Abortion can be demonstrated as immoral using Beauchamp's Principles
Debate Rounds (3)
My argument here is that Abortion does not need religious grounds to be soundly condemned and justly banned. This can be done with universally accepted concepts of morality and legality. I am primarily interested in an opponent with the opinion that Abortion can not be condemned using Beauchamp's Principles.
In this argument I will consider Non-maleficence, Autonomy, and Justice.
1) Non-maleficence - "Fetus" refers to a stage of development in human life. A fetus is the same organism as the neonate, the infant, the adolescent, and the adult. The fetus is human (possessing human DNA), the fetus is alive (metabolizing nutrients and maintaining homeostasis), and the fetus is an individual (possessing its own genetic code and its own body, though dependent on the mother's). Abortion kills this living human individual, depriving it of life. However you value life you probably are in full support of the government making murder illegal because it constitutes a severe harm to the murdered person. I will put forward as Don Marquis has noted that the Harm in abortion/murder stems from the deprivation of a Future Like Ours, a future of Autonomy.
2) Autonomy - Many acts deprive people of autonomy; theft, enslavement, etc. The greatest of all of these is Murder, where in a single act all the autonomy a person would ever exercise is deprived of them. In civil societies autonomy is respected and such actions are banned. Murder, at least of most humans, is banned universally. Fetuses, like all other humans, possess these futures of autonomy, these so called "Futures Like Ours" and therefore it would be exceedingly appropriate to enact a ban of abortion at all timepoints excepting situations where endangerment of other human lives, such as the mother's, must be considered. Most other conditions are not solid grounds for killing human beings and doing so would be a grave miscarriage of Justice.
3) Justice - An estimated 353,000 children are born every day on planet earth and every one of them falls under the protection of their governments. The right to life is universally understood. However there are an additional 115,000 aborted every day whose right to life is deprived. John Rawls wrote that Justice demands that people be treated equally regardless of arbitrary factors, which are factors outside their control such as their race, their sex, and their financial status. I will postulate that many of the reasons people consider solid grounds for abortion are in reality arbitrary factors. For example, just as it is immoral to deny a person equal legal representation because the house they were born in was poor, so much more is it immoral to deny that same person his right to life on the same grounds as is done with abortions justified by economic status. An equally arbitrary (outside the control of the fetus) factor is the mother's relationship status. In fact, when you really get down to it fetuses really control nothing. They make no choices as to the predicament they are in, including whether or not they have a genetic disease (which is another oft-cited justification for abortion). Fetuses are not responsible for anything ill that has happened, not even terrible crimes such as a rape, even if it precipitated their conception. As I hope I have demonstrated the majority of abortions occur for arbitrary reasons and are terrible miscarriages of Justice.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and respond thoughtfully.
Thank you to my opponent for an interesting challenge.
As my opponent has opened with some depth I will jump in with an alternative perspective to the resolution. I would add that if my opponent chooses to include beneficence we could do so for the purpose of being comprehensive.
1) Non-maleficence definition: "avoiding the causation of harm; the health care professional should not harm the patient. All treatment involves some harm, even if minimal, but the harm should not be disproportionate to the benefits of treatment."
The question here is at what point does an unborn child acquire the same rights as the mother. In the UK it is 24 weeks after which a termination can not go ahead legally. Before this point however there are morally and legally accepted reasons to terminate the pregnancy. These could include the pregnancy threatening the woman's life, her health, career prospects, financial prospects, family life or mental health.
To avoid harm to the woman the Non-maleficence principle will protect the woman over the pregnancy.
2) Respect for autonomy: respecting the decision-making capacities of autonomous persons; enabling individuals to make reasoned informed choices.
This clearly favors the woman who is the autonomous person and thee only party able to make a reasoned &informed choice.
3) Justice: distributing benefits, risks and costs fairly; the notion that patients in similar positions should be treated in a similar manner.
I would argue that pregnant woman when taken with thee previous principals are the primary patients and those wishing to take control of their bodies (all women) should all be treated fairly and equally. This is only possible by enabling choice up to the point the pregnancy can no longer be legally performed.
My opponent appears to advocate the removal of a woman's human right to self determination which I hope he agrees is not an acceptable thing to happen?
Beneficence can be included at your leisure if you feel it adds to your argument. I did not include it in this thread because claiming that giving birth is Beneficient would spur a discussion on natalism that I don't want to have, a subject more suited to a debate on conception (bringing a living human being into existence) than abortion (destroying an extant living human being).
I will address the points in the same order as they have been in the previous posts.
The question here is actually at what point SHOULD an unborn child acquire the same rights as the mother. Responding with a statement of current legal standing is the naturalistic fallacy: That the way something "is" is thus how it "should be". Historically many actions that were legal (slavery, segregation) have rightly been abolished because they are, and have always been, unethical.
Now to the ethics of the point: when evaluating maleficence it is imperative to assess all the impacts of both choices. What you say could be true depending on the situation: Carrying a child to term could impact health (mental, vital, et al.), career, finance, and family. However, the consequence of the other choice, Abortion, is always the end of a human life. As I stated in my first post, if the woman's life is in danger then both choices would lead to the end of a human life and are morally equivalent and it should be put at the disgression of the woman which to choose in that situation. On the other hand, if carrying to term threatens something less important/valuable than human life then abortion should be illegal. Consider the following scenario that deals with killing and "career prospects":
Scenario: You and a coworker are both up for a significant promotion and it looks like your coworker will get it. Before the decision is made an opportunity arises where you could subtly kill your coworker in such a way that you would never be caught and suffer no ill effects. What do you do?
Clearly, the wrong thing to do is to murder your coworker. To do so would constitute a serious harm, the deprivation of Life and a Future. An unborn child possesses both these things and killing this child therefore constitutes the same harm.
I certainly do not advocate the removal of a woman's human right to self determination. This would in fact be unacceptable. However, I do note that many actions are illegal; and that no person's self determination includes the performance of these actions. By forbidding a person to steal, to enslave another, or to murder, we are not removing self determination, we are actually protecting it for those who would have been stolen from, enslaved, or murdered. These are all actions that deprive autonomy and therefore are justifiably banned by civil societies. Abortion deprives autonomy to the same degree that murder does. Although the fetus is not exercising autonomy at the moment of abortion, there is still a lifetime of autonomy that is lost in that act that was nonetheless the fetus' autonomy.
The main component of Justice is that there are no "primary" vs. secondary patients. All human beings, not just autonomy-exercising or adult ones, deserve the same respect and protection by the law. In this way the U.K.'s arbitrary 24 week distinction is a perfect example of an unjust law. That a fetus who is 23 weeks after conception, who is in every way indistinguishable from a fetus at 24 weeks, is somehow not even a person though its counterpart enjoys all the benefits of government protection is unjust to an absurd extent. For the relationship between fetus and mother, Justice dictates that the interests and future autonomy of the child be given equal weight as interests and future autonomy of the mother, particularly in the eyes of the law.
I'd like to emphasize what you said that "all women" should be treated fairly and equally, and though unsaid they should be treated fairly and equally to all men as well. We concur on this point completely. However, Legal abortion is a serious impediment to this ideal, since it is clear that some men and women being killed before they are born is neither fair nor equitable. I would disagree that allowing the choice of abortion is the "only possible" way to create a fair and equal society. Rather it is an impossible way to do so.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.
Thank you to my opponent for a persuasive and well presented reply, however, I would obviously contest many points.
"The question here is actually at what point SHOULD an unborn child acquire the same rights as the mother. Responding with a statement of current legal standing is the naturalistic fallacy: That the way something "is" is thus how it "should be". Historically many actions that were legal (slavery, segregation) have rightly been abolished because they are, and have always been, unethical."
I would not agree that I implied the suggested fallacy, 24 weeks is the current ethically and morally accepted cut off point. It has been reached though much debate using these very principals. In it's self it is proof that there must be a balance, that of the rights of the potential child against the woman's rights to choice to be an ethically and morally sound cut off point. You would have been correct had the cut off time been reached by other means and not these principals.
The comparison to slavery & segregation is to my mind spurious to say the least. Slavery as we know was the trade in autonomous persons, one of the key principals, an unborn child cannot be autonomous. It is also not a medical issue to which these principals primarily apply.
"Now to the ethics of the point: when evaluating maleficence"
My opponent states, which I agree, that "if the woman's life is in danger then both choices would lead to the end of a human life and are morally equivalent and it should be put at the digression of the woman which to choose in that situation." However he then goes on to say that something HE deems less important should remove that option of choice.
This clearly goes against the principal of non maleficence in that it will clearly cause the woman pain and suffering, also to which she has not given informed consent.
The example you give regarding the murder of a co worker is again spurious, the co worker is an autonomous person. The worker & co worker have the same status.
"I certainly do not advocate the removal of a woman's human right to self determination.",
yet you contradict yourself by saying:
"if carrying to term threatens something less important/valuable than human life then abortion should be illegal."
This is contradictory to say the least, what choice to self determine exists if the option is removed?
"Although the fetus is not exercising autonomy at the moment of abortion"
This statement is a vital admission that a fetus to does not meet the criteria to apply these principals to it. The woman is the only person to meet the criteria, acting against her will is immoral and unethical.
"All human beings, not just autonomy-exercising or adult ones, deserve the same respect and protection by the law. In this way the U.K.'s arbitrary 24 week distinction is a perfect example of an unjust law. That a fetus who is 23 weeks after conception, who is in every way indistinguishable from a fetus at 24 weeks, is somehow not even a person though its counterpart enjoys all the benefits of government protection is unjust to an absurd extent"
I would agree with this, it is a odd situation to have an abortion at 23 weeks and in the next room people fighting to save a premature baby at 24 weeks. This is however not he majority by a long way, most abortions are within the first 10 weeks and very few premature babies survive birth at 24 weeks.
The point has to be made ethically and morally that protects both parties. 24 weeks is based on the survival rate of babies below that age being extremely low and certainly not free of disability.
"I would disagree that allowing the choice of abortion is the "only possible" way to create a fair and equal society."
The option to remove choice goes against all good medical ethics and morals as evidenced by these principals in my opinion, it is hard to see how you can use them to prove your resolution.
I hand the debate back to my opponent to summarize his closing arguments.
First, as to maleficence through the deprivation of autonomy, I put forward, as I did before, that it is commonly accepted and in many cases ethically imperative that certain actions be prohibited from people because they deprive autonomy. Slavery certainly fits this description, as does every type of murder because murder is the deprivation of life and all the freedom therein contained. Certainly you can speak of the choice a person has whether to kill or not to kill. However governments worldwide, with consent of the governed, have agreed that this is not a choice that people have any right to make. Sovereign states recognize the right to life is not a right that is bestowed by a government but is innate. No person needs to give it to you for you to have it. You do not even have to choose it for yourself. It is yours without having to earn it and it is highly unethical and justly illegal to deprive a person of this right.
Which transitions nicely to my last argument, the last word I will give to Justice. I have stated that all human beings, even those not practicing autonomy, have a right to equal protection under the law. You have stated many times in the previous paragraph that not practicing autonomy excludes fetuses from this basic protection. I want to postulate to all concerned that the practice of autonomy, what Mary Anne Warren calls Consciousness or Self-Motivated Activity, is an arbitrary factor, not a solid ground on which to deprive a person of life. My first evidence for this is that all people spend roughly one third of their lives in an unconscious state, sleep. However, being in a state of non-consciousness does not at any point deprive us of our basic human protections. It is not autonomy being practiced, as we are practing none, but rather Future Autonomy, the knowledge that the sleeper will awake and enjoy freedoms that makes murder objectionable even in this case. The second evidence, similar but more rare, is the case of a comatose person.
Now I put forward two scenarios: In one, a comatose person is on life support but scientific evidence, such as a brain scan, indicates he will never awake. In the second, a comatose person is on life support but again scientific evidence indicates that in a very set amount of time this person will awake and enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else. Neither has a written will. Is it lawful to take either of them off of life support? Is it lawful to take both? I put forward, and believe that many will agree based on moral intuitions, that the person who will never awake should be taken off of life support but the person who will awake should be left on life support until he can support himself. Why is this? Neither is practicing autonomy and neither had the foresight to write a living will. What the first man lacks and the second person has is a Future of Autonomy. Even without consciousness a person's future autonomy is a valuable thing and that it constitutes harm to deprive him of it.
Therefore, I put forward that the presence or absence of present autonomy, the criterion my opponent proposes as the critical factor for excluding fetuses from equal treatment to the rest of humanity, is an arbitrary factor and not a just cause to completely disqualify a person from legal protection.
Thank you again for the debate. I look forward to your closing remarks.
Thank you to my opponent, ChristianDeontologist, for an interesting and educational debate.
To close my argument I would like to summarize why Beauchamps Principals cannot be used to demonstrate abortion to be immoral.
This will I believe show that the BOP has not, and cannot, be met by my opponent to prove his resolution.
"Respect for autonomy: respecting the decision-making capacities of autonomous persons; enabling individuals to make reasoned informed choices."(1)
The patient must be an autonomous person for these principals to apply.
This is game over really for my opponents resolution.
"Non maleficence: avoiding the causation of harm; the health care professional should not harm the patient. All treatment involves some harm, even if minimal, but the harm should not be disproportionate to the benefits of treatment" (1)
To avoid harm to the patient or autonomous person the physician must act in their best interests upto the legal cut off point for a termination.
This cut off point is determined by the use of these very principles to balance the woman's rights against the unborn child's. It is as close to being morally and ethically acceptable as is possible with current technologies.
This may change in time with advances in medicine ie the creation of an artificial womb allowing survival and development outside of the mother before 24 weeks.
It is however sound reasoning at this time.
"Justice: distributing benefits, risks and costs fairly; the notion that patients in similar positions should be treated in a similar manner."(1)
All autonomous patients must be equally respected and the benefits available to all reasoning patients.
My opponents scenarios are both very light on detail. We know that the decision to turn off life support is subject to extensive information from probability of recovery diagnosed with the latest scans etc.
The scenario involving murder is that of one autonomous person killing another, these principals do not apply and I suggest neither scenario advances any proof supporting my opponents resolution.
My opponent stated that I can add this principle should it help my case, I feel it is an important principal and that covering only three of the four is not a complete argument, hence:
"Beneficence: this considers the balancing of benefits of treatment against the risks and costs; the health care professional should act in a way that benefits the patient"(1)
For me, the key point here has to be the patient. This I would say is clearly the woman up until the cut off point (24 weeks) and in other cases the autonomous patient at all phases of treatment. If the woman will benefit from the termination then this principal applies to her, and her only, upto the cut off.
I would suggest therefore that the principals can not be used to show abortion immoral and that my opponent has not reached the BOP to prove his resolution.
This is not to say that the morality of abortion is not up for debate but purely that these principals as currently standing can not be used to that end because they protect autonomous patients.
Many thanks to my opponent and to you for taking the time to vote!
(Please note that I have intentionally used the same source as my opponent for clarity of definitions.)
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by greatkitteh 1 year ago
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