View Full Version : THE abortion thread

06-30-2004, 11:00 PM
The following note is from my philosophy notes.

Arguements that personhood is achieved at conception do not work. Nonetheless, probably a fetus is a person well before birth, though not a zygote.

However, because of all of the line-drawing problems, let's just assume that personhood is achieved conception. what then, of arguements for and against abortion? It is argued that even if the fetus is a person, an abortion may be morally permissible. Abortion becomes an issue of competing rights, Mother's and fetus'.

The famous violinist test case

Imagine that you are providing life-support for an uncouncious famous violinist. Are you morally bound to stay plugged to the violinist?

This is an arguement by analogy. If, given your circumstances, you think you are morally bound to stay plugged into teh violinist, then it seems you must think abortion is not morally permissible. If, given your circumstances, you think you are not morally bound to stay plugged intop the violinist, then it seems you must think that abortion is morally permissible.

some important variations:

* What if you would never be unplugged form the violinist?
* What if you were kidnapped an plugged into teh violinist? (Rape)
* What if you volunteered, but then changed you rmind?
* What if your were plugged in by accident?

This thought experiment is meant to test out intuitions about competing rights.

Also important is the distinction between killing and letting die. Some argue that letting die is not as bad as killing.

The central issue/question is: Can abortion be justified on self-defense grounds? If being plugged into the violinist would kill you, would you be justified to unplug yourself? most would think so. Your right to life is just as strong as his right to life.

How strong is right to life? Are you obliged to do everything possible to save someone? everyone? some claim that we must only refrain form killing. Perhaps this needs to be modified to killing unjustly.

So, self-defense can justify some killing. But there are limits to self-defense. The important question, then is, what thread to you justifies killing the assailant? what thread to the mother justifies abortion?

- the thread of shortened life?
- the thread of permanent injury?
- certain inconveniences? ... etc

This arguement concludes that justified abortion requires some serious thread to the mother.

06-30-2004, 11:02 PM
We have tonnes of threads on this everywhere. I explained my position on the third page in a big post of the "Its amazing what a paracitic mass can do" thread.

BTW what is "thread"

06-30-2004, 11:12 PM
moral and legal statue of abortion

The previous arguement, does not establish a woman's right to choose abortion, therefore, it does not go far enough.

It is argues that a fetus is not a member of the moral community in virtue of it not being a person. This again raises the issue of personhood.

First, is a person simply a human being?

The problem here is that the phrase "human being" has two common meanings: Human in biological or genetic sense, and human in the moral sense. This makes the standard anti-abortion arguement fallacious.

* It is wrong to kill innocent human being (moral sense)
* Fetus are innocent human beings (genetic sense)
* Thus, it is wrong to kill fetus.

This standard interpretation makes the second premise question begging. what needs to be done is to show that fetus are humans in the moral sense, i.e. persons. The above arguement simply assumes fetuses are humans in teh moral sense.

It is thought that we need to dig deeper to find the right criteria for personhood. so, traits that are central to the concept of personhood are considered:

1) sentience / conciousness
2) Emotionality
3) Capacity if reasoning
4) Capacity of community
5) self-awareness / presence of self-concept
6) Moral agency / The capacity to act morally

The conclusion is that we probably don't need all of these to qualify as a person. And none maybe necessary. However, the upshot is that some humans are not persons and some persons are not (or might not be) human.

It is argues that a fetus is not a person because it has none of (1) to (6).

What of resemblance to persons? i.e. things that resemble person deserve moral consideration in proportion to their resemblance. e.g. certain non-human mammals.

What of Potential personhood?

** rights of actual person outweigh those of potential person
** right of a mother to protect herself from a fetus are the same as someone who is threatened by a wild animal (i.e. it is innocent)