Disclaimer

Many of my essays are quite old. They were, in effect, written by a person who longer exists in that my views, beliefs, and overall philosophy have grown and evolved over the years. Consequently, if I were to write on the same topics again, the resulting essays might differ significantly from their current versions. Rather than edit my essays to remain contemporary with my views, I have chosen to preserve them as a record of my past inclinations and writing style. Thank you for understanding.

April 2005

The Abortion Debate

Pro-choice, with an explanation you probably haven't heard before

Brief Description

I'm pro-choice. It's that simple. However, why am I pro-choice? That's a interesting question. Rather then get all emotional and angry about it, I have a rational argument that I believe cannot be disputed without resorting to hypocrisy. The abortion debate often degenerates to an argument about the definition of human life, or more specifically, to the question of when life begins. The explanation for why the debate transforms into this new life-beginning form is the assumption that everyone will agree that, after their personal definition of the starting point of life has occurred, they will then agree that abortion is morally wrong because all people have equal rights once they are definitely established to be people, i.e., once their life begins. I have a different take on this. I argue that people are not all equal. In a country riled with racial prejudice, such a statement is unfathomably heretical, but I will defend it rationally, and you will come out of it agreeing with me...I hope.

Full Description

Sections:

My Stance

My views on abortion are quite simple. My reasons, on the other hand, are complicated and deeply thought out, as detailed below. My view is the following, ripped almost without modification from my earlier mind ramblings topic, Abortion and Men's Reproductive Rights. No one has the right to force a woman to undergo nine months of increasingly difficult pregnancy. No one has the right to force a woman to experience the physically torturous event of childbirth. To force that kind of pain and fatigue on another person is akin to torture. No one has the right to force a woman to go through the well-established emotional bond that occurs during childbirth with an unwanted baby. If your response to abortion is adoption then you are sadly naive. First of all, forcing the option of adoption on a woman doesn't solve any of the problems previously stated, pregnancy, childbirth, and emotional trauma. More importantly, adoption just doesn't work. There are so many children waiting for foster families that adding to that group only increases the number of children without families. To put it plainly, this amounts to increasing the number of children in the world who are, quite simply, unwanted. Besides, how does a solution which involves dumping your problem on someone else really count as a solution at all?

The previous paragraph summarizes my view on abortion, and justifies it in emotional terms, by which I mean it justifies my point of view through strong belief and opinion. However, the question remains, what is the underlying source of my opinion? Where does my opinion that forcing a woman to undergo pregnancy and childbirth against her will is wrong come from? This essay argues that everyone, pro-life and pro-choice alike, ultimately agrees with the reason I use to justify my stance on abortion, and that therefore, a pro-life stance is hypocritical.

Framing the Debate

In order to properly discuss the contemporary debate about abortion, it is worth taking the time to carefully analyze the pattern most such debates follow. When such a debate begins, it usually starts out with the two sides stating either that life is sacred and lies beyond the purview of human authority or that a woman simply has the right to control her own body. From this starting point, there is usually a metamorphosis of the debate that goes quietly unnoticed. The new topic of debate becomes: When does a human life begin? The generally unstated reason for this change in the debate is the generally unstated assumption that if everyone can simply agree when life begins, then the debate will be resolved on the assumption that everyone will agree that abortion is ethical before life begins and unethical after life begins. Usually people don't specifically state this, they just let the argument shift gears in this way without much conscious attention. It is worthwhile taking a moment to reflect on this shift in topic, if only because it is so rarely noticed at a conscious level.

There are numerous points of view on the newly transformed debate. Most pro-life people believe the answer is at conception. Many Catholics behave as if they believe it starts even sooner, since they have ethical problems with contraception, which would interfer with conception. The most extreme point of view in the other direction is generally that life begins at birth. In between conception and birth there lies a nine to ten month window where many individuals' opinions will fall. Some people say the beginning of the third trimester is the magical moment. Some define it by the first heartbeat, some define it by the first brain waves, some define it by the moment past which a removed fetus could successfully survive using medical intervention (a slippery rope since medical technology is always improving).

This, then, is the newly framed debate. An unspoken agreement about the ethics of abortion on either side of the moment of life's beginning sparks a vitriolic debate about when the magic moment occurs.

Dismissing the Unspoken Assumption

I believe an opportunity has been missed by the unspoken assumption mentioned above. The opportunity is to transform the debate once again, into terms of a flavor I have never before encountered on this topic. I will transform the debate by ceding to the pro-lifers on the debate of life's beginning. I argue that it doesn't matter when life begins. If people want to believe that life begins at conception, I say fine, let's go with that assumption and see where it takes us.

This would appear, on the surface, to be a complete surrender to the pro-life argument, but only because no one ever asks the most heretical question in the entire debate. I will be heretical enough to ask it here. The assumption that underlies the debate of life's beginning is that everyone already agrees, in advance, about the ethics concerning abortion as it relates to life's beginning. The assumption is that everyone agrees that abortion is ethical before life's beginning and unethical after life's beginning.

A quick sidenote on that statement. Obviously, there are pro-life people who would never agree with the statement that they believe abortion is ethical "at some point". They would argue they believe abortion is never ethical. This is not in contrast to my statement. They have simply defined the moment of life's beginning at the earliest possible moment in a pregnancy, thus there is no time before life's beginning when an abortion could occur because there is simply nothing to abort. Interestingly, just such a debate does seem to exist however, the debate over the ethical use of contraception, as mentioned with reference to Catholics above. This veers too far off topic however so I will avoid it for the most part. Let us assume, for the sake of defining the argument in agreeable terms, that if one believes life starts at conception, then one only agrees that abortion is ethical prior to life's beginning only with absurd sarcasm since one believes there is nothing to abort prior to conception anyway.

What is of greater interest to me is the assumption that everyone agrees that after life begins, whenever that event occurs, abortion is unethical. The supporting argument is that after life begins, a human then exists, and all humans have equal rights, most namely the infinite right to exist.

The Most Heretical Statement

Finally, this brings us to the point I wish to make, the point I use to justify my stance of being pro-choice, the point which, after explanation, most readers will discover they agree with despite its atrocious nature. That point is the following. I believe that all people are not equal, particularly that all people do not have the same degree of right to exist as all other people. Some people have a greater right to exist than others. Most readers believe this as well, but they do not realize it yet, because such a statement is so unorthodox they have never given it the necessary consideration to realize the truth of their belief on this issue.

How can I justify such an assertion? It goes like this. I believe that people have the unlimited right to exist, up to the point where that right infringes on other people's major rights, such as the right to control their own body. Don't worry, I won't rely merely on arguments concerning a woman's control over her body, I have better examples to draw on. Once one person's right to exist ventures into territory where that existence can only be perpetuated at the expense of another person's body, that right to exist becomes weaker than the other person's right to control their body.

If I were going to stay without the bounds of the abortion debate, I would use the argument that a woman has the right to control her own body to defend my assertion, but not only is this pointless due to the fact that it is framed within the original debate to begin with (the same people who disagree about abortion disagree about a woman's right to control her own body), but worse, relying on such an argument is entirely circular, as it brings us back to the same debate we began with, thus providing no useful resolution. Instead, I will use, by analogy, similar situations where almost everyone agrees, regardless of their stance on abortion. I will argue that anyone who agrees with my analogies but disagrees solely on the topic of abortion is a hypocrite whose beliefs cannot be rationally defended since such beliefs are entirely paradoxical and therefore illogical.

What analogies do I have in mind? Here's three, all related: blood donation, kidney donation, and bone marrow donation. Do we, as a society, believe that people who have a kidney to spare (true of every single human that exists) should be legally obligated to donate a kidney whenever one is needed? Do we, in fact, believe that the government should physically sieze a person with two kidneys, take them to a hospital by force, and remove that person's kidney without their permission? Clearly the answer is no. No one agrees such behavior is acceptable. It would save people's lives, there is no doubt about that, and yet we do not require people to do this. People have the right to simply let other people die rather than offer transplants and donations that could save lives. Seems kind of unfair to the people who are dieing, but that is what we believe. Almost without exception, that is what everyone believes.

Why do we believe this so strongly even though it costs lives? The reason is simple. We believe a person's right to control their own body outweighs a person's right to exist at the expense of the first right. That's all there is to it. That's the reason we legally let people let people die, to coin a phrase.

Bone marrow donation makes the point even more clearly. Bone marrow compatability is extremely low outside the family. This means that a potential bone marrow source is a person who is personally connected to the patient who requires the transplant, through a sheer coincidence of unlikelihood. Even when two people such as this are brought together, where it is possible no other potential source will ever be found, the person with the life-saving bone marrow still has the right to say no and let the patient die. This is what we all believe. The alternative, a police-state that forcibly removes parts of people's bodies without their permission, is truly unthinkable to us, a worse heresy than my statement above.

A pregnant woman is in a very similar situation. One person depends on another person for their very life. There is no debate about the fetus's personhood since we ceded to the pro-lifers earlier in this essay. The question is this: does the fetus have a right to exist that supercedes the mother's right to control her own body? In some way, pregnancy is a greater bodily trauma than the donation situations mentioned above. While kidney donation is a severe situation and leaves the donating person in weakened health, the same is not true for blood or bone marrow donation, and yet we all believe and agree that blood donation, for example, should not be a state-requirement of all civilians. Is there an argument that favors a fetus's right to exist over the mother's health and control of her body, but which also allows people to refuse to donate blood that can save people's lives? If there is a rational argument, not an emotional one, that justifies such a hypocrisy, I cannot think of it myself and I have not yet heard it from anyone else.

Some people might respond that babies and fetuses are helpless. They need someone else to stand up for them because they can't stand up for themselves, but this argument makes no sense. Someone who requires a blood transfusion to live is equally helpless. The fact that they aren't a baby is of no relevance. Such an argument is based on our tendency to think that babies are cute, or that we are obligated to take care of babies, but this is not rational or logical, it is purely emotional. Anyone who's existence depends on another's person is helpless by definition, regardless of their age.

Reiteration of the Main Points

I will summarive the main points. One, the debate on abortion degenerates to a debate on life's beginning. Two, this is premised on the assumption that abortion must necessarily be unethical after life's beginning because, three, all people, once they exist, have the infinite right to exist. Four, all people do not, in fact, have the same right to exist. Some people have less right to exist than others, namely, people whose existence depends on the body of another person. Five, therefore, abortion is ethical regardless of the ridiculous debate over when life begins. And finally six, anyone who agrees with the arguments made about bone marrow, kidney, and blood donations, but still holds a pro-life stance, clings to a necessarily hypocritical point of view, unless they can otherwise state a rational argument in their favor that I am, as yet, unaware of.

I would really like to hear what people think of this. If you prefer private feedback, you can email me at kwiley@keithwiley.com. Alternatively, the following form and comment section is available.

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Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2013/01/30 04:19:01 GMT
I was happy to see your view point. I am struggling with this topic on both sides because of my own religious beliefs and what I would actually do if I had to decide based on my own selfish feelings. It's easy for some to say what they would do until it actually happened to them. I am currently writing a paper on this subject for a class and am struggling immensely. I also have to debate pro-choice in another class. Funny, I can find a million reasons to be pro-life, but all it takes is the one reason I have to be pro-choice and that is what I would do if I had to make this decision because of some unforseen circumstance. Anyway, my questions to you is - isn't there a difference between allowing someone to die (kidney), and taking a life by disconnecting it's life source (abortion). Not judging, just wondering.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2013/01/30 04:18:42 GMT
I was happy to see your view point. I am struggling with this topic on both sides because of my own religious beliefs and what I would actually do if I had to decide based on my own selfish feelings. It's easy for some to say what they would do until it actually happened to them. I am currently writing a paper on this subject for a class and am struggling immensely. I also have to debate pro-choice in another class. Funny, I can find a million reasons to be pro-life, but all it takes is the one reason I have to be pro-choice and that is what I would do if I had to make this decision because of some unforseen circumstance. Anyway, my questions to you is - isn't there a difference between allowing someone to die (kidney), and taking a life by disconnecting it's life source (abortion). Not judging, just wondering.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2013/01/30 04:18:13 GMT
I was happy to see your view point. I am struggling with this topic on both sides because of my own religious beliefs and what I would actually do if I had to decide based on my own selfish feelings. It's easy for some to say what they would do until it actually happened to them. I am currently writing a paper on this subject for a class and am struggling immensely. I also have to debate pro-choice in another class. Funny, I can find a million reasons to be pro-life, but all it takes is the one reason I have to be pro-choice and that is what I would do if I had to make this decision because of some unforseen circumstance. Anyway, my questions to you is - isn't there a difference between allowing someone to die (kidney), and taking a life by disconnecting it's life source (abortion). Not judging, just wondering.

Name:chassisparts Date/Time:2012/08/24 06:14:13 GMT
Can anybody point to some other posts on this thread subject? I need some in-depth info...
Any recommendation will definitely be gratefully appreciated.

Gracias!

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2012/01/08 05:28:42 GMT
Can u post some of ur responses to some of the emails?

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2011/11/21 04:51:16 GMT
I'm sorry. Your absolutely right that men and women should have just as much legal and moral responsibility toward a child's welfare in every way. In my comment earlier, the men in the scenario weren't just absent in their duties, they were absent from existing, which was pointless since males can apparently lactate. I was just pointing our a situation where someone's right to their body yielded to another's right to life.

Name:Keith Date/Time:2011/10/27 14:56:25 GMT
Hey, thanks for writing. In response to your question, no we definitely would not blame a woman for her child's death on the grounds that she refused to breastfeed it. You said it yourself, its "negligent homicide", which men can commit too. Breasts aren't relevant. Your suggestion makes it sound like a woman who does this has committed a *different* crime from a single father in the same situation. That doesn't make much sense does it? The crime isn't "refusing to breastfeed", it's just good old fashioned child neglect. The only other way to have it is to criminalize women in a situation where men would not be seen as criminal (for the crime you suggest). It would be a terrible law that says women have committed a crime that men in the same situation have not committed.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2011/10/27 13:35:14 GMT
If a mother refused to breastfeed her child and that child died from malnutrition, we wouldn't we consider that negligent homicide? The right to her body does not supersede the right to life in this situation. Isn't this more analogous to a pregnancy?

Name:Keith Date/Time:2011/08/25
NOTE THAT ALL COMMENTS OLDER THAN THIS ONE PREDATE THE COMMENT SYSTEM. They originated as email feedback and have been retroactively converted to public comments to seed the new comment system. As such I have redacted them where appropriate for the purpose of preserving their anonymity.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2009/11/30
Dr. Wiley,

Ordinarily, I would never respond to someone's essay but since you specifically requested feedback - I feel obliged to do so. I stumbled onto your essays while doing some last minute research for a paper I've been working on (discussion of Foucault, the repressive hypothesis, and its contributions to the abortion debate). Your April 2005 essay "The Abortion Debate" is wonderfully ironic and poignant. I have been pro-choice since I was old enough to understand the basis of the abortion debate and have never read/heard of the comparisons that you drew despite that they make perfect sense.

"We believe a person's right to control their own body outweighs a person's right to exist at the expense of the first right." - could not have put it better myself.

Bravo and, per your disclaimer, I hope that your pro-choice opinions have not changed significantly.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2009/04/06
Hey, I am writing an ethics paper for a Philosophy on Ethics and Morals class, I have just been browsing through websites finding different opinions and viewpoints. I have to say that yours is probably the most well written and legit article I have found, and trust me, I've looked through plenty. You have greats point and also great logic. Just thought I'd drop by and let you know what I think!
Pro-Choice!

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2008/06/24
Mr. Wiley, you have asked for feedback, so I'll give you some. I reject your argument in favour of abortion based on the following flaws in the logic:

1. Strong Emphasis on Beliefs. In spite of your attempt at a logical construct, your argument begins with subjective and emotional statements compounded by articles of faith one is assumed to have. This emphasis continues throughout the piece. You are presenting opinion as fact. You BELIEVE no one has the right to force a woman to undergo pregnancy; you BELIEVE that the emotional trauma of being separated from a newly born infant is unfair (somehow more so than cutting the infant in pieces), you BELIEVE that pregnancy is a greater bodily trauma than giving kidney or marrow (not true). Beliefs are not an argument for anything.

2. Indifference Equals Malevolence. Refusing to donate a kidney to someone with renal failure is not the same as abortion. In one case you're simply doing nothing to stop a death from natural causes. In the other, you are actively causing that person's death. In the first case you're a bystander; in the second you're a murderer. There is nothing hypocritical about this. What you describe is like a farmer who has his chicken coop cleaned out by a fox and then shoots his pig because he saw the fox. The pig could have prevented the raid and didn't; therefore he is as guilty of the deaths of the chickens as if he were the fox himself. You wanted a rational argument; there it is. Indifference does not equal malevolence.

3. Indifference to Causation. Pregnancy is completely preventable; end-stage renal failure and other diseases usually are not. Unless she is a victim of rape, a woman has no excuse—none—for an unplanned pregnancy. Failure to control passion is not an excuse. A fondness for fun is not an excuse. Drugs and alcohol are not an excuse. There is the remote chance of failed contraceptive, but in America last year there were over 1 million abortions, and few of them were the result of broken condoms. Most of them occurred because the mother stood by with her hands in her pockets, whistling, while the pucks piled up in the net.

4. Appeal to emotion. Your argument that a woman should not have to go through the discomfort of pregnancy just because she was careless is based on emotion and therefore invalid. Your comparison to torture of a woman bonding with a newborn infant (which she didn't' want, remember) and then having it taken for adoption is based on emotion AND belief and therefore invalid. Your attempt to downplay adoption as an option based on the numbers of older children in foster care (ignoring the well-known fact that the adoption market for NEWBORNS is very much a seller's market), and then dismissing adoption as "dumping," is an appeal to emotion AND naive therefore invalid. When it comes to policy-making, all emotional concerns are always invalid.

5. My rights end—well, they don't, do they? Throughout the piece you argue that it is de facto law and also accepted by a society that a person's right to control their body exceeds that of another to life. This is untrue. In the case of the kidney patient, the potential donor's right to exercise ownership over his own vital organs does not contribute to the patient's death. The patient was already dying, remember. He could save the patient, but if he does not, he is still not a party to his death because he is not the cause. In the case of abortion, the mother is in little danger of losing organs or suffering permanent harm (and in cases where the doctor finds otherwise, a therapeutic abortion is perfectly ethical, if unfortunate), and is really only being inconvenienced for a few months, which she could have prevented from ever occurring with a minimum of effort. Yet you argue that she has the right to actively and deliberately dismember the fetus alive, simply to avoid a little weeping at the end. And, of course, you would never consider YOURSELF to be one of those people who has less right to exist than others. That's quite the pedestal you've erected for yourself, my friend. Take care you don't fall off; it's a long way down.

You can play the insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life of his hungry brothers in the dust until the cows come home, you can accuse pro-lifers of hypocrisy and mendacity until you're blue in the face, but the ineradicable truth of the matter is that women want abortion because they WANT it and that, to them, is where the discussion ought to end. I know it, you know, it, they know it. The difference is that of those three groups, I'm the only one who cares.

Frankly, none of this should have to be spelled out to someone clever enough to be working towards a Ph.D. You didn't run these arguments by very many people before you posted them, did you? In the future, I suggest you do so—so the more glaring flaws in the logic can then be removed, or at least polished over. It seems education level doesn't always tell, not in the ways that matter.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2007/05/22
The question is this: does the fetus have a right to exist that supercedes the mother's right to control her own body? In some way, pregnancy is a greater bodily trauma than the donation situations mentioned above. While kidney donation is a severe situation and leaves the donating person in weakened health, the same is not true for blood or bone marrow donation, and yet we all believe and agree that blood donation, for example, should not be a state-requirement of all civilians. Is there an argument that favors a fetus's right to exist over the mother's health and control of her body, but which also allows people to refuse to donate blood that can save people's lives? If there is a rational argument, not an emotional one, that justifies such a hypocrisy, I cannot think of it myself and I have not yet heard it from anyone else.

First, there is no reason that a right must 'supersede' a mother's right. Logic would dictate that equal rights, is enough. For instance, the right to life, allows individuals to defend their lives. If someone is attacking another individual, their equal rights, allows the 'victim' to kill the attacker if necessary to protect their life. The victim's rights don't supersede the attacker, they both have the right to life. Even if you used your own analogy with blood or bone marrow donations. You stated "We believe a person's right to control their own body outweighs a person's right to exist at the expense of the first right,", yet one doesn't have to have a right to control one's own body that outweighs a person's right to exist. Simply having a right to control one's body that is equal to the right to exist, would be enough to prevent forced donations. Super rights are not required, as equal rights are enough, because if they are equal, then you would still have to respect such rights. Their right to exist doesn‚t outweigh the right to bodily autonomy, which is not the same as stating that the right to control their body outweighs a person's right to exist. This difference allows for equal rights to be the minimum, where your statement illogically concludes that superior rights are necessary.

Second I don't see the hypocrisy in refusing to save a life, and taking action to ensure that a life dies. Abortion is not like refusing to donate an organ or blood because abortion is a direct and deliberate action to kill human life. Refusing to donate and abortion both have the same end result, a human being dies, but donating is a preventive measure, it stops the dying process, while abortion stops the living process. So I don't see the hypocrisy because they are fundamentally different.

Now with said, I do believe a federally recognized document which establishes our primary, and core unalienable rights, does in fact show that the unborn's life is of equal footing with the mother's Life, and Liberties. From the Declaration of Indepedence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,

This nation is founded on the principle that we are all created equal (not born equal), endowed with the Right to Life, and Liberty. All humans, young and old, born or unborn have an unalienable right to life (right to existence), from the moment of creation. This establishes that the unborn‚s right and the mother‚s right are on equal footing, with none being superior. And liberty cannot be used to destroy human life. There is no justification or cause to believe that liberty such as a right to bodily autonomy or right to privacy should be used to destroy human life. It wouldn't make any sense that Liberty can be used to deny Life. They are of the same nature with the same wieght, so to believe that one can be used to 'out weight' the other is fundementally flawed. And as I already pointed out, abortion is a liberty that destroys a life in progress.

If the right to life and liberty is conflicted because the mother‚s heath is threatened either mortally, or by permanent disability, then abortion is reasonable as she has as much of a right to life and liberty as the unborn. Their equal rights allow them both to be protected, but this is only when Life and Liberty are in conflict. The mother has the right to defend herself from bodily injury, no matter if the attacker is from within or is a boyfriend, father, mother, sister, or stranger. (An unborn child also has this right, but its lack development makes this point rather amuzing, but ultimately consequence free, (and therefor moot)).

Hopefully this gives you something to think about....I enjoyed your presentation and arguement.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2006/11/17
Keith,

I am responding to your abortion debate mind ramblings. I was curious
about your "rational argument that [you] believe cannot be disputed without resorting to hypocrisy." But once I read the argument, I was disappointed. (Perhaps, I expected too much out of mere "mind ramblings"?) I think your
argument can easily be disputed, and the reasons are as follows.

First, let me agree with you that people do not have an unlimited right to exist,
as you say. A person who goes on a killing spree does not have a right to exist.
He/she has forfeited his/her right to walk on the earth. We are permitted, nay
obligated, to kill a person who goes on a killing spree in order to save lives.
This is just the well known right to kill for the purposes of self-defense.

So, I think that everyone believes that the right to life (or "to exist" as you put it)
is limited. We could probably list a bunch of ways in which it is limited.
In particular, I think we should point out the time limitation. We don't have
a right to exist on this earth forever. Death is the natural destiny of every
biological organism; and this is something we just have to accept. I suppose
we could imagine there being advanced technology in the future that keeps
people alive indefinitely, but probably not forever. Even if such technology existed, it would likely be limited in availability. Would such technology have to be
made available to everyone? Does everyone have the right to technology that keeps a person alive indefinitely, without which a person would succumb to inevitable natural death? I think that you, Keith, would answer no, and I and other people would be inclined to agree with you.

This brings us to the issue of organ donation, which you discussed in your mind
rambling. You say that we have a right not to be forced to make such donations, even if such donations were to save lives. To quote you literally, "People have the right to simply let other people die rather than offer transplants and donations that could save lives." Fine. So this is another example of how the right to exist is limited. But then you apply this to the situation of a pregnant woman. You say that she is also forced to make a donation: she is donating her womb to keep her fetus alive. You say that she, also, should not be forced to make the donation; and so you think you can conclude that she ought to have a right to have an abortion.

But the analogy is far from compelling. First of all, it is awkward to say that a woman can be forced into pregnancy. She can be forced via rape, but rape is
already illegal, and that is irrelevant anyway to the more usual case of pregnancies not caused by rape. In the general case, no woman is forced to be pregnant. If she does not want to get pregnant, then she should avoid pregnancy. There are ways to do that. What if she wanted to get pregnant, got pregnant, then decided that she didn't want to be pregnant anymore? Well, she has to make up her mind. There's always a point when you have make up your mind and that's it.

Besides, once you donate something, you don't necessarily have a right to ask to get it back. You cannot say, "Hey, can you give me back my kidney which I donated to you earlier, even though you will die without it?" In the same way, once a woman has "donated her womb" to a fetus, I don't think she has a right to rescind that donation. The pro-life position is, of course, that once you are pregnant, that's it. You have passed a point of no return. The only moral option for the pregnant woman is to let things take their natural course, allow the pregnancy to come to term, and have the baby. That would be analogous to letting things take their course and allowing a person to die, even if a blood transfusion or kidney donation would have saved the person.

Secondly, (and this is critical) it is one thing to sit there, do nothing, and allow a person to die. I for one am sitting here, doing nothing except writing this email, while people are dying all over the world. But, it is quite another thing to do something, something like taking the necessary steps of killing a person (by grabbing a gun and shooting, or using a knife and stabbing, or taking some poison and injecting, etc.). That is exactly what many people would argue is going on in abortion. Abortion is something that is done in order to kill a human being. (And you have already conceded, at least for the sake of argument, that an unborn fetus is a human being.) By doing nothing, that is, nothing besides going about her typical daily business, a pregnant woman will eventually give birth to a baby, assuming the fetus is normal and healthy. But she has to do something, like have an abortion, in order to have the fetus die before it comes to term.

One more thing: another flaw in your analogy is that pregnancy is a natural,
ordinary occurence. Generally speaking, the pro-life position is that only extra-ordinary measures of keeing a person alive can be be morally refused, like hooking up a person to an ICU life-support system. Thus, in the Terry Schiavo case, pro-lifers insisted that allowing Terry to die was immoral because she was refused the non-extraordinary provisions of food and water.

Therefore, I think your analogy clearly falls flat, and anyone who does not agree
with your arguments should be exempt from the label "hypocrite". How do you respond to these refutations of your so called indisputable argument?

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2006/08/18
Keith,

I was recently browsing the internet for postings on abortion and I encountered your blog posting from April 2005 where you present a bodily rights defense of abortion. I am always interested in learning people's thoughts on this topic and was interested to read yours.

I know your posting was more than a year ago you may have already received a great deal of commentary but I wasn't wondering if you realize that this particular defense of abortion rights is actually quite weak and fairly easily refuted. Really the only defenses for abortion that rests on any kind of decent foundation are personhood arguments. But surely you know this by now?

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2006/02/28
Hi Keith --

I haven't come to terms with why I feel so strongly about abortion -- it's my struggle to understand why I'm fervently pro-choice that lead me to your website. [...] There's a lifetime of events that have lead me to be pro-choice, and yet I'm conflicted about being so -- mostly because my rational mind hasn't caught up. I want to take emotion out of my political stance and make sure I can still honestly be pro-choice.

Your argument was refreshing. I have a question... (not that you have to have the answer, or should take the time to answer... but if you have any insight you'd care to share, I'd be grateful).

In arguing that forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term is akin to forcing a person to donate a kidney, you sort of gloss over the fact that it *could* have been the woman's decisions that lead her to be pregnant in the first place (rape and incest aside). A person who could save a life by donating body parts is not obligated to do so -- in part this is because policing people's bodies isn't what a civilized society does -- but also the person presumably played no part in causing the helplessness of the dying patients.

You touch on this when you mention that bone marrow donations usually must come from family members. Parents who have chosen to have children whom later in life contract bone cancer are in a round about way responsible for the child's suffering -- but this cause and effect is not obvious and the parents are not to blame. The parents, of course, are under no legal obligation to donate bone marrow, but translating that lack of legal obligation to abortion rights doesn't completely work... Having sex and getting pregnant is a more obvious cause and effect. A woman seeking an abortion (again, rape and incest aside) is at least half responsible for the baby being helpless and dependent on her -- doesn't this mean she owes that person something?

Maybe the answer is no, but I'm having trouble justifying that.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world.

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2005/12/04
hello,

i'm [...], and i was writing an intensive
paper on the ethics of abortion, and i caught your
site. i had never heard of your argument before, but i
realized that it's pretty solid, and i just wanted to
direct appreciation where it's due. i'd be glad to
read anything else you've written on other
moral/social/contemporary problems. also, you'll be
duly cited in my paper.

thank you

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2005/10/19
Let's cede the fact that:

- life begins at conception
- no one has the right to take the life of another- i.e. abortion, murder, etc.
- one may not be forced to suffer for the benefit of another- i.e. kidney or lung transplant, etc.
- all people are equal (except those condemned to a reservation, a concentration camp, a mental institution, school detention, criminal detention, impoverishment, death, etc., etc., etc.)

_____
Technology then is an answer to the abortion debate and the organ donor problem.

In the future, if a woman or man becomes pregnant and does not want to carry or care for a baby then the fetus will be painlessly extracted using some undiscovered high technology that is less invasive and tramatic than today's abortions. The fetus may then be externally incubated and later adopted, orphaned, or transplanted into a volunteer.

Men and women will one day be able to take a sterility shot- turning off the reproductive gene. It may be administered to all children like other shots routinely are. A second shot turns the reproductive gene back on.

One day, organs and cells and uncorrupted genes will be manufactured on demand- made to order.

If technology indeed delivers these results, who then could reject the stated premise?

Name:Anonymous Date/Time:2005/09/08
I found your essay really disturbing. I am 100% pro-life. I think the idea of comparing a woman's right to choose against donations of blood, kidney, etc is ridiculous. They are two totally different subject matters. The mother got herself into the situation she is in and has no right to murder the child that is inside her. People can refuse to donate because they don't know the other person or they are afraid. The mother however is responsible for what is inside, even if it resulted from rape. This is because it is a life inside of her that is grownig and depending on her. The baby has no hope with anyone else, but a patient does have hope with multiple numbers of people. I can't believe you could dismiss adoption when it is the best solution. The mother, yes, will go through main, but she can give up her baby instead of killing it in horrible fashion. And I can't believe that you would support abortion at any time! The baby's nervous system kicks in near the end of the second trimester. At this time the baby can feel immense pain when they are vaccumed out in pieces or killed by acid. Even before this time you are still ending a precious life of God. At least the patients who are awaiting donations had a chance to live and experience something in life. But the baby who is terminated experiences nothing in the world. The don't get to see even a glimpse of other people or anything if they are killed. The situation of the life of an unborn child is more critical than the one of a patient. The patient has experienced life and the unborn child hasn't got a chance to even take its first breath. I believe that your view on abortion is disturbing and sick. Pro-life is the only way to go. There is no time when abortion is right.