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 Abortion/Infanticide 
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Joined: June 15th, 2011, 10:22 pm
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Location: Bristol, UK
I tried several times to come up with an introduction to this post but each was long-winded and failed to get across my point successfully. In essence, I am pro-choice from a utilitarian perspective and also on the grounds of the fact that the embryo does not suffer. But by looking into this deeper I've come to the conclusion that this reasoning draws no distinction between an abortion and infanticide. In other words, one can kill a already-born child without inflicting suffering and I can think of situations where there would be a utilitarian case for such an act. For example, at the moment, not all life-debilitating conditions (that would justify abortion) are discoverable pre-birth. The arguments that I am comfortable with in using to justify abortion are the very same arguments that can be used to justify killing already-born people. I am not outraged about this, but it's enough to make me stop and reconsider my position on the whole issue. What I would be unhappy about is using these arguments to justify abortion and then brushing off infanticide as being 'just wrong'. That would simply be inconsistent. So how do I reconcile the two? Is there some reasoning that can distinguish abortion from infanticide morally? Let me know as much as you can, because I'm stuck.

As a side conundrum, I said that life-debilitating conditions would justify abortion. But I question the idea that abortion has to be justified at all. the idea of abortion being "okay in extreme cases" sits uncomfortably in my mind. It's akin to calling it a "necessary evil" and I just don't think it is. I don't see anything wrong with it at all, even in cases where the potential child would be likely to have a fulfilled life. Am I the only one? Anyway, this is mainly an aside but still one I would love to discuss.

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Alex Vocat


February 15th, 2012, 3:32 pm
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Joined: July 5th, 2007, 12:34 pm
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Sadly, I don't have time to join in a discussion, but I'd recommend Peter Singer's 'Practical Ethics', where he goes into this subject in a lot of detail and draws some of the conclusions you are leaning towards


February 15th, 2012, 4:55 pm
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I can understand where you are coming from. I am pro-choise, but having spent my whole life working with people with (sometimes extremely profound) disbilities, and having the view that all human life is equally valuable, therefore deserving the same respect, how can I justify abortion on the grounds of disability?

By condoning abortion on the grounds of disability we are then taking the view that some life is more valuable than others and if applied to humans after birth, that's a very dangerous view.

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February 15th, 2012, 11:07 pm
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Thank you so much for the mentioning of Peter Singer. After looking him up and paying special attention to his interview with Dawkins for The Genius of Charles Darwin, I see he speaks very much in tune with my way of thinking.

To take his ideas, I can more eloquently pose my point. A commonly claimed pro-life argument is that abortion is akin to murder, it is the taking of someone's life which is just wrong in an absolute sense. The standard rebuke to this is that a fetus is not 'living'. My argument, which is the same as Mr Singer's, is that the debate over whether a fetus is living or not has no consequence in debating the morality of abortion. Rather, the taking of someone's life (irrespective of how we define 'someone') is not always an absolute wrong. To my mind, the one and only reasonable pro-choice argument is that of the 'lack of suffering' argument.

Taken on its own, the 'lack of suffering argument' is problematic. First, it considers the killing of anyone as morally neutral, regardless of whether killing that person did any good at all. Because none of us would like the idea of someone taking our perfectly promising (non-handicapped) lives, we must envoke some sort of clause where there must be a utilitarian justification for the murder. Having established this we must now consider where to draw the line when it comes to the age at which we could inflict a utilitarian-justified killing. In the aforementioned interview, Dawkins suggests that although the idea that life starts at birth is illogical and meaningless, it might still be best to use that innate distinction we humans feel as a place to 'draw the line' in the case of abortion. In other words, whilst we accept that our reasoning justifies infanticide, we also accept that a line must be drawn somewhere to avoid the legal nightmare that would ensue. Thus, if a line must be drawn, we might as well draw it where an already innately present emotional line exists: the moment of birth.

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Alex Vocat


February 16th, 2012, 12:19 am
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Joined: June 23rd, 2010, 3:55 am
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Location: Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, UK
getreal wrote:
I can understand where you are coming from. I am pro-choise, but having spent my whole life working with people with (sometimes extremely profound) disbilities, and having the view that all human life is equally valuable, therefore deserving the same respect, how can I justify abortion on the grounds of disability?

By condoning abortion on the grounds of disability we are then taking the view that some life is more valuable than others and if applied to humans after birth, that's a very dangerous view.


It's probably why it's better to just be completely pro-choice and not have ground rules put down.
To list that "it's bad, apart from here, here and here" is quite dangerous.


May 20th, 2012, 3:00 am
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