I came back from vacation to see that Serge is posting like mad. I am enjoying his point by point refutation (here and here) of Jill’s post at Feministe listing questions that she believes undercut the pro-life position that the unborn are human beings with an equal inherent right to life based on the nature of their being. I have an entirely different problem with Jill’s questions. They don’t matter. Jill and others are confusing categories in an attempt to reverse the field on the pro-life arguments.
You see the pro-life arguments have been advanced by demonstrating that if the value of a human being is determined by a subjectively chosen point of development, like birth or organized cortical brain activity, then the unforeseen consequences of the those subjective determinations can lead to devaluing life that the abortion rights proponent would otherwise not devalue. For instance, if the unborn are less valuable because of their dependence on another person, then dependence devalues all sorts of other human beings such as those with chronic medical conditions that are daily dependent on others to provide care for them. This works most obviously with the SLED acronym advanced by Stephen Schwartz and refined and championed by our own fearless leader, Scott Klusendorf; Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependence. This line of argument has been effective.
The current line of counter argument that is being advanced by the pro-abortion side tries to turn the tables. If the unborn are human persons with all accompanying rights then there are all of these absurd and unforeseen consequences that make that position implausible. How do we calculate death rates and populations? Do we issue Social Security numbers to the unborn? How do we criminally punish those women who inadvertently or intentionally cause the deaths of unborn children? It is madness! Complete and utter irrelevant madness!
You see the central focus of the pro-life argument is how we correctly identify the nature of the unborn. The absurd consequences of the subjective determination of value are directly relevant to the question at hand. If we have the power to decide when another being is important, we have to be very careful where we draw those lines lest we find ourselves suddenly less important. But that is not what the counter arguments are doing. They are asking an irrelevant question to undercut the premise of an argument they are losing. We say it is innocent human life and it is of value. Therefore, it is immoral that we destroy that life for elective reasons. They counter with the argument that if it is life and of value, the government is going to have a heck of a time sorting out the logistics of dealing with that life.
Quite frankly, that is not where we are and I really do not care. What are the unborn and what are we doing to them? Are we treating nascent human life in a moral manner? This is a moral argument not a question of civil law. If the argument is that that the unborn are not valuable life and we have no moral obligation to them, then get busy proving your point. It is immature and silly to act as if the possibility that we will grant people at varying stages of development different civil rights is insane. I do not see any inconsistency with saying that a human being has an inherent right to life based on their nature from the moment they come into existence, but we will issue a birth certificate at birth, a social security number a couple of months later, a drivers license at 16, the right to vote at 18, the right to legally purchase and consume alcohol at 21, the right to run for U.S. Congressional Representative at 25, Senate at 30 and President of the United States at 35. What we must not do is kill others because they are inconvenient or financially taxing at any point in their life. These questions do nothing to further the argument that the unborn are not human persons, although they do very weakly skirt the argument to try to embarrass the pro-lifer with unexpected legal issues that will certainly arrive. Once you clear the dust of the silliness, as Serge is doing, you are left with very little that addresses the central point.
Is it moral to kill unborn human beings for elective reasons? Are they human beings? If so, then let us start to address the other practical matters in earnest. Otherwise you are wasting our time with arguments that fail to make any points relative to the issue. We can sort these other issues out when we agree that we ought not to kill unborn human beings at will. Until then, this is simply missing the point.
Perhaps that was the intention of the arguments all along.