The Instigator
Con (against)
14 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Abortion should be illegal

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 1/31/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 11 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,640 times Debate No: 99434
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (32)
Votes (2)




Pro can either start arguing in Round 1 and waive the final round, or use the first round for acceptance alone, and allow me to start the debate in Round 2.

No new arguments in the final round.

"Abortion" refers to "the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy." Pro has to argue that abortion, in all stages of pregnancy, should be illegal (outside of cases when the mother's life is in danger, or cases of rape). I have to argue that abortion has to be allowed in at least certain stages of pregnancy.


Thanks Tejretics, I accept the challenge.

As clarified by Con, I intend to argue that abortion should be illegal for all stages of pregnancy, but not necessarily all circumstances. I am willing to grant exceptions for life of the mother, rape, etc... Rather, I hope to keep the debate focused on the vast majority of abortion cases - those performed solely for personal choice.

Best of luck!
Debate Round No. 1


== Intro ==

I intend to argue the following: (1) abortion bans violate the right to bodily autonomy; (2) banning abortion leads to dangerous back-alley abortions; and (3) abortion leads to more unwanted children.

The word "should" refers to an obligation on the part of the government. I believe that the goal of the government is to act toward a stable society (i.e. to act in the general interest of society). This is a very broad and generally well-accepted value, which should apply because the objective of government is to ensure the stability of civilization, to act in the interests of the people in general.

C1) Autonomy

Abortion bans violate the right to liberty and autonomy. There are two links I'm going to establish here: first, abortion bans prevent the autonomy of individuals, and second, the government should preserve individual liberty.

Bans on abortion prevent women from exercising the choice to do something. The only legitimate basis on which the government can prevent individuals from doing any action which they consented to doing is when there is a harm to a non-consensual individual. According to John Stuart Mill, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." [1] Only then can the State legitimately exercise power over individuals; else, it becomes illegitimate for not being one that is consensual. [2]

Under this "harm principle," abortion shouldn't be illegal, because there is no *harm* being done to a non-consensual other. Harm to the fetus is not a sufficient argument because the fetus is not sentient until 24 weeks. [3] Before 24 weeks, therefore, the fetus cannot perceive any harm to itself -- it doesn't have interests. A harm is, by definition, a violation of a being's interests. Any concept of "harm" becomes incoherent when there are no interests or desires at play. Since the fetus can't perceive harm, harm cannot be done to the fetus, which means abortion doesn't harm anyone.
I'll address any other potential "harms" in direct rebuttal to Pro's case. So, in short, abortion is a self-regarding act and there's no "harm" to anyone who doesn't consent to it. Therefore, it's not legitimate for the government to ban it.

Why is liberty the best standard to place on the government? I'm going to provide three reasons. First, the harm principle acts as the limiting principle to the government. It limits political power to the *consent* of individuals. [2] This means it allows the State to retain legitimacy and remain a consensual exercise of power. Second, the harm principle is the ideal limiting principle because it is the best means to uphold the interests of the people. This is because the *each individual* is best qualified to decide their interests, since those are subjective. Thus, whenever possible, those individuals should be allowed to make decisions on their own. Liberty offers a strong metric for upholding the overall good of the people. Third, demonstrably, more liberal countries tend to have greater standards of human development. It's generally well-accepted that more civil liberties equals better development. Economists have frequently tied greater civil liberties to economic development. [4]

Since the harm principle is the best limiting principle on the government, and abortion bans violate this principle, bans on abortion are illegitimate.

C2) Back-alley abortions

Abortion bans cause more back-alley abortions (i.e. unsafe illegal abortions). When there are no legal/regulated abortion clinics, women turn to self-abortion or illegal abortion clinics when they are unsure of whether their baby will get adopted, either (1) in desperate positions that prevent them from having kids, or (2) *really* don't want to have kids. There's substantial empirical evidence for this. Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times explains, "A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it. Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women's deaths during pregnancy." [5] This study proves that banning abortion doesn't save fetal life -- instead, it puts the lives at risk.

These back-alley abortions are particularly harmful due to the lack of regulation. The lack of sufficient controls means that illegal clinics and women themselves (when self-aborting) tend to use brutal methods such as beating a woman's abdomen hard, piercing the amniotic sac with a sharp object, and using poisons. [6, 7] The WHO explains that, as a result of unsafe abortion in illegal contexts in developing countries alone, "an estimated 68,000 women die as a result, and millions more have complications, many permanent." [8]

If abortion is legal and clinics are regulated, however, these back-alley abortions reduce, because (1) women are deterred from pursuing dangerous/unregulated clinics when there are better quality and possibly cheaper legal clinics available, and (2) illegal clinics are, as a result, competed out of business and stop functioning entirely. In South Africa, after abortion was legalized, abortion-related maternal mortalities reduced by 91%. [9] D.A. Grimes, et al. explain, "Access to safe abortion improves women's health, and vice versa, as documented in Romania during the regime of President Nicolae Ceausescu." [10]

Banning abortion causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, and would still be meaningless in practice because abortion rates will hardly reduce -- fetal life, therefore, isn't saved either. Since the government should pursue policies that act in overall social good, and banning abortion is a social harm, the government shouldn't ban abortion.

Since a ban on abortion would violate individual autonomy and prompt dangerous back-alley abortions, Vote Con in today's debate.

[6] Andre Soubiran, "Diary of a Woman in White," p. 98


Thanks Con. As there was no format specified, I will move immediately into rebuttals and then present my case.

== Rebuttals ==

To complete their "autonomy" argument, Con forces numerous flawed assumptions upon us.

Assumption 1: "the objective of government is to ensure the stability of civilization, to act in the interests of the people in general." Is this really true? "General interest" could mean anything, and Con has given us no reason to accept their narrow definition.

Assumption 2: "Harm is, by definition, a violation of a being's interests." Says who? The M-W dictionary defines harm merely as "to damage or injure physically or mentally" [1]. According to this definition an abortion absolutely does inflict harm. Con's definition cannot be true - fish are not sentient, is it therefore impossible to harm fish? A bald eagle egg has no sentient desires, is it impossible to harm the egg?

Assumption 3: "The fetus is not sentient until 24 weeks" (basically, a fetus is not a person...). This claim is cited to a 2010 article saying fetuses cannot feel pain until at least 24 weeks. So, the inference Con is drawing is if you can't feel pain, you are not sentient, and therefore you cannot be harmed. This is multiply flawed. If I have Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIP), a rare genetic disorder that makes me unable to feel pain, have I lost my personhood? Am I immune from harm? The ability to feel pain cannot possibly be a full definition of human life.

Assumption 4: "Each individual is best qualified to decide their interests." Really? We can all imagine examples where an individual is NOT best qualified to decide their own interests.

It is a myth that we have a right to bodily autonomy. The government restricts our bodies all the time. You cannot walk in public naked. You cannot perform surgery on yourself. Soldiers cannot refuse orders to put their bodies in harm's way.

Back Alley Abortions: This argument basically boils down to "people are going to do it anyway, so we might as well make it legal so we can regulate it." But that logic can be applied to EVERY human behavior imaginable! Imagine if rape were legalized as long as the victim was rendered unconscious by government approved drugs beforehand and taken to a specially designated sterile facility. Rape would undoubtedly be "safer" - but it would still be wrong and should therefore remain illegal. Making a behavior "safer" by legally regulating it does not necessarily make it right or good.

Bottom line - Con can only justify legalizing abortion if they can show an embryo is not a person. I agree with the John Stuart Mill quote: "The only purpose . . . is to prevent harm to others." I believe an embryo indeed qualifies as an "other" and it is therefore just to restrict an individual choice to harm it.

The only assumption I need to make for my case is that it is wrong to destroy human life (excluding self-defense, etc..).

Assuming that Con agrees with the virtually universal maxim, I need only show that a fetus/embryo is, indeed, human. I will attempt to demonstrate that abortion is a violation of this maxim, and is therefore immoral. As such, it should be made illegal.

== Case ==

Scientifically, legally, and logically, an embryo should be considered human life.

1. Science overwhelmingly confirms that the unborn, even at the earliest stage, are human. At the first second of conception, the zygote has unique and completely human DNA. Humans have 46 chromosomes with DNA specific to the Homo Sapiens species. All 46 chromosomes, as well as the human specific DNA that comes with them, are present the moment fertilization occurs. According to the book Human Embryology & Teratology, "fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.... The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. [2]".

Even if an abortion happens just after pregnancy is usually detected, the embryo has already begun developing its own unique brain, spinal cord, fingerprints, and heart. By week 6, the arms, legs, eyes, and bones develop. The heart also begins beating [3]. The brain and spine of a fetus are not the organs of some separate sub-human species. They are genetically and fully Homo Sapien. There is not a single scientific argument to justify why a fetus is not a member of the human species.

2. Federal Law - even Federal Law confirms that the unborn are both alive and human. The 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA), Section 1841, says that any action that injures a child in utero can be punished as if the injury was inflicted on the mother herself, even if the offender acted accidentally or had no knowledge she was pregnant. Furthermore, UVVA says, "As used in this section, the term "child in utero" or "child, who is in utero" means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb." Incredibly, this means that if a pregnant woman on her way to the abortion clinic gets hit by a texting driver, survives, but loses the baby, then that driver can be charged with manslaughter. Yet, if the woman arrives safely at the abortion clinic, she can "lose" her baby in a perfectly legal and often celebrated procedure. This contradiction borders on the insane and cannot be justified with logic. Federal law grants an unborn child at ANY STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT with rights equal to those of the mother. Therefore, if the mother has a right to avoid harm, then so does the fetus.

3. Logical Beginning of Life - Contrary to Con's "24 month rule," there is no clear or consistent definition of life's beginning. There are very few people who draw the line at birth, so then where then DOES the line get drawn? 3 hours? 3 days? 3 weeks? 3 months? There is no clear answer to be found. If there is no obvious or consistent definition of life, then there is no obvious or consistent time to say abortion is ok. Viability is often used by pro-choice advocates, but this is a largely meaningless term because it is completely contingent on available levels of technology. Babies have survived premature birth as early as 21 weeks [4], long before Con's 24 week time limit. As technology continues to improve, the survival point will likely continue to get earlier and earlier. Con has no logical reason to draw the line at 24 weeks.

Since a fetus is human life, and since it is universally held (in general) that human life should be protected and preserved, then any benefits proposed by Con do not justify this maxim's violation.

Con either must show that a fetus is not human life or explain why it does not deserve equal protection under the law.


[2] O'Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), 8-29


Debate Round No. 2


Pro's case consists of three claims: (a) the fetus is a human life, possessing the right to life, which directly ties into my point on autonomy, (b) legalizing abortion would be inconsistent with federal law, and (c) abortion should be legal even if back-alley abortions are a threat. Each of those three claims fails simply because all of those claims are inconsistent with the real purpose of government: to help the people as a whole.

Right to life

There are four points of clash here. I'm going to say that (1) sentience is the precondition for the right to life, (2) the fetus isn't sentient, (3) the standard of 24 weeks isn't "arbitary," and (4) the right to bodily autonomy exists and is directly applicable to abortion.

Sentiocentrism. Pro says that the fetus is biologically a human, and therefore possesses the right to life. That's a non-sequitur. I'm in agreement with Pro that the fetus is biologically a human, but disagree with the "axiom" that any biological human possesses the right to life. This brings us to the philosophical debate: in society, which individuals should get legal rights? My answer is simple: those who can feel or perceive subjectively (i.e. sentient beings).

Those are the only beings that should get rights because the role of the government is to maximize the desires of the people. Pro seems to disagree with this framework, but doesn't offer a contrasting objective of government. The utilitarian standard is the best one because the purpose of government is to balance our competing interests. The only reason the government has any political legitimacy is because, when the government was formed in the first place, it was to resolve disputes based on rights. Since Pro clearly agrees with the concept of "rights," all I need to say is that the government's job is to weigh the importance of rights against each other – and the best way for the government to do that is to weigh the importance of "interests," which are the grounding for rights, against each other, and therefore make utilitarian calculations. Since the fetus lacks interests, it shouldn't have rights (in this case, the right to life).

Fetus's Sentience. Pro seems to disagree with the idea that the fetus isn't sentient. In response to my source that the fetus doesn't feel pain, they say that pain isn't the only dimension of sentience. I agree, but I'm going to argue that the fetus doesn't fulfill any dimension of sentience. People with CIP are still sentient. [11] By contrast, the fetus can't feel or perceive subjectively until 24 weeks – it's completely non-sentient. [12] Consciousness only arises between the 25th and 28th week of pregnancy. Which means the fetus isn't sentient, and so abortion is justified under the standard I've established.

Arbitariness. As I established before, fetuses become sentient only after the 24th week of pregnancy. The standard isn't arbitrary because it is well-established in scientific fact, as I've mentioned earlier. So, there's no justification from Pro that this standard is "arbitary," outside of their asserting it without any justification.

Autonomy. First, Pro agrees with the harm principle, but holds that abortion constitutes "harm" to the fetus – justifying this by the definition of harm. But I'm just using the word "harm" for convenience – what is obviously implied is the idea of sentience. I think that, since the fetus isn't sentient, moral consideration doesn't apply to the fetus. The same way a plant can be "harmed," a fetus can be harmed, but I don't support banning abortion just as I don't support banning the "harming" of plants.

Second, later, Pro says the right to autonomy doesn't exist – a blatant contradiction with their initial agreement with the harm principle. Pro gives the example of public nudity being banned in the status quo. My response is that I don't necessarily support the status quo: that's an is/ought fallacy. My position is that a right to autonomy should exist, not that it does exist. Since I've already proven that a fetus doesn't have moral consideration, a woman should have the right to abort as a part of the right to liberty.


The idea that legalizing abortion is inconsistent with federal law is a bad argument because it is overly American-centric and ignores the existence of other countries, and is also patently false.

First, the UVVA is an American law. Nothing in the resolution suggests that this debate is U.S.-centric. I'm arguing that, as a matter of general principle, abortion should be legal. This isn't a debate about the United States alone. Since I needn't defend the status quo in the United States, this argument fails. As an extension of this, I don't need to defend the status quo at all, or the existence of such a law – that's not within my burden of persuasion.

Second, legalizing abortion isn't inconsistent with this law either. The reason is simple: the fetus is a part of the woman's body, even if a distinct human life, which means the woman has control over the fetus. If the woman doesn't consent to damage occurring to the fetus, it obviously should be illegal. This is similar to an exercise in private property rights. Only a woman has the right to abort her own fetus or consent to it being done – if it's forcibly done, then further punishment is fine.

Back-alley abortions

Pro's position on this is ridiculous. They say that legality making an action safer holds good with most crimes, such as rape. That's nonsense. I'm going to look at two things here. First, I'm going to explain why this actually doesn't hold good with most crimes. Second, I'm going to explain why things that are "still wrong" shouldn't necessarily be illegal, and that overall better outcomes are more important (i.e. consequences are more important than action; the ends justify the means).

First, legality doesn't make an action safer in all circumstances. The reason rape is illegal is not that it's "inherently wrong" – rather, because it causes harm to an individual, and banning rape reduces the risk. How does it reduce the risk? It deters rapes from happening. Legal rape doesn't make it "safer" – that's a nonsensical idea. By contrast, abortion bans only achieve marginal deterrence and produce overall worse outcomes because abortion bans make abortion more unsafe (whereas rape bans do nothing of the sort). Pro concedes that back-alley abortions are very unsafe and encouraged under abortion, which means my impact still stands.

Second, the broad problem with Pro's rebuttal here is that they're assuming that actions are inherently right or wrong, and that's what decides their legality or illegality. That's false. The reason anything is made illegal is that the illegality of said thing creates better outcomes. I've already justified this framework under the "sentiocentrism" point: the government's job is to weigh interests against each other, and interests (i.e. mental states) are essentially outcomes of policy. That's not a "vague" standard as Pro claims because "interests" are pretty clear: they're just desires of the people. The desires and preferences of people are weighed against each other and are considered rights, under the utilitarian framework based on which the government should operate.


My burden in this debate is simple: to prove that, in a broad and general context, abortion should be legal. I've proven that by showing that there's a right to autonomy and to overall better outcomes, and abortion bans violate both these rights. For these reasons alone, I've won this debate.

Pro drops my justifications that I already presented in favor of the right to autonomy and simply dismisses it as "non-existent," which is a blatant is/ought fallacy; Pro similarly takes a ridiculous stance on back-alley abortions. For these reasons alone, vote Con, because Pro's positions are downright ridiculous.



Thank you Con.

Con has focused his argument to two elements: The role of government and sentience.

1. "The role of government is to maximize the desires of the people." Con continues to press their view that governments exist chiefly to make utilitarian calculations that solve rights disputes, as if that's the end of the discussion. This is nothing more than question begging. Con is assuming their view on government is true and presents it as evidence for their case. In reality, many people have many different opinions on what the true role of government is. Fukayama believes government exists to help human groups achieve what human individuals cannot. Hobbes believes government's only job is to protect human life. Locke believes government must protect life and property. Hamilton believes government should decide people's interests for them. On and on... Furthermore, Con's opinion on the role of government really only applies to democracy. Monarchy, theocracy, oligarchy, and other forms do not much trouble themselves with the "desires of the people." Con accuses me of being too "U.S.-centric," but fails to see that he is being "democracy-centric." Con's argument hinges on us agreeing with his definition of government, but has given us no proof to do so.

Furthermore, even if government's role was to maximize the desires of the people, what if the people desired to make abortion illegal? Then, according to Con, the government would be compelled to make it illegal. At best, a given population favors legal abortion, in which case Con's argument becomes a mere appeal to popularity (which is ironic, given that Con stated he doesn't support "status quo" arguments). At worst, the given population does not favor abortion, in which case Con's own logic necessitates the government make it illegal, which falls right in with my position.

2. Sentience - Con is willing to agree with me that a fetus/embryo is human life at every stage of development. Their only argument is that it's not sentient human life. But it seems that Con is carefully walking back their previous statements. In Round 2, Con states, I quote, ". . . the fetus is not sentient until 24 weeks." The only justification for this claims is the citation to the article claiming no pain before 24 weeks. The conclusion Con draws from this is crystal clear, again, quote, "Before 24 weeks, therefore [because they feel no pain], the fetus cannot perceive any harm to itself -- it doesn't have interests . . . Since the fetus can't perceive harm, harm cannot be done to the fetus." Very clearly then, from Con's own words, the only quality Con has so far associated with sentience is ability to feel pain. Therefore, Con either made a mistake in Round 2, or he is now moving the goalposts.

When I demonstrated that this is a terrible metric for sentience, Con says "I agree." Then he attempts to redirect by saying "but I'm going to argue that the fetus doesn't fulfill any dimension of sentience." But the problem is that Con has not actually explained what the dimensions of sentience are. Con says people with CIP are still sentient, but doesn't explain why. I challenge Con to explain exactly what qualifies a being as sentient in the next round. Con boldly proclaims 24-week sentience as "well-established in scientific fact" when in reality it is nothing more than a scientific guess. There is virtually no scientific agreement on this issue, as this source plainly exposes: "the idea that there is a precise moment when a foetus gets the right to live, which it didn't have a few moments earlier, feels very strange. And when you look closely at each of the suggested dates, they do seem either arbitrary or not precise enough to decide whether the unborn should have the right to live." [1]
Con claims that a fetus can't feel or perceive things until 24 weeks, but that is demonstrably false. The fetus begins breathing movements at 9 weeks, responds to touch at 12 weeks, eye movements at 14 weeks, can taste at 15 weeks, can hear at 20 weeks, on and on... [2]. Once again, Con has confidently proclaimed "it's [the fetus] completely non-sentient" but has failed to actually detail what sentience is. Until they do so, this argument cannot be accepted.

Con then Straw Mans my point about the right to autonomy. I did not say a right to autonomy doesn't exist, I said there is no blanket right to bodily autonomy. Con clarifies that he is not claiming that an autonomy right DOES exist, but merely that it should. This can only be consistent with Con's argument if truly no harm is being done. However, Con again backtracks by saying they are merely using the term "harm" for "convenience," and that he really means sentience, which brings us back to the problem that Con has not actually defined what sentience is. In the end, we are left wondering what Con is actually saying then.

Inconsistency - Con says my UVVA argument is invalid because it is U.S.-centric. I grant that we never specified which country we are talking about. But we are talking about legal matters, and legal matters are specific to individual countries - there is no [enforceable] universal law. So in my defense, we also never specified that I could not argue within the framework of a particular country. I am American, so it is only common sense that I would be arguing from an American legal framework. Pro is arguing that an action should be legalized, and common sense would dictate that legalization must happen within the jurisdiction of a single country or body.

Con then claims the UVVA is null because the fetus is part of the woman's body. But that's not what the law says at all. The law states quite plainly that an unborn human - in any stage of development - has rights EQUAL to those of the mother. The fact that it happens to be attached to the mother by a cord is irrelevant, it still has equal rights to a fully mature, autonomous human being. As such, abortion is completely inconsistent with this law. No one should be allowed to consent to harming a life that has equal rights as them.

Con thinks my point on back alley abortions is ridiculous. But their rebuttal is equally ridiculous. My argument is meant to sound ridiculous because it is a reductio ad absurdum of Con's case. Con says things are not made illegal because things are right or wrong, they are made illegal because they produce better outcomes. But my question to Con is - what is "better?" Is that not an indication of something that is "right" suggesting that "not better" would be "wrong?" We are talking about the same thing but using different words. Is there such a thing as something being inherently "better?" Con's protests apply equally to their own argument, they just don't see it. The truth is my critique stands - legalizing something just because "it will happen anyway" is a terrible reason to make something illegal.

At bottom, destroying human life is wrong and should be illegal. Con agrees that a fetus is human, but argues that it isn't sentient. However, Con has provided no explanation of what they mean by "sentient" and therefore his argument cannot be accepted. As such, we default to the next point of mutual agreement, which is that a fetus is human life. This supports my argument entirely. As such, vote Pro.

Debate Round No. 3


== Roadmap ==

Pro's case has fallen flat -- resting on bare assertions, unjustified frameworks, and gross misrepresentations. The debate comes down to two issues: (1) utilitarianism, and (2) the rights of the fetus vs. the rights of the woman. I've won on both counts.

== Utilitarianism ==

The purpose of government is to make decisions based on utilitarian calculations. Both of Pro's responses fail.

Begging the Question

First, I provided justifications for a utilitarian calculus, which Pro ignores. I pointed out that (a) the utilitarian standard gives the State legitimacy, (b) rights are incoherent without measuring "interests" against each other, and (c) the government presently follows a utilitarian calculus, and so there would be inconsistency in Pro's world, and since Pro is the one who doesn't like inconsistency, Pro should accept util. No response to any of those three reasons.

Second, Pro argues that my position is controversial. Pro does nothing to prove any of those philosophies. Reject them all as bare assertions. But, outside of Fukuyama's purpose of government, all other examples that Pro gives themselves assume that the government legislates based on "interests" -- Hamilton's explicitly so, and Locke and Hobbes based on "rights," which, as I already pointed out, are interests. Furthermore, Pro has no alternate standard for government. Their entire case presumes that the "right to life" is obvious, but gives no justification for its existence outside of a utilitarian framework whatsoever. If anyone is begging the question, it's Pro, not me.

Majority Rule. Pro misinterprets what I mean by "maximizing the desires of the people." I don't mean that policy should inherently be based on what policies the people want. Rather, and I've already clarified this in-round, "desires" are "interests" -- things like pleasure and pain. I mentioned that "interests" equals "mental states" in Rd. 3, and that policy that maximizes positive mental states is good and policy which maximizes negative ones is bad. My world doesn't entail what, specifically, the majority wants. Rather, it's about the base interests and desires of the people, which are "weighed" against each other (i.e. things like pleasure and pain).

Illegal Abortions

It's obvious, contextually, that by "good" I mean "fulfills positive interests." That's the framework I defended the whole debate. Under that, illegal abortions aren't "good."

Illegal abortions cause thousands of deaths each year. Pro's representation of the argument as one about "legalizing something just because it will happen anyway" is false. My [6], [7] and [8] prove that back-alley abortions are dangerous and cause thousands of deaths each year. Pro's rape analogy has been refuted, and they've dropped it, conceding it by omission.

Conclusion: The government should legislate based on a utilitarian standard, for reasons I've mentioned and Pro has ignored. Since Pro violates that standard by causing thousands of deaths and injuries every year, vote Con.

== Rights ==

The fetus doesn't merit rights. A woman's right to autonomy is more important. Three key areas of clash here: whether the fetus is sentient; if there's legal inconsistency from not recognizing a fetus's right to life; and if a woman's right to autonomy extends to abortion. I'll address each in turn.


The fetus isn't sentient. Pro has two objections. First, Pro says I don't set any standard for sentience. However, it's implicitly obvious that by "sentient" I mean "able to have interests." In fact, I said, "Since the fetus lacks interests, it shouldn't have rights." That's obviously the standard I'm using -- the fetus isn't conscious (i.e. it lacks interests). Furthermore, "sentient" isn't a term of art -- it's a normal term that means able to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively (i.e. conscious). Multiple sources prove that the fetus isn't conscious, and lacks interests.

Second, Pro says that the fetus does have sensation before 24 weeks. Two responses to that. One, Pro's own source rebuts the idea that "taste" and "touch response" are sufficient for consciousness. I'll quote Pro's source [2] here: "[I]f you touch the foot of a fetus at 12 weeks, he/she will move away, but it is . . . unlikely that the fetus is feeling anything. This is just a reflex response like a knee jerk. At this stage there is no connection between the nervous system in the body and the higher levels of the brain, which we think are necessary for conscious experience." Which means none of those are sufficient to establish "sentience," which, when taken from context, means "consciousness" or able to have interests. Two, that's insufficient to fulfill Pro's burden, which is to prove that abortion should always be illegal -- at best, all Pro is able to prove is that abortion should be illegal until 10 weeks.

Since Pro drops my analysis that only sentient individuals have a right to life, I'll take that as a concession. Therefore, since the fetus isn't sentient, it doesn't have a right to life, which takes out most of Pro's offense.


Pro's argument is that legalized abortion is inconsistent with already existent laws that acknowledge a fetus's rights. I've got two responses: (1) this debate isn't about the U.S. or such a specific country; and (2) I don't have to advocate such laws or the status quo. I'm conceding the response about private property.

First, this debate isn't a matter of a specific nation's policy. It is a debate about whether, in a general case, abortion should be illegal. Therefore, U.S.-centric arguments turn into arguments about "what if a certain country has a law inconsistent with this one?"

Second, it isn't my burden to defend the status quo. I don't need to defend the UVVA. I just need to defend a world where abortion is illegal. Therefore, I could even support the abolition of the UVVA or its amendment to look more like what I thought it was last round (i.e. a law that protects a woman's control over her fetus). Furthermore, Pro hasn't explained why the way to solve this inconsistency is ban abortion, rather than repeal this law. Unless Pro proves that abortion is harmful, which I've already refuted, this argument has no impact.

Autonomy. I argued that women have a right to autonomy; Pro initially denied that this was the case ("It is a myth that we have a right to autonomy.") and now seems to agree with the idea, but says harm to the fetus is sufficient to violate this right. Since Pro agrees with the principle of autonomy (having implicitly conceded it last round, and having dropped all my justifications for a right to autonomy), the only point of clash is that the fetus's rights matter. Since the fetus doesn't have a right against abortion, vote Con on autonomy.

Conclusion: The fetus is non-sentient, and therefore does not merit a right against abortion, and that judicial inconsistency is an insufficient reason to do so. Since Pro's world is one in which the right to autonomy is violated to fulfill a non-existent right against abortion, vote Con. [Note: A ban on abortion is meaningless in practice, so Pro's world doesn't save fetuses either.]

== Conclusion ==

The fetus shouldn't have a right against abortion since sentience should be the standard for rights: a standard that the fetus doesn't fulfill. Banning abortion does nothing for the right to life of fetuses even if such a right exists. I've refuted Pro's argument from "inconsistency" by showing how it doesn't fulfill their burden, and the idea of "arbitrariness" by providing an objective time standard. Since the fetus lacks moral consideration, Pro's world does violate the right to autonomy. Furthermore, Pro's world is one that causes thousands of deaths, and that legislation should try preventing deaths. Since Pro's world is one which violates individual autonomy and kills thousands of people to uphold a meaningless law, vote Con.



Dare I say, Con's strategy is quite "Trumpian." Misrepresent the opposition, sound as confident as possible, and say "I win" with comical frequency. Unfortunately for Con, all the confidence in the world cannot substitute for actual content.

I have not dropped a single argument. Con has only made two arguments, and I have refuted both at length:

1) Governments should embrace utilitarianism
2) Only sentient life deserves protection, and a fetus is not sentient.

I do not believe Con has overcome my rebuttals for either argument, so I will summarize below.

== Summary of Rebuttals ==

1) Government should embrace utilitarianism - It is laughable that Con says "Pro does nothing to prove any of those philosophies [Fukuyama, Hobbes, Locke, Hamilton]," when this is actually what he is doing! Con is the one presenting a government philosophy (utilitarianism) as true and authoritative without proof - and the entire point of my rebuttal in presenting alternate philosophies was to expose that. Con is the one presenting a positive claim here - that the role of government is to make utilitarian calculations - so Con must provide proof this is true. I need prove nothing, I am not claiming anything about the role of government. I need only to cast doubt on Con's claim, which I have done in spades by showing there are many other political philosophies to choose from.

Con complains that I have no alternate standard of government, but that is irrelevant. I'm not the one making the claim - Con is. I have no burden to offer an alternate definition, I merely need to attack Con's, which I have done successfully. This is not a debate about political science, I have forwarded no arguments relating to the role of government. I have merely shown that Con's strange argument about the role of government is baseless and therefore empty. Con's insistence on "interests" is completely subjective. Con has not responded to my questions of whose interests we are talking about and who gets to decide which interests are most important.

Con's weapon of choice throughout this whole debate is semantic tap dancing. When I attacked his "harm principal" Con said he was merely using the "word 'harm' for convenience." (i.e., "I didn't really mean it...") When I refuted their claim that (quote) "the role of the government is to maximize the desires of the people," Con backtracks and says they didn't really mean "what policies the people want," but rather positive mental states that are "good," and that "good" means to "fulfill positive interests." Then he says that interests are "just desires of the people." Even a novice can see that we have now gone in a circle. Con is going round and round and is using semantics to appear clever. He is either using very imprecise language, or he's saying nothing at all.

Conclusion: Con has provided no proof beyond semantics for their positive claim that government should legislate based on utilitarian standards. This argument must be discarded.

2) Sentience - Con continues to avoid my challenge of defining their "dimensions of sentience" they mentioned in Round 3. At best, he returns to saying sentient means "able to have interests." But this is a terrible metric. I am unable to have interests while sleeping. Do I lose my humanity when I sleep? An unconscious person has no interests, are they no longer human? A drunk girl passed out at a party no longer feels, perceives, or experiences subjectively - has she lost her rights? To say that life's value is contingent on its ability to pursue interests alone is absurd.

Con then quotes my source (while subtly not denying its claim that the 24 week mark is merely a scientific guess). But Con fails to engage my first source, which plainly states "but brain activity at this stage is no more than a precondition - it doesn't demonstrate that the foetus is actually 'conscious'".

Contrary to Con's ridiculous claim that I have dropped the sentient argument, I've repeatedly exposed that it's a horrible metric for granting human rights. The only qualities Con has attributed to sentience are ability to feel pain and ability to pursue interests. There are full grown adults who cannot do either of those things, and yet I'm sure Con would still grant them human rights. Why, then, is a fetus any different? Con can give no answer.

The "Back Alley Abortion" rebuttal stands, as Con mounted no response to my reductio ad absurdum rebuttal.

== Conclusion ==

We both agree that a fetus is human life at every stage of development. The argument over political systems is a distraction. The only real point of clash in this debate is whether ALL human life deserves protection, or only SENTIENT human life deserves protection. I maintain that you cannot consistently define or identify sentience. Con's two components - pain and interest - are hardly sufficient, so we know there must be more to sentience than this. My point is there is vast uncertainty as to when human life truly becomes "valuable" and what sentient even means in the first place. As such, if there is uncertainty in this area, then the best policy is caution.

I advocate a policy that guarantees the maximum protection for the maximum people. The ONLY consistent definition of human life's beginning is conception. Any later definition is subjective, uncertain, and contrary to scientific fact. As such, the safest policy that ensure maximum protection of human life is to make abortion illegal.
Debate Round No. 4
32 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by FourTrouble 10 months ago
Whiteflame's RFD isn't very good.
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
Thanks for the debate, Sengejuri. It was fun, regardless of the outcome.
Posted by tejretics 10 months ago
Posted by Jerry947 11 months ago
This debate affirms the fact that there isn't a single good argument for legalizing abortion.
Posted by whiteflame 11 months ago
It's important to the rights argument, but the problem is that I have no solid means to compare those impacts to your utilitarian-based ones. I get that they matter, I just can't see how they outweigh basic measures of life lost. You set up a lot with regards to how it affects governments, but it was unclear how those impacts terminalized.
Posted by tejretics 11 months ago
btw, Whiteflame, I don't think my impacts from autonomy weren't inherently tied to utilitarianism. I advocated both rights and utilitarianism as distinct means to uphold the value of "acting toward a stable society" and "ensuring the stability of civilization." Both of those means were upheld under that common framework. So, I disagree that autonomy wasn't important to the debate.
Posted by tejretics 11 months ago
Thanks for voting, Whiteflame.
Posted by whiteflame 11 months ago
RFD (Pt. 1)

I think the debaters both get a little bogged down in the details and spend too little time looking at the big picture of this debate. The overall question is: should abortion be illegal? I"m given, essentially, two frameworks for assessing it: general utility, and loss of human life. Honestly, I don"t see much of a difference between the two beyond where they apply (i.e. one is a duty of government and the other is just about general morality). I"m not entirely clear on why loss of human life outweighs all others, but both sides appear to take it as the biggest impact, so realistically, the outcome of this debate is dependent on who saves the most lives.

On that front, both sides are spending a lot of time talking about things that really don"t matter.

Con, it doesn"t matter if there"s some inherent duty of government involved here unless failure to uphold that duty causes loss of life.

I get that this can be a huge impact, but that requires taking a step back from the debate and talking about the ability of a government versus the ability of an individual to uphold basic protections. It seems like most of the impacts you discuss are based on autonomy and the need to uphold basic liberties, but it"s hard to rate those against actual loss of life. There"s the links to the government"s means" be a government, but the impacts have to be spelled out within the utilitarian framework, and all I really get is a nebulous "this will harm their legitimacy" impact.

Pro, it doesn"t inherently matter if a fetus is sentient, nor is your discussion of allowing rape by comparison to allowing abortion.
Posted by whiteflame 11 months ago
(Pt. 2)
For the former, the sentience or non-sentience of the fetus only tells me one thing: that the loss of the fetus is akin to or equivalent to the loss of a full-grown human. Both sides spend a lot of time here (and I don"t think either side does much with it), but even if I grant this argument, what, exactly, does that mean? It means that a government that makes abortion illegal is seeking to work against that loss of life, and one that leaves abortion legal views other issues as more important. That would be fine" if there was some link to the government"s allowance or disallowance affecting the overall amount of abortions. There isn"t, and the only evidence I get in the debate supports the notion that this yields no effect. It would have been interesting to see Pro argue what effect this has on the value of life in society, but we don"t get there.

Neither do we go anywhere with the rape comparison. Pro"s whole point seems to be that this is a slippery slope to legalizing other actions on the basis that you can make them safer, but Pro admits that this was just meant to show how absurd the idea that safety should be the focus is. Fine, it"s absurd. It"s still the only thing that matters in a debate where utility is the only impact that fits the framework, and loss of life is the chief impact under that framework. You don"t tell me why illogic invalidates the argument, only that it can lead to harmful policy, but you spend scant little time explaining why that policy would happen, what it would look like, and why it"s harmful. You pretty much just assume all this, and when Pro calls you out on it, you default back to the absurdity point. You can dismiss his argument all you want, but it doesn"t make the substance of it disappear.
Posted by whiteflame 11 months ago
(Pt. 3)
So, I"m stuck tossing out most of this debate as basically unimportant. The vast majority of what actually matters in this debate was stated by Pro in R2, since it appears to be the only thing that matters most under the frameworks of both sides, and neither side effectively refuted those frameworks (neither side really tried to take on the substance of those frameworks " I really only see a semantic debate that goes nowhere). I"m looking at the question of what a law against abortion actually manages to accomplish, because the question of whether or not it"s morally correct a) isn"t clear by the end and b) has no clear framework beyond utilitarianism to evaluate it. Since abortions occur in equal amounts under both cases, the only thing I"m concerned with is the effect on other lives. Clearly, women will die from back alley abortions. What that means is, regardless of whether or not that"s an absurd reason to implement policy, it"s apparent that that policy produces the best outcomes with regards to lives lost. As such, I vote Pro.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 11 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by FourTrouble 11 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: What standard should I apply for granting a right to life? Con says sentience; Pro says humanness. Con gives me reasons; Pro doesn't. In the absence of reasons to apply humanness, Pro effectively limits himself, at best, to a tied debate. Pro's CIP example was compelling, and it went largely unaddressed by Con. I would have liked to see an explanation as to why CIP and sentience as a standard are compatible. Con failed there, though it's don't defeat his argument. Con tells me why to apply sentience (i.e. if government's purpose is maximizing mental states, and only sentient beings have mental states, sentience as as a standard supports the purpose of government). And even in light of the CIP example, sentience is the best option for granting rights (at least the best option provided in the debate.) So I vote Con. I don't address other arguments, because they were unnecessary/irrelevant to this decision.