Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Okay, let's say a fetus IS a person

I still think abortion should be legal. Now, I don't happen to believe that a fetus is a person - for me that hinges mostly on cognitive capacity, rather than DNA or "living" status, or obviously on what the Bible supposedly says. But for the sake of argument, let's grant that the fetus is a "person," a fully fledged human being with the rights and protections of an independent adult.

I still think abortion is perfectly justifiable. That is because it is perfectly justifiable to kill a fully fledged adult human being, under certain circumstances. And those circumstances are always present in a pregnancy. If someone is threatening you with imminent, severe bodily harm, you are allowed to kill them. Even if they are not mentally competent, and even if they aren't trying to kill you. I think in pretty much every U.S. jurisdiction, deadly force would be justifiable to prevent an assailant from forcibly inserting a large object into the victim's vagina.

It is true that this assault is not imminent at the point most abortions occur - it is still months away. However, the situations are analogous, because there is no opportunity to avoid the assault other than by use of deadly force. In an attempted rape, you can kill the attacker if you have no reasonable ability to obtain protection by retreating or contacting law enforcement. Likewise, it is justifiable to kill a fetus because you have no reasonable ability to prevent significant bodily harm in any other way.

So, there we are. I don't see how anyone could accept killing an insane rapist in self defense, while simultaneously arguing that abortion should be illegal. Perhaps some people are truly so pro-life (across the board) that they would object to killing a mad attacker in self defense. But I'm guessing that position is rare.


AlisonM said...

That argument could be used to support abortion when the woman's life or health is threatened, but it doesn't work as well for other situations. Plus, the typical argument from the anti-abortion camp is that the fetus is innocent and good (even though it's sinful from conception, dontchaknow. . .) while clearly, a criminal is not. The self-defense argument actually needs some filling out so that it's not just defending yourself against an evil person to remove that particular conterargument, IMO.

Cogito said...

Thanks for the heads up - I see I didn't convey everything as clearly as I might have.

First, my view is that the woman's health is always threatened by pregnancy. Not only is it well documented that the risks of pregnancy are higher than those of vacuum-extraction abortion, but as I said, there is significant trauma inherent in giving birth, the likes of which no one would be expected to allow another adult to visit upon them.

My response to the issue of the innocence of the fetus is that you are still allowed to use deadly force on an attacker who is not mentally competent. (To be guilty under law, you have to be able to form mens rea, the intent element, which is why people are sometimes acquitted by reason of insanity.)

It is abundantly clear that a fetus has no evil intent. But some killers don't either. A guy once strangled his wife while hallucinating that he was squeezing lemons for lemonade! But regardless of his lack of evil intent, I think his wife would have been justified in shooting him in the head to save herself.