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The Wrong of Abortion

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J.W. Lane

on 7 March 2013

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Transcript of The Wrong of Abortion

The Wrong of
Abortion Non-Person Arguments Forcing Religious Beliefs? What Follows? What's Worse? Another Non-Person Argument Valuable When? "Human babies are not born self-aware or capable of grasping their lives over time. They are not persons. Hence their lives would seem to be no more worthy of protection than the life of a fetus." ". . . a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to live as others." A constant criticism of the pro-life movement is that if it were successful, then it would force "religious" beliefs about human life onto others who do not share those beliefs. What is Being Killed? The morality of abortion - its rightness or wrongness - hinges on how we answer the question, "What is being killed?" If abortion kills a human person, then it's wrong. If it doesn't, then it's not wrong. The Supreme Court recognized this important question when ruling on Roe vs. Wade, the case that eventually legalized abortion in the United States:
"If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case (Roe's), of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment." A Human Person is Being Killed There are good reasons for thinking that during an abortion a human person is being killed. Embryology shows that the life that begins at fertilization yields a (1) distinct organism with (2) active, internally-directed development. Three Facts There are three, important facts about the embryo that we need to understand:
1. The embryo is distinct from its parents.
2. The embryo has the genetic makeup of a
human being.
3. The embryo is a complete, though immature,
If allowed to live, the embryo will mature into a fully-developed human person. Objection It is sometimes asked, "Why stop at protecting the embryo? Why not defend the sperm, or the ovum as well? Aren't they persons too?" Not Exactly There are two good reasons for answering, "No," to the above questions:
1. Sex cells are incomplete.
2. At fertilization, sex cells con-
tribute their genetic material and
then cease to exist. It follows that an embryo is a human person, albeit at an early stage in his or her development. During an abortion, a human person is being killed. For this reason, abortion is morally wrong. Those who attempt to defend the "right" to abortion draw a distinction between human beings and human persons. They agree it is wrong to kill human persons, but they think it is permissible to kill human beings. For them, embryos are only human beings. A Summary of an Article by
Patrick Lee & Robert George How can they make such a claim? Dualist Deception On what basis do defenders of abortion differentiate between human persons and human beings? One word: consciousness. For them personhood equals higher mental capacity. So although the bodily organism, or the human being might come into existence at fertilization, the mind, or the human person does not come into existence until later. To identify personhood with consciousness is to endorse a dualistic view of human nature. It means that a person is not his or her soul-body union, but rather, that the person is his or her consciousness alone. But this is an impoverished view of human nature - you are not your consciousness! An Argument Against Dualism 1. A person senses things with bodily organs.
2. A person thinks about things with his or her
conscious mind.
3. The same person that senses with the body
thinks with the mind.
4. Thus, a person is a living, bodily entity. Defining Personhood Clearly, you come into existence when the living, bodily entity comes into existence: i.e., at conception. But what is a human person? A person is a distinct, embodied subject with a natural capacity for reason and choice. Whereas dualist arguments draw a distinction between when a human being comes into existence and when a human person comes into existence, evaluative arguments draw a distinction between when a human person comes into existence, and when a human person comes into existence as valuable. Dualism at Its Ugliest Princeton philosopher and animal rights activist Peter Singer identifies personhood with consciousness. He carries this belief to its horrific logical conclusion. For evaluativists, persons do not become valuable until later stages in their development. Rights are not something they acquire until they grow older. Evaluative Arguments ignore the fact that some rights come with development (like voting), while others do not. The right to life does not come with development. Rather, it is the foundation on which all other rights are based. The Right to Life Rights are given on the basis of what a thing is; not on the varying degrees to which a thing possesses certain attributes. Otherwise, justice and equality would be impossible. Imagine what it would be like if we gave more rights to people who were more attractive, or who had more money! Since people are valuable on the basis of what they are, and they are living, embodied persons who begin existing at conception, they are thus valuable from the moment of conception onward. The Bodily Rights Argument It is sometimes argued that the mother has exclusive rights over her own body and that the embryo is not entitled to the use of it. Accordingly, the mother must give her consent to carry the embryo full-term. We've already seen that the embryo is dis-tinct from the mother. It is not a "part" of a woman's body like a tooth, or an appendix. Moreover, the embryo is not infringing upon the mother's rights; it is not causing her any injustice. We have to remember that the harm caused by abortion - the death of the embryo - is irreversibly greater than the harm avoided by abortion, such as difficulties the mother might experience during or after pregnancy. Conclusion As Catholics, we do not reject abortion simply because the Church tells us to. There are solid, rational grounds apart from religious reasons for adopting a pro-life position with regard to early, human life. Remember the Raft Analogy If two people are on a raft with limited provisions, one doesn't have the right to throw the other overboard just to protect him or herself. That would be murder. The same is true for abortion: a woman does not have the right kill her baby in order to protect herself. We all know that there are religious reasons for opposing abortion, but are there any reasons to oppose it that are not based on religion? Are we capable of discussing the wrong of abortion on the basis of reason alone?
I think we are. Non-Religious Reasons? A powerful objection against dualism can be raised via the argument from substantial identity:
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