Thursday, September 09, 2010

Reflections on the question: "What if you had been aborted?"

Yes, this is a long blog post, but I've been meaning to get this off my chest.

In my conversations on pro-life issues, I often come across a line of argumentation that goes like this.

PL: Human life is valuable, therefore it should be protected from conception.

PC: But a fetus is not conscious during the abortion.

PL: But that's discriminating against a human based on age or development. How would you like it if someone had aborted you? You wouldn't be alive

PC: I wouldn't be conscious enough to care, therefore it wouldn't matter.

There are two things that are really wrong with this line of argumentation.


In this discussion, the pro-choicer puts himself in the place of the fetus being killed. His only measure of anything is a subjectivity-- whether or not the fetus is capable of having an experience. In the left-wing mindset, experience is the only thing any human being can be sure of. This is the core value of modernism. Modernism rejects faith in the ability of human reason to know reality with certainty. Our experiences are the only thing we can be sure of (Re: "I think therefore I am".)

Of course, as experiences themselves are subject to error and uncertainty, this makes a mockery of its own ideals.

Which is why modernism morphed into post-modernism. Which denies that reality has any rules whatsoever.

But contemporary human beings are, on average, uncomfortable with post-modernism, precisely because it lacks any sort of yardstick. Intellectuals might be okay with reconciling the obvious contradictions of their belief system, but the average Joe isn't. He doesn't have the brains to accept that kind of nonsense. He needs core values. Which is why artsy-fartsy intellectuals sneer at the plebian mindset of the common people. Too angst-ridden and insecure to see reality for what it is. Or isn't. Or something like that.

Since intellectuals have more or less given up on Reason, and the common people don't have the brain power to engage in serious philosophizing--- the only thing the common people have to rely on to measure value is experience.

To most people, a being who cannot or will not have not have an "experience" is valueless. Regardless of whether it's a human being or not.

To them, there is no other concept of human value.

So the pro-lifer's job is to answer this question: why are human beings valuable?

Clearly, it is not because of their individual merit. While it's true that many individuals do manage to achieve great heights in their chosen fields, the vast majority of us don't. Some human beings are absolutely horrid. Osama bin Laden and Clifford Olson are two examples that come to mind. Even though they have committed unspeakable crimes, they never forfeited their membership in the human family, and therefore can be said to be rights bearers.

Human beings are valuable for what they are as a collective body. No animal species has ever built civilizations. No animals species has ever written music, published poetry, worshipped God, developed thought systems, launched charitable organizations, etc etc etc as humans have.

Clearly, there is "something" about humans that sets them apart from other beings.

It's elusive, isn't it...from an empirical perspective. There's something about the make-up of human beings that makes all this accomplishment possible.

We call it human nature.

Next question: if human beings are valuable as a body, why should individual human beings be valuable? Why SHOULD Clifford Olson be judged as equal to say Leonardo da Vinci.

Because each individual member of a category is ontologically equivalent insofar as they are a member of that category. So, for instance, one pine tree is the same as another pine tree.

I can see the objections coming. Some pine trees are rotten. And some people are rotten.

This is true. But as long as they meet the definition of a pine tree (or human) as the case may be, they are equivalent. Because goodness or rottenness is a quality of the thing being examined-- it's not the thing itself.

Okay, so Clifford Olson is the same as Leonardo. But then, why does that mean they are morally equivalent? Clifford Olson did evil things and Leonardo da Vinci did good things.

This is true. But whether a person does good or bad things, or does nothing at all, it doesn't change what he is.

So what all this boils down to is that experience or "consciousness" has NOTHING to do with whether or not you are a human being or a person. Or whether you have value.

If two people come together and produce another being...that's a human being, because from a biological perspective, like produces like. And from the moment a human being exists, he is intrinsically worthy.

So what does this have to do with the abortion debate?

It means that fetuses are human beings. And as members of the human family, they are entitled to the same rights as anyone else.

Their value does not derive from anything they do. Their value is in being part of the human family. From human nature.That is all.


Because people tend to judge things based purely on experience, they tend to think of murder as an act that is PURELY against the victim because of a lack of consent for death.

While it is true that murder is primarily an act committed against the victim, with the victim gone one should ask: why does society prosecute murder?

It's not like the victim is there to say: hey! My right to life was violated! How dare you!

One reason society prosecutes murder is because it is not only a crime against the individual, but a crime against society as well.

One of the functions of governments is to protect order for the common good. Society then has a right to say to that culprit: hey you, you attacked one of us. You're gonna pay.

We regularly see evidence of this when citizens are killed in foreign countries. Take for instance, Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian photographer who was killed while in Iranian custody. The Canadian government made a big deal of this case. Why would it do that, except in the name of justice towards Canada as a collective body? She wasn't alive to appreciate it. It won't have much of a dissuasive effect-- Iran will continue to kill Canadian nationals if it sees fit. The only reason to do it is to demand justice for Canada itself. Canada had to send a message to Iran: hey! You can't do that to one of us! That's wrong!

The bottom line is that whether the fetus is able to appreciate the fact that he's being killed does not matter as far as the justification for criminalizing his killing. A fetus has the right to same consideration as any other member of the human family, and his murder should be prosecuted like any other murder.

So, in answer to the PCer who says that "if I had been aborted, I wouldn't have known otherwise, therefore it would not have mattered", I say: Yes it would have mattered, and mattered a lot. Human beings are valuable in and of themselves, and even if the victim has no experience of the murder, society has a vested interest in demanding justice for the harm of depriving itself of one of its members.

PART THREE: Addendum

Now of course, the pro-life objection "how would you like it if you were aborted" is a legitimate question, but a poor tactic, in light of people's values and thought processes. While it's true that it invokes people's appreciation of their own self-worth, debaters will deny their own self-worth in the name of defending the right to abortion. They don't believe in "It's a Wonderful Life". They think that caring about your own existence, and affirming your intrinsic worth (and feeling entitled to have that worth recognized) is a sign of self-importance. As in: who cares if you hadn't existed? Nobdoy would KNOW the difference!

But reality operates at a level that transcends an individual's experience. It's true that nobody would know the difference, but REALITY WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT. And that it lacked YOU made it all the poorer.

Since pro-aborts don't typically believe in the intrinsic value of the individual, that doesn't matter.

It's also a rhetorically easy tactic because the debater isn't under any threat. So they can be glib about the non-worth at the fetal stage. I've seen pro-choicers write: "If I had been a fetus, I would have never wanted my existence to impinge on my mother's choice to have me or not."

Who would REALLY allow anyone to kill them, let alone allow their mothers to do it, at such a vulnerable stage?

The trick is that if they affirm their intrinsic self-worth and entitlement to protection, then the whole abortion argument crumbles.

But seeing as they can reconcile themselves to renouncing their own self-worth in order to win the argument, they will.

Now, of course, their argument is fallacious, as I've shown, but it takes a long roundabout response to refute it.

So that's why I'm not keen on the "what if you had been aborted" tactic.

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