Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Abortion: the moral stalemate

by Chloe Angyal

I've got a piece up today at SpliceToday about the abortion debate, specifically about the wall you've probably found yourself hitting time and time again. It's the point you come to in the debate where it becomes clear that you're never going to agree, because what one side considers an awful but justifiable choice, the other side considers murder. And of course, what do you do when your job is to go beyond simply debating an impossible debate, and to make policy?
Check it out, and while you're at it, check out the rest of Splice. It's a great site with lots of young writers contributing their ideas.


At December 2, 2008 at 5:33 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

Very good article, level-headed and profoundly wise.

The only problem I have with this is that values can be changed. People do change their values all the time, mostly through discourse. People have changed their mind about so many things in the past, it's just about showing what makes the most sense. When you get down to the "values" area where people supposedly get frustrated, you debate those values. values aren't untouchable. they fluctuate between the individual during their lifetime and thus fluctuate among society. our values, values that were once held so deep that they weren't even questioned, have been dislodged, in both directions.

It's a lot tougher and harder to conceptualize, but that's why we have philosophers right?

At December 2, 2008 at 11:29 PM , Anonymous CristinaL said...

I second Roscoe. It's nice to read something by a pro-choice writer that not only respects but sympathizes with the moral dilemma of the pro-life side.

At December 3, 2008 at 8:47 PM , Anonymous Dan said...


This is a good article, and I also second (or third) Roscoe's comments. I have seen people change their views on this subject (both at Princeton and elsewhere), so I don't think it has to be a stalemate.

I do have a few questions for you:

If you don't believe that abortion entails the ending of a person's life, then why does abortion carry any moral weight at all? Why is it, in your words, "an awful but justifiable choice"? What, exactly, do you consider "awful" about it?

Secondly, you seem to be implying that science supports the notion that life does not begin at conception. I would argue just the opposite: the facts of modern embryology are unambiguous regarding the event that marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual, and for most of us that event is conception.

If the relevant event is not conception, then what is it? At what point in our development do we begin to deserve moral respect?

It all comes down to the reason why human beings deserve moral respect. Is it because of some acquired characteristic which may only emerge at a later stage of development, or is it because of the kind of entity that we are? I have yet to see anyone argue the former case in a logically consistent manner without being obliged to accept conclusions that most people find morally reprehensible.

Here is an excellent article by Princeton's own Robert George on the subject of embryo ethics:

Can you find a flaw in George's logic?


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