The Instigator
kvaughan
Pro (for)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
Fenrir
Con (against)
Winning
27 Points

The "pro-life" position must necessarily reject sexual reproduction

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/11/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,529 times Debate No: 253
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (12)

 

kvaughan

Pro

I take the "pro-life" position in the debate over abortion to be endorsing the idea that "life begins at conception" and thus, they reject abortion because once sperm and egg fuse, we have a morally significant entity. I am arguing that this position is absurd because it necessarily leads to the conclusion that sexual reproduction is bad. Here is why:

I remembered hearing in a class I took a while back that a large percentage of fertilized eggs (conceptions) do not make it to full-term birth. To back this fact up, I did a quick search on the internet and found a New England Journal of Medicine article which confirms this fact, by claiming that "Only 50 to 60 percent of all conceptions advance beyond 20 weeks of gestation. Of the pregnancies that are lost, 75 percent represent a failure of implantation and are therefore not clinically recognized as pregnancies." (if you have access the citation is Norwitz, E.R. . "Implantation and the survival of early pregnancy." The New England Journal of Medicine vol. 34508 Nov. 2001 1400-1408.)

This fact means that when you try to get pregnant through usual sexual reproduction, 50-60 percent of the eggs that are fertilized DIE. If you are a pro-lifer, this should be extremely troubling because that means that when you have sex and fertilization occurs you are placing a being with full moral status at a 50-60% chance of death.

If you take the view that conception is the moment of moral significance, then you should not be willing to engage in normal sexual reproduction, because the risk of some horrible happening is so high.

To argue against this position, you must take it as a premise that life begins at coneption and that normal (not scientifically aided) reproduction is OK.
Fenrir

Con

If I may make a quick reference to the first time you argued this point, you said there that this was a reductio ad absurdum argument. For ease, then, I will break down the argument as such:

P1-Assume Pro-life does not reject sexual reproduction
P2-Pro-life is against actions that damage or risk damaging a fetus
C1-Sexual reproduction does not present significant risk to a fetus
P3-Sexual reproduction -does- present significant risk to a fetus
C2-Pro-life does reject sexual reproduction

Obviously, the key point in the argument is that there is the risk presented to the fetus, which should be morally reprehensible. However, there is significant difference in the nature of terminating a fetus and putting the fetus in danger.

First, the idea of killing not a fetus, but a potential human, an argument often taken. If the fetus does not survive, on its own, this is the effect of nature. There is thus in essence no potential baby being killed, because the fetus simple did not have potential to become a baby. Conversely, while there is in fact the possibility of a terminated fetus that would not have survived anyway, this is something that could not be forseen, and you could just as easily be killing a fetus that in fact would live on. Therefore, as long as the fetus is alive on its own, it can be said to have potential--and when the fetus dies on its own, it is then, and only then, proven that it would not have become an actual person, and thus relinquishes moral responsibility.

Second, the difference between and active and passive role in the death of the fetus. Imagine a situation with three men. Man 1 stabs Man 2, leaving him with a wound which will surely kill him unless treated. Man 3 can treat Man 2 and save his life, but decides not to. Now, who would you say has the most moral responsibility for Man 2 dying? Almost all would say that because Man 1 took an active role in killing Man 2, he has more moral responsibility than Man 3, who simply did nothing. Thus, there is an obvious difference in the moral sense of putting a fetus in the inevitable situation to risk its life, or to actively go and kill it.

Or, we can look at the situation in a different light. You argue that if killing the fetus is wrong, then conceiving one and putting its life in danger should also be wrong. But let's consider it like this: if you decide not to try to sexually reproduce because it risks killing a fetus, you are in a way "killing" the children that will never conceived--killing in the sense that you deny them a chance at existance, in the same way abortion would. Thus, conceiving a child is not something that risks its life so much as it is the only way it can have a chance at one. Of course, one might then argue that a woman should be constantly pregnant, or else she is killing every child she has physical potential to have. The morally reprehensible action, then, must be specified to wanting to have children, but refusing to do so because of fear of the fetus' deaths. In this instance, we would say that the -desire- to have a child is what gives it it's initial potential, so as to absolve those who can but do not have children from any moral responsibility.
Debate Round No. 1
kvaughan

Pro

Fenrir: this response seems to be the dominant one in the comments section of this page and elsewhere so I am excited by the chance to discuss it!

Your first argument is a bit confusing to me, but as I understand it, if the fetus dies "on its own" it's OK because there is "in essence no potential baby being killed" and because the death was "the effect of nature". Your defense of this point seems to be that the "fetus simple did not have potential to become a baby".

Let's take this response and apply it to a child because, as I argue, the pro-life movement equates a fertilized egg with a fully-significant life. If I have a kid and then leave him alone without any parental supervision and the child dies, an appropriate response is not to say that in essence no potential adult was being killed, because the child simply did not have potential to become an adult. Allowing a child to die is awful and the child's lack of survival ability is just not a relevant defense.

What I think you're doing with this argument is conflating inevitable deaths with natural deaths. If a death is inevitable, then there is nothing we can do about it and we are wiped clean of moral responsibility. However, just because a death is natural does not mean that it is inevitable and it does not mean that we should, as morally decent people, allow it to occur. Imagine, for example, that you are a doctor and you happen upon a child who has a disease that is easily treatable, but if untreated the child will die. You simply do not say "oh well, the disease is natural, so I don't have to do anything". Instead you friggin save the kid. A death through natural causes it still a death and is still horrible.

Your second point is to draw a passive-active distinction for morality. I'm not sure how much I agree that such a distinction is useful from a moral standpoint, but I'll go along with it. In the example you raise, I would respond that man 3 is, of course, not responsible for man 2's death, but that he should still treat man 2 as a morally decent person. In the same way, even if it's true that those who conceive the fetus are not the moral cause of its death, they should still try and prevent the death of the fetus, just as I might stop someone else from killing a small child even though the death would not be my fault.

Additionally, let's remember that sex is an ACTIVE process and without sex there can be no conception. So, you are actively putting the fetus in a situation with an absurdly high chance of death.

Finally, you argue that a consequence of my argument is that females will have to remain in a state of perpetual pregnancy to prevent the killing of future children. I'm not entirely sure that you can reductio a reducto because I am not advocating the consequences of my position, instead, I am advocating that the consequences are so absurd that you should reject the pro-life position.

But, assuming that this flies, my response is simple: you cannot harm a non-existent entity. The potential child does not exist yet, so the mother cannot have any obligation to it. You also cannot kill someone that doesn't exist.

But, from this argument, we do get an interesting claim: "thus, conceiving a child is not something that risks its life so much as it is the only way it can have a chance at one". My response here is this: you are given two choices you can (a) conceive normally and place a child at a 50% risk of death or (b) save up money and purchase technology to help reduce the chance of a child dieing in the mother's womb (test tube babies for example). Why on Earth would anyone not take option B?

If you think that a fertilized egg is important in any sense then its destruction should be extremely troublesome to you and you must then be against its death in any form for any preventable reason since death via normal reproduction is preventable you must be against it. It's as simple as that
Fenrir

Con

I hate to say it, but I did make a pretty big mistake and forgot to consider artificial insemination in my first argument. However, artifical insemination does not necessarily guarantee a successful pregnancy. Statiscally, even fewer artificial pregnancies survive than those naturally conceived. While there is no set rate of success for an artificial pregnancy, as there are many contributing factors that affect the success, the mean is only around 25%, while no clinic has been able to boast more than around 60%, which is the same of the rate of natural conceptions. Thus artificial insemination does not serve as a definitely safer alternative.

Also, therefore, because the risk is inevitably present, whether artifically or naturally conceived, I believe my first argument is still valid. With regards to your rebuttal, it would not be analagous to the situation of pregnancy unless the doctor treating the child did not create any definite change in his chance of survival, in which case his actions really had no significance. The difference in natural and artifical and natural conception success rates is typically only present when a couple is having significant problems with natural conception, in which case they typically and rightly do turn to artifical means. Of course, some do contest that even artifical insemination is wrong, but I think that would be a separate argument.

Now, with regards to the idea of a woman constantly being pregnant. Really, I just addressed this in order to prevent that argument being raised to my own point that deciding not to have a child would be "killing" it more than putting it in risk--I probably put it better in the original argument...see the last paragraph of my first response. In other words, I do not hold it to be valid it any way; I just brought it up to preempt the possibility of that argument being raised against me.

My appologies for the lack of clarification in my previous argument, and any potential ones in this. Things tend to always sound better in my head, and I sometimes have a somewhat difficult time deliniating my ideas so that others understand them as well.
Debate Round No. 2
kvaughan

Pro

Hey, don't worry about it Fernir, I think everyone has the experience of having an argument seems better in their head than it does spoken or typed!

It seems to me that in your last post you're now going exclusively for the argument that, because there is no option for reproduction without allowing for some miscarriages we simply have to accept this fate.

One of my rebuttals to this argument was that other means of reproduction that are safer for the fetus could be explored and you respond by mentioning that artificial insemination does not actually protect the fetus any more than sexual reproduction does.

As I see it, this rebuttal of yours has three conclusions:
1. We should make it illegal for women with poor uterine walls to conceive because they are creating an unnecessary risk to fetuses. In fact, we should probably make fertility tests mandatory for women who are attempting to conceive and make conceptions without these tests a crime.
2. If it is theoretically possible for a more efficient means of impregnating women to exist, we should simply wait for that technology and ban sexual reproduction for the time being. Now, I'm not up on the latest in reproductive science, but given the pace of technology, it seems likely that this will occur.
3. You, and all other pro-lifers, should be against the use of the birth control pill because while this pill often prevents ovulation, it also thins the lining of the uterine wall, increasing the chance of miscarriage.

Since I doubt you're willing to accept these conclusions, I think my argument is in tact.

Finally, I'm not really sure that I agree with the ethical premise of the argument. You seem to think that the death of some is justifiable for the life of many. This is utilitarianism 101, a consequence that many people have a problem with. In fact, your argument is analogous to a classic anti-utilitarian argument. Imagine that you are a doctor in a hospital and an otherwise healthy man wanders into your clinic for an appendectomy. After testing the patient, it turns out that his organs match the type needed for four other patients who are awaiting organ transplant and will die without one. Should you kill the man to save the others? Most people say no, but utilitarianism is probably forced to say yes. But, your argument is actually worse than this scenario because you are saying we should allow the death of fetuses for the life of potential people. If you endorse utilitarianism, then your argument might fly. If not, I cannot accept that it is justifiable to kill innocent people so that others can live.

Thanks for the debate, it was interesting to finally get some feedback on my argument.
Fenrir

Con

I'll first address the utilitarianism argument. I, for one, do, to a significant degree, advocate utilitarianism. With the regards to the scenario you brought up, however, I do not believe that a utilitarianist must say that the doctor is morally obligated to kill one man to save four others. More than anything, this is not the doctor's choice to make, but rather the man whose death is in question. And yes, I might say that the "right" thing to do would be for him to give his life that four others may live, but there are really too many circumstantial details to be able to form a clear image of what right and wrong are.

With regards to how this relates to my argument, I do not believe my position is worse. We are not "allowing" the death of a fetus by conceiving it. It is a mother's responsibility to do all she can to ensure the survival of her child, and if in doing so the pregnancy still fails, it could not be said that it was allowed to happen. Only if the mother was actively putting the child's life in risk after its conception could you lay moral responsibility, such as if she were to smoke or drink.

To address the birth control pill: I do not personally know a good deal about birth control pills or other forms of pregnancy protection, as this is something I have not had to deal with yet (as I abstain for moral reasons). However, if it is indeed the case that using birth control pills means there will later on be a higher chance of fetus mortality, then I definitely would be against it. You make it seem as if this position is absurd, yet I see no reason for it to be so.

For waiting until science progresses to the point that it can significantly increase the chance of fetus survival, I believe this is simply illogical and impractical. While me may assume that science will be available in the near future, we cannot know for certain. To hold off an conceiving a child on the basis that, at some unkown time in the future, there might be a higher chance of survival is absurd. While once this technology is readily available I would certainly advocate its use, as I see nothing wrong in believing that one should in fact do all they can to protect a child, unborn or not, I see no sense in simply waiting around for it to occur.

Now, for the idea of making it illegal for women with a higher chance of birth failure to naturally conceive. I will concede that, at least to a degree, you are right. I consider it prudent and wise to make sure that there are no significant risks before going about trying to conceive a child. However, legislature requiring one to do such would only be valid to any degree if there was also similar legislature against abortion. And while I do take the position of being against abortion in this argument, never have I said that there should be legislation against it--finding abortion morally reprehensible is not synonymous with necessitating its illegality. Thus, your claim to legal action against higher risk for a fetus has no basis as I have not argued it should exist for abortions.

Finally, I will make one more argument against your claim as a whole. To be blunt, you have drawn out the idea of pro-life to an illogical absurdity. One could equally argue that if you are pro-choice you are necessarily in favor of infanticide. For, if you can advocate the killing of a fetus because it is not a fully sentient and conscious being, why not kill a newborn for the same reasons? However, to make such a claim is unfair, as it draws an idea to such an extreme that it naturally does become illogical.

As a last word, I address the voters: DO NOT VOTE FOR THE SIDE YOU AGREE WITH. Just because you are against abortion does not mean you should not vote for my opponent: this is not a contest of who is right, who is wrong, but of who can present the -better argument-. I swear, if anybody votes for one of us simply because they agree with our stance on a moral level, I will find out where you live, hunt you down, and shake my fist at you angrily. -Very- angrily. And for kvaughan, thanks for the debate. I had a lot of fun, and you are definitely a (at least) worthy opponent.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Masterworks 9 years ago
Masterworks
Wrong.
This should end the argument, plain and simple:
Regardless of religion (or a lack thereof), it is wrong to kill a person. Seeing as it is a generally accepted fact that life begins at conception, an abortion is nearly exactly the same as a murder, and I'm sure our cute little drunk teen girls wouldn't harm a fly. But they're willing to kill a baby? They might as well take arms and blow that mass between your ears right out of your head. Comforting, isn't it? Abortion is sick and morally wrong. Good day to you, sirs.
Posted by SnoopyDaniels 9 years ago
SnoopyDaniels
Saying that getting pregnant is putting the fetus at risk is foolish. Your argument is:

1. It is immoral to put someone's life at risk. (which is a HUGE assumption.
2. Cenception puts at risk the life of the fetus.
3. Therefore, conception is immoral.

Using this same logic, we can come to an obviously absurd conclusion.

1. Putting someone's life at risk is immoral.
2. Everyone who is born has a 100% chance of dying.
3. Therefore, it is immoral to have children.

Clearly there's something wrong with your reasoning.
Posted by Darth_Grievous_42 9 years ago
Darth_Grievous_42
We very well should, but I'm taking a debate break after the Detereminism one I am in. I have not been doing so well. After a R&R period I would like to go head to head on this, as there are many subjects I feel I could point out just from the comment box alone.

To answer your hypothetical question: Assuming the fertillized eggs are somehow able to survive the exposure outside of the womb, and can still be used inside a womb, though the outcome is still 50/50, yes, I would choose the children. My reason being that I know for certain the children have a future, and the mothers who produced the eggs could easily make new ones. DOes this mean I personally hold the lives of the fetus's in lesser regard? No, it does not, I would love for them to live. This is a situation much like one from a Nazi concentration camp involving a mother and her to children, I love them both, an hold niether in lesser regard, but it is either one or the other.
Posted by kvaughan 9 years ago
kvaughan
Darth Grievous: I feel like we should actually debate abortion since we've been going back in forth enough in comments to constitute one!

I'm going to simply mention, as I have time and time again, that while some natural miscarriages may be inevitable, we should still stop every, single one that we can just as we stop every single murder we can stop. Until pro-lifers have done this, they are doing something immoral. My argument is that these people are just not consistent with their own position. Also, it's not the case that it's sex or no new children will be born. One could use medical technology to decrease the number of fetal deaths, yet so few are willing to do this.

At a minimum, we should restrict the pregnancy rights of the lowest fertility women. For example, women who have unusually thin uterine walls have an even larger chance to kill the fetus. We should stop these women from procreating because this is a case where we can prevent these "horrible" deaths. Can you at least agree to this consequence?

Also, if you're pro-life I want to ask you this hypothetical: say a gunman is holding 4 freshly fertilized eggs and four children hostage you you con only save either the children or the eggs. Which do you choose and why? I assume you choose the children, but this implies that perhaps the eggs do not have the moral status they are thought to have by pro-lifers.
Posted by Darth_Grievous_42 9 years ago
Darth_Grievous_42
The pro life stance is against abortion. Pro life has no choice over natural miscarriages. Trying to say that stopping natural miscarriages is within out power is like saying its possible to stop hurricanes from striking. This is simply not the case. Yes, we are always finding better ways to protect ourselves from both miscarriages and hurricanes, but until there is a treatment of some kind that can prevent natural miscarriages, short of forceful death (abortion) and chastity, I do not believe this argument can be made within reason. Simply ignoring the problem is not the same as solving it. In order for there to even be a pro-abortion, there has to be an infant/fetus to abort, so in a sense, stopping pregnancies would stop all positions, making this entire debate null.
Posted by crusader34 9 years ago
crusader34
The determining factor here is intent: aborting a child is willfully killing it. The act of conception does not will for a child to die, but is the act that brings it into existence.

One does not will for a baby to die by engaging in the sexual act. One most certainly does when performing an abortion. End of story.
Posted by kvaughan 9 years ago
kvaughan
If it's OK to abort, then there is no reason for a woman to carry a pregnancy 9 months and then deal with severing the extreme emotional bonds formed by extreme oxytocin release during childbirth (oxytocin causes feelings of attachment in female mammals). Adoption is a fine option if you think abortion is wrong, but if you don't, why should you deal with the difficulty and danger of childbirth?
Posted by jordan.leckband 9 years ago
jordan.leckband
I still do not get why the third option is not being looked at: Adoption. Girls screw up (pardon the play on words) and have to deal with the consequences of pregnancy, but why not give up the baby for adoption? Or use viable embryos in stem-cell research? Thousands of couples are looking to adopt, and thousands more are in need of cures and treatments for seemingly incurable diseases. We need to stop bickering about pro-life and pro-choice, because we aren't getting anywhere with this childish bullshit.
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