Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

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Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:06 pm UTC

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.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby DSenette » Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:57 pm UTC

IF there were a situation where the fetus, at any stage of gestation, could be safely removed from the uterus and then contained in some form of pseudo uterus outside of a human being that would allow the fetus to develop at the same rate and under the same conditions as a fetus in a live human uterus would and be able to mature to full gestation and birth...then there would be no need for abortion....

if your sole reason for terminating the pregnancy is your desire to "not bring another child into this world" then you really should have thought of that before you got pregnant....there are many options for contraception that are effective enough to pretty much ensure that you won't conceive a child if your desire is to not do so..

obviously this doesn't account for rape victims...but i would postulate that MOST rape victims that find themselves pregnant after the fact don't inherently want to terminate the child because of a distaste for the child itself...rather because they don't want to have a daily living reminder of the event...at which point i would imagine that if all things were equal (i.e. having this "fetus transfer" gave the same results to the prospective mother as an abortion....except that the fetus could live and be adopted at the time of it's birth) that the rape victim would choose to allow that child to be born and have a good life totally removed from the violence that caused it's conception


i'm heavily pro choice....with the caveat that any fetus that COULD survive a natural healthy life if it were removed without it's destruction should be given that chance (i.e. late term abortions...if the thing could be taken out and survive with no overly hindering effects...then it should be given that chance) so your hypothetical would extend that caveat to all stages of gestation
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:22 pm UTC

If I understand you correctly, you want to separate the argument that abortions are ethical because women cannot be expected to carry an unwanted child in their body from the different argument that women cannot be expected to give birth to an unwanted child?

So your hypothetical situation would be one where you can decide to give up your child for adoption, and then it is no longer needed to carry the unborn child to full term? If I understand you correctly, the similar effect could be had by a thought experiment in which a pregnancy was short and hardly noticable affair?

I suppose that more women would choose for adoption instead of abortion, but I would say that adoption doesn't entirely take away all responsibility you have for putting that child into the world, and together with that responsibility comes the right not to want to put that child into the world.

It would still be the same sort of gliding scale we have now, where as time progresses the personhood of the child-to-be becomes a more important factor, and the responsibility for the child changes from a choice into a given.

At the moment we have birth as a not entirely artificial turning point, after which we can say that we're close enough to personhood for all purposes. Without that, I guess we would have to admit that there is no specific point where a fetus turns into a real person, just that it happens somewhere gradually between conception and, say, their 1st birthday.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby BlackSails » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:39 pm UTC

Abortion would still happen. Do you really want to bring a child with Tay-Sachs, who will know nothing but pain and inevitably die within 2 years into the world?

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby SummerGlauFan » Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:42 pm UTC

I just have to point out that, if the system you are proposing still kills the fetus, then you really have not changed the situation at all. Abortion opponents will fight it as viciously as they would "traditional" abortion.

If, however, by "safely remove" you mean some sort of technology that would keep the fetus alive (and develop it correctly) outside of the mother's womb, it could be an option for many (though certainly not all) of the reasons women get abortions. Options are good things.

I ask because I cannot tell exactly what you meant by your new system. Could you clarify?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:16 pm UTC

I meant the technology that keeps the fetus alive and developing properly.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:47 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:Abortion would still happen. Do you really want to bring a child with Tay-Sachs, who will know nothing but pain and inevitably die within 2 years into the world?

Yeah, I think that even if the most common cases of abortion (where it's the life or health or simple bodily autonomy of the mother) were replaced with our magical incubation machines, there would still be instances where parents decide on traditional abortion in order to prevent the suffering and short life of a severely deformed infant.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:04 am UTC

I'm not 100% sold on the idea that giving a child up for adoption is inherently better than abortion. Either way the parent (or parents) are admitting they can't be responsible for the child, but in one case you're assuming someone else will act responsibly (and lovingly) instead. This is a big assumption, and historically some bad things have happened because of this.

I'm fully in support of the idea of women being able to bring a fetus to term outside their bodies in order to keep it. I have female friends who have spent long years on their academic careers, and having a child would put them behind the game in a way that their male counterparts wouldn't.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby sophyturtle » Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:41 am UTC

I also think abortion would still happen. I would still have one given that I don't want my genetic material to be fucked with by other people. I would not want it to have to go through all the BS of life (which is as horrible as it is good), especially if I had no idea where it would go or how it would be raised.
That compared with terminating the existence of something genetically human but not developed past the more rudimentary of the animals humans kill to eat on a regular basis is a clear choice to me.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby SummerGlauFan » Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:48 am UTC

Abortion would still happen, though I suspect a significant chunk of anti-abortion folks would be appeased by this. Abortions would certainly still happen for the health of the baby (Down Syndrome, serious bodily defects, etc), and would possibly still happen due to the mother choosing it for one reason or another, though I suspect some would lobby that this technology be used for any case not related to the baby's future health.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby the_pacetaker » Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:08 am UTC

I think it all depends upon what your stance on abortion is before the fact.

The abortion argument comes down to when you believe human life starts (at conception, at birth, etc).

If you don't believe that life starts at conception, that the embryo is not a "person," then this hypothetical technology should not change anything. As parents you should still be able to make the decision as to whether these cells should make a person, because as others have mentioned you are still responsible for how the child turns out.

Although by removing the larger issue of the woman's right over her own body, this sort of hypothetical situation would give the father more say. More messy court battles.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby EnderSword » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:47 pm UTC

If I'm understanding right, this is an attempt to remove the woman's objection that its her body and she can't be forced to carry the child.
However, I think you'd still have people contending that they have the right to decide how their genetic material is dealt with, and that they can choose whether or not to produce offspring or not.

I do think its ethical to still abort it for a number of reasons, including defect, lack of ability to give care and personal choice.
There are cases where a woman even wants a child but still aborts for some medical reason relate to the child itself, that seems fine to me.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby limecat » Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:46 pm UTC

the_pacetaker wrote:I think it all depends upon what your stance on abortion is before the fact.

The abortion argument comes down to when you believe human life starts (at conception, at birth, etc).

If you don't believe that life starts at conception, that the embryo is not a "person," then this hypothetical technology should not change anything. As parents you should still be able to make the decision as to whether these cells should make a person, because as others have mentioned you are still responsible for how the child turns out.


I think you hit the nail on the head. My gripe with BOTH sides of the issue is the confusing terminology and the rhetoric they will throw up to smokescreen the issue. Everyone is "pro-choice"--choice is good, right? Or how about "pro-life"? The problem is that all of this, and all of the scare posters about how abortions will result in mutilation or whatever, is it all obscures the real issue, which is, "is the fetus a person or not?" If it is a person, then no argument or condition can change the fact that you would be ending a human life, and that in most cases it would be what we define as murder. If it is not a person, then all of this is irrelevant.

Discussions about whether abortions would still occur in back alleys are irrelevant as well--we dont use that as an argument for legalizing muggings, do we? Society basically says "we believe that one person should not rob another at gunpoint, so we will take a stand against it." The same should be the case for abortion-- rather than setting conditions under which it is OK and not OK, people need to have the moral fortitude to say "I believe a fetus [is | is not] a human being" and draw the necessary conclusion about abortion. Anything else is evasive and smokescreening.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:22 pm UTC

"If it is not a person, then all of this is irrelevant."

I actually disagree with this, hence my hypothetical. I think it is a false dichotomy to say that either something is a person or it's completely irrelevant how you treat it. Animals aren't people, but there are moral considerations on how animals should be treated - different both from people and from (say) plants. It isn't a simply binary.

Most people who are pro-choice believe that within the bounds of what can be done to a fetus, anything preserving bodily autonomy is justified. The reason for my hypothetical is because I'm curious about how concerns other than bodily autonomy "rank", so to speak.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby limecat » Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:56 pm UTC

Animals aren't people, but there are moral considerations on how animals should be treated - different both from people and from (say) plants. It isn't a simply binary.


I had never thought of it this way-- but then its probably clear that I do view it as a human. Are you saying that you believe that the fetus progresses from animal to human at some point? If so, what is the feature that makes it become human? What makes you believe we should treat it as an animal prior to that? Please clarify.
(EDIT: to be clear, i am differentiating between a mass of cells--say, an egg-- and other living things. I would consider an egg or sperm alive in one sense of the word, but I dont think I would attempt to apply the same considerations to them as I would a kitten, and ditto a kitten vs a human).

And once those two questions are resolved, are we not back at square one, where you either believe that it is human at some point (I hope we are in agreement on the third trimester?), or you cannot really speak of any ethics at all until it comes out of the birth canal. The point im driving at is that many times people will bring up "right to choose", which does not make sense in the context--wouldnt you look at me funny if I seriously tried to defend my "right to choose" to shoot someone in the face? If we can agree at all about somethings status as a living thing, then "its my body" is taken out of the equation.

A few other points I'd like to make-- I believe Occam's Razor applies to some degree here, and since this is a fairly important issue or not (are we killing a human or not?), I would opt for the simple and unambiguous "its a human". There may be special circumstances where that abortion may spare someone a lot of pain-- but for some reason many arguments about sparing the baby pain disappear out the window if you were to suggest smothering a newborn, so they dont really have an impact on what im saying here (if your circumstances are really so dire, then whats the problem with killing that newborn anyways? did the birth canal perform some magic on it?). Additionally, with most arguments saying "abortion is OK at such and such a trimester", that line will inevitably get shoved one way or the other as time goes on, and its such an arbitrary line regardless that you cant even begin to equate it with ethics at all. At least if you say "as soon as the egg is fertilized" you have some kind of catch-all where you can be fairly certain that youre not killing a person. Thats not to say that its correct, but given the gravity of the issue I would much rather err on the side of "too cautious" than "killing a human", even if it is inconvenient for some.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Soralin » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:04 am UTC

limecat wrote:I would opt for the simple and unambiguous "its a human".

Well it is human certainly, but that's very different from saying it's a person. I can kill thousands of living human cells all the time when I scratch an itch and not have any problem with that, and I'd imagine it's the same for you as well. So obviously something being human, or alive, or both, isn't enough to value it as important, and isn't the key factor in making a decision, or you'd make the same decision regarding scratching an itch or picking a scab or so on the same way. I'd say that sentience, intelligence, self-awareness, the ability to think or feel or sense are the important aspects, which a fetus, for most of it's gestation, doesn't come close to being able to do.

Those criteria may still be vague or unknown, but it narrows down the range a lot. For example, we know that if it doesn't have a functioning brain, that it doesn't have any of those qualities.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:15 am UTC

limecat wrote:I would opt for the simple and unambiguous "its a human".

Being simple and unambiguous doesn't make a statement any more correct than if it's complicated and ambiguous. After all, I can say "it isn't a human", which is every bit as simple and unambiguous as your claim. And yet clearly they cannot both be true, right?

We can say it's not a person at some point (say conception) and then later it is a person (say by the time it's born), without there being a specific instant between those two times where, at all times before that instant, it's not human, and at all times after, it is. The real world is made up of vague categories, and you're just going to have to deal with that.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby limecat » Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:34 pm UTC

Soralin wrote:Well it is human certainly, but that's very different from saying it's a person. I can kill thousands of living human cells all the time when I scratch an itch and not have any problem with that, and I'd imagine it's the same for you as well.

I would differentiate between "part of a human" (ie, a sperm, an egg, a skin cell) and the whole thing. When i said human, i was not referring to a part of one. To be clear, I would regard the zygote as substantially different than the egg or the sperm seperately-- see below.
We can say it's not a person at some point (say conception) and then later it is a person (say by the time it's born), without there being a specific instant between those two times where, at all times before that instant, it's not human, and at all times after, it is.

I was not. I'm abolishing any doubts by setting a clear dividing line-- after fertilization. It may cause some inconvenience, but we're talking about an issue involving human life-- I dont think "inconvenience" should even be on the radar in this discussion.
gmalivik wrote:After all, I can say "it isn't a human", which is every bit as simple and unambiguous as your claim. And yet clearly they cannot both be true, right?

Thats very true, but given the uncertanty involved, and the stakes (if you're wrong, you're killing an innocent human; if I'm wrong, it simply causes more inconvenience), I would rather err on the side of being too cautious. I know all the arguments for how that abortion could prevent someone's life from being ruined, but there are many alternatives.

Further, lets construct a situation where abortion would generally be seen as a "good thing". A woman is a victim of rape. The rapist had HIV. The fetus is also seen to be missing an arm. The woman is poor, and cannot afford the child, whose quality of life would be degraded anyways due to the defects and HIV. Abortion seems to sound good; and I'm sure that some people would try to argue that my "caution" is not worth it-- that in this situation, theyre willing to take the ethical risk that they might be killing a legitimate human. That being the case, why have I NEVER heard someone advocate killing that child immediately after birth (assuming they didnt do the abortion in time)? Why is infant abandonment generally regarded as awful? Surely in THIS case we can discard the rules-- after all, its for the child's own good?

Keep these in mind. If you feel the stakes in one situation are so high that you feel an abortion is a must-- even if you are unsure of when it becomes a human-- then try to see if you would still be able to justify a "post birth abortion". If you cant, and you're being intellectually honest with yourself, you will recognize you have 0 ethical ground to stand on given the uncertainty. This is NOT an issue of "did I buy milk last week? Should I buy more? Lets err on the side of getting more!" This is a serious issue, and being wrong on your stance could potentially mean what our society defines as murder-- at least "Pro-lifers" have the comfort of knowing that if theyre wrong they didn't really do much harm.

I am aware of issues where the child's birth will threaten the mother's life-- but these are special circumstances where we're dealing with life vs life, and the argument is trotted out FAR too often for how often it occurs in actuality. Pulling out that argument to defend commonplace abortion is like pulling out "self defense" as an argument advocating killing an unarmed civilian, or an ambulance's need to break traffic laws to justify your own. You CANNOT use one to justify the other.

What seems to be forgotton here, additionally, is how people operate. If you do not set a "after the zygote, no abortions" rule (with VERY few VERY restrictive exceptions), you will eventually end up in the situation we are in now-- third trimester abortions are occuring, people like myself who feel very strongly about abortion are paying tax dollars so that teens can get no-parental-approval abortions (and while we are a minority, we are a huge minority of some 35-40%), and doctors are unable to say no to a procedure that they may feel is highly unethical. How did we get here? It's how society works, and its called the slippery slope. Do you not see something wrong with the government coming in, and saying, "well, we know this is an emotionally charged issue, and one side thinks its akin to murder, but its OK-- we have the moral authority to declare all these issues moot."

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Zamfir » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:08 pm UTC

limecat wrote:If you do not set a "after the zygote, no abortions" rule (with VERY few VERY restrictive exceptions), you will eventually end up in the situation we are in now: [...description of the situation...] How did we get here? It's how society works, and its called the slippery slope.


This would be a more convincing argument if this slippery slope was seen universally all over the world. Instead, many countries have a very sensible policy, along the lines of "allow abortions with relative ease up to week X, make it harder up to week Y, and only allow it for medical reasons afterwards". People then move on to debating good numbers for X and Y, for the amount of barriers required, do teenagers need their parent's approval, etc. Different compromises are found all over the world. The hard all-or-nothing debate is mostly a particularity of the US.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:31 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote: 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.


These arguments have already been repeated a billion times and on a dozen threads. I'm not saying people shouldn't argue about it, but if you are pro-life, the answer to my hypothetical situation is already encompassed in your general belief about abortion, so you really aren't addressing the issue.

Here's where my hypothetical comes in: I still think that setting the "person"/"not a person" as a simple binary is too simplistic. I'd say that as brain functions gradually come into existence, the ethical considerations gradually change as well. Now, I happen to think that during a good chunk of this time, the bodily autonomy of the pregnant person outweighs the concerns with killing a partially developed human organism. My question is, if issues of bodily autonomy were taken off the table (because we would remove the fetus from the body easily without harming it or the woman), how would other concerns weigh, ethically, against the morality of terminating it.

Just to be really clear on the first step - let's suppose that the embryo, within days of coming into existence, has been removed from the womb and put in a "growth tank". The biological parents have not yet given up legal responsibility for it. In this scenario, what are the moral ramifications of terminating it? What reasons do you think justify terminating it? To what degree does physical development matter?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby limecat » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:51 pm UTC

EDIT- Removed response to zamfir, respecting setzer's desire to not make this a politicized thing.
Setzer, I apologize for the parts of my post that needlessly brought the law in, but that was generally peripheral to the argument, and I think it is difficult to seperate the law and the ethics.

As for your hypothetical, I do not see how you can have an ethical system that leaves ambiguous grey areas of uncertainty-- I would argue that such a system is flawed. There has to be some point at which you would clearly say "this is a person, and I must treat it as such", or you are left in a situation where you treat a 2yo as less of a human than a mentally developed adolescent; it also leaves up the murky "can you terminate a child post birth if it has serious mental defects". What if motor skills or speech centers never develop? Has its "humanity" halted in those phases?

If we were talking about a sac of cells that were unambiguously not human (ie, a cyst; an egg; a scab; a growth) then I would agree-- the mother's health is the primary concern, not what COULD develop from, say, the egg. If you remove an egg from the body, I think we would both agree there is little reason to bring ethics to the table any more than we would for a tumor. When you talk about a fetus, I dont think you have accomplished much on the ethical side, except removed the possibility of the fetus harming the mother during burth. You are left with an entity that will eventually become like us-- so you are right back to the question of "is it a person yet, or is it a growth".
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:55 pm UTC

My ethical concerns are rather different than yours, because I don't think there is anything inherently special about being human. I don't assign more moral worth to a human being than to a plant or an animal. What I *do* assign moral worth to is a conscious, sentient, being (there's a more comprehensive way to describe this that would explain why I don't think killing people in comas is always okay, but unless you want to bring it up I'll sum it up as "conscious and sentient"). This is something that does develop gradually as the brain does, and hence the gray area.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby limecat » Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:58 pm UTC

That would make a big difference in how you approach things. But if there is nothing special about being a person, why bring ethics in at all--the fetus is weaker, and I do not see a reason aside from its possible worth as a human to protect it; if you remove the human worth, there should be no issues just saying "let the parents decide" without worrying about the fetus at all.

Again however, your philosophy opens up a pandoras box of issues-- since worth is assigned to sentience, what of the baby born with Downs? What of the newborn who cannot cry, and is showing signs of mental retardation? As was once remarked by a father, "nothing magical happens during birth". The baby is already formed--it is no different before or after. You are correct that sentience continues to grow, but unless you believe that worth also grows as you age, I cannot see how you can hold that view for just fetuses.

All that aside, I'm not sure how good of an answer you can hope for unless some test-tube baby were to speak up at 7 months to tell us "I have become fully aware".

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:08 pm UTC

limecat wrote:That would make a big difference in how you approach things. But if there is nothing special about being a person, why bring ethics in at all--the fetus is weaker, and I do not see a reason aside from its possible worth as a human to protect it; if you remove the human worth, there should be no issues just saying "let the parents decide" without worrying about the fetus at all.

Again however, your philosophy opens up a pandoras box of issues-- since worth is assigned to sentience, what of the baby born with Downs? What of the old person with Alzheimers? What of the newborn who cannot cry, and is showing signs of mental retardation?



Why bring ethics in at all? Because as soon as there is brain development, there is the moral issue of weighing concern X (X being a motive to terminate it), against the moral weight of a partially known level of brain development (we don't know all the specifics, but we can know the broad range of possibilities at any level of development). Now, it could be that to you brain development is not important, only inherent human worth. In which case we'll obviously have radically different beliefs because to me it is the mental existence that has moral worth, not the fact that something is human.

I've never heard any evidence suggesting that mental retardation, Alzheimers, or Downs prevents someone from being conscious or subjectively experiencing things. But to take an example that would - if a person had their entire brain except the brain stem removed, and so only had basic bodily functions, I would not be morally opposed to the family (or whoever responsible) killing them, because to me the being with moral worth died when their personality, subjective awareness, and consciousness did.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby limecat » Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:57 pm UTC

Ah, I was bringing those up to discuss the issue of PARTIAL loss of consciousness-- that is, to bring the idea of partial humanity from fetuses and apply it to non-fetuses.

But if you are hoping for an exact scale which says "a woman's desire to remain childless" is weighted at 6.5, and the fetus's level of consciousness gives it a weight of 4, then I am afraid I am not qualified to make those judgements, and I imagine it is something you would have to either work out alone or with others who share the same view.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby semicharmed » Wed Jul 15, 2009 4:25 pm UTC

I'm a woman, and very pro-choice. "Bodily autonomy" is one of my biggest reasons for being pro-choice. I.e., I'm of the mind that until a healthy, normally developing fetus can survive outside of its mother's body, with minimal medical intervention, it's not a person. So somewhere between the 7-8th month is my "magical" marker for personhood.

Although thinking about this scenario — where a fetus could be removed from a woman's body safely and essentially grow outside the body until 38 weeks — makes me think I'd still be adamantly pro-choice. This essentially would allow someone to make the adoption decision early in the pregnancy, and stop being pregnant when they make that decision. It comes down to what sophy briefly touched on — the zygote/embryo/fetus is made of my genetic material, and if I was not ready/able to raise my child, I don't want someone else to. And I'm of a demographic (white, upper middle class, healthy, etc.) whose babies are desired. So even if this technology was available, I'd still be broadly pro-choice — it would just shift my main reasoning. And I'd obviously still be pro-choices in cases of disease/abnormal development.

And thinking even more, what would happen if abortion was outlawed, except for medical reasons, and all those babies in the statistics anti-abortion activists quote were suddenly being gestated to term outside the body*? Who would pay for the gestation, and then beyond that, the child's life until they were eighteen? Obviously not the mother, as they made the decision to give up the fetus when it was removed from their body. According to the Guttamacher Institute, 1.21 million abortions happened in 2005.

Even if this technology were available, it wouldn't change the choices I would make if I had an unwanted pregnancy. So I'd still be very much pro-choice, as I'd choose to take responsibility for my actions by terminating and not foisting an unwanted fetus off to a baby farm, and the possibility of an adoptive family.

*Anyone else imagining a baby farm? I know I sure as hell am.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Kazan » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:14 pm UTC

I am of the opinion that a fetus is a human at the moment of conception. I am also of the opinion that the mother should be allowed to slaughter it for any reason or no reason.

Couple reasons for this. First of all, on the personal scale, it's the mothers body. It's entirely up to her if she wants to walk around with a parasite for nine months.

Secondly, kids from poor families or kids who are simply unwanted have a higher risk of falling into crime than kids who are wanted, properly cared for and have all the basic material necessities, such as healthy and nutritious (and thus more expensive) food, education and so on.
If there were no unwanted kids, and people were only born into what we call middle class families or better, the crime rate and general unpleasentness of people could potentially be reduced by quite a lot.

As to the original question, i don't see how it would significantly change anything. It's still the mothers kid to do with as she pleases, so if she wants it dead, simply abort it (or remove it and then kill it if that is safer/easier). If she wants to give it away to adoption, then she gets to skip the pregnancy. If she wants to keep it, then she has the choice between avoiding stretch marks or having a normal pregnancy.

The only problem i see is that we could end up with too many kids who are waiting to be adopted. So it would have to be limited how many people could choose to give away to adoption instead of aborting.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby setzer777 » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:23 pm UTC

Kazan wrote:As to the original question, i don't see how it would significantly change anything. It's still the mothers kid to do with as she pleases, so if she wants it dead, simply abort it (or remove it and then kill it if that is safer/easier). If she wants to give it away to adoption, then she gets to skip the pregnancy. If she wants to keep it, then she has the choice between avoiding stretch marks or having a normal pregnancy.

The only problem i see is that we could end up with too many kids who are waiting to be adopted. So it would have to be limited how many people could choose to give away to adoption instead of aborting.


Hmm...would it really be justified to have it be solely the woman's decision *after* it has already been removed from her body? It's her decision now because a fetus is inside her body and having a direct impact on her body. Once apart it is simply something that has her genetic material, and then she's essentially on the same footing as the father.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Kazan » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:40 pm UTC

Growing the baby in a tube instead of in her body is merely a convenience. The baby still needs to grow, and it is no more alive, human, or valuable just because we can see it directly.

You could bring in the "well who is paying for it" angle, but if she pays the bills then nothing ought to change. And she should have to, to keep it. Otherwise taxes would have to cover it and who wants that.

Clarification: The reason the father should not have more say in this hypothetical is that we have not been conditioned for millions of years to such a situation. Even with the baby right in front of us, most people will still think of it as the mothers baby simply because we are hardwired to think like that. Besides that, it can be much harder to be sure of who the father is than who the mother is.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:52 pm UTC

Kazan wrote:I am of the opinion that a fetus is a human at the moment of conception. I am also of the opinion that the mother should be allowed to slaughter it for any reason or no reason.
...
As to the original question, i don't see how it would significantly change anything. It's still the mothers kid to do with as she pleases, so if she wants it dead, simply abort it (or remove it and then kill it if that is safer/easier). If she wants to give it away to adoption, then she gets to skip the pregnancy. If she wants to keep it, then she has the choice between avoiding stretch marks or having a normal pregnancy.


Do you also believe that the mother (or, perhaps, any individual that has financial responsibility for the child) has the right to kill it AFTER it is born? As in, should a mom have the legal right to kill a two-month-old infant?
If not, why is one acceptable and the other not?
If both are acceptable, then when if ever does the human gain a right to life? How does this view (that the child is disposable even if it can survive outside of the mother) impact your views on slavery, or human rights in general?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby cathrl » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:55 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:I'm fully in support of the idea of women being able to bring a fetus to term outside their bodies in order to keep it. I have female friends who have spent long years on their academic careers, and having a child would put them behind the game in a way that their male counterparts wouldn't.


I don't follow this at all. The vast majority of professional women carry on their careers while pregnant anyway, to within a few days of the birth. Once the child's been born, how does where it gestated alter their career options in any way?

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Kazan » Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:05 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:Do you also believe that the mother (or, perhaps, any individual that has financial responsibility for the child) has the right to kill it AFTER it is born? As in, should a mom have the legal right to kill a two-month-old infant?
If not, why is one acceptable and the other not?
If both are acceptable, then when if ever does the human gain a right to life? How does this view (that the child is disposable even if it can survive outside of the mother) impact your views on slavery, or human rights in general?

Firstly, in this hypothetical the fetus can not survive outside the mothers body without medical aid. It is basically on life support, which is to say it is still relying on others for its basic bodily functions to work, the form of life support just changes. Contrary to popular belief, medical aid is not a right, it's a privilege, a privilege which someone else has to pay for. And if the benefactor chooses to withhold this particular privilege, then tough.

So. Human worth. What is it? In simplest terms, human worth is the value we have to other people, and it is gained through our social interactions. A fetus can't communicate, can't do anything other than float in a belly/tube and wait to grow.

A newly born baby can and does communicate. This is where the first "worth" by the above definition is gained, and as such it is no longer appropriate to kill it. Also, the mother really should have made up her mind not to keep it somewhere during the last nine months, so the fact the fetus has survived this long could be seen as consent to let it live (and i think this is what actually happens in the real world on some level).

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:54 pm UTC

Kazan wrote:Firstly, in this hypothetical the fetus can not survive outside the mothers body without medical aid. It is basically on life support, which is to say it is still relying on others for its basic bodily functions to work, the form of life support just changes. Contrary to popular belief, medical aid is not a right, it's a privilege, a privilege which someone else has to pay for. And if the benefactor chooses to withhold this particular privilege, then tough.


Until the newborn is old enough to acquire its own food, isn't it in fact still receiving a different form of life support that someone else has to pay for?

Kazan wrote:A newly born baby can and does communicate. This is where the first "worth" by the above definition is gained, and as such it is no longer appropriate to kill it.

So, if the baby doesn't communicate in a way that anyone else is interested in (does nothing but cries, coughs, sleeps), then we can go ahead and kill it? And if we can see the fetus and it has a way to communicate with us through movement or other acts, do we then have to keep it alive?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Kazan » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:00 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:Until the newborn is old enough to acquire its own food, isn't it in fact still receiving a different form of life support that someone else has to pay for?

When was the last time you acquired your own food? How often do you chase down, kill, skin, gut and prepare your meals?

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:So, if the baby doesn't communicate in a way that anyone else is interested in (does nothing but cries, coughs, sleeps), then we can go ahead and kill it? And if we can see the fetus and has a way to communicate with us through movement or other factors, do we then have to keep it alive?
-OcV

The baby is born, the mother has displayed a willingness to let it live by not terminating it before that point. The baby has value to her, and to anyone present who happens to like babies which would almost certainly include whoever pulled it out of her.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:03 pm UTC

Kazan wrote:When was the last time you acquired your own food? How often do you chase down, kill, skin, gut and prepare your meals?

How often do I, or how often do I have the capacity to? By any reasonable standard, a newborn is as dependent on other humans just after "birth" as before.

Kazan wrote:The baby is born, the mother has displayed a willingness to let it live by not terminating it before that point. The baby has value to her, and to anyone present who happens to like babies which would almost certainly include whoever pulled it out of her.

So, you've decided that if she's chosen not to kill it yet then that proves the baby has value to her? Why is this only true at the point of viability, and not at some shorter or longer interval? Why is this the exact right period of time to not kill something for us to know it has value?
Similarly, if there are people around the fetus that like fetuses, doesn't the fetus have value to them?
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Kazan » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:09 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:How often do I, or how often do I have the capacity to? By any reasonable standard, a newborn is as dependent on other humans just after "birth" as before.

Certainly not. It is no longer on life support. That is quite a bit more independence than it used to have.

And i doubt you actually have the capacity to acquire your own edible meat. Most people don't nowadays.

Also also, a kid in an apple orchard which has a few goats or other animals could theoretically survive almost from the moment of birth without other human aid. It does not seem a useful topic of discussion.

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:So, you've decided that if she's chosen not to kill it yet then that proves the baby has value to her? Why is this only true at the point of viability, and not at some shorter or longer interval? Why is this the exact right period of time to not kill something for us to know it has value?
Similarly, if there are people around the fetus that like fetuses, doesn't the fetus have value to them?

Don't we have to be serious here at SB? Fetuses who value things?
Last edited by Kazan on Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:12 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Oculus Vespertilionis » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:11 pm UTC

Kazan wrote:Certainly not. it is no longer on life support. That is quite a bit more independence than it used to have.

By what standard? It will die without direct human intervention now; it is under no circumstance capable of surviving independently. How, then, do you claim it is more independent than it used to be?

Kazan wrote:Don't we have to be serious here at SB? Fetuses who value things?

You misread me. Read again, then answer. Also, you ignored all the questions before this.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Kazan » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:21 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:You misread me. Read again, then answer. Also, you ignored all the questions before this.

That's what i get for posting at midnight i guess.

Babies are inherently considered valuable. There are evolutionary reasons for this, such as pregnancy being an expensive undertaking and birth a chancy affair for most of human existence and the cheap labor they represented for just as long. We are hardwired to consider babies worth keeping alive, because they are likely to have value to us at some point in the future (if nothing else, by flipping burgers for us).

People who like fetuses don't get to work at hospitals. It's not enough to have your papers in order in that business, you also have to be considered mentally suited for the job. Take it up with your local hospital if you wish to know more about this.

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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:42 pm UTC

Oculus Vespertilionis wrote:How, then, do you claim it is more independent than it used to be?

The difference is who it's dependent on. After birth, it'll live as long as some person takes care of it. Before, it's necessary that the pregnant woman in particular provide for all of its needs. After birth, that woman can refuse to give up her bodily autonomy to take care of it, without killing it. Thus killing an infant is going farther than necessary to achieve her goal of controlling her body. Before birth, this is impossible, and so the fetus dies. This is why, in the real world, birth (or at least viability) makes a reasonable ethical dividing line.

But that's the real world, and if you want to discuss it you can go to the other abortion thread(s).

Here, we're taking that out of the equation and assuming for the sake of argument that the fetus can be removed from the woman's body at *any* point in development, in a way that is safe for both her and for the fetus, which can then continue developing in some sort of artificial womb. In other words, we're saying that, whatever you may think about personhood, the point of fetal viability has been moved right back to zero. A zygote/embryo/fetus is now viable (in that it stands a good chance of eventually becoming an infant) from the moment of conception.

So please keep that premise in mind so that this thread can avoid becoming just another abortion debate like the ones we've had all over the place already.
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Re: Hypothetical Abortion Ethics

Postby Kazan » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:48 pm UTC

Even in this hypothetical, we still have millions of years of conditioning telling us that the little clump of flesh is simply not worth as much as a nine month old clump of flesh which looks a bit like we do.

The thing about ethics is that we make them up, and we make them up largely based on our feelings. I doubt very much anything major would change, even if logically a case might be made that it should.


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