Sunday, April 3, 2016

Where I'm at on Abortion

1) A Greyer shade of Grey

My view on abortion is that there is no obvious way of determining when the un-born derives rights, or dignity, or whatever it is that makes it worthy. The people around me seem to think they know the timing exactly; at conception, at brain function, at birth, or something else. Or else they don't draw any line, which may be worse.

I think they should admit that they just don't know. Like most things, it is unclear when a person is a person at the tail ends of personhood, birth and death. When is a person alive enough to treat their life as valuable? When are they dead enough stop and unplug them? It's a lot like asking how many molecules I have to take out of a chair before it becomes a non-chair. Or how many chicken lives equals a human life. It is unclear. It is very convenient that I don't have to make any serious decisions based on how chairy my chair has to be to be a chair. Know what I mean? We kinda do have to make serious decisions based on how baby a baby has to be to be a baby.

2) What to do in the Greys? Don't Condemn and don't Kill

So what do we do when things are unclear? I think there are two tenets most people ought to agree on, one legal and one moral.

Within the spectrum of unclarity, the woman should have the legal choice. We shouldn't prosecute a woman for maybe, probably, or pretty surely, killing her child. You need clarity, very high confidence, especially if the prosecution is going to have any teethe. Otherwise you're risking the conviction of an innocent person for a serious crime. She should have the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, within the spectrum of unclarity, the woman shouldn't have a moral choice. If it is unclear whether the thing inside you is a worthy life, you need to take care of that thing until someone else can. Otherwise you're risking the moral equivalent of second-degree murder. She should have the burden of proof.

So if things are unclear, proceed with caution, because you're at risk of doing some very bad things.

3) My Spectrums of Unclarity

The Spectrum of unclarity will be different for different people. But it should be broad enough that pro-lifers and pro-choicers have common ground upon which they can apply the legal and moral tenets.

I think if I'm being honest, it is clear to me that worthy life doesn't start at conception, but once the embryo starts turning into a fetus, my confidence starts wavering. That's when it seems to me a woman becomes morally culpable if she has an abortion.

On the other end, at around 30 weeks that fetus is starting to look a lot like it will when it's born. I don't know how much earlier I can go than that before my confidence starts to waver, but at 30 weeks I'm starting to really feel like this thing is definitely just a baby who just hasn't seen sunshine yet. That's when it seems to me a woman becomes legally responsible if she has an abortion.

I don't know very much about pregnancy despite having 1 child and a pregnant wife. As a result, those lines I'm drawing are flexible. I might learn a little bit more about how little is going inside of the head of a 4 month old fetus and say, "you know what? I'm a lot more confident than I used to be that this thing isn't even close to a baby." But if an abortion were on the table, I would start researching and my spectrum would adjust as a result.

4) Conservative Confidence

Sure about that?

Sure conservatives will say they're absolutely confident that life begins at conception and not a day later. But there's a difference between the reasonable confidence that I'm talking about, and dogmatic confidence.

I think that maybe the difference between reasonable and dogmatic confidence is this: Reasonable confidence comes from exposure to relevant information about the un-born. I'm not looking for some kind of logical argument. But use questions like; How much of its brain is working? What does it look like? Could it live outside the womb right now? and draw an impression from these kinds of questions. It might not be the right call, but exposure to those kinds of questions is how a reasonable judgement is made.

On the other hand, dogmatic confidence comes from exposure to cultural influence. You were taught that life begins at conception, by your parents or your church or something, and you just can't make yourself seriously consider otherwise. I think this is the kind of confidence most pro-lifers have.

Let me also mention that pro-lifers like to talk about when life begins, which is irrelevant. What matters is when life becomes worthy of the same treatment as any other human life, some very primitive forms of human life may not have this worthiness.

5) What about Women's Rights? Yeah, what about it?

Both sides agree that life is valuable and should be protected, and both sides agree that women should have rights over her body. And both sides agree that when life conflicts with choice, life wins. So I don't get what women's rights has to do with abortion. It just seems to miss the point.

I guess choice makes a lot of sense as a description of what they believe, just not an argument for what they believe. You can say, "it isn't life, therefore, the woman should have the choice". That's fine. But you can't say, "The woman should have the right to choose, therefore, she has the right to choose abortion." The latter is how the pro-choicers come off to me. It seems like they're arguing from the choice of the woman, which in populist morality is axiomatically true. To disagree is to trigger a taboo violation involving women's rights, even though nobody believes in women's rights under the conditions that the pro-lifers are arguing for.

Let me also mention that I often hear pro-choicers say that abortions are going to happen anyway. Maybe to some extent. But the purpose of making something illegal isn't to reduce it to 0, but to discourage it. The abortion rate skyrocketed after Roe v Wade, suggesting that people are very responsive to whether abortion is legal.

6) Long story Short

It's not obvious when a lump of cells becomes a life worthy of the same treatment as any other human life. When it's not obvious, we shouldn't legally condemn aborters, but they're morally responsible for unnecessarily risking their child's life.

I'm not stating where the spectrum of unclarity begins and ends, but so long as we admit it exists there will be overlap and therefore common ground upon which we can apply these moral and legal tenets.

Pro-lifers are unreasonably confident that life begins at conception. In order to take their confidence seriously, it needs to be based on exposure to the fetus not exposure to a tradition.

Pro-choicers talk too much about women's rights and not enough about the fetus' lack of rights. Women's rights miss the point because women's rights is common ground between them and their opponents.

That's kind of where I'm at on the whole issue, but I'm extremely willing to be talked out of it.