Wednesday, August 26, 2015

One or Many

Much has been said about bodily rights arguments, the arguments that state a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with anything inside her body, or that no woman should be forced to remain as life support for an unborn human being. I have responded to these arguments elsewhere. However, a similar argument used by some is that it's the dependency on her body that justifies the mother's right to kill the child. Usually one of the responses to this idea is that even born children are completely dependent on their mother for survival. An infant cannot feed himself, change himself, drive to the store to pick up necessities, etc. And the response to this is usually before birth, the child is dependent upon only one person, the mother, for survival, whereas after birth many people can take care of the child. Therefore, before birth the mother can kill the child (since no one else can take care of him), but after birth it's wrong because someone else can take care of him.

This is one of those arguments that just makes you scratch your head about how anyone can find it compelling. Why is it that the fewer people you burden, the more right someone has to kill you? And at any rate, this idea seems to be backward. The more dependent you are on somebody, the more of an obligation they have to help you, not less.

Former director of Justice for All, David Lee, uses the following analogy to respond to this idea. Suppose you're at a public pool, and you're the last one out. You're drying off but you hear a splash. You look in the pool and a child has fallen into the deep end, drowning. Assuming you can swim, do you have an obligation to save this child? It would seem that yes, you do. You can't just walk away, because you're the only one this child is now dependent on to save his life.

This is one of those arguments that won't seem to ever die. Nevertheless, it can be pretty easily dispatched.

Edit: a few people pointed out that I wasn't very clear in what argument I was responding to. I'll chalk it up to fatigue of spending a few hours trying to write something, then rejecting it, and eventually writing this at 12:00 midnight, which is way past my bedtime (I'm an early to bed, early to rise kind of guy). :) I've edited this to make it clearer.

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