, consciousness-making brains are morally permissible.
- Therefore, early abortions, of fetuses without functioning, consciousness-making brains are morally permissible.
- Argue that organ donation procedures and the treatment of anencephalic newborns are not morally permissible, for whatever reason(s): e.g., these are human, these are human organisms, these are human beings; there is always some chance of recovery, etc.
- Argue that a different generalization, or none, at all, is suggested by the cases in (1). Explain why that's a better generalization to draw than what we propose.
- Identify a relevant difference such that (3) is false and justify the relevance of that difference: e.g., clearly, fetuses and the organ donation and anencephalic newborn cases are different: fetuses typically have a type of “potential” that the other cases don’t; fetuses, if “left alone,” so to speak will continue living, etc., but how is that relevant? Why would that make killing them wrong? Real, developed answers are needed, and the answer that “because they are human organisms” isn’t going to cut it, at least not for those who accept (1).
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