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

Resolved: Abortion should stay legal in the U.S.A.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/26/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,499 times Debate No: 25293
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




Hello, here is my challange that you have already agreed to.

The resolution is above. However, here are some rules for the debate.


8,000 charcter limit

3 days to post argument

First round will be for acceptance only


Abortion- the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.


I agree with Pro's definition and rules. As agreed, I accept the challenge and look forward to Pro's case. But I would like to propose a format.

1. Acceptance
2. Arguments
3. Rebuttals to round 2
4. Rebuttals to round 3 rebuttals and closing statements

I hand it over to Pro
Debate Round No. 1


Greetings, I would like to take a moment to thank my opponent for his acceptance. I am hoping that this will turn out to be a very good debate.

Contention 1: A fetus and Personhood.

I will begin by first addressing the personhood of the unborn fetus. Now, my opponent is more then likely state that a fetus is a human and therefore, has the right to life and I would agree with him. A fetus is clearly a member of the biological species Homo Sapiens. However, just being human does not intell that one should automaditcally gets rights. I will argue that 'persons' are the ones who are the ones who should be given rights. I will define a person as an entity individual entity,morally conscious being capable of forming a complex thought and possessing the capacity (but not nessasarily the ability) to comunitcate their thoughts through language. This definition includes no animals. All of the said requirements for personhood are far more valuable in determining personhood then apindages. A fetus has none of these, thus it can not be treated like you and I. It can not be treated as the same as a baby that is newly born because a baby has the capabily to do these things and it has the brain capacity to be an individual and form a semi-complex thought. So, since a fetus is not a person then it has no serious right to life.

Contention 2: Self-Ownership

Everyone has self-ownership. To deny it would be to deny your selves, and neither I or my opponent would be in this debate because we would most likely be doing whatever our government told us to do. So with this stated, women have complete dominion over their body's. If something is wrong with it then they have the right to fix it, if they want to make it better or worse in their eyes then that is their choice, and furthermore, if a fetus forms there without their permission then they have the choice on whether or not she is wants to let it stay there whether it be a human/person or not. Despite whatever "right to life" "pro-lifers" may claim it possesses, it has not right to be where it is unwelcomed and invited. Fetus's are not intitled to women's bodies, they do not own women's bodies, and neither do governments.

Contention 3: Overpopulation

I will start out my last contention with a quote by Christ Hedges who is a former "New York Times" correspondent and author of the article "We Are Breeding Ourselves to Extinction". In it he writes:

"All measures to thwart the degradation and destruction of our ecosystem will be useless if we do not cut population growth," Hedges wrote. "By 2050, if we continue to reproduce at the current rate, the planet will have between 8 billion and 10 billion people. This is a 50 percent increase. And yet government-commissioned reviews, such as the Stern report in Britain, do not mention the word population. Books and documentaries that deal with the climate crisis, including Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," fail to discuss the danger of population growth. This omission is odd, given that a doubling in population, even if we cut back on the use of fossil fuels, shut down all our coal-burning power plants and build seas of wind turbines, will plunge us into an age of extinction and desolation unseen since the end of the Mesozoic era, 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared."

Now, I am sure that not to many people are actually aware of the population crises in America or the world for that matter, but in spite of the small amounts of media and news coverage the threat is very real. At our current birth rate by the year 2050 the Earth's population will be between 8 million people to 10 million people[1]. The U.S. has nearly quadrupled the number of people within its boundaries in the past century; if our population multiplies by that same amount within the coming century we will hold over one billion people. There are two factors that play a part in this and I will get to my point with this soon after.

1. The first being fertility rates, the U.S. has a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman. the U.S.’s highest fertility rate since 1971. (For comparison, the United Kingdom’s fertility rate is 1.7, Canada's is 1.4, and Germany's is 1.3.)[2].

2. And the next is immegration. Immigration contributes over one million people to the U.S. population annually. The total foreign-born population in the U.S. is now 31.1 million, a record 57 percent increase since 1990 [2].

The following graphs further deminstrates the rapid growth in population in the U.S.


Year Projected
Percent change
population in
2010 310,233,000 10%
2020 341,387,000 21%
2030 373,504,000 32%
2040 405,655,000 44%
2050 439,010,000 55%

Now immagine an overpopulated disaster in the U.S. Imagine lands that once could be enjoyed for their natural beauty are now concrete jungles, our country's children attend schools that are overloaded and lack the teacher to student interaction we once had, social infrastructures and systems are overloaded, natural resources are being depleted, and our environment is being tasked beyond its limits.

Abortions, though not final solution to this problem can lower the birth rate so we can find a solution to it.

That is all for now, I thank the people who read this.

I will now await my opponent's argument.




Thank you to pro for his case, patience, and my first serious DDO debate.

Preliminary remarks:

Before I present my three main arguments, I just wanted to note that moral philosophy informs or at least attempts to inform our legal actions. That is why I will rely heavily on the philosophical aspects to the question of whether or not abortion should be legal in the U.S.

Argument 1: “A Future Like Ours”

This argument is probably one of the more well known anti-abortion argument in philosophical circles developed by moral philosopher Don Marquis. The argument goes like this. In order to understand the abortion debate better, it is essential to first find common ground and identify why murder is wrong, not that murder and abortion are equivalent at this point.

We may consider murder wrong because we may believe that it is wrong to take people away given the effect on family, friends, and society or that it is a barbaric act, or whatever the reason may be. Marquis argues that none of those reasons get at the core of why murder is wrong, but what makes it prime facie morally wrong is that it takes away the future of a being that shares a “future like ours. ” This is, according to Marquis, the natural property that defines murder as prime facie morally wrong since it ends the future of the victim [1]. A natural property is a property, which is in agreement with our moral intuitions, and best explains why something is morally wrong [2].

The application this argument has for abortion is that fetuses possess this property of “future like ours.” My opponent may go the Michael Tooley or Paul Bassen route and argue that the fetus has no mental, rational, or sentient activity to be aware of its/her/his future; however, this objection would fall short because we can think of cases such as comma patients where no one may be sure the patient will ever wake up [3]. In this paradigmatic case, the natural property of a “future like ours” is still seen in that family or doctors would at least wait to make sure they do not end the future of the patient. Or we can look at the example of a terminally sick patient. While the suffering the patient endures is painful, it is the loss of his/her future that is most bothersome.

Argument 2: A Hybrid Argument

This argument is based on Kantian and Aristotelian moral philosophy. As far as I know and researched, I do not believe a philosopher has synthesized both philosophers’ arguments into one argument against abortion although I could be wrong. I am in no way trying to steal this argument in case it is out there.

First, Kant’s moral philosophy can be described in two main arguments, which are the categorical imperative and the kingdom of rational ends. I am going to primarily focus on the latter. But first it is essential to note that metaphysics informs morality. In other words, the study of ultimate reality should correspond to moral principles. Our moral principles should not be based off of emotional or purely subjective whims but rather have firm grounding in reality independent of our opinions [4].

For Kant, the kingdom of rational ends focuses on the status of people. The words “dignity” and “value” are often thrown around in abortion debates without much context or clarification. Under Kantian moral philosophy, value is replaceable by another equivalent value while dignity is an intrinsic worth. This dignity stems from the rational nature of the creature and what informs the autonomy of the creature [5].

The kingdom of rational ends would thus entail that humans cannot be morally viewed as means to an end. Killing someone is wrong because the victim ends up becoming a means to an end; the end being the killer’s reason for murder (money, vengeance, crime of passion, etc.).

I suspect at this point my opponent is thinking that a fetus or embryo is not a rational creature; therefore, even if Kant succeeds, abortion may still be permissible. However, this objection may fall short with a hybrid argument that involves Aristotelian metaphysics.

Aristotle argued that there are two ways things form and matter exist which is potentiality and actuality. For Aristotle, potentiality is a “capacity to be in a different, complete state”[6] while actuality is the completed state. For instance, I have the potentiality to be an astronaut; however, if I do not provide the necessary conditions to nurture this potentiality, then I will probably not become an astronaut. A fetus however has a natural potentiality of being in the rational kingdom of ends unlike my potentiality of being an astronaut. More simply, the fetus has the intrinsic property of “natural potentiality to the kingdom of rational ends.”

Final Argument: Roe v. Wade and the Right to Privacy

The landmark Roe v. Wade case concluded that women have a right to have an abortion as a right to privacy. Effectively, the fetus was not considered a human being and therefore not protected under the constitution.

Henry Blackmun, one of the nine Supreme Court Justices, noted that

“The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.” (Opinion of the Court Section IX)[7]

Of course the pro-choicer could argue against this justification or even concede that the embryo or fetus is a person in the sense that it is a part of the human species on a speciesist account; however, the Roe v. Wade conclusion is still undermined because the justification according to Blackmun was that the fetus was not a person. At best for the pro-choice advocate, Blackmun’s justification leaves the legal decision unresolved.


[1] "Why Abortion is Immoral," Journal of Philosophy, Volume 86, p. 194
[2] Ibid, p. 190
[3] Ibid, p. 198
[4] Today’s Moral Issues: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives, "The Kingdoms of Ends," 7th edition, p.41
[5] Ibid
[6] “Actuality and Potentiality,”

Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for his response. However, I am pleased that he has read the Journal of Philosophy. As have I, and I will refute his first contention by refuting the whole of Marquis's case.

Refutation 1

First off, Marquis explicitly makes the assumption that 'whether or not abortion is morally permissible stands or falls on whether or not a fetus is the sort of being whose life it is wrong to end'. There are two issues that arise from his claim:

1. Is as fetus the sort of thing that has rights or obligations?

2. Are the rights or obligations prima facie or absolute?

Marquis's claims conflate the two, and assumes they both are absolute. However, this assumption is presented without argument and is both philosophically and politically irresponsible. It is as if the fetus is growing on a tree, and the question of abortion is whether or not to allow it to come to fruition. The question of abortion involves at least two lives and a quite compelling amount of rights on the woman carrying the fetus, whatever we decide about the status of the fetus. In which, to ignore these rights would be about the same as considering the moral permissibility of killing an adult human without considering the justification of self-defense. If no other moral considerations or countervailing rights were allowed to be figured into moral judgment, then the criterion on which Marquis claimed that abortion is impermissible, since having a 'future like ours' would also rule out killing in self-defense. He makes no exceptions, therefore it would be consistent with his logic to say that killing in the name of self-defense is immoral.

Next i'll move on with his list of authors. The claims he made their arguments are false. They all take the rights of the pregnant women into consideration, and find cases where abortion is morally permissible. For example lets take a quote by Marry Ann Warren:

"The immorality of abortion is no more demonstrated by the humanity of the fetus, in itself, than the immorality of killing in self-defense is demonstrated by the fact that the assailant is a human being" [1].

The authors that Marquis listed can be put into two groups:

1. Those who argue that abortions are permissible because the fetus is not a sort of being whose life it is wrong to end.

2. Those who argue that abortions are impermissible in most (but not all) cases because the fetus is such a being.

Obviously there is a logical mistake to infer from:

(A) Since it isn't wrong to end it, then abortion is permissible.
(B) being the opposite of (A).

The writers in the first group hold (A), but they make no claims like (B). That is, these writers merely claim that the fetus's lack of personhood is a sufficient, though not necessary, condition for abortion to be morally permissible. Marquis's phrase 'stands or falls' requires it to be both a necessary and sufficient condition on the permissibility of abortion.

While in the second group, both deny (A) but still say it is permissible in cases where the woman's life is in danger and in cases of rape.

Even if we might ultimately agree that the fetus is the sort of thing whose killing is so morally wrong as to overwhelm completely a woman's rights to privacy, health, medical care, and even life, the point surely needs argument. Nothing that has been said in the abortion debate to date has come close to settling this issue against the woman. So at most Marquis can claim to have shown "Why Abortion is Killing a Being-Like-Us." When one recalls that persons may legitimately be killed for many reasons, this title has not the same moral urgency of Marquis's. (This argument was argued by Ann E. Cudd of the University of Kansas) [2]

Refutation 2

As for my opponents second contention, I will refute it with three realities:

1. The first being a woman's right to self-ownership (meaning she has full dominion over her body).

2. The second being that my opponent's argument like his first does not consider the rights of the woman.

3. The fetus is not innocent.

My opponent is committing what is often refered to as the 'fetus focus fallacy'. While, the fetus may be human, a person, or have the potental, the mother still has soul dominion over her body so if she does not want something whether it is a human fetus or adult, she has the right to remove it. Furthermore, I will state that if the fetus is in woman's womb without consent and is causing her to get sick, and is causing her to lose her job and respect, then the fetus is not innocent, it is a parasite.

Refutation 3

I have supplied numerious reasons keep abortion legal. Therefore, it is up to my opponent and I to rebuttal are cases and settle it now.

I will argue further in the next round, but until then I thank my opponent and the voters for reading.

I will now hand it over to con.

[1]"On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion by Mary Ann Warren,"The Monist, LVII, 1(1973): 43-61 (46).



First, I would like to thank Pro for his rebuttals, which I look forward to responding in my next round. I’m also thrilled that my opponent doesn’t dread engaging in philosophy for such a difficult question.

Objections to the Fetus and Personhood Argument:

It seems like my opponent has chosen an arbitrary definition for personhood without really explaining why this definition resolves the problem of a fetus being a person or not. He uses three components to define personhood which are (1) morally conscious (2) capable of complex thought and (3) possessing the capacity (but not necessarily the ability to communicate). He further states that newly born babies satisfy these criteria, but it is evident that newly born babies are not yet morally conscious. My opponent may take a potentiality route which would severely undermine his case since he needs to draw line as to when this potentiality to be a morally, conscious agent begins. Going a potentiality route on this argument, would essentially be a concession to my second argument.

For the next objection, Pro has not defined what exactly he means by “capacity” for communicating. Does he mean a well developed Wernicke’s and Broca’s area in the brain? If so, he would need to show that these areas are sufficiently developed at birth so that they are very distinguishable from a pre-birth fetus. He could also argue that these areas are not well-developed for the capacity for communication; nonetheless, the newborn has the potential to communicate. Once again, Pro will not have answered the question of personhood because an eighth month fetus may also have the same chances to communicate as newborn baby in that both have little to no well-developed Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas. Pro must offer an objective or better definition of personhood free from any ambiguity if he wishes use this argument.

Objections to the Self-Ownership Argument:

This argument seems to inform most of Pro’s case. First, Pro suggests self-ownership is an intrinsic/natural property of a person, but if it is, one can wonder why a fetus is excluded from having this property. It may be the case that both the mother and fetus possess self-ownership; however, this leaves itself open to possibility that the fetus’ self-ownership affords it the right to life. If Pro wishes to argue that the fetus does not have the property of self-ownership, then I can press him as to when one acquires this contingent property. If he concedes that the fetus has self-ownership only of itself but not of the mother’s body, then we may move on to the next objection.

It’s important to note that Pro is pushing forward a case for formal self-ownership not a substantive self-ownership [1]. Here’s a thought experiment proposed by philosopher Edward Feser. If someone strangles you to death, then according to the self-ownership principle, this is morally wrong because the murderer invaded your self-ownership (your space, your trachea, your life, etc.). This would be a formal self-ownership because your own physical health was violated. However, suppose this person was a mad scientist and built a sort of machine that sucked in all the oxygen. You, along with many other people, die from a lack of oxygen.

In a court of philosophy this person could argue that your formal self-ownership was not invaded since your body parts were left untouched and nothing concerning your physical body was done against your will [3]. Under a substantive self-ownership view, one could certainly argue that self-ownership entails having the sufficient conditions to carry out formal self-ownership. As Libertarian philosopher Eric Marck points out, “
One’s self-owned powers, abilities, capacities, and so forth, are inherently world interactive it is of their essence that they are directed upon the environment external to one’s body.” This will thus be called the Self-Ownership Proviso (SOP) [4].

Here’s a clearer example. Suppose I removed your hand, I would then violate your formal self-ownership because your hand belongs to you. But, suppose I removed all objects that you could possibly grasp with your hands without doing anything physical to you. I would violate your SOP. Feser aptly summarizes the SOP: Even non-invasive use of one’s property and powers can violate another’s self-ownership if it effectively nullifies or disables the other’s ability to bring his self-owned powers to bear on the world, that is, if it renders another’s ownership purely formal, not substantive[5].

Pro also acknowledges that that even if we conclude that the fetus is a person, if the mother does not want it, according to her formal self-ownership, she may remove the fetus. This argument parallels Judith Thomson’s famous Cellist Argument of a famous cellist being attached to you and dependent on your body for his/her survival [6]. Person or not, according to Thomson, you may end the life of the Cellist by removing them from your body.

Here we can look at one more thought experiment as a counter example: Adam’s Island. Suppose Adam is shipwrecked in an island, which he later claims for himself. Days later, Jim is also shipwrecked on the island as well, but Adam refuses to let Jim enter the island even though Jim’s formal ownership is not violated. If the SOP is true however, Jim’s SOP is effectively nullified by Adam [6]. Adam can argue until he is blue in the face that it is not his fault that Jim landed shipwrecked on his island (it may be an incompetent captain’s fault or maybe he was fleeing from evil pirates); however, it is Jim receiving the brunt of the punishment [7]. Or it may even be that Adam allowed Jim on his island but now reconsiders his presence there for some reason or another. Likewise, we can parallel this to a fetus in the sense that in the decisions of the parents, it is the fetus or person (Pro has granted this possibility in his Self-Ownership argument) being punished for actions it was not a part of. Abortion thus removes the SOP of fetuses.

Pro insinuates that we should accept purely formal self-ownership instead of the SOP but he has not yet provided an argument demonstrating this to be true.

Objections to Overpopulation Argument:

Pro’s final argument deals with population growth in the U.S. Unfortunately, his argument about immigration is a red herring because the resolution concerns the legality of abortion in the U.S. not the abortion laws in the countries of these foreign-born children. It is out of the scope of the resolution. I would happily engage it if the resolution was not restricted to the U.S.

The first point he makes is that the population growth in the U.S. and the negative impact that will have on the environment. Even though the population of the U.S. is growing, the actual rates are lowering. For instance, the birth rate average for Latinos the previous decade was at 3.6% down to 2.5% for the 2010-2011 year. Asians also went through a similar drop in growth rate from 3.6 to 2.2% [8]. Across the board, the growth rate in the U.S. is actually declining even in fertility rates. In 2009, the birth rate in America was at 2.1 and 4.2 million added to the U.S. population between 2005 and 2006; however, between 2010 and 2011, only four million were added with a fertility rate of 2.0 suggesting population growth may be slowing [9]. Even if I conceded that population growth is so exponential that it will inevitably cripple the human civilization, abortion needn’t be the primary solution. Indeed, there is no inherent contradiction in the use of contraception and careful family planning with being pro-life. Education and preventative measures are crucial.

[1, 2, 3] Edward Feser. “Self-Ownership, Abortion, and the Rights to Children: Toward a More Conservative Libertarianism.” P. 98.
[4,5] Ibid, p.99
[6] Ibid, p. 100
[7] Ibid, p. 102
Debate Round No. 3


Deathbeforedishonour forfeited this round.


Thank you to Deathbeforedishonour for the debate. It's unfortunate we couldn't continue the dialogue, but perhaps at another time. For the sake of the readers, I will still respond to the round three rebuttals.

Rebuttal to Refutation #1:

Pro offers Ann Cudd’s response as a rebuttal to Marquis’s Argument in that the "future like ours" argument presumes rights and obligations for the fetus. He further claims that Marquis “makes no exceptions; therefore, it would be consistent with his logic to say killing in the name of self-defense is immoral.”

Philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has come to the defense of Marquis in responding to Cudd arguing that Marquis never framed the “future like ours” argument in terms of rights and obligations [1]. Indeed, Marquis often notes that there can certainly be circumstances where abortion maybe justified in extreme cases, which refutes Pro’s charge of Marquis making no exceptions. Sinnott-Armstrong points out that Marquis argues the justification it may take to kill an adult could be employed to kill a fetus [2]. He summarizes this point as: We would like to hear more about which circumstances are extreme enough to justify killing normal human adults and fetuses, but Marquis is definitely not committed to absolute rights [3].

Pro goes into the list of authors Cudd defends; however, these list of authors itself is not central to Marquis’s argument. Marquis’s argument never closed off the possibility of having an abortion except instead of the debate being about the personhood of the fetus the debate becomes about the future of the mother or the future of the fetus much in the same way it could between a mother and another adult. So Marquis’s argument doesn’t paint abortion and rape as black or white.

Pro finally reinforces his point about the woman’s self-ownership which I have addressed in round three.

Rebuttal to refutation #2:

Once again, Pro reasserts a formal self-ownership which I undermined in round three. Interstingly, his third contention is that the fetus is not innocent. If you remember back in round two, he first asserted that the fetus is not morally conscious; however, words like "innocent" or "guilty" have no application to fetuses since these words imply some sense of morality and consciousness. In other words, this contention contradicts the first argument Pro has made.

Additionally, my opponent accuses my Kantian-Aristotelian argument of not considering the rights of woman which is a presumption that formal self-ownership is valid while the SOP is false, but that is one of the very questions of this debate that cannot just be sidestepped or presumed without begging the question.

According to Kant, women by their very nature of being human belong in the kingdom of rational ends since humans can reason; therefore, they like other rational ends cannot be used as a means to an end. Under a Kantian framework, rape, spousal abuse, misogyny, and discrimination in general towards women is still wrong because the woman is a rational end used as a means to an end whether it is for pleasure, hatred, or whatever the case may be.

The only problem with Kant’s kingdom of rational ends, however, is that it does not specify whether this rational nature must be naturally/intrinsically designed or actually present. If the former, then by the very nature of being a member of the human species, fetuses, men, women, children, the elderly, and so forth are all part of the kingdom of rational ends. If rationality needs to be present, then we arrive at an absurd conclusion that the severely, mentally handicapped, people in comatose states, and newborns themselves do not belong in the kingdom of rational ends and thus are on par with animals or creatures that can be used as a means to an end.

It is with Aristotelian metaphysics of actuality and potentiality and Aristotle’s view that nature aims toward the good that we can say, sure, the fetus and patient A who is essentially brain dead cannot demonstrate rational activity, nonetheless they are rational beings as designed by nature or through their natural potentiality even though they cannot actualize that rational nature at the moment. In other words, they are still persons even though they currently lack rational activity.

[1,2,3] Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had.” P.60

I hope this debate has been fruitful to Pro and the readers as it has been for me. Hopefully, in the future with less busy schedules, we can debate this topic again. I apologize for my format style (still getting used to it).

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Deathbeforedishonour 5 years ago
Yeah it's fine, and no problem. Good Luck!
Posted by Skyhook 5 years ago
Hey, DBD (you don't mind if I call you that do you?), I've been a little busy memorizing the skeletal system but I should have my arguments up by tomorrow afternoon maybe 7/8ish pm. Sorry for the wait.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by KRFournier 5 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Both sides argued admirably, but Pro did not show up to reinforce his argument. Thus, he loses both conduct (for forfeiting) and convincing argument (for not having any final rebuttals). Also, Pro's first round had so many spelling errors that it I read many sentences twice.