Abortion to Scale
Most people seem to have some instinct toward moral utilitarianism – generally speaking, more suffering is worse than less. Well, at least the vast majority’s initial response to the trolley problem suggests that. With that in mind, I wanted to use a similar framework to help clarify the ethics of abortion.
Many of us are familiar with the concept that abortion equals murder. So let’s examine the math that leads anyone to believe that.
If you were faced with preventing the death of either
A) An 8 year old child with a mother that wants to kill him or:
B) You could stop the voluntary abortion of an unborn fetus
Which would you choose?
Or do you accept the standard that all life is morally equal and allow chance to determine from two evenly horrible choices?
If you grudging accept that the 8 year old child is more valuable for some reason, but still want to maintain that the unconscious fetus has significant moral weight than it follows that there must be some number of voluntary abortions that would tip the scale in your calculation forcing you to accept the death of the 8 year old innocent child to prevent the termination of some number of fetuses. What is that number for you? Would 100 abortions be the number that demanded you explain to an emotional and confused child that his or her life could be saved, but 100 fetuses is just too many let expire. Or is it 1000? Would 1 million justify it for you when explaining to the child’s friends and family why you made your choice?
Undoubtably there are some principled religious purists that will flip the coin and answer that the 8 year old child and the unborn fetus truly are morally equivalent and would allow the conscious child to die if that’s what chance dictates. It’s worth knowing who believes that. Who but the most extreme could maintain such a compassionless position? When confronted directly it becomes apparent very quickly that a living person is more valuable than a clump of cells. And once you start accounting for the reasons why those two entities deserve different moral values, the logical path toward consequentialism and the pro-choice view materializes.
I find a living sentient person so much more valuable that no number of voluntary abortions could persuade me allow an 8 year old to die in order to save them. Doesn’t that imply that I place zero moral weight on the unborn of mothers choosing abortions? Actually, yes. And you should value conscious life infinitely more as well.
(Ultrasound image from UPMC)