Monday, 23 January 2012


[Garnered for a predictably depressing debate at UCL in c. 2004]

First Principles:

  1. Life begins at conception [universe began at Big Bang, not when it contained x. amount of features or galaxies. Likewise, analogously, the universe ends in a Big Crunch based on natural law, not at an arbitrary (still-less human-induced) time]
  2. Human life cannot be created, used or destroyed as a means to any end [once it is treated as such and accepted as such, there is no logical, rational reason for any respect for human life whatsoever – and the slippery slope necessarily follows. Nazi and eugenicist ideas flow inexorably from the degradation of human life.]
  3. Willed abortion is the immoral termination of human life

Subsidiary Arguments:

  1. The philosophical basis for allowing abortion is a utilitarian, unstable and arbitrary definition of the value and beginning of human life, which is both irrational and unscientific.
  1. The socio-political context to abortion is an obsolete 1960s relativist permissiveness: affecting to bestow freedom, when actually sanctioning selfishness. This philosophy, only ever held by a small minority and foisted on society through Parliament, has already been discarded by most contemporary thinkers – just as it has always been opposed by most religions.
  1. Arguments for terminating human life on the basis of underdevelopment of mental capacity, organs or appearance (a gradational approach) clash with the respect accorded to severely disabled people outside the womb. Would it be better for them never to have been born, and can they be killed now as they lack certain organs, etc? Can I be terminated while asleep, because I am not aware of it? The size, level of development, or awareness of a human being has no bearing on its fundamental human right to exist. Either respect all human life, or none – for there is no consistent ‘middle way’ .
  1. Abortion is currently not a right but permitted on the basis of spurious attestations to ‘mental distress’ on the part of the woman carrying the child. Mental distress is no reason to take any human life (in fact, quite the opposite from the point of view of lucid decision making). In reality, women have abortion for purely selfish reasons, and to avoid hassle – the self-same reasons doctors sanction the procedure. Abortion is almost always carried out for social convenience, negating the Hippocratic principle primo non nocere ‘first do not kill’.
  1. The abortion industry is out to make a killing (!): both literally and materially.
  1. The excuse of terminating a life to prevent suffering for the child in future is a presumptuous excuse, using the language of ‘concern’, to willingly destroy a life that the mother wishes to avoid responsibility for. Surely, it is a paradox to end a life on the basis of its best interests. Adoption is a morally acceptable alternative. Adopted children rarely wish they had never been born.
  1. If there is no moral difficulty with abortion, why are dead kids not used in skin creams, as part of nouvelle cuisine, etc.? If abortion is naturalistically right, why is it so taboo, secretively performed, and why are women almost always ashamed of it? The function of squeamishness, shame and conscience is to indicate that something is morally wrong: it is a deeply embedded natural capacity for distinguishing between good and bad acts. Abortion will never seem naturally correct because it is against natural law.
  1. There are several arbitrary distinctions implicit in arguments sanctioning any kind of abortion:
    • Between life within a womb and life outside it. The fact of internal or external physical location has no bearing on the value of a human life.
    • Between a woman’s choice to abort at any stage without criminal or moral repercussions, and the crime of killing an unborn child even by accident (e.g. if a robber strikes down a pregnant woman). It seems that the value of the child’s life today comes down to its posited implicit ‘ownership’ by the woman, and her arbitrary choice to tolerate or terminate. Is the robber, violating property, guilty of murder? If the woman agreed to the assault – is the death of the child then ‘right’?
    • Between the outrage at those who kill a newly born child (even when mentally ill) and the affected neutrality accorded to people who have, counsel, or carry out planned abortions for convenience or financial reasons.

  1. No philosophy can justify abortion on rational grounds, because it rests on the irrational misinterpretation of scientific fact: the beginning of human life at conception. Similarly, this misinterpretation, seeking to mitigate moral evil by positing arbitrary gradations of humanity to assuage the consciences of those who abort, clashes with legal and social realities that in fact contradict it.
  1. There is a confused notion of ‘dignity’ accorded to the premature ending of human life as pertaining to euthanasia, abortion, etc. In reality, suffering is only dignified when seen to its natural end. We value the courage of women who refuse to take the option of abortion: their dignity lies in not taking the more convenient route, but in showing dignity to themselves and their unborn child. Especially in abortion when the child cannot make its own decision and its future suffering is purely hypothetical and judged by third parties in an arbitrary way, the notion of ‘mercy killing’ is totally out of place.

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