The Morality of Abortion: A Critique
The abortion debate begins with the moral status of the fetus. If the fetus has no rights, then abortion is a non-issue--it is as easy to justify as an appendectomy. But, if the fetus has rights, then abortion doesn't solely concern the freedom of women, since personal freedom is constrained by the rights of others. The most prevalent argument that the fetus has a moral status disallowing abortion is:
* A fetus is a member of the biological species homo sapiens (i.e., a human being).
* To destroy a human being deliberately is unethical (it's murder).
* Therefore, abortion is unethical (murder), since it constitutes the deliberate destruction of a human being.
However, there are some widely granted exceptions to the rule that to destroy a human being deliberately is unethical. (In this essay "human being" refers strictly to an animal of the species homo sapiens; it has no intrinsic sense of being a member of a society, or person with rights--using the term in those senses, in this particular discussion, tends to produce circular arguments.)
A popular justification for intentionally destroying a human being is self-defense, and the principle of self-defense is widey advanced on behalf of abortion. But it doesn't justify abortion. A claim of self-defense doesn't defend against a criminal charge when it comes from the party who brought about the conflict. For example, parents can't invoke self-defense and treat their (minor) children as trespassers, because parents bring it about that there are children needing shelter. Parents also bring about pregnancy, so self-defense can't justify ending pregnancy in ways that are normally criminal, such as killing a human being. An occasional rebuttal here is that parents aren't responsible for the pregnancy if they didn't intend it. But, responsibility for the consequences of one's actions isn't limited to intended consequences. Causing accidents and gambling are...