I’ll preface this thread with an admission that I don’t believe I am the best person to debate this because I am not trained in debate, but I also don’t believe IMHO is the best forum for yet another discussion about abortion. If I’m wrong, I’d appreciate a moderator finding the correct forum for this post. That said, I’m looking forward to more skilled debaters to illuminate me on the subject.
In a thread about Republicans cutting the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to offset tax cuts that invariably included a discussion about abortion, Bricker posted this:
Since I consider myself to be pro-choice atheist and I’ve never discussion abortion with an atheist against it, I thought it might be helpful to understand a secular anti-abortion* point-of-view and to avail myself of an argument that I have not considered.
Although the editorial addressed my firm conviction that pregnancy should not supersede the moral and legal right to a person’s bodily autonomy, it didn’t do much to convince me that there is a compelling reason to do so in the sole condition of pregnancy. IIUC, the essence of argument is that we have an inherent obligation to provide care to dependent humans:
Except that human society has not universally determined that parents must protect *unborn *offspring. That’s an important distinction because that where bodily autonomy and parental obligations conflict. Further, most (?) societies have a mechanism in which parents may voluntarily relinquish parental obligations to care for their offspring. By the logic the writer uses above, that is an argument for abortion, not against it. If the recognized obligation to care for born offspring is to be extended to unborn offspring, then the mechanism for relinquishing that obligation for born offspring may be extended to unborn offspring.
The writer follows up this statement with a moral challenge couched in a series of questions:
The answers to these questions are expected to elicit agreement that children are to be kept alive at all costs – excepting death – by making the facetious argument that we are obligated to care for a “vulnerable and dependent stranger.” This is sole justification to revoke the bodily autonomy of pregnant women, but never addresses why society shouldn’t also revoke the bodily autonomy of anyone else who can provide life-sustaining resources to any other human being in need.
But the questions cannot possibly achieve that goal because the answers are not obviously only what the writer expects. If an unrelated infant were dropped on my doorstep miles from civilization, what “basic life-sustaining care” am I obligated to provide it? Shelter? Water? Food? My own child’s breast milk? CPR? A blood transfusion? To what extent am I obligated to provided limited resources to this infant at the expense of my own or my family’s life-sustaining care?
The second question assumes that I do view myself as obligated to give unspecified care to this person despite the fact that I never explicitly agreed to those obligations in the first place. But why would I do that? What could possibly motivate me to take resources away from one person and give it to another and for what purpose?
The third question expects me to accept this obligation despite its negative physical impact on me at least up until it kills me. So I’m expected to perform CPR on this unrelated infant until I drop dead from exhaustion. Even trained medical personal aren’t obligated to do that. Or is that life-sustaining care not considered basic? I guess getting mired in semantics is inevitable.
The fourth and final question is really the kicker though: “If this is true of one’s duty to sustain a vulnerable and dependent stranger until care can be passed on to another, how much more obligated is a woman to her own prenatal offspring?” Assuming I haven’t already found enough reason to reject the “truth” of the writer’s postulations, I have now reason to reject the notion that I’m not obligated to provide organs to another human being with failing ones, blood to other human beings in need of it, much of my own basic life necessities to those who lack basic life necessities. In other words, I’m completely obligated to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Because if all you have to be is a human in need, and a pregnant woman must provide for a human in need, then we all have provide for a human in need everything short of that which kills us.
And if we can make that argument, aren’t we shirking our own obligations to the provide food, shelter, basic medical care to the most vulnerable of our society? Doesn’t it follow that if women have an obligation to their unborn offspring, we all have an obligation to make up the balance between what parents may provide their offspring and what those offspring need to survive, or even to thrive?
- For those who object to my using the term ‘anti-abortion’ versus ‘pro-life’, I object to the implication that the term conveys that pro-choice advocates are against life and that there’s much more to supporting life than simply advocating birth. But that’s another discussion… Or is it?