The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
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Abortion is not morally wrong until the fetus can survive outside the mother's body

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/29/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,680 times Debate No: 33060
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
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Resolution: Abortion is not morally wrong until the fetus can survive outside the mother's body.

(1) Debater must have typing experience and internet access.
(2) Place your arguments and sources inside the debate
(3) Structure the debate in a readable, coherent fashion.
(4) No semantics, trolling, or lawyering.

(1) Acceptance + Internet High Five
(2) Main Argument
(3) Rebuttal to opponent's main argument
(4) Response to rebuttal + closing arguments + voting issues (one paragraph)

Abortion: Terminating a pregnancy through the death and removal of the fetus.

Ability to survive outside the mother's body: Being able to live after being removed from the mother; the point at which it is not virtually guaranteed (i.e with ~99 % probability) that the fetus will die outside the mother's body.

{Opening round format taken with permission from Wallstreetatheist}


I agree to Bossyburrito's rules, terms, and first definition.

*internet high fives Bossyburrito*

Just one quick note, the second definition, on the left side (I'm assuming) should read as "viability," which is defined by the definition he gave. Now, he gave the definition as "the point at which it is not virtually guaranteed (i.e. with 99% probability) that the fetus will die outside the mother's body." However, the point of viability being at about 22 to 24 weeks, the child simply has a "better than average" chance of surviving outside the mother's body, with chances increasing as the pregnancy continues. So it would probably help if Bossyburrito was more specific about how viable the unborn must be before it should be considered wrong to kill him/her.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to my opponent for accepting this debate.

Rationality is what separates man from beast. Rationality is the ability to make choices based on previous knowledge. Without it, we would be nothing more than empty husks, only perceiving the present moment. We would never be able to see beyond that; we would be drifting aimlessly in the wind. We would have no goals. All that would exist to us would be the now and the needs of the current moment. It is through rationality that man is allowed to exist at the level it does. If man were to choose to stop reasoning, he would surely die. Rationality is what separates good from bad, as it is what separates a higher level of life from death (in the sense of being either physically or mentally disabled). However, this does not mean that any actions taken with the intent of survival are moral. For example, killing a man and taking his food when he has not done anything to you is immoral. This is because you are infringing on that man's own right to rational action (which is fundamentally the same as the right to life).

When dealing with things such as the right to rational action, you must acknowledge the right to property. Ownership of property exists because of human nature; without it, no choices could be made. If a choice was made, you are claiming ownership (or consent of the owner) of whatever that choice affects. You cannot make a choice in a void. A choice that does not affect anything else is not a choice. The very idea is a contradiction in terms. If property rights are ignored, no rational choices can be made. If rationality cannot be expressed, it is worthless. The most important piece of property is the self, for without it you cannot even make any choices pertaining to any outside object. If this is rejected, all property rights are rejected.

Without the right to rational action, you cannot be said to be living. Either you are being controlled by some entity outside your control or you are dead. Being a mental slave means that you are acting because of the choices of someone else, not your own. In what way, then, can it truly be said that it is your life? You would be nothing more than a vessel for someone else; an extension of them. Therefore, in order to recognize the right to life you need to recognize two things: that you have no obligations to anyone else, and following from that that you have no right to impose your own will on anyone else. If you accept the first without the second, you are creating a double-standard; excluding yourself from rules imposed on others for no good reason.

If the fetus has no rightful claim to the mother's resources (because the mother does not consent), it can be denied them. Forcing the mother to keep the fetus would be equivalent to forcing the owner of a house to allow a homeless man to stay. In both cases, the owner of the property has no obligation to any who may want access to it. If the fetus is denied the mother's resources before the point of viability, it will, with almost 100% certainty, die. Given that the death of the fetus is inevitable, it is perfectly reasonable to kill it sooner rather than later.

I realize that it may seem like that argument could be used to justify killing of all people, given that everyone dies sooner or later. However, this is ignoring the fact that the differences between the deaths of the fetuses are small enough to be ignored. When dealing with longer time frames, there is a higher chance that something in the scenario will change enough to be noticed. If two pictures are taken at the exact same time and come out the exact same way, down to the molecular level and the space that they occupy, you cannot call them different entities. Much like that, you could not call the deaths of the fetuses different enough to matter.

I'm interested to see what my opponent's arguments will be.


I wish to thank Pro for instituting this debate. As per the rules, I will give my main argument in this round, and rebut Pro's opening argument (as well as his rebuttals) in the next round.

I will be defending the Substance View, as given by Francis Beckwith. [1]

1. The unborn entity, from fertilization [2], is a full-fledged member of the human community.
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community.
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong. [3]

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." [4]

Another embryologist has written the following: "Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." [5]

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.” [6]

Additionally, pro-choice philosopher David Boonin writes: "Perhaps the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus after all is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development." [7]

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 other signs of life, such as metabolism and cell division. 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. But more than that, there's a continuity of human existence from conception until natural death. At no point is someone "not a human being" then "becomes a human being."

Premise 2

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.

I say that it is prima facie morally wrong to kill an unborn member of humanity because not all killing is wrong. The Substance View entails that we are the same substance that was in our mother's womb. You didn't come from an embryo, you once were an embryo. As such, if you are the same substance outside the womb as you were inside the womb, then if a morally justifiable reason is needed to kill you now, a morally justifiable reason was needed to kill you inside the womb. There is simply no difference between a human in utero and a human post utero that would justify killing one for any reason but not the other.


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, and killing an innocent member of humanity is prima facie 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] Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, 2007), p. xii.
[2] Beckwith argues from the "moment of conception." I have changed this to fertilization. Conception is not actually a "moment," and the process of bringing a human into existence occurs sometime during the fertilization process, even though the exact point has not yet been agreed upon (Beckwith also mentions this later in his book). So I have substituted fertilization because I feel it's slightly more accurate.
[3] It should be noted that if the Substance View succeeds, then even unsuccessful abortions are immoral since it is wrong to even attempt to take someone's life, even if the actual outcome was less than was intended (or if no harm actually arose).
[4] Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.
[5] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. p. 16.

[6] Peter Singer,Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 85-86.
[7] David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003) 20.
Debate Round No. 2


I agree with almost everything my opponent said. I do, however, disagree with two fairly large points he made.

Humans have intrinsic value

I believe that value is given based on the characteristics of individuals themselves, not through the species they belong to. The species is irrelevant when determining rights, as membership of the group is not exclusive to those possessing the traits that give value. If a member of another species acted the same way as a human, with the same characteristics and only differing in the sense that it can't reproduce with a human, would you grant it value? If not, aren't you in effect granting rights based on who the animal in question can reproduce with and nothing else? If you would, would you say that humans don't have intrinsic value because they are human but because they have the traits that give them value?

The parents have an obligation to the child.

I disagree on the basis that I do not believe that individuals have any inherent obligations to anyone else. Obligations that are not formed through a contract between two consenting individuals only serve to restrict human choice (refer to my first round). A contract can be made between the parents, but the way my opponent phrased it makes me think that he's arguing that a contract is made between the parents and the child through the act of sex. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

The main flaw that I can see with this argument is that a contract cannot be made with something not in existence or something unable to give consent. You cannot enter into a contract with a rock, nor can you enter into a contract with a magical fairy. I'll concede that when choosing to have sex, you are consenting to the future possibility to have a child. However, you are also accepting the possibility of having that child removed. If you are driving and get hit, it would be absurd to say that because you consented to the possibility of getting hit that you cannot go to the hospital or have your car fixed. When choosing to perform an action, you are consenting to the possibility of all the individual potential things that could happen happening, not just one particular chain of events.


KeytarHero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Debate is being redone here:


KeytarHero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by KeytarHero 4 years ago
Sorry about that, Bossyburrito. Things got a bit hectic for me and I just forgot about the debate we had going. If you'd like to re-institute the debate, we could copy and paste and our rounds and I'll respond to this round.
Posted by totenkreiger 4 years ago
to show pro is wrong when he says that the mother does not consent, other then the obvious situation of rape the mother consents to having a baby when she has sex, she consents to the baby needing nutrition and if she by fact does not want the baby to have the things it needs to live other then aborting the fetus she would die herself (starvation)
Posted by PenelopeGrammer 4 years ago
If you like this debate, come see what debate I have! Its about abortion too, I would really like an instigator and some voters when I can. Thank You!!!
Posted by jgku 4 years ago
The debate about pro-choice and pro-life is a very controversial topic in society today. I am conducting some research on personal views pertaining to this topic. Please take some time to fill out this very short survey. All information you provide will remain anonymous. Thank you!
Posted by IwinYoulose333 4 years ago
Personally I feel abortion is wrong no matter what stage the fetus is at. I think abortion is taking away a life because the mother did something stupid she shouldn't have. I you don't want a baby wear a fricking condom.
Posted by TN05 4 years ago
Interesting debate idea. Most polls show Americans strongly approve of a mother's right to termine her pregnancy within the first trimester, but even more strongly disprove of that right in the second and third trimesters.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
Following this debate creepily while rubbing moisturizer on my chest and softly muttering both of your names while standing in my raincoat.
Posted by KeytarHero 4 years ago
Posted by bossyburrito 4 years ago
Ah, my mistake.

As for how viable the fetus must be, I would say that as soon as it has a chance of living (over ridiculous odds such as .00001). 1% would be a good starting point.
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