Monday, October 29, 2007

The Moral Community

First I'll directly cite Carl Olsen's citation of Beckwith's book that occurs in the following article:

Therefore, a law prohibiting abortion would unjustly impose one's morality upon another only if the act of abortion is good, morally benign, or does not unjustly limit the free agency of another. That is to say, if the unborn entity is fully human, forbidding abortions would be perfectly just, because nearly every abortion would be an unjust act that unjustly limits, or more accurately, does not permit to be actualized, the free agency of another. Consequently, the issue is not whether the pro-life position is a moral perspective that may be forced on others who do not agree with it, but rather, the issue is who and what counts as "an other," a person, a full-fledged member of the human community. (pp 118-9)

Now the article itself:

Dr. Beckwith on defining "pro-life": "

In a post yesterday, I had a quote from Dr. Francis Beckwith's Defending Life: A Legal and Moral Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge, 2007), which is a very thorough apologia against abortion rights and for the pro-life position. Today's edition of the Waco Tribune-Herald has an op-ed by Dr. Beckwith, titled 'Let us define 'pro-life' for you.' He writes:

What then is the pro-life
position? It is the view that the membership of the human community
includes prenatal human beings, even if excluding them would benefit
those who are more powerful than the prenatal and who believe that the
prenatal’s destruction is in their interest.

It is the view that human beings have intrinsic dignity by nature
that is not a consequence of their size, level of development,
environment or dependency.'

Young writes: ‘Surely someone devoted to preventing abortions would be just as devoted to preventing pregnancy.’

Pro-lifers, to be sure, would like to see fewer abortions. But it is
not because we find abortion unattractive or repugnant, as if judging
its wrongness were merely a matter of like or dislike.

Rather, the reason why we would like to see fewer abortions is
because the unborn are full members of the human community and ought to
be respected as such.

Once a human being comes into existence, the parents have an
obligation to care for this vulnerable and defenseless family member.
These parents may call on the rest of us to help and provide to them
both material and spiritual resources, as many pro-life groups and
individuals indeed do.

Read the entire piece.


(Via Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog.)

This is the substance of the disagreement between the pro- and anti-abortion positions: are there (genetic) human beings who are not moral human beings ("persons")? The first side enthusiastically answers: Yes! Their opponents deny that this distinction is valid or helpful.

So now we are considering Warren's Space Traveller thought experiment, which she thinks justifies identifying persons outside of simple biological humanity. There are, of course, some arguments for rejecting this analysis. But for now the need is to understand how analogical arguments work and how to critique them.

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