Thanks to the Prime Directive blog, I belatedly came across a long list of “Questions for Pro-Choice People” by Prof. Michael Pakaluk. I’ve already responded to most of them with the spectrum argument, but here are three extra questions taken from this list that explore new ground and are worth highlighting.
17. Imagine a woman seeing an ultrasound of her unborn baby. Sometimes the hands and feet are visible, and the baby is sometimes sucking its thumb. Why aren’t such images shown to women considering abortions as part of informed consent? Works for me. But let’s add conditions to make this practical.
- This should be an option rather than part of a mandatory gauntlet forced on women considering abortion.
- This should not be the first time the woman has seen this information. That is, education should teach about the stages of fetal development as part of comprehensive sex education that would minimize the chances of her having this unwanted pregnancy in the first place.
- The woman’s choices should be made available as soon as possible. Putting obstacles in her way—by closing down nearby clinics, encouraging pharmacists to refuse to offer morning-after pills, and so on—increases the age of the fetus she must consider aborting. If an abortion is to happen, let’s make it early so that the woman doesn’t see a fetus sucking its thumb.
18. “Does anyone wish that his mother had chosen abortion for him? And, if not, then how can he consistently wish that any mother choose abortion for anyone else?” This is a more eloquent version of my question 4, in an earlier post.
In the first place, if I’d been aborted, I wouldn’t be here to care. In the second, this thinking isn’t far removed from the Quiverfull movement (my thoughts on that here), which encourages no restraint on birth and childishly “lets God decide” how many children to have.
Where do you draw the line? If we are morally obliged to bring to term a 2-week-old fetus, are we also morally obliged to bring to term the thought, “Gee, I wonder if we should have another baby …”?
Seeing life as a spectrum is the only way to make sense of this. Yes, that leaves unanswered the question of where to draw the line for abortion, but let’s first agree that a spectrum exists.
19. Let’s suppose that we’re doubtful that the unborn child is a human being with human rights (there is no doubt, but let’s imagine there is). Given this uncertainty, shouldn’t we err on the side of the child? I agree that there’s no doubt, but I’m sure my confidence is the opposite of yours.
A fetus is not a person. Play games with the name all you want (“The fetus is a Homo sapiens, ‘human being’ is simply a synonym, and if a fetus is a human being, it must have human rights!”), but there’s no ambiguity here. Despite your word games, a newborn baby is still not the same thing as a single cell. There is a spectrum.
- Find the first post in this series about abortion here: A Defense of Abortion Rights: The Spectrum Argument.
- The text of the opinion in Roe v. Wade is available here. Though written in 1973, it gives a thorough analysis of both sides of the issue. Anyone who objects to this decision should probably know what this decision actually says.
- William Saletan, “The Pro-life Case for Planned Parenthood,” Slate, 12/11/08.