Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Yes, All Bioethicists Should Engage Abortion Ethics, but Who Would Be Interested in What They Have to Say?

Nathan Nobis (2022) Yes, All Bioethicists Should Engage Abortion Ethics, but Who Would Be Interested in What They Have to Say?, The American Journal of Bioethics, 22:8, 33-36, DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2022.2089274 [some number of free eprints here]

Yes, all bioethicists should engage abortion ethics, but who would be interested in what they have to say?

Open peer commentary for the American Journal of Bioethics on a set of articles. 

Now here: Nathan Nobis (2022) Yes, All Bioethicists Should Engage Abortion Ethics, but Who Would Be Interested in What They Have to Say?, The American Journal of Bioethics, 22:8, 33-36, DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2022.2089274 [some number of free eprints here]

1500 words.


Katie Watson (2022) writes that “If the Supreme Court shifts the question of legality in whole or in part to state legislatures, the ethics of abortion will become an even more intense subject of debate in public, academic, and clinical realms. Therefore, this is the moment for all bioethicists to strengthen our teaching, thinking, and writing in abortion ethics” (emphasis added). 

While writing this commentary, the Supreme Court opinion draft to overturn Roe was leaked, which suggests this “if” is very likely a “when.” So this is the moment

Watson focuses on one way for bioethicists to engage abortion, as an issue affecting health disparities. 

Another way ethicists can engage is by helping people better understand and answer fundamental questions such as: is abortion immoral, indeed murder, and should be illegal, as anti-abortion advocates argue? Or is generally it not wrong, and so banning abortion is unjust? 

I am a bioethicist and for the past few years, I have been engaged in “public philosophy” about abortion ethics, presumably doing something that Professor Watson would encourage bioethicists to do. On the basis of my experience, I want to report this: few people, especially pro-choice people—including their leaders and organizations—seem to care about or have any interest in what ethicists have to say about abortion. 

Is this a problem? 

It’s hard to guess what, realistically, the best impact ethicists could have, and could have had, on political and legal debates about abortion. But a safe assessment is this: people, especially pro-choice people, not listening to ethicists and not seeking to better understand the ethical issues about abortion is not helping anyone. 

Persuading broader audiences that ethicists might be able to help advance pro-choice causes is thereby essential to implementing Watson’s suggestion that bioethicists get more engaged. What good ethicists might do depends on others taking advantage of what they have to offer: that this would need to happen is my focus here.

* * *

To say a bit about my experience, I have been engaging the public using a co-authored (with Kristina Grob) freely available, open-access introductory book, Thinking Critically About Abortion (2019) (available at AbortionArguments.com, reposted many other places, also a $5.38 paperback), blog posts on further questions and misunderstandings, articles in three ethics anthologies (2020), articles in publications like Salon (2021, 2022) and Areo (2019), videos on YouTube and TikTok, discussions on podcasts and in public forums, and more. 

These materials are not “pro-choice cheerleading” or any form of partisan hackery. They support a pro-choice perspective, but they critique bad arguments and misunderstandings from both anti-abortion and pro-choice perspectives and acknowledge insights from both “sides”: abortion critics are correct in some of their claims, even if their overall position is not supported by good arguments. 

My basic motivation for this ethics-educational outreach is this:

  • legal attempts to ban and restrict abortion are primarily motivated by the moral outlook that abortion is murder, a human-rights violation, and unjust; 

  • but, there are no good reasons to believe that, in general, abortion is wrong: the arguments that are given to think this, especially the simplistic arguments that most anti-abortion advocates actually appeal to, are demonstrably poor arguments; and good arguments can be given for a broadly pro-choice position;

  • so, more people knowing this and understanding why this is so this might do some good in helping to undercut legal efforts against abortion: some anti-abortion advocates might lose confidence in their views; pro-choice people would be better able to explain and justify their own views; there would be positive effects for the moderate middle majority.

None of these educational efforts would, in themselves, “solve” the tangible legal and political challenges against abortion. But they could do some good and so are worth trying, especially since not doing this does not appear to be working out well, from pro-choice perspectives. 

Since a root of anti-abortion legal efforts are the moral claims of murder and injustice, it makes sense to explain why these claims are not supported by strong arguments and why a broadly pro-choice view is supported by better arguments. At least 80% of trained philosophers (PhilPapers survey 2020) seem to agree with these judgments, but few ethicists—even those who are recognized experts on the topic—are engaged in public discussions of abortion: in contrast, there are many highly visible anti-abortion intellectuals who regularly engage the public on the issues. This might give a false impression that the anti-abortion case is stronger when, in fact, it is weaker: ethicists working to correct anyone’s mistaken impressions here might help.

* * *

To share the reactions to my ethics-educational activities, I have gotten many encouraging and appreciative responses from people from all around the world who report learning a lot from these educational materials. I have also gotten a lot of appreciation for my (usually!?) calm, fair, respectful, and friendly ways of engaging these issues since insults, anger, and hate seem to be common in discussions of abortion. 

[Engaging abortion debates has steered my interests toward understanding the impact of various cognitive biases, like confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, tribalism, cults, groupthink, echo chambers, epistemic bubbles, the denial of expertise, and other social and personal influences that usually preclude and distort understanding and responsible inquiry. Abortion is a useful topic to study how we can better think about controversial issues in general, and help identify what our parts can be to enable and encourage better dialogue and discussion of all issues. (Note: I cut this paragraph from the final version)].

I have, however, gotten a lot of negative reactions, including from pro-choice people, which leads me to my observation that most vocal pro-choice people do not care about engaging abortion ethics: they believe that abortion is obviously not wrong and that anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant, ill-motivated, or evil. Some pro-choicers argue it’s offensive to engage people who disagree, claiming that’s like arguing with slaveholders, but forgetting that arguments were given against slavery, which contributed to positive change.

Abortion-advocacy organizations also appear to have zero interest in engaging in anything about ethics: indeed, they actively avoid the issues. Mary Ziegler (2020) reports in a The Atlantic article that, since the 1990s, pro-choice advocates have deliberately avoided engaging ethical questions about abortion; they have focused solely on the legal freedom to choose abortion. 

We don’t know what would have happened if pro-choice organizations had attempted to duplicate the types of ethics-education efforts that anti-abortion advocates have engaged in for decades (e.g., trainings, books, “apologetics”): perhaps we’d be in the same place we are now. 

If the “let’s avoid ethics” strategy was based on the assumption that the legal right to abortion could not be lost, that is turning out to be a mistaken assumption. Some pro-choice people appear to have this sort of outlook: “We don’t care about ethics, or your ethics; we have the legal right to have abortions and that’s all that matters!” This attitude can work, until that legal right is challenged and, perhaps, lost.

In sum, enthusiastic pro-choice advocates tend to think it’s simply and obviously not wrong and should be legal, and so so have little interest in insights from ethicists on how to better understand, present and, perhaps, move their ethical message. But it does not appear that not attempting to undermine the, or a, root cause of the legal attacks—the belief that abortion is a great evil—has helped: the pro-choice cause is not better off for not engaging in ethics education. 

* * *

I will conclude with some observations of common misunderstandings of the issues, which might help ethicists better engage abortion in a variety of forums. 

Of course, both sides often offer “bumper sticker” slogans in favor of their position that are just question-begging assumptions of their own views. Beyond that: 

anti-abortion advocates:

  • tend to accept a naive “scientism” that contributes to their thinking that the scientific facts that fetuses are biologically alive, biologically human, and biologically human organisms simply entails that abortion is wrong; 

  • tend to not realize, and actively deny, that people sometimes mean different things by “human beings” and “when life begins”; 

  • tend to be ignorant of the fact that what makes anyone (or anything) have moral rights, or be otherwise wrong to kill, is a hard, theoretical question, and the best candidates for better explanations here do not include simply that the being is biologically human or even that the being is a biologically human organism

  • tend to not think about whether or how the right to life could be a right to someone else’s body, and related issues; and:

pro-choice advocates:

  • often mistakenly assume that the case against abortion is merely religious: they do not know abortion foes often see abortion as a “human rights” violation, which is a misunderstanding that results, in part, from human rights advocates poorly stating their views;

  • too often deny that fetuses are “alive” or “life” and “human” and so appear ignorant since fetuses clearly are that in a biological sense;

  • often mistakenly assume that anyone’s lacking a (moral or legal) right to anyone else’s body simply settles the issue;

  • often assume that abortion restrictions are motivated by the goal of controlling women and not motivated by the belief that abortion is murder: even if this is true, the ethical task of undercutting their arguments and giving better arguments might do more good than not (Jolly 2022). 

In sum, the basic questions are these: what do pro-choice efforts have to lose in engaging ethics, with ethicists? Nothing. What do they, we, have to gain? Potentially a lot, and so ethics demands engaging ethics, with ethicists.

Citations

Grob, Kristina and Nobis, Nathan. “Defining ‘Abortion’ and Critiquing Common Arguments about Abortion.” In Fischer, Bob. College Ethics: A Reader on Moral Issues that Affect You, 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press. 2020.

Jolly, K.S. “The Feminist Case for Debating Abortion Ethics.” DefendingFeminism.com. May 5, 2022. https://defendingfeminism.com/2022/05/05/the-feminist-case-for-debating-abortion-ethics/ 

Nobis, Nathan and Grob, Kristina. Thinking Critically About Abortion: Why Most Abortions Aren’t Wrong and Why All Abortions Should be Legal. Open Philosophy Press. 2019. http://www.AbortionArguments.com 

Nobis, Nathan and Grob, Kristina. “Abortion and Soundbites: Why Pro-Choice Arguments Are Harder to Make.” Areo Magazine. July 23, 2019. https://areomagazine.com/2019/07/23/abortion-and-soundbites-why-pro-choice-arguments-are-harder-to-make/ 

Nobis, Nathan and Dudley, Jonathan. “Why the case against abortion is weak, ethically speaking.” Salon. April 11, 2021. https://www.salon.com/2021/04/11/why-the-case-against-abortion-is-weak-ethically-speaking/  

Nobis, Nathan. “I’m a philosophy professor. The argument for making abortion illegal is illogical.” Salon. December 4, 2021. https://www.salon.com/2021/12/04/logic-arguments-abortion-rights/ 

Nobis, Nathan. “When does ‘life’ begin? When it comes to abortion, it depends on what you mean by ‘life.’” Salon. April 2, 2022. https://www.salon.com/2022/04/02/when-does-life-begin-when-it-comes-to-abortion-it-depends-on-what-you-mean-by-life/   

PhilPapers. “Survey Results: Abortion.” PhilPapers 2020 Survey. https://survey2020.philpeople.org/survey/results/4974 

Watson, Katie. “The Ethics of Access: Reframing the Need for Abortion Care as a Health Disparity.” American Journal of Bioethics. 2022. 

Ziegler, Mary. “How Raphael Warnock Came to Be an Abortion-Rights Outlier.” The Atlantic. December 31, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/12/liberal-religion-abortion/617491/ 



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What Should Philosophers Do in Response to Dobbs? A Conversation With Ethicists

 I was part of this interview/discussion, posted yesterday, organized and written up by Rachel Robison-Greene, with Jill Delston, Amanda Roth, and Jennifer Scuro, at the APA Blog:

What Should Philosophers Do in Response to Dobbs? A Conversation With Ethicists

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law

Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law

Early Abortions Are Not Wrong, Late Abortions Could Be Wrong,
but probably All Abortions Should Be Legal


In Bob Fischer, ed., Ethics, Left and Right: The Moral Issues That Divide Us (Oxford University Press, 2019). For a reply to the "opposing side" essay, see my (9/26/18) "Reply to Christopher Tollefsen on Abortion"

Note: this chapter led to this short book: Thinking Critically About Abortion at www.AbortionArguments.com

Nathan Nobis; Philosophy, Morehouse College; nathan.nobis@gmail.com


Draft 7/31/18 ; Google docAlso available at Academia.edu and Dropbox

Abstract

Most abortions occur early in pregnancy. I argue that these abortions, and so most abortions, are not morally wrong and that the best arguments given to think that these abortions are wrong are weak. I also argue that these abortions, and probably all abortions, should be legal.

I begin by observing that people sometimes respond to the issue by describing the circumstances of abortion, not offering reasons for their views about those circumstances; I then dismiss “question-begging” arguments about abortion that merely assume the conclusions they are given to support; most importantly, I evaluate many arguments: both common, often-heard arguments and arguments developed by philosophers.


My defense of abortion is based on facts about early fetuses’ not yet possessing consciousness or any mental life, awareness or feeling, as well as concerns about rights to one’s own body.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Trent Horn on Abortion: Persuasive "Pro-Life"?

 Here's from a discussion with Trent Horn on abortion at Emory's Medical School. 


A talk through here: 


Powerpoint is also here. Presentation as text here.

Thanks to some of the comments online, I realized that a few things at the event prevented me from responding to Trent in an ideal way there. So I made some videos and a text that better engage Trent's initial talk. I hope people find them helpful for better understanding the issues! Thanks!

A Revisited Response to Trent Horn from Nathan Nobis 


Trent's "Opening Statement" which the videos and text below are a response to.


Full set of videos:

An Introduction Video:


The “Humanity” Argument Against Abortion:


A “Personhood” Argument Against Abortion:


Arguments from Personal Identity Against Abortion:


The "Future Like Our’s" Argument Against Abortion:


The Impairment Argument Against Abortion:



Concluding Thoughts:



A Revisited Response to Trent Horn from Nathan Nobis 


Notes below; talked through here: 

Trent Horn and Abortion: Revisited Responses and Initial Presentation - YouTube 


www.NathanNobis.com

www.AbortionArguments.com

https://twitter.com/NathanNobis 

https://www.youtube.com/c/NathanNobis101 

https://www.tiktok.com/@nathan.nobis 


Discussion, not “Debate”


Too bad none (?) of the medical students, students or any pro-choice people showed up to hear Trent. 


At least I need an outline or handout or visuals to effectively follow, at least in these situations. 


Listening, taking notes, and formulating a response all at once is something I cannot do. I’m a “slow listener.” Now I know. 


There are some very close details here; very hard for anyone to engage this material without notes and visuals. Really cannot be done?


So, here’s my review of Trent’s arguments. 


Trent’s conclusion: “Abortion is gravely immoral and ought to be illegal.”


The “Humanity” Argument 3

A “Personhood” argument 6

Arguments from Personal Identity 9

The Future Like Our’s Argument 14

The Impairment Argument 16

Conclusion 18



The “Humanity” Argument


  1. It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent biological human beings. 

  2. The fetus is an innocent biological human being. 

  3. Abortion intentionally kills a fetus. 

Therefore, abortion is prima facie wrong. 


All these premises are false.


2. The fetus is an innocent biological human being.


2: Why accept 2? Science supports this, he claims.


My response: science supports that these are human organisms; whether they are human beings depends on what’s meant by “human beings.”


“Human being” definition 1 = a “being” that’s biologically human.


What’s a “being”? Not just anything that “has being”: organisms?


“Human being” definition 2 = a biologically human organism who has perceptions, feelings, reason, emotions, memories, etc. Ask around!


“Innocent”: I think the term “innocent” really only applies to beings who could do something wrong. So embryos and beginning fetuses are neither innocent nor not innocent: term just doesn’t apply. 


  1. It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent biological human beings. 


1: Why accept 1? 


Trent responds to a question based on a misunderstanding: Whatabout friendly space aliens? Suggested answer: these aliens, we are, are of a rational “kind.” 


Objections from Trent:

If 1 is true, then taking people off life support is wrong? 


Trent’s response: we are letting them die, not killing them. 


My response: what if they were actively killed? Why would that be (seriously) wrong? 


What if there was some urgent need to speed up the process? Would that be wrong? (Not really? Or there could easily be a good reason to justify doing this). 


Later Trent argues these human organisms are persons. So he thinks some persons are OK to let die. It seems to me like it’s OK to let a body die because there is no a longer a person there: if there were a person, then it’d be wrong to let them die. 


Trent’s response here depends on:

  • assuming there’s always a weighty difference between killing and letting die. (See James Rachels “Active and Passive Euthanasia” summed up at my “Euthanasia, or Mercy Killing”). I don’t think there’s always a difference. 

  • Assuming that killing in these situations is (seriously) wrong. I don’t think killing these bodies would be seriously wrong: nobody would be harmed, nobody would be disrespected, etc.  


3. “Abortion intentionally kills a fetus.”


Trent didn’t comment on that. 


Some would say, “Not really: the point is to end a pregnancy (or prevent parenthood), not to intentionally kill a fetus: that’s a foreseen but not intended side effect” Someone with the primary goal to intentionally kill fetuses would act in other (wrong!) ways: what might they do? 


Lots of discussion of this type of argument in this article:

https://www.salon.com/2021/04/11/why-the-case-against-abortion-is-weak-ethically-speaking/ 




A “Personhood” argument


4. Abortion directly kills an innocent person.

5. Killing persons is usually wrong.

Therefore, abortion is usually wrong. 


What distinguishes persons from non-persons? Lots of questions here to think about.


Trent claims that rats and pigeons are not persons. He claims this is a “clear case.” 


Really, rats and birds are like rocks and plants? Some of the top philosophers and law professors and others argue that (some) animals are persons or are personlike. 


Comment: suppose someone says, “Embryos certainly aren’t persons. They certainly don’t have the right to life.” 


“Horselaugh,” question-begging response. What’s the motivation? (Isn’t that what anti-abortion people say about pro-choice people?)


So what are “persons” 

= sentient beings? 

  • Trent’s objection: then some animals would be persons. This is question-begging, a horse laugh, dismissing with prejudice a huge body of research. 

= actually rational beings?

  • Objection: then babies aren’t persons with rights, etc.

= an individual member of a rational kind, with the “innate capacity for certain functional abilities” . .. “rational capacity.” 


Other options, that build on the “sentient being” example: 

  • Locke: “persons are conscious, intelligent beings, capable of rationality and reflection, including self-reflection.” 

  • Tom Regan, perhaps: persons are “subjects of lives”: sentient beings with are psychological connections over time (but no need for “self-reflection”).


Some concerns about persons are “individual members of a rational kind, with the ‘innate capacity for certain functional abilities’ . .. ‘rational capacity.’


  1. Is this why you are a person? If you asked yourself this, does this seem like the best – simplest, most obvious, most explanatory, most coherent with other beliefs, etc. answer to you?  


  1. If something is “personified”  – made like a person, or personlike, are they made to resemble “individual members of a rational kind”? Or are they given abilities to perceive, feel, think, reason, emotions, etc?


  1. Individuals in permanent comas, “vegetative states,” “brain dead,” anencephaly (babies born without a brain, or almost all of their brain) are of this “kind” right? They are not persons.


  1. If X is a person, then it’s wrong to let X die (and seriously wrong to kill X too). 

  2. These living human organisms are not wrong to let die or are seriously wrong to kill.

  3. Therefore, they are not persons. 


  1. How does this all work? Rationality is at the core: why’s that? (Ableism?). Rights depend on rationality, somehow. Why is it that if you are part of a group – even if that group is a species – where some of the members are rational (and get other characteristics from being rational), every member of the group gets those characteristics, even if they aren’t rational? Why is it that severely cognitive human beings are persons with rights because of a relation to or similarity they have with sophisticated rational beings? This is very abstract: needs to be explained. 


4. Abortion directly kills an innocent person.

5. Killing persons is usually wrong.


Comments about 4 - yes, but perhaps not “intentionally”: that’s not the intended goal, which is to end a pregnancy or prevent parenthood.


Comments about 5 - there are exceptions, of course; there can be cases where it’s OK to kill an (innocent) person when they are using something that they don’t have a right to, or you are not otherwise obligated to provide them with. “Bodily rights” discussions.


In sum:

 

  • psychological theories of personhood more simply explains why we are persons in a range of cases, including end of life cases (where the body is alive yet the person is gone and/or how they are treated suggests a loss of personhood);

  • they don’t dismiss with prejudice that some animals might be persons or personlike, 

  • doesn’t tie personhood to some form of sophisticated rationality (and so claims that severely cognitively disabled persons are persons because of their relations to some alleged “ideal” rational person). 


Arguments from Personal Identity

https://www.amazon.com/Knowledge-Reality-Value-Mostly-Philosophy/dp/B091F5QTDS/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1651245578&refinements=p_27%3AMichael+Huemer&s=books&sr=1-2 


https://1000wordphilosophy.com/2021/03/11/animalism/ 


6. If an organism that ever existed has never died, then this organism still exists.

7. I am [essentially, in essence] an organism.

8. Therefore, I am an organism that once existed in my mother’s womb and never died.

9. It is always prima facie wrong to kill me.

10. Since I existed in my mother’s womb, it was prima facie wrong to kill me then. 

11. That’s true about everyone: what’s true of me is true of everyone. 

C: So abortion is generally prima facie wrong.  


My (simple) responses:


A lot of people would ultimately deny 7 that “they are [essentially, in essence, an organism]”: if they went into a permanent coma or become brain dead, the organism is there but they – the person – are gone. 


Also, many people think they could “survive” death – they could go to Heaven (or Hell) even if their body is destroyed: so they are not their organism, in essence. (Such folks don’t have to believe they could make it to heaven only if their body, with enough of the same matter, is “rebuilt”.) 


Related: about 9 (9. It is always prima facie wrong to kill me) in such cases the body can be OK to let die: so “you” can be let die. If you = your organism and that organism is a person, then it’s OK to let people die. (Also, there could be cases where it’d be OK to actively kill that organism; see other discussions). 


This argument also assumes that properties that give “someone” the right to life are essential to that organism: many animalists deny that (ask them!): so they deny 9. 


Trent’s Discussion: 


Maybe I am not an organism: maybe I am a mind. (Other options: maybe we are both? Maybe we are neither, e.g., we are souls?).   


Trent: If we are minds and not organisms, then nobody has been raped: that affected their body, not them.


Hmm: that is just basic factual data that everyone agrees on whatever you think about any highly abstract metaphysical issues. (Someone should write an article arguing that only “animalists” can acknowledge the existence and wrongness of rape; submit it to an analytical metaphysics journal or send it to leading animalists (e.g., Eric Olson): see what happens or what their reaction is)


Obviously, if you think you are a mind in essence (or a soul!), you also think that your mind or soul are very closely related to your body: what happens to your body affects you, and what happens to you affects your body! 


Trent: If I am not my body, then the government could take my body, tax my body. 


Hmm. Again, we are very closely related to our bodies: even if I am, in my essence, my mind, if you take my body, you take me, or part of me. 

Also, the government does “take” people and their bodies: the draft, imprisonment, etc. These facts have nothing to do with any highly abstract metaphysical theories. 


Trent: if I am a collection of thoughts, then I don’t think. 


Hmm. This is deep. The view is, roughly, that the “thinking thing” would be this collection of thoughts. 


If you think you are a body, since you can lose parts of your body, yet you still exist, what body part(s) are essential to you? (Or are you the whole thing, spacio-temporally connected, even though some body parts aren’t essential?)


You are a thinking animal. (One response: does this view allow for an afterlife, for those who believe there is one?)


If I am thoughts, what happens when I sleep? 


If you wake up, you’ll be back! There were also prior mental experiences that had expectations, plans, etc. for the future. And again, people who think that we are minds don’t deny that we are closely related to our bodies. 


Trent mentions that some rights he has always had, such as to not be tortured or enslaved. But if he was an embryo, since you can’t torture or enslave an embryo (right?), he didn’t have those rights then. So some, even important rights are not essential to the organism: other capacities are necessary to have them. 


General thoughts: the metaphysics of personal identity is really controversial. Really understanding the options takes a lot of hard study. Suggestion: run these arguments by advocates of animalism and see what they think! 





Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?

Other

347 / 931 (37.3%)

Accept or lean toward: psychological view

313 / 931 (33.6%)

Accept or lean toward: biological view

157 / 931 (16.9%)

Accept or lean toward: further-fact view

114 / 931 (12.2%)






The Future Like Our’s Argument 


From philosopher Don Marquis, who interestingly argues that arguments like Trent’s “humanity” and (I think) “personal identity” arguments fail: 

https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/the-ethics-of-abortion-women-s-rights-human-life-and-the-question-of-justice/ 



12. Killing us is prima facie wrong. 

13. Killing us is prima facie wrong because it deprives us of our valuable futures (a “future like our’s”).

14. Fetuses have valuable futures’s like ours.

15. Anything with a valuable future like our’s is prima facie wrong to kill.

Therefore fetuses are prima facie wrong to kill.

Therefore, abortion is prima facie wrong.


One objection to this argument:


To have a future like our’s, a being needs to have some psychological connection to its future: it’s not just that there are potential future events “out there”. Embryos and beginning fetuses don’t have that, since they lack psychologies: they’ve never had any kind of mind: so they don’t have a future like our’s. 


Trent’s response: newborn babies aren’t psychologically connected to their futures either. 


Response: really? Babies have minds; they are aware of things; they know who different people are. People talk about playing music to the fetus in utero and getting reactions, and then the baby has a reaction when born: that’s memory. A baby is not like a mythical 10-second memory goldfish. Babies are quite different from embryos: babies have minds: they are conscious and feeling; they exist over time, which is how they are able to learn things, etc.  


Comments:


Marquis’s arguments are most popular – meaning often thought to be the best – among philosophers. Not popular among most real-life abortion critics. 


Why’s that? Perhaps because his views can support euthanasia; could support some abortions (in cases of an extremely bleak future), and can be adapted for positive results for animals too. 


Again, Trent advocates for asphyxiating / gassing rats and reports that few people would find that problematic. How would the rats feel about that? What would there experience be? Golden-rule: how would you like that if that were done to you? 


There is lots of interesting discussion about Marquis’s arguments. Check it out!


The Impairment Argument


From Perry Hendricks 


  1. It would be wrong to drink excessively during pregnancy so as to cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the child (and then adult). 

  2. If it would be wrong to drink excessively during pregnancy so as to cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the child (and then adult), then it is wrong to “impair” a fetus. 

  3. If it’s wrong to impair a fetus by doing things that result in it having Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (an impairment), then it’s wrong to kill the fetus since that’s a far greater (greatest?) impairment. 

  4. Therefore, it’s wrong to kill a fetus since that’s a great or greatest impairment.

  5. So abortion is typically wrong. 


Note: this argument is supposed to not depend on fetuses being persons. 


My basic response:

  • Why should women not drink alcohol too much, use drugs, etc. during pregnancy?

  • Because that will result in someone existing with a worse quality of life than they would have had: needless problems and difficulties: a worse quality of life.

    • Read up on WebMD or anything on what’s advised about this and why!

  • This explanation has no implications for abortion, since abortion prevents there from being such a person with this quality of life from existing in the first place.  


Trent’s response:

Trent says this presumes that the beginning fetus was an individual who was harmed. 

No, it doesn’t: it entails the “raw materials” or “building blocks” were damaged, not that there was some individual (or person) who was harmed. 


Again, advocates of the Impairment Argument think their argument does not assume that beginning fetuses are persons. An abortion prevents these “raw materials” or “building blocks” from becoming a person with a quality of life that is worse because of that drinking: so the explanation why pregnant women should avoid drinking heavily does not entail abortion is wrong. 


There is an interesting philosophical literature on this argument: check out PhilPapers or Google Scholar about it. 


https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C11&q=impairment+argument+abortion&btnG= 



Conclusion


My goal is that people better understand these issues and seek better arguments. I hope this helps.



1. The “Humanity” Argument


  • It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent biological human beings. 

  • The fetus is an innocent biological human being. 

  • Abortion intentionally kills a fetus. 

  • Therefore, abortion is prima facie wrong. 


2. A “Personhood” argument


  • Abortion directly kills an innocent person.

  • Killing persons is usually wrong.

  • Therefore, abortion is usually wrong. 


3. An Argument from Personal Identity 


  • If an organism that ever existed has never died, then this organism still exists.

  • I am [essentially, in essence] an organism.

  • Therefore, I am an organism that once existed in my mother’s womb and never died.

  • It is always prima facie wrong to kill me.

  • Since I existed in my mother’s womb, it was prima facie wrong to kill me then. 

  • That’s true about everyone: what’s true of me is true of everyone. 

  • So abortion is generally prima facie wrong.


4. The Future Like Our’s Argument 


12. Killing us is prima facie wrong. 

13. Killing us is prima facie wrong because it deprives us of our valuable futures (a “future like our’s”).

14. Fetuses have valuable futures’s like ours.

15. Anything with a valuable future like our’s is prima facie wrong to kill.

Therefore fetuses are prima facie wrong to kill.

Therefore, abortion is prima facie wrong.







5. The Impairment Argument


  1. It would be wrong to drink excessively during pregnancy so as to cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the child (and then adult). 

  2. If it would be wrong to drink excessively during pregnancy so as to cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the child (and then adult), then it is wrong to “impair” a fetus. 

  3. If it’s wrong to impair a fetus by doing things that result in it having Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (an impairment), then it’s wrong to kill the fetus since that’s a far greater (greatest?) impairment. 

  4. Therefore, it’s wrong to kill a fetus since that’s a great or greatest impairment.

  5. So abortion is typically wrong.