“Dad, is abortion immoral?”Posted: October 1, 2013
Why are you asking?
I saw a billboard saying “Abortion is murder” and I couldn’t decide what to think about it.
You chose a complex one, but I think it is great that you think about those things. So let’s see if we can break it down together.
There is a presumable conflict between the right of a mother to her own body and the right of the fetus to live. On one hand, the mother can decide to abort the pregnancy because it is her body and the fetus is part of it.
But isn’t that murder Dad? It is killing a human being…
You’re running too fast. Murder of what? What is a human being? It is important to define those first because wrong definitions of terms and concepts are the root to the errors most people make. Back to the conflict – is it correct to assume the mother has a right to her own body?
Yes, but she has another life inside her body, it is not just about her any more.
Right. So we have to consider if the embryo or fetus has a right to its own life.
Why “consider”? It is a living thing, it has a right to live.
This is the root of the issue. The presumable conflict between the right of the mother and the right of the embryo.
Let’s discuss the embryo or fetus. Does an unborn fetus have rights? If you remember, we’ve discussed where rights come from.
I remember. It is what we need to protect in order for people to live a human life in a society. Life, freedom and property.
And those are reserved to humans only. So the question we need to answer is – “Is an unborn baby a human being in a social context?”. Rights did not come from a god or a government, it came from the nature and requirements of human beings living rationally and peacefully together. A fetus does not live together with anyone yet, it is part of the mother’s body.
It will become a human being if we let it develop.
True, but that is not the test it has to pass in order to have rights. The fetus is not a human being yet, it is still a potential and we can’t hold potential as a standard. It will create a contradiction and…
…contradictions don’t exist in reality. I know and I agree. But why can’t we regard the potential as a standard?
Because in reality only actions count, not potential. If we held potential as a standard, we’d have to give straight A’s to the most intelligent kid in the class without testing him or her, or let the best football team win the championship before the season starts – all because of their potential. The actual reality is what counts and this is why the embryo is not considered a human being yet, and therefore it doesn’t have the rights of a human being.
So when does it become a human being?
Nature has given us a very well defined standard. It happens when the fetus becomes a separate organism – when it comes out of the mother and is separated from her while taking its first breath. At that exact moment its human rights kick in and nobody should be allowed to harm him or her in any way.
This is why abortion is not immoral if the mother decides on it rationally and murder has nothing to do with it because the fetus doesn’t have rights.
But with technology you can take a fetus out of the mother much earlier and keep it alive as a separate organism.
Technology has nothing to do with the moral principle involved. The mother has the right to her own body and the fetus is her property until it it is separated from her. No one has the right to do anything against the mother’s decision and it is perfectly legitimate for her to decide to have an abortion at any given point before the actual birth.
So the fetus doesn’t count at all? It is terrible to think about ending the life of a fetus.
It is a tormenting thing to decide on because the fetus has a huge value, especially to the mother and father who might see in it a potential to become one of a human life’s greatest values – a child. But in some cases having an abortion is the logical, rational thing to do because there are other values to consider.
What could be more important that a life of a baby?
Remember, I said the life of an unborn baby. It’s important to make that distinction.
Let me give you an example which is less trivial than the case of a deformed or sick fetus. Let’s say that a young couple that did not marry yet has an unexpected pregnancy. Both the mother and father are unprepared to be parents, they are in school preparing for their careers and they’re not even sure that they are going to stay together.
Now, it is hard to estimate or quantify the price this couple is going to pay if society forces them to have the baby. A life with an unwanted child is not the same life anymore. Even if they give it up for adoption there is an enormous psychological price to pay for the rest of their lives. The course of their entire lives will change including the option to become more independent and to have a child when they are ready for it. There are millions of lives destroyed because of unwanted pregnancies not being aborted due to the current morality in our society.
Society should have no say in this case. This is an individual decision by the mother as it is her property. This is why the sign you saw is wrong and dangerous. If we accept the right of society to force the mother not to have an abortion, we will find it impossible to morally defend many other basic individual rights and freedom.
I guess it is the mother’s decision after all. But it still very sad.
It is sad and this is why we should carefully plan our actions to prevent those cases. The irony is that the some of the same people preaching against abortion also preach against birth control. But that is another topic.
I have something to tell you. I think you just proved that you’re ready for it.
What is it Dad?
Your mother and I decided to have an abortion 5 years before we had you.
Yes, and it is the smartest decision we ever made. We were not ready for a child back then.
And you got to have me…
And I got to have you.
I love you kid.
I love you Dad.