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

On balance, abortion is immoral

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/2/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,481 times Debate No: 67747
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (3)




I will be arguing that abortion is generally immoral in all cases apart from when the mother's health is at serious risk.

Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Opening Statements
Round 3: Rebuttals
Round 4: Final rebuttals and concluding remarks.

Burden of proof is shared.


Hi Philocat,

I accept this debate, and also accept that the burden of proof is shared.

Best of luck!
Debate Round No. 1


To reiterate, I will be arguing that abortion is generally immoral, apart from cases where it is a necessary medical procedure in order to save the life of the mother.

Why abortion is immoral

My argument is as follows:

Premise 1: Abortion is the deliberate killing of a human foetus
Premise 2: A human foetus is alive, and so therefore a human foetus is a living human being
Premise 3: It is immoral to remove the life of a human being
Conclusion: Abortion is immoral

Now I will support my premises:

Premise 1

Abortion is defined as:

'Expulsion from the uterus of the products of conception before the fetus is viable.'

We know, due to the definition of 'viable' in this context, that this procedure will necessarily kill the foetus.

Therefore, abortion is the deliberate killing of a human foetus.

Premise 2

First I will affirm that a foetus is alive, then I will use this conclusion to affirm that a human foetus is a human being.

Life is defined as:

'The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death'

Foetuses grow and are subject to continual change preceding death (3). They have the capacity for reproduction given time to develop naturally.
Furthermore, to suppose that a foetus is not alive is to either state that a foetus is dead or inanimate. It is not dead because something must have once lived in order to be dead, and it is not inanimate (4).
Therefore, a human foetus is alive.

All life is characterised into species (5), and as we have affirmed that a human foetus is alive we must also accept that it must belong to a particular species. A human foetus's genetic makeup is most similar to the genetic makeup of the species homo sapiens and so a human foetus is human (which perhaps goes without saying, as if it was not human then we would not refer to it as a human foetus).
Therefore, a human foetus is human.

Therefore, a human foetus is a human life, which is to say that it is a living human being.

Premise 3

To say that it is immoral to remove the life of a human being is to say that we ought not to kill human beings.
There are many reasons why I am justified in asserting this moral truth:

Rule Utilitarian approach - Having a rule stating 'do not kill human beings' will result in a greater amount of happiness than the absence of such a rule, therefore this it is moral to abide to this rule.

Deontologist approach - Killing of a human being is wrong because it is a maxim that cannot be universalised; no rational human being would freely consent to live in a society that permitted the killing of human beings.

Evolutionist approach - Permitting the killing of human beings is evolutionarily disastrous, for obvious reasons.

Summarily, the killing of human beings is immoral according to the vast majority of normative ethical theories. If my opponent disagrees and argues that killing of human beings is morally justified (aside from cases of self-defence), then he will have the burden of proof, as he is making the positive claim that killing of human beings is morally justified.

Therefore, it is immoral to remove the life of a human being.

As I have now asserted the veracity of all my premises, the conclusion deductively follows.

Therefore, abortion is immoral.

Argument from Consistency

In order to hold a rational moral assertion, it must be consistent.

So, in order to be rational, we must abide by the maxim:

'Treat someone as we would consent to be treated if we were in the same situation as that someone.'

An example of moral inconsistency would be stating:

'I am morally justified in throwing sticks at my mother, but I would not consent to having sticks thrown at me if I was in the same situation as my mother'.

I argue that abortion is inconsistent according to these terms. To assert that abortion is morally justified is to be morally inconsistent, as it is equivalent to saying:

'I am morally justified in killing a human foetus, but I would not consent to being killed if I was a human foetus.'

Unless, of course, the pro-abortionist would consent to being killed if they were a human foetus, but I highly doubt they would be serious in holding this conviction.

This becomes especially prevalent because it is not hypothetical, as everyone was once a foetus and so nobody can be exempt from the consistency criteria.

As asserting the moral permissibility of abortion is inconsistent, it is an irrational moral belief.

Taking the axiom that irrational moral beliefs are not veridical, abortion is immoral.



I thank my opponent Philocat for his argument and will now provide my argument/opening statement and in Round 3 will provide my rebuttal to his arguments as agreed upon.

My Argument will follow this basic outline:

Argument #1: The value of human life or consciousness?
Argument #2: The immorality of criminalizing abortion
Argument #3: Exigent Circumstances beyond the Mother's health

Argument #1 l The Value of Human Life or Consciousness?

It is often argued by those of the "Pro-life" camp, that because a human fetus (I use the American spelling) is a living organism and has human DNA and thus is a human life. I do not dispute this for a moment, and it would be incorrect to say that a fetus is anything but human. However, I will argue that what we truly value is consciousness, particularly that level of sentience experienced by human beings.

Scientists believe they have discovered consciousness arising around the 24th and 28th week.

"Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. "[1]

Although the fetus is not self-aware it cannot be stated that they are not awake and have some degree of consciousness, having the capacity to experience pain, etc. It is at this time that I will argue when the baby becomes objectively valuable on the scale of being immoral to kill.

For instance, in the example of the person in the coma. Why if consciousness is what is truly valuable do we keep people in a coma alive? If there is no hope of that person being restored to consciousness, we will likely take them off life support as is many times the case? Without consciousness life is merely biology, the continual multiplication of cells and functioning of organs. Consciousness is simply what gives us the quality of personhood.

If it was simply life that we valued then this would be impossible to protect, as indeed we kill plenty of our own cells (which are living) each day when we clean ourselves or scratch our nose, etc.

I will welcome my rebuttal from my opponent and will then defend this argument further for the sake of brevity.

Argument #2 l The Immorality of Criminalizing Abortion

This argument is derived from pragmatism and takes into account the reality of the world in which we live. Our society has tried to ban abortion in the past, and banning the practice did more harm than good. A study performed in the 1930s revealed that it was estimated that nearly 15,000 women at that time died from complications arising from an illegal abortion.[2]

This number may not truly be representative and could indeed be even more, but it is clear that the prohibition of abortion does not prevent it from happening and only endangers the mother as well. A better course of action would be to legalize the act and regulate it heavily as we do, and ensure that after the fetus has reached consciousness it is protected (except in exigent circumstances).

Argument #3 l Exigent Circumstances Beyond the Mother's Health

My opponent has only stated the health of the mother as the only cause for justifying abortion, but this fails to take into consideration other circumstances. One example is that of extreme birth defects such as anencephaly where the fetus does not develop a brain beyond the brain stem. In severe cases of this, it is likely that the baby dies almost immediately after being born and cannot be ensured any quality of life or conscious experience. Another circumstance would be rape or incest, that a woman who is raped and impregnated would be forced to keep the child of the rapist is incredibly immoral and reveals the gender issue behind abortion.


On these three arguments I make my case that abortion is not immoral for these particular situations. Of course, I am not arguing that abortion at any stage is moral, but I also disagree with the stance of my opponent that it is only justified in the case of the mother’s health is at risk.

I apologize I could not write more, but I was limited for time over the weekend.

Best Regards,



Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for posting a clearly well-thought out opening statement; I will now refute it.

Rebuttal of Argument #1

My opponent's first argument roughly states that the value of a human life is its consciousness, and therefore a foetus's lack of consciousness is the moral justification for killing it. This argument is dependent on the syllogism that a lack of consciousness justifies killing. I argue that this is a false premise.

My opponent recognises that comatose patients are not conscious and yet are kept alive, but he claims that patients in permanent comas should not be kept alive anyway. He does not voice his opinion on whether patients in temporary comas should be kept alive, but I will assume that he agrees they should be.
To put my opponent's point more succinctly, we ought not to kill those in a temporary state of unconsciousness but we are justified in killing those in a permanent state of unconsciousness.
However, this point does not escape that we ought not to kill foetuses, because foetuses ARE in a temporary state of unconsciousness (from the first to 26th week after conception), after which they are conscious.
Therefore, as foetuses ARE in a temporary state of unconsciousness, we ought not to kill them. In a similar way that we ought not to kill those in temporary comas, people who are knocked out, or people who are in a dreamless sleep.

Rebuttal of argument #2

My opponent argues that banning abortions will harm women who undergo an abortion due to the unsafe nature of illegal abortions. However, this is not a valid justification for legalising abortion due to the following reasons:

1. Women choose to have an abortion, which is to say that they willingly let themselves have a potentially-dangerous operation. Just as a bungee-jumper may die after his cord snaps, he inadvertently consents to the possibility of death when he consents to act dangerously. To summarise, women who die in illegal abortions bring it upon themselves; nobody forced them to have an abortion.

2. Some immoral acts are dangerous, such as burglary. It is absurd to suggest that we should legalise burglary to reduce the amount of burglars who die whilst engaging in burglary-related activities. In a similar way, we should not legalist abortion (an immoral act) just to safeguard the perpetrators of the immoral act.

3. My arguments in round 2 have already ascertained that foetuses are human beings; which is to say that they have inherent value. Legalising abortion causes far more foetal deaths than the female deaths that result from illegal abortions.

I also argue that illegal abortion would not cause as many deaths if it was illegal today, as opposed to in the early 20th century. This is because there is currently less of a stigma towards single-parenthood (so less social pressure to abort) and medical hygiene has improved on a general scale (1).

My opponent goes on to argue that 'prohibition of abortion does not prevent it from happening'. However, this is a poor argument in favour of legal abortion. If we recognise that an action is immoral then we ought to criminalise it simply because it is immoral, just because it won't stop the action happening altogether it does not mean we ought to legalise it.
For example, criminalising stealing does not stop stealing happening, but it is absurd to use this as an argument for the legalisation of stealing.

Rebuttal of argument #3

The next argument in favour of the morality of abortion is that it should be allowed in cases where the child has extreme birth defects. However, as there is no distinct difference between a foetus and a newborn baby, if we can justify killing an anaphylactic human being inside the womb, we can justify killing the same human being outside the womb. But can we justify killing an anaphylactic newborn baby? I would argue that we cannot. If a human being has a fatal deformity then it should be treated as a dying patient, which is to say that it should be left to die by natural causes, that is if it will die anyway. It is a very ableist attitude to judge the lives of others as not worth living and kill them as a result of it. We do not allow non-voluntary euthanasia outside the womb, so why should we allow it inside the womb if there is no difference in the levels of consciousness?

The case of extreme deformities is also commonly guilty of the appeal to pity fallacy (2). The severely handicapped are easily pitied and this can warp our rational judgement. If we are to make a correct ethical decision then we ought not to be influenced by pity.

Another exigent circumstance, according to my opponent, is in cases of rape or incest. My opponent mentions that to force a woman ' to keep the child of the rapist is incredibly immoral', but he does not justify this assertion.
Of course it is horrible for a mother to have to carry her rapist's child, but this does not justify abortion. This is because the foetus is not guilty of its father's crimes and therefore should not be punished for them.

Furthermore, an abortion in the case of rape is unnecessary. She does not have to keep the child; there are adoption services where she can put her child if she does not want to bring it up. Moreover, having an abortion does not 'undo' the rape in any way. The woman was still raped, abortion won't change that, it is just adding another immoral act onto another.
Often, abortion actually harms women's mental health (3), so it would be not necessarily help to have an abortion after being raped.

To conclude, my opponent makes some interesting arguments, but they are not valid one's to support the supposed moral permissibility of abortion.



Hello again Philocat,

Enjoying this debate so far, and appreciate your feedback. On to my first set of rebuttals!

Rebuttal #1: The Value of Human Life

As my opponent has argued, because the Fetus is human and is living then it is a human being that has value and killing it is thus immoral. He then offers a few justifications for why it is immoral which I will now address.

Rule Utilitarian approach - Let it be noted that in any of these cases the ability for these ethical systems to determine moral truth has not even been established but assumed. Also, the rule "do not kill human beings" is actually a ridiculous rule as it does not distinguish between circumstances at all. A person who is defending themselves for example has justification in using lethal force against his attacker. Also, this broad distinction of "human life," does not recognize the clear differences between a fetus in the first trimester and a baby that has been born. The fetus is still in the early developmental stages and does not have cognitive functions at all without the ability to feel pain or feel consciousness. My Opponent has also not argued why this will amount in a greater amount of happiness.

Deontologist approach - My opponent now appeals to a Deontologist approach, but does not distinguish which deontological system he is appealing to. Is it Divine Command Theory? Who knows? What he does claim is that no rational human being would freely consent to live in a society that permitted the killing of human beings, yet every society on the planet does consent the killing of human beings. Either by permitting the killing beings via self-defense or by punishment or of course in the case of abortion.

Evolutionist approach - This one was rather odd to me, as I do not know why one would appeal to evolution for any kind of moral truth. Yet, my opponent argues that permitting the killing of human beings is disastrous evolutionary speaking and appeals to "obvious reasons." The reasons are not obvious and from an evolutionary standpoint it doesn't make any sense to knowingly bring a child into the world that does not have beneficial genetic information. Though I would argue that evolution has no bearing on ethics, and when it has been used it has yielded horrendous results as in the case of the Nazi Regime.

Without these arguments to justify his position, my opponent has no justification for stating that it is immoral.

Rebuttal #2: Argument from Consistency?

His argument is that moral assertions must be consistent by the standard of this: 'Treat someone as we would consent to be treated if we were in the same situation as that someone.' This is of course and assumed point, as it is not substantiated why moral assertions must be consistent or even that we should only treat others as we would consent to be treated. However, even if we allow this point, his argument still fails.

Notice here his point about consistency regarding abortion.

'I am morally justified in killing a human foetus, but I would not consent to being killed if I was a human foetus.'

His argument fails on the simple point that a human fetus cannot give consent to anything. Retrospective thinking on the part of a full grown human ignores the fact that a fetus does not feel or have emotions, or even a desire to live, during the early part of the first trimester they have no brain.

Rebuttal #3: The issue of consciousness

My opponent appeals to the idea that because a fetus in the first trimester is in a temporary state of unconsciousness they fall under the same situation as a person in a temporary coma. This point is refuted by the clear difference between a person in a temporary coma and a fetus. The person in the coma has been conscious before and has a brain the potential quality of consciousness. A fetus does not have a brain and does not have the potential for consciousness until a brain can be developed. The person in the temporary coma can also communicate prior what their will would be for the situation, while the fetus can only depend on the will of the mother in whom it inhabits.

Rebuttal #4: Criminalizing Abortions

My opponent argues that because women choose to have abortions, the harm they receive on account of that through illegal means should not be a justification. He likens this to a thrill seeker wishing to bungee jump, which is not a good analogy as a woman getting an abortion isn't doing it for the fun of it. That women who get abortions and die because of it, bring it upon themselves because they sought it out. The problem with this argument is of course the reality of this world in which women do not have freedom over their bodies, but are told by the government what they should rather do. Or that a women seeking abortion for the case of rape would be justly killed on account of her seeking out an abortion. Having a child is a huge potential burden, and the harm of allowing a child into the world where it is unwanted or cannot be taken care of will only produce more harm.

He then appeals to burglary as another immoral act that has potential harm to the one committing the act. This is another instance of the weak analogy fallacy, as the comparison of the mother's choice regarding the decision to have a baby and a thief looking to steal from a home is rather obvious.

Another point he brings up is that abortion causes more fetal deaths than female deaths, and thus criminalizing it is justified. This of course relies off of his previous justifications that a fetus in the first trimester has the same value as the full grown women who is conscious. It can also be added that his argument about the stigma around being a single parent being less is also not valid as most women who have abortions already have families.[1]

His final point is an attempt to refute the idea that because criminalizing the practice doesn't stop it doesn't mean it should be legalized. He compares abortion again with the act of stealing, where there is direct harm against another conscious human being. Why would one want to seek charges against a thief rather than a mother who cannot afford to have another child or is raped? I think the answer is simple, and the answer is in that one is a detriment to society and the other is not. Bringing a child into the world when they cannot afford it or want it actively harms the child as they are not properly cared for and harms society as they likely would have to live off of tax payer granted entitlements.

Rebuttal #5: Exigent Circumstances Continued

My opponent makes the argument that a fetus with a fatal deformity should be treated like a dying patient. This is especially odd in view of anencephaly (not anaphylactic, which is a reference to a severe allergy reaction). Keeping a fetus alive when it has no brain and treating it as a dying patient makes absolutely no sense. The patient has no conscious experience or hope of cognitive functions as it has no brain, what quality of life would there be to preserve? There are also risks to the mother for her giving birth to the baby, which has no hope of survival, so in order to preserve the sustained existence of this fetus we would risk the life of the mother?

My opponent also argues that aborting such fetuses give credence to those who would want to kill those that have already been born. In the case of anencephaly, I see no problem in terminating life support if it is the wishes of the parent, but in cases where the baby is conscious then there is a difference as consciousness is what I noted as valuable.

He then goes on to accuse me of appealing to pity, which a quick cursory look can see that I nowhere appealed to pity. I appealed to the fact that the fetus had no consciousness, or hope of consciousness and would likely die soon after being born. That simply because I appealed to the mentally handicapped (I actually appealed to a fetus that has zero mental capacity), I was then appealing to pity. No such assertion can be substantiated given the content of my post, which is a rational assessment of the situation.

On the issue of rape or incest my opponent says that the child is not guilty of the father's crime and thus not liable to punishment. Yet, no one thinks of abortion as a punishment for the fetus, but rather it would seem like a punishment to the mother to be confined to raise this rapist's child. There is clear harm in this, in that the women would not have freedom over her own body, but would be subjected to her fate once impregnated by the rapist to endure pregnancy and raising that undesired child. Such an outcome would most likely not be beneficial and indeed harmful for both the mother and child. Ultimately, the woman should have a choice whether or not she raises a rapist's child, and the government should not treat her as a criminal for refusing such.

Another alternative he mentions is to set it up for adoption, which is rather a long shot considering how many families are likely looking for the child of rapists (not to many I gather). What's more likely is that this child would end up in a foster home, which studies have shown cause quite a bit of harm.[2]

An abortion is also a way to remove one of the consequences of the rape, nothing can undo the harm of that rape, however it should be the choice of the woman whether or not to keep the rapist's child.

Lastly, he argues that abortion harms the woman's mental health so her getting abortion should still be criminalized. . The woman should weigh the options herself and exercise her freedom to make a determination on what to do with the rapist's child.

Best Regards,


Debate Round No. 3


My opponent, TrueScotsman makes some interesting points, although none of them prove that abortion is not morally justified. I congratulate him though, as I rarely meet someone who defends abortion as well as he does. Unfortunately though, this is a case of defending the indefensible.

My opponent is guilty of the appeal to extremes fallacy, as he refutes the rule of 'do not kill human beings' based on the fact that there are some extreme cases where the killing is in self-defence. I agree that killing is justified if it is necessary in self-defence, but this is an exception and exceptions do not make examples of the falsity of a rule.
Anyhow, I can easily qualify the rule by saying 'do not kill human beings unless it is necessary to save your life'.
Either way, this rebuttal does not justify abortion.

I agree that there are differences between foetuses and babies, but there are more significant differences between adults and babies. Just because there are differences between foetuses and babies does not dehumanise the former.
I also agree that a foetus cannot feel pain and consciousness, but firstly I was only referring to a general utilitarian consideration of killing human beings; I sought to establish that utilitarianism forbids the killing of human beings and THEN apply it to abortion, not the other war round.
It can be argued that utilitarianism would not forbid abortion because first-trimester foetuses cannot feel pain or fear being killed. However, this forgets the other half of the utilitarian principle that we ought to safeguard happiness, which is to say that we ought not to actively prevent someone from being happy. Abortion prevents the foetus from living a life, which prevents its happiness. One could argue that if a foetus is unwanted then its life will not be happy; but this is a gross assumption considering that many people who have been unwanted as infants have gone on to live happy lives. Besides, the very fact that even unwanted people fear death suggests that people still derive happiness from life even if their lives appear pitiful from the outside.

My opponent has questioned which deontological theory I am referring to. I apologise for not making it initially more clear, but I was mainly referring to Kantian deontology as this is arguably the most well-developed deontological theory and forms the basis for modern deontology.

Kantian ethics asserts that we can derive our maxims as categorical imperatives; they must be universalisable, treat humans as ends in themselves and be rationally valued if we were law-makers. Killing (apart from self-defence) is not universalisable because if everyone was to follow the maxim (to kill others) then life would cease to exist, which self-defeats the maxim of 'kill others'. The negation of an incoherent conclusion must be true, so the maxim 'do not kill others' must be true. Killing also does not treat humans as ends in themselves (because it shows a blatant disregard for our fellow man) and would not be rationally valued if we were law-makers (because the resulting society would be chaotic).

Now we come to the evolutionist approach. I will drop this support of the impermissibility of abortion because my opponent has voiced his objection to evolutionary ethics as concept. And right he is. I also object to evolutionary ethics but I wrote about it in round 2 in anticipation that my opponent would attempt to justify abortion from an evolutionary standpoint.
As my opponent shares my conceptual objection to evolutionary ethics, I will not waste my character count defending an ethical theory I do not even support. The utilitarian and deontological theories are enough support of the premise that the killing of human beings (apart from self-defence) is immoral.

My opponent asks a legitimate question: why should we be consistent in our moral assertions? I shall explain...
By making a moral assertion one is stating "We ought to do X"; when someone is being inconsistent they are saying "we ought to do X, but I ought to not do X". This is a logical contradiction.

Con opines that the consistency argument fails because foetuses cannot consent to anything. However, this is a misunderstanding of the principle that has arisen from lack of clarity on my behalf. Let me rephrase the consistency principle:

"Treat someone as we would consent to be treated now if we were to be then put in the same situation as that someone."

For example, we would only treat comatose patients in such a way that we would consent to now (in our current mental awareness) if we were to then be put in a coma and treated the same way.
If we take consistency to mean "Treat someone as we would consent to be treated if we were in the same situation as that someone.', then this would allow us to mistreat unconscious people and so it cannot be wholly veridical. It is clear to see that we should adopt the qualified principle above.
Therefore, the consistency argument, albeit in a more qualified form, continues to forbid abortion.

The defence of my attack on my opponent's "consciousness" rebuttal is that there are differences between a comatose patient and a foetus.
Of course there are, but none of the differences are clearly relevant to the permissibility of killing them. A person in a coma has the potential to be conscious, but my opponent's argument is that it is actual consciousness, not potential consciousness, that qualifies the value of a human life. Furthermore, considering the definition of "potential":

"having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future."(1)

A foetus has the capacity to develop consciousness in the future, so it follows that a foetus has potential consciousness and is on a near-equal standing to people in comas.

My opponent also says that comatose patients have been conscious before, but aside from this not having any clear relevance, it is not always the case. Babies can be born unconsciousness and remain in a coma for months; is the fact that they have never been conscious any justification for killing them?

Therefore, my opponent's arguments that consciousness, or at least potential-consciousness, allows human beings to be killed are exposed to not stand up to scrutiny, or at least they do not justify abortion.

I agree that having a child is a potential burden, but it is barbaric to allow murder in order to relieve people from burdens. A born child is even more of a burden, but that does not allow it to be killed by its parents. A child can be given up for adoption at birth, and so it can always be cared for.
My opponent claims the burglar and thrill-seeker analogies are weak because the situations are "rather different". I agree that there are differences, but if we look at the base of it then we can see that the fundamental cases are the same: both are choosing to commit an immoral act out of self-interest.
I have already justified that a foetus has value as a human life, so the huge amount of foetal deaths that would result from legalising abortion is a major factor against doing so.
My opponent states that stealing is detrimental to society where abortion is not, and so the former ought to be illegal and the latter legal. However, we do not criminalise acts purely on the basis of society's self-interest, we criminalise on the basis of what is moral to do. For example, a homeless person is detriment to society and so society would gain if he was to be painlessly euthanized, but it is still illegal to do so because it is fundamentally immoral, just as abortion is.
If we also allow anything that is not detrimental to society then there would be no reason why an abortion is justified and the murder of a 2 month old baby (living on taxpayers' money) is not, so long as both deaths are painless.

First I will apologise for my use of 'anaphylactic', for some reason I must have connected the two words subconsciously.
Just to say though, there is a difference between keeping an anencephalic foetus alive and actively dismembering/poisoning it (as is the case in abortion).

Anencephaly is similar to someone who has had his head shot by a rifle; the person will die and has no brain activity, but we would not be justified in actively killing this person, the most ethical cause of action is to let them die naturally (as they will). In a similar way, we are not justified in killing anencephallic foetuses but we ought to let them die naturally instead.
I agree that there is no instrumental purpose to the foetus's life, but if we judge one's right to life on instrumental value then we would be justified on killing the dying elderly without their consent.

Furthermore, anencephaly (or the severity thereof) can be misdiagnosed; if abortion of anencephalic foetuses is justified then healthier foetuses who are misdiagnosed would be killed.

My opponent brings up the risk to the mother; but as I have said in round 1 I believe abortion is justified in cases where the mother's life is at risk.
If Con is referring to the general risks of childbirth, then I would raise the point that maternal mortality is very low in first world countries, and abortion can also cause death.

I do not accuse Con of appealing to pity, I state that the fallacy is often used in the general debate, even if my opponent did not make explicit use of it.

Even if people do not think of abortion as a punishment to the foetus, it does not change the fact that the foetus is punished, irrespective if it is intended.

Con suggests that adoption is difficult as nobody would want to adopt a rapist's child, but I would argue that a childhood in care is still better than being killed. There is nothing stopping a mother giving her baby up for adoption, irrespective of whether it is actually adopted.

I apologise for not being more eloquent or not fully answering all points, but I am about to run out of characters.

(1) Google: Define potential


Thanks Philocat for starting continuing to participate in this debate, I have enjoyed my first chance at discussing this issue in a debate on this site.

Before I begin my rebuttals, I just wanted to briefly summarize my arguments for the readership.

Argument #1: The value of human beings is not in the fact of life, being a living organism, but rather in the ability to have consciousness and experience pain and joy.

Argument #2: The immorality of criminalizing abortion, that banning the practice causes much more harm than good as it harms the mothers and does not do too much to prevent abortion.

Argument #3: There are circumstances beyond the health of a mother in terms of rape and severe genetic defects that justify the use of abortion.

Now on to the final rebuttals.

Rebuttal #1: Appeal to Extremes Fallacy?

My opponent has charged me with committing the appeal to extremes fallacy, which to me demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of this fallacy. The appeal to extreme fallacy happens when a person attempts to turn an argument into an absurd one, by appealing to extremes.

Here is an example:

"Don’t forget God’s commandment, “thou shall not kill”. By using mouthwash, you are killing 99.9% of the germs that cause bad breath. Prepare for Hell."[1]

My argument rather is factoring in all circumstances which regard abortion, and takes a realistic approach to how a society should regard the act.

Rebuttal #2: Justification for killing

My opponent has only granted one instance for ending another life, which is self-defense (or I guess the health of the mother in aborting a baby). This reveals something fundamental, in that it reveals that the act of killing is not wrong in and of itself, or else it would be universally wrong in any circumstance. What is therefore important is the INTENT of the person performing the killing, indeed he calls the act of abortion murder, yet would not call abortion murder if it were for the purpose of preserving the mother's life.

In my opinion, this brings up a fatal hole in my opponent's argument in that murder requires malice aforethought, and if it doesn't apply in the context he allows, why then does it apply in other situations? Is a mother malicious for knowing she cannot support the child? Or is she malicious in rejecting to carry the child of her rapist, or want to go through the horror of giving birth to an anencephalic baby? I will leave this to the voter to answer.

Rebuttal #3: Difference between a fetus and babies

My opponent appeals to the differences of an adult and a baby are even more significant than the differences between a fetus and a baby, therefore my argument does not apply. I however was not appealing to the significance of the differences, but rather the difference of consciousness. A fetus in the first trimester (most of it at least) is not conscious, it cannot experience pain or joy, and is in essence a set of organs within unique DNA up to that point.

Rebuttal #4: Utilitarian ethics

He goes on to argue that utilitarian ethics further supports the prohibition of abortion, because abortion prevents the child from living a life and thus being happy. This analysis of course ignores several important factors, 1) the fetus does not yet experience happiness or suffering or even the desire to live, 2) the mother currently can experience suffering and happiness and therefore her present consideration and choice is much more pressing as it is her body, 3) the mother is in the best position to make the choice whether or not to keep the baby based upon her assessment of her future and the babies future.

Rebuttal #5: Kantian Ethics

It seems odd that one would appeal to John Stuart Mill's ethical system and then right afterwards Immanuel Kant's, as the two men definitely disagreed on matters of ethics. However, the problem with appealing to Kantian Ethics, is simply the problems with Kantian ethics itself. This ethical system makes presuppositions about the metaphysical nature of mankind and thus based on these assumptions makes man the one who determines morality makes it contradictory to then assert that morality is a priori. In that human beings are subjective creatures, as can be observed by the distinct differences we share in moral convictions.

Rebuttal #6: Moral Consistency

I will simply charge that I don't think my opponent has sufficiently determined why one must be consistent. He asserts that it would make a logical contradiction, although being socially inconsistent is not akin to being logically contradictory. He also assumes that doing something logically contradictory makes it immoral, as if logic guided morality. No such basis can be established, so I don't see this as a valid argument. Nor do I think support women's rights to have an abortion is inconsistent as it takes into account the specific intents and circumstances involved with abortions.

Rebuttal #7: Potential Consciousness?

The fetus can only develop consciousness after a brain has been developed, and prior to this time there is no potential for consciousness to arise. In the case of a coma, this person presently has a brain and consciousness can arise at any point, and due to this person being conscious prior, they as an individual can communicate their desires of what can be done for them in an unconscious state such as a coma. A fetus, which has no consciousness or will, is subject to that of the mother's desire and wishes.

Rebuttal #8: Legalizing based off of being immoral?

It has been noted that my opponent has argued that we don't legalize things based on them being a detriment to society, but rather for the basis of immorality, which really is like answering a question with a question. As one must then wonder, why is it immoral? We as a society rather value personal property and freedom, therefore criminalizing the act of theft is important to preserve these. Many may appeal to some form of objective morality, but this in my opinion only raises more questions. Our laws and morals have to do with what we value, so speaking directly about that is important.

Rebuttal #9: Anencephalic Baby

My opponent agrees that there is no instrumental purpose for keeping the anencephalic baby alive, but then argues that this basis would allow for the euthanizing of the elderly. I disagree that the elderly have no instrumental purpose, and also point to the difference between an anencephalic fetus and an elderly person. One of them is conscious and has a will and emotions and can experience suffering and joy. While the other has no brain, or potential to develop a brain and thus is simply a mindless collection of cells, tissues and organ. Prolonging its life will only prolong the suffering of the family and also put the mother at the unnecessary risk and hardship of going through childbirth.

Rebuttal #10: Adoption as an alternative in the case of rape

My opponent finally argues that abortion would still be a punishment to the baby, even though no punishment is inferred on the part of the mother. I don't know how it can be seen as a punishment, as a fetus has no will or desires and thus cannot be deprived of anything it wants. Also, when no punishment is inferred, I don't see how one can be ascertained as to have taken place.

Finally, while adoption is an alternative to abortion, that still wouldn't negate the fact that abortion should still be a relevant option for the women as she has rights over her own body.

I thank my opponent for his efforts and hope for a fair reading of both sides of the debate.

Best Regards,


Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TrueScotsman 1 year ago
I'd never debated Abortion from Con in the past, and didn't have a prepared argument going in. I just made up 3 points that I would argue on from the beginning and developed it from there. Arguing for objective moral value on both sides of the issue certainly has been interesting, as I presented more of a humanistic approach that has it's source in the ability to suffer and have conscious experience.

I definitely made a mistake by not addressing the issue of infanticide, and I personally have not given that issue enough thought.

I thought Pro's weakest points were his ethical assertions, of course he dropped evolution, but utilitarianism and Kantian ethics are rather opposed to each other. Kantian ethics would require a debate all on it's own, and I don't think it was substantiated from a utilitarian aspect on how forbidding abortion would be better overall for everyone, no argument for maximizing the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people.
Posted by ZenoCitium 1 year ago
There's no shame in this loss. This was an extremely difficult debate from Con's position. Especially since Pro did a great job of staying out of the realm of religion and presented some pretty solid ethical theories. I agree with Dookieman, that to strengthen your argument you would have been required to embrace infanticide. However, I'm skeptical that even this approach would have been victorious. Besides the fact that it would be a fairly unpopular viewpoint, the voters would still be judging "on balance". Pro's ethical theories would likely have trumped a theory that allows infanticide since, in my opinion and judging from Pro's apparently strong debate skills, he probably would have shown that there are more benefits to a society that does not accept infanticide than one that moralizes it.
Posted by ZenoCitium 1 year ago

Although Con did a fairly good job of attacking Pro"s arguments, he was not able to strike down all of the necessary premises to the resolution. Pro had adequate sources and upheld their burden of proof. On the other hand, Pro did not provide the proper premises to defend the counterargument and did not upheld their burden of proof. Most of Con"s premises were based on legality (criminalizing abortion) and they did not provide the proper bridge between law and morality. The other premises were logically fallacies:

Exigent Circumstances (Appeal to Extremes and Appeal to Pity)

Argument for moralizing killing: Every society on the planet does consent the killing of human beings (Appeal to Tradition)

Thanks for a great debate.
Posted by ZenoCitium 1 year ago
One note: I found that the argument (abortion is immoral) was considered by both Pro and Con to be inclusive in the extreme with regard to the fetus. In other words, Pro and Con both ignored the differences in fetal maturity as it grows and therefore, if it was moral at any point or time it was moral at all points or times. This was especially evident in Con"s arguments, which hinged on the point that the morality of killing a fetus was determined by whether the fetus had consciousness or not. In R2 Con conceded that consciousness is achieved around the 24th week. Since Pro ignored this I will also, in following what I believe is the spirit of this debate.

Here is a summary in support of my decision.

Pro established a resolution with strong premises that he defended adequately. It was evident that his arguments were well thought out beforehand. Con did a fairly good job attacking some of the premises Pro established for defining morality. Con successfully struck down the Evolutionist Approach due to Pro conceding but also Pro did not establish the premise well, indicated in "for obvious reasons". I believe the other ethical theories held up. Con"s rebuttal #4 in the final round ignores the fact that if un-aborted, the fetus would eventually mature to a condition where they could experience happiness. Con"s rebuttal on the fetus was negated with pro"s argument "we would only treat comatose patients in such a way that we would consent to now (in our current mental awareness) if we were to then be put in a coma and treated the same way". This argument was strengthened with the example of the infant coma and the fact Con did not defend infanticide.
Posted by TrueScotsman 1 year ago
Yeah it was necessary for me to debate a deontological/consequentialism as I had to support why it was moral. I would say that this view partially covers my own perspective, though I don't always debate in a way that reflects what I really believe.

This was my first time ever debating as Pro for abortion being moral.
Posted by Philocat 1 year ago
It is nigh-on impossible to deductively verify a moral assertion such as 'killing is immoral' using pure reason; I could only do so inductively by considering different ethical theories.

So I, to some extent, commended to TrueScotsman that he embraced at least some form of deontology or consequentialism, otherwise he could just take the moral sceptic approach and deny that anything is moral or immoral. However, I assumed that only moral realists would accept a debate on the morality of a certain action.
Posted by Dookieman 1 year ago
I saw you challenge his killing of human beings in the case of self-defense, but that was it. He argued that killing innocent human beings was wrong from a rights based and consequentialist views of ethics.
Posted by TrueScotsman 1 year ago
It still doesn't seem super clear to me, on what basis was it immoral to kill human beings? I just don't see where he definitively determined that it was immoral. Sure he found a good rebuttal since I don't embrace infanticide, but I don't see how that then proved his case. As the moral foundations had been addressed and refuted.
Posted by Dookieman 1 year ago
@TrueScotsman Yes, I think Pro upheld his BOP. He showed that it's morally wrong to kill innocent human beings. Although you objected to this with your consciousness standard, Pro showed why it was unsatisfactory.
Posted by TrueScotsman 1 year ago
Thanks for the feedback Dookie, though I wonder if you think Pro successfully fulfilled his Burden of Proof. Since it was shared, it was necessary for us both to demonstrate why it was either immoral or moral.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by ZenoCitium 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD will be posted in the comments. Great debate both Pro and Con.
Vote Placed by Dookieman 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I did not find Con's main arguments compelling. I found the consciousness argument irrelevant, especially considering its application to temporary comas. His claim that making abortion illegal would be immoral was illogical considering it could be applied to any law. Finally, his extreme birth defects argument was shallow at best. Arguments to Pro.