]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]        ABORTION         [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                                                (8/26/1989)
            [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

 [Yes, this is by THE Michael Levin (see Rathole, fl. 23-24).]

[From  Michael Levin,  Feminism and  Freedom (New  Brunswick, NJ:
Transaction Press, 1987), pp. 287-291; 295-296.]

   The pivotal question about abortion  is whether the fetus is a
human life; most other issues  are distractions.  If the fetus is
human, killing it  is murder.  It  is irrelevant whether abortion
reduces welfare and crime, since murder is an impermissible means
of social  control.  Abortion may  guarantee that  every child is
wanted,  but   murder  is  impermissible   even  when  everybody,
including the  prospective victim,  would be  better of  with him
dead.(65) Rape and incest do not justify abortion if the fetus is
human,  since  the   avoidance  of  shame   and  heavy  financial
obligations do not justify murder.  Abortion might be safer if it
were legal, but, if the fetus is  human, this is only to say that
certain kinds of murder would be safer if they were legal.  Mafia
killings would be  safer for triggermen if  gang wars were legal,
but that is no  reason to decriminalize gang  wars.  If the fetus
is human  it need  not be  a ``person,''  in the  sense of having
neural  organization  sufficient  for   its  being  a  continuing
self-conscious being, to have a right against abortion.  Neonates
are not persons in this sense  either, but few people recognize a
right to commit infanticide.(66)
   There are two arguments for abortion that grant that the fetus
is  a human  life.   The first  is  that abortion  is permissible
self-defense on the part of a [288] pregnant woman or her medical
surrogate if her pregnancy threatens her life.  Many jurists have
recognized  a  ``right of  necessity,''  but  it is  by  no means
clearly  applicable to  the  case of  life-threatening pregnancy.
The right to kill innocents in self-defense justifies the killing
of innocents in warfare as  a means of preventing further attacks
by a noninnocent  aggressor.  The right  of self-defense likewise
justifies  attacks  against hostages  of  terrorists  (or attacks
against terrorists in  the certain knowledge  that they will kill
their  hostages)  as a  means  of preventing  further  attacks by
noninnocent  aggressors.  The  fetus, on  the  other hand,  is an
innocent nonaggressor  who did not  initiate the life-threatening
situation.  He did not ask  to be conceived.  Attacks against him
cannot be justified in the  way that attacks against the innocent
in warfare can be justified.
   Francis Bacon  took the  ``right of  necessity'' to  justify a
drowning man's pushing  another man off a  floating plank at sea,
even if the  original possessor of the  plank was not responsible
for the drowning man's plight.  This wide reading of the right of
necessity would indeed justify medically necessary abortions, but
it conflicts with the even  more fundamental Kantian rule against
initiating aggression.  If  you find yourself  adrift with only a
nearby plank  in someone else's  possession to save  you, you are
obliged to let yourself  drown.  I claim no  certainty for my own
moral intuitions in  these difficult cases,  but from a practical
point of view the  wide Baconian right has  little bearing on the
abortion controversy.   Fewer than 1  percent of  the 1.5 million
abortions performed  annually in  the United  States are  done to
save the  life of  the mother,  and advocates  of decriminalizing
abortions  do not  regard the  right to  abortion as  ending when
threats to the life of the mother do.
   A second defense  of abortion consistent  with the humanity of
the fetus maintains that abortion is not murder because it is not
killing.(67)  A  woman  who aborts a fetus is simply  REFUSING TO
CONTINUE TO  HELP KEEP  IT ALIVE,  just as  a host  who ejects an
unwanted guest into  a blizzard is simply  refusing to extend his
hospitality, and just as a woman  who awakens one morning to find
herself  attached to  a  violinist dependent  on  the use  of her
kidneys (Judith Thompson's example) is simply refusing to let him
use her  body if  she rips out  the tubes.   Proper discussion of
this argument requires a digression into metaphysics,(68) but the
essential disanalogy between abortion and the other host cases is
that in these other cases the person who withdraws his assistance
is not  completely responsible for  the dependency on  him of the
person  who  is about  to  die,  while the  mother  is completely
responsible for the dependency of the  fetus on her.  When one is
completely responsible for dependence, refusal to continue aid is
indeed  killing.   If a  woman  brings  a newborn  home  from the
hospital, puts it in its crib and refuses to feed it until it has
starved to death,  it would be  absurd to say  that she had [289]
simply refused to  assist it and  had done nothing  for which she
should be criminally liable.
   So the question returns to the humanity of the fetus, and what
else can the fetus  be, if not human?   If fetuses are not human,
dog embryos are not  canine, and cow embryos  are not bovine, the
entire   taxonomy  of   nature  would   have  to   be  duplicated
pointlessly.   There is  a  universally recognized  continuity to
fetal development which requires that a fetus be thought of as an
early  stage of  a human  being  conceived as  a four-dimensional
entity, in much the way a thirty-year old man is a later stage of
that same four-dimensional entity.
   We must  tread carefully here,  since many  advocates of legal
abortion appeal to this same continuity of fetal development.  In
reconstructing their argument, it is important to distinguish the
METAPHYSICAL  claim that  there IS  no line  to be  drawn between
fetus, neonate,  and adult,  from the  EPISTEMOLOGICAL claim that
NOBODY (NOW) KNOWS HOW TO  DRAW THE LINE.  The metaphysical claim
cannot be used to defend the decriminalization of abortion and in
fact undercuts it, by blurring  the distinction between fetus and
neonate  which  might  be cited  to  justify  radically different
treatment of the two.  Take,  for instance, viability outside the
womb as a trait fetuses lack but neonates and adults possess.  In
fact,  viability  is  relative  to  the  environment:  Adults are
unviable at  the bottom  of the  sea without  proper life support
equipment, while with  proper life support  equipment a late-term
fetus can  survive.  But  the point  of development  at which the
fetus  can  survive  in the  intensive-care  ward.   Newborns are
somewhere in  between.  Perhaps  then a  newborn deserves special
protection and an insufficiently developed fetus does not because
there is SOME  extrauterine environment in  which the undeveloped
fetus can survive.  But the point at which a fetus can survive in
some  extrauterine environment  is retreating  before technology.
Within  a  century  there  may  be  artificial  wombs  capable of
receiving embryos from  the moment of  conception.  At that point
the distinction in viability between  fetus and neonate will have
vanished, and  the ONLY difference  between a  fetus unviable NOW
and an equally undeveloped fetus THEN is that nobody has actually
gotten around to inventing  an artificial womb.  Surely, however,
a distinction in moral status  as profound as that between beings
that  it is  permissible to  kill  and beings  that it  should be
legally  impermissible  to kill  cannot  depend  on circumstances
completely external to those beings, such as what happens to have
been perfected  in a  medical laboratory  thousands of  miles (or
dozens of years) away.
   So the appeal of abortion advocates to the continuity of fetal
development must be  epistemological.  It is  not best formulated
as the claim that  it is in principle  impossible for anyone ever
to  draw the  necessary  line, for  that  [290] would  be  to bet
against  science,  which in  the  past  has proven  able  to mark
principled  distinctions  amid  seeming   flux.   (Think  of  the
classification of minerals.)(69)  The  argument, rather, must  be
that since no one can NOW tell when human life begins, the matter
should (now) be  left to private  conscience.  Proponents of this
argument are often unclear as to  whether they are making a claim
about what  is possible  relative to  our present  knowledge or a
claim about what  is possible relative to  all possible states of
knowledge, but a great  many defenders of decriminalized abortion
clearly have such argument in mind:
     As  the Supreme  Court  recognized in  Roe  v. Wade  ... the
     concept   of   ``fetal   personhood''   raises   moral   and
     philosophical  problems  that  go  beyond  the  capacity  of
     legislative or judicial mechanisms to solve.(70)
   I am confident that those  who propose this argument would not
apply  it  elsewhere.   They would  not  approve  of  leaving the
killing of Eskimos  to private conscience on  the grounds that no
one  can say  when  human life  begins.   But there  is  a deeper
problem that has nothing to do with epistemology, and that is the
IMPOSSIBILITY of  government neutrality  about the  status of the
fetus.  A  fundamental function of  government is  to protect its
citizens  from  aggression.   Essential  to  this  function  is a
decision as to which beings within  its territory are to count as
the citizens it will protect.  Since a government monopolizes the
legitimate use of force within its territory, it must also forbid
the forcible protection by private parties of any being it itself
does not  actively protect.  You  are allowed  to attack somebody
attacking an adult human being, but you are not allowed to attack
somebody stepping  on an  ant, since at  the moment  ants have no
legal  rights.  The  government protects  attacks on  anything it
does not positively  protect.  In choosing  not to decide whether
to  protect  some  vulnerable  being,  therefore,  the government
chooses  not to  protect it.   Its function  forces the  state to
decide about every  human being.  In  urging government to ``stay
out of'' decisions about the fetus, abortion advocates are asking
the government to decide not to protect fetuses.
   In strictness, ``government neutrality''  is very far from the
standard feminist  position.  Probably the  majority of feminists
hold that  abortion should  be publicly  funded, which  would not
leave the  matter to  private conscience  at all,  since it would
force taxpayers  who do  not approve  of abortion  to support it.
Public subsidies are not necessary to secure a ``woman's right to
her  body,''  even  if  it  could  be  shown  to  be  an adequate
justification for legalizing  abortion, since a  right to the use
of one's body  is a right  against the invasion  of one's body by
other people, not a right to the means to do with one's body what
one wants to.   My ``right to  my body'' [291]  does not create a
right to public funds for an  airline ticket with which to fly my
body to the Caribbean for a vacation.
   But forgetting this breach of  neutrality, one is again struck
by the selectivity  of feminist bafflement.   The difficulties in
determining the status of the  fetus are supposed to place action
based upon  its status in  the realm of  private conscience.  Yet
the difficulties in detecting  discrimination are said to require
hiring quotas.  The difficulties -- impossibilities, really -- of
determining   comparable  worth   are   said  to   require  state
cancellation of ``residues.''  Proper  pedagogy, so notoriously a
matter of dispute, is said to require the censorship of texts and
the enforced sex integration of  small children.  The danger that
landlords, bankers,  insurers, teachers, and  male coworkers will
discriminate  is  said   to  be  too  great,   and  the  harm  of
discrimination  too   great,  for  the   government  to  tolerate
conscientious error.   The only  matter feminists  are willing to
entrust to private conscience --  a matter in which, one assumes,
they find  the harm done  by conscientious error  tolerable -- is
the killing of fetuses.
            [The following notes are on pp. 295-296]
65. Betty Friedan  generously extends  to the  unwanted child the
    right to be aborted: ``The value  is life ... the life of the
    women and  the right  of the  child to  be wanted  in life.''
    ``Twenty Years After the  Feminine Mystique,'' New York Times
    Magazine  (February 22,  1983): 42-54.   Not wanting  a child
    before it is  born is unrelated to  postnatal bonding, see T.
    Berry Brazelton,  ``Effect of  Maternal Expectation  on Early
    Infant Development,'' Early Child  Development Care 2 (1973):
    250-73.  For evidence that  abortion facilitates rage against
    dependents,  disinhibits  aggressing   the  defenseless,  and
    impairs the ability  to mother future  children, see A.D. and
    L.L.  Colman,  Pregnancy: The  Psychological  Experience (New
    York:  Herder  &  Herder, 1971);  R.  Kuman  and  Kay Robson,
    ``Previous  Induced  Abortion  and  Ante-Natal  Depression in
    Primipare: A Preliminary Report of  a Survey of Mental Health
    in Pregnancy,'' Psychological Medicine 8 (1978): 711-15; W.G.
    Whittlestone,  ``The  Physiology  of  Bonding,,''  Child  and
    Family  5  (1976):  36-42;  M.H.  Liebman  and  J.S.  Zimmer,
    ``Abortion  Sequelae:  Fact and  Fallacy,''  in Psychological
    Aspects of Abortion, ed. D. Mall and W.F. Watts (Chattanooga,
    Tex.: University  Publications of  America, 1979);  S. Lipper
    and  W.M. Feigenbaum,  ``Obsessive-Compulsive  Neurosis after
    Viewing  the  Fetus during  Therapeutic  Abortion,'' American
    Journal  of  Psychotherapy 30  (1977):  666-74;  Phillip Ney,
    ``Relationship between  Abortion and  Child Abuse,'' Canadian
    Journal of Psychiatry 24 (1979): 610-20.
66. Michael Tooley defends both abortion and infanticide in
    ``Abortion and  Infanticide,'' Philosophy  and Public Affairs
    2(1972):  37-65.  He  argues that  a person  can only  have a
    right to something he wants; since children and babies do not
    realize they  have futures they  cannot want  to have futures
    and  thus  have  no right  to  have  them.   Tooley's premise
    implies,  implausibly,  that  a   person  has  no  rights  to
    undiscovered minerals on his property.
67. See Judith Thomson, ``A Defense of Abortion,'' in Pearsall,
    pp.  368-79;  Walt   Block  ``Woman  and   Fetus:  Rights  in
    Conflict?'' Reason  (April 1978): 18-25;  Robert N. Wennberg,
    Life in the Balance (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1985).
68. See Michael Levin, review of Robert N. Wennberg, Life in the
    Balance: Constitutional Commentary (forthcoming).
69. But do we not know now what we mean by ``human,'' or at least
    what  criteria   we  use  for   determining  humanness?   Not
    necessarily;  people  used  water  for  a  long  time  before
    discovering that water  is hydrogen and  oxygen, before being
    able to distinguish water from extremely diluted wine, and so
    on.
70. [Rosalind] Petchesky [Abortion and  Woman's Choice (New York:
    Longmans, 1984)], p. 331.

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