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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is abortion justifiable in the hard cases? Part II

[Today's post is the second in a three-part series on "hard cases" by SPL member Clinton Wilcox. For the first post, on fetal disability, click here. And for an argument by an SPL member in favor of the rape exception, click here.]

As I have previously shown, abortions because of fetal disability or deformity cannot be morally justified. But now we’ll look at another hard case, the cases of rape and incest.

Perhaps the most emotionally charged questions that come up when discussing abortion revolve around rape and incest. Certainly the circumstances surrounding a woman obtaining an abortion after she is raped is, at the very least, understandable. Rape is a terrible crime, one which no woman should ever be subjected to. It’s one of the worst things a human being can ever do to another human being. Approximately 54% of rapes are never even reported, and of the remaining 46% only about 3% of rapists ever serve any jail time. [1] Women need to be encouraged to come forward and prosecute the rapist to the fullest extent of the law. I also believe that rapists aren’t punished severely enough.

But while rape is a horrible crime, why should the child be punished for the crimes of her father? In a just society, we don’t punish the family of criminals. We punish the criminal him or herself.

The unborn are living human organisms from fertilization [2], so the circumstances of their conception do not change their nature or value. To illustrate this, suppose there is a woman who is tragically raped. She decides to carry her child to term and deliver. The child reaches the age of two years old and suddenly starts to take on the features of the rapist. She now looks with hatred on her child every time she sees him. Is she justified in killing the child? Of course not. We can’t justify killing someone just because they remind us of a painful event.

The woman will always remember the rape. It’s never going to go away. If she aborts, that’s not going to help her forget about it. It just compounds one act of violence on top of another. And considering that research suggests abortions can cause psychological problems, too, she might even be worse off if she does abort. [3]

In fact, abortions may not even help these women at all. Dr. Warren Hern, one of the nation’s leading abortionists, wrote the following in his textbook Abortion Practice,

“Victims of sexual abuse and rape deserve special care. However, the abortion counselor should recognize that the emotional trauma experienced by the rape or incest victim cannot be treated adequately, if at all, in the abortion clinic setting. All rape and incest victims, as well as victims of physical abuse, should be referred for appropriate psychological counseling and support.” [4]

Feminists for Life [5] president Serrin M. Foster recounts that while she was giving a lecture, a medical student who had been raped had told other students present that the abortion was worse than the rape. She also recounts another time a woman conceived in rape met her birth mother. The mother told the daughter that she was the only good thing to come out of the rape. [6]

Perhaps we, as a society, should not be so hasty to recommend abortion if a girl or woman finds herself the victim of rape.

It should be noted that instances of incest usually involve rape (except in societies in which incest is not considered taboo). So I have included it here because it can involve rape, so the arguments against rape can be used against incest, as well. But incestuous relations also result in a much higher risk of genetic disorders and other problems, due to increased homozygosity, which increases the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. As such, the arguments against abortion in this case are the same as in my previous article regarding birth disabilities or defects. [7]

So there is some evidence that suggests getting an abortion following a rape may not be the best thing for a woman who finds herself pregnant, all things considered. But I’d like to take this a step further. I would argue that the woman has a moral obligation to care for the child that she finds herself with, regardless of how the child was conceived. To borrow an example from pro-life philosopher Tony George, suppose you’re out at sea on your boat for a few days. A day into your journey you discover a stowaway. You would not be morally justified in casting that person off your boat into the water to drown or be devoured by sharks, even though that person will be consuming your resources. You must wait until you get back to land to cast him off, and possibly call the authorities.

Or consider another example used by my friends Steve Wagner and Josh Brahm. Consider Pixar’s fairly recent movie Up. The crotchety, cantankerous old man attaches dozens of balloons to his house to fly it away so that the government can’t take his property away by eminent domain. About thirty minutes later while airbound for South America, he hears a knock on his door. He opens it to find a rather annoying, but terrified, Boy Scout hanging on for dear life. The man obviously didn’t want to take him in. But would he have been justified in kicking him off his porch, or closing the door and letting him fall to his death? No. The man begrudgingly let the kid inside his house.

So what about those who take a pro-life position with an exception for abortions in the case of rape? I’ve never seen a good argument for the pro-life position that leaves an exception open for rape. Either unborn humans are intrinsically valuable or they’re not. The only difference between a child conceived in rape and one not conceived in rape is the circumstances of their conception. If a pro-life advocate is to be consistent, they can’t leave an exception for rape. As pro-life advocate Josh Brahm has noted, pro-choice bloggers often point out the inherent contradiction when well-meaning pro-life people declare that abortion is justifiable if the woman was raped. They declare that this seems to be evidence that the pro-life person doesn’t really believe what he claims to believe: that the unborn are intrinsically valuable human beings.

As Frank Beckwith points out, “to request that [the unborn’s] life be forfeited for the alleged benefit of another is to violate a basic intuition of ethical judgement: ‘we may never kill innocent person B to save person A.’ For example, ‘we cannot kill John by removing a vital organ in order to save Mary, who needs it. This is not a lack of compassion for Mary; it is the refusal to commit murder, even for a good cause.’” [8] We can’t justify killing an innocent human to relieve someone of a burden. And as Dr. Michael Bauman has observed: “A child does not lose its right to life simply because its father or its mother was a sexual criminal or a deviant.” [9]

In fact, as Christopher Kaczor mentions, sometimes (as in the case of a woman who becomes pregnant from rape), there is no morally permissible option. There is only the choice between the morally wrong option or the morally heroic option. Faced with the choice of torturing your mother to death or facing the firing squad, one is morally wrong (torturing your mother) and one is morally heroic (facing the firing squad instead). In the same sense, since abortion is morally wrong (as I have argued previously), then to abort a child in the case of rape is morally wrong (that is, impermissible) and carrying the child to term would be a morally heroic action, if not simply the morally permissible action. [10]

So what about a woman’s right to bodily autonomy? Don’t women have a right to bodily autonomy, even if abortion is usually morally impermissible? Perhaps whether or not the woman consented to sex is the relevant factor. Some pro-life people argue that if a woman consents to sex she waives her right to bodily autonomy so that she now has to raise the child she was partially responsible for conceiving.

Remember that no one has complete right to bodily autonomy. I may not strike someone without proper justification. I have control over my body, as long as it does not harm or kill another human. The same is true in pregnancy. A woman may exercise her right to bodily autonomy, as long as she does not harm or kill another human (i.e. the unborn child). Even if she does not consent to sex, this does not change the fact that she can’t do absolutely anything she wants with her body, especially harming or killing another human. If I’m in a crowded room that suddenly catches on fire, I may not shoot other people to increase my chances of making it out alive.

To reiterate, even if abortions in the case of rape were justified, they would only justify abortions in the case of rape. Not to mention, appealing to a tragic situation doesn’t suddenly make something that is immoral moral. It’s called an appeal to pity, which is a logical fallacy. But as we can see, there’s just no way to justify abortion if the unborn are valuable human beings.

Two kinds of people will bring up rape when you discuss abortion. One will be someone genuinely interested in what you think about rape. The situation must be handled with care. As pro-life people, we care about all humans, including women in bad situations and the human standing right in front of us. The question of rape must be handled with care. The other kind of person will be someone trying to trap you by bringing up a hard situation to justify abortion on demand. It’s worth pointing out that you have to be a horrible person to exploit a tragedy for your own political agenda. Not to mention, as Scott Klusendorf notes in The Case for Life, it’s just intellectually dishonest.

In my next article (to finish off the trilogy), I’ll look at abortions regarding the life and health of the mother.

[3] Ashton, “The PsychoSocial Outcome of Induced Abortion,” British Journal of Ob&Gyn, 87-1115-1122 (1980). It should be noted that pro-choice advocates and pro-abortion organizations fight the research that indicates there are psychological problems which plague some women after their abortions. While I’m not sure it deserves its own name (Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real psychological condition which can follow any tragic event -- even abortion. I think in the interest of honesty and women’s health, these organizations and advocates should start accepting that abortions do, in fact, have negative consequences. However, abortion is not immoral because of possible complications -- it is immoral because it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. All surgeries have risk of complications. Pro-abortion organizations and pro-choice advocates gain nothing by refusing to admit risks and complications, and in fact hurt women by keeping this information from them.
[4] Dr. Warren Hern, Abortion Practice, p. 84.
[6]
http://www.feministsforlife.org/Q&A/Q2.htm The entire article is worth reading.
[8] Beckwith, Francis J., Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: New York, 2007), p. 106.
[9] Bauman, Dr. Michael, "Verbal Plunder: Combatting the Feminist Encroachment on the Language of Religion and Morality," paper presented at the 42d annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana, Nov. 15-17, 1990, 16.
[10] Paraphrased from Kaczor, Christopher, The Ethics of Abortion, (Routledge, 2011), pp. 184-185.

87 comments:

Jameson Graber said...

You bring up some great examples here to defend your point (finding a stowaway, being trapped in a room that suddenly catches on fire, etc) but ultimately you don't deal with the bodily autonomy question very thoroughly. No, bodily autonomy is not absolute, therefore we have to explore its moral boundaries. Consider the case of the room that catches on fire. Suppose someone latches on to you in hopes of getting a free ride off of your efforts to exit the building. Are you not at liberty to forcibly remove that person? Isn't your body in that case something you have the right to defend? One example doesn't win the argument, and neither will several. So I would ask for a little more thorough treatment of the issue. There have already been some great articles on the subject written on this very blog; let's have some dialogue.

Linda said...

A body undergoing natural change is not being assaulted. I can't shoot the McDonald's cashier who sells me my Extra Value Meal in the face because the food is making me fat and I don't want to be fat. The cashier has just as much of a right to their bodily autonomy as I do to mine, and he's just minding his business-totally oblivious to my feelings/wants/desires and the choices I might make on any given day.

In a pregnancy situation, this holds even stronger, because a parent/minor child relationship exists, and children have much more license with their parents than strangers do. If my toddler sticks his fingers in my mouth against my wishes, and keeps doing so, I have no right to cause him serious physical harm in order to get him to stop, and no legal recourse to get him to stop, either. If a random stranger on the street decides he should enjoy his fingers in my mouth, even just once, I'd be well within my rights to stop him, and would have lawful assistance in so doing.

The relationship that exists by default in a pregnancy situation being that of a parent/guardian (even temporarily if plans for adoption exist) and their minor child removes the girth of legitimacy in the argument for bodily autonomy.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thanks for reading!

I have actually written about bodily autonomy in other articles. The thing is, if you're in a burning building and someone latches on to you, that makes it more difficult for you to escape. They are now threatening your life so you would be justified in forcibly removing them (and my next article will be on life of the mother).


You have the right to defend yourself, but abortions are not a case of self-defense. It's very rare a pregnancy actually threatens the life of a woman. Having an abortion in the off-chance it may become life-threatening is not morally justifiable. I gave as thorough a treatment as I could. After all, if I said literally all I wanted to say on the matter, the article would become quite long and less people would probably read it. But I believe I said enough to show that a woman is morally obligated in continuing a pregnancy, even if she was raped. It's a tragic situation, and she needs all the moral support we can offer her. But hardship does not justify taking innocent life.


As one more point, people often talk about Thomson's Violinist analogy, but the thing is it's actually part of a larger argument, called the Good Samaritan argument. Thomson talks about Jesus' example from the Bible about a Good Samaritan who comes upon a man beaten up by thieves. Two pastors previously walked by and most likely felt pity for the man, but only the Samaritan stopped to help him. He dressed the man's wounds, took him to a hotel, and told the innkeeper that he would pay everything. He'd return, and pay any extra expenses the man racked up.

Thomson believes that pregnancy is a supererogatory action, not a morally obligatory one. She said that continuing the pregnancy, like remaining plugged into the violinist, would be a very kind thing. But you are not required to do so. We are required to be a Minimally Decent Samaritan, not a good one. But the thing is that Thomson actually misunderstands Jesus' analogy. Jesus' whole point is that we *are* obligated to be the Good Samaritan. We are to help others, even at great cost to ourselves.


Now, obviously that's not very convincing if you're not a Christian. But it does show that even before you get to the Violinist, Thomson's argument is deeply flawed.


The most powerful objection to the Violinist analogy is that you are not responsible for the condition the Violinist finds himself in. But in the vast majority of pregnancies, the mother and father are responsible for creating a naturally needy child. If you are responsible for creating a naturally needy child, then you have a responsibility to care for that child.


Now obviously that doesn't work in the case of rape, so that's where this article comes in. No one has the right to injure or kill another human. No one has complete right to bodily autonomy in the first place. So even in the case of rape, a woman is not justified in aborting the child that has been conceived.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thanks, Linda!

Roe_Flip said...

Theoretically, rather than tearing a fetus apart, the fetus could be removed intact (e.g. cut the umbilical cord). To my mind this changes the situation from actively killing to passively letting die. It's the difference between unplugging the Violinist and shooting the Violinist in the face. In that (theoretical) case, the woman isn't using her body to kill anyone--she's refusing to let her body be used to keep someone else alive. People do this every day--think how many hundreds and even 1000s of people aren't donating blood, bone marrow, or a spare kidney right now, and how many others are dying because of it.


I have a hard time seeing the significant moral distinction between the theoretical passive abortion and refusing to donate blood. Therefore, to my mind, unless we as pro-lifers start advocating for forced blood/bone marrow donations, we can't consistently advocate for no rape exception.

LN said...

Not if there was no consent. While I could see an argument for this in cases of consensual sex, it just does not apply if a woman was forcibly raped.

And how do you define "natural"? Natural result of a consensual choice, sure, but it's also a natural result of a nonconsensual choice, and thus I don't see how anything being natural makes it ok. That's the definition of a naturalistic fallacy.

Clinton Wilcox said...

LN, she's not making the naturalistic fallacy here. The naturalistic fallacy is seeing something occuring in nature, so arguing that it's okay for humans to do it. Rape, murder, and theft all occur in nature. But to claim that humans should be able to engage in those acts because they're "natural" commits the naturalistic fallacy.


Saying that the body goes through natural changes is not a fallacy. It's simply the way things are. When puberty hits, a boy's voice gets deeper. That's not the body "attacking" itself, that's simply a natural change in the body.


Pregnancy is natural. It makes changes in a woman's body, but changes that the body is designed, or adapted, to handle. Claiming that the unborn child "assaults" a woman is a really bad argument. One, it's a natural occurrence, and two, there's no intent. The unborn child has no intention of assaulting anyone, and the unborn child certainly didn't choose to be there. Pregnancy is inextricably tied to sex. Many people, some pro-lifers included, tend to forget that there are two victims involved -- the woman and the child.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Just the opposite. If you are pro-life, you can't consistently advocate for the rape exception. Every argument a pro-life person uses to "support" the rape exception, also works for cases of consensual sex. If the unborn are intrinsically valuable, they are valuable even if conceived in rape. If the unborn are not intrinsically valuable, then there's no reason to keep abortion illegal even if sex was consensual.


You're actually making a distinction without a difference. If you simply unplug the umbilical cord, you are still directly killing the unborn child. If you remove the unborn child from the only environment in which it can survive, you are still the active agent in her death. Just like if an alien were to capture you, then fly you to the moon and drop you off without a spacesuit, they would be actively killing you. Saying that abortion is withholding support is just like smothering someone with a pillow and claiming all you're doing is withholding oxygen.

To say abortion is immoral, and should be illegal in the case of rape, is not to say that we should force people to donate bone marrow or blood, for that exact reason. In an abortion, even if you simply remove the unborn from the womb or cut the umbilical cord, you are still directly responsible for the death of an innocent human. By refusing to donate blood or bone marrow, you are allowing someone to die from a pre-existing condition. The condition is what kills the person, not you.

Kara Baylog said...

I've posted on the rape exception previously, so my current conclusions should not be a surprise, but I do take issue with your explanation of abortion and its impacts on the rape victim. Frankly, it is a tad misogynistic and narrow-minded, that you, or anyone not in that exact position know exactly the best thing for a woman in that case.
Can a woman, after a rape, have an abortion and end up being put in a worse psychological state as a result? I definitely think so. I think I would be just such a person. However, it is naive to think all women would be like this. If emotions and mental states could be observed empirically in other people, and you could see a direct correlation between the recovery of a rape victim and her abortion, would you allow for the possibility of letting her have an abortion then? Because I think that possibility exists, based on my limited knowledge of both rape and abortion, I find it hard to limit that option: http://www.imnotsorry.net/2010/09/06/merediths-story/
Now, I agree with you, women should not be encouraged to have an abortion after a rape. Women should have access support and care so that her psychological and emotional state can recover as much as possible, but it is not fair to suggest that a woman, cognizant of the fact that the existence of her pregnancy causes her increasing torment day by day, and that one day she will wake up and be unable to handle it, can have no option to avoid that fate.
It doesn't take away the fact that a child born of rape is a legitimate human being and deserving of life. It just also takes into account that the mother is a legitimate human being and is also deserving of life (not as an emotional basketcase).

(Now you might be saying, but Kara, this is an argument that can be used for pregnancies resulting from consensual sex as well. Indeed, pro-choicers often say, we can't know the struggles a woman faces while pregnant, so we shouldn't have a say! However, there is a distinct lack of trauma in consensual sex. While a woman with an unwanted pregnancy can, but not always, go through trials of her own, the lack of trauma, the lack of a threat that the woman will become an emotional basketcase as a result means that an abortion cannot possibly solve a life (mental or physical) threatening case.)

Clinton Wilcox said...

Kara, thank you for reading and commenting.


It is not my intention to belittle a woman in a rape situation. But my argument is that hardship does not justify killing an innocent human being. You have said nothing that would show that it does.
Just the opposite, I think women are strong enough to handle the situation. I believe that women are very strong people, and I find it offensive that you would consider me misogynistic for thinking women can be strong in detrimental situations (especially since roughly half of aborted children in the United States are female).
I agree that a woman is a legitimate human being and is deserving of life. And I agree that her life is not less important than the unborn child. But I also think that the unborn child's life is not less important than the mother's. They are *equal.* That is the true pro-life position.
And yes, your argument *does* support abortions from pregnancies resulting in consensual sex. You don't know for sure if a woman who is raped will end up in a worse psychological state. You also don't know this about a girl or woman who had sex consensually. There are many things that may result in trauma to a pregnant teenage girl. Some girls think their parents will literally kill them if they find out they are pregnant. Some girls' boyfriends abuse them physically, emotionally, and psychologically, threatening to leave them if they don't have an abortion. If you're going to say abortion should be legal in cases of rape due to possible trauma, you have no grounds for saying it should not be legal from consensual sex, as well.

Roe_Flip said...

"Every argument a pro-life person uses to "support" the rape exception, also works for cases of consensual sex. "

Not at all. IMO, the only relevant argument for the rape exception is that of bodily autonomy. When people consent to risk procreation, they have a moral responsibility to the lives they have created. A rape victim did not consent to risk procreation, so the reasoning doesn't apply. It is the specific difference in consent that makes me think there should be a rape exception in the first place; I don't see how this difference could be applied to consensual sex.

As far as your views on passive vs. active killing: would you argue that it should be illegal to unplug Thomson's Violinist?

Clinton Wilcox said...

Not at all. No one has complete right to bodily autonomy. No one has the right to kill or injure another human. This goes for in the womb as well as outside the womb. Because the child is connected to the mother does not suddenly grant her immunity to harm or kill another human.


As for the violinist, it should not be illegal to unplug from the violinist, and I already gave you the reasoning. In abortion, regardless of the abortion, the abortionist and/or the woman is always the active agent in the death of the unborn, whether my surgical abortion or something like RU-486 which is more literally like "unplugging" than a surgical abortion.


But in the Violinist case, if you unplug you are not the active agent in the death of the violinist -- the pre-existing kidney ailment is.

LN said...

Naturalistic fallacy is when you see something happen in nature and you say it is therefore ok. She's saying that because pregnancy is natural, it cannot be considered an assault-- ie, it's ok (acceptable).

If I'm mistaken and she's simply saying it's not an assault but it's still not ok-- my bad. But I don't think she is.

And yes, if she were just saying, "Hey guys, pregnancy is natural. The end." Then I'd agree that it's not a fallacy because there's no moral judgment attached to it. But that's not what's going on.

"Pregnancy is natural. It make changes in a woman's body, but changes that the body is designed, or adapted, to handle." ...So what? It's acceptable? Also please define "natural" if you will. Pregnancy is a natural response to a potentially unnatural act (rape). There are other natural responses to unnatural acts (though again, I don't know what kind of definition of natural we are using). It is perfectly natural, for example, for a woman's physiological response to rape to include arousal. Does that response being natural, being "a change that the body is designed, or adapted, to handle," make it AT ALL ok? And by "ok" I am using Linda's implication that because it's a natural response, the person enduring the natural response should not be empowered to stop it (pregnancy, arousal, etc). If a woman were to say, "I know arousal is a natural bodily response to rape, but I am *not* ok with that symptom" would you tell me you'd tell her, "too bad, it's natural"?
I think we all know there is probably another reason for not allowing her to stop said response, such as "AND another person's life is at stake". Just scratch the "natural" reasoning altogether, please. It does not in any way contribute to the moral acceptability of the issue. It in no way gives a good excuse for not allowing a woman to act to stop a response to rape.

"Claiming that the unborn child "assaults" a woman is a really bad argument. One, it's a natural occurrence..." Lion eats human. But because that's a course of nature, it's not an assault. Really? How are you not seeing that this is a naturalistic fallacy? Noting intent is much better than noting that it's natural.

Tangent anyway. I'm not arguing that it's an assault, I'm only arguing that dismissing it as "not an assault" only on the grounds of "it's natural" is a naturalistic fallacy. I think we can do better than that-- like you did by mentioning intent.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Yes, the naturalistic fallacy is when you say "something is natural, therefore we are justified in doing it." But saying that pregnancy is natural, so it's not an assault, is not the naturalistic fallacy. There's no moral value assigned to that statement, it's just showing that "pregnancy is an assault" is a bad argument. That's different from saying pregnancy is natural, so women ought to be getting pregnant.

We we talk about natural law, then that's also different from the naturalistic fallacy. For example, saying that the uterus exists more for the unborn child than for the woman, so it's wrong to remove the unborn child from its natural environment, is an argue from function. When we argue from natural law, we are talking about the function of a particular part of the body, and functions are inherently value-laden. This is also different from saying that pregnancy is natural, so women ought to be getting pregnant.


So I think you are misunderstanding what Linda was saying (though of course, she could respond to be clearer, as well).


My argument, though, is not from natural law. My argument is from the intrinsic value of humans, and the right to life which no one has a right to take. Abortion in the case of rape violates the unborn's right to life and their right to bodily autonomy. Preventing the woman from having an abortion does not violate her right to life, arguably just her bodily autonomy. Therefore, abortion in the case of rape is a greater harm to the unborn child than to the woman. However, as I also argue in my article, her bodily autonomy is not being violated by being prevented from having an abortion, because no one's right to bodily autonomy entails the right to harm or kill another human.

Roe_Flip said...

I don't understand the significant moral difference between the pre-existing condition of a kidney ailment and the pre-existing condition of being wholly dependent on the womb. The rape victim is no more responsible for the fetus depending on her womb than the patient is responsible for the Violinist's kidney ailment.

LN said...

"...no one's right to bodily autonomy entails the right to harm or kill another human." What about rape? You can kill your rapist because your bodily autonomy is being violated. Not saying rape is like every situation, but you made a blanket statement and here's at least one contradiction.

Use of and infringement within a person's body against their will is violating bodily autonomy, regardless of the reasons why. The reasons why only lend justification for said violation (or they fail to do so).

Clinton Wilcox said...

The moral distinction is in how you treat the human. In the violinist, you are disconnecting from the violinist and allowing him to die from a pre-existing condition. Whereas in an abortion, existing is not a "pre-existing condition." The unborn did not exist before the rape. You are not allowing the unborn you die, you are directly killing an innocent human.


Hardship does not justify taking an innocent human life.

Roe_Flip said...

I said I don't understand the significant moral distinction between the pre-existing conditions, not between the treatment of the fetus versus the Violinist. The treatment is the same--in both cases you are "unplugging" someone who will die without bodily assistance. The difference lies in the circumstances of their death.

I don't see the significant moral difference between existing in a way that you depend on a womb versus existing in a way that you depend on dialysis. If disconnected, either the fetus's lack of development or the Violinist's kidney ailment will kill them, but neither of those conditions are the fault or responsibility of the person whose body is being used.


I'm not saying the rape exception is justified because of hardship. I'm saying it's justified because of bodily autonomy combined with the lack of consent of the rape victim to risk procreation.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I've already explained the moral distinction. It seems you're trying to justify abortions in the case of rape, but it can't be done. I have already explained why there is a significant moral difference in killing an innocent human in the case of rape, and allowing someone who has a pre-existing condition to die by refusing to remain plugged in. You are not responsible for the death of the violinist, whereas you are responsible for the death of the innocent unborn human.


The rape exception is not justified by bodily autonomy, because no one has the right to kill or harm another human. If you can justify rape abortions because of bodily autonomy, you can justify *all* abortions by bodily autonomy, and that was Thomson's point.

Clinton Wilcox said...

LN, the reason you can fight back, and possibly kill, your rapist is not because of a violation of bodily autonomy, but because of a right to self-defense, which everyone has. The pro-life position is not that it's always wrong to take a human life, the pro-life position is that it's always wrong to take an *innocent* human life. You have the right to defend yourself against an attacker (someone trying to kill you, harm you, or rape you).

There's also a difference in intent. A rapist intends to harm you, whereas there is no intent by an unborn child to be there in the womb against the mother's will. There are two victims in the rape, the woman *and* the child (if one is conceived).


If pro-life people honestly care about all human life, they need to take into account the innocent human, who is just another victim in this heinous crime.

Nathaniel said...

Clinton-


Much shorter post this time! Just wanted to point out that there's more than one risk of pro-lifers being inconsistent. You pointed out that we risk being inconsistent if we support a rape exception, but I think the much more glaring inconsistency is when pro-lifers use the standard "duty not to kill" logic but then don't want to kill abortion doctors, don't want to bomb clinics, and don't want to charge women with murder.

If a pro-lifer *sincerely* believed that all lives were equal and that abortion was killing a human being just like a murderer does, then wouldn't 50 million deaths in the last few decades justify armed resistance?

That's a *much* deeper problem, in my mind, than a worry that a rape exception might make us inconsistent.

What we need is a rational explanation that includes:
1. Why abortion is wrong
2. Why it's not actually murder

Because if abortion is murder and you're not out there using deadly force to stop it, you're a hypocrite. Note (that I wish wasn't necessary): PLEASE DON"T INTERPRET THIS AS A CALL TO VIOLENCE. IT'S NOT. It's just an indication of a much greater consistency problem with the pro-life side has to address than the rape exception.

156 said...

"The unborn are living human organisms from fertilization..."

Your source for that assertion was the Christian Apologetics Alliance. Why would you use a Christian source on a secular site?

"You would not be morally justified in casting that person off your boat into the water to drown or be devoured by sharks..."

Why not?

"...[W]ould he have been justified in kicking him off his porch, or closing the door and letting him fall to his death? No."

What is your evidence for that assertion? Why are you assuming that those who you are trying to persuade agree with your conclusion?

"As Frank Beckwith points out..."

Who is Frank Beckwith and why should I care what he thinks?

"And as Dr. Michael Bauman has observed..."

Why would anyone care what Dr. Michael Bauman thinks? My motto is: "Whatever Dr. Michael Bauman thinks is wrong!"

"A woman may exercise her right to bodily autonomy, as long as she does not harm or kill another human..."

According to who or what?

156 said...

Frank Beckwith is a Christian apologist and former President of the Evangelical Theological Society. Why did Secular ProLife post a essay that assumes agreement with a Christian theologian?

http://www.etsjets.org/?q=announcements/frank_beckwith_resigns

156 said...

Bauman also appears to be a Christian theologian. If the article below is for the same person, all of his education and professional work has focused on sectarian religious beliefs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Bauman

156 said...

Nothing is more telling than when someone fails to answer a fair question.

Clinton Wilcox said...

There's nothing telling about it. I have a life that takes me away from the internet. I try to answer everyone who takes the time to post a note on my articles, but sometimes notes fall through the cracks.

Clinton Wilcox said...

It was not an assertion, it's scientific fact. When I linked to the CAA, it was not a "source." I was posting to another article I wrote about how we know the unborn are human beings from fertilization. This is supported by science, and I give quotes from embryologists (the experts on human embryos) to support my conclusions, as well as by pro-choice philosophers.

Regarding your question about casting someone off your boat (or off the house in mid-air), you are not justified in casting someone off your property if in so doing you will kill them. You gave no evidence for your (apparent) assertion that it is moral for you to kill someone who is simply on your property against your will.

156, I perceive you are not really reading my articles fairly. Who Frank Beckwith is is irrelevant. What he says is not. You are committing the genetic fallacy by ignoring what he says simply on the basis of being a Christian philosopher (as you apparently are). Frank Beckwith is a professional philosopher. But even if I was just quoting my friend who has never been to college, let his words stand on his own. Address his words, not the man, himself.



It is obvious that a woman may not exercise her right to bodily autonomy, as long as she does not harm or kill another human. I could say God gives us that right (as you are, no doubt, trying to goad me into saying). However, I can also point out that our own government supports this right. I may not injure or kill another human without provocation, or I face jail time. Our government is being inconsistent in allowing abortions because you are harming or killing another human without provocation (or strong enough justification).

Clinton Wilcox said...

By your logic, SPL should not post very many articles because most of them assume agreement with Christian theologians.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Nathaniel:

Thank you for reading, and for your response (sorry for the late reply -- I've been very busy lately).


First, even if I am inconsistent in not going out and using lethal force to stop abortionists from killing these unborn children, it does nothing to negate my arguments for the life, humanity, and value of the unborn. Furthermore, it does nothing to negate the arguments presented in this article. It would only prove one thing: That I am inconsistent.

Second, it is not an inconsistent position that I hold. Going out and killing abortionists is not the way to stop abortions. I don't believe that the end justifies the means. If I kill abortion doctors, I am no better than they are. To say nothing of the fact that I believe vigilante justice to be immoral. Unfortunately, abortions are legal. So I must work within a legal framework to change abortion laws. This is much more reasonable, and will do much more good in the long run. If I bomb an abortion clinic, or kill an abortion doctor, I may stop him/her from doing abortions, then I face life imprisonment (or the death penalty). This greatly reduces my effectiveness as a pro-life ambassador, when I could be out there every day saving unborn children from being killed by these abortionists. Not only would bombing abortion clinics or killing abortion doctors be gravely immoral, it would also simply be bad strategy for stopping abortions from being legal.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Nathaniel, you've certainly given me some things to think about here.

First, I would take the position that all abortions are an active form of killing, so they always violate the unborn human's negative right to life. I'll address your drawbacks.

1) We can't justify a moral wrong just because it looks heartless or cruel. I do take pro-choice people seriously, and I recognize that some women are in difficult pregnancies. But I don't believe killing an innocent human being is ever a reasonable approach to attempting to solve a problem.

2) I have not pre-empted any arguments in this article. I have addressed the morality of abortions in the case of rape. I have not made the rape exception irrelevant, I have tackled the rape exception head-on.


If anything, I believe that while abortions are immoral in the case of rape, they are at least understandable. I would argue that it is still a case of violating the unborn's negative right to life.


The unborn did not ask to be there, and the woman certainly did not consent to the act of sex that produced a child. However, the mother and abortionist are still the active agents in the unborn's death. This is not a "duty to save," this is still a "duty not to kill." The act of rape, itself, is not dangerous to the unborn human. It is still the act of abortion that causes a danger to the unborn, and the abortion is a willful act perpetrated by the mother and the abortionist.

It's important for me to note that I don't consider pro-choice arguments to be irrelevant. I talk to many pro-choice people, and I always make a point of taking them, and their arguments, seriously. But I think if we closely examine most of their arguments, they simply don't hold up under scrutiny for various reasons. I wanted to treat the case of rape as delicately as I could, but we simply can't justify killing an innocent human being because of hardship. If you can't justify killing a two-year-old child who was conceived in rape for that reason, then you can't justify killing an unborn human for rape. The case of rape isn't the issue, otherwise we are justified in killing anyone just because they were conceived in rape.

156 said...

"It was not an assertion, it's scientific fact."

Without evidence, it is a dogma, not a fact.

"When I linked to the CAA, it was not a 'source.'"

Then why did you link to it? Nobody in an online debate is going to accept a reading assignment -- especially not from an unreliable source. If it contains useful information, that information should have been included in the post.

I did not notice that the article was written by you. But linking to an article written by you is not a good idea. I was quite comically ridiculed once for doing that. She mimicked: "Here is someone who can testify in support of my point -- me!"

"...I give quotes from embryologists...to support my conclusions..."

Then how about putting those in a comment with links? I am too busy feeding people to lions to read the whole article.

156 said...

"...you are not justified in casting someone off your property if in so doing you will kill them."

You are just repeating the claim, not justifying it.

"You gave no evidence for your...assertion..."

I made no assertion on the topic. I only asked you for how you derived your assertion.

"Who Frank Beckwith is is irrelevant. What he says is not."

So we are supposed to have unswerving faith in someone who lacks any qualifications?

"Address his words..."

His words are the following: "...[W]e may never kill innocent person B to save person A."

Prove it.

156 said...

"It is obvious that a woman may [] exercise her right to bodily autonomy, as long as she does not harm or kill another human."

This is a dogma, not a fact.a

"Our government is being inconsistent..."

Does not that inconsistent suggest that "our" government supports that right, in contradiction to what you just said?

Draco Mater said...

I just want to clarify a couple of things you said --

" I would argue that the woman has a moral obligation to care for the child that she finds herself with, regardless of how the child was conceived."

"if a woman consents to sex she waives her right to bodily autonomy so that she now has to raise the child she was partially responsible for conceiving."

These make it sound like adoption is a morally unacceptable course of course of action (I could not agree), is that the intention?

(I find it difficult to perceive pregnancy as either caring for or raising a child as it will happen regardless of my feelings and quite without any thought or interference that might be construed as "raising".)

And, is that "care for" in the sense that women shouldn't deprive the foetus of the means to survive, or are you arguing that women should have that particular positive regard about their unborn children that their wellbeing should uniquely matter to us?

Personally I do happen to have caring feelings for my unborn child, but I can't imagine why I should be morally obligated to have certain feelings about him and I don't think such a moral obligation existing could possibly be a good thing, especially in the context of rape. My pregnancy is not the result of rape, merely unplanned, but I certainly have a great deal of ambivalence, resentment and regret about it, which I can only imagine must be intensified for rape victims. To pile extra guilt on for even having such non-caring feelings sounds like a sure recipe for depression, which is really not in the best interests of either mother or child.

156 said...

Let me restate that. Does not that inconsistency suggest that "our" government does support that right, in contradiction to what you just said? (I hope this gets it right.)

Clinton Wilcox said...

Hi, Draco:

Thank you for reading and responding. I should point out that the second statement you quoted, regarding a woman consenting to sex waiving her right to bodily autonomy, is not my view. I was responding to some pro-life people who hold this view, trying to harmonize being pro-life while still allowing an exception for rape.

I believe adoption to be a perfectly reasonable option for an unwanted pregnancy (as opposed to abortion, an immoral option), especially in rape.

Regarding the first quote, that a woman has a moral obligation to care for the child she finds herself with, is only during the pregnancy (as in, she has a moral obligation not to kill the young human inside her). Adoption, of course, is a perfectly valid course of action for a child a woman does not want, especially since gifting a child to a loving family is much better than killing her outright.

Pregnancy is "caring for" and "raising" a child, since a woman could, technically, choose to abort it (which would not be caring for or raising the child). To care for or raise someone does not have to be a voluntary thing. For example, if I come across a child abandoned at my doorstep, I would feel morally obligated to care for the child, at least until I can get the child to safety. This would be caring for the child, even if in recognizing my moral obligation I did so involuntarily.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Are you saying I have the right to kill or harm someone without justification? I'd love to hear how you justify that.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I'm sorry that I have to justify the obligation not to murder to you, but I will do my best.

To kill an innocent human being without proper justification is murder.

Humans are uniquely valuable based on their inherent capacity as rational, moral agents. We recognize certain basic human rights, such as the right to life. This is why it is wrong to kill you or me without proper justification. We are not animals. We don't lock up a lion who kills a gazelle, even though it is murder. But we do lock up a human who kills another, based on our nature as rational, moral agents. We are moral agents, so we know right from wrong, and we are rational agents, so we are held responsible for our actions.

If someone fails to develop a rational or moral nature, such as a psychopath, this is seen as a tragedy. This is because it is in a human's nature to be rational and moral. If a bird fails to develop a rational or moral nature, this is not seen as a tragedy because it's not in a bird's nature to do so.

So killing innocent person B (let's call him Tom) to harvest a vital organ to save innocent person A (let's call her Beth) is murder. You have no right to kill Tom to save Beth's life, unless Tom is in some way threatening Beth's life. To kill Tom simply to harvest an organ for Beth is immoral.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Additionally, Frank Beckwith is a professional philosopher. He has qualifications, you are just finding ad hoc reasons not to listen to him (not to mention continually committing the genetic fallacy). Plus, whether or not he has qualifications is irrelevant, if his words are correct. After all, Socrates never acquired a formal degree in philosophy.

Clinton Wilcox said...

156, I'm dangerously close to simply ignoring you altogether. You do not seem very interested in reasonable discourse. You certainly don't seem to be reading my words very closely. I linked to my article in the CAA so that whoever was interested could read my justifications for the unborn being living, human organisms. I didn't feel it necessary to insert any of the evidence into this article because 1) I could just link to it, 2) the article was long enough already, and 3) it would just clutter it up.

Draco Mater said...

Thanks for your reply, and for correcting me about that second quote.

The reason I find it hard to see continuing a pregnancy as "caring for" and "raising" a child is not because it's not voluntary, but because under most circumstances it doesn't actually require any action on my part beyond continuing the usual activities that keep myself alive. Even if I wasn't eating enough or taking care of myself well enough, the foetus is going to take what I have for itself regardless of what *I* need, and any extra eating I might do or multivitamins I might take (and fwiw I do take them) are in fact largely for my own benefit rather than the child's.

Even in all of my antenatal appointments, the focus on the health of my child seems limited to asking "has he been moving around?" and checking his heartbeat. They then spend an hour asking about *my* health.


I think about the only thing I've been able to do that is directly related to the health of the foetus is to attempt to avoid listeria. Giving up sushi doesn't feel like I'm caring for a child.


If I came across a child on my doorstep I could actually *do* something about it and take actions that were actually about the child. In pregnancy, it seems (and feels) much more like I'm a helpless bystander.


A moral obligation to not kill the child, sure, I'm behind that, and aborting a child isn't caring for or raising a child, but I don't think that means that pregnancy automatically *is*.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I see what you mean, and I'll consider what you've said. In regards to your original point, I don't know if one is ever morally obligated to "feel" a particular way. For example, I believe that one is morally obligated to take care of their child (I'm talking about a child who has been born here). However, I don't necessarily think one can be morally obligated to have a particular feeling about raising their kids. Raising kids certainly comes with frustrations, and I don't think a parent is being immoral by not always caring for their child cheerfully.

I can understand how pregnancy doesn't seem to be caring for a child, since it doesn't really require extra effort on your part as with raising a born child, but let me run this by you: pregnancies do come with some extra elements, such as discomfort, morning sickness, a painful delivery, etc. that wouldn't be present if she wasn't pregnant. Considering those extra elements involved, would you still say that being pregnant still is not raising or caring for a child?

156 said...

"You do not seem very interested in reasonable discourse."

So what is "reasonable discourse?" Not supporting your assertions using reliable evidence from unbiased sources?

"I linked to my article in the CAA so that whoever was interested could read my justifications for the unborn being living, human organisms."

Whatever your reasons for posting that citation, the mission of SPL is "To...combat stereotypes promulgated by the abortion lobby." Referencing the site of a group whose mission is the promotion of a sectarian religion, I think, does not help promote that mission.

156 said...

"...[K]illing innocent person B...to save innocent person A...is murder."

Most definitions of murder only include unlawful killing. Because abortion is lawful, I fail to see how you can justify your use of that word.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/murder

http://www.yourdictionary.com/murder

I realize you may accuse me of not reading your words closely, but you seem to be arguing that only children or psychopaths would not agree that killing someone to save another person is unethical. All of the polls that I have seen on the topic show that overwhelming majorities of adults in the United States and other countries favor abortion in the case of a threat to the mother's life. Are you saying that all of those people are psychopaths? Or just uninformed about abortion?

156 said...

"...Frank Beckwith...has qualifications..."

What are those qualifications? Again, I do not think that using a Christian apologist as a source helps SPL's mission of showing that the right-to-life message can be defended without sectarian dogma.

156 said...

"Are you saying I have the right to kill or harm someone without justification?"

No.

Draco Mater said...

I think it might depend on the nature of the extra elements, in general I'm not inclined to think they change much. The elements you listed (among many others) are very much normal parts of pregnancy and generally taken as indications that your body is doing precisely what it needs to, again with no action taken on your part. Where intervention occurs, it is generally for the wellbeing of the mother.

Perhaps a complicated medical history before pregnancy or very severe forms of pregnancy-related discomforts are different, though my understanding is that they are not the norm and I would hesitate to use them as examples to make general arguments about pregnancy. These factors are relevant to my own intensely uncomfortable pregnancy and I've had to make decisions about treatment taking my unborn child into account, but they're almost all decisions along the lines of "are the risks higher if I take this medication or if I have uncontrolled epilepsy?" and feeling helpless about being able to apparently make only bad or worse decisions and having no real way to know which is which until the baby is actually *born*, if even then. I made that decision (with help from doctors) among many others of similar seriousness and I'm honestly not sure whether even those decisions would qualify as "caring for a child", but even if they do they're very much special cases.

This is all assuming the child is healthy, of course. If there are obvious problems before birth then there are often more things that can actually be done, but this is also not normally the case (thank goodness).

Clinton Wilcox said...

Then this is where we'll have to agree to disagree. Sorry, but the best pro-life material has been written by Christians. If I want to use the best material, I can't limit myself just because you (I'm speaking of you, specifically, because none of the other Atheists who have read my posts have these objections) have a bias against Christians.

I do use Don Marquis' Future-Like-Ours argument, where relevant, but I don't use it as often because it's not as powerful as Beckwith's Substance View.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I'm not saying they're psychopaths, and I think I'm going to end our discussion here.

Kara Baylog said...

Careful, you are mistaking a significant portion of my words. I do not say women as a generalization are not strong enough to overcome the suffering induced by rape. I say simply that there are undoubtedly *some* women who may not be able to cope. You say, "You don't know for sure if a woman who is raped will end up in a worse psychological state" - That is exactly correct! And neither do you, which is to by default, say that the set of possibilities include that a woman will, yes, end up in a worse psychological state that she herself is not responsible for but has to bear nonetheless.

And you have not provided compelling evidence that there is not a significant difference between consensual sex and rape. Trauma resulting from a boyfriend threatening a girl for not getting an abortion is not trauma that can be healed with an abortion. If the man is doing that, he is an abusive partner. If she gets and abortion, her nightmare does not end there.

Keep in mind what trauma is (from wikipedia): "Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event. When that trauma leads to posttraumatic stress disorder, damage may involve physical changes inside the brain and to brain chemistry, which changes the person's response to future stress...

...Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events, but there are a few
common aspects. There is frequently a violation of the person's familiar
ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity. This is also seen when people or institutions, depended on for survival, violate or betray or disillusion the person in some unforeseen way.[2]"

Consensual sex is not a violation of a person's familiar ideas about the world and their human rights.

"Hardship" resulting from social pressures or financial pressures are not a " violation of the person's familiar
ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity." They are the exact opposite. they are expected consequences, concerns for the future reaction of peoples and conditions, which is why they are a stress.

Coyote said...

Actually, I think that Roe Flip makes a valid point. Here he's talking about a fetus conceived in rape being removed in one whole piece from the womb and dying due to its lack of development and weak body versus the Violinist being unplugged from your body and dying from the kidney illness as a result. I don't think that you ever addressed this point of Roe Flip.

Coyote said...

I disagree that just because you own something that has a particular function means that it must be used for that function against your will. For instance, if I own a hat and I use it to drink water from instead of wearing it on my head, it would still be my right to do this. If you're saying that the woman can't get an abortion because her uterus is naturally designed for the fetus even though it is her property, then you are guilty of committing the naturalistic fallacy.

Clinton Wilcox said...

That's not the naturalistic fallacy. The naturalistic fallacy would be committed if I were to say that it is moral to have children because animals have children. That's just what they do. Arguing from the function of something is not committing the naturalistic fallacy. You're not saying something is moral/immoral because it does/does not occur in nature, so it's natural. Arguing from natural law argues from the function of something, and from the act that works towards a thing's flourishing. It's a good argument if argued correctly, but I don't know enough about it to argue it correctly.


So as I indicated, my argument against abortion is not based on natural law, my argument against abortion is based on common human nature, and that it's immoral to kill an innocent human being, whether born or unborn.

Clinton Wilcox said...

The problem with that is it's currently not possible to surgically remove the unborn child without actively killing it. I suppose it's conceivable that a c-section could be done to remove the child whole, but I think that they would argue it's too dangerous for the woman (from my understanding, c-sections are only done in emergencies). But even if it could, you would still be the active agent in its death.

If you were to argue that abortion would be moral if we simply remove the unborn human from the environment in which she needs to exist in to survive, you could also argue that dropping someone in Antarctica naked, or dropping someone on the Moon without a spacesuit should not be considered murder. If you remove someone from the environment in which they can survive, you are still the active agent in that person's death.



If we had technology to keep the unborn child alive (such as artificial womb technology, which is currently being developed), then I would be all in favor of removing her (since abortion only entails the right to expel the embryo/fetus, not the right to kill it). Until that time, we can't lose sight that in the case where a woman finds herself pregnant following a rape, there's a second victim: the unborn child.

Coyote said...

Allright but your argument also works against unplugging the Violinist. If you'll remove the Violinist from the only situation or "environment" that he/she can survive by unplugging him/her, then you are an active agent in the Violinist's death.

Coyote said...

Actually, if you're arguing that ending pregnancy in cases of rape is immoral because your action is preventing the uterus's natural function (housing a fetus), then you are guilty of the naturalistic fallacy.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Actually, my argument doesn't work against unplugging the violinist. If you unplug from the violinist, you are not removing him from the environment in which he can survive. The environment from which he can survive is the same one as you or me, the Earth. By unplugging yourself, you are not the active agent in his death -- the pre-existing kidney ailment is.

Clinton Wilcox said...

That's not the naturalistic fallacy. You would commig the naturalistic fallacy by saying that animals get pregnant, therefore it is right for a woman to get pregnant (or perhaps, immoral not to). This is because nature is purely descriptive (the way things are), not prescriptive (the way things could be). It falls into the is-ought gap, that you can't derive an "ought" from an "is" because there's a missing premise. If your argument looks like this:

1) Animals get pregnant.

2) Therefore, humans should get pregnant.

Well, this doesn't follow at all. You're missing a second premise to get from animals getting pregnant to the "fact" that humans should get pregnant. You would need a premise like this:

1) Animals get pregnant.

2) Whatever animals do, humans should do, also.

3) Therefore, humans should get pregnant.

Now you have a valid argument, but it's unsound. Premise number two doesn't hold up, because animals do all sorts of things (like rape, murder, and steal) that humans should not do.

Natural Law Theory would state that the uterus' function is to facilitate the unborn child's presence during pregnancy. Therefore, abortion is wrong because it frustrates the uterus' natural function. I have a friend who defends Natural Law Theory. This is how he explains it:

"Natural law sees 'ought' as built in to the fabric of nature. It would indeed be fallacious to infer a prescriptive claim (e.g. 'It ought to rain') from a purely descriptive claim (e.g. 'It is raining'), but this is not what the natural law theorist is doing. On the natural law theorist's conception of the world, facts about creaturely flourishing make reference to intrinsic teleology and are thus inherently value laden.

Plus, we intuitively recognize the presence of natural normativity, especially when it comes to our practices concerning health, disease, and medical practice (i.e. 'X condition is bad!' therefore 'X ought to be treated!'). On the metaphysical framework that natural law morality is premised on, there simply is no fact-value distinction.

Note that there is no direct connection between God and teleology. Something has its function simply because of the type of material substance it is."

Clinton Wilcox said...

*commit
*the way things SHOULD be


Grr @ typos.

Josh Gonik said...

By "environment"/situation, I did not necessarily mean location, only "activity", if you will. The only situation in which the Violinist can survive in would be where he/she is plugged into your kidney(s). Changing the situation would cause the Violinist's death because he/she is not yet able to survive in another situation. You'll need to elaborate why the situation between the location and situation is relevant to this debate. Also, if you remove the fetus from your uterus alive/in one piece, you won't directly cause the fetus's death. Rather, the pre-existing "condition" of the fetus's body being too weak and underdeveloped to survive by itself/himself/herself would cause the fetus's death.

Clinton Wilcox said...

All right, but now you've committed the fallacy of equivocation. My argument is that by removing the unborn from the environment in which she can survive, you are actively killing it. Your assertion was that my argument also works against unplugging the violinist. My argument does *not* argue against unplugging from the violinist, because my argument is concerned with the environment. Just like if you dropped someone on the moon without a spacesuit, you would be guilty of murdering them, even though you didn't shoot them or stab them. That doesn't have anything to do with the situation, just the environment in which they need to survive.

By removing the fetus in one piece from the uterus and not placing them in another environment they can survive, you are directly causing their death, just as surely as you are causing someone's death by flying them to Antarctica and dropping them off naked. It's not an environment in which they can survive, especially without protective clothing.



Simply "changing the situation" isn't wrong, because you are not the active agent in your death. Suppose I was supposed to give you a ride home from work. But at the last minute I decide not to (for whatever reason). I have changed the situation, but if you have to walk home and get struck by a car, I am not responsible for your death even though I changed the situation. I did not cause your death, the driver of that car did. Just like if I were to unplug myself from the violinist, I would not be the active agent in the violinist's death, the pre-existing kidney condition would.

Natalia said...

I'm surprised nobodys addressed the sexism that is comparing a womans body to a peice of property(boat) and the horror of being pregnant by rape with the inconvenience of having to share a boat.

Property rights and bodily rights are not the same. Never have been never will be. Why pro lifers always confuse to the two I don't know. Well yes I do.

Let's ignore that for all of that for a minute. Are you prepared to say that a womans rights to ownership of her body and bodily autonomy hinge on whether or not she can avoid being raped?

Natalia said...

Sasha Richmond: The relationship between parent and child doesn't outweigh the rights to bodily autonomy. You're not obligated to donate your body to your child be that your uterus or your blood or bone marrow.

And a woman has obligations to the embryo based on what? Not her choices for sure. I'd even go so far as to say that the embryo is the rapists sole responsibility because it's his sole creation. That is, he's the only one responsible for his existence.

Natalia said...

People do have the right to take life in certain circumstances. Ever heard of self defense, castle doctrine etc?
What nobody has the right to is someone elses body. Period. It's unfair to say that someone has the right to a rape victims body but no one elses. If you're going to apply it, apply it across the board not just for embryos and rape victims.

Natalia said...

It's not always wrong to take innocent human life. You can kill a madman, who in the eyes of the law is innocent.
How far are you willing to take this? Should doctors be prosecuted for killing a parasitic twin because it's also innocent human life?
And how exactly is the embryo a victim? Was it raped to?

Clinton Wilcox said...

Hi, Natalia:

I think you're confusing the state of innocence. If a madman is innocent of any crimes, then no, you can't just kill them for any reason. However, if a madman is not aware of his own actions but is threatening the life of another person, then it may be necessary to kill that madman to protect the other person's life. This is why I argue that life-saving abortions are justified, because in that case the unborn are more like a madman who is threatening someone's life.

I'm not sure what you mean by how far am I willing to take this? I'm willing to take it as far as is reasonable. One may not take innocent human life without strong moral justification. I really don't think this is a controversial statement.



What do you mean by parasitic twin? In what way is this hypothetical twin parasitic?


Finally, the embryo is a second victim because he/she was not responsible for the condition he/she finds him/herself in, yet he/she is being killed for simply existing, a state that they were certainly not responsible for.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I know that people have the right to take life in certain circumstances. Of course I've heard of self-defense and castle doctrine. My position is that it does take strong moral justification to take human life. Since the preborn are human beings, then an equally strong moral justification is needed to kill them. If you can't justify killing a human being outside the womb for this reason, then you can't justify killing a human being in the womb.

I have applied this across the board. I believe that the preborn don't necessarily have the "right to another person's body," but they do have the right not to be killed. Since the only place they can reasonably survive is inside the womb, and they are a victim and not an aggressor, then I believe it is immoral to kill them, even if a woman was raped. She needs to be taken in for appropriate counseling -- taking innocent human life is not an appropriate response to an act of violence.

argent said...

I love when people who can't argue with good analogies try to make the argument that 'you can't compare a person's body to their property!' Yet even though they claim to see this as a fault in the analogy, they never seem to try correcting for it. It's almost as if situations in which a person requires the use of another person's body to survive are extremely rare and contrived outside of pregnancy. And what prochoicer wants to go through all that effort only to find that the analogy still holds?

I guess I'll just have to pick up the slack. Say you're about to irreversibly embark on a nine-month boat trip when someone breaks into your house, shoves a needle into your arm, and sends you on your way attached to his two-year-old daughter, who is unconscious and in a fragile medical condition. She will surely die if the blood transfer is disturbed.

Would it be right of you to rip out the needle and toss her overboard so that you don't have to be reminded of that terrible experience? The answer is still a resounding no.

Snoopy said...

I think you might have misunderstood my argument.

By unplugging the Violinist and removing the fetus from the womb, you are denying both of these individuals the use of the only "source" (the womb and your kidneys) which allows them to survive. The only difference is that the fetus is inside the woman's body and using the woman's body, while the Violinist is outside of the other person's body and using the other person's body. I don't see why being inside and outside of someone else's body when you're still using it to survive and sustain your life in both of these cases.

And actually, if the fetus is removed whole in one piece, then he/she would die due to its pre-existing lack of development, not due to your actions. It's a similar situation with the Violinist (pre-existing kidney illness) and being dropped off to Antarctica or wherever (pre-existing inability to survive in cold climates).

Your car scenario isn't exactly applicable here. A better scenario would be you removing someone from your boat who will then die due to his/her pre-existing inability to swim and/or his/her pre-existing inability to survive in cold temperatures.

Snoopy said...

In your car scenario, you are more or less refusing to save someone (somewhat similar to refusing to save a choking child in the park when no one else is around). In the Violinist scenario, the Violinist is recovering while he/she is using your body, but then you unplug him/her from your body and this action of unplugging results in the Violinist's death.

Snoopy said...

The thing is that is disagree with an absolute right not to be killed. I'm tempted to say that if one is not responsible for creating a situation where someone's right to bodily autonomy or property conflicts with someone else's right not to be killed, the person whose body and/or property is being used should be allowed to actively kill the other person. The only exception that I make for this is a "locational" conflict of rights, meaning that this conflict of rights can be alleviated if one of the people was moved to another location. Let me elaborate--it would be morally unjustifiable for a raped woman who is pregnant at nine months to go to an abortion clinic and get an abortion even if the abortion clinic is much closer to the nearest hospital where she can induce birth. Why? Because this is a "locational" conflict of rights situation which can be alleviated if the fetus is moved outside of the woman's body (since the fetus would still survive and the woman would have gotten the fetus outside of her body). In contrast, if a raped woman is pregnant for three or four months, then it is not a "locational" conflict of rights since the fetus cannot survive in any other location. Thus, it would be morally justifiable for the raped woman to kill this fetus in such a situation. Your scenario with the boat boy and the person hanging on your house while it is flying are "locational" conflicts of rights, and this is why it would not be morally justifiable to kill these other people.

Coyote said...

I am the same person as the previous two persons who responded to you in this thread. Basically I posted as Coyote but then I accidentally posted using my real name, and thus I then posted under the name Snoopy in order to avoid making it too obvious who I am (I try to protect my privacy).

Coyote said...

You can look up "parasitic twin" on Wikipedia for more info about this. Also, you can look at the case of Manar and Islaam Maged for a specific example.

Coyote said...

"The relationship between parent and child doesn't outweigh the rights to bodily autonomy. You're not obligated to donate your body to your child be that your uterus or your blood or bone marrow."

I agree with this. I think that it is morally justifiable to violate someone else's bodily autonomy if you are responsible for creating a situation with a dependent person, but not if you are not responsible.

Coyote said...

Could you please explain your friend's position in regards to this in simpler language?

Coyote said...

"One may not take innocent human life without strong moral justification. I really don't think this is a controversial statement."

I disagree with this statement.

As I said before:

"The thing is that is disagree with an absolute right not to be killed. I'm tempted to say that if one is not responsible for creating a situation where someone's right to bodily autonomy or property conflicts with someone else's right not to be killed, the person whose body and/or property is being used should be allowed to actively kill the other person. The only exception that I make for this is a "locational" conflict of rights, meaning that this conflict of rights can be alleviated if one of the people was moved to another location. Let me elaborate--it would be morally unjustifiable for a raped woman who is pregnant at nine months to go to an abortion clinic and get an abortion even if the abortion clinic is much closer to the nearest hospital where she can induce birth. Why? Because this is a "locational" conflict of rights situation which can be alleviated if the fetus is moved outside of the woman's body (since the fetus would still survive and the woman would have gotten the fetus outside of her body). In contrast, if a raped woman is pregnant for three or four months, then it is not a "locational" conflict of rights since the fetus cannot survive in any other location. Thus, it would be morally justifiable for the raped woman to kill this fetus in such a situation. Your scenario with the boat boy and the person hanging on your house while it is flying are "locational" conflicts of rights, and this is why it would not be morally justifiable to kill these other people."

Coyote said...

If you're willing to respond to my last comment, please do so.

No offense, but it does appear that you are making excuses in order to justify your case in favor of unplugging the Violinist while being opposed to removing and unplugging the fetus from the woman's body.

Coyote said...

In regards to your boat stowaway scenario, would you say that it is morally justifiable to deny this stowaway food and water from your refrigerator (or whenever) on your boat? If you deny this stowaway food and water, then this would be an even more obvious example of letting this stowaway die, rather than actively killing this stowaway.

Coyote said...

I just noticed a typo. Let me fix it right now:

I don't see why being inside versus outside of someone else's body is relevant to this debate when you're still using someone else's body/organs to survive and sustain your life in both of these cases.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I actually believe that you would be morally obligated to feed the stowaway, provided there is enough for both of you.

Coyote said...

In case it is not clear enough already:


1. The Violinist and fetus are using someone else's body in order to sustain their lives
2. If you unplug the Violinist and unplug and remove the fetus from your body, both of them will die due to pre-existing conditions (the lack of development for the fetus, the kidney illness for the Violinist).
3. If you do not do the actions which I listed in #2, both the Violinist and the fetus will remain alive.
4. If the Violinist and the fetus did not have these pre-existing conditions, then they would both survive after you did the actions which I listed in #2.

Not to be rude, but I'm still waiting for a response from you.

Coyote said...

But not feeding him is letting the stowaway die, not actively killing him.

If you're arguing in favor of forcing people to feed boat stowaways, couldn't the same rationale be used to force people to donate their blood/bone marrow/kidney/liver part if they are able to survive without these things?

Coyote said...

"But not feeding him is letting the stowaway die, not actively killing him."

To elaborate on this, the stowaway will die in this scenario due to his/her pre-existing condition of being unable to survive without eating (after a specific amount of time).

Andy Ree said...

...and in the case of RU 486 the placental disconnect from the induced early labor creates the scenario where the baby dies of its own pre-existing underlying biological deficiency----non-viability.

Clinton said...

Andy, that's an unfair comparison. Viability is not about a deficiency. If you remove the unborn from the environment in which they can survive, they're not dying from a preexisting condition. That would be like someone dropping someone else off in the middle of the ocean and claiming it wasn't murder, they were just dying from the preexisting condition of not being able to breathe underwater.


Or it would be like the moon men from H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon taking someone from Earth to the Moon and claiming that it's not murder, they just died from the preexisting condition of non-viability on the Moon.

Natalia/Katerina said...

The question isn't whether or not it's right. It's whether or not it's legal. Is it legal for me to rip the needle out of my arm? Absolutely.
It's not a good analogy. Property rights and bodily rights aren't the same. They just aren't. I'm not going to correct someone's argument. That's their job.

Clinton said...

This was an old comment that I didn't notice a year ago. But essentially comparing a woman's body to property is a perfectly legitimate move, since her body *is* her property, and property rights are usually argued in an attempt to justify abortion (e.g. as one can remove an unwanted intruder from their house by force, one can also remove an unwanted intruder from her body). But some pro-choice philosophers understand that property rights does not justify murder, so they argue from personhood, instead. So the boat analogy is not a sexist argument, it is an argument that makes a morally relevant comparison regarding what we can or cannot do (we cannot commit murder to remove an unwanted person from our property, be it a boat out at sea, our home, or our bodies, if the person is not a direct threat to us).