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

Abortion is Generally Immoral

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/20/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,217 times Debate No: 24797
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (31)
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I would like to debate the proposition that abortion is generally immoral.

To start with, I do believe that life-saving abortion are morally justified as long as the unborn child is not yet viable. This is because in rare cases (such as ectopic pregnancies), the child's and mother's life are both in danger. If you do nothing, both will die. It is better to lose one life than two.

I will be arguing that abortions in all other cases are immoral.

First round for acceptance/clarification.
Second round for opening arguments/rebuttals.
Third round for rebuttals.
Fourth round for rebuttals/closing statements.



Abortion: The intentional termination of any embryo or fetus at any point from conception (i.e. male zygote "pairing" with female zygote to form the single-celled embryo. With the one exception of life-saving (of the mother) abortions of non-viable fetuses.

Generally: All around, with the sole exception previously mentioned.

Immoral: Not adhering to "A code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons."

- The opposite of this (#2):

Rational: "Having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense."

I accept the challenge and conditions, and am looking forward to my opponent's initial arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


I will be defending the Substance View, as given by Francis Beckwith. [1]

1. The unborn entity, from fertilization [2], 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. [3]

Premise 1

Embryologists, who are the experts in the field, consistently agree that life begins at fertilization. For example, from the most-used textbook on embryology, the authors note: "Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a 'moment') is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte." [4]

Another embryologist has written the following: "Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." [5]

On top of that, the more sophisticated pro-choice philosophers, like Judith Jarvis Thompson (who came up with the famous analogy of the violinist), and Peter Singer, accept the full humanity of the preborn. Peter Singer has noted, “It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo Sapiens’. Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” [6]

Additionally, pro-choice philosopher David Boonin writes: "Perhaps the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus after all is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development." [7]

It's simply common sense. We know the preborn are alive because they grow. Non-living and dead things don't grow. They also exhibit the other signs of life, such as metabolism and cell division. The preborn have human DNA, and they are the product of human parents. Creatures reproduce after their own kind; dogs have dogs, cats have cats, and humans have humans. At no point in human development is a member of humanity a "non-human."

This is also different from saying that a hair follicle has human DNA, so it is wrong to pluck them out. Zygotes/embryos/fetuses are unique individual humans, developing from within, made up of all the individual parts. A hair follicle must stay plugged in to the parent organism to function. However, the parent organism can still function even if he/she loses parts of their body. The zygote/embryo/fetus is a full human organism made up of individual parts of which it develops from within, not constructed like a car.

The pro-life position is that life begins at fertilization, which is supported by science. The pro-choice position places "human life" at certain arbitrary points which change from human to human. The pro-life position is the only consistent one.

Premise 2

When I say the preborn are innocent human beings, I am not talking "spiritually" innocent, but physically innocent. They have committed no crime, and certainly not anything worthy of being killed for it. The only thing they have done is exist, and in the vast majority of cases it was through a consensual action of two people. If two people engage in a consensual act that results in the creation of a new, needy human life, they bear a responsibility to care for that life.

I say that it is prima facie morally wrong to kill an unborn member of humanity because not all killing is wrong. The Substance View entails that we are the same substance that was in our mother's womb. You didn't come from an embryo, you once were an embryo. As such, if you are the same substance outside the womb as you were inside the womb, then if a morally justifiable reason is needed to kill you now, a morally justifiable reason was needed to kill you inside the womb. There is simply no difference between a human in utero and a human post utero that would justify killing one for any reason but not the other.


Every abortion takes the life of a new, unique, living member of humanity, which has an intrinsic value just based on being human. Abortions take the life of an innocent, unique human being and is therefore immoral.

My contention is that because the preborn are biological members of humanity, and killing an innocent member of humanity is prima facie wrong, then killing them through the act of abortion is immoral. If Con is to win this debate, he must show why the preborn are not members of humanity. For if they are not human, then no justification for abortion is necessary. But if they are human, then no justification for abortion is sufficient.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to Con's response.

[1] Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, 2007), p. xii.
[2] Beckwith argues from the "moment of conception." I have changed this to fertilization. Conception is not actually a "moment," and the process of bringing a human into existence occurs sometime during the fertilization process, even though the exact point has not yet been agreed upon (Beckwith also mentions this later in his book). So I have substituted fertilization because I feel it's slightly more accurate.
[3] It should be noted that if the Substance View succeeds, then even unsuccessful abortions are immoral since it is wrong to even attempt to take someone's life, even if the actual outcome was less than was intended (or if no harm actually arose).
[4] Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.
[5] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. p. 16.
[6] Peter Singer,Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 85-86.
[7] David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003) 20.


Note: In my definiton of "abortion," the word "zygote" should be replaced with "gamete," as I rushed through and forgot the fact that the zygote is not formed until the fusion of male and female gametes (sperm and egg.) I should have known better.

Pro Case:

First, I will admit that the logic of my opponent's syllogism appears to be valid. With that being said, I shall examine and criticize, where it is neccessary, the truth value of specific premises within that syllogism.

Premise 1: "The unborn entity, from fertilization, is a full-fledged member of the human community."

In the first place, I will again point out that my opponent's biological evidence for this premise is valid. The embryologists and other experts he quotes are correct, I think, when they determine that biological life begins with conception. I also agree that, genetically, human means the same thing from conception to death.

That, however, is where I end my endorsement of the truth-value of my opponent's premise.

To begin with, asides from the fact that I don't personally subscribe to the notion of "common sense," the statement that "non-living" things don't grow is not necessarily true. Most current scientific evidence strongly suggests that the Universe itself has grown from nothing into something. It continues to expand to this day. [1]

I also disagree with the idea that the pro-life position is the only consistent one, simply because the pro-choice position makes distinctions about where "human life" actually begins. This, in the first place, is an argument from the beard (related to the Heap Paradox), which fallaciously claims that we can make no useful distinctions along a spectrum. I will demonstrate in my own case that in these situations, we can. This will center on what exactly constitutes a "full-fledged" member of humanity, which I have an alternate interpretation of.

Premise 2: "It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community."

It is, at first impression, morally wrong to kill any member of the human community, I agree. However, in my own case I will demonstrate that an unborn fetus (and particularly embryos and zygotes) does not yet qualify as a member of that community (mostly in my own first contention.)

Premise 3: "Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community."

Every successful abortion does biologically kill a genetic member of the species Homo Sapiens, but not necessarily a full-fledged member of the human community.

Premise 4: "Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong."

While I do think that most abortions can and should be avoided, and do think that they should be done as early as possible, I believe my own case will prove exceptions to my opponent's conclusion that every one is morally wrong, and thus will disprove it.

Con Case:

C1: Humanity is Defined by Consciousness.

Premise 1: Cogito ergo Sum. "I think, therefore I am."

All true members of the human community are not defined by their genetic blueprint, or even their biological capacity for growth, but by their neurological capacity for consciousness.

Premise 2: This capacity for consciousness is not developed until, at least, the 24-28th weeks of gestation. [2]

Premise 3: All legal abortions within the U.S. are performed before the 20th week of gestation. [3]

Conclusion: Therefore, legal abortions within the U.S. do not harm any pre-existing consciousness, and thus do not kill any full-fledged members of the human community.

C2: Neurological Consciousness takes Moral Precedent over Biological Life.

Since I define a true member of the human community as one that is functionally conscious, I take the position that such existing members take moral precedent over merely potentially conscious non-members. In other words, post-born, neurologically-conscious human beings take moral precedent over pre-born, biologically-living organisms whose neurological potential has not yet been realized.

To make this case, consider some of the statistics of those who do receive many, if not most, legal abortions. Consider these:

"Nearly half of pregnancies among American women—more than three million each year—are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion." [4]

-This demonstrates that roughly 20% of the pregnancies that would be realized by illegalizing abortion would result in births of children to mothers who not only never intended to have them, but could not care for them or did not want them.

"About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children." [4]

-This demonstrates that most women who elect to have an abortion are doing it to protect their already existing children from the economic and attentional disparities that would result in having another.

"Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children; $22,050 for a family of four). Twenty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100–199% of the federal poverty level." [4]

-This demonstrates than many, if not most, women who elect to have abortions do so because they do not have the necessary, not to say sufficient, means to care for the new child.

Taking these into consideration, we can conclude to prevent abortion on the basis of immorality would result in the birth of many (more) children to mothers who do not have the attitudinal, attentional, temporal, and economic resources to care for them. Therefore, we can see that, given these conditions, the rational solution is to allow abortions to persist as an option in order to protect the existing and potential consciousness of humans from a multitude of struggles and injuries in life. Therefore, abortion is, in at least some cases, moral.

C3: An Ideal Environment is More Important than Genetic Uniqueness.

My opponent also alludes to the uniqueness of the human individual. I contest that although it is true that each is genetically unique, this in itself doesn't carry much weight, ironically because it is true. Each potential human being is just as unique as any other, because uniqueness is an absolute condition. So any possible combination of say, a single female gamete with any single male gamete within the ejaculate that fertilizes it is no way more unique or valuable than any other (excluding the health of the chromosomes.) Thus the uniqeness of a potential child is not as important as the environment they are raised in, in terms of quality of life, and therefore abortion acts as a rational safe-guard against any equally-unique human children being raised in less than ideal environmental conditions. Therefore, abortions can again be considered moral in terms of existential conditions.



Debate Round No. 2


I thank Con for his argument and for his willingness to debate this topic with me.

I would argue that not only is the syllogism valid, but it is also sound. In fact, the Substance View of persons is the view on abortion with the greatest explanatory power.

Premise 1

My contention is that from fertilization, the unborn are full-fledged members of humanity, that is, Homo Sapiens. They are biologically human from fertilization.

It is true that the universe is expanding; however, there is a difference between growing and expanding. If I place a rubber band on a table and stretch it out, the rubber band itself is not growing. It is merely being stretched out, or expanding. However, living things grow. They start as a small entity and get bigger, remaining the same entity they were when they were smaller. In fact, when a human is first born their head is roughly half the size of their body. After a few years they will grow into their body so that the head is now proportionate to the size of the rest of the body.

I have not made a fallacy of the beard argument. Allow me to explain further on the pro-life position being consistent. The pro-life position is that human life begins at fertilization. This view is held by the vast majority of pro-life advocates, with very few dissenters (for example, Dr. Bernard Nathanson alleges taht human life begins at implantation, but his reasoning is seriously flawed).

By contrast, pro-choice advocates don't agree when human life begins (or at least when they should be attributed a right to life). Some say at birth, others say at viability, still others say not until the entity is conscious, and other say not until it first "appears" human). There is no general consensus, even among pro-choice philosophers, as to when basic human rights should be granted to the human. This is why the pro-life position is the only consistent one.

Premise 2

The reason we say "prima facie" is because no pro-life advocate believes it is always wrong to kill a human (such as in self-defense, just war, or capital punishment). As such, this premise is uncontroversial.

Premise 3

I will defend my third premise in my rebuttal to Con's argument.

Opponent's Case

C1 -- Consciousness

Con has committed the fallacy of begging the question. He merely asserts that consciousness is necessary for being considered a full-fledged member of the human community, but does not tell us why. Human embryos from fertilization have the inherent capacity to fulfill this function, which is why we (pro-life advocates) believe humans are specially valuable from fertilization. We believe the inherent capacity makes one valuable, not the immediately exercisable capacity to perform this function.

He does allude to the possibility that you do not harm someone without a pre-existing consciousness, but one can be harmed even if they are unaware of it. If you rob a child of his inheritance and never tell him about it, the child has been harmed even if he is ignorant of the fact he even had an inheritance in the first place.

Now, the problem with assigning human rights based on an acquired property that comes in degrees is that anyone with more of that property can take advantage of someone with less of that property, if they wish. If we can kill an embryo because they are not conscious, then we can also kill someone in a deep sleep, in a reversible coma, or someone who has gone under anesthesia before a major surgery. None of those people are conscious, so we would be morally justifiable in killing them for any reason whatsoever.

Also, as Francis Beckwith and Patrick Lee would note, if consciousness is required to bestow value on a human, then no humans are intrinsically valuable. Consciousness is intrinsically valuable. This would mean that the moral rule would be to maximize valuable states of functions. It would not be morally wrong to kill a child, no matter what age, if doing so enabled one to have two children in the future, and thus to bring it about that there were two vehicles of intrinsic value rather than one. [1]

As such, it is not the immediately exercisable capacity but the inherent capacity to fulfill this function that makes us valuable.

C2 -- Conscious Beings Take Precedence Over Potentially Conscious Beings

All of the examples here commit the fallacy of begging the question again -- they assume that the unborn are not human beings. Thsi is because none of the examples here would be sufficient grounds for killing a child who has already been born. And if the child has already been born, regardless of their level of development, we cannot take advantage of them just because an adult is more developed (e.g. more conscious) than a newborn or a toddler. Secondly, they all commit the fallacy of an appeal to pity. These are very hard situations, but hardship does not justify murder.

In Con's first example, he mentions that women often have abortions because they are protecting their children who are already born from economic and attentional disparities. But could a family of five decide to kill their youngest (two-year-old) chlid to give more attention to and better afford to feed their other children? If not, then how can this be used to justify killing an unborn human child for this same reason?

Next he mentions that a woman would not have the means to care for the child. But could a mother kill her two-year-old child because she loses a job and life gets hard? If not, then how can she justify killing an unborn human for the same reason?

I agree that these situatiosn are very hard, but killing someone is never morally justifiable to avoid hardship. At the very least, she should consider giving her child up for adoption. Adoptive parents even pay all of her medical bills (which si why it's so expensive to adopt a child).
Needless to say, these are not grounds on which to justify abortion.

C3 -- An Ideal Environment is More Important Than Genetic Uniqueness

I think this point just fails entirely. If a child is abused by her parents and grows up in a bad situation, do we kill her? No, we take her out of the home and place her in foster care or give her to a family willing to care for her. An ideal environment is just that -- ideal. But the possibility of not growing up in an ideal environment does not justify killing an unborn human (any more than it justifies killing a born human).

[1] Paraphrased from Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, (Cambridge Universtiy Press: Cambridge, New York, 2007), p. 50, and Patrick Lee, Abortion and Unborn Human Life, (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), p. 55.


I thank Pro for his rebuttal and the learning opportunity this debate has provided to me.

Pro Case:

Premise 1:

Pro wisely notes the distinction between growth and expansion, which I easily concede because it is true. With that being said, the fact that a zygote or embryo grows does little to support the notion that it is a full-fledged human (yet), or even alive yet in the sense that we say humans are alive. The universe was a bad analogy on my part, allow me to present a better one (or two.)

A tree can grow, for example, much larger and for much longer than a human. We know that it too is biologically alive, and it represents (usually) a larger physical, living entity than us. However, we do not say that the tree has much inherent value in it, other than to present us with paper, or firewood, or oxygen. And we most certainly do not consider the killing of a tree to be generally immoral.

As a second example, we generally consider animals more "alive" than a tree, although this is not true in any biological or genetic sense. We recognize that they possess some functional capacity for perception, cognition, and action. Anatomically and physiologically speaking, many mammals are remarkably similar to humans. However, we still judge them to have less capacity for these traits than us, and therefore most of us don't consider them as alive as us, and most of us don't consider killing (or eating) them to be an immoral action.

Why these biases? On what basis do we make these judgements? I will make an effort to offer an explanation in defense of my own case, but for now a hint may be found in the fact that the name of the species Homo Sapiens roughly means "Knowing Man," or somewhat more archaically, "Wise, Earthly Being."

Furthermore, perhaps my opponent has not made the fallacy of the beard argument, but it is entirely possible that the authorities he appeals to, when claiming the pro-life position is the most consistent one, have. At the very least, they are being logically inconsistent. This is because they claim to be pro-life, in that they believe that life should be protected from the moment of conception onward. However, they only make this case for human life. Again, on what basis could they make this value-distinction about different types of life on anything other than their own prejudice towards similar beings to themselves, or their own favoritism towards their own human abilities (i.e. higher consciousness?)

The authorities don't appear to have a consensus about what makes human life special, or even where it begins in general, my opponent is correct in saying, however my own position has and will consistently claim that consciousness is what makes human life special and that we have sufficient evidence to determine when it develops, and therefore the dissent within the authoritative pro-choice community is irrelevant to it (my own case.)

I shall deal with my opponent's 3rd premise and conclusion in defense of my own case.

Con Case:


Premise 1:

Perhaps I did beg the question at first. Allow me to answer for my assumption with an explanation. I have already alluded to it in asking on what basis do we determine human life to be more valuable than any other form of life. Trees and mammals are just as alive as us in both the genetic and biological senses. So why are we special? The only possible explanation is that we consider ourselves special for a mere two reasons. The first is we ourselves are human, so we are naturally prejudiced to favor ourselves. This is obvious, but it is far from a rational reason to accept ourselves as special.

The less obvious answer is that we consider ourselves superior to all other forms of life because of our abilities of so-called higher consciousness, especially our capacity for language and symbolic reasoning. Despite what many cultures throughout history believed, this capacity is entirely seated in the neurological structures of the human brain. We have the disproportionately largest cerebral cortex, especially the prefrontal lobes and visual cortex. This accounts for our higher capacity for planning, reasoning, and imagination. The most counterintuitive aspect of the brain is that it is also the seat of human emotions, not the heart. These traits are where we derive our own value from. [1]

We could not possibly account for own preferential treatment of ourselves and other human beings at the expense of other life in any other way than these two, without sinking to the level of appeals to faith, religious dogma, or abstract normative reasoning.

One can be deprived without knowing it, this is true. However, this could not possibly harm you until you knew it. The child in Pro's example, for instance, would not be any worse off after this hypothetical event than he was before it. The same goes for an unborn zygote/embryo. If you were never born, you would never know that you were to have been born. You would have never known of the inheritance you had missed out on, and therefore you would not experience any negative effects whatsoever, or any effects at all for that matter.

As for the idea that this standard would allow us to kill people simply because they are unconscious, that is not true. Our own consciousness is derived from experience. We accumulate memories and this constitutes our identity. So it is again like the child inheriting money. The memories are the currency of consciousness. Killing a human that has already been born and long since developed a conscious awareness would be like robbing this child's bank account directly, it would be like stealing money he already had. Most abortions, on the other hand, happen before any experience is accumulated. This is more like closing a bank account that is still empty because you can not afford to fill it.

As from the Beckwith/Lee hypothesis, it is again inconsistent. If they had been pro-choice, they easily could have made the same argument against pro-life in saying that the pro-life position would necessarily lead to being able to justify the killing of one child in order to have two on the basis of creating more life later. It simply doesn't work.

The claim that the inherent capacity for consciousness makes human life valuable is inconsistent with the original claim that mere life makes humans valuable.


I have defended my claim that consciousness defines human life in this round. I would like to point out that in the U.S., legally, abortions have been excluded from the definition of "murder" (which is a legal term) since the Roe v. Wade decision. As such, terming them murder in this debate is merely a use of an argument by emotive language (loaded language.)

The appeal to pity argument is weak because any argument in a moral context boils down to emotion and empathy (including Pro's whole position.) Furthermore, it was meant to suggest that in most of these cases, it would be the mark of an unsound judgement (i.e. immoral) to allow the mother to attempt to care for these children, for the sake of the mother, her existing children, and the potential child. Lastly, as Pro mentions, adoption is expensive and therefore most babies given up for adoption do not immediately get adopted, and many suffer through foster care and orphanages for quite some time first, if they are to be adopted at all. A rational, moral person would not allow them to suffer through such an existence unnecessarily. [2][3][4]

C3: I maintain my position that an unconscious, biological entity is not a child yet. As such, it would be more reasonable, and thus moral, to wait for a decent condition to raise a child in than to submit it to pain and suffering (such as they would be in C2 conditions.)

Debate Round No. 3


I would like to once again thank Con for his time in this debate.

Once again, this is the argument I have defended:

1. The unborn entity, from fertilization, 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.

I believe I have successfully upheld this argument as valid and sound. I will respond to Con's final points here.

Premise 1

The fact that human embryos grow are not evidence of their humanity, just that they are alive. One way scientists can tell if something is alive is if they are growing. The evidence for their humanity that I gave in round two are that they are the product of human parents, and they have human DNA (which we can differentiate from the DNA of other creatures). As I have indicated, we should not confuse parts with wholes. A human cell has human DNA that it shares with the parent organism, but this does not grant a human cell a right to life. Being human is a sufficient condition, but not a necessary one for a right to life. From fertilization, we are whole, distinct, living human organisms. Each part of the organism works for the good of the whole, which is not true of each individual part. So it is not the same to say my arm has human DNA, therefore it has a right to life. The whole organism has a right to life based on fulfilling the sufficient condition of being human. So killing a human organism is wrong, but cutting your hair or otherwise removing an individual cell is not.

Con is correct in that trees and other animal organism are alive. This is not disputed, as one way we can tell something is alive is if it grows. The reason we do not consider trees inherently valuable like humans further goes to support my case. The reason humans are valuable is because of our inherent capacity as rational, moral agents. Being rational, moral agents is an essential property of humans for without it, we would cease to be human at all.

The human is both a rational and a moral being. Without a moral nature there would be no true humanity, so those who would abolish the moral law would abolish humanity in the bargain. [1] As C.S. Lewis writes, "Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasure masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own 'natural' impulses. Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery." [2]

It's the inherent capacity to fulfill these functions that make us valuable, not the presently exercisable ability to fulfill them, that makes us valuable, otherwise it would not be humans that are valuable but the function itself. That would mean it would be morally justifiable to kill a human to bring about two humans who can fulfill those functions. Plus, whenever we lose the ability to perform that function (such as when we fall asleep or enter a reversible coma) it would be morally justifiable to kill that person for any reason.

Thus, human embryos and fetuses are inherently valuable, as we are, because of their inherent capacity to fulfill these functions. In fact, Con believes it is consciousness that makes humans valuable, which means that he still has biases against creatures that can't be conscious in the same way we are (such as insects). So pro-life advocates are not being inconsistent. It is not inconsistent to hold all humans valuable because they all have the same inherent capacities, but not to hold other creatures as valuable that don't have the same inherent capacities. They are being perfectly consistent.

Con's Case


The pro-life case is not that we are valuable because we are humans. After all, religious pro-lifers would also hold that God and angels are inherently valuable. Additionally, extraterrestrials (such as Klingons and Vulcans) would also be inherently valuable, as we are, because they share a similar nature (the inherent capacity as rational, moral agents). As I said, being human is a sufficient, not a necessary, condition for a right to life.

I have already explained why it can't possibly be the immediately exercisable capacity for fulfilling a function (such as consciousness) that makes us valuable (it would be morally justifiable to kill someone every time they lost consciousness, and it would be consciousness itself, not the human, that is valuable). However, you can harm someone without them being aware of it. The philosophical definition of harm is "to leave someone worse off." So if you cut someone's leg off, you are harming them. But if a doctor amputates someone's leg to prevent gangrene from setting in, the person has not been harmed. The doctor would have harmed the person by not amputating the leg.

There was a drug in the 50's and 60's called thalidomide that eased morning sickness in pregnant women, but it was later discovered that it causes children to be born without arms and legs. If Con is correct, that one cannot be harmed if they are not aware of it, then he would have to admit that a fetus is not harmed in the womb, but the child is only harmed when they first become aware of what arms and legs are and that they should have been born with them. But this is counterintuitive. If you kill someone in their sleep, they are still harmed despite not knowing that you are killing them. And a child who is never told about their inheritance is still harmed even if they never know that they had one, because you are still leaving them worse off without the inheritance.
Con also mentions experience. Frank Beckwith uses an example of Uncle Jed. Say your Uncle Jed is in a terrible accident and suffers severe brain damage. All of his past experiences and memories are gone so that he will have to re-learn everything. He touches a hot stove and learns it will burn him all over again, and he will be in a coma for nine months. He is essentially like a fetus. Under Con's definition, it would be morally justifiable to kill him because not only is he unconscious, all of his experiences and memories are gone. [3]

Also, the pro-life position is not inconsistent. The very case made is that you need a morally justifiable reason to kill someone. "To produce more life later" is not a morally justifiable reason to kill someone.


First, Con is absolutely correct. I did not mean murder, but homicide (of which abortion counts). A hard situation does not justify homicide, so my objection that his arguments are an appeal to pity stand. They are definitely hard situation and we should help these women and families out of these situations, but homicide is not an appropriate solution (as I have shown last round).


To kill someone rather than allow them to live is the very definition of "harm." If someone is in a hard situation, the solution is not to kill them but to improve their situation. We do not kill a two-year-old child with abusive parents, we take her out of the home and try to find a better home for her. As such, abortion is not justified to prevent a child from growing up in a possibly bad situation.

I have supported my case with science and philosophy, and the objections here raised simply do not justify abortion. Once again, I thank Con for taking the time to debate this with me.

[1] Lewis, C.S., The Abolition of Man, p. 77.
[2] ibid., pp. 84-85
[3] Beckwith, Francis J., Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, p. 137.



Unfortunately, I no longer have the will or desire to defend my own case in this position. I have learned a lot, but I realize that this is an issue that won't be resolved by rational discourse anytime soon, as it appears to me now that both sides eventually, and necessarily, devolve their arguments into the self-sealing, tautological kind. For instance, humanity can be valued in terms of their rationality and morality, which is derived from their higher-consciousness. Conversely, higher-consciousness is valued generally because it is associated with rationality and morality, which are derived from humanity.

Even Pro's last example demonstrates the futility of the subject, to me, when he says that people would say that God, angels, Vulcans, and Romulans would have inherent value. The problem there is that those are all humanoid constructs of the human imagination. So their value is defined by our own perceived self-value, and can't be used to define our value. All that aside, I simply don't wish to defend either position anymore, I'm sorry that I couldn't be competetive enough to close out this debate strongly, but I consider myself an intellectual first, debater second, and as such can't bring myself to defend a position I don't honestly, rationally believe in anymore.

So I would like to thank my opponent for the opportunity, and tell you all to vote for Pro!
Debate Round No. 4
31 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
lol Well, thanks for the debate, Mark. At least I've helped you to think about the issue, which is all I ask.
Posted by mark.marrocco 6 years ago
Well, I think you've moved me from pro-choice to "I have no idea." Congrats, and thank you. lol
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
Well, yes and no. Your argument kind of runs the gamut of possible pro-choice arguments. lol

Your C2 is kind of common, where people will argue from a bad situation to show that abortion is needed.

Your C1 is kind of higher-end, where the common pro-choicer won't think of it but a lot of pro-choice philosophers argue that consciousness is what instills value in a human.

And then your C3 is one I haven't really encountered before, arguing that the uniqueness of each individual actually argues *against* the pro-life case.

Should be interesting to write-up a response. :)
Posted by mark.marrocco 6 years ago
Anytime is fine, thank you. So is this a *new* new perspective or what? lol
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
I haven't had a chance to read your other debate yet, but I will get to it ASAP.
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
Sure, I can do that.
Posted by mark.marrocco 6 years ago
O.K. I'm done with this: So, now I can focus better. I've just noticed how brief he made the voting period, care to take a look at it while you're waiting for me?
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
Well, it could be described as a *new* new perspective. lol
Posted by mark.marrocco 6 years ago
Me neither apparently... "new new perspective." lol
Posted by KeytarHero 6 years ago
Thanks! Yes, spelling and grammar are very important to me (although I'm not perfect -- sometimes I'll let a spelling error go because I'm usually pretty bad about not proofreading). I'm looking forward to your response.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con conceded.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Concession