Abortion is a topic that has engaged a fair bit of my time. Despite this, I have trouble putting my thoughts down regard it. One problem is that my stance on abortion is quite straightforward. I see nothing immoral inherit in it. Not really a fascinating read that, though a rather controversial one. The other problem is that so many others have written or talked about abortion much more skillfully than I can hope to. The best I suspect I can do for now would be to explain why have the view I do when so many do not.
I arrived at my current view only after a lot of exposure to the debate around the topic. The first stance I ever had on abortion was to be against it without exception. I had that stance because that’s the one I was told to have. I don’t mean someone explicitly told me to be against it, but I heard enough people say it is wrong without any counter-point to believe it. Conveniently I didn’t have to think about it. Eventually I did though. I encountered some counter-point, found out that some people didn’t think it was a horrible sin only committed by evil harlots. I won’t give a step by step account of my evolution. I’m sure I wouldn’t remember ever step. The most important contributions I think would be my departure from religion and my education, mainly in biology but not exclusively.
Without religion telling me what was right and wrong I had two choices. Either hang onto the morality I had and rationalize it, or re-examine and redefine my morality. I did the latter. Eventually. It took a while because it was a while before anything challenged the anti-choice view I had. However, when it did, the rationalization I had didn’t match with what I had come learn. Anyone familiar with the debate about abortion would recognize the rationals. Abortion is wrong because it’s killing a living human. Wrong to kill a living human?
I’m not a pacifist. I can understand that viewpoint to an extent. It has a certain consistency and coherence, even the absolute pacifism that holds it is wrong to harm another being even if it is in defense. That’s not a common position taken by those who argue against abortion though. So what is actually meant? Most of the explanations I’ve seen amount to a type of special pleading with either a dash of religion and/or biological ignorance. ie. humans are special because they are ensouled/unique/smart and a fetus has arbitrary and possibly non-existent trait an adult has, so it is the same as an adult. I’m sure many who are anti-choice would object to that characterization, in which case I’d welcome a novel justification.
But that’s only half the problem. Perhaps there is a coherent and honest argument out there for why it would be wrong to kill a fetus. But to say it means abortion is wrong, it has to reach an even higher bar. It would have to mean the killing of that fetus is more wrong than a human person having that fetus in and feeding off of ir body against ir will. Again I’m not an absolute pacifist, self-defense is fine with me. And even then we aren’t quite done with the raised bars. Wrong and “should be illegal” do not overlap completely. So the anti-choice must also show that abortion is a wrong that the government should have an interest in preventing. (That’s to convince me. I’m afraid the government has rather different criteria on being convinced regarding legal matters.)
Right now I’ll give things a .1 out of 2.5. That’s because I do think some reasonable arguments could be made that causing the death of a fetus late in its development is wrong. That doesn’t carry much weight however, since abortions only happen at such late times when something has gone horribly wrong and even if that were not the case they still wouldn’t be more wrong than using another’s body against ir will.