Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Abortion Hypotheticals

When you start to discuss morality these days you run into a lot of weird hypothetical scenarios. There is this notion that if one can find some strange situation, no matter how implausible, that makes the action seem OK then you have defeated the moral principle. It is not really true. I expect there are always such cases where people's moral intuition breaks down. So what? Well if you goal is not to arrive at the greatest good but rather to justify a bad act then it makes more sense. We will go to great extents to rationalize out behavior. The fact that we feel the need to do so it a good sign you are on shaky moral ground.

The abortion debate gets some of the strangest scenarios injected into it. So bizarre that you wonder how anyone ever thinks they are relevant to anything. Still they are repeated a lot. Often pro-abortion people think they are some great feat of moral reasoning. Strange days indeed.

One such scenario involves a violinist. In the hypothetical you are tied to a violinist for 9 months and if you free yourself the violinist will die. Obviously they believe people don't think that highly of violinists. It makes people think of a old man. The first rule about pro-abortion debating tactics is to remove the image of a baby being killed. You need to subtly change the picture to a less valued human being losing their life. Calling the person a violinist does this. A violinist could be a child prodigy but that is not what most will think. Most will think old, reclusive, etc.

If they wanted to make the parallel more exact then they would not only say the violinist is young but they would say he or she is your child. Would you feel obligated to spend 9 months tied to your child if that was the only way to save its life? Of course you would. It would be hard but not nearly as hard as having your child die. There are not many things as hard as that.

The goal of all this is to argue that even if a fetus is human that abortion is still OK. That the mother's right to bodily autonomy trumps any rights the child has. Yet we are talking about the child's right to life. If my right to anything trumps your right to life that is just unthinkable. Say you talked about the right to bear arms. Can that right be limited to safeguard another's right to life? Of course. We would never say you can use your firearms in a certain was even though we know it will cause a significant number of deaths. The right to bear arms does needs to be subordinate to another's right to life.

The reality is that the right to bear arms has a much longer tradition than any right to bodily autonomy. Really having a right to your body was unheard of before the abortion and contraception questions came up. It was a right made up to try and fit the abortion question in the framework of human rights. The rights that have long been recognized as fundamental should never be confused with rights simply asserted as a political ploy. Certainly if any right will trump someone else's right to life it should be a fundamental right and not a made up right. You might argue that freedom of speech or freedom of religion is worth the loss of some lives. It would be a hard argument to make but I could imagine it. Still how can you argue that one of these phony new rights can ever be compared to the right to life?

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