Saturday, February 09, 2019

Against Abortion: More from Francis Beckwith

(In Bangkok)

(This is a re-post of part two of Francis Beckwith's argument against abortion. I'm doing this for the home school students and paretns I met with on Friday.)
If your position on abortion is that it is infanticide, i.e., the taking of a human life,  then you will (unless you have no heart at all) be passionately against abortion. That's my position. 
Of course I am influenced here by my Christian theistic worldview. But non-religiously, I am most influenced by the work of Francis Beckwith, who is Prof. of philosophy and jurisprudence at Baylor University. Beckwith's Defending Life:  A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice is the book to read for a non-religious, philosophical, and legal argument against abortion.

1.    The unborn entity is fully human from the moment of conception.

2.    Abortion (narrowly defined) results in the intentional death of the unborn entity.

3.    Therefore, abortion entails the intentional killing of a human being.

Assumption: Human beings have a right to life.
Exception: “If, however, there is a high probability that a woman's pregnancy will result in her death (as in the case of a tubal pregnancy, for example), then abortion is justified. For it is a greater good that one human should live (the mother) rather than two die (the mother and her child). Or, to put it another way, in such cases the intent is not to kill the unborn (though that is an unfortunate effect) but to save the life of the mother. With the exception of such cases, abortion is an act in which an innocent human being is intentionally killed; therefore, abortion should be made illegal, as are all other such acts of killing.” (Beckwith)

Some claim to be both pro-life and pro-choice, expressing this as follows: "I'm personally against abortion, but I don't object to a woman who wants to have one if she believes it is the right thing to do." But this is odd and inconsistent.
Beckwith writes:
·         The problem with this statement is that it doesn't tell us the reason why the person claims to be personally against abortion.

·         Most people who are against abortion are so because it is the taking of a human life.

·         This is a strange, seemingly inconsistent position, “since the assumed reason why he would be personally against abortion is the same reason why he should be against publicly permitting it, namely, that an entity which is fully human has a right to life.” (Beckwith)

·         Beckwith writes: “After all, what would we think of the depth of an individual's convictions if he claimed that he was personally against the genocide of a particular ethnic group (e.g., the Jews), but he added that if others thought this race was not human, they were certainly welcome to participate in the genocide if they so chose? What I'm getting at is simply that the nature of some "personal" opinions warrants public actions, even if these opinions turn out to be wrong, while other opinions (e.g., one's personal preference for German chocolate cake) do not. Thus, it makes little moral sense to claim that one is both pro-life and pro-choice.”
See the entire essay, where Beckwith shows that the following pro-abortion argument fail logically because they commit the "appeal to pity" fallacy.
- Illegal abortions are dangerous (so we must legalize abortion)
- Arguments from economic inequity
- Arguments from population, poverty, and financial burden.
"This is not to minimize the fact that there are tragic circumstances with which our society is all too familiar, such as the poor woman with four small children who has become pregnant by her alcoholic husband. But once again we must ask whether or not the unborn entity is fully human, for hardship does not justify homicide. In such cases, those in the religious and charitable communities should help lend financial and emotional support to the family. And it may be wise — if it is a case of extreme hardship — for the woman to put her baby up for adoption, so that she may give to others the gift of parenthood."
- Argument from the deformed child. Beckwith writes: "This is not to deny that there are tragedies in life and that having a handicapped child is often a difficult burden to undertake. But I think it is important to realize that if the unborn entity is fully human, homicide cannot be justified simply because it relieves one of a terrible burden. Though it may be hard to accept, I believe the following principle is fundamental to correct moral reasoning: it is better to suffer evil rather than to inflict it. If this moral precept were not true, all so-called moral dilemmas would be easily soluble by simply appealing to one's own relief from suffering. But in such a world the antidote would be worse than the poison, for people would then have a right to inflict suffering on another if it relieved them of their own. This would be morally intolerable."