The Instigator
Davididit
Con (against)
Winning
23 Points
The Contender
kohai
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

Resolved: Elective abortion is prima facie morally permissible

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 8 votes the winner is...
Davididit
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/3/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,015 times Debate No: 18610
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (35)
Votes (8)

 

Davididit

Con

Rules:
Round 1 is for acceptance
Round 2 Arguments/clash
Round 3 clash
Round 4 clash
Round 5 Closing arguments (NO new arguments are to be presented here. Use this round to wrap up your argument and close it)

No semantics

Sources may be posted in the comments section

There will be an equal burden of proof
Pro must fulfill his burden of proof and argue why it's morally permissible, as well as defeat Con's objections and argument

Con must fulfill his burden of proof and defeat Pro's argument, as well as give an argument that shows why it is not morally permissible and defend it from objections.

Good luck to my opponent
kohai

Pro

Thank you, David, for challenging me to this debate. Before I begin, I need to make a few definitions:

1) elective abortion: induced abortion done at the request of the mother for other than therapeutic reasons.

2) Prima facie: At first glance.

3) Morally wrong: What is objectively wrong.
Debate Round No. 1
Davididit

Con

Unless my opponent states otherwise, I'm assuming we both agree that objective moral values exist, namely, that acts such as murder are wrong independently of anyone's beliefs about them.

What is the issue?
Before we can advance the issue of abortion, we must simplify the matter and focus on one thing: what is the fetus? What follows is a brief overview and highlight of crucial stages in the development of a normal fetus. A normal zygote, after fertilization, contains half of its genetic material from each of the parents. As it moves down the fallopian tube, the zygote continues dividing and becoming a group of cells. After a few days of dividing since conception, the healthy zygote then becomes a blastocyst. After the blastocyst enters the uterus and implants itself on the uterus lining, it begins to receive nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream. Now considered an embryo, it then begins one of the most crucial time of development. The Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia site documents, “the baby’s main external features begins to form. It is during this critical period (most of the first trimester) that the growing baby is most susceptible to damage.” During week 5 of the pregnancy, features such as the brain and heart begin to develop. [1]

What can be gleaned from this?
The embryo from conception is a distinct, living, and whole human being. Distinct in the sense that it's "different in kind from any cell of its parents". Living because the embryo "exhibits irritability (reaction to stimuli), metabolism (converting food to energy), and cellular reproduction." Lastly, the embryo from conception is a whole human being because it contains the genetic constituents of human beings, and its cells all work together towards the whole of the organism thus making it whole.[2] Robert George and patrick Lee write, "From conception onward, the human embryo is fully programmed, and has the active disposition, to develop himself or herself to the next mature stages of a human being." [3]

Now the issue is addressed by the following argument developed by Francis J. Beckwith:

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

The argument is valid as the conclusion necessarily follows from its premises while assuming the premises are true. Premise 3 follows from premise 1, and the conclusion from premise 2 and 3

Premise 1
In defense of premise one, I cite an argument developed by Alexander Pruss that aims at demonstrating a fetus is a person with rights. Pruss begins by arguing that “abortion is wrong in exactly the same circumstances in which it is wrong to kill an adult” (Pruss). He does this by presenting a self reflection of identity claiming that a fetus is a person “because I was that fetus and being a person is an essential property of me” (Pruss). By way of analogy, suppose I have a photo album of my entire life from my conception until now. As I look through the photo album heading backwards in time, I’m essentially the same entity in all those photos at different stages of development--from being 20 years old now, back to when I was 14 years old, 12 years old, all the way back to conception. The fetus in the ultrasound is me. It’s not some foreign, unknown entity or lump of cells that later became me. When my parents asked if the baby was a boy or a girl, they weren’t asking if some unknown entity or lump of cells was a boy or girl. They were asking if I was a boy or girl. If I’m the same person that I was back then, then the fetus is a person. If I have rights now, then I had rights then. If it’s wrong to kill me now, then it’s wrong to kill me when I was a fetus. Thus Pruss concludes “if it was wrong to kill me when I was a fetus, it was wrong to kill anyone when he is a fetus” (Pruss).[5] You didn't come from a fetus; you were one. Just like I didn't come from an infant or a toddler, I was an infant and a toddler.

The underlying metaphysical claim is that there is no morally significant difference between the person I am now and the embryo I once was.[6] According to the substance view of persons, I still retain the same identity over time, and I am entitled to unalienable rights--such as the right to life, property, and freedom--because of the very thing I am, i.e. a human being. Our rights and value are grounded in our human nature, regardless of our size, level of development, or race. These rights are thus extended to the fetus since a fetus is a human being in development, albeit one that isn't fully developed, but human nonetheless.

Premise 2
Next, on the face of it, it's morally wrong to kill another human being. Prima facie, it's morally wrong for me to grab a gun, walk up to a random stranger and murder him. Reason why I note it's prima facie is because not all killing is morally wrong. Such as killing done in self defense, or when one goes to war.
There's no reason why anyone should consider abortion as an act of self defense and prudence obliges us to assume that it is a human in the absence of any good reasons to think otherwise. Intuitively, abortion is prime facie wrong.

So suppose it’s granted that it's somewhat ambiguous to show when the fetus becomes a person. Suppose we cannot be sure. What would be the most reasonable and ethical thing to do? Is it to go ahead with the abortion anyways? Madeleine Flannagan, who holds a Bachelors in Law and is working on a Masters in Legal Philosophy, appeared on the UK radio program Unbelieveable? to debate the topic of abortion with Dr. Wendy Sanders. Flannagan proposed a very interesting solution to this. She notes, "If you go hunting, for example, and you are shooting deer in the forest. You know there are going to be people walking through the forest, and you see a rustle in the bushes. You are wrong to shoot because you need to establish first that the thing you are going to kill is not a human being. Until we have that issue settled, we need to be on the side of caution." [7] So even if all arguments for personhood fail at the moment, the wisest thing to do would be to play it safe. It would be prima facie wrong to make a move and terminate the fetus, when one is unsure of its personhood.

Thus I conclude that elective abortion is prima facie morally wrong and not permissible since it would be killing a member of the human community.

kohai

Pro

Thank you for challenging me to this debate. It is a thrill to (finally) be debating with you again. With permission from freeman, I will be utilizing some of his information, though not all of it. My opening argument is a rebuttal and a defense for the morality of abortion, along with the Prima facia morality of abortion.

My opponent and I agreed to change the definition of elective abortion to "Induced termination of pregnancy, usually before the fetus has developed enough o live if born, deemed necessary by the woman carrying it and performed at her request." [1]

==Opening Arguments==

1) It is not always wrong to kill an innocent human being.

My opponent would have us believe that, "[O]n the face of it, it's morally wrong to kill another human being. Prima facia, it's morally wrong for me to grab a gun, walk up to a random stranger and murder him. Reason why I note it's prima facia is because not all killing is morally wrong. Such as killing done in self defense, or when one goes to war. There's no reason why anyone should consider abortion as an act of self defense and prudence obliges us to assume that it is a human in the absence of any good reasons to think otherwise. Intuitively, abortion is prime facia wrong." This is false and an incorrect premise.

My opponent wants us to believe that there is no reason why anyone should consider abortion an act of self defense. However, there are moral grounds, and in certain circumstances, it should be considered moral to allow for an abortion. For example, if the mother's life is at risk, it is obviously NOT Prima facia wrong for the woman to have an abortion. Moreover, in the case of rape, it is Prima facia morally permissible to the woman to have an abortion. In fact, it is arguable that denying the woman a right to abortion in the case of a pregnancy is morally wrong.

2) A fetus does not qualify as a person.

In her essay, The Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, Warren suggests five (5) criteria for a being to be qualified as a person that is protected morally and under the law:

1) Consciousness;
2) Reasoning;
3) Self-motivated activity;
4) Capacity to communicate; and
5) Presence of self-concepts/self-awareness [2].

It is a fact that a 7-8 month old fetus has none of the above criteria [3], hence they cannot have a serious right to life and it is not Prima facia wrong to abort the potential child.

The Stone professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy at Dartmouth College, Baenard Gert, explained how simply being alive does not have inherent value itself. It is, rather, the ability to have conscious experience for the world that it important [4]. As demonstrated earlier, the moral principle can be recognized the way humans rightfully differentiate between fully conscious adults and those who have experienced a permanent loss of consciousness in brain death. Hence, it is within the Prima facia that it is not morally wrong to kill a fetus. This is why murdering most grown adults is wrong, whereas killing a fetus is not. However, I ask my opponent, if the adult did not have a conscious, and was a vegetable so to speak, how can that being have a serious right to life?

3) A fetus is not physically independent.

A fetus is dependent upon the mother to provide the womb in efforts for the fetus to survive. If it were to be outside of the womb for even a short period of time, then the fetus will die. Throughout the gestation of the zygote-embryo-fetus and the mothers' body are symbiotically linked through the umbilical cord. What the mother does affects the fetus. Likewise, when things go wrong with the fetus, it does affect the mother. To further demonstrate this point, I wish to offer the "violinist argument." Philosopher Judith Thomas demonstrated a scenario in which a woman is kidnapped and wakes to find that she has been surgically attached to a world-famous violinist, who, for 9 months, needs her body to survive. After those 9 months, the violinist can survive just fine on his own, but he must have this particular woman in order to survive until then. Is the woman morally obligated to stay connected to the violinist who is living off her body? [5] By no means.

Thus, my argument can be considered the following:

(P1) It is not Prima facia wrong to kill a non-human being.
(P2) A fetus is not a human being.
(C) Therefore, it is not Prima facia wrong to have an abortion.

==Rebuttals==

My opponent's arguments can be summed up as followed:
  1. The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community
  2. It is prima facia morally wrong to kill any member of that community
  3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community
  4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facia morally wrong

| Conclusion |

As I have demonstrated, an unborn entity is not a full-fledged member of the human community, it is not always prima facia morally wrong to kill a member of that community, and every successful abortion is not always prima facia morally wrong.

Thanks.

Reference

[1] http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com.........
[2] Warren, Mary Anne. The Moral and Legal Status of Abortion. 1973. On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion. Vol. 57. La Salle, Illinois: The Monist, 1973. pp. 97-105.
[3] http://spruce.flint.umich.edu...
[4] Gert, Bernard. Common Morality: Deciding What to Do. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. p. 30.
[5] http://www.elroy.net...
Debate Round No. 2
Davididit

Con

I'd like to thank Kohai for his response, however, I think my opponent has failed to grasp my arguments.

1)It's not always wrong to kill an innocent human being
Note my argument is that elective abortion is prima facie not morally permissible. This resolution allows wiggle room for exceptional situations such as one where the life of the fetus or child puts the mother's life at risk. However, on the face of it, elective abortion is not morally permissible, and only in an exceptional circumstance, such as the one noted above, is it permissible if the mother's life is at risk.

My opponent notes that in a circumstance such as rape, "it is Prima facia morally permissible to the woman to have an abortion." First, what makes it prima facie morally permissible for a raped woman to have an abortion? If I have a 2 year old child that reminds me a painful past event, do I have the right to murder that 2 year old? I would say no because the child is a human person (as well as being a human being). This is precisely what's in question. If the fetus is a human being, being raped is not a justification to terminate the child just because it will remind the parent of a painful event, assuming the fetus is a person. I don't intend to minimize the psychological and emotional trauma that women face when going through such a tragic event, however, that doesn't give anyone the ok to take the life of another human being just because they remind the victim of a tragic event. So one wrong doesn't justify another wrong.

Secondly, my opponent brings up the idea that a woman has a "right" to abortion. Where does this "right" to abortion come from? My opponent is simply begging the question. If the right comes as a result of it being granted by the government, then women cannot complain if the government makes abortion illegal, and this right is only arbitrarily available depending on whether or not the government makes it legal. If it's universal right stemming from human nature (based on the substance view of persons), then the fetus is entitled to rights as well since these rights stem from what it is, namely, human with a human nature.

I'd like to reiterate the terms I'm using and the metaphysical explanation I gave last round. According to the substance view of a persons, a human being has a particular nature or essence. This is why human beings are intrinsically valuable because of the very thing it is[1] Francis J Beckwith elucidates this point saying, "The human being is a particular type of substance - a rational moral agent - that remains identical to itself as long as it exists, even if it is not presently exhibiting the functions, behaving in ways, or currently able to immediately exercise these activities that we typically attribute to active and mature moral rational agents."[2] For example, a dog is still, by nature of what it is, a dog even if its vocal cords are damaged and it no longer has the ability to bark. The loss of this property doesn't take away from the dog's dogness or nature. Please keep this metaphysical description in mind.

2) A Fetus does not qualify as a person
I'd like to extend the personhood argument by Alexander Pruss from last round as my opponent has not made any reference or refutation of it

Given that criteria, infanticide would also be morally permissible since the baby doesn't exhibit number 2, 3, 4, 5. Moreover, people in a coma or vegetative state, under this criteria, are not considered human persons and killing them is ok. The metaphysic I've proposed, along with the argument, shows why this criteria is flawed.

My opponent asks me how can a person in a vegetative state have a serious right to life. I reply that he is still a human with rights because of the nature he has. He doesn't lose this nature when he loses certain properties or attributes, just as a dog doesn't lose its nature or essence of dogness just because it loses certain capabilities or properties. In this case, however, the person in the state doesn't lose the property of rationality entirely. Rationality and consciousness is still a part of his nature, it's just not actualized anymore. Likewise, a fetus contains the potentiality for rationality, consciousness, self-awareness, etc. as a result of being human. These capabilities or attributes become actualized once it develops them by reaching its developmental stage. It's not these properties that grants the rights, but rather the human nature. It's in virtue of having this nature or essence that the fetus is entitled to its rights and everything else that comes with it. Furthermore, Klusendorf rightly points out that we all "exercise those capabilities better than others can. In what sense then are we equal?" [3] If value is derived from having these capabilities actualized, and if these actualized capabilities are exercised in varying degrees among different people, then if follows that human value varies among different people. So in what sense are we equal? Another issue is if we are only valuable or have rights in virtue of acquiring some property, then we do not have unalienable rights. Only the substance view of persons can account for having unalienable rights and for equal value among all human beings.

3) A fetus is not physically independent
How does it follow that since the fetus is not independent, that therefore it's not a person entitled to rights such as the right to life? If the fetus is a person with rights, then it would be prima facie (immoral) to kill that person.

Next, the violinist parallel fails and is not comparable to the relationship between a fetus and its mother. First, the fact is this violinist is a stranger and is unnaturally hooked up to the woman, while the fetus is mother's offspring and the fetus is naturally where it's supposed to be during development. The fetus is not a stranger or a parasite to the mother. Scott Klusendorf notes, the mother's child [or fetus] was conceived with her own flesh and blood and is where he naturally belongs at that stage in development … the child's [or fetus] relation to the mother is indeed a proper one"[4]

The syllogism my opponent presented is invalid. Given its premises, the conclusion does not follow necessarily from its premises, thus making the argument invalid and automatically unsound.

As it is, the Alexander Pruss argument still stands in defense of premise 1 of my original argument, as well as the argument proposed by Madeleine Flannagan, and I've shown that it is prima facie morally wrong to terminate a fetus based on the metaphysical claims I've proposed. The metaphysical principle of the substance view of personhood adequately provides a framework for the morality of killing human persons and granting rights to human beings including the fetus. Furthermore, I've shown why my opponents arguments and rebuttals do not successfully demonstrate that a fetus is not a person since the arguments contain multiple flaws.

kohai

Pro

As discussed in the comments, my opponent has changed my views on this issue. I still, however, support abortion, but concede the fact "Abortion is Prima facia immoral."
Debate Round No. 3
Davididit

Con

As I mentioned in the comments, I'm glad that Kohai is able to benefit and/or learn from our interactions. It's been great debating him, and I look forward to engaging him in the future. Vote Con (:
kohai

Pro

Vote con. Thank you for proving me wrong. I enjoy being proved wrong.
Debate Round No. 4
Davididit

Con

No problem, Kohai. You've been a very respectful opponent. Always a joy debating you.
kohai

Pro

Not a problem. I am glad you enjoy debating me. Vote con ;)
Debate Round No. 5
35 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Davididit 6 years ago
Davididit
I don't mind. However, it will have to wait. I've got a lot of school work and club meetings (as well as other personal commitments) I have to take care of. So I won't be debating for a bit. I'll let you know when I have time. Kohai also requested to debate another issue, but I told him the same.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 6 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
I would take this debate if Con wishes to re-challenge =)
Posted by kohai 6 years ago
kohai
The one we are debating. I kinda have grown upvsme.
Posted by BruteApologia 6 years ago
BruteApologia
What views have you changed, Kohai?
Posted by Davididit 6 years ago
Davididit
Wow. I am very pleased to hear that, Kohai. It's good to know that you are willing to change views (and admit it) when faced with a strong argument from the other side. Not many people are like that. I'm glad that you learn out of our interactions :)
Posted by kohai 6 years ago
kohai
David, some interesting points. I think you may have changed some of my views...not saying that abortion is wrong, but I will admit that I have been wrong.
Posted by Davididit 6 years ago
Davididit
" The metaphysical principle of the substance view of personhood adequately provides a framework for the morality of killing human persons and granting rights to human beings including the fetus."

This was in the very last paragraph of round 3. I meant to say that the metaphysical principle of the substance view of personhood adequately provides a framework for morality and its implications towards the killing of human persons, and it provides a framework for granting rights to human beings including the fetus. Just wanted to clear up the ambiguity.
Posted by Davididit 6 years ago
Davididit
Sources for Round 3

[1] Beckwith, Francis. Defending life: a moral and legal case against abortion choice. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print. pg. 132
[2] ibid.
[3] Klusendorf, Scott. The case for life: equipping Christians to engage the culture. Leicester, England: Crossway Books, 2009. pg. 142
[4] ibid. 190
Posted by Davididit 6 years ago
Davididit
Well, the argument under #3 was a fail; It's invalid. Most of the arguments you've employed are in-themselves not very strong. I don't think you fully grasped the metaphysical point I was making, but we can argue that out. I'll be fleshing it out just a tad in my next round. That's just the way the cookie crumbles. It's not so much you. It's the arguments employed.
Posted by kohai 6 years ago
kohai
Please give me feedback on arguments as I want to improve my skills.
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 6 years ago
socialpinko
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession. I'm sad that he conceded as I was looking forward to an interesting debate/
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Reasons for voting decision: I'm voting Con because Pro conceded. But I don't know why he conceded. I'd like to take the pro position and do the debate again, when I have time in a couple of weeks.
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Reasons for voting decision: Refuting three of Pro's five points over why a fetus is not a person won Con this debate.
Vote Placed by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: All RFDs below.
Vote Placed by seraine 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by thett3 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Well then... UPDATE: LOL at Blackvoids RFD
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Kohai's masterful use of ctrl C and ctrl V were not enough this time.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: CC (Concession)