Monday, October 20, 2014

Abortion Is Not an "Act of Love"

Time magazine has a book review of Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. It's by Kate Manning - "The Choice. Pro makes a controversial case that abortion can be an act of love." 

Manning asks: "Who is the abortion debate really about? The answer here is that it should be about women, not embryos." With this one sentence Manning and presumably Pollitt spin the argument in their favor. If the inborn human is defined as "embryo" and not "person" then who could have a problem with abortion? If "embryo" means "non-person" I see no big deal about abortion since yesterday I ate a steak harvested from a mere animal, plus I killed a fly bothering us in the house.

Manning has the core question wrong. The big question prior to her idea of "what the abortion debate is really about" is: what is the status of the inborn human? Embryo or person? If the answer is "person," then it's morally wrong to take the life of another person even if it hinders me from "pursuing my dream." Note how Manning's statement shifts in meaning when we substitute 'person' for 'embryo': "Who is the abortion debate really about? The answer here is that it should be about women, not [other] persons." That makes me squeamish. Manning's argument is a red herring. 

What about an ectopic pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother? This is a tragic and difficult situation. But there's no logical claim of inference from the existence of an ectopic pregnancy to abortion rights. Not if the inborn child is a person, albeit not fully developed.

Manning's last sentence troubles me deeply. She writes: "the only thing making me squeamish these days is contemplating the dangerous measures women will resort to as abortion rights are lost and how women and children suffer as a consequence of government intrusion on the most sacred and private decision a woman can make: whether or not to bear a child." (But this is a slippery slope fallacy, correct?)

But it's not a private decision if it involves killing another person, at least in the sense that their right to life ought to be considered, even if they are cognitively unable to choose life for themselves. Please don't call that an act of love.