If Men could get pregnant . . .

One of the arguments common in the abortion debate is a thought experiment about male pregnancy.

The theorized scenario goes something like this:

If men could get pregnant, then [insert prochoice outcome, like . . .]

  • birth-control would be given out like tic tacs
  • abortion would be virtually mandatory
  • there’d be 10x’s as many abortions
  • the prolife movement wouldn’t exist
  • etc.

At the heart of this thought experiment there is some semblance of a noble motive. The abortion debate is laden with gender issues, classic and modern, political, societal, local and individual. Men don’t always understanding the plight of women in this day and age, or for that matter, at any age in the past. Perhaps men would be more caring and compassionate towards young mothers, unwed mothers, or otherwise reluctant mothers if men could get pregant. This point is valid, insofar as it goes. But the “pregnant men” objection goes further than is valid.

Some major limitations render this thought experiment an unreliable tool in the abortion debate. First, let’s rule out some of the more absurd/extreme ways this thought experiment might operate. These first two possibilities are extreme, we are addressing them here just to point out some of the logic borderlands for this thought-experiment.

(1) It could be a Hypothesis Contrary to Fact.
By using a hypothetical scenario that is very different from the known world so it’s laden with untestable conjecture thus committing a logical fallacy called “hypothesis contrary to fact.” If men could get pregnant then that could be a weird nether-world totally unlike this one. It’s not clear how that alternate reality would be ethically relevant to the question of whether abortion is ethical.

(2) It’s ad hoc, Invented On the Spot
How could a person gain knowledge of this fictional world? Since this pregnant-male world doesn’t exist, one would have to be inventing it; a fictional world. But being fiction, all logic and reason, relative to the real world, goes out the window. Once principled reasoning goes, then it becomes silly to argue about it, since one can just invent the rules for this alternate world as he or she goes along. This is a fine practice for creative writing and story-telling but it doesn’t get us very far in analyzing the ethics of abortion.

Now, I don’t think people asserting the “pregnant-men” objection are usually trying to propose a complete alternate-world, nor are they trying to fictionalize wildly about what that new world would be like. More likely, they aim simply at a small tweak on this world and use this scenario as a thought experiment. Supposing everything else is equal, what if X were the case? That’s a common argument method in philosophy, and it might have value here, in exposing a measure of empathy and compassion men might gain if they could really understand what women experience in pregnancy and childbirth.

In some cases, however, it may be useful when someone raises the pregnant-men objection, to clarify what other details might operate in this “pregnant-men” world. They might not have thought through their objection very well and they tend to assume that pregnancy is entirely separable from maternal psychology and the ethics of motherhood, or that’s it’s totally unrelated to marital and sexual conventions.

Supposing then that the objector intends this objection as a kind of thought-experiment where most everything else is presumed to be equal, and they aren’t venturing too far to explain this fictionalize world, we still have some problems to address in the pregnant-men objection.

(3) A “similar” world still leaves too many unanswered questions to justify a pro-choice outcome.
If this thought-experiment proposes a world “similar” to this world, but some features relating to pregnancy could be enough to seriously complicate this thought experiment enough to ruin it’s rheotircal force. If men could get pregnant, and we are trying to somehow stay “true” to the order and reasoning of this world, then we can’t assume that the male sex drive, or men’s approach to family, or their operations in society, or their sense of gender would go unchanged. But if those things changed in keeping with this theorized shift in child-bearing, then the anticipated pro-choice outcome wouldn’t necessarily follow either. It could be that conservative approaches to sex, marriage, and family would follow if men assume responsibility for child-bearing. But we can’t really know one way or another because this scenario is invented on the spot, and the parameters still all seem arbitrary at this point.

(4) An “almost identical” world still generates a Non-sequitur.
For the sake of argument, if male pregnancy was the only thing to change, somehow, and let us suppose further that that tweak on the facts would generate a much higher abortion rate, or a much more liberalized abortion policy, or a proliferation of birth-control–then we are still left with the same question we started with. Is abortion ethical? That scenario would result in abortion being common, and a range of related behaviors proliferating, but none of that shows whether or not the child-in-utero has a right to life. Societies have shaped law and policy to suit gross injustice in the past, and we have no reason to assume we couldn’t do it again. If abortion numbers skyrocketed, well that could just be skyrocketing evil.

(5) Ad Populum/Consensus Gentium
In this pregnant-male scenario, where abortion is common, we cannot, from that stipulation assume that abortion would be ethical. Evil can be popular, or even universal. As such, that scenario commits a fallacious appeal to majority, that is, the Ad Populum if it argues on the basis of popularity. Or it commits the Consensus Gentium fallacy if it argues on basis  of near universal agreement. Bad ideas and wicked practices can be popular and widely believed

In summary, the male-pregnancy scenario does nothing to prove that a liberal abortion policy is ethical. It does however raise an interesting consideration to help men empathize better with the plight of women.

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Is Consent to Sex Consent to Pregnancy?

PregnantOne of the pivotal conceptual keys to the abortion debate is whether and how sex relates to pregnancy. Specifically, are people consenting to pregnancy when they consent to sex? Pro-lifers typically assert a strong and ethically charged relation where consent to sex is a kind of natural invitation to pregnancy. The woman may not willingly or knowingly be inviting pregnancy, especially if the couple is using different kinds contraception, such as condoms and birth-control pills. However, she is still engaging in a sex act, and since contraceptive practices all have a margin of error, she may still get pregnant. If pregnancy should happen, Pro-lifer’s argue, then she now has the responsibility of carrying that child to term–it’s her responsibility which she invited on herself by using nature’s way of making babies. Meanwhile, pro-choicers are liable to argue that sex and pregnancy are divided; having sex is not an invitation to pregnancy. Who is right?

Well, depending on what you mean by “consent” both sides can be right. If consent is understood strictly in terms of knowingly and intentionally desiring non-pregnancy as an outcome of sex, then a woman would not be consenting to pregnancy. We may call that “strict consent.” By this strict sense, consent refers to adult informed consent, that is, reasonably well-informed willful desire for an outcome or against an outcome. This notion entails some combination of expectations, intention, hope or purpose. However there’s another sense wherein consent should either be stretched to include other things than what is specifically desired or the pregnancy should be thought of as a duty-bearing outcome of the consensual sex-act.

Consent to a Forest Fire

Suppose a woman named Elle does not want to start a forest fire, does not expect to start a forest fire, and does not think she will start a forest fire with her actions, yet, she nevertheless applies a lit match to a dry tree along the highway beside a dense Northern Californian forest. She fully understands how fires work, and how that part of California has a propensity for forest fires. She was playing a trick on a friend, Jay, pretending to start a fire but secretly expecting that the match would be blown out by the stiff winds before it touched the wood. She likes playing tricks on her friend Jay. They play tricks on each other, and have fun doing so. She was acting purely for innocent pleasure motives. Unfortunately, despite her intentions, the match did not blow out and the tree immediately caught spark and lit up like a torch. Other trees ensued in the blaze.

Did Elle start a forest fire? Yes. Did she start it knowingly? Yes. Did she intend to start it? No. But is she still legally and ethically culpable for starting that fire? Yes. The responsibility for starting the forest fire falls on her. Her intentions were betrayed by her actions. Put another way, she physiologically consented to the forest fire even if mentally she did not consent to it. She enabled what she did not want. She is morally responsible for enabling it, and it is of secondary importance whether she wanted that outcome or not. She gave a kind of consent.

Consent to Heartburn

Perhaps another illustration would help us understand consent in terms of free consequences. There is a consequential aspect of freedom. People may have the legal and ethical right to conduct themselves in at least a generally “free” way. People may choose their activities, their words, their lifestyle, their vocation, their lovers. But they do not have the liberty to choose whether to accept the consequences (including subsequent responsibilities) of their free actions. No one’s liberty has been violated if they eat a chili cheese dog and receive heartburn, without consent. Heartburn may still occur for people who are prone to acid reflux, and it may even occur for people who take preventive medicine.

In the case of heartburn, no human life hangs in the balance so there’s no ethical quandry about whether to “kill” the heartburn. But there’s still a relevant parallel. No one’s freedom has been violated, nor injustice committed, if the consequences are natural outcomes of freely chosen acts.

Consent to Mothering an Infant

Likewise, a woman may not want her infant child because she stopped consenting to motherhood after the child’s 2nd birthday. But that ship has already sailed. She has no rightful freedom to kill her infant child. Never mind whether she consents to motherhood or not. Birthing a child and being a mother to that child–even if she later refuses consent–is sufficient for establishing a legal duty to care for that child or see that it is surrendered to be cared-for by someone else. Killing the infant is clearly overkill. Consent to the cause is consent to the effect.

Furthermore, even if she never consented to mother the child, she still has a natural consequence and it is not clear (beyond a reasonable doubt) that killing the child (in utero or ex utero) is an ethical option. The human child in utero is now an interested party, whose personal future hangs in the balance. Had this child been the product of rape (an unchosen consequence), or otherwise unjustly introduced, say, through some mad scientist’s experiment, then this line of argument might not follow.

However, as it stands, anyone advocating for some “right” to kill morally and legally guiltless human beings on the basis of someone else’s consent has clearly not satisfied the burden of proof when it comes to deliberating over and administering death sentences.

Physiological Consent

Returning then to the notion of physiological consent, the sex act can be thought of as physiological consent to pregnancy. When two people, capable of conceiving and bearing a child, engage in heterosexual intercourse they are partaking in a physiological invitation for pregnancy. One might say that our bodies are designed or made to make babies this way. Adults should not be surprised if intercourse generates pregnancy. Frankly, this is how people across human history have thought of sex and pregnancy. Sex is the normal, natural, and well-known way for making babies so that if one does not want to make a baby, one should not have sex. If one wants to have sex without making babies, he or she is still responsible if an accidental pregnancy ensues. More recent contraceptive measures and abortion, since 1973, have given people a host of ways to try to divide sex from pregnancy. But if two consenting adults engage in heterosexual intercourse and the sperm and egg meet, and a child is conceived, they have consented to the outcome in the sense of extending the natural means of inviting that consequence.

Thus, the pro-choicer is left with a strict sense of “consent,” consenting to sex does not entail consenting to pregnancy. A person can want one of these and not the other. But this objection isn’t sufficient to discredit the other type of consent. It doesn’t clearly achieve the degree of evidence needed to satisfy the burden of proof (for administering a death sentence). Plenty of doubts remain before one can conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it’s ethically permission to intentionally kill the fetal human being. Meanwhile, this other sort of consent, “physiological sense” remains as a plausible pro-life alternative. Having sex is itself the consent, the invitation, to pregnancy. One can want either or both, but the sex act itself constitutes physiological consent to pregnancy at least insofar as a moral duty ensues as the act itself is a kind of consent irrespective of one’s strict intentions. Likewise, a person who lights a tree on fire has given the relevant kind of consent to starting a forest fire, even if it was an accident.

Pro-lifers, therefore have a few options. Pro-lifers can ague that consent is either not necessary or consent can be physiological such that if a woman gets pregnant because of consensual sex, she is morally culpable for that outcome (i.e., she is morally responsible as a mother to her child). The pro-choicer has to object to the analogies and consider this “physiological consent” either illicit, inadequate, or inapplicable, while doubling down on the more commonly accepted sense of “informed adult consent.”

Posted in Ethics of Abortion, Philosophy of Abortion, Sex an Sexuality, Terms and Definitions | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Can children-in-utero feel pain?

20_weeks (1)The Pain Capable Act (HR 1797, “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”), effectively banning abortion after 20 weeks, just passed the house this May (2015) and is set to go before the Senate. As of today it’s being reviewed in a judiciary committee. If it passes the Senate, it will likely be vetoed by President Obama. If children-in-utero do feel pain, then most (perhaps all) senate democrats and the President consider that a worthwhile cost in protecting late-term abortion as a right (20+ weeks).

Advocates for this bill have been accused of duplicitous motives, namely, an incremental attack aimed at abolishing abortion. Instead of seeking to reduce fetal pain or support women’s interests, so it is said, the aim is to repeal Roe vs. Wade and get rid of abortion-choice in America.

That accusation may be true or false but in targeting motives instead of laws and actions, it misses the mark. That tactic can be called the “motivational fallacy” for treating motives as if they, by themselves, are sufficient to decide the wisdom, truth, or goodness of a claim. While motives can matter, it’s not clear that they count for very much here. It is sufficient for the purposes of congress to seek to limit needless pain inflicted willfully and aggressively against innocent human beings. Psychoanalytic conjecture about people’s motives is not the proper job of congress. Instead, their job is to pass and repeal laws. In this case, the law concerns the alleged pain of children-in-utero. This pain is, relatively, easy to legally prohibit thus discouraging, reducing, and perhaps ending it for the vast majority of endangered children-in-utero.

Pain is Abstract
There are some roadblocks to this legislation however, not the least of these being the abstract nature of “pain.” Children in utero allegedly feel pain as early as 8 weeks gestation and at least by week 20. “Alleged” is the proper term here because the nature of pain is private, and there are some problems with quantifying pain as an object for legal analysis. One cannot extract pain, measure it out in a beaker, and divide it into parts. It’s not a public object like that. It’s deeply private, being a subjective state of experience. There’s no amount of scientific analysis that can ever bridge the medical doctor or the lab technician into another person’s felt experience of pain.

Being a subjective experience, people can rationally doubt it’s existence for anyone besides themselves. This position would be extreme. But one is at liberty to doubt any other person’s pain. Some people exaggerate, imagine, or lie about their pain. It is rationally justified to doubt “the boy who cried wolf.” In other cases, people may experience real pain, but it’s private nature leaves it’s unverifiable in the public’s eye. A friend of mine suffers from chronic pain. Her pain has defied medical diagnosis and yet it persists in a punishing debilitating way. Her own father remains skeptical to this day. He thinks it’s “all in her head.” Pain operates like this. It can be very real yet forever defy objective analysis. People can question each other’s pain and be perfectly rational in doing so.

When it comes to children-in-utero one can rationally doubt whether it feels pain since it’s felt experience of pain sensations is intrinsically private.

The Burden of Proof
This manner of objection, however, is deeply problematic. If we concede that it’s okay to cause what might be pain in a gestating fetus because we aren’t sure it actually feels pain then we have shifted the burden of proof the wrong way. The safe default position is to refrain from harming other human being unless otherwise justified beyond a reasonable doubt. The heavier burden of proof lies on those who want to harm human beings. This is why we are to approach warfare with such reverent trepidation, and why some parts of the world have banned the death penalty altogether. It is not enough to think that humans probably aren’t being harmed; no, we must be sure that they aren’t being harmed. This is the measure we use for administering punitive judgments against criminals. They are considered innocent until proven guilty. Before inflicting pain/harm/suffering on a criminal, we must prove that it is justified beyond a reasonable doubt.

In Philosophy, there is a skeptical problem termed the “Problem of Other Minds.” This problem refers to the difficulty, among hyper-skeptical theorists, in identifying whether and how other minds exist besides one’s own mind. While this problem plagues some philosophers, it doesn’t bother non-philosphers much at all. Why is that? We have common sense knowledge that other people, who live and act in roughly comparable ways to our own experience, are probably real people. We do not start with universal doubt, rejecting everything that we can’t prove with 100% certainly. Instead, we start with a basic and common sense awareness of things. We can even allow that there’s a possibility that reality is radically different from how it seems, but we don’t abandon our preliminary assumptions about other minds, or their experience of pain, unless some overwhelming reason is offered for doubting that operating assumption.

Now no one is asserting that children-in-utero have “minds” in any sophisticated sense, nor do we even need them to have a”mind” in any useful sense at all. If children-in-utero have the physiology correlate with pain, and if their behavior is known to mimic that of pain sensations, then we have sufficient reason for thinking that they can feel pain. The burden of proof, remember, is on those who intend to permit inflicting pain on them. If they cannot show that the fetuses apparent pain is illusory then we are justified in assuming they actually feel pain.

Fetuses Have the Features for Feeling Pain
As it turns out, children-in-utero do have the material and active features corresponding to pain reception.

“At 20 weeks, the fetal brain has the full complement of brain cells present in adulthood, ready and waiting to receive pain signals from the body, and their electrical activity can be recorded by standard electroencephalography (EEG).”
Dr. Paul Ranalli, neurologist, University of Toronto

“An unborn baby at 20 weeks gestation “is fully capable of experiencing pain. … Without question, [abortion] is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure.”
Robert J. White, M.D., PhD., professor of neurosurgery, Case Western University

Many more medical professionals could be cited in support of this growing concensus. That is, children-in-utero have the neurology to receive pain signals through a comprehensive neural system linking to the thalamus (where pain reception occurs) as well as respond to those signals through their endocrinology  (hormonal release) and muscular systems (responding to environment, avoiding injury). All of these are present at least by the 20th week of development.

Specifically, children-in-utero are known to avoid forcepts, resist poking and prodding, squirm under the knife, and in the case of fetal surgery they have to be anaesthetized because they move as if they felt pain. Indeed fetal surgeons are required to administer anesthesia for fetuses 18 wks or older.

Moreover, we have reason to think that the fetal experience of pain is worse than comparable acts on neonatals.

[20 weeks development is a] “uniquely vulnerable time, since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop.”
Dr. Ranalli

At a common sense level, everyone seems to feel pain at some point in their life, and we understand that it should not be inflicted needlessly on other human beings. We have a vast scientific knowledge about the material features of pain in the human body. The whole medical industry turns, in large part, on its ability to understand and treat pain. Generally speaking, pain is a problem to be solved, not a solution to be administered. The essence of medicine is to reduce pain and harm and foster health and life where possible. These are the the complementary Medical principles of beneficence and non-malfeasance. It’s medically self-defeating to inflict pain unto death on a healthy human being with no medical benefit to that human being.

Given these reasons, it’s unethical and, perhaps, should be illegal, to cause pain unto death in innocent human beings where no medical benefit is intended for that human being. We have every common sense reason to believe that fetal human beings can feel pain at least by 20 weeks development. It is our duty as a society to enact laws to minimize or abolish practices which intentionally inflict pain on otherwise innocent human beings. Such evidence would certainly weigh against slavery, or rape, or child abuse. In the same way, abortion after 20 weeks gestation violates the societal duty to not harm innocent human beings. Therefore, abortion at 20 weeks is unjustified with respect to fetal pain.

* https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/1797
* https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/113th-congress/house-report/109/1
* http://www.doctorsonfetalpain.com/answering-the-pain-deniers/#.VWZ6kE_BzGc
* http://www.doctorsonfetalpain.com/fetal-pain-the-evidence/5-documentation/#.VWZu-E_BzGc
* http://www.mccl.org/unborn-babies-can-feel-pain.html
* http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%22Glover%20V%22%5BAuthor%5D [Glover has several articles showing the apparent experience of pain in fetuses]

Posted in Abortion Laws, Abortion Practices, Ethics of Abortion, Philosophy of Abortion, When does Life Begin? | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Abortion Safe?

Some pro-choice advocates suggest that abortion should be “safe, rare, and legal.” But what if it’s not safe at all?

Well, the abortion-choice advocate can point out that maternal deaths have gone down significantly in the history of abortion. Medically “safe” practices have expanded to give more options and methods to reduce undue risks. That said, it is naive to suggest that abortion is a safe, neutral or even a good option.

Death isn’t safe.
The child always dies in an abortion, and that’s hardly safe. And in those rare cases of botched abortions where the baby survives, there are still abortion-rights advocates who think that infanticide is permissible.

Intrinsic Risks
Because of intrinsic risks in abortion procedures, the sheer number of injuries and deaths has risen, in spite of advances in medical technology and safety practices. Legalized abortion has fostered a much higher abortion rate than anyone in the early 1970’s could have imagined. What was thought to be in the order of 10,000 or so abortions ballooned up to over 1,000,000+ per year, a 10-fold growth. Even with relatively “safe” practices, there is always some incidence of malpractice and accidents so that injuries and death occur. The percentages have lowered for botched abortions, maternal injury, and maternal death, but because of the swollen numbers abortions, the sheer amount of injuries and death have gone up.

Moral Harms
Morally, it’s not safe to one’s conscience to conduct willful killing of human life. The human conscience is a malleable thing, and it’s risky to stretch and tear at it with such morally questionable practices like abortion. Such practices invariably involves playing God, determining death for another innocent human being. Cultural Corruption Culturally, the abortion industry has been a major step towards a “culture of death.” We compromise our moral character as a culture when we treat willful convenience killing like its justified and good. Similarly, sympathies have grown for active euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, and the “sanctity of life” view has waned as the “quality of life” view has grown.

Economic Damage
Economically, it’s not safe to link killing and profits. The abortion industry is literally in the business of death-profiteering. Sure it’s normally okay to make lots of money through legal measures, but, in the long-run it’s a self-defeating venture to make money off of killing millions of future employees, future tax payers, and future family members. Who will take care of the present baby booming generation? With 1-2 children to each household there are fewer family options to turn to. More often than not, that role has to be farmed out to nursing homes. That’s expensive. And of course, it’s immoral to put a profit incentive on baby-killing. If the argument against monetizing death ever worked regarding “war for oil” accusations, the abortion industry has amped it up ten fold (in the order of 58 million abortions).

Social Risks Socially, an “abortion climate” continues to ease and affirm sex outside of marriage–which is unsafe to society. How is it unsafe to society? The sex industry has skyrocketed ever since the “free-love” sixties raising divorce rates, raising the rates of sex slavery, raising the profitability and lowering the inhibitions about pornography, raising the incidence and varieties of VD’s, not to mention causing a whole lot of naive young ladies heartbreak when they’ve “put out” only to find that the boy lost interest in them after using them for sex.

Legal Dangers
Legally speaking, abortion is a rapists best friend. Rapists and sex traffickers don’t have any need for babies. Pregnant victims carry around DNA evidence (the baby) for at least 9 months and get into conversations about the father. But sex offenders want silent victims and no evidence–abortion serves both purposes.  One would think that abortion clinics would anticipate this potential problem and never let it happen. But unfortunately Clinics have been known to comply with those crimes.

Medical Dangers
Medically speaking, and with some disputation, its not even safe for the mother. Maternal mortality has declined in the 20th and 21st centuries, but given the heightened incidence of infertility, and suicide rates among abortive mothers suggest it’s not safe for them either. Psychologically, with abortion, the chances of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder skyrocket for women who’ve had an abortion. Likewise increased are such social problems as abuse and divorce. We can’t say that the social factors are “caused” by abortion, but they seem to be found together suggesting something like, “Women who have abortions are more likely the people who get in abusive relationships and who get divorced, whether or not the abortion causes those things.” Many studies have sought to mitigate other studies claiming that abortion generates mental health problems. This facet of the “safety” issue is not settled but there do remain current, vindicating, sources pointing towards the widely admitted fact that having an abortion is traumatic. By self-report, women are known to turn to drug and drink, and escalate prior mental health issues, all correlating with their abortion. Given these facts one cannot honestly say that abortion is safe. The best case one can make, while being honest about the facts, is that it is a necessary evil in regards to some really tough cases.

*Originally posted May 13, 2015 at IntelligentChristianFaith.com

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The Injustice Argument Against Abortion


Courtesy of QEDFoundation

Pro-choice advocates are known to argue for abortion access on the basis of sexism in history, namely, women have been oppressed and marginalized over the ages and chief among these are traditional role expectations in patriarchal (male-centered) societies. Abortion, in that case, represents a means of liberating women from that stricture so she can pursue education, employment, property ownership, business management, and various outlets that are hard to access for pregnant women and mothers.

This avenue of argument, however, works both ways. Injustice is not unique to women. To be sure, there have been many injustices foisted on women over the ages. It would be too involved here to attempt to identify whether that array of injustices are overwhelmingly caused by men specifically, by nature, by God, country, religion, or culture. But, there are many injustices in the world, and women, as such, are not the only victims. Children-in-utero are also subject to victimization. No child-in-utero has ever been guilty of a capital crime hence no child-in-utero ethically deserves the equivalent of capital punishment–i.e., willful prescripted killing. It may be legal to have an abortion, but many injustices have been legal before too. The injustice argument is not restricted to considerations of legality or illegality.

For every injustice women have suffered, there is liable to be a child-in-utero that has been comparably harmed or worse. For the sake of argument, however, let us suppose that the plight of women is so unique that it does not admit comparison to the plight of children-in-utero. By this supposition, oppression against women is not considered better or worse than the plight of children-in-utero. Their oppression/suffering/harm is just different.

Now comes the crux of the argument: Injustice is no cure for injustice.

Admitting that women have endured injustice, it does not seem like a viable solution to extend to them the option to commit injustice against their own children-in-utero, namely, to kill their offspring. The plight of women can be horrible, and pro-life advocates should never diminish or dismiss that fact. Women endure higher numbers of rape than man, lower pay in the workplace, and are exclusively burdened with child-bearing. Not to mention there are countless ways that society and culture can burden them with unreasonable expectations and restrictions too subtle to measure or prove. But granting all of that, we are left then wondering if abortion is a viable option to help “equalize” things.

If injustice is no cure for injustice, then it appears that we need to find other solutions besides abortion if we are to achieve even an approximate equality for women. Stated formally, the argument is that:

Premise 1) Abortion is unjust towards children-in-utero
Premise 2) Injustice (against children-in-utero) is no cure for injustice (against women).
Conclusion) Therefore, the fact of injustice against women fails to justify abortion.

To sum up, abortion is injustice. And the victimization of women, however real and pronounced it may be, is no excuse to multiply injustice in the form of abortion. It does not vindicate women to complicate their injustice by complying with, participating in, or even advocating for further injustice.

Posted in Ethics of Abortion, Philosophy of Abortion, Sex an Sexuality, Uncategorized, Women's Issues | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

American Board of Physician Specialties: Code of Ethics (8 March 2015)–A Critique in Light of Abortion Practice

As a Diplomat of a recognized Specialty Board affiliated with the American Board of Physician Specialties, I pledge to:

  • Maintain the highest standard of personal conduct
  • Promote and encourage the highest level of medical ethics in medicine
  • Maintain loyalty to the goals and objectives of the American Board of Physician Specialties
  • Recognize and discharge my responsibility and that of the profession to uphold the laws and regulations relating to the practice of medicine
  • Strive for excellence in all aspects of my medical practice
  • Use only legal and ethical means in the provision of care to my patients
  • Provide patient care impartially; provide no special privilege to any individual patient based on the patient’s race, color, creed, sex, national origin or handicap
  • Accept no personal compensation from any party that would influence or require special consideration in the provision of care to any patient
  • Maintain the confidentiality of privileged information entrusted or known to me by virtue of my role as a physician
  • Cooperate in every reasonable and proper way with other physicians and work with them in the advancement of quality patient care
  • Use every opportunity to improve public understanding of the role of the specialist physician
  • Abide by the highest ethical standards in activities designed to attract patients to my practice



  • Maintain the highest standard of personal conduct

This point is hard to reconcile with willful killing of human beings–literally making every abortion doctor a killer. When the “highest standard of personal conduct” includes killing human beings one is left wondering why not have the “high” standards instead revolve strictly around preserving, protecting, and extending life, health, wholeness, etc.

  • Promote and encourage the highest level of medical ethics in medicine

The same point as above can be iterated here, but another problem arises. the term “medical” has normally been a sign of healthcare, well-being, and affirming life. Philosophers of Medicine may debate strict definitions of the term, but it remains beneath question whether medicine has been overwhelmingly occupied with health and life. It becomes referentially incoherent to define medicine to include both the protection and destruction of life; preserving and foster health while obstructing and ending it in another patient. The notions of “ethics” and the “medicine” both threaten to undermine abortion as inconsistent, if not contradictory to medical ethics.

  • Maintain loyalty to the goals and objectives of the American Board of Physician Specialties

This point of ethics is measured according to the integrity and quality of the “goals and objectives” of the ABPS. To the extent that those goals/objectives are good and right then it is likewise good and right to be loyal to those. 

  • Recognize and discharge my responsibility and that of the profession to uphold the laws and regulations relating to the practice of medicine

Again, the reference here is only as good or right as the reference point.  Obviously, it’s a good idea to stay within the law, but there are at least some cases where the law has been unethical. At that point, one is bound to break the law, but for the sake of also honoring the government (a good thing) one should break the law in the most civilized and honorable way possible such as compliance with arresting officers, exercising one’s civil rights, being gracious and respectful, etc. Regarding laws about abortion, the pro-life advocate is responsible to honor the law as far as they are ethically permitted. And if they are ever being compelled to violate their religious or conscientious objections, they are ethically bound to disobey the law but in the most respectful and honorable way possible. Moreover, the U.S. rule of law admits a host of ways to amend laws and rights to better reflect our practical access. Pro-life advocates would do well to use these means of civilized political advocacy such as freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, etc. and, in the mean time, abstain from situations where they might be pressured to violate their conscience.

  • Strive for excellence in all aspects of my medical practice

If “excellence” is to be taken in a non-ethical sense then abortion could be admitted here. There are “better” and “worse” ways to conduct an abortion. Some cases could be late term, unskilled, and needlessly dangerous to the mother. An “excellent” abortion would then be one which minimizes pain and suffering (not including that of the child), is relatively quick and efficient, with no lasting physical damage or psychologically tramautizing manner–such as irreverent joking from the medical staff, brutish and insensitive bedside manner, etc. However to say that an abortion is “excellent” is pretty callous since killing human beings is far from “excellent” in the more common and wider sense of the word. Grossly unethical or questionable practices might be “excused” or “permitted” but the notion of “excellence” doesn’t seem to fit.

  • Use only legal and ethical means in the provision of care to my patients

Legality isn’t a problem for most abortion providers–abortion on demand is legal in most states fir the first and second trimesters with few/any restrictions on one’s reasons for aborting. However the notion of “ethical” can be challenged since, at best, abortion might be ethically permitted in dilemma contexts, where some greater evil is at looming if the mother opts against abortion. But it’s a bit simplistic, if not errant to call abortion “ethical” in the sense of being a “good” thing. Of course, pro-choice and pro-life advocates debate over what would qualify as a “greater good” or “lesser evil” in abortion settings. Is the mother’s arbitrary will a “greater good” than the entire life of the baby? Is the mother’s trauma from rape a sufficient ailment to justify abortion? At minimum, abortion is not clearly or neatly included in the “ethical means” mentioned here.

  • Provide patient care impartially; provide no special privilege to any individual patient based on the patient’s race, color, creed, sex, national origin or handicap

A note of social justice here points out that doctor care can, unfortunately, be biased towards wealthy patients. But, worse than that, doctor can also be biased towards patients patients who share in race, color, creed (etc.) with the doctor. Doctors can and should be aware of their propensity for discrimination and injustice regarding patient care.

Abortion raises a stiff challenge here since abortion always discriminates against a the most helpless, most defenseless, least vocal party in the room. Abortion always discriminates against human beings on the basis of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependence (what pro-lifers nickname the “SLED” tactic, the acronym for these criteria). Moreover, abortion policy currently allows for willful discrimination against the unborn for reasons stated above. If the mother does not like hispanics but her child-in-utero is half-hispanic she can abort that child for that reason. If she wanted a boy baby but it’s a girl, she can kill it. If she wanted a child without handicap but the child has downsyndrome, she can kill it. If they child will be legally bound to it father and that father is liable to raise the child in his religion, creed, or ethical traditions then she can kill it to prevent that from happening. All these manners of discrimination are legal and defensible under current abortion policy.

  • Accept no personal compensation from any party that would influence or require special consideration in the provision of care to any patient.

Here Doctor’s are discouraged from taking bribes and succumbing to various means of monetary coercion. The abortion industry, however, admits a monetary aspect which perpetually biases abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood in favor of the “money maker” (abortions) instead of, for example, pap smears, breast cancer screenings, contraception, awareness programs, and any of the other, less profitable, means of care for women. Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director in Bryan, Texas, points to this business aspect–profiting off of abortion, and “pushing” for more abortions–as a key factor that pushed her out of Planned Parenthood and into the ranks of pro-life ministries.

  • Maintain the confidentiality of privileged information entrusted or known to me by virtue of my role as a physician

Abortion practices, in most states, allow for the mother to remain confidential regarding her visits to an abortion clinic, her seeking or procuring an abortion. Unfortunately, this manner of privacy might go too far since the neither father, nor the rest of the family (apart from the mother) has any legal say regarding the fate of that child if the mother decides to have an abortion. Most states do not even require that the father, or grandparents be notified. Doctor patient confidentiality is an important and sacred right in medicine, but it may have gone to far if it means secret death for the child who is, biologically, the offspring of both the father and mother, and it that child is genetically “half” his. Notification rights present a relevant and important objection to confidentiality laws in Abortion.

  • Cooperate in every reasonable and proper way with other physicians and work with them in the advancement of quality patient care

Abortion is fundamentally uncooperative, since the rest of the modern medicine is dedicated preserving life, reducing pain, and facilitating health. Abortion militates against all of those by killing human beings, often in ways that are needlessly painful to the mother (she doesn’t need to feel the pain or trauma of an abortion; it’s a purely elective procedure), and while are the height of harm to the child. Nor is it cooperating with neonatal wards or pediatrics wards to kill their would-be patients in-utero.

  • Use every opportunity to improve public understanding of the role of the specialist physician

By conflating modern medicine with killing, abortion-choice has effectively generated widescale misunderstanding about the role of physicians, the nature and idea of medical practice, and nature and value of developing human beings in-utero. Idealistically, some abortion-choice advocates may be innocent of the more egregious errors here, but Abortion clinics, for example, have been known to encourage higher rates of abortion, for example, to raise revenue and have been known to mischaracterize the facts and mislead onlookers. For example, abortion should not be defined as “terminating a pregnancy” since child-birth also terminates a pregnancy. Any definition of abortion that can’t distinguish between abortion and childbirth is not a good definition.

  • Abide by the highest ethical standards in activities designed to attract patients to my practice.

Granting the above critique, abortion fails to qualify as ethical much less as “the highest ethical standards.” Media efforts surrounding abortion-choice, often with aggressive support from abortion providers, have included the highly misleading democratic campaign of 2012 “Stop the Republican War on Women” and a wide range of radical and left-wing slanders against pro-choice positioning. To be fair, there are many abortion-choice advocates who shun such propogandist practices. But even without such overzealous marketing from Planned Parenthood, and Left Wing activists, there remains a fundamental duplicity in marketing the willful killing of innocent human beings as a “medical practice.”  It is not a “high ethical standard” to promote abortion as if it’s therapeutic in nature.

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What about Rape and Incest?

Several “problem cases” typically arise when considering the ethics of abortion. Key among these is rape and incest. Should not abortion be legal if the woman was raped or the victim of incest?

Grieving Woman

Good question. In cases of rape one key pro-life point is missing: She did not consent to sex, so if she gets pregnant it is not from her own willful action. She is not getting her “just deserts” as if she was soliciting a man for sexual liasons out of wedlock, or just bucking the responsibility of parenting because she or her husband refuse to have this child. Besides rape cases, there is a similar challenge posed by cases of incest. In the event of pregnancies from incest, we are dealing with a serious social, legal, and ethical taboo typically associated with molestation, pedophilia, and again with rape. In cases where the person is a minor there is statutory rape. If any of these sordid situations result in pregnancy, surely the pro-choice position is vindicated. Right?

Well, not necessarily. The nature of the sexual encounter–whether it was rape or incest–does not change the nature of the child-in-utero. Nor does the mother’s desires, wanting or not wanting her child, determine the nature of that child-in-utero. If it’s unethical to kill human beings, then that child-in-utero is still protected because it is a biological human being.

Reminders of Rape
But this teaching seems a little hard, a little cold. Pro-lifers should not forget what they are saying here. They are telling the woman that if she gets pregnant from rape then she is ethically responsible for keeping that child at least till birth when it can be given up for adoption. That’s 9 months of pregnancy: morning sickness, bloating, hormonal imbalances, altered eating habits, aching joints, back pain, distended belly, weight gain, mood changes, psychological stress, and any number of other ailments. That pregnancy is a constant reminder of that rape every time the pangs of motherhood draw her memories back to it. The pro-lifer as asking a lot.

Injustice Isn’t The Answer
Rape and incest are horrible injustices, and terrible evils. But the cure for injustice and evil is not MORE injustice and evil. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Multiplying evils never reduces evil. These injustices are cured with the self-sacrificing behavior of people who refuse to harm an innocent human being no matter what evil was done to them.

Abortion Displaces Guilt
The pro-choice position also wrongly displaces guilt. Does the child-in-utero deserve to be killed because of the actions of his or her father? Of course not. That child doesn’t deserve to be killed at all; it’s morally and legally innocent. It’s unjust to punish one human being for the guilt of another. Now if one person volunteered to die to protect another person, such as a soldier on a deadly mission to protect other soldiers, or a parent dying to protect the child, that makes sense and can be heroic. But it’s the opposite of heroism to kill an innocent human being without his or her consent or knowledge because of another man’s guilt.

Abortion Destroys Evidence
On a pragmatical level, abortion creates other problems too. It destroys evidence that might otherwise help bring the rapist to justice. Her pregnancy is evidence that she has had relations. That forces the conversations where people ask her to divulge the father’s identity. She cannot as easily hide from the situation even if the rapist wants her silent. In this way, pregnancy can help expose the rapist’s identity (most rapists are people the victims knew beforehand). Moreover, women often fail to get the full rape kit completed, nor do they get a usable DNA sample of the rapist. But what is a man’s offspring if not, at least, a DNA sample of his or her parents. Many times the rape victim does not want to go to court, does not want to face the shame, embarassment, sadness, fear involved in a jury trial, so she does not press charges. But what if 2 years later she changes her mind? That child is living breathing evidence that can help make the case against the rapist. If she aborted her child, however, then that’s one less line of evidence to help bring about justice. In this way, abortion neatly disposes of evidence, assists the victim in staying silent and effectively helps rapists get away scot free. It offers a short-term burst of compassion (for the pregnant rape victim) that empowers those women to escape some of the trauma involved in bringing rapists to justice but the cost is always a dead baby plus the potential for helping a rapist avoid prosecution or conviction. She can just abort the child, try to move on, and forget about it as much as possible. Whether he rapes other women later, that’s not  her concern.

No Easy Options
Victims of rape and incest don’t have any “easy” options when it comes to pregnancy. Every question they face about the incident, about the birthing process, about the father’s identity, all of that hits like a hammer, with clanging reverberations of her trauma. The pro-life prescription here is brutally difficult. Often rapists threaten the victim with their life; but if she follows through on the pregnancy she’ll be pressed to reveal his identity and put her life at risk. No one wants rapists to get away with it, and people may want to find and arrest rapists, but people might not speak so casually when their life is at stake.

Often the mothers have anxiety, stress, depression, and psychological fallout that’s piqued with any reminder of the event. Pro-lifers press her to invite a limitless series of “reminders” through pregnancy, birth, and (perhaps) motherhood. If the mother keeps the baby, she carries the weight and responsibility of pregnancy and motherhood, or at least the process of adoption. Pro-lifers are pressing her to endure that physical hardship, even if that pregnancy would ruin her life-plans at work, at school, or at home.

On top of all these challenges, it is clear that the pregnant rape victim may never feel “normal” or “safe” again. But the question remains, “why add to her trauma the added trauma of a felt sense of murder?” It is no light matter on the human conscience to militate against maternal instincts, to take the most sacred relation of care and tenderness with another human being and instead destroy that tiny defenseless child-in-utero. It should be in the safest place in the world, but that’s become the most dangerous place in the world. Natural law theorists can take this emotional and intuitive line of argument to suggest that it feels so wrong for a mother to kill her child-in-utero because it is wrong to kill her child in utero.

Concessions for Rape and Incest
Admittedly, the legal and political outlook for pro-lifers should probably allow for some concessions in the foreseeable future if there is to be any repeal of abortion-on-demand in any serious sense. The pro-life position already faces an uphill battle legally and politically. It is highly unlikely that a blanket repeal of Roe v Wade (1973) and Doe v Bolton (1973) will happen any time soon. And even if they did, many States already had provisions in place before 1973 allowing for abortion in cases of rape and incest. Perhaps it’s disingenuous for pro-choicers to argue for the Roe and Doe standards on the basis of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and mortally dangerous pregnancies since those exceptional cases constitute less than 5% of abortions and were already allowed in most states before the 1973 rulings. But it remains the case, that these situations defy the pro-life “script” of consensual and otherwise normal sexual relations where mothers are expected to care for their children-in-utero at least till birth. Many pro-life arguments just don’t fit cases of incest and rape very neatly.

Practically speaking, pro-lifers may have to admit concessions for rape and incest within their lobbying efforts. Pro-lifers can still object to abortion in these cases, but they allow for these concessions recognizing that efforts to abolish abortion are already too precarious to endure the added weight of rape and incest cases. If their goal is to abolish abortion, it would still be real progress to advance pro-life legislation which address only “abortions of convenience” (i.e., allowing exceptions for rape and incest). That concession seems practically necessary for the pro-life agenda, even if pro-lifers overwhelmingly oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest.

In conclusion, cases of rape and incest do not justify abortion, but there are no easy answers in those cases. All the choices are tough, require great courage, demanding a strong supportive social network, a lot of grace, a lot of patience and understanding, and a dogged commitment to honoring the lives of both the mother and her child.

Posted in Abortion Cases, Abortion Laws, Ethics of Abortion, History of Abortion, Philosophy of Abortion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment