This is the fourth time I’ve started writing my thoughts about the abortion debate. The other three times? My arguments all had flaws or contradictions. I’ve learned a lot this past week. Besides all the thoughtful comments that followed HispanicPundit’s post, I’ve also been reading articles from both sides about the abortion debate. I’ve been talking to all my friends; mostly playing devil’s advocate and arguing HP’s position. I’ve tried to keep my mind as open as possible and after it all, I’ve only been able to come to one conclusion. Before I say that conclusion, though, let me make a couple points.
First, I have a problem with Alan Keyes’ analogy between abortion and slavery. That analogy equates yet to be developed fetuses with fully developed Africans and African-Americans. It argues that a collection of dividing cells (see picture1) deserves the same rights and protection as fully grown adults.
In fairness, as HP points out, Susanne’s analogy between a fetus and an adult with “no brain activity” is also flawed. A fetus has the potential to become a living human being while a comatose adult does not.
My earlier three arguments for choice all relied on the assumption that a fetus is not a human being and does not deserve the same protection as a new born baby. But then I realized I needed to draw a line marking where life starts and when it should be protected. And as Peter Singer and HP point out, what’s the difference between a prematurely born baby and a yet to be born fetus?
Finally something clicked and I felt like I was able to see the abortion debate for what it is. I believe that each camp (pro-choice and pro-life) has its own guiding moral principle. Those in the pro-choice camp seek to diminish suffering as much as possible. Those in the pro-life camp seek to protect each individual life.
Pro-choicers realize that an unwanted pregnancy could cause suffering for the mother, father, the child, society, and the environment. They also understand having an abortion can cause suffering for the mother and father, but they don’t believe (and science supports this), that it causes suffering to the fetus (at least, not in the first two trimesters). In the end, they believe it is up to the individual to choose whichever decision would cause less suffering. This argument also applies to brain dead adults (to end suffering versus protecting life) and to Keyes’ slavery analogy. That is, slavery was abolished to end suffering; not because one day the world realized that Blacks were now part of the human species.
Pro-lifers are guided by a different moral principle and that is the protection of life. The absolute protection of each individual life trumps the suffering it might cause. Obviously, forcing a 13-year-old girl who was raped by her father to go ahead and have the child causes much more suffering than aborting the fetus would. But it is in order to protect the developing human being which has already been created, no matter what the circumstances.
Once I understood the two guiding moral objectives of each side, I realized – at a philosophical level – that neither one was more “right.” Instead they are just different. Do we want to diminish personal, subjective suffering or do we want to enforce societal, objective protection of life.
It’s a personal decision and something that should be kept in mind when you vote. In the end, I agree with HispanicPundit in that we should do whatever the majority of our democracy wants. I will always vote and advocate free choice because I personally believe diminishing suffering is more important than protecting life. But that is a personal choice and thanks to our discussion here, I understand the other side much better.
If you disagree with me. Or if you have any thoughts at all about my take, please leave a comment. I know a lot of you are sick of discussing abortion and want to move on to the next topic. Well, we do to. But we’re going to wait just a couple days more to let people respond to both HP’s take and this post here and then we’ll move on. I think economic policy is next, then school vouchers, and then we’ll leave it open to suggestions.