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Debate: Abortion

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Revision as of 19:42, 29 October 2007 (edit)
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====Yes==== ====Yes====
-*'''A fetus is not a "person" with rights:''' Is terminating a foetus, which can neither feel nor think and is not conscious of its own ‘existence,’ really commensurable with the killing of a ‘person?’ There rightly are restrictions on the time, within which a termination can take place, before a foetus does develop these defining, human characteristics. If you affirm that human life is a quality independent of, and prior to thought and feeling, then you leave yourself the awkward task of explaining what truly ‘human’ life is. Some define personhood (qualifying for rights) through a set of criteria. A being need not exhibit every criterion to qualify as a person, but failure to exhibit most is proposed as disqualification. One list includes consciousness (at least the capacity to feel pain), reasoning, self motivation, the ability to communicate on many possible topics, and self-awareness+*'''A fetus is not a "person" with rights:''' Is terminating a foetus, which can neither feel nor think and is not conscious of its own ‘existence,’ really commensurable with the killing of a ‘person?’ There rightly are restrictions on the time, within which a termination can take place, before a foetus does develop these defining, human characteristics. If you affirm that human life is a quality independent of, and prior to thought and feeling, then you leave yourself the awkward task of explaining what truly ‘human’ life is. Some define personhood (qualifying for rights) through a set of criteria. A being need not exhibit every criterion to qualify as a person, but failure to exhibit most is proposed as disqualification. One list includes consciousness (at least the capacity to feel pain), reasoning, self motivation, the ability to communicate on many possible topics, and self-awareness. Lists like this are intended to help someone be able to objectively distinguish between a biological human and a person.
 +:An embryo is not a person because it satisfies only one criterion, namely consciousness (and this only after it becomes susceptible to pain). Other sets of criteria conclude that an embryo lacks personhood (and a right to life) because it lacks self-consciousness, rationality, and autonomy. These lists diverge over precisely which features confer a right to life, but tend to propose that they are developed psychological features not found in embryos. Criticism of this line of reasoning begins with two classes of persons (after birth) in which these criteria do not confer personhood: those who are comatose, and infants. Just like embryos, comatose patients (even when the coma is reversible) do not satisfy the criteria—they are not conscious, do not communicate, and so on. Therefore, based on the criteria, these are not "persons" and lack a right to life. Likewise, infants do not begin to exhibit additional criteria—beyond embryos— until around one year old. Mary Ann Warren concedes that infants are not "persons" by these criteria, and others state that infanticide could be morally acceptable under some circumstances (i.e. if the infant is severely disabled or in order to save the lives of other infants).

Revision as of 19:48, 29 October 2007

Should abortion's of any kind be permitted?

This article is based off of a Debatabase article written by Joe Devanny on September 29, 2000 (last modified: Monday, June 06, 2005).

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

The issue of abortion is one of the most contentious, and emotive dilemmas faced by modern societies. The question is whether one should allow the termination of a child whilst it is in its mother’s womb. For some, the question is even more fundamental: at what stage is the foetus in the womb to be regarded as a child? The battle-lines are drawn between strict, religious (‘pro-life’) arguments (that it is never permissible), and those (‘pro-choice’) that emphasise the mother’s right to choose as the primary concern. Whilst abortion has been accepted by the American state since the land-mark Roe vs. Wade case in the early 1970s, this is by no means a reflection of universal agreement – either international or within America itself – as many Western countries still have considerable restrictions on abortion. For example, the Irish position has softened only recently, and the Catholic Church steadfastly refuses to change its resolutely pro-life stance in the face of criticism from Women’s and other lobby-groups.

Woman's rights: Should a woman have the free right to choose an abortion?

Yes

  • Women should have control over their own bodies: they have to carry the child during pregnancy and undergo child-birth. No-one else carries the child for her; it will be her responsibility alone, and thus she should have the sole right to decide. These are important events in a woman’s life, and if she does not want to go through the full nine months and subsequent birth, then she should have the right to choose not to do so. There are few – if any – other cases where something with such profound consequences is forced upon a human being against her/his will.


No

  • A woman's rights are not the only rights that need to be respected in abortion: Of course, human-rights should be respected, but it is never the case that a person has a right to make a decision with no reference to the rights and wishes of others.
    • The father has rights to a baby that should not be alienated: One might wonder about the rights of the father to have a say in the fate of the foetus.
    • The child has a right to life that should not be alienated:
  • What is more important than life? All other rights, including the mother’s right to choice, surely stem from a prior right to life; if you have no right to any life, then how do you have a right to an autonomous one? The woman may ordinarily have a reasonable right to control her own body, but this does not confer on her the entirely separate (and insupportable) right to decide whether another human lives or dies.


Fetus rights: Is it wrong to assign rights to the fetus?

Yes

  • A fetus is not a "person" with rights: Is terminating a foetus, which can neither feel nor think and is not conscious of its own ‘existence,’ really commensurable with the killing of a ‘person?’ There rightly are restrictions on the time, within which a termination can take place, before a foetus does develop these defining, human characteristics. If you affirm that human life is a quality independent of, and prior to thought and feeling, then you leave yourself the awkward task of explaining what truly ‘human’ life is. Some define personhood (qualifying for rights) through a set of criteria. A being need not exhibit every criterion to qualify as a person, but failure to exhibit most is proposed as disqualification. One list includes consciousness (at least the capacity to feel pain), reasoning, self motivation, the ability to communicate on many possible topics, and self-awareness. Lists like this are intended to help someone be able to objectively distinguish between a biological human and a person.
An embryo is not a person because it satisfies only one criterion, namely consciousness (and this only after it becomes susceptible to pain). Other sets of criteria conclude that an embryo lacks personhood (and a right to life) because it lacks self-consciousness, rationality, and autonomy. These lists diverge over precisely which features confer a right to life, but tend to propose that they are developed psychological features not found in embryos. Criticism of this line of reasoning begins with two classes of persons (after birth) in which these criteria do not confer personhood: those who are comatose, and infants. Just like embryos, comatose patients (even when the coma is reversible) do not satisfy the criteria—they are not conscious, do not communicate, and so on. Therefore, based on the criteria, these are not "persons" and lack a right to life. Likewise, infants do not begin to exhibit additional criteria—beyond embryos— until around one year old. Mary Ann Warren concedes that infants are not "persons" by these criteria, and others state that infanticide could be morally acceptable under some circumstances (i.e. if the infant is severely disabled or in order to save the lives of other infants).


No

  • A fetus is uniquely capable of becoming a person, and should thus be offered rights and protections against abortion: It is unquestionable that the foetus, at whatever stage of development, will inevitably develop the traits to which you refer. The unborn child will have every ability, and every opportunity that you yourself have, if you give him or her the opportunity. The time-restrictions on termination had to be changed once, when it was discovered that feeling developed earlier than first thought, so they are hardly impeccable safe-guards behind which to hide.


Enforcement: Would a ban on abortion be unenforceable?

Yes

  • A ban on abortion presents practical problems of enfcorcement: Enforcing an abortion ban would require a quite degrading and inhumane treatment of those women who wished to have their foetus terminated. Moreover, if pregnant women traveled abroad, they would be able to have an abortion in a country where it was legal. Either the state takes the draconian measure of restricting freedom of movement, or it must admit that its law is unworkable in practice and abolish it. The ‘third way’ of tacitly accepting foreign terminations would render hypocritical the much-vaunted belief in the sanctity of life. In addition, the demand for abortions will always exist; making abortion illegal, will simply drive it underground and into conditions where the health and safety of the woman might be put at risk.


No

  • Unborn children cannot articulate and defend their right to life:
  • Difficulties of enforcement should not diminish the principles of the law: Many laws have difficulties pertaining to implementation, but these do not diminish the strength of the principle behind them: people will kill other people, regardless of your legislating against it, but it does not follow that you shouldn’t legislate against it.


Emergency: Is abortion justified in order to save the life a mother?

Yes

  • There are cases in which it is necessary to terminate a pregnancy to save the life of a mother and/or the child: In such cases of medical emergency and in the interest of saving life, surely it is permissible to abort the foetus.


No

  • A child should not be killed to save a mother: Whilst these are different circumstances, and such medical emergencies are tragic, it is by no means obvious that the abortion is to be performed. The ‘mother vs. child’ dilemma is one which defies solution, and aborting to preserve one of the lives sets a dangerous precedent that it is acceptable to kill a person in order to save another. This is a clear, and unpalatable, case of treating a human-being as a means to an end.


Rape: Should instances of impregnation through rape justify rape?

Yes

  • Woman, and in some cases girls, who have been raped should not have to suffer the additional torment of being pregnant with the product of that ordeal. To force a woman to produce a living, constant reminder of that act is unfair on both mother and child.


No

  • Rape does not qualify abortion as it is not the fault of the unborn child: The answer is, of course, no. Denying someone life, because of the circumstances of their conception is as unfair as anything else imaginable.


Child disability: Is abortion justified when an unborn child suffers a disability?

Yes

  • Abortion is justified when the fetus is certain to suffer and die form a disability: Finally, due to advances in medical technology it is possible to determine during pregnancy whether the child will be disabled. In cases of severe disability, in which the child would have a very short, very painful and tragic life, it is surely the right course of action to allow the parents to choose a termination. This avoids both the suffering of the parents and of the child.


No

  • What right does anyone have to deprive another of life on the grounds that they deem that life as not worth living? This arrogant and sinister presumption is impossible to justify, given that many people with disabilities lead fulfilling lives. What disabilities would be regarded as the water-shed between life and termination? The practise of eugenics is roundly condemned by all civilised countries.


Internationally: Where do country policies stand in this debate?

Yes

  • Canada allows for abortions on demand.


No

  • In Nicaragua abortions are always illegal.


Motions in the affirmative and negative

Yes

  • This House Would Allow Abortion on Demand
  • This House Believes in the Woman’s Right to Choose

No

Pro/con activists organizations in the United States

Yes


No

  • American Life League
  • Catholics United for Life
  • Democrats for Life
  • Feminists for Life
  • Jews for Life
  • Libertarians for Life
  • LifeLinks
  • National Coalition for Life and Peace
  • National Right to Life
  • Operation Save America
  • Priests for Life
  • Pro-Life Alliance of Gays & Lesbians
  • Pro-Life America
  • Republican National Coalition for Life
  • Reformers for Life Assembly
  • Roe v Wade.org
  • Susan B. Anthony List
  • Ultimate Pro-Life Resource Page
  • Women and Children First


References:

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