An anonymous person posted a comment asking, “What are your reasons for abortion to be kept legal?” It’s such an important question that I’ve decided to dedicate an entire post to answering it. But before I begin I want to address one of his claims that:
“Science has unambiguously determined when a new life begins, and that is at conception… I hope your argument isn’t based only on that weak and unscientific argument of ‘a fetus isn’t a human’.”
Well, my argument isn’t solely based on that so much as it is on the idea that some human lives are worth less than others. Still, I feel obligated to point out the other side of this coin. Science doesn’t unambiguously know much about life. Physics is another story entirely, gravity is pretty unambiguous for example, but as far as biology and life goes science doesn’t even know what life is let alone when it begins.
What is the definition of life? One classic definition is that life is anything that grows, consumes food, and produces offspring. But what about fire, you might ask? Fire isn’t alive even though it fits that definition. Fine, life is anything that grows, consumes food, produces offspring, and thinks. What about plants? They don’t think and they are alive. Pretty quickly you discover that the only definition of life we have so far is, “I know it when I see it.” SETI, the search for extraterrestrial life, is really the search for extraterrestrial life like ours. Who knows what kind of life there could be out there that we could never understand or even recognize?
Since we don’t even know what life is, it’s very difficult to unambiguously declare that life begins at conception. I would argue that life begins at birth. Why? Because before then you only have one living being, not two. In the words of Dr. House, a fetus is a parasite that cannot live on its own. Saying a fetus is a distinct living being is like saying my arm is a distinct living being. My arm is alive, yes, but you can’t murder my arm.
Anyway, my argument doesn’t have much to do with that, I’m perfectly willing to grant that a fetus is alive, I just wanted to point out that things aren’t that simple. For example, cutting off a finger and murdering a person are totally different, as is killing a fetus versus killing a baby.
The crux of my argument in favor of abortion is that killing is basically okay. Human beings kill everything. We kill cows because they taste good, trees because we like furniture, germs because they make us feel bad, deer because we love hunting, cockroaches because they are disgusting, and thousands of other species because we just hate those rain forests so much… Pretty much every species on Earth has been killed by humans at some point for some reason.
“Wait a minute,” I hear you cry. “That may all be true but we draw the line at killing other humans!” No, we don’t. We kill old people (euthanasia, and insurance companies will even pay for it), we kill criminals (capital punishment), we kill ourselves (suicide), we kill each other (war), we kill in self-defense, we kill when we are temporarily insane, and we pull the plug on people who are in comas. I haven’t even started listing all the indirect ways we kill people: drug companies pushing dangerous drugs, insurance companies not paying for lifesaving procedures, people starving in Africa because our fat asses can’t be bothered to share some food, athletes playing dangerous sports, smoking, alcohol, and McDonald’s.
99.99% of the time it’s perfectly okay and legal to kill any living thing you want. The only exception is that you can’t kill another human being for no apparent reason. That’s murder. That’s where the line is drawn.
Why is this? Because we understand that fundamentally some lives are worth more than others. The lives of cows and trees are basically worthless. Besides, what would we do without our hamburgers and chairs? Killing those insignificant beings dramatically increases our quality of life, so we do it.
It’s not just a “human versus everything else” thing, either. Some human lives are worth more than others. Women are worth more than men, and children are worth more than women. If a man kills another man, he’s a dick. If a man kills a woman or a child he’s evil. “How could anybody do such a thing?!” everybody gasps. We also recognize this in abortion: pro-lifers are often in favor of allowing abortions if the mother would otherwise die because the mother’s life is more valuable than the fetus. As for killing in general, we all want to kill terrorists and assassinate dictators (and blow up abortion clinics) and in such a manner ironically spread peace throughout the world.
Although the anonymous commentator didn’t bring this up, lots of people like to mouth off about the sanctity of life and that all life is sacred. No, no it isn’t. All non-human life is basically canon fodder, and as for human life, a large portion is up for grabs as well. The simple fact is that killing, including killing other humans, is necessary and unavoidable in order to make our lives easier.
Have you ever slapped a mosquito? Did you feel bad? No! You hate mosquitoes and they deserve to die! After five weeks, a human fetus is one quarter of an inch long which is smaller than the smallest mosquito in Florida. Given that a mosquito doubles in size when it feeds, it could probably eat the fetus. How has an act as casual as slapping away a mosquito suddenly become murder simply because it’s a fetus? It’s because the fetus is human and a mosquito is not. We should ask ourselves, though, does that matter?
Calling a fetus “human” is very misleading. “Goo” is a more accurate term. A fetus is nothing more than a gooey pile of cells (at least for the first few months). In fact, at this stage in the game a mosquito is far more alive than a fetus. The mosquito can fend for itself, feed itself, procreate, and a fetus can’t do a damned thing. Why then are we so concerned about the well-being of the fetus? It’s because the fetus has the POTENTIAL to grow up into a human being.
In my post Women Commit Murder If They Don’t Have Sex I talk about the treacherously gray area of worrying about the potentials of things. Every time a woman doesn’t have sex a potential life is lost. We don’t care about that. Every time a man uses a condom a potential life is lost. We don’t worry about that (well, some people do). I mean, just think about it: do we throw people in jail for having knives in the kitchen because they could potentially kill someone?
Calling a fetus a “human being” is like calling me “dead”. Of course I’m not dead, but I’m on my way there. Of course a fetus isn’t a human being, but it might be in the future. You cannot ascribe a potential future property (being human) to the fetus right now. Right now, the fetus is a pile of goo. Right now, a mosquito is biologically more alive than the fetus. In every way that matters, killing a mosquito is worse than killing a fetus. If you want to quote me on something, quote me on this:
Killing a fetus is no worse than killing a mosquito, and neither are crimes.
Speaking of potential, think how much potential mosquitoes have. One billion years from now they could evolve into hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional cosmic beings that rule the universe. Right at this moment we could be slaughtering the greatest race that could ever live. Doesn’t anybody feel bad about that? No, because it’s just potential! It’s not real!
Here is an interesting thought experiment: what if one day science figures out how to grow a human being from a finger, are we now going to declare that all broken fingers are murder because that finger could have grown into a human being? Ah, the danger of potential.
This is very closely related to the classic philosophical question of whether or not you would sacrifice lives now in order to save lives later. If you were a genius scientist and knew that you could cure cancer at the small expense of performing horrible genetic experiments on 1000 unwitting folks, would you do it? Surely the 1000 lives lost today are nothing compared to the millions of lives that would be saved. Still, I hope you wouldn’t do those experiments. I think it’s morally reprehensible to sacrifice people’s lives, real people living in the here and now, to potentially maybe perhaps save other people in the future who don’t exist yet.
Volunteers are a whole different story. If 1000 people want to volunteer for the genetic experiments, go for it. Remember that abortion is a volunteer procedure. Nobody is going to force anyone to ever get an abortion. If a mother wants an abortion, fine. If she doesn’t, also fine.
How is this for a Catch-22: lots of women get an abortion and then later on in life have a child. If they hadn’t gotten an abortion that child would never have been born (because it would’ve been the aborted child instead). No matter which way you slice it, you are always going to lose a potential life. If you talk to the mother, I think you’ll have a hell of a time trying to convince her that she is raising the “wrong” child.
By now you should have a pretty good grasp of my basic argument. A fetus is barely alive and we don’t think twice about slapping a mosquito, so what’s the big deal about abortion? “The big deal,” I hear you say, “is that even if a fetus is a pile of goo after five weeks, it’s a human being after five months.” I don’t remember what the cutoff stage for abortion is, but you are right and I purposefully chose five weeks for my example. The longer a fetus grows the more human it becomes. It won’t take much to convince me that aborting a child five minutes before it’s born is much closer to the murder side of the line than the slapping-a-mosquito side of the line. If I grant you that aborting a child five minutes before it’s born is murder, will you grant me that aborting a fetus five minutes after conception is fine?
That’s the million dollar question. If I’ve convinced you that aborting a two-celled organism is fine (by the way, you lose approximately 60,000,000 skin cells per day) then we are no longer arguing about whether or not abortion is okay and instead we are arguing about when it’s okay. This is a much more useful question. It means we are finding middle ground. It means we are cooperating. It means we are coming to an understanding. The exact cutoff date isn’t important. What’s important is that we understand there are gray areas and extenuating circumstances.
Philosophically, I’m done; I’ve made my case. However, I’m also going to take a few moments to point out some of the other reasons why abortion is okay (and in fact good for society). What is the alternative to abortion? Babies in dumpsters, babies abandoned, and just the other day a woman stuffed her child into a Wonder Bread bag and tried to flush it down the toilet. Surely these babies would have been better off being aborted months ago.
Letting them live isn’t necessarily a good alternative, either. Is it really “humane” to let the child grow up with a 13-year-old single mother that can’t care for him, can’t feed him, can’t provide for him, is addicted to heroin, and whatever else? In some situations, not having a kid is a good thing. Kids are not always blessings. Is it any wonder that abortion reduces crime? The states with the highest abortion rates also have the highest drops in crime. If we didn’t force or encourage poor families to have kids they can’t afford, their kids wouldn’t grow up to be criminals.
Let me emphasize that I’m not encouraging abortion. Condoms are obviously a much better way to avoid having unwanted kids. The morning-after pill is obviously preferred to getting an abortion. Raising the kid is obviously preferred if you can, if you are happily married and have the means. Unfortunately, sometimes people make mistakes, and shouldn’t we allow them abortions in those situations? It’s cliché, but what about the case where the woman is raped? Let’s also not forget that humans are basically the worst thing that has ever happened to this planet and the last thing the Earth needs right now is more people.
I find it curious that women are overwhelmingly in favor of abortion (perhaps somebody can tell me why?). Women, the most sensitive and caring people on the planet who ooh and aah whenever they see a baby, are totally for killing fetuses. If there’s any group of people in the world against abortion, it should be women. But they aren’t. That should tell you something. Don’t you think it’s a little bit arrogant for us men to be telling women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies, and what is and is not alive inside them?
We also have to ask ourselves what the punishment should be if abortions are made illegal. There is a hilarious YouTube video where a guy goes to a pro-life rally and asks people what should happen to women if they get abortions, and nobody can provide an answer. I can:
- Murderers go to prison
- Abortion is murder
- Women who get abortions should be sent to prison
The logic is beautifully simple. If you are going to take the stance that abortion is murder, you also have to take the stance that we should lock up the 1.6 million women who commit murder every year (there are roughly 1.6 million abortions per year). It’s funny how when you mention that people suddenly say, “Oh, well, I didn’t mean they should be punished for it.” What, are we suddenly going to let murderers roam free now?
The logic is even more beautiful. If you don’t believe women should go to jail then you simply cannot be against abortion. Watch:
- Women who get abortions don’t go to prison
- Murderers go to prison
- Abortion is not murder
QED. I’m sorry, but you cannot argue with logic.
The anonymous poster seemed concerned with spending taxpayer money on abortions. I don’t really care if the government pays for abortions or not seeing as they are very cheap operations, but beyond that abortions save lots of money. Getting an abortion is hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper than actually raising the child, and it saves the state thousands upon thousands of dollars it would otherwise have needed to spend educating the child, providing health care for the child, and providing welfare to the mother. Even if abortion is a morally gray subject, it is black and white as far as money is concerned: abortion is good for the economy. Abortions save billions of dollars every year (1.6 million abortions times $1000 per abortion equals billions of dollars, and that’s assuming a child only costs $1000).
In the end, we have to ask ourselves what’s more important: the good of society, the welfare of the mother, and women’s rights, or the rights of an unborn, barely alive pile of goo? Remember that this pile of goo is far less alive than a mosquito and we don’t mind killing them to make our lives more comfortable. A fetus can’t think, it doesn’t feel pain or regret that it was never born, and it’s not going to get mad at you. We pull the plug on people who are in comas, why can’t we pull the plug on fetuses?