Philosophy 355 Contemporary Moral Problems Darwall Winte r 1996 ABORTION I I. Moral vs. legal questions A. Under some circumstance or other, is abortion morally permissible vs. should it be permitted legally? B. It is possible to think the answer to the second question is positive even in cases where it is not morally permissible. II. The moral question also is different from the question who should choose. One way to think of the moral issue is to ask what sorts of considerations are relevant to the question a woman (a couple?) faces when they ask, "should I (ethically) have an abortion?" III. The legal situation. A. Roe v. Wade still governs. i. 'Person' in its constitutional sense does not apply to the fetus at any stage. ii. Three trimesters: a. first--abortion left to the judgment of the woman's physician; no state regulation b. second--state may regulate in interest of the woman's heath c. after viability the state may regulate or even proscribe in light of its interest in potential life. B. Subsequent restrictions: waiting period, informed consent, consent of one parent if the individual is 16 years of age or less. IV. Plan of Discussion A. Abortion I--The Moral Status of the Fetus B. Abortion II--What Does the Right to Life Entail? C. Abortion III--Abortion and Gender Justice V. What kind of question is, "Is the Fetus a Person?" A. Different from "To What Species Does the Fetus Belong?" B. Different from "Is the Fetus Alive?" C. In the relevant sense, questions like: "When Does Life Begin?", etc. are not biological but irreducibly moral questions. D. To make it explict, we might ask: "What is the moral standing or status of the fetus?" "What moral claim does the fetus make on us?" E. In particular, at what stage, if any, does the fetus have the same status or dignity that a person does when we think of morality as binding us as a community of equal moral persons? Or, at what point, if any, does the fetus have the same right to life that we think of all persons as having? F. Note: If the fetus is not a person in the relevant sense, at some stage, it does not follow that it does not make a serious moral claim of some sort on us, just not the same sort of claim that a person does. VI. Mary Anne Warren agues that the fetus is a person at no stage of development. A. Warren argues that to be a person is to have "enough" of the following cluster of features. 1. consciousness and the capacity to feel pain; 2. reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems) 3. self-motivated activity 4. capacity to communicate messages of an indefinite variety of types, etc. 5. self-awareness Since the fetus has relatively few of these features, it is not a person. B. What lies behind this list? Here is a line of thought that leads to the conclusion that self-awareness is particularly important to the right to life. 1. Suppose you think that human beings have a kind of right to life that other animals do not have. Why would this be? 2. Perhaps it is because human beings have an interest in their lives as extended wholes. We are concerned not just with the quality of the moments of our lives (e.g., whether they are pleasurable or painful), but also with what our lives amount to as a whole. 3. Only a being with self-consciusness could have this concern. 4. Therefore, a capacity for self-consciousness might be thought to lie behind the right to life we think person's have. [Question: does this same interest ground a right to determine when our lives will end, insofar as this is possible?] C. Problem with this position: What about newborns? Will they not lack the right to life on these grounds also? D. Warren agrees, but argues that it does not follow that it would not be wrong to kill a newborn. Consider her response and ask whether it might not apply to the fetus also. VI. John Noonan argues that we should resist the discourse of rights. A. Rights vs. family membership. A better question than when does the fetus have the right to life is when is the fetus appropriately included in the "famly of man." B. How to be interpreted? Not by intellectual argument. Rather by a form of perception that only an emotional encounter makes possible. Compare being convinced by an argument that, say, discrimination against gays is wrong vs. seeing that it is wrong by a vivid depiction of the pain in suffering it causes, say in a film. C. If the question is not one of rights, but of what would be the caring thing, or of how we should care for the fetus, then this may be impossible to setting without an emotionally honest and open encounter. D. Noonan argues that when we do so encounter the fetus (by looking at it, or interacting with its movements) we find that we cannot help but care about it in a way that reveals its importance, something whose life matters in a way that it would be seriously wrong to kill it for any other purpose but to save the life of the mother. VII. These positions are at the two extermes. A. Warren: the fetus is at no stage a person. B. Noonan: the fetus is at every stage a person. There are also various moderate positions. C. While at no stage does the fetus have a right to life, it is nonetheless deserving of serious concern at any stage past X, and abortion is wrong after that stage. D. The fetus has the right to life at stage X and beyond.