On Reasoning about Abortion
Full Metal Attorney suggested in a comment that I visit his site for a dissertation on the various arguments given for and against the pro-life and pro-choice positions. You may not get through it all but if you go deeply enough into his discussion, you will, I think, see why various arguments for and against the pro-life and pro-choice sides will fail to be persuasive to the other side. However, that does not make the debate pointless. There are always young minds that are coming to the issue without having already prejudged the issue and they may benefit from such discussions.
The fact is that this issue is unresolvable. Our best hope, expressed in several posts is that as people receive more information about birth control and the need for protection against sexually transmitted diseases, the arguments may be mooted by the need for abortion waning over time. The terrible irony is that the nitwit Right Wing Christians who most oppose abortions also frequently oppose sex education, the free availability of condoms, etc. "Stupid is and stupid does," as Forest's mom said.
In reading Full Metal's post, it struck me that there is an ambiguity in the word "human" that has a significant bearing on arguments for and against the pro-life and pro-choice positions and this is that the claim that the foetus is human does not entail that the foetus is a human. NB: At this point I make a blunder saying "Linguistically, this is the distinction between the mass noun use of "human" and the count noun use" when I should have said, "Linguistically, this is the distinction between an adjectival use, treating human as a quality and a count noun use." No one disputes that the foetus is human in the sense that it consists of human DNA as opposed to chimpanzee or any other specie's DNA. However, the human zygote which is the single cell entity that results from fertilization of a woman's egg may have human DNA but is arguably still not a human.
The passage in Full Metal Attorney (where "P" stands for a premise) that brought this issue to mind is:
P1: Murder (the unjustifiable destruction of a human) is wrong.Those who are adamantly opposed to the killing of innocent humans, will not automatically be opposed to abortions since in the phrase "the killing of innocent humans," "humans" is being used as a count noun. The debate about when, during the process of gestation, abortions will and will not be permitted is about when we can sensibly speak of the foetus as being a human. My linguistic sensibilities are offended by the notion that anything less than the product of birth would give us a human though clearly the foetus increasingly looks like a human as it develops. But, saying that something looks like a human doesn't mean that it is a human. Years ago, a friend who had hunted bears earlier on in his life said that a skinned bear "looks like a human," but I did not instantly come to the conclusion that skinned bears are human. In short, the fact that the foetus looks like a human does not entail that it is. The decision to say that the foetus at time t becomes a human will have to be based on a better argument.
P2: A woman’s body is her own business and no one else’s.
P3: Abortion destroys a fetus/embryo/zygote.
Sub-conclusion 1: If a fetus/embryo/zygote is human, then abortion is murder and is wrong.
Sub-conclusion 2: If a fetus/embryo/zygote is not human, then abortion is acting on a woman’s body and the state does not have a right to prohibit it.
[NB: I have elided a paragraph because revising it in the light of the earlier mentioned blunder would be too much trouble. As the saying goes, "to err is human," and so I must be human.]
Several commenters stated baldly that abortion is murder. This is a really quite childish thing to say. The word "murder" is a technical term in the law and any ordinary language use of it, as in a statement like "abortion is murder," has legal implications. It would not be childish to say that abortion is the murder a human and as a result, anyone who performs one and who allows one to be performed on her body should be prosecuted for murder and for conspiracy to commit murder and since conspiracy to commit murder is a felony, both parties should in fact be charged with committing felony murder and should thus be death eligible. If you don't have the balls to say explicit things like I have just said, then please don't go around saying "abortion is murder." As I said, it is childish.