Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Abortion: An Unreasonable Choice

I've been thinking about this for a while. Today I'm starting a three-part series on abortion. My thoughts on the subject have changed a lot over the years, but I've felt much more strongly about it since my wife got pregnant with our first child.

To start, I want to tackle the issue from the standpoint of logic. I'll admit there are stronger arguments, but I think this is an important one. The argument is similar to an important historical argument from Blaise Pascal. In case you're a little cloudy on who he was, you might want to check out his Wikipedia article. Anyway, theology wasn't what he was most known for, but he had a few things to say, and many would argue that this is his most significant contribution:


"… let us say: 'Either God is or he is not.' But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails. How will you wager? Reason cannot make you choose either, reason cannot prove either wrong. . . Yes, but you must wager. There is no choice, you are already committed. Which will you choose then? . . .

Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win you win everything, if you lose you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then; wager that he does exist. . . . And thus, since you are obliged to play, you must be renouncing reason if you hoard your life rather than risk it for an infinite gain, just as likely to occur as a loss amounting to nothing… Thus our argument carries infinite weight, when the stakes are finite in a game where there are even chances of winning and losing and an infinite prize to be won."

Personally, I think that's pretty brilliant. So let's take that same logic and apply it to abortion. First of all, we must establish something that neither side will like to admit. It's that we have no certain scientific proof of whether a human fetus is truly human or merely a collection of cells. I know both sides would like to argue with me on this point. But if anyone had incontrovertible proof of the truth here, there would be no reasonable debate. So for now, let all who will be reasonable agree that a human fetus either constitutes a genuine human life or it does not, and that there is some evidence to support both sides of the argument.

That being said, consider for a moment the consequence of each side being wrong. If I say that a fetus is, in fact, a living human being, the logical position is to forbid abortion. If I am wrong, and a fetus is not a living human being, then I have needlessly burdened parents with an unwanted child. There are further repercussions as well that encompass but are not limited to the risks of pregnancy to the mother and the life-changes that will inevitably ensue from the birth of the child. It must be noted that pregnancy puts the mother's life at risk.

Whereas in Pascal's Wager, the consequence of being wrong about God being real was really nothing, here there is a very real risk to being wrong. There is a lot of room for debate about the greatest negative repercussion to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. But does anything trump the possible death of the mother? To my thinking, nothing does.

Now let's look at the other side. If I say a fetus is simply a cell mass, and not a genuine human life, the logical position is to allow for abortion. But if I am wrong, the consequence of abortion is quite simply murder. It's pretty uncomplicated, and I don't think I need to say much more about it.

Let's weigh the consequences of being wrong. On the one hand, you burden the mother and/or father, may bring about huge life changes for them, and it's possible the health or even the life of the mother will be endangered. Bad stuff. But on the other hand, you have the certain and intentional death of an innocent human baby. And if there is a God that values life, as Blaise Pascal would argue there is, there will be a certain retribution.

Ok, some people really could give a flip about the God thing, but the logic of the issue seems clear. The Pro-Life position is simply more rational. You're weighing possible tragedies on one hand against a certain and ultimate tragedy on the other. And given that none of us can give a certain and incontrovertible scientific answer to the identity of the fetus, we're all gambling that we're right. So I think it's important to ask yourself, "What if I'm wrong?" Are you ok with the consequences of that? Or do you refuse to allow the question, and choose to remain in a bubble of ignorance and pride that will not allow for the possibility that the dissenting opinion could actually be right? And if that is the case, then you are the definition of "closed-minded."


Let's call this an introduction to the topic. In part two, I'll present evidence supporting why I believe a fetus constitutes a genuine human life. See you then.



  1. Dear Solid,

    Here's the deal...it's not about pro-life or the opposite (anti-life?). This is simply about choice. A woman or man can try to prevent a pregnancy using some form of contraception, whether it is a hormonal method, a barrier method, or simply abstinence from vaginal penetration. However, even used 100% correctly, a contraceptive method can fail, and may result in a pregnancy. This means that even if people are trying to take preventive measures, a pregnancy can occur.

    Here's where the choice comes in to play. The only person who gets to decide to continue the pregnancy...is the pregnant woman; not the person who impregnated her, not her parents, not any religious leaders, and certainly not anti-choice extremists.

    Guess what, Solid? You don't have a uterus. That means you don't have to make the choice. It also means you don't get to make the choice. That means you don't get to dictate what someone else has to "choose." You also can't elect a representative to dictate what a woman has to "choose." The only person that gets to make the choice is the pregnant woman.

    Back to your argument, "what if I'm wrong?" You don't have a uterus; you don't have to make the decision. I guess you'll never have to live with that consequence. As for the rest of the world (or at least the women), that will be between them and their own belief system. No one needs the Christian-right as a middle-man (or as you may think, a direct link to god).

    If you feel abortion is murder and you are taking a human life, that is your opinion. But all it is, is an opinion. I can argue for days with you about fetal development, a woman's right to choose, etc. But, I have a life and a job and a lot of other much more important things to do with my time.

    P.S. You're not the moral police (even though you would probably love that title).

    P.P.S. Are you a teabagger?
    Peace out.

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  3. It must also be noted (for logic's sake) that a first trimester termination is in no way the same thing as "murdering an innocent baby."

    I've noticed abortion is portrayed in two ways:
    1) ripping off limbs of a third trimester to full-term baby
    2) equivalent to bludgeoning a newborn full-term baby with a club.

    Neither of these scenarios is accurate (just so we're clear)

    Does it say that on Wikipedia?

  4. A final note...

    Be glad you have not been in the situation in which you had to make the choice. It is not an easy choice to make.

    You can argue that the choice is unreasonable, unethical, immoral, etc. But, you have not been in a situation in which you have had to make the choice. And you never will be. So be grateful.

  5. Id,

    Thanks for your responses. Some of the points you make will be addressed in the other two parts of this series. But you make a couple of points that I'd like to address, especially because they're very common arguments. As I read through your responses, it occurred to me that it might have been a good idea to tackle those issues even before getting to the points I've raised here. I hope that if I address them clearly, it will enable you to appreciate the arguments I've made here a little better. I think you'd do well to give them a second look.

    First, you indicate I have no right to a voice on the matter of abortion because I am not a woman. That's a popular sentiment, but that's all it is. The people of Colorado just proved that, as men and women together showed up at the poles to defeat Proposition 60, which would have extended human rights to the unborn. Clearly we all have the right to an opinion and a voice.

    The other point I'd like to address is that you say my opinion is only that - an opinion. As is yours. I believe this argument relies on the idea of relative truth. "What's right for you isn't necessarily right for me." But no one I've ever met applies that standard consistently.

    You would not apply this standard in the case of one adult murdering another. Just because the murderer claims the act was "right for him" doesn't make it so. To cite a religious example, consider Jim Jones. Whatever crazy ideas he may have had about the massacre of all those people in Guyana, he was wrong. His guilt is in no way dependant on his own recognition of guilt.

    My point: Truth supercedes opinion. This is said a lot, but just because I don't believe in gravity, that doesn't mean I won't fall if I walk off the edge of a building.

    Can we agree that if one adult murders another, that is wrong, regardless of the murderer's moral stance on the action? And if so, is it a stretch to apply that reasoning to the issue of abortion?

    Here you may say that a fetus is not a human life in the same sense as an adult. That is your opinion. My opinion is that a fetus is a living human being. AND THIS IS MY POINT EXACTLY. We both have our opinions. Whatever we may think about the matter, either a fetus is a genuine human life or it is not, just as you and I are genuinely human. To say otherwise is to say that we as humans have the right to say whether or not others are really people, and our most basic stances on human rights say otherwise. In short, just because I don't recognize your humanity, that does not invalidate your humanity. There is a greater truth that supercedes my opinion.

    So there is your opinion. There is my opinion. And there is the truth. The truth is that a fetus is either a human being or it is not. If I'm wrong, see above. If you're wrong, see above. And consider what it means to be wrong.


  6. First off, to clarify: In CO, Amendment 60 proposed limiting how property taxes were raised and reversing tax laws which increased taxes. I'm guessing you are referring to Amendment 62, which was voted down 70% to 30%.

    I agree that we both have opinions. And, I do see your point and your argument.

    "The truth is that a fetus is either a human being or it is not. My opinion is that a fetus is a living human being."

    A fetus is not able to live as a human being without a host (the pregnant woman), the same way a parasite cannot function without a host (that is a fact, not an opinion). It needs to receive nutrients while in utero to grow, thrive, and survive. The difference between a full-term, fully developed baby and a fetus, is that the baby can function and live as a human being without a host and live outside of the uterus.

    When the fetus is part of another person's body, it is not the same action as murdering a live, human being that can function without a host (I suppose that is my opinion). The fetus is an extension of the woman's body, surviving off of the host as a parasite (like a tumor). In your opinion, is a doctor committing "murder" by removing a tumor? Before you conclude a tumor is not the same as a fetus, a condition exists called, "fetus in fetu" in which a baby is born with a tumor inside its body. This tumor is actually a fetus that was supposed to be the baby's twin.

    "A fetus in fetu can be considered alive...thus, the life of a fetus in fetu is akin to that of a tumor in that its cells remain viable by way of normal metabolic activity...it has no prospect of any life outside of the host twin." (I have consulted your research source, Wikipedia.)

    Just as a fetus in fetu, a fetus does not have any prospect of life outside of the host. In your opinion, is excising a fetus in fetu the same as murdering a human being?

  7. "Can we agree that if one adult murders another, that is wrong, regardless of the murderer's moral stance on the action?"

    What is your opinion on violence against abortion clinics and the direct murder of abortion providers? Can you still agree that if one adult murders another, that is wrong, regardless of the murderer's moral stance on the action? Even if the murderer thinks he is acting in the name of god?

  8. I did mean 62. You're right. I'll tackle the dependency argument in part two. I'd write it now, but I've got a meeting tonight. Maybe tomorrow, if things aren't too busy.

    Regarding the fetus in fetu/parasitic twin example, I'm very familiar with it. Someone close to me had to personally deal with that issue. It's a good challenge to the argument. I have nothing conclusive to say on that matter. Rather I'll answer by saying that the parasitic twin may or may not be a genuine human life, and the above arguments should be carefully considered in deciding a course of action when this rare event does occur.

    Regarding the murder of abortion doctors, I'm against it, obviously.

    And regarding the Tea Party (I forgot to address this earlier), I'm a Republican, and I generally vote a straight Republican ticket. I have no specific disagreement with Tea Party participants, except in cases where they have ruined a Republican's chance of getting elected to make a point.

  9. Do you agree with the opinions and views of Dan Webster and Rand Paul, or do you find their opinions and views to be too extreme?

    I'm sorry you are a republican and that you always vote a straight republican ticket. It saddens me, I must admit. I suppose the only consolation is that you no longer reside in my state. : )

  10. Id: I'm not certain Dan Webster and Rand Paul actually agree on everything, but I'm definitely on the same side of the fence as those guys.

    SuperEgo: Me too!