Feb 27, 2010

pro abortion article fails to successfully oppose life

-In response to an article in a certain O-week magazine, p.43.

Dear Kathy

Many 10 year olds are, no doubt, annoying brats who, while we can give it cute names like “providing the necessities of life”, essentially leech off their gullible parents. Many elderly folk are similarly dependent upon others for various aspects quite fundamental to their continued life. And yet, some members of society would perhaps find it morally problematic if viable 10 (or 100) year old members of the human species were approached in their thousands by medical professionals and destroyed with the aid of chemicals or a process of cutting their limbs off and/or removing their not-fully-competent brains with a shiny kind of suction device. (That, my friends, was what I like to call understatement.)

Such expected respect is though, frequently not accorded to members of the species who have not yet proceeded from the birth canal or through a C-section. I appreciate there are various complicating factors in discussions on abortion, including the means by which pregnancy was achieved and precisely how intentional it was. However your article fails to mention such issues and skips straight to confusing a few important distinctions whilst failing to explain why the above anomaly, about whom we may kill in our society, exists. Further, you even claim that the foetus, according to science, that hallowed source of all true knowledge, is not alive. I realize that biology sometimes isn’t treated as a full science by, say, mathematicians; but it deserves a little more respect in this discussion. I note that you yourself correctly refer to a fertilized egg as an “organism” – in case you haven’t yet got my point, this would entail that the zygote and hence embryo is alive.

What’s more, we actually don’t need to discuss the soul, let alone substance dualism, to place some value on human life. Most atheists and other soul-deniers will hopefully agree with this; unfortunate history of the 20th century aside. Which all brings me to a second failure of your article: the foetus and embryo are in fact biologically human – given their genetic and cellular make up, what else could they be? A more relevant question in the literature is whether they are a person and in particular, whether they are the same person as the one who might later go to university and oh-so ironically argue for abortion. The debates continue (and it seems to me that most criteria other than the biological for granting personhood fail abysmally morally); but one position that is surely untenable, Kathy, is yours, for it is incoherent. An extra fun debating point for those of you who are particularly fond of female members of the species might be to consider the phenomenon of sex-selective abortion and infanticide in the majority world, including China. Do the maths; women have lost big-time through the popularization of abortion-on-demand (and especially by demand.)

Does this all mean that I oppose contraception? No and yes. The majority of students at Auckland who are having sex of whichever kind with each other wouldn’t be in the ideal world, for it works out best in a marriage relationship; but you don’t need to buy that to reject Kathy’s concepts, as the argument against abortion isn’t in the same moralistic boat. For if it is indeed true that, say, the morning after pill (sometimes an abortifacient drug) prevents the development of a potentially viable human life then we have a problem, divine revelation or not. And it actually doesn’t follow that individual gametes are worthy of the kind of respect accorded to people – briefly because, prior to joining up with a suitable partner, they’re not going anywhere – but after joining and implantation, unless something interferes quite drastically, they’re probably going to eventually pop out and one day be enjoying lives like ours; walking and talking and arguing about abortion. Sure, they need some help in the form of nutrients and the like to get where their biological programme is sending them, but as suggested earlier, the same is true of all developing humans. And unlike 10 year olds, they're pretty cheap to clothe.

The murder of abortion provider George Tiller may help to stir up the troops, but is not worthy of the central role given it in your pro choice drama. The murder has been condemned by major pro life groups all over the world. The term “pro life” may help to explain why this might be. Perhaps a cynical utilitarian argument could be mounted, suggesting that pro life logic results in Christians and their pro life friends killing those who ‘murder unborn children.’ But you would find that not many of us are in fact utilitarians; and I suspect the societal consequences of such a militant move would render any arguments in its favour moot. Killing people is generally a bad idea, which is the whole point really, isn’t it? If the realm of abortion is in fact the middle ground, it is an overly-dangerous place to be for young human beings and if you ever face the awesome responsibility of caring for such a person, I sincerely recommend looking into their little face with ultrasound technology and joining the side where life remains.

Kind regards,


  1. http://syndicated.livejournal.com/softerworldfeed/120607.html

  2. yep, that's definitely the solution. If you could just help me borrow 10,000 nuclear warheads from the US...