Saturday, February 17, 2007
Tackling the big questions
They're apparently having controversy week over at Catallarchy, and Scott's latest contribution- a post about abortion- reminded me that I think I may know of the best Pro-Choice argument you've never heard of. Maybe even the two best, as follows:
1. Consider the modern hospital. Life isn't determined by a heartbeat in a modern hospital; it's determined by deep brain activity, as commonly measured by an EEG. So, you take a man whose heart is kept artificially beating (from what I understand that's done in emergency situations, anyway) into an emergency room without any deep brain activity and he'll be pronounced dead. Anyway, fetuses have no brain stem until about 5 1/2 months into the pregnancy, and so therefore were we to take a fetus into an emergency room in the exact state in which it exists in a mother's womb at 3 months they'd simply declare it dead, end of story. This nicely evades the common slippery slope argument against abortions by simply proposing a reasonable common-sense bright-line definition of death, and moreover one that we use regularly in our society without qualm. Abortions which take place roughly within the first 2 trimesters are morally sound and should be legally protected.
2. This is a bonus argument: because the potential to create human life using a single human cell will almost certainly be attained within our lifetimes (if it isn't possible already) a good reductio ad absurdam/slippery slope argument can be made in the reverse direction. When a woman washes her hands she kills thousands of living cells, and since we know that these cells can very probably be turned into people under the right circumstances she would be in violation of destroying the "potential for life" merely by the act itself. So if, as many pro-life advocates will tell you, destroying the potential for life is wrong then you've either had thousands and thousands of immoral abortions yourself or I wouldn't want to shake your hand.
Postscript: In keeping with the logic of 1., I tend to think that voluntary 3rd trimester abortions are wrong. The violinist argument makes a good case that they should be legal but without a threat to the mother's health I think this rare procedure is highly questionable.
The new Arcade Fire album is all about the religious right and one of my favorite tracks from it is called "My Body is a Cage." The title has obvious significance for this issue, without taking it too lightly.
Posted by Luke Rhinehart at 2:31 PM