Saturday, August 20, 2011

Debunking the autonomy argument in favour of abortion

Erika Bachiochi:

Even if “failure to rescue” were an accurate approximation to abortion, special affirmative duties arise, both morally and legally, when the drowning individual is not a stranger, but is one’s own dependent child. One does not play the “good Samaritan” but the responsible and law-abiding parent when she rescues her drowning child from a pool of water. In pregnancy, the dependency and vulnerability of the nascent, developing child are even more evident, and the parent’s affirmative duty of care is arguably more obvious. For not only is the unborn child dependent and vulnerable, but her mere existence (as a dependent and vulnerable developing child) is due, at least biologically, to the life-giving act in which her parents engaged.

This reasoning does not cede philosophical ground to the contractarian view (that underlies pro-choice rhetoric) by arguing that because a woman consented to sex, she consents to pregnancy. Rather, the argument, based in centuries-old common law, maintains that when an individual puts another individual in a position of vulnerability (“in harm’s way”) and has the ability to offer help and assistance, the law requires that individual to do so. As philosopher Francis Beckwith has written, “The parents of the fetus are responsible for assisting it because they are in fact responsible for bringing into existence a being that is needy by nature and thus are responsible for its neediness.” Thus, parents share an affirmative legal duty toward their unborn child who, in his vulnerability, is utterly dependent upon their help and assistance—even more so than their born child, for whom other competent adults could care.