Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is there a morally relevant difference between late-term abortion and infanticide?

This is what I call the Melissa Drexler dilemma. She did hard time, but an abortion doctor could have done the same thing and had it be perfectly legal.

Unless someone can explain to me the morally relevant difference.

15 comments:

N said...

"It's not popular enough yet with voters."

There you go.

Clayton said...

Is there _any_ morally relevant difference between late-term abortion and infanticide? Perhaps. Remember in Thomson's defense of abortion she says that the right to terminate the pregnancy is not the right to see to it that the fetus is killed. To deny the fetus the use of the woman's body knowing that the result of severing the connection between the fetus and the woman is the death of the fetus is to act on an intention that isn't the intention one acts on in the case of infanticide. To deny the fetus the use of the body one can argue that the fetus' needs do not give it the right to use the woman's body, but rights of bodily autonomy have nothing to do with infanticide.

So, I guess if you ignore the intentions and ignore the specific rights that are at issue in the two cases you might think there are no differences. But, if you take account of intentions and rights there are at least potential differences. (Of course, you can say that in spite of these differences both acts are indecent, immoral, etc...)

Victor Reppert said...

Of course, the Thomson argument, if it works, gives the woman the right to terminate the pregnancy, and if this could be done without killing the fetus, then this is obligatory. To take the additional step of killing the fetus doesn't fall within the purview of the argument.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Is there a morally relevant difference between late-term abortion and infanticide?"

Is there a morally relevant difference between *any* elective abortion and infanticide?

Clayton said...

VR,

It's probably important to remember two things. First, it's not clear the extent to which Thomson wishes to defend the right to terminate a pregnancy when that pregnancy was not an accidental pregnancy in late term. She doesn't defend it from the charge that it might be 'indecent' to exercise the right to have one since she applies that term. So, since you haven't filled in the background conditions (e.g., whether it was an accidental pregnancy where contraceptives were used) we have to take all of this with a grain of salt. Second, even if her arguments don't establish the _permissibility_ of a late term abortion, the question asked about 'morally relevant differences' and just as there can be morally relevant differences between two permissible actions (e.g., only one is supererogatory or suberogatory), there can be morally relevant differences between two impermissible actions and facts about intentions can make a moral difference by making one of a pair of impermissible actions worse.

Shackleman said...

Ilíon: "Is there a morally relevant difference between *any* elective abortion and infanticide?"Self defense abortions, i.e. those where the life of the mother is at risk would qualify as a morally relevant difference between other types of abortion. I can't think of any others though.


Clayton: "...whether it was an accidental pregnancy where contraceptives were used"Oh, your condom broke? Why didn't you say so! Yeah, go ahead and kill the baby.

Oh, your pill didn't work? That's okay, kill the baby.

Oh, your spermicide didn't get 'em all? That's okay, kill the baby.

Oh, you ovulated a day earlier than expected? That's okay, kill the baby.

I guess that's why the Catholics frown upon contraception. It's not because they're puritanical, it's because they view sex, all sex, as having the potential to produce life. When we use contraceptives we diminish the true potential power of the act, and fool ourselves into thinking that sex is pure pleasure without responsibility. Then we wind up having to make decisions, such as abortion, that should have never had to be made in the first place.

(And I'm not even Catholic, but I sometimes wonder if I should be!)

Clayton said...

Shackleman,

Don't bother to read the comments. Rant on, rant on.

Shackleman said...

Clayton,

*sigh*

One point you made in your comment you left without much detail. I took the opportunity to expound upon it some since you didn't. And you call that a rant.

Whatever. Guess we all just have to keep the topics as narrow as you see fit. No probing allowed here.

Spare me.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: Is there a morally relevant difference between *any* elective abortion and infanticide?"

Shackleman: "Self defense abortions, i.e. those where the life of the mother is at risk would qualify as a morally relevant difference between other types of abortion. I can't think of any others though."

Got it covered.

Shackleman said...

Ilion,

I don't think your qualifier, "elective" covers it. The at-risk mother is still electing to save her own life rather than the life of the child if she chooses an abortion.

Unless I missed something.

Back on topic with Dr. Reppert's original query....I forgot to include in my first reply that there is arguably a moral difference with pregnancies resultant from rapes and incest, as well as those where the life of the mother is at risk.

Put differently, from the perspective of the baby, wouldn't *all* abortions be morally unjustifiable?

And from the perspective of the mother, wouldn't all abortions be morally unjustifiable *except* for those which save her own life, or are due to rape or incest?

*Now* I can't imagine any others.

Clayton said...

Shackleman,

"Clayton: "...whether it was an accidental pregnancy where contraceptives were used"Oh, your condom broke? Why didn't you say so! Yeah, go ahead and kill the baby."

By mentioning "accidental pregnancy", I was making a comment about the content of the view defended by Thomson in her classic paper. I wasn't condoning 'baby killing'.

Gordon Knight said...

I would think that just as late term abortion is in some ways like infanticide, early abortions are much less so. Especially when one considers "abortions" of very early embryos, which are literally a cluster of cells. And yet the abortion opponents, instead of cheering plan B as a way of minimizing abortion, consider killing a brainless being equivalent to murder. Its crazy.

The American Tory said...

If I invite you into a room, leave, suck all the air out of the room and kill you, I haven't intended to murder you really, I've just denied you the use of my air. It's not a question of killing you at all, really, it's just about air sovereignty.

Crude said...

Gordon Knight,

While I understand your rationale, considering we're in an age where even partial-birth abortions are vigorously defended by many - and guys like Peter Singer can openly discuss infanticide without being regarded as a monster - I dare say the only 'tactic' (if we're going to think in such terms) is the one many have taken from the beginning. Human life is sacred from start to finish. The start is quite clear, as is the finish. "Oh, it's just a clump of cells" is what started this mess, and incorrect.

Bonobos said...

Crude,

You fail to clarify why all human life is sacred? If this is so, then perhaps it is abhorrent that we let so many sacred lives perish through miscarriages. And why is a cancer cluster growing in a womb acceptable to remove whereas a zygote is not? Both human, both alive, both a cluster of cells, why is one sacred?

'Human life' is an imprecise term. Someone on this thread needs to point to the exact reason why it is wrong to kill a fetus or an infant. What quality do they have that ensures the same protection as an adult 'person', ie a right to life?