Sigh. The abortion debate bores me. Reasons:
1) It seems to me that, unlike many moral arguments, the debate isn't really about the Premises of the argument, but about how the argument is constructed. That is, you and I may agree on the same base assumptions but have widely divergent end thoughts.
2) People are so damn sure that they're right.
3) The only "good" arguments against abortion have to reference religion. I've argued before
that religion isn't a valid basis for social law. (Of course, better men and women than I have made that point in a much more coherent way than I did.)
Clearly, I am pro-choice. The reason for this is so utterly simple that it's going to take me a whole blog post to explain it. Ready? Here goes:
I don't give a flying widget about biological life.
For sure, my misanthropism plays a role here. Oh, and the fact I don't like children. But that's not what I mean. Following in the footsteps of James Rachels
, I believe that "life" should be split into two components-- "biological" and "biographical." From Created From Animals: the Moral Implications of Darwinism
Why, exactly, is the loss of life harmful? To understand, we need to distinguish two notions that are often conflated: we need to separate being alive from having a life [original emphasis]. The former is a notion of biology: to be alive is to be a functioning biological organism; it is the opposite of being dead, or of being the kind of thing that is neither alive nor dead, such as a rock. The latter is a notion not of biology but of biography. Consider, for example, the life of John Dalton Hooker. Hooker was born in 1817, the son of a distinguished botanist. After completing his medical studies, he sailed to Antarctica on HMS Erebus. He was introduced to Darwin in 1839 and became his close friend. The first of his two wives was Frances Henslow, the professor’s daughter. For twenty years he was director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, having succeeded his own father in that post. For his work as a naturalist he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, the Copley Medal, and the 1892 the Darwin Medal. He was a pallbearer at Darwin’s funeral, and finally retired to Berkshire where he died in 1911. These are some of the facts of Hooker’s life. They are not biological facts, although some of them might involve biology. Primarily they are facts about his history, character, actions, interests, and relationships.
Once this distinction is made clear, we can see that there is a deep ambiguity in the notion of the value of life. Which is important too us—life in the biological sense, or life in the biographical sense. Plainly, the latter seems more important. Our lives are the sum of all we hold dear: our projects, our activities, our loves and friendships, and all the rest. Being alive, by contrast, is valuable to us only in so far as it enables us to carry on our lives. [my emphasis]
It seems to me--and perhaps I'm wrong here--but fetuses don't have biographical life. Thus, "killing" it (ending its biological life) has no moral weight.
"BUT!"--you might say--"some could argue that infants don't have biographical life, so should we be allowed to kill them too?!"
"A valid point," I would respond, "but--"
But here's the rub: we just don't know when biographical life begins. Especially if we admit--and we most definitely should admit--that it varies by the person. So it seems that we have two options:
1) Create some arbitrary standard for the start of biographical life. (IE, first trimester, second trimester, four years old, legal adulthood, etc.)
2) Look at the obvious "big changes" in the development at life--that is, conception and birth.
I don't know about you, but I don't like option one. It's just too, well, arbitrary. So, I go with #2.
Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time thinking of a mass of undifferentiated cells, or a just-fertilized egg, as a biographical entity. Maybe you don't, and that's okay. I can respect that. Personally, I think it devalues our own, legit, biography.
So, it seems to me, birth is the most obvious place to draw the distinction.
Now, before you fire off that angry comment, let me just say that I realize that there are tons of assumptions and leaps of logic here. Aye, that's the nature of the abortion debate beast. Like I said, no easy answers and everyone's so damn sure they're right. I don't expect this line of argument to convince anyone, but I offer it up as another thought to think. Although I do believe that the biological/biographical distinction is a good one that we as a society should adopt, I realize that you're mileage may vary.