I've been thinking a lot about the abortion debate lately. As with most debates there is a lot of talking past each other, and someone who is really interested in how things are communicated, I figured that there was a lot from the other side I was probably missing with all of the heavy-handed emotional rhetoric. So in an attempt to get past this, and think about the issue thoroughly, I've developed an outline about how to approach the subject. The levels should be thought about in order, since the upper levels inform the conversation on the lower levels.
One section that I did leave out is a section on ethical grounding. This is because it is such a big issue that if that is where the issue really lies, we really need to have a different conversation first. But for the sake of the discussion, I've assumed an ethical position that is grounded on innate human dignity and worth.
Please notice that I have not stated any conclusions below. This is just an outline about how to talk about the issue. For any comments, please keep it to that subject instead of taking stances on any particular section.
Level O: Ethical Theory
While this isn't technically part of the abortion debate (hence 0), often the differences of our conclusions are caused by the differences of our ethical theories.
- Objective vs Subjective
Is morality determined by human societies, personal opinion, or is it grounded outside of human beliefs?
- Moral Grounding
What standards should we use to come to our ethical conclusions?
Different referents have different moral relevance. Shooting a tree is different than shooting a dog which is different than shooting a person. The question here is whether or not there is anything that distinguishes the mother from the fetus that makes one of them more morally relevant than the other.
- Adult vs. childWe usually believe that it is more important to protect a child over an adult. Also, we consider it more tragic when a child dies. So is a child more morally relevant than an adult?
- Human or not humanClassic question of when a fetus is a human person.
Here we are talking about natural inalienable rights, not constitutional or international human rights which are merely based off of them. This is still a ethical question, not a legal one.
- IdentificationThe rights I believe are at play
Every person has the right to make their own choices in life. Forcing a woman to have a child would be a violation of this.
While the fetus's body is not part of the woman's property, the fetus is within the woman's body which is her property. Like with one's home, a right to property extends to what can be called the right to privacy, protecting not just one's right to house itself, but also what goes on within it. This would also extend to one's body, and what happens within that body.
γ: recognition of humanity
A fetus has the right to be seen and therefore treated with human dignity. This refers to how the fetus is talked about, and even treated when deceased.
A person has the right to be given a chance of life, and to defend their own life.
- SupersessionSince both parties have rights which are at risk, the question here is not the protection of certain rights, but supersession. When two sets of rights are in conflict, either one set of rights supersede the rights of the other, or we are at an ethical impasse. So under what conditions can each of these rights be superseded (if they can)
γ: recognition of humanity
- C. General CaseAt this point, we can come to a conclusion about whether or not abortion is generally right or wrong apart from other factors.
- DefinitionDefining what is meant by the general case.
- A. Counter Anti AbortionGiven a anti-abortion conclusion for the general case, these are some situations under which abortion might still be justified
- Danger for Mother
- Danger for Child
- forced pregancy
- societal stigma
- B Counter Pro AbortionGiven a pro-abortion conclusion for the general case, these are some situations under which denying an abortion might still be justified
- i Population Loss
- ii Psychological distress
- iii Possible Prodigy
Everything up until this point has been about ethics, not legality. What is moral does not always perfectly transfer over to what should be legal. So the question remains how do we ethically interact with the law given our conclusions.
- Relationship between ethics and law
- What can be enforced
- Prohibition effects
- Implementation of Situational Ethics
Simply because we reach a moral conclusion in these situations doesn't mean that it'll necessarily extend the same legally each time. So the question needs to be addressed of whether our ethical conclusions are influenced by jurisdiction concerns of the state when it comes to legal implementation.
- Ramifications on other laws
- i fetal abuse laws
This is where a person can be charged with endangering a fetus by their actions. This includes the mother who drinks or smokes while pregnant.
- i fetal abuse laws