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These Abortion Funds & Orgs Are Helping People Access Safe Healthcare
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned Roe v. Wade . The Supreme Court’s reversal had been anticipated for weeks after Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson made headlines. At the time of the leak, you may have donated to abortion funds and found ways to support those who’d be impacted most. Now, it’s time to lend support again.
The Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade
Since 1973, the decision made in Roe v. Wade provided federal, constitutional protection for a person’s right to have an abortion. SCOTUS, however, undid decades of legal precedent. For many reasons, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing in September 2020 signaled a shift in the court; the former president, Donald Trump, appointed his third Supreme Court Justice, for instance.
Given the Supreme Court’s unequivocally conservative majority, many Americans voiced concern about the future of federally protected abortion access. While on the campaign trail, now-President Joe Biden even promised to codify the Roe v. Wade decision into law. Now, with the Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision coming to pass, Americans are facing a new reality.
But the discussion around abortion access hasn’t just been happening at a federal level. To be clear, overturning Roe means abortion access is no longer legally protected on the federal level. While this SCOTUS reversal doesn’t ban safe and legal abortion access on the federal level, it has certainly opened the doors for such bans in many, many states across the country.
According to the Guttmacher Institute , 22 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place — some are pre- Roe laws and others are newly passed — that ban abortion without Roe in place. Four others — Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska — are likely to ban abortions now that there aren’t federal protections in place. Even before Roe was overturned, some states have found ways to complicate and restrict abortion access. For example, Texas, in passing its six-week abortion ban, has created a model for other states, like Alabama and Mississippi, to follow.
Robin Marty, the operations director for the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, says that overturning Roe means the end of legal abortion , because people “will still seek ways to end pregnancies.” For folks living in rural areas, or in states bordered by others with restricted access, traveling to seek healthcare services could become even more challenging . Not to mention, some states are pushing to make providing an abortion a felony offense, and considering banning medications that induce abortions.
All of this to say, people who are pregnant, or who could become pregnant, are facing real obstacles when it comes to accessing necessary healthcare services. For some, the difficulty is looming, while, for others, it’s already a reality that may worsen.
How to Lend Support to Those Who Need It Most
When life-altering events happen, many of us feel the urge to do something . Maybe you recently supported Ukrainian refugees , or aided trans youth and their families . There are many meaningful ways to lend support: protesting in person, contacting lawmakers, spreading information and resources online, for example. Sometimes, though, one of the best ways to lend a hand is by supporting organizations and individuals doing on-the-ground, grassroots work.
We’ve already mentioned how “ 75% of people who have abortions are classified as either poor or low-income, according to data from 2014.” We’ve also written about how people of color are disproportionately affected , and have a much higher share of abortions than of rest of the population at large. And, for trans and nonbinary folks, just being part of the conversation — let alone having access to (inclusive) abortion services — is rare.
Even if you’re thousands of miles away, you can help others who are living through the consequences of these history-making decisions. Maybe you’re a so-called “ rage donor ” — someone who has the reactionary urge to donate, to take action. If so, it’s important to really consider where , and to whom , you’re lending support.
Mutual Aid, Abortion Funds & Reproductive Justice Organizations That Need Your Support the Most
While supporting your local Planned Parenthood center or American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter is crucial, those big-name organizations are often the ones who see a large influx of “rage donors”.
Instead, consider supporting organizations and abortion funds that center Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, trans and nonbinary people, low-income people, people living in rural areas, undocumented people and survivors of sexual assault. After all, abortion services are healthcare — and there are many other healthcare inequities that impact folks’ healthcare access in the U.S.
- National Abortion Access Fund for Survivors, GoFundMe : Supports survivors of gender-based violence by covering the costs associated with accessing safe abortion services.
- Yellowhammer Fund : A reproductive justice organization and abortion fund that serves people living in Alabama and the Deep South, including Mississippi and Florida.
- Indigenous Women Rising : Supports Indigenous and Native Peoples’ access to equitable and culturally safe healthcare by providing education and resources as well as promoting advocacy.
- The SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective (or SisterSong) : In addition to aiding with abortion access, this collective aims to “strengthen and amplify the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.”
- Access Reproductive Care (ARC) — Southeast : Whether someone needs funding or logistical support when it comes to having an abortion, ARC supports Southerners in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
- National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) : In addition to aiding with abortion access, NAPAWF “works to build a movement for social, political and structural change for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls.”
- Magic City Acceptance Center : This Alabama-based organization helps trans and nonbinary people access safe abortion services.
- Mariposa Fund : Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mariposa Fund aims to help undocumented people who are trying to obtain reproductive healthcare. Undocumented people often face additional obstacles, ranging from a lack of insurance to linguistic barriers and a fear of criminalization.
- New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF) : If you live in New York, or travel to the state, NYAAF provides financial assistance and other resources to folks who can’t cover the costs of an abortion.
- West Fund : A Texas-based organization that not only helps cover abortion costs, but fights for reproductive justice in all forms by engaging in community issues ranging from gentrification to sex education and immigration. Other Texas-based funds include: Fund Texas Choice , Texas Equal Access Fund and Support Your Sistah .
- Abortion Fund of Arizona : This organization aims to help people who face the greatest barriers receive access to safe and legal abortions.
- Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project : A Virginia-based and volunteer-run grassroots abortion fund.
- Cobalt Abortion Fund : This Colorado-based fund helps all people access abortions by helping to defray any associated costs.
- The Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF): This fund, which “boldly affirms a person’s right to bodily autonomy,” provides not just financial assistance but logistical and emotional support to people seeking abortion care in Chicago, the state of Illinois and the greater Midwest.
Having trouble locating grassroots efforts in a state you’re concerned about? Consider using these resources and aiding their efforts:
- National Network of Abortion Funds: By donating here, you’ll split your gift between more than 80 abortion funds, ensuring people can afford safe abortions.
- National Abortion Federation Hotline Fund: NAF operates the largest national, toll-free, multilingual hotline for abortion referrals and financial assistance in the U.S. and Canada.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of funds and organizations. In addition to using the resources provided by the National Network of Abortion Funds , find other means of aiding your community — or other, specific communities that could really benefit from your support . And don’t forget to maximize your efforts. For example, if you work for a company that matches donations, check to see if they’ll match your donation to one of these specific organizations or funds.
And, yes: even though the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the ACLU are generally well-funded — and the first places “rage donors” think of — they’re also, in some cases, the only groups some people know about, so supporting them remains vitally important.
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Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion: an argument for abortion rights featuring the rev. carlton veazey.
Since the Supreme Court’s historic 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade , the issue of a woman’s right to an abortion has fostered one of the most contentious moral and political debates in America. Opponents of abortion rights argue that life begins at conception – making abortion tantamount to homicide. Abortion rights advocates, in contrast, maintain that women have a right to decide what happens to their bodies – sometimes without any restrictions.
To explore the case for abortion rights, the Pew Forum turns to the Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, who for more than a decade has been president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Based in Washington, D.C., the coalition advocates for reproductive choice and religious freedom on behalf of about 40 religious groups and organizations. Prior to joining the coalition, Veazey spent 33 years as a pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
A counterargument explaining the case against abortion rights is made by the Rev. J. Daniel Mindling, professor of moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary.
Featuring: The Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, President, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Interviewer: David Masci, Senior Research Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Question & Answer
Can you explain how your Christian faith informs your views in support of abortion rights?
I grew up in a Christian home. My father was a Baptist minister for many years in Memphis, Tenn. One of the things that he instilled in me – I used to hear it so much – was free will, free will, free will. It was ingrained in me that you have the ability to make choices. You have the ability to decide what you want to do. You are responsible for your decisions, but God has given you that responsibility, that option to make decisions.
I had firsthand experience of seeing black women and poor women being disproportionately impacted by the fact that they had no choices about an unintended pregnancy, even if it would damage their health or cause great hardship in their family. And I remember some of them being maimed in back-alley abortions; some of them died. There was no legal choice before Roe v. Wade .
But in this day and time, we have a clearer understanding that men and women are moral agents and equipped to make decisions about even the most difficult and complex matters. We must ensure a woman can determine when and whether to have children according to her own conscience and religious beliefs and without governmental interference or coercion. We must also ensure that women have the resources to have a healthy, safe pregnancy, if that is their decision, and that women and families have the resources to raise a child with security.
The right to choose has changed and expanded over the years since Roe v. Wade . We now speak of reproductive justice – and that includes comprehensive sex education, family planning and contraception, adequate medical care, a safe environment, the ability to continue a pregnancy and the resources that make that choice possible. That is my moral framework.
You talk about free will, and as a Christian you believe in free will. But you also said that God gave us free will and gave us the opportunity to make right and wrong choices. Why do you believe that abortion can, at least in some instances, be the right choice?
Dan Maguire, a former Jesuit priest and professor of moral theology and ethics at Marquette University, says that to have a child can be a sacred choice, but to not have a child can also be a sacred choice.
And these choices revolve around circumstances and issues – like whether a person is old enough to care for a child or whether a woman already has more children than she can care for. Also, remember that medical circumstances are the reason many women have an abortion – for example, if they are having chemotherapy for cancer or have a life-threatening chronic illness – and most later-term abortions occur because of fetal abnormalities that will result in stillbirth or the death of the child. These are difficult decisions; they’re moral decisions, sometimes requiring a woman to decide if she will risk her life for a pregnancy.
Abortion is a very serious decision and each decision depends on circumstances. That’s why I tell people: I am not pro-abortion, I am pro-choice. And that’s an important distinction.
You’ve talked about the right of a woman to make a choice. Does the fetus have any rights?
First, let me say that the religious, pro-choice position is based on respect for human life, including potential life and existing life.
But I do not believe that life as we know it starts at conception. I am troubled by the implications of a fetus having legal rights because that could pit the fetus against the woman carrying the fetus; for example, if the woman needed a medical procedure, the law could require the fetus to be considered separately and equally.
From a religious perspective, it’s more important to consider the moral issues involved in making a decision about abortion. Also, it’s important to remember that religious traditions have very different ideas about the status of the fetus. Roman Catholic doctrine regards a fertilized egg as a human being. Judaism holds that life begins with the first breath.
What about at the very end of a woman’s pregnancy? Does a fetus acquire rights after the point of viability, when it can survive outside the womb? Or let me ask it another way: Assuming a woman is healthy and her fetus is healthy, should the woman be able to terminate her pregnancy until the end of her pregnancy?
There’s an assumption that a woman would end a viable pregnancy carelessly or without a reason. The facts don’t bear this out. Most abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Late abortions are virtually always performed for the most serious medical and health reasons, including saving the woman’s life.
But what if such a case came before you? If you were that woman’s pastor, what would you say?
I would talk to her in a helpful, positive, respectful way and help her discuss what was troubling her. I would suggest alternatives such as adoption.
Let me shift gears a little bit. Many Americans have said they favor a compromise, or reaching a middle-ground policy, on abortion. Do you sympathize with this desire and do you think that both sides should compromise to end this rancorous debate?
I have been to more middle-ground and common-ground meetings than I can remember and I’ve never been to one where we walked out with any decision.
That being said, I think that we all should agree that abortion should be rare. How do we do that? We do that by providing comprehensive sex education in schools and in religious congregations and by ensuring that there is accurate information about contraception and that contraception is available. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress has not been willing to pass a bill to fund comprehensive sex education, but they are willing to put a lot of money into failed and harmful abstinence-only programs that often rely on scare tactics and inaccurate information.
Former Surgeon General David Satcher has shown that abstinence-only programs do not work and that we should provide young people with the information to protect themselves. Education that stresses abstinence and provides accurate information about contraception will reduce the abortion rate. That is the ground that I stand on. I would say that here is a way we can work together to reduce the need for abortions.
Abortion has become central to what many people call the “culture wars.” Some consider it to be the most contentious moral issue in America today. Why do many Catholics, evangelical Christians and other people of faith disagree with you?
I was raised to respect differing views so the rigid views against abortion are hard for me to understand. I will often tell someone on the other side, “I respect you. I may disagree with your theological perspective, but I respect your views. But I think it’s totally arrogant for you to tell me that I need to believe what you believe.” It’s not that I think we should not try to win each other over. But we have to respect people’s different religious beliefs.
But what about people who believe that life begins at conception and that terminating a pregnancy is murder? For them, it may not just be about respecting or tolerating each other’s viewpoints; they believe this is an issue of life or death. What do you say to people who make that kind of argument?
I would say that they have a right to their beliefs, as do I. I would try to explain that my views are grounded in my religion, as are theirs. I believe that we must ensure that women are treated with dignity and respect and that women are able to follow the dictates of their conscience – and that includes their reproductive decisions. Ultimately, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that women have the ability to make decisions of conscience and have access to reproductive health services.
Some in the anti-abortion camp contend that the existence of legalized abortion is a sign of the self-centeredness and selfishness of our age. Is there any validity to this view?
Although abortion is a very difficult decision, it can be the most responsible decision a person can make when faced with an unintended pregnancy or a pregnancy that will have serious health consequences.
Depending on the circumstances, it might be selfish to bring a child into the world. You know, a lot of people say, “You must bring this child into the world.” They are 100 percent supportive while the child is in the womb. As soon as the child is born, they abort the child in other ways. They abort a child through lack of health care, lack of education, lack of housing, and through poverty, which can drive a child into drugs or the criminal justice system.
So is it selfish to bring children into the world and not care for them? I think the other side can be very selfish by neglecting the children we have already. For all practical purposes, children whom we are neglecting are being aborted.
This transcript has been edited for clarity, spelling and grammar.
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Table of Contents
Key facts about the abortion debate in america, public opinion on abortion, three-in-ten or more democrats and republicans don’t agree with their party on abortion, partisanship a bigger factor than geography in views of abortion access locally, do state laws on abortion reflect public opinion, most popular.
About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .
An Argument That Abortion Is Wrong by DON MARQUIS
Don Marquis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas. He defends the view that, except in unusual circumstances, abortion is seriously wrong.
The purpose of this essay is to set out an argument the claim that abortion, except perhaps in instances, is seriously wrong. One reason for these exceptions is to eliminate from consideration cases whose ethical analysis should be controversial detailed for clear-headed opponents of abortion. Such cases include abortion after rape and abortion during the first fourteen days after conception when there is an argument that the fetus is not definitely an individual. Another reason for making these exceptions allow for those cases in which the permissibility of abortion is compatible with the argument of this essay. Such cases include abortion when continuation of a pregnancy endangers a woman's life and when the fetus is anencephalic. When I wrongness of abortion in this essay, a reader she presume the above qualifications. I mean by an abort ion an action intended to bring about the death of a fetus for the sake of the woman who carries it. (Thus, as is standard on the literature on this subject, I eliminanate spontaneous abortions from consideration.) I mean by a fetus a developing human being from
time of conception to the time of birth. (Thus, as is standard, I call embryos and zygotes, fetuses.)
The argument of this essay will establish that abortion is wrong for the same reason as killing a reader of this essay is wrong. I shall just assume, rather than establish, that killing you is seriously wrong. I shall make no attempt to offer a complete ethics of killing. Finally, I shall make no attempt to resolve some very fundamental and difficult general philosophical issues into which this analysis of the ethics of abortion might lead.
WHY THE DEBATE OVER ABORTION SEEMS INTRACTABLE
Symmetries that emerge from the analysis of the major arguments on either side of the abortion debate may explain why the abortion debate seems intractable. Consider the following standard anti-abortion argument: Fetuses are both human and alive. Humans have the right to life. Therefore, fetuses have the right to life. Of course, women have the right to control their own bodies, but the right to life overrides the right of a woman to control her own body. Therefore, abortion is wrong.
Judith Thomson (1971) has argued that even if one grants (for the sake of argument only) that fetuses have the right to life, this argument fails. Thomson invites you to imagine that you have been connected while sleeping, bloodstream to bloodstream, to a famous violinist. The violinist, who suffers from a rare blood disease, will die if disconnected. Thomson argues that you surely have the right to disconnect yourself. She appeals to our intuition that having to lie in bed with a violinist for an indefinite period is too much for morality to demand. She supports this claim by noting that the body being used is your body, not the violinist's body. She distinguishes the right to life, which the violinist clearly has, from the right to use someone else's body when necessary to preserve one's life, which it is not at all obvious the violinist has. Because the case of pregnancy is like the case of the violinist, one is no more morally obligated to remain attached to a fetus than to remain attached to the violinist.
It is widely conceded that one can generate from Thomson's vivid case the conclusion that abortion is morally permissible when a pregnancy is due to rape (Warren, 1973, p. 49; and Steinbock, 1992, p. 79). But this is hardly a general right to abortion. Do Thomson's more general theses generate a more general right to an abortion? Thomson draws our attention to the fact that in a pregnancy, although a fetus uses a woman's body as a life-support system, a pregnant woman does not use a fetus's body as a life-support system. However, an opponent of abortion might draw our attention to the fact that in an abortion the life that is lost is the fetus's, not the woman's. This symmetry seems to leave us with a stand-off.
Thomson points out that a fetus's right to life does not entail its right to use someone else's body to preserve its life. However, an opponent of abortion might point out that a woman's right to use her own body does not entail her right to end someone else's life in order to do what she wants with her body. In reply, one might argue that a pregnant woman's right to control her own body doesn't come to much if it is wrong for her to take any action that ends the life of the fetus within her. However, an opponent of abortion can argue that the fetus's right to life doesn't come to much if a pregnant woman can end it when she chooses. The consequence of all of these symmetries seems to be a stand-off. But if we have the stand-off, then one might argue that we are left with a conflict of rights: a fetal right to life versus the right of a woman to control her own body. One might then argue that the right to life seems to be a stronger right than the right to control one's own body in the case of abortion because the loss of one's life is a greater loss than the loss of the right to control one's own body in one respect for nine months. Therefore, the right to life overrides the right to control one's own body and abortion is wrong. Considerations like these have suggested to both opponents of abortion and supporters of choice that a Thomsonian strategy for de-
fending a general right to abortion will not succeed (Tooley, 1972; Warren, 1973; and Steinbock, 1992). In fairness, one must note that Thomson did not intend her strategy to generate a general moral permissibility of abortion.
Do Fetuses Have the Right to Life?
The above considerations suggest that whether abortion is morally permissible boils down to the question of whether fetuses have the right to life. An argument that fetuses either have or lack the right to life must be based upon some general criterion for having or lacking the right to life. Opponents of abortion, on the one hand, look around for the broadest possible plausible criterion, so that fetuses will fall under it. This explains why classic arguments against abortion appeal to the criterion of being human (Noonan, 1970; Beckwith, 1993). This criterion appears plausible: The claim that all humans, whatever their race, gender, religion or age, have the right to life seems evident enough. In addition, because the fetuses we are concerned with do not, after all, belong to another species, they are clearly human. Thus, the syllogism that generates the conclusion that fetuses have the right to life is apparently sound.
On the other hand, those who believe abortion is morally permissible wish to find a narrow, but plausible, criterion for possession of the right to life so that fetuses will fall outside of it. This explains, in part, why the standard pro-choice arguments in the philosophical literature appeal to the criterion of being a person (Feinberg, 1986; Tooley, 1972; Warren, 1973; Benn, 1973; Engelhardt, 1986). This criterion appears plausible: The claim that only persons have the right to life seems evident enough. Furthermore, because fetuses neither are rational nor possess the capacity to communicate in complex ways nor,possess a concept of self that continues through time, no fetus is a person. Thus, the syllogism needed to generate the conclusion that no fetus possesses the right to life is apparently sound. Given that no fetus possesses the right to life, a woman's right to control her own body easily generates the general right to abortion. The existence of two apparently defensible syllogisms which support contrary conclusions helps to explain why partisans on both sides of the abortion dispute often regard their opponents as either morally depraved or mentally deficient.
Which syllogism should we reject? The anti-abortion syllogism is usually attacked by attacking its major premise: the claim that whatever is biologically human has the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of the biologically human includes too much: human cancer-cell cultures are biologically human, but they do not have the right to life. Moreover, this premise also is subject to moral-relevance problems: the connection between the biological and the moral is merely assumed. It is hard to think of a good argument for such a connection. If one wishes to consider the category of "human" a moral category, as some people find it plausible to do in other contexts, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is fully human without begging the question. Thus, the classic anti-abortion argument appears subject to fatal difficulties.
These difficulties with the classic anti-abortion argument are well known and thought by many to be conclusive. The symmetrical difficulties with the classic pro-choice syllogism are not as well recognized. The pro-choice syllogism can be attacked by attacking its major premise: Only persons have the right to life. This premise is subject to scope problems because the class of persons includes too little: infants, the severely retarded, and some of the mentally ill seem to fall outside the class of persons as the supporter of choice understands the concept. The premise is also subject to moral-relevance problems:
Being a person is understood by the pro-choicer as having certain psychological attributes. If the prochoicer questions the connection between the biological and the moral, the opponent of abortion can question the connection between the psychological and the moral. If one wishes to consider "person" a moral category, as is often done, then one is left with no way of showing that the fetus is not a person without begging the question.
Pro-choicers appear to have resources for dealing with their difficulties that opponents of abortion lack. Consider their moral-relevance problem. A pro-
choicer might argue that morality rests on contractual foundations and that only those who have the psychological attributes of persons are capable of entering into the moral contract and, as a consequence, being a member of the moral community. (This is essentially Engelhardt's  view.) The great advantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it seems far more plausible than any approach the anti-abortionist can provide. The great disadvantage of this contractarian approach to morality is that it adds to our earlier scope problems by leaving it unclear how we can have the duty not to inflict pain and suffering on animals.
Contractarians have tried to deal with their scope problems by arguing that duties to some individuals who are not persons can be justified even though those individuals are not contracting members of the moral community. For example, Kant argued that, although we do not have direct duties to animals, we "must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men" (Kant, 1963, p. 240). Feinberg argues that infanticide is wrong, not because infants have the right to life, but because our society's protection of infants has social utility. If we do not treat infants with tenderness and consideration, then when they are persons they will be worse off and we will be worse off also (Feinberg, 1986, p. 271).
These moves only stave off the difficulties with the pro-choice view; they do not resolve them. Consider Kant's account of our obligations to animals. Kantians certainly know the difference between persons and animals. Therefore, no true Kantian would treat persons as she would treat animals. Thus, Kant's defense of our duties to animals fails to show that Kantians have a duty not to be cruel to animals. Consider Feinberg's attempt to show that infanticide is wrong even though no infant is a person. All Feinerg really shows is that it is a good idea to treat with care and consideration the infants we intend to keep. That is quite compatible with killing the infants we intend to discard. This point can be supported by an analogy with which any pro-choicer will agree. There are plainly good reasons to treat with care and consideration the fetuses we intend to keep. This is quite compatible with aborting those fetuses we intend to discard. Thus, Feinberg's account of the wrongness of infanticide is inadequate.
Accordingly, we can see that a contractarian defense of the pro-choice personhood syllogism fails. The problem arises because the contractarian cannot account for our duties to individuals who are not persons, whether these individuals are animals or infants. Because the pro-choicer wishes to adopt a narrow criterion for the right to life so that fetuses will not be included, the scope of her major premise is too narrow. Her problem is the opposite of the problem the classic opponent of abortion faces.
The argument of this section has attempted to establish, albeit briefly, that the classic anti-abortion argument and the pro-choice argument favored by most philosophers both face problems that are mirror images of one another. A stand-off results. The abortion debate requires a different strategy.
THE "FUTURE LIKE OURS" ACCOUNT OF THE WRONGNESS OF KILLING
Why do the standard arguments in the abortion debate fail to resolve the issue? The general principles to which partisans in the debate appeal are either truisms most persons would affirm in the absence of much reflection, or very general moral theories. All are subject to major problems. A different approach is needed.
Opponents of abortion claim that abortion is wrong because abortion involves killing someone like us, a human being who just happens to be very young. Supporters of choice claim that ending the life of a fetus is not in the same moral category as ending the life of an adult human being. Surely this controversy cannot be resolved in the absence of an account of what it is about killing us that makes killing us wrong. On the one hand, if we know what property we possess that makes killing us wrong, then we can ask whether fetuses have the same property. On the other hand, suppose that we do not know what it is about us that makes killing us wrong. If this
is so, we do not understand even easy cases in which killing is wrong. Surely, we will not understand the ethics of killing fetuses, for if we do not understand easy cases, then we will not understand hard cases. Both pro-choicer and anti-abortionist agree that it is obvious that it is wrong to kill us. Thus, a discussion of what it is about us that makes killing us not only wrong, but seriously wrong, seems to be the right place to begin a discussion of the abortion issue.
Who is primarily wronged by a killing? The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the loss to the family and friends of the victim. Perhaps the victim is a hermit. Perhaps one's friends find it easy to make new friends. The wrong of killing is not primarily explained in terms of the brutalization of the killer. The great wrong to the victim explains the brutalization, not the other way around. The wrongness of killing us is understood in terms of what killing does to us. Killing us imposes on us the misfortune of premature death. That misfortune underlies the wrongness.
Premature death is a misfortune because when one is dead, one has been deprived of life. This misfortune can be more precisely specified. Premature death cannot deprive me of my past life. That part of my life is already gone. If I die tomorrow or if I live thirty more years my past life will be no different. It has occurred on either alternative. Rather than my past, my death deprives me of my future, of the life that I would have lived if I had lived out my natural life span.
The loss of a future biological life does not explain the misfortune of death. Compare two scenarios: In the former I now fall into a coma from which I do not recover until my death in thirty years. In the latter I die now. The latter scenario does not seem to describe a greater misfortune than the former.
The loss of our future conscious life is what underlies the misfortune of premature death. Not any future conscious life qualifies, however. Suppose that I am terminally ill with cancer. Suppose also that pain and suffering would dominate my future conscious life. If so, then death would not be a misortune for me.
Thus, the misfortune of premature death consists of the loss to us of the future goods of consciousness.
What are these goods? Much can be said about this issue, but a simple answer will do for the purposes of this essay. The goods of life are whatever we get out of life. The goods of life are those items toward which we take a "pro" attitude. They are completed projects of which we are proud, the pursuit of our goals, aesthetic enjoyments, friendships, intellectual pursuits, and physical pleasures of various sorts. The goods of life are what makes life worth living. In general, what makes life worth living for one person will not be the same as what makes life worth living for another. Nevertheless, the list of goods in each of our lives will overlap. The lists are usually different in different stages of our lives.
What makes the goods of my future good for me? One possible, but wrong, answer is my desire for those goods now. This answer does not account for those aspects of my future life that I now believe I will later value, but about which I am wrong. Neither does it account for those aspects of my future that I will come to value, but which I don't value now. What is valuable to the young may not be valuable to the middle-aged. What is valuable to the middle-aged may not be valuable to the old. Some of life's values for the elderly are best appreciated by the elderly. Thus it is wrong to say that the value of my future to me is just what I value now. What makes my future valuable to me are those aspects of my future that I will (or would) value when I will (or would) experience them, whether I value them now or not.
It follows that a person can believe that she will have a valuable future and be wrong. Furthermore, a person can believe that he will not have a valuable future and also be wrong. This is confirmed by our attitude toward many of the suicidal. We attempt to save the lives of the suicidal and to convince them that they have made an error in judgment. This does not mean that the future of an individual obtains value from the value that others confer on it. It means that, in some cases, others can make a clearer judgment of the value of a person's future to that person than the person herself. This often happens when one's judgment concerning the value of one's own future is clouded by personal tragedy. (Compare the views of McInerney, 1990, and Shirley, 1995.)
Thus, what is sufficient to make killing us wrong,
in general, is that it causes premature death. Premature death is a misfortune. Premature death is a misfortune, in general, because it deprives an individual of a future of value. An individual's future will be valuable to that individual if that individual will come, or would come, to value it. We know that killing us is wrong. What makes killing us wrong, in general, is that it deprives us of a future of value. Thus, killing someone is wrong, in general, when it deprives her of a future like ours. I shall call this "an FLO."
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF THE FLO THEORY
At least four arguments support this FLO account of the wrongness of killing.
The Considered Judgment Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it fits with our considered judgment concerning the nature of the misfortune of death. The analysis of the previous section is an exposition of the nature of this considered judgment. This judgment can be confirmed. If one were to ask individuals with AIDS or with incurable cancer about the nature of their misfortune, I believe that they would say or imply that their impending loss of an FLO makes their premature death a misfortune. If they would not, then the FLO account would plainly be wrong.
The Worst of Crimes Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it explains why we believe that killing is one of the worst of crimes. My being killed deprives me of more than does my being robbed or beaten or harmed in some other way because my being killed deprives me of all of the value of my future, not merely part of it. This explains why we make the penalty for murder greater than the penalty for other crimes.
As a corollary the FLO account of the wrongness of killing also explains why killing an adult human being is justified only in the most extreme circumstances, only in circumstances in which the loss of life to an individual is outweighed by a worse outcome if that life is not taken. Thus, we are willing to justify killing in self-defense, killing in order to save one's own life, because one's loss if one does not kill in that situation is so very great. We justify killing in a just war for similar reasons. We believe that capital punishment would be justified if, by having such an institution, fewer premature deaths would occur. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not entail that killing is always wrong. Nevertheless, the FLO account explains both why killing is one of the worst of crimes and, as a corollary, why the exceptions to the wrongness of killing are so very rare. A correct theory of the wrongness of killing should have these features.
The Appeal to Cases Argument
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing is correct because it yields the correct answers in many life-any-death cases that arise in medicine and have interested philosophers.
Consider medicine first. Most people believe that it is not wrong deliberately to end the life of a person who is permanently unconscious. Thus we believe that it is not wrong to remove a feeding tube or a ventilator from a permanently comatose patient, knowing that such a removal will cause death. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing explains why this is so. A patient who is permanently unconscious cannot have a future that she would come to value, whatever her values. Therefore, according to the FLO theory of the wrongness of killing, death could not, ceteris paribus, be a misfortune to her. Therefore, removing the feeding tube or ventilator does not wrong her.
By contrast, almost all people believe that it is wrong, ceteris paribus, to withdraw medical treatment from patients who are temporarily unconscious. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing also explains why this is so. Furthermore, these two unconsciousness cases explain why the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not include present consciousness as a necessary condition for the wrongness of killing.
Consider now the issue of the morality of legalizing active euthanasia. Proponents of active euthanasia argue that if a patient faces a future of intractable pain and wants to die, then, ceteris paribus, it would not be wrong for a physician to give him medicine that she knows would result in his death. This view is so universally accepted that even the strongest opponents of active euthanasia hold it. The official Vatican view (Sacred Congregation, 1980) is that it is permissible for a physician to administer to a patient morphine sufficient (although no more than sufficient) to control his pain even if she foresees that the morphine will result in his death. Notice how nicely the FLO account of the wrongness of killing explains this unanimity of opinion. A patient known to be in severe intractable pain is presumed to have a future without positive value. Accordingly, death would not be a misfortune for him and an action that would (foreseeably) end his life would not be wrong.
Contrast this with the standard emergency medical treatment of the suicidal. Even though the suicidal have indicated that they want to die, medical personneI will act to save their lives. This supports the view that it is not the mere desire to enjoy an FLO which is crucial to our understanding of the wrongness of killing. Having an FLO is what is crucial to the account, although one would, of course, want to make an exception in the case of fully autonomous people who refuse life-saving medical treatment. Opponents of abortion can, of course, be willing to make an exception for fully autonomous fetuses who refuse life support.
The FLO theory of the wrongness of killing also deals correctly with issues that have concerned philosophers. It implies that it would be wrong to kill (peaceful) persons from outer space who come to visit our planet even though they are biologically utterly unlike us. Presumably, if they are persons, then they will have futures that are sufficiently like ours so that it would be wrong to kill them. The FLO account of the wrongness of killing shares this feature with the personhood views of the supporters of choice. Classical opponents of abortion who locate the wrongness of abortion somehow in the biological humanity of a fetus cannot explain this.
The FLO account does not entail that there is another species of animals whose members ought not to be killed. Neither does it entail that it is permissible to kill any non-human animal. On the one hand, a supporter of animals' rights might argue that since some non-human animals have a future of value, it is wrong to kill them also, or at least it is wrong to kill them without a far better reason than we usually have for killing non-human animals. On the other hand, one might argue that the futures of non-human animals are not sufficiently like ours for the FLO account to entail that it is wrong to kill them. Since the FLO account does not specify which properties a future of another individual must possess so that killing that individual is wrong, the FLO account is indeterminate with respect to this issue. The fact that the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not give a determinate answer to this question is not a flaw in the theory. A sound ethical account should yield the right answers in the obvious cases; it should not be required to resolve every disputed question.
A major respect in which the FLO account is superior to accounts that appeal to the concept of person is the explanation the FLO account provides of the wrongness of killing infants. There was a class of infants who had futures that included a class of events that were identical to the futures of the readers of this essay. Thus, reader, the FLO account explains why it was as wrong to kill you when you were an infant as it is to kill you now. This account can be generalized to almost all infants. Notice that the wrongness of killing infants can be explained in the absence of an account of what makes the future of an individual sufficiently valuable so that it is wrong to kill that individual. The absence of such an account explains why the FLO account is indeterminate with respect to the wrongness of killing nonhuman animals.
If the FLO account is the correct theory of the wrongness of killing, then because abortion involves killing fetuses and fetuses have FLOs for exactly the same reasons that infants have FLOs, abortion is presumptively seriously immoral. This inference lays the necessary groundwork for a fourth argument
in favor of the FLO account that shows that abortion IS wrong.
The Analogy with Animals Argument
Why do we believe it is wrong to cause animals suffering? We believe that, in our own case and in the case of other adults and children, suffering is a misfortune. It would be as morally arbitrary to refuse to acknowledge that animal suffering is wrong as it would be to refuse to acknowledge that the suffering of persons of another race is wrong. It is, on reflection, suffering that is a misfortune, not the suffering of white males or the suffering of humans. Therefore, infliction of suffering is presumptively wrong no matter on whom it is inflicted and whether it is inflicted on persons or nonpersons. Arbitrary restrictions on the wrongness of suffering count as racism or speciesism. Not only is this argument convincing on its own, but it is the only way of justifying the wrongness of animal cruelty. Cruelty toward animals is clearly wrong. (This famous argument is due to Singer, 1979.)
The FLO account of the wrongness of abortion is analogous. We believe that, in our own case and the cases of other adults and children, the loss of a future of value is a misfortune. It would be as morally arbitrary to refuse to acknowledge that the loss of a future of value to a fetus is wrong as to refuse to acknowledge that the loss of a future of value to Jews (to take a relevant twentieth-century example) is wrong. It is, on reflection, the loss of a future of value that is a misfortune; not the loss of a future of value to adults or Joss of a future of value to nonJews. To deprive someone of a future of value is wrong no matter on whom the deprivation is inflicted and no matter whether the deprivation is inflicted on persons or nonpersons. Arbitrary restrictions on the wrongness of this deprivation count as racism, genocide or ageism. Therefore, abortion is wrong. This argument that abortion is wrong should be convincing because it has the same form as the argument for the claim that causing pain and suffering to non-human animals is wrong. Since the latter argument is convincing, the former argument should be also. Thus, an analogy with animals supports the thesis that abortion is wrong.
REPLIES TO OBJECTIONS
The four arguments in the previous section establish that abortion is, except in rare cases, seriously immoral. Not surprisingly, there are objections to this view. There are replies to the four most important objections to the FLO argument for the immorality of abortion.
The Potentiality Objection
The FLO account of the wrongness of abortion is a potentiality argument. To claim that a fetus has an FLO is to claim that a fetus now has the potential to be in a state of a certain kind in the future. It is not to claim that all ordinary fetuses will have FLOs. Fetuses who are aborted, of course, will not. To say that a standard fetus has an FLO is to say that a standard fetus either will have or would have a life it will or would value. To say that a standard fetus would have a life it would value is to say that it will have a life it will value if it does not die prematurely. The truth of this conditional is based upon the nature of fetuses (including the fact that they naturally age) and this nature concerns their potential.
Some appeals to potentiality in the abortion debate rest on unsound inferences. For example, one may try to generate an argument against abortion by arguing that because persons have the right to life, potential persons also have the right to life. Such an argument is plainly invalid as it stands. The premise one needs to add to make it valid would have to be something like: "If Xs have the right to Y, then potential Xs have the right to Y." This premise is plainly false. Potential presidents don't have the rights of the presidency; potential voters don't have the right to vote.
In the FLO argument potentiality is not used in order to bridge the gap between adults and fetuses as is done in the argument in the above paragraph. The FLO theory of the wrongness of killing adults is
based upon the adult's potentiality to have a future of value. Potentiality is in the argument from the very beginning. Thus, the plainly false premise is not required. Accordingly, the use of potentiality in the FLO theory is not a sign of an illegitimate inference.
The Argument from Interests
A second objection to the FLO account of the immorality of abortion involves arguing that even though fetuses have FLOs, non sentient fetuses do not meet the minimum conditions for having any moral standing at all because they lack interests. Steinbock (1992, p. 5) has presented this argument clearly:
Beings that have moral status must be capable of caring about what is done to them. They must be capable of being made, if only in a rudimentary sense, happy or miserable, comfortable or distressed. Whatever reasons we may have for preserving or protecting non sentient beings, these reasons do not refer to their own interests. For without conscious awareness, beings cannot have interests. Without interests, they cannot have a welfare of their own. Without a welfare of their own, nothing can be done for their sake. Hence, they lack moral standing or status.
Medical researchers have argued that fetuses do not become sentient until after 22 weeks of gestation (Steinbock, 1992, p. 50). If they are correct, and if Steinbock's argument is sound, then we have both an objection to the FLO account of the wrongness of abortion and a basis for a view on abortion minimally acceptable to most supporters of choice.
Steinbock's conclusion conflicts with our settled moral beliefs. Temporarily unconscious human beings are nonsentient, yet no one believes that they lack either interests or moral standing. Accordingly, neither conscious awareness nor the capacity for conscious awareness is a necessary condition for having interests.
The counter-example of the temporarily unconscious human being shows that there is something internally wrong with Steinbock's argument. The difficulty stems from an ambiguity. One cannot take an interest in something without being capable of caring about what is done to it. However, something can be in someone's interest without that individual being capable of caring about it, or about anything. Thus, life support can be in the interests of a temporarily unconscious patient even though the temporarily unconscious patient is incapable of taking an interest in that life support. If this can be so for the temporarily unconscious patient, then it is hard to see why it cannot be so for the temporarily unconscious (that is, non sentient) fetus who requires placental life support. Thus the objection based on interests fails.
The Problem of Equality
The FLO account of the wrongness of killing seems to imply that the degree of wrongness associated with each killing varies inversely with the victim's age. Thus, the FLO account of the wrongness of killing seems to suggest that it is far worse to kill a five-yearold than an 89-year-old because the former is deprived of far more than the latter. However, we believe that all persons have an equal right to life. Thus, it appears that the FLO account of the wrongness of killing entails an obviously false view (Paske, 1994).
However, the FLO account of the wrongness of killing does not, strictly speaking, imply that it is worse to kill younger people than older people. The FLO account provides an explanation of the wrongness of killing that is sufficient to account for the serious presumptive wrongness of killing. It does not follow that killings cannot be wrong in other ways. For example, one might hold, as does Feldman (1992, p. 184), that in addition to the wrongness of killing that has its basis in the future life of which the victim is deprived, killing an individual is also made wrong by the admirability of an individual's past behavior. Now the amount of admirability will presumably vary directly with age, whereas the amount of deprivation will vary inversely with age. This tends to equalize the wrongness of murder.
However, even if, ceteris paribus , it is worse to kill younger persons than older persons, there are
good reasons for adopting a doctrine of the equality of murder. Suppose that we tried to estimate the seriousness of a crime of murder by appraising the value of the FLO of which the victim had been deprived. How would one go about doing this? In they first place, one would be confronted by the old problem of interpersonal comparisons of utility. Second place, estimation of the value of a would involve putting oneself, not into the shoes of the victim at the time she was killed, but rather into the shoes the victim would have worn had the victim survived, and then estimating from that perspective the worth of that person's future. This task difficult, if not impossible. Accordingly, there are reasons to adopt a convention that murders equally wrong.
Furthermore, the FLO theory, in a way, explains why we do adopt the doctrine of the legal equity of murder. The FLO theory explains why we murder as one of the worst of crimes, since depriving someone of a future like ours deprives more than depriving her of anything else. This gives us a reason for making the punishment for younger victims very harsh, as harsh as is compatible with civiliazed society. One should not make the punishment younger victims harsher than that. Thus, the doctrine of the equal legal right to life does not seem incompatible with the FLO theory.
The Contraception Objection
The strongest objection to the FLO argument immorality of abortion is based on the claim that, because contraception results in one less FLO, the FLO argument entails that contraception, indeed, abstention from sex when conception is possible, is immoral. Because neither contraception nor abstention from sex when conception is possible is immoral, the FLO account is flawed.
There is a cogent reply to this objection. If argument of the early part of this essay is correct, then the central issue concerning the morality of abortion is the problem of whether fetuses are individuals who are members of the class of individuals whom it is seriously presumptively wrong to kill. The properties of being human and alive, of being a person, and of having an FLO are criteria that participants in the abortion debate have offered to mark off the relevant class of individuals. The central claim of this essay is that having an FLO marks off the relevant class of individuals. A defender of the FLO view could, therefore, reply that since, at the time of contraception, there is no individual to have an FLO, the FLO account does not entail that contraception is wrong. The wrong of killing is primarily a wrong to the individual who is killed; at the time of contraception there is no individual to be wronged.
However, someone who presses the contraception objection might have an answer to this reply. She might say that the sperm and egg are the individuals deprived of an FLO at the time of contraception. Thus, there are individuals whom contraception deprives of an FLO and if depriving an individual of an FLO is what makes killing wrong, then the FLO theory entails that contraception is wrong.
There is also a reply to this move. In the case of abortion, an objectively determinate individual is the subject of harm caused by the loss of an FLO. This individual is a fetus. In the case of contraception, there are far more candidates (see Norcross, 1990). Let us consider some possible candidates in order of the increasing number of individuals harmed: (1) The single harmed individual might be the combination of the particular sperm and the particular egg that would have united to form a zygote if contraception had not been used. (2) The two harmed individuals might be the particular sperm itself, and, in addition, the ovum itself that would have physically combined to form the zygote. (This is modeled on the double homicide of two persons who would otherwise in a short time fuse. (1) is modeled on harm to a single entity some of whose parts are not physically contiguous, such as a university. (3) The many harmed individuals might be the millions of combinations of sperm and the released ovum whose (small) chances of having an FLO were reduced by the successful contraception. (4) The even larger class of harmed individuals (larger by one) might be the class consisting of all of the individual sperm in an ejaculate and, in addition, the individual ovum released at the time of the successful contraception. (1) through (4) are all candidates for being the subject(s) of harm in the case of successful contraception or abstinence from sex. Which should be chosen? Should we hold a lottery? There seems to be no non-arbitrarily determinate subject of harm in the case of successful contraception. But if there is no such subject of harm, then no determinate thing was harmed. If no determinate thing was harmed, then (in the case of contraception) no wrong has been done. Thus, the FLO account of the wrongness of abortion does not entail that contraception is wrong.
This essay contains an argument for the view that, except in unusual circumstances, abortion is seriously wrong. Deprivation of an FLO explains why killing adults and children is wrong. Abortion deprives fetuses of FLOs. Therefore, abortion is wrong. This argument is based on an account of the wrongness of killing that is a result of our considered judgment of the nature of the misfortune of premature death. It accounts for why we regard killing as one of the worst of crimes. It is superior to alternative accounts of the wrongness of killing that are intended to provide insight into the ethics of abortion. This account of the wrongness of killing is supported by the way it handles cases in which our moral judgments are settled. This account has an analogue in the most plausible account of the wrongness of causing animals to suffer. This account makes no appeal to religion. Therefore, the FLO account shows that abortion, except in rare instances, is seriously wrong.
Beckwith, F. J., Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1993).
Benn, S. 1., "Abortion, Infanticide, and Respect for Persons," The Problem of Abortion, ed. J. Feinberg (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 1973), pp. 92-104.
Engelhardt, Jr, H. T., The Foundations of Bioethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
Feinberg, J., "Abortion," Matters of Life and Death: New Introductory Essays in Moral Philosophy, ed. T. Regan (New York: Random House, 1986).
Feldman, F., Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
Kant, I., Lectures on Ethics, trans. L. Infeld ( New York: Harper, 1963).
Marquis, D. B., "A Future like Ours and the Concept of Person: a Reply to Mcinerney and Paske," The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. L. P. Pojman and F. J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994), pp. 354-68.
---, "Fetuses, Futures and Values: a Reply to Shirley," Southwest Philosophy Review II (1995): 263-5.
---, "Why Abortion Is Immoral," Joumal of Philosophy 86 (1989): 183-202.
McInerney, P., "Does a Fetus Already Have a Future like Ours?," Journal of Philosophy 87 (1990): 264-8.
Noonan, J., "An Almost Absolute Value in History," in The Morality of Abortion, ed. J. Noonan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970).
Norcross, A., "Killing, Abortion, and Contraception: a Reply to Marquis," Journal of Philosophy 87 (1990): 268-77.
Paske, G., "Abortion and the Neo-natal Right to Life: a Critique of Marquis's Futurist Argument," The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. L. P. Pojman and F. J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994), pp. 343-53.
Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia (Vatican City, 1980).
Shirley, E. S., "Marquis' Argument Against Abortion: a Critique," Southwest Philosophy Review II (1995): 79-89.
Singer, P., "Not for Humans Only: the Place of Non humans in Environmental Issues," Ethics and Problems of the 2 I st Century, ed. K. E. Goodpaster and K. M. Sayre (South Bend: Notre Dame University Press, 1979).
Steinbock, B., Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
Thomson, J. J., "A Defense of Abortion," Philosophy and Public Affairs I (1971): 47-66.
Tooley, M., "Abortion and Infanticide," Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (1972): 37-65.
Warren, M. A., "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," Monist 57 (1973): 43-61.
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Comparison/Contrast Essays: Two Patterns
First Pattern: Block-by-Block
By Rory H. Osbrink
Abortion is an example of a very controversial issue. The two opposing viewpoints surrounding abortion are like two sides of a coin. On one side, there is the pro-choice activist and on the other is the pro-life activist.
The argument is a balanced one; for every point supporting abortion there is a counter-point condemning abortion. This essay will delineate the controversy in one type of comparison/contrast essay form: the “”Argument versus Argument,”” or, “”Block-by-Block”” format. In this style of writing, first you present all the arguments surrounding one side of the issue, then you present all the arguments surrounding the other side of the issue. You are generally not expected to reach a conclusion, but simply to present the opposing sides of the argument.
Introduction: (the thesis is underlined) Explains the argument
The Abortion Issue: Compare and Contrast Block-by-Block Format
One of the most divisive issues in America is the controversy surrounding abortion. Currently, abortion is legal in America, and many people believe that it should remain legal. These people, pro-choice activists, believe that it is the women’s right to chose whether or not to give birth. However, there are many groups who are lobbying Congress to pass laws that would make abortion illegal. These people are called the pro-life activists.
Abortion is a choice that should be decided by each individual, argues the pro-choice activist. Abortion is not murder since the fetus is not yet fully human, therefore, it is not in defiance against God. Regardless of the reason for the abortion, it should be the woman’s choice because it is her body. While adoption is an option some women chose, many women do not want to suffer the physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy and labor only to give up a child. Therefore, laws should remain in effect that protect a woman’s right to chose.
Abortion is an abomination, argues the pro-life activist. It makes no sense for a woman to murder a human being not even born. The bible says, “”Thou shalt not kill,”” and it does not discriminate between different stages of life. A fetus is the beginning of life. Therefore, abortion is murder, and is in direct defiance of God’s will. Regardless of the mother’s life situation (many women who abort are poor, young, or drug users), the value of a human life cannot be measured. Therefore, laws should be passed to outlaw abortion. After all, there are plenty of couples who are willing to adopt an unwanted child.
If we take away the woman’s right to chose, will we begin limiting her other rights also? Or, if we keep abortion legal, are we devaluing human life? There is no easy answer to these questions. Both sides present strong, logical arguments. Though it is a very personal decision, t he fate of abortion rights will have to be left for the Supreme Court to decide.
Second Pattern: Point-by-Point
This second example is also an essay about abortion. We have used the same information and line of reasoning in this essay, however, this one will be presented in the “”Point-by-Point”” style argument. The Point-by-Point style argument presents both sides of the argument at the same time. First, you would present one point on a specific topic, then you would follow that up with the opposing point on the same topic. Again, you are generally not expected to draw any conclusions, simply to fairly present both sides of the argument.
Introduction: (the thesis is underlined)
Explains the argument
The Abortion Issue: Compare and Contrast Point-by-Point Format
Point One: Pro-life and Pro-choice
Supporters of both pro-life and pro-choice refer to religion as support for their side of the argument. Pro-life supporters claim that abortion is murder, and is therefore against God’s will. However, pro-choice defenders argue that abortion is not murder since the fetus is not yet a fully formed human. Therefore, abortion would not be a defiance against God.
Point Two: Pro-life and Pro-choice
Another main point of the argument is over the woman’s personal rights, versus the rights of the unborn child. Pro-choice activists maintain that regardless of the individual circumstances, women should have the right to chose whether or not to abort. The pregnancy and labor will affect only the woman’s body, therefore it should be the woman’s decision. Pro-life supporters, on the other hand, believe that the unborn child has the right to life, and that abortion unlawfully takes away that right.
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- Volume 26, Issue 2
- The morality of abortion and the deprivation of futures
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- Mark T Brown
- University of Wisconsin Colleges, Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
In an influential essay entitled Why abortion is wrong, Donald Marquis argues that killing actual persons is wrong because it unjustly deprives victims of their future; that the fetus has a future similar in morally relevant respects to the future lost by competent adult homicide victims, and that, as consequence, abortion is justifiable only in the same circumstances in which killing competent adult human beings is justifiable. 1 The metaphysical claim implicit in the first premise, that actual persons have a future of value, is ambiguous. The Future Like Ours argument (FLO) would be valid if “future of value” were used consistently to mean either “potential future of value” or “self-represented future of value”, and FLO would be sound if one or the other interpretation supported both the moral claim and the metaphysical claim, but if, as I argue, any interpretation which makes the argument valid renders it unsound, then FLO must be rejected. Its apparent strength derives from equivocation on the concept of “a future of value”.
- Future Like Ours
- Donald Marquis
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In an influential essay entitled Why abortion is wrong, Donald Marquis presents an argument which purports to derive the immorality of abortion from a deceptively simple but intuitively compelling claim: it is presumptively wrong to kill us, competent adult human beings, because doing so destroys our most valuable possession, a future of value. 1 Marquis claims that killing actual persons is wrong because it unjustly deprives the victim of his or her future; that the fetus has a future similar in morally relevant respects to the future lost by a competent adult homicide victim,and that, as consequence, abortion is justifiable only in the same special and extreme circumstances in which killing competent adult human beings is justifiable. Marquis presents the gist of the Future Like Ours (FLO) argument in this way:
“. . .we can start from the following unproblematic assumption: it is wrong to kill us . . . when I am killed I am deprived of all of the value of my future. Inflicting this loss on me is ultimately what makes killing me wrong. The future of a standard fetus includes a set of experiences, projects, activities and such which are identical with the futures of adult human beings and the futures of young children. Since the reason that is sufficient to explain why it is wrong to kill human beings after the time of birth is a reason that also applies to fetuses, it follows that abortion is prima facie seriously wrong.” 2
The Future Like Ours argument has been criticised on the grounds that it ignores the point of view of the pregnant woman; that it is incompatible with contraception and abstinence; and that it understates the explanatory resources of the competing personhood theory while overstating its own explanatory power. 3 These objections make a powerful cumulative case that something is amiss in FLO, but none come to grips with the metaphysical thesis at the heart of the argument: the claim that actual persons possess a future of value. What exactly does it mean to have a future of value?
The expression is ambiguous. It could mean that actual persons have a potential future of value in the sense that given favourable conditions they are likely to have a worthwhile life; or it could mean that actual persons have a self-represented future of value in the sense that they can construct mental representations of valuable futures. The FLO argument turns upon this ambiguity. The expression occurs twice in the argument, first in the claim that homicide is presumptively wrong because it deprives its victim of a future of value, and second in the claim that both actual persons and fetuses have a future of value. The Future Like Ours argument would be valid if “future of value” were used consistently to mean either “potential future of value” or “self-represented future of value”, and FLO would be sound if one or the other interpretation supported both the moral claim and the metaphysical claim, but if any interpretation which makes the argument valid renders it unsound, then FLO must be rejected. I first argue that the potential future of value interpretation is unsound because it is not presumptively seriously wrong to deprive someone of a potential future of value. I then argue that the self-represented future of value interpretation is unsound because the fetus does not represent its future. The essay concludes with an analysis of the intuitive appeal of the Future Like Ours argument.
The Future Like Ours argument might be salvaged if homicide were presumptively wrong because it deprives a human being of a potential future of value, whether or not that human being ever imagined his or her future. In this case, the expression “a future of value” could be used consistently throughout the argument: killing persons is presumptively wrong because it deprives them of their potential future of value; a fetus has a potential future of value; thus killing a fetus is presumptively wrong. The second premise is plausible. In most cases the course of a pregnancy can be foreseen with enough confidence to predict that the fetus will be born as an infant who has the capacity to enjoy a life qualitatively similar to the lives of actual persons.
The first premise is implausible, in part because a potential future of value interpretation implies welfare rights which most people would reject in other spheres of life. If deprivation of potential futures of value is presumptively a form of culpable homicide, then culpable homicide is committed whenever a person is denied access to what he or she needs to live. A homeless man who dies of exposure, an elderly woman whose unheated apartment precipitates a fatal case of pneumonia, an injured child who dies for want of a suitable blood transfusion would all be homicide victims. Each case is tragic in its own way, but it is far from clear that these persons' rights have been violated. Persons can die in ways which do not violate their rights. 4 This is not to say that no harm is done when a potential future of value is foreclosed. On the contrary, to prevent a person from acting upon a highly reliable anticipated future imposes upon them significant opportunity costs, but it does not necessarily treat him or her unjustly. Only if the person had a right to the favourable circumstances which make possible a potential future of value would depriving him or her of that future be presumptively wrong.
For example, the future quality of life of many actual persons depends critically upon whether they receive prompt and effective medical treatment. Many persons with end stage renal disease could expect bright futures if they were to receive a kidney transplant, but neither medical need nor therapeutic benefit entitles these persons to medical services. Patients have a right to life-enhancing medical interventions because they subscribe to a health care plan which covers the procedure or because they are citizens of a country which maintains a functioning system of universal health care or for some other reason, but they do not have a right to medical services, or to any other external good, simply because they would have a better future if someone were to provide for their needs.
The potential future of value of the fetus is no less dependent upon favourable external circumstances. Since the fetus will become a person who has the capacity to enjoy its life and derive meaning from it only if it has access to the reproductive system of a woman, abortion would be presumptively wrong only if women had no presumptive right to control access to their reproductive systems. The fetus certainly needs its uterine environment if it is to realise its potential, but persons do not in general have a right to satisfy their needs at the expense of the autonomy, bodily integrity and wellbeing of another person. If I need a bone marrow transplant in order to realise my potential future of value, I do not thereby gain a right to your bone marrow, even if you are my mother. Perhaps pregnancy creates more stringent duties than motherhood, but if so, an argument is needed to establish this claim, an argument notably absent from Marquis's presentation of the Future Like Ours argument.
A defender of FLO might object at this point that abortion kills the fetus and that killing a person does violate his or her rights in all but the most extreme circumstances, even if depriving him or her of life-sustaining services need not, but this is not a distinction that can be drawn within a potential future of value interpretation of FLO. Someone who has been killed and someone who has been denied access to life support have been deprived equally of their potential futures. The potential future of value interpretation fails because the moral premise if true implausibly entitles persons to welfare rights to valuable futures in addition to liberty rights not be killed. A self-represented future of value interpretation is needed to distinguish between the right not be killed and the right to valuable futures.
The Future Like Ours argument would be valid if the expression “a future of value” consistently meant “a self-represented future of value”. Substituting in, the argument would look like this: killing persons is presumptively wrong because it deprives them of their self-represented future; fetuses have self-represented futures; thus, killing fetuses is presumptively wrong. The first premise is plausible. At any moment a person can project a representation of a self which extends over time, a self understood from the perspective of the present, reconstructed from present remnants of the past and projected from the present into many possible futures. Persons care about their self-represented futures and their memories, their self-represented past, because this self-conception defines who they are and confers meaning and significance upon what they think and do. In contrast with potential futures, self-represented futures do not depend upon outside agencies for their realisation. The value of a self-represented future resides within the person herself, as a feature of a richly complex mental life. Killing a person deprives her of this future: her hopes and dreams are dashed, her goals unfulfilled, her sins unforgiven, longed for reunions and reconciliations never occur. All of this happens in the present, to a person able to unite in a moment of self-consciousness a personal past, present and future. One reason why killing persons violates their rights, but depriving them of life support need not, is that killing persons deprives them of a future and a past which is rightfully their own because it is something they themselves have created.
Even if killing a person is presumptively wrong because it deprives its victim of his self-represented future, this cannot be a reason why it is wrong to kill a fetus because the fetus does not construct mental representations of its future. The neurological and embryological evidence of this issue is clear. 5 Higher order cognitive functioning of the type implicated in planning and memory is dependent upon massive cortical/sub-cortical connectivity. Sub-cortical thalamic fibres first begin to form synapses with cortical neurons at about twenty-five weeks' gestation and only at some point well after birth does connectivity reach a critical threshold sufficient for self-awareness. A third trimester fetus may be sentient but there is no medical reason to think it is capable of self-consciousness.
The Future Like Ours argument rests upon two substantive claims: (1) killing persons is presumptively wrong because it deprives them of a future of value; and, (2) fetuses have futures of value. The plausibility of the first claim depends upon the intuition that persons suffer significant harm when prevented from experiencing their self-represented future, but since the fetus does not represent its future it cannot be harmed in this way. The plausibility of the second claim depends upon the proposition that both the fetus and actual persons have a potential future of value, but unless one has a right to the conditions under which this potential can be realised, neither homicide nor abortion are presumptively wrong for this reason. The self-represented future of value interpretation underwrites the moral claim about the wrongness of homicide but militates against the metaphysical claim that persons and fetuses are relevantly similar; the potential future of value interpretation uncovers a genuine commonality between persons and fetuses but not one which can support the moral claim that abortion is presumptively seriously wrong. We may conclude that the Future Like Ours argument retains its force only if one equivocates on the concept of a future of value.
How, then, can the enormous intuitive appeal of the Future Like Ours argument be explained? The answer, I think, lies in the subtle and pervasive influence self-representation exerts upon our experience of time. The intentions, memories, hopes, dreams and plans which define us as persons elicit in us powerful intuitions of temporal extension, for ourselves and on behalf of others. Just as the past can come alive in memory, a long-awaited future can feel more real than the present. Everyone has had the experience of seeing a longed for future evaporate as events unfold in unexpected and unwelcome ways. When this happens, the sense of loss is palpable, even though nothing physical has been taken away. Nowhere is the reality of a self-represented future more evident than in the attitudes of the dying and bereaved. AIDS victims understand how a foreseen death can alter the experience of time; grieving parents dwell upon how empty their own experience of the passage of time has become. In each case, the past and the future become humanly accessible through mental representations, all of which are expressions of the current mental state of a self-conscious person.
The Futures Like Ours argument is beguiling because in ordinary circumstances potential futures of value are linked to represented futures of value. Indeed, this linkage is the point of contingency planning. As agents, persons act upon the value they assign to representations of their own future precisely because they believe that given favourable circumstances their imagined scenarios will correspond to valuable states of affairs. This linkage between represented futures and potential futures is deeply ingrained in practical reasoning. Any form of delayed gratification or other sacrifice of current interests presupposes a representation of a future valued more highly than the present. Savings schedules, life insurance and long term investments make sense only against the backdrop of a perceived future of value; frustrated and impoverished graduate students must remind themselves of the rewards of perseverance; and perhaps most starkly, cancer patients undergo burdensome therapies in the hope that doing so will prolong their futures. Other cancer patients refuse medical intervention in order to have a future perceived as more valuable because free from the toxic effects of chemotherapy. In these and countless other cases, patients consent or withhold consent to medical treatment based upon a judgment of the relative value of alternative futures. All of this is an intelligible and perfectly reasonable response to represented futures believed to be potential futures.
Represented futures and potential futures are conjoined no less when one imagines the future of someone else. When a person enters into relationships she may empathise with and act on behalf of others in the expectation that some of her mental representations of their future will be realised. Parenting is a sphere of life dominated by thoughts of the future on behalf of others. Parents routinely, sometimes obsessively, contemplate the future of their children, hoping that some scenarios will come true and fearing the realisation of others. Why else subject our children to the discipline of learning to read and playing the violin or to the pains of orthodontia? Why else lose sleep over the perils of bicycles, motorcycles and rollerblades? Parents become obsessive about safety because they believe that nothing would be more difficult to bear than the death of their child. The natural, almost inevitable, thought of grieving parents is that the future of their child has been snatched away, that their child has lost a future of falling in love, of worldly success, of raising children of her own and a thousand other worthwhile experiences.
For many women, the thought of the lost future of a fetus aborted in their youth haunts them for a lifetime. These women may replay in their minds first words not spoken and birthdays never celebrated with the same vivacity with which they regret missed opportunities in their own lives and in the lives of their children. These women grieve for their lost child because they have solidly paired a mental representation of a future life as child for their aborted fetus with the potential future of the fetus as it was at the time of the abortion. These attitudes are understandable, but should not impose limits upon the reproductive freedom of other women. One can sympathise with the grief-stricken without accepting their beliefs as philosophically perspicuous constraints upon the resolution of problems in medical ethics. Dying people, for example, may exercise their liberty interest in controlling the terms of their own death by creating the illusion of normalcy; Jehovah's Witnesses may give expression to their religious convictions by refusing blood transfusions, but in neither case do the beliefs of these persons need to be taken as true to be taken seriously.
Similarly, one can understand the natural propensity to attribute retrospectively to the fetus the status of a person because in many spheres of life, including parenting, it is entirely reasonable to think and act as if a predictable outcome were actual. In other spheres of life, the connection between represented futures and potential futures is best severed. When drawn into a fictional story for example, or engaged in fanciful daydreams or when under the sway of irrational fears, the proper response is to recognise that one's thoughts fail to correspond to reality. If the fetus is not self-conscious, as the embryological evidence indicates, feelings of regret (and moral outrage) on its behalf are unfounded in the same way feelings of regret and moral outrage on behalf of a fictional character are unfounded. In neither case, is there an appropriate extramental subject of experience upon which to direct our attitudes. One may imagine a future for a fetus in which he or she had his or her own (unfulfilled) hopes and dreams, but one should not fall into the trap of thinking that the fetus as it was at the time of an abortion had a self-represented future to lose. One may mourn the absence of the child the fetus would have become, but in doing so one is coming to terms with a painful mental representation in one's own mental life, not acting on behalf of a person who had a future of his or her own.
What, then, of the millions of aborted fetuses? Have they been deprived of their future? We may represent a future for them if we choose, but, it is we, self-conscious persons, who make this future. We can also project ourselves into a past of which we have no memory, into early childhood, infancy and in utero. We can represent our self as the human being who is continuous with the infant in the baby pictures and with the fetus in the ultrasound. If we represent the past in this way, we will alter our experience of time and in so doing elicit powerful intuitions of temporal extension and empathetic identification. We can, if we wish, represent to ourselves a future for a fetus, but this is not something the fetus can do. A self-represented future is a terrible thing to lose but this is not a misfortune which can befall a fetus. And a potential future is not a benefit to which the fetus has a right. Either way, FLO fails.
References and notes
- ↵ Marquis D. Why abortion is immoral. Journal of Philosophy 1989 , 86-4 : 183 –202. OpenUrl CrossRef PubMed Web of Science
- ↵ See reference 1: 189, 190, 202.
- ↵ Cudd A. Sensationalized philosophy: a reply to Marquis's Why abortion is immoral. The Journal of Philosophy 1990; 87,5 : 262-4. Norcross A. Killing, abortion, and contraception. The Journal of Philosophy 1990; 87,5 :268-77. Paske G. Abortion and the neo-natal right to life: a critique of Marquis's futurist argument. In Pojman L, Beckwith F, eds. The abortion controversy. Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994: 343-53. Similar criticisms were levelled against FLO by an anonymous referee for this journal.
- ↵ Here I draw upon Thomson JJ. A defense of abortion. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1971 ; 1,1 : 47 -56, and the enormous literature this essay has elicited over the years.
- ↵ Flower M. Neuromaturation of the human fetus. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 1985 ; 10 : 237 -51. Grobstein C. Science and the unborn . New York: Basic Books, 1988:
Mark T Brown, PhD, is Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin Colleges, Wausau, Wisconsin, USA.
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"Conservative" views of abortion
- PMID: 12348327
PIP: The introduction to this essay, which presents and defends the "conservative" position on abortion, explains that this position holds that 1) abortion is wrong because it destroys the fetus; 2) the fetus has full personhood from conception (or very near conception); 3) abortion is only justified under special circumstances, such as when the pregnancy poses a threat to the woman's life; and 4) these conclusions should be reflected in law and public policy. Part 2 sets forth the moral foundations for this position. The third part considers the status of the fetus and reviews the various arguments that have been forwarded to resolve the question, such as the species principle, the potentiality principle, the sentience principle, and the conventionalist principle. Part 4 applies the conservative position to problems posed by hard cases, determines that abortion is a form of homicide from two weeks after fertilization (at the latest), reviews circumstances in which various legal definitions of homicide are applicable, argues for the denial of abortion funding by the state, and notes that violent militancy is not the appropriate response to a belief that abortion should be illegal. Section 5 refutes objections to the conservative position based on the fact that some opponents of abortion also oppose contraception, based on feminist ideals, and based on calls for religious freedom in a pluralistic society. In conclusion, the labels applied to the abortion debate are examined, and it is suggested that "communitarian" is the best term for the conservative position.
- Abortion, Induced*
- Developed Countries
- Family Planning Services
- Human Rights
- Legislation as Topic*
- North America
- United States