The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Winning
44 Points
The Contender
Lifeisgood
Con (against)
Losing
43 Points

Abortion is morally acceptable.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/8/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 11,530 times Debate No: 8852
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (66)
Votes (17)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

While I was strolling through the forums, I saw Lifeisgood start a thread in which he proclaims that all pro-choice arguments are wrong, and that abortion is almost always wrong.

I'm here to dispute that claim.

My introduction will be brief and succinct. I argue that there is no legitimate argument against the ethics of abortion - therefore I invite my opponent to show otherwise.

I will allow him to go first, with clear knowledge that this puts me at a disadvantage due to less rounds to argue. Nonetheless, I'm confident that I can handle whatever argument he brings forth. My opponent's burden is to show that abortion is immoral. My burden is to give a counterargument to his argument, and therefore show that abortion is morally acceptable.

Semantics will not be allowed. If it is shown that either I or my opponent resorts to such petty tactics, then it is an automatic forfeit.
Lifeisgood

Con

Before I begin, I would like to say that I am deeply honored to debate you, Skeptic. You are one of my favorite debaters on this website. I have read most of you debates, and they are all magnificent.
Now, to get on with it.

I will assume you are allowing me to provide the primary definitions.

Fetus: an unborn human embryo.
Note: I understand this is not the 'proper' dictionary definition of the word 'fetus'. However, seeing as this definition is relatively unimportant, it would be more convenient for both of us to use it.

Abortion: 1: the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Morally:1 a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Acceptable:1: capable or worthy of being accepted
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Human: a bipedal primate mammal :Homo sapiens
http://www.merriam-webster.com...[2]

Person: 1: human
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Obviously, morality is a idea that varies from person to person, so this may be the tricky part of this debate. This is why in my other debate on abortion, I gave the resolution as 'Abortion Should Be Illegal in the U.S.', instead of "Abortion is wrong", or something of the like. However, I hope that my moral viewpoint will be close enough to my opponent's that this will not be a major issue.

Now that the most important terms have been defined, I will begin my argument. Having read all of your abortion debates, Skeptic, I can probably guess what you are going to say. However, it would probably go better if I did not try to make your arguments for you and then refute them. So, I will only present my own arguments.

I give you fair warning though: I have exhaustively studied every pro-choice argument I have ever found, and I have compiled many notes on this subject. I plan to take this debate very seriously; I won't make it an easy win for you.

1) A fetus is undeniably human. It has unique, 100% human DNA, along with its own gender. Since a fetus is a human, and thus entitled to human rights, then abortion is indeed wrong.
2) The mother, as parent to the fetus, is responsible for the well-being of her unborn child, so it would be immoral to abandon it to die.
3) As we cannot know all, we must assume that all human life is equal. Therefore, the life of the mother cannot be said to have greater value than the life of the fetus. Both must be treated as equals.

Of course, in very rare instances abortion can be morally acceptable, but for the most part it is not. Also, there are extremely obvious times when abortion is not morally acceptable, but to be fair I will not bring these up.
I believe I have held up my part in this debate. I am done for now.

I will say nothing further at the moment; you may present your rebuttal, Skeptic. I see the arguments you will present, but I will say nothing further until you give your argument. Good luck. :)
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

I am glad to see my opponent has accepted this debate challenge and I hope it turns out well. Also, I agree with my opponent's definition - there is no controversy concerning them and I'm positive there won't be a problem with definitions hereafter.

My opponent has wisely decided to simply give three arguments of his own and allow me to garner my own objections. To attempt to find a counterargument for every pro-abortion argument is tedious and probably doomed to failure given the character limits.

Thus, I will refute my opponent's three arguments against abortion. In the process of refuting such arguments, my own position will be established and the debate can thus go on.

====================
My opponent's 3 arguments against abortion
====================

1. A fetus may be biologically human, but this does not mean it is a person, which is a rational entity. Since it doesn't have the required brain development to be a person, then it doesn't have the same rights as people. There is lingo that we have to be careful of - all humans are persons, but not all persons are humans. For example, a supercomputer or an advanced alien race can be considered persons as well.

2. If the unborn child has no rights, then the mother has no responsibilities in that respect. It's akin to you saying I should be responsible for the welfare of my Sims character - it has no rights, therefore no responsibilities on my part.

3. By "human life" it should be changed to the life of those who are persons. Because a fetus fails this requirement, it is not on an equal playing field as the rest of us are.

====================
Conclusion
====================

It should be apparent from my responses what my one and only argument for abortion is. The philosophical underpinnings of what we call a person.
Lifeisgood

Con

First I must state how delighted I am to debate such an intelligent opponent. Already, this debate has been whittled down to the very most important point of every abortion debate. That is, the point as to whether or not a fetus is a person.

Thank you for saving the time which has been wasted in so many other abortion debates, Skeptic.

We are at the point where we must ask 'what makes human life valuable?' The answer is very controversial. So long as there are opposing viewpoints, this issue will be debated. My opponent, as an atheist, believes that human life is made valuable through rationality. Maybe we should define that.

Rationality: 1 : the quality or state of being rational
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Now we need to define 'rational'.

Rational: 1 a: having reason or understanding
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

So, my opponent believes that the quality/state of having reason or understanding determines personhood, or what is valuable about human life. He has cleverly presented this personal belief as though it were common fact. The truth is, there are no definite qualifications for personhood, and many different beliefs on what qualifies a person. The very concept of personhood is still disputed.[1] It is a matter of opinion, and is impossible to definitely determine.

To be short, I disagree with my opponent's criteria for personhood, and for the following reasons.

1) I do not like the implications. By his reasoning, those that are severely mentally disabled, the brain-dead, those in a vegetative state or in a coma, and even those who are asleep would not be persons, as they are not 'rational'. If they are classified as 'non-persons' then they would have no more rights than animals. Thus, they could be abused or killed for any reason at all without penalty.

2) If the ability to reason determined personhood, then you would have certain individuals who are more persons than others. You would have partial persons and extreme persons. Thus, they would have different degrees of rights.

3) Another problem. Just when does a fetus become a person? Just how 'rational' do they have to be before they have rights? What about premature infants? Do they have any rights?

As anyone can see, my opponent's qualification for personhood has some very serious problems. Which is why it is not to be accepted.

Instead of the ability to actively reason, I believe that to be rational by nature is what gives us rights. This is a definite qualification; it would eliminate all the problems which have come from my opponent's condition, as all humans are rational by nature.

========================
In Conclusion
========================

My opponent claims that rationality determines personhood. I have shown why this is not the case, and I have provided an alternative. By my alternative, a fetus is a person, and thus entitled to rights, primarily the right to life. Thus, an action which denies the rights of the fetus (abortion) is wrong. Resolution negated.

I look forward to your response, Skeptic. I have greatly enjoyed debating you.

[1] http://www.answers.com...
(Scroll to the bottom of the page)
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for his response.

My argument will break down into two segments. First, I will defend my value that the determinant of personhood should hinge on rationality. Then, I will refute my opponent's three reasons and thus uphold my position.

====================
Determining personhood
====================

My opponent attacks the foundations of my argument, that personhood is hinged upon rationality, but he never defends his own definition of personhood. If our values are in conflict, which presumably is so, then he has failed to show why we should believe personhood is based on something else. So first, I will defend my proposed qualification of personhood and then critique his proposed qualification.

I apologize for solely using the word "rationality" so crudely - a more encompassing word is "consciousness". However, I don't mean any degree of consciousness, but rather a certain "level" of consciousness. A level in which abilities such as temporal awareness, self-awareness, and definitely rationality bear fruit. I argue that indeed there are organisms more deserving of rights, and that it's based on their level of brain development.

Humans have a complex cerebral cortex, and this allows for our rationality. Do we value a body without a brain - do we call that a person? Of course not, that's ludicrous. Similarly, if someone's brain was entirely wiped and they were a mindless zombie, we would similarly not call them a person.

Human persons (not to be confused with human beings) have personalities that are a product of this cognitive development, and which is vital to their personhood. This is why we still value those who are sleeping - it's not the active manifestation of your personality but the mere existence of it. Rationality, self-awareness, and such allow for this. And yes, one can say animals have a personality (it's much more limited), but they have limitations on their cognitive abilities as well. Simply put, it's our brain development.

====================
My opponent's 3 reasons against abortion
====================

1. As I stated before, there are organisms with more rights than others. While animals don't have as much rights as humans, they certainly don't have no rights at all (animal abuse, for example). Their ability to feel pain is a form of cognitive development, and this confers some rights unto them.

This means your cases of mentally disable/comatose people bear no harm. If they don't have the sufficient cognitive abilities, then it must be so. However, do realize that they can very well have unconscious mental states, meaning they shouldn't be ruled out so easily. At best, your argument reduces to an appeal to emotion - so what if they are not persons? Do you have a substantive argument to say otherwise?

2. Yes, you are correct. Some people have different degrees of rights than others - like children! Even though they are capable of rudimentary displays of rationality, they are still not fully developed. Of course, once they mature they are equipped with a full inventory as the rest of us.

It should be noted that this doesn't mean stupid people have less rights than smart people. It's just the capacity to reason that is the determinant of personhood, not how effective you use it. A group of farmers may not use reason a lot in his job compared to a professor, but you don't see us advocate that professors are deserving of more rights than farmers.

3. When a fetus becomes a person is unclear waters due to knowledge in cognitive science. Some like Peter Singer would argue that an infant that reaches 3 months of age is finally a person, since it retains self-awareness and other important cognitive faculties[1]. Simply put, this reason is not a substantial argument against abortion. Even though we don't know exactly when a human being becomes a human person (it ranges from 8 week year old infant to a 3 month year old infant), it's known that a fetus certainly is not rational.

And I know what you are thinking - can infanticide be permitted? In certain cases, I would argue yes. And I implore of my opponent - besides the cute faces of sleeping babies, what substantive argument do you against it?

====================
Conclusion
====================

I've defended my definition of personhood, and refuted my opponent's 3 reasons against abortion. There really isn't much left to say except for a request that voters have an objective review of our arguments. Also, I want to remind my opponent to not include any new arguments in his last round since I have no opportunity to refute them.

Thanks for the debate.

---References---
1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
Lifeisgood

Con

I must admit, when I accepted this debate I was quite nervous to face such an intimidating opponent. However, I have realized that my opponent's arguments are nothing I haven't heard before; I'm still doing the same old abortion debate. And the truth is, there really are no adequate arguments supporting abortion.

I look forward to the opportunity to debate with you again, Skeptic.

By the way, do not worry about me posting any new arguments in this round. I would hate it if someone did the same to me, so I am determined to never do it to someone else.

One more thing I would like to point out before I begin: The debate is already over. I have won. Just about any debate on abortion is over when the pro-choicer attempts to justify infanticide... XD

I shall set my argument up in a similar form to that of my opponent's.

=========================
Determining Personhood
=========================

"My opponent attacks the foundations of my argument, that personhood is hinged upon rationality, but he never defends his own definition of personhood. If our values are in conflict, which presumably is so, then he has failed to show why we should believe personhood is based on something else."

I will point out that my opponent has done the exact same thing. Given his stance and situation in this debate, he is the one whose arguments are jeopardized by this fact. My position is unaffected. I'll state why later.

"Humans have a complex cerebral cortex, and this allows for our rationality. Do we value a body without a brain - do we call that a person? Of course not, that's ludicrous. Similarly, if someone's brain was entirely wiped and they were a mindless zombie, we would similarly not call them a person."

Let's have an example here. Let's pretend for a moment that this could really happen; that a man's mind is actually wiped out, and he still lives. Say also that his mind would gradually come back over a period of a few months. Would he have any rights at all? Would his life still have value? Obviously, yes. Would it be morally acceptable to quickly kill him before his mind returned? Absolutely not. He remains a person throughout the ordeal.

This is the position of a fetus. My point stands. It isn't a functioning mind alone that makes a person.

=========================
Reasons against abortion
=========================

1) "This means your cases of mentally disable/comatose people bear no harm. If they don't have the sufficient cognitive abilities, then it must be so. However, do realize that they can very well have unconscious mental states, meaning they shouldn't be ruled out so easily. At best, your argument reduces to an appeal to emotion - so what if they are not persons? Do you have a substantive argument to say otherwise?"

My argument was not an appeal to emotion. Remember, we are debating morality here. By your view of what makes human life valuable, those in a vegetative state, etc. would all be non-persons, or at the very least less-than-persons. This would mean that abusing or killing them would be morally acceptable.

These things are most certainly not morally acceptable; no society would advocate the killing of the mentally disabled, those in a coma, or infants. Need I give examples? I will anyway. In this case, a mother drowns her newly born baby and faces charges for first-degree murder (1). One father faces charges for killing his one-month-old child (2). Here is another mother that faces murder charges for killing her baby (3). Two men are charged with murdering a severely disabled 22 year old (4). And here a son is charged with attempted murder for shooting his comatose father (5). Do I need any more sources to show you that killing people in those situations is not morally acceptable?

My opponent has not even shown why killing these people could be morally acceptable, other than his own opinion as to what makes a person, and circular reasoning. He needed to do better than that to justify infanticide, among other things.

2) "Yes, you are correct. Some people have different degrees of rights than others - like children! Even though they are capable of rudimentary displays of rationality, they are still not fully developed. Of course, once they mature they are equipped with a full inventory as the rest of us."

No. children do not have the full rights to liberty because they are not responsible enough to make their own decisions. No parent would punish their child and say it is morally acceptable because that child is 'less than a person'. They violate their child's right to freedom because that child is not responsible enough to earn their freedom. It's the same with criminals; they are not responsible enough to obey the law, so they lose freedom.

With responsibility comes freedom.
With freedom comes responsibility.

3) Here, my opponent concedes that there is no definite determination for his definition of person. This goes a long way in refuting his own argument.

My opponent's determination for personhood is very hazy. Not only does he admit that his definition of a person allows for 'partial persons', but it is also unclear just when one becomes a person. His standard also permits the killing of persons in a vegetative state, those in a coma, premature and newborn infants, and the severely mentally disabled, which are all obviously morally unacceptable, as I have shown. He has given no substantial argument as to why his standard of personhood is to be accepted.

On the contrary, my determination is completely clear, with no grey areas or. All human beings are rational by nature, so no humans are excluded. This avoids any obvious moral infractions.

My determination for personhood is obviously better, but unfortunately it is still only my opinion. However, it is not necessary to provide an irrefutable determination for personhood to show that abortion is morally unacceptable. Here is why.

What makes a person is and always will be an opinion, so long as contesting viewpoints exist. There has never been a condition of personhood that has not been hotly contested, save perhaps humanity. Because there is no absolute standard for personhood, we should always err on the side of protecting human life. Abortion clearly does not do this.

=========================
Summary and conclusion
=========================

My opponent has given no argument as to why abortion is morally acceptable, other than his own definition of person, which he has not even come close to defending or defining adequately. His opinion of what defines a person is clearly morally unacceptable. Since he uses this opinion to support abortion, abortion is morally unacceptable.

The resolution is thoroughly negated.

Whew! That wasn't so hard. I thank you again for this excellent debate, Skeptic.

A final note: I too wish that voters look at the arguments objectively. I further request that all those who vote on this debate give an RFD.

Sources:
(1) http://www.huliq.com...
(2) http://www.encyclopedia.com...
(3) http://www.dddnews.com...
(4) http://www.mirror.co.uk...
(5) http://www.nytimes.com...
Debate Round No. 3
66 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Chrysippus 7 years ago
Chrysippus
C: equal
SP/G: equal
CA: equal; both sides failed to prove their starting premise (worth is based on rationality vs. worth is based on humanness). The definition of Personhood is critical in this issue.
"...it is not necessary to provide an irrefutable determination for personhood to show that abortion is morally unacceptable."
Unfortunately, no. From the premise that one is only truly a human being when one is fully developed mentally, abortion is as justifiable as merely trimming off an unwanted hair. From the premise that human life has intrinsic value, whether it is conscious, useful, rational, or not; the reasonable conclusion is that taking a human life, no matter whether it has a personality yet or not, is murder just the same as if it were fully mature.
Both sides failed to justify their starting premise, but rather took it for granted. Tie.

S: Con, for providing examples and sourced definitions.

Well argued by both sides, in terms of logic and format.
Posted by Lifeisgood 7 years ago
Lifeisgood
Strange. I thought I posted a response here two days ago. Must have been a glitch.

Mairkuru: What you say is likely true. I am completely obsessing over this debate, and I shall leave no comment uncontested. No one wishes to face my tremendous logic, so it makes sense that they would wish to vote silently. :p

"In any case, something you just wrote stands out to me. You describe infants and those in vegetative states as "obviously persons." How is this personhood so obvious? Given the importance of rationality, it would seem their personhood is questionable."

They are considered persons because everyone treats them as such. All of society condemns the killing of 'non-rational' humans in as murder, as I showed by my sources.

We do not value human life SOLELY because of rationality. Rationality does play a huge role in the importance of personhood, but it is only part of the equation. That was my entire point in this debate.
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Maikuru
I was apparently wrong when I predicted more RFD's would flow in with time. This is only a hypothesis but I believe it may have something to do with the fervency with which you defend your position, LiG. If members believe submitting a RFD will subject them to attack rather than discussion, they may opt to simply vote silently. While I appreciate your opinion and the zeal with which you defend it, your appearant immovability concerning this issue may repel some participants. Again, this is merely a hypothesis =D

In any case, something you just wrote stands out to me. You describe infants and those in vegetative states as "obviously persons." How is this personhood so obvious? Given the importance of rationality, it would seem their personhood is questionable.
Posted by Lifeisgood 7 years ago
Lifeisgood
Now for Skeptic.

"LiG, you seem to be missing the point. If I fulfill in showing the validity of the basis of my definition of a person, then infanticide MUST as a consequence be morally permissible in the right context."

EXACTLY. The problem is, you failed to show that your definition was correct.

"In other words, I'm biting the bullet. It's like people who criticize Kant in saying that if we can never lie, then under situations in where a murderer is looking for someone we must aid them (if the situation demands that we either tell them the truth or lie). Yes, this seems to SUCK but that in itself shows nothing in err about Kant's philosophy."

I did not understand that entirely. What does this have to do with this situation.

"Likewise, you have yet to demonstrate why my definition of a person is false. I've shown that the qualities of a person is inextricably tied with personality, consciousness, etc. Would you consider a brain dead but physically intact Homo Sapien a person? No, that's more like a zombie."

Rationality is inextricably tied with personality, but remember that my standard was extremely similar to yours in that respect, so that point is moot. The zombie argument was already refuted.

And I DID show why your definition of personhood is false.

Here is how. Infants, those in a vegetative state, etc. are all considered persons. However, your standard of personhood excludes them. Since these people, obviously persons, are counted as non-persons by your standard, then your standard is false. Simple as that.
Posted by Lifeisgood 7 years ago
Lifeisgood
I have returned. AGAIN request that more RFDs be given. Yes, I am obsessing.

First, for MTGandP.

"LiG, stop trying to shift the burden of proof. You have the burden of proof, and here is why:

Unless proven otherwise, everything is allowed and everything is justified. It must be shown to have some sort of negative effect to be disallowed. You have not demonstrated any such negative effect. You have the burden of proof and you have failed to meet it. The default assumption is that anything is justified, despite what cultural norms dictate."

First of all, this is a completely false statement. Abortion is not morally just until proven otherwise. Something that is potentially murder is never, by default, morally fine.

Second of all, I was not saying that Skeptic bore the burden of proof in showing that abortion is morally acceptable. We both had a burden in relation to the resolution. However, Skeptic claimed that a person is a rational entity. THAT is where he had the burden of proof. When you make a claim, you must back that claim up with something more than weak arguments and opinion. Skeptic failed in this aspect.

Continued in next post.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
True. There's the morally wrong (murder) and the morally right (saving a drowning person), but then there's the morally neutral category. Not taking into account potential harm and inconvenience to the mother, abortion is morally neutral.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
True. There's the morally wrong (murder) and the morally right (saving a drowning person), but then there's the morally neutral category. Not taking into account potential harm and inconvenience to the mother, abortion is morally neutral.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
Haha being healthy or non-suicidal isn't morally virtuous.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 7 years ago
Cody_Franklin
Eating vegetables might be morally justified because it provides nutrients, ensuring that you remain alive and healthy, if you really wanted to take it that far; but I agree with Skeptic; it's not a matter of 'either A or B'; in fact, as I recall, there is a fallacy named after that; things can be amoral, as well. :)
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
Just because an act isn't immoral doesn't mean by default it's moral, it can be morally neutral.
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