Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Body, My Choice? [Scott]

The latest 5-Minute Pro-Lifer is up.

Main points:

1. The alleged parallels between a woman being unnaturally hooked up to a total stranger and her natural connection to her own child fail to persuade.

2. If the right to bodily autonomy is absolute, no limits on abortion can be justified. This leads to horrific consequences.

Read the whole thing here.


  1. I just came across your all’s blog and it’s great. Here are a few points of contention, with reference to the PDF:

    “What if the mother woke to find herself surgically connected to her own child? What kind of mother would willingly cut the life-support system to her two-year-old in a situation like that?”
    Parents may have a duty to sustain their child, but I don’t think it’s self-evident that that duty extends to not cutting the life-support link as described in George Koukl’s counter-scenario. If anything, what we learn here is only that Thomson’s thought experiment is not perfectly matched to its subject (which is, of course, a point you were already making).

    “He is precisely where he naturally belongs at that point in his development.”
    This sentence simply switches the point of view and thereby skirts the issue. From the “point of view” of the fetus (which does not have a point of view that we know of except insofar as we, the already-born, ascribe it a capability for perspective similar to ours), of course it is where it belongs. The issue, however, remains the point of view of the willing or unwilling woman—an already-born moral agent who has a real ability to have a point of view of her own whether or not others ascribe that ability to her.

    If you want to posit a perspective that opposes that of the pregnant woman, therefore, I suggest that the fetus is not the way to go. Further, the effect of that strategy would seem to be—in a neat twist—to construct an image of a fetus that in fact has a willful opposition to its mother, which is an element of Thomson’s thought experiment that you were actually trying to deconstruct, in favor of a more symbiotic or harmonious relationship between them.

    “Thomson tries to justify abortion as merely the withholding of support.”
    Fair enough—I think. However, the objection does not stand (in my accounting) because what is being killed when an abortion is performed is not the same as a child.

    “barring cases of rape, a woman cannot claim that she bears no responsibility for the pregnancy in the same way she bears no responsibility for the violinist.”
    Also fair, I think. However, a degree of responsibility in becoming pregnant does not imply a duty to carry the pregnancy to term.

  2. Part 2

    “[Rowland] stated she preferred to “lose one of the babies than be cut like that.” . . . why not let a drug addict mom avoid the scar?”
    This example doesn’t get a lot of sympathy, does it? However, why should we assume that Rowland’s reasons are accurately or fully reflected in the few words that are quoted here? For one thing, it’s possible that only the most incriminating of her words were selected for quotation, whether by you, Scott, or by the source you employed. Or, why would we assume that Rowland revealed all her thoughts to the hospital staff, especially when it sounds like there was some antagonism in the air?

    More importantly, I think it’s wrong to demand a full accounting of a real person’s moral reasoning for the relatively insignificant purpose of ascertaining whether we do or do not agree with their decision(s) (which is also known as judging them). It’s not always our business.

    (As in, notice how the culminating sentence of the George Koukl quotation is: “And what would we think of her if she did?” Well, why is that particular question the point of anxiety for George Koukl—or for you, who, after all, chose which of his words to quote? Why is it, I suppose, that some of us feel so responsible for the actions of people who are not ourselves? Even more, why do some of us feel responsible for composing approving or disapproving evaluations not just of the actions but also of the motivations of people who are not ourselves?)

    Tell me, and tell me true, in what real-life situation would any of us feel comfortable demanding of someone close to us—a sibling, a parent, even a best friend—a full accounting of their moral reasoning in the case of some difficult decision they had to make: ending a relationship, accepting a job offer that would take them far from friends and family, etc? I also think it’s a big presumption that a person is always able to fully and accurate describe their own moral reasoning processes, even to themselves.

    So while abstract examples are fine—and even turning the case of a real person into an abstract example is fine—such examples are most useful for giving ourselves a dry run for making our own moral choices, not for judging people whose thoughts and feelings we have very much less chance of knowing.

  3. One last thing: isn’t the rhetorical effect of placing this question at the end of the piece to say: if there’s anyone whose opinion we can all agree it is safe to ignore, it is a woman who is addicted to illegal drugs? Maybe you didn’t mean that, but it comes across that way to me.


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