Abortion and the Right to Life
Social Contract and Abortion
Right to Life Arguments
Emotionally charged arguments on abortion are frequently poorly thought out. Many people conflate “Is abortion unethical” with “Is abortion murder?” Pregnancy (and fetus) are compared to natural disasters (force majeure). The embryo is often likened to cancer, a robber, or an intruder since they are both cell growths. No one deliberately contracts cancer (except smokers, who gamble, not contract).
When a woman has consenting intercourse without contraception and becomes pregnant, she made a contract with her fetus. A contract requires proving free will. If contract duties may be life-threatening, no rational free choice was involved. No sensible individual would sign such a contract (though most people would sign such contracts with society).
Judith Jarvis Thomson claimed in “A Defence of Abortion” that coerced sex or life-threatening pregnancies should be terminated ethically. The contract was not entered freely or fairly and is invalid. Any steps to cease it and invalidate its effects should be lawful and moral.
The same applies to a contract entered into against one party’s will and notwithstanding reasonable efforts to avert it. If a woman takes contraceptives to avoid conception, it’s like saying, “I don’t want to sign this contract, and if I do, it’s against my explicit will.” A contract should be terminated legally (and morally).
When we investigate the embryo, the implicit agreements become more problematic. First, it’s mindless (in the sense that is needed for signing an enforceable and valid contract). Can a contract be valid without this sine qua non trait? Free will is meaningless without awareness (or rights which depend on sentience). Is there no contract? Does it represent parties’ intentions?
Negative The mother-fetus pact derives from the Social Contract. Society’s apparatuses represent embryos, juveniles, the mentally handicapped, and the crazy. Society intervenes when the powers of the parties to a contract (implicit or explicit) are not balanced. It defends little people against huge monopolies, the weak from the bully, the tiny opposition from the massive government, and the barely surviving radio station from the state machinery. It has the right and responsibility to represent the unconscious, which is why euthanasia is illegal without the dying person’s agreement. Embryo and comatose are similar.
A contract outlines the parties’ rights. It implies the presence of “moral personhoods” or “morally important individuals” — people with rights who may demand we respect them. Contracts specifically detail certain rights and leave others unmentioned due to the Social Contract. Every contract presupposes there is a social contract that applies to the parties and is widely understood. An explicit contract might deal with a person’s property rights while ignoring his rights to life, free expression, enjoying his legitimate property, and a happy existence.
The Mother is ethically important and a rights-holder. All born people and older persons are. The unborn fetus?
The embryo has no rights until specific requirements are satisfied, at which point he becomes ethically meaningful (“moral agent”). Conditions are disputed. Often-cited qualities include rationality and a morally relevant existence. Children are illogical; does this justify infanticide?
Second, a person has the right to life if they want it.
Do we have the right to end persistent depressives’ terrible lives? The good part of life (and the important test) is experience, not want.
A person has the right to life since when he dies, his experiences end. How do we determine the right to life of someone who regularly suffers (and has a death wish)? He should be “terminated.”
Don Marquis (in “Why Abortion is Immoral”, 1989) offers a sharper and more complete criterion: ending a life is ethically wrong because a person has a destiny with worth and purpose, like ours.
The argument is pointless. There is no contradiction between the mother’s and fetus’ rights since agreement parties never disagree. The mother signed an agreement that restricted her rights. Contracts are usually compromises that optimize (not maximize) the parties’ rights and objectives. The fetus’ rights are part of the contract the mother freely and properly signed. They’re influenced by mom. Getting pregnant voluntarily (or risking pregnancy by not taking contraception appropriately) ratifies a contract between woman and the baby. Many contracts are by behavior, not paper. Verbal or behavioral contracts are common. Implicit contracts are as binding as written ones. The mother handed away part of her rights legally (and ethically). Even if she regrets it, she can’t revoke the contract unilaterally. Both parties must agree to cancel a contract. Sometimes we understand we’ve signed a horrible deal, but we can’t do anything. It’s game time.
Modern contract law can simply answer the two remaining questions: (a) may this contract (pregnancy) be cancelled, and (b) under what circumstances? Yes, a contract may be canceled if signed under duress, unwillingly, by incompetent individuals (e.g., the crazy), or if one of the parties made a reasonable and full-scale endeavor to avoid its signing, expressing its unambiguous intent not to sign. It’s also invalid if it’s unreasonable to expect one party to do it. Life-threatening events include rape and contraceptive failure.
In the event of economic difficulty, the mother’s future is bound to be damaged. True, her future has significance and purpose, but so will the fetus’s once born. This certainty can’t be matched by the embryo’s UNCERTAIN destiny. Morally incorrect is always choosing an unknown good above a known evil. This seems quantitative, not qualitative. If the woman has the baby, several parts of her life will be negatively affected (although may be mitigated by society’s support). Not having it is fundamentally different. It robs the unborn of his future pleasure, values, and significance.
Whether the fetus is a Being or a development of cells, sentient or unconscious, able to value his life and wish it – are unimportant. As a one-minute-old newborn, he has the ability to have a joyful, meaningful life like ours. They have a service contract. She helps him realize his potential by providing products and services. It resembles many human contracts. This contract continues after delivery.
Consider education: youngsters don’t value its relevance or potential, but it’s pushed on them because adults, who are capable of great achievements, want them to have the means to realize their potential. Human pregnancy continues far into the fourth year (physiologically it continues in to the second year of life – see “Born Alien”). Should pregnancy site (uterus, in vivo) affect its future? Why should a woman be denied the right to abort AFTER the fetus exits and the pregnancy continues OUTSIDE her womb? The woman’s body is the baby’s major source of sustenance after delivery, and she must suffer physical difficulty to nurture the infant. Why not extend a woman’s right to her body post-natally?
Most contracts are for products and services (at the provider’s expense). Our business opens. We offer software and books to help people realize their potential. We must sign contracts voluntarily and fairly, otherwise they will be invalid. Denying someone the ability to manifest his potential and the commodities and services he needs after a lawful contract is unethical. To decline a service or condition it (Mother: “I’ll supply the products and services I promised to this fetus under this contract only if and when I profit from such provision”) is a contract breach and should be fined. Sometimes we can do immoral things (since they’re not unlawful), but that doesn’t make them moral.
Not every unethical act involving death is murder. Acts appear same because of phenomenology (cessation of life functions, the prevention of a future). Murder is the deliberate killing of a conscious person (and, in most cases, a free will, especially the will not to die). Abortion ends a life that may become a conscious, free-willed individual. Potential and reality are philosophically distinct. Destruction of paints and fabric is not equivalent to destroying a Van Gogh artwork consisting of these ingredients. The Painter transforms paints and fabric into paintings. Nature-made cluster of human cells. Destruction of the artist’s materials is an offense. Destroying a fetus is thus a crime against nature. No final product was lost in either instance. As creation progresses, the ending act becomes less severe.
Abortion as murder offers several philosophical concerns.
Everyone agrees that abortion is a crime against potentialities. How is abortion different from killing sperm and egg? These two have all the knowledge (=potential), and their elimination is as dangerous as a fetus’. Destruction of an egg and sperm is much more terrible philosophically: creating a baby confines all genetic potentials to that fetus. Egg and sperm are like the wave function (state vector) in quantum physics; they represent millions of possible final states (=embryos and lifetimes). The fetus collapses the wave function, limiting its potentials. How should we see masturbation and contraception, which both eliminate potentials?
It’s not hard to predict which sperm cell will fertilize an egg. They all have the same genetic makeup. Would this counterargument hold if we could identify and delete the selected one? Catholicism considers contraception murder. Masturbation is a major offense in Judaism, punishable by everlasting excommunication (“Karet”).
If abortion is murder, how can we handle these moral challenges and questions?
Natural abortion = negligent manslaughter?
Do smoking, drug addiction, and vegetarianism impede embryonic life? They a contract violation?
Reductio ad absurdum: if future science proves that particular music or ideas hinder prenatal growth, should we restrict the Mother?
Should Mother-Embryo pregnancy contracts include force majeure clauses? Will she be able to cancel? Can the embryo cancel the contract? Should the imbalance persist: mother has no right to terminate, embryo does, or vice versa?
Can the embryo (=the State) sue his mother or other parties (the doctor who terminated him, someone who struck his mother and caused a natural abortion) after he dies?
Should abortion knowledge constitute murder complicity?
Why penalize abortion so lightly if it’s murder? Why is this debated? “Thou must not kill” is a universal natural rule. It’s obvious. Abortion’s lack of legal and moral parity is telling.
Appendix: Pro-Life Arguments
Humans have a right to life, according to most moral systems. Third parties have responsibilities to a rightholder. Against others, one has a right. A right imposes some necessary behaviors and proscribes certain actions or omissions. This Janus-like nature of rights and obligations produces misunderstanding. People sometimes mix rights and responsibilities with moral decency or moral permissibility. What one MUST do because of another’s right is different from what one SHOULD or OUGHT to do ethically (in the absence of a right).
The right to life comprises 8 facets.
Right to life
IE. Life-saving rights
IF. Life-saving rights (erroneously limited to the right to self-defence)
Right to die
Right to die
Humans only have rights. An egg may not be alive, yet it exists. Its rights depend from its existence and ability to generate life. The right to be brought to life (the right to become or to be) is null and invalid for a non-living thing. If this right existed, it would have required giving life to the unborn and unconceived. Nonsense.
Voluntary and purposeful fertilization crystallizes the right to be born. If a woman participates in sexual activity to have a child, the fertilized egg has a right to grow and be born. The newborn has all the rights a kid has against his parents: food, housing, emotional sustenance, education, etc.
If fertilization was involuntary (rape) or inadvertent, the fetus and kid may not have rights (“accidental” pregnancies). Keeping the fetus alive outside the mother’s womb seems reasonable. It’s not known whether it can continue utilizing the mother’s body or resources to support its own existence (see IC below).
Right to Life
Does one have the right to live at others’ expense? Is it okay to utilize other people’s bodies, property, time, resources, and deprive them of joy, comfort, financial goods, money, or anything else?
No one can preserve or lengthen their life at another’s cost (no matter how minimal and insignificant the sacrifice required is). If the parties have implicitly or expressly signed a contract, the right may crystallize and establish moral and legal responsibilities and obligations.
No fetus can live at his mother’s cost (no matter how minimal and insignificant the sacrifice required of her is). If she signed a contract with the unborn by consciously, freely, and purposefully conceiving it, this right has solidified and formed responsibilities and obligations of the mother towards her fetus.
Everyone has the right to preserve or lengthen their lives at SOCIETY’s cost (no matter how major and significant the resources required are). If the parties have implicitly or formally signed a contract, the abrogation of a right may crystallize in the contract and establish moral and legal responsibilities and obligations.
Everyone has the right to live on society’s dime. Public hospitals, state pension systems, and police forces must satisfy society’s commitments, no matter how large and substantial the resources. If a person volunteered to join the army and a contract was signed, this right was abrogated and the individual acquired specific responsibilities and obligations, including the responsibility to offer up his or her life to society.
Right to life
Unjust killing is against everyone’s rights. What is “just killing” depends on a social contract’s ethical calculation.
Does A’s right not to be murdered include the right to be left alone by other parties? Does A’s right not to be murdered exclude righting wrongs he perpetrated against others, even if it meant murdering A?
True. Righting wrongs is morally required (to restore the rights of other people). If A maintains or prolongs his life by violating others’ rights and they object, A must be murdered to right the injustice and re-assert their rights.
Right to be saved
Lifesaving is neither a right nor a moral responsibility. This “right” demonstrates the confusion between morally admirable, desirable, and acceptable (“ought”, “should”) and morally obligatory, the outcome of other people’s rights (“must”).
In certain nations, saving lives is lawful. While the law may provide LEGAL rights and responsibilities, it does not always generate moral or ethical rights and duties.
Self-defense is a subset of the right to save one’s life. One has the right to save his or her own life.
One may murder a pursuer who aims to kill them. The right to murder an innocent person who inadvertently threatens one’s life is contentious.
Right to die
Numerous social, ethical, and legal restrictions, concepts, and concerns limit the right to euthanasia. In a nutshell, in many Western countries one is thought to have a right to have one’s life terminated with the help of third parties if one is going to die shortly anyway and if one will be tormented and humiliated by great and debilitating agony for the rest of one’s remaining life if not helped to die. One must be of sound mind and intend their death deliberately, purposefully, and violently to be assisted in dying.
II. Rights issues
The Rights Hierarchy
All civilizations have rights hierarchy. There is no universal or everlasting order since they reflect cultural mores and traditions.
In Western moral traditions, the Right to Life trumps all other rights (body, comfort, pain avoidance, property, etc.).
This hierarchical system doesn’t assist us decide problems involving equal rights (for instance, the conflicting rights to life of two people). Randomly choosing between equal claims is one method (by flipping a coin, or casting dice). We could also do macabre math with rights. If a mother’s life is threatened by a fetus, and assuming both have a right to life, we may murder the fetus by adding the mother’s right to her own body to her right to life, thereby outweighing the fetus’ right to life.
Killing vs. letting die
Killing and letting die are different (not saving a life). IE supports this. There’s a right not to be murdered, but not to be rescued. There is a duty not to kill, but not to preserve a life.
Often, an IP’s ongoing existence threatens a victim’s life (V). “Innocent” means not accountable for murdering V, not intending to harm V, and not knowing that IP’s acts or continuing presence would kill V.
It’s easy to kill IP to rescue V if IP will die soon and V’s remaining life, if saved, will be significantly longer than IP’s. All other variations need weighted rights. (See Baruch A. Brody’s “Abortion and Human Life”).
Utilitarian calculus is one kind. It maximizes usefulness (life, happiness, pleasure). The life, happiness, or enjoyment of the many exceed the few. IP may be killed ethically if two or more lives are saved and there is no other way to save them. I disagree with some of utilitarianism’s philosophical principles but agree with its practical suggestions.
In the context of murdering innocents, self-defense may be used. V may kill IP regardless of moral rights. No. Taking another’s life to preserve your own is seldom justifiable. Such behavior is acceptable. Here, reasonable and inevitable behavior (self-defense) is confused with a MORAL RIGHT. Most Vs would kill IP, and we’d all empathize with and understand V’s behavior, but it doesn’t imply V had the right to kill IP. V had the authority to terminate IP, but it wasn’t automatic or all-encompassing.