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Some people argue that a 15 year old should be required by their parents to have

Some people argue that a 15 year old should be required by their parents to have an abortion because they also can't get an ear piercing or attend an R rated movie without their parents permission. Is that a good argument?

I agree with Prof. Stairs: even if we fix the argument's conflation of permissions and requirements, the analogies to piercings and 'R'-rated movies aren't close enough to abortion. We need to consider procedures that are of roughly equal invasiveness and seriousness.

So imagine that the 15-year-old daughter needs a tonsillectomy but doesn't want one (maybe she's terrified of even routine surgery, or she's joined a religion that forbids undergoing surgery). Do her parents have the right to force the tonsillectomy on her against her will? I expect that many will answer yes.

Now instead imagine that she's pregnant, and her parents judge that an abortion is in her best interests, but she doesn't want one (maybe she thinks having a baby at age 15 is in her best interests, or she's joined a religion that forbids abortion). Do her parents have the right to force the abortion on her against her will? I expect that many who answered yes to the first question will answer no to this question, including some who say that they regard abortion as morally unproblematic surgery. Your original question is filed under "Abortion," and I think the issue of parental authority has interesting implications for the ethics of abortion in particular.

I agree with Prof. Stairs: even if we fix the argument's conflation of permissions and requirements, the analogies to piercings and 'R'-rated movies aren't close enough to abortion. We need to consider procedures that are of roughly equal invasiveness and seriousness. So imagine that the 15-year-old daughter needs a tonsillectomy but doesn't want one (maybe she's terrified of even routine surgery, or she's joined a religion that forbids undergoing surgery). Do her parents have the right to force the tonsillectomy on her against her will? I expect that many will answer yes . Now instead imagine that she's pregnant, and her parents judge that an abortion is in her best interests, but she doesn't want one (maybe she thinks having a baby at age 15 is in her best interests, or she's joined a religion that forbids abortion). Do her parents have the right to force the abortion on her against her will? I expect that many who answered yes to the first question will answer no to this question,...

If it is illegal for a rape victim to kill the rapist after the fact, then why

If it is illegal for a rape victim to kill the rapist after the fact, then why should it be legal for the rape victim to kill a baby that is the product of the rape? It seems to me that abortion is "vigilante justice" in a sense. This is all assuming, of course, that the unborn child is considered a living, human being. If it isn't, then why is an unborn child not then considered "evidence" to be used by a third party? I do not think an unborn child should be considered anything in between a "living human" and an "object," but please take this distinction into consideration.

My co-panelist has drawn some genuine distinctions, but I'd expect many people to find his response unconvincing overall. One obvious reason: suppose I have a five-year-old child who poses a very substantial burden to me. Perhaps the child has a physical disability that makes extensive demands on my time and money. Most of us don't think this would provide even the slightest justification for killing the child. And unless I could be very sure that the child would be cared for, it doesn't even provide a justification for abandoning the child.

Now the analogy isn't perfect. After all, the rape victim is in no way responsible for the fetus. I may have chosen to become a parent; I may have accepted responsibility for the child. But even if we grant that those a re relevant differences, they don't seem to get us very far. Suppose the child wasn't mine but had been abandoned on my doorstep. It's hardly clear that this would make enough difference to justify killing the child or abandoning it once more.

It might be that with sufficiently subtle argument, we could wring out enough differences here to distinguish the cases. But that isn't my point. My point is that on the face of it, many people will find Stephen's reply unconvincing even if it can be defended at the end of the day. What interests me is what I'm guessing is the reason: if you reallu think of fetuses and five-year-olds as on par with one another, abortion is homicide. That said, I suspect very few people really think that a fetus and a five-year-old are moral equivalents. My guess is that this goes even for people who claim otherwise. For more on this point, see Peter Smith's excellent response to a question on abortion from 2011. You can read it HERE

From your last sentence, I take it that you at least think you think of a fetus and a five-year-old as being on the same moral level. I can't say for sure that you're wrong about your own views. (And yes: we can be wrong about what we really think. That's part of the point of the concept of self-deception.) But for anyone who doesn't see things that way, this will be a big part of the reason for the distinction: killing the rapist is murder; the victim is a person. Aborting a fetus isn't murder, because a fetus isn't a person.

It wouldn't follow from this that abortion is morally trivial. And it wouldn't follow that a fetus is nothing more than an object. But I'll confess that I find the view that a fetus is a full-fledged person all but incomprehensible. There are so many actual differences between fetuses and paradigm persons, not to mention so many differences (see Peter Smith's reply) in the ways we ordinarily think about fetuses and persons that I find the conceptual gap all but unbridgeable. Perhaps that puts me at the far end of the spectrum. But I don't think there's anything at all unusual in perceiving some significant gap here, even if one isn't prepared to admit it out loud. And if there is a gap, there's a big distinction between the two cases that potentially could do the work that I think Stephen's distinctions probably can't do.

There are relevant differences between the rapist and the fetus conceived as a result of rape. If, after the fact, the rapist no longer poses a threat to the rape victim, then the victim's killing the rapist would be revenge rather than self-defense , and we normally take very different moral attitudes toward those two types of action. By contrast, the fetus still constitutes at least a burden, and perhaps also a threat, to the rape victim, and importantly a burden or threat for which the rape victim is in no way responsible. I think it's this absence of responsibility in the case of rape that makes the most important difference. Even if we assume that the fetus conceived by rape has as much intrinsic moral status as a normal five-year-old child, that wouldn't make the rape victim responsible for the fetus in a way that obligates her to allow the use of her body for its survival. There are many five-year-old children in the world for whose survival you and I aren't obligated to make highly...

Are sex selective abortions immoral? In countries where abortion is legal on

Are sex selective abortions immoral? In countries where abortion is legal on demand, does it make any sense to try and prevent sex selective abortion if the legal system allows abortion for any reason?

You've asked two independent questions: (1) Are sex-selective abortions immoral? (2) Does it make sense to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? Now, 'make sense' in (2) can be construed at least two ways: (2a) Is it a practical policy to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? (2b) Is it morally consistent to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? Question (2a) is a largely empirical question having to do with how effective such a policy would be versus the practical costs of enforcing it. Question (2b) is a philosophical question. One could consistently give different answers to (2a) and (2b).

As for (2b), I think that any legal system that regards abortion as lawful is committed to regarding abortion as not seriously immoral, because I take it to be one of the law's essential functions to outlaw seriously immoral things if there are any. But I also think that if abortion (as such) is immoral, then abortion is seriously immoral: I can't see how abortion could be immoral but only non-seriously immoral. So I conclude that any legal system that regards abortion as lawful is committed to regarding abortion as not immoral at all -- i.e., as a morally neutral medical procedure.

But if abortion is a morally neutral medical procedure, I wonder about the moral consistency of regarding sex-selective abortion as immoral. One might say that (3) sex-selective abortion expresses or reflects contempt for a particular biological sex, but (3) is a basis for questioning only sex-selective abortion of that particular sex rather than questioning sex-selective abortion as such. Furthermore, if the legal system then outlaws sex-selective abortions of one particular sex only, it might thereby express or reflect contempt for the other sex! One might say that (4) sex-selective abortion, as such, reflects a mindset that places too high a priority on someone's biological sex at birth. But (4) seems weak as a basis for regarding sex-selective abortion as immoral in any legal system that regards abortion per se as morally neutral. I'm not sure if (3) is any better as a basis for regarding sex-selective abortion as immoral where abortion is otherwise legal.

You've asked two independent questions: (1) Are sex-selective abortions immoral ? (2) Does it make sense to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? Now, 'make sense' in (2) can be construed at least two ways: (2a) Is it a practical policy to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? (2b) Is it morally consistent to try preventing sex-selective abortions where abortion is generally legal? Question (2a) is a largely empirical question having to do with how effective such a policy would be versus the practical costs of enforcing it. Question (2b) is a philosophical question. One could consistently give different answers to (2a) and (2b). As for (2b), I think that any legal system that regards abortion as lawful is committed to regarding abortion as not seriously immoral , because I take it to be one of the law's essential functions to outlaw seriously immoral things if there are any. But I also think that if ...

"My body, my choice" is well known slogan from those who oppose laws that limit

"My body, my choice" is well known slogan from those who oppose laws that limit a woman's right to an abortion. Yet, the idea that a woman has a right to do what she wants to her body seems to have disturbing consequences. If a woman drinks too much alcohol or takes too many drugs then her baby will suffer the consequences. That child will then suffer many challenges in life because of his mothers supposed right to do what she wants with her body. Yet when I point this out to people they get angry and insist that I want to limit women's rights. In fact it makes me angry that anyone would disagree with the idea that a woman shouldn't be morally and legally responsible for the incalculable harm she can do to her baby by poisoning her fetus. I can grant that there are exceptions such as prescription medications but otherwise isn't the idea that women can't be held responsible for doing damage to a fetus that will then suffer after being born just a very extreme position even if its a popular belief? And I...

I'm no lawyer, but I believe that the courts in some U.S. jurisdictions allow a child to sue its mother for lasting harm she caused the child while it was in utero. (Here I'm assuming that the child is identical to something that was once in utero, an assumption not everyone will grant.) I don't know whether the plaintiff has ever prevailed in such a lawsuit. In any case, if someone can be assigned civil liability for causing such harm, then it's not a huge leap to hold her morally responsible for it as well. My sense as a non-expert is that the courts are still struggling with this legal issue, so it's an important time for philosophers to weigh in on the issue and thereby perhaps help the courts decide it wisely and justly.

I'm no lawyer, but I believe that the courts in some U.S. jurisdictions allow a child to sue its mother for lasting harm she caused the child while it was in utero . (Here I'm assuming that the child is identical to something that was once in utero , an assumption not everyone will grant.) I don't know whether the plaintiff has ever prevailed in such a lawsuit. In any case, if someone can be assigned civil liability for causing such harm, then it's not a huge leap to hold her morally responsible for it as well. My sense as a non-expert is that the courts are still struggling with this legal issue, so it's an important time for philosophers to weigh in on the issue and thereby perhaps help the courts decide it wisely and justly.

In discussing abortion, I've been told that the woman has a right to bodily

In discussing abortion, I've been told that the woman has a right to bodily integrity. Therefore she has the right to withdraw consent at any time to the fetus using her body, regardless of the situation of the conception (consensual sex, planned conception). Some say any time prior to viability. Is there a fully fledged philosophical argument along these lines? I'm aware of Judith Jarvis Thompson's thought experiment about the room and the people-seeds, but that didn't invoke the intuition in me, "yes, the seeds can be pulled up at any time." Does the fetus have a competing right to bodily integrity?

@Thomas Pogge: Thomson's violinist analogy doesn't address the questioner's puzzlement, because it doesn't support "the right to withdraw consent at any time to the fetus using her body, regardless of the situation of the conception (consensual sex, planned conception)." Thomson seems to recognize that it doesn't, so she eventually proposes the people-seeds analogy, the analogy the questioner found unpersuasive.

@Thomas Pogge: Thomson's violinist analogy doesn't address the questioner's puzzlement, because it doesn't support "the right to withdraw consent at any time to the fetus using her body, regardless of the situation of the conception (consensual sex, planned conception)." Thomson seems to recognize that it doesn't, so she eventually proposes the people-seeds analogy, the analogy the questioner found unpersuasive.

For me the answer to the question of whether abortion is right or wrong depends

For me the answer to the question of whether abortion is right or wrong depends on the ontological status of the fetus. Is a fetus the kind of being that has a right to live or is it not? I don't know. How on earth can I know that? If I knew then I wouldn't be an agnostic on this issue. Most people, if I am not mistaken, take it for granted that a new born baby has the kind of being that gives it the right to live. So what reason is there to think that a young baby has the kind of being that gives it the right to live? What about an older baby or an adult...if we can stretch this question to its limits.

Your questions raise a host of difficult issues. What gives anything a right to life? In other words, what in general (if anything) about an individual makes it morally wrong for others to end its life? I've never seen a satisfying answer to that basic question. Does an individual's right to life inhere in the individual, or does it instead depend on the individual's relations to others? Prof. Manter referred to "all the relational complexities that being persons entails." If by "persons" she meant "beings with a right to life" and if by "entails" she meant some kind of logical implication (and it's possible she meant neither), then she's implying that a right to life doesn't inhere in the individual. I'm not sure I'd accept that consequence. Suppose you become a hermit and totally disconnect because you're tired of other people. If you had a right to life before you chose total isolation, then I'd say you still have it, and it would be at least presumptively wrong for any of us to kill you. Or suppose you're the last human being alive on earth. If you had a right to life before the rest of humanity died off, you still do, and it would be at least presumptively wrong for an intelligent alien to beam down and kill you.

I should note that some philosophers explicitly reject your assumption that the morality of abortion depends on the ontological status of the fetus. Most famous among them is Judith Jarvis Thomson (see "A Defense of Abortion," 1971). According to Thomson, even if fetuses have an undoubted right to life, abortion is still morally permissible in at least the great majority of cases.

Your questions raise a host of difficult issues. What gives anything a right to life? In other words, what in general (if anything) about an individual makes it morally wrong for others to end its life? I've never seen a satisfying answer to that basic question. Does an individual's right to life inhere in the individual, or does it instead depend on the individual's relations to others? Prof. Manter referred to "all the relational complexities that being persons entails." If by "persons" she meant "beings with a right to life" and if by "entails" she meant some kind of logical implication (and it's possible she meant neither), then she's implying that a right to life doesn't inhere in the individual. I'm not sure I'd accept that consequence. Suppose you become a hermit and totally disconnect because you're tired of other people. If you had a right to life before you chose total isolation, then I'd say you still have it, and it would be at least presumptively wrong for any of us to...