The Instigator
KeytarHero
Pro (for)
Losing
19 Points
The Contender
WriterDave
Con (against)
Winning
22 Points

Abortion is generally immoral

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 10 votes the winner is...
WriterDave
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/18/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,982 times Debate No: 22121
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (67)
Votes (10)

 

KeytarHero

Pro

I would like to challenge WriterDave to a debate on abortion. As I am always looking to refine my arguments in the matter, I am curious how he would respond to my arguments.

I believe that abortions are justified if the mother's life is in immediate danger and both mother and child cannot be saved (this is more a case of triage than abortion). I will argue that all other abortions are unjustified and immoral.

Round 1 will be for acceptance, round 2 for opening arguments, round 3 for rebuttals, and round 4 for rebuttals and closing statements.
WriterDave

Con

I accept this challenge. I would like Pro to clarify, however, whether he intends to assume the burden of proof, or intends that it be shared. Being the instigator and having framed the topic as a resolution, I think it appropriate for him to assume the burden of proof. However, I will proceed either way.
Debate Round No. 1
KeytarHero

Pro

I thank WriterDave for responding and I look forward to an interesting debate.

I apologize, I should have been clearer. As instigator, I intend to assume burden of proof for this debate.

I will put my argument in the form of a syllogism and then support my premises with evidence.

Premise 1: From fertilization, the preborn are biological members of humanity.
Premise 2: All members of humanity are intrinsically valuable based on the kind of thing they are, humans.
Premise 3: It is prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human being.
Premise 4: Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is generally immoral.

Premise 1

Embryologists, who are the experts in the field, consistently agree that life begins at fertilization. For example, from the most-used textbook on embryology, the authors note: "Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a 'moment') is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte." [1]

On top of that, the more sophisticated pro-choice philosophers, like Judith Jarvis Thompson (who came up with the famous analogy of the violinist), and Peter Singer, accept the full humanity of the preborn. Peter Singer has noted, “It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo Sapiens’. Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” [2]

It's simply common sense. We know the preborn are alive because they grow. Non-living and dead things don't grow. They also exhibit the four signs of life: metabolism, growth, cell division, response to stimuli, and cell reproduction. [3] The preborn have human DNA, and they are the product of human parents. Creatures reproduce after their own kind; dogs have dogs, cats have cats, and humans have humans. At no point in human development is a member of humanity a "non-human."

This is also different from saying that a hair follicle has human DNA, so it is wrong to pluck them out. Zygotes/embryos/fetuses are unique individual humans, developing from within, made up of all the individual parts. A hair follicle must stay plugged in to the parent organism to function. However, the parent organism can still function even if he/she loses parts of their body. The zygote/embryo/fetus is a full human organism made up of individual parts of which it develops from within, not constructed like a car.

The pro-life position is that life begins at fertilization, which is supported by science. The pro-choice position places "human life" at certain arbitrary points which change from human to human. The pro-life position is the only consistent one.

Premise 2

Human value is an intrinsic value, not an instrumental one. Most people agree that humans outside the womb are valuable and should be protected. People decry the loss of innocent human life, especially when those lives lost are children. Human value is not something we get in degrees, it's something we either have or don't have. A pre-born human is just as valuable as a born human, and any reason used to rationalize abortion due to the preborn human being "different" leads to discrimination and would allow us to discriminate against someone outside the womb who fits those same characteristics.

Aside from simply belonging to our species, Homo Sapiens, preborn humans have the inherent capacity to perform the functions that make human beings valuable. All the things that make humans value (e.g. sentience) may not be immediately exhibited by a human in utero, but they have the inherent capacity to fulfill these functions. If you are going to support abortion because they do not immediately exercise those functions, then like certain pro-choice philosophers (e.g. Michael Tooley and Peter Singer), you must also support infanticide, killing people in their sleep, and killing people in a reversible coma.

Premise 3

When I say the preborn are innocent human beings, I am not talking "spiritually" innocent, but physically innocent. They have committed no crime, and certainly not anything worthy of being killed for it. The only thing they have done is exist, and in the vast majority of cases it was through a consensual action of two people. If two people engage in a consensual act that results in the creation of a new, needy human life, they bear a responsibility to care for that life.

Premise 4

Every abortion takes the life of a new, unique, living member of humanity, which has an intrinsic value just based on being human. Abortions take the life of an innocent, unique human being and is therefore immoral.

My contention is that because the preborn are biological members of humanity, humans are intrinsically valueable, and killing an innocent member of humanity is wrong, then killing them through the act of abortion is immoral. If Con is to win this debate, he must show why the preborn are not members of humanity. For if they are not human, then no justification for abortion is necessary. But if they are human, then no justification for abortion is sufficient.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to Con's response.

[1] Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.
[2] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 85-86.
[3] http://www.merriam-webster.com............;
WriterDave

Con

Pro's argument

Premise 1: I construe this to mean that all fertilized eggs are individual organisms of the species homo sapiens, and will not dispute this.


Premise 2: I contend that Pro has not justified this premise.

Pro asserts that not giving intrinsic value to pre-birth humans because of a characteristic they have would allow discrimination against post-birth humans who have the same characteristic. However, I do not have the burden to falsify premise 2 by showing that pre-birth humans lack such a characteristic; rather, Pro has the burden to show that premise 2 applies as a universal.

Pro also asserts that pre-born humans have the inherent capacity to perform functions that make humans valuable. He has observed that they share this characteristics with the infantile, asleep and comatose. However, there is a difference between not having the capacity to do something, which applies to certain fetuses, and having the capacity but by happenstance not doing it at the moment, which applies to the others. More on this below.


Premise 3: This premise can be construed in two different ways:

3a: It is prima facie wrong to actively kill a human being.
3b: It is prima facie wrong to take an action that, as a secondary effect, results in the death of a human being.

Neither 3a nor 3b follow from 1 and 2. Pro has given no reason why it is prima facie wrong to kill an organism that happens to belong to homo sapiens, even if it might have intrinsic value. His remark on "responsibility" is addressed below.


Premise 4: Again, this premise can be construed in two ways:

4a: Abortion actively kills a human being.
4b: Abortion is an action that, as a secondary effect, results in the death of a human being.

If 3 is construed as 3a, then 4 must be construed as 4a to maintain validity. The same holds with 3b and 4b.

I do not dispute 4b. I do dispute 4a; abortion is not the action of killing a human being, but of terminating a pregnancy, which is the set of physical interactions between a post-birth human and a pre-birth human. This usually has the secondary effect of depriving said pre-birth human of life.


I will now present two counter-arguments that abortion is not generally immoral. If either succeeds, then Pro's case fails, since you cannot have two sound arguments with contradictory conclusions.


Lack of harms argument

1) If abortion generally does not result in an overriding harm, then it is not generally immoral.
2) Abortion generally does not result in an overriding harm.
3) Therefore, abortion is not generally immoral.


Premise 1: Something being immoral necessitates that an overriding harm arise from it; this premise is simply the converse of that principle.

Premise 2: This premise can be supported in either of two ways.

Values

The death of an organism that happens to be human does not in itself trigger the shared values of personhood of all non-sociopaths, which is necessary for an overriding harm to occur.

Take the scenario of a burning house, the roof of which is about to cave in. In one room, there is a canister of 100 embryos which are perfectly viable, and will remain so as long as they are immediately removed from the house and returned to cold storage. In the other room is an eight year old girl. There is only time to rescue either the canister or the girl, not both.

I submit that all non-sociopaths would elect to save the girl. Anti-abortion rights (hereafter AAR) partisans can justify this however they'd like, but the fact would remain that even they value post-birth humans more than pre-birth humans. This is not to say they don't greatly value pre-birth humans; but if they valued them in the same way that they valued post-birth humans, then the choice between allowing one moral harm or 100 equivalent moral harms should not even trigger hesitation in the AAR advocate.

Desires
Ironically, the strength of this point comes from an AAR proponent, Donald Marquis, who argued that abortion frustrates the desire that a fetus will have to live, if it is not killed. This right should be respected, he argues, because it is shared with temporarily comatose adults, who do not presently desire to live but will in the future, and suicidal teenagers, who presently desire the exact opposite but will want to live again in the future.[1]

Marquis, however, failed to distinguish between two different types of desires: active and ideal. For example, if I am having a severe bout of depression, then I would have an active desire to die; however, since I know I want to live when I am healthy, and would actively desire that if I were healthy, I have an ideal desire to live. Ideal desires are actual desires that have been corrected to allow for cognitive distortion.[2]

At what point, then, does a human begin to have active desires on which abortion would impose? The answer is, when organized cortical brain activity begins to take place, which occurs no earlier than the 25th week of pregnancy.[3] Abortions which take place after the 25th week are exceedingly rare, and thus constitute an exception to the rule of generality. Prior to the 25th week, abortion frustrates neither an active nor an ideal desire of the fetus, and thus results in no harm.


Moral obligations argument

1) If allowing a state of affairs exceeds one's moral obligations, then terminating that state of affairs is not generally immoral.
2) Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy.
3) Allowing a pregnancy exceeds one's moral obligations.
4) Therefore, abortion is not generally immoral.


Premise 1: To exceed one's moral obligations is to take an action for which no obligation existed in the first place, and immorality only arises when an existing obligation has been violated.

Premise 2: Common knowledge.

Premise 3: In support of this premise, I offer J.J. Thompson's famous "Violinist" argument by analogy.[4]

Suppose a person is kidnapped by a group of music lovers, who connect her circulatory system to that of a famous violinist. The violinist is suffering from a fatal kidney disease, and as a result of the connection the person's own kidneys are filtering toxins from his bloodstream. Hers is the only compatible physiology; if she unplugs herself from the violinist, he will certainly die.

Thompson's argument is that the person here has the right to "unplug" herself from the violinist. If she chooses not to, if she chooses to allow the violinist to use her body for his benefit, then she is exceeding her moral obligations; being a "Good Samaritan."

To my knowledge, no AAR proponent has ever seriously argued that the person does not have the right to unplug herself; rather, they raise points of dissimilarity between this scenario and pregnancy. As with any analogy, points of dissimilarity are inevitable; however, again to my knowledge, no AAR proponent has raised a morally relevant point of dissimilarity. In both cases, the woman is allowing another organism to use her body, does not necessarily consent to this state of affairs (although she is free to consent if she wishes) and is not depriving the other organism of any right to life it may have, merely of the use of her body.

Perhaps anticipating this argument, Pro asserted that engaging in a consensual act that results in the creation of a new and needy life carries the responsibility to care for that life. However, he needs to clarify what creates this responsibility: the neediness of the life, or consenting to and performing the act that resulted in this life's creation. He also needs to argue, either way, why this should be the case.


Conclusion

Pro's argument has not been established as sound. In addition, I have offered two counter-arguments that abortion is not generally immoral. Quite the contrary.



[1] Donald Marquis, "Why Abortion Is Immoral," 1989.
[2] David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge Press, 2003).
[3] Harold J Morowitz & James S Trefil, The Facts of Life: Science and the Abortion Controversy (Oxford University Press, 1992).
[3] Judith Jarvis Thompson, "In Defense of Abortion," 1971.
Debate Round No. 2
KeytarHero

Pro

Rebuttals

Premise 1: The term "fertilized egg" is a misnomer as the sperm and egg cease to exist once the zygote, a new living human being, has been brought into existence. However, Con does not dispute this premise.

Premise 2: There are four major differences between a pre-birth human and a post-birth human. They are:

1) Size -- this doesn't work because men are bigger than women, yet they do not have more of a right to life than women. Therefore, just because the unborn are smaller than born humans does not nullify their right to life.

2) Level of development -- toddlers are less developed than adults, yet they do not have less of a right to life. Since the unborn are less developed than toddlers, it does not follow that they have less of a right to life.

3) Environment -- I am an American who has been to Italy, yet that did not change who I am. As such, an eight-inch journey down the birth canal does not fundamentally change who the baby is. The baby five minutes after birth is the same baby five minutes before birth.

4) Degree of dependency -- infants are dependent on their mothers, yet it is not morally permissible to kill them. A child who cannot drive is more dependent than an adult who can, yet they have no less a right to life than adults. As such, even though the unborn are more dependent it does not follow they have less of a right to life.

I have justified this premise. If Con hopes to falsify it, he must show a difference between the pre-born and post-born that justifies the moral permissibility of killing it.

Premise 3: Both of the premises Con offered follow from my first premise. Innocence is the key, which he has seemed to glance over. It is not always wrong to kill a human being, but it is prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human being, one who has not done anything to deserve death.

I have shown why it is wrong to kill them because of their intrinsic value. It is wrong to kill a human being without just cause. If you require a reason to kill an adult human being or a child, then you require a reason to kill an unborn human because they belong to the same species. It is special pleading to say we can kill the unborn without just cause, but we need one to kill a born human.

Premise 4: Abortion is the act of killing a human being to terminate a pregnancy. There are three ways you can terminate a pregnancy: you can carry the child to term and give birth, you can carry the child to viability and deliver via c-section, or you can have an abortion. Having an abortion is the only method of terminating a pregnancy that actively results in the death of a human being. You must kill the child in order to terminate the pregnancy in this manner. It is not simply depriving them of life, but it is physically killing them either by chemicals, dismemberment, etc.
I will now respond to Con's counter-arguments.

Lack of Harms Argument

Premise 1: Abortion takes the life of a living human being. The right to life trumps a person's right to convenience, therefore abortion results in an overriding harm.

Premise 2:

Values

Here Con attempts to trap pro-lifers by appealing to 100 embryos in danger and an eight-year-old girl. However, this analogy fails to take into account triage. Those 100 embryos may go back into cold storage if I were to save them, but there is no guarantee they would ever be implanted, or that they wouldn't ever be used for research. The eight-year-old girl is the logical choice to save because she stands a grater chance of survival than those 100 embryos.

Let me pose a similar scenario to Con: Suppose you are in a burning house. There is an eight-year-old stranger in one room and your eight-year-old child in the other and you can only save one. You would most likely rescue your child over the stranger. Even though you placed a greater value on your child doesn't make the stranger any less intrinsically valuable.

Desires

Here Con attempts to appeal to desires to show whether someone deserves a right to life or not. But present (or actual) desires do not determine when one should logically have a right to life. Consider this scenario:

Say your uncle Bob is in a major car accident which results in severe brain trauma. All his past experiences are wiped out and everything that he knew and was able to do will have to be re-learned. He is essentially like a pre-conscious fetus. In order for Con's position to work, Bob will have lost his right to life and it would now be morally permissible to kill Bob for any reason, unjustified.

I will offer two examples that show why having desires does not instill a right to life (paraphrased for space constraints):

1) The Problem of the Indoctrinated Slave

A person, such as a slave, may be indoctrinated to believe he has no interests but he still has a prima facie right not to be killed, even if he has no conscious desire for, or interest in, a right to life. Even if the slave is never killed, we would still think that he has been harmed precisely because his desires and interests have been obstructed from coming to fruition. [1]

We would say this slave still has a right to life despite being indoctrinated to believe he doesn't.

2) The Problem of Creating Brainless Human Beings

Suppose the method of cloning were used to create humans for the express purpose of extracting their organs for the original person to use. Suppose that we removed some of their brain cells so that they would essentially be born brain-dead for the purpose of harvesting their organs. [2]

According to Daniel Brock, "this body clone would be like an anencephalic newborn or presentient fetus, neither of whom arguably can be harmed because of their lack of 'capacity for consciousness.'" Yet, Brock maintains, "most people would likely find the practice of purposely creating non-sentient human beings 'appalling and immoral, in part because here the cloned later twin's capacity for conscious life is destroyed solely as a means to benefit another."

Moral Obligations Argument

Premise 1: The mother bears a responsibility for creating a naturally needy child, so she bears a responsibility for caring for that child. Carrying a pregnancy to term falls under ordinary, not extraordinary, care.

Say you come across a machine that when you press a button it gives you a pleasurable experience, but 1 in 100 times a baby pops out. If you press the button for the experience, you are also responsible for the creation of that child and caring for that child. You can't simply leave the child there to starve.

Premise 2: Agreed, but it is the only means of terminating the pregnancy that results in actively killing the unborn human.

Premise 3:

In the case of pregnancy, you cannot "unplug" the unborn human without killing her. The violinist analogy would be more correct if you must stab the violinist in the heart before you can unplug from him.

Additionally, when a child is conceived they are living in the only place in the entire universe they can survive. In Thomson's analogy you are hooked up to the violinist through an act of violence (being kidnapped), but the vast majority of pregnancies were through consensual acts of sexual intercourse.

By creating the child, she has also created the child's neediness. The child would not be needy if she was not brought into existence in the first place. The parents are responsible for the child's existence and neediness.

I have shown that since the preborn are human with an inherent right to life, it should be respected. Additionally, if you commit an act which can result in the creation of a needy child, you are responsible for caring for her.

[1] Lee, Patrick, Abortion and Unborn Human Life, Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, pp. 7-31
[2] Beckwith, Francis in an article found here: http://www.tandfonline.com...;
[3] Brock, Daniel (1997) "Cloning Human Beings: An assessment of the ethical issues pro and con. In Cloning Human Beings, vol. 2 (pp. E1-E23). Rockville, MD: National Bioethics Advisory Commission.

WriterDave

Con


Pro's argument

Premise 2: Pro argues that there are four factors that distinguish pre-birth humans from post-birth humans that do not nullify pre-birth humans' intrinsic value. However, the issue here is not whether pre-birth humans' intrinsic value, which we have established is enjoyed by post-birth humans, are nullified by these or any other factors. The issue is whether pre-birth humans have this value in the first place. This cannot be established merely by appealing to the value of post-birth humans. The burden is Pro's, not mine.

Moreover, I did demonstrate in my LOH argument a characteristic that post-birth humans have that pre-birth humans do not: the capacity for ideal desires.


Premise 3:
For the argument thus far to be valid, Pro must show a logical contradiction between the following statements:

* This is an organism of the species homo sapiens.
* This organism has intrinsic value.
* It is not immoral for me to kill this organism or allow it to die.

Pro has not done this. Premise 3a and/or 3b may be true by virtue of 1 and 2, but Pro has the burden to show this.


Premise 4a:
The fact that other methods of terminating pregnancy other than abortion does not establish that abortion has the primary effect of killing the fetus.

Establishing what primary effect abortion has is achieved by asking what abortion does. This is addressed below.


Lack of harms argument

Premise 1: Pro argues that abortion is an overriding harm, and attempts to give a reason. However, premise 1 does not state that abortion is not an overriding harm. This is stated by premise 2. Premise 1 states something else, and remains unaddressed.


Premise 2 - Values: Pro argues that the 100 embryos will not necessarily survive if removed from the house as they may not survive implantation or be used for research. This can be answered by modifying the scenario to stipulate that all 100 embryos are earmarked for implantation, and that the procedure that would be used has a high success rate. Not all 100 may survive, but many will; almost certainly more than one. I continue to submit that any non-sociopath would rescue the girl rather than the canister.

Pro also argues, via his child vs. stranger analogy, that it is our familiarity with the child that would cause us to save her rather than the canister. That is fine. As I have said, it does not matter what rationale the AAR proponent uses to save the child rather than the canister; the fact would remain that he does, and thus values a single post-birth human more than a multitude of post-birth humans.


Premise 2 - Desires: Like Marquis, Pro fails to make the distinction between actual and ideal desires. In his example of the slave, the slave would desire to be alive if not for the cognitive distortion caused by his brainwashing: this is an ideal desire.

In his example of the cloned, brain-dead human, we must be careful to ask whether the neural capacity to have desires was grown and then removed, or was never grown in the first place. If the former, then the clone would desire to live and prosper if not for the cognitive distortion of having part of his brain removed: this is an ideal desire. If the latter, then the clone has no ideal desires, as it never had the capacity to form ideal desires, and thus there is no overriding harm in terminating its life. (The morality of human cloning itself is not germane to the instant argument.)

Finally, as for Uncle Bob, if the damage he suffered was really such that all of his memories were destroyed and his neuronic structure altered, then the question of whether Uncle Bob has the right to life is moot. Uncle Bob is already dead. The person that he was, the sum of his memories and experiences and personality, has ceased to exist. There's no bringing him back. If the brain can still function, then a new person will have come to be; he will have different personality traits, and will form new memories and experiences. This person has a right to live, but he will not be Uncle Bob.

In addition to the above, Pro argued in his response to premise 1, where it did not belong, that abortion is an overriding harm because the right to life trumps a woman's right to convenience. This is circular, however, because whether a pre-birth human has such a right is precisely what is at issue in the instant argument, and he has not yet established it elsewhere.


Moral obligations argument

Premise 1: Pro argues that carrying a fetus to term meets, rather than exceeds, a mother's moral obligations. However, premise 1 does not state that carrying a fetus to term exceeds a mother's moral obligations. This is stated in premise 3. Premise 1 again states something else, and again remains unaddressed.


Premise 2:
Conceded by Pro.


Premise 3:
Pro contends that there is a morally relevant dissimilarity (hereafter MRD) between the violinist analogy and pregnancy, in that in the former, the woman is the victim of violence, whereas most pregnancies result from consensual sex. Since Pro argues that this is a morally relevant point, Pro has made the concession, contra his construal of the resolution[5], that abortion is moral in the event of rape. Pro must therefore either change his construal, or concede the debate.

To rebut this argument on the merits, however, consider a modification to the violinist analogy (hereafter V):

V1) The woman, rather than being kidnapped, checks herself into the hospital for an elective surgery. She is aware that there is a solar storm happening that day, that there is a small chance that this may cause the computers to malfunction and give her a different procedure, and that there is a small chance that, if this happens, she may be plugged into the violinist while unconscious.[6]

By checking herself into the hospital, does the woman thereby consent to being plugged into the violinist? Of course not. Likewise, a woman who has sex knowing that it carries a small chance of pregnancy does not thereby consent to pregnancy.

Pro contends that by consensually taking the act she did, a pregnant woman is responsible for the both the existence of the pre-birth human, and for the fact that, given it exists, it is needy. The former may be true but is not relevant, since abortion does not deprive an organism of existence, only of what it needs to survive. In response to the latter, consider a modification of Pro's own "pleasure machine" analogy.

C1) There is a cellist in an unrecoverable coma, who is about to die. The pleasure machine, rather than popping out a baby, releases a gas that has two effects on the cellist. First, it prevents his imminent death and extends his life by a few weeks. Second, it makes it possible for him to come out of his coma, provided that you agree to hook your kidneys up to him for nine months.[7]

If you press the button, the cellist will exist and need your kidneys. If you don't, the cellist will not exist. You do not have the option to cause the cellist to exist and not be needy. It follows that if you press the button, then you are responsible for the cellist's existence, but not for his neediness. Likewise, there is no action that the woman could have taken such that the fetus would exist but not need her body. She is not responsible for the fetus's neediness.

Finally, Pro proposes his own modification to V:

V2) Same as V, but in order to unplug herself, the woman must stab the violinist in the heart.

Pro argues that this is more morally similar to abortion than V. But this would only be the case if, prior to extracting the pre-birth human from the woman's body, it is killed. In the vast majority of abortions, this is not the case. Most abortions, especially before week 16 when 95% of all abortions take place[8], are performed by aspirating or chemically evacuating the uterus[9]; no direct interaction takes place. (This also addresses Pro's premise 4a, above.)

[5] Pro's statement, round 1.
[6] Boonin, p. 162.
[7] Boonin, pp. 196-197
[8] http://bit.ly... - note that this is an AAR site.
[9] http://bit.ly...
Debate Round No. 3
KeytarHero

Pro

My Argument

Premise 2: I have shown that since there is no fundamental difference between the preborn and the postborn, the preborn enjoy the same intrinsic value as the postborn. If it is immoral to kill a born person without just cause, it is likewise immoral to kill a human in the womb. Con has not offered sufficient reason to support killing a human in utero. Even the presence of ideal desires does not ensure one human has intrinsic value over another. I will explain further in a moment.

Premise 3:

Con has not proven my argument from round 2 invalid; quite the opposite, the conclusion is logically supported by the premises. I have even shown how my argument is sound.

In order to "detach" the unborn from the mother, you must actively kill it. While we do not have the right to someone else's internal organs, we do not have the right to kill someone to ensure they don't use our organs.

Premise 4:

I have shown that the abortion has the primary effect of killing the unborn. This is even common knowledge. Abortions kill a living member of humanity. There are ways to terminate a pregnancy that don't result in killing the embryo/fetus.

Abortions kill an innocent human being, and human beings are intrinsically valuable by virtue of being human. If you consider it immoral to kill a postborn human without just cause, it is also immoral to kill a preborn human without just cause because the same human out of the womb is the same human that was in the womb. We were all once a fetus/embryo/zygote. A zygote develops into an embryo, which develops into a fetus, which develops into an infant, which develops into an adolescent, which develops into a teenager, etc.

Con has not proven my argument invalid or unsound. Therefore I have met my burden of proof that abortion is generally immoral.

Lack of Harms Argument


Premise 1:

I would agree that if abortion did not cause an overriding harm then it would not necessarily be immoral (although it might still be). However, Con would have to prove that depriving the unborn of its life is not an overriding harm.

Premise 2:

Values

Con's analogy of the 100 embryos versus the eight-year-old child doesn't prove anything. If I were trapped in a burning building I would have seconds to rescue one or the other. I would have no way of knowing if the 100 embryos would ever be implanted or used for research. The correct course of action would be to rescue the eight-year-old child because she has the greater chance of life. Con can twist the result any way he likes, rescuing the eight-year-old child results in the best chance of good coming out of the rescue.

I don't value one life over 100. If our own child is in danger as is another child, every parent would rescue their own kid. They could do no different if they were a good parent. This does not mean the unfamiliar child is less valuable as a human being.

Desires

The argument for actual or ideal desires is an ad hoc requirement for value. There is no reason not to attribute ideal desires to an embryo who has not yet developed the capacity for consciousness or to know that it has desires. One might say that an embryo has an ideal desire -- it would have the desire to live if it had the current capacity to recognize a desire and voice that desire.

This is the point of the indoctrinated slave -- he has a desire, to continue being a slave and not to want to live. He will never have any other desires because of his indoctrination. Yet it would still be wrong to kill him as it would be wrong to kill an embryo who does not yet "know" that it has a desire to live.

With the cloned, brain-dead human, most people would still recognize that a harm has been done to this human. Harm, philosophically, is to leave someone worse off. To clone someone without the capacity for thought or for any of the things that make humans valuable is to leave them worse off than if you had just cloned them and allowed them to be born without tampering with them. Even though this human technically has no desires, harm has still been done to him. He is left worse off than if he had been allowed to grow and mature normally. Again, he has no "ideal" desires but it would still be wrong to clone brain dead humans.

Finally, in the analogy of Uncle Bob, we see the inconsistency of this position. Con says that Uncle Bob would still have a right to live, although who Uncle Bob was is gone. He is essentially no different than an embryo yet Con still says he has a right to live whereas an embryo in the same state would not. Bob does not have any "ideal" desires yet he still has a right to live.

To say that a preborn human's right to live trumps a woman's right to convenience is not secular. I can not kill anyone because they are in my way. That would be immoral. An embryo (which Con and I once were) should also not be killed because of convenience due to the fact that they are humans with intrinsic value. However, even if his argument is correct and we have not determined the value of the preborn yet, then his entire Lack of Harms Argument should be disregarded because he, likewise, could not state that a woman's right to convenience does trump the unborn's right to life.

Moral Obligations Argument

Premise 1:

Con stated, "If allowing a state of affairs exceeds one's moral obligations, then terminating that state of affairs is not generally immoral." While terminating a state of affairs may not necessarily be immoral, terminating a state of affairs in a way that is immoral would be an immoral act. Killing someone to terminate a state of affairs would be immoral, as I have shown.

Premise 2:

Conceded only insofar as I recognize that abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. However, it is the only method of terminating a pregnancy that is immoral because you are actively killing an intrinsically valuable human being with the inherent capacity to perform all the functions that make humans valuable. Again, if terminating the state of affairs results in an immoral act, then terminating the state of affairs is, itself, immoral.

Premise 3:

I have not conceded anything. Abortions due to rape only account for 1% of abortions, so the vast, vast majority of abortions are done due to socio-economic reasons. [1] If you accept abortions in the case of rape, that only proves that abortions are morally permissible in the case of rape. That does not prove that abortions are generally moral because rape abortions are in the very, very small minority. However, I do not support abortions in the case of rape because the child should not be punished for her father's actions, and one act of violence should not be compounded upon another.

Con still tries to adapt the violinist analogy to more accurately fit the situation but the fact remains -- you are not responsible for the violinist's condition. When a man and woman have sex, they are responsible for the child's creation and therefore responsible for creating and caring for a needy child.

Con still tries to argue out of what abortions actually are -- they are not simply depriving someone of life, they are actively killing an unborn child. They are not disconnecting the woman from the violinist, they are stabbing him in the heart to kill him, then unplugging.

He has also not responded to my baby machine analogy, instead insisting on a war of analogies. If you press the button for the pleasureable experience, you are responsible for the baby it creates.

Con's modifications do nothing to the analogy. You are still ultimately not responsible for the violinist's condition. You are extending his life, not bringing him into existence, as is the case when a child is conceived.

I am low on characters but suffice it to say, I have met my burden of proof in spades. Abortion is generally immoral.

[1] http://www.guttmacher.org...;
WriterDave

Con

Pro's argument

Premise 2: Bafflingly -- or perhaps not, given the options available to him -- Pro continues to insist that I have the burden of proof to falsify this premise. He has not shown why the intrinsic value of post-birth humans establishes the intrinsic value of pre-birth humans; he has simply challenged me over and over to show why this is not the case. Pro has not even attempted to meet his burden, and his case fails for this reason alone.


Premise 3: Pro failed to show a logical contradiction between premises 1 and 2 and the negation of 3a and 3b, listed above. Thus he has failed to establish the logical validity of the argument. Again, his case fails for this reason alone.


Premise 4a: Pro asserts without argument or support that abortion having the primary effect of killing the unborn is "common knowledge." Something is common knowledge if and only if every rational person aware of all the facts agree to it. The NCHS[10], major OB/GYN textbooks[11][12][13], medical dictionaries[14] and even the Encyclopaedia Britannica[15] agree abortion is a procedure the primary effect of which is to terminate the physiological connection between the woman and the pre-birth human.

Pro also asserts, "we do not have the right to kill someone to ensure they don't use our organs." This would entail that if an organ black marketer were about to operate on you to remove a kidney, and the only way to stop him from doing so was via lethal force, we would not have the right to self-defense in this case. No doubt Pro would object to characterizing abortion as self-defense, but this is hardly a new position in the abortion debate,[16] and in any case I am here only arguing that the instant assertion made by Pro is not necessarily true.


Lack of harms argument

Premise 1: Conceded by Pro, albeit verbosely.


Premise 2 - Values: Pro argues that he would rescue the child because he would have only seconds to act, and would not be able to make an informed decision. However, I submit that it would take more than a few seconds to come to the conclusion that it is highly unlikely that any of the 100 embryos would survived if removed from the house in time, and we would not expect Pro to be aware of the relevant factors; we would assume that he would act on instinct, and his instinct would be guided by his values.

But in any case, we can again modify the situation to account for this. Say that, instead of being on fire, the house had a ticking bomb in it; you are driving there as fast as you can, but will arrive in time to only save the canister or the girl. During the drive, however, you will still have time to consider the relevant factors that would go into a "triage" situation. I continue to maintain that any non-sociopath would save the girl rather than the canister.


Premise 2 - Desires: Far from being ad hoc, the argument from ideal desires is based on the best logic put forth by the AAR community for fetal personhood[17].

The slave and the brain-dead clone (provided the relevant portions of the brain have been removed) would still have the ideal desires, as I have defined them in my opening statement; were we to correct the cognitive distortion affecting the actual desires, the slave and the clone would actively desire to live. And again I must point out that this debate is not about human cloning.

As for Uncle Bob, I am not saying that Uncle Bob has the right to live; he has already died. I am saying that the person who now inhabits the body of Uncle Bob has the right to live, and this is true by virtue of the fact that his brain is capable of creating ideal desires, a capability that a fetus does not have until the 25th week at the earliest.


Moral obligations argument

Premise 1: If the consequent of the premise is untrue, then the antecedent would not be true; this is not in dispute. However, whether the consequent is true is precisely what is at issue in this debate; therefore, to avoid circularity, we must consider the antecedent.


Premise 2: Already conceded by Pro; I fail to understand why he feels the compulsion to keep talking about it, especially considering the premium of space in his final statement.


Premise 3 - Consent objection: Pro states that he has not conceded that abortions are morally permissible in the event of rape, and still believes they are not; nor has he conceded the debate. This can only mean that, <em>contra</em> his second statement, he does not hold consent to be a morally relevant factor, and thus drops the consent objection. (As for what he actually said about this objection, see the discussion of V1 below.)


Premise 3 - Responsibility objection: Pro accuses me of not addressing his "baby machine" analogy; in fact, I did address it, by altering it in such a way that it is more morally relevant to both the case of the violinist and the case of pregnancy. He does not argue that C1 is less morally relevant than his original analogy, nor does he argue that C1 is morally irrelevant to either the situation of the violinist or the situation of pregnancy.

Pro addresses V1 by saying that whereas the woman in V1 is not responsible for the violinist's condition, the parents of a pre-birth human are responsible for the child's condition. In the first place, V1 was offered to counter the consent objection, not the responsibility objection. In the second place, V1 is similar to the situation of pregnancy in all morally relevant aspects: we have an elective action that initiates a chain of improbable events culminating in the situation where her body is connected to that of another organism in a way that she foresaw was possible but did not intend. Pro did not dispute that the woman does not consent to being plugged into the violinist in V1. He cannot, therefore, merely assert that a pregnant woman does consent to pregnancy.

Pro does not address any of the arguments that I actually did offer against his position that a pregnant woman is responsible for the existence of a needy child and/or the neediness of an existing child. He merely restates his various positions and asserts without argument in light of my rebuttals that they are correct. Thus, his defense of the responsibility objection fails.


Premise 3 - Killing vs. letting die objection: Pro does not defend or even mention this objection in his closing, and thus again has dropped this objection. (He did bring up the dichotomy earlier in his statement, and I have refuted it earlier in the present statement.)


One more thing to bear in mind

The right of the woman to unplug herself from the violinist does not stem from her right to enjoy what Pro has called the "convenience" of gamboling about, shopping for shoes, having sex, drinking wine, eating cheese, smoking pot, voting Obama, and otherwise behaving in accordance with AAR stereotypes of non-AAR women.

Rather, it stems from her inalienable right to withhold and revoke consent to something or someone using her body. Pure and simple.


Conclusion

I have demonstrated that Pro's argument is invalid and unsound, and I have defended LOHA and MOA against his critiques and/or assertions regarding them. Pro has therefore failed to meet his burden of establishing the resolution that abortion is generally immoral.

I thank KeytarHero for an engaging debate. I thank the readers for their attention, and ask them to vote Con.


[10] Cunningham, F.G. et al, eds., Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed. (McGraw-Hill Medical, 2010).
[11] Annas, G.J. et al, eds., Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies, 5th ed. (Churchill Livingstone, 2007).
[12] Rock, J.A., et al, eds., TeLinde's Operative Gynecology, 10th ed. (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2008).
[13] Katz, V.L., et al, eds., Katz: Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed. (Mosby, 2007).
[14] Stedman's Medical Dictionary, 28th ed. (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2008).
[15] s.v. "Abortion" (2012).
[16] See, for instance, McDonagh, E.L., Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent (Oxford, 1996).
[17] Marquis, 1989.
Debate Round No. 4
67 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by maxtr 4 years ago
maxtr
Concerning the Violinist analogy. I would think that the usage of this analogy would only serve to prove the possibility of exceeding one's moral obligations. The language "exceeds one's moral obligations" directly translates to the existence of actual true moral obligations on the other bookend.
The context of the argument here is that abortion lies somewhere in relation to those bookends of moral obligation. The Violinist analogy simply places the Violinist somewhere, and that somewhere isn't in the same place as a pregnant female.
Lastly, the analogies use here is disingenuous as it intentionally detaches the relationship between the two parties when that relationship is a major element in the argument.
Posted by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
KatarHero, I based my vote on what I thought was one deciding factor. Because of time pressure, I didn't address other issues, or even decide them. But, if you'd like, when I have time, I can review the rest of the debate, and make further comment on that factor (in light of your subsequent comments).

If you'd like that, I'll probably do it for you. But if you're really done here like you said, or if you've come to hate the sound of my voice, so to speak, then there's no point. It may take me a couple of hours of effort, so I don't want to do it if you don't want me to.
Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
Now that I've thought about it, KH's absolutist position on abortion leaves him EXTREMELY vulnerable to the Violinist argument, and I am kicking myself for not having brought this up in the debate. Consider:

* It is possible to abort a pregnancy via hysterotomy, a procedure where an abdominal incision is made through the uterus, and the fetus is extracted intact and alive, and allowed to die. KH argues that this is just as immoral as other types of abortion. Therefore, he cannot argue that killing the organism vs. letting it die is a morally relevant disanalogy.

* It is possible to extract your own eggs, fertilize them yourself, and implant them in your uterus, then have an abortion. KH argues that this is just as immoral as abortions where this doesn't happen. Therefore, he cannot argue that causing the organism to exist vs. not is a morally relevant disanalogy.

* It is possible (at least in theory) for you to genetically engineer an embryo to develop only in your body, and no one else's, and for you to implant that embryo and abort it. KH argues that this is just as abortions where this doesn't happen. Therefore, he cannot argue that causing the organism to need your body vs. not is a morally relevant disanalogy.

And so on, and so on.

The moral of the story is: if you're going to argue forced-birthism, be as vague as possible.
Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
One more thing, KH (hopefully, one LAST thing):

http://www.debate.org...

The topic of this debate is, simply, "Atheism VS Theism." However, you are not demanding that your opponent merely defend atheism. Rather you are demanding that your opponent defend each and every aspect of his position statement (in particular, his implication that all theists are unintelligent and mentally challenged).

You cannot, therefore, claim that I have no right to hold you to every aspect of your own position statement, and call you on it when you fail to uphold an aspect (in particular, your implication that it doesn't matter if a woman was raped or not).
Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
Look, if you're just looking for validation of your ego, then by all means continue to whine. But if you're looking to refine your argument, as you've claimed, then take from this debate a simple yet critical lesson: your resolution should be construed as broadly as possible. If you want to argue that the vast cases of abortion are immoral, then argue that. But if you want to argue that all cases of abortion except for medical emergency are immoral, then avoid the consent issue like the plague.

I may have been the first person to spot the fact that you don't give a damn if a woman was raped or not, but I can promise that if you continue as you have, I won't be the last.
Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
Also, did you fail to see where I obliterated all three of your disanalogies? It doesn't seem like it; you barely mentioned them in the final round, preferring instead to restate your position as though hoping that, if you repeat your beliefs often enough, they'll magically become valid.
Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
Okay, let's try this again. You made all of the following statements in your arguments (emphasis mine):

"The only thing [fetuses] have done is exist, and in the vast majority of cases it was through a CONSENSUAL action of two people. If two people engage in a CONSENSUAL act that results in the creation of a new, needy human life, they bear a responsibility to care for that life."

"In Thomson's analogy you are hooked up to the violinist through an act of violence (being kidnapped), but the vast majority of pregnancies were through CONSENSUAL acts of sexual intercourse."

Are these statements morally relevant to the debate resolution as you construed it in round 1? Yes or no?
Posted by KeytarHero 4 years ago
KeytarHero
I gave three other reasons why the analogy fails. 1) You can't unplug from an unborn child without killing her. It would be more apt if you stabbed the violinist in the heart before unplugging. That would be more like abortion.

2) The unborn human is in the only place in the entire universe she can survive. If an artificial womb were someday created, then the child could be transplanted into the artificial womb to grow to viability, but for now it's not possible to "unplug" from the unborn child without actively killing her.

3) By creating the child, the parents have also created the child's neediness. In the violinist analogy, you are not responsible for the violinist's neediness.

It was actually a red herring to talk about consent being morally relevant, because consent really had nothing to do with my three initial objections except loosely number three, because parents, by consent, create a needy child and so are responsible for caring for that needy child.
Posted by KeytarHero 4 years ago
KeytarHero
The problem is that most of the people who voted for you used my exception for the life of the mother against me, when I clearly said that I will argue that all OTHER abortions are immoral. The life of the mother is completely irrelevant to my case and doesn't undermine it (since it doesn't indicate that there is a difference in value, just that the one with the greatest chance of survival is the one saved).

Also, my resolution is that abortions are generally immoral. I was indicating that even if abortions in the case of rape were justifed, that would only justify 1% of abortions which is a very small minority, so that, also, doesn't undermine my case.

I did argue for the immorality of rape abortions, but I was running low on characters so I couldn't give a good enough response to it. I didn't concede they are moral, so that, also, doesn't undermine my case.

Consent is only a relevant factor in that the vast, vast majority of women find themselves pregnant by a consensual act (sex) and enter into a natural situation (pregnancy), whereas in the violinist analogy you are there through being kidnapped and put in an unnatural situation. Even though rape isn't consensual, that doesn't mean it's morally justified. It's not morally justified for other reasons which, unfortunately, I couldn't get into as much as I would have liked due to character constraints. I still had another argument of yours I had to respond to.
Posted by WriterDave 4 years ago
WriterDave
Sorry, I meant to say your premises 1, 2 and the NEGATION of 3a or 3b. Such a contradiction must exist in order for 3 to follow from 1 and 2; you haven't shown it, but both you and your voters have overlooked that fact. I don't understand why.

Unless, of course, I accept your premise that they're all simply biased.
10 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by phantom 4 years ago
phantom
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Reasons for voting decision: Comment 51
Vote Placed by SuburbiaSurvivor 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con, next time, try to be clearer. It was really hard reading through your posts. All in all, I'd say Pro won this. Con had to continually revise his arguments and analogies to escape Pro's refutations. Pro proved that a fetus has a right to life. And I'm countering the votebombs in regards to abortion in case of threat to a mother's life. Con failed to utilize this in the debate and the resolution is "Abortion is generally immoral" not "always immoral".
Vote Placed by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Wnope 4 years ago
Wnope
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro screwed himself from the get-go by choosing the moderate stance of "abortion sometimes." That inevitably leads to gaping holes in any kind of argument. Con sufficiently exploited these holes.
Vote Placed by royalpaladin 4 years ago
royalpaladin
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Reasons for voting decision: Con used a major concession about saving the Mother's life to demolish the Pro's case. He thus gets arguments. I am giving three extra points to counter dustpelt's votebomb. Once he changes his vote or gives a better RFD, I will remove the extra points.
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 4 years ago
1dustpelt
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro proved a fetus is a human, thus it is morally wrong to kill one. He met BoP.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
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Reasons for voting decision: An old subject debated well by both sides. Pro's admission that abortion to save the life of the mother is justified concedes that all human life is not of equal value. Con worked from that to a winning argument.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 4 years ago
16kadams
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro proved with logic that a fetus was a human, and defended the argument from rebuttals from con. He proved humans where valuable and killing it is immoral. As he proved his main premises and affirmed the resolution to an extent for me to cast my vote I decree pro winner in my mind of this debate.
Vote Placed by Lordknukle 4 years ago
Lordknukle
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter vote bomb Tyler.
Vote Placed by KingTyler18 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro couldn't meet BOP for resolution.