Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:36 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:
sophyturtle wrote:How can we leave it out when overpopulation is killing our planet, along with many other species (including our own)? It is important to address.


We should leave the overpopulation issue aside when discussing the morality of abortion under certain circumstances for the same reason that we should leave the overpopulation issue aside when discussing the morality of the US presence in Iraq. The fact that fewer humans result is totally irrelevant to whether the method of arriving at fewer humans is immoral.
-OcV


Yes. Avoiding overpopulation can only justify so much, and you'd need to establish why abortion is a special case as opposed to things like involuntary euthanasia, etc. Generally, it *is* a special case because abortion is also (imo) justified by a woman's right to control her own body. In my hypothetical this is no longer an issue, and the question is whether concerns like population control, wanting to control your own genetic material, etc. can justify abortion to the extent that something as fundamental as bodily autonomy does.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Zamfir » Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:57 pm UTC

We should leave the overpopulation issue aside when discussing the morality of abortion under certain circumstances for the same reason that we should leave the overpopulation issue aside when discussing the morality of the US presence in Iraq. The fact that fewer humans result is totally irrelevant to whether the method of arriving at fewer humans is immoral.
-OcV


I think you touch on a difference between murder and abortion that's very relevant int his particular hypothetical. Let's compare two scernarios; in Secnario 1, Couple A has an abortion and couple B has a baby of their own. In scenario 2, couple B adopts couple A's unwanted child, without pregnancy involved.

Both scenarios end with one child, and one potential human being not there. Of course, the terminated potantial human in scenario 1 is a lot closer to being a human than the mere planned child in scenario 2, but that is at least partially compensated by the fact that both couples are more happy with the result of scenario 1.

For adults, we clearly do not use this calculus, killing a person and having a baby do not cancel at all. But adults are unique beings, that have more value in themselves, and are not easily replaced. If killing someone lead to the coming into existance of a near copy of that person, I think we would think different about murder too.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Crius » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:13 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:The moment that bodily autonomy ceases to be irreconcilably linked to pregnancy, any appeal to the special right of the mother to monopolize the evaluative process for the disposition of the child goes out the window.
The parents should have the first opportunity to choose to raise it. If they do not wish to, then others have the same opportunity. Only when no one steps up to take the incubating child do we then consider whether it might be reasonable not to gestate and support it. Unless resources are incredibly scarce, it is almost certainly immoral to do so.


This is the stance I'd have to agree with.

Once it's out of the mother's body, the only thing that really links it to the parents is its genetics. Should I have the right to destroy something simply because it shares some of my genes? Do I have control over whether my siblings reproduce? How about if my parents choose to have another child (who, by the way, will have the same amount of shared genes a child would)? The notion of "owning" genes is a little silly, in my opinion.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:17 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
We should leave the overpopulation issue aside when discussing the morality of abortion under certain circumstances for the same reason that we should leave the overpopulation issue aside when discussing the morality of the US presence in Iraq. The fact that fewer humans result is totally irrelevant to whether the method of arriving at fewer humans is immoral.
-OcV


I think you touch on a difference between murder and abortion that's very relevant int his particular hypothetical. Let's compare two scernarios; in Secnario 1, Couple A has an abortion and couple B has a baby of their own. In scenario 2, couple B adopts couple A's unwanted child, without pregnancy involved.

Both scenarios end with one child, and one potential human being not there. Of course, the terminated potantial human in scenario 1 is a lot closer to being a human than the mere planned child in scenario 2, but that is at least partially compensated by the fact that both couples are more happy with the result of scenario 1.

For adults, we clearly do not use this calculus, killing a person and having a baby do not cancel at all. But adults are unique beings, that have more value in themselves, and are not easily replaced. If killing someone lead to the coming into existance of a near copy of that person, I think we would think different about murder too.


So this attributes value to uniqueness, or at least replacement cost. There's a Bill Cosby routine where his dad used to end threats with "I can just kill you and make another one, look just like you." Very low replacement cost implies very marginal value.
This goes, again, to why a human has value at all. Earlier Kazan said it was its social interactions with other humans. This metric seems similar or equivalent, but perhaps I'm misinterpreting.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:27 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:So this attributes value to uniqueness, or at least replacement cost. There's a Bill Cosby routine where his dad used to end threats with "I can just kill you and make another one, look just like you." Very low replacement cost implies very marginal value.
This goes, again, to why a human has value at all. Earlier Kazan said it was its social interactions with other humans. This metric seems similar or equivalent, but perhaps I'm misinterpreting.
-OcV


Personally, I tend to put moral value in two things: 1) The ability to subjectively experience things, especially suffering. 2) The ability to consciously have desires and goals for yourself.

1) Extends (I think) to a great many animals, and thus I am a proponent of animal rights. Though I think 1) without 2) has less moral weight than something with both.

2) Probably doesn't come into play until long after birth.

I don't ascribe anything special to being genetically human. If a specific human and a specific animal have similar mental states/levels of cognition, then I'd say they have similar degrees of moral worth. Something without a mind I'd say has no moral worth except insofar as it has worth to something with a mind.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:32 pm UTC

It seems, then, that you reject a relational model of value in preference for one based on internal capacity. What is it about the ability to have experiences and wants that should have a moral effect on our conduct towards something else?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby sophyturtle » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:35 pm UTC

Crius wrote:who, by the way, will have the same amount of shared genes a child would)
Actually, your offspring is guaranteed to be 50% your genes. Your sibling could have totally different genes (if they get the 50% you did not from each of your parents).

Also, destroying a bunch of cells does not upset me that much. So to me, the effects an increase in birth rate would have on the planet is a much larger ethical consideration than how many times we destroy some zygotes, embryos, and sometimes even fetuses.
There is a reason we have all these names for them, and a separate name for persons. I am not saying it removes all their worth, but I am saying there are functional scientific differences that are important to consider when we look at how much value we should place in them.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:41 pm UTC

sophyturtle wrote:Also, destroying a bunch of cells does not upset me that much. So to me, the effects an increase in birth rate would have on the planet is a much larger ethical consideration than how many times we destroy some zygotes, embryos, and sometimes even fetuses.
There is a reason we have all these names for them, and a separate name for persons. I am not saying it removes all their worth, but I am saying there are functional scientific differences that are important to consider when we look at how much value we should place in them.


Emphasis added. "Persons" is a legal/cultural term, not a scientific one. There is no scientific definition of "personhood", nor any consensus about which of the above (zygotes, embryos, fetuses, also: infants, newborns, children, etc) the term should apply to. If we want to try to link scientific understanding to rights, we're pretty much going to have to make an is-to-ought jump in there somewhere (which I think was mentioned earlier).
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby sophyturtle » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:45 pm UTC

I am just saying they are functionally different. We can look at when it develops a brain, when that brain is functional, when other organs have formed, etc.
Surely there is an ethical difference between destroying things of different functionality. If you want to put all your attention on the potential person, that would be something to look at.

I personally don't care about that. To me, humans breath air. It's a thing I have. But since you seem to care you might want to look at it.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:48 pm UTC

sophyturtle wrote:I am just saying they are functionally different. We can look at when it develops a brain, when that brain is functional, when other organs have formed, etc.
Surely there is an ethical difference between destroying things of different functionality.


We've been trying to look at where the value in a human lies. We've talked about replacement value as a standard, and social value to other humans, and personal capacity to do things like thinking. From reading this, would it be right to say that you agree with the personal capacity evaluation in determining what has value? This is what you seem to be saying, but you also seem to be saying that it's not just mental capacity but also physical capacity like breathing. Is that right?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:52 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:It seems, then, that you reject a relational model of value in preference for one based on internal capacity. What is it about the ability to have experiences and wants that should have a moral effect on our conduct towards something else?
-OcV



Well, the reason I think attacking and/or killing someone is generally bad apart from its impact on third parties is because one, it causes them suffering, which I consider an inherently bad thing, and two, it goes against their wishes with regards to their own selves, which I think should be respected (though of course things besides their wishes do need to be taken into account.)
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:53 pm UTC

I understood from before that you were saying that you respect others' experiences and wants. My question was, why? What is it about the experiences and wants of others that implies we should act to respect them and not hurt them?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:03 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:I understood from before that you were saying that you respect others' experiences and wants. My question was, why? What is it about the experiences and wants of others that implies we should act to respect them and not hurt them?
-OcV


I think I probably take "suffering is bad" and "a mind has ownership of itself" as basic moral axioms, with no justification for them. I say "I think" because it is possible I might discover that they actually reduce down to moral principles I hold more basic, but that hasn't happened yet.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Crius » Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:17 pm UTC

sophyturtle wrote:
Crius wrote:who, by the way, will have the same amount of shared genes a child would)
Actually, your offspring is guaranteed to be 50% your genes. Your sibling could have totally different genes (if they get the 50% you did not from each of your parents).

Also, destroying a bunch of cells does not upset me that much. So to me, the effects an increase in birth rate would have on the planet is a much larger ethical consideration than how many times we destroy some zygotes, embryos, and sometimes even fetuses.
There is a reason we have all these names for them, and a separate name for persons. I am not saying it removes all their worth, but I am saying there are functional scientific differences that are important to consider when we look at how much value we should place in them.


You're right, a sibling will have, on average, 50% of your genes. Maybe a better example would be an identical twin, whose offspring will be guaranteed to have 50% of your genes.

I think the naming example is interesting - I think we name something when we recognize it as a unique entity. It's plausible that if natural pregancies were all replaced by these hypothetical artifical wombs, we would change the convention to naming the offspring much earlier. Maybe even to the point when it's removed from the mother. Would that change the ethics of abortion in this case? How would that affect people's perceptions?

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby sophyturtle » Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:32 pm UTC

People who are excited about being pregnant start working on names as soon as they find out. Most have a name picked by the third trimester. My father named me when he first held me. People are different.

But this brings up the idea of social connections that many people think is important to give value to a life. When people name it (at any stage of gestation) they are recognizing it as a separate entity, one that they feel they feel needs a name.
Often, women who have third trimester abortions have named it and consider it to be their child. They sometimes have funerals (often the case when it is lost so late in pregnancy) and take pictures. This also happens when people have to deliver early for medical reasons, knowing their child will not live more than a few months.
I think naming can even sometimes be a coping mechanism, so they can properly grieve.

I don't think that would change the ethics behind any of it, but it might alter the emotional impact and the healing afterword.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:42 pm UTC

Again, this last statement of yours seems to support that you value humans due the their inherent capacity rather than their contribution to human relationships. Is that correct?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby sophyturtle » Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:59 pm UTC

I am curious why my personal beliefs are relevant. None the less, I believe that before birth things have little to no value unless other people (involved, as in parents not some fundamentalist) give it value.
Spoiler:
Anti-choice people place more value in a fertilized egg inside the body than outside of one (they rarely protest IVF clinics that regularly dispose of fertilized eggs). To them one of those lives is more worth fighting for than the other, and as a society we tend to agree that disposing of unwanted fertilized eggs has a different moral weight than abortion (even those at a similar stage of development ie. embryos). I don't see a difference. A miscarriage is only sad to me because there are people who feel the lose of that clump of cells. That clump has as much value as the people who created it give it until it develops into a person. That's how I see it. Not very useful in this thread really.


In a more relevant line of thought, according to wiki (who is a marginally reliable secondary source) a fetus less than 23 weeks old only has a 50% chance of survival. I find this interesting, because spontaneous abortion might decrease with this hypothetical technology or it might stay the same. I wonder if fewer people would choose to use it for their pregnancies because after watching it develop they might have more emotional investment and would be more disappointed when spontaneous abortion occurred.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:09 pm UTC

sophyturtle wrote:I am curious why my personal beliefs are relevant.

We're discussing what is and isn't ethical, and, it seems to me, the whole discussion is about personal beliefs and how to act on them. I really think that when we decide why a human being has value, we'll understand whether these embryos have value at a certain point.

sophyturtle wrote:Anti-choice people place more value in a fertilized egg inside the body than outside of one (they rarely protest IVF clinics that regularly dispose of fertilized eggs).

It is untrue that anti-abortion advocates generally have no issue with IVF that creates unimplanted embryos. Look no further than restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which as I understand it most often got/gets its stem cells from unused embryos, and which the pro-life community as a whole has a real problem with. So, I disagree with hinging an argument on this false premise.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:17 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:Again, this last statement of yours seems to support that you value humans due the their inherent capacity rather than their contribution to human relationships. Is that correct?
-OcV


I know it wasn't directed at me, but to answer this question:

On my part, I think that both inherent capacity and contributions to human relationships give value to people, but the two types of value warrant different protections. The relational value of the zygote/embryo/fetus in the artificial womb is why I think it should only be allowed to be terminated by the two parents, or whoever they've ceded responsibility to. The lack of inherent capacity (more so the earlier in development we're talking) is why I don't think the parents themselves should be forbidden to terminate the zygote/embryo/fetus, at least not at the earliest stages of development.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Enuja » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:16 pm UTC

I have had very interesting discussions about this very issue IRL. A friend of mine and I are both pro-choice, but I'm really pro-abortion and my friend is really for a women's right to decide what will happen with her body. Even if a zygote could be whisked away and viable, I want the power to kill it. No single method of birth control is 100%, and there are pregnancies that occur against a woman's wishes. I don't care how rare it is (and, with BC failure, it's not that rare), as long as a women can reproduce on accident or against her will, I think it's extremely important that she be able to terminate the fetus. People can want to avoid pregnancies because they don't like their genes or they want fewer people on the planet. Just because someone could steal a zygote from you and raise it doesn't mean, to me, that you lose the power to keep that from happening.

My friend thinks that pro-life folks should have the rights to adopt, pay for, and raise all of the unwanted fetuses in this type of hypothetical situation: even fetuses with Tay-Sachs disease and the like. He figures that, once the fetus is not a drain on your resources, you have no rights at all. This might have to do with his sex, and the fact that women have aborted fetuses fertilized with his sperm against his wishes. It's also a very interesting direction for pro-life folks to think in: what would you do with the millions of aborted and miscarried fetuses, if you could raise them yourself? How could you get the resources to do this? What would raising all of these unwanted children do to your life and your movement? Where does the possible interact with the moral? Does the specter of actually getting custody of all of this fetuses change your mental calculus about unwanted babies at all?

Once you take the women's body out the equation, I think that both the father and mother should have the right to abort. I do think that, once the women's body is out of the equation, mother and father should have equal rights to abort, and if one parent wants to abort and the other to raise the child, then the parent who wants to abort should be able to do a complete termination of parental rights, but shouldn't have the power to unilaterally abort.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby aurumelectrum13 » Tue Jul 21, 2009 4:51 am UTC

We're discussing what is and isn't ethical, and, it seems to me, the whole discussion is about personal beliefs and how to act on them.


Not really. Your conflating morals and ethics as if they are the same thing. Morals are the inherent beliefs about right and wrong; some we generally share (murder is wrong), some we don't (abortion is wrong).

Ethics are instead the study of morality, and ethical behavior can be very different from moral behavior, i.e., it is unethical for a doctor to sleep with his patient, but not necessarily immoral (What if his patient were also his spouse?).

Now, to answer the question. I think that human beings have an ethical right to control their personal genes in most cases, until they have relinquished that right (think sperm bank). This means that until a fetus becomes a baby, it is the an extension of the parents. What is interesting in this situation is that the fetus (now within the artificial womb) is now equally an extension of both parents, giving the father just as much say as the mother (should he want it). In a perfect world (wherein this situation exists), if one parent wished to terminate the fetus, and the other did not, one parent could waive their rights and allow the other to take full responsibility. We don't live there.

Thus, this twice-born baby is the responsibility of both parents equally, and this must be taken into account. But I do not think that this would too greatly effect the number of abortions. True abortions would probably shrink in number, while adoption would become a slightly more popular alternative (provided the fetus could be removed and immediately adopted).

In my opinion, it is the ethical right to do with your unthinking, unfeeling issue how ever you wish.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby spiderham » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:39 pm UTC

As I understand the terms of this hypothetical, it removes the state as an interested party -- we're not concerned here with debating whether state or the woman should be the decision maker. It also removes the issue of whether the father should have any rights. So the question is whether, after these issues are set aside, it is right to terminate the life. I think the answer must depend on when you believe life begins. I say this because sperm cells are alive, but if you believe it's alright to use contraception, but not abort at any particular stage after contraception, you implicitly decided life begins at contraception (or at least life that we have an ethical duty not to end). But then you could also draw the line at various stages i.e., trimesters. Everyone agrees that the line is drawn no later than birth (whose definition would have to be redefined under the hypothetical). Now why would that be, given the terms of the hypothetical? Once you no longer have to grapple with the issue of the state invading your body, doesn't it seem that setting a point in the time line where life begins is rather arbitrary?

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Dark567 » Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:49 pm UTC

spiderham wrote:As I understand the terms of this hypothetical, it removes the state as an interested party -- we're not concerned here with debating whether state or the woman should be the decision maker. It also removes the issue of whether the father should have any rights. So the question is whether, after these issues are set aside, it is right to terminate the life. I think the answer must depend on when you believe life begins. I say this because sperm cells are alive, but if you believe it's alright to use contraception, but not abort at any particular stage after contraception, you implicitly decided life begins at contraception (or at least life that we have an ethical duty not to end). But then you could also draw the line at various stages i.e., trimesters. Everyone agrees that the line is drawn no later than birth (whose definition would have to be redefined under the hypothetical). Now why would that be, given the terms of the hypothetical? Once you no longer have to grapple with the issue of the state invading your body, doesn't it seem that setting a point in the time line where life begins is rather arbitrary?



That to me is what makes this an interesting hypothetical. Without birth to draw the line, where do we define the point where a developing person gains individual rights. I think a certain amount of neural activity should be the boundary, but giving good reasoning can become hard very quickly.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:06 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:That to me is what makes this an interesting hypothetical. Without birth to draw the line, where do we define the point where a developing person gains individual rights. I think a certain amount of neural activity should be the boundary, but giving good reasoning can be come hard very quickly.

I think it comes down to understanding why human beings have value in a sense that a moral person should respect. If you know what traits give a human being moral value, then you can determine when the developing human has these traits. Without agreement on what gives a human being moral value, there cannot be an agreement on this.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby spiderham » Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:27 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:That to me is what makes this an interesting hypothetical. Without birth to draw the line, where do we define the point where a developing person gains individual rights. I think a certain amount of neural activity should be the boundary, but giving good reasoning can be come hard very quickly.


I found myself rattled by this hypothetical because I am very partisan in favor of the right to choose and leaving the final decision to the individual and keeping the state out of it (as we tend to do in other contexts like whether to remove artificial life support, which is usually a moral question left to private individuals, not the government). But after removing the issue of personal invasion, I couldn't think of any ethical reason why we would allow the abortion. It seemed to me that any reason I could think of, or that other people have thought of in this forum discussion, would fail the "murder" test if applied to "post" birth situations.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Dark567 » Tue Jul 21, 2009 6:38 pm UTC

spiderham wrote:I found myself rattled by this hypothetical because I am very partisan in favor of the right to choose and leaving the final decision to the individual and keeping the state out of it (as we tend to do in other contexts like whether to remove artificial life support, which is usually a moral question left to private individuals, not the government). But after removing the issue of personal invasion, I couldn't think of any ethical reason why we would allow the abortion. It seemed to me that any reason I could think of, or that other people have thought of in this forum discussion, would fail the "murder" test if applied to "post" birth situations.


It's exactly those type of situations that cause it to become so hard. Although you could make the argument(I think Peter Singer was the original person to make it) that after setting a reason to give a person rights, lets say cognitive activity, that if they do not reach it they should still be allowed to be aborted. In this scenario a child that was conceived 21-months ago(This would put it at about one year old if it were born) could still be aborted. This logically allows us to continue the practice, but I feel as though many humans would reject it.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby spiderham » Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:14 pm UTC

I have a hard time making the moral distinction between removing the life support of someone who's brain dead and killing someone who's brain dead by some method like lethally injecting them. But there is no doubt that many if not most people do. Personally, the only ethical reason I could think of for not allowing this is the possibility of error by the doctors.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby inhahe » Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:05 am UTC

setzer777 wrote:I have a hypothetical ethics question:

Suppose we lived in a world where fetuses could be safely removed in a way that was equally or less invasive than abortion (and could be done so just as early). Essentially a world where abortion and "removal" were completely equal in terms of preserving bodily autonomy. Do you think it would be ethical to have abortions for the sake of not wanting to bring a child into the world (either because of possible birth defects, don't feel prepared to raise them, etc.)?

A few things:

1. This really is hypothetical. I am adamantly pro-choice and I am not in any way, shape, or form trying to segue this into an argument about the legality of abortion.

2. I'd really really (really!) like for this to not turn into a stereotypical argument about abortion. Please let's focus on the specific hypothetical here, and not standard arguments about whether abortion should be legal. Even within the hypothetical I'm not interested on legality, only ethics.


1. i'm not pro-choice in any way (well except for in the way that on a certain level i'm an anarchist), but i won't segue this into an argument about the legality of abortion
2. haha, good luck!

my answer is that no, it wouldn't make a difference. in fact it's hard for me to even see how it could be thought of as making a difference. any argument as to why it makes a difference is most likely epistemologically , and therefore fundamentally, flawed. but i won't go into why i think it makes no difference. for me to do that i would have to go into the ethics of abortion itself -- i.e., if i don't say why i think it's wrong, then how can i say why it's wrong whether or not the procedure is less invasive? (and, obviously if there's nothing wrong with abortion, then it can't make any difference whether it's less invasive -- being less invasive won't make it more wrong... to most people's minds at least.)

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Thu Jul 23, 2009 2:41 pm UTC

As I understand it, it shouldn't make much of a difference from the anti-abortion side of things (generally centered on the right to life of the unborn human). Instead, for some, it will make a difference on the pro-abortion side of things (generally centered on the right to bodily autonomy of the pregnant human).
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Enuja » Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:18 pm UTC

The difference it might make on the pro-life side is one of practicality. If you, as a pro-life person, had the technology to get all zygotes out of women (even the many that don't implant or that spontaneously abort very, very early), and laws to give you custody of those balls of cells, what would you do? How would you get the resources to raise all of those children well? How would you get the good parenting to parent all of those children? Is there a place where resource limitations change the moral calculus? Isn't providing good parenting more important than rescuing a fetus that would not implant or spontaneously abort? What about fetuses with serious disabilities? Should those be sacrificed to provide the same resources to save many healthy fetuses? Isn't there something to be said for a individual parenting and enough resources for good food, shelter, and education? Getting rid of all abortions, or, much worse, finding a way to raise all zygotes into adults would create a huge resource squeeze on the rescuers. I'd really be interested in hearing what some of the pro-life people think about that.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Dark567 » Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:51 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:The difference it might make on the pro-life side is one of practicality. If you, as a pro-life person, had the technology to get all zygotes out of women (even the many that don't implant or that spontaneously abort very, very early), and laws to give you custody of those balls of cells, what would you do? How would you get the resources to raise all of those children well?

You don't, but I could ask the same thing about plenty of one year olds, how do you get the resources to raise these children? Is it okay to abort a one year old to save resources, in general most people would say no, a pro-lifer would apply this same logic to a fetus, something they believe has all the rights of a one year old.

Enuja wrote: Is there a place where resource limitations change the moral calculus?

No, most people would argue that resource limitations should not affect the morality of murdering a person. Pro-lifers would apply this to a fetus as well.

Enuja wrote:Isn't providing good parenting more important than rescuing a fetus that would not implant or spontaneously abort? What about fetuses with serious disabilities?

Is providing good parenting more important then a one year olds life? I don't think so. Again most pro-lifers would say the fetus is equivalent. Same for a one year old with disabilities.

Enuja wrote: Should those be sacrificed to provide the same resources to save many healthy fetuses?


Should we sacrifice fat people to save the healthy people? Well I guess this is arguable, but hopefully you have gotten my point by now. Most of your arguments are red herrings to the one thing that typically matters in most abortion debates, particularly this hypothetical one. Other than in some esoteric philosophical arguments(Peter Singer style) the entire abortion debate comes down to one simple but hard to answer question:

At what point do humans acquire person hood?

This is really the point that divides the pro-life and pro-choice. Pro-lifers see a fetus as a full human which means in generally we can't murder it even if it is disabled or if it is a drain on resource. The pro-choice are okay with abortion to do those things because they don't consider fetuses to be people with full rights. This is really the question that divides them. Understanding this makes the OP's hypothetical very interesting because without birth to separate when fetuses are or are not person's with rights, how else do we decide on when a person has rights or not and how does this impact abortion?

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Thu Jul 23, 2009 4:50 pm UTC

Dark567:

One area that isn't necessarily secondary to "is the fetus a person with rights" is the question of bodily autonomy. Some people do argue that even if the fetus is completely equivalent to a 1-year old, its right to live does not give it the right to be inside of another human being, drain fluids and nutrients from them, etc. against that person's will - and that if the only way to stop this infringement is to kill the person (assuming we are treating the fetus as a person), it is warranted.

I'm not making this argument, I'm just saying that it is common enough that the question of bodily autonomy isn't a simple distraction from the person-hood question. But anyway, this is the one argument that is irrelevant to my hypothetical, where bodily autonomy can be completely preserved without having to kill the fetus.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby spiderham » Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:09 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:Dark567:

One area that isn't necessarily secondary to "is the fetus a person with rights" is the question of bodily autonomy. Some people do argue that even if the fetus is completely equivalent to a 1-year old, its right to live does not give it the right to be inside of another human being, drain fluids and nutrients from them, etc. against that person's will - and that if the only way to stop this infringement is to kill the person (assuming we are treating the fetus as a person), it is warranted.

I'm not making this argument, I'm just saying that it is common enough that the question of bodily autonomy isn't a simple distraction from the person-hood question. But anyway, this is the one argument that is irrelevant to my hypothetical, where bodily autonomy can be completely preserved without having to kill the fetus.


Yes, it is not secondary because it opens the door to difficult questions about one's obligations to prevent death: If I know someone will die without a kidney donation, am I obligated to give up one of mine? What are my ethical obligations for donating blood?

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Enuja » Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:38 pm UTC

I am, in some cases, in favor of infanticide. The question to me is not just "does the fetus/infant/toddler have rights" but further "what rights does it have"? In my analysis, skin cells, eggs, sperm, un-implanted zygotes, and newly implanted zygotes all have no rights whatsoever. I think that a month old zygote has the right not to develop further without a good expectation of resources, including love (that it's morally wrong to not abort a baby if it isn't likely to have a good chance to have a good life). I'm not pro-choice, I'm pro-abortion. I think that limiting reproduction to truly wanted children is an extremely important advancement in society and technology. If I were creating a society, I'd probably put the line at 2 or 3 years old: younger than that, and a parent could still chose to kill the baby, older than that, and the society as a whole would need to take financial responsibility to raise the child. It doesn't make sense to me to prohibit killing of dependent without providing resources to give that dependent a very good chance in life. And that's one major problem I have with pro-life advocacy: where are the resources you, personally, will provide when you don't allow parents without resources to prevent babies from needing resources by killing them?

I would not adopt a one year old in order to save its life, because I don't think that I could give it a good life, and I don't think a bad life is worth living for anyone. For those who say that unwanted fetuses shouldn't die, why haven't you adopted an unwanted child yet? If you're 18, and have money, could you at least be a foster parent? Why haven't you done that yet? I think that pro-life people should understand that if they got their no-abortion way, that would mean that they'd have to spend a whole lot of time and resources to raise other people's children. And if you're aren't doing it already, why do you think society as a whole would step up to the increased need if we made abortion illegal?

I also believe in assisted suicide and that expensive end-of-life care should not be provided by the state or any social safety net. I believe in using resources wisely, and I don't think we have resources to keep everyone who could possibly, with technology, be kept alive, so I think that we should withdraw resources from people or, better yet, kill when not yet conscious, people who we don't have resources for.

I don't understand where the fat people bit is coming from: fat people can provide their own labor to get their own resources. I think that governmental safety nets should provide fat people with assistance at getting healthier (even if not thinner) because that's a better use of resources: it prevents a large expense down the road.

I know a lot of people put the moral onus for abortion on the parents: they "should" have prevented the pregnancy in the first place. But no method of prevention is 100% certain: even choosing to be celibate can be overcome by someone raping you, and a man can think his partner is on birth control (and she isn't) and can use a condom that breaks. What about these children? The parents have no desire and let's say, for the sake of argument, no resources to raise those children. The moral onus to provide love and resources leaves the parents and goes to the group or society that prevents the parents from doing the responsible, moral thing and aborting the unwanted child. The problem becomes much more obvious and much more serious with setzer777's hypothetical of making early term fetuses adoptable. What about ectopic pregnancies (in the wrong place, will kill mother and child, must be killed or, in this hypothetical, removed)?

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Dark567 » Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:30 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:I am, in some cases, in favor of infanticide. The question to me is not just "does the fetus/infant/toddler have rights" but further "what rights does it have"? In my analysis, skin cells, eggs, sperm, un-implanted zygotes, and newly implanted zygotes all have no rights whatsoever. I think that a month old zygote has the right not to develop further without a good expectation of resources, including love (that it's morally wrong to not abort a baby if it isn't likely to have a good chance to have a good life). I'm not pro-choice, I'm pro-abortion. I think that limiting reproduction to truly wanted children is an extremely important advancement in society and technology. If I were creating a society, I'd probably put the line at 2 or 3 years old: younger than that, and a parent could still chose to kill the baby, older than that, and the society as a whole would need to take financial responsibility to raise the child. It doesn't make sense to me to prohibit killing of dependent without providing resources to give that dependent a very good chance in life. And that's one major problem I have with pro-life advocacy: where are the resources you, personally, will provide when you don't allow parents without resources to prevent babies from needing resources by killing them?


Well I guess you have drifted into one of Peter Singers esoteric arguments I didn't think any one actually believed. I was wrong though. Anyway you believe its okay to "Abort" a two or three year old. I would be curious as to what standard of life a two or three year old meets that a younger child doesn't that gives them the option to be aborted. And if you really believe its about the limiting children to the ones that are truly wanted why stop there? Why not let it be 18?(US adult age, insert other countries age of adulthood if applicable).

And why under your system is it society's responsibility for the child and not the parents? They had 2.7-3.7 years to decided whether or not they wanted to make the commitment to love and take care of the child? Isn't it their responsibility for raising it?

Lastly I personally think that limiting reproduction to truly wanted(by the parents) children because they don't have a good chance of resources and love is still assuming it won't. Although there isn't a good chance it will have an enjoyable life there still is a chance that it will, and I think we need to let it have that chance. The child should have a say in whether or not it wants its own life, because ultimately that is what matters.

Also unfortunately we have drifted off the OP's original intent and into areas such as societal responsibility and infanticide, so we should either try to get back on track or move to a new topic.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Enuja » Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:08 pm UTC

I think that taking the birth bright line out of the picture was one of the important points setzer777 meant to bring up with this post, so I don't think we're at all off topic when we talk about the absence of a birth bright line. I'm not interested in bright lines: I'm interested in shifting rights and responsibilities.

Adult differentiated cells and embryonic stem cells are just cells, just a part of a whole or a future or whatever. They are no more morally important than bacterial or plant cells. An implanted fetus is part of the women, and therefore her moral domain, and this is a huge item that this hypothetical takes out of the picture. A developing fetus, once it has a reasonably functional brain, might be able to feel pain, and therefore we should avoid causing it pain. It gets more complicated after that.

I think that making decisions is a fundamental human characteristic, and once a child starts making purposeful decisions that effect its future, then it starts to be a human being with human rights.* I figure, also, that the end of breast-feeding is an important moral milestone, because now ideal caregivers are no longer limited to lactating humans. I'm assuming that setzer777's hypothetical situation has a better replacement for milk than current formula, because formula simply isn't as healthy as fresh milk, so this hypothetical would also reduce some of the importance of the 2-3 year age at which killing becomes wrong and caring the child becomes societies' responsibility. Sixteen year olds, and even four year olds, make active decisions about who they are and what they want to do and what they want to be. That's why we shouldn't kill them just because we, personally don't have the resources to take care of them.

Of course it has to be societies' responsibility, and not just that of the parents, to care for children once society has decided they are human. This is because parents can 1) die 2) become homeless or otherwise lose all resources or 3) do a bad job at raising children (neglect, abuse), and, in the interest of having a good society, society needs to step in and make things better. Sure, it's the parents primary responsibility, but society has the responsibility to step in when parents fail. I'm arguing that if you're pro-life, in setzer777's hypothetical situation, it is now your responsibility to step in when the parents fail, because the parents would get rid of the problem instead of failing except for your meddling.

How can a ball of undifferentiated cells possibly have a say in it's life, whether it's implanting in a uterus or going into a uterine replicator? I agree what, when children do have a say in their lives, we should listen to them, but I strongly believe that children don't have a say in their lives until they can act on complex desires (other than want milk, must defecate, must learn, which children and kittens both do). I do think society has an interest in making fetuses and very young children grow up as healthy as possible, but I think that society should only be able to say "do a better job or kill it" not "do a better job or I'll put you in jail or we'll take the kid". If the parent wants to kill it, that should be up to the parent, whether or not the fetus is in a uterus.

*I think that animals have certain rights, although not the same as the rights that humans have, and I believe that it is often more humane and moral to euthanize an animal than to keep it alive, lacking resources or health.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby guenther » Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:01 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:If I were creating a society, I'd probably put the line at 2 or 3 years old: younger than that, and a parent could still chose to kill the baby, older than that, and the society as a whole would need to take financial responsibility to raise the child. It doesn't make sense to me to prohibit killing of dependent without providing resources to give that dependent a very good chance in life. And that's one major problem I have with pro-life advocacy: where are the resources you, personally, will provide when you don't allow parents without resources to prevent babies from needing resources by killing them?

I thought I was pretty immune from being offended by people's comments on here, but this one got me. It's probably because I have two kids in your "abort" range, and the thought of someone killing them seems pretty monstrous to me. I can't imagine that anyone that's actually been around little kids could think this.

If I advocate killing everyone who is on welfare, would you object? If so, are you willing to supply the funds to keep them afloat? I think there's a reason why we universally value life, especially in our own community, and especially young children. Tampering with this would lead to a society that I would not want to imagine.


As far as the topic goes, I think that a parent has plenty of time in the first 3 - 5 months to decide if they want the baby, in which case I think abortion should be a choice. After that I would expect the mother to bring the baby to a viable level. In our world that means birth, but if the baby could be removed earlier and still have a good shot at life, then OK. However, I imagine it would be an expensive procedure, and I would expect the would-be parents to foot the bill (or insurance or whatever).

I know there's fringe cases that involve severe birth defects or dangers to the mother, and I think these are more morally grey, and I don't know how the law should treat them. But for the majority of babies that are expected to be happy and healthy, we should place a strong value on their life.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Dark567 » Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:02 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:Adult differentiated cells and embryonic stem cells are just cells, just a part of a whole or a future or whatever. They are no more morally important than bacterial or plant cells. An implanted fetus is part of the women, and therefore her moral domain, and this is a huge item that this hypothetical takes out of the picture. A developing fetus, once it has a reasonably functional brain, might be able to feel pain, and therefore we should avoid causing it pain. It gets more complicated after that.

You say they aren't more important than bacterial or plant cells? Why aren't they? Cells are not just like all other cells, the same way humans are not like animals. I personally think my human cells are more important then plant cells(although that's not to say they are very important, they are just cells after all, there is nothing wrong with some dying here or there) My human cells enable me to exist, plant cells enable a plant to exist, clearly one is more important then the other.

Enuja wrote:I think that making decisions is a fundamental human characteristic, and once a child starts making purposeful decisions that effect its future, then it starts to be a human being with human rights.* I figure, also, that the end of breast-feeding is an important moral milestone, because now ideal caregivers are no longer limited to lactating humans. I'm assuming that setzer777's hypothetical situation has a better replacement for milk than current formula, because formula simply isn't as healthy as fresh milk, so this hypothetical would also reduce some of the importance of the 2-3 year age at which killing becomes wrong and caring the child becomes societies' responsibility. Sixteen year olds, and even four year olds, make active decisions about who they are and what they want to do and what they want to be. That's why we shouldn't kill them just because we, personally don't have the resources to take care of them.

So now the qualification is the ability to make decisions? I think the pro-life camp would in general say that we should at least give them the chance to make their own decision, only after that should we have the right to kill them. Although this could clearly be combated with the statement "the ability to make decisions gives a being its moral worth". Most in the pro-life community would probably disagree with this assumption and replace it with a soul gives moral worth or even "neural activity gives moral worth".
But this still goes back to my previous post that at least much(I would argue most) of the debate about abortion comes down to the assumptions we make about what gives a person rights. You would say it's a persons ability to make decisions that gives them their rights others would say the ability to feel pain is. Ultimately though they are just that: assumptions about the state of the world. Assumptions that can't at all be proven better than other assumptions.

Personally I am skeptical of anyone that tries to implement a morality based around a "good society" without a good definition of what "good" is, what "society" is, what a "good society" is, and reasoning for why it is desirable.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Enuja » Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:33 pm UTC

Killing everyone on welfare seems to be getting pretty off topic, to me. I'd like to pay more taxes than I do and have a stronger governmental safety network. So, yeah, I both do and am willing to supply funds to keep people on welfare afloat. I am not happy about ERs providing lots of expensive end of life care (beyond hospice style care) to anyone who can't just pay for it up front. I am also not happy about governments or charities telling parents that they can't abort, or can't turn a uterine replicator off, but, also, that they won't pay for the care of the developing human.

I think that unhealthy babies is the core of the issue, especially with this hypothetical situation, because we're already getting to the point, and this system would push it much further, where children that with 100% certainly would have died can now be saved. And pro-life folks are saying that we are morally obligated to save the lives of fetuses that would have spontaneously aborted or died in the first few weeks, without stepping up with the resources.

guenther, I'm sorry I horrified you. I think that it is completely wrong for anyone or force parents to abort children at any stage. I absolutely applaud your strong protection instinct towards your children, and I think that only parents who desperately want to protect children should have children. Parents who want to get rid of children absolutely should not have that child right now. My moral basis here is to prevent children from getting bad care and low resources.

Dark567 wrote:I personally think my human cells are more important then plant cells
And I personally think that plant cells, being autotrophs, are much more important than any human cells, including my own. And yet I kill millions of those plant cells every day. I'm really, completely OK with killing cells, including human blastocysts.

As we've discussed already, this hypothetical puts pro-choice people on a scale between those who support a women's right to decide what she should do with her body and those who essentially think that a blastocyst is valueless (me). I thought that this hypothetical would put pro-life people on a continuum between those who think that there is a value at conception, given continued health through development (those who are not horrified at the very high rate of natural spontaneous abortions) and those who think that there is value at conception, whether the conceived thing would be human cells that never developed a brain or not, and who think that spontaneous abortions should be mourned like a teenager killed in a car crash. Strangely, we don't appear to see that continuum in the discussion here, which has surprised me.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby limecat » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:37 pm UTC

The biggest problems with these sorts of debates is that on the surface it appears that we are debating over one thing-- whether abortion is OK or not. But in reality, the discussion is hinging around a much bigger topic-- what each individual sees as the marker of personal value, the value of life in its different forms, your view of the world (religious vs athiest) and its origins, etc.

Im also noting that people seem to be treating pregnancy as if it is some sort of incidental affliction that accompanies sex, an aberration (re: the comment about birth control failing). I think it would be helpful to a rational discussion of the topic if we could agree that the functional goal of sex IS pregnancy. Whether or not someone wanted a pregnancy, or didn't think they were making that choice, they make it whenever they have sex. There are methods of attempting to prevent a pregnancy from occurring, but if they fail it is a bit weak to say "well i never wanted a pregnancy in the first place so morality has no place here". I want to be clear i am not condemning birth control here, just pointing out that the argument "Speeding should be OK because people have airbags" wont hold up if the airbags fail when you hit and kill someone-- you took a risk, you take the consequences.

Then again we seem to live in a society where consequences are seen as a Bad Thing that should never have to accompany risk.


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