The Instigator
kvaughan
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
C4747500
Con (against)
Winning
30 Points

abortion can be ethically justified

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/22/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,132 times Debate No: 2086
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (12)

 

kvaughan

Pro

We can approach the ethics of abortion from three different perspectives. First, we must decide what exactly a fetus is and if it is morally significant. Second, we must determine if a woman is obligated to carry the fetus to term if we grant it full moral significance. Third, we must look at the consequences of the pro-life position.

1. I submit that it is a prima facie logical fallacy to treat an entity like what it will becomes instead of like what it is presently. We do not treat peach seeds like peach trees and accordingly we should not treat a fetus like a fully-gown human being.

In usual moral deliberations, we tend to reason that if an entity cannot feel pain, it has no moral significance. This is why we do not have moral obligations to rocks. Since, according to the best medial science, the fetus cannot experience pain until 20 weeks, it must be justifiable to abort before that period. After that period, it seems to me that as the fetus gains fully human facilities, it should gain increasing moral significance. Of course, I do not offer a clear bright line here, but it justifies some abortions.

2. Let us suppose that I grant that a fetus has the same moral status as a fully-gown person. Philosopher Judith Thomson offers this scenario as an argument for abortion even under these circumstances:

"You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you – we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug him would be to kill him. But, never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you." It is morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation?"

She thinks that answer is clearly ‘no', and since the scenario is analogous to abortion, you are likewise not morally required to allow the fetus to use your kidneys and other vital organs and are morally allowed to remove the entity.

3. I have argued elsewhere that if ‘life begins at conception', it follows that all fertilized eggs are morally important. Here's the problem, when one attempt to have children through normal sexual reproduction it is estimated 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." (Norwitz, E.R. . "Implantation and the survival of early pregnancy." The New England Journal of Medicine vol. 34508 Nov. 2001 1400-1408)

This indicates that the decision to attempt to have children leads to the death of many fertilized eggs, which, according to the pro-life position, are fully significant individuals. The death of these eggs is not justifiable especially when the only motivation is to have children.

That should be enough to get us started
C4747500

Con

Just to put this at the top: This debate is about whether or not abortion is ethically justifiable, not whether abortion should or should not be allowed. This is an important distinction that I will extrapolate on later.

1. I submit that it is a prima facie logical fallacy to treat an entity like what it will becomes instead of like what it is presently. We do not treat peach seeds like peach trees and accordingly we should not treat a fetus like a fully-gown human being.

I would tend to agree with this statement, but I would argue that it doesn't take into account everything which should be taken into account.

I think the concept of potential is important when considering this argument. You say that it is fallacy to treat an entity like what it will become, but I would contend that potential forces us to do this.

For example, a peach seed. We do not treat a seed like a peach (i.e. we do not try to eat it) but we certainly engage in certain actions based upon the potential of the peach seed. We try not to damage it, and when the time is right, we plant it, knowing that it will yield fruit if we do so.

In the same manner, we don't necessarily treat a fetus like a fully-grown human being, but we treat it in a certain manner because we have knowledge of what it has potential to be. While a fetus may not be a human being, it has the potential to become a human being, and our actions should be based upon this. To say that we should not consider the future when engaging with an object/being would be folly, allowing us to reach all sorts of absurd logical conclusions.

For example, one sees the frame of a house standing on a hillside. It is not a house yet, and following the logic presented here, we treat it as a bunch of 2x4's nailed together and standing upright. We then proceed to chop it down for firewood because after all, it is naught but wood.

Therefore, we must consider the future potential of any object/being which we encounter.

"In usual moral deliberations, we tend to reason that if an entity cannot feel pain, it has no moral significance. This is why we do not have moral obligations to rocks. Since, according to the best medial science, the fetus cannot experience pain until 20 weeks, it must be justifiable to abort before that period. After that period, it seems to me that as the fetus gains fully human facilities, it should gain increasing moral significance. Of course, I do not offer a clear bright line here, but it justifies some abortions."

There are a few major flaws with this. If moral significance is only gained through pain, then anyone who cannot feel pain is not morally significant.

So if I drug someone to not feel pain and then kill them, is my action not morally wrong?

Remember now, the question at hand is whether or not abortion is ethically justified, not whether abortion should be allowed. A fetus not feeling pain is a reason why abortion could be allowed, but it is not a reason why it is justified.

I think here it is important to stop and define exactly what it means to be ethically justified.

An ethically justifiable action is one with the property such that by taking the basic set of principles that define basic human ethics, such as murder is wrong, theft is wrong, etc., can be derived directly from these principles.

While it may be that abortions should be allowed, it is not such that abortions are ethically justified.

We see actions like this all the time. Wars are fought for the greater good, one man is murdered to save 20 others, a man steals from the rich to give to the poor. None of this actions in and of themselves are ethically justified, it is wrong to kill, and it is wrong to steal, but in light of the reason why they were stealing or why they were killing we accept it as a necessary evil.

I would classify abortion in the same manner for these reasons.

A. The fetus has the potential to develop into a human being. A human being is something of great moral significance, and therefore we should give the fetus importance for its ability to develop.

B. The act of abortion is a necessary evil-the act of having a child is something which might negative to the mother, but that does not mean she is ethically justified in aborting the child. It still an act which is wrong, but an act which the mother might feel she has to do.

I respect the mother's right to choose an abortion, but I cannot condone it as being ethically justified. These are two different things, and should be recognized as such.

C. Abortion allows for death. Whether or not one calls it the death of a human, I will choose to call it the death of potential. It ends a human line and does not allow for the potential development of a human being, therefore effectively killing potential. We can (hopefully) agree that killing is wrong, so therefore abortion is not ethically justified.

To respond to your last point:

"She thinks that answer is clearly ‘no', and since the scenario is analogous to abortion, you are likewise not morally required to allow the fetus to use your kidneys and other vital organs and are morally allowed to remove the entity."

This is clearly an awful analogy. You don't go to sleep with the prior knowledge that you may potentially wake up attached to a violinist in dire need of your kidneys. When you have sex, you have the prior knowledge that you may become pregnant.

If someone told you "When you go to sleep tonight, your body will be taken and attached to a violinist for 9 months, so you can save his life" you would have some culpability if you did choose to go to sleep, and you woke up attached to the violinist. You had the ability to make the conscious choice to not go to sleep for one night, just as we have the ability to choose to not engage in sex without protection or birth control.

As I said earlier, this doesn't mean that an abortion shouldn't be allowed. Accidents happen, and I can't willingly infringe on a woman's (or the couple's) right to choose. However, I will go as far to say as an abortion is not ethically justified if you have the foreknowledge that having sex with someone could lead to a child.

If you have prior knowledge that something bad is going to happen on a certain date, and you ignore it, do you not have some responsibility when the bad thing comes to pass? At the LEAST its not possible to say you're ethically justified in ignoring the negative thing which occurred, just as you cannot say that a woman is ethically justified in having sex and then aborting the child because she has no moral obligation to keep it.

Summary:

There is a difference between not having a moral obligation and being ethically justified. To be ethically justified, an action must be drawn from the principles of basic human ethics, i.e. it is wrong to kill, etc.

You cannot simply say "We are not morally obligated to do X, therefore we are ethically justified in not doing X." This is all that Kvaughan does, and it is wrong.

Also, remember that the argument here is not about whether or not abortion should be allowed. It is about whether or not abortion is ethically justified. I think I have clearly established a framework to view this debate, clearly defined what it means to be ethically justified, and shown that abortion cannot be ethically justified.

If I failed to be clear in anything, please say so and I shall do my best to rectify this. Thank you for starting the debate :)
Debate Round No. 1
kvaughan

Pro

kvaughan forfeited this round.
C4747500

Con

:( Slightly disappointing. I guess I'll wait since theres not much more I can really say now. Hopefully you'll be back in the next round.
Debate Round No. 2
kvaughan

Pro

I'd like to apologize for not responding last round. I was actually working on a paper for school on this very topic and just failed to find the time to respond. If you'd like to start the debate over or something, we can probably do that. Sorry once again.
C4747500

Con

sure, feel free to start it again. just send me a challenge with the same topic, presuming you want to stay on the same side?
Debate Round No. 3
kvaughan

Pro

kvaughan forfeited this round.
C4747500

Con

C4747500 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
kvaughan

Pro

kvaughan forfeited this round.
C4747500

Con

:( do you want to start this over? send me a challenge if you do, i'm up for it.

need twenty more characters. :)
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by sadolite 8 years ago
sadolite
If you plant a peach tree seed, which is the same thing as fertilizing an egg in a female, you would treat the seed like a peach tree wouldn't you.
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