Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An atheist questions the morality and "science" of abortion

He keeps his arguments clean and simple and seeks to be consistent with his broader values. He does not call for a government ban on abortion, which makes his moral argument even more compelling. David Harsanyi in the Denver Post:

What about future DNA tests that can detect any "defects" in a fetus? What happens when we can use abortion to weed out the blind, mentally ill, the ugly, or any other any "undesirable" human being?

Recently, Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare ruled that women are permitted to abort their children based on the sex of the fetus. In the United States, a woman can have an abortion for nearly any reason she chooses. In fact, a health exemption for the mother allows abortions to be performed virtually on demand.

If you oppose selective abortions, but not abortion overall, I wonder why? How is terminating the fetus because it's the wrong sex any worse than terminating the fetus for convenience's sake? The fate of the fetus does not change, only the reasoning for its extinction does.

Now, I happen to believe (as the civil libertarian and pro-life activist Nat Hentoff once noted) that the right to life and liberty is the foundation of a moral society. Then again, I also believe a government ban on abortion would only criminalize the procedure and do little to mitigate the amount of abortions.

The key to the moral discussion keeps coming back to the social reality of the human being. "It's just my choice!" is incoherent when birth is inherently social, establishing and defining families, citizenship, inheritance claims and other webs of relationship. Even for an atheist, "right to life... is the foundation of a moral society."

And the key to the scientific discussion keeps coming back to, "When is it life?" The pro-abortion answer, "When I say so," is an appeal to ignorance. Harsanyi writes,

You may not consider a fetus a "human life" in early pregnancy, though it has its own DNA and medical science continues to find ways to keep the fetus viable outside the womb earlier and earlier.

But it's difficult to understand how those who harp about the importance of "science" in public policy can draw an arbitrary timeline in the pregnancy, defining when human life is worth saving and when it can be terminated.

h/t Greg Griffith

1 comment:

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