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View Diary: the issue of conscience versus dogma (50 comments)

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  •  No law requires you to give your life (0+ / 0-)

    but this isn't the same.  The fetus takes no action to kill the mother.

    The point you make here briefly is related to one philosopher's effort to justify the morality of abortion, even if the fetus is human.  I can't remember her name, but her argument was that no one should be forced to keep another alive in her own body.  Imagine a situation in which a woman wakes up and finds herself attached to another person by some set of tubes or devices.  She is told that she is keeping that person alive, and she'll have to be kept hooked up for several months.  What are her options?

    Many people would say she could disconnect herself, even if the result were the death of the other person.  Others would disagree, citing to what is often called the "principle of double effect."  That is, I do an act for a good purpose, which is what I intend.  That act also has a bad effect, which I don't intend, but which happens anyway.  According to Wikipedia, the principle works like this:

    1.  the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral;
    1. the agent intends the good effect and not the bad either as a means to the good or as an end itself;
    1. the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm.

    For instance, a doctor can inflict pain on a patient if that's an unavoidable consequence of curing the patient.  The doctor wants to cure, not to inflict pain, the cure doesn't result from the pain, which is only a side effect of the cure; and the value of curing the patient exceeds the harm done by inflicting the pain.

    The pro-life objection to applying the double effect principle to the "abortion to save the mother's life" situation, or to the unhooking the tubes example above, would be that it fails the proportionality test, in that the evil result, the death of one person, is on the same level as the good result, saving another person. Also, the evil effect flows from the action, it's not just a side effect.

    Now let's suppose that, for some reason, the woman couldn't just disconnect herself and allow the other person to die.  She would have to get a gun and kill the other person.  Here the pro-life objection is even stronger, since the act itself, killling the fetus, is morally evil.

    Look, these are tough questions, and this sort of philosophical discussion can seem awfully cold and abstract when one is confronted with issues of life and death.  My intention is simply to focus the argument on what I believe is the first and most fundamental issue--is the fetus a human being?  The answer to that determines everything else.

    •  there will never be an answer to that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10

      that suits all sides...never

      "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

      by Pandoras Box on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:37:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're absolutely right... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pandoras Box

        there never will be an answer that will satisfy everyone.  This is, in my opinion, the biggest challenge to the pro-life movement.  Pro-lifers believe that life begins at conception.  Others don't.  But pro-lifers want to pass laws forbidding abortions even for people who don't agree with them.  Is there a rational basis for imposing the pro-life standard on everyone?

        No way there's enough time or space to have this conversation in depth, but here's an outline:

        In spite of the cliche that "you can't legislate morality," the fact is that much of the law is legislated morality.  Society believes that murder, rape, theft, etc., are immoral, and makes them illegal.  And society imposes this belief even on those people who sincerely believe that it's OK for them to kill, rape, and steal.  So we do legislate morality, and we do impose our moral beliefs even on people who disagree with us.

        On the other hand, there is a lot of human conduct which many people, even perhaps most people, believe is immoral, but which we as a society don't punish.  Most people believe that adultery is immoral, but also think that it's a private matter the criminal law should not punish (this wasn't always the case historically).  An even more pertinent example would be artificial contraception.  The Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception is wrong, but almost no Catholic who thinks that also thinks contraception should be illegal.  And yet the Church not only thinks abortion is wrong, but a great many Catholics believe it should also be illegal.

        So the challenge to the pro-life movement is to come up with a rationale for making their view the law of the land.

    •  and, in the case of this particular woman, (0+ / 0-)

      the fetus did not need to "take action" against the woman.  The very existence of the fetus WAS threatening the life of the woman.

      "We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering!" - The Shoveler

      by Pandoras Box on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 06:55:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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